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Dear Friends,
Thy Kingdom Come!
Greetings from Montreal. I hope you are enjoying this beautiful weekend.
God bless you!
Fr. Stephen
If one were to ask an ordinary American Catholic today who his favorite authors were, I doubt very much that any of them would be among the so-called “Fathers of the Church”. These influential Christian scholars, living in general before 700 A.D., set the theological foundations of Christianity. Today, however, they seem distant at the best. This probably is not too surprising. Even among those committed Catholics who do read, most of them will dedicate their reading time to contemporary Christian writers who at least seem capable of responding to today’s challenges with today’s language. St. Athanasius’s “Apologia Contra Arianos” (Apology against the Arians) might be a Catholic classic, but for our contemporary reader, the problem of the Arians seems as antiquated as a grandfather’s style of dress, and why one would have to “apologize against” them seems an even greater, and non-relevant, mystery.

There is one exception. St. Augustine of Hippo. The Share Faith Magazine (a Protestant publication)[1] rated Augustine’s Confessions as the third most important Christian book of all time (before Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” and Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”), while Church Times, (self-proclaimed as “the world’s leading Anglican Newspaper”)[2] placed it number one in their list of “100 Best Christian Books”. Catholic surveys nearly always put it among the top five spiritual classics read even today.[3] Such examples as these could go on and on; there is little doubt that St. Augustine has remained one of the very few ancient Christian authors, if not the only, still read widely in the world today. Why is this?

I think the reason lies in St. Augustine’s passionate and constant concern for spiritual realities that today we need, and nevertheless neglect, more than ever. In 1986, Saint Pope John Paul II wrote to the entire Church an apostolic letter about St. Augustine (Augustinem Hipponsensem). At the end of this letter, the Pope addresses himself to St. Augustine, and asks the great Bishop what he has to say to modern man. St. John Paul describes in this way Augustine’s answer: “It seems to me that one must bring men back…to the hope of finding the truth. One must seek the truth with piety, chastity and diligence, in order to return into oneself, to the interior realm where truth dwells; and likewise to overcome the materialism and rationalism which prevent the mind from understanding the “mystery” of the human person.”[4] At the end of the letter, the Pope reminds the young people of the world that Augustine constantly recalls them to the great things in life without which they would not wish to live: love, freedom, and beauty.[5] More compelling still is that he recalls them not only with his teaching, which is indeed brilliant, but even more so by his example and sincerity. In his Confessions Augustine opens up his personal history and struggles with a style centuries before its time, and arguably more personal, poignant, and authentic than even that of our modern Robert Lowells and Sylvia Plaths.

When I first turned to St. Augustine (and his Confessions in particular) in my early 20’s, I suppose it was because I saw in Augustine’s life aspects of my own. I suppose this is also true for that great mass of struggling Catholics who, though they would like to be good and faithful, are a bit overwhelmed by their weaknesses, failures, and downright confusion. Constantly pummeled by an ever-more secular and aggressive society, contemporary Catholics struggle with those same themes with which Augustine struggled: sexual practice outside of marriage or the norms of the time, flirtation with peripheral religious and spiritual tendencies, exacerbated rationalism, love of fame, fortune, and well-being, etc., etc. If all these we recognize only too easily today, they were also the bread and butter of Augustine’s everyday life. The pre-conversion Augustine really was not so different from a Brad Pitt “Fight Club style” wild young man, confident and cocky on his self-destructive path, or from a Camus-like rebellious freethinker set on carving out his own way through the meaningless forests of the world. Add to this fascinating history a man fearlessly sincere and capable of brilliant writing, and it is little wonder that his writings still appeal to readers today.

