Family, Not Feudalism

Come to Me, all you who are burdened, and I will refresh you. (Matthew 11:28) The tender, compassionate Heart of Christ. The loving kindness of God. [Spanish]

Charles Bosseron Chambers Sacred Heart of Jesus

What hope do we have–we little, disoriented moles, zigging and zagging around our little patches of semi-hospitable earth? We have no hope; we have no solace and no refuge—without the loving kindness of God, the compassion and succor of our Creator. The Sacred Heart of God’s only-begotten Son offers us the love we need, the love that can sustain us. From His Heart flows all-conquering gentleness, understanding, true peace.

The Apostles who founded our Church shared that mystery of divine love with the world. And they met with cruelty and death.

The Roman emperors despised the cult of the Nazarene rabbi. They ordered the wholesale slaughter of Christians, including the two great founders of the Church in Rome, Saints Peter and Paul.

The one, holy, apostolic Roman Catholic Church began in the blood of these Apostles, and their fellow martyred Christians. They went to death in union with the divine Lamb, Who had revealed the tender love of the Creator on His cross.

To this day, the blood shed by Sts. Peter and Paul gives us the true meaning of the phrase “Roman Catholic.” A Roman Catholic lives in Christian communion with the successor of the Apostle who hung upside down on a cross on Vatican hill, condemned by Emperor Nero. A Roman Catholic inherits the holy Tradition of faith, for which St. Peter and St. Paul died in Rome.

The Catholic Church. The tender and compassionate Christ abides, in unadulterated holiness, in His Church, in the Host and Chalice, and in His holy words. We will always find Christ in the Mass.

For me, the great gift of priesthood of this mystery—being able to celebrate Mass—it began in the ugliness of Theodore McCarrick’s destructiveness. But that does not adulterate the gift. It’s still Jesus, every time. Even now, in the solitude of my private Masses as an unjustly suspended priest. Even in my confusion, distraction, and uncertainty about the future—He remains, His open Heart, on the altar.

We seek divine love, divine compassion, in the Church. We find Him, in pure holiness, in the Blessed Sacrament and in His Word. And we find Him, in varying degrees of luminosity, and of eclipse, in all the human aspects of the Church.

peterpaul
Saints Peter and Paul

Feudalism. A political system in which only the privileged few get to make decisions. Only they have human rights. The rest of the society labors in miserable obscurity as beasts of burden.

The lords never think of their society as “feudal.” They think it’s normal. But the peasants suffer, and they recognize the violent injustice of it.

For many of us, the Catholic Church appears to operate in this way, at this point in history. Having power in the Church makes you “right.” Not having any power means you’re not supposed to talk. When you do–when you have something to say, no matter how reasonable it may be—that spells trouble for you. Because your “duty” is to show fealty to your feudal lord.

Now, no one ever said our Church is a democracy. No vote taken by human beings could ever have given us Jesus Christ. And He didn’t take a poll of His Apostles to determine how many sacraments He should institute. They didn’t elect St. Peter as the chief by secret ballot. God gave us everything that makes the Church the Church; none of that lies open to parliamentary discussion.

So: not a democracy. But surely the Church can’t operate as a feudal regime, either. We can’t bow down silently to let the lords put their feet on our necks willy nilly. We come to church seeking the compassion of God, not a soul-warping dysfunctional family.

In a loving family, mom and dad want to sit at the kitchen table with the children and listen to what all the kids have to say. In a loving family, everyone counts as a child of God, worthy of a patient and sympathetic hearing.

Not a democracy. But not feudalism, either.

That is why we will go to Richmond next Friday. Something terribly wrong has happened in the Catholic Church in these parts. The “lord of the manor” has grievously wounded two healthy Christian communities, for no good reason, and he continues to pour salt on the wound. He ran over the flower garden with a bulldozer, rather than confront some lamentable facts that we, as a Church, must confront.

We have to hold on to our faith in the compassionate Heart of Jesus, because we lose all hope without that faith. And we know He lives in our Church. We knew He awaits us in church.

