Ad-Venire

“At this Christmas when Christ comes,
will He find a warm heart?
Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving
the others with God’s own love and concern.”

-Mother Teresa

This evening, I had the opportunity to attend a Rorate Caeli Mass at my home parish. It is a Mass about which I know very little, but it was quite beautiful! The Mass is a votive Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The entire church was lit by only candles, and some of the seminarians from my diocese were there to chant some of the Mass parts. Also, when it came to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest celebrated ad orientem – to the East – so that the priest was facing the same direction as the people. The Mass was indeed beautiful. Father’s homily was especially wonderful. I had never heard this priest from my parish preach, but I learned this evening that he is a great homilist. He reflected on two things as we approach Christmas throughout this Advent season. Those two things are what I would like to reflect on here.

Firstly, Father discussed the ad orientem posture of the Mass. He explained that it is an ancient posture of the Church, by which the priest and the congregation all face in the same direction. Everyone faces the East (or liturgical East) in anticipation of the coming Christ, both in the Incarnation and in the Second Coming. Therefore, it is a most appropriate posture to take during this Advent season, for we indeed anticipate the coming Christ. We look to the East as we seek to wait for the Lord. Christmas is the joyous season in which we remember when the Jesus Christ was born. The Advent seasons is a semi-penitential season in which the Church anticipates Christ’s coming at Christmas, at the Second Coming, and in our hearts. We are encouraged to utilize this season in order to prepare ourselves to bear Christ.

That leads us to the next portion of what Father discussed. God gives us a lovely and perfect exampleMary Help of Christians to follow as we seek to prepare our hearts for Christmas, for the coming of Christ: the Blessed Virgin Mary. While it is common for Protestants to neglect Marian devotion, we Catholics recognize her as a gift from God. God did not have to become man through the Blessed Virgin, but He did, and so we venerate His Mother as our own. During her pregnancy and during Christ’s childhood, the Blessed Virgin Mary had a relationship with Jesus more intimate than any other person would ever have. Having born the Christ to the world, Mary knows what it is that will make us worthy to bear Him. We must turn to Mary, to her intercession, to her love, so that we may be truly worthy and truly prepared to bear Jesus Christ within us. We must constantly turn to the Blessed Virgin, so that, as much as she is present within us, so too will Christ be present within us.

“Lovely Lady dressed in blue –
Teach me how to pray!

God was just your little boy,
Tell me what to say!

Did you lift Him up, sometimes,
Gently on your knee?
Did you sing to Him the way
Mother does to me?

Did you hold His hand at night?
Did you ever try
Telling stories of the world?
O! And did He cry?

Do you really think He cares
If I tell Him things –
Little things that happen? And
Do the Angels’ wings

Make a noise? And can He hear
Me if I speak low?
Does He understand me now?
Tell me – for you know.

Lovely Lady dressed in blue – 
Teach me how to pray!
God was just your little boy,
And you know the way.”

-Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue

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True Love Wins

“Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous,

it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

-1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

 There are so many things that I would like to say and tRainbow Flaghat need to be said. For a day that has been described as an immensely dark day and a day of victory, nothing more should be expected. Many people have expressed their great sorrow; others their great joy. Yesterday, 26 June 2o15, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that “same-sex couples should be able to exercise the right to marry in all states” (CNN). There are indeed many things to be said.

Firstly, no matter what side you find yourself on, it is important to approach dialogue with charity and understanding. Why would we discuss issues without the desire to understand the other? Why would we dialogue without seeking to bring others to gain understanding on our own beliefs? Truth and understanding should be the aim of all dialogue. Without it, dialogue goes nowhere. When we desire for others to know the truth, it helps shape our discussion into something worth taking note of. Charity must serve the soul of our discussion. Desiring the good of the other, and speaking with love and charity, we can formulate a discussion that does not result in two (or more) angered parties, but rather, we may find ourselves with greater understanding of the other, along with becoming more closely bonded as fellow human persons. I’m sure that we all know someone who has a different opinion on this topic than we do. No matter what, we must speak to them with love. We cannot condemn them. We cannot call them bigots. We must give them the respect that they deserve. All humans have inherent dignity. We must show them the respect that comes with that dignity. No, I do not expect to change anyone’s mind’s with this blog post, but I do hope to bring others to an understanding of my belief.

