Quinceañera Visitation

Today I celebrate Mass for the fourth time this month with the Visitation gospel reading from St. Luke.

This is the gospel reading assigned for a Quinceañera Mass, when a young Mexican woman renews her baptismal promises and consecrates herself anew to the service of God.

Recalling the Visitation suits the occasion of a Quinceañera Mass perfectly.

The Blessed Mother showed the kind spirit of a Christian woman in thinking of her cousin and going to help her. The moment when Mary and Elizabeth met gave the world a beautiful, quiet sign of the coming of the Messiah, when St. John recognized Christ–womb-to-womb, so to speak. And the Blessed virgin expressed the heart of a prayerful quinceañera when she sang her Magnificat, glorifying God for His immeasurable goodness and generosity.

We give thanks that we have life. We give thanks that Christ has given us every reason to hope for eternal consolation. We give thanks that He chose us and made us His own. The Almighty has done great things for us. Holy is His name.

Green Time

When we come back to the green time of the year, it reminds us of at least one very important fact.

Green things grow. They burrow quietly and mysteriously into their source of nourishment and moisture. And green things fan themselves out to feel the invigorating sunlight.

Adversities come the way of green things, to be sure. They can suffer some rough strife. Not enough water. Sudden cold snaps. Predators of many kinds, including diligent human hands pulling them up to their deaths. Terrible calamities can befall entire metropolises of green creatures—like a large parking lot being laid down by bulldozer and steamroller.

But as soon as things quiet down, the green things will be at it again, growing in their inimitable, invincible way. Time seems always to be on the side of the green things. Their patience, over long, long periods of time—the patience green things have in calmly and quietly asserting their power to grow: this patience will outlast the era of the automobile. It will outlast all the fleeting human mechanisms of our present age. Someday the green things will re-take every parking lot on earth, and where our cars are parked now, a little dale of ferns will grow.

So it is, dear brothers and sisters, with the power of God’s grace. St. Peter’s first letter reads like a gentle and loving reminder to us of the evergreen-ness of God.

The world may seem to have grown old, decadent, even cadaverous. You may have tired yourself and worn out your own patience. The adversities we face—indeed, they are real. Satan loves to try to lay down parking lots on top of us.

But the love of God continues to pour itself out upon the world—with all the vim and vigor of the first day of creation. Today—May 30, 2012—today has been foreknown by the great Source of all life, foreknown in every detail. God planned that today would be the beginning of the eternal happiness prepared for us from the foundation of the world. Yesterday might have been a great day. On the other hand, yesterday might also have sucked. Doesn’t matter. As far as God’s power to make us grow is concerned, today might as well be Day One.

We just have to burrow a little into the soil, and spread ourselves out a little to the light.

The green things know the truth. Cold spells come and go. Weed-Eaters come and go. Bulldozers come and go. The earth will never run out of nourishing soil. And in the end the sun will shine.

Tolerance, Pentecost, and Love

We human beings have a tendency to get on each others’ nerves. Living in close proximity to each other can cause conflicts. We don’t see eye-to-eye. Each of us has our ticks. Sometimes we don’t co-operate very well. We annoy each other.

We need a way to coexist peacefully. Which brings us to the virtue that reigns supreme on today’s popular airwaves. We try to live together in peace by practicing the magnificent virtue of…TOLERANCE!

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Did Father write the New Missal? / No Slogans

We pray to start Mass today that God would pour into us the spirit that gave Pope St. Gregory VII his courage and zeal in the face of oppression by the king. We pray that God would do this

so that, rejecting evil, the Church may be free to carry out in charity whatever is right

Does that sound like a sentence you have heard recently? “We cannot co-operate with evil, even if the civil law stipulates that we must.” I promise that I did not write the prayers for this new Missal.

Seriously, though. Pope St. Gregory will certainly pray for us and inspire us to follow in his footsteps: namely, to seek to live worthily for God.

I think we must do everything we can to keep the phrase “religious freedom” from turning into an empty slogan.

The Lord gives no one license to assert a right without simultaneously acknowledging the responsibility that goes with it. No one can assert a right to ‘religious freedom’ without at the same time confronting the terrifying fact that this means that I really have to be genuinely religious.

