Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day calls for at least some sobriety

I really grow tired of the endless politicization of anything and everything. Tomorrow is Memorial Day. If you are a citizen of the United States of America, I think it's important to acknowledge that some of your fellow citizens gave their lives in service to your country. Many others have put their lives on the line and lived to tell the tale.

I am very aware that war, as Clauswitz accurately observed, "is politics by other means." What that means to me is that war is often avoidable and usually inadvisable. As Sting sang in his poignant song about WWI, "Children's Crusade": "Corpulent generals safe behind lines/History's lessons drowned in red wine." We certainly have our 21st century equivalent of this phenomenon- Does the term "chickenhawk" mean anything to you? If not, look it up.

I have to believe that most U.S. service members who died in battle understood that they put their lives on the line, not necessarily for their country, let alone the flag, which are abstract, but for their fellow citizens. Whether you agree or not, given the range of legitimate views on various conflicts in which the U.S. has engaged and in which some its citizens have been killed, I think it's important to grant those who died the benefit of the doubt in this regard.

The fact that they died in service is true whether you personally believed in what they were fighting for or not, whether you thought the war/military action/whatever was just, or even if you style yourself a pacifist, which is a position, if held with courage, I can respect. I certainly respect those who were willing to suffer for their resistance by going to jail. I also think it's important not to get too carried away on the other side of the coin and give war a romantic gloss and shine it does not deserve. When it comes to the sobering reality Memorial Day beckons us to contemplate, we need to avoid sentimentalism. What's important is that we remember those who died and honor their sacrifice, even as we reflect on the cost of war. This ought to cause us to pray and work for peace.

When their country called, those who perished responded with a willingness to serve. It stands to reason that some did so more willingly and freely than others. Without a doubt those who were killed in battle thought, at least hoped, they would do their duty and return home, likely dreaming of their future. This is why, for me, the song "Galveston" is one of the best, if not the best, song of the Vietnam era. The vast, vast majority of those who died while serving our country were not blood-thirsty warmongers, but peace-loving people, as is any sane person.

At least to me, here's where the rubber hits the road: they didn't return home! Instead they died, usually far from home, often in another country and on another continent, leaving behind bereft mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, and children. It's that sacrifice we honor.

Enjoy your day, have some fun, but please spend a least a few moments tomorrow thinking about these sobering things and remembering those who died in service to our nation.

Corpus Christi: takin' him to the streets

Readings: Gen 14:18-20; Ps 110:1-4; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Luke 9:11b-17

"The Eucharist makes the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist." This observation was made in the era of the Church fathers. It's one of those sentences the meaning of which can never be fully exhausted. This sentence gets things the right way round: Christ himself instituted the Eucharist, the sacrament of his body and blood, which we celebrate today on Corpus Christi, it is he who makes us, not just what we are, but who we are. Who we are individually finds it origin in who we are together. One person, it has been said to the point of being a philosophical, theological, sociological, and psychological common place, is no person.

It is the Eucharist that makes the Church the Body of Christ, or Corpus Christi. Christian discipleship is communal, which is why the central act of Christian faith is communion. As St. Augustine stated it in Sermon 272:
What is seen is the physical representation; what is understood is the spiritual fruit. Therefore, if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the Apostle [Paul] speaking to the faithful: You are the body of Christ, and its members [1 Cor. 12:27]. … When you hear “The body of Christ”, you answer, “Amen”. Be a member of the body of Christ, so that your “Amen” may be true! What then is the bread? We assert nothing here of our own ideas; rather, let us listen closely to the Apostle, who, when he spoke concerning this Sacrament, said, There is one bread; we, the many, are one body [1 Cor. 10:17]. … “One bread” – what is this one bread? It is one body formed of many. Remember that bread is not made from a single grain, but from many. When you were purified, you were ground. When you were baptized, you became dough. When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, you were baked. Become what you see, and receive what you are [italiczed and emboldening emphasis mine]
It would be difficult to improve upon what the great bishop of Hippo Regius preached in the first decade of the 5th century.

In a post such as this I always put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to compose something original, something beautiful, something uniquely incisive. It relaxes me to realize I've probably never met those expectations. Why stop now? Really, when it comes to the sacrament of Christ's body and blood, it's difficult, if not downright impossible, to come up with something new to write about it. At least for me, it's important to ponder what has been handed on and consider how deeply I have appropriated these things, which is just a way of asking, To what extent does my participation in the Eucharist shape and form my life, my identity?

My favorite way to describe Christian initiation, which consists of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and culminates with communion, is as incorporation into the Body of Christ, the Church- Corpus Christi. Recently, while preparing my Pentecost homily, the connection between the Church as Christ's Body and the Church as Christ's Bride became somewhat more evident to me. So, at the risk of quoting myself, which is not considered very cricket, I share, once again, that insight:
Just as observance of the Law, not descent from Abraham, is what conferred on the Jewish people their identity as God’s chosen people, it is the Holy Spirit who gives the Church her identity as the Bride of Christ. So, just as especially through child-bearing, a man and a woman become flesh of each other’s flesh and bone of each other’s bone, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that those reborn in baptism make the Church, Christ’s Bride, his very body
Not deeply insightful, I know. I am slow, but for me that was an "Aha!" moment.

As with the Most Holy Trinity, when one thinks about the Blessed Sacrament in the abstract, solely in carefully-constructed philosophical categories, the mystery is reduced. We cannot reduce the mystery of the Eucharist to our measure, which is different from asserting we can't say anything meaningful about it, or apprehend it to some extent. But if apprehending it does not facilitate an encounter, then it is worse than useless. While you may explain to someone the dogma of transubstantiation clearly and in a manner s/he can comprehend, the best you've accomplished is to show that, using Aristotelian categories, our belief that the bread and wine become Jesus Christ body, blood, soul, and divinity is not contrary to reason. In other words, you don't prove anything positive, you merely eliminate an understandable suspicion. Oftentimes, given that the underlying metaphysics of our post-modern, or late modern, Western milieu is not Aristotelian, and not even a metaphysics of substance, it is difficult to do accomplish even that much.

