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Domine, da mihi hanc aquam!

"A [preacher] who does not love art, poetry, music and nature can be dangerous. Blindness and deafness toward the beautiful are not incidental; they are necessarily reflected in his [preaching]." — BXVI

Updated: 2018-04-26T22:19:20.412-05:00


No other Name


4th Sunday of EasterFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPOLR, NOLA Lest there be any confusion about who saves us from sin and death, Peter – filled with the Holy Spirit – says of Christ Jesus, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” Peter is answering a question here. Some in the crowd want to know how he healed a crippled man. Rather than taking the credit and boasting about his spiritual power, Peter tells the truth: Christ healed him. Christ saved him. This once-crippled man joins the millions, billions of broken people over the millennia who have heard their shepherd's voice and followed him to their salvation. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me. . .” Knowing Christ, loving Christ is how we stay secure in his flock, confidently led and protected from the wolves of the world. You can be sure that Christ the Good Shepherd knows and loves you – he died for you – but are you as sure that you know and love Christ?   This question isn't meant to make you anxious. I'm not trying to scare you. Far from it. I ask the question b/c it is far too easy these days for us to lose sight of our final goal – eternal life with the Father through Christ. So much of what we experience everyday is designed to steer us away from knowing and loving our Lord. Rarely are we directly confronted by a stark choice btw following Christ and running with the wolves of the world. Rarely – at least here in the US – are we asked outright to choose: love Christ or love the World. The Enemy is not so stupid as to believe that we would choose the World if our choices were so plainly stated. So, we are instead forced to make – over and over again – smaller, seemingly less urgent choices that slowly but inevitably turn us either toward Christ or the World. Choices that either lead us away from the flock or send us running from the wolves. You know what I'm talk about. Here's a chance to tell the truth or lie. Here's another chance to speak up for Christ, or stay silent. Here's a moment for showing mercy. or taking your revenge. Stay faithful to your spouse, or commit adultery in your heart. Offer praise and thanksgiving to God, or walk away believing you are entitled to His gifts. Knowing and loving Christ means – at the very least – that you keep firmly before you your final goal: eternal life with the Father through Christ.   This is why Peter and his Church have taught for more than 2,000 years that the only name given on earth and under the heavens for our salvation is the name, Christ Jesus. Many have tried through the centuries to modify, undermine, or outright destroy this constant teaching. Historically, the list of alternative Saviors includes: Good Works, Good Intentions, Just Being Human, Social Justice, Secret Mystical Knowledge, the Law, Rituals Well Done, the State, Community, and Prosperity. In all cases, the idea is to push Christ as-he-is out of the way and replace him with an alternative that demands less from us and is easier for the World to control. In all cases, the alternative is Christ with just a few little modifications, just a few tiny little tweaks that some believe improve on the original Savior. BUT the Good Shepherd knows his and his know him. When the wolves start to hunt, the sheep know where they can go to be secure, to be protected. As St. John says, “Beloved, we are God's children now. . .” And God's children take refuge in His Son. You can be sure that Christ the Good Shepherd knows and loves you – he died for you – but are you as sure that you know and love Christ? If you are unsure about whether or not you know and love Christ, ask yourself: do I follow his commands?Christ says that those who would be friends follow his commands. Do I love as I ought? That's his first command. Do I bear witness to his mercy in my life? That's what apostles do, bear witness. Do I speak up and tell the truth about his Good News? Do I speak and behave in a [...]

We are witnesses to these things!


3rd Sunday of EasterFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPOLR, NOLA The disciples are “startled and terrified.” They're troubled, “incredulous for joy” and amazed. What has them all discombobulated and witless? Days after his death and resurrection, Jesus appears among them – in the flesh – and says, “Peace be with you.” Believing that they are seeing a ghost, the disciples freak out! And Jesus asks them, “Why are you troubled?” Well, Jesus, maybe it's b/c you were scourged, nailed to a cross, stabbed in the chest with a spear, buried in a new tomb, and then disappeared after three days, leaving behind nothing but your burial clothes! Now you're walking around, showing us your fatal wounds, and talking to us as if nothing has happened. That's why were troubled! But Jesus seems genuinely confused by their reaction to him, so he asks, “. . .why do questions arise in your hearts?” See answer above: nails, cross, spear, tomb, missing body! Maybe a better question for us to consider is this: why is Jesus confused by his disciples' surprise?Why does he find it odd that they are frightened? After all, he taught them that he must suffer, die, and rise again to fulfill the law and the Prophets. Despite their dumbfounded surprise at his reappearance, the disciples are witnesses to all these things. And so are we. No, we're not eyewitnesses in the same way that the disciples were. None of us here were there back then to see and hear the nails hammered into his hands and the spear pierce his side. BUT we are witnesses now to the salvation his death purchased for us. We are witnesses now to the mercy we've received b/c he freely chose to become the Lamb of God. We are witnesses now to the love that both the Father and the Son share with us in the Holy Spirit. We can speak about our lives as sinners and give testimony to being freed from sin and death through the waters of baptism. We can speak about the challenges and victories of growing in holiness. We can speak about the beauty of a life lived abundantly in God's grace. The truth we find in the Word and the Sacraments of the Church. The goodness we see in one another when we are at our best. And, yes, we can speak too about our failures; those times we have been less than truthful, those moments where we refuse to be charitable. We can even speak about our doubts, our questions, and our battles to remain faithful. Christian testimony is not propaganda bent toward making us Look Good to the world. Christian testimony is truth-telling. Not “my truth” or “your truth.” But The Truth! This brings us back to the disciples and their odd reaction to Jesus' reappearance after so many days dead and gone. Jesus told them again and again that he had to suffer, die, and rise again to accomplish their salvation. He told them The Truth. Repeatedly. Their reaction to his reappearance tells us that they didn't believe him while he was with them. So, he returns – wounds and all – to show them. But notice – not only does he show them his wounds as evidence, “he open[s] their minds to understand the Scriptures.” He opens their minds to Scripture to show them that “everything written about [him] in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” In other words, he shows them the proof of fulfillment written on his body, carved into his flesh, and teaches them – again – that he is indeed the Messiah, the Holy One of God. We hear Peter preaching, “. . .God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer.” Suffer for what? For whom? For us! Therefore, “Repent. . .and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.” We can bear witness to this truth.   As we move rapidly toward Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit, we can do a great deal of good by examining our witness to Christ's sacrifice. Ask yourself: do I live and speak in such a way that others can see and hear Christ in me? Do I live and speak in such a [...]

