Anniversaries and Things that Don’t Change

Last year on Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), we had our first ‘virtual’ Mass. We meditated on this:

By believing in Christ, we share in His experience. The eternal Father has made Jesus the heir of all things. Our Lord receives His inheritance as the gift that it is. He offers it back to the Father as a sacrifice of love.

By believing in Jesus, we share in this divine communion of the eternal Father with His incarnate Son. Through thick and thin, we have our share in that communion.

On St. Joseph’s feast day last year (March 19), our bishop here publicly accused me of harming the Church’s unity. He provided misleading evidence to support the charge. Shortly thereafter, he suspended me from ministry and locked me out of my house. I have had to celebrate Holy Mass in solitude ever since. It’s been a year now since I celebrated Mass “with the people.” Not easy.

…Now, imagine the Lord sent an angel to speak with me. “Mark, you’ve had a rough year. What’s one thing we can do up here in heaven, to ease the burden for you a little?”

If that happened, I would not even have had the presumption to ask: “Can you make the Georgetown Hoyas win the Big-East tournament in Madison Square Garden?”

Georgetown Hoyas Big East tournament champions

Our Father in heaven knows the good things we need, before we even ask Him. 🙂

On the other hand, I might have asked: “Could you have the bishop call me on Holy Thursday? And make him say, ‘Mark, it’s the day of the priesthood. I have thought things over. It’s been a year since the problems we had. I will give you your place back now.'”

Problem is, he might then say: “April fool!”

…A couple weeks ago, we kept the 1,985th anniversary of St. Peter’s arrival in Antioch, Syria, in the third year after the Lord Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. The word “Christian” originates from Antioch, which served then as the capital of the eastern Roman empire. Peter governed the Church from Antioch for a few years. Then he went to Rome and governed the Church from there. He suffered martyrdom under emperor Nero and thereby established Rome as the Apostolic See, the See of St. Peter, the city of the pope.

We keep an annual feast on the anniversary of Peter’s arrival in Antioch, February 22. To celebrate the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair, Dom Prosper Gueranger wrote:

Our Lord will not receive us as His children, unless we shall have lived in union with Him by the ministry of pastors lawfully constituted. Honor, then, and submission to Jesus and His vicar! Honor and submission to the vicar of Christ, in the pastors he sends.

Dom Prosper Gueranger
Dom Gueranger

…Yesterday the Vatican made an announcement, and a reporter at WFXR in Roanoke called me. The Vatican announcement hardly came as a surprise–namely, two people of the same sex cannot get married by a Catholic clergyman, and no bishop, priest, or deacon can “bless” the “union” of two men or two women.

The Vatican announcement did not engage the underlying question: Are physical relations between two people of the same sex always a sin? Church teaching has taken for granted from time immemorial that such relations cannot be right. But these days the question sits squarely on the table, with a lot of devout Catholics proposing that the answer might be more complicated. The magisterium of the Church has not addressed the matter since 1986.

One thing I said to the reporter that didn’t make it into the broadcast is this: I think a lot of people find it hard to credit the Vatican with honesty and good will on this subject. The prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, who issued the decree yesterday, himself ducked a subpoena to testify in a French court about his role in covering up sexual abuse by a Lyon priest.

Just in time for this little controversy, I finished reading Confessions of a Gay Priest by Tom Rastrelli. It is one of the most compelling and heartbreaking books I have ever read.

Rastrelli and I are contemporaries. He opens his book with the story of how a squirrel got electrocuted on a transformer outside the cathedral shortly before his ordination ceremony was to begin. They continued in candle light, without air conditioning. That was in June of 2002.

Tom Rastrelli photo credit Frank Miller
Tom Rastrelli (photo by Frank Miller)

I had heard the whole story before, because I was in the same cathedral exactly a year later, for the ordination of a good friend of mine. Everyone was talking about the hot, candle-lit ordination of the year before.

Rastrelli and I both studied for the priesthood under the Sulpician Fathers, he at their seminary in Baltimore, me at their seminary in Washington. We both went to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, in August, during our seminary years, and stayed with the priests there. Rastrelli and I know dozens of people in common.

In his book, Rastrelli communicates his experience of sexual abuse at the hands of priest “mentors” with crushing humility and honesty. He thought he was in love; in fact, he was being abused.

Rastrelli is such a good writer that he conveys all the confusion, all the self-doubt. As he put it in an interview about his book, “Most victims don’t know they’re victims at the time. That’s how predators operate, by that kind of mental manipulation.”

When you finally reach the end of Confessions of a Gay Priest, and then consider the stunning way in which the Church has not dealt with the McCarrick scandal, or with the sex-abuse problem in general, you’re left with this: The Catholic clergy is one big closet of confused, compulsive, and dangerous self-hating gays.

A lot of people think that, and we have given them good reason to think it.

Rastrelli has given us a gift. A painful one to receive, to be sure. I cannot exactly recommend reading the book; it made me both cry and vomit. But I salute Mr. Tom Rastrelli as a mesmerizing writer, a brother seminarian I wish I had known in person, and a truth teller with a message we need to consider with the greatest care.

Meanwhile, your humble servant believes more than ever that: the Holy Mass celebrated at our altars–the altars of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church–is the religion that God Himself gave us, by sending His only begotten Son to be our brother.

Someday things will make more sense. In God’s good time.

Laetare pic 2021
Laetare Sunday, 2021

The Holy Spirit is the third Person + Hoyas

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 18

Subsistent = existing by virtue of its own proper, independent existence. As opposed to an accident = existing by virtue of being a part, in some way, of some subsisting thing.

madison-square-garden

Update from the most-fun annual sporting event in the history of the world…

A strange Big-East tournament, to be sure, without the usual crowd noise. (More crowd noise than last year, anyway.)

But it’s a great year. UConn has returned to the family, after wandering like a prodigal, and:

Yesterday, the Georgetown Hoyas got their first win in the tournament in five long years! Setting up a face-off with top seed Villanova at high noon today.

We believe in miracles.

Hoya Proposal

This is a bona fide, real thing. Some have objected to it. But I find it: charming and wonderful. If someone had proposed to me during a Hoyas’ game, well…

I hope at least 51 couples get engaged at Hoyas’ games this year. (Three couples per home game.)

If they all go on to have eight children each, that’s 408 more God-fearing basketball fans on this beautiful earth, who can go on to get engaged at Hoyas’ games during the 2040’s.

We’re talking about as many as 12,648 Hoya babies by 2050, and well over 40,000 by this time next century.

Next thing you know, we will have taken over the country completely!

Our Long National Nightmare

JTIII Hoyas warm up
(photo credit: @casualhoya)

…of no college basketball is over.

Hoyas keep scheduling warm-up games against local southwest-Virginia faves. Today the Radford Highlanders square off against Georgetown at Verizon Center. Yeah, buddy!

We present a homily for the penultimate Sunday of the liturgical annum. I wrote it long before Friday the 13th turned into a nightmare in Paris. But hopefully it will help us a little–to pray soberly… (Esta disponible en español tambien! Haga clic aqui.)


Continue reading “Our Long National Nightmare”

7:45pm CBS

NCAA Tournament Update. Georgetown Hoyas in the Round of 32…

Larry K Utah Utes

__

In Utah, this is Coach K. Larry Krystkowiak.

In Utah, the Ute tribe officially supports the use of the tribe name by the U.

In 2005, the first picks in both the NFL and NBA drafts were Utah Utes. No other school has ever had this distinction in a given year.

…In Hamlet, Act V, Laertes says that killing Hamlet “practically runs against his conscience,” because his nemesis has such magnanimity and noblesse. I might say the same about the Utah Utes: the state has such soul-elevating grandeur, I hate to beat their team.

That said, they going down. Let’s go Hoyas!

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.

Computus and My Brother’s Birthday

full_moon_2Week after next, we will have a full moon.

The Purim moon, which precedes the Passover moon.

Easter always falls on the first _________ after the first _____ _____ after the _________ _________ (March 21).*

If you’re looking for an extra-hard Lenten penance to do… How about: Determine whether or not a period exists during which the dates of Easter repeat exactly. If so, determine what the period is.

Now, I know that Easter occurs with some regularity on March 31, since that’s my dear little brother’s birthday. He had an Easter birthday two years ago, and thirteen years ago.

I know that Easter sometimes occurs on March 23, since Easter Sunday, March 23, 2008, will remain forever etched in my memory as the miserable, cold day when the Georgetown Hoyas got knocked out of the NCAA tournament by Steph Curry and the Davidson Wildcats. It just didn’t seem to me that the good Lord Jesus had risen from the dead so that Roy Hibbert’s college career could come to such an abrupt and painful end.

