Monday, December 27, 2010

Turkey-free Christmas dinner

This year for Christmas the kids decided to go "sans turkey" and rather than the Brazillian fejoida of the last 25+ years, we decided to make a paella instead. Less than two hours to prepare, compared to the all day excercise that fejoida can be! No muscles or clams, but we used chorizo, shrimp, snapper, and lobster. it was a real hit.

good thing I had a gigantic electric skillet!

I hope your Christmas day was wonderful. don't forget, NOW it's Christmas; Advent is over, the Christmas season has started! let the celebration begin and continue to it's proper conclusion at the Baptism of the Lord on January 9!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas note from Dominican Mission in Mexicali, Mexico

I received a Christmas note from Br. Corwin Low OP, and reproduce it here. Some of you might recognize Fr. Bart!

Christmas 2010
Dear Friends and Family,

Believe it or not, I'm in my 5th year as a Dominican. In this year of formation ( out of 8) we suspend our studies in order to get "real world" experience. Although I do not discount the value of academic work, from my years in corporate America I have always recognized that theory is one thing but reality is quite another-and yet we live in the real world. I was surprised at my assignment however. While I have been studying Spanish over the last year, I didn't think it was sufficient to warrant a year working in a parish in Mexico; but my superiors thought to the contrary.

As a Type-A perfectionist it hasn't been an easy transition. For one thing, it's difficUlt to express your opinion if you lack the ability to speak. But at the same time I've seen and experienced so many things that I woUld never have if I had been dropped into a safe, familiar (and therefore easy) situation. Had I not yielded to the wisdom of my superiors I woUld have never understood it.

One of my ministries is to visit the parish neighborhood called Villa Zapata (picture with a portion of the community is attached). It is far from the center of Mexicali and is remote enough that it lacks basic necessities. Electricity is only now being installed; and there is no water. When I arrived there was no shelter from the heat of more than 120° Fahrenheit (49° Celsius). But now in the winter it has dropped to 35° (4°) at night. While that might not seem overly cold to you, it is to the people here because their houses are made from little more than discarded factory palettes and no insUlation. Lately we've been distributing blankets and warm clothing to help get people through the nights, particUlarly with the vicious winds of the desert. One particUlarly heart-wrenching case is a house (actuallya shack) of 6 children. The eldest is 13. They lost their mother last summer and their father abandoned them long ago. Neighbors take turns keeping an eye on them, but it isn't really sufficient. There are cases similar to this throughout the community, though this is perhaps the worst. It is gratifying to see their smiling faces when we show up.

Because I don't have papers to write or hundreds of pages to read, I actually do have time to work on some web sites. This keeps me a little more hands-on with technology in a place where technology up to the point I got here was little more than a typewriter and a photocopier. How's that for cUlture shock? I've been keeping a web log (address below) and I've been generating content for our mission website ( I woUld very much enjoy it if you take a look. I am eager to get feedback on them and I am continually updating them. So keep coming back!

So in a nutshell, Mexicali has been good work and good for me. I especially enjoy assisting at bringing the sacraments to the people. They truly desire it them. I've only now just started preaching in Spanish, but the early feedback has been positive-a good sign from a people who are usually reserved with such things. And, bey eve it or not, I'm still singing. ..

Br Corwin Low, OP

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Serialized book of note

The Dominican Friars of the Eastern Province are serializing one of Fr. William Hinnebusch's books, "Dominican Spirituality", 1965. This is an excellent book and a project worth following (much better than a mindless TV show)!

The first three chapter have been posted:

Chapter I - A General View of Dominican Life

Chapter II - The Dominican Life is the Image of St. Dominic

Chapter III - Dominican Life is Contemplative

Thanks to Fr. Benedict Croell, O.P., who is posting these!

Monday, November 29, 2010

"The Mystery of Advent"

some excellent Advent posts over at the Friar's Blog; I'm only about half way through the first one, but thought I'd post the links.

The Mystery of Advent
by Fr. Pius Pietrzyk, O.P.

In 2007, some of the priests and brothers at the Dominican House of Studies prepared a series of reflections on the four weeks of Advent. As the Church begins the new liturgical Year of Grace with the season of Advent, we present again these reflections.

Mystery of Advent, Week One
Mystery of Advent, Week Two
Mystery of Advent, Week Three
Mystery of Advent, Week Four

Friday, November 19, 2010

New book

A new book on Bl. Margaret of Castello is out.

Well, actually more of a pamphlet... It's from the Catholic Truth Society

From the back cover:
Patroness of the disabled and marginalized Margaret's story shows how God has a purpose for even the most unfortunate and disadvantaged; that his gifts may shine strongly in any of us, whatever our situation in this life. Young, small, blind, lame, unattractive, a hunchback who was rejected by her parents, in today's world she would certainly have been another victim of abortion. Yet, despite her severe disadvantages, 'Little Margaret' emerged as an exemplary model of selfless love. In recognition of this she was beatified, and now the cause for her canonization is recognized in Rome. Invoked as the patroness of the disabled and unwanted, there are shrines to her in America where she is revered as patron of the disabled and the marginalized.

Alan Frost has authored other titles for CTS, including St Louis-Marie de Montfort.

Old Book - "From Luther to Hitler"

My next read came in - "From Luther to Hitler, The History of Fascist-Nazi Political Philosophy", 1941, by William McGovern.

I found this in the references pages of "Philosophies at War", 1943, by Fulton J Sheen, and decided to check it out!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dominican Sisters on Oprah, Nov 23

Dear Friends,

The Dominican Sisters of Mary will be featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show on Tuesday, November 23rd.

This is a new show that includes interviews with Mother Assumpta, Sr. Joseph Andrew, Sr. Mary Samuel, Sr. John Dominic and other Sisters; as well as on-site filming of the First and Final Profession Masses and this year’s Entrance Day, during which we welcomed 22 Aspirants.

The show will feature the experience of a Sister entering religious life and the meaning of religious profession as being ‘married’ to Christ.

You may recall that Oprah first reached out to our community on February 9th of this year due to an interest in the hidden aspects of religious life. Click here to watch an excerpt from that program.

The response from the first show was so positive that the Sisters were asked if we would be open to another opportunity to share our life. We have accepted this invitation in the hopes of reaching an audience we might not otherwise reach with the witness of our life and the Gospel. Please join us in praying that the show will be for the good of souls and the honor of God.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, let us give thanks to God for His bountiful goodness. May God bless you and your families during this holiday season.

In Jesus and Mary,

The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist

p.s. To learn more about supporting the Sisters’ ongoing formation and education, click here.

4597 Warren Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
(734) 930-4222

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Book plug!

Zaccheus Press is pleased to announce the release of two new titles by Abbot Vonier: The Human Soul and The Life of the World to Come.

See below for our special sale offer.

Abbot Vonier was a bestselling author in England of the 1920s. After decades of neglect, Vonier is today recognized as a masterful spiritual writer whose work "is as inspiring and fresh as ever." Zaccheus Press is bringing his finest books back into print for a new generation of Catholic readers.

The Human Soul: In the eyes of God the human soul is a jewel of infinite worth, of more value than the whole world with all its glory and treasure. But what do we think of the soul so highly prized by God? What do we know of our own soul?

