I have been very impressed with the WordPress program for blogging.  It beats b2evo out hands down.  I spent at least an hour every day with b2evo just cleaning up spam.  With WordPress, I am able to catch it all with Akismet, and just delete it with one click of the mouse.  Takes maybe a minute a day. 

Which means I should be able to blog more.  But things are a bit busy for me these days.  I will have an update on all the exciting and emotional stuff very soon.

Catholic World News : Vatican prods US bishops on liturgical translations

Catholic World News : Vatican prods US bishops on liturgical translations

May. 22 (CWNews.com) – In a letter to the president of the US bishops' conference, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship has strongly underlined the importance of proper translations for liturgical texts.

I sure hope Cardinal Arinze is doing a novena to the Holy Spirit on this one.  I always thought someone could buy me the new translations as a retirement gift…

Sixth Sunday of Easter: God’s Transforming Love

Today's readings.

I realized this past week that this would be my last homily as a deacon.  Time has certainly flown by, and next week I’ll be attending the Ordination of a friend in Texas, and the week after that is my turn.  Since this is my last homily as a deacon, I am very happy that I get to preach on these particular readings, because they contain some of my favorite lines in all of Scripture.  We could certainly spend hours delving into the theological meanings of all that we’re told today, but well, I wouldn’t do that to you in my last homily as a deacon!

The letter from St. John in today’s second reading has one of the most fundamental principles in all of theology: God is love.  We all probably learned that somewhere early on in our religious education, and it probably filled us with warm feelings at the time.  But we might also agree that the whole idea of “God is love” can be a little trite, the stuff of greeting cards and bumper stickers, perhaps it has become almost meaningless to we who have become jaded with the whole idea of what love is. 

But the love that is God isn’t any of the things we think of when we think of love.  This love isn’t a mere warm feeling for another person, it isn’t a synonym for “like,” it isn’t physical, emotional or intellectual love at all.  The Greek word that is translated “love” here is agape – a word you may have heard – and maybe “love” isn’t even the best way to translate it, but that’s all that our English provides.  Agape love is love that lives for and acts for another person; agape love is, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

This is, after all, what Jesus did for us up there on that cross.  The most perfect way that God could show God’s love for us is for His only begotten Son to be born among us, to suffer and die to pay the price for our sins, and to be raised up to new life that lasts forever so that the barriers of sin and death that had kept us from God’s love would be obliterated.  This agape love is love that is not destroyed by sin nor limited by death; it is a love that is impossible to horde but must be given away; it is a love that does not let distinctions like race or religion or class or way of life divide us: it is a love that is as limitless as God is, because God Himself is that love.

This agape love that is God’s very essence is a love that completely transforms us.  This love makes our salvation possible and once it has done that, it bursts forth from us to others in order to make their salvation possible too.  Peter was transformed by this love in the first reading, and finally came to the realization that this love was not limited just to Jews but also must embrace the Gentile world as well. 

Because God’s love transforms us, we are no longer slaves, as Jesus says, but now God’s friends.  Our slavery to the passions and vices and limitations and longings of our flesh can all be transformed by God’s love into the kind of obedience that brings us true joy.  God’s agape love forgives sin, heals brokenness, and raises us up to be God’s friends.  God’s love sends us transformed lovers out to love others and to help them find friendship with God too.  This love makes us sharers in the very love and life of God.

Because God’s love transforms us, we can do the thing that is not in our nature: we can lay down our lives for others.  Just as Christ laid down his life on the cross, so we can give of ourselves, often at great cost, to raise children, to serve the poor, to care for the elderly and the infirm, to shelter the homeless and teach the young.  All of the things that will never make us rich or famous but which will raise up another person in need are possible because of God’s transforming love.

When we’ve loved others in this way, and when we see them reach out to others in love, we know that God’s love continues to transform our world and continues to raise us up and make salvation possible for more and more people every day. 

Having been transformed into God’s friends, we are commanded to love one another as we have been loved by God.  God’s love came to us at the incredible price of the life of Jesus Christ, and loving one another will demand a great price from us as well.  But we can be confident in our ability to lay down our very lives for others because we are being transformed daily by our God who is love itself.

A Letter to Diognetus: We’re Not Home Yet

Today's Office of Readings has as its second reading an excerpt from a Letter to Diognetus.  This is one of my favorite readings.  I'm not sure why, because every year when I read it, it makes me feel uneasy, unworthy — yeah, all of that.  Listen to this portion of it:

Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body's hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.