Painful Easter
Painful Easter
Easter occurs somewhat frequently on March 27, which means that Good Friday and Annunciation Day are the same. I remember that happened in 2005. And it will happen again next year.

The most frequent date of Easter? April 19. But we are living through a 75-year period during which Easter never falls on April 19.

Turns out that the mathematicians of the Middle Ages devised a science called Computus, by which to determine the date of Easter in any given year.

And there is a cycle of Easter dates. They repeat exactly, according to form, in a perfect pattern, very regularly.

Every 5,700,000 years.

______________

* Sunday full moon vernal equinox

Breathing and Weeping

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Georgetown

“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force.” (Matthew 11:12)

If we find this sentence, uttered by the Prince of Peace, hard to understand, we won’t be the first. Thankfully, we have people like Blessed Pope Paul VI to explain this verse to us. In our humble parish cluster, we read the following paragraph together this past Sunday afternoon:

The Kingdom of God and our eternal salvation, which are the key words of Jesus Christ’s evangelization, are available to every human being as grace and mercy, and yet at the same time each individual must gain them by force–they belong to the violent, says the Lord, through toil and suffering, through a life lived according to the Gospel, through abnegation and the cross, through the spirit of the beatitudes. But above all each individual gains them through a total interior renewal which the Gospel calls metanoia; it is a radical conversion, a profound change of mind and heart. (Evangelii Nuntiandi 10)

Interior change brought about by struggling and striving against our profound tendencies toward evil.

My beloved Georgetown Hoyas took the court last night wearing warm-up shirts emblazoned with the phrase “I Can’t Breathe.” If I were coach JTIII, I would have told them, “Once you can hit 50% from the floor on a consistent basis, then you can make political statements…”

But I am not the coach. And center Josh Smith put it like this: “We weren’t saying the cops were wrong…We wore the shirts to show our condolences to the family. You don’t know who is right or wrong, but they still lost somebody, and they won’t get that person back.”

Now, in my book, there are probably better ways to express one’s condolences. But the pain is real. There are families who have lost someone in a fast-moving, violent scene, involving police firing their weapons.

mlk-jailTwenty years ago, I was sitting in a restaurant on 18th St., N.W., Washington, D.C., and a squad of police officers entered with guns drawn. It was genuinely insane. In their pursuit of two punks hiding in the bathroom, the police risked the lives of a roomful of innocent people. Thank God, no one was hurt.

That said: Is this country racist like it was fifty years ago? More than half of the police officers involved in the episode I just mentioned were black. In those days, I was a middle-school teacher with a classroom full of black boys. And the joke among them, after the trial of the decade, was: What did O.J. say after the not-guilty verdict was read? “Can I get my glove back?”

A large group of Catholic theologians have released a statement about the ‘racial unrest’ our country has experienced these past few weeks. I give these professors credit for getting organized and giving us something thoughtful and substantial to consider. Especially the proposal that, since local prosecutors and police can and should work so closely together on a day-to-day basis to keep the peace, someone other than the local prosecutor should instruct grand juries when charges arise against police officers.

These theologians have pledged to abstain from meat on Fridays as a sign of penance for the sin of racism.

Their statement, however, opens itself up to charges of ivory-tower foolishness by…

1. invoking Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham jail in an anachronistic way.

2. citing the Greensboro, N.C., “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” as a precedent for a similar nationwide effort. I know some Greensborians, both black and white. I think I can say that the work of that Commission, such as it was, only confirmed the ancient axiom: “Exercises in conspicuous self-righteousness rarely accomplish anything.”

But exercises in friendship and kindness accomplish a great deal. Exercises in sharing the experiences of another human being.

The great evangelist St. Paul wept with those who wept. Laying down in the street to cause traffic jams seems stupid to me. But to weep with those who grieve a dead brother, or nephew, or son—and to hope and pray like Dr. King did, looking to Jesus to help us find a better day: we should do that.

Vs. Cobble Hill/Brooklyn-Promenade College

Season opener against St. Francis College Brooklyn! Takes me back two decades to walks along Brooklyn Promenade and hanging out on Amity Street…

Alonzo Mourning’s son and Reggie Williams’ son both on the court at the end of the game.

Yeah, buddy! Season off to a great start.