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.

Memorial Day Jailhouse Speech


We have no beefs with the Roanoke Sheriff’s Dept., or even with the officers who arrested Enrique.

Now, maybe they could have stopped to ask themselves, Should we arrest a perfectly peaceful man who is busy watering the plants at a church?

They probably did not know that Enrique’s son Eduardo, who is as American as you or me, was going to have to graduate from high school with his father in jail. His father, who sits on the Parish Council of his church, who spends more time at the church than the priest himself.

But the officers were simply enforcing the laws. The problem is that the laws have grown obsolete. They do not reflect the reality of the situation in our American communities.

We remember the soldiers who fought and died for what America stands for. This ain’t it. That Enrique Manriquez languishes in jail on Memorial Day is unworthy of the memory of the soldiers who died for our ideals of fairness and freedom.

We need new laws. And they need to release Enrique. His family needs him. His church family needs him. The business he works for needs him. His American community needs him.

Orphans and Freeborn Foreskins

I will not leave you orphans. (John 14:18)

When God created the human race, He did it with fatherly love. Adam and Eve had no human parents, but they were not orphans. God provided for them in every conceivable way. It was Satan, the father of lies, who led Adam and Eve away from the Father.

The Lord, however, had a plan to rescue us from the existential orphanage. In ancient times, God inaugurated a sign by which His children would be identified. For the first age of salvation history, the children of God were known by…circumcision.

[Listen, if you are squeamish about this subject, I am sorry. But this is sacred history.]

San Francisco activist Lloyd Schofield
So we hear our Lord Jesus promising us that He will not leave us orphans. Also we hear that out in a city in California, they are planning to put a new law to public vote. The law would make it illegal to circumcise infants.

To be clear, we know from the New Testament that the sacrament of circumcision pertained only to the Old Law. It is no longer necessary to circumcise baby boys as a sign of our covenant with God. So why am I bringing this up? Because I think reflecting a little bit on it will help us understand Christ’s promise about not leaving us orphans.

Continue reading “Orphans and Freeborn Foreskins”