Saturday, July 31, 2021

I Alone Can Fix It (The Book)

A "carnival ride, jerking this way and that," is how the authors of I Alone Can Fix It characterize the early years of the Trump presidency in their Prologue to this sequel to their previous book about Trump, A Very Stable Genius. That "carnival ride" was then followed by Trump's "catastrophic fourth and final year," which Carol Lenning and Philip Rucker describe in detail in I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year (NY: Penguin Press, 2021).

Sold as yet another book about Trump,  Alone Can Fix It is as much a book about the pandemic and its tragic impact upon American society - and about the catastrophic failures of the Trump Administration's response to the pandemic, particularly at the beginning but throughout the year. What one of the coronavirus task force's members later recalled about one particular Trump-inflicted disaster could, one could conclude after reading this book, be applied to the entire experience of the Trump Administration's response to the pandemic: "It was just one of those completely disastrous moments that you could hardly believe you were a part of."

The authors' focus on the pandemic provides not only a coherent narrative but also fills the reader in on what was happening back in January and February of 2020, when most of us weren't yet paying attention. At the time, the political news I recall paying most attention to was the Democratic primaries. While the authors do discuss such non-pandemic events that were also taking place during those early months, such as the Soleimani assassination and Trump's first impeachment trial, they virtually ignore that stage of the campaign. While it is true that Biden's unexpected victory in the primaries effectively made much of what had preceded irrelevant, my guess is that President Trump must have taken some interest in what was going on at that time; and it would certainly be interesting to learn more about how he was processing all of that.

That said, the pandemic rightly takes center stage in the account of those early months because Trump's early failures to respond rightly really did set the stage for the rest of the year - both in terms of the health crisis it created and has perpetuated and in terms of Trump's failure to secure reelection. An interpretive key to what happened is provided by the account of Trump's conversation with Chris Christie on March 19.

"There is a way to handle a crisis where you meet people's expectations regardless of how the crisis is playing out," Christie reportedly told the president that day. In response to Trump's claim to be trying to reassure people, Christie said, "you can only reassure them with the truth, not with the stuff that they know from a common-sense-perspective can't be true." Christie's key point and waring was, "if you go further out there, extend yourself in terms of your level of concern, your level of preparedness for what the worst-case scenario is, you can always bring it back. If you go short of the mark in the beginning, you can't ever extend it"  (emphasis mine).

That, to me, seems to sum up both the story of Trump's failure with the pandemic and the story of his larger failures as president.

The authors effectively take us through the relatively familiar ground of the overall dysfunctionality of Trump's White House and the destructive interpersonal climate Trump created among his staff and government officials. And, of course there is the President's perennial problem of talking too much. As Atlanta's Mayor was quoted as saying during the crisis that followed George Floyd's murder: "He speaks, and he makes it worse. There are times when you should just be quiet. And I wish he would just be quiet." One gets the impression, Trump's staffers and allies must have felt similar sentiments on many occasions during the year covered by this book.

The book has rightly received much attention for the way it takes the reader through the episode of Trump's own illness and for its revelations about General Mark Milley's personal evolution and his concerns about the threats Trump posed for democracy and constitutional government.

All of which brings us to the catastrophic climax of the Trump presidency in his attempt to undermine the election and its results, a dangerously heightened expression of all the dysfunctions already described. Trump's horrifying post-election behavior represented another instance of his inability to alter a disastrous course once embraced: If you go short of the mark in the beginning, you can't ever extend it.

In recounting the frightening story of Trump's attempt to undermine and undo the 2020 election, the authors highlight the harm he was doing - "For most of the year, the nation had been a tinderbox, and Trump was splashing around kerosene with each false claim of a rigged election" and the bizarrely cultish character of his support. Speaking of the December 12 "Jericho March" rally in Washington, they describe how the rally's opening "felt like a cacophonic religious revival for Trump worshippers."

Leonning and Rucker offer yet another, quite riveting account of the terrible events of January 6  and the anticlimactic final two weeks of the Trump presidency. This section would seem especially relevant reading at this time when so many Republicans are contradicting the reality of what happened on January 6 and even mocking those who were actually attacked on that day. 

To this, the authors append a unique Epilogue, in which  they recount their strange, two and one-half hour, in-person interview with the former President at Mar-a-Lago on March 31 2021. At Mar-a-Lago, "Trump still rules, surrounded day and night by applauding fans, obsequious courtiers, and dutiful servants." There, "none fo the disgrace that marked the end of his presidency pierces Trump's reality." There, "the gospel according to Trump" is maintained "with the most important revelations being that Donald Trump was the greatest president of all time and was unjustly denied a second term."

That Trump in fact invited this interview (having previously declined to be interviewed for A Very Stable Genius and having then attacked the book and its authors) speaks volumes. It was obviously intended to highlight his unprecedented post-presidency as the undisputed ruler of the Republican world. In that world, the pre-pandemic part of his reign was an unqualified success (although, as the authors point out, his approval rating never rose above 46% in that period). Trump seems simultaneously to believe that the second part of his presidency, the pandemic, "killed his chances," and "that he actually had won, and handily."

Likewise, he simultaneously trashes people like Mike Pence, Bill Barr, Mitch McConnell, the Justices he put on the Supreme Court, and many others for failing him, while bragging about the loyalty and intensity of his base. For Leonning and Rucker, Trump's "extraordinary capacity to say things that were not true" was fully on display. This trait "had led Trump to the White House" and seems to be the basis for his quasi-cultic power even now.

It is that quasi-cultic power that gives books like this their importance. What would otherwise be but another account of human perfidy dressed up in classic political gossip gives us an insight into the dangerous forces that have been let loose in our land and in their ongoing, continued, and possibly increasing threat to whatever hopes one may have for a better American future.

Friday, July 30, 2021

More on Masks and Vaccines

It was not the kind of comment one might reasonably have expected from a high-ranking member of the Congressional leadership, but in a world where Republican misbehavior has long lost its capacity to shock, Keven McCarthy tweeted that requiring masks "is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to live in a perpetual pandemic state."

“He’s such a moron,” House speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly told reporters Wednesday when asked for her reaction.

