01 February 2015

Our reason for living

4th Sunday of OT
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

Paul writes to the always-anxious Corinthians, “Brothers and sisters, I should like you to be free of anxieties.” He would like for them to be released from the slavery of their doubts, the chains of their mistrust, and the need for total control. He would like for them to be able to live in the world and not flail around panicked about what comes next. What’s After This? Where’s the plan? The map? The schedule? Paul would like for his Corinthian brothers and sisters to be rested in the Lord’s promise of mercy, settled into an enduring trust of their Father, and focused on all the things Christ left them to accomplish. Instead, they – like us – spend an inordinate amount of our limited time fretting, scheming, worrying, fidgeting about things and people we cannot possibly influence or control. Let's call this phenomenon, Heliocopter Spirituality – the tendency to hover anxiously over our own lives, stressing about outcomes rather than leaving it all for God to figure out.

What are the Corinthians stressing over? They're distracted by the rigors of family life, worried needlessly by the demands of husbands and wives and children, taken away from the difficult work, the hard labor of preparing for the coming again of the Christ. Paul, and all those Jesus leaves behind, wait for their beloved Master to return to them and take them all away. They are anxious about many things, but most anxious about the apparent delay in his return. Paul’s admonishment to them: don’t become too attached to the workings of this world – the things of this world demand their own kind attention, their own kind of sacrifice. Rather, stay free for Christ, and do what he has asked you to do.

What are you anxious about? What unclean spirits harass you? Do you know the name of the fearfulness that chews away at the strength of your gifts, your trust, your patience? Do you know the name of the spirit that moves you to hide from God, moves you to ignore God, moves you to defy God? You can all say, “Sure, Father, it’s the Devil!” Yes, it is. But more specifically, can you identify, precisely point out the spirit that steals your peace in Christ?

Jesus goes to Capernaum to teach in the synagogue. People are astonished at his teaching, stunned at the authenticity and authority of his message. He speaks the Word; he teaches and preaches a Word of power and might, claiming for himself the authority of his Father and, in doing so, claiming for the Father the lives, the souls of those who hear and heed his Word. Despite the power of his message, it's not the men and women who hear him that feel their world shaking. Notice who grows anxious, notice whose peace is rattled to the core: the unclean spirits!

The men and women who hear Jesus preach are gifted, graced with the boundless love of God. The unclean spirit is fearful. The men and women are astonished, opened, enlightened, touched by glory at the Word proclaimed. The unclean spirit is dreadful, nervous, shaken, and most definitely stirred! The people there leap forward to grab hold of the Word and they hold on to the Word as if it were a hurt child, or a long-lost loved one. They embrace the hope, the expectation of eternal life, the renewal of their lives with the Father, the reconciliation that the God-man, Jesus, makes real. The unclean spirit can only despair and complain. It can only wail louder and gripe, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” Our Lord was sent. He is sent. And he will be sent again.

Moses spoke to his people and said, “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen […] I will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him.” Our Lord will send a prophet, a voice to speak His Word to us and we will listen. We heard Elijah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah. We heard Amos and Isaiah. And much more recently, we heard John the Baptizer. We heard the Name he spoke to us, the announcement of the Good News of our Savior’s arrival in the flesh. And then we heard the Christ Himself teach us salvation, preach to us the Way of Life through him. We believed. We heard and we believed.

And yet we are still capable of anxiety. Why? I think we forget Who we are dealing with. I think we trudge along, so habituated to hearing the Bad News, that everything the Good God has done for us is lost in the panicky headlines, the hysterical screaming of one crisis after another. We forget what we have said “Amen” to here. We forget what we have asked for here. We come here to remember. And yet, still we forget.

