Feast of Saint Andrew

The gravel pit in the
Butchart Gardens

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone to preach?
And how can people preach unless they are sent?

Our Christian religion begins with the principle of revelation. We cannot know the truth unless it is revealed to us. Introspection will never discover that Jesus was born in Bethlehem or died outside of Jerusalem. We need a Redeemer both to affect our salvation and to announce it. Then we need apostles to receive the good news, and a Church to announce it to all the nations. The apostles serve as the essential link between Jesus and his Church. Without their fidelity – which has been challenged in every age – we would not know the Truth and we could not be saved.
Because their fidelity is so often challenged the Church celebrates the Apostles with all the more energy. Only last year I read a book by the ever-popular Harvey Cox who boasted of a personal insight which had remained hidden from all the ages, until he discovered it. Now he can tell us why the Church never got it right for the past twenty centuries!

In the above passage from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the Apostle reminds us of the important role the Church plays in Salvation. We cannot hear the good news unless someone announces it to us. Secondarily, we are reminded of the importance of the apostle’s integrity. If the messenger is not blessed, it’s pretty hard to take the message seriously. Such a messenger would be like those TV actors who want to sell us get-rich-quick schemes. If they’re so successful, why are they appearing in late-night, low-budget ads?
I remember one fellow who aspired to be a gospel singer, but his wife was leaving him because of his marijuana addiction. What’s wrong with this picture?
This feast of Saint Andrew reminds us to thank God for our faithful apostolic tradition, and to pray that God will keep us faithful within this tradition.

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent


A wonderland of flowers
I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.

As a nation we believe our leaders should be neither aristocratic nor wealthy but clever. If our businesses cannot be democracies they should be meritocracies, a “leadership of able and talented persons.” It’s an interesting experiment but it has its shortcomings, as we’re finding out. Some astonishingly bright banking leaders, confident of their abilities to negotiate the riskiest predicaments, have brought the world to a financial precipice. Europe and the US teeter on the edge and China, for all its wealth, inspires no confidence. 

Apparently, it takes more than cleverness to manage power. Overconfident whiz kids lack the experience and humility to appreciate what they do not know; and many of us wonder why they’re paid so much.
So if geniuses (the "wise and  the learned"), aristocrats, the wealthy and “the superior race” fail, to whom do we turn? In the gospels Jesus is not especially concerned about that problem. It will solve itself if we live by virtue. In the meanwhile, we have his promise: although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to children.

Monday of the First Week of Advent


A lion shaped of vines and leaves
eyes visitors to the Butchart Gardens,
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

The centurion said in reply,
"Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.

As of yesterday this verse from Saint Matthew's Gospel has taken new meaning for the English speaking world. If, when we declared our unworthiness moments before receiving the Blessed Sacrament during the Mass, the allusion  was not obvious, it should be now.
Some might wonder, as they recite the prayer, if we're referring to the roof of our mouths, that mysterious area of rippled, bony plate. But the well-informed can assure them it refers to Matthew 8:8; and to the centurion who begged for Jesus' mercy.

As we enter this Advent Season -- a full 28-days! It doesn't get any better than that! -- we remember our unworthiness. This is a mysterious dilemma, somehow disappointing and painful, which we should  treasure.  No one can consider herself worthy to entertain the Lord of the Universe. Catholics routinely avow our guilt as we confess our sins to a priest. Reconciled by the sacrament we walk away grateful for the God who wants to occupy our lives despite our avowed unworthiness.
In today's story we discover Jesus' amazement and delight upon hearing the centurion's declaration:

"Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
The Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation assure us of that unexpected reception. Instead of Jesus' withdrawing, saying, "You're right; I really should not approach your house or have any dealings with you." he expresses his joy and promises mercy for all the gentile nations:
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven."
He has thrown the doors of his banqueting house open to all the earth and encouraged us to enter. During this Advent season we pray that we might advance on that road of worthiness. We don't expect to attain it but we will pursue it nonetheless, praying that God will give us the gift that forever eludes our grasp.

First Sunday of Advent

Looking west over the Pacific
Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways,
and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
with the mountains quaking before you,
while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for,
such as they had not heard of from of old.
Many people take “Comparative Religions” or “The Anthropology of Religion” somewhere in college; most come away with the idea, “All religions are alike.” Perhaps the professors have their own secularist agenda, but they miss the point: all religions are not alike.
If you learn that the Hindu and Buddhist religions teach a divine indifference before the vicissitudes of life, a passive patience that accepts suffering as inevitable; and that Christianity does the same – you miss the point. Perhaps “eastern mysticism” is content with suffering; I cannot speak for  them. But we certainly are not. We want it to end!

We hear that plea in today’s reading from Isaiah, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you!” How long do we have to wait? When will this end? When will the lowly be raised up and the mighty (1%) be cast down? When will sickness be ended and death defeated? When will everyone feel respected and admired and worthy, without anxiety and a creeping sense of futility? When will babies be welcome and old people be honored? When will every person forget self-seeking and enthusiastically commit to the common good, without coercion from a treacherous government-run program? Must we wait forever?

Advent is about waiting. It’s about stirring that divine impatience. We must scour away the rust of cynicism that drags on our spirits until we finally quit hoping. Cynicism doubts God’s promise will ever be fulfilled. It runs deep and the scouring must be vigorous, prolonged and relentless. Somewhere beneath the rust is the adamant of unblemished, eager longing.

As children we were told Santa Claus would bring us undeserved gifts and we believed it with all our hearts. Just the thought of Santa Claus aroused joyful hope. Clement Clark Moore's A Visit from Saint Nicholas still charms my "inner child." But we soon learned there is no Santa Claus and the expectancy of Christmas faded. 

Can we reawaken that joyful hope and make it sublime? Can we expect all over again but with more intensity and more eagerness? Can we expect without self-seeking and a generous passion for the good of all?

Advent urges us, "Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” Advent knows it will come and, by Christmas Eve, we'll believe it. 

Saturday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time


But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingship,
to possess it forever and ever."

Amid Daniel's terror upon seeing the four beasts, he received that reassuring word. Many centuries later we still experience fright as we face the future. With Daniel, we realize our frailty within our coverings of flesh. 

Last week, I was asked to stay with a family as they watched their father/grandfather die. It was, as often happens in the hospital, a very quiet event. The Veteran had directed, if there was no chance of his recovery, he should be allowed to die peacefully and without pain. 
We were asked to leave the room for a few minutes as his respirator was removed and the feeding tube was taken from his throat. He had been medicated so that, despite his failing lungs, he could not feel oxygen deprivation even from the depths of his unconsciousness. 
Returning to the room, we found the old man breathing softly. For a little while his breath came rapidly, but it soon slowed. Eventually he paused for long moments  between breaths, as if he were forgetting to breathe, and then remembering again to take a breath. Finally long moments passed and it was clear he had finished breathing. 
As he died I read our Catholic prayer, "The Commendation of the Dying." It is a simple prayer, consisting of readings from the scripture, a litany of the saints, and final commendation: 
Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the almighty Father, who created you, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who suffered for you, in the name of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon you. Go forth, faithful Christian!May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and all the angels and saints. . . .
May you return to your Creator
who formed you from the dust of the earth.
May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints
come to meet you as you go forth from this life. . . .
May you see your Redeemer face to face.
We've come to the last day of our liturgical year. We have considered the Last Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. We believe that God is merciful. He knows our sins and he knows our sorrow for sin. We live in a sinful world and each of us has compromised in various ways with that reality, despite our faith and hope and love. 
Our faith teaches confidence as we look forward to that Great Day when the Lord will call each us us by name from the dust of the earth. We have become familiar with his voice and will surely know it when he calls us, even as a baby knows its mother's voice before it's born. 

