12 June 2018

Back to school for the summer

Yesterday I began my second of five summer sessions at The Liturgical Institute in Mundelein, Illinois to continue my studies in pursuit of my fifth academic degree, a Master of Arts (Liturgical Studies) which will better help me serve as Director of the Office for Divine Worship and the Catechumenate.

Normally summers this far north are nearly idyllic, but the weather thus far (I arrived Sunday evening) has been a bit chilly and very cloudy.

At any rate, the summer sessions here are typically divided in two parts of three weeks each with two classes in each part. In this first of the summer session, I am taking the following classes (with their descriptions taken from the course catalog):
Liturgical Traditions: East and West: This course provides a comprehensive introduction tot he rites and practices of non-Roman western Christian traditions (Anglican and other select Protestant groups), and to the liturgy as celebrated by eastern Christian communities (both Catholic and Orthodox). The origin and historical development of these traditions is considered. Particular attention is given both to distinctive theological themes within these rites and to the manner in which the renewal of western Catholic liturgy is occurring today as a result of contact with the theology and practice of the East.
Ritual, Symbol, and Worship: Symbol is the fundamental medium for religion and its ritual elaboration. The nature and function of symbol and ritual liturgical worship is considered. The following are examined for their relevance to the understanding of Catholic worship: the phenomenology of religion; ritual anthropology; various theories of symbol; language theory. Particular attention is given to the manner in which modern symbolic studies provide an understanding of the scholastic maxim, "sacraments confer grace by signifying."
In the second part of this summer session, I will take these classes:
Reconciliation, Anointing, and Death: The two "sacraments of healing" - anointing of the sick and penance - are covered in this course. An examination of the origin and development of the sacrament of penance sheds light on the Church's revised rites and their theological underpinnings. The rites of the Church's sacramental ministry to the sick and dying, and her funeral liturgy, are placed in the context of an anthropology which expresses the paschal character and eschatological significance of a Christian's illness and death.
Music and Worship: The place of music in human culture is examined from the perspective of a philosophy of aesthetics. the historic role of music in the elaboration of the mysteries of the Christian faith is explained. The official documents of the Church produced during the twentieth century are discussed in detail. The current musical structure of the Roman liturgy is explored, and practical principles for the advancement and management of liturgical music programs are proposed.
The work load last summer was not too intense, but this summer it appears to be quite heavy, as is evidence from the text books alone (which do not include other assigned articles and excerpts from other books):

Despite the course load, the summers here are good; the professors are friendly and knowlegable and my fellow classmates are a delight.

10 June 2018

Homily - 10 June 2018 - The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Dear brothers and sisters,

Just a few moments ago, we prayed to God asking for the grace to “discern what is right, and by your guidance do it.”[1] This honest prayer seems to take its inspiration from the words of Saint Paul when he says, “although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (II Corinthians 4:16). What does it mean for the outer self to be wasting away?

The first answer – and perhaps the most literal – is that each of us is journeying toward death, toward that unknown hour when we will be called from this life to stand before the judgment seat of God. Our inner self is being renewed by God’s grace and mercy even as our outer self is wasting away so we might be well disposed to see the Lord face to Face. It is for this reason that Saint Augustine teaches us that

The renewal of humankind, begun in the sacred bath of baptism, proceeds gradually and is accomplished more quickly in some individuals and more slowly in others. But many are in progress toward the new life if we consider the matter carefully and without prejudice.[2]

In this assessment of the renewal of humanity, Saint Augustine, of course, is right.

Some of us discern the Lord’s will without difficultly, but willingly refuse to follow it. Others of us discern the Lord’s will without difficulty, and grudgingly follow it. Still others of us discern the Lord’s will without difficulty and gladly embrace it. Others, yet, discern the Lord’s will only with great difficulty and follow it with greater difficulty still. Why is this the case? The answer may be concealed within the passage we heard from the Book of Genesis.

