Priesthood of the Laity–Old Testament Edition

“Priesthood of the Laity” became quite a thing in the Catholic Church a couple of generations ago.  The phrase has played a role in the Catholic identity wars that have been raging ever since.  Often if someone hammers the idea of priesthood of the laity, they advocate a de-sacramentalized church in which we all get to do the fun things that only ordained priests once were allowed to do.  Flat church, anti-hierarchical, indistinguishable from low church Protestantism.

The struggle over the true meaning of the phrase has turned over all sorts of interesting keys in the last few decades.  I can’t pretend to encompass all the literature, nor do I care to broaden myself by attempting to do so.  I’m sure there’s a lot of good work being done out there, and you should definitely go read it and tell me all about it.  Spoilers: we’re not low church Protestants.

But when I think of the priesthood of the laity I think of the books of Samuel.  I’ve written a few things about that before—king-priests, intercession, Purgatory.  Would people be so quick to tout the priesthood of the laity if they took it to mean that, as priests, it is our job to take a spiritual bullet for all the baptized? Continue reading Priesthood of the Laity–Old Testament Edition

Puer Natus Est Nobis

On this day, the King of the Universe was born, not just into the world but unto us, unto his own.  The kings of the world immediately set out to destroy him, and eventually they succeeded according to the eyes of history.  But on this day we can pause and imagine a world that did not reject its king, a salvation history in which the world said yes along with Mary, a story–our story–in which the world did not set itself as the enemy of the Gospel.

Yet mirabile scriptu, God has the last laugh over kings and counselors, and we will have our true King quite in spite of ourselves.

A Year of Homilies

Here’s a run-down of all the homilies our pastor at St. Lawrence has given since he took over the parish one year ago.  Helps me pay more attention, gives me something to look back on and study with my son, provides evidence for what Catholic teaching is “really” like.

A Year of Homilies, Logged (2015-2016)

6/28 Fr. Gripshover introduces himself to the parish.  His only job is to sanctify us.

7/5 (Romans 6, Mark 2nd Multitude) God is a merciful father who has compassion on us.  Why are we still miserable?  The old man is not yet fully put to death.  Must die daily in order to rise.  Continue to bury sin!  [Expected baptism-eucharist homily]

7/12 FLAMETHROWER.  The construction and destruction of marriage throughout history.  A sweeping look at MANY facets of Church teaching on marriage.  SCOTUS and homosexuality referenced repeatedly [overly ambitious number of topics, number of references to current events was becoming a bit uncomfortable—but maybe not a bad thing!]

7/19 (Romans 6, Luke parable of crafty steward) We must make plans for our future—eternal life—just as craftily as the crooked steward.  Corporal and spiritual works of mercy listed and explained.  [very solid homily]

7/26 (I Cor 10, Luke 19 entrance to Jerusalem) OT models of behavior (cautionary tales), humble mistrust of self, recognize the time of our visitation—all the ways God makes himself known, gives us grace, invites us to grow in virtue.  [This homily was extremely well-planned and designed]

8/2 (I Cor 12, Luke 19 pharisee and publican praying in temple) spiritual life not a contest.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  Charity and humility. [I thought he might have done more to show some real ways that we are the Pharisee without being so dramatic as in the parable.  Also maybe how the publican did not berate himself—he alluded to this but only briefly.  Made a discordant passing mention of sexual sins and skipping Mass on Sundays]

8/9 (I Cor 15, Mark healing of the deaf mute) GUEST HOMILY: Missionary Society of St. Paul, Fr. Manuel (serves in Malawi).  Baptism makes us missionaries.  Missions need our prayers and our material support.  Spiritual needs—3 priests, 97 parishes, mass once or twice a year.  Material needs—clean water, medicine.  Radical Islam offers amenities, drawing people into life of violence.  Priest-missionaries relied on for everything.  Pray for and provide vocations.

