Category Archives: Reflections

What is Love?

If you go to Google Images and type in the word “love”, you get a lot of ideal images. A man and a woman walking along a beach…hearts…candy…and, I would argue, very little truth. So, just what IS love, since we can’t rely on Google (there’s a shocker)? I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately.

Society today really likes instant gratification. Success, comfort, respect — we want all of it, and we want it right NOW. We don’t want to wait and put in the long hours of work that it takes to really earn and perfect those things. We have get-rich-quick schemes and crash diets instead of long-term planning and patience. Why should it be a surprise to us that this cultural attitude extends to love? Nowadays, if you watch a romance movie or read a book about romance, you have to be on guard for sex scenes, among other things. If you think I’m crazy, stop for just a second. Think about the latest romance film that you’ve watched, and see if you can honestly tell me that at least half of it wasn’t filled with some kind of sexual content.

Now, why is this so? I would argue that it’s because our society doesn’t understand what love really is. People today think that love is that “butterflies in your tummy” feeling that you get when you see a really cute girl or guy. They think it’s the way you feel on a first date. They think it’s that period of time when you can’t stop thinking about your sweetheart and you feel like you’re on cloud nine. Love is this really good feeling.

I’ve got news for ya, folks: feelings are fickle. They change all the time. One day, I feel fine and I’m totally happy. The next day, you might wonder where I parked my broom. Some days, I feel really glad to be around people and I want to talk to everyone. Other days, get as far away from me as you can and don’t think about so much as looking at me.

If love is just a feeling, then it isn’t permanent. If love is a feeling, then saying “I love you” really means “I might not want to be near you tomorrow, but this is nice for right now”. If love is just this really great feeling that you like having, then you’re just using the person you “love” for a feeling without any real commitment — and you could leave at any time, whenever that feeling wears off.

I refuse to accept that definition.

love commitment

Love is a commitment to another person — not a feeling you get. My parents have been married for over 20 years and let me tell ya, it hasn’t all been fabulous. They’ve been through some hard times (although they did get a pretty great daughter, if I do say so myself), and they’ve had to put up with a lot from each other over the years. My dad does things that drive my mom absolutely insane, and she does things that make him go postal. But you know what? In spite of all of that, in spite of all of the grouchy moments, picky eating, endless golf-watching, and “nagging”, they’re still married — they still love each other. If that love was just a feeling, then I’m pretty sure that my parents would have called it quits a long time ago. But it isn’t a feeling. Their love for one another is a commitment that they renew each day, even when they have disagreements and drive each other nuts.

Love is not always gonna be pretty. Sometimes it means suffering. In Mark Hart’s book The “R” Father, he writes this: “If true love were only about feelings, Jesus would have been hugged to death for our redemption. With love comes suffering.”

Love means pain and forgiveness. It means being willing to welcome the other back when they have hurt you. It means being willing to see another person’s weaknesses and pain and helping them through it by shouldering some of that burden yourself. It means allowing others to see YOUR weaknesses and allowing other people to help YOU. Love is a complete offering of self, a total self-giving.

Sometimes we think that when we are hurt by those we love, we should be able to welcome them back easily. We love this person, right? Then why is it so hard?! It isn’t easy, and that’s okay — that’s where the commitment comes back in. When I think about this aspect of love, I think of the prophet Hosea. In this book, the writer uses the metaphors of marriage and fatherhood to speak about how God is affected by Israel’s infidelity in worshiping other gods. Hosea speaks of Israel as an unfaithful wife who forgets that her Husband gave her all that she needed and loved her completely while she runs off with lovers. Throughout the Book of Hosea, there is this tension: God loves Israel, but this love is painful for God because He is hurt by Israel’s lack of love. The relationship can be mended, but it is difficult for God. God’s justice demands that Israel be punished, but God struggles with this. Hosea then goes on to speak of God as the Father and Israel as His Son. In that context, this passage comes:

 

“When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me, Sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; but they did not know that I cared for them. I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like those who raise an infant to their cheeks; I bent down to feed them. He shall return to the land of Egypt, Assyria shall be his king, because they have refused to repent. The sword shall rage in his cities: it shall destroy his diviners, and devour them because of their schemings. My people have their mind set on apostasy; though they call on God in unison, he shall not raise them up.

