Metaphysics, part one

Metaphysics was one of my favourite classes this semester. I'll provide highlights of what we learned:

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that thinks about what is common to every being, every thing that exists; it asks what are the universal properties of being as such. It looks at the deep underlying bond of unity among all beings, despite all their distinctions: that they are.

It is based on the supposition that being is understandable (intelligible). Though this can't exactly be proven, it is a reflection of human experience. Our mind has an insatiable appetite to know and understand, so it is only natural that things are understandable. Everything we accomplish is based on the assumption that being is intelligible, so to deny the intelligibility of being is folly.

One of the basic datum of metaphysics is the principle of sufficient reason: every being must have the sufficient reason for its existence in itself or in another being. If we didn't maintain this principle, then we wouldn't be able to problem-solve--it maintains that beings must have causes (or explain themselves).

We were introduced to the distinction between existence and essence: existence is the existence of a thing, and essence is the subject which exists.

We can know the world as it really is, though not completely. We can really know the world because beings by their nature reveal themselves, what they are like--otherwise we wouldn't know them, which we do. But we can't completely know the world because no single act of a being can completely express its nature, and we have a limited capacity for comprehending all the information conveyed by an action.

We saw the shift from ancient and medieval philosophy to modern philosophy: prior to the shift, there was a focus on objects studied, to a focus on subjects, the person's interior experience of being. In modern and contemporary philosophy the concern is how minds work, whereas before, philosophers could actually get to knowledge of beings.

The participation doctrine of St Thomas Aquinas is that the bond of unity among all being is that they all participate in the act of existence, which derives from God.

Essence and existence are distinct (not the same, nor do they come from the same source in the being) but inseparable metaphysical co-principles. If they were not distinct, then every being would be the same thing. They are inseparable because they cannot exist apart from each other; one's existence depends on the other, and vice versa. Existence is the principle of similarity among beings: every being has existence. Essence is the principle of dissimilarity.

Review of Rhetoric

In Rhetoric we looked at a couple speeches I found worthwhile. The first is Mama T’s (Bl Teresa of Calcutta’s) speech on accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, which you can read here. The thesis of her speech was that true peace is love; it is of the heart. She chose to highlight the threat to peace that is abortion: "These are things that break peace, but I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing - direct murder by the mother herself."

The second noteworthy speech was what I presented on in class: Pope Benedict's speech to Parliament at Westminster Hall, available here. The subject was the role of religion in the public sphere; his thesis regarding this is that "the role of religion in political debate is...to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles."

Early on in the speech, Benedict refers to St Thomas More. This man was sentenced to death in the very place Benedict was speaking. He was one of the few high-ranking persons to openly oppose Henry VIII and his Reformation; he is an example of subordinating duty to the state, to duty to God. Though he was a servant of the king, he ordered this service rightly in relation to his servitude to God.

Benedict later shows how religion and reason must go together, and not be separated. Religion without reason has led to the errors of sectarianism and fundamentalism, while reason without religion had led to the slave trade, Hitler and Stalin. Both of them are faulty on their own, so they need to go hand in hand.

He reminded the British of their valuing tolerance, non-discrimination, freedom of conscience, and freedom of religion, and then showed how their recent actions towards Christians have violated these values: for example, wanting to get rid of public celebration of Christmas and arguing that Christians in public roles (eg health-care professionals and legislators) should have to act against their conscience.


Homily: St Jerome

Today we commemorate St Jerome, Doctor of the Church. He is known for translating the Bible into Latin, for which he had to learn Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He grew up speaking Illyrian, whatever that is, maybe Albanian. Jerome, in Latin Hieronymus; Geronimo, happy name day.

He had a marked temperament. He was very choleric, and had strained relations even with his friends. He corresponded with numerous people, including with Augustine, who was extremely patient, and ended up estranged from his best friend, Paulinus. He is usually depicted in a Cardinal’s garb with a lion and striking his breast with a stone. He’s very dour looking up there. He lived for many years in Israel, in the desert. He was a desert father, in a sense. The most important thing about him is that he lived the vita ascetica—he lived with that stone. This vita ascetica is the one thing I want to say about Jerome. He wrote a work on virginity, On Virginity. Many women came from Rome to live around him in the desert, and people talked about him a lot because of this. But he knew, lived, and taught the value of chastity. To be chaste is to be on fire with love, with love of God. Acting on torrid passions is cold, it is icy cold. The world around us tells us all about the glories of sex, as it did in Jerome’s time. Rome in Jerome’s time was decadent with regards to sex, like some places we might know today. Even inside the Church, people talk about the wonders of sex; it’s a wonder Catholics haven’t written tantric manuals. But that is not the tradition. We speak of sex with great reverence. Augustine knew what it was to be a slave to sex. Origen, who lived slightly before the time of Augustine and Jerome, knew the dangers of sex. He was rather more zealous than Jerome, but he was a great theologian. Jerome, Augustine, and Pope Benedict all highly revere him. It is only his zealousness that has kept him from being named a saint; if you don’t know about this already, you can ask Sam later. Augustine knew the relief of chastity, after years of orgy.

To be chaste is to be most on fire with love. Virginity is a way of life, of the heart. In looking at Jerome’s On Virginity I saw where the Church fathers spoke of becoming virgin again: it is a matter of the heart. Only love can conquer lust; only love can conquer lust. Chastity and virginity are not about a physical state, but about your heart. It has to do with all 24 hours, not just the one hour when temptation comes. You can’t live, be, however you want in those 23 hours and expect to keep from falling in that one hour. Sure, a cold shower helps at that hour, we have all the natural means available to us, but we must at all time cultivate chastity in our heart. Be on fire with love. Be consumed with longing for the Lord, as in the first reading today.

I get into conversations with people about the spirituality of the diocesan priest versus the spirituality of the religious priest. I think that really, on a gross level, there is one spirituality, because there is one Spirit, the Holy Spirit. But I do believe that diocesan priests are called to be desert fathers, like St Jerome, leading people into the desert to purity of heart.

