The Prodigal Son

Bartolome Murillo Hijo Prodigo
“La despedida del hijo pródigo” by Bartolome Murillo

The son asked for his inheritance, and the father let him go. Maybe the young man sought adventure. He wanted to see, to experience, to know about the world.

If going off for an adventure were a sin in and of itself, then the father would not have allowed it. But he gave his son the money. ‘You are a free man, my son. Go as you wish. The world is yours.’

This father, perhaps, knows something of the world himself. He knows that the world is dangerous. And hard to navigate all by yourself.  But also beautiful and full of enchanting mysteries.

How can we not like the adventuresome son? He starts out full of himself, to be sure. He’s insensitive to the feelings of his father and brother.  He is tragically unrealistic about himself. But he has courage. He has energy. This world has something to offer, if only we go looking for it!  Let’s have some fun!

Likable, yes. But what’s missing? Self-respect. The one thing he doesn’t see is that the most wonderful place in the wonderful world is his own home.

Let’s imagine the prodigal son in the first tavern he comes to, along the road. Someone there says to him, ‘Hey, you’re a barrel of laughs, buddy.  But aren’t you…aren’t you Lord Such-a-one’s son? The most noble, gracious, and beneficent man in this country—isn’t he your father? Don’t you and your brother stand to inherit the great estate?

‘Gosh, here you are carousing with us. But couldn’t you have champagne and music right there at home? I remember reading in the paper that you were supposed to marry Lady So-and-so—beautiful, virtuous, mysterious, and demure.

‘Isn’t that who you are, buddy?’

Murillo Prodigal Son Among Cortesans
Murillo’s “La disipación del hijo pródigo”

So the son crept out of that tavern and proceeded to travel farther away, to find a place where no one would know his family.

Our rebellion: The heavenly Father built this house for us, full of light—this world. We get to share the house with people who really are not so altogether annoying–each other. This house has order and peace, because our heavenly Father governs it. He gives us what we need.

Above all, He gives us a certain hope: Everything that we want, the desire that grips us in a way we can’t even understand: We will have it. We will be satisfied.  The real adventure of this life starts with faith. We salute God’s sun every morning. We do our daily work, say our prayers, and love our neighbors—we do this, in this pilgrim life, and then all will be wonderfully well, forever, in the life to come.

We can see where the son got his prodigality. The father himself gives with prodigal generosity–lavishly, extravagantly.

But somewhere deep in the darkest basement of our souls, a sinister voice whispers: ‘You don’t deserve it.  It’s too good for you. You aren’t really a prince of this realm. Take a walk, and find your own kind. In the gutter.’

In the end, the adventuresome son’s money ran out. In the sty with the unclean beasts, he thought to himself: ‘What kind of adventure is this?’ The world runs its course, and its pleasures do not satisfy.

But the lovable young man still had one thing left: himself. He paused. He stopped. He found a moment of silence and truth. And he saw into the center of himself, where he finally found the true basis of his self-respect: a compass pointing to his father.

goodshepherdThe compass had always been there; the son just hadn’t looked at it. He had ruined himself by seeking pleasures that were beneath him. But now he took notice of the inner compass, and he remembered that his home stood waiting for him. He could still find shelter under his father’s beautiful roof. And he finally understood that his own home really was the most wonderful place in the world.

Here’s a question. Where is the image of Christ in the Parable of the Prodigal Son?  Aren’t the parables supposed to include an image of Christ?  After all, we see Christ clearly enough in the Parable of the Lost Sheep, which can also be found in the 15th chapter of the gospel of Luke.  In the parable of the Lost Sheep, Christ is the shepherd.

But where is Christ in the Parable of the Prodigal Son?

Christ crucified actually lights up the parable of the Prodigal Son so that we can see what’s there. We see the lordly father, so prodigally generous that he won’t even listen to his son’s entire confession of sin. Instead, he just starts the music and pours champagne, because he has his son back home again.

How do we know that this unfathomably gracious and loving father is our Father? How is the face of the infinitely merciful heavenly Father revealed? One way: Christ crucified. Christ crucified is the light that shows us that the prodigal son’s father is our Father.

