Saturday, December 13, 2014

Through the Labor Pains of the Heart

"I desire mercy, not sacrifice." (cf. Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13)

These words of our Lord speak volumes. We may, especially when beset by deep sorrow and even depression, dwell on our unlovable nature and see how detestable our state is. We may even be tempted to grave sin, to abdicate the grace we have been given, or to be even reminded of the grave sin of the past already reconciled. Even so, there is this tumultuous experience that places us upon the parapet and tempts us to despair... Yet, we must remember those words of mercy—especially first for ourselves—that our souls may not be tortured but shining in the light of Christ. We must be light from His light, not that the fire is our own. He desires mercy over sacrifice in such a way that we are placed within His own sacrifice, we experience within His suffering our suffering, and we grow through such pitiable suffering out of love, not for ourselves, but for Him and, through Him, for the Other. Indeed, we cannot love the Other until we love ourselves, deep within our souls, in the way God loves each of us. Such as it is, we are able to begin anew, to love, to breathe, to live.

It is here that mercy is full realized and the original phrase becomes most profitable in a fruitful grace begotten by Him. It bears Him completely through the labor pains of the heart.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Traveling Our Way Home

There are a few things I dwell upon as we begin the Season of Advent. Much is still coming into focus, but on the trip back home this evening from visiting my family, I could sense the twilight of the past and the promise of future to come. It has made me very expectant for this December, and the reminders of the past—long trips to Texas to visit my extended family—a great joy from childhood. It was all triggered, oddly enough, from a faint familiar smell of driving through the Texas countryside... it was almost an earthy smell that within the instant connected me back to those childhood trips in the dead of night, traveling the way "home"... and family is always "home."

I have felt as though the explanation and the gift of remaining in Texas has come into distinct focus. There can be a false sense of nostalgia, distinct as one ages, but this shouldn't be confused with the cherishing of the past. No, the recollection of the past is for the benefit of the future, and even if everything cannot be recalled—nor should it in serious cases—the joy of the present is a future infused in the past, in tradition, and above all in a living with the past for the benefit of the future generations, such that, come what may, we may be able to pass on the joy of the Faith, of the truth, and ultimately the joy of life, replete with the everyday blessings we receive when traveling along the road of life with a song in our heart on our way to the town of Bethlehem and the infant child that awaits us.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Our Thanksgiving

If we are to eradicate loneliness, we must be willing to subject ourselves to the possibility that we will be lonely ourselves and to be better from the knowledge of it. This is obliquely fear of the Lord. It is not that we should seek out loneliness for ourselves but that we accept the lot laid out for us as our task. Eternal damnation is but eternal separation from a God who loves us deeper than we could comprehend. It is a casting of ourselves into the cold that we have found ourselves, not that God first willed damnation but communion first. Actions have consequences. The anecdote for us in the world fighting the pernicious disease of loneliness is in the Sacraments, and chief among them is the Holy Eucharist, which bears visible an invisible truth that all humans desire—Communion with one another and ultimately with God.

Our Thanksgiving begins by thanking the King who has given of Himself to tear down the walls of loneliness and despair and raise up a Kingdom that is in Communion with Him. We are charged to do the same for the least among us, for He is in them, and we must see Him in the Other and give of ourselves to be present to them. Our fate lies in the balance; we must recognize Him in the Other to avoid missing the slightest chance to serve the King. This disguise is subtle but the results are huge; we cannot expect Him to see us as part of His love if we do not offer every agony or pain experienced with the Other as a gift back to Him in the sublime solidarity of love. There isn't a chance for delay, and the world is in need of it.

Life is the fullest and the most beautiful not when we ask "What if?" to a world of endless possibilities and of failures of the past now made present. Rather, we should boldly ask: "Where are you, Lord?" We are then surprised by His immediacy, even in the failed attempts to find Him in everything we experience. Our God is not a god of the history books as though a mythological fable; He has written every word of it. Our God is not a god who remains in the past; He is a god who is very much alive. He is a god of the present, of the evolving, of the "what is to come." He is ultimately the God of the Apocalypse—the God of the Unveiling. He is with us now, guiding us to a future bright animated through and in and with Him!

God has placed in our hearts a greater joy than one we could possibly imagine or think of in our own dim view, but He does reveal this great joy to us in the Ordinary. These are the Sacraments. When we accept in our lives this animating joy given when we live a life for Him through those outward signs of the inner grace, we participate in the Divine Master's very existence, His work for the good of His people. These are the Sacraments of Service—Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony. Through these the life of the Church are renewed and strengthened. We, no matter our state or impediments, should not run from the Lord's desire to elevate these from the universal priesthood given through our Baptism in Christ Jesus. They are Sacraments for building up the Baptized and confirming them in the apostolic zeal that continues be handed down through that Missionary Mandate. They are critical in the same Mandate, and ever the more needed critical in a world that has forgotten the Sacraments.

