The Green-Eyed Monster

Othello and Iago by Solomon Alexander Hart
“Othello and Iago” by Solomon Alexander Hart

Saul kept a jealous eye on David. (I Samuel 18:19)

From the desk of Snowbound Father Mark… A summary of Question 36 of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, part II-II: De Invidia.

Goodness makes us rejoice. Evil makes us sorrow.

We naturally want honor, a good name, a good reputation–and the prosperity that tends to go with a good reputation. But when we focus too much on winning the esteem of others, we grow vain.

We observe that sometimes people enjoy prosperity and a good reputation because they deserve it. But sometimes the unjust and undeserving prosper, and that makes us indignant.

When we meditate on the truths of the Christian faith, we recognize that success and prosperity in this world is one thing–relatively short lived. On the other hand, success and prosperity in the pursuit of holiness and eternal life–that’s another thing. That’s worth pursuing with zeal, with jealousy. May we all jealously strive to get to heaven.

While we do, we’ll forget about vanity. And we’ll learn to accept the fact that this world deals out rewards and punishments in an amazingly unfair way.

Divine love rejoices when anyone prospers with the truly beautiful goods of eternal life–with virtue and genuine excellence. By the same token, divine love sorrows and feels pity whenever a neighbor suffers.

When, on the other hand, we lose sight of the real goal of all our striving, and seek only success and recognition in this world, then we live in a state of competition with our peers. We sorrow at the neighbor’s achievement and excellence–because I think his or her success somehow harms me, makes me look like a loser by comparison.

Now, even good people experience twinges of envy–these twinges are venial sins. But if I forget heaven, grow vain, and let the green-eyed monster take over my my mind, I will gossip; I will tear down; I will hate. And then I will heartlessly rejoice at the misfortune of the one who has excelled me.

The rule to measure ourselves by: The loving, merciful person does not envy anyone–except the saints in heaven, whom he hopes to join. But the envious person shows no mercy.

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Looking for God, Experiencing God

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“What are you looking for?” The first words of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John. Christ asks this question of those who follow Him. Andrew and the other gentleman literally followed Christ–after they saw Him walk by and heard St. John the Baptist call Him the “Lamb of God.” [Spanish.]

“What are you looking for?” Christ asks us the same question, we who propose to follow Him as His disciples, here and now, 2018. What are we looking for?

How about: “We’re looking for God.” We seek our Maker, our Lord. We seek His true and eternal goodness and beauty. We behold His works: the splendid visible creation, and the great mystery of ourselves. We see from His handiwork that God has unimaginable power and knowledge. We long to share in His wisdom. We know that we can have no peace without His friendship.

St. Andrew and the other gentleman answered Jesus’ question by calling Him “rabbi.” A rabbi taught the Law, the wisdom of God. By addressing Jesus with this title, they said pretty much what we just said. That is, “Jesus, sir, teach us about God.”

They added a question of their own. “Where are you staying?”

Now, on the one hand, it’s a strange question to ask the Son of Man–Who had no place to rest His Head, Whose only true dwelling is with the Father. But, on the other hand, the question expresses genuine earnestness. It means: ‘Teacher, we want to learn from you, not just as religious tourists chasing curiosities. We want to follow You as real disciples, living in intimate closeness with You. We will give up our own homes, and we will make our home at Your feet.’

Can we say the same? We said that we follow Christ because we want God; we know that only God can give us true happiness and peace. Can we join St. Andrew and St. Peter in putting everything on the line for the sake of learning God’s wisdom from Jesus? Everything: all that we thought was ours, all that we thought we knew. Can we renounce every ounce of pride and self-satisfaction and put ourselves humbly at Jesus’ feet?

aquinasHe demands no less. “Come and see,” He says. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, this means: Come, follow Me, and experience true union with God. Experience it, because it cannot be explained using words alone.

Christianity is not something in which you can dabble. It’s not a hobby. It involves an all-encompassing experience of God’s revelation in Christ.

Yes, to be sure, the baby Jesus is lovable and cute. And God became just such a baby so as to communicate the indescribable tenderness and gentleness of His love.

But the cute baby grew up to become the High Priest Who baptizes with the unquenchable fire of the Holy Spirit. He grew into the rabbi who taught doctrine so demandingly sublime that His rivals came to hate Him for it, and they wanted Him dead.

