Wednesday, May 27, 2015

HWP: Christian Unity

Today in the Ordinary Form (and tomorrow in the Extraordinary Form) we celebrate the feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury, often referred to as the Apostle of England. He was sent by Pope St. Gregory the Great to evangelize the nation and was highly successful, particularly on account of the fact that he wasn't martyred by the people as is often the case with first preachers of the faith. To honor him today, please join me in praying...

Holy Father, You have given us in St. Augustine of Canterbury, a great witness of Christian faith, grant through his intercession a renewed Christian unity among people of all Christian communities and in a particular way bless the relationship between the Anglican Church and Roman Catholic Church. Grant this through our one Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Black and Tan, He and I

Readings for Sunday, May 24/ Pentecost:
Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 104
1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
John 20:19-23

As I was preparing for this homily the image that came to mind seemed a bit odd to me, but wouldn’t go away. The image was the drink known as a ‘Black and Tan.’ You begin with a good pint glass and fill it about halfway with Bass Pale Ale. Then you take a bent spoon and with the bottom of the cupped part facing up, very slowly pour Guinness on top of the spoon and allow it to settle in the glass. The density of the beers being different and the gentle pour aided by the spoon results in the beers not mixing but layering, giving it the description ‘Black and Tan’.

The reason that image came to mind is that the Holy Spirit is given to us at baptism and desires to transform our entire life, making His way into each and every moment of our day. The problem is that sometimes when we encounter God we take various types of spoons and put them in the way such that God is still part of the pint glass that is our life, but it doesn’t mess with everything. We try to make our life a Black and Tan in that we can have our nice time where God is welcome to do all sorts of things, but we can also have those places where God isn’t really part of the equation and can keep to Himself and we can keep things as we like them.

One of my favorites depictions of Pentecost is one in which Our Lady is standing joyfully in the center ready to receive the Holy Spirit but the rest of the Apostles and disciples are all falling down, fleeing the scene, many with their hands moving as if to shield themselves. It seems right because Our Lady was perfectly open to the Holy Spirit from the start but the others, like us, had to be purified and prepared for His arrival in their hearts. This is a difficult process – hence, our reluctance to begin it, instead turning to sin, grasping for control, or simply keeping ourselves to busy we don’t have time to hear the voice of God speak.

In response to any of these fears or the tendency to busy-ness, I want to invite each of you to join me in doing a ten-minute challenge for the week. Cardinal Mercier, of happy memory, was once asked about the secret of sanctity and he had this to say:
I am going to reveal to you the secret of sanctity and happiness. Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to all the noises of the world in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctuary of your baptized soul, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, speak to that Divine Spirit, saying to Him:
 O Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore You. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me. Tell me what I should do; give me Your orders. I promise to submit myself to all that You desire of me and to accept all that You permit to happen to me. Let me only know Your Will. If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials. Grace will be proportioned to the trial, giving you the strength to carry it and you will arrive at the Gate of Paradise, laden with merit. This submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of sanctity.

So I invite you to join with me this week in putting this secret into action. Take five minutes away from all the things of the world and rest with the Holy Spirit, pray the prayer above and then rest for a few minutes with the Holy Spirit once more, as He may desire to speak. Then, go about your day. As Cardinal Mercier noted, you’ll soon notice that  there is a peace that has come to all the other things of the day. The craziness of the world around you will still be there as before, but the peace of soul we desire will have increased and that is the desire of the Lord as today He seeks to give us peace as He gave it to His disciples. Come, Holy Spirit. Come and bring us your joy. Come and bring us your grace. Come and bring us your peace.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

HWP: Prayer for Humility

Yesterday in the Extraordinary Form calendar Mother Church honored Pope St. Peter Celestine. St. Peter Celestine was a man of humble beginnings, being raised in relative poverty. Being a man of great piety, he pursued religious life as a hermit and helped to inspire faith in others. His humility made him reluctant to be ordained a priest and to offer Mass, but the Lord spoke in his prayers to be obedient. This obedience was called upon again when he was unanimously elected as Pope - much to his horror. He submitted to the yoke of the papacy, but shortly thereafter renounced the papal throne and returned to the humble hermitage in which he had previously lived. So today we honor him as we pray:

