Thursday, March 16, 2017

One of the Top Ten

A Boston Globe column writer recently described a firestorm of digital accusations and unkind remarks about a female public servant from a small town in the Boston area. Accusations of wrong doing, insults and other negativity filled the lady's hometown Facebook page. Without fact-checking their postings, several people assumed the worst and defamed their town's hard-working councilwoman. Writers assumed the worst instead of fact-checking the event. The lady in question was near another small town which had just suffered a destructive tornado. Since that town's administrator was out of state, this lady stepped in and helped organize rescue and rebuilding efforts. The lady in question did what she did at the cost of sacrifice without receiving pay. She called her boss and asked to make the day she spent helping another town as a "sick day" not a paid work day. People who sent nasty messages to the town's Facebook page implied that the council woman was spending their town's money on another town which in their opinion was an unpardonable offense. Without informing themselves of the realities of the woman's motives and her communications with her own boss, she was being painted as a quasi-criminal stealing from her fellow citizens. To me it sounded like a bit much. Yet in today's volatile social climate it is a sad reality that one of the Top Ten, The Ten Commandments, Number 8 has been transgressed. This is how the 8th Commandment is worded: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16) In ordinary parlance it is translated, "Don't lie about your neighbor. Rather, tell the truth." How many times have I blurted out something which I soon later regretted! From my own experience as well as what others have said, mistakes such as white lies, or blatant big lies, come from not thinking enough. For Lent I one of my resolves is to think about what I am going to say, and how I say it, write it, or record it, or send it out on the Internet. A Maryknoll priest stationed in China shared his homily online. Here is part of it:
In ancient Greece, Socrates [470-399 BC] said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” He said that when he was on trial, facing the death penalty. He could have kept his mouth shut and lived longer, but he wanted people to live better. He kept asking his fellow citizens in Athens what they were doing and why. It is annoying when people challenge us to think. Thinking is hard work. People prefer to speak without thinking and to act without thinking. Socrates. believed in an afterlife. He did not know much about the One God, but at least he knew that death is not the end of everything.(From the Sunday Homily of Father Michael Sloboda, MM, 3/12/17)
Thinking before we speak can indeed be a penance. It's far easier to speak spontaneously and passionately. But, then we may have to symbolically "pick up the pieces" left by our unscripted speech or writing. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a great statement about truth telling:
Truth or truthfulness is the virtue which consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words, and guarding against duplicity; dissimulation, and hypocrisy... Respect for the reputation and honor of persons forbids all detraction and calumny in words or attitude. (CCC, nos, 2505 and 2507)
When I read the Globe article I reflected about my own social media use. At times my Facebook page gets filled with various rants against elected officials, or Hollywood personalities, or Bishops, and even against the Holy Father. Thankfully, there is an "X" option. I do not forward nastiness or lies. For every "You shall not" commandment, there is a "a shall do" element. If I do not lie about someone, I speak well of them. Or, I remain silent. Lawyers unfortunately are often judged as sly and even dishonest. However lawyers deal with the law, and with truth. They need to defend what is true. Often gathering evidence to prove the truthfulness of their case requires hours of research and reams of paper, and expensive copy maker use. Pope Saint John Paul II referred to St. Thomas More as a Patron Saint of those who defend the truth, especially Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers.
When we make our daily examination of conscience, a quick review of The Top Ten/The Ten Commandments and how we observe them helps to clear our hearts of daily spiritual debris. And, if we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Top Ten help us to find some material to bring to our Confession. I pray that your Lent is progressing well. God bless you!

