Hoyas’ Season Clickin’ + New Evangelization

This past week, the Georgetown Hoyas got some nice wins over Memphis and Ooey Pooey. Next up: Crimson Tide! (Tomorrow 9:30 p.m. EST) Plus, the Redskins actually won a football game!

How can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? (Romans 10:14)

Catholics tend to have an ingrained aversion to proselytizing people. We do not practice the hard sell with our religion.

For good reason. The hard sell doesn’t work. Conversion to the truth does not happen in a moment of high-pressure enthusiasm. It takes a lifetime. We work out our own salvation in fear and trembling. God forbid that we would presume to have it all figured out.

But…

Anybody ever heard of the “New Evanglization?”

Evangelization began when the Lord said to Peter and Andrew, “I will make you fishers of men.”

At that particular moment, most of the sons and daughters of the earth had never heard of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior of the world.

Someone had to tell them about Him.

Christ beckoned, and an enterprise ensued, the likes of which the world has never seen. The Apostles fanned-out, traversed seas, offered their lives in sacrifice for the mission.

Now a 130-foot statue of the carpenter of Nazareth towers over a bay 6,000 miles away from the Sea of Galilee. The Peoples Republic of China publishes a postage stamp with a picture of a Jesuit priest on it. The good news of Christ has reached the ends of the earth.

But still we must fish for men.

People do not come into this world knowing what we know about Jesus Christ. Many of us learned about the Lord by coming to church with our parents week after week when we were young. But what about the people who grew up without anyone to “church” them?

What about all the people who got somewhat “churched”—but then un-churched themselves out of laziness and/or confusion? Doesn’t this number include plenty of people near and dear to us?

Aren’t we supposed to fish for all these people’s souls? After all, we read in Holy Writ: the Lord wills that all be saved.

In every case, to every person, the Lord longs to declare His love. He operates like a relentless suitor. His plan for getting down on His knees and proposing to every human soul involves us in some mysterious way.

We believe that God took our human nature to Himself and willingly died so that we could live forever with Him. He rose again and conquered every evil. All He asks for in return is humble love and fidelity.

We can deliver this message, the gospel of Jesus. We can help people believe by giving them the word of truth.

Every case of evangelization is unique. Our job is to maintain constant vigilance for good opportunities to lift high the cross of Christ and say to someone, ‘I love you,’ on Almighty God’s behalf.

December Decision

We face a choice. We have to make a decision.

In the malls, the “holiday” music has already been tinkling through the speakers for a week or two. Pretty soon we will be called upon to clink our glasses with Andre. Or to sit on Santa’s lap. Or to swipe Visa and MasterCard 24/7, until the stores close at midnight on December 24.

I do not claim to understand how “Black Friday” got it’s name. But something dark and terrible and menacing has indeed overtaken the month before Christmas. For many Americans, December has become a month of stress and futility.

We can, dear brothers and sisters, find an amazing irony in all this. We have to find it, because if we don’t, the sad pointlessness of ‘holidays’ without religion will give us the blues, big time.

Continue reading “December Decision”

Homily for St. Joseph Parish Church Anniversary

Is there life after death? Can we hope for happiness greater than this world affords? Will everything that is wrong be set to rights? Will a merciful judge take pity on us for all our failures? Will a loving, heavenly Father smile at us when everything is said and done?

Yes. The answer is yes.

In the midst of the daily compromises of life on earth, our souls yearn for greatness, holiness, completeness, redemption, and freedom. Where would we be if we could not hope for these things?

Wretched. We would be indescribably wretched. Better a turkey in somebody’s oven than a human being without God.

But we can hope. We can believe. We worship the Father in the spirit and truth of His only begotten Son.

Now, in order to worship the Father in spirit and in truth, it is not absolutely necessary to have a well-heated and air-conditioned church with a splendid view of a southwest-Virginia hillside. In a pinch, priests have been known to say Mass on the hulls of over-turned canoes, or on the open tailgates of pick-up trucks, or on wooden crates in the corner of concentration camps.

But having a church building certainly helps.

When the trials of life weigh upon us; when we get confused, discouraged, or distressed; when we find that even our home and hearth bears the marks of Adam’s fall—well, we have our church, the dwelling place of Emmanuel, to be the home-base for our souls.

We Americans rejoice in the blessings of a warm and comfortable home and an amply-laid table. When the Lord blesses us with these things, He has blessed us indeed, and we give thanks.

But there is no Thanksgiving dinner on earth that is as great a blessing as having a good, well-built parish church in your town, where you can pray.

Land Watered with Blood

¡Viva Cristo Rey! “Long live Christ the King!” Blessed Miguel Pro shouted these words as a Mexican firing squad took his life, 84 years ago today.

We give thanks to the Lord for all the blessings of this fruitful land, the Western hemisphere, the New World. This earth bears fruit in turkeys and hams and yams and spuds, and we praise the Maker of all things.

But the most fruitful substance known to mankind is the blood of Christ’s martyrs.

The blood of martyrs waters the earth and bears fruit in generations of firm faith, in the flowering of communities based on love, respect, and truth.

So we give thanks above all that the Lord in His Providence has watered the soil of this hemisphere with the blood of His chosen witnesses.

We venerate the heroism of the Jesuits who gave their lives for the faith in upstate New York and Canada. Some of those martyrs had first arrived in North America shortly before the Mayflower landed.

And we venerate Blessed Father Pro and all the martyrs who joyfully risked life and limb to keep the faith alive in Mexico during the prosecution of the 1920’s.

May the Lord continue to make our land fruitful in faith.

Meditation on the Call of the King

St. Ignatius Loyola discovered that a person can grow closer to Christ by using the power of the imagination.

As one of his spiritual exercises, St. Ignatius proposes that we first envision the most captivating leader imaginable.

We imagine someone with a clear sense of purpose, a beautiful and noble plan. Someone embarking on an adventure requiring great self-sacrifice. This leader personally invites us to join the enterprise. He promises us an equal share in the labor and in the fruits of its success.

Maybe we could take the fields of business or science as an example. Let’s each imagine our favorite entrepreneur coming to us personally to invite us to join his or her company, right as it was just starting up. It could be Henry Ford, or Walt Disney, or Steve Jobs, or any other great market visionary. “Work with me, share my life, and you will share in the rewards.”

Continue reading “Meditation on the Call of the King”

Long-Term Questions

You may reasonably wonder:

What are the long-term intellectual projects underway behind the scenes at this weblog?

Indeed, two avenues of research occupy my mind. They will be addressed, dear reader, in good time. Please be patient with me.

1. Is it indeed true, as Mark Twain asserted, that Sir Walter Scott bears primary responsibility for the American Civil War?

2. Is not “Othello” perhaps Sheakespeare’s greatest?

Question #1 poses many convoluted problems. First of all, Mark Twain basically spent the Civil War in Hawaii. So: Can he really be regarded as an authority?

Secondly, Scott’s “Ivanhoe,” while enormously appealing as possible bed-time reading, requires seven years of uninterrupted leisure actually to read from cover to cover. Only the gentry of the Old South would have had a chance to read it all.

But I will get to the bottom of this question somehow, I promise.

Question #2 raises other questions…

1. Must not Verdi’s “Otello” be regarded as an altogether different story, since the opera does not include the crucial opening sequence of events in Shakespeare’s play, namely Othello and Desdemona’s elopement?

2. Does Ian McKellen “own” Iago on film?

In 1989, he played Iago as a fussy neat-freak, twitchy and (just a little too)grabby in his fidgets. Watching him truly does make a man’s blood run cold.

I have to admit that I have no great brief for McKellen. His Gandalf does nothing for me. He mumbles too much, and when he comes back as Gandalf the White, he looks like a cross between Wilfred Brimley and Fabio.

But I think the man does indeed own Iago in the movies. At least he owns the 1989 Othello movie, leaving plenty of altogether worthy co-stars in the dust.

Temple Consecration

As the liturgical year draws to a close, we read from the books of the Maccabees and from St. Luke’s account of Christ’s final journey to Jerusalem.

Reading these passages simultaneously sets up a breathtaking drama regarding the Temple. The books of the Maccabees recount a number of great acts of heroic fidelity to the Old Covenant. Above all, the accounts climax with the first Hanukkah, when the Maccabees defeated the Greeks, cleansed the Temple of pagan defilements, and reinstituted the divine service.

The Maccabees had brought off a glorious achievement in the history of God’s covenant with His people. The city of Jerusalem rejoiced. But the story was not over. It was 165 years before the coming of Christ…

No one has ever loved the Temple in Jerusalem more than Jesus of Nazareth loved it. When Christ, too, cleansed the Temple, as Judas Maccabeus had done before Him, the only words that could describe the moment were: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

But: The Temple of God is not a building.

The Son of God came to reveal many truths, and among them is the fact that God builds His Temple in the hearts of His beloved children.

If we seek the “Holy of Holies” outside ourselves, we will search in vain. The Holy of Holies can only be found where God meets me, where the light shines that distinguishes right from wrong and shows me the path to heaven. In other words, the Holy of Holies can be found in the invisible center of myself, where I pray and submit myself to the truth.

Wanting Christ to be King

Is it me, or does today’s parable from St. Luke’s gospel sound strangely familiar? On Sunday we heard a slightly different version, which was recorded by St. Matthew.

The version which St. Luke records includes one extra element. Anyone catch it? The master goes to be proclaimed king. Some among his subjects do not want him to be the king.

Jesus Christ has ascended to heaven and has been crowned king of the universe. He will return again in glory when history comes to a close.

When we consider Christ the King–when we perceive His gentleness, His truth, His honor, His compassion, His mercy, His love—when we meditate on the unsurpassable goodness and peace of His reign—we might reasonably wonder: Who on earth would not want this man to be the king? Who could rule better? Christ’s reign comes as the answer to every human hope and prayer.

Perhaps we could imagine some truly hardened sinners who would not want to be subject to Christ. Christ’s realm is honest, chaste, and humble—humble, at least, by the standards of this fallen world. Christ’s subjects do not enjoy great earthly wealth and pleasure.

The poor souls who have all but lost their taste for truth and for heaven, because they live habitually in the throes of vice—maybe we could see why they would reject Christ as a king.

But a person has to fall very far into sensuality before he winds up hating Jesus Christ. We cannot be satisfied with this as the full explanation for this element of the parable. In order to explain why some of our brothers and sisters do not want Jesus Christ to be their king, we have to look at ourselves.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council declared:

Undeniably, those who willfully shut out God from their hearts and try to dodge religious questions are not following the dictates of their consciences, and hence are not free of blame; yet believers themselves frequently bear some responsibility for this situation…To the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion.

Our king sits in heaven, inaccessible to earthly eyes. The Church carries the image of Christ to present to the world. When we present Him faithfully, He Himself attracts; people immediately perceive that He is the best king to have.

But if we, His ambassadors, lose sight of Him; if we get wrapped up in ourselves and forget about Him—then it becomes our fault if others don’t want Him to be their king.

We may all be attractive, in our own particular ways–sure enough. Praise God. But Jesus Christ is infinitely more attractive than we are. When He shines out in us, people learn to love and obey Him—maybe sooner, maybe later, but they do.

May the world see Him in us.

Relics on the James

To all the FFVs* of Richmond:

I have “five under the ground” in the most beautiful city in the western hemisphere. I bow to no man in the realm of cosmopolitan patrimony. But your town has some excellent things. I can see why you regard it as the center of the cosmos.

I would have much more to present here, dear reader, if only the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ website were not so impossibly bad.

Does the Kreuser collection of Art Nouveau belt buckles make Richmond the most excellent repository on earth? Just about.

________________________
* “First Families of Virginia.” At West Point in the 1840’s, the FFVs considered Stonewall Jackson a hillbilly beneath their notice, since he grew up in the Ohio River basin.

In Medias Res

Anyone ever hear of Homer? I don’t mean Homer Simpson. I mean the storyteller of ancient Greece.

'Aristotle with a Bust of Homer' by Rembrandt
Homer told his stories in a famous way. He starts you out in the middle. Then, as the story unfolds, he fills you in on how things got to the point you found them at the beginning.

At the beginning of the Iliad, the Greeks have set up camp on the eastern banks of the Aegean. What are they doing there? Read on, and you will find out.

At the beginning of the Odyssey, Odysseus languishes in prison on the isle of Ogygia. How did he get there? Read on to find out.

Perhaps you will recall that, about a month ago, I started trying to review some of the changes in the English translation of the people’s parts of the Mass, the words which we will begin to use in two weeks.

When we first started talking about the new Missal, we discussed how we pray the Sacred Liturgy as our common work together. Liturgy means ‘public work.’

Continue reading In Medias Res