Archive for January, 2009


January 21, 2009

Life has been busy, with lots of extra concerns thrown in recently to keep things interesting.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to return to blogging soon, but not at the moment.  In the meantime, this is cool:


Sr. Dorothy’s killer charged

January 10, 2009

Suspected ‘mastermind’ of Sr. Dorothy Stang’s murder charged

Publication date: 

January 9, 2009

— CNS/Reuters: Sr. Dorothy Stang in 2004A Brazilian rancher suspected of orchestrating the 2005 murder of Notre Dame de Namur Sr. Dorothy Stang, an American nun who spoke out against logging in the Amazon rain forest, will be charged in the killing and brought to trial following his arrest for land fraud, prosecutors said Dec. 28.

[Full story]

Fr. Neuhaus

January 8, 2009

Fr. Richard Neuhaus has passed away today.  When I get the opportunity, I’ll offer my own little reflection here on his impact on my Christian formation.  I consider it somewhat significant.  Let’s pray for him and his loved ones.

Walking the Walk

January 7, 2009

During our chat yesterday, Sacred Heart Radio host Brian Patrick raised the question of what exactly it means that the Church “recognizes the heroic virtues” of a particular person (as it did most recently last month, in the case of three people whose causes for sainthood are being considered).   It occurred to me that this is a good question, and an important one, both because it’s a far more important element in the Church recognizing a person as a saint than many people realize, and because it’s crucial to the way each of us live our own Christian lives as well.

Recognizing a person’s heroic virtues is an essential part of the process that leads to canonization.  There are, of course, dozens of virtues — kindness, patience, purity, modesty, generosity, courage, truthfulness, integrity, humor, empathy, and on and on.  Among them all, seven are primary.  

The four primary human virtues are called the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.  The three theological virtues are faith, hope, and love.  To “make the case” that a person should be beatified/canonized by the Church, the promoter of the cause must demonstrate through thorough biographical research that he or she lived out these virtues in a heroic or extraordinary manner. 

Living these in an extraordinary way is really what sainthood is all about.  That’s an important point, because in many people’s minds, being a saint = doing miracles.  When I introduce my high school students to a saint they’re not familiar with, one of the first questions I can expect to get is, “What miracles did they do?”  If my answer is “none,” I get a lot of odd looks, like I’m telling them someone was arrested without committing a crime, or given an award for something they didn’t do. 

That’s partly our (the Church’s) fault, because one part of “the process,” and the one that naturally holds more fascination, is that one miracle is required in order for a person to be beatified, and another in order to be canonized.  But notice, because many misunderstand this: this does not mean that it must be demononstrated that the person in question performed miracles during his/her lifetime.  Most saints performed no miracles during their lifetimes. 

Rather, these are miracles that are attributed to the person’s intercession after his death.  People, familiar with the candidate and his reputation for holiness, pray to him after his death, and obtain a miracle, usually a medical healing, that is sudden and unexplainable by medical science.  (And the investigation into such an event, like the one I mentioned here recently, is thorough.  Several medical experts must testify that there is no scientific explanation.)

The Church requires this as part of the process because it is considered God’s divine stamp of approval on the intention to canonize.  A human can make a mistake in judging whether or not a person lived out the virtues heroicly (witness the drastic differences of opinion currently to be heard about Pope Pius XII — someone’s mistaken).  So the miracle is considered God’s way of saying, “Yes, I agree.”

It’s important that we notice the emphasis on the virtues, because it’s a lesson also in what it means to live an authentic Christian life.  We’re all called to sainthood.  But that’s not to say we’re all called to perform miracles.  Rather, we’re all called to live lives of goodness.  Doing that, doing it even when it’s hard, doing it to a heroic degree — John Baptist de LaSalle’s acts of justice, Thomas More’s prudence, Franz Jagerstatter’s fortitude, Pier Giorgio Frassati’s temperance, Mother Teresa’s faith, Josephine Bakhita’s hope, Gianna Molla’s love — that’s sainthood! 

My students sometimes insist that “letting” people be saints who never did any miracles during their lives is “lowering the bar.”  But I insist right back at them that that’s way off the mark. 

