Father James Wallace

Mary

Tuesday, May 7

Join Father James Wallace in the chapel at 7:00pm for a one-hour talk and discussion.

Mary

The Bunny Hops, Does It Not?

Dear Parishioners,

I came across a quote from Saint Gregory the Great, the Pope from the 6th Century.  It made me think of Easter.  But before unveiling the quote, a word or two about Gregory.

Gregory, born in 540 to a wealthy patrician family, was elected prefect of Rome in his late 20s, an incredible feat.  Dissatisfied with this life, he resigned and became a Benedictine monk.  Renowned for his holiness and his discipline, the clergy and people of Rome elected him Pope at age 50.  As Pope, he removed unworthy priests from office, lived in monastic simplicity, used funds from the papal treasury to care for victims of the plague, famine, and war, dealt with the Lombard king who was attacking Rome, converted Great Britain to Catholicism, introduced 'Gregorian chant' and other prayers into the Mass, and wrote a book, "On Pastoral Care," which is still read today. There is much more Gregory did. Paul the Deacon, who served with him in Rome and later wrote about his life, quipped, "He never rested."  There is a reason he is dubbed the Great. All popes, bishops, and priests should model themselves after this saint. 

Ah, Holy Jesus

Dear Parishioners,

One of the highlights of my year as a priest is reading the Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.  It is a privilege to play the role of Christ in the narrative.  The part that always sends a chill down my spine is when the crowd (you all in the congregation) yells out: "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"  It's amazing to hear the church roar.

I know you personally are not directing that at me personally. You don't want to crucify me. (Okay, well, maybe, some of you do.) And I know you don't want Christ to be crucified.  You're just playing the part assigned to you.

But why would the Church arrange it so?  Because there's some truth in our crucifixion of Jesus.  We do send Christ to the cross. 

I don't say this to make you feel bad.  I put myself in the same boat.  When we sin and when we do not live fulfilled lives, we crucify Jesus.  Our forsakenness harms Jesus.  Not because he can't handle himself, but because he loves us so much that he is pained when we struggle. 

Secrets of the Interior Life

Dear Parishioners,

In his classic spiritual text from the middle of the 20th Century, Secrets of the Interior Life, Archbishop Luis Martinez refers to "the Divine Paradox."  To reach God, we have to lower ourselves.  To ascend, we have to descend.  He writes,

It seems to me that God in His own way feels the dizziness of the abyss: our miserableness, when it is acknowledged and accepted by us, exerts an irresistible attraction on Him. What, save misery alone, can attract mercy? What, save emptiness, can appeal to plenitude? Whither shall the infinite ocean of Goodness pour itself except into the immense abyss of our nothingness?

Grounded in Prayer on the Mount of Olives

Dear Parishioners,

There are many lessons we can take from Christ in this well-known scene of the woman caught in adultery from the Gospel of John.

First, leading up to this encounter, Jesus had spent the whole previous day teaching in the temple.  The day ends and our Lord's enemies "went each to his own house" (Jn 7:53).  Jesus, on the other hand, "went to the Mount of Olives" (Jn 8:1).  Jesus received his rest and his 'fuel', as it were, by praying.  Who knows how he would have reacted to this adversary had he not grounded himself the night before in prayer?

Second, Jesus does not respond immediately to the Scribes' and Pharisees' puzzle.  He writes on the ground.  This was a way of indicating, in the ancient world, one's disinterest in the topic.  It was Jesus' way of not engaging and saying, "just go away."  Our Lord is patient.  He does not act compulsively or judge hastily.

Third, our Lord does not objectify the woman.  The Pharisees don't truly care about the woman and her sin and the system of justice.  They are out to trap Jesus.  The woman is merely the opportunity; an object to use in their mission.  Our Lord respects the woman.  He merely offers a wise adage: "Let he who is without sin be the first to cast a stone." Like Jesus, we should never degrade people to satisfy ourselves.

St Peter

Tuesday, April 2

Join Father James Wallace in the chapel at 7:00pm for a one-hour talk and discussion.

