Saturday, July 11, 2020


I am amazed at the number of people out there who are not heeding medical advice and common sense.  They need to read, which I am beginning to think some Americans incapable of!  People these days walk & ride bikes right through our enclosure property- with large signs  warning private- no entrance! 

July 10, 2020 -- Wearing a facial covering not only curbs the spread of the coronavirus but reduces a mask wearer's risk of catching the virus by 65%, said Dean Blumberg, MD, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children's Hospital.

Whitney Potter- WA State
Blumberg, speaking on a college livestream about the coronavirus, said that a “standard rectangular surgical mask ... will decrease the risk of infection to the person wearing the mask by about 65%” and that homemade masks also “should work quite well.”

N95 masks are the most effective but should be reserved for medical personnel, he added.
The masks mainly provide a physical barrier to respiratory droplets that are about one-third the size of a human hair, he said. Those drops are one of the major ways the virus is transmitted.

“People who say 'I don't believe masks work' are ignoring scientific evidence,” Blumberg said. “It's not a belief system. It's like saying, 'I don't believe in gravity.'

You're being an irresponsible member of the community if you're not wearing a mask. It's like double-dipping in the guacamole. You're not being nice to others.”

But even surgical masks are not airtight enough to create an effective barrier against much smaller aerosol particles, which are about 1/100th the size of a human hair, he said. The best defense against aerosol particles is social distancing and interacting with people outdoors.

“Studies in laboratory conditions now show the virus stays alive in aerosol form with a half-life on the scale of hours. It persists in the air,” said William Ristenpart, PhD, a professor of chemical engineering at UC Davis. “That's why you want to be outdoors for any social situations if possible.”
Enclosed places like bars are especially troublesome, he said, because “The louder you speak, the more expiatory aerosols you put out.”

Blumberg said scientists' opinions about the effectiveness of masks has evolved since the pandemic began months ago.

Although more states and cities are issuing mask mandates as cases continue to surge in the U.S., the issue remains controversial. Wearing them was not universally recommended during the early days of the pandemic, partly to ensure health care workers had enough protective gear while shortages existed.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020


When we speak of art, often it is only the visual arts, and we forget that music is one of our greatest arts.  I wanted to find out a bit more about the Norwegian composer OLA GJEILO (pron. Yay-lo), whose work Ubi Caritas is sung by King's Return-  see previous Blog.  He is one of several who are writing good sacred music in our day. It’s refreshing to find that real art still exists.   

On his embrace of choral music, Ola says, “I can’t quite explain why, but I’ve always gravitated toward choral music. One of the things that I love about the choral world is it’s very warm. There’s a lot of heart.”

He was born in Skui, Norway on May 5, 1978, to parents who loved music, everything from classical to jazz, pop and folk music. They certainly encouraged his talents from an early age.  He began playing piano and composing when he was five years old and learned to read music when he was seven years old. He studied classical composition with Wolfgang Plagge, another well known Norwegian composer. 

In his undergraduate career, Ola studied at the Norwegian Academy of Music (1999–2001), transferring to the Juilliard School (2001) in New York. He also studied film music at the University of S. California, inspired by the improvisational art of film composer, Thomas Newman (The PlayerThe Shawshank RedemptionThe Green MileFinding NemoWALL-E, the James Bond films SkyfallSpectre, and the war film 1917.)

This followed  studies at the Royal College of Music, London (2002–2004) where he received a bachelor's degree in composition. He continued his education at Juilliard (2004–06) where he received his master's degree in 2006, also in composition. From 2009–10, Ola was composer-in-residence for Phoenix Chorale.

He lives in Manhattan, working as a freelance composer. He is currently composer-in-residence with DCINY and Albany Pro Musica.

He is one of the most frequently performed composers in the choral world. An accomplished pianist, improvisations over his own published choral pieces have become a trademark of his collaborations. It is perhaps Ola’s adopted country of America that has influenced  his distinctive soundworld the most, evolving a style that is often described as cinematic and evocative, with a lush, harmonious sound. In an interview he mentioned being influenced by Brahm's  Requiem and that his favorite composer is Rachmaninoff (who is also mine) being blown away when he first heard the 2nd Piano Concerto.

