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

14 August 2023

Arms Update #634284632216

Nearly ⅔ of the way through the Year of Our Lord 2023 and I'm posting here for the first time, mostly to change my header to reflect yet another coat of arms:

The blazon (heraldic description) reads: "Tenné, a bend sinister wavy argent surmounted by a burning bush purpure, in dexter chief a sword in bend argent, hilt vert and or, and in base a two-handed saw argent in bend, handles or; overall, a bordure company argent and sable."

01 December 2022

Arma virumque cano

This post concerning my coat of arms is the background for the current update of the same, which is the work of the same artist. While my current arms are found in the header to this blog, I attach them here for easier and hopefully clearer reference.

Modifications from the previous version are as follows: the more customary style of galero; the return to the earliest motto (Heb 12:29; cf. Dt 4:24 et al) found on my ordination card and a huge stack of letterheads I may never use up; the removal of the lily from the St. Joseph-themed charge, for simplicity's sake; the relocation of the burning bush “in chief” (centered) and quite prominent on the shield; the slight widening of the "bordure compony" (composite border of sable and argent), and the tinctures (colors) in the main part of the shield.

The tinctures are the most dramatic change. I consider purpure a blend of the red and blue in my previous shield, a tribute to both that becomes its own expression. It is a royal hue—more the Roman purple of Lent than the indigo of Advent.

The tenné below is not a tincture, properly speaking, but, in heraldic terms, a “stain” infrequently used in heraldry, only among the English and a few others.

The color originally was more of an orange, but I changed it to a tan approaching leather; both are attested in heraldry, as infrequently as it is attested at all. It made me wonder whether the color of Tennessee football and other sports was related to the name of the stain, Tenné, but it doesn’t seem to have any connection. Not the first stretch I’ve made. 

For one thing, I just like the color orange.

Yes, it was Frank Sinatra’s favorite and "happiest" color: did I just adopt it myself in tribute to him?  Not entirely, but his preference of it is not unimportant to me. Orange factors highly in my life, as a color of several cars over the years, and various personal items besides. For me it’s not the new black (impossible for a priest!), but a suitable sidekick.

Heraldic  a stain was used as a denigration of the bearer’s status. I’ve denigrated myself enough over the years, but would I want that fact to reflect in something so personal, so emblematic, so final (😆)?

Trust me: I’ve been thinking about other revisions since this declaration of arms. But the one thing I don’t want to, ahem, part with, I have not mentioned yet: it is the wavy bend sinister, the undulating dividing line that rises from the viewer’s bottom left to the top right. It both parts the purple and tenné and personally symbolizes Saint Christopher, as the river across which he carried the Christ child.

Another reason for the tenné is its resemblance to Amber, the rock used in Lithuanian and Polish jewelry. A darker version of the stain provides more of a contrast to the gold of the burning bush. Not that the orange is necessarily inappropriate, as I’ve held onto the earlier rendition with that color and I might use it sometimes. The difference is slight.

26 November 2022

(3/3) This is My Body: Pattern for the Mass, the Sacraments, and the Church

This is the third of three sermons I recently preached for the annual Forty Hours Devotion of Saint Nicholas Parish in Walnutport (Northampton County, Diocese of Allentown), edited for clarity. Below is a keepsake of the event that I hoped would help people get the gist of the talks as a whole.

The Lord Jesus offered Himself for the life of the world. He uttered the words, “This is My Body,” and made them the pattern for all offering-of-self. He said those words, of course, in the Upper Room on the night before His death. In a certain sense, Jesus also said those words upon the Cross: “This is My Body, which will be given up for you."

Humanly speaking, Jesus learned those words at home—and that pattern of action. He learned from His holy mother, who at the angel’s invitation presented herself body and soul to the Lord’s service. Her body provided His Body. Joseph, too, sacrificed his ambitions, his expectations and plans, to the life of his Son as it so strangely unfolded. Joseph gave himself up for Jesus—for his own salvation, for Mary's, and ours. Consider the reading from Ephesians: "He gave gifts to men." Hence the parents of God merit our ceaseless gratitude.

Fittingly, then, today we consider how the “Sacraments of Communion and Mission” or “Sacraments of Vocation” consecrate disciples in body and soul for the formidable task of building up Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church.

We are talking about the Sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders. In the previous sacraments we saw how God has conferred power by the Laying on of Hands. This physical gesture shows how divine grace comes to us “incarnationally,” that is, the spiritual being embodied in the material. God the Son not only became flesh, He became food for flesh, under the appearances of bread and wine. God chose to give us Himself through bread, wine, water, oil, words, gestures—and people.

Spouses effectively say unto one another, “This is my body, which will be given up for you.” They do this in the recitation of vows, in the sexual act, in the raising of a family as God provides, and in so many other daily works and sufferings. They do it when they lead with their weaknesses, sharing honestly with each other and helping each other to grow in holiness and virtue.

