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God Has Died in the Flesh and Hell Trembles With Fear PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 07 April 2007 07:15

I’ve always had a special love for Holy Saturday. Today is the day that the power of the resurrection of Christ begins to break in to our world in a real, transforming, but still largely hidden way.

Much as we experience it in our own lives.

Its Saturday but Sunday's coming.

The Harrowing of Hell was a major theme in medieval English literary tradition. The British Museum has a collection of seven wonderful images of the Harrowing of Hell online.

I have always loved this passage, described only as an "ancient homily" in the Office of Readings for today:

“Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapons that had won him the victory. At the sign of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him. “And with your spirit.”

He took him by the hand and raise him up saying: “Awake O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Papal Stations of the Cross PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 06 April 2007 16:42

Written by  Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

Here is a beatiful photo of today's Stations of the Cross in Rome. The Stations were led by the Holy Father at the Colosseum. You can see more pictures here.
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Ephesians 5:25-27

For the Joy That Lay Before Him PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 06 April 2007 08:56
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.

For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12: 1-2

Image via Asian Christian Art

The Fruits of Conversion PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 05 April 2007 16:37
Here's a wonderful story from the Arkansas Catholic, the diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock.

The Diocese has seen 11,000 adults enter the Church since 1984 when records began to be kept. Last month, the paper asked parishes, schools, and religious orders across the state if they could identify converts who were making a difference.

"The response was impressive. Many who have entered the local Church through RCIA are now deacons, religious sisters, Catholic and public school educators, RCIA coordinators, diocesan and parish employees, Knights of Columbus, Cursillo leaders, theology students, catechists, youth ministers, extraordinary ministers of Communion and lay oblates for religious orders. And that's just a sampling from those identified."

The paper tells the story of 3 such converts: a doctor who has been ordained as a deacon and now runs a medical clinic in Honduras where 60,000 have received basic medical care; a woman who become a Catholic school principal; and another woman who is now a Benedictine sister.

It's a mixed bag. We know that large numbers of those received at Easter are gone within a year. But we also know that a good portion of those who do continue to practice go on to do remarkable things for Christ and the Church.

So during the Easter Vigil while you watch those new Catholics professing their faith and being received, remember you may be watching the Church's future leadership.
Wilberforce is Hot PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 05 April 2007 12:47
Too fun.

This election year, join the Draft William Wilberforce for President movement - a campaign 200 years in the making!

"He accomplishes the rare feat of making moral fervor dashing."

And of how many candidates can that be said?
Or for that matter, of how many of us can that be said?

Shadows PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Thursday, 05 April 2007 12:44

This morning, the Dominican community - friars, sisters, laity - along with several dozen students, faculty, and city workers celebrated a simplified form of the ancient liturgy of Tenebrae (latin for "shadows"). It is a combination of office of readings and lauds (at least as the Dominicans in my Province celebrate it), with readings typically from the Lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah, although this morning we heard from a homily from one of the Church fathers instead. It is another example of a carefully crafted, highly symbolic liturgy that we Catholics are known for. You can read more about it in here.

What struck me about the liturgy was the powerful language of abandonment throughout most of the service, yet every day ends the same, with a psalm of hope, looking forward to the Resurrection. During the chanting of one of the psalms of despair we could hear jets flying overhead from the local military base, and suddenly for me, the psalms were transformed from an ancient lament applied to Jesus to a contemporary lament that I could sing on the part of my brothers and sisters around the world whose lives have been violently disrupted by falling bombs, sniper fire, suicide bombers, anti-personnel bombs disguised as dolls, and small arms fire.

In the ongoing agony of a world so battered by human hatred and rage, we look to the agony of Christ on the cross, and see His sharing in our suffering - and dying for the sins that cause such suffering - as a sign of hope. In Jesus, God chose to walk in the midst of our self-destructive behavior, clothed in our humanity, wrapped in our fragility and impermanence. Knowing He was to be betrayed and abandoned by His closest friends, He washed their feet as a silent testimony and example of how they were to live. With His Passion closing in upon Him, He chose to break bread with them one last time and invited them to share in His life as they drank His blood from a common cup and became one with Him and each other as they shared His body-become-food.

