Life is Short. Pray Hard.

portis-jersey
My mom wore her brand-new Clinton Portis jersey to my brother’s favorite Mahnattan sports-bar on Sunday afternoon. But, as we know, it was to no avail.

Redskins 2008: 8-8.

Let’s define “substantial fan encouragement” as: the Redskins putting together two winning seasons in a row.

Our decade-and-a-half-long drought with no substantial fan encouragement continues.

Portis, on Monday:  “I have no intention of having anything to do with exercise until February or March.”

On New Year’s Eve we consider how fleeting is our life on earth. Here’s a resolution: In 2009, my top priority will be getting to heaven. (Hopefully this will be a renewal from 2008.)

 Happy New Year!  Here’s a poem for your meditation.

“Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard” by Thomas Gray

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

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Christmas Octave Travels

nyc-skyline

The Redskins went out of town. The Hoyas headed north. So Preacher and Big Daddy took a trip, too. We wound up here in the Big Apple.

No problem.

Whip up on the Huskies? Summers: No problem.

First of all, let’s say this, regarding the game in Hartford, CT, last evening: Yeeeaahhhhh!!!

ESPN2 commentators Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas had a pre-set narrative for the game, which they refused to give up until the last minute. The narrative was this: Connecticut is going to win this game because Georgetown is inexperienced.

With about a minute left to play, Shulman and Bilas recognized what everyone else had noticed 37 minutes earlier: The Hoyas DOMINATED in every way. Monroe conducted a clinic. Freeman quietly scored at will. The Hoyas whupped #2 UConn!!!

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Holy Family Sunday

san-francisco11) San Fran weather update

po011_pope_albania2) Environmentalist Pope Benedict says no to “gender ideology”:

The Creator helps Christians to understand our responsibility toward the earth. It is not simply our property to be exploited according to our interests and desires. Rather, it is a gift of the Creator.

However, concern for God’s creation cannot be limited to care for the natural environment– although that is certainly a part of it. Far more important is the Church’s mission to preserve the ecology of the human being, understood in the proper manner. The Church must teach clearly about the nature of the human person, to counteract the influence of secular ideologies that confuse and diminish human dignity. God created man and woman as complementary, and the Church demands that this order of creation be respected by promotion of marriage and family life.

3) Your servant’s Holy Family Sunday homily:

In the beginning, God created mankind. Then, in the fullness of time, He became man. In the beginning, He made man and woman to be a family. In the fullness of time, He became a member of a family.

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Heartbreaker + New Bests

labron

Fans shower LaBron with confetti in Cleveland. Merry fricking Christmas, arch-nemesis!

Here is a New Year’s resolution: No matter what happens, we WILL NOT give up on the Washington Wizards! We love the Wizards on good days and bad.

What a Christmas gift it would have been if the Wizards had actually beaten the Cleveland Cavaliers!

So close, yet so far.

Yes, there were some bad calls in the last two minutes of the game. But only losers blame refs for losses. (I learned this from my high-school basketball coach, and it is one of the truest rules of sports.)

Anyway, I hope that everyone had a merry Christmas.

The Feast of St. Stephen (today) is a good day to renew one’s exercise routine.

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Singing Midnight Mass

priest-singingThe priest who celebrates a solemn festival Mass is said to “sing” the Mass.

For five years as a priest, I have con-celebrated Midnight Mass on Christmas, standing to the side of the pastor as he celebrated the Mass. This year, the pastor kindly offered to concelebrate with me.

So tonight I will sing Midnight Mass for the first time.

Here is the homily, and may the good Lord give you a merry Christmas!
____________

Christus natus est.

Verbum Dei caro factum est.

Expergiscere homo, quia pro te Deus factus est homo.

Venite adoremus!
…Wait a minute–you didn’t know that the homily would be in Latin?

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Holy Father to the Holy Land

His Beatitude Fouad Twal

His Beatitude Fouad Twal

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem is the chief shepherd of Roman Catholics in the Holy Land.

The Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which houses the grotto where our Lord was born, is under the control of the Orthodox. A Catholic basilica, the church of St. Catharine, shares a wall with the ancient Nativity church.

The Church of St. Catharine houses the grotto where St. Jerome labored for years to translate the Holy Scriptures. The underground walkway between the two grottoes is sealed off by a locked gate, separating Orthodox territory from Catholic territory.

In his time, St Jerome could walk just a few feet from his study to pray at the place where Christ was born.

Now there is only one man who can do that, and he can only do it once a year. The man is the Latin Patriarch and the time is at midnight on Christmas Eve.

Meanwhile…Today Patriarch Fouad released his Christmas Message. It is very edifying.

It includes this splendid news: Pope Benedict will go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May 2009!

The place where Christ was born

The place where Christ was born

December 25?

dec25

Allow me to begin by mentioning that your servant is thoroughly annoyed.

I went to check the time and channel for tonight’s Hoyas game. I discovered to my chagrin that the game will be broadcast on exactly zero t.v. channels.

We live in a world of thousands of channels. We live in a world where channels grow on trees. There are entire channels dedicated to sub-species of Cajun cuisine.

fiuAnd yet the (potentially) epic contest at the Verizon Center this evening will not be broadcast on any of these countless channels–not a single one!

Perhaps certain sports-network executives think that the Hoyas’ game against Florida International will not be very exciting, just because Florida International doesn’t really have any good players.

Best announcer on earth

Best announcer on earth

But these tall foreigners just might roar into Washington and make things interesting. If they do, I guess we will hear it on the radio (AM 570).

But who can really complain? Listening to Voice of the Hoyas Rich Chvotkin is actually better than being at the game!