If the Church has been treated with incomprehension and ill will by the federal government, which She has, then we rightly take umbrage, as Pope St. Gregory took strenuous umbrage when the Church was abused. But anyone who takes umbrage at being treated with ill will and incomprehension must at the same time treat the adversary with good will and understanding. Which is the way Pope St. Gregory always treated everybody.

In other words, the saintly pope of the lay-investiture crisis would never have asserted the prerogative of ecclesiastical authority as some kind of end in itself. He never claimed that the Church enjoyed an abstract privilege of “freedom.” He simply insisted that the Church has a duty to follow Christ. “Religious freedom,” considered as a human right, cannot justify us. Living in communion with Christ, acting according to His holy will, with the affections of His suffering Heart—this, and only this, justifies us.

Pope St. Gregory engaged in an epic legal battle with King Henry IV of Germany, as well as an epic pastoral and spiritual battle with him. Gregory knew a million times more about the law than the king did. The Pope argued with relentless fierceness. He did not hesitate to call his political enemies “precursors of the antichrist and satellites of our ancient foe.”

But the saintly pope never imagined that the Church had any rights that didn’t demand total dedication and self-sacrifice. And Gregory would have been immeasurably happier if the king had turned to God and brought the battle to an un-dramatic end. Then Gregory could have lived as an unremarkable eleventh-century pope, destined to be forgotten by history. The saint would much rather have been a forgotten pope than the great hero the king forced him to be.

St. Gregory never really wanted to be pope at all. He liked being a monk who quietly used his amazing mind to resolve conflicts and keep the Church true to Her mission.

When we stand up for freedom of religion in America, I hope we can do it with Pope St. Gregory’s courage, and I hope we can do it with his humility and his utterly unprejudiced love, too.

Reason for Confederation

No human organization has ever endured with the sole purpose of everybody sitting around and looking at each other. We homo sapiens get together, stick together, and succeed together when we have a clear goal to work towards.

The goals that we seek together can be good or bad. Some people form bonds with each other by exchanging gossip at others’ expense.

To “form a good community,” we need a good goal. Actually, we need the best goal. We need the one goal that makes life genuinely worth living.

At the deepest core of our human selves, we seek God. We could go so far as to say: human being = God-seeker.

And our search for God brings us together in a uniquely intimate way. The bond that unites people who seek God together endures like no other bond, overcomes obstacles like no other bond.

Where do we find God? In Christ. Christ shows us the Father. In Christ, our seeking souls can find rest.

Nothing could ever bring people together like this: to seek God together and find Him together. This bond endures for all eternity. It is the communion of Christ’s Church, bound together in love by the Holy Spirit.

Prayer of Christ Extended

When we pray, how do we do it?

We pray to the Almighty Father. We thank Him for giving us everything. We offer Him His own Son as our sacrifice. We pray on behalf of the whole Church, that we would be delivered from evil and reach the final goal. We pray that everyone, living and dead, would be gathered into Christ’s fold. We give the Father all glory and honor through Christ, and we consecrate ourselves in the Spirit of truth.

We pray this way by praying the Mass together. We pray like Christ Himself prayed at the Last Supper. He prayed to the Father with confidence and trust. He gave thanks for the gift of everything: His existence, born of infinite love. His mission. The glory prepared for Him and for all those predestined for glory with Him. He offered to the Father His sacrifice of obedience. And Christ united Himself with all who believe.

Our prayer at the altar echoes Christ’s priestly prayer. Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper has not passed away; He hasn’t stopped praying to the Father for us. He prays perpetually as our High Priest in heaven. He prays for exactly what we need, when we need it. He pours out the right graces at the right time.

When we pray, we want only to pray with Him. Obviously, we cannot pray on our own any better than He can pray in us.

Praying with Him, uniting ourselves in our inmost souls with Him—that in and of itself can get us on the right track—and keep us on it. We can walk out of church peaceful, focused on what we need to focus on, full of love, ready to do what we need to do and help the people we need to help.

When we pray Christ’s prayer in union with Him, the world makes sense. Our lives make sense. Our duties make sense.