8/16 (2 Cor 3 on letter and spirit, Luke 10 Good Samaritan) “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” is the most obvious question we should all ask.  The answer: works of mercy.  Lists and gives tips on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.  Go and do likewise. [homily simple, straightforward]

8/23 (Galatians 3 and Luke 17 The Ten Lepers) Sin is leprosy of the soul.  The four stages of getting rid of it: faith that God can help (pray for faith every day), trusting God’s way of doing things like Naaman (God helps us in ways we don’t always like), cry out to God for help in time of temptation like the ten lepers (God is never far off), return and give thanks for the help he gives us (makes us humble).  Nice, solid homily.

8/30 (Galatians 5 and Matthew 6) You cannot serve two masters.  St. Therese and St. Augustine on holy abandonment.  Daily struggle to love God and find rest only in Him.  Excellent, enthusiastic homily. [I expected him to fire up the flamethrower and hammer on the works of the flesh in Galatians 5]

9/6 (Galatians 5 and Luke 7 Widow of Nain) Jesus is our life, as seen in several key parts of the mass.  Without him we cannot live the glorious life of the Spirit in Galatians 5.  Closer reading on Galatians 5—humility and spiritual progress.  Long reading from St. Augustine on how Christ saves us from death thousands of times.  Very nice homily.

9/13 (Ephesians 3, Luke 14 Healing on the Sabbath/Exalt the humble) Humility vs. Pride again.  True humility as gratitude, foundation for prayer.  Quotes from St. Francis de Sales and St. Teresa of Avila.  Solid. [4th time he’s preached on humility?]

9/20 (Ephesians 4, Matthew 22 Greatest Commandment and Lord Puzzle) Love of God and neighbor made concrete in the lives of the saints.  St. Isaac Jogues letters to mother.  Love amid joy and sorrow.  Some other structure that I missed.  [papal visit Wednesday—no mention]

9/27 (I Corinthians 1, Matthew 9 Healing/Forgiving Sins) Extensive Primer on Angels because of the two upcoming feasts.  Pretty exhaustive.

10/4 (Ephesians 4, Matthew 22 Rejects of Wedding Feast) GUEST HOMILY: Fr. Scalia, filling in for Fr. Gripshover on vacation. Pre-Synod homily on indissolubility of marriage.  Extremely clear and inspiring.  To disagree with the Church is to disagree with Jesus Christ. 3 reasons for indissolubility (secretly based on fides, proles, sacramentum). Ways to strengthen marriage. Awesome homily. [St. Francis? Our Lady of Rosary on Wednesday? Gah, should have guessed pre-Synod!]

10/11 (Ephesians 5, John 4 Healing of the Ruler’s Son) How are you using the time that is left? Eyes on heaven, do God’s will and not your own whims.  Transitions from St. Paul to Gospel nicely—this is only possible by faith.  Faith that grows.  Nice homily.

10/18 (Ephesians 6, Matthew 18 Debts of the Two Servants) Kingdom similitudes are profound.  God’s mercy and generosity are to be shared. We have been forgiven an infinite amount—look at the “value” of the blood of Jesus (sounds Anselmian, doesn’t go for it).  We cannot hang on to our little grudges and slights.  Pater Noster contract, judgment day.  Solid, but I did get distracted. [no mention of our two new saints, Louis and Zelie]

10/25 (Colossians 1, John 18 Art thou a king? Feast of Christ the King) Enthusiastic homily about Christ being a king unlike any other.  INRI becomes INRME.  Rules in our heart, we serve him with faith and charity, unite with him in the Eucharist.  Accept no substitutes.  Nice homily, a bit long (which I think he does on purpose)

11/1 (All Saints, 7:30 am) Saints and saints.  We have no excuse—all walks of life!  Live according to God’s law, live the beatitudes, embrace suffering.  Enthusiastic exhortation that did not use buzz words like “universal call.”  Also a note from the bishop re: voting and a seminarian re: vocations.

11/8 (Col 3, Matthew 13 wheat and cockles) “Resumed Epiphany 5” OFF TOPIC: Parish finances, widow’s mite.  Quite engaging description of things the parish has been/will be doing.  Not bad. We just ran a deficit thanks to major repairs and such over the last three years—savings took a hit, need to step up the giving!

