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

30 April 2012

It's A Catholic Thang

         Once I came across a sticker on the hatch of a Jeep.  It read, “It’s a Jeep Thang: You Wouldn’t Understand.”  I must concede: No, I do not understand.  I do not understand several thangs.  First, what is it about a Jeep that I or any other non-Jeep driver might not understand?  Second, what is prompting the owner of this Jeep to broadcast the perceived uniqueness of that make: is he or she promoting the brand as something exclusive or special, and thereby taunting the many who are not privileged to belong to the Most August Society of Jeep Owners?
        Identification with Jesus and the Church is something special that many people find hard to understand; and yet, in the face of contrary winds, Jesus and the Church continue to hold out for universal membership.
         There is this archetype in which the rejected experience their comeuppance, thereby revealing the specialness they had all along, yet which nobody else understood or foresaw.  “Revenge of the Nerds,” the Horatio Alger story—every generation has its examples of those who, despite unfortunate circumstances, the unfavorable judgment of peers or of the world in general, arrive at some sort of greatness and recognition.  Jesus of Nazareth fulfills this archetype par excellence.  Quoting the 118th psalm, Peter declares Jesus as “the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.”  “By you” isn’t part of the original text; Peter inserts this to personalize Jesus’ death, to locate responsibility with the audience.  It’s as if Peter’s saying, “You did it; but that doesn’t stop Him from loving and redeeming you.”  Jesus accepts His comeuppance, yet in His mercy, even that He uses to the advantage of the opposition.  This is meant to foster in our hearts not a sense of guilt, but rather of love.
         Thus He demonstrates Himself as “the Good Shepherd”—the one who does the job freely, faithfully, firmly, quietly, happily.  If “shepherd” doesn’t suffice in 2012, I guess “employee” would work; or how about “parent,” “priest” or “consecrated religious”—anyone who lovingly assumes responsibility for others’ temporal or spiritual welfare, or who has a part to play in the greater whole.  From this we may deduce nothing special about Jesus, except for the use of the definite article: the Good Shepherd—the gold standard for free, rational, caring, and responsible agents. 
         Jesus acknowledges that His authority does not compel people to identify with Him or seek His care and direction; nevertheless He carries on with His mission with confidence in the outcome of “One Flock, One Shepherd.”  In his first epistle Saint John also proclaims with confidence the Father’s love for His children amid the reality that not everyone seems to know and accept that love.  The Church continues to abide in that tension, aware that “the world does not know us,” because it does not know Him in whom we find identity and direction.  "The world" described in John's Gospel and Epistles is that (in all and in each) which remains in need of redemption.   Thus we may understand how "the world" fails to accept the relationship between, for example, the Pope/Bishops and Christ; or the relationship between the person I lied to or insulted or took advantage of, and Christ.  The Church herself does not fully perceive this mystery, and for this reason she perseveres in Communion until the day when all is revealed, proceeding with equal parts gratitude and vigilance.

A FURTHER NOTE: In his ninety-first year, the death and burial of Oliver Morgan Barres, Jr., the father of  (among others) John Oliver Barres, Bishop of Allentown since mid-2009.  Along with his widow Marjorie, Mr. Barres was a former Congregationalist minister and a convert to the Catholic faith--someone who perceived the specialness of our way of life as the specific design of the Good Shepherd.  He documented the journey to his conversion--while not yet Catholic--in a book he wrote entitled  "One Shepherd, One Flock".  The reverse of his commemorative card bears a poem he wrote, which I have included above for your reflecting pleasure.

Ten Things...

…your commencement speaker won't tell you, according to this post by the Wall Street Journal.

27 April 2012

We Are God's Children Now (1 Jn 3:2)

I am known, loved, and led by the Good Shepherd: the realization-at-depth of this fact is nothing less than a game-changer.

24 April 2012

On Being Reconciled To Reconciliation

An earlier post recommended a fine article on contraception.  In addition I recommend A Catholic Responds – Five Common Protestant Objections to the Sacrament of Confession.  The dual recommendation, or rather the two articles themselves, are a one-two punch to the assertion at the heart of the human condition: "I will do what I dang well please, and refrain from doing when I dang well abhor."  At least that's how I imagine hearing someone say it in a old Western film.

This, too, is Torah, and I wish to learn

For the love of God, read Simcha Fisher's latest word on Prudence and Generosity in Conversation, specifically the conversation regarding the transmission of human life within the marital embrace.

