New Assignment

Rev. Nick Mammi

Rev. Nick Mammi

Rev. Matt Kiehl

Rev. Matt Kiehl

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…as ’twere with a defeated joy,
With an auspicious and a dropping eye,
With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,
In equal scale weighing delight and dole (Hamlet I.ii)

Thus do we priests greet a change of pastoral assignment.

On August 1, soon-to-be-Father Nick Mammi will become the pastor of the Rocky Mount and Martinsville, Virginia. A great blessing for the people.

Maybe a co-incidence that my tenure ends just as David Letterman’s does. “The four-year parochial nightmare for St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joseph is now over.”

…I will become the pastor of St. Andrew parish in Roanoke. Also Administrator of St. Gerard parish.

Bishop has assigned me an excellent curate, soon-to-be Father Matt Kiehl. Father will assume the role of chaplain at Roanoke Catholic School.

…Can’t believe I have to leave my beloved home of Franklin/Henry County. Can’t wait to serve God in Roanoke…

May God be praised and blessed and adored for His goodness!
And may He console us sorrowful ones.

Church of St. Andrew, Roanoke, Va.

Church of St. Andrew, Roanoke, Va.

St. Gerard, Roanoke

St. Gerard, Roanoke

Holy Spirit Was and Is

LEXUS RC

We read at the end of chapter seven of St. John’s gospel, the Lord Jesus promised that “rivers of living water will flow from within” the one who believes in Him. St. John explains that the living water is the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit has come at certain points in time with outward signs. Tongues of fire. A luminous cloud. Speech in many languages. A dove. An anointing.

But the Holy Spirit comes, first and foremost, as an invisible spiritual gift. The gift operates inside us, not outside. The gift elevates the soul of a human being, from within.

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He is Alive + Germans on the Synod + Blue Bloods Sexual Morality

SynodRoman procurator Porcius Festus recounted the facts with perfect simplicity. “A certain Jesus had died. Paul claims he is alive.”

In all honesty: What could possibly galvanize us more than this deadpan account of the situation in Acts 25?

Who are we? Are we not the people who claim that this certain Jesus, who had died, is alive?

Fifty years ago, pope convened the Second Vatican Council to help us get back to this utter simplicity. Lots of smart Germans came to Rome. And the newspapers and magazines buzzed with Vatican-II gossip.

Some of us might get the feeling that we’re right back in the early 1960’s again, when it comes to Catholic-Church gossip. Because of all the smart Germans and the Synod on the Family.

There is a somewhat-famous letter to the Synod Fathers, signed by a few hundred American priests. I signed it. We signatories urge the Synod to re-iterate the fundamental teachings that—at least to me—seem obviously to go hand-in-hand with saying that Jesus is alive. Namely, that God gave us marriage the way He gave it to us, that everyone should go to Confession, resolve to sin no more, and strive to live chastely according to one’s state in life.

…I give the German Bishops Conference credit for publishing thoughtful responses to the Holy See’s Synod-preparation questions. I, for one, thank the Germans for publishing an English translation.

The Catholic press has highlighted some of what the German Bishops have written. To my mind, though, these two following passages most require meditation and a response:

1. The significance and orientating power of the Church’s teaching may not be drawn into the relative and arbitrary here, nor may the significance of the individual conscience be weakened or indeed circumvented as the final subjective decision-making instance of the individual. In this tension, it is necessary to make the doctrine of the Church, in the sense of a responsible formation of conscience, repeatedly newly known but also comprehensible. The Magisterium is faced here by the challenge of repeatedly verifying, honestly and self-critically, whether the teaching really can be imparted to people in all aspects and differentiations. As was already the case with the questionnaire in the run-up to the Extraordinary Synod of 2014, the feedback from the dioceses once more points clearly here to the fact that, in particular, a number of sexual ethical aspects of the Church’s teaching are neither understood nor any longer accepted…

Somewhere in the middle of this argle bargle we find what I believe constitutes the all-important turning-point of morals: Am I humble enough to admit that I need moral teaching? If I am not, then what is the point of the Church trying to speak in a way that I will accept?

The inescapable fact for Mother Church, when it comes to teaching on sexual morals, is: Christ chaste. How can anyone or anything other than the chaste Christ serve as the foundation of our moral teaching?

Nothing else can. If I am willing to learn from Christ how to live, then what the Church says–what She has always said–about chastity will feel like cool water in a desert when it enters my mind. If I am not willing to learn from the chaste Christ how to live, then why would the Church bother trying to make sense to me? She never will anyway.

