The Power of the Keys

 

confessional

God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself. [Spanish]

God the Father of mercies.

We did not exist. The seas and rivers did not exist. He took pity on us in our non-existence. He took pity on our unimaginable poverty—the poverty of not even being anything at all. Out of mercy, He made us.

The Father of mercies: He simply gives. Gives life unto peace and blessedness. He stabilizes and fortifies. He sustains everything He has made with His immovable-rock-like steadiness.

We fall short of this. We are like financial records that have not been attentively kept. Or like a marriage that has been neglected. Something—someone—must reconcile us with the Good, with truth and reality and the plan that God has. We’re like old, desiccated brick walls that need pointing, liable to leak and then crack and crumble—unless a stronger and more loving power fills the cracks in us with some solid bond.

wedding umbrellasThe stronger and move loving power? Christ, the Son of God. His sacrifice on His cross effects the reconciliation between God’s pure goodness and us.

The Western world has fallen into a weird spiritual malaise and can’t see the thing that every honest pagan who has ever heard the Gospel has immediately seen. The world, without Christ, languishes in hopeless estrangement from the Creator. But: The world with Christ, with Christ crucified and risen? Reconciled with God.

God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself, and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.

The Reconciler, having reconciled the world and God by shedding His innocent blood, pours forth reconciliation from His own Heart. The Holy Spirit of mercy, at work in the world, pointing the desiccated mortar. Finding a miraculous way to balance the ill-kept books.

This is not a zero-sum cosmos, people. That’s the glory of the Gospel. God always has more to give. Christ pours out His Spirit of mercy and reconciliation into the humblest and most apparently innocuous moments.

Okay, time for the quiz. Which text have we studied here so far? God the Father of mercies… Correct! The prayer of absolution in the sacrament of Penance.

We hear all about it in the gospel passage for this Sunday’s Mass. Lord Jesus gave St. Peter and the Apostles the power to bind and to loose. This power abides in the world.

El Greco St Peter keys…Through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace.

The ministry doesn’t belong to the priest, as if it were in his own power as a man to loosen the sins of his people. No—Holy Mother Church possesses this ministry, because the Lord endowed Her with it.

At this point in my life, all this comes as a somewhat painful reflection. No priest can reconcile a sinner without having the proper authority to do so, delegated by the Church. Bishop Knestout has suspended my authority to do this. The only person I can validly absolve of his or her sins is someone in immediate danger of death. Any other absolution I would give? Not just disobedient on my part; it would not even be the sacrament.

Now, the Church’s law stipulates that a bishop should only revoke a priest’s authority to hear confessions for a serious cause. We priests get ordained to reconcile sinners. Wherever a priest may find himself, that becomes a place where a sinner can return to God’s grace.

Generally we hear confessions in the church, in the confessional. But a hospital room, an airplane, the corner of a factory or a restaurant, a car, a mountainside—all these places can become confessionals, if the need arises. And in the course of the lives of most priests, all these places do become confessionals, at one time or another.

So it hurts, not being able to do what I was ordained to do. When people ask to go to confession, I have to tell them I’m not allowed to help them. I think my brother priests would feel the same pain, if they had to endure this weird deprivation of the authority to absolve sinners.

To this day, I don’t know what ‘serious cause’ Bishop Knestout has in mind. I haven’t taught anything unorthodox. When penitents have sought moral guidance from me, I have always spoken according to the Catechism.

Be all that as it may, at least I can offer my private Masses for the salvation of sinners. And I myself can still go to confession, to another priest, thank God.

The Lord always has a plan. May He sort this all out. May He be merciful to us all.

PS. Bill Wyatt wrote an informative report about our trip to Richmond this past Sunday.

Report on WUSA9 in Washington, D.C.

Note:

After WUSA aired the story, the Diocese of Richmond made a comment. Mr. Leshan dutifully included the diocese’s statement in the on-line, written version of the report:

“As of this writing, this is not just about Fr. Mark’s blog,” Deborah Cox, a spokeswoman for the Richmond Diocese, said. “Fr. Mark continues to refuse to accept the assignment and the new job he has been given.”

I asked Ms. Cox to correct this statement, because it mis-characterizes the situation. As of this writing, to the best of my knowledge, she has not done so.

