Children of Nuestra Señora

yo no estoy aqui madre basilica Guadalupe

Our Lady appeared here on our continent at precisely this time of year.

If we ask the Blessed Virgin Mary what the official language of America is, she might reply, ‘Well, when I visited, I spoke Spanish…’

This one Lady, the Mother of God–who spoke to St. Juan Diego outside Mexico City–she is the mother of us all. And she teaches us who we are.

western hemisphere1. We are Christians. We believe in Jesus Christ, Son of God and son of the Blessed Virgin. How is our Lady our Mother–this Palestinian woman who lived on earth two millennia ago? She is our mother by being the mother of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are children of the Our Lady by virtue of being Christians.

2. Who are we? We are Americans. Nothing is more American than loving our Lady. There is nothing that unites America like loving our Lady. The Spaniards who came here loved our Lady. The English Catholics loved our Lady. The natives came to love our Lady. The Africans brought to the West Indies came to love our Lady.

There is one America, with one Queen, one Empress—the mother of God, who spoke to St. Juan Diego outside Mexico City. And we Americans can also boast: the Pope is one of us, an American.

3. Who are we, we who love our Lady? We are feminists. That is to say, we venerate the woman; we venerate the power of the woman. Who was born without a mother giving birth? Anyone?

4. We are a religious people. What is the Virgin’s specialty? Dancing? Driving? Cooking? No. Religion. Faith. Prayer. We have a mother of perfect religion. We are her children; therefore, we are religious.

The Virgin of Guadalupe, mother of Christians, mother of Americans, beautiful woman, full of faith and piety.

Her children: Christians, altogether feminist, religious people: Us.

Faith of the Holy Remnant

Gimli what are we waiting for

I imagine everyone knows that one of the disputed theological questions of the 20th cenury was: Who exactly belongs to the Church?

The Lord Jesus founded one Church and gave specific instructions about what to do and how to do it. Pope Pius XII explained how the Mystical Body of Christ is the visible Roman Catholic Church, governed by St. Peter’s successor in office. The invisible life of this visible Church is the Holy Spirit, given to us through the sacraments of faith.

But what about the holy fathers of old–and the holy mothers of old, too? What about Abraham and the prophets? What about Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist? St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that the faithful citizens of ancient Israel, called the “holy remnant”–St. Thomas says that they made it to heaven by holding the faith of the Church, our faith.

Continue reading “Faith of the Holy Remnant”

Apartheid, Sweat, and Coach Grant

Coach Oliver 'Skip' Grant, who seriously did bend some arcs
Coach Oliver ‘Skip’ Grant, who seriously did bend some arcs of the universe

Had a chance to catch a few minutes of the news yesterday evening. Immediately thought of a black man of terrifying moral authority, whom I grew up admiring.

Not President Mandela, may he rest in peace. My high-school cross-country coach, Oliver Grant.

To get us into what he regarded as good shape, Coach Grant dispatched us on courses he had devised, covering huge swaths of the city. If you know northwest Washington, his names for our assigned runs—‘Ward-Tenley,’ ‘Westmoreland-Western,’ and the dreaded 11-mile roundtrip ‘Naval Medical’—these names might mean something to you. Something terrifying. We ran all those miles on a daily basis.

On especially hot days, Coach Grant, who knew no mercy, often prescribed ‘Scott Circle, with Normanstone.’ This run took us past the impressive building that was then the Embassy of South Africa. Which meant that we saw the sidewalk marches of the anti-Apartheid demonstrators and heard their chants, “Free South Africa!” Then, after practice, we would go home and listen to Bono and U2 sing rock songs against Apartheid.

anti-apartheid demonstrators south africa embassy

That was all a very long time ago. My generation and I have grown old. Coach Grant retired 15 years ago. The last time I saw him, he had mellowed enormously, and the relentlessly demanding tyrant who made a man out of me, with buckets full of sweat in the Washington summer heat—he has become an indulgent grandpa.

But the demands of justice have not mellowed. If we think that the world is a more just place now than it was in 1985, we are fooling ourselves shamefully.

1. The innocent and defenseless unborn child.

2. The undocumented immigrant whose home country has been rendered unlivable by drug violence.

Back in the 80’s, if you didn’t stand up for the blacks of South Africa, cool people regarded you as a loser. Frankly, I was much more concerned with coming out alive after one of Coach Grant’s workouts. Nelson Mandela was in prison on the other side of the world.

But in the 2010’s, if we do not stand up for the innocent and defenseless unborn child and for the undocumented immigrant who has to live a shadow-life right here in our own country—if we don’t stand up for these people, I’ll tell you what: We are losers. Whatever reward Nelson Mandela now enjoys, we will not receive it—unless we stand up in 2014 for the unborn and for immigrants.