It is more than meaningful that our Old Testament reading for today, taken from Genesis, comes at the end of Abram's encounter with the mysterious Melchizedek, king of Salem (i.e., king of Peace). They celebrate together what a Christian can only describe as a proto-Eucharist. What is most fitting about the two verses that comprise our first reading for this Solemnity is that they tell us Abram gave the king of Salem a tenth of all he owned. One can argue that this is the origin of the offertory at Mass, during which we give our gifts. You see, the Eucharist is an exchange of gifts. Not only does Christ offer himself to us body, blood, soul, and divinity, as it were, but, if we grasp the nature of the exchange, we offer ourselves to him, to each other, and to the world, body, blood, soul, and humanity.

I suppose one way to put it is that we are filled with the Christ so that we can empty ourselves, like he did. Of course, the exchange is not commercial in nature. In his deeply insightful book The Sacraments: The Word of and the Mercy of the Body, Louis-Marie Chauvet, in the third section, which bears the title "Functioning of the Structure: Symbolic Exchange," does a masterful job unpacking what is involved in this. The exchange is not a market exchange, increasingly the only kind of exchange Western minds are capable of grasping, one of the effects of which is that sex becomes a commodity (sorry for the digression, but I thought of Timothy Radcliffe's chapter "The Body Electric" in his book What is the Point of Being a Christian?), but what Chauvet calls a "symbolic exchange." "God's grace," Chauvet explains, "is not something due and its measure is not that of human merit" (123). It is because "Grace comes from God's pure initiative, that of love," the believer must respond "to love by love and not by calculation" (123; 125).

To my way of thinking, our Gospel, taken from St. Luke's account of Jesus' feeding of the 5,000, demonstrates perfectly just how the Eucharist makes the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist. Let's face it, the most credible evidence that the elements of bread of wine, by the Holy Spirit's power, become for us Christ's body and blood are lives of those of us who partake of it. In other words, witness, not discourse, provides the most compelling evidence for what is far from self-evidently true for the vast majority of people, just as it was not self-evident to the casual first century observer in the Roman province of Palestine that Jesus of Nazareth was King of kings and Lord of lords, true God from true God, etc.

In his still highly relevant Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii nuntiandi, which animates Pope Francis' Evangelii gaudium as well as Francis' concept of "missionary discipleship," Bl. Pope Paul VI wrote:
Above all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness. Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? (par. 21)
Rather than an inward, self-referential celebration, Corpus Christi gives impetus to evangelization. Consistent with theo-logic, the Eucharist is a gift that can only be received by giving it away.

Friday, May 27, 2016

"With the weight of my sin and this crushing unbelief"

From near the beginning, Christians have observed Fridays as a day of Penance. If every Sunday is a "little" Easter, then each Friday is a "little" Good Friday. Morning Prayer for Fridays begins with Psalm 51, known as the Miserere:
Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.
(Ps 51:3-4)
Every Friday I try to spend at least a few minutes before the Blessed Sacrament. Lest you think me too holy, trying means I sometimes don't make it.

Convent Chapel, St. Olaf Parish, Bountiful, Utah

One of my favorite recent Christian albums is Ten Avenues North's 2009 (not that recent, I know) Over and Underneath. When I think of going into Christ's presence their song "Hallelujah," a track on this album, comes to mind. So, "Hallelujah is our Friday traditio for the Friday between Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi, also known, at least this year, as the Eighth Friday in Ordinary Time, or, each year, as the Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury.

Driving to the chapel, I often I listen to "Hallelujah." The chapel, which attaches our parish rectory to the parish office building, was formerly the convent chapel of the Sisters of Charity. They served in our parish for many years but left a few years ago and now serve at the only other parish in Davis County, Utah. They visit frequently and we have the Ladies of Charity in the parish, laywomen who participate in their charism.

My only qualm with "Hallelujah" goes to the heart of Catholic/Protestant issues concerning soteriology. To wit: I believe he blood of the Lamb does not cover our sins, it washes us. Nonetheless, we can rejoice together and bear witness, singing: "Hallelujah for the blood of the Lamb that was slain."

Monday, May 23, 2016

Year II Eighth Monday in Ordinary Time

Readings: 1 Peter 1:3-9; Ps 111:1-2.9.10c; Mark 10:17-27

Wealth, the pursuit of riches, having your whole life taken up by the never-ending cycle of earning, spending, and consuming is something that quickly keeps us from God. The rich man in today’s Gospel loved his riches more than he loved God. Lest I exaggerate, let me note that the rich man was not a “bad” person. He endeavored to keep all the commandments and claimed to have kept them all from his youth. Now, we do not know what this man ultimately did. Perhaps he later repented. What we do know is that he walked away from this encounter with Jesus sad at the prospect of selling his riches, giving to the poor, and following Jesus.

After the man went away, Jesus explained to his disciples that riches are one of the biggest barriers to entering the Kingdom of God. He made this point very emphatically when he said, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25). Very often, when commenting on this passage of Scripture, preachers and teachers try to reduce its impact. One way they do this is by attempting to explain that “the eye of the needle” to which Jesus referred was a gate into a walled ancient Middle Eastern city. But Jesus was talking about a hand-held needle and stuffing an entire camel through its eye, which is not just difficult, but impossible.

The impossibility of a camel passing through the eye of a needle is what prompted his disciples to ask, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus assured them by saying, “All things are possible for God,” even saving someone who is rich. After all, that is just what Jesus tried to do for the rich man, who St. Mark tells us the Lord loved: save him. But God does not save anyone against his will.

