19 April 2015

Philip Neri: the Virtue of Joy (NDS talks)

St. Philip Neri: the Virtue of Joy

Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Notre Dame Seminary, NOLA
19 April 2015

“Men are generally the carpenters of their own crosses.” – St Philip Neri


Part I
 
It is early February in the year 1590. Philip Neri – Pippo Buono – is 75 years old and long a saintly figure in the streets and courts of Rome. Confessor and confidant to cardinals, statesmen, thugs, and fishwives, Pippo stands with the entire Oratory community of the Chiesa Nouva and eleven cardinals, waiting for the solemn procession to arrive. Relics of the ancient martyrs, Papias and Maurus, had been discovered in the titular church of Agostino Cardinal Cusano earlier in the year. Cardinal Cusano, a penitent under Pippo's spiritual care, wanted to bestow on his confessor and friend a singular honor. He had ordered the newly discovered relics to be transferred to Pippo's home, the Chiesa Nuova. When the procession arrives, the Papal Swiss Guard comes to attention and forms an aisle for the relics into the church. As the relics pass by Pippo, a familiar buzzing begins in his heart. An old friend, Joy, rises in his soul and Pippo does what he always does when the nearness of holiness threatens him with ecstasy. He does something foolish. Where most of us would drop to our knees in prayer, or shout out praise and thanksgiving to God, Pippo does the unexpected. He walks up to one of the stoically serious Swiss Guards and begins pulling on his beard!1 For St. Philip Neri, for Pippo Buono, the joy that love demands of us is best expressed in humble acts of apparent foolishness.

And about his apparent foolishness there is much to say. Reading Pippo's biographies is like reading a catalog of schoolboy pranks. Attending vespers at a fashionable parish, he would dress like a beggar and loudly mispronounce the Latin. He would send penitents on public errands with their clothes turned inside-out. He would demand that the young dandies who came to him for advice shave half their beards. He was once seen skipping like a child inside the church of St Peter in Chains. And another time, during Mass at the Chiesa Nuova, he had a barber cut his hair!2 Many thought he was simply an addle-minded old man. Others thought he was a saint entirely lost to ecstasy. Pippo saw himself as a sinner tempted by pride to embrace the power and glory that his closeness to God afforded him, a temptation that – on a much larger scale – had corrupted Rome and exiled godly humility. Pippo's antics were not attention-seeking, or foolishness for the sake of foolishness. His ridiculous behavior kept his joy grounded in humility. He feared the lightness of his heart at the merest thought of God would lift him away – literally, allow him to fly – and he feared that his people would come to believe that only those so lifted in flight could be said to be holy. His life, his work, his death all point us toward the truth of joy: Joy is love in action. Human joy, our joy, is divine love, God's love for us, in action.

With Pippo's living-admonition to remain firmly grounded in humility ringing in our ears, we can move – cautiously move – toward a less animated exploration of the virtue of joy and how joy must enliven a priest's ministry. I say “cautiously move” because joy is an effect of love and we do ourselves only a little good by simply pinning joy to a specimen board, splaying open its belly, and dissecting its parts. Examination is good and necessary, but it is also woefully insufficient. Joy is best known in being joyful. Not by knowing the names and functions of all its parts. That said, we turn to the Great Dissector himself, Thomas Aquinas, for the better parts of understanding where we are intellectually with joy.

According to Thomas, strictly speaking, joy is not a virtue.3 It is not an operative habit, nor does it incline us to perform any specified acts. However, the virtues (theological, moral, intellectual) do tend to produce “several ordinate and homogeneous acts,” or effects. In the case of the virtue of charity, joy is one such ordinate and homogeneous act, making joy an effect of charity. Thomas writes, “Hence [charity] inclines us to love and desire the beloved good, and to rejoice in it. But in as much as love is the first of these acts, that virtue takes its name, not from joy, nor from desire, but from love, and is called charity. Hence joy is not a virtue distinct from charity, but an act, or effect, of charity. . .” 
 
How are these scholastic distinctions even remotely pertinent to our exploration of Pippo's apparent foolishness? Philip Neri studied philosophy at the Sapienza in Rome and theology with the Augustinians just short of a decade after Emperor Charles V paid mercenaries to sack the city in 1527. In his biography of Pippo, Paul Turk, notes, “. . .it is well testified that he read St. Thomas Aquinas throughout his life and that later on he was capable of discussing intricate problems with learned men of his day.”4 Though Pippo always downplayed his intellectual prowess and education, the influence of Thomas in Pippo's day was pervasive and unavoidable. Pippo often sent young men to the Dominicans and maintained friendships with the friars at San Marco in Florence. The fiery friar-preacher, Savonarola, was a life-long inspiration for Pippo. So, it is a safe assumption that the fine scholastic distinctions found the Angelic Doctor's work made their way into the saint's humble heart and mind, and were given an exaggerated expression in his apparent foolishness. Pippo fully understood that his antics were both a means to humility and a way to be loving. In other words, he wasn't just acting crazy to be seen acting crazy. When the fire of joy overflowed, Pippo – always mindful of the temptation of vanity – let loose in the streets of Rome a circus of God's love and drew to Him Who Is Love crowds of sinners to be welcomed and washed clean. For sinners, foolishness was Pippo's hook. For himself, it was a penance.

If we take Pippo's life as a dramatic reading of Thomas' notion of joy, we can better see not only why Pippo lived as he did, but also how we have so misunderstood joy. Assuming that Thomas is correct concerning joy – and, of course, he is! – then we must admit that we've been “doing joy” wrong for quite some time. Like most of our traditional philosophical and theological vocabulary and grammar, joy has been stripped of its transcendental referent – de-transcendentalized, if you will. The modernizing project of the so-called “Enlightenment” demanded that our language submit itself to the grubby paws of naturalized reason and bow to the harsh judgments of empirical science. Any attempt to reach above human reason and grasp at the transcendent was ruled out of order. Rather than reinvent an entirely new language for the modern project, our Betters took the languages they had on hand – traditional philosophy and theology – and began re-writing the dictionaries to scour them clean of the natty influences of silly supernatural superstitions. The virtues were re-paganized into merely human attributes, laudable behaviors with nothing above them to strive toward and nothing beneath them for support. If the virtues suffered such a barbaric treatment, then their “ordinate and homogeneous acts” and effects suffered as well. Desire and joy as effects of charity – de-transcendentalized – became little more than human longing and momentary delight. Nothing above, nothing below. Nothing to move toward, nothing to stand on. 

