As the French government stands poised to recognize same-sex unions as “marriage,” a vast number of supporters of authentic marriage protested in central Paris on Sunday. Organizers said the vast crowds that filled the city’s wide boulevards numbered 1.4 million, while the French police put the number at 300,000. Who is ordering the police to distort the numbers? (Who is ordering the U.S. Park Service to routinely under report numbers at the annual Walk for Life in Washington?) Even if “only” 300,000 protested, how can the French government ignore such a manifestation of its own citizens’ will? In almost all major media, the facts of the French protest are misreported. Who is censoring the newspapers and websites?
Yesterday the US Supreme Court began hearing arguments in favor of California’s constitutional amendment protecting authentic marriage. The Los Angeles Times
over the last few days has dumped a blizzard of articles favoring the homosexual position. All the major newspapers walk in lockstep on this issue, refusing to cover those who defend marriage. The Times
routinely falsifies perspectives (e.g., in illustrating the French pro-marriage marches, photographs show only homosexual counter-demonstrators, as if the march were promoting gay “marriage”). Who is paying for this media censorship?
The media portrays the same-sex “marriage” movement as a civil rights battle. But note this obvious difference: in civil-rights battles, the people force the government to change laws; in the same-sex “marriage” battle, the government is forcing the people
to accept a change in the law. Which look more like the civil rights marches of the 1960s—the immense marches in Paris and Washington or the small gatherings of homosexual “marriage” supporters? The fact is that the gay “marriage” issue has been manufactured by the government and media elites. The people for their part have rejected same-sex “marriage” in almost every popular vote. The people of California, for example, voted to protect marriage by a constitutional amendment in 2008; one man
from the government, U.S District Judge Vaughn Walker, overturned the will of the people. It is true that the peoples’ will is slowly changing—but only after forty years of relentless propaganda from government and media.
Which raises the question: why is the government, and the media, so bent on dismantling marriage? What do they gain from it? And the answer, it seems to me, is simply one of power. Rulers seek influence and control. The single most effective check on governmental control is the family, based on authentic marriage. The family is a powerful governing force independent of the state. It thinks on its own. Unified and organized families hardly need any governing principle beyond themselves. And this independent power has become increasingly intolerable to the globalized, all-encompassing governments of our day. Promoting promiscuity, sexual infidelity, and divorce are all ways to destabilize the family. And now, the government seeks to render the very idea of marriage irrelevant by claiming two men—or whatever number and arrangement it so deems—is a “marriage.” It is a most effective way of neutralizing the power of the family. By dismantling the family, the government makes every citizen a de facto ward of the state.Link
On Palm Sunday the altar servers ushered me out to the plaza of St. Mary Magdalene chapel, where I was to begin the Procession. Three hundred eager souls followed, hoping to receive their very own palm for the year. We halted before the mahogany table set up for the occasion. “Christopher,” I whispered nervously, “where are the palms?” The table was bare. A stricken look came over the lead acolyte, but then, looking up, he brightened. “They are all around us, Father,” he smiled. It was true: we were surrounded by gracefully arching palms. I love living in California!
The Sacred liturgy of Palm Sunday begins in worldly acclaim and ends in human defeat. It is the only Mass with two proper gospels: the first describes a glory and triumph; the second describes abasement and ruin. Christ’s approval rating is 100% on Sunday; by Thursday almost everyone is calling for his bloody execution.
In his Passion, Christ paid no attention to judgment of this world. His eyes were fixed on His Father and the Divine Will. We who participate in this Palm Sunday Mass must follow him, both in triumph and in disgrace. We must follow him in life, and follow him in death. Nothing matters in this life beyond following Him. With Our Lady and St. John, we summon the courage and stamina to walk behind him, step by step through this Holy Week, armed with prayer and penance and charity.
We have entered the fifth week of Lent—in the older calendar, “Passion Sunday.” According to a more ancient tradition, the four-week season of Lent ends as the two-week season of Passiontide begins today. But even in the newer form of the Mass, from today the readings focus on Our Lord’s approaching suffering and death rather than the Lenten themes of sin and conversion. Both forms also use the Passiontide Preface (or, the Preface of the Holy Cross), rather than a Lenten Preface, in these last two weeks. The Crucifix may be covered from today until Good Friday, and statues until the Easter Vigil. Today is also known as “Judica” Sunday, because the introit or entrance verse comes from Psalm 42, the same verse used for the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. “Judica me Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta.” Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against a godless people. These words stay on Our Savior’s lips throughout his Sacred Passion. Tu Deus fortitudo mea, “you O God are my strength”—Jesus clings to this psalm as he endures the outrages of wicked men.