We won’t enter the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart next Friday evening. Because the Mass is invitation-only, owing to the virus. And I’m not allowed to concelebrate, owing to the unjust suspension Bishop Knestout has imposed upon me.

But we will make our pilgrimage to the cathedral anyway, seeking the love of Jesus’ Sacred Heart there. And we know we will find that love. He lives. He lives in His Church.

English:

Spanish:

Sacred Heart Birthday

Last time the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart fell on June 28?

1957.

I’m not quite that old. So this is my first ever Sacred-Heart birthday 🙂

If I live as long as my paternal grandmother, I will have three more, in 2030, 2041, and 2052. To have a fifth Sacred-Heart birthday, I would have to live to be 139. All of us will be long-dead then!

Anyway, here’s a homily for today’s Solemnity:

Charles Bosseron Chambers Sacred Heart of Jesus

“God is love.” Scripture affirms it. God is love.

But we have no way of knowing what the words mean. “God” is, by definition, a word we cannot define. Except in the negative. Limitless, infinite, unimaginable.

And “love” seems to mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean. “I love World-Cup soccer.” “I love fried chicken.” “I love birthday presents.”

Actually, I don’t really. The person who deserves praise and congratulations regarding today’s 49th anniversary of birth isn’t the passive participant in the original event, but the excruciatingly active participant.

mom

Anyway, God is love, yes. But we don’t know what it means. And the only One Who can translate it into language which we can truly understand is: God.

He did so. By becoming man.

Jesus lived the human life of infinite divine love. He translated omnipotent divine love into perfect human love. He gently healed, fed, forgave, and enlightened the ones He loved. Then He gave Himself over to death, for the human race that He loves.

In the human love of Jesus, we see with our limited human eyes the meaning of the unfathomable divine words: God is love.

So we dedicate our lives to studying this revelation. To studying Jesus, loving Him, and following Him. The four gospels, along with all the other biblical books, and the living ceremonies of the Church—together they give us Jesus. To study, love, and imitate, to learn what “God is love” really means.

priest_jesus_mass

And the Scriptures and sacraments give us Jesus our God to worship and pray to. By worshiping Jesus Christ and praying to Him, we encounter the human brother Who loves us with the divine love of the infinite God Who loves us.

In return for our worship, He opens His Heart and gives us Himself. Making us part of the meaning of the words: God is love.

Sacred Heart Solemnity

In the first reading at Holy Mass today, we read, “It was not because you are the largest of nations that the Lord set His heart on you and chose you…It was because the Lord loved you and because of His fidelity.” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

Charles Bosseron Chambers Sacred Heart of JesusWhy does the Lord love us?

Does He love us for our good looks?  For our many achievements and splendid exploits?  Does He look at how well we cook, or how well we drive, or how well we play cards, or tennis—did He see all that, from heaven, and then fall in love with us, because we are so charming and wonderful?

Did He see us excelling in virtue, shimmering with perfect honesty and generosity and prudence and a sensible diet—did He see all this from heaven, and then say to Himself, ‘Well, gosh!  How lovable these human people are, how can I help myself but love them?’

Well, no.  Negative.  God does not love us because we are great.  God does not love us because we are successful.  He does not love us because we are clever, or nice, or athletic, or talented, or generous, or hard-working.  We can lay no claim to His love; we do not deserve it; we have not earned it.

Not being great—being pathetic little lumps of clay that sometimes can’t even manage to tie our own shoelaces properly; who often turn left when all the signs clearly read, ‘Danger ahead! Turn right immediately!’ being small-brained, small-hearted, whiny, petulant, little nincompoops—being all this and less, we nonetheless receive the free and all-conquering love of God.

He loves the morally, spiritually, and psychologically bankrupt.  And then He makes us beautiful and interesting and worthwhile.  He loves the small into greatness.  That’s the way He is.

All it takes is looking at a crucifix for one moment to remember that He loves us, and how He loves us.

Why?  Why did He become man and die on the Cross for us?  Why did He allow His heart to be pierced by the soldier’s lance, so that every last drop of His Precious Blood flowed out?