2. …Most couples live together for several years prior to a civil and church marriage, and regard marriage as a further, and certainly significant, stage in their lives together…Pastoral care that regards such unions as sinful pure and simple and accordingly calls for conversion is not helpful as it contradicts the positive experience that couples have in such living arrangements. Values such as love, faithfulness, responsibility for one another and for the children, reliability and willingness to reconcile are also practiced when people live together and in civil marriages, and these deserve recognition in a Christian context. Pastoral care should be provided to young people in particular, and this must appreciatively support and accompany their various attempts to enter into and practice relationships.

Again, a lot of argle bargle. The clearer version of this approach appeared in the next-to-last scene of “Open Secrets,” Blue Bloods, season 4.

Blue Bloods Erin and Nicky

Nicky: Just ask me, Mom.

Mom: What?

Nicky: Ask me if I’m having sex with Ben.

Mom: Are you?

No. But we have talked about it.

Oh?

Come on, Mom, you can’t really be surprised. Most of my friends have already done it.

That is not a good enough reason to have sex for the first time. Do you love him?

I don’t know. I mean, he’s a really great guy, and I really care about him. And I feel like I’m ready. Go ahead, let me have it. (sighs)

Okay. Well, I am sorry to disappoint you, but I am not going to yell and scream. Do I wish that you would wait until you were sure if you were in love? Yes. But we both know that’s not up to me. You are a beautiful, smart young woman with good judgment. When the time is right, you will… make the right decision. And if you need to talk about anything, I am here.

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…Dear reader, can I say it? Will you mind? This is BS.

Parents, grandparents, young people, all you dear people of God. I ask you, I beg you: If you ever hear me suggest that anything other than chastity before marriage can make you happy, punch me in the face.

Young people, do not have sex before marriage!

I would give my left kidney, my left lung, eye, and hand, if it would help all the young people I know and love to believe in themselves enough to follow Christ chaste to a truly happy life.

…Two other fundamental flaws with the German bishops’ responses:

1. They claim that the church in Germany is pro-life. But how obtuse in the area of embryology does a person have to be–to claim to be both pro-life and indifferent to the use of artificial contraception at the same time? It is impossible. Artificial contraception involves early abortion as a matter of course.

2. Jesus Christ does not openly appear anywhere in the document.

…Now, some Catholics seem to imagine that 2015 is 1963 all over again, when it comes to ‘ferment’ and ‘change’ in the Catholic Church. But this imagination ignores one very significant thing. A book that weighs approximately 1 ½ pounds. Compiled by the smartest German of them all.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

If we want to be the people who claim that Jesus is alive, the Catechism is our lifeblood. What the German bishops say? 85% bilge-water.

Ascensiontide Theology

Ecce Agnus Dei“We celebrate the memorial of the saving Passion of Your Son, his wondrous Resurrection and Ascension into heaven…”

When do we say this? After the consecration at every Mass. The Holy Eucharist recalls to our minds not just the Passion and death of our Redeemer, not just His conquest of death, but also His Ascension into heaven.

Now, the Mass Christ instituted recalls His Passion and death very vividly and clearly. His words declare His saving death: “My body will be given up for you.” “My blood will be shed for you.”

That said, the very same words of consecration declare His Resurrection as well. Because: He lives to give us His flesh and blood. If He were still dead, we could hardly receive Him bodily into our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament. We can have Mass because He is alive. Pretty clear.

Now, what about His Ascension? For our Ascension-tide theological question, let’s try to figure this one: How does the Holy Mass commemorate Christ’s Ascension?

tabernacleWell, we could say this: The whole business of the Mass involves the celebration of Christ’s Passover. He passed over from life as a pilgrim to life in glory. Passed through death to eternal life. We cannot see the life that Christ the man shares with God. Our eyes do not now have the capacity to see that.

Which means that the Lord’s very in-visibility in the Mass commemorates His Ascension. He passed beyond our sight when He ascended, and He appears in a way that we cannot see at the consecration at Mass.

That said, Christ’s invisibility in the Mass is by no means absolute. If it were, we would celebrate Mass just by closing our eyes and looking at the inside of our eyelids. But we don’t do that.

At Mass, we see a sacrifice, carried out by a priest, with a priestly people united around the altar. All that is perfectly visible—and it is a visible manifestation of Christ, ascended into heaven. Because He ministers in heaven as our eternal High Priest, forever offering Himself, in perfect love, for us.

So: Holy Mass recalls Christ’s Ascension to our minds, both by what we don’t see, and by what we do.

“Knowledge” in CCC 2751

Palermo Pantocrator Christ priest

We think we know things. But we really don’t.

I thought I knew how to paddle a small boat. But it turns out that, if you want to paddle properly, the main force of your stroke has to come from pushing with your upper hand, not pulling with the lower.

