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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas, by the numbers

There's a doubter in every crowd. In my family, there's no exception to that rule.  It's okay though, the Holy Spirit keeps leading me to amazing sources of wisdom and strength (The Holy Family, St. Thomas aka Didymus, Ss. Augustine, Monica, and Mary Magdalene, Abp Fulton Sheen and Peter Kreeft to name but a few) to bind up what needs to be bound and to loose whatever needs to be loosed.

This fancy pearl came to me today as I was listening the Bp Sheen's "True Meaning of Christmas" and I thought the mathematical probability would be a lovely gift to you on this Merry Christmas....

Did you know that there were somewhere in the neighborhood of not 5, not 10 but 456 prophecies regarding the Jewish Messiah, the Christ, Savior, Vanquisher of Evil, establisher of the New Covenant  That's an impressive figure. The probability of one Individual fulfilling just five of those prophecies would be one in a million.  What's the figure of one Person fulfilling all 456 of them?  Ready?  Here goes:


Pretty amazing isn't it. 

O Come, let us adore Him. 


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How the "O Orien Antiphon" Guides us in Phoenix Today

"O dawn of the east, brightness of light eternal, and sun of justice: come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death".  This is the O Antiphon of the day - orien meaning dawn.  And yes, I'm guessing this is where we derive the words orient, orientation, oriental in case you're like me and what to go play around with these later.

We need surety about a few things. As a human community, we rely on certainties such as sunrise and sunset so that we can maintain an order about life. Our cycle of life sort of depends on this basic natural phenomenon.  Imagine how lost our agricultural system would have become if we did not have this simple assurance of the daylight cycle. This would be true of every environmental system that relies on the sun - which is all of them.  We need light.  We need enlightenment. We need God's eternal brilliance to drag us out of darkness.

We got that here in Phoenix today, loud and clear from our beloved Bishop Olmsted. We are people who have sat in darkness & the shadow of death.  We were led astray perhaps by powerful, feted and fatted institutions who we thought were protecting and preserving our most vulnerable when in fact they were not.  It is time for light. It is now the time to wake from sleep.

I've attached the Bishop's press conference from earlier today.  Please pray for him and for all who are involved in this situation. And when you get a chance, please thank him for doing exactly what he was called to do:  "To be faithful to Jesus Christ and His Church".

May we all continue to be as courageous for the right to life.

News Conference at the Diocesan Pastoral Center, Dec. 21, 2010 from Diocese of Phoenix on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Prepare Ye The Way for Beautiful Sacred Music

Go check out the following link Prepare the Way for Simple Propers over with our friends at the Chant Cafe (Plainsong Latte no whip)  and then come back and celebrate with this fun bit by the Silent Monks.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

St. Bernadette and the Immaculate Conception

Like so many things that arrived late on the scene in my Catholic formation, the Marian Dogmas were probably the last things to really be settled for me as a convert from the Lutheran tradition.  The story of how I finally came to know the Immaculate Conception is rather humorous and occurred at the parish that bears the name of the little Saint born in Lourdes who met her under this title.

My pastor, at the time, knowing me for the impetuous ham that I can be at times, asked me to "perform" a 15 minute biopic of St. Bernadette for our upcoming Feast Day celebration. It was a big acting role to be written, directed and starred in by me in front of my parish.  I was a bit ignorant of the life and times of our patroness however I was up for the challenge.  I must admit, I was awestruck by her still, uncorrupted beauty that has mystified religious and scientific communities.  I threw myself into the task.   I read books, studied photographs and watched the classic black and white film that is still floating around today.  I decided that a simple peasant look with hair tucked into a headscarf would be the Marie Bernadette Soubirous that I would portray.

I practiced for what seemed to be an eternity.  I memorized 16 index cards full of material. I pulled off a fairly convincing French-country brogue.  I became little Bernadette.