11/15 (I Thess 1, Matthew 13 parable of mustard seed and leaven) “Resumed Epiphany 6” Mustard seed is the Church’s universal scope and reach.  Leaven is both Church and us as individuals.  How can we be leaven?  Become saints.  Step 1: Desire it always. Step 2: Embrace suffering. Step 3: Seek out the perfect and do it. Step 4: Forget self.  Nice homily.

11/22 (Colossians 1, Matthew 24 end times) End of the liturgical year.  Treat same as Dec 31: look back at previous year to check our progress, look ahead with new resolutions.  Pursue holiness.  Love.  St. Therese.  Simple.

11/29 (Romans 13 de somno surgere, Luke 21 end times) ADVENT 1: Standard “Advent looks backward and forward” homily.  Contrast His first and second coming.  Get ready for Christ the Judge.  Detachment, Vigilance, Perseverance.

12/6 (Romans 15, Matthew 11 Fulfillment for Baptist) ADVENT 2: Curveball.  Preached on Voice Crying Out (from Advent 3).  We need to be that voice to a desert that is winning.  Culture war references.  St. Francis Xavier readings.  Four ingredients, missed 3 of them (one was silence).  Live Catholic lives to evangelize our neighborhoods.

12/8 (Proverbs 8, Luke 1 Annunciation) IMMACULATE CONCEPTION: School homily.  Also went to St. Lawrence TLM, but forgot to jot the homily.  Standard call to holiness stuff as I recall.

12/13 (Philippians 4, John 1 Who art thou?) ADVENT 3: Standard Gaudete homily—joy regardless of circumstances of life, joy from having faith, joy amidst trials—even great trials, thanksgiving.

12/20 (I Cor 4, Luke 3 Prepare the way of the Lord) ADVENT 4: Humility.  Fill in the valleys of our weakness, hammer flat the mountains of our pride.  Go to confession.  No room in our hearts to receive Christ on Christmas otherwise.

12/25 (Hebrews 1, John 1 In principio) CHRISTMAS: Why do people fear and hate the message of peace from Christmas?  Wrong ideas on freedom, faith, and love.  True meaning of these.  St. Alphonsus Liguori.  Nice

12/27 (Galatians 4, Luke 2 Presentation) Holy Family: Christ a sign of contradiction for all who do not live like Him.  Simeon and Anna as models of sanctity.

1/1 (Titus 2, Luke 2 Circumcision) THEOTOKOS/Circumcision: Christ submits to the law of circumcision to become one of us (letter to Hebrews).  Sign of baptism.  How to have a happy new year?  Circumcise the heart of vice (St. Ambrose).

1/3 (Acts 4, Luke 2 Circumcision) Holy Name (NOT Epiphany-moved): Power of the Holy Name (Exodus, Jesus), blasphemy, praise God through right use of His name.  St. Bernardine of Siena and St. John Capistrano on IHS missions.  Cool.

1/6 (x, x) Epiphany: went to two masses, NO in morning, EF evening.  Forgot to note them

1/10 (Isaiah 42, Acts 10, Luke 3) Baptism of the Lord NOT TLM: BI Chaplain filling in for Fr. G.  We are adopted into God’s family.  Human dignity-March for Life connection.  Witness to our baptism fearlessly.  Enthusiastic, nice homily.  Obviously works with teenagers.

1/17 (Romans 12, John 2 Cana) March for Life, evil of abortion, list of culture war battles, transition to Mary’s role in John’s gospel as intercessor.  St. Alphonsus quotation on her power as mother-intercessor.  Good homily, good balance of flamethrower and theology.

1/24 (): BLIZZARD OF 2016 Dispensed from Mass by Bishop Loverde.  Watched mass at Basilica on TV; forgot to write down homily.

1/31 (II Cor 11, Luke 8 Sower Parable) Sexagesima: Guest homily by Fr. Scalia. BLA, prayer/fasting/almsgiving

2/7 (I Cor 13, Luke 18 Healing of Blind Man) Quinqagesima: Suffering is good for us.  Materialism cannot see this, only the spiritually-minded.  Suffering purifies.  St. Bernadette.

