Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

31 December 2011

Blessings on the New Year

To the patient readers of this web log, I express prayerful best wishes at the outset of the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Twelve.  May it truly be a year of grace for all of you and your families. 

To the One who is the same, yesterday, to-day, and forever (Heb 13:8) be all glory and honor!

29 December 2011

The Year of Nature 2012: Act of Abolition

Long before any particular race or ethnic group was subjected to another's bidding, there was sin.  The Baby whose birth we have just celebrated has one aim: to deliver mankind from this ungodly servitude, all at once, yet one person and one choice at a time.

As if this weren't enough, the same Baby in the same Act aims to confer a new status upon former slaves: sonship.  He who is Son-by-Nature sends His Spirit to make us Sons-by-Grace.

Our life's work and play is the realization of our exalted dignity.  Why, then, do we reach for the shackles?

25 December 2011

Peace Be With All

On this most solemn feast of the Lord's Nativity, a prayerful wish for peace: that "every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for flames" (Midnight Mass, 1st rdg); that the interior of every man and woman might seek the Lord while He may be found--and where He may be found: particularly in the Word and the Sacraments; in the care of others, especially of the least; and in the silence of one's own clear conscience.

21 December 2011

20 December 2011

A Shot of B16 to make it through the Holydays

Lectores Carissimi:
Sermonem "In Nativitate Domini" Summi Pontificis Benedicti XVI invito vobis, ut Augustino parvulus dixit, <tolle et lege>.  Ut consideretis utilem inflatamque hanc sermonem.

(Excuse the highbrow display.  Translation follows.)
Dearest readers: I invite you, in the words of a child to Augustine, "take and read" a Christmas homily of our Holy Father Benedict XVI.  May you find it helpful and inspiring.

Juste pour rire

"Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect." (Steven Wright)

17 December 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: Ark, the Herald Angel Sings

The Ark of the Covenant now dwells not in a mere tent, but in a Virgin's womb.  Virginal conception manifests the unmistakable power of God at work.  What events and persons in your life have helped to drive home the fact of God's reality and relevance?

10 December 2011

"Wreck" the Halls With British Poetry

A couple of days late and dollars short...but I am linking, for the good reader's meditative reading, the ode Wreck of the Deutschland by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.  When Hopkins was a seminarian he overheard the seminary rector suggest that someone write a poem about that recent tragedy; this Hopkins did, dedicating the work "to the happy memory of five Franciscan Nuns, exiles of the Falk Laws drowned between midnight and morning of Dec. 7. 1875."

Hopkins' poem was ahead of its time, with its peculiar coinage of words and phraseology.  It was also his return from a self-imposed exile from writing poetry.  I have found in this and many other poems of Hopkins a challenge and a delight, a mirror and a window.

09 December 2011

Barron, Fruitful

If You Want to be a Good Person, It Does Matter What You Believe was written by Jesuit Father Robert Barron, whose recently aired series "Catholicism" is a terrific presentation of the Catholic Faith that is bound to inform believers and nonbelievers alike. Take a look, dear reader, especially if you happen to be or know a lapsed Catholic who feels entitled to be a sponsor for Baptism or Confirmation but who subscribes to the flawed mindset addressed in the article.

May the Holy Spirit enlighten you and me whenever and however necessary!

07 December 2011

Advent and the Eucharist

Recently I was privileged to speak to a gathering of women at St. Catharine of Siena Parish on the subject of the Eucharist, with an Advent "spin."  I do not know how to post a document as a specific web address, so here is the full text of the outline:

The Eucharist is the memorial (actualizing, vs. mere recollection) that perpetuates the Sacrifice of the Cross, and the Sacred Banquet of Communion with the Lord’s Body and Blood.

·      The Altar is both the place of sacrifice and the banquet table: there we receive Him who is both the Victim for our reconciliation and the Food for our nourishment.
·      The First Eucharistic Prayer emphasizes the centrality of the altar in our corporate worship (our offering to God and God’s offering to us):
o   In humble prayer we ask you, Almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty,
o   so that all of us, who through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son, may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.
·      Jesus extends the invitation to Communion, one we would do well to heed if we know what’s good for us: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you” (Jn 6:53)
·      For such a moment we must examine ourselves, lest we profane the Lord’s Body and Blood—failing to discern (recognize, perceive, regard) the Reality-at-Hand.  Likewise we often fail to discern the Lord’s Presence in each other; there is a certain reciprocity between “what we do ‘in here’ [Church, the Liturgy]” and “what we do ‘out there’ [in the world, in our sphere of influence].”
·      What is the proper spiritual disposition for reception?  We express it before approaching the Altar: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”  The Eastern Church, in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, has a beautiful prayer before Communion that expresses the same sentiment: “…Accept me as a partaker of your mystical supper, O Son of God; for I will not reveal your mystery to your enemies, nor will I give you a kiss as did Judas, but like the Thief I confess to you: Remember me, O Lord, when you shall come into your Kingdom…”
·      The Church enjoins upon us the discipline of fasting as a way to prepare ourselves for Communion; preparation in fact extends to our attire, our time and state of arrival…though I have gained great respect for parents who struggle heroically to arrive at Mass, dealing with accidents (with cars, with their kids).
·      What’s in It for us?  What do I receive when I receive the Lord?
o   Augments our union with Christ: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Jn 6).  This word “abide” is used to describe the relations of the Persons of the Trinity—a dynamic relationship.  The Eucharist “preserves, increases, and renews” the life of grace inaugurated at Baptism and strengthened in Confirmation
o   Separates us from sin, past and future.
§  As with the Penitential Rite at Mass or the Act of Contrition, devout reception of the Eucharist wipes away venial sins that whittle away at charity like fine-grade sandpaper.  Holy Communion helps break our disordered attachments to whatever is taking the place that God deserves and desires to have in our lives.
§  Holy Communion also preserves us from committing future mortal sins.  As we share the friendship of Christ it becomes more difficult to break away by mortal sin
o   Makes the Church: The Eucharistic Body of Christ is the Food that renews, strengthens, and deepens the identity of the Mystical Body of Christ.  The relationship between the Eucharistic and Mystical Body is a dynamic one
o   Commits us to the poor: The Eucharist is Mercy and Compassion Incarnate.
§  Recall that Bl. Teresa of Calcutta’s communities spend substantial time before the Blessed Sacrament before going out into the streets to encounter Jesus in His “most distressing disguise,” the poor
§  Recall Matthew’s Parable of the Judgment of the Nations, in which the Lord explicitly connects our regard for “the least brethren” to our regard for Him.
§  “The poor you will have with you always” (Mt 26:11)—I believe this can refer not only to that ever-increasing class of persons in material poverty, but also to the spiritually deficient…among whom we must number ourselves.  That which is poor in you, you will have with you always; and your poverty can only be filled, one Meal at a time, by the Lord in the Eucharist
o   Fosters the Unity of Christians:  As of yet all Christians do not share a common table, making the experience of division all the more painful.  Our Lord knew it would happen, but still prayed for unification under One Fold, and One Shepherd
·      The Eucharist is the Pledge of Future Glory
o   If we deem ourselves blessed here, how much more hereafter?
o   “I will not drink this fruit of the vine again with you until I drink it anew in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 26:29).  This emphasizes the forward-looking nature of the Eucharist.  Note Revelation: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come’…Come, Lord Jesus!”  Like the culmination of Ravel’s Bolero, the Liturgy incites us to “await the blessed hope and the glorious coming of the Savior, Jesus” (Titus 2:13—this quote is now more evident in the newly-retranslated “Embolism,” the prayer inserted between the Our Father and the Doxology in the Mass).
o   The Eucharist is a refuge amid life’s sadness.  We celebrate it for ourselves, the “Church militant,” for the “Church suffering” (those in purification for the vision of God)—yet along with the “Church triumphant,” the saints and angels in heaven—until that day “when every tear will be wiped away,” when the “new heaven and the new earth” (2 Peter 3:13) come to fruition.