Many people translated the Bible before Jerome, and after. That is not the important thing about him. It is his asceticism. There was a medieval pope who said, “Jerome, but for that stone you would not have been canonized.”Jerome’s asceticism is all that matters about him.


Homily: St Wenceslaus

St Wenceslaus was a duke, in Bohemia. One thing, there's no "slaus" in the Eastern European languages; his name really is "Wenceslav", much nicer. "Slaus" is a Anglicization, or Latinization of "slav", which means "glory". In the Russian liturgy you'll hear them repeat "slav, slav, slav". We probably use "slaus" from "laus", or praise. The Slavs came from three brothers, who got to the Carpathians and divided up: one went west, forming the Czechs, one north to form the Poles, and one east to form Russia. These were then evangelized by Saints Cyril and Methodius, who were Slavs or Greeks. The Czechs were also evangelized by missionaries from Germany. A generation or two after this evangelization was when Wenceslaus lived. His father was Christian, but his mother and brother were not. He was raised Christian by his grandmother, Ludmilla, herself a saint. He was duke of Bohemia, reigning from Prague. He was killed by his brother Boleslaus at the church doors, after feasting with him. His last words were of forgiveness to his brother. This is what the Christian life is, a life of forgiveness.

The readings are full of misery today; they are very Jewish. Job curses the day he was born, that he is male, that he nursed. The reading there clearly shows a belief that it is better to be dead than to be alive, there is so much misery in life. The Psalm is more of the same: I cry out, I clamor, a call for help, being surfeited with troubles, near death... "With all your billows you overwhelm me"...it's like being buffeted with a wave when you're body-surfing. These readings are just full of the misery and suffering of life. And that is the good news, because the faith encounters the misery of life. The Jews had a real sense of misery, that the Gentiles did not. The Gentiles did not encounter misery, they tried to gloss over it and ignore it; they had great heroes. If the story of David had been written by Gentiles, there would have been no Bathsheba.

In the Gospel today Jesus is among the Samaritans, but is going to Jerusalem. He is going to Jerusalem, even though Mount Zion is nowhere near as impressive a mountain as is the Samaritans' Mount Gerizim. Of course, in Israel, none of the mountains are really impressive. No offence to our Wisconsin brothers, but it's a little like going to Holy Hill. But he was going to Jerusalem, and because of this they would not welcome him. He was going to Jerusalem, which is the place of his passion, death, resurrection, and ascension. By uniting our misery with his passion, we too can redeem the misery and suffering in the world.


Homily: St Matthew

I know we are pressed for time today with the photos, so I will limit my homily to a few thoughts.

We are about four weeks into the semester, and I've noticed that it is showing on some of your faces. There's difficulty and frustration. Living in community isn't easy. We can't get along with anyone for a long time, without the Holy Spirit. And you're subject to formation, and I know that will make you feel helpless. Institutions are imperfect. You all are trying to be good, to win approval. But we do each need to hear a different drummer. Keep one ear open to that different drummer, without ignoring the drummer that keeps you in line. We need the institutional drummer to help us keep going and get things done, so strike a balance between the two.

Our Lord today tells us, "I did not come to call the righteous but sinners", and that he desires mercy. You don't have to go seeking out sin to experience mercy. We are all far worse than we think. Be merciful, and experience God's mercy. Expect God's mercy. God's mercy is like water drops falling from the sky, or like the beautiful trees in autumn. You would sin gravely if you don't go look at, spend time with the trees. Go, and sin no more.


Lectio Divina: Lk 16:1-13

And he said also to his disciples: There was a certain rich man who had a steward: and the same was accused unto him, that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said to him: How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship: for now thou canst be steward no longer. And the steward said within himself: What shall I do, because my lord taketh away from me the stewardship? To dig I am not able; to beg I am ashamed. I know what I will do, that when I shall be removed from the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. Therefore calling together every one of his lord's debtors, he said to the first: How much dost thou owe my lord? But he said: An hundred barrels of oil. And he said to him: Take thy bill and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then he said to another: And how much dost thou owe? Who said: An hundred quarters of wheat. He said to him: Take thy bill, and write eighty. And the lord commended the unjust steward, forasmuch as he had done wisely: for the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. And I say to you: Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity; that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings. He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater: and he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is greater. If then you have not been faithful in the unjust mammon; who will trust you with that which is the true? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's; who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

I went in a few different directions with this reading for today, none of them particularly in-depth.
First, I realized that the steward and his master really had different interests. A good steward would have his interests aligned to those of his master. So how am I to go about aligning my interests with Jesus'? I came up with prayer, loving him (though I don't know exactly how on that one), and asceticism.
The master commends the steward for acting wisely; in the NAB this was "prudently", which made me think of shrewd, and Jesus' words to the 12 in Mt 10 to be as cunning as serpents and innocent as doves. I don't think I have a great portion of the virtue of prudence, owing in no small part, I imagine, to my youth. The week prior to doing this lectio I was cantor at my parish house, so I got to choose hymns for lauds and vespers. At the seminary, custom is that we only use the common of saints when we absolutely must. I prefer a liberal use of the commons, and so I imposed that as cantor. There was never a good chance to warn people ahead of time, and while my goal was a good, I was concerned I may have been imprudent about my means of achieving that end. That experience was I think why the bit about prudence caught me so much in this reading. How am I to develop prudence? I came up with praying for it, sheer experience, and in particular situations asking the Holy Spirit what I ought to do. Josh offered the advice that virtues are habits, so in a given situation ask 'what would the prudent man do', and then do that; eventually by doing this I'll develop the habit of prudence.
The ending bit, about being unjust in small things then in big things, was discouraging. It's all to easy to cut corners, particularly in unimportant areas of obedience. For example, chapel casual at the seminary does not include sandals, only shoes. I typically wear sandals with socks for chapel casual. I thought that this week a good way to put this gospel into practice would be to mortify myself and wear real shoes when I'm in chapel casual, rather than my beloved Birks. It's a minor minor point, but I have grown in the past week, mortifying myself over something really stupid, but which really does annoy me to no end. I forced myself to be faithful in a small thing, so hopefully I'll get better about being faithful in the big things.


