I attended a very brief convention of 42-year-old priests. One of them handed me this poem and asked me to publish it on my blog:
When the hemorrhaging woman touched Christ, power flowed into her body from His flesh. No wonder it did—the flesh of Christ is divine. The flesh of Christ conquers all sickness, conquers even death.
If you recently flipped through your copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you may have noticed a reproduction of an ancient painting on page 277. A painting of the woman touching Christ appears at the beginning of the section on the sacraments.
The man that the woman touched dwells in heaven. He touches us through the sacraments of His Church. The same power that cured the woman works in the Church now. The same power that raised the dead—that power lives, and breathes, and gives life, even now, in Christ’s Church.
…Some of us spent last Friday evening watching a movie about St. Thomas More. The script for the movie comes from a play called “A Man for All Seasons,” by Robert Bolt.
I have to say that I think Chief Justice Roberts has illuminated something important for us. Governments do have some authority over the money our economy produces. So, dear ones, the loyal opposition speaks…
Our assertion: Catholic Church will not pay for contraceptives / abortifacients / sterilizations.
Reasonable response: Fair enough. Granted. But there is no question of Catholic Church, Inc., paying for objectionables. Because the $$$ to be used for these—and all other healthcare items involved in the ACA (Obamacare) regime—the money does not belong to the Catholic Church.
Ergo: No formal co-operation with evil. No material co-operation. No co-operation at all. Ain’t yo’ money, homes.
The Son of God came to the earth and fulfilled the promises made to Israel. He gave the gifts of the New Covenant to His chosen representatives. He established the new and everlasting Israel—with twelve patriarchs. He gave to these leaders the sacred inheritance, and directed them to share it with the world.
In other words, in the vast and complicated world at the time of Tiberius Caesar—a world full of countless tribes, languages, nations, philosophies, temples, governments, recreational activities, hairstyles, and musical genres—in this enormous world, twelve men held the eternal fire of God’s truth and grace in their humble hands.
We call these twelve the…Apostles.
Every generation of Christians experiences the desire for authenticity of faith. We want Christianity that is “Biblical,” “Scriptural,” “orthodox.” “original.” The best term would be “apostolic.” We want the faith and the spiritual life of the Apostles.
Okay: what transpired? Over the course of two millennia? The world kept turning, with its stunning diversity of changing attitudes and hairstyles. Everything that stood on the earth in the year of Peter and Paul’s martyrdom—everything that stood then fell away and got changed to something else. Nothing under the sun remained the same, except…the faith and discipline of the Apostolic See of Rome. Through the course of 2,000 years, the successors of St. Peter have preserved what the Apostles received from Christ. Through untold twists and turns of political history, through countless “regime changes,” the See of Peter has endured, preserving the revelation about the true love, the loving truth, of Almighty God.
Church and state. Religious freedom. The rights with which the Creator has endowed man. The dignity and inviolability of man’s conscience, of woman’s conscience…
The gift we have received through the 2,000-year miracle of the Roman Church: this gift puts us in communion with the all-powerful Creator of the world. This gift fills us with heavenly grace. This gift gives us hope for eternal life in heaven.
One thing we can therefore say without hesitation, without the slightest doubt: No human authority ever has the right to interfere with our reception of this gift.
We concede to our government all its legitimate powers. Running a country is no picnic. Maintaining law and order? Not easy. What could pose a more difficult challenge than guiding society towards the common good?
We pray for the President, Congress, the courts, governors, legislators, police, fire, rescue—everybody involved in serving the body politic.
But, please, public officials; please do not tell us that following the teaching of the Pope is illegal. Don’t impose fines on Catholic hospitals for following Catholic teaching. Don’t make Catholic charities close down–just because we say that two men can’t marry each other. Please.
Everyone has the right to hear the teaching of the Apostles, to believe in it, and to follow it. No power on earth has the right to make it illegal to stay in communion with the Apostolic See.
My dear, magnanimous mother had never set foot in a Catholic parish church.
Nonetheless, she kindly gave birth to me in a Catholic university hospital, underneath a crucifix, on the 1,768th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Irenaeus.
The beginning of the first Coach-John-Thompson era at the university was still two years away, and none of the hospital employees involved in my birth received artificial contraceptives or abortifacients as part of their health-care plan.
…The Roman emperor killed Irenaeus and thousands of other Christians in the city of Lyon in AD 202, on the day before the anniversary of the martyrdoms of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul—who had also been killed by the emperor, a century and a half earlier.
When Pope John XXIII convoked the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago, he recalled the words of St. Irenaeus. The martyr spoke to his friends on the occasion of his move from Asia Minor to France:
All Christians everywhere must be united with the Church of Rome. It is through communion with the Church of Rome that all the faithful have preserved the Apostolic Tradition.