How could I give you up, Ephraim, or deliver you up, Israel? How could I treat you as Admah, or make you like Zeboiim? My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again; For I am God and not a man, the Holy One present among you; I will not come in wrath. They shall follow the LORD, who roars like a lion;  When he roars, his children shall come frightened from the west, Out of Egypt they shall come trembling, like birds, like doves, from the land of Assyria; And I will resettle them in their homes, oracle of the LORD.”

That passage really illustrates this tension that comes with love. When we are hurt by someone we love — a spouse, a boyfriend/girlfriend, a best friend, a child, a parent — we are tempted to think “Well, the feeling is gone — there went that. I can’t deal with this anymore. I’ve been hurt by this person too many times and I’m DONE.” No! There are going to be some really easy days, some days when it’s easy to love that person. But then there are going to be days like what Hosea illustrates, days when you just want to cast that other person off because of the pain they’ve caused you. Love is that commitment to the other, that willingness to suffer and try again. Giving a person another chance doesn’t make you weak. Love, true love, for another person takes courage and determination. It is not the work of a coward.

The next time you tell someone that you love them, think about what that means. Those words put you into relationship with that person, they bind you together in a powerful way. Don’t use them lightly. When times get tough, think of God’s pain that Hosea shows us, or of Christ’s suffering on the cross. True love comes with a price, and suffering is part of it.

Love is a commitment. Are you strong enough?

Litany of Humility

Facebook just has a lot of good things I have to share lately! I came across this on a friend’s wall and I couldn’t resist passing it on. I’d never seen this before…but I definitely need to use it!
death to self
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. (Repeat after each line.)
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. (Repeat after each line.)
That others may be esteemed more than I ,
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.

Who Do YOU Say That I Am?

names for Jesus1) That picture is cool.

2) I love the Gospel reading we heard yesterday.

3) For those who have forgotten (don’t feel bad, happens a lot to me), here is the Gospel reading I’m talking about:

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist;
others, Elijah;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He rebuked them
and directed them not to tell this to anyone.

He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

-Luke 9:18-24

There are a lot of things going on in that passage. Let’s chart some it out, shall we? (I’m using letters as bullets now. Just trying to keep it interesting.)

a) We see the importance of taking time alone to pray in quiet. Just before this passage, Luke gives us the story of the feeding of the five thousand. After all of this action and excitement, we get a shift–and Jesus is praying in solitude. It’s actually really interesting placement, if you think about it. Christ has just fed thousands of people, but now He seeks a sort of nourishment in prayer from His Heavenly Father. We should follow this example and remember that we can do nothing without God’s strength and guidance in our lives. We must pray to know His will and we must ask for the grace and help to carry it out.

b) The fact that Jesus asks who people say He is just seems really interesting to me. Is He simply prodding His friends, leading them to a deeper understand of who He is, an understanding that the crowds are lacking, or is there something more there? Just kind of some food for thought there. (Yes, this is really the stuff I sit around and think about. Be nice.)

c) We have a prediction of the Passion in this passage. Jesus is preparing His friends for what is to come because He knows that His death will confuse and trouble them greatly. I think that this warning or heads-up that we get here shows Christ’s love and compassion. He knows that He will suffer terribly and die, but He thinks of His friends and the fear that these events will cause them, so He tries to warn them about what will soon happen.

d) In order to truly be followers of Christ, we must learn to accept our crosses. And this we must do, not once in a while, but every single day of our lives. Being a follower of Christ will be marked by struggle and suffering, just as Our Master struggled and suffered for us. Of course, this naturally gives us pause because, let’s face it, we aren’t fans of pain and suffering. But I also think there is something very loving and intimate in this. It is almost an invitation to suffer with Our Lord and to bear our crosses as He bore His. We know, of course, that He will be with us every step of the way and that our brothers and sisters will also be walking with us along the path, helping us to stay on track. You kind of get this image of a people united by suffering, but also by an intense love that is willing to accept this suffering and help others to bear their loads as well.

e) What am I missing? Seems like it could be important…might have something to do with the title of this post…OH! Right. Jesus’ question and Peter’s confession. How could I forget? I love how Jesus asks what everyone else thinks about Him and then asks those closest to Him just who they think He is. And, as always, I love Peter’s answer. “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks. Cue Peter: “THE MESSIAH OF GOD!”. I just love how Peter steps up and just says what he’s thinking there.