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New Commandment of Charity

Charles Bosseron Chambers Sacred Heart of Jesus

At Holy Mass today, we read:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31)

Some points on this, from the Catechism

1. Charity = love God above all things, and love my neighbor as myself, for the love of God.

2. We learn what charity is from Jesus. He showed the divine love by loving His own chosen ones to the end. “Love one another as I have loved you.”

3. We must love our enemies.

4. “Charity is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

5. Charity makes a Christian a child of God. We obey Him not out of fear, or for the sake of some short-term gain, but because we love Him as our Father.

6. Divine love makes us joyful, peaceful, and merciful. Also generous and friendly. And willing to correct others.

Disproving the Existence of God?

On Annunciation Day, the New York Times published an attempted philosophical demonstration that our idea of God is incoherent.

God cannot be all-powerful, because He cannot create an unliftable stone. If He can lift it, it’s not unliftable. And if He can’t lift it, He’s not omnipotent.

Also: God can’t be all-pure and all-knowing, because He would know what we know. And we know sins–like lust, envy, or even cold-blooded malice. Being human means knowing sin. If God is morally perfect, then He doesn’t know about being human.

egg…Challenge accepted, sir.

The Stone

God has certainly created plenty of stones that no human being can lift–even with the help of a backhoe or crane. But things like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can move some of those “unliftable stones.” And, according to plate tectonics, the earth has long-term forces within her that produce mountains out of mole hills–by moving “unliftable” stones.

So maybe we have to say that the only “stone” that no force on earth can lift is: the Earth itself.

But the Earth does move, as we deduce from astronomical observations. (Plus the few people who have visited outer space have seen this with their own eyes.) A force exists which moves even our entire planet.

So maybe the sun is “the unliftable stone?” Well, no. Apparently, the solar system moves; galaxies move.

So the only “unliftable stone” is: the entire universe.

But hold on. Yes, the universe does not have another location to which it can be moved, so it cannot be moved from place to place. But it has “moved” in another way. Its existence is not absolute. It could not exist. Therefore, something–some force–moves the universe to exist, as opposed to not existing.

That is God. The only “unliftable stone” is: God Himself.

Therefore, the argument “God cannot be all-powerful, because He cannot create an unliftable stone” actually means “God cannot be all powerful, because He cannot create another all-powerful God.”

But this is no argument against God’s omnipotence. Create means: produce a creature. Creatures and the Creator are not commensurate things; God is infinite, while creatures are finite. Among finite things, there can be multiple instances of the same type of being. You can have one, two, or a dozen eggs. But there cannot be multiple instances of infinity; that makes no sense. God not being able to double His own infinite power doesn’t make Him anything less than infinitely powerful. The unity and indivisibility of the infinite God pertains to His omnipotence.

God’s “Morality”

“One cannot know lust and envy unless one has experienced them,” writes the philosopher.

Ok. But even we limited human beings regularly experience lust, envy, and other sins, without committing those sins. We can know lust, envy, or malice by falling victim to acts of lust, envy, or malice by someone else. Or we can experience temptations to lust, envy, malice–but not actually sin. We can resist such temptations.

So even limited, human experience shows that the argument against divine omniscience–on the ground that moral purity means ignorance of sin–doesn’t hold water.

But there’s an even deeper problem with this argument against God’s omniscience. It presumes that God’s “moral” perfection–his sinlessness–involves moral choices like the moral choices we make. That He would achieve moral purity by avoiding sin–like we try to do.

We make moral choices–either for good, or against the good–because we finite creatures grow over time (hopefully towards a good goal.) But God does not grow; He does not change. His unchanging, pure goodness is the good goal of the human moral life.

God knows that we defect from Him, and how we do, and why we do; He knows our sins much better than we know them ourselves. But that does not make Him guilty of them.

 

 

No Seders? But We Must.

passover seder plate

This morning I read something by a rabbi, admonishing Christians not to do Passover Seders during Holy Week. It’s not our ceremony to do. (I came to the same conclusion myself a couple decades ago.)

But… We cannot altogether abide by this. Holy Mass is, after all, a Passover seder. Every Holy Thursday, to commemorate the Last Supper, we solemnly read a part of the Torah instructions which command the annual celebration of the Passover and the Seder.

