Monday, May 18, 2020

Who Was that Masked Man? The Priest at the COVID-19 Deathbed

One Christmas when I was a boy I received a Lone Ranger set. They were like the old GI Joes, except it was the Lone Ranger characters, horses, guns, campfires etc. Years later, the only references I'd ever hear about the Lone Ranger were in terms of it being an unsatisfactory model of the priesthood. Quite often you hear cautious criticism over the "Lone Ranger Priest." It basically means a guy who does his own thing, keeps himself isolated from the rest of the presbyterate, and lives a secretive life. And, truth to be told, those characteristics are not good for a priest. I, however, want to come to the defense of the Lone Ranger who provided me countless hours of entertainment as a young boy. 

For the past month, I have been one of twenty or so priests in the Archdiocese of Boston assigned solely to the ministry of brining the Sacraments to those infected with COVID-19. This assignment has been a spiritual treasure trove for me, providing me with a deeper faith in and appreciation for the Church, the Sacraments, and the priesthood. One such spiritual jewel for me has been the lack of individuality that this ministry involves.

When a priest vests for Mass, he is "putting on Christ." The vestments are a good reminder to the priest that what should become more visible is the person of Christ and what should become less visible is the priest's own personality. Or, perhaps better put, the priest's own personality should not obscure Christ. What is important during the Mass is that the people are able to see Christ offering Himself to the Father, using the individual priest as an instrument. The priest lends his voice and his hands to Christ.

I've thought more about the importance of the priest vesting for Mass during these past weeks because those of us involved in this ministry spend a considerable amount of time carefully "vesting." Outside each hospital room, we don gloves, gowns, N95 masks, and face shields. While these medical vestments are donned in order to protect us from infection, they have also served a spiritual purpose for me. They have reminded me that what is important when I walk into that room is not me. What is important is Jesus Christ. With each piece of PPE that is placed on, the individual priest disappears and the One True Priest becomes visible. 

There has been something very beautiful about being hidden under
those garments. When one of us walks into that hospital room, we carry with us all of our brother priests who ardently desire to be there. We carry with us our bishop who consecrated the Holy Oil that we will use. We carry with us the whole Body of Christ. When we walk into that room, hidden under our masks and gowns is the whole Church, its tradition, its prayer, men and women who support her works. We invoke the saints and angels. We bring with us all of those who build up the Church by their holy lives, by their prayers, and by their sacrifices. The individual priest enters that room and carries with him the whole Church. When we go into that room, Christ--both in His Head and in His Body--enters that room.

The Lone Ranger show often concluded with someone asking, "Who was that masked man?" Happily for the sick and the dying, the answer to that question is not merely the name of an individual priest. How disappointing that would be! He is not some heroic individual. Even that would be drastically disappointing. No, that masked man was not the Lone Ranger. Faith reveals to us what the eye cannot see. That masked man standing at the foot of the deathbed is the whole Jesus Christ, in His priestly headship and in His Body, the Church.


Sunday, February 23, 2020

Loving and Praying for Our Enemies is Awesome

There are certain passages of Scripture that I've thought really don't apply to me. Or better put, they only applied to me in a theoretical way. One such instance is the passage, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." For a good portion of my life, I understood that passage in a theoretical way. "If it should so happen, that some day, somewhere, somehow I have an actual enemy, I should love him and pray for him." But, I never had any sort of enemy. 

I mean there was the "enemy" like the Soviet Union when I was growing up, but they didn't really have any sort of impact on my life. There were people here and there that didn't like me or people with whom I had disagreements, but they really weren't "enemies." It wasn't like they were plotting against me and seeking my demise! So yeah, the whole love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you thing seemed a bit out of my league. I was happily excused from that Gospel admonition. It was some sort of command that I would follow in the unlikely event that some day I'd have an actual enemy, someone who really focused their ire towards me.

Well, apparently the Lord knew what He was doing when He gave that command because eventually, I got my very own enemy. It took me entirely by surprise. Didn't see it coming. Kind of knocked me off my game. And this wasn't just any old enemy. This enemy really put me in his sights, looking for every opportunity to do me injury, by word and by deed. I thought I could win him over by small gestures here and there, but it became clear that nothing I could do was going to win him over.