These next three days are painful and uncomfortable for those of us for whom life is sweet. It's tempting to look past them to the joy and promise of Easter. They are a reminder that sorrow and pain are a part of life, but not the last word. But too many of our brothers and sisters continue to share in Christ's Passion on a daily basis, and our failure to notice is to be like the apostles who slept through Gethsemane, and fled from Jesus' side when the powers of this world got the upper hand. These days demand we take notice of their suffering, and resolve to see it as Christ's, and ask if we have the courage and grace to step out from the shadows and confront the powers of this world - especially when we benefit from those powers.
Masses of Holy Week Online PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 05 April 2007 10:36
You can watch Cardinal Sean O'Malley celebrate the Archdiocese of Boston's Charism Mass as well as all the services of the Triduum here via Catholic TV.

Listen to Cardinal O'Malley's homily on the priesthood for the charism Mass if you have a chance. Very rich and moving.
Holy Thursday on the High Road to Taos PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 05 April 2007 09:25
Several years ago, I had the wonderful experience of spending Holy Thursday wandering down highway 76 (the "high road") in northern New Mexico from the Colorado border to Taos.

There are several wonderful mission churches en route but I left my heart in San Jose de la Gracias in Trampas where I found a older woman carefully feeding the wood stove to warm the sanctuary up in time for Mass.

Built over a 20-year period beginning in 1760, subsidized by the tithing of Las Trampas villagers' crops, dedicated to the 12 apostles, and adorned with tower bells of silver and gold, San Jose de las Gracias is one of the best preserved and least altered Spanish Colonial churches in New Mexico.

No electricity. Candles on wooden crossbeam candelabras hoisted by ropes provide the only artificial light. All of the church's original paintings have survived. It is here that I stood and wondered "What would it have been like?"

The most famous little town on the high road is
Chimayo the "Lourdes of America" with its famous sanctuary and miraculous healing dirt. 300,000 visit every year. Thousands of pilgrims clog to the road to Chimayo on Good Friday, some carrying crosses. Some walk a hundred miles from as far away as Albuquerque.

Do go here and read this moving description of the pilgrimage to Chimayo.

"The destination of the pilgrims, El Santuario de Chimayo, is believed to hold the power to heal mind and body.

A pilgrim from Las Cruces, New Mexico years ago left a note in the shrine advising: "If you are a stranger, If you are weary from the struggles in life, Whether you have a handicap, Whether you have a broken heart, Follow the long mountain road, Find a home in Chimayo..."

The "Martin Luther Moment" of the Hispanic Community? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 05 April 2007 08:31
Another article about the large numbers of American Hispanics leaving the Catholic church for other faiths. Nothing new in and of itself, but I am blogging about this one because there were some striking quotes that we would do well to ponder (not swallow wholesale or just react to but really critically meditate upon to begin identify the possible truths and distortions involved.)

"Today, around 70 percent of U.S. Latinos identify themselves as Catholic, compared to 90 percent 30 years ago.

"The longer they are in this country," said Edwin Hernandez of the University of Notre Dame, "the more likely they'll leave the Catholic Church. We know that and we're able to track that"

There are 43 million Latinos in the country, and 15 million identify themselves as born again, according to the Sacramento-based National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

"Latin America never experienced the reformation until now," said Samuel Rodriguez, president of the Leadership Conference, the nation's largest Latino Christian organization.

"What you're seeing is the Protestant reformation, the Martin Luther moment of the Hispanic community," Rodriguez said. "For the first time, they're a product of personal relationship with God. They're able to read the Scripture and apply it personally on a practical basis. They're going Pentecostal, and in a nutshell, it's all about personal power".

And evangelical establishments run by Spanish-speaking ministers are leading the way in the Pajaro Valley, appealing to immigrants who are either down on their luck or determined to change their sinful ways.

Felipe Piña, a member of the small La Iglesia del Rey in Las Lomas, a Southern Baptist church, was born Catholic. He was baptized with holy water in a centuries-old church in the Mexican border town of San Luis de Colorado, but he broke away from the "formality of Catholicism" and found comfort in being born again seven years ago.