Inquirers into Catholicism often ask a very good and honest question: How do you explain the transition from the “Old Law” or “Old Alliance” to the New Covenant? How do you know which Old-Testament laws remain in effect, and which do not?

mosesA good question, since at Holy Mass today we hear Lord Jesus declare that He did not come to abolish the Law. But we also will read, in a few weeks’ time, the account of the Apostles determining that you need not undergo circumcision to enter Christ’s Church.

The most basic answer to the transition question is: The moral law expressed in the Ten Commandments remains in effect, since it is not just another written law, for one particular nation. Rather, the laws of the Decalogue pertain to human nature itself. On the other hand, the ancient Israelite ceremonial laws no longer bind us.

Ok. A decent answer. But not complete.

The Old Law requires the annual commemoration of Israel’s liberation from slavery, the Passover. Jews fulfill that fundamental law by ridding the house of leaven and conducting a Seder.

But that same “ceremonial” law binds us Christians, too. Just as much as “I am the Lord your God” binds us, and “Thou shalt not kill.” We must keep Holy Week and Easter. Holy Week and Easter do not constitute some kind of optional ceremonial vestige of ancient Israelite religion.

It was a Passover: Jesus of Nazareth came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. And it was His Passover—His suffering, His death, His resurrection from the dead.

This holiest feast will soon be upon us, and we must keep it. Not by pulling out haggadahs and fixing matzoh sandwiches with horseradish and charoset. But by celebrating the Church’s Sacred Liturgy with solemn attention.

Being Catholic on Annunciation Day, 2019

annunciation-merode

This is the will of God: Your sanctification. (I Thessalonians 4:3)

God wills our holiness. Our salvation. Our union with Him.

In the unfolding of this unimaginably kind divine will, God became man in the womb of the Virgin. She freely submitted to God’s will, to become God’s human mother. Her free submission echoed the free submission of the eternal Son, Who, becoming man, declared to His Father: ‘Behold, I come to the earth to do Your will.’ He said it again thirty-three years later. ‘Father, let this chalice of suffering pass from me! But not my will, but yours, be done.’

We had a parish-cluster discussion yesterday afternoon about Pope Francis’ ministry. We had various opinions among ourselves on a number of subjects. But we all agreed about the challenge we face:

One the one hand, we know that our membership in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church includes loyalty to St. Peter’s successor. There is no other sure way to belong to Christ’s Church, the family of faith founded on God’s incarnation in the Blessed Mother’s womb.

But on the other hand: From outside the Church, people see this very institutional loyalty of ours as morally unsound. How can you continue to associate yourselves with such a corrupt institution?

We cannot dismiss this question as anti-Catholic bigotry. To the contrary, human decency and genuine honesty motivate the question. Our institutional loyalty to the Church looks dishonest and indecent to non-Catholics, and we have no solid argument to offer them in rebuttal. Our only arguments involve appeals to realities of faith, which we cannot reasonably expect non-Catholics to accept.

We have to live here. We have to face this challenge. We will not blindly deny that the house is on fire, and that no competent firemen have yet arrived at the scene–at least as far as we can tell.

But we also will not abandon our faith in the unfathomably kind divine will, which Mary fulfilled on this holy day. And which Jesus fulfilled. And which is, simply: Our salvation.

Yes, You’re Right, Lord, But

Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it. (Luke 13:8)

figWe hear the gardener say these words at the end of the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree, which we read at Holy Mass on Sunday. [Spanish]

“Sir, leave the barren tree one more year.”  Now, to whom does the gardener say this?  Who is the “sir?”  Also, what’s an “orchard?”  What’s the difference between an orchard and “the woods?”

Someone planted an orchard.  An “orchard” means:  trees growing according to a plan, for a purpose: to produce fruit.  The trees in an orchard stand where they stand not randomly, but by design.

So this “sir” of “Sir, leave it for this year also” is the mastermind.  He planted the orchard in the first place.  Therefore, he has a right to make judgments.  He compares the situation as it stands with His original plan. And he says, “I have sought fruit from this fig tree and found none. Cut it down.”

Rightly does he say this!  Fig trees ought to bear figs.  Just like chewing gum ought to be chewy.  Or like unleaded gas pumps at a gas station ought to give you unleaded gas–and not diesel, or a Slurpee. Imagine if you swiped your credit card, started pumping gas, and Blue Raspberry Slurpee came out of the nozzle. You would curse that fig tree, to be sure.