When trying to "win" by winning him over didn't work, I determined that I would have to out-maneuver him. When he tried to sink me in one way, I'd be victorious in another. The only problem with that is that I found myself living in a world that is boring, empty, and soulless. And this is why loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us is so much better than the alternative.

The alternative is to live a life on a battlefield that is pointless and absurd. This kind of life sees victory in basically meaningless things (no matter how earthly important they seem). This kind of life reduces us to engaging not in epic struggles, but in petty politics. It sucks the humanity right out of us and makes us ridiculous. 

Jesus' invitation is so vastly greater. He invites us to "be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." This command to pick up the Cross and carry it is an invitation to a beautiful freedom. It extricates us from being chained to a ho-hum, mundane, worldly life. It elevates us, allowing us to share in the Divine Life. This invitation--and the grace that comes with it--conforms us more perfectly with Jesus Christ who did not let His enemies distract Him from His mission.

The Devil wants us to hate our enemies. That way, our focus is on them and not on God. The Devil wants us to focus on our enemies, their maneuverings, and their attacks. In doing so, the Devil turns our gaze from Heavenly things to worldly things. The Devil wants us to think that our ultimate end is to be successful in this world. By having us focus on our enemies, the Devil basically is taking us up to a lofty place and telling us, "All of this can be yours. Bow down and worship me, and I will give you ALL of this." Of course, the "all" really amounts to a hill of beans.

Jesus, on the other hand, takes us to a low place--to places of pain, humiliation, sorrow, injustice--and then points up to heaven and says, "All of this can be yours." 

None of us, I presume, wants to have enemies. But if we do, the Lord tells us how to respond to them. He doesn't say put up with them, endure them, and forget them. He says to love them. In this way, we become truly free from being the minions of an earthly mentality. It also creates in us a tremendous sympathy for our enemies and makes us desire that they too be set free. When we love our earthly enemy, we remember who our true enemy is, the Evil One.

If you have enemies, sincerely pray for them today. In fact, pray in thanksgiving for them. They just might be your way to becoming perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. 

Saturday, January 4, 2020

FOCUS Helping Priests to Be Priests

Our Boston University Friends at the FOCUS Conference
This past week, I attended a conference in Phoenix, Arizona hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). Along with about 9000 others, I enjoyed a powerful week long experience of encountering Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church. Listening to powerful, faith-filled talks by priests, religious men and women, and laity was truly edifying. I was particularly touched by the powerful witness of the religious sisters who spoke. It is difficult to create a sense of reverence in a convention center filled with 9000 people, but the Masses were reverent, beautiful, and prayerful. The music was heavenly, the preaching apostolic, and the devotion of the participants deeply moving.  FOCUS allowed all of us to experience the Church in all of its sublime beauty, truth, and goodness.

There are so many good things that I experienced during this week, but I would like to mention one in particular. I do so because it was not the thing that I would have anticipated being so moved by during the week. Throughout the week, I was continuously reminded of the beauty of the priesthood. Allow me to describe a few examples.

Each morning before Mass, I would arrive early to the area designated as the sacristy. On my first morning, I arrived and there were probably two hundred college age men and women in line for confessions. Thirty or more priests would hear confessions for 90 minutes at a time three times a day. Additionally, all day long you would see priests standing off to the side somewhere, hearing the confession of some random person who made the request. I heard numerous confessions outside the normally scheduled times. It was very moving to me to see the students taking advantage of the gift that God has given to them.

Also each morning, I was moved by the example of priests (hundreds of them) quietly praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  Most of us were praying it on our phones. All along the large hallway outside the sacristy, priests would quietly be praying their morning office. It struck me how here I see my brothers praying, but they (and countless others) do this every morning. Every day (all day) these brothers are praying for the whole Church, offering up these hours, sanctifying the day. We don't see them. Hidden in their churches, chapels, cars, offices, wherever, they pray these prayers each day. I was really moved by this reminder that when I pray alone, I am not alone. I pray with these men and with all of the Church.

During the week, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United Sates was present throughout. I could see how someone with a job like his, might swing in for a few hours and then go. But he was there the whole week. What struck me about this is that he was there because he too is a priest. He, I think, was clearly moved by this extraordinary gathering of faithful young people. His presence was also an encouragement to the priests. He spoke to the priests and thanked us all for our ministry. Although I did not see him, I am told that he too joined in the rotation of confessions for the students. It was good to see someone with such a prominent position in the Church still focussed on what is really the most important thing--the sacraments and serving the faithful. 