Lord Jesus, when You walked the earth, Your humility obscured Your Kingship. Your meekness confused the arrogant, Hindering them from grasping Your purpose, Your nobleness attending to the destitutes. Teach me to model after Your eminence, To subject my human nature to humility. Grant me a with a natural inclination To never view myself greater than anyone. Banish all lingering sparks of self-importance That could elevate me greater than You. Let my heart always imitate Your humility!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Birds, Beads and Hope

Readings for Sunday, May 17/ Ascension Sunday:
Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47
Ephesians 1:17-23
Mark 16:15-20

A couple of years ago it became clear to me that I needed to get in a shape other than round and so I decided to get on a health and wellness plan. I was suggested one by a brother priest, who had found it to be effective and spiritually enriching, and decided to go with it. It even came with a couple of books, which made me excited, of course. As I read through the first book the doctor who devised the system encouraged that the motivation for weight loss and optimal health be not a negative one but rather positive, as the negatives tend to lead us to a cycle of ups and downs as the fear and negative feelings fade over time. He suggested that I begin with a list of positive motivating factors to keep me going. So I started my list with serious things: want to see my nieces, nephews, and godchildren grow up, wanting to outlive my parents, wanting to serve God as a priest as long as He desires. Then I added in some that were less noble: wanting to wear my awesome t-shirts that didn’t look so awesome with me in them, wanting to get rid of my ‘bishop belly’ (the bishops photos as the seminary all featured a prominent stomach on which to rest their hands), and that my vestments would fit like they’re supposed to. These and others gave me a positive motivation to work toward my goal of good health. In short, they encompassed what the Scriptures speak to us: perfect love casts out fear.

The martyrs of the faith, following Jesus’ lead, certainly experienced some fear at their trials and during their sufferings and death – but their love for God was even stronger than their fears and made them willing to continue the course.

This weekend we celebrate the feast of the Ascension, marking that glorious day when the Lord Jesus ascended into Heaven to claim His throne at the right hand of the Father and to prepare the way for us to follow. While seeing Jesus ascend must surely have been a bit of a saddening experience, the reality is that this feast is one meant to increase in our hearts the theological virtue of hope. There is much darkness in the world with wars, violence, illness, death, and numerous others sufferings mixed in, but the reality is that there is something greater that awaits the righteous. The prayers of the Mass this weekend beautifully remind us that Christ ascended to Heaven not to separate Himself from us, but to prepare the way for us to join Him forever in Heaven: where the Head has gone, the Body is called to follow! He does not abandon us, but is a sign of hope to remind us that we are not to dwell forever in the valley of tears but are called to the place where every tear will be wiped away. What’s more, the Good Lord even gives us the Eucharist to sustain us with His Presence until we are able to be joined forever in the next life.

To aid us in this increase of the virtue of hope, I invite you to join with me in offering a decade of the rosary, meditating on the mystery of the Ascension. Growing in God’s grace need not be accompanied by great acts of piety – the little one done with love are quite effective! Walking to church to hear confessions this weekend I saw a big crow in the yard steadily hoping along the walkway as a little mocking bird swooped down over and over trying to scare him off. And slowly but surely the crow was moving where the mocking bird wanted. Then came a couple more little birds and pretty soon there were three or four little ones and the crow took off. The devil, sin, and despair is much the same. It looks big and difficult to get rid of, but we have a mighty little mocking bird in the Hail Mary and as we string a few of them together incredible things can happen right before our eyes. So let us pray…

Sunday, May 10, 2015

God Speaks

Readings for Sunday, May 10/ 5th Sunday of Easter:
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Psalm 98:1-4
1 John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17

How does God speak to you? How does He reveal Himself to you?

For myself, I have come to know God and hear His voice speaking powerfully through Sacred Scripture, in the liturgy, in creation, in theological writings, and many other ways. But if I’m honest with myself, the place that God has revealed Himself to me is through other people.

It was the words of a priest that helped me discern my call to the diocesan priesthood. It was the voice of my girlfriend breaking up with me to open my path to the seminary in the first place. It was the remarks of one of my youth group kids at my first parish that shaped the way that I’ve lived my priesthood in the parish. These are just a few of the many ways that God has shown Himself to me and spoken to me through others. But the love of God for me? That came through my parents.

