From the Treasure Chest: “Cannot” Part I

Every once in a while, I unearth a real jewel of a find.  You may have noticed that we are reading Hilaire Belloc’s The Great Heresies in the YIMC Book Club.  The most recent chapter is about the Protestant Reformation.  Having finished my chores on Saturday afternoon, I began trolling Google Books, like a fisherman, for new selections to add to our YIM Catholic Bookshelf. [Read more…]

From Faber’s “Dedication” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

This should come as no surprise but I had never heard of Frederick William Faber until recently.  I was playing around while adding titles to the YIM Catholic Bookshelf (250+ titles now!) and discovered this founder of the London Oratory. A former Calvinist and convert to Catholicism, Faber wrote a great number of hymns, sermons, and devotional books in prose as well as poetry. Heck, I added over a dozen of his books to our shelves.

He wrote an epic poem entitled Sir Lancelot: A Legend of the Middle Agesand writes the following in the preface to the poem,

The object of the poem is not an ambitious one. It has always seemed to me, that a love of natural objects, and the depth, as well as exuberance and refinement of mind, produced by an intelligent delight in scenery, are elements of the first importance in the education of the young. But, a taste for the beauties of nature being a quicker growth than the power or habit of independent thought, it is apt in youth to wander from the right path, and lose itself in some of the devious wilds of pantheism.

What I wished to effect in this poem was, to show how an enthusiastic and most minute appreciation of the beauties of nature might unite itself with Christian sentiments, Christian ritual, and the strictest expression of Christian doctrine.

Sounds good to me. The last epic poem I read from cover to cover was Virgil’s Aeneid. But with an introduction like that one, I’m eager to see how Faber weaves the story of Lancelot around Catholic faith and doctrines. In 1845, he rewrote portions of the poem for a second edition that was published after he crossed the Tiber.

But the main  reason I’m looking forward to reading Sir Lancelot is because Faber gives a preview of his ability as a poet when he dedicated his long poem on the heroic knight with a much shorter poem to his friend and colleague Thomas Whytehead.  Whytehead, an Anglican priest, as was Faber at the time, and an accomplished poet in his own right, was on a missionary trip in New Zealand when the poem was first published in 1842.  He was suffering from an illness and died in 1843, when he was only 28 years old.

This short, personal, poem to a dying friend, as scholar Kristie Blair writes, “repeats the scenario…in which Faber represents himself as passionate, insecure, and troubled before a friend’s poise and stability. But here it is Whytehead’s geographical distance, and the real possibility that he would not live to read Faber’s words, which permit Faber to be more open.”

You can say that again. In the following verses, Faber is joyful upon hearing news of his friend, saddened by the news of his illness, and finally envisions his friend moving on to the Land of the Living and joining the saints in heaven.  It appears to me that Faber could give Virgil a run for his money.

Dedication

Dear Brother! while the murmurs of my song
In refluent waves were dying on my ear,
The spoken music blending with the thrills
Of that unuttered sweetness, which remains
A cherished refuse in the poet’s soul,
Still to distinguish him from all the hearts
To which, by love constrained, he hath resigned
So much of his interior self,—and while
I listened, like a practiced mountaineer,
To my own voice rebounding from the heights
Of song, redoubled and prolonged returns
Of pleasant echoes,—from the far-off South
Came welcome news of thee, my dearest Friend!

Thou spakest in thine own most beautiful way,
And in the sunny visionary style
Of thy strange solemn language, of the lights
In those new skies, the Cross with starry arms,
Palpably bending at the dead of night,
The star-built Altar, Noe’s sheeny Dove
Still winging her incessant flight on high,
The definite Triangle, and other such,
Girt with huge spaces of unstarry blue,
As sacred precincts round about them spread,
Through which the eye, from all obstruction clear,
Travels the heavens at midnight, and salutes
Those orbed constellations hung thereon
Like festal lamps on some cathedral wall;—
Emblems of Christian things, not pagan names
That nightly desecrate our northern skies.
Thus with thy spirit softly overshadowed
By the most brilliant umbrage of those stars,
Thou spakest of the snowy albatross,
Sailing in circuits round thy lonely-bark,
Fondling its foamy prow as if it deemed,
And not unjustly, its companionship
A solace to thee on the desert waves;
And underneath the great Australian trees
A light was in strange creatures’ wondering eyes,—
How solemnly interpreted by thee!
0 it was all so beautiful, so strange,
And with its current intercepted oft
With place for some endearment of old love,
I thought in thy wild strain how passing sweet
The poetry of those far southern seas!