Jesus asks each of us that same question, though. Who do you say that I am? Just who is Jesus to you? Would you call Him your Friend? God? Spouse? Comforter? Distant Cousin? (That last one was sort of a joke, but I mean…I guess it’s a possible answer.) But seriously, though: How has Jesus revealed Himself to you in your life? Maybe you’ve been through a really tough time and Jesus was that Friend who stood with you through it all and listened to everything that was on your heart. Maybe you’ve been in a seemingly impossible situation and Jesus stepped in as your God and set things straight.

There isn’t a wrong answer here, you guys. Jesus is everything–He is the Ultimate Good. Because of this, He comes to us as we need Him at that moment. This doesn’t mean that Jesus changes to suit human beings, but rather that He can be all good things and that He is just what we need at any given time.

So…Who do YOU say that He is?

Vocations–There’s More Than One

When I say (or rather, type) the word “vocation”, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

Bing Crosby pic

Okay, so maybe you don’t think of Bing Crosby. I just sort of have a thing for him. Anyway, my point is that most people think first of the priesthood. That’s a vocation, right? Yes, of course it is. We’ve all seen the cool videos asking us to pray for vocations to the priesthood…we know it’s a vocation. Many people, both Catholics and non-Catholics, are frustrated and even angry because this vocation is open to men and not to women. Some people feel like this relegates women to a second class position, that somehow women are less than men because they cannot be priests. This makes the Church completely sexist, right? How can the Church say that women can’t be priests, that they are somehow confined to the backseat?

The problem, I would suggest, isn’t with the Church, but rather with those who feel that the fact that women cannot be priests somehow makes them second-class citizens. The problem is in this skewed idea of what makes a vocation.

Okay, you guys. The priesthood is awesome, and you’ll never hear me say anything other than that. However, it is one vocation among many. Vocations are callings from God–not all are called to the priesthood. Let’s put some faces to these other callings from God.

wedding

Well, first, let’s talk about marriage. Why don’t we think of that first when we hear the word “vocation”? Marriage is a calling from God just as much as the priesthood is. The couple is called to care for any children they may be blessed with, and also to help each other to grow in holiness. This is a huge responsibility! Couples who are blessed with children have the huge job of seeing that their children, the future of the Church, are educated in their Faith and attend Mass and receive the sacraments regularly. In short, they become responsible for the child’s physical and spiritual well-being. Married couples not blessed with children still have the duty to help each other grow in holiness, and they also serve to support each other through difficulties and lift each other up through joyous times. If we discount marriage as a vocation, where in the world do we leave the Church?

religious life

religious life2

And of course, we can’t forget vocations to the religious life. Why don’t we think of that first when we hear the word “vocation”? These men and women have given up their lives to prayer and service. Where would the Church be without the constant prayers of the religious? Where would she be without their love and service? Where would she be without their fidelity and sincerity in living out the call they received from God?

single life

Another example: What about the vocation to the single life? (By the way, single people, you aren’t “forever alone”–that’s ridiculous.) This is probably the last thing to come to your mind when you hear the word “vocation”, but it’s important. Single persons are witnesses to Christ’s love in a way different from those in the religious life, and also different from priests and married persons. The person called to the single life is called to give of him/herself to others by living a chaste and celibate lifestyle in the world.

We should be careful not to put one vocation up on a pedestal to the detriment of others (and I’ve only named some vocations here). Is the priesthood awesome? Yes, of course! But so is the married life, the religious life, and the single life. We can’t possibly put any of these vocations down because each vocation is a call from God, and any call from God is special and holy.

Something We Should All Remember

church as a love story

I ran across this picture on Facebook and couldn’t resist sharing it–both here and on my page. This is something that we too often lose sight of. We treat the Church as though she is a set of rules and laws, an authority that always tells us what not to do. But that isn’t who the Church is.

