Because of Minor Miracles III (zzzzz)

At the beginning of January, I started a series of posts about this blog, how it began and evolved. I wrote three pieces about it, this one, this one, and this one. Then I went to sleep. Maybe you did too. But with Allison joining Frank and me this weekend, and with a new format up and running (spiffy, no?), I think this blog has finally reached a form to stick with for a while. So let me wrap this up.

I think I left off with:

Chapter 5 — The Crazy Marine from the Old South Who May Be An Angel or Something
That would be Frank Weathers. As I’ve written somewhere, YIM Catholic was only a couple of months old when I started receiving e-mail blasts from somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon line. When I paid attention, I was vaguely aware that they were from a “retired Marine” living in Tennessee. I figured “retired” meant ancient and “Tennessee” meant too much moonshine. Wrong on both counts. 

It turned out Frank was in his mid-40s, very knowledgeable, a convert like me, and a good writer to boot. I asked him to write a guest post and he wrote two, in an hour. About this time (Thanksgiving 2009), I was looking for help, divine or human, it didn’t matter. I felt tired writing alone each day and lonely (exposed to my own ignorance and readers’ reactions to it). I’m only half joking calling Frank an angel. I’m not sure what his former Drill Instructor would have said and don’t care.

The chemistry of the blog changed at once when I asked Frank to join and he agreed. It was fun again, and readers were picking up on the fun. I learned a whole new vocabulary. Frank was “covering my six” as YIMC’s co-pilot. He called me “Mav,” I called him “Merlin,” both “Top Gun” references. And he peppered me with the occasional “Bravo Zulu!” and “dumb civilian!”

Was this why I had started YIM Catholic? Absolutely not. Except that I had come to two conclusions: (1) I had run the table on all the reasons why I had become a Catholic, and (2) if this blog was going to continue it would have to transcend “Webster Bull.” I’m not the only Catholic in the world with good reasons to be one.

Chapter 6 — Building a Community
I read a piece on successful blogs about this time. It made several important points. One was, you’re better off finding people to help, especially writers. Check, I had Frank. Another point was, build a community. Interact with your readers. Comment on their comments. Understand what they want to see on your blog, or rather what they expect to see from your blog because only you can do it best, then do that.

I think we’ve been periodically successful sticking to this theme. We still fire off in all directions, and I suppose that’s one of the charming things about this space. But we definitely have made friends (and maybe a few enemies), and the friends have formed a community, at least in our own minds. When Warren Jewell doesn’t comment—or guest post—for a few days, we wonder where and how he is. When I get up in the morning, I look for Maria’s comments, because she seems to be up all night and very often has valuable things to say. We have friends with strange monikers, like Mujerlatina, EPG, and newguy40. I wouldn’t recognize any of them on the street, but we’d miss them if they didn’t come around now and then.

Blogging takes me outside my parish, outside my demographic, into the Universal Catholic Church (how about that Moses in Malaysia or Rose in India?). Come to think of it, the Universal Catholic Church is probably the first worldwide virtual community, dating to the year 33.

Chapter 7 — Yikes, It’s a Girl!
Which brings us to this weekend, when Allison Salerno has agreed to join Frank and me in a sort of unholy trinity of Catholic bloggers who love being Catholic. As the line at the top of this page suggests, this blog sometimes has had the sound and smell of a men’s locker room, what with all the towel-snapping and Bravo Zuluing and whatnot. Allison dared to barge in. What a fine writer! She is a cradle Catholic, unlike Frank and me. She is the mother of boys. I am the father of girls. Frank is father to both. We balance each other in many useful ways.

Furthermore, we all agree that there are more than enough Catholic blogs that obsess over politics, and we don’t want to be another. We all agree that what we do here is unlikely to make any of us a penny richer, and we agree that we don’t care. We agree that we love being Catholic—in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Tennessee, or wherever we happen to be going to Mass—and we want people to share the love. Furthermore, we’re all in the Eastern Time Zone.