Who, after all, is challenged, if, to be a saint, one must miraculously heal the sick or levitate while praying?  I’m not.  If I have to do that to be a saint, I needn’t bother trying.  But if being a saint means being prudent, just, temperate, courageous, faithful, hopeful, and loving in the specific, concrete circumstances of life in which I find myself, and being these things especially when it would be easier, sometimes far easier, not to — well now, that’s a bit of a challenge, isn’t it?

Fostering a relationship with the saints gives me companions on this difficult journey, examples in the constantly needed lesson that it can be done, and friends who are praying for me, to help me do it.

Oremus pro invicem.  Let us pray for one another.

Blessed Jeanne Jugan, some deception, and a miracle

January 6, 2009

This morning on Sacred Heart Radio‘s Son Rise Morning Show, host Brian Patrick and I talked about Blessed Jeanne Jugan.  Last month, Pope Benedict approved recognition of a miracle attributed to her intercession.  This clears the way for her canonization. 

Many Americans are familiar with Blessed Jeanne through the extraordinary work of the order the founded, the Little Sisters of the Poor, who dedicate themselves to care for the elderly (a mission that’s certainly just as important and needed in the  twenty-first century as it was in Jeanne’s day).  Today they have homes for the elderly in 32 North American cities, including Philadelphia, Scranton, New Orleans, Mobile, Denver, Louisville, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and many others.

What an interesting life story she has!  Besides her example of heroic humility and love for the poor, there’s also an intriguing aspect to her biography. 

It seems that several years after she founded the Little Sisters of the Poor, a priest whom she had turned to for support in her work tried to “revise history” by making it appear that he was the founder of the group, and that Jeanne was only the third woman to join him in his efforts.  At the time of her own death, most of the sisters (there were already 2,400 of them) didn’t know that she was their founder!  It was only a Vatican investigation that brought the truth to light, eleven years after she had died.

Pope John Paul II beatified Jeanne Jugan in 1982.  Her feast day is August 30.

Regarding the miracle approved last month by the Pope, specific information seems a little hard to come by.  But it seems to involve an American man who was dramatically healed of cancer of the esophagus back in the 1980’s. 

Brian and I also talked about two items recently highlighted here: the investigation into a miracle (the healing of an Ohio boy) that may be attributed to the intercession of Mother Maria Teresa Casini, and the recent publication of the complete diaries (10 volumes!) of Pope John XXIII.

Son Rise goes global

January 5, 2009

Congratulations and good luck to the folks at Sacred Heart Radio, broadcast out of Cincinnati and available to everyone via the internet.  Today’s the day their Son Rise Morning Show with Brian Patrick goes international.  Starting at 7:00 this morning, Son Rise joins the EWTN Global Catholic radio network.  That means they’ll be heard on over 100 radio stations and satellite radio. 

The Son Rise program regularly features important information, resources for prayer and spiritual growth, and a wide variety of excellent guests, like Fr. Robert Barron, Mark Shea, Rich Leonardi, Mike Aquilina, Mitch Finley, and many others.

And somehow, I ended up there, too.  My monthly visits with Brian Patrick, on the topic of up-and-coming saints’ causes, have been fun and interesting.  The next one, in fact, is tomorrow morning.

2009: A Year of Africa

January 3, 2009

John Allen has a very interesting column up yesterday on why it’s true to say that 2009 is intended by Pope Benedict to be a Year of Africa in the Church and, specifically, at the Vatican:

Three major events point to 2009 as a “Year of Africa” at the level of the Vatican and papal activity: Benedict’s scheduled visit in March to Cameroon and Angola; a plenary assembly of SECAM, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, to be staged in Rome in September, in order to galvanize Western interest; and a Synod for Africa, a gathering of bishops from around the world, to be held in the Vatican during October.

Allen includes a run-down of the evidence that “Africa is where humanity today is most dramatically walking the Via Crucis.” Even more importantly, he offers some very worthwhile suggestions for effective ways that we can make it a Year for Africa in our own lives and parishes

Sadly, Allen is right on the mark when he writes:

For Catholics, there are also internal reasons why Benedict’s push on Africa may be a tough sell. “Peace and justice” Catholics tend to occupy the church’s left wing, which is sometimes crankily resistant to papal initiatives, even when they cut in a direction liberals otherwise support. For example, an utterly predictable chorus is likely to arise on the Catholic left in ’09 to the effect of, “If the pope wants to do something for Africa, why doesn’t he come out in favor of condoms to fight AIDS?” Such stale polemics often get in the way of doing something constructive. Conservative Catholics, meanwhile, talk a good game about “thinking with the church,” but can be selective in their follow-through. If the pope criticizes abortion, they’re ready to mount the barricades; if he tackles poverty and war, many will quietly suggest he’s out of his depth, or that he’s wading into matters of prudential judgment that don’t oblige conscience.

