Saturday, February 28, 2009

The proof of love

Continuing, from Divine Intimacy:
After the Incarnation, the Cross of Jesus is the greatest proof of His love for man. Similarly, mortification, which is suffering eagerly accepted for the love of God, is one of the greatest proofs of love that we can give Him. It means freely giving up a satisfaction or a pleasure in order to impose on ourselves, for love of God, something which is contrary to our own natural inclinations; we thus prove that we prefer to satisfy God rather than ourselves. every act of voluntary mortification, whether physical or moral, says to God, "Lord, I love You more than myself!" And since a soul in love has an ardent desire to give proof of its love, it is very vigilant not to miss a single opportunity for renunciation.

Do you not see, that renouncing for Lent can be the opposition to the suffering which God's permissive will has allowed us to be subjected to?

Friday, February 27, 2009

What are we really giving up?

Are we not really giving up the consumation of desire, rather than the desire?

From Divine Intimacy, Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen O.C.D., comes this insight for Lent:

If, after renouncing the superflous, we still remain attached to them by affection, our material renunciation will amount to very little. "For it is not the things of this world that either occupy the soul or cause it harm, since they enter it not, but rather the will and desire for them, for it is these that dwell within it" (St. John of the Cross, Ascent I, 3,4).

This should help make it clear to us, that it is not the giving up of a good we are attached to that is our goal, but to sever the attachment, for it is the attachments in the soul that obstruct our attachment to God. Do we not give up a pleasure during Lent, and even struggle to be faithful to that decision, but desire it the whole time, and return to it at the end of Lent? Do we not over the Lents of life, learn how very hard it is to hold ourselves back, the struggle within being waged? Do we ever manage to give up something and break the attachment to a good in itself, then never returning to it again? Yes, it is hard.

I go into this because of the relationship to Purgatory; it is the proper job of Purgatory to break, to purge our attachments, so that we can enter total union with God. Lent teaches us how hard it is to do it here; that's no cake-walk coming. We all know this already, but Lent gives us something we know, a level of effort, to tell us something about what we don't know, the level of effort we haven't yet expended, but will (the usual assumptions being in place).

The thought of death places before our eyes the vanity of earthly things, the brevity of life - "all things are passing; God alone remains" - and therefore it urges us to detach ourselves from everything, to scorn every earthly satisfaction, and to seek God alone. The thought of death makes us understand that "all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone" (Imit. I,4) "Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die...then there will be many things about which you care nothing (T.J.), that is you, will give up everything that has no eternal value.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Homedale project

As those of our chapter know, grapes and other fruit for winemaking has been a scavenger hunt/gleaning exercise for some years, with our dear Gayle Boyer the chief steward of the process. We've long talked of planting some of our own...

So today the call came from Rich Pavelek of Terra Natura in Boise; his pruners had been working for two days, and although they were driven off the vineyard by blowing snow and rain this morning; it was calm enough to glean cuttings!

I went home with Merlot, Malbec (for Bordeaux), Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc & Sauvignon. enough to start a little fun!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The wait is over

The new crucifix at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise, Idaho, was blessed by Bishop Michael Driscoll at the 7PM Ash Wednesday mass!

May your Lent be blessed indeed.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fasting from ... self.

The following is from Divine Intimacy.

If you act for your own satisfaction, even in small matters, you will never be able to live totally for God. If, for example, you are unwilling to combat or overcome your pride which has been offended, and you are impatient or cross with someone, it is evident that you prefer to act for the satisfaction of self rather than to please God, for God lives virtue and not defects. you must always substitute for the tendency to seek your own satisfaction the desire to seek God's satisfaction and pleasure. This is what St. John of the Cross means when he suggests detachment, not as an end in itself, but as a means of becoming more closely united with God, not to leave you in a vacuum, but to direct you quickly to God. The same line of conduct was proposed by Jesus; "Renounce yourself," He says to you. And to what purpose? to walk in His path, to follow Him until you have attained perfect union with Him. The end is union, the road is abnegation or total detachment; we must not forget that it was of this road that Jesus said, "How narrow is the gate and straight the way the leads to life" (Mt. 7:14)

