Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Homemade Advent, Part 2

Keeping Advent well has always been something of a challenge for me. I find it difficult to simply "live in the moment" of the season - maintaining a spirit of silence, of waiting, of prayerful penitence, not only because of the holiday hustle and bustle that invades stores, radio stations, internet, and even my inbox immediately after All Hallow's Eve, but also because the celebration of Christmas (in my life at least) requires a certain amount of planning and preparation: making baking plans, grocery lists, devising ways to celebrate the holiday creatively, etc., etc., etc.


Part Two: The Growth And Bloom Of The Jesse Tree


This year, we finally managed to add an Advent tradition, which has been a tremendous assistance for maintaining the prayerful attitude of the season: the Jesse Tree.


Our Jesse Tree project began around the same time as the Advent wreath adventure, and fortunately required similar base materials. With the wreath leftovers, I constructed (i.e. yarned together) a tree of sorts, "potted" it (with the aid of some newspaper), and since it was looking a wee bit bare, added some "foliage". It turned out to be a mixed species of a Jesse Tree (and my husband thought the flora should have been pruned back slightly), but I've found myself appreciating the tree's rather homely look.


Catholicculture.org has an excellent introduction and resource for creating a Jesse Tree, which is what I've used as a format for our ornaments. Since our little one isn't quite old enough to assist with the construction, and my husband is completely occupied with his studies at the moment, I've been the ornament factory. Each Sunday, I sit down to make the ornaments for the next week. Jesse Tree ornaments can be as simple or elaborate as one would like - and for this year, I've opted for sketching and simple water colors. On one side, I've drawn the symbol/image for the day (usually following the suggested ideas, but sometimes coming up with my own), and on the reverse the figure, accompanying Bible verse, and date (in the event that we may need to use them again in future years).



Each evening, we sit down to first read the selection from Scripture, and then Daddy and Baby hang the ornament. The readings for each day have taken us on a whistle-stop tour of salvation history, and then from this Saturday until Christmas will be based on the O Antiphons. The whole process is a daily, tangible reminder of Israel's anticipation of the Messiah, and I am fairly certain is something that is on its way to being a family tradition.


Here are a few photos of this year's Jesse Tree:





Monday, December 12, 2011

"Wisdom in God's Country"

The good folks at Wyoming Catholic College, whom we are very close to after having lived in Wyoming for three years, have teamed up with Grassroots Films in order to make a 7-minute promotional film about life at the College. This extraordinary video takes advantage of the breathtaking Wyoming views, which is the setting not only for student recreation, but also for much of their education.

When I was the DRE in Jackson, we would host the students on their winter outdoor trip, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that these students really do become who the video makes them out to be through the education that they receive-- intelligent, faithful Catholics, who will go on to be leaders in the career fields they choose to take up (yes, they're real people, many of whom aren't going to become priests or nuns-- though, many are, as well...).

Wyoming Catholic just graduated their first class this past spring (with an almost 0% attrition rate), and have a reknowned faculty and phenomenal curriculum. It is so good in fact, that only three years after they opened, WCC made the prestigious Newman List-- the Cardinal Newman Society list of outstanding (and authentically Catholic) Catholic Colleges.

For anyone considering where to go for college, or perhaps where to send their child for an authentically Catholic liberal arts education, I'd highly recommend sending them to Wyoming Catholic College.

Let's watch the video:



For more information about Wyoming Catholic College, visit their website, http://www.wyomingcatholiccollege.com

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Homemade Advent, Part 1

Advent seems to have come upon us quite quickly this year (as evidenced by the dearth of posts, we've found ourselves fairly preoccupied with the business of life this month), and it took the arrival of the first Sunday of Advent to spur me to some Advent planning for our little family.


The constraints (i.e. living abroad and being on a student budget) on any extravagant Advent and Christmas purchasing I might be tempted to contemplate, have paradoxically almost become conditions of freedom. In other words, these limitations have proven an opportunity for me to exercise a little bit of creativity and ingenuity, in contrast to the more prosaic exercise of simply buying something, as I embark on an adventure of a homemade Advent this year.


Part One: In Which The Advent Wreath Is Procured


I suppose "procured" isn't exactly the right verb in this instance - "constructed" might be more apt. In any event, this project was spurred on by my refusal to spend on anything I was fairly certain I could make myself. In consequence, the little one and I went out yesterday afternoon to gather our raw materials: dead, yet fairly pliable branches, an ample selection of pine boughs, abandoned pinecones, bright red berries, and some additional foliage for ornamentation.


The first step was to fashion a woven ring (of sorts) for the base. I had envisioned weaving my branches without needing to tie them together, but after the little one successfully demolished that attempt (while under the assumption that Mommy's project was obviously a frisbee), I resorted to a bit of brown yarn as fastening assistance.



The branches thus formed a base for weaving in the pine boughs. I started with the larger boughs at the bottom, and added judiciously as I worked upwards.


My next project was the procurement of candles. In this region of Austria, it seems to be traditional to use red candles rather than violet and rose for the Advent wreath, and thus the only Advent candle sets I could find in our local shops were red. While I contemplated simply "doing as the Romans do", I just couldn't manage to repudiate the years of my family tradition…so in the absence of any violet and rose candles for sale, I went white.


Well, not quite. I found some lovely white candles to use as a base, and then wound some violet and rose embroidery floss I happened to have on hand for the appropriate Advent colors. And what did I use for candleholders? Plastic schnapps glasses, obviously.



Below is the final result, finished with pinecones, berries, a bit of extra foliage, and a braided yarn bow, which will hopefully see us through this season of joyful anticipation. And though our little one is still a bit to small to manage blowing out the Advent candles after our daily prayers, he appreciates the candles, pinecones and berries!
































Monday, October 17, 2011

On the Goodness and Necessity of Latin in Religious Education, Part 1


Obj. 1: It would seem that Latin as a part of a comprehensive Catholic religious education program is no longer necessary; indeed, perhaps it never was, except only to fulfill a function of utility. This is evidenced by the fact that the Mass is no longer in Latin, and is now freely available to all in their own language.

Obj. 2: Further, Latin is a "dead language," and therefore, fulfills no practical use in the formation of the Person.

Obj. 3: Still further, owing to globalization and progress in culture, perhaps it is better to form a child in a "practical" foreign language, such as Spanish. This would undoubtedly bring more benefit to a child after they have grown up.

Therefore, Latin as a language to be learned is no longer essential in the 21st century, but merely something that belongs to the realm of academics who would study those antiquities of earlier days.

On the Contrary, the Second Vatican Council states that “The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rite" (SC 36).