The Church is the Bride of Christ, the one for whom He died and the one for whom He will return. It is this love of Christ for the Church that is given to each one of us, the faithful sons and daughters of the Church. Too often today, the Love Story that IS the Church is vilified. We’re told that love is allowing people to do whatever “makes them happy”, whatever makes them “feel good”. The world has lost sight of what love really is–and because of that, the world cannot understand the Church, and nor can it understand Christ.

Love does not mean always saying “yes” to what the other wants. Sometimes, it is precisely because you love someone that you must tell them not to do something. If a parent tells a child not to run with scissors or not to eat glue, the parent isn’t ruining that child’s fun; rather, the parent is showing love for and protecting the child. The Church, then, as a loving mother, cannot possibly say “yes” to all that her children ask of her, because we do not always know what is best for us.

Now, of course, I’m not saying that we’re all complete idiots, or that we have to be spoon fed everything under the sun. However, it is very easy for us to be swept up by the popular thinking of our times, thinking which is potentially dangerous and harmful. It is in situations like this that the Church must step in and pull us away from what we perceive to be goodness in order to direct us to the Ultimate Good: God Himself.

Of course, this Love Story that is the Church is also each one of us. By our very existence, we bear witness to God’s great love, so great that He created the world and literally LOVED the world and humans into being. We, too, have a duty to carry this powerful love to those who do not know God, just as the Church has the duty to transmit this love to us, her children, through her teaching and guidance.

The Church is not some institution with cold rules and laws, and nor are we mere spectators. The love of Christ for the Church and for each one of us calls all of us to action. We have to DO something once we have experienced this powerful love–we can’t help but share it with the world. So, even when it is difficult, let’s stand up and be a witness to this beautiful Love Story in our thoughts, words, and actions.

The Job of the Catholic Faithful

catholic faithful

As the Catholic faithful, I hope we all know that we have a job to do. Correction: we have jobs to do. Of course, we should be going to Mass and we should stay active in the lives of our local parishes. Those are the things we automatically think of. I want to propose a couple of other things here, though.

1) Prayer

We should pray for the Church unceasingly. Her leaders, her clergy, her faithful…all need and depend on our constant prayers. Too often, we forget this fundamental, basic job that we undertake by professing to be Catholics. This is the building block, though. The Church is desperately in need of our prayers.

2) Ministry

Why is it that so many of us forget our call to ministry? Guys, the clergy can’t do this alone! WE need to be teachers, parents, ministers of God’s love. WE are called to do this, to go out into the world and live our lives as Catholics. Some of us are called to special ministries. Maybe you’re a catechist. Maybe you volunteer to pray at the abortion clinic in your town. Maybe you ask people if they have any intentions you can be praying for. Maybe you work in youth ministry. Maybe you answer questions about the Catholic faith. Whatever you’re called to do, do it! The Church depends on an active laity, and we fall short sometimes. Don’t be afraid to step out and use the gifts God has given you! Just as it takes all kinds to make the world go round, it takes all kinds for the Church to reach out to the world. Be part of it.

3) THINK AND ASK QUESTIONS

This, in my opinion, is the area in which we are most seriously lacking. I’ll try to put this in a way that won’t make me sound like a crazy theological liberal, but that might be hard. You guys, Rome doesn’t always get it right. (Hold on. I’m not a heretic, I promise.) What I mean to say is, we should be thinking Catholics. Don’t just accept whatever comes out of the Vatican like it’s Gospel! Test it. Think about it. If you find sufficient reason for concern, bring those questions to your priest or even to your bishop. The Church needs us to be involved this way. We aren’t supposed to be silent, y’all. We aren’t supposed to be sheep who follow blindly. We are supposed to support and love the Church, and part of that means that we need to be ready and willing to see where she could improve and where she desperately needs to step back and re-evaluate.

The topic I posted about the other day is a great example of this. I’m not talking about dogma here, you guys. I’m talking about statements and documents that come from the Vatican or Church offices. The one I posted about had to do with not allowing gay men to become priests. I’ll say it right now–I think that’s a bad call. I can’t see any reason for this idea to stand, and I don’t think it’s right. I would LOVE to see the Church re-evaluate this question, along with several others. Things like that need to be thought through and, if necessary, brought to the attention of Church officials.