For years the mother who gave me the gift of life and bore me in her womb for nine months was a subject not of my appreciate but of resentment. I couldn’t understand how she could ‘give me away’ and it was a source of much anger in my heart. But thankfully the Lord has shown me such was not the case. In a particular way this week I was struck by the intense realization that she laid down her life with me for me. When I hear “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” I often think of literally laying down one’s life, like Christ on the Cross or the many martyrs of the faith, but the Lord reminded me of the ‘white martyrs’ who die to themselves and their desires. It really hit me this week just how much my birth mother gave up of her own joys – first words, first steps, first day of school and many more events – in order for me to have an upbringing she couldn’t have otherwise provided for me.

And my adoptive mother, shows me another side of this Divine Love. The simple fact is that she had no obligation to me; I’m not her flesh and blood and she could just as easily have let me go elsewhere, and yet she didn’t. She welcome this infant child into her family and has never treated me differently than her other children. This, too, showed me something of the love of God for me in that God, Who has no obligation to me, gave His Son up to death in order that I might be able to be welcomed into the Most Blessed Trinity. In this is love!

Both of these show me in some way the Love of God for me because they, like every action of charity, are reflections of Divine Love itself. This is the beautiful thing: that charitable actions are simply the life and love of God being made manifest in and through people. And if God has shown Himself and His love to me so many times through other people, how much does He also want to do it through me? This is the point of the Gospel this weekend: “It was not you who chose me but I who chose you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” Fruit that will remain.

Those many times that people have spoken something, done something that was a reflection of the life and love of God for me are that fruits that remain. The words of a priest have had a lasting effect on me. The words of my youth have had a lasting effect. And surely the love of my parents has had a lasting effect on me. They are fruits that remain because they are points when the individuals have tried to ‘remain in God’. When we remain in the Lord and try to be people of faith, true disciples of Jesus Christ, the simple fact is that He will work in and through us to speak to other people and bear fruit in their lives that will remain as He has done the same in us.

So ultimately the question isn’t really ‘How does God speak to you?’ so much as it should be leaving from here today ‘How does God speak through you?’ May the Lord grant us the grace to remain in Him today and every day that indeed we might bear fruit that will remain.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

HWP: Pope St. Pius V

In the Extraordinary Form yesterday (and Ordinary Form last Thursday) we celebrated the feast of Pope St. Pius V. He is arguably one of the most influential popes in the history of the Church by his implementation of the reforms of the Council of Trent and direction in the times following the Reformation, as well as his spiritual guidance and example of holiness. With this in mind, I bring out for the Half-Way Prayer of the week this newfound gem recounting his many good works:
A Hymn to Pope St. Pius V: Belli tumultus ingruit 
Wars and tumults fill the earth;
Men the fear of God despise;
Retribution, vengeance, wrath,
Brood upon the angry skies.

Holy Pius! Pope sublime!
Whom, in this most evil time
Whom, of saints in bliss, can we
Better call to aid than thee?

None more mightily than thou
Hath, by holy deed or word,
Through the spacious earth below
Spread the glory of the Lord.

Holy Pius! Pope sublime!
Whom, in this most evil time
Whom, of saints in bliss, can we
Better call to aid than thee?

Thine it was, O pontiff brave!
Pontiff of eternal Rome!
From barbaric yoke to save
Terror-stricken Christendom.

Holy Pius! Pope sublime!
Whom, in this most evil time
Whom, of saints in bliss, can we
Better call to aid than thee?

When Lepanto's gulf beheld,
Strewn upon its waters fair,
Turkey's countless navy yield
To the power of thy prayer:

Holy Pius! Pope sublime!
Whom, in this most evil time
Whom, of saints in bliss, can we
Better call to aid than thee?

Who meanwhile with prophet's eye
Didst the distant battle see,
And announce to standers-by
That same moment's victory.

Holy Pius! Pope sublime!
Whom, in this most evil time
Whom, of saints in bliss, can we
Better call to aid than thee?

Mightier now and glorified,
Hear the suppliant cry we pour;
Crush rebellions haughty pride;
Quell the din of rising war.

Holy Pius! Pope sublime!
Whom, in this most evil time
Whom, of saints in bliss, can we
Better call to aid than thee?

At thy prayer may golden peace
Down to earth descend again:
License, discord, trouble cease;
Justice, truth and order reign.

Holy Pius! Pope sublime!
Whom, in this most evil time
Whom, of saints in bliss, can we
Better call to aid than thee?

To the Lord of endless days,
One Almighty Trinity,
Sempiternal glory, praise,
Honour, might, and blessing be.

