Friday, July 23, 2021

Coming Out of the Fog (and a few announcements)

*Edit: I will be taking an extended break from writing. Please keep me in prayer.  


Hello everyone,

I imagine there are some new readers in the past week visiting Pater Familias for the first time after the contraception talk on Catholic Feedback. If so, welcome! 

Up until earlier this week I had been posting a new post every day and now I feel a little bad that my last new post was five days ago. That being said, there are 450+ posts to read as you like, from the past six or so years. If you're new, pace yourself! haha. 

You can also subscribe to receive new posts by email (but you can only see that box on the web version, not mobile). You can search by keyword on the web version of the site as well for specific topics ('sex' 'tradition' 'marriage' 'rosary' 'saint' etc) and that will produce every blog post with that keyword.

Also, I do apologize, as I have been in a bit of a grit-and-spit battle the past few days as I went cold turkey off my nicotine pouches (this was a step down from smoking to vaping to dipping to pouches to, well, now nothing at all). Mostly, I have been sleeping a hell of a lot, and pacing a lot during the detox, but overall now with three days under my belt I think I am through the worst of it, and hope to emerge from the fog with some renewed focus to write. 25 year habits die hard, with lots of falters along the years, but I still take to heart St. Paul's words "All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient. All things are lawful to me, but I will not be brought under the power of any" (1 Cor 6:12). 

Keep me in your prayers, please. Anybody's who has been through it knows its no cake walk, but grace and grit can go a long way. No way but through. Ven Matt Talbot, pray for us!

Thank you in advance, and happy reading. 



Monday, July 19, 2021

The Nature of Sacrifice


 As news has spread of the Holy Father's restrictions of the Latin Mass, increasing numbers of Catholics not familiar with the Extraordinary Form may find themselves wondering, "What is this all about?" These are Catholics who may attend Mass every Sunday at their local parish, may be lectors or Eucharistic Ministers, active on their parish councils, who may have deep prayer lives and are active in service, but who nonetheless are not sure what all the rumblings are about. For the first time in their lives, they may have even gone to their local TLM to see experience it, or even just to see what all the fuss is about.

When I begin a post I usually pick a title for it before I start writing. I landed on The Nature of Sacrifice because it seemed to best encompass the locus of what I want to talk about here. I pulled off a book from our bookshelf, The Latin Mass Explained by Msgr. George J. Moorman, which was one of the first books I read about a year after we began attending Mass in the Extraordinary Form exclusively. True to form, the book begins with the first chapter titled "The Nature of Sacrifice," which lays the groundwork for all the subsequent chapters. Until you understand the centrality of sacrifice, you're missing the forest for the trees when it comes to the usus antiquior.  

I have heard it said from time to time among those who attend the Novus Ordo Missae, that they are there "to receive Jesus" and that it's "all about the Eucharist." And indeed it is. I have also heard others say they go to such and such church to hear Fr. X's "wonderful homilies." Some note that they have a warm community in which they feel welcome and at home. All good things! "All are welcome" as one may have sung in an OCP hymnal.

And yet, the usus antiquior would see such emphases on a communal meal, preaching, or community as ancillary, if not foreign to the locus of the Mass in and of themselves. As Msgr. Moorman notes, "Sacrifice is the highest form of religious worship."  The first five chapters (and part I) of the book details the nature of sacrifice, the sacrifice of the cross, and the sacrifice of the Mass itself before it moves into any further details.

I have often wondered how much the "smells and bells" attracts people to the Extraordinary Form. Certainly some do make the argument that "Beauty will save the world." But beauty flows from the truth of a thing, when it is true to its nature. One could find a beautiful Anglican service replete with incense and chanting, and yet it would betray the truth of this locus, since an Anglican priest has neither right nor faculties to offer such a sacrifice according to God's decrees as understood by the Church Christ founded.

I have also wondered if the "self-selection" of being among more or less "serious" Catholics is a draw, in that "what's old is new." This may play a part as well.