Likewise, human beings ought to do good and avoid evil.  What else have we been put on this earth for?  For me to neglect to do good, or to choose to do evil, or both—that makes as much sense as wrapping up a rock and calling it chewing gum.  Or putting Cherry Coke in the big underground tank below the gas station where the unleaded fuel belongs.

The one who planted the garden says:  Fig trees, bear fruit!  Human beings:  Worship your Maker.  Love your neighbor.  Speak truth.  Honor who you came from.  Don’t kill, cheat, or steal.  Don’t be lustful or materialistic.

orchardThe cosmos we inhabit is not some kind of wild woods that grew up haphazardly with no purpose.  This is an orchard, planted according to the design of Someone infinitely wiser than we are.

But let’s listen to the gardener.  “Sir,” says the gardener, “I see your point.  This fig tree appears to be a failure.  Indeed, we find no figs here, as we ought to find.  But…”

But.  This is an amazing But. In this parable, someone speaks up to the One Who knows all and governs all. This gardener stands before the tribunal of absolute Truth and Justice. And the gardener has the temerity to say, “Yes, you’re right, but…”

How about a little more time?  How about another chance?  How about we don’t give up just yet?  How about the possibility that things could change for the better?

This gardener has two amazing qualities. 1. He gently but confidently asserts himself to the owner. 2. The gardener has the tenderness of a grandparent, a tutor, and a coach, all rolled into one.  He obviously thinks nothing of extra work.  This gardener must already work tirelessly all day, every day, in this orchard—watering, weeding, pruning, raking mulch. And he’s offering to do extra, to save this one lame tree.

Rembrandt Moses Ten CommandmentsWhen the master says, ‘Cut it down,’ the gardener knows this is a fair and reasonable judgment.  But he himself—the gardener—doesn’t want to judge.  Not yet; not now. Let’s wait…

Do good; avoid evil.  Love and worship God.  Love your neighbor.  Do not gossip.  Do not insult people.  Do unto others as you would have them do to you.  Give to the poor.  Keep the Sabbath.  Anchor your mind in God alone. The rules guide us to what is best for us.  If we suffer because we disobey them, we have only ourselves to blame.  We know better than to break God’s laws.

But! There is a but! We are weak. We get confused. We listen to bad advice sometimes. We watch the wrong t.v. shows. We get ourselves emotionally worked-up about something, and we make a bad decision.  Then we’re too cowardly to admit the truth, even to ourselves.

Were the Roman centurions in first-century Jerusalem of a different species from us? Were the people gathered in the courtyard outside Pilate’s tribunal a different kind of human being than we are?

They thought they had it right. But they were utterly confused and utterly wrong. They took Christ for a blasphemer, a revolutionary, an evil-doer. They convinced themselves that they acted to protect peace, to protect the nation, to protect true religion.  And they crucified the innocent divine Lamb.

As He died, He said, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”  Give them another chance.

Parable of the Tenants

sistine isaiahWhat did the vineyard owner do to deserve the tenants’ violent rebellion?

Which means: What did the good Lord do, to deserve the ancient Israelites violent rebellion? What did the ancient prophets say, which provoked the people to persecute and kill them?

Things like, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And your neighbor as yourself.” “You shall be holy as the Lord Himself is holy.” “Circumcise not just your foreskins, but your hearts.”

How about prophecies of the Messiah? “A virgin shall bear a son to be called Emmanuel.” “My servant shall not clamor or crush the bruised wick. He shall be pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins… We had all gone astray, but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.”

Or prophecies of the heavenly Jerusalem? “The gates of the city shall be the tribes of Israel, and the name of the city shall be: The Lord is there.” “Your dead will live; their bodies shall rise. Let those who live in the dust wake up and shout for joy. The dew shall be a dew of light.”

They prophesied, and bore witness to, the pure religion, the pure beauty, the pure self-sacrifice, and the pure divine triumph of the Christ. For this, the prophets suffered. At the hands of the complacent, the self-indulgent, the dishonest, the avaricious, the proud, and the desperately ego-centric.

But the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord Jesus can and will unite us with Himself, so that we can give to God our share of the produce, at the proper time. Then the prophecies of the new Jerusalem will come true, in us.

