St. Jerome and Voting

Statue of St. Jerome near Sheridan Circle in Washington, by Ivan Mestrovic

St. Jerome labored in a cave in Bethlehem for decades, to translate the Holy Scriptures into the street language of his people, Latin. Meanwhile, he also wrote about disputed subjects of his day, sometimes intemperately.

We pilgrims who visited Bethlehem together in 2009 celebrated Holy Mass in St. Jerome’s cave. Also, we pilgrims who visited Rome together in 2006, or 2008, visited St. Jerome’s tomb: the high altar in the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Jerome rests just above a relic of the manger.

Golas Jerome cave Nov 14 09
Father Robert Golas and myself concelebrating Mass, with the late Deacon Bill Walker and other pilgrims, in the grotto of St. Jerome in Bethlehem, November 14, 2009

St. Jerome died 1600 years ago yesterday. Our Holy Father wrote us an Apostolic Letter to mark the occasion. The pope notes how artists have depicted St. Jerome as a model of devotion to God and His Scriptures. My favorite painter, El Greco, did a number canvases of St. Jerome. Pope Francis singles out this painting by Caravaggio:


I think the greatest depiction of the saint sits on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C. Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic did statues of Our Lady for both ends of the exterior of the Shrine of Immaculate Conception in Washington. But I think we find the sculptor’s masterpiece in front of his country’s embassy: St. Jerome, reading (see above).

St. Therese of Lisieux died on the 1,477th anniversary of St. Jerome’s death. She discovered her vocation to follow the little way of love by studying the Scriptures. As she explained in her autobiography, she came to understand her life by reading I Corinthians 13.

St. Therese

Some readers wonder: Does the Word of God teach me for whom to vote in the U.S. presidential election of 2020? Won’t some courageous priest just tell me who to vote for? Doesn’t the evil of procured abortion make it perfectly clear for whom we must vote?

I wrote an essay in 2008, explaining why Roe v. Wade is so dreadfully wrong. You don’t need to read the Scriptures or study the magisterium of the Church, in order to know how wrong it is. You just need to look at a sonogram.

Religion comes into it like this: we have a Christian duty to stand up for the innocent children in the womb, the largest, most-heinously oppressed class of all time. We cannot shirk that duty.

Everyone must determine for him- or herself, according to his or her individual circumstances, how that duty binds. We can offer conclusive arguments that abortion involves unjustly taking an innocent life. We can offer only speculative arguments about how this or that vote, in this or that election, will affect the situation.

I believe that clergymen have a right to free speech, like everyone else, provided we respect the proper times and places to say what we have to say. When we “have the floor,” so to speak, at the Sacred Liturgy, we do not have the right to get into disputed questions of politics, when no one on the other side of the question gets a chance to offer counter-arguments.

Speaking for myself as a voter, I did not come away from Tuesday evening’s debate seeing a clearly good option. Same thing happened four years ago: bad options. I wrote another essay in 2008, about how we have to try and keep politics in perspective; politics, after all, is inherently messy business.

What I think we have to keep in mind, and pray hard about this year, is this: The election of 2020 will unfold like no other presidential election that any of us can remember. Neither candidate will concede the election to the victor on election night, because exit polling will not tell us who won. No one really knows exactly when, or how, the outcome of this election will become clear. Maybe it never will.

May the good Lord pour down patience, kindness, and mutual respect into our hearts. We will need every ounce of Christian virtue we have, so that each of us can do our part to keep the public peace.


Angelic Etching

St. Thomas in Sopra Minerva

I am a man of classical artistic tastes.

My favorite image of St. Thomas Aquinas is the fresco by Filippino Lippi in the Carafa Chapel in the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minverva in Rome.

Nonetheless, I have a new second-favorite image of St. Thomas: The sweet etching by Adrien Mastrangelo, above.

It reminds me of my favorite statue in town: Ivan Mestrovic’s St. Jerome on Massachusetts Ave., N.W.

Statue of St. Jerome near Sheridan Circle in Washington, by Ivan Mestrovic

Methinks Thou Dost Protest Too Much

nationalmarathonlogoThe equinox has come and gone. Easter will arrive after the next full moon!

