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!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for November 26, 2006

We have reached the end of another Liturgical Year as we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King today, and prepare for the First Sunday of Advent next week. Hopefully, everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving spent with family and friends, to thank God for the blessings of this past year. Recounting our blessings often spurs us to imitate Christ in His boundless generosity and to give of ourselves in return.

Clement of Alexandria was concerned for those who had been blessed with material possessions, and so he wrote the treatise: “Who is the rich man who may be saved?” This treatise explores the meaning of ownership and property, the role of wealth in human life, its dangers and pitfalls, but also its blessings.

He begins by beautifully presenting the hope of salvation, even for the wealthy: “let not the man that has been invested with worldly wealth proclaim himself excluded at the outset from the Savior’s lists, provided he is a believer and one who contemplates the greatness of God's philanthropy” (n. 3). But, this does not mean the path will be easy: “Nor let him, on the other hand, expect to grasp the crowns of immortality without struggle and effort, continuing untrained, and without contest.”

What is the path to salvation, even for the rich man? “Let him go and put himself under the Word as his trainer, and Christ the President of the contest; and for his prescribed food and drink let him have the New Testament of the Lord; and for exercises, the commandments; and for elegance and ornament, the fair dispositions, love, faith, hope, knowledge of the truth, gentleness, meekness, pity, gravity: so that, when by the last trumpet the signal shall be given for the race and departure hence, as from the stadium of life, he may with a good conscience present himself victorious before the Judge who confers the rewards, confessedly worthy of the Fatherland on high, to which he returns with crowns and the acclamations of angels.”

“Riches, then,” he says, “which benefit also our neighbors, are not to be thrown away” (n. 14) but rather rightly used for their benefit. He continues, by reminding the reader that even those who have cast off their possessions may still be afflicted by the passions, whereas the proper use of possessions and wealth can serve even to rightly order our desires and help us grow in holiness.

“If one is able in the midst of wealth to turn from its power, and to entertain moderate sentiments, and to exercise self-command, and to seek God alone, and to breathe God and walk with God” (n. 26), this is the rich man who may be saved, not through his own efforts, but by the God’s grace.

Finally, I would like to remind everyone of some upcoming events:

On Tuesday, November 28th, at 7:00 pm, Steve Ray will be at St. John Neumann to offer a presentation about the Holy Land pilgrimage coming up in March. Come and learn about the places where our Lord walked and taught.

The following Tuesday, December 5th, at 7:00 pm, the parish presents Leonardo Defilippis as Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz. Tickets are free for parishioners; simply stop by the office and pick them up, and don’t miss this excellent performance!

Have a blessed week as we prepare for the Advent of our Lord.

Faith Seeking Understanding for November 19, 2006

After the brief “detour” through our Roman pilgrimage, we return to our study of the Fathers of the Church with St. Clement of Alexandria. Before beginning our study, however, I would like to invite you to a few upcoming events at the parish.

On Tuesday, November 28th, at 7:00 pm, local apologist Steve Ray will be at St. John Neumann to offer a presentation about the Holy Land pilgrimage coming up in March. Steve is an amazing speaker with an incredible amount of first-hand experience in the Holy Land. He has published several books and is the host of a DVD series that explores the Scriptures through the lens of the Holy Land. It will be our privilege to hear him in person and pick his brain – so even if you won’t be able to come along on pilgrimage, please join us on Tuesday, November 28th to bolster your faith with Steve Ray.

The following Tuesday, December 5th, at 7:00 pm, we are extremely happy to welcome Leonardo Defilippis and his one-man drama Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz. I have known Leonardo for more than 10 years and thoroughly enjoy his productions. Maximilian, in particular, captures the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe in a very intense, yet spiritual and family-friendly manner. Tickets are free for parishioners; simply stop by the office and pick them up.

Clement of Alexandria was raised in the pagan culture of second century Greece. Most likely born in Athens, he was converted to the Faith of Jesus Christ, and sought deeper instruction. He finally arrived in Alexandria (Egypt), the ancient center of the Greek Academy and pagan philosophy, to study under Pantaenus, the head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria. Eventually, Clement would succeed Pantaenus and lead the famous School; owing, however, to persecutions in the early third century throughout Egypt, he was forced to flee. The details of his death around 215 A.D. are unknown.

