Today marks fortieth anniversary of legal abortion in the United States. How has America changed in those forty years? How much of this change results from abortion, “the greatest destroyer of peace in the world today” (in the words of Mother Teresa)?
To prepare for the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood announced it was changing its slogan of choice, namely, “pro-choice.” The behemoth of the abortion industry admitted that “a growing number of Americans … identify themselves as ‘pro-life.’” So they changed their advertising descriptor. But the pro-life folks have not changed their descriptor. We are always “pro-life,” and everyone knows it. The “pro-choice” argument is irrational and false, and everyone knows it.
My favorite pro-life sticker, which has graced my back bumper for 12 years, simply says “God is Pro-Life.” It assumes there is a God, but most [even pro-abortion] people believe in God. All life comes from God; God has come to give us life, and life in abundance; God gave his life so that we could have eternal life. Most people know this, and need only be reminded, consistently, that they are pro-life.
We will win the war against human life in the long run, because most people do believe in God. Planned Parenthood has no argument against the argument from God’s natural law. Their decision to ditch the “pro-choice” slogan admits a modicum of defeat. Let us give thanks to God that we are winning the war. We are winning it by long-term, patient, and consistent promotion of the pro-life message. See you at the Walk for Life!
Extraordinary Form of the Mass; Second Sunday after Epiphany
The Back Wall: Quodcumque dixerit vobis, facite
Today the Gospel recounts Second Luminous Mystery, the Wedding at Cana. We hear these words today in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity here at Thomas Aquinas College. As you leave Mass this morning, you might glance up to the scripture verse carved into the lintel over the main portal. It is the last thing we see upon leaving the chapel to return to the outside world. The words are the last recorded words of Our Lady in the Bible, uttered just before Jesus’ first public miracle. Jesus changes water into wine at her request, and the curtain falls, so to speak, on Our Lady as it rises on her divine Son. Cana is the last domestic encounter between Jesus and Mary—the mother’s last words to her Son before he sets out for his public life and ultimately his execution. Her words are: “Quodcumque dixerit vobis, facite.” Whatsoever he will tell you: do it. Do whatever he tells you.
Our Lady’s prayer
Let’s look a little more closely at this First Miracle, which yielded the first glimmers of belief in his disciples. The wedding is at Cana, a poor village 15 minutes east of Nazareth. The reception would be shockingly poor by today’s standards. Jesus and all of his friends were there, and anyone else who could get in for a free meal and a cup of wine. Of course, the pitiably small amount of wine they could afford soon ran out.
Our Lady sees the problem, and discreetly mentions it to Jesus, so as not to embarrass the bride and groom. He refuses to intervene. In Greek, guné, tí emoí kai soí, “woman, what matters this to me or to you?” Our Lady is in a delicate position. She sees the need for wine, but she has heard the "disinclination” of the Lord. She doesn't press Jesus, but she turns to the servants: "do whatever He tells you." Mary here is the interceding Church, never growing weary in prayer. The Lord wants us to be "clever," to be insistent in prayer, and never to grow weary in faith. He wants us to ask for favors like we really want them ("you will find me when you seek me with all your heart,” Jer. 29). This week marks 40 years of legal abortion in the United States, and many of us are preparing for the journey to San Francisco’s Walk for Life. For 40 years the Church has been praying for an end to this barbaric injustice, a contagion that has infected every aspect American public life, a cancer that has spread from America throughout the world. Sometimes it seems the Lord refuses to answer our prayer, but like Our Lady we must not give up, nor grow weary in prayer.
Our Lady is a bride and not a slave; she is free and has rights with the Bridegroom, a holy confidence in asking for a favor. She is Mother Teresa getting a diocesan building from some poor bishop, or Mother Angelica closing a deal with Satellite TV executives. She freely and confidently commands the waiters, and naturally assumes general oversight of the household. Mary does not tell anybody "what" to do—she points it out to Jesus, apparently unsuccessfully, and then she points Jesus out to the stewards—urging them to a deeper faith, a deeper obedience. She's making the rounds, leaving no one out, interceding on behalf of all, simply encouraging all to have faith, to act on that faith. She did this at Fatima, telling the children simply to "pray, pray, pray." She respects each one's freedom, but points them to the obedience in which all freedom can develop. She is serene, because she has made her petition in faith, and knows that "whatever will happen, it will be within God's grace.”