Next, the attitude of Americans toward the government doesn’t seem to make much sense to me. Firstly, people seem to be flip-flopping on their opinion. One minute, they are tearing down police officers, proclaiming “No justice, no peace.” The next minute, they are raving about the great decision of the Supreme Court. It seems like the government is only a good thing when convenient for us. Let’s riot and tear down the institution when they upset me. Let’s praise the government when they make the decisions that align with my beliefs. We must take our government for what it is. If we desire to have a different government, it doesn’t make sense to praise that government we seem to hate for making that decision we like.

Next, I want to discuss this idea of love. In regards to this issue, many people say that “love is love.” That’s both right and wrong. It’s right in saying that the love between a same-sex couple is the same as the love between a heterosexual couple. However, not all loves are the same; not all loves are created equal. The Greeks refer to four different kinds of love: storgephiliaeros, and agape. There are different extents to which we say we love people and things, so it only makes sense for them to be on different levels. Firstly, there is storge, which is a form of affection. It is seen, sometimes, as a familial love – the love amongst family members. It can also be amongst friends, colleagues, and between pets and owners. Next, there is philia, which is brotherly love. “I love my friends.” It can be understood as friendship or affection. Next, there is eros, which is intimate or romantic love. This would be the love one has for a significant other. Lastly, there is agape, which is a selfless love. Agape is seen as the pinnacle of all love, for it is the perfection of all love. All love aims for agape, for it forgets the self entirely for the sake of the other.

Now, in regards to marriage, to say that “love is love” does not really mean anything. Yes, love is obviously a necessary prerequisite for marriage. But only when one understands the end of marriage can that love become fruitful in resulting in a marriage. The union of the two spouses is a necessary element of the marital union. There is a second element that is immensely connected with the definition of marriage, which is something beyond us that we could not just redefine to our own liking – contrary to what many people think. Marriage aims at the procreation of and care for children. In a same-sex union, that is not possible. Yes, they can adopt and raise children that way, but they are unable to bear children between the two of them. Marriage recognizes the immense complementarity between the human biology of man and woman. Independent of each other, it does not make sense. Bring together a man and another man, it doesn’t make sense. Bring together two women, it doesn’t make sense. Marriage recognizes the complementarity and honors it, as the man and the woman come together to express their love for each other “till death do [they] part.” Yes, love is necessary for marriage, but so is that complementarity between man’s biology and woman’s biology.

No one is saying that there cannot be same-sex unions. If you desire to join together to express your love and be recognized by the law, I cannot stop you. However, to call those unions marriages is contrary to the very nature of a marriage. We cannot change the natures of things, whether we like it or not.

Some people bring up divorce against the argument of ‘same-sex marriage’ as a sin against marriage. However, ‘same-sex marriage’ and divorce are both contrary to the nature of marriage. We have been fighting against divorce for decades, centuries, millennia! Jesus Himself expressed divorce as something allowed for the hard-hearted (Matthew 19:1-12). Just because we do not want same-sex marriage does not mean that we have stopped fighting against divorce. We desire the sanctity of marriage to be upheld. Theology of the Body has remained something very important to the Church. Therefore, while we fight against divorce, we also take up the fight to redefine marriage, because we have not the power to redefine it.

I hope that you have grown in understanding of my belief. Here is a video expressing the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality.

“Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift,
which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls,
with whom they make up a sole family – a domestic church.”

-Pope St. John Paul II

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Domine, Non Sum Dignus

“Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word,
and my soul shall be healed.”

