Beautiful Aloysius + St. Ignatius

St. Aloysius Gonzaga
Most Beautiful Painting of St. Aloysisus in the world?

Let’s listen for a moment to how St. Ignatius formulated his understanding of the treasure buried in the field, the pearl of great price:

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. The other things on the face of the earth are created for man, that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him. For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.

St. Ignatius wrote that paragraph as the “First Principle and Foundation” for the spiritual life. Then he taught his followers how to initiate a spiritual life, with the first principle and foundation in mind. Meditate as follows:

Imagining Christ our Lord present and placed on the Cross, let me speak with him freely, focusing on how from Creator He is come to making Himself man, and from life eternal is come to temporal death, and so to die for my sins. Likewise, looking at myself: What have I done for Christ? What I am doing for Christ? What ought I to do for Christ? And so, seeing Him such, and so nailed on the Cross, to go over that which will present itself to my mind.

My colloquy with Christ is made, properly speaking, as one friend speaks to another, or as a servant to his master; now asking some grace, now blaming oneself for some misdeed, now communicating one’s affairs, and asking advice. Then let me say an Our Father.

With these meditations, St. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus. This Society has conquered enormous lands. No other organization has conquered the world like the Jesuits have. Google has nothing on the Jesuits. Facebook has nothing on the followers of St. Ignatius. Google and Facebook will both vanish from the earth, and the churches erected by Jesuits in the far corners of the globe will still stand.

The followers of St. Ignatius carry one weapon only: Personal devotion to Jesus Christ, the Savior and High Priest of the world. The followers of St. Ignatius win battles by: a) thinking clearly, b) communicating skillfully, c) educating others with patience and love, d) wanting nothing but the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, e) acting only in union with the Pope, and f) being willing to suffer and die for Christ.

May the good Lord bless our Jesuit Pope and all the Jesuits. May He bless all the followers of St. Ignatius. May He bless everyone who consecrates him- or herself to the cause of the New Evangelization.

When we stand on the spiritual foundation of living to praise God and to serve the Crucified, then the angels, the saints, the heavenly powers, the history of the Church, the patrimony of the western world, the storehouse of Catholic thought, and every good and beautiful thing, all line up on our side.
Ignatius prayed that he would be poor, that he would be mocked and derided, that he would be reviled and despised—all so that He could be united with Christ, poor, mocked, derided, reviled, and despised. Ignatius gave all his efforts to God and His Church. If his Society was suppressed, he said, he would spend ten minutes in the chapel, and then he would be fine.

Ignatian “indifference” is only indifference to everything that doesn’t really matter. Ignatius was indifferent to everything passing, because he was utterly consumed with zealous interest in God and the salvation of souls.

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Midnight Conversation

Importunate Neighbor

In the Near East, the heat of the day can grow extremely intense. Therefore, back when people rode camels, they often traveled at night, by moonlight. These days, people with young children often travel at night in order to avoid ‘Are we there yet?’ a thousand times, because the kids are sound asleep.

Either way, a true friend welcomes travelers, even in the middle of the night. With cellphones and 7-11s, and other modern conveniences like breadmakers and refrigerators, rarely these days does a night-traveling friend arrive at your home without warning and find you altogether unprepared to hook him up with food and a beverage.

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Walkin’ to the South outta Ro’noke…

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Not long ago my jaw dropped, flabbergasted that the people with whom I was talking had never heard of Eddie Vedder. “But his voice is the voice of the 90’s!” That is, except for Darius Rucker.

The Darius-Rucker country renaissance leaves me amazed and full of divine praises. Who ever could have imagined? Thank you, Lord, for surprises.

…Plus, check out the Duck Dynasty dudes.

Feast of St. James, Sex, and My Life

The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to give His life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

St. James and all the other Holy Apostles learned this lesson from the Lord Jesus. The apostles lived out true unity with Christ, offering their lives in sacrifice for the spread of the His Kingdom.

St James Greater El GrecoThey lived with their eyes on the crucifix. They had one decisive priority: Remain united with Christ crucified. Whatever comes my way; whatever opportunities open before me; whatever the choices I have to make—I will have one decisive criterion: Christ crucified.