Who knew? I learned this yesterday during the annual 10th-grade Roanoke-Catholic-School kayaking trip. Which of course included the obligatory excessive splashing of Father.

Catechism-of-the-Catholic-CHurch…The Catechism has a brief, lapidary explanation of the priestly prayer of Christ in John 17 (which we read at Holy Mass this week). I find it one of the hardest parts of the Catechism to understand. So, during the seventh week of Easter, I always try to re-read it.

Here’s the concluding sentence of this section of the Catechism:

The priestly prayer of Christ reveals and gives us the ‘knowledge,’ inseparably one, of the Father and the Son, which is the very mystery of the life of prayer.

See what I mean? A mysterious sentence.

The knowledge the Father has of the Son, and the knowledge the Son has of the Father–a single, unique knowledge. Who has it?

Well, Lord Jesus tells us: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” (Mt 11:27)

Humbling. We don’t really know anything ultimately worth knowing; we don’t know lambshanks from shinola, unless the Son reveals to us the unique knowledge that He has of the Father. That fact constitutes a prevailing theme of the priestly prayer of Christ, in John 17.

But what does the Son say, after He says, ‘no one knows nada without Me?’ He says: Come to me, all you weary lambs, who struggle and strive and sweat and cuss under your breath– Come to me, and I will give you rest for your souls. Learn from me. I am gentle and humble of heart. My yoke is easy and my burden light.

It’s not so hard. Prayer. Life. All He wants us to do is to say the Our Father every day and mean it.

Inner Eyes

fishing1

Not everybody knows this, but we have two kinds of eyes.

We have the eyes we use to catch and throw a ball, to go looking for seashells at the beach, to watch the teacher write things on the board, and to drive a car—once we have a license.

These are our outer eyes. They help us enormously, of course. We tend to take them for granted. Until we come across someone who suffers from blindness. Then we thank God that we have the great gift of sight in our eyes.

But if anyone has ever really gotten to know someone who is blind, whose outer eyes don’t work; if any of us have ever read a book written by a blind person, or listened to a blind person sing, or tell a story—then we realize: these outer eyes are not the only eyes that we human beings have.

We also have inner eyes, spiritual eyes. With our spiritual eyes, we can see things that our outer eyes can’t see. Like memories. Like things we imagine. Some of us just used our inner eyes a moment ago, when I mentioned the beach. We imagined it, and we could see the ocean with our inner eyes–even if we do not find ourselves anywhere near the beach at this moment.

First HC in the cluster!

First Holy Communion in the cluster!

Like I said, we thank God for the blessing of our outer eyes. But the truth is that our inner eyes are even more powerful and important. Let me tell you why.

Lord Jesus walked the earth for a particular period of time. He died and rose again from the dead. For forty days after His resurrection, He continued to walk the earth and talk to His friends. They saw the risen dead man with their outer eyes, and He looked even more wonderful than before.

But then the time came for Christ to ascend to heaven. He told the disciples that He would pass away from their outer sight. But don’t worry. Don’t fear. ‘I will remain with you always,’ He promised.

When He said that—Don’t worry, even though you won’t see Me anymore—when He said that to them, did they take it in stride? Did they say, ‘Got you, Master. No problem.’

No. They did not say that at all. They whined; they complained. ‘Why can’t you stay visible forever, and make yourself visible to everyone? Why do we have to live by faith and not by our outer eyes?’

Now, if I might put His response in my own words. He replied:

“I understand why you panic like this, my children. But you fail to grasp that your inner sight is a million times for important than your outer sight. I will go to heaven, and from there I will send the power of love into you, inside you.

“Your outer eyes can see baseballs and squirrels and gas stations on the highway. But all these things come and go.

“With your inner eyes, you can love the holiness that lasts forever. With your inner eyes, you can see God, and you can see the true beauty of another person’s soul.

steviewonder“Not only that. With your inner eyes, you can see that heaven is always right in front of you. All you have to do, to step into it, is: love. Step forward in love, and you will enter heaven.”

We do not understand all these mysteries. At least I don’t. But I know for a fact that our inner eyes see more than our outer eyes. Because, for now, only our inner eyes can see Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Using the unworthy voice of His priest, Christ says, “This is my Body,” and “This is my Blood.” We do not see Him with our outer eyes. But we do know He is here. We see Him with our inner eyes, our eyes of faith. He beckons us to come to Him, to receive Him, to unite ourselves with Him.

#Tsarnaev

When I saw the head part from the body, and each of them fall separately into a box with a thud, I understood–not in my mind, but with my whole being–that no rational doctrine of progress could justify that act, and that if every man now living in the world, and every man who had lived since the beginning of time, were to maintain, in the name of some theory or other, that this execution was indispensable, I should still know it was not indispensable: that it was wrong.