Let’s move on to our main topic…

Was the Lord Jesus really born on Christmas?

First give a listen to the Christmas proclamation from the official datebook of the Church (the Roman Martyrology).

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Our Lady’s Magnificat

mary-mMary said:
The Lord has shown strength with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent empty away.
(Luke 1:51-53)

Annie Dillard: “Many times in Christian churches I have heard the pastor say to God, ‘All your actions show your wisdom and love.’ Each time, I reach in vain for the courage to rise and shout, ‘that’s a lie!’ – just to put things on a solid footing.

Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard

“‘He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty!’ . . . (Yes, but) I have seen the rich sit secure on their thrones and send the hungry away empty.

“If God’s escape clause is that he gives only spiritual things, then we might hope that the poor and suffering are rich in spiritual gifts, as some certainly are, but as some of the comfortable are too. In a soup kitchen, I see suffering. Deus otiosus: do-nothing God, who, if he has power, abuses it” (For the Time Being, pp. 85-86).

Are our Lady’s words in the Magnificat true?

Let’s give Annie Dillard her due: She is a smart, earnest, good essayist. She is a better person than I am. Her question is an honest one.

Can the words of the gospel be true if the poor and innocent still groan under injustice and cruelty, if bad things happen to good people, if the evil prosper? The Magnificat is about the triumph of justice and goodness, about the almighty power of God, Who loves the weak. Mary sings: With the coming of Christ, the weak and downtrodden have triumphed. Is it true?

51767896Last year at the beginning of Advent, our Holy Father wrote us a letter on Christian hope.

One of the Pope’s chief concerns in the letter is the “privatization” of Christian hope for salvation. Each of us hopes to get to heaven, certainly. But a Christian hopes for more than just his own individual bliss. A Christian hopes for the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Pope Benedict identifies the fundamental problem: The modern idea that religion is subjective. If religion is not about objective realities, but just about my own “relationship with God” or “experience” of God, then all I can hope for is my own personal peace.

Religion is not fundamentally subjective. Religion puts us in touch with the most objective reality of them all: the all-knowing, all-good, all-powerful God.

Christ has revealed this: Justice will be done. Truth will win. All that is hidden will be revealed.

We fear the Final Judgment, because we know we will have to rely on God’s mercy. At the same time, we hope for the Second Coming. The Magnificat WILL be completely fulfilled. In the meantime, our best bet is to try to do our little part to make the world better, and to bear the injustices of the world with patient perseverance.

Here is how the Pope puts it:

Yes, there is a resurrection of the flesh. There is justice. There is an “undoing” of past suffering, a reparation that sets things aright. For this reason, faith in the Last Judgement is first and foremost hope—the need for which was made abundantly clear in the upheavals of recent centuries. I am convinced that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favour of faith in eternal life. The purely individual need for a fulfilment that is denied to us in this life, for an everlasting love that we await, is certainly an important motive for believing that man was made for eternity; but only in connection with the impossibility that the injustice of history should be the final word does the necessity for Christ’s return and for new life become fully convincing. (Spe Salvi, 43)

“The rain it raineth every day”

Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby Belch

Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby Belch

–William Shakespeare, “Twelfth Night,” Act V, Scene 1, line 415.

Now, before you accuse me of being random in this blog, consider this:

The Bard himself wrote a play named after January 6th, and there is not a single reference to Epiphany or Christmas in the entire play. Not one! Talk about random.

“Twelfth Night” is an upstairs, downstairs play.

Upstairs, there is a bizarre love triangle. The Duke of Illyria, Count Orsino, longs to court the Lady Olivia. But she mourns for her dead brother, refusing all suitors.

Viola masquerading as Cesario

Viola masquerading as Cesario

The shipwrecked Viola puts on men’s clothing and masquerades as Cesario to work as Count Orsino’s messenger. Viola promptly falls in love with the lovelorn Duke.

When Orsino sends Cesario to beg Lady Olivia to consider his suit, Olivia falls in love with Cesario!

Meanwhile, downstairs (where we witness the drinking of much wine): Olivia’s uncle Sir Toby Belch has recruited Sir Andrew Aguecheek to woo niece Olivia. But Sir Andrew cannot manage a coherent sentence even with the lady’s maid, Maria.

Aguecheek is so exquisitely funny that he makes Sir John Falstaff look like cookie-cutter, central-casting comic relief by comparison.

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Doxology à la St. Paul

Greg Monroe had a nice dunk in the first half, though he did not have a great game

Greg Monroe had a nice dunk in the first half, though he did not have a great game

If it were a contest of faithfulness to the holy Church, Mount St. Mary’s would probably win.

And if the Mount were allowed to put its seminarians on the orthodoxy team, then they would kick Georgetown’s b–t.

But in basketball, it was a different story.

The Hoyas and Mountaineers hadn’t played since 1962. Georgetown won by eleven points, but the game was actually closer than that. It was a battle–not a pretty battle, but a battle nonetheless.

The Hoyas missed two out of every three shots. The Mount hung in the game until the last two minutes. The Hoyas got the W, but J.T. III said that he is not pleased: “I expect more from this group.”

Speaking for myself, I will take the Hoya win.

On another subject: The people in church will be spared the Preacher this Sunday morning. The deacon will be preaching.

Hoyas' Coach John Thompson III

Hoyas' Coach John Thompson III

But for you gluttons for punishment, here is a homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent:

Brothers and sisters: To him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God,
made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Romans 16:25-27)

Let’s listen again to the way St. Paul glorified God in the passage we heard from his letter to the Romans. He wrote: “To the only wise God be glory forever.”

May God be glorified, dear brothers and sisters.

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