John 17 + the Acadians

abandoned stationThe Seventh Sunday of Easter. A station where the trains no longer stop.

Lord Jesus ascended into heaven forty days after He rose from the dead. He ascended, therefore, on a Thursday.

But, for the past twenty years, most of us Catholics have commemorated the Ascension of Christ on the 43rd day. Our bishops decided it would suit people better to have the Solemnity of the Ascension on Sunday. (Theodore McCarrick preferred it that way.)

This replaced the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Now that liturgical day haunts us only as a phantom.

Thing is, we would read something kinda important at Mass, if we kept the Seventh Sunday of Easter. John 17. The priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, the message you delivered to Me, I have delivered to the men you singled out from the world and entrusted to Me. They have accepted it. They really understand that I come from You, and they believe that I am Your ambassador.

I am not long for the world. Holy Father! Keep them loyal to Your name, which You have given Me. Consecrate them in the service of the truth.

As You made Me Your ambassador to the world, so I make them My ambassadors to the world. I also pray for those who, through their preaching, will believe in Me. You love them as You love Me.

May the love with which You love Me dwell in them, as I dwell in them.

There’s more. The Lectionary apportions the entire chapter over the three-year Sunday cycle. I quote here just some passages. And I quote from the translation of James Kleist, which I find particularly moving.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church dedicates an entire article to John 17. St. Thomas Aquinas commented on this chapter of John: “Previously the Lord consoled His disciples by example and encouragement. Here He comforts them by His prayer.” I personally find bottomless comfort and consolation in reading John 17.

Neglecting to read John 17 at Sunday Mass seems almost as odd as it would be to neglect to read John 1 at Sunday Mass. The Prologue to the gospel.

Wait. We actually do neglect to read John 1 at Sunday Mass. Owing to similar circumstances. The Lectionary includes John 1 for the Second Sunday of Christmas. Another phantom station where the train never stops. Since the bishops moved the Solemnity of the Epiphany from January 6 to the second Sunday after Christmas.

Not sure the Fathers of Vatican II had this in mind, exactly. But we still have our Bibles, and know how to read. Thank God.

Today not only comes as the anniversary of the ordination of a certain clodhopper priest. We also keep the 265th anniversary of the British expedition from Boston that conquered Fort Beauséjour, in what is now Nova Scotia. (The expedition left Boston on May 22, 1755.) This conquest led to the Great Expulson of the Acadian people.

A rendering of Evangeline

The Acadians had lived in the maritime provinces of Canada for well over a century. French Catholics, they intermarried with the Mi’kmaq and created a distinct ethnicity. When the French colonial authorities abandoned Acadia, the Mi’kmaq refused to acknowledge British sovereignty.

After the British conquered Fort Beauséjour in early June, they proceeded to deport 11,500 Acadians, over the course of nine years. The Spanish helped many of them to re-locate to Louisiana. There, the “Acadians” became “Cajuns.” Still speaking their colonial French and still Catholic.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Evangeline sings the tragic tale of the displaced people.

A fellow seminarian, a Cajun, taught me all this history. It has stuck with me ever since. I take the moral as: God always has a plan.

Friday Penance

Your unworthy servant leading Via Crucis in Jerusalem, ’09

We Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Those of us with the means to do so will clog the fast-food take-out drive-thru’s for fish sandwiches today.

But not everyone has such an opportunity. We will deal more with the painful, prison-like conditions inside nursing homes right now, in a later post. But suffice it so say: plenty of Catholics will not have a viable meatless option today.

Since we all need to keep body and soul together, no one should scruple over this. The Lord commanded His missionaries: Eat what is set before you. This law trumps the meatless-Friday law, during a dangerous virus epidemic.

On the Fridays of the year outside Lent, we all have the option of substituting a different work of penance, in lieu of abstaining from meat. For the past twenty years, I have substituted: making the Stations of the Cross. Please give yourself the liberty of taking such an option, even today, a Friday in Lent, if you have to.

The best place to make the Stations: Jerusalem. Second best: walking around a Catholic church, stopping at the fourteen points along the walls that represent the original locations in Jerusalem.

