Ready to Light the First Candle

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Back from Italy

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Ready for the SEC Championship

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Christmas Gifts

The How-To Book of the Mass: Everything You Need to Know but No One Ever Taught You

St. Paul and I Agree

Thanksgiving

My son Joseph, now seven, started praying the Blessing Before Meals at dinner in our home about four years ago, right after he learned the prayer at his Catholic preschool. Back then, when he first prayed it, he would say:

 “Blessed O Lord and these my gifts which we are about to receive from my bounty, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

 He had a little problem with the “us” and “Thy” which he conveniently glossed over. It took a good year to convince him that his “my” should be “Thy.”

 

His slip was due to his age, but I know that even if I know enough to say “Thy”, I often act as though it is all about “my” and “mine.”

 I remember an episode of the Simpsons where Bart Simpson echoed a similar sentiment, after saying the Grace Before Meals, Bart said: “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing,” Again, the modern cartoon reflects a modern problem—people have ceased believing that everything we have is from God.

 It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we are self-sufficient, especially when everything is going well in our lives.

But wait till things turn bad: suddenly we find ourselves unemployed or are diagnosed with a terminal illness, or something horrible happens to a loved one—then the realization hits us that everything we’ve ever had and will ever have has been a gift. Only God can save us from death.

 Monsignor Muller when he was preaching on the annual Catholic Charities drive at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish had a placard hanging from the ambo. The sign read:

 “Don’t Give God What’s Left, Give God What’s Right.”

 That simple message hasn’t left me since that Sunday back in September.

 One of the real blessings of this year, for me, has been Bishop Baker’s challenge for us in the Diocese of Birmingham to read through the Letters of Saint Paul during the Year of Saint Paul. I’ve greatly benefited from this exercise.

 Saint Paul frequently in his letters will tell us to “give thanks” to God—not just in the good times, but at all times. In fact it is a consistent message of Saint Paul’s that we are to live our lives while “giving thanks” to God at all times. The Greek word for “giving thanks” that Saint Paul uses over and over is well known to us Catholics— it is Eucharist. If you listen at Mass, the Eucharist, you’ll hear the priest praying “we give you thanks” for all of us to God the Father. I have tried to do this in my life and found it to make a remarkable difference. When you give thanks to God at all times, you start to see the reality of the present moment in an entirely different light.

 

Let me give you a simple example. I travel on a horrible road every morning, and I’m frequently stuck in traffic. All the hand gesturing and cursing isn’t going to make the traffic move, but thanking God for that moment can change my entire attitude. I come to appreciate the slowing down of my hectic life. I often notice things along the route that I would otherwise have ignored. 

And perhaps that is what is missing from modern life, we have become so preoccupied with my plan that we don’t have time to notice God’s plan for us. I think one of the reasons for this is that we fear the real world and try our best to avoid dealing with it.

 

This Thanksgiving, let’s truly be thankful for all God has given us, all that God has entrusted us with, and commit to doing what Saint Paul proclaims to us: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Then let’s keep thanking God at every moment for the rest of our lives!

 Some Seed Fell… is a column of the Office of the New Evangelization and Stewardship, by the director of the office, Michael Dubruiel

The Pope and I Agree

pope-benedict-xviI was pleased to read the Pope’s exegesis of the Parable of the Talents and to see that my “Some Seeds Fell…” column on the same topic reach the same conclusion. Probably a sign that my endless reading of his writings is starting to take effect in the way I think. From Asia News Italy:

 

An appeal to witness, to “commerce,” by sharing and distributing the gifts that Christ has given to us: this is, according to Benedict XVI, the meaning of the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30), which he commented on in the brief reflection before the Angelus, together with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square. “Yes,” the pope said, “that which Christ has given us is multiplied by giving it away! It is a treasure made to be spent, invested, shared with all, as taught to us by that great administrator of the talents of Jesus who is the apostle Paul.”

The pontiff explained that the talent “was an ancient Roman coin, of great value.” Precisely because of the popularity of this parable, the “talent” has become synonymous with “personal capacity, which each one is called upon to develop.” But the pontiff clarifies: the parable talks about gifts that “the master” gives to his servants. “For this reason,” he continues, “these gifts, in addition to their natural qualities, represent the riches that the Lord Jesus has left us as an inheritance, so that we might make them bear fruit: his Word, deposited in the holy Gospels; Baptism, which renews us in the Holy Spirit; the prayer – the ‘Our Father’ – that lifts us up to God as sons united in the Son; his forgiveness, which he has commanded be brought to all; the sacrament of his immolated Body and his Blood poured out. In a word: the Kingdom of God, which is He himself, present and living in our midst.”

