Little Wonders

Did you know: Before Helen was taken from Sparta to Troy–even before she was married to king Menelaus–while she was still a girl, she was abducted by Theseus?

Theseus gave her to his mother to take care of her, until she would be old enough for him to marry.

But Helen’s brothers Castor and Pollux rescued her from Theseus’ mother Aethra. (You can learn a lot of ancient mythology from beautiful old plates.)

Helen married the king of Sparta. But then she was taken away to Troy by Paris. (Paris was the cousin of Aeneas, the ancient father of the Roman race.)

It was a trial being the most beautiful woman in the world…

Puer natus est nobis!

The “Missal” is the book the priest uses to say the prayers of the Holy Mass. The Cornaro Missal has a beautiful illumination on the page next to the Christmas Mass prayers.

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Personal with the Popes

Dear reader, perhaps you remember St. Polycarp Day, February 23.

Maybe you recall our little discussion about the difference between choosing death and embracing martyrdom.

Today is the Commemoration of the “troublesome priest” who did not seek death, but embraced martyrdom when it came.

We cannot recommend too highly LRS Hall-of-Famer T.S. Eliot’s play about St. Thomas Becket, “Murder in the Cathedral“…

…Speaking of embracing martyrdom: Pope Benedict is often contrasted with the Venerable Pope John Paul II. Their personalities are very different.

One common idea is that, while Pope John Paul spoke freely about himself, Pope Benedict is so intensely private that his personality is all but invisible.

I cannot agree with this.

Pope John Paul did indeed speak and write beautifully about his own personal experiences. A perfect example would be this section of his encyclical on the Holy Eucharist:

When I think of the Eucharist, and look at my life as a priest, as a Bishop, and as the Successor of Peter, I naturally recall the many times and places in which I was able to celebrate it.

I remember the parish church of Niegowić, where I had my first pastoral assignment, the collegiate church of Saint Florian in Krakow, Wawel Cathedral, Saint Peter’s Basilica and so many basilicas and churches in Rome and throughout the world.

I have been able to celebrate Holy Mass in chapels built along mountain paths, on lakeshores and seacoasts; I have celebrated it on altars built in stadiums and in city squares…

This varied scenario of celebrations of the Eucharist has given me a powerful experience of its universal and, so to speak, cosmic character. Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world.(paragraph 8).

Pope Benedict also writes about himself. But he is subtle. He writes about himself by writing about others. For example, this section from his encyclical on hope:

The connection between love of God and responsibility for others can be seen in a striking way in the life of Saint Augustine.

After his conversion to the Christian faith, he decided, together with some like-minded friends, to lead a life totally dedicated to the word of God and to things eternal. His intention was to practice…the contemplative life…

Things turned out differently, however. While attending the Sunday liturgy at the port city of Hippo, he was called out from the assembly by the Bishop and constrained to receive ordination for the exercise of the priestly ministry in that city.

Looking back on that moment, he writes in his Confessions: “Terrified by my sins and the weight of my misery, I had resolved in my heart, and meditated flight into the wilderness; but you forbade me and gave me strength, by saying: ‘Christ died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died.'” (paragraph 28)

Now, perhaps you are saying, ‘Father, this is not the Pope writing about himself. He is writing about St. Augustine. Can’t you read?’

But, dear friends, this is the way the Pope writes about himself. What happened to St. Augustine in 391 happened to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in 2005.

He was going to retire, write his books, have a happy quiet life, and play the piano whenever he wanted. But He for Whom we live had other plans.

Three Points for Holy Family

Three little points about the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.

I.
The Law of Moses stipulated that the Jews of old were to go up to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple three times a year.

The trip on foot from Nazareth to Jerusalem was long. It took a few days. It was not a journey for anyone younger than twelve.

The pilgrimage of the twelve-year-old Christ to Jerusalem was the first time the Lord Jesus ascended to the Temple on His own two feet. It was His first religious pilgrimage.

Continue reading “Three Points for Holy Family”

Sheep’s Gate Neighborhood

Happy Feast of Stephen!

The home of Sts. Joachim and Ann–our Lady’s parents–was in the northeast corner of ancient Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is less than a day’s journey from Bethlehem. Perhaps the Holy Family rested today in the home where the Blessed Virgin grew up.

St. Stephen was martyred right outside the Sheep Gate of the ancient city. This gate is just steps from the home of Joachim and Ann.

Nobody knows exactly why St. Stephen’s Day is the day after Christmas. It has been his feast day since the early centuries.

Maybe the first Christians all knew that the first martyr died very near the place where the Lord spent his newborn days on earth.

Christmas Beat-Down

Let me just say this:

If you push the Pope, and I am anywhere within fifty yards, you are going to have a bloody nose real fast.

Then you are going to get your BUTT WHUPPED.

Then, and only then, will we pause to determine the state of your “mental stability.”

No pushing our Holy Father!! Thank God he is alright. Viva il papa!

The Swiss Guard need to sharpen their halberds. Geez.

