My Hero, His Mother, and Pontifical Prevarication

pope press conference

You listened to her, O Lord, and did not despise her tears, which moistened the earth, whenever she prayed. (Antiphon for today’s Memorial of St. Monica)

St. Monica. She prayed for her son… Augustine. That he would embrace Catholicism.

She prayed. And he did. He embraced our religion, big time. The Catechism quotes Monica’s son more than any other theologian. Reading St. Augustine’s sermons has given me endless inspiration and insight. There is no one whom I admire more.

What separated Augustine from the hypocrites? Maybe his slavish humility before the sacred text of the Scriptures? Maybe his total personal devotion to Jesus his Savior? Maybe his tireless readiness to seek the truth? This made him the kind of pastor who could answer questions without prevarication.

Let’s take one Augustine quote from the Catechism.

To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts.

From this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only God (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence). [CCC 1809]

There’s enough wisdom in that one paragraph to organize your whole life on.

To live well is to love God.

Loving God keeps love pure and temperate.

Loving God makes love strong, even in the face of great difficulties.

Loving God keeps love honest and just, since the Lord sits on His throne to judge everyone, with all truth.

And loving God keeps love prudent, since a brave, pure, and honest love can see through nonsense and root itself in facts, in reality.

The best reaction I have heard so far to the publication of the famous Archbishop Viganó dossier: “I am shocked above all to learn that an Italian official spent time working during the second half of August.”

augustine-bookSeriously, though. We find ourselves at a terrible impasse. Our Holy Father had a chance yesterday to deny the truth of what the Archbishop alleges. On the papal plane heading home from Ireland, a reporter asked the pope directly, “Is it true that you knew about McCarrick?”

But Pope Francis would not say, “No. It is not true. Had I known I would have acted. Acted on behalf of those victimized by McCarrick’s predations. I’m only sorry I found out about it so late, and it breaks my heart to think about all the people that this man has hurt.”

The pope could have said all this. If it were true. But he did not. He said, “You must draw your own conclusions.”

To repeat: A reporter had asked the pope about a private conversation between himself and an Archbishop. The Archbishop had written: “I told Pope Francis about McCarrick in June of 2013.” So, Holy Father, is that true? Answer: “Draw your own conclusions.”

You might have wondered what I meant above, when I used the word ‘prevarication.’ Our Holy Father’s answer to a simple Yes or No question, a question that only he can answer: “Draw your own conclusions.”

That’s what we call prevarication, my dear ones.

Why, Lord?

Bridgewater Pllaza

Yesterday, the good Lord gave us a lovely day in these parts. Quiet, late-summer sunrise. A perfect day for a drive… maybe up I-81 through the beautiful “Valley of Virginia…”

Punctuate all this loveliness with killing three people, including yourself, and gravely injuring another? We could ask and ask and ask, and we won’t understand why someone would do that. I wish he hadn’t.

On a lazy summer afternoon at Bridgewater Plaza, you can watch the parents buying bags of popcorn to feed the schools of carp that congregate by one of the piers. Then their children stick their fingers into the fishes’ toothless gullets. They scream and laugh. It’s the kind of hillbilly fun that people in Franklin County, Virginia, really love.

Why let it all be disturbed with the report of bullets at sunrise, Lord? The last thing any of us ever wanted–that our home would become international news like this. Why do You allow this?

Shortly before she died, St. Monica said to her son Augustine, “Remember me at the altar of God.”

The best thing to do today: pray for the dead at Mass. The best thing to do tomorrow: same thing.

At Holy Mass, we encounter the Power Whose hands hold the living and the dead. When we pray with love, that He would help them–the dead and the living; when we pray at the altar that He would help them, He will.

At Holy Mass today, St. Paul tells us: “Stand firm in the Lord.” Because we stand firm, we can ask Why? He will unfold an answer, we trust Him enough to believe that. We ask because we believe He will answer.

Christ crucified is going through all this, right here with us, on these lovely late-summer Virginia days full of grief.

No altar standeth whole? (Roman Missal IV)

No one can read chapter 11 of Book IX of St. Augustine’s Confessions without tears.

Reading St. Monica’s words so moved Matthew Arnold that he turned this sonnet:

‘Oh could thy grave at home, at Carthage, be!’—
Care not for that, and lay me where I fall.
Everywhere heard will be the judgement-call.
But at God’s altar, oh! remember me.

Thus Monica, and died in Italy.
Yet fervent had her longing been, through all
Her course, for home at last, and burial
With her own husband, by the Libyan sea.

Had been; but at the end, to her pure soul
All tie with all beside seem’d vain and cheap,
And union before God the only care.

Creeds pass, rites change, no altar standeth whole;
Yet we her memory, as she pray’d, will keep,
Keep by this: Life in God, and union there!

Indeed. But the poet has missed the mark. St. Monica begged to be remembered at the altar. Union with God–we find it at the altar.

