See Below in the following Order — Use the Table of Contents Links to find the Resources you want.

  1. RESOURCE: At Home with the Word 2018, LTP, pages 40-43.
  2. RESOURCE: Scripture Backgrounds For The Sunday Lectionary,  LTP, pages 8-9.
  3. RESOURCE: Living Liturgy™ For Sundays and Solemnities 2018, Liturgical Press, Online Pages 12-15.
  4. RESOURCE: The Word On The Street, Sunday Lectionary Reflections,, pages 8-9..
  5. RESOURCE: Guide to Daily Prayer, Apostleship of Prayer, pages 16-17.
  6. RESOURCE: Lectio Divina
  7. RESOURCE: Magnificat Reflections, December 2017, pages 262 & 267-269.
  8. RESOURCE: Give Us This Day® Daily Prayer for Today’s Catholic, December 2017, pages 180-181.
  9. RESOURCE: Homily for Sunday, December 10, 2017
  10. RESOURCE: Holy Father’s Intention For The Month Of December 2017  —The Apostleship of Prayer
  11. RESOURCE: KNOM Radio Mission’s Monthly Bulletin’s, One-Liners in Faith For December 2017.
  12. RESOURCE: Suggested Prayer of the Faithful: Faith Catholic Online;   Daily Prayer 2017;   OCP;   Magnificat;  Liturgical Press.
  13. RESOURCE: Prayer of the Faithful Last Sunday, Second Sunday of Advent, December 10, 2017 – Cycle B – Saint Peter Parish, Kirkwood

†     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †     ∞      †


At Home with the Word 2018

THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT                     December 17, 2017

READING I         Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11                                                                                                                                                                     The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me;                                                                                          he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted,                                                                                            to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.

I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul;                                                                                                                   for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels.                 As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM                  Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54 (Isaiah 61:10b)

R: My soul rejoices in my God.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the LORD; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,                                                                                for he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed. R.

The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.                                                                                                             He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. R.

He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.                                                                                      He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy. R.

READING II         1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.

GOSPEL        John 1:6-8, 19-28

A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.

And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted and did not deny it,

but admitted, “I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said:  “I am <<the voice of one crying

out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord,>> as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Practice of Hope

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the LORD / my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” sings the mother of our Lord. Gaudete means “Rejoice!” Today, Gaudete Sunday, we pause in our more solemn preparations to rejoice with Mary in the promise of God’s coming. At Mass we mark the day with rose-colored vestments and at home, with a rose-colored candle in the Advent wreath. Christ is our first and greatest gift, source of our hope and joy! • Whenever you decorate your Christmas tree, gather the household to bless it, with your own prayer or with this one from the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/sacramentals-blessings/objects/blessing-of-a -christmas-tree.cfm. Afterward, share in Mary and Joseph’s journey of hope. Watch the film, The Nativity Story (2006; rated G; with Keisha Castle-Hughes). • At Christmas time, opportunities abound to spread the hope of Christ. Invite someone to your home for Christmas dinner who might otherwise be alone, or volunteer at a local soup kitchen over the holidays. Reflect on your experience and consider extending yourself in this way on a more regular basis. • For an unusual and energetic musical experience, listen to the Choir of Clare College Cambridge perform the centuries-old Latin Advent carol “Gaudete” at /watch?v=11NgHonWNEO.

Download more questions and  activities for families, Christian  initiation groups, and other adult  groups at           ­productsupplements.aspx.

Scripture Insights

Today’s readings continue the preparation theme we heard in the previous two weeks of Advent. But now the focus shifts somewhat to the joy that awaits us in God’s coming Kingdom. This Sunday is Gaudete (Latin, “rejoice”) Sunday or, as Pope Francis calls it, the Sunday of Joy.

In today’s First Reading, the prophet writes about the mission conferred upon him by God—to bring glad tidings to the lowly and to heal the broken hearted—and about the joy he experiences in God who clothes him in justice and salvation. Early Christians appropriated this text to describe Jesus’ mission (see Luke 4:18-19). By virtue of our Baptism in Christ, this ought to be our mission as well. As the prophet suggests, there is no greater joy than doing God’s work.

The Gospel presents John the Baptist as the one who testifies or gives witness to the Light who is coming into the world (John 1:8). We can rejoice because he is the Light that darkness cannot overcome! As the story unfolds, we see John testifying on Jesus’ behalf before the priests and Levites of Jerusalem and declaring that Jesus is already among them, though they do not recognize him. John declares he is lower than the lowest household servant by comparison to Jesus, the revealer of God. This is cause for great joy!

On the theme of joy, the Church has wisely paired these two readings with a reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians. Paul admonishes us to always live in joy, praying and giving thanks, because this is God’s will for us. Everything we do and say should be inspired by this Spirit as we await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Carefully read and reflect on today’s First Reading. What makes the prophet’s call to mission and the work it demands a source of joy? How does this reading relate to your own sense of mission?
  • Where do you see Jesus already in our midst today? Describe the joy that this knowledge brings to you.
  • What does it mean to you to always live in joy?

At Home with the Word, LTP, pages 40-43.

Go to top



†     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †


Scripture Backgrounds For The Sunday Lectionary

THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT                 The Voice Testifies to the Word                                      LECTIONARY #8B

ISAIAH 61:1-2A, 10-11          As ancient Israel saw the end of its exile, a glorious future opened before the Chosen People. Those who refused to lose hope saw their dreams fulfilled. The spirit of the Lord fell upon the prophet who faithfully announced the good tidings of healing, liberty, and vindication.

God makes justice and praise spring up. Justice signifies the restoration of a community in its social dignity, and also in its spiritual union. Praise results from these actions. It is the only fitting response of a people redeemed.

Many Christians recognize this passage as the one that Jesus read in the synagogue at the beginning of his ministry in Luke’s account of the Gospel. Today it stands on its own to further the character of Advent.

LUKE 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54 (ISAIAH 61:10B)    Mary’s can­ticle, the Magnificat, proclaims the greatness of a God who has upended the injustices of the world. The hungry are filled; the rich are empty. God has returned to lift Israel from slavery to mercy.

Normally the response that follows the First Reading is drawn from the Book of Psalms, but there are occasions when a canticle from another book fills in. Today’s passage might seem more fitting as a Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, which recounts the events immediately preced­ing the birth of Christ. In fact, it is the Gospel whenever December 22 falls on a weekday. Today, however, it joins with the First Reading to serve as a prophecy for the signifi­cance of the coming of Jesus Christ. He will bring justice to a world in need.

So tightly connected are the themes of these first two elements of today’s Liturgy of the Word that one verse from the First Reading is the refrain for the responsory. The Lectionary links Mary’s canticle to the Book of Isaiah to connect the prophecies for the coming of justice to the coming of Jesus Christ.

1 THESSALONIANS 5:16-24     St. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to rejoice always and constantly give thanks. By retaining what is good and refraining from evil, the Thessalonians may be preserved “blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:23). That phrase explains why this passage has been chosen for our meditation this week­end. The people were awaiting the coming of the Lord, just as Christians today do. As Paul encouraged his readers to be blameless, so we receive the same advice.

This letter is possibly the very first piece of literature composed for the New Testament —the oldest of Paul’s epistles, older than each of the four Gospel accounts. In it can be seen the early anticipation of the imminence of Christ’s return.

The opening word, rejoice, sounds the traditional theme of this Gaudete Sunday. The same word appears in the refrain for the responsory, which in turn comes from the First Reading.

JOHN 1:6-8, 19-28          Today’s passage from John parallels the account heard last week from Mark. It is in two parts—the body following a brief introduction. The intro­duction is taken from the prologue of the Gospel according to John, a poetic proclamation of the mystery of the divine Word. Embedded into the prologue is a narrative about John, distinguishing him from Christ. Those few verses are proclaimed today ahead of the actual appearance of John in the unfolding account of Jesus’ ministry. John the evange­list provides information about the conversation between John the Baptist and the priests and Levites from Jerusalem. They probe to find out just who he is. John cannot answer that without proclaiming who Jesus is.

The Third Sunday of Advent sounds two concurrent themes. One of them is gaudete (rejoice), as seen in the other elements of today’s Liturgy of the Word. The other is the message of John (the Fourth Gospel never calls him “John the Baptist”). So central is John’s preaching to Advent that the Gospel readings for both the Second and Third Sundays always tell of him. Historically, he was preparing his contemporaries for the arrival of Jesus. Biblically, he prepares us to meet Christ at the end of time.


        “The candles [of the wreath] represent the four weeks of Advent, and the number of candles lighted each week corresponds to the number of the cur­rent week of Advent. The rose candle is lighted on the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday” (Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers, p. 73).

∞         “Looking to the heart of Mary, to the depth of her faith expressed in the words of the Magnificat, Christ’s disciples are called to renew ever more fully in themselves ‘the awareness that the truth about God who saves, the truth about God who is the source of every gift, cannot be separated from the manifestation of his love of preference for the poor and humble, that love which, celebrated in the Magnificat, is later expressed in the words and works of Jesus”‘ (CSDC, 59).                                     John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Mater, 37: AAS 79 (1987), 410.

Scripture Backgrounds For The Sunday Lectionary, LTP, pages 8-9.

Go to top



 †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †



Astoria, OR – Mouth of Columbia River

 Reflecting on the Gospel

On this “Gaudete” (Rejoice) Sunday, other readings and the gospel acclamation may speak more directly to joy or glad tidings than the gospel, which gives us its version of the story of John. Of course, he is often referred to as John the Baptist in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but not in this gospel. Here he is clearly and simply called a “man” (John 1:6), and when he is named, it is merely “John” without modifier (e.g., 1:6, 15, 19, 26, 28, 32). In this way, and in many others in this gospel, he is distinguished from Jesus.

The Fourth Gospel states clearly and unequivocally that John was not the light, but was sent from God to testify to the light (John 1:8). John admits that he is not the Messiah; he is not Elijah. (In both Matthew [11:14] and Mark [9:13], John is considered the Elijah figure, said to be so by Jesus himself.) In the Fourth Gospel, John is not even the prophet. His role is to cry out in the desert, “make straight the way of the Lord.” Such a deflection away from any attention or claims to himself seems to reflect the interests of the evangelist more than the historical situation of the time. Indeed, there are other clues in the Fourth Gospel and other New Testament writings that tell us that John continued to have a following years, perhaps decades, after his death. Today we recognize that John prepared the way for Jesus.

This first chapter of the Fourth Gospel reminded the early Christian community that John was merely a precursor, a forerunner, to Jesus the Messiah. We have heard these stories so often, and fre­quently from the Synoptic point of view. When we read the Fourth Gospel on its own terms we see that John says he baptizes with water. We might expect him to say, “but the one coming after me baptizes with the Holy Spirit” as we hear in the Synoptics. Instead, John says, “I baptize with water; / but there is one among you whom you do not recognize.” There is nothing in this gospel about Jesus bap­tizing with the Holy Spirit. Instead, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Even the use of the term sin in the singular rather than the plural is deliberate. Rather than merely taking away individual sins, Jesus takes away the cosmic force of sin. The Fourth Gospel reflects a different but congru­ent theological thought world than the Synoptics. The differences in details may seem minute but they point to profound theological emphases.

Once John points the way to Jesus, once he testifies to the Lamb of God, John in effect disappears from the gospel (there are some minor passing references). His role is basically confined to chapter 1 of the Fourth Gospel, and it consists in testifying to Jesus.

Living the Paschal Mystery

When we see how John gave testimony to Jesus we recognize him as a model for ourselves. John is not the center of attention. When he receives attention he deflects it to Jesus. John will not even claim the title of prophet. He is merely a pointer to Jesus. After accomplishing his role John recedes into the background so that the one who is already in their midst might be made more fully known.

Where do we find Jesus in our midst? Are we pointing to that reality, and tes­tifying to it? Once having done so, do we then recede into the background?

Focusing the Gospel           John 1:6-8, 19-28

Today’s gospel is the Fourth Gospel’s portrait of John’s baptismal ministry. In a scene unique to the Fourth Gospel, a delegation of priests and Levites from the city confront John about his preaching and baptizing. John responds that he is not Elijah, the great prophet who was expected to return in the last days of time to announce the coming of the Messiah; John claims to be only the “voice of one crying out in the desert.” But, John says, the Messiah they have waited for has already come and is “among you.”

There is serenity about this portrait of John: there are no descriptions of wearing camel hair and eating locusts or wild honey; there are no rantings to re­pent or angry confrontations with official Jerusalem. The Baptist of the Fourth Gospel is a figure of peace and humility. John preaches that God has revealed himself to his people through the incarnation of his Word, Jesus the Christ, and John has been called to testify (to witness) to this revelation as standing “among you whom you do not recognize.”

Forms of “baptism” were common in the Judaism of gospel times. But John’s baptism was distinctive: his baptism at the Jordan was a rite of repentance and metanoia—a conversion of heart and spirit. John’s ministry fulfilled the promise of Ezekiel (Ezek 36:25-26): at the dawn of a new age, the God of Israel would purify his people from their sins with clear water and instill in them a new heart and spirit.

Focusing the First Reading               Isa 61:1-2a, 10-11

Today’s first reading is the prophet Isaiah’s proclamation of his mission to the exiles returning to Jerusalem in the sixth century BC, after decades of slavery in Babylon. It is the beginning of a new era of hope for Israel: Judah, con­demned to exile because of the injustice of its economic and social systems, will be restored by the Spirit to a new commitment to justice for the poor. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus himself reads these words at the beginning of his preaching and healing ministry (Luke 4:16-20).

Focusing the Responsorial Psalm            Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54 (Isa 61:10b)

Today’s response to the first reading is not from the psalms but a weaving of Mary’s song of praise in Luke’s gospel upon her greeting from Elizabeth with images from the prophet Isaiah’s canticle of hope for the returning exiles (Isa 61, today’s first reading). Both Mary’s song and Isaiah’s prophecy celebrate that God is recreating humankind in his goodness and mercy.

Focusing the Second Reading              1 Thess 5:16-24

Paul’s exhortation to rejoice gives this Third Sunday of Advent its traditional name Gaudete Sunday. Today’s second reading is the conclusion of what scholars recognize as the oldest surviving documents of Christianity, Paul’s first letter to the Christian church at Thessalonica (written around 51 AD). The apostle Paul has spoken sternly to the Thessalonian community about their passivity as they await the Lord’s return. He concludes his letter urging them to embrace the joy that is experienced in following the Spirit’s prompting to create the ideals of Christian community: joy, thanksgiving, wise discernment, seeking and maintaining the common good.

Homily Points

  • In our own individual Advents of poverty and despair, in our struggle to find mean­ing and purpose in this life we have been given, God is with us. Advent faith calls us to approach God not in fear but in joy: not a Pollyanna, happy-face, sugarcoated denial of anything bad or unpleasant, but a constant awareness that God is always present to us. That despite the heartaches, there is always healing; that despite our forgetting and abandoning God, God neither forgets nor abandons us; that despite the cross, there is the eternal hope of resurrection.
  • Light is the opening image of today’s gospel: John proclaims Jesus as the light who will shatter the darkness that envelops our world, the light who illuminates our vision with compassion and justice. In our own baptisms, that light is ignited within us, melting the winter cold of despair and self-absorption and opening our eyes to see God’s goodness in our midst. We are called to “testify” to the light we have seen in the compassion and for­giveness of others, to become the means to straighten the roads we travel that have been made crooked and dangerous by injustice and greed. We have been entrusted by God to transform our deserts into God’s vineyard of mercy and peace.
  • The coming of Christ calls us to the work of making a straight road for him, of trans­forming the barren deserts around us into harvests of justice and peace, of making the light of his presence in our midst known to all. As God gives himself so completely and unreservedly to us in the birth of his own Son, may we find our life’s joy and fulfillment in giving completely and unreservedly of ourselves to others.

About Liturgy

Liturgy doesn’t lie: In today’s gospel, John the Baptist testifies to the light “so that all might believe through him.” In other words, he was to tell the truth about the light.

At the midway point of Advent, today’s liturgical texts overflow with joy. “Rejoice” appears in the first and second readings and the responsorial psalm, and the gospel acclamation speaks of “glad tidings.” This Sunday is obviously meant to communicate the joy of our faith in Christ the Light.

Now take a look around you at Mass at the faces of those present, especially of the liturgical ministers and other parish leaders. Do their faces “testify” to the light, to that joy? Or do they look like the Christians Pope Francis described as those who “have expressions like they’re going to a funeral procession rather than going to praise God” (homily in Casa Santa Marta, May 31, 2013)?

As liturgical ministers, we must not give in to what Pope Francis calls the “disease of a lugubrious face” that “weakens our service to the Lord” and conveys an untruth in the liturgy (address to the Roman Curia, December 22, 2014). If we are homilists, lectors, or music ministers, when we say “rejoice,” let us mean it and, more impor­tantly, look it! Our faces and demeanor need to be a silent proclamation to the truth of Christ—a proclamation that can be even more powerful than our words. If ushers, let us radiate joy with a sincere greeting not just to those we know by name but most of all to those we do not recognize. To those who arrive late, may our attitude convey to them that in Christ’s eyes, latecomers are as richly blessed as those who come early. If we are Communion ministers, let us use the most of our few seconds with each person to express joy through our eyes and faces, testifying to our love for the Body and Blood of Christ in our hands as well as in the person before us.