Jesus does not merely tell the rich man just to give up his riches. He tells him to sell his possessions and “give to the poor.” The Lord assured the man that by selling what he owned and giving to the poor he would have treasure in heaven. My friends, if our lives are dedicated to seeking treasure, then our reward will be the earthly treasure we accumulate. But, as our first reading reminds us, the goal of our faith is the salvation of our souls.

Yesterday my family and I watched the movie Tomorrowland. While there was a lot I did not like about the film, at root it was about how every day we hear about all the bad things happening in the world, about how things are getting worse minute-by-minute. Being inundated through mass media with bad things and dire predictions all day, every day paralyzes us, causing us to ask, “Where do I start?” Paralysis keeps us from doing simple things like consuming less and giving more, not just of our money, but our time and energy, in order to make a positive impact for the Kingdom of God.

Moreover, the movie focused on the importance of hope, the utter necessity of acting on the belief that all is not lost, that we can make the world a better place by doing what the slogan with which we’re all familiar tells us: “Think globally, act locally.”

In the opening passage of his message for Lent this year, Pope Francis wrote:
Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure … Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront
In terms of the population of the world right now, every one of us here is rich, wealthy beyond the imagination of most people. What the Holy Father is saying is that it is easy for those of us in the developed world to become so narrowly focused on our own lives, to be caught up in the rat race, that we simply don’t care, or have the time to care, what else is happening in the world, how our lifestyle impacts our fellow human beings and the health of the planet.

Not wanting to leave us without hope, the Holy Father, in the same message, noted: “When the people of God are converted to [God’s] love, they find answers to the questions that history continually raises.” How the love of God confronts the problems of every era, including our own, is by raising up saints. Perhaps the best known of God’s answers to the problem of growing indifference is Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, who will be raised to the altar as a saint later this year. Even beyond her death, the Missionaries of Charity remain committed to the globalization of caring. Another shining answer is Servant of God Dorothy Day, whose cause for canonization is now underway.

Caring is the opposite of indifference. Genuine care, which is not limited to meeting a person’s material needs- though it seeks to meet those for sure- is borne of love. I firmly believe that by inviting the rich man to sell his possessions, give to the poor, and follow him, Jesus tried to draw the man out of himself, away from being absorbed only in his own life, to give up the pursuit of holiness as an individual effort consisting primarily of scrupulous observance of the law. In short, the Lord called him to be truly liberated. It’s a radical call.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Remembering the Venerable Matt Talbot on Trinity Sunday

Being Trinity Sunday today, I am thinking a lot about my heavenly friend, the Venerable Matt Talbot. Matt died while on walking to Mass on Granby Lane in Dublin on Trinity Sunday in 1925. He was buried the following Sunday, which was Corpus Christi, which is wholly fitting for someone who loved the Blessed Sacrament as much as Matt did.

Reading about Matt the other day I came across this: "Decades later [after Matt's death], a visiting Italian priest went privately to pray at the grave of the Dublin worker he had heard so much about. In 1975, and after the due process had been completed, that same cleric, now Pope Paul VI, bestowed a new title upon that Irish workman: Venerable Matt Talbot."

Prayer for the Canonization of Matt Talbot:
Lord, in your servant, Matt Talbot you
have given us a wonderful example of
triumph over addiction, of devotion to
duty, and of lifelong reverence for the
Holy Sacrament. May his life of
prayer and penance give us courage
to take up our crosses and follow in the
footsteps of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Father, if it be your will that your
beloved servant should be glorified by
your Church, make known by your
heavenly favours the power he enjoys in
your sight. We ask this through the
same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen
Please join me in praying that Papa Begoglio, who will visit Ireland in 2018, in his paternal tenderness, will make Matt Blessed. His intercession works miracles all the time.

Venerable Matt, pray for us.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

"God in three persons, blessed Trinity"

Many people believe that the picture below accurately captures what it means to accept the most fundamental dogma of the Christian faith, the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Believing that our faith is built on a gross arithmetical error, something that is contrary to reason, is utterly unacceptable, not just theologically but even in purely human terms. I understand that the meme is meant to be humorous and, yes, I chuckled when I first saw it. But as I chuckled, I thought, "This is what a lot of people, including many Christians, believe it means to figure out the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity."

Even as I realize the imprudence of attempting to describe how humor works (it just does!), I'll note that sometimes what makes something funny is that it pithily captures something that is true in an honest, if obtuse, way. Of course, there is no such thing as Catholic math, or Christian math, or Jewish math, etc. Math is math. As one of the "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy," which used to be a regular feature on Saturday Night Live, put it- "Instead of having 'answers' on a math test, they should just call them 'impressions,' and if you got a different 'impression,' so what, can't we all be brothers?" All of this is just a way of saying that if you understand 1 and you understand 3, then you grasp that they differ by 2 every time. This remains as true for the Most Holy Trinity as it does for the number of beans on the table.

If what is shown in the picture were what was proposed for your belief and you accepted it, you'd be stupid. It's that simple. Fortunately, that is not what is proposed.

While there is a distinction to be made between beliefs of reason and beliefs of faith, it is important to note that what we believe on faith is not unreasonable. The fundamental problem with the "Catholic math" depicted in the humorous meme is that it makes a category error. The error results from the attempt to turn a belief of faith, something that is a matter of revelation, into a belief of reason, something a person is able to figure out all on his own. This goes on all the time in more seemingly sophisticated ways and is an error made repeatedly by the so-called New Atheists and others. All of this amounts to an attempt to reduce God, the ultimate mystery, to our own measure. It seeks to make God, the ultimate reality, somehow measurable and, if not in some way measurable, then not real. If you're deadset on sticking with math, I urge you to go with multiplication: 1 x 1 x 1 = 1.

