Omitting, texting sins

Image result for texting while driving

[re-post 2014 — a pre-Lenten re-examination of my conscience. Kyrie eleison.]

Recently, my wife and I watched a documentary with our children on texting and driving, From One Second To The Next. It detailed the heart-wrenching stories of victims and victimizers whose lives were turned upside down by one person’s decision to text while driving. It withered any temptation I may have had in me to text while I drive.

It reminded me of a Sunday homily I heard several years ago in Chicago by a priest who spoke of what he called “the sins I am surprised I never hear confessed.” It was a really sobering homily. He highlighted two sins that are, he said, “especially conspicuous for their absence from Confession.” Here’s some of what he said (as I wrote in my journal later).

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… It’s crucial that we also consider the ways we have failed to do what we can, or ought to do when circumstances call for action. For example, sometimes we’re obliged to speak up for someone when they’re not there to defend themselves. We often sin in this way through cowardice — afraid to face the awkwardness, or get criticized or shunned. Or maybe it’s just laziness, just too much investment of energy for us to be confrontational. Or again, maybe we value others’ approval over what we know is right and can’t stomach the thought that they might not think well of us. And maybe we even laugh at or join their ridicule or slander or gossip.

As people of faith we see that in these cases it is Christ whom we deny in them, Christ that we slander or fail to defend. He is always identified with the victim of every sin and injustice, he’s present in every person unfairly maligned. And he looks to us, the members of His Body, to come to His defense. Christ takes very personally what is done or not done for the least of His brethren. Here, the implications of Matthew 25 are much greater than feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty — and Matthew 25 makes clear to us judgement is primarily about the sins of omission. “Whatever you failed to do to the least of these, you failed to do to me…”

Then he took a surprising direction in his homily, one I’d never heard preached. He said:

But one of the most surprising omissions in Confession is the sin of breaking traffic laws, reckless driving. Did you know the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air”?

Grave guilt! Let me ask you — but please don’t raise your hand! [laughter] — how many of you have sped, had too much alcohol and then gotten behind a wheel, texted while you were driving, blown through stop lights or done other irresponsible things while driving? And how many of you have confessed this to the Lord in His Sacrament of Reconciliation?

If you haven’t, I’ll be available after Mass for at least an hour.

These things are, the Church tells us unequivocally, grave matter. “Graviter” in Catechism’s Latin,- which means it’s a most serious matter, the matter for mortal sin. In fact, the Catechism takes it so seriously that it places these things under the 5th commandment “Thou shalt not kill.”

Jesus says harboring anger against your brother in your heart is already the capital crime of murder. But the Catechism adds this: Reckless driving contains an implicit consent to murder. So it can, in this sense, already be considered murder. Whether you get caught by the cops or on camera is absolutely irrelevant.

I beg you, as your father in Christ, respect life by driving safely. Be a witness to temperance and justice, call others to be accountable and responsible. Maybe put a “Choose Life” bumper sticker on your car so that you become more conscious of being a witness to others. If someone sees you texting and driving, and then sees your bumper sticker, they may wonder: “Whose life are you choosing?”

You are your brother and sister’s keeper, a disciple of Christ the giver of life.

There’s a stunning bumper sticker I’ve seen, “Honk if you love Jesus! Text if you want to meet Him!” [laughter]. But here I would add on a much more serious note that for me, well, I would not want my last deed before entering the presence of Christ the Judge to be texting in the violation of the 5th commandment. Destroying lives, and my own, all to send a stupid text.

It’s a very powerful human skill to rationalize sin away. And especially to rationalize reckless driving away. I’m exempt. I can handle it. Just this once. Nothing’s gonna happen. The families of victims of traffic accidents caused by texting or drinking or disregarding traffic laws would have much to say to you in reply. As would the Lord.

So I encourage you: Go to Confession if you haven’t and unburden your sins before our merciful Lord, the Lover of life. And then, choose life every time you get behind the wheel.