Three major works of Clement are extant: the Exhortation to the Greeks, the Tutor, and Miscellanies. Some scholars see in these titles a great trilogy of the Christian life, corresponding to initial conversion, ongoing education in the Faith, and divine illumination. Clement of Alexandria stands as a pioneer in the harmonization of Greek philosophy with the Truth of Jesus Christ. He is also known for another work, “Who is the Rich Man who can be saved?”, a treatise exploring the possibility of salvation for the wealthy.

His teaching is too much to contain in one article, so I will simply present a few of his quotes here, and we can return to Clement next week.

“Man, that had been free by reason of simplicity, was found fettered to sins. The Lord then wished to release him from his bonds, and clothing Himself with flesh – O divine mystery! – vanquished the serpent, and enslaved the tyrant death; and, most marvelous of all, man that had been deceived by pleasure, and bound fast by corruption, had his hands unloosed, and was set free. O mystic wonder! The Lord was laid low, and man rose up; and he that fell from Paradise receives as the reward of obedience something greater – namely, heaven itself” (Exhortation to the Greeks, Ch. XI).

“As therefore the … the pilot steers the vessel, desiring to save the passengers; so also the Instructor [Christ] guides the children to a saving course of conduct, through solicitude for us; and, in general, whatever we ask in accordance with reason from God to be done for us, will happen to those who believe in the Instructor. And just as the helmsman does not always yield to the winds, but sometimes, turning the prow towards them, opposes the whole force of the hurricanes; so the Instructor never yields to the blasts that blow in this world, nor commits the child to them like a vessel to make shipwreck on a wild and licentious course of life; but, wafted on by the favoring breeze of the Spirit of truth, stoutly holds on to the child's helm – his ears, I mean – until He bring him safe to anchor in the haven of heaven” (Tutor, Bk. I, Ch. VII).

Have a blessed week!

Faith Seeking Understanding for November 12, 2006

Last week’s article detailed the first half of our pilgrimage; this week, I’ll describe the many graces we received upon our arrival in Rome. Even though the drive back from San Giovanni Rotondo was long, we had an ambitious schedule for our first day in Rome: Mass in one of the crypt chapels of St. Peter’s Basilica, followed by a visit to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. After a very brief tour of St. Peter’s and a quick lunch, it was time for the “Scavi” tour.

“Scavi” means “excavations” in Italian; these particular excavations were begun in the 1940s when an ancient cemetery was discovered underneath St. Peter’s Basilica. Even though tradition had always said that St. Peter’s tomb lay directly beneath the high altar, no one had attempted to find the tomb. After extensive digging and many significant discoveries, the team reached the area of St. Peter’s tomb. Many experts were involved, including an expert in ancient graffiti, to decipher the writings on the uncovered monuments.

Amazingly enough, St. Peter’s tomb was found, along with bone fragments of one man, of robust build, from 70 – 80 years old. This matches our description of St. Peter – a fisherman who served the Church as the first pope until around 67 A.D., when tradition says he was crucified upside-down by the emperor Nero. The Scavi tour was a very moving and powerful experience for all of us.

That evening, I had the unexpected good fortune of meeting many of my friends who live in Rome for dinner; God’s providence provided for our busy schedule!The next day, we celebrated Mass at St. Paul’s, visited the catacombs, and several other noteworthy churches.

We had to rise early on Wednesday, to be in line for the Papal Audience (so we could have the best seats). Despite some exuberant late-arriving pilgrims from other countries, we managed to secure our places to have a magnificent view of Pope Benedict XVI as he rode by on his “Popemobile”. He gave a moving talk about the life and importance of St. Paul. Afterwards, some of us spent a wonderful evening attempting to conquer a seemingly endless banquet of Roman cuisine at my favorite local “Hostaria”.

Thursday was our last day in Rome, so we made the most of it by celebrating Mass at Santa Maria Maggiore, the oldest Church (in the West) dedicated to our Lady. Beneath the high altar is a reliquary containing the manger in which Christ was placed on the first Christmas. We enjoyed a wonderful “Arrivederci Roma” dinner at Piazza Navona, and then packed for our flight home. Thank you so much for your prayers while we were gone; we kept your petitions with us for the entire time.

