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

29 February 2012

Grave Matter

One of those questions that surfaces from time to time:  Can I be buried in a non-Catholic cemetery?

Nowadays, perhaps, the more prominent question may be, "When I die, I want my ashes to be scattered in the ocean at Sea Isle City, except for a portion to be divided equally among my children and stored in lockets for them to wear.  Is that all right?"

Yikes.  The notion of respect for the resurrected body was not entirely rescinded with the Church's permission for cremation.  It seems nevertheless to have opened the vault to all kinds of long-standing abuses that may have been a temptation, at best, until now.

The Church does not permit cremation when the survivors intend to keep the remains at home indefinitely or divided in any way into portions.  Scattering is not permitted.  Reposition in the ground or in a mausoleum are the options.  Here is a "Catholic Update" instruction on Catholic teaching as of 1997.  Our diocesan bishops since that time have extended much leeway to parishes regarding the celebration of Mass in the presence of cremains.

24 February 2012

Appoint A King Over Us

The Rev'd Blogger can take no credit for the above image.  Reproduce for Christ's sake.

All My World's A Stage

Hypocrisy is a major theme in the Gospels.  Often Jesus uses the term in reference to Pharisees such that "Pharisee" and "hypocrite" have become synonymous.  Along the line I have heard/read that not all members of the Pharisee sect of Judaism were hypocritical, that the evangelist (usually Matthew) was  tailoring the words of Jesus to depict the struggle between the nascent Church and the synagogue from which she eventually would break.  To my knowledge not a single Pharisee has stepped forward in order to clear up this debate or to speak of his own interior state vis-a-vis the Law of Moses; nor do I expect any such "True Jerusalem Story" before the Parousia.  Until Then, perhaps this blog posting from Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington will offer some insights--not into the aforementioned debate, but rather into the true nature of hypocrisy.  Enjoy, too, the video that situates freedom from hypocrisy in one's relationship with the living God.

You say you want a Resolution--Well, you know, we all need to change ourselves

Young Fogeys is a fine blog.  I am passing on to you something that this priest has passed on to his readers.  There is no "infinite regress," as the philosophers say; there has to be an origin of everything, which we call God.  But human beings rightly repackage material all the time, and often they give due credit.  It all goes to show that there is little truly original material out there.  The link attached to the blog name offers several lists of Lenten resolutions for the reader to consider and adopt.

We all need to change ourselves…more accurately, we all need to be changed, as God is the Prime Mover, the one who "begets in us any measure of desire or achievement" (Philippians 2:13).  Lent always bids us walk the line of "my effort and God's grace."  It isn't meant to be a tightrope, the descent from which results in sudden death and merciless judgment.  It's just life.

I am not familiar with every recommendation on these lists, but I can say that Sacred Space is a good daily meditation site run by the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus.  The rest I can search out for myself, as you can.  Enjoy!

22 February 2012

+Charles in Charge: On Lent

Watch and take any single suggestion into account, and you'd be off to a great start for Great Lent.

Red and Black: Not Just For Roulette

In a recent article (Clerical Narcissism and Lent | First Things) George Weigel offers an appropriate challenge to priests.

In eight and one half years as a priest, I have at times noticed chirpiness and chattiness in my own and in other priests' celebration of the Holy Sacrifice. While I have had some difficulties with the renewed translation, I strive to use it without reverting to previous phrases and vocabulary, especially those that weren't in the other text either. This is ascesis, pure and simple; and my attentiveness to it, I believe, can have salutary effects in other areas of life. There exists the phenomenon of liturgical precision that helps a rationalizing priest (or layperson, I'll bet) to casually avoid due attention to matters of morality and charity.  Of course, almost anything can be neglected in favor of anything else.

All year round, and not just in Lent, I have the opportunity to firm up the tripod of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. By turning anew to sacrifice as the modus operandi and ars celebrandi, may all priests be "renewing renewers" for their good and the good of all His holy Church.

Fasting & The Season the Enemy Calls Lent — Crisis Magazine

In Fasting & The Season the Enemy Calls Lent — Crisis Magazine, Fr. Dwight Longenecker presents the Ancient Enemy's backdoor approach to our souls, by way of the penitential disciplines to which the Church calls our renewed attention during Lent.

Yes, I am a Cardinal's mother--and you CAN call me Shirley

Dolan's mother meets Pope Benedict -

Living proof that vulgarity is not a precondition for good humor.

Deny This, Be Better Disposed to Receive That

Reasons for Renunciation--a fine intro to Holy Lent from Fr. Dwight Longenecker.

17 February 2012

Nothing new under the Sun

Nihil novi sub solewrites Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa in a demonstration of how the Church's teachings against intentional unfruitfulness and abortion have remained unchanged.