And Jesus responds to her intercession, with magnificent abundance. Jesus, the man, desires the cooperation of the woman, his "helpmate." He wants to enter into a confidence, a relationship, a reciprocity, a marriage, with his Church. It’s impossible to imagine, but God wishes to be our spouse. “Your builder will marry you,” in the words of Isaiah 62:5. We are not only the sons and daughters, but the spouses, of God.
Our Lady was God’s first love, but not his only love. Through her, we each receive the grace of Christ to enter into that marriage. But Jesus our Spouse requires complete trust, and we must follow Our Blessed Mother’s words: whatsoever He tells you, do it.
Note: I don't have internet here but will use my phone.
Last Sunday somewhere between 400,000 and 800,000 French citizens filled the Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower. It was France's largest popular demonstration in thirty years. A police prefect described the atmosphere as "festive, calm, and family-oriented. The demonstrators carried banners showing a baby with the words "made in Maman + Papa." These million French insisted on what should be natural and obvious to a socialist government bent on forcing what is contrived and contorted. "We love homosexuals but a child must be born from a man and a woman, and the law must respect that," said comedienne Virginie Tellene. The "eldest daughter of the Church" has beautifully witnessed to the "laws of Nature and nature's God." Did the government take any notice of this "tidal wave" of her citizens, in the words of the Paris newspaper Le Figaro? Not a whit. With perfect insouciance, President Francois Hollande's administration simply said that no public demonstration could deter him from legalizing gay "marriage."
The question, it seems to me, is simply one of power. A government that ignores this magnitude of demonstration (as the US government ignores our largest popular demonstrations--the annual March for Life) seeks power more than democracy.
A key strategy in attaining that power is to eliminate society's most influential structure--the family. The government has only to promote infidelity, divorce, and now the irrelevance of the family in order to eliminate it. With the family removed, the government has cleared the way for its unlimited influence. The government becomes our "family," a mother and father to its subjects. Of course, this has been tried already, for example, in Soviet Russia.
Our French cousins, once again, are fighting tyranny. Unlike 1789, however, they are not revolting (!), but simply defending common sense, natural law, and their right to self-determination. The good people of France give us courage and joy. The people once led by St. Jean d'Arc are again relying on faith and reason to defeat error and irrationality. May God go with them!
By ancient tradition, the Church sets the dates for the coming year’s liturgical feasts at the Epiphany Mass. Herewith the Epiphany Proclamation:
“Know, dear brethren, that, as we have rejoiced at the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so by leave of God’s mercy we announce to you also the joy of His Resurrection, who is our Savior.
On the 13th of February will fall Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the feast of the most sacred Lenten Season.
On the 31st of March, you will celebrate with joy Easter Day, the Paschal feast of our Lord Jesus Christ.
On the 9th of May will be the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
On the 19th of May, the feast of Pentecost.
On the 2nd of June, the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
On the 1st of December, the First Sunday of the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Not merely knowing, but submitting to, Jesus
The Church assigns the liturgical feasts their dates on Epiphany. Why? First, because Epiphany is the first great feast of the new calendar year. But more importantly, because it through the Epiphany that the world first recognized the divine majesty of Jesus. God becoming man will not save us, if we do not recognize Him as our Savior. Half the world, it seems, knows of Jesus Christ but ignores him. The Magi, representing the peoples of the entire world, find Jesus and submit themselves to Him with gifts and prostrations. Epiphany is actually a triple feast, commemorating also Jesus’ miracle at Cana, where he first revealed his glory, and Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, where the Father proclaimed his divine authority to all the world: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
The Twelfth Day
By God’s grace, the 6th of January this year falls on a Sunday, and so we can celebrate Epiphany on its proper day, on the “Twelfth day of Christmas.” We earnestly pray that Epiphany will soon be restored to its proper date and all Catholics will attend this great liturgical feast, even if it does not fall on a Sunday. On the twelfth day of Christmas, Jesus receives gifts from the Magi, and the Magi receive the great gift of seeing the face of God. St. Matthew tells us that the Magi were “overjoyed” at seeing the star, not only because it was a beautiful star, but because its beauty led them to the Savior. When they found Jesus and his Mother, they forgot all about the star. They prostrated themselves and did homage to the King of Kings, who made all the stars. A common mistake is that of paying more attention to the stars—sport stars, movie stars, political stars—than the Creator and Lord of the stars. My mind may wander at Mass, but it is glued to the TV screen when my favorite basketball star is making his three-pointer.
