Archive | May, 2011

Should we keep ashes on our forehead all day on Ash Wednesday?

May 17, 2011

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CNS photo/Dave Crenshaw, Eastern Oklahoma Catholic

A few people I know have pointed out what seems like a contradiction related to Ash Wednesday.

In the Gospel for that day we’re told to avoid drawing attention to ourselves when we do good works: “[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people might see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 6:1).

But then immediately after that, the priest marks a cross on our foreheads with black ashes. Even though it often ends up looking more like a black smudge than a cross, it’s hard to disguise the fact that you’ve received ashes on Ash Wednesday.

If you go to Mass in the morning or during the day, you have a dilemma: Do you keep the ashes on your forehead and let everyone know you just went to church or do you wipe them off so as not to draw attention to yourself?

It all depends on your motivation, according to Father John Gallas, pastor of SS. Peter and Paul in Loretto, and Father John Paul Erickson, director of the Office of Worship in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“It would be a mistake to think that Jesus forbids or even discourages the outward and public show of religion,” according to Father Gallas. “In Matthew 6:1, he is not discouraging the outward show, but the interior pride that can undermine it.”

We can reveal our faith in different ways such as by wearing a crucifix or even by taking a stand on a moral or ethical issue, he said. This fulfills another thing Jesus says in the Gospel: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Receiving ashes isn’t a good work but a visible sign of sorrow for our sins, Father Erickson said. In the Old Testament, penitents wore sackcloth and ashes to publically atone for sin, he said. The king of Nineveh ordered all residents to wear them after the prophet Jonah foretold mass destruction, and King David wore sackcloth and ashes after committing serious sin, he added.

According to Father Gallas, we wear ashes as a sign of the need for repentance. “The ashes help us accomplish our duty of giving public witness as Catholics, they remind us that people see us as Catholics, and that in our baptism we were marked for Christ.”

Europeans Catholics may avoid the question of whether or not to wear ashes because the tradition there is to sprinkle them on the head rather than mark a cross on the forehead. That’s how Pope Benedict has received them.

Receiving ashes on the forehead is one way we enter into the penitential nature of Ash Wednesday together. Prudence should dictate whether we keep them on or wipe them off after Mass. Ashes aren’t anything to hide but they’re nothing to boast about either.

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Fishing prayers

May 13, 2011

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For those of you who are going out fishing on the opener tomorrow and over the weekend, here are a couple of prayers you might want to say at the boat landing or in your boat at the start of your trip. They come courtesy of Sue Schulzetenberg of the St. Cloud Visitor, newspaper of the Diocese of St. Cloud.

Fisherman’s Prayer #1

God give me strength to catch a fish,

So big that even I,

When telling of it afterwards,

Have no need to lie.

Fisherman’s Prayer #2

I pray that I may live to fish…

Until my dying day.

And when it comes to my last cast,

I then most humbly pray:

When in the Lord’s great landing net

And peacefully asleep

That in His mercy I be judged

“Big enough to keep”!

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Double blessing

May 12, 2011

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I have heard that male wild turkeys can have two beards or more, but I had never seen such a bird until yesterday. For the first time, I not only saw such a bird, but shot one.

It came after several hours of work trying to call in a tom in Wisconsin. After shooting three yearling toms (called jakes) in Minnesota and Wisconsin, I had one tag left to try for an adult tom (also called a longbeard, in reference to the longer beards adult gobblers have).

Fast start

I decided to hunt a 40-acre piece of property where my son, William, had shot his first deer last fall. Woods surround the property on three sides, with a small cluster of pine trees in the middle of a big field of clover.

Wouldn’t you know it? When I pulled up the long driveway and parked in front of the landowner’s garage, I heard a turkey gobble from that cluster of pines. I tried to figure out a way to get close without being seen. I decided to move away and try to circle around and get to the back corner of the property, which is where I thought this bird would go.

