November 24, 2007

My correspondence with a “theistic Satanist”

Apparently, she was raised Catholic, but says she has always felt an affinity for Satan, and a dislike for God. She holds to her own, personal form of “theistic Satanism.” I won’t explain that. You can look up “theistic Satanism” at

Our correspondence began early this month, but was touched off by a homily that I posted more than a year ago. If you read it and the dialogue that follows it, and you want to make comments, you may do so here at this blogpost only. I won’t allow comments at the homily site from anyone else except myself and the woman concerned.

Again: I will allow your comments here, but not at the homily site

Start by reading the homily.
Click HERE for it.

Astrophel, my second Satanist correspondent

[Note. I began this post on 22 November 2007.]

Dear “Astrophel”:

“fond of stars” or “star-lover”—
from two Greek words:
astron, meaning “star,”
philos, meaning “fond” or “loving.”

In my monastery’s family tree there is an ancient monk, Herman the Cripple, who is thought to have been the composer of a famous invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as “STAR of the Sea.”



Herman lived in the Years of Our Lord 1013-1054 at the monastery of Reichenau Island, Lake Constance. An earlier monk of that monastery, Saint Meinrad, went to be a hermit in what is now Einsiedeln, Switzerland, dying there in 861, and inspiring the foundation of a monastery in the same place in 934. Einsiedeln sent monks in 1854 to Indiana, to start the monastery that is now Saint Meinrad Archabbey. Monks came from the Indiana monastery in 1958 to found my monastery, Prince of Peace Abbey, in the city of Oceanside, California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Our Lady of Einsiedeln statue at my monastery (click image to see bigger)
The monastery of Einsiedeln enshrines a blackened, statue of the Madonna and Child that is nearly six centuries old. My monastery in Oceanside has a copy of that statue enshrined in our abbey church, “Our Lady of Einsiedeln Church.”

Star of the Sea! Star of Oceanside!

The topper is that my monastery is within the same part of Oceanside as Saint Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church.

Again: Star of the Sea, Star of Oceanside!

I believe she played— and prayed— a role in the fact that you, “Starlover,” Astrophel, came to my blog.

At this point you have now received a brief story of my monastic family tree. Elsewhere on my blog, you may find a link to a story of my life and personal monastic calling.

By the way, stephanos (accent on the first syllable) is the Greek word for “crown,” and is the original name of Saint Stephen the First Martyr of Jesus Christ.

Well ... that’s enough of introducing myself.

Yes, “Starlover,” Astrophel, I am willing to correspond with you as I have been doing with “Demensira.”

I want to know if you want me to address you as “Astrophel.” Historically, that is a man’s name; but I suppose a woman might use it. Are you a man or a woman?

What is your personal religious background?

I wonder that you cringed, as you say, to read that Demensira’s Satanist beliefs differ from yours. Why cringe? Are there beliefs that Satanists expect other Satanists to hold? Among Satanists, is there also an accepted Satanist orthodoxy and are there rejected Satanist heresies? Did you cringe because Demensira is evidence of disunity among Satanists?

I ask those questions while saying to myself, “Odd to see a Satanist mindset parallel to Christian religiosity!” However, it is paradoxical to me, because I am ignorant about Satanism. Christianity holds and preaches the “universals” of Truth, Goodness, Beauty, and Unity as attributes of God, while I think of Satanism as opposed to Unity (which in Christ is a gift of the Holy Spirit), Satanism as opposed to Truth (Christ is The Truth, and Satan is the primordial distorter of the Truth), Satanism as opposed to Beauty (created beauty is a reflection of the Glory of God), and Satanism as opposed to Goodness (Demensira even excludes the application of that category in decisions about spiritual well-being). All of that goes on inside my head as I read that you “cringed” over the diversity between your Satanism and Demensira’s. I acknowledge that what is inside my head might not be the same as what’s inside your use of the word “cringed.”

I will impose one restriction on the topics of our dialogue. If I wanted to learn about Satanism in depth and from a Satanist perspective, I would go to a Satanist website or source (or to Catholic sources to learn about Satanism from a Christian perspective). I am here to receive your questions, to give my explanations, to respect your right to disagree, and to receive your explanations as they may be pertinent to our discussion. I am not here— my blog is not here— to enable the wholesale preaching of Satanism, which you are free to do on a blog of your own.