We hear the answer in the second reading at Mass today:  God loves us because God is love (I John 4:8).  His love is the origin of all things.

The Ready <3

Passion of the Christ scourging my heart is ready

We hear at Holy Mass today: Jacob loved Joseph, but Jacob’s other sons rebelled, and they sold Joseph into slavery. The owner made the land serviceable for the tenants, but they rebelled. The owner sent his son to make peace, and the tenants killed him.

Rebellion against a kind and loving authority, against a kind and loving father. The prophet Jeremiah put is to us at Holy Mass yesterday: “More torturous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy. Who can understand it?”

In our hearts, we find rebellion—the human version of Satan’s response to the heavenly Father. Non serviam. Again, we read in the book of the prophet Jeremiah (chapter 2): The Lord laid a yoke on the neck of Israel, the yoke of faithful obedience. And Israel replied, “I will not serve.”

Today we celebrate our only First-Friday Mass of this year’s Lent. Four weeks from today is Good Friday. So let’s mediate on the remedy God has given us for our rebellious hearts.

sacredheartIn The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson put Psalm 57:8 on the lips of Christ, as they bound Him to the scourging post. “My heart is ready, Father; my heart is ready.” Mel didn’t pull that out of nowhere. St. Augustine taught that Psalm 57 is “a song of the Passion.”

The ready heart: our Lord’s, and our Lady’s. No rebellion, no pride, no ‘mine!’ Only: “My soul proclaims God’s goodness.” Only: “Praise be to you, Father, for revealing your wisdom to little children.” Only: “Thy will be done.”

In our Lord’s Heart, and His mother’s, we find the original peace of prelapsarian Eden. We find the Spirit by which we sinners can become adopted children of the heavenly Father. In the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart, we find no rebellion, no ego. We find a human will and human affections that reverberate in harmony with the eternal and infinite divine will. We find: True citizenship in the Kingdom of Reality.

The grace that flows out of the Sacred Heart can quell all the rebellion in our hearts–the rebellion that actually only serves the Overlord of the Kingdom of Lies. The grace that comes to us in the Blessed Sacrament of the flesh and blood of God: it can heal the tortuousness that we find whenever we take an honest look inside.

Jeremiah lamented, “The human heart is beyond remedy!” But God heard that lament, and He gave us the remedy. The Sacred Heart of Christ and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Beautiful Church

"I don't know what he's talking about.  I'm from New Jersey."
“I don’t know what he’s talking about. I’m from New Jersey.”

“This Temple has been under construction for 46 years!” (John 2:20)

King Herod ruled when the Lord Jesus was born. Herod’s son Herod “ruled” when the Lord was crucified. The earlier Herod had great vision and skill as a builder of magnificent buildings. He laid out the plans to transform the small, unassuming second Jewish Temple into the enormous complex that Jesus drove the oxen out of.

Anybody know what happened on February 22, 1987, and then on November 25, 2001? On those dates, the Bishop of Richmond solemnly dedicated the buildings of our cluster parish churches. It hadn’t taken a full 46 years to build either of them. But it took plenty of blood, sweat, and tears.

Anybody ever been to the National Shrine in Washington? Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Washington has one very significant thing in common with Rome. Both cities have one huge Catholic church, which everyone thinks is the cathedral, and then another large Catholic church, which actually is the cathedral.

The Pope's cathedra in the apse of the Lateran Basilica
The Pope’s cathedra in the apse of the Lateran Basilica
The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is not the cathedral of Washington, D.C. Anybody know what the actual cathedral there is? Right, St. Matthew’s.

What exactly is a ‘cathedral’ anyway? To know that, we have to know what a ‘cathedra’ is. Anybody?

The cathedra is the seat from which a bishop teaches, sanctifies, and rules the Christian people of his diocese. Simply put, then, the cathedral is the bishop’s church.