In this light, we should run to Him, as He runs towards us and give thanks. For when I see this reality in its fullness of truth and its overwhelming catholicity, I see all that our Lord has promised—if not its timing—and my soul is overwhelmed with sincere joy. This is a Faith unshaken and a Hope secure in a Love that satisfies. May He be praised.

In all things, graciousness. When finding fault in another, find the reason which excuses the fault—silence of friendship. If you cannot find the gracious word, offer a silence befitting the joy you have been given which points toward all grace. Healing isn't about what is said; rather, it is about what isn't. Healing is chiefly about presence.

Credo et Accipio.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

O Fragile Cross

You have given me, Beloved,
A cross I have borne and carried;
It has now traveled with me
With tears like Peter's.

He had his own cross to carry
In this ancient city,
But mine has broken,
Shards of porcelain now scattered.

I have traveled the streets;
I have walked the hills.
I have found the Savior's sorrow
That He felt as He carried His up His hill.

Those blessed shards of porcelain, red and white,
Form a heart in love on a frame of Divine Mercy.
At once pressed together,
They create a reminder of God's great love:
to lay one's life down for one's friends.

O fragile cross now laid to rest,
If I must let go, let me let go
Now at the tomb a lover, a new Peter, a saint blest.

Tomb of St.John Paul II, St. Peter's Basilica

Sunday, October 05, 2014

"Rejoice in the Lord Always!"

The Vatican Museum - Mural of the Eucharist

I found great joy in the Agnus Dei today, the Mass setting from the Mass of the Morning Star... The music remains for me a motif, a scent of a profound underlying beauty of the Faith made intensely personal. The very familiar notes remain with me and bind, in a way, my sorrow with His at the Mass. He is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. We do not make ourselves clean; "by His stripes we are healed." (cf. Isaiah 53:5)

And so this causes me to respond as St. Paul enjoins on us even until today: "Rejoice in the Lord always! Rejoice!" (cf. Philippians 5:4)

Even so, can joy be mixed with sorrow? YES! Because joy does not depend on us. It is a grace, as all good things are, from above. His joy is made complete with our participation; that is why we must participate both in the joy and recall it even when we face sorrow. The Cross did not eliminate sorrow or suffering... His sacrifice has given us a clarion call, a mustering point to which we have a duty and honor to observe—out of pure love of Him. When we make it about us, piousness grows hollow. When we search for joy without service, we become empty tombs of faltering, passing happiness. Love of Him in the Other cannot be ignored; if distraction appears it is an opportunity to deepen our commitment to the radical love of Christ—to go to the root of that love—that bears fruit that remains. Then we become the servants worthy of praise by the Father, for we have not divided against the Son. Rather, we have thus joined with Him in the work of the Vineyard. The Vineyard is the People of God, and we must labor no matter our state with Him if we are to share in His inheritance. Out of love for Him, we serve, and out of this love comes the everlasting joy that gives us hope in the present for a future secure in His love. May He ever deepen this gift to us for the good benefit of others.

Deo gratias!

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Of the Brightness—Reflection

I have grown over the past decade to love morning Mass, especially in a church that fills with the morning light as it shimmers through the trees and has cast within it light and shadow in the kaleidoscopic variation that changes with the breeze. All of this coupled with the Presence—I cannot ask for anything more. He is greater than I, and my heart belongs to Him and those who love Him.

The sun may shine, but shadows do exist. Although they do, the light shines ever brighter... It's warmth on a Saturday is a consolation on the Way—of chill mixed with warmth.

What can I say that He doesn't already know? I sit on that bench in prayer. Waiting, yes, waiting... For my beloved whom I do not know. I wait because of the light—that sure light. Can I do anything else? Where else can I run? To whom should I go?

Can there be anything to add or to give? He has given everything. I can give my presence, my thought, my accedence, yes. But can I give my love?

I do not move because of the light; within it there is no darkness.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Church as One

My heart burns... it yearns. I wish every day was the eve in anticipation towards a Sunday morning. It is not that every Sunday has its note be the sweetest... though we must do our part. No, it is the anticipation of something even greater, greater than even the Mass present before us in our hearts of the day. That is why we are called forth, the Mass is a sending into the Vineyard. So must we... and to not grumble when we see gifts greater than our own. Even that morning, the arresting breath! A turn of the corner, a flash of light, a peace not my own. The Eucharist is our highest joy on this earth.

My heart returns to these successive weeks... for me, they're enveloped within the consciousness of the Domestic Church. At Mass a few weeks ago, again and again at that early morning offering—the young families present. We mustn't grow weary of their participation—of the coos, the noise, the shaking of the Church. It is a good and necessary thing! It reminds us of our vitality, of our love for one another. They do not belong behind, away, or shuttered. They belong in front.

