Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
offer opportunities to experience. There may still be accomplishments ahead. (I certainly hope so!) Even so, at 63 one naturally tends to look back more than ahead. I also can't help but recall that, when I entered the Paulists in 1981, 63 was "retirement" age. Not that everyone necessarily "retired" at that age, of course, but it did serve as a certain sort of marker. Remembering that, it still serves as a marker (even though the Paulists have wisely long since raised the age for what we now call "Senior Ministry Status" to the much more appropriate age of 70).
As a new pastor in a new city, I certainly have enough to keep me busy and active, and I have no interest whatever in "retirement" (however labelled). On the other hand, I'm not what I was at 23 or 33 or 43 or, for that matter, even 53! However earnestly I may try to respond to the expectations and fulfill all the demands placed on me, chances are I will fall short of what someone younger and more energetic could accomplish. The value society places on being young and beautiful is partly esthetic, to be sure, but it is also functional. If ageing is about anything it is about the (hopefully gradual) diminishment of one's strength and ability. Then again, as a certain
Secretary of Defense famously said, "You go to war with the army that you have."
That said, I think there really is something to the idea that there is a certain wisdom to be found in old age - not just knowledge (although accumulated knowledge of life has certianly made me "wiser" than I was at 23 or 33 or 43 or 53), and not just experience (although again lived experience certainly has taught me a lot and has definitely maked me "wiser" for it). There is also an emotional development that seems to occur over time as one works one's way through the joys and sorrows of life, its attainments and its learning to let go (especially that). Some things that seemed to matter a lot years ago matter less - and vice versa. At any rate, things matter differently. But, while passion is certainly subdued, emotion remains acute. The desire to be loved and to love is every bit as real as it ever was, but the ability to love has undergone development - for the better.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
Besides being the 2nd Sunday in Lent and the 1st day of Spring, yesterday was also the anniversary of my first blog post. While hardly an occasion of world-historical significance, it certainly at least warrants a moment’s reflection – if only to consider whether these 182 postings to date have been worth it (and are worth continuing).
Although I can often talk easily and at length, I frequently find writing much more onerous – one reason perhaps why I was never really cut out to be an academic. I have always envied people who can write, for example, a regular newspaper column. (To some extent, that’s what a blog tries to approximate – without, of course, the mass audience!).
Some of my postings have been Sunday or occasional homilies preached primarily either at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City or, more recently, at Immaculate Conception Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Averaging approximately one such homily per week, that means somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of my postings would have been composed in any case, blog or no blog.
The other postings run the gamut of social, political, and personal reflections - all of varying length, significance and (one must also assume) quality. Certainly, a lot has happened in society and politics these past 12 months to warrant my modest reflections. A lot has happened in my personal life too, only some of which - for example, my moving from New York to Knoxville - has found its way onto the pages of this blog.
In creative writing terms, perhaps it seems like "cheating" to have included so many homilies, all of which would have been composed in any case, blog or no blog. On the other hand, the fact that one-quarter to one-third of these posts have been homilies does say something significant. The fact that so much of my blogging has been explicit preaching - preaching that took place in a church as part of a liturgy - highlights that I am very much a preacher. Preaching is a central dimension of my vocation as a priest and a Paulist - ordained to proclaim to the world the Word of God in all its fullness in the Person of Jesus Christ, accessible in the life of the Church. I don't only preach, of course; and I am far from being a stellar preacher by any standard or measure; but preaching is at the heart of who I am; and it seems only right to reflect that in these pages.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
In the New Testament, however, St. Joseph appears only briefly (and silently) in connection with the early life of Jesus. Matthew’s gospel praises him as a righteous man [Matthew 1:19], but significant devotion to him did not develop until much later. Amid the many calamities of 14th and 15th century Europe, however, popular preachers like St. Bernardine of Siena saw St. Joseph as a model family head and household administrator. In the 16th century, St. Teresa of Avila placed her reform of the Carmelites — and the dangerous journeys it involved — under his protection. As part of the Counter-Reformation’s strategy of re-evangelization, families were encouraged to imitate the Holy Family headed by St. Joseph. In 1729, his name was inserted in the Litany of Saints. After the Kingdom of Italy conquered Rome from the Pope in 1870, Blessed Pope Pius IX proclaimed him the Patron of the Universal Church, under which title the Church venerates him today. In 1955, Pope Pius XII established an additional new feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1, to counteract the Socialist-Communist May Day holiday. In 1961, Bl. Pope John XXIII made St. Joseph patron of Vatican Council II, and the following year inserted his name in the Roman canon (et beati Ioseph, eiusdem Virginis Sponsi).
In 1851, a group of Redemptorist missionaries (among them the relatively recently ordained Isaac Hecker) sailed from Europe to the U.S. Delayed by bad weather, they made a novena to St. Joseph in the hope of arriving in New York by March 19. “St. Joseph will have to do his very prettiest to get us in,” the Captain retorted. On March 16, he said “St. Joseph can’t do it – give it up.” But the priests persevered in their prayers. That night the wind changed, and the ship began to speed – at 14 m.p.h.! After 52 days at sea, the ship arrived in New York on March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, and the Redemptorists were soon ready to commence the first English-language parish mission in the U.S. - at St. Joseph’s Church in Manhattan.
In one of his most famous sermons (“The Saint of Our Day,” preached in New York 1863), Isaac Hecker, said of St. Joseph: “His virtue was like the light, colorless because it was complete. He was an all-sided man. He combined in himself the sanctities of different and variously separated states and conditions. … He was in the world and found God where he was. He sanctified his work by carrying God with him into the workshop. … He attained in society and human relationships a degree of perfection not surpassed, if equaled, by the martyr’s death, the contemplative of the solitude, the cloistered monk, or the missionary hero.”
Friday, March 18, 2011
For whatever reason – perhaps because this second book deals with the Passion narratives or perhaps for purely personal circumstantial factors – I found the second book both easier to read and more interesting. The Pope’s approach – alluding to and occasionally answering academic theories but always rooted in the text itself and in the ancient traditions of patristic interpretation – is engaging and clearly oriented toward its stated goal “to make possible a personal relationship with Jesus.”
It is always refreshing to read a work which takes the canonical text and the way it has been interpreted int he Church's life seriously as a fundamental point of departure. Since the book basically covers Holy Week and Easter, it offers some fresh insights for prayer and preaching as Holy Week approaches.
With their personal books, Pope Benedict and his soon-to-be-beatified predecessor, Pope John Paul II, have certainly raised the bar in terms of what will now be expected intellectually from contemporary popes!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Unlike Patrick’s home island of Britain, Ireland had never been part of the Roman Empire. It was beyond the borders of what then constituted civilization. St. Patrick stands out as one of the first in Western Christian history to feel the imperative to evangelize beyond the borders of the Empire, to take literally the the Gospel’s mandate to teach all nations. In his Confession, Patrick described his sense of mission. “I want to spend myself in that country, even in death, if the Lord should grant me this favor. I am deply in his debt, for he gave me the great grace that through me many peoples should be reborn in God, and then made perfect by confirmation and everywhere among them clergy ordained for a people so recently coming to believe, one people gathered by the Lord from the ends of the earth. ... It is among that people that I want to wait for the promise made by him, who assuredly never tells a lie. ... This is our faith: believers are to come from the whole world.”