Monday, April 27, 2015

The Diocese of Salt Lake City and its bishops

His Excellency, John C. Wester, served as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Who were his predecessors?

Bishop Lawrence Scanlan, first bishop of Salt Lake City

The Apostolic Vicariate of Utah was established by Pope Leo XIII in 1887. Also in 1887, 29 January, to be exact, Lawrence Scanlan from Ballytarsna, Ireland was ordained a bishop and named the head of the Apostolic Vicariate. Prior to being ordained a bishop, Scanlan was a priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. In 1891, Pope Leo XIII elevated the Apostolic Vicariate of Utah to a diocese. By doing so, he created the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

A list of the diocese's bishops follow:

Lawrence Scanlan- 1891-1915 (died 10 May 1915)
Joseph Sarfield Glass, C.M.- 1915-1926 (died 26 January 1926- our only bishop, thus far, who belonged to a religious order- Congregation of the Mission, or Vincentians)
John Mitty- 1926-1932 (named Coadjutor Archbishop of San Francisco, 29 January 1932)
James Kearney- 1932-1937 (named Bishop of Rochester, NY, 31 July 1937)
Duane Hunt- 1927-1960 (died 31 March 1960)
Joseph Federal- 1960-1980- (named Coadjutor to Bishop Hunt in 1958, succeeded upon Bishop Hunt's death, retired 22 April 1980)
William Weigand- 1980-1993 (named Bishop of Sacramento, 30 November 1993)
George Niederauer- 1994-2005 (named Archbishop of San Francisco, 15 December 2005)
John Wester- 2006-2015 (named Archbishop of Santa Fe, 27 April 2015)

The Diocese of Salt Lake City, prior to Bishop Federal being installed as Bishop Hunt's coadjutor bishop, had one auxiliary bishop: Leo Steck. A priest of the Archdiocese of St Louis, Bishop Steck was appointed and ordained in 1948 (he was the titular bishop of Ilium), but died prematurely on 19 June 1950.

Archbishop Robert Joseph Dwyer, first priest from Utah to become a bishop

In the history of the Diocese of Salt City, two priests of our diocese have been ordained bishops: Duane Hunt, who, as noted above, served as bishop of Salt Lake City, and Robert Dwyer, who served first as bishop of the Diocese of Reno from 1952-1966 before becoming Archbishop of Portland, Oregon, where he served from 1966 until he encountered poor health in 1974, which caused him to resign. He died in 1976. Archbishop Dwyer was the first native Utahn ordained a priest.

Bishop Joseph Federal participated in all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council. It was also Bishop Federal who, on 26 December 1976, the Feast of St Stephen, ordained 11 men the first permanent deacons for our diocese.

John Wester: new Archbishop of Santa Fe

Yesterday was my last day serving at The Cathedral of the Madeleine. It was a tough day emotionally, but a wonderful day too. If that isn't enough, I awoke this morning to the news that Pope Francis, upon accepting the resignation of Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, New Mexico, who is 75, which is the mandatory retirement age for bishops, appointed our bishop, John Wester, as the new Archbishop of Santa Fe. All I can say is, WOW!

I am happy for (Arch)bishop Wester, but sad for him to leave. I had the great privilege of serving alongside him in our beloved Cathedral of the Madeleine many times and worked on various diocesan committees and commissions, even serving on a few ad hoc committees. He baptized our youngest son and has simply been wonderful to me and to my family. I can call him both my bishop and my friend.

On Friday I met with my new pastor on the very day Bishop Wester signed the document incardinating him as a priest of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, meaning, instead of being "Parish Administrator," he is now canonically and formally our Pastor. Prior to his incardination in our diocese, he was a member of the Society of the Divine Word. While excited to be a priest of our diocese, I think he was a little sad to formally leave his order, which is how I feel about leaving the Cathedral and moving to St Olaf's, and how I feel about (Arch)bishop Wester's appointment to Santa Fe- excited for him, but a bit sad. He is scheduled to be installed in Santa Fe on 4 June 2015.

From the Diocese of Salt Lake City's press release:
His Holiness, Pope Francis, has named Bishop John C. Wester the twelfth Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Bishop Wester, the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City and a native of San Francisco, California, has led Utah’s Catholics since March 2007
According to the diocesan press release, the Holy Father did not name an apostolic administrator to see our diocese through this interregnum. Bishop Wester will serve as Apostolic Administrator of our diocese until he is formally installed in Santa Fe. So, at some point, our Diocesan Consultors will meet to elect a priest who will serve as our diocesan administrator until the appointment and installation of our new bishop.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Year B Fourth Sunday of Easter

Readings: Acts 4:8-12; Ps 118:1.8-9.21-; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18

In light of our Gospel reading, today is known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Throughout the universal Church, Good Shepherd Sunday is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Pope St John Paul II spoke and wrote a lot about vocations. He identified a primary, secondary, and, for some, a tertiary vocation. Vocation comes from the Latin verb vocare, meaning “to call.” For Christians, a vocation is a divine call, meaning it is God- who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- who issues the call.

In Baptism God called us to live lives of holiness, that is, to be like Christ. This is our primary vocation. So, in an overarching sense, there is really only one vocation: follow Christ. In the first chapter of Genesis we read that man and woman were initially made in God’s image and likeness (Gen 1:26). While the image of God that constitutes us as human beings is ineradicable, meaning there is nothing we can do to lose it, our likeness to God is lost through sin and can only be restored by grace, the most efficacious means of which is the sacraments.

Our secondary vocation flows, if you will, from our baptismal call to holiness. This vocation is how we concretely live out the call we received in Baptism, which was confirmed when we were confirmed and is renewed each time we go to confession and participate in the Eucharist. Hence, our secondary vocation is to holy orders, matrimony, single, or consecrated life. I think this is important because, as Catholics, when we hear the word “vocation” too often we think only in terms of priesthood and religious life.

Finally, a tertiary vocation is what you do to earn your living. By our cooperation with God, our work can become a means not only of our own sanctification, but can contribute to the transformation of the world, the ushering in of God’s kingdom.

We find the vocation of the laity beautifully laid out in Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church:
the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life… They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven (par 31)

But today, on the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the Church, while recognizing the importance and even the necessity of all vocations among the People of God, concentrates its attention on vocations to ordained ministries (i.e., priesthood and diaconate) and to religious life in all its forms (male and female, contemplative and apostolic).

