Holy Spirit

Have I ever mentioned that summer is not my favorite time of year? I try not to be too vocal about that, since I know a lot of people who live for summer and would beat me to death with their beach umbrellas if I mentioned my bias, but summer just makes me think of heat, which makes me think of drought, which makes me think of deserts, which makes me think of cactus, which makes me think of scorpions, which makes me think of writhing in agony. Not a lot of happy connotations to the word “summer” in my mind….

And this year summer in our part of the country has been unusually pestiferous. No drought – far from it. We’ve had precipitation, at least trace amounts, 50% of all days this year. We’re talking IMPRESSIVE humidity. And fungus – there are toadstools everywhere. The difference this year is that the fungus has fungus. There are more cicadas out there than there are people, and no shortage of any other kind of bug, either. And to crown all these glories, because it is summer we are treated to that recurring seasonal phenomenon known as “road construction” (because things just weren’t unpleasant enough). One-lane roads, traffic back-ups, the perfume of asphalt wafting in through your overheating car’s ventilation system.

Little known fact: even the Old Testament saints had to put up with road construction. You probably just never realized it because it all just sounded so much nicer the way Isaiah phrased it:

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Sounds almost like it won’t hurt at all. A stroll in the park, or through the wilderness, as it were.

And this understanding of a painless preparation of the way of the Lord jibes beautifully with the philosophy of modern-day first-world wimpy Christianity, where we believe that all things shall just automatically be added unto us, whether or not we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. Christianity, to us, is like being selected as a participant in a game show, where we lucky contestants just get handed stuff, you know, for free. Everybody wins, or at least everybody goes home with a parting gift.

In that sense our Christianity truly is wimpy, as in Wimpy, Popeye’s sidekick, the guy who will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. We want the benefits that come with faithful service today, minus the boring part about the faithful service. We want to grow in grace without making any effort to grow in grace. We want the King to come riding down the roads of our lives with no prep work on our part at all. We Christians are charged with bringing Christ to the world. It doesn’t just happen. He didn’t say that He was making straight His path through the wilderness of our hearts and we just needed to chill while He took care of it. We’re the road crew. We have to show up for work every day, filling in the potholes, leveling the bumps, so that the glory of the Lord will be seen. If the people around us are having trouble seeing His glory, it’s because we’re slacking off on the job.

And it is a job.

Christianity is not a game show with a cosmic Bob Barker showering prizes down upon the contestants. Christianity is a construction job, and we’re the road crew, tearing down, building up and straightening out under the direction of our Foreman, the Holy Spirit. Spiritual progress, that is, “sanctification,” is going to cost us, but it is not optional. These paths we are making straight are a part of US. If we have allowed potholes to form in our lives, we have to get them filled in. If there are treacherous hairpin curves, those have to be straightened out. Mountain roads would slow the King’s approach – get those leveled! Low-lying areas can flood, so you can’t have the path running through there. Fill those in! The Foreman has made the plans, but He won’t do the work while you rest. You are His co-worker; your cooperation is necessary to the success of the project. Trying to get the job done without the Foreman would be useless. Expecting the Foreman to do the job without you, while you snooze in the shade, would be foolhardy. Show up for work every day before dawn, while it’s still cool outside, and await His direction. He’ll show you where He wants you to work today. You might be digging, you might be filling in, you might be pouring asphalt. You’ve got a job to do.

A job? As in WORKS?

Well, let’s put it this way:

Keep alert with all perseverance.

Pray without ceasing.

Offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually.

Do all things without grumbling or complaining.

Avoid godless chatter.

Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless controversies.

Fear God, and give glory to Him.

Rejoice in the Lord always.

Exercise [your gifts] accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of your faith; if service, in your serving; or you who teach, in your teaching; or you who exhort, in your exhortation; you who give, with liberality; you who lead, with diligence; you who show mercy, with cheerfulness.

Contribute to the needs of the saints.

Practice hospitality.

Welcome one another, as Christ has welcomed you.

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree.

Let all men know your forbearance.

Pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

Do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Live in peace.

Bear one another’s burdens.

Encourage one another and build one another up.

Conduct yourselves wisely towards outsiders.

Pay everyone whatever you owe them—taxes to whom taxes are due, tolls to whom tolls are due, fear to whom fear is due, honor to whom honor is due.

[The rich] are to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous.

Women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel.

Urge the younger men to control themselves.

Shun the worship of idols.

Shun immorality.

Shun youthful passions. Aim at righteousness, faith, love, and peace.

Glorify God in your body.

Abstain from every form of evil.

Do not be weary in well-doing.

Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds.

Consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.

Whatever your task, work heartily.

Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness.

Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Run in such a way to win the prize.

Train yourself in godliness.

Aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

Make love your aim.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father through him.

Aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands as we charged you.

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!

Test your own work.

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

That’s the voice of the Foreman, speaking through St. Paul, who wasn’t wasting expensive papyrus and ink by scribbling unnecessary exhortations. Pray, praise, fear, glorify, rejoice, practice, contribute, welcome, bear, encourage, stimulate, conduct, control, avoid, shun, abstain, run, pursue, build, train, aim, aspire, test, examine, work…. His words aren’t just nice suggestions for us to adopt someday, maybe, if we find the time, nor are they redundant observations on what’s going to happen automatically to all Christians – otherwise, why would he command them? “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.” As we walk in the works that He has prepared for us to walk in, the highway is made ready. Christ is prepared to come to the world through our lives, but the path has to be prepared, and the road made straight. Our sins, both of omission and of commission, hinder His plans, and in some cases throw a monkey wrench into the whole operation. As our faith works in love, the glory of the Lord is revealed.

The King is coming. Break out the heavy equipment, and get rolling.