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If you can, the ~35 minute film is worth the watch. With your family, friends. But it is graphic.

All rind, no meat

Image result for praying and feeding poor

Repost from 2017

The Holy Spirit teaches us to love even our enemies. When you love this way, your prayer has born its sweetest fruit. — St. Silouan

I was talking with someone at a retreat I gave a little while ago. He shared a really great insight:

About ten years ago I had a crusty old Jesuit as a spiritual director. He’s now deceased. I loved him because he was merciless on my erroneous zones, and he kept me honest.

Once I was sharing with him some lofty experiences I had had in prayer, and some of the deep insights I had received. He listened in his usual dispassionate way. After I finished he said, “How are you doing with your sister?” My sister and I had a falling out months prior, and he knew she was a thorn in my side, that we didn’t ever get along well.

Thinking his attention must have wandered while I spoke, I said to him a bit louder: “Excuse me, Father?” He repeated his question again, “Your sister? Are you speaking?” I said, “Well, as I told you last time, I’m not ready to re-connect with her yet. Still too raw. But with all due respect, what does that have to do with what I’m sharing with you, Father?” He said, “Well, when you’re ready to forgive her and reach out again for the umpteenth time, and face the unpleasantness of love — well, then I’ll be impressed with these experiences  in prayer you describe. Until then, it’s all rind, no meat.” Then he ended with the gut punch: “Next time you get filled up by your prayer, be sure to spend it on your sister.”

The man said to me, “What was THAT?” We laughed.

My first spiritual director, a Trappist monk, was of the same mind as that crusty old Jesuit priest. He was a St. John of the Cross devotee, and told me once to

Remember, the lofty spiritual poetry and mystical union John describes happened while he was imprisoned in a smelly latrine, with minimal food, no change of clothing for 6 months and a weekly lashing. The way John saw it, both the beautiful poetry and the mystical union with Jesus were gifts granted to him precisely in the midst of his awful predicament, so he could pour out these riches on his envious and hateful Carmelite brothers. …To that point, the man who stood guard at his cell during the last 3 months before his escape said John became more gentle and kind over time.

You can’t properly understand the saints’ spiritual classics apart from the context of their lives. Those spiritual authors who wrote such lofty thoughts about prayer were, like the rest of us, mired in the mess of human dysfunction. But that’s their point! It’s there, in the crucible, where we discover greatness. Not when life is ideal, going my way. Without unavoidable and inconvenient neighbors, Christian mysticism quickly devolves into a gnostic narcissism. We become spiritual gluttons who store up our surplus grain to feed ourselves, instead of destitute widows who give away our last two coins.

The core heresy of gnosticism is, you might say, being spiritual but not religious — making the claim that salvation consists in my personally delightful, antiseptic, autonomous and enlightening experience of God, not in any way dirtied by the hypocrisy and filth of real humans who organize as best they can in a religious community of saints, sinners and misfits. But St. James (1:27; 2:15-17) shows us what true spiritual religion looks like:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress. If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

So: after my time of prayer if I feel peace, I give peace. If I receive forgiveness, I give forgiveness. If I feel loved, I love. If I am enlightened, I illumine. If I feel encouraged, I encourage. If I am nourished, I nourish. And if I hear Him call, I go.

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” — St. Augustine

To be sure, there are as many paths of prayer as there are persons who pray, but it is the same Spirit acting in all and with all. — CCC 2672

One thing that I have learned being a father is to respect the radical uniqueness of each child’s way of approaching faith and life, decisions and setbacks, relationships and vocational paths. As they approached adulthood, I found it to be so important for us as parents — regardless of our good intentions — to not try to over-determine their emerging worldview or try to control and manipulate their decisions toward what we think best. Not only because it’s massively counter-productive in the end (in so many ways!), but because it is a failure to respect their unique and God-given identity, freedom and calling that are, in the final analysis, theirs alone to unfold.