Abbot Vonier's first and most popular book, The Human Soul was written to open the eyes of readers to the tremendous frontiers of their true country: the immortal soul. Written with "a youthful freshness and vigor," it is a work of rare inspiration, "such as to make one hold one's breath at the beauty and grandeur of what we so lightly, without thought, call our soul."

The Human Soul features a Foreword by Ralph McInerny.

The Human Soul by Abbot Vonier
240 pages . $14.95 (paperback)

The Life of the World to Come: We all want to go to Heaven - but what will Heaven actually be like? Drawing on sacred Scripture and Catholic doctrine, The Life of the World to Come pulls back the veil to give us a closer look at the dazzling joys, the reality of eternal life. With simplicity and good humor, this "marvelous little book" achieves the goal Abbot Vonier set for all his works - to open the eyes of men and women to the splendors of the Catholic faith.

The Life of the World to Come features a Foreword by Edward T. Oakes, SJ.

The Life of the World to Come by Abbot Vonier
128 pages . $11.95 (paperback)

Special Introductory Offer: The Human Soul for only $12.95 (regular price: $14.95), and The Life of the World to Come for only $9.95 (regular price: $11.95). Sale ends December 31.

Early-Bird Special: Order one or both titles by Tuesday, November 23 and receive free shipping!

Please note: The Human Soul and The Life of the World to Come will ship on or about November 24.

Sorry, we can only offer free shipping to customers in the United States. Orders are shipped via USPS Media Mail, and will usually arrive within 7 business days, but please allow up to 21 business days for delivery. As we get closer to the Christmas season, longer than usual delivery times can be expected. Please plan ahead and place your order accordingly.

Place your order for The Human Soul at our webpage here.

The Life of the World to Come may be ordered here.

If you have trouble with the embedded links, please copy and paste the following into your web browser, one at a time: [The Human Soul] [The Life of the World to Come]

You will automatically receive free shipping on orders placed by November 23.

Our secure webpage now accepts PayPal, as well as all major credit cards.

You can also phone in your credit card order. Call 970-416-6672. Orders may be placed Monday-Friday, 9 am - 5:00 pm, mountain standard time.

To arrange expedited shipping, please call 970-416-6672, Monday-Friday, 9 am - 5 pm, mountain standard time.
For Canadian orders, please call 970-416-6672, Monday-Friday, 9 am - 5 pm, mountain standard time, or email:

Other Christmas Sale Offers
This Christmas season we are offering special sale prices on all of our previously released titles. Please see our webpage for details.

In addition to the sale prices on individual titles, we offer free shipping on orders of any combination of 3 books or more (not including The Human Soul or The Life of the World to Come until after the early-bird free shipping offer ends on November 23).

Our books make wonderful Christmas gifts. Please go to the Zaccheus Press home page for details, and place your order today!

Praise for Abbot Vonier
"Those seeking spiritual wisdom will find it here. Vonier was a master, and his work is as inspiring and fresh as ever."
-Matthew Levering, author Christ and the Catholic Priesthood

"Abbot Vonier has a serious right to be considered one of the great Catholic theologians of the 20th century. Here is the theology of St. Thomas translated into a contemplative idiom and communicated with a wonderful clarity and simplicity of expression. These new editions of his works, after decades of neglect, are warmly to be welcomed."
-Fr. John Saward, author Cradle of Redeeming Love

"Turning new lights on old truths and making application of revelation to life, Abbot Vonier 'digs down into the meaning of Catholic dogma.' His thought is so simple, clear, and practical that no formal theological training is needed to follow him with profit and delight."
-Fr. C.C. Martindale, SJ, quoted in Commonweal

"Gifted in his capacity to write of sublime things in terms that all could understand."
-The American Benedictine Review

"Abbot Vonier was the most gifted dogmatic theologian writing in England during his lifetime. The Vonier revival is a highly encouraging sign of the return of classical doctrine in the Church."
-Aidan Nichols, OP, author The Shape of Catholic Theology

Forward this Sale Offer
Please forward this message to friends and acquaintances who
may be interested.

This email was sent by:
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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

This is from an inlaw's inlaw:

From: Stanley
Sent: Monday, November 08, 2010 7:47 PM
Subject: Coho

Dear Friends and Acquaintances,

There are few things in this world that encourage me more than the annual Coho Salmon run here in the South Umpqua Elk Creek watershed. It seems to simply wash away the deep concerns of life when I see those giant flashes of red going against the tide of the stream. They are relentless and unwavering in their determination to keep the cycle of life going. The return of the salmon is an ancient reminder that so much is going on in this world that is not under our control. A reminder that greater things than us mold our existence.

So rejoice with me at this years very early run of Coho in Elk Creek!

high regards,


O O O 0 0 0 o o o . . . >< )))(*>
Stanley Petrowski
South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership (SURCP)
Tiller, Oregon

Saturday, November 06, 2010

More on recent travels

Time to catch up a bit on traveling - a reflective moment after arriving in Bantry, Ireland. Germany... remember Germany?

A week before we'd attended the Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart, Germany. Here's a view from the giant ferris wheel:

The "beer tents" are at the very far upper left in this picture; you really can't get a sense of their immense size, reputedly they hold 5000 each! here's a view which shows the size:

Yes, there are three of them shown. "Tent" is a stretch, although the roofs are actually canvas. Inside there is some serious pouring going on!

Which means, better get some food under it. marvelous at that!

The Germans there seem to be very friendly...

Although there was one dick-head:

Generally, a happy and enthusiastic crowd enjoying the live music.

and as the evening wore on (we arrived around 4), folks got even livelier, moving from the floors to the tabletops!

Live music from Tina Turner!  Oh wait, thats... well, a really good impersonator by voice if not looks

As the evening wore on, my young photographers seem to have lost something in their photography skills as they gained something in beer consumption! oh wait, did I take that picture? hummm. Second-hand alcohol at work here! Yeah, that's it!

All things considered, not a bad vacation day, considering that 24 hours before Emily had been in Kampala, Uganda...

Thank you Stuttgart, Dorothy, Tina Turner...

Friday, November 05, 2010

Truth Be Told issue #13 - Newsletter of the Laity of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

The thirteenth issue of "Truth Be Told," the newsletter of the Laity of the Province of the Holy Name of Jesus has been posted to the web.

The newsletter is available for download at the provincial web page here:

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Bombing of Cathedral in Baghdad

Church bombings in Iraq since 2004

from Google translate:

Statement issued by Prince El Hassan about the terrorist attack on the Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Baghdad

Amman - Npras News - His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal, a statement Wednesday night about the terrorist attack on the Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Baghdad.

And, consequently, the text of the statement:

What is the guilt of the resort to the house of God to seek tranquility and peace of mind and to communicate with his Creator ... What harm even thrown in hell is no longer a worldly known range, shape, or from any point of burning fire?!

What is sin even destroy the houses of God and claim the lives of command within Creator to Nsunha and to protect and make ourselves in order to respect the sanctity of life?!

