Father James Wallace

Silenzio!

Dear Parishioners,

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.

Chicken McNuggets and Chuck. E Cheese

Dear Parishioners,

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?

Reconciliation

Dear Parishioners,

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).

A Problem We Want

Dear Parishioners,

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).”

Divided We Fall

Dear Parishioners,

Notice the demon in today's Gospel refers to himself in the plural. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” (Mk 1:24).

When we are not in union with Jesus Christ—when we are separated from him—we are divided internally. We eventually disintegrate.

Practicing our Catholic faith unites us. Our faith makes us whole, or holy. Saint Paul writes in our second reading, “I should like you to be free of anxieties” (1 Cor 7:32). What's one way to be combat anxiety? Pray and have a relationship with God!

Fishers of Men

Dear Parishioners,

If you remember the Gospel from last week, we had the calling of the brothers Andrew and Peter. It was from the Gospel of John, and a slightly different version than what we have this Sunday from the Gospel of Mark. In John, Jesus simply walks by and Andrew follows him. Andrew then finds his brother Peter and brings him to Jesus. In Mark, Jesus approaches Andrew and Peter, who are fishing, and says, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They drop their nets and follow. Jesus is more proactive in today's version. So, which version is accurate?

It could be both. Historically speaking, John's version might have occurred first and then Mark's been a further occurrence. That is, after being introduced to Jesus (John), Peter and Andrew might have gone back to fishing and then Jesus called them again (Mark).

Reverence

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.”

An Ordinary Lent

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):

Song of Bernadette

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.

The Diaries of Adam and Eve

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.”