Of course we all know this, but sometimes we may not be aware of what our faces actually communicate. So it may be useful to ask someone to take video of you as you minister (and throughout the liturgy) so that you can assess how well you are silently conveying the joy of your faith.

At every Sunday liturgy, and most especially on this Gaudete “Rejoice” Sunday, let us testify to the truth of Christ the Light who radiates through our faces, words, and actions.

A “short” Advent: In 2017, the Fourth Sunday of Advent falls on December 24, which makes this coming week the last week of Advent! This means there are only three full weeks of Advent this year. Be aware of this as you schedule liturgical prepa­rations, especially for environment ministers and music ministers, who will need to make a quick changeover from Advent to Christmas next Sunday.

About Liturgical Music

Rejoice! Rejoice!: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is a musical staple of Advent, and the season feels incomplete without it. The verses of this song come from the antiphons of Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours from December 17 to 23. The final weeks of Advent are the perfect time to include this hymn at every liturgical gathering. However, take care to be authentic witnesses to the message of this text. Sometimes we tend to think that Advent’s sound is quiet, slow, and contemplative—and at times it is. Yet when the first words of the refrain of this song are “Rejoice! Rejoice!” we should make the sound of our music match the message. Therefore, be careful to avoid falling into the trap of singing this piece too slowly or timidly. Experiment with a livelier tempo, and consider adding more joyful accompaniment and instrumentation so that these words truly may usher in the joyful anticipation of these last days of the season.

Living Liturgy™ Spirituality, Celebration, and Catechesis for Sundays and Solemnities, Liturgical Press, Pages 12-15.

Go to top


†     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †




WAITING ON HOPE          Third Sunday of Advent

Readings: Isa 61:1-2a, 10-11; Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54; 1 Thess 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

“Who are you?” (John 1:19)

Christians read the Old Testament today, understandably, in light of Christ’s fulfillment of the promises and prophecies found there. It is a simple thing to do, since the early church read the Old Testament in the context of Jesus’ incarnation and teaching and the experience of Easter, and then formalized these readings and understandings in the texts of the New Testament.

But what if you were a Jew in the first century, eagerly hoping for the Messiah, a successor to David? These hopes, shared with the whole nation, had been growing since the return from Babylonian exile. As you searched through the panoply of prophecies, you began to wonder, when will these hopes be fulfilled? Who do you look for and where do you start looking? It would be like reading a mystery novel, knowing every clue, studying every sign, but seeing only in retrospect how the whole fits together.

Isaiah 61, for instance, is most often dated to the period just after the return from Babylonian exile, and the author of the passage is generally considered to be the speaker in the text. This prophetic passage emerged, therefore, some five centuries before the birth of Christ. In it the speaker says, “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, / because the LORD has anointed me; / he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, / to bind up the brokenhearted, / to proclaim liberty to the captives, / and release to the prisoners.” In its original historical context and literal mean­ing, the author speaks of the conditions that the returning Babylonian exiles found, especially when he promises that those returning exiles “shall build up the ancient ruins, / they shall raise up the former devastations; / they shall repair the ruined cities, / the devastations of many genera­tions.” It also seems that the postexilic prophet is speaking of his own role in the restoration of Jerusalem when he says, “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me.”

Yet there is also an eschatological edge to the hopes imagined, especially in the proclamation of “the year of the LORD’S favor,” an event still to come.

Christians see the spiritual fulfillment of these proclamations in the person and ministry of Jesus, centuries after they were uttered. The reason is simple: Jesus himself read this passage, according to Luke 4, in the syna­gogue in Nazareth.

There Jesus says of the Isaian passage, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). This we might identify with what Catholic biblical scholarship has called the sensus plenior, or “fuller sense,” since it does not obviate the original historical meaning and context but points to a fulfillment of which the original human author was unaware.

This is why the questioning of John the Baptist by some representatives of the Pharisees makes historical and theological sense. The Pharisees, like most Jews of this period, were awaiting the Messiah. Because of the attractiveness of John’s prophetic message of repentance to the people, and his popularity, he was someone who had to be examined. They asked, “Who are you?” In response, John confesses that he is not the Messiah, not Elijah, not the prophet and cites Isaiah 40:3, a passage dated to the end of the Babylonian exile: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, / ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’ ” John identifies himself not as the Messiah, but as the fulfillment of long-ago prophecies, as the one who prepares the way for the coming Messiah.

But the questions still remained, even for John. Who ever thought that it would happen through a young, unmarried woman, that God would look “with favor on the lowliness of his servant,” Mary? God asks that as we wait for fulfillment we be prepared for God to do new things, un­expected things, and be ready for the unlikeliest of answers.

Reflect on the surprises of God’s ways. How has God surprised you in the past? How do you wait in hope for the Messiah at Advent? Do you expect God’s surprising ways at Advent?

The Word On The Street, Sunday Lectionary Reflections, Martens, Liturgical Press, pages 8-9.

Go to top


†     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †



 Sunday, December 17, 2017 Third Sunday of Advent

Know that God is present and ready to converse.

“Light of the world, light of my life, let me see you in your Word.”

As the candles in the Advent wreath continue to burn during this time of hopeful anticipation, our longing for the Lord grows. We love the infant Jesus. We love the triumphant Messiah who is to come. But, best of all, for now and for eternity, we love the coming and abiding of Jesus Christ in our hearts. The kingdom of heaven is already within us.

“I welcome you into my day, Lord, though you are always with me. I am here with you.”

Read the gospel: John i:6-8, 19-28.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. . . .

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said,

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,” as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

Notice what you think and feel as you read the gospel.

John has a positive message, for he proclaims the imminent coming of the Lord. Those who hear him press him for more, so he has to declare plainly that he is not the Messiah, Elijah, or the prophet. He declares also that he is not worthy to untie the thong of the sandal of the one who is to come after him.

Pray as you are led for yourself and others.

“How human we are, Lord, as we dispute about your words. Let me avoid dispute and with simple heart and mind receive you. I pray others do as well . . .” (Continue in your own words.)

Listen to Jesus.

You see why I have said that intelligent people cannot understand, while children can. Study to be a child, for you are my child. Love and trust your Lord and God. All shall be well with you and yours. What else is Jesus saying to you?

Ask God to show you how to live today.

“By your grace, let me learn and practice simplicity, love, and trust today. Let it bring honor to you, Lord. Amen.”

Pray as you are led for yourself and others.

“How human we are, Lord, as we dispute about your words. Let me avoid dispute and with simple heart and mind receive you. I pray others do as well . . .” (Continue in your own words.)

Listen to Jesus.

You see why I have said that intelligent people cannot understand, while children can. Study to be a child, for you are my child. Love and trust your Lord and God. All shall be well with you and yours. What else is Jesus saying to you?

Ask God to show you how to live today.

“By your grace, let me learn and practice simplicity, love, and trust today. Let it bring honor to you, Lord. Amen.”

SACRED READING, The 2018 Guide to Daily Prayer, Apostleship of Prayer, pages 16-17.

Go to top


† ∞ † ∞ † ∞ † ∞ † ∞ † ∞ †



Guide to Lectio Divina:

Choose a word or phrase of the Scriptures you wish to pray. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as you have no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text. The amount of text covered is in God’s hands, not yours.

Read. Turn to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today?’ Do not expect lightning or ecstasies. In lectio divina, God is teaching us to listen, to seek him in silence. God does not reach out and grab us but gently invites us ever more deeply into his presence.

Ponder. Take the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories, and ideas. Do not be afraid of distractions. Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself that, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God.

Pray. Whether you use words, ideas, or images—or all three—is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. Give to God what you have discovered during your experience of meditation. Give to God what you have found within your heart.

It is not necessary to assess the quality of your lectio divina, as if you were “performing” or seeking some goal. Lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.

—Fr. Luke Dysinger – Luke Dysinger, OSB, is a Benedictine monk of Saint Andrew’s Abbey, Valyermo, California. Give Us This Day®, Daily Prayer for Today’s Catholic, April 2017, Liturgical Press, page 441.


      1. ctio: Read a Scripture passage aloud slowly. Notice what phrase captures your attention and be attentive to its meaning. Silent pause.
      2. Meditatio: Read the passage aloud slowly again, reflecting on the passage, allowing God to speak to you through it. Silent pause.
      3. Oratio: Read it aloud slowly a third time, allowing it to be your prayer or response to God’s gift of insight to you. Silent pause.
      4. Contemplatio: Read it aloud slowly a fourth time, now resting in God’s word.

      Throughout his life, Jesus taught the impor­tance of forgiveness, offering it even to those who had crucified him. Important as universal forgiveness is, Jesus’ instruction here explains a process of reconciliation within the church, bringing a sinful member back into communion.

      RESOURCE: 2017 Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word® LTP, page 242.

Go to top

    • †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †



      Third Sunday of Advent   –    In this Mass, the color violet or rose is used.

      “Rejoice in the Lord,” for as miserable as life can seem at times, the reality is that God has clothed us “with a robe of salvation” that heals all our poverty, our broken hearts, our bondage. “He has mercy on those who fear him,” that is, those who fear only one thing: losing their relationship with the Lord. Therefore, “be preserved blameless for the coming of Jesus.” Even though in the troubles of life you may not recognize him, “the one who calls you is faithful.”   Magnificat, December 2017, page 262.

      Testifying to the Light

      As John announced Christ even before his birth, so he was the forerunner of his public life. Now, after the desert, came the culminating moment of his life, while he was preparing the way of Christ: There was a man sent from God whose name was John. This man came fora witness to give testimony of the Light, that all men might believe through him. He was not the Light, but was to give testimony of the Light. John the Baptist’s essential work, then, was to give testimony of the Light, to show Christ. He had a most important part to play in the preparation for Christ’s coming, and Christ’s work itself. He it was who laid the ground for our Lord’s pub­lic life, and for his teaching, by making people’s souls ready for it. He was to some extent educating souls, taking the first steps towards laying them more open to receive what Christ was to tell them. Christ’s words would have been too much for souls not prepared for them. They had to have some previous education. Their interests had to be given a new twist away from their earthly concerns and customs; they must be made to feel that all was not well.

      That was John the Baptist’s task. Among people to­tally unconcerned with the things of God, it was his work to awaken their interest, unsettle them from their complacency, and arouse in them enough good will to understand Christ when he came.

      In this he was in the same position as all who had earlier shared in the work of preparing for the Lord’s coming; they, too, were separated from earthly things by God, and mysteriously given to see his plans, so that they might trace his ways to people. Saint John came in his turn to trace his ways to people, to make the rough ways plain, to bring the mountains low. But in order to do this he must first be completely caught up by his inward vision, he must belong to the Lord utterly, for the ground he had to break was hard: he was com­ing amongst the people of his day, who were mainly engaged, like those of our own, as Saint Luke tells us, the soldiers in doing violence and spreading calumny, the publicans in taking more than their due (3:2-14).

      Human beings are like that—they were then, and they are now. They are busy about earthly affairs. They are completely heedless of God, and our chief feeling as we move among them is one of anguish at seeing the world’s utter indifference to anything higher.

      To shake the world out of this indifference we need prophets, that is to say, people whose souls are cap­tured by the divine vision of things and who can shake the mass of people out of their inertia, and be, in truth, “witnesses.” Now a witness is someone to whom it is granted to see things as God does, and who has this inner vision himself in such a way that he can hand it on to mankind. Such a man was John the Baptist.

      CARDINAL JEAN DANIELOU  —  Cardinal Danielou (†1974) was a Jesuit priest, theologian, liturgist, historian, and member of the Academie Francaise.         Magnificat, December 2017, pages 267-269.

Go to top

  • † ∞ † ∞ † ∞ † ∞ † ∞ † ∞ †



  • Reflection – Instruments of Joy
  • I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul.At this midpoint in Advent, we might ask ourselves: What or who is “the joy of my soul?” Do we rejoice in the victory of a favorite football team, in the performance of a grandchild at a Christmas concert, in a political victory? John the Baptist experienced joy in the womb when Mary greeted Elizabeth, his mother. St. Paul experienced joy in his great calling to be an evangelist, proclaiming God’s love and mercy revealed in Jesus. Pope Francis has given the world his papal smile, an expression of his interior joy and faith.Joy has fallen on hard times in this turbulent world. Too easily is our soul overwhelmed by the sheer volume of suffering of so many innocent people. Is joy possible in such a broken world? St. Paul was keenly aware of a turbulent, messy, chaotic world. Yet he tells us to rejoice always, to pray day in and day out, to be grateful. Paul’s faith in God’s presence enabled him to have joy and peace far beyond our limited understanding. The Holy Spirit empowered Paul to be prayer­ful, grateful, and yes, joyful.As we reflect on human joy we might also ask about divine joy. Does God rejoice? In several of his great parables—the stories of the lost son, the lost coin, the lost sheep—Jesus tells us how much his Father rejoices when the lost are found. It’s all about relationships being restored; it’s all about realizing that redemption is the restoration of unity and oneness. Herein lies our joy.As we draw closer and closer to the feast of the Nativity, let us recommit ourselves to being instruments of God’s joy.Bishop Robert E Morneau  —  Robert F. Morneau is pastor of Resurrection Parish in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Green Bay.This Is The Day, Liturgical Press, December 17, 2017, pages 180-181.



    Go to top




    †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †     



    Homily for Sunday, December 10, 2017

     by Fr. James J. Hogan, Missoula, Montana                                                                                           Isaiah 4: 1-5, 9-11 + 2 Peter 3: 8-14 + Mark 1: 1-8 2 Advent B ‘18

    Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. As winter darkness deepens and surrounds us, we light two candles reminding ourselves that we and all of creation are being drawn forth by that Gracious Mystery we name God into a future of unknown possibilities. Yes, Advent is a season of anticipation, but not focused on a past event — the child in the manger. With the scripture texts as our guides, we hear Advent direct our focus to the future, the eternal cosmic Christ.

    We have come to be through a process of evolution. Evolution is never a straight line. It is an active, ongoing process, a movement toward greater wholeness, fullness and union in love.   Gradually we are beginning to realize the plan of that Gracious Mystery we name God whose hope seems to be that one-day humanity and all of creation will recognize that Gracious Mystery is “incarnate” and present in all that exists.

    In Jesus of Nazareth those first-generation Christians experienced a concrete and personal embodiment of universal, non-violent, unconditional love. I slowly am beginning to understand what they named — “The Christ Mystery.” The adult and cosmic Christ is drawing us, and all creation, beyond space and time toward greater wholeness, fullness and union in love.

    Mark announced: “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ.” A leading American Scripture scholar always emphasized two words: “the beginning.” These two words imply there is more to come. That is my point today. There is more to come!  Perhaps Mark is exaggerating when he tells us, “the whole Judean countryside, and all the people of Jerusalem went out to” John. His point is that people got excited about John’s vision and message because it is for everyone. John awakened his peers to a dream of how life will be when the “one more powerful than I” comes. That is how Mark introduces us to Jesus.

    Those early generations of Christians were convinced that in Christ everything changed. “God’s new reality” is emerging among us. They understood Christ is the hinge of our history, the center of our time, the norm of what we are to become and how we are to live. This is why I offer the William Butler Yeats’ poem, “ THE SECOND COMING ” as our Advent guide.

    “Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst  Are full of passionate intensity.” The poem is dark and negative. It certainly fits this time in which we live.  When “the falcon [you and I] cannot hear the falconer [Christ]”. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world …..Evolution is a slow process. On our Earth clock, two thousand years seems a long time. It is not.    On the clock of cosmic time, we really are still at the “beginning of the gospel!” The good news is that “God’s new reality” is emerging among us. “The falconer” is calling us to embrace his path of non-violent, unconditional love; to carry on and extend his life and spirit into the darkness of the Cosmos. God is with us, drawing us forward into an unknown future full of hope.”

    That is what that now deceased American Scripture scholar tried to get us to understand when he `was so emphatic about such a simple text. “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ.”

    Go to top

    †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †




    Teach Us to Pray – Being Still in Advent, Father James Martin, page 7.

    This may sound almost heretical, but with each passing year I like Christmas less and less. At the same time, with each passing year, I like the feast of the Nativity more and more. Maybe you feel the same. The craziness surrounding the secular season of Christmas—the endless ads on TV and on­line, the crowded stores, the glut of often crass holiday-themed movies—sometimes seems to drown out the real meaning of the season.

    That’s why I treasure silence during Advent. Silence is a gift that we can give to ourselves in the middle of a noisy season. And silent prayer is something we can all afford—it costs nothing. Of course many people—parents of young children, children of aging parents, and people with hectic working lives—may not have much time to spare, but even a few minutes of quiet may help to center oneself.

    In busy times it’s important to let quiet be your prayer. This can be as simple as “withdrawing:’ as Jesus did, from the busyness of life and just sitting in the presence of God. Or it could be a simple meditation, reflecting on a single word from the stunning readings of Advent: from the Book of Isaiah, the Psalms, or the Gospels.

    Sometimes people feel guilty for taking a break in the weeks before Christmas—there’s often so much to do. But think of silence as a gift you give not only to yourself but to God, who wants to meet you in the silence as you wait for Jesus to enter your heart in a new way this Advent.

    James Martin is a Jesuit priest and author of many books, including Jesus: A Pilgrimage and a collection of essays from Give Us This Day entitled In All Seasons, For All Reasons.


    Calendars, Deadlines, and Timeless Love Do not become drowsy from the anxieties of daily life.

    Here’s what a friendship with our dearest Companion, our holiest God, is like. In it, intimacy is always possible and can’t be stopped, except on our side, for God is always open to us. Nothing can come between us and God, our Spouse, and we can be alone with God whenever we want, as long as we want. All we have to do is desire it.

    So let us close the door on our worldly calendars and dead­lines and live instead in paradise with the God of love. If we desire this closeness that comes from closing the door on the world, we must realize that that door is our hearts. We don’t have to be mystics to accomplish this communion. We only need to focus on God with our will. That’s all. It’s our own choice, and because God loves us, we can do this.

    Don’t confuse this state with empty silence. I am speaking of a turning inward and a listening.     St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection – Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was a mystic, religious reformer, and the foundress of seventeen convents. In 1970 she was the first woman to be named a Doctor of the Church.

    This Is the Day, December 2017, pages 32-33.

    Reflection — Willing to Begin Again

    Advent is my favorite liturgical season, as its readings en­compass so much of both the Old and New Testaments. In order to prepare to celebrate the birth of the infant Jesus, we revisit the whole of salvation history. With Isaiah as our guide, we can’t go wrong. We journey forth on a highway where even fools can’t go astray.

    But Advent is also a challenge, as it requires us to begin again. We go to great lengths to attain status as experts, and not beginners. We regard repetition, going back to stories we’ve heard a thousand times over, as a waste of our precious time. The familiarity of the readings of Advent and Christmas can deaden our hearts.

    Maybe that’s why today’s readings insist that we wake up from our self-absorbed stupor. The Collect asks us to “run forth” towards Christ; Isaiah asks God to return to us with awesome deeds. The psalmist prays to God: “rouse your power, and come to save us.” St. Paul reminds us that our job is to wait, not only for the incarnation of Jesus but for his second coming. And in the Gospel Jesus says: “Be watchful! Be alert!”

    Advent reminds us that God’s ways are not our own. It asks us to take a realistic look at who we are, people in need of God’s grace, beginners who must start all over again in this season to be reminded of the good news that is our salvation in Jesus Christ.

    Kathleen Norris — Kathleen Norris is an oblate of St. Benedict and the author of many books, including The Cloister Walk and Acedia and Me.                                                    This Is the Day, December 2017, pages 43.

    Go to top




    †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †



    Blessing for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

    Pope Francis has decided to institute in the Catholic Church an annual “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” to be celebrated on September 1. Pope Francis explains:     As Christians, we wish to contribute to resolving the ecological crisis which humanity is presently experiencing. In doing so, we must first rediscover in our own rich spiritual patrimony the deepest motivations for our concern for the care of creation. We need always to keep in mind that, for believers in Jesus Christ, the Word of God who became man for our sake, “the life of the spirit is not dissociated from the body or from nature or from worldly realities, but lived in and with them, in communion with all that surrounds us” (Laudato Si’, 216). The ecological crisis thus summons us to a profound spiritual conversion: Christians are called to “an ecological conversion whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them” (ibid., 217). For “living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (ibid.).

    A Prayer by Pope Francis
    from the Encyclical Laudato Si’

    Father, we praise you with all your creatures.
    They came forth from your all-powerful hand;
    they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.
    Praise be to you! Son of God, Jesus, through you all things were made.
    You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother,
    you became part of this earth,
    and you gazed upon this world with human eyes.

    Today you are alive in every creature in your risen glory.
    Praise be to you! Holy Spirit, by your light
    you guide this world towards the Father’s love
    and accompany creation as it groans in travail.
    You also dwell in our hearts and you inspire us to do what is good.
    Praise be to you!

    Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love,
    teach us to contemplate you in the beauty of the universe,
    for all things speak of you.
    Awaken our praise and thankfulness for every being that you have made.
    Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined to everything that is.
    God of love, show us our place in this world as channels of your love
    for all the creatures of this earth, for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.

    Enlighten those who possess power and money
    that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
    that they may love the common good,
    advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live.
    The poor and the earth are crying out.

    0 Lord, seize us with your power and light,
    help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future,
    for the coming of your kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty.

    Praise be to you! Amen.

    Go to top



    †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †



    The Elderly

    That the elderly, sustained by families and Christian communities supporting them on the path of growth and openness to the communities, may apply their wisdom and experience to spreading the faith and forming the new generations.

    Mature experienced members of our families, parishes and societies have much to offer to the formation of young people today. Experience matters. The elderly are a treasure who inform our minds and spirits with lessons of the past so that we might better approach our future.

    In the medical field, risk-taking among the young is seen as a great risk factor for injury or unhealthy behavior. Because the young have energy and ideals, they can accomplish much in the arenas of family, social and work life. On the other hand, without experience, the young tend to take risks not cautioned by the school of hard knocks. Here is where our elders can be of great help in spiritual and personal formation.

    Pope Francis, in a radio address in 2016, proclaimed: “The Church regards the elderly with affection, gratitude, and high esteem. They are an essential part of the Christian community and of society: in particular they represent the roots and the memory of a people… Your maturity and wisdom, accumulated over the years, can help younger people in search of their own way, supporting them on the path of growth and openness to the future.”

    It is a duty, an honor, and a privilege to share our holy faith with those who come behind us. It is likewise a duty, honor, and privilege to learn from those who have gone before us. How many of us have experienced firsthand the lessons of wisdom from a grandmother, grandfather, or elder among our acquaintances? All of us must lower our pride and open our hearts to listen to our elders: elders at the same time, can learn from listening to the young.


    Consider yourself kneeling before Christ on His Cross. Ask yourself: How have I shared the faith with young people? How am I sharing the faith? How ought we share the faith? (Conversely, younger people might ask how they share the faith with their elders.)


    Mt 19:13-14 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

    Prayer of the Month     Prayer of Pope Saint John Paul II for the elderly:

    Grant, 0 Lord of life…that we may savor every season of our lives as a gift filled with promise for the future.                       Grant that we may lovingly accept your will, and place ourselves each day in your merciful hands. And when the moment of our definitive “passage” comes, grant that we may face it with serenity, without regret for what we shall leave behind. For in meeting you, after having sought you for so long, we shall find once more every authentic good which we have known here on earth, in the company of all who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith and lope.                                                                Mary, Mother of pilgrim humanity, pray for us “now and at the hour of our death”. Keep us ever close to Jesus, your beloved Son and our brother, the Lord of life and glory. Amen!

    Saint of the Month   

    Saint Edmund Campion, Memorial on December 1

    Edmund Campion is one of the greatest saints of the Jesuit Order. In 1566, Queen Elizabeth I heard him speak at Oxford University. He was a protestant, but investigation of the faith ultimately led him to question his theological positions. After studying in Douai, France, he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1572. He entered the Jesuit Order in Rome and began studying for the priesthood. It is said that in the novitiate he had in a vision of Our Lady in which she told him of his martyrdom in England. Father Campion returned to England in 1580. He was captured in 1581. During interrogations, his torturers stretched him on the rack. On December 1, 1581, the martyr was drawn and quartered at Tyburn Hill, London. He is the patron of numerous schools, parishes, colleges and religious communities.

    Traditional Offering Prayer

    O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.

    To register as a member of the Apostleship of Prayer, to subscribe to leaflets, or to order additional leaflets for distribution to others, please contact us. Thank you for your generous support of our ministry.


    Apostleship Of Prayer
    1501 S. Layton Blvd.
    Milwaukee, WI 53215-1924

    Go to top



    †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †



    RESOURCE:  KNOM Radio Mission’s  Monthly Bulletins, provided the following One-Liners in Faith For December 2017. 

    Lavender Iris

    KNOM Radio Mission One-Liners for December 2017:

    The hope of this season is a passion for the onion seemingly impossible. Our hope is rooted in the promise of God. With God, nothing is impossible.

    That the elderly, sustained by families in Christian communities, may apply their wisdom and experience to spreading the faith and forming the new generations.”            – Pope Francis’ monthly prayer intention for December 2017

    Just as Jesus at his birth drew wise men from afar, today he draws people of all backgrounds to Himself. People all over the world, whether consciously or unconsciously, are searching for the Truth and Life found in Jesus. There is not one person to whom Jesus does not wish to manifest His Presence and His Love.

    Is there someone in your life who prays for you? Is there someone who makes tough times easier to bear, by knowing that they’re on their knees, pleading to the Lord on your behalf? We are all blessed by people who pray. They comfort us and help us to keep our faith strong.

    The hope of this season is a passion for the seemingly impossible. Our hope is rooted in the promise of God. With God, nothing is impossible.

    Go to top



    †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †





           (Each local community should compose its own Universal Prayer,  but may find inspiration in the texts proposed here.)




    That, in our church and parish’s ministries of compassion and care, we may bring glad tidings and proclaim the Lord’s favor to all

    That the Church will be zealous in bringing good news to the poor, healing to the brokenhearted, and liberty to captives,

    For the Church during this holy season of Advent, that we testify to Christ by rejoicing in him always,

    For all members of the Church, the people of God, may we strive always to be a reflection of Christ’s light to all people who seek the Lord,

    For the Church, the body of Christ, may she always be a steadfast voice challenging the faithful to live the Gospel message with courage and conviction,

    For those who shepherd our Church, may they continue to listen closely to the voice of the Holy Spirit as they guide the faithful on the path of life,

    That the Church may be strengthened by women and men who continue to give from the heart, as Mary did, for the sake of God’s kingdom,

    That those who serve our Church, including Francis, our pope, and all bishops, clergy, religious and lay leaders, may be renewed by the joy of God’s presence,

    For the Church, may her teachings stir joy and thanksgiving for the gift of life into the hearts of all people,

    For the Church, as we long for the coming of Christ, may the Lord truly prepare each and every one of our hearts for that day,

    For wise leaders in Church, government, and communities,

    For a profound respect for the unspeakable name of God—Adonai,

    For missionaries, evangelists, and volunteers who bring increase to the Body of Christ,

    For an end to ideologies that threaten nations and peoples,

    For the Church, the bride of Christ, as she seeks to be a faithful spouse,

    For vocations to a dedicated life in the Church as consecrated men and women religious,



    That God’s justice, liberty, and peace may “spring up” before all nations

    That under the protection of Christ our times may be peaceful,

    For our country during these winter months,

    For all civic leaders, may there be a greater willingness to resolve disputes nonviolently so that peace may reign on earth,

    For Catholic families throughout the world, may they reflect the love of the Holy Family, and be a source of healing and hope for others,

    For our government leaders, may they work to protect the religious freedom of all people,

    That parents all over the world may be blessed as they work to nurture the love of God in their children,

    That those in positions of authority may be guided by God’s justice in their work to protect those who can’t protect themselves, especially the unborn,

    For our world, may its leaders work to end terror and hostility by promoting messages of nonviolence and love,

    For all who serve in public office, and in public capacities, may they turn to God for guidance to enact laws and policies that promote the good of all,

    For ambassadors and diplomats who work to avoid international conflicts,

    For world leaders, that they may be drawn to work for peace,

    For wise and just men and women to lead the world’s nations,

    For the willingness of young people to discern God’s will as they consider marriage, ordained ministry, religious life, or other calls,



    That as witnesses to Christ’s love before all we may abide in the truth,

    For the grace this week to be free of anxiety and to be generous in showing kindness,

    that we serve the poor and needy in a spirit of Christian charity,

    For all who are alienated from God and his Church, may they open their hearts and respond to Christ’s message of love and healing,

    For all who are persecuted for their faith in Christ, may they find comfort from the prayers and support of their Christian brothers and sisters,

    That pregnant women facing difficult circumstances may look to Mary for strength and comfort,

    For those struggling to conceive, may they trust in the Lord as his will is revealed to them,

    For those who have sad memories during the holidays,

    For humility that reflects our true selves and not pretense,

    For a faith that is always steadfast and joyful,

    For Mary’s intercession upon all expectant mothers,

    For infertile couples who long for children,

    For charitable agencies that rely on holiday giving to support their work,

    For those who doubt God when troubles come,

    For the humility to cooperate with God’s grace instead of insisting on our need to be in control,

    For teenage girls and boys who are left unguided during this challenging stage of their lives,

    For prisoners, hostages, victims of sexual trafficking, and all who are held captive,

    For the gift of forgiveness and healing among families,

    For detachment from any sense of entitlement as we receive material gifts from relatives and friends,

    For childless couples who have chosen to fulfill their parental desires through adoption,

    For those who do not share our faith in Christ,




    That the elderly, sustained by families and Christian communities, may apply their wisdom and experience to spreading the faith and forming the new genera­tions, (Holy Father’s Intention)

    For those in this community who are discouraged or depressed, that they persevere in prayer and find strength in God’s loving care,

    That the joy and peace of this holy season may illuminate every home in our community in every season of the year,

    For this faith community, may our children experience God’s presence and grow in their love and commitment to God,

    For members of this faith community, may we have the courage to be Christ’s presence in the world around us,

    For all members of our parish, may we continue to observe Advent with a spirit of joy and anticipation, in preparation for celebrating the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ,

    That those suffering due to external circumstances or inner turmoil may experience God’s presence through the loving outreach of his people,

    For our parish community, may we imitate Mary’s model of faith in the way we say “yes” to God with our lives,

    For women pressured to terminate their pregnancies,

    For engaged and married couples as they encounter the mountains and valleys of love,

    For a renewed appreciation for the gift of human life, especially for children,




    For all who form this worshipping assembly, that we may be united in prayer and thanksgiving to God,

    For each of us, in these last days of Advent, may our hearts become a more welcome home for Jesus,

    That we here today, when faced with challenging decisions, may act with trust and confidence in God, following the example of Mary,

    That those of us gathered here who have brokenness in our families and communities may have the grace necessary to restore relationships and bring reconciliation and forgiveness to all,

    For relatives and friends preparing to gather with us in celebration of Christmas,




    That Christ the light of God may be the health and hope of the sick and dying, the ad­dicted and recovering

    For those who experience any kind of hardship or sor­row during the holidays: that the Father’s compassion will provide for them in every way,

    For the sick members of this community of faith, that they be comforted and encouraged in God’s love,

    For those facing unexpected or difficult pregnancies, may people of faith embrace them and strive to meet their physical and spiritual needs,

    For those who suffer from physical ailments, that God will grace their caregivers to help bring them comfort and relief,




    For our beloved dead, may they be welcomed into God’s heavenly presence with the saints and angels,

    For our loved ones who have died, may they experience the fullness of life in heaven,

    For those who have died, may they dwell with joy in God’s presence,

    That those who have died may rejoice forever at the banquet of the Lord,

    That those who have gone before us may enjoy the peace of resting in God’s loving presence,

    For all the faithful departed, may they find peace and rejoice in the Father’s unending love,

    For those who have died, may they receive a place at the eternal banquet in heaven,

    Go to top



    †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †




    Chihuly Glass

    Universal Prayers for Victims of Recent Natural Disasters

     1)   For those in our country and around the world affected by recent natural disasters, may the support of relief agencies , neighbors and loved ones who come to their aid provide them the care and hope needed to recover and rebuild from the devastation they have experienced, let us pray to the Lord.
    2)   For all those who have died recently as a result of flooding, hurricanes, earthquake and other natural disasters throughout the world, may they live in the light and warmth of God’s love for all eternity, let us pray to the Lord.

    3)   For those whose homes and businesses have been destroyed by floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, forest fires or other natural disasters, that, as they struggle to rebuild, they will experience the loving assistance of communities of faith, let us pray to the Lord …

    4)   For all rescue workers and volunteers, that they will be blessed with energy and courage as they help their brothers and sisters who have been injured or left homeless by recent natural disasters, let us pray to the Lord …

    5)   For all of us, that we will reach out in love to those who are suffering due to the recent earthquakes, floods and tornadoes, let us pray to the Lord …

     Universal Prayers for Opioid Crisis:    

    1) For members of the health professions, first responders and civic leaders, may the Holy Spirit inspire them to work together to help all those who are affected by the scourge of addiction, let us pray to the Lord.

    2) For those struggling to break free from addiction to opioids, may they find hope and healing in Jesus and his Church on their path to recovery, let us pray to the Lord.

    3) For those who have died because of their addictions, may they now rest in the peace and joy of God’s love through all eternity, let us pray to the Lord.

    Universal Prayers for the Shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas

    1) For the innocent victims killed in the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and for all who die as a result of violence, may they find perpetual peace and joy in heaven, let us pray to the Lord.

