Feast of St. George

Our Holy Father Pope Francis’ baptismal patron died as a martyr 1,717 years ago today. The emperor Diocletian sentenced George to death, because the saint refused to recant his Christian faith.

The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.

(John 3:35-36, which we read today at Holy Mass.)

During the ensuing century, after St. George’s martyrdom, the persecutions of Christianity by the Roman emperors ceased. In Milan, in AD 313, the emperor Constantine declared Christianity tolerable.

But the fourth century saw tumult within the Church. Tumult the likes of which we could hardly imagine now. The college of bishops convulsed with party factions; the U.S. Senate of today looks like a club of polite, like-minded friends by comparison.

St. John Henry Newman narrated the hugely complicated business in his book, The Arians of the Fourth Century. I highly recommend reading it. To all past, current, and potential seminarians. (Others might find it rough sledding.)

Card Newman
John Henry Newman

The original faith of the Church needed a word to express itself. Homoousion in Greek, consubstantialem in Latin. With that word, we Christians confess the Incarnation and the Trinity, the essential mysteries of our faith.

Eh, Father?

Let me put it like this: The Son of God shares in the God-ness of God. To practice religion honestly, man must always divide everything that exists into one of two categories. 1. God. 2. Things created by God out of nothing. The eternal Son falls into Category 1, not 2.

We think of this question as settled forever at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. The Council did settle the question, doctrinally. But not Church-politically.

In ten days, we will keep the anniversary of the death of St. Athanasius. He held fast to the Nicene Creed, through all the internal strife the Church faced in of the fourth century. Newman wrote of Athanasius: “he was the principal instrument, after the Apostles, by which the sacred truths of Christianity have been conveyed and secured to the world.”

Athanasius held fast to the Nicene Creed; he confessed the Trinity and the Incarnation. For his pains, he was excommunicated and exiled five times. All of this after the Council of Nicaea.

The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church survived the fourth century. She continued, full of life, on Her pilgrimage through time. How? She clung with desperate love to Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.

St. George day selfie
St. George Day selfie, with the paschal candle still lit after Mass

Big Anniversaries Coming Up in a Few Short Years

Mount Rushmore

Beautiful sunny day here in Roanoke, so let’s consider some significant sunny-day anniversaries.

Today at Holy Mass we mark the anniversary of the death of St. Athanasius, the hero of the Council of Nicaea. The bishops met in Nicaea on sunny May and June days. And they gave us our Symbol of faith, our creed.

On another sunny day, the Fourth of July, we mark the anniversary of…

Thomas Jefferson and Co. did the signing and declaring in the summer of 1776. In the year 2026, we will mark a significant milestone in the history of our beloved country, the 250th anniversary of Independence Day. For a nation to endure so long, a quarter of a millennium—an inspiring thing to contemplate.

But let’s focus on an anniversary that will come a year earlier, one year before the USA’s 250th birthday. In 2025.

St. Athanasius

When Thomas Jefferson and Co. declared independence in the summer of 1776, they did it on a Thursday. On the preceding Sunday, every Roman Catholic priest on earth had recited the Nicene Creed. And every Catholic priest recited it the following Sunday, along with all the faithful who were following along with the Mass. In the summer of 1,776, the Nicene Creed was already 1,451 years old.

In 2025, the Nicene Creed will turn 1700 years old.

And yet it’s still as fresh as the day when St. Athanasius helped to write it. Jesus Christ: God from God; light from light; true God from true God; begotten—not made; consubstantial with the Father.

In these words we find the hope of the world, the foundation for a real spiritual life, the truth about God Almighty, the key to understanding the four gospels, the center of Christian joy.

When we think about the legacy that our Founding Fathers gave us Americans, nearly a quarter-millennium ago, it humbles us.

But, may it please God that our Founding Fathers made it to heaven, when they contemplate what St. Athanasius and the Fathers of Nicaea gave the world almost 1700 years ago, it humbles them.

Shire Folk and the Omnipotent Incarnation


The apostles prayed to Christ, “Increase our faith.”  We want to share in that prayer.  “Lord, increase our faith!”

