Give it All

Venice Rialto
where modern banking began

Blessed indeed will you be in their inability to repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:14)

Blessed will you be in their inability to repay you. [Spanish]

When God became a man and offered His life on the cross for the sake of the sinful human race—the very human race that nailed Him there–that was no radical departure, or change of character, on God’s part. That is Who He is—Who the Creator is, the Lord and Master of all things. He gives. With no thought of repayment. After all, no one or nothing could ever repay Him anyway.

God never needed a world or a universe. He didn’t wake up one day, and think to Himself, ‘I am bored, and I am hungry!’ and therefore He created Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, so that He could watch Casablanca. And then created peanuts and caramel, so He could have a Snickers.

snickers

No. The Lord God enjoys perpetual and perfect blessedness, without any snacks or videos. But: from His unimaginably wonderful state of perpetual and perfect holiness, God generously gives. He gives everything. He gives existence. He gives beauty. He gives meaning and hope in life. He gives, with pure divine generosity.

At every Sunday Mass we declare together, I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

In this pilgrim life, in the fallen world, we do things like ask for and keep receipts. We get bills and invoices. We have bank accounts. (Tomorrow evening I leave for a trip to Italy–including Venice, where they invented banking.) None of us has unlimited material wherewithal.

But God does have unlimited wherewithal.

And He commands us to make His way of measuring our way of measuring, too. And His way of measuring is: not to measure at all. He just gives.

He says: Do not worry. Can you make yourself any taller by worrying? Can you grow more hair, by your own will? No. Your Father will take care of you. Just love. Now. Love with everything you have.

Ever heard the sports expression, “to leave it all on the court?”  “At the 2016 Olympics, Carmelo Anthony left it all on the court.”

Well, God says: Leave yourself, child, on the court of divine love. Love the people who don’t like you. Love the people who drive in an annoying manner. Love the rude and the ignorant. Love the snide and the petty. Love the losers.

Love them all, because your heavenly Father loves them all. If He didn’t love them, they wouldn’t exist. And if He didn’t want us to love all the people in front of us, then He wouldn’t have made the world turn in such a way that they cross our path.

Advertisements

Still Sailing with the Trent Fathers

At Mass today we hear: Then the door was locked. Sound familiar? From this past Sunday? Someday the Lord will lock the door to heaven, for good. Could be today.

St. Paul consoles us: This is the will of God, your holiness. Holiness gets us inside; God wills us inside. He will lock the door. But He wills us inside first.

How?

Luther Theses by Ferdinand Pauwels

The question of our holiness very much preoccupied the fathers gathered in the lovely town of Trent five centuries ago. They had gathered to try to deal with Martin Luther’s teachings. I am hoping for some grace and insight from a visit there myself, next week.

We can look back at the work of the Council of Trent in two ways.

1. The fathers clarified essential points and saved us from potentially catastrophic confusion about Christianity.

We attain holiness by: believing that salvation comes through our faith in Jesus Christ, Who is the mercy of God. Salvation and holiness come as gifts from on high.

But we still must do stuff. We have to co-operate with the grace of Christ. We have to obey the divine commandments. When we don’t, we have to confess our sins to a priest.

The Church founded by Christ has a life that She must live on earth. That life always falls prey to corruption, which requires a constant struggle for purification. But the baby can’t go out with the bath water. The baby includes: the Mass, the priesthood and apostolic hierarchy, the papacy of Rome, seven sacraments, and venerating saints, especially our Lady.

On the other hand… Here comes Point-of-View-on-Trent #2. The Council defined too much, too precisely. It hardened Catholic-Protestant divisions. And it failed actually to reform the Church. The papacy and the episcopate remained hopelessly overweening and worldly.

Now, we agree with Point-of-View #1. At the same time, I don’t think it makes us Protestants to acknowledge that Point-of-View #2 also has some truth to it.