Finally, until the 1940s a second collect prayer for the Pope was said on Passion Sunday. Since the third century, the Bishop of Rome would offer a Mass at each of the 50 or so “station churches” in Rome, to show his paternal solicitude for the various parishes of his Diocese. Over the centuries, the tradition of offering Mass in one of these ancient parishes on each of the 46 days of Lent developed. The station church visited on this day, Passion Sunday, is San Pietro in Vaticano, St. Peter’s Basilica, the home of the Popes since 1377. It is our joy to pray for the Pope today, on the day of his Station Church, especially as our new Pontiff prepares to take formal possession of his office at his Installation Mass on Tuesday.
Our Gospel is taken from St. John Chapter 8, which begins with the women taken in adultery, which is the Gospel for the Ordinary Form today. Jesus pardons the woman, who would have been stoned to death by Jewish law, but he also tells her to sin no more. This act of forgiving sin, which we Catholics take for granted every time we enter a confessional, seemed to blast a big hole right through the Old Covenant, although in reality Jesus was fulfilling rather than detracting from the Mosaic Law. It drove the Pharisees and legal scholars to fury against Jesus. They accuse him of everything under the sun: You are a Samaritan (that is, a heretic). You are insane. You are possessed. Jesus patiently, but firmly, corrects their absurd charges, but finally speaks the one word that is sure to get him killed, the unspeakable tetragrammaton: I AM. It is the Name that Moses heard on Mount Sinai, the name Yahweh. “Before Abraham came to be, I AM.” So Jesus declares his eternity and his divinity. He leaves no room for equivocation: either he is a madman, claiming to be divine, or he is all that he says he is: the eternal consubstantial Son of God. Immediately the Jews picked up stones to kill him.
Jesus is obliged to hide: Jesus abscondit se. Consider the indignity of having to run and hide. The Lord of Lords and King of Kings, having pronounced his divine Name, must dodge his enemies and hide behind a tree or down some dark alley. He doesn’t have to hide himself, of course, but his hour has not yet come. In obedience to his Father’s plan, then, he does what puny human beings often have to do: he runs and hides. He hides the way Adam hid behind a tree after he had sinned. The Christ did not sin, but he knows the shame we all feel when we must hide ourselves. Our frail humanity must often hide or flee certain evils we cannot prevent. Inevitable human misunderstandings, awkwardness in certain social situations, and the consequences of our own miserable sins all require us to flee and to hide. Every morning when we put on clothing, we are hiding our bodies from shame and embarrassment. When we enter the confessional we hide our sins from others (and sometimes even from the priest, depending on how we make our confession!).
We long to be free of shame; we yearn for a day when we will no longer have to run and hide. But that day is not yet here. For now, we must endure our shame, and we enter into Our Savior’s humiliation before men. His shame, freely chosen, will heal our shame. Through his stripes, in his blood, we are healed. We enter into this time of Passiontide, heedless of the shame, with Christ our Lord.
Newly elected Pope Francis appears on the central balcony of St Peter's
Basilica. (Gregorio Borgia / AP)
Where were you when your Pope Alarm went off? I didn’t have such an alarm, nor did I need one. I was in the confessional before the 11:30 Mass when I noticed students running across the campus excitedly. Within seconds the great bells in our chapel tower began tolling joyously. I absolved the last penitent and made for the only cable TV on campus, in Loyola Hall (we would later chuckle at the irony of seeing the first Jesuit Pope in Loyola Hall). I had to return for Mass before learning his identity, however. A tutor stood by in the sacristy with his i-phone should the name be disclosed before I started the Eucharistic prayer, so that we could pray for this poor man by name.
Alas, we were not to learn his name until after Mass. He was a Jesuit, and he was Francis. “A Jesuit Francis?” I wondered. “A Franciscan Jesuit?” I think, and I hope, that the world is in good hands if the Pope is a Jesuit who has the humility (and humor?) to pick the name of Francis. From what we have madly read of him in the last 90 minutes, he seems to be a man of God, chosen by the Holy Spirit rather than the New York Times. “It seems that my brother cardinals have gone almost to the ends of the earth to get [the new pope],” he joked, “but here we are.”
