Migrants

Elijah fiery chariot

We read in Sunday’s gospel about how the Lord and the Apostles took an unusual route to Jerusalem. Galilean Jews, like Jesus and the Apostles, usually crossed to the east side of the Jordan River to travel south by a safer and more welcoming road. In other words, pilgrims from Galilee generally took the long way.

Because the straight way passed through Samaria, the lands occupied by the remnants of the northern tribes of the Hebrew people. Nearly 1,000 years of history had passed since all the children of Jacob had been united. The northern tribes had never accepted Jerusalem as a capital or site for the Temple. And the northern tribes had interbred with the Assyrians. Hence the use of ‘Samaritan’ as a term of opprobrium among Jews.

But for His own mysterious reasons, the Lord decided on this particular trip to take the more direct route, straight through Samaria. Which meant risking harsh treatment and rejection at the hands of the unsympathetic natives.

I think maybe we can relate to the emotions that the Apostles experienced when the Samaritans mistreated them. It hurts when the natives mistreat you, when you are a stranger and a sojourner in a land that is not your own.

NT Holy Land mapAs we read, the Lord would have none of the Apostles’ angry reaction. He insisted that everyone stay focused on the one thing necessary: to keep moving toward the goal.

Now, maybe we Catholics are just silly idealists on the subject of immigration. After all, in church, we exercise no border controls at all. All of us seek ‘asylum’ in church. Every baptized person belongs, no exceptions. And any un-baptized person can join our church by receiving Holy Baptism. There are no other criteria. Our Lord commanded His Church to embrace all nations. Every human being needs Jesus Christ, so our doors must stand open to every human being.

As you know, we read the same Sunday readings every three years. So let’s look back over the past six years, and see where we have come as a nation, when it comes to strangers and sojourners entering our lands–like Jesus and the Apostles entering Samaria.

Six summers ago, the US Congress labored long and hard on “immigration reform.” A lot of people spent a lot of energy to try to find a solution to the problem of immigrants living in the shadows here in America, unprotected by our laws. Many of us here had high hopes; the Catholic Church in the USA had high hopes for a good compromise. But the immigration-reform compromise never even came up for a full Congressional vote.

Then, three summers ago, the last time we read this reading about Jesus and the Apostles getting rejected by the Samaritans, we Americans were getting ready for a presidential election the following fall. We were struggling as a nation to decide what kind of future we wanted for ourselves.

US Mexico border wall

Would we continue to welcome immigrants? Would we treat the immigrants already here more fairly and protect them by law from abuse and exploitation? Would we Americans continue to see ourselves as a nation that has enjoyed extraordinary blessings–which therefore imposes a duty upon us to help others? A duty to keep our doors open, and to rejoice in the gifts that immigrants bring to America.

Now, it’s three years later, and we read this gospel passage again. We have to face the ugly fact. We chose the other path. We look back over the past six years, and we see a stunning transformation. We have become like the Samaritans who refused to welcome the pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem. I would say that we have lost ourselves as a nation; we have forgotten who we really are, when it comes to welcoming immigrants.

But before we get all depressed about our political situation, let’s put the whole business in perspective. Let’s remember why we frequent the church. Namely, to commune with the mysteries of our faith. And the mysteries of our faith teach us an important fact: Here on earth, none of us have a lasting city.

A whirlwind carried the prophet Elijah from this world up to heaven. Our Savior, when He walked the earth, had no home in which to lay His head. Christ revealed to us what our life here really is: a pilgrimage. An arduous journey toward a goal. All Americans are immigrants, to be sure. But even more so: All Christians are emigrants. We are on our way somewhere else. The Church makes Her way forward as a caravan of migrants, on the way to heaven.

We do not see our destination. We believe in it. Why can’t we see it? Why can’t we see the heavenly Jerusalem? Because it is invisible? No. The angels know how brightly that city shines—a million times more splendid than the Manhattan skyline on a starry night.

We can’t see the heavenly homeland now because our eyes do not possess adequate seeing power. Our minds, which see by faith—our minds perceive reality more comprehensively than our eyes. That is, provided we live by the Spirit and not by the flesh.

