Great Love of God All Over, Especially in Madison Square Garden

Pope Francis hears confession during penitential liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica at Vatican

It can hardly be a co-incidence that, on the second anniversary of the conclave that gave the world the first-ever Argentine pope, we have an Argentine priest here with us, to give us a Parish Mission in Martinsville. We welcome Father John Ezratty!

At the beginning of our gospel reading at Holy Mass yesterday, we caught the Lord Jesus in the middle of something, so to speak. In the middle of driving a demon out of a suffering person.

Now, why on earth would Christ be doing that? Worrying about driving a demon out of someone? Or with curing someone’s illness, or feeding people in the middle of a deserted place, or forgiving a sinner who repents, or telling everybody that they are children of the heavenly Father, worth more than many sparrows? Why would He bother? What was His motivation?

Could it have been love? At the beginning of the gospel reading, we walked right into the middle of a situation. We walked into the room, so to speak, and there He was! Jesus, loving some poor mute person, driving a demon out, so the mute person could speak. We walked in, catching everyone unawares, and… Oops! What’s going on in here? Oh, the Son of God, loving somebody.

madison-square-gardenIndeed, every day we encounter evidence that God is very great, awesomely great, in His divine love.

This morning I was out running, and the rising sun made a rainbow in the clouds, reminding me that God would never again, in His just wrath, flood the earth entirely.

God is very great. Last night, the Georgetown Hoyas pulled out an inspiring win, even though the Creighton Bluejays demonstrated far-superior flopping skills, flopping skills worthy of international futból.

So God is, indeed, unimaginably great. He has given us the very-helpful visit of Father Ezratty. And he gave us Pope Francis two years ago today. And many other great gifts besides, involving Argentines and non-Argentines alike.

So we love God above all, because He is God, the infinitely, immeasurably, awesomely great. And we love our neighbor for God’s sake, because the great God has given us our neighbor to love. We love the invisible God by loving the visible neighbor.

Josh the Hutt!
Josh the Hutt!
Also, every day, God opens the doors of His mercy. We have not loved Him as we should have loved Him. And we have not loved our neighbor with the kind of self-sacrificing humility with which we should love him. But God will forgive us when we confess the truth.

Pope Francis is spending his second anniversary hearing confessions. Some of us are going to Baltimore, Maryland, to go to confession tomorrow. (For our parish-cluster youth pilgrimage.) And why not? We know that God forgives sins, through the ministry of His priests–in Baltimore, and Martinsville, and Rocky Mount, and Rome. (And everywhere else where there are priests.)

Holy Father apparently told a reporter that he doesn’t think he will have a long pontificate, but let’s pray that he does! May the Lord give health and long life to our beloved Pope Francis. May the great God give us faith and hope, contrition for our sins, and divine love for our Creator and our neighbor. And may He give the Georgetown Hoyas continued victories, even when they play other Catholic schools, like Xavier and/or Villanova and/or Providence.

Mourning Last Year, Rejoicing Now

Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. (Matthew 9:15)

Pope Francis waving

A year can make a great difference. A year ago this week, it rained and didn’t snow.

Also: Anybody remember what we mourned during the week of Ash Wednesday 2013? The fact that we had to face losing our pope. Pope Benedict announced his resignation during the week of Ash Wednesday last year.

This year we keep the beginning of Lent as a celebration of the first anniversary of the Lord giving us Pope Francis. Next Thursday: first anniversary of Francis on the loggia.

So, the gospel for the Friday after Ash Wednesday just keeps resonating for us: Last year, the Pope was taken away. The Vicar of Christ was taken away. This year, our beloved Holy Father keeps the season of Lent very much with us, alongside us.

Therefore: Yes, we fast. The Church fasts. The Pope fasts. We all fast. Because we still languish a long way away from the wedding banquet we seek to enter.

But we also rejoice, because the Lord has given us such a wonderful father as Pope Francis. Long may he continue to keep shepherding us toward the Lord.

Stuck with Me

One usually reflects with gratitude on the labor of one’s mother on one’s birthday. But I have to thank her on my ordination anniversary, too.

NewMellerayAbbeyAbout fifteen years ago, after my second year in the seminary, I had it in my mind to join the Trappists and spend the rest of my days making caskets in the monastery in Peosta, Iowa.

But my mom knew me better than I knew myself. She talked me out of it. To paraphrase: ‘You may be an obtuse goofball, but you nonetheless have the makings of a halfway decent shepherd of souls. You owe it to the good Lord who made you to use those talents.’