“I always wanted my music to be uplifting in some sense, even if the music is sad or dramatic. The goal for me is always that the listeners come out of it feeling more inspired and uplifted than before; that when there’s a lot of conflict, even anguish in the music, there’s still a resolution at the end of it – something that transcends the conflict. I think that’s what we generally want in all areas of life; in war, relationships, everything. If there’s conflict, we want resolution. We want there to be peace, and that’s how I feel about music too. I want it to inspire harmony.”

An example of how the arts can be interwoven, Ola says glass artist Dale Chihuly  (of Seattle) and architect Frank Gehry had a great influence on his work. I advise you to go to Youtube and listen to his work. His music inspires- prayer indeed in these times of need! 

His LUMINOUS NIGHT OF THE SOUL is a masterpiece: " The Central Washington University Chamber Choir (Gary Weidenaar, director) joined by Ola Gjeilo on the piano and the Kairos String Quartet (comprised of CWU string faculty).

Long before music was sung by a choir,
Long before silver was shaped in the fire,
Long before poets inspired the heart,
You were the Spirit of all that is art.

You give the potter the feel of the clay;
You give the actor the right part to play;
You give the author a story to tell;
You are the prayer in the sound of a bell.

Praise to all lovers who feel your desire!
Praise to all music which soars to inspire!
Praise to the wonders of Thy artistry
Our Divine Spirit, all glory to Thee.
            (Charles Anthony Silvestri)

O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.
                        (St. John of the Cross)

Monday, July 6, 2020


I recently came across KINGS  RETURN, an a cappella (sung without instrumental accompaniment) vocal group rooted in Gospel, jazz, R&B and classical music, singing  the classical Latin piece Ubi Caritas. Sung from the heart of an ordinary stairwell, the choral acoustic perfection has wowed many on Youtube.

This group describe themselves as “a vocal band of brothers formed in 2016 from pre-existing friendships.” They further explain that their band’s name “reminds us to be our brother’s keeper and to pay homage to our King, Jesus, who has Himself promised to return.” 

The 8th-century antiphon, sung on Holy Thursday during the washing of feet, was arranged by the modern Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, who currently resides in Manhattan, working as a freelance composer.

Translated, the piece sends a powerful message, one apt for our  country's present racial unrest: Where charity and love are, God is there. Christ’s love has gathered us into one. Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him. Let us fear, and let us love the living God. And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

If only we all could “sing” this from the depth of our American hearts!

Sunday, July 5, 2020



Kathe Kollwitz

"In our present day, it can be easy to conclude from the various crises taking place around the world, all the injustice and political unrest, the rampant poverty and environmental threats, persecution and killings, diseases and displacements, that art and beauty are mere luxury. It could even make some feel that to focus on art and beauty is insensitive or shortsighted. However, I want to suggest that it’s precisely because of these desperate situations that the artist is called upon to beautify the world with art and engage these issues from a vantage point of hope.

The desperate situation in our world calls for the artist to emerge as a prophetic voice for change and to offer heaven’s alternatives. I’m reminded of the example of Iraqi cellist Karim Wasfi, who countered the tragedy of war by playing music at the sites of car-bomb explosions, with smoldering buildings in the background of his concertos. Wasfi said, “The other side chose to turn every element, every aspect of life in Iraq into a battle and into a war zone. I chose to turn every corner of Iraq into a spot for civility, beauty, and compassion.”
This is the call of the artist in collaboration with God: we are called to be the architects of hope and to counter the destruction of life with the opposite spirit in beauty and creativity."
                                                Stephen Roach , founder of The Breath & the Clay, a creative arts community                                                                        exploring the intersections of art, faith & culture.

Let’s face it, the coronavirus pandemic, with the continuing rise in cases and deaths, has shaken us to the core. My friends call, people I do not know email or write for prayers, just to reach out or be comforted.

Chinmaya Br- India
In these times of uncertainty, art can be a steadying force. When a work of beauty, be it a poem, a painting, a piece of music, or a great novel , we are reminded of the ability to create in the midst of crises and suffering. It is said that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague.

