Thursday, June 26, 2008

Feast of Saint Jose-Maria Escriva

St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer (1902-1975) was the founder of Opus Dei, the first and so far only Personal Prelature in the Catholic Church. Monsignor Escriva devised a theology and spirituality more than 30 years before the Second Vatican Council coined the phrase the universal call to holiness. Simply put, he advocated the notion that sanctity is not reserved for clergy and religious, but that everyday work can and ought to be means for personal holiness. For centuries, some had thought that the only way to heaven was to imitate the monastic life. Adopt and adapt a spirituality based on the monks and nuns, and the ordinary layperson might have a chance of Paradise, or so some believed. Over time, the monastic sprituality, which was very communal, regulated, religious and for celibates was diluted and distilled so that Joe and Mary Laici could have a possibility of holiness, too. Msgr. discovered what St. Francis de Sales and St. Therese of Lisiux learned beforehand: God calls everyone to holiness. St. Augustine taught about the reality of God giving everyone Sufficient Grace and it becomes Efficacious Grace to those who accept and cooperate with it. So, while not revolutionary from the theological standpoint, from common perception among the faithful, Escriva's idea was fresh and new. Sanctification via ordinary work? Daily work becoming the Work of God (opus Dei in Latin).

Look at the life of Our Divine Lord and the Holy Family in Nazareth. St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother spent 75% of their day and life WORKING, i.e., doing ordinary labor. Working in the carpenter shop, cleaning, cooking, washing, etc. Doing the mundane jobs and chores of ordinary life. The BVM and St. Joseph did pray at home, in synagogue and at Temple like all devout Jews of their time. Jesus, Mary and Joseph did not live in a monastery or a convent, however. They lived in an ordinary home and they did ordinary work. Thirty years Our Divine Savior worked, so much so that not only was He called the 'son' of a carpenter, but in one passage He is even called a 'carpenter' Himself. His public mission lasted three years after thirty hidden years working with His foster-father. Since the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph did not spend most of their day on their knees in prayer, it would seem logical that God is not calling everyone to live the life of a cloistered monastic. Some, He is, like the Carmelites, Poor Clares, Dominicans, etc. Most people He has called to live married and single lives and a few as consecrated religious or some men as ordained priests. Opus Dei merely helps members realize that their daily work will sanctify them if they do it well and do it for God. Daily prayer, weekly Mass, monthly confession and yearly retreat are still vital, important and indispensible. Yet, consecrating our daily work and allowing our work to sanctify us is also part of God's plan. Genesis reminds us that God worked for six days and rested on the seventh. Pope John Paul the Great in his encyclical Laborem Exercens taught us that WORK is not a four-letter word. Work is holy when done well and done properly. If it is not good, then it is not good work. If evil, then it is the work of the Devil. Cab drivers, police, firefighters, teachers, construction workers, white collar, blue collar, politicians, doctors, lawyers, nurses, secretaries, retired, students, athletes, entertainers, clerks, managers, receptionists, CEO's, et al.; whatever your WORK, do it well, and do it for God and it will become a means of sanctification. Envisioning Christ standing next to you all day while you work might help you to work better OR if your work is not pleasing to God, either because you are not working hard enough OR you may be doing something displeasing or even offensive to God, then change your work. Politicians must enact legislation. That is their work. IF they create human laws that disobey the Divine and the Natural Laws, then their work is not holy, it is evil. Hence, promoting abortion, euthanasia or same-sex marriage laws is not doing the Opus Dei. Judges, too, must do their work but their work must submit to the Natural Moral Law, else their work is also not the Work of God. The same applies to doctors, pharmicists, teachers, parents, etc. Yes, we are to work and to do our best at work AS LONG AS our work pleases God. Violating His Commandments or His Natural Law is the work of Satan, not the work of God. Msgr. Escriva, however, taught that even the most menial, pedestrian job can become an Opus Dei, a work of God, like taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, grocery shopping, doing homework, vaccuuming the house, etc. Just like the Holy Family where work was done at home and in the shop, work can and ought to be a humanizing (and not de-humanizing) enterprise. Slave labor is not the work of God. Abusing workers or cheating employers does not please God. Fair pay for fair days work that respects the dignity of the human person is what the Lord wants us to do and to promote.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gibbet VS. Thong

While some liturgists try to convince us that 'gibbet' is too arcane to use in the Sacred Liturgy, I urge them to recall the newer translations of Sacred Scripture (New American Bible) in the Lectionary so that every Advent we get Mark 1:7 or Luke 3:16 having St. John the Baptist saying "I am not worthy to unfasten the THONG of his sandal." Why abandon the traditional 'strap' and opt for the modern 'thong' ? When most contempoary Americans hear the word 'thong' they think of an immodest and quite obscene bikini bottom given more vulgar colloquialisms by the youth. Straps (of his sandals), on the other hand, are a more appropriate and accurate translation of the Greek himas or Latin corrigiam than thongs. Gibbet may be less familiar but I do not trust the same people who gave us thongs rather than sandal-straps. Speaking for myself, i.e., and I am unanimous in that.

Monday, June 23, 2008

From the Boss

Pope Benedict spoke to the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec via satellite and made these WONDERFUL remarks on the Sacred Liturgy and Most Blessed Sacrament:

"'The Mystery of Faith': this we proclaim at every Mass. I would like everyone to make a commitment to study this great mystery, especially by revisiting and exploring, individually and in groups, the Council's text on the liturgy, 'Sacrosanctum Concilium,' so as to bear witness courageously to the mystery."

The Pontiff affirmed that such study would help each person "arrive at a better grasp of the meaning of every aspect of the Eucharist, understanding its depth and living it with greater intensity."

"Every sentence, every gesture has its own meaning and conceals a mystery," Benedict XVI continued. "I sincerely hope that this Congress will serve as an appeal to all the faithful to make a similar commitment to a renewal of Eucharistic catechesis, so that they themselves will gain a genuine Eucharistic awareness and will in turn teach children and young people to recognize the central mystery of faith and build their lives around it.

"I urge priests especially to give due honor to the Eucharistic rite, and I ask all the faithful to respect the role of each individual, both priest and lay, in the Eucharistic action. The liturgy does not belong to us: It is the Church's treasure."

The Pontiff also expressed his desire that Christians would come to value Sunday more and more.

"May all of you become ever more deeply aware of the importance of the Sunday Eucharist," he said, "because Sunday, the first day of the week, is the day when we honor Christ, the day when we receive the strength to live each day the gift of God."

If only every member of the clergy and laity could heed and abide by these words of wisdom.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Forty Hours


My two parishes (Our Lady of Good Counsel & St. Bernadette) are having their annual Forty Hours devotions June 22, 23 and 24.  I ask for your prayers that we may see a renewal of reverence for the Real Presence, in all parishes and dioceses around the world.  I also ask for your prayers for a very important and urgent special intention.  Confidentiality prevents me from divulging any further details, but suffice it to say, I beseech any and all prayers for this matter which concerns a friend of mine who is in need of divine assistance.


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