December 24, 2022

Spiritual Fatherhood in Northern California

Faith comes by hearing, but who are we listening to?  On my own first visit to Holy Transfiguration, this question rang through me.  After a difficult experience in formation with another community, I was looking for someone I could trust.  Abbot Boniface had founded a Byzantine Monastery in Redwood Valley, California, and someone suggested that I meet with him and seek his counsel. I wondered whether this would be a man I could trust and deeply hoped it was.

There is a crisis of fatherhood in the Church today, and our young people are paying the price.  In a culture where fatherhood is mocked and men are not encouraged to be strong, it is countercultural and even counter-intuitive to make such an observation.  Because we do not cultivate or honor fatherhood, the body of Christ is often lacking this essential gift,  an irreplaceable mediation of the grace of Christ. Many ecclesial personalities suggest that they know Christ and may really believe that they do, but few know how to be spiritual fathers. There is little in our culture that encourages the cultivation of such manhood. So many, often without realizing it, project their own fancies onto Jesus instead - blind to true Light, we do not see rightly - and this is especially true of men who lack the courage that real fatherhood requires, who lack the conviction required for sacrificial love. Because they have never learned to be sons, they do not know how to be fathers.  Blind themselves, at best they can offer only inaccurate guesses about God's will and uncertain encouragement to vague ideals.  

A true spiritual father, on the other hand, is able to see. Having learned to be a son, he knows how to contemplate, how to behold reality with confidence.  He is able to listen in a manner that makes his whole being vulnerable to God - humble trust and obedience to the heavenly Father opens up such contemplation. He lives in gratitude because he knows that such vision has been bought for him at the price of Christ's blood, and the freedom he now has to see is something he refuses to take for granted.  

Because Jesus is the Word of the Father, we need men, such as these spiritual fathers, who will help us find the Lord so that we might learn how to live.  We need another to help us welcome "the Light" who was "from the beginning." Someone beyond ourselves needs to speak the Word into the whole of our humanity until everything human about us - our entire image and likeness to God - is translucent with the Light of Christ.  Such is the role of a spiritual father: this man listens souls into being because he himself "keeps" the Word in his heart.  Because he has welcomed the Light that shines in the darkness, he can listen to the suffering ache in this particular son or daughter. He can listen until he enters the aching truth of another - and because he yearns to unveil to them what they cannot see on their own. The light of Christ is mediated through a spiritual father who listens.   

When a soul humbly seeks help, a true spiritual father tunes into this particular “end point” in eternity and carefully discerns this soul’s unrepeatable role the great symphony of creation.  In order to realize such greatness - a soul needs to be taught to see, needs to be listened to, needs to manifest its pain to someone who will fight for it, protect it, and help it become what it is meant to be.  In the order of nature, this is the work of a father - in the order of grace, this is the completely unmerited privilege of a spiritual father. In my case, I was encouraged to study theology in Rome and to become a teacher, but to do it as an act of faith. This was just the word I needed at the time, a spiritual direction even as I felt I was wondering aimlessly.  I had a sense for how to serve God and confidence in the goodness of His work in the world.

Confidence, purpose and sense of identity is what Abbot Boniface offered me when I came to first came to Mt. Tabor.  It is the very purpose that he founded Mt. Tabor - and when he offered it, the stream of spiritual fatherhood he chose to sanctify this mountain flowed from the caves of Kyiv.  Indeed, as is the case of Ukraine, this monastery is at the head waters of the Russian river, looking out over lands once claimed by Russia. Just as faith flowed from those caves of Kyiv into Russia, so too does faith flow into California from this vantage point.  The caves of Kyiv received the grace of monastic mysticism from Constantinople - and this heritage drew from the deep dug wells of desert fathers in Egypt. This great heritage found expression in the life of St. Symeon the Studite - who in turn formed St. Symeon the New Theologian. This happened at about the same time that Ukraine was first accepting the Gospel of Christ - and through this acceptance, the Russian people were evangelized by a monastic Church - a Church of spiritual Fathers.  California in all its rejection of fatherhood and hatred for actual men needs a new evangelization -  one that can only flow from spiritual fathers and the monastic tradition.

The great calling for Mt. Tabor is not simply to be a shelter in the storm of secularism - but, as were the monasteries of Egypt, Constantinople and Kyiv, a school of spiritual fatherhood, a place where one can be a spiritual son, a place where men show one another the Light as brothers. It is not an ideal of "Prayer and work" but of "prayer and family" - of sobernost, solidarity, a union of hearts forged for the glory of God. Glory waits to be revealed by those who will seek the Son of the Father.  For St. Symeon the New Theologian, one learns to see the Light of Christ through the mediation of a spiritual father — one needs a spiritual father to see the immaterial light of Trinitarian glory.  Since the time of Abbot Boniface, Holy Transfiguration Monastery has helped form such men - and this is true even now. 

November 13, 2022

What has primacy over war, insurrection and natural disaster? Your witness to Christ

Christ, the Word of the Father, commands those who believe in Him, "Do not be terrified."  If we stand in the face of war and insurrection is breaking our society apart, and fires and floods and storms and earthquakes threaten at every side, "Do not be terrified."  If false prophets predict utter catastrophe and declare the end of time, "Do not be terrified."  To be terrified is to be so seized with fear that you are not able to do anything or think of anything.  But Christ commands us not to be terrified.  This is because what He reveals is more powerful than natural or manmade disasters.  Whatever the catastrophe - He is Lord and nothing can impede his power.  With Him there is always a future for each person and for all of humanity - no matter what happens.  This is why He declares that "before" any disaster that might befall us is His saving plan.  Before the worse catastrophe that we might imagine, we should expect to be imprisoned, mocked, ridiculed, humiliated in all kinds of ways.  Why does the Almighty God allow his beloved to suffer in this way?  Because before all the threatening circumstances and misfortunes of life - and actually into these very realities - He has sent his beloved to provide a word of hope.  He has sent his disciples, his faithful followers to witness to the exceeding love of God and to declare it so that those who might need it the most can find it where and when it seems absent.  With the love of God revealed by Christ, even in total disaster and insurmountable hardship, a man can stand firm with hope - because this eternal love opens to horizons the exigencies of the moment cannot hold back.  God's love shatters the prison walls of rancor, strife, animosity, bitterness and disappointment. God's love opens possibilities even in the face of grave injustice and horrific evil - a life line to those who are surrounded by death.  God's love sanctifies broken wombs and raises up to life those whose lives we have destroyed. God's love pricks the conscience of the hardest heart and brings to repentance those everyone assumes are set in their ways.  God's love raises out of the narrow confines of the pressing moment, raises above the social conventions of every historical epoch, and breaks open the dams of human potential - for those who know this love remember what it means to be a human being.  It is because of this love that Christ tells us, "Do not be terrified."  

September 30, 2022

Rosary Crusade on October 7, 2022 - you are invited!

Even in this time of worry, confusion, and darkness there are tremendous signs of hope, including a renewed devotion to Our Lady and the power of the rosary. We place our trust in her promise at Fatima that “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

In that spirit, I’ll be helping to lead the Rosary online with the team of the Avila Foundation and thousands of other faithful from around the world on October 7, 2022, the feast of Our Lady of Rosary, beginning at 6:30 PM Central.

I’d love to have you join us for this free live event, “The Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”  You will need to register in advance to receive the link to join in.  Here’s where to sign up: 

Hope to see you there!


