lundi, février 23, 2009

La vérité sort de la bouche des enfants

Lia is a 12 years old girl. She gave a speech at her school about abortion. Despite discouragement and outright opposition, Lia's presentation was so well done that she reportedly won the contest she was told she would be disqualified from, due to the "controversial" message of her speech.
God bless her!

dimanche, février 22, 2009

Tips for my parishioners....

that may help them understand their chaplain!

I found a website that supposes to help American people understand France and the French. I am quite sceptical about that, because I am not so sure that the French can be understood by anyone except the French themselves..... No, it is a joke!!!!! But it reminds me of this text by Charles Peguy who put these words in God's mouth: When there will be no more French, there are things that I do that nobody will understand.
Anyway, I find this website funny... and interesting too. Do I match the description? Well, those who know me can tell.
Some excerpts from the website

Are the French crazy ?
The French, who pride themselves on being " logical ", are profoundly irrealistic and passionate. " We express ourselves logically in order to explain the illogical things that we do ". Among many examples, they value :
Being different : they do not feel uncomfortable being alone against everybody else (they would not think " maybe the others are right ") and do not value consensus.
Being synthetic (as opposed to analytic) : they do not like "weighing pros and cons" : it is mediocre. They prefer broad ideas and general picture. They write differently their business memos.
Being " grands seigneurs " : in many situations (when prestige or image are at stake), money is not an issue and they do not like to share bills the way Americans do.
Being negative : criticizing is valued and praising is not : it could lead the praised one to stop making efforts (typically, when a kid gets an B+, the reaction is "Why not an A?"). And also :
no taxpayers' rebellion, in spite of taxes being so high in France during public transport strikes, people who have to walk to their work, support the strikers.

And that is very important :

France is a "wine culture" country, like Italy or Spain (as opposed to "beer culture" countries) ; people do not drink wine to get drunk but to share a moment together ; they like to talk about it, discuss its taste, if it goes well or not with the food, etc...
In France you do not call (and order) a wine by its grape (Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, etc...) but by its origin (Saint-Emilion, Pommard, Bandol, ...). The shape of the bottle is specific to each region : narrow for Alsace, cylindrical for Bordeaux, plump for Burgundy, etc...
Only the wine coming from the region of Champagne can be called "Champagne" but there are several other (very good) sparkling white wines : Vouvray, Crémant, Clairette, Blanquette...

The Wood-Shaving-War : to taste good and age well, wine requires tannin, which is traditionally provided by oak barrels. In many countries, typically in the USA, wine in stored in metallic barrels and wood shavings are added. This is strictly prohibited by French regulation. France has to fight against the European administration which, under the pressure of countries which do not produce any wine, want to make it legal. It is feared that this war will be lost.
And I like this one: Driving in Paris!
Consider (like they do you) any other driver as an enemy and a potential threat. Selfishness, lack of civic sense and aggressivity of French drivers is beyond anything you can imagine.... Driving in Paris is a real sport ! If you can drive around the Arch of Triumph at 6 p.m. and survive, you are becoming a real Parisian.
USEFUL TIPS for innocent American drivers in Paris.....
Do NOT take the concept of "lanes" too seriously : like the concept of "priority" for cars coming from the right, it is purely indicative (like, sometimes, red lights, pedestrian crossings, etc....)
When parking your car, you may hit (gently!) the two cars you are squished between.
You can scare pedestrians and make them run : it is part of the game.
Delivery trucks can do whatever they want (like double park) and as long as they want : if you are blocked, do not wait and try to escape.