An Official Apology

full_moon_2

I offer an official apology to all those who use our St. Joseph parish wall calendars. “Catholic Inspirations” published by Comda Advertising Connections. The calendar indicates that on Wednesday we will have a new moon. In fact we will have a full moon on Wednesday.

Please forgive us for this error. Of course it is extremely important. If we don’t know when the full moon comes, we won’t know when the most important day of the year comes. The first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. (Easter!)

The good news is that we can remedy the calendar error simply by looking up at the sky at night.* You can tell by looking that the calendar is two weeks off, when it comes to the lunar cycle.

In other words: God is omnipotently merciful. We make mistakes and screw things up, in our little domain. But God serenely continues to God, without fail, without interruption.

—————

*Looking up at the sky at night will solve the two-week discrepancy with the St. Joseph wall calendar. This year, however, actually involves an interesting anomaly. In determining the date of Easter, the Church does not follow only the observable astronomical facts; we also applying some additional rules. If we did go solely by the sun and moon, then Easter could come on a different day, depending on where you live on the globe.

AD 2019 involves an unusual case, when astronomical Easter and ecclesiastical Easter do not fall on the same day. The vernal equinox this year falls on March 20, when we will have a full moon. So, astronomically speaking, we should celebrate Easter this Sunday. But, according to the rules that apply in the Church (in order to avoid having two Easters in two different parts of the world) a full moon on March 20 does not count. The Paschal moon cannot come before March 21. (This is why Easter seems to come ‘so late’ this year.)

Terrifying Choices

pine coffin

A deep, terrifying darkness enveloped Abraham… A cloud came and cast a shadow over Peter, James, and John, and they became frightened. (Genesis 15:12, Luke 9:34)

Frightening darkness. The good, loving Lord leads the people who are closest to Him into…the dark. [Spanish]

Now, wait a minute. In the beginning, God said “let there be light.”  When He walked the earth, He declared, “I am the light of the world.” St. John taught us: “In God there is no darkness at all.”

Why, then, does the Eternal Light lead the people he loves into the terrifying darkness?

As we talked about last week, the Lord Jesus entered the darkness first. He went out into the desert for forty days and fasted. He became ravenously hungry, utterly exhausted, and weak. Humanly speaking, He had nothing left. Darkness enveloped Him. Satan came to tempt Him into disobedience.

The greatest battles take place in darkness. When the lights are on, we can hedge our bets: We can say we love God, Whom we don’t see, and at the same time we can love the things we see. We can go to church and eat ice cream. We can say our prayers and watch basketball.

But sometimes things get scary, and that’s when we have to make a choice. When we lose our little comforts; when we don’t see how things are going to turn out; when we don’t really know what’s going on—that’s when we face the stark choice.

Easter Vigil London Oratory
an Easter Vigil Mass in London a few years ago

Either: I stand fast and obey the law of God, even though I don’t see any good that is going to come out of it. Or I let the devil use the darkness to trick me into giving up on God.

There was a moment in each of our lives that had all the drama of this stark choice. Most of us probably don’t remember, because we were just little babies when it happened. The most dramatic event in each of our lives: Holy Baptism.

These are the questions that our parents and godparents answered on our behalf:

Do you reject Satan? And all his works? And all his empty promises? Do you reject the glamour of evil? Do you reject the prince of darkness?

There is a mystery here: The devil is the prince of darkness. He darkens minds; he confuses and obfuscates. But he does it by offering glamorous things. Satan darkens by dazzling. He confuses by enchanting. He blinds us by enticing our eyes.

…Then our parents and godparents answered this question: Do you believe in God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Do you believe?

More mystery: God is the eternal light. But the only way to Him is through the darkness of faith. He is eternal wisdom. But He demands that we believe what we do not see. He is the great liberator, the emancipator of slaves. But He calls us to unquestioning obedience of His eternal decrees.

devilLent is the time for us to turn out all the lights, sit in the dark, and choose God. Lent is when we make our baptismal promises again—in the dark depths of our hearts—with more conviction, less distraction, focused only on the essentials. I reject Satan. I believe in God.

Everything that I see is passing away. Everything that comforts me on earth, every little lamp that lights up a corner of the world and makes it cozy for me—sooner or later all those lamps will go out, and I will lie in a coffin.

