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The Vatican decided that due to conflicts in the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar in 2008 that the dates of the feasts of St. Joseph and of the Annunciation of the Lord will be moved. In 2008, if the feast of St. Joseph were to be celebrated as usual on March 19, it would fall on the Wednesday of Holy Week and if the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord were to be celebrated March 25, it would fall on the Tuesday during the octave of Easter.

While the two feasts are among the 14 solemnities marked with special care in the Catholic Church, they do not take precedence over the commemoration of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. Therefore in 2008 the feast of St. Joseph will be celebrated March 15, the day before Palm Sunday, and the feast of the Annunciation will be celebrated March 31, the Monday after the second Sunday of Easter, which also is Divine Mercy Sunday.

Regarding the feast of St. Patrick:
The Bishop has agreed to join the Bishop of the Hartford Province and assign the optional memorial of St. Patrick to Friday, March, 14.

Inquiries have been received concerning the optional memorial for St. Patrick (March 17), which falls on the Monday of Holy Week. As a result of the above mentioned change for the Solemnity of St. Joseph, a memorial for St. Patrick may be celebrated on Friday, March 14. The Bishop is prepared to issue a dispensation for those celebrating this optional memorial Friday, March 14, which is a Friday during the Lenten Season. Any social activities taking place around the feast of St. Patrick should be most sensitive to the solemn nature of Holy Week which observes the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Lord.

It is the first time in almost 100 years that the feast of St Patrick will not be celebrated March 17. In 1913, the same conflict occurred, and in that case the church marked the feast April 1.

According to historians, March 17 is the traditional date given for the death of St. Patrick, and his feast has been celebrated on this day since the seventh century.

The next time St. Patrick’s Day will fall during Holy Week will be 2160

I returned to one of my former parishes today as a substitute funeral organist. What I encountered there nearly made me cry. Twelve years ago, when I was the assistant music director, we constructed a small choir area in the nave of the church. Many pews were removed, a small riser was installed, and a new Rodgers organ was purchased. Playing that organ was pure joy! There was also a very old pipe organ which was in poor condition, but I made a point of going into the loft a few times a month and playing the old organ in a vain attempt to prevent further damage from disuse.

The church has since been wreck renovated and the new organ is in horrendous condition. The choir riser was removed so the movable chairs are now on the tile floor. There is now nothing to keep the choir members from moving their chairs into the side aisle (where I found a few when I arrived). In addition, the choir area was an absolute mess. Books and papers were everywhere. Also, the amplifiers, instruments, and microphones for the “youth band” were strewn everywhere. The organ looked more like a glorified book rack as it was covered with hymnals, Christmas cards, photos, and business cards from various “music ministers”.

I am not known for keeping a neat choir loft, but I have that luxury because I have a LOFT! My mess is not visible. Whenever I have worked in a parish with a visible choir area I have made a point to keep it as neat and clean as possible. The last thing the congregation needs is the distraction of looking at a mess.

Now to the organ! The music director at this parish only begrudgingly plays the organ. He makes it very clear that he is a pianist, not an organist. First, he changed the presets to some of the strangest I have ever seen. Then, the volume of the organ was set so loud it probably blew out the ears of the congregations. I left with a headache and I was very far away from the speakers. Therefore, it only makes sense that the expression pedal was non-functioning. Also, the crescendo pedal was useless, since there were only about two stops attached to it.

Oh the beautiful music that used to come out of that organ! With some difficulty I was able to make it sound decent, but with the volume set at the decible level of a Guns N’ Roses concert it was difficult.

My one victory: To the dismay of the parish secretary, I successfuly nixed Wind Beneath My Wings from the request list. Unfortunately, it was replaced by On Eagles Wings. What’s the fascination with wings? The secretary even asked if I would play a CD with Wind Beneath My Wings. NO!

I didn’t make it to the choir loft, but I expect that the pipe organ is no longer there – another victim to the renovations. One thing that did fall victim was the old confessionals, where I used to store my sheet music and microphone stands. There are gone, all in the name of progress. One bright spot: the reredos and old altar still remain. I guess there is still hope, and the changes to the organ aren’t permanent. Still sad though.

