Memorials

City Point down the James
down the Powhattan, aka the James, from City Point fishing pier, with the Benjamin Harrison Memorial Bridge in the mist

In 1864-65, two hundred boats a day coursed this water, delivering supplies for the Union lines around Richmond and Petersburg.  General U.S. Grant presided over it all, from his little cabin.

I know: remembering the soldiers of the Civil War hardly gives us a blithe and bonny patriotic Memorial Day, dear reader.  Forgive me.  History inevitably makes things complicated.

Let’s start with the original memorial:  the Mass.

What if the written documents of the New Testament never got collected?  What if the scriptures of the Old Covenant had been lost?  What if Rome had fallen before St. Peter ever got there, and the memories of all the ancients died when they did?

Not so outlandish, really.  The native people used to call the James River by a different name.  But their memories–of empires, triumphs, defeats, dynasties–those memories have all but vanished from the face of the earth.

But: Even if not a single book survived from the age of ancient Rome, we would still remember Jesus, because of the Mass.

Some people remember the Vietnam War.  During his visit to Asia last week, President Obama said he remembered when that war ended, when he was 13 years old.  Who remembers why that war was fought?  I think the Vietnamese exiles around the world probably remember better than anyone.

Because Catholicism involves people in the world, institutions, property, alliances, family ties, and stuff like that, we cannot exactly claim ideological purity, so to speak.  What we can claim is that we have remembered Jesus, through thick and thin, by celebrating Mass.

When the president visited Hiroshima, it served as an occasion to rehearse an argument that runs like this:  dropping nuclear bombs on Japan brought the end of World War II.  If we had not dropped The Bomb, the war would have lasted much longer, and many more people would have died.  Therefore, we did the right thing.

This is what you call “consequentialism”–the moral justification of inherently immoral acts by invoking anticipated results.  Consequentialism is the refuge of people hell-bent on doing something they manifestly should not do, but who try to find a reason to do it anyway.  Consequentialism neglects the one, all-important fact:  God runs history, not us.  Our job is to do good and avoid evil.  Dropping bombs that you know will kill countless innocents–women, children, old people sitting in their rocking chairs:  E-V-I-L.

Anyway, may all our beloved dead rest in peace!

Someday, when people pray for us, in languages different from any which we currently know, using new and different names for the places familiar to us–when they pray for us, we can hope for divine mercy through their prayers.  Provided it’s the memorial of Jesus, a Mass.

Upper Room Religion

To worship God in truth, we go to the Upper Room. The Upper Room of Jesus’ Passover formed the Church of God. How did this come to pass?

Maybe, in some primordial arbor of trees, in the morning before Adam and Eve sinned, a simple altar stood. Our First Parents could have offered God a worthy sacrifice there and worshiped Him in friendship.

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Samaritan Well

Perhaps you will find this brief essay for Saturday of the Second Week of Lent interesting, or even edifying–even though it was written by the most annoying person in the world…

Jacob's Well
…A little groggy today, since it took the mighty Rams until nearly 1:00 a.m. to send the ‘Noles home to Florida. Robby Robinson took a page from Rich Chvotkin and yelled, “He blocked the shot! He blocked the shot! He blocked the shot!” about seven times, and then “Rams win! Rams win! Rams win!” about twenty times. It was awesome.

…Here’s a homily for the Third Sunday of Lent:

Last week we talked about what salvation is. If you missed last week, I’m sorry. We talked about our father Abraham, Dairy Queen ice-cream treats, Mount Tabor in the Holy Land, and Sophia Loren movies.

Anyway, we do not know yet what heaven is like, but we know that it involves being personally united with God forever.

If we hope to have communion with God in the end, then we probably need to have some kind of communion with Him now, right? Some kind of practice or spring training for the Big Show, so to speak.

Here is an easy question: How do we develop a friendship with the Lord now while we are still here on earth? Easy… You got it: By praying.

Has anyone ever heard of the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Everybody know that the Catechism is divided into four parts, for the four pillars of the Catholic faith?

Part IV of the Catechism concerns prayer. This part of the Catechism begins with the gospel reading about the Samaritan woman at the well.

To pray is like going to a well. Someone who prays opens up his soul to God like a thirsty throat opening up for cool, refreshing water.

When we open up like this, when we go to the well of prayer, we find Christ waiting for us there, like the Samaritan woman did. Upon meeting Him, we discover three amazing things, like the Samaritan woman discovered.

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Straight Answer

When he had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?”

christ-scribesJesus said to them in reply, “I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?”

They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.” So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”

He himself said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

This conversation between the Lord Jesus and the high priests recounted in Matthew 21:23-27 is hard to understand. Why wouldn’t the Lord give a clear answer to the high priests’ question?

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Prudes? Us? I don’t think so.

"I am the Immaculate Conception"
"I am the Immaculate Conception"

A lot of us have heard the canard: “The Catholic Church has a hang-up when it comes to sex.”

If you hear this while you are on your way out the door to Mass today, just smile patiently.

You are no prude.  You are on your way to celebrate one of the Church’s biggest feast days, the day when a man and his wife had sex, and the world was changed forever.

Fresco of Joachim and Ann by Giotto
Fresco of Joachim and Ann by Giotto

We are not afraid of the way God made us, male and female. We say that it is good for men and women to get married and make babies.

The peddlers of the contraceptive culture of death–they are the prudes.  Their stratagems try to turn sex into something shameful.

Sexual sin is shameful, sure enough. But the Church does not have feast days for sins, and today is the feast day of the conception of a baby.

Today is the day when God, St. Joachim, and St. Ann–together–gave us our Lady. She was conceived the old-fashioned way. God made a new Garden of Eden in St. Ann’s womb. The baby was pure from the first moment of her tiny, beautiful existence!

cooleyREDSKINS ADDENDUM

…continuing with the P&BD theme of telling it like it is, here is a Chris Cooley quote for you:

“We just sucked. Right now we suck as an offense.”

The Spiritually Mediocre and the Wisdom of the Church

Evelyn Waugh
Evelyn Waugh

Studying the old Mass reminded me of something that the novelist Evelyn Waugh wrote around 1970. When the Mass was changed, he wrote some letters to the Cardinal Archbishop of London lamenting the novelities.

Waugh objected to the intense insistence on “building community spirit” in the 1970’s Church. He did not like the idea that you had to “participate actively” at the Holy Mass–showing up on time, singing along, shaking hands, etc. His point was: We are not all up to this. We are not all up to sitting in the front of the church. Some of us tend to slip in the back after the singing has already started, and we are not about to fuss with a hymnbook and “join in.” This is our Church, too. There has to be room in the Church of God for the people who sit in the back. The Church shows Her greatest wisdom by knowing how to deal with spiritual mediocrity.

The saints are obviously the ideal. We would all like to be holier; we all can be holier; may it please God that we will all be holier before too long. But in the meantime, the old-time Catholic religion knows how to deal with us. The Church is patient and kind enough never to give up on anyone. She is always there. She gently urges–without shouting and without making impossible demands. She whispers: Go to Confession, show up for Mass, start over.