Few episodes in history have captivated my imagination like the journey of Lewis and Clark. Now I know a man who has made the same trek, in reverse, for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Dan ReinkeDan Reinke has made the journey alone, on foot.

In the towns of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and, now, Virginia, Dan has encountered the Providence of God through his interactions with people.

Dan walked into Rocky Mount yesterday and came to 4:30 Mass. He graciously agreed to stay with us for the night. This morning he spoke to our people, before heading east on Va. Route 40 after the 8:00 Mass.

Read all about Dan’s journey on his weblog. Do not neglect to read every word and watch every little video. Dan has inspired me like few people I have ever met (not counting Kyle O’Connor, who rocks and has inspired me every day for the nine weeks we have had him with us as summer seminarian!)

I urged Dan to consider writing a book when he finishes. Right now he’s like a marathoner at mile 20 or 21: just wants to survive to the end.

Praise God for sending such a hero of faith into our lives! May God keep you safe on the last leg and bless you always, Dan!


Exodus and Lumen Fidei

Reading the books of Moses for the first reading at Holy Mass these days… Reading our Holy Father’s encyclical…

Pope-Francis-Lumen-FideiIt all comes together in paragraph 12:

The history of the people of Israel in the Book of Exodus follows in the wake of Abraham’s faith.

Faith once again is born of a primordial gift: Israel trusts in God, who promises to set his people free from their misery. Faith becomes a summons to a lengthy journey leading to worship of the Lord on Sinai and the inheritance of a promised land.

God’s love is seen to be like that of a father who carries his child along the way. Israel’s confession of faith takes shape as an account of God’s deeds in setting his people free and acting as their guide, an account passed down from one generation to the next.

stained-glassGod’s light shines for Israel through the remembrance of the Lord’s mighty deeds, recalled and celebrated in worship, and passed down from parents to children.

Here we see how the light of faith is linked to concrete life-stories, to the grateful remembrance of God’s mighty deeds and the progressive fulfillment of his promises.

Gothic architecture gave clear expression to this: in the great cathedrals light comes down from heaven by passing through windows depicting the history of salvation. God’s light comes to us through the account of his self-revelation, and thus becomes capable of illuminating our passage through time by recalling his gifts and demonstrating how he fulfills his promises.

We Trust the Revealing Revealer’s Revealeds

God has visited His people. (Luke 7:16)

God was pleased to reveal His Son. (Galatians 1:15-16)

You may recall that we left a particular question hanging last week. Yes: Almighty God exists. Yes: He has the prerogative of initiating and sustaining a personal relationship with us, by revealing Himself to us. If He exercises this prerogative, then religion ceases to be something that human beings make up. It begins to be a matter of obedience.

For the past month, we have been considering the question: Who do we really trust?

sacredheartIn almost all cases, we do right to insist on some proof of reliability whenever someone tries to claim our attention and credence. But when God speaks, it’s different. The Word of God carries its own proof. God does not mislead; He does not lie. We trust implicitly everything that God says, because God says it. The truth of anything He says dwarfs our minds. If its truth is not clear to us now, it will be eventually. We trust God more than we trust ourselves.

So, in honor of this Year of Faith, let’s clarify this one important point: When we profess our Catholic faith, we do not simply say, ‘God exists.’ In fact, we can deduce that God exists, because it’s the only solidly reasonable explanation for where everything came from.

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Trusting Jesus, the gospels, the Church

This weekend in Rome, the newly confirmed young people will make a little pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter, where they will profess together the Creed of the Church.

St. Peter's tomb, under the High Altar of the Basilica
St. Peter’s tomb, under the High Altar of the Basilica
I don’t think the young people of our parishes will be able to go.

But the important thing to focus on is: Closeness to God, closeness to the Church, and closeness to St. Peter all go hand-in-hand. If I want to live as a friend of my Maker, I live as a friend of His Church. If I want to live as a friend of God’s Church, I live as a friend of the Apostolic See of Peter.

No one could affirm this connection more convincingly than St. Mark could affirm it.

Mark started life as a devout believer in the one, true God of Israel. Mark grew up with Peter as a kind of unofficial uncle. In our first reading at today’s Mass for the Feast of St. Mark, we hear Peter refer to Mark as a son.

St. Mark wrote down a gospel. Where did he learn all of its contents? From St. Peter. How do we know that? St. Justin Martyr, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Jerome, Origen, Tertullian, Eusebius, and practically every other early Christian who wrote anything down–they all testify to the fact that St. Mark wrote down what St. Peter preached.

