A Prayer Before Connecting To The Internet

I found this prayer on the website “What Does The Prayer Really Say?”


Oratio ante colligationem in interrete:
Omni potens aeterne Deus,
qui secundum imaginem Tuam nos plasmasti
et omnia bona, vera, et pulchra,
praesertim in divi na persona Unigeniti Fi lii Tui
Domini nostri Iesu Christi, quaerere iussi sti,
praesta, quaesumus,
ut, per intercessionem Sancti Isidori, Epi scopi et Doctoris,
in peregrinationibus per interrete,
et manus oculosque ad quae Tibi sunt placita intendamus
et omnes quos conveni mus cum caritate ac patientia accipiamus.
Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

A Prayer Before Logging Onto The Internet:

Almighty and eternal God,
who created us in Thy image
and bade us to seek after all that is good, true and beautiful,
especially in the divine person of Thy Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
grant, we beseech Thee,
that, through the intercession of Saint Isidore, Bishop and Doctor,
during our journeys through the internet
we will direct our hands and eyes only to that which is pleasing to Thee
and treat with charity and patience all those souls whom we encounter.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.



Be Doers of the Word, Not Hearers Only — Another Service Opportunity

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED! Manna Food Center asked us to find volunteers to help collect food donations at the Agricultural Fair entrance gates, August 13th thru 21st, for 2 hour shifts. SSL hours will be offered to students. Students 16-18 volunteering without an adult will need to attend a volunteer orientation (August 10 at 2 pm for about 30 minutes). Students under 16 must volunteer with an adult. Volunteers may enter the fair for free at the end of their two hour shift.

For more information, contact Kim at Kim@mannafood.org or by phone at 301-424-1130.

A Voice Crying Out In The Wilderness

As a post-Vatican II and a post-John F. Kennedy American Catholic, the idea of being Catholic in a society hostile to Catholicism is hard to fathom. I know society still is hostile generally, but that hostility (war; pornography; grinding poverty; abortion; etc.) seems rooted in the vices of human nature, rather than a particular animus against Catholicism.

Some of the more experienced Church Guys have remarked that it was not always so. They explained that with John F. Kennedy’s election, Catholicism became “mainstream,” acceptable to the wider society. High Catholic officials (Archbishops; bishops) became part of elite society – presidents spoke at Notre Dame and Georgetown just as priests began to serve as elected officials. Coincident with the greater social acceptance of Catholics among American elite society, the Church’s moral teaching, with few exceptions, came to reflect more and more the values and mores of that social class and, especially, came (with two major exceptions) to reflect the political program of one of the major political parties. Whether the adjustments came as result of the increased acceptance (with its seductive charms of inclusion and apparent influence) or whether acceptance came as a result of the adjustments can never really be disentangled; one likely mutually reinforced the other. So long as this status remained safe, the Church had it good.

A similar process occurred in post-WW-II Europe. Over at First Things, R. R. Reno wrote about what the elite status of Catholic leadership has meant for the Church and what its current erosion means for the present and near-term future. He noted first:

From time immemorial the leadership of the Catholic Church has been part of the European elite. It is the nature of elites to protect their collective status, which requires hiding faults, winking and nodding at various sins, being “realistic” about the harder requirements of their traditions, co-opting public authorities, and fixing more serious problems and transgressions behind closed doors, while interpreting criticism and exposes of problems as destabilizing attacks on the institutions of the elite.

Reno’s description strikes me as spot on. Any group that distinguishes itself with a particular identity behaves this way. The best example I know comes from politics. When I lived in Michigan, I saw a bumper sticker: “Grebner may be a fool, but he’s OUR fool!” Since then, I’ve seen the same mentality over and over again. To date, the leadership of the Church has been a part of Europe’s elite. But that may be changing:

The Belgian story is perhaps clearest. I find it very hard to believe that when he was active whispers about Bishop Vangleluwe’s pedophilia didn’t reach people at high levels in the Belgian government. It’s not a big country. And I wouldn’t be surprised if officialdom held back, following the unspoken rules of elite society.

Then, BOOM. Police raids, computers impounded, and holes drilled into crypts so that spy cameras can be inserted. Perhaps the chief investigator’s office was as blindsided as the Vatican, suddenly waking up to the fact that the Church is now outside the magical circle of elite society, and that elite society, always attuned to changes in status, demanded the Church be treated differently. Scrambling to action, they overcompensated with heavy-handed tactics.

Reno argues, I think correctly, that the Church’s place in elite society, its social and cultural relevance, has changed. It is no longer safely ensconced in polite society. Neither Reno nor I are arguing the merits or attempting to say that the response should or should not have been the same or that the situation was handled properly in the past as it clearly wasn’t. The point is that the Belgian response and the whole controversy throughout Europe shows that something important has changed.

What has changed? The Catholic leadership in Europe has been expelled from the elite. It is no longer part of “”Our Gang.” If not an outright enemy, it is an outsider socially and politically — open to criticism (legitimate or not) and attack (legal and physical) from opportunistic politicians and socialites who wield concentrated economic and political power in their societies.

