Thoughts in Solitude - Thomas Merton

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” † † †
-Thoughts in Solitude
© Abbey of Gethsemani
"Your way of acting should be different from the world's way"...Rule of St. Benedict.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Spiritual Directors for the men in Diaconal Formation


Date: May 23, 2008

To: Spiritual Directors for the men in Diaconal Formation

From: Deacon Dennis Dorner

RE: Clarification


I have heard that there might be some confusion regarding the spiritual direction policy for the men in Diaconal Formation.

The requirement that all men in formation be involved in spiritual direction continues.

While we would prefer that spiritual directors be either clergy or religious, we will be relaxing the requirement that it must be a priest. This is simply in response to the reality that demand exceeds supply. We will work with the men to identify a good director.

One significant change in the Formation program is that the Archbishop has named Father Tim Hepburn as the Spiritual Director for the Diaconate. Father Tim will be responsible for setting the overall spiritual tone of not only the Formation Program but he will also assist the Office of the Permanent Diaconate in scheduling liturgies, retreats, and ongoing spiritual development opportunities.

Evidently there was some misunderstanding that would indicate that the current spiritual directors would be in the formation “chain of command” and that they would report somehow to the Office of the Diaconate or the new Spiritual Director. This is NOT the case. Since spiritual direction is an issue of internal forum the only requirement we have for the men’s spiritual directors is to report that they are meeting on a regular basis with the candidate.

I trust this information is helpful. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Prayer for Church in China - May 24th


Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,

venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians",
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!

Christian Culture - Not Outdated

Notes It's Current In Measure of a Lively Faith

VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2008 ( The beauty of the Christian cultural inheritance is not something that is "outdated," but rather something that will remain alive and current in the measure of a lively faith, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today upon delivering his weekly catechesis today in Paul VI Hall in which he commented on the Christian poetry of Romanus the Melodist, a theologian, poet and composer was born in Syria at the end of the fifth century.

The Holy Father explained that Romanus was an ordained deacon who dedicated himself to an original form of catechesis.

It is said that the Virgin Mary appeared to Romanus in a dream, explained the Pontiff, and gave him the gift of poetic charism. From that moment on he began preaching in the form of "chanted metrical hymns known as 'kontakia,' consisting of an introduction and a series of stanzas punctuated by a refrain."

"Faith is love," commented Benedict XVI, "and so it creates poetry and music. Faith is joy, and so it creates beauty."

Eighty-nine "kontakia" are attributed to Romanus, although tradition says he composed a thousand, recalled the Pope. He added that they "testify to the rich theological, liturgical and devotional content of the hymnography of that time."

An original

The Pontiff added, "Romanus was not only an eminent witness of the religious sentiment of his day, but also of a lively and original method of catechesis.

"Through his compositions we can see the creativity of this form of catechesis, of the creativity of the theological thought, of the aesthetic and the sacred hymnography of the era."

"Palpitating humanity, arduous faith and profound humility pervade the songs of Romanus the Melodist," continued the Holy Father. "This great poet and composer reminds us of the entire treasure of Christian culture, born of faith, born of the heart that has found Christ, the Son of God.

"From this contact of the heart with the truth that is love, culture is born, the entire great Christian culture. And if the faith continues to live, this cultural inheritance will not die, but rather it will continue to live and be current."

Benedict XVI affirmed that icons, medieval cathedrals and the music of Gregorian chant, Bach and Mozart are not things of the past.

"If faith is alive," he said, "Christian culture will never be 'outdated' but rather will remain alive and current."

© Innovative Media, Inc.

Reprinting ZENIT's articles requires written permission from the editor.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Fr. Corapi's Conversion Story

That's why we keep them in Cages!

Incredible Story

In 1986, Peter Davies was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University .

On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Peter approached it very carefully.