Let us rest easy tonight, for again we have a papa. Before leaving St. Peter’s Square, he bade us do so: “We will see one another soon,” he said. “Tomorrow I want to go to pray the Madonna, that she may protect Rome. Good night and sleep well.”
This morning you will notice I’ve taken the liberty to strew our white marble altar with pink flowers—camelias from the tree in front of Loyola Hall. For today is Laetare Sunday, the one Sunday in Lent on which instrumental music is permitted and flowers may adorn the altar. Your priests and your altars bear rose vesture today, signifying the joy proper to those who can see Easter on the horizon. The Mass Collect today articulates our hope: “with prompt devotion and eager faith may we hasten toward the solemn celebrations to come.”
The Father’s Prodigal Love
On Laetare Sunday, Holy Mother Church spreads the feast of Christ’s greatest parable before us, that of the so-called Prodigal Son. Its vast panorama portrays three characters: the younger son, the older son, and the Father. It is the parable of the Prodigal Father, Rich in Mercy. So Blessed John Paul II named his second encyclical, Dives inMisericordia, on God the Father, which often refers to this parable. It never fails to console him who reads it prayerfully. More than any other, the parable of the Prodigal Son convinces us of God’s tender and undying love for his sons and daughters.
Let us weep: I have lost my son
First, consider the younger son: “Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.” In a shocking act of non-negotiable, in-your-face self-centeredness, he demands from his father half of the family business in cash so that he can waste it in a distant land—perhaps Las Vegas or Miami. We might miss the outrage in his words—“I can’t wait for you to die, old man: give me your money now”—but imagine how it sounded to Jesus’ hearers, who held their fathers in great reverence. The son leaves his father’s home for a “distant country,” which as Fr. Barron points out renders the Greek choran makran, which may be translated “vast region.” The lost son enters the empty lands of his own self-absorption, the vast barren regions where demons abide. He is truly the Lost Son.
Let us rejoice: I have found my son
Eventually, the Lost Son hits bottom, returns to his senses, and resolves to turn back to his father’s house. “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him.” The Father scans the horizon day after day, longing for his son, but refusing to force him. He detects only a glimmer in his son, a small speck on a distant horizon, slowly moving closer. He does not wait, but tucks up his noble robes and runs, not walks, but runs to his son. And all is forgiven. The Father does not even wait for his son to finish his confession: your sins do not matter now. All that matters is that I have you back, safe and sound. You have returned to me.
God is always watching us, waiting for our next move. Thoughtlessly, we fear he watches our every move in order to condemn, waiting with baited breath to accuse us. But this image is not Scriptural. Jesus, in his greatest parable, portrays a Father, rich in mercy, relenting in punishment, always ready to forgive. In the Bible, it is Satan who accuses. The Son and the Holy Spirit defend, not accuse, against Satan’s accusations. “I have come not to condemn, but to save what was lost.”
So the Lord says to Joshua in our First Reading, “Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you;” So St. Paul says in our Second Reading, you are a “new creation: God has reconciled us to himself through Christ,… not counting our trespasses against us.” The ring, the finest robe, the fattened calf—all this is ours, if we return to our Father’s house. We can only do that through the grace of Christ.Therefore, Paul concludes, “we implore you: be reconciled to God.”
Three more weeks of Lent
Three more weeks of Lent, and the great liturgies of the Sacred Triduum, open up before us. There is no more propitious time in the year to be reconciled to God. Change bad habits, make a good confession, return to the Word and the Sacraments with your whole hearts, in fasting, weeping, and praying. Return to your father’s house. He will not refuse you. He will run to greet you, with open arms, for my Son, he says, “was lost, and is found. He was dead, and has come back to life again.”
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin (Lyons, France) simply wanted to get in a good bike
ride when journalists caught sight of him.
Perhaps every man has a love-hate relationship with his local newspaper. My father read the New York Times every morning with affection, but also with loathing. The late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus would read every editorial of the NYT and then lampoon them in his journal First Things. I must admit to feeling good to see a fresh copy of the Los Angeles Times by my door on my first morning at Thomas Aquinas College. I have come to “hate” that newspaper, but I read it every day. Like any human endeavor, it contains much that is good—articles about astronomical discoveries, bird life on the Channel Islands, and basic facts about world happenings. Its shamelessly-biased political journalism has even endeared itself to me—so predictable, so naïve in its sophistication. I have become used to the liberal media perhaps as St. John Vianney became used to the devil, whom he affectionately nicknamed le Grappin, the “Scratcher.” Certainly the Times scratches, but rarely does it scratch beneath the surface. Let us hope that most people do not take this kind of journalism very seriously.