Made public today was the 2008 Lenten Message of the Holy Father Benedict XVI. The text, dated 30 October 2007, has as its title a verse from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians: “Christ made Himself poor for you”.

Extracts from the Message are given below:

“Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters. In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For this year’s Lenten Message, I wish to spend some time reflecting on the practice of almsgiving, which represents a specific way to assist those in need and, at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods. The force of attraction to material riches and just how categorical our decision must be not to make of them an idol, Jesus confirms in a resolute way: ‘You cannot serve God and mammon’.

“Almsgiving helps us to overcome this constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbour’s needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness. This is the aim of the special collections in favour of the poor, which are promoted during Lent in many parts of the world. In this way, inward cleansing is accompanied by a gesture of ecclesial communion, mirroring what already took place in the early Church.

“According to the teaching of the Gospel, we are not owners but rather administrators of the goods we possess: these, then, are not to be considered as our exclusive possession, but means through which the Lord calls each one of us to act as a steward of His providence for our neighbour”.

“In the Gospel, Jesus explicitly admonishes the one who possesses and uses earthly riches only for self. … In those countries whose population is majority Christian, the call to share is even more urgent, since their responsibility toward the many who suffer poverty and abandonment is even greater. To come to their aid is a duty of justice even prior to being an act of charity.

“The Gospel highlights a typical feature of Christian almsgiving: it must be hidden. … This understanding, dear brothers and sisters, must accompany every gesture of help to our neighbour, avoiding that it becomes a means to make ourselves the centre of attention”.

“In today’s world of images, attentive vigilance is required, since this temptation is great. Almsgiving, according to the Gospel, is not mere philanthropy: rather it is a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtue that demands interior conversion to love of God and neighbour, in imitation of Jesus Christ”.

“In inviting us to consider almsgiving with a more profound gaze that transcends the purely material dimension, Scripture teaches us that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. … Every time when, for love of God, we share our goods with our neighbour in need, we discover that the fullness of life comes from love and all is returned to us as a blessing in the form of peace, inner satisfaction and joy”.

“What is more: St. Peter includes among the spiritual fruits of almsgiving the forgiveness of sins. … As the Lenten liturgy frequently repeats, God offers to us sinners the possibility of being forgiven. The fact of sharing what we possess with the poor disposes us to receive such a gift”.

“Almsgiving teaches us the generosity of love. … In this regard, all the more significant is the Gospel story of the widow who, out of poverty, cast into the Temple treasury ‘all she had to live on'”.

We find this moving passage inserted in the description of the days that immediately precede Jesus’ passion and death, who, as St. Paul writes, made Himself poor to enrich us out of His poverty; He gave His entire Self for us. Lent, also through the practice of almsgiving, inspires us to follow His example. In His school, we can learn to make of our lives a total gift; imitating Him, we are able to make ourselves available, not so much in giving part of what we possess, but our very selves. Cannot the entire Gospel be summarised perhaps in the one commandment of love? The Lenten practice of almsgiving thus become a means to deepen our Christian vocation. In gratuitously offering himself, the Christian bears witness that it is love and not material richness that determines the laws of his existence, Love, then, gives almsgiving its true value; it inspires various forms of giving, according to the possibilities and conditions of each person”.

VIS

Here is the complete message:

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS
BENEDICT XVI
FOR LENT 2008

“Christ made Himself poor for you” (2 Cor 8,9)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters. In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For this year’s Lenten Message, I wish to spend some time reflecting on the practice of almsgiving, which represents a specific way to assist those in need and, at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods. The force of attraction to material riches and just how categorical our decision must be not to make of them an idol, Jesus confirms in a resolute way: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Lk 16,13). Almsgiving helps us to overcome this constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbor’s needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness. This is the aim of the special collections in favor of the poor, which are promoted during Lent in many parts of the world. In this way, inward cleansing is accompanied by a gesture of ecclesial communion, mirroring what already took place in the early Church. In his Letters, Saint Paul speaks of this in regard to the collection for the Jerusalem community (cf. 2 Cor 8-9; Rm 15, 25-27).

