November 24, 2006

Birthday Meme

Fr. Tim Finigan (who blogs "The Hermeneutic of Continuity") tagged me with a meme.

1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. In the search box, type your birth month and day but not the year.
3. List three events that happened on your birthday.
4. List two important birthdays and one death.
5. One holiday or observance (if any).

I was born on 9 October (in the year of our Lord 1958).

Here are the Wikipedia data for 9 October.

+ 1582: Due to the implementation of the Gregorian calendar this day does not exist in this year in Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
+ 1888: the Washington Monument officially opens to the general public
+ 2006: Google reaches an agreement with YouTube and buys YouTube for $1.65 billion

+ 1835: Camille Saint-Saëns, French composer
+ 1940: John Lennon, British musician and songwriter, member of “The Beatles”

+ 1958: Pope Pius XII [Same day and year as my birth]

Roman Catholic Saints: Saint Denis, Saint John Leonardi, and Saint Louis Bertrand

November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving in Greek is EUCHARISTIA…

… AND CATHOLICS CELEBRATED THE FIRST ONE IN WHAT IS NOW THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on 8 September 1565, at St. Augustine, Florida— fifty-five years before the Puritans landed at Plymouth Rock.

Even earlier: the first Mass celebrated in Canada was on 7 July 1534 by a priest with the explorer Jacques Cartier.

However, the very first known Mass on the mainland of the Americas was in 1502, on a beach in what is now Honduras, Central America, during the fourth and last trip by Christopher Columbus.

Thus, Catholics in the Americas celebrated “Thanksgiving,” Eucharistía, the Mass, one hundred and eighteen years before the Puritans got here.

The “Pilgrims” belonged to a Puritan sect called “Separatists.” They believed that Catholicism was a contradiction of authentic Biblical Christianity.

When, in the Fall of 1621, the Puritans finally celebrated the fruits of their first harvest here, they did not even call it “Thanksgiving,” as that would have been objectionably similar to the Catholic tradition of “holy days” that they rejected.

In the years that followed, the Puritans did not keep any annual commemoration of that first grateful harvest festival.

More than 160 years later, in 1789, the United States of America seated its first president, George Washington.

During the eight years of his presidency, he scheduled several times a national day of giving thanks to God.

However, he did not set it up as an annual national holiday.

In the years that followed, some individual states instituted their own local days of giving thanks to God.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln became our sixteenth president.

He also issued several proclamations of a national day for giving thanks to God.

However, our fixed annual day of national Thanksgiving to God did not begin until Lincoln’s proclamation on the third of October, 1863, in the middle of the Civil War.

Not until then did Americans begin to retroactively apply the name “Thanksgiving” to the first harvest celebration of the Puritans.

Click HERE to read historical facts about the Puritans who came to North America in 1620.

Click HERE for President Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation Establishing "Thanksgiving Day".

I have posted a Thanksgiving Day homily.
Click HERE for it.

November 21, 2006

The Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 21 November

I have posted a homily for the occasion.
Click HERE for it.

November 19, 2006

The Pope’s thankfulness for monks and nuns

As he does every Sunday, the Pope offered a brief message to the faithful who gathered in St. Peter Square to join him in praying the noon Angelus today.

His words today were full of grateful respect for those who live in cloistered monasteries or hermitages.

The following translation is from

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

The day after tomorrow, November 21, on the occasion of the liturgical memorial of the Presentation of Mary Most Holy in the Temple, we celebrate "pro Orantibus"
[in Latin, “for Those Who Pray”] Day, dedicated to remembering cloistered religious communities. It is a particularly appropriate occasion to thank the Lord for the gift of so many persons who, in monasteries and hermitages, are totally dedicated to God in prayer, silence and hiddenness.

Some wonder about the meaning and value of their presence in our time, in which many urgent situations of poverty and need must be addressed. Why "shut oneself" forever behind the walls of a monastery and deprive others of the contribution of one's talents and experiences? What efficacy can prayer have to resolve the numerous concrete problems that continue to afflict humanity?

In fact, also today numerous persons often surprise friends and acquaintances when they abandon professional careers, often promising careers, to embrace the austere rule of a cloistered monastery. What leads them to take such a committed step if not their having understood, as the Gospel teaches, that the Kingdom of heaven is "a treasure" for which it is worth abandoning everything
[cf. Matthew 13:44]?

These brothers and sisters silently witness that in the midst of daily vicissitudes, at times extremely convulsive, God is the only support that never falters, the unbreakable rock of fidelity and love. "Todo se pasa, Dios no se muda"
[Everything passes, God is unchanging], wrote the great spiritual teacher Teresa of Avila in her famous text. And, given the widespread need that many experience to leave the daily routine of the great urban agglomerations in search of appropriate spaces for silence and meditation, monasteries of contemplative life appear as "oases" in which man, a pilgrim on earth, can go to the sources of the Spirit and slake his thirst along the way.

These places, apparently useless, are, on the contrary, indispensable, like the green "lungs" of a city: They are beneficial for all, including for those who do not visit them or perhaps do not know that they exist.

