Friday, December 28, 2007

Pilgrimage to Lisieux...

I finally had the time to get the pictures from our pilgrimage to Lisieux uploaded with captions. Please check it out here: It was an amazing trip. As I was posting the pictures, I was trying to think of what impacted me the most about the trip. It is not easy to put these kinds of experiences into words - even for me!! ;-)

Two things immediately come to my mind:
1) It is the reality of the Saint. We hear so many lofty stories about these people that they take on an almost mythical character. Her reality impressed me more than I thought it would. To see where she said confession, to see where she sat as her family attended Mass really brought home that she was just like us, which made her that much more accessible for me.

2) Her closeness and presence while we were there. St. Therese's presence was palpable. You sensed her eagerness to assist you in getting closer to God. You sensed deep, abiding love. So many prayers were answered as she obtained the graces we so desperately needed.

Please know that we carried everyone of you with us in our hearts. We prayed for you and asked that St. Therese would seek God on your behalf.

I will never forget this trip. It was a time to come, once again, in to close contact with my Carmelite brothers and sisters. It was a time of grace...

Thursday, December 20, 2007


There is NO better feeling in the world than walking out of that last final knowing that you are free for a few weeks. WHEW! I am glad it is over. Now it is time to try and catch up here. :-) I will be posting some of the pictures of our Lisieux Pilgrimage over the next few days and some fun stuff of the family. Here is some nice pictures of the snowy Kartuase and the kids for a start.


The Kartause in Winter. THe crane is there as they are remodeling the restaurant.

Ezekiel Thomas

14 on December 30th.

Killing a kid in the same town St. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. :-)

In front of the Cathedral that St. Therese attended as a child (as a teaser ;-))

Standing on these steps, the kids were looking upon the tombs of St. Therese's parents (who have been beatified).

The Basilica of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Lisieux, France.

Friday, December 14, 2007


HAPPY FEAST DAY!! Today is the memorial of the "Mystical Doctor": St. John of the Cross. He was a Discalced Carmelite who assisted St. Teresa of Avila in her reforms of the Order. He is a great saint known most for his writing about the spiritual life, especially about the "dark night of the soul", which in my opinion is completely misunderstood by many.

You can find his major works
. I think an excellent book that speaks of his teaching as a way of an introduction is Father Dubay's Fire Within, which also treats St. Teresa of Avila's teaching.

He is considered one of the greatest Spanish poets of all time. Here is his Living Flame of Love:

1. O living flame of love
that tenderly wounds my soul
in its deepest center! Since
now you are not oppressive,
now consummate! if it be your will:
tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

2. O sweet cautery,
O delightful wound!
O gentle hand! O delicate touch
that tastes of eternal life
and pays every debt!
In killing you changed death to life.

3. O lamps of fire!
in whose splendors
the deep caverns of feeling,
once obscure and blind,
now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
both warmth and light to their Beloved.

4. How gently and lovingly
you wake in my heart,
where in secret you dwell alone;
and in your sweet breathing,
filled with good and glory,
how tenderly you swell my heart with love.

I found where they have this particular poem and commentary. The Rodriguez and Kavanaugh translation. Check it out!

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I am surfacing from studying for finals to take a quick minute to tell you about this new amazing resource from the Congregation for the Clergy. It is absolutely amazing. You can download the entire site as a tool for Bible study. It has a bunch of features: multiple versions of the English translation, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. They cross-reference individual verses to writings of the Church Fathers, St. Thomas Aquinas, the Catechism, and others. The downloaded materials include the entire Canon Law, Catechism of the Catholic Church, etc. If you can read Latin, there is the entire Summa, Commentary on the Sentences (St. Thomas), Denzinger, and others. It can be used by people of all levels. I am sure they will be adding other resources as time goes on. If you study Scripture, this is a must. The price can't be beat,! Click on the image to go to the website.

