Starting Fresh from Christ

He reigns in heaven. He sends out missionaries of divine love. Missionaries of His triumph over evil, ignorance, and death. Consecrated Christians who greet every person and every moment with the open Heart of Jesus Christ.

This is “the Church.” The Lord built His Church on a rock—that is, St. Peter, missionary apostle of Jesus’ divine love. St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, in all its splendor, sits on top of the little bones of a relatively short man who took no money and no second tunic.

El Greco St Peter keysThe year 2019 rumbles along. When will we get any good Church news? Seems like the wheels just spin and spin, stuck in a mud patch.

But there is Good News. Christ still trains and sends missionaries of divine love. That still is what the Church essentially is.

Yes, our Church finds Herself in a massive land war against multiple formidable enemies, with colonels who can’t read a compass. We can’t be naïve about “the brass.” We can’t fantasize that they know how to organize the war effort. They clearly don’t.

But we can still gladly die on the battlefield, so to speak. As missionaries of the divine love of Jesus Christ.

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At the Lincoln Memorial

Martin Luther King I Have a Dream

Lord Jesus gave the homily in his hometown church. At first they loved and praised Him. But then He brought up some painful facts. [Spanish]

‘Our prophet Elijah did not save one of our widows from starvation. He saved a pagan widow–a Gentile foreigner. And our prophet Elisha did not cure the leprosy of one of our Jewish generals. He cured a Syrian who didn’t even want to wash himself in our Jordan River. He thought of it as a muddy creek. But our Elisha healed him in those very waters anyway.’

So the Nazarenes got mad at their countryman for pointing out that God loves the Gentiles as much as the Jews. As you will likely get mad at me, before I’m done here.

Most of the world now knows that there’s a Catholic boys school in Covington, Kentucky. At least everyone with a smartphone knows it. And everyone knows that a group of Covington-Catholic boys traveled by bus to Washington, D.C., to march for life. To stand up for the innocent and defenseless unborn children—the most vulnerable class of people in contemporary America.

After the March ended, the boys visited the Lincoln Memorial. In hindsight, they now think to themselves—and all those who know and love them think—they should have stayed inside the Memorial, quietly reading and meditating on the Gettysburg Address. It’s chiseled into the marble wall.

MAGA hat.pngInstead, the boys stayed outside. And mixed it up with some strange characters.

A dishonest person made a cellphone video, and accused the boys. ‘They surrounded a Native-American man beating a peace drum! Then mocked him and threatened him! An aggressive racist mob!’

Once the video hit the internet, another aggressive mob took over. The social-media mob. A bandwagon of moral indignation. ‘These boys should be expelled from school! They make us Catholic pro-lifers look bad! They stand for everything racist and unjust in this country!’

I myself first saw the “viral” video late that Saturday evening, when I “checked my Twitter.” I did not at first notice the “Make America Great Again” caps that some of the boys wore. I just saw high-school kids making more noise than they should, as high-school kids often do. And a Native-American man beating a drum endlessly for no immediately apparent reason. And a staring contest that made no sense.

I watched the video with my own particular interest, because I know that spot very well, as I imagine many of us do. One of my college jobs involved giving tours of the National Mall. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech right where the famous video was shot. The east staircase of the Lincoln Memorial, at the western end of the Reflecting Pool. A uniquely beautiful place, a place for quiet reflection—not for beating drums, or school chants, or staring contests.

But, like I said, when I watched the video, I didn’t notice the MAGA hats at first, because I’m not a particularly observant person. But a lot of people did notice the hats. That’s why they jumped to unreasonable conclusions. As they checked their Twitters and facebooks that Saturday, they saw the caps, and they immediately suspected the boys of harboring ill will towards non-whites.

lincolnNot fair. Not fair to judge the morals of a high-school boy, based solely on his cap. In the ensuing days, the truth emerged, about what happened between the boys and the Native-American with his drum. The boys had not mobbed anyone. The original viral video had a context. Other cellphone videos, recorded at the scene, revealed the full sequence of events. Then some people in the original social-media mob faced up to the truth and admitted their serious mistake. They looked in the mirror and realized that they had done to the boys what they had accused the boys of doing. Forming a cruel mob.

But, we’re not done here yet, fellow Israelites. We cannot simply say: Vindication for the good, pro-life boys; episode over. No.