PA Grand Jury victims
sex-abuse survivors at Penn. grand-jury press conference last August

A year ago, McCarrick, Viganò, and the Pennsylvania grand jury confronted us with a stunning, but hardly deniable, fact. We Catholic Christians sail on a ship that currently lacks competent senior officers. They’re playing Parcheesi on the bridge, while we look out at the sea and realize: We lost sight of land a long time ago.

But this realization has not meant despair for us. Because of the same fundamental insight that the council fathers, gathered at Trent, had.

The Church has Her life. We read and believe the Scriptures. We celebrate the ceremonies Jesus ordered us to celebrate. We strive, by God’s grace, to obey God.

And He is still God, the same God of our ancestors–the God of Abraham, Moses, Our Lady, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Francis, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Therese. His Son is still His Son, reigning from heaven–and present with us in the Host and chalice. His Holy Spirit still makes us holy.

Martyrdom of the Best Man

Machaerus diagram.jpg
drawing of the Machaerus fortress, based on archaeology

St. John the Baptist died on August 29. Not in Jerusalem, but in what is now the Kingdom of Jordan, on the east side of the Dead Sea. (In New-Testament times, they called the region Perea.)

Herod the Great had rebuilt the fortress of Machaerus, after the Romans under Pompey had destroyed it in 57 BC.

head-platterHerod the Great died decades before John’s martyrdom. The Herod who ordered the execution was his son Herod Antipas, who received Galilee and Perea as his inheritance. (A different Herod, Jr.—Herod Archelaus—ruled Judea and Samaria, until the Romans re-organized it as a prefecture, governed for a time by Pontius Pilate.)

Anyway: St. John died outside Jerusalem, because he was not the Christ. He was the greatest of all the prophets, the greatest man born of woman, who served as the friend of the incarnate Bridegroom. St. John prepared the bride to meet her Husband.

He prepared the faithful remnant of Israel. That preparation involved his public condemnation of the marital infidelities of Herod Antipas and Herodias, both of whom had other living, royal spouses.

As the Lord Jesus put it: the coming of the Messiah meant the restoration of the law of lifetime marital fidelity. By His own offering of Himself on the cross for His bride, Christ consecrated the marriage bond as a sacrament of God’s fidelity to His people.

St. John died for bearing witness to this nuptial mystery of the coming of the Messiah.

St. Augustine on Grace and the Mass

At Holy Mass today, we hear St. Paul give thanks that “on receiving the Word of God,” we Christians, “received it not as the word of man, but as it truly is, the Word of God.”

Almighty God has spoken His Word by sending His Son. The Scriptures bear witness to it. And I think we can safely say: Of all the sentences recorded in the Holy Bible, two of them loom uniquely large: “This is My Body, given up for you.” And “This is My Blood, poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

st-augustineNow, speaking of shepherds, St. Augustine of Hippo died 1,589 years ago today.

We mediocre people can’t exactly speak of St. Augustine’s “life’s work,” since he did more good work on any given day of his life than most of us manage in a whole lifetime. But one big part of St. Augustine’s work involved: clarifying the truth about the Redemption.

Mankind has both great freedom and dignity and great moral and physical weakness. The coming of Christ enables us to understand this mystery of human greatness and human weakness–at least to some extent.

The fundamentally important fact that St. Augustine clarified is: Holiness, goodness, virtue begins with God. God gives a fresh start to fallen man. Life as a Christian is, first and foremost, grace from God. He gives; He saves; He consecrates. Then, we undertake to co-operate.

Speaking of the Council of Trent… One thing they all had in common—that is, all the bishops and theologians gathered at Trent and Martin Luther and John Calvin: they all revered St. Augustine as an absolutely trustworthy teacher. They all sought to follow the teaching of St. Augustine.

Luther and Calvin had hostility towards the work of ordained Catholic priests. Not without good reason, since they saw around them an enormous amount of clerical corruption and ignorance, extending all the way up the hierarchy to the pope.