I would please ask for your prayers as I finish out the semester. Lots of finals and difficult ones at that. Thank you so much for your prayers and support. It means so much to us. Once finals are over, we have a bunch of really neat things to share with you so keep your eye out!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

SNOW DAY!!!!!!!

Snow Day!!!!

Snow Day!!!!

Snow Day!!!!

SHOOT! I'm in home school.

But don't get me wrong I will play in this snow, no matter what! No matter what my parents say. No matter what my teacher says. No matter what! I will play in the snow. Nothing can stop me!!!!!!

What's this? A letter ! Wow, a free trip to the Bahamas! Life can be sooooo Cruel!!!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Feast of St. Martin of Tours

So tonight we celebrated the Feast of St. Martin of Tours. St. Martin was the saint Zach chose to dress up as on All Saints Day, since he was a young soldier (with a sword!!!!) He had nothing but weapons and clothing and one evening out in the cold rain saw a beggar who was almost naked, so he drew his sword and cut his coat in two and gave half of it to the beggar. A very honorable young man from Hungry, who gave to the least of his brother. That evening he received a vision of Christ dressed in the garment he had given to the poor beggar. "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me." Matthew 25:35-36 St. Martin went on to become one of the most celebrated Bishops of the 4th century. He died in 397.

What a fitting evening is was to take our home-aide lanterns out into the cold, bitter, rainy night and process around the church courtyard to honor St. Martin with all the Kartause Children. We processed singing to St. Martin in German and then went before the church altar to offer our lives once again to our Lord in honor of St. Martin. Then we went into an upper room to celebrate with hot chocolate, cider, and cookies. What a wonderful feast day celebrating a young mans life in service of our Lord.

So as you can see we have left our lights of St. Martin burning on our front steps for you. We just want you all to know that our home is always your home. You are always welcome here. There will always be a warm meal and a friendly face to greet you. So come on over!!!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I realized that the post below was likely very confusing. It is hard to describe the Proofs of God in a few short sentences, but I didn't want a five page blog either (as I am sure you didn't). There is an excellent treatment of these arguments at Dr. Peter Kreeft's website. He is a professor of Philosophy at Boston College and brilliant scholar/teacher. You can find them here. Go thou and check it out!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

One Less Atheist in the World...

Found this interview with Antony Flew, via The Insight Scoop Blog. Mr. Flew was a life long atheist thinker who now has come to belief in God. Not the Christian God, mind you. He considers himself a Deist. In his view of God, God created the world and let it go to its own devices. Like a the classic watchmaker analogy. God made the world, wound it up, and then let it go.

Mr. Flew cites two decisive points for his "conversion". Interesting that both points fold into the classic argument for God from design:

There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself – which is far more complex than the physical Universe – can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source. I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so. With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. (emphasis mine)

Thus, Mr. Flew finally recognizes the validity of one of the arguments for the existence of God that St. Thomas used in the Summa:

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God. (STh I.2.3)

The last line of the quote from Mr. Flew I found interesting. He is saying, I believe, that he recognized that the difference between living things and non-living things wasn't simply a different chemical composition or arrangement of atoms, but the difference lies in that the living thing has something about its being that causes it to be alive. In other words, a soul. In Aristotelian terms, Mr. Flew recognized that a being (especially one that is alive - it is easiest to see there) has a unity about the thing and something else that makes it a certain thing as different from just a pile of parts. This principle of unity of a thing that individuates it is called the form of the thing. Thus, humans aren't merely an arrangement of molecules but a being standing in itself in distinction of other things. Our soul is our form. It is the principle that individuates matter into an individual thing of a certain sort. To accept that beings are composites of matter and form is a giant leap to accepting God because then there are logical consequences that make God necessary. Aristotle covered these arguments in the Physics and Metaphysics.