He went there after flying down, alright, but he got there long before I did, and then left the property soon after. Other birds were gobbling on the roost, but they shut up quickly after flying down, except one bird across the road that continued to gobble.

I moved to the woods closest to him on this property, and hoped to call him across the road and up the hill. But, this bird was stubborn and stayed on the other side. Eventually, he quit gobbling, and the woods fell silent.

Waiting game

So, I had to figure out what to do next. I decided to walk the perimeter of the property and listen for gobbles. I walked short distances, then sat down and called.

As I did so, I cleared out spots to sit later if I needed to. I used a small pair of clippers – a very important tool – to trim some brush and give me room to maneuver my gun.

Generally, I like to trim some of the brush, but not all. That way, there is still some left to offer concealment. I figured that if I had some spots cleared out, I could jump into them fast if I needed to later. Hopefully, this prep work would pay dividends.

After not hearing much for about an hour or so, I finally heard a gobble at about 8:30. I had reached the corner of the property and turned 90 degrees to follow the property line. Shortly after doing so, I heard a very raspy gobble down the hill and back in the woods. The brush looked very thick – just the kind of place an old gobbler would feel safe.

I found a small opening along the fence line and set up. I called for a while, but the bird never answered. Eventually, I gave up on him and started moving again.

The right time to move?

Sometimes, I like to sit in one spot and wait for the birds to move through. Other times, I move around a lot to try and find an active bird. Because I wasn’t familiar with this property, I decided to stay on the move. I just didn’t know what areas the turkeys liked to use.

After about 9 o’clock, I started hearing birds gobble again. At the same time, the clouds were beginning to thicken and I started hearing thunder close by. I wondered if I may have to make a quick exit from the field. But, there was only a little rain, not enough to chase me back to my car.

For some reason, the weather seemed to turn the turkeys on. Gobbling picked up, and so did my hopes. Problem was, the gobbling was sporadic and there were birds gobbling in several directions. Seems like I would move in the direction of one bird, set up, then the bird would stop gobbling. Then, I would hear a bird gobble near where I had just been, and I’d move back again.

This went on for about an hour. I was along the back edge of the property and heard a bird gobbling on the neighbor’s land not too far away. But, it didn’t seem to be interested in my calling. It never gobbled right after I called, and didn’t seem to be moving closer.

Costly mistake

Finally, I got tired of this bird and decided to move. I went back to the first fenceline I had hunted, which ran perpendicular to the fenceline I was on. I only went about 125 yards or so, and set up in a thin row of trees and brush between the landowner’s clover field and a picked corn field on the neighbor’s land. I figured the birds might move back and forth between these fields. And, it’s where the bird that was roosted in the cluster of pines went at dawn.

This move turned out to be a mistake. Even though I heard a bird gobble from somewhere on that picked corn field, I soon learned that I gave up too quickly on the last spot. Just minutes after sitting down, I heard a gobble from right where I had just been sitting. That is one of the most agonizing things a turkey hunter can experience.

The bird gobbled twice, and I knew it had come in looking for the “hen” that had been calling. Had I just had a little more patience, I might be putting my tag on that bird right then.

Redemption

Oh well, I thought. What can I do? Perhaps, I could call that bird over to me. Fortunately, while all this was happening, a gobbler sounded off back in the woods near where I was set up. After gobbling a ways off, it sounded like it was much closer. Now, I had two birds gobbing away!

Not a bad problem to have. I was optimistic that one of them would come in. Sure enough, just a few minutes later, I heard a gobble very close. The volume and clarity of the gobble told me the bird was out in the field. In fact, I was pretty sure he was standing in the corner where I had walked earlier. He couldn’t have been more than 50 yards away.

I turned my chair toward the bird and tucked in next to a big tree. There was a lot of brush in front of me now, as I hadn’t trimmed any in this direction earlier. But, there were some holes in the brush, which would give me a couple of small windows to shoot through.