Dear brothers and sisters: Let us thank the Lord, who in his providence, has willed that there be cloistered communities, masculine and feminine. May they not lack our spiritual and also material support so that they will be able to fulfill their mission of keeping alive in the Church the ardent expectation of Christ's return. Let us invoke, for this reason, the intercession of Mary, whom, in the memorial of the Presentation in the Temple, we will contemplate as mother and model of the Church, who unites in herself both vocations: to virginity and to marriage, to the contemplative and to the active life.

"The Monastery" on The Learning Channel

It continues tonight.

I have watched all the episodes so far.

As a Benedictine monk myself (Prince of Peace Abbey, Oceanside, California), I have been frustrated by the failure of the series to lay out the monastic schedule in a way that makes sense. It's a helter skelter presentation as far as the daily schedule goes. However, the show has a website with a good presentation of the monastic day.

Last week I believe Abbot Philip gave Warren (the Episcopalian) a good response to the challenge that the abbot was not giving the visitors the "theological" underpinnings or the "why" of Christian and monastic discipline and faith-- that the abbot was leading or guiding the men psychologically instead. The abbot answered that since at least two of the men were somewhat skeptical of religious reasoning, he was trying to reach them on the level of their interior experiences of the whole experiment. In my judgment the abbot wanted to use that as a springboard for showing the men a path to possible Christian faith, hope and love.

Two of the men confessed last week that the departure of Alex affected them in a strong emotional way.

Despite the show's lack of explaining much of monastic life, the show nonetheless reveals the personal qualities and attitudes of some of the monks. That's good witness.

The show succeeds in portraying things from the perspective of the visitors.

Now, here's a shocker for me personally. Two Thursday's ago my own abbot told me the show's producer had approached him about having the show done at MY monastery. The producer wanted to live with us for six months first in order to get to know our life before starting a documentary with the five visitors.

I think the choice of the Abbey Christ in the Desert was a much better one than my monastery. There's much more geographical isolation there, and with that greater isolation much more of St. Benedict's vision of monastic separation from the world.

By the way, in the Benedictine order, the Abbey of Christ in the Desert is quite famous and admired. Other monasteries are much larger, have more monks and are older by centuries. However no other monastery has such a setting and that kind of isolation. To get there, you leave a state highway and drive thirteen miles down a dirt road.

Want to read more or make comments?
Click HERE for it.


Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M.Cap.
Preacher to the Papal Household

Homily on the Scriptures for November 19, the Thirty-Third Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year: the End of the World

(A translation offered by

Daniel 12:1-3
Hebrews 10:11-14,18
Mark 13:24-32

The Gospel of the second to last Sunday of the liturgical year is the classic text on the end of the world. There has always been someone who has taken it upon themselves to wave this page of the Gospel in the face of their contemporaries and provoke psychosis and fear. My advice is to be calm and to not let yourself be in the least bit troubled by these visions of catastrophe.

Just read the last line of the same Gospel passage: "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." If neither the angels nor the Son (insofar as he is man and not insofar as he is God) know the day or hour of the end, is it possible that a member of some sect or some religious fanatic would know and be authorized to announce it? In the Gospel Jesus assures us of the fact of his return and the gathering his chosen ones from the "four winds"; the when and the how of his return (on the clouds between the darkening of the sun and the falling of the stars) is part of the figurative language of the literary genre of these discourses.

Another observation might help explain certain pages of the Gospel. When we talk about the end of the world on the basis of the understanding of time that we have today, we immediately think of the absolute end of the world, after which there can be nothing but eternity. But the Bible goes about its reasoning with relative and historical categories more than with absolute and metaphysical ones. Thus, when the Bible speaks of the end of the world, it intends quite often the concrete world, that which in fact exists for and is known by a certain group of people, their world. It is, in sum, the end of a world that is being treated not the end of the world, even if the two perspectives at times intertwine.

Jesus says: "This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place." Is he mistaken? No, it was the world that was known to his hearers that passed away, the Jewish world. It tragically passed away with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. When, in 410, the Vandals sacked Rome, many great figures of the time thought that it was the end of the world. They were not all that wrong; one world did end, the one created by Rome with its empire. In this sense, those who, with the destruction of the twin towers on September 11, 2001, thought of the end of the world, were not mistaken….

None of this diminishes the seriousness of the Christian charge but only deepens it. It would be the greatest foolishness to console oneself by saying that no one knows when the end of the world will be and forgetting that, for any of us, it could be this very night. For this reason Jesus concludes today's Gospel with the recommendation that we "be vigilant because no one knows when the exact moment will be."

We must, I think, completely change the attitude with which we listen to these Gospels that speak of the end of the world and the return of Christ. We must no
longer regard as a punishment and a veiled threat that which the Scriptures call "the blessed hope" of Christians, that is, the return of our Lord Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). The mistaken idea we have of God must be corrected. The recurrent talk about the end of the world which is often engaged in by those with a distorted religious sentiment, has a devastating effect on many people. It reinforces the idea of a God who is always angry, ready to vent his wrath on the world. But this is not the God of the Bible which a psalm describes as "merciful
and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, who will not always accuse or keep his anger forever … because he knows that we are made of dust" (Psalm 103:8-14).

- - - -

Click HERE to read the Church's teaching about the end of history.

One Monk also has posted a homily for the readings of this Sunday.
Click HERE for it.