Here’s a reminder, just a reminder to put a little fear into the spirit of forgetfulness that may be haunting us. This evening, if you participate fully in this Eucharist, you will say “Amen”—“it is so”—to the presence of Christ among us. He IS here. You will thank him for his Word proclaimed and thank him again for his Gospel. You will say amen to his ancient teaching and amen again for taking care of your needs. You will say amen to His blessed Name and amen to his coming Kingdom; amen to His will done in all creation and amen to your need for His daily food; amen to his mercy and yours and amen to his protection from evil. You will say “amen” to offering bread and wine, his body and soul on that altar of sacrifice, to be blessed, transformed and given back to Him. You will say amen to His peace and share it. Amen to the Lamb of God and his sacrifice for us. Amen to his supper. And amen and amen for the Holy One of God who teaches with a new authority, preaches with a new authenticity the Word of Life.

What are you anxious about? What spirits worry you? Remember what you have said amen to here this evening. Remember what you have sacrificed and who you are in Christ. Our Lord wants us free of anxieties. Our Lord wants us free so that we can spread the fame of the Good News to everyone, everywhere. Free of attachments, free of distractions, free of sin and death. . .so that our witness to his Good News is our reason for rising, our reason for living.



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25 January 2015

Getting Your Attention

3rd Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA
What gets our attention these days? A disaster? Some sort of crisis? Maybe a name change for your favorite team gets you worked up? Or maybe you're a fairly even-tempered soul who reacts calmly in all situations. You're calm in a crisis, controlled, and clear-headed. After all, what isn't a crisis these days? Global warming! Terrorists! ISIS and Boko Haram! Ebola! The End of America! Genocide in Nigeria and Syria! The Collapse of Europe! Open Borders! Just about anything that happens these days (no matter how minor) is presented to us as a crisis of earth-shattering proportions, a disaster on par with the worst punishments visited on sinners in the Old Testament. Digging through the hysterical rhetoric of a hyperventilating media can be exhausting work. If you're like me, you've come to the conclusion that “Wolf” has been cried once too often, and that it is far better to throw in with the providence of God and let human events unfold as they will, knowing that Love Himself has already won the victory for us. Squeals of panic from politicians, activists, and media talking-heads take on a whole new insignificance when placed along side the Word of God and His promise of loving-care. None of this, however, should close our ears to the His call for our repentance. Though He will not destroy us again for our disobedience, He will leave us to face the consequences of ignoring a fair warning. “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. . .”

So, what does it take to get your attention these days? The people of Nineveh hear Jonah announce in their streets, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed!” Just forty days. And everything you know and love will be gone. Does that get your attention? Apparently, it gets the Ninevehites' attention b/c they repent and their city is spared. What's odd about this brief episode from the Book of Jonah is that the prophet sent by God to warn the Ninevehites never actually offers them a deal. You know the deal: repent or burn. Jonah simply goes around the streets yelling that the city will be destroyed in forty days. No conditions. No hedged bets against destruction. Just a straightforward warning. Why no conditions? Well, we might speculate that Jonah wanted the city destroyed. Or perhaps the Lord's punishment for his earlier reluctance to serve left him feeling a little petulant. Regardless, the threat of destruction is enough to send a city-wide wave of repentance through the population. Having secured the Ninevehites' attention without offering them a deal, Jonah secures the city for the Lord.

So, what does it take to secure your attention? Writing to the Corinthians, Paul announces, “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. . .For the world in its present form is passing away.” Does knowing that your time will one day run out secure your attention? Paul's warning to the Corinthians is hardly profound. The world in its present form is always passing away. Time is always running out. Anyone with a watch and somewhere to be knows this. What might not be so obvious at first glance is that for time to run out, for the world in its present form to pass away, there must be a point somewhen in the future toward which we are moving in time. In other words, Paul is telling the Corinthians that time and this present world have an end and that end is swiftly coming to bear. Is this an attention-grabber? Hardly. We're told everyday that the end is near. It's either the ice caps melting or the scarcity of clean air or some new genetically modified plague that's coming to wipe us all out. . .any moment now! Just a few more minutes. . .one or two more hours. . .or, um, in a year or two. Maybe. Telling us that time is short is nothing new, not scary enough to open our ears to news we do not want to hear. It will take more than the dull beat of crisis, crisis, crisis from the media to get our attention.

