Sunday, January 31, 2016

Christian Family Prayer -- Pope Pius XII

O Sacred Family -- trinity of the earth, O Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, sublime models and tutors of Christian families -- we appeal to you not only to comfort ourselves with sweet contemplation of your lovely examples, but also to implore your protection and to promise fidelity to you on the path which you have pointed out for us.

Your peace, your unalterable serenity refresh our spirits struggling amid the anxieties of an increasingly complicated and difficult life. They show us eloquently that our hearts can find the rest and happiness to which they aspire so greatly only in a home adorned and enriched with the domestic virtues that you teach us.

But how can the tender plant of the family defend itself against the fire of unchecked passions and the treacherous tendencies toward rebellion that creep in almost everywhere?

How can it defend itself against the hurricane of daily life that seems to strive to upset everything?

How, if not:
by seeing to it ourselves that the roots of the family penetrate more deeply into the generous soil of Christian piety;
by imploring for it an abundant flow of divine grace, especially through common participation in the sacraments;
by animating it with a true spirit of faith that helps us overcome a materialistic concept of life;
by uniting all its parts with the strong bond of love that, were it not also supernatural, would pass away as all things of this world;
by strengthening in its own being through the firm intention of each one of us as we fulfill all our duties which the just order of the family imposes on us;
by supporting it in the bitterness of this earthly exile in which at times there is lacking an honest home or sufficient sustenance?

In the disorder of the ideas that often trouble souls, we strongly proclaim the holiness, the unity, and the divine mission of the Christian family, the cell of society and of the Church, and each one in his place -- parents and children -- we humbly but firmly pledge ourselves to do everything in our power so that these holy ideals may become a reality in the world.

Help us, O Joseph, mirror of the most admirable fatherhood in devoted care of the Savior and of the Virgin, faithfully following the divine inspirations.

Come to our aid, O Mary, most loving, most faithful and purest of all wives and mothers.

Help us, O Jesus who, in order to become a shining example for us in all things, willed to become the most submissive of all children.

May all three of you always be close to us, in happy hours and sorrowful, in our work and in our rest, in our anxieties and in our hopes, close to those who are born and close to those who die.

And may it be that all homes, made holy like yours, will be for all their members schools of virtue, shelters of holiness, on a safe road to that eternal happiness which we trustingly hope to gain through your intercession. Amen.

I found this prayer in my mother's Queen of Apostles Prayerbook from the Daughters of St. Paul. The prayerbook is still stuffed full of her holy cards and photographs. I prayed the prayer at the opening of the 3 to Stay Married event last night. Some of those attending asked for the text of the prayer so here it is!

I love the opening invocation of the Holy Family as the earthly trinity. At the retreat house where we were this past week, there is a lovely shrine to the Holy Family with this same invocation.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower

In San Antonio.

Not far from the interstate, in an ordinary Hispanic neighborhood rises a magnificent mission-styled basilica dedicated to the Little Flower. Like the neighborhood, it is a little worn around the edges but all the more appealing for that. I think that it dates from the years just after her canonization. It is a Carmelite parish. That is how I came to know about it. Fr. Neely, who had been in formation with the Carmelite friars before coming to the diocese, had been stationed there one summer. When we were passing through San Antonio on the way to the same retreat center a few years ago, he surprised me with a visit to the Shrine. I am glad that he did.

I returned the favor for Frs. Butler and Fye, and we made a visit there. I was deeply moved by our visit yesterday. In the first place, thanks to Fr. Paul Hostettler's direction, I have come to appreciate the Little Way so much more deeply. On this visit, I was inwardly aware of St. Therese's loving intercession. I was given love and confidence. I wanted to stay, to tell you the truth. It was a warm day in San Antonio yesterday. The church was standing open. There were people coming and going for prayer. There are all kinds of devotional and artistic details to instruct and to delight, as well as to lead into prayer.

Truth be told, I always find "re-entry" after a retreat a bit scary. I don't want the fruits of the retreat to be passing. The visit to this shrine gave me confidence to go on back into my ordinary life. Thank you, Little Flower!

Thursday, January 28, 2016


That's the word from my retreat so far: trust in God, of course, but trust in others as well. When I trust God and others, I can find peace. When I trust, I can find love. When I trust, I will suffer. When I trust, I am vulnerable. But when I trust, I can love and be loved. The first point of this retreat that I remember (I confess that I dozed the first night) is the amazing reality of creation: why there is anything at all. Only the love of God can account for this. And God's love is so trusting. It is so vulnerable and involves so much suffering, but there it is on the Cross. There is the answer and the peace we crave. God does not isolate Himself or impose Himself but rather offers Himself. The only way to accept the love of God is to follow Him in trust which leads us to trust others. In this way, the divine civilization of love can find expression in marriages, in families, and in friendships, but also in business, in politics, and in diplomacy. Getting back to the practicalities of my retreat, I am looking for resolutions that will help me to trust in the love of God. Pray for me.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Work day

After the snow day comes the work of getting the church ready for the few people who do brave it out. I was helped by our UCat Knights of Columbus to clear off the steps and sidewalks around St. Mary's. The parking company graciously plowed the parking lot so we were ready last night. I need to get to church a little early to see what effects there are of re-freezing from last night, but things are good.