That just reminds me that no, we're not home yet.  We are supposed to live as full citizens of the world, but also as aliens in it — the whole Catholic both/and approach to theology in general.  We must take our place here and make present the Kingdom of God on earth.  But we must always live remembering that we are not ultimately destined for life in this world, and so must not be too attached to things, people, anything that drags us away from our Creator.

CNS STORY: ‘Da Vinci Code’ draws laughs from journalists at press screening

CNS STORY: 'Da Vinci Code' draws laughs from journalists at press screening

CANNES, France (CNS) — Toward the end of the movie "The Da Vinci Code," the main character, Robert Langdon, tells his sleuthing partner, Sophie Neveu: "You are the last living descendent of Jesus Christ."


That line, meant to be the dramatic apex of the film, drew laughs from many of the approximately 900 journalists who viewed the film's first press screening May 16 at the Cannes Film Festival.


The derisive laughter, along with widely critical comments from reporters afterward, summed up the Cannes press reaction to the much-heralded launch of the movie. When the credits ran, silence and a few whistles drove home the response.

Director Ron Howard points out later in the article that this movie was not intended to be theology but rather entertainment.  The review makes the second portion of his comment seem unlikely.  And while not intended to be theology, I think the whole Da Vinci Code phenomenon — if you can call it that — is intended to put theology, or at least the Church, in a derogatory light.

But maybe that's not even the motivation.  Basically, these things exist because they'll sell, and heck, who wouldn't like to make a few million dollars?  The sad part is that people will go to see the movie, and be unentertained, and fuel the movement that derides the Church and the Gospel in the process.

I think I'll miss this movie.  But not much, if you know what I mean…

Our New Bishop: J. Peter Sartain

On Tuesday, May 16, 2006, the Apostolic Nuncio announced the appointment of Bishop J. Peter Sartain (pronounced Sar’-tin) as the Fourth Bishop of Joliet.


Bishop Sartain was born on June 6, 1952 in Memphis, Tennessee. On July 15, 1978 he was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Memphis. He was appointed as Bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock on January 4, 2000 and was ordained on March 6, 2000.


In addition to his pastoral experience as a parochial vicar and as a pastor, Bishop Sartain also has considerable administrative experience, having served as Director of Vocations, Chancellor, Moderator of the Curia, Vicar for Clergy, and Vicar General. He currently is a member of the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as the Chair of the USCCB Committee on the Home Missions.


During a press conference held at 10:00 a.m. at St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Center, Bishop Imesch announced Bishop Sartain’s appointment as Fourth Bishop of Joliet. The ceremony of installation is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 27, 2006.

The long-awaited announcement has finally arrived.  Since I've heard nothing of his name thrown about in all the rumors, it appears Bishop Kaffer's quote of "them that knows aren't saying and them that are saying don't know" was entirely correct.  I haven't heard much about Bishop Sartain, although the occasional blog entry here and there has said non-specific good stuff about him.  So it will be interesting for the diocese to get to know him, and to see how his appointment will affect all the negative stuff flying around the diocese these days.

Holy Spirit, enliven us all, and help us all to do your will.

CNS STORY: Public schools add religion course to curriculum requirements

CNS STORY: Public schools add religion course to curriculum requirements

WASHINGTON (CNS) — At a time when public schools are increasingly wary of any mention of religion, one California school district has found that requiring students to study world religions has been surprisingly uncontroversial and has helped smooth hostilities.

For the last six years, the Modesto public schools have required ninth graders to take a nine-week course on world religions, beginning with two weeks of study of First Amendment rights and the U.S. history of religious liberty.

I had two objections to this whole idea:  First, I was thinking it might be teaching kids that all religions are generally okay and equal.  And this, well, it's not what we believe.  As Cardinal George once said at an ecumenical meeting, in his characteristic overly-frank manner, "My goal is to have you all become Catholic."  That's his goal because that's what we belive our mission to be, and so religious relativism is a legitimate concern.

But the article points out that those who held beliefs against religious relativism ended the course with those same beliefs.  So the course's aim was not to promote that kind of relativism, but rather understanding, which is the basis of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue anyway, and extremely healthy.  Encouraging!

My second objection would be that it promoted a watered-down view of the faith.  But the tests proved that the students' religious knowledged actually doubled.  That may make the secular course more effective than traditional methods of catechesis in some ways. 

Maybe we have something to learn from this secular effort.