Thursday, March 27, 2014

We *are* in the end times ... !

A comment appeared on the post below in the moderation queue. One of those end-time prophecy conspiracy theory things. You know, how the Pope having this kind of crucifix fulfills this prophecy. And how Benedict's resignation is that kind of prophecy. The propensity of the human mind to find patterns and hidden meanings everywhere is truly endless. 

The comment didn't get published. In response, I shared the comment on my FB wall, and started adding a few clarifications. It grew into this. I've added a Bible verse to each line as well. 

For the record, we are in the end times written about in the Book of Revelation. The Life, Death & Resurrection of Jesus Christ inaugurated the last age of the cosmos! As to the rest:

  • follow the advice of Jesus ("No one knows the hour ..." Mark 13:32) 
  • stay close to Him and His Mother, in the Church He established. (John 15:4; John 19:25; 1 Tim 3:15)
  • the Sacraments are the ordinary way of increasing the life of grace within us. (John 14:9. Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Christ is the primordial Sacrament who reveals the Father) 
  • Pray. Hard. (1 Thess 5:17)
  • flee immorality and sin. (1 Cor 6:18)
  • Love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself, especially the poor and needy. (Luke 10:27; Luke 10:30-37) 
  • that is, take seriously the call to holiness. (1 Pet 1:16) 
  • discern your vocation, and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. (Gen 12:1-9; Mt 16:24-28; Gal 5:16)
  • the true test of the guidance of the Holy Spirit is a willingness to obey the teachings of the Church and the legitimate shepherds Christ appointed. (2 John 1:6; 1 Tim 3:15; John 14:23-24)
  • let Christ and the saints be your guide, not the world and its shiny lights and loud voices. (Mark 9:7; 1 Cor 11:1; 1 John 2:15)
  • look *forward* to Christ's coming with eager anticipation. His friends should want His Kingdom to come! We pray for it every time we pray the Our Father. And for His friends, the King's return is a day of rejoicing! (Mt. 6:10; Mt 25:6; Rev. 22:17)
  • help spread His Kingdom. In your life, and all around you. (Luke 9:2; Matthew 28:16-20)
  • do not fear the tribulations of the end time. (Rev 2:10; Rom 8:38-39)
  • know that the world has been going to "hell in a hand basket" for a long time. Actually, since that whole apple incident. (Rom 3:23; Rom 8:20-28)
  • That is, there is no Golden Age. The Church has always been a sign of contradiction, and the Enemy of our race has always been attacking her from without and within. Back when Christendom was alive and well. Back in the glorious Middle Ages, the Age of Faith. Back in Byzantium. Back in the time of the Fathers (when the Roman Empire was crumbling all around them). (Luke 6:26; John 15:18-21)
  • take the Enemy seriously. "Your opponent the Devil is prowling like a lion ... resist him." (1 Pet 5:8)
  • where sin abounds, grace abounds even more! (Rom 5:20)

And most importantly:

Be not afraid! The war has been won! Christ died for sin! Christ has Risen and death has no longer any power. Death, where is thy sting? Where is thy victory? Christ has Risen from the grave, trampling death by death, and to those in the graves, bringing life! (Rom 5:8; 1 Cor 15:14; 1 Cor 15:55; 1 Tim 3:16; Acts 2:32-33) 

SCS Parish Mission "Rediscover the Joy of the Gospel"

I was invited by Fr. Matejek, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Kennesaw to preach the parish Lenten mission, which was held on March 23-25. It was a joy to be back at SCS -- I served there as a transitional Deacon in the summer of 2012, and received such a hospitable welcome from the clergy, staff and parishioners! The parish was incredibly generous and hospitable in hosting my First Mass the next year, in June 9, 2013.

I've uploaded the mission talks to a YouTube playlist, for those who might be interested.

The theme was taken from Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, which is a rich and fascinating read! I took as the framework for the talks, the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle A -- Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.

In my research for the talks, I used several sources, most of which I didn't acknowledge while speaking. Here are the titles of the three talks with the principal sources.

Monday, March 23: Repentance & Mercy

The medical analogy comes from this brilliant post by Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington. It's worth a read.

Tuesday March 24: The Joy of the Lord

  1. One section is almost verbatim from a piece by Dr. Peter Kreeft on Joy
  2. The distinction between natural and supernatural joy comes from a great homily by Fr. Cassian Folsom OSB, of the monastery of St. Benedict in Norcia, Italy. 
  3. Finally, there is Pope Paul VI's relatively unknown, but very worthwhile, Apostolic Exhortation on Christian joy, Gaudete in Domino

Wednesday, March 25: Spirit-filled Evangelizers

  1. The title of the talk is from Chapter 5 of Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium
  2. The section on the vocation of the laity comes from the Decree of the Second Vatican Council on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A lovely photo

Back in December, I traveled to the frozen tundra of Minnesota to attend the episcopal Ordination of Fr. Andrew Cozzens as Auxiliary Bishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis. A holy man and a true gift to the Church!