On the memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus

Deo omnis gloria!

Photo credits: A28 Scrap by Romski/Wikimedia

Asphaltbauer by Sascha Pöschl/Wikimedia

Flies on the wall have all the fun. Imagine being present in the Upper Room during the period between the Ascension and Pentecost. Nine intense days of prayer, and then an explosion of power that makes the atom bomb look like a fizzle.

According to Scripture:

They went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

I wish I could’ve been there. I imagine the apostles, one-by-one or as a group, going to the Blessed Virgin and saying something along the lines of:

“Hail, Mary, mother of Jesus Who is the Christ! We have heard the story you tell of the Annunciation, and we proclaim with the archangel Gabriel that you are indeed full of grace! The Lord is with you! There has never been another woman like you, and never shall there be! We, the apostles of Jesus Christ, recognize that our apostolate is rooted in your “fiat”! You are holy, and because of this you merited to bear the Incarnate Son of God, blessed be His Holy Name!

Mary, you whom Jesus gave to John the beloved disciple as his mother, and who therefore are by extension the mother of all of us who believe, we ask you now to pray for us – we are sinners. God will hear your prayers. Ask Him to send us the Comforter Who was promised to us. Ask Him to provide the Power to go out and make disciples of all nations. Ask Him to give us all that we need to bear witness to His resurrection.”

And she did.

And the rest, as they say, is His-Story. The Church recognizes the nine days that the apostles spent in prayer with the Blessed Virgin as the first novena. The world is still reeling from God’s answer to that prayer.

So if you feel like your prayers aren’t going any farther than the ceiling, try bringing in the big guns. EWTN has many novenas you can pray for your intentions. Entrust those intentions to the Mother of God, who always prays in perfect conformity to the will of God.

And then stand back….


On the solemnity of Pentecost

Deo omnis gloria!

When I was in high school, my mother, a lifelong Methodist, became a fervent charismatic, something of which my father thoroughly disapproved. As a family we attended the nondenominational Scottsdale Bible Church, but during the week Mom would take me to charismatic meetings. With my mother I once attended a small gathering of charismatics to listen to the preaching of Frances and Charles Hunter, and to watch as they “healed” several of those present suffering from leg-length discrepancy. I guess no more serious ailments were afflicting those present that day. There was a great hoopla and a cacophony of tongues, and everyone went home happy.

I’m not claiming that God never used Frances to heal anyone – I simply don’t know that. But I do know that on that day no one was healed, yet we pretended that several had been. And that was not unusual, nor was it of evil intent. Our hungry hearts yearned for God to manifest His power in our sight. We simply loved God so much that pretty much everything had to be viewed as a “miracle.” To think otherwise was evidence of a lack of faith.

That wore thin after a while. I began to realize that some of the vaunted “healings” among charismatics were most likely cases of medically unsophisticated individuals being told by their doctor that he had seen “something” on an x-ray, something which might just be an artifact, but which needed further investigation because, although highly unlikely, he could not completely rule out (worst case scenario) cancer. Said individual, who heard the doctor say, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, CANCER” requests prayer for the “cancer which was found on the x-ray.” Fervent prayer ensues. Said individual returns for further tests, and it turns out that the “something” seen on the first x-ray isn’t there anymore, having been merely an artifact as the doctor suspected. Said individual, however, returns to his church utterly convinced that he has been healed of “the cancer that my doctor told me he saw on the x-ray,” and reports the “miracle” to the congregation who believe it without questioning, not wanting to be accused of a lack of faith. In my few years as a charismatic (and in my mother’s many years – she was involved right up until progressive dementia made it impossible to attend church), neither of us was ever confronted with a medically documented miracle among the “healings” reported in our midst. And that was a lotta “healings” over the course of a lotta years.

Obviously not all Protestants fall prey to this theology. In fact, some swing the other way. They are cessationists, claiming that miracles went out with the apostles. Calvinist cessationist B.B. Warfield, in his Counterfeit Miracles, sought to debunk Catholic claims of miracles, and fumed against the “exploitation” at Lourdes, inexplicably drawing into his argument the writings of the atheist French physician Émile Zola to show that the healings at Lourdes are but a fraud (Zola was actually a witness to a miracle at Lourdes, the healing of
Marie Lemarchand, yet declared, “Were I to see all the sick at Lourdes cured, I would not believe in a miracle!”). Warfield, though a Christian, was apparently of the same persuasion as Zola. “Lourdes does not register her failures,” he groused, claiming that the fact that more Catholics are left uncured after a visit to Lourdes than receive healing is somehow proof that the whole thing is a hoax – though Warfield was undoubtedly familiar with the passage in Acts 12 where Sts. Peter and James are arrested. The church prayed fervently for them both; Peter was miraculously released from prison by an angel, and James was executed. According to Warfield’s logic, that episode demonstrates a 50% failure rate on the part of the early church and its prayers, and thus by his reasoning the Good News was a hoax as well.

In my final Protestant incarnation I was a Baptist, and took the middle road. I had trouble buying into cessationism. I believed that God still healed people. Didn’t the Gospel of Mark tell us that “These signs shall follow them that believe; they shall lay hands on the sick, and shall recover”? I didn’t think that charismatics were wrong to expect miracles. Miracles just didn’t, in my opinion, seem to be forthcoming among the charismatic assemblies with which I or my mother were associated. Despite my disenchantment with charismatic “healings,” I nevertheless remained convinced that God can and does work miraculously in this world. When we were regaled with occasional tales of healings on the mission field, I believed that those might not have been mere rumors and exaggerations. I knew that God the Holy Spirit was still at work in our day.

I just didn’t have any documented proof of that.

