June 23, 2014

The Wedding at Cana: Mary Sets Salvation Into Motion

Mary was given the great privilege of being allowed to set into motion the events leading to the salvation of mankind.

Her son was reluctant. He asks, "What does this have to do with me?" Mary ignored him, looked at the servants and said, "Do what he tells you." Jesus did it. This is not a helpless peasant girl. This is a proud and fierce Jewish mother. Modern Catholic sensibilities have bought into the Peita mindset.

I grew up with Jewish friends. Their mothers expected them to do as they were told. The story of the Jewish mother and her seven sons in 2 Maccabees 7 is the model - a Jewish mother encouraging her sons to stay faithful and the sons doing as they are told in the face of horrible torture and death.

But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native tongue as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: "My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you. I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being. Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God's mercy I may get you back again with your brothers. (2 Maccabees 7:27-29)

Ruth, Judith, Esther.... all the strong women of the Bible set events in motion which lead to the salvation of Israel from great harm. This is the great privilege given to Mary, that she was the one who would set Jesus' ministry into motion, knowing full well how it would end for her Son, and that it would lead to the salvation of Israel and of all mankind.

Look at the strong women of the Bible and you will find Mary in all of them. Ponder the passage above for a moment, for that is the image of Mary at the wedding at Cana.


June 20, 2014

I Ripped My Pants

It happened at Mass last night.

I have been dealing with an extremely difficult person at work - God’s way of teaching me to bear with the faults of others, as well as family issues, etc. Anyway, I was having a hectic day. Thursday nights I am sacristan for Mass and then altar server for a Novena to St. Jude which includes Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. I arrived later than I like and didn’t get to pray.

Everything went well until Father walked to the ambo during the penitential rite, pulled out the lighter we keep there, and lit the altar candles. I had completely forgot to light the candles.

Father started dressing the altar, turns to me and says, "Tim, will you get me some purificators?" Yep, I forgot those too. There were none in the vestry so I had to go all the way to our other vestry by the chapel to get some and got back in time for the Sanctus, handed them to Father and then knelt.

I almost missed ringing the second bell at the consecration. I rang the first bell fine, zoned out and missed the second bell. Doh!

And here is the best part….

During the benediction, Father exposed the Blessed Sacrament and as everyone was singing O Salutaris I stood to get the Thurible for Father. I felt my pants leg get caught on the heel of my shoe as I stood and felt the seat of my pants let go. RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIP!!! Good thing I was wearing a cassock and surpice.

So I'm standing there singing O Salutaris with a giant hole in my pants under my cassock. I'm half horrified at the thought of my pants being ripped and half trying not to laugh at the thought of the Spongebob Squarepants "I Ripped My Pants" episode.

I apologized to Father about the candles and purificators later in the vestry (still wearing the cassock) and he was most gracious, but I'm sad now. These were my altar server pants for four years. They were worn threadbare but had a permanent smell of incense that wouldn't wash out. There was even a "My Pants Smell Like Incense" thread on Catholic Answers about these pants. My buddy says that I should cut out the worn knees as relics but something about venerating my pants doesn't seem right.

Anyway, I'm going to miss those pants. They were like a friend who shared all the special liturgical moments with me. Black Dockers martyred for Jesus.


June 19, 2014

A Beautiful Paper on Lectio Divina by Michael Casey OSCO

Michael Casey OSCO, author of the definitive work on Lectio Devina titled "Sacred Reading", wrote a paper for the Benedictine Oblates World Congress which took place in Rome during October 2013. In it he describes the heart of Lectio...

We are, perhaps, familiar with the hodie of the liturgy. Today Christ is born. Today Christ is risen. Today Christ ascends into heaven. In our liturgical celebrations we are not simply commemorating past saving events, but we are actualising them, activating them, making them present and accessible today. We are entering into the process of salvation. The timeless economy of salvation is being realised for our benefit today.
The practice of lectio divina is a prolongation of the reception of the Word proclaimed in liturgy. In a way similar to the liturgy, when we receive God’s Word in lectio, it is as though God were speaking directly to us today. It is not merely an inspiring word from the past that still has the power to touch us, to guide us and to move us to good living. It is God’s unique and empowering Word addressed to us at this moment and in this situation in which we find ourselves. This is more than mere reading; God is at work in us. The Holy Spirit is as active in our reception of the inspired Word as in its original composition. This is why Saint Jerome wrote, “We cannot arrive at an understanding of Scripture without the aid of the Holy Spirit who inspired it.”