Now: How can we possibly experience what Jesus demands that we experience? Namely, His Holy Spirit working in our souls, giving us an intimate union with Almighty God. Putting us in communion not just with the heavens and the earth, but with He Who made the heavens and the earth.

Well, if you expect me to have a complete answer to that question, think again. I’m hardly qualified to discourse about such holiness.

But we can say this much: We experience the work of the Holy Spirit in our souls when we stay close to Christ in His Church. He speaks to us through the Scriptures and all the words and works of the Sacred Liturgy; He fills us with His grace through the sacraments.

Yes, it’s amazing that this humble building of ours could house such mystical activity. It’s incredible that these simple ceremonies we do here actually involve God incarnate ministering to us. It’s hard to believe that we unremarkable individuals could find ourselves caught up in the work of the Holy Spirit of God. It’s amazing. But it’s true.

So let’s stay faithful to it. What more can we do, other than stay faithful? We can’t claim to understand the works of God. We certainly don’t know of anything more wonderful. So let’s stay faithful, and the Holy Spirit will do His work in us.

Knowing the Meaning of “Love”

baptismchristgreco1I guess we could formulate the fundamental question of life in various ways.

Like “Why do I exist?” Or “Where is all this headed exactly?”

But one question that seems to distill everything to its essence would be:

Does God love me or not? Does God love and care about us bipeds with opposable thumbs, or not?

Massive catastrophes can and do befall the human race, leading us to suspect that the Omnipotent One does not love. Bomb-cyclone winter weather events. Sicknesses and early deaths. Think about all the people who drowned in the Great Flood. And even Noah and his family probably got sick and tired of floating on all that water.

But then God gave a sign about the answer to the question, Does God care? He gave a sign that the answer is Yes. A dove. The dove returned with an olive branch in its beak. Yes, God justly punishes sin. But that is not His primary interest. He more-ardently renews the earth with His mercy.

We say, “God is love.” We don’t really know what that means. We don’t know what the word ‘God’ means. And we don’t really know what the word ‘love’ means.

But we do not remain altogether baffled, because: The dove descended upon Christ. God and love: Christ reveals the truth of the matter. The Holy Spirit is God, is love, is fire and uncompromising justice, and comfort and healing oil and a gentle breeze.

Did the Flood make sense to the people who drowned? Or even to Noah and his family on the ark?

If we think we can even formulate the fundamental question of life—let alone answer it—without the one man Jesus Christ, living and real, Who has a Church; if we think there’s some science of reality, and of love, other than Him…

Well, I don’t know. But I’ll venture to predict that any other basis for coping with reality will ultimately collapse under the weight of reality itself.

On the other hand: the beloved Son, in Whom the Father is well pleased; the One Who knows how to say, Abba, Father; our Lord Who underwent the exodus of Calvary: He will assure us, with the witness of His indubitable beauty, that God does indeed love.

Another 1968?

 

Le Pape Paul VI A New York

On the eighth day after His birth, the newborn Israelite boy was circumcised and given His Name… Which means: “God saves.”

The pope has declared Jesus’ circumcision day to be the “World Day of Peace.” Monday was the 50th World Day of Peace. Which means the first one was: January 1, 1968. Let’s see; what happened that year?

Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated. Robert Kennedy assassinated. Riots in Washington, DC, Chicago, Baltimore, Kansas City, Wilmington DE, and Louisville KY. The Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Protests, shootings, and Black-Power fists at the Olympics in Mexico City. The students shut down Columbia University. Riots in Paris. Prague Spring—then Soviet tanks rolled in. President Johnson won’t run for re-election. Nixon wins the presidency.

Also: Blessed Pope Paul VI taught definitively that artificial birth control is immoral, and he approved the revised Order of the Mass.

1968 was not, actually, pure chaos. Pope Paul and President Johnson spent the spring working together to try to bring an end to the war in Vietnam that everyone seemed to be protesting.

Our current US president graduated from the University of Pennsylvania that spring, then received a draft deferment. And our current pope was finishing his theology studies before his ordination to the priesthood in 1969.

Will 2018 unfold as dramatically as 1968 did? Will it prove to be another year of apparent chaos? Maybe. Only the good Lord knows. The good Lord Who saves us. By becoming one of us. Jesus.

One thing we know for sure: He lives, and He loves. He will love us through 2018, no matter what this year brings.