Did this manipulation of religion to reduce the affect upon the Almighty in the houses of worship from churches and mosques, and a terrible disregard for His creation, who assumed they were safe all the security in those houses?!

The recent terrorist attack on the Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Baghdad, which has killed Muslims and Christians, and other previous terrorist acts against mosques and other churches, is a serious indicator of the degree to which he arrived thinking exclusionary and mobilization blind ideologies politicized is not a religion at all, and not of our heritage for anything.

The sanctity of human life are hung on the gallows industry, hatred, ill-treatment is the ugliest pictures every day and means the most bloody.

"We sent thee but as a mercy to the worlds." What kind of mercy in the killing of worshipers were Inajon Lord, and raising their hands to pray?! Any mercy in the destruction of places of worship, which is supposed to be no shelter of refuge for him, but not a place to fight over, conflict and settle political scores and sectarianism?!

The Mercy truth exists in our history and our heritage in the teachings of our Islam and the teachings of Christitna. I was born Christian, and Islam was born among us and in Arab lands. And spread both in the world from our churches and mosques. Muslims and Christians are brothers and sisters in this part of the universe throughout history. Together they built a civilization still bright effects even today in various fields of life.

This is a cry of every human soul Distressed what happened: Where is the mercy, love and rationality in this bloody scene. Where is the mercy, love and rationality in our view of our family members as the historical one, Bchristiera and Muslims?

Go back to Allah and fear Him in worship and in His creation, "and equipped themselves with the best provision is piety."

بيان صادر عن الأمير الحسن حول الهجوم الإرهابي على كنيسة سيدة البشارة ببغداد

عمان - نبراس نيوز- اصدر صاحب السمو الملكي الأمير الحسن بن طلال بيانا مساء الاربعاء حول الهجوم الإرهابي على كنيسة سيدة البشارة في بغداد .

وتاليا نص البيان :

ما ذنب من يلجأ إلى بيت من بيوت الله طلباً للسكينة والطمأنينة والتواصل مع خالقه... ما ذنبه حتى يزج به في جهنّم دنيوية لم يعد أحد يعرف مداها أو شكلها أو من أي جهة تشتعل نيرانها؟!

ما ذنب بيوت الله حتى تدمّر وتزهق داخلها أرواحٌ أمر الخالق أن نصونها وأن نحميها وأن نبذل أنفسنا في سبيل احترام قدسية حياتها؟!

هل وصل التلاعبُ بالدين إلى هذا الحدّ من تطاولٍ عليه سبحانه وتعالى في بيوت عبادته من كنائس ومساجد، ومن استخفاف فظيع بخلقه الذين يُفترض أنهم آمنون كلّ الأمان في تلك البيوت؟!

إن الهجوم الإرهابي الأخير على كنيسة سيدة البشارة في بغداد، والذي ذهب ضحيته مسلمون ومسيحيون، وغيره من أعمال إرهابية سابقة ضد مساجد وكنائس أخرى، لهو مؤشر خطير على الدرجة التي وصل إليها التفكير الإقصائي والتجييش الأعمى لأيديولوجيات مسيّسة ليست من الدين في شيء، وليست من إرثنا في شيء.

إن قدسية الحياة البشرية أصبحت معلقة على مشانق صناعة الكراهية، ويتم التنكيل بها كل يوم بأبشع الصور والوسائل وأكثرها دموية.

"وما أرسلناك إلا رحمةً للعالمين". فأيّ رحمةٍ في قتل مصلّين كانوا يناجون ربهم ويرفعون أيديهم إليه بالدعاء؟! وأي رحمةٍ في تخريب أماكن عبادته التي يفترض أنها ملجأ من لا ملجأ له، وليست مكاناً للاحتراب والنزاع وتصفية الحسابات السياسية والطائفية؟!

إن الرحمة الحقيقة موجودة في تاريخنا وفي تراثنا وفي تعاليم إسلامنا كما في تعاليم مسيحيتنا. لقد ولدت المسيحية، كما ولد الإسلام، بيننا وفي أرضنا العربية. وانتشر كلاهما في العالم انطلاقاً من كنائسنا ومساجدنا. والمسلمون والمسيحيون أخوة وأخوات في هذا الجزء من الكون عبر التاريخ. بنوا معاً حضارة مشرقةً لا تزال تأثيراتها حتى اليوم في مختلف ميادين الحياة.

هذه صرخة من روح إنسانية يؤلمها كل ما حدث: أين الرحمة والعقلانية والمحبة في هذا المشهد الدموي. أين الرحمة والعقلانية والمحبة في نظرتنا إلى أفراد أسرتنا التاريخية الواحدة، بمسيحييها ومسلميها؟

عودوا إلى الله واتقوه في عباده وفي خلقه، "وتَزوّدوا فإِنّ خيْر الزّاد التّقوى".
Hat tip to Abouna Imad Twal

Monday, November 01, 2010

For All Saints

The Dies Irae

My attempts at Irish Soda Bread

humm... breadmaking trial; not nearly ready for prime-time.

I have a long way to go!

Friday, October 29, 2010

May Truth and right reason influence your vote

The Holy Father's address to the bishops of Brazil:


VATICAN CITY, 28 OCT 2010 (VIS) - Prelates from the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (Northeast region 5) who have just complete their five- yearly "ad limina" visit were received this morning by the Holy Father.

"I wish to speak to you today", the Pope told them, "about how the Church's mission to serve as the leavening of human society through the Gospel teaches human beings their dignity as children of God, and their vocation to the unity of all mankind, whence derive the need for justice and social peace in accordance with divine wisdom".

"First, the duty of direct action to ensure a just ordering of society falls to the lay faithful who, as free and responsible citizens, strive to contribute to the just configuration of social life, while respecting legitimate autonomy and natural moral law", the Holy Father explained. "Your duty as bishops, together with your clergy, is indirect because you must contribute to the purification of reason, and to the moral awakening of the forces necessary to build a just and fraternal society. Nonetheless, when required by the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls, pastors have the binding duty to emit moral judgments, even on political themes".

"When forming these judgements, pastors must bear in mind the absolute value of those ... precepts which make it morally unacceptable to chose a particular action which is intrinsically evil and incompatible with human dignity. This decision cannot be justified by the merit of some specific goal, intention, consequence or circumstance, Thus it would be completely false and illusory to defend, political, economic or social rights which do not comprehend a vigorous defence of the right to life from conception to natural end. When it comes to defending the weakest, who is more defenceless than an unborn child or a patient in a vegetative or comatose state?"

"When political projects openly or covertly contemplate the depenalisation of abortion or euthanasia, the democratic ideal (which is truly democratic when it recognises and protects the dignity of all human beings) is betrayed at its very foundations. For this reason, dear brothers in the episcopate, when defending life we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, rejecting all compromise and ambiguity which would conform us to the mentality of this world".

In order to help lay people live their Christian, social and political commitments in a unified and coherent fashion it is necessary, said the Holy Father, to ensure appropriate "social catechesis and an adequate formulation of Church Social Doctrine. ... This also means that on some occasions, pastors must reminds all citizens of the right, which is also a duty, freely to use their vote to promote the common good".