On my last day at the conference, I was distributing Holy Communion during Mass. I turned to see who the priest was standing next to me. It was Cardinal Mueller. He had preached a powerful homily the day before, but here he was--like any other priest--distributing Holy Communion. It was a beautiful testimony to me of who it is that we really serve. Also during the week, Cardinal Mueller was on the schedule of priests hearing confessions. It was beautiful to see a Cardinal (and other bishops) exercising this important priestly ministry. It was good to see them being priests.

I shared with my students on the last evening something that for me was a beautiful moment. This has happened to me many times in my priesthood, but it's something that I think lay people would never get to see. I had a sense that conveying this story to my students might move them. I hope it also gives you some insight into the priesthood and to the life of the Church.

On one of the evenings during the conference, the students and FOCUS missionaries were in Eucharistic Adoration (all 9000 of them). Meanwhile, in a giant hall upstairs, hundreds of priests were hearing confessions. Before the confessions began, I decided that I should go to confession. I took off my stole, went and knelt down in front of a priest who was nearby, and made my confession. After he absolved me, he took off his stole, handed it to me, and made his confession. I could comment at length upon this, but I won't. I simply hope that image provides some insight into the priesthood and the Catholic life.

On Our Last Night the BU Group went out for Tacos (no Tequila!)
There are countless things that I appreciate about FOCUS and about the recent conference. What most struck me this time, however, was how FOCUS provides priests with the opportunity to better live out their priesthood. They help create communities that are sacramental, that love the Eucharist, and love the Sacrament of Penance. They help build up friendships on college campuses that are directed to the Lord and that always lead to and are nourished by the Sacraments. FOCUS makes it easier for priests to encounter young people and to enter into friendship with them, and for young people to encounter Jesus through the Sacramental Ministry of the priest. Not bad. Not bad at all. 

Monday, December 23, 2019

A Christmas Homily: You Are Wanted, Loved, and Chosen

Dear Friends, although I don't preach from a text, this is the general idea of the homily I will have for Christmas this year. I hope it is helpful to someone. I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

There's a video that makes its way around social media fairly regularly. It's filmed on somebody's phone and takes place in the living room of a family home on Christmas Day, maybe last year. Seated on the floor amid a rather large family gathering, is a young boy (eleven, I believe) who is handed a present to open. The gift is a framed photograph. He's then asked to read the card aloud. The words he reads are something like this: "Dear Carter, we are all so happy that you are in our family photo this Christmas. We would like you to be in our family photo every year. Carter, would you like to be a . . . ." Before the young boy can finish reading, he bursts into tears. The implication is that this family is asking him if he'd like to be adopted into their family for good. 

I find the video moving on so many levels. What really strikes me, however, is that in that moment, you realize how being chosen--being adopted--impacts this young boy's life. His tears express something overwhelmingly human. All of a sudden, you realize that this young boy's hopes and fears are all coming to the surface. You get the sense that deep down, he may have felt like he would never belong, never be really part of a family. Perhaps he had always hoped that someday he'd feel like he really belonged. And now, he finally belongs to someone. He isn't an outsider any longer. His tears reveal that he is no longer alone. He is loved. He is wanted. He is desired and chosen. When he opened that gift, he had no idea how much his life was about to change. He was now part of a family.

Tonight, we come to the manger. Like the shepherds, who dwelled in the darkness of the fields, all of us dwell in some level of darkness. Each of us has these fundamental fears. We are afraid that we do not belong. We can feel left out of God's plan. We can feel like we are on the outside. We can feel alone, afraid, different. Our sufferings, our sins, our pasts, our fears can all weigh us down. Maybe sometime we are not even aware of it. Maybe the party is going on around us and we can lull ourselves into a sense of security. But tonight we are suddenly awakened.

Into the darkness of life, angels appear tonight. They announce to us, "Do not be afraid." They proclaim to us "Good News of Great Joy." Like that moment when the little boy was handed that present, our life is about to change. 

We come to the manger tonight. The Child in that manger is a gift to us. He is a gift that reveals to us something utterly extraordinary. This Child is God. Yes, God has come down from heaven to be part of our family. But more importantly, when we receive this gift, it is revealed to us that God has chosen us to be part of His family. We are not alone. We are no longer relegated to the darkness of our fears, sorrows, and sins. God has chosen us, adopted us into His family.