So, for the last time, what will open your ears to hear what you really need to hear? How about this: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel!” A time of fulfillment. Not the end of time, or the destruction of your city, but the fulfillment of God's promise to bring His kingdom to us. We are now living in that period of human history that will witness the keeping of a divine promise. Turn from disobedience toward righteousness and believe that the Lord wills that all sinners come to Him for His mercy. Notice the absence of a threat, the absence of a deal. Notice also that Jesus doesn't warn us or nag at us. He simply announces that the Kingdom of God is at hand and then he invites us to turn from our sin and believe that we are forgiven. We don't have to fast to be saved or put on sackcloth or wail our sins in the streets. All we need to do is turn from sin and believe that the Father loves us enough to announce the coming of His kingdom by sending His only Son to live and die as one of us. He fulfills His promise in the body and blood of Christ. The urgent choice we have to make is btw receiving him as Lord, or living – in this world and the next – with the consequences of sin.

Jesus calls all of us to believe his gospel. Not a gospel of loss, of grief and mourning; not of threat or bargain, or dust and fumes; nor the gospel of city-wide apocalypse or righteous war. His is a gospel of everlasting goodness and eternal life, permanent mercy and all-pervading grace; a gospel of ceaseless vitality and living strength. And it is our gospel! Our story! Our work in the world and, if we will take it up, our dare and our charge—to be with Christ in here and to be Christ out there. He says to Simon and Andrew, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Follow after me and my gospel, and I will turn you into men who cast your nets to harvest the lives of men and women who long to give themselves to God. Simon and Andrew abandon all they know and follow Christ. James and John leave their father in his boat and follow Christ. And all of are made into the men that Jesus promises. How did he get their attention? Threats of impending apocalypse? No. Promises of damnation if they refuse? No. He simply tells them the truth. And that truth rings in their ears louder than family, friends, career, hobbies, or even the lure of this world's impermanent joys. 

OK. I lied. I'm going to ask one more time: what does it take to get your attention? Sirens? Flashing lights? Threats of immediate death? How about an invitation from Christ himself to become an heir to his heavenly kingdom? To be a member of his Body with an eternal purpose? If so, here's the Good News: you are so invited. All you need to do to become a disciple of Christ, a preacher of his word, a teacher of his truth. . .is accept his invitation and then go out and bear witness to all that he has said and all that he has done.
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24 January 2015

Three Paintings More

I'm dedicating this paintings to Young Master Thurmond, a budding 6 y.o. artist. For his inspiration! 

 Between Grass and Flowers * (18x24 canvas panel)

 Fig Tree (18x24 canvas panel)

 Unblemished (18x24 canvas panel)

* This title is just a little pretentious. It refers to Dante's Purgatorio, Cantos VIII. Consider it a "shout out" to my University of Dallas homies (is "homies" still a thing?)

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18 January 2015

Speak, Lord!

2nd Sunday OT (B)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

God calls. He calls us to service, to sacrifice. He calls us to surrender. Do we hear His voice when He calls? Are we like John the Baptist who while still in his mother's womb recognizes his Lord's presence and leaps with joy? Or, are we more like Samuel who doesn't recognize the voice of the God calling him in the night? What's the difference btw John the Baptist's and Samuel's encounter with God? Both are called to serve. Both answer the call – eventually. The difference btw the two is that Samuel doesn't immediately recognize God's voice b/c “at that time [he] [is] not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet.” From Elizabeth's womb John knows the Lord. Nothing more was necessary than Christ's nearness. Samuel needed a leap of faith; he needed to believe before he heard God's voice as God's voice, calling him to serve. To hear the Lord Samuel had to put aside confusion, doubt, and fear. He had to say: “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. That's a confession, a profession of faith, an invitation from a servant to his Master to teach him. Do you have the courage to say to God, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”?