The current best definition of joy? “A feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” A feeling. Not an act of love or an effect of charity. But a feeling. A feeling of what? Pleasure and happiness. How defined? No idea. With nothing as a referent, pleasure and happiness are defined by nothing more than the individual expressing joy. Do the ISIS terrorists who are beheading Christians in Iraq feel joy? Sure, why not? If it makes them happy – and they certainly look happy – why not call it joy? Would Thomas and Pippo call it joy? Is beheading another human being in order to instill terror in others a loving act? Hardly. Yet we can rightly describe these terrorists – using our modern dictionaries – as joyful.

My purpose in rehearsing the fall of our traditional language is to bring into focus the depths to which we have fallen in allowing our words to become bastardized by nominalism. That is, by not challenging the underlying assumptions of the modern world's use of language, we immediately surrender the field to nihilism and chaos. When we use words in the way that our Betters demand we use them, we sign away our natural freedom to speak as Christians. Pippo may not have understood the problem of nominalism or even knew that the problem existed; however, he understood all too well the temptations inherent in allowing words and concepts to remain merely marks on a page. Over and over again in his sayings, his letters, his strange antics in the streets of Rome, Pippo acted out the fires of joy. Not simply speaking about joy but acting joyfully; loving sinners; acting as a flesh and bone avatar of joyful repentance. Turk notes that Pippo never gave a penance that he himself failed to complete. He was as demanding of himself as he was of his penitents. And in this way, Pippo embodied the joy that our Lord came to us to complete.

If St. Philip Neri embodies genuine Christian joy, then what does the opposite of Christian joy look like? Thomas tells us that desire and joy are the “ordinate and homogeneous acts” or effects of the virtue of charity. Sorrow is opposed to joy, and sorrow is an effect of the vice sloth. So, what is sloth? Thomas, referring to St John Damascene, writes, “Sloth. . .is an oppressive sorrow, which. . .so weighs upon man's mind, that he wants to do nothing. . .Hence sloth implies a certain weariness of work. . .a 'sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good.'”5 He goes on to argue that sorrow – as an effect of sloth – is always evil because it is an intentional rejection of joy, or a refusal to experience the effects of love, especially divine love. That's the definition. But what does sloth, oppressive sorrow, look like in a person? We are quick in the 21st century to point out that sloth sounds an awful lot like clinical depression. And the two probably share some of the same observable traits. But we would miss the point of defining sloth if we simply shoved it into the clinical category of depression and left it there. Perhaps the difference that makes the difference between the two is that sloth – as a vice – is a bad habit. Not a condition or an illness or a psychic wound. But a bad habit. Sloth is the deliberate rejection of joy, the calculated refusal to allow the effects of love, esp. divine love, to touch the soul. This means that the slothful man has been shown divine love, received it as a gift, benefited from its promises, and yet refuses to exhibit any of its effects on him. In this way, sloth is the bad habit of ingratitude and the added sin of failing to bear witness to the generosity of Christ's gifts. What we normally think of as slothfulness arises out of this spiritual laziness: I can't be bothered to participate in the divine life except as it directly benefits me. The slothful man knows that he is obligated by baptism and his gifted share in the divine life to go out and proclaim the Good News of the Father's freely offered mercy to sinners. He himself as experienced this mercy. Yet! He refuses. That refusal, that bad habit of ingratitude and spiritual stinginess, produces an oppressive sorrow that only compounds and amplifies his sloth. 
 
Pippo Buono stands against sloth by living joyfully. He bears witness to divine love by acting, speaking, thinking joyfully – all as the direct result of getting and receiving the Lord's mercy for his sins. And lest he become prideful of his spiritual gifts and take too seriously the accolades that cardinals and fishwives are heaping upon him, he dresses like a clown, dances around the streets of Rome, and tells corny Latin jokes in choir. And not only does he do all these silly things out of love, he demands that his penitents and followers do them as well. Why? Because the joy that love demands of us is best expressed in humble acts of apparent foolishness.

Part II

Joe is the sacristan at St Dominic's parish here in NOLA. He's in his late 60's, a very humble, hardworking man who loves the Church and cherishes his job in the sacristy. Joe is also Barber to the Friars. He buzzes Dominican heads all over the city. And he loves it. Joe also has a gift for making this particular friar (me!) feel just a little self-conscious, and that's OK because he does it in a way that perfectly reflects his charity. Every time I see Joe, he says, “Fr Philip! It's always so good to see you! You have the best smile and you always brighten my day! Just being around you makes me feel better about the world! You're the smartest guy I know and I hope those guys at the seminary know how lucky they are to have you!” And he goes on and on in this vein for quite some time, and then he'll pause and say, “But I don't want you to get a big ego, so I'm gonna stop.” All I can do during these moments of praise is smile, nod, thank him, and wait for the inevitable conclusion. Why do these praise-sessions make me self-conscious? Because I know something about me that Joe doesn't: I am not easily given to being joyful nor am I always ready with a smile. In fact, I can be quite cynical and prone to the temptations of despair. Thanks to Augustine and Calvin I make a natural idealist living in a world that will never meet my standards. Thankfully, that's my dark side, and it doesn't win out very often. But this is the Fr. Philip Show not the Dr. Phil Show, so why I am telling you all this? For one simple reason: I chose “Philip Neri” as my religious name not because I am like him, but because I need to be more like him. 
 
Pippo exuded joy in his silliness. He wore humility like a crown, never taking it off. He was unafraid of being embarrassed; nonplussed by his social and ecclesial Betters. He took formal social events as an opportunity to remind himself and others that we are all going back to dust someday. Pippo understood the need for social order and formality and he respected authority as any good priest would; however, he never allowed any of that to overwhelm his ultimate goal, his final end: union with God. And he never allowed bella figura – good form – to ruin a chance to show sinners God's freely offered mercy. In fact, he wholeheartedly believed that his joyful silliness was the best way to reveal our Lord's mercy to those most in need of it. Pippo's antics made it easier for sinners to approach the throne and receive the gift from his consecrated hands. What he did over and over again is what all priests must be able to do when necessary: he made the Lord directly accessible when he seems to be at the most inaccessible. 
 
