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!


Prince E-Mail Exchange

Very interested in your thoughts, dear reader.  Maybe my kind and thoughtful correspondent has me dead to rights…

Dear Fr. Mark,
It was very distressing to hear you quoting Prince lyrics in your homily. As he was apparently a massive drug abuser, rumored bi-sexual and/or roue, and  infamous for sexually explicit lyrics I feel he is not appropriate as a Christian example.

With regard,
Peace be with you,

[name withheld]


Dear —-,

Thank you for your e-mail.  I appreciate your writing to me.

I don’t remember citing Prince as a Christian example, and I don’t think I quoted any sexually explicit lyrics.  (I don’t approve of those.)  I think he was a magnificent artist, and his music has given me great joy over many years.  I have no position on his personal morals, as they are none of my business.

I may very well have expressed myself poorly.  I am sorry to have distressed you.

Love, Fr. Mark


Father White,

Thank you for your response. I suppose we disagree on a ‘see no evil’ approach to words from the pulpit.

God bless you.


Civilization of Love

Some of us read all the teachings of the popes, through the years. And some of us listen to a lot of Prince.

We all know of course that Pope St. John XXIII convoked a meeting of the world’s Catholic bishops fifty years ago…Vatican II. We know that Vatican II marked the beginning of “the New Evangelization.” The world of today needs the Gospel message, just like the ancient pagans that Paul and Barnabas visited needed it.

Vatican II stalls
Bishops at Vatican II

Those of us who read all the papal teachings know that one theme runs through everything since the end of World War II. One theme: How can you just leave me standing, alone in a world so cold? The popes’ theme is: Building a civilization of love.

A civilization: an organized, stable community of peoples, based on one fundamental fact: Every human being possesses the dignity of many, many sparrows. As the Lord put it: The Father’s eyes are on the sparrow. Not one falls to the ground without His notice. But you are worth more than many sparrows, child.

A civilization of love. “I give you a new commandment,” says the Lord. “Love one another. As I have loved you, laying down My life for you, spreading My arms out on the cross for you, shedding My life’s blood for you, offering My death in agony to the Father for you…saying I Would Die 4U, and then really doing it–in just that way,” says the Lord,” you must love one another.”

A civilization of this kind of love. This kind of trust. This kind of selfless attention to others. The popes have said for two generations–since the end of World War II, they’ve said: You say you want a leader. But you can’t make up your mind. I think you better close it. And let me guide you: The human race has one hope for a good future. Building a civilization of love.

Naïve? Politicians and pundits tend to misrepresent and misconstrue papal teachings to make them sound like what they want to hear, and then they dismiss the real meat of what the Church stands for as pie-in-the-sky naiveté. “Of course the pope stands for world peace, universal health care, and a moratorium on the death penalty. But that’s because he’s naïve.” “Of course the pope stands for the right to life of the unborn and an end to pornography and all sexual exploitation. But that’s just naïve.”

Family CircusIs it? Really? Is our Catholic vision of a civilization of love naïve? Let’s look at it like this. When the Lord Jesus commanded us to love one another, with a love like His, was that naïve?

I, for one, would say the opposite. I would say that all the teachings of Christ boil things down to pure practicality. We either love, trust, and give ourselves to each other as children of the same heavenly Father, or… we play video games all the time? Or binge-watch Zombie Apocalypse? You don’t have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude.

The teaching of Christ and the popes is the opposite of pie-in-the-sky, the opposite of naïve, because really we have no choice. The commandment of love casts our whole human destiny in stark relief: One the one hand, love and trust that leads to the cross, and to the hope of a better future. On the other hand, a lifeless abyss of selfish, lonely boredom. Love come quick. Love come in a hurry.

During the past two generations, while the popes have exhorted us to civilize ourselves with Christ-like love, they have repeatedly pointed out that it all starts with family life.

The original civilization of love: the family. Mom and dad loving each other like Christ loves, loving the children like Christ loves, the children loving each other, and mom and dad, like Christ loves. Practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, right at home. Patience, forgiveness, instruction, encouragement, a cool refreshing glass of water at an appropriate time, putting things away when asked, cleaning the room, never treating anyone like a slave.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has re-emphasized, with new urgency, the importance of family life in building a civilization of love. In his recent Exhortation to us, he cites the passage we have for our second reading at Holy Mass, St. John’s vision of heaven: “I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming out of heaven from God.”

amoris-laetitia-coverNo offense to anyone with their various pastimes, but St. John did not write: “I saw the new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, prepared like Lane Stadium.” St. John did not write, “coming down, like a shiny new Camaro,” or “a killing purse and boots for a night out with the girls.”