Time for seduction

Sometimes, when birds come out like this, they will sit there strutting and gobbling, waiting for the hen to show up. My strategy at times like these is to hit them with the soft stuff – clucks and purrs that hens make where they’re content and are interested more in feeding than breeding. In other words, playing hard to get.

I pulled out a little push button call made by Quaker Boy called a Pro Push Pin Yelper, and made a short series of clucks and purrs. The bird gobbled with gusto to these sounds. I’m always amazed at how effective soft calling is at bringing in a gobbler those last precious yards into gun range – and equally amazed at how so many hunters fail to employ the “soft stuff” in their calling arsenal.

Within a minute or two, I saw the gobbler’s head bobbing through the brush. He passed through the first opening and was headed for the second. I quickly pointed my gun at the next opening and took the safety off. Within a few seconds, the bird’s head and neck appeared again, and I pulled the trigger.

The bird went down, and I felt both joy and relief. After making a mistake by moving at the wrong time, I still was able to bag a bird. This has happened before, and most turkey hunters will tell you that mistakes in the field are inevitable. You just have to keep at it. The lesson I have learned over and over again is to be persistent. You can fail nine times, and succeed on the 10th try.

Big bird

This ended up being my nicest bird of the season. It was an adult tom that weighed 20 pounds. Sure, toms can get quite a bit bigger than that – up to 28 pounds. But, this bird was big enough for me.

And, it had an extra bonus – a double beard. That’s a first for me, and another great part of the story. It also had 1-inch, pointed spurs, which likely makes it a 3-year-old bird. The older a tom gets, the tougher he is to fool, so getting this older bird makes the hunt even more gratifying.

More about brush

Many hunters consider brush the enemy when it comes to turkey hunting. I’ve heard many stories about how toms have hung up behind brush and the hunter never could get a shot.

But, brush can be your friend, or, at least, it needn’t be the frustration that many make it out to be. For starters, it’s important to understand how turkeys react to brush.

Even though the toms are very interested in breeding right now, their number-one priority at all times is survival. That is why they are so wary and hard to call in.

And, it’s also why they will often come in through thick brush, even when a more open path is available. Because their eyesight is so keen, they can see through thick brush far better than we humans can. They also know that predators won’t be able to surprise them as easily when they have to move through brush.

That’s why so many hunters have birds come in behind some brush. It happened to my brother earlier this week, and to my son two years ago. My brother chose not to shoot, while my son did, but neither got the bird in the brush. Fortunately, in both cases, they later shot birds that came out into the open.

But, you can actually use a turkey’s affinity with brush to your advantage. I like to set up in some brush, so that the tom has to come in close to see through it, which will bring him into gun range. All I need to do is trim enough of it away for me to move my gun and have a few small openings.

That leads us to the problem of shooting through the brush when the moment of truth arrives. I think many hunters are scared to shoot through brush, and too many choose not to take what I would consider to be a makable shot.

A friend of mine helped me with this concept a number of years ago. He noted that every shell contains several hundred pellets, and that many of them get through the brush without hitting it. He said that, basically, if you can see the head and neck of the tom through the brush, and if the bird is in range, your pellets will bring it down.

That’s exactly what happened for me yesterday. In fact, I was amazed at how many pellets hit the bird. My shot was just a bit low, and I found quite a few pellets in the body of the bird when I was taking the breast out. That’s all the proof I needed that shooting though brush isn’t the vexing problem many hunters think it is. Just be sure that there are no thick branches between you and the bird. Those will, in fact, stop or deflect pellets.

Ending with gratitude

So, I finish my hunting season with all four of my tags filled. As always, I said a prayer of thanks to God in the field yesterday as I was carrying my bird out. The Lord has been good to me, and my prayers for successful hunts have been answered.

I just have one prayer left – for my son, William. He has a Wisconsin tag for this week as well, and I plan on taking him out Sunday morning. I tried helping him get a bird earlier this spring in both Wisconsin and Minnesota, but we couldn’t quite get it done. He did take a shot, but it was a long one and he missed. I’m hoping his next shot will be a lot closer!

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Jakes save the day

May 6, 2011

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I went into my wild turkey hunting seasons in Minnesota and Wisconsin this week with high hopes. Finally, the weather was going to get better. I was hoping the hunting would, too. It has been tough this spring, largely, I believe, because of the cold weather.

My Minnesota season began Tuesday on a cold, but clear, morning. I hiked up a hill and positioned myself up high so I could hear gobbling. W0uldn’t you know it? The only gobbles I heard came from across the road on land I did not have permission to hunt.

Time to strategize

So, what to do? I was sitting in a good area — a little tree line that goes up hill, with a strip of alfalfa and another strip of cut corn adjacent to it. Many times, hens and gobblers feed in this area. In fact, last year, I shot a nice tom in this very spot.

But, I at least wanted to hike down the ridge to see if there was anything gobbling farther down that I couldn’t hear. After going a short distance, I heard some hen yelps and I answered back to try and get the hen to come to me. We went back and forth for a bit, then all went quiet. I moved toward the hen between two rows of pine trees.

I went over a little rise and then — a tom in full strut came into view. I froze, quickly trying to determine if the bird was in range, and if he had seen me.

I watched for several seconds to see what the bird would do. Strangely, it did absolutely nothing. In fact, it didn’t move a muscle.

Very odd, I thought. Then, I spotted a hunting blind only 10 yards from the bird. It wasn’t a bird at all, but a decoy. There was another hunter there, and he had put out a decoy.

Trespassing

I was pretty sure that, whoever it was, did not have permission to hunt there. Sure enough, when I told the landowner later, he said he didn’t think he gave permission to anyone else during my season. He had given someone permission to hunt the previous season, which ended on Monday. He thought maybe the seasons overlap, but I told him they don’t.

Had I known this, I would have approached the other hunter and told him he needed to talk to the landowner about hunting. That would have taken care of the problem. I know the landowner well enough to know that he only gives permission to one hunter or group at a time. Hopefully, this won’t happen again next year.

Quick turnaround

I was more than a little frustrated because I had wanted to hunt this end of the property. But, not wanting to make a scene in the woods, I went back to where I had started. I decided to pick a spot near the alfalfa and cut corn fields and play a waiting game for the birds.

There was a small, permanent ground blind near the end of the tree row a short distance from the top of the hill. I put a chair in it and decided to sit down. The sun was coming in the left side and shining directly on me. I knew that would make it easy for turkeys to spot me. So, I draped a jacket over the side and shielded myself from the sun. One tip I learned years ago is to try to be in the shade as much as possible.

Now, I had a nice setup. If only the birds would come. Only about 10-15 minutes into my vigil, a hen appeared over the hill and came feeding toward me in the cut corn field. I tried calling to her, but she mostly ignored me — or so I thought.

After several minutes, she veered toward me slightly. She got to within 40 yards, and I would have had a shot if she had been legal to shoot. In the fall, hens are fair game, but not in the spring.

I continued to make soft calls — clucks and purrs — to try and keep her nearby. No more than a minute or two later, I saw the top of a tail fan pop up over the ridge — a gobbler!

It came back down, and I lost sight of the bird. The hen was still visible, though, so I had hope the gobbler might show his full body and offer me a shot.

I also thought about getting out of the blind and walking to the top of the hill to try and get a shot. When they see you, you have about two seconds before they run or fly away. I contemplated this maneuver for a few moments as I waited to see what the birds would do next.

Moment of truth

Then, the gobbler popped up to the top of the ridge and started walking toward me. I was amazed — he was leaving the hen to come to me. Because he was walking straight at me and the sun was behind him and his head was down, I could not see his chest very well. I knew that, before I could shoot, I would need to spot a visible beard, as required by law in the spring.