It is, of course, one of the idiotic orthodoxies of pseudo-libertarian fantasy that "liberal government officials" are always looking to impose restrictions on the freedoms and liberty of others. Perhaps there really may be those who have been sufficiently deluded by party propaganda who will believe such nonsense. It is, however, highly unlikely that anyone - moron or not - who has risen to the level of leadership that McCarthy has, is really so deluded not to know that the single factor most powerfully pushing us into "a perpetual pandemic state" has been the failure of so many of our fellow citizens to get vaccinated - thereby prolonging the spread of the virus and enabling it to mutate into ever more dangerous variants.

Personally, I think that, if "liberal government officials" are to be faulted for anything, it should be for their reticence thus far in mandating vaccinations wherever they have the authority to do so. Frankly, the Biden Administration and Democratic officeholders have been slow in meeting this challenge. (Yesterday, President Biden finally announced that all federal employees will be required to be vaccinated or face frequent testing, as well as mask mandates and distancing rules in the workplace.) Meanwhile, for some strange reason we are still waiting while the Food and Drug Administration is taking its time to grant the vaccines full approval - rather than the current emergency use authorizations. Such full approval would eliminate the last semi-rational reason why some sub-set of people still resist receiving the vaccine. This is no time for traditional Washington "business as usual."

Compare our situation with France, for example, where once President Macron so much as suggested the likelihood of government mandate the number of vaccinations surged. The U.S. has a long history of requiring vaccinations against smallpox and other scourges of humanity. We need to do the same for the one weapon we have against covid. 

As Ezra Klein, for example, has noted in The New York Times:

"There is nothing new about this. We do not solely rely on argumentation to persuade people to wear seatbelts. A majority of states do not leave it to individual debaters to hash out whether you can smoke in indoor workplaces. Polio and measles were murderous, but their near elimination required vaccine mandates, not just public education. When George Washington wanted to protect his soldiers from smallpox, he made vaccinations mandatory. It worked."

That said, the main culprits in this tragic opera of vaccine resistance have been and remain Republican politicians, who obviously must know better but who in various ways and through their notorious media outlets have tolerated, encouraged, and even promoted vaccine resistance. If this disease continues to spread and sicken and kill people, if students have to miss more school, we know whom to blame.

Pope Francis has made it clear that it is morally acceptable to take any of the vaccines and said that we have the moral responsibility to get vaccinated. There is no moral or religus basis to exempt oneself from this obligation.

Meanwhile, I guess those who have acted responsibly and gotten vaccinated will be keeping their masks on for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Honoring Bethany's Sisters and Brother Together

By virtue of a Decree issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship last February, the Roman Rite has now caught up with the soundest traditions about Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and so starting tomorrow the three siblings will be celebrated together in one liturgical memorial. 

"The traditional uncertainty of the Latin Church about the identity of Mary - the Magdalene to whom Christ appeared after his resurrection, the sister of Martha, the sinner whose sins the Lord had forgiven - which resulted in the inclusion of Martha alone on 29 July in the Roman Calendar, has been resolved in recent studies and times, as attested by the current Roman Martyrology, which also commemorates Mary and Lazarus on that day. Moreover, in some particular calendars the three siblings are already celebrated together.

"Therefore, the Supreme Pontiff Pope FRANCIS, considering the important evangelical witness they offered in welcoming the Lord Jesus into their home, in listening to him attentively, in believing that he is the resurrection and the life, and accepting the proposal of this Dicastery, has decreed that 29 July be designated in the General Roman Calendar as the Memorial of Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus."

The full text can be accessed at:

And, pending the approval of the translation from Latin into English, the following interim text may be used for the Proper of the Mass:

This welcome development is long overdue, having been long complicated by centuries in which Mary of Magdala was incorrectly identified with Mary of Bethany and both incorrectly identified with Luke's "sinful woman." As the Decree notes, the three are already celebrated together in some particular calendars. According to some traditions, Martha and Mary have been included among the women who went to the tomb on Easter Sunday and saw the Risen Lord in Matthew's account. Also according to some traditions, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus all ended up in Cyprus and are buried there.

But as the decree makes clear, it is the unique relationship that they as a family had with Jesus - including Martha's hospitality to Jesus in her home and her profession of faith at Lazarus's tomb, Mary's attentive listening to Jesus - that this celebration highlights.

(Photo: Traditional Site of Lazarus' Tomb, Bethany, Israel)

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Free Food


Jesus’ famous feeding of 5000+ people is the one miracle story found in all 4 Gospels. That says something about its impact in the collective memory of the early Church. It may also reflect a greater familiarity with hunger and the preciousness of food in that society, something our affluence may make us less sensitive to.


Ancient tradition associates this event with a specific site on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, known as Tabgha, where a picturesque outdoor shrine commemorates it. When I visited the site almost 30 years ago, it was summer, but today’s Gospel [John 6:1-15] sites the event in spring (at Passover time), when grass grows abundantly in the area. John portrays the people sitting in groups on the grass, just as those fed by Elisha in today’s 1st reading [2 Kings 4:42-44] had probably done.


When I was a boy in the Bronx in the 1950s and early 1960s, our family – that is, the entire extended family full of aunts, uncles, and cousins – used to go on picnics practically every Sunday in summer. And, before my father bought his first car, that meant going by bus and train from home to the picnic ground. In those days, Sunday dinner was an absolutely fixed part of any Italian-American family’s Sunday. So, going on a picnic on a Sunday involved transporting enormous quantities of food, pots full of pasta and sausage and all sorts of other wonderful food. Looking back at it now, carrying all that with us on public transportation was an awful lot of work, but at the time we thought nothing of it. That’s just the way it was if you were going to have a picnic.


Of course, to have a picnic the food has to come from somewhere! Normally that means bringing it yourself. So it must have been in today’s Gospel story. Some, perhaps, had planned ahead and brought enough food for themselves. But maybe some hadn’t or hadn’t brought enough and so were hungry again. Meanwhile, Jesus recognized their need to be fed.


But it was the way Jesus responded to that need that was as striking and as memorable as what he actually did about it. “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” Jesus asked Philip. In effect, he was saying to Philip: these are our guests; we have to feed them! The disciples probably preferred for that to be someone else’s problem, not theirs! Poor Philip, not quite yet out of seminary, and already he already sounds over-stressed: “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little,” he laments.


Just down the path from this site, on the same shore, is another shrine, which marks where the Risen Lord later cooked breakfast for seven disciples and then commanded Peter to feed his sheep. In this instance, it seems Jesus was giving them a foretaste of that future responsibility.