Personally, I believe that the best thing a Catholic can do to evangelize is not to argue with anyone but rather to pray, go to Mass, aim for holiness, and smile along the way. That’s what we seem to be doing here, with maybe some question about the holiness. Hang around, won’t you?

FOOTNOTE: Pardon the seemingly presumptous image of the Holy Family at the head of this post about Allison, Frank, and me. No, Allison is not Mary, and I’m not Jesus. But I have learned that you can’t go wrong with St. Joseph.  May the Holy Family bless our efforts here below.

Because the Catholic Liturgy is More Evocative than the Most Graphic Film

Once you love a book, you’ll seldom like the movie based on it. That’s why I am impressed with Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films: they are surprisingly close to my own imagination of them! That’s also why I was moved by the liturgy for Passion Sunday today. Because I had seen “The Passion of the Christ” again on Friday evening, and the film pales in comparison with the liturgy. Sorry, Mel.

It helped that I experienced today’s liturgy twice: once at 8:15 as a reader of the Passion according to Luke and at 10:30 as a singer in the choir. And it probably helped that I am on the brink of geezerhood—tired of graphic violence and with a heart opened, now and then, to the presence of Christ, not in history, not up there in every bleeding pixel on the IMAX screen, but here, now, in my church, in my life, in my heart.

Christ was present at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church today.

The Passion (Palm) Sunday liturgy may have been enacted in your church as it was in mine, with the priest at the rear saying the opening prayers, followed by the Gospel reading about Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. Then there was a procession up the aisle, reenacting that moment awesome to think of, when the people who would scream “Crucify him!” only a few days later knelt and laid cloaks in the mud before Him, as He rode in. Willingly He came, knowing the destiny that was riding to meet Him. It is a vignette with so much to ponder, to digest, to be grateful for—and here it was, being enacted, incarnated in our midst: with little girls in bonnets clutching bunches of palm fronds and old serious men looking seriously on.

Even the fact that we had our frequent guest priest, Father Hennessey, at 8:15 and our pastor, Father Barnes, at 10:30 made the reality of Christ’s presence more vivid. There are always differences of presentation when you change priests: one has a deeper voice, the other speaks more quickly—like watching two different film versions of the Passion, one with James Caviezel as Christ (above), one with Max von Sydow (below). These differences are irrelevant to the story, the reality, the Presence of Christ.

Two years ago right now, I was on the verge of being received into the Church. Ferde was become my big brother and unofficial sponsor in the Church. Today at 8:15, just two years later, don’t ask me how or why, I was reading Luke’s story of the Passion with Ferde. I was reader #1, Ferde reader #2, and Father Hennessey read the words of Christ.

Then at 10:30, with Father Barnes presiding below, I was wedged into the rear left corner of the choir loft singing Isaac Watts’s “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” with my fellow choir members.

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

And so on for two more verses. Hollywood doesn’t write scripts like that. They steal them and turn them into bludgeons for the blind, deaf, and dumb, meaning you and me, brothers and sisters. When all they really have to do is to say that Jesus, knowing he faced mortal danger, rode straight toward it, and for us. It happened today, in the center aisle of St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, and probably in your church as well.

Thanks Only to the Embrace of Christ

I continue to write about Communion and Liberation (CL) because it continues to be central to my life as a Catholic Christian. The monthly magazine of CL is Traces, and the April issue carries a powerful editorial on recent revelations of abuse in Ireland and the Pope’s response to them. If you have not yet read the Pope’s letter, it is here. What follows is the response in Traces:

Greater than Sin
There would be much to discuss about the events that led Benedict XVI to write his Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, and we could do this by starting from the facts, the numbers, and the data which, if looked at attentively, reveal a reality much less enormous than appears from the ferocious media campaign. Or we could start from the contradictions of those who, in the same newspaper, denounce certain wicked deeds, but after a few pages justify everything and everybody, especially in matters of sex. We could do this, and perhaps it would help to understand the context of a Church really under attack, whatever its errors may be. Only the Pope’s humble and courageous gesture pointed attention toward the heart of the question.