Traffic at Place de l'Etoile
(It can be worst!)
Important question: Why are the French so cold?
In the absence of any relationship, silence is neutral (in the street, in an elevator, etc...). Franco-American anthropologist Raymonde Carroll writes: "It is indeed in public places that Americans in France for the first time have the experience, at times amusing, but often unpleasant and even painful of cultural misundrestanding. They feel rejected, disapproved of, criticized or scorned without understanding the reason for this "hostility" and they can only draw one of two conclusions : the French hate Americans" or the French are cold (hostile / unpleasant / arrogant / despicable)"... This is essentially due to the fact that Americans and the French do not attribute the same meaning to verbal exchanges.... together in a limited space ...the French person will recreate distance with silence, the American with conversation..." .
For most French, Americans are over-communicative and too familiar and they are always very disappointed to see that this American who was so nice and friendly does not even remember their name. For the French, if you are not a friend, you must be not cold but neutral. If your are socially too friendly with them, they think you are unsincere.
When they disagree, the French express it verbally much openly than Americans, who are more controlled and they are not at all afraid of a verbal fight. They even enjoy it. One of the best explanations for this was given by Nick Yapp and Michel Syrett in " Xenophobe's Guide to the French " . It's simply a factual matter. The French, they point out, are rude when they want to be. Their rudeness is neither unthinking nor forgetful, they say. They're rude when the occasion warrants it. Are they rude only to innocent foreigners ? Of course not !
" Among friends insults are also frequently traded, but with no permanent damage to the relationships. Quite a different case from England and the U.S. where if you get to that level, the friendship is condemned for life ". The point of all this is that if foreigners freak because they detect rudeness, irony, or a slight, they should feel flattered. They're being treated as if they were French ! A typical situation where Americans consider rude a Frenchman who is sincerely surprised by this reaction is the case of an instructor who treats you as if you were a French student, whatever the money you paid. Body language, which is very different, may also explain why Americans often consider rude a French person when he/she is not. The French love to bawl each other out ("s'engueuler") and it can be just a game and in any case totally harmless : Americans hate it and consider it rude.

lundi, février 16, 2009

Sermon for Sexagesima Sunday

Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us a parable: The sower went out to sow his seed. The seed is what bear life, but it is still in potentia – in potency or potentiality. It has to become in actu – in act. Potentia means a certain aptitude to change. It is being as it is capable of changing. The seed is a plant or a tree in potential, but it is not yet a plant. It has the possibility to become one. Maybe it will become one, or maybe not. Whether it will become a plant or not depends on certain conditions. When a sower sows a seed, it is an act of hope. He hopes that this seed will become a plant that that will yield fruits. If he had no hope at all, he would not sow.
The word of God is a seed of life. It bears the life of God. This word is proclaimed all over the world. God sows His word in every human soul, but it is still something fragile, in potentia. Saint Teresa of Avila compares a soul to an unproductive soil that Christ wants to turn into a beautiful garden. First the gardener has to remove the brambles and weeds. It is the first conversion, which is a renunciation of a life of sin. Saint John says in his first letter that whoever is born of God commits no sin for his seed abides in him. (1Jn 3,9) The seed of God cannot exist in a soul that has not yet renounce mortal sin. But at this point, the grace of God is still a little seed that can develop and grow or not. Renouncing sin is the first necessary step in order to make a beautiful garden, but there is still a lot of work to do. Once the gardener has removed the brambles and weeds, he can take care of the seed.

A seed needs water. It is our duty and our responsibility to water it so that it can grow. Saint Teresa says that there are four ways to water a garden: drawing water from a well, obtaining water by means of an aqueduct (or hose), letting water flow from a stream, and receiving natural rainfall. These are the four degrees of mental prayer.
In the first degree, the soul is active. This stage of prayer includes vocal prayer and discursive meditation. It is something good, especially for the beginners, but they should go further as Saint Teresa advices them not to spend all their time in doing so. Their method of prayer is most meritorious, but since they enjoy it so much, they sometimes fail to realize that they should have some kind of a sabbath, that is, a period of rest from their labors. . . . Let them imagine themselves, as I have suggested, in the presence of Christ, and let them continue conversing with him and delighting in him, without wearying their minds or exhausting themselves by composing speeches to him.
The second degree is when a soul begins to recollect itself, borders on the supernatural. This state is a recollecting of the faculties within the soul, so that its enjoyment of that contentment may provide greater delight.
The third degree is the stage of mystical prayer when all the faculties are centered on God. It is the sleep of the faculties, as Teresa says, which corresponds to a union of the entire soul with God.
And the last degree, that admits itself different degrees, is the prayer of union. It is infused by God and not attained by human efforts.
As the soul progress through these different degrees, it knows different conversions that bring it to a higher level of grace. The seed grows and yields more fruits. Father Garrigou-Lagrange has very well summarized this development of the grace of God in a soul in his book The three ages of the interior life that I recommend. As he explains, the interior life is a knowledge of truth and a love of good. In other words, it is the knowledge and the love of God. It is the life of God in us, given by the Divine grace.