This led the Protestants to condemn the priesthood and the Mass, as precisely the kind of false, un-Christian religious work that Christ had come to free us from. They saw the Mass as a pagan-like ceremony, which interfered with our understanding of salvation as a pure gift. We don’t have to do these ceremonies as a sacrifice to God, they argued; we don’t need priests separated from the rest of the flock. Because Christ has already redeemed us, without us doing anything, making us a priestly people.

Ok. But in condemning the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Luther and Calvin parted ways with their teacher, St. Augustine. Augustine taught the newly baptized, who had just attended Mass for the first time: the Holy Eucharist is a sacrifice in which Christ makes Himself present, in order to be recognized by faith and then received.

Luther and Calvin were right to insist that there is only one sacrifice. But the Mass isn’t another sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of the Redemption, which frees us from sin, sanctifies us, and unites us.

 

Shepherds

Christ Good Shepherd

Lord Jesus, the eternal Word of God, shepherds us towards the goal of life. He appoints shepherds from among the sheep of His flock. He Himself shepherds His sheep through the ministry of the sheep He has appointed shepherds.

So, as we hear at Holy Mass today, He vents His most-terrifying wrath against shepherds who fail in their appointed task. Not those who fail through normal human foibles, like we all have, but those who betray their mission through hypocrisy. Through deep inner dishonesty.

Lord Jesus vents His wrath against shepherds who claim religious authority, and who manipulate others by using their authority, but who themselves do not, in fact, love. Who do not love their flock with God’s true love.

Trent
Piazza Duomo, Trento

As you know, I’m getting ready to leave on a little pilgrimage/vacation, to follow the path of the Catholic bishops and theologians who converged on the northern-Italian mountain town of Trent, five centuries ago. They met in order to try to understand better what shepherding the flock required of them.

They converged at the tomb of St. Vigilius, an ancient martyr-bishop who had given his life to evangelize the pagans. Trent served as a mid-point between Rome and Protestant lands.

The assembled shepherds proceeded to clarify certain truths of Christianity. God’s revelation comes to us through the Scriptures and the sacred, apostolic Tradition of the Church. The Lord Jesus has given us seven sacraments, by which He communicates His grace to us. His grace can truly make us holy. The Mass makes His sacrifice on the cross present to us now, and receiving Holy Communion means receiving His body, blood, soul, and divinity. We should venerate the saints, pray for the souls in purgatory, and esteem the consecrated religious life.

The fathers of Trent also tried to reform their own lives, to focus more on their true mission, to shepherd people’s souls.

Much more to come on this.

How to Hang Your Honest Priests on Tenterhooks

Statue of St. Bartholomew in Milan Cathedral
Happy St. Bartholomew Day! (statue of the flayed Apostle, in Milan Duomo)

We priests of Richmond, Virginia, have a diocesan brother who sounds just like Fox News’ Shepard Smith. A native son of Roanoke, this lovable priest once presided over the diocesan Priests’ Council. Recently, his brother priests elected him the dean of their sub-division of the diocese.

Then suddenly the bishop removed him from office and suspended him from ministry.

Local reporters in Norfolk tried to make sense out of this. The bishop had published a letter, explaining that no one had alleged sexual abuse. Rather, Father had violated the diocesan Safe-Environment Regulations. One reporter went so far as to publish these regulations, for her readership’s benefit. But the diocese has studiously refused to specify the crime.

The diocese said: We referred the matter to law-enforcement. So another reporter asked the police what Father had done wrong.

The police replied: “We do not have any open activities involving this individual.” The FBI spokesperson in Norfolk said: “I don’t have any insight into this.”

So the reporter asked the diocese again: To which law-enforcement agency did you report this? Answer: “We will not give further details about who, or the investigative process.”

…As you can see, dear reader, few things could be more opaque than the “transparency” of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond…

Now, how can a priest violate the Safe-Environment Code of Conduct?

1. By giving a ride to a minor, without anyone else in the car. 2. By having a minor as an overnight guest in the rectory. 3. By walking-in on a minor who is bathing or changing. 4. Using physical discipline with a minor, or humiliating, ridiculing, or degrading a minor. 5. Exposing a minor to sexually oriented materials. 6. Offering alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs to a minor, or being under the influence of any of these yourself, while interacting with minors. 7. Failing to exercise caution in interacting with minors via e-mail or the internet.

