February 19, 2013
I’m sometimes asked by artless, though usually fairly harmless, people, “Are there some Church teachings you don’t believe?” I resist the urge to respond with equal tactlessness, “Are there things about your wife you don’t love?” The question itself reveals just how much political paradigms have distorted our ways of thinking and speaking about the Church, as if the deposit of faith were somehow equivalent to a party platform.
And yet—here you have it, Mr. Artless Questioner—this week I find myself ready to dissent publicly—for all the web to see—from an official act of the Vicar of Christ, the Supreme Pontiff, the Successor of the Apostle Peter.
Benedict XVI, do you have to go so soon?
I agree, to be sure, with all the generous things that have been said about the pope’s decision—that it’s a selfless and humble act, the fruit of great prayer and faith, born out of a profound love of the Church. Of course, it is. And of course Pope Benedict is a better judge of his own limits and abilities than anyone else and is also in a better position to judge the needs of the Church than some two-bit blogger from South Dakota.
But still, I can’t help but thinking, Benedict at 75% is still better than most of us at 100%. Who else combines Benedict’s spiritual and intellectual breadth and depth, his combination of scholarly incisiveness and gentleness of spirit? Who else has better seen through the pomps and empty promises of secularism or proposed so insistently, so clearly their remedy—friendship with Jesus Christ? Who else has Benedict’s sense of the liturgy, sense of history, sense of prayer? Couldn’t he just stay on for another year or two? Couldn’t he at least have waited until after finishing that encyclical on faith? Read the rest of this entry »
January 8, 2012
Isa 60:1-6; Ps Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13; Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6, Mt 2:1-12
The Great Solemnity of the Epiphany has so long been associated with the image of “Three Kings” that it’s easy to forget that Matthew nowhere mentions either the number of visitors or their kingly rank. The number three seems to have been inferred from the three gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh (the Orthodox Church actually has a tradition of 12 visitors). Likewise, the kingly image seem to arise from the Gospel’s ancient pairing with today’s responsorial psalm: “The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts; the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute” (72:10).
Matthew does, however, call the visitors “magi” (μάγοι), which could mean anything from “wiseman” and “sorcerer” to “astrologer” and “astronomer” (these categories were not exactly distinct in the ancient world, since it was only the rise of Christianity that the difference between religion, science, and magic became clear). Translating the magi into contemporary categories, we might think of them as scientists and philosophers, as the men most respected for wisdom and learning in their age.
Understood in this light, the readings for the Epiphany make an incredibly bold—seemingly arrogant—claim for Christ and His Church. When he portrays the magi adoring Christ, St. Matthew symbolically portrays all human wisdom finding fulfillment in Him, the “desired of all nations.” Read the rest of this entry »
June 26, 2011
For the good people of St. Thomas More Parish in Omaha, NE:
At heart of the Eucharist, the particular gift of God that we celebrate on this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, is the mystery of change and transformation. Anyone who has had even a little catechism knows that Catholics believe that here on the altar bread and wine are really changed into the body and blood of Christ. This is why we fast and genuflect and keep reverent silence in the presence of the Sacrament.
But I’d like to propose that we think of this Eucharistic transformation as just the middle in a series of three related transformations. The Eucharistic change that takes place again and again on every altar throughout the world also hearkens back to a change that took place once for all; and it points forward to another change, the change we hope for in ourselves.
The once-for-all change that the Eucharistic recalls is none other than the central event of Christianity: Jesus’ passion and resurrection. Read the rest of this entry »
January 7, 2010
Pope Benedict recently gave his yearly Christmas address (h/t whispers) to the officials of the Curia, who run the various offices in the Vatican. It is often a speech in which he touches on the events in his schedule for the past year. What struck me most this year was right at the end, when the Pope reflected on his trip to the Czech Republic, and floated some ideas for extending the Church’s ministry in a new way to agnostics and atheists. Could people who do not feel part of Christianity, yet seek beauty and truth, have some real place in the Church? Read the rest of this entry »