The Veteran was surrounded by friends, family and myself, representing the whole Church. It doesn't get any better than that. 

Friday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time


Piles of driftwood on the
Pacific Shore, Washington
After this, in the visions of the night I saw the fourth beast,
different from all the others,
terrifying, horrible, and of extraordinary strength;
it had great iron teeth with which it devoured and crushed,
and what was left it trampled with its feet.

Biblical scholars interpret the several animals of Daniel's vision as the empires that had conquered Jerusalem before the book was written. The Seer then prophesied the coming of God's empire when the Chosen People would finally be delivered. He and his people hoped it would come very soon; they were barely hanging on and needed immediate deliverance. 
Salvation comes in that form more often in movies, fantasies and apocalyptic scenarios than in our lived, historical experience; but we should never give up hope. And that's the main point. 

As I read this prophesy I am struck by the violence that people must, and do, survive. I have not been to war; I have never lived in a war zone. I hope I never  do. The United States has survived only two wars on its own land since our founding, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Both were devastating. We have also survived two massive assaults; the first by one of our own citizens in Oklahoma City; the other, 9/11. 
But we have not seen monstrous regimes with great iron teeth creating havoc through decades  and centuries of warfare, as they have in Europe and Asia. It's hard to imagine how families could bear and raise children under such circumstances. And yet they do. 
Sometimes they are Christian families who keep the faith in their secret places despite the mortal threats. English and Irish Catholics kept the faith through centuries of persecution. Japanese Catholics had become so inured to the persecution they would not reveal themselves even when Roman Catholic missionaries were welcomed back to the Island. 
Sometimes we think we could never survive this or that catastrophe. Some people say they'll move to Canada if this or that party wins the next election! But, when the worse happens, they don't.
God has built into our spines enormous courage, and sometimes we need all of it to survive in the world we have made. As we prepare to hear again the story of Joseph and Mary's trek into Egypt, we pray that God will kindle in us the courage to meet our daily challenges. 

Thanksgiving Day

A line of trees along the beach
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.

Stephen Foster begins his song Hard Times:
Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh hard times come again no more.

Deep into this Great Recession, America realizes the Hard Times are upon us. While we have the resources to pull our nation out of debt, to educate our youth, care for our sick and protect the elderly we lack the political will. Instead we have gridlock in the nation’s capital and many state capitals. Frozen and immovable, we watch opportunities pass by us.
The Hebrew prophets understood our predicament; they saw the same helplessness in ancient Israel and Judah. The wealthy enjoyed their luxury and counted themselves blessed; the poor seethed with envy and resentment but could not improve their lot. The prophets warned of God’s punishment and were helpless to forestall it. Inevitably the two kingdoms collapsed before the advance of history. 
But there were some, the anawim, who thanked God for what little they had and waited on God’s mercy.  We meet them especially in Saint Luke’s Gospel: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna, the widow who gave her last pennies to the temple, and Jesus, the poorest of all men. The anawim have none to turn to in this world. They have no powerful patrons, no aristocratic claims, no natural resources; their only hope is God.
But they find great consolation in their prayers, especially in their thanksgiving. No matter how little they have, they share it in the confidence that God will provide for them somehow. I have met many such people in my ministry, especially in Louisiana and the Veterans Affairs Hospital.
Gratitude is a privilege the wealthy cannot imagine. News reporters describe how anxiously Wall Street bankers feel about their money. Though they make millions – some of them, billions – each year they worry over every penny. They shudder over every market fluctuation; they agonize over the threat of higher taxes; they cannot spare a dime for charity if it’s not deductible. They might be worthy of our pity but we tremble as the Judgment approaches:
We can read his righteous sentence in the dim and flaring lamps…

The American feast of Thanksgiving was born of the Civil War, a tragedy of staggering proportions. Survivors of the War thanked God it was over and hoped for his mercy. Their prayers were answered as the nation addressed its endemic racism, nativism and religious arrogance; and it enjoyed unparalleled prosperity for a time.
Today, as we sup sorrow with the poor, we thank God not for a promising future or a glorious past, but for his abiding presence. With his anawim, we thank God for the gift of Thanksgiving.