In our first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of Peter healing the crippled man. Especially in light of this glorious miracle, reflect for a minute about Peter, his background, his experience with Jesus, including his betrayal out of fear, but also his being forgiven and restored by our risen Lord and then fully empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out his apostolic ministry.

One issue for many who consider a vocation to consecrated life and/or ordained ministry is feeling unworthy of the call. But, if it occurs to you at all to consider these things, then Jesus just might be calling you. Respond by undertaking a process of discernment, which has both a spiritual and practical component. Two take-aways from our first reading: the Lord transforms whomever He chooses and He very often does not call those whom we might deem equipped. Instead, He equips those He calls. Is this not precisely what our Psalm response- “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone”- brings to our attention? It’s easy for us to lose sight of how unlikely a Messiah, Savior, and Lord Jesus is.

The celibacy required for priesthood and religious life stands as a beautiful sign of contradiction, one badly needed in our confused time. Having been one once, I can confidently say that young people are often quite determined to be counter-cultural, to rebel. However, most of the ways we’re “counter-cultural” when young turn out to be the epitome of conformity. Writing about The Chronicles of Narnia, Archbishop Rowan Williams pointed out that "a consistent theme" in the writing of C.S. Lewis is, "The truth of God is found in rebellion against oppressive clichés of the world" (The Lion's World: A Journey into the Heart of Narnia, 51). It would be difficult to find a better way of rebelling against the oppressive cliché, so pervasive in Western societies, that life is primarily about sex than freely embracing a life of celibacy, in imitation of Jesus, as a tangible sign of God’s kingdom.

For the vast majority of Catholics, it is in local parishes that Church happens. Parishes are led by pastors, who are priests. The center of parish life is the Sunday Eucharist, which surely requires a priest to lead. “Pastor” is synonymous with “shepherd.” Our diocese needs priests to collaborate with Bishop Wester, who is our Shepherd-in-Chief, in spiritually providing for the Lord’s flock. As Jesus indicates in today’s Gospel, a priest is not “a hired man,” but a shepherd, who knows, cares for, defends, and sometimes stands up courageously for those whom the Good Shepherd places in his care.

To all Catholic parents (which includes me), while we are blessed to have a wonderfully diverse and international presbyterate in our diocese, something we should cherish, lest we become an weird island unto ourselves, we should, nonetheless, as a local Church do all we can to foster vocations, not only to priesthood, but to religious life, and, yes, even to the diaconate. Vocations to the priesthood, religious life, and diaconate are one of the surest signs that the Holy Spirit is active in our midst. Hence, we should encourage our sons and daughters to be open to God’s call on their lives. For Catholic young people, considering priesthood and/or religious life, along with the many other options available, should be a given. Of course, as good parents, we should never try to coerce or in any way manipulate our children in this, but we should encourage them. One way to encourage them is by getting to know the priests in your parish, befriending religious sisters and brothers so their manner of living is not so foreign, or strange, to them.

Being a priest or a religious, because it is a vocation, that is, a divine calling is not a profession let alone a job. Because it is a divine call, for those who respond, it is their way of becoming who God created and redeemed them to be, the way they live out their baptismal call to holiness, contra mundum- counter-culturally. Priesthood and/or religious life is their way to sanctification, to holiness, to Christ-likeness, which is the primary vocation of everyone who is baptized. Is the Lord calling you?

Friday, April 24, 2015

"The kids are losing their minds"

With little or no explanation or commentary, our traditio for this Spring Friday is the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop." I'll answer the question, "Why?" with the response of Bluto" Blutarsky, "Why not?"

Hey ho, let's go
Shoot'em in the back now
What they want, I don't know
They're all revved up and ready to go

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Our companionship with Christ

Readings: Acts 3:13-15.17-19; Ps 4:2.4.7-9; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48

Our readings for this Third Sunday of Easter don't require a lot unpacking or commentary. In our first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, St Peter tried to open the minds of his hearers to understand the Scriptures, just as the Lord had opened his, by explaining how Jesus fulfilled "everything written about [Him] in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms" (Luke 24:44).

Our reading from St John's first letter explains how we can know Jesus in the here and now. It makes all the difference in the world to how you live if you believe Jesus is risen and alive, or merely conceive of Him as a charismatic figure of the distant past who taught us some "good" things.

Like Cleopas and his unnamed friend, who encountered Jesus on the road, we come to know the Lord by walking with Him, not only as disciples, but as companions. The word "companion" is an interesting one. In Latin "com" means "with" and "pan" means "bread." So, literally, a com-pan-ion is one with whom you share bread.

Christ at Emmaus, by Rembrandt, 1648

Companionship with Jesus is different from any other because He becomes for you, for us, the very bread that is shared. This, in turn, fosters a companionship of those who share the Bread that is Him, making us together His Body, His Bride, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone. As Pope St John Paul II noted in his last encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, "the Eucharist builds the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist" (par 26). The fifth and final of the Luminous Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, given us by Papa Wojtyła in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, is Christ's institution of the Eucharist.

It is on this basis, and this basis alone (i.e., "how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread" Luke 24:35), that, if we follow the chapter from which our Gospel reading is taken to the end, which is only one more verse, once they were "clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49), which happened at the first Christian Pentecost, that Jesus' disciples, His companions, were were sent forth to tell of "these things" they witnessed, namely- that the Messiah suffered and rose "from the dead on the third day" (Luke 24:46).

Houellebecq defines distributism well

Convergence, what Jung might call "synchronicity," is what I experienced this morning reading a post by Pater Edmund, who composes what, at least in my estimation, is a very good Catholic blog, Sancrucensis. The convergence that struck me was reading this post after posting about the Republican effort to abolish the estate tax for wealthy people.

The post is Pater Edmund's provisonal "take" on Michel Houellebecq's latest novel Soumission, which is currently being translated into English. His "take" is specifically on on Houellebecq's invocation of the economics of distributism, sometimes called "distributivism," in an imagined French government led by an Islamist, Mohammed Ben Abbes.