Maybe we could even go so far as to put it like this: An apostle of Christ is someone with a crucifix tattooed on his mind. This is my Lord; this is my Savior; this is my guide and my life. The sweetest sweetness and the richest richness, the happiest happiness and the most-peaceful peace: to be united with Christ crucified.

I put it this way because we also cannot let today pass without marking the sapphire anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. The Church teaches that artificial contraception is wrong, that irrational sex is wrong, that sex is about a lot more than pleasure. July 25, 1968: a day of contradiction and decision for the Church and the world. Forty-five years later, the contradiction and the decision still face us.

PopePaulVIThe Pope reminded the world of something immensely powerful, which lives deep in the heart of every man and woman. Namely, that we have been made, male and female, to give life. You don’t need to be a Christian; you needn’t even have heard of Jesus Christ, to discover within yourself that what the Pope taught is true. A lot of people did not see it at the time; they had honest disagreements; people of good faith dissented; there’s no sense in judging anyone over that. The real question is, where do we stand now?

Speaking personally, as a man whose lifetime has basically paralleled the lifetime of the encyclical Humanae Vitae, I can testify that from my teenage years—when every well-meaning guidance counselor I encountered basically shoved condoms in my face—I can testify that the whole artificial contraception business always struck me as highly fishy, to say the least. I never bought it. I wasn’t even Catholic then, and I didn’t buy it.

But as the years have passed, and I have been given the privilege of giving my manhood entirely to God and His Church as a celibate priest, the whole thing strikes me more and more as a matter of maintaining unity with Christ crucified.

brunelleschi_crucifixIf Christ crucified is the criterion; if Christ crucified is the tattoo that emblazons my mind; if I want above all to be an apostle of His Kingdom, then how could I ever act in the way that the culture of sexual self-satisfaction proposes? How could I traffic in those implements that they peddle? Or wink at it when others do?

No. The way of Christ crucified is a harder way–and the more genuinely vigorous way. It embraces the sexual power of man and woman for what it can rationally be recognized to be: a sacred communion in giving life.

Christ on His cross shows us the truth: there is more to life than fleeting pleasure. Forty-five years ago today, the Pope lit a beacon to help us see the way to true interior union with Christ crucified. The beacon burns brighter now for me than it ever has, as the years in which I could become a father by the flesh pass away, and I let them go–for love of the Christ crucified. To have had sex, to have had children—could have been beautiful. But there is no happier life for me than this, the one I have. And I can testify to anyone who cares to listen that chastity—making decisions about sex based on reason, and with Christ crucified in your mind—that is the way to true happiness.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you, St. James. Thank you, Pope Paul.

Profligate Seed Sewing in the Desert

A sower went out to sew the seed. And he asked himself, “Can God spread a table in the desert?

No. Not true. The sower most certainly did not ask such a question. To the contrary, he scattered seed liberally, prodigiously. He scattered seed in what may seem to us to be a scattershot fashion. He scattered the seed, full of confidence that God can give the increase.

Representation_of_the_Sower's_parableEven though birds peck, and the sun scorches, and thorns choke. Even in the desert, in other words: God can give the increase.

The Israelites marched across the Red Sea, as if supernatural amphibious units were transporting them to a grand invasion of the Promised Land. Things looked good. But then they came to the desert of Sin, and their march became a slog. They grumbled.

Compare this with the great divine sower of the parable. No slogging; no grumbling. He seems to dance His way across the arid plain. The pecking birds flutter around Him menacingly; the sun scorches down; thornbushes unfold their spikes to His right and to His left. But He utters nary a complaint. He just scatters seed far and wide. We might say that He appears to scatter life-giving seed in a footloose and fancy-free manner, even in the middle of the desert.

The seeds give life; they produce fruits; talents unfurl themselves in this world. To our judging eyes, these seeds may appear to have been misplaced, sewn in the wrong environment. Why is so-and-so such a good cook? God didn’t know what He was doing when He made her such a good cook. Why did He make such-a-one so thoroughly charming and confident? He didn’t know what He was doing. Why is that numbskull so good-looking? What was God thinking?

Jonathan Goldsmith most interesting dos equisThat’s us complaining, like the grumbling liberated slaves in the hard desert. We think we know better than the quiet, dancing, divine sower. Probably better not to sew seed around here at all. Better just to go back to Egypt. Freedom takes too much initiative and creative effort. Slavery is easier.

But how many times does it have to happen? Before we learn the truth? God can spread a table in the desert.

God can move hard-headed people like me to acts of kindness and humility. God can make selfish people like me into generous and loving and magnanimous Christians.

And it’s all because God provides. ‘God Provides’ is the #1 axiom of the world, because if God didn’t provide, there would be no world. If they were going to make a “Most Interesting Man in the World” ad with me in it, I would say, ‘I don’t often get the chance to order quail. But when quail’s on the menu, I always order it.’

God serves quail in the desert. The grumbling Israelites finally stopped talking and settled down to eat. The sun set over the dry and thorny landscape to the sounds of laughter and friendship.

The divine Sower does not take Himself so seriously as we take ourselves. He doesn’t have to, because the bag of seed He holds never runs out. Birds can peck all they want; the sun can scorch; thorns can choke. God will scatter more seed, and it will grow.

Bringing God’s Word to Completion

Iron Butterfly

St. Paul wrote to the Colossians:

I am a minister of the Body of Christ…to bring to completion for you the word of God. (1:25)

To bring the word of God to completion for you.

Now, in this letter, it seems that St. Paul was addressing a largely non-Jewish audience. In other words, a confused and deluded, formerly pagan audience. At the beginning of the letter, the Apostle gave them a vivid image by which they can understand reality. To summarize:

The Creator made all things through His eternal Word, Who is now made man, Jesus. Jesus gives the universe and history its center. His resurrection began the final fulfillment of God’s original purpose in creating the world. Everything has been made to serve as a kind of choir, giving praise to the eternal glory of the Maker. Christ sings the first voice of the choir, by the entirety of His life. All the rest of the music proceeds from Him, as we strive to harmonize.

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Sabbath Homily–with Compendium, too

Just in time for your summer vacation, if you are fortunate enough to be able to enjoy one…

fishing1

The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:8)

Whenever the Lord speaks about the sabbath, I try to take note.* [Scroll down or CLICK for a compendium of all the notes I have taken lately.]

Because I, for one, am not good at keeping the sabbath. I daresay that few of us really do it well.

One the seventh day, the Lord gazed upon all the good things He had made. He took delight in the grand spectacle. His work of creation complete, He rested in perfect contemplation.

DanielThe irony of sabbath rest is, of course, that for spiritually slothful people, it is simply impossible.

Sabbath resting comes from the interior peace of knowing that I have generously tackled the task entrusted to me for the past six days. Then, on the seventh, the Lord helps me to recognize that all that work is really His; the task is bigger than me alone

Because it is God Who truly brings about completion and fruition, sabbath resting in the power of God is the only real rest that a human soul can find.

Now, we know that the Lord Jesus spoke infrequently, and rather cryptically, about His identity. Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI has a chapter in his book Jesus of Nazareth about this fact, and he tries to explain the significance of Christ’s use of the phrase “Son of Man” to refer to Himself.

The prophet Daniel spoke of the coming of the Son of Man on the clouds, ushering in the everlasting sabbath of true peace and worship. And Christ referred to this Himself, during His night trial on Holy Thursday, before a few members of the Sanhedrin. “You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” For these words, above all, the Lord was condemned—as He knew He would be.

Benedict Jesus of Nazareth InfancyThis mysterious “Son of Man,” the Christ—He is man ‘in full.’ He is man, having attained the full good and purpose of man’s existence. The Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath not just because He is the Creator Who instituted the sabbath in the beginning—which He is—but also because He, Christ—and He alone—truly offers man a sabbath.

Who will give us rest from our weariness, besides Jesus Christ? Who else has come down from heaven, reconciled us as a race to the Father, and then returned to heaven, preparing a place for us there–a place with a perfectly human “shape,” a place to be filled by each of us as the men and women “in full” that we can be, by the grace of Christ?

The Son of Man is Lord of heaven. In heaven, may it please Him to get us there, we will find the true sabbath that our soul’s seek. And in the meantime, when we know that there is a heaven; when we know that, in the Heart of Christ, an eternal sabbath of peace opens up like an ocean—when we know all this above all the other things we know, including the contents of all our endless To-Do lists—when we know Jesus, we can find a way to rest a little and give it all over to God now.