Let’s pray that we will always love our neighbors with pure hearts. And that we will welcome strangers–since that’s the distressing disguise in which Jesus comes to us. In the heavenly Jerusalem, chaste and true love of God and neighbor is the very light and air by which everyone sees and breathes. May we always serve that love, as we make our way as migrants, pilgrims, towards the Kingdom of God.

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Sacred Heart Birthday

Last time the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart fell on June 28?

1957.

I’m not quite that old. So this is my first ever Sacred-Heart birthday 🙂

If I live as long as my paternal grandmother, I will have three more, in 2030, 2041, and 2052. To have a fifth Sacred-Heart birthday, I would have to live to be 139. All of us will be long-dead then!

Anyway, here’s a homily for today’s Solemnity:

Charles Bosseron Chambers Sacred Heart of Jesus

“God is love.” Scripture affirms it. God is love.

But we have no way of knowing what the words mean. “God” is, by definition, a word we cannot define. Except in the negative. Limitless, infinite, unimaginable.

And “love” seems to mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean. “I love World-Cup soccer.” “I love fried chicken.” “I love birthday presents.”

Actually, I don’t really. The person who deserves praise and congratulations regarding today’s 49th anniversary of birth isn’t the passive participant in the original event, but the excruciatingly active participant.

mom

Anyway, God is love, yes. But we don’t know what it means. And the only One Who can translate it into language which we can truly understand is: God.

He did so. By becoming man.

Jesus lived the human life of infinite divine love. He translated omnipotent divine love into perfect human love. He gently healed, fed, forgave, and enlightened the ones He loved. Then He gave Himself over to death, for the human race that He loves.

In the human love of Jesus, we see with our limited human eyes the meaning of the unfathomable divine words: God is love.

So we dedicate our lives to studying this revelation. To studying Jesus, loving Him, and following Him. The four gospels, along with all the other biblical books, and the living ceremonies of the Church—together they give us Jesus. To study, love, and imitate, to learn what “God is love” really means.

priest_jesus_mass

And the Scriptures and sacraments give us Jesus our God to worship and pray to. By worshiping Jesus Christ and praying to Him, we encounter the human brother Who loves us with the divine love of the infinite God Who loves us.

In return for our worship, He opens His Heart and gives us Himself. Making us part of the meaning of the words: God is love.

James Grein and Steven Cook

[this post rated PG-13]

First, watch the movie A Civil Action. (One of the best ever.) John Travolta portrays an ambulance-chasing lawyer with a Porsche, who becomes an impoverished, contrite, compassionate human being–through his interactions with the victims of a New-England environmental disaster.

Robert Duvall portrays Travolta’s legal adversary. Duvall to Travolta: “If you’re looking for the truth, look for it where it is. At the bottom of a bottomless pit.”

Second, recall that your humble servant nominated myself Mr. James Grein’s official amanuensis last August. Mr. Grein’s testimony apparently led to Theodore McCarrick’s defrocking by Pope Francis.

We have to say ‘apparently,’ since the ecclesiastical justice system remains 99.9% opaque, despite the endless church-mafia propaganda about ‘transparency.’ What we know: James spoke to reporters after he gave secret testimony under oath in December, and told us what he said. Shortly thereafter, the Vatican punished McCarrick.

Third, consider: Mr. James Grein has now accused the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of groping him.

Now, Cardinal Bernardin died almost 23 years ago. But James’ accusation against Bernardin nonetheless reverberates with enormous significance.

Bernardin, then the sitting Archbishop of Chicago, endured protracted public scrutiny in the mid-90’s. Because of another accusation against him, leveled by Mr. Steven Cook. As Jason Berry and Gerald Renner meticulously outline in their 2004 book Vows of Silence, Cook’s eventual retraction of his accusation—and the press’ conclusion that Bernardin was innocent—played a huge role in the public’s understanding of the Catholic sex-abuse problem.

At that time, the sex-abuse victims of Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionnaires of Christ, sought a hearing from anyone who would listen–in Mexico, the USA, or Europe. But public sympathy for Bernardin crescendoed after Cook withdrew his accusation. For most journalists, the story became: Sketchy, unreliable money-grubbers go after innocent churchmen, who handle it all like Christian gentlemen. No one wanted to believe Maciel’s victims. It took another decade for justice to be done for them.