I very much want to work as a priest. I appealed my removal as pastor in Rocky Mount-Martinsville to the Holy See. Last month, the Congregation for the Clergy dismissed my appeal on a questionable technicality.

In the meantime, Bishop Knestout suspended my priestly faculties–that is, my authorization to minister as one of his priests. I cannot minister in any assignment without that authorization.

Bishop Knestout wrote to me last month to inform me that I cannot have my priestly faculties back while I still have a blog. Bishop Knestout himself made it all about this blog.

I pointed out to him then that his stipulation violates both canon law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to no avail.

If the bishop had not imposed his stipulation, I would have proceeded to my new assignment last month, as instructed by the Congregation for the Clergy. I would continue to fight to return to Rocky Mount-Martinsville, to be sure. But I would do so while working as diocesan prison chaplain, as assigned.

I cannot do this, however, because Bishop Knestout has not lifted my suspension.

I just want to be clear about this, because, at least to me, it’s the difference between being an obedient priest and a disobedient one. Refusing to submit to silencing does not violate priestly obedience. But refusing a legitimate assignment does.

Ms. Cox did me wrong in the way she characterized the situation. She owes me, and the readers of Mr. Leshan’s story, a correction.

We Go to Richmond Today Because…

1. We hope and pray that our Church could live as a loving family, not a cruel and faceless bureaucracy.

2. The Church of Jesus Christ has taught the world about the rights and dignity of every human being. We find true peace and happiness by respecting that dignity in everyone, especially those who suffer–particularly those who have suffered abuse by clergymen.

The prelates of the Church hierarchy need to apply the Christian principles of respect for human dignity in their own administrative actions. We need a Church with the courage and integrity to respect Her own teaching in Her day-to-day internal decisions. Prelates can’t demand blind obedience to the betrayal of our own Christian principles.

3. We believe in the Divine Mercy revealed by Jesus Christ. We believe that He heals souls willing to live in the truth.

We keep our vigil because we hold the Catholic faith, not because we doubt or challenge it. We have enough faith to believe that our Church can survive, and thrive again, by openly acknowledging the full extent of the McCarrick cover-up, and other similar cover-ups.

5pm in front of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

Justice for Father Mark

Guest Post: Judy Rogers

st-peters-sunriseHis Eminence Marc Cardinal Ouellet

Prefect, Congregation of Bishops

Palazzo della Congregazioni,

Piazza Pio XII, 10

00193 Roma, Italia

 

July 2, 2020

 

Your Eminence:

 

I write today re Fr. Mark White, who was suspended from his ministry by Bishop Barry Knestout, Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, USA.

I am confident that mine is not the first letter you have received about this grievous matter. Many other letters of support have been sent to you from loving and deeply upset parishioners, who have been blessed with having Fr. White as their priest. People came to Mass not out of a sense of duty, but to hear him preach, and to receive the spiritual nourishment he provided. He inspired us all with a desire to better serve God and to seek a deeper spiritual commitment.

I insert the following from a previous letter by Ms. B. Harmon, dated June 23, 2020 (with her permission) as a brief refresher of the subject matter: “…Fr. White re-opened his web blog during the COVID-19 shutdown to communicate with his parishioners sheltering at home. Fr. White had closed his blog at the bishop’s request in November, 2019. The bishop has asked Fr. White to terminate his blog (its primary purpose to house his homilies, 12 years of content), because he also used it as a forum to express personal commentary and information about newly uncovered scandals related to the sex-abuse issue beginning with the announcement of allegations against Theodore McCarrick in June 2018 (McCarrick had ordained Fr. Mark White in 2003).”

Fr. Mark’s writing about such problems are not a “first.” In Jude, vs. 3, 4 we read:  “Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For admission has been secretly gained by some who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly persons who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

It has been known for years that sexual perversion and sexual abuse have become rampant in the Catholic Church. Yet rarely was anything admitted or done about it, other than payoffs. (In addition to that scandal, we have learned of the gross misuse of funds by some members of the hierarchy, including those who lived in mansions, enjoyed lives of luxury and self-indulgence, all of which in no way reflected the life lived by our Savior Jesus Christ while on earth.)