Rock in Thin Air

Cam Newton Panthers

A strong city have we,” with “houses built on solid rock.”

What rock can there be but God? Something so simple and fundamental—and yet so easy to get distracted away from. Which is why we so desperately need our Lady in front of our spiritual eyes at all times.

transporter room star trekShe came of age, reached womanhood, and the choice appeared before her with crystal clarity: Everything for God; everything invested 100% in His holy Word; everything staked on His faithfulness to a beautiful plan we can’t see. Or: hopelessness, the slow tragic arc towards death, dissipation in a thousand compromises with shallowness and selfishness.

These are the real options. Everything for the invisible Rock of infinite love, running towards Judgment Day with nothing but eagerness to see Jesus. Or: comfort right now, followed by boredom tomorrow, confusion eventually, and ultimate desperation.

What rock can there be but God? What else is good? I would love to see my new bandwagon favorite Carolina Panthers march to Seattle in January, beat the evil Seahawks, and go the Super Bowl. I would love it. It could happen. But even if it does—is there any imaginable way in which Cam Newton can be the rock of my life? Is there any imaginable way in which the ephemera of this world can make me happy, really, for good?

No. God is the only rock. His testimony of love is the only foundation for any lasting city.

If we stand on this holy Rock of faith, like our Lady; if we stand with both feet squarely placed on the rock of the divine Word; if every pound of our weight, every ounce—everything; if all of me stands on the Rock of God, like our Lady stood, as if floating in the air—when the angel said, ‘the Holy Spirit will do this,’ and she said Yes; if we stand like her on the thin air of staking everything on the faithfulness of God, than you know what we can do?

Look each other in the eye. Look each other in the eye and see the great mystery: This person right here is my fellow citizen of Jerusalem. This person right here has just arrived—has just been beamed to this exact location by God Himself. No Amazon delivery drone required. God Himself has beamed us all together right here, right now, for a moment of love that will never die.

Our blessed Mother looked the Archangel in the eye, so to speak—since angels don’t ‘have’ eyes, but are eyes—she looked and saw the same reality that we can look and see, when we stand squarely on the thin air of God: The choice. Turn away, and crumble, little by little. Or say Yes to love, jump out, and fly like an eagle on the wind.


Coupla Quotes from Evangelii Gaudium


Papa writes:

“Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council, we are distressed by the troubles of our age and far from naive optimism; yet the fact that we are more realistic must not mean that we are any less trusting in the Spirit or less generous…

“…mystical fraternity, a contemplative fraternity. It is a fraternal love capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbor, of finding God in every human being, of tolerating the nuisances of life in common by clinging to the love of God, of opening the heart to divine love and seeking the happiness of others just as their heavenly Father does.”

Prophets Yes Santa No

advent wreath

“Many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”  (Luke 10:24)

Okay. What does this wreath of candles mean?

Some people think December is all about what Santa will bring. But that’s for babies.

Much more important to mediate on the holy prophets of old who longed for the Messiah to come, who longed for the Savior to come.

And He did not come to give us stuff, like video games. He came to give us wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, strength, and awe. In other words, He came to make us children of God, to give us the present of: true life, eternal life, spiritual life.

We could play video games from now until kingdom come and never really be happy. But to receive the joy of Jesus, to share His life—now, that is a gift. A gift greater than anything currently available on Amazon.

no santaBack to the holy prophets of old: They waited patiently. They prayed. They studied the Scriptures. They worshiped God and gave Him His due. They hoped for tomorrow, trusting completely in the promises that God had made. They were all very poor, but they couldn’t be bothered to notice that. They ate locusts.

Let’s spend December imitating them. Let’s spend December focusing on the Messiah, on Jesus, and His priceless spiritual gifts. Let’s keep Advent like the ancient prophets. Then we will really have a merry Christmas, when the day comes.

We can say to mom and dad and all our friends and family: “You know what? Just give me an orange for Christmas. Just one nice orange. That’s all I want. Or a pair of gloves. Just give me one Hershey Bar on Christmas morning. That’s really all I want. Because I want to focus on Jesus. I want to go to church and sing hymns to the newborn Son of God. That’s the kind of Christmas that will really make me happy.”

Scheduling my Realm Getting Weird

“Evangelization consists mostly of patience.” –Pope Francis

Triad rules!

…It happened last year: the Georgetown Hoyas played not one but two somewhat obscure universities located within the greater Mark-White-hinterlands area.

Guess what? They will do it again over the course of the next two weeks. High Point University? Elon University? Have driven past both of these NC-Piedmont institutions recently for one reason or another…

…In honor of “Strong As I Am” by the Prime Movers, and Walt Whitman, I have made some minor format changes here. Please do not be alarmed.