As he got closer, he turned slightly to the right, giving me a view of his chest. As I suspected, the bird had a beard, which made it legal to shoot.

Then, he stopped, ran his head up and froze, like turkeys often do when they’re scanning either for danger or another turkey. He, obviously, was trying to find the hen that was calling.

Had he just stuck with his one girlfriend, he might be alive today. But, to modify an old adage, curiosity killed the turkey. I poked the barrel of my shotgun out the left side of the blind and fired. Having patterned the gun this spring — and based on patterning in previous years — I knew this bird was well within range.

The bird turned out to be a young tom, called a jake. Jakes have short beards of about 4-5 inches in length that stick straight out of their chests, as opposed to the longer beards of adult toms that droop down and reach lengths of about 8-12 inches. Some hunters like to pass on jakes and take only longbeards.

I go back and forth. Sometimes, I take jakes, sometimes, I pass on them. In this case, I couldn’t resist. Not having heard any gobbles on the property I hunted, and encountering another hunter, I wasn’t sure if I would get a chance at a mature tom. Besides, this jake put on a show and came to my calls. To me, that’s what turkey hunting is all about.

So, mission accomplished in Minnesota. I was able to report the news to my son, Andy, before he left for school that morning. Time of harvest — 7:25 a.m.

On to Wisconsin

I registered my bird in Red Wing, then went over to Wisconsin to set up a blind for my season there, which would begin the next day. So far, things were working out very well.

I arrived at a piece of property I have hunted for several years. It usually has lots of birds, and the cut corn field I walked across was a welcome sight. Because the woods were taking so long to “green up,” I knew the birds probably would be feeding in this corn field. So, I set up the blind near the far corner, about 20 yards into the woods.

The next morning was calm and sunny, though on the cold side. Not long after crawling into the blind, the toms started gobbling. I heard five or six different birds, with one or two sounding pretty close.

I let them gobble on the roost for a bit, then I let out some hen calls. A couple of birds responded, and I figured it was “game on.”

Rude interruption

But, very soon after the toms started gobbling, I heard the sound every turkey hunter hates to hear — hen yelping. Not one but two hens started yelping, with both of them between me and the gobblers. They made quite a racket, and the toms answered and closed in on them.

I tried to mimic the hens, which sometimes causes them to come to you. But, that didn’t happen this time. Before long, both the gobblers and the hens went silent. That means only one thing — they found each other and formed a group.

Once the toms are with hens, they are almost impossible to call away from them. The only way to do so is to get really close to them. But, with the leaves not popped out yet, that would be tough, if not impossible.

So, I was left to sitting in the blind and hoping to pull in a rogue gobbler without hens.

Jakes to the rescue

Before long, I heard a short gobble closer than any I had heard that morning. Then, I heard a yelp that I thought was coming from a tom and not a hen. Hen yelps are higher in pitch, faster and last longer than gobbler yelps, which have a coarse, honking sound.

Then, I spotted the bird making the noise. I threw out some soft clucks and purrs, and it came right in to about 15 yards — a jake. At 6 a.m. on opening day, I decided to let him walk. He kept going and went into the cut corn field behind me.

He continued to yelp, and when he was approaching the other side, up popped a tail fan, and a strutting gobbler appeared. He veered toward me, and I thought he might come in. Then, he stopped just short of a small rise in the field that I estimated was about 60 yards or so away. He never got any closer, and both birds reached the tree line on the other side of the small field and disappeared.

I wondered if the tom might sneak around and come from the adjacent cut soybean field, so I would occasionally look out the back side of the blind to see if he showed up.

In the meantime, a second jake came in, this time to about 25-30 yards. Once again, I passed on what would have been a pretty easy shot to make. I was beginning to realize there were a lot of jakes on this property.

A short while later, I looked behind the blind and saw a turkey coming in from the soybean field — a hen. I called her in and she milled around my blind for about 15 minutes, clucking and purring  the whole time. It’s very neat to have a turkey come in so close. Hens seem quite willing to do this.