Make your witness worthy of trust


2nd Sunday of EasterFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPMt. Carmel Sisters, NOLA How do we not see and yet believe? That is, how do we come to believe despite not having seen? Thomas' refusal to believe that his dead and resurrected Master had visited the apostles makes perfect sense to most Americans. Even most Catholics. We are no less prone to our culture's empirical pragmatism that our Protestant and even non-religious friends and family. In this scene from John, Thomas the Twin stands in for whole generations of western Christians who either ignore the supernatural elements of the faith, or simply refuse – along with Thomas – to believe until empirical evidence is presented, vetted, duplicated, and peer-reviewed. What's astonishing to me is that we always never insist on a Thomas Level of proof in our daily relationships. If my colleague tells me that one of my seminarian-advisees missed class w/o notice, I don't hesitate to contact the miscreant to find out why. When Sr. Angele asks me to celebrate Vigil Mass on April 7th at Mt. Carmel, I don't ask her to send me physical evidence that this alleged academy exists and that there are Carmelite sisters living and working there. We believe in what we do not and cannot see b/c we trust the witness of others. This is why our witness must always be faithful, worthy of trust. So, is the witness of the other apostles to Thomas trustworthy? We know it is b/c we've been – in a sense – watching from the corner the whole time and saw Christ appear! For Thomas, their witness is insufficient. Why? There's no way for us know for sure why he refused to believe his brothers in the faith, but we can speculate. Maybe the news of his recently executed Master's appearance is just too much for him to process. Grief can cause us to do and say things out of character. Maybe he's been an empirical sort all along, one of those who just needs to see how things are done up close before he gets a grip on what's happening. Maybe Christ's horrible death on the cross has shaken his faith to it core and up-ended his world. Maybe Good Friday caused him to swear off believing in miracles. Maybe his brothers had lost his trust long before this and his refusal to believe is just the latest instance of his suspicious nature. Whatever it is that created his mistrust, we must be clear: Thomas does not doubt; he refuses to believe. Doubt occurs in the intellect. Refusing to believe is all about the will. Why does that matter? The intellect seeks the Truth. The will seeks the Good. Thomas' refusal to believe is a refusal to accept the Good that his Master's appearance embodies. After the trauma of Good Friday and all of the nastiness of running and hiding after Easter Sunday, Thomas cannot bring himself to move toward the Good of Christ's reappearance. He needs more than trustworthy witnesses. He needs more than his own wishful-thinking. He needsChrist standing in front of him. And that's what he gets. His will is moved and he exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” Many who do not yet believe will be moved by our witness to the Risen Christ. Some unbelievers may ask for proof. What proof can we give them beyond what we ourselves have experienced of God's mercy? For those seeking the Truth, we can give rational arguments and answer their questions. But for those seeking the Good, something more is required. That Something More is where the truly difficult work of our witness begins. They want to see Christ standing in front of them. And all we have to show them is. . .us. Good, bad, and/or ugly. . .it's down to us. Here, on April 7, 2018 in New Orleans, LA, we are Christ reappearing to everyone he has asked to believe. Follow HancAquam or Subscribe -----> [...]

You know what has happened. . .now what?


[NB. The bracketed words are responses from the congregation. . .and, yes, they responded!]Easter Sunday 2006 Fr. Philip N. Powell, OPChurch of the Incarnation, University of DallasAlleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Are you here this morning, Church? [Yes] Royal Priests! [Yes] People of God! [Yes] Holy Nation! [Yes] Pilgrim Church! [Yes] Sons and Daughters of the Most High! [Yes], Brothers and Sisters [Yes], then you know what has happened! Christ Jesus the Lord is risen from the tomb! [Amen]He was sold in betrayal by a friend for the price of a murdered slave! [Amen] He was denied by His best friends when He needed them most! [Amen] He was falsely accused of blasphemy by His own people, found guilty on perjured testimony, and given to Pilate for judgment! [Amen] He was bartered for a murderer with a riotous mob and given to Roman soldiers to be scourged! [Amen] He was crowned with thorns, robed in purple, mocked and spat upon, and hailed as the King of the Jews! [Amen] And, finally, in the place of Skulls, He was nailed hands and feet to the Cross to die forsaken! [Amen]But you know what has happened! Christ Jesus the Lord is risen from the tomb! The stone is rolled away. His burial cloth thrown to the ground. The tomb is empty.You know what has happened! But do you know what it means? The disciples, seeing the rolled-away stone, the empty tomb and the burial cloth did not yet understand. And it is no simple matter to say “yes” when asked: do you believe in 2006 that a man who hung on a cross, who was dead and buried for three days, has somehow sprung to live and walked away from his grave? How do you say “yes” to that absurdity? How does anyone in their right mind say to “yes” to that!? I say, it is precisely b/c you are in your Right Mind, your righteous mind, that you say YES to the Rolled Away Stone [Yes], that you say YES to the Empty Tomb [Yes], and that you say AMEN to what you know has happened: Christ Jesus the Lord is risen from the dead! [Amen]We are nothere this morning to celebrate a vegetative regeneration myth. Jesus was not raised from the tomb b/c a god of a myth must rise from the dead so the flowers and grains of the Earth might rise in spring. No. We are not here this morning to celebrate the defeat of our subconscious’ death wish. Jesus was notraised from the tomb because our neurosises need fuel for another year. No. We are not here this morning to celebrate the triumph of an archetypal Hero over an archetypal Death. Jesus was not raised from the tomb because we need a Jungian happy-ending to our quest. No. We are not here this morning to celebrate the triumph of empowered self-esteem over the oppressive, patriarchal structures of organized religion. No. Jesus was not raised from the tomb because our pet-ideologies would be empty without some revolutionary symbol of victory. No.We are here this morning to celebrate the triumph of New Life over Death, Creation over Chaos, the Goodness of Being over the Evil of Nothingness, the triumph of Freedom over Sin. The tomb is empty because God raised His murdered Son from an ignoble death to New Life. The tomb is empty because the living do not live in the grave! The living have no need of burial clothes! The living say YES to the Father [Yes] and Amen to a glorious life lived in the sure faith of the Resurrection! [Amen]It is easy to say YES and AMEN on Easter Sunday. The account of the Empty Tomb is still fresh in our hearts and minds. The courage of Mary Magdala’s witness to the cowardly disciples still stirs in us. But let’s be honest: the long 50 day march to Pentecost will see our fervor fade, our energy wane, and the alleluia’s of this Easter morning will droop with these lilies. We will find ourselves before long in the Upper Room cowering with the remnant of Jesus’ once mighty band, wondering what idiocy possessed us to witness to the ridiculous notion that a dead man rose to life and starting popping up all over the city and chatting with people.[...]

