Monday, December 7, 2009

Noelle's Spicy Bean and Beef Pie

Spicy Bean and Beef Pie

1 pound ground beef
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (11 1/2 ounces) condensed beean with bacon soup, undiluted
1 jar (16 ounces) picante sauce, divided
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided
Pastry for double-crust pie (10 inches)
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 can (2 1/4 ounces) sliced black olives, drained

In a skillet, cook beef and garlic, until beef is browned; drain. In a large bowl, combine soup, 1 cup of picante sauce, cornstarch, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper; mix well. Fold in beans, 1 1/4 cup of cheese, 1/2 cup onions and the beef mixture. Line pie plate with bottom pastry; fill with bean mixture. Top with remaining pastry; seal and flute edges. Cut slits in the top crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 30-35 or until lightly browned. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting. Garnish with sour cream, olives and remaining picante sauce, cheese and onions. Yield: 8 servings

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I just saw the movie Doubt starring Meryl Streep. The movie and her lead were both excellent. You would think because I am a Catholic, I would not like this movie. But I loved it and I'll tell you why.

Of course, Meryl's brilliance and the captivating suspense of the film is highly enjoyable. The cinematography is beautiful and the camera angle shots add interesting touches to the meaning behind the scenes.

1. The beginning of the film makes you think that the uptight traditionalist Sister (Meryl Streep's character) is the bad guy. Actually, she turns out to be very likeable because behind the cold, austere exterior, her character truly cares about the welfare of the school children.

2. The priest is a progressive who "in the spirit of Vatican II" (or so they say) doesn't see anything special about the priesthood. Wow! to Hollywood for demonizing a liberal for once.

3. The priest is not just a pedophile, but a homosexual. Empirical data links pedophilia with homosexuality. Further, this problem is not a celibacy problem, but a homosexual problem. It has nothing to do with the fact that Latin-rite priests cannot marry. I appreciated the exposure of this reality as an element in the film.

4. There was certainty at the end of the film that the priest was guilty. This we know by the fact that he did resign his position and by the fact that Meryl's character told him that she contacted a nun who worked with him in the past and he flipped out when in reality she did no such thing. She even said, "His resignation was his confession."

5. I appreciated the line in the film where the more naive, younger sister is told my Meryl's character, "you just want your simplicity back." Life is complicated. Period. We are human and oftentimes are blind to our sins and to our infidelity to God through our impure motives.

6. LOVED the ending. So many reasons. I'll try to express myself well. Meryl's character had certainty that the priest was guilty. The fact that he resigned and that even the naive sister couldn't sleep at night made that evident to the viewer. She did the right thing by doing everything she could to get him away from her school. And she succeeded. But she also lost because by resigning he got a promotion. He got transferred to another school and another parish. The movie ends with her saying "I have doubts."

I didn't interpret this to mean she had doubts about his guilt, but about God. There is a shot right before this scene of the crucifix in her hand.

It's perfectly understandable for her character to have doubts here. I would argue that the number one reason why there is atheism in the world is because of the problem and reality of evil. Even among believers this is a problem. You can explain it, but it's never okay. This is where faith and trust in God, comes in.

Meryl's character was faithful. She did everything she could and yet it seemed like God let her down by the fact that in the end, the priest "won."

Sometimes in life, especially when our prayers don't get answered in the way we see fit, we doubt, right? Even when our prayers do and have been answered, in amazing ways, we still doubt.

Another reason I thought the ending was brilliant was because the film opens with the priest's homily at mass on the subject of doubt. She judged him for that homily only to find herself later relating to it. Perhaps even being helped by it.

Oh, how I enjoy the utter humanity of it all. We have all experienced those pride-busting moments when we are (spiritually) put in our place by someone we did not expect or someone we deemed below us. Now, I don't mean to imply that we should look to criminals to learn morality or for spiritual guidance, certainly not. But even the greatest saint is still a sinner.

Another complex element I enjoyed, and one that begs further reflection, is that Meryl's character sinned to gain her certainty about his guilt which eventually led to his resignation. She lied and told him she had contacted a nun who had worked with him in the past. The naive sister in the film was SHOCKED when it was revealed that she had done no such thing. That she lied. First, I think we have become so dishonest, we are desensitized to it. It's just a little, white lie, what's the harm? Well, venial sins lead to mortal sins and a lie is still a lie and as Christians we KNOW we are not supposed to do it. But we do. And you know what? I don't think we really feel all that bad about it. I mean, who even has the attentiveness to even notice the depth of how dishonest we can be? Both with ourselves and with other people. But in this film, the gravity of her reaction was refreshing to me. I was even slightly taken aback by it. It wasn't until that moment in the film when I realized that the reason the naive sister was so unwilling to believe the priest was guilty was because she was so innocent. As they say, "To the pure all things are pure."

Her lie also begs the question: does the end justify the means? Is it okay to lie for a good cause?

Did the effect of her lie actually cause more harm in the end? His resignation did in fact cause his promotion and thus more opportunity for him to continue in his transgression.

Thus, it seemed as though she had won, she did, in fact, succeed in her will of getting him out. But instead of being punished, as he should have, he was rewarded. Her prayer was answered, but his promotion caused her to doubt.

What if she hadn't lied? What if he remained at her school? It would seem as though she had lost. But maybe this circumstance, awful as it is, in the long run would have been better? Would she have had doubts? Or would she have continued on her resolute path to win this battle?

In seeking justice, you must be just. Was this a problem of method?

My interpretation is one among many I suppose. Obviously, I hope everyone understands the film in the way that I did. Of course, I watched the film not only as a believer, but as a Catholic. I didn't catch any anti-Catholicism, only the reality of what has happened and the reality of the spiritual struggles of even the most faithful believers.

It goes without saying that I felt sad during the film because of what the American Catholic Church is dealing with and how people, understandably so, have been scandalized.

It completely breaks my heart when I hear stories of how people have lost their faith or have left the Church over this matter. We need to remember that there will always be wolves among the sheep. We also, as Christians, ask and hope to be judged by the best of us (the Saints, John Paul II, Mother Teresa) and not by the worst of us.

Lastly, I felt inspired to continue the life of faith, to seek holiness, because God knows, we need witnesses. Everyone needs Christ in their lives, let us make that proposal!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Karen's Taco Soup

This is SUPER easy to make and SUPER delicious.

-Tomato Soup
-Taco Seasoning-1 packet
-Kidney Beans
-Ground Beef

Cook the ground beef, drain the fat, add to the heated Tomato Soup. Stir in the Taco Seasoning, Corn, and Beans. Top and serve with grated cheddar cheese, avocados, and sour cream if you prefer. Eat with tortilla chips.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Up until now, I had no idea what the song had to do with Christmas. Why French hens, maids a milking? This must have been something for the wealthy. I have not researched the explanation below for veracity, but it reminded me we are all indeed rich by the love of Christ and our future inheritance.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality, which the children could remember.

The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

Two turtledoves were the Old and New Testaments Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit: Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.

The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in The Apostles' Creed.

On the Importance of Poetry

One of my youth group kids (and his mother) mentioned the unimportance of poetry. Below is what I emailed him.

....Also, the Fr. Francavilla mentioned in his homily how secularists do not understand the importance of things which are not "useful," such as poetry. I thought of you immediately. :) Just because something is not useful, does not mean it is not useless.

The problem I think, since I too once thought that poetry was pointless, is that there is a lot of bad poetry out there. Plus, people use the art form, not to create something beautiful, which is the point of art, but as a way to "express oneself." Self-expression is not necessarily bad, but it is not the totality of what it means to create art...such as poetry.

Good poetry, like all good art, is beautiful. (See, for example, the book of Psalms in the Bible. That's poetry my friend!)

Do you like music? That's poetry set to music! Do you enjoy Shakespeare? That's poetry.

The most incredible (and Catholic!) men of the modern age understood the importance of poetry: C.S. Lewis (closet Catholic), G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, Luigi Giussani, John Paul II...were all poets!

Why am I so passionate about this? Because Catholics, first of all, should understand the importance of truth, beauty, freedom, and justice. Dogs cannot write poetry. Birds cannot write poetry. Rats cannot write poetry.

It is precisely our humanity (made in the image and likeness of God) which allows us to write poetry. Art, poetry, painting, music, anything which expresses beauty and is creative is precisely what makes us like God who is the Ultimate Beauty and the Ultimate Creator (creative...).

This is something some Protestants do not understand. This is why their churches are sparse. This is why their architecture is ugly. Go to Europe. Why is it so beautiful? Because of the (now ancient) Catholic culture that once existed. Gothic architecture lifts our up our eyes, but not only our eyes, but our hearts to God.

Secularists do not understand this because they do not enjoy (JOY!) God. Unless something is useful (productive, makes money, etc.) it is not valuable. (This is why unborn children, the disabled, the elderly, are scoffed at while the Church has protected their intrinsic worth.)

Dostoevsky said, "Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man. "

Poetry (and other art forms) is important because it is through the culture that souls can be saved. Dostoevsky understood this and so does the Church. This is why non-profits like The Foundation for Sacred Arts are so important.

Now I've given you a philosphical understanding of why poetry is important. I'm sure it would have been much better had I written a poem about it. :)

As you get older, you will, I am sure, continue to be a light and salt to the world. Just remember that the Faith is not about moralism, rules, etc etc. It is about encountering a PERSON. And this person, Jesus Christ, was above all, BEAUTIFUL, to the people who met him and continue to meet Him. They didn't understand Him, but He was beautiful, and where there is beauty, there is truth...and so they followed Him.