Clearly there is a wound, a very serious one, one of the kind that provoked Christ (and his vicars, too) to use fiery words (“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”)

There is filth in the Church. Joseph Ratzinger himself said so during the Way of the Cross at the Coliseum five years ago, shortly before being elected Pope and, realistically, he has never stopped recalling the fact since. Sin is there, grave sin. Evil is there, along with the abyss of pain that evil carries with it, and everything possible has to be done, and with firmness, to stem the evil and to make amends for that pain. The Pope is already doing this, and his letter reiterates it strongly when it asks the guilty to “answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals.”

This is precisely why the true heart of the question, the forgotten focus, lies elsewhere. Alongside all the limitations and within the Church’s wounded humanity, is there or is there not something greater than sin, something radically greater than sin? Is there something that can shatter the inexorable weight of our evil? Something that, as the Pope writes, “has the power to forgive even the greatest of sins, and to bring forth good even from the most terrible evil?”

“This is the point: God was moved by our nothingness,” Fr. Giussani said in the phrase quoted on the CL Easter Poster. “Not only that. God was moved by our betrayal, by our crude, forgetful, and treacherous poverty, by our pettiness. . . . It’s compassion, pity, passion. He had pity on me.” This is what the Church brings to the world, and certainly not because of its members’ merit, goodness, or even less because of their coherence: God’s compassion for our pettiness, something greater than our limitations, the only thing infinitely greater than our limitations. If we don’t start from here, we cannot understand at all; everything goes mad, literally.

We, too, have had moments when we have dodged that compassion, and run away from it. At times, it is in the Church itself that faith is reduced to ethics and morality is reduced to an impossible lonely recourse to laws, as if the need of that embrace were something to be ashamed of. But if we forget Christ, if we do away with the wholly different measure that He introduces into the world now, through the Church, then we no longer have the terms on which to judge the Church.

Then it becomes easy to mistake attention for the victims and regard for their history for a conniving silence, and prudence toward the guilty parties, true or presumed—perhaps accused on the basis of rumors emerging after decades—for the will to “cover up” (sadly it has sometimes been the case). Then it is almost inevitable to keep arguing about celibacy without even touching on the real value of virginity. And it becomes impossible to understand why the Church can be hard and motherly at the same time with the priests who go wrong. It can punish them severely and ask them to serve their sentence and make amends for the evil (it has already done so in the past, and will always do so), but without snapping, if possible, that thread that binds them, because it is the only thing that can redeem them. It can ask its children to “be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect, not so as to demand of them an impossible irreprehensibilty, but so as to remind them of a tension to live the same mercy with which God embraces us (“be merciful as your heavenly father is merciful”).

This is why the Church can educate, which, in the end, is the real question being challenged by those who are accusing it (“See, even the priests do wrong, and badly wrong. How can we trust them with our children?”) as if the Church’s being teacher all depended on the behavior of her children, and not on Christ, on that presence which—amidst all the errors and horrors committed—makes possible in the world an embrace like that of Chagall’s Prodigal Son which appears on the Easter Poster. There, alongside Fr. Giussani’s phrase, there is another, by Benedict XVI: “Conversion to Christ ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need—the need of His forgiveness and His friendship.”

This is the embrace of Christ, in our wounded and needy humanity, far greater than the evil we can do. If the Church, with all its limitations, had not this to offer to the world, even to the victims of those barbarities, then we would be lost. Because the evil would still be there, but it would be impossible to overcome it.

The Bat is Out of the Bag

OK, that didn’t take long. Our big announcement scheduled for 0500 hours on Sunday has already been scooped—by commenters, by EWTN, by Fox News—golly, the whole world knows. Someone even preempted our press schedule and posted a picture in the column to the left. (Who could that have been?) Yes, Allison Salerno, a.k.a. Batgirl, has joined the YIMC team, making us an unholy trinity. We thought we’d share our first official team picture:

Because We Don’t Sing Alleluia and Then We Do

Post by Allison  
My parish choir’s alto section – all two of us – came a half hour early Thursday night to rehearsal to work with our music director on Georg Friedrich Händel’s Hallelujah Chorus. As we sang, with our church enveloped in darkness and the world outside dark too, I realized being able to sing Alleluia – which means Praise God – is one of the reasons I am Catholic.