That young boy, Carter, burst into tears when he realized that he had been adopted into a loving family. Tonight, we are here because in the manger there is a gift awaiting us. He is Christ and Lord. He is given to us so that we can know that we are not alone. You are not alone. Deep down, whether you know it or not, you hope that you belong to someone forever. You hope that you are chosen. You hope that you are loved intimately and infinitely. Deep down, you have fears. You are afraid of being ultimately alone. You are afraid of being unlovable, unforgivable, unredeemable. 

All of us--deep down--have these hopes and these fears. Well, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Bethlehem tonight. This little baby--this beautiful peaceful baby--is the Father's Gift to You. He is the Word Made Flesh. His Word tonight is that you are loved, forgiven, and redeemed. His word to you tonight is that you belong to the Father. 

I hope that this Christmas, all of us who sit in any sort of darkness might come to the manger and find the child wrapped in swaddling clothes. I hope that each of us can hear the Father speaking to us through this gift. The Infant Jesus tonight is the best news that any of us will ever receive. This gift is God telling us, "You are not alone. You are not unloved. You do not need to be afraid any longer. I love you and I want you always to be part of my family."

The angels were right. This indeed is good news of great joy. And this news is for you.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Do You See What I See? Catholic College Students Convincing Me of Christ

"Go and tell John what you hear and see." These are the words spoken by Jesus when John sends his disciples to Jesus to ask, "Are you the one or should we look for another?" Jesus doesn't give them an oration. He doesn't provide them with a syllogism, a discourse, or some well-crafted talking points. He simply says, "Go and tell John what you hear and see."  These words are so striking to me.  Can it be that simple?

Twice a year, the Catholic students at Boston University go on retreat together. Although we always have great speakers come, what is always the most moving and memorable part of the retreat are the witness talks by the students themselves. They share how they have seen the Lord work in their own lives, how the Lord has spoken to them in their own lives. These witness talks are always an incredibly powerful testimony to what it means to be a Christian. Months and years after each retreat, nobody will recall anything that I ever said. But, the personal witness of the students is long remembered. 

When I began this blog some years ago, I did so in order to share with others what I see and what I hear in my life as a priest. The experience of encountering Christ is not complete until we have shared with others what we ourselves have heard and seen. As St. John writes, 

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life--the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and made manifest to us--that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete" (1JN 1:1-4).

On this Third Sunday of Advent, I share with you what I have seen and heard today. I do so that you may deepen your own fellowship with us and with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. I share these quick sights and sounds because to do so also helps my joy to be more complete. Here is what I have heard and seen:

  • Today as I looked out at Mass, I saw young 18-22 year olds who are in the midst of the stress of Final Exams, but who came to  Mass to worship God.
  • I heard the confessions on young men and women who are humbly trying to grow in holiness
  • I saw young men and women from all over the world--different races, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds--all worshipping together
  • I saw someone in the congregation who was not a Christian last Christmas, but who was baptized this past Easter.
  • I saw someone who had been an atheist, but is now an active and joyful Catholic.
  • I saw people at Mass who had not been practicing the Faith, but were now sitting next to the friend who encouraged and invited them to follow the Lord.
  • I  heard Catholic friends after Mass encouraging one another, laughing with one another, and loving one another.
  • I see and I hear the missionary zeal and love of the young people here. I see their intense desire for others to share in their fellowship and to be close to the Lord.
  • I see and hear young men and women who are in love with Jesus Christ and who love others enough to share their testimony.
  • I see them making sandwiches and delivering them to those living on the streets of Boston.
  • I hear them praying together, talking about serious things together, and participating in Bible Studies together.

To share the Faith, you don't need to be a theological expert. You don't need to be able to answer every single question about the Catholic Church with flawless precision. But, we can do two things. We can surround ourselves with people who are living the Catholic life, who are striving to become truly holy. And when we do this, we hear and see things that profoundly touch us and move us. These encounters--these sights and sounds--deepen our conviction about Jesus Christ and His Church. When we encounter these witnesses, we feel something in our heart that makes us say, "This is all true. I want this for my life."

