Tassel of the Cloak

Tassel of the CloakGod is in everything, be it sports or music or history or business or wine-making or church or whatever. Everywhere we look there is a spiritual metaphor to be found. Some metaphors may be hidden, some overt. I will attempt to point them out to you. That is the purpose of these laconic reflections. They are mostly intended to be fun and interesting. Perhaps, though, the reflections will provide you some guidance. Perhaps they will lead you to see everything through a spiritual lens, thus appreciating Catholicism all the more. When Jay Cutler throws a Hail Mary at the end of the half, might you move beyond your frustration with the Bears' offensive ineptitude and think of the Blessed Mother? Just an example.

These reflections will only be an introduction to deeper spiritual and theological truths. Hence the title, The Tassel of the Cloak. When David cuts off the tassel of Saul's cloak and shows it to him (cf. 1 Sam 24), Saul realizes that David is not his enemy. That moves them into a new relationship. Likewise, the hemorrhaging woman's grasping of the tassel on Christ's cloak in Luke 8:44 opens the door to her healing and conversion. The tassel was merely an entryway. The mundane anecdotes and simple spiritual lessons I provide are, in my opinion, the tassel. There's much more to Christ's Cloak. I hope you will experience it. So, please, go ahead and "Touch the Hem of His Garment." That is, by the way, the title of a Sam Cooke song.

Whatever happened to Shelly Pennefather

Villanova University has one of the best college basketball programs in the country.  Between the men and women's programs, 21 national championships have been won.  Many of the players have gone on to play in the NBA and WNBA.  The individual with the most points (2,408) in Villanova basketball history is Shelly Pennefather, who played from 1983-1987.  In 1987 she won the Wade Trophy, given to the best women's college basketball player.  She played professionally for a few years in Japan, as the WNBA did not yet exist, earning nearly half a million dollars in today's standard.  And then she disappeared.  "Whatever happened to Shelly Pennefather" read a recent headline. 

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God's Gate

The most famous tower in the Old Testament is Babel, meaning "God's gate." It was man's attempt to reach God on his own ability.  This failed.  But there is another tower that can help us reach God, and that is the Tower of David—Mary.

The tower of David is a reference to Mary's physical beauty, her strength, security, steadfastness, and inaccessible womanhood.  Vigilance and ascent are other attributes of a tower.  We need to be vigilant in the spiritual life; on the lookout for pitfalls and sins that will lead us away from God and make us fall back into ourselves and, ultimately, into Hell.  We are, instead, to ascend upwards to God.  We cannot do this on our own, but only through the assistance of the Blessed Mother.  The Tower of David rises high into the Jerusalem sky. 

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dit dit dit DAH

Among Beethoven's masterful innovations to music was making the final movement of a symphony as strong, if not stronger, than the first movement.  In the prior Baroque and Classical periods, the opening of the symphony was the tour de force and each movement slowly subsided in energy and ingenuity.  Most everyone is familiar with the first movement of Beethoven's 5th, in particular the motif dit dit dit DAH.  Following the tradition, Beethoven designed the opening to captivate the listener, to draw him in.  But listen to the fourth and final movement of the Symphony no.5 in C Minor (which happens to be one of my favorite pieces in all classical music).  People did not walk out of Beethoven's music hall ready for bed.  They were exhilarated. 

Is this not an analogy for the Catholic life?  Our baptism is the captivating opening movement.  We are drawn in.  The crescendo is initiated.  And just as that famous motif repeats throughout Beethoven's fifth symphony, the promptings of grace inaugurated at baptism resonate through our life, bringing us peace and joy.  At last, Catholics do not end their lives with a whimper, fading off into oblivion like the final movements of the earlier musical epochs.  No, we end triumphantly.  We are carried off to the ever-expanding Trinity from whence we came.  Our life lived in baptism and through the sacraments on this earth continues on into the next, now glorified.  The end of the Catholic life is even greater than the beginning, an ode to joy. 

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Pin Cushion Priest

Someone once told me the large colorful robe I was wearing at Mass, called the chasuble, made me look like a giant silk pin cushion.  One of the nicest compliments I have been paid, I must admit.  It is part of our lives as priests to be tools, and dispensable ones at that. 

First, a tool.  The priest at Mass offers up sacrifice through Jesus to the Father.  When I offer those prayers, you stick your prayers and intentions to me, the pin cushion.  That sacrifice becomes more plentiful and pleasing the more pins, or prayers, you stick in me.  It is not James Wallace's sacrifice, but the parish’s sacrifice in Christ. 

Which leads me to my second characteristic: dispensability.  The Sacramentary, or the book that contains the Eucharist Prayer from which the priest recites, reads, “we pray for Pope N. and Bishop N.”  'N' is an indication to insert the current names.  As important as the pope and the cardinal are, they come and go, hence their names are not written permanently.  If the Archbishop of Chicago and the Holy Father are spare parts that can be replaced, then even more so with me!  Eventually, another pin cushion will come after me and offer your sacrifice to God Almighty.  I will go to another parish and do the same.  It is your offerings that make the sacrifice unique and pleasing to the Father, an authentic Catholic Mass at Saint Juliana Parish. 

So, please, have intentions and throw them at me when you see the pin cushion raise his hands behind the altar.  It is a great privilege to be a “pin-cushion priest.”

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God is a Fan of Us

Fans, a few years back, voted as the most memorable moment in Major League Baseball history Cal Ripken Jr. on September 6, 1995 breaking Lou Gehrig's streak with his 2,131st consecutive game played.  In the age of SportsCenter where the only highlights seem to be of the mammoth home run or a winning play from Game 7, this vote is a fascinating one indeed.  Fans appreciated endurance more than entertainment.

Forgive me for the trite connection, but God is a fan of us.  If he were to vote for the most memorable moment(s) in our spiritual life, I bet it would be us going to Mass week in and week out.  Whether we were busy or feeling ready, we went.  And we may have had a great experience during Mass or we may have fallen asleep, just like Ripken had great and horrible games during the streak.  But, like the Iron Man, we returned next Sunday.  God appreciates our commitment to him more than the results.  Commitment, achieved through the will, is a reflection of love.  The beauty of the spiritual life is that love for God need not be flashy.  In fact, it can be rather dull.  Commitment to the ordinary is extraordinary.

Fans, perhaps subconsciously, acknowledged Ripken's willpower because they were awed by his genuine love for a game.  I cannot think of a better occasion to make a memorable moment, an act of profound love, than routinely attending Mass in Ordinary Time.  I hope our streak never ends.

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