30 June 2014

Reason prevails in SCOTUS decision regarding HHS mandate

Today, with the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States of America that the Health and Human Services mandate is unconstitutional, reason has prevailed.

29 June 2014

Homily - Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul - 29 June 2014

N.B.: Were I preaching this weekend, the following homily is something along the lines of what I would preach. I'm not entirely happy with the ending yet, but I'm not sure what to do with it without making it exceedingly lengthy.

The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

May the Lord give you peace!

As we reflect today on the two great Apostles, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, we might well ask what it was that led each of these two men to lay down their lives for Christ Jesus and for his Body, the Church, Peter by crucifixion and Paul by the sword.

A beginning to the answer we seek is found in the words of the Psalmist: “Look to him that you may be radiant with joy, and your faces may not blush with shame” (Psalm 34:6).

When do we blush with shame if not when we have not been faithful to what is required of us; when we have not lived up to our potential; or when we have not been genuine in word, deed, or thought? In a word, we could say that we blush when we are not authentic or sincere.

Standing before their persecutors, the Prince of the Apostles and the Apostle to the Gentiles both knew their lives would be required because of their fidelity to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to proclaiming the truth of Him who died and yet now lives.

Detail, painting in the church of Quo Vadis
When confronted with the cross on which he would be crucified upside down, Saint Peter surely recalled the words the Lord Jesus spoke to him when he signified the kind of death the Galilean fisherman would suffer: “Follow me” (John 21:19). By following his Master and Teacher in death, Peter knew he would also follow him in life.

Detail, doors of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls
Likewise, when confronted with the sword by which his head would be severed from his body, Saint Paul surely realized anew the words he wrote to the Church in Colossae: “He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” and knew that his life was hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 1:18; cf. Colossians 3:3), that he, too, would live.

But, again, why this great confidence? Why did they have no shame in proclaiming Jesus no longer dead? It is because they knew the truth of what they proclaimed. If we could have looked into their eyes we might have used the words the wizard Gandalf said to the Hobbit Pippin: “There is no lie in your eyes.”[1] There was no lie in the eyes of Peter or Paul, but only the conviction of truth. Their faces did not blush with shame as they looked upon the end of their earthly lives because they knew that their faces would soon be radiant with the joy of Christ even as the face of Moses radiated the glory of the Lord God (cf. Exodus 34:29).

They both knew Jesus’ face well, even though Saint Paul did not know Jesus before his crucifixion and was not present among the disciples when the Lord appeared to them before he ascended to the Father. Saint Paul himself asks, “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord” (I Corinthians 9:1)? Jesus certainly showed himself to Saint Paul on the road to Damascus when he said to the Apostle, “Get up now, and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen [of me] and what you will be shown” (Acts 26:16). What else was Paul shown?

On Easter morning, we are told that when Saint Peter entered the tomb of our Lord, he “saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered [Jesus’] head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place” (John 20:6-7). John entered the tomb, as well, saw the cloths “and believed” (John 20:8). Saint Luke adds that Peter “went home amazed at what had happened” when he saw the cloths (Luke 24:12). He must have seen something more than simple cloths to believe in the Resurrection.

We know the burial cloth as the Shroud of Turin, which shows - in a remarkable and inexplicable fashion – Jesus in death. It is an image that has, since the invention of the photograph, taken on greater importance as photographic negatives have shown aspects of the image heretofore undetectable, aspects which have confirmed its authenticity. Seeing an image of the dead Jesus would surely not have brought Peter to faith in the Resurrection and filled him with amazement. What was that other cloth?

Two hours east of Rome, one can travel by car to a tiny village in the mountains called Manoppello. Up until the recent construction of the highways, arriving at this quiet village was no easy task. There, in a church formerly dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel, is housed il Volto Santo, the Holy Face.

PHOTO: Paul Badde
It is a cloth woven of byssus, a type of silk made from mollusks that, depending on the light, can be both transparent and opaque, and cannot be painted or dyed. The cloth contains the image of a man with long hair parted in the middle, with a broken nose, a swollen cheek, open eyes, and a half-open mouth. It is an image that cannot be reproduced or explained and that subtly changes as the light around it, in front of it, or behind it changes.

The veil, called the sudarium, arrived in Manoppello in 1506 by the hands of a stranger who entrusted it to Doctor Leonelli, who was sitting outside the church when the stranger arrived. The doctor opened the package inside the church who, when he saw the contents of the package, went immediately back outside only to find the stranger gone without a trace.

It remained in the doctor’s family until 1608 when it was sold by Marzia Leonelli to a Doctor De Fabritiis to ransom her husband from prison. Doctor De Fabritiis entrusted the veil to the Capuchin friars at Manoppello, in whose keeping it remains today for the veneration of the faithful.

