Saturday, September 29, 2007

On St. Michael

St. Michael is my Confirmation Saint and therefore my favorite one. He has inspired me much over the years and no doubt provided much protection. So I was thrilled to read this reflection by Fr. Euteneuer, President of Human Life International, on St. Michael on this the Feast of the Archangels. Enjoy:

Who Is Like Unto God?

Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of the holy Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Each year, this feast gives us a golden opportunity to renew our friendship with the angels who are given for our spiritual benefit and are eager to assist us in our battle against the principalities and powers of the world of darkness. We need only to ask their assistance and their guidance on our way to heaven.
Let us take a moment to reflect on the glorious prince of the heavenly host, St. Michael the Archangel, the most potent of all God's helpers. We start with his name: "Michael" is of Hebrew origin and, literally translated, means, "Who Is Like Unto God?" It is actually a composite of three little Hebrew words that form one phrase: "Mi" (pronounced "mee" and meaning "who?"); "cha" (pronounced "ka" and meaning "like"), and "el" (the Hebrew name for "God.") The phrase, "Who is like unto God?" is not a statement about this angel being so close or similar to God - no one can claim that. Rather, it is a rhetorical question. It is what Michael uttered in his disbelief that someone would claim to be like God. That someone was another angel named Lucifer.

Tradition has it that Lucifer, the sublime Seraphim, ranked highest in the order of angels and proudly asserted that he wanted to "be like the Most High" (see Isaiah 14:14 for this). One faithful angel of a lower rank, unable to countenance the impudence of a creature thinking he were equal to God, courageously stood up in the divine assembly to defend the rights of God with a rebuke that issued from the depths of his being as a question something like: "And just who could possibly claim to be like God?" And so "Mi-cha-el" became his name.

Michael then cast Lucifer out of heaven with all his rebellious companions. No creature that rejects the sovereignty of God could ever remain in heaven. Michael is thus the defender of the rights of God and the one who manhandles the strongest of the demons. We have him to thank for showing us that proud Satan can actually be defeated and that the rights of God can be vindicated against all blasphemers.

Does God really have rights? You better believe it! The Lord of Heaven and Earth has, above all, the supreme right to be worshipped by all creation. God doesn't need our worship in an absolute sense, but all creatures need very much to worship Him and keep Him in the first place in our lives because that is how the order of the universe is maintained. When creatures replace Him with idols or arrogantly suppose that they, as creatures, are gods, then all things fall apart and man loses the very meaning of his life. God is the divine center that holds all things together and, as such, He has an absolute right to be worshipped by His creation.

Today we need St. Michael's aid more than ever. Never in the history of humanity has Satan convinced so many people to set up false idols to replace the worship of the True God. Never has Satan been so successful in getting people to abandon the worship of God and obedience to the moral law on such a massive scale. In the same way, never have we seen so much blasphemous conduct disseminated with such intensity throughout the human community by the power of modern communications; nor have we ever seen the glorification of Satan given such pride of place in the entertainment business.

We need a powerful and glorious angel to teach us to defend the rights of God again. St. Michael has been doing this since before time began and is eminently equipped to teach us to make sure that God remains as the absolute center of our lives and our society. Let us turn to St. Michael on his feast day and thank him for defending God and us against "the wickedness and snares of the devil." Let us invoke his protection over our loved ones and renew our friendship with him again on his feastday.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer,
President, Human Life International
Thanks to my friend Dave for the drawing of St. Michael

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Different Kind of Sacrifice

Here is an excellent Op-Ed by my former Rector, Fr. Robert Leavitt, in yesterday's Baltimore Sun:

A Different Kind of sacrifice


Robert F. Leavitt

The seminarians studying at St. Mary’s Seminary in Roland Park today really impress me by their strength and spirituality. After serving 27 years as president-rector of the seminary, it’s the one legacy I wanted to leave. They have received a religious calling that some scorn, many overlook, and not a few members of their own church struggle to appreciate.

The Seminary Class of 2007, recently ordained as priests, entered St. Mary’s just as the clergy sex abuse scandals hit the papers, first in Boston and then in other cities. They began their work to become priests under a huge cloud, but they were exemplary in their courage and determination to learn from this adversity and move beyond it. Moreover, they have gracefully faced the understandable suspicion they encounter nowadays. That’s just how it is. No complaints. They know they have a reputation to rebuild for society at large and for those who follow them. Only time will tell if they can. But, merely in entering the seminary and priesthood, they are sacrificing much more than I did.

When I came to St Mary’s in the early 1960s to begin studies for the priesthood, my family and friends were bursting with pride. A unique mixture of religious awe and social prestige enveloped the priesthood. My paternal grandfather, a Protestant freemason, didn’t understand Catholicism much less like it. But, he thought my calling special. His outsider vote counted more for that.

Youths pursue callings and careers because people they respect – family, teachers, friends -- think those occupations are socially significant. Personal aptitude, interest, and making a good living matter. But, the perception that one is engaged in work that is influential and consequential – this counts most of all.

The young don’t need to guess what we really respect. We tell them. Many told me. It’s a small, but real reason I wanted to be a priest.

A steady erosion of social admiration for the priesthood as a way of life was underway for three decades or more before the recent scandals broke. It explains why religious ministry in general, I think, suffers on the career scorecard. For Catholics, it explains more about the vocations downturn than individual factors such as celibacy.