I answer that Latin is not only a good for the Person, but a necessary part of Catholic education, for the following reasons: In the Early Church, the Fathers adopted Latin as the language of the Church, taking what was profane and making it sacred. Thus it is most appropriate for Catholics to be able to understand a basic minimum of the language of their Faith.

     Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Early Church Fathers inexorably bound the Latin language to the Church (and in turn, Christendom) by adopting the language for the official translation of the Sacred Scriptures. As "ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ," and the Latin text is the authority in discrepancy in translation, this necessitates the learning of Latin for any person desirous of knowing Christ without error.

     Further, Latin as the unifying language of the Body of Christ perpetuates unto today that most August event of the 50th day after the Resurrection: The Babel of the Old Testament has been purified and restored into unity in Christ so that all might hear the Truth in one language, the language of God. Therefore, the use of the Latin language is the fullest sign of unity to the Body of Christ, having grace continually poured out on her, just as on that day of Pentecost.

Reply to Obj. 1: With regard to the worship of the Church, the intention of the Second Vatican Council on the use of Latin (as evidenced by the documents that were borne from the Council, and not the so-called "spirit"), was to achieve the full, active, and conscious participation of the Faithful, specifically though their learning of the Ordinary parts of the Mass--the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Credo, the Sanctus, the Mortem Tuam, the Pater Noster, and the Agnus Dei-- in Latin (or Greek, as it were, for the Kyrie). Further, the publication of the typical edition of the Mass is originally in Latin. Translations of that Latin are only then authorized and allowed to be used, and as we have found in the coming of the New English Translation, often these translations are seriously deficient, and in some instances made for ideological purposes, both of which prohibit the person from worshipping in Truth. For these reasons, that the Council desired it and that translations are deficient, it seems to necessitate that a person learn Latin if they desire to more fully participate in the Liturgy of the Church.

Reply to Obj. 2: As the official language of the Vatican City State is Latin, and consequently the Church's official language, as evidenced by all documents being written and promulgated in Latin, it seems that Latin cannot rightly be considered a dead language. Further, the language is necessary to know, in that the original Latin is the authority to settle any dispute of meaning in a derivative translation. Finally, as many documents are never translated, this makes knowledge of the Latin language vital.

Reply to Obj. 3: It is, no doubt, immensely beneficial for a child to learn the Spanish language, or French, or German, or Tagalog, as well! This seems to be a false juxtaposition, as if a person is only capable of learning one language other than their mother tongue. Even still, if one were to take this false premise as a correct one, it seems that, because all of the romance languages have their origins in the Latin language, that to learn only Latin would allow a person a substantial understanding of several other languages, as well. This fact, combined with the sacred character of the Latin language as employed by the tradition of the Church, places a greater priority on the Catholic to learn Latin prior to any other language-- keeping in mind that by placing priority on Latin we do not deny the benefit of learning other languages which will no doubt serve the Person greatly in those secular endeavors.

For all of these reasons, I declare that it is not only practical, but that there is almost a moral obligation for a person desiring to be a faithful Catholic to learn a basic corpus of the Latin language.

Here are some prayers

Latin Mass Parts and More Info

(For more reading, lest you think that this is simply some erroneous notion of this blogger, go read Veterum Sapientia, written by Pope John XXIII, the Pope who called the Second Vatican Council, and in the same year he wrote this document-- my findings are consonant with his own)

--

Post-Script: Implicit to this whole discussion is the question of pastoral concern in the face of the globalization of cultures mentioned earlier. Part two will focus more on this question, but I simply want to give a practical example of why we should be striving to retain a common language of worship. The problem is in fact not a new one (there has always been multiculturalism, especially in America), but rather the seeming lack of solution has been created with the advent of the use of the vernacular. The problem is thus:

We find that we have large populations of non English speakers residing in a parish. The problem lies in that, for example, unless all English speakers were to learn Spanish, or all Spanish speakers were to learn English, then we will never again gather as the entire Body of Christ to celebrate the Eucharist in a fully unified act of worship. This seems to be a highly unreasonable request on the part of either language group-- to learn the others' language. And perhaps rightly so. So we are left at an impasse: either endure hours long bi-lingual liturgies, which is the only (albeit impractical) solution that the modernists have come up with, and no-one actually enjoys; or be exclusive of one language group in favor of another. The solution, of course, is to discriminate against both languages in favor of the language of the Church, which seems both right and just. It is truly a sad affair, this impasse, that what Christ has restored at Pentecost has been destroyed by man. This is a supreme irony, that the first destruction of Babel was by God because man had the audacity to claim what was not theirs. Then, when God gives man what they desire but do not deserve, man destroys that very same original object of desire.

Obviously, I think that the answer here is found in Latin. But the desire is to start a discussion, rather than leave the elephant in the room unmentioned. I hope you'll chime in with your own thoughts! In part two, I will focus more on some of the natural ends of the current philosophy, which is what compelled me to write on the subject to begin with.

God bless you!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Selige Anna Schäffer, bitte für uns!

I was first introduced to Blessed Anna Schäffer during my freshman year of college, and had an immediate interest in her (at the time, primarily because I shared her name). In the years that have followed, I've grown to appreciate her model of sanctity: she was an ordinary woman who grew in extraordinary virtue through a life spent largely in great suffering. Since today is the anniversary of her death, I thought it appropriate to provide an introduction to this woman who, though she has a very large local following in Bavaria, is relatively unknown among English-speaking Catholics.


Blessed Anna Schäffer


On February 18, 1882, Anna Schäffer was born into a large Catholic family in the village of Mindelstetten, Bavaria (southern Germany). Her family was devout, and of modest means. Anna was reportedly rather shy, but a good student and hard worker. As a child, Anna dedicated herself to God, hoping to join a religious congregation. However, her path to sanctity proved far different than perhaps what she would have planned.


When Anna was fourteen, her father died quite unexpectedly, and she began to work to help support her now-impoverished family, still hoping to earn enough money to enable her to eventually enter a convent. At the age of sixteen, she had a vision of a saint, who reportedly revealed that she would experience great suffering before the age of twenty, and counseled her to remain faithful to the Rosary.


In 1901, while doing laundry with a fellow worker, Anna attempted to fix a stove pipe above a boiler. As she climbed to reach the pipe, she slipped and fell into the laundry vat, hot lye coming up to her knees. After this accident, various doctors performed over thirty operations on her legs, attempting skin grafts to help the wounds heal. These operations failed, and for the rest of her life, Anna's legs were wrapped in bandages. She was now a dependent invalid, with no possibility of joining a religious order.