Simply giving something up is not even what is being asked for; Peter understood this when the rich young man went away sad at the prospect. Peter, and the disciples, who had already given up every thing, said "then who can be saved?" (Mt. 19:27). Jesus says "with God all things are possible," (Mt. 19:26) and St. Paul says how, "Let those who have wives be as if they had none . . .those who buy, as though they possessed not, and those who use the world, as if they used it not" (1 Cor 7:29ff). And this is the paradox, that our freedom, perfected, consists in renouncing our very self, for the soul united to God is completely free, the soul attached to things, even itself, is deficient in freedom. The hardest lenten sacrifice, undoubtedly, is to give up serving our self. Let us give up little things indeed, good in themselves, to train us to give up the rest as well.

As close to the Oscars as I got

This is from Mel Gibson, enjoy.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Blast from the past

It's always interesting looking through archived files to try and find a particular item long put away. In this case, I was looking for the file of Dominican chapter flyer; I found it and updated it. Before I put away the archive disk, another interesting file name caught my attention. Written in 2005, this file was titled "Farewell to Idealism." I don't remember writing it, but I think it's my work.

Farewell to Idealism

I can remember a few years ago how my interest was captured in a way that I could not explain by Father Corapi's remark: "The truth is not something; it's somebody."

Today, I was paging through a book of my son's -- "Where the Right went Wrong," by Patrick Buchanan. I ran into a quote from the 19th century anarchist Sergei Nechaev. "The revolutionary...has no interests, affairs, feelings, attachments, property, not even a name that he can call his own. Everything in him is absorbed by one exclusive interest, one thought, one passion -- the revolution..."

There was a time when I would have thought that the difference between the Christian and the revolutionary (as described by Nechaev) is that the Christian is wholly dedicated to an ideal that is valid, while the revolutionary is dedicated to an invalid ideal.

But today I understood that the difference is much more basic. The Christian is not fundamentally an idealist. The object of our faith is not a set of principles. The object of our faith is the Triune God. And the work of the Christian is to save souls. Put another way, our work is to make friends for God.

This is both reassuring and sobering. Reassuring because you don't have to have special training or a spiffy IQ to make friends, just a good heart. Sobering because some of us aren't terribly good at making friends, even though it has been our proper work since early childhood. (Sobering also because of our helplessness in communicating God even among ourselves, let alone to unbelievers. I am a blind man describing what God looks like; a deaf man describing the sound of his voice.)

St. Paul doesn't preach that "X is true." Rather, he says, "I preach Jesus Christ." Not an idea, but a person.

Yes, there are times when Christians must do battle in the field of ideas. When Dominic engaged in discourse with the Cathari, he needed to refute mistaken ideas and convince his listeners of the validity of sound doctrines. But the motivation for this activity is the saving of souls. Ideas need to be confronted when they impede the development of a soul's friendship with God.

Since this was dated before this blog was started, it's not appeared before here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Why fox hunting should be banned

I'm still alive and well, just still overwhelmed by events and not able to get around to posting. When that changes, I'll be back at it as I can.

Mike Lee update

There is an update from Mike Lee in Austria:

Dear Friends of Mike and family,

This month's newsletter link:

You'll read that beautiful things have been happening this past month! Read in Cody's own words about his trip to "shadow" the Benedictine monks in an Italian monastery for a week.
Our most sincere thanks for the lovely tea fundraiser is included on page two along with other tidbits. You can hear the entire tea-talk presented by Deb and Felicity at

God bless you for being a friend and a supporter of Mike's family!
The Friends of the Mike Lee Family

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Time for truth in labeling?

Some forms of so-called 'contraception' take a human life
By Bishop Robert Vasa

BEND — It is impossible for the Church to treat the subject of the dignity of a human person without reiterating its consistent teaching about the sinfulness of artificial contraception. Dignitas Personae, a 2008 instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, does not make any direct comment about whether contraceptive pharmaceuticals (i.e. the pill) are abortifacient but this does not mean that the question is completely ignored. The document does distinguish between those mechanisms which are contraceptive, which has its own clear meaning, and those which are “interceptive” and “contragestative.” These words, too, have their own clear meaning. These latter two are designed and intended to “act after fertilization.” As such, they directly touch the human being about whom this document is concerned.

