Prohibited from Ministering

I am sorry that Bishop Knestout has decided to prohibit me from celebrating the sacraments, preaching, or ministering in any way, for the time being. The bishop has the authority to do this, temporarily.

I disagree with the reasons that Bishop Knestout has given for doing this. I think he has misjudged the situation. I’m not a perfect pastor. But I have done nothing to deserve this; our parishes have done nothing to deserve this. I will dispute his action by the appeal process within the Church.

The virus has us all under a great strain. Our normal, peaceful life seems far away. Let’s cling to the Lord Jesus. He came into the world as light, to dispel the darkness. He came to save the sinful world. He will lead us to better days, one little step at a time.

Lo siento mucho que el obispo ha elegido a prohibirme de celebrar los sacramentos, predicar, o servirles a Uds. como sacerdote, por el momento. El obispo tiene la autoridad para hacer esto, temporalmente.

No estoy de acuerdo con las razones que el obispo ha dada por hacer esto. Pienso que el ha equivocadose sobre la situación. No soy párroco perfecto, pero no he hecho nada para merecer esto; nuestras parroquias no han hecho nada para merecerlo. Voy a discutir la decisión del obispo por el proceso canonical de la Iglesia.

El virus nos ha pesado mucho. Andamos bajo una gran tensión. Nuestra vida normal y pacifica parece muy lejos. Quedamos pegado al Señor Jesús. El vino al mundo par ser la luz, para disipar la oscuridad. El vino para salvar al mundo pecaminoso. El va a guiarnos a días mejores, paso a paso.

Somebody Save Us!


Last year, on Monday of Holy Week, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned. Seemed like one of the worst things imaginable, at the time…

In today’s gospel reading at Mass, we hear the Lord Jesus say: “You do not always have Me with you.” (John 12:8)

God walked the earth, as a man. When He finished His work here, He ascended bodily into heaven. We have Him with us now by faith. By the faith of His Church, Jesus Christ abides on earth.

Seems like the world looks for someone to rescue it right now. It’s a desperate mess. Widespread anxiety. What will become of us? What’s the truth about what’s going on? What’s the meaning of it all? Who will provide for us? Who will save us? We need a savior, for God’s sake!

We have one. We have one.

Fellow Christians: Our moment has arrived. Our moment to believe in Jesus Christ. To believe, with everything we have. Our moment to study Him intimately. To beg Him: unite us with Yourself, Lord!

The world needs her Savior now more than ever. Literally now more than ever. The human race has never, in the history of time, experienced such a unified need for the Savior, as we do right now. Today. Now.

Jesus Christ abides on earth by the faith of the Christian Church. Seems like a huge burden for us Christians, maybe. But that’s the way God has willed to do this salvation thing.

We must believe. We must believe, today, in God crucified for us. Like thermonuclear bombs of Christian faith, exploding inside our little homes, irradiating the whole world, from the tiny corners where we find ourselves.

We have a Savior. Jesus of Nazareth.

The Word of God + Eric Clapton

Palermo Pantocrator Christ priest

All four gospels have two parts. Part I of each gospel covers everything before the Passion. Part II recounts the Passion and Resurrection.

The verses of St. John’s gospel that we read at Holy Mass today conclude his Part I. They serve as a kind of ‘closing argument,’ so to speak, about Who Jesus is.

He is the eternal Son of the eternal Father. He is God made man. He speaks not a human opinion about God; rather, He is God revealing Himself to us human beings.

We find ourselves struggling always to navigate between two possible deadly traps. On the one hand: talking about God without any discipline or restraint. As if we could know that God “wants” this or “doesn’t want” that. As if we could know that God “likes” this or “doesn’t like” that. The world abounds with preachers and other well-meaning people who try to domesticate the awesome, unfathomable majesty of the Creator. And the absurdity of a human being claiming to understand God—it’s enough to push a sober skeptic over the line into atheism.

On the other hand, God has not left us in the dark about Himself—about His plan, His will. No. He sent His only-begotten Son. The words Jesus has spoken are spirit and life. The Redemption He brought about is real. He lives and reigns, and He shares His grace with us through the means that He Himself established. We didn’t make it all up–the sacraments and the New Testament.

Which brings us to an interesting twist in the verses that we read at Mass today. At first, the Lord refers to His words, in the plural. But then He changes to word, singular, when He refers to the final judgment.

St. Thomas Aquinas explains this:

Christ revealed Himself in His sayings. He announced Himself. He, therefore, is the word that He spoke.

God has spoken. His one and only eternal and infinite Word. Jesus Christ.

PS. Back in 1986, I listened to Eric Clapton’s August so many times that I wore out the tape in the cassette. But I was holed-up in a monastery when this incredible event occurred in 1996. I never knew about it, until a friend alerted me…

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.

