Monday, June 20, 2005

Interesting Question, Great Answer

Questioned as to why the Spanish bishops' conference had chosen to make an explicit public statement of support for the June 18 demonstration [against giving legal sanction to 'marriages' between homosexuals], and not for other public rallies such as an earlier rally against world hunger, Cardinal Rouco Varela said that the distinction flowed from "the nature of the problem and the need for a response." The bishops are already engaged in the fight against famine, he said, through charitable agencies such as Caritas. And no proposed governmental action would endanger that charitable work, as the proposed change in marriage law would endanger the family. "If a law prohibited or suppressed aid to the Third World," he said, "you can be sure that we would demonstrate against it."

- Catholic News Service

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Have a look...

at a beautiful newborn child, and a favorite blog, here.

Keep this in mind for Lent

If you find yourself in Minneapolis during Lent, you can dine on deep-fried smoked barbecued tofu (look under "Vegetarian with Soul").

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Father Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O.

I just learned by way of a post on Michael Dubruiel's "Annunciations" blog that Father Pennington, mediator of the riches of Catholic and Eastern Christian prayer to millions in our time, died this month during second Vespers on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. May the angels bear him to Paradise....

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Rising Tide of Anti-Christian Violence in India

In a culture where the gravest difficulties posed by our profession of faith may be avoiding hamburgers on Good Friday and trying to outlive Dan Schutte's music with only vitamin supplements and fallible physicians on our side, it can be humbling to see the risks Catholics take for professing their faith abroad.

Zenit reports that on Sunday, "around midnight, a bunch of miscreants entered the shrine of the Infant Jesus, which is inside the compound of the Holy Trinity Church [in the Jabalpur Diocese], and desecrated it."

Similar reports from recent days:

"Angry Hindu youths beat three American missionaries and tried to kidnap one as they held a bible studies class in Mumbai, police said."

"An elderly nun was reportedly recovering from her injuries Sunday, June 12, after militants attacked two orders in Bihar, one of India's most impoverished north-eastern states."

"Two ministers have been murdered in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh since mid-May in what an All India Christian Council official has called 'a very planned way of terrorizing the Christian community'."

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, things proceed with a more characteristically American nuttiness....

A Gem from "feminine-genius"

Genevieve Kineke included this thought in remarks on her "feminine-genius" blog this past Sunday:

"God the Father is not in the image and likeness of our earthly fathers. If one's father has good attributes, it's all the easier to find Abba-Pater, but each person has to get past his or her father's defects (through forgiveness) to find how wonderful and faithful God Himself is. Removing patriarchal language will not heal the wound, but bury it and create a false reality. God wants us to call Him Father, and if it is painful, then there is work to do. It is well worth it."

The entire article is here.

Exactly!


"The Mass is not a staged drama at which we applaud the talent of the performers."
- James V. Schall

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

St. Malo's Chapel


...about 12 miles from the town of Estes Park and the eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, was visited by Pope John Paul II in conjunction with his appearance at the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver.

Headline: "School Bus Sex Assault a Growing Danger"

In a Washington Post article (free subscription required) documenting the growing number of student-on-student sexual assaults happening on school buses - many involving children ages 8 through 13 - one professor studying the problem sees it as yet another expression of the way "society has become more sexualized and less civil."

At what point do we stop asking, "How can we press on further in this same direction?" with "progressive" approval of militant homosexualism and ever less fettered abortion on demand, and begin to ask, "Where was it that we made the wrong turn?" - might it have been at the fork in the road where we chose contraceptive culture?

More music

The Pontifical Institute of Sacred and Classical music offers a wide range of music files for free download here.

Elsewhere, there's a huge page of Renaissance sacred music (including a motet improbably titled "Negra Sum, sed formosa" (I am black but beautiful) by Palestrina here, and you can ignore the blurb at the top of the page which suggests that the music library is closed - all the Palestrina downloads do work.

Here is a recording of Russian Vespers in a Kiev Slavonic style that goes back to the 17'th century, recorded by monks at the Benedictine Abbey of Chevetogne in Belgium.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Jewish Leaders Speak Out on Pope Benedict

Excellent Catholic News Service article here.

On the lighter side...