A Light shines in the darkness
The preface of the Mass often pinpoints the core mystery of a liturgical feast. Today’s preface describes Epiphany in these words: “When your Only begotten Son appeared in the substance of our mortality, he repaired us by the new light of his immortality” (my translation from the Latin). Simply unveiling his divine face—by shining his “new” light upon us, Christ remakes us. The magi saw this light radiating from the baby’s face and it transformed them. Think of how a child’s smile can disarm us. Now think what it must’ve been for the Magi, the shepherds, St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary, to look into the face of Jesus. If only Herod would have looked into the baby’s face! The pro-life movement most effectively changes hearts when it simply shows the face of the child to those who promote abortion.
Mother Teresa once picked up a man from the gutter, covered with worms. She carried him to her home for the dying and looked into his face. He looked up at her with a radiant smile and said, “I have lived like an animal, but I die like an angel.” Simply by shining on us, Christ’s light restores our humanity. No darkness can overcome it. The revelation of that unconquerable light is essential to our faith, such that the traditional form of the Roman Rite repeats it after every Mass in the so-called Last Gospel: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.” Who knows what new forms of darkness this year might bring? Yet we begin this year with an unshakable faith in the Light that cannot be overcome, the light streaming from Christ’s sacred face, the light reflected in the face of his Holy Mother, and all who join him in his saving mission. This light will not be overcome.
A university is a collection of books, wrote John Cardinal Henry Newman. I thank God and the College Founders for a first-class library at Thomas Aquinas College. Our library recently had a book sale, and I picked up a copy of Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War
for one dollar. My book afforded me many memorable hours of reading about World War Two by a distinguished author who himself served in the US Navy. Wouk, still vigorous at age 97, reportedly begins each day with a reading from the Torah.
In Wouk’s novel, the protagonist (Navy Captain Victor Henry) finds himself and his family whipped about by the “winds of war.” His sons get blown about the globe in fighter planes and submarines, his wife gets tossed into marital infidelity, and Henry himself undergoes an emotional tempest with a pert RAF nurse. The war continues to throw Henry and the young nurse together, and Henry’s fidelity is sorely tested. I found myself holding my breath, hoping the fictional character would remain faithful to his family. My hopes were rewarded, for the book ends with Henry refusing to commit adultery, determined to set out upon the long and hard road of winning his wife back. He resolves to fight for his family rather than submit to the random winds lashing at his feelings. The book’s conclusion was solid and hopeful, affirming that marriage is worth defending, and can be defended
, no matter which way the winds blow.
I wondered if there was a sequel. Indeed, I found, Wouk continues the narrative in War and Remembrance
. Before buying the book, I read a synopsis. Does Henry in fact restore his marriage and keep his family together? Sadly, he does not. The war keeps husband and wife apart, and each eventually commits adultery. They divorce each other and marry the objects of their desires. I decided not to read the sequel, as much as I enjoyed the first book. It would be too sad to travel that dreary path through the breakdown of yet another family.
Most marriages end in divorce, and one could say that the second novel only reflects the sad reality of our time. But literature’s noble purpose is not to relate the same old tale of human failure. Good literature paints a broader horizon, and gives readers hope for man’s innate nobility. Good tales have happy endings, because God has given a happy ending to human history. Literature should inspire us to believe in the salvation Christ has won for us, and in the heroic virtue He makes possible.
In general, literature should imitate the greatest tales of all: the lives of the saints. St. Ignatius of Loyola discovered that the romance literature of knights errant compared poorly to the lives of the saints. He gave up on romance fiction, because it left him sad after the excitement of reading was done. He began reading the tales of real people who dared follow God’s will to a heroic degree. Fictional characters need not all wear halos, of course, but the protagonist in any novel should in the end find himself capable of heroic virtue. Most of us, statistically, will get divorced. Most of us fail a lot of the time. But there’s no need to wallow in our failures. The best books portray nobility and hope in their characters.
I recommend reading the lives of the saints along with all the other stories we read or watch. It is a sadly-neglected Catholic practice, but reading even one biography of a saint gives scope and meaning to all the other stories. The Church has canonized over 6000 men and women, proposing the bright heroism of their lives to us all who will read them. Go to your favorite book source, whether it be a library or a bookstore or an internet site, and get some tales that will make your feel good in the reading, and even better after you have read them. My favorites are: