Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Monday, March 27, 2006

On Retreat

I am leaving this evening for retreat at the Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of Fontgombault in France. Be assured of my prayers for all of you; please pray for me.

I promise to post photos of the monastery and the other sites we visit upon my return at the beginning of Holy Week. May God bless you all!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for March 26, 2006

Today, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, is traditionally known as Laetare Sunday, because of the first words of the Introit (or Entrance Antiphon) for today’s Mass: “Laetare Ierusalem.” The English translation of this beautiful antiphon reads: “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and gather together, all you who love her; rejoice with gladness, you who have been in sorrow, so that you may exult and be satisfied with the abundance of your consolation.” This verse is taken from the prophet Isaiah (66:10) and provides encouragement for all of us as we reach the middle of Lent.

The Church, as the New Jerusalem, is invited to rejoice at the prospect of salvation and her preparations for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery: the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even though the penances of Lent may become tiring; even though our initial zeal may have begun to lag; even though our fasting, prayer, and almsgiving may have begun to slack, the Liturgy reminds us of the merciful abundance that our Lord bestows upon us with His Grace.

In former times, when all musical instruments were silent during Lent, the organ alone was permitted this Sunday as a foretaste of the joy of Easter. Likewise, rose-colored vestments were worn instead of purple (just as on the third Sunday of Advent) as a cheerful reminder of the dawn of the new day of the Resurrection that is quickly approaching. They also remind the faithful of the ancient papal custom of blessing a golden rose at the Vatican on this Sunday.

If we are beginning to feel discouraged by the length of Lent or the challenge of penance, today is an excellent day to rekindle our fervor and renew our efforts at conversion of heart as we prepare for the great and solemn celebration of Holy Week.

Yesterday, March 25, was the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the day on which we commemorate the moment of the Incarnation. Nine months from now, we will celebrate Christmas; yet almost by way of juxtaposition, the Church recalls the unity between the mysteries of God becoming man (the Incarnation) and His Crucifixion. The wood of the crib in so many ways foreshadows the wood of the Cross. The Annunciation and the Nativity find their ultimate conclusion – their ultimate meaning – on Calvary.

As we reflect upon the mystery of the Annunciation, Mary (the “Mystical Rose”) is clearly at the center of the mystery. Her quiet “Yes” to the Angel Gabriel resounds throughout human history. In her simply and humble acceptance of God’s will to save the human race from sin and death, she became the first Christian. She is the first and most perfect disciple of her divine Son, and she leads each of us to Him. Her fidelity was not limited to the Annunciation, or the Nativity, or the Presentation, or even the finding in the Temple. She appears in silent yet eloquent testimony to the meaning of true love at the foot of the Cross and through the magnificent gift of the Spirit on Pentecost.

Just as the Blessed Virgin accompanied Christ through His passion and death, she accompanies each of us, not just by way of imitation and example, but also through her gracious and efficacious intercession before her Son’s heavenly throne. May the “Yes” of the Annunciation echo in our lives, helping us to bear our own Cross out of love for the King who shed His Blood for us. The first stanza of the beautiful Stabat Mater reminds us:

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Da Vinci Code Resources

As the paperback release of Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code approaches next week, and as media-hype grows in anticipation of the movie premier, I would like to offer a few helpful resources to balance the distortion and confusion the book has left in its wake:
  1. The Da Vinci Antidote (also the Da Vinci Outreach): http://www.davinciantidote.com/
  2. The American Bishops' Jesus Decoded: http://www.jesusdecoded.com/
  3. Amy Welborn's De-Coding Da Vinci: http://www.amywelborn.com/davincicode.html
  4. The Da Vinci Hoax: http://www.ignatius.com/books/davincihoax/
  5. Da Vinci Hoax Blog: http://insightscoop.typepad.com/davincihoax/
  6. Exposing Errors in the Da Vinci Code
  7. Cracking the Da Vinci Code (from Catholic Answers)
Also, Fr. John Riccardo at St. Anastasia's in Troy, Michigan, is currently hosting a series on the Da Vinci Code. The remaining dates are March 29 and April 5. Check their website for details.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for March 19, 2006

This post is a tad late, unfortunately, for Sunday or the Feast of St. Joseph, but it's here nevertheless.