Few news agencies miss an opportunity to discredit the Catholic Church, and the Los Angeles Times seems anxious to lead the pack. At least every other day it sports a front-page story about scandals in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, of which, sadly, there is no dearth. But although the paper clearly despises the Church, I’m struck by its fascination with Catholicism. Few Vatican events pass that don’t find at least a small article in the Times. It has devoted assiduous coverage to the papal interregnum. Naturally, it misunderstands things, reading everything through purely political lenses. But one is struck by the newspaper’s fascination with everything Catholic. No doubt the editors see the Church as the longest, largest, and most-enduring political story in history. But beyond mere political curiosity, I think the secularist trend-setters discern something more in the Church. As Herod feared John the Baptist, but “liked to listen to him,” so contemporary liberalism loathes the Church, but likes to read about her. The Los Angeles Times’ very fascination with Rome affords some measure of hope for our ailing secular culture. Perhaps all is not lost, after all.
How is your Lent Coming?
We enter the third week of Lent. It’s about now that we might begin to slow down, so let me encourage you to maintain your speed, even to throttle up gradually as we approach Easter. If you haven’t committed your resolutions to paper, write them out. Read what you have written early (before breakfast) and often. Next week is Laetare Sunday, and we want to have something to rejoice about. We want to have felt the surge of heart during those quick daily visits to the chapel, the intensity of praying the stations lean with hunger, the joy of giving ourselves to others. So let’s make this next week a good one
Jesus was casting out a demon that was gagging a man’s speech. Imagine the possessed man struggling to speak—gagging, drooling, choking, convulsing. Jesus liberates the man’s speech, and no one could deny Christ’s power. Most rejoiced in it, but some, rather than admit that Jesus was Messiah, attributed his power to Satan. They charge Jesus with collaborating Beelzebul, the Philistine Lord of the Flies. So Jesus states the obvious: how can Satan be divided against himself? But beyond this contradiction, Jesus declares his power greater than that of Satan. “When a strong man fully armed (Satan) guards his palace (a soul given over to him), his goods are secure. But when a stronger man assails and overcomes him, he claims those goods. Jesus is that stronger man, who has assailed the devil in the possessed man, and claimed that man’s soul for his own. Even if people do not want to recognize it, Jesus has conquered and from now on no one can adopt a position of neutrality. “He who is not with me is against me.”
Two Ways: for me or against me
There are only two positions a man can take: for Christ, or against Christ. If you do not gather with him, you scatter. We can have no truck with the world, the flesh, or the devil; we cannot be friends with both God and Mammon. And so St. Paul excoriates Christians who try to have it both ways. “Immorality (the Latin is fornicatio) or any impurity must not even be mentioned among you.” Friends, we are men of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips. How often do we not only mention impurity but imbibe it in movies and TV programs, in books, magazines, and websites, in conversations and discussions? Most TAC students do their work-study or exercise with earphones in. If any of us are listening to dirty music, base music, evil music, then now is the time to purge this impurity. It is hard to avoid the impurity of our age, but not impossible. No obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, Paul says. In place of these banalities: thanksgiving. Live as children of the light, he says, because if you don’t, you live as children of darkness, subjects of the Lord of the Flies.
Purifying the Filth
The Conclave to elect a new pope will begin soon. The filth of the world, in the words of our Pope-emeritus Benedict, runs through the Church. It seems to me that the next pope must not only defend the Church against the secularism battering her from the outside. He must reform and purify her from the inside. It is not enough for bishops today to simply maintain the faith—every bishop today must be a reforming bishop. It is not enough to be a good priest today—priests must roll up their sleeves and purify filth from the Church, beginning with our own souls. It is not enough for laypeople to be good Catholics—you must be saints. We must all refuse to touch, or look at, or speak of, the world’s filth. Our Lady will show us the way. “Blessed is the womb that bore you,” cried a lady in the crowd. “Blessed rather,” Jesus pointed out, “Blessed she who has heard the word of God and kept it.” Our Lady replied to the angel, Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum,” and never renounced that vow. She will help us keep our vows, because she is the Immaculata, the all-pure one. She will help us to keep a good and holy Lent.