On an interesting Catholic website I just discovered today, Douglas Sylva has a column on the mini-controversy that has erupted over Bob Geldof's invitation to Pope Benedict to participate in the "Live 8" concert (if that's all Greek to you, the article explains it). What follows are a few excerpts:

"I would wager that at least a couple of the horsemen of the apocalypse must be all saddled up and ready to go, if Elton John has eclipsed Pope Benedict XVI as a moral authority, but that appears to be exactly what happened this past week in England....

"...
apparently all British rock stars are knighted for surviving into middle age...."

Slavonic Chant

A surprising amount of Slavonic chant is being made available for free download on line, as you can see with a Google search on

"slavonic chant" mp3

This "Holy, Holy, Holy" is just one example, from this page full of both Byzantine and Slavonic chants.

Catholicity


I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
-Tennyson

Looking Ahead


Stepping down as parish secretary at age 84, Mary Graff is looking forward to a busy retirement: "God put me on this earth to accomplish a number of things. And right now, I'm so far behind, I will never die."

Two Early Takes on Benedict XVI's Style as Pope

Two articles - one from Catholic News Service on Friday, the other by Ann Rogers in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - both suggest that Pope Benedict XVI is giving the lie to some early expectations. CNS shows him, as Pope, acting less as stern doctrinal enforcer than articulate and thought-provoking teacher of the reasons behind doctrine. The Post-Gazette portrays a pastor thought to have been shy and retiring whose personal touch is evoking a warm response from unusually large and enthusiastic crowds in the Eternal City. Both articles make good reading.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Current State of Catholicism in China

is summarized in this article, which notes that 18 bishops and 20 priests "have disappeared into the hands of police, are in isolation, or are prevented from exercising their ministry." Each year, the article notes, "at least 150,000 adults convert to Catholicism, whether through the official or underground Church."

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Chinese Martyrs of the Boxer Rebellion


In 1900 a nationalist rebellion (the Boxer rebellion) sought to destroy all forgein influences including religious practices. Unwilling to renounce their faith in Christ, 222 Orthodox Chinese men, women, and children were executed.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Christmas Eve, 1968


Photo: Earth seen from Apollo 8

For the first time, humans had broken the bonds of earth's gravity. On Christmas Eve, three men in a spacecraft not much larger than an SUV entered into orbit around another world and sent home a live broadcast to a fascinated earth.

Six years earlier, in Engel v Vitale, the U.S. Supreme Court had banned prayer in public schools, setting in motion a series of rulings whose tendency was to banish the public expression of faith in God from any place funded by any government subject to the Constitution of the United States of America. That series of rulings, in our time, has valedictorians at public school graduations afraid to begin or end their remarks with prayer lest their school district incur the costs of a protracted lawsuit with deep pockets on the other side.

There is, however, a disproportionate shortage of atheists in the foxholes where daring people undertake the kinds of work which, in hindsight, become a civilization's crown. As astronauts William Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman beamed back the first live video of earth's moon from lunar orbit, they took turns reading from the Book of Genesis on live national television. A transcript of the broadcast is here, and if you have Quicktime, you can get both video and audio by way of a link on the page.

Some Thoughts on East and West

I’ve often found it helpful to distinguish between the subjective, biographically culturally and historically conditioned factors which motivate a person to consider a belief, and the true always and everywhere for all objective observers reasons which justify regarding a proposed belief as true. In this, I’m not the first to propose distinguishing between a subjective “context of discovery” and an objective “context of justification.”

I mention this because I believe that we are in the beginning of cultural and historical developments which will change, for many, their perception of the probable practical consequences of belief in Papal Infallibility in a way that favors the belief - this is, if I am right, something pertaining to the “context of discovery”, and until it has worked itself out farther than I believe we are likely to see in the lifetime of even the youngest among us, I do not believe the time will be ripe for full restoration of communion between East and West.

My suggestion is that, in the First Vatican Council’s definition of Papal Infallibility, the Orthodox most often saw a doctrinal innovation which was likely to be the foundation of further doctrinal innovations. That, of course, is something no Orthodox person could affirm. However, I believe that historical developments in the industrialized democracies (attitudes toward abortion and a proposed equivalence between heterosexuality and homosexuality, to name just two) will increasingly cause both Catholic and Orthodox to recognize in Papal Infallibility, not an engine of innovation, but an attribute which must be possessed in order for any authority to be able to put a stop to endless debilitating debate by saying, “The matter has been settled once and for all.”