Perfected through obedience


NB. from 2015 Office of Readings: Holy ThursdayFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPSt. Dominic Church, NOLAAll that we read and hear read in these Holy Thursday liturgies teach us to how to see our Lord's death. If we were to watch him die on the cross as a criminal, we would have nothing to celebrate. He is dead. If we were see him die as just a man, as this morning's sin-offering, we would have to prepare another victim to sacrifice for tomorrow's sins. If we were to see him die as a god, then nothing human is healed by his dying. Holy Thursday teaches us to see our Lord's death in truth. He is a heretic to the Jews. A criminal to the Romans. Just a man to Jew and Gentile alike. But for us, he is the Son of God and the Son of Man, offered once for all on the altar of the Cross as a sin-offering for the whole world. “When perfected [through obedience], he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. . .” Holy Thursday teaches us how an execution became a sacrifice and how a sacrifice becomes a on-going feast for giving thanks. When Jesus and his disciples gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, they are doing more—much more—than honoring an ancient Jewish custom. For three years now, Jesus has reminded his disciples—in word and deed—that everything he says and does is moving them all toward a single goal: the fulfillment of the Covenant btw Abraham and God the Father. Every sermon, every hostile exchange with the Pharisees, every healing miracle, everything he has said and done fulfills scriptural prophecy and points to his birth as the coming of the Kingdom. This last celebration of Passover in Jerusalem is no different. It too is a prophetic sign of who and what he is for us. When Jesus and his friends recline at table to begin the feast, they know that what they are remembering is God's rescue of His people from centuries of Egyptian slavery. Bread for the feast is unleavened b/c there is no time to wait for it to rise. The wine is watered b/c they need to be clear-headed for their escape. They are girded for travel and lightly packed. Jesus lifts the bread and says, “This is my Body.” He lifts the cup of wine, “This is my Blood.” At that moment, what were the disciples thinking? Knowing full well what the Passover means—freedom from slavery—did they understand that the Lord was telling them that their ancestral meal of remembrance was now a feast of freedom? That eating his Body and Blood would free them from sin and death? Later, after Jesus' execution, did they make the connection btw ritually sacrificing a lamb in the temple with his sacrifice on the cross? Holy Thursday teaches us that the Roman execution of Jesus is a Jewish sacrifice that the Risen Christ transforms into a feast of thanksgiving—a New Covenant Passover celebration that celebrates our rescue from slavery to sin. How does a Roman execution become a Christian feast? When the one executed is the Son of God and Son of Man. When the one whose body and blood we eat and drink is presented to God as a sacrifice, a sin-offering made once for all. And when we are commanded to remember this sacrifice, to participate in it by taking into our own bodies the Body and Blood of the one sacrificed for us. Holy Thursday teaches us that Jesus the Christ has fulfilled the promises and obligations of the Covenant made btw Abraham and God the Father, establishing for us a New Covenant of grace, of freely offered forgiveness for all of our offenses. Knowing this, “. . .let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor and to find help in time of need.” Follow HancAquam or Subscribe -----> [...]

He goes to Jerusalem knowing. . .


Palm Sunday (B)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Between today and next Sunday we will hear again and again how Christ emptied himself out for our sake. How he took on the form of a slave for us. How he “humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Palm Sunday remembers the day he entered Jerusalem in triumph, hailed as a conquering king. What a difference one week can make. From King to Criminal, from Conqueror to Crook. He will be celebrated and honored, betrayed and falsely accused, wrongly convicted and executed. . .all this week. . .and for no other reason than to free you and me from the bonds from sin and death. He goes to Jerusalem – knowing he will die – he goes to Jerusalem b/c it is in Jerusalem that every righteous sacrifice must be made. He dies in this one place so that every place from then on will be made right for offering the Father worthy praise and thanksgiving. Spend this week before his death giving God thanks and praise for making His mercy freely available. For making His Son the means of your freedom from the darkness of sin and death. For making us His children. . .again.


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Three Scenes from the Field Hospital


Pope Francis says that the Church is a "field hospital."Brilliant metaphor!Let's explore:SCENE ONEYou are experiencing severe chest pains. An ambulance takes you to the E.R. The doctors take one look at you and call security to throw you out. Eventually, a disgusted nurse comes outside and you ask her, "I'm having a heart attack! Why won't you treat me?" The nurse sneers, "We only accept perfectly healthy people at this hospital." You die.SCENE TWOYou are experiencing severe chest pains. An ambulance takes you to the E.R. The doctors do a battery of tests and conclude that you are having a heart attack. They nod solemnly and walk away. After a couples of hours of intense pain and panic, you ask a nurse, "I'm having a heart attack! Why won't you treat me?" She smiles and chirps, "Oh! We are only here to affirm you in your concrete circumstances and accompany you while you share our space." You die.SCENE THREEYou are experiencing severe chest pains. An ambulance takes you to the E.R. The doctors do a battery of tests and conclude that you are having a heart attack. They immediately get to work stabilizing your condition with meds and order a series of treatments that prevent further damage to your heart. After the initial emergency is over, a nurse comes by to arrange long-term out-patient care and suggestions for altering your diet and exercise regimen. You live. Which of these three scenes best represents the salvific work of the Church as a field hospital?____________________ Follow HancAquam or Subscribe -----> [...]

Do you need signs and wonders?


4th Week of Lent (M)Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OPSt. Dominic, NOLA This scene from John always makes me a little nervous. Jesus seems to be dismissing the royal official's anxiety about his dying son. He asks Jesus to come to Capernaum and heal the kid and Jesus sort of waves him off with “You people just won't believe unless you see signs and wonders.” Completely ignoring him, the official persists, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Here's where I have to be careful, b/c I can almost see Jesus roll his eyes and sigh before he says – a little too pompously? – “You may go; your son will live.” Now, I know Jesus didn't roll his eyes or sigh, and I know he's not arrogantly dismissing this poor man's distress over his dying son. But I think you can see how this all reads on the page. Jesus here isn't exactly the picture of the heroic healer we've some to expect. So, what's going on? The answer – I think – comes in the sentence immediately after Jesus tells the man that his son will live. John writes, “The man believedwhat Jesus said to him and left.” In other words, the man believes Jesus has healed his son beforehe actually knows that his son is healed. He didn't need to see signs and wonder before he believed. He takes Jesus at his word. When we talk about faith, we often talk as if faith is a quantity of something, a measurable amount of “holy stuff.” I need more faith. I don't have enough faith. We do the same thing with grace. More grace. Not enough grace. This is a deadly way of thinking about the trust we place in the Lord. We cannot accountfor faith; that is, count it up and balance the ledger btw credits and debits. Faith is our living, daily trust in the Father's promises. I trust God, or I don't. If I say that I trust God but still seek after signs and wonders, then all I'm doing is gambling that I'm right to trust Him. If I refuse to trust until I have proof, then my trust – when the proof comes – isn't really trust at all. However, if – like the official – I ask in faith for something and believe it is given before I see it done, then I can say that I truly trust in God's Word. We like evidence. We like to see and hear and touch. We like to know. But the only grounds we have for believing in God's promises is the indwelling of His love and our belief that we are – from all eternity – the subjects of His boundless mercy. To this truth we are vowed to be public witnesses, to give testimony without fear or shame. Follow HancAquam or Subscribe -----> [...]