The interview continues with the interviewer asking him about the scientific data that supports the existence of God (which Mr. Flew claims convinced him). He then comments to the question of atheists being behind the curve on scientific evidence supporting God's existence:

Yes indeed. I would add that Dawkins is selective to the point of dishonesty when he cites the views of scientists on the philosophical implications of the scientific data.
Two noted philosophers, one an agnostic (Anthony Kenny) and the other an atheist (Nagel), recently pointed out that Dawkins has failed to address three major issues that ground the rational case for God. As it happens, these are the very same issues that had driven me to accept the existence of a God: the laws of nature, life with its teleological organization and the existence of the Universe. (emphasis mine)

Once again, Mr. Flew cites issues, that drove him to accept the existence of God, that are the basis for the arguments asserting God's existence from the time of Aristotle on. St. Thomas takes them up in the question from the Summa that is linked to above. The "laws of nature" and "life with its teleological (ordered to the end) organization" are answered in the argument from the Summa cited above (the so-called 5th way). The "existence of the Universe" is answered in the 2nd way where St. Thomas proves the existence of the First Efficient Cause. The First Efficient Cause argument basically states that there must be a cause of all existence that is in itself uncaused. It is because a thing cannot cause itself. Thus, it must be caused by another. This cannot go onto infinity in ordered causes, however, or there would never be the effect because there would not be a first cause. God is this First Efficient Cause of all being Who is not caused.

He wraps up by stating :

I accept the God of Aristotle who shares all the attributes you cite. Like Lewis I believe that God is a person but not the sort of person with whom you can have a talk. It is the ultimate being, the Creator of the Universe.

As Jesus said to the lawyer, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." (Mk 12:34); he would say the same to Mr. Flew. The God of Aristotle is the God of St. Thomas. Once Mr. Flew discovers how St. Thomas corrects and expands (via Divine Revelation) Aristotle's understanding he will be ready. Furthermore, if he carefully reflects on what it means to be person, he will realize that a essential aspect of a person to transcend himself to another. That in the very what it means to be person is to be self communicating, the highest form of that communication being love. When he realizes this, Mr. Flew will know that God as Person will be essentially self communicating, and since God's essence is his existence, God's very being will be to self communicate. We see this in the complete self communication between the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. Thus, we can have that talk with God, Mr. Flew. He came in human form so he might speak to us face-to-face in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Friday, November 02, 2007

All Souls Day...

As most know, today we pray for all the souls that have departed this world for the next, especially those that are not Canonized Saints because we don't know their eternal disposition.

The Liturgy of the Hours celebrates the Office of the Dead today. As I prayed for those souls that have gone before, I began to think of my own death. Death is an evil. We were never meant to die. Death is a consequence of Original Sin. We are eternal creatures and deep down we know it. That is why death seems like such an evil. We are supposed to live eternally, and we face this experience that seems as though it will annihilate us. We sense that at the point of death we cease to exist - to be.

Some of the early Greek philosophers suggested that the human (rational) soul was eternal in a certain respect. Aristotle in De Anima thought that it was only the intellect that was eternal. Since the intellect only knows something through the passive intellect that is not eternal, our eternal soul then must not know anything.

We know through Christian Revelation that we are eternal beings. We die because of the Fall. However, the Father in his infinite love sent his Son to destroy death (the eternal death of being separated from God) by dying and rising again for the forgiveness of our sins. Now we know definitively through faith that we can live forever in the Beatific Vision. This eternal live is lived seeing God for who he is and being completely united to him in charity.

As I said, death is frightening and disturbing. I found great consolation in the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch and wanted to share. He was the third Bishop of Antioch and lived on the late first and early second century (~50~110). He survived the Domitian persecutions but was called to martyrdom under Trajan. Trajan condemned him in Antioch. During the very long and arduous journey to Rome to die (he called the soldiers guarding him "ten leopards, even a company of soldiers, who only grow worse when they are kindly treated." (Letter to Romans)), he wrote to seven different Churches to exhort and teach them. The Letters were to the Magnesisans, Trallians, Ephesians, Philadelphians, Smyrnaeans, Romans, and to the Bishop of Smyrna St. Polycarp (who was martyred later). I would recommend reading every one of them. They are short and contain a lot of great teaching. St. Ignatius was the first to use the term "catholic " in reference to the Church and the name 'Christian' in a positive manner.
Anyway, in his letter to the Romans he is asking them not to save him from martyrdom. He wanted to be with his Lord:

I am writing all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God's wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ's pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God.

No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in the place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire. The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish. You will sympathize with me because you will know what urges me on.

The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God's side. Do not talk about Jesus Christ as long as you love this world. Do not harbor envious thoughts. And supposing I should see you, if then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For though I am alive as I write to you, still my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: "Come to the Father." I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God's bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.

I am no longer willing to live a merely human life, and you can bring about my wish if you will. Please, then, do me this favor, so that you in turn may meet with equal kindness. Put briefly, this is my request: believe what I am saying to you. Jesus Christ will make it clear to you that I am saying the truth. Only truth can come from the mouth by which the Father has truly spoken. Pray for me that I may obtain my desire. I have not written to you as a mere man would, but as one who knows the mind of God. If I am condemned to suffer, I will take it that you wish me well. If my case is postponed, I can only think you wish me harm. (Taken from the Liturgy of the Hours: St. Ignatius' Memorial; October 17th)

They wished him well. As soon as St. Ignatius arrived in Rome, he was fed to the lions in the Flavian Amphitheater...

What an amazing perspective! I so often cling to this life like it is the only one that is possible. I completely forget the admonition of Jesus: "For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it." (Mark 8:35) This life is but a shadow of the one that God has in store for us. Our true life, the one that was always intended for us, is found in the Beatific Vision. Let us allow, then, St. Ignatius' words and attitude to penetrate us deeply so that we live this life, not in fear of its end, but in hope for the true beginning of our life; to see God, to be united to him, that is our life. Let us on this day, where we pray for the dead, let go of the fear of death. Then we can begin to live our eternal life now and say with St. Paul: "'O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Corinthians 15:55-57)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ahem...Is this thing still on??

I have finally surfaced, gasping for air, at the ITI's fall 10-day break. I made it here only by the grace of God. Of course, the break isn't really a break. It is just a break from classes so you can write all the papers assigned. I just finished a paper on St. Thomas' proof that God's essence is his being. It is in the Prima pars of the Summa Theologiae, Question 3, Article 4. For those of you unfamiliar with the citation of St. Thomas' works. The first letters designate the work, in this case STh (for Summa Theologiae). Next, the part of the Summa is designated. There is the First Part (prima pars), the Second Part of the First Part (pars secunda prima pars) Second Part (secunda pars), the Second Part of the Second part (pars secunda secunda pars) and the Third Part (tertia pars). These are designated by Roman numerals e.g., STh I-II is the Second Part of the First Part of the Summa. Then, the questions are numbered, and then the articles. So, to cite the text above, one would write STh I.3.4. This proof relates to the proofs of God in STh I.2.3. It is only in STh I.3.3 and and STh I.3.4, cited above, that the proofs of God are complete.

Finished a Latin exam working through passive case and the genitive case (possessive). I think I have more trouble remembering English grammar than I do Latin grammar! I think the last time I studied grammar was like 30 years ago! Scary....

Over the break I will be finishing up a summer course, writing a paper on the Christology of St. Ignatius of Antioch, and starting to think about papers on the habit of faith as understood through faith's act and object and exploring the centrality and implications of the understanding of Church as a communion.

I also plan to have several International Wrestling Championships with my boys, take a long walk with my wife, and take my daughter to coffee. I am looking forward to the next week!

Thank you all for your prayer support and financial support. There is no way we could do this without you. We are blessed by your friendship and love...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Just to Make You Smile

They can make you madder than anyone on the earth. Those darn kids. For instance last night Eli and Zach-Attack decided to make a water slide out of the bathroom and then to cover their tracks they dried up the pond they made in the bathroom with every bath towel we own. Ever seen an entire family drip dry. It ain't a pretty sight. Yet they bring more love, more joy, move laughter, and more smiles than we would ever have the chance to experience without them. Aren't kids just great!!!