There may be a myriad of other reasons as well. But again, I keep going back to this idea of sacrifice as central to the nature of what draws (and keeps) people to the Latin Mass. Since I write as a man, it is sacrifice which draws a man to worship, and what drew the early Christians to Christ because of the sacrifice of his very self on the Cross. If he had gathered his disciples together around the table to break bread and share his wisdom as a prophet or teacher, this may have stuck until another prophet came along. But Christ paid the ultimate price in propitiation for our sins in heroic sacrifice on the cross, not only as man but God Himself. He conquered death by death, rose from the dead, left us his flesh to eat which was immolated as the divine sacrifice to give us life and sustain us, and sent his Holy Spirit to guide us under apostolic succession. 

To put it more simply--sacrifice draws men, because men know in their hearts that they too are meant to live as a sacrifice: for their wives, their children, their family. When Christ draws men to himself by way of sacrifice, men draw their families with them. And as anyone who has attended or been awed by what takes place during the Mass of Ages can see, the draw is often filled to overflowing.

I would offer to anyone exploring the Latin Mass for the first time to just experience it--don't worry about the missal (I didn't pick one up for about six months). When you are used to an anthropocentric model of worship versus populum, you have to kind of reorient not only your outward posture congruent to the priest ad orientum, but your heart as well. We are here to worship God and to take part in the sacrifice offered. It's not about you, but for you. Thankfully, after a few months, your self-consciousness starts to shed naturally as you enter into what is taking place, and you may even be awash that what is happening doesn't hinge on your participation or feelings (thanks be to God). The priest himself expresses often that he gets to "disappear" as Christ is made present; he gets to do, in a fitting manner, what he was born to do. And you, by extension get to taste, for a brief time, a little bit of heaven on earth. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Mammon of Iniquity


It's strange the way the Holy Spirit speaks to us through Scripture in its timelessness. When I posted yesterday about the Siege of Jerusalem, I had no idea it was actually the Jewish day of mourning and fasting (Tisha B'Av) which believe it or not, marks the destruction of the Temple. For Jews, it is considered "the saddest day of the year." There was a feeling of solidarity there, I think, between traditional Catholics that I hadn't even realized when writing it. I was only made aware of the significance by a friend after she read it.

 While everyone was talking about the Novus Ordo readings for this Sunday (which were especially timely and somewhat uncanny in their exactitude), it was actually the Gospel during the TLM this morning that caught my eye. 

Again, I had meant to write about this very passage from Luke 16:1-9 the day before as it seemed apt to the current situation that I had been mulling over, and then there it was being proclaimed at Mass. For those who missed it:

 

"And he said also to his disciples: There was a certain rich man who had a steward: and the same was accused unto him, that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said to him: How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship: for now thou canst be steward no longer. And the steward said within himself: What shall I do, because my lord taketh away from me the stewardship? To dig I am not able; to beg I am ashamed. I know what I will do, that when I shall be removed from the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. Therefore calling together every one of his lord's debtors, he said to the first: How much dost thou owe my lord?

But he said: An hundred barrels of oil. And he said to him: Take thy bill and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then he said to another: And how much dost thou owe? Who said: An hundred quarters of wheat. He said to him: Take thy bill, and write eighty. And the lord commended the unjust steward, forasmuch as he had done wisely: for the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. And I say to you: Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity; that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings."


I don't know why I was thinking about this passage this week prior to hearing it. Biblical exegesis is not my thing, and it can be a confusing one to expound on, so I'm not going to do it justice. It may very well be a teaching on usury, but what struck me was this: "the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light." Another passage from Scripture came to mind yesterday from Matthew in parallel with Luke's Gospel: "Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves." (Mt 10:16). 

We could learn something from this. When it come to our enemies, we pray for those who persecute us--yet they are still our enemies. And what do you want to do with your enemies? Beat them at their own game, as St. Paul writes, “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head" (Rom 12:20).

A few thoughts:

As we navigate the coming days and years, we truly do have to adopt the adage to be wise as serpents and simple as doves. You have to be smart, and keep your lower faculties (emotionalism) in check. It's okay to mourn, be upset, angry, etc. But this is not the level at which wars are won. It takes prudence to keep them in check, so that you can advance with a clear mind and unfettered from poor decision making. As Fr. Z wrote the other day, "Don't do anything stupid."