Luckily for them, of course, Jesus was there to help, to demonstrate just what it means to be his Church in a hungry world. Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them.  Note that Jesus didn’t just magically make food out of nothing. He worked with what they had already, with the limited resources the people already had, and made them into something more – something God’s People have had to learn how to do ever since.


Our weekly celebration of the Eucharist reenacts - in a ritualized way - that famous meal. Here, we are nourished and then commanded in turn to feed and nourish one another – both literally and spiritually, and not just one another in a narrow sense, but the whole world, for, in God’s kingdom, there can be no providing just for oneself, no eating while others go hungry, no security at someone else’s expense. Good news kept to oneself is not the good news of Jesus.


Meanwhile, back at the Sea of Galilee, it appears that the people remembered the story of Elisha and so figured that Jesus was the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world. But it seems that they got only part of the message. Interpreting it in a narrow, self-absorbed way, they turned good news into bad – as has happened too often in human history.


Our world is hungry for the good news that God is sharing with us in his Son and which we are meant to share with the world. And, as he did with his disciples, Jesus is here to show us how – how to be the Church he is challenging us to be.

Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Saint Paul the Apostle Church, NY, NY, July 25, 2021.

(Image: Famous floor mosaic, Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel)

Friday, July 23, 2021

"Dear Elderly Friends"


This Sunday (the eve of the annual liturgical commemoration of Saints Joachim and Anne, Christ's grandparents) has been designated by Pope Francis as the First World Day for Grandparents and the ElderlyObviously I am not a grandparent, but at 73 I am certainly elderly - like the Pope himself who addressed his Message for this Sunday: Dear Grandfathers and Grandmothers, Dear Elderly Friends. 

That was a particularly nice touch on the Pope's part - to address his Message not just Dear Elderly, but Dear Elderly Friends. As we have increasingly come to appreciate, in our contemporary context of widespread loneliness and isolation, friends are fewer and fewer. For various reasons, fewer people are married, and fewer find much connection to others, thanks to the modern breakdown of traditional mediating social experiences based in churches, neighborhoods, and work. Many report having no close friends at all, a devastatingly burdensome state of affairs for all, but especially for us old folks.

In Giotto's famous fresco, The Dream of Joachim, Pope Francis finds an image "of those many sleepless nights, filled with memories, worries and longings to which many of us [elderly] have become accustomed." In Giotto's fresco, based on an episode in the 2nd-century Protoevangelium of James, the Lord sent an angel to console Joachim and his wife Anne in their elderly loneliness and isolation - feeling, Pope Francis reminds us "that became more acute during the pandemic."

Always interested in inclusion, Pope Francis includes the elderly in the Resurrected Lord's Great Commission to his Church. Jesus' words help us "understand that our vocation is to preserve our roots, to pass on the faith to the young, and to care for the little ones." As I noted, in my comments on the continuing controversies connected with the different forms of the Roman Rite, one of the preeminent challenges the Church faces right now is the increasingly inadequate response to the all-important task of sharing the faith from one generation to the next. What a challenge for us, the old, who long ago received the faith as a free gift from our families and the surrounding society, to pass it on as freely and as fully!

Quoting the prophet Joel, Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men will have visions, Francis reminds us how the world's future "depends on this covenant between the old and the young." For Francis, "Keeping memory alive is a true mission for every elderly person: keeping memory alive and sharing it with others." In this atomized, ahistorical world which, I fear, we have lamentably left as our legacy for future generations, memory may no longer be prized. "Without memory, however," Pope Francis warns, "we will never be able to build; without a foundation, we can never build a house. Never. And the foundation of life is memory."

Finally, Francis focuses on prayer. He cites his predecessor, Pope Benedict "a saintly person who continues to pray and work for the Church," who said "the prayer of the elderly can protect the world, helping it perhaps more effectively than the frenetic activity of many others." I recall a now deceased friend, who in his old age, retired from the active priestly ministry he had loved and devoted his entire adult life to, told me he saw his role as spending his newly free time in prayer.

Invoking the example of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, Francis reminds us "how it is possible, even in the solitude of one's own desert, to intercede for the poor of the whole world and to become, in truth, a universal brother or sister."

What a timely treasure is this reminder to all of what the elderly may yet have to offer! And what a challenge to all who are already elderly to respond to our mission in this world for the sake of the world as well as ourselves!

(Image: Giotto, Fresco, The Dream of Joachim, 1305, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua) 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Vaccine Politics

I am not a bishop. So I do not experience either the ordinary day-to-day difficulties of governing a 21st-century diocese, nor the cross-cutting and conflicting pressures that burden bishops in this era of post-Christendom ecclesial free-fall. That said, I have occasionally wondered what, were I in a position to address the People of God authoritatively, would I say? How might I responsibly respond to the multiple crises which increasingly envelope us (and which, with our characteristic complacency and inertia, we may all be inclined to ignore.) 

Obviously, the preeminent political and moral challenge that faces the world today is climate change, the catastrophic consequences of which we are all beginning to experience - no longer as predictions but in the present. In the immediate term, however, there is the very present-tense catastrophic calamity of covid-19. Worldwide this terrible disease has already claimed the lives of over four million, and in the United States over 600 thousand of our fellow-citizens. 

In the United States, however, covid-19 has become, thanks to the marvels of modern medicine and the science of vaccination, a totally preventable disease. What science accomplished with the effective eradication of smallpox and (in my own lifetime) the virtual elimination of polio, science has come to society's rescue again with the highly effective covid vaccines. When I was a child everyone int his country was automatically vaccinated against smallpox, and the first time I travelled abroad in 1970 I was required to carry along with my passport a document certifying that fact. I was already in school when first the Salk polio vaccines were introduced, followed later by the Sabin vaccines. Since then in most school systems today vaccinations against polio and numerous other ailments are routinely required  of all students. The same, obviously, ought to become the case with the covid vaccination. And I believe it would be an act of extreme moral irresponsibility to take any other course.