Few days elapsed: there came another strain,
Fresh poetry from those far southern seas!
It sang of sickness and the fear of death,
Of suffering gently borne for love of Christ,
Who calls us to His service as He wills,
Not as we choose; and, mingling with the strain,
Broke forth thy simple and courageous words
And peaceful trust, as happy and as bold
As a child’s prayer. And wilt thou think it wrong,
That, when I prayed and wept and deeply mourned,
There was a pleasure in my mourning, such
As I have never felt in love before?
For who that doth remember thee, how pale!
How gentle! but would smile for very faith,
As Abraham smiled, at thine heroic words,
Which mate thine outward aspect so unfitly?
Ah! that was poetry tenfold more sweet
Than when thou sangst of stars, and ocean birds,
And wandering creatures underneath the trees!

O more than Brother! my impetuous heart,
Nurtured too much on volatile impulses,
In loving thee hath learned still more to love,
And study with a covetous design,
The science of thy quiet nature, calm,
Profoundly calm amid all cares and doubts,
As though thy faculties had never had,
Or left and lost in thy baptismal font,
All power of self-disturbance, so serene
The unsuspicious greatness of thy virtue,
Thy simple-tongued humility, and love
Too self-forgetting to have much of fear!
Like one who sits upon a windy steep,
And looks into a placid lake below
Bright in the breezeless vale, so have I gazed,
With long affection fathomed to its depths,
Into the inspired tranquillity of heart
On thy scarce ruffled innocence bestowed.
Dear Friend! I speak bold words of praise, and
tears
Warrant my boldness, for I know full well
Thine eye will never see what would have pained
Thy lowliness: that supernatural calm
Of thy pure nature will be deeper still,
Unutterably deepened, ere my words,
Not written as to one alive, shall reach
The island of thy gradual martyrdom.
0 no! thou wilt be once more at my side,
A help to my weak purposes, an arm
Invisible, in intercession strong,
No part of this half dead, half dying world,
But to the region of the living gone
To pray for us, and to be reached by prayer.
When these poor lines have travelled to that shore,
Distance and exile will have fallen from thee,
Sun-withered wreaths, before the eye of death;
Thou wilt be in my neighborhood again,
Again come home unto my soul’s embrace,
No more the frail and wasting Missionary,
But the high Mate of Angels and of Saints!

For All the Saints, Cyril of Alexandria

Today we celebrate the feast day of Cyril of Alexandria, a Doctor of the Church.  Like Athanatius before him, he defended the dogma of the Incarnation of Our Lord against the heretical ideas of Nestorius, who had gained a substantial following with his beliefs that denied that Jesus was both fully man and fully God.

As we have discovered while reading Belloc’s The Great Heresies, we have been realizing that attacking the mystery of Our Lord’s Incarnation is a generally accepted principle among heresiarchs who attack the teachings of the Church. That God became a Man is mind-blowing when you think about it. If it isn’t, maybe you haven’t spent enough time thinking this through.

Thankfully, Cyril thought it through and wasn’t about to let Nestorius have his way. The result of these controversies was the Council of Ephesus, held in the summer of the year 431. You can read more about this important meeting at the Catholic Encyclopedia. Below is an example of Cyril’s rhetorical ability as he explains why Our Lord must have been both fully human and fully God.

Surely it is quite obvious and unmistakable that the Only-begotten became like us, became, that is, a complete man, that he might free our earthly body from the alien corruptions which had been brought into it. He descended to become identical with us, in respect of the conditions of life, accommodating himself through the unity of Word and flesh: he made the human soul his own, thus making it victorious over sin, coloring it, as it were, with the dye of his steadfastness and immutability of his own nature. By becoming the flesh of the Word, who gives life to all things, this flesh triumphs over the power of death and destruction. He is, so to speak, the root and the first fruits of those who are restored in the Spirit to newness of life, to immortality of the body, to certainty and security of divinity, so that he may transmit this condition to the whole of humanity by participation, and as an act of grace.

Cyril also was clear in his argument that the Blessed Mother is the Theotokos or Mother of God as he so clearly and reasonably argues below. Note the high regard he has for Athanatius, who had successfully fought against a similar heretical threat presented by the followers of Arius.

That anyone could doubt the right of the holy Virgin to be called the mother of God fills me with astonishment. Surely she must be the Mother of God if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, and she gave birth to him! Our Lord’s disciples may not have used those exact words, but they delivered to us the belief those words enshrine, and this has also been taught us by the holy fathers.

