Thanks to Our Ace

Thanks to Our Ace January 6, 2010

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.

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