First Philosophy

We've started our school year at St John Vianney, and I am at the very beginning of the academic track, first philosophy. I'm really enjoying my classes, though the reading for them has tended to keep me quite busy. My classes are: Rhetoric, Latin, Metaphysics, Intro to Liturgy, Logic, and Personalism. Personalism is a fascinating class; personalism was a Catholic movement around the 20s and 30s which focused on persons rather than things, as a response to the rise of both fascism and communism.

Homily: St Boniface

Back to my interrupted series, of homilies from our 30 day retreat by my favourite priest:

The Election, vocation, and priesthood are on my mind today. I'd like to talk about priesthood. Growing up I didn't really like priests. Some of my relatives had gone into schism, and therew as a general distrust of priests. There were very good priests when I went to university, though. The first was elderly, and very humble. At the university very few faculty are humble, and this Jesuit had a high position there. He didn't really have the qualifications for it, but that's where the Jesuits sent him; that's just the way they did it in those days. When I went on the cruise, we had classes, and then when I got back the school didn't want to give me credit for that year. So this priest wrote the courses and credits on my transcript, and that was that. The second was very kindly. The guys who lived on his hall would bowl down the hall, right outside his room, loudly playing the 1812 Overture. This priest came out of his room, and all he said was, "Can't you listen to something more tasteful?" The third once told me something, I won't tell you what it was, but it was a hard truth lovingly but firmly put. These men were always there for us. I stayed for a time with a Protestant minister and his family. I saw that his family always came first before his people. But priests don't have this family to attend to. What struck me about those priests was that they were always, always, there for us, even when we didn't care, or were bowling in front of their room.

One more man I want to talk about, he wasn't a priest, he was a layman. He had come to the States as a stowaway, and lived here illegally working as a stone mason for many years. He was like a father to me. Eventually he returned with his wife to Italy, and when I was there studying we were like family. I would come over every weekend for dinner. When I was going back to the States, he was walking me to the station, a man of 92, and this is what he told me: "Don't talk much, listen a lot, and do the good that you can."


Homily: Birth of Mary

Let us commemorate the illustrious birth of the glorious Virgin Mary, for the Lord has looked with favor on his lowly servant. He sent his angel to announce to her that she would conceive the Savior of the world.

Today is the feast of the Nativity of Mary, and our beloved Jesuit preached to us today at the seminary, so I am interrupting the flow of his homilies from the 30-day retreat to present this one, on the day of its delivery:

Dn Dygert did such a good job with that genealogy. We go through that whole thing, and find out that it isn’t even Jesus’ ancestry. Its that of Joseph, Mary’s husband, of whom Christ was born.
For that whole list, nothing new is really happening; its just more of the same. Abraham, Rahab, David, most people’s lives have some drama, but are largely the same. Mary is something new, and that’s what we’re celebrating today. There was the excitement of the first temple with David and Solomon, but then God’s presence left the temple and the people were dispersed everywhere.
Mary is the new thing, the only thing, we have to offer the world. Everything else is more of the same.
Everything starts today, in the birth of this woman who is the beginning of God re-creating the world; in three months we celebrate the Immaculate Conception, where God sanctified, raised up the marriage embrace and made it bear this holy fruit.
God made it very clear that to enter the kingdom of heaven we have to become like little children. Most people don’t want to enter the kingdom of heaven; even most Catholics don’t want to enter the kingdom of heaven; we’re much more comfortable here, with what we can see, paying off of mortgages; making plans for success and seeing them through. Our brains handle that easily. But we have to be oriented to the kingdom of heaven, not the kingdom of earth. We’ll pray shortly “thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”, not “as it is on earth”. Mary was childlike.
Mothers teach their children. Mary had such an influence on Jesus, teaching him for the 33 years of his life. Don’t mothers teach their children so much? Even to smile. Coochie-coo.
We don’t know much about Mary, except that she said yes. And that’s all we really need to know. We know of her because we are part of her family. That family formed when Jesus said to her from the cross “woman, behold your son”, and to John “behold your mother”. The family that was formed around her on Pentecost. She said yes to God. This is all we need. To say yes to God. And saying no to the devil helps, too.

Homily: St Charles Lwanga and Companions

Here we are in the middle of retreat. One of my friends has noticed that once you get over the hill, you pick up speed. So, the retreat days you'll find, will go a bit faster now.

On this retreat we want to be developing a taste, a sense, for the things of God. Great breakthroughs may happen, though they don't for most. And that's ok; they can be forged by the devil. Develop a taste for the things of God. Persevere--be present to God, to nature, the good meals we're given, your 21 brothers, none of whom have stabbed anyone yet. You have this time to be with God, away from the world, from town, where people are screaming at eachother, comitting adultery, and getting divorced. Develop a taste for the things of God. Be able to return to the world with this taste in your mouth, because its often hard to tell whether something is of God or not. You want to be able to have an instinct if something is fishy. It's a matter of discernment.

I'm the only priest here without Irish blood in me, but I was formed among Irish Catholics. When I returned to Confession, my confessor asked if I was Irish. When I was 27, a Jesuit novice, I was sent to NY to work with poor hispanics, and on the subway I saw for the first time an Irish face that was not Christian. I was disconcerting to me; the Dying Gaul. I was speaking to a seminarian from Mexico; we don't have a lot in common, I'm not a bit Mexican, I don't even like Mexican food, but we were mourning the deaths of people we knew who had lived without electricity. It's different, even their eyes, having not watched a television, or played video-games; no offence to you all. We live in a world of incredible changes; there is really a dizzying pace of change. That you're all here is a miracle, it really is. The world is going in a completely opposite direction, and you've heard God calling you to this place to spend a month with him.