Nevertheless, it is finally one thing above all these that probably makes Augustine not only a perennial, but also a contemporary favorite: his deep-seated love of truth.   For a world plagued by relativism, where everyone would have his own truth and feel morally obliged only by it, Augustine represents the man that the partial, the individual, or the relative will never satisfy.   The great fault of relativism is that it locks us into our individual cages; the hope of an ultimate truth and love that binds us all is lost, and with the loss of that hope, we lose our hope of happiness. Augustine, however, would never submit to that. In his passion for man and for the truth, Augustine strove to seek the source of that truth in a God he imagined as the great and inaccessible One. He found instead, in a blaze of faith-filled light, the Incarnate Christ. As Pope Benedict XVI once wrote: Christ made him (Augustine) understand that God, apparently so distant, in reality was not that at all. He in fact made himself near to us, becoming one of us… (and taught us that) a man who is distant from God is also distant from himself, alienated from himself, and can only find himself by encountering God.[6] Through his own experience, Augustine becomes the great teacher of the possibility of finding the Truth, and with the Truth, love, and with love, peace. Even for the most contemporary of men, even for those most sold out to the cynicism of relativism, these never lose their force of attraction: they are simply too tempting.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the first famous American poets, wrote a little-read poem entitled “The Ladder of Saint Augustine”. The poem speaks of how Augustine teaches us to use our weaknesses as rungs of a ladder that will eventually lead us to God if we are not afraid to climb them. Perhaps this is why Augustine remains so pertinent and popular even today: a strange and wonderful mix of realism and faith permit us not to lose “the hope of finding the truth”.

‘We have not wings, we cannot soar; But we have feet to scale and climb By slow degrees, by more and more, The cloudy summits of our time.

Standing on what too long we bore With shoulders bent and downcast eyes, We may discern — unseen before — A path to higher destinies,

Nor doom the irrevocable Past As wholly wasted, wholly vain, If, rising on its wrecks, at last To something nobler we attain.`[7]

Fr. Bruce Wren, August 2017
[1] Share Faith Magazine, May 6, 2015.
[2] Church Times, https://ct100books.hymnsam.co.uk/
[3] A simple Google search under “Top Ten Catholic Spiritual Books” will make this immediately evident.
[4] Augustinum Hipponsensem 4, August 28, 1986
[5] Ibid, 5.
[6] Cfr. Papal Audiences of Benedict 16th, January 2008, 3 and 5.

Lumen Speaker Series: Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. Houston Chapter Speaker Series Luncheon – 3/31/17.

His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo is the metropolitan archbishop of Galveston-Houston and pastor to its 1.3 million Catholics (and over 4 million non-Catholics) and 440 priests in 146 parishes and 60 schools spread over 8,880 square miles. His seats are St. Mary Cathedral Basilica in Galveston and the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston.

Continue reading Lumen Speaker Series: Cardinal Daniel DiNardo
In our Gospel today, we read about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus was in the southern part of Palestine, near the Jordan River when he heard that John been arrested. So he made a decision: he left the Province of Judea and his hometown of Nazareth and he moved to a city in Galilee called Capernaum. That city was to become his home, his base of operations for the next three years, and those three years that followed that decision were going to be the most influential years ever spent by a human being: they would change history dramatically forever. So how did that happen? How did Jesus go from being a young 30 year old man, barely known outside of his home town, who had never drawn particular attention to himself of done anything extraordinary, to this? I ask the question because if we think over the last three years of our lives, I would bet that we would say that we were quite busy, we did many things, but did they change history, even a little? Or perhaps more realistically, did they change the lives of at least some people for the better? If our answer is no, or at least not very much, what were we doing?

The first reading, the psalm, and the Gospel all speak about Jesus’ decision as the birth of a new light for the people: the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. I suppose we too would like to think our lives are, or have been, a light for people around us. But this decision of Jesus just didn’t happen: his decision to begin his public ministry, and the way he spent his next three years, wasn’t automatic. One all important thing preceded those three years, and was the cause of it. Do you know what that was? If you go back to the Gospels and read what Jesus did before this decision, you will see it. First, He had just finished forty days of prayer in the desert; second, He had been baptised by John, where he also was praying. And before that? Before that Jesus spent about 30 years of his life in the longest retreat ever recorded, with Mary and Joseph, learning how to pray, read the scriptures, and understand Himself and what He was supposed to do in the world.