When our first parents realized they were naked, they hid themselves when God called out to them (cf. Genesis 3:10). Saint Augustine calls this decision to hide from God “a wretched error, as if a naked man, as God had made him, could be displeasing to him. It is a distinguishing mark of error that whatever anyone finds personally displeasing he imagines is displeasing to God as well.”[3] There is, however, something much more profound behind this decision to hide from God than a simple shame of the physical body.

Before [Adam] was naked of any dissimulation [i.e., concealing under a false pretense] and clothed with the divine light. From this light he turned away and turned toward himself. This is the meaning of his having eaten from that tree. He saw his nakedness, and it was displeasing to himself because he did not have anything of his own.

This turning away from the light of God’s Face and turning toward ourselves is indeed the greatest of human errors, and one in which our contemporary society excels. The more we attempt to grab what we do not have and to hide from the light of God, the less able we are to discern his will and do it. And the less we follow his will for us, the less happy we will be. This is a simple fact of life.

The great saints have shown us time and again, down through the centuries, the way to happiness. Rather than growing despondent because they had nothing of their own, they chose not to hide from God but instead to bask in his light. They were able to discern the Lord’s tender love for them precisely when they realized they were naked in the sense that they had nothing of their own; everything we have, they knew, is a gift from God. They accepted as a blessing what others saw as a limitation; they turned outward from themselves and toward the Lord to discern his will and they followed it in love.

Over the past number of weeks, several of you have, at different times and in different situations, asked what my vision for this parish is. If you think back to my first Sunday among you as your Pastor, you might remember me speaking these words:

When a new pastor arrives in a parish, many of the parishioners wonder what program he will enact. The only program, if you will, which I hope to enact is to help you prepare to see the face of Christ more clearly, to help you draw near to him and bask in the light of his face, a light which can transform us and make us like himself. I hope to help you seek the Lord not in curiosity, but in love, to not only hear his voice speaking in the quiet of our hearts, but to see his face and become witnesses of his majesty and to take your places within the Father’s house.[4]

This remains my goal, my vision, for this parish and I have every confidence it can be attained because “we have a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven” that is waiting for us, if we remain faithful to Christ (II Corinthians 5:1). Indeed, the purpose of a parish is to help each of us discern the Lord’s will and do it, so as to enter into the eternal life promised to the faithful in the waters of Baptism. In these waters, we are bound together to help each other turn, not toward ourselves, but toward the Lord, to let the Lord’s light shine upon us.

When Bishop Paprocki formally installed me as your Pastor ten days after I spoke those words to you, he reminded us all that priests “need the help and cooperation of all parishioners. To be able to put into practice the mission of Jesus,” he said, “we need to be part of a team supporting each other.”[5] We have to be on the same team to help each other discern the Lord’s will for us and do it, both as individuals and as a parish.

To this end, I have asked the members of the Pastoral Council and the Finance Council to visit with each adult member of the parish for what might be called one-to-one conversations. The purpose of these conversations is simple: to build a relationship between individuals and the parish, to discover interests, to provide clarity, and to obtain information. In other words, the goal with these conversations is to find out – if I might put it a bit crassly – what you like about the parish, what can be improved, what you would like to see the parish doing, and how you might like to help the parish. While you are not required to participate in these conversations (some of you might now be thinking, “He is out of his mind” [Mark 3:21]), I certainly hope you will welcome the opportunity to visit with a fellow parishioner, to share your dreams for this parish, and to help us discern the Lord’s will for us.

Our goal is to visit with each adult parishioner, both active and inactive, for about thirty minutes. Last week, the council members each received a list of five parishioners to try to visit with over the course of the next six weeks. Once this first round is completed, they will gather together again with me to share a sense of what they heard. They will then go out to the other active parishioners and, once every active parishioner has been heard, they will try to visit our inactive parishioners. All of this is a way we can help each other progress toward the new life of Christ Jesus, to turn away from ourselves and towards him. Let us, then, help each other discern the Lord’s will and do it, so that, as his brothers and sisters who have done his will, we might together behold the loveliness of his Face in the Father’s house (cf. Mark 3:35; John 14:2-3). Amen.