The creative arts sustain our spirit as we make sense of what’s happened and try to find our footing again in these troubled times, as we are moved inward, to the space of our thoughts and imagination, a place we have perhaps neglected. Of all the necessities we now feel so keenly aware of, the arts and their contribution to our well-being is evident and, in some ways, central to those of us locked in at home.

 Why art in these times? Aren’t there more important things to consider and reflect upon? Art allows us to examine what it means to be human for it is eternal.  It allows us to give expression to our thoughts and feelings, be it from suffering or from joy.  Art helps us process trauma, express difficult feelings, and work through experiences. Through art, we feel deep emotions together and are able to process experiences, find connections, and create an impact on the culture and society.

Louis Betts- USA- 19th C.
Art educates and inspires, and prompts our imagination to assess things and circumstances in a new and alternative light. Art can destroy barriers that divide people and can identify serious issues that we must address, both individually and collectively. It empowers us to see beyond that which may erode our growth and creative core. I think of all the graffiti which springs up in all our cities, especially in times of unrest.

Clement Tsang- Hong Kong
Art of any kind be it visual arts or the written word, or music, reminds us that we are not alone and that we share a universal human experience. During this dread virus we have had examples of opera singers sharing their gift to their neighbors from their balconies, or groups getting together across the world via zoom (or whatever).  

Art has been  proven to reduce stress. There are countless studies showing the physical and mental benefits of making art and studying art be it writing, composing or painting.  So get busy and write that opus which will change the world!

Friday, July 3, 2020


James Thomas

It has never been easy to live a Eucharistic life. When Jesus first proclaimed this mystery to his disciples, some were scandalized: “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6:66). The time we live in poses special challenges to faith. We live in a culture that has largely forgotten God. Faith is often presented as a dusty relic of a bygone day, and the Church as just one more flawed human institution.     Archbishop Paul Etienne- Seattle

Our Archbishop's document on the Eucharist was written well before the civil unrest and outright damning racism in our area as well as across America. So much of this comes out of fear and ignorance and a lack of faith. I always say where there is no faith there is fear!.

On the feast of Corpus Christi this year, the Holy father wrote:

“He comes as Bread broken in order to break open the shells of our selfishness. He gives of Himself in order to teach us that only by opening our hearts can we be set free from our interior barriers, from the paralysis of the heart.”

“God knows how difficult it is, He knows how weak our memory is … He did not just leave us words, for it is easy to forget what we hear. He did not just leave us the Scriptures, for it is easy to forget what we read. He did not just leave us signs, for we can forget even what we see. He gave us Food, for it is not easy to forget something we have actually tasted. He left us Bread in which He is truly present, alive and true, with all the flavor of his love.”

If only we truly believed, our fears would abate, and we would be left with love for all. For the “ strength of the Eucharist,  transforms us into bringers of God, bringers of joy, not negativity,”   God grant us faith!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020


One of the more shocking stories of 2019, was a survey from the Pew Research Center showing that only 28% of American Catholics know and believe the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, that Christ is truly present. 

But there are some who knew with such certainty that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament that they faced danger to be with Him, and there are those who died rather than let the Blessed Sacrament fall into the wrong hands.  As we consider the Eucharist through the summer of lock-down in many areas of our world, I am reminded of some modern day martyrs who had great devotion to the Eucharist.

Our first is a priest who could have been asked, “Are you happiest at Mass?” FATHER JACQUES HAMEL certainly was. And that is where he died. 

On July 26, 2016, two men armed with knives burst into Saint-√Čtienne-du-Rouvray parish in Rouen, France. There, Father Jacques Hamel, 86, who had been a priest for 58 years, was celebrating Mass, which he called “the essential element” of his every day. His sister said her brother “was transformed at the moment of consecration … the more he aged, the more it was the passion of Christ that he lived.” Terrorists burst into Mass one Thursday morning promising to “do away with” all Christians. They drove the old priest to his knees and slit his throat at the altar, shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

Amazingly enough, Father Hamel had worked to better relations with the Muslim Community. With local imam, Mohammed Karabila, the president of Normandy's regional council of Muslims, Father Hamel worked since early 2015 on an interfaith committee. After the priest's death, Karabila described him as his friend with whom he had discussed religion and as also someone who gave his life for others.

