Saturday, August 18, 2018

In Mary So Destined


Maria Himmelfahrt
Patrozinium in Rheinau
19. August 2018

Offenbarung 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
1 Kor. 15:20-27
Lukas 1:39-56

Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!

Ich freue mich ganz besonders, dass ich in diese wunderschöne Kirche von Rheinau zurückkehren darf, um einerseits mit der Pfarrei das Patrozinium Maria Himmelfahrt zu feiern und zugleich in derselben Feier meine alten Freunde von der Fatima-Gebetsgruppe wieder zu begegnen, welche hier heute Fatima-Gebetstag im Monat August begehen.

Der Sinn des Hochfestes Maria Himmelfahrt  und die Botschaft von Fatima lassen sich gut in den Lesungen zusammenfassen: Mit den drei Abschnitten aus dem Neuen Testament gibt uns die Kirche einen tiefen Einblick, ich möchte sogar sagen einen zentralen Schlüssel, um das Geheimnis unserer Taufberufung in und für die Welt zu verstehen. Einfach gesagt: Es gibt keine andere Art und Weise, Kirche zu sein, d.h. als Christ zu leben, als unter dem schützenden Mantel der glorreichen Gottesmutter Maria zu sein. Es ist Maria selbst, die uns zu unserer letzten Bestimmung vor den Thron des Allerhöchsten führen wird. Sie ist unsere Mutter und führt uns alle, ihre Söhne und Töchter zu Christus, ihrem Sohn, dem wahren Gott und wahren Menschen.

„Der Tempel Gottes im Himmel wurde geöffnet und in seinem Tempel wurde die Lade seines Bundes sichtbar. Dann erschien ein großes Zeichen am Himmel: eine Frau, mit der Sonne bekleidet; der Mond war unter ihren Füßen und ein Kranz von zwölf Sternen auf ihrem Haupt.“

Unsere Bestimmung im Jenseits weiss von Schönheit und Zärtlichkeit, weiss von der Immaculata, „mit der Sonne bekleidet; der Mond war unter ihren Füßen und ein Kranz von zwölf Sternen auf ihrem Haupt.“

Leider ist es so, dass die zentrale Bedeutung der jungfräulichen Gottesmutter in unserem christlichen Leben nicht immer so offensichtlich sichtbar ist. Es gibt viel Verwirrung in unserer Welt. Zu unserem ewigen verderben versucht der Teufel, der alte Drachen der Apokalypse, auf alle möglichen Arten zu erreichen, dass wir das Ziel unseres Lebens aus den Augen verlieren und vergessen, weshalb wir hier auf Erden sind. Der Teufel, der Vater der Lüge, versucht andauernd, unser Verständnis von der Kirche als der einen, heiligen, katholischen und apostolischen, als der Braut des Lammes umzustürzen. Wenn wir diesen Angriffen widerstehen wollen, so hilft es, wenn wir die Kirche betrachten als Mutter. Die eine und einzige Kirche Gottes lässt sich leichter verstehen in ihrem Gewand als Braut Christi.

Der heute weit verbreitete Brauch, sich institutioneller Modelle zu bedienen, um die Kirche als ganze aber auch die Pfarreien zu beschreiben birgt die Versuchung in sich, das weniger würdige dem edleren vorzuziehen. Die so als weltliche Sache beschriebene Kirche beschränkt uns zu sehr und führt uns halbwahren oder ganz falschen Schlüssen bezüglich des Sinnes des menschlichen Lebens und der Natur der Kirche, welche in Christus begründet und auf das Fundament der Apostel gebaut ist. Wenn wir hier im Westen die Kirche oft beschreiben als Institution, die zu managen ist nach den Kriterien der Effizienz, Transparenz und Wirtschaftlichkeit, dann fallen wir in die Falle jener, welche ohne Glauben über die Kirche sprechen. Man redet dann nur noch von Autorität, Macht, Diskriminierung usw. Wenn man so die praktischen Dinge angeht, führt man die Gläubigen in den Irrtum.