[1] Collect for the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Roman Missal.
[2] Saint Augustine of Hippo, The Way of Life of the Catholic Church, 1.35.80.
[3] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Two Books on Genesis Against the Manichaeans, 2.16.24.
[4] Reverend Daren J. Zehnle, Homily for theFeast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, 6 August 2017.
[5] Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Homily, 16 August 2017.

The Face of the Father

What is the face of God like? As his image, certainly, for as the apostle says, the image of the Father is the Son. With this image, therefore, may he shine upon us, that is, may he shine his image, the Son, upon us in order that he himself may shine upon us, for the light of the Father is the light of the Son. He who sees the Father sees also the Son, and he who sees the Son sees also the Father. Where there is no diversity between glory and glory, there glory is one and the same. 
- Saint Jerome, Homily 6 on Psalm 66 (67)

03 June 2018

Homily - 3 June 2018 - The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Dear brothers and sisters,

The readings from Sacred Scripture today present for us two covenants, the first being a foreshadowing of the second and the second being the fulfillment of the first. The first of these covenants was sealed with the blood of bulls; the second with the blood of the Son of God. Why were these covenants sealed in this way?

It was on Mount Sinai, after the experience of the Exodus from Egypt and after receiving the law from the Lord, that the people answered Moses, saying, “We will do everything that the Lord has told us” (Exodus 24:3). They remembered the good deeds the Lord had done for them and responded in kind. Moses then “took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with these words of his’” (Exodus 24:8). It was blood that sealed the covenant between God and man, but why blood? Why sprinkle blood on the altar and on the people?

The Lord said to Moses, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life” (Leviticus 17:11). Nothing more valuable than blood could be given to God, yet the blood of bulls and sheep lacked the power to fully atone for the sins of humanity, and so it had to be offered again and again and again (cf. Hebrews 10:4).

It is against this background that the Lord Jesus gathered with his Apostles in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover, the Exodus from Egypt. He gave the cup to them, saying, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many” (Mark 14:24). With his own blood he seals the new covenant, “once for all,” and gives himself to us so we “may receive the promised eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 7:27; cf. Hebrews 9:15).

In giving the Eucharist to us as our food and drink – his very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity – the Lord Jesus anticipated his death on the Cross and gave each of us a share in it, not only in his death, but also in his Resurrection. For this reason, he says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:51). In the Eucharist, he has given us “a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover” (CCC, 1337). He gave us the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and Resurrection so the grace of his sacrificial love might be offered to all people in every time and place. All this he accomplished when he said to the Apostles, “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19).

Here, then, we come an interesting question: If the life is in the blood, why does Jesus give his Body and Blood to us in the form of bread and wine? Our great patron, Saint Augustine, offers a reason:

A historiated initial from a medieval manuscript
showing St Augustine as Bishop of Hippo.
University of California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library,
We have no theory of our own to propose here; listen, instead, to what Paul says about this sacrament: "The bread is one, and we, though many, are one body." [1 Cor. 10.17] Understand and rejoice: unity, truth, faithfulness, love. "One bread," he says. What is this one bread? Is it not the "one body," formed from many? Remember: bread doesn't come from a single grain, but from many. When you received exorcism, you were "ground." When you were baptized, you were "leavened." When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, you were "baked." Be what you see; receive what you are. This is what Paul is saying about the bread. So too, what we are to understand about the cup is similar and requires little explanation. In the visible object of bread, many grains are gathered into one just as the faithful (so Scripture says) form "a single heart and mind in God" [Acts 4.32]. And thus it is with the wine. Remember, friends, how wine is made. Individual grapes hang together in a bunch, but the juice from them all is mingled to become a single brew. This is the image chosen by Christ our Lord to show how, at his own table, the mystery of our unity and peace is solemnly consecrated. All who fail to keep the bond of peace after entering this mystery receive not a sacrament that benefits them, but an indictment that condemns them.[1]

This is why it is so very important that we properly prepare ourselves to receive Holy Communion by making a thorough examination of conscience, making peace – insofar as possible – with enemies, and confessing what needs confessing. If we fail to do this, if we fail to be properly disposed to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, we receive him in vain and bring judgment upon ourselves (cf. I Corinthians 11:29).