Anna, like many of us, initially struggled to accept her suffering as God's will for her life. However, over time, through frequent reception of the Eucharist, prayer, and spiritual direction, she embraced her "bed-Cross", as she called it. From her bed, she began her own little apostolate: she catechized the village children, devoted herself and her life to praying for others, offering her suffering in reparation for sins. Those who knew her were amazed by her patience, prayerfulness, and most of all, her compassion for others who suffered. A member of the Third Order of St. Francis, on the feast of St. Francis, October 4, 1910, she received the stigmata (though she asked it to remain hidden).


Anna's life was spent in near-constant pain, and towards the end of her life, her legs became paralyzed. Yet she possessed great joy and conviction of being most loved and blessed by her heavenly Father. She died on October 5, 1925, after receiving the Eucharist. Her grave quickly became a site of pilgrimage, with many reporting graces they had received through her prayers. Anna Schäffer was beatified by Pope John Paul II on March 8, 1999.


Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed Anna Schäffer


Oh, holy Trinity, Crown of all Sanctity! We beseech Thee, grant that Anna Schäffer of Mindelstetten, Thy faithful servant, will soon be venerated as a saint by the whole Church. Forever contemplating the love of Thy sacred Heart, she offered up her life and suffering nurtured by the power of Holy Communion, to Thee in penance.

Through her intercession, give renewed hope and trust to the suffering and all in need. Make her an example of giving life in willing suffering, an example for all faithful that Thou, Almighty God may be all the more glorified through her, Thou, who liveth and reigneth for evermore. Amen.

For more on Blessed Anna Schäffer, please visit here and here.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

On St. Therese and Wendell Berry

At first glance, the above title may seem an unlikely juxtaposition of two disparate figures. What could the simple 19th century cloistered Carmelite, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, have in common with author, essayist, poet and agrarian, Wendell Berry? Yet, as I happened to be reading both this week, I thought I would share an interesting thematic similarity I see between the two.


The Office of Readings for today's Memorial of St. Thérèse contains an excerpt from her autobiography:

Since my longing for martyrdom was powerful and unsettling, I turned to the epistles of St. Paul in the hope of finally finding an answer. By chance the 12th and 13th chapters of the 1st epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention, and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher, that the Church is composed of a variety of members, and that the eye cannot be the hand. Even with such an answer revealed before me, I was not satisfied and did not find peace.


I persevered in the reading…the Apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love and that this same love is surely the best path leading directly to God. At length I had found peace of mind…Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation…Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.

St. Thérèse's realization, that love was the essence of her vocation, has come to be known as her "Little Way": "Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love."


Turning from the spiritual insights of St. Thérèse to the social and economic thought of Wendell Berry, Norman Wirzba's Introduction to The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry, provides a thematic foundation for an understanding of the latter:

What the purveyors and boosters of conventional wisdom often fail to ask, however, is whether the social and economic transformations they facilitate lead to an improper or inauthentic sense of human identity and vocation. A knowledge economy, like the industrial economy before it, demands that we see ourselves as specialists or careerists, trained to do a task of very limited scope and significance….We do not see or appreciate the biological and social fact that our lives and our responsibilities are complexly, yet harmoniously,intertwined with the lives of many others. The effect of careerism is thus to make ourselves frustratingly helpless and ignorant in regard to basic human skills - growing food, maintaining a home, caring for and educating children, promoting friendship and cooperation, facing illness and death…Specialization also leads to the sense of our own isolation from the broader wholes of which we are a part."

Though Berry's essay, "Think Little", is primarily a commentary on social, environmental and economic issues, one paragraph reflects the theme discussed above:

For most of the history of this country our motto, implied or spoken, has been Think Big. I have come to believe that a better motto, and an essential one now, is Think Little….the citizen who is willing to Think Little, and, accepting the discipline of that, to go ahead on his own, is already solving the problem. A man who is trying to live as a neighbor to his neighbors will have a lively and practical understanding of the work of peace and brotherhood, and let there be no mistake about it - he is doing that work. A couple who make a good marriage, and raise healthy, morally competent children, are serving the world's future more directly and surely than any political leader, though they never utter a public word. A farmer who is dealing with the problem of soil erosion on an acre of ground has a sounder grasp of that problem and cares more about it and is probably doing more to solve it than any bureaucrat who is talking about it in general.

Given some of Wendell Berry's philosophical (and religious) ideas, an argument for a deep theological identity of the agrarian's thought with that of the Little Flower would be a bit extreme, and perhaps slightly ludicrous.


However, on an anthropological level, I do think that both St. Thérèse and Wendell Berry exhibit a similar insight into the human condition - an insight that resonates with both man's spiritual and material existence. That insight is this: man seems to possess an innate sense of vocation, the idea of a calling outside himself and greater than himself to which he must respond. Oftentimes, that sense is experienced as a desire to accomplish something great, something grandiose, something that is better than and beyond the drudgeries of his everyday existence (for St. Thérèse, this desire was for martyrdom; Wendell Berry diagnoses it as the "Think Big" motto).


Though a desire to accomplish or conform oneself to something (or someone) greater is not per se flawed, and indeed may be the impetus for an individual's achievements, both Thérèse and Berry prudentially warn against the temptation to human illusions of grandeur. Their counsel is something of a paradox: authentic human greatness is achieved not by casting off the trials of everyday life, but embracing them.


Thus, one could interpret Berry's encouragement to "Think Little", as analogous to the life of St. Thérèse. Her model of sanctity is, as John Paul II stated in his homily of 19 October 1997, "…not that of the great undertakings reserved for the few, but on the contrary, a way within everyone's reach, the "little way", a path of trust and total self-abandonment to the Lord's grace."


And I leave it to the reader to draw further analogies and/or implications, be they spiritual or agrarian, from here...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Spiritual Pelagianism

"There is nothing new under the sun", Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us, and indeed the heresy of Pelagianism has not only recurred in various forms throughout Christian history, but can be a chronic problem in one's spiritual life as well.


An insightful priest gently recently reminded me of this during Confession: "You must remember", he said, "we can only love God, others, and even ourselves, because God has first loved us." And as he spoke, I had an abrupt realization: I had fallen into the Pelagian trap once again!


To explain what I mean by this reference, a brief excursus may be helpful:


Pelagius was a 5th century monk whose writings denied the doctrine of original sin, and instead spoke of Adam's sin as a "bad example". For Pelagius, Christ's work, his teaching and model of the moral life, countered Adam's bad example. He argued that man, through the exercise of his will and sheer human effort, could be completely virtuous. The missing and absolutely essential element here is grace: Pelagius argued that it was not necessary for the individual to attain eternal life. The Council of Carthage, held in 418, therefore declared Pelagianism to be a heresy, and affirmed the absolute necessity of grace for the salvation of man: without the grace of Christ, man cannot perform the good works He commands.