September 23, 2022

Our Lady of Knock

Mary leads into a deep Eucharistic Silence.  With the support of Joseph, she presents the mystery of Christ presence in the world - it is a real presence, a mysterious presence that communicates such glory as would transform the deepest center of humanity if only we welcomed Him. With the support of Apostolic ministry, in Knock the ministry of the Apostle John, she teaches the truth about Her Son's presence - so that we might enter into the silence that receives Him, that accepts Him, that makes a home for Him. This is why those who visit the Gable at Knock feel her presence with them when they go into adoration - she follows them into this Eucharistic moment that we might behold the Lamb.

September 11, 2022

The Threshold into the Heart of God

Christ's crucified and risen humanity is the threshold in the Heart of God. Catastrophe unfolds in all social conventions that we once relied on, but in this sacred place, we are secure. Alienated, lost and ashamed, our true homeland is just a prayer away. Through His Mystical Body, the Good Shepherd reaches out to touch us and His voice echoes in our hearts.  Through His Body and Blood, the Eucharistic Lord manifests and communicates inexhaustible treasures, riches we have secretly desired but never dreamed would be suddenly lavished upon us. Knocking at the door of our hearts, the Divine Pilgrim offers real connection, true understanding, meaningful love. 

Gazing at us and searching our depths, this True Friend comes to us in warmest vulnerability. Uncreated Wisdom of God, He understands us in ways that we do not understand ourselves. The Man of Sorrows, He empathizes with our weakness and offers to heal the most painful wounds. The Rejected One, He challenges us to the very core of our being.  The Revelation of the Mercy of the Father, the Healer convicts us, not to shame, but to forgive and to give a new beginning.  Such is the threshold into the deep things of God - not one that we cross as much as does God out of inexhaustible compassion. He opens the gate, reaches through the portal with outstretched hands, and revealing His wounds for our sake, He offers His Heart.  

Even as this yet unrecognized pilgrim walks with them, there are some who seek religious experience or else attempt great feats of spiritual industry.  They want results and attain what their hearts seek.  These achievements provide momentary relief and a sense of accomplishment. But as accomplishments limited to space and time, they are too limited for the heart. Too far beneath its dignity, the heart aches for something that is beyond its own power to achieve, for a Someone who alone can satisfy.

Even as this mysterious stranger questions their deepest fears, there are others who turn to created spiritual forces to gain security or find power. By degrees of deception, they are trapped into the realm of created things.  Whatever power we grasp for has power over us. Apart from God, the passing splendors of this life only stir lust, covetousness, and pride, fanning fires that will burn with destructive force for all eternity. Thus, the Lamb who was slain humbly calls out in harmonies that shake the foundation of the world, that shatter self-made strongholds and that cast down false altars of the heart.  Like a violent earthquake, the suddenness of the truth is unveiled and the opportunity to freely choose comes with shocking clarity. Blessed are they who He has moved to tears in this moment, for such tears quench fires unworthy of the heart's greatness.

Even as this mysterious Guest breaks bread before them, there are also some who want to give their lives to the One who they love. Even these find in their hearts such attachments, grievances, wounds and burdens that they are confounded.  They cry night and day over their own sins and the sins of their dearest loved ones, and they wait for their Deliverer.  They know that they will be measured by their own measure, so they humbly let go. The forgive and seek forgiveness. They stop trying to measure and they surrender - for a measureless love dawns upon them. In this Uncreated Light, they know that their hope does not disappoint and they long to see His Face. 

September 4, 2022

Prayer's Power in Human Weakness

In deep silences, the Lord speaks into our hearts even when everything around us falls apart.  Our weakness shouts at us and all we see is failure.  A cacophony of shame and accusation, fear and doubt assails us.  The voices of those who disdain us would be bad enough - but our own self-accusation seems to shake our core. How might we find Him, the One for who our hearts most long, our Savior and Deliverer when we are trapped and there seems no way out? Yet His voice is not silent. It whispers in gentle patience, inviting us out of chaos and into prayer.  

Loneliness haunts us and alienation from even our closest friends when all our hopes are dashed.  How true it is that we discover our true friends in the midst of crisis!  In such times, those who we assumed would be most steadfast disappoint us. We feel abandoned and misunderstood - or else the object of someone's misguided charity project.  Some actually want to relieve the plight and really do attempt to protect the dignity of the soul steeped in such misery ... how few they are!  Yet even these cannot bridge the abyss that yawns between the suffering soul and the rest of humanity.  Such is death - this is what it means to be placed in the tomb.

Here, in this deepest darkness, the Word of the Father seems most absent.  It is as if He let out his last wordless cry and breathed His last. At this moment, my soul and His soul are closest - united in the terrible mystery of death. This is where a new kind of whisper enters our hearts - a gentle movement so subtle that one never recognizes it until afterward. For there is a love that is stronger than death even if I cannot feel it. There is a reason for hope even if my mind cannot find it or my feel it. This is because He is with me always -- even in the shadow of death, even as waves of weakness engulf me.

Prayer's power in human weakness reaches a perfection in total disaster and complete failure. Only those who have been gripped with acute anxiety and suffer utter catastrophe know this power. It is a power Christ shares with His closest friends, those who He trusts most of all. If you are such a soul, know that your feeblest act of faith and most humble effort to love makes space for God to reveal His life giving glory in a dying world - through your smallest sacrifice, life giving splendor reaches out where it is most needed. Christ Himself accomplished his greatest work when He was annihilated on the Cross -- our salvation, and by faith your suffering is an extension of His saving work, raising up all human life in times when it is most needed.

August 31, 2022

God's Presence when Empires Fail

We need to find the gaze of Christ. His look of love changes everything - but until we find it, a whole horizon of hope is hidden when we need it most. Everything else is passing, even the great empires of our times.  It is difficult to write about this gaze in the midst of political collapse, but God does not stop acting even in the midst of so much uncertainty.  In the face of a whole cacophony of conflicting cultural narratives, it is easy to be distracted in curiosity: with all this bad news, is there any good news?  With everyone grasping for control even as the world spins out of control, let us remain focused on what God is doing.  

The Bridegroom does not grasp or enter into competition for our attention.  The Eternal Son does not need to caste dispersion on those who disagree with Him.  He is not limited to act by only the most sensational display of power.  Instead,  the Savior of the Word is solemnly present in silent hidden majesty.  He prefers to act as would an artist - with delicate, painful subtly. So does He bring the work that has begun in us to perfection. His sovereignty undaunted - the Lord reigns in peace even as heaven is at war and the earth unaware of its peril.  

What of evil and the calamities that surround us?  The Word who holds in being all things knows that nature has turned against those He loves because they have turned against nature. No anger but regret over the plight we have brought on ourselves.  But more than the disorder of nature against humanity and humanity against nature, the Bridegroom grieves over His Bride - the wolves who attack her will not avoid HIs judgment. Those are destined for mill-stones who think that He has not made her holy and immaculate. Like lighting flash He comes to shatter the safe conventions that those without reverence presume to rely on. Woe to them who playing politics and power stand in His Way.  

Even still, His love is patient and does not waver.  He knows that the Heart of the Father aches over how we have squandered ourselves on what is far below our dignity and He knows how the Father waits for us to come to our senses and turn towards home.  Even as we take our first step, the Trinity pulls up divine robes and runs as if forgetful of all sacred dignity - to us who still reek with pigsty.  God runs not to shame or scold, but to welcome and embrace, to bring home.