01 December 2011

Aridity: A Threat For Any Climate

Several times I have mentioned the Catholic Education Resource Center, an online clearinghouse of solid Catholic reading material. I mention it again because of the article in my last post, and also because of this one:

I enjoy reasoned expositions of Catholic teaching, especially Catholic moral teaching. In recent years I have become even fonder of people telling their stories. Whether or not the storyteller has a didactic aim in mind, it is good to listen to someone with an interest/intention to learn from the speaker. The value of the speaker's disclosure may not necessarily be this or that point of information; it may rather be an opportunity for the listener to enter compassionately into that person's life. As a Catholic I recognize the merit of entering compassionately into a young man's gradual and grace-filled journey with an unwelcome relational disposition. To observe his virtuous subjection of passions to intellect and will is nothing short of beautiful, nothing short of exemplary.

The writer concludes that a vocation to self-giving love is the corrective to that sort of spiritual and even physical sterility that a same-sex attracted person may experience--that is, without committing to a vocation of self-giving love (not to be equated with sexual expression). Such is the apparent problem of a fair number of heterosexual "marriages," which are little more than two persons using each other for pleasure. Priesthood and consecrated life are subject to such sterility, as well. Whosoever refuses to believe this may look at the statistics regarding marriage and religious vocations (notwithstanding a current upward trend, no doubt a result of the solution below).

What makes the difference? A candid admission of one's need for God and for the sorriness of one's (current) state without Him; a sincere abandonment of self to a God who is ready and willing to effect positive change in one's life; an unsparing review of one's past conduct and attitudes; a complete willingness to be rid of baneful attitudes and the resultant misconduct; concerted efforts to repair any damage done; and a daily commitment to the prayer and action needed to sustain peace with God, with others, and within oneself--a truly fruitful existence.

30 November 2011

To be in communion

To be in communion is the way to be. It has taken me years, and will take me more still, to learn this. Read and learn.

27 November 2011

Once Removed--but not Retracted

The author of "Whispers in the Loggia," a fine blog, invited his readers to comment upon their first experience of the new translation of the Mass.  I responded and my post was accepted.  Eagerly I checked the post, only to notice an egregious error.  Below is the amended post, currently listed as "removed by the author" because, in my neurosis, I couldn't stand to see my error in print:

If the reigning Archbishop of Philadelphia has likened his appointment to that see as an "arranged marriage," I feel free to use the same analogy with respect to the new translation of the Mass. Were I ordained in 1953 or 1973 rather than 2003--for that matter, were I born in 1926 or 1946 rather than 1976--no less would I be "in persona Christi capitis et sponsi [the original read, "sponsae," which would have rendered the Christ feminine]" and no less would I be willing to pray the Mass entrusted to me, no matter how I felt about its vocabulary and syntax.

As of last night's vigil Mass I have entered into a covenant with this text, like a young widower who has remarried. At times, lamentably, my execution of the last text became stale, and it may very well, at times, happen with this one. Thus for a human instrument! I shall capitalize upon the newness for the present.
If Mr. Palmo refuses to accept the amended comment, I should not blame him.  He has enough to worry about; I don't.  Furthermore, he asked about the reader's perspective, from wherever he or she sits, stands, and kneels.

My perspective, as celebrant at Holy Guardian Angels' 6pm Vigil and 10am?  As well as could be expected.  The signature phrase, "And with your spirit," was not rendered uniformly--nor were most of the other changes--but we'll get there.

It definitely is different.  Most of us are not accustomed to praying to God in that verbiage.  I'm not.  Whenever I use highfalutin words in personal prayer--as I am accustomed to use in formal writing--I sometimes imagine God telling me to knock it off.  But here's the thing: the Mass is formal.  It is the Church's preeminent modus orandi as Persons-in-Communion.  Entering into the sacred Mysteries, we depart earth and enter the Heavenly Sanctuary.  The Eastern Christian Churches portray this with the use of, for example, the iconostasis (icon screen).  Their liturgical language expresses the Inexpressible for who and what He is--which our translation, many have opined, failed to do.  Until now.

Americans, humans, that we are, we will all have opinions.  Thanks to the blogosphere, none need remain unpublished.  Amen, the days will come when all will be Truth and the many opinions will suddenly, in a flash, be so much straw.


"In Christianity, there can be no room for purely private religion: Christ is the Savior of the world, and, as members of His Body and sharers in His prophetic, priestly, and royal munera, we cannot separate our love for Him from our commitment to the building up of the Church and the extension of His Kingdom.  To the extent that religion becomes a purely private affair, it loses its very soul." 
Pope Benedict XVI, "Responses to the Questions Posed by the Bishops," Christ Our Hope (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 2008), p. 31.

Munera is the plural of munus, the Latin word for "gift," "service," or "office."  The title of this article hints at the derivation of the word "remuneration" from munera--offerings that one receives by virtue of his office or responsibility.

His Holiness reminds us that all baptized persons (not just the bishops, whom he is specifically addressing in this talk) share in the three-fold action of Christ the Prophet, Priest, and King.  Insofar as one has been immersed into Jesus, the Mystery of Faith, he or she is oriented to (1) the proclamation of the Gospel, (2) the discharge of liturgical offering, and (3) the care of those in need.  These are a type of Trinity: "you can't have one without the Other[s]."  It isn't just a nice idea that a baptized person may take or leave: it is an orientation, which surpasses mere altruism and cheerful words as human persons transcend the non-rational beasts.  And yet, this orientation presupposes altruism and cheerful words, when appropriate.  Sometimes, alas, the Word that needs to be spoken is far from cheerful--though it is never meant to discourage.

Marked for Christ-Life, we the baptized are hard-wired to exhort and evangelize as prophets, to sanctify and purify as priests, to direct and cultivate as shepherds.  We can't uninstall this call as if it were software; it is firmware that must be doctrinally, liturgically, morally, and prayerfully connected to the Source of Truth and Charity in order to receive constant updating, to which we must give consent by our moment-to-moment availability to God.  The applications for this spiritual data include: family, work, social groups, school...

Under the grace of God, you and I must prevent the above ideas from disintegrating into mere rhetoric.

26 November 2011

Coming at you: the Ballistic Missal

Saturday, the twenty-sixth of November 2011, is a day that I will never forget; and I say this before the unforgettable moments will occur.  I am referring, of course, to the implementation of the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal with its changes in the translation of the Holy Mass.

I will approach this as a remarrying widower approaches his new bride.  As with the one before--the one he loved with his whole heart--he will approach with hesitation, with self-consciousness, with eager expectation.  Yet the one he approaches now, he will also love with his whole heart.  Unlike the irreplaceable human being, this new translation indeed replaces the old one.  I knew that one all my short life.  