“Today’s parable,” he continued, “insists upon the interior attitude with which this gift is to be received and valued. The wrong attitude is that of fear: the servant who is afraid of his master and his return hides the coin in the ground, and it bears no fruit. This happens, for example, to those who having received Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation hide these gifts beneath a blanket of prejudices, beneath a false image of God that paralyzes faith and works, betraying the expectations of the Lord. But the parable puts greater emphasis on the good fruits borne by the disciples who, happy over the gift they have received, have not kept this hidden out of fear and jealousy, but have made it bear fruit by sharing it, imparting it.”

Benedict XVI does not forget that the parable is also a sign of a cultural change that the faith of Christians carries within history, which is an active and transformative mentality: “The teaching of the Gospel,” he said, “has also had an effect on the historical-social level, promoting an active and enterprising mentality in Christian populations. But the central message concerns the spirit of responsibility toward God and toward humanity. This attitude is perfectly embodied by the heart of the Virgin Mary, who, receiving the most precious of gifts, Jesus himself, offered him to the world with immense love.”

Obama and I Agree

There should be a college football playoff, involving the top 8 teams.  From USA Today:

With President-elect Barack Obama supporting a playoff system to decide college football’s national champion, the future TV home of the Bowl Championship Series could become a political football.

BCS commissioners could make the call Monday on whether to move TV rights for five bowls, including the national championship, to ESPN from Fox starting in 2011. The title game would be the first major American sports championship shown on cable. There’s still roughly 16 million U.S. homes that don’t get ESPN. While ESPN has other sports properties such as Monday Night Football, a few college fans without cable have complained they’d be shut out.

So it wouldn’t be surprising to see politicians champion their cause, given that Obama told CBS’ 60 MinutesSunday that a playoff system is “the right thing to do,” For example, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., intervened last year when fans howled about Major League Baseball moving its “Extra Innings” package of out-of-market games exclusively to satellite provider DirecTV.

Fox spokesman Dan Bell said the network will let the BCS know today whether it will match ESPN’s reported $500 million offer to telecast the BCS championship and four other bowls from 2011 to 2014. ABC, ESPN’s Disney sister network, will broadcast the national championship and Rose Bowl in 2010.

ESPN declined comment.

During Sunday’s interview with CBS’ Steve Kroft, Obama laid out exactly what kind of playoff system he envisions: “Eight teams. That would be three rounds to determine a national champion. It would add three extra weeks to the season. You could trim back on the regular season. I don’t know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this.”

“Stay Sober and Alert”

To all those Italian drivers, the Pope says “drive safe”, from the Vatican:

I extend warm greetings to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus. May your time in Rome be filled with divine blessings of joy and peace. On this third Sunday of November, we remember in a special way all those who have died as a result of traffic accidents. We pray for their eternal rest and for the consolation of their families who grieve their loss. Dear brothers and sisters, I implore everyone – drivers, passengers and pedestrians – to heed carefully the words of Saint Paul in the Liturgy of the Word today: “stay sober and alert”. Our behavior on the roads should be characterized by responsibility, consideration and a respect for others. May the Virgin Mary lead us safely along streets and highways throughout the world.

Is the End Near?

I turn 50 today, so this is the kind of stuff that I relate to now.

Is it a hoax or real? Muslim prophecy of the end of the world seems to elude to recent presidential election, from Daniel Pipes:

Ali ibn Abi-Talib, the seventh-century figure central to Shiite Islam, is said to have predicted when the world will end, columnist Amir Taheri points out. A “tall black man” commanding “the strongest army on earth” will take power “in the west.” He will carry “a clear sign” from the third imam, Hussein. Ali says of the tall black man: “Shiites should have no doubt that he is with us.”

Barack Hussein in Arabic means “the blessing of Hussein.” In Persian, Obama translates as “He [is] with us.” Thus does the name of the presumptive American president-elect, when combined with his physical attributes and geography, suggest that the End of Times is nigh – precisely what Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been predicting.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Gators live up to hype, beat South Carolina senseless! Meyer’s expresses excitement that Jimmy Buffet is in the  locker room…Mike Bianchi reflects on the end of the Spurrier era in the Orlando Sentinel:

From now on, we must all cease and desist making a big deal about Spurrier coaching against his former team. These days, it’s more exciting when Houston Nutt comes to Gainesville than Steve Spurrier.

