Resources on St. Paul

Fr. Raymond Collins is a widely respected biblical scholar with a particular expertise in the writings of St. Paul. The Liturgical Press has published two books of Fr. Collins that I believe merit consideration by serious students of Scripture.

One is part of the Sacra Pagina series of biblical commentaries that the Liturgical Press launched in the 1990s. It is on 1 Corthinians. The other is entitled “Letters that Paul Did Not Write.”

I recommend highly for several reasons.

First, Fr. Collins is a top rate scholar.

Second, he is not ideologically oriented. Sometimes he opts for a traditional perspective, other

Jesus and Divorce, A contemporary perspective

In 2002, Wipf and Stock Publishers published an excellent scholarly work by two highly respected evangelical authors, Gordon J. Wenham and William E. Heth. They tackle one of the more perplexing problems in New Testament exegesis (critical interpretation or study), that of Jesus’ uncompromising teaching on divorce and remarriage.

This topic is particularly relevant in the American Roman Catholic community because of the disproportionate number of annulments granted, an aberration addressed by the last several pontiffs. This has been chronicled in several books, both from a sympathetic and critical perspective.

First, there is little doubt among scholars as to the historical teaching of Jesus on divorce and remarriage: he absolutely prohibited it. The so-called exception clause to this prohibition in Matthew’s Gospel is generally presumed by Catholic scholars to refer to marriage within forbidden degrees of kinship according to Leviticus. It is typically considered to originate from Matthew or his community in response to a pastoral issue. Because of its highly Jewish flavor, Matthew’s Gospel is particularly sensitive to this issue.

Paul’s teachings, including the so-called Pauline Privilege accessed by Catholic canon law in annulment proceedings, though not specifically discussed under those terms, are also addressed.

Jesus and Divorce addresses this and other New Testament teachings on divorce in an even-handed manner that would be of particular interest to Roman Catholics. It offers an extensive critique and affirmation of Fr. Raymond F. Collins highly praised work Divorce and the New Testament, available from The Liturgical Press.

A Roman Catholic reader unfamiliar with scholarly exegesis would be overwhelmed by the book. However an informed reader of any Christian denomination would find it packed with useful information and helpful insights.

Gordon Wenham is the author of an outstanding commentary on Genesis as well.  He has written another book on the subject of marriage and divorce in the New Testament, and is worth checking out. I find him accessible, thorough, balanced, and orthodox, an uncommon combination today.

I highly recommend Jesus and Divorce to serious readers interested in exploring this problematic question.  The following is contact information from the publisher:

Wipf and Stock Publishers 199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3 Eugene, OR 97401-2960

Tel: (541) 344-1528 Fax: (541) 344-1506

Ordering Inquiries:

I am confident you will find this book challenging and enlightening. It is particularly refreshing in contrast to permissive views on the subject that have infiltrated the Christian churches both at the magisterial and pastoral level. The authors take seriously the words of Jesus and their practical import for 21st century readers. Would that more scholars articulate this perspective with such clarity and acuity.

New book on Pope Francis

Crossroad Publishing has recently published an attractive coffee table picture book on Pope Francis with excellent essays on his background and perspective, as well as that of his predecessor. The pictures are very well done, and the writing quite accessible. The book is entitled: A Call to Serve: Pope Francis and the Catholic Church. If you slip and refer to him as St. Francis, don’t worry, you have plenty of company. With a name, personality, and background like that, it comes with the territory.

I found the writing particularly engaging. It speaks to both novice and the well read. It is broken down into manageable and user-friendly subtopics surrounded by colorful photos.

For a limited time, Crossroad is offering this at an outstanding price of $7 per copy, and $6 per copy for orders of 40 or more. This offer expires on June 14.  Here is ordering information provided by the publisher.

To order online –

For bulk orders, email

YouTube Video Clip –

If you mention this blog as a source for your interest, you unfortunately will not receive an additional discount, but you will likely get some sympathy.  Check it out and enjoy.

The hypocrisy of sports illustrated

Sports illustrated, the same shameful rag that objectifies women in swimsuits at the same time that it castigates men who respond to inappropriate dress and advances tries once again, unsuccessfully and shamefully to be socially relevant.