Yet, especially in certain sections of this country, typically those with the poorest political leadership, many remain unnecessarily unvaccinated, with the inevitable resulting increase in infections, hospitalizations and utterly unnecessary, preventable deaths - what has aptly been called a self-inflicted "pandemic of the unvaccinated." Allowing for invincible ignorance in those whose only source of information may be the falsehoods found on social media and on a certain supposed "news" network, the obvious response must be to counter that - both with actual facts and with responsible moral guidance in regard to those facts. After all, in the familiar words of the great 20th-century Thomist scholar Josef Pieper: "not only the end of human action but also the means for its realization shall be in keeping with the truth of real things" (The Four Cardinal Virtues, U. of Notre Dame Pr., 1966, p. 20).

For far too much of human history, the human race's ability to prevent or treat deadly diseases and epidemics was minimal at best. That is obviously no longer true. So our moral obligations to ourselves and to one another must reflect "the truth of real things" that is this change in our human circumstances.

So, if I were in a position authorizing me to do so, I would be addressing the People of God in a pastoral letter, recalling both the great blessings bestowed upon the human race by the responsible use of modern medicine and science, which now make practically possible what was once only utopian aspiration, and the perennial moral responsibility incumbent upon all to promote the common good.

According to the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (24):

"God, Who has fatherly concern for everyone, has willed that all men should constitute one family and treat one another in a spirit of brotherhood. For having been created in the image of God, Who "from one man has created the whole human race and made them live all over the face of the earth" (Acts 17:26), all men are called to one and the same goal, namely God Himself.

"For this reason, love for God and neighbor is the first and greatest commandment. Sacred Scripture, however, teaches us that the love of God cannot be separated from love of neighbor: "If there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.... Love therefore is the fulfillment of the Law" (Romans 13:9-10; cf. 1 John 4:20). To men growing daily more dependent on one another, and to a world becoming more unified every day, this truth proves to be of paramount importance."

There is no morally responsible escape from our obligations to one another in human society in our common home - including this current contemporary obligation: Everyone who is able to do so has a duty to be vaccinated as promptly as possible.

(Photo1955 newspaper headlines on the development of an effective polio vaccine.)

Friday, July 16, 2021

Sacrament of Unity

In the aftermath of today's Motu Proprio Traditiones Custodes, by which Pope Francis has further regulated liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite as it existed prior to the reforms of Pope Saint Paul VI, we will likely see lots of liturgists and canonists contending with one another about the exact extent and meaning of these new restrictions. On one side, we will likely see an increasingly angry, resentful, and rebellious attitude toward the Church's official liturgy and the established post-conciliar regime of which the novus ordo is one part. On the other side, we will likely see a continued unwillingness to face up to the multitude of social, political, and cultural factors which are reflected in both the apparent appeal of the ancient liturgy among some (especially the young) and the larger contemporary context of ecclesial exhaustion and decline.

There has always been a problematic aspect to the persistent popularity of the ancient rite, just as there has always been a problematic aspect to what Pope Francis calls "the eccentricities that can easily degenerate into abuses" in the celebration of the official rite. Pope Francis is to be lauded for his desire to restore unity "throughout the Church of the Roman Rite." It is clear that the pastoral concessions allowed by his predecessors to those who wish "to celebrate with devotion according to the earlier forms of the liturgy" - originally "motivated by the desire to foster the healing of the [Lefebvre] schism" with the "intention of restoring the unity of the Church" - have been "exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division."

It is an interesting, but ultimately unresolvable, historical speculation whether a more modest liturgical reform (along the lines of what Vatican II actually prescribed rather than what Paul VI actually did), a reform more charitably implemented and with better catechesis, could have avoided these decades of self-inflicted gaps, divergences, and disagreements that have in fact injured the Church, blocked her path, and exposed her to division. That is a question that can never be answered and so, for that reason, is increasingly irrelevant to our present predicament. Whatever the intrinsic merits of the competing liturgical forms, the social, political, and cultural context has completely changed since the 1960s. This means that the celebration of the historical and traditional liturgical rites, however aesthetically pleasing to those participating, cannot retrieve the lost social, political, and cultural context that many so-called "traditionalists" aspire to restore. Whatever the future may hold for the Church in the traditionally Christian countries where it is now so conspicuously in decline, the only viable course heading forward is within the framework of the Church's post-conciliar regime, which inevitably includes the Church's post-conciliar liturgy. 

Of course, that does not preclude a continued critique of "the eccentricities that can easily degenerate into abuses" in the celebration of the official rite and increased efforts to promote its celebration, "with decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books," as Pope Francis has once again asked. That too would go a  long way toward pacifying not all but many of those who feel their spiritual and aesthetic aspirations are unmet and to restoring the unity of the Roman Rite within what Pope Francis calls "the dynamic of Tradition."

As is well known, many alternative communities which celebrate the traditional liturgy are increasingly composed of younger people, who obviously have no memory of the social, political, and cultural context that supported the traditional liturgy. While some polemicists for the traditional rite may advance some sort of neo-integralist agenda, for many ordinary worshippers such congregations constitute supportive communities for young families eager to pass on their faith to their children - an environment less easily replicated in mainstream parishes with their increasingly aging congregations, many of whose children and grandchildren no longer attend Mass. If, as the Pope seems to have determined, allowing alternative communities organized around the celebration of the traditional Roman Rite is not a satisfactory solution to answer this need, then it behooves the Church - particularly parishes and diocesan structures - to recognize this situation and start responding to it in some other way. Without that, the present reform could conceivably only increase alienation and division.

It was certainly not the intention behind previous indults to encourage political polarization in the Church. That, however, has happened - and by no means exclusively in connection with the traditional liturgy. But, to the extent that alternative liturgical communities have fallen prey to politically divisive elements, that has distorted the context for which the previous indults were primarily intended. This, more than any other factor, would seem to explain this present reform.

Finally, let this be a reminder to all - on all sides of this debate - that the liturgy is not a matter of personal preference but "celebrations of the Church, which is the sacrament of unity." A lot of conflict could have been avoided these past 50+ years if those on all sides of this debate had maintained this principle as the priority.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Let's Make Friends

One of the more striking things about Mare of Easttown, the HBO series which I wrote about here on Saturday) is the interconnectedness of so many of the characters, so many of whom are related by blood, marriage, or friendship. As a relative outsider to the community, Detective Colin Zabel picks up on this quickly. At their first arrest, he asks Mare, if she is friends with these people, and is told that she is.  When Mare introduces him to the local pastor as her cousin, he says, "Of course." It is, of course, the closeness among the characters that makes their community seem so close and attractive in certain respects, but that also makes the secrets they hold and the things they do to one another even more tragic. The community comes across as so broken precisely because of the breaks within and among those powerfully precious circles of friendship (including but not limited to extended family networks).