My favourite aunt is an atheist, though one with morals. One day she asked what I believe, and I spent a couple hours telling her. When it was all over, she said, "What a lovely imagination you have!" But she does have morals. In the 50s she was what you called a "career woman"--had a job, no kids, not married--what you now call a woman, I suppose. Well in the 50s she was living in NYC with a roommate. One night this roommate decided to entertain a man overnight. The next day she kicked her out. This same woman, by the 80s, was saying that abortion is permissible. "Things change, and you have to go along with it." In the world, morality, things, had changed. Now her husband, a scientific agnostic, has told me that "technology isn't all that they thought it would be." You're being sent out into a world where stuff is more important than people. There is constant change; there is nothing to hold on to. The only way to cope is to go with it. Things do change--we aren't all wearing cassocks, and women aren't going about in hoop skirts a la Gone with the Wind. You need to learn what legitimately changes, and what doesn't. Decide what you'll give your life for. My aunt gave up everything. You need a healthy sense of mourning.

Now to today's saint, Charles Lwanga. In Uganda in the 1880s, the king would use his attendents, and he was a sodomite. Charles and his companions refused the king's advances. So they can be called martyrs for chastity, for sexual morality.

In the world today there is so much depravity, so much misery. When I was driving a cab in Hawaii, I worked the overnight shift, and then we cabbies would go get breakfast together. Well one of these guys was a "kept boy". He asked me to take him to the airport one time, and on the way there he told me, "You're the only friend I've ever had." We went to breakfast together six times! Our was probably the only non-sexual relationship he had had for some time. So what is friendship in Christ? You must be men of love. Be a best friend to people. Be a man of liberation, of joy. You must be rooted in Jesus. Look to the loving relationship of Jesus and the apostles. They had intimacy because their relationship was non-sexual. We need the ability to be intimate. Beg the Holy Spirit to enter into your relationships. Bring the love of Jesus to your people. Bring love to people seduced by a counterfeit. The closest embrace knows no touch.


Homily: Blessed Virgin Mary on a Saturday

Today is given to Our Lady in the Church's calendar. Reflect on who she is for us. For the Church. For Jesus and in the situation of womanhood today, the world we live in. The European Constitution doesn't even mention God. Our society is one of secularization; the powers that be want to create a world without God; moreover, in opposition to him. It is profoundly unnatural. This is why, I think, that gay marriage is so heavily pushed as a right; its the institutionalization of something that is unnatural. It is an effort to make reality whatever we say it is. It's not a matter of perversion but of un-, even anti-naturalness. You can see it even going to the WalMart at Atlantic, the way people dress. It's just unnatural. It started with the fall of the angels--the rebellion, and has deeply infected the human community. And yet, there is still much good in it. The Chinese character for good is a woman with a child; (and home is a house with a pig in it). Much of the world's problem today is ego. Children get in the way of egos and so there is abortion. The world wants to define personhood based on achievements, on one's CV, one's accomplishments. And women are pushing to make every achievement that men have, good or ill. We must get out of our egos. The world's view has nothing to do with God.
My imagination, my fantasy, is that God loves babies. The purpose of life is two year olds. Life is about being a two year old. Not 18, 21, 50, but two. That becomes clearer with looking in the mirror each passing year. We're called to play like a two-three-four year old. It's really all about children. We're called to be like little children.
We're called to divinization in a way that the angels are not.
Look at the women in power these days. Hilary Clinton. Is that what women are called to be like? That contrasts with the call of Christians. Turn on the tv, and you'll just see pride. Where do we see humble service?
Think on heaven. It is more real than earth. Its the source of all consolation. We seek that his will be done as it is in heaven, not as it is in the powerful board rooms of the earth.
Think about God's irony. He takes a lowly virgin to work his salvation.
We need to be healed, purified.
In your ministry you'll be serving, reaching out, to people at many different levels. But they've been raised in unnatural milieux. Priests must be in touch with the heart of God, desiring to be with people, reaching out in different ways to different people and different sexes. And remember the people you deal with are on drugs; my doctor friend in Denver said now most people are on drugs to alter their mood.
It is so important to say yes to God. Find him in the places of creation, in dreams, in memories.
Mary is the real hope of the human race. She is real today. She was assumed into heaven and is queen of the angels. She is radically different from all other women. Jesus Christ comes from her. She pre-eminently has that woman's gift of a light touch. She invites mirth into heaven. She is our solitary boast. She is our life, our sweetness, and our hope. She was the best pray-er because she was always listening for God. She is totally pure. Her fertility came through the intensity of her belief coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit. You should go to Nazareth to her home, and have a cup of tea with Our Lady.
You know converts, especially from the evangelical world, will ask me "What does one do with the rosary?" Well, you can just rattle off the Hail Marys ten at a time, you don't have to do anything. Just spend time with Our Lady.
Mary really is the embodiment of the beauty of woman. She is the beauty of woman that God had in mind. Eve is the mother of all the living, and they seek their own ego, and ambition, and power. Mary is the mother of the Church, of the humble.