(Both St. Joseph and St. Francis will have the doors unlocked at the usual Stations time this evening. But only individual recitation of the Stations is permitted right now.)

Third-best place to make the Stations: Anywhere, including wherever you are right now.

I. Lord Jesus is condemned to death.

II. Lord Jesus takes up His cross.

III. Lord Jesus falls the first time.

IV. Lord Jesus meets His sorrowful mother.

V. Simon the Cyrene helps the Lord to carry His cross.

VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

VII. The Lord falls the second time.

VIII. Lord Jesus condoles the women of Jerusalem.

IX. Lord Jesus falls the third time.

X. Lord Jesus is stripped of His garments.

XI. Lord Jesus nailed to the cross.

XII. The Lord dies on the cross.

XIII. The body of the Lord laid in the arms of His mother.

XIV. They lay Him in the tomb.

…Naming the Station, then meditating on it through an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be: this suffices. Or you can use additional prayers, like those composed by St. Alphonsus Ligouri.

Maybe Coronavirus Quiet Time offers you the opportunity to memorize the fourteen Stations? I have had them memorized for two decades, and I can tell you: It’s helpful, spiritually.

Having the fourteen Stations memorized allows you to make them anytime–walking, driving, exercising, beside a hospital bed (I made them with my father as he lay dying), on a plane. You name it.

Make the Stations every day for a month, or every Friday for a year, and you’ll have them memorized.


The city of Jerusalem lives under the same strictures we do right now. The streets are deserted; no pilgrims. Even there, where it all originally happened, the Christians must make the Stations privately now, rather than along the Via Dolorosa.

We are all united in this.



Catechism #2764

Lord Jesus taught us how to live and how to pray. By our opening ourselves up to both of these areas of teaching, the Holy Spirit reforms our interior life, our desires, the deepest inner movements that orient our entire lives. As the Catechism puts it: “The rightness of our life in Christ will depend on the rightness of our prayer.”

Catechism-of-the-Catholic-CHurchIn other words, the Our Father teaches us what to want.

That God be glorified and His name honored. That His kingdom come and His will be done. That He sustain us with what we need today. That He forgive us and help us forgive others. That He save us from the worst moral challenges, which could cost us our souls, since we do not have the strength to resist the devil without God’s help.

We want to survive today, physically and spiritually, so that we can glorify God by serving as vessels of His infinite, loving mercy. By tomorrow this ordeal could end; that’s up to Him. May He give us the grace to glorify Him worthily today.

St. Francis Portiuncula Indulgence


The medieval town of Assisi sits on the top of a hill in Umbria, Italy. In the town square, young St. Francis removed his rich garments and embraced his life of Christ-like poverty.

On the plain at the bottom of the hill sits an ancient chapel. It honors Our Lady of the Angels. Was originally dedicated on August 2, shortly before Assumption Day. It was eight hundred years old at the time of St. Francis, eight hundred years ago.

The chapel languished in disrepair then. The Lord inspired St. Francis: “Repair My house!” So Francis and his companions renovated the little chapel and made it their home.

stfrancisAnyone been there? My dear mom, my late aunt, and I visited on November 16, 2008, along with a group of pilgrims. That was my third visit.

The Portiuncula now sits inside a large basilica. And they built replica portiunculas at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, and in downtown San Francisco, CA.

The Lord promised St. Francis that anyone who wants to honor Our Lady of the Angels and visits the Portiuncula—or visits any parish church, on the anniversary of the dedication of the Portiuncula—can gain a plenary indulgence.

You just have to recite the Creed, pray the Our Father, pray for the pope’s intentions, renounce all attachment to sin, and confess and receive Holy Communion sometime within the same fortnight.

A plenary indulgence helps a soul get to heaven. Either my own soul, or a soul in purgatory.

As Luther pointed out, selling indulgences involves the grave sin of simony. But obtaining an indulgence by praying and renouncing sin? Good to do.

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.