He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant’s foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Peter worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Peter stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Peter never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Peter was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Peter and his son Cameron were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Peter, lifted its front foot off the ground, and then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Peter couldn’t help wondering if this was the same elephant. Peter summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Peter legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

This is for all of my friends who send me those heart-warming stories.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Greek Passion - presented by Dayle Geroski

In the remote mountains of northern Greece, there once lived a monk who had desired all of his life to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre—to walk three times around it, to kneel, and to return home a new person. Gradually through the years he had saved what money he could, begging in the vil­lages nearby, and finally, near the end of his life, had enough set aside to begin his trip. He opened the gates of the monas­tery and, staff in hand, set out with great anticipation on his way to Jerusalem.

But no sooner had he left the cloister than he encountered a man in rags, sad and bent to the ground, picking herbs. “Where are you going, Father?” the man asked. “To the Holy Sepulchre, brother. By God’s grace, I shall walk three times around it, kneel, and return home a different man from what I am.”

“How much money to do that do you have, Father?” in­quired the man. “Thirty pounds,” the monk answered. “Give me the thirty pounds,” said the beggar. “I have a wife and hungry children. Give me the money, walk three times around me, then kneel and go back into your monastery.”

The monk thought for a moment, scratching the ground with his staff, then took the thirty pounds from his sack, gave the whole of it to the poor man, walked three times around him, knelt, and went back through the gates of his monastery.

He returned home a new person, of course, having recog­nized that the beggar was Christ himself—not in some magi­cal place far away, but right outside his monastery door, mysteriously close. In abandoning his quest for the remote, the special, the somehow “magical,” the monk discovered a meaning far more profound in the ordinary experience close to home. All that he had given up came suddenly rushing back to him with a joy unforeseen.

To be surprised by grace is a gift to be prized.

Story by Nikos Kazantzakis, as cited in the book: The spirituality of imperfection: Storytelling and the search for meaning, by Ernst Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham. Bantam Books.

Class Song - Jubilate Deo

Class Song - Men of Ten

Jubilate Deo

Omnisterra sevite domino

In laetitia allelulia, alleluia

In laetitia allelulia, alleluia

In laetitia

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Einstein: Bible Is 'Primitive, Pretty Childish'

Einstein: Bible Is 'Primitive, Pretty Childish'

Tuesday , May 13, 2008


A letter being auctioned in London this week adds more fuel to the long-simmering debate about the Nobel prize-winning physicist's religious views.

In the note, written the year before his death, Einstein dismissed the idea of God as the product of human weakness and the Bible as "pretty childish."

The letter, handwritten in German, is being sold by Bloomsbury Auctions on Thursday and is expected to fetch between $12,000 and $16,000.

Einstein, who helped unravel the mysteries of the universe with his theory of relativity, expressed complex and arguably contradictory views on faith, perceiving a universe suffused with spirituality while rejecting organized religion.

• Click here to visit's Natural Science Center.

The letter up for sale, written to philosopher Eric Gutkind in January 1954, suggests his views on religion did not mellow with age.

In it, Einstein said that "the word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."

"For me," he added, "the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions."

Addressing the idea that the Jews are God's chosen people, Einstein wrote that "the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."

Bloomsbury spokesman Richard Caton said the auction house was "100 percent certain" of the letter's authenticity.

It is being offered at auction for the first time, by a private vendor.

John Brooke, emeritus professor of science and religion at Oxford University, said the letter lends weight to the notion that "Einstein was not a conventional theist" — although he was not an atheist, either.

"Like many great scientists of the past, he is rather quirky about religion, and not always consistent from one period to another," Brooke said.

Born to a Jewish family in Germany in 1879, Einstein said he went through a devout phase as a child before beginning to question conventional religion at the age of 12.

In later life, he expressed a sense of wonder at the universe and its mysteries — what he called a "cosmic religious feeling" — and famously said: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

But, he also said: "I do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil. My God created laws that take care of that. His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking, but by immutable laws."

Brooke said Einstein believed that "there is some kind of intelligence working its way through nature. But it is certainly not a conventional Christian or Judaic religious view."

Einstein's most famous legacy is the special theory of relativity, which makes the point that a large amount of energy could be released from a tiny amount of matter, as expressed in the equation E=MC2 (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared).

The theory changed the face of physics, allowing scientists to make predictions about space and paving the way for nuclear power and the atomic bomb.

Einstein's musings on science, war, peace and God helped make him world famous, and his scientific legacy prompted Time magazine to name him its Person of the 20th Century.