"At this point politics and faith come together", he went on. "The specific nature of faith certainly lies in the meeting with the living God, Who opens new horizons far beyond the sphere of reason. ... Only by respecting, promoting and indefatigably teaching the transcendent nature of the human being can a just society be built. ... 'God has a place in the public realm, specifically in regard to its cultural, social, economic, and particularly its political dimensions'", said the Holy Father quoting his Encyclical "Caritas in veritate".

Benedict XVI concluded his discourse by joining the Brazilian bishops' appeal for religious education and, "more specifically, for the pluralistic and confessional education of religion in State schools". He also indicated that "the presence of religious symbols in public life is both a recollection of man's transcendence and a guarantee of its respect. They have particular value in the case of Brazil where the Catholic religion is a component part of the country's history".
AL/VIS 20101028 (630)

Monday, October 25, 2010

which one must die?

A worried woman went to her gynecologist and said:

'Doctor, I have a serious problem and desperately need your help! My baby is not even 1 year old and I'm pregnant again. I don't want kids so close together.

So the doctor said: 'Ok and what do you want me to do?'

She said: 'I want you to end my pregnancy, and I'm counting on your help with this.'

The doctor thought for a little, and after some silence he said to the lady: 'I think I have a better solution for your problem. It's less dangerous for you too.' She smiled, thinking that the doctor was going to accept her request. Then he continued: 'You see, in order for you not to have to take care 2 babies at the same time, let's kill the one in your arms. This way, you could rest some before the other one is born. If we're going to kill one of them, it doesn't matter which one it is. There would be no risk for your body if you chose the one in your arms.

The lady was horrified and said: 'No doctor! How terrible! It's a crime to kill a child!

'I agree', the doctor replied. 'But you seemed to be OK with it, so I thought maybe that was the best solution.

The doctor smiled, realizing that he had made his point. He convinced the mom that there is no difference in killing a child that's already been born and one that's still in the womb. The crime is the same!

Hat tip to Doc Nuenschwander

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Back from trip... Sort of

From ages 3 to 17 I lived within 50 miles of San Francisco, yet I never lost my heart there. Ireland? Well, that's another story.  How to return from a place like Ireland? In the picture below is Slea Head, which is on the Dingle Peninsula, one of the western most points in south west Ireland, we find the North Atlantic greeted by:

And, as it turns out, the North Atlantic which comes here is mild, bringing the Gulf Current from Florida, with mild weather capable of supporting palm trees, and a lovely October day on the beach at Inch.

In Dingle we stayed at the delightful Murphy's pub/B&B; a nice quiet family dorm room en suite (as they call it when you have a private bath), and a lively pub with excellent food and plenty of "Guiness, for strength" as well as Murphy's and Smithicks; fine brews which did not seem to upset the stomach like the sludge we have in the states.

Then how to describe the "new" (1829) St Finbarr parish church in Bantry, in West Cork?

What a lovely Church!

And contrary to all the reports of empty churches in Europe, it was full on Sunday morning. St Finbarr was an early Christian in Ireland, and the founder of the city of Cork in the 7th century.  Here is his original 7th century monastic establishment in West Cork (the openings are the cells).

While dad was in another reality, with the kids he of course enjoyed the food, the people, and the hospitality of the Irish pubs...

...and Octoberfest. Did I mention Octoberfest? Oh yeah, Germany too... I will continue later...

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Scandal of Disobedience to the Magisterium

The Scandal of Disobedience to the Magisterium
By Archbishop Raymond Burke

Recognizing the responsibility of Christians and of all men of good will to enunciate and uphold the natural moral law, we also recognize the scandal which is given when Christians fail to uphold the moral law in public life. When those who profess to be Christian, at the same time, favor and promote policies and laws which permit the destruction of innocent and defenseless human life, and which violate the integrity of marriage and the family, then citizens, in general, are confused and led into error about the basic tenets of the moral law. In our time, there is a great hesitation to speak about scandal, as if, in some way, it is only a phenomenon among persons of small or unenlightened mind, and, therefore, a tool of such persons to condemn others rashly and wrongly.

Certainly, there is such a thing as pharisaical scandal, that is, a malicious interpretation of the morally good or, at least, morally indifferent actions of another. The term comes from the supposed scandal which Our Lord Jesus caused to the Pharisees by, for instance, healing the man born blind on the Sabbath (cf. Jn 9:13-34).

But there is also true scandal, that is, the leading of others, by our words, actions and failures to act, into confusion and error, and, therefore, into sin. Our Lord was unequivocal in his condemnation of those who would confuse or lead others into sin by their actions and their failures to act. In teaching His disciples about temptations, He declared: "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin (Lk 17:1-2).

It is clear that Our Lord taught as a primary responsibility, with the gravest of consequences, the avoidance of scandal, namely, of any act or failure to act which could lead another into sin. Our Lord’s words are nothing less than vehement.

To ignore the fact that Catholics in public life, for example, who persistently violate the moral law regarding the inviolability of innocent human life or the integrity of the marital union, lead many into confusion or even error regarding the most fundamental teachings of the moral law, in fact, contributes to the confusion and error, redounding to the gravest harm to our brothers and sisters, and, therefore, to the whole nation. The perennial discipline of the Church, for that reason among other reasons, has prohibited the giving of Holy Communion and the granting of a Church funeral to those who persist, after admonition, in the grave violation of the moral law (Code of Canon Law, cann. 915; and 1184, § 1, 31).

It is said that these disciplines which the Church has consistently observed down the centuries presume to pass a judgment on the eternal salvation of a soul, which judgment belongs to God alone, and, therefore, they should be abandoned. On the contrary, these disciplines are not a judgment on the eternal salvation of the soul in question. They are simply the acknowledgment of an objective truth, namely, that the public actions of the soul are in grave violation of the moral law, to his own grave harm and to the grave harm of all who are confused or led into error by his actions. The Church confides every soul to the mercy of God, which is great beyond all our imagining, but that does not excuse her from proclaiming the truth of the moral law, also by applying her age-old disciplines, for the sake of the salvation of all.

When a person has publicly espoused and cooperated in gravely sinful acts, leading many into confusion and error about fundamental questions of respect for human life and the integrity of marriage and the family, his repentance of such actions must also be public. The person in question bears a heavy responsibility for the grave scandal which he has caused. The responsibility is especially heavy for political leaders. The repair of such scandal begins with the public acknowledgment of his own error and the public declaration of his adherence to the moral law. The soul which recognizes the gravity of what he has done will, in fact, understand immediately the need to make public reparation.

If there has always been the danger of giving scandal to others by public and seriously sinful actions or failures to act, that danger is heightened in our own time. Because of the confusion about the moral law, which is found in public discourse, in general, and is even embodied in laws and judicial pronouncements, the Christian is held to an even higher standard of clarity in enunciating and upholding the moral law.

It is particularly insidious that our society which is so profoundly confused about the most basic goods also believes that scandal is a thing of the past. One sees the hand of the Father of Lies at work in the disregard for the situation of scandal or in the ridicule and even censure of those who experience scandal. Teaching about the relationship of human ecology to environmental ecology, Pope Benedict XVI underscores a contradiction in "the overall moral tenor of society," which leads us and especially our youth into serious confusion and error: "If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development. Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other (Caritas in veritate, no. 51).