Bernardin Time magazine

Now, I don’t know enough about the late Cardinal Bernardin to write any more about him, at least right now. But I would like to point out the following spider-web of a situation.

Either James Grein’s assertion that Bernardin groped him is true, or it isn’t.

If it is true, then Bernardin was a second McCarrick—or worse. And the necessary correction regarding how Bernardin is remembered: it will critically wound the faith of even more people. Bernardin ordained more priests than McCarrick, confirmed more young people, played a far-more significant role in leading the bishops’ conference. McCarrick never appeared on the cover of Time magazine, or Newsweek; Bernardin graced the cover of both.

Bernardin Newsweek.jpg

On the other hand, maybe James’ assertion about Bernardin is not true.

Last summer, your humble servant offered you a link to themediareport.com website, where Mr. David Pierre raised some real questions about the reliability of James Grein’s testimony. Since then, James has shown us that he has some kooky theories about communist infiltration of the Catholic Church.

As I have repeatedly noted, you can be a sex-abuse victim telling the truth and a kooky conspiracy theorist—they’re not mutually incompatible. But Mr. Pierre has written again about James, mounting a case against his believability. Pierre argues that James must be working with a dishonest “recovered-memory” therapist. I don’t find that argument very convincing; it’s pure speculation on Pierre’s part. But, by the same token, the militant “journalists” who have publicly interviewed James have never pressed him with any tough questions, and his accusations have unfailingly served their ideological agendas.

pope francis head rubSo: our pope may very well have convicted McCarrick on false testimony. Which would mean that: McCarrick Monster isn’t exactly real. Just a convenient scapegoat among the many, many episcopal mafiosi–who pretty much all suck equally, in reality.

Pope Francis said in the interview he gave a month ago that McCarrick’s guilt was “obvious;” no need for a full trial. But if McCarrick’s guilt is so “obvious,” then is Bernardin’s guilt obvious, also? The same man now has accused them both.

And if Bernardin’s guilt is “obvious” then shouldn’t the Cancer Center at Loyola University Chicago be re-named? (Currently named for Bernardin.) And the awards named after him–given by the USCCB and the Catholic Common Ground initiative? Won’t the Chicago and Cincinnati diocesan archives have to be thoroughly examined by outside investigators? Not to mention the archives of the Bishops’ Conference itself, and the papal nunciature?

All of these offices co-operated in Bernardin’s vindication back in 1995. If that much-celebrated “vindication” was itself dishonest, just like the 2002 American Church “reform,” led by McCarrick, was dishonest, well: another wing of the American Catholic Church burns to the ground.

The right thing to do is: Pray. Come, Lord Jesus! This world is old enough. Give us all the grace to repent of our sins, and come. Judge everything, with your infinite Light. Sort all this out. We will gladly be done with the nonsense of this world.

The second right thing to do is: While we still await His coming, never give up on getting to the bottom of the bottomless pit called the truth.

[PS. Click HERE for a compendium of all my posts on the Great Scandal of 2018-2019]

Closing Out the Fiscal Year

Ledger

Getting ready to close the fiscal year here. FY 2018-19 ends in four days.

Thanks be to God, and to the goodness of people’s hearts, we have solid and healthy books in our two parishes here. We hope for better years, to be sure—years of expansion and building and new evangelical initiatives. But FY 2018-19 has been solid for us, financially. Thank you, kind Lord above.

What about FY 2018-19 for the larger Church? How do those books look? Not just financials, but how about the all-around viability of the institution?

Since we have eyes to see and ears to hear, we know that the Catholic Church, governed by Pope Francis and the bishops in communion with him, closes FY 2018-19 with a catastrophic deficit. A credibility bankruptcy.

The institution that commanded universal respect, that steadied the stormy tumult of antagonisms in this world; Holy Mother Church, governed by wise, honest, kindly grandfathers, whom we can trust to teach us the right principles—that institution vanished from the face of the earth during FY 2018-2019.

We could see it coming a year ago. The Pope and the Cardinals of Washington, New York, and Newark, NJ, announced at the end of June last year that some New-Jersey dioceses had secretly settled claims of sexual abuse against Theodore McCarrick.