Adjustment to the changes in language will not be instantaneous--not for me, and not for you, dear flock.  We (priest and people together) reviewed the congregational responses, but we have not begun to consider the priest's parts.  So we will be considering them in the recitation and in the hearing.  Be patient and fair in your judgment, as I must be in mine.  While I have known many of these changes for months, this will be the first time I say them aloud in public.

Let us journey together.

22 November 2011

Something Found in the Snooposphere

ZENIT - Multipurpose Theology of the Body is an interview with Janet Smith, who has long been a force to be reckoned with in Catholic theological circles.

21 November 2011

Breakfast With Santa; Dinner With Jesus

Our parish is blessed to be part of a regional school--a fine community of persons who strive to grow in the love of God, others, and self.  The proper estimation of all three a better world makes!

The school is on our parish property, and most of its students and their families are registered in our parish.  In fact, I often find in conversation that people associate the abbreviation "HGA" with the school more readily than with Holy Guardian Angels Parish.  We have "school families" who send their children to our school without strongly participating in the activities in our parish, especially The-Lord's-Day Mass.  Of course there are families who belong to and attend another parish, even another ecclesial communion (denomination) or a non-Christian religion or none at all.  They are most welcome and their participation in the life of the school is of inestimable value, and we pray that they, in turn, are enriched by the Gospel as we strive to live it at "HGA."

Here I am thinking of the registered Catholic families who fulfill their responsibilities for school functions (whether or not these functions intersect with parish life, as did the recent Breakfast With Santa, which took place on Sunday morning), yet who fail to connect with God and neighbor and self in the consummate manner--the manner prescribed by our Mother and Teacher, the Church: the Sacred Liturgy.  Granted, any exposure to the practices and principles of Divine Revelation is better than none, and our Catholic schools are privileged and pleased to offer our children that exposure; but what's the point if families can take or leave the "Church part" of being Catholics and Catholic-School Families?  If communal worship is missing, everything is missing!  This isn't the parish's rule or the school's suggestion: this is the Third Commandment.

"We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:25).  What "day" is the inspired writer talking about?  Not the day when tuition is due!  Well, actually, it is--in the ancient sense of "tuition" as "guardianship or custody."  Talents buried in the sand or put in a strongbox earn nothing, regardless of the job market or how students in the public system, China or elsewhere are doing.

Furthermore, parishes would derive great benefit from the involvement of school families outside of school functions.  As their children get older and advance to upper grades or high school, it would be an appropriate time for parents to "graduate" to a deeper involvement in parish ministries, in spiritual and social endeavors (though they certainly don't have to wait that long).  I know many such families in our parish.  They are our backbone.  They have recognized that "contribution" is a diverse reality, and they wear it well, even though it may not be in style.

One Examination of Conscience (preparation guide for Confession) invites the presumptive penitent to ask: "As I seek to develop my academic, athletic, or professional skills, am I also deepening my understanding and appreciation of God and my Catholic faith?"  Every Catholic, including the current writer, stands to ask this question often and with brutal honesty.  One of our local gyms calls itself a "Judgment-Free Zone."  That's quite fine, as the lack of condemnation for not being an Adonis does tend to help the majority of us improve our physical fitness incrementally.  But we proclaim that the Day of the Lord is by no means a Judgment-Free Zone, and our incremental efforts to improve our spiritual fitness will yield noticeable results in as little time as it takes to make one decision.

A Shot of B16: On the Reception of Holy Communion

Thanks to a reader for informing me of HH's words to children in Benin, where he is currently on pastoral visit.  I will offer just two brief passages for your prayerful consideration.

(1) "When I receive Communion, Jesus comes to live in me.  I should welcome Him with love and listen closely to Him.  In the depths of my heart I can tell Him, for example: 'Jesus, I know that You love me.  Give me Your love so that I can love You in return and love others with Your love.  I give You all my joys, my troubles, and my future.'"

(2) "This love [of Jesus], which I receive in prayer, calls me in turn to give it to my parents, to my friends, to everyone with whom I live, even with those who do not like me, and those whom I do not appreciate enough.  Dear young people, Jesus loves you.  Ask your parents to pray with you!  Sometimes you may even have to push them a little.  But do not hesitate to do so.  God is that important!"

This is cool.  We usually hear Papal Pronouncements, and not just a venerable priest and bishop talking to his charges.  The address (in toto) is provided.

19 November 2011

Mass Appeal: The Heart Has Its Reasons

Sean Cardinal O'Malley of Boston has this to say about attending Mass on the Lord's Day.  Worth reading.
Note the section on fathers--a call to "man up" if ever I've read one.  Previous generations might never have thought that such a pastoral letter was necessary, but this is today--and praise God that Cardinal O'Malley is issuing this reasoned and impassioned call to Dominical Devotion.

15 November 2011

How about that!

For your review and reflection:
Being Human in an Age of Unbelief, a little number from the Hind-Kicking Archbishop of Philadelphia.

08 November 2011

A Happy Meal or the Supper of the Lamb?

A Happy Meal or the Supper of the Lamb?

One of the salutary effects of the new translation of the Roman Missal is the clearer recognition of Sacred Scripture in the words of Mass. Overall, we will recognize more deeply that we are not just at any ordinary event.

05 November 2011

Young Fogeys: The storm on the horizon and my grief about it

I am glad to have received a link to this blog, and to this post in particular.

Young Fogeys: The storm on the horizon and my grief about it: No, I'm not talking about weather. For two times in the last four days, I've been contacted to anoint someone who is dying. Certainly, thi…

I made a supportive comment upon his posting, expressing my interest in conveying the Reverend Blogger's article to Catholics in the habitus that he describes, perhaps to discuss the article (and their situation) together.  Harangue will not win people over.  Perhaps discussion won't, either, but I'll sooner try it than harangue.

01 November 2011

This (All Saints) Day in Catholic Liturgy: Poor Me

Poverty of spirit means, among other things, giving up the need to have one's way, to be right, to please others or to be pleased by them.  When these apparent goods are lacking in a person's life, what else is left but the Kingdom of God…and what else is necessary?  Granted, until the True Value of this Kingdom is truly appreciated, the absence of those other attachments really bites.

29 October 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: Dearly Beloved

One of Saint Paul's most touching passages is the text of this weekend's second reading.  The same man who called the Galatians "stupid and foolish" (we can't let him live that down) expressed a yearning to share his very self with his audience.  The Word of God truly was at work in him, making it all the more possible for that Word to act elsewhere.

27 October 2011

It's the Oikonomia, Stupid

Spare us from Vatican economic analysts
An enlightening article on a recent announcement that "The Vatican" recently advocated an international regulation of finance.

I have very little knowledge of financial matters, and only burgeoning interest (and yet they may make me a Pastor someday!), so this article seemed worth reading and sharing.

20 October 2011

What You Always Sensed but Might Not Have Seen on Paper

Perhaps you have wondered what makes for a great teacher.  You may already know intuitively, or through your experience of a great teacher (or two or more, if you were so fortunate).  Thank God for your teachers today.  Know that you may be, or become, a great teacher in your own right--whoever your students may be.

14 October 2011

The current instant publisher is typing this post on a l[Apple]top.  Fellow Blogger Rocco Palmo (of Whispers in the Loggia fame) swears by Apple products and has had much to say about Apple's founder (+)Steve Jobs.

Written by Oblate of Mary Immaculate Father Bevil Bramwell, The Steve Jobs Phenomenon is an interesting piece.  I submit it for your kind consideration.