Fr. White filed an appeal to the Bishop’s actions. The Bishop, during the interim time, moved swiftly to remove Fr. White from his priestly duties, disregarding the Canon laws that protect a priest while his appeal is being heard. These actions are a matter of record, which I will not bore you with repeating. I assure you, however, that parishioners are very aware of the bishop’s actions and reacting accordingly.

I also write with the knowledge that the Vatican has responded to Fr. White’s appeal to the effect that because the lawyer’s submission omitted one word, “procurator,” at the beginning, this nullified the entire case. That information was received by Fr. White and his lawyer in a time frame that appeared designed to stop additional efforts. This reeks of deliberate efforts to stop this appeal immediately.

Is this what our Church has come to? Is this seen as fair treatment for a priest who has given his life to the work of the Church?  Known sexual abusers are “over-looked” while a faithful priest is treated in this manner. What is right about that? What is holy about that?  How does this glorify God?

stjude
El Greco St. Jude

It is Bishop Knestout’s contention that Fr. White’s blog and actions caused discord among the faithful.

I disagree. (Please bear in mind that not everyone read the blogs…it was each individual’s choice to do so.) It is my belief that the actions of the bishop have done far more to damage the faith and the image of the Catholic Church than anything Fr. White ever said or wrote.

Fr. White has attempted to reconcile with the bishop, including offering an apology on the blog if anything he may have written had seemed inappropriate or offensive to others. (It should also be noted that readers were able to post their own responses regarding the blog.) Fr. White offered to have others review future blogs prior to their posting.  He also offered proposals for ways to resolve the conflict which were rebuffed, without response from the bishop. Nothing was acceptable to the bishop…only the complete shutdown of the blog and other forms of communication.

Fr. White was to cease  “…disseminating his opinion by means of any social media:  in print, by audio, or video, or any digital means….” This decree from the bishop is in direct opposition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media.” As you know, every pope for the last sixty years has endorsed this Declaration.

I believe it time for the bishop to practice the forgiveness that the Church teaches. Christ, while on earth, repeatedly chastised the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, for not practicing what they preached. The twenty-third chapter of Matthew addresses this in great detail.

Forgiveness is at the heart of our faith. This is what we are taught, what we preach, what we tell the world we believe. Jesus, as he hung dying on the cross, said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.  (Luke 23:24) Simon Peter denied Jesus three times; yet Christ loved him and received him back as his own. He did not “punish” him or seek revenge against him. We are required to practice forgiveness. It is not optional.   “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matthew 6:12) And, again, in Luke 6:37: “…forgive and you will be forgiven… For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

The bishop has not demonstrated, in my opinion, a willingness to practice forgiveness for what he perceives to be Fr. White’s transgressions. Yet, the best example of Christian love he could give to this skeptical, doubting world, would be to reconcile with Fr. Mark White. Instead, what the world sees is a bishop willing to hurt or destroy a beloved and faithful priest who dared to tell the truth about the sexual scandal. They also see a man [bishop] determined to do whatever he can to circumvent justice and force a good priest into submission. This should not be so. Do not think the world is not watching…it is. News of this deplorable situation has spread far and wide.

Because of Bishop Knestout’s prior position as Secretary to McCarrick, he has been viewed with skepticism since his arrival as bishop. It is not my place to judge him….that is only for God. I do know from what I hear and read that what appears to be a crusade on his part to stop, by any means, additional information about McCarrick, the sexual abuse, and/or questions about why the McCarrick Report has not been released by the Vatican, do not serve him well. More and more, many see this as the driving force behind his actions against Fr. White.

My prayer and my hope is that Fr. Mark White will receive a fair and just adjudication of his appeal, and that a positive outcome—for the bishop, Fr. White, and his parishioners—will be forthcoming with the return of Fr. White to his two parishes. Parish priest or bishop…both are priests of the same God.

In closing, I share this verse from I Corinthians 9:16:

“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

This is the priest that I know Fr. Mark White to be. He can be nothing less and be true to his calling from God as a priest. Would that all were like him.

