Civilization of Love

Garofalo Ascension of Christ

Lord Jesus ascended into heaven.

We might well wish that He had not. We might prefer that He had remained on earth, with us, so that we could see Him. We might think that God being visible on earth would make the Christian faith considerably easier to sustain.

But St. Thomas Aquinas explains in the Summa Theologica why we should, in fact, rejoice that Christ ascended into heaven–even though, for now, it is beyond our sight. St. Thomas gives a number of reasons. One of them is this: We rejoice in Christ’s Ascension because it directs our fervor toward the invisible Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, which Christ gives us from heaven, is, to quote St. Thomas, “love drawing us up to heavenly things.” The Holy Spirit is nothing other than “love drawing us up to heavenly things.”

In other words: God is; our religion revolves around; the meaning of life is: love drawing us up to heavenly things. I would say that this may be the key concept for our spiritual lives in AD 2014, fifty years after Vatican II.

Continue reading “Civilization of Love”

Magnificat: True or False?

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty!’…Yes, but I have seen the rich sit secure on their thrones and send the hungry away empty.

–Annie Dillard (stating the obvious with great eloquence, as she often does)

The beautiful, hard world. The dark world, that nonetheless holds surprising little flashes of light. The unfair world, full of people who simply cannot give up believing in fairness.

VisitationIn his encyclical on Christian hope, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the mystery of evil, the mysterium iniquitatis, head on.

Iniquitatis because we see the innocent, the powerless, the poor suffering. Mysterium because somehow we know it’s wrong; we don’t accept it; we pray and hope and struggle for something better. Evil may be a ‘given’ in this vale of tears, but that doesn’t mean that we regard it as normal. It’s a daggone mystery. Good makes sense to us; evil doesn’t.

Pope Benedict framed the business as follows. One of our most profound problems is: the contemporary mindset regards religion as something purely subjective, emotional, individual. Therefore, ‘salvation’ = my own personal bliss.

But many people of conscience reject religion, if this is what religion is. They cry, “What about the groaning injustice I see in the world, right in front of my eyes? What God is going to give me bliss if He can’t even see to it that the hungry get fed and the innocent don’t get killed?”

Pope Benedict: the Catholic faith recognizes that our longing for justice among men springs from the religious center of the human being. According to the Catholic faith, our hope for salvation does not confine itself to ‘my personal bliss.’ Rather, our hope includes–it must include–justice for the world, the whole world. Everybody in the world.

God does not stand by, an impotent spectator, while the mighty sit on thrones and crush the lowly. God Himself has been crushed by injustice. Then He rose again as the King of all history. On Easter Sunday morning, He showed His power to put things to rights.

The Lord refrains for now from confronting the world with His righteousness, solely so that we have time to repent. He patiently waits for us to stop committing the injustices that make the world an unjust place. He gives us time to love our neighbor. So that when He comes in a supernova of love, we will not be burned to smithereens, but rather caught up in His glory. We share in that glory now by our humble love.

Ascension Delay?

Living in a place where Ascension Thursday gets celebrated on Sunday does get confusing.

After all, our Lord ascended bodily into heaven on Thursday. St. Augustine celebrated the solemnity on Thursday. Christopher Columbus celebrated the solemnity on Thursday. And, since the original Novena began on Ascension Thursday, starting it three days late turns it into a Septena instead.

christopher_columbusBut let’s look at the bright side. Can’t we imagine that the disciples would gladly have seen the Lord delay His ascension a few days? Our Lady? Don’t we figure she would have said every morning from Easter Sunday ad infinitum: ‘Son of mine, don’t go today. Wait until tomorrow.’ None of the people who loved Him wanted to see Him vanish into heaven. They were not eager for that. No rush.

But—as we will discuss on this subject on Sunday—the Lord knew best, as always.

A little while, and you will not see me.”

Lord, make it 43 days instead of 40! Stay with us on earth three days more!

“No…But do not despair. You will weep and mourn, you will grieve—while the hard-hearted godless world parties like it’s 1999—but your grief will become joy.

“It is better for you that I go. Another divine Advocate will come to you. The Spirit of utter, complete, and total, better-than-Cats awesomeness will come to you. After a Novena or Septena or whatever you can manage. And then your grief will become joy.”

Journalists Getting Interested In Enrique’s Plight

Whitney Delbridge broadcast this report on WSET ABC 13 Lynchburg/Roanoke/Danville:

click for: video (with pictures from the prayer vigil) or text

We really enjoyed talking to Whitney, and she assured us of her prayers.

Also click for: Katie Love’s report (of WSLS 10 Roanoke). She stopped to see us at the prayer vigil.

Also click for: Martinsville Bulletin report, by Ben Williams. Also: Ben’s editorial on dealing with ICE

High-School Seniors/Graduates Homily

The coming of Jesus into the world has made it possible for us to live a spiritual life.

In Scripture, we hear the jailer ask the incarcerated Apostles, “What must I do to be saved?” The response: Believe in Jesus and be baptized.

To believe in Jesus opens up our horizons. Our seniors step out now into the future. We take great pride in their accomplishments, and we share in their hope for a good and fruitful life ahead of them.

mortarboardThe key to the whole thing is faith, faith in Christ, faith in His grace and His plan.

Jesus Christ has won heaven for us. He has opened heaven up to us. And life makes sense when we live it in order to get to heaven. Life makes sense when the real future we seek, the real horizon we head towards, is the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, crucified for the truth and risen from the dead.