I hope these bring a smile to your face today. Have a great day!!!!!

Austria has mutated me - Aghhh!

Over this past year something terrible has happened. I caught Austrian Fever. The first symptoms started with my face turning a odd shade of Green, and I got a hankering for pizza. Kawabunga Dude! My mom says my room is beginning to smell like a sewer.

Then I began to feel faint. Everything got dark and started to spin. Agggghhhhh! Everything is getting out of controlllllll. Help meeeeeeeeeeee!

Howdy Partner, I am Buffalo Bill Cody the meanest, rootinest, tooootinest, man in the Austrian Alps. I will be wrangling wild noch schenekas ( for you American type folks - that's a naked snail or slug in German!) We growem big, long, and red in this here country. You can follow their trails for miles, with the slime they leave in their wakes. I wish I could shake this horrible head ache off like a fly at a cow pie eating contest.
My head it hurts sooooo bad...........
Argh, Matie! I be sending you down to Davie Jones locker all ye land lovers out there. All those who are scared to cross the seven seas and won't come visit the Lee family - They be missing ye Scurby Dogs!!!! Ye should be walkin the plank with my cutlass at yer back.
My stomach is aching.l.. Ye Rum must ave been bad!
I fear it be the dreaded curse of thee head hunters.
Argh! I be shrinking - I be Shrinking

Monday, October 15, 2007

We've gone International

For my birthday Mike and I took a trip to Vienna by train. It was such a great day out. About two weeks later we were blessed once again with another trip to Vienna as a whole family with the ITI. While there we went to an open air international street market, filled with an array of unknown smells, colors, and items. It was fascinating and we loved it. While going through the market I decided what a great home school teaching moment it could be. So we picked out the craziest, wackiest fruits that we had never seen before and brought them back home with us. Then we went to work at finding out where they come from in the world and did a geography class/taste testing party and here are our results.

Our Top Winners Are (Drum Roll Please!):
#1 - The Passion Fruit from South Africa - With its tart tropical flair and its gushy, frog-egg like insides.

#2 - The Cherinoya from Spain - With its lumpy, green exterior and its cool, sweet creamy filling of a smooth tropical custard.

#3 - The Rambutan from Malaysia and Sumatra -With its hairy, scary, horrifying exterior but a interior with a smooth, refreshing white interior much like a Litchi from China.

Our Top Losers of the Bunch:
#1- The Dragon Fruit or Pitaya from Vietnam - With its magenta/blood red flesh and thousands of tiny black seeds it rated pretty low tasting like our old granny's perfume, but it rated high on the humor scale when Mike shot that nasty red flesh clear across the table.

#2 - The Jack Fruit from India -One of our most exciting entries, one of these bad boys can weigh in at 100 lbs and it grows on a tree branch. It also can permanently ruin the knife you use to cut it, due to a latex build up. If we wanted shoot it or make the next new innovative undergarment with it we would have been in business. But its rubbery, stretchy, yellow flesh and giant seeds got the thumbs down at our house.

#3 - The Physalis or mangosteen from S.E. Asia tops out our losers with its slimy, snot like flesh that permanently stains your body for weeks. Yikes, makes you want to try this one doesn't it.

We also tried the Java Apple from Thailand, which was like a watery, no flavored apple, the prickly pear or Indian fig from the Mexico, with its daunting stickers, red flesh and tons of seeds, it turned out to not be a favorite also. We also had a Mango from Malaysia and India, which is still one of our families favorite fruits. Then there were our last entries fresh figs from Greece with their crunchy seeded middles, that we loved. We had a great time tasting, peeling, smelling, and touching all these great fruits from all over and are looking forward to our next culinary, geographic class filled with fun, laughter, and a really big mess to clean up the next morning.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Thanks everyone for the prayers! I am surviving. I have a Latin exam on Thursday and the Canon Law final on Friday. After that, things will slow a bit and give me the opportunity to complete the summer courses. I couldn't do it without your prayers and support. I am eternally grateful....