2. According to the teaching of the Gospel, we are not owners but rather administrators of the goods we possess: these, then, are not to be considered as our exclusive possession, but means through which the Lord calls each one of us to act as a steward of His providence for our neighbor. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, material goods bear a social value, according to the principle of their universal destination (cf. n. 2404)

In the Gospel, Jesus explicitly admonishes the one who possesses and uses earthly riches only for self. In the face of the multitudes, who, lacking everything, suffer hunger, the words of Saint John acquire the tone of a ringing rebuke: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?” (1 Jn 3,17). In those countries whose population is majority Christian, the call to share is even more urgent, since their responsibility toward the many who suffer poverty and abandonment is even greater. To come to their aid is a duty of justice even prior to being an act of charity.

3. The Gospel highlights a typical feature of Christian almsgiving: it must be hidden: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” Jesus asserts, “so that your alms may be done in secret” (Mt 6,3-4). Just a short while before, He said not to boast of one’s own good works so as not to risk being deprived of the heavenly reward (cf. Mt 6,1-2). The disciple is to be concerned with God’s greater glory. Jesus warns: “In this way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Mt 5,16). Everything, then, must be done for God’s glory and not our own. This understanding, dear brothers and sisters, must accompany every gesture of help to our neighbor, avoiding that it becomes a means to make ourselves the center of attention. If, in accomplishing a good deed, we do not have as our goal God’s glory and the real well being of our brothers and sisters, looking rather for a return of personal interest or simply of applause, we place ourselves outside of the Gospel vision. In today’s world of images, attentive vigilance is required, since this temptation is great. Almsgiving, according to the Gospel, is not mere philanthropy: rather it is a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtue that demands interior conversion to love of God and neighbor, in imitation of Jesus Christ, who, dying on the cross, gave His entire self for us. How could we not thank God for the many people who silently, far from the gaze of the media world, fulfill, with this spirit, generous actions in support of one’s neighbor in difficulty? There is little use in giving one’s personal goods to others if it leads to a heart puffed up in vainglory: for this reason, the one, who knows that God “sees in secret” and in secret will reward, does not seek human recognition for works of mercy.

4. In inviting us to consider almsgiving with a more profound gaze that transcends the purely material dimension, Scripture teaches us that there is more joy in giving than in receiving (cf. Acts 20,35). When we do things out of love, we express the truth of our being; indeed, we have been created not for ourselves but for God and our brothers and sisters (cf. 2 Cor 5,15). Every time when, for love of God, we share our goods with our neighbor in need, we discover that the fullness of life comes from love and all is returned to us as a blessing in the form of peace, inner satisfaction and joy. Our Father in heaven rewards our almsgiving with His joy. What is more: Saint Peter includes among the spiritual fruits of almsgiving the forgiveness of sins: “Charity,” he writes, “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pt 4,8). As the Lenten liturgy frequently repeats, God offers to us sinners the possibility of being forgiven. The fact of sharing with the poor what we possess disposes us to receive such a gift. In this moment, my thought turns to those who realize the weight of the evil they have committed and, precisely for this reason, feel far from God, fearful and almost incapable of turning to Him. By drawing close to others through almsgiving, we draw close to God; it can become an instrument for authentic conversion and reconciliation with Him and our brothers.

5. Almsgiving teaches us the generosity of love. Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo forthrightly recommends: “Never keep an account of the coins you give, since this is what I always say: if, in giving alms, the left hand is not to know what the right hand is doing, then the right hand, too, should not know what it does itself” (Detti e pensieri, Edilibri, n. 201). In this regard, all the more significant is the Gospel story of the widow who, out of her poverty, cast into the Temple treasury “all she had to live on” (Mk 12,44). Her tiny and insignificant coin becomes an eloquent symbol: this widow gives to God not out of her abundance, not so much what she has, but what she is. Her entire self.