[My other readers! If you'd like to comment, please do so under the blogpost entitled, "My correspondence with a 'theistic Satanist.'" I'm going to restrict my dialogue with Astrophel here to Astrophel and myself.]

The "cross" in American Sign Language

Any Catholic priest already knows that one.

What I find amusing is that on-screen interpreters for the deaf who watch anti-Catholic, fundamentalist television evangelists end up using the same sign that they end up condemning when they condemn Catholic ritual.

We testify on behalf of the Most Holy Trinity and to the saving sacrifice of God the Son while praying in sign language as follows....

Me monk. Me overheard....

... in the dining room of our guests.

Non-Catholic group. Don't know what kind.

Two women. Showing each other their herbal supplements.

Says one, "I take this one just before I sit to meditate, since it's supposed to be good for brain functions."

Me monk, say to myself, "Lady, just drink coffee so you'll stay awake."

Second thought to myself. "Jesus say anything about pills for prayer? Sure would be easier than repentance or charity."

The Pope presents the teachings of Bishop Aphraates about salvation and prayer has made a translation of the message Pope Benedict XVI gave to his general audience on November 21, 2007.

Dear brothers and sisters!

On our journey into the world of the Fathers of the Church, today I would like to guide you toward a little-known area of the universe of faith, namely those territories in which the Churches of Semitic languages, not yet influenced by Greek thought, flourished. Such Churches developed through the fourth century in the Near East, from the Holy Land to Lebanon and Mesopotamia. In that century— which was a period of clerical and literary growth— the ascetic-monastic phenomenon was developed with autochthonous characteristics, which did not come under the influence of Egyptian monasticism. Hence the Syriac communities of the fourth century represent the Semitic world from which the Bible itself evolved. They are an expression of a Christianity whose theological formulation had not yet come into contact with other cultural currents, but rather lived thinking their own way. These are Churches in which asceticism in its various hermitic forms (hermits in the desert, in caverns, recluses, stylites), and monasticism in the form of community life, play a vital role in the development of theological and spiritual thought.

I would like to introduce this world through Aphraates, also known as "the wise one." He was one of the most important and enigmatic characters of fourth-century Syriac Christianity. He lived in the first half of the fourth century and was a native of the Nineveh-Mosul region— today's Iraq.

We have little information about his life; he had strong ties with the ascetic-monastic environment of the Syriac Church, on which he reflected a great deal in his work. According to some sources, he was the head of a monastery, and later ordained a bishop. He wrote 23 speeches known as Expositions or Demonstrations, in which he discusses different topics of Christian life, such as faith, love, fasting, humility, prayer, ascetic life, and also the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, and between the Old and New Testaments. He writes in a simple style, with short sentences and at times contrasting parallelisms; nevertheless he manages to make consistent speeches by developing articulated arguments.

Aphraates came from a clerical community halfway between Judaism and Christianity. The community was very closely linked to the Mother Church of Jerusalem, and its bishops were traditionally chosen among what were called James' "relatives," the "Lord's brother" (cf. Mark 6:3). These people were connected to the Church of Jerusalem by blood and faith.

Aphraates spoke Syriac, a Semitic language like the Hebrew of the Old Testament and like the Aramaic spoken by Jesus himself. The ecclesial community in which Aphraates lived wanted to stay faithful to the Judeo-Christian tradition, of which it felt it was a daughter. Therefore it maintained a close relationship with the Jewish world and its sacred books.

Significantly Aphraates defines himself as a "disciple of sacred Scripture," of both the Old and New Testaments (Exposition 22,26), which he considered his sole source of inspiration, and so often mentioned it that it became the center of his reflections.

Aphraates develops different arguments in his Expositions. True to his Syriac tradition, he often presents Christ's salvation as a type of healing and consequently, Christ as a doctor. In keeping with this, sin is seen as a wound, which penance alone can heal: "A man that has been injured in battle," says Aphraates, "is not ashamed to put himself in the hands of a doctor.... Equally so, he who has been injured by Satan should not be ashamed to admit his fault and to distance himself from it, asking for the medicine of penance" (Exposition 7,3).

Another important aspect of Aphraates' work is his teaching on prayer, and particularly on Christ as the master of prayer. The Christian prays following Jesus' teaching and the example he has set us: "Our Savior taught us to pray saying: 'Pray in the secret of the one who is hidden, but who sees everything.'" And again: "Enter your room, pray to your Father in secret, and the Father who sees this will reward you" (Matthew 6:6). Our Savior wants to show that God knows the desires and thoughts of the heart" (Exposition 4,10).