Houellebecq describes "distributivism" very well, indeed (thank you to Pater Edmund for his English translation):
an economic philosophy that had been developed in England at the start of the 20th century by thinkers such as Gilbert Keith Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. It wanted to take a ‘third way’ between captialism and communism (which it understood as state capitalism). It’s basic idea was the overcoming of the division between capital and labor. The normal form of economic life was to be the family business. If certain branches of production required large scale organization, then everything was to be done to ensure that the workers were co-owners of their company, and co-responsible for its management. […] An essential element of political philosophy introduced by Chesterton and Belloc was the principle of subsidiarity. According to this principle, no association (whether social, economic or political) should have charge of a function that could be assigned to a smaller association. Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, provided a definition of this principle: "Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do"

In my view, it is precisely this principle of subsidiarity, which requires solidarity (i.e., people working together in pursuit of the common good- it is not libertarian), a far cry from individualism, that we have lost and would do well to retrieve. It is not an overstatement to note that from the beginning of modern Catholic social teaching, which is usually said to begin with Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, to Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, distributism, which maintains the connection between and balancing effects of solidarity and subsidiarity, is the method espoused.

Being organized into parishes ought to help us in such a retrieval. What I have in mind here is something along the lines of what my friend, one of the best young Catholic thinkers writing today, Artur Rosman, suggested last fall in his post "Synod14: The Church Needs to Replace the Family." Don't be put off by the provocative title. His proposal is not for radical social engineering, but sets forth a concrete proposal for how the Church might respond to the very real needs of our time and place, while fostering koinonia.

I don't mind saying, unapologetically, that I am a distributist. I believe today it is possible to do very many things, from electrical power generation to food production and distribution, along distributist lines. Don't only buy locally, but produce locally as well.

Friday, April 17, 2015

"In my hour of darkness, in my time of need"

As I have mentioned previously, I am enjoying reading Fr Jim Martin's Jesus: A Pilgrimage as part of my morning devotions. Yesterday, I read something that resonated with me deeply. Yesterday morning I read his chapter entitled "Gerasa," about his visit to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus healed the Gerasene demoniac (see "How do I evangelize?"). The book is based on a pilgrimage (thus the subtitle) he made to the Holy Land with a friend, a fellow Jesuit priest, George.

During their visit to Gerasa, George wanted to be left alone to pray on the hillside among the tombs. After they returned, Fr Martin wrote to ask his friend what he had found so meaningful about that site. In reply, George quoted from the journal he had kept while making St Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises when he was a Jesuit novice:
Jesus invited me to look into the tombs all around me, the cemetery of bad memories that I chose to dwell in most times. And what was there? Nothing, just dust and dry bones - the fears and pains I am most afraid of are dead things. They cannot hurt me anymore. They are dead and I am alive
I realize those words won't resonate with everyone as they did with me, bringing tears to my eyes, but there you have it. Indeed, the name is "Legion."

Fr Martin followed this in his book by noting, "George did not know that he would enter a two-year period of depression that he described as the most painful time of his life. It began when he stopped using alcohol to numb his feelings." After getting through this period with the help of many people, George came to see his few years of depression as a gift, one that empowered him for ministry as a prison chaplain.

Let me say this about my own experience: it often seems to me that some people have little or no self-awareness at all. I don't mean that as a criticism, but an attempt to explain my own perception. Sometimes I am all self-awareness, which is just as bad, probably even worse, than having little or none.

In light of this, our Friday traditio is the late, great Gram Parsons' "In My Hour of Darkness," sung by an all-star ensemble:

Then there was an old man, kind and wise with age
And he read me just like a book and he never missed a page
And I loved him like my father and I loved him like my friend
And I knew his time would shortly come but I did not know just when

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Republicans repeal the so-called "death tax"

As both of my readers know, I am far less political these days than I was formerly. This is because politics are provisional, ephemeral even, and I prefer to focus on what is lasting and real. Nonetheless, from time-to-time something happens that I can't help but weigh in on. Such is the case for the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives today voting to repeal the so-called "death tax."

It seems that the Republicans have successfully convinced many people that everyone who dies and leaves an estate has some heinously high tax levied against the estate they leave. So, if you leave $5, the federal government takes 40%, or $2, thus impacting millions of people in the U.S. This impression is untrue.

So, before we get all happy-clappy about the "brave" House Republicans voting to repeal the so-called "death tax," let's look at what they repealed.

According to the IRS, in 2015, if you leave an estate of $5,430,000.00 or less, you currently incur no federal estate tax. If you leave an estate of more than $5,430,000.00 to your spouse or a federally-recognized charity, you still pay no federal estate tax. For a married couple, the amount is double, that is, $10,860,000.00.

So, if you leave an estate of more than $5,430,000.00 to someone other than your spouse, or a federally-recognized charity, then there is a tax levied on the amount over the figure above on a scale determined by how much is gifted to each beneficiary up to 40%. By golly they're brave! Standing up for the little people!

Suffice it to say, today's "bold" political act has zero impact on the vast majority of people in the U.S., except less tax revenue of an estimated $269 billion over ten years, or, enough to completely fund food stamps for more than three years. To give you some idea, the government estimates that the repealed "death tax" will apply to 0.2% of people who will die this year.

All this nonsense about doing it to protect family farms is disingenuous in the extreme. I think an amendment to the existing law could easily be crafted to preserve family farms, especially when calculated in terms of property (i.e., land that is cultivated or business assets for family-owned firms). What is disingenuous is that the Republicans have sought for years, via other legislation, to put family-owned farms out-of-business, favoring agri-business instead.

Given all the fuss Republicans make about providing public assistance to people who work, sometimes more than one job, for a living, why are they so concerned to perpetuate wealth and privilege while opposing a living wage? In light of all this, please tell me again about this "conservatism" you espouse.

Trust me, I am no great fan of the Democrats either. What brought on this post? A statement issued by one of our representatives from Utah, Mia Love, who is not my representative (my rep, Chris Stewart, also voted for this):
Today, I voted to repeal the federal estate tax or "death tax". This tax has devastating effects on families in our country. When a loved one dies, the spouse and children are forced to cough up 40% of everything they have. This often results in a family declaring bankruptcy just to pay the taxes.