If You’re Up Late…

…you may have heard that an Archbishop has accused Pope Francis of grave wrongs in handling the Theodore McCarrick case. The Archbishop, a long-time Vatican official and former Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., has called upon the Pope to resign from office.

Archbishop ViganoSome will question the credibility and reliability of the Archbishop’s written testimony.

As you know, dear reader, I have spent the past two months in a state of great agitation regarding the McCarrick case. Some have wondered if I might have lost my good sense, or even my spirit of Christian mercy.

If nothing else, I think that Archbishop Viganò’s written testimony does vindicate me in my sense of the profound gravity of the situation.

Namely, that an honest and public resolution to McCarrick’s case is absolutely necessary for the Church in America, and also for the Holy See. Without such an honest and public resolution, how can we move forward into the future with anything close to fidelity to the mandate given us by Christ?

Seems to me that whether or not Pope Francis has to resign now lies in the hands of the editors who will decide whether Archbishop Viganò’s testimony counts as “front-page news” for the “mainstream media.”

You would think that those editors would run with this story–such a high-ranking official denouncing the pope–even though Viganò frankly identifies homosexuality as a “perversity.” Then, in the ensuing frenzy, will others publicly corroborate what Viganò has written? You would think that they would.

Certainly we will wake up tomorrow in a situation even more confusing than it was before. And we just might have to follow my proposal for replacing all the leaders of the Catholic Church.

Whatever happens, dear reader, we will soldier on. The truth liberates, as the good Lord said. We will know the whole truth, about everything, when we go to meet Him. In the meantime, we pray.

John 17, the Coin

Palermo Pantocrator Christ priest

John 17 has two names. 1. The Priestly Prayer of Jesus. 2. The Prayer of the Hour of Jesus.

Both names ultimately mean the same thing. In Christ’s “Hour,” Judas betrayed Him, like Adam and Eve and all us sinners betrayed Him. Jesus answered this betrayal with His sacrifice. He offered Himself with perfect justice and infinite love, for the salvation of His betrayers.

Christ’s prayer in John 17 reveals that His death involved not just an injustice, not just the wrongful execution of an innocent man. The Priestly Prayer reveals that Jesus’ death was no ‘tragedy.’ Christ took up the cross to make a thoroughly deliberate, wise, and all-knowing religious sacrifice. It was the sacrifice of His divine love: He offered Himself with perfect love to the Father, out of perfect love for us.

Christ’s prayer in John 17 reveals that the Crucified Lamb is the Creator and the Pantocrator, the ruler of everything. We can know Almighty God, and understand His many works, in only one way: By looking at a crucifix.

And this sacrifice, the true Passover sacrifice, is eternal. It happened at one point in time, to be sure, just as Jesus used a particular language and particular words to pray the prayer recorded in John 17. In that particular hour and using those particular words, however, the eternal, omnipotent Love–the unfathomable power that governs everything–revealed Himself.

Catechism-of-the-Catholic-CHurchJesus’ prayer to the Father, “Consecrate them in truth,” is not one human statement among many. It is not just one audio blip in the endless noise made by fallen man on this earth. It is not just a “tweet” by a Nazarene carpenter.

Consecrate them in truth is the eternal, unchanging divine will. It expresses the groaning of the eternal Spirit in the Heart of Christ, the inexpressible groaning that moved Christ to utter His every word and do His every deed.

The Catechism has six mind-blowingly profound paragraphs on John 17—article 3 of chapter 3 of Part IV. It all may seem way above our pay-grade—until we realize that John 17 and the Our Father are like two sides of the same coin.

The ‘heads’—John 17—belongs to Christ, the Head of the Body. The ‘tails’ is our dearest of all friends, the Our Father. Whenever we celebrate Holy Mass, we have the whole coin.

More Hebrews 2 + Our-Father Question

He is able to help those who are being tested. (Hebrews 2:18)

Every day we beg our heavenly Father, “lead us not into temptation.” Thoughtful Christians rightly wonder sometimes about this petition. Would our good God lead us toward evil? This prayer doesn’t really make sense!

dog-cuffsThe problem here comes from translating Greek into English. To us, “lead” sounds like what a dog-owner does when taking Fido out for a walk. Fido prays, “Don’t lead me down the street with the mean Doberman! Lead me to the fire hydrants instead.”

