Pledge of the Christian Gentleman

Roanoke Catholic School

The young men of the sixth grade at Roanoke Catholic School and I chatted about some things (which you can read below, if you like) and then took this pledge:

Pledge of the Christian Gentleman

Calling all the saints in heaven as my witnesses, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, I pledge to respect myself as a young man made in the image and likeness of the Creator.

I will honor all my classmates, especially the young women, who someday will be wives and mothers, like my mother. I will respect the young ladies I know in the same way that I would want my own mother to be respected.

I will strive daily to grow in genuine manliness, which means self-restraint, honesty, and, above all, kindness.

May God help me to grow up to be a man that a good woman would want to marry.

And may God guide and direct me, a Christian gentleman, to help build up His Kingdom of true love.

[…some prefatory remarks:]

Gentlemen, you have reached an age when we need to talk together about your growing up into manhood.

On tv, on the radio, on the computer: we are constantly besieged by suggestions that are beneath our dignity, beneath the dignity of Christian gentlemen.

One message we hear is: A real man is a ‘player,’ someone who can seduce a lot of women, who everyone admires for his ‘conquests.’

But, in fact, that is just a pathetic boy. He imagines he has a lot, but in fact he has nothing, because a good woman would never give him the time of day. His inner weakness shows itself by his outward rudeness and desperation.

Jesus_ChildOn the other hand, a real man has the inner strength to be gentle—a gentle man. This is the truly strong and powerful man. He has within himself the strength to keep his conversation, his friendships, and his actions pure. He does not injure others, does not drag them down to a dirty level. Instead, he lifts other people up. He inspires other people to believe in themselves, like he believes in himself.

How to be a gentleman? Simple. Share in the mind, and in the actions, of the original gentleman, Jesus Christ.

How many times did Jesus make sexual suggestions to a woman? Never. Let’s analyze this fact briefly.

Sex is not evil. To the contrary, sex is one of the most marvelous goods. It is where we all came from. [If Kirk and Ann White had not spent some serious time together in late September, 1969, the chapel would have been quieter when I was speaking, and this url would result in error 404.]

So Jesus did not avoid the subject because it is evil. He avoided it for one simple reason: Because His mission in life did not involve…marriage.

There is one way for a gentleman to bring up the subject of having sex with a woman. One. One simple question. A very dramatic, very beautiful, very courageous question. “Will you marry me?”

A gentleman introduces the subject of having sex with a woman by uttering this question, and in no other way.

You guys are…12? 11? 13? Now, you have to be at least 18 years old to propose marriage. And it’s probably better to wait until you are between 20 and 25. So you have at least six years before you have to bring up the subject of having sex with a woman. Six years until you can bring it up. In the meantime, don’t let such matters spoil your friendships. And let the good Lord unfold for you the beautiful future He has planned.

Let’s take the pledge of the Christian gentleman…

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Hail Mary and Jesus

2014 will afford many wonderful moments, no doubt. The good Lord holds all of this years’ moments in His hands. One of the big ones: the canonization of Blessed Pope John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday this spring!

ihs1Pope John Paul II gave us the Memorial of the Holy Name of Jesus on January 3. Jesus, splendor of the Father. Jesus, brightness of eternal light. Jesus, father of the poor. Jesus, treasure of the faithful. Jesus, joy of angels. Jesus, crown of saints. By Your Nativity, by Your infancy, by Your labors, by Your agony and Passion, by Your cross and dereliction, by Your Resurrection, by Your institution of the Most Holy Eucharist, by Your glory—deliver us, O Jesus!

Ever since I served as the unworthy pastor of Holy Name parish in northeast Washington, I have kept a copy of the Litany of the Holy Name tucked into the front of my breviary. I do not recite the Litany anywhere near as often as I should.

Fortunately, the Lord provides us with a lot of ways to venerate the Holy Name on a moment-to-moment basis, and one way is to say a lot of Hail Marys, as we discussed day before yesterday. The Hail Mary is, among other things, the most widely used form of veneration of the Holy Name of Jesus. “And blessed is the fruit of thy womb,…” JESUS!

When I met Pope John Paul II, with a group of seminarians, he took his leave of us by declaring, “Prayzed bee da Lohd Jeesoos Chrise!”

Now and forever!

cropped-me-with-pope-jp-ii.jpg

Hail Mary Championship

Rosary PrayersHail, Mary, full of grace.

How many times a year do we salute her like this? Hopefully a lot of times. Hundreds, thousands.

Here’s a possible resolution for the new year: at least one decade of the Holy Rosary every day during 2014. That would mean 3,650 Hail Marys this year.

