Tassel of the Cloak

Rock On, Journey

The classic rock band from the 1970s and 80s, Journey, is not a Christian rock band, but one could look at the titles of some of the songs and see an implicit spirituality.  There is Faithfully, Open Arms, The Wheel in the Sky, and, of course their most famous song of all, Don't Stop Believin'.  Interestingly enough, the composer of all of those above songs was the keyboardist for Journey, Jonathan Cain.

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The Miracle of Hiroshima

On August 6th, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped "Little Boy" on Hiroshima, killing instantly 140,000 people and completely obliterating everything within a mile and a half radius.  Buildings ten miles away were brought down from the blast.  Over 200,000 more would die shortly thereafter from radiation.  The atomic bomb destroyed just about everything and everyone.  Just about.   

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Mary, the Mirror of the Church

Karst is a type of terrain characterized by hidden rivers and lakes.  Typically the terrain consists of limestone, as this easily erodes, and the section of stone underneath the surface has been dissolved.  Most cave systems in the world are karst areas.  Likewise, there are "karstic" rivers, which can flow below the ground at points.  If the soil is dense, the water will be on the surface; if porous, it will be underground. 

 

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The Routine of Love

Do you have daily routines that ground you in something you consider important?  A ritual of sorts that makes you recall your motivating factor or your original desire for something or someone?  I, for instance, try each morning as soon as I wake up to make a sign of the cross and then nod in the direction of the only picture I have in my bedroom: that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  It reminds me of why I am a priest: because I love Jesus Christ more than anything in the world. 

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Little Li

Little Li grew up in communist China in the 1950s. Taught by nuns in her local parochial school, the ten-year-old once asked the nuns why Jesus didn't instead say, "Give us this day our daily rice?" One day communist soldiers came into the village and, after ransacking the school, ordered everyone into the church.  The commandant blasphemed Christ and had his soldiers fire at the tabernacle.  He then proceeded to take the ciborium out of the broken door and fling all the consecrated hosts over the church.  After locking Father Luke, the pastor, inside a coal bin in the church, he threatened that anyone who went into the church would be shot. 

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The Balanced Community

Some people crave privacy, others the company of others.  Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who spent three years in Nazi concentration camps, yearned for solitude.  Crowded in barracks and observed constantly by guards, prisoners were never alone.  Frankl wrote:  "It is well known that an enforced community life, in which attention is paid to everything one does at all times, may result in an irresistible urge to get away, at least for a short while. The prisoner craved to be alone with himself and his thoughts." (Man's Search for Meaning, 61). 

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The Best and the Brightest

The Best and the Brightest is the title of David Halberstam's 1972 book chronicling the Kennedy administration. I keep it on my shelf and look at it whenever my ego inflates and I feel smart.  The title is satirical. Characters like McGeorge Bundy, Dean Rusk, and Robert McNamara, who composed JFK's cabinet and staff, were part of the intellectual elite.  They were Ivy-League graduates, PhDs, Rhodes Scholars, and successful CEOs. 

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Rejection

East of Eden by John Steinbeck is one large allusion to the Book of Genesis. The title of the novel is literally taken from Genesis 4:16. One of the crucial passages, in my opinion, comes when one of the main characters, Adam, is debating what to name his twin boys. He settles on Caleb and Aron, but not before discussing Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel because God favored Abel's offering of an animal more than Cain's offering of grain. Lee, Adam's steward, articulates:

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Celibacy

Why are priests unable to marry? I am asked this frequently. Let me discuss Mohandas Gandhi, who took a vow of celibacy.

Celibacy is called Brachmacharya in the Hindu custom and it signifies total self-control. Disintegrating qualities, such as anger and vanity, are eliminated in this way of life. From the position of control, the celibate can make a total gift of himself to others. Gandhi sought to give himself entirely to his countrymen, and so at age 37 he renounced marriage and the pleasures of the flesh. He felt his love for others was more available and authentic. It is for a similar reason that he fasted. He wanted to be less self-centered and completely dedicated to others. “I fasted,” Gandhi said, “to reform those who loved me.”

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Follow the Leader to Victory

Jesus healed many people for the three years he was on this earth, but there were many more he did not heal. Were those select individuals in that select spot on the earth in that select time period the only ones to experience Jesus? No. Let us explain using the image of D-Day. Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944 was arguably the most significant event of WWII. But the battle did not end the war. Hitler would not surrender until May 7, 1945. The Allies still had to break out of Normandy, retake Paris, and fight to Berlin. Operation Market Garden would be launched, the Battle of the Bulge fought, the perilous slog through the Hurtgen Forest commenced, and this was only the war in Europe.

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Supporting our Priests

St. Margaret Clithrowe, a housewife who lived during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, was asked by the judges to promise not to hide priests again. It was illegal and treasonous to be Catholic and to harbor priests. Clithrowe picked up her Bible and said, “I promise you I will hide priests again because they alone bring us the Body of Christ.” The woman was pressed to death on St. Michael's bridge in York. Her death for the priesthood and for the Eucharist occurred four hundred years ago.

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Hill Country

The Path to Power, the first volume in Robert A. Caro's series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, spends a fair amount of time describing the land where LBJ was raised, the Texas Hill Country. This fascinating land stands at the crossroads of West, Central, and South Texas. It was once a land of opportunity, but overgrazing in the 19th Century, combined with the constant threat of Native American attack, made it a somewhat desolate place. Residents of the Texas Hill Country were, to say the least, tough. The women were especially strong. Caro describes the brutal nature of household chores: lugging water for miles; hauling wood and then chopping it for the stove, which was extremely difficult to light; ironing shirts with twenty pound iron wedges, literally, without handles; and so on. So arduous was their lifestyle, Texas Hill Country women were noted for their bent-over posture. These figures were heroic, if not saintly.

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Blue By You

“By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples” (Jn 15:8). We hear quite a bit about fruit throughout Scripture. Jesus tells us that if we remain in him, like a branch connected to the vine, we will bear fruit. He also speaks of a good tree bearing good fruit—“by their fruits you will know them” (Matt 7:20). St. Paul talks about the fruits of the Holy Spirit in his letter to the Galatians (cf. Gal 5:22-23), and, of course, we have the most well-known and infamous fruit of all—the apple, the cause of our downfall when consumed by Adam and Eve.

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