New Year, New Bishop, New Leaf

Wise, old men of different races came searching for a child whom the heavens had taught them to seek. They came looking for a unique king, newly born. The divine king, the One Who could unite the whole world, and give the human race the friendship of heaven. [Spanish.]

epiph 2018And here He is, the baby. In the arms of His virgin mother. Had the wise men thought that the newborn king would have a virgin mother? A mother like Mary–a poor, humble woman from an insignificant town? Had the magi imagined that the king of the world would have a foster father who was so dusty, and had such calloused hands, as St. Joseph; a man who did not own a single cushion to put on the meager furniture he had made for his household?

We don’t know what the travelers from the East expected exactly. But we know what they found–the king in his mother’s arms, with the carpenter nearby. Together these people form the scene that we now contemplate, the scene with which we begin every year. The arrival of the wise men at the feet of the baby Jesus: this marks the new year with it’s number, so to speak. We find ourselves 2,018 years into the revelation of divine light that shone on the face of Christ.

We don’t know what triumphs and tragedies may await us this year, in our little lives. To be sure, not all of us will celebrate Epiphany 2019 here on earth. We had a bishop named Francis Xavier DiLorenzo on Epiphany 2017. But not today.

But we also know this for sure: We belong to the scene we contemplate. We belong to the “thing” that began 2,018 years ago: the life of God made man, born of the lovely, humble Virgin. We ourselves make a part of His life–the earth’s great Teacher, High Priest, and true King. We belong to Him, because we belong to His Church. We will live this year, 2,018, with whatever it brings, as members of Jesus Christ’s household, His family, His very Body.

Bishop Barry Knestout portraitAnd it’s a big year for the Catholic family here in the little diocese of Richmond, Virginia. For four weeks now, if you’ve paid careful attention to all the prayers during the consecration of the Host and Chalice, you’ve heard mention of someone called “Barry, our bishop-designate.” This is the final Snday when we will call him that. Next Sunday, Barry will be simply “our bishop.” On Friday the Archbishop of Baltimore and Pope Francis’ representative to the US–not to mention some other Cardinals and Bishops–will come to Richmond to install Barry Knestout as our shepherd.

Now, the sitting bishop of a diocese doesn’t necessarily have a large impact on the lives of the Catholics in the parishes. The biggest thing is that, for good or ill, the bishop assigns the priests. Dear, late Bishop DiLorenzo inflicted me on Rocky Mount and Martinsville not once, but twice. So you have him to thank. Or not thank. God rest his soul.

But even though the bishop may wind-up being only a name to most, he nonetheless occupies an important place in our lives. We cannot remain united with the holy scene we contemplate at Christmas and Epiphany without the bishop. He unites us not only with the Church spread throughout the world, but also with the Church that extends back through time, to Her original foundation by Jesus Christ Himself.

And Barry our bishop wil have many quiet but highly important decisions and judgments to make. So we owe him our fervent prayers.

A new year and a new chapter in the two-century history of our diocese: a good time for us to take stock of our spiritual lives and make some resolutions–or renew the resolutions we made before, and which we have kept with varying degrees of success.

Anyone ever read St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life? He says that our spiritual lives are like a clock.

Now, St. Francis de Sales lived four hundred years ago. They had clocks back then, just not electric ones. And of course no cellphones. So you had to wind your clock. Everyday. And you had to take the clock apart completely, and clean it, every year.

Let’s do the same with our spiritual lives. A good, thorough evaluation of how we pray and how we commune with God. A good cleaning of the gears, and a fresh winding-up.

How about a humble suggestion from your pastor? Let’s all resolve to pray everyday, without fail, during 2018. And go to Mass every Sunday, without fail.

Resolution at the Circumcision

Circumcision of Christ

Tomorrow is the day our Lord was given His Holy Name, Jesus.

Let’s turn to our Blessed Mother. Let’s see her holding the eight-day-old baby. The first drop of His Precious Blood has just been shed by the knife that circumcised Him.

Our Lady is contemplating the destiny that lies ahead of her newborn son. She does not know exactly what His mission will require. But somewhere deep in her unimaginably pure heart, she knows that this little drop of His blood that just fell to the earth is just the beginning.