This nation was not built by penalizing hard working Americans who have spent their lifetime working to provide and save for their families. It was built on the idea that you could come to the United States and work hard to make a better life for your children. Taxing away that opportunity for future generations is not what the founding fathers envisioned and is not what our country stands for
I would be curious, based on the truth about the federal estate tax, according to Representative Love, what does our country stand for? Does this repeal foster the meritocracy she seems to (contradictorily) espouse in her statement? Most importantly, Reps Love and Stewart, in Congress, for whom do you stand?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Divine Mercy in Marriage

With the precious time I had yesterday afternoon, which fell between completing Saturday chores and suppertime, in addition to composing two posts for Divine Mercy Sunday, I read two chapters of a manuscript of a marriage book. The authors of the book, about which I am very excited, will remain anonymous for now (more to come, I sincerely hope). I read and provided feedback on the two chapters I was asked review the previous week and so I am reading the rest of the manuscript because I really liked what I read.

It was shortly after finishing reading the additional two chapters that I composed "Divine Mercy Sunday: Jesus, I trust in You." While typing this rather spontaneous post I found myself writing, "Why was this gift [the Sacrament of Penance] His first gift to His Bride after His rising from the dead?" It was then that I experienced a moment of convergence, or, more precisely for me, a moment of conviction. In the sentence immediately preceding the one above, I wrote: "Of course, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that all of the sacraments are outpourings of Divine Mercy."

What converged for me and convicted me was this thought: "If I believe what I wrote about all the sacraments being outpourings of Divine Mercy, then this is true of Matrimony." It is a cliché, at least among Christians, that, in order to last a lifetime, marriage requires a lot of mercy, a lot of forgiveness. Stated that way it sounds so easy. If you're anything like me, you require much mercy, that is, much forgiveness. Nonetheless, I am often quite hard-hearted when it comes to being merciful and forgiving, choosing instead to be demanding and sometimes reveling in having something to be indignant about. In a passage not directed specifically at married couples, but often chosen as a reading for weddings, St Paul wrote that love "is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor 13:5-6). What is "the truth" with which we are to rejoice if not the Divine Mercy us by God in Christ?

So, husbands, prospective husbands, make the first gift you give to your bride mercy- generous, un-hesitating, full-hearted, non-aggrieved, non-grudge-holding forgiveness. Of course, such a gift can only come from grace, the grace you have received, not from your wife, but from your crucified and risen Lord. Showing true mercy constitutes much of what makes your marriage a sacrament, that is, a visible and tangible sign of Christ's presence in and for the world, a symbol of Jesus' love for His Bride, the Church. In other words, live this: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her" (Eph 5:25).

Jesus, I trust in You.

Divine Mercy Sunday: Jesus, I trust in You

Readings: Acts 4:32-35; Ps 118:2-4.13-15.22-24; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31

Over the years I have posted a lot about Divine Mercy. The main reason for this is that I became well-acquainted with St Faustina, not then a saint and barely a "Blessed," and the Divine Mercy devotion in my early years of being a Roman Catholic. Given the key role Pope St John Paul II played in my conversion, my interest in the Divine Mercy devotion is rather predictable. Back in February 2013, while leading a retreat at National Shrine of Divine Mercy, I was privileged to meet Maureen Digan, who was miraculously healed of lymphedema while praying at St Faustina tomb. I pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy often (I try every day to recite at least a few of these prayers during the afternoon 3 o' clock hour- the hour of mercy- and say the Chaplet on Friday during that same hour, as well as keeping the Divine Mercy Novena, which begins each year on Good Friday). Many times throughout the course of almost every day I utter the words, "Jesus, I trust in You."

Because the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance are so closely linked (Penance being an extension of Baptism) celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday on the Second Sunday of Easter always strikes me as pitch perfect. The first gift the Risen Lord gave to His Church after His glorious resurrection was the sacrament of Penance, which is the sacrament of Divine Mercy. Of course, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that all of the sacraments are outpourings of Divine Mercy. Why was this gift His first gift to His Bride after His rising from the dead? Just think about how virtually all of the Twelve beat feet as soon as Jesus' sorrowful Passion began. Consider especially Peter's three-fold betrayal, which is depicted so dramatically by the Evangelists.

Rather than obsessing over the betrayal of the Twelve, consider your life since your own Baptism. I can only comment about myself: I was baptized twenty-five years ago at the age of 24. My post-baptismal life has been far from perfect! I am grateful for the Father's mercy given us through the Son by the power of the Spirit in the Sacrament of Mercy.

Our reading from the fifth chapter of 1 John summarizes what I am trying to communicate beautifully:

In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the worldbut the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (verses 2-5)
In both teaching and counseling I often tell people that I don't go to confession to admit my failure. Confession is where I go to claim the victory Christ won for me over sin and death!

Mercy is necessary to live the abundant life that Christ's Easter victory, which is our victory, bestows on us by the Holy Spirit's power. What does life in the Spirit look like. For this we need to look back to the primitive Church in the immediate aftermath of the first Christian Pentecost. So, our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives us a fairly detailed idea of this life. These three verses are worth considering here in their entirety:
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need (Acts 4:32-35
Let me be clear, while we may believe without seeing, we do not need to believe without experiencing firsthand for ourselves the effects of Christ's resurrection, which is nothing other than Divine Mercy. The sacraments remain the chief effects of that cosmos-shattering event. So, never hesitate to avail yourself of Divine Mercy.

Jesus, I trust in You.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Doubting Thomas, belief, unbelief, certitude, defeasibility

In our Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter, which is Divine Mercy Sunday, taken from St John's Gospel, Jesus says to "Doubting Thomas," "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed" (John 20:29).

I'll be honest, people who claim and act as if they have no doubts frighten me. They frighten me whether they believe in God or not. I sometimes wonder, "Don't aggressive atheists ever doubt their unbelief?" On the whole, believers seem pretty straightforward in admitting that we sometimes doubt. 

In his posthumously collected and published work On Certainty, Wittgenstein made an important distinction "between the concept of 'knowing' and the concept of 'being certain.'" He goes on to note that this distinction isn't really a significant one at all, "except where 'I know' is meant to mean: I can't be wrong" (3e). Hence, when Von Balthasar, Giussani, Ratzinger, et al. insist that faith and reason work together to help us arrive at knowledge, they are not making a mistake by including faith in their epistemological assertions.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, by Caravaggio, ca 1601-1602

In his book The Religious Sense Giussani gives a rather detailed example of how it is we employ what can really only be called "faith" to grasp even everyday things that we would not hesitate to say we "know," even while admitting there is a possibility we're wrong. Giussani rightly points out "that man can err using the scientific, philosophical, or mathematical methods" (22). His point is that making a mistake when employing one of these methods does not necessarily invalidate the method being employed. One the things about which Giussani was fervent is that faith, too, must have a method. Such a method is not something esoteric, or even really unique to believers.