To Aphraates, Christian life is centered on the imitation of Christ, taking up his yoke, following him on the path of the Gospel. Humility is one of the most apt virtues in a disciple of Christ. It is not a secondary consideration in the spiritual life of a Christian: Man's nature is humble, and God exalts it to his own glory. Humility, Aphraates states, is not a negative value: "If man's root is planted in the earth, his fruits ascend before the Lord of greatness" (Exposition 9,14). By remaining humble, even in his earthly surroundings, a Christian can establish a relationship with the Lord: "The humble man is humble, but his heart rises to the uppermost heights. The eyes of his face observe the earth, but the eyes of his mind observe the highest summit" (Exposition 9,2).

Aphraates's vision of man and his physical reality is a very positive one. The human body, in the example of the humble Christ, is called to beauty, joy and light: "God is attracted to the man who loves, it is right to love humility and to stay humble. Humble individuals are simple, patient, loving, honest, righteous, experts in what is good, prudent, serene, wise, calm, peaceful, merciful, ready to convert, benevolent, profound, thoughtful, beautiful and attractive" (Exposition 9,14).

Often in Aphraates' teachings, Christian life is presented in a clear ascetic and spiritual dimension. Faith is its base, its foundation; it makes of man a temple where Christ himself lives. Faith therefore enables a true charity that is expressed in the love toward God and toward one's neighbor.

Another important aspect in Aphraates' thought is that of fasting, understood in its widest sense. He speaks of fasting from food as a practice that is necessary to be charitable and pure; of fasting in the sense of self-discipline with a view to sanctity; of fasting from vain and loathsome words; of fasting from anger; of fasting from owning goods in the context of the priestly ministry; of fasting from sleep to pray.

Dear brothers and sisters, to conclude, we return again to Aphraates' teaching on prayer. According to this ancient sage, prayer is achieved when Christ dwells in the heart of Christians, inviting them to a coherent commitment of charity toward their brethren. He writes:

"Give relief to those in distress, visit the ailing,
Be solicitous to the poor: this is prayer.
Prayer is good, and its works are beautiful.
Prayer is accepted when it gives relief to your neighbor.
Prayer is heard when it includes the forgiveness of sins.
Prayer is strong when it is full of God's strength" (Exposition 4,14-16).

With these words Aphraates invites us to join in a prayer that becomes Christian life, a life that comes to fruition, infused by faith, by openness to God and, as such, by the love for one's neighbor.

November 23, 2007

Don't become a wailing wall!

My homily for today.
Click HERE for it.

November 21, 2007

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

Today it is not my turn to preach in the monastery at Mass. So, rather than compose a new homily, I've reposted mine from this memorial last year.
Click HERE for it.

Oldest prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary

The prayer we call by its first words— “Hail, Mary”— actually has two halves. The first half combines two greetings to Mary that appear in the holy Gospel according to Luke: the greeting from St. Gabriel the Archangel and a form of the greeting from St. Elizabeth.

Those two greetings are not “petitions,” that is, they do not ask for anything.

The second half of the prayer (the half that is actually a prayer of petition) was added much later.
The oldest known actual prayer addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary goes back to before A.D. 300, the Sub tuum praesidium.
We fly to your patronage,
O holy Mother of God.
Despise not our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us from all dangers,
O ever-glorious and blessed Virgin.

November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving! Count your blessings!

Bless others who need blessings!

You can relieve the suffering of others.

Visit the website of Catholic Relief Services, where you can find out about the different means for donating.

Click HERE for it.

I wonder if my fellow monks would be willing to do it on YouTube

Remember the “Dr. Pepper” song in the commercials?

I’m a Pepper.
He’s a Pepper.
Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?
Dr. Pepper!
Drink Dr. Pepper!
Dr. Pepper!
Drink Dr. Pepper!

Here’s my Benedictine version.

I’m a Benny.
He’s a Benny.
Wouldn’t you like to be a Benny, too?
Be a Benedictine!
Be a Benedictine!

Now ... wasn’t there a dance routine that went with that melody?

It would make for an interesting vocation video. Maybe even go viral.

