The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Thanks be to God: A Beautiful Morning; A Wonderful Pope

It's another beautiful morning...I think. It's 5 a.m. and still quite dark outside, but here in central Florida most days are beautiful so I'll just assume today will be as well.

A little while ago I heard the garbage truck pass by as it collected our trash and that of our neighbors from the curbside. Every day these men awake long before dawn and spend the early morning hours carting off the refuse of our lives. It's not only a messy, dirty job, but it's also a thankless job. Oh, they get paid for their work, but unlike others who help us function in this rather complex society we've created, trash collectors are rarely thanked by those they serve. I know I've never thanked one personally. I've never stood outside in the darkness and waited for their truck so I could tell them how much I appreciate them for doing their so necessary work. Maybe I'll do just that one of these Tuesday or Friday mornings...but in the meantime, I'll say a prayer of thanks for all those who, like our trash collectors, take care of our daily needs.

The director of my home diocese's permanent diaconate office sent each deacon a copy of a booklet (Origins published by the Catholic News Service and the US Bishops) containing all of Pope Benedict's addresses and homilies during his recent visit to the US. Although I had already listened to or read most of them, I began to reread them this morning. How blessed we are that the Holy Spirit chose Benedict to be our Holy Father!

The first address listed, Pope Benedict's address to the US Bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on April 16, is filled with wisdom, and we can only hope and pray that our bishops listened well.

Benedict began by praising the Church in the United States, thanking us for our generosity and remarking on the deep faith and religious spirit exhibited by so many American Catholics. But then he issued some warnings related to the growing but "subtle influence of secularism" that leads people to compartmentalize their religious and secular lives. "Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted," Benedict warned, "Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel."

Oh, yes, it's good to be reminded of this from time to time. If I ask myself, "Does my faith permeate every aspect of my life?" I can only answer, "No." And I suspect I'm not much different from anyone else who might be reading this.

The Holy Father then cautioned the bishops about the dangers of materialism and its impact on our society. "It is easy," he told them, "to be entranced by the almost unlimited possibilities that science and technology place before us; it is easy to make the mistake of thinking we can obtain by our own efforts the fulfillment of our deepest needs. This is an illusion. Without God, who alone bestows upon us what we by ourselves cannot attain, our lives are ultimately empty." And there are certainly many empty lives out there today, lives that are (in the words of the popular song) "looking for love in all the wrong places."

Benedict then encouraged his brother bishops to take the lead in reminding the people of God to "cultivate a relationship with him who came that we might have life in abundance." At this point in his address he added something that I believe every priest, every deacon, every catechist must be reminded of: "The goal of all our pastoral and catechetical work, the object of our preaching and the focus of our sacramental ministry should be to help people establish and nurture that living relationship with Christ Jesus, our hope." Once again, I am chastised and humbled by Benedict as he reminds me of the many times I have not done this. One of my ministries down here is conducting courses for the diocesan certification of catechists and Catholic school teachers. In the future I will be sure to emphasize this goal as articulated by our Holy Father.

He went on to issue another warning, this one aimed at those who have fallen prey to the individualism we encounter in both our Church and the society as a whole. " is easy to lose sight," Benedict said, "of our dependence on others as well as the responsibilities we bear toward them." As president (and flunky) of a local soup kitchen I see evidence of this almost daily. Perhaps we Christians should begin each day by reading Matthew 25:31-46, the only place in Scripture where the last judgment is described in any detail. It's especially interesting to note how Jesus will judge us (and what he doesn't mention). If we truly believed these words of Jesus, would we lead our lives any differently?

Then, addressing the impact of individualism in the Church, the Pope noted how it is " rise to a form of piety which sometimes emphasizes our private relationship with God at the expense of our calling to be members of a redeemed community...We were created as social beings who find fulfillment only in love -- for God and for our neighbor."

That's enough for now. I'll try to include more of my thoughts on Pope Benedict's address to the U. S. Bishops in the next post. Click here for his complete address which I recommend reading.

Oh, yes, one more thing. Our elder daughter took her four little ones to a Boston Pops concert in the park this past weekend. It was a hot summer evening, and as the kids listened to the music and ate popcorn a photographer for the local newspaper snapped a photo of the three eldest (left to right: ages 5, 7 and 4). I love the picture so much it's this week's wallpaper on my PC. Indeed, it's just one more reason to say "Being is Good" -- Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.


  1. Just came upon your blog while reading "The Deacon's Bench" and I just wanted to say "welcome to the blogosphere" and thanks for sharing!

    We are indeed blessed to have Benedict. A frequent theme I've been noticing as I digest the Pope's various addresses while he was in the United States is the "permeation of our lives" or the "permeation of our institutions" (see the address to Catholic Educators) by the Truth of the Gospels.

    "Permeation" is definitely a frequent word as I read through it all -- and one I've been reflecting on.

    I'm only a young married man of 23, but I hope to be a Deacon myself someday. I've bookmarked your blog and I look forward to reading your thoughts and posts!

    God bless!

  2. Thank you. I will pray for your vocation.

    -Deacon Dana