This Lent has been a long and lonely time for my soul. We Catholics do not sing or say Alleluia during this penitential season. Some Christian friends who attend non-liturgical churches do not understand why Catholics observe 40 days of Lent and then the 50-day Easter season. The rhythms of the Church’s calendar help me to understand the drama of salvation.

As for Händel’s Messiah, I’ve been singing and hearing it since childhood. I think of it as one of my personal theme songs. It was almost an anthem for my public high-school chorus and my parents sang Messiah in various choral groups. How I am looking forward to singing it with my fellow choristers at Easter Vigil after we have traveled together through Lent! Easter, in which we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection, doesn’t makes sense without Lent. Without understanding deprivation, we cannot understand salvation. Without the sorrow of Christ’s suffering, our Easter joy is meaningless. Our church was dark Thursday night except for a light in the choir loft. As I surveyed the darkened sanctuary below, with its veiled statues and crucifix, I could see only the candle burning in front of the tabernacle. The light of salvation like this, too.

When we are unbelieving, our world can be dark and desolate. Yet God is always with us. We are heading into the most solemn and holy week in the Christian calendar. We journey with Jesus to Calvary and we do so with the assurance He is risen. For a sneak peak at what will be celebrated next Saturday evening at a Catholic church near you, check out this clip

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Because We’re Having Too Much Fun Here

Synchronize watches, YIMC-ers! We have a big announcement scheduled for 0500 hours on Passion Sunday. That would be tomorrow. You don’t want to miss this. No, it has nothing to do with immigrants. Or scandal. Or soccer. Itching to find out? Desperate to know? Can’t wait another second? Well, we’ll give you a hint, but we’re betting you’ll never guess. . . .
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For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies VI

10.000 feet still? What the heck just happened! Ladies and gentlemen, don’t be alarmed. The last time I spoke to you I had said that we would be cruising at 10,000 feet again this week. Instead Webster and I had to land this puppy due to a fire warning light on our starboard engine.

How’d you like the landing? Webster and I really get a kick out of carrier landings (and take-offs too)! YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-HAW! Oh, and one of the ground crew took a video of our landing too.  Check it out!

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Wow, look at that horizon move.  Ain’t this grand! What’s that? Pass the Dramamine?! You mean you’re not interested in tonight’s meal selection? But Webster checked with the galley here on the good ship Abraham Lincoln and they have prepared a cornucopia of Lenten feast selections for the crew (and now us too)!  Seriously, the whole mess is opened for us with everything from Grilled Swordfish Steaks to Fish Tacos, and all points in between. Webster and I are on flight status so we can’t imbibe, but we hear the slop-shute is open to the rest of you.

As the crack ground crew chases electrons to track down the gremlin that set off that fire warning light, the other aviators on Ol’ Abe have set up a screen in the ready room so we can all enjoy tonight’s movie selection together.  Guess what? It has a Navy captain and a nun as the lead characters! How appropriate! Yep, The Sound of Music. Webster is giving me some guff because he knows I never saw this movie until 2002 (hush—wait until he finds out I’ve never seen A Man For All Seasons!) Anyway, here is the trailer, and thanks again for flying YIM Catholic Airlines!

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Because of the Seven Last Words

Guest post by Warren Jewell
I have five Crucifixes on my walls. They represent my favorite icon of my God, as Son and Savior, as Brother and Servant. In my suffering of one thing and another, the Crucifix reminds me just how much suffering God Himself bore for me. No simple cross, without a corpus, is enough, for a simple cross is but a marker, as in a graveyard. The Cross is His most evocative throne. Now, you tell me: what good is the throne without the King?

In praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of my Rosary one day, I was reminded in the last mystery, of Jesus, God and man and our Christ, humbly accepting His sin-conquering Crucifix and lovingly sacrificial death, of the last words of Jesus from His cross. It struck me just how forgiving He is that He would so suffer for us to save us from our sins. His words came to me as not just as summation of His loving life among us, but actual words in immediacy of absolving us from our sins. So, read on about Jesus’ seven last acts of absolution. Oh, and yes, permitting the Crucifix to remind you: “Go, and sin no more.” (One reason that wherever I look I see the Crucifix!)