Today, March 19, is usually the Solemnity (Solemn Feast) of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, and patron of the Universal Church. Since, however, today is a Sunday, St. Joseph’s feast-day is transferred to Monday, March 20, this year. Among all the saints in the whole calendar, aside from the Blessed Virgin Mary, none has been as close to our Blessed Lord as St. Joseph. Joseph is mentioned only a few times in the Gospels, but these brief glimpses into his life provide us with much fruit for meditation, particularly as we near the middle of Lent.

We know, among other details of St. Joseph’s life, that he was from Bethlehem, a descendent of King David (Mt 1:1-16; 20) and that he was a skilled laborer, which tradition has interpreted as a carpenter (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3). The Scriptures are silent as whether Joseph was a young or old man at the time of his marriage to Mary, although much of traditional art depicts an elderly Joseph. Nevertheless, he and Mary were truly married; and although the marriage was never consummated, this purely virginal marriage did not lack any grace or happiness.

St. Matthew’s Gospel describes Joseph as “a just man,” but troubled by the undeniable fact that Mary was with child. His faith in God – and trust in Mary – is manifest in the very next scene when he believed the angel’s message, and “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Mt 1:24). Truly, although God’s ways are not our ways, Joseph’s fidelity accompanied Mary, even when there was no room for them in the inn of Bethlehem. He comforted her and cared for her through childbirth and the visits of the shepherds and magi. He preserved Mary’s virginity and protected her and her newborn Son, even from the tyranny of King Herod, and led them to safety in Egypt.

The last time we encounter Joseph in the Gospels is when he and Mary searched in vain for the 12 year-old child Jesus throughout Jerusalem. He and his wife sought Jesus “anxiously” (Lk 2:48), only to be amazed at His answer: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Yet Jesus returned to Nazareth, and was obedient to them (cf. Lk 2:51).

The Scriptures do not speak of the death of St. Joseph; scholars suggest that Joseph died in Nazareth, surrounded by Jesus and Mary, since no further mention of Joseph is made during Jesus’ public ministry, and furthermore, our Lord entrusted His Mother to St. John at the foot of the Cross. Many generations of Catholics have sought St. Joseph’s intercession for the grace of a happy death: to be found in the state of grace surrounded by Jesus and Mary, just as St. Joseph ended his own earthly life.

Even in the mostly silent witness of the Scriptures, we clearly see the greatness and sanctity of the foster-father of Jesus, caring for the Holy Family, providing for them, and growing in holiness through the vocation of marriage. He was clearly an obedient Jew, faithful to the Covenant with Israel; yet he was most certainly our Lord’s most ardent disciple and friend. Not much imagination is required to consider the love of St. Joseph for Jesus, and the devotion of Jesus in return. Joseph’s virtue and obedience provide an unparalleled model for fathers in raising virtuous and holy sons and daughters.

We conclude with a prayer to St. Joseph:

Gracious Saint Joseph, protect me and my family from all evil as you did the Holy Family. Kindly keep us ever united in the love of Christ, ever fervent in imitation of the virtue of our Blessed Lady, your sinless spouse, and always faithful in devotion to you. Amen.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for March 12, 2006

I'm sorry that this is a couple days late!

Last week’s reading from the Book of Genesis told of the Covenant established between God and the human race after the flood. The rainbow in the clouds stands as an everlasting sign of God’s covenantal fidelity. Throughout the Old Testament God continued to draw close to His people by means of new and fuller Covenants; each of the Covenants, however, pails in comparison to what God has offered in the “New and Everlasting Covenant” in the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son.

Nevertheless, each of the Covenants from the Old Testament teach us some different aspect about God and His passionate and selfless love, not just for the Jewish people as recipients of these promises, but really for the whole human race. Each Covenant prepares mankind to accept the truth of the Incarnation (the Word made flesh) and to receive the promises of these “sacred family bonds” with God.

This week, the Covenant with Abraham is our focus. Even though God has already made a Covenant with Abraham, and sealed it with the sign of circumcision, He tests Abraham by requiring the sacrifice of Isaac, his beloved son – the son given to Abraham in the Covenant with God. Such a test bewilders us; why does God require such a thing? Hasn’t Abraham already left his family, his former ways; hasn’t he suffered enough? In the final analysis, though, we aren’t really in a position to judge God’s command or His methods. He gave Abraham sufficient grace to respond to this most overwhelming of tests – and He brought him to a deeper, utterly selfless faith that relies upon God for everything.