More people today convert to the Church, not because they understand the metaphysics of the Triune God or have worked out how Christianity is the only logical (and reasonable) system (athiesm is logical but not reasonable) but because they encountered something beautiful: the Gregorian chant, the liturgy (like the kids saw on Sunday...they were so moved!), an icon of Mary, or a person whose life is beautiful, like yours!

Friday, November 20, 2009


1.Von Balthasar –“Charism” in “You Have Words of Eternal Life”, Ignatius, 1991.

a. Charism = a spiritual gift – with a view toward a mutual exchange where both members are strengthened – Romans 1:11-12.

b. Charis = the same thing –2 Cor. 1:15.

c. The “gift” God gave Paul in saving him from death, benefits the churches – 2 Corinthians 1:11.

d. Charism=a vocation to a particular status in the Church that benefits the entire community – 1 Cor. 7:7.

e. Charism= the equivalent of the word “Calling” [Klesis] – 1 Cor. 7:17-24.

f. Both words occur side by side in reference to Israel’s Election – “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable –Romans 11:19, 29.

g. Charism also exists as a giving of “God’s grace” that contrasts with the human fall into sin, - Romans 5:15.

h. Charism=”God’s bestowing of eternal life” in contrast to “the wages of sin, which is death” – Romans 6:23.

i. Charis also refers to the charity inaugurated by the collection taken up for the Jerusalem church – 2 Cor. 8:4, 6-7, 19, described as “grace”, and “commonality” and “service” (2 Cor. 8:4).

j. The gift of grace (=charisma) can be a unique or repeated rescue from death where the Church assists only through prayer (2 Cor. 1:11).

k. Each member of the Church can receive various aptitudes of both a natural and supernatural character that presuppose an underlying grace (charisma) to be employed for the good of the whole community (Romans 12:3-8).

l. Among these aptitudes, service to the congregation (diakonia) receives specific mention.

m. The gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, based on the situation there, includes those that fall within the scope of common Christian experience (wisdom, Knowledge, discernment of spirits, faith) while others are more unusual and unique (healing, working miracles, tongues, and interpretation, prophecy (=the ability to describe the will of God in a specific situation-propheteia).

n. If one wishes to describe the charismatic life Christians encounter, one needs to keep in mind this entire range of meanings.

o. This colorful collection is delimited along two sides – they all come from God and they are for the Church, or put more broadly, for eternal life.

p. Graces given to an individual are never exclusive. Someone who can expound God’s word, can discern spirits as well. The same applies to teaching. The gift of leadership or pasturing also includes an ability to teach, and the latter involves knowledge and wisdom. Charisms are anything but specializations.

q. The Apostolate in the broad sense pre-supposes many gifts of grace –1 Corinthians 12:28.

r. In the Pastoral Epistles, when speaking of a church office,they mean the entire cluster of gifts needed to exercise the office properly. – 1 Timothy 4:12, 2 Timothy 1:6.

s. No vital Christian will attempt to tie himself down to a single charism. To do so would impede the Spirit who leads them.

Purgatory According to Rick Barry

Dear friends of Simone,

Greetings! I'm one of the members of Simone's Catholic posse, and I have resisted the temptation to inject myself into this conversation, especially as James has articulated the Catholic position so thoughtfully. But, alas, I through I might throw in a couple of cents worth of commentary.

Chris, it seems to me that you are fairly close to accepting the Christian doctrine of purgatory. We all agree that our sanctification needs to be completed before we can be fully in the presence of the Blessed Trinity. After all, our great calling as Christians is to partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), to be perfectly united to the Father, in the Son, through the Holy Spirit. Perfect unity with the Trinity is impossible insofar as we are partially turned away—and isn’t that exactly what sin is? Sin is that part of our will that resists unity with God, resists the love of our Perfect Father. We are called to be new creations in Christ, and this is the great work that God has begun in us and that He intends to bring to completion. And yet, to some extent we even now resist this work of love, this free gift of grace, and we hold fast to our petty ‘pleasures’ apart from God. We have not yet achieved the perfection toward which we are called; the process of sanctification is not complete.

In God's extravagant love for us, he hates to see us turned away from him, even slightly, because he knows that it is only in Him that we will find our true joy and rest. Therefore, our loving Father has promised to continue to heal us and elevate us so that we can, more and more, partake of his divine nature, that is, be united to the Trinity in everlasting love. He will not stop his work of redemption in each of our souls until we have achieved the perfection promised (and perfection must always be our aim—2 Cor. 13:11). One way in which God helps us toward perfection is through his loving punishment. Who would dare deny what is written in Proverbs, and quoted in Hebrews: “the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Was the author of Hebrews ignorant of the fact that Christ’s work was perfect and complete? It would be heresy to slander the Biblical writer in this way. No, there can be no doubt about the perfect and complete work of Jesus Christ.

The thing is, God in his love has promised to graft us into Jesus Christ through his grace. This is a “now and not yet” process. It is a work that God has begun in us, and has promised to bring to completion. It is not our work, it is the Holy Spirit in us. Part of God’s love is that he punishes us, not to hurt us, but exactly the opposite. Every parent understands this. The inspired and blessed author of Hebrews: “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:10-11).

Again we say, the goal is to share in God’s holiness through the mediation (and only through the mediation) of the Incarnate One, our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. Only in Him is the gap bridged between God and man and our adoption into the divine family made possible. The promise God has given is that we will be new creations in Christ (which has begun, and will be made perfect on the last day), partakers of the divine nature.

The Catholic doctrine of purgatory intends only to say that God will complete the work he has begun in us. He will not abandon us, he will not leave us half way. He will make us holy. And even if we have not been fully sanctified at the hour of our death, He will complete the good work in us. This is a gift of grace.

Now, there seems to be some confusion about the role of time in purification (with the image of waiting around in a place, presumably like a waiting room in a doctor’s office, suggested). The truth is that the Catholic Church, so far as I know, does not have a teaching on whether purgatory is a temporal reality. She has used to analogy of time to try to convey how sins put us further from God. C.S. Lewis, in his brilliant The Great Divorce, uses the analogy of distance (the journey up the great mountain). These are ways of explaining a spiritual reality in physical terms (entirely appropriate, since we are physical beings). Yet we should not be mislead: purgatory, according to the Catholic teaching, may be an instant. As James points out (through the Pope’s beautiful words), it may be that wonderful instant when we come face to face with Christ and our sins are burned away through his love. If our souls are still very much attached to hatred and lust and envy and pride, it may seem like coming into the presence of our Almighty and HOLY Father is a long and horrible process. But it is (I repeat myself) a gift of grace, a profound blessing, that we are made capable of communion with Him.

Therefore, you need not believe that there is much ‘waiting’ involved. Presumably you believe that something happens to the soul after death and before final punishment. Do you think the soul is in perfect communion with God after the moment of death, and yet is waiting to be “cleansed”? How is this possible? How can we be with God and yet not cleansed? (Since I wrote this, Jip has made this point more cogently than I).

In conclusion, just like the doctrine of the Trinity, which is obviously biblical but required at least three centuries to be fully appreciated by the Church*, the doctrine of purgatory is just a word we give to that purification that is undoubtedly biblical, yet not described in those terms. It is a fairly modest idea: God will complete the work begun in us; our souls will be made pure. Purgatory itself is not a big, complicated doctrine. It is the obvious conclusion based on reflection on what the Bible says about human sanctification, God’ holiness, and our communion with Him.


*We must avoid historical naiveté when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity. The occasional suggestion that the doctrine as we currently understand it (that the Father, Son and Spirit are homoousios and yet three persons) leapt off the Biblical page and was easily accepted by all orthodox Christians is not a fair reading of what actually happened in the third and fourth centuries. The Arian party had a persuasive biblical argument; so persuasive that a majority of the Church in some areas was led astray. The only reason we think this is an easy issue today is that we benefit from the Nicene tradition. Give the Bible alone to someone who does not benefit from the rule of faith established at Nicaea and Constantinople and see how often they get the Trinity right on the first try.

Lorraine's Apple Cake Recipe

1 c. oil
1 and ½ cup sugar
3 c. flour
4 eggs
¼ c. apple juice, cider or water
1 Tbs. vanilla
1 Tbs. baking powder
½ tsp. salt

Mix all in large bowl until smooth.

In small bowl, mix 5 Tbs. sugar and 1 Tbs. cinnamon. Pare and slice 5-6 large apples. Mix with above. Grease tube pan. Pour half batter in pan, cover with half apples and cinnamon sugar; repeat. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 and ½ hours. Cool 10 minutes before flipping onto baking rack. Sprinkle with 10x sugar. Refrigerate after well-cooled. Better on the second day.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Heidi's Lamb Recipe

Rack of Lamb (you can just use a regular lamb leg / chop, anything lamb I would say)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (regular salt is fine to use)
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves (if you don't have them fresh cause they are kind of expensive just use dried rosemary but not as much b/c dried is more potent)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 racks of lamb (like I said before any kind of lamb roast will work)

In the bowl of a food processor fitted w/ a steel bade, process the salt, rosemary, and garlic until they're as finely minced as possible. Add the mustard and balsamic vinegar and process for 1 minute. Place the lamb in a roasting or sheet pan w/ the ribs curving down, and coat the tops w/ the mustard mixture. Allow to stand for 1 hour at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Roast the lamb for exactly 20 minutes for rare or 25 minutes for medium-rare. Remove from the oven and cover w/ aluminum foil. Allow to sit for 15 minutes, then cut into individual ribs and serve.

