Homily – Marriage & Life!

Click HERE to link to the homily.

As preached at the chapel of St. Cecilia in Wisconsin Dells, WI.  Below are the quotes I used from Pope Francis:

God’s dream does not change; it remains intact and it invites us to work for a society which supports families. A society where bread, “fruit of the earth and the work of human hands” continues to be put on the table of every home, to nourish the hope of its children.

Let us help one another to make it possible to “stake everything on love”. Let us help one another at times of difficulty and lighten each other’s burdens. Let us support one another. Let us be families which are a support for other families.

Perfect families do not exist. This must not discourage us. Quite the opposite. Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is “forged” by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences. Love is born and constantly develops amid lights and shadows. Love can flourish in men and women who try not to make conflict the last word, but rather a new opportunity. An opportunity to seek help, an opportunity to question how we need to improve, an opportunity to discover the God who is with us and never abandons us. This is a great legacy that we can give to our children, a very good lesson: we make mistakes, yes; we have problems, yes. But we know that that is not really what counts. We know that mistakes, problems and conflicts are an opportunity to draw closer to others, to draw closer to God.

Address at the Rally for the World Meeting of Families

Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.

Evangelii Gaudium No. 213

 

Sometimes its hard to know what the right thing to do is.

Apologies for not having posted in a while.  I have been terribly ill of late.  Have no worries, all is looking up but the past two weeks have taken a lot out of me.

Now, to the brief point.

Ever had a hard time know what the right choice is?  You know, sometimes there is a decision to make and its not certain what direction you should take or where you should go.  I have had that short of moment recently and wanted to share some little spiritual advice.

Point 1 – the Moral Choice.

  • The first thing is to look at the two (or multiple) choices and first ask, ‘Is this morally right or morally wrong.’
  • This is generally the easiest step and if you are confused, ask an expert.
  • If the answer to a point is, ‘no, this is not morally justifiable.’  Then don’t do it.
  • If the answer is, ‘yes, this is morally justifiable.’  Then you can do it

Point 2 – Can I do it?

  • This is an important question.  Can I do one thing or another – do I have the practical, intellectual, physical, psychological, economical, capacity to do this thing.
  • While this question is fairly easy, it requires courage and honesty.  Do not kid yourself with this question.
  • Be courageous = have a broad avenue for saying ‘yes.’  Challenge yourself, push yourself – verso l’alto!  (to quote Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati.)
  • Be honest = sometimes we have already found our limit and know that, at this time, I just cannot achieve what is asked in this instance.

Point 3 – What do I want to do?

  • This is something that many well-meaning Christians miss.  They assume that what they want can’t possible be what God wants.  Since when?
  • You have a particular genius – a personality, skills, talents, hopes, dreams – a way of looking at creation that is singular to you.
  • True, you are not the only person in the world – that’s why this is not the first point – but God’s Will intersects with your life.
  • Be not afraid – you matter, you count, you are important.  “Follow after me and I will make you fishers of men.”  There is a choice here.  One can follow or not, one can walk or not but the individual must choose.

Point 4 –

Lo sguardo pasquale Kopie

  • Look at our Lord, ask Him what to do right to His Face.
  • After point 3, pray.
  • Have you ever had a conversation with someone?  Have you ever put forward and idea?  I mean a good idea, one you have thought about, have researched and pondered.  When you explain it to a person, face to face, you can tell what they think even before they speak.
  • This is true of our Lord.  His Face, incarnate in the Lord Jesus Christ, can be see and descried, it can be sought after and found.
  • Pray.

In case you are wondering the best place to see the face of Jesus, well there are many, but here’s number one:

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The Holy Eucharist y’all.

Genius advice?  Probably not.  But even her in holy Rome it’s the way to go.

Love you all and ask for your prayers.

I Fell in Love Today

I have always loved the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Today, I fell in love with her.