I figured a tom might eventually come in, but no such good fortune. However, a group of turkeys came through the woods at about 60-70 yards, and the hen broke away from me  to join them. I saw some red heads, indicating these might be toms. Sure enough, when I looked at them through my binoculars, I figured out what they were — four jakes.

There was a hen with them, and my hen joined them. After milling around for a while, they angled toward the cut corn field and passed by me at about 35-40 yards or so. Again, I could have shot one of the jakes.

They went into the field and began feeding. Then, up popped another tail fan. A second adult tom started strutting in the cut corn field.

Battle for dominance

The hens were a long way off, and I wasn’t sure which direction they would go. I started calling to them, but they seemed to ignore me. This tom, like last one, continued to strut on the little rise. Then, as the jakes moved in closer to the hen, he came out of strut and ran after them to push them away from the hens. He would always get between the jakes and the hens, and run off the jakes whenever they got too close.

This went on for about half an hour, and I enjoyed the show. I have never seen that kind of behavior before, and it was cool to watch. Yet, I was really hoping that the hens and the tom would come my way.

Actually, the hens did. In fact, they got to about 30 yards or so from me. The tom, however, stayed back and out of shotgun range. I think he might have come into range if it wasn’t for the jakes.

Eventually, like the first tom, he, too, angled across the field and out of sight, the jakes and the hens going with him. At least one of the jakes got within shotgun range, making it the third time I had a legal bird within range. And, that was it for the day. I did not see or hear a thing after that.

Once back home, my 13-year-old son, William, gave me a hard time for passing on the jakes. He couldn’t understand why I would do such a thing. I don’t consider myself a trophy hunter, but I do like to shoot adult toms.

Yet, I thought about what William had said, and about what kind of message I might be sending to him. Although I didn’t think I made the wrong decision to pass on the jakes, I figured maybe I should reconsider on Day 2.

Hitting the “jakepot”

I almost didn’t go hunting yesterday (Thursday). The forecast called for rain overnight and again in the morning. I got up at 3:30 a.m. and checked the weather. The radar showed lots of clouds, but it looked like the rain — at least this batch, anyway — was nearly past my hunting area. Time to go!

I got to my spot later than the previous day, and it was already light. I hustled to the blind and jumped inside, just moments after hearing my first gobble of the day. It sounded off several more times, then dropped down to the bottom of the valley and stayed there.

I didn’t hear another gobble after that. Then, it started raining, and the wind picked up. I knew this might shut the toms up, but I figured they might still be moving. So, I decided to sit in the blind and wait and see if something appeared.

I opened the blind windows up so I could see into the woods. And, I occasionally looked out the back, a task made easy by the 360-degree design of the blind. The back side was facing the two adjacent fields, and I knew I would have to look out the back side regularly, in case birds showed up there, which they will do when it’s raining.

At 6:50 a.m., I looked out the back at one field and saw nothing. Then, I shifted to my left to look out the back side at the other field. I slid the window up slightly, then saw two turkeys walking between the blind and the field.

I couldn’t tell what they were at first. Then, they ran their heads up, and I saw a beard on the one closest to me — another jake. This time, I decided to shoot, and I opened up the window a few inches and poked my barrel through the window.

It was an easy shot, and the bird went down and stayed down. The other bird, meanwhile, just stood there and didn’t know what to make of his buddy laying on the ground flapping.

So, he stayed put, first pulling his neck in and tucking it behind a tree, then stretching it out again and offering me a shot. I hesitated. Did I really want to fill both my tags and end my hunt this early, especially when there would be no adult tom as part of my two-state harvest?

In the end, I decided to take the second bird. I have a simple philosophy when I hunt — take what the Lord gives me. I called these birds in, and had them very close to the blind, which was cool. In fact, when I paced off the shots, it was only about 13 or 14 yards. That’s about as close as you can get when it comes to turkeys. And, in addition, it was my first turkey double.