Reno cogently explains what he sees as the consequences of this development:

They will be soiled not only by the sins of the past (and present)—sins that arise with frightful immediacy out of the wickedness of the human heart—but also by the compromises of exercising power in a fallen world. Palms need to be greased. The sins of important allies require being covered up. Coalitions have to be built on less than idealistic foundations.

All this will continue. The Church cannot just drop her portfolio of establishment responsibilities and their corresponding assets. But now expelled from the elite, in the future these compromising social responsibilities must be exercised without the protections that flow to the elite.

(For those who think Reno is too harsh in his first paragraph, think about what would happen in Catholic school teachers joined the National Education Association?)

Reno believes that this will lead naturally to increased attempts to make Catholic teaching more palatable to the dominant elites. I think he’s right and I think we’ve seen it.

As the more experienced Church Guys noted, the Catholic Church enjoyed a springtime of acceptance after JFK. However, Kennedy purchased that acceptance with a Faustian bargain. He proclaimed that Catholicism was OK, so long as it was walled off from politics. That acceptance, however, was exactly what Reno was describing when he wrote that elite membership means “hiding faults, winking and nodding at various sins, being ‘realistic’ about the harder requirements of their traditions[.]” Kennedy — and through him, American society — offered acceptance on terms that struck at the heart of Catholicism as an active prophetic voice. The problem is that Catholics accepted it (for a slightly different take, read Archbishop Chaput’s recent speech on this issue).

After Kennedy’s bargain was accepted, the freeze out thawed and realism set in. What’s wrong with using the government and, in particular, the federal government to achieve social justice? That that vision coincided nicely with the secular political viewpoint of the dominant political party, the party that offered Catholics entry to the club, circa 1973. Then came Roe v. Wade. Initially, many political leaders of the then-dominant political party such a Ted Kennedy started off as pro-life. Yet, they quickly changed and, although the Church stood firmly against abortion, its overall teaching, especially where those teachings were applicable to public issues, coincided with the political needs and the ‘proper’ elite opinion of the day. A de facto agreement to disagree on these issues became the working compromise. That’s why Notre Dame could very comfortably provide a platform for years for pro-abortion politicians of the dominant political party for so many years and why poor Fr. Jenkins must have been bewildered by the reaction of Catholics on the ground and many, many Bishops to the recent, controversial graduation speaker.

The place where the bargain is most evident is in Catholic Social Teaching and in Catholic institutional participation in politics. Again, any fair-minded reading of the stands of the USCCB would find, I think, that they line up remarkably well with the overt social platform of the dominant political party (if you compare the two, you’ll know which party; that alone says something significant). The various social teaching line up well (not only with the dominant opinion of the dominant party here, but also with the dominant party in Europe), but the lobbying efforts of the Church line up as well and the all-out effort to support nationalized health care is a signal example.

In the effort to establish national health care, the USCCB was clear: national health care as proposed was good, so long as it didn’t increase funding for abortion. Realistically, everyone knew that this kind of position was unsustainable. They knew the leadership in Congress and the occupant of the White House — the same controversial graduation speaker (I am sure Fr. Jenkins’ head is spinning with confusion; mine is) and they knew full well that they would not pass any plan did not actively promote abortion. They also knew that national health care would promote several other evils — involuntary sterilizations, RU-486, condoms, etc. They also knew that health care services would be rationed by a faceless, centralized bureaucracy — something no less a figure than Benedict XVI himself has characterized as a being contrary to Catholic Social Teaching. Although some Bishops made offered detailed statements of the moral principles involved, most of those who made public statements used the USCCB talking points. It appears that they reasoned that having a seat at the table with a direct shot at changing the legislation (as small as that might be) was worth it. Of course, the bargain failed.

    What Does This All Mean

If Reno is right and if my perception of what is going on here is right, the Catholic Church is at a crossroads. The crossroads may last a 40-50 years, but it is a crossroads nonetheless. As the Church leadership is marginalized from the social and political elite, will it seek further accommodation by “being ‘realistic’ about the harder requirements of [our] traditions” or will it gradually accept that it can no longer expect elite protection and seek strength through unity of mind and heart? Just as I don’t think that the accommodations were conscious, I don’t think the retreat will be either. But the choice needs to be made.

For this Church Guy, I think strength comes through Catholicism. Bishops, as the successors to the Apostles, should be teachers first and politicians last. Their political voices should be prophetic — more like Jeremiah, Elijah, Isiah, or Ezekiel than diplomats — and when they are called upon to comment on public issues, they should teach rather than taking positions. Once taught, we laity can take the teaching to the school board, to the White House, to the agencies, to Annapolis, to Congress, and to the world. We will then seed the both political parties with our views as Catholic citizens and ensure that there is a Catholic voice, at least, on the public square that is not beholden, either consciously or unconsciously, to anyone other than Christ.

As for the Bishops, we laity can once again imitate Mary, sitting and learning at the feet of our teachers. I devoutly hope that, through God’s grace, the Church will weather the storm and emerge as a stronger more Christ-like voice than ever before.