Second, as our Lord says, "your righteousness must surpass those of the Pharisees" (Mt 5:20). Your cheerful fasting and prayer, living the virtues in charity, and not giving the enemy ammunition will serve as an indictment against them. They may rage internally in response, but you also need to learn how to take a beating, and take it with fortitude. Don't be a complainer, avoid being too self-focused, and play the long-game. 

Thirdly, do you not believe that God is in control of everything? That anything proceeds from His hand by chance? Get yourself in proper spiritual perspective. All things proceedeth from the hand of God. Nothing happens apart from His will. Do you trust God? Get your eyes off the ground, and do not lose your focus. Peter sank walking on the sea when he took his eyes for one moment off Christ. Let that serve as a good reminder. Keep your focus. Put your blinders on if needed to stave off the ancillary distractions. First things first. 

I went to adoration a little before midnight last night and was reading the scriptures and happened upon the wisdom of Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) which again spoke to me (Chapter 2):

"Son, when thou comest to the service of God, stand in justice and in fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation. [2] Humble thy heart, and endure: incline thy ear, and receive the words of understanding: and make not haste in the time of clouds. [3] Wait on God with patience: join thyself to God, and endure, that thy life may be increased in the latter end. [4] Take all that shall be brought upon thee: and in thy sorrow endure, and in thy humiliation keep patience. [5] For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.

[6] Believe God, and he will recover thee: and direct thy way, and trust in him. Keep his fear, and grow old therein. [7] Ye that fear the Lord, wait for his mercy: and go not aside from him, lest ye fall. [8] Ye that fear the Lord, believe him: and your reward shall not be made void. [9] Ye that fear the Lord, hope in him: and mercy shall come to you for your delight. [10] Ye that fear the Lord, love him, and your hearts shall be enlightened.

[11] My children behold the generations of men: and know ye that no one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded. [12] For who hath continued in his commandment, and hath been forsaken? or who hath called upon him, and he despised him? [13] For God is compassionate and merciful, and will forgive sins in the day of tribulation: and he is a protector to all that seek him in truth. [14] Woe to them that are of a double heart and to wicked lips, and to the hands that do evil, and to the sinner that goeth on the earth two ways. [15] Woe to them that are fainthearted, who believe not God: and therefore they shall not be protected by him.

[16] Woe to them that have lost patience, and that have forsaken the right ways, and have gone aside into crooked ways. [17] And what will they do, when the Lord shall begin to examine? [18] They that fear the Lord, will not be incredulous to his word: and they that love him, will keep his way. [19] They that fear the Lord, will seek after the things that are well pleasing to him: and they that love him, shall be filled with his law. [20] They that fear the Lord, will prepare their hearts, and in his sight will sanctify their souls.

[21] They that fear the Lord, keep his Commandments, and will have patience even until his visitation, [22] Saying: If we do not penance, we shall fall into the hands of the Lord, and not into the hands of men. [23] For according to his greatness, so also is his mercy with him." 


Does this speak to you as well? If you're like me, it should. We are in many ways currently in the "furnace of humiliation." We cannot afford to be fainthearted, as those who believe not God (v 15). We cannot lose patience, and go aside into crooked ways (v. 16). If you love Him, you shall be filled with His law. Prepare your hearts (v 20). Do penance (v. 22). What can the hands of men strip from the hands of God, from which all things come? Not a sparrow falls without Him knowing it. 

Be smart. Don't let your lower faculties (emotions) rule you. Learn from the children of the world; be innocent as doves and wise as serpents. Make friends with the mammon of iniquity. Let your righteousness exceed those of the Pharisees. In the end, you will heap coals on the heads of your enemies. 


Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Siege of Jerusalem

 

As I have time to reflect on the abrogation of Summorum Pontificum, I have been lead to reflect on the 24th chapter of Matthew's Gospel as well as the history of the destruction of the 2nd temple of Jerusalem. Of course it can be erroneous to draw parallels, but in also reading the second chapter of St. Alphonsus' Uniformity With God's Will, he references the prophet Isaias when he writes, "We must therefore consider the afflictions that come upon us as happening by chance or solely from the malice of men; we should be convinced that what happens, happens by the will of God," I am reminded that there is nothing that happens that does not come from the hand of God. Many traditional Catholics are feeling this individual "destruction of the Temple" within our own Church and trying to make sense of it. So I think it helps to read the following in light of current situation, and vice versa.