    2) For the families and friends of those who were killed or wounded in the shooting in Sutherland Springs, and for all those who have experienced violence in their lives, may they be comforted by the love of God and the compassion of all members of our Church, let us pray to the Lord.

    3) For members of churches everywhere, may God help us find practical and meaningful ways to overcome dysfunction, evil and violence in our world, let us pray to the Lord.

    Go to top


  • †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †

    Faith Catholic Online;    Daily Prayer 2017;    OCP;    Magnificat;   Liturgical Press.


    †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †



        Sunday,  December 10, 2017 – Cycle B

  • Presider:           God of hope, you raised up John the baptizer as a herald who calls us to conversion. Seeking the consolation of God for all in distress and need, we open our hearts to that Divine Grace by which we prepare a way for the Lord. 
    1. For the Church: that, during this Advent season, it may be a model of holiness, inspiration and life in a world where right values often seem confused and compromised;                    We pray to the Lord.


    1. For an easing of tensions between nations and within nations: that God will open a high­way of peace for communication and the resolution of disputes so that life may be protected;            We pray to the Lord.


    1. That those who have separated themselves from the grace of God may find this season a time of reconciliation and peace;            We pray to the Lord.


    1. Jesus, be with us this day as we are your hands, face and voice for the homeless. Help us to be Your love for them and for each other;               We pray to the Lord.


    1. That all the defeats and setbacks of our daily lives, small and large, be turned around and made sources of life, learning and wisdom;                     We pray to the Lord.


    1. For the sick, the lonely, and the depressed, especially .    .    .    .          That they may find strength and hope in the love of God;              We pray to the Lord.


    1. For those who have passed from this Earthly life, especially .    .    .    .          That as they lived in the hope of Christ, may they now share in the joy of his glory. We also remember:


    5pm                 Nanette Cancila                                                      7:30am            Dr. Bill Haynes

    9am                 Janet Walter                                                           11am               our St. Peter Parish Family

    5pm                 Karen Lynn Nevins

    for whom this Mass is offered;          We pray to the Lord.

    Presider:         God of hope, you call us from the exile of our sin with the good news of restoration. You build a highway through the wilderness as a way to bring us home. Comfort us with the expectation of your saving power, made known to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


    †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †

    Go to top





    †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †


    Horsetails in the Mtns_001001



    †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †     


    PictureDisplay1 020



    †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †



    A big silver dollar, and a little brown cent; along together they went rolling along the smooth sidewalk, When the dollar remarked — (for the dollar can talk)  “You poor little cent, you cheap little mite! I’m bigger and more than twice as bright – I’m worth more than you – a hundredfold, And written on me in letters bold Is the motto drawn from the pious creed – ‘In God We Trust’ – which all can read.” I know,” said the cent, “I’m a cheap little mite, And I know I’m not big, nor good, nor bright” An yet,” said the cent, with a meek little sigh – ­”You don’t go to church as often as I.”
    Go to top

    †     ∞   †     ∞    †     ∞   †     ∞     †     ∞     †     ∞   †


Go to top

UNC Study Shows Enormity of Abortion’s Impact on Public Health, Minorities

Study included abortion in nation’s mortality statistics

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research

OJPM5Public health statistics do not, as a rule, take account of the unborn lives lost to abortion when calculating mortality. A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina has challenged this omission and published a paper examining just how much the correction of this omission would change our perceptions of America’s most preventable health crises.

The consequences are enormous, across the board, but the impact is absolutely devastating on black and Hispanic communities. When one considers not only the lives, but the years lost, the loss is staggering.

Something missing from death stats

The paper, “Induced Abortion, Mortality, and the Conduct of Science” was written by James Studnicki, Sharon J. Mackinnon, and John W. Fisher and was published in the June 2016 online edition of the Open Journal of Preventive Medicine.

It starts with a statement both bold and obvious: “There is no credible scientific opposition to the fact that a new genetically distinct human organism begins with fertilization and that, simply stated, human life begins at conception.” The authors then affirm that, barring natural fetal losses (e.g., miscarriage), “conception usually results in a live birth.”

Given that, the authors draw the logical conclusion that abortion results in a human death.

Despite this undeniable truth, these deaths are not counted in the nation’s mortality statistics. When added back in, some astounding conclusions are revealed.

Research the major causes of death in the United States for 2009, as the authors did, and you will find that the top two causes are “diseases of the heart,” which accounted for 599,413 deaths, followed closely by “malignant neoplasms” (cancerous tumors) at 567,628.

Not surprisingly, cancer and heart disease are considered major health concerns, and with good reason.

But when one considers abortion as a cause, it is almost equivalent to the government’s top two causes combined! Using estimates for 2009 from the Guttmacher Institute, Studnicki and colleagues calculate that the 1,152,000 deaths from abortion easily make it the nation’s leading cause of death, responsible, when added back in, for almost a third (32.1%) of all the deaths recorded that year.

Abortion leading cause of death among minorities

While abortion has harmed society as a whole, the impact on minorities is even more significant.

As many pro-lifers know, abortion rates for minorities are considerably higher than they are for whites. Figures cited by authors from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), combined with data from Guttmacher, showed that 11.9% of non-Hispanic white pregnancies were aborted, 17.1% of Hispanic pregnancies, and 35.5% of those of non-Hispanic blacks.

Applied to the overall pregnancy figures, this translates into 383,000 abortions for whites, 252,000 abortions for Hispanics, and 445,000 abortions for blacks. Looked at in relation to other causes of death by race and ethnicity, this makes abortion responsible for 16.4% of white deaths–the third most significant cause behind heart disease and cancer. But abortion is by far the leading cause for Hispanics, responsible for 64% of deaths, and for blacks, at 61.1%– close to two out of every three deaths experienced by these communities.

Lost years as well as lives

The authors point out that much more is involved here than abortion simply increasing the numbers of deaths.

One of the reasons that mortality statistics are carefully collected and scrutinized is to determine how best to focus research and public resources. If cancer, heart disease, or the like constitute the leading preventable causes of death in the United States, it makes some sense to focus attention and funding on those conditions and diseases.

Another way researchers measure the impact of disease is to count not only the lives lost but the relative years lost. This calculates how many additional, potentially productive years of life people would have experienced if they had not succumbed to that particular malady.

“Years of potential life lost,” or YPPL, is the standard used by the NCHS, now pegged as “YYPL 75” to reflect the idea that 75 years is now closer to the average American’s longevity.

However, when abortion is considered and contrasted with other causes of death, the disparity is even more jaw-dropping.

For everyone in the U.S., cancer was responsible for nearly 4.4 million YPLL. Heart disease was responsible just over 3 million. All other remaining causes of death (accidental, homicide, diabetes, respiratory diseases, etc.) were responsible for only about 13 million YPLLs.

The calculations of these researchers on the years of potential life lost due to abortion? Even after subtracting for estimated “natural fetal losses” — a staggering 68.4 million years!

Minorities were hit the hardest. Of the 17.7 million YPLLs lost by Hispanics, nearly 15.5 million (or 87.4%) were due to abortion. Of the 29.4 million YPLLs lost by blacks, 25.4 million (or 86.5%) were from abortion.

The cost is extraordinarily high

No disease, no kind of violence comes close to having the impact on these communities that abortion does. Not only lives are lost, but years of creativity, productivity, and love.

Billions are spent to try to eradicate heart disease, to end cancer, to stop violence. To the extent we succeed and families enjoy a few more years with their loved ones, we all celebrate.

But if the figures are telling us that abortion is, by far, the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, wouldn’t the prevention of abortion represent one of the best possible uses of our time, resources, and efforts?




Francesca Aran Murphy argues that liberalism
and a market economy are based on Christianity

The only viable vehicle of conservatism in modernity is a market-oriented liberalism that regards freedom within law as the means to the common good. Some religiously engaged conservative intellectuals cannot accept this. What drives their animus against the only workable form of conservatism in modernity? They cannot accept that this version of conservatism is at all conservative.

But how conservative is it to refuse to act in and through the givens of our historical moment? Is the paradox of liberalism as the way of being conservative too whimsical for conservatives to wrap their bookish noodles around? Could it be rationalist irritability with the irrationality of liberalism? Is the conservative affronted by liberal­ism’s vulgar historical success, like a Ph.D. student who cannot enjoy a popular movie? Is he like the teenager in Little Miss Sunshine, who cannot bear the boisterous eccentricity of his family? Does lib­eralism’s cheerful, can-do lack of a rational founda­tion drive the conservative into dark Nietzschean foreboding? Does he share the Marxist’s contempt for the bourgeoisie who are at home in the market economy? Is he too logical to be persuaded that the only human beings who actually and historically ex­ist are individual persons?

The fact remains: For at least two generations now, the most politically effective conservatism in the West has largely been a conservative liberalism. This political success has not been accidental. As a social, political, and economic form of life, liberal modernity does justice to important truths about the human person.

At the origins of modernity lie the market economies of late medieval Europe. A mixture of the rule of law and respect for personal freedom enabled market economies to emerge. People readily took to the roles of buyers and sellers of goods, be­cause buying and selling involves the kind of role-play in which human beings flourish. The market econ­omy involves an exchange of goods in which both parties benefit. The seller trades his goods for what he really wants, payment, and the buyer hands over his money for what he really wants, the goods. Because they obtain what they desire, both buyer and seller gain more than they give. Appealing as that may be, market exchange has a still greater allure. However well-meaning the administrator, we would exchange an administered life for the tension of auctions, the drama of negotiations, and the stratagems of the salesman that test our self-discipline. Buying and sell­ing became a driving force and expressive feature of modern societies, because the clever play of conceal­ment and exposure through language and gesture it entails fits our social, dramatic natures like a glove.

Modern philosophers reflected upon modern eco­nomic practice. Kant, Fichte, Hegel, and Schelling took homo economicus to be “humanity” as such. They rightly drew the lesson that human beings are made for praxis, for action, and for dramatic role-playing. But these bookish philosophers were not men of action themselves. In their recoil from the sheer inscrutability of the free play of market exchange, they exaggerated the fact that exchange involves competition for marginal advantage. They mytholo­gized this into a conception of human culture as a life-and-death struggle, and reinterpreted the role-playing in free-market exchange as competition. That hypes up role-play into a battle of wills. According to them, the marketplace trains us to think of life in terms of winners and losers, masters and slaves.

In all of this we find part truth, part Gnostic fantasy. On the one side, our exercise of freedom in the particularity of daily life makes us enigmatic to others. A market society is built around this relative inscrutability. Whether the exchange takes place at the local fish stall or in large-scale transactions of complex financial instruments executed by comput­ers, buyers and sellers play their parts. Each seeks to take advantage of an exchange, wanting as much as possible without scuttling the deal by eliminating any benefit for others. Human nature is expressed in this serious play of exchange—the brinksmanship of negotiation, the uncertainties of market conditions—which liberal philosophies capture in their emphasis on freedom and its drama.

Yet the marketplace and our roles in it look like a Gnostic melodrama when the play of exchange is inflated into a metaphysical drama rather than a hu­man one. A German idealist like Schelling pictures God-and-humanity as the single “playwright.” The struggle to get the best deal on day-old bread becomes the engine of human history. For Hegel, God storms through history in the guise of strug­gling and ascendant human desire. Sellers seek to incite desires in buyers. Seventeenth-century vendors during the tulip mania in Holland asked, how can one do without the exotic tulip bulbs? Buyers seek to satisfy their aroused desires, often for goods they never even knew they wanted. This pattern of desire evoked is the fuel of a market economy. Hegel inter­prets the open-ended nature of our market desires as a metaphysical desire for divinization. He made the further assumption that we play for keeps, and thus the market game of angling for advantage becomes the struggle for mastery, which is the world’s story.

For two centuries, Christians have quarreled over how to deal with the mixture of imagi­native half-truths, philosophical errors, and Gnostic heresies that make up modern phi­losophy. Between Vatican I and Vatican II, Catholics tried to sort things out and develop a philo­sophically cogent and spiritually sound approach to modernity in two different ways. Fortified by Thomis­tic encyclicals from Pope Leo XIII, Thomists thought that the way forward required a rejection of liberal philosophies and a revival of the premodern philoso­phy of Thomas Aquinas. They assembled a litany of errors that they ascribed to liberalism: making man the major of all things, exalting will over cognition, denying are created nature and more. . . .  (Pages 39&40)

Article concludes on Page 45 with the following paragraphs:

. . . Do we encourage liberalism to remember its birth in a market economy that drew ordinary people into habits of free action for the sake of satisfying desires, or do we anathematize it for itself self-caricature as a Gnostic capitalist heresy? . . .

Liberalism is no heresy, and the market ex­change from which it emerges does not sin against the light. It is a healthy byproduct of Christianity, and the only means by which Christians can fight Marxist-capitalism, that stage-managed freedom in which the benevolent will of the powerful consults reason, discerns what people “truly” need and want, and then superintends over and administers the al­ways vulnerable freedom of ordinary people. If one were searching for Gnostic heresies, surely this tech­nocratic political economy, which is very much with us today, is a good candidate for anathema. RR

Francesca Aran Murphy is a senior fellow at FIRST THINGS.

First Things,  June /July, pages 39-45.



Family and faith. These are two powerful ways of belonging, one natural, and the other supernatu­ral. But they, too, are weakened by the dissolving forces of our time. Pope Francis’s recent Apos­tolic Exhortation on the Family, Amoris Laetitia, represents an effort to combat this trend. The document affirms many aspects of the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage, including permanence. But it also seeks to increase scope for pastoral discretion so that those in “ir­regular” situations can participate as fully as possible in the Church’s sacramental life.

The effort to be more pastoral characterizes this pa­pacy. Francis wants to emphasize the power of God’s love, even in circumstances when we’ve wavered, failed, and fallen. Unfortunately, Amoris Laetitia participates in the dissolving trends of our times rather than resisting them. This is an unwitting complicity, no doubt. But we can see it in the way in which the exhortation turns marriage into something we aspire to rather than a sacramental reality we can rely on. The Church seems to become a plastic instrument of mercy, not a stable anchor.

When the document was released, journalists fixed on chapter eight, “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness.” There, Francis takes up the controversial ques­tion of whether those in “irregular” situations can receive Communion, including those who have been civilly di­vorced and remarried, but have not received an annulment.

There’s been lots of commentary on just what is implied in the often technical and sometimes muddy verbiage of the chapter. Canon lawyers and moral theologians have parsed what Francis has written in different ways. But one thing is clear: Francis makes an ill-considered conceptual move. In order to create an atmosphere of flexibility and welcome, he speaks of marriage as an “ideal” rather than a sacramental reality.

This approach makes permanence itself into an ideal. Divorce betrays this, of course. As Francis writes, “It must remain clear that this is not the ideal which the Gospel proposes for marriage and family.” Moreover, “In no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur.”

These seem like decisive affirmations, but they’re not. Remarrying after divorce is an “objective situation” that the Church teaches is an impediment to the reception of Communion. The reasoning is straightforward. The Church does not recognize civil divorce, and therefore regards the first marriage as ongoing. Thus the second marriage (without an annulment) isn’t a marriage at all, but instead an adulterous relationship.

To avoid this summary judgment based on the “objec­tive situation” of divorce and remarriage, Francis implies that what really matters is the “ideal.” The driving ques­tions become subjective, not objective. Divorced and re­married? Yes, that presents serious difficulties. But there is a way out (perhaps). Are you appropriately penitent for the past failure to live up to the “ideal,” and now newly committed to the “ideal” in a sincere way? A person’s conscientious discernment of the answer to that question, Francis suggests, is what’s important. One’s relation to the “ideal,” determined in “conversation with the priest,” can open the way to further discernment about “what hin­ders full participation in the life of the Church and [about] what steps can foster it and make it grow.”

Will this process of self-examination mean that di­vorced and remarried Catholics will receive Communion in some circumstances? The debate goes on, and it’s an important one. Yet I find myself concluding that the most important dimension of Amoris Laetitia is found in the fact that Francis adopts and affirms what most of us now experience. This is not helpful. In our culture of divorce, permanence is only a distant ideal to which we can aspire. Marriage is no longer a trustworthy institution we can rely on.

What’s true for marriage is true for a great deal of our experience. We suffer an increasingly atomized, fluid, and vul­nerable existence, because we lack in­stitutions we can trust. We have plenty of ideals, some quite noble. But we have very few stable places to stand and little in the way of reliable permanence.

At one point, Francis writes about “the values of the Gospel.” One understands why. Values-talk is popular these days. It’s a way of signaling moral aspiration with­out focusing on the troublesome “thou shalt not’s.” Along with ideals, “values” allow us to imagine a moral outlook without law, moral failure without shame, and moral dis­cernment without negative judgments.

Which is why our therapeutic age is awash with ide­als and values. They’re in university mission statements. Corporations proudly tout their values, and “ideal­ism” becomes a marketing tool. Buy these shoes or that toothpaste, and Company X will make a contribution to eradicate polio, plant a tree, or bring Internet connections to Africa. It’s a dangerous misstep for Christianity to get into the business of marketing ideals and values.