The Bridegroom Comes

Here is a Christmas homily for you:

My heart overflows with noble words.
To the king I must speak the song I have made…

You are the fairest of the children of men…
Gird your sword upon your thigh…
Ride on in triumph for the cause of truth
and goodness and right…
A scepter of justice is the scepter of your kingdom.
Your love is for justice; your hatred for evil.

God has anointed you with the oil of gladness…
Your robes are fragrant with aloes and myrrh.
From the ivory palace you are greeted with music.
On your right stands the queen in gold.

Anyone recognize this hymn to Christ? Where are the real Scripture scholars? It is the 45th Psalm.

We priests read the Psalms every day. We use a special prayerbook. It is one of our duties to pray the Psalms everyday.

In our prayerbook, after each of the Psalms, there is a prayer to help us understand the meaning of the Psalm.

In the prayer after Psalm 45, we pray: “When you took on flesh, Lord Jesus, you made a marriage of mankind with God.”

A marriage of mankind with God.

The prophet Isaiah referred to this marvelous marriage. The prophet declares to us: “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you” (Isaiah 62:5).

Continue reading “The Bridegroom Comes”

Wake Up Call

Expergiscere, homo! It’s time for Christmas!

…Did Chris Wright score a game-high, career-high 34 points yesterday afternoon? Yes, he did!

Rich Chvotkin had the line of the day: “Whatever your were going to give Chris Wright for Christmas, double it.”

…Pope Benedict’s encyclical on hope is really a meditation on the following dialogue, which occurs before every Baptism:

PRIEST: What do you ask of God’s Church?

CANDIDATE/PARENT: Faith.

PRIEST: What does faith offer you?

CANDIDATE/PARENT: Eternal life.

The Pope explains:

The human being needs unconditional love. He needs certainty…Man’s great true hope, which holds firm in spite of all disappointments, can only be God–God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” (John 13:1) until all “is accomplished” (John 19:30).

…Washington is unlike other American cities. One of the ways it is different is this:

Back in the 1960’s, the big thing was to build super-highways THROUGH cities. The plan was to build big highways through Washington, just like there are big highways through Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, etc.

But people rebelled. One of them was Peter Craig, who died last month. There was a nice editorial about him yesterday.

Because of the resistance of local Washingtonians, we DO NOT have the big highways running through town that we were slated to have. This is an ENORMOUS blessing.

I am not familiar with all the projects which the editorial mentions. Nothing interests me more than things like this, so I am going to have to do some heavy-duty research to get a firm grip on all the details of what was to have been built, but thankfully was not.

If the Lord allows me the leisure and resources, you will read a nice, long description of it all here someday.

I acknowledge that this will be interesting only to Washington-geography nerds like myself, but I make no apologies. We will see what I can come up with.

In the meantime, merry Christmas, dear readers!

Perfect Offering

Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord.
–Malachi 3:4

Today is a great day to say Holy Mass. One of the prayers the priest prays today includes:

“You have given us this memorial [the Mass] as the perfect form of worship.”

He gave us the Mass on Holy Thursday, of course–so why do we say this prayer right before Christmas?

It is true that the Mass was instituted in the springtime of our Lord’s 33rd year on earth.

But the preparations for the Holy Sacrifice began long before that…

It started in the Garden of Eden, when God made us with a desire for Himself. He made us want to offer something to please Him. He made us religious.

He called Abraham to offer a sacrifice. He gave the Israelites the Passover and all the sacrifices of the Temple.

The holy Victim of the Mass is the Incarnate Word of God. The Word became incarnate on Annunciation Day, when the Blessed Virgin said yes to the Archangel. There would be no Mass without that day.

And Christmas is a special day for priests to reflect on our role in the Mass. We priests get to cradle Christ in our hands at the altar, like the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph did on Christmas.

So Christmas is the perfect day for priests to give thanks to God for the Holy Mass…

Jeremy Lin
…Unusual Wednesday noon game today for the Hoyas.

Harvard is by no means an easy opponent.

They have a Chinese-American phenom. They beat Boston College and almost beat Connecticut.

Hoyas need to bounce back from Saturday’s bone-cruncher with a solid win. Root hard, people! Chvotkin has the call on AM 980…

…I was thinking about ‘favorite Bible verses.’ Here is an encore presentation of one of the funniest comedy routines ever:

Happiness is a Sharp Pencil

We do not want to dwell on the painful loss suffered by the Georgetown Hoyas yesterday evening, as the snow swirled around McDonough Arena.

And most of us men on the Eastern Seaboard need something to take our minds off our sore snow-shoveling backs.

So let’s rejoice in this: On December 21, 1913, the New York World published the world’s first crossword puzzle!

Of all the wholesome amusements ever made available to mankind, the crossword puzzle is certainly the best.

Thank you for the wonderful early Christmas present, o merciful God!

…Also, our dearly beloved late Holy Father is now the Venerable Pope John Paul II! As is the Venerable Pope Pius XII.