13 October 2011

Omnia Rapiens Et Nihil Dans

This phrase, attributed to Erasmus, can be said (with no little cynicism) to describe many persons who come to the Church.  They want to get married.  They want a letter that allows them to be a godparent or Confirmation sponsor.  They want a discounted rate for their children's tuition.  They want, they want, they want.  "Taking everything and giving nothing!"

The suggestion to give time, talent, or treasure is not an imposition, is it--especially in light of what one may expect (nay, demand) to receive in return?  It's only fair!

This young priest is learning to lower his expectations…of others, and especially of himself; for how often and how deeply have I taken without giving, or given quarter-heartedly (not even half-heartedly)?

"What does the Lord require of you, O man?"  I pray that our priests, religious, and laity may be able to answer that question as Prophet Micah did--in actions as well as words.  May we be the change we wish to see.

01 October 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: It's A Crop Shoot

In the first reading from Isaiah, a fabled vineyard owner is disturbed about a bad yield.  While the Lord is not content for His people to produce anything less than the best that He has intended, He will prune as often and as deeply as necessary to make it so.

On Respect Life Sunday we recognize that God has looked for judgment and justice, but has seen bloodshed and outcry--and this across the board of human affairs.   Let us not allow God's patience to salve our consciences into inactivity.

28 September 2011

Give Us New Vision

Above you will find: the parish sign of Incarnation of Our Lord Parish in North Philadelphia, where a seminary classmate of mine is Pastor; a posting in favor of vouchers for school choice; and the Pastor's Best Friend, Norman.  The viewer will note something in his attentiveness to the camera.

24 September 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: No Doesn't Mean Yes

People who, late in life, commit to the Gospel (or at least repent for not having done so) are better off than those who fall away after initial enthusiasm.  God, knowing His creatures' weakness, is grateful for what He gets; yet when faced with the Rude Awakening, once-quiet ingrates will soon say, "The Lord's ways are not fair!"  There is nothing wrong with a high standard for human beings, whose greatness consists in the ability and command to love with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

17 September 2011

What I Would Have Said on the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A (2011)

I am grateful that our parish has a fine deacon who preaches for one of us each month.  Unmindful that it was my turn to be "relieved," I proceeded with the gathering and recording of my reflections on the Sunday readings.  Then Monsignor reminded me.  Phooey!  Ah well--it gave me the chance to enter more deeply into the sacred mysteries that I soon will celebrate.  (What if everybody reflected on the Scriptures enough to compose a "homily"--or least a few salient thoughts--before coming to Mass?  I submit that such reflection would help the would-be homilist to get more out of Mass.)  At any rate, this is more or less what the assembly at my Masses this weekend will have been spared from hearing; the patient reader's sparing will depend on how soon he or she navigates to another site without looking back.  Remember Lot's wife.

         The first reading from Isaiah encourages us to “seek the Lord while He may be found.”  It sounds like one of those “limited-time offers” you see on TV, and to be honest, it is: limited in the sense that our life is.  As far as the Lord’s generosity is concerned, there is no limit; for as the Gospel relates, He mercies forth in ways that stump the levelheaded and the pious.  While Saint Paul encourages his listeners to “conduct themselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ,” oftentimes and to varied extents we do not.  And there’s the rub: precisely in response to human waywardness and disgrace our God manifests Himself as the Love that makes worthy and gives direction.
         A couple of months ago we promoted a guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation that is always available in the church vestibules.  The front page of the guide quotes a document from the Second Vatican Council: Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from the mercy of God for the offence committed against Him and are at the same time reconciled with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins, and which by charity, example, and prayer seeks their conversion.  Because the quotation comes from the Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, it holds great weight for us as Catholics who are intended to participate faithfully in that sacrament.
         From this quote two points are worth noting: first, sin is an offense against God and against the Church; second, both God and the Church actively seek to restore the sinner to the fullness of communion.  (And remember that “the Church” refers not only to the hierarchy, but also to every initiated Catholic and, most broadly, to all Christian faithful).
         In a pluralistic, democratic society we aren’t used to hearing about objective, rational standards of right and wrong.  Rather we may hear of truths that apply to those who have devised them, and to no one else; and even these are subject to revisiting and revising as their creator sees fit.  Now since we haven’t collapsed into complete anarchy yet, we can conclude that radical subjectivism must have its limits.  While the Ten Commandments may have disappeared from public displays, the public still gives them a dutiful, if theoretical, nod.  Certain human choices always, and in every circumstance, are an insult to our Creator.  The criteria for offense derives not from the Creator’s arbitrary will (“I choose this to be wrong, just because”), but rather from the very nature of human persons for whom the Law is intended.
We are made to respect our Creator as He deserves and not according to our liking.  We are made to serve our fellow creatures as we desire to be served and not according to our liking.  As members of the Church, we stand out among all our fellow creatures as people to whom we owe a certain debt of attentiveness and gratitude.  Sin is our lack of attentiveness and gratitude toward a particular person or class of persons.  Our greatest creditor, to whom we owe the greatest debt, is God, whose Law gives unity and direction to the Church and to human society.  When we fall short of God’s Law, we let each other down; but when we uphold that Law, we contribute to the betterment of all and each.
If cold, hard justice reigned on earth, we could scarcely make that second point: the same community of persons that sin has wounded is eager for sinners to be reconciled.  We don’t want anyone to be thrown under the bus to heaven, any more than we would want to be!  Precisely how do we express this desire?  The document cited above gives us three ways: charity, example, and prayer.  It wasn’t merely suggesting that we do it; it was saying that we are doing it.  Our every good choice actively seeks to draw fellow human beings and fellow members of the Church closer to us and closer to God, as a sort of countersuit to their divisiveness.  Charity: Our patience and tolerance toward fellow sinners may be all that they need to change their ways, even though it may take longer than we’d prefer and even though it may never happen at all.  Example: Because people are convinced more by witnessing virtuous actions than by hearing virtuous words, it is important for us to demonstrate interest in the welfare of our oppressors and offenders.  Prayer: Our business in praying is not to manipulate God into doing what we want Him to do, but instead to align our interests with God’s interests, among which we can safely include the salvation of souls.
At any given point in life we may find ourselves among the reconcilers or among those who could stand to be reconciled.  Wherever we are we aim to find a deeper identity with the others than previously expected.  By our commitment to reconciliation in all our relationships, past and present, and by our willingness to enter frequently into the sacramental transaction of divine mercy known as Confession, we as members of Christ’s Mystical Body the Church are seeking Him while He may be found; we are enlisting His help at all hours of the day and offering a lavish wage to the latest of latecomers; and all because it is really Christ whom we seek and find in the course of life’s journey.

15 September 2011

Spirituality, Si; Religion, No

"Spirituality, Si; Religion, No" seems to be the moderns' cry.  How much longer can this fractioning continue?  This cafeteria-style, tenuous allegiance to the Faith?

It would be a bold proposition, and I'm sure that others have made it:

What is your beef with Catholicism (whether it be in theory or in practice)?

That's right: what if there were an open forum for the airing of grievances?  They must be aired somewhere--that is, if the aggrieved were honest and bold enough to air them.  Anonymity would be a selling point, I'm sure, for those who desired it.

I won't lie: coming from the standpoint of a faithful Catholic, and a priest to boot, it is not easy to simply hear people out without the initial mental response...laced with no little suspicion.  Despite these "judgment-free" times, I don't think this sort of "countersuit" judgment would fly.  At least keep it to yourself, Father.

Am I making the offer?  Is the objector willing to be heard, let alone to hear me out?