We want to build our spiritual houses on rock, not sand. Birthdays come and go. Political situations come and go. Facebook posts come and go. The rock we need is Peter and his successors. The rock we need is the Church of Rome, founded on the blood of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
Today in church we read a beautiful episode from the second book of Kings. King Josiah had the Law of Moses read aloud to all the people of Jerusalem, none of whom had heard it before. They kept the Passover properly that year, for the first time in centuries.
This episode inspires us all the more when we consider that King Josiah succeeded King Manasseh, who had fallen so deeply into paganism that he sacrificed his own son on the altar of Moloch and turned the Jerusalem Temple into a pagan shrine. And when we consider that, by this time, all the northern tribes had forgotten about God and the truth. Instead, they worshipped Ba’al and lived for pleasure. Because of this, they had fallen into the hands of the Assyrians and had been taken into exile, never to return.
So the picture of the people of Jerusalem gathered together with the king and priests; the Temple rededicated to the obedient worship of the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Passover kept, as Moses commanded—this picture inspires us with a vision of faithfulness and harmony. God’s kingdom at work on earth. May we worship God together, too, with humble love, at peace and living in the truth.
But before we get too maudlin about this beautiful episode from the Old Testament, let’s remember that as this scene unfolded, the prophetess Huldah meanwhile declared that the punishments which the book of Moses promised would indeed be carried out. The people had been unfaithful for many generations, and God’s justice would not be flouted. King Josiah and his contemporaries kept the Passover faithfully in peace. But their children were carried off in chains to Babylon, and Jerusalem was reduced to ruins.
In the world, but not of it. The message of Christ, the grace of Christ, the kingdom of Christ—only from the perspective of Jesus Christ can we understand our role on earth. We want to worship in spirit and truth. But we cannot stand before God in peace if we do not face honestly the problems of our times. All is not as it should be.
Which means we have a job to do: to seek the truth, to stand up for what’s right, to confess our sins, to offer our resources for the good of others. And to hope for heaven.
The good tree bears fruit for heaven. In this world we will have trouble. But Christ has overcome the world.
At first, St. John’s father Zechariah did not believe that his elderly wife could bear a son. But then, when Zechariah showed his faith and named the boy John as the angel had told him to do, the Lord loosened Zechariah’s tongue. The old priest had the privilege of singing one of the original Gospel canticles.
Zechariah sang that his son would be the herald of the Savior. And that the Lord would come to His people and set them free. The Lord will set us free to “worship Him without fear, holy and righteous in His sight, all the days of our lives.”
For freedom Christ has set us free. Every morning, to greet the dawn, the Church sings Zechariah’s canticle. But we sing it louder and prouder now, during our Fortnight for Freedom.
Independence Day draws near, and our thoughts turn to the Founding Fathers of our nation. When we hear the phrase in Zechariah’s canticle about God “setting us free from our enemies,” an echo sounds in our minds. We think of the war against the British which our forefathers fought and won.
Quick Catholicism quiz. Who can ordain a bishop? A bishop. Only a bishop can ordain a bishop. Kind of like only a human mother can give birth to a human child. Only a man who is a bishop can make another man a bishop.
Now, we’re not done. One other thing is necessary. In order for any bishop, anywhere in the world, to ordain a bishop, he must have something in hand. He cannot ordain another bishop unless he has a particular document. Right! A letter from the Pope which says, “Yes. Ordain this man a bishop. I approve.”
The Church operates in every country on earth. Every nation has its own distinctive characteristics, its own customs, its own politics. The Church cannot live her life in some sort of a-political vacuum. We always find ourselves embroiled in the drama of our particular place and time.
In any nation where the Church finds Herself, She embraces the place as Her home. In other words, a Catholic owes the same loyalty and allegiance to country as anyone else. In fact, we Catholics have all the more reason to cultivate patriotism. We love our country in God. We believe that the Lord has given us this place to be our avenue to heaven, day by day. We work out our salvation here. So we love our country like a monk loves his monastery or a nun loves her convent.
But a bishop cannot ordain another bishop without a letter from Rome. In other words, no nation can turn in on itself, like its own little world–and cut off the larger, universal family of Christ. Our country can and must demand our loyalty—but never in such a way that we would have to choose between country and Church.
We love America all the more because she makes no claim to be above God, or even alongside God. The United States: “One nation, under God.” Under. God above. Country below. God first. Country—not first.
St. Thomas More made a brilliant career as a lawyer and a judge of cases. He could clear huge courtroom backlogs quickly, because his mind retained and processed laws and facts like a supercomputer.
But, when push came to shove, St. Thomas did not rely on his own keen mind. He did not rely on his own incisive judgment. And he did not rely on the venerable laws of his island nation, either. King Henry wanted Thomas to declare that he, the king, had a case for divorce. Thomas said, “You know what? The Pope knows best. I defer to the judgment of the Pope.”