Homily: Pentecost

One of the greatest aims of this retreat is to come to know the Lord's peace. Unfortunately, to know this we must also know dis-peace. The world's idea of peace, so bandied about when I was a youth, is rather cowardice, laziness, "getting along". It was very easy then to have peace if you were a blond-haired surfer.
The Lord's peace has much to do with forgiveness. If we forgive, we have peace. This text, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them" is often used as a proof-text for the sacrament of confession. But this is a power, no, a command, to all Christians. All of us are commanded to bring forgiveness into the world.
This really is part of the good news: we all are sinners, every last one of us. All people are sinning all the time, well almost all the time. The world feels screwed up, because it is screwed up. You feel screwed up, because you are screwed up. The greatest thing about the Catholic Church is that it reminds people of their sinfulness. The Church is very concerned with reality. There's a Zen proverb, not Christian, but wise, that says, "Life is like going out on the ocean, in a boat you know is going to sink." The world tries to deceive itself, saying everything's all right. People tell themselves, "Well, my boat is bigger is bigger than your boat"...but still, it's going to sink. The world is so deluded. A few weeks ago on the front page of The Denver Post there were hundreds of people in front of the Capitol Building getting stoned off their gourds. One of my friends, a medical doctor, said most people are on mood-altering drugs for depression or mental illness. Well, that's what the Chinese did in the 19th century: "let's give everyone opium". That will bring peace. This is just another one of my hair-brained theories, but I think much mental illness is caused by a lack of forgiveness.
So part of the good news is the good news of original sin. We're all subject to it, so there's no need to hide it, pretend it doesn't exist. Admitting something's wrong seems to be a cardinal sin here in the midwest. "How's it going?" "Oh, it's fine, just fine."
This pace that Jesus gives us is realistic, it acknowledges that much may be wrong without us, but I have peace despite this because Jesus is the Lord of my life.
Confession is my favourite Sacrament; that's why I became a priest. I love being able to absolve people, bringing them forgiveness. I love hearing confessions; well, not hearing them, but giving absolution.
We are forgiven sinners, bringing forgiveness to a world of sinners.

Homily: Tuesday of the seventh week in Easter

So much of life in the world is about having fun. High speed, loud, out in a blaze of glory. This is far different from the life God wants us to have. Something that happened here reminded me of it. [This homily, and the rest for a month's worth, were delivered on the 30day retreat in a little town in Iowa.] A bunch of kids around here have gotten ATVs and have torn up down around the river. I don't know why they would do that, it's so beautiful. Well anyway, one of these kids had an accident on one, and is now paralyzed for life. Like this, we so often get to see just snapshots of others' lives. That's true of advertising too. We see a snapshot of such happy people. But like Yeats asked, how often does this kind of life come to a happy end? It looks good in a snapshot, but how often does it end in divorce, or being paralyzed? Misery creeps in. Life in the world is bound for death and destruction. I tried to live that life in Hawaii when I was young. But I saw these people in their 40s and 50s who had lived their lives partying all the time, and they had scary faces.
The world does not deliver what it promises. So many people live with illusions, and it leads them to heartbreak. God has a plan for us: to give us eternal life, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. This is for all of us.
Each year at the Easter Vigil we renew our promise to oppose the glamour of Satan and declare war on the world and on sin. We do this not because we are ornery, but because we love God.
True life comes from faith in God. How do we live this way? St Paul today says, "You yourselves know how I lived among you." We have come here to live together to deepen profoundly our love and knowledge of God and his son Jesus Christ. By the Holy Spirit we enter into the events of the life of the divine person, Jesus. Here we are seeking intimacy with God and with Jesus. This is not possible in the world without a special grace. So beg God the grace. Beg the grace of gratitude, especially for getting to know God. He will form us so we can return to the world and help people from slavery to illusions, and bring them to eternal life--to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. Ask God for gratitude and patience. Rome wasn't built in a day. Patience and humour are needed.

Homily: Tuesday of the fifth week in Easter

This is the last time this year I will get to preach to our deacons. You have much to do as priests. The Church has its share of problems, but it is in a good state. No pant-suit nuns will be trying to con-celebrate with you at your first Mass. Your mission is to go out to proclaim to the world the good news, that "God is alive and well. I am here staking my life on it."

Homily: Ss Philip and James

We need to learn to accept ourselves. Do away with idols. Deal with yourself as you are, not as you should be. You'll get absolutely nowhere doing that. Is, and not should. Should is an enemy of the spiritual life.
In the gospel today Jesus says to Philip "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me?"
I hope you're appreciating the blossoms that are out and about, which I noticed on the way over here to your new chapel. Gratitude is so important in the spiritual life.

Homily: Tuesday of the fourth week in Easter

Acts 11:19-26 Ps 87:1b-3, 4-5, 6-7
John 10:22-30

I want to talk today about fatherhood, since Jesus says today, "The Father and I are one." Kids, and boys especially, go through a phase where they want to be just like Dad, and do what he does. Then later they want nothing to do with him and certainly not to be like him. Still later, they wake up and realize, with resignation, that they are like him.

Homily: Mary, Queen of the Society of Jesus

I want to preach today about heaven; I don't think we do that enough. Jesus calls us to heaven; to be miners for a heart of gold. But in speaking of heaven we have to talk also about sin, because sin is what keeps us from heaven. Sin is ugly, and it disfigures us. It gets us down and we see things in an ugly way. But then by God's love something of beauty breaks in, and we are moved to God.

Tuesday of the third week in Easter

Acts 7:51-8:1a Ps 31:3cd-4, 6+7b+8a, 17+21ab
John 6:30-35

It seems that so much of the Gospels, as here, and of life, are vignettes. So I have a vignette to share with you. While I was in Rome I went to say Mass at St Peter's, and I saw a Jesuit there whom I dread. He's the most arrogant man you'll meet. He has dragged men forcibly from the altar when he thinks they're not doing things right, and yells at them as well. Somehow I've managed not to be accosted by him thus. So I was just in dread while I was there; this is the man whom Jesuits talk about: "O yes, I know that one"; and I've talked about him all over. While I was there he did this, dragging another priest off the altar. Now the next day in the sacristy, he approached me and apologized for the behaviour he had shown in front of me. He really made a sincere apology. I realized that he knew of his problem, and it was a struggle for him. This is probably something he's been confessing for 60 years. And this is my point: hell is other people. Living with others is the biggest challenge in our life.

