September 28, 2007


After I started preaching regularly when I was first ordained deacon, I never listened to a homily the same way again. Once I was a preacher myself, I would be listening not only to the homily, but examining its strategies and structures, rhetorical seams and logics.

Well, yesterday I went to confession for the first time as a priest myself, and now that has changed too! I found myself not only listening to the priest as a penitent, but also as a priest who was interested in how my confessor approached the "sacramental dialogue."

I guess it's good confirmation, as my textbook on how to hear confessions says that the best way to become a good confessor is to be a good penitent.

September 24, 2007


This past weekend I gave communion to an extraordinary number of children. On Saturday there was a large outdoor Mass in celebration of the bicentennial of our archdiocese. I was placed at a communion station where there were a lot of children from one of the local parish schools. On Sunday we had a Mass for the alumni of our own parish grade school, and a choir of children did the singing.

It's really a remarkable theological proclamation, if you think about, to have these small, shy, vulnerable, and often bewildered looking people come before you and to proclaim them "the Body of Christ."

This humility of God, it's not just beautiful and edifying; it's pretty subversive too.

September 20, 2007

Communion of Saints

The day of my ordination, my formation director gave me this advice: "Just keep the communion of saints in mind; it's the only way this makes sense."

So I've tried. It comes to me especially when I am speaking the Lord's words over the chalice:
Take this, all of you, and drink from it.
This is the cup of my blood.
the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.
It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me.

I think of Jesus himself, knowing he was to die so horribly the next day, and how he wanted to help his disciples understand what it meant, his death, "according to the Scriptures."

Then I think of all the martyrs who shed their blood for the truth, consecrating it into the blood of the body of Christ. And I don't just think of the martyrs we remember in the calendar, but of everyone who gives themselves for others.

Finally I think of the priests in the line of the laying on of hands that ended with me, especially Cardinal O'Malley, Pius X, Clement XIII, and Benedicts XIV and XIII.

September 17, 2007


The feast of the Sacred Stigmata of Francis is one of my favorites. For me, it's a feast that affirms the mystery of the Cross as so much more than a terrible event in the life of one historical human being, Jesus of Nazareth.

Through God's identification with this one life, the Cross becomes God's response to all human suffering and com-passion. And for all of the violence and hurt heaped upon God through Christ crucified, nothing comes back but the forgiveness and new life of the Resurrection.

To identify with Christ crucified is not just for stigmatics like Francis. It is for all of us to look through our limitation and pain, to see God suffering in our humanity, and to get a glimpse of Resurrected destiny.

September 14, 2007

Ordo Missae

One of the coolest presents I received for ordination was a third typical edition Roman Missal. You know, the one from which we have the famous "new GIRM" but for which we do not yet have a translation of the Mass itself.

So now, of course, I want to use it, but I will need at least one person to make the responses. To this end I've made a "worship aid" that has all the Latin responses.

If anyone else could use it, I can send it to you.

September 11, 2007


It is quite an experience beginning to preside at the Eucharist. My only idea of what it would be like to celebrate my first Masses was from reading Thomas Merton's experiences in The Sign of Jonas. Needless to say, my experience was a little different.

My first Mass felt like some kind of surreal dream. Not that I wasn't very grateful, but it had a kind of feast of fools feel to it: there I was, the most junior priest of all, presiding in front of my provincial, my formation director, and many senior friars, one of whom just celebrated 70 years of priesthood. I felt like the little child that Jesus put in the midst of his disciples.

Today, at my third Mass, I was finally able to really pray the prayers. Thanks be to God!

September 9, 2007

Apostolic Succession

One of my classmates in the Order calls me a "church nerd." So I guess it was in that spirit that this morning, when I woke up as a priest for the first time, I looked up the episcopal lineage of my ordination.

And I was pleased to discover that, from my ordination, it was only seven steps back to Pope St. Pius X.

September 6, 2007

Being an Event Planner

It's not easy to get ordained. Dealing with Saturday's big event has been a full-time job the last couple of days. Music rehearsals, floral arrangements, picking out the right (matching, of course) corporal and purificators, arranging airport transportation for the ordaining bishop and his secretary, thinking about supper for arrivals at three different times the night before (not to mention lunch for 300 after the Mass!), finding five matching chasubles and four matching dalmatics, and praying that nobody has passed on to the Lord today because the musicians plan to practice in the Saturday funeral time-slot.

In all seriousness, it will be a testament to divine Providence if it all comes together!

September 4, 2007


The other day I was called to lead prayers at the home of a man who had just died. After we had prayed I just stayed with the deceased for a while and said a rosary for him. Between two of the decades I opened my eyes and found myself looking at his shoes sitting beneath the bed.

And I thought about how every time I wake up I need to figure out where I left my shoes. But this man, having left this world, never has to do that again. His shoes just sit there under the bed, now as superfluous and unnecessary as could be.

Though the body is dead, the person lives on, but in a new way that reminds us who remain that all the little things we worry about each day will be left behind.

The Body of Christ is risen from the dead; this is the core of our faith. And if we are the body of Christ in our communion with him, death is only an ushering into a greater clarity of identity.

September 3, 2007

Franciscan Fun

When St. Francis threw away his hermit's belt and adopted the cord that has become such an icon of Franciscanism, he was perhaps unaware of some of its many uses, e.g. as a fun toy for kittens.