…So that’s how you got stuck with me, my dearly beloved church.

Back around the same time, in the 1990’s, I heard a middle-aged priest give a talk about his vocation. He began, “I’m not going to tell you why I joined. I am going to tell you why I stay.”

Why do I stay? ‘I am not strong enough to dig, and I am too proud to beg.’

Just kidding. Kind of.

At today’s Mass, we hear the Lord declare that the bond of marriage cannot be severed, except by the death of the body. The bond of a priest with Holy Church cannot be dissolved at all, even by the death of the body.

We priests have no right, on our own, to stand in Christ’s place. But He puts us there anyway. He gives us His Bride to be our bride, too. I never knew a heart could hold the kind of love that I get and give on any given Sunday morning. Ten years of Sunday mornings, and I still think I have the most beautiful bride in the world. I am the luckiest man alive.

pantocratorI wanted to be a monk so that I could make friends with death. But being a parish priest makes you friends with death, too. Why do we wear black? Because life on earth is short, friends.

Christian people get buried with the feet facing east. When the Last Day comes, and all the bodies rise and stand, the faithful will see the Lord. He will come from the east, with the dawn.

But we priests have the un-merited privilege of being buried in the other direction. Because—in spite of how unworthy we are—He has chosen us to stand in His place. Forever.

So—I’m sorry. I am sorry to have to tell you that you will be looking at this ridiculous mug for all eternity–God willing we make it to heaven.

But, by the eternal light, maybe my looks will improve. And we will all see Jesus, too, anyway.

Happy anniversary to you, my love.

Homily for St. Joseph Parish Church Anniversary

Is there life after death? Can we hope for happiness greater than this world affords? Will everything that is wrong be set to rights? Will a merciful judge take pity on us for all our failures? Will a loving, heavenly Father smile at us when everything is said and done?

Yes. The answer is yes.

In the midst of the daily compromises of life on earth, our souls yearn for greatness, holiness, completeness, redemption, and freedom. Where would we be if we could not hope for these things?

Wretched. We would be indescribably wretched. Better a turkey in somebody’s oven than a human being without God.

But we can hope. We can believe. We worship the Father in the spirit and truth of His only begotten Son.

Now, in order to worship the Father in spirit and in truth, it is not absolutely necessary to have a well-heated and air-conditioned church with a splendid view of a southwest-Virginia hillside. In a pinch, priests have been known to say Mass on the hulls of over-turned canoes, or on the open tailgates of pick-up trucks, or on wooden crates in the corner of concentration camps.

But having a church building certainly helps.

When the trials of life weigh upon us; when we get confused, discouraged, or distressed; when we find that even our home and hearth bears the marks of Adam’s fall—well, we have our church, the dwelling place of Emmanuel, to be the home-base for our souls.

We Americans rejoice in the blessings of a warm and comfortable home and an amply-laid table. When the Lord blesses us with these things, He has blessed us indeed, and we give thanks.

But there is no Thanksgiving dinner on earth that is as great a blessing as having a good, well-built parish church in your town, where you can pray.

Sacred Aedificia + More Invitations

Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head

1,687 years ago today: The Pope dedicated his cathedral church building in Roma.

Click HERE for a thorough digest of this event (from the archives), including wolverines.

…Re: the sacred Catholic structures of Franklin and Henry counties, Virginny:

1. His Excellency Bishop Sullivan originally dedicated Francis of Assisi parish church in 1987. The 25th anniversary of this august occasion will fall on Ash Wednesday, which makes for a bit of a buzzkill. In May of 2013, we will festively celebrate the 15th anniversary of the dedication of the expanded church building. Mark your calendars now.

2. The same Bishop Sullivan consecrated the new church of St. Joseph in Martinsville on November 25, 2001! We will celebrate the tenth anniversary of this blessed day on Thanksgiving morning, with a Mass at 9:00 a.m. Then we will dine together to celebrate the anniversary (and the holidays) on Friday, December 9!

All readers are most cordially invited.

Seventeen Proud Years

The Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water like a wall on their right and their left.

Where your unworthy servant was baptized

We Christians are marching to the holy mountain, where it is always springtime.

To outfit us to march forward, the Lord initiates us through the sacraments. We must be washed, anointed, and fed.

Easter is a good time for us to recall and thank God for the sacraments that have made us Christians.

On October 18, 1970, I was baptized by a well-meaning non-Catholic, non-priest at New York Avenue Presbyterian church. My parents were kind enough to carry me to the font, and they saw to it that I was in church every Sunday for the next 17 ½ years. I am grateful.