Moses and Us Seeing the Invisible

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Once every three years on Holy Family Sunday we read from the eleventh chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews. [Spanish.]

Now, the Bible contains many inspiring chapters.  To claim that any particular chapter qualifies as The Most Inspiring Chapter of the Holy Bible! Who could make such a judgment?  But Hebrews 11 will give any chapter a run for the money.  If you only intend to read one single chapter of the Bible between now and the end of 2017, and you decide to make it Hebrews 11–good choice.

We hear at Holy Mass how the paragraphs of Hebrews 11 begin. They begin with “By faith, So-and-so did such-and-such.”  By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to move to an unknown land.  By faith, Abraham received the power to generate offspring, even though he had passed the normal age, and had a sterile wife.  By faith, Abraham, when put to the test, offered up his son Isaac.

Now, Hebrews 11 recounts not just Abraham’s faith.  The chapter chronicles the faith of the successive generations of Israelites who awaited the fulfillment of God’s promises.  The chapter exhorts the Christian Church to unswerving faith.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, based practically his whole encyclical Lumen Fidei on Hebrews 11; he quotes the chapter thirteen times.  Like when he writes:

If we remove faith in God from our cities, mutual trust would be weakened.  We would remain united only by fear, and our stability would be threatened. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read that ‘God is not ashamed to be called their God…’ (Heb 11:16)… The intention is to say that God, by his concrete actions, makes a public avowal that he is present in our midst and that he desires to solidify every human relationship. (paragraph 55)

Anyway, one particular verse of Hebrews 11 struck me.  In the section of the chapter after the part about Abraham and his sons, St. Paul considers the faith of Moses.  We read:

Pope Paul VI 1975By faith, Moses left Egypt, not fearing Pharaoh’s fury.  For Moses persevered as if he could see the invisible God.

Moses led the Israelites out of slavery, marching towards the sea, with chariots in hot pursuit.  No earthly consideration could have made the situation hopeful.  Didn’t look good at all.  But Moses marched forward as if he could see the invisible God.

We see the baby Jesus, a baby, a boy.  A human being, like us.  But, by faith, we look at the infant in the manger as if we could see the invisible God.  The Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, the shepherds:  gazing at the baby, adoring Him, as if they could see the invisible God.

Nothing will evangelize like this.  The world needs the Good News of Christ.  And nothing will convince like the witness of people who speak and live as if we could see the invisible. Let me quote Pope Paul VI:

The world shows innumerable signs of denying God.  But, nevertheless, she searches for him in unexpected ways.  She painfully experiences the need for Him.  The world is calling for evangelizers to speak of a God whom they know and are familiar with, as if they could see the invisible. (Evangelii Nuntiandi 76)

For us, this requires discipline.  It requires constant engagement with Christ, through Scripture and the sacraments.  It requires renouncing the “concupiscence of our eyes,” which grasp like desperate babies for stimulation.

Moses did not lead the Israelites to the Promised Land by pulling out his smartphone all the time and checking it.  Moses could see the invisible because he had conquered the concupiscence of his eyes, by denying them the immediate satisfaction that they crave.

Let’s think of the long, slow nights which Mary and Joseph spent with the baby.  Hours of quiet breathing, little baby noises, in the pitch-black night.  Totally unexciting.  Except that they could see the invisible God.

That’s how we can learn to see the invisible, too.  By embracing quiet, and solitude—and not running away.  By becoming people who are not afraid to pray, to pray with reckless abandon to the unseen God. Utterly unseen—except, in Jesus Christ, we see Him, and we know Him.

Hard But Peaceful

They that hope in the Lord will soar as with eagles’ wings. (Isaiah 40:31)

Let’s freely acknowledge that the coming of Christ has not made things easier for us. Yes, He said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” But we can hardly maintain that believing in the Incarnation of God, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin—we can hardly claim that believing in that is easier than just ignoring it, like a lot of people do.

Ignoring Christ means maintaining a smaller and more comfortable frame of reference in life. Ignoring this particular baby means that God, if He exists, more or less leaves us alone to watch Dancing with the Stars undisturbed.

El Greco NativityOn the other hand, believing that God became a man; that the Father has revealed Himself to us by sending His eternal Word to live among us, as one of us—believing in Christ means life involves fundamental realities that extend way beyond what we can imagine. It means that God’s light shines so bright in this world that, for now, it blinds us and leaves us mostly in the dark.