This game is no longer about Steve Spurrier coaching against Florida. It’s only about Florida. It’s no longer about Steve Spurrier vs. Urban Meyer. It’s only about Urban Meyer.

Meyer’s very first words in his postgame news conference after handing Spurrier the worst loss of his coaching career: “Can you believeJimmy Buffett‘s in our locker room?”

That’s right, Meyer seemed more excited about his favorite singer being in the locker room afterward than he was with beating Spurrier’s Gamecocks like they were some outmanned 1-AA team. Meyer’s favorite Buffett song is “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere.” If Spurrier had to name a favorite Buffett song after the beating he took Saturday, it would probably be, “Why Don’t We Get Drunk” (and figure out a way to score a freaking touchdown).

Actually, a more appropriate tune for how Spurrier must have felt Saturday might be “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.” In that song, a nostalgic Buffett twangs: “Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure makes me want to go back again.”

Those good times for Spurrier must seem like a million miles away now. For Florida fans and media members who witnessed Spurrier’s greatness at UF, it’s shocking to see just how pedestrian his offense has become. It’s sort of like watching Bob Dolegoing from presidential candidate to making Viagra commercials. Or like watching a young Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront and then seeing him years later at the end of his career playing a bloated prison warden with dyed red hair in that awful comedy Free Money.

Spurrier used to be so cocky and sure of himself — a proud perfectionist who only talked about winning championships. But after Saturday’s dismantling, he sounded so unfamiliar. He uttered unSpurrier-like phrases such as: “We were just trying to keep the score respectable.” Or: “We’re having a good season. We’re 7-4 with a chance to go 8-4.”

These are words you never thought you’d hear out of Spur-Dog’s mouth, but that is the reality of his situation right now. As great as he once was, he’s now just another coach for the Urbanator to seek out and destroy. Spurrier may have once been the king of The Swamp, but on Saturday the deposed king returned and the Urbanator guillotined him.

In 309 games as a head coach in college and pro football, Spurrier never has been beaten this badly — not even when he was at Duke. But at least he’s not alone. Urbanator’sGators are dismantling anybody and everybody who gets in their way. They became the first team in Southeastern Conference history Saturday to win six consecutive conference games by 28 points or more.

A dozen years after Spurrier won his first and only national championship at Florida, Meyer is potentially on his way to a second national title by dominating SEC opponents much like Spurrier did back in the day. In the middle of Spurrier’s 1996 national championship season, the Gators went on the most dominating stretch in school and SEC history — a six-game SEC winning streak where Florida won by an average score of 49-11. If you’re scoring at home, Meyer’s Gators are on a six-game SEC streak, winning by an average score of 50-11.

Said Spurrier: “We have to recruit us some athletes like Urban’s recruiting.”

Funny, huh?

Urban Meyer came to Florida and wanted to be like Steve Spurrier.

Now Steve Spurrier is at South Carolina and wants to be like Urban Meyer.

Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes.

Bishop’s Statement for President-Elect

STATEMENT of the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

“If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil.” (Psalm 127, vs. 1)

The Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States welcome this moment of historic transition and look forward to working with President-elect Obama and the members of the new Congress for the common good of all.  Because of the Church’s history and the scope of her ministries in this country, we want to continue our work for economic justice and opportunity for all; our efforts to reform laws around immigration and the situation of the undocumented; our provision of better education and adequate health care for all, especially for women and children; our desire to safeguard religious freedom and foster peace at home and abroad.  The Church is intent on doing good and will continue to cooperate gladly with the government and all others working for these goods.

The fundamental good is life itself, a gift from God and our parents.  A good state protects the lives of all.  Legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed when the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973.  This was bad law.  The danger the Bishops see at this moment is that a bad court decision will be enshrined in bad legislation that is more radical than the 1973 Supreme Court decision itself. 

In the last Congress, a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was introduced that would, if brought forward in the same form today, outlaw any “interference” in providing abortion at will.  It would deprive the American people in all fifty states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry.  FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars.  It would counteract any and all sincere efforts by government and others of good will to reduce the number of abortions in our country.