For those interested, I am planning a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in March. Steve Ray will give a presentation on our trip at St. John Neumann on November 28, at 7:00 pm. Have a blessed week!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Homily for the Thirty-First Sunday; Year B

Rather than the text of the homily, just some points for consideration:
  • Christ tells us the first, and most important commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second? Love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Because of Original Sin, our heart, soul, and mind are weakened and darkened. We desire those things we shouldn't, or desire even good things in excess. Our intellect is afflicted by these desires, and we attempt to see reality according to our preferences, instead of according to the truth.
  • No area of our life is exempt from the love of God -- our family life, economic life, sexual life; our recreation, health, and education; even politics are under the realm of Christ's Kingdom. We learn the principles from the Church, and then enact these according to our proper competence. For the lay faithful in the Church, this means proclaiming the Gospel by your lives and choices.
  • Politically, this means that the social order ought to be converted to Christ and conformed to the truth by the involvement of the laity. Nevertheless, we must always live and act in accordance with the truth, given to us by the teaching authority of the Church. Political choices bear great weight in the moral life because of the responsibility we have to govern ourselves rightly.
  • The Church hierarchy does not propose candidates or public policy decisions, but rather seeks to form consciences and sanctify the laity, who in turn act upon well-formed consciences in their political life and build up the social order.
This Tuesday's election presents a concrete opportunity to direct our hearts and illumine our minds according to the Church's timeless and unchangeable teaching on the respect for human life. In particular:
  • Respect for human life at its beginning and end is essential. This defines our political responsibility and governs the limits by which we may properly exercise our political freedom. Embryonic stem-cell research and abortion cannot be supported because of their direct attack on the dignity of the human person.
  • No perceived social benefit, aggregate good, or other criteria can overcome this fundamental and foundational respect for human life at its beginning and end. Moreover, this is not an issue of revealed truth, but rather a circumstance in which our natural reason has become clouded. Therefore the Church calls our attention to the dignity of the person, even though that person is still in the womb.
  • Marriage between one man and one woman also reveals our fundamental understanding of the human person, the meaning and dignity of human sexuality, and the context in which children will be raised.
An objection may be raised, namely, that other areas of "respect for life", such as concern for the poor, improvement in the educational system, questions about just war, and capital punishment, are just as important. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger addressed this very question in a 2004 letter to Cardinal McCarrick, of Washington, D.C. We read: "There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia" (from July 2004 Memo).

Political issues often arouse our deepest emotions and reactions. The world of politics speaks to the very core of our beliefs about right and wrong, good and evil, justice and injustice. The Cross of Jesus Christ directs us to seek not our own wills, our own political parties, or salvation in anyone or anything but Him. Even in our political life, Christ Himself desires to direct our affections, illumine our minds, and inspire our souls so that we may serve Him with all our strength.

May we serve Him faithfully, not just this coming Tuesday, but every day of our life.

Faith Seeking Understanding for November 5, 2006

Back from Italy!

All of our pilgrims safely returned from a very blessed journey to Assisi, San Giovanni Rotondo, and Rome. Personally, I had an incredible time, and received countless graces and blessings that will take quite a while to reflect upon and understand. Thank you so much for all of your prayers while we were gone; we placed your petitions on or near the altars upon which we celebrated the Holy Mass each day, and kept you in our thoughts and prayers throughout the pilgrimage.

I had not returned to Italy since my ordination, so the opportunity to celebrate Mass at the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi, the church where St. Pio celebrated for many years, and St. Peter’s Basilica was nearly overwhelming. Celebrating Mass at these holy places was certainly a highlight for me, but God had many other graces in store for us as well.

Upon arrival in Assisi, we visited the Portiuncula chapel at Saint Mary of the Angels and celebrated Mass. The Portiuncula was one of the churches physically rebuilt by St. Francis, and is very near the place he died. The following day we visited his tomb, and explored Assisi, seeing the tomb of St. Clare and wandering through the quiet, peaceful medieval town.