As the Church teaches, and society observed until the onset of hedonism, relativism, and individualism, homosexual behavior is wrong. Making an issue, literally, of a basketball player acknowledging his homosexuality. Not worthy of comment here.

However, what does merit mention is a comment some weeks ago by a SI writer:

In the March 18, 2013 edition of SI, an author, Richard Hoffer, made this comment:

“McIlroy became, in the casual decision to walk to his car instead of the 9th tee
box, a loser of the worst stripe, joining a gumptionless gallery of quitters
that includes the likes of Roberto Duran, Shelley Long, Dave Chappelle and Pope
Benedict XVI.”

Can u imagine the gall and inappropriateness of writing that and of publishing it.

Put simply, it is ok to malign a pope, but not those who act immorally.  Sports has become idolatry. Write SI with your disapproval. I did but the email bounced. Maybe they are not interested in hearing negative feedback on their immorality. If you get a valid email address for such letters, send it to me.

Also, I welcome your posts on this. Send em along. But write the rag first.

Pray for the writer of this atrocity. If he has to pick on an 84 year old pope who has given so much to others, he can’t possibly not need it. And for the magazine.

And have a great end of the Easter season!

Misplaced Priorities in High Places

Why was there so little furor over the rescheduling of the inauguration ceremonies on Sunday, January 20, 2013, for the personal profit of a Supreme Court Justice? Justice Sonia Sotomaier needs to get her priorities straight. She would not have the opportunity to publish an autobiography were it not for her position. She brings personal concerns to the public forum which are intrinsically inappropriate. Worse, she is not held accountable for her lack of respect for democratic protocol. If her book signing was that important that it couldn’t be rescheduled, why not invite another justice to perform the ceremony. What makes her any more worthy than the other justices?
Also, Vice-President Biden and President Obama need to halt their constant pandering to women. It was very gracious of the Justice to make time to swear in the Vice-President. After all, promoting her book is essential to the common good that a Justice is sworn to serve. The vice-president was effusively appreciative of her altering her schedule. Where is his sense of the dignity of the office of Supreme Court Justice? President Obama continually lobbies for women’s rights but rarely for their responsibilities. He also ignores when so-called women’s rights interfere with men’s, or go against moral principles, e.g., abortion and subsidized contraception.
Justice Sotomayer’s actions are an affront to both men and women who do not bring private, domestic concerns into the public forum in an inappropriate way. If the President and Vice-President are afraid to hold the Justice accountable, how can we trust that they will not compromise other principles out of concern for public opinion, interest group sanctions, and political correctness? Given her apparent sense of entitlement, it is difficult to see how Justice Sotomayer is qualified to judge objectively in the highest court of the land. This is a professional, not personal, sanction, but it needs to be addressed.

History Uncorked

History Uncorked: Peace, Love & Rock ‘n’ Roll
Friday, March 8, 2013, 7 p.m.

Get ready for a groovy time at History Uncorked, Pittsburgh’s premier event for young professionals. As one of the city’s most popular annual events, History Uncorked offers an opportunity to become involved with the History Center’s mission while mingling with up-and-coming entrepreneurs, connecting with colleagues, and building a broader professional network.

This year’s History Uncorked, chaired by Nathan Boxx of Fort Pitt Capital Group, will celebrate the History Center’s upcoming exhibition, 1968: The Year That Rocked America, with 1960s music and décor. Proceeds from the event benefit the programs and services of the History Center and Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.

For more information, please contact Mark Burnett at 412-454-6405 or


Purchase your tickets online at

$50 in advance $65 at the door $100 VIP (advance sales only)


Pope Paul VI Anecdote

Excerpt from “Keys to the Kingdom”

By Lenora Grimaud

June 13, 2010

Father, this past week, I had the opportunity to view videos on the lives of Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI.  I wept with joy and thanksgiving for these two great servants of God.  God has been so gracious in giving the Church the last four popes, including Pope Benedict XVI.  Their lives reveal the struggle that the Church has been going through—her weaknesses and her strengths. 