In the third book of his work on the holy and consubstantial Trinity, our father Athanasius, of glorious memory, several times refers to the holy Virgin as “Mother of God.” I cannot resist quoting his own words: “As I have often told you, the distinctive mark of holy Scripture is that it was written to make a twofold declaration concerning our Savior; namely, that he is and has always been God, since he is the Word, Radiance and Wisdom of the Father; and that for our sake in these latter days he took flesh from the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and became man.”

Again further on he says: “There have been many holy men, free from all sin. Jeremiah was sanctified in his mother’s womb, and John while still in the womb leaped for joy at the voice of Mary, the Mother of God.” Athanasius is a man we can trust, one who deserves our complete confidence, for he taught nothing contrary to the sacred books.

The divinely inspired Scriptures affirm that the Word of God was made flesh, that is to say, he was united to a human body endowed with a rational soul. He undertook to help the descendants of Abraham, fashioning a body for himself from a woman and sharing our flesh and blood, to enable us to see in him not only God, but also, by reason of this union, a man like ourselves.

It is held, therefore, that there are in Emmanuel two entities, divinity and humanity. Yet our Lord Jesus Christ is nonetheless one, the one true Son, both God and man; not a deified man on the same footing as those who share the divine nature by grace, but true God who for our sake appeared in human form. We are assured of this by Saint Paul’s declaration: When the fullness of time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law and to enable us to be adopted as sons.

As Venerable Cardinal John Henry Newman would say of him,

Cyril was a clear-headed, constructive theologian. He saw what Theodoret did not see. He was not content with anathematizing Nestorius; he laid down a positive view of the Incarnation, which the Universal Church accepted and holds to this day as the very truth of Revelation. It is this insight into, and grasp of the Adorable Mystery, which constitutes his claim to take his seat among the Doctors of Holy Church. And he traced the evil, which he denounced, higher up, and beyond the person and the age of Nestorius. He fixed the blame upon Theodore of the foregoing generation, “the great commentator,” the luminary and pride of the Antiochene school, the master of Theodoret; and he was right, for the exegetical principles of that school, as developed by Theodore, became little less than a system of rationalism.

St. Cyril of Alexandria, pray for us.

For Your YIMC Friday Night at the Movies

It’s the Friday before a long weekend here in the U.S.A. which means it’s time for me to break out a Friday night movie.  Remember those movies I was posting during Lent? I had a great time doing them. I hope you enjoyed them too.
When I went to Mass during lunch today, they had posters up for a viewing of this in the Parish hall on June 16th. Confession time again (never ending for me it seems!), I ‘ve never, ever seen this movie. And from what I hear, that is my loss. Eight Academy Awards?! Dude, what rock have you been living under?
Here is another neat thing about this movie: it’s in black & white.  Did I tell you my children are on vacation from school now? Well they like nothing better than when Dad brings home old, black & white movies that I then force them to watch with me.  Wailing and knashing of teeth, whining, braying, etc. They can’t believe it’s not in color. It’s like the after effects of taking candy away from a baby.
That is, until the credits stop and the singing starts.  And then they are mesmerized and enjoying it.  I can’t wait to drop this one on them tonight. Check out the trailer,
YouTube Preview Image
And who hasn’t heard this famous tune? I mean, with the exception of my children (soon to be remedied).

YouTube Preview Image

Um, er, of course, I had no idea that this is where the song was made famous.  But now I do! So head to your library, or favorite video store and rent this movie and enjoy it with me and my family.  Happy Friday!

For All the Saints: Popes Cletus and Marcellinus

Two Popes of the early Church sit on opposite corners of the portico ceiling of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Today, we celebrate their feast days. The two men served as Popes two centuries apart. What they share is that their pontificates occurred during times of great torture and persecution for professing Christians under Roman rule. Reflecting on the lives of Popes Cletus and Marcellinus puts into perspective the trials the faithful now are facing.


To be a Pope in the first three centuries after Christ was to face the prospect of death by Roman authorities. Pope Cletus was the third pope and reigned from 76 to 88. Marcellinus was Pope from 296 to 304. Cletus, like St. Peter before him, was martyred. Marcellinus himself was not martyred; instead he died a natural death in an era when scores of Christians, including St. George, were murdered for their faith. Thanks be to God, we live in a world where, with a few notable exceptions, Christians are not being killed for their beliefs. But the Church still faces enemies, both in the secular world, as well as from sinners within our own ranks.