(Incidentally, it is primarily due to his writings against Pelagius and Pelagianism that St. Augustine is known as the "Doctor of Grace". Paragraph 406 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church contains a mention of Pelagianism, and for more information on this subject, see the article "Pelagius and Pelagianism" in the Catholic Encyclopedia.)


Father's insight caused me to pause and reflect upon my attitudes and actions. Though I am convinced of the priority of grace, the Catholic doctrine that it is only through the Redemption that man may merit a share in the eternal glory of the Trinity, I find it only too easy to slip into a daily default attitude that focuses more on "me". Perhaps it is part of human nature, this independent and assertive tendency exhibited from childhood: "I want to do it myself!". Perhaps it is ingrained in the American psyche, this "pull yourself up by the bootstraps mentality", which affirms that if one just has enough desire and works hard, man can achieve anything. Perhaps it is a symptom of any one of a number of invasive post-Enlightenment philosophies, such as secular humanism, with its pontification that a universally just morality may be gained through reason alone.


Whatever the cultural, historical, philosophical or psychological source, I frequently, and most often unconsciously, concentrate on "what I do" to work towards salvation. The danger in this attitude, if untempered, for me has a two-fold manifestation. If I feel I am doing well in my spiritual life, accomplishing many good works, I can develop a pride that forgets "I do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). On the other hand, my recognition of my many failures can be accompanied by a sense of despondency, which is forgetful of hope in Christ. Either attitude can extend to broader activities as well: in catechesis or evangelization, I sometimes forget, that though I may contribute, moments of conversion, healing or inspiration are ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit, and not my own.


The counter, or antidote, to this "tendency to spiritual Pelagianism", as I see it, is multi-faceted.


The Catholic faith is, as one of my professors once explained, "both/and", never "either/or". Thus, the Church teaches the necessity of both grace and works, the value of both fasting and feasting, the need for both faith and reason…one could go on and on.


Avoiding "spiritual Pelagianism", it would seem, therefore requires an active recognition of the dynamic relationship between the action of God and the cooperation of man in individual sanctification. God's grace is always prior, but through Christ's Redemption and the grace given through the supernatural virtues of faith, hope and charity, man is given the ability to love as God loves (St. Thomas provides an excellent explanation of this relationship in the Secunda Secundae, Question 23, Article 2 "Whether charity is something created in the soul?" of the Summa).


It is not always easy to translate this principle into daily life: living the virtue of charity while simultaneously acknowledging that one's acts of charity are not one's own, but ultimately from God. It requires a constant balance; over-emphasis upon God's action in the spiritual life would make man a mere "puppet" of the Holy Spirit, and would reject or ignore the great dignity God has given man in the gift of human free will. Over-emphasis upon human action, however, can lead to this "spiritual Pelagianism", a neglect of God's essential role in sanctification.


In my experience, this is the beauty of the Catholic faith: it has already provided, or (at the least) points to, three aids to the practice of this "constant balance". First, the sacrament of Confession, a good examination of conscience beforehand, have a way of bringing to light and correcting my over-reliance upon my human abilities, reminding me of my need for God's grace and providing that gratuitous gift. Second, I find that a tendency to "spiritual Pelagianism" most often occurs when I neglect my daily prayer. The silence of prayer, especially the meditation that "is a way of making contact with the heart of God in our mind", as Pope Benedict XVI has observed in his recent catechetical series on prayer, has a way of attuning our hearts and spirits to the priority of God's love, reminding us that "we love him because he first loved us". (1 John 4:19) Finally, the cultivation of that wonderful (if sometimes challenging) virtue of humility, whether it be sought actively through prayer or the result of suffering, enables one to recognize the truth of man's ultimate dependence upon the love and mercy of God.


Father's gentle diagnosis of what I would term "spiritual Pelagianism", was not, I realized, cause for despair. Rather, his correction was an occasion for gratitude, for me to joyfully remember the ineffable love of God, His desire for each individual soul to spend eternity in His glorious presence, and the great magnanimity He shows in enabling each human being to attain this Beatific Vision.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blessed Emperor Charles of Austria


Charles of Austria was born on the 17th of August 1887 at Persenbeug castle in Lower Austria. His parents were the Archduke Otto of Austria and the Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony, the sister of the last King of Saxony. The Emperor Franz-Joseph I was Charles' Great Uncle.

Charles was brought up consciously as a Catholic, receiving a mainly military but also political training. From his earliest childhood his life was accompanied by a prayer group, after a nun blessed with the marks of the stigmata, had foretold great suffering and personal attacks for Charles in the future. From an early age, Charles developed a great love of Holy Communion and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Throughout his life he sought to resolve all important decisions through prayer.

On the 21st of October 1911, he married Princess Zita of Bourbon, daughter of the Duke of Parma. In ten years of happy and exemplary marriage, they were blessed with eight children.

On the 28th of June 1914, the murder of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo resulted in Charles becoming the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The death of the Emperor Franz-Joseph in the middle of the war was followed by Charles' inthronisation on the 21st of November 1916 as Emperor of Austria. On the 30th of December he was crowned Apostolic King of Hungary.

For Charles the inheritance of crowns was a personal vocation given to him from God's hand. This duty in the service of his peoples was both unrenounceable and sacred. It was to be carried out if necessary in loving submission even at the expense of his own life as a true Follower of Christ. In the universal and faith-serving tradition of his house, he saw the alternative to nationalism and the other fatal currents of the twentieth century whose beginning would encompass the destruction of his empire. Throughout all of this, the Empress was his strongest human support.

Charles' rule expressed Catholic Social Teaching. His highly personal efforts to secure a peace were at the centre of his activities throughout a terrible war. On account of his political ideas, his beatification honoured him as the pioneer and patron of a truly united Europe.

He created a social legal framework which is partly in force even today. Moreover, as practically the only statesman who was himself also a soldier, he had personal experience of the horrors of the front. As Commander-in Chief he made great efforts to humanise military tactics where conditions permitted.

Charles saw himself opposed by a violent propaganda inspired by international forces which actively worked for the destruction of his empire and therefore had a vested interest in discrediting him personally. These forces influenced also large parts of the leading internal military, social and political circles.