We revere St. Thomas More as a martyr of conscience. He searched his soul for guidance when others pressured him to go along with the king’s wishes. Thomas would not betray himself.
He cracked his brain for a workable solution. He never wanted to die a martyr. He would have been happier to find a compromise.
But the king made Thomas choose. Choose between loyalty to the Church and continued life on earth. Let go of the sure bond you have with Christ, and live. Or keep your grip on that sure bond, and put your head on the chopping block.
St. Thomas prayed for King Henry until the end. He prayed for him until the axe fell. Thomas would have preferred peace. Better to have harmony between Church and state, friendship and patient tolerance for everyone.
But conflicts can serve to clarify things. When St. Thomas faced his final choice, the decision he had to make could not have been clearer.
I love my country. I love my king. I love my family, and my home, and the good work which God has given me the talent to do. But do I love these things more than my Church? More than God and truth and my hope for eternal life?
God first. Our immortal souls come first.
The book of Sirach serves as a compendium of the wisdom of the Old Testament. Short, practical sayings comprise most of the book. Then it concludes with eulogies of the heroes of the history of Israel.
As we read, the prophet Elijah had the mission of confronting the nation’s descent into paganism. The Israelites had settled into the habit of neglecting the service of the true God. They had grown accustomed to dishonest compromises. And they sought power and luxury, rather than righteousness.
Elijah confronted the king, the queen, the pagan priests, the false prophets. He fearlessly stared them all down. But, before the awesome truth of God, Elijah meekly humbled himself.
Sirach reports how the Lord took Elijah up to heaven in a fiery chariot: a sign that another divine visitation was yet to come, that the justice which Elijah proclaimed would, in due time, come to fulfillment. In other words, the Messiah would come–the heavenly man, the Anointed, Who would reign as the Prince of Peace.
The Bible, Christ, our Church; our faith, our religion: these demand our most profound allegiance. We serve Christ all the time, everywhere we find ourselves, in everything we do.
What kind of religion would we have if it had to confine itself to the church building alone? If religion meant only ceremonies in the church, and everything outside the doors was really a totally different life, governed only by the laws of the state, and Christ our King had no power over us once we drove off church property?
Obviously, that would be no kind of religion at all, at least not as far as we are concerned. We practice the religion of the Bible, the religion of Elijah the fearless prophet, the religion of the heroes of Israel. We practice the religion which is due to the Creator and Savior of the world. His power and love extend everywhere. So we must serve Him everywhere.
Any human law which would impede the faithful service of Elijah’s God, the God of the holy Catholic Church—any law which would prohibit the service of this all-demanding God—that’s an unjust law, no law at all. That’s a law which any person of conscience must consider it his or her bounden duty to break.
Tomorrow we begin the fortnight of prayer and fasting which our bishops have asked us to undertake. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus gives instructions for “when you fast.” In other words, He does not bind us to fast all the time. Sometimes He does.
Why is this one of those times? Because we perceive a serious problem in our country. And we hope that, with divine assistance, we can avert a crisis.
Jonah proclaimed a fast in Nineveh. The Ninevites fasted, and the tide of history turned.
How do we fast? First of all, we stop sinning. Also, we eat less than usual. We renounce–for a time–some of the pleasures that we rightfully enjoy at other times.
We quiet everything down. We focus on the invisible, tremendous power of God.
Instead of snacking, we pray. Instead of watching t.v., we read a holy book. Instead of going to the movies, we go to church to watch a movie.*
We focus on what matters. We acknowledge that life on earth passes quickly, and we fix our eyes on our true goal. We let the cellphone go, and we communicate with our most faithful friends, who are in heaven.
Christ has offered to the Father the worthy sacrifice that rights all the wrongs of history. The sacrifice of the Cross, the sacrifice of the Mass—the infinite sacrifice of divine love: this sacrifice, and this sacrifice alone, can turn this world into a place of peace and truth.
We Christians can and must participate in the sacrifice of Christ by our own humble sacrifices. The Lord offered Himself to the Father in the thick of this confused and misguided world. The crucifixion of the innocent Lamb convicts the world of dishonesty and malice. We fast because this conviction still stands. Something is rotten in the State of Denmark. It cries out to heaven when the government tries to tell the Church that She must violate Her own teachings, or else be punished. May God be merciful and give the whole business a fresh start.
We pray that the Fourth of July will find America united in peace. May the Lord move in His own way to open eyes and soften hearts.
We know that without God we know nothing at all and have no taste whatsoever for anything good.
May His holy will be done. And may whatever strife we endure now in the heat of spiritual battle serve to fill us with more love for God and for each other.
* In our humble little parish cluster, we will get together to watch a “Man for All Seasons.”