No. Heaven meets earth like: a bride meeting her husband. Like a bride and groom at the altar, consecrating themselves in a permanent little civilization of love. Sign o’ the times, mess with your mind, hurry before it’s too late. Fall in love, get married, have a baby, call him Nate.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, marriage involves the greatest form of friendship, after our friendship with God. Pope Francis says marriage “is a union possessing all the traits of a good friendship: concern for the good of the other… intimacy, warmth, stability and the resemblance born of a shared life.”

Let’s grow old together, building a civilization of love, starting right at home. There will be peace for those who love God a lot.

Prince CD-Burning HQ

Batman opener
(from the opening credits of Tim Burton’s Batman, 1989)


Burnt myself a CD.  To cope.  I may or may not listen to any other music during the rest of my life.  Just Prince, in between Shakespeare plays.

Better Prince Playlist

Seems like the internet should offer a place to share which songs you put on your Prince bereavement CD, if you want to.

Around the World in a Day is my favorite album.

Quindon Tarver did the best “When Doves Cry” cover (on the Leo DiCaprio Romeo + Juliet soundtrack).

When the first Batman movie opened on M St. in downtown Washington, everyone cheered for Prince.

You can be the president, I’d rather be…

Party Over?

prince 1999

It didn’t occur to me until yesterday that Prince was a mortal man.

I know that sounds funny, coming from a Christian believer.  And one who aspires even to Thomistic clarity.  We Christians don’t believe in any immortal God-men, other than Jesus.  And you don’t need the rigor of St. Thomas Aquinas’ mind to grasp that all men die, even the apparent demi-god behind Anotherloverholeinyohead.

But life is a dance.  Lord Jesus taught me that early on.  And He used Prince to teach me–and a lot of other people I love, too.  So I’m kind of a weepy mess today.

Especially when you throw in the fact that our gospel reading at daily Mass is the funeral gospel, that I have read and preached on in the company of more dead people in their caskets than I can count.

What did St. Paul say to the Pisidian Antiochians?  Not “I’m your Messiah and you’re the reason why.”  St. Paul said:  “But God raised the Messiah from the dead, and for many days He appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem.  Those are now His witnesses before the people.”

It ain’t over.  The Lord is risen.  We are His witnesses.  Music is music because death doesn’t win.  Sometimes I wish that life was never-ending.  Two thousand zero zero party over oops out of time?  No.  The chords of I Wanna Be Your Lover will resound forever.  Let’s dance.

Anselm and Slavery + Prince

No slave is greater than his master, nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. (John 13:16)

Saint Anselm
St. Anselm

St. Anselm died 907 years ago today.  In 1102, he presided over a church council in London, which condemned slavery.  “Let no one hereafter presume to engage in that nefarious trade in which hitherto in England men were sold like brute animals.”

St. Anselm tried to bring an end to one man enslaving another.  But that didn’t nullify what St. Paul had declared, namely that Christ’s death and resurrection made us slaves of God.  Christ showed us true human freedom:  uncompromising obedience to God.

Lord Jesus washed the feet.  Then He submitted to a cruel death.  In between, He told them:  I tell you now before it happens, so that when I die on the cross you will not just think:  An innocent man has been unjustly punished!  You will not simply think:  A righteous man has suffered with inspiring courage!

Yes, you will think these things.  But also you will know, when I die on the cross:  This is the power of God and the wisdom of God.  This is the Father reconciling the world to Himself, through the perfect obedience of His only-begotten Son.

Our Lord, our Master never drove an Audi.  He never had a hot wife.  He never “had it going on,” as the world judges such things.

We, His slaves, His messengers–what should we expect out of life?  Suffering now.  Eternal glory when everything is said and done.



requiescat in pace/punch a higher floor

Prince and Other Particularities

“But we know where he is from.” (John 7:27)

Got me thinking about: Where am I from?

Upper-northwest Washington, D.C. I’m from Redskins fans. And from white people– the most well-meaning and well-mannered white people you’ll ever find. With every passing year, I admire my mother and father more, and I thank God more heartily that He brought me into this world from Kirk and Ann White.

princeI’m from Chevy Chase Playground, at Connecticut Avenue and McKinley Street, where I spent most of the 1970’s trying to learn how to play basketball. Speaking of the 1970’s: I’m from a time when people trusted each other more, and got along better, I think, than we do now.