21 April 2012

Think, Think, Think

I present this article by Carl Olson as a fine illustration of one convert's mindful and willing journey into the Fullness of Truth--a journey that many lifelong Catholics don't appreciate quite as much.

Ignorance is BLISS...

...Believing Lies Interiorly, Surviving Stealthily

More knowledge, more responsibility--this seems a dreary lot, but when with the help of God and others we take up the cross of right knowledge and move in the way of right action, we are free.

17 April 2012

And Now For Something Completely Consistent

After the last post on the Preferential Option for the Poor-in-Spirit, this share from Msgr. Pope of Washington seems like a splash of battery acid.

Well, you'll have that.  Call it "food for the poor."

Truth, charity, and clarity are to instruction like hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur are to "oil of vitriol."*

Note especially the inserted "Cohabitation Vows" video, which speaks to this Beloved Generation with characteristic snark.  A taste of its own medicine, perhaps?  I'd bet that it was written by one of its own!  In addition, the comments below the post are intriguing as comments often are.

*I didn't know until the Wik told me that Sulfuric Acid was known as "Oil of Vitriol"--ultimately from the Latin vitrum, meaning "glass."

It Knows Where To Turn

While seated before the Blessed Sacrament this evening I noticed something about the lily at the bottom right of this photo.  It is in vigorous health except for one flower, which I hope the next photo will help you to see more clearly.
The second flower from the left is the only wilted one.  It is also the only one facing the Blessed Sacrament.  For all of this plant's flourishing, the wilting flower knows where to face.

"Those who are not well do not need a physician, but the sick do" (Mt 9:12).

That I noticed the wilting flower is no reason for me to boast; rather I attribute it to the Holy Spirit, Pater pauperum et Dator munerum.  It seems to me that the tendency, the willingness, to recognize the "bruised reed" (Isa 42:3) is a worthy ministerial quality.

14 April 2012

Application Accepted

Now is the time to apply for the mercy that the Father has unleashed upon the world in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Son, the Word-made-Flesh.

Nothing is beyond the Lord’s forgiveness.  Seek it earnestly, and you will find it swiftly.

By submitting yourself to the merciful Lord, you are opening yourself to the forgiveness of self that liberates you for optimal service to God and others.

With the Lord’s help, extended through the sacraments and cultivated through prayer, commit to doing whatever is necessary to become a clearer channel of mercy to others.

11 April 2012

Fall In!

“Lapsed” Catholics…
The above contains one author's perspective on the survey that I referenced in an earlier post by Fr. Robert Barron.  Since the immutable (faith-'n'-morals) aspects of the Catholic faith have been points of contention, no matter how well or how often explanations have been offered, better explanations will not suffice to change people's hearts and minds.

If I were to reduce my "position" on all this to a succinct phrase, it would be: fall in.

I know that this phrase may suggest the arrogance that the lapsi have long lamented; such is not my intention.  "Fall in" not in the sense of blind, unquestioning obedience (which may have worked once but no longer) but rather in the sense of love.  Love, the intelligent decision that doesn't depend on feelings.  Love, the commitment within which things gradually make sense.  Love, the steadfast, outward and upward movement to identify-with.  Not only is it a "getting over oneself," but it is also a "getting into the Other" that reveals oneself in one's true significance--not without sacrifice, yet not without fulfillment.

Give yourself a chance in the Church.  Give yourself another chance, and even another.  Give the benefit of the doubt to the you-know-what clergy, religious, layperson who…

...refused or deferred a permission for something because your choices disqualified you, or who levied legitimate restrictions because he or she saw that you could do better
...had a bad day
…at that moment lacked the words, the presence of mind, or the courage to explain why, for now or for ever, that decision had to stand
...indeed has a serious bone to pick with humanity and therefore needs to examine his or her approaches to, and motivations for, ministry

Two truths exist in constant, life giving tension:
1) Any given servant may be the only Bible, Roman Missal, Catechism, or Code of Canon Law that someone may read;
2) One monkey don't make no show.

Speaking for clergy: we are quite human--more human than most!  We sometimes forget that our life's work and play is the growth of our people and not our own convenience.

But we also dare to represent a Law that did not originate in us yet that we must obey (in our own decisions and in our interactions with others).  If and when we make it hard for people to "fall in," may God help us to make it right, one person and one encounter at a time, with whatever encouragement and instruction is necessary.  Never at the expense of the Truth, however, because nobody deserves that.