The first persecutions of Christians happened in Rome, a generation after Christ, under the reign of Nero. This was several years before Cletus became Pope. The tyrant, who killed his own mother and eventually committed suicide, arrested and tortured Christians in Rome. Some were crucified. Others were burned alive. Their bodies were eaten by dogs. It is stunning to consider that just six years before Cletus became pope, a new Emperor, Titus, destroyed the City of Jerusalem, then the hub of Christianity. Until then, Christians were considered a sect of the Jews. Cletus was a Greek ordained by St. Peter. As Pope, St. Cletus ordained at least 25 priests. Here was a man of great faith who knew the dangers he faced by leading the Church.

As for St. Marcellinus, he died in 304, one year after St. George was martyred during the great Diocletian persecution. During this persecution, Roman authorities confiscated the Callistus Catacomb, which for 100 years had been the official cemetery of the Church of Rome. Martyrs and Popes had been buried there. Christians blocked the main entrances to the catacomb to protect the tombs. It is hard to imagine living and dying in such a time.

Sts. Cletus and Marcellinus’s lives tell us that, as improbable as it seems, the Church is indestructible, no matter the filth within the Church or the attacks from outside Her. We must continue to pray for Pope Benedict XVI, for the children damaged by priest-criminals, and, yes, for the souls of their predators, too.



May your continual pity, O Lord, cleanse and defend Your Church; and, because without you she cannot endure in safety, may she ever be governed by Your bounty. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

Because of Bishops Like This II (A Letter to Parishioners)

A few days ago I shared a post about an allegation of sexual abuse that occurred on April 14th in the diocese my family resides in. I posted the press release of Bishop Richard F. Stika along with the 27-minute-long video of the press conference held the day after the allegation came to light.

Today at all Masses, as promised, a letter by Bishop Stika was read to parishioners after the daily readings. In the case of my parish, our pastor read the letter and, in place of the homily, offered a reflection on this particular incident. He also reflected on how there are actually three victims whenever scandals take place within the ranks of the Church: the victims of the abuse, the innocent priests, and we the faithful.

My pastor mentioned that the victim in this case had expressed surprise and elation that Bishop Stika handled this case so rapidly and thoroughly. He said Mr. Tucker also mentioned in interviews that Bishop Stika’s handling of his case is a model that he sincerely hopes will be followed by others throughout the Church.

Bringing this full circle, then, in the video below, is Bishop Stika reading the letter he composed to his flock.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=11013760&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Bishop Stika’s Letter to all parishes in the Diocese of Knoxville 4-17-2010 from patrick murphy-racey on Vimeo.

Did I mention Bishop Stika has a blog too? Check it out.

Because of Bishops Like This

Yesterday in my hometown, the Bishop held a press conference. There was an allegation of sexual abuse from years past that just came to light.  No doubt the recent events in our Church are giving some victims the courage to speak out about the harm that unfortunately came to them from the most unexpected of places.

What follows are the opening comments of Bishop Richard F. Stika’s announcement to the press. If you have the time (27 minutes approx.) please listen to Bishop Stika as he fields questions from the local press corps. He very candidly and openly discusses the problem of sexual abuse and how these cases are being handled.  If anything, his remarks are an example of the beatitudes in action, justice coupled with mercy woven through and through with Christian charity.

Bishop Stika calls this crime exactly what it is, an abomination. The priest in question is being relieved of all duties, stripped of his vestments and the title of Father.  He will no longer wear the collar. He will be accountable to the civil authorites and like us all, to God. And he states that the paramount concern is for the victim. A letter asking others to come forward if they were victims too will be read at every Mass this Sunday in our diocese. I’ll be preparing to answer my childrens questions on the matter.

Webster once wrote a post Because There Are Good Fathers. Indeed there are, and they are legion.  I’m proud that this Father is my Bishop. But enough of my feeble words. Actions are stronger than words as St. Francis of Assisi proclaimed long ago:  preach the Gospel always, use words when necessary. This is one of those times. Bishop Stika, you have the floor.

I want to thank you all for being here this morning.

Last week when I spoke to the media about the topic of clergy sexual abuse, I was not aware of a credible allegation against any priest in the Diocese of Knoxville.

Knowing how difficult it is for a victim of sexual abuse to come forward, I want to personally thank Mr. Warren Tucker for his courage in bringing this allegation to our attention [on April 14]. I know that SNAP has been working with Mr. Tucker and I appreciate their assistance.