His constant sensitive conscience and courageous conduct enabled the transition to a post-war order to occur without a civil war. Nevertheless both he and his wife were deprived of their homeland, birthright and practically all of their possessions.

Loyal to his coronation oath and the express wishes of the Pope who feared Bolshevism was set to engulf central Europe, Charles tried after the war to take up again his ruling responsibilities in Hungary. Two attempts failed owing to the treason and dishonesty of his subordinates. King and Queen were first imprisoned and then exiled to Madeira, together with their children.

There the family lived in impoverished conditions where the already physically weak Emperor contracted a painful illness which finally killed him. Just as he had accepted dutifully the inheritance of crowns, he now accepted with equanimity also from God's own hand the cross of exile, painful illness and death, again as a sacrifice for his peoples.

Pardoning and forgiving all, he died on the 1st of April 1922 his gaze fixed on the Blessed Sacrament.

The motto of his life was as he repeated on his death-bed:

"My entire efforts are always in all things to recognise and follow as clearly as possible the will of God even in all its completeness."

Prayer:

O Blessed Emperor Charles, you accepted the difficult duty and burdensome challenges of your life as the commission of God trusting alone in the Holy Trinity for all your thoughts, decisions and actions.

We beseech you to intercede with God on our behalf giving us confidence and courage so that even in the most difficult situations of our earthly lives we may not lose heart, but continue faithfully in the footsteps of Christ.

Ask for us the grace that our hearts may be moulded into the likeness of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Help us to work with compassion and strength for the poor and needy, to fight with courage for peace in our homes and in the world, and in every situation to trustingly place our lives in God's hand, so that like you we may belong to Him through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(source: Archdiocese of Vienna; image from New World Encyclopedia)

(Note: with the recent death of Otto von Habsburg, the greatest and longest lasting Catholic dynasty has come to an end after over a thousand years; and with that passing, all that it stood for. It is truly a sad state of affairs, that a world would joyfully see the destruction of such a beautiful thing, and should give pause for real reflection on the transmission of the Gospel in what is now a truly "post-Christian" era.-CDO)

Blessed Kaiser Karl, pray for us!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Who's the New Arch in Denver?

With today's big event being the installation of His Excellency, Charles Chaput as the new Metropolitan in Philadelphia, I thought it an opportunity to put it out there as to my thoughts as a potential successor for him in Denver.

But first, let's look at what kind of shoes would need to be filled. In the public sphere especially, Archbishop Chaput has been outspoken on the issues of the day, especially giving a strong voice to the pro-life movement.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, he was highly critical of then-candidate Barack Obama, and especially the messiah-complex that he seemed to garner from his supporters.

His book, Render unto Caesar, reiterates this point, encouraging all Catholics to take a more active stance in public life, and for standing up for the truths of the Faith.

He has been especially critical in fighting off the advances of same sex "marriage" advocates, and well articulating the positive position of the Church's teachings in this area, and highlighting the underlying agenda by those who would see that ideology advanced.

As if that weren't enough, he has in the past also publicly disagreed with the prevailing winds of the USCCB-- that is to say, he is not afraid to be his own Bishop.

In addition, ++Chaput is a sincere and personally holy man. I have had the chance to meet him and talk with him briefly, and he is a true pastor.

All of that said, who do I think would be an ideal successor to him in Denver?

My vote:





His Excellency, the Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila.

Bishop Aquila, currently the Ordinary of the Fargo Diocese, is no stranger to Denver-- in fact, he was first ordained there. He was also the first rector of the Seminary in Denver, after ++Chaput re-opened it.

Naturally, Bishop Aquila has spent a bit of time in Rome. Since his ordination as Bishop, he has absolutely transformed North Dakota during his tenure there. With a specialization in liturgy, and also with great experience in catechesis (he has been on a USCCB committee for both), it is no surprise that Fargo Diocese is doing as well as it is.

In addition, he is a staunch defender of human life, and no stranger to entering into the Public Forum, either.

For all of these reasons, not that my own opinion makes any difference, I think he would be an excellent candidate to fill the void that Archbishop Chaput has left in the Mile High City. Given the raised profile of the Church in Denver, the candidate would have to be someone of the caliber of Bishop Aquila, and also someone of his knowledge of the mid-west and mountain regions.

As for a date for announcing this, just to keep it interesting...I wouldn't be at all surprised if whoever the successor is going to be is announced before Christmas of this year, perhaps even as early as the beginning of October; however, I am sure that the passing of our beloved Nuncio may have slowed down things a bit.

Just a thought... But at least, if I am at all correct, there is a written record.

Some have opined that perhaps +Conley, auxiliary of Denver, might have a chance. I think he would be great, but don't think it likely, as I foresee he has the potential to be heading to Lincoln, NE in the near future...

Any other thoughts as to who it might be, or who would be good for Denver? Leave a comment!

UPDATE: this speculation is fun and all, but seriously, why not take a few seconds and pray for our Bishops, especially our local ordinary, and also for Archbishop Chaput in his new placement, and for the Holy Spirit to guide our Holy Father to the right candidate for Denver.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Novena for Doctrinal Discussions

It seems to me that the coming meeting between Cardinal Levada, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Bishop Fellay, Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X, on the coming Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14th) has some potentially very broad-reaching importance.

Many would look at the so-called "Traditionalists," and say that this is all about the celebration of the Mass, those folks who want to turn the clock back to the "Tridentine Rite," or what we now should properly call "The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite," and who dismiss the New Mass, don't recognize the Pope, etc, etc.

However, this is all a propaganda to mask the underlying issue, and that is the fact that this Society is essentially calling for a proper interpretation of the documents that were produced by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council. In point of fact, the members of the Society do recognize the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, and they do recognize the validity of the New Mass.

Now, this is not the place at all to get into the intricacies of the ongoing discussions, as they are complex; however, my purpose for writing today is to highlight the importance of these talks. These areas of discussion-- issues such as religious liberty and ecumenism, evangelization, and the organization of the Church, and yes, also the celebration of the Liturgy, all have very real implications on the person in the pews and their understanding of the nature and mission of the Church.

This is why I say that, potentially, these discussions with the SSPX have some broad-reaching implications for the rest of the Church. If we truly desire as Christ desires, that all might be One, then for the purpose of unity, these talks take on a particular importance (not unlike, I might add, the Holy Father's visit to Germany).

For this reason, I propose that we should engage in a novena to St. Pius X, for the Holy Spirit not to be impeded in these talks, and that, on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Christ's glory might be made manifest.