Performance day arrived after weeks of self-rehearsals.  (Family is very happy about this).  After delivering the entire monologue sans notecards or cheat sheets in front of a few hundred folks (thank you MSU Dramatic Arts dept for the ONE acting class I took), I rushed out of the church and praised God from my little, almost-french heart.

"Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus, Oh Thank you Jesus, I DID IT!  It's OVER!"

One problem.  Clip on microphone was still attached to peasant outfit.

So this little Saint of Lourdes had the last laugh. Mission accomplished.  Did I do all of that work for an Oscar or Emmy?  Does anyone even remember it? Probably only the lucky soul who had to come tell me that I still had a hot mic on.  No, our Dear Blessed Mother in her maternal wisdom knew that I needed this unique introduction into her immaculate heart. St. Bernadette herself introduced me to The Immaculate Conception and I am grateful to her for this.

Since I'm not a theologian, and I didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, I thought it might be neat to reprint those index card contents for you here so that you can meet her the same way that I did.

St. Bernadette Soubirous
"I was born Jan 7, 1844 in Lourdes, in the southern part of France.
2 days later I was baptized Marie Bernadette Soubirous but everyone knows me as Bernadette.

I had a happy home life despite frequent bouts with asthma.  Mama always worried about me and kept me at home a lot which was in a small basement room of an old prison.  It was like a dungeon.  I was the oldest of 9 children.  Only 4 of us survived to adulthood. While most of my time was spent helping Mama around the house, what I wanted more than anything in the world was to receive my Catechism. Sadly, I was not a very bright student.  I struggled with reading and writing.  Most people thought that I was lazy or stupid or maybe both.

Papa was a miller but his business didn't do very well.  He gave away more flour than he sold.  He felt sorry for the hungry people who couldn't pay. He took odd jobs for low pay. Some days we went without food.  Even though there were days we went with only bread or no food at all, me and my little brothers founds ways to have fun and joke with each other.  Mama and Papa were very good people.  They gave us all that they could.  

I was 14 years old when the Beautiful Lady appeared at the grotto of Masabielle.  She was young and so lovely -  so much so that when you have seen her once you would willingly die to see her again. She appeared 18 times in all from February 11, 1858 to July 16th of that same year.  It was not until her 16th visit that she told me who she was...


So many did not believe in my Lady. The authorities tried to put us in jail.  Many of the townspeople laughed and thought I was crazy. Some just felt sorry for us.  This all changed over time.

In our conversations, the lovely Lady told me many things.  Some were really wonderful and other things were so sad that I was moved to tears.  Still other things were secrets of things that have not yet come to pass.

She made requests of me:
1) for people to process to the grotto and for a chapel to be built there
2) that all of us pray for sinners
3) for all of us to repent so that we can grow closer to Her Son

She also told me that happiness could not be promised in this life; only in the next.

At the age of 22 I chose my life's ambition and dedicated myself to Christ as a sister. For 12 years, 3 months and 18 days, I was a sister of Charity and Christian Instruction in Nevers, France. I received so many graces that I felt this was the one way that I could really say "thank you" to Our Lord and Our Lady. I never felt that grace could be earned.  It is truly a pure gift from God.

I was ill for most of my 12 years in the convent. I was given Last Rites four times and miraculously recovered from three of my worst potentially fatal episodes.  I suffered from tuberculosis, an abscessed tumor, and severe bone decay.  I was tortured with my own sense of personal sin and imperfection and I found my only comfort in knowing what Christ did for me on the cross.  For Him I would gladly take up my own.

As I conclude my time with you here I would urge to believe in the Lord and His great mercy.  His love endures forever.  And always persevere in times of suffering and affliction.  You are never alone. Your joy is in God's enduring love.  Live for Him only, everywhere and always.

May God abundantly bless you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

When in doubt-Cry out!

Christy and I were at a retreat back in the fall & our leader showed the above video.  Needless to say, I was moved by this portrayal of a father and son caught together in a rain storm.  Naturally, this is a metaphor for how our Father demonstrates his love for us.   It is particularly meaningful as an advent reflection.