Holy Pius! Pope sublime!
Whom, in this most evil time
Whom, of saints in bliss, can we
Better call to aid than thee?

V. Pray for us, blessed Pius.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. 
Let us pray. God, Who, to the destruction of the enemies of thy Church and for the restoration of Thy holy worship didst vouchsafe to elect blessed Pius to be thy High Priest; grant us so to be defended by his protection, and so to remain steadfast in Thy service, that, overcoming the snares of all our enemies, we may enjoy perpetual peace. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Bonus Points

Acts 9:26-31
Psalm 22
1 John 3:18-24
John 15:1-8

You may recall that I didn’t go to seminary directly out of high school, but did a couple of years at LSU and then transferred. I see that time as filled with the handiwork of God in many ways, one of those being my experience of math courses. When I took the placement test they said I should be able to start with intro level calculus, so I signed up for it. My first day in class made it abundantly clear to me that I was in over my head, so I withdrew and signed up for a lower level course. The next year I signed up for calculus again, this time a bit more prepared. Looking back, I believe it rather providential that I took the course that semester because on the first day of class the teacher announced that we’d all get bonus points each time the Tigers won a football game – that was the year we won the national championship. God is good! When it came time for grades to come out I looked as found that I passed with a D. Barely. It turns out those bonus points came in quite handy and helped me get exactly the number of credit hours needed to enter the seminary as a junior instead of a freshman. Admittedly, I should have studied a lot more and worked a bit harder, but the bonus points still helped me to get somewhere that I wouldn’t have been without them.

In the reading we heard from Acts, we find the story of Saul trying to join up with the newly-formed Church, but not making much headway. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, considering that not long before he was moving from place to place in search of Christians in order to kill them and extinguish ‘the Way’ as the Church was known. It is understandable that the Christian community was reluctant to welcome him, knowing that his conversion might be a hoax and only a means of adding more names to his long list of victims. In the midst of this situation we find the person of Barnabas, who acts as an intermediary to bring Saul into the community. Saul could certainly have spent a good while trying to prove himself a Christian and convince the community that his conversion was a genuine one, but the presence of Barnabas was of great assistance in speeding the process along. And Saul’s entry brought forth a leader and apostle whose works are still read and whose evangelical efforts are still bearing fruit.

As we begin this month of May, the Church has traditionally seen it as a time to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and to encourage devotion to her. She does so because sees in the Blessed Virgin a sure means of growing closer to Jesus Christ with great speed and ease. This, after all, is the entire purpose of Mary’s life: making Christ present. When she said yes to the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation, it wasn’t just to the Incarnation of the Son of God in her womb, it was to the entire plan of God. Bearing the Son first in her womb, she now seeks to bear Him into our hearts and bring us to Heaven that we might adore Him alongside her for all eternity. She is constantly at work carrying out the will of God and pouring His grace upon us, though we may remain unaware. And this I would like to work on myself: awareness of Mary’s care.

Again, the Church offers this month as a time to encourage devotion to Mary, so I want to invite/encourage/challenge you to join me in doing so. Each evening in front of the Church we will be praying the Rosary. Come join us! If you can’t make it then, pray it another time in the day – pray it as a family, get a group together and pray it, pray it on the way to work. You can also do a novena to Our Lady for some specific intention and see the how powerfully she works. Get a book and read about her life, about devotion to Mary, about the rosary, about Marian apparitions over the centuries. And if none of those seem do-able to you, then at least take a statue of Mary and place it in a prominent place in your home where you’ll remember daily the spiritual care she is exercising over you. Think about it – what if you put a statue of Our Lady in your kitchen sink? You’d certainly notice her a lot more often and would cause you to reflect that much more on her. Regardless, the key is to grow in devotion to Mary because as St. Louis de Montfort said, the surest, quickest, and easiest way to Jesus is through Mary. We can spend many hours working on growth in virtue, rooting up vice, and practicing Christian charity toward others, but the simple fact is that what takes us years to accomplish, Mary can bring about in mere minutes. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to grow close to our heavenly mother this month because, just like bonus points, she is incredibly helpful in making things happen that we might never expect otherwise.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Papal Intentions for May 2015

Papal Intentions for May 2015

Universal Intention: That, rejecting the culture of indifference, we may care for our neighbors who suffer, especially the sick and the poor.

Mission Intention: That Mary's intercession may help Christians in secularized cultures be open to proclaiming Jesus.