By Grace We Have Been Saved


NB. I almost forgot that I am celebrating a Vigil Mass for the Carmelite sisters and their benefactors today. 4th Sunday of LentFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPMt. Carmel Academy, NOLA For all the weirdness of the Catholic faith – things like chapels made of skulls and monks sleeping in coffins – we Catholics are a practical people overall. We like prayers that work for us. We like devotions that console us. One of the ways that we sometimes keep track of our salvation looks something like a bookkeeper's ledger. Good deeds on the credit side. Sins on the debit side. We look at that ledger and think, “If I can manage kick off while the credits are larger than the debits, I'm good.” With this mindset firmly in place, we look for ways to build the credit side – indulgences, extra penances, more time in the confessional, maybe a few extra bucks in the collection plate. We may even take on trying to reduce the debit side of the ledger by giving up a few vices or fasting once and awhile. Lent is a particularly time of year to kick a few bad habits and pick up some good ones. At the end of these 40 Days we sit down at the ledger and hope the balance looks good before Easter! While all this is a sensible, practical way of growing in holiness, it does nothing to the bottom-line of our salvation. Paul writes, “God, who is rich in mercy. . .brought us to life with Christ — by grace you have been saved. . .” By grace we have been saved. Not prayer or good deeds or donations or extra penances. By grace. Through a gift from God. His gift of His only Son, Jesus Christ. Being the practical people we are we sometimes have difficulty really believing that our redemption is free. In fact, our redemption from sin and death is so free that we were given our freedom before we could do anything to earn it. Paul writes, “God, who is rich in mercy. . .brought us to life with Christ. . .” Why? “. . .because of the great love he had for us. . .” When did He do this? “. . .even when we were dead in our transgressions.” Even when we were dead in our sins, God's love for us, His mercy for us brought us back to life with his Christ. We did nothing to earn this. Nothing to merit it. Nothing we could do would gain us this life in Christ. We hear this echoed in John oft-quoted verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The kicker here is that even our desire and ability to believe in His Son is a gift! So why do we work ourselves into a frenzy “doing holy things” to assure our salvation? I have no idea. Doing holy things can help us grow in holiness, to become more perfect in Christ, but they can do nothing to save us. Why? Because we are not saved in degrees. Being Saved is like Being Dead. Either you are or you aren't. Now, you can sin to such an extreme degree that you effectively reject your salvation. But even then God's offer to return remains open and free. Just turn around. Confess. Do your penance. And receive the Father's mercy. Here's a suggestion for the remaining days of Lent: sacrifice your religious pride; that is, give up any false notion that you can “do your own thing” in order to be saved. You can't. You can't earn what's already free. You can sacrifice your religious pride by adopting a program of prayer that focuses exclusively on giving God thanks for all that you have. No other prayer than: “Thank You, Lord, for my family, my friends, my health, etc.” Thank Him for your trials so that they can be made holy. Thank Him for your temptations so that they too can be made holy. Work for holiness not salvation. John writes, “whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” Follow HancAquam or Subscribe -----> [...]

I'm WAY holier than you. . .


NB. The deacon is preaching the Sunday Mass at OLR, so here's a Vintage Fr. Philip Homily. . . 4th Sunday of Lent 2006Fr. Philip N. Powell, OPChurch of the Incarnation, Irving, TXHear it! I’ve been feeling rather proud of myself this last week! I got up early everyday and said my rosary. Spent thirty minutes in front of the Blessed Sacrament on my knees. Prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Forty Days Prayer for Lent. I did all this before breakfast, without food, in our unheated chapel at the priory. I don’t mean to boast, but you know, I feel really, really holy, like I’ve really managed to get God to love me a little more, maybe I got a little closer to convincing Him to let me into Heaven. One morning, one of the other brothers just popped into the chapel for a second. Just bopped through like a rabbit and grabbed one of those missalette things and ran off. Guess he’s not interested in saving his soul. Well, I tell you, not to boast, of course, I’m determined to earn some Heaven Points today. I’m saying the rosary two more times, praying the Stations, and doing a few prostrations before the Blessed Sacrament! That should top off my grace account for the day. Man, you know, working for redemption ain’t easy! But at least I’m working, right? At least I know that God loves me when I’m working for His love. I’m not like those other friars in my priory—I can fast more often, kneel longer, pray louder (and in Latin!), I adore the Blessed Sacrament instead of the TV, spend time with the Blessed Mother instead of the computer, and I know I’m holier because my habit is cleaner, and I iron it too! Jesus loves me best and most because I deserve it. You know, I’ve earned it. Have you ever had one of those moments when you’re absolutely sure that you’re holier than the guy kneeling next to you at Mass? That you are most certainly better loved by God, closer to redemption and better insured against Hell? Look right now at the people around you. Can you tell who God doesn’t love as much as He loves you? Who isn’t as close to Heaven as your hard work has gotten you? They’re just spiritually lazy, right? Don’t you have a solemn duty to let them know that they’re being spiritually lazy, that they need to work a little harder for their grace points? Don’t you, as one more loved by God, have a duty to monitor their spiritual progress and correct their faults so that they will earn as many points as possible? Don’t you have a responsibility to save them, to save them from themselves for Christ? No. You don’t. And do you know why? Of course you do! Grace ain’t earned. God’s love cannot be worked for. Our salvation was accomplished 2,000 years ago on the Cross and out of the Tomb, and no amount of kneeling, fasting, praying, boasting of holiness, monitoring our brothers and sisters, correcting others’ faults, or walking the Stations during Lent will get us one more ounce of redemptive grace, not one step closer to the Father’s mercy. Listen to Paul again: “[…] by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.” His love for us is not our handiwork. We are the Father’s handiwork. We do not conjure His love. We can stand in awe. We can offer thanks. We can bend the knee in adoration. We can even fall flat on our faces in righteous humility. But we cannot earn, buy, beg, steal, or in any shape, form, or fashion bank God’s love. You’re probably thinking: “OK, Father, why are you on about this again!? Didn’t you just prattle on about this recently?” I’m on about this again because I think we all need to be reminded, especially in Lent, that God loves us and that our redemption, the healing of the Original Wound, is done and nothing we can do n[...]

The Church is not a marketplace


3rdSunday of LentFr. Philip N. Powell, OPOLR, NOLA When is the church a house of prayer, and when is it a marketplace? What is prayer and what is commerce? Prayer is asking God to bless us with what we need. Commerce is buying from and selling to others what we think we need. Prayer is an act of humility; commerce is simply an exchange of goods or services, seeking profit. The church is a house of prayer when it is a place for God’s people to gather to ask Him for what they need in humility and to offer Him worship in justice. The church is a marketplace, however, when it becomes a place for God’s people to make profitable deals with the Father, or attempt to buy or sell His gifts. There is nothing sinful about commerce or profit per se. But when the merchandise is the Truth of the faith, or when the profit gained weakens God's people, there we have a problem! The Church is not a marketplace. It's a nation, a priesthood, a tribe of men and women who make up the Body of Christ, men and women given to Christ by his Father to save from sin and death. Nothing we have from the Father is for sale. Nothing we need for eternal life can be bought. Jesus rides into Jerusalem with a little righteous anger brewing and hits the temple area like a desert whirlwind. Laying hold of his prophetic authority, Jesus, recalling Zechariah the Prophet, calls the temple a house of prayer that has been made into a den of merchants. To cleanse the temple of thievery, he drives out those who have turned his Father’s place of worship into a marketplace for Mammon. Now cleansed, the temple becomes his place for teaching, a place for proclaiming and preaching the Word—a place where the people gather to hang on Jesus’ every word. In this one movement, this single display of righteous indignation, Jesus has redefined the church for us, reconceived what it means for his people to gather, to hear the Word, to worship in spirit and truth, and to live in the abiding presence of God day-to-day. When the People of God, the Body of Christ, come together to offer praise and thanksgiving, to offer up petitions and intercessions, the house of the Lord is a house of prayer. When the Word is proclaimed and preached and the sacrifice of thanksgiving made on the altar and in the heart, the house of the Lord is a house of prayer. When we gather to give to God what is His in justice, that which we owe Him as a matter of covenant and elemental desire, that is, our lives, the house of the Lord is a house of prayer. When the house of the Lord is a house of prayer, it is a time and place of distilled righteousness, a time away from time, a place away from place, where and when we take into ourselves the Body and Blood of Christ. Where we ourselves are the sacrifice. While here we don’t just hang on his words in prayer; we hang on his cross, offering to God what has been His gift to us from the beginning: our love, our adoration, our very lives. The house of the Lord becomes a den of merchants when we withhold our assent and our surrender. When we choose, freely, the stingy path of hoarding for later our desire to be with God forever; that is, storing up our YES, tucking away our YES, we steal from Him what is rightly His. And deny ourselves everything we can be for Him. To worship in spirit and truth, to adore Him with our strength in joy, to be seduced by His hope, cherished in His love, and brought forever to live in His beauty – that’s prayer! That’s justice! We are not here in this church as The Church to make deals with the Father. We aren't here to bargain for healing or to trade on promises of good deeds done sometime later. We're not here to borrow grace with interest or make payments on a loan. Everything the Father gives us He gives us for free. We owe Him praise and thanksg[...]

