Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Holy Week Experience Live from The Holy Land

EDITOR'S NOTE: Theology editor Paul Dion, STL, is travelling with his wife Isabel to Jerusalem for further Theological studies. His trip purposely coincides with the celebration of the Holy Week in the Holy City. During his pilgrimage, Paul will be posting daily reports for our readers direct from Jerusalem, the city where it all happened. Travelers to the Holy City will tell you that setting foot on the very ground where Jesus once walked, can be a very spiritual experience. Spending the Holy Week in the Holy City, where the entire Passion of Christ transpired 0ver 2000 years ago, is a truly special event in one's life.

We share with you, our readers, the Holy Week spiritual journey of one who walks the streets of Jerusalem as Christians worldwide celebrate the suffering and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Please come back to this blog daily and be a part of "The Holy Week experience Live from the Holy Land."

You will see Paul Dion's daily reports from the Holy Land in the COMMENTS section of this post.

"WE'VE ARRIVED IN JERUSALEM!" My report 3/28/07
"OH LITLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM," My report 3/29/07
"JERUSALEM, YOU ARE MINE!" My report 3/31/07
"JERUSALEM! JERUSALEM! JERUSALEM!" My Palm Sunday report 4/1/07
"WHAT MAKES THE HOLY LAND, HOLY?" - A Short Meditation, My report 4/2/07
"THE HOLY LAND - It's all about the Holy Land," My report 4/4/07
"Last Supper Reflection frim the Holy Land," My report 4/5/07
"DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME," mY REPORT, " My report 4/6/O7

Please click POST A COMMENT at the bottom of the post to add your own comments on any of his reports from the Holy Land.

"Jerusalem, My Jerusalem"
By Paul Dion, STL

Why is my soul crying out this way? What is the source of these groans of longing that keep escaping me from the deepest recesses of my soul?

Growing up I only felt this way for one other city, The Eternal One. Then some forty years ago Jerusalem took hold of me and has been twisting my heart strings for all that time. One time, 35 years ago I was on my way there when the superiors of the Mission interrupted my journey with orders for me to proceed post haste to New York to quell a fiery problem that had ignited suddenly in the ranks.

Now, I am going. I have tickets, borrowed money to sustain myself, a school to attend and a reason for going. Now, all I have to do it to get there.

Believe me, since we (my wife too, of course) made the decision to attend this school I have been examining my conscience. I am so timorous that God is going to find that rock that I struck twice rather than to trust Him. I am scrubbing every corner of my heart and soul to assure Him that I have a clean house that is in order.

All I can say is, I'm not there yet, and I pray that God has kept me around this long because He wants to give me the chance to see His Home Town so that when He takes me by the hand to walk me home I'll know where to go.

I have promised that I would take you all along with me through the magic of the Internet. I will make good on my promise. You can see that this is not a sight-seeing expedition for me. This is a walk on the edge of spiritual reality. I can assure you that you will not get my take on the politics of the region.

If I get the chance to place my prayer paper in a crack of the Wailing Wall, all your names will be on it. If I get a chance to dip my toe into the Jordan (Lord, not just my feet, but my head too...) I will shiver for all of you. As I walk the Via Dolorosa, I will gladly place myself in the position of the weeping mothers of Jerusalem so that I can weep with them while I am still alive so that I won't weep later.

I will share these moments with you in short spurts. I don't think that I want to take too much time away from My Host. After three weeks of school and meditation in Jerusalem, we will pray with our father in the faith, Benedict XVI in Rome, my Rome. St. Francis and St. Clare await us in Assisi along with some of my La Salette missionary classmates. We will wash ourselves with the tears of our Weeping Mother at LaSalette and then celebrate the glorious Immaculate Conception in Lourdes.

God willing, we will take some of His Spirit back for everybody here at the parish as well as for all of you who are connected to us and to our Savior electronically. We will bring back some of the motherly love and courage of His Sweet Mother. God willing, we will share His infusion of Grace through this event with you who have stayed home.

We invite you to pray with us as our journey allows us to be enveloped in the aura of His salvific journey to Earth. If something happens to me over there, (You know) then you sure won't cry at my funeral. If you do, I'll take my prayer paper out of the crack !

You will see the rest of Paul Dion's daily reports from the Holy Land in the COMMENTS section of this post.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Must we believe 100% of what the Church teaches to be Catholic?