If You Want To “Stay Catholic,” Here Is The Website For You

Staying Catholic is not easy; coming back once you’ve left is not easy either. Although the Church is quite welcoming, where do you get good, solid information about your faith. Although your pastor would be happy to help, he’s only one and he’s not likely to be too happy to chat about that burning issue at 3:22 A.M., when you just have to know…. Well, your answers are at www.staycatholic.com.

This site would be most interesting to Catholics who are either new to the faith — converts or reverts as they say or anyone who is in a period of exploration. What does the Church really say? It would be helpful to Evangelicals concerned about the Catholic doctrines that seem un-biblical because it provides a doctrinal concordance between Scripture and Catholic teaching.


The True Vine — St. John’s Gospel, Chapter 15

Today the Church Guys discussed Chapter 15 of St. John’s Gospel. It was one of those discussions where everything came together; where a new level of meaning, a level of meaning that was hiding in plain sight, emerged.

Chapter 15 continues our Lord’s great discourse before His arrest and crucifixion. He is preparing the Apostles to be our bishops; to carry on His message and His life, not as slaves or servants, but as His friends. He began by saying that He is the true vine. This image meant little to me in the past, but recently I visited a vineyard. Not this one, but similar.

Although every leaf is unique, every one is connected to every other. It is one plant, one living thing. That is what the Old Covenant people were to be and, for many years, were. One people worshiping one Lord. Our Lord offers something new. “Abide in me, as I abide in you.” John 15:4. “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” John 15:14-15. Our Lord is offering something new — He is offering unity. Rather than relating to God as separate beings across a chasm, Christ offers us a chance to participate in and be a part of the very life of God — the eternal furnace of white-hot love between the Father and the Son.

But that’s not all. Not only do we relate to Him in an organic unity, we relate to each other. Each leaf is truly interconnected, not as a weak political slogan, but truly and completely. This kind of unity is unusual: individuality is perfect, but unity is perfect. If this is the kind of life He offers, count me in.

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/batiks/3043671904/sizes/m/

“In essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.”

“In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis (or, dubiis) libertas, in utrisque (or, omnibus) caritas.”

It turns out that our esteemed Pastor, Fr. David, was correct — Pope John XXIII is the modern source. The moral of the story is: “Always listen to your pastor!”


Whatsoever you do to the least of My brothers. . . .

Recently, a group of folks came back from St. Francis’ medical mission to Haiti. Ralf Pagan provided an update at the Masses last week. He graciously agreed to share his presentation with us:


By: Ralf Pagan

St. Francis of Assisi Parish has a long history of sharing God’ love with the people of St. Paul’s in Leon Haiti.

I would like to briefly share some of my experience in our recent trip to our sister parish for a medical mission.

My trip had several purposes; among them find out what our contributions are doing for the people of Leon; secondly, to fulfill a service project for my diaconate formation and finally to assess how the diaconate program might further the mission of parish twinning in our Archdiocese.

I am happy to report that our contributions are making a major difference in the lives of all the people in Leon. In return the people send their love and prayers for the parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi.

The medical mission team included Carol Lindsey, Pat Labuda and me from St. Francis and 10 other medical professionals from the western United States and Canada.
The team saw an average of 200 patients daily, with more than 25 patients per day being referred to the hospital in Jeremie for additional treatment.

Patients came from miles around some walking or being carried more than a day to receive medical care. All expressed their gratitude.

One patient who was seen by the team in April returned to thank us. She had been sent to the hospital for surgery which was successful.

Your contributions are used to pay for medicines and supplies, hospital stays, transportation to the hospital, dental care and translators.

All team members pay their own way to including airfare, food and drink and of course they volunteer their time.

St. Francis also supports the parish school providing funding to help with teachers pay, construction, school books and supplies, and tuition assistance. We are in the process of building the first high school in the whole region there.

We also sponsor 100 of the poorest children in Leon, paying for their tuition, books, shoes and uniforms. These children wouldn’t be able to attend school without your help. They are deeply grateful as are their parents.

We met with about 80 of the parents of sponsored students, at a meeting, and we asked them what they would like to see more help in.
#1 was the need for food for the students at school. The parents said that by mid morning the students become drained from lack of food. Keep in mind that most people in the region suffer from malnutrition and some students walk 2 hours just to get to school, #2 more classrooms and qualified teachers and lastly access to clean drinking water.

The day before we left Haiti was spent in PAP where Pat Labuda took us to the heart of PAP. There we saw 1st hand the devastation left by the earthquake.

While walking from the collapsed palace to the collapsed cathedral we came across one of the many piles of rubble; as I’m looking at the pile I notice an arm and a head sticking out and then another body. The local Haitians looked surprised as well so I speculate that as the pile was being cleaned up the crew must have come across the bodies and stopped so authorities could take care of the remains.

Unfortunately I believe this scene will be repeated many times in the next year and more. There are many clasped buildings untouched and half the population of PAP will be in tents for another year or two.