Because the culture of these United States is drenched in an individualism which is quite contrary to the Gospel, we too often forget this important communal character of receiving Holy Communion (it’s a bit ironic, isn’t it?); it is not simply about me and Jesus, but about me and you and you and you and Jesus; it is about us and Jesus. His love is formed in us to be shared with others. This is why Benedict XVI reminded us that “in sacramental communion I become one with the Lord, like all the other communicants.”[2] We see this in the writings of Saint Paul: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (I Corinthians 10:17).

So it is that

Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become “one body”, completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbour are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself.[3]

This is why, in just a few moments, we will turn to the Lord and pray for “the gifts of unity and peace” as we offer him our humble gifts of bread and wine. We must strive to truly become a single heart and mind in God through our reception of his Body and Blood. This is why it is important to make attendance at the parish Sunday Mass the priority of our week. If we are not present each week, it is difficult to be formed into one loaf so we, as members of Saint Augustine’s Parish, may become the Body of Christ, one heart and mind in him, and bring Jesus’ love to the people in Ashland, Pleasant Plains, Tallula, and everywhere in between. We cannot forget that “a eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.”[4]

Let us, then, celebrate this great solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ with great reverence and devotion. Let us receive him with humble love and, just as the Lord changes our gifts of bread and wine into his own Body and Blood, let us ask him to change our gifts of ourselves into himself. If we make this prayer our own, his gifts of unity and peace will indeed be fully realized in us. Amen.

[1] Saint Augustine, Sermon 227.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 14
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

25 April 2018

Homily - 25 April 2018 - The Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Fourth Sunday of Easter (B)

Dear brothers and sisters,

The image of Jesus as “the good shepherd” who “lays down [his] life for the sheep” is a powerful one and beloved by many (John 10:11). And even though we rarely encounter shepherds today, we know what they look like. A shepherd stands in the midst of the flock holding his distinctive emblem, the crook. Each of us has likely seen an image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, complete with a shepherd’s crook, but such images are lacking throughout the history of Christian art. They are, in fact, something of a recent novelty.

We do, of course, find a few images of the Good Shepherd in the catacombs, in early churches, and in medieval manuscripts, but in these he carries no crook. In the catacombs, he is depicted as carrying a sheep on his shoulders (cf. Isaiah 40:1), but this depiction of the Good Shepherd soon gave way to depictions of him sitting in the midst of the flock and holding not a crook, but the cross surmounted on a pole. It is almost as if the ancient artists sought to tells us that the rod and staff of the Good Shepherd is, in fact, his Cross (cf. Psalm 23:4); they show the Good Shepherd carrying the instrument by which he laid down his life for his sheep.

In the Apostles’ Creed, we profess that, after his death and before his Resurrection, Jesus “descended into hell,” though here we do not mean the state of eternal separation from God, but to those who died before the gates of heaven were opened to us. Concerning this visitation, Saint Peter said, “For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead that, though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God” (I Peter 4:6). The medieval called this the “Harrowing of Hell” and frequently depicted Jesus brandishing his cross before the gates of hell to pry them open, and as using his cross to pin demons to the ground. The medievals also showed Jesus using his cross planted firmly on the ground as a support as he helped those he freed escape from the mouth of hell. What is more, they also showed Jesus holding his cross out to those he freed, who, while taking hold of Jesus’ hand, also took hold of the cross. Jesus uses his Cross in the same way a shepherd uses his crook; truly, he is the Good Shepherd who rescues, defends, guides, and lays down his life for his sheep. This is why we make so much use of the Sign of the Cross.