Of course, Jesus’ first very memorable words are “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) They are addressed to His heavenly Father about us lost in our world in absurd madness of our sins – so much as to fail to recognize Jesus – Jeshua – Whose very Name means “God is with us”. So, even in the fresh agonies and horror of accepting crucifixion, Jesus thinks of us, all of us, first; to absolve us for not recognizing Him, and our greatest sin of taking the giving human life of our very loving God.

Look closely upon that good thief, Dismas: And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43) The very King of glory, as Dismas saw and acknowledged, and of Whom he begged for forgiveness, addresses absolution to Dismas – and, what an absolution! “You die a thief; you will live again, and forever, a saint.” That very day the thief who stole heaven would enter accompanied by very God made man. Christ with Dismas shows us that we can die in unimaginable, unmentionable suffering, some of which is ignominy, and yet have absolution that we can live forever. We can beg in prayer much as Dismas did: (Remember me, my Lord, in Your love; absolve me of my sins and take me Home with You.)

Can our good Lord be any plainer in His absolution than to give us His holy Mother, Mary, as our holy Mother? The exact words seem to indicate He looked for her, and to her and John, to do just that, to so absolve us as give us to her, and her to us. When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26-27) Mary as our holy Mother powerfully symbolizes all the love Christ invests in us in giving us our other Holy Mother, His Church, through His Spirit. Mother Mary lived among us to tell us: “See? You need not sin!” Mother Church lives on and on to tell us: “Ah, but you will sin; and I am here to offer you Jesus’ absolution.” In our Holy Mother, Christ’s Church, the gentle father who is our pastor is in his confessional, of daily absolution from Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who waits, beckons, exhorts, calls, and answers our repentance with His absolution.

“I thirst.” (John 19:28) These words were as signal touchstone to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Christ so thirsts for our souls living with Him forever, He calls out to us: “Quench My thirst by accepting the graces of My salvation.” More than just an offer, it is His absolution for us as His desire. “Come – follow Me – let Me forgive you – I will absolve you – I will save you – I have always loved and will always love you – I thirst to love you, and for your love for Me.” How can we resist responding with our own prayer: (O my Savior, I thirst for You, now and forever, and seek Your Way from out of Your absolution. In Your Way, grant me every grace to follow You to Your end in glory.)

Then, the most terrible instant in all time: all sin has been taken on by Jesus Christ, and God His Father, though never less than completely loving, simply must glance away from His sin-laden Son. In this greatest anguish, so vital that two evangelists relate the event, Christ prays Psalm 22, and cries out: “E’lo-i, E’lo-i, la’ma sabach-tha’ni?”“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 22:46, Mark 15:34) Jesus is never so close to us as in this moment, when He so embraces us in loving absolution that He takes all the penalty of guilt for our sins upon Himself – our most giving, sacrificing, absolving Brother. (And who of us would not appreciate having the King of kings as our Brother?) It is the paramount moment when all of heaven shares in His anguish over sin. (O, my God, forsake me not to my sins and death as result of my sins. I beg of You in Your love to have mercy, forgive me, absolve me. And, lead on that I follow You with my own cross.)

His absolution is our Lord’s completion of our repentance, as Jesus tells us when He declares from His Crucifix that “It is finished.” (John 19:30) We cannot forgive ourselves so completely as Christ can; maybe, not at all until He absolves us. His absolution is complete and His loving mission to absolve us is ‘finished’ in saving us by His Crucifix, giving His human Body and Blood and bringing His Soul and Divinity for us.

Jesus, our Christ, gives us His last act of absolution in turning us over to our most loving Father in heaven. He prays, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.” (Luke 23:46) He offers us with Himself, and offers us as His and our Father’s children who are given absolution so easily now, by faith and repentance out of hope and love.

