July 30, 2008

I Have To Rise From The Dead All At Once?

Overheard in church tonight:

The first glorious mystery: The Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ starting on the right side.

July 29, 2008


This morning, on her feast day, I'm thinking about Martha as a model of prayer:
Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died]. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die. do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” John 11:19-27

The process of prayer:

1. Go out to meet the Lord. We go out of our ordinary routine and ordinary pattern of thought and enter into prayer. She went out meet him.

2. We express our faith from our concrete situation in life. I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.

3. Through prayer the breadth and scope of faith is transformed. I am the resurrection and the life.

4. We go forth from prayer in gratitude for the process: Yes, Lord, I have come to believe.

P.s. For learners of pastoral Spanish, being able to utter Martha's words confidently is always a milestone, masterpiece of conditional and imperfect subjunctive that they are:
si hubieras estado aquí, mi hermano no habría muerto.

July 28, 2008


This morning at Mass, I dared myself to preach on this earthy image from the prophet Jeremiah:
For, as close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins,
so had I made the whole house of Israel
and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the LORD;
to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty.
But they did not listen.

Too often we act like we have to reach up and grab God by agonistic prayer. In fact, God is just dying to be with us if we will only allow it. That's why the creation happened in the first place--that God might be incarnate in it and present to it. How close does God want to be? As close as your underwear.

Perhaps there's a vesting prayer to be written here. When we put on our underwear we could remind ourselves that this is how close God wants to be to us.

July 26, 2008

Finding the Treasure

Whether we find God because we are searching or because God finds us first, we enter the Kingdom of Heaven by buying into that experience and making it the focus of our lives. My homily for this weekend is posted here.

July 19, 2008

Mixed Motivations

In the end we will be purified of our mixed motives by the purity and brilliance of the vision of God. Until then, let us endure our situation of impure motivation and allow it to teach us humility. My homily for this weekend is posted here.

July 18, 2008

Heavy Metal Friar

This brother is my new favorite friar: Cesare Bonizzi, the heavy metal Capuchin!

July 15, 2008

St. Bonaventure's Perfect Science

Today is the feast of St. Bonaventure, the great doctor of the Franciscan family. In his honor I preached on a line from his Breviloquium, which is a kind of short summa of theology.

The Seraphic Doctor writes:
And so theology is the only perfect science, for it begins at the beginning which is the first Principle, and proceeds to the end, which is the final wages paid; it begins with the summit, which is God most high, the Creator of all, and reaches even to the abyss, which is the torment of hell. Breviloquium I:1:2.

It seems to me that this is a good meditation for us late modern people who live in a world so dominated by the power of natural science and human technology. As amazing as these human efforts and understandings are, they do not approach the questions asked and resolved by the first of the sciences, theology. Theology, after all, is the scientific reflection on divine revelation.

Here we have to struggle against two contemporary tendencies: scientism on the one hand and so-called fundamentalism on the other.

On the one hand we must live and preach against the error that natural science and human effort has priority over the truths of revelation and Sacred Scripture. Too often we give in to the "God of the gaps" model in which God is only left in charge of those areas of understanding that have not yet been explained by natural science.

On the other hand, we must also struggle against those of our brothers and sisters of faith who deny the rightful place of natural science and understanding. We believe that the cosmos was created through the Word of God, the logos as John the Evangelist puts it, and that this same Word or Wisdom of God became human as Jesus Christ the Lord. Therefore the natural world is a revelation of God in continuity with the revelations of Sacred Scripture and the Incarnation. So to understand the mysteries of the natural world is to reveal something of the mind, Word, or Wisdom of God. Those who deny, in favor of a very narrow "understanding" of the Scriptures, this full sense of the contuition of the human mind with the Wisdom of God in understanding the natural world do God's own revelatory intentions a grand disservice.

Pray for us, St. Bonaventure!

July 13, 2008

Ecumenical Moment

We had a real ecumenical afternoon here in our parish. A Melkite rite Catholic man who is an alumnus of our parish high school married an Orthodox woman in our Latin rite church. A bi-ritual Catholic priest led the ceremony. It's our parish policy to allow alumni to have their weddings here, even if they've moved away or aren't parishioners.

I was surprised to discover that with the permission of our pastor (for inter-rituality) and a dispensation from the Melkite bishop (for the man to marry an Orthodox), all of this is entirely possible. Since neither party is a Roman Catholic, however, we have no jurisdiction in their case and their marriage will not appear in our records.

It was really something to watch with all of the Eastern liturgical elements and chanting in Arabic going on under our image of St. Margaret Mary!

July 12, 2008

The Generous Sower

The grace of God is given generously to all, but it's up to us to notice, receive, and appreciate it. My homily for this weekend is posted here.

July 11, 2008


A couple of years ago I was excited to read that the folks who administer vatican.va were working on a social networking site, a kind of Myspace or Facebook for Catholics. I've been looking for it ever since, but it hasn't appeared.

Nevertheless, yesterday I discovered that such a site has been launched for World Youth Day 2008. Presumably it will remain after the event as a place to meet and network.

Check out XT3 and sign up!

July 9, 2008

Note to Men: Get Married

In the parish where I work we average just over a hundred funerals a year. So I've had a lot of experience with wakes, funerals, and committals in the year I've been here. I've made a lot of observations in the course of this, but here's one of the most striking: there is, generally, a remarkable difference between the funeral of an old maid and that of an old bachelor.

Now I'm no sociologist, and I don't know any real statistics, but it seems to me in my anecdotal experience that old maids live just as long as their married sisters. What's more, they seem to have just as many friends and associates who show up for their wakes and funerals.

It ain't so with old bachelors. They seem to die younger than their married brothers. They also usually have many fewer people show up for their wakes and funerals.

If I may wildly and irresponsibly extrapolate from my experience, it seems that for men, staying single is bad for you. For women, it doesn't seem to make much difference.

Anybody who really knows anything care to correct or corroborate my conclusions?

July 6, 2008


An article in the New York Times this morning cites "a growing body of evidence suggesting that Jesus could be best understood through a close reading of the Jewish history of his day."

Really? This is new? With its intense themes the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple and the re-constitution of Israel, all against the background of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, isn't this what the New Testament is about in the first place?

Check out the article here.

July 5, 2008

Beginning the Pauline Year

Last week's feast of Ss. Peter and Paul began the Pauline year--a celebration of the bimillenium the Apostle's birth. My homily for this weekend is posted here.

July 1, 2008

Retreat Notes 6: Talking

On one of my trips to the bookstore (I like to walk down and up the hill each day) the garrulous German (?) monk Fr. Peter starts a conversation. I'm always amazed at these talkative Trappists. He remembers me from past retreats and recalls that I'm a Franciscan. He notices (from my concelebrating, presumably) that I am now a priest and says that this makes him happy.

He asks me if I have seen Into Great Silence--the DVD is on the store counter for sale. I say that I saw it at Kendall Square in Boston on the night of a huge snowstorm. He says that he saw it there twice, (taking the opportunity during the religious duty of airport runs) and then a third time at the monastery. I'm amazed to hear this, not only because I don't think of Trappists as going to the movies, but because I could hardly bear sitting through the film once.

I make fun of him, saying that I'm surprised to see them even handle the DVD in their store, seeing as in one of the precious few spoken scenes in the film, "Trappist" is used as an insult. He says that he liked the honesty of allowing old monks to appear on film with untrimmed nose and ear hair. "Religious life is not so glamorous as it is often portrayed, brother."

Retreat Notes 5: Observations

Seeing the Trappists at prayer, I recognize many from the nine years I've been coming here. It's like the people you see when you ride the bus or the subway every day. You see the same people you don't know over and over again. Like my own community, I can tell that theirs is shrinking. There are fewer than before. On this visit I see only one novice, not particularly young, and no observers.*

There are differences between these monks and my own religious brothers, though. They seem more evenly divided over the different age groups than we are. The older ones seem to get around a lot more easily than ours, and they're all lighter on the whole. This is probably due to differences in diet and regular physical activity, namely bad are rare for us vs. better and often for them.

*On the last morning of the retreat, I noticed that novice was missing from choir (Trappist novices stick out because of the different color of their cowl and scapular). After Mass, walking back to the retreat house, we saw him getting into a car bound for the airport.