03 September 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: Binding and Loosing

The terms "binding" and "loosing" have scatological connotations nowadays, but they are perfectly appropriate for God's purposes.  Resentments, fears, and unworthy conduct can adhere to our soul like so much waste that causes spiritual sepsis.  The sacrament of Reconciliation is the "general anaesthetic" that enables the Divine Physician to clean us out--a procedure in which the patient's involvement is far from passive, although s/he is not the Agent of healing.

01 September 2011

A Fitting Prayer For The New School Year

Today the Holy Guardian Angels Regional School community celebrated Mass for the opening of the formational year.  I say "formational" because it is more than academic, more than artistic, and more than athletic: it is all of these, and...more.  Our school strives to be a "community in formation"--by which we mean (in a sense not originally intended but certainly welcomed) a work in progress.  New methods and technologies are being employed, and new students are being added to our number.  It is like the Gospel reading of this weekday, in which Jesus' apostles lower their fishing nets (a type for the Church) into the sea and receive a large quantity (a school!) of fish.  Our catch ought to fill us with astonishment in the power of God; it further fills us with repentance for our weak faith in and cynicism toward the newest generation.

St. Paul's letter to the Colossians offers his prayer for the spiritual welfare of that formational community:

From the day we heard about you, we do not cease praying for you
and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will
through all spiritual wisdom and understanding
to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,
so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit
and growing in the knowledge of God,

strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might,
for all endurance and patience,
with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share
in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.
He delivered us from the power of darkness
and transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

To most readers of this column it is unnecessary to demonstrate in an itemized fashion how this passage applies to children.  Just read it as if you were addressing your own children with those words and realize that this was how St. Paul regarded not only the Colossians, but every Christian community.  Perhaps, however, the last few lines of the prayer are worth considering for their universal application.  We are encouraged to thank the Father who is mercifully preparing us for an inheritance precisely by aligning us with the mind and will of Christ.  I heard somewhere that Aquinas distinguished redemption from salvation: the former being the act already accomplished for us by Christ, the latter being the process by which it is being worked out in our lives.  While our school and our families are "communities in formation," we can rejoice in what the Lord already has done for us, which can urge us on to a more mindful and grateful daily appropriation of that gift.

27 August 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: Super Duper God

The prophet Jeremiah puts palm to forehead, wondering "How could I have let myself be taken in?"  But "taken in" more properly may be rendered seduced.  "You could say that you're leading me on / but it's just what I want You to do; / Don't You notice how hopelessly I'm lost-- / That's why I'm following You."  God's spokespersons sign a contract--or rather, enter into a covenant--that seems all fine print; and yet so many stick around!  It must be worth it.

(Incidentally, who else notices the irony in Irene as a hurricane name?  eirene: peace!)

05 August 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: Against The Wind

Bishop Cullen told the assembly gathered for our ordination that my classmate and I were "walking against the wind" by becoming priests in this culture.  Just so, the boat filled with disciples was also facing opposition until Jesus came along.  Greater still was the opposition that Peter began to encounter within himself after taking the initial step onto the raging sea.  "When he saw how strong the wind was..."  But how much stronger would Peter be, because God had his back!

26 July 2011

Planks For The Memories

A thoughtful reader recently sent this item my way.  I was slightly embarrassed to admit that I'd never heard of "planking" before, which led to a link to numerous examples of this practice, which somehow led to "I Can Haz Cheezburger" and other amusing diversions.  I'm not sure what a "meme" is, except that "meme" (circumflex accent over the first e) is French for "same" or "self" internet identity, perchance?

Planking is the art of propping oneself, face down, in various places, especially those generally deemed unconventional.  One image on that link showed a gentleman with head and feet lodged in opposite luggage compartments of an aeroplane.

Priests, too, are prone to such activity, although it is usually reserved for liturgical celebrations such as their ordination or Good Friday.  And nothing forbids people from planking in personal piety, unless they have a problem with their prostrate.

It was good to be transported in memory to Ordination Day (as Deacon, 10 May 2002 and as Priest, 07 June 2003), when your Reverend Blogger planked for the Kingdom of God.  This is especially needful as the priests of our diocese begin meeting with our Ordinary, who is interested in hearing our thoughts and experience on "The Beauty of the Priesthood."  Where do I begin to tell the story of how great a love can be--and more to come, I pray!

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: Use It Or Lose It

Solomon knew enough to know that he didn't know much...or at least that he wasn't quick to think on his feet.  The Lord approved of Solomon's insight and the request that followed from it.  Now, however, he needed to put the request into practice; for how else would his wisdom really make a difference?  "Wisdom is vindicated by all her children" (Lk 7:35). 

16 July 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: An Enemy Has Done This

Yes, evil is in great part attributable to the bad choices that human agents make, but how else can one account for some of the crops that have shown up in God's Field, than through the unyielding efforts of the Primordial Enemy of the Kingdom of God?  It's been said that some people--the present writer included--can be their "own worst enemy," but perhaps not.  That enemy has an intellect more subtle and persistent than any found among the Sons and Daughters of Adam.

09 July 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: Sow What?

God wants His Word to be known and loved by people.  Yet people are not necessarily interested in hearing that Word.  So God in His wisdom allows people to experience the full measure of restlessness, irritability, and discontentment that opens their hearts just enough to begin to receive His Word.  Then they wonder why they've waited so long.  Given the frequent and intense distractions that the world, the flesh, and the devil offer people, it's no surprise that the Gospel isn't sought with similar frequency and intensity.  But when the student is ready, the teacher will appear--and the lessons will begin.

02 July 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: Messianic Transportation Apparatus

Now there's a euphemism for the ages--instead of calling myself an "ass" for the latest mistake I've made, I can substitute "Messianic Transportation Apparatus."  That better suits my baptismal identity, anyhow.  For all my foibles I have been chosen to bear the Lord of heaven and earth; and He, in His meekness, seems pleased with the choice.

27 June 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: Some Assembly Required

How was Moses able to remind the Israelites (of yesteryear, of future generations the world over, and us "brothers by another Mother," Mater Ecclesia) of the mighty acts of God, including wilderness trials, the provision of manna, water, physical healing, and everything else they needed, when they needed it?

How was Jesus able to tell the Jews gathered about Him, and future generations the world over, of the necessity of eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood for authentic temporal and eternal living?

How was St. Paul able to tell the factious Corinthians, and future generations the world over, that their participation in the Sacred Morsel profoundly joined them to the Host-Guest of Honor and thus to every other fellow partaker and even to those who for whatever reason are absent?

One answer starts the music and wins both Showcase Showdowns (Sacrifice and Banquet), namely this week's title.  Call it the understatement of the ages!  What an adjective!  What a participle!  What a noun!  But how would one know unless one would show?!

18 June 2011

Generation X on Spiritual Generation

Kathryn Lopez: Different sort of Father's Day is a delightful piece from a young columnist (just a few months older than the current blogger) who expresses her gratitude for the spiritual fatherhood of priests. I have linked the reader to this column not because I desire or deserve any recognition, but because the priesthood as such does, for reasons Ms. Lopez cites and more.

I am encouraged to know that the Rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum was ordained during "my time" in the seminary, as were several of the priests currently on the faculty at my Alma Mater, St. Charles Borromeo in Philadelphia, where I was privileged to be formed for the priesthood (1994-2003). By no merit of our own, we are among the fruits of Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI's vision for the Church, eager for the New Evangelization. "The time to reap has come, and the earth's harvest is fully ripe" (Rev 14:15).