Sadly but realistically, to seek a full reunion before historical developments have made this plain to almost everyone within both churches is to invite a major schism within Orthodoxy - one only needs to look to the Holy Mountain to see that, and the memory of the failed reunion thought to have been attained at the Council of Florence reinforces the dangers of a premature reunion.

I don’t see dogmatic arguments (which concern the “context of justification”) bringing about reunion until historical developments have plowed the soil of the “context of discovery” for Papal infallibility.

And perhaps most of all, I believe that by the time reunion does occur, *each* party will have adopted an attitude of sincere penitence toward the other, recognizing the damage that each party’s intransigence has done to both the church and the world.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Practically Speaking

Something I know for certain, through experience and not by reason alone, something that practically speaking is one of the most important things I've learned: regular prayer has a healing effect on my particular incarnation of fallen nature. It's a truth so simple it seems hardly to bear mentioning, and yet so easily forgotten that I can't remind myself of it too often: when I pray regularly, whether I feel devout and attentive in doing so or not, my work and my patience and empathy in relating with others improves, and when I neglect to pray, those same aspects of my life deteriorate and begin throwing up obstacles making it ever more difficult to even lift my eyes to the heavens.

What seems especially important is that such prayer not be based on acting when the inspiration comes or the mood strikes, but that it be offered with trust in God rather than primary attention to my inner experience and that it be set enough in time and form to be independent of my passing moods. Among many reasons why this might be so, one seems especially compelling: when I least feel like praying, I am most in need of doing so.

A Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian

Today the Roman calendar remembers St. Ephraim of Syria, 4'th century Deacon and Doctor of the Church, and author of this prayer which is well known to Eastern Christians from their lenten observances:

O Lord and Master of my life,
take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions,
and not to judge my brother,
for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

On Not Idolizing Theories in the Human Sciences

I have long been convinced that many people misinterpret the frequent convergence between scientific theory and "politically correct" social movements. For instance, many would have you believe that our culture's increasing toleration for militant homosexualism is a reasoned response to scientific data showing that homosexual orientation is generally a product of nature, not nurture or morally culpable choice. Similarly, many argue that there is no scientific reason to believe that a child placed in a household headed by a homosexual couple will be at any developmental disadvantage compared to a child placed in a traditional family.

I'm inclined to suspect, on the contrary, that social pressure within academia strongly discourages the testing of hypotheses contrary to those politically correct ones so often cited as "scientific backing" for social change. This intrusion of political bias into science that I envision occurs in the "context of discovery" (the selection of which hypotheses to put to the test), rather than in the "context of justification" (the actual test of the hypothesis against data). A new report, however, shows just how far scientists themselves are willing to admit irregularities even in the latter context.

Today the Associated Press is reporting on a study just published in the journal Nature, showing that "mundane misbehavior by scientists" (such as knowingly overlooking the use of flawed data, and changing the design, methods or results of a study in response to pressure from those funding it) is common enough to pose a risk to the integrity of science. Have a look here (this link will only work for a few days; the original article in Nature is available online only by means of a paid subscription).

Another Hearty Laugh Courtesy of the Jester

Here.

Support Life Online: End the Roe Litmus Test

The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment, in conjunction with the Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, has launched a new website, EndRoe.org. This site enables constituents to send e-mails to their two U.S. Senators with the message, "Support for Roe v. Wade should not be a condition for serving as a U.S. judge." The site also contains other program aids and suggestions to advance the pro-life message. [Text quoted from the website of the Diocese of Youngstown]

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Reflections of a Catholic Astronaut

Anyone who, like me, was a star-struck kid during the heady days of the Mercury space program of the early 1960's might enjoy reading this 2004 article by astronaut Thomas D. Jones, recounting his experience on the space shuttle and international space station and conveying his sense that "God has given us a special ability to appreciate the wonders of the vast and beautiful universe, a 'sweet spot' in our minds receptive to the Creator’s skill and power." Here is an excerpt:

"Just over a week into the mission, one of us realized it was Sunday again, two weeks after Easter. Our shifts overlapped for a few hours, so during one orbital night Sid, Kevin and I gathered on the flight deck for a short Communion service.