Thus, the Word made flesh rebukes the fever of sin and every form of diabolical praise. Out of love for the Father, the Great High Priest even gently rebukes us for wanting Him to stay where we are in our present life circumstance instead of following Him where the Father sends Him - for He leads to our true home, to the things that are above, to the Holy of Holies.  Not God of the familiar, convenient and comfortable, if we will follow Him into the Heart of the Father, even in times such as these, we will live in such astonished amazement - flooded forever by overflowing fullnesses of meaning and exceeding goodness. Here is the true source of peace - and the only hope for our people, our children. Our Father's love, a divine love no nation's nihilism can ever overcome, is unleashed here and now in the gaze of Christ - what freedom and greatness awaits those who dare to glance into those eyes.  

August 29, 2022

The Rosary -- threshold to Holy Mysteries

The Rosary opens a threshold to sacred memories in the heart of the Church, mysteries from the heart of Our Lady that the whole Church should ponder with her.  If you have not taken time to make this prayer part of your daily routine, it is a good time to begin.  From the Sign of the Cross and the Creed through each Our Father and ten Hail Mary's, the beads of the Rosary remind your hands to surrender in prayer and the gentle repetition on the lips help the heart recall the goodness of God even in the midst of anxiety. In a secular world where active efforts are made to sideline what is sacred, the Rosary is a threshold to holy Mysteries, a portal that opens into the very heart of God.  

For those who would like to take a course on the rosary - 

click here:

August 27, 2022

The Doors of Silence

The portal into deep silence requires silencing of memories and curiosity.  This is because when we enter into a sacred place, we must set aside worldly cares.  It is not that the world holds us back - for indeed, God created the world to reveal his glory.  But it is the case that we put the secular before the sacred and pay homage to things that are quite beneath our dignity. To silence oneself before the sacred is to allow God to raise oneself up from the concerns that are below so that we might receive His love from above.  We need to unbind ourselves from things and people who bog us down so that we can raise those we love  to God even as He lifts up our hearts.  In this deep silence, the most noble desires of the heart, even as they die, are raised up reordered with new life, with undying joy. 

This rule seems harsh - but on the Cross Jesus gave up His own Mother to achieve our salvation and the glory of the Father. Renunciation and self-denial enters this place of invincible love and keeps us there.  The Cross is the portal, the threshold into this deep silence -- a stillness in which God communicates His love in such a way that not only our own life but the whole world is transformed.  

In the face of all the political rancor of our time, the temptation is to believe the cultural powers and political forces have the upper hand.  If people unleash aggression against their own bodies, their own sexuality, their very gender, we should not be surprised that they will also act with irrational hostility toward their own institutions, countries and even the Church.  If there are such people in those the world, we should never be scandalized to find them in the Church as well.  Yet there is something more powerful than the lure of power, riches and honor. A still small voice rings out above the cacophony of anxious efforts to control humble humanity and even the Church. Those who let this voice into their hearts know a freedom that cannot be oppressed, that no amount of calculation can predict or control.  Under the silence of the Cross one discovers how to welcome this irresistible truth - for the renunciation that love makes goes beyond the hostility of the heart.

This renunciation is not heartless or cold. It is tender and painful and beautiful. It tastes that sacred sorrow that alone finds eternal beatitude. The love of Mary for her Son and of her Son for his Mother was not diminished by this letting go - instead, their love for one another bore fruit for the whole world.  So it is with us when we subordinate all our other relationships to the plan of God for our lives. We discover a deeper silence - a place of welcome and hospitality toward God in our hearts, a sacred place that aches in great stillness for His coming. Those who find this place have entered into the deepest truth about being a man before God - about being male and female before Him. By giving the Lord the first fruits of our attention and devotion, He unleashes power in our family to pour out His love in ways we otherwise could never imagined.  

August 21, 2022

The Rosary

Murmuring of voices joined before lighted candles, common whispers on fervent lips, a faith filled fingering of humble beads; in all these ways the rosary expresses the deepest cries of broken hearts and the resounding hope for a new day.  Demeaned as a symbol of radical nationalism, and even a call to violence, the Rosary is actually a pathway to mature prayer and human greatness. Since believers began to substitute "Our Fathers" and "Hail Mary's" in the place of the 150 psalms, centuries of saints have found peace in the angelic and ecclesial mantra. This even in the face of war. Those who pray this summary of the psalms regularly have witnessed that it changes not only one's own heart but even the course of world events. 

In a pharmaceutical world where many wander in aimless fear of whatever next catastrophe might shorten our lives, one needs a compass to find the truly meaningful. The Rosary is a map, a compass, a walking stick for a journey into the the heart of Jesus. The holy mysteries chart a course. Biblical words of prayer are footsteps on the pathway. The Cross around which the Rosary unfolds supports the weight of one's existence. In each of its mysteries, the riches of Christ's crucified and risen humanity are opened - joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious.  In these mysteries live a mother's memory of her Son and the Son's love for his mother, things that they both treasure and that they both long for every disciple to know. In the Rosary, heart speaks to heart - the heart of God into the heart of man, the heart of man into the deep things of God. This portal into greatness and glory remains relevant even in the face of  impending doom. 

The world needs the hope that the rosary binds fast to the heart.  The most authoritative sources tell us that global temperatures and weather patterns pose an inevitable threat to human existence. The more honest voices will also admit that materially and scientifically there is very little we can do about it. It is time to turn to prayer.

To attribute the consequences of our own actions to divine justice is not to believe that we are sinners in the hands of an angry God. Having rejected God whose only desire is our good, He humbly and respectfully has delivered us into our own hands. We are the authors of our own demise - not God. Our lack of care for the world is merely a projection of our own self-hatred. Such is the mystery of sin - it hurls us back into the nothingness from which we were summoned into existence. Having made a mother's womb the most dangerous place for human life on the planet, it should not surprise us that our planet is ready to abort us too. Yet, it is through calamity that the Lord continues to hold out hope to us. Each new catastrophe is another invitation to return to prayer - and the Rosary accepts this invitation.  Are not bad weather and natural calamities signs that something is out of whack and invitations for us to return to our senses? The humble beads running through our fingers by help us stand up and turn our face to the Father's House.

In the Rosary, we confront the Cross of Christ who unveils the evil in our hearts and the tender mercy of God.  He knows our sin and loves us anyways, suffering our hostility even to the end. Human misery has a limit. It does not have the power to overcome Divine Mercy. This is why we discover healing from sin and conversion of life while reciting the Rosary and remembering all that Christ did and all that happened to Him. Those who stick with this prayer know that the healing and conversion ripple out from the heart and into the world. For those who desire peace, the Rosary offers not only a way out of one's own hostility but also the possibility of healing for our planet and the whole cosmos.  

The Rosary is a prayer not of vain repetition but of holy remembering. This prayer is ordered to recollection, to a pondering of all things in the heart with Mary.  At a time when so many have forgotten the sacred, the Rosary has us repeating over and over the prayer the Word of the Father commanded us to pray. When we are a little to occupied with passing things in the world below, the Rosary raises in us the greeting of angel Gabriel and helps us make our own the words of Mary's cousin Elisabeth.  Such prayer plunges into Biblical currents over and over again.  It is murmuring Scriptural truths and committing revealed standards to memory. In this, the Rosary raises our minds to the things that are above, to things that last forever. Our lips move to the rhythm of countless saints before us, and our hearts, with theirs, remember the inexhaustible treasures of Christ.  