June 17, 2014


Redemption in the Bible has to do with how debtor's prisons operated.

If you owed money which you could not pay you could be hauled into court and sent to debtor's prison until the debt was paid.

Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:25-26)

To add to the humiliation of not being able to pay your debt you were not permitted to pay it yourself. Someone else had to come to the prison with the money and pay the debt for you. Even then you were not released immediately but the person paying the debt only purchased the right to take you out of prison. Purchasing the right to take you out of prison was called redemption. The person paying the debt was the redeemer. Many slaves and servants were purchased this way.

You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. (1 Corinthians 7:23)

Only when you crossed the threshold of the prison door into daylight were you a slave or a servant of the person who redeemed you. At any time prior you could go back to your cell and wait for a better deal or hope that a family member comes up with the money.

Paul uses the idea of debtor's prisons and redemption frequently. Jesus is the redeemer. Jesus purchased us from the prison of sin with the infinite price of his Precious Blood. He paid the debt. We used to be slaves to sin but now we are redeemed and slaves of Christ.

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. (Luke 24:21)

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15)

It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are chaste; it is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes; these have been redeemed from mankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, (Revelation 14:4)


June 05, 2014

The Number of the Beast

666 has to do with emperor worship.

John wrote Revelation to seven Churches in Asia minor. These were being persecuted because they refused to participate in emperor worship. Emperor worship was a huge problem at the time. The city of Pergamum in Asia Minor was the regional center of emperor worship and it was particularly difficult for the Church there. St. John notes the difficulty they are having in that particular city.

And to the angel of the church in Per'gamum write: `The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; you hold fast my name and you did not deny my faith even in the days of An'tipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells." (Revelation 2:12-13)

Temple to Emperor Trajan - typical
City of Pergamum, Asia Minor

Emperor worship was the main problem in the Book of Revelation. Those who did not participate in emperor worship were barred from commerce, shunned from society, arrested and sometimes put to death. Antipas (in the passage above) had been appointed Bishop of Pergamum and was martyred by burning on the altar in one of the temples to the Emperors.

Slaves used to be marked on the forehead or right hand by their owner. A mark or name on the forehead was a sign of ownership. 666 represents the emperor. Some would bear the mark of the emperor while Christians would be marked with the name of Christ on their forehead.

saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads." (Revelation 7:3)
they were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads; (Revelation 9:4)
Then I looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1)

ST. Paul calls himself a "slave of Christ" and notes that he had been marked. The mark on the forehead has to do with slavery and ownership.

The passages above are key to the overall meaning of the Book of Revelation. The followers of Christ with the name of God on their forehead are persecuted now. That persecution is temporary however, and if the followers of Christ persevere to the end they will be rewarded. The followers of the emperor will be destroyed in the end. That's the whole point of the Book of Revelation. It is a message of hope for persecuted Churches.

And St. John challenges us to ask ourselves who's name is on our forehead. Is God's name on our forehead? Is Jesus' name on our forehead? What name do we bear on our forehead? Who owns us?


January 30, 2014

Reading the Bible too Fast

I have read the bible cover-to-cover four times. Meeting Jesus in the pages of Scripture on a daily basis is one of the joys of my life.

Most of the frustration people experience when setting out to read the Bible cover-to-cover is that they read it too fast. The Holy Bible was not meant to be read like a novel. Just slow down.

People ask about "Read the Bible in a Year" reading plans but you can't force the Holy Spirit into a Schedule. If something is difficult to understand then pray about it and move on. Don't try to force it. If something is interesting or beautiful and you want to linger or re-read it then do so.

