Today’s Collect

This Sunday’s collect (opening prayer) is one of the most beautiful of the liturgical year:

Almighty ever-living God,
who in the abundance of your kindness
surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you,
pour out your mercy upon us
to pardon what conscience dreads
and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

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Homily on Annulments


This weekend I preached on annulments. The homily was meant to be a general overview; there is much more that could be said. Just by way of example, I didn’t spend any time trying to explain why the term “annulment” is a misnomer.

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE HOMILY HERE. (And maybe forward it to your acquaintances to whom it could be of interest.)

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How Repentance Works

Seen on Facebook. This is good:


Thanks, Fr. West!

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Thank you for the book!

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Today is traditionally the feast of St. Michael. In more recent times Sts. Gabriel and Raphael were grouped together with him also. So, happy Feast of the Archangels!

I have typically gone back and forth between praying the Divine Praises, the St. Michael & Guardian Angel Prayers, and the Hail Holy Queen (for Marian days) after weekday Mass. Basically I normally just do what seems “right” on the given day.

I think I have basically decided today, however: only the St. Michael and Guardian Angel Prayers from now on after daily Mass. We need the help of the angels more than ever, especially the help of St. Michael against evil.

* * *

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection
against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host:
by the power of God,
cast into hell Satan
and all the other evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.

* * *

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits me here:
ever this day be at my side,
to light, to guard;
to rule and guide.

* * *

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Another Bishop Requires Communion on the Tongue

Pope Benedict XVI distributes Holy Communion on the tongue in 2008.

Pope Benedict XVI distributes Holy Communion on the tongue in 2008.

Some good news today via an English blog* (which, unfortunately, does not link to an original source): the Bishop of the Diocese of Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, has directed that the faithful in his diocese are to receive Holy Communion only on the tongue. (source)

This is a topic I’ve posted about on several occasions before. For more, see:

here, here, and here

* * *

* I cannot otherwise recommend the blog I linked to: it is apparently pro-Medjugorje, which is an alleged apparition that we must approach with great precaution. I’ve previously written about it here. CAVEAT LECTOR!

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Good Press

The Birmingham News posted a nice article about the new St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Learning Center at Holy Rosary Parish. Click below to see it:

Click the graphic to load the article.

Click the graphic to load the article.

It was providential that the Center was dedicated just as Pope Francis was coming to our country. I wish I could truthfully say that I planned it that way; but God did!

Here is an update on our fundraising status. My thanks to all who have helped! Can you help us meet the goal? If so, click the thermometer and follow the instructions in the page that loads:

UPDATED 9/26/15 4:00pm The $4,233 is the amount that our "final phase" cost (the entire project cost much more) – we are nearly 2/3 of the way toward raising that final amount!

UPDATED 9/26/15 4:00pm
The $4,233 is the amount that our “final phase” cost (the entire project cost much more) – we are nearly 2/3 of the way toward raising that final amount!

* * *

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Dedication and Blessing of Learning Center

For those who have been following my occasional posts about our new Learning Center at Holy Rosary Church, I wanted to share some good news with you from this morning.

Although the Center has been open for two full weeks now, it had not yet been formally inaugurated and blessed. Bishop Baker came to take care of that for us today. Following our 8:30am Community Mass, all gathered in the basketball court between the church and the Learning Center, and there the Bishop welcomed everyone and commended us about taking seriously Pope Francis’ words about serving the poor and those on the margins of society. He also noted that it was providential that we should be inaugurating this new Center at the same time that our Holy Father was coming to our country.

Here, then, is the prayer the Bishop recited to bless the Center:

Lord Jesus Christ, who taught your apostles to pray that peace might descend upon any house they entered, we pray you to bless + by our ministry this building destined for the education of the young. Bestow your peace and blessing on it in full measure, so that the volunteers and young people may experience your saving grace. May your holy angels keep guard here and drive away all power of the enemy. Inspire the volunteers with knowledge, wisdom, and holy awe. Grant the young people grace from on high, so that they may grasp, retain, and put into practice the lessons they are taught. May volunteers and young people alike so please you by a truly virtuous life that they may finally merit to be received into your everlasting home in heaven. Through you, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who live and reign for ever and ever.
All: Amen.

Here is a photo of the Bishop as he welcomed the crowd. I like the ray of sunlight coming down:

Photo by BAM

Photo by BAM

The Bishop first sprinkled the crowd with Holy Water, before going inside the Center to bless its two rooms and bathroom:

Photo by BAM

Photo by BAM

And here is a photo I took recently of one of the interior rooms. The outer-space theme has been a big hit among youth and adults alike!