We find this moving passage inserted in the description of the days that immediately precede Jesus’ passion and death, who, as Saint Paul writes, made Himself poor to enrich us out of His poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8,9); He gave His entire self for us. Lent, also through the practice of almsgiving, inspires us to follow His example. In His school, we can learn to make of our lives a total gift; imitating Him, we are able to make ourselves available, not so much in giving a part of what we possess, but our very selves. Cannot the entire Gospel be summarized perhaps in the one commandment of love? The Lenten practice of almsgiving thus becomes a means to deepen our Christian vocation. In gratuitously offering himself, the Christian bears witness that it is love and not material richness that determines the laws of his existence. Love, then, gives almsgiving its value; it inspires various forms of giving, according to the possibilities and conditions of each person.

6. Dear brothers and sisters, Lent invites us to “train ourselves” spiritually, also through the practice of almsgiving, in order to grow in charity and recognize in the poor Christ Himself. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the Apostle Peter said to the cripple who was begging alms at the Temple gate: “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk” (Acts 3,6). In giving alms, we offer something material, a sign of the greater gift that we can impart to others through the announcement and witness of Christ, in whose name is found true life. Let this time, then, be marked by a personal and community effort of attachment to Christ in order that we may be witnesses of His love. May Mary, Mother and faithful Servant of the Lord, help believers to enter the “spiritual battle” of Lent, armed with prayer, fasting and the practice of almsgiving, so as to arrive at the celebration of the Easter Feasts, renewed in spirit. With these wishes, I willingly impart to all my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 30 October 2007

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

Fr. David Lewis Stokes has done it again! This time the article is on the Extraordinary (Tridentine) Mass.

Excerpts from the Providence Journal:

In a New York Times story about the renewed interest in the Latin (or Tridentine) Mass (“Latin Mass Draws Interest After Easing of Restrictions,” Nov. 10), a professor at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology offered an intriguing caveat. Referring to the enthusiasts for the “old” mass, the Rev. John F. Baldovin commented, “A lot of them think this is the way to go, back to the future, because it is really going to revive Catholicism. You can produce a Tridentine mass, but can’t reproduce the world it came from.” Since this quotation concludes the article, many readers may imagine Father Baldovin’s words to be the final say.

In some ways he’s right.

[…]

But I wonder whether nostalgia is the only explanation for the fascination with the Latin Mass. I wonder whether this fascination might not be a part of a much larger cultural trend: our modern hunger for mystery. I mean by mystery our encounter with what is “other” — what Rudolph Otto called the mysterium tremendum, the numinous. That “other” which provokes in us both terror and fascination: the sense of the holy.

[…]

Unfortunately, the last few centuries in the West have not been fond of mystery, especially the century just ended. And in the 1960s two things in particular coincided to try to banish the numinous altogether… To be religious is another way to be a nice person…

Second, the reduction of religion to moralism found an unwitting ally in those committees that sought to “reform” religious worship — to simplify the language, to return to some imagined primitive idea of how-it-used-to-be, to stress the communal nature of church or synagogue. All good ideas, perhaps. But in our drive to make modern worship demotic, we forgot several things.

The human response to the numinous can never be the work of a committee. Poetry can never be pre-programmed. Like making love, rites and rituals demand time, attention and humility. Moreover, even if we could dismantle or alter a mystery, we risk sawing off the very limb on which we’re sitting…

[…]

And so we return to Fr. Bladovin’s caveat. True enough, restoration of the Latin Mass is not going to revitalize the Catholic Church in America.
But those who dismiss the renewed fascination with the Latin Mass simply as a matter of nostalgia or of curiosity would do well to consider. Whatever the motives of these seekers, their actions remind us that there just might be more things in heaven and earth than were ever dreamt of by a liturgical committee.

Read the complete article here.

Today is the feast of one of my favorite saints, St. Thomas Aquinas. Thomas, the eighth of nine children, was born 1225 into a noble family.

The youngest son of a noble family was traditionally given to the Church, so Thomas was brought to the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino, most likely with the hope that he would eventually become the Abbot there. However, war broke out in 1240 and the Abbey was closed. Thomas went to study and the University of Naples. In Naples, Thomas Aquinas encountered two things which changed the course of his life and Catholicism: the writings of Aristotle, and the Dominicans.
The Order of Preachers had opened a friary in Naples in 1231. Although there were only two friars living there at the time Thomas was there, one had a profound influence on Thomas. John of San Guiliano, introduced Domincan prayer, study and preaching to Thomas.