The veil arrived in Manoppello from Rome, where it was called the Veronica, the true icon, and venerated as the face of Jesus. Unlike the Shroud of Turin, it is not he image of Jesus in death but Jesus alive, at the moment of the Resurrection, or very soon thereafter. This veil is that cloth that Saint Peter found “not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.” Seeing this veil with the image of Jesus not dead but alive explains why he “saw and believed” and left “amazed at had happened.” He looked upon the face of God and his face could not blush with shame. With these cloths, the Shroud and the sudarium, they had a witness to the truth of the Resurrection that Jesus was dead and yet now lives!

It is this face - so filled with love and mercy and preserved for us in the veil - that we, too, must seek. In looking upon the face of Jesus, we will look upon everything we desire. We will look upon the face of Truth Himself and he will look upon us with his discerning eyes of just judgment and abiding mercy, the same eyes that turned to look at Peter when the cock crowed (cf. Luke 22:61). Looking into his eyes, we, too, will weep bitterly for our sins even as we experience the tenderness of his mercy. We will be filled with peace and he will remove our shame.

With this confidence in the Resurrection, which so marked the preaching of Saints Peter and Paul, we, too, will know that “the Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom” there to enjoy the vision of his face forever (II Timothy 4:18). Amen.

[1] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2013), 593

Pope Francis' simple devotion

What impresses me most about Pope Francis is his simple devotion to the saints, as often expressed by his veneration of images of the Blessed Virgin Mary and in today's customary act of reverence for Saint Peter, a kiss on the foot of his statue in the Basilica dedicated to him:

The photo was shared on the Facebook page of the Pontifical Swiss Guard.

Paul & Paul: Two Silver Trumpets

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Make thee two trumpets of beaten silver,
wherewith though mayest call together the multitude (Numbers 10:1-2).
These two Apostles are called "silver trumpets" on account of their resounding preaching, and "beaten" because of being struck in their Passion. Christ made these trumpets, that is, he chose them by grace, that with them he might call a multitude of peoples to the mountain of eternal life. And just as those former trumpets called to war, to feasting and to religious festival [cf. Numbers 10:9-10], so these called the peoples to war against sin.

- Saint Anthony of Padua

25 June 2014

Going home

In just a few short hours I will board a plane to return home for the summer and about this prospect my heart is glad. Whether I have packed what I may need over the next two months remains to be seen (packing for two months is much more difficult than packing for a week).

Even as my heart rejoices to be going home I am saddened by the news of the death of the secretary of my boyhood parish, one of the kindest and gentlest women I have been privileged to know and always with a bright smile on her face. By God's good grace, I will arrive in Quincy the day before her funeral Mass, which I plan to concelebrate. Please join me in praying that she will now smile brightly before the face of God to rejoice forever in his love.

23 June 2014

A visit to the skull of Saint John the Baptist

With the praying of first Vespers this evening, we have entered (or will soon enter) into the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, the patron of the parish to which I belonged as a boy. Consequently, this day - and the memorial of his passion on August 29th fills my heart with many happy memories of people whom I have loved and who loved me.

Many of my fellow parishioners under the Forerunner's patronage were models of Christian living and gave me a clear example of faith, hope, and love to follow. In fact, it is because of my fellow parishioners that I was able to discern the Lord calling me to share in his priesthood, especially through their encouragement and prayers.

At the same time, though, both of these two days also fills my heart with a certain grief over what has been lost. St. John the Baptist parish was merged in 1999 with St. Rose of Lima parish to form All Saints parish while continuing to use both churches. All Saints parish merged with Immaculate Conception parish in 2006 to form Blessed Sacrament parish and the church of St. John the Baptist was sold. It is a sadness I still carry with me.

Still, I consider Saint John the Baptist to be one of my principle patrons - together with Saints Francis of Assisi, Clare of Assisi, Damien of Molokaii, Marianne Cope, and John Bosco. Since tomorrow I will be in Belgium visiting the birthplace and tomb of the Leper Priest, I decided this evening to visit the church of San Silvestro in Capite (which is dedicated to Pope Saint Sylvester I, who baptized the Emperor Constantine), just a few minutes' walk from the Casa Santa Maria, to pray evening prayer in the chapel that houses the skull of Saint John the Baptist:

To the right of the church is the post office that always gives me so much trouble
The initial church was built in the eighth century over the remnants of a temple dedicated to Sol Invictus (yes, the Sol Invictus we inevitably hear about before Christmas) to house relics of the martyrs that at the time were being translated from some of the catacombs. How fitting, then, that it also houses the skull of the great witness to marriage:

While in the chapel, I especially remembered my fellow parishioners who were so very good to me and showed me how to follow the wisdom of Saint John: "He [Jesus] must increase; I must decrease" (John 3:30). I do not always succeed in this, but still I try.