Who is the bishop of Rome? Papa Francesco, of course–the world’s most beloved Italian-American. Everybody thinks St. Peter’s is his cathedral. But it isn’t. St. Peter’s Basilica is where St. Peter’s bones are. San Giovanni in Laterano is the pope’s cathedral. It’s on the other side of town, in a more ancient part of the city of Rome.

St. John Lateran took about ten years to build, originally. It was solemnly dedicated 1,690 years ago this Sunday. The church has undergone a few expansions and renovations since then, involving people like Michelangelo and Bernini.

Buildings can help us a great deal, since we are not wolverines; we are not jaguars; we are not caribou. We cannot spend all our time outside. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to have places inside, where we can celebrate Mass. And it helps us pray when these places express our faith in their appointments and adornments.

Continue reading “Beautiful Church”

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart

Papa Francesco checking the stats
Papa Francesco checking the stats

Believe it or not, by the happy co-incidence of the Lectionary cycles, we read the exact same gospel reading at Holy Mass today and a week from Sunday. So I can give you a homily on it then.

Let’s just focus for one tiny moment on these words of Scripture. The holy prophet addresses us with an exhortation to consider reality realistically:

It was not because you are the largest of all nations
that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you,
for you are really the smallest of all nations. (Deuteronomy 7:7)

“The smallest of all nations.” Now, not to get persnickety with the Bible or anything, but statistics show us that our Holy Mother Church actually has more members than many nations have in their populations. The Catholic Church has more people than the Netherlands and Belgium put together, to be sure.

But that’s not really the point. The prophet means something else by infallibly declaring to the Church that we are the smallest of all nations.

sacred-heart-crossMaybe you remember that we once considered this question together: Why does the Lord love us?

Does He love us for our good looks? For our many achievements and splendid exploits, frequently chronicled on tv? Does He look at how well we cook, or how well we drive, or how well we play cards, or tennis—did He see all that, from heaven, and then fall in love with us, because we are so charming and wonderful?

Did He see us excelling in virtue, making Hercules of old look like a piker, while we tear up Insanity workouts daily, and shimmer with perfect honesty and generosity and prudence and a sensible diet—did He see all this from His heavenly perch, and then say to Himself, ‘Well, gosh! What a lovable group of people these human people are, how can I help Myself but love them?’

Well, no. Negative. That’s not how it happened.

Not being great—being pathetic little lumps of clay that sometimes can’t even manage to tie our own shoelaces properly, who often turn left when all the signs clearly read, ‘Danger ahead! Turn right immediately’—being small-brained, small-hearted, whiny, petulant, little nincompoops—being all this and less, we receive the free and all-conquering love of God.

He loves the morally, spiritually, and psychologically bankrupt. And then He makes us beautiful and interesting and worthwhile. He loves the small into greatness. That’s the way He is.

Sacred Heart, Etc.

Click HERE to read an editorial by our Virginia bishops…

margandjesus…Anybody know who died 323 years ago today? How about the special revelation she received?

The Sacred Heart of Christ beats in the heavenly temple where He ministers as High Priest of all the good things of God. Ever since He ascended into heaven, we Christians have “felt” the beat of His Heart by faith.

Then, out of the superabundance of His love and care for us, He chose to appear to St. Margaret Mary and to make His Heart visible to her. He revealed the image to her for all of our sakes. He did it to renew our intimacy with His love. As Pope Pius XII put it in his encyclical letter on the Sacred Heart of Christ:

[The significance of the revelations given to St. Margaret Mary] is that Christ–showing His Sacred Heart–willed in a special way to call the minds of men to the contemplation and veneration of God’s most merciful love for the human race. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is so important that it may be considered the perfect profession of the Christian religion, for this is the religion of Jesus, and no man can come to the heart of God except through the heart of Christ.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ. Christianity. The same thing.

Probably everyone knows, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that: one way to practice devotion to the Sacred Heart of Christ is to spend a Holy Hour in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the first Friday of every month. As Blessed Pope John Paul II put it, the Sacred Heart of Christ “beats” in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, and by spending time in adoration, we attune ourselves to the beating of His Heart. Also, we practice the devotion by making a good, humble Confession as close to first Friday as possible.