John the Baptist was sitting in a dark cell. He couldn't see much in there, just the four walls. All he could hear was the party going on upstairs--the drinking, the music, the buffoonery--and perhaps he could hear the executioner sharpening his axe. Many people are sitting in darkness, feeling the weight of gloom, burdened by illness, by a sense of meaninglessness, emptiness, and doubt. They need a friend. They need someone who can share with them the joy of the Gospel.

Do you see what see what I see? Do you hear what I hear? Do you know what I know? If the answer is "No," that's because you are not surrounding yourself with Catholic friends and witnesses. If the answer is, "Yes," then there's only one more thing for you to do to make your joy complete: "Go and tell others what you hear and see."

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Under the Cover of Darkness and Evil These Days

When I was a young boy, I remember telling a lie. The years have caused my memory to forget the content and context of that lie, but I viscerally remember the feeling. After I told that lie, I felt defined by it. I felt disgusting, gross, and slimy. It was as though a dark cloud enveloped me and kept announcing, "Liar!"

As a young boy, I somehow had the sense to know how to fix the situation. I went up to Sacred Heart Church, entered into the confessional, and said, "Bless me father, for I have sinned." I remember hoping that it would not be Fr. Heery, the pastor, not because he was unkind or anything of the sort. I just figured that it would be all too shocking to him to know that a boy of maybe  eleven or twelve had told a lie. Sure enough, it was Fr. Heery. I cleverly inserted the "I lied," amid the usual list of "fighting with my brothers, disobeying my parents etc." I figured if I couched it amid all the other things, it wouldn't even be noticed.

When I finished my confession, Fr. Heery said, "Why did you lie?" It cut me to the core. In retrospect, I realize that he knew that the lie was the reason some boy came to confession. I forget what I answered him, but he advised me to always tell the truth. Then he absolved me and I left the confessional free from the grossness that I had felt since the lie had been uttered.

Those who know me know that I love to share the joyful experience of being a priest. Being in the midst of the flock--whether in times of joy or sorrow--the priest is privileged to stand close to holy realities. After twenty-two years of priesthood, I suspect that the awe will never wear off. Priests enter into the Holy of Holies. They are privileged to pass beyond the veil. Their people pull back the veil and allow the priest to enter into their spiritual lives. They trust him to see their sins, their sufferings, and their intimate prayer. The priest is privileged to preach the Word, to absolve sins, and to offer the Holy Mass. There is something inexplicably beautiful about the relationship between a priest and his people.

Like every other priest, I've had to minister to people in the midst of terrible suffering and horrific sadness. Even--and perhaps, most especially--in these moments, the priest can feel the most useful. He knows that Christ is using him as an instrument in these moments. Christ is making His own presence felt in these moments. And so, even though these moments can be (what I often call) existentially draining, they are awesome in the sense that the priest knows that God has brought him as close to the Cross as was St. John on Calvary. They drain us, but they fill us with a peaceful recognition that this is exactly why we were ordained.

Recently, however, I had a rather unusual experience. It has been a totally unexpected moment in my priesthood. I'm sure other priests have experienced this, but it's a first for me. Many times in my life, I've been with people at the Cross. Those moments--even though painful--have always left me confident that I had been near the holy. But this most recent experience has left me feeling as though I have been to the abyss, to a place of no light and no grace. I feel as though I was left slimed by the whole thing, and instead of feeling existentially drained and fulfilled, I feel disgusted, repulsed, and gross. What's worse is that it is not just one bad part of a situation. It is the entirety of it. It is filled with lies and deceit, politics and grudges, weaknesses and faults, betrayals and distrust, gossip and detraction, hatred and anger, pettiness and immaturity, confusion and chaos, pain and sorrow.

For me, the worst of it is seeing the seeds of distrust that it has sown. It undermines ecclesial communion and love. It has caused people to lose trust in one another, to deepen old wounds, and to create new wounds. It blinds people to the goodness of others. It's not the fault of any one person or persons. It's like an evil pall has settled and covered everything in darkness. It's not like one person did one bad thing. It's like evil itself was unleashed and allowed to wreak havoc and destruction. A great darkness seems to be moving across the landscape. 