Plenty of eminently reasonable rules here. But different people could interpret exercising caution in interacting via e-mail and the internet in different ways. So much so that: it hardly counts as a ‘rule,’ in and of itself. More like vague good advice.

So I think I can safely say that I speak for most of us priests when I point out: Whatever Father Joe Metzger’s crime may be, we deserve to know precisely what it is. We should know what he did wrong, if for no other reason than to take care we avoid it, as well as all those who minister with us.

What we parish priests minding our business do not deserve is: to live in fear. Fear that we could get suspended for some secret violation. Some ‘failure to exercise caution’ that different people could interpret in different ways.

…According to an e-mail that we priests received from the diocesan office about this, our brother was suspended after an “inquiry into the complaint by the Office of Safe Environment and consultation with the Diocesan Review Board.”

Since the membership of our Diocesan Review Board remains top-secret, your humble servant cannot offer any insight there. That said, I do have some contacts in another matter. Apparently the diocese of Scranton has just begun a similar investigation, into the rector of the National Shrine, no less.

A friend I have on the inside managed to get me a picture of the Scranton team at work:

The Office meeting Steve Carrell

Here in Richmond, it feels like our fate lies in similarly competent hands.

The Narrow Path: Humility

Foreigner Jukebox Hero

Lord, will only a few people be saved? (Luke 13:23)

Lord Jesus did not give a straight answer. Why not? Maybe because the question came with unspoken smugness. ‘Lord, will only a few people be saved? That is, a few people like us? Or will I have to share the glory with a lot of riffraff?’ [Spanish]

Instead of patting this man on the head, the Lord evoked an image which He repeatedly used. A banquet hall, full of people relaxing, eating juicy lamb shanks and hummus with warm pitas, and drinking fine Lebanese wine. The master of the house freely provides everything. But the doors to the hall have been closed and locked.

Remember the first verse of Foreigner’s big hit “Jukebox Hero?” Standing in the rain, with his head hung low. Couldn’t get a ticket. It was a sold-out show.

Outside, they knock franticly. They want to banquet also. They want to hear the concert inside. “Lord, open the door! We have all kinds of facebook friends in common with you.”

From inside, the host says: “I don’t know where you’re from.”

“But we’re from the same place! We’re your homeboys! We went to the same high school. We ate the same local tacos and hamburgers. We went shopping at the same car dealerships. We watched the Fourth of July fireworks from the same hillsides. We just assumed that we were your good friends!”

He cuts through it all. “Depart, evildoers.”

By now the man who originally asked the question must have thought to himself, ‘Now, I consider myself above-average virtuous. But this rabbi seems, in his roundabout way, to call me an evildoer…’

Jeremiah Sistine ChapelDoes He call us evildoers also?

Let’s focus on the details of the banquet image. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets, in the kingdom of God, with people from all four points of the compass—people who presumably share in the holiness of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets.

At Holy Mass last Sunday, we heard about one of the prophets, namely Jeremiah. They had thrown him into an empty cistern, remember? Why did they do that to the prophet? Because he tried to warn them. God will judge us not by the shallow standards of the world, but according to the unvarnished truth. We cannot fudge it with Him. He knows all. He knows our secrets. We can’t just go through the motions.

What do the people inside have in common? The ones sitting and eating the lamb shanks and drinking the wine. Abraham, his son and grandson, the prophets, and the righteous from the four corners of the earth—what they have in common is: the humility, the honesty, of real faith.

Evildoers? Only very infrequently do we act out of pure malice. Usually, people do evil because our minds fall prey to comfortable self-delusions. A broad road leads to that land, where everyone ignores inconvenient facts. But the path to reality is narrow. Because it is so humbling. The plank in my own eye dwarfs the splinter in that annoying person’s eye.