The Lady who is No Tramp

Here is an article for anyone who wants to learn: (1) how to be a faithful female, or (2) how such persons strive to live.

10 April 2012

Peculiar Points To Ponder

In my journeyings I have discovered numerous Examination of Conscience formats.  Every one of them contains suggestions that I haven't seen worded in that way before; or I hadn't thought this or that matter fell under this or that particular commandment.

Recently while I was giving a retreat talk at my Alma Mater, Nativity B.V.M. High School in Pottsville, Fr. Stokes (Nativity's Chaplain) let me have a copy of an EoC he had given to the students at some point.  While most versions concern themselves with the Ten Commandments, this one was based on the (Matthean) Beatitudes.  I have favored the 10C because I think they yield more concrete material, but after one look at this version I am changing my tune.  After all, our confessional material is as concrete as we want it to be, and we aren't helping ourselves by resorting to vague generalities.

For the benefit of the patient reader, I offer two sample questions from each beatitude.
  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
    • How often have I thought that I could do the job better than You?
    • How often have I replaced You with material things of this world and made them my god instead of You?
  • Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth.
    • How often have I looked at the ideas of others as foolish because it wasn't the way I thought it should be done?
    • How often have I been inconsiderate of others' needs and thought only about myself?
  • Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
    • How often have I thought that You had better things to do than hear my plea, so that I turned my back on Your healing hand and ability to comfort me, as if You didn't know my pain even better than I did?
    • Have I been angry with You, Lord, for calling a loved one from this world and felt as though You had abandoned me by taking him/her away?
  • Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
    • Have I sat by and done nothing when someone was treated unjustly when I should have spoken out against the injustice?
    • Do I always look out for what's in my best interest alone?
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
    • Do I refuse to see the image of Christ hidden in the person asking for my forgiveness?
    • Do I find it difficult to forgive myself?
  • Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
    • Have I looked at others as objects for my own gratification instead of brothers and sisters in Christ?
    • Do I place myself in situations that could lead me to sin?
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
    • How often have I overreacted to something small and created a conflict?
    • Is my contrition insincere?
  • Blessed are they who suffer persecution for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
    • Have I decided to live out only those aspects of the faith I like best?
    • Am I slow to defend another who may be treated poorly by others?

Barron Comments on Barren Churches

Watch the video above for Fr. Robert Barron's commentary on what has made "former Catholics" former.  Bad customer relations, bad preaching, bad loss prevention.  Bad, bad, bad; or maybe these can become opportunities for engagement, which most often leads to union!  Not "what did I do wrong" (convoluted self-absorption which profiteth nothing) to "what can we do more enthusiastically / more consistently /  more compassionately" (a solution-oriented, action-oriented approach).

It seems that we Catholic priests have to get over ourselves if we declare that people have to come back to us, surrender statement all rehearsed ("Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you").  We have to be willing to "waste" time with people--even (especially) the so-called crazies and the turn-on-a-dime occasionals, because you never know.  You never know.  You never know.

May God who has seen me type this bring it to fulfillment.

09 April 2012

Tense Is Not Technicality

So yes, I survived Holy Week--in particular, the Easter Vigil and its apian** Exultet--and the unfolding of Bright Week (as our Orthodox Brethren call it) is "tidings of gladness and joy" as much as--indeed more than--the news of His Nativity.

Yesterday Timothy Cardinal Dolan quoted our Holy Father (for fullvid click here) as his homiletic coup de grace:
"The pivotal question in life is whether Jesus was or whether Jesus is."
This matter is not relevant for grammarians alone.  Theology and Language** are very much related, insofar as both disciplines are concerned with the Word, whether written or uttered.  Precision is +++crucial+++ for those disciplines and for their disciples.

Cardinal Dolan reiterated the angelic salutation, Quid quaeritis viventem cum mortuis? "Why do you seek the living one among the dead?" (Lk 24:5)  Consider the ramifications of this question in terms

  • doctrinal, for the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ and of all people is no smoke-and-mirrors display;
  • liturgical, for our communal celebration of this mystery is infused with reality and dynamism;
  • moral, for our choices reflect the fact that our souls and bodies are meant for "newness of life" (Rom 6:4), suggesting subjection to a higher law than pleasure; and
  • spiritual, for our seeking of union with the Lord must be as tender and earnest as possible
Is, not was: this grenade-like distinction contains within it all the truth, beauty, and goodness of Christ and the Church.