 

Respectfully yours in Christ,

Judy L. Rogers

Parishioner, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Rocky Mount, VA

 

Scripture references:  The Holy Bible, RSV, Second Catholic Edition, Ignatius Press

 

cc:  His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio, 3339 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC  20008  USA

His Excellency Archbishop William Lori, Archdiocese of Baltimore, 320 Cathedral St., Baltimore, MD 21201   USA

Fr. Mark D. White, Pastor (suspended), Francis of Assisi, Rocky Mount (24151); St. Joseph, Martinsville, VA (24112)   USA

Painful, Solitary Corpus Christi of Faith

[Can’t preach for the Solemnity, but here’s what I think and feel…]

Monstrance

Our country faced staggering uncertainty. Even before they killed George Floyd.

Our parishes faced staggering uncertainty, too. Even before the bishop unjustly prohibited me from exercising the pastoral ministry. [Spanish]

They called the economic situation a ‘perfect storm.’ Even before the protesters risked spreading the virus all over again. After all, the city of Philadelphia fell prey to the ravages of the Spanish flu in 1918 because of a public demonstration, in favor of the US entering World War I.

Will we ever have our ‘normal lives’ again? How can we possibly deal with all this? Where can we find the resources to cope?

In Him were found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:3)

He remains with us. On our altars. Jesus Christ. Crucified, risen from the dead, exalted in heaven. He lives with us, in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. He has the resources. And He wills to share His resources with us.

Some dear members of our parishes have returned to Sunday Mass. They get hot under their masks. Someone ushers them in and out of church, like visitors to a medium-security prison. They pray in our pews, on our behalf, like the first Israelites to return to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity.

Meanwhile, the rest of us have something in common. Christian solitude.

When the coronavirus ordeal began, even before we learned how to “livestream” a Mass, I mentioned how challenging it is to celebrate Mass by yourself.

priest_jesus_mass

Having to do this, back in mid-March, confronted me with the embarrassing truth: I had become spiritually lazy. Saying Mass by myself required me to use spiritual muscles that I had not exercised in a long time. To believe in the Real Presence, without any other human beings around, to help me believe it.

In March, I had no idea what the good Lord had in mind. Namely, to train me to run a marathon with those very spiritual muscles. Now, I run that marathon right alongside you, dear isolated reader–that is, the majority of dear readers for whom the barriers to returning to Mass still remain too high.

Me, celebrating Mass by myself–while substitutes take my rightful place at the parish Masses. You, longing for communion, in Christian solitude at home. Together, we find ourselves running a long, hard marathon in the hot sun. A marathon of faith in things unseen, without the usual company around us, to help us believe.

But it is precisely that marathon of faith which we most desperately need to run. Because faith alone can give us The Resource. The Gift from heaven that sustains us through thick and thin. Jesus Christ, Son of God, son of Mary. The Savior of the world, Who unites Himself with the human race, through every Holy Mass, validly celebrated by a Catholic priest.

FOA Corpus Christi procession
St. Francis Corpus Christi procession, a few happy years ago 🙂

How much will it break my heart, to find myself greeting my people at the edge of the parish property on Corpus Christi Sunday, instead of kneeling in front of the Host in the monstrance on the altar, lifting the smoking thurible on behalf of the whole parish? How much will it crush me, that we won’t have a Corpus-Christi procession? Followed by hamburgers, hot dogs, and Mexican dances?

I won’t try to explain how much it hurts. And let’s remember that this ordeal will pass; we will have our normal lives again, someday.

But as we run this long, hot marathon of solitude, we remember this. All the “normal” parish stuff: it’s all an image of something greater anyway. A Mass on earth gives us an image of the unending Mass, in heaven. We process with the monstrance on Corpus Christi to symbolize that our whole earthly life involves a pilgrimage. To somewhere else.

Christian solitude poses immense spiritual challenges. But, fundamentally, such solitude comes from heaven as a gift. Because someday many layers of dirt will cover my grave. And your grave, too, dear reader.

Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ, can give us the resources to deal with that inevitable fact. And right here, right now—no matter what the circumstances, fears, anxieties, sufferings we have—right here, right now: Let’s believe in Him. The Word made flesh for us, Who abides on earth in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.

[A kind soul started a facebook group where I can post videos that you might find helpful. Here’s the video version of what you just read, English and Spanish.]

 

 

Galilean Topography

[written 2/10/20]

View from Church of the Beatitudes
view from the Church of the Beatitudes in Galilee

We read in the gospel for today’s Mass about how the Lord Jesus disembarked at Gennesaret, on the Sea of Galilee. Healing power flowed from Him. They came to Him from all around.