Homily: Tuesday of the second week in Easter

Well I've come back from my pilgrimage to Fatima and Rome. I really have three different homilies I want to give, so I'm going to give three homilies. I hope it isn't too much of a kaleidoscope of images.
So, homily #1: This will be about my time in Rome. I was going the way of the cross with the Holy Father on Good Friday at the Coliseum. It was a typical Italian/Roman crowd. Lots of pushing and shoving to get to the front. I did not want to deal with that. So I left and went to a parish, where they were doing the way of the cross as well. Being an American I kept to myself, but close by was a man who noticed I didn't have a program. Throughout the stations he inched closer to me, until he was sharing his program with me, and we exchanged niceties and 'happy easters'.
And while I was there I went to a bakery I frequented long ago, and the old Italian lady behind the counter, who was just as old then, remembered me. She's always so nice; she is a saint. Imagine dealing all day with inane tourists, and still being kind. I asked her one day what her secret is, and she said, "I let it go." That, I think, will make us saints: let it go.
Homily #2: Poland. This Saturday the president of Poland died when his plane crashed. He was going to visit a commemoration of the massacre of Polish officers by the Soviets in World War II.
Homily #3: We are living in a great time in the Church. This weekend a priest of this archdiocese was accused of sexual abuse. The world has mounted a great attack on the Church, and we are called to be saints through this time.

Homily: The Annunciation

I have a great joy being here praying with you this feast day. Now I like St Joseph, but I think the Annunciation is a greater feast so we're doing something special for it.
That's such a striking line in the Collect: "the beauty of your power". Our world is obsessed with power. You can see it on the interstate with the SUV fleets--and they do not respect my little car. We just had a huge political battle, which is seemingly going to have a huge impact on our life. Some are saying it is the biggest blow to the pro-life movement since Roe v. Wade. As I was watching all this about the health care debate, the politicians seemed incredibly ugly. They were dead to goodness and beauty. Lord Acton said power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We have such appetites for power: of intellect, will, influence, friends. But the power of God is in greatest contrast to this: the motherhood of the barren Elizabeth, and the virgin mother Mary. The power of God is opposite our human expectations. We are told cursed is he who trusts in man; but blessed is he who trusts in the Lord. In the midst of the world's lust for power, we here are an oasis of God's work in the world today. But the Church is not free from the desire for power; the Church has made monsters. I hate to say it, but Hitler was never excommunicated. It [the Church] suffers sinfulness and weakness.
But the kingdom of God is not about earthly power. God works in ways we cannot imagine, especially in the darkest of nights. It is fortuitous that so often the Annunciation falls in Lent near to Holy Week. These two mysteries are intertwined. And what do you do when Good Friday falls on March 25? I once visited a Byzantine monastery when this happened. They celebrated both Offices in full. We were never out of the chapel. When Mary gave her fiat, she said yes not only to the Incarnation but to the crucifixion as well. She gave God a blank check.
What does it mean that Mary is virgin? Above the physical aspect, her strength was in the Spirit, and not in man.
Behold the beauty of her yes; the beauty of this yes, which has captured our hearts for two-thousand years. You men are here because of your yes. Maybe because of the food, but you gave an inital yes to God. Build your vocation on your yes. When its tough going, dig in and hold on. Call on God, he won't abandon you. The yes or no is yours; it is not for your bishop or your vocation director or your family to say yes, but you alone. You are invited to participate in the Annunciation, and bring forth Jesus Christ in the flesh.

Homily: Tuesday of the fourth week in Lent

Ezek 47:1-9, 12 Ps 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
John 5:1-3a, 5-16

Sabbath. How do we enter into the Sabbath?
I want to read you one of my favourite poems, by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

God's wilderness. Enter into God's wilderness, the wilderness he created. Such a bit part of the US is the wild west. I grew up in New York City, so for me the wild west was across the river, the Jersey shore. That's how it was, until I went to Berkeley. The wilderness is such a part of America. Europe is very different. The Native Americans have had a big impact on us. I've never met a Native American, except for Archbishop Chaput, but nevertheless, they've influenced the US. Everyone has been a Boy Scout, and has gone camping. Not so in Europe. Studying over there, I went camping with one of my friends to the Black Forest of Germany. It sounds so wild, doesn't it? The Black Forest. But when we got there it was like a KOA. The tents right next to each other and everyone had coffee together in a sort of cafe.
We're so lucky to be here. The mountains are right out there, and the sky is blue. Most people do not get to see the sky this blue. How fortunate we are.
Later after camping in Germany I went to the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia. That too was so beautiful, and nice, in autumn.
The only way you're able to sit here now, attentive, is because you spent 6-7 hours asleep, resting, a type of Sabbath. Sabbath is rest. So, this week, you have a free weekend. Go, spend it exploring God's wilderness.

Homily: Thursday of the third week in Lent

Jer 7:23-28 Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Luke 11:14-23

"If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."
And a mute demon is in the gospel. The Pharisees use their logic to Jesus is working with the devil, and have hardened their hearts.
We like our logic too much. We think that if our logic is right, then we're airtight. We need to look at the fruit of our thoughts, not the logic behind them.