17 June 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: [sic]

"Sic" (Latin for "thus" or "so") appears in brackets to indicate that a quoted word or phrase has been reprinted precisely according to the original source, and was not miscopied.  The famous John 3:16 reads, in Latin, "Sic enim Deus dilexit mundum, ut Filium suum unigenitum daret, ut omnis, qui credit in eum, non pereat, sed habet vitam aeternam."  We could just as well move the "sic" from the beginning to any of several points to emphasize the reality of what was said, as in: "Yes, God loved the world"; "You heard that right--God gave His only-begotten Son"; "No mistake--whoever believes in Him will not perish"; "Yes--eternal life."

15 June 2011

Musical Chairs

I had the most delightful evening playing a concert with the Cressona Band (, a Schuylkill County outfit for which I've been honored to play (off and on--in recent years, mostly off) since the summer of 1991. 

We played under the baton of John P., a band director who just retired after directing bands for over 35 years in Schuylkill County high schools, whose daughter Mikki is now directing in Berks County.  Next to me was Craig S., a band director who judged one of my county band auditions almost 20 years ago; our section also featured his sons, neither of whom was alive when I started with the band.  For perhaps the fourth time in 40 years my mother got to meet Mark C., a boy she grew up with in Hometown, who picked up his alto saxophone a few years ago and has since recruited his children for the band.

Thoughts and conversations took me back to Joe B., Joe P., Frank M., Bruce H., and Mike B., fellow trumpet players all.  Bruce, the only surviving one among them, may bristle to know that I have a couple of his clothespins (for keeping the music steady on windy days like today); on one he wrote his name.  I liken it to a towel stolen from the Waldorf-Astoria.  When I first joined the band, Joe B. let me sit up with him and take a solo here and there.  He was still playing into his 90s for his church--not only the cornet, but also the musical saw.  Something worth hearing, I must say.  I also miss a number of clarinet players: one is Howard C., our first-chair clarinet who famously tuned us all up--even the snare drummers--with the old-reliable concert B flat.  He's living near his daughter in Texas now.  I'm not sure that he can play anymore.  Another is Tom W., a man who often gave me rides to practice before I could drive.  Over the years I would see him with his cronies "up the mall" at the Chick-fil-A.  Our last encounter was on a Memorial Day, after a parade, when I visited him and his wife in a nursing home, unless you count his wake last year.

A chair was left empty in the baritone horn section for Bill M., who was buried earlier today.  He was a mainstay in the band, having been a high school band director at one point.  Mind you, that job is not a prerequisite for being in the Cressona Band; but we can boast a good number of band directors, as they like to preserve their chops and introduce the next generation to good music.  We played a somewhat obscure Sousa march for Bill ("The Golden Jubilee"), which his son (in attendance with wife and daughter) very much appreciated.

I have to give it to the Borough of St. Clair, who co-sponsored the concert and saw us through the windy evening.  Retired veterans (always reverenced in our town) had the nation's colors on display until dusk.  Along with equally-reverenced first responders (police, fire, EMS), they received our thanks for their service.  St. Clair has been generous to host the band again in recent years, although I recalled a concert sometime in the mid-1990s when some hoodlums pelted the band with eggs, ruining Howard's clarinet and the rest of the concert besides.  Tonight, no harm, no fowl.

I'll have another chance or two to play this season.  Maybe by summer's end my stamina will have improved some.  If anything, I certainly will have exercised my memory by recalling the dozens of fine musicians who over the past 20 years have occupied those chairs to good effect.

11 June 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: The "Peace Pipe" of the Spirit

Draw in the Spirit's intoxicating fragrance, and exhale that fragrance into a toxic atmosphere for its purification.  Pass it not to a friend, but to an enemy, that he or she may inhale, savor, and infuse yet another room with new life.  The Holy Spirit is not a "controlled substance" (cf. John 3:34), except if we attempt to hold our breath by being unwilling to forgive, unwilling to change.  When we ration a gift so freely given us, it's not just our loss; the world is inhibited from the full potential that God desires for it.

07 June 2011

This Too Shall Pass

Such was the title of a daily reflection for tomorrow's Scripture readings.  Both the first reading and the Gospel are concerned with the departure of an influential and inspiring person--Paul and Jesus, respectively.  Of course, Jesus is far more than an influential and inspiring person, but these qualities certainly describe the Lord of History.  The axiom "This too shall pass" refers not only to difficult periods in our lives, but to good ones as well.

Between yesterday and tomorrow (6 to 8 June) we shall have marked the graduation of the last classes from Holy Name High School and Central Catholic High School, and henceforth Berks County will have one Catholic high school.  These are sad times, no doubt, for everyone who has contributed in any way to these institutions--as alumnus/a, parent, teacher, staff, administrator, etc.  Many people may not have considered the possibility that either of these institutions would have an end as well as a beginning.  Likewise for many of the parishes in our diocese--my own parish of origin included.

It is helpful for us to keep this axiom in our minds as we experience anything, whether favorable or unfavorable.  It puts things in perspective.

06 June 2011

Ad Multos Annos!

This web-logger joins with the entire Diocese of Allentown in praising the Triune God for Father Jason F. Stokes, newly-ordained priest in the line of Melchisedek (Ps. 110:4), shepherd after the heart of the LORD (Jer 3:15), and co-worker in the ministry of the Apostles.

The homilist for Fr. Stokes' Mass of Thanksgiving remarked that a newly-ordained priest is a sign from God that He wants the Church to go on; this is much like the saying that "a baby is a sign that God wants the world to go on."  Both verities convey God's pleasure with His people, His interest in our augmentation both in quantity and in quality. 

The homilist further noted that, like a certain current Ordinary of our diocese, Fr. Stokes is the son of parents who converted to Catholicism.  Mr. and Mrs. Stokes have raised three children for the Church, counting Jason's twin brother and his sister.

The homilist further noted that Jason's parish family fostered his priestly vocation alongside the domestic Church of his household.

The homilist further noted that Fr. Stokes profited from a sound Catholic secondary education and a vibrant involvement in the campus ministry of his college.

One may safely conclude that there are many auxiliary "vocation directors" whose efforts set the foundation without which a diocese may never learn who is interested in (and by God's grace capable of) the gift and mystery of priesthood.  It takes a Church to raise a priest or vowed religious.

To a "numbers person" one priest does not sound like a bumper crop, but our Holy Father Benedict XVI has reinforced the truth that numbers don't say everything.  However, given the manifest need for proclaimers of the Gospel, celebrants of the sacraments, and caregivers of Christian charity, numbers are by no means to be discounted.

Planting in the soil of orthodox teaching, profound liturgy, and honest compassion, in time we will shake the trees to yield a richer harvest.  This stands as a challenge for Holy Guardian Angels and for all our sacred institutions.

05 June 2011

This Week in Christian Liturgy: All in a Day's Work

Every day provides countless opportunities to glorify God as Jesus did, "simply" by "accomplishing the work that you gave me to do" (Jn 17:4).  By "you" Jesus means, of course, the Father; by "the work" He means not only the wonderful works of salvation--proclaiming the Gospel, healing, forgiving sins, and the like--but also...getting out of bed in the morning?  Yes: getting out of bed in the morning is no small accomplishment!  Pray each day with preemptive gratitude for the people and situations that God will send you today for His glory and the salvation of all concerned parties.