Have you have been there, dear reader? Gennesaret. It’s now an archaeological dig, right by the little town of Tagbha. It’s near Capernaum and Magdala. Home of…

The Korazim plateau rises up from the Galilean seashore there. The hillside forms a natural amphitheater. The land is scalloped in such a way that a voice carries up the hill. Plus it’s a breathtakingly beautiful, peaceful spot to sit and listen to someone. You look out over the Sea of Galilee.

Seems likely that the Lord Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount in this place.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, who will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice and truth. Blessed are the clean of heart, who will see God.

May the good Lord give us the grace for that to be us.

February 2 Co-incidence?

(written 2/2/20)

candlemas

Forty days after Christ was born, our Lady and St. Joseph followed the prescription of Exodus 13:1-2: The Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both of man and beast, for it belongs to me.’ [Spanish]

Why perform the ceremony? We read, in that same chapter of Exodus:

If your son should ask you later on, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall tell him, ‘With a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, that place of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed every first-born in the land of Egypt, every first-born of man and of beast. That is why I sacrifice to the Lord everything of the male sex that opens the womb, and why I redeem every first-born of my sons.’ Let this, then, be as a sign on your hand and as a pendant on your forehead: with a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt. (Exodus 13:14-16)

Faithful Israelites kept this law of the Old Covenant to remind themselves that they owed everything to the Lord—their land, their freedom, their nation—everything. Our Lady and St. Joseph cherished these words of Scripture. They dutifully obeyed this law, as we read in the holy gospel, on the fortieth day after Christmas.

Now, up in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, they have a famous groundhog. Named Phil. Every year, on the fortieth day after Christmas, the nation wonders: Maybe the Lord will give us an early spring? All attention focuses on the groundhog, and whether or not Phil will see his shadow when he emerges from hibernation. All this on the same day we Catholics keep this holy feast of Candlemas, when we travel spiritually to the Temple in Jerusalem to encounter the baby Jesus, like Simeon the priest encountered Him.

Is it some kind of unbelievable co-incidence that these two events occur on the same date? Candlemas and Groundhog Day—both February 2. Just a co-incidence? Negative. It’s no co-incidence.

Rembrandt SimeonWay before Punxsutawney Phil the hibernating groundhog—many centuries ago—in Austria and Hungary, they looked for the hibernating bears to awake on Candlemas Day. Since they were Christians, they understood a hibernating bear waking up from its winter’s rest in a spiritual way. They saw an image of the resurrection of the body, through the triumph of Christ over death.

To us the whole business of whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow—it might seem weird. But it has this ancient Christian origin. The Europeans of former centuries thought: if the hibernating bear sees his shadow, that meant he had not fully put off his soul in death. Therefore, the bear could not yet represent Christ’s resurrection. So springtime had to wait another six weeks. But if the bear emerges with no shadow, that means the sleep of death has run its course. The waking bear represents the resurrection of the body. Time for spring.

Now, the actual bears and groundhogs involved in all this could hardly make any sense out of it. They cannot grasp the Christian spiritual interpretation of the passage from winter to spring. But we can make perfect sense out of it. Especially when we meditate carefully on the mystery of Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple.

When our Lady and St. Joseph brought the baby to the Temple to present Him to the Father, “Simeon took the child into his arms and blessed God, saying: Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:27-32)

The picture of Simeon receiving the Lord Jesus in his arms and rejoicing with pure faith: that image explains the spiritual meaning of the hibernating animals waking up from the sleep of winter.

Simeon rejoiced because he knew by faith that his long wait was over. The Messiah had come. The day of salvation has arrived. That mystery unlocks for us the true meaning of everything we experience on earth. God has destined us for eternity. The incarnate Son of God has conquered death for us.

To imitate Simeon is the true spiritual goal of February 2. To receive Christ into our hearts with pure faith, to rejoice that the day of salvation has come, and to rest our minds and hearts in the Good News. That is the unending springtime of Christian life.

Could King David do God a Favor?

(written 1/29/20)

king david

As we read in our first reading at Holy Mass today, King David intended to build “a house” for the Lord. A temple to hold the Ark of the Covenant. We can imagine that David thought he would do a magnificent act of religion this way.