Parmenides was one of the Greek thinkers who flour­ished before Socrates. His philosophical task was revealed to him when the goddess Justice whispered into his ear, “Cling to that which is and cannot not be.” “Unite your­self with permanence” was her message. That’s precisely what a man and a woman seek when they make their wedding vows. They desire a covenant that is, and can­not not be.

This desire is for a reality, not an ideal. For this reason, the Church’s teaching on marriage, strict though it may be by the standards of our time, is good news, a gospel in a way ideals and values can never be. We’re finite creatures, often sabotaged by our own deformed desires and bad choices, and always vulnerable to suffering and death. The sacrament of marriage anchors us, fusing our fragile lives to something that will not be eroded, will not fail us or betray us, even if we betray it. To refuse divorce, as the Catholic Church has done, is to reassure us that permanence in mar­riage is not an elusive ideal, but an accessible reality.

Francis misjudges our era. He seems to think we’re enclosed within rigid institutions and beaten down by legalistic systems. To my mind, the situ­ation is otherwise. We live in a dissolving era. The problem is not that divorce is judged harshly. It’s that young people experience marriage as a fragile institu­tion, one incapable of protecting them from the relentless flux of life.

This is part of life without a reliable inheritance. Few institutions are trustworthy today. The endless flow of power and money rules in our fluid world. Whatever per­manence is possible now depends upon steadfast personal commitments—a terrible burden for anyone with enough self-knowledge to recognize the unreliability of our fallen nature. It’s a sad irony that Francis gravitates toward no­tions such as “ideals” and “values.” They’re part of the contemporary toolkit for dissolving permanent truths. They serve the master-ideal of our time: the solitary in­dividual navigating on his own toward goals of his own.

St. Augustine observed that we’re all pilgrims in this world, journeying toward our home in heaven. But he did not think us alone and homeless. In Christ, God was made man, not an ideal. His sacraments make real what they sig­nify; they do not symbolize values. His Church is an “objec­tive situation,” a civitas with her own cult, rites, and laws.

Pope Francis speaks often and eloquently about “accom­paniment.” As so many other institutions weaken in our dissolving age, the Church’s greatest gift is to accompany us with a stubborn givenness, an inflexible permanence. Rusty R. Reno.

First Things, June/July Issue, pages 6-7.

“Food for thought as we work our way through gaining an insight into mercy, in this year of Mercy.” Editor’s Note.

Modern Treason: The Corporate Moral Person Denies Any Allegiance To Our Country.



A nasty new species of “jumping bean”                 Carrier and Nabisco close US plants,                      hop to Mexico and stoke the anger of working-class America.

When I was about six years of age, my Uncle Earnest showed me some­thing that made my jaw drop, my eyes bug, and my mind boggle: four beans that, on their own, moved. Leaping legumes!

It wasn’t trickery (or deviltry), but an odd twist in the natural world that creates the novelty of “Mexican jumping beans.” They’re not beans, really—they’re brownish seedpods from a desert shrub in northwest Mexico. A larva from a small moth invades a pod, hollows it out, attaches itself to the inner wall with a silk-like thread, and waits in relative coolness for its metamorphosis into mothdom. When you hold the “bean,” however, the warmth of your palm discom­forts the larva so that it twitches and pulls on that thread, causing the pod to “jump.” It’s actually more of a mini-hop or a rollover—but still, pretty astonishing to a kiddo. Decades later, I find myself wide eyed again, astonished by the odd movements of a new species of Mexican jumping bean I’ve named Corporados Greedyados. Far from being a creation of the natural world, these jumpers are enormously profitable, brand-name manufacturers. Native to our land, they’ve long reaped the benefits of being US corporations, including having highly skilled and loyal blue-collar workforces, corporate-friendly labor and consumer laws, publicly funded education and training, an interstate highway system, legal protection of special corporate privileges, extensive tax breaks, on-call police to safeguard their corporate order, military defense of their worldwide commercial pursuits, and much, much more. But now they’re twitching in their conglomerate pods and abruptly jumping to Mexico. Giving no more notice than a cursory shout of adios, they’re leaving US workers, communities, the future of our middle class, and our unifying ethic of fair play in the dust of their corporate greed.

Taking avarice to a new level

Yes, perfidious corporations have been jumping to cheap-labor countries for years, particularly since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), China’s admission to the World Trade Organization, and other policies incentiv­izing corporations to export our blue-collar jobs. Since NAFTA was signed in 1994, 50,000-plus US factories have closed and more than 5 million jobs have been lost to the offshoring fad.

Unfortunately, that was just a warm-up. During the past decade, corrupted and compliant legislatures, courts, and regulatory agencies have effectively removed our society’s reins on these profit-seeking powerhouses. Not since the robber barons of the late 1800s have those in executive suites felt so free (and even entitled) to work their will on the rest of us. And they are not hesitating. Their recent surge in abandonments of the Good 01′ USA is different from the offshoring of only a dec­ade ago—today’s are bigger, cruder, greedier, and wholly narcisstic.

The real difference is a fundamental, regressive shift in the ethos of the elites who run major corporate empires. These inordinately rich executives and investors believe that what they think and do is what’s best, and everyone else should just get out of their way. This has led them to adopt a thoroughly unethical ethic of social irresponsibility, unilaterally decreeing that they and their corporate entities owe nothing to the country and the people who have nur­tured and even coddled them.

They’ve even packaged their conceit in a hokey doctrine they’ve dubbed “shareholder hegemony” (see the Lowdown, February 2016). It asserts that corporations exist strictly to benefit their shareholders—ergo and hocus pocus, corporate managers bear a “mandate” to do whatever is necessary to increase stock values, no matter what this costs everybody and everything else.

Consequently, we’re presently witnessing the murder of our country’s manufacturing prowess by industry’s own leaders. CEOs of even the most iconic, well-established, financially secure corpora­tions—companies with deep roots in our communities—have gone honkers, asserting a “moral duty” to shut down factories here, dump the workers, desert our hometowns, and hightail it out of country to any low-wage, low-environmental-standard refuge on the map.

Of course, the beneficiaries of this Kafkaesque doctrine of share­holder supremacy include not only the large stock owners, but also the very CEOs whose paychecks and bonuses depend on jacking up stock prices at our expense. It’s a socially suicidal system, providing both an irresistible incentive and a moral excuse for executives to commit corporate treason, even as their moves expand the ever-widening chasm of inequality that cleaves our society. And, by the way, CEOs and billionaire shareholders aren’t moving south with their bottom-wage factories, preferring instead to enjoy their life of luxury in America the Beautiful. Apparently unaware that their elimination of middle-class wages is eliminating their own custom­er base, they also expect you and me to continue being the primary buyers of their now foreign-made products.

And they wonder why an angry, populist rebellion is spreading like a prairie fire.

It’s getting hot in Indianapolis

If the chieftains of industry and their political henchmen want to know what’s roiling the riffraff, they could read Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty’s landmark, 1,000-page book on inequality, or listen to one of Bernie Sanders’s hour-long, tub-thumping speeches.

Or they could just spend 3 minutes and 32 seconds watching an online video showing a Carrier Corporation executive speaking to hundreds of workers in the air-conditioning giant’s Indianapolis manufacturing plant this past February ( v=Y3ttxGMQ0rY). The proud Steelworkers union members thought maybe they’d been called to the factory floor to hear about new orders for their quality products. After all, sales at parent-company United Technologies (UTC) were zooming—expected to jump at least $2 billion to $58 billion in 2016.

Instead of receiving praise and good news, however, they got an ugly surprise. In the fuzzy video (recorded on a worker’s phone) UTC/Carrier honcho Chris Nelson doesn’t bother with any open­ing pleasantries. He gets right to the point, reporting in the dry tones of a corporate lifer that the bosses have decided, “The best way to stay competitive and protect the business for the long term is to move production from our facility in Indianapolis to Monterrey, Mexico.” KABLOOEY! He couldn’t finish his scripted sentence, for ­the entire assembly exploded like a human cluster bomb, with cries of disbelief, paroxysms of anguished working-class rage, raucous booing, and a steady barrage of “x#@! you.”

“Please quiet down,” the obtuse functionary instructed. But the devastated workers, realizing in an instant that Carrier is kicking their families right out of the middle class, just get rowdier. Then, as though he’s delivering a line from The Godfather, Nelson assures the angry crowd that the corporation means nothing personal by taking their jobs: “This is strictly a business decision.”

No, it wasn’t. This was a calculated greed decision. Severing this workforce of 2,100 top-quality, experienced, and dedicated producers (1,400 at the UTC/Carrier factory in Indianapolis and another 700 near Fort Wayne) makes questionable busi­ness sense: The move to Mexico is expected to save UTC only 2.W.theCREM $70 million a year in labor costs—a blip on the spreadsheets of a global behemoth that hauls in $56 billion a year in revenue and has an uninterrupted, 22-year record of increasing dividends. But UTC’s greedy Wall Street investment bankers are demand­ing that the giant go on a cost-cutting binge aimed at generat­ing a 17-percent hike in its stock price over the next two years. And what better way to please big institutional shareholders than to show a cold willingness to whack payroll.

Making such cuts is “painful,” mused Carrier’s top financial executive (though not to him personally, of course). But, he ex­plained, they are necessary for “shareholder value creation,” adding cheerfully: “We feel good about being able to execute on that.” So a city must suffer a factory abandonment, and workers must have their decent-paying jobs taken from them just so some distant, don’t-give-a-damn, rich shareholders can see a dollar rise in UTC’s stock price. “Execute” seems like just the right word.

There’s also an unstated motivation in play: Gregory Hayes’s pride. The UTC chief had taken heat from a board of directors con­cerned that the stock price hadn’t climbed as high and fast as Wall Street wants. Indeed, last year, Hayes took a “haircut” (corporatese for a pay cut). The board sliced his executive bonus in half!

“It’s embarrassing,” a financial analyst noted. “He got dinged.” But no need to cry for Greg, however, since his 2015 paycheck still totaled nearly $6 million. (A typical Carrier worker would need to stay on the job 150 years to earn that much.)

Welcome to the new, phantasmagoric Wild Kingdom of Corporate World, where prideful executive royals are empowered to uproot the livelihoods of commoners in a ploy to (1) please Wall Street, (2) manipulate corporate stock prices, (3) collect extrava­gant bonuses, and (4) save face.

Notice that such whimsy was pulled off autocratically. Despite a unionized workforce, UTC/Carrier simply commanded the workers to assemble so they could be unilaterally dispatched—there was no negotiation, consultation, or any other say-so by them, the community, public officials, or anyone else. This is our new norm of plutocratic rule, envisioned and implemented by the rampaging forces of corporate avarice.

Don’t think this is just a one-time Indiana problem. Carrier’s chief financial officer blurted out to a New York Times reporter that top executives are eying other factories to move to Mexico. Look out Charlotte (NC), Collierville (TN), and Tyler (TX)—UTC and Wall Street will be punching a one-way bus ticket to Monterrey for your Carrier jobs next.

Souring Chicago’s sweet treat

For generations, kids from 3 to 100 have loved munching on chocolaty Oreo cookies dipped in a glass of milk. But just over a year ago, the tasty treat suddenly went sour.

In May 2015, bakery workers in Nabisco’s monumental 10-story plant in Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood had been expect­ing some sweet news from corporate headquarters. Rumor had it that their renown facility—after more than half a century and millions of Oreos—was about to receive a $130-million modernization invest­ment to upgrade equipment and add new production lines. So the future looked bright and spirits were high on May 15 when management convened members of Local 300 of the Bakery Workers Union to announce that the investment was indeed going to be made. In Salinas, Mexico.

For 104 years, the Marquette Park community has been proud that the delectable smell of “milk’s favorite cookie” wafts through their neighborhood. But the noses of Nabisco’s corporate brass are clogged with greed, incapable of sniffing out anything but ever-fatter profits for themselves and other rich shareholders. So, taking the NAFTA low road, they intend to move the iconic Oreo brand—and the jobs of 600 top-quality bak­ery workers—from Chicago to Mexico, where the minimum wage is a bit more than $4. Not per hour, but per day.

This is the tyranny of corporate globalization in action. In 2012 Kraft Foods split off its grocery business, which retained the Kraft name, and rebranded its remaining snack-food empire as Mondelez International, which includes Nabisco and its many brands includ­ing Triscuit, Planters nuts, Ritz crackers, Chips Ahoy, and Oreos.

Such corporate empires now reign over millions of working families, arrogantly and even lawlessly making self-serving decisions from within the shrouded confines of faraway executives suites, wreaking havoc on workers, local economies, democratic values, and our sense of community. People affected get no input or warn­ing (much less any real say-so) in the profiteering that now routinely strikes us like lightning bolts from hell.

Worse, the so-called humans who’ve enthroned themselves with this autocratic power find it amusing to toy with those they rule over. Mondelez executives did exactly that after their sneak attack on Chicago’s bakery workers. In a crude gambit to shift blame to the union, the plutocratic powerhouse claimed it had made an offer to Local 300 to keep producing Oreos in Chicago, but that recalci­trant union officials had refused.

Of course they did, for Mondelez essentially proposed that the workers commit mass financial suicide. Here’s the “offer”: Since the move to Mexico is expected to save $46 million a year, the con­glomerate would graciously let the 600 ransom their jobs by paying that $46-mil themselves. Just slash your annual pay and benefits (as well as your throats) by that amount, the executives told the union, and you can keep making Oreos for us. At a poverty wage. This from an outfit that banked $7 billion in profit last year!

If Mondelez executives are so inept that they can’t find an honest way to fill a $46 million hole, here’s a suggestion: They could start by docking executive pay. The three top honchos—whose com­pensation last year totaled $37 million—can damn sure afford it. CEO Irene Rosenfeld alone took a $20 million paycheck in 2015, bringing her eight-year total to almost $200 million.

I’d say her gluttony is hoggish, but that would be unfair to swine, which have far better manners and more delicate appetites.

CORPORADOS GREEDYADOS SUCH AS Gregory Hayes of United Technologies and Irene Rosenfeld of Mondelez continue to be obsequiously deferred to and even celebrated as semi-divine social benefactors.

This is OUR fight

In a March protest outside Nabisco, a bakery worker held a hand-lettered poster aloft, proclaiming: “Crime Scene.” She’s right, but it’s not just true of her Chicago workplace—the entire United States should be enclosed in yellow tape.

Corporate America is now openly flouting our laws, violating our ethics, and rampaging over our society’s unifying sense of com­mon decency … because they can. Almost no one is telling them “no”—not Congress, the White House, Republicans, Democrats, the courts, the clergy (with the exemplary exception of Pope Francis), the police, the educational system, or others with power (and responsibility) to stand up to thugs.

We tell children to be good, to follow the Golden Rule. We teach that proper social behavior is essential, and that wrongdoing will always be punished.

But every day they see that America’s biggest, richest, most pow­erful, and most influential institutions—giant corporations—are free to be as bad as they want to be. Corporations bully their way over anyone, anything, and any rule, creating the vast inequality that presently disgraces America. Yet, perversely, rather than being punished by our society’s various authorities, Corporados Greedyados such as Gregory Hayes of United Technologies and Irene Rosenfeld of Mondelez continue to be obsequiously deferred to and even celebrated as semi-divine social benefactors.

The carnage on working-class Americans won’t stop until we actually start punishing these corporate malefactors. And that won’t start until We the People overthrow today’s clueless, elitist political establishment. The good news is that the current populist upris­ing—having spread from Occupy Wall Street in 2011 through Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter, Bernie 2016, and soon to What’s Next—is the way to get that job done. Let’s keep at it.


♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠


Here are some ways to help unions battle runaway Corporados Greedyados:

SUPPORT COMPANIES THAT MAKE THEIR PRODUCTS IN THE USA. To learn more, check out the Made in America Movement: www.themadeinamericamovementcom

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE NABISCO FIGHT and to sign a petition in support of the Nabisco workers, visit:

By the way, you can still buy American-made Nabisco products. To learn what to look for when buying groceries, check out the Check the Label campaign: or

And for more information on rebuilding a strong manufacturing economy in the USA, visit this site:


♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠



ALTHOUGH, UNITED TECHNOLOGIES SAYS it must skip off to Mexico with its Indiana factory jobs to save $70 million in labor costs, the conglomerate has actually been exceptionally generous to its workers. Workers in the executive suite, that is. For years, the CEOs of UTC have ranked among America’s high­est paid.

Consider the corporation’s cosseting of Louis Chenevert, who stepped down in November 2014 after six well-compensated years as CEO. The corporate board eased him out of his cushy executive chair for being too disengaged from the affairs of UTC and too focused on living the good life of wealthy swells. (The final straw came during a business trip to Asia, when he suddenly skipped over to Taiwan to check out progress on a sleek, 100-foot, 20-passenger, luxury yacht he was having built there.)

Rather than being bounced, though, Louis was squeegeed out with money: $31 million in pension benefits, $136 million in stock options, and $28 mil­lion in other compensation. Sadly for him, he got no severance pay. Still, that tidy $195 million goodbye kiss is more than twice the annual salaries all of UTC’s 2,100 displaced Indiana workers.


♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠


The Hightower Lowdown (ISSN 1524-4881) is published monthly by Public Intelligence Inc. at 81 San Marcos Street, Austin, TX 78702. ©2016 in the United States. Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin, TX and at additional mailing offices. Subscriptions: 1 year, $15: 2 years, $27. Add $8/year for Mexico or Canada; add $12/year for overseas airmail. Back issues $2 postpaid. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: The Hightower Lowdown, P.O. Box 3109, Langhorne, PA 19047. Moving? Missed an issue? Call our subscription folks toll-free at (877)747-3517 or write Send mail to the editor to 81 San Marcos St., Austin, TX 78702 or to Printed with 100% union labor on 100% recycled paper.


♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠






•           With EP I of the First Sunday of Advent the new liturgical year begins. The Lectionary cycles are as follows: Year B: Sunday cycle; and Cycle II: Weekday cycle (Ordinary Time).

•           Volume I of the Liturgy of the Hours is used until the end of the Christmas season.


Lectionary 5: 1) Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; 2) Ps 85:9-14;  3) 2 Peter 3:8-14: 4) Mark 1:1-8

FOCUS:          As John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord, so we, too, must prepare for his coming by being Jesus’ disciples – his witnesses in the world. Our readings today give us hope that Jesus is coming, but also offer a challenge to prepare the way before him. John the Baptist’s words in today’s Gospel point us to Jesus while challenging us to repent. In order to prepare the way and make straight his paths, we must be willing to sometimes go out on a limb and be that voice crying in the wilderness, proclaiming the mightiness of our Savior. As we await new heavens and a new earth (2), let us make clear the way of the Lord (1, 3) by being servants of justice, truth, and peace (Ps).


In the first reading from Isaiah, we hear a voice that cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord. In the second reading, we are reminded that we will not know the day or the hour of Jesus’ return, so we must be ready. Today’s Gospel talks of John the Baptist proclaiming a baptism of repentance.



               ∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞



Monday, December 11, 2017     MONDAY OF ADVENT- SECOND WEEK

Optional Memorial: Saint Damasus I, Pope

Lectionary 181: 1) Isaiah 35:1-10; 2) Ps 85:9ab, 10-14;  3) Luke 5:17-26.

FOCUS:          God is with us. We have only to look with the eyes of our heart in order to experience God’s presence. At this time of year, we may feel pressure to “go, go, go” – do this and buy that. The beautiful season of Advent calls us to do just the opposite. Advent can help us prepare room in our hearts for the God who wants so much to dwell in our hearts. God has come to save us (1) in Christ Jesus. He offers us peace (Ps), forgiveness, and healing (2).


In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah describes how God will come to save all of creation. The dry, barren desert will be restored, our broken humanity will be healed and we will be led back to God along the holy way. In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a paralyzed man.

Damasus, † 384; preserved papal archives; devoted to the relics and resting places of the martyrs; combated the anti-pope Ursinus, as well as Arian and Donatist heresies; first pope to speak of Rome as the “Apostolic See”; encouraged St. Jerome to produce a new translation of the Latin Bible, later to form the main part of the Vulgate.



∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞




Tuesday, December 12, 2017         OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE – FEAST

Lectionary 690A:  1) Zechariah 2:14-17 or Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab:  2) (Ps) Jdt 13:18bc, 19; Luke 1:26-38 or Luke 1:39-47

Note: or any readings from the Lectionary for Ritual Masses (vol. IV), the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, nos. 707-712   Pss Prop

FOCUS:          Today we celebrate the unique place of Mary in God’s plan of salvation for all nations. With the coming of Christ into our world, God enters into humanity in a new and dynamic way. Mary’s role in this great drama as mother is essential, and is yet another example of how God has chosen and blessed the people who belong to him. Today, we celebrate that blessing bestowed upon the nations of the Americas in the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Lord sends the Twelve to proclaim the kingdom (2); peace and healing of the sick testify to its advent (1, Ps). As suggested: A woman, clothed with the sun (lb), daughter of the Most High God (Ps), proclaims the greatness of the Lord (2b), the One who comes to dwell with us (1a). She is the servant of the Lord (2a).


In our reading from Revelation, we hear a vision of a woman in labor. In the Gospel from Luke, Mary travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and when Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting, the child she carries leaps in her womb.

In 1531 Our Lady appeared four times to a native convert, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (meaning “the talking eagle”), at Tepeyac, near Mexico City. A member of the Chichimeca people, he was perhaps a leader of his own people and may have been involved in the area’s textile industry. Known for his holiness, he devoted himself, tradition says, to the pilgrims who came to see the miraculous image of Mary imprinted on his cloak. Pope John Paul II canonized him 31 July 2002.

Today’s feast recalls the apparitions of Mary at the hill of Tepeyac from 9-12 Dec. 1531 to the native convert, Juan Diego (see 9 Dec.); known to the Aztecs as Tecoatlaxope (or de Guadalupe in Spanish), meaning “she will crush the serpent of stone”; declared patroness of the Americas by Pope Pius XII and raised to the rank of feast for all the countries of the Americas by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 25 March 1999.



∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞



Wednesday, December 13, 2017    WEDNESDAY OF ADVENT- SECOND WEEK

OBLIGATORY MEMORIAL: Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr

Lectionary 183: 1) Isaiah 40:25-31; 2) Ps 103:1-4, 8, 10;  3) Matthew 11:28-30.              see 692: 2 Cor 10:17-11:2 Mt 25:1-13

FOCUS:          God invites us to rely on him for strength. Our all-powerful God will never abandon his covenant with us. As with the Israelites, God has provided for us and will continue to provide, giving strength to the fainting, and endurance to those who hope in him. Advent is the time for us to remind ourselves of this, and to prepare for the return of the Lord. Merciful and kind (Ps), the Lord gives strength to the weary (1) and to all who are overburdened (2).


In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks to the Judean exiles in Babylon, and reminds them that their Lord is the eternal God and they should not lose hope. In the Gospel, Jesus invites all who are burdened to come to him for rest, and to follow his example of being meek and humble of heart.                                                                          Lucy, † probably in Sicily c. 304 under Diocletian; because of her name, she is the patroness of those afflicted with diseases of the eye and associated with festivals of light, especially in Scandinavia; mentioned in the Roman Canon; patroness of Syracuse and all Sicily.



∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞



Thursday, December 14, 2017     THURSDAY OF ADVENT- SECOND WEEK

OBLIGATORY MEMORIAL: Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Lectionary 184: 1) Isaiah 41:13-20; 2) Ps 145:1, 9-13b;  3) Matthew 11:11-15.                                                                                         see 693:1 Cor 2:1-10a; Lk 14:25-33 for Saints Day Scripture.

FOCUS:          God abounds in faithfulness and love for us. Advent is a time of waiting, and promise. Throughout the Old Testament, God promised a close relationship to his people, Israel. Now is the time to stay focused on God’s promise, and prepare ourselves to be ready to receive Jesus, the fulfillment of that promise. The Lord is compassionate (Ps), Israel’s redeemer (1), whose coming John the Baptist heralded (2).


In the reading from the prophet Isaiah, God promises to restore Israel, and provide for their every need with great generosity. In the Gospel from Matthew, Jesus speaks of the greatness of John the Baptist, which all the prophets and the law prophesied.

John of the Cross, † 1591; born in Fontiveros, Spain c. 1542; mystic and poet; ally of Teresa of Jesus of Avila (15 Oct.) in founding the reformed (“Discalced”) Carmelite friars [O.C.D.]; suffered cruel imprisonment and privations by the unreformed Carmelites; authored The Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Dark Night of the Soul, The Spiritual Canticle, and The Living Flame of Love; known as the “Mystical Doctor”; Discalced Carmelites today number some 4,000 religious.



∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞



Friday, December 15, 2017       FRIDAY OF ADVENT- SECOND WEEK

Lectionary 185: 1) Isaiah 48:17-19: 2) Ps 1:1-4, 6; 3) Matthew 11:16-19.

FOCUS:          Trust in God and remain faithful to his commands. We are called to trust in God and his promises, and also to follow his commands and teachings. If we are faithful people, we will recognize Christ in those around us. Although worldly distractions can get us off-track temporarily, we know as Jesus’ disciples that his is the one and only way. Isaiah exhorts his listeners to follow the Lord (1, Ps). Jesus exposes the lack of wisdom and obstinacy of his contemporaries (2).


In the first reading from Isaiah, the Israelites are told that God teaches them what is for their good, and that faithfulness to his commandments will be rewarded. In the Gospel, Jesus asks the crowd what he should compare their generation to, and offers disagreeable children as the answer.



∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞



Saturday, December 16, 2017          SATURDAY OF ADVENT- SECOND WEEK

Lectionary 186: Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11; 2) Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; 3) Matthew 17:9a, 10-13.

FOCUS:          As we move through Advent, let us prepare our hearts and our homes to receive the Messiah. People too often place undue burdens on themselves this time of year. Between all the busyness of the season and trying to choreograph the perfect family Christmas, we can lose sight of why we have the season of Advent. We would be well-advised to take a deep breath and a step back, and work to prepare our hearts and minds for Jesus’ coming. Elijah, a type of precursor of the Messiah (1), is identified with John whose death foretells that of Jesus (2), the Son of Man (Ps).


The author of the Book of Sirach unfolds some of the great drama and glory surrounding the great prophet Elijah. Elijah is also a key figure in today’s Gospel from Matthew, as Jesus reflects on the connection between this great prophet and the last of the prophets, John the Baptist.

  • Tomorrow, the Third Sunday of Advent, is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday, so-called from the first word of the antiphon at the Introit. Gaudete (“Rejoice”), taken from the Latin translation of Phil 4:4-5, sets a tone of joyful expectation for the Lord’s birth and Second Coming, as does the permitted use of rose colored vestments.
  • Beginning tomorrow, the Advent weekdays are intended to serve to prepare more directly for the Lord’s birth (General Norms, 42).
  • Advent Preface II is used at Mass; proper Invitatories, hymns, daily propers, and proper antiphons at MP and EP, as well as the “O” Antiphons at the Magnificat, are used in the celebration of the Hours.
  • Tomorrow, announce holy day of obligation, The Nativity of the Lord, a week from Monday next, as well as the schedule of Christmas liturgies which will be celebrated.

PN The “O” Antiphons sung at Vespers may be used more extensively these final days of Advent (e.g., as verses for the Gospel Acclamation). The hymn, “0 Come, 0 Come, Emmanuel,” based on these antiphons, may fittingly be sung at the Eucharist and the Hours.

For the Blessing of a Christmas Tree, see BB, nos. 1570-1596, or HB, 78-81.



∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞



Lectionary 8: 1) Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11; 2) (Ps) Lk 1:46-50, 53-54; 3) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; 4) John 1:6-8, 19-28.

FOCUS:          Rejoice in your God, the God of hope and light. The world literally grows darker each day this time of the year. But as dark as the world grows, the darkness will not overcome the light. Jesus is the light of the world. He illumines our darkness with his love and truth. We are able to sit in the darkness with confidence that the Lord is with us. John witnesses to one who is to come, one far mightier than he (3), one who will proclaim freedom and deliverance (1) from sin and death. As we await his coming again in glory (2), let us join with Mary in singing the praises of God (Ps).


Today’s readings are readings of hope for a future that is bright with promise. Isaiah announces a year of favor from the Lord in which all manner of suffering is soothed. Saint Paul reminds us to rejoice, to pray always and to give thanks in all circumstances. In John’s Gospel, we hear that the Light has come into the world, and it cannot be extinguished.



∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞


    ♦      ♦      ♦       D A I  L  Y     R E F L E C T I O N S      ♦     ♦     ♦


 ∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞   




Reflection – Sunday, December 10, 2017 Second Sunday of Advent   

The Gospel according to Mark has no infancy narrative. Like an archer, Mark directs his arrow to the heart of the mat­ter. John the Baptist was the herald of the Messiah. How can believers trust this? He did what Isaiah prophesied. He wore a hairy animal skin and leather girdle. He did not point to himself but to the Coming One. He lived as an ascetic to prepare himself, and he invited the people to prepare themselves through repentance. This is the essence of the spirituality of Advent. We listen to John to stir our hope. We celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We pray, fast, and give—not as exercises of conversion as during Lent but to embody and bear witness to our hope.                      Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 8.




∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞



Reflection – Monday, December 11, 2017 Advent Weekday   

The people Isaiah addresses are threat­ened by drought, desert, famine, wild beasts, outlaws, and slave traders. To leave one’s village was to be extremely vulnerable. Security, peace, and free­dom were surely central to Israel’s mes­sianic longings. The Advent season challenges us to understand our deepest longings in a vastly different time. Are our ultimate yearnings worthy of God’s coming to fulfill them?                            Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 9.



∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞



Reflection – Tuesday, December 12, 2017 Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Paintings of the Virgin Mary in her pre­natal state are rare. Some theologians believe such images encouraged doubts about her perpetual virginity. The Vir­gin of Guadalupe is an exception. The black band tied high above her waist was the practice of pregnant Aztec women. The apparition that revealed the image on Juan Diego’s tilma occurred on December 12, within the liturgical season of Advent then as now. This feast ties believers to the prayerful expectancy of Mary as she prepared to deliver Jesus Christ. During Advent, we too should “sing and rejoice” that God is coming to dwell among us in the flesh.                       Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 10.



∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞



Reflection – Wednesday, December 13, 2017                                                                                     Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr

The name Lucy is derived from the Latin word for light. Her feast day aptly points to the winter solstice, when natu­ral light increases and the Light of the World will be celebrated. Legend says that Lucy, a Christian virgin, wore a wreath of candles on her head to light her way so that both hands were free to carry provisions to the needy and prisoners under cover of darkness. Named in the ancient Roman Canon, Lucy and her valorous martyrdom echo through the centuries. She embodies those praised in Isaiah whose “hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar as with eagles’ wings.”                                          Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 11.



∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞



 Reflection – Thursday, December 14, 2017                                                                                              Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church

In an interesting liturgical subtlety and contrast, St. Lucy (light) is followed by St. John of the Cross, who identified the “dark night of the soul.” A Carmelite friar entrusted by St. Teresa of Avila to reform the male branch of their order, John was subjected to incredible physi­cal and spiritual abuses. It is important in this season of festivities to be reminded of the Cross. The birth of Jesus is not a sweet fairy tale, but a por­trait of the hardships faced by many, especially the poor. John’s spiritual doc­trine, formed by personal experience, shows that even those closest to God in prayer may bear a cross.                                               Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 12.



∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞



Reflection – Friday, December 15, 2017        Advent Weekday

Some scholars propose that the passage above refers either to a familiar chil­dren’s game of the time, or an argument among the children about which game to play. Likewise, disciples of Jesus and disciples of the Baptist apparently argued about their respective teachers and their practices (for example, John 3:25-26). Christian “wisdom” embraced the Baptist as the new Elijah long fore­told (Matthew 17:12-13).                                         Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 13.


∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞


 Reflection – Saturday, December 16, 2017 Advent Weekday    

Elijah (c. 900 BC) is Judaism’s most beloved prophet. He courageously con­tended with Ahab, the king of Israel, and the false gods and prophets that had nearly eclipsed the true God of Israel. Having ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot, he became to Jews the harbin­ger of the messiah. Sabbath prayers invoke the hope of his coming and a cup of wine is poured for him at Passover. Do you look for religious signs of Christ’s coming? What inspirational customs do you have? Do you cultivate a sense of hope in your prayer and preparations?      Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 14.


∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞



Reflection – Saturday, December 16, 2017 Advent Weekday

Elijah (c. 900 BC) is Judaism’s most beloved prophet. He courageously con­tended with Ahab, the king of Israel, and the false gods and prophets that had nearly eclipsed the true God of Israel. Having ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot, he became to Jews the harbin­ger of the messiah. Sabbath prayers invoke the hope of his coming and a cup of wine is poured for him at Passover. Do you look for religious signs of Christ’s coming? What inspirational customs do you have? Do you cultivate a sense of hope in your prayer and preparations?      Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 14.



∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞




Reflection –  Sunday, December 17, 2017         Third Sunday of Advent

If someone asks, “Who are you?” it is unlikely you will answer, “I am not Santa Claus,” “I am not the president.” We identify ourselves by what we are, and not by what we are not. John the Baptist was careful to draw attention away from himself. “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30). As human beings, we want to be known by who we are and what we do. As Christians, we must not let that need crowd out Christ. Like John, let us testify to the true Light and not to ourselves.                                                                               Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 15.


∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞       


Faith Catholic Online  December  10-17, 2017.
      Daily Prayer 2017, pages  15-23.
          Paulist Ordo

  ∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞



Human beings cannot live without hope. Unlike the animals, we are blessed—or cursed—with the ability to think about the future and to fear our actions to shaping it. So essential is this to human life, that human beings cannot live without hope, without something to live for, without something to look forward to. To be without hope, to have nothing to live for, is to surrender to death in despair. But we can find all sorts of things to live for and we can hope for almost anything: for some measure of success or security or for the realization of some more or less modest ambition; for our children, that they might be saved from our mistakes and sufferings and find a better life than we have known; for a better world, throwing ourselves into politics or medicine or technology so that future generations might be better off. Not all these forms of hope are selfish; indeed, they have given dignity and purpose to the lives of countless generations.
But one of the reasons why we read the Old Testament during Advent is to learn what’to hope for. The people of the Old Testament had the courage to hope for big things: that the desert would be turned into fertile land; that their scattered and divided people would eventually be gathered again; that the blind would see, the deaf hear, the lame walk; that not only their own people, but all the peoples of the earth, would be united in the blessings of everlasting peace. Clearly, their hopes were no different from ours or from any human being’s: lasting peace, tranquil lives, sufficiency of food, an end to suffering, pain and misery.
Thus we hope for the same things as the Old Testament people, for their hopes are not yet realized. But we differ from them in two ways. First, the coming of Jesus in history, as a partial fulfillment of God’s promises, immeasurably confirms and strengthens our hope. Secondly, we differ from the Old Testament people because Jesus has revealed to us that God is not afar off, but is already in our midst. Hence the importance in the Advent liturgy of John the Baptist and of Mary: because they recognized the new situation, they serve as models for the Church in discerning the presence of our Savior in the world.
Taken from “The Spirit of Advent,” Mark Searle, in Assembly, Volume 7:1. © Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, Notre Dame, IN
“Advent has a two-fold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight” (Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar [henceforth, Universal Norms], 39).
• Advent weekdays have their own proper Mass texts, and the Liturgy of the Hours draws from the Seasonal Proper as well as from the Ordinary.
• Advent begins this year with EP Ion Saturday, 2 December 2017, and ends after Midafternoon Prayer (None) on Christmas Eve.
• Prior to 17 December, Advent Preface I is used. On Memorials of the BVM and the saints, however, in this or any other season, the corresponding Preface in the Roman Missal may be used in place of the weekday or seasonal Preface.
• The Liturgy of the Hours provides an invitatory antiphon and a choice of hymns for use prior to 17 December.
• The use of the organ and other musical instruments and the decorating of the altar with flowers should be done in a moderate manner, as is consonant with the character of the season, without anticipating the full joy of Christmas (Ceremonial of Bishops [1989], 236). The same moderation should be observed in the celebration of Matrimony (Order of Celebrating Matrimony [2016], 32).
• The official color for the season of Advent is violet. The use of blue vestments for Advent is not approved for the United States.
PN Advent is a time to recall the cry of the early Christians: Maranatha! “Come, Lord Jesus!” A communal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation according to Rite 11 of the Rite of Penance is one way of assisting the people of God in preparing for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. Such a liturgy might best be celebrated during the latter part of the Advent Season, and on a weekday rather than a Sunday.
The Advent Wreath, a popular symbol in many churches, may be placed in the narthex or gathering area, or near the ambo. Each Sunday the candle(s) of the wreath might be borne in procession, following the thurible and cross, or just ahead of the Gospel Book. Other creative uses are encouraged. For the Blessing of the Advent Wreath, see BB, nos. 1509-1540 or HB, 73-75.


  ∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞


The Prophecy Fulfilled before Our Eyes  —         Pierre-Marie DumontWho still reads the great French prophets of the 201h century? Who still reads Peguy, Claudel, Bernanos, Saint-Exupery? Each, from his viewpoint, railed against the coming of the same abomi­nation: “their” civilization was dying. While this civilization ought to have been perfected, so that the Kingdom of God on earth could truly grow, all that had constituted its genius was soon to vanish. Materialism, hedonism, self-preoccupation (today it would be called “personal development”) was about to submerge beauty, goodness, and truth, along with the true Faith and the ancient virtues. The sign of the coming of the end of this world was that terrifying metropolises were already reducing rural, pastoral civili­zation to objects fit to fill their museums. Since then, this prophecy has been fulfilled. The fertile ground that nurtured our civilization has gone. Villages have been deserted. Human relationships have been virtualized. Faith and devotion are fading. The moral com­pass that, far from constraining free men, once guided them, has been distorted. The poor, humble and proud, with that magnificent nobility celebrated by Thornton Wilder, have disappeared from the social landscape.. . . .the Word of God would no longer immediately touch hearts and minds. He who, directly or indirectly, has never worked the good earth by the sweat of his brow, never experienced seedtimes and harvests, never tended sheep or saved a stray lamb, finds himself de facto distanced from the Gospel and its parables. Let us not be saddened: we find ourselves spurred on to deepen our understanding of the Word of God, to improve our prayerful reading of it—and let us not forget that our Lord Jesus Christ remains present to the world even until his return in glory. But why not take advantage of our vacations in the countryside to rediscover, with a touch of nostalgia, a drop of the sap that nourished the fervor of our fathers in faith?    Magnificat, July 2016, page 432. PurpleConeFlower_7(24)2009_IMG_0985



   ∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞  



An Independence Day Prayer     We pray you, 0 God of might, wisdom, and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to your people, over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality.Let the light of your divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.We pray for the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare,that they may be enabled, by your powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.We recommend likewise, to your unbounded mercy, all our fellow citizens throughout the United States, that we may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of your most holy law; that we may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.Grant this, we beseech you, 0 Lord of mercy, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.ARCHBISHOP JOHN CARROLLArchbishop Carroll (†1815) was a priest for the Society of Jesus, and the first bishop of the United States.Magnificat, July 2016, pages 62-63.  ∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞       What can I do to fast in communion with others?       Prayer is always joined to fasting. Fasting triggers in this season a remembrance to pray for those being brought to the font, to full communion or to reconciliation. Only after we have shared the absence can we come with full hearts to the paschal banquet.Nine things that Pope Francis called upon Vatican Employees to do:They apply to us all…

  • “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”
  • “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention, and love.”
  • “Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy.”
  • “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity, and worldly decadence.”
  • “Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused others.”
  • “Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with a spirit that knows how to thank the Lord.”
  • “Be careful of envy, lust, hatred, and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people.
  • “Watch out for anger that can lead to vengeance; for laziness that leads to existential euthanasia; for pointing the finger at others, which leads to pride; and for complaining continually, which leads to desperation.”
  • “Take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker… the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers, because we will be judged on this.”

It is a good list: It’s clearly rooted in Catholic teaching, but presented in a way that other Christian denominations can embrace as well. I am reasonably sure that all of us can find on this list at least one or two resolutions that speak to areas in which we really need to grow during this Lent.Have a good week and I’ll see you in church!Monsignor Jack 1-3-5

 ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞

  HOW THE CHURCH HAS CHANGED THE WORLD              Speaking the Painful Truth  —       Anthony EsolenHOW THE CHURCH HAS CHANGED THE WORLDSpeaking the Painful Truth  —       Anthony EsolenTHE TWO WOMEN WERE FINALLY ALONE. The room WaS Spartan, with a single wooden bed, a desk, some schoolbooks, fishing tackle kept in a corner, and a couple of skiing poles. A photograph was mounted on the wall, of two tanned young men in a skiff, with the spires of Stockholm in the background. It was a boy’s room, but the boy had left home to join the Swedish army. It was May, 1940.”Sigrid,” said her friend Alice, “I have bad news for you.” She had given Sigrid a day to rest from her journey across the mountains from Norway, in a truck packed so tight with soldiers and refugees, Sigrid—a middle-aged woman with some heft to her, and a countenance that looked as if she would brook no foolishness—had to sit on the lap of one of the men. The atmosphere in the truck had been tense, with Swedish boys expressing their eagerness to fight along­side the Norwegians against the Nazi invaders, and elder men telling them to shut up. News from the war front was also unrelievedly bad. Hitler had overrun Belgium and the Netherlands, and the German armies were pushing on to­ward Paris, the jeweled queen of European civilization.”Please, tell me quickly,” said Sigrid. She had had three children. One, a daughter, had died as a very young woman. Her sons Anders and Hans were still in Norway. The elder, Anders, had a commission as captain in the Norwegian army.”Your son Anders fell in the fighting at Segelstad bridge. He was brave, Sigrid, so brave,” said Alice, trembling. Sigrid, however, set her face like flint. Of Hans, they still knew noth­ing. A few days later they received a visit from a soldier who had been under Anders’ command. The Norwegians had tried to make the Nazi advance northward as costly as pos­sible, taking positions near bridges and mountain passes, and holding off hundreds of Germans with handfuls of men and a few machine guns here and there. Had Norway been made ready for the assault—had there not been Nazi toadies like Quisling in the highest positions in government—Hitler would have regretted sending Germans into that nation of strong, self-reliant, upright, and brave men and women.”And Anders, you know,” said the soldier, “was so incom­parably kind.” The word he used was snill. Sigrid Undset said that the word was untranslatable. It named a virtue—kind­ness—but with a quiet manner, undemonstrative, reserved; not burdening your victim with your goodness.Hans arrived shortly after, and he and his mother con­tinued on their flight to freedom, from Sweden to Moscow, from Moscow by a nine-day train ride to Vladivostok, from there to Korea and imperial Japan, from Japan via the Grover S. Cleveland to San Francisco.♦ WHO SUE WAS ♦Sigrid Undset, for my money, is the greatest woman nov­elist who ever lived. Unlike George Eliot, one of her two chief competitors for that distinction, she does not rely upon the structure of Christian morality without the Christian Faith. In her stories set in modern times, Undset shows how frail that morality must be, unless we recognize our personal frailty and our desperate need for the grace of Christ. Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) had lost the Methodist faith she was brought up in; Undset had gained the Catholic Faith she was not brought up in. Unlike Jane Austen, her other competitor, she was not the comfortably stationed daughter of an Anglican clergy­man, who could therefore take faith for granted and write about Christian morals and manners in the England of her time. Undset, when she entered the Catholic Church, knew she was entering into two thousand years of history, and so her greatest works, the trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter and the tetralogy The Master of Hestviken, are set in medieval Norway, Catholic but still with remnants of the old pagan ways. They are national in the best sense: they celebrate the difficult virtues of her people and the beauty of a forbidding land, with its summer so wondrous yet so heart-breakingly short, its wildflowers, its mountains and fjords and ravines, its lonely lichen-topped outcrops of rock, its sudden green valleys, and its brave men wresting the means of life from the rich and cold and dangerous seas.The contrast between Sigrid Undset’s love of country and the pranked-up nationalism of Hitler and his blustering warmongers could not be greater. She despised the Nazis. Other people, not nearly enough, saw their evil; Undset saw also their stupidity and their cowardly ingratitude. For among the invading German soldiers, the Norwegians recognized quite a few whom they had taken into their homes as little boys, back in the famine years after the First World War. She was outspoken about it, and so she, like Dietrich von Hildebrand in Austria, was on the first page of the Nazi list of people to be murdered.Wherever she went, Sigrid Undset tried to find what vir­tues she could in the peoples she encountered. Germans, alas, were the exception. She had to fight her hardest to treat that people with forbearance. For her, the essence of the German spirit was expressed in the terrifying fable of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. The “hero” took his vengeance against the ungrateful people of Hamelin by turning their children essentially into rats, marching off to their death. I forgive the mother of a fallen son her anger.Undset held out hope for the great successor of European civilization, the United States. Even if Europe should fall (she was writing in 1941), the United States would carry the torch of that civilization’s commitment to brotherhood, equality, and democracy, understood as the natural flower­ing of the Christian Faith.♦ RETURN TO THE FUTURE ♦That’s the name of the book that describes her trek from Norway to the United States. It also describes her hope for the world. The future must be a return: a recovery of the Christian Faith in nations that had lost it, and a flourishing of the human good that man experiences as one of the blessings of that faith.Should Germany be defeated, the victors must resist with all their might the temptations of hatred and vengeance. How hard that would be, Undset shows us in her own per­son. But, she says, “hatred and thirst for revenge are sterile passions.” They engender nothing. They only destroy. “The most miserable poverty, the most unthinkable filth and squa­lor, the indescribable stench of refuse and decomposition which I saw and smelled everywhere in Soviet Russia are surely the fruit of the acceptance by Russia’s revolutionary heroes of a hate-consumed old German Jewish writer named Karl Marx and their identification of their future goals with his dreams of revenge against everything that happened to awaken his enmity.”Undset was no sentimentalist. It is true, she was a woman with a woman’s eye for the delicate and the beautiful; she is fond of describing flowers, handsome dress, lovely hair; the fine straw-roofed houses of even the poor in Japan; the tasteful Japanese temples; the reverent ceremonies of prayer she witnessed from the worshipers of Shinto. She has a woman’s scorn for the garish, grubby, slipshod, and gross: nine days on a Russian train with no running water and no flush toilets; Soviet stores with nothing to sell; water that had to be boiled before you could drink it; Soviet offi­cials content to bury themselves and their petitioners under a mountain of paper. Totalitarian systems fail on their own miserable terms: they deliver poverty instead of wealth, con­fusion instead of order, misery instead of happiness, family dissolution rather than strength, dependence rather than self-reliance, cowardice rather than courage.So much the more should the West return to its roots in the Christian Faith. That Faith is not an ideology, but the antidote to ideology. It tells the truth about God and man.Nowadays we construct social policies as if God were irrelevant, and as if everything that the wisest pagans had to say about man, and likewise the Christian Gospels that soar beyond the pagans, could be dispensed with. Yet we pretend that, if we were alive in Germany during the time of Hitler, we would not have gone along with the popular wave of the future, as the Nazis styled themselves. No, we’d have seen through it. Quisling did not. Knut Hamsen, like Undset a Nobel laureate, did not. Undset did. The Faith—un­compromised, uncontaminated with the current prevailing ideologies—gave Sigrid Undset eyes, and heart, and a pen to write words as if etched in stone by fire.(Anthony Esolen is professor and writer-in-residence at Thomas More College in N.H., translator and editor of Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House), and author of The Beauty of the Word: A Running Commentary on the Roman Missal (MAGNIFICAT).   Magnificat, October 2017, pages 211-115.


∞      ∞      ∞     ∞      ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞     ∞

FAITH IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE – Rusty Reno on Russell Moore

1. Article:  Fairth In The Public Square




1. Faith in the Public Square

Russell Moore has written a very good book. Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel seeks to orient us in the changing culture of twenty-first-century America. It’s written with the folksy verve of a very good Southern Baptist preacher, which Moore is. I can’t count the number of memorable sentences I underlined. After a thoughtful analysis of the fatal temptation to confuse God’s Kingdom with the United States of America: “Jesus promised those who overcome a crown of life. But he never said anything about a ‘God and country’ badge.” On put­ting political power ahead of Gospel truth: “It would be a tragedy to get the right president, the right Congress, and the wrong Christ.”

Onward is more than mellifluous; it’s also astute about the moment in which we live and the kind of Church we need to become. Moore’s analysis has a strong critical thrust. Again and again he observes that the days are over when Christians could imagine themselves at the center of a “Christian nation.”

Moore emphasizes our post-Christian cultural context because he’s a son of Biloxi, Mississippi, which was once part of the Bible Belt, that wide swath of God-haunted America that runs from West Virginia to Texas. In those communities, being Christian and being an upstanding American citizen often seemed fused together. As Moore points out, this can make us complacent “have-it-all” Christians who want to follow Christ while fitting in with mainstream culture. The problem is that this can tempt us to dilute the Gospel so that we can remain “normal.”

The Moral Majority approach tried to solve the problem by “taking back” the mainstream culture through political action. Moore thinks that project failed. The bad news is that this failure has made America increasingly post-Christian. That’s as true in the Bible Belt as elsewhere, as he illustrates with vivid anecdotes. The good news is that we can no longer fool ourselves. We’ve got to make a choice. Will we live according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the gospel of the American way of life?

By Moore’s reckoning, this is a renewing choice. It pro­vides us with the opportunity to rediscover the power of the Christian message. The choice also winnows. He re­ports that Evangelical churches are undergoing “a mirror image of the Rapture.” Nominal Christians are vanishing from the pews, and those who choose to be defined by the Christian Gospel rather than “Christian America” are “left behind.” This clarification will not weaken Christian engagement and influence in American public life; it will strengthen it. A post-Christian context is a forcing ground: “Once Christianity is no longer seen as part and parcel of patriotism, the church must offer more than ‘What would Jesus do?’ moralism and ‘I vote values’ populism to which we’ve grown accustomed. Good.”

Moore fleshes out the “more.” He argues for an expan­sive understanding of our duty to defend human dignity. It includes a wide range of efforts on behalf of the weak and vulnerable. We should attend to the needs of the poor, migrants, the disabled, and the homeless, as well as the unborn. To be pro-life is to be whole-life, to paraphrase one of his lapidary formulations. But Moore avoids a fac­ile “seamless garment” approach. Defending the lives of the innocent, especially the unborn whom our legal cul­ture has abandoned, is the foundation of a culture of life. Without a pro-life commitment, no “whole-life” stance can endure.