He’s “Mr. Conjunction Catholic”

He comes to our weekday Masses.
His voice is high-pitched enough to be mistaken for a woman’s, plus just loud enough to be heard over everyone else.
He begins every spoken response at Mass with a lengthened version of the word “and.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
aaand Amen.

Lord, have mercy.
aaand Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
aaand Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
aaand Lord, have mercy.

The word of the Lord.
aaand Thanks be to God.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
aaand Glory to you, Lord.

The Gospel of the Lord.
aaand Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

... we pray to the Lord.
aaand Lord, hear our prayer.

... it will become for us the bread of life.
aaand Blessed be God for ever.

... it will become for us our spiritual drink.
aaand Blessed be God for ever.

Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God the Almighty Father.
aaand May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands....

Lift up your hearts.
aaand We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
aaand It is right to give him thanks and praise.

... as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.
aaand For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours....

.... Happy are those who are called to his supper.
aand Lord, I am not worthy to receive you....

The Body of Christ.
aaand Amen.

The Blood of Christ.
aaand Amen.


... aaand I’d like to kick him in the if-aaand-or-but.

November 18, 2007

“Secular institute” members make vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience...

... but they are “secular,” rather than “religious” order members.

That’s one way of putting it.

Last Friday, I traveled north from my monastery in San Diego County, through Orange County, to West Covina in Los Angeles County. There I spoke at a day of prayer in the house of a secular institute called “Father Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata.”

Catholics rarely meet members of secular institutes, so I thought it would be interesting to post something on my blog about them.

Here are only a few of the Church’s canonical regulations for secular institutes.
Canon 207— §2. ... there exist Christian faithful who are consecrated to God in their own special manner and serve the salvific mission of the Church through the profession of the evangelical counsels by means of vows or other sacred bonds recognized and sanctioned by the Church....

The evangelical counsels are: poverty, celibacy, obedience.
Canon 710— A secular institute of consecrated life in which the Christian faithful living in the world strive for the perfection of charity and work for the sanctification of the world especially from within.

Canon 714— Members are to lead their life according to the norm of the constitutions, in the ordinary conditions of the world, either alone or each in their respective families, or in a group of brothers or sisters.

Each secular institute has its own normative constitutional laws. In some secular institutes, members may hold ordinary “secular” jobs; in others, the members may be employed only in specifically Church-oriented or Church administered works. Members of a secular institute might live with each other in groups, they might each live alone, or they might each live with members of their respective families of origin.

Since they are “secular,” the Church does not direct the members of secular institutes to wear a habit. Whereas the members of some religious orders choose to wear no habit at all— despite the Church directing religious to wear a habit— the intentional lack of a habit in secular institutes is not a sign of choosing to contradict the Church. In fact, secular institutes represent and live out great fidelity to the teachings and leadership of the Church.

The women’s secular institute “Father Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata” (FKMI) started in Italy. They are now in several countries around the world. Their mission in West Covina is the only one so far in the United States, and has six women currently stationed there.

All FKMI members aim collectively and personally to live the fullness of their baptismal consecration, strive for holiness, and promote the knowledge and veneration of Mary in order to realize a Marian and missionary presence in the Church and the world.

No matter what other apostolic works the FKMI happen to do, the center of their service to the others in the Church is to call and form them towards personal consecration to Mary the Immaculate as a path for the servants of Jesus. At Cana in the Gospel, Mary was instrumental in the inauguration of the faith of the disciples of Jesus by her telling the servants of her son, “Do whatever he tells you!”

So, in addition to promoting personal consecration to the Immaculate, the West Covina house of the FKMI also:
+ collaborates with the local parish church in preparing teenagers for the sacrament of confirmation;
+ organizes retreats for younger adults, older adults, married couples;
+ puts on camps for teen girls and for teen boys;
+ presents family programs and events;
+ provides study and formation in spirituality;
+ sponsors pilgrimages;

The FKMI secular institute has an Italian-language website, with links to versions of their information in other languages. (However, I found that the English-language page is not presently working.)

I am sure their West Covina mission house would be happy to answer any questions or send you more information if you sent them an e-mail at the following address.Their other contact information:

Father Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata
531 E. Merced Ave.
W. Covina, CA 91790
Telephone (626) 917-0040

There's a religious life webpage out there with more vocational information on the FKMI, including a photo of the West Covina members standing in front of the gatehouse of my monastery.
Click HERE for it.