Sunday, July 25, 2010

Power Plant

Don’t you hate it when someone else is minding your business?

It is such an intrusion, an invasion, an uninvited insertion of someone else’s expectations into our lives and our privacy. Few things are more galling and few things are less welcome. Always true and universally recognized, this is something we can all agree on. Until we need help, that is. Funny, isn’t it, how welcome someone else’s interest becomes only when we decide we want it?

But so often we are unwilling or unable to communicate our needs, or to find the people who could help us. This, I am pleased to let you know, is precisely why this parish exists. To mind your business!

If instead of a spire atop our church, we had a towering brick smokestack straight out of the industrial revolution; and if somehow the work of prayer gave off visible exhaust -- non-polluting, of course; then we might be able to see the clouds of radiant smoke billowing heavenward, and spreading across our community at all hours of the day and night.

This parish is a factory of prayer, a union of mutual effort and energy, roaring with the good and generous exchange of spiritual strength, and welded together by our communion in Christ. And whether you or I realize it at the moment, whether we have asked for it or not, whether we know the names of the people or not, whether we want it or not, people of this parish are praying for us, for me and for you.

More effective than the common currency of the European Union, the sacrifice of prayer is a shared medium of work and wealth that binds us together in spirit, and gives us the strength we need to function in the face of adversity or uncertainty. These prayers absorb some of the impact of pain and punishment on us, and magnify the good and the grace that nourishes our joy. Never seen or handled, much less taxed, prayer has no expiration date, but neither can it be hoarded.

As manager of this operation, I get to point this power-production in the direction where it is most needed. When people tell me they’re praying for me, I thank them, and tell them to keep it coming – because I burn them fast! I try to bring every intention of which I have been told, or that I have observed, or that I can only guess, to prayer – my own, and our common prayer of the Sacred Liturgy.

Still, there are the entrepreneurial souls out there who insist on praying on their own, or in small groups. They too direct their exertions toward brothers and sisters and their needs and intentions, whether they know of them directly, or not. Rooted in Eucharistic unity, these dedicated pray-ers can sense and respond to circumstances and situations that are fully known only to the mind of Christ.

These people are messing about in your business and in mine, in the most powerful way possible. Thank God! Monsignor Smith

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Give and Take

Well, you turn your back for a moment, and look what happens!

Those of you who were here Independence Day weekend probably heard – and many others of you have noticed. Over that Friday night, while I was away, thieves tore the copper downspouts off the east side of the church and the west side of the convent. They took them to sell the copper as scrap, since it has such a high value these days.

They hit Saint John the Evangelist about six weeks ago, and other churches have suffered, too. Two men were arrested for stealing copper wire along the Amtrak rail lines, and police estimate they got $19,000 worth of it. Also hit have been air conditioning units, for their copper components. Of course, the cash value of the copper as scrap is but a fraction of the cost of replacing any of it.

I find it particularly galling that these troubled souls should take from churches, and while that may just be my predjudice, I also have a basis for it.

These copper downspouts, along with the granite eaves, are a sign that the priests and people who built this church did not skimp in offering something beautiful to God. Being quite familiar with all the aspects of our beautiful facilities here, I know that they did not give from what they had left over; they did not build the temple of the Lord after they had outfitted themselves completely. No; it was a priority for them to have – and leave us -- a beautiful church, and they set about doing it at great cost to themselves.

Now the challenge comes about what to do to replace them. I hate to use a lesser material, undermining the intention of our founders and the elegance of our church. But it makes no sense to put up new copper, only to give them a chance to tear it down. There’s not much more that we can do to protect them.

I will be nervous every time I go on summer vacation from now on, dreading the phone call like Father Nick’s last weekend. I KNEW he wasn’t calling just to say hello. Last year when I was away, someone smashed into the Blessed Mother statue and the entrance to the school. I cannot really credit these people with waiting until I am away to wreak their havoc, but I am suspicious.

The thieves left untouched the side of the church that faces the rectory, fearing the ramifications of awakening the priests. They have to know how many police spend at least part of their shifts in our parking lots overnight. What is left – besides electrifying the downspouts, which I admit has some appeal? What is there to do to keep our holy place safe?

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle! Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, cast down into hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen. Only prayer can defend us against sin – sins of others, and our own. Peace! Monsignor Smith

Sunday, July 04, 2010

A More Perfect Union

Last week brought birthdays for several people; this week, for our nation. 234 years young and still going strong, the United States of America has every reason to celebrate. The first nation in history founded not on geography or ethnicity, but on a covenant of governance, she still manages to amaze and impress, even as the signs of age and abuse show.

One thing that makes me so glad to be an American is that I have not only visited, but also lived in another country. Even in the twenty-first century, even in super-modern Europe, there is still a system of class and culture that restricts the possibilities of citizens to what someone else, or sometime else, has deemed appropriate to them. We Americans intuitively notice and reject these obstacles and expectations that are woven into the fabric of daily life for almost everyone else on earth. It is more obvious in Europe because they think that they are liberated by their modernity – but they are not. Modernity cannot liberate anyone from anything, except possibly good sense.

Last week the Sacred Scripture we encountered at Mass reflected on the nature of freedom. When confronted with the call of God to be holy, people offered excuses that did in fact excuse them from any legal or technical obligation to follow. But God’s call is not a legal one, and our response is not obligatory. They call of love is answerable only with and in love, and love cannot be obliged nor extracted, only offered in freedom.

Our Founding Fathers were all versed in a Christian understanding, however deprived of the fullness of Catholic teaching. But their understanding of freedom was based on a firm grip on from where it comes, and toward what it is directed.

Freedom comes from God (endowed by their Creator) and inheres in our human nature. Freedom belongs properly and exclusively to man, because man, and man alone, is made in the image and likeness of God.

Freedom has one, and only one, proper end: to do what is good. We know what is good: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Without freedom, love is not possible; but in freedom, anything less than love is an abuse of that freedom.

Fools and selfish men will tell you that it is not possible to know or to say what is good, and therefore freedom requires that everyone be able to designate to be good whatever he sees fit. This is false liberation, the siren song of the dictatorship of relativism.

No individual man but Jesus Christ has had in himself a perfect understanding of true goodness. But our nation, by her nature larger than any individual inclination or attraction, and by her design capable of discerning and describing publicly that good, can and must define and defend what is good, what is true, and what is beautiful, if she is to fulfill her charter, and if she is to have any hope of enduring.

Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1) Saint Paul would have encouraged us all to take seriously our obligations of this great nation, and as citizens of heaven, and to proclaim what is true and good – and live it. To resolve again to do so in our lives is the best gift you and I can give to our mother country on this her birthday. God give you all a happy Independence Day -- and many more!
Monsignor Smith