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


I beg your pardon as I take a hiatus from the blog. I had to register for 24 credits for this semester. I found out today that the Congregation for Catholic Education (part of the Holy See) is requiring a class on Canon Law in order to graduate. So lucky me was forced to enroll in another class for the semester. That is now 27 credits. Oh, and the summer classes did not get finished over the summer. Thus, I still have the finals to complete in those courses. Thus, I am working on a grand total of 39 credits this semester. The Canon Law class will be done in 3 weeks (very intensive) and the summer courses will be done by the end of September; then it will be back to "normal" chaos. :-)

I sure would appreciate your prayers as I try desperately to keep my head above water...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Podcast on Contemplation....

Fr. Thomas Dubay, who wrote The Fire Within and Prayer Primer: Igniting the Fire Within,among others, has presented a podcast on contemplation on EWTN. They only leave these special podcasts up for a month and you don't want to miss this one!!!

Father Dubay has written and spoken extensively on contemplation. He has studied and taught, especially, about the great Carmelite Doctors: St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

Here is a quote from Pope John Paul II that I hope will motivate you...
Is it not one of the "signs of the times" that in today's world, despite widespread secularization, there is a widespread demand for spirituality, a demand which expresses itself in large part as a renewed need for prayer? Other religions, which are now widely present in ancient Christian lands, offer their own responses to this need, and sometimes they do so in appealing ways. But we who have received the grace of believing in Christ, the revealer of the Father and the Saviour of the world, have a duty to show to what depths the relationship with Christ can lead.
The great mystical tradition of the Church of both East and West has much to say in this regard. It shows how prayer can progress, as a genuine dialogue of love, to the point of rendering the person wholly possessed by the divine Beloved, vibrating at the Spirit's touch, resting filially within the Father's heart. This is the lived experience of Christ's promise: "He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him" (Jn 14:21). It is a journey totally sustained by grace, which nonetheless demands an intense spiritual commitment and is no stranger to painful purifications (the "dark night"). But it leads, in various possible ways, to the ineffable joy experienced by the mystics as "nuptial union". How can we forget here, among the many shining examples, the teachings of Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila?

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, our Christian communities must become genuine "schools" of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly "falls in love". Intense prayer, yes, but it does not distract us from our commitment to history: by opening our heart to the love of God it also opens it to the love of our brothers and sisters, and makes us capable of shaping history according to God's plan. Novo Millennio Ineunte #33
UPDATE: EWTN has taken the podcast off of their website. You can find links to download it from the Into the Deep site in the comment box of this post. Thanks to Brent for putting them up!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta... A bit more...

I am reading a paper by a German theologian named Father Nobert Hoffmann. The title of the paper is: Atonement and the Ontological Coherence Between the Trinity and the Cross. Therein, he makes this statement that really strikes to heart of the issue of the 'dark night of the soul':
"The absence of the beloved, if it becomes privation and suffering, can be experienced as the painful mode of the beloved's most intense presence."
Don't be too quick in rushing past this quote. It takes time, silence, and prayer to break it open. We typically don't think of another's presence in this way, and, certainly, this type of God's presence requires a deep faith because of the tendency for doubt and despair.

It seems that God asks all of those who love him to bear this type of 'presence' at differing intensities and durations. In fact, this seems to be the primary mode of experiencing God's presence within the Church Militant. It is important that we are able to recognize this type of presence as such so that we can bear it with faith and joy. There are other times when God withdraws his tangible presence for different purposes such as the consequence of serious sin.

May we think differently so that we, like Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, can learn to love the darkness...the holy darkness of faith...

Two Weeks from Today!!!!!

