Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Quote of the Day

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.

- Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Today in Christian History

Some interesting trivia courtesy of

387 - Augustine of Hippo, 32, was baptized on this Eve of Easter. He told the story of his Christian conversion from a profligate life in his "Confessions," written between 397-401.

1576 - Birth of St. Vincent de Paul, French Catholic priest. He founded several religious orders during his lifetime, including the Lazarists (or Vincentians) in 1625.

1870 - At the Vatican I Ecumenical Council, the dogmatic constitution "Dei filius" was published. Explaining the relationship between faith and reason, it declared that God could be known by human thought processes.
The site also has a really good lexicon which comes in handy when you are taking a class in Old Testament Scripture (as I am)!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

As promised...

I am still collecting thoughts and reflections, but here are a few photos from the day.

There is really no way to describe the experience of worshipping with 46,000 other people:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

No greater love...

I am not an overly emotional guy, but my eyes tear up every time I think of this story. If you pray for no one else today, please, please pray for this family:

From the Washington Post:

Sgt. Jesse A. Ault rejoined the National Guard to take the place of his wife, Betsy, on a deployment to Baghdad.

He called home to Dublin, Va., every day he was in Iraq, including his last. Ault died Wednesday in Baghdad of wounds suffered in Tunnis, Iraq, when his vehicle encountered a makeshift bomb, the military said. Ault, 28, was assigned to the Roanoke-based 429th Brigade Support Battalion.


Jesse Ault met his future wife during summer training camp in 2002. "One day, while standing in line, I turned to him and said, 'When are you ever going to ask me out on a date . . . alone?' " Betsy Ault said.

They were dating by the time their units were combined and deployed in 2004 to Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq. During a five-day pass home for Christmas, Jesse met and bonded with her son Nathan.

When they got back from Iraq, Jesse told Betsy that he wanted to start a family. They got married on the front steps of her father's house. Soon after, their son, Adam, was born. He's now 15 months old.

In early 2007, Betsy was alerted that she would be redeployed to Iraq. "Her number came up to go back for another tour," Ron Ault said. "At the time, they were trying to get pregnant. [Jesse] thought the best thing for him to do for his family was reenlist. He went back in her place."

Besides his wife, Jesse leaves behind two sons, Nathan (10) and Adam (1) and a 4 month old daughter, Rachel.

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"It's as simple as it gets"

I heard Mr. Julio Diaz's story while driving to work the other morning. If you have a couple of minutes take a listen. You won't be sorry!!
Julio Diaz remembers being robbed on a subway platform in the Bronx.
It totally set my day off in a great direction!! And brought this to mind:
"But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

"To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:27-31)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"filled with the Spirit and wisdom"

The readings for daily mass during this past week provide a glimpse at life in the early Church. On Saturday, we heard about the ordination of the first deacons. Yesterday and today, the story continues with one of those deacons, Stephen, being called upon to witness in a way that hopefully none of us will be called to.

My confirmation name is Stephen. I chose it not because of that Stephen, though for a number of reasons that now seems to be quite appropriate. No, I picked that name because of the faith story of another witness with the same name, Steven McDonald. When I was in high school, I was very interested in law enforcement. I seriously considered pursuing it as a career. One day I was in the library during my lunch break, thumbing through a copy of Reader’s Digest when I came across an excerpt from a book called The Steven McDonald Story. It was written by a New York City police officer who was shot in the line of duty. The wound left him paralyzed from the neck down.

I was so fascinated with this man’s story that I tracked down a copy of the book and read it cover to cover in one weekend. I was particularly moved by how his faith, and the faith of those around him, got him through that difficult time. He went on to forgive the young man who shot him. “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60) Thanks to a post by Deacon Greg, I have learned that he is still out and about, sharing his experience with others. A few months after reading the book, when I was asked to provide a confirmation name, I could not think of a better one than that!

Nearly twenty years later, I am in the very beginning stages of preparation for another sacrament. As you may know, I am actively discerning a call to the permanent diaconate. Last week, Katie and I went for an interview. I was asked “How did I see ministry as a deacon fitting in to the rest of my ministerial life?”