**Neat word, apian; did you know that "Sting" was an English major before he was chief of The Police?

07 April 2012


Before I review the new rendering of the Exultet (Easter Proclamation) I want to take a moment to extend the blessings of the Risen Lord to all of you, patient readers, and to your families--especially to any loved ones who are ill or dying.

Just now I was distracted by listening to HymnProvisations, an album of improvisations of hymns (as the clever title says).  Lovely renditions in which the originals are easily detected, though enveloped in rich chords and exciting ornamentations.  As a church organist improvisation was the kind of thing I enjoyed --"letting my fingers do the walking," I'd have called it.  Check for it on iTunes.

Catholics are not obligated to attend the Vigil or the other Triduum celebrations.  Given the centrality of the Triduum in the Church's existence and meaning, why wouldn't a person want to attend these liturgies, if at all possible?

Be consoled and challenged by the promise of this holy night.  Even if you attend Mass on Easter Day instead of the Vigil, come early (if only to ensure that you have a seat).  If your parish uses missalettes, take one out of the pew and look at the readings from the Vigil.  Look at the Exultet.  Discover the rich symbolism in our faith.  Pray to be receptive to His grace to avoid sin and to cultivate virtue, as this holy Day invites us.

05 April 2012

Burdened With Much Serving

With the Solemn Mass of the Lord's Supper we have begun the sacred Triduum: the Church's annual reinsertion into the Day of Salvation.  I was basically the MC for our parish's Mass.  On such occasions I become acutely aware of my poverty of preparation and difficulty with conveying instructions.  Thank God I had notes from previous years, and thank God our Director of Religious Education is well organized.

I recall the story of Msgr. Joseph "Holy Joe" McMullen, who as a Master of Ceremonies for the great Dennis Cardinal Dougherty of Philadelphia, accidentally put on his miter backwards, so that the flaps fell right in front of his eyes!  The story goes that McMullen, soon the object of the Cardinal's ire, was "banished" to teach in the seminary.  He made a long and storied career of that.

Would that I were banished to teach in the seminary, I sometimes think.  Some years ago, I would have loved to take post-graduate education in Sacred Something-or-Other and teach in some post-secondary setting.  Then for two years I taught high school, doing what I would call a lackluster job.  I am not so sure I will ever become a Weapon of Mass Instruction.  But RCIA has given me a forum to teach interested adults.  I often get to talk to our school and CCD kids about religious and spiritual matters.  And I got to be the referee for a Rock-Paper-Scissors contest.

And I spent the earlier part of this Holy Thursday taking Holy Communion to about ten parishioners and assisting a family with making difficult end-of-life decisions--which is why I had less time to train the servers.  So, for me, perhaps I currently enjoy the better part.

04 April 2012

I Spy

Msgr. Charles Pope, one of my favorite bloggers from the Archdiocese of Washington, offers a reflection for Spy Wednesday in the linked posting.

He speaks about a familiar topic, the "sins of the clergy."  While the most noted sin in our day is sexual abuse, Pope notes that it is not the only one.  To which I would add some personal reflections:

Priests are not "above" our people in the sense of worthy of privileges or exempt from rules, and whenever I have taken advantage of that for personal gain, I recognize fault.  Priests are not above the mundane tasks or sufferings of everyone else, and whenever I have believed or acted so, I recognize fault.  Priests are not to exploit people's sense of respect for them or their fear of God for personal satisfaction (ego-boosting), and whenever I have acted so, I recognize fault.

Priests are, by and large, aware of our lofty calling and grave responsibility before God and people.  This and every day I want to be answerable to the Lord and His people; I will seek an opportunity not to hand Him over but rather to give myself to Him.

03 April 2012

Holy Week, Batman!

Already Tuesday of Holy Week, and I'm not sure what sort of posting schedule I will observe.  You can call this my "checking in" for the present, with no promise of what may come.  Except the annual feast of the Resurrection, and the Resurrection Himself.  Meanwhile the responsibilities of my week lie ahead, including the discharge of funeral rites for a fine parishioner, Robert P. Focht.  The circumstances and aftermath of his death are treated in our Reading Eagle:

A runner's life, lost on the road

Pray for his wife and family, and for all who in any sense consider themselves survivors of Bob.

01 April 2012

Imitation Prostration

This post from Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (to whom I shall henceforth refer as the Other Father Z) features a clever picture taken at an ordination of priests.  That guy must have begun formation in the womb!