The nature of the divine expressed as one God in three divine persons is a mystery. Employed theologically, the term mystery is not something unknown, but something known only because God has revealed it. While Catholics believe dogmatically that it is possible to know that there is a God by light of human reason unaided by divine revelation, it is not possible to know that God is triune except by divine revelation. The fullness of God's revelation is Jesus Christ.

While there is a real distinction between the divine persons (i.e., the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, neither the Father nor the Son is the Holy Spirit and vice-versa), there is a mysterious unity of these three persons that make them one God and not three gods. What is this unity? Okay, that is not a question that is completely answerable, I suggest that one of the best descriptions of divine unity can be found in the fourth chapter of 1 John, where twice in eight verses (8-16) we read "God is love." This is not reversible because "love is God" and "God is love" don't mean the same thing.

It has been noted a number of times throughout the history of the Church that the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son personified. This is why the family- father, mother, and child- is often seen as an icon of the Most Holy Trinity. At a minimum, love requires a lover and beloved.

Being profuse (i.e., exuberantly plentiful; abundant, lavish; extravagant) love that is truly love moves outward- this is why the Church teaches that, in addition to the good of the spouses, marriage is ordered by its very nature to having and educating children (see Canon 1055 §1). Despite the justified historical/canonical objections as to how the filoque (i.e., "and the Son") was inserted into the Creed, I am a fairly unabashed proponent of the double-procession of the Holy Spirit (i.e., the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son" [filoque], not the Father alone).

While the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity can be apprehended, it cannot be fully comprehended. God qua God remains ineffable. God is at once immanent and transcendent, that is, closer to us than we are to ourselves and completely other at one and the same time. God fills the cosmos, but is not bounded by it. Once some of the more common confusions, like trying to wrap your mind around the foolishness of somehow figuring out how in the world 3=1, are cleared up and we come to grasp what the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is not, our comprehension of God largely becomes a matter of experience, or relationship with the mystery that generates reality. I think the best definition of grace remains God sharing divine life us.

Jesus speaks to this immersion in his great high priestly prayer in John chapter seventeen:
I pray not only for them [his disciples], but also for those who will believe in me through their word [you and I], so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me (John 17:20-23)
The Father in the Son and the Son in us. How does this happen? By the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit's masterworks are the sacraments. At the heart of the sacraments, at the heart of the Church, at the heart of reality, is the Eucharist. If our (hopefully) ever-increasing comprehension of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- is an experience, then the Eucharist, the sacramentum caritatis (i.e., the sacrament of love), is the premier of those experiences that enable us to better understand and live the mystery of love.

I am grateful to one of my Jesuit friends, Fr. Peter Nguyen, for this lovely reflection by a former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, the late Fr. Pedro Arrupe:
This mystery of love is the mystery of the life of the Trinity, a life of communion and communication. Love, says, St. Ignatius (of Loyola), is a communication of what one has and what one is (Spiritual Exercises, 231). This is what the Holy Trinity does. The Father begets the Son, fully communicating with Him throughout all eternity the completeness of His divine Being and the Son replies, also throughout eternity, by returning to Himself in full to the Father with all the impetus of His love (John 1:1; John 1:7). Here is the mystery of divine love, in which, as they are perfect Beings in themselves, they communicate fully by giving their own selves. Each one of the three has no separate existence. Their Being is defined by each giving of Himself to the Other Two at the same time and at all times. Each is a point of reference between the Other Two. Their whole Being is a complete, “issuing forth” of themselves (an ecstasy), a yearning towards Others, an irruption towards the Others as the Greek Fathers would say

Friday, May 20, 2016

"I think we never thought about the world and its realities"

Last Sunday I was at the parish early to prepare to preach and accomplish a few administrative tasks. As I did my work, out of nowhere, Styx's song "Living High" popped into my head. With no warning, I found myself singing, "Livin' high, livin' fine, livin' on borrowed time."

Some things stay with you for a lifetime, even good things. You see, in junior high, my friends and I were very heavily into the music of Styx. I doubt kids do this anymore, but we used to get together at somebody's house just to listen to music, entire albums and most of the time more than one. This was something we did pretty regularly during colder months, usually after spending a good deal of time either outside or in the church gym playing basketball. We'd put on the record, then lay on the floor and just listen. Really, everything I know about music and the great love I have for many forms of contemporary music are largely the result of these experiences.

It was much different for me listening to music then than it is now. Back then I looked forward with great excitement and a little fear to the great unknown, the future. Somehow, I found all the music encouraging, reassuring, and, I daresay, inspiring. Now when I listen to music, which I do daily, but in a dedicated way most Friday afternoons, I usually find myself looking back and thinking about the journey from then to now. I still find the music encouraging, reassuring, and, yes, at times inspiring.

While I didn't know this in junior high and likely would not have cared, Dennis DeYoung, the founder and lead singer of Styx, was and remains a devout Roman Catholic. Without a doubt, DeYoung is one of the greatest rock n' roll showmen of all time. It's easy to forget, too, that many rock bands in the '70s and '80s, as "Living High" demonstrates, were deeply suspicious of ideologies of both the political left and right, ambivalent, if you will, towards politics.

Because it also speaks directly to the silliness that increasingly constitutes our politics, as this presidential election year plods slowly towards our national day of reckoning, Styx's "Living High" is our Friday traditio for this first Friday back in Ordinary Time:

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Year C Pentecost

Readings: Acts 2:1-11; Ps 104:1.24.29-31.34; 1 Cor 12:3b-7; John 20:19-23

The word Pentecost, which is Greek in origin, means fifty days. While, for Christians, Pentecost comes fifty days after Easter, on the Jewish calendar Pentecost is fifty days after Passover. The Hebrew word for this Jewish observance is Shavu’ot, or, as it is commonly referred to in English, the Festival of Weeks. During the celebration of Shavu’ot, Jews commemorate God giving the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Shauv’ot, or Pentecost, was and remains a major annual observance for Jews worlwide. Observing Pentecost in the Temple, which was still standing in the time of the apostles, is the reason that there were Jews from all over the known world in Jerusalem on the occasion of the first Christian Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit’s descent, as recorded in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, came fifty days after the Passover during which Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection occurred. Just as observance of the Law, not descent from Abraham, is what conferred on the Jewish people their identity as God’s chosen people, it is the Holy Spirit who gives the Church her identity as the Bride of Christ. So, just as especially through child-bearing, a man and a woman become flesh of each other’s flesh and bone of each other’s bone, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that those reborn in baptism make the Church, Christ’s Bride, his very body.