Parental notification and informed consent precautions would be outlawed, as would be laws banning procedures such as partial-birth abortion and protecting infants born alive after a failed abortion.  Abortion clinics would be deregulated.  The Hyde Amendment restricting the federal funding of abortions would be abrogated.  FOCA would have lethal consequences for prenatal human life. 

FOCA would have an equally destructive effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children.  It would threaten Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Charities.  It would be an evil law that would further divide our country, and the Church should be intent on opposing evil. 

On this issue, the legal protection of the unborn, the bishops are of one mind with Catholics and others of good will.  They are also pastors who have listened to women whose lives have been diminished because they believed they had no choice but to abort a baby.  Abortion is a medical procedure that kills, and the psychological and spiritual consequences are written in the sorrow and depression of many women and men.  The bishops are single-minded because they are, first of all, single-hearted. 

The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world.  If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve.  Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected.  Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.

This statement is written at the request and direction of all the Bishops, who also want to thank all those in politics who work with good will to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us.  Those in public life do so, sometimes, at the cost of great sacrifice to themselves and their families; and we are grateful.  We express again our great desire to work with all those who cherish the common good of our nation.  The common good is not the sum total of individual desires and interests; it is achieved in the working out of a common life based upon good reason and good will for all.

 Our prayers accompany President-elect Obama and his family and those who are cooperating with him to assure a smooth transition in government.  Many issues demand immediate attention on the part of our elected “watchman.” (Psalm 127)  May God bless him and our country.

Even So, Lord Jesus, Come!

Pope Benedict’s Catechesis on Saint Paul continues:

In his First Letter to the Thessalonians, said the Holy Father, “St. Paul speaks of the return of Jesus, an event known as the ‘parusia’ or advent”. The saint describes this vividly “using symbolic images that nonetheless transmit a simple and profound message: ‘In the end we will be with the Lord forever’. … Our future is ‘to be with the Lord'”.

Benedict XVI pointed out how in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle “changes perspective and speaks of the negative events that will precede the end. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived, he says, as if the Day of the Lord were truly imminent by some chronological calculation. … The continuation of the Pauline text makes it clear that the coming of the Lord will be preceded by apostasy and by the appearance of a person identified only as ‘the lawless one’, the ‘one destined for destruction’, whom tradition came to identify as the Antichrist”.

The Pope examined the fundamental attitudes a Christian must adopt in the face of the ultimate realities of death and the end of the world: “The first attitude”, he said, “must be the certainty that Jesus rose and that, with the Father, He remains with us forever. … Secondly, the certainty that Christ is with me; and since the future world has already begun in Christ, this gives us the certainty of hope. The future is not an area of darkness in which no-one can find their way. … Without Christ, the future is dark even today. … Christians know that the light of Christ is stronger and hence they experience a hope that is not vain, a hope that gives certainty and courage to face the future”.

The third attitude, the Pope went on, “is responsibility before Christ for the world and for our fellow man and, at the same time, the certainty of His mercy. … We have to work to ensure this world opens to Christ, that it is renewed. …We know that God is the true Judge, we are sure He is good, we know His face, the face of the risen Christ. … For this reason we can be sure of His goodness and live our lives courageously”.

At the end of his First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul “repeats a prayer of the early Christian communities of Palestine, putting it into the mouths of the Corinthians themselves: ‘Marana tha! Our Lord, come!’ … which is also how the Book of the Apocalypse ends. … Can we pray like this today? In our lives, in our world, it is difficult to pray sincerely for this world to perish, for the coming of the New Jerusalem, the Final Judgement, Christ the Judge. … Nonetheless, like the first Christian community we can say: Come Jesus! Of course we do not want the end of the world to come now. On the other hand, we do want the world of injustice to end, we do want the world to change, the civilisation of love to begin, a world of justice and peace to come, a world without violence and hunger. … But without the presence of Christ a truly just and renewed world will never come”.

“We can and must cry out urgently in the circumstances of our own time: Come, Lord! Come in Your way, in the ways that You know. Come where there is injustice and violence. Come into the refuge camps of Darfur and North Kivu, in so many parts of the world. Come where drugs dominate. Come also among the rich who have forgotten You and who live for themselves alone. Come where You are known. Come in Your way and renew today’s world. Come also into our hearts … that we too may become light of God, Your presence”.