St. Peter

Irish Family Mass Homily

From the homily for the Irish Family Mass in Honor of Saint Patrick, 3/14/2019

 The theme of this year's St. Patrick's Day Mass, Irish literature, is most fitting.  We cannot think of St. Patrick and the Emerald Isle apart from books.  Two of the greatest writers from the last two hundred years were Irish and Catholic: James Joyce and Oscar Wilde.  Joyce's own sister was a nun—Sister Gertrude Mary Joyce—and Thomas Merton said he owed his conversion to Catholicism from reading Joyce.

The roots of Irish literature begin with Saint Patrick himself.  When Patrick escaped from slavery in Ireland and returned to his native Britain, he had a dream in which a man named Victorinus appeared.  Victorinus gave Patrick letters to read, letters that would inspire Patrick to return to the place of his captivity and evangelize it.  But before he could do this, Patrick had to prepare.  He crossed the channel to France and there trained under St. Martin of Tours, the Roman soldier-turned monk.  Schooled in prayer and theology, Patrick was given a spiritual discipline that would serve him and his companions well.  The great Irish saints—Brendan, Kevin, Columba, Columbanus, Columbkille, Killian—would travel around Ireland, founding monasteries and instilling in the people a life of prayer and study.

God is Fire

Dear Parishioners,

I'm like a Neanderthal when it comes to fire.  I'm mesmerized by it.  Now, I'm not saying I'm a pyromaniac.  All you firefighters in the parish, don't give me the evil eye when you next see me.  I'm just saying there is something so primeval and fascinating to me about a burning fire.  Am I that crazy? I'm sure you all enjoy sitting in front of and staring at a fire in your fireplace.  I know the Boy Scouts enjoy making fires--they did so at their Webelos Crossover Event (when Cub Scouts enter Boy Scouts) last week. 

I don't think I'm in horrible company with this fascination with fire.  Moses liked it too. See the burning bush from the first reading (cf. Exodus 3).  This theophany ('appearance of God') had to be incredibly fascinating. Not only is God fire, which is intriguing in itself, he is fire that does not consume. 

This is more than just a fake fireplace (I hate fake fireplaces by the way...I want to build my own fire!).  This is something 'remarkable', as Moses himself commented. 

God is fire.  He is mesmerizing, appealing, and heartening.  And he does not consume.  There is nothing we lose when God comes more fully into our hearts.  We only gain. 

Firefighters should love this image of God.  Think of a fire that does not destroy.  What more could you want!

Neurogenesis, Prayer, Resurrection

The recent advancements in the field of neurobiology are a fascinating compliment to prayer and the Resurrection.  The firing of neurons in the brain determines our feeling or reaction to an event.   For example, if we were embarrassed in front of the entire class when we were in 6th grade about answering a question incorrectly, when we are in a situation where we have to perform in front of an audience, we may be anxious or we may shut down.  This is because of the neurocircuitry in our brain.

We need not, however, be enslaved by our core wounds. It is possible for us to change these negative neural firing patterns, hence changing our internal state in the midst of an experience.  The key is awareness, which is also called interoception.  If we are attuned to our thoughts and feelings, and open to acknowledging the past, we can change.  When we simply notice we grow agitated in a particular scenario, or are consoled by something else, we create new neurons, as well as neural firing patterns.  Myelin, which is a coating around the neuron that allows the electrical pulse to pass to the next neuron, is also enhanced.  With more myelin, we can catch ourselves more quickly in an experience and not fall into the default state of anxiety, accusation, shame or whatever else is negative inside us.  This whole process of re-creation is named neurogenesis.  We could also label it conversion or healing. Something new is created from something old.  Neurogenesis happens, fundamentally, in prayer.

Prayer is the best opportunity to sit in this awareness with Jesus, the Divine Physician.  We lift our history and our emotions to the Lord, and he will literally rewire our brains.  Then, we will be fully alive—sons and daughters of the Resurrection.