I wish to take the latter of this into my arms... and ultimately into my prayers. My prayers are for those who deal with such deep loss within the Domestic Church. There is good in desires and better in their purification. We are not a Church at rest! We are a Church active, a Church Militant. A Church in Love is a Church active, not doing Her own will but the One who sent Her, who Baptized Her, who Commissioned Her for the great good She does because She is empowered by Jesus Christ himself and the same Spirit that fills us as believers in the true Faith of Jesus Christ. We are the Church, but not in our isolation... in dissident, fractious belief or in our vanity, our impatience, our own self-centeredness... We are the Church in Communion, called to be One, called to be Holy, called to be Apostolic... called to be Catholic.
Lord, repair what I have undone, what I have done poorly. Fix what I have broken, heal where I have made division, speak where I have remained silent. Make known Your love to us. Take us back into Your own heart, a people set apart. Let us see You in the Other.

Guide us into the Way of Peace, into the Way of Truth, into the Way of Love together as One. Amen.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Little Flower

What shall I say? Let us make a return to the Lord, for He is good and forgiving, slow to anger and rich in kindness. To the hungry He brings good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. Let us pour ourselves out as the Little Flower did, be rich in word and deed for others, and sacrificial in our service—no matter or place in life. We are called to do good and to be love for one another. Let us seek out the good, for our time is short. Let us seek out the good and think better of others and trust in the Lord. Let us share that goodwill and be present to those in our midst and count not the cost of love.

"O little martyr of Love, you know now even better than in the days of your pilgrimage that Love embraces all vocations; that it is Love alone which counts, which unites us perfectly to God and conforms our will with His. All you sought on earth was love; to love Jesus as He had never yet been loved. Use your power in heaven to make us love Him. If only we love Him we shall desire to make Him loved by others; we shall pray much for souls. We shall no longer fear death, for it will unite us to Him forever. Obtain for us the grace to do all for the love of God, to give Him pleasure, to love Him so well that He may be pleased with us as He was with you.

Intercede for us all the days of our life, but especially during this Novena and obtain for us from God the graces and favors we ask through your intercession. Amen."

"Thought for the day: Love of God. I will love God alone and will not have the misfortune of attaching myself to creatures, now that my heart perceive what He has in store for those who love Him.

What attracts me to the kingdom of Heaven is the call of our Lord, the hope of loving Him as I have so desired and the thought that I shall be able to make Him loved by a great number of souls who will bless Him forever.

When Christ said, "Give Me a Drink," it was the love of His poor creatures that He, the Creator of all things, desired. He thirsted for love.

Remember that the dear Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you, for you alone. Remember that He is consumed with a desire to come into your heart."
- EWTN's "Little Flower Novena"

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Seeking After Gratitude

Now I crash again against the beachhead, a wave of compassion washing ashore. The dash to Mass was one that had me come up short so many days of the past weeks. I recall one day, especially, where I didn't hear the Gospel that day, but I did experience it. I grew bitter and uncharitable, all of it bitter fruit and without much mental or spiritual acuity. Again this happened today. The interesting truth about this?

God works with even that brokenness and lack of self worth and hardness of heart in the moment. He allows the hardness so that He can break our stony hearts and expand them for a greater capacity to love.

I knew once I came tumbling into the church one weekday evening, that, in spite of these setbacks of getting to Mass, I had made the right decision to press on. I recall those sonorous words of Fr. Trahan on 1 John 4:19. God does not love us for some sort of response. He loves us because we are lovable, and we should do the same.

I'm still working on this... but it makes each day worth living.

"The saints do not contemplate to know, but to love. They do not love for the sake of loving but for the love of Him whom they love. It is for the love of their first beloved, God, that they aspire to that very union with God that love demands whilst they love themselves only for Him. For them, the end of ends is not to bring exultation to their intellect and nature and thus stop at themselves. It is to do the will of Another, to contribute to the good of the Good. They do not seek their own soul. They lose it; they no longer possess it. If in entering into the mystery of Divine filiation and becoming something of God, they gain a transcendent personality, an independence and a liberty which nothing in the world approaches, it is by forgetting all else so that they do not live, but the Beloved lives in them."

— Jacques Maritain

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Great Boon in the Tide of Love

"We become what we love, and who we love shapes what we become."
- St. Clare of Assisi

This is an epigraph that encompasses the great boons of a love grounded in this heavenly courtship of the Other. First, because the Other is worth that price of sacrifice. Secondly, because, even if one discounted the intrinsic value of that person and therefore also that love between, its value is too much to be rendered inconsequential. No! It, rather, gains more day by day in dividends. This movement of dying to self and to every expectation opens for oneself a great boon in the tide of love.