Devotion to the love of God in the Sacred Heart of Jesus liberates us from our self-centeredness. As Pope-Emeritus Benedict put it in his letter on the Sacred Heart devotion:

The experience of love, brought by the devotion to the pierced side of the Redeemer, protects us from withdrawing into ourselves and makes us readier to live for others.

St. Margaret Mary, pray for us, that we might draw closer and closer to the Sacred Heart of the Lord.

August is Mary’s Heart’s Month

The Sacred Heart of Jesus contains the infinite divine love. So we always seek to live in His Heart.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary shines invisibly with the purity of a human heart in the Garden of Eden. So we strive to live in her heart, too. She shows us and helps us to have hearts that receive the infinite divine love of Jesus’ Heart.

mary-mThe relationship between their two hearts teaches us all virtue.

Jesus is perfectly religious, and Mary is perfectly religious by receiving into her heart Jesus’ perfect religion. Jesus is perfectly just, and Mary is perfectly just by receiving into her heart Jesus’ perfect justice. Jesus thinks and acts with utter prudence, with a vision of the true goal. Mary is perfectly prudent by receiving Jesus’ own inner vision into her heart by an act of faith and obedience. Jesus is perfectly temperate, perfectly chaste, perfectly pure—and Mary’s heart is purified completely by her reception of Jesus’ white-hot charity. Jesus is perfectly brave and strong, and Mary is, too, by receiving into her heart all of Jesus’ fortitude and indomitable power—which she manifests by unflinching, silent devotion at the foot of the Cross.

The Safety of 99 and the Peril of One

"I thought they smelled bad on the outside."
“I thought they smelled bad on the outside.”

Seems to me that we must exert our imaginations about one aspect of the parable of the Lost Sheep in order to grasp the parable’s full significance.

The aspect I have in mind is the extreme contrast between the state in which the 99 sheep find themselves and the state of the one little lost sheep.

To a statistician or an economist, the parable might not make any sense at all. “Wait a minute. 99 on one side. One on the other. Take the 99 to the bank and be done with it.”

Continue reading “The Safety of 99 and the Peril of One”

Parable of the Two Debtors

Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more? (Luke 7:41-42)

Leave it to the one and only divine Messiah to fill a brief episode during a dinner party with so much meaning.

We gather that, upon arriving at the Pharisee’s house, the Lord received only the bare minimum of polite welcome.

Herein we discover Lesson #1: The lowest pit of hell holds all the people who have received the divine Messiah with curt politeness. Better to spit on His feet than to treat Him merely as a marginally respectable intrusion into my precious life. The better course of action is, of course, to bathe His feet with kisses and tears of repentance for all my sins.

Returning to the episode: The Lord proceeded to say to the nervous Pharisee, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” To which the Pharisee responded, “Tell me, teacher.”

Lesson #2: There is hope for this Pharisee yet. He listened.

I may be nervous. I may be judgmental. I may be a gossiping snob who hides behind icy good manners. But if I am prepared to listen to the words of Jesus Christ, then there is still hope for me.

Then the Lord proceeded to tell a very short parable, which only makes sense one way. It only makes sense if: 1. We are all sinners, and I am the worst. 2. Jesus is God, Who is prepared to forgive any sin. 3. The best way to respond to all this is to bathe the feet of Christ with my kisses and tears of joy in His goodness.

Simon managed to deduce the meaning of the Lord’s parable. Quite frankly, the meaning of the parable is perfectly obvious. Another lesson: Confessing our sins and receiving God’s pardon does not require rocket science. Few things can be accomplished more easily. All it takes is a priest, an act of contrition, and a firm purpose of amendment.

The Lord Jesus concluded the episode by telling the woman with the sweet-smelling oil that her faith had saved her. Have peace, your faith has saved you.

What did the woman believe, exactly? She believed that the loving Heart of Jesus is the loving Heart of Almighty God, the loving Heart of the One just Judge, Who can and does forgive sins.