Now, consider this announcement from late last year:

Today, 20 December 2012, Pope Benedict XVI received in a private audience Angelo Cardinal Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints. During the audience, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation of the Causes of Saints to promulgate the following twenty-four decrees regarding [among other things]:

A MIRACLE, attributed to the intercession of Blesseds Antonio Primaldo and 800 Companions, laypersons of the diocese of Otranto, killed in odium fidei on 13 August 1480 in Otranto (Italy); cult confirmed on 14 December 1771; martyrdom recognized on 06 July 2007

A MIRACLE, attributed to the intercession of the Blessed MarÍa Laura de Jesus Montoya Upegui (in religion, Laura of Saint Catherine of Siena), founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Virgin Mary and Saint Catherine of Siena; born on 26 May 1874 in Jericó, Antioquía (Colombia) and died on 21 October 1949 in Belencito, Medellín, Antioquía (Colombia); beatified on 25 April 2004

A MIRACLE, attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Anastasia Guadalupe García Zavala (in religion, María Guadalupe), cofounder of the Handmaids of Saint Margaret Mary and of the Poor; born on 27 April 1878 in Zapopan, Jalisco (Mexico) and died on 24 June 1963 in Guadalajara, Jalisco (Mexico); beatified on 25 April 2004

Yeah, right – would have been my charismatic response. As a Protestant I just KNEW that those Catholic “miracles” were bogus. Obviously bogus. Since the Catholics had their theology all messed up, I reasoned, there’s no way God doesn’t work real miracles in a charismatic assembly but does work them when Catholics pray. Impossible.

Today the above-mentioned two women and one large group of men are being canonized by Pope Francis. The story of why one of them, Laura Montoya, is being declared a saint is a good illustration of the work of the Holy Spirit, the work that I as a charismatic was looking for, the work that I as a Baptist was still longing to see, in the Catholic Church today:

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (CNS) — In early January 2005, Carlos Eduardo Restrepo, a Colombian anesthesiologist suffering from lupus and a severe infection in his thorax, faced death.

His family and friends were preparing for the worst. He was given last rites. But then an image of Blessed Mother Laura Montoya appeared to him, he said.

“I remember it very well. In the moment, I was calm. I prayed to her: Help me get through this and it will allow you to get to the altars,” he told the newspaper El Colombiano.

Restrepo survived and was cured of his disease.

“If this wasn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is,” he said.

Pope Benedict XVI recognized it as a miracle last year, making it the second miracle attributed to Mother Montoya. In 1994, a Colombian woman, Herminia Gonzalez Trujillo, who had been hemorrhaging due to uterine cancer, was cured after praying to Mother Montoya.

Mother Montoya will be the first Columbian saint, with two thoroughly impressive, modern-day, physician-documented miracles under her cinture. From a Protestant perspective, kind of hard to explain.

Since becoming a Catholic, I have REVELED in the miracles leading to the canonization of various saints. These appear from time to time in newspapers and magazines, all documenting that the cures simply cannot be explained from a medical standpoint, and that they occurred after Catholics petitioned various “servants of God” for their prayers. One of the most extraordinary recent cases was the healing of an American boy, Jake Finkbonner, leading to the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Jake himself tells the story on his website:

We thank the doctors at Children’s Hospital for all that they did to save my life. I wouldn’t be here without them. I also thank all the people that prayed for me. Obviously, God heard their prayers. This decision to canonize Blessed Kateri is something that the Vatican and the Pope declared, based on testimonies given by parishioners, my family and my doctors. Congratulations to the Catholic Church and the Native American culture in the canonizing of the now Saint Kateri.

My scars came in 2006 when I was just 5 years old. I was playing basketball for the Boys & Girls club, it was the last game of the season and the last minute of the game. I was running down court with the ball, I stopped in front of the hoop to shoot when I was pushed from behind. I flew forward and hit my mouth on the base of the portable basketball hoop. Lurking on the surface of that base was Strep A, also known as the “flesh eating bacteria” or Necrotizing Fasciitis. When I hit my mouth, my tooth pierced the inside of my lip and from that small pierce is where the Strep A entered into my body. By the next day I was fighting for my life. I am so thankful to the doctors at Children’s Hospital in Seattle that saved my life.”

Jake’s skin was being eaten away by the bacteria, and the decision was made to invoke the prayers of then-Blessed Kateri, a Native American (Jake’s dad is a Native American) whose skin was scarred from smallpox. The necrotizing fasciitis just disappeared.

And there are more signs and wonders. One miracle is necessary for the beatification of an individual, and one for canonization, so let’s take the case of the recently canonized Australian saint, Mary MacKillop:

Miracle #1: Veronica Hopson, 1961

”I went to see [my doctor] because I was tired and lazy and because of the bad cramp I was getting, because of the transparency in my hands and because everyone kept telling me I didn’t look well,” Mrs Hopson told the Vatican when it was investigating MacKillop’s life and works.

”He arranged for me to go into hospital. At that time I did collapse and couldn’t do any work at all.” She was diagnosed with acute myeloblastic leukaemia and told ”death was the evident outcome”.

”I thought she had perhaps a month to live,” said her haematologist, Redmond Dalton.

The nurses believed she was ”beyond prayers”. Her husband, Allan, told the Vatican: ”The doctors told me not to expect anything.”

Mrs Hopson went home to die on November 17. Her marriage was confirmed in a Catholic ceremony on the same day.

A month later she was back in hospital, sicker than before and with excruciating abscesses in her left arm and right thigh.

Veronica Hopson recovered completely and went on to give birth to six children. She credits the prayers of the nuns invoking the aid of Mary MacKillop for her healing, and so does the Vatican.

Miracle #2: Kathleen Evans, 1990s

“My name is Kathleen Evans. I’m married to Barry. I’m a mother of 5 and a grandmother of 20 including 2 great grandchildren. I come from the small town of Windale in Lake Macquarie. In the 1990’s, I was diagnosed with a non small carcinoma in my right lung.