Earlier this week, Pope Francis reflected on the Sign of the Cross. He said to parents, “Teach children how to make the sign of the Cross. If they learn it as children they will do it well later, as grown-ups.”[1] The Holy Father wants parents – and all of us – to so focus on the Sign of the Cross because of its central role in our faith. The Holy Father described the importance of the Cross, calling it

…the badge that shows who we are: our words, thoughts, gaze, works are under the sign of the Cross, that is, under the sign of Jesus’ love to the very end… We become Christians in the measure to which the Cross is imprinted on us as a “paschal” mark (cf. Revelation 14:1; 22:4), making visible, also outwardly, the Christian way of confronting life. Making the sign of the Cross when we wake, before meals, in facing danger, to protect against evil, in the evening before we sleep, means telling ourselves and others whom we belong to, whom we want to be. This is why it is so important to teach children how to make the sign of the Cross properly. And as we do upon entering a church, we can also do so at home, by keeping a bit of holy water in a suitable little vase — some families do so: this way, each time we come in or go out, by making the sign of the Cross with that water we remember that we are baptized. Do not forget, I repeat: teach the children how to make the sign of the Cross.

The sign of the Cross is, on the one hand, a most simple gesture and, on the other, a most profound statement of faith. Too often do we enter the church, dip our fingers in holy water, and make some hurried gesture as if swatting away flies, not recognizing the great power that is in the sign we should make.

When we enter the doors of the church, we pass, as it were, from earth to heaven. We make the sign of the Cross to place ourselves at the service of the Lord Jesus Christ and to remind us of his grace and mercy. Indeed,

by signing ourselves with the Cross, we place ourselves under the protection of the Cross, [we] hold it in front of us like a shield that will guard us in all the distress of daily life and give us the courage to go on. We accept it as a signpost that we must follow… The Cross shows us the road of life – the imitation of Christ.[2]

It is on the Cross that we see the fullest sign of Jesus’ loving obedience to the Father, and for this reason the Cross shows us how to conform our will to the Father’s and how to serve his majesty in sincerity of heart; it shows us how to be true sheep of the Good Shepherd.

The faithful have been signing themselves with the Cross for almost two thousand years. Indeed, the first mention we have in writing of the Sign of the Cross comes from Tertullian, who died in 220. “At every step,” he said, “when going in and out, when putting on clothes and shoes, when washing ourselves, when kindling the lights, when going to sleep, sitting down, and in every action we place the sign of the cross on our foreheads.”[3] We would do well to do the same, and to do so with attentive reverence and love, fully conscious of the sign we make, without being ashamed of doing so in public.

When we cross ourselves, let it be with a real sign of the cross. Instead of a small cramped gesture that gives no notion of its meaning, let us make a large, unhurried sign, from forehead to breast, from shoulder to shoulder, consciously feeling how it includes the whole of us, our thoughts, our attitudes, our body and soul, every part of us at once, how it concentrates and sanctifies us. It does so because it is the sign of the universe and the sign of our redemption… It is the holiest of all signs.[4]

On the day of our baptism, the priest or deacon, together with our parents and godparents, traced the sign of the Cross on our foreheads. As the minister did so, he said, “I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of his Cross.”[5] The sign of the Cross is, then, a sign of ownership; it is the sign that marks us out as belonging to Christ and to no other. The Bishop, likewise, traced the sign of the Cross on our forehead with the sacred Chrism when he sealed us with the seven-fold gift of the Holy Spirit. We, too, make the sign of the Cross on our foreheads – and on our lips and over our heart - at every Mass when we prepare to hear the words of the Gospel so that we might keep the Lord Jesus in our mind, on our lips, and in our heart. We make the Sign of the Cross when we begin to pray and when we finish praying. In all of these ways, we seek to place the Sign of the Cross over everything we do. Let us, then, always make the Sign of the Cross with reverence and love so it may seep deep into our souls and make us more and more like the Good Shepherd. Through the sign of his Cross, may he know us as marked and belonging to him, and may we know him in whose death and resurrection we have been redeemed. Amen.