This life develops in many areas, such as intellectual and scientific life because God is supremely intelligent. The artistic life is also concerned, because Christ Himself is the Art of the Father – Ars Patris – as the theologians of the Middle Age like to call Him. The literary life should not be forgotten, because our religion is the religion of the Incarnate Word. Thus, the words mean something to the Christians, as they express the reality of the things. And finally, social life has to be touched by the grace because there is a society in God which is also a communion between the Divine Persons. This is why Christianity does not affect only the souls but also the societies in all their dimensions, cultural, intellectual and artistic. If I work in the garden of my soul, it will become a beautiful yard. If my neighbors work too, it will be the whole neighborhood that will become beautiful. And then the city, and the county and the State will be embellished if here and there, Christians cultivate their garden. François-René de Chateaubriand has described in his famous book, The Genius of Christianity, how the Christian religion has contributed to the progress in arts and letters. You can also read the book of Thomas Wood: How the Catholic Church built Western Civilization.

(And other considerations that will remain only in the memories of my parishioners - at least, I hope so!)

vendredi, février 13, 2009

Novena for the Holy Father

At the request of Father John Berg
Superior General of the Fraternity of Saint Peter
Beginning February 14th

Pater Noster, 3 Ave Maria, Gloria Patri
V. Orémus pro Pontífice nostro Benedícto.
R. Dóminus consérvet eum, et vivíficet eum, et beátum fáciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in ánimam inimicórum eius.
V. Tu es Petrus.
R. Et super hanc petram ædificábo Ecclésiam meam.
Orémus. Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, miserére fámulo tuo Pontífici nostro Benedícto : et dírige eum secúndum tuam cleméntiam in viam salútis ætérnæ : ut, te donánte, tibi plácita cúpiat, et tota virtúte perfíciat. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum. R. Amen.
Mater Ecclésiæ, ora pro nobis. Sancte Petre, ora pro nobis.

lundi, février 09, 2009

Sermon for Septuagesima Sunday

It is now a new liturgical cycle that begins with Septuagesima Sunday. The cycle of the Nativity is now over. The mystery of the Incarnation has kept our attention and we have focused on the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It was a time of a serene joy that found its peak during Midnight Mass when the angel of God revealed the good news of the Nativity of the Savior: I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all the people.
Today, it seems that this joy has vanished. The very first words of today’s mass are even gloomy: The terrors of death surged round about me. The dominant liturgical color is now purple and it will be until Easter. The singing of the Alleluia, and the word ‘alleluia’ itself are banished even on feast days. It is an acclamation of joy and as such, it is not suitable in a time of austerity and penance. We have to wait until the night of Easter to hear it again.
Easter is precisely the center and the peak of this liturgical cycle. The mysteries of the Passion and of the Resurrection of Our Lord constitute the axis around which the entire liturgical year unfolds. We have meditated on the fact of the Incarnation during the first cycle. Now, let us consider its reasons and its consequences.
The liturgy reminded us this morning, during the Office of Matins, of the Creation. There is a deep similitude between the creation and the Incarnation, expressed by the very first words of the Sacred Scripture: In principio. In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram – In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. In principio erat Verbum – In the beginning was the Word. And Saint John clearly affirms that all things were made by Him, and that He was made flesh. Creation - Incarnation. In the work of the creation and the work of the Incarnation, God communicates Himself to the creatures. But the second communication happens to be a work of restoration that would proceed in a very dramatic way on the Cross.
The first man, Adam, fell. God would raise him again, but this new rise would be completed by a kind of annihilation like if it were a return to nothing. Creating is making things out nothing. The Redemption is a new creation and then it supposes a certain ‘nothing’. This is the meaning of the holocaust: a sacrifice whose victim is totally consumed. The Word would be this victim that offers Himself in expiation. Because He was annihilated – He emptied Himself, as Saint Paul says – He could rise again from a certain nothingness which is a new creation, more beautiful than the first one, as it is so well expressed in the beautiful prayer that the priest says when he prepares the chalice during offertory: O God, who established the nature of man in wondrous dignity, and still more admirably restored it.
The wages of sin is death. Adam felt the stranglehold of death in his flesh, as every man does now: The terrors of death surged round about me. The new Adam wanted to know it, but it changed it into a gift that brings us back life everlasting. Now, if we want to receive this gift, we have to follow Christ through His death and His burial, so that we can live again with Him. This is all the sense of our Baptism. We still have to live in accordance with our Baptism that has made us like Christ. This is why Saint Paul tells us in today’s epistle: I so fight as not beating the air, but I chastise my body and bring it into subjection. Bringing our bodies into subjection is our Lenten program. The season of Septuagesima already prepares our minds and spirits for this difficult but necessary task. It is the only way given to us for our restoration.
May Our Lady help us to be crucified with her Son, so that we can live with Him forever