After x-rays and scans were taken, my GP sent me to a heart, lung surgeon. He put me in hospital for a biopsy. The surgeon explained that he hoped to remove my right lung as my youngest child was only 13. And by taking the lung out, it might give me 5 or 6 years to see him through high school. What he found was that the cancer was very aggressive and had spread into my glands. He was concerned that one of the glands was too close to the aorta. He also asked for an x-ray of my head to be taken. He found that a secondary had started at the bottom of my brain. This put paid to any operation.

I was then sent to a chemotherapist who gave me no hope of the chemotherapy working.

The next step was radiotherapy, only to be told that any ray treatment would help with the side effects and perhaps give me a couple more weeks at the end. For this to happen, I would have to go to the hospital for 10 consecutive days. I was too sick for that. Besides the odds were just not worth it. I was only given a couple of months at the most to live. So I said thanks, but no thanks. I went back to my doctor and asked him to see me through until the end. All this took 1 month.”

A friend gave Kathleen a relic of Mary MacKillop which she wore night and day. Family and friends asked Blessed Mary for her prayers, and Kathleen began to feel better. She was eventually declared cured by her doctors, and was alive to see the 2010 canonization of the saint whose intercession she believes led to her recovery.

Three female saints, five medically inexplicable cures. But now, to give holy men their due, the canonization miracle of St. Juan Diego:

On May 3, 1990, in Mexico City, nineteen-year-old Juan José Barragán suffered from severe depression and, wanting to commit suicide, he threw himself from the balcony of his apartment, striking his head on the concrete pavement thirty feet below, despite his mother’s frantic attempts to hold onto him as she cried out to Juan Diego for help. The young man was rushed to the nearby hospital, where the doctor there noted his serious condition and suggested that the boy’s mother pray to God. To this, the young man’s mother replied that she already had prayed for Juan Diego’s intercession. For three days, examination and intensive care continued, and physicians diagnosed a large basal fracture of the skull – a wound that normally would have killed at the moment of impact, and even now destroyed any hope of survival or repair. Given the mortal nature of the wounds, on May 6 all extraordinary medical support was ceased, and young Juan José’s death was thought to be imminent. But that same day, Juan José sat up, began to eat, and within ten days was entirely recovered, with no debilitating side-effects, not even so much as a headache. In the scans, the doctors could see clear evidence of the life-threatening fracture, but to their surprise they noticed that the bone was mended, with the arteries and veins all in place. Astonished, they requested more tests by specialists for second opinions, only to have their original assessment confirmed. Impossible, unexplainable, it was declared a miracle.

A cause for canonization very dear to American hearts is that of Venerable Fulton Sheen. Will this be the miracle that brings him to beatification?

“One year ago today I delivered my son, a stillborn. For a moment he was placed in my arms quiet, blue, and limp. The midwife and her assistant then took him from me and began CPR. They could not find a pulse. He did not breathe. Because we were at home (it was my third, planned homebirth) 911 was called.

While CPR was continued and we waited for the ambulance my husband took water and baptized him using the name we had agreed upon, James Fulton. I remember sitting on the floor saying, “Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen” over and over again in my head. I suppose it was as close as I could come to a prayer; I suppose it was my way of asking Archbishop Sheen to interceded for my son.

The paramedics came and rushed James away. In route, as they tried to restart his heart, they gave him two doses of epinephrine by lines in the shin bone. Neither worked and one leaked out, turning his whole right leg – from toe tip to buttock – black and blue and purple. In the ER the doctors and nurses worked on him for another 18 minutes or so. A nurse practitioner told me she wanted James’ mother to be able to hold him alive for a little bit. Five minutes, an hour – she just wanted my son to be alive long enough for me to say good-bye.

They did a sonogram of his heart. It fluttered but it didn’t beat. A nurse held his foot; she later told me it was cold, like the expression “cold and dead”. He was intubated and getting oxygen, but there was no way that the chest compressions were adequately circulating the oxygen to the brain and other organs. Following the orders of the on-call neonatologist they stopped working on him so they could call time of death.

My little boy, James Fulton, 9lbs and 12oz, had been without a pulse for 61 minutes.

Everyone stopped working. And then his heart started.”

Although it was apparent that James Fulton would live, physicians held out no hope that his life would ever be a normal one. Both an EEG and an MRI showed brain injury from lack of oxygen. The family and everyone who knew them continued to pray, invoking Fulton Sheen’s intercession:

Eternal Father, You alone grant us every blessing in Heaven and on earth, through the redemptive mission of Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and by the working of the Holy Spirit. If it be according to Your Will, glorify Your servant, Fulton J. Sheen, by granting the favor I now request through his prayerful intercession – that James Fulton’s body heals and functions normally and that he is spared any brain damage. I make this prayer confidently through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

And God heard the prayers of His servant. James Fulton Engstrom is a normal, thriving toddler with no sign of brain damage.


But true.

Don’t get me wrong – I believe that God can and does work the occasional miracle among Protestants, and even for unbelievers who need that extra push towards Christianity. But my persistent belief that miracles must be out there despite the fakery and false hope of my past experience has been validated by the miracles of the saints. The claims of the Catholic Church are thereby validated as well.

There was recently exciting news concerning the canonization of Blessed John Paul II, who is one step away from being declared a saint. The miracle which led to his beatification was the healing of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, a French nun suffering from Parkinson’s. A second potential miracle is apparently under consideration, and rumor has it that he may be canonized as early as October.

And when he is canonized, I’ll be grinning from ear to ear. Miracles do happen.

I knew it!


On Ascension Sunday

Deo omnis gloria!