Die richtige Sprache um die Mutter Kirche zu beschreiben ist die Bräutliche Sprache. Diese Sprache erwerben wir uns vor allem durch die Betrachtung Marias, der Mutter Gottes. Auf Anordnung ihres am Kreuz erhöhten Sohnes Jesus Christus ist sie auch unsere Mutter geworden. Wir bekennen, dass Maria unsere Mutter ist, die Mutter aller Getauften. Sie ist bereits in der Herrlichkeit des Himmels. Ihr Körper ist nicht im Grab geblieben. Vielmehr befindet er sich schon jetzt vollständig erhalten in der Herrlichkeit ihres Sohnes.

 „Und sie gebar ein Kind, einen Sohn, der über alle Völker mit eisernem Zepter herrschen wird… Da hörte ich eine laute Stimme im Himmel rufen: Jetzt ist er da, der rettende Sieg, die Macht und die Herrschaft unseres Gottes und die Vollmacht seines Gesalbten.“

In den 50-er Jahren hat man die Natur der Kirche vor allem mit dem Begriff des Mystischen Leibes Christi beschrieben. In diesen fernen Zeiten hat man nicht viel Zeit damit verloren, über die gesellschaftliche Organisation der Kirche zu sprechen. Auf der Ebene der Pfarreien gab es nicht so viele Sitzungen und Kommissionen wie heute. Die Lebendigkeit einer Pfarrei hat sich gemessen in der Feierlichkeit der Feste wie dem heutigen Patrozinium. Die grossen Messen und Prozessionen zählten mehr und prägten das Jahresprogramm einer Pfarrei. Die Familie als Hauskirche und Ort der Begegnung mit Gott stand im Zentrum von allem. In Übereinstimmung mit der Heiligen Schrift redete man immer wieder von der Familie als dem Ort, an dem man für den Himmel bereitet wurde.

„Der Tempel Gottes im Himmel wurde geöffnet und in seinem Tempel wurde die Lade seines Bundes sichtbar. Dann erschien ein großes Zeichen am Himmel: eine Frau, mit der Sonne bekleidet; der Mond war unter ihren Füßen und ein Kranz von zwölf Sternen auf ihrem Haupt.“

Hier ist die Frau, in der Person Marias, das Bild des Tempel Gottes. Jeus, der neue Adam und Maria die neue Eva! In der Jungfrau Maria sehen wir unsere Bestimmung, uns werden so motiviert, in dieser Welt mit dem auf das unvergängliche Leben gerichteten Blick zu leben.

 „Denn wie in Adam alle sterben, so werden in Christus alle lebendig gemacht werden. Es gibt aber eine bestimmte Reihenfolge: Erster ist Christus; dann folgen, wenn Christus kommt, alle, die zu ihm gehören.“

Maria Himmelfahrt wurde immer mit Stolz und würde gefeiert, denn die unvergleichbare Heiligkeit der Mutter Gottes ist der Stolz der Menschlichen Rasse, mehr noch von allen Geschöpfen. Maria Himmelfahrt wird immer gefeiert in der Hoffnung dass das, was sich an der demütigen Dienerin Gottes erfüllte sich am Ende auch an uns erfüllen wird: Es wird sich erfüllen, wenn wir uns von der Sünde abwenden, wenn wir der Mutter Gottes nachfolgen und uns in den Sakramenten der Kirche ihrem Sohn nähern. 

 „Denn auf die Niedrigkeit seiner Magd hat er geschaut. Siehe, von nun an preisen mich selig alle Geschlechter.“

Vielleicht ist es nicht viel, aber ich freue mich, dass ich bei allen hier anwesenden einen Ruf zugunsten einer Kirche, ja auch einer Pfarrei hier in Rheinau vernehme, welche die Mutter Gottes in ihrer Mitte hat. Schliesslich ist Maria, die demütige Dienerin, welche in unserer Welt die Herrlichkeit des ewigen Gottes ausstrahlt. Wir müssen wieder Worte finden und Gefühle wecken, um Maria besser oben zu können. Mit ihr und durch sie können wir unseren Platz bereits in dieser Welt finden und auch dereinst in der Ewigkeit bei Gott. Unseren Platz, um Gott zu kennen, Gott zu lieben und Gott zu dienen stets unter dem Schutzmantel der Frau, mit der Sonne bekleidet.

Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!





Sunday, August 5, 2018

Reclaiming Our Birthright as Catholics

At 24 hours distance and still very much in reflection upon my latest celebration of the Vetus Ordo, I want to share some thoughts on an issue that has been somewhat primary in my mind and heart for the better part of a year and that being so in kind of intensive fashion, and honestly not without a certain urgency. The issue is that of reverence in the liturgy, especially as good Catholics, both priests and people, would address it in terms of the Novus Ordo.

Yesterday’s Pontifical High Mass at the faldstool was special for me for a number of reasons. It was my first Vetus Ordo Pontifical in my home diocese of Sioux Falls. The parish church of St. Mary’s at Salem, though I never had relatives in the town, was always a landmark in the countryside for me as a small child going up by car with my folks to the grandparents’ farm not far away, just up in the next county and where in the neighborhood back then any number of Dad’s uncles also had their farms (today only a memory, but St. Mary’s still marks the route!). Here too as in my other Vetus Ordo experiences in Switzerland, I felt very much carried by the liturgy and by the seminarians and young people, who with their parish priest had so diligently prepared this First Saturday Votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with commemoration of St. Dominic.

Reverence in worship as something urgently necessary to claim for the Novus Ordo and that to the mind generally of people of good will? Yes, I think this topic is one which resonates most everywhere in the English speaking world and far beyond. I was asked to address that very topic in conjunction with priestly spirituality for the secular clergy in a conference I gave last March in Knock, Ireland. That is sort of where I began formulating the notion that exhorting to reverence as such is a no-starter, in the sense that it evidently must not be inherent in the Novus Ordo and, hence, must be striven for albeit in vain.

Perhaps we should define reverence. It could be lots of things, among which that sense of awe accompanying a clear awareness of the presence of the Almighty. In a classical sense, it is a or the habit of the Vetus Ordo. It, reverence, somehow does not seem second nature to the Novus Ordo. I think I can say that, because if you have never encountered liturgical abuse or just plain banality with the Novus Ordo, you can find it documented aplenty on YouTube. DISCLAIMER: I am not denying that back at the time of the Council, before, during and after, that I never witnessed a priest irreverent in the celebration of the Mass of the Ages, because I did. Exhorting to reverence, keeping an eye on rowdy altar boys is all part of the package, perhaps since forever. It is just that it is more of an incongruity or shock if encountered in the Vetus Ordo. Irreverence in the context of the Vetus Ordo is simply an indefensible enormity. When the puppets and dancers come out, you just don’t have that leverage in crying outrage in a Novus Ordo context.

Let us however leave abuse situations aside and argue from the structure and the gestures, which for the Vetus Ordo are beautifully deliberate and pondered. Now, you might say: “Archbishop! The Vetus Ordo is not your routine. It’s the novelty of it all for you! If you were daily celebrating the Vetus Ordo and for years, you’d become dulled to its signs and gestures as well!” Perhaps, but I guess for now I would like to risk it over the Novus Ordo situation which only seems to come close to saving itself in a parish where the priest is willing to give his life’s blood to get the Novus Ordo right and train his people up to be a part of this effort. He’s always working at a structural and conceptual disadvantage, though. For example, the Roman Canon/First Eucharistic Prayer is just not the same between the two forms; the Novus Ordo form has been hampered in various ways. This then in part is what underlies my insistence that we need a liturgical restoration, a reset, in order to reclaim the possibility for the organic development of our priceless heritage. We need to get back to the work of God and relegate catechism to the classroom on another day and time of the week.

It is fair enough to say that you cannot program a sense of the presence of God through words and gestures. Then again, programming or automating the thing is not the point, but rather banishing the arbitrary and the discursive in favor of what is always and everywhere good, true and beautiful. At this point in time, the greatest single impediment to a liturgical restoration would be resignation on the part of most priests and people to our 50+ year vernacular patrimony. Out of a sense that it is what we’ve got and we have no choice but to keep filing away at it in hopes of achieving something better, people balk at the very idea of abandoning the familiar for something they have the impression was jettisoned. We’re bound to a notion of progress or an evolutive paradigm which denies that something better which is our millennial patrimony, still very much there and vibrant, even if relegated to certain outposts and to the enthusiasm of a young, practicing Catholic minority.