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time


Sunset and the Pacific Ocean
You’re heard the expression, “the handwriting on the wall?” It refers to today’s story from the Book of Daniel and neatly encapsulates its meaning – Doom! The phrase often appears in editorials as pundits predict the end of an era and the collapse of its leadership, especially if they are tyrants.
Recently another word has appeared, Teotwawki – an acronym for The End Of The World As We Know It.  From the very beginning the Church has predicted the end of the world but refused to say when that might occur. It might be today; it might be next year; or it might be a million years from now. Who knows? But it’s important that we realize this world is passing away.
Around the end of the first millennium, in 1000 AD, people started to take more interest in the End and wondered if it might occur very soon. The recent millennium was shot through with millennial movements, and the first Franciscans were up to our ears in some of it. The fever arrived in the United States with the Millerites in the 1840’s and has persisted ever since. But the End of the World still stubbornly resists coming. Or at least it doesn’t come in the way we might expect.
Rather, we face The End Of The World As We Know It; everything that was familiar disappears and each aging generation finds itself living in a strange world. We experience Teotwawki, and not once; but over and over. In the early 1970’s Alvin Toffler coined the phrase, “Future Shock” to describe the feeling we have of living in a foreign culture. We experience continual “culture shock,” although we live in our own native land, often very close to where we were born.

So what do MENE, TEKEL, and PERES mean today? Does the current “great recession” signal the end of American dominance? Does political gridlock in Washington DC signal the end of the American experiment? Does weird weather portend climate change or an imminent ice age? Do the resurgence of Islam and the rise of fundamentalism mean the return of religious wars and the end of the Enlightenment?
Who can read the handwriting on the wall? And what does it mean for me and my loved ones? Saint Paul reassures us: 

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose….
… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Romans 8

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, virgin and martyr

Seashore at Kalaloch, Washington.
A few rocks still defy the waves.
The iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold all crumbled at once,
fine as the chaff on the threshing floor in summer,
and the wind blew them away without leaving a trace.
But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain
and filled the whole earth.

As Jesus and his disciples stood before the temple of Jerusalem they found it impossible that such a mighty building with its massive stones might be destroyed very soon. More ancient buildings than Herod’s temple, like the Egyptian pyramids, remain to this day. But men had built the temple and men could destroy it, as the Romans did a few years later, in 70 AD.
In the Book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar had a nightmare; he saw his own kingdom disintegrate to a pile of dust which the wind blew away, leaving no trace. In fact, Daniel was written when the Seleucid Empire ruled Israel; the Babylonian empire of Nebuchadnezzar was already ancient history.
The poet Shelley would write of such catastrophes in his poem, Ozymandias
I met a traveller from an antique landWho said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stoneStand in the desert. Near them on the sand,Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frownAnd wrinkled lip and sneer of cold commandTell that its sculptor well those passions readWhich yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.And on the pedestal these words appear:"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"Nothing beside remains: round the decayOf that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,The lone and level sands stretch far away.
As Father Barnabas, my Latin teacher, might have said, “Sic transit gloria mundi.” (Thus passes the glory of the world.)

Who would imagine that words might outlast our buildings of steel, stone and glass? Are not words no more than sounds emanating from the mouth of mortals? Don't they echo off walls of stone and disappear without a trace?
The Jewish faith teaches us that “The Word of the Lord endures forever.” They remembered the promise made to Abraham, renewed to Moses, and established in Jerusalem by David. They saw David’s holy city captured, pillaged and leveled; but still they recited, sang and danced the word of God. Their faith and hope and love persist. 
The stone rejected has become the cornerstone;It has become a great mountain and filled the whole earth


Memorial of The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary


A banana slug,
common in the rain forest,
of Washington State
huddles in a fence post
He said, "I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood."