And how about a Hail Mary every time I get ready to put the car in drive? Every time. “Our Lady of the highways, be with us on our journey, for all your ways are holy, and all your paths are peace. Hail, Mary…” That would mean probably another 500-1000 Hail Marys for the year.

How about another dozen, one for every time I go to Confession, having resolved to do so at least once a month?

Of course, no one wants to lay him- or herself down to sleep without a Hail Mary. So, putting it all together, we could hit 5,000 Hail Marys each this year.

Not saying we should try to rack up Hail Marys like rushing yardage or like coins in a piggy bank. But: No one has ever said too many Hail Marys. If we could train ourselves to the point that, at our unguarded moments of intense emotion, what comes out of our mouths is a Hail Mary, instead of something else—that would be great. Someone cuts me off in the WalMart parking lot, and I say, “Hail, Mary, pray for us sinners!” Little baby vomits on my chasuble during a baptism, and I say, “Hail, Mary, full of grace!” That would be great. But it takes a lot of training.

Does our Lady ever get tired of hearing us pray to her? Duh. Don’t think so. Does the Lord Jesus get annoyed when we pray all the time to His mother—the woman who held Him in her arms, nursed Him at her breast; the woman who literally grew closer to God during every instant of her earthly life? Don’t think it bothers Him.

A full Rosary every day during 2014 would get us close to 20,000 Hail Marys for the year. Talk about taking it to the next level.

Not to encourage competition. But let’s see which parish in our humble cluster racks up more Hail Marys during 2014. Or maybe Roanoke Catholic School will win it. Those kids say a lot of Hail Marys. I make them say a lot, and they say a lot on their own, too.

Of course, we won’t know the winner on December 31, 2014. But our Lady will know. We’ll find out who won when we get to heaven, please God. And the people of the parish which prays more will be all the more likely to make it to heaven–which is, in itself, the real victory.

Zacchaeus & Purgatory

Zacchaeus said, “I will repay four times over whatever I have extorted from anyone.”

I had the opportunity to visit Jericho a few years ago. A hardscrabble place, with a harsh desert wind. And: tense. Palestinian territory. Israeli soldiers with huge guns guarding checkpoints.

2013 November calendarI think we can imagine that Jericho’s air coursed with tension back when the Lord Jesus walked the earth, too. And the tension swirled around this man Zacchaeus. He wasn’t just a corrupt tax collector. He was the chief tax collector. He had grown rich while abusing his countrymen and capitalizing on their woes.

I myself can hardly relate to Zacchaeus. I have never had to climb a tree to see over a crowd in my life. But Zacchaeus stood short of stature, and he wanted to lay eyes on the rabbi from the north.

If we really think about it, we have to conclude the following: Not all of Zacchaeus’ money came to him dishonestly. If it had, then he could not have given half of his largesse to the poor and still also paid back all those he cheated four-fold. Apparently, Zacchaeus had cheated people, but he also made prudent investments and honest profits on them. He industriously climbed the sycamore tree to see the Lord. He must have industriously increased his money, too.

Continue reading “Zacchaeus & Purgatory”

Our Father Faith and Morals

The Lord Jesus teaches and guides our prayer. Who would ever want to pray in any other way than in the way of Christ?

Having Jesus Christ for a spiritual father, in fact, actually guides us in every aspect of faith and morals.

Let’s start here: I want to pray as this man taught, saying the prayer He taught His followers to say.

El Greco Christ blessing croppedTherefore, I must believe everything that a person needs to believe in order to say the Our Father sincerely.

Namely: That God loves the whole human race with a Father’s love. That He wills a heavenly kingdom. That He provides in every way. That He forgives, and shows me how to forgive and start fresh. That He has the power to free me from everything evil.

I want to pray the prayer taught by Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, I must live as someone who cay say this prayer sincerely.

Namely: That I want, above all, to do God’s will. I want to obey Him. I want to bless and glorify His holiness and beauty forever. I want to receive His gifts with love. I acknowledge that I am not sinless, that He alone is good. I have no hope but His loving mercy. I deserve death, but He lovingly gives me life everlasting instead. Because I am a sinner who relies totally on God’s forgiveness, I quickly forget about it when other people wrong me. All I want is that we all be together in heaven when everything is said and done. And we will get there together by co-operating with the great plan of the Father.

This is how you are to pray…

Thank you, Lord. The one thing I want in life is to pray as you teach. If anyone ever knew what they were talking about, it is You. I may be a miserable fool, but I know this much: one thing worth doing is to say the Our Father sincerely.

By teaching us this prayer, Lord, and by guiding us every time we say it, You have given us everything.