WE are the Church, you guys. The Holy Spirit can (and does) speak through us. If we are too afraid to speak up and question when things are going wrong, where does that leave the Church? Sometimes we need to rock the boat a little bit. Questions are healthy, and they don’t make you a bad Catholic. They make you a concerned Catholic who loves the Church enough to bring questions and problems to her attention.

 

There are Catholics who want to accept whatever happens, and there are Catholics who want to wrestle with the Church occasionally. Which one are you gonna be?

What’s YOUR Name?

Some days, it’s hard for me to believe that God loves me. I look at my life and see all of my sins and failures, and I think…How in the world can God love ME? On days like this, I see myself as being worse than nothing. My faults are the sum of my identity. Who am I? What a stupid question! My name is Liar. It’s Gossip. It’s Unfaithful. THAT’S who I am.

hello my name is blog

There are other names.

Insecure.

Scared.

Afraid.

Trapped.

Judge.

I know I’m not the only one who has had days like this. I think that teenagers are especially susceptible to this issue, but everyone faces it. Believe it or not, I think these days of difficulty have meaning. They are meant to show us that we have a fundamental question in need of an answer.

WHO AM I?!

That’s what we’re screaming out when we go through these rough days. When we can see nothing but our faults, when all we look at is our shortcomings, we’re begging for a definition of who we are. And our mistakes come readily to mind. We think, “Well, I must be Liar because I lied to my parents the other day” or “I’m Thief because I stole that CD”. This is all too easy to do.

I look at my sins (and they are many), and I can’t accept myself…much less can I understand how God can accept me after all that I’ve done and continue to do and most likely will do in the future. Who in the world am I that He should love ME?! Ever asked yourself that question? Let me answer it for you.

You are His child, His beloved.

We all mess up, you guys. Nobody’s perfect. The problem is that we identify ourselves with our mistakes. We are so focused on what we do wrong that we cannot see what God sees: an image of Himself. Your mistakes are not who you are, and it’s not who I am, either!

Listen to the song below.

 

Your name isn’t “Regret”.

It isn’t “Thief”.

It isn’t “Gossip”.

It is “Loved”…”Forgiven”…”Child”.

Your identity is in Christ, not in your own shortcomings. Remember that, you guys!

My name is Child of God. What’s yours?

Thoughts on the Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil

I LOVE THE EASTER VIGIL. That’s going to be a pretty important point to keep in mind. As I’m typing this, I’m still bursting with excitement and joy…and the Vigil Mass ended a little over an hour ago. So, as a way of venting my uncontrollable joy so as not to annoy everyone around me, I’m just going to post some thoughts/reflections on the Easter Vigil itself. Here we go (imagine my super excited face)!

1) Do you guys not just LOVE the symbolism with the Easter candle?! The church is dark. Everyone is quiet. Then, from the back of the church, there comes this light. The deacon sings out, “The light of Christ!” and, as he processes up the center aisle, the servers light the candles of the faithful and we pass the flame along to each other until the entire church is aglow. Christ was dead! We were a people in darkness! The Church mourned! But now, on this holy night, He breaks the chains of death, as the Exultet says, and He brings His light to us. We, in turn, pass that light–that faith, that love–to one another. It’s so great! You have Christ, the large Easter candle, the light of the world. Then you have us and, alone, we can’t make much of a dent in the darkness that surrounds us. But united together, all of us burning with love and faith in Christ and looking toward Him Who first gave us this light, we can dispel the darkness. LOVE that!

2) The joy at the Easter Vigil is just infectious. We can’t help but be ridiculously joyful, though! Anyone who walked in and didn’t know what was going on would probably seriously wonder what in the world had happened to make everyone present sing out and smile as much as they do. That is the kind of joy we should be carrying with us in our daily lives. This joy of Easter, of the Resurrection of our Savior, should be a constant light in our lives. His love for us and our bond with each other dispel all of the darkness of evil! The hatred and sin of this world stand no chance against such joy–nothing can take Christ from us.