Here's a poem for this Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of my own composition:

Enormous Jupiter, or so I’m told,
Observed from deep, deep space, orbits
Our neighbor sun in solitude, a sole
companion with – perhaps – some smaller bits
of space debris. Its core a diamond sphere
of earth-sized crystal carbon sheathed in dense
and swirling liquid gas, approaches near
to thermonuclear might. It might ascend
to stardom….
                     So the Blessed Mary soars
in orbit round her son, and those who see
the woman and the God whom she adores
devoutly pray to join her company.
They glory in the radiance of her light,
astonished by the beauty of a widow’s might.

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ The King

The river flowing in Lake Quinaut
Washington, St
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink? 

I read the question, "When did we see you...?" as key to this parable concerning the Judgement. The just who cared for the hungry, thirsty, naked and imprisoned do not remember seeing this Man before them. Nor do the wicked. 
So why did the just care for him if they did not recognize him in the "least brother of mine?" And why did the wicked fail to care for him? 

I'm sure we can hear the wicked complaining, "If we had recognize you, Most Honorable Sir, we would certainly have cared for you! But we've never seen you, Your Esteemed Holiness, in our lives! This is not fair, that you should judge us for what we failed to do when you didn't show yourself more clearly!" 
The complaint sounds like that of the rich man who failed to care for the beggar Lazarus. "Yes, Father Abraham, but if someone should come back from the dead they will surely listen to him!" Didn't Scrooge listen to his former partner, Marley? He was given a second chance! Why not me?" 

The point of the parable, as I read it, is the just, when they did the right thing, didn't do it for religious reasons. These just people "from all the nations" cared for the poor, imprisoned and so forth because it was the HUMAN thing to do. They acted out of natural human compassion, that fellow feeling which is common to all people. 
When there is a hungry mouth, I feed it, whether it's mine or someone else's. When a someone is thirsty, I give him to drink, whether that person is me or someone else. This is not a specifically Christian act; it is native to all human beings and (for that matter) many non-human creatures. 
Only sin would prevent my doing what comes naturally. We hear all the time of heroes who, when honored, say, "I only did what anyone would have done." And they're right; although, in fact, several other "anyones" failed to act during that particular crisis. 

In the end we will be judged not for how Christian we were, but for how human. 

Saturday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time


A mountain stream in a rainforest
in Washington State
So he called in all his Friends and said to them:
"Sleep has departed from my eyes,
for my heart is sinking with anxiety.
I said to myself: "Into what tribulation have I come,
and in what floods of sorrow am I now!
Yet I was kindly and beloved in my rule."
But I now recall the evils I did in Jerusalem,
when I carried away all the vessels of gold and silver
that were in it, and for no cause
gave orders that the inhabitants of Judah be destroyed.
I know that this is why these evils have overtaken me;
and now I am dying, in bitter grief, in a foreign land."
 from I Maccabees

Some of the scribes said in reply,
"Teacher, you have answered well."
And they no longer dared to ask him anything.
from Luke

Both readings today, from I Maccabees and the Gospel of Saint Luke conclude with implausible summations: that the enemies have finally recognized  their foolishness and, at least partly, repented. In the first case we are told King Antiochus acknowledged his cruel, unfair treatment of the Jews and that he was punished by their God. In the gospel, that the Sadducees and scribes no longer dared to ask Jesus anything. 
A writer and reader might be satisfied that the narrative has ended so neatly; a historian, psychologist or soap opera fan will insist, "Life is never as neat as our short stories." 
There are always malcontents at the end of every war who have not surrendered. The Civil War may have end formally at Appomattox, but Jesse James and his gang fought on. A hundred and fifty years later we still hear from the Ku Klux Klan periodically. Rebels may have won the war in Libya but the fighting has not ended. 
Likewise a spouse may win the argument in a marriage but bitter feelings often remain and must be addressed. 
A soldier returns from the killing fields of Europe, the Pacific, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Iraq or Afghanistan only to fight the war over  and over in his nightmares and his relationships. Even when he finally understands the nature of his trauma and he and his family have made the necessary adjustments, the nightmares may continue for a lifetime. 

