10 August 2022

Falling, dying, showing mercy

St. Lawrence

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving

How do we fall to the ground and die and produce good fruit and lose our lives in order to save them and serve the Lord while following him? One way (of many) is to sow mercy so that we may reap mercy in abundance. But we must be careful that we aren't sowing dead seeds! Mercy has nothing to do with excusing sin or dispensing ourselves from the obligations of the moral law. Mercy isn't a shortcut to “you do your thing and I'll do mine and we'll just agree not to bother each other.” Mercy comes after one is convicted of sin. That is, mercy necessarily entails acknowledging one's sin. NB. Before the Confiteor, the priest invites us to “acknowledge our sins.” Not “call to mind” but “acknowledge” – to admit the existence of or truth of our sins. I can “call to mind” hobbits, orcs, unicorns, and even Dominicans who don't like books. But I'm not confessing that any of these mythical creatures actually exist. Mercy doesn't excuse sin. Mercy acknowledges sin and at the same time fuels our growth in holiness. How? Mercy is the time and space we need to see our sin clearly, turn away from it, and get ourselves – with God's help – back on the Narrow Way. None of us is always sinless. Thus everyone needs mercy. One way we can die to self, follow Christ, and produce good fruit is to sow mercy wherever we are planted. If we sow abundant mercy, then abundant mercy will sprout. The harvest will be an occasion of great joy. But if we sparingly sow, the harvest too will be spare, and the weeds of Self will take over. The greatest mercy we can show one another is to bear witness to the Lord's mercy in our own lives. When and where and how did the Lord gift you with the space and time to get things right? When and where and how did he call you out of your sin so that you could grow and flourish in holiness? What you have been freely given, you must freely give.

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05 August 2022

Denying and following

St. Mary Major

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

Yesterday, Peter thoroughly embarrasses himself. He rebukes Christ and gets rebuked in turn. And, in the process, he picks up yet another name, “Satan.” Jesus calls him the Accuser, the Enemy, and rebukes him as the Tempter. What did Peter do? He forgets who he is in Christ and places his Old Self btw himself and Christ. IOW, he affirms himself; puts down his Cross; and follows himself – his preferred image of Christ. We, of course, would never do such a thing! Except that we are asked everyday by our narcissistic individualistic culture to do exactly that – rebuke Christ, affirm our preferences, and worship ourselves as self-made gods. We could call this fault “moral selfishness,” but the cracks go deeper than mere morality. They run all the way into the heart and mind, splitting both body and soul away from our Savior. Is there anything more humbling for a 21st century American than having to admit that he isn't the master and commander of his life? The humbling truth for followers of Christ is that we are not the master and commander of our lives. Jesus did not die on the Cross to affirm us in our OK-ness. He didn't die on the Cross to help us feel better about our disordered inclinations. He died to kill our fallen human nature and renew it in divine love. He died so that might die with him and rise again toward his perfection. Following him means following him to Jerusalem and his Cross. Following him into death and out again to eternal life. So, deny yourself in Christ. Take up your cross with Christ. And follow Christ even as you are being made holy.         

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03 August 2022

Remember her

th Week OT (W)

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

Not a good week for the disciples. They've whined about having to feed the 5,000. Peter walks on water, freaks out, and then almost drowns. And today they get annoyed by a pagan woman. Even worse, the annoying woman helps Jesus reveal his mission to his cranky students. What is this revelation? That Jesus' mission and ministry is catholic, universal. The salvation he offers is not limited by race, ethnicity, class, nationality, or any other accidental quality of the created world. The Canaanite woman clearly understands the catholicity of Divine Love, probably b/c she is a mother. In fact, Jesus addresses her as “Woman,” taking us back to Genesis and the Wedding at Cana, reminding us that Eve and the BVM play essential roles in our salvation history. Remember her and her confession of faith if/when you find yourself becoming dismissive of those in need, or prideful about your inclusion in the Church, or maybe a little lazy about giving God thanks for the gifts you've been given. Remember her and her confession of faith in Christ if/when you start to believe that you can become God w/o God.   

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01 August 2022

Fish & the Eucharist

St. Alphonsus Liguori

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving

Our Lord bears witness to the power of giving God thanks for all of His gifts. Five thousand are fed with a couple of fish and few loaves of bread. Yes, this event happens in a deserted place. And yes, it happens despite the disciples' sad failure to trust their teacher. Nonetheless, this miraculous meal foreshadows our Eucharist – itself a miracle that occurs daily, everywhere, and whether we trust or not. At the center of the Eucharist is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. As priests of the Most High, we offer ourselves as an oblation. Why? B/c we are gifts from God who return ourselves to God as gifts. But the return happens only as we pass through the holy exchange of the Eucharist – praying as one Body in Christ, giving God thanks for everything we have and everything we are. Without Him, we are nothing and have nothing; literally, nothing. Not-created. Not-redeemed. Nothing. So, we take everything we have and everything we are, and we bring it all to the altar to make it holy in surrender. Only then do we receive Christ – body, blood, soul, and divinity. Only then are we free to become the Christ we are made to be. 

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31 July 2022

Yeah, all really is vanity. . .

18th Sunday OT

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Albert the Great, Irving, TX

Qoheleth asks, “For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun?” Then, some 2,300 years later in 1905, the German poet, Rainier Maria Rilke, writes to God about His people: Lord, the great cities are lost and rotting./Their time is running out…./The people there live harsh and heavy,/crowded together, weary of their own routines. […] Their dying is long/and hard to finish: hard to surrender/what you never received./Their exit has no grace or mystery./It’s a little death, hanging dry and measly/like a fruit inside them that never ripened.”* If Rilke is right, then the answer to Qoheleth's question – what does all our work and anxiety profit us in this life? – the answer is: not much. As followers of Christ, as those who work to become Christ in the world, this answer is encouraging! Given the vows we've made and the sacrifices we are ready to make, this answer strengthens our hope! (Yes, we're an odd bunch.) Paul lays it out for us: “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above...Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

We have died. Therefore, we are dead. The work, the anxiety, the vanities of the dead are dead. Sure, we breath and metabolize and sleep and eat but we do none of these outside the life Christ. Rilke's dark report to God about His people's plight tells us what our lives look like when we live outside our hiddenness in Christ. When we run after attachments and accomplishments in the world and applause from the world. Or worse, when invite the world into our hiddenness and give it free reign to rule. Paul urges us, “Put to death...the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.” This isn't a plea for us to adopt priggish, suburban etiquettes or self-righteous manners. It's a how-to instruction on tearing down the deadly idols we worhsip, esp. the deadliest idol of all: Me, the god of ego. The god I made of myself w/o the God Who actually made me. If I have died with Christ, risen with him, and now live a life hidden in him, then there is no Me for me to worship. There is only an imperfect Christ cooperating with God's grace to be perfected. What stands in my way?

Mostly, me. I have seen the enemy and it is me. Not society or genetics or gov't or any other external force. Just me. And that is more terrifying than any foreign army or terrorist cell or politician. Why? Because with authority comes responsibility. I choose. And as a follower of Christ, I choose freely. Blaming culture or science or economics for the consequences of my choices frees me from responsibility. But the truth is – it's pride or wrath or lust or some other deformation of my virtue that makes my life hard. Greed is our lectionary theme this morning. Paul says that greed is a form of idolatry, an adulterous relationship with our desire for more and more. Jesus tells us to guard against greed because we are infinitely more than what we possess, or more precisely, we are more than what possesses us. He shares a parable about a rich farmer who stores up his abundant harvest and then decides to party as if he'll never face famine. When God calls him to account, what good will his bulging barns do him? All that work, all that wealth, and what will it matter in death? Not much. If he had worked for the glory of God and worried after his holiness – his harvest, his treasure would be a fit answer and offering. But he chose greed. He chose more and more and more of nothing that matters.

“If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above...Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” This is our call to holiness. Life in the world but not the life of the world. It's not easy line to walk. The world is greedy for followers, for cattle to herd, and our vow to follow Christ sets us apart. Apart. Not above. Never above. We are not meant to rule in the world but to serve. And so long as we serve knowing our labor is for the glory of God and not the applause of men, then our treasure is stored in heaven. This is why we can hear Qoheleth despair and still smile. Yes, our work is in vain. Our blood, sweat, and tears are all shed in vain. Our wisdom and knowledge and skill – vanity, vanity, vanity. In the light of heaven and the promise of our eternal end, it is all work we must do for God's glory. But by the measure of the world – all is vanity.     

*The Book of Hours

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26 July 2022

Coffee Cup Browsing: July 26, 2022

If reality is controlled by language, then language is only about power

No, it isn't. . .but it is unduly influenced by gov't $$$.

Rules for Teachers in 1915. . .these don't look so bad given what's going on in public schools these days. 

Brown and Dobbs. . .how we get the result is as important as the result itself.

Why are Midwest public school teachers leaving the classroom?

"We overplayed the vaccines." Now she tells us. 

Prayer: three lessons. . .

This too shall pass. . .the biological clock just keeps on ticking.

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20 July 2022

Coffee Cup Browsing: July 20, 2022

Things That Should Have Been Shut Down for $400, Alex. 

How we know that they know they are losing. . .

Why men avoid Church. . .

Fake arrest, fake handcuffs, fake all the way down. . .

Eight hits out of ten shots fired. . .

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19 July 2022

Coffee Cup Browsing: July 19, 2022

Abortion lies. . .there are many. 

Erasing women from the MI Constitution. . .which exposes the lie that abortion was ever about women's rights.

Good Guy with a Gun stops mass shooting.

Anti-Woke TV. . .some good stuff there. I liked The Terminal List.

The insane world of trans ideology. . .

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16 July 2022

Coffee Cup Browsing: July 16, 2022

Luxury beliefs as marks of cultural capital. . .fascinating.

What does Progress want? The answer is Satantic.

Mass shootings: it's not about the guns. . .

I'm a Legal Fanboy: recent appeals court decisions.

The history, practice, and triumph of Wokeism.

I haven't watched network news (of any flavor) since 2005 or so. It's a liturgical event in religious houses with Boomers in residence.

A little late on this one: St. Kateri

Woke politicians ruined Starbucks in six cities. . .couldn't happen to a better business.

Lots of protesting going on. . .not much reporting though. 

Waiting for ALL the coffee to kick in. . .

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15 July 2022

Coffee Cup Browsing: July 15, 2022

Politician who supports protesting SC Justices at home and in public, freaks out when she gets protested in public. 

Teachers to Dems: please follow us down the CRT rabbit hole.

God bless these brave nuns!

Strange New World. . .you should be reading this. 

COVID vax doesn't prevent infection. Why is it called a vax then?

The toddler equivalent of genuflecting at the movie theater. . .

I was fascinated with these vids back in the day. . .

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14 July 2022

Coffee Cup Browsing

I started this blog in 2005 to post my homilies. In 2009, I started Coffee Cup Browsing -- by far the most popular type of post on the blog. I stopped in 2012 b/c I was working full-time at Notre Dame Seminary. Well, I'm unemployed. . .so, here it is again!

Sri Lanka is the Green Revolution's future

No, fossil fuels do not contribute to "climate change." 

Black community leaders condemn racist attacks on Justice Thomas.

The DIE ideology has infected corporate America. 

Paulist Fathers booted from OH Newman Center. 

Will the Pontifical Academy for Life betray Humanae Viatae?

The "clicking language" of Africa. Fascinating.

Some clarity after the Dobbs decision.

I watched it in slow-motion and still can't figure out how he does it!

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08 July 2022

Shrewd Innocence

14th Week OT (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St Albert the Great, Irving

Be shrewd. Be simple. Beware. All this week we've been getting lessons from Jesus about how to be holy, about how to survive and thrive in the world w/o being of the world. Today we tells us to be wise, to be astute. Sharp, smart like a serpent but innocent, harmless as a dove. That's quite the unique combo to pull off! So, what does innocent shrewdness look like? At the root of this disposition is agape, sacrificial love – willing the Good for the Other even unto death. IOW, properly using innocent shrewdness (or being shrewdly innocent) is just being Christ in the world. Knowing the Truth, living the Way, and expecting w/o hesitation Eternal Life. Through that lens and within that frame, we adopt the mind of Christ and become Christ even as we compose his Body as members. Because we are his mind and body, we are set aside, consecrated for a holy purpose. That holy purpose is to be an irritant to the world. Like a grain of sand in an oyster. It is also about being a witness, testifying to the mercy of God so that the oyster might produce a pearl. All this irritation and testimony makes us vulnerable to persecution, so Jesus teaches us to get out of his way when the trial begins, “Don't worry about what you will say. The Spirit of the Father will speak through you.” If this seems strange, it shouldn't. You have put on the Mind of Christ. You are a member of his Body. You participate in his Spirit. You eat and drink his body and blood. The whole point of baptism, confirmation, all the sacraments is to give you all you need to be perfected in Christ. So, when the prosecutions come and the trials begin, who else would speak for you but Christ? The trick – if there is one – is to get out of his way. Die to self. Lose your life. Hate the world. Those who are wise understand these things; those who are prudent know them. Straight and narrow are the paths of the Lord, on them the just walk while sinners stumble.

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06 July 2022

Get out of his way

St. Maria Goretti

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Albert the Great, Irving

Fall to the ground and die. Lose your life. Hate the world. Not exactly the Hallmark Card affirmations we usually associate with Christian joy. Taken together these admonitions ground a philosophy of living that directly opposes the nihilism we breath in everyday. The 21st c. American version of nihilism produces entitled, emotion-driven, therapeutic, and narcissistic individuals who cannot imagine a world w/o their unique presence. It is easily the deadliest gas we can breath over time. As followers of Christ, everything we are and do is given in witness to our humility, our total and irrevocable dependence on God. Just being human persons striving for holiness is an incomparable witness to God's mercy. We cannot do it w/o Him. So, when Christ tells us to die to self, lose our lives, and hate the world, he is revealing a truth absolutely foundational to our salvation: I cannot be saved. You cannot saved. Only we can be saved and only then by becoming Christs in Christ. I cannot be both Christ and me at the same time. You cannot be both Christ and you at the same time. But together, we can be Christ – one body, one heart, one mind.

Paul asks, Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” And then he teaches, “Whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” If we are one body and one spirit with Christ, then we will suffer and triumph as he suffered and triumphed. Both our sufferings and our triumphs occur in the world, but their effects echo in eternity. So, we bear witness to them as sacraments of love – external signs of Christ's mission and ministry to die and live again for the sake of sinners. How do we bear witness to Christ? We get out of his way. We die to Self, surrendering the need to be the Star of a life that was never ours to begin with. 

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03 July 2022

What's keeping you from the Cross?

14th Sunday OT

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Albert the Great, Irving, TX

I have been crucified to the world and the world to me. Through the cross of Christ Jesus, I have been crucified. What is it to be crucified? In the literal sense, it means that I've been nailed to a cross, executed as a criminal. But Paul is writing to the Galatians. He is quite plainly not writing a letter while hanging from a cross. So, being crucified to the world and the world to him must be taken metaphorically. Maybe being crucified is a way of saying dead to the world or detached from the world. That's certainly part of what it means. But Paul says that it is through the cross of Christ that he and the world are crucified. So, the cross of Christ is the medium, the means through which all this crucifying is done. Not just any old cross. Not just any old execution. But that specific cross on that particular day with that exceptional body and soul. Every other crucifixion is an execution. A run-away slave. A deserter. A rebel. But this crucifixion, the one Paul takes into himself, that crucifixion is a sacrifice. The victim, the priest, and the altar are all Christ Jesus. And thus from all eternity, we are gifted with the Sacramentum caritatis.

And that is what we are here this morning to participate in – the sacrament of charity. We are here to be crucified. We are here to be crossified. To be joined to The Cross of Christ, to be transformed into victims, priests, and altars for the salvation of the world. How else can we honor our baptismal vows? How else can we follow Christ? Two thousand years after the resurrection and there is still work to be done. Not just busy work, paperwork, or make work. But the real work of bearing witness to God's freely offered mercy. The real work of preaching and teaching the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The real work of living as Christs in the world w/o becoming subject to the world. Lots of work yet to be done. And looking around us – at the Church, at the world – we can see that only a few are putting their hands to the plow. Jesus himself says that the laborers are few but the harvest is abundant. We can be both alarmed and comforted by this truth. It has always been so. The question for us this morning: am I one of the laborers working to bring in the harvest? Am I among those who will be crucified, crossified for the sake of Christ's mission? If your answer is no, or I don't know, what's keeping you from the Cross?

Maybe it's one of the Usual Suspects: fear of rejection or defeat; false humility; cowardice. Could be one of the Big Seven: wrath, maybe. Or greed. Both attach us to this temporary world. All seven lead us down into irrationality and passionate self-destruction. If I were a betting friar, I'd bet it's Pride – that original sin that lies to us, telling us that we can be god without God. That we can be Christ without the Cross. That we can labor for the harvest without sacrifice, without love, without giving glory to the Father. That the labor itself is all that counts. My work, my time, my treasure. Never once giving thanks and praise to God for the gifts He gives. As if, we are working out of what we have earned rather than received. Pride fools us into thinking and believing that the imperfect can be perfected by the imperfect. That wounds heal wounds. That sin forgives sin. That death conquers death. Only love can do these things. Only divine love can do them perfectly. And divine love hangs on The Cross. If you will be a laborer for Christ, you will be crucified. To the world, you will dead. For Christ and his Church, you will be more alive than when you were first born.     

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26 June 2022

Break your chains!

NB. This is my last Mass at OLR. I am moving back to Irving, TX on Monday, June 27th. 

13th Sunday OT

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP


Christ set us free! From what? From the Law and from sin and death. How did he set us free? By taking on our broken human nature, dying on the Cross, and rising again from the tomb. Where and when did he set us free? Jerusalem in the first century. And here and now. New Orleans in the 21st century. Most importantly, why did Christ set us free? Paul says it as plainly as it can be said: For freedom Christ set us free.” For no other reason are we set free from the slavery of sin and death. And so, Paul urges us not to fall back into sin, not to put ourselves back into chains. He says, “...do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” Do not abuse your freedom as a chance to wallow in the world – the world of violence, hatred, lust, anger, and revenge. That world refuses the gift of freedom and is kept in slavery to serve chaotic passions absent reason. So, do not abuse your freedom, Paul, says; “...rather, serve one another through love.” That's true freedom. Not a license to do whatever we feel like doing. Not permission to pick and choose from among nearly infinite options. But the recognition that we have an end, a goal and that goal is best reached by loving service to our neighbors.

Loving and serving our neighbors is nothing new for those who follow Christ. The only element of our loving service that changes is the circumstances in which we serve lovingly. It might be a war, a plague, a natural disaster; or something less dramatic like a death in the family or a financial crisis. What never changes is the urgency of our service, the urgency of our YES to Christ. This urgency is daunting; it's intimidating because we have our things to get done. I've been packing and cleaning these last three weeks. Not only my own stuff but the accumulated stuff of 98yrs in St. Dominic Priory. I wanted to be focused and diligent. But Christ kept calling me to service. I had to serve on the Provincial Chapter for two weeks. I had to arrange and preach the funeral of a brother who died earlier this month. I had to take over the financial management of the priory. I had to preside at the profession of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Dominic. Among a thousand other acts of service. I was annoyed, impatient, sometimes rude, and always reluctant to give my time. Then, I read the Gospel for this evening: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” Chastened, I closed my big whiny mouth and got back to work.

Three people approach Jesus to express their desire to follow after him. Each one has an excuse for not doing so immediately. They didn't feel the necessary urgency in taking up their crosses. The first thinks that following Jesus means literally traveling around in his entourage. Jesus teaches him (and us) that following him is not a matter of physical proximity to him but rather a matter of loving service wherever we find ourselves. The second wants to bury his father first, an ancient religious custom worthy of respect. Jesus teaches him (and us) that those who do not follow him are already dead. Let them bury those who have died. We have work to do right now. The last, wants to say goodbye to his family before he follows Christ. Again, a failure to feel the urgency of loving service. Jesus teaches him (and us) that once we've chosen to follow him, there's no looking back. Serve or do not. There is no try, there is no turning around to contemplate what we've left behind. Our work as followers of Christ is before us, waiting for us up ahead.

So, when Paul says that Christ freed us for freedom, he means that Christ saved us from sin and death so that we may serve lovingly without the distractions of sin and death. The works of the flesh keep us bound to sin, chained in slavery. Each of the three who wanted to follow Christ were slaves to a demand, a custom, an idea of living that prevented them from enjoying the urgency of Christ's work. What is the chain binding you? Probably one of the usual suspects: money, time, false humility; pride, hoarding your gifts for yourself, impatience with other sinners. Or, is that just me? Maybe you've acquired an odd notion of love – it's all about feeling warm and fuzzy! It's all about unconditional approval and acceptance. Or some weird idea about service – it's the gov't's job or Church agency's job or those-other-people-over- there's job. No where to lay your head. Let the dead bury the dead. Don't look back. “I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.” Christ set us free for freedom. Christ set us free so that we might live in the state of being free. Free from sin. Free from eternal death. Free from the poisonous narcissism that is consuming our nation. Free from the irrational passions that are herding our neighbors into hell. Free from all of those things-of-the-flesh that turn us into fools and deceive us into believing that we can be God w/o God. Christ set you free for freedom. Beware that you do not sell yourself back into slavery. 

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