I have also learned that my advice to each has to be very specific, which requires that I know, love and reverence each child’s unique personality, strengths, gifts, desires, weaknesses — and seek God’s wisdom specifically for each. That is a terribly tall order and grave responsibility! Pope Francis once wrote, “Indeed, when the great mystic, Saint John of the Cross, wrote his Spiritual Canticle, he preferred to avoid hard and fast rules for all. He explained that his verses were composed so that everyone could benefit from them ‘in his or her own way.’ For God’s life is communicated ‘to some in one way and to others in another.'”

God help me.

Patti and I especially try to approach their faith this way, discovering (not imposing) how each approaches God, their way of praying, seeking divine guidance, dealing with intellectual difficulties over Catholic teaching, navigating culture as a person of faith, etc. And I must say that entering into each of their respective paths to God in all these ways has stretched, challenged, inspired and blown-me-away in ways no other relationship, other than my marriage, has. Above all because, for their whole lifetime, they have known the real me and I have known the real them. There’s no pretending in family.

It’s really quite wonderful and terrifying all at once.

I showed a video last Fall to the seminarians in my theology of marriage class, and the couple sharing their witness described their very different prayer lives. Once, when they were on a retreat, they were asked to share how they each would greet Jesus if he knocked on their door. The wife said she’d take it very seriously and would bow to the ground, worship and say, “Thank you for dying for my sins.” They she said,

But my husband, who you have to know loves his car, said that after he said “Hi!” to Jesus, Jesus would say to him, “Hey, Cuz, your rims are shiny.” And I said to him, “Come on now, be serious.” But tears filled his eyes, and he said to me, “I am. Jesus is my friend and that’s what my friend would say.” I was in awe, because I finally saw he had a relationship with Jesus I don’t, and that I never knew before.



“…he descended into hell…”

A priest I know shared with me a short film (6 minutes) that blew. me. (and my family) away. It’s a dramatization of what happened to the soul of Christ on Holy Saturday, after his death.

I recommend a few things before you watch it. First, that you get your self in a quiet place and a prayerful state of mind. Second, that you watch it on a larger screen if possible with either good speakers or earbuds. Third, that you give yourself at least a few minutes afterward to prayerfully process it. And lastly, that you (re)read this 2nd century homily on Holy Saturday before you watch it.

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What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam’s son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

‘See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

“The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages

You want freedom? Sell everything.

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. — Luke 9:1-3

A few months ago, a priest visiting the seminary gave a homily that really shook me. These recollections are not a recorded transcript, but my own later journal elaboration on what I recalled.

In referring to this passage above, he speculated that one of the reasons Jesus tells the disciples to travel light was to keep them from seeing others they encounter along the way as potential thieves who threaten to steal the disciples’ money or possessions. In other words, he said, Gospel poverty allowed the disciples to encounter every person not as a potential competitor, threat or enemy, but as the prime subject of their co-mission to love all, just as the dis-possessed and poor Christ would one day do from the Cross. I thought of 2 Cor. 8:9:

Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

“So,” the priest continued, “the more possessions the disciples have, the more attachments they cling to, the less free they are to encounter with generous love every human being, assuming the radical spirit of risk that the Gospel demands (Luke 17:33). Because if they fear they might have something taken from them that is theirs, they avoid, exclude, or kill those who might threaten their possessions. Even their lives, which of course is the ‘word of the cross’ [1 Cor. 1:18].”

As he was speaking, I thought immediately of the story about the ‘desert father’ Saint Macarius of Egypt, who one day came back to his monastic cell to find a thief taking his things and loading them on a camel. Macarius immediately set to work helping the thief load the camel, while meditating on the Lord’s saying:

But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. — Luke 6:28-30

“So,” the priest concluded, “what attachments, what possessions do you have that prevent you from seeing each person you encounter as a brother, a sister, a Christ-bearing equal whose keeper you are? Is it money or material goods? Is it your reputation? Is it your addiction to comfort, ease, free time or pleasure? Your desire to control others? Is it your fears? Is it your prejudices or ideologies? Your desire to always be right? Whatever it is, Jesus is speaking to you today: ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ And since you’re going to have all taken from you at the moment of death anyway, might as well begin now, freely…”

Merciful eyes

Yep, a post.