The political life of our president began years ago. That is, it began when he claimed that our previous president, the first non-white President of the United States, actually came from Africa, not the USA.

Then Donald Trump began his campaign for president with a particular premise: Namely, that Mexicans steal, rape, and murder.

The social-media mob saw MAGA hats and over-reacted. Over-reacted big time. But: Had someone given them cause to over-react? Had someone given the MAGA hat a particular meaning? Namely: This country is primarily for white people. Yes, someone did give the hat that meaning. Donald J. Trump gave the hat that meaning.

Ok. The whole business at the Lincoln Memorial upset a lot of people. And I probably upset you, by even bringing it up. Do what’s the antidote?

Guess what? Ain’t hard. The antidote is: Going to Mass.

Some people think the internet is pure evil. Some people think it’s where we can finally find true democracy. One thing is for sure: Everything on the internet gets put in perspective when we come to Mass.

Yes, we can learn beautiful things that we never knew, over the internet. And we can join cruel, irrational mobs from our own couches, over the internet.

But the fundamental social network—it’s not on the internet. It’s at the holy altar of Jesus Christ. Where people actually know each other, and give each other the benefit of the doubt, and recognize each other not as “legals” and “illegals” but as: fellow sinners in need of God’s loving mercy.

I have probably said something that makes you mad. But I’m just trying to do my job as a priest–whose main job is: to say Mass. Holy Mass is the opposite of a viral video causing a “Twitter storm.” At the altar of Jesus Christ, dear reader, we can actually find peace with each other.

Vertical and Horizontal

christ-synagogue1Let’s try to put the three readings for Holy Mass this Sunday together, into two sentences.

From all eternity, God Almighty ordained a holy law, to fill His creatures with true blessings. Jesus came to bring that law of divine love to fulfillment, by gathering us all into His Body.

The Body of Christ. His flesh, given for us, offered to the heavenly Father on the cross. A human body, Jesus’, comprised of different parts—feet, hands, ears, eyes, nose—all forming a unity. Now, He reigns on high, risen from the dead. And He abides with us in the Church, uniting us intimately with Himself, through the sacraments.

By heavenly grace, we make up a part of Christ’s Body. Each of us—distinct, individual members of one, living body. Doing something together. That is, forming Christ’s Church, here and now, in the winter of 2019.

Why? How?

Well, everyone has his or her own reasons for showing up at Mass. But I think we can say this much. All the members of Christ’s Body have at least one thing in common. God. We frequent the church building because of God.

God is… God. He deserves worship and praise. He deserves prayerful attention from us. He deserves our obedience. He has a sovereign will. By that eternal will, all things have come to be. He governs all His creatures. He decrees our good, our blessing, our abundant life.

Our business: To co-operate. To do the good that God wills. And to avoid evil, which we know displeases Him.

So:

1. God is God, from all eternity unto all eternity. Eternally willing goodness, life, fruition, blessedness.

2. We’re not God. We dwell on the earth. We are God’s creatures. He summoned us out of nothingness by His power. To give Him glory, by forming His Body.

We cannot see Him; we cannot understand Him. We struggle even to find the words to begin to speak to Him and about Him.

In between the two ends of this vast expanse—the impenetrable, exalted heaven of God on the one end; us here, walking around our little corner of the lowly earth, on the other—in between these two ends stands one man.

He stood up in the synagogue and read from the book of the prophet Isaiah. He fulfilled the prophecies. That is: The prophecies that slavery and blindness would end. That time would not just march on meaninglessly, but would reach a goal. He stands at the point that unites us with our Creator. He unites God and mankind in Himself. The Christ.

From all eternity, God ordained a holy law, to fill His creatures with true blessings. Jesus came to bring that law of love to fulfillment, by gathering us into His Body.

torahscrollSt. Francis of Asissi parish, St. Joseph parish–every Catholic parish: a “religious organization.” Our parishes are “religious organizations.” No doubt. Like I said earlier: What brings us together under one roof? God. God does. We come to church to practice religion.

But the phrase “religious organization” doesn’t quite do justice to the reality. It doesn’t quite capture the Body of Christ that we are. God, the Almighty and unknowable, has fulfilled His eternal law in Christ, the humble and the knowable.