I live in hope of the restoration in matters liturgical and yoke it to a renewal of Catholic family life.

PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI 


Friday, August 3, 2018

Prayer and Presence



Pontifical High Mass for the First Saturday
4 August 2018, Salem, SD

Praised be Jesus Christ!
Immaculate Heart of Mary!
Saint Dominic!

I am confident that the great Saint Dominic does not mind at all that today, on this his feast, we are giving first place to the Mother of God and to the First Saturday Devotion.

I trust that you are all aware that the First Saturday Devotion comes to us by way of Fatima. Our Lady gave the details about the devotion to Sister Lucia some years after the original apparitions and in these words: “See, my daughter, my Heart encircled by thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. Do you, at least, strive to console me. Tell them that I promise to assist at the hour of death with the graces necessary for salvation all those who, in order to make reparation to me, on the First Saturday of five successive months, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, say five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for a quarter of an hour, meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary.”

Last year’s  Fatima Jubilee celebrations did much and continue to serve to bring faithful Catholics to a deeper awareness of God’s love for us mediated through His Most Blessed Mother. Know that you are doing something truly great when you share the riches of true devotion to Mary at home with your children, first of all, and with family and friends, to the extent that you are able. Be it the Holy Rosary, the First Saturdays or the Scapular, or all of them and more, there is no more enlightened path to accomplishing the Church’s mission of saving our world from sin and leading souls to Christ. Simply stated: to Jesus through Mary!

In today’s Epistle we read:

“I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue.” (Ecclesiasticus)

The Votive Mass for the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Common of the Blessed Virgin bind our understanding of who Mary is to this beautiful passage from the Old Testament Wisdom literature and to its teaching about Holy Wisdom. There is an essential lesson, a very important teaching for us here. Catholics generally are in great need of this teaching today. It is a teaching about the nature of the Church which too often goes right over the heads of all too many people, some of them practicing Catholics, lots of them priests and even bishops in the Church. Too many people today cannot seem to grasp the supernatural character of Church life, centered as it is on the sacraments, but oriented above all toward family life. For too many Church is a social structure open to manipulation or adaptation to achieve certain ends, quantifiable ends that you won’t find cross referenced anywhere in the index to the catechism.

Let us look again briefly at this powerful teaching about the greatness of God’s humble servant, Mary ever Virgin! “I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue.”

The Gospel message mediated for us through our Mother Mary is a message to be lived out day by day. It is an essential message; let’s call it an existential message which, at its very heart, is lived out at home. While it certainly is a moral message about doing good and avoiding evil, it is first and foremost a call to a life of living in God’s presence and of prayer.

Not that long ago, I was at some function in Bern and speaking to a lady ambassador colleague, an upright woman with a good Catholic sense. Somehow our conversation turned to matters of church life and I mentioned to her that in Switzerland and throughout many countries in the Western World we are already seeing the third generation in once staunchly Catholic families who have not been catechized. If the children have been baptized and have learned the Sign of the Cross, they certainly don’t know either the Our Father or the Hail Mary and are totally oblivious to their obligations to assist at Mass on all Sundays and holy days of obligation, to confess their sins and more. They don’t pray before meals or at bedtime, nor do they make even a simple morning offering on rising. I told her that for me and not just me, that needed catechizing can’t happen in religious class at school alone. If a child is to be nurtured in the faith, this cannot happen, except by some miracle of God’s grace, but at home. The Council taught that parents are the first and best teachers of children in the ways of faith. Parents are the ones who give their children a sense of the presence of God in their lives, of the love of the Lord for each one of us whom He, the Lord knows by our name.