Beth's Biscuits-A Family Recipe

2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons butter
1 cup buttermilk

Blend the dry ingredients.
Cut in butter till size of coarse crumbs.
Add buttermilk and stir, knead dough.
Roll out dough and cut biscuits or drop dough onto lightly oiled baking sheet.
Bake 12 minutes at 425 degrees.

(Nota bene from Miss Killion: If I don't have buttermilk, I'll just use sour milk or a cup of milk with a little vinegar added.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Solitary Work Journey

By Lynne McGuire-my former co-worker at Crescendo Interactive. This was composed in July 2008 after I resigned my position.

With whom shall I share my poems
To whom will I write my odes
The thoughts in my mind will roam
Alone, on Intellectual Road

For Essie’s decided to wander
On a road so much less traveled
God’s theology she’s decided to ponder
All His thoughts she will unravel

And I’ll remain here
Pining and whining, I’ll mourn

My dear Essie is bound for the East
While I remain in the West
She’ll tell all her good thoughts to a priest
And I’ll talk to Arthur, at best

Such are the fates of life, I suppose
These events make or break our days
They’re not meant for stimulating prose
They’re relegated to this paper phrase

But I have a big heart of forgiveness
And I’ll think of her fondly always
For my friend, the Adventuress
Will be blessed, what she does, always

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pumpkin Drop Cookies


* 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
* 3 cups sugar
* 1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup milk
* 6 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves


* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
* 2 tablespoons milk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Beat in the pumpkin, eggs and milk. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, allspice and cloves; gradually add to creamed mixture. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10-13 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the frosting ingredients; beat until smooth. Frost cookies. Store in the refrigerator.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Today I committed murder. Yes I admit it. It was either me or the mouse. The first mouse I let go free. The second mouse had no such luck. I cornered that disgusting rodent and I vacuumed him to death. Now there is blood on my hands and blood on the carpet. I have no clue how to clean it up. Gross.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Dad is the Swedish Chef

Adel made a comment about your photo in the album "Profile Pictures":

"voush to who do vu do vu do vu do vu do housh do vu ?
this is sweedish for who is the best cook , the best cook for this vonderful group ?"

Friday, October 9, 2009

Best Quotation on Marriage

"Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might be found more suitable mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to."

J.R.R. Tolkien

Monday, October 5, 2009

Only the Church...

Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks…

Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.

- Albert Einstein, Time magazine, 23rd December, 1940 p. 38

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wonder and Knowledge

Below is a description of a lecture I attended last night at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. It was excellent.

Wonder and Knowledge

A conference on the origin of the universe in science and philosophy and the role of wonder in scientific discovery.

Speakers: Marco BERSANELLI, Professor of Astrophysics, University of Milan, and author of From Galileo to Gell-Mann: The Wonder that Inspired the Greatest Scientists of All Time: In Their Own Words by Templeton Press, and Michael HELLER, Professor of Philosophy, Pontifical Academy of Theology, Krakow - 2008 Templeton Prize winner

Presented by Crossroads Cultural Center

Prof. Marco Bersanelli and Prof. Michael Heller are both accomplished scientists and deep thinkers about the meaning and value of the scientific enterprise.

If we must try and point out a common feature of their work, we will notice that both of them view science as a deeply human activity. To them, science does not stand in isolation, separate from the rest of human experience, but rather is deeply rooted in it. For one thing, science rests on deep philosophical and even theological assumptions which are often taken for granted. But more fundamentally, as is well illustrated by both Prof. Bersanelli's new book and the numerous publications by Prof Heller, science requires men and women who face reality full of wonder and curiosity. There is a common misconception that science is all about objectivity and detachment, like some kind of mechanical process. But history shows again and again that the greatest scientists were those who were most passionate about knowledge, those most fascinated by nature. Only interest in the mystery of the universe, and the desire to know it, have made them able to look with open eyes and to go beyond the preconceptions of their time.

However, science does not give itself this interest and this desire. It must receive it from outside, from a human and cultural context. So much so that when this context is denied, when it is claimed that science is the only self-sufficient, all-encompassing form of human knowledge, science itself suffers. Scientistic ideology is an enemy of real science, precisely because by denying the fundamental human experience of what Einstein called "the Mystery," it cuts off scientific research from its deepest sources.

Professor Bersanelli will help us to explore what lies at the root of true science, while Professor Heller will develop the theme of the role of wonder in the process of knowledge, by facing one of the most fascinating topics that has always captivated humankind’s attention—the origin of the universe.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prayers to the Holy Spirit

Oh Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul, I adore you. Enlighten, guide, strengthen and console me. Tell me what I ought to do and command me to do it. I promise to be submissive in everything that You ask of me and to accept all that You permit to happen to me, only show me what is Your will. Amen.

Forgive me my sins O Lord, forgive me my sins. The sins of my youth, the sins of my age, the sins of my soul, the sins of my body. My idle sins, my serious, voluntary sins, the sins I know, the sins I have concealed so long and which are now hidden from my memory. I am truly sorry for every sin, mortal and venial. For all the sins of my childhood up to the present hour. Dear Jesus, forget and forgive what I have been. Amen.

Divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate my mind and heart and will to you for time and for eternity. May my mind be open to your divine inspirations and to the teachings of the Church whose infallible guide you are. May my heart be filled with love of God and of my neighbor, and my will conformed to the will of God. May my whole life be a faithful imitation of the life and virtues of Christ our Lord, to whom, with the Father and You, be honor and glory forever. Amen.

These prayers were personally given to me by Babsie Bleasdell in 2003 at the Southern California Renewal Conference. It was after that conference that I received a hunger for God's word in the Scriptures and began to read.

Say these prayers every day for peace and serenity.

On Being Spiritually "Fit"

This is a brief article I wrote on being Spiritually "Fit" a long (long) time ago. Maybe I will use it for my Youth Group.

Becoming spiritually fit demands much time, effort, and exertion. Think about the person who wants to be physically fit. He or she will start with his or her first trip to the gym. For anyone who’s ever vowed to “get in shape,” the first workout is definitely not an easy one. Especially if one’s life beforehand consisted of little or no exercise and plenty of junk food. The first workout can be compared to the first time a person begins his prayer “workout,” the beginning of a new spiritual life. Just like the physical workout, the spiritual workout is not an easy one. It may feel awkward, especially if those spiritual muscles have been dormant for a while. The words may seem stilted and unnatural. Don’t despair. One doesn’t expect to run a marathon after one workout, neither should you expect yourself to be a pro-pray-er. Praying will feel uncomfortable at first, but over time you will improve your prayer skills and you no longer will be trying to control your prayer but the Holy Spirit will be guiding you in prayer. Just like your body adjusts to the workouts, your soul will adjust to the increased spiritually you hope to gain by avid praying. After a while your body needs a workout everyday, and your soul will need to pray. It will become a non-negotiable fact. MTV and other spiritual junk food will no longer be acceptable to your soul, it will reject it. But be careful, just like the body can revert back to its unhealthy shape, so can the soul.

Christmas Letter 2007

(This is the first and only Christmas Letter I have sent out from 2007. Obviously, a lot has changed! Maybe I'll do another one this year.)

We would like to wish you a very blessed Advent and Christmas season!

Dearest Friends,

2007 was quite a year for us! The four of us traveled to Egypt for five weeks in the summer. It was my parents’ first time back in 30 years and the first time for my sister and I. If you want more details, I have ample stories and pictures to share. My parents were able to visit their friends and we were able to meet them and visit our family. The trip had its ups and downs, but it was good to visit despite the hardships we witnessed. The trip gave us stronger sense of gratitude for the good life we live in the United States, truly the land of the free.

My dad is still enjoying his medical practice and we still get to see him every weekend. At work, he is in charge of the Depression Championship, designed to help people gain more insight into the roots of their psychological issues. He finds comfort in being able to share his Christian spirituality with his patients. Lastly, my dad is gathering a group of friends and acquaintances to help an Italian priest. The priest is living in Cairo and is dedicated to helping the poorest Christians in Egypt living in the Haret el Zabaleen (the trash district).

My mother is still hopping back and forth from Bakersfield to Simi Valley! She’s a very busy lady what with her daughters traveling all over the country, trying to keep track of us is a lot of work. She is also still active in our home parish, St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Simi Valley, Ca. She is part of two Bible studies and an active member of the Bereavement team. I am always very impressed by the fact that she is able to attend so many funerals during the year and be a source of comfort and grace for those who have lost their loved ones.

Nicole left her life in beautiful Costa Mesa, CA and a great business-consulting job to pursue a master’s degree in Liberal Arts/Philosophy at St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD. It is a Western Classics program; a cross-section of philosophy, theology, and political science. The classes are Socratic method (no lecturing) and only primary sources are read. While living on the East Coast, she is able to participate in the John Witherspoon Society, which both she and I are members, since our knighting as fellows under the Order of St. George in the fall of 2005 and 2004, respectively.

As for myself, I still fly around all over the country for my job. Thanks to my fabulous mother and friends Jasmin and Rebekah, I made some nice holiday weekends out of them. I was able to visit a lot of our family and friends. I also started taking theology classes at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, via their Distance Learning program. Maybe in 10 years, I’ll have a master’s degree. I have also gotten involved in a Catholic charismatic community called City of the Lord. I have been hoping and praying for such a group. Lastly, I moved into an apartment in Simi Valley with my good friend Rebekah. I’m loving my closet space, and being only 10 minutes from my parents.

With love, affection, and gratitude for you,

Simone & The Rizkallah Family

May the Lord bless each and every one of you in 2008!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

En Route to Wilmington

On the way to Wilmington
Sat next to me the most delightful gentleman
Hair gray, deep blue eyes and wrinkles but a few
He could not be more than sixty-two!