“Praised be the Lord Jesus Christ!”

“Praised be His Holy Name!”

This is the exchange I had in the middle of Columbia Rd., N.W. at 8:30 this morning.

The brother was wearing a tanktop with “Jesus is Lord” on the back.

Don’t talk to me about basketball, because…

Continue reading “Methinks Thou Dost Protest Too Much”

Feast of the Presentation Homily

Statue of St. Jerome near Sheridan Circle in Washington, by Ivan Mestrovic
Statue of St. Jerome near Sheridan Circle in Washington, by Ivan Mestrovic

Every word in Sacred Scripture is precious. We do well to read the Scriptures as much as we can.

Forty days after Christ was born, our Lady and St. Joseph followed the prescription of Exodus 13:1-2: “The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both of man and beast, for it belongs to me.”

Continue reading “Feast of the Presentation Homily”

Hello, St. Jerome

smmhighaltarWhen I was in the Holy Land in February, we visited the cave in Bethlehem where St. Jerome spent years translating the Holy Scriptures. The cave is just a few yards from the grotto of the Nativity of Christ.

St. Jerome was originally laid to rest in a little chapel in his cave in Bethlehem. But then, when the Muslims were threatening to take over Bethlehem, the Christians took St. Jerome’s relics to Rome, where they would be safe.

St. Jerome’s tomb is now the High Altar in Santa Maria Maggiore, immediately above the reliquary of the Manger of Bethlehem. This morning I finally got to greet the Doctor and Father of the Church, the patron of the study of Holy Scripture.

All-Star Week

This week is just about the best week of saints’ days in the whole year.

Today we keep the Feast of the Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the Archangels. Tomorrow we keep the Memorial of St. Jerome. St. Jerome was a learned scholar and orator in Rome, but he went to the Holy Land to give his life to the task of translating the entire Bible. If St. Jerome had not done the work that he did 1600 years ago, we would not have the reliable Bible translations that we have now. When I was in Bethlehem in February, I was able to visit the cave where St. Jerome did his work; it is just a few steps from the place where the Lord Jesus was born.

This Sunday, Bishops from all over the world will meet in Rome for a Synod. For three weeks, they will discuss the Word of God. Our Archbishop Wuerl is one of four bishops from the United States who will attend. Let us pray to St. Jerome that the Synod will be fruitful.

On Wednesday, we will keep the Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus (a.k.a. St. Therese of Liseux, the Little Flower), Doctor of the Church. St. Therese’s Story of a Soul is one of the best spiritual reading books you can get. Her “Little Way” is the “elevator” to heaven. On Thursday, we keep the Memorial of the Guardian Angels. Of course each of us should thank our Guardian Angel ever day for all his help. But if we have let a few days slip, we can try to make it up by special expressions of gratitude on Thursday. Your Guardian Angel is the best friend you have. When we get to heaven–please God–we will finally see our Guardian Angels. We will of course effusively thank them for helping us to get there. They will say, “Don’t mention it. Just doing my job.”

Then on Saturday, we keep the Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi, the second-most popular saint of all time (after the Blessed Mother). In addition to being friendly to animals, St. Francis was also intensely ascetic. He renounced every worldly pleasure for the love of God. He was unswervingly faithful to the Pope and the Church. And he was given the gift of sharing in the Lord’s own wounds, the stigmata.

More people have given up everything to follow the example of St. Francis than any other saint. It is safe to say that no one has ever been closer to Christ, more like Christ.

Assisi is one of the most beautiful and prayerful places on earth. Those of us who will go on pilgrimage together from St. Mary of the Assumption, Upper Marlboro, Maryland, U.S.A., to Italy in November will visit Assisi, walking the streets where St. Francis walked. We will pray at his tomb, and we will remember the rest of you there, for sure.

There you have it: Ecclesiastical All-Star Week. If ever there were a week to try to go to Mass everyday, this is it. Many graces will flow from heaven this week. Thank you, holy angels and saints!