Now, what precisely is this faith that we pray that the Lord will increase?  Fundamentally, the Christian faith defies definition.  It’s something mysterious, since it involves: our finite minds somehow touching, somehow knowing the infinite God.  So that we can pray.

We express our faith in the… Creed.  We believe in God Almighty, Creator of all, Lord and Giver of life.  We believe that He made everything out of nothing.  Certainly He can move mulberry trees to the sea.

Why does earth orbit the sun–the third planet out, in this particular little solar system–with Venus our neighbor inward, and Mars one planet out?  Is it all because of physics and gravity?  Well, yes…except then you have to ask:  Why then is there a sun and an earth and a Venus and a Mars, and physics and gravity?  Is it because of the Big Bang?  Maybe.  But if there was a Big Bang, then you have to ask:  Why then was there a Big Bang?  The certain answer that faith offers:  Because God wills.

God wills that Mill Mountain stand where it stands.  God wills that the Pacific Ocean extend precisely as far as the Pacific Ocean extends.  Why is the sky blue–or gray, or whatever color it is, depending on the day?  Because God wills.  God is the Almighty One.  He can move mulberry trees wherever He wills to move them.

solar-systemMay God increase this faith of ours.

But let’s ask ourselves this:  Is our faith in the infinite, omnipotent God a comfort to us?  Or is it terrifying?

Maybe it’s a comfort?  God governs everything with His inexorable power.  So we can let go of our delusions of grandeur.  We can accept that, in the great sway of the divine government, we are very small.  Like little hobbits occupying an obscure corner of the cosmos, living on earth for a brief moment in the grand scheme of years.  Our little pilgrim lives will pass away as swiftly as they came.  God is big.  We are small.  God can move mulberry trees at will; we are small enough to fit under a mulberry tree.  So we can shed our Messiah complexes enjoy our dinners in peace.

But wait:  This is a little terrifying, too…  I mean: Do we matter?  We believe in the awesome infinite God, Who has laid out the heavens and the stars.  We ourselves huddle here like so many little hobbits on a little planet.  Do we matter?  Our smallness can just about overwhelm us.

Let’s go back to our original question.  What is the faith that we pray the Lord will increase in us? The holy Catholic faith.  Which believes in God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all things, the visible and the invisible.  And our faith also believes in:  Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.

Do we matter?  The infinite God, Who cracks mulberry trees in half at will–  Brief digression: Anyone ever see Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles snap his bat in half, like a twig, after a strikeout?  Wow.  Anyway:  God Almighty, Who turns mulberry trees into mulberry splinters when He wills–He did something immeasurably more amazing.  He united our human nature with Himself.  He became incarnate.

And we have to seek precision here.  God did not ‘incarnate’ Himself in the form of some fleeting vision.  He didn’t even just send an angel.  The holy Incarnation has no ephemeral aspects.  He took our human nature to Himself in such a way that He Personally became one of these little hobbits:  semi-hairy creatures, who take up a tiny patch of territory on this little, remote planet, for a fleeting period of time, punctuated by daily dinners.

God is a man.  From the first Annunciation Day forward, He always will be a man.  And that is His most awesomely powerful act of all.  He saves us sinners and gives us eternal life.  He makes us His intimate friends, His kith and kin:  the eternal Son’s brothers and sisters, the eternal Father’s beloved children.  Which involves the kind of omnipotence that makes thunderstorms and hurricanes look like so many little splashings in a bird bath, by comparison.

elanorgamgeeAfter all, the universe really only appears to dwarf us human beings with its vastness.  Yes: we get tired just walking from one end of a Walmart to another.  But, in fact, one human soul extends to a greater vastness than the entire universe of stars and planets, supernovas and galaxies.  We can conceive and envision and number the stars and planets and galaxies.  The very huge universe in which we find ourselves so small  is, in fact, something of which we conceive, as we gaze at the night sky, which means that our minds are bigger than it.  Not in feet and inches.  But in total spiritual comprehension.

God did not unite Himself Personally with a supernova, or even with the entire Milky Way galaxy. He united Himself with us little goofballs right here.  To give us His eternal friendship.  That is actually more awesome than anything.  We pray that our faith in that unfathomable mystery, the mystery of the eternal Son of the eternal Father becoming man–we pray that our faith in that awesome mystery will always increase.