A little background first:


In 70 AD, just before Passover, the Roman army laid waste to the temple at Jerusalem in response to the revolt of the Jews during the Roman Jewish wars.  


"Despite early successes in repelling the Roman sieges, the Zealots fought amongst themselves, and they lacked proper leadership, resulting in poor discipline, training, and preparation for the battles that were to follow. The Jewish defenders were split into factions."


The historian Josephus writes of the aftermath of the destruction: 


"This was the end which Jersusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind. And truly, the very view itself was a melancholy thing; for those places which were adorned with trees and pleasant gardens, were now become desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down. Nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judaea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change. For the war had laid all signs of beauty quite waste."


1.1 million people (mostly Jews) were killed during the siege--more than the population of the city. Josephus attributes this to the vast number of those who came to celebrate the Passover at the Temple. The revolt had not deterred pilgrims from the Jewish diaspora communities from trekking to Jerusalem to visit the Temple at Passover, and a large number became trapped in the city and perished during the siege.


A few things stuck out to me, as my fellow TLMers (and those newly adopted fleeing from the COVID diaspora). To a lesser or greater degree, many have gone 'all in' on Tradition, and like the Jews at Passover, now find themselves trapped in the temple under siege. Their anxiety and lament comes from projecting to the possibility of a place "adorned with trees and pleasant gardens" which has now become a "desolate country, all the trees cut down." They recognize the "madness of innovations," in the new liturgy, and have found an oasis to worship God in a way fitting to Him. 


It's also telling that the Zealots before the siege "fought among themselves" lacking "training and preparation for the battles that were to follow." Does this strike a chord? 


As I move into what is written in Matthew 24, it foretells the destruction of the Temple. Listen to what our Lord warns: 


“And Jesus being come out of the temple, went away. And his disciples came to shew him the buildings of the temple.

And he answering, said to them: Do you see all these things? Amen I say to you there shall not be left here a stone upon a stone that shall not be destroyed.

And when he was sitting on mount Olivet, the disciples came to him privately, saying: Tell us when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the consummation of the world?

And Jesus answering, said to them: Take heed that no man seduce you:

For many will come in my name saying, I am Christ: and they will seduce many.

And you shall hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that ye be not troubled. For these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be pestilences, and famines, and earthquakes in places:

Now all these are the beginnings of sorrows.

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall put you to death: and you shall be hated by all nations for my name's sake.

And then shall many be scandalized: and shall betray one another: and shall hate one another.

And many false prophets shall rise, and shall seduce many.

And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.

But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved. (Mt 24:1-13)


Does this apply to us? I’ll let you apply it to your meditation. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Chastisement and Spiritual Preparation

 I don’t typically share talks/videos but I listened to this one by Father Ripperger a year or so ago and found it pretty prophetic (it was delivered in 2017). I think it’s worth posting for the benefit of others.

“But the end of all is at hand. Be prudent therefore, and watch in prayers.

But before all things have a constant mutual charity among yourselves: for charity covereth a multitude of sins.

Using hospitality one towards another, without murmuring,


As every man hath received grace, ministering the same one to another: as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.


If any man speak, let him speak, as the words of God. If any man minister, let him do it, as of the power, which God administereth: that in all things God may be honoured through Jesus Christ: to whom is glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.


Dearly beloved, think not strange the burning heat which is to try you, as if some new thing happened to you;

But if you partake of the sufferings of Christ, rejoice that when his glory shall be revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.


If you be reproached for the name of Christ, you shall be blessed: for that which is of the honour, glory, and power of God, and that which is his Spirit, resteth upon you.


But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a railer, or a coveter of other men's things.


But if as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.


For the time is, that judgment should begin at the house of God. And if first at us, what shall be the end of them that believe not the gospel of God?


And if the just man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?


Wherefore let them also that suffer according to the will of God, commend their souls in good deeds to the faithful Creator.” (1 Peter 4:7-19)


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=s3oqUkCm0i4







On the Motu Proprio


I read the motus proprio Traditionis Custodes this morning. Though not unexpected, it’s a lot to take in, with a lot of implications, and feels like a punch to the gut. For this reason I’ve decided to take three days to pray and not offer an immediate reflective response. If you want that, you can hit up Catholic Twitter and you can go to town, I’m sure it won’t be in short supply. 