Compared to men of my age
Who bore me as I waste away
This man had interesting things to say
Oh, and he's good-looking too
What's a woman like me to do?

Nothing much but sit and write:
Young men, listen, and take heed
This man can teach you what you need
(At the very least)
A hint of Old Spice cologne and smooth conversation
For a perchance encounter at the train station.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bedtime poem

It is late and I am (of course!) awake
Perhaps the same is true for you
Of these late hours, what is to be?
It's almost morning, it's actually three!
I cannot read, but maybe write
Oh, you want a story tonight?

It is late and I am (of course!) awake
Perhaps the same is true for you
This bedtime story you request
I'll briefly tell, I'll do my best
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary...
Sound familiar? Don't blame me!
Edgar Allen Poe is a better poet you know!

It is late and I am (of course!) awake
Perhaps the same is true for you
Be not upset, your bedtime tale again I'll try
Wish me luck, my brain is dry!
Once upon an early morning, I could not write
So down went my pen, and off went the light!


Monday, August 31, 2009

Jasmin's Sojourn in Virginia-A poem

Bed at two, awake at ten
Our eyes are too droopy to start the day again
The pink princess is fast asleep, unmoved as a hidden forest log
I, the hostess, upset for missing my morning jog
SIGH, nothing is new under the sun
We raven-haired ladies have been friends since before twenty-one

Bed at two, awake at ten
Our eyes are too droopy to start the day again
I peek through the creak in her bedroom door like a timid rat
The sleeping beauty angers quickly at my loud tip-tap
Yet birthday adventure commences in light-hearted cheer
The merriment perpetuated with wine, you know she hates beer

Bed at two, awake at ten
Our eyes are too droopy to start the day again
Much Ado About Nothing, a steel-plated lunch, and Monticello
And conversations of suitors and disappointing fellows
Alas, we despair not for we have each other
Holidays like this, good food, and two Middle-Eastern mothers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Life in Virginia (August '08-'09)

I can't believe it. I can't believe that I have been living in Virginia for one year. I truly can't. Never, in my entire life, did I think I would leave California or my parents! (Or my GRANDMA!) Life is so surprising!

Today, I spent all day giving my room a makeover and it dawned on me how much has happened this past year.

When I moved out here last August, I was pretty lonely being new to the area. I spent a lot of time stressing out (It was my first semester in graduate school after all!) and visiting my sister at the River House in Crownsville, Maryland. I have a real affection for Annapolis now. Our friend Natalie came to visit in August and our friend Marc came to visit during Halloween. (We watched The Corpse Bride.) Mom and Dad came for Thanksgiving. It was the first time we spent a holiday with just the four of us. I really enjoy living in Alexandria and especially being only fifteen minutes from Old Town!

The best part about living here is the Catholic community. The Arlington diocese is amazing!

Here's some fun stuff I've done this year:

1. Experienced my first Tridentine mass at St. John the Beloved in McLean, VA.
2. Watched a live taping of The World Over with Raymond Arroyo for EWTN.
3. Spent my birthday in Jerusalem. :)
4. Went on a boat tour of Boston and attended an "Evening with Haydn and Mozart" concert performed by the Metro Chamber Orchestra at the Education Conference. As a result of that...
5. Started a School of Community ( with a friend at my graduate school!
6. Visited the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. Father Fisher took a group of us to visit. Before he was ordained he asked St. Elizabeth to help him become a priest and in return he promised to bring people to her shrine.
7. Visited Michigan for the first time to attend the Acton Institute. Faith and Economics: My new found interest!
8. Sang in the church choir at my parish.
9. Go to the Faith Discussion Dinners almost every month:
10. Attend bi-monthly John Witherspoon Society meetings!
11. Visited the National Gallery of Art with the intention of viewing all the Raphaels. This trip was inspired by a Crossroads Cultural Center event: "Raphael and the Divine Harmony: A Window on the Renaissance."
12. Attended a concert dedicated to Krzysztof Penderecki's 75th birthday at the John Paul II Cultural Center. The musicians were violinist Patrycja Piekutowska (one of the most renowned in Poland) and Beata Bilinkska, a leading Polish pianist.
13. Took thirty youth group kids (25 of those were boys) to King's Dominion!
14. Completed ten theology classes.
15. Started a blog!

P.S. I miss the beach, though!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eucharist-The First Four Centuries

Another question possibly for tomorrow: What doctrine of the Eucharist emerges from the first four centuries?

1st Century:

The Didache:
"Let no one eat or drink of the Eucharist with you except those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord; for it was in reference to this that the Lord said: 'Do not give that which is holy to dogs.'"

St. Justin Martyr

"We call this food Eucharist, no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true...not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these...both flesh and blood of that incarnated Jesus." (The Real Presence)

2nd Century:

Ignatius of Antioch:

"I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire Bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was the seed of David; and for drink I desire His Blood; which is love incorruptible." (The Real Presence)

"Use one Eucharist, so that what you do, you do according to God; for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of His blood; one alter, as there is one bishop with the presbytery...the deacons."

"Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom He appoints." (Eucharist and Unity of the Church)

3rd Century:

St. Athanasius

"So long as the prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. After the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then bread is become Body, and the wine the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ."

4th Century:

St. John Chrysostom

"We have become one that we may become this not by love only but even in every deed, let us be blended into that flesh..." (Eucharist and the Mystical Body of Christ)

"Reverence, therefore, reverence this table, of which we are all communicants! Christ, slain for us, the Sacrificial Victim, who is placed thereon!" (Sacrificial Nature of the Eucharist)

"Oblation is the same even if some common person offer it...which Christ gave to his disciples and which now the priests do..." (Christ the principal celebrant in Eucharist)


Third possible essay question for tomorrow's final (Please God, don't let me fail!): What was the Arian heresy and what weakness in the second or third century paved a way for it.

Arianism ultimately taught that the three persons of the Trinity were wholly unlike each other both in essence and in glory. (Eunomianism) The is the logical conclusion following from an earlier version of Arianism which taught that the Son was a creature of God, not eternal with the Father, and not divine. He was created ex-nihilo, (out of nothing) and "there was a time when he was not." He was "God," but not a true God.

It has been said that Arianism is the worst heresy to ever plague the Church. It took 600 years for the Church to be finally rid of it!

St. Athanasius was exiled five times for fighting this heresy and it seemed as though Arianism would win the battle. Some Sees had one orthodox bishop among many Arian bishops. This history should compel schismatics to realize that it is the Church (not the Bible--first, it wasn't in existence as such and second, Arians like heretics today can use the Bible to "prove" their belief) which has preserved orthodox belief through the ages, not the least of which the most foundational belief in the Christian Faith-the Holy Trinity.

It can be argued that St. Justin Martyr's understanding of the Son is what "paved the way" to the Arian heresy. He mixed up the concept of the Word versus the spoken Word of God. He taught that the second person of the Trinity is co-eternal with the Father qua Word, but became Son through the spoken word at creation. Thus, the Word is co-eternal, but the Word as Son is not, only pre-creation since it was through the Son that all things came into being.

He was not an Arian, but had bad theology. The second person is eternally both Word and Son.

later said, "the Word becomes Son when spoken at creation." He makes the same mistake that St. Justin makes.

Novatian also contributes to the confusion with his words, "From Him, when he willed it, the Word was born." Arius quotes this directly in defending his heresy. This implies that the Father had the Son by choice and in His utterance of the "Word," He began the creation of the world. Arius believed that Jesus was "God-like," in that He was able to create, but not a true God in that He was created or born of the Father.

St. Hippolytus of Rome uses clearer language than that of St. Justin Martyr, but it still was not good theology as he writes, "For when He was without flesh and as yet by Himself, the Word was not yet perfect Son, although He was already perfect Word, the Only-begotten."

Baptism: The First Two Centuries

Another potential essay question: What Doctrine of Baptism emerges from the Fathers of the first two centuries.

The Fathers of the Church in the first two centuries had expounded the Trinitarian formula found in Matthew's Gospel, Chapter 28: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Thus, if you are coming into full communion with the Catholic Church, it is not necessary to be "re-baptized" if you already had a legitimate baptism following the Trinitarian formula. Most Protestant communities baptize legitimately and therefore those coming in would not need to be re-baptized. It's not theologically possible. Baptism can only be done once. Even though Protestants have a different understanding of baptism, the baptism itself is valid. However, if a person is coming from a non-Trinitarian community such as Mormonism, the person has never been legitimately baptized and would require it.

In the first century document, the Didache (A.D. 80)re-affirms the Trinitarian formula. It also suggests that the baptism be in living water (Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River--I renewed my baptismal vows there this past May!), if there is no living water, then in other water, if neither are available it instructs to "pour water three times on the head" using the Trinitarian formula. It also exhorts the baptized to fast for one or two days. Thus, the sacrament is instituted by Christ and is a real expression of entering into the life of the Triune God in which water is essential. The exhortation to fast is more a discipinary, rather than doctrinal matter. I do not believe it is too much emphasized these days perhaps because most baptisms in the Church are infant baptisms.

In the second century, St. Ignatius of Antioch writes to the Smyrnaeans that baptism can not take place without the permission of the Bishop. Today, I am not sure how that works. But again, I do not think that is a doctrinal issue.

Also in the second century, the Letter of Barnabas beautifully expresses, "In this way He says that we descent into the water full of sins and foulness, and we come up bearing fruit in our heart, having fear and hope in Jesus in the Spirit."

Doctrinally speaking, this seems to imply that there is a real change that accompanies baptism. It is not just an external expression of inward faith (it is that too), but a cleansing and remission of sin and a receiving of grace.