One of the ironies of the present situation is that the person who experiences scandal at the gravely sinful public actions of a fellow Catholic is accused of a lack of charity and of causing division within the unity of the Church. In a society whose thinking is governed by the "dictatorship of relativism" and in which political correctness and human respect are the ultimate criteria of what is to be done and what is to be avoided, the notion of leading someone into moral error makes little sense. What causes wonderment in such a society is the fact that someone fails to observe political correctness and, thereby, seems to be disruptive of the so-called peace of society.

Lying or failing to tell the truth, however, is never a sign of charity. A unity which is not founded on the truth of the moral law is not the unity of the Church. The Church's unity is founded on speaking the truth with love. The person who experiences scandal at public actions of Catholics, which are gravely contrary to the moral law, not only does not destroy unity but invites the Church to repair what is clearly a serious breach in Her life.

Were he not to experience scandal at the public support of attacks on human life and the family, his conscience would be uninformed or dulled about the most sacred realities.

+ Raymond Leo Burke
Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis
Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the
Apostolic Signatura
Via Paolo VI, 25, 00193 ROMA
October 9, 2010

The above is only part of the address, which was distributed by Robert Moynihan, "The Moynihan Report"

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NY Bishops speak on voting

465 State Street Albany, NY 12203-1004 Phone (518) 434-6195 Fax (518) 434-9796

Our Cherished Right, Our Solemn Duty
By the Catholic Bishops of New York State

We Catholics are called to look at politics as we are called to look at everything – through the lens of our faith. While we are free to join any political party that we choose or none at all, we must be cautious when we vote not to be guided solely by party loyalty or by self interest. Rather, we should be guided in evaluating the important issues facing our state and nation by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of His Church.

Our national and state elected officials have profound influence on countless matters of great importance, such as the right to life, issues of war and peace, the education of children and how we treat the poor and vulnerable. We must look at all of these issues as we form our consciences in preparation for Election Day.

Unfortunately, it is the rare candidate who will agree with the Church on every issue. But as the U.S. Bishops’ most recent document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship ( makes clear, not every issue is of equal moral gravity. The inalienable right to life of every innocent human person outweighs other concerns where Catholics may use prudential judgment, such as how best to meet the needs of the poor or to increase access to health care for all.

The right to life is the right through which all others flow. To the extent candidates reject this fundamental right by supporting an objective evil, such as legal abortion, euthanasia or embryonic stem cell research, Catholics should consider them less acceptable for public office. As Faithful Citizenship teaches, “Those who knowingly, willingly, and directly support public policies or legislation that undermine fundamental moral principles cooperate with evil.”

These are complex times, so our task is not light. It is often difficult to get a good grasp on the positions of incumbent congressional representatives and state legislators, not to mention their challengers. News accounts of positions are hard to come by, and voting records on important issues are often lacking. So the task of doing due diligence can be truly challenging. Yet our state is facing many critical issues which are of vital concern to faithful Catholics. Thus it is absolutely necessary for good citizens to take a careful look at every candidate and to vote accordingly for the better candidates. You can find all of the candidates for elected office at the New York State Catholic Conference Web site (

Many of the most compelling moral issues of the day play out at the state level. Commonsense restrictions on abortion, whether or not to employ the death penalty, issues related to same-sex “marriage” and civil unions, parental rights in education, programs to serve the poor, access to health insurance – all of these debates occur in the halls of our state Capitol in Albany.

We set forth below potential questions for candidates on a variety of critical issues, and we urge you to learn where all the candidates for every office stand with each critical issue. This list is by no means exhaustive, but our hope is that it serves as a valuable tool in forming your consciences as you make your decisions in the voting booth as Catholic faithful citizens.

While we as the Bishops of New York State cannot and do not endorse candidates for office, we encourage you to properly form your conscience by reflecting on the moral and social teachings of our Church and we strongly urge you to vote on Election Day. For when you vote, you are exercising your cherished right and your solemn duty as Americans and as Catholics.

Important Questions for Political Candidates

The Right to Life

Do you agree with the need to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which struck down all state laws criminalizing abortion and established a woman’s “right” to abort her unborn child in the womb?

Do you oppose the state’s “Reproductive Health Act” or the federal “Freedom of Choice Act” which both go beyond Roe v. Wade, guaranteeing a fundamental right to abortion with no restrictions or regulations?

Do you support a ban on physician-assisted suicide?

Do you oppose government funding for human embryonic stem cell research?

Do you oppose the death penalty?

Do you oppose using taxpayer money to fund abortions?

Parental Rights in Education

Do you support the right of all parents – especially poor parents – to be provided with the means (such as education tax credits) to choose the most appropriate school for their child, including a religious or independent school?

Do you support restoring full state reimbursement on mandates in religious and independent schools?

Protecting Marriage

Do you support maintaining the historic understanding of marriage as only between a man and a woman?

Immigration Reform

Do you support immigration reform that regularizes the situation for undocumented immigrants already in this country?

Do you oppose punishing charitable organizations that provide social services to undocumented persons?

Access to Health Care

Do you support legislative action to provide access to health care for needy New Yorkers?

Protecting the Poor

Do you support the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act that would grant farm workers certain rights available to all other New York workers, such as the right to overtime pay, collective bargaining and a day of rest?

Do you support an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, available as refunds to families with the greatest need?

Religious Liberty

Do you support the right of faith-based health and human service providers to offer services to the community in accord with their religious beliefs?

Do you support the right of faith-based health and human service providers to make employment and employee benefits decisions in accord with their religious beliefs?

A Time to Act

As religious leaders, we urge you to exercise your right and solemn duty to vote on Election Day.

+Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York
+Howard J. Hubbard, Bishop of Albany
+Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn
+Edward U. Kmiec, Bishop of Buffalo
+Terry R. LaValley, Bishop of Ogdensburg
+Robert J. Cunningham, Bishop of Syracuse
+Matthew H. Clark, Bishop of Rochester
+William F. Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre

(original is here)

Monday, October 11, 2010


Press Release

At the Foot of the Cross
With Saint Dominic

Oct 16, 2010

Why do we suffer?
What can we do about it?
What is the response in Faith to our suffering?

On Saturday, October 16th at 9AM
at the Cathedral of St. John in Boise,
join Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P., for the day
to explore the life of faith
and the Catholic response to the cross
through the eyes of St. Dominic.
Fr. Serpa is the Chaplain of Catholic Answers,
and a regular guest
on Catholic Answers Live radio program.

Mass to follow retreat at 6:30PM with Lay Dominican professions

Sunday, October 10, 2010

St. Finbarr's Church, Bantry Ireland

Mass today in Bantry, Ireland, at St. Finbarr's

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Legislative action, Americans United for Life request

According to our sources on Capitol Hill, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) at 2:15 pm ET on Wednesday.

Your Senator is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

In order to ensure that a pro-life amendment is added to the bill or, in the alternative, that this bill is stopped from advancing altogether, we need you to contact your Senator James Risch right now.