If you would like to join in, beginning tomorrow for nine days until the 14th, then here is a prayer (I'd mention, perhaps also it would be good to remember the Ember Days for this intention):

Novena to St. Pius X

Glorious pope of the Eucharist, St. Pius X, you sought “to restore all things in Christ.” Obtain for me a true love of Jesus so that I may live only for Him. Help me to acquire a lively fervor and a sincere will to strive for sanctity of life and that I may avail myself of the riches of the Holy Eucharist, which is sacrifice and sacrament. By your love for Mary, mother and queen, inflame my heart with tender devotion to her.

Blessed model of the priesthood, obtain for us holy, dedicated priests, and increase vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Dispel confusion, hatred, and anxiety. Incline our hearts to peace so that all nations will place themselves under the reign of Christ.

Most glorious servant of the servants of Christ, in a special way, guide the hearts of those involved in doctrinal discussions between the fraternity named in honor of you, and our Holy Father in Rome, that a spirit of unity, charity, and truth might be made manifest, so that all might be truly one. Amen.

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium. Ímperet ílli Déus, súpplices deprecámur: tuque, prínceps milítiæ cæléstis, Sátanam aliósque spíritus malígnos, qui ad perditiónem animárum pervagántur in múndo, divína virtúte, in inférnum detrúde. Ámen

Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie. Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem: sed libera nos a malo. Amen.

Ave Maria, gratia plena; Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui Jesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto. Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculórum. Amen




St. Pius X, pray for us.


(For a good, concise explanation of the history of the issue, and some of the problems in the discussion, I'd refer you over to Rorate Caeli, where they have a link to an article that very well outlines the importance of the coming meeting: "Do You Wish to Understand the Holy See- SSPX Talks?")

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Emotional Detachment in the Search for God's Will

Growth in spiritual maturity is concomitant with a greater conformity of one's will to the Will of God, a detachment from the things of the world and one's own desires in preference for the eternal joy found in personal surrender to the Blessed Trinity. Yet, though the question of what this detachment is and how it may be accomplished is easily discussed, rarely is this detachment as easily achieved. As I, for one, have often found, expressing a desire for God's will to be done is sometimes more of a lip-service than an authentic interior conformity to this "desire". Our emotions can, at the least, conflict with reasoned surrender to Divine Providence. At the worst, poorly ordered emotions may be a source of mis-direction in our spiritual journey.


During a Sunday dinner conversation earlier this month, some friends posed a question to my husband and I on this very subject. We had been reviewing the year-long series of discussions and events leading us to make a "major life decision", and had shared that though we felt blessed to have such peace with the outcome, confident that this was God's will for our family, we felt equally blessed that we had been able to remain (relatively...we're far from sainthood) emotionally detached through the whole process of discernment. Hence the question: how does one remain emotionally detached when seeking God's will?


It was an excellent and insightful question, which gave both of us pause for some reflection before we answered. It is this reflection that I wish to share, and as a disclaimer, it is only based on our very humble experience - we will spend our lifetimes pursuing greater detachment from our will, greater abandonment to the will of God.


This question seems, to me, to be at the heart of the spiritual journey, the journey to sanctity, for it really is a question of how we not only conform our hearts to, but also love, God's will for us. It is a question that approaches the reality of what it is to be human, soul and body, endowed with a rational, intellectual, as well as emotional and affective, nature. Just as the proper integration of reason and emotions is appropriate to the more material matters of life (just because I love and desire that gorgeous pair of designer heels, doesn't mean I can afford, or should indulge myself by buying them), this proper integration is also essential to a healthy spiritual life.


Authentic emotional detachment is not, therefore, a rejection of the emotions, but an affirmation of their appropriate value. Karol Wojtyla's philosophical work (here I am thinking specifically of The Acting Person) is very strong on the necessity of integration of the constitutive elements of the entire person, body and soul. This integration, therefore, requires a proper ordering of the emotions.


With respect to emotional detachment in the search for God's will, this ordering would consist in a detachment from the desired outcome: a knowledge of the various possibilities, and (though an emotional preference may be present) a peace with allowing God to reveal His will in time. In the most perfect sense, it is an imitation of Christ in Gethsemane, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will." (Mt. 26:39).


This attitude of Christ in the hours before His Passion indicates another aspect of how this emotional detachment is achieved. In some cases, it seems as though certain individuals are given a grace to remain detached, to live completely in surrender to the will of God. However, for many, if not most of us (including myself), we learn this detachment through the experience of suffering and sacrifice. The two are closely related. In suffering, whether it be a mundane inconvenience associated with life in family and community or a more difficult struggle or loss, there is a point where we can no longer control the situation through our human abilities. We are faced with fundamental metaphysical reality: the limits of our created, human nature, and our essential dependence upon God. This is a reality we may freely choose to either accept or resist; and the humble acceptance of this reality is the foundation for emotional detachment, and surrender to God's will. The practice of self-denial through sacrifice, for similar reasons likewise possesses inestimable value for us as we seek greater conformity to the Sacred Heart.


In all of this, we remain very human. Sometimes, understanding of God's will precedes and motivates our surrender (especially when we can see that God's will is best for us), sometimes this understanding follows shortly afterwords, and sometimes we will not understand God's providential design until we enjoy the Beatific Vision. As humans, therefore, this is our lifelong challenge: to surrender to God's loving will readily and joyfully both in situations we comprehend and those we do not fully understand.


The question of what it means to conform our will to that of our Creator is thus a mystery, a paradox at once both simple and complex, as uniform as our shared human nature, and as diverse as the all the variety of the personalities of each individual. And the mystery of God's omnipotence far surpasses the vagaries of our human wills and emotions. The love of the Trinity is not coercive: it is an invitation to divine life that we may freely accept in perfect surrender, freely refuse in obstinate disdain, or half-heartedly reciprocate in a lifelong ambivalent struggle. Whatever our spiritual state, we may trust that God works with us, whether our emotions be ordered or disordered, to mysteriously accomplish his ever-perfect will.

A New Chapter

With my husband providing such an enthusiastic preface, it seems appropriate for me to follow with a slightly more personal introduction.

I am a cradle Catholic, and a farm girl with a love of all things Catholic and agrarian. This upbringing naturally opened me to the beauty of Catholic life and culture, but it was my undergraduate education, a Catholic humanities program of studies with a special focus upon Christopher Dawson's vision of the role of Christian culture in the West, that particularly fostered and developed this love.

Having just recently completed my coursework for my M.A. in Catholic Theology, and with my new-found "free time", I am finally taking up my husband's open invitation to offer occasional contributions to Benedictus Dominus. I expect my musings to be motivated primarily by our daily life and experiences, formed by my educational background, and colored by my particular point of view.