"Kevin, a eucharistic minister, carried the Blessed Sacrament with him, contained within a simple golden pyx. The three of us shared our amazement at experiencing the beauty of creation, and thanked God for good companions and the success achieved so far. Then Kevin shared the Body of Christ with Sid and me, and we floated weightless on the flight deck, grateful for this moment of comradeship and communion with Christ.

"Our silent reflection was interrupted by a sudden burst of dazzling white light. The sun had risen (as it did 16 times each day) just as we finished Communion, and now its pure radiance streamed through Endeavour’s cockpit windows and bathed us in its warmth. To me, this was a beautiful sign, God’s gentle touch confirming our union with him.

"I rolled away from my crewmates, unable to stem the tears evoked by that singular sunrise."

Music Files on Vatican Website

The Vatican's website has a collection of 31 hymns recorded by the Pontifical Musical Chorus of the Sistine Chapel available for free download here, on a page entitled "Hymns for the Celebrations of the Liturgical Year."

Monday, June 06, 2005

A Lively and Enlightening Debate on Biblical Scholarship...

has been conducted at Dr. Phil Blosser's "Musings of a Pertinacious Papist". I'm with the papist who argues with regard to a certain type of historical-critical analysis, 'Here's the deal. This is the tradition of biblical scholars who approach the text in the following manner: "Look here," they say, "we want to be SCIENTIFIC about this. And we KNOW that miracles don't occur, so how can we make sense of these biblical texts on that assumption?"' and concludes, 'I simply find that I do not trust these men as biblical critics. Secondly, I cannot see how any friend of the Faith can make common cause with these men.'

Byzantine Site

Intrigued by the comment, "Too many icons? That’s like saying that there is too much grace in a Church," on another blog, I clicked on a link associated with its author, Steven Todd Kaster, and discovered this fine website by a Catholic of the Byzantine Rite. There's a lot of concisely expressed, well thought out material there of special interest to anyone concerned to build bridges between the Christian East and West.

A Church within a Church



The Porziuncola, inside the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels outside Assisi. This was the third church restored by St. Francis after his experience before the San Damiano crucifix in which he heard a voice tell him, "Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin."

Eh?

Buried in an interesting report on the religious beliefs of Americans by Protestant evangelical pollster George Barna is this oddity:

When confronted with the statement, "When he lived on earth, Jesus Christ was human and committed sins, like other people," only 26 per cent of respondents identified by Barna as Catholic disagreed (compared to 52 per cent of Protestants).

Even allowing for the possibility that some of those identified as Catholic haven't darkened a church door since the day of their Baptism, this figure strikes me as either an astonishing indictment of Catholic catechesis in the USA during recent decades, or an equally astonishing display of willingness on the part of three quarters of all people who continue to claim to be "Catholic" to part company with what they know to be core beliefs at the top of the hierarchy of truths of the faith, recited in the Nicene Creed at every Sunday Mass in every Catholic church in the world.

All the Decrees of All the Ecumenical Councils

are online here. I picked this up from a comment by "BTC" at The Pontificator's discussion of papal infallibility (under the heading "Papal infallibility is not a magic power").

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Over the weekend...

Bill Cork has linked to a number of interesting news items on ut unum sint, especially the item he's headlined "Tough love..."

Have a look!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Vital Caveat

In his recent homily at his installation as Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, Bishop Thomas Tobin first asked, " What...are the keys to the discipleship, the holiness of which the Popes have spoken?" and offered an overview. He then noted that "disciples of Christ do not remain within the safe confines of the Church solely for the sake of their own salvation. They are also commissioned to enter the world...to be, as Jesus said, 'the salt of the earth and the light of the world', to make the world a better place, a brighter place in which to live," by proclaiming important Christian values, such as:

  • An unconditional commitment to the sanctity of human life, from the moment of conception till the time of natural death. I remain convinced, dear brothers and sisters, that this is the great moral challenge of our time and that future generations will judge us on how we have responded to the threats against life…
  • Our non-negotiable belief in Holy Matrimony as designed by God and blessed by Jesus – a union of one man and one woman joined together in a lifetime commitment of life and love…
  • The desire to promote common decency in entertainment, art and culture, to shield individuals, families and children from the corrupting influence of pornography and obscenity that degrades the human person…
  • Our sincere concern for and commitment to the poor, the weak and the needy, all those in the world and in our own community who are not as blessed, not as fortunate as we are. Here too, we discover the real presence of Christ for He said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me”…
  • The need to promote honesty, integrity and civility in our personal and professional lives, in our daily relationships with one and another…
  • A sincere desire to live in peace, reconciliation and forgiveness, recognizing that we generously forgive others because we too will often need to be forgiven…