This real change is also expressed by St. Justin Martyr of the second century, "Their washing is called illumination, because it enlightens the intelligence of those who learn these things."

Lastly, this beautiful treatise on baptism of Tertullian's of the second/third century must be not be kept hidden: "The sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are released for eternal life will not be superfluous...Vipers and asps, as it is true of serpents in general, are found in dry and waterless places. But we little fishes, are born in water after the manner of our (insert the Greek word for FISH, which was the early Church's symbol for the Faith), Jesus Christ; nor can we be otherwise saved, except by abiding permanently in the water."

Tertullian's beautiful words imply that something supernatural does in fact happen during baptism and that it is necessary for salvation. (Of course, there is baptism of blood, desire, etc. but that is another subject entirely and they don't count if baptism by water/spirit is lingering allowed; but I digress.)

A couple of issues regarding baptism in the first two centuries (and following) that have since been clarified by the Church regard the delaying of baptism (Tertullian discusses this)and the one time remission of sins in baptism (Hermas discusses this). Both are related. Since the early Church believed that remission of sins could only come once (or twice, sometimes personal confession was allowed one time after baptism)with baptism, it became a practice to delay baptism until adulthood or until "you got sin out of your system," in a sense. This is why Constatine delayed baptism and even St. Augustine in the fifth century.

Natural Theology in the Fathers of the First Three Centuries

Here's a possible essay question for my Patristics final tomorrow: Discuss Natural Theology, its possibilities and limiatations, in the Fathers of the first three centuries.

This is actually a topic I am highly interested in--mainly out of my encounter with Protestant Christians who tell me that the study of philosophy or philosophy in general is contrary to the Bible, or even contrary to Jesus.

Where they got this idea from is beyond me. And it couldn't be further from the truth.

Philosophy, or natural theology, is the study of God (who is Truth and Wisdom), through the use of man's reason. It is study of what can be known naturally, while theology is the study of what is known supernaturally through revelation.

In his enyclical Fides et Ration, John Paul II writes, "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves."

It has also been said that philosophy is the handmaid of theology. This is true because philosophy serves theology. While philosophy is very important, it is limited. Where philosophy ends, theology begins. In fact, faith is the apex of reason. (Father Giussani) But the Faith and faith in general, must be reasonable or it is not true. It is, after all, our reason which makes us like God--we are made in His image and likeness. (Genesis 1:26)

Further, philsophy or natural theology is an excellent and persuasive way to evangelize to non-believers, especially to athiests. I do not mean to reduce its importance to merely evangelistic purposes, but it is worth mentioning.

The greatest pre-Christian minds, Aristotle and Plato, both believed in God. Through reason alone man can know that God exists and that if God exists what His attributes would be: omnipotent, infinite, spiritual, etc. We do not know these attributes through revelation or through the Bible, but through logical reasoning. In fact, one ignorant of philsophy or sound reasoning could very well read the Bible and deem God as fickle, jealous, and many other erred attributes.

St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans 1:19-20, writes, "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made."

St. Paul is appealing here to natural theology. Of course, he is appealing to the pagans to go a step further and recognize the truth of the Gospel. In the first century, St. Justin Martyr argues that by means of the rational faculty (which is God's gift to us, no other material creature has an intellect of this kind), God leads us to faith. (Simply, life does not make any sense without God!) However, St. Justin rightly argues that reason is insufficient. Reason can lead you to belief in God, but it does not tell you WHO this God is.

In the second century, St. Irenaeus (the most important Father of the second century) writes "all do know this...there is one God and Lord of all, because the reason implanted in their minds moves them and reveals it to them." Reason then is a foundational preparation for revelation. The Bible alludes to this in the coming of Christ being "in the fullness of time." (Hence, when we had enough prep work!)

In the third century, Lactantius implores the believer to take seriously the inquiry into religious truth! (A.K.A. Just because your pastor says something doesn't mean you are exempt from using your brain!) If you are not serious about truth, you can easily be led into error, he writes, "It is necessary, therefore, especially in that matter on which hinges the whole plan of life, for each one to have confidence in himself, and to rely on his own judgment and individual capacity for investigating and weighing the truth, rather than to be deceived by believing the errors of others, as if he were utterly lacking in reason. God gives to every man a proportionate share of wisdom..."

There is so much to be said here. The point is, reason is a gift from God, the Faith is reasonable and while it has its limitations, it is precisely our reason which can and must lead us to faith, to the truth of the divine and wonderful things which have been revealed!


Friday, July 24, 2009

Letter to Diognetus (Anonymous Author)

Time Period: 2nd Century (A.D. 125/200)

Here's a great passage from the text, a beautiful explanation of the paradox of the Christian life:

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life.

I also like this...

He sent Him for saving and persuading, but not for compelling. Compulsion, you see, is not an attribute of God.

In the Faith, faith and reason go hand in hand. It is not about "conversion or death," but about (as the Pope would say of late) love in truth.

As this unknown author writes, "Oh the magnitude of the kindness and love which God has for man!"


St. Papias

Time Period: 2nd Century (A.D. 130)
Position: Bishop of Hierapolis
Location: Asia Minor
Important works: Explanation of the Sayings of the Lord
Language: Greek

St. Papias received the doctrines of the faith through acquaintances of the Apostles.

Here's a brief selection...

When Mark became the interpreter of Peter, he wrote down accurately whatever he remembered, though not in order, of the words and deeds of the Lord. He was neither hearer nor follower of the Lord; but such he was afterwards, as I say, of Peter, who had no intention of giving a connected account of the sayings of the Lord, but adapted his instruction as was necessary.

Note: Mark is our earliest recorded gospel in Greek. (The Bible is out of order chronologically, it's true!) The earliest gospel then, being Peter's words. Peter, our first Pope! Cool, huh?



Time Period: 2nd Century (A.D. 140/155)
Position: Layman, brother of Pope St. Pius I
Location: Rome?
Important works: The Shepherd
Language: Originally Greek (fragments), Complete extant texts in Latin and Ethiopic

The text deals with some great topics such as the nature of the Church, creation ex-nihilo (that God created the world out of nothing), repentance (at that time this could only happen one time, you could not go to confession over and over again they way that you can now), etc.

Here's a short passage...

As many as repent with their whole heart and purify themselves of all wickedness mentioned before, and no longer add anything to their former sins,-they shall receive from the Lord a healing for their former sins, provided they are not double-minded in regard to these commandments; and they shall live to God. But as many as add to their sins and live in the lusts of this world--they shall condemn themselves to death.

What I really appreciate about this writing is the seriousness by which repentance is taken. This whole "Sin-Confession-Sin-Confession" lifestyle some Christians live is just a tad overdone. Don't get me wrong. I go to confession at least twice a month and believe me, I have something to confess. But what makes absolution legitimate is that you are truly contrite and serious in your resolve to "go and sin no more." The early Church took baptism and repentance so seriously that many delayed baptism until the end of their life. Constantine is an example of this.

My professor makes a good point about the double-mindedness of some Christians. This see-saw of the Christian v. worldly life seems to imply that as he said in class, "you only half want the Kingdom."

Friends, you can't half want it. You either want it or you don't. But you are the one who chooses.

St. Polycarp of Smyrna

Time Period: 2nd Century (A.D. 70-156)
Position: Bishop of Smyrna
Location: Smyrna
Important works: Letter to the Philippians
Language: Greek

St. Polycarp is considered one of the Apostolic Fathers having been a hearer of St. John the Apostle. He is a contemporary of St. Ignatius of Antioch. He died a martyr in 156 A.D.

If I ever have a son, his middle name is Polycarp. He is one of my favorite saints because he's got attitude. According to St. Irenaeus, Polycarp called the heretic Marcion to his FACE that he is the "first-born of Satan." Nice.

Marcion was a gnostic heretic who rejected the Old Testament and all the gospels except Luke. Plus, he pretty much edited the rest of the Scriptures to his liking.

This reminds me of what Martin Luther tried to do more than a thousand years later.

There is a work called The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp (A.D. 155/157); the author is unknown. Here's some selections from this treasure...

When the Proconsul urged him and said, "Take the oath and I will release you; revile Christ," Polycarp answered; "Eighty-six years I have served Him, and He has never done me wrong. How, then, should I be able to blaspheme my King who has saved me?"

So much, then, for the Blessed Polycarp. Although he was, together with those from Philadelphia, the twelfth martyr in Symrna, he alone is especially remembered by all, and is spoken of in every place, even by the heathen...Now with the Apostles and all the just he is glorifying God and the Father Almighty, and he is blessing our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls, the Helmsman of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

St. Ignatius of Antioch

Time Period: 2nd Century (A.D. 107)
Position: Third Patriarch/Bishop of Antioch
Location: Antioch
Important works: Letter to the Ephesians, Letter to the Magnesians, Letter to the Trallians, Letter to the Romans, Letter to the Philadelphians, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Letter to Polycarp
Language: Greek

St. Ignatius lived during the reign of Trajan. He is considered an Apostolic Father because he was a hearer of St. John the Apostle. On his way from Antioch to martyrdom in Rome (the beasts in the, he wrote seven letters which are his only extant writings.

My professor pointed out to us that Ignatius was a grown man before Peter left Antioch--he was middle-aged when Peter was still alive! Striking!

It is in Antioch where the followers of Christ were first called Christians.

An Episcopal note: (Episcopal meaning "Bishop"--not having anything to do with the Episcopalian Church as such)Rome was not involved in the selection of bishops outside of the Roman diocese until after the Protestant movement. They were usually elected by priests at the Cathedral.

