Begin now what you will be hereafter

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Each day can be seen as a new beginning, a fresh start. With every sunrise we have the opportunity to commend the new day to God and amend our ways. St. Jerome, whose feast day is today once wrote, “Begin now what you will be hereafter.”

St. Jerome is an unlikely saint, you might say. We could even call him a “prickly” saint. Before his conversion, in spite of his Christian upbringing, he led life as he wished and was not concerned about what others thought concerning his actions and practices. As a young man he lived in Rome where he continued his wild ways. “To alleviate the feelings of guilt he often felt afterwards, Jerome would visit the crypts … and imagine himself in hell. He did so every Sunday, even though he was not a Christian. Jerome succeeded in frightening himself, but not in changing his ways.” (Catholic Online)

Eventually, at the age of 24 he converted and was baptized by Pope Liberius. Jerome spent much of his life writing and translating. He is best known as the translator of the entire Bible into Latin, what is called the Latin Vulgate Bible, still the official Latin translation of Sacred Scriptures. He also wrote commentaries, established a religious community, and spent a great deal of his life in Bethlehem where he died on September 30, 420.

But he was a “prickly” saint. He struggled in his relationships with other Christians. He even exchanged heated words with St. Augustine. Eventually they repaired their relationship and were able to correspond as friends and colleagues. St. Jerome should give us hope as we aspire to be saints.  I feel “prickly” even this morning as I read the critique of a coworker on email, or as I try to keep my mouth shut about things going on in our world, especially when opening it causes more harm. Confession: I scuttled the first blog I had written for today for that very reason.

“Begin now what you will be hereafter.” — St. Jerome

I am encouraged by Jerome and some of his pithy quotes can help us to begin fresh today:

  • Instead of speaking saintly words we must act them.
  • Be ever engaged, so that whenever the devil calls he may find you occupied.
  • If then you remain constant in faith in the face of trial, the Lord will give you peace and rest for a time in this world, and forever in the next.
  • We must love Christ and always seek Christ’s embraces. Then everything difficult will seem easy.
  • There are things in life that are bigger than ourselves. Life is short, live it well.
  • The Scriptures are shallow enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for theologians to swim in without ever reaching the bottom.
  • Be at peace with your own soul, then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.

O God, who gave the Priest Saint Jerome a living and tender love for Sacred Scripture, grant that your people may be ever more fruitfully nourished by your Word and find in it the fount of life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Begin now what you will be hereafter

An Angelic Gift for Charlotte

Today holds special significance for a project I worked on for 15 months from January 2017 until April 2018. The project was a gift for my dear wife Charlotte who, although it was a gift, was aware of it and watched its progress. The project was a cross-stitch design measuring 18 inches by 13 inches and featuring St. Michael the Archangel defeating Satan in battle. The significance is that today is the feast day of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Check out my blog from September 11 for more information on the archangels.

I had never before attempted a project this detailed or involved. It consisted of 54,000 cross-stitches over nine pages of solid design and called for 30 different colors of floss, mostly blues and browns. In the early days there was a sense of excitement about what I was doing for my wife, but as the months passed, there were times that I wondered if I would ever finish. Maybe somewhat related or exacerbated by the effort I began to experience severe pain in my left wrist. I later was diagnosed with advanced degenerative joint disease. But God gave me the grace to push through and I learned to offer up the pain for people close to me as I prayed for them. I also tried to remember to pray the St. Michael prayer each time I picked up the project.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

As you can see below the cross-stitch project, finished on April 8, 2018, Divine Mercy Sunday, now hangs on the living room wall of our apartment. It is a daily reminder to us that the battle is not ours. God is fighting for us. And if God is for us, who can be against us?

St. Michael

St. Michael the Archangel


 

An Angelic Gift for Charlotte

He Who Sings, Prays Twice!

he_who_sings_well_prays_twice_postcard-r16e67d69b3544c448018f443941ea9e3_vgbaq_8byvr_307All my life I have enjoyed congregational singing, maybe a little too much. Why do I say that? Because I tend to sing gustily, hopefully not obnoxiously, and in the two parishes that I have been privileged to be part of since becoming Catholic, people have taken notice and told me that I should sing in the choir.

In New York, while part of the Church of the Good Shepherd, I used the delay tactic, and it worked as I was new and just getting my feet wet. I figured maybe later on I would consider it. Then, because of a job change we moved to south Jersey and found ourselves as part of the St. Peter parish. Once again I couldn’t help myself singing from the heart. I began to hear the same comments, “You should sing in the choir.”

One couple was lovingly persistent with the invitation, even our priest added his plea. Once the summer passed we had been at St. Peter’s one year. I really couldn’t use the “new guy” alibi. So last night I made my first appearance at choir practice. I was received warmly and thus began my second tour of duty as a choir member.

Much time has passed since I was a tenor singing next to Howard Goins at Westview Wesleyan Church in the mid 1970s. Now I’m singing tenor next to Adam Pasquale, and I’m even singing in Latin.

That makes me think of St. Augustine. He once said, “He who sings, prays twice!” Bishop Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln commented on this back in 2015: “The holy Bishop of Hippo meant that singing adds to our praise and worship of God—that our voices are gifts, with which we can make music to the Lord. Sung prayer expresses the joy of the heart, the happiness resulting from one who has encountered Jesus Christ and experienced his love.  Sung prayer reminds us of the choirs of heaven, with whom we are called to praise God eternally in heaven.”

Not every song sung at every Mass, in my humble opinion, achieves this. There are some songs I would rather never sing or hear again. Thankfully I don’t hear many of those in my parish. One thing I would love to see is that we don’t view the recessional hymn as our cue to make a quick exit from church. If indeed our singing is praying twice, then let’s sing and sing heartily or at least with conviction that Jesus is indeed Lord and King.

If we believe that we will more likely live it. And God knows our world really needs us to do that now!

St. Augustine pray for us as we sing!

He Who Sings, Prays Twice!

Charity + Humility = Holiness

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Today’s saint is Vincent de Paul. Many of us are familiar with this French saint because of his many works of charity. Many Catholic parishes have a St. Vincent de Paul Society that seeks to provide food and shelter to those in need. St. Vincent de Paul lived from 1581 until 1660. He was canonized in 1737 by Pope Clement XII.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society was founded in 1833 by French university students and is present in 132 countries. This charitable organization is dedicated to the service of the poor. I have heard wonderful stories of loving service from the local society in our St. Peter’s Parish.

In an article found on the website aleteia.org, blogger Philip Kosloski writes: “Two hallmarks of Vincent’s spirituality are attention to the poor and a healthy dose of humility.” The two virtues together led him to a life of holiness and can serve as a blueprint for our lives as we follow him in holiness. In that spirit, here are some quotes from our saint that will encourage and challenge us to live holy lives in our own time.

  • The poor are your masters. You are the servant. 
  • Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying. 
  • Be careful to give no credit to yourself for anything; if you do, you are stealing from God, to whom alone every good thing is due. 
  • The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it. 
  • Go to the poor: you will find God. 
  • We should spend as much time in thanking God for his benefits as we do in asking him for them. 
  • Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances. (A good reminder in the Kavanaugh hearing) 
  • Fear not; calm will follow the storm, and perhaps soon. (A good reminder in the Church scandals) 
  • Virtue is not found in extremes, but in prudence, which I recommend as strongly as I can. 
  • There is nothing good that does not meet with opposition, and it should not be valued any less because it encounters objections. (A good reminder as we seek to live as faithful Catholics!)

St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us!

Image from Vinformation
Charity + Humility = Holiness

Dressed for Success?

The year was 1970. The place was Mississinewa High School. The town was Gas City, Indiana, a sleepy former natural gas boom town, then better known as the home of Tote-a-Burger, whose slogan was “Where the Elite Meet to Eat!”

At the beginning of the school year, I was then a freshman, students walked out of classes and out of the school to protest the dress code. Those early radicals, I may have been one of them, I honestly don’t remember, wanted the right to wear what they wanted to wear to school and not what the “man”, in this case the school board, told them to wear. It was the times, the end of the long decade of the 1960s, but for me it was a harbinger of things to come.

My mother was a registered nurse. I remember as a child seeing her wear her white uniform, complete with white hose and white shoes, and the cap that she had worked so hard to earn. Little by little the expectations of how a nurse should present herself, and increasingly himself, changed and finally scrubs and sneakers became the fashion.

Men used to wear shirts and ties to the ballgame, and people dressed up in their Sunday best to travel by air. Now most people wear the most relaxing thing imaginable to fly and even some things that are unimaginable.

Speaking of Sundays, we used to dress up to go to church. I never went to church up through my high school years without a tie. You know how we go to church now; for some of us it looks like we’re going to a sporting event or a picnic in the park. Those changes even affected evangelical pastors. I was one of them and watched the dressing down of the person who was to declare the Word of God go from a suit and tie to flannel shirts and holey, not holy, jeans!

This didn’t just affect evangelicals. After Vatican II the dress code changed for a lot for Catholics, starting with the clergy and the religious. Cassocks were discarded and many priests only wore their “dog collars” at official functions, but not out in public. Religious sisters got out of the “habit” of wearing what their religious order had always worn. By the 1970s many nuns were only distinguishable, if even then, by the crucifix they wore.

Yet I wonder if the relaxing of standards of dressing to honor God was not something that was first accepted among Catholics and then bled over into other Christian communions. Whether we recognize it or not, the Catholic Church has served as the salt and light in our world for 2000 years. The great builder and sustainer of Western civilization has been the Catholic Church. So when standards were relaxed among Catholics, meaning the introduction of salt free and diffused light, the impact has been felt in general society. It’s been a little over 50 years since so much was changed and even thrown out from traditional Catholicism, under the guise of creating a church that could better relate to the culture. What was ignored was that the Catholicism that gave life and flavor to the culture and kept if from moral rot, now would become complicit in the hastening of the destruction of sanctity and sanity.

If you have any doubts about this, read today’s headlines!

 

 

Dressed for Success?

On This Rock

360px-Entrega_de_las_llaves_a_San_Pedro_(Perugino)One of the key doctrines that separates Catholicism from all other Christian expressions is the firm belief that Jesus established his Church on the rock that is St. Peter. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19 NRSV). One of the things I didn’t realize until I began my journey to Catholicism is that in the Greek all the uses of “you” underlined above are in the second person singular. Jesus was speaking specifically to Peter.

On another occasion Jesus also gives all the apostles the power to bind and loose, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23 NRSV). In both cases it is obvious that Jesus is investing apostolic authority to these men and as Catholics we understand that because of apostolic succession, through the bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter, and through him all bishops, and through them all priests who represent them, minister the sacraments of the Church.

One of the beautiful passages that show the primacy of Peter reveals words that Jesus spoke to him before his arrest on Holy Thursday. “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-34 NRSV). It will be Peter’s mission to strengthen his fellow apostles after the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. 

And while we know Peter certainly denied his Lord three times, by all standards disqualifying him from the important role of leadership, we see our Lord draw Peter to himself in a very significant and tender moment. In John 21:15-19 NRSV, we read of an important encounter between the two of them after Jesus’s resurrection.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Jesus reiterates the commission he gave Peter in Matthew 16. He says to him, “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep.” It is Peter a few days later in the book of Acts who takes charge and leads the search and installation of the successor of Judas. And then on the day of Pentecost, it is Peter who stands and preaches the first sermon that brought 3000 converts to the Church.

Pope Francis is now the 266th Bishop of Rome and 265th successor of St. Peter. No pope is perfect, not Peter, not Francis, not anyone of these men. Many times we are concerned with what a pope says or does. There have been many concerns expressed about our current holy Father. We must pray and pray always that Christ will guide his Church by the Holy Spirit operating through the Vicar of His Church.

St. Peter pray for us! Pope St. John Paul II pray for us!

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Thor’s Mighty Oak

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Recent events in the city of Chicago remind me of an earlier event in the history of Christianity. Winfrid, born in Wessex in Anglo-Saxon England in the year 672, is better known as St. Boniface. Boniface (which means “good fate”) is considered the apostle to Germany. In 721 Boniface went to Hesse in central Germany to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. After the conversion two chieftains Dettic and Deorulf, who were twin brothers, thousands of Germans converted to Christianity.

Upon hearing news of this successful mission to the Germans, Pope St. Gregory II called Boniface to come to Rome at which time he consecrated him as bishop of all of Germany, even without an episcopal seat. Boniface took an oath at that time that is very significant and powerful:

I, Boniface, by the grace of God, bishop, promise to thee, Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and to thy Vicar, the Blessed Pope Gregory and his successors, by the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, undivided Trinity, and by thy most holy body, to proclaim the whole Catholic faith in all its purity; and by the help of God, to remain steadfast in the unity of that faith, in which, without doubt, is the Christian’s hope of salvation. Never, at the bidding of anyone, will I do anything against the unity of the One Universal Church; but, as I have said, I will in all things be faithful and helpful to thee and to the interests of thy Church (to which God has given the power of binding and loosing), and thy said Vicar and his successors…. This oath I, Boniface, a lowly bishop, have written out with my own hand; and, according to what is prescribed, have placed it on the most holy body of Blessed Peter, and, in the sight of God, have sworn to keep it. (from Warren H. Carroll, The Building of Christendom).

With his new ecclesiastical authorization, Boniface returned to Hesse the following year. There he found that many had gone back to their pagan ways. He confirmed those who had stood fast in the faith and directly challenged “entrenched paganism by personally chopping down the ‘Thunder Oak’ of Giesmar, a huge old tree dedicated to Thor.”* He did not act alone but in consultation with the Hessian Christians who knew culturally and religiously that this would be “the most effective way of dramatizing for these largely barbarian people the powerlessness of their old gods and the victory of Christ in their land.”**

Commenting on this episode, church historian James Hitchcock writes: “The Germans expected Boniface to be struck dead, and when he was not, they concluded that the power of his God was greater than that of their own and used the wood of the tree to build a church.”*** As a result the true religion was firmly established in Germany and many others from Boniface’s native England came to help with catechesis as the task of converting pagan Germany was vast.

Now back to Chicago. Until Saturday Fr. Paul Kalchik was the pastor of Resurrection Church in Avondale, a community area of Chicago. Fr. Kalchik has been pastor there eleven years. A survivor of homosexual rape twice, once by a homosexual priest, he has been faithful in his call to “love the sinner, but hate the sin” and at the same time be faithful to the teachings of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium.

Recently he found the rainbow banner with a cross superimposed that earlier had been a fixture in the church, hanging in the sanctuary, from when it was dedicated by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, as the “gay parish” of Chicago. In the example of St. Boniface, Fr. Kalchik announced he would burn it. However, he evidently heeded his bishop’s warning not to, but a small number of the parishioners took the banner and burned it last week. On Saturday, under the direction of Cardinal Cupich the priest was removed from his parish.

I admit not knowing all the inner details and particulars of this case, but where there’s smoke there’s fire. Blessed Pope Paul VI said in 1972, after Vatican II, “… We would say that, through some mysterious crack—no, it’s not mysterious; through some crack, the smoke of Satan has entered the Church of God. There is doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest, dissatisfaction, confrontation.” The enemy still seeks to obfuscate his machinations with smoke and mirrors!

St. Boniface, pray for us!

*Carroll, The Building of Christendom, p. 276.
**Ibid.
***Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church, p. 112.
Thor’s Mighty Oak