  • And he then offered what I would like to call "The Vital Caveat" - for it seems to me that if we do not conform to this caveat, we do not conform to our Lord and Master:

    "But it is equally important that while we strive to speak the truth, we do so with love and respect for others – even those, perhaps especially those- who disagree with us. The passage from The Letter to Romans we heard today said, “Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.” Gentleness, kindness, love and respect – these too, are essential virtues for followers of Christ!"

    Compare something said by Pope John Paul the Great:
    "We need a new apologetic, geared to the needs of today...this new apologetic will need to breathe a spirit of humanity, that compassionate humility which understands people's anxieties and questions, and is not quick to presume in them ill will or bad faith."

    Friday, June 03, 2005

    Today is the World Day of Prayer for Sanctification of Priests


    EWTN has preserved this prayer, offered by Cardinal John O'Connor in 1995:

    Lord Jesus, we your people pray to You for our priests. You have given them to us for OUR needs. We pray for them in THEIR needs.

    We know that You have made them priests in the likeness of your own priesthood. You have consecrated them, set them aside, annointed them, filled them with the Holy Spirit, appointed them to teach, to preach, to minister, to console, to forgive, and to feed us with Your Body and Blood.

    Yet we know, too, that they are one with us and share our human weaknesses. We know too that they are tempted to sin and discouragement as are we, needing to be ministered to, as do we, to be consoled and forgiven, as do we. Indeed, we thank You for choosing them from among us, so that they understand us as we understand them, suffer with us and rejoice with us, worry with us and trust with us, share our beings, our lives, our faith.

    We ask that You give them this day the gift You gave Your chosen ones on the way to Emmaus: Your presence in their hearts, Your holiness in their souls, Your joy in their spirits. And let them see You face to face in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread.

    We pray to You, O Lord, through Mary the mother of all priests, for Your priests and for ours. Amen.

    Thursday, June 02, 2005

    Equality of dignity does not entail identity of roles

    Perhaps a useful comparison is a variety of creatures occupying different ecological niches in close proximity to each other. With that providential economy so often evident in nature, each, by pursuing its particular mode of life, helps maintain the health of the environment which sustains all. Now suppose that all are suddenly transformed so that they occupy the same niche. Once diverse and complementary, they suddenly experience each other as identical competitors, inclined to view each other as impediments to their ability to accomplish the objective of their role, and many niches whose work was essential to the health of the environment on which all depend go unfilled.

    Between Mozart and Darwin

    Cardinal Ratzinger once said in an interview, " Yes, art is elemental. Reason alone as it’s expressed in the sciences can’t be man’s complete answer to reality, and it can’t express everything that man can, wants to, and has to express. I think God built this into man."

    Which would explain why Mozart and Boticelli, among others, have long made me suspect on purely secular grounds that evolution is a terribly incomplete account of how humans came to enjoy the abilities and desires we experience. I can easily understand the survival value associated with the ability to reason, bound as it is to foresight of probable consequences of alternative possible actions and achievement of intended consequences. But what is the survival value of the gifts of a Bach, Mozart, Dante, Boticelli, Ezra Pound, Guillaume Apollinaire, Gertrude Stein, Michelangelo, Hemingway, Shakespeare? And these gifts point, not to an aberration peculiar to genius, but to a capacity - and more than that, a desire, a drive - to enjoy the aesthetic dimension that is universal among us.

    Hagia Sophia


    An excellent brief treatment of the fascinating history of this greatest church of the first Christian millenium can be found here, on Byzantines.net, an unofficial site representing the Byzantine Catholic Church in communion with the Pope of Rome. Many photographs with special attention to magnificent mosaics inside the church are here, in a five-page gallery on the website of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

    Liturgical Prayers from the Christian East


    Photo: Simonopetra monastery on Mount Athos

    For any who are unfamiliar with Eastern Christian prayer and wish to learn more, an excellent starting place is the "Daily Prayers for Orthodox Christians" on the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. I especially recommend the "Service of Preparation for Holy Communion", which begins about halfway down the page and continues to the end of the page. It is a remarkable way to enrich your encounter with Christ in the Eucharist. It begins with prayers to be said the evening before receiving, continues with prayers for the morning of the day you intend to receive, and concludes with prayers of thanksgiving after Holy Communion.