Lots of meat to eat

One reason I chose to take both jakes is that these young birds will be tender and delicious. Sometimes, the older birds can be tough, even though you get more meat off of them. Now, I have six tender, jake breast halves in the freezer.

What I do is stick them in thick plastic bags overnight, then vacuum seal them the next day. You get a better seal when the meat is frozen, and it will stay good for at least a year, although I highly doubt it will last that long.

My brother, Joe, gave me a sample of turkey fajitas from his bird last weekend, and they were so good that I want to make them with my birds. I can’t wait!

Not over yet

The good news is, I have one more Wisconsin tag left to fill. I have one for the next season, which begins next Wednesday. By then, the foliage should be thicker, and the hens should be sitting on nests trying to incubate their eggs. That pulls them away from the toms and makes the gobblers more willing to come to calls.

I may bag a mature tom yet!

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How can God be both just and merciful?

May 6, 2011

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The virtues of justice and mercy were juxtaposed as news of Osama bin Laden’s death came on the Feast of Divine Mercy. While some question the way he was treated, few doubt the justice of punishing a notorious terrorist leader responsible for the deaths of thousands.

Still, the fact that this killing was reported on a day when Catholics celebrate God’s infinite mercy and pray for the grace to be merciful themselves made me wonder what exactly constitutes justice and mercy, and whether God always expresses both virtues.

According to Merriam Webster, justice is “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments. Mercy is defined as “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also : lenient or compassionate treatment.”

For centuries saints have tried figure out how these seemingly contradictory virtues are fused in God’s nature without denying either one.

St. Thomas Aquinas asserts that God is always just and merciful. Because he only acts according to his wisdom and goodness, doing everything in created things according to proper order and proportion, God is always just.

Also, because God was merciful in creating us anything he does presupposes his mercy and that his subsequent actions are also merciful, St Thomas writes. “So in every work of God, viewed at its primary source, there appears mercy. In all that follows, the power of mercy remains, and works indeed with even greater force; as the influence of the first cause is more intense than that of second causes.”

What ties the virtues together in God’s nature is the fact that they are both rooted in love, Bl. John Paul II writes in his encyclical, Dives in Misericordia. In the redemption of humanity, it is evident that justice flows from love and that “mercy is an indispensable dimension of love; it is as it were love’s second name.”

The two attributes come together most at the Cross, Bl. John Paul states. Redemption is the ultimate revelation of God’s holiness and from it comes the fullness of justice and love. Absolute justice, even a “superabundance” of justice is expressed for our sins which are “compensated for” by Christ’s sacrifice.

At the same time, the paschal Christ is the “definitive incarnation of mercy,” although he himself received no mercy from the humans he would die to save.

Bl. John Paul writes, “The divine dimension of redemption is put into effect not only by bringing justice to bear upon sin, but also by restoring to love that creative power in man thanks also which he once more has access to the fullness of life and holiness that come from God. In this way, redemption involves the revelation of mercy in its fullness.”

Perfect in both justice and mercy, the Lord stressed to St. Faustina the importance of mercy. “Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All the works of My hands are crowned with mercy.”

God’s actions may seem more just or merciful but in reality even punishment involves both virtues, St. Thomas writes. “Certain works are attributed to justice, and certain others to mercy, because in some justice appears more forcibly and in others mercy.”

While no one is exempt from justice, mercy is offered to all, Jesus told St. Faustina. “On the cross, the fountain of My mercy was opened wide by the lance for all souls—no one have I excluded!”

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Demons on stage in Minneapolis

May 3, 2011

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The Screwtape Letters is coming to the Twin Cities for a few days in mid-May. Everything I have read says the theatrical adaptation is faithful to the brilliant and widely loved C.S. Lewis book.

Has anyone seen it or heard differently?

View the promotional video.

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Most popular stories of April 2011

May 3, 2011

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