Saturday, February 28, 2009

"In defense of giving something up for Lent" - a homily for the first Sunday of Lent

Homily for the First Sunday of Lent, given at the 12:30 Extraordinary Form Mass, March 1, 2009:

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

This week, Holy Mother Church enters into the great season of Lent. Once again, we assume our penitential practices as we prepare for the commemoration of the holiest events of our faith: the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord.

Lent is a season of fasting, abstinence, and self-denial. It is the Church's traditional practice for us to give something up during this season. A small convenience; a small enjoyment; some small pleasure. This practice, however, has become more and more of a foreign concept to many in our world today. Things such as doing penance and fasting are seen as something of a vestige from the past... something that serious "modern people" don't do. After all, our world is all about gratification: the more the better. "Life is short," the modern man would remind us, best to "live it up" while we can. "Eat drink and be merry," the old saying goes, "for tomorrow we die." While our modern world encourages us to live for today, doing penance, in a certain fundamental way, is a recognition of eternity: that you and I are meant for something more than just this world.

Sadly, voluntary self-denial is becoming more and more of an oddity of the past. Even more sadly, this attitude has crept even into Catholic circles, even amongst some priests. Fasting and penance is something increasingly foreign to them, and they attempt to explain these things away, in favor of a "more modern" approach to the season of Lent. "Better to do something extra than to give something up" they usually say. They say things like: "instead of giving something up, pay more attention at Mass... make a donation to a homeless shelter... go visit your elderly neighbor..." While performing acts of charity are indeed a vital part of our spiritual lives, it would be a betrayal of the fundamental purpose of Lent to simply do this in favor of eliminating true acts of penance altogether. After all, shouldn't we be performing acts of charity all throughout the year, not just during Lent? In spite of what some might say, the practice of performing penance is still praiseworthy and even required of us by the Church. More than just simply "focusing" upon something we should already be doing throughout the year, Lent is a time to do more. We mustn't be afraid to challenge ourselves to an even more radical self-denial than what we should already be doing.

Canon law "binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way" (c. 1249). In achieving this end, Canon law specifically recommends works of piety and charity, as well as acts of self-denial. Not to perform some act of self-denial would be in some way a betrayal of what the Church, in her motherly care, asks of her children.

But we may ask ourselves: "why?" Why does holy Church ask her children to suffer, even if only in some small way? The answer to this question lies in her concern that in this life we give proper place to our relationship with God. For we are reminded each Lent that the true purpose of our sacrifices is not that the Church merely wants us to suffer a little bit by avoiding those things we enjoy, but to remind us of our ultimate need for God. For in the coming weeks, when that craving hits us for whatever it is we might have given up, that craving we experience is meant to remind us of the hunger we should have for God in our lives. If only we craved God in our lives as much as we will crave those certain things which we give up... If only we craved God as much as we crave the little comforts of this life, then we all would be better off indeed.

We give up those little things so that we can, if only in some small way, become more like Christ, who gave up His very life for us.

The practice of doing penance is ultimately a practice of stripping away: of stripping away the little comforts and conveniences of this life that can buffer us from entering more deeply into the life of Christ. Eternal life, which you and I are both called to enjoy, is a state of being in perfect union with God. It is an existence where nothing comes between me and God. Attaining to eternal life, then, entails a process of radical self-abandonment, where those things in us which do not pertain to our relationship to God are stripped away: our own human ambitions, our own prerogatives, our own pursuits. All these are stripped away, to make room for that more perfect relationship with Christ. This, the Church reminds us, is the ultimate purpose of the teaching on purgatory: a process that can be likened to a period of penance: of stripping away from us all those things which prevent a more perfect union with God. Our penances this time of year are meant to be a small participation in this purgatorial process, in anticipation of our own destiny as human beings to be united perfectly with God who is the author of our being and who desires to be united with us completely. A good penance, then, shortens our purgatories and achieves in us a more perfect union with God.

This Lent, then, let’s pray that God might give us the strength to live up to our commitments to penance, abstinence, and prayer. Let’s take advantage of those opportunities such as prayer and fasting, the Stations of the Cross, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and Eucharistic Adoration, as means to a deeper recognition of our need to change our lives. Let’s pray that we will be prepared to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection with renewed meaning this year.

+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy Ash Wednesday...

To mark our first day of fast and abstinence this year, I offer the following: The "Big Mac Chicken with Cheese." yum yum...

Monday, February 23, 2009

The "Godfather"...

Home over the weekend for a quick visit to stand as Godfather for the new daughter of good friends Tony and Jacque.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pope to Pelosi: "protect life..." Pelosi to Pope: "look at my grandchildren..."

Today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI... and from their respective press releases you would think that they weren't speaking about the same meeting. While the Holy Father took the opportunity to reiterate the Church's stand on the sanctity of human life, according to Pelosi it was about the chance to offer her congratulations to the pope and show him pictures of her grandchildren. A difference in perspective I guess... Read about it HERE.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I HATE IT when grandma goes off her meds...!

"Shotgun Wedding?"

Canon 1103 in action???