Photo credit: Stained glass window in the southern section of the ambulatory, close to the Lady’s Chapel. Depicted is the raising of Dorcas by Saint Peter in the upper section with the inscription Peter said Dorcas arise and she opened her eyes, and the release of the Apostles from prison by an angle (Acts 5:19) with the inscription I was in prison & ye came unto me. Created by Heaton, Butler & Bayne in 1889. By Andreas F. Borchert

The Ascension was never my favorite Bible story, containing as it did all the elements of a monumental tragedy – at least as far as I was concerned. The poor, shell-shocked disciples of Christ, barely recovered from the horror of the Crucifixion, just beginning to exult in the reality that even death could not defeat their Lord, gullibly follow Jesus up the Mount of Olives, and He leaves them! How could He?? I know, I know – He mumbled something about having to leave so that He could send the “Comforter.” Paraclete, Schmaraclete! was my well-reasoned response. I want JESUS! The story was a triumph for Him – He got to go Home! I was stuck here….

No, I was not a big fan of the Ascension. It might have helped if I had known that the Ascension was actually all about: ME.

Question: Who is the light of the world? Little-known fact: I AM.

Hang on a minute – Jesus proclaimed in John 8:12 that HE was the Light of the World.

Absolutely correct. It is, however, also absolutely correct for me to insist that I am the light of the world, because Jesus said I was, in His Sermon on the Mount.

In fact, if you read the New Testament carefully, you’ll notice that an incredible number of “parallel” claims are made along those same lines. Jesus would explain to his disciples that He was something specific like the Light of the World, and later in Scripture we would be told that WE were (or were to become) that very same thing. A few examples:

  • Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. Jn 3:16

“For you are all sons of God
through faith in Christ Jesus.” Gal 3:26

  • Jesus has been appointed “the heir of all things.” Heb 1:2

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…” Rom 8:16

  • Jesus is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Col 1:15

“For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Rom 8:29

  • Jesus is “the radiance of [the Father’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature….” Heb 1:3

“For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature” 2 Pet 1:4

  • Jesus is “the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” Heb 3:1

“But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own….” 1 Pet 2:9

  • Jesus is the “one mediator between God and men” 1 Tim 2:5

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority….” 1 Tim 2:1

  • Jesus was “crucified in weakness, yet He lives by God’s power.” 2 Cor 13:4

“Likewise, we are weak in Him, yet by God’s power we will live with Him
to serve you.” 2 Cor 13:4

  • Jesus is seated “at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Heb 1:3

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms
in Christ Jesus….” Eph 2:6

We are called to be what Jesus is, to imitate Him in all things (except in His divine Essence – we will not become God, but we are commanded to become god-ly.) Jesus was very God of very God, but He did not spend His earthly existence sitting around marveling at this fact. Jesus “went about doing good.” This means, obviously, that we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. One small problem… We are unable to do anything of ourselves!

Apart from Me you can do nothing.” Jn 15:5

Make that one BIG problem – Jesus just ascended to the Father, and He didn’t take us with Him! And so much is expected of us, as the “parallel” statements make abundantly clear!

  • Jesus was sent: “I am not here on my own, but He who sent me is true. Jn 7:28

“As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” Jn 17:18

  • Jesus became “a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth….” Rom 15:8

Your attitude should be the same
as that of Christ Jesus, Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant….” Phil 2:5

  • Jesus said, “The Father who dwells in me is doing His works.” Jn 14:9

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Eph 2:10

  • Jesus was “a Man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs.” Acts 2:22

“…he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these
he will do
.” (Jn 14:12)

  • The Father gave Jesus “authority over all people” Jn 17:3, to “reign forever and ever” Rev 11:5

“… if we endure, we will also reign with Him.” 2 Tim 2:12

  • Jesus is “the one whom God appointed as the judge of the living and the dead.” Acts 10:42

“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?… Do you not know that we will judge angels?” I Cor 6:2-3

  • Jesus “gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Eph 5:2

“… offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” Rom 12:1

  • Jesus is “the Holy One of God.” Mk 1:24

“like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves
also in all your behavior” 1 Pet 1:15

  • Jesus said, “I love the Father” Jn 14:31 , and “As the Father loves me, so I also love you” Jn 15: 12

Love one another, even as I have loved you.” Jn 13:34

The Ascension looked to me like a recipe for disaster! So much is expected of us, yet we are simultaneously informed that without the One Who just ascended, we can do nothing! Not only does He leave us, but He insists that He MUST leave us, so that we can receive “the Comforter.”

It’s all starting to fall into place…. We aren’t the only ones who can do nothing of ourselves – Jesus said the very same thing about Himself:

the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing….

There’s a plenty good reason that we can do nothing of ourselves. Even the second Person of the Trinity could do nothing of Himself! That’s why He makes it clear to us that the Father loves Him, and He loves the Father. The Bible tells us that God is Love – God the Father is Love, God the Son is Love, God the Holy Spirit is Love. You and I are not, obviously, but we have to be in order to enter into this progressive endowment of responsibilities and the resulting ability to fulfill those responsibilities. Love is what makes it possible for us to participate in the life of God. And therefore, the Comforter was sent to fill us, the Comforter Who is the Love between the Father and the Son, so real that He is actually a Person of the Holy Trinity. If we are expected to live the life of Christ in this world, we must be filled with the same Love He is filled with, and with the power of this divine Love. Thus, of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. We are made partakers of the divine nature. Each Christian becomes a part of this divine bucket brigade, as God’s love pours out from the Father, to the Son, to us and through us to our neighbor.