Humbly remembering holy things protects against meaningless innovations.  The merely passing and sensational is raised as an altar - if we worship progress, we will become like it: blind and deaf. Not only strangers, but many of own our friends and family have been enchanted into thinking that all progress necessarily supports human thriving.  Ironically, they also turn to the most unreliable conventions for security in these dangerous times. Neither faith in progress or convention can save humanity.  Only God can do that and the Rosary helps us ponder what binds us to Him.

The Rosary lifts the mind to things beyond human convention or progress, a fresh newness that warms the heart in the face of fear and despair.  Not all breaking with the past is good: closing the door to the sacred is followed by a step into chaos. Conversely, to turn to the holy in the midst of chaos helps us find the only footing that can support our existence.  In the Rosary a soul can rediscover the loving goodness on which alone humanity thrives. Not a prayer that clings to the past - this prayer finds in saving historical events thresholds into the freshness of eternal life.  In the Rosary, a new beginning for humanity, for each heart, for every heart awaits.  

To pray the Rosary is to turn back to the holy - not as an escape from the profane, but as a way to sanctify it. The Rosary opens to a holiness more powerful than politics and ideology - something that reaches into the very core of human existence. The holiness that the Rosary knows comes before human history, holds up every historical moment and all of history is directed to it. This holiness is higher than the highest moment and deeper than deepest depths of life - and the Rosary opens to these heights and depths. Pondering in our hearts the things of God, the holiness into which the Rosary leads helps us live our daily lives at the pace of prayer, baptized in the prayer of God Himself, in harmonies not of this world, but without which this world is empty.

The Rosary recounts the memories of Jesus and Mary in a way that shapes how we see our lives and the world around us.  Only the ancient newness of the sacred helps us find our way through profane's progressive decay. Only the newness of Christ Jesus navigates the worn out exigencies of the the current age. The merely innovative in a dying world does not prolong its life but exhausts it to death, but receiving the gift of an ancient prayer just may provide true progress of heart.  If forgetting the truth about one's own existence threatens our society, the Rosary remembers a hope that evil cannot overcome.  Remembering the holiness of God through the humble beads of this prayer offers continuity in the midst of the profane and opens the riches of the Church in the poverty of the world.

July 10, 2022

The Science of Love - St. Elisabeth of the Trinity

St. Elisabeth of the Trinity on the Science of Love

He is in me, I am in Him. It is enough for me to love Him, to let myself be loved, all the time, through all things: to wake up in Love, to move in Love, to sleep in Love, my soul in His Soul, my heart in His Heart, my eyes in His eyes, so that by His touch He may purify me, free me from my misery. If you only knew how He fills me.

  L 177 to Canon Isidore Angles, August 1903

It is so simple to love: it is to surrender yourself to all His desires, just as He surrender hImself to those of the Father; it is to abide in Him, for the heart that loves lives no longer in itself but in the one who is the object of that love; it is to suffer for Him, gathering up with joy each sacrifice, each immolation that permits us to give joy to his heart.  May the Lord teach you this science of love. 

L 288 to her sister Marguerite, June 24, 1906

June 28, 2022

The Influence of Love

We live in a world that has seemed to have forgotten God and without the sacred to give it orientation, it has fallen into chaos.  Not only societies and communities, but families and individuals are fragmented and dismayed.  Nature abhors a vacuum, and the vacuum of chaos has sucked in all kinds of magical thinking, escapism and opportunism. A deeper truth remains - for though we have forgotten God, God has not forgotten us.  More powerful than ideologically driven bureaucracies, regulatory manipulation and compelling nudges is the Gospel of Christ.  

If this is true, why does God seem absent from the news cycle or family arguments you ask?  He is not absent - He is at work in exquisite and amazing ways. He works with irrevocable subtlety because what He does in the heart is delicate and does not admit of brute force. The news cycle and public strife are too sensational for a God who prefers what is lowly and humble - only the pure of heart can discern the immensity of His power quietly at work in our midst. Hope flows with irresistible force against despondency and anxiety - and its secret source is the cruciform still point around which the world turns. 

God's Love does not need to control or force into compliance. It does not even need to defend itself against social agendas and political theories.  Its power is beyond the grasp of sociology and psychology.  This love has decided for humanity. This faithful love courageously enters into our plight until it is completely disguised in suffering and distress. This saving love remains above the fray even as it engages the marketplace of ideas and the public forum in search of those who need a word of hope.  This gentle love speaks boldly and with freedom, yet it conducts itself as the lowly servant.  Redeeming humanity, this dispossessing love has made itself the special possession of the heart that will welcome it. The Gospel of Christ is that God has revealed Himself to us by entering into our humanity and embracing all the misery it suffers so that we do not suffer alone, so that our dignity is not loss, so that we might find relief from our plight, so that we might at last find our way home.

June 26, 2022

Life, Liberty and America

American Independence is a celebration of true freedom. A gift won for us at the price of men's blood such freedom is not free.  St. Paul declares that we should use our freedom "to serve one another through love" Galatians 5:13.  He is also aware that we could use our freedom to "devour one another" Galatians 5:14.  Indeed, a gratuitous embrace of boorishness haunts us and creates the worst forms of poverty. What we do with freedom, how we honor the sacrifices of others who won it for us, is a solemn responsibility. To serve or to consume the life of others designates the great battle unfolding before us on this Independence Day.

At stake in this battle is the sacredness of life itself. Rancor and strife in our communities is not the result of using freedom to serve the gift of life. Not the reversal of a court decision threatens our society but fifty years of reckless. Now more than ever a culture of life or death is before us. If we want a culture of life, we need to make decisions with great care.  It takes no care at all to use another person, to appropriate them to a political cause or for personal gain.  This is to devour them. Instead, how careful we must be if we desire to build each other up and attempt to be of some service to the neighbor God has entrusted to my care.

The the care we need to show one another is discerned only under the standard of holiness. That is, in order to find our bearings in these confusing times, we need to remember the sacred. From the very dawn of humanity, the sacred has been our orientation point to navigate our way through the chaos of life.  God's holiness is not indifferent to the plight of humanity or the social challenges we now face.  Instead, God, in all his transcendent otherness, has freely chosen to implicate Himself in the misery that has robbed us of true freedom. 

Human freedom is sacred because it is in the image and likeness of the eternal freedom revealed by Christ crucified. The Cross reveals the freedom of the Father who sent His Son into our hostility toward holiness.  The Cross reveals the freedom of the Son to embrace our hostility and suffer it unto death.  The Cross reveals the freedom of the Spirit to communicate the love that overcomes death -so that we too might be free and raised up with Christ.  As Saint Paul observes, this freedom needs goodness and truth or it becomes a self contradiction. This freedom needs to serve life. 

If we accept it, the goodness and truth that He offers goes beyond an individual experience - it is meant to be something that we share together in an eternal friendship too great for this world to contain. Every human person and all of us together are meant to bear each other up in freedom and in the perfect liberty of love to help each other thrive as sacred beings - beings who image the very likeness of God in the visible world.  With help from Above, we can help one another live lives pleasing to the Living God even here, below.  This is what a great civilization does - and it could be what we has a people choose as well.

If we turn to the holiness of God revealed by Christ, we could build together a civilization of love where no one is treated as a mere means to an end. Without God in recent times, we have failed to rise above the incivility of regarding others through the eye of self-serving calculation. Moving forward, whatever we choose will either take us beyond the gravity of our own egos or else weigh us down in self occupation. 

Conversely, when we lack the advantage of divine horizons, the scope of liberty cannot see beyond self-interest. Freedom easily succumbs to the merely self-serving.  Within the limits of the convenient and familiar we live by herd instincts at once alienated and manipulatable. Yet something in us rebels against this and we feel in our hearts the need to go beyond where our technocracy nudges.  If we call on God, He can render us vulnerable to the ability to choose what is good, holy and true, not only for oneself, but together with others. Here, horizons of greatness open before us as a people. In this solidarity, could choose to make doing something beautiful for God and neighbor our task together.

Thus, the Thrice Holy God opens up a choice between life and death.  Without the Holy One, we can only choose death. With the One who makes us holy, though faced with death, we can also choose life.  Such choices define us not only as individuals but as a people. 

If we still desire to be a great people, it is time for us to choose life as individuals, families and a nation. Indeed, individual states will now have the freedom to debate this and to decide what sort of societies they would like to be. To choose a culture of life is to build a civilization of love. Indeed, love rebuilds what we have destroyed - the Holiness of God manifests itself precisely in such love. 

Here, with the help of the Holy One, we can build a civilization that has space and courage to welcome the gift of another no matter the cost.  Here, we do not need to worship at the dark altars of technology and commercialism, but we can step into the fresh air of kindness and mutual forgiveness in the light of God. Here, we might rediscover what it means to be free men and women.

Any society, no matter how affluent and powerful, damns itself when it condone that attitude that one must be deemed desirable to join club humanity.  Such a society devours rather than serves life.  In our country, what has this "devouring" of one another beget but a cacophony of manipulation and hatred?  Treating life as if it were a mere product that we might choose or not among other material things has torn down the social fabric that genuine freedom needs. 

The sacredness of life demands more. A society that ignores the sacred devolves into chaos.  Unaware of the sacred, we gratuitously accuse, shame and gaslight because we are too wounded, alienated and afraid to accept the sacred truth about life.  If confused about life, then we have lost clarity on sex and gender. Because we cannot freely welcome the way things are as a gift from the Holy One, we are vulnerable in a labyrinth of self-definition where everything is an unbearable burden.

Accepting life as a gift or seeing it as a burden opens either to the pathway of life or the pathway of death.  The Holy One invites us we see our neighbor as a gift, even if yet in the womb unseen. The choice He unveils comes down to whether one regards life as a sacred gift or merely biological burden. It is the Holiness of God that gives us that chance to choose between these two ways, but the choice is ours.

St. Teresa of Kolkata observed to the leaders of our country that it is the greatest poverty to believe that another must die so that one might live as one wants.  For those who treat life in the womb as a burden - whether personally or socially - they have already chosen this extreme spiritual poverty.  It is even worse for those who treat human life as a commercial opportunity to be exploited for personal and corporate greed. Yet there is a whole industry that deals in the parts of baby's bodies that we ignore our laws to protect.  

To treat life in this way is a gross monstrosity of the liberty we were meant to have. To ape freedom in this way does not increase dignity but wounds it. To choose what is beneath our dignity never builds the solidarity of a great nation but shatters it.  Yet, wounded and shattered is exactly where a large portion of American Society is.  

Billy Graham once observed that he could think of no problem for which Jesus was not the answer. He has called us to freedom. As we grapple with the sacredness of life and spiritual poverty as a people, God is also at work, ready to support us when we choose life. He can heal what is wounded. He can make whole what has been shattered. If we turn to Him, we will find answers to the difficult questions that vex us as a people and as individuals.

June 4, 2022

Mother of Hidden Light

She remembered, 

Shrouded in Faith's Night, shocked silence:

That nail splintered wood, 

Those fastened hands 

Dripping in pulses of Love Divine

And human heart, stretch in final 

Blessing, the Word's 

Wordless cry echoed 

Obedient between fingers holding 

Her heart even as He gives all away, 

The Word's wordless agony pierced even deeper: 

Oh anti-thesis of all that was promised! 

She suffered that blessing, but 

She stood firm. Until

Later this new steadfastness 

Filled Peter and John,

Whose secret she shared as they

Witnessed to burial cloth and head coverings set

Apart in a tomb robbed of death, and

In shared memories of this emptiness

She prayed. Until

Wind moved tongues of fire, shrouded 

In faith's night, splintered tongues told truth

to bind in love a still frail fellowship

born of spiritual maternity

And in hidden light,

found hope.


May 27, 2022

The Risen Lord Present in the World Today

The Lord is Risen and raised up from our sight!  He has triumphed over death -- defeating death by His death, and now this current life cannot hold Him.  The gates of the netherworld are broken and the gates of heaven thrown open wide. He enters before us to open the pathway. He emerges victorious from the battlefield with his holy humanity intact and now His humanity raises all humanity above itself, reconstituting it so that it might participate in Divine Life.  Thus, His Risen Body appears among us even after He is taken from our sight.  

He is taken from our sight and He is still present.  He suffered death but now He lives, the Undying One. Raised to Heaven, He is still with us until the end of time. How is the Risen Lord present to us?  

He is not simply present in the world - one presence among other presences.  He is present to the world through His mystical body holding the whole world together. He conquered death so that death no longer separates us from Him and so He is re-establishing everything in Himself. No earthly or heavenly power stands in the way of His love.  Nothing can resist it. Everything his presence touches is made new. 

Consider how He is present in our relations with one another.  He has so bound us together in His presence that we discover something greater than death is reconstituting our very relations with one another.  Bound together by Christ's love, a love stronger than death, we have been refashioned by faith and baptism into His Mystical Body. In this reconstituted life, His presence helps us see new possibilities that eyes still subject to death cannot see. Thus, we even find the courage to forgive and to seek forgiveness, to renounce petty grievances and to accept the graciousness of a stranger.  

Consider how He is present  in our suffering, even as we face death itself. Through being members of His Body, His risen life animates us even while our earthly bodies are subject to death.  This means that He is so close to us that we can act with the power of His resurrection in the world - providing the world a new foundation, a new orientation point, a principle of organization that surpasses everything that passes away. 

April 10, 2022

Palm Sunday

"You have stood by me in my trials and I am giving you a Kingdom."  This solemn declaration was made by the Lord even as He faced betrayal, denial, and abandonment - suffering these unto death. To enter into His Kingdom, we must follow Him down this same pathway.  This means that we will face what He has faced. To enable us to follow Him, He must purify us and strengthen us to remain standing with Him even after our sin. To the degree that we are afraid of death, suffering, and sin, we are afraid also of His mercy. But His merciful love overcomes our fear.  Accepting His mercy, we learn to see in our own life experience that sin, suffering and death ultimately do not stand between us and the love of God. Indeed, He has made of them a pathway. 

"You have stood by me." We hear these words knowing full well how often we have failed Him. Yet, He does not focus on that. He sees what is good. He chooses to be conscious of what we have done in our devotion and so He directs us to also acknowledge what He sees.  It is not that He is not aware of our sins. It is only that He chooses not to allow them to define our relationship with Him.  Thus, He said this in the presence of the Twelve: the betrayer, the nine would abandon Him and the most trusted who would deny Him. He says it also to us now.  

"You have stood by me" unveils his decision to see past our failures to a deeper mystery about us that we cannot know on our own. He gazes with hope on the possibilities of the human heart. This is because we are not in his eyes friends who fall short of His expectations. Instead, we are each a gift of the Father to Him - and so He treasures our faithfulness no matter how weak or fleeting it might be.  Thus, He confirms all that is good, noble and true. The the gaze in which he holds us never breaks - He suffers this regard of the deepest truth of our existence unto death and will search hell to rescue it.  Here, the basis of hope no matter how often we have fallen, a truth He repeats today in our presence too: "You have stood by me."  

"I have prayed that your faith will not fail and once you have turned back, you must strengthen the faith of your brethren."  Love requires many difficult purifications and painful healings before we can stand before the face of the One who loved us to the end. No unaided human effort can endure these trials of love. Yet, we never face these alone, but always in the Church with Christ's gentle presence and His mighty prayer. His prayer that our faith should not fail does not mean we will not fall.  It means that if we fall, no matter how far or hard or for how long, we can turn back - convinced that the power of His love is greater than the power of our sin.

What we do not see but what Christ sees is the splendor of His Bride - a splendor in which we have already been implicated from before the foundation of the world. Despite the sinfulness of her members and even the failures of her shepherds, she knows from the vantage point of eternity the way to the Bridegroom in both life and death. She knows this path to love even as it leads through the difficult ambiguities of our lives. She knows it by love and She knows it for love even when we have long stumbled away from it. She knows even as it disappears from our sight at the last moments of this life. And so, if we listen to the voice of the Bride, she teaches us to find it even when we feel farthest from it. Indeed, the Good Shepherd Himself will pick us up and place us there - for He has abandoned everything to find us.  Though we cannot see it, the Body of Christ knows the passage that crosses from the gates of hell to the very threshold of heaven. Christ Himself bridges this abyss - and He suffers it in His mystical body so that we might become immaculate and holy in His presence. 

April 3, 2022

Repentance and Contemplative Prayer

The story of the woman accused of adultery reveals the plight of humanity in the Cosmos.  Christ turns a circus of shame into a confessional, a heartless courtroom into a garden of encounter. The Lord's finger cultivates the barren ground of hopelessness into the fertile soil of new beginnings.

Just as when she was brought before the Lord condemned, we too stand alone, scapegoat of an oversexed culture and the object of unchaste rage. As was the case with her, all sorts of spiritual powers demand justice and point out our shame. The accusations seem well grounded and we feel the ground under our feet slipping towards death. Then Someone bends to the earth and scribbles in the dust. What once seemed firm gives way to his touch and what once faltered beneath the weight of our sin now is suddenly firm. In the aftermath of this earthquake, those who would condemn us have left and we find ourselves alone with the Great Alone. He questions us. Will we dare approach Him and stammer our reply?

If we seek Him, the Lord will draw us by his beauty.  Where he draws us is more than merely a physical place. And He stands us up and addresses us. With the touch of His finger, our accusers have lost their ground.  He draws us out of shame and accusation and into a new beginning, out of the gutter and into safe-haven, out of the pigsty and into the arms of the One who has long awaited our coming home. He does not wish us to be distracted with lesser things, so He arranges everything to free us from what holds us back: terrible trials, catastrophe, failures, voids, unbearable hardships in life and in the heart. All of these become so many thresholds to freedom when we realize that we are not alone, that He leads us through them and that, come what come may, we can trust Him. He even transforms sin into a means of grace when we surrender it to Him in sorrow. He draws us to where the longing of our hearts at last discover fulfillment. 

In the imagery of the Song of Songs, this sacred place is a vineyard, an orchard, a garden, a hidden wine cellar.  These images of paradise speak of friendship, fruitfulness, family, and feasts. In the very shadows of these rich mysteries, the original goodness and nobility given to the human heart flash anew despite it all. On this holy ground, the heart's purpose is manifest in pledges of love stronger than death. There is freedom, repentance and new resolve. In this sacred place, joy and sorrow seize the soul until it explodes with life and meaning.  The way we had always hoped things might be, we suddenly discover are unimaginably more than so.  Hidden fullnesses rush in to fill that gnawing emptiness and we who were lost find ourselves standing just where we ought to be, together, before Him whose love surpasses our every hope. 

And in that deep silence, He gazes into the eyes. The ears take in His harmonies and in the deepest down core of one's being, something new is born.  This newness is a reality for which this tired-out world cannot account and it will last long after all that is passing passes away. For as beautiful as the world in its order and ornament is, what God has done in the human heart is so even more. A new creation begins when heart speaks to heart, when the Word of the Father shines in the darkness, when He is lifted up, when He draws us to Him.

March 27, 2022

Silence and the Order of Holiness

Those who would prayerfully ponder the silence of Mary discover that the sacred has a certain structure - it is structured out of and into silence in a manner that evokes awe and reverence. That is, Mary helps us see that the sacred unfolds as hierarchy. It has the form of a heavenly temple: a hierarchy of love and truth in which evermore tender silences enter and from which they flow.  Such silences are not empty - they bear glory, the splendor of truth, the radiance of goodness. One is ever more set apart from the merely mundane the closer one draws.  The more one descends this deepest center in humility, the more one ascends this dazzling height in hope.  The Word made flesh unveils the pathway of descent and ascent by the mystery of the Cross. In this revelation, the Church is made holy and immaculate. He began this great work when he chose to raise humanity to the right hand of the Father by going down into the silent depths of His mother's womb. By her profound "Let it be done", humanity's deepest silence conceived heaven's greatest Canticle.  Her Immaculate Heart resounds with this mystery and to enter this sanctuary is to be bathed in Mercy.  God has shown here a merciful holiness, one opening to ever more meaningful silences, fullnesses of life. Souls that would dare ponder such manifestation of God's power discover the greater the reverence and awe, the more mercy flows.  

March 20, 2022

The Annunciation and Consecration to Jesus through Mary

The solemnity of Annunciation, the great mystery of Gabriel announcing to Mary that she would be the Mother of "the Son of God" opens a new pathway for our anxious world today. To embark on this journey, the Church invites us to consecrate ourselves to Jesus through her -- and so we place ourselves as well as our communities and even our nations in her heart.  It is within the act of faith that she made that we too will receive Jesus until His reign extends through us as well.  

In the angelic greeting, a new sovereignty is revealed, an authority to govern. The legitimacy of this authority is not rooted in earthly powers but instead in the fulfillment of a divine promise that does not pass away. Unlike any kingdom of this world, this kingdom rests not on the temporary peace that comes through conquest of an enemy. Instead, the "yes" of a woman to God's promise has brought a new kind of peace. The conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary introduces into this passing world an new order and legitimacy in human affairs that will never pass:

Then the angel said to her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:30-33)

Mary's openness to the blessings of God chart a way forward for humanity toward an eternal sacred order before which the exigencies of each historical moment must yield.  Not by forced subjection or brutality, but by love, this is a trail of humility and fearlessness on which the Son of the Most High leads us.  Consecrating ourselves to Jesus through Mary expresses the commitment to follow this pathway.  To set one's existence under a power and authority not of this world is to open oneself to what is primordial, an order of things more powerful than the disorder of the present moment. This new kingdom is not in competition with what passes away but rescues everything that its noble and true about our lives from every threatening evil.  Rooted in a mystery that transcends time, all earthly kingdoms fall and rise before this throne and Mary who is the first to receive this into her heart is also the one who helps us sing with her, "He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly."

Unlike the kingdom announced by Gabriel, the kingdoms of this passing world come to an end. This is because we tend, as individuals and communities, away from humility before the truth of our situation. Yet great humility is called for since the common good often eludes our grasp.  We do not understand what really binds us together and we are weak in the face of our own avarice. Without humility before a reference point that transcends our own desires, the foundation on which we build our communities lack the solidity of truth and, over time, fail to bear the weight of human existence. 

At the brink of a world war, today's earthly kingdoms seek salvation by technological force. It is presumed that developments in economic and military capabilities through advances in technology can build and protect a better humanity. Indeed, tremendous wealth, honor and control have been realized through technological advancement. 

Yet there is a caveat. When nations or businesses rely on the power of technology to coerce or manipulate, it is at the expense of their own legitimacy and so they fall.  The legitimacy of any institution rests on the degree to which it protects human dignity and freedom. Such things that flow from our divine image and likeness do not pass even when we act against them. When we betray them, they testify against us because we betray ourselves. This is true of our own acts of freedom .... its also true of our institutions and businesses.  Whether our own tent cities or new refugee camps, we have lived to see that new ways to nudge, shame and coerce into compliance do not yield a cohesive society or world peace.  The opposite is true. The more limits imposed on human dignity, the more out of control the discord becomes. This is as true for nations as it is for neighborhoods, dinner tables and hearts.

The Annunciation opens humanity to the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom all about saving human dignity from dehumanizing powers.  Only under the rule of Christ can human freedom finally find room to unfold and disclose its full potential - not just for individuals but also in the societies we form together. This is because the throne of this kingdom to does rest on coercion or manipulation, but on love and love alone. Yet this love is hidden, disguised in poverty, rejection and humility. 

To consecrate ourselves to Jesus through Mary is to choose this pathway even when it may seem that the powerful and mighty of this world are in control. It is to live by faith that the reality of the God who saves us is ever greater and more present - more real to the human reality than what seems conventional, comfortable and convenient. Mary opened the heart of humanity to this truth. Thus, we entrust worldly powers to the Lord through her until our own hearts sing, "He who is mighty has done great things."


March 17, 2022

The Breastplate of St. Patrick 2022

St. Patrick offered a prayer called the Deer's Song or the Lorica with his brethren as they walked into an ambush. As the Irish began to renounce paganism and believe the Gospel, they abandoned the conventional myths of their culture. Yet, there were some who were afraid of what would happen without paganism to hold Ireland together. To preserve a social order that benefited them, they plotted violence.  Instead of being intimidated, St. Patrick turned to prayer.

Myth can be a vehicle for truth.  When it is, it is an appeal to our imagination that helps us search for things that do not change in this passing world.  Myth can also be a tool for manipulation, an appeal to the imagination to establish the legitimacy of something that is not really legitimate in itself. This was as true of the pre-Christian pagan myths then as it is true of the post-Christian secular myths today. What appeals to the imagination is never enough for the human spirit and places it at grave risk of self-contradiction.  If we are not careful, myths can dispose us to what is irrational - for it is easy to be carried away by myth into strife and violence. 

As Christ challenged the conventional myths of pagan society, social standing, privilege, wealth, cultural influence were all at stake.  Those who used the myths of the day for their own benefit became convinced that the peace preached by this missionary had to be suppressed at any cost. They hatched the plot against St. Patrick believing in the power of violence. But the peace of Christ is more powerful than the rage that lives in the hearts of men.

His enemies were prepared to kill him and his comrades. St. Patrick's response was to continue his mission undeterred. The prayer called the Lorica or the Breastplate was born in this holy determination. He taught this prayer to those who assisted him in the ministry. As they prayed together, their would be assailants could not see them - an unseen glory cloaked them.  Indeed, all the attackers could see was a few deer walking across a meadow. They were confounded. The prayer became known as the Deer's Song. 

If true, the story is not surprising. There are many accounts of missionaries being delivered in miraculous ways.  Those who cling to the status quo and fear losing their power will always attempt to stand in the way of Christ.  But a new power that evil cannot overcome is unleashed - the same Power that holds together Creation is poured out for the salvation of those who will cry out to Christ.

In a special way, I ask you to pray this Deer's Song in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine surrounded by the rage of war -- for their safety and protection during these days of great trial.  The peace of Christ is more powerful than human rage and our prayers can help His victory be realized in the hearts of those who are given to violence.

Now, I stand clad for battle in that Mighty Power

Of the Name of the Trinity:

Believing in the Three-ness,

Holding fast the One-ness

Creator of Heaven and Earth.

This day I stand ready with

The power of Christ’s Birth and Baptism;

The power of his Crucifixion and Burial;

The power of His Resurrection and Ascension;

The power of His coming to judge on Judgment Day.

I go forth today bound

By virtue of the Seraphim’s devotion,

By angels’ obedience,

By resurrection’s hope unto reward,

By Patriarchs’ prayers

By Prophets’ word of power,

By Apostles’ preaching

By Confessors’ faith,

By Holy Virgins’ purity,

By righteous men’s deeds.

I bind unto myself this day 

Heaven’s might,

Sun’s shine,

Moon’s gleam,

With fire’s glow,

Lightning's flash,

Wind's swiftness,

Sea's depths, 

Earth's firmness,

Solid rock.

Today, I rise up with 

God's Power guiding me,

God's Might upholding me,

God's Wisdom teaching me,

God's Eye watching over me,

God's Ear hearing me,

God's Word giving me speech,

God's Hand guiding me,

God's Way stretching before me,

God's Shield sheltering me,

God's terrible Army protecting me,

Against demon’s snares

Against vicious seductions

Against nature’s lusts

Against everyone who meditates injury to me,

Whether far or near,

Whether few or many.

I invoke all these powers, now

Against every hostile merciless force

Which may assail my body and my soul,

Against the false seer’s enchantments,

Against paganism’s dark laws,

Against heresy’s false standards,

Against idolatry’s deceits,

Against spells of witches, and smiths, and druids,

Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me now

Against every poison, against burning,

Against drowning, against death-wound,

That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me,

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ within me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ at my right,

Christ at my left,

Christ keeping the defense,

Christ setting the course,

Christ giving the orders,

Christ in every heart that thinks of me,

Christ in every mouth that speaks to me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

Today I bind unto myself Mighty Power, 

The Name of the Trinity:

Believing in the Threeness,

Holding fast the Oneness

Of the Creator of all the heavens and the earth.

Dominus est salus, Domini est salus, Christi est salus;

Salus tua, Domine, sit semper nobiscum.

February 13, 2022

Daily Mass and Technocracy

One of my friends shared how going to daily mass has provided his life an anchor. The repetitive liturgical action, rather than tedious monotony, has become the orientation point for his whole day. Everything else might change, but Christ's offering to the Father in the power of the Spirit is in the center of his heart and feeds him the spiritual nourishment that he needs for whatever challenges come. 

His observation makes sense when we think about the Eucharist and the power of our faith. The power of the Christian faith purifies the heart, healing, restoring and raising up all that is good, noble and true in our innermost being.  This power comes from the Cross of Christ and is communicated through the truth and love of the Holy Spirit.  At Mass, the outpouring of the Spirit is manifest and establishes us in these realities.  Such faith allows the heart to receive this great gift and it renders the depths of human existence vulnerable to the merciful tenderness of God.  

My friend's witness has helped me see that this is true even in a technocracy.  Indeed, he and I live in a society ruled by technological power.  Technology by itself is a good thing and can lead to human thriving.  But it can also be used for manipulation.  That is, instead of serving as a tool that protects and promotes human dignity, it can be abused even to the subjugation of a whole society towards a merely material end. Our use of technology should cede space to our faith not the other way around. This, however, is exactly our struggle: to protect and promote the sacred in daily life. 