Although Thomas felt called to the Dominicans, his family had other plans. They thought it a mendicant’s life was beneath him and desired for him to enter the Benedictines and eventually become the Abbot of Monte Cassino. After discovering that he had joined the Dominicans, his father kidnapped Thomas and locked him up, hoping the would change his mind. While under house arrest, Thomas studied the Sentences of Peter Lombard (another driving force in Thomas’ writings) and helped his sister discern a vocation to the Benedictines. As a sort of final test, his brothers brought a prostitute to Thomas. Thomas did not succumb to temptation, but kept her at bay by brandishing a flaming stick and burning a cross on the wall.

Finally, his family realized that there was nothing they could do to prevent Thomas from following his vocation.

In this case, Thomas family desired for Thomas to choose his vocation based on what would bring honor, wealth, and prestige rather than what would give honor, praise, and glory to God. Yes, to be the Abbot of Monte Cassino could be the fulfilment of one’s true vocation, but not if one’s sights were on the externals. How often do we decide what God must want from us or others rather than letting Him tell us Himself? Many times, what God asks of us is not what we want or what we think should be, but He has His reasons. In addition, as the story of St. Thomas Aquinas shows, God has ways of making the events which prevent His plans from becoming realized way of furthering and deepening his will.

In the end, few remember the name of the Benedictine who became the Abbot of Monte Cassino, but St. Thomas Aquinas has become a driving force is Catholic theology. All this from a man who summed up his immense contributions to the faith and study of theology as “straw”.

When one reads the Summa Theologiae or sings one of the five beautiful hymns which Thomas wrote, the thought enters the mind, “How can he have thought this was straw? This is extraordinary!” Yes, it is and I am sure that Thomas knew what an immense contribution he made, but he had seen something better. He had seen a glimpse of the things yet to come. What a comfort! How spectacular must the presence of God be, if it makes the works of St. Thomas seem like straw.

Below is one of the hymns which St. Thomas wrote, Adoro Te Devote. I have posted the Latin first and the English translation below. Yes, if the prayer in verse seven is granted even partially everything in the world will seem like straw.

Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Quae sub his figuris vere latitas;
Tibi se cor meum totum subiicit,
Quia te contemplans, totum deficit.

Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur;
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius,
Nil hoc verbo veritatis verius.

In Cruce latebat sola Deitas.
At hic latet simul et humanitas:
Ambo tamen credens, atgue confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro paenitens.

Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor,
Deum tamen meum te confiteor:
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere.

O memoriale mortis Domini,
Panis vivus vitam praestans homini:
Praesta meae menti de te vivere,
Et te illi semper dulce sapere.

Pie pellicane Iesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo Sanguine:
Cuius una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.

Iesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud, quod tam sitio,
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beatus tuae gloriae. Amen.

and the translation by E. Caswall

O Godhead hid, devoutly I adore Thee,
Who truly art within the forms before me;
To Thee my heart I bow with bended knee,
As failing quite in contemplating Thee.

Sight, touch, and taste in Thee are each deceived;
The ear alone most safely is believed:
I believe all the Son of God has spoken,
Than Truth’s own word there is no truer token.

God only on the Cross lay hid from view;
But here lies hid at once the Manhood too:
And I, in both professing my belief,
Make the same prayer as the repentant thief.

Thy wounds, as Thomas saw, I do not see;
Yet Thee confess my Lord and God to be:
Make me believe Thee ever more and more;
In Thee my hope, in Thee my love to store.

O thou Memorial of our Lord’s own dying!
O Bread that living art and vivifying!
Make ever Thou my soul on Thee to live;
Ever a taste of Heavenly sweetness give.

O loving Pelican! O Jesu, Lord!
Unclean I am, but cleanse me in Thy Blood;
Of which a single drop, for sinners spilt,
Is ransom for a world’s entire guilt.

Jesu! Whom for the present veil’d I see,
What I so thirst for, O vouchsafe to me:
That I may see Thy countenance unfolding,
And may be blest Thy glory in beholding. Amen.

I don’t post recipes here, and I seldom give my recipes out, but when a blogger like Amy Welborn asks, well, I am more than happy to oblige.