The eagles’ wings on which we soar: Pure faith. Mary’s baby grew up, and He trusted in His heavenly Father all the way to Calvary hill. The divine Child in Whom we believe, with festive Christmas cheer—He died in agony, holding fast to the hope of a kingdom that lies on the other side of the darkness of the grave.

How can we claim that it is easy to base our entire lives on the promise of a crucified carpenter Whom–when He walked the earth two long millennia ago–most people simply ignored? Ignoring Him has been quite popular from the very beginning.

So: Easy? No. But: Do we find true rest, even in the utter darkness of faith—faith in the unfathomable Trinity and the ineffable Incarnation? Yes, we do find true rest there.

We soar on eagles’ wings when we acknowledge:

Okay, yes. Our Christian faith answers a few questions and then leaves a lot more questions wide, wide open.

But: To believe that life is fundamentally beautiful; to believe that love and tenderness touch God, because God has touched us with love and tenderness; to believe that honesty and truth really do bring their own reward, in the end: there’s peace in that cloud of faith—a peace unlike any we can find anywhere else.

El Héroe del 12 diciembre

Nuestra madre, la madre de Jesús–¿cómo se llama? Sí. Ella puso su imagen en una “tilma.” ¿A quien perteneció esta tilma?

GuadelupeSí. A San Juan Diego. Cuauhtlatoatzin,—“águila que habla.”

Pues, ¿fue ver a la Virgencita el evento más importante en la vida de San Juan Diego?

Aparentemente no. Escuchamos al papa, San Juan Pablo II, hablando de Juan Diego, en la misa de su canonización:

Siendo ya adulto y casado, Juan abrazó el Evangelio, y, juntamente con su esposa, fue purificado con el agua bautismal.

Ahora—¿fue eso antes o después de cuando San Juanito vio la Virgen? Fue antes. La Santísima Virgen se apareció a un indio cristiano, un fiel de la gente indígena de México.

El papa continuo:

San Juan Diego, después de su bautismo, vivió como cristiano, bajo la luz de la fe, y de acuerdo a las obligaciones asumidas ante Dios y la Iglesia.

Podemos decir que el país de México no tiene un  héroe más grande que El Águila que Habla. Él representa todo lo que es rico y puro en el corazón del país. Fue místico de la belleza de la tierra que Dios ha dado a la gente.

Y él vio a la Virgen Madre de Dios, y recibió la imagen que distingue la gente. De veras, esta imagen distingue toda la gente de América—del norte al sur. San Juan Diego no es solamente héroe de México, sino héroe del continente entero.

Pero él vio, y recibió la imagen, porque fue bautizado. Porque fue cristiano fiel, cumpliendo diligentemente sus promesas bautismales.

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe no quiere gloria para sí misma. Ella no quiere ser puro signo de nacionalismo u orgullo racial. No. Ella quiere gloria solo por su Hijo. Ella quiere ser imagen de la gente de América solo para unirnos en la Iglesia santa y católica, la Iglesia de su Hijo.

Si la amamos a la Virgen de Guadalupe, no pensamos tanto en el milagro de la tilma—aunque es milagro maravilloso—sino pensamos más en el milagro de la fe cristiana. San Juan Diego merece nuestra admiración, no tanto por recibir la imagen, como en vivir fielmente como hijo de Dios, bautizado en Cristo. En vivir lleno de amor por los misterios de la fe cristiana, especialmente los sacramentos—la santa Misa, confesión, etc.

Que vivamos en esta manera, como San Juan Diego, acercándonos a Dios por los sacramentos. Y Dios sabe que tipo de milagros podamos ver.

The Elements of Holy Baptism

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I have baptized you with water. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:8)

Holy Baptism. A sacrament of the new and eternal covenant, the covenant between the one, true God and the human race. [Spanish.]

Holy Baptism involves three things: 1) an unbaptized human being, 2) water, 3) words.

The unbaptized human being: A son or daughter of Adam and Eve. Made in the image and likeness of God, but also weighed down by weakness and evil. Any unbaptized adult can present him- or herself for baptism. Or: Christian parents can present their infant or small child.

Baptism is the first sacrament of faith. The sacrament of a question and an answer: Do you believe in God? I do. Therefore, we have to wonder: Whose faith is it, exactly, that makes the sacrament of Holy Baptism possible? Is it the faith of the unbaptized person that makes the sacrament of baptism possible?