Our Alien Brothers??

Vatican: It's OK for Catholics to Believe in Aliens

Tuesday , May 13, 2008


In the Vatican newspaper piece, titled "The Extraterrestrial Is My Brother," the Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes said the expansiveness of the universe means there could be life on planets other than Earth.

"In my opinion this possibility exists," Funes, the director of the Vatican Observatory, told L'Osservatore Romano. "Astronomers believe the universe is made up of 100 billion galaxies, each of which consists of 100 billion stars. ... Life forms could exist in theory even without oxygen or hydrogen."

Funes said that there might even be other intelligent life out there, but believing in its existence doesn't pose a problem for those of the Catholic faith.

"It is possible. So far we have no proof. But certainly in a universe so big we can not exclude this hypothesis," he told the paper.

"As there is a multiplicity of creatures on earth, so there may be other beings, intelligent, created by God. This does not conflict with our faith, because we cannot put limits on the creative freedom of God."

He said human beings could even consider aliens "brother extraterrestrials" because they, too, would be part of God's creation.

Non-embryonic-stem-cell research

New York’s $600 Million Question
Will non-embryonic-stem-cell research get its fair share of the funding pie?

By Father Thomas Berg

When Dr. Bertram Lubin, head of the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, applied for a $5 million facilities grant last fall from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to support his research on sickle-cell anemia, his colleagues thought the application was a slam dunk.

The CIRM — the agency that distributes grants and loans under California’s voter-approved $3 billion stem-cell initiative — thought otherwise. As narrated in the just-published May edition of the journal Nature, Lubin appeared personally before the CIRM Board in January to make his case. The CIRM Board responded by rejecting Lubin’s application on a 10-5 vote. (Never mind that four of the board members voting against Lubin’s application represented institutions that were competing directly against Lubin for CIRM money.)

So, why was Lubin’s application shot down?

Lubin’s clinical data, in the opinion of his colleagues and independent observers, was solid. His request — in response to an RFA for facilities grants — was modest in comparison to the eight-figure grants the CIRM eventually approved. He just wanted to build new labs for the Children’s Hospital. And Lubin is no second-string researcher: His work is supported by the NIH, and he has served on many NIH peer-review committees. Lubin’s research, which focuses on adult stem cells derived from the placenta, could arguably translate almost immediately into therapeutic applications to the benefit of millions of black children who suffer atrociously from the effects of sickle cell anemia. About 1,000 babies a year are born with the genetic disease in the United States.

As it turns out, Lubin’s work was faulted among other things, according to a summary on the CIRM website, for showing “no evidence of current use or planned expansion into the use of human embryonic stem cells.”

Now, I can already hear the chorus of scientists who will cry foul if I suggest that this was the real reason why Lubin’s application was shot down. They will no doubt accuse me of setting up and knocking down a straw man. They will point out that the CIRM also supports human adult-stem-cell-research.

So be it. My intense exposure to the field of stem-cell research over the past eight years has too often revealed a largely unsubstantiated bias favoring work on human embryonic stem cells over other types of research — especially work on adult stem cells. And today, this is a bias turned scientific and political ideology, one that too often dominates the imaginations of those who hold the purse strings on private and State funding.

Even if we grant that there were reasonable grounds for rejecting Lubin’s application, faulting it for lack of embryonic-stem-cell work is specious. Even the journal Nature thought so. And if I’ve learned anything during these years, it’s that scientists are very clever and sophisticated at covering their muddy tracks: Almost anything can be easily veiled with science talk.

Nor can Lubin — who supports embryonic-stem-cell research — be accused of trying to make a political statement with his application. All he expected of the CIRM was a genuine diversity in its research portfolio that would reflect the reality of stem cell science, and genuinely support research for cures.

But perhaps he was expecting too much. “We’re not in the ‘in’ crowd,” Lubin told Nature. “So a project that was really going to go into patients was essentially triaged.”

And how.

One has to wonder whether a similar ideology will not take hold at New York’s own stem-cell board. Last year, New York followed California’s lead in providing state funding for stem-cell research. The Empire State Stem Cell Board (ESSCB) was brought into existence on April 1, 2007, composed of two committees — a Funding Committee and an Ethics Committee. I serve on the latter.