So, here is is my recipe for Portuguese Kale Soup. One thing to keep in mind is that this recipe has been handed down through many generations of large families. If you follow this recipe perfectly, you will get a lot of soup. Enough to feed a family of 10.

Ingredients:
18 cups of water
1 1/2 lbs or more of beef shank center cut meat (with bone)
2 cans of red kidney beans
1 small cabbage
1 large bunch of kale or collard greens (I use collards)
5 large potatoes
1 lb chourico or linguica sausage (2 links of chourico or 1 link of linguica)
3 tsp black pepper
1 tbs salt
1 tsp salt

Directions:
Place water in 8 qt pan
add beef shank
heat to boiling and let simmer for 1 1/2 hours

Peel potatoes and cut into small cubes
chop cabbage and kale into pieces small enough to eat

add kidney beans, salt, kale, cabbage, potatoes, chourico, salt and pepper to the water and beef shank.

Let boil for 1/2 an hour. Longer if potatoes are still hard.

If you want to make traditional Holy Ghost Soup add pieces of portuguese bread (Italian bread also works well for this) to the soup and flavor the soup with a sprig of mint. Don’t leave the sprig in the soup because the flavor will become strong quickly.

Note: Portuguese Holy Ghost soup is traditionally served in parish halls following the final (Mordomia) Holy Ghost crowning which I will write about at another time.

Another note: I realize that most of you live in areas where Chourico and Linguica are not easily available. I don’t know how you survive, but you don’t have do be deprived any longer.

You can purchase this wonderful sausage here:

I know that 5 lbs might seem like a lot, but there are so many uses. Chourico can be boiled with potatoes for a delicious sausage meal, it can also be ground and fried with onions and green peppers for a wonderful sandwich filling. I also bake chourico and cook chourico with my roast beef. Chourico is also my favorite pizza topping. In essence, there are very few recipes that can’t be made tasier with a little chourico.

Sometimes things happen which make me proud of my heritage. This is one of them.

From LifeSiteNews.com

The Portuguese Medical Association, defying threats by the socialist government’s health minister to begin criminal proceedings against it, has re-elected its president, Pedro Nunes, who has defied the government’s order to change the Association’s ethical code to allow abortion.

In his victory speech, Nunes promised to maintain the independence of the Medical Association from the government, signaling his resolve to preserve the association’s ethical code.

The Association does not “have to do the work of the government nor the work of the opposition,” said Nunes, and added that his organization should not fear to criticize what it believes to be worthy of criticism. “Doctors are on the side of the Portuguese,” he said.

The Portuguese code of ethics states that “doctors must maintain respect for human life from its beginning”, and “the practice of abortion or euthanasia constitutes a grave ethical failure”.

Following the government’s decision to decriminalize all first-trimester abortions in 2007, socialist health minister Antonio Correia de Campos ordered the Medical Association to eliminate the prohibition against abortion from its ethical code in October. He was supported by the Portuguese Attorney General, who had issued a legal opinion condemning the passages.

However, Nunes refused, insisting that it was an internal matter, and that the government had no authority to intervene in the affairs of the Association. Although Correia claimed he was filing a criminal complaint in November, no action has yet been taken against the group.

The group’s presidential election was seen as a referendum on the abortion issue, because Nunes was the only candidate who promised from the beginning to maintain the ethical code. His main rival, Miguel Leão, wanted to change to code to comply with the government’s demands.

The issue of the ethical code made the recent elections the most intense and bitter in memory. Although Nunes’ pro-abortion rival garnered the most votes in the first round, the January 17th runoff between Leão and Nunes resulted in Leão’s resounding defeat, 56 to 44 percent.

Nunes’ current term will last until 2010.

As I am sure you all know, today is the 35th anniversary of the tragedy called Roe vs. Wade. I will commemorate the anniversary here by telling my story.

4 years ago, on January 13th I got wonderful news. After many years of infertility, my husband and I were going to have a baby. Our joy was indescribable, but like the road to conception, the path of this pregnancy would take us through trials I never imagined.

