Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mercy and repentance

Wow, Msgr. Pope has been reading my mind again. Somewhat linked to the ideas in the last post, just what is mercy without repentance?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hell and justice

For some reason, I have been thinking a lot more about hell than I pretty much ever have before. I read an essay by Fr. Schall yesterday on the topic, for example. From it, I realized that I have some pretty good company for some of the thoughts that have been floating around in my head: Plato, for one.

It seems to me that hell is necessary if God is just. Don't get me wrong. I am not taking away from His mercy, but He must be just. The tears of the innocent demand it. God does not "just move on." There is a cosmic day of reckoning: the Last Judgement. Every tear will be wiped away, and every wrong will be made right. This is justice.

God forgives offenses against His infinite charity. We can repent of our injustice against Him and one another. But what if I don't repent? And how do I atone? And how do I know if I have? I am so blind to the effects of my sins. God does practically all of it -- all but the asking -- for us through the infinite merits of Jesus' death on the cross, but it must be done. Justice demands it.

That's why I find contemporary funeral practices, even among Catholics, so frightening. There is no sense of judgment: of responsibility for sin. Everything is celebration. I was telling a rather startled Fr. Neely and Fr. Fye on the way home from dinner Monday that I don't want any "celebration of my life" at my funeral. I want people praying for my soul, preferably getting indulgences for me. I will resort to paid mourners, if necessary.

I know how often I have "just moved on" leaving so much damage in my wake. Only God can fix it, and I think that I have been somewhat diligent is asking Him to. This is mercy. But there is a lot of self-deception and self-satisfaction in me, and that is what scares me. That is why I fear hell, and why I am sure that it exists for the unrepentant. It has to.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

clerical culture

Not clericalism but a healthy culture for clerics.

I have waited all my priesthood for something like this, and it is starting to happen here in Nashville. It certainly takes a critical mass of priests to make this happen, but even more so it requires those priests to be intentional about it.

The best of it is my daily prayer with my associate, Fr. Michael Fye. So far, we are doing pretty well. It is a treasure! Moving out a bit, we have a weekly dinner in the rectory provided by a generous parishioner. Fr. Fry and I are committed to the time, and so far others have been joining sometimes. Four of us sat down to dinner together in the rectory last Wednesday. We will see how we do this week. Fr. Steiner deserves a lot of credit for being so kind and hospitable with the Cathedral rectory. We have the "staff meeting" and "mayhem" time at night. That's what we call the meeting up that usually happens in the television room downstairs sometime in the 9 o'clock hour and into the 10 o'clock news -- that's the mayhem. It can a bit of an effort when Sam, Fr. Steiner's enormous golden lab puppy, has not gotten enough exercise during the day and therefore is pretty rowdy and when television viewing is regularly of airplane disasters, but it is the fellowship that counts, right? I have started a monthly dinner for priests, catered by my secretary/personal chef Maria. Boy, it's hard to get RSVPs from priests and seminarians! I've just heard that in November, Fr. Michael Giesler will be here for a priests' recollection. I need to get word out about that! Of course, there are the priest assemblies every couple of months and other "official" gatherings as well. So those are some of the more regular things. Even more informal ones are going on: Frs. Fye and Bulso going to Climb Nashville with their younger brothers, Msgr. Campion treating for breakfast, dinner, and just about any meal when he is in town, etc.

Priests really need each other. I think that we can serve the lay faithful better if we intentionally reserve some time for ourselves. Of course, there are the dangers of clericalism, of clerical gossip, etc., but we can give each other understanding about some things and hold each other to accountability about others, as needed, in ways that the laity cannot. I hope that this trend continues in Nashville, especially in the spiritual area. Please pray for holy and healthy priests.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

a good shepherd

Please do not consider me to be a quietist, after my post yesterday. We do have to speak and to do, as well as to pray and to be, in order to be good Christians. We must do so according to our state in life, for example, as parents and pastors where that duty is greater. A bishop, in particular, needs to teach the faith clearly, especially in areas where it is widely misunderstood. I was proud to see my friend Archbishop Sample of Portland teaching in such a way in this article on same-sex marriage. With patience and clarity he takes on the confusion that has followed the Holy Father's "who am I to judge" comment. The article is just so typical of him but more importantly it is a great example of a bishop doing what a bishop ought to do, even on a hot topic in a less than friendly environment. 

It helps, of course, that Archbishop Sample is, and is known, to be a man of prayer and of charity. His teaching is of a piece with his praying and doing. I know he prays -- I went to seminary with him. And things come out about his charity. When he confirmed a prisoner last spring, it came out that he has regularly visited prisons throughout this priesthood. His care for his mother and his simplicity of life are easy to observe: he lives with her in the cathedral rectory. And it's not a Cathedral rectory like the one I live in!

It is this integrity -- a wholeness of life -- that we should strive for as disciples of the Lord Jesus.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Grace abounds

and all the more so as sin abounds, according to St. Paul (see Romans ch. 5), so down deep although I mourn many things happening in the world and in souls, including my own, I am confident and at peace that God will provide for us in His mercy.

I have refrained from dwelling on the many radical disorders increasingly ravaging our world and have been trying instead to focus on the grace and mercy of God. Only He can save us. There is no hope in this world. We do need to do what we can in our own lives and in the world to bring about reform, but these efforts are doomed to failure apart from total dependence on God's grace.

More than anything, we need to pray and to love. Our first response to everything, in particular to anything that disturbs our peace, must be to pray: to sustain a loving conversation with our Father God, through His Son Jesus Christ. And then if we can do anything, it should be to love, especially in all the little things: being thoughtful and sacrificial about everything. Never complain. Always love. Always pray. Offer everything to the Crucified for the salvation of the world. And be at peace.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Pray for priests

Once again, I turn to Msgr. Pope for a great post. He is asking for prayers for priests because the Devil hates us. (Don't forget -- he hates you too!)

Msgr. Pope cites his mother as having a sense of his need for prayers, more keenly than he did. That's why he wrote this post for the feast of St. Monica. The Devil very much wants to destroy priests. I am blessed to have people who have sensed my need for prayer for this reason. And they are right. I do feel attacked often. And even worse are the attacks that I am not aware of. My sister, my special prayer warrior, provides me with a whole huge family of sisters, many of whom I know are praying for me. I am blessed by the prayers of those who work with me, especially in the last couple of years. I count especially valuable the daily prayers of a living saint, who has taken up a mother's role in her prayers for me as a priest. I would have been lost long ago without all of these prayers.

Msgr. Pope is surely much holier than I am. He cites one time in his priesthood when he experienced a particular need for prayers to hold the Devil at bay. For me, it is a daily battle, although I certainly have experienced one particularly difficult struggle, years ago and lasting over years. I am so grateful when people recognize my need, and the need of all priests, for prayer cover. I much prefer to receive assurances of prayer, which I desperately need, to compliments, which I do not deserve!

Please hold your priests to high standards. Do not pamper them or make excuses for them. But do pray for them in the face of the Devil's particular hatred. And be ready to help them up, if they falter under the barrage.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The day Thou gavest...

I went to bed with this hymn in my head. A sweet sound to have in mind! Here are the words, if you can't make them out:

The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ’neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

It's a veddy, veddy Victorian English hymn but beautiful nonetheless! The British had the grace to play this hymn during the ceremony turning over Hong Kong to the Communist Chinese. A bit of humility on their part and perhaps a warning to their successors?

I like the idea so much of each day primarily being an opportunity for praise, whatever else may come. As stock markets totter and terror grows in the world and as personal struggles and sorrows come our way, let's refocus on the kingdom of praise.