Joy – real joy, the effect of divine love and our charity – makes the Lord accessible to others through us. More specifically, your joy makes the Lord accessible to those whom you serve. And they need the Lord more than you will ever need your self-defined dignity. 
 
Our people live in this world, but they are not of it. This world demands constant sacrifice, constant praise. It harangues us to pay attention, spend, consume, waste, hurry up, demand, complain, be outraged, and whine. It demands that we do and say whatever it takes to Get Mine and hang on to it into the grave. Our sacrifices to the gods of this world can never be enough because they – the gods – know that they are finite creatures just pretending to be gods. If they ever get their fill of our misery, they will have to confess their finitude and abdicate their altars. So, to perpetuate their reign, they multiply our miseries and await our offerings. Unfortunately, our people will stand in line to make the proper sacrifices and then turn to us and wonder why their lives are a mess. And when they turn to you, hoping to see the Lord and some way out of their misery, who or what do you show them? (Your answer to that question will define your ministry). What do they see when they turn to you? A way into a life of grace? Or just another obstacle to overcome? Do they see a means of achieving freedom in Christ? Or a man too deeply committed to his clerical role to bend down and help? They could also see you as an easy source of cheap grace, or as a mark upon whom they can perpetuate a spiritual fraud. Maybe you're the one who will eagerly tell them what they want to hear, thus relieving them of a cross they choose to carry. Or maybe you will be the priest who agrees with their dissent and gives them permission to sin. 
 
What will they see when they turn to you? Better yet: what should they see when they turn to you? To answer this question fully would require me to start and finish a lecture series in pastoral theology and practice. I'll leave that burden to Fr. Krafft. Instead, looking over at my patron, Pippo Buono, I'll offer a short answer that requires some unpacking. A priest of Christ – lay or ordained – should always and everywhere appear to those in need as one who embodies and lives out that great Catholic ideal: veritas in caritate. That low groan you just heard came from the seminarians of second theology who are currently enduring my homiletics practicum. Veritas in caritate will populate their nightmares until the Reaper comes for them! Nonetheless, I would argue that this simple phrase – packed as it is with portent – should be engraved and gilded on the doors and walls of every rectory, priory, convent, monastery, and Catholic home on the globe. It contains all things necessary for carrying out one's ministry as a bearer of the Good News. It also has the distinction of being the adage that Pippo Buono lived out in all of his humble silliness. If you want to know why Pippo was so successful as an evangelist in Rome at a time when ecclesial corruption and licentiousness ruled, think: veritas in caritate. 
 
Earlier I noted Pippo's affinity for the Dominicans of his time. He was especially fond of Savonarola, the friar who ruled Florence and ended his life on a pyre as a heretic. Pippo admired the friar for his skillful preaching and zeal for the conversion of sinners. Savonarola went to deadly extremes in carrying out his program of reform, but Pippo nonetheless saw in him a soul burning with a desire for the truth of the faith to prevail., Pippo took to Savonarola's severity and, along with his knowledge and appreciation for Friar Thomas, tempered both with a practical wisdom that pushed him out into the streets to gather in the Lord's sheep. Without wavering from the truth of the faith, he cared for God's people in whatever way they needed. Because he loved, he clung to the truth. And because he clung to the truth, he loved. In Pippo, there wasn't a sliver of difference between preaching on the damning evils of sin and immediately absolving sinners in confession. When he needed to confront sinners on the street, he did so in way that brought them into the confessional – with genuine love for their souls. He was never above begging for others – food, clothes, jobs. Nor did he place himself below any man because of his station. To Pippo, all men and women were equally sinful and equally forgiven. And all of them deserved the attention of his Lord's servant. 
 
Embracing the phrase veritas in caritate as your pastoral motto can only lead to one, glorious effect: joy! Charity, as a virtue, produces both desire and joy. Desire and joy are effects of charity. If you preach, teach, and minister veritas in caritate then you will experience and exude the fires of joy, drawing to yourself those who most need to hear the Good News. But there's a significant danger here, one Pippo himself brushed against more than once. With great joy comes great temptation. After Cardinal Cusano had the relics of Papias and Maurus transferred to the Chiesa Nuova in 1590, Pope Gregory XIV tired to sneak a cardinal's biretta onto Pippo's head. Pippo leaned forward and whispered something in the pope's ear, persuading His Holiness to hold off making him a cardinal.6 Pippo endured and resisted many attempts of this kind to elevate him to the episcopate and even popular movements to declare him a living saint. A large part of his antics were meant to dissuade others from seeing him as a man of classical saintliness. The danger here, of course, is pride. At a time in the Church when hierarchy, station, money, and power were the daily currency of Rome, Pippo knew too well how easily it would be for him to be entombed in the layers of silk, brocade, silver, gold, and jewels. He wanted no part of an imperial Church. Whatever work he had left to do would be done as a beggar or a clown. . .not as a Prince of the Church. 
 
The dangers we face as priests and ministers in the 21st century are not exactly the same, but they rise from the same cardinal sin: pride. Success in ministry – successes like the ones Pippo managed – would draw the attention of the world. And with the world comes applause, prestige, wealth, and even power. How many bishops and priests have we seen in the last fifty years fall because they forgot to embody veritas in caritate? Books, speaking tours, websites, CD's, interviews with the press, requests for comments on current events – all fine in themselves, but also ways for pride to inflate the ego and the ego to become to a god. 
 
Even if you were to become a god only in your own mind, you would still fall into idolatry. How long would it be before your bishop becomes a meddling fool? Your brother priests jealous clerics? Your parishioners whiny know-it-alls? Looking back on your days at NDS, you would see the deep and cavernous flaws in your professors and formators. Safe to discard all that nonsense now. Because before you would be a wide-open road and clear-blue sky just waiting for you to make your next astonishingly brilliant move. And the only thing holding you back would be the drudgery of daily parish ministry and all those whinging sheep who can't seem to wash themselves more than once a month. You have a career to build! Important people to meet! Important meetings to attend! A golf game at 3 and drinks with the mayor at 5. . .OK. OK. You get my point. I hope. Being a successful spiritual father opens you up to the particular temptations of fame and fortune. So, the truly successful spiritual father never allows himself to forget that he is first and foremost a father. And a father cares for his children by telling them the truth in love. And by making sure that he himself is told the truth in love. Even when that truth stings.