This morning my friend Fr. Daren and I met Mr. Paul Badde at a little cafe not far from St. Anne’s Gate at the Vatican.  From there Mr. Badde took us to the Dominican Convent of the Holy Rosary on Mont Mario in Rome.

Mont Mario is a hill in Rome, though not one of the Seven Hills of Rome.  In ancient times it was outside of the city, located on the western side of the Tiber River and a bit north of the Vatican Hill.  It is recognizable to many who have visited Rome as it is the tallest hill in Rome and there is an observatory on the hill which can be seen from most parts of the city.  It is not often visited as there are many private homes and a beautiful nature preserve (which is not a normal Roman tourist destination.)  It is also held that Mont Mario is the place where Constantine had his vision of the Cross in the sky before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.

The Convent of the Holy Rosary has ancient foundations but the current church is a baroque building build in 1725.  The convent is home to an order of cloistered Dominican nuns – about 25 of them.  While Mont Mario is not the original location of this particular convent, the convent was founded by St. Dominic himself when he came to Rome, about the year 1220.  It is a beautiful place that, in addition to this wonderful contemplative order, houses significant relics of St. Dominic, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Catherine of Siena.

It is also home to this icon:

L'Avvocata

The icon is called in Greek Hagiosoritissa in Italian L’Avvocata or The Advocate.  It is sometimes all called Our Lady of St. Luke

I have not had time to research this history very deeply as most of it seems to be in either Latin or Italian and is almost completely lost in English.

In brief, it is a treasure.  It is said to have been painted by St. Luke.  The first established Christian community outside of Jerusalem sent a request saying, more or less, ‘hey, you have the Apostles, you have the Virgin Mary, can we at lest get a picture or something?’  Thus, the first images of Jesus and Mary were sent to this place.  When the Muslim conquests began they were sent to Constantinople.  When Constantinople was first threatened, the image of Our Lady came to Rome and was entrusted to the Dominicans.  That is the super short version.

It carbon dates to the first century, so that claim is clear.  There is an extant record of its being brought to Constantinople, so that is clear.  There is also a record of Greek monks bringing it to Rome, so the line is clear.  It is also a unique type of iconography.  Many iconographers have come to see the image and have testified that the method used to make this icon is unique and has been lost to history.  There is more historical detail but, it seems to have the clearest and strongest of all claims to be, if not the original icon of the Virgin Mary, an icon written by someone who knew Mary personally and looked upon her face.

I looked upon that face today and didn’t want to leave.

L'Avvocata and Me

The eyes of this image pulled me in like nothing I have seen before and filled me with a consolation I have not felt.  it was a window into endless beauty, pureness of love and joy beyond telling.  More to the point, when I looked at and prayed before this icon of Mary, my heart was pulled to love the Eucharist in the Tabernacle like I had never done before.  We prayed the Rosary before this image and all I could think was, ‘I don’t love Jesus enough but I can love Him more and more and more and more and more. . .’  It was a heavenly peace.

In brief, wow!  It is much like the image of Jesus at Manoppello (which I will write about soon.)  How do more people not know about this!

Pope Benedict XVI visited and venerated the image in 2010.  If I was the Pope I would be up there once a week and have that icon in St. Peter’s for just about every Marian feast day there is and twice on Saturdays.

It seems to me that the good God is re-unveiling some of this wondrous images and relics and working many miracles in a time when the world needs it so very much.  St. Faustina is proved true when she talks about the Lord God working  great miracles of the heart in these times.  May He be blessed forever!

As the West declines and the last lights of this once great civilization go off – a bright horizon opens by the work of the Holy Spirit to re-fire Divine Love in souls.

True enough I hope to obtain a doctorate in Liturgy from the Pontifical Institute for Liturgy at the Pontifical Athaneum Sant’Anselm while I am in Rome.  Just as much I hope to help spread the word about these great and holy icons (Manopello and Mont Mario) for I feel that, as He did in the early days of the Church, the good God wishes to use these things to bring people to know the wonder and glory of His Son, Jesus Christ.