Last night my wife and I watched The Original Image, an exceptional documentary on the history of the original painting commissioned by St. Faustina’s spiritual director, Blessed Father Michael Sopocko, to depict her vision of Jesus. I recommend it highly:

I wanted to share one simple insight the documentary gave me into the image’s unique departure from iconographic orthodoxy — its portrayal of the risen Jesus’ eyes looking not directly ahead, but downward. Why this change?

Evidently, St. Faustina explained that the Lord wished by this subtle departure to communicate that He, in His risen state, retains His downward gaze from the Cross. That insight made my heart skip a beat.

Beneath Him from the Cross, of course, were His mother, the faithful women and John. But also present, and far more vast, was the great throng of cursing, angry, fearful, confused, hateful, cowardly, cruel, blaspheming, ridiculing men and women. All of these Jesus looked down on as He died, not with hatred or self-pity, but with steadfast love.

All I could think of in this regard was Mark 10:21’s description of Jesus’ countenance toward the rich young man who turned away: He de Iēsous emblepsas auto ēgapēsen auton, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”

Look up, now, into those eyes…

Faustina’s subtle visionary-artistic shift is to me a fresh rendering of Romans 5:8: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” As I thought on this last night, laying outside on the front lawn with my son watching a violent thunderstorm approach, I drew into my mind’s eye the Prodigal Son story and rewrote Romans a bit: “God proves his love for us that while we were still wallowing about in mud and slop among the swine, Christ looked down at us with unfathomable love.”

St. Maximos the Confessor, come to my aid:

Those skilled in divine matters call Him a zealous and exemplary lover, because of the intensity of His blessed longing for all things; for He longs to be longed for, loves to be loved and desires to be desired.

May we allow His eyes, His downward gaze from the Cross to bathe us today with God’s lavish, limitless and longing love. His forever mercy. And may we, standing under that gaze always, then be empowered to bear that same countenance toward the faithful and the unfaithful, the virtuous and the vile, the great saints and the great sinners. Amen.

Kindly Light, online

In the digital environment, too, where it is easy for heated and divisive voices to be raised and where sensationalism can at times prevail, we are called to attentive discernment. Let us recall in this regard that Elijah recognized the voice of God not in the great and strong wind, not in the earthquake or the fire, but in “a still, small voice” (1 Kg 19:11-12). We need to trust in the fact that the basic human desire to love and to be loved, and to find meaning and truth, keeps our contemporaries ever open to what Blessed Cardinal Newman called the “kindly light” of faith. — Pope Benedict XVI

The kindly light. What a magnificent phrase Newman coined to express the spirit of the Christian who refracts the splendor of divine Light into the darkness. How desperately the digital world needs such kindly polished prisms these days.

What the Pope argues here is that the universal human desire for love, meaning and truth finds in the digital world a privileged forum for the discovery of Love, Truth and Meaning incarnate, Jesus Christ, in the words and witness of those who bear His Name. For the Christian, every word, every action, every image contains the potential to influence for good or ill, to reveal or conceal God, to consecrate or desecrate digital space. I think here of Matthew 12:36:

I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter.

This reminds of a colorful story from the life of that fool for Christ, St. Philip Neri, who once offered a woman a creative penance for her sin of spreading malicious gossip. He instructed her to take a feather pillow to the top of the church bell-tower, rip it open, and scatter the feathers into the open air. Then he asked her to come down from the bell-tower after she had emptied the pillow of its contents and collect all the feathers that had dispersed throughout the town. The impossibility of completing this penance is, he said, a parable of the irretrievable damage she inflicts on others each time she chooses to spread gossip.