It is by Christ’s pouring out the Holy Spirit on the first Christian Pentecost that God opened the one covenant to everyone and anyone who says “Jesus is Lord” by the power of the Spirit. In his Second Letter to the Corinthians St. Paul made the distinction between the spirit and the letter of the law (2 Cor 3:6). Christ showed us that the law was not given as an end in itself, but as a means to the end of being perfected in love. While what we do, or don’t do, certainly matters, why we do what we do and why we avoid what we should not do matters just as much. As Spirit-filled followers of Christ our reason for doing or not doing is the same: love of God and neighbor.

After Easter, Pentecost is the most important celebration on the Church’s liturgical calendar. It is sometimes referred to as the birthday of the Church. Given the milieu in which we live, I think understanding that the Church began at Pentecost and has continued by the power of the same Spirit ever since is vitally important. It is equally important to grasp that the Church, which has existed from before the foundation of the world, will never cease to exist. Heaven is the Church, the city of God come down from heaven, as we read in the twenty-first chapter of Revelation (Rev 21:2-3). You see, in the end the Church will only be comprised of saints, which is why French Catholic writer Leon Bloy’s observation- “There is only one tragedy in the end, not to have been a saint” – gets right to heart of the matter. In other words, Christ did not send the Holy Spirit merely to put on a good show for the Jews gathered in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago any more than he does so now. Christ sends the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth beginning with you and me.

The Solemnity of Pentecost is often seen as the rectification of the confusion of languages that resulted from the attempt, which echoed the original sin, to build a tower that reached to heaven- the Tower of Babel. Building on seeing the first Christian Pentecost as the event marking the opening of God’s one covenant with humanity to anyone who comes to faith in Christ, which is only possible by the Holy Spirit, it can also be viewed as the beginning of God’s restoring communion among a sin-fractured humanity. As the apostles spoke their fellow Jews, gathered in Jerusalem from all over the world, just as Catholics from all over the world, speaking many languages, often gather in St. Peter’s Square, heard the proclamation of the Gospel in his/her own language.

Pentecost, Wells Cathedral, England

It is fitting that during this Jubilee of Mercy our Gospel for Pentecost Sunday is an excerpt of our Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter, which is the feast of Divine Mercy. One of the criteria for something to be a sacrament is that Christ himself instituted it as such. Our Gospel reading today is the primary passage to which the Church points when considering the Sacrament of Penance, more commonly referred to as confession. It is notable that the Sacrament of Penance was the first gift given to the Church by the Lord after his resurrection.

Through the waters of baptism, we are restored to that state of original grace in which God created human beings to live. This state of original grace may be more succinctly referred to as the state of communion: communion between humanity and God, communion between people, and communion between people and nature. But so persistent is our fallen state that even after we are baptized we are still prone to sin. This is what makes going to confession, which is an extension of baptism, so vitally important for your spiritual life and health.

Just as in the Eucharist the bread and wine become for us Christ’s body and blood by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is by the Spirit’s power given us through the Sacrament of Penance that our sins are forgiven and the eternal punishment due to us is mercifully taken away. Rather than wait for God’s judgment at the end of your life, going to confession regularly gives you the opportunity to judge yourself, acknowledge your sins, express your sorrow, do penance, and receive the grace you need to live an increasingly Spirit-filled life until you are perfected in love.

The Holy Spirit is the way that Jesus Christ remains present in us and among us until he returns again in glory. The sacraments are the Holy Spirit's masterworks. Perhaps the best definition of a sacrament is a visible and tangible sign of Christ’s presence in and for the world. One of the four ways that Christ is really and truly present in this Eucharist and every Eucharist is in our gathering, as the baptized, to be immersed in the great Paschal mystery. Our assembling here today is not just a visible and tangible sign of Christ’s presence in and for the world, but is the sign of Christ's presence in southern Davis County, Utah. By virtue of your baptism and confirmation, in which God called you by name, you are called be a sacrament, that is, an active, dynamic sign of Christ’s presence in and for the world. At the end of this Mass you will be sent to “proclaim the Gospel of the Lord,” just as the apostles were sent at Pentecost after receiving the Holy Spirit.

My dear friends in Christ, in a very real sense, every Sunday is Pentecost; we are filled with the Holy Spirit and sent forth to proclaim the Good News- “Jesus is Lord!”

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Blogospherical bitching and missionary discipleship

I probably point this too often these days, but I've been a member of the nebulous Catholic blogosphere for nearly a decade. Perhaps once I clear the 10 years of consistent blogging milestone on 19 July, I will shut up about it. Then again, maybe not. Who knows? I still find it somewhat astonishing that people have found a way to make blogging pay, that is, to become professional bloggers. I think it's important to understand the dangers of so doing, one of which is to you set yourself up as a self-styled expert on various, or even all, aspects of Catholic history, doctrine, and practice. Ah, the power of the Google! Despite my dismissive tone, all of this is fine by me because, by and large, Catholic blogging is a derivative, often parasitical, activity that frequently relies on ecclesiastical exaggerations and distortions.