My first ultrasound was scheduled for February 3rd. I had no idea what to expect, but I didn’t think I would see much on the little screen. I was wrong! Only 4 week and 4 days after conception, the ultrasound tech pointed out all the parts of this tiny human, arms, legs, face, heart. I watched arms and legs move and saw a tiny heart beating and pumping blood though this beautiful human being. My husband and I were in awe and when we got into the car he began to cry. I asked him why and his response was, “It’s a baby. How can anyone have an abortion and kill a little baby like that”. We sat in the car together and wept for all the children like the one growing within me that the world has lost. It didn’t take much to see that it was a baby.

A little over two weeks later, at 7 weeks after conception I had another ultrasound. This machine wasn’t as good as the other machine, so the images weren’t as clear, but it was still clear to my husband and I. This was a human! Still, I had no idea the twists and turns which were in store for me.

I refused most of the prenatal tests which I was pressured to allow because I didn’t want to be placed in a position where I was tempted to make a decision that I didn’t want to make. That may sound dumb, but I knew that if there was something wrong, I would be pressured by family, friends and society in general to abort. To me not having to make the decision meant I couldn’t make the wrong choice. Despite my best efforts, God had other plans.

17 weeks after conception, I had another ultrasound. This time there was no doubt. I watched him smile, purse his lips, and even scratch his head. This was when I discovered that this beautiful child was a boy. We named him immediately. A few days later we got devastating news: I needed to get a special ultrasound because there was a kidney deformity. I scheduled an appointment with the perinatologist and had another ultrasound. Once again I saw JP’s beautiful features on the screen. Then we met with the doctor. He explained what was wrong and that it could correct itself or could be surgically repaired after birth, or even in utero if necessary. Then she began to tell us that this was a marker for Down Syndrome. She presented all sorts of statistics, then handed my pamphlets on abortion. “I’m going to step out while you decide what you want to do”, she said. My husband and I just looked at each other, we both knew this baby was going to be born.

When the doctor returned we told her that we were not aborting. She said, “We can do it right now. You don’t even have to come back. Let me explain to procedure to you and I’ll give you a few more minutes.” I said, “No, I am not getting an abortion”. Then she said, Well, take the papers home, look them over, and call me back. Take your time, you don’t have to decide today”. My husband stood up, threw the pamphlets on the desk and said, “What part of this don’t you get? No abortion! We already told you no. Don’t ask us again. We aren’t killing our baby!”

The doctor didn’t get it because she repeated, “I understand that is how you feel now, but you can always change your mind.” He said, “Don’t worry we won’t and we won’t be back” and we stormed out of the office. The doctor and the staff seemed puzzled. I wondered how many people they had pressured into abortions they didn’t want to have.

The craziest part of the story is that there was only a 5% chance of Down Syndrome. 5% chance! That means there was a 95% chance of everything being just fine.

JP was born 18 weeks later, and he was very sick. However, it didn’t have anything to do with either Down Syndrome or his kidneys. It turned out that he had neither problem. JP was very sick because an overdose of Pitocin which was given to speed labor. JP was born without a heartbeat. The doctors worked frantically to resuscitate him. Ironic that they used the word resuscitation because that implies admission that he had been alive prior to birth. There was no ontological change which occurred during the birth process except the change from alive to dead and alive again. It was a traumatic week as I watched this little boy suffer attached to machines which kept him alive, countless tests, and simply being separated from him.

He survived everything without any damage. He is a beautiful, perfect, intelligent three year old who is sitting next to me right now trying to add to this post. I could have missed out on playing with trucks, sloppy kisses, tight hugs, and muddy shoes if I had listened to that doctor who was completely wrong both morally and medically.

Wow, this blew me away. It’s great news for the Archdiocese of Boston.

From the Boston Globe:

Thomas J. Flatley, the self-made billionaire who has been unloading a portion of his real estate empire, has sold to the Archdiocese of Boston for less than $100 a property with an assessed value of $14 million that will become the church’s new administrative headquarters.

The archdiocese is now renovating the 140,000-square-foot office building, which sits alongside Interstate 93, and is planning to move 250 to 300 employees from Brighton and several other sites into the Braintree office park sometime this summer.