Donatello St. MarkWe have a task, the New Evangelization. Let’s focus on the crucial dimension of trust.

Centuries of disputes have preceded our generation, disputes about God, reason, Jesus, the Bible, and the Church. To oversimplify, maybe we could summarize the disputes like this: Protestants have maintained that we can absolutely trust the Bible more than we trust our own minds, and we must absolutely distrust the Pope and the Church. On the other hand, Rationalists have argued that Jesus was a great guy, and there may be a God somewhere, but you can’t trust the Bible or the Church; you can only trust “rational” scientists and historians.

But after all these centuries of argument, the following is actually clearer than ever, to anyone who thoroughly investigates these matters: 1) Faith in God, the loving Father, and faith in Jesus are inseparable. 2) Jesus, the Apostles, St. Peter, and the four canonical gospels are inseparable. 3) The Old Testament, the New Testament, the Pope, and the Church are inseparable.

We do not really have a choice between the one, universal God of love and the God of Jesus, or between Jesus and the Apostles, or between the Bible and the Church, or between reasonableness and religion.

The only real choice we have is between having a life that makes sense, because Jesus makes sense of it for me through His Church, which bears His true, trustworthy Word–or having a life that doesn’t make sense at all.

O holy patron, my father, my lord, St. Mark–friend and son and disciple of St. Peter, who was friend and son and disciple of Christ: Pray for us, that we might trust God, His Son, His Word, and His Church, and trusting, help others to trust, too!

Seven Invisible Visibles

Nate Archibald

Good Shepherd Sunday, and we find ourselves in the season of “special sacraments.”

Our new Catholics received sacraments of initiation three weeks ago. Our vigorous youth have recently been confirmed with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, strengthened with the anointing of Christ Himself. Soon our little ones will receive the Body and Blood of the Lord in Holy Communion for the first time. Then, in the cathedral in Richmond, and in cathedrals all over the world, young men will be ordained. And some of us will have some weddings and baby baptisms to celebrate soon, too.

We hear the Lord Jesus clearly say to us today, “I am your Shepherd.” We know that He uses many means to shepherd us to heaven, but the sacraments above all. So let’s pause and meditate for a moment on the sacraments.

How many sacraments has the Lord given to His Church? Seven. Seven. Good number. Like the seven days of the week, the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven golden lampstands in the heavenly tabernacle—not to mention the jersey number worn by Mickey Mantle, Barry Bonds, Pete Maravich, John Elway, David Beckham, Nate Archibald, Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick, and Joe Theismann.

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Creed Exercise

Drill Sergeant Boot Camp

Do not be unbelieving, but believe. (John 20:27)

These signs are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)

Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the One Who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. (Revelation 1:17-18)

The fact that Jesus lives: we believe it. That Jesus lives is an article of our holy Catholic faith.

Fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican II means that this year is officially the Year of… Faith! Pope Emeritus Benedict promised an encyclical letter on faith this year. Not to criticize anyone, but we know what happened. He… handed off the baton!

Now, I was looking forward to covering the Year-of-Faith encyclical on faith during our Lenten study sessions. As it happened, we couldn’t do that, so we covered the teaching of…St. Thomas Aquinas!

Again, as it happened, the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas regarding the virtue of faith proved to be somewhat mystifying to some people. Certainly that was not owing to St. Thomas’ teachings themselves. Rather, the priest who gave the classes was to blame.

ENGLISH VERSION OF YEAR OF FAITH LOGONow, all that aside…Let’s consider this: St. Thomas teaches that we Catholics believe in one thing, namely…God! By believing in God, we believe in everything that God has revealed. Which consists in two fundamental things which we believe, namely 1) that the one Almighty God is triune, three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And 2) that Jesus Christ is a man Who is also the eternal, divine Son, i.e. God.

So we believe in one thing: God. God has revealed two fundamental mysteries of faith, which we believe in order to believe in God, namely:… give me one word…come on…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a.k.a… Trinity! And God become man, a.k.a…Incarnation! We believe in God. We believe in the Trinity and in the Incarnation.

Okay. Good. Are we done? Or should we keep going?

Right. Yes. Indeed, there’s a whole lot more. How do we know exactly all the stuff that we believe—everything we believe in order to believe God, Who has spoken; everything we believe in order to believe in a God Who has revealed Himself; everything we believe in order to believe in the God Who can give us heaven?

Where do we look for the short summary of all that we believe? What’s it called? Nicene… Creed! And what do we read if we want the whole story, soup to nuts, Genesis to Revelation? The Bible!