Before you too eagerly agree that you have the courage to invite God's call, consider the consequences. Hearing the Lord's call and listening to Him could mean a revolution, it could mean an upheaval in your life like you have never experienced before. It could mean becoming a different person, a new person, one led by an all-consuming desire to do God's will, a person fired up to preach and teach the Good News, a person born anew in the power of the Spirit — forgiving, loving, merciful, peaceful, prophetic. Inviting God's call into your life could be the end of your life as you know it. Sin becomes heavier; absolution all the more refreshing. The need to speak the truth becomes unbearable. Look at John the Baptist! He leaps for joy in his mother's womb at the mere presence of the Christ Child. He knew before he was born that his life would be forever bound to Christ's. He lived in the wilderness most of his life, and his head landed on a platter for speaking the truth to a king. Invite God's call into your life. If you dare. The only we can do more dangerous than saying to God – Speak, Lord! – is to say, “Leave me alone, Lord, your servant is busy with other things.”

If it takes courage to invite the Lord's call into your life, it takes something like suicidal recklessness to dismiss Him from your life. As a followers of Christ vowed to bear witness to the Father's mercy in the world, we cannot function w/o the constant attention of God's energizing grace. We cannot be anything near who and what we need to be w/o constantly drawing in His glory, w/o being constantly perfected in His love. To dismiss God's voice from our lives is more than just spiritual suicide. It's a betrayal of everything we have pledged to be and to do in the world for the world. This might all seem to be a little out-there. I'm not suggesting that any of us actually say to God, “Nope. Not working for you, Lord.” But what we might say is something like, “I'll get to your work after I've done mine.” Or “I've got a thousand things to get done today. One of those things is your work.” God's work goes on the To Do List along with grocery shopping, picking up the kids, and paying the bills. In the chaos of daily-getting-by our vow to God to be His living witnesses to the world becomes another mundane task, another chore to check off a list. How do we remember that those groceries, those kids, that job; everything, including this life is His freely given gift to us? We belong to God. 100% wholly owned by the Father. Our lives are His.

How do we remember this basic truth? When Jesus walks past John and two of his disciples, John announces, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” John's disciples leave his side and follow Christ. Jesus asks them, “What are you look for?” They could've said eternal life, pardon for our sins, a place to get some good gumbo. What do they actually say? “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Where Jesus is staying is not all that important here. What is important is that they address Jesus as “Rabbi,” Teacher. They are looking to Christ to be their teacher, to be the one who shows them the Way. After spending an afternoon with Jesus, Andrew, one of John's former disciples, goes to Simon, his brother, and tells him, “We have found the Messiah.” They find a teacher and a savior. And what do they do? They go out and bring others in. The gospel says that Andrew brings Simon to Jesus. How do you remember – day in and day out – that your job, your kids, your friends, your very life are all freely given gifts from God? And that you are His servant? You bear witness to God's mercy everyday and bring to Him a student, a disciple, someone in need of being taught the Way. Even if – especially if – that someone is yourself. You get out of bed every morning, saying, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

That takes courage. Because – as I've said – hearing the Lord's call and doing His will can be revolutionary. Nothing remains the same. Samuel grows into a great prophet. Andrew and the other disciples grow into apostles. Simon becomes Peter, the Rock, the foundation stone of Christ's Church on earth. That small band of men and women cowering in the Upper Room at Pentecost become the longest surviving human institution on the planet. Who will you become when you invite the Lord's call and listen to His voice? You will become exactly who and what He needs you to be right where you are. More faithful, more loving, more hopeful, stronger, more courageous, wiser, more just. You will become – in Christ – exactly who and what you have vowed to be and do: a powerful witness to the mercy of God.
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17 January 2015

Three New Paintings

 The Fall (18 x 24 canvas panel, acrylic ink/paint)

 The Annunciation (18 x 24 canvas panel, acrylic ink/paint)

 Cain & Abel (18 x 24 canvas panel, acrylic ink/paint)


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16 January 2015

Help the Seminarians. . .they really need it

Notre Dame Seminary basketball team going to Ohio. . .with your help!


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14 January 2015

Gesso Thank You

A Kind & Generous Soul sent me a bottle of gesso from the Wish List. . .

Thank you. Perfect timing. . .I am completely out.

Fr. Philip
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11 January 2015

He is never nearer. . .