01 June 2011

I Resemble That Remark!

It's All Your Fault is a delightful essay from a man who has "told me everything I have done." While this British author is not the Messiah, he treats well of the Mess.

30 May 2011

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es

GOD of our fathers, known of old—
Lord of our far-flung battle-line—
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,5
Lest we forget, lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies—
The captains and the kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.10
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!
Far-call'd our navies melt away—
On dune and headland sinks the fire—
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday15
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—20
Such boasting as the Gentiles use
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust25
In reeking tube and iron shard—
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard—
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!30

In my random walkings around St. Clair I would pass "the Hookies," formally known as Rescue Hook & Ladder Fire Company.  Above the front door they have a sign that features the name of a recently deceased member, with the header Lest We Forget.  I didn't know until much later that this was taken from Rudyard Kipling's poem "Recessional," cited above in toto.  This is an appropriate poem for Memorial Day or Any Day.  It reminds us of the Lord, without whose help the builders labor in vain (cf. Psalm 127:1).  It is this blogger's hope that Kipling's noble verse will keep our eye true.

28 May 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: Reason For Hope

St. Peter exhorts us to be ready to back up our hope in Christ with clear and compelling words, with "gentleness and reverence" so as not to be misinterpreted as axe-grinders or holiers-than-thou.  Of course, we may be misinterpreted anyway, and to a great extent that is beyond our control, just as it was beyond Christ's.  Defamation reveals more about the defamers than the defamed.

21 May 2011

This is the End, My Friends

Thanks to our good deacon, I didn't have to prepare a homily for the Lord's Day Mass; but I had a wedding.  Below were my reflections on their special day, relevant to all who are mindful of the "end" of their lives--by "end" I mean "purpose," as Scholastic philosophy uses the term.  (The names of the spouses have been changed.)

I join with Matilda and Oscar in thanking everyone for your presence and support of them throughout the years that have led to this day.  The Psalmist of the Hebrew Scriptures fittingly expressed our sentiments: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (118).  Every aspect of this day testifies to the presence of our wise and loving God.  Yet I can’t help but frame it in the context of a curious report: according to a modern-day prophet, the 21st of May 2011 is supposed to be the end of the world.  Now any Biblically-literate Christian will easily refute that claim with Our Savior’s words: "But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mat 24:36).  At the same time, we must accept the reality that this world is not meant to endure forever, that the Lord Jesus Christ will indeed come again in glory to join His faithful people to Himself.  Furthermore, the final day of life comes for us all, with or without a fair warning.  It remains for us, therefore, to “seize the day,” to savor the graces that God has in store for us, to share the blessings of life that we have received.
            I am reminded of Eugene Hamilton, a young man who was studying for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of New York.  In his final years of preparation this holy man was stricken with terminal cancer and given a very short time to live.  Through the recommendation of Cardinal Cooke, his bishop, Gene was ordained to the diaconate and the priesthood on his deathbed.  He never celebrated Mass on his own, but for the three hours of his priesthood he embodied the Lord’s Passion and Death.  By his patience in grave illness and his courageous pursuit of holiness, Father Hamilton remains an extraordinary example of sacrificial love for persons of every vocation.  The length of life matters less than the quality of choices we make.  Even if the world were to end today, Matilda O'Grady and Oscar Haussenpfeffer would be united to each other in a bond that mirrors the eternal union of love that Christ forged with His Church by giving His very life for her.
            The first reading from the book of Tobit provides an interesting parallel to Fr. Eugene Hamilton’s situation and to today’s “Judgment Day Drama.”  Again, a little context is helpful.  We heard the prayer that newlyweds Tobiah and Sarah offered together on their wedding night.  Sarah had married seven other men before; each of them mysteriously died on their wedding night.  We can only imagine the urgency in Tobiah’s prayer: “Please, Lord, don’t let me be number eight!”  No doubt Sarah had the same thought in her mind.  As the story unfolds, they receive the divine deliverance for which they prayed: according to the final words of the prayer, God allowed them “to live together to a happy old age.”  While they escaped tribulation in that moment, their married life must have had its share of challenges; but their firm determination and their firm reliance on God’s help and the support of others won not only the day, but the lifetime—however long it lasted.
            Our ears may have been piqued by one sentence of Tobiah’s plea: “Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose.”  Apparently this young couple had allowed God to purify their intentions for marrying to the point that they could proceed with confidence in God and in themselves.  It is no secret in this day and age—if it ever was—that people unite with each other for lesser reasons than the ones that Matilda and Oscar are being invited to express today.  Or, perhaps people take this leap with fingers crossed—and toes, and feet, and eyes as well!  The reservations of the banquet facility aren’t the only reservations they have.  The Church is particularly eager to prepare couples as best as possible to face the many temptations “out there” and “in here.”  Without God’s grace and human effort, what you are about to do today is not only unsustainable, but unimaginable.
            So today, 21 May 2011, is “Judgment Day.”  Oscar and Matilda have employed not only their hearts, but also their minds to make a judgment for each other in the sight of Almighty God, their family, and their peers.  They have come to believe that the Love of God—a patient, kind, other-centered, truthful love—moves mountains and never fails.  It is the “still more excellent way,” the Way of the Lord Jesus.  We wish them a long and happy life, a household that grows in quantity and quality; but however long this life will last, it requires something more than mere human power can accomplish.  Christ Himself shows us that it can be done.  See His hand in all your undertakings; walk together in His Way, and this Judgment Day will have been a good one.

The Place for Me

Every year around this time many diocesan priests are shaking in their shoes, wondering if they will be asked to pick up the mat and walk to another ministerial locale.  I have not been asked to go anywhere; but after 3 1/2 years in my current assignment I sense the call, generally and specifically, to go deeper.  A trusted friend has suggested that I pray for insights into what I must learn in order to grow where I am and whither I may go.  Pray, and keep your eyes open for answers.

This suggestion is rather appropriate because I've been a priest for eight years and have spent nearly half of that time in one place.  One may consider it a manifestation of the "seven-year itch" reported in many marriages.  The occurrence of that itch (in participants of any life-commitment) is by no means an indicator of anything gone wrong; the contrary is usually the case.  As in any experience of unrest, there lies within something that must be addressed head-on; no mere topical solution will satisfy.

Persons in recovery know the phrase, "Find God or die!"  Doesn't that sound dire--a bit much?  Hardly!  God has a low tolerance for the indolent.  He exhibits this low tolerance in the trials that He permits in the lives of His children--fires lit under the rumps of those who have dared to invest themselves in His grand design.  Seeking to know the mind of the Designer is crucial at any point; but such knowledge always must be action-oriented, lest the investor lose what little he has (cf. Mt 25:14-30).

The patient reader's prayers are welcomed in this continuing endeavor.  Pray, too, for all priests, religious, spouses, and unmarrieds who stumble upon their opportunities-for-growth-dressed-as-internal-crises.  Jesus reminds: Non turbetur cor vestrum (Jn 14:1).

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: There's a Place for Us

It's no surprise that "Doubting" Thomas is also "Fretting" Thomas, as these two spiritual disorders are often comorbid.  Jesus is the Way for those mired in the muck of insecurity.  As Way, He requires His followers to walk, that is, to move; and move we must, else we sink deeper into the mire.  The "place" that Jesus has prepared for us is not a static "location" but rather a path.  As stones rejected by the builders, we will not rest comfortably as in a foundation but rather be cast into the fray of life, though now with a purpose not of our own design ("Mined with a motion"--G. M. Hopkins).