[1] Pope Francis, Wednesday General Audience, 18 April 2018.
[2] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, trans. John Saward (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 2000), 177-178.
[3] Tertullian, in Klemens Richter, The Meaning of the Sacramental Symbols: Answers to Today’s Questions, trans. Linda M. Maloney, (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1990), 132.
[4] Romano Guardini, Sacred Signs, trans. Grace Branham (St. Louis, Missouri: Pio Decimo Press, 1956), 13f in Adolf Adam, trans. Robert C. Schultz, The Eucharistic Celebration: The Source and Summit of Faith (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1994), 21.
[5] Rite of Baptism for Children, 41.

15 April 2018

Homily - 15 April 2018 - The Third Sunday of Easter (B)

The Third Sunday of Easter (B)

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, we hear the Apostle Saint Peter proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ to the people of Jerusalem. “The author of life you put to death,” he said, “but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15). In the discovery of the Lord’s burial clothes - but not of his body - and in the various encounters with the Risen Lord and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit, something changed in Saint Peter. No longer was he a man who cared more for his safety than for his loyalty to his Master, nor was he any longer afraid of the crowds but instead proclaimed the truth of the Christian faith to them. Why? He changed because he finally gave his heart over to Jesus. I might say he gave his entire heart over to Jesus, but then I would be arguing with Saint Augustine of Hippo.

Saint Augustine noticed that when Jesus asked for something to eat, the Apostles gave him not a whole fish, but only “a piece of baked fish” (Luke 24:42). Being intrigued by these two details, the piece of cooked fish, he wanted to know why. He concluded that

They offered him what they had: a portion of grilled fish [various translations translate the manner of cooking differently]. Grilled fish means martyrdom, faith proved by fire. Why is it only a portion? Paul says, “If I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (I Corinthians 13:3). Imagine a complete body of martyrs. Some suffer because of love, while others suffer out of pride. Remove the pride portion, offer the love portion. That is the food for Christ. Give Christ his portion. Christ loves the martyrs who suffered out of love.[1]

When the Lord first predicted his Passion and Death, Saint Peter gave the portion of his pride to the Lord when he told him, “No such thing shall ever happen to you” (Matthew 16:22). The giving of his pride earned him a stern rebuke from the Lord: “Get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23)! In the end, however, Saint Peter gave the portion of his love to the Lord when he gave his life for the sake of his name. What portion have we given to the Lord?

Saint Anthony of Padua had a slightly different, though not unrelated, reading of the detail of the cooked fish. Recognizing that each of us is called to be as another Christ because we have been joined to him in Baptism, the Doctor of the Gospels said:

The “broiled fish” is the Redeemer who suffered, who was caught in the waters of the human race by the hook of death, and “broiled” at the time of his Passion; and he, too, is the honeycomb for us in today’s Resurrection. The honeycomb is in the wax, as the divinity is in the humanity. In this eating is signified that he takes them, in his body, to eternal rest, who, when they suffer trials for God’s sake, do not depart from the joy of eternal sweetness. Those who are “broiled” here, will there be satisfied with sweetness.[2]

The Lord Jesus takes in those who know him; he takes in those who keep his commandments and his word (cf. I John 2:3-5).

If we wish to “look forward in confident hope to the rejoicing of the day of resurrection,” we cannot be afraid to be “broiled” here; we cannot be afraid of “faith proved by fire.”[3] If we wish the Lord to let the light of his face shine on us and put gladness into our hearts for eternity, then, like Saint Peter, we must give the Lord the full portion of our love (cf. Psalm 4:7 and 8). What is more, we must not be afraid of raising our voices and proclaiming, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19).