I am stoked! Two weeks from today the Holy Father will be in Mariazell, Austria, which is about 40 km from here. We have tickets and the entire ITI will be going. I am sure we will be a long ways away, but it will still be a very special pilgrimage at the start of the new school year.

Speaking of start of school year, I must warn my vast audience ;-) that I will not be blogging much over the next few weeks. I am finishing up the three summer courses. Unfortunately, they are going to impinge on the start of the fall semester. Whew....finishing three classes as I start six more makes my head swim! I think I have my work cut our for me.

Oh, here is my fall class schedule:
  • Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason)
  • Existence and Attributes of God (St. Thomas' Summa)
  • Scripture and Its Interpretation
  • Patrology I (Study of Early Church Fathers)
  • Latin I
  • The Church in the Modern World

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta...

Please immediately go and read this article from Time on Mother Teresa. You'll have to bear up with the writer of the article and the psychologist they interviewed that simply don't get it.

The gist of the article is that a book is being published that contains personal correspondence between Mother Teresa and her spiritual directors over the years. These letters bring to light the fact that Mother Teresa suffered tremendous spiritual darkness throughout her entire life except for a couple of brief episodes. She felt completely abandoned by Christ for the majority of her life and deeply suffered, to the point of agony, because of that fact. What she models for us is what true love is: it isn't about feelings or what we get out of it. No, true love is a choice to prefer the good of the other to our own good to the point of complete sacrifice. She lived that out exteriorly and interiorly.

I think that as these letters are studied and discerned she will be one day known as one of the greatest saints in history - nearly to the place of a St. Francis of Assisi. She shows us how to love and to suffer in love and to suffer for love.

I have to admit that I fear that kind of holy darkness; goes to show how mature my relationship is with Christ (NOT MUCH). I pray that the Lord would strengthen me so I could love just a bit like she did. Furthermore, I pray that he would release from the fear and give me the courage to enter into the darkness of faith in love, confidence, and perseverance.

Don't listen to the voices that will try to shout that that proves there is no God since one who was supposedly so close to him felt abandoned by him. Her longing, her hunger, her thirst (Psalm 63), her love, her sacrifice, and her perseverance show that he was oh so close pouring his grace upon her - or she NEVER could have done it. She showed us the suffering Christ exteriorly, but also the suffering Christ in an interior fashion due to the fact that Christ experienced and suffered the separation of God from the entirety of mankind's sin he took upon himself.

She is my hero....

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta - ora pro nobis...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Mountain of Temptation (con't)

As a quick reminder, all references, unless otherwise stated, are from Jesus of Nazareth...

In the previous installment, we studied Jesus' baptism in order to understand the Mountain of Temptation better. (The previous blogs are here and here.)

Following the baptism, the Gospel of Mark tells us that "the Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness" (Mk 1:12) to be tempted. All of Jesus' temptations strike at the heart of his mission and what is truly important in human life. Ratzinger:

At the heart of all the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives. p. 28

He continues:

Moral posturing is part and parcel of temptation. It does not directly invite us to do pretends to show us a better way, where we finally abandon our illusions and throw ourselves into the work of actually making the world a better place...It claims, moreover to speak for true realism: What's real is what is right there in front of us - power and bread...God is the issue: Is he real, reality itself or isn't he? Is he good, or do we have to invent the good ourselves?...What must the Savior of the world do or not do? p. 28-29

All the temptations of Jesus come down to this: the bread, the pinnacle of the temple, and the high mountain are are temptations to use wealth and power to bring about a "kingdom" that makes sense to us but denies the primacy of God.

The devil approaches Jesus on this mountain to cause him to compromise his mission (and his very self) as the Messiah and the Suffering Servant by choosing the way of a political messiah by ruling through power and wealth. Ratzinger relates that this choice, between a worldly messiah (who rules through power and bread) and the true, "other-worldly" Messiah (who rules through the self-emptying and suffering of the Cross), was offered to the crowd in front of Pilate. Jesus, the Son of the Father, on one side with Barabbas, which means the "son of the father", on the other (cf. p.41). The one Messiah that rules through taking upon himself the sins of the world in humble surrender and sacrifice and the other a pseudo-messianic insurrectionist that rules through the sword and hatred.

