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White smoke drifting into the night sky:

white smoke

The world watches…

St Peter's Square

…21st-century style:

Crowd 2

The crowd goes wild:

Crowd

A moment of prayer:

pope francis bowing

The cardinals take in the crowd’s jubilation, and no doubt look forward to resting more easily:

cardinals

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Pope FrancisHabemus Papam!  Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires is now Pope Francis!

What a wonderful gift God and our cardinals have given to the Church today! Our new Holy Father seems like such a humble and gracious man.  I will never forget when he bowed and asked the people to pray for God’s blessing upon him, and the entire crowd fell silent and prayed, joined by the millions around the world who were watching via the media.  A beautiful, edifying, unifying moment.

I so look forward to getting to know our new Papa better and seeing and hearing more from him.  I feel we are in very good hands, and that he is going to move the Barque of St. Peter forward and reach out to the world.  A good leader for this age of the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith.

Pope Benedict farewell

With humility he came to the papacy, and with humility he left.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI bade farewell to the public world today.  I’m still taking it in.  The Church is pope-less for a time.  Sedes vacans.  While I was watching videos of his departure from Vatican City, I felt awe at the fact that I was witnessing such an historical moment.  I also felt a touch of sadness.  But I know Papa Benedict will be a great prayer-warrior for the Church and the world, and I am grateful for that.  I hope and pray that this gentle scholar–that is how I will always remember him most–will enjoy serenity and some refreshment for the rest of his days.  I hope he will continue to bless us with his writing as well.

At the same time, let us pray very hard for the cardinals who will be in the upcoming conclave.  As Papa Benedict himself said in his farewell address to them, the future pope is among them.  We must pray for their discernment, for their careful attention to the voice and motion of the Holy Spirit.  In addition to praying for the college of cardinals as a whole, perhaps you might want to adopt a cardinal and pray for him in particular.  I am praying for my adopted cardinal, Cardinal Peter Erdo of Hungary.

So, it seems that the United States federal government’s health care legislation has many of my fellow citizens all riled up. Personally, I have no idea what the legislation actually says or how it will play out–does anybody fully know?

It does trouble me, though. What troubles me is that many Americans seem to be under the illusion that the government is a charitable organization and that health insurance for all will translate into quality care for all. I fear that the reality is going to be harsh.

And yet, I can hardly blame anybody. An enormous void has grown in our society–a void of true charity, created with the breaking down of religious communities and religious identities and the shift toward pure secularism. The disintegration and now near-extinction of true charitable organizations such as Catholic hospitals.

And for all our anxiety and protests about having what’s left of our religious identities and charities and liberties squelched–we pretty much have only ourselves to blame. We’ve neglected them for decades, opting to go with the flow of secular society, forgetting all that our ancestors have contributed, buying into the revisionist history that claims religion has never been a force for good in society.

What we–and our country–have lost will only be restored by a trial by fire, and probably a very lengthy one. Pray and fast, brethren. Pray and fast. Start right now. And for Heaven’s sake, let’s stop complaining about the government and start taking responsibility and getting our own houses in order!

Governments come and go, rise and fall, try to replace religion and fail miserably. Sooner or later, it will once again be the Church that is filling the void of charity, striving to meet every human need and protect every human right. Let’s start preparing for that day sooner rather than later.

Here is a wonderful opportunity for my local community:

The Theology of the Body Evangelization Team and All Saints Catholic Church Present:

Theology of the Body: Reclaiming Authentic Masculinity and Femininity

Saturday, September 17, 2011 from 8:30AM to 6:00PM

All Saints Catholic School in Dallas (in the school gymnasium)
7777 Osage Plaza
Dallas Texas 75252

Breakfast and Lunch Provided and Vigil Mass Following
Please see our Flyer for more details.
See speaker bios and schedule here.

Cost:
$25.00 per adult
$20.00 per student (must show ID at door)

TOBET is a wonderful apostolate. Please see their Web site for more information about the conference and other topics.

It’s almost August, which means… Lay Dominican retreat with Father Powell!  You don’t have to be a Dominican to come.  For that matter, you don’t even have to be Catholic (although it will be of most interest to Catholics).

Please note that this is by no means a “silent retreat”–that wouldn’t be very Dominican.  ;)  Our retreats are based on the Four Pillars of Dominican Life: Prayer, Study, Community, and Apostolate.

Father Powell is an excellent speaker.  I always get so much out of these annual retreats.  Here is the info.  You might want to check our Lay Dominican group’s site for updates.

————————————————————-

Day of Reflection for the Dominican Laity

“Putting Out into the Deep:  Catholic Laity and the New Evangelization”

Conferences given by Fr. Phillip Powell.

Saturday, August 6, 2011, 10:00am – 3:30pm

Gorman Lecture Center, University of Dallas, Irving, TX

All are invited. No registration required.

Parking available near Chapel of the Incarnation and outside of Gorman Hall

What to bring:   A notebook or laptop for notes, either a sack lunch or money for lunch on campus (cafeteria open, lunch cost about $6.50), and friends/spouses if you like!