Well, that would be amazing. But it seems to put the cart before the horse, doesn’t it? Since Holy Baptism is the beginning of the life of faith, not the end. At the end of our earthly lives, when we go to meet God, we hope we will draw our last breaths with a living, all-consuming faith. We hope we will receive an A+ on Faith, at the moment of death.

bowling ballBut: Most of us need years, even decades, to grow towards A+-level faith. We need to go to Mass for many months of Sundays. A good bowler only gets good by bowling over and over and over again. Michael Jordan used to practice free-throws for three hours a day, even after he had three, four, or five championship rings. So: trying to require A+-level faith, at the moment of baptism? Or even B- faith? That would be like giving a grad-school exam to a kindergartner.

The question remains, then: Since the sacrament of baptism obviously requires faith, whose faith is it that makes it possible? The faith of… the Church. The family of God throughout the ages and all over the world. Holy Mother Church has A+ faith. The Church says an unequivocal, full-hearted Yes to the rejection of Satan and the embrace of the Creed. The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church has the faith which makes the sacraments of faith possible.

Second element of Holy Baptism: Water. The sacraments came from the Holy Land. A man who walked the earth gave us the sacraments, by teaching His disciples how to celebrate them. That man had unique knowledge, and it will take us the eternity of heaven to understand His mind. So, for now, it is not for us to understand Christ’s teachings first, and then obey them second. No: we obey first. Then we can begin to understand.

So: We could come up with many reasons why an individual comes to share in the Redemption won on the Cross through a ritual washing. Like: It symbolizes our cleansing from sin. Or: it represents Jesus’ death and resurrection. But the simple fact is that Jesus Himself commanded that we baptize with water.

Third, the words necessary for a baptism. We must speak the holy Name. The minister baptizes by uttering the words that refer to the ineffable mystery of divine love. The omnipotent love that made the universe, Who constantly guides His creation to perfect fulfillment.

It’s the most obvious, basic thing in the world: Baptism means uniting a person with God. In the middle of this confused, struggling world that arcs only toward death, baptism unites us with the all-conquering divine life. God reigns supreme; He transcends everything we see and know. He alone can give our lives real meaning. The one God, living and true. Holy Baptism establishes us in a relationship with Him.

Trinity ShieldWhat’s His Name? He is the Father. Jesus taught us that. He is Jesus’ Father, and our Father. And He is the Son. The Father taught us that–taught us, and continues always to teach us. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is King. Jesus is our peace. His Heart is our heaven. The Son, too, is God, with the Father. The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father. We have true life when we live in that love. And that love, uniting the eternal Father with the eternal Son–is all-powerful and ultimate; that love permeates everything with shimmering holiness; that love, too, is God. The Holy Spirit.

Every time we dip our finger in holy water and bless yourselves, we remind ourselves of our moment in the font, our birthday unto heavenly life. And we remind ourselves of it every time we go to confession, too–since the sacrament of Penance is our way back to our original purity in baptism.

Water and the name of the Trinity. A very simple beginning for an unending mystery: the great adventure of God calling us to true happiness, with Him.

Our Sister Who Was Never Her Own Worst Enemy

El Greco Virgin Mary

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who chose us to be holy and blameless in His sight, destined for adoption as His children. (Ephesians 1:3-5)

This pilgrim life on earth can be okay, at times. A nice sunset; a quiet, peaceful evening with some loved ones; a hearty meal, etc.

But we don’t have a permanent home here. And the things we have to deal with: they can get tiring. What we really want is heaven. Peace and happiness—life without struggle, without unwelcome surprises, without any fear or anxiety at all.

God has what it takes to give this to us. We solemnly believe that He made us in the first place for this exact reason, to give us eternal life with Him in heaven. On the cross, He offered an infinite sacrifice; He offered the eternal love of the Son for the Father. This love can and does overcome all evil. The sacrifice of the Son, since it involves eternal and infinite power, can bestow the goodness of heaven on anyone, anywhere, anytime.