Shifting gears a bit. Jesus says to his disciples, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” What is this? What did Jesus say to his disciples so that his joy may be in them and their joy may be complete? Right before this statement, Jesus was giving his disciples a metaphor for how he sees his relationship with them: the vine and the branches. He is the vine; we are the branches. As long as we remain with him, we will grow and thrive, producing much good fruit. Then he says, “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” How is his joy given to us and our joy made complete? By bearing much fruit and becoming his disciples. More than that, actually, he adds, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” Then he promises to complete our joy. But what does “complete our joy” mean here? We do all these things and then we find our joy complete. If joy is an effect of divine love, then our completed joy is an effect of completed divine love; that is, perfect divine love. In other words, if we remain in Christ, loving as we ought, bearing much fruit, and following the Father's commands, we will receive the effect of perfect love called perfect joy. We will find ourselves gazing upon the Beatific Vision. 

Pippo knew this well, so he lived his life as if he were always, already in sight of the Beatific Vision. What we might call his silliness was a means to an end: humility. Others saw his humble silliness and rightly identified its source: his joy. And Pippo knew the source and summit of his joy: his love for God and his Christ. In every way that matters, Pippo's ministry to sinners was an expression of his love for Christ and Christ's love for him. Without guile or boasting or weariness, he gave himself – sacrificed himself – to the holy cause of making known to sinners the Father's freely offered mercy. He died May 25, 1595 firmly attached to the vine of Christ.


1 Turks, Paul. Philip Neri: The Fire of Joy. Alba House, 1995, 99.
2 Ibid, 99.
3 ST.II-II.28.4
4 Turks, 13.
5 ST.II-II.35.1
6 Turks, 99.

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13 April 2015

12 April 2015

Just the beginning of our surrender

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Lay Carmelites/Our Lady of the Rosary

The Easter scene – one week later – is fraught with tension and trial. The disciples are frightened and disbelieving, maybe even on the razor's edge of freaking-out and abandoning the Gospel altogether. And who can blame them? For three years they've followed the man Jesus as he wandered the countryside teaching and preaching the conquering power of the Father's freely offered mercy. Healing the sick, exorcising the possessed, multiplying bread and fish to feed the thousands, the disciples had every good reason to trust that their teacher was exactly who he said he was. And then Judas sold him to the temple priests and the Romans nailed him to a cross. At the expected moment, when the Son of God should have come down from the cross and laid waste to his enemies, at that moment, he instead cried out to his Father – Why have you forsaken me? – and died. Now his body is missing from the tomb and no one knows where they took him. Hunted as traitors and heretics, the disciples hide in fear, wondering what went wrong and why. To their surprise and shame, the resurrected Lord appears in their midst, and says, “Peace be with you.” Despite their lack of faith, their abandonment of hope, the Lord shows them his mercy. 

Or maybe he shows them his mercy b/c of their lack of faith and abandonment of hope? When Thomas the Twin returns to their locked-tight hide-out, the other disciples bear witness to the Lord's appearance. He refuses to believe their testimony; he refuses to believe that the resurrected Lord appeared to them, showing them his execution-wounds. In defiance and with all the arrogance of a modern American, Thomas announces, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” One week later – this week – the resurrected Lord appears again in their midst and again shows them the Father's mercy, “Peace be with you.” And rather than punish his arrogant disciple, Thomas, the Lord does the unexpected again. He relieves Thomas' disbelief in the only way that Thomas could accept: “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” The Lord's gift of Divine Mercy moves Thomas to an act of faith. He shouts, “My Lord and my God!” 

We can sympathize with Thomas' disbelief. We can sympathize with his faith. No doubt each one of us have lived through days and weeks of despair, and days and weeks of vivid faith and hope. We can even sympathize with the frightened disciples, locked away in their hide-out. Over the centuries, the Church has thrived in hiding and barely survived out in the open. We've ruled empires and been ruled by them. We've shaped whole cultures and allowed ourselves to be shaped by them. Whether we are hiding in fear of the State or openly thriving in the marketplace, there is one constant that never fails us: God's enduring and freely offered gift of mercy for the forgiveness of our sins. That offer, this gift never changes. Our Lord always appears in our midst and says, “Peace be with you.” The stillness of that hope and the constancy of that faith pulls us to belief in him and belief in him gently lays us down with love. Thomas' arrogant demand for physical proof is born of fear. If what his fellow disciples tell him is true, then he is obligated to act, to change, to become someone wholly given-over to the power of Spirit who is Love. That commitment is more than just frightening; it's dreadful, filled with the possibilities and promises of giving testimony to an event he himself did not witness. Can he bring himself to live as a follower of Christ and die as his witness when he does not/cannot know if Christ is truly risen?

That's a question we must ask ourselves. Can we? Can I live as a follower of Christ and die as his witness when I do not/cannot know if Christ is truly risen? It's one thing to live as a follower of Christ, to live using his words and deeds as my measure. It's a whole different kind of thing to die b/c I live according to his words and deeds. Think about our brothers and sisters in Iraq right now. Christian boys and men are beheaded in the streets b/c they are followers of Christ. Christian girls and women are herded like animals into cages and sold as sex slaves at auctions. In Nigeria, our brothers and sisters are blown to pieces while attending Mass. Whole Christian villages are macheted for no other reason than that they follow the Christ. In China, the gov't regularly arrests and jails Catholic priests and bishops and leaves them to rot. In Mexico, the Priest Murder Capital of the World, there have been some 47 priests murdered in two decades. Though no where near this level of violence, the U.S. and Europe are seeing a rise in anti-Christian bigotry and the soft-totalitarianism of political correctness. In some ways this sort of soft pressure-to-conform is more dangerous to the faithful than machetes and car bombs. One small surrender at a time eventually amounts to total surrender.

And we will end in total surrender to the secular culture if we do not surrender first to Christ. Our surrender to the culture will not be the end of the Church. The Church will endure, always endure. What will come to an end is the life in Christ for those who give up, for those who – like Thomas and the disciples – choose despair over hope, choose hiding-in over going-out. When Thomas sticks his hand into Christ's wounds he shouts, “My Lord and my God!” What went on in his head during those second btw feeling our Lord's worn flesh and his confession of surrender? Maybe he realizes his mistake and repents. Maybe he feels ashamed of his doubting. Maybe he is convicted in his heart that his mind is wrongly closed to believing what he cannot see. Maybe, just maybe his fear is given rest and his anxiety is appeased by the knowledge that his fellow disciples have testified in truth: the Lord is no longer in his tomb! Thomas is made faithful by the radical truth that his Lord and God is truly risen! Knowing the Risen Lord and believing in the Risen Lord makes Thomas a man-sent-out, an apostle. A man who is what he does and does who he is.