-Roman Missal

For Roman Catholics, these words should sound very familiar. Except for a few altered words, we have said these words at every Mass for our whole lives. The Church calls for a “full and active participation by all the people [as] the aim to be considered before all else” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14). Full and active participation means saying the words, doing the actions, praying the prayers, and meaning what we say, do, and pray. No, that’s not always easy, but we are called to constantly make that effort for full and active participation. What’s the point if we are not going to devote every fiber of our being to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? The Eucharist is called the “fount and apex of the whole Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11). [The normal language we hear is ‘source and summit,’ but, in the original document, ‘fount and apex’ was used, and I like the sound of that better.] The Eucharist is that from which the Christian life flows and that which it seeks. Does it not deserve our entire selves?

So once again I say: we have heard and said basically these words for most of our lives. HortonHow often have we actually stepped back to actually think about what we are saying? We are standing before the Lord, the God of the Universe, celebrating the earthly liturgy that reflects that heavenly liturgy. Maybe it’s just me, but maybe we should mean what we say. God knows the very depths of our souls. He knows when we tell the truth and when we lie. He knows how much we invest of ourselves into what we do. So should we not give a little thought to what we say and do? Even more so, should we not give a little (or a lot) more thought to what we say and do to God? It seems to me that the obvious answer would indeed be ‘YES!’

How much do you give thought to the words we say at Mass, or the words you say in prayer? I don’t intend to make any sort of judgment about you, but think about it: you can be your own judge, for only you (and God) know what you think in your prayer. Sometimes we can seem to lie to ourselves when we make our prayers to God. We convince ourselves that we can lie to God. Like I said above, He knows man’s heart – ‘the innermost or central part of anything.’ There’s nothing about us that God does not know. He created us, for crying out loud! We can lie to ourselves as much as we want, but that won’t have any effect on the Creator of Heaven and Earth. With that in mind, it seems like one should have a desire to reject any tendency to lie to oneself. In the grand scheme of things, we’re doing nothing but harming ourselves and our relationship with the One for which we were created.

That is something that we should indeed desire to keep in mind as we go forward to celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi tomorrow. We celebrate the Body of Christ. That term does indeed refer to several things, including the Church and the Blessed Sacrament. On tomorrow’s Solemnity, the Church seeks to specifically call to mind the importance of the Eucharist in her life and mission. Now, the Mass is indeed important. I repeat, it is IMPORTANT! I still don’t think that adequately states the importance of the Mass. Christians through the centuries have spoken on the centrality and importance of the Mass, coming up with far better words than I ever could:

St. John Chrysostom: “When the Eucharist is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar.”

St. John Vianney: “If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.”

St. Thomas Aquinas: “The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross.”

So many more saints have spoken on the greatness of the Mass and the immensity of the implications of this prayer of the Church. With that in mind, shouldn’t it strike us even more necessary to believe every word we speak within the context of the Mass???

The above were all thoughts that everyone should keep in mind. The following is a matter of my own personal preference that I would like to present for consideration.

When I say the words ‘Lord I am not worthy,’ I can’t help but take those to heart. We are about to receive the God of the Universe into our bodies. An intimate connection that is merely a foretaste of the heavenly communion we look forward to experiencing. We are sinful human beings. We could not deserve Christ’s gift of His Body,St. Pio Receiving Communion but He desires to give it to us anyway. Christ’s gracious gift calls for a humble reaction. What are my hands that they should be able to place the Eucharist upon my tongue? The priest is said to be In persona Christi. By allowing the priest himself to place the host on our tongue, we are allowing Christ to feed us Himself with Himself. I don’t want to claim to have the ability to grant myself that Gift. Why do we kneel in prayer? It’s a sign of humility, a sign of our smallness, a sign of our recognition of the One greater than us. That is why I kneel to receive the Eucharist on my tongue. I don’t have any desire to be noticed or to give off the holier-than-thou impression. (I actually hate when I get attention, especially for receiving communion.) I desire to be as humble in my reception of Christ’s Body as I know how. It was the tradition for centuries to receive on the tongue whilst kneeling. I don’t expect everyone to revert back to that, but I do desire for everyone to consciously think about that which they are receiving in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

‘O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.’