Were he able to watch the show, Aristotle would undoubtedly quote himself: "No one would choose to live without friends, even if one had all other goods" (Nichomahean Ethics, VIII, 1). He would also note (in the very same chapter) how "Friendship also holds states together." Yet, he would likely also caution, "The wish to be friends can come about quickly, but friendship cannot" (VIII, 3).

That sad state of affairs is increasingly reflected in recent studies, for example, the most up-to-date data from the Survey Center on American Life, showing that 15% of men claim no close friends - up from only 3% in 1990 - and that only 15% report 10 or more friends. (Among women 10% say they have no close friends and only 11% have 10 or more.)

In "Lost Friendships Break Hearts and Nations," The Dispatch's David French ( cites such sad statistics and references on the decline of the extended family and of opportunities men to work and recreate together and how "the very nature of modern work ... often leaves us isolated and alone." French refers a lot to "The Politics of Loneliness is Totalitarian," by Damon Linker ( Linker in turn refers back to Hannah Arendt who famously connected the 20th-century rise of totalitarianism loneliness having become "an everyday of experience" for many. For Linker, "we're developing a in direction that will make more of us lonelier and more isolated. That is bound to lead to deep and increasingly widespread discontent with our way of life." He warns "that if loneliness and isolation become worse, so could our political pathologies." Unsurprisingly, Linker highlights "the wasting away of these intermediary institutions in civil society. Families are smaller than they used to be, and fewer people marry in the first place. Communities are fraying under economic pressures and as a result of social shifts. Fewer people go to church." The familiar list goes on.

Addressing this issue with a more explicitly spiritual focus (and within a Thomistic perspective) in "On the Necessity of Friendship and the Loss of It in Our Times," Monsignor Charles Pope ( highlights how we are increasingly mobile and often have little opportunity or need to interact with those in our neighborhood. Such factors, together with the rapid pace of or contemporary lives, get in the way of developing deep lasting friendships, without which "we remain incomplete." 

David French puts it best when he writes, "we were not created for power or prosperity. We were created for community and fellowship."

(Photo: Michelangelo's fresco, The Creation of Adam, part of the famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (painted between 1508 and1512), illustrating the Genesis creation account of God giving life to the first human being.)

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Take Nothing

Jesus instructed them to take nothing for the journey [Mark 6:7-13].


I am one of those people who finds travel – whether for a long or even a short distance – stressful. And I always stress over whether I have everything I need. Before I moved back to NY last January after 10 years as a pastor in Knoxville, TN, I gave away or threw away books, clothes, and lots of other things that I had accumulated in my 70+ years, but I still ended up bringing a lot with me – a lot more than I need, a lot more certainly than Jesus appears to have intended his followers to take along wherever they went. In general, whenever I go anywhere, I usually worry whether I have enough, which, of course, causes me to accumulate even more. And, as we all know, the amount of baggage one brings actually tends to increase along the way. So not only do I usually start with too much, I frequently finish with even more - this is the kind of problem that can only arise in a society such as ours, where most of us already have too many possessions to begin with.


Of course, even Jesus allowed his followers to have some things. He allowed a walking stick and sandals, which I suppose even he considered essential when going on a journey. But nothing else. I suppose the command to take nothing else was intended to stress the special nature of the journey – its urgency and importance - allowing no time for distractions and requiring complete commitment, as well as a whole lot of trust in the One who was sending them. Jesus seemed to be leading the Twelve into a kind of guided insecurity, sending them out as missionaries, without most of the props they would have been familiar with and normally might have depended on – separated from the routine of ordinary things in order to embrace fully the new reality of God’s kingdom.


Obviously, this was no ordinary move, let alone some sort of vacation trip, that the apostles were being sent on. What it was, in fact, was a kind of practice run for their future work as full-time missionaries. That mission, which they were being prepped for, is never finished (at least not in this life). Hence the command to travel light, lest constant accumulation weigh us down and get in the Kingdom of God’s way as it moves out into our world.


Of course, we are not all – or even most of us – called to be missionaries in the same way that they were.  But we are all part of that new kingdom of God that the apostles were appointed to proclaim, all expected to adopt the kingdom of God as our standard for how to live. So, what does that say about our relationship with things?


Obviously, no one – not even an apostle - ever wants to start out on a trip with insufficient supplies. Jesus himself makes precisely that point elsewhere in the Gospel. So, Jesus’ point here is, I suspect, not so much about the things themselves, which (whether many or few) are, after all, just things. No created thing is evil in itself, but all things can become obstacles if we let them. If we get focused exclusively on how many things we need to shed, then those things are still driving the discussion as surely as if we were carrying them all around with us.


But, if we are not to rely on things, then what can we rely on?  Obviously, the 12 were in some sense relying on Jesus, who gave them authority over unclean spirits. But that is the big picture. And, while the big picture may matter most, we don’t live just in the big picture, but also in the day-by-day, here-and-now, small stuff. And that is as true in our mission to advance the Kingdom of God as in any other human endeavor, in which we must depend on one another. So Jesus sent them out two by two, forcing them to learn to support one another and rely – not on individual talents and accomplishments – but on one another.


It is together, not as competitors but as a community, that we accomplish what we value most in human life – in our families, in our work, in society as a whole. And it is together, not as competitors but as a community, that the Kingdom of God grows and makes a difference in our world.

"We are always capable of going out of ourselves towards the other.,” wrote Pope Francis in his environmental encyclical Laudato Si’. “Unless we do this,” he warns, “other creatures will not be recognized for their true worth; we are unconcerned about caring for things for the sake of others; we fail to set limits on ourselves in order to avoid the suffering of others or the deterioration of our surroundings.” [208] 

Homily for the 15th Sunday on Ordinary Time, Church of Saint Paul the Apostle, NYC, July 11, 2021.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

"Our Job Is Only to Love"


"Binge-watching" has become an apt, if horribly inelegant, expression for an experience increasingly common in this past pandemic year. Although Mare of Easttown premiered on HBO back in April, I only recently discovered it. And, as befits the discovery of something so beautiful and precious, I immediately watched all seven episodes on HBO-on-Demand over the course of two days. The way each episode leaves one in suspense, eager to learn what happens next, only increases the likelihood that the viewer will want to go right to the next episode.