The safe answer to the question is "yes". Because the Church is an essential part of our faith, as Bride of Christ, we who are Catholic accept 100% of what she teaches as being what He taught and continues to teach through her. This attitude was presented to us by Vatican Council I in these words:

"Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman Church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world." (Pastor Aeternus, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Vatican I: Ch.3, par.2)

Chapter 3 closes with, “So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.” (Pastor Aeternus, July 18, 1870 from the Acts of the Council, Session four, above the signature of the Pontifical Secretary}

Now let’s listen to the words on the same topic from Vatican Council II:

“Fully incorporated into the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who--by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion--are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops.” (Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Vatican II, Cap 2, 14)

These are two dogmatic views of the same truth from two different points of view. Let’s look at them through the prism of real life examples.

Vatican I

“I’m your father, this is my house. I make the rules. Live it my way or the devil take you.”

Vatican II

“We are all family. Your mother and I made a covenant to help one another to be better human beings. You and we are all in this together. What’s ours is yours and we believe that what is yours should also be ours. We can help you to be a better person too. We urge you to join us in this spirit of mutual help. Come with us, this is really the only place to be.”

Faith in God and His Church is a gift. It is an unconditional gift where knowledge of Him, Love of Him and our fellow creatures plus the hope that we can all live here on earth in peace and join Him in Heaven because we accepted the gift and responded to its demands. Faith in God and His Bride, the Church, is a pure, unconditional gift. We either take it all and put it under our pillow every night and live it every day or we cannot claim to be 100% Catholic.

Because Faith in God is such a dynamic gift, most of us believe more than 100% of what the Church teaches “officially”. That is because much of what we believe is not included in the official dogma of the Church. A lot of what we believe is not even in the official requirements of the Church’s discipline. Some of what we believe may even be outside of Church teaching, but not necessarily anti-church. You need examples? Here we go:

If you believe that you must first confess your sins before receiving communion, at all times, that is more than what the Church teaches. The Church teaches that those who wish to receive Holy Communion must be free from MORTAL sin. Confession is the ordinary step necessary to cleanse the soul of mortal sin. Going to confession more often as an effort to seek the help of a regular confessor as we strive for higher levels of Christian perfection, is more than the Church teaches.

If you believe that divorced people are banned from taking Holy Communion, you are stricter than the Church. The Church teaches that divorced people who have remarried are banned from receiving Holy Communion. To deprive divorced people who remain single from participating in the fullness of the eucharistic banquet is outside the Church's teaching, and should not be promulgated by anyone.

If you believe that homosexuality is a sin, that is not what the church teaches. Homosexuality is no more a sin than heterosexuality. What is a sin is sexual activity outside of marriage.

I could go on and create a long list. You get the point, I am sure. There are a lot of areas in our magnificent Catholic Religion that remain unknown or not understood by many holy Catholics. If you want more examples or you have questions about this, write your question down and send it to in the comments section provided here below.


To be a Catholic requires that the members agree to be dedicated members of the family. The members have to believe that they are required to contribute to the welfare of the family, as defined by the Head of the Family and His ordained "household". To live under the same roof of the family requires that every member of the family accept the totality of beliefs of the familial community. Not more, not less.

Those who do not abide by at least the minimum of the family rules will not be allowed to access the benefits of the family community.

The truth is in the answer to the question: Do you agree to define the conduct of your Catholic life in absolute relation to the authority of the pope and his bishops, in relation to your conscience as guided by the gift of Faith as illumined by the general teaching office of the church (magisterium)?

That's a complex question. It requires some thought and meditation. If you want to be able to stay dry-eyed at my funeral, you had better dedicate yourself to the hard question presented here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

2007 ANAHEIM: Religious Education Congress or Matterhorn?

By Paul Dion, STL
Well, we're back from Anaheim Convention Center, the venue of the 2007 Religious Education Congress. This was a new experience for me this year. I was actually working for three days, or nearly three days. I have to admit that it was fun. I will also relate to you that nothing has changed over the thirty plus years that I have been touched either directly or indirectly by the event.
Come aboard and I'll sprinkle you with some glitter from the Magic Kingdom in the hope that some of it will turn out to be Grace from the KINGDOM.

I have had three personal paragraphs of experiences at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (The Congress). All three paragraphs lead to the same conclusion, year after year. So we start at the beginning, many, many years ago.