In one of his sermons for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Anthony of Padua says:
Note that Elizabeth conceived in the seventh month, September, and gave birth birth in June. Even so, the soul conceives in the 'seventh' (the sabbath), that is, in stillness, by devotion of mind; and she bears her son, good work, in June, called 'Siban' in Hebrew, meaning 'rightness of gift'. The gift of grace which she conceives in her mind, she brings forth in rightness of action.
While in the desert, Saint John devoted his mind to the will of the Lord and emerged to call everyone to repentance, even an adulterous king who would later take his head. Let us ask Saint John to intercede for us, so that we, too, always bear witness to the truth, no matter the cost.

Bishop Paprocki encourages Eucharistic adoration by directing tabernacles be restored to the sanctuary

We've all been there before at one time or another. You enter a Catholic church to spend some time in  prayer before the tabernacle to speak with Jesus present in the Eucharist. You look to the sanctuary but realize the tabernacle is not there. Looking around the church you do not see a sanctuary lamp or a sign or other indication as to where the tabernacle is. At that moment you make the words of Saint Mary Magdalene your own: "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him" (John 20:13).

In the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, I'm happy to say, such a situation should soon come to an end.

In his first pastoral letter since his installation four years ago, His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki has written about the importance of celebrating and adoration the Eucharist. When discussing the placement of the tabernacle within in churches, he writes:
...I direct that in the churches and chapels of our diocese, tabernacles that were formerly in the center of the sanctuary, but have been moved, are to be returned as soon as possible to the center of the sanctuary in accord with the original architectural design. Tabernacles that are not in the center of the sanctuary or are otherwise not in a visible, prominent and noble space are to be moved to the center of the sanctuary; tabernacles that are not in the center of the sanctuary but are in a visible, prominent and noble space may remain (Ars celebrandi et adorandi, 23).
In the same pastoral letter, Bishop Paprocki encourages the faithful to spend time in Eucharistic adoration because, as he reminds us, "We are never far from Jesus" who waits for us (7-8).

Bishop Paprocki's pastoral letter now online

Ars celebrandi et adorandi, the first pastoral letter of His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, is now online. Please give it a read.

22 June 2014

+Paprocki: We are never far from Jesus

The Church has never tired of proclaiming the Lord's closeness to his people. We are never far from Jesus. In our diocese, the faithful have opportunities every day to receive the Lord into their hearts at daily Masses celebrated in our various parish churches and chapels. Outside of Mass, all we need do is go to a Catholic church or chapel and kneel down before the tabernacle, where the Lord of heaven and earth dwells among us in his tent and is ever ready to receive us.
- Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, Ars celebrandi et adorandi, 7

Tolkien on "the one great thing to love on earth"

As we celebrate today the great mystery of the Lord Jesus gift to us of his very own Body and Blood for our nourishment, I cannot help but recall the beautiful words with which J.R.R. Tolkien wrote of the Blessed Sacrament to his son, Michael:
Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament... There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death. By the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste -or foretaste- of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires.
The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion. Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals.

Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children - from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn - open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand - after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.
Parents, how do you speak with your children about the Eucharist? Do you, as Tolkien, share with them your love of the Eucharistic Lord? Do you speak to them at all of your relationship with the Blessed Sacrament?

Happy anniversary, Bishop Paprocki!

Today marks the fourth anniversary of His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki as Bishop of Springfield in Illinois.

Shortly thereafter Bishop Paprocki set about visiting the seven deaneries of the Diocese and meeting his new flock. In his homily for these Masses, he outlined his vision for the future of the Diocese:

I see a local Church where Catholics take their faith seriously, seek to grow in virtue and holiness, go to Mass every Sunday and participate regularly and actively in the sacramental life of the Church and the activities of their parishes; love God with all their heart and mind and soul and love their neighbor as themselves; bear witness to Christ in their daily lives; and promote respect for all human life from conception to natural death.

I see a diocese where there is an abundance of vocations of young people willing to answer God’s call to follow Him and dedicate their lives to carrying out His mission in the world; where there are sufficient priests to staff our parishes and serve their parishioners with virtuous commitment and impeccable integrity; devoted deacons, nuns and religious brothers dedicated to teaching the faith and caring for the sick, the poor, and the dying.

I see communities where family life is valued, homes with a mother and a father who love their children and whose children love them; parents who educate and form their children and themselves in the Catholic faith.

In short, I see a glimpse of God’s Kingdom already foreshadowed in the life of the Church and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet in the Eucharistic feast.
Let us this day implore the aid of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, so that, strengthened with his seven-fold gifts, we may cooperate ever more fully with our shepherd in building up the Kingdom of God in the twenty-eight counties of central Illinois.

Happy anniversary, Bishop Paprocki! Ad multos annos!