He, like us, had the custom of frequenting the local church building on the Lord’s day. He, like us, read and meditated on the Scriptures. He, like us, participated in the ancient liturgy.

In other words, the Christ exercised religion. In order to bring religion to its fulfillment. Union with Christ means not just imitating Jesus’ scrupulous submission to God; it also means sharing in His perfect fulfillment of God’s love. He loved His Father in heaven. And He loved every human being, enough to die on the cross for each of us and all of us.

We need each other to form the Body He made us to be. At the same time, each of us needs to seek God and His ineffable heaven. We must do that individually, in order to be for each other what we must be for each other. We love each other best by loving God first.

It all sounds demanding. Because it is. But we can’t go wrong if we keep the eyes of our minds fixed on the one man, the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Integrity of the Womb and the Confessional

confessional“Who but God alone can forgive sins?” (Mark 2:7)

Indeed.

Sin involves corrupting the pure integrity of God’s beautiful plan. A plan for the salvation and glorification of all things.

We pray for the marchers up in Washington. We share their zeal. In the womb, God knits together an unfathomable plan. It’s like a little Garden of Eden. May no hand of violence ever desecrate that garden.

God, the pure One, can forgive the sins of us impure ones. He even uses some of us impure ones as His instruments of mercy. The Son of God entrusted “the power of the keys” to His Church. He gave His Apostles and their successors in office the authority to forgive sins in the name of God. To continue the Incarnation, so to speak. Jesus, when He walked the earth, had the authority to forgive sins. Bishops and priests have that same authority, as ministers of Christ.

But a profound responsibility accompanies that authority, doesn’t it? When we go to confession, we go with faith in the power of the keys. But we also need to have confidence in the human integrity of the confessor. We have to trust that the priest who hears my confession will respond according to true discipline, guided by holy teaching.

That is: He won’t distort my own conscience by calling good evil or evil good. He won’t betray God’s mercy by being too hard on me, or betray God’s justice by being too easy on me.

My point is: The supernatural grace of Holy Orders means that even a sinner can offer Christ’s sacraments. But in the confessional, our faith in that supernatural grace has to meet a representative of a human institution with integrity. Yes, all priests are sinners, too. But a confessor receiving penitents cannot be a liar. He cannot be a swindler or a sodomite. He cannot be an atheist or a heretic.

unborn…On March-for-Life Day, the young Catholic Church in America takes Her vigorous stand. Faith, hope, and love show up on Constitution Avenue.

But She limps this year. Her faith God invigorates Her as always. But Her inability to trust in the fundamental integrity of the clerical hierarchy saps Her strength.

Our faith in the triune God does not contradict reason. But, at the beginning of 2019, we cannot rationally claim that our clerical hierarchy has integrity. If we did claim that, reasonable non-Catholics would make arguments to the contrary. And we would have no answers.

May God send us leaders to get our footing back. It will take a long time. But we can do it, if we hold on. We sinners, who want to live honest lives.

Pro-Life, Anti-Wall

jerusalem-sunrise

We can find a familiar word in Sunday’s gospel reading. The news and political debate of the last election made this word very popular on cable news and Twitter. A sizable group of immigrants, traveling north together. [Spanish]

Just like: Jesus’ parents, on the way home from Jerusalem, thought He was in the caravan.

Blessed Mother gave birth to Jesus in the city of… Is that a long way from Jerusalem? Hardly. Six miles. You’d think that would mean just a quick trip between them.

But what lies between Jerusalem and Bethlehem now? It wasn’t there when the Lord Jesus was born. If it had been, the wise men couldn’t have followed the star to the stable.

There’s a wall. A border wall.

Do I look like I’m making this up? The state of Israel built a wall between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. A wall that divides Israeli territory from Palestinian territory.

The Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem wrote about the wall one Christmas a few years ago, as the Israeli government was completing the construction. The Patriarch wrote:

In this Christmas feast, we pray for the towns, cities, and villages of the Holy Land, because they are isolated from each other. With pain and deep sadness, we observe civilians being blockaded by the erection of walls and barriers. These contribute to violence and humiliation, generating grudges and hatred, whereas what we need is mutual trust, friendly co-operation, and a quiet, serene life.