The ESSCB was empowered to oversee the funding of a $600 million, ten-year stem cell research initiative. On Thursday, May 8 Governor David Paterson announced that the next portion of the pie — nearly $109 million in new state funding — is now being made available to support stem-cell-research initiatives, including facilities grants.

I am convinced that my colleagues on the funding committee are equitable and intellectually honest. I am confident they can rise far above the sophomoric and unconscionable conflicts of interest that are becoming characteristic of the CIRM. They are also genuinely interested in promoting stem-cell research that can quickly translate into therapies and cures. But can they withstand the bias toward embryonic-stem-cell research? On that question I remain uncertain.

Last December, our Ethics Committee unanimously recommended to the Funding Committee a brief six month moratorium on the funding of controversial research projects (such as the creation of new lines of human embryonic stem cells) so that we could have time to make recommendations on the serious ethical issues involved in such research. We were roundly rebuffed, however. Such a moratorium, they argued, “would send the wrong signal to the scientific community in the State.”

The Empire State Stem Cell Board next meets on Tuesday. I can only hope that in future funding decisions, the Board will be cognizant of three realities: (1) the statute under which the ESSCB functions establishes that any type of stem-cell research can be funded in the State; (2) arguably two thirds stem-cell researchers in the State who work with cells from human sources do so on adult stem cells according to a recent ESSCB survey; and (3) that, according to initial drafts of our strategic plan, one of the goals of promoting stem-cell science in New York State is to translate basic research into therapies as fast as possible.

The quickest way to achieve that goal, of course, is by funding projects like Dr. Lubin’s.

The $600 million question is whether the ESSCB will allow a blind scientific ideology to trump cures, or whether it will direct monies toward research that holds out the greatest short-term hope for clinical successes. It would be a defeat for humanity if this board were ever to give a cold shoulder to researchers who have their fingers on promising new therapies, but who fail to toe the embryonic-stem-cell line.

Father Thomas Berg, L.C. is executive director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics & the Human Person and a member of the Ethics Committee of the Empire State Stem Cell Board.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Formation Program Update


Date: April 30, 2008

To: Men in Diaconate Formation

From: Deacon Dennis Dorner

RE: Update and Summer Retreat Information


Since meeting with you on April 12, 2008, much has been happening and I wanted to update you on some of the things that are in the works.

All of the invited members of the new Diaconate Advisory Board have agreed to serve. This group is largely composed of the members of the Self Study Committee that has been working on implementation of the new Directory since last fall. We will be meeting in mid to late May for the first time. At that meeting, new standing committees on candidate selection, evaluation and scrutinies, and curriculum will be created.

There will be some organizational changes with Deacon Loris’ departure. All administrative functions for both the Formation Program and Life in Ministry (post ordination) will come under the Office of the Permanent Diaconate. As Director of the Permanent Diaconate, I will be working with a team that will include the Associate Director of Formation and the Spiritual Director for Formation. We expect to post for the Associate Formation Directors position in late May following the first meeting of the Advisory Board. Effective July 1 and until the new Associate Director is named, feel free to contact me for any questions regarding the Formation Program.

Many of you have asked about anticipated changes in the program for the fall. Classes that are full year classes will likely continue through the end of the year. There may be some minor modifications and we will communicate those to you as soon as they are formulated.

As I mentioned, the Archbishop will be appointing a new Spiritual Director for the Formation Program. It is important that you all are given an opportunity to get to know the new director. With this in mind, we have decided to postpone the summer retreat until sometime in the fall. We will let you know the date and location in the next couple of weeks. While we certainly appreciate the hospitality extended to us by St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, we will likely be relocating in order to help keep the cost of travel to a minimum.

If you are not already familiar with the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, I encourage you to read the document. It can be read on line or downloaded at This document is the driving force behind the review and update that we are implementing in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. We are actually the first diocese in the country to do a complete review based on the Directory.

Please know that you are in my prayers and I ask that you keep all of us that are involved in this renewal process in prayer as well.