Do I truly reject Satan and the passing glamour of evil? Am I content to live a humble life of unswerving faith? Do I believe in the promises of Christ and stand on them alone? Am I ready to let go of absolutely everything, if that is what obedience to God demands? Am I prepared to wait patiently, with no comfort in this world, for Christ to come again?

Scary, yes. The most basic facts of life, death, faith, and sin–scary.  Eternity is scary. Satan is scary. God is scary.

Scary. But I’ll tell you what. We are going to say Yes to all these questions. We are going to say: Yes, we reject Satan and his tricks and lies and traps and nonsense. Yes, we will walk humbly with God, even if it means suffering the buffets and spitting of the world. Yes, we will wait on Christ, trusting in His wonderful promises. We will hold fast to the One in whom we believe, and let go of everything else. We will stand as Christians and Catholics until the last day, no matter what happens between now and then.

You know why we can say all this with such confidence? Because we know that in the end, the light is going to come on. The darkness is not forever. The obscurity of faith is not forever; humble obedience is not forever; suffering for the truth is not forever. It is all temporary.

The glory of God is forever. The Beauty of the undying truth, the Holy Face of the Savior, the splendid city of the saints—all this is forever.  The Kingdom of Light is forever, the everlasting day when night comes no more. We believe and trust and wait for that light.  It will be worth waiting for.

Gaudium Magnum Out the Window

Something greater than Solomon here. Something greater than Jonah here. The Christ.

We come to Him to find salvation, to find God. Jesus saves the human race; we know no other way. The human race comes to Jesus, gathers around Him, follows Him, unites herself with Him—and thereby finds peace, true religion, and eternal happiness.

That’s the Church. The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of the Christ of God.

francis1

Six years ago today, the white smoke floated on the Roman evening air, the bells rang out, the eyes of the world gazed at the loggia. Our local tv station came here to St. Joseph’s in Martinsville for comment. Bob Humkey happily talked to the camera.

The joy of the election of a new pope. Six years ago today, it filled the Catholic world. The sense of promise. The comforting continuity. Holy Church renewing Herself again. Habemus papam. Gaudium magnum. Great joy.

I don’t think any of us could have imagined how profoundly compromised that joy would become, six years later. The innocent exhuberance—I remember feeling it even when I was a boy, in October 1978. Then again, as a new priest, in April 2005. Then again six years ago today. Simple, happy confidence in this institution.

Not naivete; we know popes aren’t perfect. We know they are flawed men, like everyone else. The institution isn’t perfect. But when we heard ‘habemus papam’—the vitality, the capacity to start fresh, the fundamental soundness and permanence of the Church: we rightly reveled in it, as our new father in God stepped out to greet us and bless us.

Now? All that seems a million miles away, like a sweet dream that we had. And we have woken up to attorneys general, Royal Commissions of inquiry, and Saturday Night Live legitimately suggesting that the Roman Catholic Church is a crime syndicate.

Luther Theses by Ferdinand Pauwels

The familiar loggia on the front of St. Peter’s Basilica: four centuries old. In the century before it was built, many earnest Christians lost confidence altogether in the papacy. They had their reasons. The beginning of… Protestantism.

We have our reasons, too. Martin Luther’s nemesis Pope Leo X reveled in processions with elephants through the streets of Rome. And the doctrine of indulgences was an utter mess. But, as far as we know, Pope Leo did not have two Cardinals publicly convicted of sexually abusing minors.

In other words, we Christians of the early 21st century hardly have less reason to lose faith in the Roman Catholic hierarchy than the Christians of the early sixteenth century did. We would seem to have a great deal more reason.

But it also seems to me that we have to dig deeper. There is something greater here, something greater than the current incumbents of the episcopal thrones. This is the Church of Jesus Christ.

I have a little plan to steal away for a few days in September and make a personal pilgrimage to the cathedral in Trent, Italy–to pray for myself, and all of you, and Pope Francis, and the whole Church.

Everyone know what happened there, five centuries ago? A miracle of doctrinal precision and clarity, to answer Protestant objections. And a miracle of new resolve and spiritual discipline in the Catholic clergy.

council_of_trent
The Council of Trent

On our pope’s sixth anniversary, the gaudium magnum of the St. Peter’s loggia eludes us altogether. But the Lord will not fail us. He will not fail His Church, built on Peter.