We meet Jesus - our Beloved - in the pages of Scripture. We have to meet Jesus on his terms, not ours. Forget about your own reading plan. Just slow down, and make Scripture a part of your daily life one small portion at a time. Little by little it will become part of who we are, part of our very being.


January 15, 2014

A Perfect, Literal, Word-for-Word Translation of the Bible

There is no literal word-for-word translation. It is nearly impossible to read.

I am the bread the living the out of-the heaven down-stepping if-ever any may-be-eating out of-this the bread he shall-be-living into the eon and the bread yet which I shall-be-giving the flesh of-me is which I shall-be-giving over the of-the system (or world) life. (John 6:51)

This is a literal word-for-word translation of part of the Bread of Life discourse (John 6) produced from one of the manuscripts upon which the KJV Bible was based. Reference http://www.scripture4all.org. A literal word-for-word translation of any other manuscript upon which any other Bible is based reads just as poorly.

People want a word-for-word translation and think that the Douay-Rhiems or the King James Bible or some other Bible is it, but they are not. Every translation is a product of its time and place and required some interpretation of the Hebrew and Greek words to produce. The manuscripts were translated into the language of the day using expressions and phrases common at the time. Every Bible therefor has issues. No translation is perfect and a literal word-for-word translation would be nearly useless for daily use.

The important thing is to get a reasonable translation which can be lived with and then make scripture a part of our daily lives.

The truth is that anyone who is serious about scripture (and can afford it) will have multiple versions. The RSV-CE is solid and reliable, reads well and is approved by the Church. I think the Psalms read a little better in some parts of the NAB but that's my personal opinion. I just bought a Douay-Rheims-Challoner for a different perspective and have not regretted it so far.

Perfection is difficult to achieve. Any expectation of perfection can only lead to disappointment and frustration. If we look for a reasonable translation we can live with and make it a part of our daily life then we will have a pleasurable experience. God can teach us through His holy word but only if we approach the Scriptures with an attitude of quiet humility.


January 13, 2014

Modern Desert Abba

A very experienced and wise man recently said;

"Silence is a virtue and at times it is a moral obligation if one has nothing uplifting to say about one's brothers and sisters."


January 09, 2014

The Baptism of Jesus

Baptism was familiar to the Jews at the time of Jesus.

Now John wore a garment of camel's hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. (Matthew 3:4-6)

Modern Mikveh Pool
This passage describes the Jewish practice of ritual immersion in the mikveh. The mikveh was used in ancient Judiasm for purification and for conversion. Many modern Jewish communities maintain a mikveh bath for purification to this day. Those who convert to Judaism must be immersed in the mikveh three times.

Remember that the Gospels were written in Greek. The word baptism comes from the Greek word baptisma which was a term for the ritual washing of the Hellenistic Jews. It refers directly to the mikveh purification/conversion bath.  The mikveh described in the Gospels was the baptisma for repentance.

I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Matthew 3:11)

Essene Jews underwent this ritual purification bath every morning indicating daily repentance - what we would call ongoing conversion.

Jesus' ritual baptisma in the Jordan was at the very beginning of his ministry where he raises immersion in the mikveh to the level of a sacrament. Jesus added the Trinitarian form the the end of his ministry, after the ressurection, right before his Ascension and that is what we know today as baptism.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19)

First Century Mikveh Immersion Bath


January 05, 2014

Zippered Thin-Line RSV-CE Bible from Oxford University Press

RSV Catholic Edition from Oxford University Press
Shown is the zippered, thin-line RSV Catholic Edition Bible in imitation leather from Oxford University Press. It is listed on Oxford Press website in black at $32.99 but can be found on the internet in both black and burgundy for a little over $20.

It is imitation leather but it feels like lambskin and is beautifully stitched. The binding is sewn and it has a zippered closure with miraculous medal zipper pull. I've added two ribbons to save my place - one red for the Old Testament and one white for the New Testament. The ribbons had to be cut short so as not to get caught in the zipper. There are very few notes, no maps, no essays and no pretty pictures - very few frills, just the text. It is not a study Bible but designed to be carried with you and read.