Calls to make him a saint started soon after his death. The canonization cause was officially opened at diocesan level in April 2017, after Pope Francis had waived the otherwise mandatory five-year waiting period for the opening of such causes. The beatification of a martyr does not require a miracle because martyrdom is already testifying to a special help received from God.

When a fellow priest told  the octogenarian to retire, he replied, “I will work until my last breath…there are not enough priests.”

In a letter to parishioners just weeks before he died, Father Hamel wrote, “May we hear … God’s invitation to take care of this world to make it, where we live , warmer, more human, more fraternal.”  Very fitting for our own country today with all the bitter fighting.

Sunday, June 28, 2020


Mother Miriam in back, with Mother Prisca & Mother Prioress Therese

Mother Miriam Benedict, one of the  foundresses of Our Lady of the Rock died Friday in Italy.  She had been the postulant mistress (newcomers into a monastery) at our Abbey in Connecticut. She had a fun-loving spirit yet was known for her love of the Office.

She came to Shaw in 1977 for the new foundation with Mother Therese and Mother Prisca.  Mother’s great loves were her sheep and cooking, as well as meeting the many guests who came. After 30 years she is still remembered to old timers on Shaw.  As Mother left,  I came west to take over the sheep and cooking and guests. 

Monastery of San Vincenzo al Volturno
In the late 80s, our Abbey was asked by the Vatican to make a foundation in Italy. The Abbey of Monte Cassino gave us one of their unused monasteries, some miles from their lands. Mother Miriam and Mother Agnes spent a year in Perugia  learning the language. Mother Philip later joined them.  The foundation attracted many guests, especially musicians and archeologists who came for the newly discovered frescoes- the oldest in that part of Europe. After  30 years, and no vocations and the death of both Mothers Agnes and Philip, Mother Miriam, now blind and in frail health, left for the Benedictine monastery, of St. Scholastica which has gently and lovingly cared or her.  She asked to be buried at Monte Cassino.

This morning at Mass, our Subprioress,  Mother Noella, offered this prayer:

For the repose of the soul of Mother Miriam Benedict for whom this Mass is offered. As her journey throughout monastic life began at Regina Laudis when she was 17, led her to the Northwest as co-foundress of Our Lady of the Rock, to San Vincenzo al Volturno in Italy and finally to the Abbey of Santa Scholastica in Montecassino - that from her new place in the Communion of Saints she may intercede for Mother Prioress Therese and Our Lady of the Rock for the future of monastic life here, and in the words of Saint John Paul II whom she so loved: “Let us remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm, and look forward to the future with confidence.”    Let us pray to the Lord

Saturday, June 27, 2020


When I lived in Hawaii (Oahu)  fifty years ago, my pastor in Manoa Valley, was MSGR. CHARLES KEKUMANO. Not only was he my pastor, but we soon became friends, especially when he knew I had a religious vocation.  He was born in 1919 in Kona on the  Big Island of Hawai‘i. Educated at Saint Louis High School in Honolulu, he studied for the priesthood and was ordained for the Diocese of Honolulu. He earned a doctorate in Canon law from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and was appointed chancellor of the Honolulu diocese, secretary to Bishop James Joseph Sweeney, and later rector of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.

In 1961 he was named an honorary chaplain of the Papal household, with the title of Monsignor, by (St.) John XXIII, the first native Hawaiian to hold such an honor.

Shortly after Father Joseph Anthony Ferrario became bishop, Msgr. Kekumano left the diocese of Honolulu, to work in the diocese of Juneau. He retired in 1984 and returned to Honolulu. He was involved in many civic organizations, including the American Red Cross, the Duke Kahanamoku Foundation, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, and the Hawaiian Civic Club of Honolulu. He also served on the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, the Honolulu Police Commission, the Maui Charter Commission, and the Hawaii Commission on Children and Youth.

He was proud of his Hawaiian heritage and left a lasting impression in the islands.

In 1997 he was co-author of the essay "Broken Trust" which criticized Kamehameha Schools, the largest private landowner in Hawaii, resulting in their reorganization. He died of cancer on January 18, 1998 in St. Francis Hospice in Honolulu, at the age of 78.