The Hammock

Casablance Bergman Bogart

Blessed indeed will you be in their inability to repay you.  You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:14)

This statement, “Blessed will you be because of their inability to repay you” sounds crazy, at least in the business world.  But the Lord Jesus teaches us to see things from a different perspective.

In the Sermon on the Plain, the Lord had said, “If you love them that love you, what reward will you have?  Sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to them that do good to you, what reward will you have?  Sinners do as much.  If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what reward will you have?  Sinners lend to sinners, and receive as much in return.

“But you, My disciples:  Love your enemies.  Do good. Lend.  Hope for no benefit thereby, and your reward will be great.  You shall be children of the Most High.  For He is kind to the ungrateful and to the evil…”

When God became a man and offered His life on the cross for the sake of the sinful human race that nailed Him there, that was no radical departure or change of character on His part.  That is Who He is—Who the Creator is, Who the Lord and Master of all things is.  He gives.

He never needed there to be a world or a universe.  He didn’t wake up one day, and think to Himself, ‘I am bored, and I am hungry, I just can’t take it anymore!’ and therefore He created Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, so that He could watch Casablanca, and then created peanuts and caramel, so that He could have a Snickers.

snickersNo.  The Lord God enjoys perpetual and perfect blessedness.  Always has and always will.  With or without Bogie.  But:  from His unimaginably wonderful state of perpetual and perfect blessedness, God generously gives.  He gives everything.  He gives existence.  He gives beauty.  He gives meaning and hope in life.

At every Sunday Mass we declare together, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”

In this pilgrim life, in the fallen world, we do things like ask for and keep receipts.  We get bills and invoices.  We have bank accounts.  Sometimes we have to pay lawyers.  None of us has unlimited material wherewithal.  We must exercise prudence, and we must deal justly with others, as we expect them to deal justly with us.  We have to think of our own well-being, and the well-being of those who depend on us.  We must make provisions for legitimate self-defense.

But none of this is absolute.  Sometimes people take out a loan on one set of provisional terms, then re-finance for a 30-year-mortgage.  But, actually, it’s all provisional.  Even 30-year-mortgages.  Because the world as we know it is passing away.

The one absolute thing is:  God.  Generous God.  Certainly, nothing about God is in any way unjust.  But to say that God is “just” does not really capture Who He is.

His way of measuring has to be our fundamental way of measuring. And His way of measuring is: not to measure at all.  He just gives.  The love of God is like a colossal hammock in which the whole cosmos and all of history rests.  The hammock holds it all, and it could hold a million universes and a million histories of the world if it had to, and still have a million more good things to give.

So He says:  Do not worry.  Can you make yourself any taller by worrying?  Can you grow more hair, by your own will?  No.  Your Father will take care of you.  Just love.  Now.  With everything you have.

Ever heard the sports expression, “to leave it all on the court?”  “At the Olympics, Carmelo Anthony left it all on the court.”  Or, “Gosh, that girl really left it all on that soccer field!”  In other words, she spent all her effort and all her skill trying to win the soccer game.

Well, God says:  Leave yourself, child, on the court of love.  Love the people who don’t like you. Love the people who drive in an annoying manner.  Love the rude and the ignorant.  Love the snide and the petty.

Love them all, because your heavenly Father loves them all.  If He didn’t love them, they wouldn’t exist.  We all exist only by His love.  And if He didn’t want us to love all the people in front of us, then He wouldn’t have made the world turn in such a way that they cross our path.  But He did make the world turn this way.  So we must love them.  Like a 14-year-old striker on the soccer team wills with all she has to score a goal, so must we love our neighbor.

Jesus gives our lives their true, eternal horizon.  The true horizon of our lives involves His divine kingdom—a divine kingdom in which the only bank is the infinite storehouse of God’s love.  And the only lawyer is the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, pleading everyone’s cause.  And a gun can do no harm nor good.  And no one needs health care.  No one ever gets sick.  Or lies.  Or does anything mean.  And the reward for every little act of love we have ever made will be God loving us back forever.