Mare of Easttown which features an amazingly fantastic cast, stars Kate Winslet as Mare, a personally traumatized, grieving police detective, obsessively pursuing a murder case (and the possibly related, possibly not, cases of two missing girls) in a Delaware County, PA, community, where everyone seems to know everyone else and many are related by blood or marriage. The struggling detective whose personal life seems to be completely falling apart is almost as familiar as the common plot line. But the viewer should not be lulled by this familiarity. Winslet's acting is amazing, as is the creative script and story. We watch Mare go about her police work with a studied intensity, which parallels the intensity of emotion bottled up inside her as she struggles with her own familiar dysfunction, pain, and grief. The show itself parallels her intensity, taking us on a veritable roller coaster through a diverse array of suspects, while digging deeply into the personal, familial, and communal pain that permeates this sad "blue-collar" community.

The latter element gives the story an especially poignant contemporary resonance. The setting, somewhere in the Philadelphia suburbs is, of course, Joe Biden country. Clearly, it could also be Trump country (or would be, if politics were actually directly addressed in the series, which it never explicitly is). The beautiful image of simple brick homes, their chimneys all lined up row by row and seen against the melancholy winter light, serves as the stage on which the multiple intersecting personal tragedies, familial and social dysfunctions, and increasing cultural collapse of "blue-collar" culture in post-industrial decline are dramatically displayed in families devastated by divorce, drugs, too much alcohol, and an aimlessness that seems inexorably inclined to violence.

On top of all that, but deeply embedded in it is religion, reflected in the (largely Irish-American) Catholic culture that permeates the community. Or does it? When the story starts, Mare doesn't go to church anymore, but the parish priest is her cousin,  and his assistant deacon has problems of his own, that  impact the investigation.  Crucially, the story is framed by two Sunday Mass scenes, the basic ritual of Catholic belonging, in which practically the entire community is (somewhat improbably) all gathered together, listening to two thematically significant sermons. This religious framing somewhat parallels the secular framing of a story of separation, with Mare's separation from her lost son at the start and another traumatic separation of a mother from her son at the end, with all sorts of other sorrowful separations in between. 

Given the cast's powerful performances and the great script they have to work with, the series could conceivably work quite well without the religion angle. In an interview, Brad Ingelsby, the series' creator, recalled his own Pennsylvania Catholic family background. Of course, the Church has long been one of the anchors of such communities, and 50 years ago those scenes where everyone is assembled at Mass might merely have reflected an ambient social reality, regardless of personal faith. Today, religion is as much a post-industrial casualty as are good-paying lifelong jobs, stable marriages, deferred gratification, and sobriety. Even so, the church scenes serve a very valuable purpose in showing most of the community together in one place, internalizing and reacting to their personal and commonly shared pains. 

But those scenes seem like more than merely an historical-cultural relic, a remnant of the good old days (which weren't really so good, as we also learn) - not unlike Mare's local semi-heroic status as the star (25 years earlier) on a winning high-school basketball team. Not is it just that past is always with us. In the second sermon, which captures the community after a year of turmoil that has exposed both individual and collective anguish, Deacon Mark tells his congregation, "Our job is only to love." This sets the stage for some final reconciliation - a hint of the power perennially present in the cultural remnant that is the Church, to the extent that she can remain empathetically rooted in the morally messy lives of those for whom the message of mercy is intended.

Friday, July 9, 2021

The Challenge of a Nation in Pain

Five years ago, when the author of the widely read Hillbilly Elegy was still presenting himself as a serious thinker before donning his new MAGA hat to serve as altar boy in the idolatrous Trump cult, J.D. Vance effectively analyzed our national Trumpist malaise. "Trump is cultural heroin," he famously wrote. "He makes some people feel better for it. But he cannot fix what ails them" (

What makes Vance's very well formulated former views still relevant, despite the depth to which he has since fallen, is that they really did diagnose at least some of the economic, aesthetic, domestic, political, and cultural dysfunctions that have brought our country to this crisis, which, like heroin itself, has "crept slowly" into American "families and communities - not by invasion but by invitation."

Employing his heroin/opioid analogy, Vance diagnosed the pain that so many seem to be seeking to dull. He identified economic pain, "as the factories that provided many U.S. towns and cities material security have downsized or altogether ceased to exist." He identified aesthetic pain, "as the storefronts that once made American towns beautiful and gave way to cash-for-gold stores and payday lenders." He identified domestic pain, "as rising divorce rates reveal home lives as dependable as steel-mill jobs." He identified political pain, "as Americans watch from afar while a government machine that rarely tries to speak to them, and acts in their interest even less, sputters alone. And he identified cultural pain, from the legitimate humiliation of losing wars fought by the nation's children to the illegitimate sense that some fall behind only because others jump ahead." 

The result has been what he calls "the vengeful joy of a Trump rally. That brief feeling of power, of defiance, of sending a message to the very political and media establishment that, for 45 years, has refused to listen. Trump brings power to those who hate their lack of it, and his message is tonic to communities that have felt nothing but decline for decades."

Meanwhile, of course, the establishment has continued to enjoy the opposite of decline. While jobs and homes were being lost, the Bush and Obama Administrations saved the perpetrators of the 2008 economic collapse. While riding to office in part on the unsatisfied anger of the victims of global capitalism, Trump promptly passed a tax cut for the richest elite in modern American history. And so on. Even now, as the hapless "infrastructure debate" drags pointlessly on, the political process continues to prove itself unable to repair our collapsing country, while the dysfunctional political elite remains enthralled by bygone fictions like "bipartisanship" and destructive elite rituals like the Senate filibuster.

There is more to the story, of course. All this largely unnecessary pain inflicted upon the many by the wealthy and powerful few has happened at a time of demographic and cultural transformation. Increased immigration and the election of our first non-white President did not cause these crises, but they triggered the neuralgic reactions long ago wired into our society by our national original sin of racism. No one needs to study "critical race theory" (whatever those words might actually mean outside academia) to know these basic facts of American history. One need only remember the violent overturning of Reconstruction (thus undoing what the military defeat of Confederate treason could have accomplished for fulfilling the American dream). Likewise, one need only remember the racist and anti-immigrant violence in the aftermath of World War I a century ago and the infamous anti-immigrant legislation of the 1920s.

