Chrism Mass on the Titanic


Here is My servant, upon Whom I have put my Spirit. (Isaiah 42:1)

Mary of Bethany anointed Him. He pointed out: It’s for My burial.

“Christ” means… same as “Messiah”… Anointed. Almighty God put His Spirit on this man. Mary of Bethany anointed Him at the beginning of Holy Week, for burial. But the triune God anointed the Christ at the moment of His conception in His mother Mary’s womb. Jesus always was, and always will be, The Christ.

All Christians revere Holy Week and keep it sacred. But of course it is especially sacred for us priests. The Lord drew us intimately into His work of salvation by choosing all of us, as He sat at table with His Apostles. And gave the world the Holy Mass.

All Christians receive the anointing of the Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. But we priests have also received an anointing on our hands. We have to use our minds and our voices to do our work, to be sure. But also: the hands. To hold the Host and Chalice.

Do not let your hearts be trouble Passion of the ChristIn our Liturgy, the symbol of the heavenly anointing is an oil called… Sacred Chrism. Every Holy Week, we priests concelebrate Mass with our bishop to consecrate new Chrism for the year to come.

Baptized babies will receive anointing with the Chrism on the crowns of their heads. Christians ready to spread the reign of Christ will receive anointing with the Chrism on their foreheads. And the priests to be ordained in June will receive anointing with it on their hands.

Now, one hundred seven years ago today, the Titanic sank. Last year, Holy Mother Church struck an iceberg. And by all worldly estimations, She’s going down.

I never thought I would walk into the cathedral for a Chrism Mass, with the reasonable man in the back of my head thinking: Dude, you’re like one of those violinists on the deck of the Titanic.

But here I go, up the road to Richmond, knowing full well what all reasonable observers know, during Holy Week 2019: Holy Mother Church is sinking. And the men on the bridge have no idea how to save the ship.

But we have more than worldly estimations to consider in this Church. We have Jesus, the Christ.

Divine Mercy

God prays. He prays to Himself. The Son of God, Who became man, prays to the Father. Christ is our High Priest. God prays as one of us, in the eternal church in heaven.

There was a rabbi in the 1700’s who had some inkling of this. Someone asked the rabbi, “Does God pray?” The rabbi replied, “Yes, He does.”

Continue reading “Divine Mercy”

Os Meum Annuntiabit Laudam Tuam

Annie Dillard
Annie Dillard
This morning during Mass, as I listened to toddlers chirping and singing out while I read the prayers from the Missal, I thought of this excellent little paragraph from Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being:

A hole in the earth’s crust releases clear water into the St. John’s River of central Florida at the rate of one hundred million gallons a day. Salt water issues from deep-sea mouths as very hot water and minerals. There iron and sulfur erupt into the sea from under the planet’s crust, and there clays form black towers. In Safad, Isaac Luria began prayers by saying, “Open thou my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.”

…Speaking of the Roman Missal, you can find my favorite prayer to God in it. It is in the seventh Preface to the Canon of the Mass used during the Season of the Year:

missale-romanum-white-bgSanctae Pater,…mitteres Redemptorem, quem absque peccato in nostra voluisti similitudine conversari, ut amares in nobis quod diligebas in Filio.

“Father, …You sent [our Redeemer] as one like ourselves, though free from sin, that you might see and love in us what you see and love in Christ.”

We are not allowed to use this Preface during special seasons, but during “Ordinary Time,” I use it pretty much every Sunday.

…Happy Easter, dear P&BD readers! Here is something to which the married men might be able to relate:

On a sunny morning, after a few sleep-deprived nights, we men can become emotional like women.

heartsA man can see his wife first thing in the morning–and this after years of marriage–and think to himself, “What a beauty! I married the most beautiful woman in the world. I am the luckiest man alive!”

Well, I have not slept a lot lately. I got up this morning, unlocked the church, the sun came up, and then people starting coming in. I was overcome. The Church is my Bride, and there is none more beautiful, none more wonderful. I am rapturously in love. I love you, dear Church. Be mine forever. Love, Preacher.

Did He Have to Do It?

the_passion_of_the_christThe Lord Jesus freely laid down His life for the salvation of the human race. He offered Himself to the Father as a sacrifice for our sins. He did it today, on Good Friday.

Good Friday is therefore a sacred day, one of the most sacred of the year. There are a number of ways to keep the day holy—going to church for the Sacred Liturgy, or Stations of the Cross, going to Confession, prayer, fasting, abstinence from meat.

These days, though, for some people, Good Friday passes more or less unnoticed. For some people it’s as good a day as any to go to a baseball game, or watch a movie, or go out to eat.

We live in a society in which some people do not keep Good Friday holy. This forces us to confront a serious question. How we spend Good Friday is not just a matter of personal devotional choice, of private preferences. The question we have to ask is a question about the human race as a whole.

Let’s put the question like this: Did Christ really have to die for us? Did mankind need Him to make the sacrifice He made for us today? Does the human race need a Savior?

kobe-lebronOr are we really just fine on our own? Is the human race okay by itself? Can any human being say to Christ crucified: “Hey, thanks—but you went to too much trouble. Don’t do me any favors.”

Christ is a unique human being—He is the only divine human being. With Him, the human race as a whole can stand before God and say, “Lord, we are a race of sinners. We are dust and ashes before You. You made us out of love, and we have poured contempt on You in return. But we can boast of your only-begotten Son. He is just and true—He bore witness to You unto death—and He is one of us. See and love in us what You see and love in Him, O Creator, and have mercy on us.”

On the other hand what do we human beings have to show for ourselves without Christ? Left to ourselves, what are our hopes? Let’s consider…

We humans are ingenious. We have tall buildings. We have many, many cars, many television shows, a lot of guns and ammo. Our race has produced both LeBron James and Kobe Bryant at the same time. We have invented pizza, modern medicine, cellphones, umbrellas, space shuttles, and numerous other accomplishments. Splendid.

ipod-handBut when we go to meet God at the end of our lives, what will we do with all these things? Will they do us any good?

None of our accomplishments can exactly recommend us to God. God is perfect, and we are not. We have no claims on Him. Before Him, we have no rights. He owes us nothing. Everything we have, He gave us in the first place.

Without Christ we would come to the end of our earthly life in a state of terrifying weakness. We would be utterly bereft.

Are you or I going to go to judgment and then pull out an iPod and say, “Look, Lord—look at all this great music I put on my iPod. Shouldn’t you reward me for that?” Or am I going to say, “Look, Lord—I was a great cook. I grilled some killer hamburgers. Send me to heaven for my hamburgers.”

It really is ridiculous, the idea that we would be alright without Christ.

Do we need a Savior? We need Him more than we need oxygen. We need Him more than we need gravity to keep us from floating into outer space. We need Christ more than we need our incorrigible selves.

There is only one thing more desperate than the suffering Christ had to endure to save us today. The only thing more desperate is just how desperately we needed Him to do it.

Where Else Would We Be?

Parochial vicars usually do not preach on Holy Thursday. We usually listen to the pastor preach, like everyone else does.

Two years ago, though, I had the privilege of preaching on Holy Thursday. This morning, I was trying to organize some of my files, and I turned up that homily. Here it is:

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Holy Week


Who made this week holy?

We human beings do not have the authority to consecrate a week.

Human authorities can designate federal holidays, Cherry Blossom festivals, tax-due dates, and such things. But no government can make a week—or even a day—holy.

It is not easy for us human beings even to know when Holy Week is. Sometimes it starts in March, sometimes in April. The ancient Romans invented the months. But Holy Week is more primordial than the months.


God made Holy Week. He sanctified this particular week not once, not twice, but three times.

The Lord first sanctified this week when He made the world. Holy Week is when God originally created everything.

Then He sanctified this week again when He led His people out of slavery. This is the week when the angel of death passed over the homes of the Israelites. It is the week when Moses led them out of Egypt, and the Red Sea parted before them.

vatican-red-seaFinally, the Lord came in the flesh and sanctified this week a third time.

He went to Jerusalem to offer His life as a sacrifice. He consecrated this week forever by sprinkling it with His own Blood.

Is God Faithful?

He must be, right? How else could BOTH Memphis AND Duke get knocked out of the tournament on the same night! But seriously…

The wicked said among themselves: “Let us beset the just one. Let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, He will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test, that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” Wisdom 2:1-22

This reading from the Old Testament poses this profound question: Will God vindicate the man who hopes in Him?

When the just man who loves God is put to the ultimate test–when he must renounce everything for the sake of being faithful to God–will the invisible, silent, mysterious God be there? Or are the scoffers and cynics right?

For a long period of time, this was an open question. It could not be answered because there was no perfectly just man.

Job had a claim to being the test case. But in the end even Job admitted that he could not accuse God of infidelity. After all he suffered, Job repented in dust and ashes. (Job 42:6)

resurrectionSo the question went unanwered, until the just man came. In the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the fidelity of God was put to the ultimate test. The plans laid out by the scoffers in the Old Testament were fulfilled when the innocent Lamb of God was led to the slaughter.

The Lord Jesus testified that the One Who sent Him is “true.” (John 7:28)

The answer was given: God vindicated the Innocent One. He rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven. He reigns supreme, the King of the Universe.

God has answered the question. His answer is Christ.

He is faithful.

Crouching Spider, Little Bird

frodo-phialIf you are a Lord of the Rings fan, then you know that Shelob is the ancient, giant spider that almost killed Frodo when he entered the land of Mordor.

Few of us would want to encounter such a creature. Nonetheless, it is fun for any afficionado of Middle Earth to visit Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture. The truculent iron spider is currently in front of the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington.

"Crouching Spider" on Independence Avenue

icthus…The Lord Jesus said: “Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”

St. Therese of Lisieux wrote:

I look upon myself as a weak little bird…I am not an eagle…In spite of my extreme littleness, I still dare to gaze upon the Divine Sun, the Sun of Love, and my heart feels within it all the aspirations of the eagle…

story-soulO Jesus, I know and so do You that the imperfect little creature, while remaining in its place (that is, under the Sun’s rays), allows itself to be somewhat distracted from its sole occupation. It picks up a piece of grain on the right or on the left; it chases after a little worm; then coming upon a little pool of water, it wets its feathers still hardly formed. It sees an attractive flower and its little mind is occupied with this flower. In a word, being unable to soar like the eagles, the poor little bird is taken up with the trifles of earth.

And yet, after all these misdeeds, instead of going and hiding away in a corner, to weep over its misery and to die of sorrow, the little bird turns toward its beloved Sun, presenting its wet wings to its beneficent rays. It cries like a swallow and in its sweet song it recounts in detail all its infidelities, thinking in the boldness of its full trust that it will acquire in even greater fullness the love of Him who came to call not the just but sinners.

Jesus, I am too little to perform great actions, and my own folly is this: to trust that Your Love will accept me.

–St. Therese of Liseux, Story of a Soul, chapter IX (Manuscript B)

Palliative Distractions, more Mark 6, and Father Maciel

Hoyas now a miserable 4-7 in the Big East
Hoyas now a miserable 4-7 in the Big East

Quick! Anything–anything–to distract us from the pain of Total Hoya Meltdown!

Continue reading “Palliative Distractions, more Mark 6, and Father Maciel”