The Baptism of the Lord
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Lay Carmelites/OLR, NOLA

“Thus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water!” The water is given. . .but we must go to the water. If we are thirsty, we drink. The water is given, but we must choose to drink. “You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat. . .” The grain is given. . .but we must go to the grain. If we are hungry, we eat. The grain is given, but we must choose to eat. As it is with God's gifts of water and grain, so it is with God's mercy, so it is with His forgiveness. If we are repentant, we confess. Forgiveness is given, but we must choose to receive that forgiveness. Who starves to death, or dies of thirst when grain and water are freely given? How many of us remain in sin when absolution is a gift just waiting to be unwrapped? One of the themes of Christmas, the Epiphany, and the Baptism of the Lord is our unworthiness to be given the gift of eternal life. Truly, we do not deserve this prize. However, we are made worthy, we are made to deserve this gift by the birth, the baptism, the death, and the resurrection of the Lord. Having been handed—without cost to us, without any work from us—the keys to our Father's Kingdom, why would we hesitate, why would we balk at stepping up to and stepping into a life of holiness with Him? “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near!”

Our Lord is never nearer to us than He is right now. His call to us is never clearer than it is right now. His gift of eternal life is never more ready to be received than it is right now. The urgency that Isiah puts into his prophecy isn't simply rhetorical; in other words, he's not just being dramatic for the sake of being dramatic. The Lord says to Isiah that His Word will go forth from His mouth and it “shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” That Word, the Word sent out to do God's will, is the Christ, the Son made flesh and he will not return to the Father until the job he was sent to do is done. Since the Christ has returned to the Father, we know that the job he was sent to do has been done. That job is our salvation. The offer of mercy in flesh and blood has been made—once, for all; to Jew and Gentile alike—and now it's our turn. Do we receive His mercy? Do you take all that has been given to you and put it all to work for the greater glory of God? If not, then you condemn yourself to starve and die of thirst within sight of grain and water.

Christ's baptism in the Jordan by John's hand is the baptism of the world. Every creature, every made thing is washed clean, made holy, and brought into a new creation. God's human creatures are given the freedom to follow Christ's example in baptism, or to continue as natural creatures until death. But b/c each of us is gifted with an immortal soul, the decision to continue on as a natural creature has consequences beyond death. Without God's mercy, without receiving His forgiveness, we perish by being forever separated from Him. Baptism brings us into the life of Christ and sets us on the narrow way toward our destined freedom in His love. Baptism makes possible every other means of receiving God's gifts. Baptism is the first but not the only invitation we get to come and enjoy the blessings of God's generosity. Why would we choose to remain natural creatures when our supernatural end is provided free of charge? Why would we remain in sin when our freedom from sin is already paid for, already purchased? So, receive all that God given you! 
 
How do we receive all that we have been given? First, we ask for what we need in prayer. Asking for our needs to be met puts us in a proper relationship with God; that is, as creatures totally dependent on Him for everything we need, we place ourselves before Him in humility, acknowledging our dependency. Second, even before we get what we need, we give Him thanks. Giving thanks before our prayers are answered ensures that we remain in humility and grow in humility even as we reap His blessings. This also prevents us from becoming spoiled brats who take and take but never acknowledge the source of our blessings. Third, celebrate the sacraments as often as possible, always knowing that God's mercy is freely given and never runs out. The sacraments are the ordinary means of receiving grace. God is not bound by His sacraments, but He has established them for us as guaranteed fonts of assistance. We'd be foolish not to take advantage of them as often as they are available. And finally, all the gifts we receive from God are multiplied in the sharing of them. By its very nature, God's abundance is diffusive. Like an expensive perfume sprayed in one room of the house, before long, the whole house smells! God's abundance naturally (by nature) adds to itself, multiplying, advancing, and blessing everyone it touches. When we assist the diffusion of His abundant gifts, we are doubly blessed.