Here are some selections from each of the 7 Letters:

1. To the Ephesians...

For Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the will of the Father, just as the bishops, who have been appointed throughout the world, are at the will of Jesus Christ. It is fitting, therefore, that you should live in harmony with the will of the bishop--as, indeed, you do. Let us be careful, then, if we would be submissive to God, not to oppose the bishop.

It is clear, then, that we must look upon the bishop as the Lord Himself.

Here's another one, this I particularly enjoy...

There is one Physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and not born, who is God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first able to suffer and then unable to suffer, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Give ear to the bishop and to the presbytery with an undivided mind, break one Bread, which is the medicine of immortality, the antidote against death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ.

Note: This recalls John 6. The Eucharist and the Resurrection are bound together. Eating His flesh results in being raised up.

2. To the Magnesians...

Take care, therefore, to be confirmed in the decrees of the Lord and the Apostles, that in all things whatsoever you may prosper, in body and in soul, in faith and in love, in the Son and the Father and the Spirit, in the beginning and the end, together with your most reverend bishop and with your presbytery--that fittingly woven spiritual crown! --and with your deacons, men of God. Submit to the bishop and to each other's rights, just as did Jesus Christ in the flesh to the Father, and as the Apostles did to Christ and the Father and the Spirit, so that there may be unity both of flesh and of spirit.

3. To the Trallians...

It is necessary, therefore,--and such is your practice,-that you do nothing without the bishop, and that you be subject also to the presbytery, as to the Apostles of Jesus Christ our hope, in whom we shall be found, if we live with Him.

In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and the college of the Apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church.

Nota bene: I believe my friend James' conversion to the Church from Anglicanism was sped up after reading Ignatius if I remember correctly. I can see why. It's pretty clear. Also, this is why Catholics do not consider schismatics Churches but rather, ecclesial communities.

4. To the Romans... (considered his most important Letter)

I love this...

Only pray for me that I may have strength both inward and outward, that I may not merely speak, but have also the will; that I may not only be called a Christian but may also be found to be one. For if I be found to be one, I may also be called one, and be then deemed faithful, even when I am no longer visible. Nothing visible is eternal.

The Letter to the Romans is a treasure. If you had to pick one, this is it.

5. To the Philadelphians...

Those, indeed, who belong to God and to Jesus Christ--they are with the bishop.

And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion.

Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to show forth the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever you do, you may do it according to the will of God.

6. To the Smyrneans...

Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.

Nota bene: This is the first time the word Catholic is used in print!

7. Letter to Polycarp

This is helpful for me:

Become more diligent than you are. Observe well the times. Look for Him that is above seasons, timeless; invisible, yet, for our sakes, becoming visible; who cannot be touched; who cannot suffer, yet, for our sakes, accepted suffering, and who on our account endured everything.

(Beautiful, no?)

I end with this from his last letter...

Be long-suffering with one another and gentle, just as God is with you.

May I rejoice in you always.

+ + +


Time Period: 1st Century
Position: Paul's companion on his 1st Missionary Journey
Location: Speculated to have an Alexandrian origin
Important works: Letter of Barnabas (either A.D. 70/79 or 117/132)
Language: Greek

The Letter is actually a theological tract and it does not give us information as to whether Barnabas is the authentic author.

Here are a couple of selections I would like to share with you:

And when He chose His own Apostles, who were about to preach His gospel, He chose men who were the worst kind of sinners in order to show that He came not to call the righteous but sinners (Mark 2:17)--and then He showed Himself to be the Son of God.

Check this out...I love this...

If He had not come in the flesh, there would be no way in which men could be saved by beholding Him: for even when they look at the sun, a work of His hands and a thing destined to perish, are they able to gaze straight into its rays?

For this reason, then, the Son of Man came in the flesh: to fill to the brim the measure of the sins of those who persecuted His prophets to death.

The author of this tract, like Clement, also gives the exhortation:

You shall not make a schism; but you shall pacify and bring together those who are quarreling. You shall confess your sins. You shall not go up to pray in the consciousness of having done evil. This is the way of light.

My notes:

It occurred to me in reading this that the method of by which our Lord educates us is through relationship. Relationship with Him and now relationship with Him through the Church: you and me. If the pillar of Protestantism, Sola Scriptura, were true, then I would think Jesus Christ would have spent His time writing, instead of hanging out with His disciples so much. Just a thought. Makes sense to me.


St. Clement of Rome

Whatever possessed me to take two summer school classes, I do not know. I already have finals next week (God help me). I'll be blogging on the Fathers as my method of studying. Happy reading!

Time Period:1st Century; cannot be later than the 90s
Position: Bishop of Rome (a.k.a. The Pope, third successor of St. Peter)
Important works: Letter to the Corinthians (A.D. 80)
Language: Greek

This is the only surviving writing of Clement. He wrote the Letter as a response to the Bishop of Corinth being overthrown and the ensuing schism. It is interesting (as well as important) to note that when he wrote this, St. John the Apostle was still alive. But since Clement, not John, was the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, the appeal went to Rome.

He writes...

And our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would
be strife over the name of the bishop's office. For this cause therefore, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the aforesaid persons, and afterwards they provided a continuance, that if these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministration. Those therefore who were appointed by them, or afterward by other men of repute with the consent of the whole Church, and have ministered without blame to the flock of Christ in lowliness of mind, peacefully and with all modesty, and for long time have borne a good report with all these men we consider to be unjustly thrust out from their ministration.

(Translation: Apostolic Succession !)

He continues...

It is shameful, dearly beloved, yes, utterly shameful and unworthy of
your training in Christ, that it should be reported that the very
steadfast and ancient Church of the Corinthians, for the sake of one
or two persons, is in revolt against its presbyters.

(Translation: Schism: Bad ; Unity: Good !)


You, therefore, who laid the foundations of the rebellion, submit to the presbyters and be chastened to repentance, bending your knees in a spirit of humility.

Is there really anything more I can add to Clement? He makes it very clear that going against your bishop is a no-no, what gives legitimacy to the bishop is the unbroken apostolic succession (keep in mind, this is 80 A.D.--the Bible hadn't dropped from the sky yet!), and that you put yourself in danger when you create a schism. (He writes, "By your folly you heap blasphemies on the name of the Lord, and create a danger for yourselves.") Most significantly, this is coming from the authority of the Pope, who St. John himself submits to...because he submits to Christ who gave this instruction and power in the first place as recorded in the gospel of Matthew.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Patristics-The Didache

I'm also taking a Patristics (the early Church fathers' writings)class this summer. We are reading selections from William A. Jurgens book The Faith of the Early Fathers: Volume 1-3.

The first ancient text we discussed was the Didache, known as the "teaching of the twelve." The original was lost until 1883 and most likely written around 80 A.D. when the apostles were still alive and spreading the Gospel. (If you want to argue with this date, my professor recommends John A.T. Robinson's work, Redating the New Testament.)

Unlike today's evangelization techniques, the early Christians searched out the people who were morally serious to introduce and propose the Christian Faith. The first thing the Didache did was to confront morality. Catechesis was first on morals and then led to the sacraments. The sacraments were the end game, not the starting point.

I like how the Didache begins, it's very blunt:

There are two ways, one of life and one of death: and great is the difference between the two ways.

A really interesting point the Didache makes is to be intelligent in your charitable giving decisions:

Let your alms perspire in your hands, until you know to whom you are giving.

Try this on for size:

You shall not procure abortion, nor destroy a new-born child.

This is from the *earliest* non-canonical apostolic writing--in case you needed that. Otherwise, it should be so utterly morally obvious to oppose the intentional murdering of innocents.

The sentence right before:

You shall not use potions.

Potions for what, you ask?

In the very promiscuous Greek culture, there were two types of potions: love potions and (drum roll) contraceptive potions.

Interesting. All along the Catholic Church (and only only only the Catholic Church!) has related the widespread use of contraception to the increase in abortions. (Not to mention affairs, domestic violence, divorce, etc. etc. etc.) And here, this oldest document of the apostles, mentions them one after the other.

First comes contraception, then abortion.

(If you need more education/formation on this topic regarding the Catholic Church's teaching, I highly recommend Janet Smith's audio CD "Contraception: Why Not?" You can order it for FREE!)

The Didache is a treasure and there are many nuggets in the work, I leave you with one of them:

Whoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turns and teaches another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not.

I would find this troubling were I a Protestant today.

Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us. +

Monday, June 29, 2009

Old Testament Week I, Class I

I'm taking a class on the Old Testament this summer for six weeks. I'm going to be taking notes on this blog in case it will be of service to anyone reading.

Besides the Bible, we are also reading Scott Hahn's book A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God's Covenant Love in Scripture.

Recommended books for educators, or future educators (that's me, God-willing!) is Antonio Fuentes' Guide to the Bible and The Scripture Documents: An Anthology of Official Catholic Teaching. The latter is particularly interesting to me. As St. Jerome said, "Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." But also, ignorance of the Church is ignorance, or maybe even worse, misinterpretation of the Scriptures. Remember, the Universal Church gave us the Bible and the Bible is part of the Tradition of the Church. No Church, no Bible.

One last note, in my Bible (Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition--the best translation) are two inserts: The Bible Timeline: The Story of Salvation (Thank you, Mother!) and a Bible Map Insert (Thank you, Professor!).

The Bible contains 73 books, but if you are going to read the Bible with a chronological approach, there are 14 at the core.