O, and they have the hand of St. Catherine of Siena.

Daren and I with the hand of St. Catharine

O felix Roma!

Felix Roma Part 2 – A Pagan Heart

Rome is not a Christian city.

Christians live in Rome, Christians have built in Rome, Christians have shaped the look, history and destiny of Rome, Christians sustain the life of Rome but Rome is not a Christian city.

One might content that there is no such thing as a Christian city – we are but strangers and sojourners in a foreign land and have here no earthy city. This is the deepest truth.

Now Christians have founded many cities and built them up from nothing. You might say that Chicago is a Christian city in that sense. Most people would laugh at such notion but Chicago has Christian foundations. Rome does not.

It is thought that people have inhabited the area of Rome for about 10,000 years. The tradition of the founding of the city of Rome dates to 783 b.c. when Romulus slew his brother Remus as the fought to determine where the city should be founded, the Capitoline Hill or the Palatine Hill. Romulus one and founded the city on the Capitoline Hill.

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This is a myth rooted in deep history, one inseparable from the other. It is all pagan, coming out of the tales and legend and history of pagan peoples. The meager city grew to a great empire roughly a century before any Christians arrived there. By that time the city was the heart of a great pagan empire, the city of divine emperors and heartland of heathen worship, with the great temple of Jupiter dominating the Roman Forum.  Rome’s founders and masters are all sons of the ancient worship of the pagan gods.  Demons or myths we know not, but obeisance to these are falsehoods are at the foundation of this great city.

The claim of Jesus Christ of this city was cemented by the martyrdom’s of Peter and Paul. Our Lord claimed this city by the prophesy of the death of Peter and through His Divine Will manifested in that martyrdom in the Circus of Nero on the Vatican Hill. The rest, as they say, is history.

It is worth noting that the Vatican Hill is not one of the seven hills of Rome, the markers of the ancient city. You see, every Protestant since Luther has carried on about the Vatican being the whore of Babylon in the Book of Revelation. It is important to note that the Vatican Hill is NOT one of the seven hills of Rome, it lies outside the foundations of the ancient city of the pagan lords who became masters of the world.

I hold the same opinion that St. Augustine did in City of God, Rome and her empire were but vehicles for the Gospel, no more and no less.  Thus the loss of the empire was little to grieve.  Ours is an empire of souls, a reign of God.  The petty pagan lords built their castles but they will all fall to ruin.

This city is the great example of that.  The glory of the pagan empire is ashes and crumbling rock.  The palace of the divine emperors are ruins in which every two-bit tourist and vapid teenager runs plot around self-absorbed in cell phones.  It is a crumbling testament to a mighty power, long since fallen.

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For a while the Popes, the Vicars of Christ and  heirs to the keys given power by the Word made Flesh and blood shed on the Vatican Hill and off the Ostian Way (that’s St. Paul.)  They ruled and built and taught.  O yes, there were wars and sackings and revolts and plots and exiles, but they reigned over Rome.  The reign of their Christ and Lord spread from this city to nearly every corner of of the world and the Vicars of Christ became the Fathers of Princes and Kings.

But that too was destined to fall.  This is a city that has no masters nor lords.  She has a pagan heart and a demonic soul.  When the rule of the Vicars fell it was to much lesser lords.  Heathens like their political forebears but of a much lesser much lamer sort.  The Papal States fell and were replaced by a sham Kingdom with fool kings.  It was then that Romans, if there were any left, disappeared and the Tuscans and Sardinians and Umbrians and Sicilians and all the rest came to rule.  This kingdom fell quickly and was replaced by Il Duce, a much shorter though more brutal reign.  Soon the Nazi came but lasted even a lesser time than Il Duce.

When it all ended Rome was a modern city.  She has not invited modernity in but came nonetheless.