For now, the scandals have summoned the Church and the priesthood back to some spiritual basics -- wholesome human character and sacred promises. That’s what’s happening now. I’ve seen it in the new men entering St. Mary’s.

People naturally wonder today if seminaries might be accepting unqualified candidates to fill the ranks. I tell them it’s just the opposite. Only stronger souls will risk the new scrutiny. The strictures are tighter than ever to get into the seminary and to stay there. There’s psychological screening, criminal background checks, annual extensive evaluations, tough academics, close supervision of seminarians in parishes and schools.

Becoming a priest today is swimming upstream start to finish. Staying a priest at this time in history requires fidelity and heavy lifting. But, here’s the good part: That’s what builds character and strong men. It’s just what the priesthood needs. The church needs it and society needs it too.

At a tribute in my honor held at the seminary last April three seminarians spoke. Their comments were necessarily about me, but their character and their courage stole the show. That spoke louder than anything they said. In the receiving line afterwards, a Protestant couple, friends of mine, spontaneously said, “We’d take any one of them for our pastor in a heartbeat!”

Recently, I asked a student at Food For Thought Tutoring Center what he wanted to do when he grew up. He wrinkled his forehead and answered, “Either the guy that makes the wedding cakes or a priest!”

I didn’t mind his 3rd grade career dilemma. He saw a chef do an amazing multi-tiered creation on the food channel. But, then again, he’d also met some of our best seminarians. These guys impress him too.

The Reverend Robert F. Leavitt recently stepped down after 27 years as the president-rector of
St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore. His e-mail is

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

rockin the Trid

Hello again dear readers,

When I said "wait for it" on Sept 13 I was referring to the next day, Sept 14 when Our Holy Father's Summorum Pontificum (or here), issued motu proprio ("on his own initiative") went into effect. But, alas, I missed posting on that day... I tend to get bogged down in the minutiae of seminary life and all its various obligations... but that's another post...

Just for completion's sake, here's some helpful links.
Not to take anything away from the "very nice" statement by His Excellency, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz on the motu proprio, but Fr. Z contends that Bishop Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh has one of the best statements by any diocese. You can read it, along with Fr. Z's commentary, here. It's very helpful for learning the proper way to embrace and approach this document, both from the bishop's point of view and ours.

And don't forget Fr. Z's 5 Rules of Engagement.

There were many celebratory "Solemn High's" across the country on the 14th, including one right here in Baltimore at St. Alphonsus downtown. But, Msgr. Bastress made one demand: "I won't let you all get away with chanting the Te Deum without chanting the Magnificat too!" I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately though, I wasn't able to make the Missa Cantata at St. Alphonsus because I was helping direct the annual Bocce tournament here at the seminary. I wasn't able to defend my crown from last year, but my Italian comrade and I came in Second place.

There was also a Solemn High Mass, the first ever, on EWTN that morning. Did you catch it? If not you can order a copy of the Mass on DVD (definitely one to check out, if you've never been exposed to the now-called "extraordinary form" of the Latin Rite before). Or you can watch it online. And the very informative and inspirational homily that was given is available too (audio here). Another must-see is the Missa Solemnis narrated by Fulton Sheen, of blessed memory. You can watch a large chunk of it here. The theological explanations he gives during various parts of the Mass are very edifying.

Finally, for your P.O.D. Shot of the Week, here's Bishop Burbidge rockin' the Trid:

Sursum Corda
Habemus ad Dominum

"Lift up your hearts."
"We have lifted them up to the Lord."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007

enthused and positive

As you can see, I've been on a little blogging hiatus. But Rocco has snapped me out of it with this little post of his, which mentions His Excellency, Archbishop Kurtz.

The praises of lay ecclesial ministry have been sung mightily over the summer… and not from the usual chorus of liberal activists, either. Unless you happen to count Pope Benedict’s recent high-profile appointees in the States among that group. But a few days after the weather gods set Louisville ablaze to welcome him – the mercury hit a record-high 103 degrees on his installation day – Archbishop Joseph Kurtz told the hometown CoJo that “the baptismal call is a call of leadership.” While most of that is fulfilled in the ad extra world, the archbishop noted that “there are a number of (lay) individuals who are called to ministries in the church.” The pan-vocational rainmaker told the newspaper that although lay ministry “does not take the place of the call (to the priesthood)… I see these calls to be moving side-by-side.” He also noted that, in the absence of priest-pastors of its parishes, “there have been, from what I understand, very fine people who have served faithfully as pastoral ministers or pastoral associates within the archdiocese.” (Need anyone be reminded that Kurtz is still very much the Overbrook alum, let it be told that, just before his mid-August installation Mass in Derbytown’s Gardens arena, the archbishop’s request for an amice reportedly sparked a bit of a frantic (but successful) rummage through the closets of the Cathedral of the Assumption… and, even despite the crippling heat, during the post-installation reception in an adjacent tent, Louisville got its first sight of a violet choir cassock in quite some time.) After only three weeks in the Kentucky post, Kurtz has already been blazing trails across his new turf, and the response has been uniformly enthused and positive.
This pic shows the Archbishop's cassock as he hugs a woman who embodies the "uniformly enthused and positive" response to His Excellency by the faithful of the Archdiocese of Louisville.