Each one of us is made faithful by the truth of the Risen Lord. If you come forward to eat his body and drink his blood, you are putting your hands into his wounds. Do not be unbelieving but believe. Do not be unknowing but know. And ask yourself: if I can live as a follower of Christ, can I die as a follower of Christ? To say yes to this question is the beginning of your surrender.
_____________________

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05 April 2015

The Liturgical Revolution: failure and collapse

A post from five years ago. . .now that I am directly involved in the education and formation of seminarians into priests, I can see how the reaction to the Poundians is faring. It's not going well for them. Seminarians and religious students are almost universally rejecting the Poundian liturgical revolution. Thank God and All the Saints! Now, this doesn't mean that they are eagerly embracing the Extraordinary Form. . .though many are. . .it does mean that we will likely see the complete collapse of the "Spirit of Vatican Two" liturgical revolution by mid-century. We'll look back at the 1980's, shake our heads, and ask, "What were they thinking?!" 
 
Though there is almost no chance that our young priests and religious will plan a Clown Mass or wreckovate a beautiful old church, there is another temptation hovering over their enthusiasm for tradition-oriented liturgical worship: the means of achieving tradition-oriented liturgical worship
 
Having lived through Fr. Hollywood's abuse of pastoral discretion to denude his parish church of any and all Catholic iconography, Fr. Youngster has in mind a restoration to Full Roman Catholic Glory. Good for him. How does he do it? If he looks to Fr. Hollywood's example of pastoral abuse, he will simply decree that It Be Done. . .and do it. Without consultation, without catechesis, without any sense at all of what his people need or want. . .he will decree Make It So. . .and then make it so. This is a HUGE mistake. Correcting small liturgical abuses can be easily done, but re-orienting a modernist, suburban parish toward a more formal, traditional style of worship takes time, energy, and tremendous amounts of patience and love. To rush such a reformation on nothing more than the word of the pastor is authoritarian and counter-productive. In the minds of parishioners, tradition-oriented liturgical worship is associated with the abuse of clerical power and poisons any chance that the reformation will take hold organically.
 
Fr. Youngster, remember: "Gentle as doves, wise as serpents." Patience, love, wisdom, and then a lot more patience and love.
 
The Post:
 
In the early 20th century, the American crypto-fascist ex-pat poet, Ezra Pound, issued a three word manifesto that came to define the modernist movement in poetics:  "Make it new."  Reacting to what he saw as the calcified conservativism of formal verse in the West, Pound urged poets to strike out into unexplored poetical territories and bring to the art of the image and line the perpetual revolution of novelty for novelty's sake.

Pound's orders were faithfully followed by his loyal troops and the hydra-headed monster of modernist poetry laid waste to traditional versification.  The influence of his revolution of novelty was not limited to the arcane practices of poets.  Novelists, dramatists, artists, musicians, dancers, architects, all heard the call of "make it new" and went about deconstructing centuries of subtle, complex beauty with the fierce simplicity of the single, powerful image. 

As any Catholic who has witnessed the dissolution of our faith's liturgical heritage can attest, Pound's revolution had no respect for the Church or her treasures.  The central document outlining the Second Vatican Council's plan for liturgical renewal, Sacrosanctum concilium, was snatched by Poundian revolutionaries in the Church and used to dismantle the 500 year old tradition of worship in the Catholic faith.  Pope John Paul II, and to a much greater degree, Pope Benedict XVI, have mitigated, if not yet entirely reversed, the lasting damage done to the liturgical heritage of the Church by insisting on the organic development of liturgy and the need to read the Council documents with a hermeneutic of continuity.   What remains of the Novelty Revolution lies mostly in the misplaced creative efforts of priests and religious who, for whatever reason, see it as their vocation to make sure that the Church's worship remains "relevant" and "up to date." 

By placing relevance and novelty above organic development and continuity, liturgical Poundians ignore the historical and ecclesial nature of the liturgy and privilege their subjective cultural assessments above the real spiritual needs of their charges.  The widespread phenomenon of liturgical abuse is an insidious form of clericalism that encourages those with clerical power to use that power to inflict their private preferences, political agendas, and ideological quirks on congregations powerless to stop them.  Though Catholics have seen a dramatic decline in liturgical abuse in the last twenty-years, abuses still occur, and in some places, abuses are the norm.

Liturgical abuse comes in three varieties:

1).  a misplaced emphasis on the immanent at the expense of the transcendent
2).  the elevation of the purely intellectual at the expense of the affective/experiential
3).  an emphasis on the local at the expense of the universal
(NB.  there is absolutely nothing wrong with the liturgy expressing the immanent, the intellectual, or the local.  The problem is an emphasis on these aspects at the expense of their balancing opposites.)

Immanent vs. transcendent

In reaction to the over-clericalization of the medieval liturgy, Poundians worked hard to redirect our liturgical attention to the presence of the divine among us.  Initially a necessary reform, this redirection quickly became a foil for all-things-transcendent.  The most notable example of this abuse is the almost-disappearance of the notion of the Mass as a sacrifice.  In order to displace the over-hyped role of the priest, Poundians turned the Mass into a communal meal, distributing the larger portion of the priest's role to the community and making Mass all about bringing the community together.  We still see this happening in the unnecessary use of communion ministers; the priest refusing to use to presider's chair; folksy language used to replace liturgical language; and the illicit use of gender-inclusive language.

Intellectual vs. affective

Many older Catholics lament the demise of traditional devotions after Vatican Two.  In an effort to bring our undivided attention back to the celebration of the Mass, Poundians waged war against devotional practices.  Seen as private, affective luxuries, devotions were railed against as willful acts of rebellion against the need to build community through individual "active participation" in the Mass.  Modernist innovations in the secular arts always required some knowledge of the theory that produced the art.  Pollock's paintings only make sense if you understand what he is trying to do in the context of traditional painting techniques.  Poundian liturgical revolutionaries were quick to dismiss criticisms of their innovations with ringing calls for more catechesis--more education would somehow diffuse the overwhelming discomfort most Catholics felt when confronted with disruptive, alien liturgical practices.  We still see the intellectual being privileged over the affective in abuses like monologues on the meanings of liturgical symbols; an insistence on equating stark, barren sanctuaries with "noble simplicity"; the deconstruction of traditional church architecture as a way of embodying ideas about the nature of community; and the dumbing down of liturgical language so that immediate cognitive understanding trumps the more profound experiences to be found in elevated language and ritual.

