November 10, 2007

Bifocals Build Better Benedictine Behavior

My new bifocal eyeglasses are stronger than my previous ones.

The upper parts of the lenses help me see clearly things in the distance.
The lower parts of the lenses help my eyes focus more sharply when reading.

When walking, if I want to focus on the ground close in front of me, I must be careful not to focus merely my eyes alone on the ground, because then I would be looking through the lower parts of the lenses, and the result would be blurred.
Rather, I must actually BOW MY HEAD enough so that I am looking through the upper parts of the lenses, and then the ground close in front of me appears clearly.

If I want to look farther ahead of me, or into the distance, I must look through the upper parts of the lenses.
However, if I raise my head (as is natural when wanting to look into the distance), I must be careful not to raise it too high, because then I would be looking through the lower parts of the lenses, and distant things would be blurred.
Instead, to look into the distance I must keep my head either level or only barely BOWED DOWNWARDS so that I am looking through the upper parts of the lenses and thus able to see clearly into the distance.

Thus, my bifocal eyeglasses help me to put into practice what Saint Benedict teaches monks about humility.
The twelfth step of humility
is that a monk always manifests humility
in his bearing no less than in his heart,
so that it is evident at the Work of God,
in the oratory,
the monastery or the garden,
on a journey or in the field,
or anywhere else.
Whether he sits,
walks or stands,
PSALM 130:1
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

Not without bifocals to force the issue on this overly proud monk!

November 09, 2007

November 9 is the Feast of the Anniversary of the Dedication of the Pope's Cathedral

It is not St. Peter's Basilica.
Rather, it is the Lateran Basilica, whose full formal title is:
Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist at the Lateran.
Just as a Christian may receive a saint's name, but is baptized in the NAME of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, so a church may receive a saint's name, but is dedicated to GOD.
The anniversary of the dedication of a church is liturgically a feast of the Lord.
The Church is the Body of Christ, and the physical church building is an architectural sign and presence of Christ.
For that reason the walls of a church are chrismated, anointed with Sacred Chrism-- "christed"-- like an altar and a priest.
That is why November 9 is always observed as the Feast of the Dedication of St. John-- "day of the Lord"-- even when it falls on a Sunday.

Pope Benedict XVI on the papal cathedra ("chair") at the Papal Cathedral of St. John Lateran

The pope's cathedra (click on this photo to see a full-screen version of it)

November 08, 2007

The Benedictine nuns of the Abbey of Saint Walburga in Colorado

They have a website AND A BLOG (!).
Click HERE for it.

"I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin."

That is the conclusion of one particular traditional version of an act of contrition.

In the confessional from time to time, I've noticed that some persons insert the word "try" in that prayer,
as in:
"I firmly resolve,
with the help of thy grace,
to TRY to sin no more
and to avoid the near occasion of sin."

What would happen if a groom or bride inserted the word "try" into the wedding vows?
"I promise to TRY to be true to you...."

Don't TRY it on God!

Either resolve not to sin again or not!

Do, or do not!
There is no "try."

November 07, 2007

The only Roman Catholic convent in Romania is a monastery of Benedictine nuns

From, November 6, 2007

Lone Catholic Convent Finds Its Place in Romania
Benedictine Religious Praying for Unity

A small bell, a gift from Pope John Paul II, marks the passing of time in the first Catholic convent in the territory of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Mater Unitatis houses cloistered women religious in the town of Piatra Neant.

The bell was given to the Polish Pontiff in 2000 by the president of Hungary. It is a replica of the same bell that Pope Pius V ordered to be rung in thanksgiving to the Virgin Mary on Oct. 7, 1571, after the victory of Lepanto.

More than four centuries later, the tolling of that bell again marked a decisive moment for Christianity. The Benedictine monastery was dedicated last month, also on Oct. 7.

The project of establishing the convent began in 1994. Bishop Petru Gherghel of Iasi, Romania, visited Mother Maria Cristina Pirro at St. Andrew the Apostle in Frosinone, Italy, telling her of his desire to be able to build in Romania a convent as beautiful as hers.

"Although we are very poor," Mother Cristina told ZENIT, "it has been these Italian nuns who have permitted this dream to come true. Thanks goes also to the regent of the prefecture of the Pontifical Household, Monsignor Paolo De Nicolo, and so many benefactors, above all Italian, who have believed in the cloistered nuns' project."

Ready to sacrifice

The abbess related how the nuns asked Our Lady of Loreto to intercede. "You know that we have received an invitation to found a monastery," she said they told Mary, "but you know also that we have neither youth, nor money to build it. We are nevertheless willing to make whatever sacrifice, and if you want this monastery, you will obtain vocations and money."

Thirteen years later, the convent was founded. It is set among three Orthodox monasteries. "We saw there the hand of providence," confessed the woman religious.

John Paul II spoke of the project as "a providential initiative," predicting that the monastery could be converted into a "central force of spiritual liveliness, according to the spirit of St. Benedict."


The nuns ran risks, such as when they had to pay for the land and construction of the monastery. On June 30, 1997, Mother Cristina entered Romania carrying the money necessary to complete the negotiation.

If she had been stopped upon entering Romania, she said, officials would have taken everything. "Today, I would have made a transfer, but then, there was no bank to turn to," the nun explained. "On crossing the border station, I entrusted myself to Jesus, to the Mother of Unity, to my guardian angel and to all the saints and souls in purgatory."

Everything went well, but other problems arose. "Because of the instability of the Romanian government, we feared that they would not give Catholic nuns, and especially foreigners, permission to build the monastery in the Orthodox country," Mother Cristina said.

She added: "They advised me then not to speak of the project. The story circulated that the parish acquired land to build a retreat house for priests."

"But since the taxes were very high, they suggested we explain the purpose of the building. The Orthodox monasteries paid little or almost nothing. We informed the bishop, who chose a new name: Monastic Center 'Mother of Unity,' to which the government even gave juridical status in 2002."

Future unity

Today, everyone knows that the monastery is Benedictine and called "Mater Unitatis." Even more, the city council, after the first solemn religious profession of Sr. Maria Lauretana Balasin in 2003, planted a road sign directing to the convent with the title in Romanian "Maica Unitatii."

Above this, another arrow points to the nearby Orthodox monastery of Bisericani. "In this coincidence?" Mother Cristina asked with a smile. "We see prefigured in it the union that will be brought about one day between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches."

In the diocese of San Diego, November 7 is the feast of St. Diego

I've posted a homily for the occasion.
Click HERE for it.