Into the Desert

I have a problem. My father died when I was 18, leaving my mother a widow. My mother’s next-door neighbor harasses her in ways I won’t go into. It’s fair to say that he is attempting to drive her out of her home by these acts of terrorism. It’s a game to him, and the police are useless (useless). It doesn’t help that, in addition to being a widow, my mother is also a cripple; she is bound to a wheelchair. I live 90 miles from my mother and am not in a position to help her redress the recurring acts of harassment. And I am my mother’s only child.

As we know from multiple passages of the Bible that I don’t need to cite here, God has prepared a special place in Hell for people who molest widows. When my mother tells me of the latest harassment, I want revenge. Not merely justice restored or peaceful reconciliation, but sinful retaliation in kind. And I want it *now.* I commit the sin of hatred when instead I am called to love and pray for and forgive my mother’s persecutor. For a Christian, this is a fundamental rejection of a core commandment of the Gospel. It is a repudiation of the Sermon on the Mount, and hence a repudiation of Christ Himself.

Here is the quandary. I go to Confession once every few weeks, and Holy Communion more often, yet every time I hear about my mother’s suffering at the hands of her neighbor, I am very strongly tempted in this way, and I often succumb to the sin of wrath. Why do the Sacraments not provide me sufficient grace to meet each new provocation with grace, patience, and benignity?  Continue reading

Ascent and Descent in the Mass of the Holy Family

Lately, I’ve written twice* about the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. I’ve approached this event as the fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. It also provides the Gospel (St. Luke 2:42-52) read on the Feast of the Holy Family, which we celebrated at the beginning of this month. I noticed something striking about the Offertory and Communion readings for the Mass, at least in the Traditional Latin Mass (English translation from the Baronius Press Missal):

Offertory: The parents of Jesus carried Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord. (St. Luke 2:22) Continue reading

The Fifth Joyful Mystery

The fifth Joyful Mystery, the Finding in the Temple, unsettles me. I’m tempted to focus more on Mary and Joseph’s sorrow in losing Jesus. Also, I experience the difficulty of Jesus’ apparent “misbehavior.” Obviously, Jesus committed no sin, but His going missing is not behavior that adolescents are allowed to imitate in the literal sense. So, how are we to focus on the joyful aspect here?

I have a few suggestions, though I haven’t really dug into the devotional literature here:

Continue reading

Thanking the Father for Our Supersubstantial Bread

Since this year Father’s Day (in the U.S.) coincides with Corpus Christi (transferred from Thursday to today, Sunday):

“And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him?” (St. Luke 11:11-13)

Some take the reference to asking the father for bread as a reference to the Eucharist. One version of the Our Father reads, “Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.” The fish might also be a reference to Christ, per the well-known acrostic symbolism of “ichthys.” I wouldn’t know what to make of the egg, though.

Communicating Perfection

So many ideas occur to me, and I can’t develop them. Either more immediate needs take precedence, or I wile away the hours on something trifling. When I recall the many thoughts both subtle and sublime that have passed through my mind, and I survey the meager record I have left of them, I get melancholic. And with melancholy come memories of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” or I quote Nero’s dying words, “What an artist dies in me.”

But enough of that. As I’ve learned, sometimes it’s good to publish your half-formed ideas. Who knows who might develop these thoughts, and do better with them than I could? So today I focus on a key element of the Catholic Faith and of Catholic practice: the communicability of perfection:

1.) The Father communicates to the Son everything that the Father has, save Fatherhood. This includes the Father’s identity as source of the Holy Ghost. The “Filioque” is essential. Continue reading

“Good King Wenceslas Went Out Upon the Feast of Stephen” . . . for Eucharistic Adoration

The English-language Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” relates how St. Wenceslas of Bohemia went out upon the feast of Stephen to feed a poor peasant (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_King_Wenceslas). According to the legend, St. Wenceslas’ servant found it very cold following him through the snow, so St. Wenceslas told the servant to follow in his footprints. By a miracle, the footprints stayed warm to protect the servant’s feet.

By divine providence today (the very feast of St. Stephen, Dec. 26, regardless of the date stamp above), I came upon an alternative story of the legend that says the miracle occurred during a visit St. Wenceslas made to the Blessed Sacrament. This version comes from St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church and founder of the Redemptorists.  Continue reading

Shooting Down a Trendy Objection to Transubstantiation

There is a certain trendy objection to transubstantiation that goes like this:

“Of course, I believe in the Real Presence. But ‘transubstantiation’ is a very abstract term that would limit the Real Presence to a specific, Aristotelian philosophy. Why must we pry into mysteries and define the ‘how’ of the Real Presence? When it comes to the Real Presence, there’s more that unites Catholics with the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans than what divides us.”

This is very seductive, specious nonsense. Let me reduce this objection: the Church should not define the ‘how’ of a dogma using terms that are specific to this or that philosophical school. Transubstantiation depends on an Aristotelian distinction between substance and accidents, and therefore is too specific and limiting.

We can reject this very easily: Continue reading