Tassel of the Cloak

In Our Suffering We Are Never Alone

There are two portraits fascinating to compare.  The first is Ecce Homo by Philippe de Champaigne.  It is also titled, "Christ Mocked," and, of course, is a depiction of the scene when our Lord is clothed in scarlet and given a reed and crown of thorns by the Roman soldiers.  The second painting is Napoleon at Fontainebleau, 31 March 1814 by Paul Delaroche, depicting the emperor after his first abdication following the surrender of Paris to the Allies.

Both figures appear to be at their low-points.  (Napoleon looks like me after a Bears game.) But there is a profound difference between the two.  Napoleon is alone.  Christ is not. 

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A.R.R.R.

Anyone who has been in a position of authority—parent, manager, pastor—can relate to Saint Peter in this 17th Century painting from the School of Rubens.  The Fisherman, grasping firmly but gently the keys given to him by Christ, looks upward to God.  He is not 'white-knuckling' the keys, nor is he loosely holding them, about to let them slip out of his hands.   They are part of his identity. 

Peter's countenance entails anguish and pain.  But there is also hope and trust in his eyes.  He desires relief; relief not for himself, but for his flock.  He knows this relief will come, even if it is on the other side of eternity.

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New Tabernacle, New Location

A New and Relocated Tabernacle for the Church

Friends,

I would like to propose for the parish obtaining a new tabernacle and relocating it to the center of the church, behind the altar and recessed into the wall.

First, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The tabernacle is to be situated ‘in churches in a most worthy place with the greatest honor.’ The dignity, placing, and security of the Eucharistic tabernacle should foster adoration before the Lord really present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar” (CCC 1183).  

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Freedom from Confession

Going to confession can be a harsh experience.  It is painful to recall our sinfulness and shortcomings, and even more painful to articulate them aloud.  But we are healed when we do this.  And the alternative—remaining in our sin—is worse.  If we hold onto our sins and are not absolved from them, we will deteriorate.

To what can we compare this reality? Well, I just finished a book on the history of Australia, so how about the 'land down under'? 

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Following Christian Tradition

I am aware the term 'traditionalist' has a bit of a negative connotation, but here is an example of one traditionalist I admire.  In 1943, Archbishop Damaskinos of the Greek Orthodox Church had been hiding Jews in residences around Athens.  The Nazis finally arrested the Christian and put him before a firing squad. 

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The Conversion on the Way to Damascus

The 17th Century painting by Caravaggio, The Conversion on the Way to Damascus, is a brilliant depiction of the monumental moment for Christianity.  Saint Paul lies on his back on the ground, below his horse.  Finely dressed as a soldier, the young man exudes strength and vigor.  His face is calm, his eyes are closed, and his muscular arms are extended heavenward, as if receiving a hug. 

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The Two Popes

I watched the Netflix movie The Two Popes recently and, I must say, I was not impressed.  Aside from it being unhelpful fiction, a profound spiritual lesson was distorted.  Towards the end, Benedict XVI, played by Anthony Hopkins, explains to Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio why he desires to retire.  God has abandoned him.  Benedict feels nothing in prayer.  He asks, he pleads, and "Silence!" is all he receives in return.  This abandonment the pope takes as a sign that God no longer is with him and no longer desires him to lead the Church.  He must resign.

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What Type of Leader Are You?

After I became pastor, I found myself reading biographies.  The stories of the great figures of history gave me just the advice and encouragement I needed.  Biographies on Abraham Lincoln were particularly insightful.  But I also found interesting the stories of LBJ, Napoleon, Douglas MacArthur, Harry Truman, Andrew Jackson, Al Smith, Cardinal Bernardin, George Washington, and Ulysses S. Grant, just to name a few that I have read over the past few years.  I have been given many books on leadership and administration from parishioners, but the best I have received have been these biographies. 

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Jesus Christ As Leader

After I became pastor, I found myself reading biographies.  The stories of the great figures of history gave me just the advice and encouragement I needed.  Biographies on Abraham Lincoln were particularly insightful.  But I also found interesting the stories of LBJ, Napoleon, Douglas MacArthur, Harry Truman, Andrew Jackson, Al Smith, Cardinal Bernardin, George Washington, and Ulysses S. Grant, just to name a few that I have read over the past few years.  I have been given many books on leadership and administration from parishioners, but the best I have received have been these biographies. 

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The Gift of Peace

In a press conference to announce his cancer was terminal and he would die by the end of the year, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, the Archbishop of Chicago from 1982 until 1996, said to reporters that he was "at peace." Death was his friend and peace was a gift God had given him.  In fact, a compilation of his reflections from the last three years of his life, which not only saw his battle with cancer, but also a false accusation of sexual abuse, was put together in a book titled "The Gift of Peace."

 

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Jacques de Jesus

Lucien-Louis Bunel, a Carmelite friar known as "Jacques de Jesus," was the headmaster of a French prep school during the second world war.  The three Jewish boys he was hiding in the monastery were discovered by the Gestapo and they, along with Bunel, were transported to Auschwitz and executed.  Bunel would be named by the state of Israel "Righteous Among the Nations." The 1987 movie Au revoir, les enfants was based off the life of Julien Quentin, a twelve-year-old student under Bunel.

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Prisoner 22356

For many, the day after Christmas is one of the saddest days of the year.  The thrill of opening presents has evaporated and is perhaps replaced by disappointment in what we did not receive or, even worse, something we did receive but thought would be better.  (Take note: material items never completely satisfy.) Trees and decorations are, in some households, already taken down and we are confronted by the sober awareness that it will be another 364 days before we experience a similar excitement.

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Give Me God What You Have Left

It is that time of year when we ask for gifts for ourselves.  What if we replaced our Christmas List with the following prayer?  It was composed by André Zirnheld, a paratrooper in the British Special Air Service killed in action in Libya in 1942.  This was found among his personal effects:

Prière

Give me, my God, what you have left.

Give me what no one ever asks of you.

I do not ask you for rest or tranquility, neither of soul nor of body.

I do not ask you for wealth or success or even health.

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Ah, Her Smile

Advent is a time, Pope Benedict XVI once said, to retrace the paths of old and "make the light that illuminated the stable in Bethlehem shine anew in our lives."  The world was in a dark place during Mary's pregnancy 2,000 years ago, but God reentered the world and gave it hope.  So too can God reenter our world and our lives, despite the darkness, to give us light and hope.

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