Vision for Nicaea III, 2025

I went ahead and took my own advice–to think about how to celebrate the 1700th anniversary of the Creed.  Your Holiness, I humbly suggest…

An ecumenical council, held on the shores of Lake Iznik, Turkey.  World Youth Day and the World Meeting of Families would occur simultaneously, in the same place.

Asia Minor map w NicaeaThe Council would confess the Creed and solemnly receive the canon of Scripture (all the books listed at the Council of Trent).

They would together declare that the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a sure norm for teaching.

The Fathers would agree on how to compute the date of Easter, would commit to the discipline of choosing priests from among celibate men, and would raise a cheer to Pope St. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae.

Then everyone would have a chance to go to confession.  To conclude the Council, all the Fathers will concelebrate Mass, with commuicatio in sacris for all.  Communicatio in sacris for all Christians would be the goal of Nicaea III.

Now, before you say, “Father, that’s not ecumenism, that’s you-come-in-ism!” let me make a few provisos.

First, to send invitations to the Council, the Pope would gather as many patriarchs as possible–Patriarch Bartholomew and all other willing parties–to issue the invitation.  I don’t think anyone needs to stand on particular prerogatives to convoke and confirm ecumenical councils.  At this point in Christian history, the centenary of Nicaea itself can convoke the world’s bishops.  All will come as pilgrims to the place where the 318 met at Emperor Constantine’s invitation, seventeen centuries–and countless saints and martyrs–ago.

nicaea-sistineSecond, the invitation would include the following: Holy Father Francis proposes that the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers the best existing instrument for fostering union. But the Catechism could conceivably be improved.  We will have a process by which any invitee could submit proposed amendments to the Catechism.

This process would need a governing body.  The Catechism already is the fruit of world-wide consultation, so the benefit of the doubt will go to the document as is.  Most of the work processing proposed amendments would have to get done before the Council.  (We need all nine years!)  But no one would foreclose the possibility that proposed amendments could be put to vote at the Council itself.  (All that said, we are not talking about any fundamental changes.)

Third, the invitation would extend to every bishop that any of the signatory Patriarchs recognize as legitimate, including non-Catholic bishops.  Also, we would have a process by which Anglican and Lutheran bishops could get regularized (and ordained according to apostolic succession, if need be), so as to be seated at the Council.  Other non-Catholic presiding ministers could receive invitations to submit proposed amendments to the Catechism.  (All of this presumes an acknowledgement that the Catechism teaches the truth as is.)

nicaea-creedFourth, the Mass itself, to conclude the Council…  I think we can say that any honest Protestant, who visits the local Catholic parish and hears the Novus Ordo liturgy, would have to acknowledge that the 16th-century criticisms of the Catholic ceremonies have been addressed.
On the other (Orthodox) side: The funeral Mass of John Paul II offers us a model for how to incorporate Eastern liturgical elements into a Roman-rite Mass on such an occasion.

All this said, a Mass can only have one celebrant.  At Nicaea III, that will be the pope.

Now, “wherever two or three are gathered in My name, there am I, in the midst of them,” saith the Lord.  No Christian can doubt this.  By the same token, no Bible reader can dispute that the Lord wills that we come together to take and eat, to take a drink, His Body and Blood.  We must seek communicatio in sacris; Christians must unite at Mass.  Nicaea III will offer the way.

The invitation to Nicaea III will not suit anyone who thinks we can have a Church without validly ordained priests, or who thinks that God calls women to the priesthood.  The invitation will not suit anyone who thinks Christ instituted only two sacraments, or who considers Christianity just one religion among many “spiritual paths,” or who thinks he or she can be his/her own shepherd and pope.

The invitation will not suit anyone who can’t recognize that Christ established a visible institution for the sake of mankind’s salvation.  Or who doesn’t see that this institution continues through the laying on of hands, from one successor of the apostles to the next.  And the invitation will not suit anyone obtuse enough to imagine that someone other than the pope can unite the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Most of the Christians of the world are Latin-rite Catholics.  No one sins against ecumenism by acknowledging this fact.  Also, Protestants and Orthodox can recognize most of what’s in the Catechism as their own teaching, too.  Nothing un-ecumenical about facing that fact, either.

Therefore, the invitation to Nicaea III will have two unambiguous subtexts:  1) The age of Protestantism has run its course.  Let’s come together and agree on what we read in the Catechism, so we can move forward together. 2) The age of autocephalous national Churches has run its course.  Let’s come together and agree on what’s in the catechism, and move forward together.

Why the commitment to celibate clergy?  The New Evangelization involves the apostolate of young people, families, consecrated men and women, widows and widowers–lay people in every situation.  It involves young people, families, consecrated, widows, and widowers gathered around their priest.

For the New Evangelization to bear fruit in souls, the priest need not be particularly competent (witness the pastor of St. Andrew/St. Gerard in Roanoke, Va.!)  But he must be celibate; he must commit his whole heart to love Christ (Head and members) and no one else.

Priests currently married can continue in ministry, of course.  But let’s acknowledge there’s no future in it.

Why the communal cheer for Evangelium Vitae?  One thing on which everyone still standing at the end of the process will agree:  We are pro-life!

Nicaea III will manifest Holy Church, more united than She has been for a thousand years. That union already almost-exists, thanks to:  1) Vatican II, and the ensuing efforts of many courageous souls, Pope St. John Paul II pre-eminent among them.  And 2) the spiritually desperate state of the contemporary world, which exercises a pressure on Christians to get down to basics.

A successful Council of this kind could lead to persecutions and martyrdoms afterwards, because the captains of the world will panic at the sight.  Not to mention how hard it will be to get the Turkish government to co-operate. And we’ll need as much money as the Olympics.

May God’s will be done.  Just an idea I had today while rambling in the woods. Your Holiness, I think this thing could be so awesome that Prince would come back from the dead to play covers of your favorite Christian-rock songs at the Saturday-night vigil before the concluding Mass!


Upcoming 1700th

Pope Francis Patriarch Bartholomew anointing stone
Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew arriving at the Holy Sepulchre, May 2014.  They agreed that they/their successors should meet in Iznik in 2025.

At Holy Mass, we remember the death of the hero* of the Nicene Creed, St. Athanasius, 1,643 years ago today.

Now, some of us will live to see the summer of 2025.  The 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea.

Not too many meetings bear commemorating after 1700 years.  I think we can say, even before it happens, that the Republican convention of summer 2016 (memorable as it may turn out to be) will not live in anyone’s memory in AD 3716.

Lake-İznik Turkey Nicaea
The place where the bishops met in AD 325, currently under the waters of Lake Iznik

We might even wonder if the Synods on the Family, conducted these past two autumns in Rome, will bear remembering in the years 2184 and 2185.

But the Council of Nicaea will demand solemn commemoration until the end of time.  Even in AD 170,325 (if we reach such a year ) Holy Church will remember the ecumenical Council of Nicaea.

But Father!  We already recall the Council of Nicaea every Sunday!  When we recite the Creed.

Good point.  But it just makes my point.

Namely, that the summer of 2025 will offer us an extremely important occasion for commemoration.  In the immortal words of Warren Carroll, at Nicaea the Church took “her first great step to define revealed doctrine more precisely in response to a challenge from a heretical theology.”  Bishops came from as far as India and France.  They also decided that Easter must fall after the spring equinox, no matter what the Jewish calendar said.

If you paid close attention at Mass yesterday, you heard Lord Jesus say, “The Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28)  And you probably wondered, isn’t that Arius’ very position?

Negative.  The Father is greater than the Son in two ways.  1) The Father, God, infinitely transcends the Son, in the Son’s human nature.  2) The eternal Father alone is innascible–unbegotten, not born.  The divine Son, perfectly equal to the Father, is begotten–eternally begotten.  Which is to say:  the eternal relationship of the Father with the Son means that the Son can say of His unbegotten Father, ‘He is greater,’ even though, as eternal God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are perfectly equal.

Nicaea w arius
icon of the Council, with Arius defeated

Anyway, it’s not too early to start thinking about appropriate ways to commemorate the 1700th of Nicaea.


*The villian’s name was Arius, who taught that there was a time when the divine Son was not.

St. Hilary on Baptism

The words of a very wise man, who died 1647 years ago today.