Leo Tolstoy–Leo Tolstoy, upon returning from France in 1857

Blood can not restore blood.

–Abraham Lincoln, after the Fort Pillow Massacre, when surrendering soldiers were slaughtered in cold blood

Impertinent but Understandable John-16 Question

Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you,” saith the Lord. (John 16:23)

Can we imagine that people like our Lady, Mary Magdalen, and St. John heard these words of Christ’s, and perhaps thought to themselves, “I have half a mind to call His bluff?”

After all, He had just told the people who loved Him the most, “I am going away. You will not see Me. You will weep, mourn, and grieve. You will suffer rough strife, like a woman in labor, gasping and panting in anguish. But then you will see Me again, and everything will be fine.”

Then He proceeded to promise them solemnly that their prayers in His name would be answered.

El Greco Christ blessing croppedNow, if it were me, cheeky pipsqueak that I am, I might have said:

‘Okay, rabbi. I pray in Your Name that we skip the suffering part. I solemnly pray that the Father not receive You back into heaven, in such a way that we can no longer see You.

‘I pray that You remain here on earth with us, and rule the world visibly, openly. I pray in Your Name that Christianity be a whole lot easier, a whole lot more like worldliness, with easygoing comfort and not so many occasions for patient forbearance.

‘What do you think about them apples, Mr. Promiser-of-Answers-to-Prayers?’

To which He would of course reply: ‘Which part of it is better for you that I go did you not understand, numbskull? Have I been with you this long, and still you do not know Me?’

Moral of the story: There is only one way to pray “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Namely, to accept everything about Him—all His words; all His deeds; His visible-ness for 33 years; His invisible-ness for all these ensuing years—to accept all of it, as an absolute given, as the one, all-important, all-governing fact, the divine Fact—to accept Jesus Christ exactly as He actually is, maddening as He may be at times—to accept Him as the revelation of the unknown, eternal Glory… and then take everything else from there.

He says we do better by making a pilgrimage of obscure faith for a year, ten years, eighty-five years. He says that does us more good than instantaneous blessedness would do us. He says so. Ergo, it is true.

He made the pilgrimage that He made. He reached the goal He reached. He shares His invisible grace by the humble visible means that He instituted—water, oil, bread, wine, bumbling priests like myself. He did all this. Ergo, it is all for the absolute best.

Christ, as He is: the Given. Everything else: health, sickness; suffering, comfort; wealth, poverty; honor, ignominy; a long life or a short one—all of these are relative. They are good or bad as measured against the absolute given standard, Who is Christ.

Feast Day for the Sufferers

Sudden Death

Sudden Death

Everyone knows that the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven forty days after He rose from the dead. And everyone knows that, as He prepared to ascend, Christ commanded His disciples to pray. Thus began the original Novena—nine days of prayer before Pentecost.

Everyone knows these things, of course. So there’s no sense in dwelling on the fact that no one knows when we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension anymore.

Garofalo Ascension of ChristLet’s focus on the bright side. Since today isn’t the Solemnity of the Ascension (even though it is), we get to keep the Feast of St. Matthias this year!

And the Feast of St. Matthias holds special significance for the most exquisite of all sufferers, the most rarefied of all white martyrs, Washington-Capitals fans.

Because May 14 is almost always the day after the Caps get knocked out of the playoffs by either the New York Rangers or the Pittsburgh Penguins.*

The apostolate involves suffering. As St. Paul put it, those who proclaim Christ go like sheep to the slaughter. Our reward does not come in this present life, fleeting as it is, but in the great and mysterious life to come.

St. Matthias received his vocation as an apostle during the original Novena between Ascension and Pentecost. He struggled to mortify himself and his fleshly desires. For this reason, people struggling with alcoholism have revered St. Matthias as a patron. St. Matthias attained his reward when he was stoned to death by cannibals.

May his holy prayers help us to keep these days especially holy.

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* May 13, 2015: Caps knocked-out by Rangers. May 13, 2013: Caps knocked-out by Rangers. May 12, 2012: Caps knocked-out by Rangers. May 13, 2009: Caps knocked-out by Penguins.

Love vs. Shibboleths

Megyn KellyThe Scripture passages for Sunday’s Holy Mass read like: Just in case you didn’t get the message already, Love, Love, Love!

The word appears 19 times in the readings. 19 times. And that’s just in the second reading and the gospel. The word ‘love’ 19 times. So, we get the message, I hope.

God is love. The law of God: love. Christ’s commandment: love. They’ll know we are Christians by our love. Love is all you need. Gimme love, love, love, love, crazy love.

We got it.

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