The proclamation of the fullness of the Gospel today is repugnant to many members of our society. Many resist – or even oppose - his teachings on marriage, the dignity of all human life, care for the poor, and even the reality of the Sacraments. Because this is becoming increasingly so, we shy away from proclaiming the truth revealed by Jesus Christ and entrusted to his Church. Because of our pride, because of our concern for how others think of us, we do not proclaim the Resurrection of the Lord and do not give him the portion he desires.

Every Sunday and holy day, we recite together the Creed, the Profession of Faith. Just a few weeks ago at Easter, we renewed our baptismal promises by answering, “I do,” to the questions posed to us about our belief, questions taken directly from the Creed, from the faith of the Church, which comes down to us through Saint Peter and the Apostles. In doing so, we confessed before God and man that we believe in the Crucified and Risen Savior and in the means of salvation offered in the Church he established on the rock of Saint Peter. But what does it mean to believe?

Our word “creed” comes from the Latin word credo, which means “I believe.” “Some suggest credo is made up of two smaller words: cor is the word for ‘heart,’ as in ‘coronary’ or ‘cordially,’ and do means ‘I give’ and is the origin of donate.”[4] To believe, then, is to make a gift of the heart to Jesus, to give him the portion he desires, to give him the gift of our love proved even by fire. In his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, the Lord Jesus made a gift of his heart to us, even allowing his side to be opened so we might enter into his heart (cf. John 19:34). Let us in return make a gift of our hearts to him so that our credo, our “I believe,” may not be spoken in vain. Let us go forth with the joy that comes from being loved by God to announce the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus to everyone we meet so we might all sing together the joy of Easter: Alleluia!

[1] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 229J.3
[2] Saint Anthony of Padua, Sermon on the Resurrection of the Lord, 4. In Sermons for Sundays and Festivals, Vol. IV: Sermons for Festivals and Indexes, Paul Spilsbury, trans. (Padua: Edizioni Messagero Padova, 2010), 193.
[3] Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter.
[4] Christopher Carstens, A Devotional Journey into the Mass: How Mass Can Become a Time of Grace, Nourishment, and Devotion (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 2017), 46.

05 April 2018

Coming Soon: A Documentary on Friendship in the Life and Writings of J.R.R. Tolkien

Reese Parquette is a young filmmaker in Springfield. His documentary, Mercy: Discovering God's Loverecently aired at EWTN.

At Reese's request, I recently sat down with Joseph Pearce, author of - among other titles - Tolkien: Man and Myth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), to talk about friendship in the life and writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.

It was a very enjoyable conversation and those who were present to watch us talk commented on how natural it all seemed. Joseph and I had not met previously, but a devotion to The Professor has a way of establishing a friendship between strangers rather easily. When the final edits are completed, the conversation will become a documentary titled, An Unexpected Friendship.

Though it was not planned so at first, this will actually become the first of a two-part documentary on friendship in the life and writings of Tolkien. The second part will be filmed in a few weeks on location in Oxford.

Reese's plan is to follow me around Oxford as I visit and talk about the sites important in the Professor's life in and around the famous medieval university city, culminating with a pilgrimage to his grave at Wolvercote Cemetery. It is a project about which I am rather excited, and for which Reese and I could use your assistance.

We are currently looking for donors willing to help fund the costs of our travel and of production of the documentary (with a total goal of $3,000). Any help you can provide - however large or small - will be greatly appreciated.

We are still working on the title for part two, though we might borrow a phrase Tolkien used to describe husbands and wives, "companions in shipwreck."

The 405 kindly offered to interview Reese and I concerning this project and has published an article about it titled, "J.R.R. Tolkien & 'something of the truth of human existence' - Meet filmmaker Reese Parquette & Fr. Daren Zehnle of An Unexpected Friendship".