Something I remind myself of on occasion is the fact that the vast majority of even faithful, practicing Catholics are not much concerned with matters those of us who can rightly be termed "Church geeks" find so interesting and important. This means that it is likely almost always the case that those who read what we post comprise a relatively small subset of Catholics: those with strong opinions one way or the other and who are looking either for affirmation of their preconceptions or someone with whom to debate. Another danger inherent to blogging is to pump out propaganda in the service of ideology.

It probably goes without saying (we bloggers are notable for pointing out the obvious) that the pontificate of Pope Francis is an absolute boon for Catholic bloggers. I would not be the least bit surprised to confirm a suspicion I have concerning Papa Begoglio: that he enjoys yanking chains. Such a confirmation would only make me like him more. What prompted this post is a certain smugness I sometimes detect from Catholic bloggers who seem to consider themselves a cut above what they perceive as the average Catholic. This manifests itself by smug and condescending responses to reactions they receive from their blogging, especially writing about the exploits of Pope Francis.

Anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to Pope Francis knows that he seeks to provoke. It's fair to describe his pontificate, at least to this point, as a provocation. Provocation is good - pro + vocation = for the call. At the center of his papal magisterium is the making of missionary disciples (see "What is missing from post-WYD Catholic commentary? 'Missionary discipleship'"). According to the end of St. Matthew's Gospel, Jesus not only told his apostles to go and baptize in God's thrice-holy name, but first to "make disciples of all nations" (Matt 28:19). In order to "make disciples" of Jesus, we must first become his disciples.

In my view, it is to help us become full-fledged, truly mature, disciples of the Lord that Pope Francis ceaselessly tries to break through our preconceptions and misconceptions of what that means. He is especially provocative when he speaks of "the globalization of indifference," on the one hand, and our need, as disciples of Jesus, to create "a culture of encounter," on the other. He speaks as someone not from Western Europe or the United States. Hence, it should neither surprise nor dismay us that people strongly react to his provocations and all that they entail. Isn't it easier to focus on personal piety (something we should never neglect- I try not use the word "pious" as a pejorative term), strict adherence to liturgical rubrics, and denouncing the decay of public morals than to engage like Jesus? Let's face it, even today, more than 50 years after the Second Vatican Council, Catholicism can still amount to so much dead ritualism. I am dismayed by the number of those who firmly believe the answer to this is to move backward and not forward. Pope Francis, it seems to me, is determined to lead the Church forward.

Why should Catholic bloggers be neither surprised nor dismayed? Because the Holy Father's provocations are having the intended effect! This is true even when what we experience is only the first order effect of irritating someone, as did Amoris laetitia, which changed no part of Church teaching. He's shaking us up, trying to awake us from our slumber, to engage reality according to all the factors that constitute it. He is intent on showing us that perhaps the surest mark of Christian maturity is the ability to deal with some ambiguity, especially that which arises from life's inherent complexity, which complexity ought to drive us to daily nurture our relationship with Christ.

My plea to my fellow Catholics, be they fellow clerics, religious, or lay people, who engage publicly is to engage well, in the manner of missionary disciples. Among other things, this means eschewing snarkiness and condescension, especially with regard to those we may provoke. Let go of the ethos of giving as good as you get, which is but an attenuated version of an eye-for-an-eye and tooth-for-a-tooth. The mark of a Christian, in the words of St. Paul, is not to "be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good" (Rom 12:21). I must admit, it is tiresome to hear Catholics who are intent on making their faith public criticize, demean, and berate those who take strong exception to what they write, even when those who take such exception act ignorantly and/or uncharitably.

For those members of the Catholic blogosphere not engaged daily and in person in pastoral ministry, just know that what happens there often makes what happens on-line pale in comparison, no matter what some might say. Aggression and passive-aggression are not exclusively the domain of the virtual world. Keep in mind that one cannot claim to serve Christ and fail to love, not even those who you treat you with contempt, but especially those who so treat you. Did not our Lord say,
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? (Matthew 5:44-47
As I am sure everyone reading this knows, Pope Francis has declared this year a Jubilee of Mercy. Central to observing this year as such is our individual and collective practice of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. I think it is fair to observe that practicing these make us missionary disciples. After all, they fulfill Jesus' commandments to love God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Practicing the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy are also means by which we die to self and selflessly serve others.

Moving from the general to the specific, among the Spiritual Works of Mercy are Forgiving Injuries and Bearing Wrongs Patiently, as is Instructing the Ignorant and Admonishing the Sinner. Let the latter two be balanced by the former two, or, as the late Rich Mullins sang, "Let Mercy Lead."

Friday, May 13, 2016

"Carry me on the waves to the land I've never been"

Sunday is Pentecost. It's difficult to believe that Evening Prayer on Sunday will mark the end of Easter for this Year of Grace, which the Holy Father has designated as a Year of Mercy. God is, indeed, merciful. If he were not, what would be the point of our fifty day celebration of Easter? It's a rhetorical question, of course.

I found this picture on JPUSA's "In Some Measures" blog

God's mercy is Jesus Christ. In the Letter to the Ephesians we read:
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them (Eph 2:4-10)
Yes, as Catholics we, too, affirm that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. That is a matter of revelation, as the above passage, and many like it, more than amply demonstrate. After all, that is the Good News.

I think of the term "salvation" as a composition that consists of three distinguishable, but not wholly distinct, movements: redemption, justification, and sanctification. Pope Francis was absolutely correct a few years ago when he said that everyone, including atheists, are redeemed. Christ died for all, did he not? I find it useful to think of redemption as a gift and justification as accepting, or at least not rejecting, the gift. Sanctification, in this metaphor, would be like putting the gift to good use. Oversimplified? You bet it is, as is any other explication of the mystery of our salvation, no matter how in-depth. My persistent point is that what God has done for us in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit is something we can verify through experience and not just have a lot of nice ideas about.