Could be scary. . .or not


2nd Week of Lent (M)Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OPSt Dominic Conventual Mass Of all the truly difficult things Jesus asks us to do, at the top of that long list would be: “Be merciful. . .Stop judging. . .Stop condemning. . .Forgive.” Right up there on that same list is another familiar command from the Lord: “Love God, love your neighbor.” You can always tell when Jesus knows that he's giving us a difficult job b/c he makes that job a command. He makes so that we really don't have much wiggle room when it comes to hearing and doing what he's asking us to do. We could see this as a slight – “He doesn't trust us with just a kind suggestion or a subtle hint!” Or we could see it as a gift – “Left on my own, I couldn't forgive you, but Christ commands it!” And just in case the command alone is not enough to move us toward mercy and forgiveness, Jesus adds this little trailer, “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” So, we not only have his command to forgive, we also have a preview of how we will be judged on the Last Day! When we get to the Lord's Prayer later in the Mass, pay close attention to the line that goes, “Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us.” You are asking God to judge you in the same way you judge others. Could be scary. . .or not. Forgiveness is difficult b/c we carry with us many false notions about what forgiveness entails. “If I forgive her, I'm saying that what she did wasn't wrong.” If what she did to you wasn't wrong, there's no need to forgive. “If I forgive him, then he'll just do the same thing again.” So, by refusing to forgive you hope to prevent a future offense? Is that how God works with us and our sin – withholding His mercy until we're perfect? How about this one: “I like having something on her. I like feeling wounded and righteous in my anger”? Fine. Just remember: you will soon ask God to forgive you in the same waythat you forgive others. Do you really want God holding a grudge against you? My personal favorite: “I have forgiven him. I just don't feellike I've forgiven him.” You've forgiven him, or you haven't. How you feel about it is an entirely separate issue. No where does the Lord command us to be happy about forgiving those who've sinned against. He simply commands that we forgive. If there's a season in the Church calendar that's better suited for a reckless spree of mercy and forgiveness than Lent, I don't what it would be. There's still time. Get out there and show your fellow sinners – all of us – some astonishing mercy! __________________Follow HancAquam or Subscribe -----> [...]

But why do you sacrifice?


2nd Sunday of LentFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPOLR, NOLA God commands Abraham to slaughter Isaac, Abraham's only son, as a sacrifice. Let that sink in. Abraham has just the one son, Isaac. God wants Isaac's father to kill him as a sacrifice. I don't know what y'all have sacrificed for Lent, but I'm willing to bet that none of you will be offering a child on an altar in the wilderness. My own pitiful Lenten sacrifices pale in comparison to what Abraham is asked to do. I have no children of my own, so I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to hear God command a mother or father to sacrifice one of their own children. Fortunately, we know, that God's will was not that Isaac should die in sacrifice but that Abraham's obedience to God be tested. Whatever we may think of God's command or Abraham's willingness to obey Him, we must keep in mind that God the Father Himself does what He commands Abraham to do: He sacrifices His only Son, and He does it not to prove His devotion to us but to save us from sin and death. He gave us then and gives now us His Son in sacrifice so that we might come back to Him made perfect, and share in His divine life. Ask yourself and think carefully: what am I sacrificing this Lent, and why? We need to be absolutely clear up front about how our Lenten sacrifices work in our growth toward holiness. First, our sacrifices do not “buy” us holiness. We are not purchasing degrees of holiness by giving up our favorite vices. Small sacrifices buy us small amounts of holiness, and bigger sacrifices buy us larger amounts of holiness. Second, we aren't changing God's disposition towards us by sacrificing our vices. We are not performing some kind of magical ritual that forces God to love us more when we abstain from a vice. Third, prayer and alms-giving during Lent aren't bribes to God to persuade Him not to be angry with us, nor are they goodies meant to entice Him to be happy with us. The very idea that anything we can do or say or think has the power to change God in any way is a pagan notion, and one we need to vigorously remove from our thinking. The pagan thinks in terms of appeasing the gods or bribing them into favorable action. The Christian – the human person consecrated to Christ – knows that every good gift, every blessing, every grace he will ever receive has already been given to him. Our Lenten sacrifices make it possible for us to see more clearly all that God has given us and more easily receive what He has given. Lent is a time for us to clean our spiritual pipes. A time for us to sweep away the spiritual dust and cobwebs. It's a time to re-focus our time and energy on the only thing that matters to a Christian – Christ himself and his mission. Lent provides us with the time, the instruction, and the support we need to think deeply about and explore intensely how we relate to the one who sacrificed himself for us so that we might live. Our time in the Lenten desert becomes a time of temptation precisely b/c we shift our attention to God and away from self. This “shifting away from self” invites the Enemy to test us, to try us; we become more vulnerable to his attempts to stroke our pride and see us abandon Christ. By sacrificing a few vices or taking up additional prayer and alms-giving, we remove the Enemy's preferred weapons, making it more difficult for him to tempt us with our own weaknesses. By detaching ourselves from all those things that drain us of spiritual strength, we conserve all that makes us strong in the Lord. When the Enemy tries harder to break our bond with Christ, we respond by sacrificing more, by sacrificing until it hurts. And it does hurt. But only for a little while. Paul writes to the Romans: “If God is for us, who can [...]

