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

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.