Yesterday morning Mr. Tucker spoke with our Chancellor, Deacon Sean Smith, and a member of our Diocesan Review Board. Mr. Tucker has accused Father Bill Casey, a retired priest of the Diocese of Knoxville, of sexually abusing him while Father Casey was pastor of St. Dominic Church in Kingsport between 1975 and 1980. At that time St. Dominic Church was a part of the Diocese of Nashville.

Following Deacon Smith’s meeting with Mr. Tucker, we immediately adhered to the process outlined in our Policy and Procedure Relating to Sexual Misconduct. This policy is available on our website. I have also spoken with Bishop David Choby in the Diocese of Nashville since this occurred when East Tennessee was part of the Diocese of Nashville.

Last night I met with Father Bill Casey, and he admitted that there is credibility to Mr. Tucker’s statement. Father Casey is ashamed of his actions and truly saddened by the harm he has caused Mr. Tucker, his family, the Church, and its faithful.

Prior to Deacon Smith’s meeting with Mr. Tucker yesterday morning, we had no knowledge of Mr. Tucker’s experiences, and Mr. Tucker can verify that fact. At this time we have still not been notified by McDowell County, N.C., authorities that an investigation has been initiated.

As Bishop of the Catholic Church of East Tennessee, I want to apologize to Mr. Tucker, his family and to anyone else who may have been harmed by Father Casey.

I am sending a letter to all of our parishes to inform the parishioners of these allegations. I will ask that the letters be read aloud at Mass this weekend and inviting any others who may have been harmed to come forward.

Our first concern is for Mr. Tucker, his family, and anyone else who may have been harmed by Father Casey. We want to help him in his healing process in any way we can.

I want to assure you that Father Casey has been removed from ministry and will never again function as a priest in the Catholic Church.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=10955566&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1
Press Conference, The Diocese of Knoxville, April 15, 2010, Bishop Richard F. Stika from patrick murphy-racey on Vimeo.

For Your Good Friday Night at the Movies

We are safely back on the ground. We picked up a nice tailwind after we launched off of the Abraham Lincoln last Saturday. This development is putting us ahead of schedule. The electricians on Ol’ Abe replaced the faulty Fire Warning sensor on the starboard engine without a hitch. With that favorable wind, we landed last night before our logistics train made it to our forward base of operations.

So what am I saying? I’m saying we have no food, except what little we had in the cockpit with us. We’ve got lots of water though.  Now, since it’s Good Friday, that’s really not such bad news. The AWACS up in the sky informs us that the rest of the squadron will be here tomorrow.

The good news?  We’ve got the hangar all to ourselves and Webster had tonight’s film stashed in our baggage tank. As such, we’ve taken the liberty of setting up the screen for tonight’s movie right here in the hangar bay after dinner. (I’ve got an apple, Webster has some Fig Newtons, bring what you have to share!) Is it right to even watch a movie on Good Friday? I ran it by the chaplain over at mainside and he said that, given our selection, it wouldn’t be wrong. If you care to join us, it is the 1965 classic The Greatest Story Ever Told. 

Starring Max von Sydow as Jesus, Charlton Heston as John the Baptist, and an all-star cast. This family-friendly movie takes us through the life of Christ from his baptism, ministry, death and resurrection. As the good folks over at IMDb say,

“My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?”It is towards this climactic crossroads that the story of Jesus of Nazareth leads, and to which, at the final moment, it again looks back in triumphant retrospect. It is the anguishing crossroads where the eternal questions of faith and doubt become resolved.

Have a look at the trailer, and we hope to see you in the hangar bay at 20:00 for “chow” and 21:00 for the film. Webster, Allison, and I invite you to enjoy the film and have a blessed Easter weekend.  As always, we appreciate your support, and thank you for flying YIMC Airlines.

Because this Prophecy of David Is Fulfilled

The Psalms were a book in the Bible that I pretty much ignored my whole life. I was baptized when I was 10 years old and thought I knew a lot about my faith. I have known Psalm 23 by heart probably since I was 7 or 8.  But it wasn’t until I began exploring the idea of becoming a Catholic Christian, and reading the Psalms closely that I realized that David was not only a mighty warrior and king, but a prophet as well.  