The prophet Nathan came to correct David, to remind the king that God needs no favors from us. Rather, the prophet declared to David: The Lord brought you this far, and He will continue to build up your house. He will give you a royal son. You will found a royal dynasty.

Indeed, King David did, by God’s grace, found an everlasting dynasty. The Messiah, the God-man, the King of the universe, sprang from David’s loins. The Christ came into the world as a descendant of David. All this, by God’s power.

For us to imagine that we can do God any favors: that’s a kind of idolatry. We cannot domesticate Almighty God. His power and sway are absolute; all goodness proceeds from His unfathomable blessedness.

We cannot benefit Him. He benefits us. He needs nothing from us. We need everything from Him. We even need to beg Him to give us faith, to give us religion. As we pray in one of the Eucharistic prefaces at Mass: Our desire to thank You is itself Your gift, O Lord.

So Nathan had to correct David, because the king had a delusion about acting with god-like generosity towards God. But the prophet did not get severe with the well-meaning but misguided king. To the contrary: through the prophet, the Lord offered David His loving friendship.

That’s what happens. When we humble ourselves before God, recognizing that all good comes from Him, and all we really have to our own credit are our sins; when we abase ourselves and live in that truth, then He lifts us up and enters into intimate communion with us. We are but dust and ashes, and yet He makes us his partners, His ambassadors, His priests.

Jerusalem and Auschwitz Liberation Anniversary

(written 1/27/20)

Pope Francis Western Wall

In the first reading at Holy Mass today, we read about how King David captured the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites, a non-Hebrew Canaanite people.

We tend to think of Jerusalem as the most thoroughly “Biblical” of cities, as God’s city. But archaeologists tell us that the city had a 3,000 year pagan history before King David captured it.

According to ancient tradition, the founder of the Hebrew people, Abraham, came from what is now Iraq. He prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac on the spot that later became the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

So, after King David captured the city from the Jebusites, David’s son Solomon built the Temple on that spot. The site that Abraham had consecrated centuries earlier by his faithful obedience to God.

King David captured Jerusalem by military conquest. Today we recall another military capture. Pope Francis said we should commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Soviet army capturing the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz in Poland. The Red Army liberated the surviving Jewish prisoners.

As a young GI, my grandfather participated in the liberation of a different concentration camp. He was utterly horrified by the sight of the emaciated prisoners, whom the Nazis had all but starved to death. In fact, the sight impacted my grandfather so heavily that he never spoke of it. We never knew that he had participated in the liberation of a death camp. But after he died, my mother and aunt found black-and-white photos he had taken with his little camera, after his division captured the camp.

May God be merciful to us for the horrible crimes we human beings have managed to commit against each other. May He pour out His grace to help us find peace among ourselves.

RIP Kobe Bryant

(written 1/27/20)

kobe-smiling1

I wrote about Kobe Bryant in one of the first posts I ever published on this little blog. (I wrote about him here, too.)

In 1992, NBA players competed in the Olympics for the first time. The USA squad earned the nickname “Dream Team,” because it included some of the finest basketball players ever–Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, and other greats.

Then, in 2004, the USA won the bronze medal. Yes, you read that right. The bronze.

So, in 2008, we called our team The Redeem Team. We needed redemption. They delivered. They brought the gold back home.

On Sunday, August 24, 2008, I wrote:

I am a little delirious this evening, since my alarm woke me up at 2:20 this morning.  Like any self-respecting basketball-fan patriot, I got up to watch the Redeem Team do the work of basketball redemption.  Then I spent my priestly Sunday carrying out the work of the Redemption (of the world—basketball players and everybody else) at the Holy Altar.  So I am seriously bushed.  But the game was worth getting up early for, and not just because it was a surprisingly competitive game.  (Hats off to Spain for fighting tough to the end.)

Anyway, the NBC announcer Mike Breen said this about the smiles on the faces of Bryant, Wade, James, and Co. when the last seconds of the fourth quarter were ticking down and American victory was finally assured:  “These guys are all multi-millionaires.  But these smiles are something special.  The gold medal is worth more to them than all the money in their NBA contracts.”

Kobe Bryant memorial

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him.

May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.