Okay. Listen. Forgive me. Let’s talk memorization. Memorizing the Bible is difficult, no doubt. St. Augustine did it, and St. Thomas Aquinas. But most of us are not so equipped. That said, we can memorize the Creed.

Now, okay. If I say, Yes, soy catolico. Yes, I believe in God. I believe in Jesus Christ. Yes, I’m a God-fearing believer, qualified to enjoy country music.

If I say that—and of course, I do say it about myself—if I claim these things, and, meanwhile, I do not frequently meditate on the Creed—I mean, for instance, go over it in my mind while I’m driving, or while I’m folding laundry, or stirring my soup—I mean, if the Creed is not my daily mental companion, the object of my thoughts and reflections when I take a little walk, or exercise, or do some chores—in other words, if the Creed is not my buddy, my friend, companion, something I treasure and hang out with, cherish, own…If I call myself a Catholic and a believer, and I’m not interacting with my Creed like this, then, honestly: What the hell do I think I’m doing?

How am I supposed to make any spiritual or moral progress at all if I do not have the Nicene Creed tattooed on my soul by daily reflection on it?

God. His incarnate Son. Suffered and died for my sins. Rose again! Ascended to heaven. Pours out the Holy Spirit. Calls a Church together. Forgives sins. Gives eternal life.

I mean, this is the heart of life. This is what makes life make sense, and makes it worth living.

So here we go. I’m the coach; I’m the personal trainer. This is the gym.

Believe, man! Believe, woman! Believe and profess!

And after our workout here, go home and do 100 reps. 100 Nicene Creeds between now and Pentecost Sunday.

Don’t be a brat, burn that spiritual fat! Commit to be fit! No pain no gain. Rest for a little while then run a spiritual mile. Hustle hustle to gain more spiritual muscle. Too faithfully fit to slothfully quit! Just do it.

The Wise and Intelligent Obedient Ones

Barque of Peter

The Lord has made laws for His people. He gave the Commandments on Mt. Sinai. He sent His Son to found the Church and endow Her with the Holy Spirit. By the ordinances He has laid down, the Lord guides His People through every twist and turn of history. His Law teaches us how to believe, how to pray, how to live, how to organize ourselves.

As a people, we show ourselves to be intelligent and wise by obeying the divine laws. When the world sees the People of God—an enormous communion with members in every nation on earth—when the world sees us humbly and peaceably submitting to the divine rule, heeding the commandments, following solemn and sacred procedures in order to deliberate about how to move through history—when the confused, distressed, and fuss-bothering citizens of this fallen world see the serene obedience of God’s People—well, it astonishes them.

Apostolicae Sede Vacante insigniaCan it really be this way? they wonder. Can such an invisible authority govern a people so well? An authority who can instill such confidence, who makes obedience such a sweet burden on his subjects? And is it really possible for us human beings to find such an honest and forthright authority in which we can believe, so that we can join something bigger than our petty little selves, and be a part of something grand?

Yes. We say yes. It is possible. Because the One Who made the rules we follow is God. God sent His Son to the world—the most fascinating, the most generous, the most true, the most sublime man who has ever walked the earth. And this Son of God forms the Church, like a shipwright constructs a solid vessel out of gnarled tree trunks.

We people on board this Barque of Peter—we are sinners. We make mistakes. The stewards, boatswains, and petty officers all make mistakes; sometimes big ones. But that doesn’t challenge our faith in the Captain and His rules. Our sins only make us trust His rules all the more. We know that, unlike our intentions, the intentions of the captain of this ship are perfectly pure, and the course upon which He has set us—it is true.

PopePaulVIOn Sunday I will try to speak a little more about what our situation as a Church looks like to me—the Catholic Church, undergoing a transition in the Apostolic See, springtime 2013. As you may recall, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, I have been trying to study the history a little bit. It strikes me really as altogether uncanny that, just as the papacy underwent a transition of occupant during the first half of 1963, after the Council had only just gotten underway the preceding fall, so we will have a new pope in the first half of 2013, just as the commemoration of the fiftieth of Vatican II, and the Year of Faith, has only just gotten underway, starting last fall.

Anyway, the main thing, I think, is: The Church finds Herself at a wonderful moment when Her rules, Her procedures—Her tried-and-true way of doing things: they will impress the world anew this spring. Many of our brothers and sisters who have wandered away from Christ, or who have never known Him—they will marvel at how wise and intelligent the People of God really is. Because we know how to obey the Lord with patience and follow His rules.