Since then, Piña has undergone a massive metamorphosis — from a criminal who snuck illegal immigrants across the Arizona desert to a born-again Baptist who now washes cars to fund his missionary work.

"I used to make $10,000 a week doing what I did. I was living life big, but I was also living dangerously and in sin," said the 40-year-old Piña, a father of four. "I was drinking. I was doing drugs. Then I began to abuse my wife. I started hanging out with prostitutes. My wife tried to kill herself, and that's when I knew I had to change"

The Pajaro Valley, with a population that is 75 percent Latino, sports many one-time Catholics who now belong to other denominations — whether it's Jehovah's Witnesses in Las Lomas, the Calvary Christian Center, the Church of God or Iglesia Santa Pentecostes Templo Jerusalem, all in Watsonville.

George Rodriguez, a former Catholic who is now a Jehovah's Witness for the South Spanish Congregation in Las Lomas, said it has added structure to his life.

"It gives me guidance that I didn't have as a Catholic. It's based on the Bible and not the sort of tradition and philosophies that have filtered into so many other faiths," said Rodriguez, 30, a salesman from Salinas who remembers when he switched faiths: Dec. 19, 1998.

"There was about eight of us and we were at a gathering outside of Madera," he said. "We all submerged ourselves in a swimming pool, just as Jesus did in the Jordan River"

While Catholic churches try provide the same sorts of services, they are often limited by time and resources.

"One of the things that I've found challenging with the Spanish-speaking communities is trying to encourage leadership from within," said the Rev. Mark Stetz of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Santa Cruz. "... I think in other denominations there's less reliance on priests and it's more lay-led"

Piña, for example, helps host Christian rock concerts and is dealing with gang members trying to turn their lives around through the church-run program called "Terremoto," or "Earthquake" in Spanish.

He receives help from the church's senior pastor, Joel Jimenez, a self-described former "gangbanger" who was raised Catholic but turned his life around nearly three decades ago after his baby died.

Today, he's 48 and is director of the Central Coast Baptist Association in Gilroy.

"You have to repent and confess your sins," Jimenez said. "But it's more than just saying 'I repent.' You have to turn away from your sins, once and for all. That's the goal"

Personal relationship with God. Personal power. Metamorphosis.

Such a complex and ambiguous mixture of themes.

My question: what would a deeply Catholic understanding of these three ideas look like? How is it really good news for people whose lives are difficult, deeply disfunctional, or in chaos?

And that stunning comment about the "Martin Luther moment of the Hispanic community" with it's aura of Protestant trimphalism?

The odd thing is that the challenge of the Reformation, after a century of chaos and civil war, resulted in a new and very creative and effective Catholic springtime in the 17th century, sometimes called the "generation of saints."

The thing that has struck me in studying the great saints and apostles of the 17th century Catholic renaissance is that none of them were trying to restore or recreate the middle ages. Their sources were the Tradition, the recent council (Trent) and the very real challenges before them but they were essentially future-oriented.

Some of the new things that come down to us from their evangelistic and apostolic creativity are:

  • 40 hours Adoration
  • Parish missions
  • Retreat centers and retreats for the laity
  • A whole new understanding and appreciation for the spirituality and possible sanctity of the laity
  • Understanding of sacramental preparation and essential catechesis was tremendously expanded and implemented by the many new religious communities.
  • Evangelization. Some modern scholars contend that large parts of rural France weren't evangelized until the new efforts at rural evangelization in the 17th century.
  • The seminary and a revival and transformation of the diocesan priesthood.
  • The Catholic school system and the first religious communities that dedicated themselves to education, religious and secular.
  • Active religious communities for women
  • A missionary explosion, which included lay men and women and that set the stage for a truly global Catholicism
  • An explosion of charitable works and organizations by both religious and laity.
By most measures, the state of the church in western Europe was much improved in 1700 compared to its condition in 1500.

Apparently "Martin Luther moments" can have many outcomes. If we answer God's call and rise to the challenge.

