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Transfiguration

[For all the Vampires out there….]

1 And you, when you were dead in your offences, and sins, 2 Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of this air, of the spirit that now worketh on the children of unbelief: 3 In which also we all conversed in time past, in the desires of our flesh, fulfilling the will of the flesh and of our thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest: 4 But God, (who is rich in mercy,) for his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ, (by whose grace you are saved,)

6 And hath raised us up together, and hath made us sit together in the heavenly places, through Christ Jesus. 7 That he might show in the ages to come the abundant riches of his grace, in his bounty towards us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God; 9 Not of works, that no man may glory. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in them.

11 For which cause be mindful that you, being heretofore Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh, made by hands; 12 That you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the conversation of Israel, and strangers to the testament, having no hope of the promise, and without God in this world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus, you, who some time were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and breaking down the middle wall of partition, the enmities in his flesh: 15 Making void the law of commandments contained in decrees; that he might make the two in himself into one new man, making peace;

16 And might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross, killing the enmities in himself. 17 And coming, he preached peace to you that were afar off, and peace to them that were nigh. 18 For by him we have access both in one Spirit to the Father. 19 Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners; but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God, 20 Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone:

21 In whom all the building, being framed together, groweth up into an holy temple in the Lord. 22 In whom you also are built together into an habitation of God in the Spirit. [Ephesians 2]

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I recently read a review of Anne Rice’s new book, “The Road to Cana.” But more importantly I found out that she is not going to publish another vampire story which she initially said she was willing to write.

I have to admit that I am indeed saddened. Of course I respect the consecration of her work to Christ. And I commend her on striving to follow God’s will. I just wish that it included a Catholic vampire story. (But not my will…)

She wants to use her writing as a tool for Evangelism. Well, there is no other genre of literature better equipped for Evangelism than the vampire story. It has only been recently that vampires have suffered from the modern preoccupation of calling what is evil, good and what is good, evil. And do not mistake something which is intrinsically evil as something intrinsically other. Vampires are us, what we become (monsters) when we turn our backs to God and give ourselves over to unbridled passions, our lusts and selfishness, our nihilism. In this way vampire stories are at their core Catholic. Built into the conventions of the genre is Catholic theology; light/darkness, blood/life, life/sacrifice, undeath/damnation, soul/immortality, instinct/vice, sin/slavery, the sacramentals (holy water, crucifixes, rosaries, etc…).

Since vampires represent human nature how is redemption possible? Within the conventions of the genre it is not. Once you are a vampire you are always a vampire, there is no cure, no redemption. But this can lead to fairly one dimensional characters (pure evil, however witty). [This is why Milton gave Satan the best lines.] And why Mrs. Rice let Lestat suffer guilt. Others have tried in different ways to overcome this problem. Take the characters of Angel and Spike. But both characters suffer from what amounts to emasculation or an identity crisis. They are vampires but either can’t be a vampire (Spike’s chip) or do not want to be (Angel’s soul), except when convenient.

When one reads Rice’s Vampire Chronicles you can’t help but ask yourself, would I risk eternal damnation for immortality and vampiric gifts? It is scary to think that I might actually care so much about this “sterile promontory.” The distinction between good and evil should always be clear.

So, it is obvious that in writing a Catholic vampire story one would include a story of redemption. But is a “saved” vampire still a vampire? Aren’t we as baptized Christians made into a new creation? The cruse has been removed and we have been glorified. So the key here is to make the post-vampire character even more powerful and glorious than the conventional vampire but sans the need to kill and all other evil. We are sustained by the once for all sacrifice of Jesus and His flesh and blood. He is Life. We are no longer slaves to sin and our fleshly impulses. We are through Him (and His life, death, resurrection) brought into the life of the Trinity in Heaven.

I think the story of the “Catholic” vampire is viable. It is after all our story. And I think it would be even better if the redemption of the character were to coincide with the Parousia, the final defeat of evil, a new creation of humanity, earth and heaven….

Mrs. Rice pray on it.

Confirmation Names

[updated]
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I wasn’t paying that close attention (to anyone else that is), but during the confirmation at St. John Cantius at Easter Vigil, I heard three confirmation names repeated a couple times. For the women it was St. Faustina and St. Teresa and for the men the name used at least twice was St. Augustine.

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I chose the name Anthony (after St. Anthony the Great). Ambrose, Joseph and Benedict were my runner up names…. Here is the Life of St. Anthony by St. Athanasius. You can read an older post about St. Anthony here.

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Here is the list of names for this year’s confirmations at St. John Cantius:

Anthony
Augustine (2)
Christopher
Faustina (2)
Isaac Jogues
Joseph
Marie
Maximilian Kolbe
Philmena
Theresa of Avila (2)

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III. THE EFFECTS OF CONFIRMATION

1302 It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.

1303 From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
– it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”;117
– it unites us more firmly to Christ;
– it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
– it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;118
– it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross:119

Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God’s presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts.120

1304 Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the “character,” which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness.121

1305 This “character” perfects the common priesthood of the faithful, received in Baptism, and “the confirmed person receives the power to profess faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially (quasi Ex officio).”122

117 Rom 8:15.
118 Cf. LG 11.
119 Cf. Council Of Florence (1439): DS 1319; LG 11; 12.
120 St. Ambrose, De myst. 7,42:PL 16,402-403.
121 Cf. Council Of Trent (1547): DS 1609; Lk 24:48-49.
122 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III,72,5, ad 2.