Saturday, March 04, 2017

How to Handle Temptation

The gospel of this First Sunday of Lent shows us Jesus alone in the desert being tempted by Satan. Re-reading the passage from Saint Matthew's gospel, I am reminded of watching a sword fight. Satan's first thrust is the temptation for Jesus to use his powers to satisfy his hunger by changing stones into bread. Certainly after 40 days fasting, Jesus was hungry for bread. Jesus would not bow to Satan by using his divine nature to do a sort of magic trick to turn inanimate matter like stones into bread. Jesus thrusts back at Satan with the Word of God: "Not on bread alone is man to live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." The Devil could not trick Jesus by playing on his physical appeptites, so he tried a second time to tempt. This temptation told Jesus to jump off the highest part of the Temple and be unharmed, since, if Jesus wished it to be, no harm would come to him. Satan was clueless about Jesus' resolute iron will: no, Jesus would not tempt God by showing off, by being a first century stunt man. Jesus counters the Devil with another Word from God: "You shall not put the Lord God to the test." I can imagine the passion with which Jesus hurled his answer back to the Tempter. Yet Satan did not give up: he tried a third time: He offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world with all their pomp and vanity on the condition that Jesus of Nazareth would bow down in homage to Satan. Jesus gave Satan a final tuche': "Away with you, Satan! Scrpture says: "You shall do homage to the Lord your God; him alone shall you adore." And, Matthew wrote: "At that the Devil left him, and angels came and ministered to him."
I try to visualize the gospels when I read them. It helps when a passage evokes a movie clip so I can imagine what Jesus may have looked like. In the just released movie "The Shack" the Jesus character is a middle-eastern Israeli. Who knows, since Jesus was a Palestinian Jew, he may well have had raven black hair, big brown eyes and bronze/brown skin. The Jesus we know from the gospel never gave in to the Devil's wiles. He used Scripture to drive out The Evil One. Jesus was rock solid in adhering to the Father's Will. Our temptations may be scaled down a bit, since we are the small fry in the huge ocean of humanity. Yet in our Creed we say that we believe in God the "Almighty." This means God can do all things. The Devil tries to trip us and knock us over the edge of our weakness into a pool of discouragement, or frozen half-heartedness. What to do? All spiritual people I know of never gave Satan the time of day, nor do they "hang around" literally asking for trouble. Satan may be trying to rope you into his clutches by all sorts of mean tricks. Yet praying with the actual words of Scripture gives us a powerful weapon against Satan and his many legions. Our chaplain at Mass this morning noted that the responsorial Psalm yesterday and the day before, and for today the First Sunday of Lent remains the same: Psalm 51. (In older translations it may appear as Psalm 50). After King David fell miserably into adultery and even murder the grace of repentance permeated this Psalm of David. David's pours out his soul as he tells of his sincere repentance and sorrow: "Against you only have I sinned, and have done what is evil in your sight." Yet David did not wallow in his sorrow, he asks for strength to get up and do better: He asks God for the grace to stick to the right path, he says, "and a steadfast spirit renew within me." Father Charlie suggested praying Psalm 51 and slowly meditating on it. I leave you with words from Psalm 51: "Give me back the joy of your salvation and a willing spirit sustain in me." Have a prayerful First Full Week of Lent.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Nuns at the Movies

If you were fasting from food yesterday, how did you do? I was surprised that I did not feel faint or super hungry. At breakfast this morning, I had a real appetite. Our two cooks make a substantial meal for breakfast, so I admit it was hard to say "no" to all the muffins and sweet breads. On another topic, our Founder, Blessed James Alberione wanted to see the gospel message communicated through movies both sacred and those more secular. This evening some of us Sisters will view the new movie "The Shack." Having read the book, I can only imagine the scenes right now. After a few hours I will have seen it. Only then can I comment on it. Some of our USA/Canada Daughters of St. Paul are film critics. Sister Helena Burns,(Tweet @SrHelenaBurns)
Sister Rose Pacatte (,
and Sister Nancy Usselman.
Sister Marie Paul Curley also includes film reviews in her blog Windows to the Soul:
Sister Hosea Marie Rupprecht, FSP appears regularly on Catholic TV along with Father Chip Hines as a film reviewer. (
Since movies are part and parcel of our North American and even global culture, part of our mission is to evangelize the culture of film today. Let us include Hollywood and independent film makers in our prayers that they may be instruments of evangelization in our world. Have a blessed end of this first partial week of March.