I was pretty wiped out last night. Once Fr. Fye got back from Mass at St. Mary's we sat down to home made chicken soup and a nice long talk. Oh yeah, we have water leaking into the church from the ceiling...

And maybe a little fun:

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snow day!

Yesterday was the quintessential snow day. Snow all day, for one thing. And really good wet snow for snow balls, snow men, etc. Not too cold. And totally paralyzing everything. I am sorry for those who had to be out in it: a state employee friend had a 6 hour drive home, once the governor decided to shut down the state. Fr. Fye and I had a fun walk to a hospital to visit one of our FOCUS missionaries. Do pray for her recovery from appendicitis! We also had lunch on campus at Vanderbilt. A nice group of students were hanging out at Frassati all afternoon, including a few Belmont students who walked over! They all helped to get the steps and walks up to Frassati cleared off. And then an evening with the priests. A needed day.

Today, I believe we have enough time to get St. Mary's ready to receive the faithful for the weekend Masses. Again, with a little help from my young friends!

Stay safe, everyone!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How about April for the March for Life?

It was this quotation from the Washington Post that finally caused us to cancel our trip to the March for Life:
The National Weather Service has issued a Blizzard Watch for the entire metro region due to the potential blinding combination of snow and powerful winds. “Potential life-threatening conditions [are] expected Friday night into Saturday night,” the National Weather Service says. “Travel is expected to be severely limited if not impossible during the height of the storm Friday night and Saturday.”
Just when we would be coming home. And our bus company is haggling about giving us a refund. Go figure. I hated to cancel because we had the largest group ever sign up to go. It is so powerful and so fun, too. But how can you go in the face of a forecast like this?

Almost every time I have been to the March, there has been terrible weather, including two years ago when the federal government even shut down. I always feel like a survivor when we get back. It does not have to be this way.

OK, I get the significance of the actually anniversary. But couldn't we have a high-power, high-profile event on the Hill that day and then let everybody come and march when there is less likelihood of snow-meggedon? Just saying. Think how many we could get in half-way decent weather? Think about it.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Celebrating your baptismal day...

For those of you who heard me preach this weekend, you might recall that I suggested remembering your baptismal day. It seems that someone else recommended celebrating your baptismal day in his remarks yesterday! Go figure.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Hanging on to God

I am calling 2016 the year of catching up. In August of 2012, I started a second job: pastor of St. Mary's. Since then, both UCat and St. Mary's have grown and become more demanding. Those are good things. In December of 2013, my father died, and I needed to take care of his estate. I really started practicing work triage: taking care of the most important things and letting others go. In July of this past year, I was assigned Fr. Fye as an associate. I no longer have an excuse for the triage, and I need to go back to things that I put on the back burner, so to speak. Many of those things are quite challenging for me. They do fit my skill set as well as pressing pastoral needs do. A lot of them are about money and organization. For readers of this blog, you know that those things stretch me. Well, that is where I am this year.

I admit that I get anxious about these things a lot. Often to myself -- and it comes out in weird ways, like frustration in traffic. Sometimes I melt down in front of others. I did this past week with one of my most supportive helpers. But I am also trying very hard to trust God. I see my pride and self-reliance so much. I want to surrender to Him. I am doing better, but I keep slipping back in stressful moments to my default of pride.

Actually, I am grateful for this situation. I feel that I am entering on a phase of my life where God wants me to be more uncomfortable and to build up weaker areas so that I can server better in the future. He has given me tremendous and generous help to do so. I look at the people whom I work with at UCat and St. Mary's, and I thank God for them! Last night, I had one of those meltdowns in bad traffic and weather as I was running one last errand at the end of a very busy and wonderful day. Despite, or maybe because of, my weakness, God had a consolation waiting for me. Fr. Fye had waited to have supper with me at the rectory, with food prepared by a generous parishioner. In that context, he thanked me for providing him with a good experience in his first pastoral assignment as a priest. All I could do was to thank him for being the ideal associate. And, of course, to thank God. I went to bed at peace and ready to take on the next day!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Men and Women

The Diocese of Phoenix, led by their saintly Bishop Thomas Olmsted, has produced this video as a part of the "Into the Breach" men's movement. Although I am a little wary of hyper-masculine sort-of spirituality movements -- the kind that highlight smoking cigars or other silly things, this video strikes a great tone. I am not surprised since it is founded and endorsed by Bishop Olmsted. I knew him as he served on the formation faculty when I was in seminary. Just seeing him pray was enough for me to recognize a real man of God. Anyhow, this program seems to be based on the rational premise that men and women are different in substantial ways and that these differences are enriching.