Now I Can Die

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What I am about to say has been said a million times by converts. In fact, before being Catholic, it annoyed me how common and similar convert stories were. I’ll spare you the details and give you the gist. If you’ve ever read a Catholic convert’s blog before this will not be new. You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again…. Thanks be to God. The experience of God’s grace is universal (or should I say “Catholic.”)

For me, becoming Catholic was not about changing churches or “denominations” it was about being an adopted son of God (through Baptism), finally meeting and living with his family; a family of royal lineage and divine patrimony. It was not just about professing certain Marian dogmas it was about gaining a loving Mother and Queen. It was not just about upholding the doctrine of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, it was about gaining a Brother and King, who under a veil, condescends to fill me with Himself, His very essence and being (body and blood, soul and divinity), His grace, a share of the life of the Godhead, the Holy Trinity. It was not just about appreciating the depth, clarity, and orthodoxy with which Pope Benedict XVI writes and speaks, it was about gaining a shepherd called by God to protect, feed and lead His flock. It was not about the traditional liturgy and music because they are appealing to the senses (God save us from good taste if that’s all it means!), it was about the very breath of the Holy Spirit, worship which is beautiful and true, that breath fills the body with life so our hearts beat in time with the Sacred Heart. It was not about escaping possible persecutions in TEC, it was about joining an army in the middle of a war. The only army that is able to equip me with all the weapons and provisions needed for battle. This army is on the front lines and sees plenty of combat (others just like to play dress up or are fighting on the wrong side.) It was not just about following the objective Natural Law and the Commandments of God, it was about rediscovering the Law (the Word) in the person of the divine Master who realized it perfectly in himself, revealed its full meaning and attested to its permanent validity.

This Lent and Holy Week have been both trying and spiritually rewarding. All I will say is, now I can die. Now I know peace. Now I can die to this life, and its lies. Now I can die into real life. A transformation to the glorious life. Now I know Love. Now that my heart is full, it can grow and expand bigger and bigger always full. This is real. Grace and Love are real. Our union is real.

“He who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:17).

The war is won. But for me the battle has only begun. I have just arrived onto the battlefield, with a sword that seems a bit to large in my hands and armor and mail (family heirlooms) that are lose for my frame. Maybe with time I’ll grow into them.

Clean

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My soul is now very light, fresh out of the box, with the scent of a newborn.

I just professed my faith and had my first confession (and absolution.) Thanks be to God!

“O loving Lord Jesus Christ, I, a sinner, not presuming on my own merits but relying on Your mercy and goodness, approach with fear and trembling the table of Your most sweet feast. Both my heart and body are stained with many sins, neither have I kept strict guard over my thoughts and my tongue. Wherefore, O gracious God, O dread Majesty, I, a wretched creature caught in difficulties, have recourse to You, the fount of mercy; to You do I hasten that I may be healed, and take refuge under Your protection; and I ardently desire to have Him as my Savior, Whom I am unable to face as my Judge. To You, O Lord, I show my wounds, to You I lay bare my shame. I know that my sins are many and grievous, and hence I am afraid. I trust in Your countless mercies. Look upon me, therefore, with the eyes of Your mercy, O Lord Jesus Christ, eternal King, God and Man, crucified for men. Hearken to me whose trust is in You, have mercy upon me, who am full of sin and misery, O fount of mercy that will never cease to flow. Hail, saving Victim, offered for me and all mankind upon the gibbet of the cross. Hail, noble and precious Blood, flowing form the wounds of my crucified Lord Jesus Christ, and washing away the sins of the whole world. Remember, O Lord, Your creatures whom You have redeemed with Your Blood. I am sorry because I have sinned; I desire to make amends for what I have done. Take away from me, therefore, O most merciful Father, all my iniquities and sins; that, being cleansed both in body and soul, I may worthily taste of the Holy of Holies. Grant that this holy sacrifice of Your Body and Blood, of which I though unworthy, purpose to partake, may obtain the remission of my sins, the perfect cleansing of my offenses, the banishment of all evil thoughts, the renewal of all holy desires, the accomplishment of works pleasing to You, and the strongest protection of soul and body against the wiles of my enemies. Amen.” [Prayer of St. Ambrose (d. 397)]

IX. THE EFFECTS OF THIS SACRAMENT

1468 “The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship.”73 Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation “is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation.”74 Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true “spiritual resurrection,” restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God.75

1469 This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it. In this sense it does not simply heal the one restored to ecclesial communion, but has also a revitalizing effect on the life of the Church which suffered from the sin of one of her members.76 Re-established or strengthened in the communion of saints, the sinner is made stronger by the exchange of spiritual goods among all the living members of the Body of Christ, whether still on pilgrimage or already in the heavenly homeland:77