No, there is never a ‘wrong time’ to look to Christ in His passionate Crucifixion. But, don’t let killing Him as He chose and willed for us to do to Him, to be able to have and accept salvation, go to waste. He calls you and me to repentance, confession and absolution from His very Cross, and in His last words. As well, accept His suffering as His demonstration that He knows suffering, your suffering, and can help you through your suffering to share His Resurrection with Him. You see, Jesus Christ, Son of God, loves no one more than He loves you and wants you Home with Him forever.

Because Nothing Matters, Until Everything Does

Allison recently wrote a good post about soccer and sports. I want to be clear: This is not a rebuttal to her post. I agree with much of what she had to say in that post, and with many of the comments as well. But forget sports, school work, home work, our careers, our relationships, our involvement in society, our intelligence, our physical gifts or impediments for a second. None of it matters unless our love of Christ is the center of our existence. For as Qoheleth says in Ecclesiastes, all is vanity. However, when we are Christ centered people, then everything matters.

You may remember from an earlier post that I hinted that I am a gearhead. I willfully dismantled a perfectly good engine in my Mustang in an effort to make it better, stronger, faster. I did this before I became a Catholic. I have always had an interest in motors, engines, airplanes, trucks, etc. I was just born with this attraction and with mechanical ability. So, new exhaust manifolds, intake manifold, cylinder heads, fuel injectors, camshaft—all were removed and replaced in my driveway with hand tools and moxie back in 1999.

Just to see if I still could, I swapped the cylinder heads on the motor again in 2002 (after my near brush with death). And actually, I had blown a head gasket and took that incident as an opportunity to add ported and polished heads.  That is an example of clear, focused, gearhead thinking for you. In 2005, I drove this car 2100 miles across the country from California to our new home. She is a runner and one spirited pony. And none of this matters for my salvation. That is, until it did.

A few months after our move, she (cars are feminine) broke down and I couldn’t figure out the problem. I started her up one day and she was running really rough. I opened the hood, checked the spark-plug wires, fuel injectors, sensors, etc. All was fine. But still, the motor had a wicked shimmy and was seemingly trying to tear herself off the motor mounts. Have I lost you with all the gearhead jargon? Sorry. Long story short, I put the pony to pasture for a while because I was busy with other chores, like building a stair-case and contemplating swimming the Tiber.

Eventually (over a year later) I finished the home improvement projects and decided to tackle the engine problem again. Knowing my limitations though, I took it to a professional. I learned early on that throwing money and personal labor at problems a professional can diagnose quicker and cheaper is silly. The problem? The harmonic balancer was slipping off the crankshaft key.

The balancer is a big counterweight that dampens the vibrations in the mechanical workings of an internal combustion engine. It probably went a little off kilter when I swapped the camshaft, and eventually it manifested itself as a wicked shimmy. See this photograph? The balancer is that thingy that looks like a wheel on the end of the crankshaft. Without the balancer, centered perfectly on the crankshaft, the engine will tear itself apart. With the balancer in place, the engine will run smoothly.

At the time my car’s motor broke, I was wrestling with my practice of Christianity. I knew that up to this time in my life, Christ definitely had not been the center of my existence. I had pushed him way out on the periphery. Of course, by doing that, the big counterweight that should have been my center was removed. Thus all the other moving parts in my life were vying for the central position. As a result, I was running as rough as my Mustang motor had been with the broken balancer. So this idea popped into my gearhead–Joe Sixpack mind: Christ is our harmonic balancer.

The idea of having Christ at our center isn’t mine, it is God’s. And this handy little diagram isn’t my idea either. But until the motor in my Mustang broke, I didn’t really “get” the ramifications of not having Christ as the center. This incident with the harmonic balancer was when theory and practical application came together for me. It is why I understand that putting sports, or anything else for that matter, at the center of your life instead of Christ will lead to oblivion.