On the other hand, she also knows this: The brightness of the Holy Face in front of her will never be dimmed. She sees that a new light has come into the world, and the darkness will not overcome it.

ihs1How do we know, then, what resolution to make for AD 2015?

If we make a lot of New Year’s resolutions, we won’t follow any of them. Neither does it make sense to resolve to do something that is too hard, or something that is too easy. This narrows down the possibilities.

Of the remaining possible resolutions that I could make, there is one which is both the most difficult and the most full of hope. There is one which will cost me more than I think I can give, but fulfilling it will give me great happiness. If I really can do it, with God’s help, I will be a better man.

Let’s think of our Lady holding her baby on the eighth day–His name day, His circumcision day. Let’s contemplate that moment, and try to imagine all that she had in her heart, and then make a good resolution for 2015.

…If I might, a couple suggestions (if you are drawing a blank):

1. In 2015, I will pray every day, no matter what.

2. In 2015, I will go to Confession every month, no matter what.

3. Every month, I will give away something that I have—time, money, stuff—every month I will give away something to someone who could make good use of it.

Immortal Bread

Let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5:8)

Who knows why we celebrate Mass with unleavened bread?

Because the ancient Israelites ate unleavened bread.

Why did the Israelites eat unleavened bread?

Because they had to leave Egypt so quickly that they did not have time to let their dough rise.

Why did they have to leave Egypt so quickly?

Because Pharaoh ordered them out, after the angel of death came.

The angel of death spared the Israelites. Death’s cold, hard scythe fell on every other family of man or beast.

Death possesses a certain merciless thoroughness. Death lays his blade to every stalk. We can neither run nor hide. The harvest time comes.

But what, really, will fall under death’s blade? Only that part of us which is puffed up with the unwholesome leaven of malice and wickedness. Death’s merciless blade leaves untouched all that is sincere and true.

On Easter we rejoice and sing. On Easter we give thanks to the God Who gives us spring—and the hope of eternal spring. On Easter, some of us might even relax a little bit.

But Easter also makes the perfect time to make a resolution. Easter marks a new beginning like no other day does. The time for a fresh start has arrived.

May my life radiate the truth of God. Kindness, generosity, honesty, respect. Mass every Sunday. Some time for God every day. Everything that the scythe of death can and will cut away from me—all that is worldly, selfish, indolent, nasty, or small—let me let go of it all now, for God’s sake.

After all, God gave His life for me. Let me give my life to Him, so that He can hold it safe for eternity.

We step forward fresh today. We step forward with the living Christ, the man Who died and rose again.

Let’s leave our bad habits in the tomb. They are fit only for the tomb anyway. Our bad habits do not survive death; only the punishment we deserve for them survives.

But death has no power over the unleavened bread of our true selves. Death has no power over the saints that God has made us to be. Death has no power over anything in me that lives in God’s truth. Today is the day to begin anew with that life—life for God.

New Year

Sweet Hoya win over the team that embarrassed us twice in one week at the end of last season!

Makes a guy want to come clean for the foibles of ’09. Let me begin by acknowledging that:

1. I think I was unfair to Romeo and Juliet.

2. My sonnet about the Hoyas last February was kind of bitter.

…Here’s a New Year’s Day homily:

Christmas Day is such a holy and important day that it lasts for eight days. Christmas Day lasts from December 25 until today, New Year’s Day.

Everybody knows this. The greeting is: “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” They go together, Christmas and New Year’s. They are the beginning and end of the annual celebration of the birthday of God.

Continue reading “New Year”

Life is Short. Pray Hard.

My mom wore her brand-new Clinton Portis jersey to my brother’s favorite Mahnattan sports-bar on Sunday afternoon. But, as we know, it was to no avail.

Redskins 2008: 8-8.

Let’s define “substantial fan encouragement” as: the Redskins putting together two winning seasons in a row.

Our decade-and-a-half-long drought with no substantial fan encouragement continues.

Portis, on Monday:  “I have no intention of having anything to do with exercise until February or March.”

On New Year’s Eve we consider how fleeting is our life on earth. Here’s a resolution: In 2009, my top priority will be getting to heaven. (Hopefully this will be a renewal from 2008.)

 Happy New Year!  Here’s a poem for your meditation.

“Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard” by Thomas Gray

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

Continue reading “Life is Short. Pray Hard.”