Without God, without His generosity and His mercy, I fall squarely into the evildoer category. Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah, and prepared to sacrifice his beloved son, because he knew: Without God, Who has ordered me to do this, I am nothing. Jeremiah declared to the self-satisfied people of Jerusalem, “Without God, you are nothing! The Babylonians will destroy all your supposed splendor.”

Now, how do we reconcile these following sayings of Christ? On the one hand, we just heard Him say, “Strive to enter by the narrow gate, for many will attempt to enter, but will not be strong enough.” Strive with strength. As St. Paul put it, ‘Strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.’ Getting to heaven is fricking hard. You probably won’t make it.

Charles Bosseron Chambers Sacred Heart of JesusBut on the other hand, Christ said, “Come to Me all you who labor and are weary, because My yoke is easy and my burden light.”

The narrow path to the banquet involves total trust and dependence. God reigns. God provides. When we face reality humbly, we recognize that we lie prostrate here on the earth, powerless and desperate—unless we give ourselves over completely to the triune God.

Nothing is harder for us. Because we human beings congenitally imagine ourselves perfectly masterful. We think that we are God. That’s original sin. Our false pride extends almost to the very bottom of our souls: this twisted presumption that we human beings run the universe. So nothing proves more humblingly difficult for us to achieve than: the humility of faith.

But: No one has more patience than God. He knows that, with time, even we stubborn self-deluded head-cases can bring forth the peaceful fruit of righteousness. He does not tire of training His beloved children. When we forget Him, and put ourselves in His place, He gently corrects us.

The door to the banquet stands open now. As long as we draw breath, hope for our holiness remains. He will shut the door and lock it eventually. But, may it please Him, we will have taken our seats inside by then.

We don’t even have to see the narrow path to reality in order to follow it. In fact, following the narrow path involves our acknowledging that we do not see it clearly. But we show up at Mass to humble ourselves before God’s almighty and merciful goodness. So there’s hope for us yet.

Charity and “Saved”

The evangelical law of charity. Love God above all things, with everything you have. And love your neighbor as yourself, for God’s sake.

council_of_trentAt the Ecumenical Council of Trent, they discussed the relationship between faith and charity.

We believe in God. We believe in God’s Christ. We believe in the Redemption of the human race. We believe in divine love and mercy.

The Christian faith comes to us as a pure gift from above. Salvation comes as a pure gift from heaven. Our response to that gift: Belief. And grateful love.

But that doesn’t mean that we are, right now, “saved.” We have a pilgrimage to make as Christians in this fallen world, to get to the heavenly kingdom. A difficult pilgrimage. Harder than walking from London to Venice, like St. Rose of Lima’s contemporary, and William Shakespeare’s friend, Thomas Coryat did, in 1608. (In 1612, he walked from Turkey to India.) We know we cannot rely on our own strength to persevere to the end of the Christian pilgrimage. So we rely on God’s grace. We hope in God.

By hoping in God, we can live in His love. We can love with His love, and thereby fulfill the evangelical law—a task which human nature, left to itself, cannot accomplish. We neither presume on God’s mercy, nor despair of it. We persevere in faith and divine love by hoping in God’s mercy.

Faith, hope, and love. The greatest is love, to be sure. In heaven, faith and love will be no more; it will be all love. But here below: all three, inextricably intertwined. The human soul in the state of grace believes in God, hopes in God’s grace, and loves God and neighbor by God’s grace.

Thomas Coryat
inveterate pilgrim, Thomas Coryat

Guest Post: Seminarian Jack Shanahan

Jack gave the following talk after Sunday Masses, shortly before returning to the seminary for his sophomore year of college…

Jack Shanahan pic

Being a Seminarian in a Church in Crisis

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of men, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age. (Matthew 28:16-20)

God is with us always, even until the close of the age. On April 21st, 2018 I received a call from Father Michael Boehling, who was Vocation Director of the Diocese of Richmond at the time, and he informed me that I would be a seminarian for the Diocese of Richmond. In fact, he called me when I when I was in the car with my mom coming back from my interview with the diocese. My mom actually pulled the car over to the side of the road, and I think she recorded me while I was on the phone talking to Father Michael, and it was a surreal moment!