So we might wonder: Why doesn’t God just give us heaven immediately? We know that He lacks nothing in generosity. Why does He leave us to struggle through an extended pilgrim life here on this confused planet, with all its spiritual and physical dangers?

shaving mirrorAnd not only that. Struggles and dangers that come from outside myself are one thing. But, when I’m honest with myself, I have to acknowledge that the greatest spiritual danger I face is myself. In the end, the only one who can truly ruin me is me. Satan can tempt; enemies can attack; bad circumstances can deprive me of every material thing—can even deprive me of my bodily life. But only I myself have the power to turn my self into something evil. Only I can do that. And the danger of me doing it is very real.

Who will deliver us from this? Who will deliver us from the evil we can do to ourselves?

Well, we know Who: Jesus Christ. And: His Mother.

We already went over how the Lord Jesus bestows heaven by the power of His infinite love, offered for us on the cross. And He doesn’t do it immediately, not because He’s trying to torture us, but because we need more time.

Heaven isn’t something that fits everyone the same way. Heaven will involve the person that I have become during my time on earth—the person I have grown into being, by making my way through all the trials of patience and perseverance that face me.

And the Blessed Mother helps me in this way: She is both wonderfully like me and wonderfully unlike me. She is like me because she’s a human being who had to rely completely on God, on Christ, just like I do. She always had the same hope for heaven that I have: namely, Jesus.

But the Blessed Virgin is wonderfully unlike me in my craven, self-destructive selfishness. The Lord, in His mercy, spared her that. Mary was never her own worst enemy. She stands above me–above us all–as the beacon of pure-hearted love, of peacefulness in doing God’s will. Her purity always keep us believing that we can learn to love like that, too. That there’s hope for us fallen children of Adam and Eve.

Our Lady is one of us, and yet the Lord freed her at the moment of her conception from the enemy within. She still faced plenty of trials. She had the life of a poor woman, then she had to watch cruel men kill her innocent Son. But even then—even in her hours of greatest distress–her entire heart and soul rested in total dependence on the generous goodness of God.

The serenity of love that Our Lady has always had: it means there’s hope for me. There’s hope for us, as we make our pilgrim way.

The Shepherd

Bishop Barry Knestout portraitThe Lord is my shepherd. (Psalm 23)

Feels good to have a bishop. We find ourselves at a good moment to reflect a little bit on the great mystery of Holy Church. Apparently, Bishop Knestout wanted to follow me from the Archdiocese of Washington to the diocese of Richmond.

But seriously. Our church is a small place where we can try to know and love each other, an intimate little band of pilgrim souls. And our Church grandly extends all over the earth and back through 2,000 years of history.

The Church belongs to no one but Her Lord, Jesus Christ. He shepherds His Church on earth unfailingly. He does this through mystical, interior works—through the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and all the holy inspirations we receive within. And He shepherds His Church by reaching us through the unchanging constants of our life together—the Sacred Liturgy, the Holy Scriptures, the sacraments, etc. And He shepherds us through the on-going pastoral government of the institution.

St. Nicholas died 1674 years ago today. He participated in the on-going pastoral government of the Holy Church. St. Nick served as a bishop and participated in the ecumenical council at Nicaea. Where would we be without those bishops, who gave us our Creed? Seventeen centuries have passed since then, and it took place on the other side of the world. Yet the Creed of Nicaea means everything to us, right here and now, in southwest Virginia.

st nick

So we don’t want to go it alone. We can’t manage it, if we’re isolated and on our own. We never want to find ourselves separated from the living Body, the unique organization that has all these attributes of Christ’s loving pastoral touch. The Church.

Christ the Good Shepherd of our souls: He is perfect. He does everything perfectly. We human shepherds—He chose us and put us in our places. But we do not do everything perfectly; we could hardly claim that we do. Pope Francis does not claim to be the perfect pope. Bishop Knestout makes no claims at being a perfect bishop or priest. (I’ve known him a long time—20 years. He has no delusions of perfection.) And God knows that the pastor in Rocky Mount/Martinsville is, well…hardly perfect.

But we imperfect men have been chosen to take our places in the great family–and to try and shepherd the flock as Christ would have us do. Pope Francis isn’t the perfect pope, but he is the pope—and thank God we have one. And now Bishop Knestout is our bishop, and thank God we have one.

Because we sheep want nothing more than to hear the voice of our Good Shepherd Jesus and to feel the loving touch of His crook. We can be sure that Christ does indeed shepherd us, when we stay united to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, founded on St. Peter and governed by His successors and by all the bishops in communion with him, spread across the globe.