Thunder Saying Glory

Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane Heinrich Hofmann, 1890

Then a voice came from heaven. The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder. (John 2:28-29)

The fifth Sunday of Lent always arrives with great intensity, because Passiontide begins. On the fifth Sunday, Lent officially stops being about me and my little problems; it stops being about how impossible it is for me to keep my Lenten resolutions. Lent officially ceases to be an excuse for whining. Instead, it’s all about Jesus now. About His final days. About the consummation of all things on the Holy Cross.

Once every three years, on this momentous fifth Sunday of Lent, we get to talk about how to understand God when He speaks to us in claps of thunder.

I don’t mean “speaks to us in claps of thunder” figuratively, as in ‘Just had an Ah-Ha moment, like a thunderclap!’ No, I literally mean the sound of thunder, in the sky, in the humid and pregnant moment before a storm breaks.

Ok. What do the wisest sages of the world teach us that the sound of thunder means?

Continue reading “Thunder Saying Glory”

Thunder, Death, and Bruce

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”

Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder. (John 12)

“Lord, some Gentiles have arrived to worship here in Jerusalem during Passover. Shall we bring them to you?”

An honest question from two of Christ’s faithful Apostles. The response? “Amen, amen, I say to you: the time for my death has come.”

O-kay. Gosh. Didn’t know things had gotten so serious all of a sudden. Um, earth to the Messiah: Just want to know if we should bring these Gentiles in to see you?

Did the Lord go off on a wild tangent here? Well, He received a heavenly endorsement in a voice like thunder. There must be something to what Christ said.

In Shakespeare, after Hamlet speaks to the ghost of his father, he insists that Horatio and Marcellus, who have also seen the ghost, must take an oath to keep it secret. Neither of Hamlet’s friends want to swear, so the ghost bellows out three times from the hidden realm of spirits, “Swear!”

The Lord Jesus received an even more definitive endorsement when He announced that the hour of His Passion had come. He had not gone off on a tangent. His response to Philip and Andrew fit the moment.

The earthly ministry of Christ ran its course with its own unique pathos. Christ taught, healed, expelled demons. He inspired faith. He filled the Holy Land with the glory of God. Many Jews believed. Many Jews recognized the divine visitation, and they responded with total abandonment to the mastership of Christ. Twelve of these believers became the Apostles.

But all of His earthly ministry merely served as an exquisitely unsatisfying preparation. It only tilled the soil. The Son of God could not fulfill His mission by ministering to His own people alone. He had come to sew the seed of eternal life for everyone.

So: two moments coincided, and the Lord alone could see that they inevitably had to arrive together. Peter and Andrew told Him about the Greeks. Now the Gentiles, too, had come to believe. Now the universal ministry must begin. And there was only one way to inaugurate it.

Who likes Bruce Springsteen? He and his band make some great tunes, make you think of summertime, and young love, and the beach…Yeah. Except that every song on Bruce’s new album is about death.

One ballad sings the whispers of tombstones. One is about how “all our youth and beauty, it’s been given to the dust.” And here are some lyrics from the other songs on the album:

I fell asleep on a dark and starry sea, with nothing but the cloak of God’s mercy over me. I come upon strangers and a great black cave. I dreamed I awoke as if buried in my grave. Bones of sailors from the north and sailors from the east lay high in a pyre in the valley of a beast. We’ve been swallowed up. Disappeared from this world.

Or from another song: “They left our bodies in the plains and the vultures picked our bones.” Or another one about immigrants to America: “They died to get here a hundred years ago, and they’re still dying now.”

Or from another song:

Grab your ticket and your suitcase. Thunder’s rolling down this track. You don’t know where you’re going now, but you know you won’t be back.

Death. The Gentiles came to Jerusalem for Passover to see the Messiah.

They would see Him on the cross. The thundering sky confirmed this.

There is a hypothetical situation in which the eternal Son of God could have come to reign as king and high priest without dying.

If Adam and Eve had never sinned, and the whole word endured for all of history as the Garden of Eden, and everybody was a vegan, and wolves and lambs lived as perpetual friends, and a cellphone never went off in church—under these circumstances, God could have consummated everything simply by becoming man and spreading out His holy arms in a great embrace. With no nails and no gasping breath.

But, as it is, we sinners owe God a death. We owe Him a trip into the ultimate, impenetrable darkness. Alone.

Self-restraint. Mercy. Generosity. One ancient Indian story says that the thunder speaks the names of these virtues when it sounds from the sky. Self-restraint, mercy, generosity. Could hardly paint a better picture of Christ.

The hour of death comes. How many times in our lives do we beg our Lady, “Holy Mary, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death?”

Should we fear? Fear the dark, apparently unending, solitary night of death? Well, let’s listen to the thunder.

The Savior said, just before the original Triduum, just before His death, “It is for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

And the heavens thundered out in triumph. I have glorified it. And I will glorify it again.

Death comes. Christ has conquered it.