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This city is ancient and always will be and heathen to its core.  She will never welcome the mere modernist or the simple secularist.  This city is religious to its core.  Though which religion and what gods have long be debated.  New little lords have come to rule over their petty empire of money.  The Vicar of Christ remains, holding the Keys of the Kingdom but still exiled on the Vatican Hill, he does not rule the city and all over the earth the Kingdom of his Lord is contested.  It will all fall one day for  not one stone will be left upon another and all will cry out ‘let the the mountains fall on us and the hills cover us.’

Blessed John Henry Newman came to study in Rome after his conversion and later wrote that he was certain that the Antichrist would arise in Rome.  This is not a new idea and it is certainly one that I believe.  There is a dark and ancient evil in this city, and evil born before time and brought to root deep in the hills of this ancient marshland when one brother slew another and a long history of the rape and pillage of nations began.  Ancient Rome promised peace, and brought it to the nations by the edge of sword, the justice of the pyre and on the backs of slaves.

The Cross of Christ did triumph, destroyed that empire and brought the Gospel to the world.  But the ancient foe is ever arrogant and there is a red dragon that lives here and calls every evil and darkness to itself.  Thus the reign of the Vicars has always been contested here, no matter how many martyrs or saints, no matter how beautiful the churches, how divine the music, how deep the charity and self sacrifice, the reign of the Vicars always has been and always will be contested in this city.

There is great beauty here, much wisdom, deep charity and divine teaching.  This is greatest city in the world and will be until the end of all things.  But she is a city at war with the Gospel, always has been and always will be, heathen all the way to her foundations.

I am proud of the Christianity of Rome and all that, by the Will of God, the Church of Rome has given to the world.  Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lord and His princes shed their blood here and, by His prophecy and promise, the heirs of those princes still rule the Church of God in charity and truth.  When the Son of Man comes will He find Faith on the earth?  Yes, He will find it in Rome.

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But Rome will not be faithful, she cannot be.  To know this is to truly know Rome, what she is and what she is for.  It is not pessimism nor faithlessness, it is merely true.  I am privileged to live here and grateful as well.  But I see this place for what it is and praise God for it.

Pray for the Pope, pray for the Roman Curia, pray for those of us who live here.

I love you all and always will.

O felix Roma!

Felix Roma Part 1 – Rome Sweet Home?

True enough, it has been a while since I have written.  I made a resolution that I would not write on the blog during the first semester of my studies in order to get my schedule in order.  Now, the semester is over and I hope to write during this week of break and also post once a week, on Wednesdays, during the coming semester.

Some of you know that I have moved from the little city of Madison, WI, USA to the great Eternal City of Rome.

Some people would call it Rome, Italy but that is a little farce put on in order to fit this city into the contemporary structure of modern Europe.  True enough, Rome is on the Italian Peninsula but it would be a grand mistake to place this city in the minimalist structures of mere geography.  The ancient Empire has drawn the nations into itself.  It speaks every language and holds every culture.  A number of titanic fools like Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel had the hubris to reduce this city to the capital of Italy – a farce of a nation and cruel joke to all who live here.

Rome is much older than Italy or Italians. . . or Americans or Germans or Indians or Nigerians or Argentinians or whatever.  She is a city that brooks no masters and will have no lords.  She is a monster, beautiful to behold but deadly to embrace.  She is born out of the blood of fratricide and the lust for power.  Rome will always have this history and nothing can change it.  (I will explain all this in future post

This is where I live – Rome.  Officially I reside at the Casa Santa Maria.  The Casa part of the Pontifical North American College – NAC for short.  Now, when most people hear ‘NAC’ they either think nothing or they think the seminary built near the Vatican.  Fair enough.  Technically speaking the NAC consists of the Casa Santa Maria, the Seminary and the Casa O’Toole.  The NAC is owned by the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops and governed by a Board of Directors.

The Casa Santa Maria is the house for American priests in graduate studies in Rome.  This is where I and 70 other priests live.  The Casa is found at Via dell’Umilta 30 in Rome, one block away from the Trevi Fountain, three blocks away from the Pantheon and right next door to the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles, where the relics of Sts. Simon and James the Less are buried.