As we gaze at the manger, we realize: the very mysteries of Christmas make demands on us. Demands that turn politics in contemporary America into a seriously painful and difficult business, for a Christian.

bethlehem-wall1
Israel border wall

On the one hand: baby Jesus, with His quiet cooing, loudly insists: you must be pro-life. The true hope of the world turns on reverence for life in the womb. Only dark despair could ever even try to justify killing an unborn child in an elective abortion.

Nowhere in any of the true sources of human wisdom can we find anything that establishes a “right” to destroy a child. The idea that a “right” to abortion can exist in an enlightened civilization—that is an absolute lie. As we gaze at the newborn Christ, we know we have a duty to call it a lie, and to stand up for the truth.

Like the Jerusalem Patriarch put is: “Mutual trust. Friendly co-operation. Serenity of life.” This does not include abortion. As long as abortions, occur, we do not have peace on earth.

But what else? The Holy Family migrated. As a Latino congressman pointed out in a congressional hearing ten days ago: If Egypt had built a wall at their border with Herod’s kingdom, baby Jesus would have died in the slaughter of the newborns.

Jesus never obtained citizenship papers in the Roman Empire. If He had, our Redemption would not have occurred. Christianity as we know it would not exist. The Romans did not crucify their citizens; they only crucified non-citizens. Our Savior died on the cross as an undocumented non-citizen.

A barrier wall at our border, to keep people out? Have we not read our Bibles? The prophets celebrate one ultimate reality: All people, all nations, streaming toward Jerusalem, from the four corners of the earth. Throw open the gates! They come from Ethiopia and Cush, from Phoenicia and Tarshish, from Chaldea and Persia!

Some people say: Father, you have fallen prey to the typically naïve false compassion of the liberal clergyman. The Scriptures are about spiritual things. But we need secure borders.

How about this? It is naïve, totally naïve, to imagine that a nation turned in on itself, paranoid of enemies and fearful of immigrants, can prosper. Nations do not prosper when whole classes of people live in the shadows, because the reigning authority denies them the rights of citizenship.

Let’s start 2019 by acknowledging that this supposedly Christian nation has fallen far away from the truly Christian path. We have for the most part stood silently by, while one-fifth of the people who should have been our friends and neighbors got killed in the womb.

And we have stood silently by, while a path to citizenship for our law-abiding, undocumented-immigrant neighbors got taken off the political negotiating table. Then the path to citizenship for immigrants who came as children got taken off the political negotiating table. Now federal government workers have at least one paycheck in jeopardy—all because of someone’s fantasy of an impractical and pointless border wall.

Everyone says, “Yes, it’s a mess, our government is a mess”–without admitting: We made this mess, we who have the right to vote. We live in a representative democracy. If our government is dysfunctional, it’s because we dysfunctionally elected the people who make it up.

May the caravan Lady, Mary of Nazareth, and the divine fruit of her womb, help us find a way to clean up this unholy mess.

Was Jesus Born on December 25?

annunciation

Three days till Christmas. Now, was Jesus actually born on December 25? Is Christmas His real birthday? [Spanish]

The Israelites did not use the Roman calendar that we use. And the gospels don’t give a birth date anyway, using either the Roman or the Jewish calendar—or the Chinese calendar, for that matter.

But the Scriptures do, in fact, offer us a great deal of pertinent information. We read at Sunday Mass: Mary set out in haste for the hill country of Judah. Right before that—right before Mary set out in haste–an angel had visited her. Which angel? Archangel…  Gabriel! What did the angel say to Mary? You will have a son.

In other words, Lord Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary right before she went to visit her cousin. Mary set out in haste. Why?  Because the angel also told her something else. Gabriel told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant. In fact, he was more precise. He said, ‘Your cousin Elizabeth is now in her…  sixth month!”

Upon Mary’s arrival, the infant in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy. Which infant is that, that leaped for joy in the womb? Yes, St. John the Baptist, son of Elizabeth and…  Zechariah.

st-john-baptist-grecoSo far, it’s all here in black and white. Baby Jesus was conceived when Elizabeth was six months pregnant with St. John the Baptist. Question is: Was that approximately March 25? Did the Annunciation–when Mary became pregnant with Jesus–occur on March 25? That’s the day when The Incarnation—God becoming man–occurred, in Mary’s womb. Was it March 25?