This is an amazingly rugged yet beautiful Bible. I tend to be rough on things and the zippered closure is a blessing for travel or just throwing it in the back seat of the car. This one has been used every day for years, has been dragged up and down the east-coast in backpack, on airplanes, in hotel rooms, and it still looks brand new. I have read this Bible cover to cover three times and am half way through my fourth.

This is quite simply one of the best values in Catholic Bibles available today. 

RSV Catholic Edition from Oxford University Press
RSV Catholic Edition from Oxford University Press

RSV Catholic Edition from Oxford University Press

RSV Catholic Edition from Oxford University Press


Douay-Rheims Bible by St. Bendict Press

Douay-Rheims Bible by St. Benedict Press
Shown is the Douay-Rheims Bible (Challoner New Testament) published by St. Benedict Press. It lists at the publisher's website for $54.99 but is available on the internet for around $35 + shipping. This paricular copy was purchased from Adoremus Books through the Barnes & Noble marketplace.

It is genuine leather and appears to have a glued binding. Modern glued bindings are much better then they used to be but putting prayer cards and other papers inside of any fine book is never recommended. It has a single ribbon in gold/tan and gilded edges.

Subjectively, it just doesn't feel as much like a fine Bible as I had hoped it would and am left wondering if the premium ultra-soft version for ten dollars less would not have been a better value. I'm hoping the cover will soften a little with use. Time will tell.

I can already tell that my zippered leather thin-line RSV-CE from Oxford University Press will remain as my daily reader. Still, I'm really really looking forward to reading this. I've already peeked at the first lines of 1 John. John's first letter always moves my heart and my fear was that it would read archaic and dry. That is definitely not the case.

And I've never had a red-letter Bible. Maybe now my Evangelical and Baptist friends will give my Bible some respect. :)

Douay-Rheims Bible by St. Benedict Press

Douay-Rheims Bible by St. Benedict Press

Douay-Rheims Bible by St. Benedict Press


A Smaller and Purer Church

Acts of the Apostles gives us the first glimpse of the early Church.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)

Thinking with the Heart and Mind of the Church: The early Church was concerned with the teaching of the Apostles. God fully revealed himself to man through his chosen Apostles and the early Church listed to what the Apostles had to say, conformed their minds to what the Apostles taught and then carried out that teaching in life. The successors to the Apostles are today's bishops. A purer Church today will act like the early Church described in Acts of the Apostles. A purer Church will "Think with the heart and mind of the Church" and that means thinking with the heart and mind of the Bishop. Individuals in a purer Church will believe what the Bishop believes and will act on the concerns of the Bishop.

Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.  (Philimon 1:27)

Becoming a True Parish Family: The early Church was a Church of fellowship. They didn't just shake hands once each week at Mass. They gathered outsise of Mass, made an effort to get to know each other, assisted each other in their needs, supported each other and shared each other's joys and sorrows. A purer church is a Church where people in the parish invite each other to dinner, dedicate a Saturday to helping a parishoner move, pull over to help a parishoner change a flat tire and try to do business with each other whenever possible. A pure Church is a Church of true fellowship, not just saying hello on Sunday.

Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.  (Romans 12:16)

Jesus and the Eucharist: The early Church broke bread. This means the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith because the Eucharist is Jesus and Jesus is the source and summit of our faith. A Church which does not center its life around Jesus and the Eucharist is not a pure Church. A pure Church centers itself around the Jesus and the Eucharist. A Church which makes the Eucharist the most important part of it's life can accomplish anything.

yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8:6)

Prayer: The world "pray" (prayer, prayed, praying) appears 32 times in Acts of the Apostles. All through the narrative, whenever something happens - good or bad - the reaction of the Church was to gather together for prayer. A pure Church is a church of prayer.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving; (Colossians 4:2)

This is the image of a pure Church - thinking and acting with the heart and mind of the bishop, becoming a true family where we know each other intimately and are part of each others lives, focusing on Jesus and the Eucharist as the most important thing in our lives and gathering to pray.