I find a simple way to judge my impact on the world under my influence is to examine whether or not my words and deeds appear to cultivate and communicate the fruits of the Holy Spirit:


When I served with the Missionaries of Charity, we would pray this prayer written by St. John Henry Newman every day. It remains in me as a perpetual examination of conscience, and seems a fitting conclusion to these scattered thoughts…

Dear Jesus, help us to spread Your fragrance everywhere we go.
Flood our souls with Your Spirit and Life.
Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly
that our lives may only be a radiance of Yours.

Shine through us and be so in us
that every soul we come in contact with
may feel Your presence in our souls.
Let them look up, and see no longer us, but only Jesus!

Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as You shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be ours.
It will be You, shining on others through us.

Let us thus praise You in the way You love best, by shining on those around us.
Let us preach You without preaching, not by words but by example,
by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do,
the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear for You.



A Priestly Chaplet

As we call everyone ‘Christians’ in virtue of a mystical anointing, so we call everyone ‘priests’ because all are members of only one priesthood. — St. Augustine of Hippo

Priests offer sacrifice to God, a symbolic act of returning the whole gift of creation to the Creator in thanksgiving.

Priests mediate between God and the world, bringing the world to God through reconciling intercession and God to the world by beneficent blessing and consecrating invocation.

Priests stand on the boundary lands between two worlds, transacting between spirit and matter, heaven and earth, God and the world, infinite and finite.

Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment.

Jesus Christ is the great High Priest, who assumed and restored the sin-desecrated priesthood of Adam-Eve, bringing it to supreme perfection by His obedient self-offering as humanity’s true Bridegroom on the Cross, and in His harrowing descent into our Hell.

Through him God was pleased
to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
by making peace through
the blood of his cross. – Col. 1:20

How much more will the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit
offered himself without blemish to God,
purify our conscience from dead works
to worship the living God. – Heb. 9:14

He descended into Hell. — Apostle’s Creed

Seen this way, the glorious resurrection of Christ’s wound-riven Body on the third day, that once-and-for-all shattered the silence of God, is the Father’s definitive acceptance of Jesus’ sacrificial atoning offering. Jesus is God’s reconciling at-one-ing sacrifice, the covenant wedding of God and creation forever.

In Baptism-Confirmation, perfected in the Eucharistic sacrifice, Christ wholly opens up His priesthood to us so we might live out with Him our original priestly calling to offer sacrifice and mediate, to bless and consecrate, to reconcile and transact, to stand on the boundary lands between heaven and earth, calling down the eternal Fire:

Renew the face of the earth!

This is the heart of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a devotion that powerfully activates our baptismal priesthood and permits us to offer — in a stunningly Eucharistic fashion — Christ the Priest-Victim to the eternal Father “in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”  But it is not just Christ we offer, but ourselves with Him as His Mystical Body. Which is why we say, “I offer.” Like Christ, in those two words we become both the priest who offers and the sacrifice that is offered.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers,
by the mercies of God,
to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and acceptable to God,
which is your rational [logikēn] worship. – Rom. 12:1

Rational worship from creatures endowed with the gift of reason, that stamp of the divine image in our flesh. How do we do this form of worship? The rest of Romans 12 makes it clear. Our priestly worship is best expressed by exercising rightly our royal authority over creation, by doing the truth in love, making of our works of mercy a worthy sacrificial return of creation to God, offered in thanksgiving…

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. — Rom. 12:9-21


O Oxalis Crucis

As I was taking a long walk in our neighborhood, I noticed this extraordinary scene. This live oak tree seems to have at some point lost an adjoining trunk, and the open scar left has, over many years no doubt, led to rotting in the heartwood, even as the tree has tried to heal itself by gradually enclosing the scar.

What stunned me was this single Oxalis (which in Latin means ‘sour wine’!) growing out of the oak’s decaying wood. Immediately it seemed to me, with its flowers and trinity of leaves, to be the perfect symbol of the mystery of the Cross. The dead wood of the cross, receiving in the Son the whole Trinity onto its cursed and Blood-soaked beams, becomes the Tree of Life from which the beauty of divine glory blooms in a ‘new creation’ and produces innumerable seeds soon to be scattered by the Spirit to the four winds.