Here’s where ancient traditions start to corroborate the idea that we have the correct date for Christmas. For many centuries, people observed March 25th as New Year’s Day.  The first Mass said by an English-speaking priest in what is now the United States: March 25, 1634–New Year’s Day. (January 1 did not become New Year’s Day in the English Colonies until 1751). By the way: Who said that Mass?  That is correct: Fr. White. (Fr. Andrew White.)

Anyway, in ancient times, people believed that the world was created on March 25, that the Israelites marched out of slavery on March 25, and that Jesus was crucified on March 25.

Be all that as it may, though, it doesn’t prove anything. We need to try and figure out, if we can, when Elizabeth became pregnant.

Anyone remember what happened? The archangel Gabriel had visited someone else, besides Mary…  Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband! The angel visited Zechariah at home, while he was sitting and watching t.v., correct? No, the angel came to Zechariah in the Temple, while Zechariah was performing his duty as a member of one of the priestly clans.

Elizabeth became pregnant with John the Baptist right after Zechariah saw the angel in the Temple. Therefore, if we could figure out when it was that Zechariah ministered in the temple in the preceding year, we could add six months, and we would know more or less when the Annunciation took place. Then we add nine months, and we know the real date of or the original Christmas.

Do the Scriptures provide an answer? Yes. In the Old Covenant, the priests ministered in the Temple in Jerusalem according to a yearly cycle, depending on your priestly division. They didn’t use sign-up sheets for Eucharistic Ministers, like we do now. They followed a cycle established by King David, as we read in I Chronicles.

king davidZechariah belonged to the priestly division of…  Anyone? Abijah. The clan of Abijah came eighth in the annual cycle.

Now, yes: By Zechariah’s time, a thousand years had passed since King David established the cycle.  The Temple had been destroyed twice.  So the routine certainly had broken down, somewhere along the line.  But a Jewish writer from the time of Christ documented some facts about the cycle of priestly service, and it turns out: King David’s routine still operated, as he had instituted it a thousand years before. When they rebuilt the Temple, they restored the original yearly cycle of priestly service.

So, the next question: Was Jerusalem crowded when the angel visited Zechariah in the Temple?  St. Luke reports that the “whole multitude” of Israel awaited him out in the Temple courtyard. So: When would the priestly clan of Abijah have served during a large festival?  On the Day of Atonement, in mid-September, or during the Feast of Tabernacles, which followed two weeks later.

We could do all the math. But we don’t have to. If St. John the Baptist was conceived near the end of September or the beginning of October, then Lord Jesus was conceived in late March or early April of the following year, and born in late December, or early January. And, as we note this, let’s not forget: in Church, the feast of Christmas extends twelve nights, until January 6.

All very exciting, but let’s pause. We really cannot say for sure when Zechariah served in the Temple during the year before St. John was born. An honest historian would say: We do not know Jesus’ exact date of birth just from deductions and inductions from the Scriptures.

But the same honest historian would acknowledge: We have an ancient tradition identifying a particular date. Christians have been celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25 since long before the Romans established a winter holiday around the same time of year. And the information we have in the Scriptures not only does not contradict that traditional date, it confirms it.

December 25. Jesus’ birthday. The date is solid. Merry Christmas.

Making Honest Christians of Ourselves

baptist-greco2They came to St. John seeking guidance. They wanted him to tell them how to live right. [Spanish]

We want friendship with God, they thought to themselves. We want to practice religion honestly. We want clear consciences. We want to sleep peacefully at night. We want to have a solid foundation for our relationships. Something other than the usual routine of taking advantage of other people. Or being taken advantage of.

They thought: We don’t want to live in fear of death, judgment, and condemnation. We want to hope for a final reward, from the Lord who sees all and knows all.

So they came seeking righteousness. And St. John gave them simple, practical guidance.

The Roman soldiers had the raw power necessary to extort money from those weaker than themselves. But John said to them: ‘Look, men at arms, morality is not rocket science. Don’t do that to people; don’t take money from people who can’t fight back. Maybe all the other soldiers do it. But that doesn’t make it right.’

Likewise, the Roman tax collectors could cheat people easily. No one understood all the complex tax rules. And all the tax collectors cheated; they all lined their own pockets by bilking the poor and shorting the emperor. In the Roman empire, if you became a tax collector, it meant: You have it made! So of course you had to do all kinds of unsavory favors to get the post in the first place.