3) I love the readings at the Easter Vigil. I know they’re long, but they’re beautiful. It’s like we’re saying, as the Church, to all of the catechumens present, “You want to join the Church? Here is who we are–listen to the story of salvation history and understand what you’re entering into.”

4) One of the responsorial psalms we sang today said this: “I will sing to my God who delivers me from death, into life, into freedom, through the sea”. At first, I sat there thinking, “The Exodus was such a great act of God’s saving power.” Then I thought, “Wait a minute. Baptism. Baptism is also a great act of God. Yes, I will sing to God, who has delivered me through baptism and even now calls me to share in His life.”

5) The catechumens. The people who, at the Vigil, are baptized and/or received into full communion in the Church. I love that the Church makes them wait, teaches them for a year and prepares them, and then welcomes them with all the faithful gathered to witness.

6) The renewal of our baptismal promises struck me tonight. That, for me, really emphasizes the communal aspect of baptism. While it is a personal calling from God, it is also that which marks me, which unites me in a special way to all of the people standing with me. We have all received the same baptism because we profess faith in the same Lord. We ARE the Church!

7) THE EXULTET. There are not words for how much I LOVE the Easter Exultet. There’s this one part of the old translation of the Exultet that I really love. It goes like this: O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer! That just resonates with me. How utterly weird does that sound?! But it’s so true at the same time! Sin is terrible and it has consequences, but that’s what’s so amazing about God–He can take even the most hideous things that human beings do and turn them into something beautiful. He can take sin and change it. He can take death and make it life. He can take a blight on human history and make it into a shining memorial of His love for us. How great it that?!

8) When we pray the Litany of the Saints for the catechumens…just yes. That, to me, expresses the love of the Church as the Body of Christ. We’re saying to those who about to come into the Church, “Come here with us! Welcome!”. And, as a gift to them, we offer them prayer. That’s what we bring to them–that’s what the Body does. We’re showing them most especially at that point what the Church is really about. She is steeped in prayer and love for the other, and so we lose ourselves in prayer for our brothers and sisters.

9) I’m not sure how to put this, but if you really think about it for a second, it just all seems so absurd. I mean, only yesterday we were all crying as we venerated the Cross–a cross, for goodness’ sake! A shameful instrument of torture and death! And then, tonight, we sing out joyfully…about the One who was crucified, the One who died the most painful and shameful death possible. We go from tears and sorrow to joy and laughter in a matter of hours! How ridiculous does that sound? But THAT’S the power of the Resurrection! THAT’S the power of God’s love for us. The darkness doesn’t last for long–our God does not leave us orphans. He comes back! He rises from the dead and, later, sends His Spirit among us to guide us in His love.

10) The dismissal. The Mass is ended, go in peace! Alleluia! Alleluia! Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Alleluia! We end Mass with that word: “ALLELUIA”! “Praise the Lord”! That’s what we’re saying! Praise the Lord for all He has done for us! Praise Him for His sacrifice! Praise Him for the glory of His Resurrection! Praise Him for His mercy towards us! Praise Him for dispelling the darkness of sin and conquering death! Praise Him for loving us so deeply and so sincerely! In the words of St. Augustine, “We are an Easter people, and ‘alleluia’ is our song!

Okay…I think I’m done now.

Notice Anything?

The Isenheim Altarpiece (center) by Grunewald

The Isenheim Altarpiece by Grunewald

It’s Good Friday. So…notice anything different in the Church’s liturgy today? It was probably pretty somber, right? No covering on the altar, not a lot of singing, no consecration…weird, huh?

We are a liturgical people, and liturgy marks the Church’s year. We have prayers that are said at different times of the day and, every single day, there is a Mass being celebrated. Except on Good Friday. Mass is at the center of the Church–it is the heartbeat of the Church. There’s this nice steady rhythm all throughout the liturgical year with daily Mass and then, all of a sudden, the Church’s heart skips a beat on Good Friday when no Mass is celebrated. Why?