Okay, enough of that! Largely because it's simply been too long since I've listened to it, Enya's "Orinoco Flow" is our Friday traditio for this last Friday of Easter:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pope Francis and women as deacons

To much predictably ill-informed media fanfare, Pope Francis, in a seemingly impromptu response to a request that arose from his meeting in Rome with the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), a body of superiors of women's religious orders, agreed to create a committee to study the ministry of women deacons in the early Church. The results of the study would then presumably be used to help determine whether women might be instituted, or perhaps even be ordained, as deacons for the Church today. According to the National Catholic Reporter, in his response to this request, the Holy Father remembered speaking with a "good, wise professor" who had studied the ministry of female deacons in the Church's early centuries. According to the NCR piece, Pope Francis confessed that even after his discussion with the professor the role of women deacons remained unclear to him: "What were these female deacons?" he remembered asking the professor. "Did they have ordination or no?" "It was a bit obscure."

It bears noting that the International Theological Commission, which belongs to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, back in 2002 published a fairly comprehensive study on the diaconate that was five years in the making: From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles. Section IV of Chapter 2 of the Commission's study specifically addressed "The Ministry of Deaconesses." The concluding paragraph of that section echoes what Pope Francis said to the UISG:
The present historical overview shows that a ministry of deaconesses did indeed exist, and that this developed unevenly in the different parts of the Church. It seems clear that this ministry was not perceived as simply the feminine equivalent of the masculine diaconate. At the very least it was an ecclesial function, exercised by women, sometimes mentioned together with that of sub-deacon in the lists of Church ministries. Was this ministry conferred by an imposition of hands comparable to that by which the episcopate, the priesthood and the masculine diaconate were conferred? The text of the Constitutiones Apostolorum would seem to suggest this, but it is practically the only witness to this, and its proper interpretation is the subject of much debate. Should the imposition of hands on deaconesses be considered the same as that on deacons, or is it rather on the same level as the imposition of hands on sub-deacons and lectors? It is difficult to tackle the question on the basis of historical data alone
Along with the minor orders of porter and exorcist, the sub-diaconate was abolished by Bl Pope Paul VI in his Apostolic Letter, promulgated in 1972, Ministeria quaedam. While the minor orders of lector and acolyte remain, neither is currently conferred by the laying on of hands. These minor orders are reserved to men preparing for ordination.

In addition to the International Theological Commission's study, there are are some other relatively recent books on this matter that bear noting: Holy Saturday: An Argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic Church, Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future, and Deaconesses: An Historical Study.

Despite having done what can be considered fairly serious academic work on the diaconate, which, if nothing else, allowed me to survey most of the literature available on the diaconate over a period of four years, I am not offering a personal opinion on the possibility of women deacons. But I would say, don't automatically assume women deacons means ordaining women. I laud the pope's decision to appoint a committee to study the singular issue of women deacons. By all means, let the conversation and discernment continue.

St. Stephen by Luis de Morales, 1575

The question of admitting women to holy orders is not a simple one, but is rather dense and complex. In short, the vast majority of the plenteous commentary now on offer, only one day after Pope Francis' seemingly impromptu announcement, no matter the view being expressed (i.e., for or against), with perhaps a few exceptions, is likely gravely deficient in one or more aspect. The blogosphere with its rush to comment on news tends to be very reactionary and the mainstream media tends to be as ideological and it is ignorant when it comes to ecclesiological matters.

Since I am on the subject of deacons, I have to say that I frequently marvel at how marginalized deacons and the diaconate remain. As a case-in-point, I offer the recent announcement of a diocesan synod for the Diocese of San Diego. Bishop Robert McElroy, who serves as bishop of the diocese, in announcing the synod, which will consider five "major challenges"- divorced Catholics, "witnessing to the Catholic understanding of marriage, Church resources for unmarried couples, raising kids, and spirituality within families" - described a synod as bringing "together the bishop, the priestly leadership and lay and religious representatives from throughout the diocese to wrestle with the most important questions that a diocese faces."

Notably missing from this discussion of the most important questions that local church faces are San Diego's permanent deacons, who number just under 150 according to the website Catholic Hierarchy. As with most dioceses in the United States and abroad, the vast majority of San Diego's permanent deacons are no doubt married with children. You'd think married clerics and their wives might be identified as having valuable inputs given the matters the synod is slated to discuss. I attribute no ill-intent at all to Bishop McElroy. In fact, I congratulate him for convening a diocesan synod. However, his omission of deacons strikes me as something still all too common more than 40 years after the restoration of the renewed diaconate in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

In my own local Church it is not infrequently that I still hear the phrase "Clergy and deacons." I also sometimes hear about "Clergy Convocations" that include only priests. Of course, there is nothing wrong with holding a Priests' Convocation or a Deacons' Convocation, but then there is a lot right with gathering the entire clergy of a diocese together on, say, an annual basis. There is certainly much to be said for not being unnecessarily, if unintentionally, reductive and exclusive. I do have to point out that both bishops under whom I have served as a deacon were remarkably appreciative of eager to include deacons in the life of the Church here in Utah.

What is the thread connecting these two seemingly disparate matters? Apart from yesterday's off-the-cuff announcement about appointing a committee to study the ministry of women deacons in the early Church, to the best of my knowledge, Pope Francis has said nothing to or about permanent deacons in his more than three years as Pontiff. Perhaps this stems from the fact that the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, as of 2012, again, according to Catholic Hierarchy, had only 11 permanent deacons. By contrast, the Diocese of Rome, as of 2014, had 122 permanent deacons. Bishop McEloy's omission of deacons from his statement about the upcoming diocesan synod, which I only use to serve as a recent reminder of a very deeply ingrained tendency to overlook deacons, may indicate that conferring the diaconate on women might not be the best way to bring them in from the margins.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Spirit levels our gaze

Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Ps 47:2-3.6-9; Heb 9:24-28.10:19-23; Luke 24:46-53

There are a lot of terms we throw about without being much concerned as to whether or not most people grasp them. In my experience, one such term is "Paschal mystery." Sometimes those of us who use it give some context by saying something like, "the Paschal mystery of Christ's death and resurrection." When we consider the Paschal mystery, in which, being anointed as priests at our baptism, we are called to participate daily, it is multi-faceted: Christ's birth, life, passion and death, resurrection, ascension, and will culminate with his glorious return.