But St. John said to this notoriously corrupt group: ‘Look, morality is not that hard. Stop thinking of your position as merely a means to enrich yourselves! Just follow the rules. Don’t demand more than you should from the people. And don’t keep more than is rightly coming to you.’

Imagine! Collecting taxes for the emperor honestly. Practically unheard of. ‘But,’ St. John exhorted them, ‘you can do it. And you’ll be able to look at yourselves in the mirror.’

Integrity of life. A lot less complicated, actually, than self-interested deceit. Liars have to remember all their lies. But when we cultivate the fine art of telling the truth all the time, we don’t have to remember anything. We can say what we have to say and move on to the next thing. The facts always bear out what an honest person said.

On the other hand, a double life destroys inner peace. We all know this. If you’re slipping money into your pocket when no one is looking, then the auditor’s impending visit terrorizes your dreams. The auditor looms over a dishonest person like Godzilla.

GodzillaSt. John’s underlying point is this: If you lie, steal, and cheat in this life, you actually cheat yourself out of two important things:

1. Energy. Because you wind up spending a great deal of it, in the constant effort necessary to deceive other earthlings. All for no good reason, because God sees the truth anyway. He sees the whole picture, down to the minutest detail. No one can lie to Him. At least not successfully.

2. If you lie, cheat, and steal–and you do manage to obtain some benefit from it–it’s a low-stakes benefit anyway. It’s a small-time, highly temporary benefit.

More money than the Joneses? A more comfortable Jacuzzi? More likes on facebook? Compared to: The peace of communion with Truth, Goodness, and the undying Beauty that made the heavens and the earth.

As we hear in our first reading at Sunday Mass, to the honest people, with clear consciences, the prophet declares: ‘Shout for joy! Sing joyfully! The Lord has removed the judgment against you. You have no further misfortune to fear. Be not discouraged. The Lord God, a mighty savior, will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in His love.”

And St. Paul says to the honest Christians, the ones who have confessed our sins and received God’s mercy: “Brothers and sisters, rejoice! Have no anxiety at all.”

Then St. Paul adds perhaps the most-consoling assurance that can be found in the entire Bible. His words appear in the blessing which the priest gets to give at the end of a Christian funeral–when the grieving mourners have entrusted their loved one’s body to the earth, and the soul to the loving care of the heavenly Father. The priest gets to give the same blessing as St. Paul gives.

Honest Christians, brothers and sisters of pure faith and clear conscience: “The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

That’s the reward of honesty, of living a simple life of fairness and respect for others. The peace that surpasses understanding.

The Lincoln Memorial of the Church

Roth Plot Against AmericaPhilip Roth wrote a novel about what would have happened if Franklin Delano Roosevelt had not won re-election in 1940. The Plot Against America imagines that Charles Lindbergh became president that year instead.

Lindbergh then makes a peace pact with Hitler, instead of committing to the alliance against him. American Jews begin to experience terrifying anti-Semitism, like the Jews in Europe.

The novel centers on one New-Jersey Jewish family.

In an early chapter, they take a family vacation to see the sights of Washington, D.C. They visit the Lincoln Memorial. Dad insists that his two sons carefully read the Gettysburg address, which is chiseled into the marble wall. “All men are created equal.”

Then they return to their hotel and discover that the manager has evicted them from their room. A clerk had mistakenly allowed them to check in. Jews are not allowed.

The fictional father interprets the situation to his sons: We are proud Americans. We love America. America has her ideals, and we cherish them. But the incumbent President of America betrays America by betraying her ideals. What is America? We know by her ideals, which you can read on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial. Not by the current president.

An amazingly moving scene. [NB. Apparently they are working on a t.v. mini-series version of the novel.]

piusxii

…In 1953, Pope Pius XII made today, November 21, Pro Orantibus Day. He urged Catholics to pray and give thanks for all the cloistered nuns and monks, who spend their whole lives praying for us.

They pray for us. They also strive to live purely by our ideals. A life of contemplation of the truth that does not change.

My point is that Christian contemplatives are like the living Lincoln Memorial of our Church.

Of course the USA is a political reality, with a relatively short history and no divine guarantees. While the Church has not just ideals to live by, chiseled on a wall somewhere–but the living, breathing Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.

During this period of time, however, we Catholics reasonably wonder if our current leaders have a grip on how to govern our Church according to her true ideals. So I think this analogy might help us.