Hopefully the 18-year-olds of the world will be able to relate to these following reflections: Does my life feel like an answer, or does it feel more like a question? Does my life feel finished, or does it need more? Does my life seem complete, or am I waiting for…something?

I’ll speak for myself. My life feels like a question. Like a work in progress. Like an unfinished story.

So, what’s the answer, then? What will complete this open-ended half-story?

Jesus. Jesus Christ is the answer to the great question of life. He fulfills everything in us that needs more. The future we need is: heaven with Jesus Christ. And nothing less.

If I might, let me speak on behalf of the Christian community for one second: Dear seniors, we are very proud of you. We love you. We want to wind-up with all of us together in heaven in the end. So stay straight! Stay good. Make us proud.

Prayer Vigil Pics

thanks to Bob Humkey (Click HERE for full set.)

Enrique, Jr., and Co.
Enrique, Jr., and Co.
Seminarian Dan and other prayer warriors
Seminarian Dan and other prayer warriors
Lord, give us a miracle!
Lord, give us a miracle!
Have mercy on us
Have mercy on us

In the hot sun

Pray for the Release of Enrique
Caratina Manriquez and Co.
Bendita tu eres...
Bendita tu eres…
May the good Lord bless everyone who came
May the good Lord bless everyone who came

Coupla sun-strokes. (Seminarian Dan, paramedic, acted swifty.)

Some nice chats with the police.

We just missed one guy. Please, Lord, do us a solid and get him back to us.

Memorial Day Jailhouse Speech


We have no beefs with the Roanoke Sheriff’s Dept., or even with the officers who arrested Enrique.

Now, maybe they could have stopped to ask themselves, Should we arrest a perfectly peaceful man who is busy watering the plants at a church?

They probably did not know that Enrique’s son Eduardo, who is as American as you or me, was going to have to graduate from high school with his father in jail. His father, who sits on the Parish Council of his church, who spends more time at the church than the priest himself.

But the officers were simply enforcing the laws. The problem is that the laws have grown obsolete. They do not reflect the reality of the situation in our American communities.

We remember the soldiers who fought and died for what America stands for. This ain’t it. That Enrique Manriquez languishes in jail on Memorial Day is unworthy of the memory of the soldiers who died for our ideals of fairness and freedom.

We need new laws. And they need to release Enrique. His family needs him. His church family needs him. The business he works for needs him. His American community needs him.

3:00 pm Monday

Roanoke City Jail (Memorial Day May 26th, 324 Campbell Ave SW, Roanoke VA 24016.)

3:00 pm Bilingual Rosary for the release of Enrique Manriquez.

If you care about justice for immigrants, please meet us there. Please disseminate as widely as possible.

Our message: 1. We pray. 2. We say: It is not a crime to live here just like we do.


The Trouble with the World

Do not let your hearts be trouble Passion of the Christ
John 14:1

Let’s thank the good Lord that he kept someone as intelligent and insightful as St. John the Evangelist so close to Himself at the Last Supper. St. John remembered and wrote down some important things that Jesus said that evening.

Our readings from chapter 14 of St. John’s gospel began last Sunday, with the Lord Jesus saying: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Now, the Apostles might reasonably have asked: “Don’t let our hearts be troubled? But you have just told us that you will not be with us much longer, and that we cannot go to the place where you are going. Of course our hearts are troubled!”

And we might reasonably ask also: “Don’t let our hearts be troubled? Lord, You came to reveal the face of the eternal and almighty Father, then you vanished into the heavens. But these days no one seems to care about anything other than internet access and Donald Sterling. The world seems to have closed in on itself completely, and people want immediate satisfaction instead of eternal life. Of course our hearts are troubled!”

Continue reading “The Trouble with the World”

Enrique Numbers

Enrique and his family

I have known Enrique Manriquez for three years, ever since I became the pastor of his church. Now he is languishing in Roanoke City Jail, en route to the ICE detention facility in Farmville, Va.

These are my scientific estimates, based on daily observations:

Hours Enrique has spent at our church fixing things and beautifying the place: approx. 1,000,000

Groups of workers he has organized to keep the place clean and neat: 100

Tamales he has carried from his kitchen to the church for the benefit of hungry people: approx. 10,000

AA meetings conducted in Spanish that Enrique has made possible: 104

Prayer grottoes that Enrique had agreed to build for free: 1

Lightbulbs in the ceiling of the church which Enrique has risked his life to change: 100

Sons whose high-school graduation Enrique will miss while sitting in jail: 1

Daughters who wept inconsolably for hours after Enrique was whisked away in a black Chevy driven by a man with “Immigration” on his jacket: 1

U.S. Citizens in Enrique’s immediate family: 4 (both his sons, his daughter, and his wife)

Number of times Enrique has committed a crime: 0

Children who, this Sunday, will miss seeing Enrique and his smile: 150

If you are a Knight of Columbus, Enrique is your brother. If you are a Colts fan, he is your brother. If you work hard and hustle to provide for your family, he is your brother. If you love to be outside, and garden, or sit around and talk sports, he is your brother.

If you are a Christian, he is your brother. If you are a decent human being who tries to help others, he is your brother.

Please help us fight to get him out of jail. And please pray to St. Toribio for a miracle.

Enrique Manriquez Legal Defense Fund–St. Joseph’s
St. Joseph Catholic Church
2481 Spruce St.
Martinsville VA 24112