The late Michael Spencer, better known, perhaps, as the "InternetMonk," or, simply "IMonk," once confessed: "I wonder if God exists. I sometimes see the universe as an empty place. Oh, I frequently see it filled with the glory of God and singing his majesty with all its created energy. I’m often filled with the assurance of faith. But not all the time. Sometimes tragedy, emotion, age, disappointment, depression, dark moods….they visit me and I doubt. I wonder and question. This is my human experience. God gives me faith. My humanness still gives me doubt."

Some knowledge claims can only be sensibly arrived at by the use of what is called defeasible reasoning. Defeasible reasoning is a certain type of non-demonstrative reasoning. By non-demonstrative is meant that one does not arrive at a complete or definitive demonstration of the knowledge claimed by employing defeasible reasoning. When it comes to God, when it comes to the great question of being (Why are there things rather than no-thing?), so painstakingly retrieved by Heidegger, how could it be otherwise?

Very often it seems to me that unbelievers claim to have much more certitude than most believers would ever dare claim. Personally, I don't think that kind of certitude has much epistemic warrant. Rather, I think the mystery of being requires a lot of humility for believers and unbelievers alike.

Friday, April 10, 2015

"And there I find You in the mystery"

In his homily for the Easter Vigil, which he celebrated in St Peter's Basilica on Saturday night, Pope Francis said:
“Entering the tomb”. It is good for us, on this Vigil night, to reflect on the experience of the women, which also speaks to us. For that is why we are here: to enter, to enter into the Mystery which God has accomplished with his vigil of love.

We cannot live Easter without entering into the mystery. It is not something intellectual, something we only know or read about… It is more, much more!

“To enter into the mystery” means the ability to wonder, to contemplate; the ability to listen to the silence and to hear the tiny whisper amid great silence by which God speaks to us (cf 1 Kings 19:12).

To enter into the mystery demands that we not be afraid of reality: that we not be locked into ourselves, that we not flee from what we fail to understand, that we not close our eyes to problems or deny them, that we not dismiss our questions…

To enter into the mystery means going beyond our own comfort zone, beyond the laziness and indifference which hold us back, and going out in search of truth, beauty and love. It is seeking a deeper meaning, an answer, and not an easy one, to the questions which challenge our faith, our fidelity and our very existence.

To enter into the mystery, we need humility, the lowliness to abase ourselves, to come down from the pedestal of our “I” which is so proud, of our presumption; the humility not to take ourselves so seriously, recognizing who we really are: creatures with strengths and weaknesses, sinners in need of forgiveness. To enter into the mystery we need the lowliness that is powerlessness, the renunciation of our idols… in a word, we need to adore. Without adoration, we cannot enter into the mystery
For this Friday in the Octave of Easter our traditio is Hillsong's "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)," which complements the words of the Pontiff very well, at least I think it does:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The historical reality of Jesus Christ

For Easter I am delving into the the Acts of the Apostles. I am doing this by means of reading two books: Jaroslav Pelikan's theological commentary on Acts, published as part of the excellent Brazos series of theological (as opposed to exegetical) commentaries, and the late German New Testament scholar, Martin Hengel's Acts and the History of Earliest Christianity.

Hengel, a Lutheran who died in 2009, left a legacy of truly important New Testament and early Church scholarship. He had no patience for the pointless speculation that often flies under the flag New Testament scholarship. His work has the kind of scholarly precision that speculators and generators of fanciful tales that pass for source criticism would rather avoid. 

He taught primarily at the University of Tübingen, but also the University of Erlangen. The story of his quest to be a full-time scholar is quite an interesting one. You can read a short biography here

Along with Peter Stuhlmacher, Otfried Hofius and Hartmut Gese, Hengel formed what was sometimes called "the second Tübingen school," the first, or original "school" being that of the hyper-liberal scholars, who rejected much of what is orthodox Christianity on the basis of their often rather dubious exegetical methodologies. Central to those belonging to this so-called second school was a "biblical theology in which Jesus as the Messiah of Israel and Son of God who gave his life as an atonement for the sins of the world..."

Hengel's work was mentioned by Pope Emeritus Benedict in his letter to Piergiorgio Odifreddi, a mathematics professor at the University of Turin, author, and outspoken atheist- something of an Italian Dawkins: "I recommend especially the four volumes which Martin Hengel (an exegete of the Protestant Theological Faculty of Tübingen) published together with Maria Schwemer: it is an excellent example of historical precision and of the broadest historical knowledge."

The Morning of the Resurrection, by Edward Burne-Jones, 1882

Hengel's book on Acts is an edited edition of a seminar he led in Tübingen in the mid-1970s, parts of which he delivered as lectures elsewhere later. In the first chapter, entitled "Sources of the History of Earliest Christianity," Hengel wrote about the essential harmony of the Gospels, even as he insisted that the author of John's Gospel was aware of Mark's work but used it critically. The main point I want to draw from this chapter is a point well-known to those who are very familiar with basic Gospel studies. I pass it along because Hengel made this point so well and, of course, because it is Easter:
Finally, the dominant goal of all four evangelists is the account of Jesus' arrest, condemnation and execution on the cross in Jerusalem and the subsequent Easter events, the discovery of the empty tomb or the appearance of the risen Christ" (20)
A bit later in the opening chapter, Hengel takes aim at something that, inexplicably, seems to be a working assumption among many New Testament scholars: "The idea cherished by form critics for decades, of individual traditions completely detached and in 'free circulation' as isolated units, is just as unrealistic as the attempt to write a life of Jesus" (25). This follows on the heels of Hengel's insistence that, even if we reduce what we know about Jesus of Nazareth to what is credible, we probably know more about Him than we do about virtually anyone else in antiquity. By asserting that it would be "unrealistic" to "attempt to write a life of Jesus," he was referring back to his response to the silly observation, usually employed to assert outrageous things about Jesus, that it is not possible to write a biography of Jesus that "could stand up to the demands of modern historiography" (24).