I have to admit that I know very little or nothing about the popes between St. Peter and John XXIII.  I also must admit that before Pope Paul VI arrived on the scene, I did not even know what a pope was, or what his purpose was; where the papacy came from or why.  My Catholic formation was gravely lacking.  Years ago, when my Protestant friends challenged my beliefs regarding the pope, I defended the Church out of loyalty, not out of knowledge.

During my pilgrimage to Rome (sometime between 1970 and 1972), I had an opportunity to have an audience with Pope Paul VI.  This was the same pilgrimage in which I saw the Eucharist multiplied.  I had no desire to meet the pope, so I was greatly surprised when my Chaplain chose me to accompany him for an audience with the pope.  I was even a little indignant, as I thought of the thousands of people who came to Rome to see the pope, and who would give anything for an audience with him; people much more deserving than me.

As we were preparing to go for the audience, the people in my group said to me, “You must be so nervous and excited.”  I thought to myself, “Why should I be nervous, he is only a man.”  Then, I heard the Lord say to me, “This man is my servant.”  I began to weep, openly, and did not stop weeping until after the audience.

My knees were shaking as I bent to kiss the ring of Pope Paul VI, and I fell to the floor.  He helped me up.  Not knowing what to say, I addressed him as “Your Majesty.”  As he raised his hands to bless me I had, what I think was, an intellectual vision, and I saw Mary and the pope united in the same person.  It was as though I was seeing right into his soul.  He was one with the Blessed Mother, as Mother of the Church, and I saw them both as one person.  It was as though his heart was pierced; he was kneeling in prayer, weeping, and crying out to God, with his hands raised up.  He said, “Oh, Lord, why did you choose me?  Your people are so vast, and everyone is in a different stage of growth.  Whatever I say or do that will help one will hurt another.  Come Holy Spirit, give me wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to know how to guide and teach your children.”  He appeared to me, like a mother, weeping and interceding for her children.  While he was blessing me, I felt this great love and light emanating from him.  It was awesome and there are no words to describe it.

When I returned home and shared this experience with my protestant friends—simply witnessing, not preaching—my friends responded by saying, “I think the Lord wants us to pray for the pope.”

In 1972, not long after this pilgrimage, maybe a year, more or less, I returned to the States.  I was invited to give a “witness” at a charismatic Episcopalian Church.  I prayed and prayed, not knowing what I would say, and somewhat fearful of speaking before such a group.  My husband said to me, “Trust in the Lord, he will give you the words to say.”  This was strange for him to say, and out of character, because he would never do what he told me to do.

The Lord did give me the words.  I shared about my pilgrimage to Rome—about the Eucharist and Pope Paul VI.  The response was wonderful.  Even the Priest, not Catholic, was edified.  There were many former Catholics in the group, who believed they were excommunicated because they were divorced.  They came to me, crying, saying, “I want to come home, is there any hope for me?”

Later, as I reflected on this, I thought to myself, it is a shame that Pope Paul VI does not know the impact that he has had on these people.  Then, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to write him and tell him.  I struggled against this, thinking, “How can I write a letter to a pope?”  I wrote the letter, however.  One minute, I was a docile child speaking to her Father, and the next minute, I was a mother, speaking to her son—telling him not to retire but to remain where he was until the Lord came for him.  I prayed for discernment, again doubting that this was from the Lord.  Then, I thought, “It would be a miracle if he even received it, because he must receive thousands of letters every day, and I don’t even know where to send it.”  So, I felt that I had nothing to lose.  If God wants him to have this letter, he will receive it, and if it is not God’s will, he will not receive it.

While I was in Europe, I met a priest who was the secretary for a prominent Cardinal in Rome, and he gave me his card and told me that if I ever came to Rome, to let him know.  So, I sent the letter I wrote to Pope Paul VI, to this priest and asked him to deliver it.  To my surprise, within a couple weeks I heard from the priest, that the letter was on the pope’s desk.  Shortly after, on November 29, 1972, I received a letter from the pope’s secretary, thanking me on behalf of Pope Paul, with an Apostolic Blessing, and a gold medal—a dove with an olive branch in its beak.