Our Lord is blessed and baptized to fulfill all righteousness under the Law. His baptism reveals his nature and mission: he is the Christ sent to save the world from sin and death. His offer of mercy and forgiveness is made daily, hourly and all we need to do is accept his offer and thrive in holiness. When we come to Him in humility with thanksgiving, He says to each one of us: “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.”

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Eden & Didache

Topography of Eden (18 x 24 canvas board, acrylic paint and ink)

 Didache (unfinished, 18 x 24 canvas board, acrylic paint and ink)*

20 O.P. points for anyone who can guess why I titled this one "Didache"!

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09 January 2015

Painting: 40 Days

Been working on this one for days. . .finally decided to just post it and see what it looks like on-line. Too orange. The original is more pink. Oh well. 


40 Days (18 x 24 canvas board, acrylic paint and ink)
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Coffee Cup Browsing (Terrorism Edition)

When the IRA was terrorizing London, I never once thought: "All Catholics must be terrorists."

But I'm not ready to sign on to the Catholic League position either. . . 

Nor do I trust the Left's hysterical attempt to hide that fact that the Paris terrorists preached their version of Islam while killing innocents.

But I will agree that Islam -- in its many versions -- is fundamentally incompatible with western liberal democracy.

Keeping in mind that our Media Betters have no problem whatsoever repeatedly lying about, offending, and attacking Christians (and the Church in particular) all the while twisting themselves into pretzels to avoid offending Muslims.   

In other Culture War news: Miami's archbishop requires employees of the archdiocese to keep quiet about their support for same-sex "marriage."
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08 January 2015

I am Here as Promised

Our Lady of Prompt Succor
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of Mt Carmel Convent, NOLA

 

Our faith is the triumph that conquers the world. Not swords or bullets or boycotts or drones. But faith: our steadfast trust in God's promise that all we need do to win victory over sin is receive His forgiveness through Christ and live in the spirit of love he sent to dwell among us. John announces two triumphs when he writes, “. . .the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” There is the victory over personal doubt and delusion; and there is that victory's win over the world. The first win—the personal triumph—is won against the temptations fired at each one of us from the Enemy's camp, the steady pounding of noise, stench, illusion, and distraction. This battle is won when you and I return the enemy's fire with prayer, good deeds, compassion, and mercy. The second win—our victory over the world—is won against the besieging spirits of despair, hatred, violence, and self-indulgence. This battle is won when all of us together show those besieged by evil the power of hope, love, peace, and generosity. All who are begotten by God conquer the world b/c the world is always defeated in love. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian martyred by the Nazis at Flossenberg in 1945, wrote, “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God's will.” Courageously and actively doing God's will certainly entails avoiding sin but carefully maneuvering around temptations is only the beginning of holiness. When Jesus rolls up the scroll containing Isaiah's prophecies, he leaves in the air the ringing word of our mission: bring glad tidings to the poor; proclaim liberty to captives; announce the recovery of sight to the blind; release the oppressed into freedom; and declare a year favorable to the Lord. This is not merely a social justice mission or an agenda for worldly political liberation. That kind struggle hardly needs a Christ. The revolution we fight for seeks the overthrow of humanity's greatest oppressor: the Father of Lies. The one who impoverishes nations families with greed; enslaves the foolish with their own lusts; blinds the innocent with fables of pride and wrath; oppresses the many through envy and gluttony; and declares every year, every day good for rebellion against the One Who loves us despite our disobedience. Simply avoiding sin cannot spark a votive candle much less set loose a firestorm of holiness. For that we must seek to do the will of the Father. 

And what does God will for us? We already know that He wills that we live with Him forever. We know too that He wills for us to live lives of holiness in love so that His glory may increase among the nations. To see His will accomplished, we must, above all, love. Love Him and one another. We've heard this a gazillion-zillion times. It's almost become a formal noise, like the mumbled “hey, how you doing?” we use to greet strangers. But for the sake of Christ and the salvation of your immortal soul, listen: “. . .we love God because he first loved us.” If you love anyone—mom, dad, kids, spouse, anyone—you are able to love them b/c (for the reason that) God loves us all. IOW, when you love someone, you establish and maintain your participation in Divine Love. And it is only through Divine Love—God Himself—that we are saved from sin and made holy. This is why Jesus' announcement in the temple is so important: he is saying, “I am here as promised. The Word made flesh. Love given flesh and bone.” He shows us that we too can be love given flesh and bone. In fact, if we entertain any hope at all of eternal life, we will spend our days and nights finding ways to love better and more, much, much more. Do the will of the Father with courage. And each time you do, witness the Enemy's defeat by love.
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07 January 2015

"Their hearts were hardened."