A fuller citation is in order: “Alongside methods of preventing pregnancy which are, properly speaking, contraceptive, that is, which prevent conception following from a sexual act, there are other technical means which act after fertilization, when the embryo is already constituted, either before or after implantation in the uterine wall. Such methods are interceptive if they interfere with the embryo before implantation and contragestative if they cause the elimination of the embryo once implanted.

“In order to promote wider use of interceptive methods, [IUD (intrauterine device) and the so-called “morning-after pills] it is sometimes stated that the way in which they function is not sufficiently understood. It is true that there is not always complete knowledge of the way that different pharmaceuticals operate, but scientific studies indicate that the effect of inhibiting implantation is certainly present, even if this does not mean that such interceptives cause an abortion every time they are used, also because conception does not occur after every act of sexual intercourse. It must be noted, however, that anyone who seeks to prevent the implantation of an embryo which may possibly have been conceived and who therefore either requests or prescribes such a pharmaceutical, generally intends abortion.” (D.P.,23)

This last sentence is most significant: “anyone who seeks to prevent the implantation of an embryo which may possibly have been conceived and who therefore either requests or prescribes such a pharmaceutical, generally intends abortion.” While the document very narrowly defines those mechanisms, which are primarily and intentionally designed to work in this fashion, it also acknowledges that “there is not always complete knowledge of the way that different pharmaceuticals operate.” The document does not directly state, but it certainly must be inferred, that where “scientific studies indicate that the effect of inhibiting implantation is certainly present,” abortion is generally intended. This is where the meaning of words is very important. When a “contraceptive” is solely “contraceptive,” in keeping with the clear meaning of that word, then there is no direct offense to the dignity of a newly created human being. The dignity of the spouses is a whole other question. Unfortunately, the clear meaning of the word “contraceptive” (i.e. that which prevents conception or fertilization) has been altered to mean that which prevents pregnancy. That which prevents pregnancy includes not only contraception but also interception and contragestation. Scientific studies indicate that inhibiting implantation is one of the effects of the so-called contraceptive pill. Thus the contraceptive pill is not solely contraceptive, as this document defines “contraceptive.” It would perhaps be more accurate to begin to refer to such pharmaceuticals as contra/interceptive pills. It would seem to stand to reason that what is said about interceptives in this document needs to be applied also to those pharmaceutical contraceptives, which also have an interceptive function.

This is not an easy concept to grasp and it is not any easier to explain than it is to grasp. This document concerns itself with the dignity of a human person, which needs to be extended to every human being. Since the human embryo, even hours after the establishment of a unique genetic signature consisting of 23 pairs of chromosomes, is already a human being, any action on the part of anyone who wantonly disregards that humanity violates the dignity owed to a human person. Such a violation diminishes us all.

Another area, closely aligned with abortion, is embryonic stem cell research. It must be said that the Church does not in any way disdain legitimate and ethical research, even stem cell research. The document notes: “Therapeutic protocols in force today provide for the use of adult stem cells and many lines of research have been launched, opening new and promising possibilities.” (D.P.,31) This research, following proper ethical standards, is legitimate.

The major difficulty with embryonic stem cell research, and the reason why such research becomes a part of a Church document on the dignity of a human person is that: “The obtaining of stem cells from a living human embryo, on the other hand, invariably causes the death of the embryo and is consequently gravely illicit: research, in such cases, irrespective of efficacious therapeutic results, is not truly at the service of humanity. In fact, this research advances through the suppression of human lives that are equal in dignity to the lives of other human individuals and to the lives of the researchers themselves.” (D.P.,32) Endorsing embryonic stem cell research, in the simplest of terms, is to embrace the direct and intentional killing of human beings for the sake of scientific advancement. This is grotesque. Recognizing that such a violation of human dignity is commonplace, and still worse recognizing that our government sometimes provides the money needed for this desecration, ought to be offensive to us all.

“By treating the human embryo as mere ‘laboratory material,’ the concept of human dignity itself is also subjected to alteration and discrimination. Dignity belongs equally to every single human being, irrespective of his parents’ desires, his social condition, educational formation or level of physical development.” (D.P.,22)
This includes the human embryo, a real human being.

© 2009, Catholic Sentinel online edition