Like any scholar, Hengel's work is not above reproach or immune from criticism, but, in the view of many, his work is a corrective, bringing a healthy, well-reasoned, and historical rigor to New Testament studies.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rosaria Butterfield: sexual sin is enslavement

What can I say, when it rains, it pours? This, at least for me, is especially true when it comes to posting here these days. I apologize up-front for all the links in the post that follows below.

Today, a friend of mine, a brilliant guy, who is one of the most diversely talented people I know, even though our acquaintance thus far has been exclusively on-line, Dr. Michael Martin, brought to my attention an article posted this Easter Monday over on Desiring God, a Reformed Christian website. The piece, "The Dead End of Sexual Sin," was written by Dr Rosaria Butterfield, about whom I have posted previously (see "God's kingdom, a place of unimaginable hospitality"). Back in November 2012 I read Rosaria's autobiography The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (I also plan to read her expanded version, to which I provided the Amazon link). I read her story in less than 24 hours.

While she did not go into much detail about this in her autobiography, Rosaria divulged that she was raised Catholic. She wrote about a discussion with the Reformed pastor who was instrumental in her conversion, about having a pretty religious upbringing. She also mentioned being confirmed. Sadly, she wrote about the reason she left the Catholic Church: when she was in her mid-teens, one for her friends, also a teenager, divulged that she was having a sexual relationship with one of the priests at their parish.

In "The Dead End of Sexual Sin," Butterfield notes the instrumentality of the writings of Puritan theologian John Owen, especially his book (originally published, as she noted, as three separate books) Overcoming Sin and Temptation, in her transformation- hers is a great testimony to how we must cooperate with God's grace at work in us.

What is notable about John Owen and several other of the best Puritan writers is that they actually maintained and built upon much that was Catholic, especially much that was monastic, á la Luther via St Bernard of Clairvaux (see "'Homo curvatus in se' - attempt at skimming the surface," "Jesus came to liberate you: faith and works revisited," "[T]hese benefits shed like dew from heaven upon us," and "Discipleship costly for all who follow"). In terms of how sin works in our souls, Owen remains a good diagnostician and gives his readers many good prescriptions, like immersing oneself in Sacred Scripture. But I'll bet, like many others, especially many who have left, Rosaria never learned anything like this as a Catholic, which I find deeply distressing.

Given all the battles over sexual identity, as someone who was quite easily and comfortably a lesbian, Rosaria Butterfield's credibility, whether you agree with her or not, is unimpeachable. Hence, I really appreciate this from today's article:
Be wise about your choice sins and don’t coddle them. And remember that sin is not ever “who you are” if you are in Christ. In Christ, you are a son or daughter of the King; you are royalty. You do battle with sin because it distorts your real identity; you do not define yourself by these sins that are original with your consciousness and daily present in your life
And this, which is found a bit further on- "Indeed, our identity comes from being crucified and resurrected with Christ." She is referring, of course, to the new life we receive in Baptism, which is really what Saturday's Paschal Vigil was all about. In Butterfield's article this is indicated by her citation of St Paul from his Letter to the Romans (6:4-6).

Even as a Reformed Christian, Rosaria Butterfield would agree that the central sacraments are Baptism and the Eucharist (for her and other Reformed Christians these remain the only sacraments). Yesterday I began reading Jaroslav Pelikan's theological commentary on the Book of Acts, in which he pointed out that, according to the theology of Acts, Baptism, not the Eucharist, is "the sacramental foundation of the church" (40). It seems to me that this was a major issue for the Reformers and also why there was so much emphasis placed on the importance of Baptism at the Second Vatican Council - which, in my view, was the Catholic response to the Reformation, whereas Trent, in many respects, was the Catholic Church's reaction to it, as necessary as it may have been at the time - and the universal call to holiness that arises from being baptized.

Being baptized means dying and rising. Dr Butterfield describes this beautifully throughout her article, but particularly towards the end:
In the writings of John Owen, I was shown how and why the promises of sexual fulfillment on my own terms were the antithesis of what I had once fervently believed. Instead of liberty, my sexual sin was enslavement. This seventeenth-century Puritan revealed to me how my lesbian desires and sensibilities were dead-end joy-killers.

Divine Mercy: from competition to complementarity

Just about every year during Easter week, as we approach Divine Mercy Sunday, which is the Second Sunday of Easter, there arises some tension between those of us who have a devotion to Divine Mercy and the vast majority of Catholics who do not. As with all things of this nature both sides have people on the extremes: on one side, there are those who think that preparing for Divine Mercy Sunday by praying the novena of Divine Mercy is, or at least ought to be, obligatory and, on the other, those who insist that it gets in the way of both the Triduum (the novena begins on Good Friday) and our celebration of Easter itself, and should, for this reason, actually be avoided.

It seems to me that Roman Catholics have become very adept at creating false dilemmas. I find this all the more puzzling because part of the Catholic genius is to take a both/and, or, as it is expressed in Latin, et/et (i.e., and/and- this and that, rather than this or that), approach whenever possible. Taking such an approach does not mean failing to recognize that there are some genuine dilemmas, divergences that cannot be reconciled in light of God's revelation. To wit: praying the novena of Divine Mercy is absolutely not obligatory for anyone at all, just as praying the Rosary, or any other devotion, is not.

But isn't it great that there are many thousands, perhaps even tens or hundreds of thousands, of people who observe these holy days by making recourse to Divine Mercy by observing the novena? It seems to me that the genuine dilemma when it comes to Divine Mercy is, are we to view it as somehow in competition with our observance of the Lord's death, burial, and resurrection, or as a complement to it, whether we chose to participate or or not?

For sure, devotions, which proliferated during the centuries when people often felt themselves to be spectators at the liturgy, should not obscure or in any way obstruct our view of the central of mysteries of our faith. Ideally, devotions should not only make these clearer, but be a means of our entering into them more fully. Hence, for some they can be a distraction, but for others an efficacious means of grace. This requires something to which we pay a lot of lip service, but shrink from actually doing because it can be difficult- making a spiritual discernment. In other words, two very spiritually discerning people can arrive at opposite conclusions about their personal devotion to Divine Mercy.

My response to the question posed above can easily be guessed: rather than view Divine Mercy as somehow in competition with the Triduum and the octave of Easter, I think we should view it as complementary, even should you choose not to pray the novena or feel in anyway obligated to incorporate the Divine Mercy devotion into your own spiritual life. Undeniably, the first gift the risen Lord gave to His Church after His resurrection was the Sacrament of Penance. In our Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Easter, Jesus says, "'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained'" (John 20:21-23).