For those, like me, still mulling over New Years resolutions, this is all good food for thought.  Check out the whole thing.

A Miracle for Mother Casini?

January 2, 2009

Here’s a notice from the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, which offers an interesting peek into the Church’s canonization process.  The diocese has published information related to an investigation of a possible miracle, attributed to the intercession of Mother Maria Teresa Casini

Mother Casini, born in Italy in 1864, was the foundress of the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart, an order devoted particularly to the well-being of the diocesan priesthood.  The Sisters have a convent in Youngstown, where they also run two retirement homes from priests, a pre-school, and do parish ministry. (Youngstown is their only location in the U.S.; they’re also in Italy, Brazil, India, and West Africa.) 

In 1997, the Vatican recognized Mother Casini’s heroic virtues, formally declaring her worthy of consideration for sainthood.  That means she is a “Servant of God,” with the title Venerable.  A miracle would be needed for her beatification, and another for canonization.

The notice from the Youngstown diocese is part of the current investigation of a reported miracle.  It involves the healing of a 5-year-old Youngstown boy back in 2003, attributed to the intercession of Mother Casini.  The boy, who attended the Oblate Sisters’ pre-school and kindergarten, was in a coma following a near-drowning:

After constant prayer to the Venerable Mother Casini by the Sisters and many Faithful, on Friday, June 27, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in concomitance with the celebration of the Holy Mass in the Chapel of the Sisters, towards 7 p.m., less than 48 hours after the accident, the child gave clear signs of wakening up from his coma, moving his arms and legs. On the morning of Saturday, June 28, the patient had all tubes removed. On Sunday, June 29, he was able to eat solid foods and on June 30 he was discharged. From that day, the young Jacob has kept growing in excellent health and without deficits or meaningful neurological problems from the serious accident.

If verified, it’s certainly a cause for rejoicing, both for the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart and for the Diocese of Youngstown.  One suspects that the boy and his family don’t need any sort of formal verification in order to rejoice, even now, five years later. 

Thanks to Matt Swain at Sacred Heart Radio for the tip on this.

Books of 2008

January 1, 2009

If Peggy Noonan can do it, I suppose I can, too.  Since I have this odd habit of keeping a list of the books I read, I may as well make use of it.  Here are the books I read during 2008. 


Project Pendulum, by Robert Silverberg
Derailed, by James Siegel
The Disappearance, by J.F. Freedman
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, by Orson Scott Card
Cell, by Stephen King
Manifold: Time, by Stephen Baxter

Other than Orson Scott Card and, of course, C.S. Lewis, it was a rather forgetable year for fiction for me.  Project Pendulum and Cell were both horrendous.


Jesus Our Redeemer: A Christian Approach to Salvation, by Gerald O’Collins
The True Cost of Low Prices: The Violence of Globalizaton, by Vincent Gallagher
The Regensberg Lecture, by James V. Schall, SJ
Meet Henri de Lubac, by Rudolf Voderholzer
Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, by Joseph Ratzinger and Marcello Pera
Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion, by Francis J. Beckwith
Lovely Like Jerusalem: The Fulfillment of the Old Testament in Christ and the Church, by Aidan Nichols
Just War, Lasting Peace: What Christian Traditions Can Teach Us, by Dolores Leckey, ed.
God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, The Heart of Life, by Joseph Ratzinger
The Celebration of the Eucharist: The Origin of the Rite and Development of Its Interpretation, by Enrico Mazza
Because God Is Real: Sixteen Questions, One Answer, by Peter Kreeft
The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, ed. Robert Ellsberg
The Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Rite, by Enrico Mazza
Thomas Aquinas and the Liturgy, by David L. Berger

Of these, O’Collins, Schall, and the Day diaries were excellent.  Ratzinger, too, of course. and Nichols.  Mazza’s work is very interesting to me.  The Berger book was a bit disappointing.