Local vs. universal

As part of the effort to undermine a universally told story about the faith, Poundians began emphasizing the need for more and more local options in the celebration of the liturgy.  Citing the Council's call for inculturation, the "Make it new" crowd attacked the notion that our liturgical worship connects us to a historically-bound narrative of God's Self-revelation; in other words, their novelty revolution would not tolerate a liturgy that privileged tradition as the clearest lens through which the Church understands her historical relationship with God.  Building on the growth and spread of subjectivity and relativism, the Poundians latched onto a rarefied notion of the local church ("this church-community") and opposed it to the universal Church as the most authentic expression of catholic identity.  This move allowed them to argue for more and more specificity, more and more idiosyncratic innovations in how the liturgy was celebrated at the parish level.  It quickly became commonplace for parishes to be identified by their "worship-style," and even Masses celebrated at different times within the same parish were described in terms of style.  This abuse is most clearly seen in so-called ethnic parishes where attempts are made to accommodate the dominant culture of the parishioners (Latino, African-American, Vietnamese) at the expense of the universal story of our faith. (NB. not all cultural accommodation is necessarily an abuse; abuses are always perversions of allowable uses.)

Liturgical Poundians are on the decline.  Like their counterparts in literature, the excesses of novelty for novelty's sake have proven that the revolution has no underlying principle of restraint, no intrinsic limits.  What counts as "new" is itself subject to the whims of those deemed avant-garde enough to define the term.  Poundians have been rightly criticized for becoming staid, predictable, and highly orthodox in their privileging of a late-20th century liturgical aesthetic. Anyone who has clashed with a professional liturgist knows that the principles they espouse are as plastic as they need to be to justify the preferred worldview of the liturgist.  Rubrics, magisterial documents, liturgical law, tradition, all form a  repugnant canon to those who see it as their sacred ministry to shape the liturgical lives of the less enlightened.

Though it is not entirely clear that young Catholics will embrace the ancient liturgical tradition of the Church in large numbers, what is clear is that the age of experimentation is over.  Novelty for the sake of novelty is an exhausted project.
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03 April 2015

Good Friday: Stop All the Clocks

Good Friday 2012
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA


Our Lord takes a sip of wine and sighs, “It is finished.” Our Lord is dead. Do we mourn? Do we rejoice? His mortal life is finished, and now we. . .what?. . .celebrate/remember/grieve. He is finished; his work is done. And whatever we choose to do with his passing, our pilgrimage to lives eternal is just beginning. The poet, W. H. Auden, chose to dwell at the cross on Good Friday. He writes:

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message 'He is dead'[. . .]

I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong
The stars are not wanted now, put out every one
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
*


Mr. Auden was wrong. . .about being wrong. Love does last forever and there is no need to empty creation of its stars and oceans and woods. Come Easter morning—we know—that Christ's tomb is empty and all creation is brought back to Love. But for today, our Lord is dead. And the good he brings seems forever away. Do we mourn? Rejoice? Do we laugh or cry? Whatever we do, we take one step toward eternity. 

* Stop All the Clocks, W. H. Auden, 1937.  This poem was written as lyrics for a play.  The subject of the poem is a deceased politician, not Christ; however, I thought the idea of the poem fit well with Good Friday.  
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02 April 2015

What Holy Thursday Teaches Us

Office of Readings: Holy Thursday
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA


All that we read and hear read in these Holy Thursday liturgies teach us to how to see our Lord's death. If we were to watch him die on the cross as a criminal, we would have nothing to celebrate. He is dead. If we were see him die as just a man, as this morning's sin-offering, we would have to prepare another victim to sacrifice for tomorrow's sins. If we were to see him die as a god, then nothing human is healed by his dying. Holy Thursday teaches us to see our Lord's death in truth. He is a heretic to the Jews. A criminal to the Romans. Just a man to Jew and Gentile alike. But for us, he is the Son of God and the Son of Man, offered once for all on the altar of the Cross as a sin-offering for the whole world. “When perfected [through obedience], he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. . .” 

Holy Thursday teaches us how an execution became a sacrifice and how a sacrifice becomes a on-going feast for giving thanks. When Jesus and his disciples gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, they are doing more—much more—than honoring an ancient Jewish custom. For three years now, Jesus has reminded his disciples—in word and deed—that everything he says and does is moving them all toward a single goal: the fulfillment of the Covenant btw Abraham and God the Father. Every sermon, every hostile exchange with the Pharisees, every healing miracle, everything he has said and done fulfills scriptural prophecy and points to his birth as the coming of the Kingdom. This last celebration of Passover in Jerusalem is no different. It too is a prophetic sign of who and what he is for us. When Jesus and his friends recline at table to begin the feast, they know that what they are remembering is God's rescue of His people from centuries of Egyptian slavery. Bread for the feast is unleavened b/c there is no time to wait for it to rise. The wine is watered b/c they need to be clear-headed for their escape. They are girded for travel and lightly packed. Jesus lifts the bread and says, “This is my Body.” He lifts the cup of wine, “This is my Blood.” At that moment, what were the disciples thinking? Knowing full well what the Passover means—freedom from slavery—did they understand that the Lord was telling them that their ancestral meal of remembrance was now a feast of freedom? That eating his Body and Blood would free them from sin and death? Later, after Jesus' execution, did they make the connection btw ritually sacrificing a lamb in the temple with his sacrifice on the cross? 

Holy Thursday teaches us that the Roman execution of Jesus is a Jewish sacrifice that the Risen Christ transforms into a feast of thanksgiving—a New Covenant Passover celebration that celebrates our rescue from slavery to sin. How does a Roman execution become a Christian feast? When the one executed is the Son of God and Son of Man. When the one whose body and blood we eat and drink is presented to God as a sacrifice, a sin-offering made once for all. And when we are commanded to remember this sacrifice, to participate in it by taking into our own bodies the Body and Blood of the one sacrificed for us. Holy Thursday teaches us that Jesus the Christ has fulfilled the promises and obligations of the Covenant made btw Abraham and God the Father, establishing for us a New Covenant of grace, of freely offered forgiveness for all of our offenses. Knowing this, “. . .let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor and to find help in time of need.”
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22 March 2015

Where He is, so will His servants be. . .