We must be made ready


1st Sunday of LentFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPOLR, NOLA The Holy Spirit drivesJesus into the desert. Why? Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of Man, the Messiah. Why must he endure 40 days of hunger, thirst, and loneliness? He doesn't need the discipline to help him repent of his sins. He is sinless. He doesn't need the time alone with God the Father b/c he is God the Son. Satan knows who he is, so there's no need for Jesus to prove his identity to himself or the Enemy. What makes our question even more interesting and infuriating is that Mark uses the Greek verb, ἐκβάλλει (ekballei) which means “casts out.” The same verb used to describe what Jesus does the demons he encounters in his ministry. So, in the same way that Jesus casts out demons, so the Holy Spirit casts Jesus out into the wilderness. There's an almost dismissive or casual sense that Jesus is being “thrown away,” tossed out like garbage. But to get the full picture here we need to remember where Jesus is heading next. He goes to Galilee and begins to preach, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Before he can endure his passion in Jerusalem and die on the cross at Calvary, he must be made ready. We too must be made ready. And Jesus shows us the way. We can think of Jesus' time in the desert in the same way that we think about his baptism. The Messiah, sinless and unable to sin, doesn't need to be baptized. Jesus' baptism in the Jordan is God's way of revealing His Son to us; His way of announcing to the world that His Christ has arrived. Jesus forty days in the desert didn't need to happen either; that is, he didn't need to endure all that for his own sake. He did it for us. He did it to reveal himself – his true nature and purpose – before he set off to Galilee to begin his public ministry. What this scene in the wilderness tells us about our Lord is that though he cannot be properly tempted, he knows that we can. He knows that the power of the Devil – though real – is ultimately temporary and deceiving. And he know that when we place ourselves at the mercy of Father, we will be ministered to by the choirs of angels. None of this knowing on Jesus' part prevents us from actually feeling hunger, thirst, loneliness, or pain. Our knowing that we can be tempted doesn't make enduring temptation any easier. Knowing the Devil's power is deceptive or that we are ministered to by angels makes the preparation for our own passion and death any more pleasant. BUT knowing that Christ has gone before us and is with us now, makes any trial here and now endurable. Knowing that Christ is with us when we fast, when we pray, when we give what we have to others, knowing he is with us always and everywhere, that makes our troubles more than endurable. . .it makes them sacrificial. When do as he did and speak as he spoke, and when we do and speak in his name for his sake, we follow faithfully behind, picking up his work and his words, and we bear witness in the world to the love that made it possible for him to die on a cross for us. His forty days in the wilderness with Satan and the wild beasts was our preparation, the preparation of his future body, the Church, to carry on with his ministry. And, thanks be to God, we do not minister alone. The same spirit that drives Jesus into the desert, the same spirit that saw the angels minister to him, and the same spirit that set the apostles to fire at Pentecost is the same Holy Spirit that binds us together now in the Church.  Make these forty days of Lent a time for preparation for your own passion and death. It may sound a bit morbid. But think: death misses no one; no one gets out of here alive. Take this season to hea[...]

Why does God love us?


6th Sunday OTFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPOLR, NOLA Why does God love us? One answer to this question goes like this: God love us b/c He is Love; it is His nature to love – Love is who He is and what He does. According to His nature, God cannot notlove. If we take the question to mean – what is the ultimate purpose of God's loving us?– we get a slightly different answer. The purpose behind God's loving us is to change us for the better. And to change us for the better, God's love requires our cooperation. God will not force us to love Him. He will not force us to change. He loves us without condition or pretense b/c it is His nature to love. So, you need never worry about whether or not God loves you. He does. Always. And in all circumstances. If you must worry, worry about whether or not you love God. Notice the leper. Despite his disease, despite the fact that he is required by Mosaic Law to avoid healthy people, and declare himself Unclean, he approaches Jesus, kneels, and begs, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus touches the Leper and says, “I do will it. Be made clean.” Christ loves without condition or pretense, but he will only cleanse you of sin if you ask to be made clean. In recent years, the Church has been roiled by internal debates about the nature of mercy and sin; the morality of “second marriages” and taking communion; whether or not the individual conscience trumps the Church's moral teaching; whether or not a pastor can bless same-sex “marriages.” The different sides of these debates line up like you might expect: those who say every case is different so we cannot impose universal rules andthose who say that there are rock-bottom truths that always apply to all cases. We hear that God loves us unconditionally, therefore, all are welcome! We hear that God hates sin, therefore, sinners must not be welcomed as sinners. Bishop Bob says we must embrace the sinner. While Bishop Jim says the sinner must be admonished. Pastors and lay folks get in on the action – documents are quoted; popes are cited; councils invoked; and theologians and Celebrity Catholics rant in the media about the respective rigidity or moral laxity of the other side. Either the Church must always keep up with the times, or the Church must never change. Notice the leper. His faith in Christ pushes him to ask for healing. He asks. And Christ heals him. God loves us in order to change us. To make us holy. Some would have us believe that God's unconditional love affirms the OK-ness of our sin; that is, they say, since God always loves us (true), despite our sin (true), then our sin must be OK. False. My sin is a sign, is evidence that I do not love God. He still loves me, true, but I do not love Him. If I am to be healed, I must ask to be healed. If my sins are to be forgiven, I must ask to be forgiven. And in order to ask to be forgiven I must first actually believe that my sins are indeed sins! But if God loves me despite my sins, why bother with asking for forgiveness? Because my sins tell God that I do not love Him, and He will not force His love upon me. Without my cooperation, God's love cannot help me to grow in holiness; without my cooperation, God's graces go unused. And when my time for judgment comes, God will honor my choice not to love Him and allow me to live apart from Him for all eternity. The love that God has for of us does not – in any way – diminish or negate the damage we do to ourselves when we sin, when we refuse to repent of that sin and ask for His mercy. Notice the leper, begging, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” And Christ responding, “I do will it. Be made clean.” Ask, receive. No asking, no [...]

Everything is Lost!


NB: from 2006 a Vintage (oh boy) Fr. Philip Neri homily! (The deacon preached tonight. . .)5th Sunday OTFr. Philip N. Powell, OPChurch of the Incarnation, University of Dallas  Hear it!Everything is lost. Nothing really lives here. There is no light, no life, no hope of being found. There is work with no purpose. Movement toward no end. Day, then night, then day again. No meaning. Pointless striving. Unraveling hours of nothing at all. Sleep brings no rest. Work never tires. It won’t end soon enough. Or, too soon. Like an exhausted wind weakly blowing dust. Sigh. Job is not a happy man. He’s learned that his life of blessing and prosperity is very easily washed away. Troubled nights. Restlessness ‘til dawn. His life like a wind. Never to see happiness again. Job has lost his faith. And with it his humility and his gratitude. Self-pity and anger are not the seeds of blessing. So, he will be hopeless, restless, and sleepless until he finds again a purpose bigger than his small dreams, his little dramas of success.We read tonight that Jesus and Paul know their purpose. And they know happiness in knowing their purpose. What makes you happy? What Purpose do you serve?Isn’t it easier getting out of bed in the morning knowing you have a purpose, knowing you have a goal to achieve, a To Do List for your life that needs some work? Isn't it easier making it to work or class or the next thing on the list knowing that your attention, energy, labor, and time will be focused on completing a mission, on getting something done? With the time we have and the talents given to us, don’t we prefer to see constructive and profitable outcomes? Even when we’re being a bit lazy, wasting a little time doing much of nothing, we have it in the back of our mind to get busy, to get going on something, checking that next thing on the list and moving toward a goal. It’s how we are made. It’s how we live in the world.Paul writes to the Corinthians: “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation have been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!” Paul has been given an end, a goal, a purpose beyond mere survival, beyond merely getting along. Having been smacked around by the Lord for persecuting the Church, Paul finds himself ordered to a regime of holiness, a kingdom of righteousness, that demands more than rule-following, more than simply showing up and breathing the temple air. Paul must preach. He must travel city to city, province to province, publicly witnessing to his repentance, to the power of Christ’s mercy.Paul’s sleep is restful. His work exhausts him. He is a slave whose labor is never drudgery, never pointless. His end, his purpose is Jesus Christ, the telling again and again of his story, his bruising encounter with the man of love. And offering to anyone who will open their eyes to see and their ears to hear, offering to them the same restfulness, the same pleasing exhaustion, the same intense focus of a purpose driven by the need to proclaim Christ. Jesus, doing his best to find a little time away from the crowds, responds responsibly when Simon and other disciples find him and say, “Everyone is looking for you.” Jesus, pursued, literally, by his purpose says, “Let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” Soon he will look out over the vast crowd and, moved by compassion, teach them many things. Now, nearly exhausted himself, he takes his students out again to preach and teach the Good News. It is his purpose—to show those hungry for God that God does [...]