We spend most of our lives as very busy people; perhaps some of us have even been quite successful, made a lot of money, or have a certain status. But if we ever want to really do something that will become a light for the world, I am convinced that will come about only if make our decisions after doing just what Jesus did: pray. It certainly worked for Jesus, and if even Jesus had to do so, how much more must this be for us? So I think that a very good resolution for this New Year would be to schedule in a retreat, and the longer the better. And don’t make excuses, don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert at prayer, or know how to pray like some saintly mystic: just give yourself some time to try. There is no better investment of our time if we want to do something important with our lives that really would help our loved ones and the world around us.

H. James Towey is in his sixth year as president of Ave Maria University (AMU). His career has included previous service as a college president, senior advisor to the President of the United States, key aide to a Congressional leader, member of the cabinet of Florida’s governor, founder of a national non-profit organization, and legal counsel to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. During his tenure as AMU’s second president, Mr. Towey has ushered in record enrollment, over $50 million in fundraising and 19 new majors.
Continue reading H. James Towey: Mother Teresa & Catholic Higher Education
Here is a summary of 7 lessons on gratitude. Of all the biblical numbers you should be grateful I didn’t choose 144,000.
1) Gratitude should never be silent. We all know what it feels like when they say thank you. And when they don’t! “Unexpressed gratitude is ingratitude.” No doubt the other 9 lepers were super grateful to Jesus. They just didn’t tell him! And didn’t get saved!
2) Gratitude comes from looking and realizing your blessings. The leper looked down. He was a leper and now he is not! Our problem may be that we don’t often realize our blessings. So many gifts of God we have always just had. Just look at all the problems you don’t have! 
3) Gratitude begins where my sense of entitlement ends. As a priest, I’ve had plenty of chances to enter into the challenges people face. With social media even more. There are many byproducts of serving and accompanying the poor, but a primary byproduct for me is to help me see how blessed I am. And see how happy other people can be with so little. 
4) Gratitude is an echo chamber…A good thing happens which is great but once you thank and share it, it is like an echo. The opposite of gratitude is bitterness and it is like sound deadening material. Bitterness allows pain to live longer. Gratitude allows the joys to live longer. 
5) Gratitude is like fertilizer – it makes all kind of other virtues grow. Gratitude generates generosity and attracts people that have a positive spirit. On the other side, ungrateful complainers have the ability (more like a liability) to find, grow, and create burdens. Not showing gratitude can kill are relationship. Spreading a lot of gratitude around will make them flourish!
6) Gratitude is a filter. It sifts out the good and leaves aside the bad. Like our ear picks up all the noises but we only listen to what interests us. A grateful soul focuses on the good, the uplifting, the graces. So filter out the bad, skim it off the top, throw it in the trash and enjoy the long lasting concentrate of goodness. 
7) Finally, gratitude always increases opportunity. When I have my gratitude goggles on I can see opportunities that I missed when I’m not in a feeling of gratitude.


So if you made it to the end of the article. THANK YOU! And pick one of these lessons to put into practice!


James T. Hackett is presently a Partner in Riverstone Holdings LLC, one of the largest private energy investment firms. Mr. Hackett is the retired Executive Chairman of the Board and former CEO of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, one of the world’s largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies. Continue reading James Hackett: Bridging the Sacred and Secular – Including in One’s Work

Leader of BakerHostetler’s Federal Policy team, the Honorable Michael Ferguson served for nearly a decade in Congress and held leadership roles on key policy initiatives, from healthcare to financial services, with an eye toward advocating for legislative solutions that removed regulatory roadblocks to innovation. As vice chairman of the House’s principal healthcare subcommittee, he led key policy reforms, including the creation of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit and pharmaceutical and medical device user fee reauthorizations. He also participated in several financial services investigations and helped lead passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other financial industry reforms following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Continue reading Michael Ferguson: The Election and Potential Effects on the Economy and the Markets