Alright, back to my class. Since I've been pretty lazy about note-taking (I'd rather pay attention than labor for notes), here are some of my randomly selected notes from my first day:

1. Mosaic authorship of the first five books of the Bible. The "Torah" in Hebrew, the "Pentateuch" in Greek.
2. To understand Genesis, one must understand Exodus.
3. In Biblical numerology, seven is the number symbolizing perfection. The Hebrew word "Sheva" (Seven) is the word for "swear." When you swear in an oath (to God), you are "sevening" yourself.
4. St. Ephraim the Syrian's commentary is the most important on the Pentateuch.
5. Contrary to popular belief, there were two "special" trees in Eden: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The latter's fruit was forbidden. Some theologians have surmised that eventually Adam and Eve would have been permitted to eat of its fruit, but disobeyed eating prematurely and against God's command.
6. The Hebrew word for "helper" is azar which translates into helper, counselor, adviser, partner, perfect match.
7. Eve is equal to Adam implied in his words, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh..."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Holy Land Pilgrimage May 4-15, 2009 Part II

Itinerary by Ann Vucic with my edits (Click on the links for images)*This is incomplete; I'll be adding more personal anecdotes in the weeks to follow.*

Day 1: Monday, May 4

Depart USA for Tel Aviv, via Madrid. For those of us flying from Chicago, we flew aboard a plane called the “Teresa de Avila."
A good omen for the beginning of our pilgrimage.

Day 2: Tuesday, May 5

Arrive Tel Aviv. Our local guide, Fr. David Wathen, OFM greets us at the airport. We travel together from Ben Gurion Airport to the northern part of Israel. On the way we took a detour on a dirt road due to road issues. Arrived at Mount of Beatitudes Guest House in late evening, had dinner and checked in.

For those who had some energy left after the long journey, Fr. Jim Livingston, our spiritual director, celebrated Mass in the Guest House chapel.

Day 3: Wednesday, May 6


After breakfast, we went to our first site, the shrine of the Primacy of Peter. It was a simple little church, right on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, with a large rock inside of the church, with the words “Mensa Christi” (which means: table of Christ) written on it. This site is the setting for a few significant Gospel stories. It is a post-resurrection site, where Jesus prepared a meal for His apostles on a rock, while they were fishing on the Sea. It is also where Jesus asked Peter three times “Do you love me?” (in response to his having denied Jesus three times) and where Peter was instructed to feed the Lord’s sheep, establishing his primary role among the apostles, hence the title “Primacy of Peter” for this shrine. We had Mass at an outdoor altar, with a backdrop of a mosaic of Pope John Paul II. After Mass, we had some free time to spend along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

After that, we drove to the Golan Heights, in the northeast part of Israel, to visit Caesarea Philippi. This site is now an Israeli National Park. It includes the Banias Springs and the ancient pagan Temple of Pan. Jesus used the natural land formations here as a teaching tool. There is a HUGE rock there, and a deep cave, and the ancients used to believe that caves were the gates to the netherworld. It was at this site that Jesus asked Peter “Who do you say that I am?” And when Peter responded with the truth of Jesus’ identity, Jesus said to him: “you are rock and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” It was here that Peter was established as the first Pope. There is also a spring at this site, and it is one of the 3 sources of water that together create the Jordan River.


Near Caesarea Philippi we had lunch at a local little “fast food” place run by a Druze family. As Fr. David explained to us, the Druze are a secretive, tightly-knit religious sect, and are an offshoot of Islam. They believe that God became incarnate in the form of their leader, al-Hakim bi-Amrih Alla. The Druze do not have their own homeland, so many of them migrated to the isolated mountains of Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, while others settled throughout the Middle East.

After lunch we drove to a lookout point where you could see the country of Syria, and along the way, we recalled the story of the conversion of Saul/Paul on the road to Damascus (Syria).

Then we returned to the Sea of Galilee area and went to Bethsaida, where three of the apostles were born. There were many ruins in Bethsaida, but no church. We sat down on some rocks and listened to Fr. David speak about this site.

Our final stop of the day was a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, where we recalled the stories about Jesus on the Sea of Galilee. Then our boat crew entertained us with some Israeli songs.


Returned to Mount of Beatitudes for dinner. After dinner, we had a “beginning of pilgrimage meeting” so that we could introduce ourselves to each other and share a little bit about ourselves with one another.

Day 4: Thursday, May 7


Began our day in Cana of Galilee. It is the site where Jesus performed his first miracle when He attended the wedding feast. He changed the water into wine at the request of His mother Mary. The married couples in our group renewed their wedding vows.

After Cana we drove a short distance to Nazareth, to the Basilica of the Annunciation. It is where the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive a child. We had Mass in front of the grotto of the annunciation, where it is believed that this event took place. Mass ended right at noon, so we took the opportunity to pray the Angelus together!

After Mass we walked a short distance across the courtyard, to the Church of St. Joseph, the site where it is believed that the Holy Family lived. We listened to some priests and sisters singing beautiful music in French, while we were waiting for them to finish their prayer time in the main chapel. It was a place where many in our group were able to write out prayer petitions and drop them through a grate in the ground, to the actual site below.


Lunch was at a restaurant in a kibbutz.

After lunch we drove to Mount Tabor, the site where the transfiguration of Our Lord happened. We spent some time inside the church and then Fr. David took us to a lookout point and pointed out some places where significant Biblical stories took place.

We returned to Mount of Beatitudes around 4:00 pm and had a few hours free time to just relax before dinner.

After dinner, a large group of us hung out in the sitting room near the dining room.

Day 5: Friday, May 8


Began our day with an outdoor Mass in a beautiful setting, right on the waters edge in Capernaum and then spent about 3 hours there. Capernaum was the home of Peter, and also the home of Jesus. It was in the synagogue that Jesus preached His Bread of Life discourse (John 6). Many other events in the life of Jesus happened in this town. Fr. David held his own discourse for us and answered many questions. Very relaxing, leisurely morning.

Next we went to Tabgha, to the church that commemorates the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. It is a simple little church that has the famous mosaic on the floor under the altar. It was the place where the woman was setting up a little fish pond in the courtyard, and was putting the fish into it while we were there. We stayed there only a brief time.


Lunch was at the restaurant where we were offered the St. Peter’s fish for lunch.

After lunch we drove to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, to the Jordan River, where we renewed our baptismal vows.

We got back to Mount of Beatitudes around 4:00 pm, and had a few hours of free time before dinner.


After dinner, Fr. Jim led us in a healing service in the chapel. After the healing service, a large group of us hung out, first outside, then in the lobby for a few hours.

Day 6: Saturday, May 9


Our day began with Mass at the outdoor altar at the Mount of Beatitudes. After that, we checked out of the Guest House and began our journey down to Jerusalem.

We first went to the Mount of Temptation. We had to take the cable car up from Jericho to the Greek Orthodox Monastery at the top. In the monastery is the cave where it is believed that Jesus lived and slept while He was put to the test by Satan.


Lunch was at the Mount of Temptation restaurant in Jericho.

Then we drove through Jericho to see a Sycamore Tree, which reminds us of the story of Zaccheus climbing the Sycamore Tree in order to be able to see Jesus.

After that we drove to the Dead Sea and spent about an hour there.

After our visit to the Dead Sea, we continued our drive through the Judean desert, to Jerusalem, checked in to the Grand Court Hotel, and went to dinner.

Some of the group hung out together that evening in that cold meeting room that was just off of the reception desk.

Day 7: Sunday, May 10


We began our day at the Mount of Olives. First we visited the Chapel of the Ascension of the Lord, which is now under Moslem control and is actually a Mosque. There is an indentation on a stone slab on the ground that legend claims is the footprint of Jesus as He ascended to heaven.

Next we walked down to the Church of Dominus Flevit (which means “the Lord wept”). This site commemorates where Jesus
looked upon Jerusalem and wept. The little chapel at this site is built in the shape of a teardrop, but we were not able to go inside because another group was having Mass while we were there. From a lookout point just in front of the church, Fr. David pointed out the way that Jesus walked during His passion. Jesus began on Mount Zion (from where we were standing, Mount Zion was at the top of the hill across the valley, and to the left of the Old City), where he celebrated the Last Supper in the Upper Room, then He crossed the Kidron Valley to come to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He was arrested. The Kidron Valley is that little valley where the Papal venue was set up for the Mass in Jerusalem. From our vantage point at Dominus Flevit, Gethsemane was just below us. Next Jesus was taken to Caiaphas’s house, back across the Kidron Valley. This is the place we went to with Jimmy, the guide who replaced Fr. David. It was where we saw the dungeon that Jesus would likely have been kept overnight, and where we saw the Holy Stairs. From Caiaphas’s house, Jesus was brought into the Old City where He was brought before Pilate, and
then Pilate sent Him back to Caiaphas’s house, where He was kept overnight in the dungeon that we saw later. And then finally on Friday, Jesus was brought to the place where He began His Via Dolorosa – His Stations of the Cross, that led Him to Calvary now located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We could see this entire path very clearly from where we were standing, at the Church of Dominus Flevit.

Next we walked the “Palm Sunday Road”, down to the Garden of Gethsemane. We took our group picture at this site, right in front of the grove of olive trees. Those olive trees are over 2,000 years old and are sometimes referred to as the “silent witnesses” of Christ's passion, since they were there when He suffered His agony in the garden. The church at Gethsemane is called the Church of All Nations, because many different countries contributed to its construction. It is also sometimes called the church of the Rock of Agony, because right in front of the main altar is the rock that it is believed that Jesus suffered His agony upon.

We then proceeded further down the Palm Sunday road, to the Tomb of Mary. It is believed that she died at the site of Dormition Abbey, across the Kidron Valley, on Mount Zion, but that her body was brought to this site for burial, and then from this site, she was assumed into heaven. To get to the Tomb of Mary, we descended down a long and wide staircase, to a darkened crypt area below, that contained the final resting place of the Mother of God.