One of my favorite photographs from my ordination to priesthood 19 ½ years ago, before the age of selfies, would have been impossible to take myself anyhow: my classmate and I were lying prostrate on the floor of the Cathedral while everyone sang the Litany of the Saints. Then we stood up and Bishop Cullen laid his hands on our heads. The other bishop and priests gathered for the occasion did the same. That ancient practice once again conveyed divine purpose and power.

In the first moment, Fr. Garcia-Almodóvar and I effectively said to the Lord and to His Church, “This is my body, which will be given up for you.” In that ceremony, the laying-down of our bodies was somewhat romantic, but believe me, there have been a few moments since, where the romance wore off. Married couples, you may have similar experiences.

The romance gives way to the reality in the priest’s daily care and direction for the Church—as a whole, and according to that portion entrusted to him. Paying bills, binding wounds, changing lightbulbs, praying for those in your trust. Participants in Holy Orders and Marriage do many of the same things as they participate in the growth of holiness and virtue. They are complementary Sacraments that build up the Mystical Body of Christ, especially through the Word and Sacraments commonly available to all disciples. (And most Eastern Christian priests, Catholic and Orthodox, share in both Marriage and Holy Orders.)

[Editor's Note: I cannot recall how I ended the sermon. Guess you had to be there!]

25 November 2022

(2/3) This is My Body: Pattern for the Mass, the Sacraments, and the Church

Below is the second of three sermons delivered for the Forty Hours Devotion of Saint Nicholas Parish in Walnutport (Northampton County, Diocese of Allentown), edited for clarity. Below is a keepsake of the event that I hoped would help people get the gist of the talks as a whole.

Next, I want to reflect on the consecration of the Lord’s Precious Blood, which seals “the new and eternal covenant” by being “poured out...for the forgiveness of sins.” This atoning action especially bears fruit in the “Sacraments of Healing”: Penance and Anointing of the Sick. Once again, by imposed hands and anointed words the Holy Spirit visits the sin-sick soul, declaring Life’s victory over death, truth’s triumph over the ancient lie.

In Confession, the priest is directed to raise his right hand as if to bless the penitent until making the Sign of the Cross in absolution. In face-to-face confessions he currently has the option of laying his hand on the penitent's head. How many times in the Gospels did Jesus extend His hand toward those He wished to heal? It was His most common practice, both for healing and for blessing.

The introductory text for Anointing of the Sick is taken from St. James’ epistle: “Is anyone sick among you? Let them send for the priests of the Church, and let the priests pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick persons, and the Lord will raise them up; and if they have committed any sins, their sins will be forgiven them” (5:14-16). Once again, there is an extension of healing hands, with power not their own.

An old Protestant hymn declares:

Would you be free from the burden of sin? There's pow'r in the Blood, pow'r in the Blood;
Would you o'er evil a victory win? There's wonderful pow'r in the Blood.
There is pow'r, pow'r, wonder-working pow'r in the Blood of the Lamb;
There is pow'r, pow'r, wonder-working pow'r in the Precious Blood of the Lamb;

Separating the consecration of the Blood signifies the Blood’s physical separation from the body in death. Even if blood does not spill out of the dead person, it dries up and no longer can nourish tissues and organs. In the ritual renewal of Israel’s Covenant with God, Moses arranged for the slaughter of an animal and then sprinkled its blood first upon the altar and upon the people, connecting the altar to the people, and the sacrifice to both of them. This effected their consecration: that is, both the altar and the people belonged to God, for His use exclusively. It also marked the dedication of the human person to sacrifice. We are people hard-wired for sacrifice, but the regular renewal of that connection is important for us because our flowing blood, ever enriched by oxygen, renews us on a cellular level from one moment to the next.

Note, too, that Moses sprinkled the animal’s blood upon the people only after they heard and consented to what Moses read to them from the Book of the Covenant. What a beautiful declaration comes from their collective mouths in what must have been a liturgical response: “All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do” (Exodus 24:7 [!--Even though the division of the Scriptures by chapter and verse didn't take place until the Middle Ages, I think it's appropriate that this declaration is "24/7"]. Our renewal in Christ depends upon our continuous repentance, turning away from sin, turning toward the healing rays of the Son.

Penance and Anointing shine that light. They effect the forgiveness of sins, which Jesus related at the Last Supper was the reason for His death: “poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk 14:24 et par.) These two sacraments concretely apply Divine Mercy to the concrete life situations that show our need for it: sin, suffering, and death. Even as we continue to participate in these life experiences—we continue to sin in ways big and small; we continue to suffer in ways big and small; we die incrementally in our bodies, our memories, minds, and wills—we also come to share in their remedy, the Divine Life. 

It is not that the outpouring of Christ’s Precious Blood on Calvary was insufficient; it’s that He invites us followers of His to incorporate that Blood into our bodies and souls, with regularity akin to the constant influx of nourishment into our veins and our stomachs. Tomorrow our solemn offering of time and presence will conclude with the Consecration of Christ’s Body, both in terms of the Sacred Species and the two Sacraments that help to make concrete our own consecration as members of the Communion of Saints, Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church.