16 February 2012

By (Fr) George, I think he's got it!

Why Not Ask “Why?” — Crisis Magazine is a great periodical, now (I think) entirely online. Fr Rutler applies foot to posterior for the Kingdom of God. In this article he lays the smack down with characteristic aplomb.

Morning, Midday And Evening Sacrifice

Everything I said in my previous posting ("Unum in Christo…") to engaged couples last week can be summarized in Hopkins' work "Morning, Midday, and Evening Sacrifice":

THE DAPPLED die-away
Cheek and wimpled lip,
The gold-wisp, the airy-grey
Eye, all in fellowship—
This, all this beauty blooming,        5
This, all this freshness fuming,
Give God while worth consuming.
Both thought and thew now bolder
And told by Nature: Tower;
Head, heart, hand, heel, and shoulder        10
That beat and breathe in power—
This pride of prime’s enjoyment
Take as for tool, not toy meant
And hold at Christ’s employment.
The vault and scope and schooling        15
And mastery in the mind,
In silk-ash kept from cooling,
And ripest under rind—
What life half lifts the latch of,
What hell stalks towards the snatch of,        20
Your offering, with despatch, of!

"dappled"--spotted; "die-away"--not sure: die as in the singular of dice? "wimpled"--folded or curved; "thew"--muscular strength or mettle.

I would not pretend to offer an analysis, line-by-line, of this or any poem by Fr. Hopkins.  I am a dilettante "in all things except sin," though certainly in poetry.  I'd say that I aspire to be a Hopkins scholar, but that would imply that I read his poems, critiques, and biographies--or do just about anything--with system and rigor.  Simply put, Hopkins is my man.  While I love the precision of grammar (English, Latin, and Greek in particular), GMH regarded the body of language as his wonderland.  His manipulation of the written and spoken word belies his keen comprehension of the same.  How else could he make such magic, as obscure as it could be at times?

Basically the well-lived (i.e. always imperfect but steadfast) marriage, as embodied in the well-lived (i.e. always imperfect but steadfast) spouses, is the incarnation of the liturgical entreaty known as the Suscipiat:

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, 
for the praise and glory of His Name, 
for our good and the good of all His holy Church.

(1) The sacrifice--yours and mine.  "What's yours is yours and what's mine is mine," it is said; and it must be so, if what's mine is to become yours and what's yours is to become mine!  I have everything of self to give, and so do you; and your everything must first be wholly yours  if you are to offer it to me and we are to offer "yours and mine" together, in union with Christ and empowered by the Spirit, to the Father.  Does this suggest whole-and-entire understanding of self?  Nobody has that, mystery that we are.  Yet to be on the journey is, in a sense, to become ready to reach the destination--and self-knowledge is not the end in itself, but knowledge oriented to love.

(2) Our good: not in a selfish sense; there is of course a proper sense of self-concern that seeks optimum usefulness to God and others ("as tool not toy meant")--both for its own sake and for the sake of our personal fulfillment.  But insofar as we are members of Christ's holy Church, our personal good is the good of all His holy Church.  Like love and marriage (as told by Sammy Cahn): how, or why, could we seek one apart from the other?

(3) The liturgical directive to stand for the Orate, Fratres (Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours…) fosters in the assembly a sense of vigilance and intent.  With due regard for the proper context of Jesus' directive to Judas "What you are going to do, do quickly" (Jn 13:27), and His related directive to the apostles "Rise, let us be on our way" (Mk 14:42), we may "redeem" them as the command to celebrate the Liturgy in haste ("with despatch"), much as Mary set out to meet Elizabeth.  Indeed, Hopkins writes this poem in the second person, as an exhortation; he is saying, in essence, with equal parts delicacy and force, "You--all of you--offer yourself to Christ, and waste no time at it!"

Food For Thought

Suggested by a seminary classmate and brother-by-grace:

In the interest of no longer reducing the Sacraments (particularly the Eucharist and Reconciliation) to subjective experience, change the customary contention "I don't get much out of it" to "What does God get out of it?"

14 February 2012

At Last, My Love Has Come Along

I offer you the story of Dr. A. David Anders, a convert to Catholicism who, like Saint Paul vis-a-vis The Way, began as one of our greatest opponents.  The entire website, The Coming Home Network, is terrific.

13 February 2012

One in Christ, Unum in Christo

Yesterday I was privileged to offer Exposition and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament for a gathering of engaged couples at Berks Catholic High School.  They were fulfilling the Retreat component of their diocesan-mandated marriage preparation program.  It's always my hope and prayer that attending couples end up enjoying and profiting from their mandated Pre-Cana "classes," if only somewhere along the line.  (I am reminded of a saying from Virgil's Aeneid that was on a wall in our seminary library, which once had been an auditorium: Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit: "Perhaps at some time it will help/delight to remember these things."  One of those lines that admits of various interpretations, especially when removed from its original context.)