Your thoughts?
Journey of the Heart PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 05 April 2007 05:38
Charles Colson, of Prison Fellowship fame, did one of his radio commentaries yesterday on a PBS documentary on the life of Henri Nouwen which will be airing this Easter season. Colson writes:

"Now, of course, the fear is that when such a figure is profiled on PBS-or any TV station, for that matter-that his faith will be watered down and his message diluted into some vague feel-good pap deemed acceptable to the multiculturally minded. I am happy to report that that is not the case at all in this documentary. The emphasis is often on Henri's message of God's love for humanity and the fact that each of us is God's "beloved child"- a message that, tragically, is often
distorted today to make it sound as if God loves us so much that He does not care what we do.

But Nouwen did not make that mistake, and the film doesn't either. "Journey of the Heart" emphasizes repeatedly that the source of Nouwen's faith, calling, and identity was Jesus Christ. And the cost of discipleship in Henri's life-to borrow a phrase from another great Christian thinker-is also very much on display here. Many people interviewed for the film discuss his struggles with depression or "self- rejection." It is made clear that the reason for his emphasis on God's love, and his ability to identify with the broken and wounded, was precisely that he often felt unloved and unworthy.

Now, the film acknowledges that Henri Nouwen was no perfect saint. But the way he lived out Christ's love should be an inspiration to all of us. One of the most moving parts of the "Journey of the Heart" is when disabled members of the L'Arche Daybreak community talk about how much Nouwen meant to them and how much they still love and miss him. What an example of the truth that Christ spoke when He said, "By their fruits you shall know them."

I heard Henri Nouwen speak once - while I was a student at Fuller. My most vivid memory is of him giving a impromptu piano concert between sessions.

April in Maine: Snow on Mary's Garden PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 04 April 2007 21:43
This picture was shot today and put up on Weather Underground's great weather photo section. It's a Mary Garden in Penobscot, Maine.

I visited Penobscot years ago as a student - while doing research on the oldest town clerk in America whose great, great-grand father had fought with George Washington and then founded the town for which his great great, grand-son was town clerk!

Maine is beautiful but a picture like this makes me long for spring!
Iconograms: When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 04 April 2007 20:51
A creative Orthodox approach to evangelism: Iconogram

"The mission of the Department of Internet Ministries is to follow the commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ who said: "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation" (Mark 16.15).

As a part of this ministry, we have created, a FREE Orthodox e-xcard service."

As of April 2007, a total of 273,110 Iconograms have been sent out to people all over the world!

They have specific icons for Holy Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter!

I can see Icons whipping around St. Blog's this Triduum!
The Redeeming Cross PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 04 April 2007 16:33
Via Happy Catholic:


Forming part of the procession, their presence making his impending death yet more shameful, are two convicted criminals, described as two thieves. A recently-arrived spectator to the scene would see three men, each laden with a cross, walking towards death. But only one is the Saviour of the world. Only one of the crosses is the redeeming Cross.

Today, too, the cross can be carried in different ways. There is the cross carried furiously or sullenly, in a rage; man writhes and squirms, filled with hate, or at least, with a deep and burning resentment. It is a cross without meaning and without any explanation, useless; such a cross may even separate one from God. It is the cross of those in this world who seek comfort and material well-being, who will put up with neither suffering nor setbacks, for they have no wish to understand the supernatural meaning of pain. It is a cross which does not redeem. It is the cross carried by one of the thieves.

On the road to Calvary is a second cross, carried this time with resignation, perhaps even with some dignity, with an acceptance of the situation simply because there is no alternative to it. This is the one carried by the other thief. Little by little he realizes that close by him is the sovereign figure of Christ, who will radically change the final moments of his life on earth, and for eternity; he will be the one converted into the good thief.

There is a third way of carrying the cross. Jesus embraces the saving wood and teaches us how we ought to carry our own cross: with love, co-redeeming all souls with him, making reparation at the same time for our own sins. Our Lord has conferred on human suffering a deep meaning. Being able, as he was, to redeem us in a multitude of ways, he chose to do so through suffering, for greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

Welcome Home PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 04 April 2007 16:02
From the US Bishop's website:

The annual Easter deluge - that we can take for granted - but is unique in the world.