From 2012 (with editions):

Wednesday after Epiphany
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA


What a sad indictment of the disciples. After Jesus calms the angry sea and rescuing his friends from a watery grave, Mark writes, “[The disciples] were completely astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.” It is sad that they are astounded by Jesus' power to calm the sea and even sadder that they did not understand the signs given to them when he fed the five thousand. As sad as these failures are, it is saddest of all that their hearts have hardened against accepting the truth of Jesus' true nature and mission. What does all this sad failure tell us about the disciples? At the very least, we know why they were so frightened by the storm and by Jesus walking on the water to save them. With hearts hardened against both understanding and love, the disciples are left with no other way to see and feel the world than through fear. They are terrified at the prospect of drowning, and even the appearance of their Master on the waves is not enough to quell their fear. John writes, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.” Christ is with us. There is no place for fear among us. So, take heart! 

When we say that a heart has grown hard, we mean that it is no longer capable—on its own—of serving its spiritual function: it can no longer love; that is, it can no longer seat Love Himself at the center of the human soul. Without Love Himself seated in the center of our souls, no soul can begin even to dream of seeing and understanding the miraculous signs Christ performs, much less see and understand his true nature and mission. Without Love Himself seated at the center of their lives, the disciples are ignorant and loveless men chosen by Christ to learn and love instead of fear; yet, their fear is what keeps them from learning and loving. Their fear reaches its terrific peak at Jesus' arrest in the Garden, and they surrender to the temptation to abandon him. Only after the descent of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of love between the Father and the Son, do they find their hearts grown large enough to hold all the love they need to take on the Christ-nature and make his mission their own. But now, in a boat on an angry sea, they cry out in astonishment and fear, and they hear Jesus say, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” Take heart! Christ is with us. And there is no place for fear among us. 

Without Love Himself seated in our hearts, we cannot begin even to dream of seeing and understanding the miraculous signs Christ performs, much less see and understand his true nature and mission. And understanding that nature and mission is more than a matter of historical curiosity. By receiving his body and blood in this sacrifice of thanksgiving, each one of us who receives commits him/herself to taking on Christ's nature and to making his mission our own. We take one more step toward becoming fully human; that is, to becoming more perfectly human, completely giving ourselves over to the Father for His divine purpose. But fear stands btw each one of us and total surrender to God. The spirit of not-knowing-what-comes; the spirit of worry, anxiety, turmoil floats there tempting us to run, to just give up. And no amount of argument, evidence, or tears will move us around those gnawing spirits. John tells us, “. . .one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” So, we know that perfect love moves fear, and there is only one Perfect Love: God Himself. Thanks be to God that Christ is with us always. Now, take one more step toward becoming Christ for one another and banish fear forever.
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Four New Paintings

The first three are mixed paint and acrylic ink. 

 No Fear in Love (18 x 24 canvas board)

 Beloved (18 x 24 canvas board)

 Do Not Be Afraid (18 x 24 canvas board)

 Fourth Watch (16 x 20 canvas board)
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06 January 2015

Mendicant Thanks

A Mendicant New Year Thank You Shout Out to:  Michelle R and Matheus T for hitting up the BLICK Wish List and sending me some acrylic goodies. 

And another thanks to M.R. for pointing me toward Blick's as a cheaper source of art supplies.

I'm experimenting with acrylic inks right now, and I hope to have pics of three new paintings up by tomorrow morning!

