My Address? The Cemetery

The best place for a church and rectory is: The middle of the parish cemetery. The priest should live among the dead, with skeletons for his roommates.

At my little church, we don’t have a parish cemetery. But I have the next best thing: There is a beautiful, enormous, old cemetery right up the hill. Not only that, I have owned a grave in this cemetery for years.

Barring a transfer, I will spend the rest of the history of the world in this neighborhood. My bones will moulder alongside those of my most long-term neighbors.

St. Augustine was a fearless preacher. For example:

God isn’t too grand to talk even to fools. Some of you may say, perhaps, “And how did God talk to a fool?” O my brothers and sisters, how many fools is He talking to here, when the gospel is chanted?

Anyway: The saint was talking about Luke 12:20, when God says to the rich man building bigger barns, “You fool, today your soul is required of you.”

The discipline of clerical celibacy is a constant reminder that death is near.

This is a great blessing: Every time we Catholics come to church, we are confronted by a man who has no inheritance in this world. The members of his body have been put to death. He lives with a foot in the grave, shrouded in black at all times.

This helps us all, we priests included. We need this discipline as much as everyone else. We priests did not choose it; it chose us. The discipline of celibacy has made us bearers of the ultimate truth.

Fool, today your soul will be required of you.

Sicut Transit Gloria Mundi

amd_thrillerPerhaps, dear reader, you remember that we have touched on our love for Michael Jackson before.

The album “Thriller” was fun in just about every way–all the songs were good, the videos were delightful, the Vincent-Price cameo was priceless.

Human Nature” is on my iPod perennially. I liked the album “Bad,” too. “Man in the Mirror” was a great song.

Also, let’s not forget that M.J. was acquitted of all charges.

May the King of Pop rest in peace.

mt olivetSpeaking of death, today I drove past the one small piece of real estate I own.

It is only a few square feet.

But it will be more than big enough, when the time comes.

Act V, Scene 1 of Hamlet opens with two gravediggers joking with each other.

The one asks the other, “What is he that builds stronger than either the mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?”

The other replies, “The gallows-maker; for that frame outlives a thousand tenants.”

The other replies:

I like thy wit well, in good faith: the gallows
does well; but how does it well? it does well to
those that do ill: now thou dost ill to say the
gallows is built stronger than the church: argal,
the gallows may do well to thee. To’t again, come.

The second one can’t come up with another witty reply, so the first one says:

Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull
ass will not mend his pace with beating; and, when
you are asked this question next, say ‘a
grave-maker:’ the houses that he makes last till

The entire scene is very long. Here is the second part of it, worthily done by Kenneth Branaugh and our old buddy Billy Crystal, from the 1996 movie version.

Then, later on in the scene, my favorite phrase from all of Shakespeare makes its appearance. Laertes is bickering with the priest. Laertes thinks his sister Ophelia’s funeral has been too short.

Laertes. What ceremony else?

Priest. Her obsequies have been as far enlarg’d
As we have warranty. Her death was doubtful;
And, but that great command o’ersways the order,
She should in ground unsanctified have lodg’d
Till the last trumpet. For charitable prayers,
Shards, flints, and pebbles should be thrown on her.
Yet here she is allow’d her virgin rites,
Her maiden strewments, and the bringing home
Of bell and burial.

Laertes. Must there no more be done?

Priest. No more be done.
We should profane the service of the dead
To sing a requiem and such rest to her
As to peace-parted souls.

jozy-altidore-2Laertes. Lay her i’ th’ earth;
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring! I tell thee, churlish priest,
A minist’ring angel shall my sister be
When thou liest howling.

“Churlish priest!” Maybe, after this Year of the Priest is over, we can have a Year of the Churlish Priest, and I will be the poster-child.

…P.S. How about our soccer team!

And the Natinals just shellacked the Red Sox! (Not that I am in favor of inter-league play.)