Costs: Free. “Love offering” accepted toward financing Father’s continued studies

Agenda

10:00 – 10:15    Meet and greet, then begin 1st Decade of the Rosary
10:15 – 11:00     First Conference
11:00 – 12:30     Individual reflection time / Optional Mass / Lunch
12:30 –   1:15      2nd Decade of the Rosary, and Second Conference
1:15 –    1:45      Individual reflection time
1:45 –   2:30      3rd Decade of the Rosary, and Third Conference
2:30 –   2:45     4th Decade of the Rosary/ Break
2:45 –   3:15     Questions and Answer period/ wrap up
3:15 –    3:30     Fifth Decade of the Rosary and Blessing

This last weekend was certainly a momentous one!  A British royal wedding, the beatification of Blessed Pope John Paul II, and the death of the United States’ top public enemy.  I had quite a bit going on personally, so I wasn’t able to tune in to as much of the news and events as I would have liked.  And by now, so much has been written in the blogosphere that I almost feel like this little post of mine will be totally redundant and insignificant.  But it’s my blog, and I’m trying to start posting much more frequently, so here are just some quick little reactions.

The royal wedding:  From what I saw it was a very beautiful ceremony and very rooted in Christian tradition.  I came across the prayer that Prince William and his bride composed and offered up:

God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage.

In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.

Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Beautiful.  It sounds like this young couple will not only have invited God to the wedding, but will also keep Him a part of their marriage–something all too rare these days.  I pray for them that it may be so and that many young people around the world will follow their example.  I was also very impressed with Catherine’s dress–very classic, and very modest as wedding dresses go these days.  It reminded me of Princess Grace’s wedding dress.

Beatification of Bl. Pope John Paul II:  What an experience to see somebody who lived in your own lifetime be beatified!  And how blessed the world was to have this incredible man at its service during such turbulent times.  He was truly a universal man, who had so much personal experience with human suffering and yet vigorously, tirelessly preached “Be not afraid!” and the worth and dignity of every human life, no matter how poor, how small, or how difficult it might be.  In the Church and on the world stage, he was a lion-hearted man, and also an extremely gentle man.  In his old age and illness, when many were shaming him for not retiring and letting somebody younger, healthier, and supposedly more capable take over as pope, he persevered quietly, and taught us all that people don’t lose their dignity and worth when they become old and sick.  That perseverance is one of the things that inspired me to come back to the Church, and has uplifted me many times since.

Death of Osama Bin Laden:  When I saw the news, I had two thoughts almost simultaneously.  One was, “Thank God, he’s finally gone!”  The other was, “Dear Lord, he must be in desperate need of Your mercy!”  I rejoiced in the success of our soldiers and the defeat of such a dreadful enemy who had killed so many innocent people.  I also feared for the state of his soul and how terrible his judgment before God must have been.  I hate and despise his sins.  I pity the man.  I wish he had repented.  Maybe he did in his final moment.

I was also glad to see some joy and celebration in the streets of New York and Washington.  I know some people have found it tasteless, even going so far as comparing those people to the people in the Middle East who celebrated in the streets on 9/11.  I didn’t see that at all.  For one thing, I didn’t see any burning effigies or burning flags or guns.  I saw people celebrating not a man’s death in itself, but rather celebrating the ending of at least one chapter of a dark and haunting story, a nightmare of agony.  I think that the New Yorkers and Washingtonians deserved to celebrate.  I don’t think that we in other parts of the nation fully understand what they have gone through.  9/11 may have occurred almost 10 years ago, but the shadow of grief is very long and dark, as I know from personal experience.

I’ve added links to a couple of new Dominican sites.

The first is Dallas Lay Dominicans, a brand new site for my local Lay Dominican group.  We will hopefully have more content in the future, but it’s off to a good start.  I hope that it may help our group to grow even more!  If you have prayer requests, please feel free to post them to our prayer request page.  The entire community will pray for you!

The other is Preaching Friars, a fairly new site by the student friars of the Central and Southern Provinces of the U.S.  As you can see, we’ve been blessed with a great crop of young friars, and have a promising future.  Among other things, they offer daily Lenten reflections.

Please check them out!

I am finally catching up on the coverage of the Holy Father’s visit to Britain.  One-word summary: Wow!

Pope Benedict’s sermons and speeches are as powerful and prophetic as ever, with their characteristic blend of incisiveness and gentleness.

But overarching everything, there is the sheer historical magnitude of the Catholic Pope speaking in places like Westminster Hall and Westminster Abbey, openly and fearlessly declaring himself the Successor of St. Peter and calling Britain back to her Christian, and indeed Catholic roots, pointing to such British Catholics as St. Edward the Confessor, St. Thomas More, St. Margaret of Scotland, and the soon-to-be-beatified Ven. John Henry Newman.

I cannot help but feel great wonder and awe at this occasion!  And while the re-conversion of Britain to Catholicism has long been a prayer intention dear to my heart, I finally feel, for the first time, that some kind of breakthrough might be in progress.  I hope and pray that the Holy Father’s presence and words may bear much good fruit in those lands.

Here are some of the British sources I’ve been following:

The Catholic Herald

Damian Thompson

The Hermeneutic of Continuity

Saint Mary Magdalene

That the Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill

Godzdogz

May our Lord and Lady continue to bless and protect our Holy Father during this momentous journey.

Matthew Warner has blogged about yesterday’s March for Life at National Catholic Register and at Fallible Blogma.  He includes some great photos and video.

In his Fallible Blogma post, he points out that there was a single, solitary counter-protester somewhere along the way.  I didn’t notice her.

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(Image from a painting at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Metairie, Louisiana)

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