I’m from the complicated East Coast. I’m from the United States. I’m from the English-speaking peoples, from the race of William Shakespeare. Praise God!

All of us have our own particular origins. None of us can altogether escape them.

In my limited experience I have learned that the greatest delusion a man can fall into is: thinking that there is some life for him to live other than being his father’s son. And the greatest delusion a woman can fall into is thinking she can live as someone other than her mother’s daughter. The Lord gives us each total uniqueness and sovereign free will, to be sure. But He also gives us particular origins, and to despise our origins is to despise ourselves.

They thought that the Christ must be a man of incomprehensibly mysterious origin. How wrong they were! They had it altogether backwards.

The Nazarene, Who was raised by a carpenter and his wife, Who learned from them how to speak and walk and make pilgrimages down the Jordan to Jerusalem, Who frequented the same synagogue for years, where everyone could remember when He first started showing signs of a beard—the dusty-footed Galilean has revealed the truth:

We all have one origin: We come from God. And God brings each of us into the world in such a marvelously particular way that only He could come up with it all.

God gave me a teenage experience in which I listened to the greatest musician any of us will ever hear of, and I lived the years of high-school during his prime. God gave me Prince and the Revolution to grow up with, in their prime, when Prince wrote music and put on a show like no one since.

Only God could do something like that, give me something like that. Praise Him!

John-17 St.-Lucy-Day-Crown Candles

St Lucy crown

Father, I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. (John 17:22)

I have given them the glory you gave me. The ‘them’ is us: we who believe in Christ.

The ‘I’ is Christ, true God and true man.

The ‘glory’ is the glory which God has given to the Christ. What is this?

From eternity unto eternity, the Father begets the divinity of the Son, the unlimited glory of God.

We, being limited creatures, cannot receive this glory. So He cannot mean this.

From the moment of His conception in the Virgin’s womb, the Christ received from God the fullness of grace, the human share in divinity: wisdom, knowledge, perfect love, indomitable fortitude—the full spiritual equipage of the holy man, the man perfectly united with the Creator and Governor of all.

From the moment of our Holy Baptism, Christ shares this grace with us. It grows in our souls through our pilgrim lives as we persevere in faith, do good, and avoid evil.

princeBefore dawn on Easter Sunday, the Christ received from God the permanent re-invigoration of His human body. This, too, we will receive–on the last day.

Why? Why has the Christ given us the glory that God gave Him?

So that we, His believers, may share the unity of the Father and Son. So that we may share the Holy Spirit.

Again, we cannot share this as God, because we are not God.

But we can share it as divine love poured into human hearts. As Christ’s Heart is, so can our hearts be: Moved altogether with love for the truly beautiful and truly good. Impervious to evil and death. Alive with the same life that made the whole world, keeps it made, and guides it to its fulfillment.

That the Father and Son are one in the Holy Spirit is the foundation of everything else. That foundational love that makes things exist—as opposed to not exist—that very love can be in our hearts now and forever. That very love–nothing less. The love that is the foundation of the earth, of the universe.

Prince, in his heyday; Prince rocking ‘When Doves Cry’ in 1984, would have nothing on us. Michael Jordan in his heyday; Jordan knocking down 69 points in one game would have nothing on us. F. Scott Fitzgerald, sitting down and writing The Great Gatsby like an ethereal poem of pathos, would have nothing on us. Alexander the Great, ruling from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas, would have nothing on us.

To be among those for whom the Lord prays in the words of John 17 is to be a burning candle in the St.-Lucy-Day crown of the world.

Vatican II and the Atheist

Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose I have come. (Mark 1:38)

Christ cured St. Peter’s mother-in-law of her fever. But He did not do it simply so that she could get up and serve Him a cup of cool water and a falafel sandwich.

Continue reading “Vatican II and the Atheist”

Wait a Minute. Prince.

In an idle moment, I busted out a few tracks from the first Batman movie soundtrack, just to re-live the time. Listening took me back to those heady days of cassette tapes, and a crystalline realization left me humbled like a man in front of Niagara Falls:

Let’s reflect for a moment—

Between 1982 and 1987, Prince came out with 1999, Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, Parade, and Sign o’ the Times.

Pause. Taking it in…

Do you realize how many songs are included here that are necessary elements of the cosmos?

By my count, at least twelve.

This is the most amazing thing that has ever been done.

If the man had only produced Purple Rain, that would be the most amazing thing that has ever been done.

…Can we really doubt, you know, the Almighty Hand?