Photo by Fr Jerabek

Photo by Fr Jerabek

Support for this new apostolate has been outstanding. Not only do we have books in every possible nook and cranny of the new Center, but we also have a store room full of them for future use (we plan for the children to take books home with them also, so we will need to put out new ones regularly). We have a great initial group of volunteers, and I know that with time and by word of mouth, their number will increase also. Finally, financial support has been very strong – we have nearly “paid off” the project. There is just a little way to go:

UPDATED 9/26/15 4:00pm The $4,233 is the amount that our "final phase" cost (the entire project cost much more) – we are nearly 2/3 of the way toward raising that final amount!

UPDATED 9/26/15 4:00pm
The $4,233 is the amount that our “final phase” cost (the entire project cost much more) – we are nearly 2/3 of the way toward raising that final amount!

We are getting closer to our goal! If you would like to help us get closer to reaching it, please CLICK HERE and follow the instructions for using either PayPal or sending us a check. I greatly appreciate your support!

As I said to the crowd gathered this morning, it is always a blessing when the Bishop comes to our parish; today he brought a blessing with him, and I feel sure that a great work is beginning at Holy Rosary to help our disadvantaged area youth have a brighter future through greater literacy and a love of learning. Thanks be to God!

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Catholic Vocabulary


I’ve not been able to find the time to write the longer columns that I’d like to write for my church bulletin lately… to everything there is a season. The idea occurred to me today, maybe I should do a “Catholic Vocab” blurb instead each week, in which a typical word from our lexicon of Catholic jargon is presented along with a brief definition.

Ideas on words to include?

I’ll get the list started – use the comment box to submit your ideas.

Pyx (particularly since some people think that the singular is “pick”)
Humeral Veil

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Your Prayers during My Retreat


We have our diocesan priest retreat this week at St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama; the monks always provide us with fine hospitality and a prayerful place to recollect.

If you have any special prayer intentions that you’d like me to remember, please feel free to submit them via this form. I ask that you please use this form (if you’re viewing this via email, please click the link to see it on the blog and then use the form), to help me stay organized. I will remove the form after the retreat begins.


Please pray for all of us priests on retreat!

UPDATE: More than 30 people requested prayers! I will remember them during my retreat! Thank you.

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The Love of Learning

In my childhood I went to public schools – and good ones, at that. I am grateful for the education that I received. But I do still remember some of its negative aspects also. (There really weren’t many.)

One of the negatives was the overall “drabness” of our school library in my elementary school. I remember, even as a fourth or fifth grader, thinking that it was a depressing place that did not inspire learning. It was a typical 1950s construction (low-lying brick structure with large aluminum-frame windows, painted concrete block walls inside). The library, if I recall correctly, had a lot of that certain shade of yellow/gold that was popular back when the place was built. It was just very institutional.

Fortunately, in spite of whatever small negative elements there were, I did develop a love of learning that remains with me to this day.

This same outcome is what we want for the youth who live near my smaller parish, Holy Rosary. They live in one of the most afflicted neighborhoods of Birmingham, Alabama. The public schools in the area have not always had the highest ratings. We have encountered children who – even in third or fourth grade, and receiving decent grades on their report cards – had extremely low or nearly non-existent levels of literacy. These children often come from irregular family situations and poverty. Some have never really been read to. And in the face of this, our local situation, we want to make a difference.

Thus, thanks to the inspiration of a certain special lady and the great help of many parishioners, friends, and other members of our community, we have started a new apostolate, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Learning Center – named for the first canonized American-born saint and founder of Catholic schools in our country, who also had a religious order that served the poor. The Center just opened this past week. It consists of two rooms and a bathroom in an existing building on our campus, which we renovated so that the youth will have a good place to do homework and read. And there are no concrete block walls or harvest gold drapes. Much to the contrary. Take a look:

The initial reaction – having only been open for two days – has been outstanding. The kids love it. I think it will not be long before we will have really outgrown the space (and I have plans for addressing that down the line)!

We have an enthusiastic and well-qualified Center coordinator and a great beginning team of volunteers. I know we will have no problem continuing to grow our volunteer team. We have also gotten enormous donations of books and have a whole store room filled with them now, enabling us not only to rotate the selections that we keep out for the children, but also send books home with them so that the reading and learning can continue there.

The Center entrance. (The steps have since been painted.) We have a different hours sign for the winter, when the Center will close a little earlier due its getting dark earlier.

The Center entrance. (The steps have since been painted.) We have a different hours sign for the winter, when the Center will close a little earlier due its getting dark earlier.

Many people have very generously donated as well to make this room a reality. But this is where we are still coming up a bit short. We still need $4,232.92 to finish paying the bills for things as they currently stand. Not that I haven’t paid our bills – I have. But I have had to borrow funds from other areas to do so!

God has provided marvelously for this project thus far, and I know that our total need will be met. Indeed, I am confident it will be more than met, so that we will have some reserves on hand for our ongoing expenses and future needs as well. (Incidentally, the annual budget for the Center is extremely low, consisting mostly of office and cleaning supplies. Most of our expenses have been from renovation and decorating costs.)