It was an amazing admission–an inadvertent acknowledgement of utter hypocrisy, of a fundamental contradiction of all the stated promises of the past twenty years. They made the announcement only because they had to, because two lawyers working in New York uncovered an accusation against McCarrick that no one could hide.

abraham_stars721x597

The world needed a good, extensive, honest explanation of what happened. A year has passed now. And we have gotten the opposite of a good, honest explanation.

Not easy to deal with. It’s like one of those dystopia novels or movies coming true. A nuclear bomb went off, the electric grid went down, and now we have to find a way to survive in the Catholic wilderness. A band of people who still believe in Christ and His mysteries, wandering around like the Israelites in the desert.

Now, the Lord promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. Because of Abraham’s righteous faith. Abraham rolled from one fiscal year into the next without worrying about anything other than: Let me obey God more faithfully.

Abraham was old and sterile, with no earthly prospects of a future. Time would seem to have foreclosed on him. But he believed anyway. We can, too.

The Blessed Sacrament: How?

Lucas Cranach Feeding Five Loaves
Feeding of the Five Thousand by Lucas Cranach

How could the Lord Jesus feed 5,000 men and their families? The Apostles wondered. Reminds us of another question, in the synagogue in Capernaum. [Spanish]

Jesus had said, “I am the living bread come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever. The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The inquiring listeners asked: How?  How can this man give us His flesh to eat?

He gave His flesh, when He underwent His bitter Passion and death. Without this gift—Christ offering His Body, for us, on the cross—without it, the world languishes in death. Indeed, taking a sober look around us, we see that death reigns as the inevitable conclusion of all our labors. We stave off death for a while, by eating plenty of salads and sandwiches and bowls of cereal, etc., and keeping ourselves hydrated. But we can keep death at bay for only so long.

The Messiah, the Savior, possesses flesh with a greater, more enduring life. Eternal life. He conquered death in His Body—not for His own sake, but for all mankind. He gives all mankind His life-saving flesh through the Holy Mass.

The Blessed Sacrament of the altar provides eternal, divine “nourishment,” if might dare to put it this way. The Father, from all eternity unto all eternity, “nourishes” His eternal Son with divine life. Just so, the Son gives divine life to those who feed on His living Body.

How can this man give us His flesh to eat? “This man.” Jesus. How can ‘this man’ do it? Well, this man is… God. That’s the decisive fact here

MonstranceGod made the cosmos out of nothing, after all–by an act of creation so powerful that we cannot imagine it. We cannot imagine God making everything out of nothing. We cannot imagine nothing. But that is what He did: make the universe out of nothing.

So, we reasonably figure, He can give us His human flesh and blood as nourishment, too. Not impossible for the Creator to do such a thing. The question simply is: How?

Well, we know the history. The Last Supper, the first Mass. Endowing His Apostles with this mission and this sacred ministry. The handing down of the unique office of the priest through all the generations… All this history is part of the answer to How? Christ gives us His flesh to eat by the ministry of Catholic priests, which began at the Last Supper and has extended in an unbroken succession to here and now.

Not all the priests, bishops, or popes have been saints. But even the bad priests—and the lame, boring priests, like me—every priest, when he has said Mass, has given Christ’s Body and Blood as food and drink. Some priests, certainly, have even wound up in hell, for their own sins. But they still gave the Body and Blood of Christ to their people, when they celebrated Mass.

But there’s more to the question of How? How can the God-man give us His flesh for us to eat? Yes, His flesh is uniquely life-giving; it offers the “nutrition” of God. But we human animals would not seem to be equipped to consume the living flesh of the resurrected Christ. We are used to eating tacos and fried chicken and stuff like that.

So: He works a double miracle. The consecration which Christ instituted at the Last Supper involves the double miracle by which…

1. The bread and wine we present to God on the altar become His flesh and blood, in accord with His own infallible divine words. 2. His flesh and blood retains all the sensible qualities of the simplest food and drink. So that we may receive this transcendent nourishment, using our limited natural capacities to receive food.

christ-weeping

In other words, the Lord gives us sustenance that totally surpasses our capacities in a way that He has suited to our capacities. The life of God Himself, given to us as a little edible morsel of food, a sip from the chalice.