I attend classes at the Pontifical Athaneum of Sant’Anselmo, which is the Benedictine university in Rome and is found on the Aventine Hill.  Sant’Anselmo is home to the Pontifical Institute for Liturgy (PIL) where I am enrolled in the Propedeutic Year (a fancy term for studying Latin and Greek all day, every day) with an eye towards one day obtaining a Doctorate in Sacred Liturgy (S.L.D.)

Every morning I wake up at 4:30 am, get cleaned up, say Mass in our beautiful chapel, make my holy hour, eat breakfast and then take the bus to school.

Chapel at the Casa Santa Maria

Chapel at the Casa Santa Maria

On the way to school I pass by the house where St. Paul lived when he was under house arrest in Rome, the Piazza Venezia, the Roman Forum, the Colesseum, the Palatine Hill and the Circus Maximus.  The bus stops at the base of the Aventine Hill and I walk up the old neighborhood of the Roman senators and patricians which is now a very beautiful and quiet place that is home to many embassies, fine hotels and fairly wealthy Roman residents.

Sant'Anselmo

Sant’Anselmo

After morning class I walk home down the Tiber river past many beautiful, though less historic, things.  Lunch is at 1:00 pm after which I make some devotions and then do homework for a bit.  I exercise for a hour in the mid-afternoon and resume study when I am cleaned up – this really helps falling asleep during language drills.

My books

My books

I do my evening prayers at 6:00 pm and have dinner at 7:00 pm.  After dinner is time to email, check news, write on the blog, Skype, read – try to act like a normal person.  On Thursday evenings I head up the the Seminary, on Friday evenings I have my Circle and the weekends are various depending.

Some of the men in my Circle for priests

Some of the men in my Circle for priests

This is my life.  This is how I live it and where I live it.  I live in Rome.

To be sure, Rome is NOT home and never will be.  I am squarely and American and clearly a son of Wisconsin and love no place on earth better than in front of my parents little house in my little hometown in the middle of nowhere that anyone cares about.  Nothing will ever change that.  I love home with all my heart and I miss my family and my friends more than I can say – I love you all and always will.

But I live in Rome.  I don’t live in Madison or Waunakee or Prairie du Sac, I live in Rome.  I don’t live in Italy (I will explain that later also) I live in Rome.

I did not choose this, I don’t really understand it but I love it.

I also hate it.  You can’t love Rome if you don’t hate it.  This is a city at war with its very self and has been ever since the Blood of the Savior came to and conquer the evil of the empire.  Rome’s masters and lords are long dead and the empire they ruled has been divided up among many lesser lords.  There are no Romans, no such person exists anymore.  O, there are people who live in Rome, people who were born and raised in Rome, but there are no more Romans.  Too many Goths and Visigoths and French and Austrians and Tuscans and Sardinians and Germans and Americans have come through and raped and pillaged and conquered.  There are many crumbly bits and dead monuments to Imperial Rome and the ancient Romans.  There is even a gaudy monument to a pretender Rome and fake Romans.  But not the real thing.

It is an insane city, governed by a corrupt and inept political class and inhabited by people who simply don’t care, so long as the tourists (be they the powerful or the ordinary) come and spend their money and stay out of certain restaurants.  This makes for an insane city where the amazing is simple but the ordinary is nearly impossible and so, if you don’t hate Rome it means you know nothing about Rome and only pay attention to the glitter and the sugar.

If you don’t love Rome it means you do not love Rome nor do you know anything about her for she is home to such wonders of the sanctity and theology and philosophy and art and architecture and music and history and wonder and awe.

This is where I live.  I am so immensely privileged and wouldn’t wish this on anyone.  I love it hear and never want to leave but I also hate it hear and cannot wait to get out.

I live in Rome.

More to come, if you care to read it.