The former president of Punahou School in Oahu, said: "He was a man of such marvelous integrity and willingness to step forward on the issues of the day, including, of course, the recent Bishop Estate controversy.

With Hubert Humphrey
Walter Dods Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of First Hawaiian Bank and one of three trustees of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust wrote, "His strong sense of the value of family and community, his courage, his down-to-earth and accessible nature and his ever-present humor will be forever a part of the legacy of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust.  Monsignor's deep and abiding understanding of his Hawaiian heritage sets an outstanding example for all of us and especially the beneficiaries and the staff of the trust."

"Broken Trust" co-author Randy Roth said  when  Msgr. Kekumano's cancer was announced that everyone should have a hero and Kekumano was one of his. "He's someone I admire greatly, and I hope someday I'll have one-tenth the wisdom and graciousness he has." 

Even today there are scholarships in his honor, namely The Kekumano Award & Scholarship which celebrates and perpetuates the spirit of service to others and giving back to the community. It was established in memory of Monsignor Charles A. Kekumano’s selfless contributions to the islands.

In his own words:  I was born in Kona, actually on the shores of Kealakekua Bay, and the old family home was directly across from the Captain Cook monument. I should not have been born there because the family had moved to Honolulu, but my grandfather had this notion that his grandchild should be born at the old place and those were the days of the interisland ships, the little things that went from island to island--obviously very rough in the channels. Anyway, my mother and I were carted over there so that I could be born at the old place. The only one living in the old house at the time was my great-grandmother, who was then almost ninety, and I was born there with those two ladies. My mother had been very sickly and, at that time, became much more sickly. Consequently, the word came back to Honolulu that she was not doing well, so my grandmother came over and brought me back to Honolulu. I was then two weeks old. …

The interesting aspect is that my grandfather, of course, was full-blooded Hawaiian with a tremendous respect for everything that was Hawaiian. I remember, for example, when I was five years old, my cousins and I, all of his grandchildren, were taken to Kona to visit my great-grandmother and we were schooled before we left Honolulu by him as to how to address her in Hawaiian. So we learned these expressions in Hawaiian, to speak to her very politely and how you said it to your grandmother and how you said it with respect. 

Very early in my life I picked up a deep respect for not only the Hawaiian words, but the way you used them and the differences of your speaking to someone who's of the family, someone your own age, someone who has earned or deserves respect and so forth. My grandmother, step-grandmother, was part-Hawaiian. She also had German and Spanish in her. She raised me from then on. My mother never completely recovered and I saw her only a few times. I always saw her in bed. I was only allowed to come in and I was held up in mid-air over the bed and, "Say hello' to your mother.”

With Bishop Scanlan
As I knew him, he was a gentle priest driven by his love for the Hawaiian people and had the ability to work out differences that were seemingly unsolvable. He had a love for the Church and did all he could to further the love of Christ among his people. At the time, there was talk that he could be the first Hawaiian born bishop, but he  was too controversial in his politics- something like Jesus Himself!

Thursday, June 25, 2020


I try to stay away from politics and very controversial topics in this Blog but there are certain things that infuriate me and one is the mess in our own country right now.  Things are so bad that even Europe is thinking of banning Americans from travel to their countries! And I can’t blame them.  To have a pandemic that has killed over  125,00  Americans  (490,000 world-wide) is one thing, but this relentless violence is another thing- against each other and against our history.  We are getting as bad as the Russians some years ago (and God knows how many other nations) which try to eradicate and hide their past.  No nation has been free from violence, corruption and terrible wrongs against their neighbors. It all started with Adam and Eve's sons!
Apocalypse- Viktor Vasnetsov Russian

To topple statues is trying to do away with our past.  Has it been perfect?  No.  I found out just 4 years ago that my ancestors, who were some of the founding families of Texas- and have monuments to themselves-  were slave owners, and fought on the “wrong” side of the civil war.  Does that make me a bad person here and now?  I can’t judge what happened 150 years ago, but I would hope I can learn from their past mistakes. 