PARAGRAPH 1 (Circa 1979-1991)

My wife, director of Faith Formation at an inner city parish in San Diego, always attends The Congress. She always arranges the trip and the lodging for as many of the catechists as she can get to commit to three days away from the family. I teach a couple of Theology 101 courses for the Diocese of San Diego, but for the next three days we practice the System.

We buy a package for Disneyland and not too expensive hotel. Friday and Saturday she studies and listens and participates in The Congress. The boys and I are tearing Disneyland apart. Sunday morning we all go to Mass at the arena and then the three of us go back for one last pass at Disneyland. At about two PM we leave and drive back to San Diego. Wife tells me the highlights of her experience on the way home while the two guys are passed out in the back of the van.
Seven PM on the first evening of my Theology Class.
Three solid hours of grilling about the "whacked-out" presenter who said that the natural law is an outdated concept; what about the nun who said that homosexuality is not a sin? and then there's this guy who said that the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke are not historically true... Three hours of this stuff. I never had anyone absent for the first session after The Congress. I don't think that I attended three conferences in the first twelve years of my teaching experience in San Diego, but I had these tremendously exciting classes immediately after the affair, every single year.

PARAGRAPH 2 (Circa 1993 - 2006)
Our children are somewhat older now and so we leave them home in San Diego on Friday. I sign up for the most "ignominious" speakers on the roster. Of course Saturday and Sunday don't change, but I get in some conference time. I can't remember how many years we did this, but I don't remember a single "outrageous" statement being made in my presence. Not even by Edwina Gateley.

Children are now grown. I and my wife know where every rest room in Disneyland is located. But now, we don't go there. I have to count on her to direct me to the rest rooms at The Congress. This is neat. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, conferences, Masses, film exhibits, concerts and the occasional hospitality suite. Nothing that can match what I was accustomed to in the "real world", but good enough for Church work, ya know!
I no longer teach for the Diocese of San Diego. I live either in Fremont (S.F. Bay Area) or in Moreno Valley (So. Cal.) Some of the "hot buttons" have changed. Collegiality is a forgotten word. Immigration is in; ordination of women is menttioned, like in, "I'm not supposed to bring this up, but..."; the mandatory comments on homosexual life in the Church, as in, "Homosexuals have gifts to offer to the Church too..." etc. etc.
I teach Theology mostly in the morning now.

I like the audience that morning sessions attract. But the beat goes on. "What's with these girl servers?; Some guy said that the covenant with Moses is no longer valid!; This other speaker said that the ten commandments aren't the only commandments in the Old Testament! Come On..." "I was in the room when the speaker said that the church is not absolutely against capital punishment."

PARAGRAPH 3 (2007 Religious Education Congress)
Mama and I go to The Congress. Sadly, she is not feeling well, so she gets to enjoy the hotel bed. I am healthy and working for We have a booth and we're chatting up a storm. We're signing up subscribers; selling ad space and talking to the publishers, artists, writers and bishops who happen to be there.
I was in seventh heaven. I hadn't been to a trade show in about 8 years. Man, this was great. It was a great experience evangelizing at a trade show. Those of you who know trade shows can vouch that they are generally not great evangelizing venues. Hey this was great.
I went to three conferences and three Masses. Two of the conferences were kind of blah. The third one was exciting. Immigration and where to find it in the Bible. This guy was tough. I mean, real tough for a guy who converted from being a Quaker. Maybe that's why he converted. It's more fun being a tough Catholic than a meek Quaker. Even the Bishop of San Bernardino had a booth at the trade show. He and his auxiliary were there for the entire weekend. Say what you will, I think this was excellent strategy.
Nine-thirty I have to repeat this?
Ninety minutes grew into two hours. One person said, I attended four conferences. One that I liked and three that I wish I hadn't heard. Oh, well...

So we now end with The Conclusion:

1. I say this every year. Go to The Congress with an open mind and listen to everything as if you were a child. Keep an open mind and don't go around looking for heretical statements. With an attitude like that you are sure to hear several that will strike you as being against Catholic doctrine only because you were predisposed to listen for such.
2. Remember that the presenters have perhaps written 10 books and have been teaching and studying for 20 to 40 years. They are trying to interest you, they are not trying to educate you. They can't educate you in 75 minutes. If you want to be educated, go to school where you can sit down for 45 hours and really build an intellectual and emotional environment around the topic.
3. Remember that the bishop (Archbishop Mahony, in this case) is the Teacher who controls the content. There is not a whole lot of academic freedom concerning Church teaching. You can ask Hans Küng or Charles Curran. Rest assured that the presenters may push the envelope and you may be somewhat surprised by some of the statements. Trust in the fact that these people are not out to get ostracized by violating the Archbishop's mandate. This after all is their living.
This is not your living. What may seem shocking to you could very well be a staple for a more deeply initiated individual, including the bishop.
4. Do not spend much time reading the comments of people who have no credentials to judge what is or what is not orthodox Church teaching. There is a whole large office in Rome that is charged to do that. Cardnal Levada is in charge of taking reports from the bishops concerning questionable matters of doctrine. Remember that by their ordination to the level of Bishop, the bishops are the ones who by their sacramental grace and the authority of their office are the "guardian angels" of the magisterium. Just because you don't like an idea or a concept doesn't mean that is is not Catholic Doctrine.

So, keep going to The Congress. Keep reading Keep an open mind and a gentle heart so that God will have a comfortable place to stay with you, no matter what you hear.

Many of you have heard me say this, but it bears repeating, "Faith is not an intellectual exercise." Faith is a love relationship between a human being and God. Don't let yourself be shaken from that. One statement in a 75 minute talk at The Congress should not disturb you.

If we all walk with God in the dynamic love of discipleship, we won't be tempted to cry at one another's funeral, least of all, at mine.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

"This is where the people are"

Trade Show Evangelization with San Bernardino's Bishop Gerald Barnes, DD
By Paul Dion, STL

Here's a bishop who gets it. The Bishop, His Excellency Gerald Barnes, his auxiliary bishop, His Excellency Rutilio del Riego, and much of his staff rented space at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress held March 1-4, 2007 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

This congress has been an annual event for many years. This year, it is reported that the attendance at the congress surpassed all previous years by attracting more than 40,000 participants.

Bishop Barnes is the Ordinary of the Diocese of San Bernardino, California. He has 2,000,000 Catholics in his territory. I don't dare guess how many square miles of Southwestern desert it covers. But one thing is sure, Bishop Barnes knows that during the "Anaheim Convention," the key people to whom he delegates his teaching authority will be there.

He knows that if he is going to meet his key people, he has to make himself available. So he did. He was so available that he even consented to have his likeness appear on the Internet in the pages of

Bishop Barnes was present in his booth for the entire three days of the convention. He was there among the vendors, the hawkers and the gawkers. He was there talking to everyone.

We at wonder how many people from across North America asked themselves "why is that bishop here in the middle of this mayhem?"

Many people in fact made the point, "Bishop, it is so nice to see you here."

His response was ever simple and direct, every time, "This is where the people are."

I encountered his auxiliary (Bishop Del Riego) blocking an aisle in the middle of the exhibit hall. I gently took his arm and guided him to a corner of the intersection and gently and humorously chided him, "Bishop, why are you standing in the middle of traffic?"

He looked at me, smiled and said, "This is where the people are."

When I asked Bishop Barnes' permission to take his photo, he graciously acquiesced and asked if I wanted him to stand by my side. I said, "no, just continue working, it will impress the readers." So he smiled and continued working. The result is at the top of the page.

Bishop Barnes is an advocate of daring forms of evangelization., "America's Catholic Life Style Magazine" operates from within the boundaries of his diocese. Bishop Barnes has parishes in his diocese that have revolutionized the presentation of the doctrinal truths to the people in the spirit of the United States Bishops' Pastoral letter, "Our Hearts were Burning Within us."

He has parishes that strive to encourage "home faith formation schooling" in order to embrace the growth of the Domestic Church (the family at home) so that the parents and the children grow in the faith together. He has parishes that organize mini-conventions of doctrinal presentations for adults in an effort to make these same people realize what it means to be disciples of Christ.

Bishop Barnes inserts himself into the locations where "the people are."

Bishop Barnes had his own booth at a "trade show." He was there among them. He had nothing to sell. All he had were his ears.

No one knows all that he heard. We assume that he heard plenty. We know that he heard it in English and in Spanish. We know that some of it was about immigration and maybe some of it was about the bankruptcy of theSan Diego Diocese, just a few miles down the road. Some of it was good. commends Bishop Barnes for spending three days in the floor in the arena where the people were.

Bishop, I'm not planning to be in your diocese when God comes to take me by the hand. Of course, God has His own designs for me. Be that as it may, please remember that I don't want any crying at my funeral.