Note the divine progression of Love flowing from the Father, to the Son, to the disciples, to the world. As Jesus receives from the Father, so He also gives to us, but not so that we can sit around marveling at how privileged we are. As Jesus went about doing good, so must we. As He gives to us, we are to offer to others: love, forgiveness, prayers, assistance, forbearance, mercy. We who have received from Jesus what He received from the Father are now commissioned to react as Jesus reacted to those gifts: by laying down our lives and taking up the work the Father has prepared for us. When Scripture defines who the Christian is, and what his mission is now that he has been born again, it simply points us back to Jesus’ nature and mission, because that says it all. We were loved so much that God gave His only begotten Son to save us, so that we could lay down our lives and save others (and yes, it is legitimate to say that we play a limited, supporting role in the salvation of others, as St. Paul said, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.”) Jesus left us so that we might experience His life more fully, or as St. Paul put it “that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” St. Maximus the Confessor probably expressed it best: we are called to nothing less than total participation in Christ. We, the members of the body of Christ, are literally co-workers with God (1 Cor 3:9) and partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). As members of His actual body, how could we not be? Pope Pius XII expressed the concept in these words:

“As He hung upon the Cross, Christ Jesus not only appeased the justice of the Eternal Father which had been violated, but He also won for us, His brethren, an ineffable flow of graces. It was possible for Him of Himself to impart these graces to mankind directly; but He willed to do so only through a visible Church made up of men, so that through her all might cooperate with Him in dispensing the graces of Redemption. As the Word of God willed to make use of our nature, when in excruciating agony He would redeem mankind, so in the same way throughout the centuries He makes use of the Church that the work begun might endure.

“…so in the same way throughout the centuries He makes use of the Church that the work begun might endure” – this is the Catholic understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation, that Jesus became Man so that men might become members of Jesus’ very body. Jesus did the will of His Father, and now intercedes for us that we might do exactly the same thing, following in His footsteps, by exactly the same Power that He relied on, the Holy Spirit Who is Love. The Ascension is a textbook illustration of the way God demands something impossible of us only to show us our need, and then steps in to do what needs to be done through us. Over the next 10 days we will see this in the story of Pentecost, as the apostles pray with the Blessed Virgin for 9 days before receiving the power necessary,the Holy Spirit, to fulfill the Great Commission Jesus gave them at His Ascension.

The Ascension was a key event in the divine plan. Our Elder Brother has been glorified, and is now praying for us as we, filled with the Holy Spirit, do the works that God has prepared for us to do. This is the reason we were created. We will be just like Him one day, to the glory of God the Father.

Practice starts now.


On the feast of the Ascension of the Lord

Deo omnis gloria!

I think the reading from Isaiah today may have been somewhat startling to some of us:

Thus says the LORD, who opens a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters,

Who leads out chariots and horsemen, a powerful army, Till they lie prostrate together, never to rise, snuffed out and quenched like a wick.

Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not;

See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.

Wild beasts honor me, jackals and ostriches, For I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink,

The people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise. Isa 43:16-21

Startling, because most of us are familiar with another version of this proclamation:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. Rev 21: 3-7

Wow! The “new thing” proclaimed in Revelation was actually harkening back to the “new thing” announced in Isaiah many centuries before! Indeed, “there is nothing new under the sun,” as King Solomon warned us.

Well, there is and there isn’t.

Consider the story told by our new Papa:

He described how during the conclave he was comforted by his friend, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, as the votes were going his way and it seemed “a bit dangerous” that he would reach the two-thirds necessary to be elected.

When the threshold was reached, applause erupted in the frescoed Sistine Chapel.

“He (Hummes) hugged me. He kissed me. He said, `Don’t forget about the poor!‘” Francis recalled.

“And those words came to me: The poor. The poor. Then right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars as the votes were being counted, until the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi.”

Compare this now with the story told by St. Paul:

Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised…. But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.

Nice to know that the successors to the apostles are cut from the same cloth as they were, and are of the same mind! Not a surprise though, really – God is indeed doing a new thing in His Church in every generation, and yet that “new thing” runs always along predictable lines. Like my garden – we are blessed with a profusion of daffodils, hyacinths and the like in the garden outside my window, a delight to see. I never tire of looking out at all the new flowers! And yet, while each of those flowers is indeed new, the fact that I have flowers in my garden is not new – it happens at this time every year. And it is in this continuity that we Catholics find our security as well as the freedom to innovate, to grow and develop, always adhering to the original pattern laid out long ago.

This, of course, is our major difficulty with Protestant doctrines – they are “new things,” novelties, ways of understanding Scripture that have no precedent before the time of the Reformation. It is as if two-headed dogfish began sprouting in my garden this spring. I would not be oohing and ahhing – I would be feverishly googling the number for Hazmat.

New things in the Catholic Church have Biblical and historical precedents, which is why we can state categorically to non-Catholics (and to liberal Catholics) that, no, Pope Francis will not be ordaining women or condoning homosexual acts. Newness can be expected, yes, and yet continuity. Spring is the season of newness, and yet Spring itself is not new. We await it after every winter. Newness and rejuvenation are to be expected, not feared, in a Catholic context, because the God who has ordered the seasons has ordered the steps of the Church.

Lord Jesus, send forth your Spirit! Renew the face of the earth!

On the memorial of St. Patrick of Ireland

Deo omnis gloria!

Photo credit: Narcissus jonquilla L. Real Jardín Botánico, Madrid, España, by Cillas

The Death of Judas Maccabeus

Here is Part 28 of my series on the canon of Scripture. Part One can be found here. Our Protestant hero has discovered the concept of Holy Tradition in the writings of the early Christians. Believing, as they did, that the Church was the ‘pillar and foundation of the truth,’ those early Christians relied on their leaders to faithfully preserve and hand down the doctrine taught by the apostles. How does this tie into the eventual discernment of the canon of Scripture?