Right next door to the Tomb of Mary, is a cave, called the Grotto of Gethsemane (the place where the apostles were a “stone’s throw away” from Jesus when he was suffering His agony in the garden). This cave was a regular meeting place for the apostles and Jesus when they were in Jerusalem, so it was natural that they went there on the night of the Last Supper. This grotto is also called the Grotto of Betrayal, because it is where Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. It was in this cave that Jesus was arrested. We celebrated Mass at this site.


In the afternoon we drove to Bethlehem, in the West Bank, through an Israeli checkpoint. First we had lunch at Ruth’s Restaurant, and then we went shopping at a pre-arranged store, Boaz's Field.

After shopping we went to Shepherd’s Field, right next door to the shop. Shepherd’s Field commemorates the place where the Angel appeared to the shepherds and announced to them the birth of the Christ Child.

Then we went to the Church of the Nativity, where Jesus was born. First we stood in line to enter the lower level grotto, where we were able to venerate the place where Jesus was born, which is marked by a silver star underneath an altar. Then we visited the church that is right next door (under the same roof), called St. Catherine’s, which is the Catholic parish of Bethlehem. It is from St. Catherine’s that Midnight Mass in Bethlehem is televised on Christmas Eve.

Next we went downstairs, underneath St.Catherine’s and the Church of the Nativity, to several grotto’s, the most important being the grotto of St. Jerome, where St. Jerome lived for many years and where he translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin (called the Vulgate).


We left the West Bank and returned to Jerusalem. That evening, after dinner, we had a private holy hour in the Church of All Nations, at the Rock of Agony, with the church all to ourselves.

Day 8: Monday, May 11


Due to uncertainty about the Holy Father’s schedule and how it would impact our ability to get around Jerusalem in the coming days, Fr. David decided that we would spend the entire day walking through and around the Old City of Jerusalem (which normally would not be done all in one day).

We began the day very early (7:30 departure from hotel), and went first to the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, as it is also sometimes called. The wall is the most sacred site in the world for Jews, because it is the only remaining part of their ancient (Solomon's) Temple that still exists. The Romans destroyed the temple in 70 A.D., and the site where it stood has been occupied by a Moslem shrine (the famous golden-domed structure), called the Dome of the Rock, since the late 7th century. It is called the Dome of the Rock because the shrine is built over a very large rock. For Jews this rock is sacred because they believe it is the site where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac (Mt. Moriah), which was the reason that the Jewish people built their temple here. For Moslems this rock is sacred because they believe that it was from this rock that Mohammad made his “night journey” to heaven. Jews call this site “the Temple Mount”, and Moslems call it “Haram al Sharif”, meaning “the Noble Sanctuary”.

Next we walked to the Lion’s gate, also known as St. Stephen’s gate, to the Church of St. Anne, the site where parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary lived and where Mary was born. We venerated a cave in a little crypt area below the main church as the site where this event occurred, and then when we came back upstairs, we were greeted by the beautiful sounds of a group of Nigerian pilgrims singing "How Great Thou Art," in their native tongue. Right next to the church of St. Anne is the Pool of Bethesda, a site where some Gospel events occurred.

We then proceeded to the Chapel of Flagellation, where we were given a cross to carry, so that we could begin our Via Dolorosa, our own Stations of the Cross through the very crowded streets of Jerusalem. We meandered through the streets of the Old City, following the path that Jesus walked on His way to His crucifixion, and we concluded our journey at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where we visited the site of Calvary, the slab where His body was anointed when it was taken down from the cross, the tomb where He was laid…and rose from the dead! We also visited a few additional side chapels at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We descended down a few flights of stairs to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, where St. Helena found the True Cross. We visited the Chapel of Adam, which lies just below Calvary, and where you can see the rock of Calvary split in two, as was described in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion.


We then had lunch at an outdoor restaurant in the Old City, not far from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

After lunch, we walked through the Jewish quarter of the Old City, to reach Zion’s Gate, which we went through to get to Mount Zion. On Mount Zion we first went to the site of the Upper Room, where Polish people from the movement Neocatechumenal Way were singing! They seemed to be following us wherever we went which I did not mind because their language and singing is so beautiful. We moved to an outdoor area to listen to Fr. David speak to us about the Upper Room.

Next we had Mass at the Franciscan chapel in honor of the Blessed Sacrament (the place where we sat around in the enclosed garden area for about 30 minutes before Mass). As Fr. David explained to us, the Franciscans used to be the custodians of the actual Upper Room, but it was taken away from them 500 years ago. Because they did not have access to the Upper Room, they built this little chapel next door to as a place where they could commemorate the events that happened in the Upper Room.

(A side note: the Franciscans have been in intense negotiations with the State of Israel for quite a while now, in an effort to re-acquire ownership of the Upper Room)

After Mass, we walked over to Dormition Abbey, the traditional site where it is believed that the Virgin Mary “fell asleep”. The central focus of the Abbey is the statue of Mary lying down in her final resting position. After this, our final stop of the day, we walked the long way back to the bus, circling around the outside of the huge walls of the Old City.

Day 9: Tuesday, May 12


After a very exhausting Monday, we were more leisurely this day. The morning began with a drive to Ein Kerim, where Zacharias, Elizabeth and John lived. First we visited the Church of the Visitation, where Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and where Mary spoke those famous words of the Magnificat ("My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…"). These words are written on many different languages, on tiles that adorn the courtyard of the church. We visited both the lower church and the upper church. Then we walked back down the hill to visit the Church of St. John the Baptist, where we were able to venerate the place where John the Baptist was born, marked with a star underneath a small altar, to the left of the main sanctuary space.


We had lunch in the garden area of a Lebanese restaurant in Ein Kerim. We spent about 4 hours in Ein Kerim.

From Ein Kerim (west of Jerusalem), we drove to Bethany (east of Jerusalem), the town that Martha, Mary and Lazarus lived in and that Jesus frequently visited. Bethany is in the West Bank (though we did not need passports to get in and out of this part of the West Bank, as we did in Bethlehem). Bethany actually lies just on the other side of the Mount of Olives, about a mile or two from the site of Jesus’ Ascension, but there is now a wall that divides it. We had Mass at the church in Bethany. After Mass, we walked up the road a little way, to the site of Lazarus’s tomb, and we descended down into it. As we returned to the bus, there was a man with a camel waiting there for us, and so some of our pilgrims rode the camel. After that, we returned to Jerusalem for dinner.


Before dinner, some of the group decided to walk to where the Holy Father’s Mass was going to be. The group got as far as Lion’s Gate (also called St. Stephen’s Gate). The gate was blocked off, with Israeli soldiers stationed there. We were told that there was no way to get to the Papal Mass at that point, and no amount of begging changed that!

So the group decided to walk to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in hopes of being able to spend more quality time there. When we were there the day before, it was packed with pilgrims, so we were not able to go into the tomb, or touch the rock of Calvary. It was much quieter this evening and we were able to do all those things. Then we walked back to the hotel for dinner.

Day 10: Wednesday, May 13


We drove to Emmaus (Nicopolis) in the morning. Fr. David explained to us that there are three different possible sites for the story of the encounter between Jesus and His disciples on the road to Emmaus, and this was one of the possible sites. We had Mass at the beautiful little chapel at this site.


We returned to the hotel after this visit, and then we had to say goodbye to Fr. David. For lunch we split into two different groups. One group went to a pizza place close to the hotel, and the other group went to an outdoor restaurant located in the American Colony hotel, near our hotel.

In the afternoon, our new guide Jimmy joined us for the afternoon. First we drove to St. Peter Gallicantu. Gallicantu means the crowing of the cock, and it is called that because it is the site where Peter betrayed Jesus. St. Peter Gallicantu is believed to be location of the house of Caiaphas, and it is believed that Jesus was held here overnight in Caiaphas’ dungeon. We were able to see that dungeon, well intact. We also visited the “Holy Stairs”. These stairs date to well before Jesus’ time, and they were a main route through the city, so, as Jimmy put, “we are not 100% certain that Jesus walked on these stairs, we are 1000% certain that He did." We had to drive a roundabout route to get to St. Peter Gallicantu because the direct roads were still closed due to the Pope’s presence. Because we drove this route, Jimmy was able to point out a few places of Gospel significance that we passed along that route. First he showed us the plot of land that Judas purchased for the 30 pieces of silver that he was given to betray Jesus. It is also believed to be the place where Judas hanged himself after his action. He also pointed out to us the Pool of Salome, where Jesus sent the blind man to wash his eyes in, after he smeared a mixture of mud and spit on his eyes. After St.Peter Gallicantu, we drove over to the Mount of Olives, to visit the Church of the Pater Noster, which commemorates Jesus’teaching His disciples to pray the Our Father. There were over 100 large ceramic plaques with the words of the Our Father written in different languages adorning the walls. Then we returned to the hotel.


After dinner, we met in the courtyard area of our hotel for an end of the pilgrimage meeting, where we shared about our experiences on this pilgrimage.

Day 11: Thursday, May 14

Morning and Afternoon

Free time to do whatever we wanted.

In the late afternoon, we met at the Franciscan Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, on Mount Zion, for our last Mass before departure.

After Mass, we went to the Christmas Hotel for a farewell dinner.

After that, some of the group decided to go to Ben Yehuda Street, partly to check out where the Israeli young people hang out in the evenings, and partly to stay awake for our very early morning departure for the airport.

Day 12: Friday, May 15

Departed Jerusalem at about 2:00 am for our long journey back home.


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