As we ponder the Gospel, inviting it to penetrate the deepest core of our being, we discover the endless quest for reconciliation and healing. 
How long does it take? As long as it takes. 
What will it cost? Whatever it costs. 
We are willing to go with Jesus the distance. 

Friday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Fathers Ken, Donald and Richard
before the world's largest
spruce tree in
Olympic Forest, WA
Judas and his brothers said,
"Now that our enemies have been crushed,
let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it."
So the whole army assembled, and went up to Mount Zion.

I’m weak on dates but I have this story on good authority. When the English occupiers attempted to suppress Catholicism in Ireland, Franciscans were left with a choice, leave their homeland forever or go underground. The Conventual friars left but many of the “Spirituals” (who would later be gathered into today’s largest Franciscan family) kept the faith by hiding in the homes and barns of their faithful. It was a difficult life with many dangers but they were assisted by the Holy Spirit in their heroic ministry.
When the repression eased these friars settled into rectories. However, their way of life had changed significantly. They were, to all appearances, diocesan clergy. They did not live the common life; they did not pray together; their spirituality made few references to Saints Francis, Clare or Bonaventure, or to any other Franciscan source. 
Eventually the international order of Franciscans rediscovered this isolated, almost extinct group of friars and reached out to them, encouraging them to reclaim the customs and spirituality of the Order. However the men were set in their ways and saw no need to change. Finally the Order shut down the Irish novitiate, where new friars were trained, and opened a new one staffed by European friars who could train the young recruits in our way of life. One by one these younger friars occupied the old rectories, and restored the Seraphic Tradition.
There were no bad guys in this story; but there was real need for reform. Fortunately the European friars devised a novel and relatively painless way to address the problem.

The Church is always reforming and always in need of reform. Historian Diarmaid MacCulloch, in his history of the Protestant Reformation, recalls the continual ferment of accusations and counter-accusations between diocesan and religious priests before the 16th century. Luther, Zwingli and Calvin’s Reformation was not as novel or original as it has been described; although they thought it was pretty remarkable at the time.
No revolutionary group or organization is ever as pure as its ideals; and no idealist “gets” the Holy Spirit so thoroughly that he or she is above censure. We must continually listen, continually examine our hearts and be frequently rebuked for our lack of faith.

Today’s first story tells how the Maccabean rebels purified the temple after a most unfortunate interlude when it was occupied by gentiles. The Jews celebrated with intense joy their new-found, hard-won, brief moment of freedom.  Their priests reestablished the sacrifices and prayers, the rabbis redesigned their ancient customs for a new historical era; and the people believed once again that God had never abandoned them.
Two weeks from now English-language Catholic Churches will welcome a new translation of our Mass prayers. As reforms go it's not a great matter, but we can suppose it will head off a greater upheaval that might appear were we too put this reform off for another decade. 

The Church must be purified again and again. We repent, confess our sins and beg God’s mercy. Not a day goes by when every moment and every thought is entirely worthy of God’s abiding presence in our hearts. But God in his mercy takes delight in our company and inspires us to rejoice and be glad and listen.

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, religious


Father Capodanno
"Let everyone who is zealous for the law
and who stands by the covenant follow after me!"
Thereupon he fled to the mountains with his sons,
leaving behind in the city all their possessions.
Many who sought to live according to righteousness and religious custom
went out into the desert to settle there.