Little did I know the bomb that was about to drop on our beloved Church…

On June 20, 2018, now former-Cardinal McCarrick was suspended from ministry by the Holy See due to an allegation of sexual abuse.

mccarrickMy first reaction to the news was, ‘Who is Cardinal McCarrick?’ Then on July 28th, 2018, Pope Francis accepted Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals.

And now I’m asking the question: How could you do this? You are supposed to be an example of Christ to others!

When I arrived at the seminary, we began with orientation, as you would expect. For that first weekend we went to Loyola retreat center for a weekend of recollection. It’s a good time for prayer and reflection as we began the year. On the last night of the weekend, a letter was released.

On August 28, 2018 Archbishop Viganò releases a letter, on the day when Pope Francis spoke about sex-abuse in Ireland. (This gave the pope the opportunity to respond on the plane flying home to the Vatican). In Archbishop Viganò’s letter, he tells detailed information about his knowledge regarding Cardinal McCarrick’s abusive practices and his actions in response, and he also informs the people of God about those who had knowledge of McCarrick’s wrongdoings. He included the Cardinal that built and oversaw the seminary I had just moved into, Cardinal Wuerl.

I have not seen a group of men more defeated than what I saw that night. A lot of men who would later become some of my best pals were sobbing in the chapel, unsure as to what the future held for them and the Church.

The next four months of my life would be totally consumed in following the scandals that would come out seemingly every day.

I was so consumed in the crisis that I would print out articles and bring them to my Holy Hour, when I should have been praying.

I didn’t realize this at the time, but I was falling apart. I was questioning my vocation and if God was honestly a good loving God.

I hit rock bottom when I came home for the winter break and questioned if I should even go back to seminary. By God’s grace I did, and thank God I did.

We began the second semester with a five-day silent retreat, and it was there that I was able to have some semblance of a prayer life again! And I prayerful discerned this question: Why did you come to seminary?

holymassIt all came back to me–the proposition that I may be set apart, called by God to be His priest, so that I could draw souls, including my own, to the glory of heaven. The proposition that I may be called to be in the person of Christ at the Altar of God, drawing all into the Glorious Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. The proposition that I may be called to be there for the people of God when they need the Lord most, both in good times and in bad.

Eventually the crisis that we were in–and are still in–became the extra push I needed to help me stay on the path to priesthood. This crisis that caused me so much sadness and anger became my motivation. Today, more than ever I want to be a priest, should it be God’s will.

…Does anyone remember the New England Patriots playing the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI? It was February 5, 2017. In case you didn’t know, I am a die-hard New England Patriots fan, and that game is considered by us Patriots fans–and by most people–one of the most improbable Super Bowl victories ever.

The Patriots were slight underdogs heading into the game, because the Falcons’ offense was so superior.

It was a blood bath; the Patriots were being dominated by the Falcons, and before you could even blink, the Patriots are down 28-3, with 2:12 left in the 3rd Quarter.

The Patriots at that point had a 0.01% chance of winning.

Of course, the Patriots would end up prevailing, relying on heart and mental toughness.

I bring this up because, when looking at our Church, it kind of feels like we’re down 28-3. In fact, I would argue it feels like were down 100-0.

And I’ve got to ask: Why are you even here? Why are you still Catholic?

It can’t be the coffee and donuts. You could get that any church.

Why are you here?

People outside the Church must think we’re crazy!

Tom Brady

…The gospel this past Friday was from Matthew Chapter 16. It’s one of my favorite illustrations from Our Lord.  Jesus is speaking to his disciples and says to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

He must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

Being a Catholic at this time in the Church, and in our culture, is like bearing a cross. Actually, being Catholic today is a heavy cross to bear.

Not only do we live in a culture focused on short-term pleasures and the joys of this life–without considering the eternal joys of Heaven. We also have leaders in our Church who have failed to be good shepherds! In fact, they have been everything-but-good to the people of God!