This gift of mercy, of forgiveness, of reconciliation, instituted by Christ Himself as a sacrament, is only made possible because of His death and resurrection. He then sends those on whom He "breathed" to bestow this on the whole world. I can't imagine how this does not merit a lot of serious consideration during Eastertide. Praying the Divine Mercy novena in advance of Divine Mercy Sunday strikes me as one very specific and concentrated way of keeping this is the forefront of one's awareness, but it is by no means the only way to do so.

After a pause, due to the busy-ness of Holy Week and the Triduum, I resumed reading Fr Jim Martin's Jesus: A Pilgrimage this morning. The chapter I read was on the Beatitudes. Looking at the Beatitude that bids followers of the Risen One to be merciful, mindful of the fact that while the Gospels were composed in Greek, Jesus spoke Aramaic, or perhaps Hebrew (the two languages being closely related), Fr Martin proposes that we consider the very plausible idea that when Jesus taught this He may well have used the Hebrew word chesed for what we read in English as "mercy" or "merciful."

Fr Martin rightly notes that translating chesed as "mercy" "doesn't do it justice" (173). He turns to the well-known expositor of the New Testament, William Barclay, who wrote: "Chesed, mercy, means the ability to get right inside other people until we can see things with their eyes, think things with their minds, and feel things with their feelings" (Martin 174). At least according to Barclay, mercy contains a heavy does of empathy. I think this is applicable to the annual tension that arises among many Roman Catholics during the Octave of Easter over Divine Mercy.

Pope Francis' gift to pilgrims

Based on the evidence, it seems that Pope Francis, who recently declared an extraordinary Jubilee of Divine Mercy, which will begin later this year on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and end on the Feast of Christ of the King in 2017, has more than a passing familiarity with and more than a general appreciation of Divine Mercy. This was evidenced by, among other things, a gift he gave to pilgrims who gathered in St Peter's Square back in November 2013. The Holy Father gave the pilgrims what he called "medicine". This "medicine" came in a box that contained a rosary along with the chaplet of Divine Mercy. At the top of the broadside of the box, in big, blue letters, appeared the word Misericordia (i.e., "Mercy"). He told those in St Peter's Square, to whom he gave these boxes, that it was "a spiritual help for our soul and to spread love, forgiveness and fraternity everywhere."

Jesus, I trust in You.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Urbi et Orbi Easter 2015


Easter 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter!

Jesus Christ is risen!

Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness!

Out of love for us, Jesus Christ stripped himself of his divine glory, emptied himself, took on the form of a slave and humbled himself even to death, death on a cross. For this reason God exalted him and made him Lord of the universe. Jesus is Lord!

By his death and resurrection, Jesus shows everyone the way to life and happiness: this way is humility, which involves humiliation. This is the path which leads to glory. Only those who humble themselves can go towards the “things that are above”, towards God (cf. Col 3:1-4). The proud look “down from above”; the humble look “up from below”.

On Easter morning, alerted by the women, Peter and John ran to the tomb. They found it open and empty. Then they drew near and “bent down” in order to enter it. To enter into the mystery, we need to “bend down”, to abase ourselves. Only those who abase themselves understand the glorification of Jesus and are able to follow him on his way.

The world proposes that we put ourselves forward at all costs, that we compete, that we prevail… But Christians, by the grace of Christ, dead and risen, are the seeds of another humanity, in which we seek to live in service to one another, not to be arrogant, but rather respectful and ready to help.

This is not weakness, but true strength! Those who bear within them God’s power, his love and his justice, do not need to employ violence; they speak and act with the power of truth, beauty and love.

"Joy to the world, He's risen, alleluia"

It is a long-standing Καθολικός διάκονος tradition to post Keith Green's "Easter Song" on Easter Sunday. At least for me, it wouldn't be Easter Sunday without this song, which always immediately takes me back to my early days as a Christian:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Christ is risen!

Resurrection of Christ by Noel Coypel, 1700

"Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him" (Mark 16:6). This is what the angel said to Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salomé.

Friday, April 3, 2015

"Father, forgive them"

For a number of years I was privileged to preach all or some of Jesus' Seven Last Words as He hung on the Cross at The Cathedral of the Madeleine. We ceased this devotion after Good Friday 2013 for reasons I do not know. Nonetheless, below is my first ever reflection on our Lord's Seven Last Words, spoken as He hung on the Cross:


Reading: Luke 23:34

“Father, forgive them” is the first of the seven last words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because forgiveness is where it all begins and is what is necessary for God’s purpose to be accomplished. Jesus willingly suffers and endures the humiliation, the degradation, the pain and the anguish that sin, our sin, merits. In His agonies are gathered up and recapitulated all the suffering that ever was and all that ever will be.

It would defeat the purpose of what God was doing in Christ for the Lord to endure the miseries of his passion and not, even while enduring them, forgive those at whose hands he suffered. It is only by forgiving that the cycle of violence, the very cycle in which Christ is not caught up, but to which He willingly submits for our sake, is broken and, fulfilling his Messianic mission, sets humanity free. In Christ, we see that forgiveness is the necessary condition of reconciliation.

It is clear that those inflicting torture on Christ, those crying out for his death, and those carrying out Pilate’s sentence, did not know what they were doing. In other words, they did not know they were torturing and killing the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Israel’s Messiah, the Son of God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity. Therefore, the first reconciliation we must bring about on the basis of our Lord’s first word is with the Jews, the people through whom God, according to his inscrutable wisdom, first entered into covenant and through whom, in Christ, his promise of salvation is extended to all humanity. Therefore, we must reject any anti-Jewish charge of deicide. Surely, believing such a charge, which many Christians did for quite a few centuries, contributed to one of the worst horrors imaginable, the most systematic genocide of the bloody twentieth century, the Sho'ah. In Christ, who is God’s covenant, the new and everlasting covenant is extended to all without prejudice. We, as sharers in this covenant, are called to reconcile a humanity that all too readily divides on the basis of race.

In their eyes they were putting to death a rebel, a blasphemer, a trouble-making, but (to borrow Fr John Meier’s description) a marginal Jew. So, Jesus also suffers on behalf of the poor and marginalized, like the two thieves, like the people of Darfur, Iraq, North Korea, and those dumped onto the streets and abandoned in cities throughout the world.