But the Greek doesn’t imply this. It implies that God possesses the power both to protect us from temptation and to help us resist it when it comes.  God Himself wills no evil and tempts no one. He has made nothing that is evil in itself. In fact, within ourselves, in the depths of our souls, He has endowed us with powers of goodness that we don’t even know about yet.

That’s why our pilgrim lives involve ‘tests.’ If instinct alone guided us, we wouldn’t confront any tests. We would just chase squirrels and never become any better or worse.

But we have more than instincts inside us to guide us. We have the power to discern. We can strive and struggle to overcome every destructive impulse, and thereby blossom as the good people God made us to be.

Temptations come because we are actually better than we think we are. With God’s help, we can resist, and that brings out the hidden good person within. Being tempted is not a sin; the sin is to give in.

So let’s fight. Let’s hold our tongues instead of carping and gossiping. Let’s try to see the good in others, instead of judging them harshly. Let’s possess ourselves in patience, instead of flying off the handle. Let’s exercise our bodies and minds in prayer and wholesome enterprises, instead of letting ourselves grow dim-witted and lazy.

Yes, our pilgrim lives involves tests. We must pray daily for the grace both to avoid them, if it’s best for us to avoid them, or endure them, if it’s best for us to fight and win.

With God’s help we can pass the tests we have to take. We can earn A’s. Because “He is able to help those who are being tested.”

A Motto Worth Trying to Live By + “Transgender”

Our prayers should not be long and tedious but short, earnest, and frequent. –St. Ambrose

…The other day, someone asked our Holy Father this question:

I would like to ask you, what would you say to someone who has struggled with their sexuality for years and feels that there is truly a problem of biology, that his aspect doesn’t correspond to what he or she feels is their sexual identity?

Can’t say I fully understand the question.  Not sure what “aspect” means here.

human_male_karyotpe_high_resolution_-_xy_chromosome_croppedBut I would like to point out: the Catholic position is that doctors should not lie to people. Medical science does not have the power to control everything.  When surgeons and biochemists get delusions of grandeur, it only confuses and misleads people who already have a lot to suffer.

Can an abortion make it like there never was a baby?  No.

Can artificial contraception completely remove the fact that sex is for making babies?  No.

Can any medical intervention render homosexual acts fruitful?  No.

Can surgeries and pills change a man or boy, whose every cell has XY chromosomes, into a woman or a girlOr a woman or girl, whose every cell has XX chromosomes, into a man or a boy? No.

People who struggle need friends who won’t tell them lies, especially lies about what doctors can really accomplish with the limited tools at their disposal.

“Being healthy” has to start with the truth.  The truth is that there is much more to us human beings than meets the eye, much more about us that science doesn’t understand (as opposed to the little bit that it does understand).  All the so-called “medical” procedures listed above actually involve grotesque acts of violence–profoundly unhealthy acts of violence.

Better to go to church and pray to the good God Who made us the men and women that we are.

The Way

Tenth Station
Tenth Station

Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? (Luke 6:39)

The Lord forms us in our mothers’ wombs in order to march forward through time, to a goal. And none of us can see that goal. Even us independent Americans need a guide. Because we cannot see heaven. We are all blind people when it comes to our ultimate goal.

God Incarnate has become our guide; Jesus Christ has opened the way before us. When we enter a church, the Lord guides us by His own Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, and by His Word. But, whenever we enter a church, let’s take notice of the visual representation of the way to heaven, which the Lord Himself walked. All Catholic churches have the fourteen Stations of the Cross emblazoned on their walls.

When we visit the stations, we see…

1. The love of Christ for the Father.

2. His love for our souls.

3. The humility with which Jesus acted to fulfill both those loves.

Christ had fiery moments; He had angry moments–all perfectly virtuous. But one particular “Hour” of His life demonstrates the deepest parts of Himself–the Hour of His Passion. During that Hour, He showed us His ineffable humility.

Stations of the Cross