So for Catholics, not only are we battling a secular culture that promotes evil for the sake of their own happiness, but we also have bishops who have continued to let us down over and over and over again!

Yet you are still here?

Why? Why put up with all of this?

It seems to me you believe, and have hope, in the truth of Jesus Christ!

Clearly, you wouldn’t still be Catholic at this point, unless you truly believed this Church that is visibly hurting was the true Church of Jesus Christ.

Although the battle continues, although we’re down 100-0, we know the outcome. We know who will prevail in the end. Jesus Christ and His blessed Church.

We, the people of God, must keep a supernatural outlook. There is a weakness in many, but we know that this is the Church founded by Christ himself. If we do not follow the Church, we’re Protestants!

You and I can and should help the Church in this difficult time.

We need to pray for the Church! We need to pray for our bishops, that they will follow the example Christ has given as The High Priest. If you don’t pray for these men, you have no right to judge them, because you would be part of the problem, not the solution. Should we be disappointed in them, or even mad? Absolutely! But we Christian Catholics know that there is more beyond this short pilgrimage on earth.

We need to pray for our priests during this difficult time. Especially for those priests who have been ordained into the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ by bishops who have abused others, or have covered up abuse.

We need to pray for vocations to the priesthood and seminarians. Eventually the seminarians in seminary today will be our future priests and bishops. Prayerfully ask Mary our Mother to intercede for them so that they may give themselves fully to the mission of Jesus Christ and His Church. We seminarians so desperately need your prayers.

We need to be saints. We must deny ourselves, carry the cross, and follow Him.

Most importantly we cannot give up. We cannot give up because Christ has never given up on us. He died for us, so that we may have life eternal. Although the scoreboard might look like 28 to 3, or 100 to nothing, we continue to fight. We don’t give up, because some bishop abused seminarians, or this priest abused a parishioner. We fight! We don’t give up, and why would we? We’ve already won.

Mary Our Queen, Wedding Garment, Upcoming Trip

St Vigilius of Trent and companions
Saint Vigilius of Trent and his companions

A week ago we discussed how our Lady, inseparable from Christ during their pilgrim lives, remains inseparable from Him in His life of glory.

In the parable in today’s gospel at Mass, we hear the Lord describe the life of glory as a banquet. Everyone receives an invitation, the bad as well as the good. At Sunday Mass, we will hear Him use the same image: heaven is a banquet. All are invited. But not all wind up inside.

In the parable we hear today, the king expels from the banquet someone without a ‘wedding garment.’

El Greco Virgin MaryWhat does He mean? To understand, let’s contrast the improperly dressed man with the one who wears the consummate wedding garment, the queen herself.

Our Lady wears the necessary wedding garment: Faith, hope, and love. Humility, prudence, courage. Patient perseverance.

The interior garment of grace.

Mary received the garment when her parents miraculously conceived her without the stain of original sin. She wore it throughout her pilgrim life, making it more and more beautiful with every act of love.

We receive the garment in Holy Baptism. We lose it when we sin gravely. But we can put it back on again, by confessing our sins to a priest.

…In ten days I will depart on a little pilgrimage to the ancient city of Trent, in northern Italy. Five centuries ago, some of the bishops of the world met there to try to reach an agreement about disputed points.

Like: Grace. Baptism and all the sacraments. Having images of our Lady, and other saints, in our churches. Many other things, too, including: the discipline of bishops and priests.

Trent lies “on the border,” so to speak, between Italy and the German-speaking world. They held the ecumenical council in Trent so the bishops could meet in a neutral place, between Rome and Martin Luther.

I will have much more to tell you about this, of course. I will pray for you at the tomb of the martyr St. Vigilius, ancient patron of Trent. Not to mention the fact that, on my trip, I will pray for you at the tombs of St. Charles Borromeo in Milan and my baptismal patron, St. Mark, in Venice. (You can hardly go all the way to Trent and not go to Venice also, after all 🙂 )

Pray for me, too, please.