Everything that happened to Christ at His Baptism lets us know that, after the bath of water, the Holy Spirit swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father’s voice, we become sons of God. (CCC 537)

Hilary of PoitiersWhen we go to Mass on Sunday, we say our Creed. What’s the Creed called? Nicene. During the fourth century, the bishops of the Church met at Nicaea and expressed our faith in the Trinity: one God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But: For many years after the Council of Nicaea, powerful people—even many who called themselves Christians—refused to accept that Jesus is true God and true man.

Believing in the Trinity means trying to live the simple life of a child of God, wanting only to do God’s will. And people frequently do not want to live the simple life of a child of God. Sometimes they seek other things, like fame, status, wealth, pleasure, power, cookies, ice-cream, video games, etc.

But St. Hilary of Poitiers lived the simple life of faith in the revelation that Jesus had made, and had entrusted to His Church.

Hilary had entered the church from the outside. He studied all the philosophies and religions of the world, and discovered the truth in God’s revelation to Moses and in Jesus’ Gospel. Hilary was baptized and became a Christian and a child of God when he was already a full-grown man. He knew how precious the treasure of the Gospel really is.

Let’s ask St. Hilary to pray for us, up in heaven. That we might live simple lives of pure faith like he did, striving to do nothing other than please our heavenly Father and find our way home to Him.


This is My Son!

“This is my beloved Son.” Every eye was fixed on Jesus. The voice from the heavens spoke. This is My Son.

baptismchristgreco1Every once in a while, I think it pays to review the basic doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. The Catholic doctrine of the Trinity comes directly from the life of the Christ. To believe in Jesus is to believe in the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity. All ‘mainstream’ Christians share these same dogmas, which go back to the Ecumenical Council of… Nicaea!

Okay. Point one: It makes no sense to say that there are multiple gods, or that there is no God. God, the genius and the power behind and above and in everything, the artisan of all things: there can only be one, and there must be one. If there were more than one, then none of them would be God. And if there were less than One, then we have no rational explanation for the existence of, the order of, the goodness of, and the beauty of all the things we experience.

God is the one and only being Who always has been. God’s infinitely powerful existence gives existence to all other existing things. One Creator, one Lord, one absolute, ultimate good and beautiful Truth with a capital T.

So: the religious teachings of the world can be divided into doctrines of God that make sense and doctrines that don’t. The world is divided into Jews and Gentiles, into those who recognize the one true God as the most important fact of life, and those who don’t. We are Jews.

Continue reading “This is My Son!”

Creed Exercise

Drill Sergeant Boot Camp

Do not be unbelieving, but believe. (John 20:27)

These signs are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)

Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the One Who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. (Revelation 1:17-18)

The fact that Jesus lives: we believe it. That Jesus lives is an article of our holy Catholic faith.

Fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican II means that this year is officially the Year of… Faith! Pope Emeritus Benedict promised an encyclical letter on faith this year. Not to criticize anyone, but we know what happened. He… handed off the baton!

Now, I was looking forward to covering the Year-of-Faith encyclical on faith during our Lenten study sessions. As it happened, we couldn’t do that, so we covered the teaching of…St. Thomas Aquinas!

Again, as it happened, the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas regarding the virtue of faith proved to be somewhat mystifying to some people. Certainly that was not owing to St. Thomas’ teachings themselves. Rather, the priest who gave the classes was to blame.

ENGLISH VERSION OF YEAR OF FAITH LOGONow, all that aside…Let’s consider this: St. Thomas teaches that we Catholics believe in one thing, namely…God! By believing in God, we believe in everything that God has revealed. Which consists in two fundamental things which we believe, namely 1) that the one Almighty God is triune, three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And 2) that Jesus Christ is a man Who is also the eternal, divine Son, i.e. God.

So we believe in one thing: God. God has revealed two fundamental mysteries of faith, which we believe in order to believe in God, namely:… give me one word…come on…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a.k.a… Trinity! And God become man, a.k.a…Incarnation! We believe in God. We believe in the Trinity and in the Incarnation.

Okay. Good. Are we done? Or should we keep going?