But there was still some unfinished business. On Holy Saturday night, 1993, I was confirmed and given Holy Communion for the first time by Father Ed Ingebretsen in Dahlgren Chapel at Georgetown University.

Seventeen years ago this morning, I woke up washed, anointed, and fed for the first time in my life.

It is good to be Catholic.

No one—not the Washington Post or the New York Times, not CBS News or CNN, not Geraldo Rivera or Sinead O’Connor—no one is going to tell me that it is not good to be Catholic on Easter Sunday.

We Catholics hate it when people do evil. We hate it that priests have done great evil and hurt innocent young people. We hate it that some bishops have failed to discipline their clergy like they should have.

But we know this, too: The world needs the mercy of God that comes to us through His Church.

As Norman MacLean put it in “A River Runs through It,”

When you pick up a fly rod, you will soon find it factually and theologically true that man by nature is a damn mess.

We need God. We need Christ. We need the Church. We need the sacraments. We need to be washed, anointed, and fed, so that we can march toward the goal.

Where your unworthy servant was Confirmed a Catholic

…How badly do I want Butler to beat Duke?

I wanted the Giants to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. But not this much. I wanted N.C. State to beat Houston in 1983. But not this much. I wanted Delpo to beat Federer, but not this much.

The Hour

A year ago tonight, my first pastor died suddenly. May he rest in peace. Five years ago tomorrow, Pope John Paul II died.

Here is a Holy Thursday homily:

At the Last Supper, the Lord Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and gave thanks and praise to the Father.

The Father made us; He cares for us at every moment. Let’s recall some things the Lord Jesus taught us about the Father:

Consider the ravens. They neither sow nor reap, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Of how much more value are you than they?

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin. But even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass of the field, will he not much more clothe you?

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s will. You are of more value than many sparrows. All the hairs on your head are numbered.

To get home to this heavenly Father Who made us and cares for us—that is the goal of our lives. God is the source, the sustenance, and the purpose of life. He is the most real thing in our lives. God is the all in all.

But guess what? Right now, God is invisible.

Continue reading “The Hour”

March 25, 1995

Fifteen years ago, Pope John Paul II gave us his encyclical letter on the Gospel of Life. In this letter, the Pope coined the phrase, ‘the culture of death.’

Here is a short summary of the encyclical:

God gives us life. The innocent are always threatened by violence. In our day and age, the greatest threats are abortion and euthanasia. All Christians are bound to fight for the right to life. The Gospel demands that we be militantly pro-life.

In other words: We are a LAME Catholics if we do not adopt the point-of-view of the innocent unborn in all our political positions. We owe it to the innocent and defenseless unborn to stand up for them and to fight for them.

The fact that legislation in many countries, perhaps even departing from basic principles of their Constitutions, has determined not to punish abortion and euthanasia, and even to make them altogether legal, is both a disturbing symptom and a significant cause of grave moral decline.

Choices once unanimously considered criminal and rejected by the common moral sense are gradually becoming socially acceptable.

Even certain sectors of the medical profession, which by its calling is directed to the defense and care of human life, are increasingly willing to carry out these acts against the person. In this way the very nature of the medical profession is distorted and contradicted, and the dignity of those who practice it is degraded. (paragraph 4.2)

Happiness is a Sharp Pencil

We do not want to dwell on the painful loss suffered by the Georgetown Hoyas yesterday evening, as the snow swirled around McDonough Arena.

And most of us men on the Eastern Seaboard need something to take our minds off our sore snow-shoveling backs.

So let’s rejoice in this: On December 21, 1913, the New York World published the world’s first crossword puzzle!

Of all the wholesome amusements ever made available to mankind, the crossword puzzle is certainly the best.

Thank you for the wonderful early Christmas present, o merciful God!

…Also, our dearly beloved late Holy Father is now the Venerable Pope John Paul II! As is the Venerable Pope Pius XII.

Holy Name is Tops

Here is the pastor’s homily for September 27, 2009 at…

Holy_Name_Church_and_RectoryHOLY NAME CATHOLIC CHURCH

920 Eleventh Street, N.E., Washington, D.C.

Confessions: 2:30-3:30 Saturdays
Masses: Sunday 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
Saturday 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m.

(202) 397-2525

Whoever is not against us is for us. –Mark 9:40

Let us consider what a blessing it is for us to have a parish consecrated to the Most Holy Name of Jesus.

Continue reading “Holy Name is Tops”