    On the lighter side...

    Jimmy Akin launched a shot the other day that has been generating a surprisingly lively debate all over the Catholic blogosphere, when he brought up the practice of burying a statue of St. Joseph upside down in order to sell a house. The Curt Jester sees this practice as an effort to coerce the Saint into interceding, and asks, "why not threaten to break off a finger each week until the house is sold? Or perhaps suspend him in a vat of hot Wesson oil or attach tiny electrodes to the statue."

    From the Holy Father's Wednesday Audience

    Excerpts from Zenit's translation of his remarks (the complete text is under the heading, Commentary on Philippians 2:6-11) :

    "God does not appear only as man, but becomes man and is really one of us, he is truly "God-with-us," not content with gazing on us with a benign look from his throne of glory, but enters personally in human history, becoming "flesh," namely, fragile reality, conditioned by time and space (see John 1:14).

    "3. This radical sharing of the human condition, with the exception of sin (see Hebrews 4:15), leads Jesus to that frontier which is the sign of our finiteness and frailty, death. However, the latter is not the fruit of a dark mechanism or blind fatality: It is born from the choice of obedience to the Father's plan of salvation (see Philippians 2:8).

    "The Apostle adds that the death Jesus faces is that of the cross, namely, the most degrading, thus wishing to be truly a brother of every man and woman, including those constrained to an atrocious and ignominious end....

    "To penetrate into Jesus' sentiments means not to consider power, wealth and prestige as the highest values in life, as in the end, they do not respond to the deepest thirst of our spirit, but to open our heart to the Other, to bear with the Other the burden of life and to open ourselves to the Heavenly Father with a sense of obedience and trust, knowing, precisely, that if we are obedient to the Father, we will be free. To penetrate into Jesus' sentiments -- this should be the daily exercise of our life as Christians. "

    Wednesday, June 01, 2005

    Gregorian Chants - Free Download

    "Gregorian Sense", a group from Pamplona, Spain, offers some Gregorian Chants for free download here.

    On Love and Fear

    In her Fiat Mihi blog, Hilary has posted a reflection on love and fear that's well worth reading, under the heading "What've they got that I ain't got? Courage!"

    She suggests that neither courage nor humility can be achieved by an act of will. Instead, only love can bring about that self-forgetfulness which can be the wellspring of fearless action, and which is genuine humility.

    Some Fragments from the Writings of St. Justin Martyr

    To yield and give way to our passions is the lowest slavery, even as to rule over them is the only liberty.

    Sound doctrine does not enter into the hard and disobedient heart; but, as if beaten back, enters anew into itself.

    The soul can with difficulty be recalled to those good things from which it has fallen, and is with difficulty dragged away from those evils to which it has become accustomed. If at any time thou showest a disposition to blame thyself, then perhaps, through the medicine of repentance, I should cherish good hopes regarding thee. But when thou altogether despisest fear, and rejectest with scorn the very faith of Christ, it were better for thee that thou hadst never been born from the womb.

    But would that even now some one would mount a lofty rostrum, and shout with a loud voice, "Be ashamed, be ashamed, ye who charge the guiltless with those deeds which yourselves openly commit, and ascribe things which apply to yourselves and to your gods to those who have not even the slightest sympathy with them. Be ye converted; become wise."

    This Friday is the World Day of Prayer for Sanctification of Priests

    The Congregation for Clergy's document on this subject is here.

    In a long life during which I have been blessed to know a handful of good men, the very best of them were Catholic priests - I say it not as a conventional piety, but from the bottom of my heart.

    Tumultuous History of the Birthplace of Western Monasticism


    Fascinating readings about the Abbey of Monte Cassino, founded about eighty miles south of Rome by St. Benedict about 529 AD, and destroyed many times during the intervening centuries, most recently during World War II:
    here,
    here,
    and here.