2/10 (Joel 2, Matthew 6 Fasting) ASH WEDNESDAY: School homily.  Standard prayer-fasting-almsgiving, but with a pretty secular bent.  (try to get to this mass in TLM, it is neat!)

2/14 (II Cor 6, Matthew 4 Temptation) Lent 1: LONG homily on basic sin/original sin/devil catechism, how to respond to temptations, go to confession when we fail.

2/21 (I Thess 4, Matthew 17 Transfiguration) Lent 2: “theological mechanics” of Christ’s transfiguration.  What must we do to be similarly glorified?  Suffer and focus on Christ alone.  Grace transfigures, sin disfigures.  Good structure, nice homily.

2/28 (Ephesians 5, Luke 11 Beelzebub) Lent 3: In contrast to Lent 1, Christ in attack mode vs. Satan.  His victory in every human heart.  How join in?  Union, commitment, vigilance, do will of God like Mary.

3/6 (Galatians 4, John 6) Lent 4/Laetare: Lenten break to rejoice.  Reasons for joy: God provides our natural necessities, involves us in the work of salvation, always multiplies our contributions and exceeds our needs, feeds us in the Eucharist.  Not as much structure to this one, no surprises on content.

3/13 (Hebrews 9 High Priest, John 8 I AM) Passion Sunday: Flu mass—Fr. had no voice, preached a 1 minute meditation on physical vs. spiritual death.  Care for our souls, go to confession, have eternal life.

3/20 () Palm Sunday: BABY.  Communion brought to the home.

3/27 (I Cor 5 new leaven, Mark 16 empty tomb) EASTER: Catechetical homily: life of Christ, all that God did for us.  Daily battle against sin—recall our Baptismal promises, renew each day, receive sacraments

4/3 (I John 5, John 20) Divine Mercy: Two ways God is merciful to us: confession, seeking us out to give us the gift of faith.  Primer and exhortation to confession, two doubters God raised to saints: Thomas and Augustine.  Go to confession, pray for faith!  Good homily.

4/10 (I Peter 2, John 10 Good Shepherd) Easter 2: Follow Christ the Good Shepherd.  Listen to his voice in prayer, scripture, teachings of Church.  Be as close to him as he is to the Father.  Solid.

4/17 (I Peter 2, John 16 A Little While) Easter 3: Continuing the theme of the good shepherd.  Listen to his voice calling us to prepare for the next life.  “A little while and you shall not see me…” etc. is as true for us now as it was for Him then.  Forgot to record this one so the details are fuzzy now.

4/24 (James 1, John 16 Paraclete) Easter 4: Holy Spirit merited by the death of Jesus.  Prepare ourselves for it: pray for grace, cooperate with it, root out sin not just externally but at the deepest levels of soul.  Primer on vices and temptations.

5/1 () Easter 5: St. Joseph the Worker.  Forgot to record.

5/5 (Acts 1, Mark 16) ASCENSION: Missed it

5/8 (I Peter 4, John 15 Paraclete) Post-Ascension: Guest homily by Fr. Tomas (good to see him again!).  Preaching on the mysteries of our faith is harder than the moral component.  Scandal of Holy Spirit mediated by Apostles, Church.  Study theology.  Really nice.

5/15 (Acts 2, John 14) Pentecost: Impassioned homily about burning with the fire of the Holy Spirit.  Calls us to ongoing conversion.  Abandon works of the flesh.  God renews the face of the earth through us.  Renew us.

5/22 (Romans 11, Matthew 28) Trinity: Guest homily.  St. Augustine story, Trinity not an abstraction, practical impact, etc.  Standard Trinity Sunday homily.

5/29 (I Cor 11, John 6) Corpus Christi: Events of Christ’s life not a memory—still living among us in the Eucharist.  Live the Eucharist, unity of faith and works.  How to prepare for Holy Mass.  Nice homily.

6/5 (Ephesians 3, John 19) Sacred Heart: meditation on the 12 promises of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.  Focus on 9 (family enshrinement) and 12 (hour of death).