Anxiety Kills


4th Sunday OTFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPOLR, NOLA Distraction kills. So does anxiety. But spiritual distraction and anxiety can kill you. . .forever. Between December 21stand January 22ndI drove Interstates 10 and 55 some 2,310 miles back and forth among NOLA, Houston, and Memphis. In all those miles I lost count of the number of times people passed me on the road doing 90mph while texting, talking on their cell, putting on make-up, and eating. One guy passed me doing over 90 holding a plate in one hand and stuffing a piece of pizza into his face with the other. Ninety plus MPH w/o a finger on the wheel! That sort of distraction will kill you and anyone who happens to be in your way. But as bad as distracted driving is, it can't compare with a distracted and anxious spiritual life. So Paul writes to the Corinthians, “I should like you to be free of anxieties.” And Jesus casts out a distracting and unclean spirit from a man in the synagogue, saying, “Quiet! Come out of him!” For us to grow in holiness, for us to flourish on the Way to the Lord, we need to be free and quiet. Free from worry and doubt; free from attachments and worldly burdens. We need to be quiet, surrendering ourselves to the loving-care of God our Father. What does this all mean in practical, day-to-day terms? Paul, ever practical, says that marriage can cause us to be anxious. Husbands distract wives. Wives distract husbands. He doesn't mention kids, but I'm pretty sure they can be their own sort of anxiety! He's clear that his point is not about the innate value of celibacy over marriage but about what it takes to be freed so that our hearts and minds may serve the Lord unburdened with the worries of pleasing a spouse. It's not the Grand Problems of Being that Paul believes drives us toward the unclean spirit of Anxiety and Distraction but rather the mundane, everyday, purely routine chores that accumulate over time and wear us down. Paying the bills, laundry, lawn care, car repair, buying groceries, going to work, cooking, cleaning, the stuff we all do every single day. So the trick is to stop doing these things, right? Husbands and wives are cheering Paul on! No, that's not his point. His point is to do these things in order to please the Lord. If the routine stuff we do everyday is done in the spirit of pleasing the Lord, then our routine stuff becomes something truly worshipful, truly spiritually beneficial. It all becomes prayer, a means of speaking to God our Father.  Look again at the man possessed by the unclean spirit. Jesus orders the spirit to be quiet and come out! He separates the spirit from the man; he doesn't destroy the man b/c he's possessed. . .he frees him. He removes from the man the spirit that is causing him to be distracted and distracting. We can do the same with our every thought, word, and deed. We can – in the name of Christ – consecrate (set aside, separate) everything we think, say, and do to the pleasing service of God thus making our entire earthly existence one long sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Pay that car note and give God thanks that you have transportation. Buy groceries and praise the Lord that you will eat tonight. Clean the house in the name of Christ to keep it filled with his abiding love. Give God thanks for your co-workers. You have others to help you with your job. Many of you will confess to being distracted during Mass, thinking about Sunday football, or the roast in crock pot, or the kids' undone homework. What if instead of seeing these thoughts as distractions you see them as promptings from the Holy Spirit to give thanks to God for giving you leis[...]

Death is Not the End


Mom's Memorial MassFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPNotre Dame Seminary, NOLADeath is not the end. We know this. Death is not the end, and we know this b/c Christ died to defeat death. He died on the Cross to put an end to sin and death, to create in us a hope for the resurrection and life eternal. Death cannot be the end b/c “hope does not disappoint,” hope in, trust in the promises of Christ cannot fail. And we know this b/c Christ himself prays, “Father, those whom you gave me are your gift to me.” We are Christ's, and again he prays, “I wish that where I am they also may be with me. . .” And we are here, where he is, in the Body, giving thanks for his passion and death, and hoping in our resurrection when Defeated Death comes to take his best, last shot. Death is not the end; it cannot be the end b/c we – each one of us – b/c we are bought, paid for, and delivered into the possession of, the family of God, our Father. We are His adopted sons and adopted daughters, reborn in baptism, confirmed in the Spirit, and joined into the Body through his body and blood. If dying is not the end, then why does the death of a mother, a father, a child, why does it hurt so much? If dying is not the end, then what do the dead do for us, for those left behind?The dead bear witness to our enduring hope. If we open our hearts and minds to the fleeting nature of our earthly existence; if we acknowledge our fragility in this fallen world; and if we have surrendered ourselves to the cross of Christ, following him in all things, then the dead minister to us in their absence from our lives; that is, by not being with us still, they bring us back to a pillar of our faith – the enduring hope of the resurrection and all that that hope requires of us while we still live. The dead, in the hardest possible way, remind us that our lives are given to us – not earned, not borrowed but freely given. They remind us – by their bold absence – that our promised eternal lives are gifts as well. Never earned, never merited by own hands, but freely given, freely gifted. In their silence, they remind us that our hope must be lived – daily, hourly – until we come face-to-face with Christ himself for judgment. The ministry of the dead is remembrance. Even as we remember those who have died, they tend to our desire to forget who we are made to be, who we are re-made to be in Christ Jesus. Even as sinners, Christ died for us. How much more then are we loved now that we are justified by his death and resurrection?How do we hope in the face of death? How do we go on? Jesus prays to the Father, “I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.” We know His name. And we know that the Father's love for His Son is with us, and that Christ is in us. The hope that cannot disappoint is our good habit of living knowing that – as we follow Christ – death in the world is as fleeting as life in the world, a passing through onto the resurrection of the body and life eternal. But even with hope, the death of a mother, a father, a child, death hurts those left behind. Perhaps part of that hurting is the ministry of the dead, their traumatic way of bringing us back to clarity and commitment; their way of pushing hope back into our lives when we have chosen despair. If all of this is true, then to mourn, to grieve is to welcome and nurture hope – as painful as it is. And those who mourn are blessed b/c their dead minister to them with the hope that only Christ can promise and deliver. Death is not the end. Death is d[...]