From there, it was on to San Giovanni Rotondo, via the important shrines of Loreto (the Holy House of Nazareth) and Lanciano. Lanciano is home to an extraordinary Eucharistic Miracle: in the 8th century, after the Consecration of the bread and wine, the host visibly turned to human flesh, and the wine, to human blood. Since that time, the miracle has been kept for pilgrims to venerate, and in the 1970’s, scientific tests revealed that the host was actually a slice of human heart muscle, matching the blood-type of the coagulated blood. This miracle is a profound testimony to the reality of the Eucharistic Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

St. Pio’s shrine was crowded with pilgrims, but we were blessed to speak with a friar who had known Padre Pio for several years before his death. After hearing about Padre Pio’s extraordinary and miraculous life, he asked me to bless our pilgrims with a glove Padre Pio had used to cover the wounds in his hands from the stigmata. This was entirely unexpected, and very moving for all of us.

We then visited the nearby Monte Sant’Angelo, where St. Michael the Archangel has appeared several times. We then had to endure the long drive back to Rome, where we arrived just in time to eat a marvelous dinner and collapse into bed. Next week, I’ll share a few photos and stories from the Rome portion of our pilgrimage, and then we’ll return to the Fathers of the Church.

May God bless you all!

Faith Seeking Understanding for October 29, 2006

Although we’re already back from our pilgrimage to Assisi, San Giovanni Rotondo, and Rome, I’m actually writing this article before we leave. Next week, I promise to include some photographs of our group and share some of the great stories from our journey. I also hope to return to a World Championship Tigers victory!

This week, however, we continue our reading of the Shepherd, and his second book of “commandments.” The seventh commandment the shepherd gives to Hermas is to “Fear the Lord and keep His commandments” (commandment 7). Obeying the commandments might seem obvious, but more importantly, we need to properly understand the “fear of the Lord”. He says “the fear of the Lord is strong, and great, and glorious” (ibid.). This fear does not shrink, cower, or hinder our action; rather, it compels us to love. Such “fear” is not “being afraid,” but rather knowing God’s immense power and love for us, seeks to respond by obeying Him and loving Him in return. Conversely, we are not to fear the devil, because as the shepherd says, “there is no power in him” (ibid.).

Moving to the eighth commandment, we discover what philosophers call the “First Principle of the Natural Law,” or “Do good and avoid evil.” As the shepherd tells Hermas, “Restrain yourself in regard to evil and do it not; but exercise no restraint in regard to good, but do it” (commandment 8). Hermas wonders what he should avoid, and the shepherd covers every sin from lust to slander; but then he hears what good things he should do; the list is beautiful: “First of all, there is faith, then fear of the Lord, love, concord, words of righteousness, truth, patience. …[H]elping widows, looking after orphans and the needy, rescuing the servants of God from necessities, being hospitable, never opposing anyone, being quiet, having fewer needs than all men, reverencing the aged, practicing righteousness, watching the brotherhood, bearing insolence, being long-suffering, encouraging those who are sick in soul, not casting those who have fallen into sin from the faith, but turning them back and restoring them to peace of mind, admonishing sinners, and not oppressing debtors and the needy” (ibid.).

Unceasing prayer is the topic of the ninth commandment: “With all your heart turn to the Lord, and ask of Him without doubting, and you will know the multitude of His tender mercies; that He will never leave you, but fulfill the request of your soul. …Do not cease to make the request of your soul and you will obtain it” (commandment 9).

The tenth commandment exhorts Hermas to cast out grief, which comes from doubt and anger, and to instead “put on cheerfulness, which is always agreeable and acceptable to God, and rejoice in it. For every cheerful man does what is good, and minds what is good, and despises grief; but the sorrowful man always acts wickedly. First, he acts wickedly because he grieves the Holy Spirit, which was given to man a cheerful Spirit.” (commandment 10). Also, grief tends to consume a person, he says, even pushing away the Holy Spirit.

As we move to the eleventh commandment, we find another tool for discernment, rather than something to avoid. The shepherd instead exhorts Hermas to discern between true and false prophets by examining their works: “Try by his deeds and life the man who says that he is inspired” (commandment 11). Certainly, even today, this is sound advice.