If you feel moved to help us bridge this financial gap, you can donate online using PayPal (click the button below):

Or you can write a check to “Holy Rosary Church” with “Learning Center” in the memo and mail it to:

Holy Rosary Church
Attn: SEAS Learning Center
P.O. Box 321576
Birmingham, AL 35232-1576

Holy Rosary Church is a parish of the Diocese of Birmingham Alabama, and gifts are tax deductible to the extent allowed by applicable State and Federal laws. Donors will receive a letter for tax purposes.

AS OF September 26, 2015 at 4:00pm CDT:

UPDATED 9/26/15 4:00pm The $4,233 is the amount that our "final phase" cost (the entire project cost much more) – we are nearly 2/3 of the way toward raising that final amount!

* * *

Thank you for your support, and above all, thank you for your prayers! The Lord is doing a beautiful work in our midst and I pray that the children who pass through our doors will indeed develop a love of reading and learning, and have a brighter future as a result.

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Can Deacons Bless a St. Benedict Medal?


What we are really talking about here is both exorcising and blessing the medal, but many people refer to the blessing alone when speaking about it.

As you know, the St. Benedict medal is a very powerful sacramental that has, for many centuries, had a special blessing with exorcism connected with it. Until September 26, 1964, only a Benedictine priest could give this blessing. Since 1964, any priest may do so.

But is it only priests?

If you look at the web site published by the Benedictines themselves, they claim that any priest or deacon may perform the exorcism and blessing. When I was a transitional deacon I was doubtful of this fact and attempted to gain clarification on it, but was unsuccessful at the time. But now I have been able to sort through some** of the issues and want to share my findings.

The citation given on the above web site is for an Instruction issued by the Vatican on September 26, 1964. It also cites canon 1168 of the (1983) Code of Canon Law. Let’s look at both.

The Instruction in question is called Inter Oecumenici and was issued by the Sacred Congregation of Rites (which is now called the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments). Chapter III, section VII, paragraph 77 of that document says the following:

The blessings in the Rituale Romanum hitherto reserved, may be given by any priest, except for: the blessing of a bell for the use of a blessed church or oratory; the blessing of the cornerstone of a church; the blessing of a new church or public oratory; the blessing of an antemensium; the blessing of a new cemetery; papal blessings; the blessing and erection of the stations of the cross, reserved to the bishop.

The blessing and exorcism of the Medal of St. Benedict was once a “reserved” blessing (only Benedictines could do it), but now, according to this instruction, “any priest” may do so. It says nothing about deacons!

Let’s look, then, at Canon 1168, also cited on the Benedictine web site:

The minister of sacramentals is a cleric who has been provided with the requisite power. According to the norm of the liturgical books and to the judgment of the local ordinary lay persons who possess the appropriate qualities can also administer some sacramentals.

In fact, there is not enough information in that canon to conclude that deacons can perform this blessing and exorcism. This is because it says that “a cleric who has been provided with the requisite power” can administer the sacramentals. Have deacons been provided with the requisite power to bless and exorcise the medal of St. Benedict? Let’s see what else canon law has to say, now in third paragraph of the following canon, 1169:

A deacon can impart only those blessings expressly permitted by law.

Deacons can only celebrate those blessings expressly permitted by law. From the citations provided on the Benedictine web site, there is no indication that deacons have been granted the privilege to exorcise and bless St. Benedict medals. Perhaps there is some later decree from the Vatican on this particular point, but it is not cited and I am unaware of it. (If anyone does know of one, please let me know!)

Under current liturgical law deacons can bless religious articles (see Book of Blessings, # 1444). Therefore, a deacon could bless a medal of St. Benedict using the prayer in the Book of Blessings. But I conclude, from the foregoing, that he could not exorcise the medal using the traditional prayer which, as far as I have been able to determine, was never extended to deacons. Deacons should therefore not attempt to exorcise St. Benedict Medals.

* * *

Priests who may be interested in having the Latin text of the blessing and exorcism of the Medal of St. Benedict may download it by clicking the button below (in a form I made to be printed on a regular sheet, the page cut in half, then it could be folded and kept in one’s wallet or pocket ritual):

Please note that the prayer refers to plural "medals". Those who know Latin could change it to singular, I suppose.

Please note that the prayer refers to plural “medals”. Those who know Latin could change it to singular, I suppose.

* * *

** I said that I’ve sorted out some of the issues, because I think there is further confusion created by the fact that Summorum Pontificum allows us to use the books as they were in 1962 (not as emended in 1964) – so in that sense this blessing might be considered “reserved” again. There are other issues, such as the abrogation of some customs and prior privileges by the 1983 Code of Canon Law. There may be a simple way to sort this all out but I don’t see it at the moment and I don’t have the time right now to study it further. In any case, this blessing has been used for centuries, and since 1964, all priests have enjoyed the privilege of using it. The Church has not seen fit to say anything more about it, so I trust that we may continue using it, even if there are possibly some legal technicalities!

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