Maybe, just maybe you have finally stumbled upon the key to this whole mystery, the answer to the question of how we can break out of the vicious cycle that plagued Luther as well as so many of the Reformers: “The book of James says ‘by works a man is justified, and not by faith only’ – but this contradicts the doctrine Paul preaches in the book of Romans! Therefore, the book of James contradicts the rest of the Bible and has got to go!” The answer to the dilemma was suggested to you by the first Christians, who devoted themselves to ‘the teaching of the apostles’ – not only, as you might have thought, to the teachings of the apostles written in the pages of the New Testament (which as you note would lead you directly back to the ‘James contradicts Paul – one of them has got to go!’ dilemma) but also to the teachings of the apostles as preserved in the ‘tradition’. The first Christians, you have found, believed that the church was “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim 3:16), and that the doctrine of the apostles must be handed down from bishop to bishop and guarded “with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Tim 1:14). As The Authority of the New Testament Scriptures puts it:

The apostles laid the foundation in their kerygma, witness, and doctrine. They delivered to the church the apostolic tradition, warned against false doctrine, and separated the true from the false. The church received the tradition and the doctrine of the apostles, orally and in written form, and it lived just as well by the one as the other.

This belief that God somehow preserved the teaching of the apostles in oral form down through the ages is entirely new to you. Somehow you had always just assumed that God’s word had to be written down – that was your assurance that it hadn’t been tampered with! After all, writing seems so solid, so reliable, whereas oral transmission of the faith has to pass through the brains and mouths of so many fallible, corruptible individuals….

You remember, though, the objections of many skeptics when it comes to the written Word. “How do you know these documents haven’t been altered? The earliest New Testament manuscripts we have don’t go back to the first century; they are copies of copies of copies – copies which could have been altered from the original! In fact, who says that the originals accurately portrayed the events of the life of Christ? Haven’t the words of Jesus been ’embellished’? You have no proof that Jesus really said “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” other than the insistence of the apostle John – and John wasn’t even there when Jesus supposedly uttered these words! Upon what do you base your belief that the written Word of God has not been altered down through the ages??”

To which you would of course reply that the Holy Spirit has supernaturally guarded the written Word down through the ages to ensure that God’s Truth be preserved. And if you can believe that the written Word, passed down from fallible, corruptible copyist to fallible, corruptible copyist from century to century to century, has been preserved from alteration, why is it such a leap of faith to believe that God the Holy Spirit would have been able to preserve the teachings of the apostles in oral form in the church Jesus established, especially since that is evidently exactly what He did at least up until the time the complete canon of Scripture was discerned? Especially since we know that the apostle Paul promised (in 2 Tim 1:13-14) that He would!

With the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit, this doctrine or ‘tradition’ spoken of in 1 Corinthians 11: 2 and 2 Thessalonians 2:15 could be preserved down through the years and serve as the determining factor when it came time to discern an infallible canon of Scripture. If a book had not been in use in the church down through the ages, or if it had but was not believed to stem from the apostles or their closest companions, it was not ‘apostolic’ and therefore not discerned as part of the written ‘deposit of faith’ (and this could be determined by consulting with the bishops of the various churches). And if a book, no matter how popular it may have been in some quarters, contradicted the ‘doctrine of the apostles,’ that is, the oral ‘deposit of faith,’ then it was not discerned as part of the written ‘deposit of faith’ left to us. So, the solution to the ‘James contradicts Paul/Paul contradicts James’ dilemma was quite straightforward – the church didn’t measure the book of James or any other book solely up against other books of Scripture, but also against the doctrine of the apostles which was handed down both in Scripture and in the oral tradition faithfully preserved by the church! Similarly, no one individual alone could claim to be able to settle the canon issue – the early Christians believed that the truth lay in the unity of the faith taught by the bishops as a group in union with the bishop of Rome.

You page through your reference material to see how that worked out in practice….

You note many references to the fact that individual Church Fathers all had different ideas on which books were Scripture and which weren’t:

Clement of Rome (a first-century bishop) accepted the Epistle of Barnabas as Holy Scripture. He accepted and quotes from the book of Wisdom as well, and he holds “the blessed Judith” up alongside Esther as “women, being strengthened by the grace of God” – in fact he claims that “the Lord delivered Holophernes (the antagonist in the book of Judith) into the hands of a woman (Judith).” You notice that in Irenaeus’ list of the bishops of Rome he mentions “in the third place from the apostles” this bishop Clement – it was Clement who wrote “1 Clement,” an epistle to the still-squabbling church in Corinth that some early Christians considered to be Holy Scripture and a rightful book of the New Testament. You can see why they believed this – Irenaeus says that this Clement “had seen the blessed apostles and conversed with them, and still had their preaching ringing in his ears and their authentic tradition before his eyes.” When considering which books had apostolic authority, some Christians assumed that 1 Clement, most likely written in the last decade of the first century, surely fit that bill, along with the book of Hebrews (author unknown), and perhaps 2 Peter (which you remember Calvin felt was probably written by a disciple of the apostle Peter and therefore had “apostolic authority” and belonged in the Bible.)

Irenaeus of Lyons (a second-century bishop) quoted from or alluded to all the books of our New Testament except Philemon, 2 Peter, 3 John, and Jude, as well as to Baruch, Wisdom, 1 Clement and the Shepherd of Hermas, which he considered to be inspired Scripture. He vehemently rejects the ‘Gospel of Truth’ and the ‘Gospel of Judas.’

Clement of Alexandria (2nd to 3rd century) did not accept 2 Timothy or Philemon as Scripture – he did accept the deuterocanonical books as well as many others – 1 Clement, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermas, among others.