5th Sunday of Lent 2015
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

Three weeks into our Lenten fast and just two weeks away from Easter, can you hear this difficult teaching: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces good fruit.” You must change. We must change. We must move from seed to fruit, from kernel to harvest. We must move from what we are to what the Father made us to be at the first breath of creation. How? There is that moment, that instant when you surrender, when you truly say yes to God, that single breath, that single catch in your throat when the clarity and depth of a foundation-shaking decision dawns in your soul and you say with flesh and bone and heart, “Father, glorify your name in me!” The you are truly born. Then you will truly suffer. You will die. And then you will rise again. Christmas. Lent. Good Friday. Easter. 
 
Surrender. Suffer. Die. Rise again. This road of redemption is open to us because Jesus walked it first. “Whoever serves me must follow me.” This road is open to you because our Father will have you back. Our Father will love us into our perfection. He will have you again, whole, complete. He loves us not b/c we deserve love, not b/c we've earned love, not b/c He cannot see our sin. He loves us in order to change us. . .from who we are right now into who He wills us to be forever.

We are the seed of His glory!

Holy Week approaches. Here are the hard questions: will you die today? Will you surrender to Christ and follow him? Will you suffer to be with him at the cross? To be with him on the cross? Can we move beyond pride, anger, envy, lust, and hear this difficult teaching: Jesus says, “Where I am, there also will my servant be.”

The Greek converts to Judaism come to Jesus seeking an audience. They approach Philip and say, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip and Andrew go to Jesus with the request and Jesus, in a moment of bleak clarity, knows. Knowing all along that his life will end in pain and blood, Jesus whispers what has shouted in his heart since his baptism: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” His voice a sigh, resigned and determined, he warns Philip and Andrew that to follow him to glory requires that they do what he does. Surrender. Suffer. Die. Rise again.

Can we hear this difficult teaching? Are we prepared to hear it? We are prepared to hear that we are loved. We are prepared to hear that we are forgiven. Are we prepared to hear that we must surrender, suffer, and die to be with him forever? This is a road that we watch him travel every Lent, every Holy Week. We watch him, in the last days before Golgotha. We watch him take our licks, bleed our blood, cry out our pain. We watch his flesh tear against the nails and this blood seep out of his wounds. We hear his last words. And feel the ground shake as the temple veil rips apart.

We travel with him in our own way. But does it seem second-hand to you? Does it seem that we suffer and die with him three or four steps away? Behind the barricade, across the street, and around the corner? We can’t be there, literally. Not historically speaking, we can’t. We can enact, of course. Dramatize. We can recreate in gesture, symbol, word. Third person participation in a First Person act of vicarious sacrifice. But the whole thing can taste. . .plastic, made up, and weak.

But does it have to? No, it doesn’t. The chances that any of us here will find ourselves scourged and nailed to a cross for the faith are right at zero. Less than zero. This is a fact of historical circumstance; it is where we are in time and the place we live. We might suffer humiliation in the media or a kind of death in scandal. We might even act in such a way that we find ourselves jailed for our beliefs. I suppose we could find ourselves martyred in the right part of the world: Islamic Africa, the Middle East, communist Asia, killed just for being the voice of Christ, a witness to his freedom.

But I don’t think we have to be jailed, beaten, and killed to find a way to surrender, suffering, death, and resurrection. Will you hear this difficult teaching: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” If you cling desperately to who you are right now, with no other purpose, no end beyond living the next minute, the next hour, you will lose the life you have been given. Why? Your life has purpose, meaning—to live with God in holiness now and in beatitude forever! If you turn that goal into mere living, dumb existence, then the point of your being here is destroyed. If you hate the life the world tells you to live – the life of momentary pleasure, easy sin, temporary happiness – then you will see beyond the illusion of the Lie and serve what is permanent and life-giving, liberating and eternal. You will serve him, the one who has given your life to our Father for His glory.

To do this, to serve him, we must give ourselves to Christ. Surrender completely. No reservations. Nothing held back. This means that what God wants for you must become your first concern. His will for you must come before your politics, your “needs,” your self-control, your anger, your grudges, your debts, your hatreds, your loves, anything and everything must be heard and seen through the Father’s will for you. We must be subject to the Father. Perfected in obedience. And nearly ready to explode with the need to serve! We must be ready at any moment, at every hour to repeat Christ’s prayer: “It was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name in me.”

That’s surrender. What of suffering? We suffer well if we feel our pain with a purpose. Having surrendered everything to Christ, even our pain, everything of ours now belongs to Christ and perfects his work in us. We can experience pain like an animal. Or we can suffer, experience pain with a purpose, use it to perfect our obedience, our permanent openness to hearing the Father’s will for us. There is a stark, white clarity to suffering; a way that it has of focusing the spirit, tightening the will. Put it to work serving others. Give it to Christ for them. To what he did and suffer for them.

That’s suffering, what of dying and rising again? Not yet. Two more weeks. Death and resurrection in two more weeks.  Until then, remember: you are the seed of His glory. And you have some hard questions to answer before and during Holy Week: will you die today? Will you surrender to Christ and follow him? Will you suffer to be with him at the cross? To be with him on the cross?
 
Will you hear this difficult teaching: “Where I am, there also will my servant be.”
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15 March 2015

He loved us SO much. . .

Audio file for 4th Sunday of Lent. . .

NB. No text for this homily. 

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08 March 2015

Our Faith Cannot Be Bought or Sold

3rd Sunday of Lent (2015)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA
How many here have been to a flea market? I went to one for the first time in the early 80's with my paternal grandmother. We drove to Belzoni, MS to the annual Catfish Festival. We had a carload of her crafts to sell—ceramics, painting, knitting. Every item had a small white price sticker. But I learned that that sticker was just a suggestion, the opening bid for the item. Through the day, I watched my grandmother dicker over the prices. Sometimes she came out on top and sometimes she didn't. When the catfish frying started, I wandered around the stalls to see what I could see. It didn't take me long to find the comic book booths. All those wadded up dollar bills in my pocket—all ten of them—started burning and itching to be spent. I returned to my grandmother's booth with a handful of comics and nothing left in my pocket. That day I learned two rules about bargaining for what you want: 1). always assume that the price is too high; 2). be prepared to walk away. Since then, I've learned another rule of the marketplace: some things are too valuable to negotiate over. Jesus clearly demonstrates that there is no place for the marketplace in the business of faith. Our faith is priceless and God never bargains. 

