“That Nothing May Be Lost”

Fr. Paul Scalia is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Arlington, VA. He is probably best known as the son of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In fact, Fr. Scalia celebrated the funeral Mass of his father in Washington’s Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Watching the funeral on television gave me my first exposure to him.

At the end of last month, my wife and I attended the “Defending the Faith” Conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville (OH) hosted by Dr. Scott Hahn. Fr. Scalia was one of the speakers, and despite connection problems trying to fly in for the conference, he made it on time and gave a memorable lecture on St. Thomas More and his defense of marriage. I was impressed with Scalia’s deep faith, his discreet holiness, and his devotion to Christ and his Church.

After listening to Fr. Scalia, I determined to buy his book that was on sale in the university bookstore. With the title That Nothing May Be Lost: Reflections on Catholic Doctrine and Devotion, it was published in 2017. The synopsis on the Amazon.com page states the following:

Fr. Paul Scalia reveals a scholar’s mind and a pastor’s heart in these inspiring reflections on a wide range of Catholic teachings and practices. Rooted in Scripture, the beauty and truth of these insights places the reader on a path to a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God. While keeping the focus on the theology and teachings of the Church, Fr. Scalia also covers these topics:
–shows the unity that comes from the seven sacraments
–provides a roadmap to a life of grace
–encourages a strong devotion to our Blessed Mother
–provides guidance on how to develop a continuous conversation with God

The book is divided into nine sections, and each section contains short devotional readings that can be ingested in less than five minutes. I look forward each morning to spending those few minutes in a deep dive in “developing a continuous conversation with God.”

Fr. Scalia often grabs my attention with a story; this one opened the devotional entitled “Drawn”:

Little Lucette was inexplicably drawn to the man on the cross–inexplicably, because she had no idea who he was or why he was crucified. Her parents had banished from her life any knowledge of or reference to God. But a gift catalog had slipped through their defenses, and Lucette found in those pages a little crucifix. By an interior grace she knew that he had died for others–for her. She secretly tore out the page and would often gaze devoutly–and covertly–at the man on the cross. Over the years her devotion matured into love. She learned Who the Man on the Cross was, and she gave herself to Him in religious life, dying not too long ago as Mother Veronica Namoyo of the Poor Clares.

As I reflected, I thought about the fact that Lucette saw a crucifix in the catalog, not just an empty cross. It was the man on the cross who drew her in. Inexplicably she found Jesus!

“That Nothing May Be Lost”

Keep It Local

One of the bloggers I follow faithfully is Fr. Dwight Longenecker, parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. Yesterday I read his blog called “The Sex Abuse Crisis: Get Real.” It’s worth reading. I want to make reference to his final point that applies to my blogging as the crisis in the Church deepens and sides are taken.

“I’m not saying, ‘Well now that we’ve all had a big family shouting match, let’s just go home and get on with life as it has always been now and forever Amen.’ I’m not advocating passivity. If your vocation and calling is to keep pushing for reform in the church and holding bishops, cardinals and the pope accountable please go for it, and may God bless you in battle.

However, if that is not your calling, roll up your sleeves, get on your knees and do what you can with what you have where you are.”

Reality is always local. Get real.

There are many people who already have a “dog in the fight” and can and will do a much better job at bringing attention to the present state of things. Before I go any further, let me share with you some of those whom I follow that help keep me informed and aware of how I should pray.

So for the time being I am going to take Fr. Dwight’s advice. Why? Because I don’t think reform is possible? Not at all! What I do know is that for now I will leave the public fight to those who are better equipped to handle it. For now, I will roll up my sleeves, get on my knees, and do what I can with what I have where I am.

I will continue to blog, but I will try to focus, as much as I can on what you and I are called to do where we are. No doubt one of the most important things we can do is pray.

I leave you today with a beautiful and powerful prayer from John-Paul and Annie Deddens of Pray More Novenas:

Prayer for Honesty, Purity and Forthrightness in the Lives of the Clergy

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Father in Heaven, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Holy Spirit, comfort us, give us clarity, and bring light to this darkness and evil.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

  • St. Charles Lwanga and St. Monica, pray for the abused, the survivors and for justice.
  • St. Peter, pray for the Church, that it may be rebuilt, healed, and made holy.
  • St. Catherine of Siena, pray for reform and restoration of the clergy.
  • St. John Vianney, pray for the holiness of priests and bishops.
  • St. Benedict, pray that this evil be cast out of the Church.
  • St. Anthony, pray for us to find the way forward.
  • St. Paul, pray for the bishops that they may be fearless in confronting other bishops.
  • St. Augustine, pray for true repentance and transparency.
  • St. Dymphna, pray for consolation for the heartache, depression and anxiety this evil has caused.
  • Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let’s pray for our Church and for each other! Amen.

Keep It Local

The Bigger Agenda

Pope Francis has made one brief statement in response to the incriminating document released by former papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò on Sunday. He said:

“I will not say one word on this. I think this statement speaks for itself, and you have sufficient journalistic capacity to reach your own conclusions. When time will pass and you’ll draw the conclusions, maybe I will speak. But I’d like that you do this job in a professional way.”

I have admired Pope Francis even before I was Catholic. I cheered his election as someone from the Western Hemisphere who had served the Church in a Latin culture and understood the concerns and issues of those of the Southern Hemisphere where the Church is growing and more dynamic than the Northern Hemisphere. I have wanted to give him every benefit of the doubt, even when some of his statements seemed problematic.

However on the topic of sexual abuse, his actions have not matched up to his earlier commitment of “zero tolerance” for those who use their position of power to abuse children, adolescents and even adults, specifically seminarians.

The situation in the U.S. is not unique. And the seeming slowness to respond to those who suffer has surfaced in Chile and Honduras most recently.

Not only is Pope Francis silent. But while we all watch and wonder, a self-appointed spokesman for the pope, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, spoke up to defend Francis in an interview with NBC News. He stated:

“The pope has a bigger agenda. He’s got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.”

Most faithful Catholics would agree that there is a time and a place to talk about the environment. And if we’re ranking issues, protecting migrants should be above the environment, in my humble opinion. However, the Church, especially her prelates will have no moral authority to carry on the work of the Church, protect migrants or worry about the environment, if first they do not in humility seek the truth, and root out the rottenness that allows this depravity to continue.

Thinking about Jesus, who is the founder of the Church, He has some specific words that seem to go to the heart of this:

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30, NRSV)

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6 NRSV)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15, NRSV)

In love it is time to speak the truth as Jesus did. It is better for those who have authority in the Church to excise that thing that causes sin–lose that–better that, than end up eternally in hell! If by your actions, actively or passively, you place a stumbling block before God’s children who look to you for spiritual guidance, Jesus has a special millstone that will have your name engraved on it. And finally, if you are saying one thing with your mouth, but living a lie and leading the flock astray, not only are you a child of hell, but hell will be your destiny.

For the love of God, for the love of Christ’s Church, for the love of the flock, and for the care of your soul–if you are living a lie–it’s not too late to confess and surrender yourself to the mercy of Almighty God. If you don’t, you are no good to us or to Jesus Christ and His Church.

The Bigger Agenda

A Great Sinner, A Great Saint

St. Augustine is loved, revered and quoted by Catholics and Protestants alike. There are some quotes that are shared by both traditions, but then there are others that seem to be absent among Protestants. After I became Catholic I also learned that I needed to change the pronunciation of his name, moving the accent from the first “u” to the second “u” of his name.

Today is St. Augustine’s feast day. He is known as one of the greatest sinners that became one of the greatest saints. His impact on the Church and Western civilization is immeasurable.

In honor of our saint I want to share some of the quotes that I discovered while on my journey into the Catholic Church.

The first quote I came across was “A sure mark of a heretical and schismatic community is that it names itself by a man or an idea rather than by the simple title ‘Catholic’.” (February 13, 2014)

“My heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” (February 21, 2014)

“Trust in God’s grace for your past, His love for the present, and His providence for the future.” (March 10, 2014)

From a sermon by Saint Augustine, bishop–
“If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. ‘For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.'” (May 29, 2014)

“Let us always desire the happy life from the Lord God and always pray for it. But for this very reason we turn our mind to the task of prayer at appointed hours, since that desire grows lukewarm, so to speak, from our involvement in other concerns and occupations. We remind ourselves through the words of prayer to focus our attention on the object of our desires; otherwise, the desire that began to grow lukewarm may grow chill altogether and may be totally extinguished unless it is repeatedly stirred into flame.” (October 20, 2014)

“We become earthly if we love the earth, but heavenly if we love heaven. Nay more, if we love God, we actually, by participation, become godlike.” (June 3, 2015)

“Your Lord is seated at the Father’s right in heaven. How then is the bread His Body? And the chalice, or rather its content, how is it His Blood? These elements are called Sacraments, because in them one thing is perceived by the sense and another thing by the mind. What is seen has a bodily appearance, what the mind perceives produces spiritual fruit. You hear the words, ‘The Body of Christ’, and you answer ‘Amen.'” (December 4, 2015)

And from this morning’s Office of Readings: “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

St. Augustine, pray for us!

A Great Sinner, A Great Saint

Strangely Comforted

I went to bed Saturday night and woke up Sunday morning to the news reports that former Papal Nuncio to the United States Archbishop Carlo María Viganò had written an eleven-page letter that among other things claimed that Pope Francis knew about ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and actually lifted sanctions placed against him by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. In the midst of this growing scandal, this was another severe blow, one that left me feeling extremely raw.

As Charlotte and I walked across the street to go to Mass yesterday morning, I felt strangely comforted. We were going not to sing songs in worship (although we did), or to hear a sermon (we heard one of the best I’ve heard–more about that in a moment), or even to enjoy fellowship (several congratulated us on our 40th anniversary). We went to Mass with the full assurance that we would have an encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, and He never fails us there!

The readings for the day, not chosen at random by our priest, or a worship team, but from the lectionary that was determined by being the year 2018 were right on target. Below are specific portions that our pastor referred to in his homily.

Joshua 24–[Joshua said]: “If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River of the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” The people answered, “We also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

Psalm 34–“The LORD has eyes for the just, and ears for their cry. The LORD confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth. When the just cry out, the LORD hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.”

Ephesians 5–“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

John 6–As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “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.”

We have deep appreciation for our pastor, Fr. Timothy E. Byerley, starting his third year at St. Peter’s parish in Merchantville, New Jersey. I can only imagine the burden and sorrow in his heart as he stood before the people he loves and serves…the day after!

In his homily he reminded us that like the people of Israel, we too have to choose this day whom we will serve. And just as in the time of the psalmist God is close to the brokenhearted and the crushed in spirit (those who have been abused). Jesus is committed to a pure and holy church and the revelations that are coming forth are evidence that Jesus will get what He wants–a pure and holy church. Finally, to whom shall we go? Fr. Tim reminded us that there is no where else that we can encounter Jesus in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. That’s the same conclusion that Peter and the other apostles had come to.

His final words to us was a commitment that St. Peter’s parish would seek to be a holy and pure church, that while much uncertainty and purging would go on, we would seek to be a people of prayer and purity. As we stood to declare our faith in the Nicene Creed I couldn’t hold back the tears!

I am strangely comforted!

Strangely Comforted

The BIG 4-0!

Forty years ago today Charlotte Lawn and Gary Wiley were united in holy matrimony in the Jamestown, NY, Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. Both in our early twenties, we could not imagine at that time all that life would bring our way, as is true for every couple who begins their lives together. For all the things we didn’t know, there were two things we were committed to:

  1. Our relationship with Jesus Christ. We were willing to follow Him wherever He would lead us.
  2. Our relationship to each other. We expressed it that day by vowing that we would never let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26), and by promising each other that divorce would never be an option in our relationship.

And we lived happily ever after? That would not be an accurate description of the past forty years. There have been times of defeat, discouragement, disappointment, depression (me), and distance, if we’re honest. But the two things that we committed to before God served as a foundation for the potentially deadly “D’s” that came our way.

Over the years we had the privilege of offering premarital preparation for 50 plus couples, mostly in New York City, not typically thought of a great place to begin a marriage and see it thrive. The experience with each couple allowed us as mentors to work on our own relationship and share our experiences of how God was faithful in the early years, the child-rearing years, in the empty nest years, and in those years when the things we had hoped for didn’t always come to fruition.

Two and one-half years ago, we experienced an incredible blessing in our relationship when we had our marriage convalidated just a few days after coming into the Roman Catholic Church. What that means is that we “brought our marriage into the Catholic Church” and partook in the Sacrament of Matrimony, recognizing that our true vocation is that of being married and living out our sacrament before a watching world.

Looking back at the commitments we made 40 years ago, I’m so thankful. God’s mercy and grace were present to us then, even when the challenges of life were overwhelming. And now, we’re even more aware of God’s faithfulness.

Happy anniversary Charlotte! I am a blessed man! Here’s to 40 more! Saints Anne and Joachim, pray for us! Amen.

The BIG 4-0!

Meet Me in St. Louis!

One of my favorite categories in the original “Trivial Pursuit” game was the blue wedge: geography. To this day I enjoy facts about countries, cities, and interesting factoids about the derivations of place names.

Let’s start with the city of St. Louis—known for its baseball Cardinals, the Gateway Arch, the 1904 World’s Fair where many products we know today were introduced to the world: the waffle cone, Dr. Pepper, and puffed wheat.

The city was founded in 1764 by two French fur traders who named the settlement after the French king Louis IX who lived in the 13th century. Louis was no ordinary monarch. He is also a Catholic saint, hence St. Louis. Louis IX ruled in France from 1226–1270. Some of his achievements, besides being married to Margaret of Provence for 36 years (until his death) and having 11 children with her, is that he was a reformer, he abolished trial by ordeal (not a good way to have your innocence proved), and he introduced the presumption of innocence relating to criminal procedures. We call that “innocent until proven guilty”. That was very radical for the 13th century. You have to say that his governance, as well as his personal life, was motivated by his Christian commitment and Catholic doctrine. He took action against blasphemy, gambling, interest bearing loans, and prostitution, and you could say that the penalties were quite severe by 21st century standards.

He was known for his acts of charity, feeding beggars from his table after he had washed their feet, he cared for lepers and daily fed over 100 poor people. He died in Tunisia, North Africa, where he was participating in his second Crusade. He was canonized as a saint in 1297, just 27 years after his death, the only French monarch to be named a saint. His feast day is today, August 25.

In the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours, we find words that he wrote to his son:

My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. Without this there is no salvation. Keep yourself, my son, from everything that you know displeases God, that is to say, from every mortal sin. You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.

Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater. Be just to your subjects, swaying neither to right nor left, but holding the line of justice. Always side with the poor rather than with the rich, until you are certain of the truth. See that all your subjects live in justice and peace, but especially those who have ecclesiastical rank and who belong to religious orders. (emphasis mine)

And may the Lord give you the grace to do his will so that he may be served and honored through you, that in the next life we may together come to see him, love him and praise him unceasingly. Amen.

So that we all may live in justice and peace, St. Louis, pray for us!

 

Meet Me in St. Louis!