Case in point, Psalm 22.  Clearly David, to whom God promised “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever” (2 Samuel 7:16), was a witness to the scene that played out on Golgotha, and (thankfully) what comes after. In case those looking on didn’t make the connection, Our Lord cries out the first line while on the cross; “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?'(Mk 15:34; cf. Mt 27:46) 

Psalm 22

God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
The words that I groan do not reach my saviour.
My God, I call by day and you do not listen.
I call to you by night, but no rest comes.
But still you are holy,
the one whom Israel praises.
Our fathers put their hope in you;
they gave you their trust and you freed them.
They called on you and they were saved,
they trusted and were not disappointed.

But I am a worm and no man,
despised by mankind and rejected by the people.
All who see me deride me,
they make faces and toss their heads:
“He trusted in the Lord, so let the Lord rescue him:
let him save him, if he truly delights in him!”
Indeed, you drew me from my mother’s womb,
you set me to suck at her breasts.
I have depended on you since before I was born,
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

Do not be far from me now,
for my tribulation is close at hand,
for there is no-one who will help.
I am surrounded by many cattle,
the bulls of Bashan hem me in.
Their mouths open wide before me,
like a fierce and roaring lion.
I have flowed away like water,
and all my bones come apart.
My heart has turned to wax,
it melts away within me.

My mouth is dry as burnt clay,
my tongue sticks in my throat:
you have laid me in the dust of death.
I am surrounded by many dogs,
my enemies unite and hem me in.
They have pierced my hands and my feet:
I can count all my bones.
They gaze on me, they inspect me.
They have divided my clothing between them,
they have cast lots for my garment.

So you, Lord, do not stay away:
Lord, my strength, hurry to my help.
Rescue my soul from the sword,
my only child from the teeth of the dogs.
Save me from the lion’s mouth,
from the wild oxen’s horns that brought me low.
I will tell of your glory to my brethren;
I will praise you in the midst of the assembly.
Praise the Lord, you who fear him!
Give him glory, all the seed of Jacob.
Let Israel tremble before him,
for he does not spurn the poor or ignore their plight.

He does not turn his face away –
whoever calls on him, he listens.
I shall cry out your praise in the great assembly,
I shall fulfil my vows before all those who fear you.
The poor will eat and be filled,
those who seek the Lord will praise him.
“Let their hearts live for ever!”
All the ends of the earth will remember the Lord:
they will turn to him.

All the families of nations will worship before him.
For the Lord’s is the kingdom,
it is he who will rule all the nations.
Him alone will they praise, those who sleep in the earth;
they will worship before him, who go down into the dust.
But my soul will be alive to him,
and my seed shall serve him.
They shall tell of the Lord to the next generation,
they shall proclaim his righteousness to a people yet to be born.
“Hear what the Lord has done!”

In an audience given in 1988, Pope John Paul II explains the fulfillment of this scripture clearly.

Because I Am Usually Howling with the Mob

During these terrible days, when so many are saying so much so loudly against and in favor of our Church, and especially its leader, our dear Pope Benedict XVI, it is hard to stand apart from the mob—the one howling in protest, or the one trying desperately to shout them down. We are all standing along the Way of the Cross, jeering the scourged Christ or bewailing his persecution. How can we possibly be different? How can we change?

This is the question we have been addressing for the past two weeks in our School of Community (local membership of Communion and Liberation): Is it possible for me, as a Christian, to be fundamentally changed by my religious experience? Or is Christianity just something “added onto” me, like a picture in my wallet, or the leavings of a course I took in school years ago?

Can my experience of Christ be so convincing that I can resist even the pull of the mob—whether they are welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem with palms or goading him angrily up Golgotha?

In his homily last night, Father Barnes addressed this question. He said memorably that the only thing that can prepare us for the sounds of Good Friday—the curses, the shouts, the lamentations—is the silence in the Upper Room and the three gifts Christ leaves us here. The gifts, he told us, are charity (symbolized by Christ washing his Apostles’ feet), the Eucharist, and the priesthood, which Jesus instituted among the Twelve at the Last Supper, or among the Eleven who stood by him, though even some of them fell asleep.

I sang with the choir at the beautiful seven o’clock mass, and then a few of us stayed behind, seated before the Blessed Sacrament. Finally, at a few minutes before ten, we stood with Father Barnes for Compline, then silently left the church.

I will be thinking more about Christ’s three gifts as Katie and I fly to North Carolina this morning to see our daughter received into the Church. Even tomorrow evening’s Easter Vigil, as beautiful and touching as it will be, begs the question—Does this have the power to change me? Or will I be shouting with the mob again on Monday morning?