Let’s focus on this second aspect of the miracle—the fact that God Almighty comes to us in such an unassuming, humble manner; that God gives us Himself in such utter silence and powerlessness. Nothing could be quieter, more gentle, more unassuming than a Host. It reflects the way it all began…

He exposed Himself to the violence of the evil men who cruelly scourged and crucified Him. He veiled His glory then, in quiet gentleness. He did not cry out; He did not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick. And in His silence then, He showed the greatest eloquence. He silently declared: I willingly die so that men may live. I willingly die for the very sinners who kill me unjustly.

So, likewise, in the Blessed Sacrament: He freely exposes Himself to people thoughtlessly receiving Him. To people receiving Him with un-confessed sins burdening their consciences. He even exposes Himself to people receiving Him without faith.

But He maintains His silence and vulnerability because it reveals the truth.  The God Whom we worship in the Sacred Host wills only to build up, to fortify, to give life.  He does not will to tear down; He does not will to destroy. He wills only gently to feed us. With Himself.

Sound Eye

Jeopardy Teen Psalm 23

The first five words of the 23rd Psalm.

A clue in the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament, during yesterday evening’s match. Some of the most intelligent, well-educated young people in the land, competing.

None of them knew the first five words of the 23rd Psalm. None of them even rang in on the buzzer. Shrugged shoulders and silence.

…From today’s gospel at Holy Mass, part of the Sermon on the Mount: Where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. God. The Lord. Our shepherd. Nothing shall I want, in that pasture, the eternal Kingdom of God.

The gospel continues: The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light. The Greek literally reads, “If your eye be single.” But here ‘single’ evidently means ‘unified, whole.’ Because the next phrase contrasts ‘single’ with ‘bad.’

What does this mean? Certainly the Lord speaks not simply of our material eyes, since they are, by nature, double.

The light of an upright conscience, the interior eye, by which we perceive God. What is an upright conscience? What isn’t it? It’s not magic. Conscience = reasoning soberly, starting from a sound first principle, when it comes to making decisions, or recognizing the rightness or wrongness of decisions I have made.

And the sound first principle is: The Lord is my shepherd.

Pater Noster

cloister of the Church of the Pater Noster in Jerusalem

At Holy Mass this summer, we get to hear the Lord Jesus teach us the Our Father not once, but twice. Today we read about it from Matthew 6. On Sunday, July 28, we will read about it from Luke 11.

Anyone ever visit the Church of the Pater Noster on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem? The walls display the words of the Our Father in 100+ languages.

The closest we can get to the original is… Greek. Anyone know the Our Father in a language other than English? Latin? Spanish?

After Mass this past Sunday, an earnest soul asked me: ‘Father, when will we change the Our Father? Because of Pope Francis.’

Knowing this dear person as I do, I thought I knew the source of his slight confusion. So I googled: “Fox News Our Father Pope Francis.” I immediately discovered a report about the pope changing the wording of the Our Father. Unfortunately, the reporter failed to grasp that the change this year affects only the Italian-language Missal. Not the English.

Here’s what the Catechism says about the phrase they changed in Italian. They changed it in French in 2017. The German bishops voted not to change it.

It is difficult to translate the Greek verb. It means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation,” and “do not let us yield to temptation.” God cannot be tempted by evil and He tempts no one. We ask Him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. This petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength. [para. 2846]

If I were pope, I certainly wouldn’t encourage any bishops’ conferences to go around changing the words of prayers that we all learned at our mothers’ knees.

The pope learned it a certain way: no nos dejes caer en tentacion. “Do not let us fall into temptation.”

I think the Italians will find it quite confusing when the priest tells them to change the way they pray their most-familiar prayer. The new Italian version introduces the verb abandon which no one has ever thought the original Greek word means. I certainly don’t envy the poor Italian parish priests, who have to deal with this.

But so far we English-speakers don’t have to worry about it. When it comes to adding reasons to get mad at the pope, o heavenly Father, lead us not into temptation.

 

Juneteenth

freed slaves

Today we Americans commemorate the end of slavery here in our country. Word of Union victory–and emancipation of the quarter million slaves then living in Texas–reached Houston on June 19, 1865. Jubilation filled the streets.