These Spirit-borne seeds, planted in the open fissures of our own dead wood, even now sprout, grow and bloom if we receive them, drawing new life from our death everywhere the holy church is planted throughout the world.

All of this, as I journaled on it, made me think of the ancient icons of the cross as Tree of Life, and made me remember a magnificent 6th century Latin poem by Venantius Fortunatus. both of which I include below.

A blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week to you and your families. May its mysteries penetrate deeply with God’s eternal life anywhere the realm of death still reigns in our world.

Faithful Cross!
above all other,
one and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
none in fruit thy peers may be;
sweetest wood and sweetest iron!
Sweetest Weight is hung on thee!

Lofty tree, bend down thy branches,
to embrace thy sacred load;
oh, relax the native tension
of that all too rigid wood;
gently, gently bear the members
of thy dying King and God.

Tree, which solely wast found worthy
the world’s Victim to sustain.
harbor from the raging tempest!
ark, that saved the world again!
Tree, with sacred blood anointed
of the Lamb for sinners slain.

Blessing, honor, everlasting,
to the immortal Deity;
to the Father, Son, and Spirit,
equal praises ever be;
glory through the earth and heaven
to Trinity in Unity. Amen.

“She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.” – Rev. 12:2

“I’m working a lot more,” says Don LeBlanc, who cleans everything from operating theaters to patient wards during his usual 6 p.m.-to-2 a.m. shift. “Now, it’s sometimes 10 hours or 12 hours [per day].”

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. — Charles Dickens in a Tale of Two Cities

One cannot extol enough the many people in diverse professions, circumstances and states of life who are presently living lives of great sacrifice and hardship now. People who, faced with fear and enormous obstacles, maintain a firm will to sustain hope, to defend life and to maintain good order in the face of the great forces of chaos that threaten us.

Though I never wish to idealize or romanticize people, these days of crisis have called us all to a new greatness — a greatness that for some involves risky work and exhausting hours, for others means dealing with job loss, illness or death, while others are challenged with suffering feelings of helplessness, isolation, loneliness or anxiety, even as they muster acts of courage and trust in God’s mysterious providence.

So many people’s lives of prayer — certainly my own — have turned away from more self-absorbed musings on their own spiritual lives, needs or personal fulfillment, and outward toward the needs and welfare of others. This reminds me of what a priest said several years ago in a retreat I was on:

The saints are quite unanimous: a premier sign of holiness is when your thoughts are populated more by considerations of the welfare of others than of your own, and in that you find your greatest freedom and joy. Certainly if we examine the prayer life of Jesus, as in John 17 or on the cross, this was His whole prayer’s concern: us and our salvation. And what preoccupies His mind now that He’s in heaven? Hebrews 7:25 gives a stunning answer, “He lives forever to make intercession for us.”

In the ancient pattern of God’s redeeming providence, these days of dark travail are ripe for transforming our wailing world into a labor and delivery room, from which a new era of saints can now be born. So it might be good for leaders within the churches, amid the scurrying, to heed the words of St. John Paul II, watch carefully and take note(s)…

…The eyes of faith behold a wonderful scene: that of a countless number of lay people, both women and men, busy at work in their daily life and activity, oftentimes far from view and quite unacclaimed by the world, unknown to the world’s great personages but nonetheless looked upon in love by the Father, untiring laborers who work in the Lord’s vineyard. Confident and steadfast through the power of God’s grace, these are the humble yet great builders of the Kingdom of God in history.

Particular Churches especially should be attentive to recognizing among their members men and women of those Churches who have given witness to holiness, in everyday secular conditions and the conjugal state, and who can be an example for others, so that, if the case calls for it, the Churches might propose them to be beatified and canonized.