God bless, Fr. Philip, OP

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01 January 2015

Blessed Virgin Mary, Theotokos

The Solemnity of the Mary, Mother of God, celebrates the decision taken at the Council of Ephesus (431) against the teaching of the Patriarch, Nestorius, who held that a human person could not be said to have given birth to God. The Patriarch of Alexander, Cyril, argued that Mary, as the chosen instrument of the Incarnation, conceived and gave birth to the Word, Jesus, fully human and fully divine, one divine person with two natures. Mary, then, is properly understood to be “Theotokos,” God-bearer.

Cyril wrote (in part) to Nestorius:

"And since the holy Virgin brought forth corporally God made one with flesh according to nature, for this reason we also call her Mother of God, not as if the nature of the Word had the beginning of its existence from the flesh.

For In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God, and he is the Maker of the ages, coeternal with the Father, and Creator of all; but, as we have already said, since he united to himself hypostatically human nature from her womb, also he subjected himself to birth as man, not as needing necessarily in his own nature birth in time and in these last times of the world, but in order that he might bless the beginning of our existence, and that that which sent the earthly bodies of our whole race to death, might lose its power for the future by his being born of a woman in the flesh. And this: In sorrow you shall bring forth children, being removed through him, he showed the truth of that spoken by the prophet, Strong death swallowed them up, and again God has wiped away every tear from off all faces. For this cause also we say that he attended, having been called, and also blessed, the marriage in Cana of Galilee, with his holy Apostles in accordance with the economy. We have been taught to hold these things by the holy Apostles and Evangelists, and all the God-inspired Scriptures, and in the true confessions of the blessed Fathers."

Cryril published twelve anathemas against Nestorius. Cyril's letters and his anathemas became the primary texts from which the council fathers drew up their canons for the council.

The first anathema reads: “If anyone will not confess that the Emmanuel is very God, and that therefore the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Θεοτόκος), inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Word of God made flesh [as it is written, The Word was made flesh] let him be anathema.”

The fifth anathema reads: “If anyone shall dare to say that the Christ is a Theophorus [that is, God-bearing] man and not rather that he is very God, as an only Son through nature, because the Word was made flesh, and has a share in flesh and blood as we do: let him be anathema.”

As is the case with all Marian dogma and doctrine, we are immediately directed back to Christ as our Lord and Savior. No Marian dogma or doctrine is declared or defined in isolation from Christ. She is always understood to be an exemplar for the Church and a sign through which we come to a more perfect union with Christ. Though our Blessed Mother is rightly revered and venerated, she is never worshiped as if she were divine. She is rightly understood as the Mediatrix of All Graces in so far as she mediated, through her own body, the conception and birth of Christ, who is Grace Himself. In no sense are we to understand our Blessed Mother as the source of grace. Rather, she was and is a conduit through which we benefit from the only mediation between God and man, Christ. In her immaculate conception and assumption into heaven, our Blessed Mother is herself a beneficiary of Christ's grace. As such, she cannot be the source of our blessedness, our giftedness in Christ.
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26 December 2014

Want vocations. . .???

Want vocations to your diocese/Order/congregation/province?

1). Ditch the 80's psycho-therapeutic Feel-Good Lefty Social Justice Feminist formation and embrace the Program for Priestly Formation in its entirety (i.e., not just the happy parts)

2). Restore distinctive religious/clerical garb and encourage its proper use. (NB. Habits are not just liturgical vestments!) 

3). Emphasize community life. . .REAL community life.

4). Return to the tradition when interpreting religious vows, i.e. ditch the nominalism that allows individuals to configure the vows in their own terms.

5). Stop apologizing to candidates for the distinctiveness of an Order's charism or a province's mission or a diocese's character. 

6). And accept this reality of the age: young Catholics thinking about entering religious life and/or priesthood have no/zero/zilch interest in the Baby Boomer socio-cultural assimilation paradigm of religious life/ministry. 

It's a Buyers' Market in the vocations world. . .they have thousands of options.

Here's some evidence supporting these suggestions.
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25 December 2014

Christ is born!




 MERRY CHRISTMAS

and

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


A Christmas homily from 2013: The Triumph of Light over Darkness
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