“Catholic Teaching in Political Life”

Rocco reports a new document is in the works, from Whispers:

As of the evening rounds, the house buzz spread that the relevant committees were hashing out a proposed statement for the body of bishops on “Catholic Teaching in Political Life.” If that proves to the case, its “hard-edit” would presumably come in the morning’s executive session, with the text then formally presented to and voted on by the bench during the afternoon discussion.

According to one report, Bishop Finn was said to have been consulted in the drafting… and given the presence of dear BishopMartino, provided it all comes to pass, the USCCB will, indeed, be speaking for him, too.

At least, speaking for everyone is the point of the exercise.

Admittedly, though, it’s somewhat surreal: a year after Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship was painstakingly crafted and entrusted to the whole body to accomplish precisely that same end… church, it’s deja vu all over again.

And with that, at the close of a long day, see you in the… midmorning.

Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop

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From the Office of Readings:

Martin knew long in advance the time of his death and he told his brethren that it was near. Meanwhile, he found himself obliged to make a visitation of the parish of Candes. The clergy of that church were quarrelling, and he wished to reconcile them. Although he knew that his days on earth were few, he did not refuse to undertake the journey for such a purpose, for he believed that he would bring his virtuous life to a good end if by his efforts peace was restored in the church.
He spent some time in Candes, or rather in its church, where he stayed. Peace was restored, and he was planning to return to his monastery when suddenly he began to lose his strength. He summoned his brethren and told them he was dying. All who heard this were overcome with grief. In their sorrow they cried to him with one voice: “Father, why are you deserting us? Who will care for us when you are gone? Savage wolves will attack your flock, and who will save us from their bite when our shepherd is struck down? We know you long to be with Christ, but your reward is certain and will not be any less for being delayed. You will do better to show pity for us, rather than forsake us.”
Thereupon he broke into tears, for he was a man in whom the compassion of our Lord was continually revealed. Turning to our Lord, he made this reply to their pleading: “Lord, if your people still need me, I am ready for the task; your will be done.”
Here was a man words cannot describe. Death could not defeat him nor toil dismay him. He was quite without a preference of his own; he neither feared to die nor refused to live. With eyes and hands always raised to heaven he never withdrew his unconquered spirit from prayer. It happened that some priests who had gathered at his bedside suggested that he should give his poor body some relief by lying on his other side. He answered: “Allow me, brothers, to look toward heaven rather than at the earth, so that my spirit may set on the right course when the time comes for me to go on my journey to the Lord.” As he spoke these words, he saw the devil standing near. “Why do you stand there, you bloodthirsty brute?” he cried. “Murderer, you will not have me for your prey. Abraham is welcoming me into his embrace.”
With these words, he gave up his spirit to heaven. Filled with joy, Martin was welcomed by Abraham. Thus he left this life a poor and lowly man and entered heaven rich in God’s favour.

What Gator Fans Fear

Not to mention the looming Florida State game as well.

The normally right on Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel and native rural Floridian totally misses the point of this week’s game involving former head coach Steve Spurrier. No Gator fan wants the ole ball coach to win this game, but all secretly fear that he might. From Bianchi’s blog:

Believe me, I know University of Florida fans would never admit it publicly but there are many of them who, deep down in places they wish didn’t exist, will be secretly rooting for Steve Spurrier to beat their own team Saturday.

That’s right, I’m saying there are some Gator fans who want Stevie Spurrier to turn into Stevie Spoiler Saturday.

They are like the conflicted kids from the broken home who, even though daddy ran off with another woman, somehow blame mommy for the divorce. And they want daddy to come home and make things like they used to be.

They want the old Swamp Fox, Stephen Orr Spurrier, to come back and turn the Swamp into his own personal playground once again.

When South Carolina’s Spurrier comes back to the Swamp for the second time Saturday, it won’t be at all like when Alabama coach Nick Saban made his return to LSU last weekend. Saban is truly despised by LSU fans, who consider him a traitor. He was never truly part of the LSU family.

In contrast, Spurrier is still beloved by Florida fans. He is a bonafide UF icon — a player who won the school’s first Heisman Trophy and a coach who won the school’s first national championship. For long-time UF football fans, he is their first love. And we all know that you never forget your first love.

Admit it, Gator fans, you love Steve Spurrier. You’ll always love Steve Spurrier.

If the Gators win Saturday, you’ll be happy for the way things are.

If the Gators lose Saturday, you’ll be nostalgic for the way things used to be.

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