In this regard what always strikes me about the account of Jesus' ascension in the Acts of the Apostles is what the angel says to the apostles as stare at Jesus ascending, which I am sure was quite a spectacle to behold: "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven" (Acts 1:11). Indeed, for some still today, being a Christian consists of something like standing there gazing heavenward. Just as the angel exhorted the apostles, we are to level our gaze and live the circumstances we face daily in the light of the Paschal mystery "as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ."

In Acts, the angel tells the apostles, "This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven" (Acts 1:11b). This is the best reason of all not to stand around gawking. In the end, we will not "go to heaven;" heaven will come to us:
I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]" (Rev 21:2-3)
The idea that we will "go to heaven," up there somewhere in the sky, is perhaps one of the worst distortions of revelation from which the Church suffers. To think this is to miss the whole point of creation and redemption, to miss the point of the Incarnation. With the coming of Christ the insurgency has begun and will continue until God's reign is fully established upon the earth. This is why, as a Christian, I must make God's kingdom a present reality, not just a nice idea that has little or nothing to do with me.

Jesus promised to clothe his followers "with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). This, of course, refers to the coming of the Holy Spirit in a new and powerful way. After all, it's not as though the Spirit has ever been absent from the world. After Christ's ascension the Holy Spirit becomes the way Christ himself remains present in us and through us. It is the Holy Spirit who effects the sacraments. The celebration of the sacraments are those places and times where Christ comes to meet us in an empowering way. The grace with which are imbued by the sacraments make Christ present in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Grace is nothing other than God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- sharing divine life with us. This life, which is constituted by love, is not given us only for ourselves, which is way it is not our task to stand, mouth agape, staring at heaven, but to level our gaze and share God's love with everyone we meet in one or another. Witness always trumps discourse.

Christ's Ascension, Rembrandt, 1636

As the Lord himself indicated in our Gospel reading: "Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46-47). As Pope Francis indicated in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium:
Today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal, there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbours or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching which takes place in the middle of a conversation, something along the lines of what a missionary does when visiting a home. Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey (par 127)
It is easily argued that the centerpiece of Francis' papacy is leveling our gaze in order foster what he calls "a culture of encounter." This means not just ceasing, but steadfastly refusing, to not only stop seeing the other as a threat, but see her/him as a blessing. It is precisely in the other that we encounter the risen Christ, not up there in the clouds. This is not merely a challenge, but a provocation, that is, something for our vocation, our calling, which we received in baptism, had strengthened in confirmation, and is renewed at the end of each Mass when are dismissed, that is, sent forth to "proclaim the Gospel of the Lord," or to glorify the Lord by our living lives of self-sacrificial love.

My friends, "Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy" (Heb 10:23). Or, as the last petition of Morning Prayer for the Solemnity of the Lord's Ascension pleads:

Today you promised the Spirit to your apostles, to make them your witnesses to the ends of the earth,
  - by the power of the Spirit strengthen our own witness

Friday, May 6, 2016

"And as the people bend, the moral fabric dies"

May is turning out to be as prolific as April in terms of blogging. I've had a difficult time deciding on a Friday traditio. Given what is happening in the presidential race, I believe Bad Religion's "You Are the Government" is a perfect choice this week

The song is short and powerful. Maybe we need a renewed punk rock movement to capture and channel the betrayal and, yes, rage many of us feel when it comes to the government.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Resurrection and (the) life

I don't mind divulging that over the whole of this Easter I've been experiencing something of a spiritual dry spell. By God's grace, I no longer panic when this happens by worrying about what I've done wrong to merit God's withdrawal. The reality is, dry spell or no, I do plenty wrong. But God is not fickle, like I am, and so God's disposition towards me never changes. He looks on me with great tenderness. One of the battles I fought for years, and sometimes still fight, is learning to gaze on myself with the same tenderness with which Christ, in his mercy, always gazes on me. At least from my perspective, the tenderness of Christ's gaze is the rock on which we must build our house. Every other foundation is sand.

The first weekend of the month is the one week I try not to have any parish duties- even deacons need a full weekend here and there. After serving at First Communion Mass yesterday, I stayed in the parish office and worked on some writing projects that were due. As the time passed I thought about going home, but I strongly felt the Lord calling me to head over to the church and serve at the Saturday Vigil Mass.

St. Olaf Church, Bountiful, Utah

The Mass was nothing out of the (extra)ordinary (Mass is ever extraordinary). In fact, due to the First Communion Mass earlier that day and the impending wind storm, which raged all night with gusts up to 90 mph, the Vigil Mass was sparsely attended. We had a cantor who sang a cappella, which I like sometimes. My parish actually chants pretty well.

As I walked from the Church to my car after talking to a parishioner who was widowed this week about life, death, the Eucharist and community, I found myself spontaneously singing the Easter "Alleluia" over and over all the way home, beginning as I walked across the parking lot. It's not that I couldn't stop singing "Alleluia," it's that I didn't want to stop. I don't want to stop today, especially now that many of our Orthodox brothers and sisters now join us in our annual celebration of Christ's glorious resurrection.
Thank you Lord Jesus for sending your Holy Spirit. As you said, the Spirit cannot come unless you send him (John 16:7). Help me to continue to live the mystery of your resurrection and ascension by the power of your Holy Spirit, who is your presence in us and among us as we await your return in glory. Alleluia, alleluia

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 ...