As it is our passions, rightly or wrongly, push the waves ashore, crashing upon the beachhead, but it is always that great gift of love which raises the tides of the whole sea. Love in proximity itself increases the level for those further along. Every attack on love affects the members of this vast body. Likewise, the more pure the act in opposite, for the Banner of Love, wins a great salve for the ones adrift in this body. It brings hope, like a life raft in a sea churning within a storm... which informs us further despite the tempest: "Be not afraid!"

And so it is, "We become what we love, and who we love shapes what we become."

Friday, August 01, 2014

Dwelling in the Desert of Love

God gave me a garden of love, and what I found was Gethsemane.

Even in absence of every good thing, He is there, and my heart hopes. In love it hopes, and though it is far off—further than any other night—I see the brightest star through this dark–this Dark Night. Love abounds even where there is thirst and exhaustion. This desert is but a delay, a damper, but not a death. Love finds its way, and it is the choice—the free choice—to love or not. Even if it is far off, Love comes to us and travels the distance. Love bounds toward the brokenhearted because it is in breaking we grow wider than we could alone. Love always goes the distance.

And for this it is worth everything, even death... Death on a Cross.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Recalling the Father's Love

Today I am reminded again of the gifts, the insights He has given me. I recall those discreet moments where I have witnessed both father and son in prayer, at Mass, in active religious activity, and in the world. There were moments, special to me, in Rome at the General Audience across the vehicle path, another outside St. Paul Outside the Walls in the park area, and then recently one evening in Bastrop going to Mass at Ascension Parish. They gave me pause for prayer, joy, and hope. The Lord knows all good timing and of the things suitable and needed for such a vocation.

The importance of a father is not that he should be perfect but that He aims for perfection—that is goodness and selflessness of the One who is his Father—and, when that father falls short of this task, to run to Him so that He may remain in Him and his son may remain also in Him, as the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father and both dwelling in the ones here below in their mirroring image. We may not be able to do this under our own volition, but, with God, all things are possible.

I continue to have the opportunity, the grace, to be able to approach the altar of our Lord each early Sunday morning and offer my desires, however ennobled, to Him. Today especially.

Today we celebrate Father's Day in the United States. In the Church we also celebrate Trinity Sunday, the Sunday following Pentecost. The beauty of this linked connection is that the Trinity is the sign of the life-giving example of God, in the three-persons which gives us glimpse into His triune love and His nature. We follow His example and love, and we have our beloved... and from so great a love the love that is between the two itself lives in the Holy Spirit.

This past month and from Rome, my heart has continued to contemplate these weighty thoughts and to have refined my desires through them. As it is, we rise to that which we aspire to in example. And my heart burns... What grace it is to have a hope in something unseen but promised. It is the hope given to Abraham and his descendants, even to his servant David.

...And, still, how great it is to call God "Abba! Father!"

To those earthly fathers amongst us, thank you. May God continue to strengthen you as holy men after His own heart and His example. To our spiritual fathers, may God bless you in the nourishment you hand on. And, from me, you who are young fathers, know that you give us great hope in the promise of Our Father in Heaven.

As we know from the words of St. Paul, "hope does not disappoint." Thanks be to God.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Prayer of the Family

How do I foolishly desire to be rid of the darkness of trial and temptation, insofar as my dimmed understanding permits me even to express now. It is not a matter of temptation to love something more than God that ones striving towards the Holy One should be most concerned about, though proper ordering of love is a prudent necessity. No, it is the temptation to doubt the gift given to one who experiences great trial and doubt in response. This darkness in question is the poisonous fumes of doubt that question the gifts because of oneself. They wrongly question the giver's sanity and not the standard of the gifted that one visits review upon and to whom the talents have been given.

A lack of response to prayer is not a lack of prayer. A lack of receptivity in so-called prayer is itself the absence of true prayer, not the feeling of emptiness or fullness. We are earthen vessels who are prone to seeping that which we are filled with; neither can we fill without first being open to receiving. Love must be the act of will present in prayer to be open to the blinding fires of Love before us if we are ready to be refined in and proved through this refining fire of Love.

O Act of Love... in thee I stand. With thee I pray, those indescribable words in exaltation to Him Who Is... May I too be bound by the Holy Family through which all instruction took form and place from of youth and until His Bloody Passion as the Paschal Lamb.

O St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church and patron saint of families... I choose thee in this same love for my family to be. Dear St. Joseph, pray for all of our families in all their states and dispositions, that they may mirror the Trinity in love. St. Joseph, especially pray for my family and spouse to be. May I mirror your love in chastity to give myself to her in fruitful and unyielding love. May your prayers usher God's grace in me to be patient in its timing and form, that I may not grow hasty or worried over any outward appearance of failure but trust in the Heralds of God who announce the Good News. May God grant the peace necessary to answer this prayer in the silence as well as in the active. Patron Saint of the Family, guide me with your prayer to the works God has prepared within me, those works of great love He wills for me.

Lord God, Eternal Father, grant this prayer and petition in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns forever with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Joseph, Patron Saint of the Universal Church and of all families, pray for us!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Beauty Magnified

Beauty without sacrifice isn't beauty. It's a cheap illusion. The beauty of a rose comes with thorns, with little pains and sorrows. Beauty isn't diminished with the thorns—it's magnified.

Beauty uncrucified is a love that is missing its crown of thorns. A love without thorns is a love without service. Without service, love is empty words reserved for a dust heap, branches to be pruned, and blossoms withered.

With each day let us give thanks for beauty crowned with sacrifice and find joy within beauty that is tested and found worthy of Him. We are loved.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Novelty: "Do It Again!"

Novelty eventually wears off. Why? The reasons are plentiful, but the response required is a rather simple one: renewal. We as people require renewal because it is hard-coded into our being; we may like routines—those comfortable grooves—if everything goes well. At the slightest setback we declare them ruts. There is a middle way—a Catholic way—that unites the two in a symbiotic relationship as two sides of the same coin of existence.

It is to treat everything as novelty and everything with a sense of wonderment and with a desire for renewal. G.K. Chesterton, whose birthday is today, speaks of it when he describes children and their exclamation "Do it again!" until the grown-up is nearly dead.

I think this very much God's approach to us and our days, never tiring. We too must rise and say to the morning "Do it again!" We may not always have the vigor in this life to make all things novelties, but God has made all things new. Therefore, we are called to renew and be renewed. This is our view into Eternity.

"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we." - G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Vocation: Moving from Despair into Mercy

Coming to dwell upon a momentary despair, one of the minor ones that precipitate a temptation to fall into a selfish burst, a moment turned inward—the following comes to mind, as though inspiration breathed in and a cool answer to a heated breath of dismay:

If one is tempted to self or unpurposed love of self, make an act of love in opposite, a small sacrifice of love—a prayer, a thought, a physical act (if possible) according to the state in life and relation, especially for those in the budding of vocation. Make it a point to cut against the grain, to rouse the senses to cooperation under the same mission as the intellect that ascends to and accepts in word a faith towards such a state, that begins in proto-form the desire to say "I do" or be consecrated towards the Kingdom at hand but needs a small act or, if you will, "a kiss to build a dream on." Make an act of love in this direction and in such a concrete way, even if the Beloved sees not. Do this, and you will have placed a brick upon the structure, the abode of love that you are building for the Other. Brick by brick, even if the Beloved does not accept such a gift, builds the home in which the Father bestows and desires each to dwell within. It is then a structure, an abode of love. Festooned with the flowers that burst into bloom and then fade as youth does, this abode will not later fade. Rather, it will be strengthened by each sweet act of charity. The investment being made will then pay dividends, not for oneself alone but—as one holding everything in common—for the community of believers. In this end, that immutable crown of glory will be yours and, with it, a Communion given by the One who has given it all, even His dearly beloved Son.

This is why it is right to say: "Conversion is where obedience turns into love."

So it is in pursuit, in the Courtship of the Daughter of the King... So must a "yes" be in preparation, for love requires a soil prepared in due time if the fruits of love are to be those that remain. Without Him, we can do nothing.

"And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going you know the way." - John 14:3-4
These words strike me... they hold me in a great peace. What has He prepared? Much! And yet Thomas questions. It is enough to be with Him along the Way, peaceful with the great good given each in their own way. This is gratitude.

I am reminded of last Sunday morning, in preparation for Mass and entering into and serving in the Mass. Looking beyond my place towards the Altar—and this among other reasons is why I love 8 AM Mass so much—the light pierced through the east-facing windows before me with its light resting upon the chalice and purificator spent. It was for me, a profound and yet sublime example of love. It was love in the hidden—in the invisible made visible. That is what the Blessed Sacrament is. It is love spent for the good of the people, multiplied, and distributed. It is the wedding banquet, and my heart was glad.

It is in these moments I find great solace and remembrance of His love, "for his mercy endures forever." Not only this, I remember those whom I am so bound in prayer and affection that tears of joy are recalled. I pray even now not out of a desire of being seen—this is the warning of Christ about the locked room of prayer—but out of deep reverence for the love He has placed for me that I am called to give in turn in specific, tender ways. These are like wounds that are opened and then re-heal, only to open again. This is the nature of compassion and of self-gift and love.

It is an honor to serve in lectoring at Mass, especially regarding last Sunday's reading and the rejoinder by St. Peter to be like "living stones." The greater gift received is the mere opportunity to see the work of God at work in us and through us that the light shines through and shows through the darkness of our own hearts His marvelous love. Namely, it is itself the receiving of Him in the Eucharist. There can be no greater, no further complete union of God and Man other than on Judgement Day. We must avail of it often and never grow weary to our need for conversion before approaching. Yet, through it all, we remember that "his mercy endures forever."


