Saturday, September 15, 2007

The mind of man is never at rest

Where do they get the time for these things? It is funny, though.

Domine, non sum dignus (Lord, I am not worthy)

The readings for today may be found at

This is a familiar but still curious story from the gospel of Luke ( Lk 7:1-10 ). Capernaum was by the Sea of Galilee, it was also the home of Peter. The bystanders urge Jesus to heal the centurion's slave because "he built our synagogue for us." Having made one pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I am now an expert in these things. The ruins of the synagogue of Capernaum that still stand are of the "white synagogue" that was built out of marble hauled in from far away. It did not exist in the time of Jesus. The synagogue that is under the "white synagogue" is called the "black synagogue" because it was built of the local, black basalt. This is the synagogue that existed in the time of Jesus. Was it the one built by the centurion? We cannot say.
The centurion would seem to have been in the ranks of what the Jews called "God fearers." They were edified by the religion of the Jews, and sought to conform to it without actually converting. They were respected in the community, and, as is the case reported here, were often benefactors thereof. Jesus responds to the urging of the crowd and follows the messengers of the centurion. And here is where the incident turns. Before Jesus can even arrive at his house, the centurion has second thoughts, and sends other servants to tell Jesus that he is not worthy to have him "come under his roof." The centurion understands authority and respect. He knows that Jesus can command the illness to depart without even sullying himself (becoming ritually unclean) by entering the home of a gentile.
The faith of this gentile, and his sensitivity to the requirements of the Jewish religion astonish Jesus. If such faith can be found outside of Israel, how much more should it be evident in the members of the household of the Faith?
How often do we Christians play fast and loose with the sanctity that we should exhibit, and the holiness of the God of whom we are not worthy. Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.
The following is a quotation from the Treatise on the Most Blessed Sacrament by St. Thomas More, Martyr. "A treatise to receive the Blessed Body of our Lord Sacramentally and Virtually both, made in the year of our Lord, 1534, by Sir Thomas More Knight, while he was prisoner in the Tower of London, which he entitled thus as followeth: To Receive the Blessed Body Of Our Lord Sacramentally and Virtually both."
For if we will but consider, if there were a great worldly prince, which for special favour that he bare us, would come visit us in our own house, what a business we would then make, and what a work it would be for us to see that our house were trimmed up in every point to the best of our possible power, and everything so provided and ordered, that he should by his honourable receiving perceive what affection we bear him, and in what high estimation we have him.
We should soon see by the comparing of that worldly prince and this Heavenly Prince together (between which twain is far less comparison than is between a man and a mouse), inform and teach ourself with how lowly, how tender loving heart, how reverent humble manner we should endeavour ourself to receive this glorious, heavenly King, the King of Kings, Almighty God Himself, that so lovingly doth vouchsafe to enter, not only into our house (to which the noble man Centurio knowledged himself unworthy), but His 'Precious Body into our vile wretched carcass, and His Holy Spirit into our poor simple soul.

End of life issues clarified


First question: Is the administration of food and water (whether by natural or artificial means) to a patient in a "vegetative state" morally obligatory except when they cannot be assimilated by the patient’s body or cannot be administered to the patient without causing significant physical discomfort?
Response: Yes. The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented.
Second question: When nutrition and hydration are being supplied by artificial means to a patient in a "permanent vegetative state", may they be discontinued when competent physicians judge with moral certainty that the patient will never recover consciousness?
Response: No. A patient in a "permanent vegetative state" is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means.
* * *
The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved these Responses, adopted in the Ordinary Session of the Congregation, and ordered their publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, August 1, 2007.

William Cardinal Levada
Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Titular Archbishop of Sila
This document will be very helpful for me as a pastor and for faithful Catholics in dealing with the end-of-life issues that are its subject. I will never forget being awakened at 2:00 a.m. once with a woman who wanted to know that if she were putting her aunt in a rest home, and since her aunt had Altzeimer's disease could she have them not feed or hydrate her? The whole story is almost as interesting as the Protestant woman who called me for counselling because she and her husband had been to a party where there had been drinking which lead to a sex orgy. I will, however, save the telling of both until another time.
The late night caller just didn't want to fool with the old woman, and didn't want to pay the expenses of the rest home. Since I was unable to give her any satisfaction (after a long time of discussion), she wanted to know if there were another priest available. Hearing that I was the only one in the county, she was astonished, being from south Louisiana where priests and parishes are more common. At the end, she angrily thanked me for nothing and went away sad.
It is unbelievable that anyone would be so callous to begin with, but then wanting to starve and dehydrate people to death has been done often in the last century. I guess that the children of the times are more hardened to such things. I hope that the aunt died in peace without being starved or dying of thirst.