The official photographer emailed photos from the reception today. This is my favorite -- receiving the newly ordained Bishop's blessing, with my dear friends from St. Paul, Deacons (soon to be Fathers!) Marc and Marcus.

At the blog post linked above I mention the Handmaids singing in honor of the Bishop. This is the rather shaky video I took. The sound is great. I am so glad I took this video ... I have played it often in my days of preparation leading up to the renewal of my Marian consecration on the Solemnity of the Annunciation yesterday. It's been delightful to have it stuck in my head.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Talium est enim regnum caelorum

After the Spanish Mass, a lady was waiting patiently to talk to me. ¿Padre, está Ud. apresurado? Always busy, Señora, but tell me ...

I was tired at the end of a long day, and my Spanish suffers as a result. It took me a while to figure out what she was saying. She only wanted to give me some money. She said she had been in jail a while back, but was acquitted and released. She works as a waitress to support her family. "I don't make much, but I want to give something of what I've earned. One part for the church. The other to help someone like me -- someone who is coming out of prison. God helped me so much," she said, wiping away tears. "You would know how to get it to someone like that, Padre."

It wasn't a huge sum in absolute numbers. But it was weighty! Weightier than millions! More lustrous than all the gold of Sheba. I smiled and thanked her. She took my hand, knelt and kissed it. I sat in silence after she had left.

What a joy, what a privilege to see Christ at work in His little ones. Talium est enim regnum caelorum ... to such as these belongs the Kingdom of Heaven. 

The Widow's Mite. Basilical of S. Appolinnare, Ravenna. 6th C. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The one great thing to love on earth

Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. .... There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires.
J.R.R. Tolkein, at the end of a letter concerning love and sex, to his son Michael.

(Photo, courtesy Dominican House of Studies, Washington DC) 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Manzoni and the Pope

The March 2014 issue of New Oxford Review has a wonderful article entitled "Reading Francis through Manzoni." Author Francis Manion gives a plot summary of this thick Italian novel which the Pope calls his favorite. It's on his bedside. He's read it three times. He knows the opening lines by heart. 

The piece is a compelling read, not least because the novel sounds absolutely intriguing, with a plot (and heft) worthy of a Tolstoy or Dostoevsky. However, one really does sense that this novel has shaped our new Holy Father tremendously. Here's a snippet.
But perhaps even more relevant to the topic at hand is the character of Cardinal Borromeo and, in particular, his manner of dealing with two other characters, the Unnamed and the hapless Don Abbondio. Borromeo was, as archbishop of Milan, about as high in the ecclesiastical world as a man could be, short of being pope. Manzoni draws a picture of a cardinal (apparently faithful to the real Federigo Borromeo) who, despite his descent from a wealthy family, humbled himself to become the servant of the poorest of his flock. As a young priest, in addition to the ordinary tasks of his office, he took upon himself “two extra ones” — namely, “to teach the doctrine of Christianity to the roughest and most derelict of the people, and to visit, serve, console and succor the sick.”
Borromeo tried to avoid high office in the Church because “he was persuaded in his heart of a truth which no professed Christian can deny with his lips — namely, that no man can rightly claim superiority over his fellows, except in their service.” When he became archbishop in spite of his initial refusal, he paid for all the expenses associated with the office out of his family’s money because “he did not think it right that, he with his great wealth, should live on the patrimony of the poor.” Once in office, he adopted a style of living that sounds familiar to anyone following the first year of Francis’s pontificate:
He was a most frugal and precise administrator of his own resources. For he never threw away a garment until it was really worn out;… To ensure that nothing should be lost of what was left over from his frugal table, he allotted the remnant to a hostel for the destitute, one of whose inmates came every day into his dining room, by his order, to collect what remained uneaten.
And again, another Francis-like description:
The inexhaustible charity of Federigo Borromeo showed in everything else he did no less than in his giving. He was easily accessible to everybody, but it was toward those of so-called low degree that he felt he owed a special duty to show them a cheerful countenance and a friendly courtesy.
Manzoni recounts an incident in which Borromeo was visiting a “rough mountain village” and giving instruction to some poor children. When he was rebuked by his companions for affectionately embracing the “disgustingly dirty” boys, the archbishop replied in anger, “They are souls in my care, who will probably never see my face again; and will you tell me not to embrace them?” Here, then, is a churchman who willingly takes on what Francis has called “the odor of the sheep.”
Read it all.

Project Gutenberg has an ebook of an 1834 English edition of the novel. An introduction to the novel at Bartleby's, from 1909. It's available at Amazon in paperback (518 pages) and Kindle.