AUL Action has already set up a web page so you can easily tell Senator Risch

to ensure that federal tax dollars are not provided to organizations advancing a pro-abortion agenda around the world under the guise of preventing violence against women.

After you contact your Senator, ask your friends and family to do so too by forwarding them this email.

Women around the world deserve to be protected against violence - including women in the womb.

Thank you for helping defend human life.

Yours for Life,

Charmaine Yoest

Charmaine Yoest, Ph.D.
President & CEO
Americans United for Life Action

URGENT Prayer at 2 p.m. Tuesday for Joe Sobran's healing through the intercession of Ven. Solanus Casey

The following is from Fran Griffin, Third Order Dominican and publicist for Joe Sobran:

Please pray for pro-life journalist, Joe Sobran, who is extremely ill and may not be able to recover. Tomorrow at 2 p.m., Harry Veryser of Michigan will be visiting the tomb of Ven. Solanus Casey to pray for Joe's recovery.

Please join Harry and I in prayer for Joe at 2 p.m. Eastern time.
You may use the following prayer or any or your own devising:

Prayer for the intercession of Ven. Solanus Casey for the healing of Joe Sobran:
(to be said on Tuesday, Sept. 28):


O God, I adore You. I give myself to You. May I be the person You want me to be, and may Your will be done in my life today.

I thank You for the gifts You gave to Father Solanus. If it is Your Will, bless us with the beatification of
Venerable Solanus so that others may imitate and carry on his love for all the poor and suffering of our world.

As he joyfully accepted Your divine plans, I ask You, according to Your Will, to hear my prayer for the restoration to health of Joe Sobran through Jesus Christ our Lord.


"Blessed be God in all His designs."

Imprimatur: Adam Cardinal Maida, Archbishop of Detroit
March 31, 2007 © F.S.G. 3/07


Joe Sobran is devoted to Solanus Casey, a holy Franciscan Friar who died in Joe's hometown of Detroit in 1957. Fr. Solanus needs a miracle to be canonized. Joe needs a miracle, too, to be healed.

Please pray at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 28.

Thanks very much. See more info at

--Fran Griffin
Fran Griffin
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation

713 Park St., SE
Vienna, VA 22180

703-281-6617 (fax)


The Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation is
a tax-exempt organization under the 501(c)(3)
tax code of the Internal Revenue Service.
Contributions to the foundation are tax-deductible.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rachael's Vineyard retreat

The flier for the November Rachael's Vineyard retreat is here:

This is a retreat for the healing of post-abortion trauma.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Benedict XVI in England

Yesterday, the Holy Father, speaking to the British Parliment, said:

"There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere."

who would advocate such a thing? Well, on Thursday, addressing the Holy Father, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II said:

"Your Holiness, in recent times you have said that "religions can never become vehicles of hatred, that never by invoking the name of God can evil and violence be justified". Today, in this country, we stand united in that conviction. We hold that freedom to worship is at the core of our tolerant and democratic society."

Did the Queen know that she was saying that the United Kingdom holds the same attitude towards faith as that of the Soviet era Communist constitution? Freedom of worship is not freedom of religion, it relegates faith to the private sphere, removing it from public life. Only evil can be tolerated, not good. To her credit, I will assume she read a prepared speach without realizing the import of the words. I have no doubt that His Holiness Benedict XVI understood them for what they are.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

On the eve of Constitution Day, USA.

Tomorrow is Constitution Day in the United States marking the 223rd anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787. The unique thought behind the Constitution was the Founding Fathers understanding of human nature and its impact on government. Humanity falls short but mankind still understands the character and quality of perfection because the soul has the character of understanding spiritual things; yet we all fall short of perfection and the glory of God. The genuis of the Constitution is the understanding of this fallen nature in the unique balance in the Constitution's framework: power sharing, delegated powers, separated powers and divided departments, limited government, recognition of economic freedom and private prpoerty rights, guarantees and recognition of God-given rights that arise from nature, and on and on.

When reflecting on the proper checks and balances that created a limited government, it was James Madison who said in Federalist Paper No. 51, that,
"The interest of man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external or internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."
Compare this wisdom with that of modern Justices to the U.S. Supreme Court that have brought us modern jurisprudence of the last 70 years: no prayer in schools, no prayers at commencement, murder of innocent people, and on and on.
Yesterday, Justice Stephen Breyer, who current holds a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court noted or suggested that a foolish pastor in a small church community in Florida may not have the right to burn the Quran under the First Amendment. This could open the doors to hate-speech laws pushed by international Islamic organizations to prevent what they call "religious hatred." That type of hatred can become like beauty, whatever is in the eyes of the beholder. [I am not yielding to the point made elsewhere that beauty is objective and not subjective!!]. In other words, hatred becomes defined by the ruler; a subjective standard for oppression. What about burning the Holy Bible? What about the U.S. flag?
With this type of legal analysis on the Supreme Court bench, who needs a Supreme Court? It just proves that the men and women on the bench are not all that bright at times. You can check out his statement here:
St. Paul urged us to pray for those in authority so that we may have, and live in, peace.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Humble service anyone?

It is easier to demonstrate for the rights and freedom of one’s own group than to practice in everyday life the discipline of freedom and the patience of love for those who suffer, or to bind oneself for all of life to such service with the sacrifice of the greater part of one’s individual freedoms. It is astonishing that the desire to serve has been visibly and decisively weakened in the Church too: religious communities, dedicated to the care of the sick and elderly, attract hardly any new vocations. The preference is to engage in more ambitious "pastoral" ministries. But what is really more "pastoral" than an unpretentious life lived in service to those who are suffering?

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 1988, Cambridge

The above quote is from a 1988 address of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger at Cambridge, England, as reported by Robert Moynihan in The Moynihan Report which I recommend reading. Unfortunately, Robert's web site is currently undergoing revision, so email me if you'd like a copy and I'll forward it to you.

Blessing of the Friars going to the Missions

Bishop Fulton Sheen blessing Dominican Missionaries in 1956. The story is on the Friar Blog here

Monday, September 13, 2010

Truth Be Told issue #12 - Newsletter of the Laity of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

The twelfth issue of "Truth Be Told," the newsletter of the Laity of the Province of the Holy Name of Jesus has been posted to the web.

The newsletter is available for download at the provincial web page here:

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Retreat with Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

Press Release
Re: Vincent Serpa, OP, Catholic Answers chaplain and frequent guest of Catholic Answers Live radio program, will hold Retreat with Lay Dominicans at St. John’s Cathedral in Boise, Idaho commencing at 9:00 a.m., Saturday, October 16, 2010.

The Lay Dominicans in Idaho will be holding a retreat this coming October 16, 2010. The Retreat Master will be Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P., chaplain of Catholic Answers Live, a nationally syndicated Catholic radio program. The focus of the retreat will be on the importance of living your Catholic Faith. The Idaho-based Dominicans are affiliated with the Western Dominican Province at St. Albert’s Priory in Oakland, California. The local chapter, whose namesake is the 14th Century severely disabled saint, Margaret of Castello, meets on the third Saturday of each month at 11:00 a.m. at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Caldwell, Idaho. At their regular meetings, the Lay Dominicans meet in fellowship and prayer and study.