It must be recalled that . . . this reconciliation with God leads, as it were, to other reconciliations, which repair the other breaches caused by sin. The forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his innermost truth. He is reconciled with his brethren whom he has in some way offended and wounded. He is reconciled with the Church. He is reconciled with all creation.78

1470 In this sacrament, the sinner, placing himself before the merciful judgment of God, anticipates in a certain way the judgment to which he will be subjected at the end of his earthly life. For it is now, in this life, that we are offered the choice between life and death, and it is only by the road of conversion that we can enter the Kingdom, from which one is excluded by grave sin.79 In converting to Christ through penance and faith, the sinner passes from death to life and “does not come into judgment.”80

73 Roman Catechism, II,V,18.
74 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1674.
75 Cf. Lk 15:32.
76 Cf. 1 Cor 12:26.
77 Cf. LG 48-50.
78 John Paul II, RP 31,5.
79 Cf. 1 Cor 5:11; Gal 5:19-21; Rev 22:15.
80 Jn 5:24.

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[Found in St. Lambert’s Bulletin]

I am very worried about the situation of religious education here at St. Lambert’s and in the church in general. I suspect that we are failing to pass on the faith to the next generation. I think this for three reasons. Statistics provided by the archdiocese indicate that fewer than one in five people who claim a Catholic identity go to church on Sunday. We are not ordaining one person born in the United States this year. More specifically, the children in our program do not seem to understand words like Resurrection, sacrament or tabernacle when asked. The failure is not due to any lack of effort on the part of their teachers or our religious education coordinator. In fact one teacher, who was present when I asked our Confirmation class about the resurrection, was horrified when only one of the children was able to tell me what it was. The fault does not lie in the teachers who are struggling to do their best with limited resources. The fault lies in the enculturization of American Catholicism and the failed methodology we have used since the early seventies. Some people would like to go back to the good old catechism days of memorization and definitions. I don’t think this is the answer, though some definitions are essential. I would like to propose a different direction.

1) I propose a two tiered system of religious education. I think that we need to recognize the distinction between parents. Some want their children to have a Catholic identity and to receive the sacraments as a sort of rite of passage, but they themselves don’t understand or participate in the sacramental life of the Church. They drop their children off and pick them up when class is done. I suspect their motivation is a kind of nostalgia. The second group is much smaller. For them the life of faith is very important. They go to church on Sunday and make sure their children do likewise. I believe that our efforts for the families who want to live a Catholic life are being hindered by those who have no intention of making their faith the cornerstone of family life. I believe that we need to invest our personal and financial resources in those who will benefit by them, at the same time denying no one the opportunity of a good Catholic religious education. This may seem unfair but I propose that those who want their children in the advanced program can do so by simply participating in the life of the parish for a year. In order to be certified for the advanced program, and thus for the sacraments, children and their parents would have to qualify by regular participation in Sunday Mass for a minimum of one year and formal membership in the parish. We would still provide religious education for those who do not qualify for the advanced/sacramental program. They would be invited to participate in the Eucharist for a year and participate in a year of Bible History. If they demonstrate sincere interest in the religious education of their children and their own spiritual lives, their children will be welcome in the advanced religion program.

2) I believe wholeheartedly that Biblical illiteracy is one of the main reasons for the failure of current religious education programs. If you don’t know about the flood, the Red Sea and the Baptism in the Jordan, Baptism and the Holy Water fountain are just things you do. If you don’t know about the Passover, manna in the desert, the multiplication of the loaves, temple sacrifice and the Last Supper, what is Mass? Therefore, before qualifying for the advanced course, a year of Bible history would be required. At the same time the Bible Time Line course would be provided for parents. I want to suspend the regular curriculum for all students for one year. In that year, all students, advanced and beginner, would learn Bible history.

3) Boys and girls will be taught separately, boys by men, girls by women. I think that the current system does not adequately deal with the maturity levels and learning styles of male and female students. In short they are much less interested, especially in the older grades, in course material than they are in each other.

4) The time for the classes should be changed. The kids I have talked to hate getting up that early on Sunday. We will begin religion classes at 11 A.M. and end at 12Noon, giving families the choice of which Mass they want to attend. Courses for parents would be offered during this time also. There will be complaints that this will ruin the day because it’s so late. I am happy to recommend parishes with courses that are more convenient. The other objection will be that it gets in the way of sports. The children will be free to go at 12, assuming they participate in the 10am Mass. And, if sports on Sunday morning is more important that’s a decision that people will have to make.

I want to meet with the parish council, the active parents and the teachers to further explain the program and how we will make the transition. We will probably have a much smaller religion program, but that may not be all bad. This may fail miserably, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. At Confirmation, I have to stand before the bishop and say these young people are qualified to be confirmed. I take this responsibility seriously, but I fear standing before God. I am worried that our children don’t know the truths of the faith, but still more that they don’t know God.

Fr Simon

[One great priest. He lays the smack down in this homily]