An interesting question. It is one with which many deacons and prospective deacons surely struggle. After all being a deacon, in and of itself, is not a ministry, is it? Serving the poor, teaching religious education, assisting the priest during mass – those are all ministries, but lay people can do all of those. What does being a deacon add?

I found myself providing an answer I never thought of before (Ain’t the Spirit grand?) I said that I did not think it would so much change my ministry, as reorient it. Most of us choose ministries because we enjoy them. However, as a servant of the church, a deacon is called to serve where he is needed. In the early days of the church, that need was in providing fairly for the widows and orphans. Today, it may be somewhere else.

This past week provided a good example. Deacon Gordon Cartwright is a very close friend of mine. He has volunteered to return to helping with RCIA in our parish. It is a ministry he truly enjoys and I knew he was very excited to take part in our catechetical session this past Sunday. Right before Mass began, his wife Gloria came up to me to tell me that Gordon would not be at RCIA today. The pastor in a neighboring parish fell ill, and Gordon was asked to lead a Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest.

He wrote me the next day to apologize for missing RCIA. I am sure you would agree there was no need to apologize. He was doing what deacons do. He was serving the needs of the Church with no regard for his own desires. I guess it would be safe to say that Christ’s prayer in the Garden is the prayer of all deacons: “Not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Only God knows whether I will ultimately be ordained a deacon. But I do know that I am called to be more “deacon-like” in living out my faith. At home, at work, and at church.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

One of my fondest memories as an altar server was having the honor of assisting at the dedication mass for the new sanctuary in my parish. I was a freshman in high school, and actually came out of retirement to do so. I had already moved on to the role of altar server coordinator for our parish.

I remember gathering with the priests, deacons and bishop prior to the Mass. I recall processing around the outside of the church while Latin hymns were chanted. I especially remember all the neat rituals that are unique to a dedication liturgy. I will always cherish the look on our Associate Pastor's face when Bishop Rodimer took the jar of Chrism, dumped it on the newly installed hardwood altar, and worked the oil into the wood with both hands!

Rocco has dutifully provided links to the website announcing the dedication of the newest Cathedral in the United States. Lots and lots of great pictures and a really imformative worship aid that explains the theology behind the rites and rituals of the dedication liturgy. What is especially moving for me is how much of the church is consecrated simply by its use. For example, the Ambo is not consecrated by the Bishop saying a prayer over it, it is consecrated when the Word of God is first proclaimed from it!

What is also cool is how the dedication ritual mirrors our own Christian initiation. First, it is turned over to the bishop by the builders (just as our parents and Godparents present us for baptism). Then it is washed with a blessing of holy water. Next, the entire building is anointed with Chrism, just as we are when we are sealed with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation. Finally, the Eucharist is celebrated. The 'source and summit of our faith', the completion of our initiation into the Church is likewise the completion of the dedication.

However, whereas the installation of the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle wraps up the initiation of a Cathedral, we are sent - "To Love and Serve the Lord." The living stones emerge from the building to take the Church out into the world!

Congratuations Galveston-Houston! May the beauty of your new Cathedral be paled only by that of the Living and Growing Church that worships there!!!

The Last Lecture

Last Fall, I came across a column in the Wall Street Journal about a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University named Randy Pausch. On many college campuses there is a tradition of inviting professors to deliver a 'Last Lecture.' These talks are prepared to answer the question, "If you were only able to teach one more class before you die, what would you say."

When he was asked to give such a talk at Carnegie Mellon, it was more than an intellectual exercise for Prof. Pausch. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer - a particularly aggressive form of the disease with a low survival rate. Randy's talk is extremely inspiring and has moved across the internet at a rate that even exceeds to growth of his cancer. More than six million people around the world have viewed it. The video is widely available online and runs a little more than an hour. If you have not seen it already, stop readying my drivel and go watch it! Have a box of Kleenex nearby.

The popularity of the Lecture, and the universality of Prof. Pausch's message have given birth to all sorts of spin offs. He has been on Oprah, the CBS Evening News has done updates. This Wednesday, April 9, 2008, Diane Sawyer will do an hour-long special on his story. That same week, a book based on his lecture will hit bookstands.

Randy's message is delivered as only a scientist can. There is no explicit mention of religion or his personal beliefs. However, as a Christian, I could not help but see the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Randy's talk. He most certainly 'gets it'!