"Adults will enter the church in every one of the country’s 195 dioceses and in virtually every one of the nation’s nearly 19,000 parishes." Wow. Think about that. Do we grasp how extraordinary that is?

When I was in Australia for the first time in 1998, I remember how excited a local priest was to have a mother and daughter entering the Church at Easter. He was so excited because the local cathedral didn't have anyone entering at the Vigil that year.

154,501 in 2006. How many this year?

"The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest archdiocese, with over 4.4 million Catholics, celebrated two Rites of Election in order to accommodate all 1,294 catechumens and their sponsors. In addition to the catechumens, nearly 1,500 candidates in Los Angeles will be formally welcomed into the church Holy Saturday.

Numbers vary across dioceses. Some of the largest groups coming into the church are in the Archdiocese of Detroit, which is welcoming 612 catechumens and 913 candidates and the Diocese of San Diego, with 851 catechumens and 1,036 candidates. The Archdiocese of Atlanta reports 457 will be baptized and 631 received into full communion. In the Archdiocese of Seattle there will be 636 catechumens baptized and 520 candidates welcomed.

The Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota, has 11 catechumens and 42 candidates; the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska, has 15 catechumens and 11 candidates. In the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan, 27 catechumens will be baptized and 31 candidates will be welcomed into full communion.

In the Diocese of Honolulu, 33 catechumens are part of the RCIA at the Korean Catholic Community at St. Pius X Church. This group consistently has the highest number of the state’s converts.

In the Diocese of Salina, Kansas, as in past years, the largest RCIA group is from the student center at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas. This year the college community has 18 catechumens and 46 candidates.

The 2006 Official Catholic Directory reported 80,817 adults baptized in the Catholic Church and 73,684 coming into full communion the previous year. In addition, there were 943,264 infant baptisms.

A breadth of diversity shows among those joining the Church in the Archdiocese of Washington’s Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, Maryland. Among the 10 catechumens are one Hindu and two Buddhists. The youngest is 16; the oldest over 40. Their countries of origin include Sri Lanka, Laos, Japan, and Jamaica. The 14 candidates include a 23-year-old newlywed and a 62.year.old Baptist who has been married to a Catholic for 37 years. Others come from Christian backgrounds, including the Episcopal, Baptist and Christian Reformed churches.

One priest in the Archdiocese of Washington is preparing his father to join the church on Holy Saturday. Father Scott Woods, parochial vicar at Mt. Calvary Church, Forestville, Maryland, joined the Catholic Church in the ninth grade while a student at Archbishop Carroll High School. His father, James Woods, a former Baptist, began learning about the Catholic faith around the time of his son’s conversion and recently formalized his faith formation. Father Woods was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Washington five years ago and will preside over his first Easter Vigil service Saturday evening when his father is welcomed into full communion with the church.

Adults will enter the church in every one of the country’s 195 dioceses and in virtually every one of the nation’s nearly 19,000 parishes.

In the Diocese of Austin, Texas, high school junior Meghan Avery is joining the Catholic Church after enrolling at a Catholic high school. She was baptized in the Presbyterian Church as a young child, later attended services of various denominations, and started to know Catholicism when she helped one of her mother’s Catholic friends with a vacation bible school at St. Luke Parish. There Meghan befriended another Catholic teen who encouraged her to enroll in Holy Trinity Catholic High School last fall. Prior to changing schools she read up on Catholicism, then grew even closer to the faith while attending Mass at her new school.

An entire family of 10 is eagerly anticipating reception into the church together at St. Anne Catholic Church in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas. They grew interested in the church when Jennifer Eastman, 29 weeks pregnant with her youngest daughter, Victoria, was admitted to Via Christi-St. Joseph Hospital, where she prayed the rosary for the first time while watching the EWTN Global Catholic Network. Less than a week after delivering Victoria, the entire family attended its first Mass together. Jennifer and her husband say they had considered becoming Catholic for some time and wanted to help their children grow spiritually. They found added appeal in the church’s universality."

How many will be entering in your parish this year?
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