Homily: Friday of the second week in Lent

Gen 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a Ps 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21
Matt 21:33-43, 45-46

I'm going to preach today on the Resurrection. The resurrection is so much more than we expect or hope for; we only expect resuscitation. Once at a wake my cousin said, "They did such a good job on her. You'd expect her to sit up at any moment." (She was from Staten Island.) She said the woman would wake up and say "Surprise!" The resurrection is far more than I can say. The women and the disciples didn't recognize Jesus. The glorified body is the same, yet different. "Ain't none of us seen one of them." We are not so alive as we'd like to think; not like the living God; we're just cadavers in the making. The resurrection is the goal and summit of the Creator. Only the Holy Spirit can show us how it looks. The resurrection demonstrates the generosity of Jesus: For Don Corleone, there's only justice; but with Jesus, there is love and forgiveness.
You've heard of Fr Drendel, the old Jesuit who was here so long, a holy man. This is one of his sayings that I really don't like, but I think it's true: "God is tricky." Just look at Matthew 25. Be prepared for all your expectations to be turned upside down--the plan God has is infinitely better. All we can do is proclaim: "Give thanks to the Lord, for his is good".
The part of us we have the biggest problem with, the most sinful area of our life, is where God wants to work with us. Remember, he came here and spent his time with the prostitutes and tax collectors (like the mafia). He didn't go to the Pharisees. They were the holy ones. And they were holy. The problem was that they knew it. It is so often that the greatest people are the worst sinners. You know, the nuns told us all to be good, but they really liked the troublemakers better. They told us about hell and how we'd go there if we were bad. I wasn't a bad kid in school; I was terrified, and I was good. They had us read Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in school, but if I ever did that...
We must let love penetrate us. We must remember our righteousness is not our own. We have/there is no holiness apart from love. God will surprise us with the Resurrection.

Homily: Thursday of the second week in Lent

Jer 17:5-10 Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4+6
Luke 16:19-31

Looking at these different religions [Catholicism and Buddhism] brings to mind, in California, two monasteries next to one another: Catholic and Theravada Buddhist. "Love one another." The Buddhist monastery was not compassionate, not Mahayana. The monks must never lie down--they sleep in the lotus position. They're terribly ascetic. If you masturbate, even once, you have to go before a group of 12 elders for pardon. If you commit a sexual impropriety, you're banished from the among the monks forever. They are hospitable, gracious, and aware--they spend all their time being aware of themselves and their thoughts--and they are proud. Humility is not a part of Buddhism. An ex-Trappist monk is staying with them, and when he leaves and needs a ride, they refuse him. "We're not Christians." It is not obvious that love is the most important thing. The world is all concerned with luv; but not with love. The love of Christ is so utterly different; so radically different. In our human love we have some idea: marriage, friendship, the love of parents. But Christ's love is a love that leads to death, and is raised up. He first loved us.
A second story: My grandmother, my grandfather's second wife, had no children of her own. So she fiercely loved her grandchildren. An adoptive parent almost always loves more than a natural parent. She was so loving, had such incredible goodness. She would come up behind you and embrace you, and with such love the tears would fall upon your head. She lived in Brooklyn, where I grew up. When I was in high school, we moved to the suburbs and she stayed there. Her husband had died and it was just her. When I was in grad school, I was with the hip intellectual types, but felt lost. I visited my family for Easter, and we went for Mass at their parish in the suburbs. It was post-Vatican II, and as uninspiring as you'd expect. The Easter Vigil was in the late afternoon. We decided to go to our old parish in Brooklyn. We went to the pre-dawn, Easter Sunday Mass. It was beautiful! It felt right. This was the ghetto. If you could get out, you did. So the only people left were the rather unattractive ones. But this old man led the Eucharistic procession with such happiness. There was something charming about it all. It is the ghetto though. It looks bombed out, looks like Detroit. We decided to visit Grandma, driving through block after block of ghetto. When we rang the doorbell she answered, and was so ecstatic at our arrival that she was jumping up and down. She had everything set up for a big fancy Easter dinner, ham, the works. And no-one had been to her home for Easter for years. But that was what she did for her family. She loved, even when that love was so rarely reciprocated. He role in the family, as a matriarch of sorts, was to make the Easter dinner. She made it, even when it was only her. I think this is what it means, "love one another". Hold people in your heart, be there for them, and do the best you can.

Homily: Tuesday of the Second Week in Lent

Isa 1:10, 16-20 Ps 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21+23
Matt 23:1-12

It's hard to preach on hell on such a beautiful day, but I'll try...
Hell is created by a hardening of heart; this often happens under the facade of softening of heart.
Sodom and Gomorrah were the most depraved places. I have two stories.
First story. I was a taxi driver in Honolulu once--that was Sodom and Gomorrah. At a hospital, I picked up an old man and a younger. The nurse told him not to go. He was cursing, blaspheming up a storm. When I pulled up to the hotel, he got out, cursing and blaspheming, and dropped dead. I drove off; I'm not a medic. The hotel manager seemed unconcerned. This man was in a homosexual, pederastic relationship that undoubtedly started off in a loving way.
Story two. Back in the day, one of my friends went to grad school in Berkeley. I went to visit him, and he was in a homosexual relationship with a professor. Then as a novice, I wrote him to tell him that I thought what he was doing was wrong. I never heard back. 30-some years went by, and in a Berkeley bookstore I saw a book of his and his friends called "The Love of Men", or something to that effect. So I looked him up, got in contact with him, and the man had nothing but hatred for me. Now he's a big shot professor in the U-Cal system. He had love for men, but certainly not for this one. Not for the Catholic priest. This man said many Hail Marys when younger, and hopefully God will get through. When I called him later in life, he was still with his partner.
The practice of vices makes us vicious. Vices, especially sexual ones, poison the soul. We all have these poison darts which have wounded us. But if we don't heal these wounds the poison will spread. It's certainly not just homosexuals with this, it's everyone. Heterosexuals who practice contraception and abortion, same thing. Vices, especially sexual vices, make us less capable of love.
This is how hardening of our heart appears under the guise of love, of a softening: this torrid passion we have, which seems so hot, so hot, is actually cold: it is like pouring ice cold water on the fire of love; taking ice water, and dumping it on the fire of love.
Who loves more passionately, who loves more, than did Christ? Let us be agents of love, of purification, most especially of hope. Bring this healing balm of Christ's love to the world's woundedness.
Chastity is not so we can be a pretty daisy in the field, but to be a red rose, full of life, with passion for all.
Isaiah is addressing the people as Sodom and Gomorrah: hedonism. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though red like crimson, they shall be like wool." This is the gospel, the good news for humanity.