You see, God loves us so much; and just like the father in this video, He would do anything to get us home. This includes taking on our flesh as a little baby and being born among us to live with us as a brother.  God loves us so much that he doesn't want us to ever be separated from Him.  That's why he came. He came as one of us. What a brilliant plan.  The most brilliant plan ever created.  We rejected God and refused His divine advances. We rejected Him over and over and over again. Being The Creative Genius, he devised an inside job to take us by surprise and win us back to his Kingdom. He became a tiny, dependent, swaddled, needful, helpless, human infant. We would learn how to love this God of ours because He came as Love enfleshed.  He would not only be hold-able but touchable, huggable, mother-able, edible, drinkable, sentient. God with us.  "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us".

Those words at the end of the video?  They are meant for me and for you...
"I love you!  We're gonna make it.....Dad knows the way home."
What a plan.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

All beasts wild and tame praise the Lord

Thanks Robbie, for this musical treat.  I found that the animal choristers featured above  dovetailed nicely with the Gospel for this 2nd Sunday in Advent...enjoy. 

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
but he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
On that day, the root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
the Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dear Steve Jobs,

(please feel free to take this or any portion of this and send it to
Mr. Steve Jobs
Apple, Inc.

Dear Mr. Jobs,

We were disappointed to learn that Apple has pulled the Manhattan Declaration app from its app store. We are writing to urge you to promptly restore the Manhattan Declaration app.

As you may know, the Manhattan Declaration is a non-partisan statement of conscience supporting the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions, the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and religious freedom and the rights of conscience. The Declaration was issued by more than 150 religious leaders representing a broad spectrum of Christian denominations: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Church of God in Christ, African Methodist Episcopal, and many more. To date, nearly half a million supporters have joined them as signatories. 

As you will immediately see if you read the Manhattan Declaration, it is written in respectful language, and it engages the beliefs of those who differ in an honest, thoughtful, and civil manner. It is entirely free of rancor, name-calling, or offensive rhetoric. It restates, firmly but without animosity towards anyone, central moral teachings of the Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical Protestant traditions deriving from the biblical witness and the tradition of rational reflection and argumentation that has marked Christian moral philosophy from ancient times to the present day. 

We do not know exactly why the app was pulled, as we have yet to receive any explanation from Apple, but we assume that it was the result of pressure brought to bear by some who, for blatantly ideologically partisan reasons, claim that the Manhattan Declaration is bigoted, or otherwise offensive. We hope that you will see how wrong it would be to let one side shut down the opposing side in a debate by slandering their opponents with prejudicial labels such as "bigot" or "homophobe."

When Apple approved the Manhattan Declaration app, Apple rated it a 4+--free from objectionable material. Apple’s original rating was accurate: While many may disagree with the Manhattan Declaration’s positions on the sanctity of human life or the nature of marriage, no one can reasonably or fairly claim that the Declaration’s presentation of its position was anything other than reasoned, civil, and respectful of those who hold other positions. If the Manhattan Declaration’s positions are enough to have its app removed, then we wonder if Apple is considering removing other Bible-based—or even Jewish or Islamic—apps from its store. There is nothing in the Manhattan Declaration that is not also clearly stated in the teachings of Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the majority of Protestant Christian denominations, Orthodox Judaism, and other faiths. Are these faiths to be defamed as "bigoted" and excluded from having apps? 

Certainly Apple has every interest in ensuring that the apps it offers be free from pornography and abusive and defamatory language. At the same time, as an organization that wields enormous cultural power, Apple should also want to offer apps that contribute to reasoned debate over important social and religious issues.

And it is in that spirit of civil public dialogue that we urge you and Apple to restore the Manhattan Declaration app to the iTunes and iPhone application store.


Charles Colson, The Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Dr. Robert George, Princeton University
Dr. Timothy George, Beeson Divinity School