Friday, September 14, 2007

14 September, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world!

The original name of this feast was the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, by which name it is still known by the Orthodox Church and the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church. Since 1970, it has been called in English the Triumph of the Cross by the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. However, in Latin its name remains 'The Exaltation of the Cross'. In some parts of the Anglican Communion it is called Holy Cross Day, a name also used by Lutherans. In Jewish folklore the feast was established by Saint Peter for converted Jews to observe instead of Rosh Hashana.

The feast commemorates the finding of the True Cross in 325 during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem by St. Helena, the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine I . The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine. The church was dedicated nine years later, with a portion [1] of the cross placed inside it. In 614, that portion of the cross was carried away from the church by the Persians, and remained missing until it was recaptured by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius in 628. The cross was returned to the church the following year after initially having been taken to Constantinople by Heraclius.

The date used for the feast marks the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 335. This was a two-day festival: although the actual Consecration of the church was on September 13, the cross itself was brought outside the church on September 14 so that the clergy and faithful could pray before it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The other September 11 (1683)

On this day in 1683, King Jan III Sobieski of Poland arrived to break the siege of Vienna and defeated the Turks in one of the most heroic moments of the continual battle between the followers of the Prophet and those of Christ. The Ottoman troops broke and fled before the charge of the Polish hussars that ended the Ottoman designs on central Europe for the next three hundred and eighteen years. Islam is on the march again, but where is the Sobieski of our times? Who will protect us?
It is fondly to be hoped that someday reason, justice and charity will prevail, and that all peoples of the earth can live together in peace. We must work for that and pray for that. But we must never let down our guard against a religion that from its very inception has labored under the command of its founder to conquer the earth by the sword.
And don't come at me with any silliness about the Crusades (that were really skirmishes in the continuing War of Muslim Aggression) as examples of Christian aggression. They would not have happened if the Muslims had not destroyed the holy places, enslaved the Christian inhabitants of the Roman Empire, and set their sights on the domination of the West, which would have ended in the stagnation that has been evident in the Muslim world for the past 400 years.

Athiests attack religion!

There have been a rash of books by atheists attacking religion of late (almost exclusively Christianity, naturally). They are so poorly written and so devoid of reasoning that it is time for Christians to help them out. What we need are some Christian scholars to write the books for them. Then they will get the arguments right, and won't be such an embarrassment to the intellectual establishment.


Today we remember those who died in the terrorist attacks against the United States by al Qaida operatives. As the war in Iraq continues unabated, and the immediacy of the events of this date recede in our collective memory, we perhaps need to recall that we live in a world that is still as dangerous a place as it has ever been in history. We Americans have been insulated from much misery that is the common experience of most of the world. The blessings of our geography and our commerce have protected us from the beginning of our nation. They will not continue to do so.
As I reflect on the plight of Christians in Muslim countries, I believe that they act as a moderating influence in the middle east. The Grand Prior (Archbishop Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston) of our Lieutenancy of the EOHSJ recently wrote:
You have heard often that the number of Christians in the Holy Land is dwindling. It seems to me that many think of "dwindling" in the sense it has when we speak of "dwindling oil supplies: or dwindling arctic ice pack." In this sense, there is progressively less and less petroleum, the are covered by the ice pack year by year seems to decrease. Would we, though say that oil supplies were merely "dwindling' in in ten years the amount of reserves fell by 80%? Would we say that the arctic ice pace was "dwindling" if its area decrease at ten or twenty times the rate we have observed?
Yet that is just what is happening to the Christian population in the Holy Land and surrounding countries. The World Council of Churches, according to a report by Newsweek Magazine, has estimated that in the last decade the number of Christians in that part of the world has plunged from 10 million to 2 million. Understandably, exact numbers are difficult to get, but anecdotal evidence is quite clear, and even the most casual observer can see that the decline has been precipitous.
You are tempted to think that the reason so many Christians are fleeing the Holy Land is because they are caught in the cross-fire, so to speak, between Muslims and Jews. But surveys attest clearly that economic reasons are the principal motives for emigration. Perhaps we can do little to compose the peace between Muslims and Jews, but we can do a great deal to help the economic situation of Christians in the Holy Land. Tourism is an important industry here in the United States, but relatively even more so in the Holy Land, and particularly for our Christian brethren there. (From the letter of August 2007)

I believe that if the economic situation of the peoples of the middle east were relieved, then much of the strife that destablizes the whole world would be mightily asuaged.