His treatment of religious liberty and freedom of con­science draws upon the Baptist tradition. From its incep­tion it recognized the dangers that flow from too close a connection between religious authority and civil authority. Moore provides theological justification for our constitu­tional principles of non-establishment and free exercise. But he draws attention to a deeper truth about religious freedom: Our greatest freedom comes from the strength of our faith in God, not by way of rights given to us by constitutions. The freedom of the martyrs is the founda­tion of the Church’s freedom.

Sex, marriage, and family are today’s battlegrounds. They’re the reason why we’re arguing over religious lib­erty. They’re the reason our society ignores the claims of the unborn. There are moral arguments to be made, and they should be made. But at root these battles are spiritual, not merely moral, as Moore helpfully reminds us. Far from being a liability, the Bible’s countercultural sexual ethic and theology of marriage may end up being the Church’s greatest tool of evangelization. The day is coming when more and more people damaged by the sexual revolution’s false promises will seek a gospel promise they can trust.

Onward suggests a sober rethinking of pub­lic engagement by conservative American Protestants, one that moves in the direc­tion outlined by Stanley Hauerwas over the last four decades. Put succinctly, Hauerwas has argued that the Church fails to leaven society when it poses as culture’s friendly chaplain, because in that role it gets coopted. The same is true when the Church poses as culture’s stern, disciplining chaplain, which is, perhaps, a way to sum up Moore’s appraisal of the Moral Majority’s approach to influencing society at large.

Hauerwas’s genius was to see that living a faithful Christian life explodes the pretensions of the world. Going against the grain—as sojourners or pilgrims, to use the bib­lical image—is a public statement that does more to shape the future of American society than “cultural engagement.” Moore’s insight is similar. He points out, rightly, that we can fix too much attention on discussions about how to get cultural leverage. We forget that, in a society in which aborting Down syndrome children is taken for granted, pastoring a Church that forms Christian parents to wel­come them is a powerful way to claim cultural territory.

Unlike many who recognize the de-Christianizing main­stream culture, Moore does not shy away from the culture wars. As he knows, we can’t avoid them. Secular progres­sives wish to conquer all the territory in American society. That means they cannot help but battle with Christ-formed communities for our spiritual loyalty. The battle is coming to us, even if church leaders wish to avoid controversy. We see this in the contraceptive mandate and gay marriage. Here Moore is admirably clear. The Moral Majority may no longer show the way to stand for what we believe in public life. But stand we must. “If we do not surrender to the spirit of the age—and we must not—we will be thought to be culture warriors. So be it. Let’s be Christ-shaped, Kingdom-first culture warriors.” Amen. – Rusty Reno           Pages 6-7.

(The preceding article which appears in the April 2016 Issue of First Things is the author’s rationale which makes clear how and why we have come to the conclusions about a number of issues such as Secularism,  the loss of a Christian-based society upon which our Constitution was founded, marriage of same sex couples, the black eye which has been administered in our culture to rule out religion and the values which our Constitution was based upon and the stalemate in our political system, not to mention the establishment of individualism in place of the common good in our social systems, nevertheless you may want to become a bit more real by reading the other articles  (2) which I recommend to you.)   —



Of all our major columnists, Peggy Noonan has thought the most deeply about the anti-establishment sentiments roiling our political culture. In last week’s column, “How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen,” she puts her finger on the central issue. Ordinary people in Germany, Great Britain, France, America, and elsewhere aren’t just experiencing the dislocations of economic globalization. They’re not simply responding to cultural change, which is often driven by immigration. They’re losing their trust in those who rule them.

As Noonan puts it, over the last generation there has been “a kind of historic decoupling between the top and the bottom in the West that did not, in more moderate recent times, exist.” Those at the top of society no longer share the interests of those less fortunate. “At its heart it is not only a detachment from, but a lack of interest in, the lives of your countrymen, of those who are not at the table, and who understand that they’ve been abandoned by their leaders’ selfishness and mad virtue-signaling.”

I’ve written about this phenomenon in the American context. It’s striking how often our leadership, both right and left, punches down. Conservatives call half of Americans “takers.” Liberals call them “bigots.” I can’t count the number of columns Bret Stephens has written in the last six months expressing his unqualified horror over the ignorance and stupidity of the Republican voters who have the temerity to reject the political wisdom of their betters.

Noonan admits she hasn’t quite gotten her mind around this decoupling of the leaders from the led. I, too, am struggling to understand. It’s odd, as Noonan says, “that our elites have abandoned or are abandoning the idea that they belong to a country, that they have ties that bring responsibilities, that they should feel loyalty to their people or, at the very least, a grounded respect.”

Viewed humanly, yes, it is odd. We have a need to belong. Loyalty is a natural human impulse. But a recent book by international economist Branko Milanovic, Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization, has helped me grasp some of the underlying forces that are driving the leaders away from the led.

Milanovic draws attention to an “elephant graph,” so called because it looks like the hulking body of an elephant raising its trunk. On the horizontal axis, we see global income distribution. The citizens of very poor countries are at the elephant’s back end. Their median income is quite low. Those on the trunk-end of the elephant are the citizens of developed countries. The vertical axis charts the rate of growth of incomes. Here we see a very telling story. Emerging economies have given birth to a new middle class that has experienced rapid income growth. Meanwhile, the rich world is diverging. Middle-class wage growth is stagnant in the globalized economy, while the well-to-do have seen great gains.

Much of the story this graph tells is well known. We’ve heard a great deal about income inequality in recent years. But seeing the whole world at a glance shows something more. Those whom Noonan called “the protected,” which is to say the rich and powerful in the West, share with the rising middle class in the developing world a remarkable harmony of interests. Both cohorts benefit from the new global system. By contrast, in the West, the middle class is losing ground.

In short, the global system—which is committed to the free flow of labor, goods, and capital—works well for the leadership class in Europe and North America, as it does for striving workers in China, India, and elsewhere. It doesn’t work so well for the middle class in the West. Thus, in the West, the led no longer share the economic interests of their leaders.

It’s natural, therefore, to see a decoupling. We’re fallen human beings. We often develop convictions that conveniently correspond to our interests. When it comes to the rising nationalism in Europe, elites there see as much. They don’t interpret the striking new support for right-wing parties as expressions of patriotic fervor, but instead see patriotic rhetoric as a front for, at best, economic frustration, but more often racism and xenophobia.

What elites don’t see is how their own interests are dressed up as cosmopolitan idealism. Noonan points out that German elites compliment themselves on the moral rectitude of Angela Merkel’s decision to admit a million Muslim migrants. True, but they’re also insulated from the consequences. And more than insulated, they stand to benefit from lower labor costs.

Over time, the elephant graph predicts large-scale changes in democratic politics in the West. Elites now have a strong interest in weakening the nation-state, and thus diminishing the power of the voters to whom they are accountable. A radical ideology of open borders is one way to do that. Another way is to increase the power of international human rights tribunals. In a decade’s time I can easily imagine rulings that override national majorities that are deemed “unprogressive.”

But I need not evoke the future. For at least a generation, America’s most elite colleges and universities have explicitly refashioned themselves as global institutions. By implication, they are no longer accountable to America’s national interest. Their mission is more noble: the world’s interest. The same dynamic gets repeated in the corporate world. Silicon Valley answers to the world, not to America.

What goes unnoticed is the fact that a global mission provides reasons to discount the concerns of non-elites in America. Convenient theories about the inherent racism of ordinary people nicely discredit their opinions. The critical fire of a plastic, easily manipulated multi-culturalism can be trained this way or that to degrade patriotic loyalties. Meanwhile, a strict utilitarianism tells us citizenship is a construct designed to secure “rents.” Ordinary people feel abandoned and frustration builds, driving today’s populism.

Noonan is right. The decoupling of the leaders and the “led” is “something big.” The economic forces driving this decoupling are powerful. The ideological supports—a morally superior cosmopolitanism, a flexible multi-culturalism, and now dominant utilitarian thinking—are strong. As I’ve written elsewhere, odds are good that the democratic era will come to an end. The elephant chart suggests the future will be one of empire.

  1. R. Reno is editor of First Things.

Become a fan of First Things on Facebook, subscribe to First Things via RSS, and follow First Things on Twitter.









Pope Francis – “Amoris Laetitia” – Exhortation On the Family


Pope Francis’ Exhortation on the Family an ‘Organic Development of Doctrine’

When I talk with friends about Pope Francis and issues in the church, a common question asked in is “Why doesn’t he just change doctrine?”.  I think it pretty safe to say that the man values his life and also that of the unity of the church…..nuff said.  This article I think explains very well what PF was doing in writing his recent Apostolic Exhortation in the way that he did, which I describe as “pushing the envelope” of what the Synod in the fall of 2015 came up with, especially the German language small group, emphasizing the role of discernment.  And discernment plays a large role in what Francis has done with this document.  He is a Jesuit, after all ,and that is a hallmark of their spirituality.  Francis knows that changing the doctrine of the church would be a dicey proposition.  He is also a man who begins processes and values what a process can do.  He is not personally invested in a process such that he needs to see the result.  He knows that the history of almost all of the doctrine of the church really does come out of the lived experience of the faith of, as he says, “God’s holy faithful people”.  That is what this article is referring to as “organic development”.  I see a lot of hope in this.  PF knows that if he can just tip the scale of the balance between pastoral practice and doctrine a little bit towards the pastoral practice side, the lived faith for many people will change and ultimately doctrine will change.  Yes, processes take time but a process like this effects exchange that is hard for some future pope to undo.  When I hear the word “organic” I think of a well-rooted healthy plant, maybe even one slightly aggressive as far as some “gardeners” are concerned, especially those who are in high places in the church, a plant that they would have a hard time uprooting…..reyanna

By Gerald O’Connell            April 8, 2016                         America Magazine on-line

At a Vatican press conference to present Pope Francis’ new exhortation on the family, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said there is “an organic development of doctrine” in “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”) when compared to a similar text, “Familiaris Consortio,” written by St. John Paul II after the 1980 Synod on the Family.

The archbishop of Vienna’s words are highly significant, since he is considered an authority in such matters. He is one of the theological heavyweights in the College of Cardinals, was chief editor of theCatechism of the Catholic Church, is very close to Benedict XVI and played an important role in the 2014 and 2015 synod of bishops. For all these reasons, Francis chose him, and not Cardinal Ludwig Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to present his post-synodal exhortation on the family to the international media.

His statement on the development of doctrine came in response to a question as to whether paragraph No. 84 of “Familiaris Consortio” is still valid given that in footnote No. 351 of “Amoris Laetitia,”

Amoris laetitia–The Joy of Love

If you would like to access the official translation of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of Love, click on the link below.  The document is lengthy to print out at home, although I did so.  I had a stack of paper almost 2 ½ inches high!  It should be available in bookstores soon and is available for ordering online now.  I posted the link here so that you can begin to read the document now especially in relation to all of the news stories and sound bytes that have come out about it.  My advice to you is to read the document in fall and Pope Francis’ advice in the document is to take your time to read it.  Chapter four I found especially profound.   This chapter is a meditation on the famous First Corinthians passage on love and his own thoughts on love.  For an almost 80 year old celibate male he doesn’t do badly in explaining human love and sexuality, yes, sexuality and, speaking from 40 years of married life, he explains the birds and bees in married life quit well…..reyanna

Amoris laetitia link, click HERE





 with the Bishops of the United States,
 let us pray for the continued freedom to bear witness,
 keeping particularly in our hearts those Christians throughout the world who continue to be martyred for love of Christ.
Let us remember that freedom is a gift
 from our Creator that calls us to
vigilance, responsibility, and service to our neighbor.



Be free people! What do I mean? Perhaps it is thought that freedom means doing everything one likes, or seeing how far one can go…. This is not freedom. Freedom means being able to think about what we do, being able to assess what is good and what is bad, these are the types of conduct that lead to development; it means always opting for the good. Let us be free for goodness. 

And in this do not be afraid to go against the tide, even if it is not easy! Always being free to choose goodness is demanding, but it will make you into people with a backbone who can face life, people with courage and patience…. 

Be men and women with others and for others: true champions at the service of others.


-Pope Francis
Happy 4th of July!


Thomas More Law Center
Is this email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.
HAPPY 4th of July

The Fourth of July—America’s Independence Day—is a joyous time to celebrate with family and friends.

John Adams, a Founding Father and our second President, wrote that Independence Day,

“…ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illumination, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

As you celebrate the Fourth of July weekend, please remember —

The Price of Freedom.

Take the time to honor the sacrifices for our freedom made by our fighting men and women throughout our history — From Lexington and Valley Forge, to Iraq and Afghanistan — and today, by our Special Forces in harm’s way in places known and unknown.

On behalf of all the Thomas More Law Center staff, I wish you a safe and happy Independence Day weekend.

God Bless America.

Sincerely yours,

<border=”0″ width=”100%” cellspacing=”0″ cellpadding=”0″>
From the Desk of Richard Thompson
<id=”templateFooter” border=”0″ width=”380″ cellspacing=”0″ cellpadding=”10″>
<border=”0″ width=”100%” cellspacing=”0″ cellpadding=”10″>
<border=”0″ width=”100%” cellspacing=”0″ cellpadding=”0″>
Be a fan on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter | Forward to a friend
Copyright © 2015 Thomas More Law Center, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you signed up to receive TMLC News Alerts.

Thomas More Law Center

24 Frank Lloyd Wright Dr.

Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106

Add us to your address book

A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America — By Ian Dowbiggin

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. I reviewed Prof. Dowbiggin’s remarkable book for the National Catholic Register way back in September 2003. “Success” for euthanasia proponents was very limited at that point. Since then, however, they have enjoyed a number of victories, especially in the Netherlands and Belgium and, more recently, Canada.

I am hoping by the end of the day to obtain permission to reprint a withering letter to the editor Prof. Dowbiggin wrote to a Canadian newspaper to rebut a scurrilous attack which, ironically, proved that Prof. Dowbiggin’s “slippery slope” was 100% accurate.

mercifulendbookDo not be thrown by the off-putting title. Professor Ian Dowbiggin’s book is not only a carefully researched and scrupulously fair-minded treatise, but it’s also a highly engaging read. It functions as both a social-science lesson and as a cautionary tale of what happens when “reformers” convince themselves they’ve discovered a formula for pure utopian bliss.

Though short, A Merciful End comprehensively traces the twists and turns primarily of the Euthanasia Society of America. While euthanasia proponents often trimmed their sails to the prevailing winds, the destination for many, if not most, has remained constant: active euthanasia for the willing and in certain circumstances, the unwilling. (The “distinction” to many euthanasia supporters, Dowbiggin writes ominously, “was incidental.”)

The book explodes the myth “that the modern euthanasia movement began only in the 1960s and 1970s with the introduction of life-prolonging medical technology, the decline of the doctor-patient relationship, the rise of the ‘rights culture,’ medicine’s inept handling of end-of-life care and the AIDS epidemic.”

In fact its roots go back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Support for euthanasia was frequently a package deal for members of the avant garde. In Dowbiggin’s words, euthanasia “was a critical component of a broad reform agenda designed to emancipate society from anachronistic and ultimately unhealthy ideas about sex, birth and death.”

We forget how many prominent Americans were supporters of euthanasia and (frequently) its ideological twin sister, eugenics. “Progressives” all, they believed passionately that death would be the “last taboo to fall in the struggle to free Americans from what birth control activist Margaret Sanger, herself an ESA member, called ‘biological slavery.’”

Greasing the skids for euthanasia was the embrace of eugenics — “evolution in a hurry” to many supporters. With a childlike faith in science and technocratic expertise, eugenicists were supremely confident the human race could be perfected through selective sterilization and euthanasia.

The idea of “improving the race” served the interests of the euthanasia movement well until discredited by the Nazis. And while Dowbiggin cautions about “playing the Nazi card,” the similarities in language can be striking.

Until recently, the center of gravity for the euthanasia movement in the United States was Manhattan. Elitist to the core, its membership strongly supported active euthanasia: direct killing and physician-assisted suicide.

But the Euthanasia Society of America and kindred organizations made minimal headway until retooling and softening their message in the late ’60s. By repacking their pitch as a “right to die” issue, they capitalized on our culture’s obsession with individual rights and “choice,” which first took hold in that decade. Rejecting “unwanted treatment” combined an appeal to individual decision making with a fear of an insensitive medical bureaucracy.

From the beginning people of faith and, especially the Catholic Church, were seen by the euthanasia movement as primary opponents. Such people, they complained, exerted a “stranglehold of tradition and religious dogma” that, they decided, had to be broken. What euthanasia proponents may not have anticipated was the virtually uniform opposition of the Disability Rights Community.

A Merciful End offers two explanations for the very limited “success” of the American euthanasia movement. One is a bitter division between the “radicals” and the “moderates” within the euthanasia movement. The other is the rise of a broad-based coalition that came to include the pro-life movement and disability-rights activists. This resistance was aided immeasurably by a 1994 report by the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, an out-of-control Jack Kevorkian and a unanimous 1997 Supreme Court decision that found no right to assisted suicide in the Constitution. And in the last decade, there has been a stunning turnaround with far greater attention paid to pain relief, palliative care and hospice treatment.

These much-needed reforms have changed the chemistry of the debate and offer reason for hope. The same might be said of Dowbiggin’s book.