It is my hope that my thoughts and reflections will be of some value, and a complement to my husband's more regular posts. As our family begins a new adventure, I look forward to commencing this concurrent enterprise, and wish to express my sincere appreciation for your future readership, and kind support.

May God bless you!

Introducing... My Wife!

With our move to Austria, as well as the free time that she has now that she's finished her MA in Theology, my wife has decided to start contributing to the blog! She's a much better writer than me, anyway, so I hope you'll enjoy what she has to say! Be on the lookout for her first post soon...

Pope Benedict is the Pope of Christian Unity.

Yes, yes he is:
VATICAN, LUTHERANS PREPARING DOCUMENT ON REFORMATION
"According to the Vatican official on ecumenism, the Church and the World Lutheran Federation are preparing a Joint Declaration on the Reformation, in view of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 Theses.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, announced this in an interview with the German Catholic agency KNA.
In this context, Vatican Radio reported Monday that Benedict XVI wants his Sept. 22-25 trip to Germany to have an ecumenical focus."

Read the rest at Zenit.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Reform of the Reform in Austria...?

Greetings! This is my first post here in Trumau, Austria, where I have now settled in to my continued studies at the International Theological Institute, after having arrived on Saturday (buy coffee to support a starving student and his family!).

Notably, the principle liturgy on campus is the Byzantine Divine Liturgy. I attended a Mass in the Roman rite this evening for the first time since arriving, at the local parish kirche. That it was a parish priest, not formally affiliated with the Institute, is what made my experience so interesting.

Mass was in German, of course. However, Pater led the closing prayers of the rosary from the foot of the altar, prior to the beginning of Mass. Mass went on as normal (presumably, as I haven't yet learned German) until the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At that point, Pater started to chant in Latin the Dominus Vobiscum. He sung the preface, in Latin. The congregation (small-ish, and about 50% students) sung the parts of the Jubilate Deo settings.

Now, here's an interesting bit: he used the Second Eucharistic Prayer, which he sang in Latin. That one threw me off a bit, but I think it was very good to hear him doing so.

As far as I'm aware, Pater doesn't celebrate the EF, so I thought it was very nice indeed to see that he doesn't equate praying the Canon in Latin with it necessitating the use of the Roman Canon (even though that is my personal preference).

Also, the servers rang the bells not dissimilarly from the Extraordinary Form-- to a certain extent (and, I think they were local parishioners, but I can't be sure).

Just as I think that I have it all figured out, they sing the Pater Noster, in German!

Finally, it was very nice to notice that, after the consecration of the host, Pater held his thumbs and forefingers together until after the purification, which he of course held over the chalice as the server poured water into it.

After Mass, we sang the Salve Regina.

All in all, it was a lovely Mass, in a beautiful kirche. I thought that the particular variations from the Ordinary Form were very simple, and very easy to implement. Considering that I don't speak German at all just yet, it was very nice, personally, to be able to participate in Mass using the language of the Church, and to more fully, actively, and consciously participate!

Be on the lookout for more postings on the subject of liturgy in Austria, as Heiligenkreuz Abbey is only about 20 or so minutes away, and there is an FSSP parish in Wien, as well.

(Sorry for no pictures, my camera equipment is still packed up.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Our Lady: Key to the New Evangelisation in Britain

Many blogs and news reports that you read will speak of the dire straits that the Bishop's Conference of England and Wales is in-- in fact, according to these sources, perhaps the one thing going for the BCEW is that it is not as bad off as the Scottish Bishop's Conference!

In light of the riots and other news coming out of the UK, I thought I would share a bit of my experience living and working in ministry there for three years, as this “moderately pessimistic” viewpoint shared by many has not been my experience at all.

In October of 2006, as a new convert I travelled to Scotland to be a part of the Living Water Ministry, a lay community of young Catholics who committed themselves to a year of retreat ministry throughout all of the dioceses in Scotland, primarily targeted toward secondary schools and parish programmes. I travelled quite a bit, but had as a base of operations Taynuilt, a tiny village in the West Highlands, not far from Oban, and, incidentally, not far from the Craig Lodge Community. Canon Fraser, the spiritual director for the community, was a wise priest, full of wit, and "a true Scotsman".

At the end of my year, I discerned that God wasn't finished with me yet in the UK, and so I took up a position at the Maryvale Institute in north Birmingham. While working there, I lived at the Newman House at nearby University of Birmingham, living in a small community of men under the direction of Fr. Julian Green, doing ministry at the chaplaincy. I also was blessed to have a spiritual director in Fr. Philip Cleevely of the Oratory, just up the road in Edgbaston, where I served Mass, and was first really introduced to the Extraordinary Form, and where, later, I would propose to my wife.

During my three years of living in the UK, I came into contact with some extraordinary movements, and some even more extraordinary people. I was involved with Youth2000, I came into contact with folks from the Faith movement, as well as attending the Evangelium Conferences. I made a pilgrimage to Walsingham, to Glastonbury, to Ladyewell, to Harvington, on several occasions to the martyr's shrine at Tyburn, to the cells of Thomas More and John Fisher at the Tower of London, and even on a hunt to find the remains of Thomas a' Becket through Canterbury Cathedral.

I had the opportunity to go on retreat both at Pluscarden Abbey in the far north of Scotland, and at Quarr Abbey in the far south of England. I have met many a fine diocesan priest, such as notable blogger Fr. Tim Finigan, Fr. John Saward, vocations director extraordinaire Fr. Stephen Langridge of Southwark, and I could go on, but then, there would be no room for mentioning the great CFR friars, the blackfriars in Oxford, the Dominican Sisters of St. Joseph, the SOLT community... With all of these fine leaders already present in the Church, and now with the influx of Catholics through the Ordinariate-- of people who have actively chosen the truth in spite of great adversity-- Catholic presence in the public forum (both positive and negatively spun) is sure to increase.

The point is, God in his providence really blessed me greatly. As a new convert, I had no concept of "liberal" vs. "conservative," or "progressivism," or "orthodoxy"-- yet he placed me into the heart of the Church to be found in one of the ancient centres of the Faith: Britain, of all places!

Now, I won't name names, but there are plenty of ministries that if you live in England you know that I could have been involved in that would have not given me near the experience and formation in the Faith that I gained while living abroad. To throw darts at a board, I more than likely would have ended up in such a ministry. And yet, without even knowing, I stumbled into this epicenter of orthodoxy, and came to more fully root myself in a Catholic identity.