Christ has died. That’s what we remember in a special way on this day. Today, He was beaten, mocked, abused, and tortured. He was scorned and left to die. So today, as the Church remembers the Lord’s Passion, as she walks with Him along the road to Calvary and stands at the foot of the Cross as He breathes His last, her heart stops. It stops at the sight of her Lord being struck for the sins of her people. It stops at the sound of “Hail, King of the Jews!” and the sound of the whip tearing into her Master’s back. It stops as she sees her God fall beneath the weight of the Cross and the burden of sin that He carries with Him on His shoulders–all for love of her. She watches as her Lord gets up after falling on His way and looks straight at her, with unimaginable love and pain in His eyes.

Her heart stops.

And, with this sudden stop, the Church calls us to recognize what has happened here. She says to all of us, “Look, my children. Look at what is happening. Stop! Reflect on this.” Listen to the Church, listen to the liturgy. And stop.

Habemus Papam! Viva il Papa!

Pope Francis

THE QUESTION OF THE DAY: JUST WHO IS THIS POPE FRANCIS?

Everyone’s talking now! Who is this new pope? What’s he gonna be like? I think that, if we pay close attention, we already have a pretty good idea of this pope’s character and of the direction in which he will be taking the Church. Let’s examine the evidence.

FIRST CLUE: HIS NAME

Admittedly, there are quite a few saints with the first name Francis, but the one we all automatically think of is St. Francis of Assisi. (If you’re trying to put a name with a face here, think garden statue with a bird.) “Francis, rebuild My Church!” Those were the words of Christ to this beloved saint. St. Francis was of noble birth, but he turned away from his wealth in favor of a humble life of service to God and to the Church. Personally, when I think of St. Francis, I think of peace, love, calm assurance, and complete trust in God, all of which are embodied in the well-known prayer attributed to him.

“The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi”

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

SECOND CLUE: HIS FIRST WORDS AS POPE

After his election, Pope Francis came out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s basilica to give his first papal blessing. Before this blessing, Pope Francis asked all of the people to take a moment to pray for HIM. That, to me, speaks volumes. Not only is that a great act of humility, but I think it also shows that Pope Francis wants to be in touch with the people and that he wants to bring the faithful together as a united Body. Below is the full text of his remarks and the footage of his address.

Address of His Holiness, Pope Francis I, on the Occasion of His Election

“Brothers and sisters, good evening. You know that the task of the conclave was to give Rome a bishop. It seems my brother cardinals went almost to the ends of the earth to find one.

I thank you for your welcome.

The diocesan community of Rome has its bishop. Thank you.

First of all, I would like to offer a prayer for our bishop emeritus, Benedict XVI. Let us all pray together for him that the Lord bless him and that the Mother of God protect him. ‘Our Father who art in heaven. … Hail Mary, full of grace. … Glory be to the Father … .’

Now let’s begin this journey, bishop and people, this journey of the church of Rome, which is the one that presides in charity over all the churches — a journey of brotherhood, love and trust among us. Let us pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there be a great brotherhood. I hope this journey of the church that we begin today — and I will be helped by my cardinal vicar, here present — will be fruitful for the evangelization of this so beautiful city.

Now I would like to give my blessing. But first, I will ask a favor. Before the bishop blesses his people, he asks that you pray to the Lord to bless me, the prayer of the people for the blessing of their bishop. Let’s pray for me in silence.”

(He gave his blessing “urbi et orbi” [to the city and the world]).

“Brothers and sisters, I’ll leave you. Thank you so much for the welcome. Pray for me. We’ll see each other soon. Tomorrow I want to go to pray to Mary so she would watch over all of Rome. Good night. Have a good rest.”

THIRD CLUE: HIS IMMEDIATE ACTION

After his remarks to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis called Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, to inform him that he plans to visit the former Pontiff in the coming days. Talk about coming out full steam!

SO, WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS SAY ABOUT THE NEW POPE?

These three things that we have seen today, in addition to his humility and loving service as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, say that Pope Francis will be working to keep the Church in touch with the Truth of the Catholic Faith while also seeking to reach out to the multitudes who are most in need of our service and the Gospel. He brings with him to the See of Peter a profound amount of humility, faith, and love. I, personally, cannot wait to see where he takes us next.

May God bless His Holiness, Francis I, Bishop of Rome! May he govern the Church for many years to come! May the Father watch over him, the Son protect him, and the Spirit guide him!


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