I saw my ambassador friend again the next day and she told me that she was so shocked by my words and filled with remorse wondering if she had not failed her children before God. She phoned an adult daughter when she got home to tell her of our conversation and to ask the daughter whether she had indeed failed her in matters of faith when it came to praying with her and speaking to her about Jesus, about His death on the Cross for us, and about the love of Mother Mary. Her daughter reassured her that in terms of her Christian duties she had been a good mother, but I could see that for both mother and daughter the point was well taken by my friend. It is the little Church, the family, which counts and it is Mary especially who enlightens us here. Nobody quite like the Mother of God can lead us to Christ and to what is essential in the life of a Catholic.

As on this first Saturday of the month of August, we make reparation yes for horrible sins committed and thus tormenting the Heart of Mary, let us also resolve day by day to bring joy to Her Heart by making Her Beloved Son Jesus central to our every breathing moment. When I come home to Sioux Falls each summer I try to get in a long walk each morning, which can take me past the two houses where my family lived over 50 years ago. I remember the friends who lived next door or elsewhere in the neighborhood and marvel to myself at how out of touch we become with people our age who were once our best of childhood friends. That happens naturally when for any reason we cannot spend time with them. At Fatima, Mary asked us for just 15 minutes on the first Saturdays. By way of relationship we owe her and her Son much more. Presence and personal prayer are at the very essence of what it means to be a faithful Catholic. Mary’s terms communicated to Sister Lucia for gladdening her Immaculate Heart are minimal. In truth, we owe her and her Son much more.

Praised be Jesus Christ!
Immaculate Heart of Mary!
Saint Dominic!




Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Victory over Satan’s Pride

With the social media full of the scandal around Theodore McCarrick and with calls for justice and punishment against all who somehow enabled his crimes and sins as well as for those egregious sins and crimes of others guilty of the same or of complicity therein, the story from Pope Saint Gregory the Great’s life of St. Benedict came to mind: of the wicked priest who, jealous of the sanctity and fame of Benedict, sought first to kill him and then to corrupt his young monks and destroy his work:

“When the aforesaid Florentius saw that he could not kill the body of his master, he attempted what he could against the souls of his disciples, in so much that he sent seven naked girls into the garden of the Cloister where Benedict lived, that so playing for a long time hand in hand, they might entice their souls to naughtiness, which when the holy man espied out of his cell, to prevent the fall of his younger disciples, and considering that all this was done only for the persecuting of himself, he gave place to envy, and after he had disposed of the Oratories and other buildings, leaving in them a competent number of Brethren with Superiors, he took with him a few monks and removed to another place. Thus the man of God with humility avoided his hatred, whom Almighty God struck with a terrible judgment: for when the aforesaid Priest, standing in his summer house, heard to his great joy, that Benedict was gone, the room wherein he was fell down and crushed and killed the enemy of Benedict, all the rest of the house remaining immovable. This Maurus, the disciple of the man of God, thought fit to signify forthwith to the venerable Father Benedict, who was yet scarce gone ten miles saying: “Return for the Priest that did persecute you is slain.” Which the man of God hearing took very heavily, both because his enemy was dead and because his disciple rejoiced thereat. Whereupon he enjoined him a penance for presuming in a joyful manner to bring such news to him.”

The great Pope Gregory says that Benedict “gave place to envy”, he sounded an ordered retreat before the wicked priest’s repeated attacks, after the manner of the Gospel admonition to shake the dust from the apostle’s feet and move on with his message if he is not welcome in a place. What does meekness require of us in the face of great evil? Certainly both St. Boniface and St. Francis Xavier tore down pagan abominations, as for that matter so did Benedict himself to enable the construction of Monte Cassino. It would seem, however, that casting demons out of men or winning them over to virtue travels the path of invitation and not aggression toward the sinner. The parable about letting the weeds and wheat grow together until the harvest comes readily to mind.