Lord Jesus came into this world to liberate. He came to free every human soul from bondage. To turn us toward the infinite horizon of heavenly love. To teach us our true destiny–and how to achieve it, by loving God and neighbor.

Christians respect the dignity of every human person, made free in the image of the sovereign God. Our heavenly Father summons all of us to eternal love. We recognize everyone’s right to respond freely to God’s call.

From the Catechism:

The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold, or exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit. (para. 2414)

From an 1830 Handbook of Christian morality, written by a German bishop:

The state of slavery, and any treatment of human beings as slaves, turns people who are persons into mere things, turns people who are ends in themselves into mere means, and does not allow the responsibility of people for what they do, or do not do, to develop properly, and in this way cripples them in their very humanity; hence it is contrary to the basic principle of all morality.

Two years ago, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., acknowledged with shame, sorrow, and contrition, the fact that the University, and the Georgetown Jesuits, had trafficked in slaves. Among other acts of reconciliation, the University renamed one of its buildings. It had borne the name of Fr. Thomas Mulledy, SJ, who had engaged in the slave trade. Now it bears the name of one of the slaves he traded.

Fr Thomas Mulledy SJ
Father Thomas Mulledy SJ

A Virginian, Father Mulledy played a significant role in the early life of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. He participated in the solemn consecration of St. Peter’s church in Richmond in 1834.

The following year, one of Mulledy’s brother Jesuits, Father James Ryder, spoke at St. Peter’s on the subject of slavery. He spoke to assure everyone that the Catholic Church by no means opposed it.

In what was then the cathedral of our diocese, Father Ryder referred to abolitionists as “wicked would-be philanthropists,” with whom “only madmen or traitors” would co-operate.

Of the abolitionist movement, Ryder declared: “The Catholic will shrink from shaking the polluted hand that would sow the seeds of confusion and horror in the fair fields of the South, rifling the domestic happiness of the master and his slave. [Abolitionism] is not religion. It is not piety. It is a profanation of the gospel.”

Pope Pius VII erected the Diocese of Richmond in 1820, but we did not have a resident bishop until 1841. Bishop John England of Charleston, SC, served as a de facto spiritual leader. But he did not prove to be a genuine spiritual leader at all, on the subject of slavery.

In fact, Bishop England died, in 1842, while in the process of explaining to the world that Catholics do not oppose slavery. Even though the pope had declared in 1839 that we do. Even though the great Irish statesman Daniel O’Connell had challenged his Irish countrymen in America to oppose the servitude of their black brothers and sisters.

Daniel O'Connell
Daniel O’Connell

Frederick Douglass traveled to Ireland to hear O’Connell. Douglass said that O’Connell had “shaken American slavery to its center.”

But Bishop England, and the American Catholic Church as a whole, not only failed to take up O’Connell’s challenge, but proceeded to impugn O’Connell’s judgment, and to pile up spurious distinctions to defend the enslavement of black people in the South.

The typical historical narrative regarding American slavery neglects one crucial set of facts. In the early nineteenth century–over fifty years before the Civil War–our mother nation of England actively sought to bring slavery to an end, throughout its entire sphere of influence. The Holy See intervened repeatedly to aid this effort. Most of the western world had come to recognize that slavery offended the dignity of man.

The western world, that is, minus the United States. Andrew Jackson and his partisans pushed in the other direction. The United States took away from the Creeks, Choctaws, Cherokees, Seminoles, and Mexicans, the land that became Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas–in order to expand chattel slavery. The doctrine of Manifest Destiny provided the mythological cover necessary to mask the brutal immorality involved.

All of this happened during the nascent days of both our diocese and of the American Catholic hierarchy as a whole. Bishop England bragged about how the American bishops, assembled in Baltimore in 1840, did not regard slavery as immoral.

Now, we must note that the Catholic Church occupied an almost unimaginably weak position in American society at that time. Bigoted mobs subjected us to repeated acts of violence and arson. And the South had so few Catholics that everyone reasonably wondered if Catholicism could survive here at all.

But all that does not change the fact: We American Catholics profoundly failed to confront the evil of slavery. Our Church not only absented herself from the abolitionist movement; we not only ignored the moral clarity provided by leaders like Daniel O’Connell–we actively opposed the cause of justice for the slaves.