Once again we hear of the "ferocious spirit" of the Maccabean revolution. We must often invoke this spirit because we live as sojourners in a strange land. 
I was affected by the pacifist movements of the 1960's and by the pacifist tradition within my Franciscan Order. But I know that sometimes the Holy Spirit calls good men and women to take up arms and defend their families, homes, churches and way of life. They have the Maccabees to attest to their fidelity. The Catholic Church cannot take an uncompromising stand against war on every occasion, and we have a tradition of discussing "just war" theory for that purpose. 
We also readily provide chaplains to the military services of every country where we live. Hard experience has shown that warriors need chaplains to help them maintain the boundary between soldiers and murderers. One of my colleagues at the Louisville VA, Chaplain Bren Bishop, has studied the history of the military and chaplains. He points to some of the massacres perpetrated by units of the American army and finds they did not have effective chaplains. War does terrible things to men and women and the Church must provide an active presence even on the battle field to maintain a humane spirit. 
We must also provide particular care to our Veterans who suffer the traumatic effects of war. No one is unchanged by the experience. Even the brutal experience of basic training must be integrated into a warrior's life when he or she reenters civilian life. 
During this month of November, as Americans honor Veterans, we remember Father Vincent R. Capodanno,
who was killed on a battlefield in Vietnam on September 4, 1967 as he gave physical and spiritual assistance to the dying Marines of the 1st Marine Division. Father Capodanno posthumously received the Medal of Honor, and in May 2006 the Catholic Church officially proclaimed him a Servant of God formally initiating his Cause for Sainthood.
Pray that God will bless our warriors with the courageous witness of effective chaplains from all religious traditions, and most especially that the Catholic Church will provide sufficient numbers of priests for the Army. As I understand, the American Army is one of the largest and most effective armies on earth and has less than sixty Catholic priests. They need our support. 

Wednesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Timec


Lake Quinault in
Olympic National Forest
It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested
and tortured with whips and scourges by the king,
to force them to eat pork in violation of God's law.

From its beginnings during the New Testament era, the Church has found "types" in the Old Testament that anticipate Jesus. This "typology"  ponders the ancient heroes and recognizes the spirit of Jesus long before he was born. Thus: Adam condemned all people by his sin and Jesus redeemed all by his fidelity; Abel was murdered and his blood cried out to heaven; Noah built a wooden ark and Jesus carried a wooden cross; Abraham offered his most precious son as Jesus offered his life; Isaac was the "first born son" to be offered; Moses gave the Law as Jesus gave the New Law; and so forth. Patriarchs, prophets and wisdom teachers are types who give us a key to understanding the mission of Jesus. 
Similarly, we find types of Mary in the Old Testament: Eve was the mother of all the living and Mary the mother of the Church; Sarah was the mother of the first-born son of Abraham and Jesus the first born son of Mary; Ruth traveled far from home as Mary left Galilee for Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Egypt; Judith and Esther prayed for their people as took enormous risks, as Mary also she prayed for her  people and was heard. 
But few of the women in the Bible demonstrate the ferocious courage and faith of Mary as well as the Maccabean widow. Saint John tells us Mary stood at the foot of the cross as Jesus died. She received his last breath as he "handed it over" to her and the Beloved Disciple. She might have been "baptized" in the blood and water that flowed from his side when he was pierced by the lance. (It's a grisly detail but this is a grisly story.) 

We can imagine Mary as fainting and keening as she endured his long agony, or we can imagine her supporting and encouraging her son with every fiber of her being:
"I do not know how you came into existence in my womb;it was not I who gave you the breath of life,nor was it I who set in orderthe elements of which each of you is composed.Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universewho shapes each man's beginning,as he brings about the origin of everything,he, in his mercy,will give you back both breath and life,because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law."
"Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months,nursed you for three years, brought you up,educated and supported you to your present age.I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earthand see all that is in them;then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things;and in the same way the human race came into existence.Do not be afraid of this executioner,but be worthy of your brothers and accept death,so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them." 
Even now Mary stands with us through the ordeals of anxiety, doubt and fear of mothers as they watch their children enter life. It was not easy for her; it is not easy for us. But we have her spirit, courageous, generous, gentle and fierce. And we thank God for her standing with us.