Anyhoo, I was asked to speak about the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist as they relate to Matrimony.  The primary text was One in Christ, the marriage prep course by Fr. Thomas Aschenbrenner that our diocese recently adopted.  And BCHS' motto is Unum in Christo, "One in Christ," hence the title of this post.  May a summary of those reflections benefit the current reader:

  • The Sacraments are tangible manifestations of God's presence for--and interest in--His children.  Jesus is God the Son made flesh.  The sacraments continue the incarnation of God for material beings in material ways--in signs accessible to the senses (e.g. water, oil, bread, words).
  • BAPTISM is the first sacrament one can receive, necessary in order to receive all other sacraments, necessary to enter into a sacramental marriage.  It configures us to Christ, the Anointed One, who was anointed
    • Prophet, to speak the Truth-in-Love authoritatively for God;
    • Priest, to offer Himself as sacrifice to the Father in the Holy Spirit for man's salvation; and
    • King, to guide and direct people to true satisfaction
  • Baptism sets in motion a sacramental life:
    • Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) identify us as members of Christ's Mystical Body, the Church
    • Sacraments of Healing (Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick) repair our moral and physical wounds, demonstrating Christ's power over sin, suffering, and death
    • Sacraments for Communion and Mission (Holy Orders and Matrimony) build up Christ's Body in quantity and quality, fostering one's own holiness by fostering others' holiness
  • MATRIMONY: Uniquely among the sacraments, the marrying couple administers the sacrament of matrimony to each other by their mutual declaration and reception of marital consent.  They are choosing to be:
    • A Total Gift of Self to each other in every respect
    • Faithful and exclusive to each other, admitting no rivals (persons, practices, or substances that effectively occupy the place of honor--take up the time and attention--due to the spouse)
    • Permanent amid every obstacle and inconvenience
    • Open to new life through a generous expression of the One-Flesh (genital) Union
  • Married couples accomplish this precisely in and through their bodies.  In Christ a couple's intercourse (sexual and relational) becomes, like all sacraments, a channel of divine love and life; a sign of God's covenant with Israel and Jesus' covenant with His Bride, the Church
  • Sacraments are not magic.  As a garden is tended, so our sacramental life enables us to be purified from sin and converted to the full realization of Christ's Likeness.  Spouses are privileged to undergo this purification together in their daily sacrifices of love (acts not dependent on feelings)
  • EUCHARIST: The primary sacrifice is Christ's Eucharistic sacrifice.  Our faithful participation in it enables us to find God somewhere, so that we can indeed find Him everywhere.  While once Our Lord's Body was particular and located at one place and time, by virtue of the Resurrection His Body can be found in many places and times.
  • His Mystical Body, the living sign of unity and salvation, offers His Eucharistic Body as one (Head joined to members); as one they partake in the sacrificial banquet, thus being joined to the Body they offer in sacrifice (a la the Old Covenant sacrifices)
  • Mass is the "huddle" in which the team learns the plays they will execute on the field, though not before joining hands and hearts in mutual dedication.  Join in the huddle!  Learn the plays and encourage each other as fellow team members!
  • RECONCILIATION: We don't always carry out the plays as directed; thus the need for sacramental reconciliation with God and with the Church.  Reconciliation is the moment for the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism.
  • Reconciliation fulfills the human need to be heard and accepted by God and fellows.  It fosters accountability for past and future choices
  • Persons in recovery are suggested to make a "searching and fearless moral inventory" of themselves, and then to "admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."  These actions open the door for change and growth.  They are delayed for only so long as we prefer the discomfort of not doing them.
  • We need not be dismayed about guilt: it is a sign of conscience, the informed and undaunted voice of reason within
  • This sacrament requires
    • Consciousness of one's sins (thoughts, words, actions, and omissions) as gleaned from self-examination against Christ (as known through Scripture and Church teaching, the lamps that shine the Light upon current concerns in life)
    • Intention to turn from sins and toward God
    • Honest and thorough disclosure to the priest (cf. "Show yourself to the priest," from Mk 1:40-45, this weekend's Gospel, depicted in Latin above the confessional in the chapel at Mary Immaculate Center)
    • Prompt fulfillment of the penance prescribed by the priest; this shows our willingness to cooperate in the healing process
  • We are as sick as our secrets.  Negatives develop in a dark room.  (One wonders how many engaged couples will be able to identify with the process of film development, given the proliferation of smartphone cameras. --Ed.)  Positively put, a clean window allows maximum light to shine through
  • If we desire a tool to help us endure each other's faults, to humbly accept our own faults, to become increasingly able to ask for help and do what is suggested, to learn how to stay in a commitment like marriage "for the long haul," Reconciliation is just the tool we need.  
  • Catholics, confess well (imperfectly) and often.  Non-Catholics, find some equivalent to this practice as your faith tradition may provide.  Have friends in your life with whom you are free to be transparent, and be such a friend.
In the near future, I hope to begin developing ideas from a priest-classmate's talk on the Sacraments, specifically Eucharist and Reconciliation.  Until then, be committed or be committed!