My Scottish ancestors, which I can trace over 1000 years ago, were some ruthless characters- again can I judge and be guilty, when I do not know the circumstances?

Years ago when I lived in Germany, there was an exhibition of,  now St. Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, in the Cologne Carmel convent. I was of course shocked by the photos- very graphic- of the ovens at Auschwitz, of the people who survived, etc.  And I remember turning to another young German woman and saying, “how can you remember this” - it was 25 years after the war.  She replied, “the day we forget, is the day it starts again.”
Auschwitz Museum
As rioters across the United States target statues depicting historical figures, the Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin on Tuesday denounced that destruction, along with calls to destroy some depictions of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“Should certain statues be placed in museums or storage? Perhaps. Should we let a group of vandals make those decisions for us? No,” Bishop Donald Hying of Madison said.

“If we allow the commemorative and visual history of our nation to be destroyed by random groups in the current moment of anger, how will we ever learn from that history? Does toppling and vandalizing a statue of George Washington because he owned slaves, really serve our country and our collective memory?” 

Across the country, protesters have in recent days toppled statutes of Confederate leaders and figures associated with slavery, but have also, in some places, pulled down statues of Catholic saints, abolitionists, and other figures.

Some say that the Catholic Church is a church of White tradition, forgetting that, it, especially today, encourages the art of various nations. This Blog  loves to find art from other cultures and how artists can express their own idea of Christ and the saints. 

While at some points in the Church’s history, some have mistakenly equated “the fullness of Catholicism with European culture,” Catholics should instead strive for “unity in that which is essential, and diversity in those things which are not,” Bishop Hying said.

The Bishop Hying  mentioned, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared as “mestiza,” or “mixed” race; African art depicts Jesus as black, and Mary in African cultural garb; and there are numerous Asian representations of Mary as well.  Depictions of  Christ and His Mother and our saints  are holy to Christians. They are physical manifestations of God’s love, and remind us of the “nearness of the divine.”

“The secular iconoclasm of the current moment will not bring reconciliation, peace, and healing. Such violence will only perpetuate the prejudice and hatred it ostensibly seeks to end...Only the love of Christ can heal a wounded heart, not a vandalized piece of metal,” the Bishop said.

 Protestors in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park tore down a statue of St. Junipero Serra on June 20, along with statues of Francis Scott Key and Ulysses S. Grant. In Los Angeles the same day, rioters pulled down a statue of St. Serra in the city’s downtown. While many activists today associate the saint with the abuses that the Native Americans suffered, biographies and historical records suggest that Serra actually advocated on behalf of the Natives against the Spanish military and against encroaching European settlement. Again it is ignorance and not really having an understanding of our history.

After the toppling of the saint’s statue in San Francisco, the city’s archbishop said Saturday that important protests over racial injustice have been “hijacked” by a mob bent on violence.

“What is happening to our society? A renewed national movement to heal memories and correct the injustices of racism and police brutality in our country has been hijacked by some into a movement of violence, looting and vandalism,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in a statement June 20.

 Bishop Hying  has emphasized that many of the most successful protests of the Civil Rights era were predicated on Christian ideas of nonviolence, and a Scriptural understanding of the human person.
The principles of Catholic social teaching— the dignity of the human person; the value of solidarity, "we're all in this together;" a preferential option for the poor— need to be present in any Catholic's response to injustice, he said. 

"If it's not grounded in that, then it really ends up being about power— that I need to assert my power, in situations where I feel powerless," he explained.

"It becomes a struggle over power, rather than a transformational relationship into how God wants us to live as brothers and sisters."

The Bishop said it is clear to him that the violence and ill-treatment of Native Americans and the oppression of African Americans through slavery are two of the country’s greatest moral failings.

The situation requires, he wrote, better knowledge of history and respectful discussions about statues, buildings, and memorials.

“We must study and know this history in order to transcend it, to learn from it and to commit ourselves to justice, equality, and solidarity because of it.”

“At the same time, even the worst aspects of history should be remembered and kept before our eyes. Auschwitz remains open as both a memorial and a museum, so that humanity never forgets the horror of the Holocaust.”  Having visited it myself 20 years ago, I can testify that it is a life-changing experience- one you never forget.  And if all these neo- Natzis, white suprematists, etc. were to visit, they would change their attitude fast!