Who will we choose? What kind of Savior did we expect? Couldn't have Jesus fed the world? Isn't that the most important thing? Isn't "justice" the one and only thing that Jesus came to bring? We all know who we chose. We crucified the Holy One of Israel and celebrated the one who brings us power and bread.

The tempter is not so crude as to suggest to us directly that we should worship the devil. He merely suggests that we opt for the reasonable decision, that we choose to give priority to a planned and thoroughly organized world, where God may have his place as a private concern but must not interfere in our essential purposes. (emphasis mine) p. 41

Thus, the Mountain of Temptation is where we too must decide whom we will choose. How often do we pick the stable, sensible way! How often do we choose to "rule" by power rather than by love! How often do we push aside God for what is easy and expedient! We speak of "justice" all the while rejecting the One who is Just. Case in point: the concern of the first world Church for feeding the poor, healing the sick, and solidarity. These are fine things in themselves, but when is the last time that Evangelization was seriously spoken of in the context of justice? Jesus, Himself, did not heal everyone in any particular town but moved on to preach the coming kingdom! The sick of Capernaum were searching for him. Jesus responded to Peter's plea:

"Every one is searching for you." And he [Jesus] said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out." Mk 1:37-38

Our position must be one of docility and obedience just as was Jesus'. We must do what he asks of us, which may go against everything we hold by worldly "common sense".

The Mountain of Temptation asks each of us the question, "Do you trust God?" Do we trust God to provide our daily bread and the bread of the world. Do we trust God to protect us? Do we require from God a proof of his Divinity? Who will we choose: God or ourselves? Our ways or his ways?

The way off this mountain is to trust God completely; that what he says is true because he says it. It is the path of loving, self-sacrifice. It is the path that seeks to give oneself to God first and foremost before undertaking the work that God calls us to. It is the narrow path leading to life through self-emptying, forgiveness of those that hurt us, and love for our enemies. It is the path of union with God and communion with our neighbor.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Saturday in Vienna...

Last Saturday we had the wonderful blessing of going to Vienna. Our next door neighbor if the Student Life Director here for Franciscan and gives tours of Vienna to the FUS students. They offered to take us on the tour. The trains have a special deal that we all could ride to Vienna and back for €28. That is cheaper than the gas to get there. Once there, we toured Old Vienna near the Hapsburg. It was incredible. We went to an outdoor market that every kind of fruit and spice imaginable and then some. We were able to visit several churches. The highlight was the Archdiocesan cathedral - St. Stephen's. There was a place on the outside of the church was there was an etching of the number "05" right into the stone. It was the place where the Austrian resistance would meet to exchange information. Also, the history of the Moorish invasions and the threat that was to the Austrians was palpable. Anyway, it was a fantastic day. Here are some pictures...

This is the main entrance to St. Stephens.

This is the main tower of St. Stephen's. We weren't sure why the church was so dirty. I've heard it has to do with the type of rock they used.

The side of St. Stephen's.

This is St. John Capistrano killing a Turk. He preached a crusade to save Christian Europe in the 15th Century.

Some of the many horse carriages willing to take you around Vienna.

Inside St. Stephen's. Sorry, it is dark in there!

St. Stephen's side altar.

Zach's favorite place in Vienna! ;-) We laughed about this forever, and, yes, there was Mozart coming from the toilet! (The sign says, "Opera toilet with music.")


The boys standing in the Swiss gate. The chapel for the Vienna boys choir is through the gate and to the right.

St. Michael's church.

Side altar at St. Michael's.

St. Augustine's church. Most of the Hapsburg family were married here. Many of the deceased Hapsburgs have hearts interred here.

It was an exhausting day but SO amazing to see the history. Vienna is a fantastic city. I hope we can get back and explore some more!