On this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, I encourage you to step back and reflect on how you approach the Blessed Sacrament. The Lord humbled Himself to die on a Cross and grant the Church His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to receive. I call you on to think about your reception of that Gift. Maybe you think you should receive on the knees. Maybe you think you should begin receiving on the tongue. Or maybe you think you should just be more conscious about how you receive the Lord into your body. Whatever it is, I encourage you to seek to receive the Eucharist more humbly, more thankfully, and more consciously.

““Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated,
I put before you the one great thing to love on earth:
the Blessed Sacrament. . . .
There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity,
and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death.”

-J.R.R. Tolkien

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Mawwiage…That Bwessed Awwangement

“There is nothing nobler or more admirable
than when two people who see eye to eye
keep house as man and wife,
confounding their enemies
and delighting their friends.”

-Homer

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to be a groomsman in my brother’s wedding. I’ve been to weddings before. I’ve participated in several, including serving some. I’ve had a few cousins get married, but this was the first time I had really been so close to the bride and groom. I can’t say I’m very close to my brother, but I did grow up with him, so I guess you could say I’ve known him all my life. So when I stood at the foot of the sanctuary last Saturday and watched as my brother gave himself in Marriage, and I couldn’t help but be hit by the immense reality of this great sacrament.

To the person who does not really understand Marriage, the wedding ceremony might seem a little odd to them. Here are two people saying that they will be with each other for the rest of their lives. Sometimes they will be crying. Their friends and family are crying. Wait… Is it a happy or sad occasion?? There is nothing sad about giving oneself entirely to another person. On the contrary, those who cry are struck by the beauty of the ceremony.

This man and this woman have been commissioned by the Lord. They are called to give themselves totally, faithfully, fruitfully, and freely to the other and for the sake of the other. They are called to lead their spouse and their children to heaven. This is integral to marriage: it is for the sake of the other. They are called to sacrifice their own wills, their own desires for the other’s sake. The vocation of marriage is supposed to be that icon of the love of Christ and the Church. There is a reason why it is called giving oneself in marriage: Marriage is a pure gift of self.

The all-too-controversial excerpt from Ephesians 5 expresses just that. However, the beginning of that excerpt seems to be skipped over: “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” (I. 5:21). That must be understood: both are called to be subordinate to each other. Different but EqualBut, when wives are called to be subordinate to their husbands, they are not called to degrade themselves. Subordination does not offend one’s dignity, but reveals a certain humility. When husbands are called to love their wives as their own bodies, it further reveals this difference in roles. If the husband and the wife had the same roles in marriage, it would be just like having two heads, or two bodies. That doesn’t really work. Just as Christ laid down His life for His spouse, the Church, a husband is called to lay down his life for his spouse. Husband and wife are called to make sacrifices for the other, but in different ways. The sacrament of Marriage reveals how man and woman are truly different, but also equal.

As I said above, marriage consists of man and woman giving completely of themselves for the sake of the other. It is a sacrament of sacrificial love. All people are called to die to themselves everyday. The married couple possesses a more specific calling in this manner: they are called to die to themselves in service of the other. Holy Orders and Marriage are referred to as the Sacraments at the Service of Communion – for the salvation of others. Marriage is ultimately intended for the other’s sake. Love is defined by St. Thomas Aquinas as willing the good of the beloved. By giving oneself to their spouse, husband and wife indeed will the other’s good by seeking to bring them to Heaven.

When it comes toChrist on the Cross marriage, it can be easy to get caught up in the ceremony, the tradition, the ritual, and the idea of love. However, marriage is obviously so much more than that. A man and a woman are joined together in order that they may lead each other to Heaven. Don’t get me wrong: there is merit in ceremony and tradition. However, those are only means to an end: bringing together the two called to Marriage, in order for them to begin their lives together in sacrificial love. A true marriage cannot lack sacrifice. The lover seeks to sacrifice for their beloved without counting the cost.

To my brother and my new sister-in-law, and to all those embarking on the journey of marriage, I pray that your lifelong companionship may be filled with love and sacrifice, that you may truly be each other’s guides to the Heavenly Kingdom.

“Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing I am doing your will.”

-‘Prayer for Generosity,’ St. Ignatius of Loyola

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