Work New Wonders, Lord

ecclesiasticus sirach

Give new signs and work new wonders. (Sirach 36:6)

In the first reading at Holy Mass today, we read Jesus ben-Sirach’s prayer for the re-unification of Israel. The wise man prays that God will intervene in history again to show the whole world that He is Lord, by restoring the divine kingdom of His chosen nation.

The wise teacher of this book has already outlined all the principles of an upright life. He has recounted the mighty works of God in creation and in the Covenant. And Jesus ben-Sirach has explained how living right—humbly submitting to God’s laws—that this offers the perfect religious sacrifice to God.

But that’s not all the wise man has to say. It’s not just all morals and piety. Actually morals and piety are just the beginning. Once we are moral and pious, then we must turn to God and humbly beg Him to bring it all to fulfillment by filling the heavens and the earth with His ineffable glory.

Now, of course, the Lord answered Jesus ben-Sirach’s prayer. He answered the prayers of all the ancient prophets. By sending the Messiah. The prophets knew that the wonders which God worked in Egypt, at the Red Sea, at Mount Sinai, and in the battles for control of the Holy Land in the days of Joshua—the prophets of old knew that all this was just the beginning. The Lord’s coup de grâce for His enemies was yet to come.

sistine isaiahAnd God proved the prophets right. He came in the flesh, born of the Virgin. He conquered sin and death. He extended the covenant to include all the nations of the earth. He filled His Church with grace so that She could equip God’s children for eternal life.

But, in fact, the works of God still are not over. The prayer of Jesus ben-Sirach constitutes part of the solemn, official prayer of Christ’s Church, chanted day in and day out by nuns and monks and priests. We still pray that God will give new signs and work new wonders, to show the world His glory and to unite all His scattered children.

Let’s never give up praying for God to intervene anew in history for the sake of our salvation. In fact, let’s make that prayer a priority. It’s not that He hasn’t done everything already by sending His Christ. He has done everything. But He can still make it all wonderful again, in a new way, by the unfolding of the surprising designs He has stored up in His infinite wisdom.

Exercise is good; doing an honest day’s work is good; getting a good night’s sleep is good; reading a good book; following the Nats or the Orioles. Perfectly good ways to spend time.

But let’s put humbly praying for God to give new signs and work new wonders at the top of our daily list of priorities.

Christ’s Exodus, Stations, Marmion

Stations of the Cross

They spoke of His exodus, which He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. (Luke 9:31)

The exodus of Christ. Yes: the same word as the title of the second book of the Holy Bible. The ancient Israelites languished as slaves in Egypt, away from their Promised Land, away from the sacred domain that God had given to Abraham their forefather. But then Moses led the Exodus: The Israelites escaped their bondage. They passed over the Red Sea. They made their way to their true home.

transfigurationAll of that happened by way of foreshadowing. It all symbolized the great exodus yet to come. God Himself would come to this Egypt and share with us sons and daughters of Adam the slavery of death. God Himself would walk in this foreign land–Justice and Truth Himself on an earth full of injustice and lies.

Why did He do it? He came to lead an exodus.

The Lord Jesus ascended Mt. Tabor and allowed His divine glory to shine through, and Moses and Elijah came to Him to talk—all for one reason: Apparently cruel, confusing, heartbreaking events would soon unfold in Jerusalem. The Lord wanted to show His chosen Apostles the hidden meaning of His Passion and crucifixion.

Yes, it will look like a defeat. Yes, it will appear to be an unmitigated disaster. But do not mistake it. It will be the beginning of a mighty and glorious exodus. God will in fact win a triumph in Jerusalem—a triumph so stupendous that it will make Moses parting the Red Sea look like a cheesy half-time show by comparison.

Now, pretty soon we will have a new pope. One thing a pope does is to declare saints. Pope John Paul II declared a great monk-priest named Columba Marmion to be a saint.

Dom Columba Marmion
Dom Columba Marmion
Blessed Columba Marmion lived a life of enormous holiness; he was holy in many different ways. Let’s focus on one: Dom Columba made the Stations of the Cross every day. In other words, he made them every Friday of Lent. Plus, he made them every other Friday of the year, since the Church keeps every Friday as a kind of little weekly Lent, year-round. Plus, Blessed Columba made the Stations every other day, also: Monday-Thursday, and Saturdays and Sundays, too.

Now, maybe you’re saying to yourself: “Father is telling me that this holy man—this saintly individual—that he made the Stations of the Cross every day. But I am not altogether sure what ‘making the Stations of the Cross’ means. What does it mean?”