It is not enough that we have a dread virus to pray be eradicated fast, but now we add violence and hatred and down right ignorance to our petitions.  We all need to look into our own hearts for where we have failed, not judge others.   Lord have Mercy on us all!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020


No one says it better than Bishop Robert Barron!

Recently, the bishops of California made a statement regarding the attacks on the statues of St. Junipero Serra in San Francisco, Ventura, and Los Angeles. While acknowledging that there are legitimate concerns about racism both historical and contemporary, we insisted that the characterization of Serra as the moral equivalent of Hitler and the missions he founded as tantamount to death camps is simply unconscionable.
I put a link to this statement on my own Word on Fire social media accounts and was gratified to see that many people read it and commented upon it. My purpose in this article is not to examine the specific issues surrounding Padre Serra but rather to respond to a number of remarks in the comboxes that point to what I think is a real failure to understand a key teaching of Vatican II.

Over and again, perhaps a hundred times, commentators said some version of this: “Well, bishop, making a statement is all fine and good, but what are you and the other bishops going to do about it?”

Now almost none of these questioners made a concrete suggestion as to what precisely they had in mind, but I will gladly admit that there are certain practical steps that bishops can and should take in regard to such a situation. We can indeed lobby politicians, encourage legislative changes, and call community leaders together, all of which bishops have been doing. But what struck me again and again as I read these rather taunting remarks is that these folks, primarily lay men and women, are putting way too much onus on the clergy and not nearly enough on themselves.

But what struck me again and again as I read these rather taunting remarks is that these folks, primarily lay men and women, are putting way too much onus on the clergy and not nearly enough on themselves.
According to the documents of Vatican II, the clergy are, by ordination, “priests, prophets, and kings.” As priests, they sanctify the people of God through the sacraments; as prophets, they speak the divine word and form the minds and hearts of their flocks; and as kings, they order the charisms of the community toward the realization of the Kingdom of God. Accordingly, the immediate area of concern for bishops and priests is the Church, that is to say, the community of the baptized.

Now the laity, by virtue of their baptism, are also priests, prophets, and kings (Lumen Gentium, 31)—but their sanctifying, teaching, and governing work is directed, not so much inwardly to the Church, but outwardly to the world. For the Vatican II fathers, the proper arena of the laity is the saeculum (the secular order), and their task is the Christification of that realm. They are charged to take the teaching, direction, and sanctification that they have received from the priests and bishops and then go forth, equipped to transform the world and thereby find their own path to holiness.

It’s worth quoting Vatican II directly here, from Lumen Gentium:
"What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature. It is true that those in holy orders can at times be engaged in secular activities, and even have a secular profession. But they are by reason of their particular vocation especially and professedly ordained to the sacred ministry. Similarly, by their state in life, religious give splendid and striking testimony that the world cannot be transformed and offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes.

But the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven.

In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer. "(Lumen Gentium, 31)

A Light to the Nations
Great Catholic lawyers, great Catholic politicians, great Catholic university professors, great Catholic physicians and nurses, great Catholic investors and financiers, great Catholic law enforcement officers, great Catholic writers and critics, great Catholic entertainers, each in his or her special area of competence, is meant to bring Christ to the society and the culture.

And when I say “Catholic” here, I don’t mean incidentally so or merely privately so, but rather vibrantly and publicly so. This Christification of the culture ought never, of course, to be done aggressively, for as John Paul II said, the Church never imposes but only proposes, but it is indeed to be done confidently, boldly, and through concrete action.

It would be instructive to apply these principles to the present situation in our culture. The crisis precipitated by the brutal killing of George Floyd is one that involves many dimensions of our society: law, the police, education, government, neighborhoods, families, etc. Priests and bishops, to be sure, ought to teach clearly and publicly. The declaration mentioned above and the American bishops’ pastoral statement against racism from a year ago, "Open Wide Our Hearts", are good examples of this.