Homily: Second Sunday in Lent

Gen 15:5-12, 17-18 Lk 9:28-36

Trust in the Lord. I presume we're here [at the seminary] because we've had an encounter with God. Maybe it's because we like the food; and God will work with whatever motive. But probably, we had an encounter with him and we responded.
The readings are appropriate: Abram and Jesus going up high on the mountain to have an encounter with God.
I don't know about the fire stuff, I've never seen a smoking fire pot.
As dusk is here Abram goes into a trance; and the apostles fall asleep; their sleep isn't a normal one.
Abram is discomforted--deep, terrifying darkness.
Clouds are a symbol of God, and not just a symbol, but a symbol. This is true for other traditions as well--go to Boulder, and the Buddhists have clouds all over.


I'll be posting homilies from one of my favourite priests. I've been recording them as best as I can remember since Ash Wednesday this year. Any imperfections or errors should be attributed to me, and not him.

Ash Wednesday:
It's odd that we hear no sackcloth and wash your face in the readings today, and then spend the day with ashes on our head.

Thursday after Ash Wednesdsay:
I couldn't remember anything from this, except that our priest quoted the Doors, saying "break on through to the other side". It's always a treat to catch eyes with the other guys who notice when he makes references to the Doors or Neil Young.

Tuesday of the first week in Lent:
Don't bother giving up food for Lent. Go to Walmart or wherever's close, and get a five pound back of M&Ms. We need conversion of heart, and far too often giving up food doesn't do it. Knowledge without love is useless--I've known some rude, conceited professors in my time.

Wednesday of the first week in Lent:
(Jonah 3:1-10)
We need to embrace what we do not know; it's very freeing, especially for a Jesuit, to say 'I don't know'. People want to know how profound the talk in Jesuit houses is, to be a fly on the wall, but it's really bland.
How would sheep look in sackcloth--how do you get it on them?


Lectio Divina: Lk 19:28-40

And having said these things, he went before, going up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethania, unto the mount called Olivet, he sent two of his disciples, Saying: Go into the town which is over against you, at your entering into which you shall find the colt of an ass tied, on which no man ever hath sitten: loose him, and bring him hither. And if any man shall ask you: Why do you loose him? you shall say thus unto him: Because the Lord hath need of his service. And they that were sent, went their way, and found the colt standing, as he had said unto them. And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said to them: Why loose you the colt? But they said: Because the Lord hath need of him. And they brought him to Jesus. And casting their garments on the colt, they set Jesus thereon. And as he went, they spread their clothes underneath in the way. And when he was now coming near the descent of mount Olivet, the whole multitude of his disciples began with joy to praise God with a loud voice, for all the mighty works they had seen, Saying: Blessed be the king who cometh in the name of the Lord, peace in heaven, and glory on high! And some of the Pharisees, from amongst the multitude, said to him: Master, rebuke thy disciples. To whom he said: I say to you, that if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out.

My reflection wasn't really related to the reading, I think I must have ended up just focusing more on the tabernacle. I wrote: "think of person, not bread or body: you suffer the indignity of being stuffed in a box b/c you love me." This is a good reflection on the Eucharist. God, the infinite creator of the universe, impassable, chooses to come to us, because he loves each of us so much, looking like a piece of bread. Not only that, he lets us put him in a box. It's a nice, ornate box, but it's still a little metal/gold box. He has humility down pat. And he does it all because he loves you and me.

Lectio Divina: Jn 8:1-11

And Jesus went unto mount Olivet. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him, and sitting down he taught them. And the scribes and the Pharisees bring unto him a woman taken in adultery: and they set her in the midst, And said to him: Master, this woman was even now taken in adultery. Now Moses in the law commanded us to stone such a one. But what sayest thou? And this they said tempting him, that they might accuse him. But Jesus bowing himself down, wrote with his finger on the ground. When therefore they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said to them: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again stooping down, he wrote on the ground. But they hearing this, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest. And Jesus alone remained, and the woman standing in the midst. Then Jesus lifting up himself, said to her: Woman, where are they that accused thee? Hath no man condemned thee? Who said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.

The first striking thing about this is the Pharisees. They have no sense of compassion, care, or concern for her. They treat her not as a person, but as an object to get to Jesus.

The morning of this episode, the woman was probably at least conflicted about her sin. She knew it was wrong. She was a Jew, went to synagogue, listened to the law and the prophets. Maybe she wanted to quit sneaking around with her guy, but you know how hard it is to quit sexual sin. While carrying on her affair, she was terrified of being found out and stoned, and finally this day it happened. She was dragged out of bed, half-naked. She thought she would have stones thrown at her til she dies. But she encountered God, and he is Merciful. He doesn't want to condemn us--he delights in our conversion, and wants us to share in his own blessed life. This man she encounters created her personally to share in his very Life. He doesn't want to throw a rock at her head. He doesn't want blood. In fact, he wants to spill his blood for her. He wants his head enclosed in thorns for her. He wants his flesh flayed off his back for her sake. He loves her. He loves her more than her lover loves her. He loves her more than her mom loves her. He knew she was going to choose to fornicate, and still he willed to create her. She would not exist if he did not choose to love her. This man takes no pleasure in the death of the sinner...he did not want, with even an ounce of his being, to stone her.

I think of this episode as an analogy for confession. We go and tell the priest what we did, and he never condemns us. Jesus is ever waiting in the confessional to hear our faults and has zero desire to condemn us. He's in the confessional waiting for us to come to him. He is patient; he lets us repent all the way until our death.

He wants to heal her. This was assuredly a healing moment for her with nothing to hide behind, probably wearing little, and with admission of her helplessness and sinfulness, she came to the Lord as she was. This is how I must approach him: openly admitting my faults, not hiding behind anything; vulnerable to him.
He does give her one heck of a penance: go, and sin no more. But he did give her the grace to do as he commanded. She was finally free of her sin to which her passion had enslaved her, because she encountered the living God.