Read it yourself here

Pray for the Church, the Holy Father, and one another.


 




Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Bishops Are Born Of Families


 I have never been to Rome. People keep telling me I have to go to see St. Peter's, the Vatican, the plethora of liturgical wonders and beautiful art, and experience the history of our faith. After twenty three years as a Catholic, it is a bit strange that I have never really had the desire or inclination to make the trip. 

I don't know if this is a conscious or unconscious dis-inclination. I'm not a history buff, though I am open to learning in order not to be ignorant. I can appreciate fine art, but can't say I'm a connoisseur by any means. And most of all, I'm really not a "churchy" guy.

I have to qualify with that, because I have been writing about the Faith for half my life so one would think a love of all-things-church would go hand in hand with trying to live a life of faith. But I've always found myself following the St. Benedict Joseph Labre / St. Francis / St. Juan Diegos of the world in my journey of faith, rather than hanging around gold-gilded ambos or immersing myself with Church or diocesan events. It has just never been a draw.

So I was a little out of my element when our family was asked to formally greet and welcome the new bishop of our diocese at his installation Mass this afternoon. I also suffer from severe liturgical stage fright (which is probably why I was never an altar server and bombed out of being a lector at our old parish). Liturgical pomp and circumstance is not my thing. 

But this was a big deal. It was the first time in over one hundred years that a priest (a monsignor in this case) would be ordained a bishop in our diocese (His predecessors had all been ordained as bishops prior to being assigned here). In addition to every single priest in the diocese being present at the Mass and ceremony, there was a large cadre of bishops, two cardinals, and a Vatican nuncio present. It was as close to a pontifical type ceremony as I would probably experience apart from being in the Eternal City itself. 

Complicating things a little was the fact that this was only the third Novus Ordo Missae I had been to in almost three years; though I had retained the muscle memory of it over the years, my children were largely unfamiliar with the New Liturgy, having been raised up in the TLM exclusively. We didn't play a large role in the ceremony, obviously, but we were still a part of it, and my kids were on the same knowledge level of the NOM as 5th graders in a CCD class.

Complicating things a little more was the fact that this is the President's home diocese, and while it was not the focus of the appointment and ceremony (and rightfully so), it has to be in the back of people in the larger Catholic world's mind--just what is his intention in addressing the "issue at hand" that the USSCB is discussing? Just what (if anything) will he do as bishop? Will he be "one of the good ones?" Etc.

People are savagely critical concerning "the bishops" and not always without good reason always either. But this is our home diocese, and we have a new shepherd who is new in the role, in a new part of the country, in a political-sensitive situation that is the envy of no one. As more traditionally minded Catholics who have come to love and cherish the traditional liturgy, we have a stake in the game on the local level, especially as talk of the motu proprio looms large. We want to see Tradition thrive and grow. And so, I reasoned, the least we can do is extend a warm welcome on a basic human level to this successor to the apostles as members of his flock, and be the best representatives of joyful traditional Catholics we can be, to let him know we are here--not as a "force to be reckoned with" but simply as sheep in his care among a diverse flock.

Though I don't know much about him, after meeting and talking with him briefly, the new bishop seemed to have a genuine, pastoral spirit, was approachable, and seemed to be an overall good man. Again, this is just first impressions base on limited knowledge. It's okay to say such things though, I think--to extend a degree of courtesy on a basic human level and not immediately cut a man of the cloth at the knees just because you don't think he's doing enough or is "spineless" or what have you. At least give the man a chance to get settled for a day or two and get his bearings before unloading on Catholic Twitter if you feel the need to do so. Ha!

My wife and daughter veiled as they usually do, though they were pretty much the only ones I noticed who did so, and we all received Communion by dropping to our knees on the marble and receiving on the tongue (which was not an issue, though most received in the hand). The Mass and ceremony was almost four hours long. I was running on two hours sleep, and our kids were champs but were begging to melt near the end due to churchy overload, not to mention hunger and tiredness. My three young kids were three of....four. In the entire church. There were some older teenagers, but largely it was middle age and older (sometimes much older) Catholics in attendance. I was thinking, "Where are all the families?" only to realize a four hour ceremony in the middle of the day on a Tuesday may preclude fathers who are working or young mothers with young children who may not have survived it. 