19 May 2011

Suffering Succotash, Revisited

Offering It Up is a straightforward and splendid piece on the optimal approach to the hardships we experience.

Prosit omnibus et singulis.

13 May 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: Suffering Succotash

St. Peter says that those who suffer for doing what is good are partaking in the grace of God (1 Pet 2:20b).  We may be well accustomed to suffering the effects of evil--our own and others'--and this is not without merit either.  This is how we learn from our mistakes.  Sometimes, like the hearers of Peter's first Pentecost homily, we must be "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:36) by realizing our contribution to Christ's Passion.  This is how we are moved to conversion, that is, change.  Returning to "the shepherd and guardian of our souls" (1 Pet 2:25), we are renewed in the pursuit of justice and mercy in all our affairs.

11 May 2011

Do I rejoice?

The above link directs the patient reader to an article that presents several clergy responses to the death of Osama bin Laden. The old-chestnut principle, "Hate the sin, love the sinner," prompts people of good will to triumph in every victory of virtue over vice, leaving the authentic administration of justice to the One Who Knows. In God, knowledge and love are one; every lover/beloved of God must pray and work for that simplicity on every stratum of governance, especially that which concerns the self.

"Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? says the Lord GOD. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?" (Eze 18:23)

10 May 2011

A Poem as Lovely as...

Below is a story submitted to me from a parishioner:

Once there were three trees on a hill in the woods. They were discussing their hopes and dreams when the first tree said, 'Someday I hope to be a treasure chest. I could be filled with gold, silver and precious gems. I could be decorated with intricate carving and everyone would see the beauty.'

Then the second tree said, 'Someday I will be a mighty ship. I will take kings and queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world. Everyone will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull.'

Finally the third tree said, 'I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest tree in the forest. People will see me on top of the hill and look up to my branches, and think of the heavens and God and how close to them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me.'

After a few years of praying that their dreams would come true, a group of woodsmen came upon the trees. When one came to the first tree he said, 'This looks like a strong tree, I think I should be able to sell
the wood to a carpenter, 'and he began cutting it down. The tree was happy, because he knew that the carpenter would make him into a treasure chest.

At the second tree the woodsman said, 'This looks like a strong tree. I should be able to sell it to the shipyard.' The second tree was happy because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.

When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down his dreams would not come true. One of the woodsmen said, 'I don't need anything special from my
tree, I'll take this one,' and he cut it down.

When the first tree arrived at the carpenters, he was made into a feed box for animals. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay. This was not at all what he had prayed for.

The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying kings had come to an end.

The third tree was cut into large pieces, and left alone in the dark.

The years went by, and the trees forgot about their dreams.

Then one day, a man and woman came to the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box that was made from the first tree. The man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby, but
this manger would have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.

Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the second tree. One of them was tired and went to sleep. While they were out on the water, a great storm arose and the tree didn't think it was
strong enough to keep the men safe. The men woke the sleeping man, and He stood and said 'Peace' and the storm stopped. At this time, the tree knew that it had carried the King of Kings in its boat.

Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the streets as the people mocked the man who was carrying it. When they came to a stop, the man was nailed to the tree and raised in the air to
die at the top of a hill. When Sunday came, the tree came to realize that it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God as was possible, because Jesus had been crucified on it.

The moral of this story is that when things don't seem to be going your way, always know that God has a plan for you. If you place your trust in Him, God will give you great gifts.

Each of the trees got what they wanted, just not in the way they had imagined.

We don't always know what God's plans are for us. We just know that His Ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best.

I admit that this is one of those emails that I was tempted to gloss over or delete outright.  I'm glad I read it because it speaks to my life.  From my earliest years I had aspired to earn advanced degrees and teach in the seminary or in another "important" setting.  While I have not altogether abandoned the idea of further study, I am not surprised to be discovering and enjoying many opportunities to teach and learn in my current setting.  Who knows what God will have in store for me?  Or for you?

09 May 2011

The End is...

Today a dear priest-friend of mine sent me a link to a video ( that warns of the imminent second coming of Christ as a two-stage affair: the 21st of May will witness the "rapture" (sudden removal from the earth) of all believers and the 21st of October will feature the King's arrival (the parousia).  You may have seen signs posted like political ads along the local highways warning of this occurrence.  Strange, that the "word of the day" email I received today features a "word of warning" ( 

While commending me to the video link, Father also reminded me that 21 May 2011 is the 45th anniversary of his ordination to the Priesthood.  If I were to send him a gift, he suggested that I "do so a few days ahead of time."  Duly noted.  I think I will send a post-dated check for all the money in my bank account.

For Catholic teaching on "the Rapture," consult these links:

07 May 2011

This Week in Catholic Liturgy: Death Be Not Proud

John Donne's sonnet Death Be Not Proud ( summarizes the Christian's attitude toward our last breath.  Although prophets, priests, and kings have gone to rest, the Christ of God journeyed through death to life eternal.  All who believe in Him and live accordingly are promised a like victory.

05 May 2011

Purge-ery of a Different Sort

Contraceptive Contradictions is a recent offering provided by a personal favorite, the Catholic Education Resource Center. Now I present it for the honest scrutiny of the patient reader.

Fr. Pacholczyk's article relates a "hard truth" that the Catholic Church has prophetically affirmed for ages, though the modern era has called it into question one Christian denomination at a time, one circumstance at a time, until (for them) the whole house "collapsed and was completely ruined" (Mt 7:27).

Is this the only fly in the ointment? No, but one that has caused, some may say, the greatest infection. It comes down to what we as body-soul persons "say" in and through our choices. Although contraceptive intercourse is the most obvious instance of misspeaking the enfleshed word of sexual expression, Bl. John Paul II has remarked that persons married and unmarried dissimulate in their choices when the language of the their hearts is garbled. The heart is where communication originates (cf. Mt 12:34), and everyone has a heart.

The Church as a whole may accept this teaching, but not down to the last person. Such a state may, alas, never occur. All of us are invited to receive it and live it according to our state in life. Lord, you have said, "Be fruitful," but please, God, enrich our soil!

01 May 2011

Notes in the Octave VIII: Salvation--the Goal

Although you have not seen Him you love Him; Even though you do not see Him now yet believe in Him, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 3:9)

From C to sonorous C, from the glory of God to the salvation of our souls, spans the octave of Easter and the song of the disciple.  We end our Paschal reflections not with the "double bar" that signals finalization, but with the "fermata," the hold that prompts the singer to sustain the note of living faith until the Conductor lowers His hands and the coroner closes our eyes. 

Incidentally, "coroner" derives from the Latin "corona," meaning "crown."  Originally the coroner was an officer of the royal crown who directed the property of executed criminals into the treasury; now he or she investigates deaths and oversees any inquiries into the "treasure."  The desire of our merciful King is to award the crown of life to His faithful servants who have persevered until death (cf. Rev 2:10).  The joy of discipleship is to devote oneself to the fourfold activity of the Church: "the teaching of the apostles, the communal life, the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42).  A spirit of divine awe and human charity motivates members of the Lord's company to worship and serve, and to enlist everyone around us to do likewise.

St. John relates that "Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written."  He concludes his Gospel thus: "If these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written" (21:25).  What else can we call this but an invitation to keep inscribing His words and deeds into the book with the pen and ink of our lives? 

The song is ended, but the melody lingers on.