Father James Wallace

Morse and Marconi

The first electric communication ever dispatched read, "What Hath God Wrought."  It was tapped out by Samuel Morse on May 24, 1844.  He was sitting amidst an audience in the United States Supreme Court building.  The message was delivered within moments to Baltimore. 

Morse obtained the passage from Numbers 23:23. The Scriptural context is the story of Balaam, a pagan prophet sent to curse the Israelites. When Balaam sees the people he is so impressed he instead blesses them.  He prophesies that this people will not die out but will spring up like a lion and people will say of them, "Behold, what hath God wrought!"

Morse, the inventor of the single-wire telegraph system, had seen the transformation of the United States in the first half of the 19th Century, arguably the greatest period of growth and progress in our nation's history.  The US expanded from shore to shore and had revolutions on a communications, market, transportation, and religious level, all of which inaugurated new systems that are, in many ways, still in place in our nation.  Morse saw God at work, and the leading figures of the country in the chambers of the Supreme Court that day would not have disagreed. Communications technology led to the cohesion of the expansive land.  Yes, the Civil War would shortly ensue, but the outcome of that war addressed our core wound (slavery) and eventually united the nation further.  God was at work not just in America, but in technology.

A century later, Guglielmo Marconi, the Novel Prize winner and inventor of mobile devices, echoed Morse's sentiments when he said, "I declare with pride that I am a believer. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in it not only as a believing Catholic but as a scientist."

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux is the last of the ancient church Fathers.  He founded the Abbey of Clairvaux and was renowned both for his own personal sanctity and for his theological and spiritual writings.  He also is called the "Troubadour of Mary," as he had an incredibly deep devotion to the Blessed Mother.

A monk who lived before Bernard, named Radbertus, once wrote this: "Mary is your sister." Bernard read this and must have pondered the relationship with his own sister, Humbeline, in his contemplation and exposition of Mary.

Bernard loved his little sister, Humbeline, though for a while he was disappointed in her.  Married to a wealthy nobleman of Lorraine, it was said Humbeline "was more notable for dancing than devotion." Bernard refused to see her until she changed.  One day he wrote a simple note to her: "Remember our mother's virtue." 

So moved by this comment, Humbeline persuaded her husband, Guy de Marcy, to let her become a nun. She entered the convent, was elected abbess, and lived a great life of prayer and penance.  In fact, when her sisters thought her self-denial and asceticism too extreme, she responded, "That is all very well for you, my sisters, who have been serving God in religion all your lives. But I have lived so long in the world and of the world that no penance can be too much for me."

Humbeline's four brothers were all incredibly proud of their sister. None was prouder than Bernard, who held his little sister, eventually canonized a saint, as she died in his arms.

Brothers have a fatherly care for their sisters and take great pride in them.  A sister can prompt an individual to holiness.  Saint Humbeline did for Bernard, as Mary, our little sister, can for us.

 

The Cedar of Lebanon

The Cedar of Lebanon is the most referenced tree in the Bible. It is considered "the first tree" (1 Kings 4:33).  Cedars are strong, durable, fragrant, tall, and graceful.  Where gold was not used in Solomon's Temple, cedar was instead used. Solomon also built his personal chariot out of the noble wood. Eagles built their nests on the tops of cedar trees.  The tree's roots dig deep into the soil, reaching the water bed.  Hence the psalmist's wisdom: "the cedar tree is planted by God" (Psalm 104:16).  The container of water used to purify leprosy was also made of cedar.  The aromatic resin of the cedar was used for embalming, as it is resistant to decay, and also used to repel snakes.  We could go on. 

In the middle ages, the "Cedar Tree" or "The Cedar of Lebanon" became a well-known epithet for Mary.  Her roots tap deep down into Christ, and she can withstand anything, like the branches of the cedar endure all seasons.  Mary is the cedrus exaltata (exalted cedar).

There is one more quality of cedar I must mention.  The wood is absorbent.  Water will not build up on the wood itself and mildew or mold will not form.  Yet, it will retain humidity.

If you know me well, you can guess where I am going with this.  Because of the particular qualities of this softwood, cedar is used to build humidors for cigars.  Cedar will prevent the cigar from drying out. 