"Can. 1103 A marriage is invalid if entered into because of force or grave fear from without, even if unintentionally inflicted, so that a person is compelled to choose marriage in order to be free from it."

Some of my faithful readers...

"Sister look! 'The Ultramontanist' has been updated!!!"

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cold Water...

Teodore (the "honorary Romanian redneck") commented to me that I "must be the only honest fisherman" when I admitted to him that I hadn't caught anything in a while on my occasional Friday excursions... This report from the river gives me some consolation. It seems that no one else has been catching much of anything lately, either.

Ordination & First Mass...

A couple of short videos from my Ordination and First Mass of Thanksgiving that I put together while fiddling with some video editing software...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Website of Gastronomical Delight!

My thanks to "The Geek Theologian" for bringing this website to my attention...! Certainly one of the most incredible edible sites on the net. Warning, simply clicking here might double your cholesterol...

Yes, that's a sloppy joe on a Krispy Kreme... YUM!


A link to this week's edition of one of my favorite radio programs. Check it out...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's beginning to come out...

As I mentioned in a post last week concerning the lifting of the latae sententiae excommunications of the four SSPX bishops, one of the interesting points that will necessarily be discussed is the doctrinal acceptance (or not) of the Second Vatican Council. There are hard-core elements, which many people are aware of, within the SSPX who are true "sede vacantists." Such people would seemingly necessarily reject the doctrinal authority of the Council. The question has always existed: to what extent do these factions of the SSPX speak for the group as a whole? Any process of reconciliation with the Church will have to address these issues. What will ensue is a separating of the "wheat from the chaff" so-to-speak. This discussion seems to have begun amongst their group as indicated by the following statement by one of their number to a French newspaper just a few days ago. Stay tuned, there will certainly be more to come on this...

PARIS, 10 February 2009 (AFP) - Bishop Fellay of the Society of Saint Pius X, speaks his reservations about Vatican II

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, does not reject the whole of the Second Vatican Council but shares some of his reservations in an interview with the weekly Famille chrétienne and La France catholique.

He distinguishes between "the spirit and letter" of the Council: "There is a dangerous spirit which moved across the Council and in this sense we do refuse it," he says, "but when speaking of the letter [of the Council], we do not reject it in full as it is" he adds.

He recalled the position of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Fraternity, for whom only those things which are in line with tradition in the council should be kept and the rest should be rejected.

Bishop Fellay adds that "the Church can not get rid of her past".


He also explains his position on ecumenism where he sees a risk of "connivance with the world" and regrets that the Church no longer has "the will to convert."


Asked about the spiritual and/or doctrinal challenge of rapprochement with Rome, Bishop Fellay sees "a benefit for the whole Church" if "one manages to restore clarity on many issues."

Finally he feels that the discussions between Rome and the Fraternity Saint Pius X will "certainly start quickly" but he does not know in what form.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Time for a bit of levity...

Things have been a bit too serious around here for a couple days now... we need to lighten it up a bit. Check out this funny website

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A New Saga?

With the lifting of the SSPX excommunications only a week old, the news wires are buzzing again. Now it is a controversy surrounding the reported double life led by the founder of the Legionaries of Christ and the lay movement Regnum Christi. This group, often accused by its detractors as being "cult-like," is now rocked by reports that it's "beloved Founder" (yes, that's how they refer to him, and yes, they capitalize "Founder"...) had a mistress and fathered a child. Whoa! Read about it HERE. Fr. Maciel had been confined to a "life of prayer and penance" by the CDF several years ago with a prior accusation of misconduct. Now this...

Clearly, the Legionaries have had some great successes (they ordain priests by the dozens - 50 at a time - they do some good things, certainly). We are reminded, again, that some good can come from what is fundamentally disordered. But now the question is: with their seemingly extreme devotion to their founder, can the LC's right their ship? Permit me to interject my humble opinion here: perhaps for the members of the LC's this is an opportunity to realize that priests are ordained for the service of the universal Church and not for themselves, the promotion of a particular religious congregation, or their beloved "Founder." Is this the fruit that will be born from this situation? Time will tell...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Saga Continues...

There has been much "to-do" about the lifting of the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops. There is even a petition circulating the internet demanding that the pope rescind his decree. A competing petition has been initiated in support of the Holy Father. You can find it HERE and add your name if you so wish...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Groundhog Day...

(Note the "terrible towel" for all you Steeler fans out there...)

Well, the little rat saw his shadow this morning... and we have six more weeks of winter ahead of us. I would be more upset if this whole scenario hadn't contributed to such a great movie...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl...

The game was actually better than the commercials this year (and it helps that the right team won: Steelers...). This had to be one of the best ads (no offense to you lovers of fat and smelly cats out there...):

But still, the reigning king of all Super Bowl ads:


NBC refused to air the following advertisement during tonight's Super Bowl, so we're showing them. We're airing it to the millions of you who keep track of "The Ultramontanist." Take that NBC!

The Snow is Melting...

Mid-50's today for the first time this year... The snow is finally melting.

On another note, check out this blog. It has a very complete list of Catholic blogs out there. Link is HERE.