6/12 (Romans 8, Luke 5 duc in altum): Prayer and humility.  Why did Jesus allow them to work all night and catch nothing?  So they could recognize that without him they can do nothing.  Don’t judge success or failure of prayer.  Just do it.  St. Therese.  Great homily.

6/19 (I Peter 3, Matthew 5) Fortnight for freedom, hostility to Church.  St. Thomas More as father and statesman.  Solid.

And that’s a year!  First mass on 6/28/15, last on 6/19/16.  Interesting to look back at how many times we missed mass or he didn’t preach.  Themes?

Mystery of Holy Saturday

I’ve long had the conceit that the Blessed Virgin Mary could hear the preaching of her Son in her immaculate heart–that the Gospel was like her heartbeat.  What mother does not carry her children in her heart?  What mother and Son lived in closer unity?

And so I have long believed that today, Holy Saturday, was the day that Mary knew her Son was not finished.  For a time, at the foot of the Cross and before the Sepulcher, all was silent.  While she wept and prayed and waited to understand on Saturday, her heart heard the Gospel being preached once more.

Quiet, distant, as from another plane…or far beneath the earth.  And she smiled, and wept, and prayed, and waited.

Christus resurrexerit.

Lent 2016

Courtesy of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.  Expect to see more of him in this space over the next few weeks/months.  This is his introduction to the steps of pride, his exposition on St. Benedict’s ladder of humility:

[O]ne does not fall to the depths of evil all at once, anymore than one leaps to the heights of virtue in a single bound, but only  by climbing step by step.  So too the way down is followed step by step…

There is a way down, then, as well as a way up.  There is a way to good and a way to evil.  Avoid the evil way and choose the good.  If you cannot do it by yourself, pray with the prophet and say, “Keep me from the way of sin” (Psalm 119:29).  How?  “Show me the mercy of your law” (Psalm 119:29).  That is, that law which you have given to those who go astray on the way, those who desert the truth, of whom I am one, for I have truly fallen from the truth.

But surely if a man falls he will rise again?  Yes.  It is in that hope that I have chosen the path of truth by which I shall ascend in humility back whence I fell through being proud.  I shall ascend, I say, singing “Lord, it is good for me that you have humbled me.  The law of your mouth is better for me than a thousand pieces of gold or silver” (Psalm 119:72).

David seems to offer you the choice of two ways.  There is only one, as you know; but there is a distinction to be made.  We can use different names for the way of sin, by which those who are going down travel, and the way of truth, by which those who are going up journey.  It is the same way which goes up to the throne and down from it, the same way to the city and back.  One door lets people both into and out of a house.  The angels appeared to Jacob going up and down by the same ladder.

What is the relevance of this?  That if you desire to return to the truth you do not need to search for the road.  You know it.  You came down that way.  Retrace your footsteps.  Go up by the same steps by which you came down in your pride…Identify the step of pride you have reached and you will not need to strive to find the way of humility.

On Humility and Pride IX

St. Thomas Aquinas

Every January 28th I think of my birthday and early Church martyr-women.  Wait, what?

I did not start out loving St. Thomas, but after years of teaching him I have come to terms with the fact that I love him and he is mine (despite still thinking of myself as a Franciscan and now a Benedictine).  My friends and students think I am the biggest Aquinas fanboy and cast in his mold, which is flattering and hilariously untrue.  But it is true that over time I have come to maybe, just a little bit, think of the world like he does.  And because of that, every January 28th I get a little irritated.  Because he died on March 7, and his feast should be on my birthday. Continue reading St. Thomas Aquinas

Feast of the Holy Name

There are a lot of reasons moving Epiphany to the nearest Sunday is a bad idea–it’s why no one really gets what the 12 Days of Christmas are, for one thing–but surely today’s proper feast is one of the bigger ones.  By celebrating Epiphany today, we skip out on celebrating the Feast of the Holy Name.  One of the blessings of the TLM is that we don’t lose out on this fine feast.

Holy Name

Why is the Feast of the Holy Name a big deal?  I’m glad you asked! Continue reading Feast of the Holy Name