When it is used to keep faith out of the public square and hidden behind the walls of a church or a home, technocracy has achieved a certain tyranny, locking the human spirit in the merely material and pharmacologically efficient. In such a world, there is no more room for the sacred in daily life and the result is the monotony of constant innovation, one irrational social policy after another until we think absurd inconsistency in normative. When my friend told me about his experience of daily mass, I was thinking about how we live in an era of extreme manipulation and I found in his observation an answer to how to be Christian in the midst of technocracy.  

His insight into daily mass is key.  If we do not find a way to live our faith in the face of social manipulation, we will easily come to worship the work of our hands. Indeed, the human heart is made for religious devotion even in an empty, de-sacralized world. If it does not find God, the heart will cling to something. 

Without the sacred, the world sinks into chaotic meaninglessness, a meaninglessness no heart can rise above without divine help. Still, even in nihilism, the heart needs to believe in something. This is why the world that cuts itself off from God has its own kind of faith that is opposed to the Christian faith. In this world, we put of faith in the making of things and the shaping of perception.  The tangible, visible, and measurable results are the absolute standards for life, and this creed demands that we shut our eyes to whatever is beyond the results of our own industry. If not actual in human making, even if the heart of a child, such a mentality blindly holds that it is not real. Such obscuriticism never knows the gift of creation or the even more wonderful gift of our redemption.  

To some extent, we need to examine our conscience about the ways in which we have failed to live our faith in a post-Christian world. For failure to receive the gift of God, we should not be so shocked when our children do not find our faith attractive. Instead of the power of Christ, we too often baptize them in the pusillanimity of the way we live it out. They see how we have allowed our social and pharmacological fears to drive our day to day existence instead of God, and they rightfully reject our hypocrisy. 

We must look at what we have not done in regards our faith in the public square.  We have allowed our educational systems to convince them that shared resentment over evil is actually able to hold a society together and advance it toward peace, and then we wonder why they do not see any advantage to forgiveness or mercy. We have allowed the entertainment industry to educate them about the meaning of human sexuality, and then we wonder why chastity is not attractive to them. They see us passively accept a spirit of accusation and resigned despair in our communities, and then wonder why our explanations of Christian hope fall flat.  We have failed to witness the power of God in the face of death and sin, and therefore cannot help lift their eyes to the fulfillment of all desire.  

The way out of such darkness is the sacrificial love of Christ - believing in it to the point that we follow our crucified God in daily life. Under the shadow of the Cross, the storm of secularism is not the last word about humanity.  The love revealed in His death, a love that alone raises to new life, is more powerful than technology, more actual than results.  

This is where my friend's comments about daily mass come in.  Mass orients us beyond ourselves and above what is merely visible. Daily mass puts one in the position of pondering the Word of God, taking up the ascetical discipline of our faith, resisting the boorishness of contemporary living, fasting, forgiving, seeking forgiveness, helping our neighbor, entering into silence before the Risen Lord, allowing Him to reveal the Father to us through the Gift of the Holy Spirit. 

All of this makes space for the glory of God in the world, even an overly technologize one. It is the glory of God shining through our lives that wins the hearts of those we love. Availing the world to the love of God, such faith provides the only compelling answer to the riddle of death, guilt and longing that plague the human condition.  Above and beyond what is comfortable and what might help us live longer, this is the one hope that remains even when everything else in the world falls apart.  

January 30, 2022

The Gates of Holiness

"Open to me the Gates of Holiness: I will enter and give thanks."  The holy is at once the point of departure and the destination of humanity.  What is sacred is also gated, a reality protected against the chaos of the profane and merely secular.  To enter into the Gates of Holiness is to find shelter from the dangerous voids that otherwise haunt our existence.  Bereft of what is holy, life easily drifts into meaninglessness. Indeed, failure to respect that the human person is first of all spiritual and religious before he is biological and political is a catastrophic failure of secular society.  

When we walk away from the Gates of Holiness and leave our hearts out in the cold, we loose the capacity to recognize the goodness of God and give thanks for the blessings that He lavishes on us.  We live in a world ordered toward the holy and we have begun to discover just how dehumanizing it is when we go against this order. Biological health and political acceptance are things lower than human dignity, things meant to serve the greatness of our vocations. Yet whenever we place a lesser good above a higher one, the human spirit is lowered rather than raised up no matter how respectable the lesser good seems to be. We are always diminished when we prioritize passing things over the unchanging love of God.  Those things were only meant to take us to the Gates, but they can only do so when we use them to seek God. When we seek them instead of God, we are locked out of the sacred, trapped in the profane. Bogged down in the mundane, we cannot lift up our hearts to the Lord, and we exist bereft of the truest and most just thing our frail humanity was meant to offer.

If we have done things that keep us locked outside the sacred, we also do not enter the Gates of Holiness because of things we have failed to do. We suffer coldness of heart, the coldness outside the Gates of Holiness, to the extent that we have allowed ourselves to be bullied into believing that it is okay to abandon the sick and dying when they most need a word of hope. We succumb to the manipulation of meaningless secularity when we convince ourselves to forsake gathering together with the Risen Lord at Mass, even if we do so for fear of earthly death. 

As creatures that are on their way through this world and not at home in it, we need sure reference points, signs that point the way, and standards under which we might rally to help each other move forward.  Such are the Gates of Holiness and Jesus Christ has opened the Way out of unsatisfied frustration and into a new fruitfulness for humanity. Without Him, even should we find these gates, we could not gain access or enter. But with Him, even in the very face of death and the loss of everything we hold most dear, a portal opens and we stand on that firm ground in whose vast horizons alone we find courage before the Face of God and the confidence to give Him thanks.   

January 15, 2022

The Pathway of Extreme Humility

Jesus Christ has opened up the pathway to freedom and this pathway is the pathway of extreme humility. It is a trail blazed by the Word made flesh and a journey that leads to the Burning Bush where the limitlessness of God sets the limits of man aflame with love. Love alone knows how to find this trail and faith, unshod and thus vulnerable, progresses step by step into what would seem to be powerlessness.  Such a journey is never an evading of responsibility but it is courageously engaging the task at hand with total reliance on God.  It is a pilgrimage that one makes under the authority and power of heaven. 

The earth is filled with chaos and its own power and authority are subject to futility and death. For this reason, no earthly power ever succeeds in stemming death.  Yet, the temptation is to grasp for and covet control even to the point of coercing the behavior of others. Indeed, in a world that is passing away, self-preservation means either gaining control over circumstances as long as possible or else losing it all together. The more one lives by the struggle for earthly power and authority in this way, the more one's own freedom is diminished until one is competely subservient to the very power coveted. 

On the royal pathway of true freedom, recourse is made to earthly power only as love for Christ deems necessary and then it is quickly surrendered. Indeed, regarding the possession of earthly power and authority, the pathway of extreme humility requires total indifference to anything that is not God's will.  Rather than taking control for the sake of control, one patiently provides order only to the degree that others might be drawn to the truth by love. 

This kind of indifference to earthly power is impossible except to those who by faith live under the power and authority of heaven. In the Kingdom of Heaven, confidence in the Father overcomes earthly fears and anxieties.  Even if one dies, death is defeated and sin has no claim over the heart before the love of God. Instead, a love stronger than death reigns over the chaos of life and leads to the sacred until one crosses the threshold into God's order and peace.  

A true orientation point for one's whole being is found when one takes off one's shoes before this Burning Bush and listens with the ears of one's own heart. Here, true authority and power are given not grasped in accord with one's identity and mission before the Lord. Here, God opens His Heart and one learns to rest in the glory of His Name.