Ruminations? Well, yes! I think the hierarchy has to act in accordance with the principle laid down by St. Paul of turning over the public sinner to Satan such that he might be saved on the Last Day or turn again through repentance as soon as possible. The dynamics of what is going on among some of the hierarchy and in some chanceries and seminaries as well reminds one of the wicked Florentius, Benedict’s nemesis. Fearful of doing injustice by pulling out the wheat with the weeds, however, I am sorely inclined to do as Benedict, who “gave place to envy”, who withdrew. How long before a monastic movement or renewal can take root and reform, sanctify society, causing Mother Church to shine forth like a city on a hill? Hard to say, but the important thing is to move, to start. I’m praying for a new generation of apostles to tear down abominations and monks to repopulate the wilderness to do battle with Satan’s pride.

PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI 


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Keeping Saturdays with Mary

With next Saturday, the First Saturday of August, in mind as I took my walk early this morning, Mary’s words to Sister Lucia were running through my mind:

“See, my daughter, my Heart encircled by thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. Do you, at least, strive to console me. Tell them that I promise to assist at the hour of death with the graces necessary for salvation all those who, in order to make reparation to me, on the First Saturday of five successive months, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, say five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for a quarter of an hour, meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary.”

Heading up a side street in downtown Sioux Falls on the return from my walk, my eyes fell upon a storefront ministry I had never noticed before; on the front door it read: DIRECT LINE Prayer Central. As allergic as most Protestant groups are to any notion of intercession, of anyone standing between God and the individual, I found the very thought sort of comical that anyone would want to offer their prayers or prayer intentions really through the intercession of somebody claiming to have a direct line to Jesus while discounting the Mother of God, the Angels and Saints in Glory. Maybe I am just stuck on the old cliché about Father having a direct line to the Almighty, the sort of thing with which stewardesses greet a priest when he gets onto a plane.

If I could go back to Our Lady’s words, then: “…and keep me company for a quarter of an hour, meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary.” Keep me company… Those three words have to be one of the most insightful descriptions of prayer that I have ever come across. I know that “keep me company” does not let itself be pinned down as either praise or petition, nor does it fit the neat categories of meditation or contemplation. It is for that maybe that I like the notion so very much. Would that we could always think of ourselves at prayer and wherever as keeping Jesus or Mary company.

If I say any more, I will no doubt spoil the notion or break the spell. Memories of childhood come back and of just sitting next to Mom or Grandma, memories of sitting on the couch behind Dad sitting on the floor and as requested just combing his hair: keeping someone company. Thinking about Jesus or Mary and of this being a mutual sort of think is indeed mind boggling, but only to the extent that we are estranged from the notion of prayer as it is with a God Who is nearer to us than we are to ourselves.

Somehow “keep me company” sounds infinitely better and much more telling than talking of a “prayer of presence”.

PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI 



Monday, July 23, 2018

Fed by God

Mark 6:30-34
They were like sheep without a shepherd

“The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.”

Prophecy: And they will all be taught by God. When and how is that supposed to happen? And Jesus withdrew with His disciples to a “lonely place where they could be by themselves.” With regard to the teaching of Jesus, this passage reminds me of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. All went away satisfied. And they all were fed by Christ.

I find that vacation time can sometimes provide the leisure for an unexpected, but reasonably good spiritual conversation with a priest friend, which can touch on themes which may come close to being of ultimate importance. From years of experience, though, I know better than to seek out or pine for such great talk during vacation or otherwise in life. That is not how it works, at least not as far as my reading of the lives of the saints has taken me. The instances recorded of such great exchanges are rather few and far between. Such excellent spiritual conversations usually take place after the manner of that recorded between a Monica and an Augustine, a mother and her son. They preparing for a sea voyage, but she in effect, as we read in the “Confessions of St. Augustine”, is preparing to take her leave of the earthly scene, her mission as a Christian mother having been achieved. I think also of the last annual visit of Scholastica to her brother Benedict and of their all night conversation imposed by a terrible storm upon Benedict in answer to his sister’s prayers. They shared the whole night through about the things of God, here too a prelude to St. Scholastica’s departure from this life for the heavenly kingdom on high.