As the bishop addressed and thanked all the dignitaries and ecclesial members that came before him and who formed him as a priest, and spoke to the religious communities and laity of the diocese that he is to serve, and as I looked at row after row of priests, bishops, cardinals, etc. (whom I am grateful answered God's call to Holy Orders), it occurred to me that every last one of them came not from some spontaneous ecclesial progeneration, but from a family--a mom and a dad who were called to the married state.  They not only gave these men life, but formed them in the faith so that they might respond to the call from Our Lord to be shepherds of, well, other families. From Our Lord Himself to St. Peter, the first pope, to the Apostles on down, it was the same story--they came from families. Families are the building blocks of societies. 

I'm fond of the saying, "No Priests, No Church." But another saying also holds: "No Families, No Priests!" Families are the stock from which our Lord calls his priests out, to leave father and mother and forsake marriage and families (in most cases) to respond to his call and follow him. 

When looking around the church at all these ecclesial V.I.P.'s, I caught myself from time to time during the ceremony thinking, "I'm just a husband and father, a layman." Of the hundreds of other people in the church among the laity, it was just me and another dad there with small kids (in his case, one son). Our priests are aging--so many elderly priests! Most Catholics parishes are aging as well, and not being infused with new life. But the hallmark of a traditional parish is just that--lots of lots of families, young families, with kids (sometimes lots of them!). Sometimes, often, they are also shepherded by young priests, with young seminarians stepping on deck. It's not a demographic cliff being rote, but a sign of hope and rebirth. And at the root of it is--you guessed it: the family.

Bishops don't exist in vacuums. They aren't formed in test tubes. They are born of families, they are formed by their fathers and mothers, and they also have to learn their jobs and how to pastor as well from their brother priests. There can be a symbiotic relationship I think between our celibate clergy and the families they serve when the families themselves live out their vocation as witnesses to the faith proper to their vocation, and the priests see it and are fortified in their own vocation when they know who it is they are serving and shepherding. 

It's not an easy job to shepherd. Sheep are constantly straying, and you have to keep them in line with the firmness of a father who disciplines those he loves without being so heavy-handed that it borders on abuse. In a culture of relativism and lukewarmness and religious ignorance, it becomes even harder. I realize there are lousy bishops out there who do damage to the Church and her witness by their ecclesial malfeasance. But I also think there are good men just trying to do a hard job, and to do it for the Lord when there's often no instruction manual. 

We don't expect them to be supermen, or solve all the local diocese's problems, or simply serve as the whipping boy or target for our angry letters (although that's how we treat them sometimes). We just want them to shepherd us as a spiritual father so that biological fathers like me can raise our own kids in the faith and live our vocation in marriage in a way that pleases God and serves the Church. That may mean more faithful families as offshoots of the family root (grandkids! great grandkids!), or it may mean supplying the Church with the men who go on to become seminarians, priests, bishops, cardinals, and even popes. To the degree we do that well, as fathers of our families, is the degree to which we re-infuse the Church with the faith, and supply the clergy from healthy spiritual stock for future generations. Let's be sure to remember to pray for our bishops, both the good ones and the bad ones. 

No families, no priests. No priests, no bishops. No bishops, no Church. No Church, no hope!

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Gift Of Suffering


 Thanks to a freak chain series of mechanical and weather related events, my 1pm flight home from Houston has been bumped back by about ten hours. I’m tired, hungry, and would just like to see my family. But it’s a true gift. Thank you Jesus!


We were asked to be a family representative to greet the new bishop at his installation Mass tomorrow afternoon. It’s the first time in over 100 years our diocese will ordain a bishop (he is a Monsignor). EWTN is covering it, and every priest in the diocese, including a cadre of bishops and cardinals, will be there. If my flight doesn’t get canceled, I’ll roll in around 4am (instead of 5:30pm as originally scheduled), get to work at 8, and head out early to meet my family at noon. But that’s in God’s hands at this point. Thank you Jesus!


Because of the domino effect of bumped flights and lack of airline and concession and food workers, the lines stretch forever for all food and restaurant places for those that are even open. I ate breakfast twelve hours ago, so it’s a perfect opportunity to fast for the conversion of sinners. The water fountains are working though! Thank you Jesus!