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Let Us Give Thanks...

Conversion is a day by day experience, as I was reminded to me in a homily a week ago, and day by day I know more why I continue to return... With the eyes of faith I recall the words of Peter: "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6:68-69)

But this isn't a begrudging answer or a return based on fear or weariness, even when I fail... It isn't as though it is a crutch. Why go to Mass then? Why return in community to the Eucharist?

Indeed, the Eucharist is having eyes for forever. It is the onward look towards Eternity, wrapped in a love deeper than the depths of the human heart. It is a Thanksgiving, rightly called so, because we do not earn it, but we are given it in our feebleness. It strengthens; it fortifies. It gives us new life... All because of HIS words... "I am the Bread of Life."

Let us "give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever!" -Psalm 107:1
Today I give thanks "for his mercy endures forever" (Psalm 107:1), and His beauty is ever before me, whether before me at home or in Rome.

The beauty I seek, that I yearn most deeply for, is before me always. It is his mercy that endures forever and my heart is glad, glad for a shepherd whose voice I hear from the ends of the earth to home. My heart is glad for Him Who Is and for the gifts of Him.

My heart is glad for the gift of love for ones that are His, and I pray I may recall this even when that love is tested and purified, most especially when all that I desire is before me at the Altar of Salvation, at the Table of His Great Love, at the Banquet of the Great Communion of His Love. May I place it all upon the altar with the unblemished gifts and the works of our hands—all of it!

He purifies because He loves, and He loves because He wants us, all of us, to have life more abundantly.

Let us love through Him. Though Him, With Him, In Him... Now and Forever. Amen.

—Sunrise from the Coast of Italy, May 2, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"They Were Cut to the Heart"

This phrase from the first reading today should strike us: “they were cut to the heart.” The phrase elicits a great deal of dramatic imagery, but it is no greater than the preceding imagery of “this Jesus whom you crucified.”

We all do share this need for forgiveness; we share a guilt in our turning to sin in our weakest moments. This forgiveness doesn’t come without a cost, nor does He force it without our participation in it. We are called to repent, often weeping in sorrow. We may believe all is lost—but there is great promise in the Resurrection, first of Christ and then for us through His Resurrection to our newness of life. We might not immediately recognize Him on the Way, but He will indeed call us by name. Then that once clouded visage will become clear in our midst. This is not simply a principle or an ideal. It is a person: Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom and in whom forgiveness and mercy is made manifest.

His mercy endures forever. Pray that the Holy Spirit may help our unbelief and that our Heavenly Father may forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others theirs on the Way.

  • How do I handle my need for forgiveness?
  • How do I choose to forgive others? Where can I find more opportunities to share my forgiveness of others and the hope that the Resurrection of Christ provides?

Originally published in:
Aggie Catholic: Year of Faith Lenten Reflections 2014
St. Mary's Catholic Center

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Keeping Company with the Lord

"I keep up the Holy Hour to grow more and more into his likeness. As Paul puts it: "We are transfigured into his likeness, from splendor to splendor." We become like that which we gaze upon. Looking into a sunset, the face takes on a golden glow. Looking at the Eucharistic Lord for an hour transforms the heart in a mysterious way as the face of Moses was transformed after his companionship with God on the mountain. Something happens to us similar to that which happened to the disciples at Emmaus. On Easter Sunday afternoon when the Lord met them, he asked why they were so gloomy. After spending some time in his presence, and hearing again the secret of spirituality - "The Son of Man must suffer to enter into his Glory" - their time with him ended and their "hearts were on fire." - Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Treasure in Clay)
This reminds me again of the Polish proverb I've shared elsewhere previously, which is translated loosely: "You become like the company you keep."

Indeed, it is holding a Lover's gaze. And to be in that Gaze! We all desire love! We all wish to be loved! To be forgiven! To have all of our sins washed away!

His presence is enough.

Indeed, if we would recall this important reminder, we would so readily run to the Blessed Sacrament.

We would not run to it because of its semblance of bread and wine. It would be in spite of it. We would go despite our disbelief, others' disdain, even mockery of it. We would go because of His very Word: "THIS IS MY BODY GIVEN UP FOR YOU."

Today as we did at the close of Good Friday, we stand watch at the Tomb. We are inconsolable, but we have knowledge that the first disciples knew not... Easter is on its way.

"They have taken His body!" we think in sadness as the third day draws near and horror sets in on Easter morning of the empty tomb. But what is horror at first blush is rejoicing with the morning. For when He calls our name, we hear him. When He casts His gaze upon us, He sees us. And when He draws near to us, we remain in Him (cf. John 15).

His Presence never fades. Love wins.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Banner of Love

There is great profundity in this thought: one's life is either spent day by day commiserating that it was another day lost OR another day growing towards one's Beloved—another day closer to being with one's Beloved.