But I would argue that the lion’s share of the work regarding this massive societal problem belongs to those whose proper arena is the society and whose expertise lies precisely in the relevant areas of concern, namely, the laity. If I may be blunt, the question ought not be, “what are the bishops doing about it?” but rather, “what can I and my Christian friends do about it?”

The last thing I would like to do is to stir up any rivalry or resentment between clergy and laity—on the contrary. Following the prompts of the Vatican II documents, I have been stressing the symbiotic relationship that ought to obtain between them. And if I might propose a concrete example of this symbiosis, I would draw your attention to the Catholic Action model that flourished in the years prior to the Council but which, sadly and surprisingly, fell into desuetude after Vatican II.

In accord with the framework proposed by Cardinal Cardijn, the founder of Catholic Action, a priest would meet with a relatively small group of parishioners who shared a common interest or vocation, say, physicians, or lawyers, or financiers, or business leaders. The spiritual leader would interpret Scripture or lay out some relevant teaching of the Church and then invite his interlocutors to “see, judge, and act.” That is to say, he would encourage them to be attentive to the area of their professional interest, then to judge the situations they typically face in light of the Gospel and Church teaching, and finally to resolve to act on the basis of those judgments. 

When it was functioning at its best, Catholic Action involved priests and laity, each operating in their proper spheres and working together for the transformation of the world.
Not a bad approach to the cultural crisis in which we currently find ourselves.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020


Doubting Thomas- Dr.  He Qi

We are living in a time, probably the most difficult in our modern history, since World war II.   It certainly is for me.  Life was almost too easy for most of us Americans.  We took so much for granted.  We were the “chosen people” so to speak, the ones who had it all.

Not only has much been taken away, that always was in our lives, especially for Catholics who lost the Eucharist for three months, but now we face an uncertainty that is most unsettling.  What will happen to us? And not only are we facing dreaded germs, but our country is splitting into pieces with civil unrest and many feel unprotected. Where do we go, what do we do?

We are faced with trials and tribulations that  question certain aspects of the Gospel message. But we must remember that even great saints have gone through periods of doubt in times of trouble, but they persevered in prayer.

At times, they felt that God had abandoned them, or even worse, that they couldn’t love Him. What gave them consolation was the certainty that in accepting what was being offered to them, they were taking part in the agony of Christ.

In our own lifetime the great St. Teresa of Calcutta experienced doubt most of her religious life- yet she carried on with the work she knew she was meant to do.

“If I ever become a saint, I will surely be one of "darkness." I will continually be absent from Heaven - to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”                                  
She came to understand that her life of darkness was a sharing in the sufferings of her people and in Jesus’ passion. Even Jesus on the Cross cried out : “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt.27:46)

“In that act of enduring courage, she is a saint for all who struggle, and question, and long for some redeeming certainty: a human being who wanted to be good, and to do good.  A woman who gave herself fully to the call of her spirit, keeping the faith despite her doubt - casting a light for others, from the dark night of her own soul.” Cate Terwilliger  in her Blog “Meditatio Ephemera”

It is no different for us today.  I just had an email from a young seminarian who is soon to be ordained.  He was lamenting  that his area churches are limiting the number of people for celebrations and  asked why he would be ordained at this time, when so many would not be allowed to come for his special day.  I reminded him that for here and now he was being  specially asked to carry the cross of Christ for so many in the Church and in a way it is a great time to prepare for his future work as missionary.

Another saint and a favorite here is St. Theresa of Lisiuex (The Little Flower) who suffered from tremendous anxiety and doubt. This little Saint used the issues she struggled with as a means to connecting in a deeper and more profound way to Jesus.  For those still in social isolation, she is a good saint to turn to, for she so well understood this way of suffering.

St. Padre Pio is said to be the Patron Saint of Stress Relief, which is something we all need in these times. He is known for saying, "Pray, hope, and don't worry".

The path to holiness is a rough one, many times lacking signs to reassure us of our direction, but  we must have the faith to know our Lord is with us on our journey, helping us every step of the way. I am reminded of several people close to us who have recently done the El Camino de Santiago  (Spain- some even  non- Catholics.  Every day was a new adventure, some filled with pain, other days with welcomed joy. But each day approached with a wonder of what will happen and the uncertainty of reaching the end.