29 May 2007

Heading off to Washington, D.C.

I'll be at Catholic University and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the Anglican Use Conference, 31 May - 2 June. Deacon Orr and I are heading up a day early to spend some time with former parishioners Bill and Kathy Noel (whose son is preparing for the priesthood -- one of our old altar boys!).

I'll be back in San Antonio on Saturday night, and Deacon Orr will be staying for a few extra days to spend time in Arlington with Fr. John DeCelles (also one of our former parishioners).

Pray for the success of the conference. On Friday evening I'll be preaching at Evensong, which will be at the Dominican House of Studies, just across from the National Shrine. It will be nostalgic for me -- it was nearly twenty-five years ago that I was staying at the Dominican House to take my final examinations before ordination!

28 May 2007

Pray for those who have sacrificed...

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; we give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country; Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

23 May 2007

"Stick 'em up!"

This article appears on the website of The American Spectator. Be warned: reading it will make you angry. At least, it should.

The Real Planned Parenthood
By Tom McClusky

How much have you spent this year on the abortion-oriented services of Planned Parenthood? This question may seem too personal, or out of line with your religious beliefs. But the truth is that if you pay taxes, you support Planned Parenthood.

As the media runs stories of candidates getting into trouble for donating to Planned Parenthood, it's noteworthy to mention how much the controversial organization receives on the public dole. In 2005 Planned Parenthood got $272 million in our taxes, twice the money it made from its 255,000 surgical abortions. Since 1987, Planned Parenthood has taken in $3.2 billion in taxpayer funds for its deadly agenda. So, since 1973 Planned Parenthood has aborted 3.8 million babies with the help of over 3.9 billion tax dollars.

But the buck doesn't stop there. A number of companies also donate large amounts of money to the pro-abortion organization including Walt Disney Co., Bank of America, Johnson and Johnson, Cole, Levi Strauss, Nationwide Insurance, Prudential, Unilever, Wachovia and Whole Foods. Between taxpayer dollars, corporate monies and other donations, Planned Parenthood had over $882 million in total revenue in 2005.

Many supporters of Planned Parenthood seem to be embarrassed about the organization's best known service -- abortion. Proponents argue that the money goes to other services, usually emphasizing adoption work. However, according to the most recent figures, Planned Parenthood did 264,943 abortions in 2005, an increase of over 100,000 from the year before (those abortions generated an estimated $99 million profit for Planned Parenthood.) In contrast, adoption referrals by Planned Parenthood have been steadily decreasing from 1,774 customers in 2003 to 1,414 in 2004 (the last years figures were known). In other words, for every 180 abortions Planned Parenthood did, they offered one adoption referral.

Additionally, Planned Parenthood appears to take many positions that are well outside of the mainstream. Pro-abortion forces went ballistic immediately following the recent Supreme Court decision limiting the senseless killing of innocent, partially-born babies, otherwise known as Partial Birth Abortion. A recent CNN poll following the decision found that a large majority of Americans supported the Supreme Court's decision to make the procedure illegal. Vanessa Cullins, a vice president of Planned Parenthood, immediately sent out a press statement voicing "disappointment" in the Supreme Court decision but "If you have an appointment, you should still come in" for a partial birth abortion.

The true story of Planned Parenthood is more easily told by how it treats the young women who come in for "counseling." Two recently controversial cases come from Ohio where girls, one as young as 14, were brought in for abortions. In one case it was the young girl's soccer coach who brought the underage girl in for the abortion. In the other case, it was the victim's own father, who had repeatedly raped and abused her. Despite laws requiring Planned Parenthood officials to report the crimes of statutory rape or incest, the law was not followed. The victims were only sold abortions, paid for by their abusers.

Sadly, Planned Parenthood so routinely gets exposed instructing statutory rapist on how not to get caught, there are videos which can be watched even now at YouTube.