I write all of this, hopefully to encourage and inspire-- in spite of the problems in English society, and yes, even within the Church herself, her parishes and schools, there is a mighty vine underneath the soil of Great Britain, simply waiting for the right moment to spring up. There is a faith deeply rooted in the spirit of a Briton-- and, dare I say it, that faith is Roman Catholic.

Now, for a challenge.

How do these various groups of people: academics, “trads,” “charismatics,” youth and adults alike, all come together to drive a wedge of orthodoxy into the culture? I’ll give you one idea. This weekend, in the wake of World Youth Day and over the bank holiday weekend, there are two separate groups converging on the National Shrine to Our Lady in Walsingham-- the annual Youth2000 festival, and also the Latin Mass Society walking pilgrimage. Combined, there are sure to be 2,000 or more pilgrims in the same place this weekend. And yet, neither of these communities have traditionally related at all with each other, in spite of the fact that many folks involved in the LMS had some exposure to Youth2000 in the past. I use this as an example, not to be critical of either movement (perhaps there will be some interaction between the two this weekend?), but to point out a trend that many of these groups seem not to interact with each other very much, and many not at all.

The challenge is this: in loving the Church, in cultivating “the Benedict Bounce” further, it seems that it would be prudent to form some strategic plan in order to bring about the New Evangelisation in Britain. Somehow, folks who perhaps come back into the Church through the gateway of Youth2000 or another movement, get passed forward to movements like Faith, or invited to the Evangelium Conference, or perhaps get mobilized into the pro-life movement through the university SPUC Conferences.

I can already hear the nay-sayers complaining that the Bishop’s Conference won’t support it, that they already don’t vocally support these movements individually, let alone collectively. Rather than enter into a political game, which is what too often people reduce some of these rather complex pastoral decisions to, I’d simply say this: the Bishops will never be able to do anything in this arena without a well-mobilised laity.

This is where the ball is in your court. Rather than simply waiting for “the biological solution,” there are a ton of priests and religious (and even Bishops!) today, now, to support this effort. In the face of an increasing secularism and loss of identity, these groups of faithful Catholics need to come together, in spite of disagreements over liturgical preference, methods of youth ministry, etc-- or maybe even because of these disagreements-- in order to form a unified front, rallied around this great “romance of Orthodoxy” that Chesterton spoke of.

I’ll close with one final thought: this “organisation” need not be a bureaucracy by any means. I think that, if you look at what all of these individual organizations have in common, you’ll find the answer: Prayer, the Sacraments, and Our Lady. In 1061, the mother of Christ asked that a chapel of the Annunciation be built there in Walsingham, and though that structure no longer stands, I think that this event holds the key-- the surest way towards achieving this “new evangelisation” is in fulfilling the request that was made nearly a thousand years ago: to, not unlike St. Francis, re-build the church, one that presents the Annunciation, the Incarnation of Christ, to all people.

If this happens, and I believe it has already started and will continue over the next coming years, then the renewal of the Church in England will be a glorious revival-- something that Bl. John Henry Newman dreamed of in his day, and, by God’s grace, will result in the re-awakening of the Catholic in the heart of every Briton.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

More Changes to the Blog...

In light of the changes in our life that are coming up, the blog is changing a bit, as well.

The same general thrust of topics will continue (though perhaps my wife will start to blog, as well?)-- but in addition, we will be including a bit of the stories of our life abroad, and now that there aren't as many distractions, plan on blogging much more regularly.

Also, we are monetizing the site. Since I am going back to school full-time, and have a young family, we are getting creative on how to bring in some income. Of course, it is also necessitating that we review our finances and trim off as much fat as possible! You'll notice that we have added a Mystic Monk Coffee widget, and also an Amazon widget, as well. Simply by clicking through (regardless of what you order), you can support our family by purchasing things you would already normally buy!

If you don't want to buy anything, and would like to donate directly, you can use the PayPal donate button.

If you have any other ideas, or blog post ideas, don't hesitate to drop a message.

Thanks for supporting us in this new endeavor!

Friday, August 5, 2011

From the Director of Catechesis and Youth Ministry

(originally printed in the parish bulletin for Sunday, August 7th, 2011)

Dear Friends in Christ,

You may recall from a bulletin article in June that our parish has been facing some financial challenges, which resulted in a significant change in employee benefits provided by the parish. Unfortunately, due to those changes, my family and I are no longer able to support ourselves living in the Valley. After speaking with Fr. Randy this past week, I have submitted my resignation effective August 17th.

Catechist that I am, I hope you'll indulge me on some parting notes as you continue to move forward as a parish-- these admonitions have been of enormous value in my own life, and I hope that they will be of similar value to you:

• Never underestimate the power of Christ and his Sacraments. If you stay close to Him, especially in the Eucharist, then God is ready to pour out an overabundance of grace upon you. If you have never spent time with Jesus in Eucharistic adoration, then try it out-- He will change your life in ways you never imagined possible.

• Frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Through the sacrament, we are forgiven our sins and given the grace to persevere in future temptation. Make a habit of regular confession-- as I have told our 2nd graders: it's not unlike brushing your teeth! Make good habits. Go as a family.

• In the same breath, try and cultivate a love for the Church. Christ, in his wisdom, gave us a practical means of becoming Saints here in this life. The mystery that Christ's mystical body is composed of fallible people speaks to the omnipotence of God, and His perfect plan to bring us all to Heaven, even through others' imperfections. Don't apologize for the teachings of the Church, but rather, in faith, seek to understand them. The message of Christ is counter-cultural to what society would have us to believe.

• Finally, regardless of your vocation, seek to live out a Catholic family life-- whatever that family may be composed of. As parents, you are the first educators of your children, especially in the Faith. As children and youth, don't fear what God has planned for you some day, and embrace the challenges of the "rules" and teachings of the Faith, trusting that in God alone lies true freedom and happiness. Be prepared for a radical adventure, taking you places you would never have dreamed of. As adults, don't grow stagnant in your desire to learn new things, especially about this great Mystery of our Salvation; namely, Christ. Whether you are single or married, at the beginning of life or the end-- it is in this Community of Believers, as Catholics, gathered around the Sacraments of the Church, that you will be able to more fully live the extraordinary plan God has for each one of you.

As for next steps, in late August we will be moving to Austria, where I have been given a place in an advanced studies program at the International Theological Institute. For more information, visit: http://www.iti.ac.at

I want you to know that our time here at Our Lady of the Mountains has been a very joyous one, indeed. We have so enjoyed growing as a family alongside of you (just think-- when I first moved here, I was not yet married!), and will cherish the friendships that we have made here.

May God bless you, abundantly,

Chris Owens