My friend let me borrow a copy of Fr Thomas Dubay’s “Happy Are You Poor,” which I had always wanted to read. And now I have both a copy and four hours to read. Lessons to learn! Thank you Jesus!


I’m writing this blog post on my phone, because I didn’t bring my laptop. I found a seat with an outlet, and the airport has free WiFi. Marvel of technology! Thank you Jesus!


St. Alphonsus writes


“We call adversities evil; actually they are good and meritorious, when we receive them as coming from God's hands: "Shall there be evil in a city which the Lord hath not done?" "Good things and evil, life and death, poverty and riches are from God." It is true, when one offends us unjustly, God does not will his sin, nor does he concur in the sinner's bad will; but God does, in a general way, concur in the material action by which such a one strikes us, robs us or does us an injury, so that God certainly wills the offense we suffer and it comes to us from his hands.


"Whatever shall befall the just man, it shall not make him sad." Indeed, what can be more satisfactory to a person than to experience the fulfillment of all his desires? This is the happy lot of the man who wills only what God wills, because everything that happens, save sin, happens through the will of God. There is a story to this effect in the "Lives of the Fathers" about a farmer whose crops were more plentiful than those of his neighbors. On being asked how this happened with such unvarying regularity, he said he was not surprised because he always had the kind of weather he wanted. He was asked to explain. He said: "It is so because I want whatever kind of weather God wants, and because I do, he gives me the harvests I want.'' If souls resigned to God's will are humiliated, says Salvian, they want to be humiliated; if they are poor, they want to be poor; in short, whatever happens is acceptable to them, hence they are truly at peace in this life. In cold and heat, in rain and wind, the soul united to God says: "I want it to be warm, to be cold, windy, to rain, because God wills it." This is the beautiful freedom of the sons of God, and it is worth vastly more than all the rank and distinction of blood and birth, more than all the kingdoms in the world. This is the abiding peace which, in the experience of the saints, "surpasseth all understanding.'' (Uniformity With God’s Will, ch 2, 3)


St Paul writes to the Philippians, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:11-13)


Thank you Lord, for everything that comes from your hands. We are right where we need to be by your Divine Will. Who knows who you may put in our paths that we may have missed otherwise? Who knows what calamity may have been avoided on account of your delay? How are we to learn patience and mortification of the senses when we avoid the opportunities you present to practice them? “In all things give thanks.”


Thank you Jesus!

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Make Room For Mystery


 Because my journey to Christ has come by way of influence from both the East and the West--both inside and outside the Church--I have a bit of a "Tex-Mex" spirituality. My first experience of Catholicism was in the Eastern-rite of the Church, attending the Divine Liturgy with my father from time to time when he would go. I experienced liturgical plainsong (chant), sometimes known as prostopinije, incense, iconography and iconostasis, and a sense of the sacred. When I came into the Church and received the Sacred Mysteries (Sacraments) of Confirmation, Confession, and Holy Eucharist, it was by way of the Byzantine Rite. On the way to a monastery in New Mexico after a year of being a Catholic I sat next to an Orthodox priest on the plane and he gifted me a prayer rope on which to pray the Jesus Prayer which is a hallmark of Orthodox spirituality. It's simple and meditative: with each breath in, you pray Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God...and with each breath out, "be merciful to me a sinner" on each bead. Whereas rosary beads are generally of a hard, solid material, even the beads of a Orthodox prayer rope themselves are made from cloth, so have a flexible dexterity reflective of Orthodox spirituality. I prayed the Jesus prayer with that prayer rope for many years, and later discovered the classic The Way of the Pilgrim which recounts one Russian peasant's experience of the Jesus prayer in his quest to learn to "pray without ceasing," as St. Paul encourages us to do.


One thing I think the Church of the East is more comfortable with in general is the sense of mystery. Not that this doesn't exist in the Latin Church or in the mystical theology of the Western saints, but the influence of scholasticism and neo-scholasticism in the West was so formative to the Latin Church that this kind of mystical and liturgical fluidity can be a different experience for those who experience a Byzantine (or even Orthodox) liturgy for the first time. 