Interestingly, Planned Parenthood opposes true pregnancy care centers where adoption counseling and assistance for mothers can be found as well as medical assistance. A real pregnancy care center offers women a true choice, and such centers clearly explain to women that the choice they are about to make is not between a woman and her doctor, but between a mother and her child.

Because Planned Parenthood is most concerned with "terminating the pregnancy," the organization also fights against issues like parental notice, medical facility standards for abortion clinics, and the release of records of underage abortions, even with names and addresses deleted. This is key because such pregnancies indicate that crimes have been committed against the girls. Planned Parenthood hides under the guise of "patient privacy," as they have in Indiana and Kansas.

Warren County, Ohio, Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel has a different, more realistic theory regarding Planned Parenthood's reluctance to discuss the underage girls. She states, "My guess is that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and that is why Planned Parenthood will do anything to prevent us from seeing its records."

If candidates, corporations and politicians want to continue to stand up for and financially support Planned Parenthood, knowing about its despicable practices, that is their choice. However, it's time to have a public conversation about the $272 million tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood each year. To make the American taxpayer an unwitting accomplice to crimes upon our children is too much to ask.

Tom McClusky is vice president of government affairs for the Family Research Council, a Washington, D.C.-based public policy organization

22 May 2007

Excuse me, there's something in my eye...

I don’t know if it comes with age (or perhaps I should say “with maturity”), but I find that my emotions are more easily moved. Not to torrents of tears, mind you – but the eyes tend to mist a bit more often and the lump comes to the throat. It doesn’t bother me that this happens. If it did, I wouldn’t be mentioning it here. But I’ve noticed it happening more lately. Not often, but a bit more than when I was younger. I guess I don’t mind having my emotions show, especially when it comes to things that really matter.

For instance, this past Saturday I officiated at a wedding. The bride has been in the parish from the time she was a toddler. The groom has been here since he was a boy in middle school. When she started down the aisle, with the pipe organ thundering and the congregation standing in expectation, I started in with the brimming-over eyes. Fortunately I know the Rite of Holy Matrimony by heart, because I certainly couldn’t see it to read it.

Or this past Good Friday is another example. As I was holding the relic of the True Cross, with hundreds of familiar and beloved people – old and young, families together, widows, college students – all coming to venerate the instrument of our salvation, I ended up with tears streaming down my face. Heck, my eyes are watering again, just thinking about it.

And at confirmation, the same thing. These are children whom I’ve baptised, or adults who have come with questions and who ended up wanting to become Catholics. What a privilege to present them to the bishop to be sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It never fails to get to me.

It’s even happened a few times at Mass when I turn around to show the Sacred Host to the Faithful. “Behold the Lamb of God, who takest away the sin of the world…” And I think to myself, “This really is! Here is God Himself!” And it just astounds me, and I’m not ashamed to admit that it sometimes moves me to tears.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m some sort of blubbering old man with perpetually red-rimmed eyes. But what God does on a day by day basis in the lives of His children really affects me. And it causes what some of our kids call “happy tears.” I don’t mind. In fact, I’m kind of grateful for the fact that I’m not so jaded that I can’t let the odd tear trickle down. This faith of ours really is a beautiful thing.

21 May 2007

Viva Cristo Rey!

Today is the feast of St. Christopher Magallanes and his Companions, all martyrs for the faith in Mexico. Following is a brief excerpt from the sermon preached by the Servant of God, John Paul the Great, at the canonization on 22 May 2000.

“The states of Jalisco, Zacatecas, Durango, Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Morelos, Guerrero and Colima are the native lands of the new martyr saints. The memory of them and of their generous, heroic commitment lives on, and their glory before God will never fade. These priests, who gave their lives out of fidelity to their priestly ministry, are a shining example for priests today of how to assist the faithful, even at the risk of their own life. Together with them the three lay people are a precious witness of the ecclesial commitment and vocation to holiness that belong to all the baptized and which must prompt us to live in communion of faith and love, especially at the side of those who need us, while always trusting in God.”

For a brief account of these saints, look here. And if you have an opportunity to read more about another wonderful martyr of Mexico, Fr. Miguel Pro, by all means do.

17 May 2007

A Novena to the Holy Ghost

The followers of Jesus kept the first novena of prayer after the His ascension, when they returned to Jerusalem to wait for the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to them, when He said, “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…”

Here are prayers to help you in keeping this novena:

V. In the Name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
R. Amen.

[Each day, the Officiant begins with this prayer:]

O HOLY SPIRIT, our Lord and our God, we adore Thee and humbly acknowledge here in Thy sacred presence that we are nothing, and can do nothing, without Thy operation within us. Come, great Paraclete, Thou Father of the poor, Thou Comforter of the blest, fulfill the promise of our Saviour, who would not leave us orphans, and enter our minds and hearts as Thou didst descend on the day of Pentecost upon the Holy Mother of Jesus and upon His first disciples. Grant that we may have a part in those gifts which Thou didst so graciously bestow upon them.

Take from our hearts all that is not pleasing to Thee and make of them a worthy dwelling-place for Jesus. Illumine our minds, that we may see and understand the things that are for our eternal welfare. Inflame our hearts with the pure love of the Father, that, cleansed from attachments to all unworthy objects, our lives may be hidden with Jesus in God. Strengthen our wills, that they may be conformed to the will of our Creator and guided by Thy holy inspirations. Aid us to practice the heavenly virtues of humility, poverty, and obedience which are taught to us in the earthly life of Jesus.

Descend upon us, O mighty Spirit, that, inspired and encouraged by Thee, we may faithfully fulfill the duties of our various states in life, carry our particular crosses with patience and courage, and accomplish the Father's will for us more perfectly. Make us, day by day, more holy and give to us that heavenly peace which the world cannot give.

O Holy Spirit, Thou Giver of every good and perfect gift, grant to us our special intentions of this novena of prayer. May the Father's will be done in us and through us; and mayest Thou, O mighty Spirit of the living God, be praised and glorified for ever and ever. Amen.

[All join in saying Veni Creator Spiritus:]

Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
and lighten with celestial fire,
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost Thy sevenfold gifts impart.

Thy bless├ęd unction from above,
is comfort, life, and fire of love,
enable with perpetual light
the dullness of our blinded sight.

Anoint and cheer our soiled face
with the abundance of Thy grace.
Keep far our foes, give peace at home;
where thou art Guide, no ill can come.

Teach us to know the Father, Son,
and Thee, of both, to be but One;
that through the ages all along,
this may be our endless song:

Praise to Thy eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

OUR FATHER, who art in heaven; hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

V. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
R. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

[The Officiant says the Proper Prayer for the Day:]

Come, O Holy Ghost, the Lord and Lifegiver; take up Thy dwelling within our souls, and make of them Thy sacred home. Make us live by grace as adopted children of God. Pervade all the energies of our souls, and create in us fountains of living water, springing up unto eternal life.

Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to our souls the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, and power, and beauty. Teach us to love them above and beyond all the passing joys and satisfactions of earth. Show us the way by which we may be able to attain to them, and possess them, and hold them hereafter, our own forever.

Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation, and may merit at last to see the eternal light in Thy light; and in the light of glory to have the clear vision of Thee and the Father and the Son.

Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide us in all our ways, that we may always do Thy holy will. Incline our hearts to that which is good, turn them away from all that is evil, and direct us by the path of Thy commandments to the goal of eternal life.

Come, O Spirit of Fortitude, and give courage to our souls. Make our hearts strong in all trials and in all distress, pouring forth abundantly into them the gifts of strength, that we may be able to resist the attacks of the devil.

Come, O Spirit of Knowledge, and make us to understand and despise the emptiness and nothingness of the world. Give us grace to use the world only for Thy glory and the salvation of Thy creatures. May we always be faithful in putting Thy rewards before every earthly gift.

Come, O Spirit of Piety, possess our hearts, and incline them to a true faith in Thee, to a holy love of Thee, our God. Give us Thy grace, that we may seek Thee and find Thee, our best and our truest joy.

Come, O Spirit of holy Fear, penetrate our inmost hearts, that we may set Thee, our Lord and God, before our faces forever; and shun all things that can offend Thee, so that we may be made worthy to appear before the pure eyes of Thy divine Majesty in the heaven of heavens.

Come, O Holy Comforter, and grant us a desire for holy things. Produce in our souls the fruits of virtue, so that, being filled with all sweetness and joy in the pursuit of good, we may attain unto eternal blessedness.

[The following prayer, said by all, concludes the Novena each day:]

O GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of Thy faithful people by sending to them the light of Thy Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in His holy comfort; through Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord, who liveth with Thee in the unity of the same Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

16 May 2007

For some reason Thursday is Sunday...

The following is an excerpt from the Holy Father's sermon on Ascension Day last year. Even though, by order of our bishops, many of us have to wait until Sunday to celebrate this great solemnity (not one of their better decisions), Thursday is the actual day, so it seemed good to me to post these words:

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven?” (Acts 1:11).

Brothers and Sisters, today we hear once again this question from the Acts of the Apostles. This time it is directed to all of us: “Why do you stand looking up to heaven?” The answer to this question involves the fundamental truth about the life and destiny of every man and woman.

The question has to do with our attitude to two basic realities which shape every human life: earth and heaven. First, the earth: “Why do you stand?” - Why are you here on earth? Our answer is that we are here on earth because our Maker has put us here as the crowning work of his creation. Almighty God, in his ineffable plan of love, created the universe, bringing it forth from nothing. Then, at the completion of this work, he bestowed life on men and women, creating them in his own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-27). He gave them the dignity of being children of God and the gift of immortality. We know that man went astray, misused the gift of freedom and said “No” to God, thus condemning himself to a life marked by evil, sin, suffering and death. But we also know that God was not resigned to this situation, but entered directly into humanity’s history, which then became a history of salvation. “We stand” on the earth, we are rooted in the earth and we grow from it. Here we do good in the many areas of everyday life, in the material and spiritual realms, in our relationships with other people, in our efforts to build up the human community and in culture. Here too we experience the weariness of those who make their way towards a goal by long and winding paths, amid hesitations, tensions, uncertainties, in the conviction that the journey will one day come to an end. That is when the question arises: Is this all there is? Is this earth on which “we stand” our final destiny?

And so we need to turn to the second part of the biblical question: “Why do you stand looking up to heaven?” We have read that, just as the Apostles were asking the Risen Lord about the restoration of Israel’s earthly kingdom, “He was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.” And “they looked up to heaven as he went” (cf. Acts 1:9-10). They looked up to heaven because they looked to Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen One, raised up on high. We do not know whether at that precise moment they realized that a magnificent, infinite horizon was opening up before their eyes: the ultimate goal of our earthly pilgrimage. Perhaps they only realized this at Pentecost, in the light of the Holy Spirit. But for us, at a distance of two thousand years, the meaning of that event is quite clear. Here on earth, we are called to look up to heaven, to turn our minds and hearts to the inexpressible mystery of God. We are called to look towards this divine reality, to which we have been directed from our creation. For there we find life’s ultimate meaning.

13 May 2007

Happy news!

We have a young family coming to our parish, and their move here could prove to be a very important development for the parish.

Jeffrey W. Moore, his wife Ellen, and their three young children are moving here from the Fort Worth area. Jeff had been an Episcopal clergyman, serving as an assistant at the Episcopal cathedral in Fort Worth until a year ago this past Easter, when he and his family became Catholics. He has been in conversations with Bishop Vann, the Catholic bishop of Forth Worth, about the possibility of entering the Pastoral Provision process with the hope of eventual ordination as a Catholic priest.

Our own Archbishop Gomez learned of Jeff and his family, and spoke with Bishop Vann about bringing him to San Antonio. The archbishop expressed his interest in eventually having another priest to assist me in the work here at Our Lady of the Atonement, and Jeff seemed to be the ideal candidate for this.

After meeting with Jeff, I agreed that his background, along with his gifts and his vocation to priestly ministry, could be a great addition to the parish. Therefore, he will be entering the process which (God willing) will lead to Catholic ordination sometime within the next few years. Meanwhile, I have offered (and Jeff has accepted) a teaching position at the academy, and he will be moving here with his family sometime during June.

We look forward to getting to know the Moore family, and it will be our privilege to accompany them on the journey towards Jeff’s eventual ordination. It will be a singular blessing to have another priest on staff when that happens – especially a priest whose spiritual journey and experiences come out of the tradition and spirituality upon which this parish was founded.

09 May 2007

Any questions?

May. 9, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Catholic politicians who vote for legal abortion are subject to excommunication, Pope Benedict XVI told reporters during a May 9 flight from Rome to Brazil.

Fielding questions from reporters during the trip, the Holy Father was asked whether he supported the Mexican bishops who have threatened the excommunication of politicians who voted to approve legalization of abortion in Mexico City. The Pontiff replied that he did.

"They did nothing new, nothing arbitrary or surprising," the Pope said of the Mexican bishops. "They simply announced to the public what is stipulated by the law of the Church."

Later the Vatican press director, Father Federico Lombardi, issued a statement to clarify the Pope's remarks. Father Lombardi-- who noted that his statement had the Pope's approval-- stressed that the Pope had not declared anyone excommunicated. The Mexican bishops had threatened but not imposed that penalty; thus, the Vatican spokesman said, there was no decree of excommunication for the Pope to affirm.

The thrust of the Pope's remarks, Father Lombardi said, was that politicians who support legal abortion should not receive Communion. The Pope was not declaring anyone excommunicated, he said, but the individuals who vote for abortion "have excluded themselves from Communion.

04 May 2007

"Bring flow'rs of the rarest..."

Today we had the annual May Crowning right after the school Mass. Actually, we always crown both the Blessed Mother as well as the Infant in her arms, because it’s the statue of Our Lady of the Atonement which is the focus of the day. She’s holding her Son, and it wouldn’t seem right to honor the Mother and ignore the Child. So they both get crowns of flowers, and I’m certain the Queen of Heaven is delighted with that.

Because the number of students is so large, we had class representatives process with the flowers. In the early years of the school each student was able to bring a flower to the Lady Altar and place it there. But what can be done easily with a hundred students is impossible with five hundred. So each grade, from Pre-Kindergarten through High School, chose two students to bring the flowers to lay at the feet of Our Lady. For those of you who were raised as Catholics, I’m sure you have wonderful memories of May crownings. Today was one of those days when I wished I had a “Catholic School experience” as a child. That’s one of the reasons I’m determined that our school will always have things like May crownings and novenas and all the other devotions which form the woof and warp of what should be a normal Catholic life, all undergirded with the daily Mass.

So here’s a picture of the Lady Chapel all decked out with “flow’rs of the rarest,” brought by the hands of her loving children.

02 May 2007

Apologia without apology

“…but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence…” (I Peter 3:15)

On this commemoration of St. Athanasius it’s good to be reminded of how important it is for us to be able to defend and explain our Catholic faith. But this does mean we actually have to put in some time reading and studying. And I don’t mean just those who are clergy, or catechists, or professional theologians. Every one of us needs to do this.

One of the most useful sites I’ve found is Karl Keating’s Catholic Answers. It’s loaded with excellent articles, all fairly brief and to the point. Also, it has links to some other terrific sites. I’ve never found anything here other than the straight, unvarnished truth. It’s presented in very simple language. For me, that’s a plus. Although I do enjoy wading into the deeper waters of theology, sometimes it nice to read something without having to have a dictionary in the other hand.

Have a look through it, especially in the “Library” section, and see if you find it as helpful as I have.