Father, I was so proud of that medal that I even thought of having it made into a necklace that I could wear.  But, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my pride and attachment.  There was a woman who came to daily Mass, who was tormented by evil spirits.  These spirits would constantly taunt her and blaspheme Jesus and the Church. She could not get anyone to help her or deliver her.  I had befriended her.  When she saw the medal I received, she was filled with awe and tears.  Prompted by the Holy Spirit, I was moved to give her the medal from Pope Paul VI.  The woman was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, and was delivered from the evil spirits that tormented her.  As far as I know, she never heard those voices again.  Praise God!

A Pittsburgh Tradition

I had the opportunity yesterday to spend most of a day at Kennywood Park, a traditional amusement park in West Mifflin, a suburb of Pittsburgh. It was an interesting experience that merits sharing.

First, as we creep up in age, we begin to encounter issues that formerly would have escaped us. As i waited in line for the Jackrabbit, one of Kennywood’s classic coasters, I spoke to a couple who expressed to me how pleased they were at being able to get into the park for a discounted Senior rate, and at the nice young age of 55.

I hadn’t paid attention to that, but in thinking about it, it helped explain the preponderance of both old and young at Kennywood. This generous policy made sense to me particularly halfway through the day as I realized that despite being in reasonable physical condition I was unable to tolerate the heat, crowds, and lines, without a child or loved one to distract me.  I also think that I misjudged certain rides in terms of their capacity to throw off my equilibrium. Once the stomach turns and the dizziness sets in, it is difficult to recover quickly.  Of course, I was there for 8 1/2 hours, so I had some stamina.

Also of interest was the reaction of both middle-aged men and women to Kennywood, particularly from an ethnic perspective. Some folks set great store by Italian day, German day, Croatian day, etc., which is something foreign to me, as I have never participated in such. Nonetheless these individuals were waxing nostalgically about it, bringing up all these memories, so it obviously was very meaningful for them. It was as if they were momentarily returning to their childhood.

I decided to approach Kennywood a bit differently. First, by focusing on its location, and the splendid views it affords. I went on the train several times just to take in the river scene, with the locks and dams and Pittsburgh’s last remaining steel mill. When I went on the rides that go high in the air, I enjoyed the view, as well as the sensation.

I didn’t have the patience to wait in line at the Potato Patch for Kennywood’s renowned fries, but a lot of other folks did.

I am not an amusement park lover, and my ability to tolerate them gradually recedes year after year, a product of aging no doubt, but it was fun to people-watch and strike up conversations. Kids with their faces painted were a hoot, and at least one adult gave it a try — not me!

For folks who are not from Pittsburgh, Kennywood is a must, simply because of its uniqueness. It is truly a taste of Pittsburgh, in many different ways. Its size is manageable, and the lines are tolerable, at least in my experience. Some visitors from Ohio were telling me of the lengthy lines at Cedar Point, and how little they minded the minor delays at Kennywood.

I noticed that people let their guard down a bit at Kennywood, and perhaps most amusement parks. They wave to strangers while on a ride, and let go momentarily of inhibitions.

Kennywood has a lot of history, but it is its local flavor and manageability that I most appreciate. You can walk it without getting exhausted: believe me, it was the heat, and not the hoofing, that got to me. I actually saw a couple people with maps of the place, and I had to laugh, because most of the people didn’t seem to need one. Many told me they make an annual trek to Kennywood, but I didn’t talk to anyone who had an annual pass. The kids might love it, but I am not so sure about adults. Some years ago, I learned that i was moving into young adulthood in part when I could no longer take the swings, and found myself nauseous and dizzy in an unanticipated way.

Perhaps my most pleasant stop was at the fudge shop that greets visitors to Kennywood. A chocolate lover’s delight. The aroma there was a great offset to the heat. Too bad I couldn’t escape the guilt over the calories.

Park employees were ready with a smile, and about the only thing I had trouble finding out was the schedule for whatever PAT bus route services Kennywood. Most of the college age kids I asked had no idea, and understandably. Eventually I got my information.