Funeral Arrangements for Mom


Mom's visitation and funeral arrangements:

Family will receive guests on Sunday, January 21, 2018 from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm at Olive Branch Christian Church, 8300 Craft Rd. Olive Branch, MS. 

Services to immediately follow. 

Burial will follow at Autumn Woods Cemetery.

Obit from Brantley Funeral Home 

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I ask your prayers for the repose of the soul of my mother, Nancy Rebecca.

She died this morning at 9.15.

God bless, Fr. Philip Neri, OP


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Thanks and an Update on Mom


Big Mendicant Thanks to Jenny K. for the bottle of paint.

Thanks to the anonymous donor(s) of all the jars of paint.

Mom is only able to breath w/o the vent for a few hours at a time. Since she has been intubated for a week, the doc said that he will need to perform a tracheotomy in order to avoid damage to her vocal cords. 

Please continue your prayers for her and for my dad, Glenn.

Frat., Fr. Philip Neri, OP


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Great News!


Great News!

Mom is breathing on her own this morning. The vent tube is still in place in case she needs it, but she's been doing all the work since around 9.30am (CST).

Thank you all for the prayers!

Frat., Fr. Philip Neri, OP

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Prayer Request for Mom


Prayer Request. . .for those of you who are not on Facebook: my Mom, Becky, has been in the ICU since Jan 2nd. She caught the flu and experienced complete respiratory failure -- she has COPD. She was put on a ventilator and has been on it since. Yesterday, the docs discovered that her right lung had collapsed. They inserted a chest tube to re-inflate it. We're hoping/praying that she will be able to come off the vent tomorrow (Tues).

Your prayers for her would be most appreciated!

Frat., Fr. Philip Neri, OP


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I Became a Child Among You


NB: A Christmas homily from 2006 -- Vintage Fr. Philip Neri, OP! The Nativity of the Lord 2006Fr. Philip N. Powell, OPChurch of the Incarnation, IrvingPODCAST! The Word speaks and everything is. The Word names everything that is “Very Good.” On stones, the Word etches wisdom and truth and promises His human creatures abundant blessings, strength, prosperity, and children like the stars. Wild men wander out of the desert to speak the Word again and again to bring back to memory and mind promises made and received, vows of obedience and fidelity, a covenant of identity, power, singular divinity. The Word of the Law and the Prophets recites for us a litany of loving deeds—miraculous acts of mercy, rescue, healing—deeds done for us, and repeats with near-chant solemnity His promises of salvation, fidelity, holiness, belonging, love, peace, fruitfulness, and friendship. The Words calls. Whispers. Bellows. Pleads. Bargains. Threatens. Cries. The Word came to what was his own, but his people did not accept Him. And so, the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we saw—finally!—His glory. What have we heard of this Word? What have we seen? We hear the cry to repentance and holiness, the cry for justice and peace. We hear the promises of eternal healing and glory. We see the reparation of disease and injury, the repair of sin’s ruin among us. We see the blessings of God’s hand in our lives, the abundant flood of riches—for some: health, wealth, education, children, loving family, a perfecting vocation; for others: gifts of intelligence, influence, generosity, strength to persevere, patience, peace; and still others: gifts of music, speech, art, wisdom, counsel, true holiness and insight. We hear the rustling Word moving in hearts spacious with joy, emptied of anxiety and fatigue, and the whispered invitation is clarion-clear: become my children! I became a Child among you so that you might become my children. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we see His glory. The Nativity of the Lord celebrates a unique event in human history, a miraculous intervention in space and time—Bethlehem some 748 years after the building of Rome: the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son takes on human flesh—one person, two natures: human and divine. The Word at creation, the Word of the lawful stones and the prophets, the Word of the whirlwind, the pillars of fire and dust, the Word of destruction, and the Word spoken to Mary, our Mother; this Word, the Son of God, becomes the Son of Man and lives here among us. The Christ Child has arrived. Infant Grace, Infant Mercy is here. We see and hear his glory as the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth and ready to fulfill for us His promise of salvation! Are we ready to hear this promise? Ready to reach and grasp the covenant that will save us? Our history with God has not been an exemplary story of careful attention and compliance! As a race we have been willfully ignorant, prideful, disdainful of being taught, and violent with God’s prophets. And we have been sacrificially generous, gracious, truly humble, and welcoming to the stranger and the outcast. It is this spark of charity, this flicker of holy light in our history that speaks to our readiness for the promises of God. A readiness, by the way, that is fundamentally a [...]

How to grow in holiness


3rdSunday of AdventFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPOLR, NOLA If you need a summary of Christian spirituality, something short and sweet as a daily reminder of who and what you are, you really can't beat these three sentences from Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks. . .” What do I do to grow in holiness? Rejoice, pray, give thanks. How often should I rejoice, pray, and give thanks? Always, without ceasing. And when should I rejoice, pray, and give thanks?In all circumstances.If Paul is being serious here – and Paul is always serious – then the Christian response to every victory, to every failure, to every set-back, to every moment of both progress and retreat should be met with rejoicing, prayer, and giving thanks! This third Sunday of Advent is a short pause in our season of preparation and repentance to remember that Christ is coming and he is coming again. The God of peace makes us perfectly holy and preserves us blameless – spirit, soul, and body – for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. And in response to this great gift from the Father, we rejoice, pray, and give Him thanks.  First, we rejoice! But how do we rejoice? Remember the Blessed Mother, carrying Jesus in her womb, visiting Elizabeth her cousin who was pregnant with John? When Mary came close to Elizabeth, John leaped with joy! John was conceived in Elizabeth's barren womb for the singular prophetic purpose of being the herald of Christ's birth into the world. John leaped with joy b/c he recognize his purpose in Christ; he “saw” his goal, the end for which he was made. And his reaction was to rejoice – to celebrate with exuberance and delight. When the priests and Levites ask John – “Who are you?” – he answers, “I am not the Christ.” He doesn't immediately tell them who he is; he tells them who he isn't (the Christ) and who it is they must come to know and love (the one who is coming after him). Each one of us, conceived in our mothers' womb by the loving will of our Father, has a purpose, a goal; and in the waters of baptism, we have been charged with a mission, the same mission that causes the not-yet-born John to leap with joy. John is the herald of Christ's birth, his first coming among us as a man. We – each one of us – is a herald of Christ's coming among us again, as our Just Judge. Accept this mission anew and rejoice! Celebrate exuberantly like John did in his mother's womb.   First, we rejoice; then, we pray. What do we pray for? Paul writes, “Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.” If we will be fruitful heralds and prophets – like John – then we must surrender ourselves to the wisdom of the Father in prayer, testing, proving everything we say and do against the Truth of our faith. We cannot be authentic prophets for Christ if we lie about the faith, if we bear false witness against the Gospel, or pretend that we know what is true and good better than the Church does. There can be no such thing as a free-floating Christian prophet, someone who invents – apart from God's Word and the Church – his or her own truth in order to deceive. So, we must test everything and keep only what is good. Paul also tells us that we must refrain from doing any kind of evil. Prayer, especially joyful prayer, brings us closer and closer to God, strengthening [...]