Besides, Jesus pleading to his eternal Father to forgive those torturing him and putting him to death cannot be anything other than efficacious. If we believe that Jesus’ pleadings for forgiveness are ever ignored by the Father, then our own forgiveness and, hence, our very salvation is called into question.

God still brings about forgiveness and reconciliation through the Body of His Son, which now, in and through the Eucharist, takes the form of the Church. Reconciliation, like the Eucharist, is a sacrament precisely because it is not confined to those times and places in which we formally and ritually celebrate it. Of necessity it extends beyond the confessional. Reconciliation is a way of life, a mode of being, for any disciple of Jesus Christ.

Divine Mercy Novena: Day 1

Let's not forget that today, Good Friday, begins the annual Novena of Divine Mercy. Of course, you may make a Divine Mercy Novena anytime you choose, but the one that begins today, in advance of Divine Mercy Sunday (the Second Sunday of Easter), is truly unique:
because it is the first novena in the history of the Catholic Church which was created by Jesus. St. Faustina records in her Diary that Jesus instructed her to write down the Novena which she would begin on Good Friday, 1937. Jesus told her that on each day, she would bring a different group of souls to the Fountain of His Mercy. From the Fountain of His Mercy, these souls would be refreshed and granted graces for the hardships of their earthly life and especially for the hour of their death. Jesus promised St. Faustina that He would refuse nothing to any soul whom she brought to the Fountain of His Mercy. He told her that once these souls were refreshed at the Fountain of His Mercy, He would bring them into His Father’s House, at which time St. Faustina would beg the Father, on the strength of the bitter Passion of Jesus, for graces for these souls. St. Faustina responded that she did not know which souls she should bring to the Fountain of Mercy, but Jesus told her that He would tell her on each day (Divine Mercy apostolate)
On the first day of the novena, Jesus requested that St Faustina pray for all people, the whole of humanity, but particularly for those ensconced in sin. In her diary, St Faustina wrote the words Jesus spoke to her: "Today bring to Me all mankind, especially all sinners, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. In this way you will console Me in the bitter grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me."

Feast Day of Divine Mercy, by Stephen B. Whatley

The Divine Mercy novena prayer for the first day:
Most Merciful Jesus, whose very nature it is to have compassion on us and to forgive us, do not look upon our sins but upon our trust which we place in Your infinite goodness. Receive us all into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart, and never let us escape from It. We beg this of You by Your love which unites You to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon all mankind and especially upon poor sinners, all enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion show us Your mercy, that we may praise the omnipotence of Your mercy for ever and ever. Amen
In addition to the prayer for each day of the novena (you can find all of the prayers here), pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for the intention expressed in the novena prayer for that day. You might begin by making the Sign of the Cross, praying the novena prayer for that day and then praying the Chaplet.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us
St Joseph, pray for us
St Mary Magdalene, pray for us
St Faustina, pray for us
Pope St John Paul II, pray for us
Venerable Matt Talbot, pray for us
Servant of God Luigi Giussani, pray for us
Servant of God Cora Evans, pray for us
All holy men and women, pray for us

Life is short - pray hard. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Triduum: Good Friday

We worship your cross, O Lord, and we praise and glorify your holy resurrection, for the wood of the cross has brought joy to the world (Antiphon 3: Morning Prayer for Good Friday)

Martyre de Jésus de Nazareth, by Nicolas Aimé Morot, 1883

"He mounted the Cross to free us from the fascination with nothingness, to free us from the fascination with appearances, with the ephemeral."- Servant of God Msgr. Luigi Giussani

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Triduum Begins: Holy Thursday

From the beginning of the Mass of Lord's Supper this evening until we are dismissed at the end of the great Paschal Vigil, we are in liturgy. Between now and then, it is a time for prayer, silence, and to open ourselves to the Spirit in order to gain a deeper understanding of what the Father has done for us in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Jesus and Judas

Tonight, at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, during the reading of the Gospel, I was struck, not for the first time, by the person of Judas Iscariot. Maybe this arose from going to confession just before Mass. Anyway, as I thought about Judas, I remembered 24-7 Prayer's Anagnorisis series from last Lent, especially Andy Freeman's videos on Judas (you can watch them all here). but especially the final video.

This traitor, too, is loved. I pray to live in gratitude for this, which means living in the awareness, always, that I am loved with an everlasting love, a love that is stronger than death. Thank you, Jesus.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Pastoral ministry is being a fool for Christ

I'll be honest and admit that I've really never been a fan of or a participant in April Fool's Day. My admission is not intended to exhibit a morally superior attitude. I am fine with April Fool's Day and once in awhile, despite myself, have to admit, "That was a good one."

Thinking about April Fool's this evening St Paul's passage from the fourth chapter of his First Letter to the Corinthians popped into my mind:
For as I see it, God has exhibited us apostles as the last of all, like people sentenced to death, since we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and human beings alike. We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands. When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment (1 Cor 4:9-13)
In this passage Paul employs sarcasm when he tells the Christians of Corinth "you are wise in Christ... you are strong... you are held in honor." Paul is rehearsing for them what they think of themselves in contrast to how they perceive him and his co-workers.

Not too long ago at a luncheon I sat next to one of the wisest priests I know, a man getting on years, with a long distinguished ministry as a pastor, administrator of Catholic institutions, who has served at the highest diocesan levels. He said to me, "When it comes to the Church many people are naive." This statement can be taken in a variety of ways and applied across many situations and circumstances. It is a general observation. But few people really know how demanding pastoral ministry truly is, especially when considered in light of the earthly "rewards" one receives for engaging in it (paltry at best). St Paul knew, your bishop knows, your pastor knows, his associate pastor(s) either knows or is in the process of finding out (i.e., being disabused of his[/their] naivety), many deacons know. This is why ministry is a calling. It is not for everyone. Discernment for ministry has to be taken seriously, both by the Church and by the person seeking ordination, or institution, as a minister.

What drew my attention in the passage from 1 Corinthians today was not what Paul and his fellow workers were subjected to, but how Paul insisted he had to respond: 'When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently." If you balk at this then you're not foolish enough to minister in the name of Christ.

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: Hosea 2:16.17c.18.21-22; Ps 145:2-9; Matthew 9:18-26 Our Gospel today is Saint Matthew’s version of events first written about ...