Framing everything in this orientation leaves with it a perfume of profound grace, whether one is buried beneath the weightier concerns or rising above the fray to see the day of Communion, of Love, of Eternal Life. It is all work towards that daily wage; we must only realize we are on the Way.

Every desire must see this telos, and every movement of the heart towards the Other must have the Giver of all good gifts in mind and first beneath the Banner of Love. The quickest route is not the Banner of Success but rather the Banner of Love, which is where faithfulness and compassion reside.

One of the hardest things to avoid is that of envy, for at its heart is bitterness—the pride of being left out. Bitterness itself is the result of unripened fruit. It is fruit without the proper timing of maturation, of the rains and seasons in due time to produce the sweetness in life desired by all. This is why it is said, "one sows and another reaps" (cf. John 4:37).

It is also a process. Comparison of self can be a process of improvement—but never is this done by oneself alone. We are social beings. We are called to Communion. When one part suffers, all suffer. When one part rejoices, all rejoice. When one is exalted, all are exalted.

Let us rejoice with those in joy and endure with those who are suffering, so that all in the end, by God's good grace, may be exalted "for His mercy endures forever" (cf. Psalm 136).

"He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love." - Song of Songs 2:4

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Resounding Note

Saturday was like peering deep into a wishing well and faintly seeing a reflection of the future despite the ripples of distortion. I found much to be comforted with, much to be concerned with, but all to be overjoyed with as timing, even for that day, was exactly to the point and circumscribed within God's blessed design. There were little hints everywhere; if we but only search for these joyful notes in spite of the cacophony surrounding, we would find our dwelling place secure.

I feel somewhat exiled from a past mixed with a delayed longing for a complex future, a restructured bond that hasn't quite reset. Some is but a deep nostalgia misplaced. However, so much remains fluid and in flux, except my desire to return in earnest and concerted steps through faith.The city of my birth, the city I returned to, is not whitewashed or even clean. It has its bruises, its diversions, and its divisions, but it is found lived in and experienced. Even so, there was cause for great joy that day: weddings! Weddings can be messy affairs, the mixing of two parts not quite similar. In the case of the one I stumbled across at the Cathedral played to the contrasts of the City... Outside the Cathedral in front of Jackson Square, there was a woman playing a full-size piano moved into the midst of the fortune tellers at the steps of the Cathedral. The other side of the Cathedral contrasted greatly with a parade for St. Patrick's Day with much useless noise that overpowered much in the Square, from the people streaming in for the wedding, to the more subtle sights and sounds... but for a moment all melted away and the silence of her piece amid the hustle and bustle of a tourist-filled space was all that could be heard... Much like prayer in a tempest. Like a decisive stroke of a master artist's brush completing a masterpiece, this flashed before me in silhouette.

Communication doesn't win by being the loudest but, rather, by being the most heartfelt, the most direct. All the garishness passes away at once, and one sees clearly the outline of a city and of the soul itself. Let us not forget to nourish our souls through earnest prayer and moments of silence throughout the day to mark the gifts and the struggles the Lord gives us to complete through Him.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Imperfect Instruments of Love

One does not know fully how God will use you each day. Be ready for surprises; be ready to also give in kind surprises! These are both gifts of love if done with genuine hearts of devotion.

It has often been said to dress not for the job that you have but for the job you wish to obtain. So, too, we should not live only the state of life we have at present but, if we are able and ought, the state of which one wishes to obtain. We are to strive for that which is admirable and attainable through the grace. That is the grace with which the Virgin sought to obtain that state in life that she had wished upon and pondered, her Fiat. It was not that she obtained that new state of importance for herself or a state which she could announce her Fiat without question or trouble, but rather she made her Fiat and thus obtained that state. She lived the life she wished to obtain for the greater glory of God.

So too must we live out our Fiat.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Proclaiming the Word

In recalling the latest issues of communicating during these times of upheaval and questioning of morals and faith, face-to-face social interaction trumps online/social media interaction because it stings less when it is off-key. The bad word slips away never to be returned whence it came; it is still contained within the circle of speech surrounding the speaker. It may be carried again and again, yes, but as for the online world's interaction and its transmission... it is a wildfire without a firebreak, an echo chamber without dampeners, a cacophony in darkness, a canary in a coal mine.

Still, we are called to proclaim into the darkness to proclaim anew, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'"

These verses follow the other, and they should not be seen as disjointed or separate. They are in the same breath, and we shouldn't forget it:
"'This I command you: love one another.
If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.'" - John 17:17-18

We must still act with charity in our comments in person or online, but true charity never ignores the truth. No, it embraces truth with gusto and looks for the excuse of the other as ignorance of it. Then armed with no other weapon than the evidence before God and man, the one with true charity goes to meet the person where they are in fraternal correction and prays twice as long for him and his brother and the conversion of himself and his brother, for his brother is not the world but is in it.

