I gave a talk to the Boy Scouts recently on the virtue of reverence. The 12th and final point of the Scout Law reads, “A Scout is reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.”
I spent a decent amount of time in the Sistine Chapel during my six years in Rome studying to be a priest at the Pontifical North American College. The Sistine Chapel, of course, contains perhaps the most famous works of art in human history: Michelangelo's painting of the Last Judgement. It is also where the papal conclave is held. I must confess, though, that I usually smirked at least once on each visit to this sacred place. As noticeable as the works of art were the Vatican Security Guards yelling, “Shush! Silenzio! No foto!” Upon this command, the throng of people would stop, silence their conversation, and put away their cameras...for about a minute. Then, after a minute, would come the, “Shush! Silenzio! No foto!” This tennis match between the tourists and security guards went on all day.
4. Concluding Rites
Announcements: The announcements are to be brief and cover only significant events since all other information is contained in the weekly bulletin.
Greeting: "The Lord be with you" is the greeting of the priest before the blessing. If there is a solemn blessing, the deacon or the priest will ask the assembly to bow their heads and pray for God’s blessing.
Lent is a time when we are conscientious of growing in holiness. We give something up or we do something positive. While these activities are all good, I think it might be helpful to hear some words from St. John Henry Newman's on perfection (another way of saying holiness):
We all know how Chuck-E-Cheese works: you play games, earn tickets, and then, at the end of your time, use those tickets to redeem a prize. It's a fun place, but hopefully the concept is not something we maintain in our spiritual lives. That is, hopefully we don't see our spiritual endeavors as simply means to an end.
During this season of Lent, the Church proposes to us three special devotions: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These are like the games at Chuck-E-Cheese. The temptation is to "do" these "things"—or anything in our faith lives, i.e., going to Mass, Confession, etc.—so we can get enough tickets to get to heaven. What a strenuous proposition! Does that mean if we eat a chicken McNugget on Friday we go to Hell?
From a Homily on Ash Wednesday
Abraham Lincoln never took himself or his faith too seriously. He once told the story about how he slept during a sermon. The pastor, seeing Lincoln asleep, asked the congregation to stand if they desired to go to heaven. Everyone rose except Lincoln. The pastor then asked those who wanted to go to hell to stand. Lincoln awoke at the very moment the pastor yelled ‘stand up!’ When the pastor asked Lincoln what he had to say for himself, the future president responded, “Preacher, I don't know what you're voting on, but you and I seem to be the only two for it.”
Today, February 11th, is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and it was worth reflecting a bit on this Marian apparition. Briefly, in 1858 the Virgin Mary appeared to a fourteen year old girl in the small town in southwest France. A spring of water miraculously formed where the Blessed Mother spoke, and to this day pilgrims travel to Lourdes to drink and bathe in this healing water.
In Ancient Israel, an individual with leprosy or any other skin malady was seen to be spiritually unclean. It was thus required for the infirm to go before a priest, be quarantined by the priest, and then ultimately be declared by the priest fit for worship. This is what we hear in our first reading from Leviticus, chapter 13.
Jesus continues this injunction when orders the healed leper to report to the priest (cf. Mk 1:40-45).
These readings can be seen as foundational for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Today's responsorial psalm also sets up the Catholic sacrament: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you, my guilt I covered not. I said, ‘I confess my faults to the LORD’, and you took away the guilt of my sin” (Ps 32).
How I wish we had the problem today that is present in our Gospel this Sunday! “The whole town was gathered at the door” (Mk 1:33). Jesus is so successful preaching and healing that he can barely move. He has no time for himself. He runs off early in the morning to a quiet place to pray. But even this doesn't work. “Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’” (Mk 1:36-37).
These people wanted Jesus so badly. They pursued him relentlessly. Why? Because Jesus is good for them. He is good for us. Jesus makes us whole. He heals us. He inspires us to be better people. He unites us to the Father, which is our ultimate purpose and fulfillment. “Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted (Ps 147).”
Towards the end of his life Mark Twain wrote The Diaries of Adam and Eve. The first part of the book is written by Adam; the second by Eve. Accounts of God's creation, life in the Garden of Eden, the fall, and life outside of Eden are given from two different perspectives. Adam's writing is simple and obtuse. He is annoyed at first by Eve's constant pursuit of him. He writes, “This new creature with the long hair is a good deal in the way. It is always hanging around and following me about. I don't like this; I am not used to company...I wish it would not talk; it is always talking.” Later on Adam cannot figure out what new animal his sons, Cain and Abel, are. “I was going to stuff one of them for my collection,” he records, “but she is prejudiced against it for some reason or other; so I have relinquished the idea, though I think it is a mistake.”