Of course, we have been attending the Tridentine Mass for the past three years now--neither the Divine Liturgy of the East or the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Latin Church is especially foreign or novel to us at this point. When my son serves mass and I observe his movements and those of the altar servers, I can see they reflect this scholastic influence in liturgical physicality--movements and transitions are crisp and clearly defined, with sometimes military precision. Contrast this in observation with the way a Byzantine or Orthodox priest and congregants bless themselves (thrice, right to left)--there is a rounded fluidity to the movements from head to navel to shoulders, almost like an oval in motion rather than a perfectly delineated cross. I think in the context of liturgy, this may reflect the greater comfort with which the East "sits in mystery" rather than having to tie up and resolve it and assign it to its appropriate clearly defined box. 


For those who have come to Tradition by way of the Latin Mass, there can be a kind of 'tunnel vision' in mindset that liturgical integrity must be invested in this kind of Western scholastic expression in the expression of its physicality in the liturgy. The Latin Mass may sometimes feel like the "article-objection-reply" format of the Summa in liturgical form, leaving no rock of objection unturned or corner rounded. 


It can also be reflected in spiritual practice of those in the Eastern and Western traditions. Mystery is not always a comfortable place to be for the scholastic mind. We are comfortable with checking the boxes--morning offering, mass, rosary, divine office, etc. The temptation to "figure things out" and have everything in its preassigned box can sometimes rob us of the experience of the mystical. I don't know enough about traditionalist Catholics to know what defines their spirituality. I try to have some structure to my prayer life but for myself, I have always been comfortable with the idea of mystery and was also never especially drawn to Thomistic scholasticism as a way to understand and experience God. 


Of course this is just general observation and not meant to put one above the other. Certainly the sense of mystery transcends East and West, and no one tradition can hold exclusive claim to it. When we pray the rosary, ideally we enter into the MYSTERIES of the rosary and meditate on them. We pray with our heart as well as our head and lips and fingers. The heart is where mystery roots itself. And the heart can sometimes be messy, not clearly delineated and defined. Mary "keep all these things in her heart" at the Annunciation (Lk 2:19) and "wisdom enters the heart," as scripture says (Prov 2:10)


I like Tex-Mex. I like Asian Fusion. I like the Divine Liturgy and I like the Tridentine Mass. I respect intellectual formidability of the West and the deep mysticism of the East. And I love Catholicism because it is a "both/and" religion, not an "either/or" religion. If you're a neo-scholastic type (or as one of my professors in grad school referred to himself jokingly as, a "filthy Thomist"), don't be afraid to engage the heart and make some room for mystery. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

“Just Who Do You Think You Are?”




At our men’s Bible study this morning some of the guys were talking about Fr Mike Schmitz’s Bible In A Year podcast, and though I haven’t been tuned into it, I said it really seems to be an awesome thing that are steeping Catholics in scripture and learning the word of God. 


My buddy who I’m visiting was at a family picnic and Fr Mike Schmitz was there. Now I haven’t listened to him much but I know Fr Schmitz is a handsome dude with great charisma and a big following, but seems pretty grounded as well. My buddy mentioned that Fr Schmitz had a friend of his who kept him in check and one day gave him a zinger to bring him down to earth if he was starting to float. “Who do you think you are?” he asked Fr Mike, “some kind of celebrity priest?”


We need these kinds of people in our lives, trusted friends who can call us out in charity and keep us grounded when we start to think too much of ourselves, when we think we’re more than we really are. Not “Yes Men,” but trusted advisors who take on the role of helping us to counter pride and vainglory through setting up check-points. It could be as simple and direct as the zinger Fr Mike’s friend hit him with to bring him down to earth, even if it’s preemptive to the temptation. 


Fr. Schmitz doesn’t have the luxury of keeping a low profile, whether or not he would prefer that or not. God is calling him to be out there in the world working for the Kingdom. We all need a Nathan in our lives, not to necessarily affirm us, but to call us out when we need to hear an admonition rather than adulation. Those friends are worth their weight in gold, especially if you have any kind of following or are involved in public ministry. The ones who in charity ask us the question we should all ask ourselves from time to time when our heads swell a little, when we forget that we are simply ambassadors for Christ, “just who do you think you are?”