That said, the pains Vance identified were real then and remain real now, intensified by the real and symbolic violence of the past five years, pains made even more acute by the economic, aesthetic, domestic, political, and cultural costs imposed on the overwhelming majority of Americans by the covid pandemic. Candidate Joe Biden's almost miraculous come-from-behind victory in the 2020 primaries opened a path for a majoritarian coalition to reclaim power. Yet, as long as government keeps proving itself increasingly incapable of resolving our nation's problems (even when a majority of voters have voted that way), we are in increasing danger of serious system collapse, culminating in extremist neo-populist tyranny.

It remains to be seen whether the Biden coalition can acquire sufficient political power - and relearn how to use it - in time to make a difference.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

After the Primary

The results of the NYC mayoral primary have now been finalized. In the final round of ranked-choice voting, Brooklyn Borough President and former police captain Eric Adams narrowly defeated former City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia

Adams led in the initial round with 31.8% of the vote. Maya Wiley came in second with 22.2%. and Kathryn Garcia came in third with 19.3%. The point of ranked-choice voting in situations such as this where no one candidate has a majority is to allow voters to indicate their second choice, thus hopefully producing a kind of consensus winner. In such a system, Adams' plurality need not necessarily have translated into an eventual majority, but in this case it narrowly did. by Round 7, with all but the top four candidates eliminated, Adams had 35.5%, Wiley 26.8%, Garcia 23.8%, and Andrew Yang 13.9%. Round 8 eliminate Yang and gave Adams 40.9%, Wiley 29.5%, and Garcia 29.6%. Garcia's narrow lead over Wiley eliminated her and resulted in the final round in which Adams won with 50.5% with Garcia second with 49.5%.

In the end, the result, while close, was clear. Adams carried every borough except Manhattan in the first-choice tally, and was the winner among working-class Black and Latino voters and also did well with white moderate voters who held more moderate views, which (as the NY Times noted) is similar to the coalition that gave the Democratic nomination to President Biden in 2020. 

Garcia was also popular with white moderate voters across the five boroughs, but dominated in wealthy Manhattan, where she appealed to highly educated, affluent voters, while doing less well with voters of color, but well enough overall to come in second over Wiley, the unambiguously progressive, left-wing candidate.

This would all seem to be further evidence of what we witnessed in the 2020 presidential primaries - the continuing role of Black voters as a moderating force in the Democratic Party, a party which has (largely though its own fault) lost much of its traditional white working class base, while meanwhile more and more of its more educated and affluent white non-working class voters have moved decisively in a direction that seems increasingly guaranteed to alienate much of both that traditional white working-class base that is gone and the (also predominantly working class) Black base that remains.

The lesson(s) for Democrats who would like to keep control of Congress in 2022 and want to keep Trump from being reelected in 2024 should be obvious. Given the importance of those goals for the survival of the Democratic Party and (more importantly) for the health of democratic and constitutional governance in this country, the relevance of these post-primary lessons should also be obvious.

(Image: The flag of the City of New York. The city's famous flag displays the Seal of New York City in blue in the white center bar of a blue, white, and orange vertical tricolor, representing the Prince of Orange's flag used in the original Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam, which eventually became New York.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Man of the Church

On this date in New York City in 1858, four American Catholic priests - all converts to Catholicism and all just recently released from membership in the Redemptorist Order - formed the Society of Missionary Priests of Saint Paul the Apostle, known ever since as the Paulist Fathers. Three days later, came the creation a new parish on Manhattan's West Side for the new community’s ministry, Saint Paul the Apostle, located near what is now Columbus Circle 

Their leader in this ambitious enterprise, Isaac Thomas Hecker (1819-1888), had been born to an immigrant family in New York City and from an early age had become convinced that God had some special plan for his life. His older brothers were bakers who founded a successful flour business, becoming quite wealthy in the process. Young Isaac worked in the family business and shared his brothers' political interests in Jacksonian democracy, but increasingly turned his attention to religious questions. Confident that “it is not reasonable to suppose that [God] would implant in the soul such an ardent thirst for truth and not reveal it,” he deepened his spiritual search for the truth, examining the varied options 19th-century American had to offer, until finally finding his way into the Catholic Church - “the place,” as he put it, “where it is supposed among Protestants the least to exist."

Like Christian history’s most famous spiritual seeker, Saint Augustine, Hecker had examined the leading intellectual and religious currents of his time, paying intense attention to his own inner spiritual sensibility, before finally finding a permanent home in the Roman Catholic Church in 1844. In our contemporary idiom, Hecker was “spiritual but not religious” for much of the first 25 years of his life. The very personal story of his spiritual search, of his intense attention to his own inner spiritual sense, eloquently exemplifies the perennially human appeal of such seeking and certainly speaks to the spiritual longings of some in our own (admittedly more secular) society today. But what was most significant about Hecker the seeker was that he did not remain that way. For Hecker, searching was never an end in itself. The point of seeking was finding. Once the object was found, the search ended. Having found fulfillment in the Catholic Church, he never desired to look farther. Rather, he desired to devote his life to helping others – especially other seekers, such as he himself had been – to find the truth in the Catholic Church. Hecker’s enthusiasm for his new faith and his commitment to the Church would permeate all his subsequent activities – from his initial conversion experience as recorded in his Diary, through his active ministry as a priest and missionary preacher, to his final mature exposition in his last book, The Church and the Age (1887). 


Fundamental to Hecker's experience was his recognition of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God acting to call him out of himself and into the Church. Animated by an increasingly conscious appreciation of God’s Providence, Hecker opened himself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, whose presence and action he discerned in God’s care for him, and through that experience he recognized the grace to attach himself to the Roman Catholic Church for the rest of his life. Himself a product of the religious fragmentation of American society, but drawn by God’s providential grace to seek the light of truth and find it in the unity of the Catholic Church, he then committed himself completely to share what he had found with others similarly inspired to seek and to find - and to whom his story continues to speak. All his diverse pastoral and missionary efforts and accomplishments would remain rooted in his abiding trust in God’s presence and action in his own life and in the world in which he lived. Reflecting upon his experience many years later, Hecker wrote that he “not only became a most firm believer in the mysteries of the Christian religion, but a priest and a religious, hopes thus to die.”