The archdiocese announced last May that it was planning to move into the Braintree building, at 66 Brooks Drive, but declined to reveal the details. The Globe pieced together a picture of the transaction from filings with the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds, the secretary of state’s office, and the Braintree assessor’s office.

According to the documents, a company controlled by Flatley sold the property in November for less than $100 to a company established that same day by the archdiocesan chancellor, James P. McDonough. Two days later, the McDonough-controlled company sold the property, again for less than $100, to the archdiocese.

Neither the archdiocese nor Flatley would respond to questions about the transaction, nor would they say whether there were any other elements to the deal. But, in response to an inquiry by the Globe, the archdiocese issued a statement from Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley saying that Flatley “has long exemplified a strong commitment to supporting the good works of the archdiocese.”

“We are blessed for all he has done to help build up our local church,” O’Malley said. “He made it possible for us to select the new location for our pastoral center and we are grateful to him as we make plans to move in the months ahead.”

Flatley, whose net worth is estimated at $1.3 billion by Forbes magazine, has been a significant donor to the archdiocese for years. His foundation, which has reported more than $200 million in assets, gave $913,000 to the archdiocese in 2006, and has given millions to Catholic organizations over the years.

The archdiocese declined to say how much it will spend renovating the Braintree building, but said “the cost to complete the renovations and upgrades are reasonable, given the size of the building.”

The archdiocese said it will disclose the costs in its annual financial report in 2009, and that the money will come from the proceeds of the sale of the archdiocese’s Brighton property to Boston College.

(…)

O’Malley will have a suite of offices on the top floor of the new building, with a sweeping view of the Blue Hill Cemetery, but will also maintain an office at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston’s South End. The Cathedral is considered the spiritual seat of the archdiocese, and O’Malley lives and sometimes works at its rectory.

The archdiocese is hoping to retire the word “chancery,” often used to describe the church headquarters, and begin calling it the “pastoral center.”

“In calling the new location the pastoral center, we are demonstrating in a real and tangible manner our commitment to the people of God, here in the archdiocese, as we continue in our work to heal and rebuild our local church,” the archdiocese’s vicar general, the Rev. Richard M. Erikson, said in a statement. (…)

Read the complete article here.

It didn’t make sense to me to sell the chancery building and pay rent for a building, but this changes everything. I don’t know Mr. Flatley’s intentions in doing this, but I am grateful for his generosity.

I am quite ambivalent on the issue of whether the priest should celebrate Mass facing the people or facing with the people. I think there are good arguments for and against both, and I have done very little study on either liturgical posture but there is one document which keeps reverberating in my mind whenever this debate surfaces.

It is a passage from the Mystagogical Catechesis of St. Cyril of Jerusalem which dates back to approximately 347 A.D. In the catechesis on the Rites Before Baptism, Cyril writes:

However, thou art bidden with arm outstretched to say to him as though actually present “I renounce thee, Satan”. I wish to say, wherefore ye stand facing to the west; for it is necessary. Since the west is the region of sensible darkness and he being darkness, has his dominion also in darkness, ye therefore, looking with a symbolical meaning towards the west, renounce that dark and gloomy potentate.

Cyril then continues by describing the meaning of the each line of the renunciation of sins. Afterwards, he writes:

When therefore thou renouncest Satan, utterly breaking all covenant with him, that ancient league with hell, there is opened to thee the paradise of God, which He planted toward the east, whence for his transgression our first father was exiled; and symbolical of this was our turning from the west to the east, the place to light. Then thou wert told to say, “I believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost, and in one Baptism of repentance.”

Imagine my shock when I first read this. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Mystagogical Catechesis rocked my Liturgical understanding. I still don’t know if I think Mass should be celebrated ad orientum, but I will tell you that I think baptisms should.

I recommend the Mystagogical Catechesis, especially the one on baptism, of which I am most familiar. I haven’t read the one on the Eucharist yet, but I am sure it is just as good. In fact, I wrote a term paper based on the Mystagogical Catechesis which compared the use of Chrism as he describes and to how it is used in the modern rite and ended up concluding the we don’t use nearly enough Chrism. That wasn’t the paper I set out to write, but the evidence was irrefutable.

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