No matter who holds office right now, the Catholic Church always has an indestructible, living Lincoln Memorial. The “vanishing center” of the Church. In their hidden chapels and simple cells, all they do is pray. And hope for heaven. And love God and everyone.

 

The News: Divine Mercy

Earlier this week, we kept the anniversary of St. Therese of Lisieux’s death. On the 100th anniversary of her death, twenty-one years ago, Pope St. John Paul II wrote a letter about her. He quoted the opening prayer for today’s Holy Mass, where we acknowledge that God demonstrates His almighty power most clearly by pardoning and showing mercy.

divine-mercyIn the gospel passage today, we hear the Lord Jesus warn His countrymen about missing the big news. The Big News. That God became man in order to make mankind children of God. God came to reconcile us sinners to His perfect self.

How? Mercy.

Infinite, perfect justice and truth, acting with unfathomable love. God doing as a man what we men, left to ourselves, could never do: Make things right. Settle all our debts with our Creator. God, as a man, freed us from the burden of our ungodliness.

The Christ paid our bill in full. He did not turn away from the full extent of human sin. When we look at a crucifix, all prudishness and all saccharine-sweetness melt away. This is what He did, because He had to do it, to save us.

His act of mercy allows us to stare our sins square in the face. We can reckon them fearlessly. Because we know that He has redeemed us from them; all we have to do is admit them.

Twenty-first century man risks missing this news. Like the townspeople of Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida, who never recognized the Christ. Twenty-first century man risks having to live in his sins, paralyzed by self-righteous rigidity and hopeless desperation. There’s no one to tell him about Christ. Except us.

More Re: Holy Father’s Answers

pope press conference

Our Holy Father talked about more than just Theodore McCarrick at his press conference on Sunday.

1. He also answered a question about a conversation he had with a prominent abuse survivor and victims advocate. She has since written to him, asking him to clarify his answer.

2. And there’s more. During the press conference, Pope Francis spoke at length about a highly celebrated court case in Spain, the “Caso Romanones.”

A young man had written to him–Pope Francis–in 2014, accusing a group of priests of sexual abuse.

At the press conference Sunday, the Holy Father narrated the subsequent series of events from what struck me as a strange point-of-view. His account includes clear factual inaccuracies. As Pope Francis told the story, the priests had suffered a terrible calumny, which the press had exacerbated. But, in the end, the priests got vindicated in court. And the whole thing goes to show you that sometimes sex-abuse allegations against priests aren’t true.*

The pope had met the priests in private audience last month and asked for their forgiveness.

Problem is this:

Yes, the one priest who actually went to trial was found not guilty. The court originally insisted that the accuser had to pay court costs. The priests were all restored to the ministry. But then the Supreme Court of Spain annulled the imposition of court costs. And declared that the lower court had not determined that the accuser’s story was false.

Caso Romanones

The accuser is known as “Daniel.” What had happened is that the prosecutor dropped the charges at the eleventh hour of the case. Apparently because the criminal case required proving WARNING anal penetration. Which Daniel’s testimony had not established.

Also, the other priests Daniel accused had never even faced trial, because of the statute of limitations.

Earlier this month, after he learned that the pope had apologized to the priests, Daniel wrote a letter pointing out that the canonical case against these priests should not be closed. “The civil court has not reached the conclusion that sexual abuse did not occur.”

Now, I do not claim to understand the Caso Romanones completely. Daniel has a lawyer, and that lawyer may be a charlatan, for all I know. I read Spanish ok, and I have perused a lot of news articles. I think I know as much about this case as any English-language journalist–based on the internet searches I have done. But I can hardly claim to know that the priests are actually guilty.

What I can say is this: The civil court did not determine that abuses, for which the priests should be held to account, did not happen at all. Daniel appears to have given somewhat incoherent testimony. On the other hand, forensic experts had studied the witnesses at the trial, and they had concluded that Daniel is a lot more believable than the priest. For that reason, there was widespread surprise when the prosecution dropped the case at the eleventh hour.

It is a fact that the Supreme Court of Spain declared in its judgment (after the accused priests were re-instated to ministry by the Pope and Archbishop of Granada) that the lower court had not judged Daniel’s testimony to be false.

* In my limited personal experience, sex abuse allegations leveled by non-homosexual men against other men are almost always true.