Jesus is angry, very angry. He's angry enough to take a whip to the money changers doing business in the temple courtyard. It might not be obvious why he's so angry, so let's look at that for a moment. The money changers have a job to do. They are the first century equivalent of our modern currency exchanges. They take a wide variety of currency and change it—for a fee—into currency acceptable to the temple. The faithful visiting the temple then use their new currency to buy sacrificial animals or donate their tithe to the temple coffers. Seems innocent enough, so why does this practical business upset Jesus? He shouts at the money changers, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace.” He's angry b/c these businessmen have turned his Father's house into a marketplace. OK. But why would that make him angry? The money changers are helping the faithful fulfill their legal and ritual obligations. . .for a modest profit, of course. Without the money changers, most probably wouldn't be able to offer the required sacrifices or make their tithe donations. They are providing an invaluable service. If CCN or the NYT had been around in those days, the headlines would've read: CHRISTIAN TERRORIST TRASHES TEMPLE! Or something equally inflammatory. Is Jesus just being unreasonable here? Is he pushing an extremist agenda? No. Jesus knows that what his Father truly wants, truly values is the sacrifice of a contrite heart. The money changers have turned a deeply religious duty into a flea market negotiation.

Taken on its own, there's nothing inherently wrong with the marketplace. We buy what we want and need; sell what we can no longer use; and trade one thing for another based on mutual agreement. Nothing could be more democratic or fair. No one is forced to buy, sell, or trade and prices are set only after both parties are satisfied. But there are some things so valuable that they cannot be priced, cannot be bought, sold, or traded. There are some things that have worth beyond our ability to negotiate them away. One of those things is our faith, the infused habit of trusting in the loving-care of our Father. How much is the freely given gift of faith worth? What would you trade it for? What amount of money could you spend to buy a gift given only by God? Jesus is angry at the money changers because they have turned the faithfuls' love for God, their worship, their adoration into a mercantile exchange, a mechanical transaction from which they benefit by charging a fee. Where is the faithfuls' contrite heart? Where is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving? Where is repentance, mercy, and the longing for holiness? Do they believe that the their worship of the Most High is accomplished by jingling a few coins? That their duty to revere the Creator is discharged by slipping a quarter or two into a temple vending machine? Apparently, they do and that's why Jesus grabs a whip, flips over their booths, and drives them out of his Father's house.

Now, what does this raucous gospel episode have to do with us? While Jesus rested in Jerusalem, many came to believe in his name. However, John reports, “Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.” Jesus understands the human heart, its strengths, weaknesses, temptations, and failures. He understands that we are often all too ready, willing, and able to overthrow his Father as Lord of our lives and negotiate away the gift of faith. He understands that we are often tempted to allow the demons of fear and worry to set up shop among the better spirits of joy and trust. That we love a good deal and often fail to see beyond the next bargain, beyond the next chance to get something we want. Jesus hesitates to reveal himself to those who have come to believe on his name b/c he knows that it is our nature to take the easiest path, to lift the lightest burden, and to make the most popular choice. He will not give his revelation to a heart prepared to swap it for money, power, celebrity, or approval. He's waiting to reveal himself to those who will sacrifice a heart made contrite in repentance, a heart made pure by honestly discharging its duty to love. The freely given gift of faith cannot be bought, sold, or traded; it cannot be negotiated away or bargained for. It can only be nurtured and lived, or left to wither and die. 

During the next few years, the heart of the faithful in the U.S. will be tested by a variety of money changers seeking to buy the faith outright or to at least bargain over its price. We'll be tempted with promises of political influence, protection, increased gov't funding, and all sorts of apparently approving cultural goodies. At the same time, from the other side of the bargaining table, we'll be threatened with political exile, cultural disapproval, de-funding, and even dire legal consequences up to and including jail time. These negotiations are already well underway in the U.K., Canada, and several states in our own country. [SanFran] Why is the Church being targeted? The well-lived life of faith is an irritating obstacle to those who imagine themselves freed from the slavery of sin. That anyone anywhere would cling to the idea that God's truth is knowable; His goodness obtainable; and His beauty enjoyable is. . .well, it's just ridiculous; or worse, it's oppressive, mean-spirited, hateful. That's what our faith is to some: an oppressive, mean-spirited, and hateful indictment of their rightful choices; thus, they must either negotiate the faith away or destroy it outright. But they cannot do that if we follow Jesus' example and keep the money changers out of his Father's house, keep our faith out of the buying and selling of the flea market, away from the bargaining table and where it belongs: thriving in a contrite heart ready for loving sacrifice. 

Some things cannot be bought, sold, or traded. One of those things—the single most important thing—is the free given gift of our faith. Nothing this world's money changers have to offer is worth the price of abandoning our God.



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02 March 2015

Teach the Faith and Vocations Will Bloom

Bishop Morlino of Madison, WI is doing something right!

There are now 33 seminarians, or priests-in-training, up from six in 2003 when Bishop Robert Morlino arrived.

[. . .]


Why the local success? Morlino has made priestly vocations — the spiritual call to serve — a priority. He increased the position of director of vocations to full time, and he routinely promotes the priesthood at functions.

[. . .]

Bishops who are unambiguous about church doctrine and don’t tolerate dissent [that's lefty mediaspeak for "teaching the faith"] tend to inspire the greatest number of vocations, said Hendershott, who references Morlino positively in her book.

Read the whole thing.

P.S. Comments on this article from a few local Catholics tell you all you need to know about the spiritual state of the Madison diocese. Sad. Pray for Bishop Morlino and his seminarians.

P.P.S. Note that Jim Green, quoted in the article whining about the money spent on formation, is not a Catholic. He belongs to something called the "Holy Wisdom Monastery." Apparently, he's the Go To Guy when the local lefty media need someone to say something nasty about the Church.
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