Okay. Good question. Let’s start with a few words of Dom Columba’s, if I might quote them:

This contemplation of Jesus’ suffering is very fruitful…That is why, if, during a few moments, interrupting your work, laying aside your preoccupations, and closing your heart to all outward things, you accompany the God-man along the road to Calvary, with faith, humility, and love, with the true desire of imitating His virtues, be assured that your souls will receive choice graces, which will transform them little by little into the likeness of Jesus.

…It suffices to visit the fourteen stations, to stay a while at each of them and there to meditate on the Savior’s Passion…The more we enter into those dispositions that filled the Heart of Jesus as He passed along the sorrowful way—love towards His Father, charity towards men, hatred for sin, humility, obedience to the Father’s will—the more our souls will receive graces and lights.

Every parish church has the fourteen stations: Jesus condemned to death. Jesus taking up His cross. Jesus falling under the weight of the cross. Jesus meeting His mother in the street on the way Calvary. St. Simon helping Jesus to carry the cross. St. Veronica wiping the Holy Face. The Lord falling under the weight of the cross again. Jesus condoling with the wailing women in the street. Jesus falling a third time as He begins to climb Calvary Hill. The centurions roughly stripping Him of His tunic. The centurions nailing Him to the cross. They plant the cross in the earth, and, after three hours of agony, God dies. They take His Body down and lay Him in His Mother’s arms. Then they lay Him in the tomb.

Fourteen stations. On the Fridays of Lent, most of the parishes of the world pray the Stations together. In our humble cluster, we make our way through them together at 7:00 in the evening. On Good Friday, at 3:00 p.m.

This is the exodus of the Savior of the world. We celebrate it constantly in the Mass. As Bl. Dom Columba put it, “devotion to the sufferings of Christ in the Way of the Cross is the devotional prayer most closely linked to the Mass.”

Let’s assume we want to get to heaven. Failing to take advantage of this particular means of devotion would be like a miner failing to take advantage of a pickaxe, or a NASCAR driver failing to take advantage of a car. Sure, you can run 500 times around Daytona Speedway on foot. But why not drive? Likewise: yes, it is possible to get to heaven without praying the Stations of the Cross. But why not hop on board a train of prayer that is definitely headed in the right direction? Friday at 7:00 (check local listings).

The Hugeness of Mass on December 21

Ecce Agnus Dei

Well, we’re still here.

St. Paul wrote that all of creation groans with labor pains, even until now. Longing for fulfillment, completion. Longing for, dare we say it: consecration.

The groaning of the world continues for one more day at least. The New Agers at the foot of the Mayan temples caught the wrong vibe, apparently.

Also the first day of winter today. What is winter, if not the great longing for spring? Hidden germinations rooting in the soil, longing for—aching, itching, yearning, reaching out towards—the sun.

doomsday comingAnd, as we considered yesterday, Our lady longs. The perfect, pristine bosom of love, the renewed Garden of Eden in a shawl—she longs to dar la luz. To bring to light the hale and hearty babe.

Because His birth will consecrate her. His birth consecrates the entire earth. The earth groans in labor pains until she brings forth…the Christ.

And the Church, too, longs to bring forth this Christ. The Church longs for the consecration.

Everyone watching for the final consummation at the end of the Mayan Long Count should have come to Mass instead. The final consummation can be found nowhere else.

Qua Church, we obey the Word of God in its entirety. We say like Our Lady: Behold, Your handmaid, Your Church. You speak; we believe. You command; we do.

And God satisfies all the longing by coming in the flesh on the altar.

The Sacred Liturgy: Local Yokels and Jesus Christ

Okay. Let’s see who has been paying attention. On Sundays so far this year, we have been reading from the Gospel according to Saint …? Mark. Amen.

True or false: The gospel of Mark is the lengthiest, wordiest, most long-winded gospel.

Amen! False. St. Mark wrote the briefest, tersest, most to-the-point gospel. So brief that it does not take an entire year of Sundays to read it. It doesn’t even take a full eleven months of Sundays.

We have an extra month to work with here. We have the golden opportunity to read one of the most pivotal, one of the most fascinating, one of the most illuminating chapters of the entire Bible. This particular chapter also happens to be wicked long—69 verses.

So today we start reading… John 6! Amen.

All four evangelists recount the Baptism of Christ, and all four narrate Holy Week and Easter. Other than that, there is only one episode in the Lord’s life that all four gospels recount, namely…The Feeding of the 5,000!

Not a co-incidence. The Lord revealed His divine intentions on the hillside that evening. God became man in order miraculously to feed the hungry of every time and place, including us. He did some things which have produced the stunningly wonderful effect of providing us with nourishment for immortality. Let us pause to consider what He did, as the Fathers gathered at the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago paused to consider it:

Continue reading “The Sacred Liturgy: Local Yokels and Jesus Christ”