Origen (2nd to 3rd century) accepted the Epistle of Barnabas, but he doubted that the books of James, 2 Peter, and 2 and 3 John belonged in the Bible.

Cyril of Jerusalem (4th century) rejected the Gospel of Thomas. He also rejected the book of Revelation, while including Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah in his canon of the Old Testament.

Athanasius (3rd to 4th century) accepted all the disputed books of the New Testament, and lumped together the deuterocanonical books, Esther, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache as books “which the Fathers decreed should be read….”

It’s a good thing Irenaeus didn’t insist that any individual could get it right (since you note that the above Fathers all disagreed with one another), nor did Irenaeus claim that the truth would be determined by majority vote. He said that the bishops were the rightful guardians of the truth handed down from the Apostles – one bishop might not be aware that John had written the book of Revelation, but by consulting with the bishop of John’s church in Ephesus he might find that out. Just as Paul wrote in Ephesians, each member of the body needs the other members! Together the leadership of the body of Christ could discern the canon, and the bishop of Rome (the church which Irenaeus considered to be “the greatest and most ancient”) would review and ratify their decision.

So much for the claims of different Reformers that ‘so-and-so’ in the ancient Church accepted or rejected books like 2 Peter or Hebrews – so what? The opinion of one individual Church Father didn’t really count for much (just as the opinion of one Reformer like Martin Luther or John Calvin didn’t really count for much!) How can the opinion of one fallible individual be depended upon when it comes to discerning the canon of Scripture?

That reminds you of the quote from Calvin that you read in the library:

Nothing, therefore, can be more absurd than the fiction, that the power of judging Scripture is in the Church, and that on her nod its certainty depends.

Hmmm…. Well, it depends on how you mean that! Nobody can MAKE an uninspired writing into Holy Scripture, so if Calvin meant that a particular denomination can’t choose certain books and say, “These books are now Holy Scripture, because we say so,” he was right! The canon of Scripture was discerned, meaning that the books written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit were recognized as being Holy Scripture, not made into Holy Scripture when some person or some group said “Presto-chango!”

But, if “the power of judging Scripture” means the power to discern a canon in an authoritative manner, the power to recognize the inspired books and declare beyond the shadow of a doubt that these books are God-given Holy Scripture, and that no other books belong in the canon, then….

Well, somebody HAD BETTER be able to make an authoritative pronouncement! Because otherwise, you’re left with personal opinion, with guesswork and hoping… and doubting! With Irenaeus, and Clement, and Origen, and Cyril, and Athanasius, and Luther, and Karlstadt, and Calvin – each proposing a different canon….

There HAS TO be a way to KNOW we’ve got the right canon! There HAS TO be “certainty”!

Was Calvin wrong? Does this “power of judging Scripture” belong to the Church?

For Part 29, please click here


On the memorial of Bl. Robert Dalby and Bl. John Amias

Deo omnis gloria!

Some people would tell you that God the Holy Spirit is such a prankster. Have you ever noticed how, when you are trapped in the bowels of the traffic-jam-from-Central-Hades, and you are praying like you have never prayed before that God would get you out of that traffic jam immediately if not sooner, that He sends you… another 40 minutes of traffic jam (!), because He knows that if you had the sense of a mealybug you would be praying for what you actually need, which is patience? Or how when you are engaged in a friendly debate with a Protestant at work, and you pray that God will give you the words to demolish the guy’s anti-Catholic argument, you suddenly become tongue-tied while he dances all over you, because God the Holy Spirit knows that you need humility far, far more than you need to win that argument? Or how when so many of us are praying fervently for a pope who will continue the intellectual achievements and liturgical reforms of our greatly beloved pope emeritus, God the Holy Spirit in His (literally) infinite wisdom guides the cardinals in electing Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis –

Pope Francis the Humble, who takes the bus.

Pope Francis the Humble, who cooks his own meals.

Pope Francis the Humble, who washes the feet of AIDS patients with the tender love of Christ.

Gee, what could the Spirit be trying to tell us?

Kids, meet your new Papa!

After two days of Papa Frank’s pontificate, we’re going into hysterics on the Left (“He’s a hardliner on abortion and homosexual adoption rights!!”) and on the Right (“He’s not a fan of the Traditional Mass!!”). Can’t you hear the holy laughter? The real problem is that we were all praying for what we wanted. God gave us what we needed.

As St. Paul told the Corinthians, the body of Christ is not one member, but many. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? If you were praying for an eye, and God sent you a foot, might that not cause you to think about whether God wanted you to get out a little more? This “foot”, this Francis, has much to teach us, in word and in deed. But are we cushy First World Catholics ready to learn from him? Can we pause for a moment of reflection? Can we look at him, and then look at ourselves, and see the disconnect? All of us, on the Catholic Left and the Right, agree on one thing – his humility is praiseworthy, and his devotion to the poor most admirable. Right. I don’t know about your life, but the lifestyle of the average First Worlder is without a doubt more affluent than that of the bus-riding, apartment-dwelling Cardinal from Buenos Aires. Abstemious, we ain’t. Let’s ponder that.

I pray that Francis will not be alone as he performs his acts of deep humility, but that he will be joined by an ever-growing cadre of Catholics willing to divest themselves of their devotion to their own personal comfort in their zeal to follow the Lord in lives (not just in Lenten fits) of real prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It will take an army made up of just that kind of Catholic to carry out the New Evangelization, because you’ve got to walk a meaningful walk before you can talk meaningful talk!
And for just such a time as this, God sends us Papa Frank. Can we imitate him as he imitates the Lord?

Fall in, Comfy Catholics – the joke’s on us! Line up behind your new Papa, and learn from him. And don’t forget to thank our God for graciously supplying all our needs…

…chuckling all the while!

On the memorial of St. Louise de Marillac

Deo omnis gloria!