12 February 2012


Finding Forgiveness is not an easy endeavor, but Fr. Dwight Longenecker has some very important suggestions. Tolle, lege.

09 February 2012

Other Voices for Making Right Choices

The Church--right on something?  And this from a secular press standpoint?

I hand on to you what I myself received, for your edification.  The writers note that their editor disagrees with them, so I commend them on their courage and candor.

Marriage Musings

We gratefully turn to the USCCB website for the article below:

Holy Guardian Angels Parish had for a number of years honored couples with special anniversaries of marriage. We hope to continue with this practice, but this year it will happen later.

Meanwhile we are forging a "Marriage Enrichment Team," which intends to celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony by offering:
+ Couple-to-couple Mentoring
+ Talks and discussions about various facets of marriage and family life: finances, communication, spirituality, parenting, etc.
+ Opportunities to learn about spiritual practices and perspectives
+ Hints on promoting sound marital, priestly, and consecrated vocations in the home
+ Whatever other needs may surface

If this sounds good to you, parishioners, email me ( with your name, info, interests.

04 February 2012

More on the Department of Stealth in Human Dis-service

This link takes you to the letter from our Bishop that treats the recent Department of Health and Human Services mandate that employers provide contraception, abortifacient drugs, and sterilization as human services.  Following are my personal reflections.

         Whenever I take the opportunity to share something of my personal vocation story with people, I mention my early fascination with the sights and sounds of our Catholic liturgy—the music, the vestments, the preaching and celebration of the sacraments.  I grew to love the whole Catholic experience: our teachings, our liturgy, our morality, and our prayer.  I continue to enjoy learning about the faith, engaging prayerfully in communion with God and people, and practicing the Gospel principles in every dimension of life.  Sharing this great gift is my path to fulfillment, to salvation.
         I must say, however, that until recently I didn’t think that my work would be so concentrated on convincing people of the goodness of their own existence!  In many respects that’s what the priesthood is about.  Oftentimes we get stuck in the mindset of Job: “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?  He is a slave who longs for the shade.”  Our wounds, losses, and inconveniences get the better of us.  This is understandable, given the economic situation, the fear of personal commitment, not to mention the sinful choices that we’ve made or that others have made, with all their far-reaching consequences.  So much of life involves our firm acceptance of responsibility wherever appropriate, and our heroically virtuous responses, however small they may appear to be. 
         I have not altogether lost the virtue of Christian Hope, which the Catechism defines as “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (1817).  We fall together, lest we fall apart.  In this we identify with Simon speaking to Our Lord on behalf of the crowd: “Everyone is looking for you.”  Wherever people may be looking, whatever they may be discovering along the way, they are looking for Him; and they who seek will find.
         And yet our desire for the kingdom of heaven and eternal life must direct all the choices we make along the way, if we are to reach that goal.  We would want to know the right means to the right end; and we would want to follow it once we learned of it, persevering amid the difficulties that might arise.  Perhaps, for example, it simply hasn’t occurred to many people that the willful, mechanical separation of fertility from the marriage bond (if people even call it that) basically amounts to a denial of the goodness of our own existence.  Whether the popular mind recognizes it or not, contraception, sterilization, and abortion are now considered "treatments" for a "disease."  A disease there is, but it is actually spiritual.  People do not grasp the intimate connection between the bond and the baby.  They place the good of pleasure over the good of parenthood.
         The Church has consistently advocated the goodness of human existence in a culture that either doesn’t know better or knows but denies it.  The Church also has insisted on a well-formed conscience, open to learning the truths of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition as they apply to the choices we make.  Among the various Christian bodies of the world, the Catholic Church is the most vocal promoter of life and opponent of contraception, sterilization, and abortion.  The Church invites us to learn this sound teaching, to align our hearts with it, and to act according to it with consistency and joy.  She will have nothing of a government that attempts to force its citizens to act against their well-formed consciences.  This will all come down to the local level, where Catholic institutions must refuse to support oppressive government policies, no matter what the result.  
         Please God, these events may galvanize us to become the Catholic voice that we are supposed to be; if they don't, we will have decided to be the last religious body that can be persecuted without consequence.  When you and I stand to profess the Creed, we can begin once again to reflect on all that it means for us, and what we ought to do about it.