Right. Yes. Indeed, there’s a whole lot more. How do we know exactly all the stuff that we believe—everything we believe in order to believe God, Who has spoken; everything we believe in order to believe in a God Who has revealed Himself; everything we believe in order to believe in the God Who can give us heaven?

Where do we look for the short summary of all that we believe? What’s it called? Nicene… Creed! And what do we read if we want the whole story, soup to nuts, Genesis to Revelation? The Bible!

Okay. Listen. Forgive me. Let’s talk memorization. Memorizing the Bible is difficult, no doubt. St. Augustine did it, and St. Thomas Aquinas. But most of us are not so equipped. That said, we can memorize the Creed.

Now, okay. If I say, Yes, soy catolico. Yes, I believe in God. I believe in Jesus Christ. Yes, I’m a God-fearing believer, qualified to enjoy country music.

If I say that—and of course, I do say it about myself—if I claim these things, and, meanwhile, I do not frequently meditate on the Creed—I mean, for instance, go over it in my mind while I’m driving, or while I’m folding laundry, or stirring my soup—I mean, if the Creed is not my daily mental companion, the object of my thoughts and reflections when I take a little walk, or exercise, or do some chores—in other words, if the Creed is not my buddy, my friend, companion, something I treasure and hang out with, cherish, own…If I call myself a Catholic and a believer, and I’m not interacting with my Creed like this, then, honestly: What the hell do I think I’m doing?

How am I supposed to make any spiritual or moral progress at all if I do not have the Nicene Creed tattooed on my soul by daily reflection on it?

God. His incarnate Son. Suffered and died for my sins. Rose again! Ascended to heaven. Pours out the Holy Spirit. Calls a Church together. Forgives sins. Gives eternal life.

I mean, this is the heart of life. This is what makes life make sense, and makes it worth living.

So here we go. I’m the coach; I’m the personal trainer. This is the gym.

Believe, man! Believe, woman! Believe and profess!

And after our workout here, go home and do 100 reps. 100 Nicene Creeds between now and Pentecost Sunday.

Don’t be a brat, burn that spiritual fat! Commit to be fit! No pain no gain. Rest for a little while then run a spiritual mile. Hustle hustle to gain more spiritual muscle. Too faithfully fit to slothfully quit! Just do it.

Santa Claus Day

santa-clausWe say, of course, that every day belongs to Jesus.

Today, December 6, however, actually does belong to Santa Claus.

Very few holiday shoppers realize that Santa Claus risked his life to defend the Catholic faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ.

The stylish and mellifluous Arius of Alexandria had gained worldwide fame for his brilliant compromise between the Christian religion and the sophisticated Greek and Roman people. Jesus should be esteemed as an excellent man, worthy of the highest admiration, but…

Santa Claus attended the first-ever world-wide council of bishops, held in Nicaea, in Asia Minor, now Turkey. As we well know, the Council declared that Jesus is not just extremely cool and worth going shopping in honor of, He is also consubstantial with the Father. He is God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made.

What’s even worse than falling off the fiscal cliff? Having a spiritual house built on sand. Winds blow. Rains fall. Floods come.

In his day, Arius had as much cache as Bono and Bill O’Reilly put together. There were a lot more Arian churches than Catholic churches back in those days.

redskins-ravensBut it wasn’t true. Arius’ teaching was less than true. Christ is no angel-man. Christ is the God-man. Santa Claus went to the mat for that precise truth. Santa Claus built his spiritual house in the north pole on the rock of the true faith.

Because, as every child knows, “North Pole” is a code-phrase for: Heaven.

Happy feast day, Santa!

Now, we know you won’t mind, Santa, that we will spend the next nineteen days focusing exclusively on Jesus Christ, since that is what you spent every day of your earthly life doing.

PS. The Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins face-off in the regular season every four years.

Four years ago, the hallowed tradition of St.-Nicholas-Day(ish) contests for Beltway bragging rights began. That was not a happy afternnon, December 7, 2008. It was painful.

Will this Sunday afternoon prove otherwise? Will the RGIIIeeeeeeeeeeee
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!! train keep rolling? Santa could make us very happy this year, with one little W at FedEx. Everything is riding on it, Santa!