We cannot honestly commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of our diocese without acknowledging this lamentable fact.

 

 

The Demanding Life of a Little Trinity

Mt Whitney CA
Mount Whitney, CA

In our first reading at Holy Mass for the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity, we hear the Wisdom of God, the Word of God—we hear Him testify that He brought about the making of all things, with the Almighty Father. [Spanish]

When the Lord established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; when he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth; when he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; then was I beside him as his craftsman.  (Proverbs 8:27-30)

This is the eternal Son of God speaking, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. All three Persons of the Trinity brought about the creation of the universe. And of all the works of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the greatest is man. Divine Wisdom says, “I found delight in the human race.” The Lord crowned the world by making us human beings “with glory and honor, putting all things under our feet” (Psalm 8).

The woods around St. Joseph’s church in Martinsville, Va., harbor a large family of wild turkeys, not to mention many deer. These animals know that tall, two-legged creatures enter and emerge from the building at regular intervals.

But do the animals know that it’s a church? Do they know that the Lord Jesus dwells in the tabernacle? Do the turkeys and deer cross themselves with their wings or their hooves every time they pass in front of the door?

No. The turkeys and the deer don’t know about God, His Son, heaven, good and evil, truth and falsehood, friendship, love, or faithfulness.

Rocks are rocks. Cement is cement. Tree are trees. Cows are cows. But we human beings are like “little trinities.” God is spirit. He knows Himself. He loves Himself. Our spiritual dimension shows forth the mystery of the triune God. 1. We have immortal spiritual souls. 2. We know the truth.  3. We love what is good.

cotton candyThe Creator has made us little less than a god. We are like Him. I have recently grown obsessed with a plan to climb Mount Whitney, in California, the tallest peak in the continental US. Someday I will do it. But that’s actually nothing compared to the spiritual nature that every human being has. By seeking the truth and loving what is good, we human beings—wherever we find ourselves—we stand on the mountaintop of the world, knowing God and loving Him above all things, and loving our neighbors for His sake. And yet… We carry on like ignorant sinners.

God made us the kings and queens of the universe, to rule over all creatures with serene good judgment. But instead we sell ourselves short and enslave ourselves to lesser creatures, especially these little chunks of cheap metal and plastic called cell phones. The Lord prepared the kingdom of truth and enduring beauty for us. But instead we take the express train to the land of cheap thrills, easy money, empty calories, and passive entertainment. We are little trinities. But instead of knowing the truth and loving what is truly good, we watch t.v. and love cotton candy.

Now, here are a couple questions: If the human race had never sinned, would we have to walk by faith to get home to God, or would we be able to see Him the whole time? Or: If we had never sinned, would it be easy to resist temptation? Would it be easy to live for God above all things?

Moot questions, my friends! We human beings have done what we have done, and God has done what He has done. We fell away from Him. We fill the airwaves with salacious nonsense. We choke the atmosphere with exhaust fumes. We stand idly by, while evil people do evil things all over the place. God rightly imposed the punishment of death upon us, and the only remedy is…

To be the little trinities we were made to be, we cleave to the truth of God. By faith. We seek what is truly good–by a long, hard struggle of faith.

Not easy—but it’s the way it is. And doesn’t it make sense? Doesn’t it really make sense that we quasi-gods would attain salvation by heroic faith? Being the most dignified and splendid creatures on the earth comes at a price.

vitruvian-manDoesn’t it make sense that the kings and queens of this little realm would know the great Master of the higher kingdom not by seeing Him with the same eyes we use to see cantaloupes and beach umbrellas, but by finding Him in the dark, secret core of our souls?

Doesn’t it make sense that we who are destined to wear the gold medal in heaven would win the victory not by goofing along at an easy pace, but by pushing ourselves to the limits of endurance and discovering that there is more in us than we thought?

The truest things are the invisible things, and the best things are the hardest ones to get. We are not our true selves by being satisfied with easy answers or mediocre spiritual lives. We are little trinities—made for the big Trinity, and nothing less.

Cats can have their bowls of tuna fish; dogs can have their bones to gnaw on.  We human beings need to seek and find the unseen God.