So, I had a relaxing, nostalgic, and fun time, but the coup de grace was a local Pizza shop that I visited down the street, Latina’s Pizzeria. Family owned since 1957, the pizza was phenomenal, and the proprietor entertaining and helpful. The juke box had records from the late 1970s disco era, but sadly was no longer functioning. Just to see the records and the titles made me smile, and continued my nostalgic journey. The square Sicilian pizza tasted like a family recipe, and was quite affordable. I savored the experience, because in a few years such independent pizza shops are likely to be increasingly rare.

Kennywood can be reached at (412) 461-0500, or Latina’s Pizza, located at 4426 Kennywood Boulevard, can be contacted at (412) 461-4278.



No Reply

While working on matters of intense theological and pastoral intensity I was treated to a backdrop of a little known Beatles song entitled “No Reply.” Issued in 1964 on the album Beatles for Sale, it led off the album.

Written and sung by John Lennon, it is a classic tale of a guy being dumped by a girl who doesn’t have the courage or decency to tell him, and ignores all his visits and attempts at communication.  As I was listening, I thought, how little has changed in human nature and society. Of course, women have the same thing happen to them, neither sex has a monopoly on it.

I also thought how impoverished the current generation is in terms of music. Being exposed to the trash also known as rap, and pop icons more distinct for their sex appeal than musical talent, and having many songs filled with filth or violent overtones — providing of course, that you can understand what they are saying — these kids would have no clue of their heritage in rock and pop music were it not for their parents, who often pass it down.

I remain amused by children who really like the Beatles, even though their parents were born after the Beatles broke up. The Beatles music is timeless. When I hear songs like No Reply, which contain infectious clapping hands in the middle chorus that invite the listener to follow suit, I can’t help but regret the drug culture of rock music. How much less we received from these gifted artists because they took frequent refuge in the escapes of recreational drugs.

No Reply is a fun, fast-moving, high energy song with poignant lyrics and amazing phrasing and melody that reminds us why the Beatles remain in a class by themselves in terms of popular music.

Commentary and insights are most welcome. Of course, if you disagree with me, kindly follow the song and give me No Reply.

Thank you.

Good Reading on Vatican II

The Church is currently undergoing an ongoing reflection on Vatican Council II.  Pope Benedict emphasizes its continuity with Tradition against those who would portray it as something radically new and different.

One press that has traditionally paid considerable attention to the Vatican II documents and their implementation has been Liturgical Press. Their website is

i recently had the opportunity to review three new titles on the subject by Liturgical Press.

Here are my reactions.

My favorite was “Keys to the Council: Unlocking the Teaching of Vatican II” by Richard R. Gaillardetz and Catherine E. Clifford. I preferred this because it was crisp, accessible, well-founded, and non-ideological. A wide audience could benefit from this book, from beginner to scholar. It was well written too, which is not always the case with theological works. I didn’t sense a conservative or progressive bent. Simply, a concise and practical analysis of the documents, with appropriate background. It was interesting reading as well.

Much more hard-going in terms of reading was ecclesiologist Yves Congar’s True and False Reform in the Church. Initially published in 1950, it is interesting to read today. A theological timepiece you might call it. Not for the feint of heart, though. However, it makes many good points and is rewarding for those who stick with it. A good book by a renowned author.

Finally, Liturgical Press published Yves Congar’s “My Journal of the Council.” In a word, fascinating. Though many mundane details are offered, as to be expected in a journal, it affords us an outstanding perspective from a peritii (expert consultant) who offers commentary on everything from papal activities to his adventures in Rome.  This is between the aforementioned titles in terms of reading difficulty.

Since most who attended the council are now deceased, the last attending bishop dying not long ago,  this is an invaluable perspective from an objective and learned source. It is also available as an ebook. I found it very enjoyable, and due to its size, I simply skipped over parts I was not interested in. Congar was a great theologian who also received flak for his views prior to Vatican II, so he was actively in the theological mix of the time. Once you pick it up, I think you’ll follow my tendency of skipping around to entries of interest. Liturgical Press did us a great service in publishing this literary relic.

If you have any questions or comments, please send them along. You can order the books  directly from Liturgical Press at Their phone number is 1-800-858-5450.

Thank you for your interest.