Thanks to Our Ace

Posted by Webster 
A priest is like a pitcher: without him, no ball game. No priest, no Eucharist, no Mass. At St. Mary Star of the Sea, one priest pitches every ball game, and he is an ace. Father Barnes has a wicked curveball (is it OK to accuse a priest of wickedness?) and a blazing fastball. This morning, he threw one of each.

The opening prayer given in the Magnificat for today is a general one: “God, light of all nations, give us the joy of lasting peace . . . ” and so on. I’ve noticed that Father Barnes often opts for another prayer dedicated to a saint or blessed being honored that day. But I was not prepared for a prayer about “Brother André.” Who?! The prayer then referred to Brother A’s “dedication to St. Joseph.” Now he had me! Up until four days before I was received into the Catholic Church, I thought that I would take the name of Thomas More. Then, on March 19, 2008, came the feast of St. Joseph, and I knew there would be a change. I’m going to have to post about St. Joseph, and soon.

But Brother André? Who was he? Another one of those amazing saints (like Jean-Marie Vianney) and underappreciated holy people (like Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection) who started out with a great big L on their foreheads: losers. That’s him in the photograph. Blessed Brother André Bessette (1845–1937). I’m always impressed by those who live long lives—and end up looking like this. Read about Brother André here and especially here. I’m going to study up on this guy. Maybe change my name too.

And the fastball? That’s often in Father Barnes’s homily. Father Barnes is the antithesis of the fire-and-brimstone preacher, the evangelical Bible banger who whips himself into a frenzy so that his congregation will be so whipped up. Father Barnes is almost always matter of fact. His tone is level. He speaks each sentence clearly and with conviction. Each statement is made with just enough emphasis. Why? Because the matters of fact in the Gospel speak for themselves. A miracle presented as fact is somehow even more miraculous.

The Gospel today is the aftermath of the loaves and fishes (Mark 6:45–52). Here, as he often does, Father Barnes hit upon a detail that often may be overlooked. After Jesus walked on the water—

He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.

Think about that fact: The Apostles had no problem with the Jesus miracle that is so often explained away, walking on water. They had a problem with “the incident of the loaves.” They had not understood it. In fact, their hearts had been hardened.

Father Barnes said that when our faith fails, it is usually a “Eucharistic problem.” Our problem is that Jesus Christ is not a real presence in our lives. This is precisely the point of the quotations from our Pope and Father Giussani in my post earlier today about CL:

. . . how could we ever accept ourselves and others in the name of a discourse? We cannot sustain love for ourselves unless Christ is a presence, as a mother is a presence for her child. Unless Christ is a presence now—now!—I cannot love myself now and I cannot love you now.

Jesus as a series of Gospel stories, a “discourse,” is not enough. Scripture, the Book, is not enough. The only thing that suffices is to experience Him as a real presence. Which we Catholics can do every day at Mass.

  • Marie

    Wow, great post to meditate on. I'm a big fan of Blessed Andre. Watched a documentary on him on EWTN 10 years ago, and pray to him often.

  • Frank

    "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." -Our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:20)

  • Warren Jewell

    The Church has thrived on being the contradiction, the paradox, the irony – the mysteries. It is as Christ demanded, as He is Head and we are His Body, that we must be in this world but not of it. If I want to wonder at a miracle, though not one in Scripture, permit me to wonder just why God made me the ding-dong I am. Yes, I was accomplice. But, His will over all, He has to accept part of the blame for such a bumbling fool of a man who I am.He has to look on me and think to Himself that the loaves, fishes, walks on water, healings, etc., were just a walk in the park to keeping me on-track of the Way of Him, to Him.O, my Lord, have mercy.

  • Webster Bull

    Warren, you are a Jewell, and I imagine the Almighty is aware of this!

  • Warren Jewell

    Funny you should mention Brother Andre, whose simple sanctity and devotion to Saint Joseph haas earned him many beloved here and high glory among the saints:

  • Owen

    And most especially here: is a great place to read about Bl. Andre

  • Frank

    And, as you well know, I love the baseball analogy!

  • Ferde

    A three-run homer today, Webster. You got Father Barnes just about right. I knew Blessed Andre's devotion to St. Joseph would get you. Do a treatise on him for the Men's Group some day.It's provocative that we today have a greater understanding of the mystery of the loaves and fishes than did the Apostles. We have much more to draw from. It's such a profound mystery it would have been impossible for anyone near it to grasp it fully. If any of us have fully grasped it at all.

  • Webster Bull

    Thanks, Ferde. I am going to study Blessed Andre. Meanwhile, our Church has been studying and building its understanding for 2000 years, which says something for the value of Tradition, doesn't it?

  • Frank

    OK, Blessed Andre's story drew me in like a moth to a flame. He is definitely hard corps!