On October, October 16, 2010, the Idaho-based Lay Dominicans will be holding the retreat at St. John’s Cathedral in Boise, Idaho, with Fr. Serpa as retreat master, starting at 9:00 a.m. with Mass to follow. The retreat will include members who are making their professions into the Order of Preachers. For more information, check only at or call (208)375-2532.

updated 9/28/10

At the Foot of the Cross
With Saint Dominic

Oct 16, 2010

Why do we suffer?
What can we do about it?
What is the response in Faith to our suffering?

On Saturday, October 16th at 9AM at the Cathedral of St. John in Boise,
join Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P., for the day to explore the life of faith
and the Catholic response to the cross through the eyes of St. Dominic.
Fr. Serpa is the Chaplain of Catholic Answers, and a regular guest
on Catholic Answers Live radio program.

Interview with the new Master General

The Freedom of Authority

The Freedom of Authority

Stevenson once said that not on bread alone doth man live, but principally on catchwords. High-sounding phrases often go rattling by like express-trains, carrying the burden of those who are too lazy to think for themselves. Among these phrases or catchwords there is none in the field of religion which has greater modern appeal than this one: The modern man wants a religion of the spirit, and not a religion of authority.” Years ago its popular expression was that “we must be free from the slavery of Rome.” Today it is more direct: “No Catholic can be free because he is bound down by law and authority.”

There is no doubting the sincerity of those who accept such catchwords: hence there can be no doubt that they will accept a sincere explanation of the teaching of the church concerning authority, law, and freedom which for the sake of clearness may be set down in these three following propositions: First, the necessity of law and authority; secondly, obedience to the highest law and authority constitutes freedom; thirdly, the obedience to the law and authority of the Church is thrilling and romantic(*).

First: It is false to say that we can be absolutely free from law and authority, for freedom from law and authority is an illusion. The real problem is not whether we will accept law and authority, but rather, which law and authority we will accept. Even though this is a free country, I find that if I do not obey the authority of my government, then I shall have to accept the authority of a warden; if I do not accept the authority of the pure-food commission, then I shall have to accept the authority of the undertaker; if I do not accept the authority of the traffic lights, I shall have to accept the authority of the jailer. In religious matters, if I do not accept the authority of the Church, then I must accept the authority of public opinion. Public opinion is the common stalk of thought and sentiment created by human society, and in the realm of religion outside the Church it is practically always a compromise.

Modern religion affirms just as much spiritual and moral truth as in a given condition will keep society together – just so much and no more. It affirms not the whole law of God, but extracts from it, and only those extracts which seem to be the most useful for social purposes, and of which society itself will approve. For example, at the present time it dilates on the Sermon on the Mount, but says absolutely nothing about the Last judgment. It quotes, “Behold the lilies of the field,” but never the text, “What exchange shall a man give for his soul?” Again, modern religion has approved on aspect of the Divine Law concerning murder, and disapproved another, concerning divorce. The reason it does this is because public opinion believes murder to be destructive of society, but does not believe that divorce can be equally destructive of it in the long run. Religion thus compromises, or strikes and average between what is good and what is bad. It approves Christ only inasmuch as Christ approves it. It accepts His teachings and His authority only inasmuch as its maxims and its opinions approve those teachings.

Hence, the problem confronting the religious man of today is not whether he will obey of disobey law and authority; but which of the two he will obey, namely, the authority of public opinion, or the authority of Christ and tradition. And all thinking men, as a celebrated English essayist has put it, want a religion which is right, not when the world is right, but is right when the world is wrong, and by this he meant authority of the Church which holds to the teachings of Christ, even thought public opinion should cry out for the liberation of Barabbas, for the Church is built solidly upon the conviction that right is right if nobody’s right, and wrong is wrong if everybody’s wrong.

Furthermore, and here we pass to the second point, only by obedience to the highest law and authority does a man become free. Let me give a few examples to prove this point. A dictionary represents a standard in the use of words. It is a court of appeal, or an authority concerning their meaning. Now it is only by submitting to authority that I ever become free to use words. I may use the word “moon” and by it mean “cabbage”; I may use the word “cow,” and by it mean “cowslip.” I soon find, however, that I am no longer free to tell my fellow-man the story that the cow jumped over the moon. It is only by submission to law and authority that we ever become free.

Or, to take an example from the realm of arts. If an artist, in a fever of broadmindedness and a desire to be free, chooses to paint a giraffe with a short neck, he will soon discover that he will not be free to paint a giraffe at all. If in a feverish love for the new art of self-expression which obeys no law, he decides to paint a zebra without stripes, and a leopard without spots, and a triangle with four sides, he will soon discover that he is not free at all to paint even zebras, leopards, or triangles. It is only by obedience to law and authority and the inherent nature of things that we ever become free. Now man has a rational nature which means that the law of his being is practical reason of conscience. Only inasmuch as man obeys the dictates of his conscience is he free to be a man. He may choose to disobey his conscience, and he is free to become an animal, but he is not free to be a man.

A final example in the field of science: imagine a railroad locomotive, endowed with consciousness, so that it is able to read, to think, to speak. And supposing that one day it picked up with its cow-catcher one of the modern books on the morality of self-expression, such as one of Mr. Bertrand Russell’s, in which he rebels against obedience to traditional moral laws, and the authority of Christian teaching. And suppose, with its great single Cyclops eye, it reads the pages of this liberal thinker, and becomes so impressed with its fine sophistic idioms that it whistles to itself, “Mr. Russell is right. What do the engineers who designed me and imposed their laws upon me know about my inner impulses? Why should I even obey the authority of an engineer who is constantly limiting my steam pressure to one hundred pounds a square inch, when I have the vital Freudian urge to make it on hundred and fifty pounds? And, furthermore, why should I submit myself to the authority of railroad officials who, fifty years back. Laid out the tracks upon which I should run? Why should I take this curve, that straightaway, this bridge, simply because they decided over two score years ago that I should? Why should I not be permitted to choose my own directions, and to make my own tracks? From now on, I am going to be self-expressive!”

Suppose the locomotive did become so self-expressive. In refusing to obey the laws concerning steam pressure, it would discover it was no longer free to be a locomotive, because in asserting its pressure beyond the normal, it would burst its entrails; secondly, by refusing to keep on the track it would no longer be free to run. And if the locomotive did jump the track, and burst its boilers, it would not hurt the engineer who designed the track; it would hurt only itself. And so, too, if a man disobeys God’s laws, and dashes his head against them, as against an eternal rock, the rock toes not suffer – it is only the head of the man that suffers.

Finally, it is only by obedience to the laws of Christ and His Church that we ever become free. And obedience to this authority is positively thrilling, for all orthodoxy is romantic. If there is any vision or mental picture to be had at all of the condition of the world a few centuries ago and now, it might be the vision of a great rocky island in the very center of a stormy and raging sea. Previous to the breakup of Christian unity three centuries ago, this island may be represented as surrounded by a great stone wall against which the waves spent their fury, but never broke it down. Inside the wall were thousand and thousands of the children of God playing games, singing songs, and enjoying life, to the utter oblivion of the great devouring sea outside. With the dawning of the day of False Freedom, there came to the island a group of men who argued with the children in some such language as this: “Why have you permitted the Church of Rome to surround you with all her laws and dogmas? Can you not see that she has encompassed you, and has not permitted you to think for yourself or to be free and captains of your own fate? Tear down the walls! Break down the barriers! Throw off the obstacles and learn to be free!” And the children tore down the walls. One day I went back and I saw all the children huddled together in the center of the island, afraid to move, afraid to play, afraid to dance, afraid of falling into the sea.

We who, by the Grace of God, have been blessed with the protection of the Church’s law and authority, can never quite understand why any one can ever think that obedience to that law and authority is enslaving. On the contrary, it is positively romantic. The laws and doctrines of the Church are not dams which stop up the river of Thought; they are levees which prevent that river from overflowing the countryside. They are not wrenches thrown into the machinery of life, but oils which make it run more smoothly. It is easy to fall into the excesses of the modern world, just as it is easy to fall off a log. It is easy to flat down stream with the popular fancies – even dead bodies can float down stream. But it is exhilarating to fight against the current.

It is easy to be an atheist, and to say the world does not require a God, just as it is easy to be a pantheist, and say that the world is God; but it is thrilling to walk between those two abysses and hold that God is in the world, but not of it – and such is the Incarnation. It would be easy to fall into the extreme of the Stoics, and say that pain is the law of life, or to fall into the equally stupid extreme of saying pleasure is the law of life, but it is romantic to escape the pitfalls and hold that pain is the prelude to life – and such is the lesson of Easter.

It would be easy to say with Gandhi that life should be a fast, just as it would be easy to say with the pagan that it should be a feast; but it is thrilling to avoid both extremes, and hold that the fast should precede the feast. Every heresy in the history of the Church has been either a truth exaggerated to an excess, or diminished to a defect. Calvinism, for example, had a very good first principle, which is a sound Catholic principle, namely, the absolute Sovereignty of God; but Calvin carried it so far as to rule out human merit. Bolshevism, too, is grounded on a very sound Catholic principle, which is the Brotherhood of Man, but it has exaggerated it so far as to leave no room for the Sovereignty of God. And so it is easy to fall into any of these extremes, and to lose one’s intellectual balance. The thrill is in keeping it.

In other words, the Church is not so much to be compared with the Niagara Falls, as it is to be compared with a great and tremendous Rock weighing ten thousand tons, which is poised on another rock by the delicate balance of no more than six inches of a base. Niagara is a falls, simply because it cannot help falling; it is the easiest thing to do; it is simply letting things go. But that great Rock, which is pitched on a base no bigger than one’s hand, has a thousand angles at which it will fall, but there is only one on which it will stand, and it is that which makes falling a far more serious thing than the falling and churning of all of Niagara’s waters. And so with the Church. All through her history she has been like that great Rock, poised on the brink of an abyss, and it is that which has made her romantic; for danger is the rood and foundation of all romance in drama.

Why do children like to play robber, walk picket fences, tramp into thick woods, play along banks of deep rivers, throw stones at vicious dogs, listen to blood-curdling ghost stories, walk on roofs? Is it not because each and every child has deep-rooted in his heart as the foundation of his manhood, and as the very condition for his enjoying life, the love of danger and the thrill of being near it, and yet never falling completely into it? Why do children, when they grow up into man’s estate, love to play games of chance, hunt wild beasts, explore the icy extremities of the earth, fly over trackless seas, speed at the rate of four mils a minute of land, five miles a minute in the air; if it is not because they, too, love the thrill that comes with danger, and love still more the glorious escape from that to which they have so often exposed themselves? And what is true of children and true of men, is true of the Church. It is extremely thrilling to belong to the Church. It is exhilarating to be orthodox. It is romantic to be poised on the Rock of Peter that could fall into a thousand pitfalls, and yet never does.

Every person has an instinctive desire to witness a storm at sea, provided he could be sure of reaching port. We who ride in Peter’s bark witness such a storm, and know we will reach port. For twenty centuries the bark of Peter has been riding, riding the seas, and for twenty centuries we who have been on board know the romance of the seas and its dangers, but also the romance of a port. Sometimes that bark has come within a hair’s breath of dashing against the rocks, of saying that Christ was man and not God, and then again it has suddenly to swerve to avoid crashing into the opposite rock and saying that Christ is God but not man. At other moments in her voyage, Peter’s bark has come within a razor’s edge of being stranded on the sands of humanism and saying that man does everything, and God does nothing. And then, by and equally dexterous move, she saves herself from the sand-bars of declaring with the oriental mystics that God does everything and man does nothing. It would have been extremely easy for Peter and his successors to have sunk their ship in the depths of determinism, just as it would have been very easy for the ship to have capsized in the shallow waters of sentimentalism in the twentieth century. But it is wonderfully thrilling to have avoided both. It would have been very easy for the bark of Peter to have been lost in the fogs of Modernism, just as it would have been easy for it to have lost its course in the mists of Fundamentalism. But to have avoided both of these snares, not by mere chance, but by intellectual direction, is thrilling. If one small blunder, concerning the doctrine of original sin, were made in her twenty centuries of charting the course of men to God, huge blunders would have been made in human happiness. A mistranslation of a single word a thousand years ago, might have smashed all the statues of Europe. A false move at the Council of the Vatican might have impoverished reason. By one single slip, the Church might have stopped all the dances, withered all the Christmas trees, and broken all the Easter eggs.

But the Church has avoided all these pitfalls and all these errors, and as the bark of Peter, with sails flying high, cuts the waters of the sea, she looks before and aft. Behind her she can see the shriveled hulks of a thousand heresies and mental fashions that were suited to their times and died because hat is all they were suited for – their times. Before her she can see the shipwrecked rafts of Masterless men looking for the Master Peter who is not for one time but for all time. And now its future will be just as thrilling as the past. Always in danger, always escaping it; always threatened, always conquering; always enjoying the romance of avoiding extremes, the bark is destined to go on through all the storms and tempests of the world, until one day it checks pace at the hid battlements of eternity, and there as the children disembark from the ship of Peter, they will understand why it avoided the snares and pitfalls – because Peter stood at the helm of his bark, there rested on his hands the invisible, eternal hands of Christ, whom the winds and the seas obey; Christ, who steers the sun and moon and stars in their courses.

-Fulton J. Sheen, “Moods and Truths”, 1932
(*) Romantic, in this context, refers to “Adventurous”

Monday, September 06, 2010

New Master General elected Sunday

Fr. Bruno Cadoré,O.P.

From the Elmira Dominican Contemplative nuns:

Today, September 5, the delegates gathered at the General Chapter of the Dominicans (Order of Preachers) have elected Fr. Bruno Cadoré,O.P., until now Prior of the Province of France, and a specialist in Bio-medical ethics (Bioethics), as Master of the Order.

Before Provincial Superior, Fr Cadoré was for many years Master of Dominican students in Lille, while being physician and professor of biomedical ethics at the Catholic University of that city in northeastern France.

In recognition of his worth in the field of bioethics, he was appointed in 2008 as a member of the National AIDS Council by the President of the Republic.