Continue reading “Sabbath Homily–with Compendium, too”

Exodus and Lumen Fidei

Reading the books of Moses for the first reading at Holy Mass these days… Reading our Holy Father’s encyclical…

Pope-Francis-Lumen-FideiIt all comes together in paragraph 12:

The history of the people of Israel in the Book of Exodus follows in the wake of Abraham’s faith.

Faith once again is born of a primordial gift: Israel trusts in God, who promises to set his people free from their misery. Faith becomes a summons to a lengthy journey leading to worship of the Lord on Sinai and the inheritance of a promised land.

God’s love is seen to be like that of a father who carries his child along the way. Israel’s confession of faith takes shape as an account of God’s deeds in setting his people free and acting as their guide, an account passed down from one generation to the next.

stained-glassGod’s light shines for Israel through the remembrance of the Lord’s mighty deeds, recalled and celebrated in worship, and passed down from parents to children.

Here we see how the light of faith is linked to concrete life-stories, to the grateful remembrance of God’s mighty deeds and the progressive fulfillment of his promises.

Gothic architecture gave clear expression to this: in the great cathedrals light comes down from heaven by passing through windows depicting the history of salvation. God’s light comes to us through the account of his self-revelation, and thus becomes capable of illuminating our passage through time by recalling his gifts and demonstrating how he fulfills his promises.

No Leeks and Melons. But Worship.

Moses found himself at Mt. Sinai. The Lord gave him a daunting mission. Lead my people out of Egypt!

Moses did not believe himself to be capable of executing this task. That troubled him.

el_greco-sinaiBut Moses did not have to trouble himself on another subject. The Lord made the answer to one important question perfectly clear.

Moses did not have to ask the Lord, “Lord, why should I lead Your people out of Egypt? I mean, sure, our life in Egypt involves bitter slavery. But if we march away, things will probably get even harder. We will leave behind the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks. Sure, we don’t have a whole lot of material resources these days. But if we march out, we will have even fewer.”

In these or similar words, Moses could have found himself asking the Lord, “Lord, why do this?” –if the Lord had left him in any doubt on that subject.

But the Lord left Moses in no doubt whatsoever as to why the Hebrews should march out of Egypt. The how was murky and daunting. But the why was clear. You will march out of Egypt and worship me here on this very mountain, saith the Lord.

I give you thanks, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You have hidden the great mystery from the wise and the learned, and revealed it to the merest children. (Matthew 11:25)

Why should a parish church have four walls? Why should we heat and cool the building? We don’t show movies. At least not usually. We don’t peddle entertainment of any kind, really. Why pay the water bills, and gas and electric? Why keep the parking lot lined and paved? It’s no Wal-Mart. No merchandise lines the shelves. And no one teaches get-rich-quick-schemes, or yoga classes, or health-food diets.

FoAIn other words, we can’t find an earthly reason for all the fuss and bother over keeping a parish church going. Experts of all kinds could certainly teach us more efficient ways to run a community center, or a food pantry for the poor, or a support group.

But we keep the doors open and the lights on for one fundamental reason: Because we worship the Lord here. In Franklin County, Va.,* the good Lord made Scuffling Hill into the local Mount Sinai. This is where we are to worship God Almighty.

And when we do that, everything else falls into place. We who worship the living God can actually teach the “experts” a few things about coming together as a loving community, or about helping each other and the poor; we could teach the support-group facilitators a few things about supporting each other through thick and thin.

In Henry Cty, Va., Mount Sinai is located at 2481 Spruce St.
* In Henry County, Va., Mount Sinai is located at 2481 Spruce St.

Because we do this: We do the most beautiful, most wonderful, most intimate thing that people can do together: We worship the one true God in the manner in which He Himself has directed us to worship Him.

The merest children know that everything begins with worshiping God. God is first. Everything comes from Him; everything is for Him. We worship Him; we worship Him alone; we do not worship anything else.

We do not worship money. We worship God; and God provides us with the money we need.

We do not worship each other. We worship God, and He gives us each other as brothers and sisters.

God first. The merest children know to put God first. When God comes first, everything else follows, just as it is meant to.