Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Signs of the Times

It is not terribly shocking to hear that Fr. Alberto Cutié has decided to defect from the Catholic Church, and go to one (the Episcopal - that is, Anglican-in-America) in which things will be more to his liking. For one, they don't mind his inability or lack of ongoing commitment to celibacy. Fair enough - they don't require or esteem celibacy in the first place. More intriguing is the fact that they don't mind that he is an oath-breaker. He made solemn promises of obedience and celibacy, and now has unilaterally dodged them both in one fell swoop. They don't suit him anymore. One would think that Fr. Cutié's new superior would at least want to be sure that he can stick to a vow, no?

Well, it's perhaps fitting, after all. After all, the Anglican Communion was founded when an oath-breaking king became tired of his promises regarding sexuality, and decided to put away his first wife for another. And another. And another. One wonders how many churches Fr. Cutié will put away to suit his evolving tastes before the whole thing is done. It's a little known fact that England and her kings were legal vassals (governmental subordinates) of the Pope until Henry VIII broke his forefathers' faith. In most of Europe, the Pope could take up special collections and so forth; in England, he could collect taxes and call for soldiers. Henry VIII would rather have things his own way, though, rather than honoring the promises of his fathers. Now that Fr. Cutié has broken with Rome, one must wonder if he will really let himself be governed by another master, or if he will be his own... if perhaps he is already his own master. That's the devil's motto, in Milton's Paradise Lost: "I will not serve." That and his television show frankly smack of a towering pride.

Meanwhile, our President has named an ambassador to the Holy See: Miguel Diaz. He is Catholic, in the way that the Sandinistas are. He is "pro-Life," in the way that Douglas Kmiec and the President are. He publishes on presses that call themselves Catholic but are either notorious for dissent, uncommitted to the teachings of the Church, or flat out deny the entirety of Christian revelation. Like Fr. Cutié and the President, he is young, good looking, smooth, and charismatic. He has a track record of supporting social justice issues for the poor and weak (except for, as one commentator has pointed out, the poorest and weakest, i.e., the unborn). He is suave and probably very convincing, and will probably be charged by the White House with getting the Vatican to believe that white is black and black is white, that good is evil, and evil good.

And against these slicksters, whom can Holy Church send forth, tattered and bruised by her own conduct as much as by that of her enemies? The likes of this man:

Now, don't get me wrong. Archbishop Favalora of Miami is likely a very competent administrator, strong shepherd, and loving father. He has enormous responsibilities of which, dear reader, you and I cannot even dream. I wouldn't criticize a bishop to save my life, I hope. I used to, but I'm done with that. It just helps out our enemies. And His Excellency's words regarding Fr. Cutié strike me as very well chosen. Still, looking at him and hearing his words will not be very convincing to most Americans - Catholic or otherwise - when the likes of Fr. Cutié or Prof. Diaz is sitting on the opposite side of the talk-show host. The Archbishop certainly has authority over both them (well, over Diaz only indirectly, since Diaz doesn't live in his diocese), and his reasoning is doubtless sounder than that of Cutié. All the same, I have a sickening feeling in my gut that many, many of the priest's fans, preferring to have their ears tickled, will choose him over Jesus' plump, wrinkly old vicar in Miami.

"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths," 2 Tim 4:3-4.

A close friend of mine is being ordained a priest this weekend in Burlington, Vermont. Several more friends from my time in seminary will be ordained priests and (transitional) deacons in the next few weeks. They are young. Some are more charming and charismatic than others, but they are all very good men and that shines through. They believe in Jesus. They love and obey his Church. They defend life. I couldn't close without pointing out a few stars amid the dark night sky.

Seek to Know...

"Seek to know the path of spiritual childhood, without forcing yourself to follow this path. Leave works to the Holy Spirit," The Way #852, St. Josemaria Escriva.

Hadn't heard from him in a while, and I read this one at my desk when I got to work this morning. He is so excellent.

The People God Puts

I am from time to time amazed by the quality of the people that God puts into my life, and the timeliness with which our paths converge, and the fruit of the friendships that He gives us in each other. Today is St. Matthias day. St. Matthias was the disciple inducted by the Apostles into their little college to replace the fallen Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:23-26). Can you imagine how unnerving and humbling it must have been for him to be told, "Matthias, we feel that the Holy Spirit wants us to lay hands upon you and to share with you the ministry that Jesus gave to us before he ascended to his glory." "Me?" would be a reasonable, humble response.

I used very often to feel unworthy of my friends. Maybe I am - it's not for me to say. Now, I mostly just feel grateful for them, and that is all the difference in the world, and much better, I think. Reflecting on how much my friends tolerate in me helps motivate me to try to be tolerant with others. All this makes me think that it is probably a good thing to stretch ourselves a bit about who we are willing to be friends with.

Father, I pray You kindle in my heart love for those You bring into my life, so that in each other, we may encounter You, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

"Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives," C. S. Lewis

More Coolness, Precious

Anyone else out there a fan of The Lord of the Rings? Ok, so I do not dress up as a hobbit, but I have read the trilogy a few times, and a couple of the accompanying novels written and/or edited by J. R. R. Tolkien or his son, Christopher. Someone, apparently inspired by the cinematographic version of the trilogy has decided to use the novel to fill in some of the blanks in the Peter L. Jackson production. Click here to see the just-released "The Hunt for Gollum."

Super Cool - Catacombs Come to Life

Check out this story about an archaeologist who is scanning the Catacombs of St. Domitilla, beneath the city of Rome, to make a 3D, real-color image of them.

If you click on the link, you'll get a cool sneak-peek at what the man is doing. Golly, what an age we live in!

Why Do They Care?

I am not immensely intrigued by Protestants who want the Eucharist, because their desire makes sense to me. I want the Eucharist, too. It is interesting to note that most mainline denominations in the U.S. celebrated "the Lord's Supper" regularly until about a hundred years ago, when fear of seeming "too Catholic" caused their ministers to reduce the frequency of communion services dramatically, from weekly to monthly, or even yearly. A friend of mine, a conservative Presbyterian, recently shared his frustration with me at hearing from his minister on Holy Thursday how the Eucharist is spiritual food. He summarized his frustration thus: "Then why doesn't [that minister] feed us more often than once a year?!"

What does impress me is how many Protestants seem to take it personally that we (Catholics) will not share Communion with them. They seem to take it as a sort of snootiness or arrogance on our part, as if we feel we are better than them. Feelings haven't anything to do with any of it, though. Nor does the status of their communion celebrations, or their beliefs and feelings regarding communion. While few Protestants have beliefs about the Eucharist the same as ours, most that I know do believe that is Jesus is somehow manifest in the Eucharist. That's great. It's a start. It also has nothing to do with why we will not share Communion with them. What is forming our stance is a matter of fact: in very substantial ways Protestants are not in communion with us and to share the Holy Communion with them would be to falsify communion.

When a Protestant is submits in matters of faith and morals to the authority of Church, who teaches on behalf of Christ, then the Protestant will have moral unity with the Church, and may share in our sacramental communion. Sharing sacramental communion before there is moral unity is like sharing sexual relations before there is sacramental marriage: it puts the cart before the horse, falsifies the nature of the relationship, and thereby cheapens the sacrament.

And the thing is that this teaching isn't personal. It's not like the Church has it out for Protestants or think we are better than them (although, sadly, there are many arrogant asses like myself among us). In fact, Catholics living in sin (I don't just mean sexually) aren't to go to communion either. Nor are Catholics who have eaten too recently. Of course, when the pews empty at communion time, a number of Catholics are going to communion who probably should not be - either for committing some sin, dissenting from some teaching, or from casually eating Cheetos before going to Mass. This careless communion gives cause for scandal to our Protestant brethren. "If all those flaky Catholics can go to Catholic communion, then why can't I?" The question is pretty legitimate. It would be easier to explain our doctrine about reception of the Eucharist if we as a community lived it out better ourselves.
If, at communion time, a significant number of Catholics-in-the-pew refrained from communion, as used to be the case, guests in our community would probably not feel so left out in the cold. For now, a good second best is probably to encourage friends that come with us to Mass to go up to receive a blessing - arms folded across chest, head bowed, mouth closed. And of course, there is the old multiknife of solutions - prayer.

I think there really is a reason, though, that they want our Eucharist. As previously noted, they have been starved by their own denominations from the spiritual blessing of reenacting the Lord's Supper. But there's more. Because we have priests successively ordained from generation to generation back to the apostles and our Lord himself, we offer the sacrifice that He taught us, and in that we sacrifice have Him for Whom we were made, in what merely appears to be bread and wine. We haven't just got mere symbols, or memorials, or spiritual presences. We have Him. He's attracted such a magnetic relationship upon the world for two thousand years so that one must, after reflection, either love Him or hate Him. Our hearts were made for Him, and as He predicted, the more Holy Church lifts Him up, the more He draws all men to himself (Jn 12:32).


Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post just printed online this article concerning the Obama-Notre Dame fiasco. What strikes me is that this (by her own admission, unemphatic) pro-choice writer sorts through the issue very evenhandedly and in a way sympathetic to Holy Church. She applauds Prof. Glendon's recent decision to refuse the Laetare Medal from Notre Dame, so as not to share a platform with Obama, and so as not to legitimate the honors to be given him. She works through the question of why this issue is so important to us (Catholics), and what the President might do in order to display goodwill, tact, and poise.

Let's hope he does it, because the administration of Notre Dame hasn't the sense anymore. An alternative scenario would be a large-scale boycott of the commencement exercises by the graduating class. That would send an excellent and powerful message to both the President and to Notre Dame's administration.