Finally, the twelfth commandment concludes this section of the Shepherd. After all the previous exhortations to action or choices, Hermas is now encouraged in his desires: “Put away from you all wicked desire, and clothe yourself with good and chaste desire” (commandment 12, ch. 1). Desire is at the root of our choices and actions; when we strive to purify even our desires, the shepherd says, we cultivate good desires and live in the Spirit of the Lord. Even though these are difficult commandments, we should not be discouraged, because “the man who has the Lord in his heart can also be lord of all and of every one of these commandments” (ibid., ch. 4). In truth, he says, with the Lord in our heart, “there is nothing easier or sweeter, or more manageable than these commandments” (ibid.).

This builds confidence in our own ability to follow Christ. May God bless you all!

Previous Articles Finally Published!

Faith Seeking Understanding for October 22, 2006

Although I’m writing this article before we leave to Italy, according to our itinerary, we should be leaving San Giovanni Rotondo today and arriving in Rome this evening. We’ll return on Friday evening, hopefully with many wonderful stories and photographs, as well as a renewed spirit of faith and desire for holiness. Be assured of our prayers throughout the pilgrimage.

Returning to the Shepherd of Hermas, we continue with the second book, on the commandments. The commandments that are given come from the vision of the shepherd which completed the first book. He gives a total of twelve commandments; we will briefly explore each one.

“First of all, believe that there is one God who created and finished all things, and made all things out of nothing” (bk. 2, commandment 1). Clearly, even obedience to the commandments comes from God Himself; He is the source and goal of our lives.

The second commandment says, “speak evil of no one, nor listen with pleasure to anyone who speaks evil of another” (commandment 2). As a corollary, we are also urged to give alms and care for the poor. The two are related through a certain purity of heart which always seeks holiness of life.

Third, we read, “Love the truth and let nothing but truth proceed from your mouth, that the spirit which God has placed in your flesh may be found truthful” (commandment 3). At these words, Hermas weeps in repentance and begs forgiveness for his lies, at which point the shepherd encourages him in his sorrow – and in reforming his life.

The fourth commandment forbids adultery and other sexual immorality: “Guard your chastity and let no thought enter your heart of another man’s wife, or of fornication, or of similar iniquities” (commandment 4, ch. 1). Yet the shepherd constantly counsels repentance and forgiveness, even for a spouse who has been unfaithful. This prompts Hermas to inquire about the importance of repentance even after baptism, at which point he learns that “if anyone is tempted by the devil and sins after [baptism], he has opportunity to repent but once” (ibid., ch. 3). From this statement, we see that the penitential discipline in the early Church was very rigorous, but offered hope to those who sinned after baptism.

Next, the struggle between patience and anger is analyzed; we can recognize the same struggles in our souls, even today: “For nothing at all, the man or woman becomes embittered on account of occurrences in their daily life, as for instance on account of their food, or some superfluous word that has been uttered, or on account of some friend, or some gift or debt, or some such senseless affair. For all these things are foolish and empty and unprofitable to the servants of God. But patience is great, and mighty, and strong, and calm in the midst of great enlargement, joyful, rejoicing, free from care, glorifying God at all times, having no bitterness in her, and abiding continually meek and quiet. Now this patience dwells with those who have complete faith” (commandment 5, ch. 2). Patience, he says, will then strengthen us for the rest of the commandments.

The sixth commandment, rather than being something to avoid, offers guidance for the “discernment of spirits.” Hermas asks how to know the difference between the Holy Spirit and the spirit of the evil one. Just as Jesus says, we know these spirits by their fruits: the evil spirit encourages us in anger, harshness, greed, lust, pride, and similar things; the good spirit, however, encourages us in righteousness, purity, chastity, gentleness and modesty. His counsel? “Understand them, and trust the angel of righteousness; but depart from the angel of iniquity, because his instruction is bad in every deed” (commandment 6, ch. 2).

Next week, we will finish the commandments of the Shepherd. Confidently, too, we should be celebrating a victorious Detroit Tigers World Championship team as well. May God bless you all!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Photos from Italy

If you click on the link below, you can visit the photo album from the pilgrimage. It's only a small sample.