And so I have been able to achieve something I have been wanting to do for quite some time: connect the Virgin Mary with smoking cigars!  A relationship with the 'Cedar of Lebanon' will assist our relationship with Christ and make us strong, graceful and relaxed individuals.

Feast of the Holy Trinity

Letters from a Pastor to His People- June 16, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

"I will give you what is mine and declare it to you" (John 16:15).  Growing up, my parents used to refer to possessions in the first person plural: our house, our backyard, our car.  It impressed me because my siblings and I did nothing to earn these things.  We were not entitled to them. But that is how generous my parents were.  They took what was rightfully theirs and declared it to us.  I'm sure many of you parents do the same.  What love, what generosity!

We celebrate the Holy Trinity today which affirms for us, among other things, God's generosity and love.  The fact that God is relational from all eternity tells us that God is not alone.  If God was one and not three, he would be alone, which means he would need to create the world for relationship.  This means he would need our love, our worship, our holiness; and if he needed it, he would be angry if he didn't receive it.  But the Trinity tells us God is perfect in himself.  He is totally dependent and not in need of us.  He created us to allow us to share in the beauty and love that God is.  What God has, he declared to us.  That is what the Trinity tells us. 

Holy Spirit, Giver Of Life

Letters from a Pastor to His People- June 9, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

In the Nicene Creed at Mass, we say the following:

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son,

who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,

who has spoken through the prophets.

 The giver of life.  What a great sobriquet of the Holy Spirit! 

Take the High Ground with Prayer

Letters from a Pastor to His People- June 2, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

There are many hills in the Holy Land, and when a figure from the Scriptures ascends one, we should pay attention.  Abraham goes up Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son Isaac.  The angel stays Abraham's slaughtering hand, Abraham is established as the father of Israel, and Moriah will become the site of the temple mount in Jerusalem.  About 1,000 years later King David will ascend that very same hill to recreate the nation of Israel.  His son, Solomon, will construct the temple on that mount. 

Noah's ark lands on Mount Ararat.  Moses ascends Mount Sinai, is literally wrapped in a cloud of divinity, and comes down with the Ten Commandments.  And Elijah defeats the pagan priests atop Mount Carmel. 

The Lily of the Valley

"The Lily of the Valley" is an epithet for the Blessed Virgin.  In simply describing this May flower we can see a few attributes of Mary. 

The lily, with its white petals, symbolizes purity.  The Easter Lily's flower, atop the straight stem (honesty), is in the shape of a trumpet, pointing up to heaven, as if it is announcing the good news of the Resurrection.  But it is also in an open position, able to receive the gifts and love of God.  Inside the flower are seven gold (in some cases, red) seeds.  The seven sacraments and gifts of the Holy Spirit come from God.  And in connection to purity, the red seeds symbolize the fire of love for God that burns within the virgin's heart.  The Blessed Virgin is no shrinking violet.  She is a burning bush.

The posture of lily of the valley species is slightly different.  The bell-shaped flower on the wilted stem points to the ground, symbolizing a teardrop and the virtue of humility.  Mary, in saying "I am the handmaid of the Lord," has no ounce of pride.

The lily is the first of the spring flowers to bloom, sprouting from the cold earth around March 25th (the Annunciation).  These hardy and fragrant perennials grow abundantly, rapidly and in any environment, be it a valley, plain, manicured garden or a wild field.  Wherever they be, they beautify the landscape.  Hosea, prophesying the growth of Israel, said, "he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon" (Hosea 14:5).

"Consider the lily of the fields," Jesus himself told us. "Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Matthew 6:28-29).  We should consider Mary, the Lily of the Valley and greatest flower of all.

Easter Hymns, My Favorite

 

Dear Parishioners,

Easter hymns are my favorite.  They are joyful and triumphant.  Here is one not all that common, "That Easter Day with Joy was Bright" (perhaps you can listen online to hear the tune):

That Easter day with joy was bright:

the sun shone out with fairer light

when to their longing eyes restored,

th'apostles saw their risen Lord.

 

His risen flesh with radiance glowed,

his wounded hands and feet he showed;

those scars their solemn witness gave

that Christ was risen from the grave.

 

O Jesus, King of gentleness,

do thou thyself our hearts possess,

that we may give thee all our days

the willing tribute of our praise.

 

O Lord of all, with us abide

in this, our joyful Easter-tide;

from ev'ry weapon death can wield

thine own redeemed forever shield.