Of course, this premise is the target of the various manifestations of gender theories and experiments that are the rage in our culture. As counter-intuitive as it seems, I have become convinced that the objective of these gender theories and experiments is the elimination of gender, and all the more so of sexuality, as legitimate categories at all. (I think that the same is true for pornography.) There will just be people understood in a utilitarian sense, for what they do and how they present themselves. But "people" might be an artificial construct as well. Are people really different from other animals? Lord, save us!

One of the things that I liked about the video is that is stresses practicalities. It understands and communicates how men are men in daily living and how that is important for women and for children. There are similar practicalities that men and children need from women, and these should be highlighted as well in other settings. And children are the making of men and women. These practicalities manifest the interior masculine and feminine identities and their integration into the complimentary whole of humanity. It results in a human comedy of integration and integrity. In contrast, the new theories of gender, as well as pornography, result in alienation and fragmentation. They end in a lot of hurt. This is true because they are premised on an untruth. Real people and their real bodies matter. (As an aside, I am re-amazed by the perception of Shakespeare in understanding how men and women are made for each other in marriage.)

I do not deny that there are literal "misfits" (people who do not fit in some sense) when it comes to gender and sexuality, but the way to accommodate them is through acceptance and reconciliation within the truth of human sexual and gender identity, not to break the entire mold. I admit that this has not be done generally in the past with much sensitivity or generosity. That does not mean that it cannot and should not be done now.

People want to find love and happiness. What is the way? Do we make it, or do we find it?

Monday, January 4, 2016

simple faith in action

I made a distinction in my homily yesterday and in the previous post between the simple faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the more complicated faith of the Magi. The faith of the Magi almost had to be more complicated and less immediate and direct because they had so much further to go to get to Jesus. Yet once they encountered Jesus, their faith simplifies tremendously. Compare the return journey to the outbound one. No more messing with Herod, etc.

I hope the same is the case for me. I know in the parish this Advent and Christmas time it has been the case. Simple things like opening the doors and sitting in the confessional more produce profound consequences. Fundamental things make a fundamental difference: sacraments, prayer, charity, preaching, and communion. I had an amazing experience of communion this past week during a pastoral visit to bless a home and family. Grace building literally on nature, in more ways than one.

I still have a long way to go, but I hope that the journey is becoming simpler and more straightforward.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Good use for insomnia

As I have shared before, I will not win any awards for being a good sleeper. Anyhow, I made good use of my sleeplessness early this morning: reading Cardinal Sarah's God or Nothing. Cardinal Sarah is in charge of the Church's liturgy. He hails from a small remote village in Guinea in West Africa. His family are converts from animism. I am reading about his early years -- so amazing. His voice is also so refreshingly mature. It is full of virtue, especially the virtue of faith. In much the same way, I began to understand the virtue of hope by reading the life of St. John Paul II in George Weigel's Witness to Hope.

In preparing for the feasts of Mary, Mother of God and the Epiphany, I have been struck by the contrast between the faith of the Blessed Virgin and that of the Magi. The Blessed Virgin's faith is so direct and straightforward. As Elizabeth says of her at the Visitation: "Blessed is she who believed." In contrast, there is the faith of the Magi which is impressive but complicated. The English Catholic novelist Evelyn Waugh describes their faith in his novel Helena about the Emperor Constantine's mother. Waugh puts this prayer to the Magi on the lips of Helena:
This is my day, and these are my kind.

“Like me, you were late in coming. The shepherds were here long before, even the cattle. They had joined the chorus of angels before you were on your way.

How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculating, where the shepherds had run barefoot! How odd you looked on the road, attended by what outlandish liveries, laden with such preposterous gifts!

You finally came to the last stage of your pilgrimage and the great star stood still above you. What did you do? You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments in which began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!

Yet you came and were not turned away. You too found room before the manger. Your gifts were not needed, but they were accepted and put carefully by, for they were brought with love. In that new order of charity that had just come to life, there was room for you, too. You were not lower in the eyes of the holy family than the ox or the ass.

You are my especial patrons, and patrons of all late-comers, of all who have a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.

Dear cousins, pray for me, and for my poor overloaded son. May he, too, before the end find kneeling space in the straw. Pray for the great, lest they perish utterly.

For His sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.”
The faith of Cardinal Sarah is so direct and thereby so much closer to that of the Blessed Virgin whereas mine is similar to that of the Magi: "oblique," as Waugh describes it. I have much to learn from the young, fresh faith of Africa.

Anyhow, I am hooked on God or Nothing now. Insomnia is good for something, after all!

UCat Dominicans -- not the one in the middle!

Newly named Br. Cyprian and newly professed Br. Pachomius, O.P. at St. Gertrude's, Cincinnati, Ohio, August 15, 2017

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