Which doesn’t mean easy. Easy doesn’t actually make sense for us. A self-respecting human being sitting around watching t.v. all day doesn’t make sense. A Christian living as if other people don’t matter doesn’t make sense.

Letting the Holy Spirit consume us with love, like He consumed Christ with love: that makes sense. Walking out of Mass dedicated to loving the least lovable people, like Christ has loved us: makes sense. Living at all times with gratitude to the Father, offering everything to Him, glorifying Him with the smallest, most apparently insignificant actions: all of this makes sense for someone who prays regularly with Christ the High Priest.

Pray like Christ, with Christ, in Christ. Live like Christ, with Christ, in Christ. One week at a time; one day at a time; one hour, one minute, at a time.

Next thing we know, we will be praying and living with Christ in heaven.

To An Unsinkable Location

Just over a month ago, the world marked the 100th anniversary of the demise of the RMS Titanic. The unsinkable ship went down to the murky north-Atlantic deep. Like a floating city of lights, clean and fine and elegant in every appointment—it darkened; it fractured; it foundered. Now all its intricately carved banisters and mantelpieces, all its monogrammed china and crystal martini glasses—all of it lies in the mud, covered with aquatic mold.

Maybe you remember the scene in the Leonardo DiCaprio-Kate Winslet movie: the ship’s designer, on board for the maiden voyage—he knows that the Titanic will sink in one hour. He has surveyed the ice-berg damage, knows where the holes in the hull are, and he has reached his inescapable conclusion. The huge ship is slowly going down.

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Gospel of Pain

When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. –Jesus Christ (John 16:21)

“The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains, even until now.” (Rom 8:22)

From what I understand, giving birth is no picnic. No co-incidence that we call it “labor.”

No labor—again, they tell me—no labor is more back-breaking. An old friend of mine actually managed to break her coccyx while delivering her first child.

We all caused some poor woman some distress, back when we first started this pilgrim life. We try to make it right by sending flowers one Sunday a year.

The whole creation groans. The whole creation strains the tailbone. The whole creation writhes with a sore back. The labor continues. We press through the birth canal, groping our way toward the light.

The light is Christ, risen from the dead. The birth for which all creation groans is this: the end of futility, the end of strife, the fulfillment of everything we hope for and dream about.

The child coos. The body rests. The future opens. The pain fades.

Life. Life gets born. The pain is not the end. Death is not the end.

Creation groans because she is giving birth to eternal life.

St. Paul’s Perspective and Ours

When St. Paul spoke in Athens, he referred to the one, true God, Whom no pagan image can represent. The true God does not need our service. Rather, He freely gives us all that we have and are. He has made the whole world and the entire human race. He is everyone’s God, the only God.

St. Paul appealed to the fact that everyone, somewhere within him- or herself, knows this God. God is, after all, closer to every individual human being than he is to himself.

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Original Novena (or Sextena)

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now,” said the Lord, to the Apostles.

St. Augustine made the best comment on this verse, in my opinion. We should not worry too much about knowing the ‘much more’ that the Lord intends eventually to reveal. If even the holy Apostles couldn’t bear it, we can be damn sure that we can’t, either.

The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. Someday we will know it all. Someday we will know things like: Why some people get cancer and other people don’t. Or why some people get born poor and hardly have half a chance, while some people are set-up so easy that they really have to work hard at squandering their advantages in order to wind up somewhere other than Easy Street. And we will learn why some people we know and love go ahead and do just that: work hard for pretty much their whole lives at squandering all their advantages.

In the meantime, though, even when we don’t understand something, we can always pray.

The time has come to make the original Novena. When He ascended into heaven, the Lord said, “You stay in Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high.” They prayed for nine days. Then the Holy Spirit came.

If you are like me, you can hardly get used to celebrating Ascension Day three days late. Especially since it turns the novena instituted by God into a sextena.

But the most important thing is to pray.

Lord, fill us with Your wisdom. Our own folly has become intolerably boring to us. Fill us with Your knowledge, because we are tired of our own ignorance. Fill us with Your prudence. We have made enough of our own mistakes.

We will gladly take on faith for now what You would have us take on faith. We know that when the time is right, Your Holy Spirit will make everything perfectly clear.