Just as the former Covenants reveal something about the New Covenant, they also in many ways “foreshadow” Christ’s own life. The Fathers of the Church were eager to see Christ in every verse of the Old Testament, and with good reason: both Testaments, Old and New, are a complete whole. St. Augustine teaches that Grace, “concealed in the Old Testament, is revealed in the New.” This does not mean that the Old Covenant actually “hid” grace from view, but that God’s actions must be understood in light of His definitive gift of His Son made man.

This often changes our perspective on the stories of the Old Testament. By reading today’s reading from Genesis according to this “typology,” we see Isaac and Abraham foreshadow Christ and His own Father. Isaac bears the wood for the sacrifice to the mountain where he is to be killed; likewise, Christ bears the wood of the Cross up Mount Calvary. The father is willing to sacrifice his son, and the son (many Fathers of the Church remarked) went willingly and obediently to his death. However, as if to shatter our preconceptions, God saves Isaac at the last moment – replacing him with, not a lamb, but a ram, caught by his head in a bush of thorns.

In the fulfillment of this foreshadowing, it is God the Father who offers His Son, the true Lamb, crowned with thorns – a willing sacrifice. But this sacrifice is offered by the Son Himself, who freely lays down His life, that we might live. In our Lenten penances, as we strive to repent of our sins and draw closer to Christ, this image is a powerful reminder of the cost of our salvation. As St. Paul then says in his letter to the Romans today, “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” (Rom 8:32). We can have absolute trust and confidence in the Father’s love and mercy.

Have a blessed and happy St. Patrick’s day; and may God bless you and your Lenten penances of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving with abundant grace!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for March 5, 2006

Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, following the custom of our beloved late Pope John Paul II, has given the Church a Lenten Message. His letter offers us encouragement and support for our Lenten penances and reminds us to be faithful in our preparations for the celebration of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection at the end of the Forty Days. The theme that Benedict has chosen for his message is: “Jesus, at the sight of the crowds, was moved with pity” (Mt 9:36).

This theme recalls the plight of underdeveloped nations and realistically, even the poor in our midst. Lent, as a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, is exceptionally appropriate to contemplate the social nature of our Faith as well as the call to conversion that demands expression in our concrete love of neighbor. As we have seen in the last two weeks’ articles about the encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict is concerned that this aspect of the Gospel not be overlooked.

Our gaze upon the “crowds” must be in imitation of Jesus’ concern and pity: “The gaze of Jesus embraces individuals and multitudes, and he brings them all before the Father, offering Himself as a sacrifice of expiation” (Lenten Message 2006). The Pope recalls his predecessor Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio, and the importance of developing a “complete humanism” that truly respects the dignity of each human person. Our Holy Father suggests then, that “for this reason, the primary contribution that the Church offers to the development of mankind and peoples does not consist merely in material means or technical solutions. Rather, it involves the proclamation of the truth of Christ, Who educates consciences and teaches the authentic dignity of the person and of work; it means the promotion of a culture that truly responds to all the questions of humanity.”

In our practice of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we become conformed to Christ who had compassion on the crowds; such self-denial opens our hearts to the grace and working of the Holy Spirit. After such discipline and denial, uniting our hearts to Christ, then we are more perfectly capable of offering a truly authentic gift of self to the poor, the disabled, the unborn, and any who suffer the attacks against human dignity. We, then, do not give simply our money, our time, our resources, or even ourselves – we are able to give Christ. The Pope says: “Those who act according to the logic of the Gospel live the faith as friendship with God Incarnate and, like Him, bear the burden of the material and spiritual needs of their neighbors.”

As we help in the global development of poor nations, the pope teaches: “Moved like Jesus with compassion for the crowds, the Church today considers it her duty to ask political leaders and those with economic and financial power to promote development based on respect for the dignity of every man and woman.” These efforts, must however “include a recognition of the central role of authentic religious values in responding to man’s deepest concerns, and in supplying the ethical motivation for his personal and social responsibilities.”

Entrusting this task to Mary, the Mother of God, we contemplate her divine Son with love and compassion this Lent. May our efforts at fostering true human development throughout the world be strengthened by our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, so that we can truly bring Christ to the world as His faithful disciples.