Traditionalists often speak of a smaller and purer Church. The model has been laid out for us by St. Luke in Acts of the Apostles. It starts in your own heart and in your own little parish, and starts with you.


December 27, 2013

A Very Cistercian Christmas

I had a very Cistercian Christmas at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA. I hope everyone who reads this had the Christmas of their dreams.

The monks chanted a Christmas Vigil at 10:50 and the Abbot celebrated Mass at midnight. The Abbot is the Ordinary - the authority in the monastery. He is like a Bishop in authority and obeyed as if he were Christ. It was wonderful to him process in with his miter and crosier. His homily was about how Jesus wants to be born within you and I and how the more we are attached to created things, the less room we have in our hearts for Jesus and the less room we have in our hearts for love. There was a reception after and we got to meet the Abbot and spent some time speaking with Brother Phillip, 40 years old, a novice 2 years at the monastery and in simple vows. It was great to see Brother Michael and Brother Hugh.

The mass was Ordinary Form in English with lots of incense. The brothers chanted the offeratory hymn.


December 24, 2013

Why the Nativity?

Moses longed to see God's glory but was only allowed to see God's back.

Moses said, "I pray thee, show me thy glory." And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name `The LORD'; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But," he said, "you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live." And the LORD said, "Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand upon the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen." (Exodus 33:18-33)

Elijah knew God was in the gentle wind and he hid himself, knowing that he would die if he looked at God.

And when Eli'jah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 19:13)

Moses and Elijah were granted their wish, were allowed to see God in the person of Jesus, were allowed to see God's face when they stood with him on the mountain of transfiguration.

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Eli'jah, talking with him. (Matthew 17:2-3)

All of Israel had longed to see their salvation, longed to behold God's glory, longed to see God's face. Until Jesus was born, they had only seen manifestations of God - the burning bush, the cloud during the day and pillar of fire at night... Man was finally able to behold God's glory in the person of Jesus, was finally able to see God's face at the nativity.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John 1:14)

God had finally revealed himself fully. Man was finally able to see God's glory, to touch God, and converse with God and to eat with God. John speaks so eloquently about the great gift of seeing God with his own eyes, about Israel's longing and its fulfillment in Jesus.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life -- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us -- that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)

It was the eternal longing of Israel, to look upon the face of God. Israel was finally able to do that at the nativity. We get to do that at every Mass at the elevation when the priest says...

Behold the Lamb of God...

We get to see God's glory at every Mass. It is something Israel longed for. It is what we celebrate tonight, that man was finally able to behold God and live. We celebrate that God became visible tonight.

Merry Christmas to all. 


December 22, 2013

Book Review: In the School of the Holy Spirit

In the School of the Holy Spirit by Fr. Jacques Philippe is only 90 pages, small pages at that, but don't let its size fool you. This is a powerful work on a subject that (for me at least) is easily overlooked.

The author asserts that holiness in our lives is the work of the Holy Spirit and "The task is boyond our power". This might seem obvious to any Christian, but Jacques Philippe goes further, asking two questions of vital importance; how can we foster inspirations of the Holy Spirit and how we can know for sure that the inspiration comes from God (and not from our own mind or from the devil)?

Several broad precepts are given for fostering divine inspirations, including obedience to small movements of the Spirit as a means to greater and more numerous inspirations.

"'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy." (Mt 21:25 NAB)

Knowing that an inspiration comes from God is something that I struggle with and the author's wisdom in this regard makes the book well worth the $9.95 cover price.

"We should not... take it as a systematic rule for discerning God's will the principal that in any given situation, what he asks of us will always be what is most difficult."

The author addresses these questions while recognizing our own individuality and hence, God's way of working with us on a very personal level. The book does not present a formula, but rather a set of guidelines we can use in our daily lives to help us help the Holy Spirit affect our call to holiness.

Summary: The Holy Spirit is our means to holiness. Fostering the Holy Spirit's work in our lives and the ability to discern God's call is the subject of In the School of the Holy Spirit by Jacques Philippe. Short, to the point and well worth reading. This is one of my top ten favorite spiritual books of all time.