"Have mercy on us, O Lord...
For we have sinned against you.

Show us, O Lord, your mercy....
And grant us your salvation."

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." - John 1:5

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Three Roses

There are three roses in a vase, not a dozen.
Why not a dozen?
Should that somehow show how much greater is my love?
No! For the amount of my love is not shown in the number
but in something much deeper, much more real.

These three roses are a singularity.
They do not show the vast numbers of the others in vases elsewhere
or others in vases elsewhere for others.
The are themselves gifts and enough in themselves.

Not only all this, but the roses are only themselves a symbol of a gift
I could not create alone or simply from love of you.
No, so much more, they are a gift of Him Who Is to us both
and of the love that is Him.

They are signs of our children and His gift of Him.
They are but a gift—Pure Gift—of Him.

Dedicated to the memory of marriages damaged through the pains and difficulties of divorce and to the children of those bonds, February 16, 2014.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

The Five Wounds of Christ

The Five Wounds of Christ are a very important area of devotion and a specifically helpful reality we ought to pray with, especially when meditating on the Life of Christ and gazing upon a crucifix. As it is, we share in His death with each of our struggles and hope to share with Him in His Resurrection for He Himself has conquered Death. Just so, we through the same mysteries can be united into His Passion, Death, and Resurrection mystically by meditating and applying these truths bound and renewed in faith as well as hope to our lives and offering these contemplations up to our Lord.

These Five Wounds, which become our own if we unite to Him in the struggle and sacrifice of the Cross, are of His Hands, His Feet, and His Sacred Side to His Sacred Heart. So it is, we are placed again in the formation and reopening of these wounds by our attachments to things not of Him, of distractions away from Him.

The first of these are of the Feet, ones that hold us from walking the Walk and of carrying the Good News to others. These are the wounds that keep us from fulfilling the Prophet Isaiah's words:
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the one bringing good news,
Announcing peace, bearing good news,
announcing salvation, saying to Zion,
“Your God is King!”
- Isaiah 52:7

The first of these wounds is the attachment to the esteem of others and to the opinion of others over God. It is the easiest to be swayed in following after Christ in His will for us. It is the one proverbial stoked by peer pressure and wanting to be in the "in" crowd, wholly being dependent upon the capricious human nature of desire for high esteem and human praise. The second Wound of the Feet is that of attachments of self, attachments that turn ourselves inward and consist of little desires that slowly inch ourselves away from a God who is infinitely good and desires the best for us. It is this one that is shown most especially in sloth towards need or the endurance in the Way to the Lord. Both Wounds, when turned inward, give opportunity for failure and separation from the wounds He bore.

The next two, those of the Hands, are ones of attachments to our understanding, both of the Future and of the Present. The more we hold on to a future devoid of His will and a present that isn't counseled by Him, we because onerous and cantankerous. These Wounds both show a prideful streak, a desire to be right and of high rank without purpose or service towards others. These Wounds lack most in charity necessary for service to others. These Wounds also are manifested in the impatience or hostility we are prone to show instead of the docility, obedience, and patience we are called to show. These Wounds, if separated from Him, from handing on and embracing others in Christ and His Love.

And the fifth and final Wound—to the Sacred Side—reaches the Sacred Heart itself. This is manifested in the attachment to the Past. This Wound, separated from Christ, is what stops all things from movement and is often caused out of fear and the belief that the past failures cannot be overcome or that the Love of God cannot heal the contrite of heart. This is the most pernicious of lies since it attacks the very lifeblood of the Person: Hope in Him Who Is. This fearful pride fails to let Christ into the very wounds He bore for us in His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. We cannot live with Him if we do not die with Him. Suffering itself must be purposed and not feared, and love must be shown in spite of the suffering we endure because even with our pasts His mercy endures forever. We must go beyond our shortsighted fears towards the Eternal, being contrite of heart and moving towards Him who is Love.
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so the one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because he first loved us." - 1 John 4:18-19

The beauty of these verses isn't because it somehow validates each us or even our love for one another blindly. On the contrary, it shows how much greater He is in giving. And we mustn't confuse the Gift from the Giver.

The rest of Scripture and Tradition hang on the verses here, not because they promote a false, warm-fuzzy peace with its cookie-cutter loves, as though there is a one-size-fits-all. No, it is on God's love that we stand on the edge of the cliff and chance the vertigo to look down from its heights in awe. We often fear the irrational but more so here the rational. We try to diminish His love and its effects, but it is still there, as stern as ever. He has sealed our hearts for His Sacred Heart in the courts above. Let us not delay in sharing in the suffering given to us for the Love He has stored up for us in Heaven above. His Wounds bear the marks beautifully of how far a distance God has come down to make His abode with us. Let us go out to meet Him through it all.