That enthusiastic embrace of the Church led him to that active vocation as a priest and religious, giving his all to cooperate with God’s grace in serving God, the Church, and his contemporaries. "I believe," he wrote, "that providence calls me to an active life; further, that he calls me to America to convert a certain class of persons amongst whom I found myself before my own conversion … But to convince me that this work will not be mine, and that I shall be only the mean instrument for the accomplishment of His designs, He wills me to be deprived of all human means, so that I shall not attribute his glory to myself. Contrary to my first provisions, He has unmistakably shown me that it is by neither learning nor eloquence that he calls me to convert others but solely by His grace and power."


Formed by Providence through the crucible of contradictory experience into a thoroughly committed “man of the Church” (as New York's Edward Cardinal Egan once described him), he lived a consecrated life of priestly mission as a parish pastor, a preacher of missions, a public speaker lecturing to Catholic and non-Catholic audiences, an author and apologist, and the founder of a religious community, which, as a canonically approved clerical Society of Apostolic Life in the contemporary Church, continues his charism, in the words of its Constitution, “to be a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit and a prophetic instrument for His sanctifying action.” It was precisely his love of his newly found faith, explains the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, “that led Isaac Hecker to dedicate his life to serving Christ and Catholic Americans.”


In his active ministry, Hecker focused on the Church’s perennially essential mission of evangelization, both within the Church and outward to the world – founding a congregation of priests whose ministry reflects his inspiration even today.  What he lacked in formal philosophical formation and theological precision was abundantly compensated for by his spiritual insight, docility to the Holy Spirit, and filial obedience to the divine authority of the Church. 

Like the 19th century’s most famous foreign observer and analyst of Jacksonian American society and institutions, the French nobleman Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), Hecker appreciated the problem posed by the fundamentally fragmented character of American society with its fragile connections among individuals, and the dilemma of how to create a community capable of uniting individuals consistent with their freedoms. While enthusiastically supporting the Church’s full spiritual authority over its own members, he envisaged a social solution in which individuals, converted to Catholicism as the answer to their deepest human aspirations and thus opened to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in their lives, would be empowered, by combining true religion and democratic political institutions, to develop this consensually based society along Catholic lines. His was a thoroughly religious form of discourse, uniquely capable of addressing social and political concerns. Prescinding from direct politics, Hecker anticipated overcoming the adverse consequences of liberal individualism at a social level through personal conversion and the consequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a recovery of the communal possibilities of democracy through overcoming the fragmenting forces he found in Protestant individualism.

Whereas for Hecker’s famous contemporary Karl Marx (1818-1883), religion meant alienation and its survival in society showed the inadequacy of its purely political separation from the state, for Hecker in contrast Roman Catholicism was the providential fulfillment of the most authentic aspirations of human nature; and its power to transform society through the conversion of citizens more than compensated for the Church’s loss of political power thanks to its separation from the State.

Although he is listed as Paulist General Superior and parish pastor from 1858 through his death in 1888, the last period of Hecker’s life was dominated by physical illness and emotional suffering. Even then, Hecker was hardly inactive. He was directly involved in the design and construction of the present Saint Paul the Apostle parish church in New York City. He also continued to contribute to the Catholic World, the monthly Catholic journal he had founded in 1865. The Church and the Age, published the year before Hecker’s death, remains the most comprehensive summary of his most mature thought on the themes that had preoccupied him for most of his life. It offers Hecker’s mature insights on his lifelong faith in the simultaneously interior action of the Holy Spirit within the individual and the Holy Spirit’s exterior action in the authority of the Church. It also represents Hecker’s final and mature formulation of his core convictions about the Church and the contemporary world in general and in particular the vexing question of Church and State in the United States, Italy, and France (the latter two being the countries where Church-State relations were persistently neuralgic at the time and where such issues had the most immediate impact on the government of the Universal Church).

Hecker was no systematic theologian and did not write as one. What he wrote was not some “theology” of the Holy Spirit but an appreciation of how the activity of the Holy Spirit is experienced in the Church and of the individual, ecclesial, and social effects which flow from openness to that divine activity in the world. Here Hecker effectively posited three renewals: that of the age (the world, society), dependent on that of religion (the Church), itself inseparable from that of the individual. Through the Church and its sacraments and its worship, “the object of Christ in the church is,” wrote Hecker in his later years, “to come in personal contact with the soul, and by the power of his grace to wash away its sins, communicate to it fellowship with God as the heavenly Father, and thereby to sanctify it.” 

Especially in his final years when burdened by illness, Hecker lived what one of his favorite spiritual authors, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, called “the sacrament of the present moment.” Caussade had written: “To be satisfied with the present moment is to relish and adore the divine will moving through all we have to do and suffer as events crowd in upon us.”


Through it all, Hecker lived a life of recognizable holiness. His reputation for sanctity was evident in his own lifetime and has continued to inspire pastoral and missionary zeal in the Church down to today. A decade after his death, the great Cardinal Gibbons wrote:

"He was undoubtedly a providential agent for the spread of the Catholic faith in our country, and did immense good by drawing non-Catholics nearer to us, allaying prejudice, obtaining a fair hearing for our holy religion, besides directly and indirectly making a multitude of converts. His spirit was that of a faithful child of Holy Church, every way Catholic in the fullest meaning of the term, and his life adorned with fruits of personal piety, but especially he was inspired with a zeal for souls of the true Apostolic order, aggressive and yet prudent, attracting Protestants and yet entirely orthodox."

Summarizing Hecker’s legacy, one of his 20th-century successors as Superior General of the Paulist Fathers, Joseph McSorley, wrote that Hecker manifested “a magnetic power commonly associated with personal holiness.”

In his life as a Catholic convert and a priest, Isaac Hecker practiced the theological and moral virtues to an heroic degree, confident that he was “living and working in the dawn of light of an approaching, brighter, more glorious future for God’s Holy Church.”

On May 23, 2006, the Paulist Fathers General Assembly, “conscious of the need for contemporary models of holiness,” resolved to promote the canonization cause of Paulist Founder, Father Isaac Hecker, declaring his life and teaching “truly a valuable resource that needs to be widely recognized and communicated,” that he “can inspire others beyond ourselves towards holiness of life, heroic virtue and personal faithfulness to Christ,” and that “the time has come” for Father Hecker’s story “to be disseminated throughout the larger church.”