Some of our beloved separated Christian brethren ask us, How did the Last Supper become the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

The answer is two-fold:

Continue reading “No altar standeth whole? (Roman Missal IV)”

Too Long?

…to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus –I Thessalonians 3:13

Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so. –Matthew 24:45-46

st monicaSt. Monica waited a LONG time for her son to turn from his wicked ways. But she kept praying and never gave up.

One of the primary causes of doubt about the Christian faith has always been: the Lord Jesus has not come back in glory yet. It has been almost 2,000 years. The skeptics think: He must not be coming back after all.

There are two reasons why this skepticism doesn’t make sense. St. Peter explained the first reason a long time ago:

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but He is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:8)

It is quite ridiculous for us to think that we can grasp the time-frame of God. He perceives all of history, from beginning to end, in a single glance. We cannot begin to understand what is a “long time” for God.

God knows how long the Age of the Church should be. If it will last 100 million years, what business of ours is it to question that? Our job involves the here and now. The length of history is God’s business.

There is another reason why it makes no sense to doubt that Christ will come again:

People who live their lives waiting for Christ to come again tend to be happy and at peace. IF it were possible to find a happier way of life, then skepticism might make sense.

But the fact is: To “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we will die,” does NOT make a person happy. In addition to the hangovers, there is the abiding sense of emptiness and dread.

We are made to wait for Christ. When we wait for Him to come, doing what we need to do to be ready–we are as happy as human beings can be in this world.

pantocrator

Rounding Out the Four Majors

Scala Santa
Scala Santa
After a week of pressing hard towards the goal, many of us were the worse for wear today. Speaking for myself, the tiredness in my legs made the whole day seem like a climb up the Holy Steps of Jerusalem. (More about this below.)

The Pope has four Major Basilicas in Rome. The pilgrim to Rome visits all four.

The first two are the shrines of the Apostles Peter and Paul. The other two are the cathedral of Rome and the neighborhood church of our hotel, on the top of the Esquiline Hill.

Our Mass this morning was in the Cesi Chapel of St. Mary Major. We couldn’t stay for a proper visit to the Basilica after Mass, because we had an appointment. We had time for a quick visit to the tomb of St. Monica, which is in the Roman church dedicated to her son, St. Augustine. Then we had to press on to our meeting.

As I mentioned in previous installments, Yours Truly went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land earlier this year. I traveled with a group of 25 priests. We were led by Archbishop Raymond Burke. At that time, Archbishop Burke was the Archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri.

Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
Since then, the Pope asked Archbishop Burke to come to Rome to serve as the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. This is the rough equivalent in the Church of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Because he occupies this important post, Archbishop Burke will certainly be created a Cardinal at the next Consistory.

This morning, Archbishop Burke received us in the Palazzo Cancelleria, a Renaissance palace in downtowm Rome where his office is located. He explained the work of his office, encouraged us in the faith, and gave us his blessing.

Then we lunched in the nearby Piazza Navona, the center of Rome’s social life. From there we took a quick busride to the home of the Popes for the millenia from fourth to the fourteenth centuries–the Lateran.

Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona
As we recall from celebrating the Feast of the Dedication of the Laterna Basilica twelve days ago, this church is the Mother and Head of all the churches, the cathedral of Peter.

Inside, there are Baroque statues of the Twelve Apostles lining the nave, which was designed by Bernini. In the baldacino over the high altar are reliquaries containing the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul. Pope Martin V, who brought the Papacy back to Rome after it had been moved to France for a few tumultuous decades, is bured in the confessio (under the high altar). The table our Lord used at the Last Supper is in a reliquary over the tabernacle. The great Pope Leo XIII is entombed here.

Across the road from the Basilica are the ruins of the original Apostolic Palace, the home of the Popes for a thousand years. The only remnant of this once-grand edifice is a chapel called the “Holy of Holies.” The pilgrim reaches this chapel by ascending steps used by our Lord Himself.

Reliquary containing part of the Manger from Bethlehem
Reliquary containing part of the Manger from Bethlehem
St. Helena (the Emporer Constantine’s mother) went to Jerusalem to bring back to Rome as many relics of our Lord’s life as she could find. The most massive relic she recovered was the set of steps leading up to the entrance of Pilate’s praetorium. Christ would have walked up these steps to be judged by Pilate, and He would have walked down them after He had been condemned to death. The original stone steps are encased in wood. We ascended these steps on our knees.

After this, we returned to Santa Maria Maggiore to visit and complete our Roman pilgrimage. We stopped in front of the confessio (in which the reliquary of the Manger is kept) to recite the Creed, Our Father, and Hail Mary.

I will have more to say about our pilgrimage. Now, however, we will dine together to say farewell to the Eternal City over a glass or two of montepulciano. Arrivaderci for the moment.