Dew of Heavenly Truth

Mare and foal

Come, Holy Spirit! On our dryness pour your dew. [Spanish]

The Lord Jesus died on the cross. On the third day, He rose again. He remained on earth for forty days. He ascended into heaven. Our Lady and the Apostles prayed. Then Christ poured out the Holy Spirit.

Sunday we conclude the Easter season, which is the same thing as springtime. We Christians celebrate spring by celebrating the Lord Jesus’ Easter mysteries, over the course of fifty days.

The sequence of events that we remember every Easter season—it teaches us why the Lord Jesus became man and conquered human death. He did not do it for His own sake. After all, before He became man in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, He already enjoyed undying life. From all eternity, He is true God from true God—one eternal God with the Father.

So Christ did not need to rise from the dead for His own sake. Rather, He rose from the dead for us. He rose from the dead to be the first-fruits of our resurrection.

So: two fundamental, unseen facts of life. 1. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The Apostles saw Him, and we believe the testimony the Apostles left behind. 2. We believe that, in the end, we will rise again, too, like Christ rose again.

El Greco PentecostUnseen truths of faith. We believe the fundamental facts of our lives; we do not see them. We believe in the final consummation of the world, the coming of Christ the Judge, eternal glory for the just, and eternal damnation for the unjust.

And we live by our faith in this as-yet-unseen future.  What we do see, however—what we see when springtime comes every year—it gives us a sign of the unseen consummation to come. The springtime we see gives us a sign of the eternity we do not yet see.

Let me explain. Every spring, the earth brings forth new life. What was dead rises again. What had gone down into the soil as a seed emerges as a living flower. The unseen power of nature brings about an annual resurrection of everything that is green and fragrant. The fauna, too, are renewed. Chicks hatch. Horses foal. All the species of the animal kingdom get resurrected by nature’s power.

Now, if we are going to try and understand Pentecost, we have to ask ourselves: What is the great secret ingredient of the annual resurrection of Mother Nature, of the earth? What makes spring spring?

The answer is, of course: Water. Water makes the springtime resurrection of nature’s life occur. The sky pours water onto the soil, and the moistening dew wakes the sleeping power of life. Water revives the earth.

Everybody with me so far? Now of course we are greater than all the plants. We are greater than all the animals. God made the other creatures for us. The other creatures sustain us; we cannot do without them. But they live small and fleeting lives, compared to ours.

We human beings need more than the water of the annual spring rains. Because God does not cultivate us nor breed us just for annual regeneration. We are not little creatures that cycle through simple annual routines in order to provide food for higher creatures. Tomato plants go through an annual cycle so that we can eat them. Worms go through an annual cycle so that we can bait fish hooks with them.

Holy Spirit dove sunWe, however, are not food for any other creature. No—we are the ultimate fruit of the earth. We are the reason why the earth exists. God cultivates us to bear our fruit once and for all. Our springtime is the eternal day, when everything is fulfilled, time is complete, the devil is altogether subdued, and eternal glory fills the earth. The fruit of the human race will be ripe when the new Jerusalem descends like a bride from heaven, and God is all-in-all.

To come out of the earth and flower on that day, we need water of an altogether different kind than the plants and animals need. Nature has her annual resurrection by water every spring. But for our eternal resurrection, we need the dew of truth. We live by the water of life which flows from the Heart of Christ in heaven. We are watered not just by H20 water, but by the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is the day of life-giving rain for Christian souls. So we pray.  Lord, rain down your holy dew on us! We are the seeds you have sewn in Your garden.  Turn on Your garden hose, and water us down with Your heavenly spiritual gifts—until the gullies and rivulets in our souls are gushing with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. We want puddles and puddles of Your dew in our hearts. Rain down Your grace on us, O God. Send Your Spirit.

fishing1

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PS. The Interfaith Council of Martinsville-Henry County invited me, along with other Jewish, Muslim, and other Christian leaders, to speak at a meeting on Sunday afternoon: The American Heritage of Religious Freedom: Are There Limits to Free Speech Regarding Other Faith Traditions?

I collected information from the Catechism, and from the documents of Vatican II, to prepare a little talk. If you’re interested, please come–3pm Sunday at the Islamic Center, 17125 Al Philpott Hwy, Martinsville.

Or you can read my notes by clicking HERE.