Is this the shortest parable on record? I don’t really know, and truthfully, I haven’t checked. If it isn’t, though, it’s close.
The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is recorded as having said this in the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 13). And there we all are as Catholics and Christians—yeast to be mixed in with the flour of the rest of the world so that the mixture is leavened and the loaf can rise. In the same Gospel, while giving His Sermon on the Mount He also says,
You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
The Desert Fathers chucked everything and headed into the desert to pray and wait. I don’t have that option because I was called to be a father and a husband. And I understand that I am called to put Christ first in my life. I have found the Catholic Church to be the place where I can do this most effectively. And all of my God-given talents and abilities are to be put to good use and for His greater glory. The same is true for my wife and our children.
So be it sports, school work, home work, careers, relationships, involvement as citizens, our intelligence, our physical gifts or impediments, et cetera, et cetera, with Christ in his rightful and central place in our lives, everything we do, or think, or say, matters for our salvation.
Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War was not a Catholic or a Christian. Heck, he couldn’t have been because he lived in China around 500 BC. But I think he would have made a good Catholic Christian and he would understand where his loyalties must lie as a disciple of the True King. Note this saying of his,
The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.
The same is true for us privates and gearheads too.

Because We Welcome Immigrants

Guest post by Allison 
Because my own family has roots in both Latin America and Europe, it has been painful for me to hear some Catholic friends tell me how they fear the influx of Latinos into their churches. I wish these fellow travelers could have come with me and my son Friday night when we visited Saint Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in Princeton, New Jersey, for Spanish Stations of Cross.

As part of their CCD programs, our sons must attend two Stations of the Cross during Lent. For our older son, this has been tough. Friday nights find Gabriel at rehearsal with a regional orchestra based in Princeton, 20 miles from our own parish. Now we’re running out of Fridays in Lent.

So last Friday, after Gabriel’s rehearsal, he and I headed over to St. Paul’s on Nassau Street across from Princeton University for Spanish Stations of the Cross, which started at 8. This proved to be one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever have had inside a Catholic church.

I’m a lifelong Catholic. I never witnessed such a level of devotion among teenagers, or such a young demographic attending Stations of the Cross.

St. Paul’s in Princeton was founded in 1847 in response to the many immigrants who settled in the area. It is staying true to its mission. The Latino population in Princeton Borough is growing, primarily with immigrants from southern Mexico and Guatemala. Ten years ago, 8 percent of borough residents were Latino, a percentage that has increased in the intervening years.  

Arriving a little before 8, Gabriel and I found a spot in the pews and said some prayers while we waited for the Stations to begin. By 8, at least 50 people had gathered in the large church. Unlike my home parish, where Stations of the Cross draws mostly senior citizens, virtually all of these worshipers were ages 30 and under, including many families with young children. (By the way, more than half of all Catholics in the United States under the age of 25 are Latino.)

We discovered that the parish’s Spanish-language youth group was hosting the Stations that night. 

A cluster of teen-aged girls gathered at the ambo and read from the script while another group of teens and young adults sang on the other side of the altar. A third group, teen-aged boys, reverently led a procession of worshipers around to the 14 Stations. One boy held a large wooden cross and two others held white candles. We worshipers followed them, singing, kneeling and praying at each station as we recalled the Crucifixion. After we completed the Stations, worshipers knelt in their pews for prayer. 

At various times before, during, and after the Stations, several teens spontaneously knelt on the hard marble floor of the Church, praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Never have I seen such a spontaneous expression of devotion—not in my parish growing up and not in the parish we now attend. 

At the end, we all prayed El Padre Nuestro and El Ave María. Then a nun who was helping shepherd the worshippers around the sanctuary said a special prayer for the teens. In more direct language than I have heard for years in a Catholic Church, she asked God to keep them safe—from sex before marriage, from drugs and from violence. 

Even those who profess great faith can ignore the Holy Spirit and become distracted by fears and anxieties about newcomers in the pews. Recently, in our home parish, I have heard unfounded fears that by becoming more welcoming to Latino families, say, by offering confession in Spanish, we might: attract gangs, foster heterodoxy, and promote socialism.

One of the beauties and strengths of the U.S. Catholic Church, however, is that we always have been the church of immigrants— welcoming first worshippers from Europe and now the faithful from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.”


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