At any rate, the knowledge of the singular character of such spiritual exchanges reserved to saints does not keep me from extrapolating from a good conversation with a priest friend, indeed a conversation not without merit even though it may have skirted the central issues somewhat, no doubt for the lack of sanctity on the part of the interlocutors who are far from the category of a Benedict or an Augustine. Inspired, if you will, by some of what we touched upon in earnest, I wish to go further and to share some thoughts about issues at the heart of a certain malaise among Catholic faithful, which would be soothed away, which longs to be quenched or fed by Jesus for the sake of the life of the world.

“So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.”

In our exchange, my friend bemoaned the sad plight of the work of evangelization in the Church today and blamed it on a lack of priestly zeal. On this he blamed the present plight of parishes and parish closings, of dwindling Sunday Mass attendance even here in the Heartland. The man is no slacker and I can attest for a fact to his dedication to tireless effort in the Lord’s vineyard. He himself is a rather inspired evangelizer, though I cannot attest to his efforts having been crowned by long term staying power in the parishes where he has served. I see him pictured in the above Gospel passage as working before Christ’s intervention to call the apostles away to rest and allow the Lord Jesus Himself to do the feeding and teaching. By this I mean, well, that unless the Lord build the house or guard the city, in vain does the builder or watchman go about his task. There is a listlessness which seems to hold the flock hostage and for any number of reasons. One’s personal efforts to build a better mousetrap are not going to be decisive for gathering in strays more than one at a time. The challenge is one of what to do in the face of a general trend away from Catholic practice. What do you do when there are not 99 but maybe only 35 or less peacefully pasturing on verdant fields? My thesis would be that the Lord’s work is not getting done; that our activism is standing in the way of Christ’s leading and feeding.

Granted, we have some serious sin issues and laxity among the clergy which are not being well enough addressed. A goodly part of the social media these days are propounding with no little vehemence, that the sheep are without shepherds, or if you will, that the wolves in sheep’s clothing are popping up all over the place. What to do?

Besides purging and reforming, we need to have recourse to the Lord. Something has malfunctioned or short circuited over the course of the last decades. Apart from sin in the life of the shepherds and of a grievous sort, it would seem that priests have gotten in the way of the Good Shepherd or at least have not had recourse to Him as their convincing witness before the flock.

Proximity to and genuine cooperation with the Good Shepherd, facilitating a work which is primarily His, would seem to be our call. We cannot do the feeding; that us up to Christ.

PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI 



Friday, July 20, 2018

Seek the Lord!

Saint Athanasius closes his treatise on the Incarnation with these words of encouragement:

“But for the searching and right understanding of the Scriptures there is need of a good life and a pure soul, and for Christian virtue to guide the mind to grasp, so far as human nature can, the truth concerning God the Word. One cannot possibly understand the teaching of the saints unless one has a pure mind and is trying to imitate their life. Anyone who wants to look at sunlight naturally wipes his eye clear first, in order to make, at any rate, some approximation to the purity of that on which he looks; and a person wishing to see a city or country goes to the place in order to do so. Similarly, anyone who wishes to understand the mind of the sacred writers must first cleanse his own life, and approach the saints by copying their deeds. Thus united to them in the fellowship of life, he will both understand the things revealed to them by God and, thenceforth escaping the peril that threatens sinners in the judgment, will receive that which is laid up for the saints in the kingdom of heaven. Of that reward it is written: "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared"  for them that live a godly life and love the God and Father in Christ Jesus our Lord, through Whom and with Whom be to the Father Himself, with the Son Himself, in the Holy Spirit, honor and might and glory to ages of ages. Amen.”

I wonder sometimes just how far out of touch we are in refusing to link genuine understanding to discipleship and thereby meant an all out quest for sanctity of life, such that we can get into the heads and hearts of the saints, the sacred authors. What sense could talk of a paradigm shift possibly have when my goal is or must be to put on the mind of Christ?

The thought of those sad “Enlightenment” monks comes to me, who for the sake of learning, research, science (take your pick) would renounce the monastic rule and the watchfulness which characterized their commitment to choir and for what, but for such a pittance. Psalm 130, the sixth Penitential Psalm 130 (De Profundis):

“5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. 8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.”

“Ye watchers and ye holy ones” the old Easter hymn. Pray tell me, what does a paradigm shift have to do with a change of heart?

PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI