Saturday, February 15, 2020

6th Sunday OT @ St. Vincent de Paul

FEBRUARY 15/16, 2019

There is a story, a bit of a subtle joke – but hopefully not too subtle:
Someone once asked a wise Guru: “What is the secret to eternal happiness?” The wise Guru answered: “Do not argue with a fool.” The person replied: “I disagree.” To which the wise Guru responded: “OK. You are right.”
Today is the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time. 

We are ten days away from the beginning of the holy season of Lent.

Today’s readings have a dual theme: wisdom and righteousness.

Righteousness, or justice, when spoken of in the Bible, comes from the Greek work “δικαιοσύνη” – which according to the philosopher Plato was “the general virtue, which lies in the proper operation of all parts of the soul.

In Christian theology, righteousness can be said to have five elements: (1) honoring God, (2) resulting in eternal life in Christ Jesus, (3) through the mercy of God, (4) by faith in Christ, (5) through God’s grace. 

In this sense, everything depends on God and Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

To the second point, wisdom is, “the intellectual virtue concerning the first or highest causes of all things.
In other words, wisdom is being smart enough to know that God is in charge.

Wisdom and justice are two of the four cardinal virtues. Cardinal, not because they have anything to do with birds or the color red, but from the Latin word, “cardo” meaning hinge.

The two we’ve just focused on today are wisdom and justice (or righteousness.)

The remaining two are courage and temperance – to do what is right in the face of obstacles (both external and internal); and to moderate the desire for pleasure (both physical and mental.)

And the three supernatural virtues are Faith, Hope, and Love – giving us seven total virtues to build up ourselves spiritually.

And so, in recognizing that God is in charge (wisdom), following Him unreservedly in Christ Jesus by the power of the Spirit (justice); persevering through difficulties (courage); and moderating our passions (temperance) – while leveraging the baptismal virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love … we can grow in spiritual strength and avoid the shortfalls of our human condition.

The point, of course, in our Lenten practices is to put God first – and not ourselves; and to persevere through, with, and in Christ Jesus – and set aside our weak and sinful flesh. Whatever we do for those 46 days – prayer, fasting, almsgiving – should be done for God’s sake and with our eyes fixed on Jesus.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – and as we move closer to the beginning of Lent 2020 – let us engage the graces we receive in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar today to engage the strengths provided us in the graces we receive.

So that we might follow Christ – who is our Way, our Truth, and our Life – in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit – and in all things, todo the Will of God … always and everywhere.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

5th Sunday OT @ St. Vincent de Paul

FEBRUARY 9, 2019

Along the side walls of the church – that is, along the left and right arcade walls; and up along the right and left clerestory, are … eight, sixteen, twenty-four, thirty-two … stained glass windows of saints.

Peter, Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, Jude, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, and Cecilia … 16 of the 40 saints mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer – the Roman Canon.

The rest include Blaise, Augustine, Patrick, Francis of Assisi, Aloysius Gonzanga, John Vianney, Anne, Mary Magdalene, Helena, Monica, Joan of Arc, and Rose of Lima – as well as two angels: St. Michael the Archangel, and a Guardian Angel.

So, surrounding all of you – who are sitting in the nave of the church – there are 32 saints. Which is kind of interesting. If you consider that “you’re surrounded” by saints … that is an interesting way for us to think about the Communion of Saints.

If you come to church in the early morning … when it’s still dark outside. Or if you come in the later evening … again, when it’s dark outside … all of our beautiful stained glass windows appear to be sort of “blah.”

You can make out something … maybe a sort of human shape ... maybe a head or a hat. But without the sunlight coming in from outside, the windows lose a bit of their charm … there’s just not much to look when it’s dark.

Today is the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Our readings have a common theme of “light.”

The prophet Isaiah encourages the people of Israel to practice what we might consider the “Corporal Works of Mercy” in order that their “light shall break forth like the dawn ... and the glory of the LORD [will] be [their] guard.

And the prophet goes even further, encouraging the practice of the virtues so that “light shall rise ... in the darkness, and the gloom shall become ... like midday.

That is, being merciful and virtuous ... has a positive outcome … and brings an illuminating brilliance to a dark and gloomy world.

The psalm speaks how those who are “just” – that is, those in right-relationship with God and others – are “a light in darkness.

And Jesus tells His disciples – and us as well – in the Gospel that we “are the light of the world,” and that our light “cannot be hidden,” nor should we “put it under a bushel basket;” but rather, that it “must shine before others” for the glory of God the Father.

St. Paul, in the Epistle, talks about how the Gospel shows forth the “power of God” without any need for embellishment or addition ... and that the power of the Holy Spirit shows forth in the message of Jesus Christ, and in His Sacrifice for our redemption. That when our Faith is rooted in the Cross of Christ ... that nothing more is needed.

And so for ourselves, we should learn from the example of the saints ... and from their images in stained glass … and from the stories of their lives. And like the windows, without sunlight are not much more than a darkened wall … the beauty of the saints requires the light of Christ to shine forth as well.

It’s sometimes too easy for us to relegate our Faith to 45 minutes a week. But the light of God ... the light of Christ ... and the power of the Holy Spirit ... is in us ... through Baptism, Confirmation, and Matrimony or Holy Orders. And we shouldn’t try to hide it ... or hide from it ... the rest of the week.
Because it is only when we allow Christ’s light to shine through us ... in our lives ... in what we say ... and in what we do ... that we are able to manifest the glory of God in our lives ... and the power of the Holy Spirit in our actions ... and in our words.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ ... let us recognize that light within us. And let us realize that we “are the light of the world.” May the manifold graces of the Eucharist we receive today allow us to show forth in our lives this week ... the brightness of God’s glory ... and the light of Jesus Christ ... in our daily lives ... at home ... at work or school ... and in the world ... a world that desperately needs the light of the Gospel ... the light of our Savior ... Jesus Christ ... the Lord.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Candlemas @ St. Vincent de Paul

FEBRUARY 1 / 2, 2020

In 1976, a decade after the close of the Second Vatican Council,  Pope Paul VI invited Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla to lead the annual Vatican Lenten retreat attended by the Pope and the members of his Curia.

The twenty-two reflections from this retreat were published in 1977 under the title of “Sign of Contradiction.” The entire book is barely over 200 pages – not very long at all.

Who would have guessed that two and a half years later, Cardinal Wojtyla would be elected Pope John Paul II; or that 35 years later he would be canonized as a saint.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. This feast is 40 days after Christmas, and marks the end of the traditional Christmas season.

The Gospel recounts how, in fulfillment of the Law of Moses, Mary and Joseph bring the infant Jesus to the Temple to consecrate him to the Lord – to “redeem” Him – as was required of all firstborn sons – at the cost of two turtledoves.

In a sense, this was the discount rate for poor couples – as the regular rate was to sacrifice a lamb.

How strange – the Redeemer is redeemed?

The Lamb of God cannot afford a lamb?

Or that the Son would need any further consecration to the Father from whose heart He was begotten?

Perhaps this is what Simeon was alluding to by calling the Christ child “a sign that will be contradicted” … among many other things.

Equally contradictory is that God the Son – incarnate as a human infant – enters the Temple built to worship Him … and almost nobody seems to notice. Nobody, except a elderly man and an elderly woman.

In today’s Gospel, Simeon prophesies that “a sword will pierce” Mary’s heart, “so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Similarly, in ending his Lenten reflections, Cardinal Wojtyla – Saint John Paul II – juxtaposes the “sign of contradiction” … that is, Jesus – Our Lord; and the “sign that appears in the heavens” in Revelation 12 … that is, Mary – Our Lady.

Today, the nativity scene in the Vatican will be taken down. And in three weeks and three days, we will begin the 40 days of Lent. Followed by Holy Week and Easter; and the 40 days of the Easter season.

40 days, symbolic of the 40 weeks from conception to birth for a human baby. 40 days, symbolic of spiritual rebirth.

In the fifth reflection from that 1976 retreat, on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary – and the fourth Joyful Mystery is the Presentation in the Temple, today's feast – John Paul says:
[Christ’s] reign begins when [this] temple sacrifice is offered in accordance with the [Mosaic] Law, and it attains full realization through [His] sacrifice on the cross, offered in accordance with an eternal plan of love.
As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ; let us pray that we might engage more deeply the graces of our own redemption in Christ Jesus … poured out from this altar … in the perpetual remembrance of that eternal plan of love.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Epiphany @ St. Vincent

JANUARY 5, 2020

Henry Van Dyke - a Presbyterian minister, author, and statesman - was born in 1830 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. He taught English Literature at Princeton University and lectured at the University of Paris. President Woodrow Wilson appointed him Minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg. He also wrote the lyrics for the hymn “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee,” which many of us are familiar with.

Van Dyke wrote two Christmas stories: The First Christmas Tree - in 1897; and before that The Other Wise Man - in 1896.

In the story, The Other Wise Man, Van Dyke writes about a fictional fourth wise man who it would seem was always a little bit behind schedule.

On his way to rendezvous with the three magi, he stops to help a dying man - and so is late. By the time he arrives, the caravan has set out across the desert. He is forced to sell 1/3 of his treasure to finance his own journey to Bethlehem.

When he arrives in Bethlehem, it is in the midst of the slaughter of the innocents by King Herod - which we commemorated three days after Christmas. The Holy Family has already fled to Egypt; and this wise man again uses 1/3 of his treasure to save the life of a child by paying off the troops sent to kill the children.

For thirty-three years he travels around - always just a few steps behind Jesus - living his life as a pilgrim and as one seeking for Jesus. When he finally finds Jesus, it is in Jerusalem ... on Good Friday. He is again distracted, using the last 1/3 of his treasure to ransom a young woman from being sold into slavery.

At the death of Jesus, the earth shakes, and our wise man is trapped under a falling stone at the temple. He feels that he has failed in his life’s quest - never meeting Jesus ... and spending his treasure which was intended for the Christ Child so many years before.

As he is dying - besot with remorse - he hears a voice that tells him:
Verily I say unto thee,
Inasmuch as thou hast done it 

unto one of the least of these my brethren, 

thou hast done it unto me.
That is, despite what appeared to be failures to achieve his own life’s goal, he had lived out the Beatitudes in his acts of mercy and charity. And in that sense, had not only met Jesus - but had served as the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ; let us pray for the graces to truly be renewed by God’s presence among us. May we recognize Christ in our daily lives … in the people that we encounter … and may we be His hands and His feet … His mouth and His ears … in the world in which we live.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Octave Day of the Nativity @ St. Eugene Cathedral

JANUARY 1, 2020

Leon Allatius was the librarian of the Vatican Library from 1661 until his death in 1669. He was a convert from Greek Orthodoxy, having been born on the island of Chios – a Greek territory situated off the coast of what is now Turkey. These days, it is famous for its production of “mastic gum,” a natural resin that is used in chewing gum and various other health care products.

Today is the Octave Day of the Nativity of Our Lord.

Several years ago, my sainted mother asked me, “What ever happened to the Feast of the Circumcision?

And indeed, it remained on the Roman Calendar from the Council of Trent until 1962 – a period of 392 years. While it originally rose to prominence as a feast day in the 13th and 14th century.

One can presume from the writings of the council Fathers and the liturgists of the 1950s and 1960s that there was a desire to cast away anything that was not considered “modern” or “up to date.” In many cases, what ended up was the proverbial throwing out the baby with the bathwater. One need only view science fiction from that era and compare it to something the likes of Star Wars to realize that the perceived future from the midcentury point of the 20th century comes across as extremely dated.

So, in an effort to “update” things, after a venerable period of at most 600 years and at least just under 400 years, the name of the feast was changed; although the Gospel was not. Thus the one line in the entire Gospel is about naming of Our Lord on the eighth day following His Circumcision.

So much for updates.

And, in the calendar promulgated in 1969, in order to try to keep things tidier, the concilium chose to resurrect a feast dating from the 7th century – namely the revered title of Our Lady, Mother of God.

Oddly, it seemed to escape those esteemed fathers that this was one of the four Marian Dogma. And we all know that there’s nothing less controversial than Marian Theology, let alone dogma.

And for the record, as recently as 14 years ago, in the Italian town of Calcata in Viterbo, a relic of this feast was paraded through the streets on January 1st. Sadly, in 2006, the reliquary – and the enclosed relic – were stolen by thieves; and a 2013 National Geographic documentary was unable to find any remaining relics related to today’s feast.

And what about Leon Allatius, the Vatican librarian in the 17th century?

In his own efforts to be “up to date,” Allatius allegedly proposed the theory that at Our Blessed Lord’s Ascension, all of those cast away bits of His body – fingernail clippings, hair clippings, baby teeth, and indeed the after product of the feast we celebrate today – ascended with Him, and took orbit around the planet Saturn as its rings.

So much for being modern, or in Allatius’s case – a Renaissance man.

Nonetheless, the Fathers of the Church point out that Our Lord fulfilled every letter of the Mosaic Law. And here, eight days after Christmas we celebrate that fact.

The early fathers also point out that Our Lord, even as an infant, was not opposed to shedding His Most Precious Blood for our sins. And that this feast of His Circumcision was one of His first opportunities to do so.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – let us remember that what has been given to us in tradition and custom forms a logical whole. And while not all that glitters is gold, not all that seems modern to us will be so in the future.

May you have a blessed and happy New Year.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Holy Family @ St. Vincent

DECEMBER 28/9, 2019

Born in 1894 in Surrey, England; Aldous Huxley was the author of nearly 50 books – both fiction and non-fiction.

He was a humanist and a pacifist, with interests in mysticism and universalism. In all, he was nominated for a Nobel Prize seven times; and widely acknowledged as one of the foremost intellectuals of his day.

His fifth and most famous novel, and his first dystopian work, was titled Brave New World.

In this work, a World State has created an imposed stability through genetic engineering, and medical and psychological manipulation. Yet, it maintains order by obliterating the individual, and destroying and discouraging strong bonds and relationships with others.

Words such as family, mother, father, brother, or sister have become obsolete; and their use is even considered perverse and obscene.

While we may consider family as our some of our strongest bonds and our family relations have given us the roots of our identities; in Huxley’s novel, the World State demands quite the opposite. And by manipulating language, individuals thoughts and ideas are manipulated; and ultimate control is exerted.

Today is the Sunday after Christmas, since 1969 known as The Feast of the Holy Family.

Devotion to the Holy Family can be traced to the 16th century. By the end of the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII approved this feast, and encouraged Christian families to dedicate and consecrate themselves to the Holy Family.

Pope Benedict XV extended the celebration of the feast to the entire Church in 1921, as the Sunday after Epiphany. And in 1969, it assumed its current location in the liturgical calendar.
In the early 12th century, St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote,
God, to whom angels submit themselves and who principalities and powers obey, was subject to Mary; and not only to Mary but Joseph also for Mary’s sake [….]. God obeyed a human creature; this is humility without precedent. A human creature commands God; it is sublime beyond measure.

Our First Reading from the Book of Sirach is a commentary on the Fourth Commandment, namely:
Honor your father and your mother.
Our Lord exemplifies this commandment through His humble submission to his human parents. Humility is a difficult concept for anyone, and it would do us good to contemplate the immense sublimity “humility without precendent” of Christ.

We hear in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, the text leading up to the parallel of Ephesian’s chapter 5. While the text may sound old-fashioned to our modern ears, twenty-five years ago in my Naval training, we were taught:
To be a good leader, you must know how to be a good follower.

The key to any of this is relationship. The term ‘family’ can be considered and examined through both macroscopic and microscopic lenses. Whether it’s a nuclear family, an extended family, a community – large or small – the family of the Church, or the human race … we are all part of some sort of family.

Considering that the roots of the English word ‘holy’ are the same as the words ‘whole’ and ‘healthy’ – our membership(s) in the various families to which we may belong … complete us and make us whole.

Through the intercession of the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – may we obtain the grace to give and take in a ordered way … and grow in our human relationship. And may the Eucharist we receive today – Body, and Blood; Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – unite us ever more closely with God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.