And then I remember that from twelve until three darkness covered the whole land. Beside Jesus was a man who asked for mercy. "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." When we feel overcome by evil and crushed by the weight of darkness, the only place to go is to the Cross. It is the place of mercy. We must ask for mercy and be willing to give mercy. None of us must allow ourselves to be like the unrepentant thief, obstinate and accusatory. In the face of gloom and terror, he  allowed himself to be swallowed up into the darkness. The good thief repented. He turned to Jesus. He would have to wait through several more hours in the thick of darkness before he would experience the fruit of his prayer and repentance, but he was sustained by the promise, "Today you will be with me in Paradise."

As a boy, I knew how to shake the weight of evil. I found it at the Cross, in the confessional. In recent years, there has been a lot of darkness surrounding the Church. Occasionally, we see that darkness up close. We can deceive ourselves into thinking that we will fix what's wrong, that our ideas, our actions will defeat evil. To think in this way is to be the unrepentant thief. It is to be blind to the presence of the Savior. To think that we will defeat evil by our sheer will is to make ourselves Lord and King. 

I think the right path forward is to submit ourselves humbly to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, to turn towards Him and to humble ourselves before Him. The only answer is to turn to Jesus. The only thing for me to do is to seek the grace of Christ, and to be converted in my own life. The evil that I mention is not about any one thing or one person. It is more a destructive force, making itself felt and experienced in a thousand different ways. It's tempting to study the darkness, attempt to understand it,  try to fix it. But to do so is to be overcome by it. The answer is the same as it always is. It is the same as it was when I was eleven. It's the same as when Jesus hung upon the Cross. The answer is that of the Good Thief. The answer is to turn to Jesus. We all need to turn to Jesus. Everyone needs Jesus. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Devil is in the Details

The Devil is in the details, they say. He sure is. It's why we confess our sins in kind and in number, because the Devil is in the details of our life. He inserts himself into the very particulars of life. He inserts himself into the particular jealousies, particular lusts, particular angers, particular vanities. He's not vague. He's in the details. He's in particular places and particular situations. Evil wants to ruin particular persons, particular virtues, particular institutions, and particular relationships. He's in the details. 

The Evil One seeks to destroy particular goods. There is a meticulous viciousness to his warfare. He's not trying to randomly and sporadically cause problems. He's engaged in an epic battle to destroy vocations, destroy souls, and to destroy the Church. He's tireless and he's detail oriented. He's in the details.

Sometimes, if we're not careful, we can be drawn into one of his traps. He leads us unawares into the snare. We see this in the Church all the time. He turns brother against brother, sister against sister. His ways are cunning. He allows one person to wound another, then he convinces the other to retaliate, and then that one to retaliate. And in this way, he takes the beauty of the communion of the Church and twists it into a battle of factions. He sows suspicion, deception, and viciousness among the Church's members. And he convinces each one that if he or she does not retaliate against the evil perpetrated, then the others are "getting away with it." He hands out the weapons of this world to us, weapons like vengeance, vanity, and gossip. He supplies us with the arms and sends us off to destroy each other. The Devil gleefully provides us with weapons that are powerful enough to destroy each other, so that we don't take up the weapons that are sufficient to defeat him.

In the midst of this kind of evil, one has to remember something important: The Devil is in the details. He is at work wherever communion is attacked, wounded, or severed. In these moments, it is so important to remember that the true enemy is not our brothers and sisters--no matter how much they have wounded us. The true enemy is the Devil. And the only way to defeat the Devil is to put on Christ. It is to refuse to play the Devil's game. Victory is found--hard as it seems to do--in laying down the devil's weapons and taking up the Cross of Christ. It is to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. It is indeed a painful price to pay. But, it is the only way to win.

The way to defeat the Devil and his malice is to turn to Jesus. To win the battle, we must all be willing to humble ourselves, confess our sins, and to love each other. The details have to be surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Devil takes grotesque pleasure in turning Pope against cardinals and cardinals against pope. He takes grotesque pleasure in turning Bishop against priest and priest against priest. He takes grotesque pleasure in turning clergy against laity and husband against wife. And when we are wounded, we are all too susceptible of enlisting into his army of hatred. 

True victory does not come from defeating those who have hurt us. True victory comes from defeating the Evil One. And we as Catholics know that that victory happens only upon the Cross of Jesus Christ. When confronted by the Devil in the details of our life, let us not become his enslaved soldiers, fighting against one another at his command. 

                                                      Rather, we should 

"be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,"(Eph 6:10-18).

Making supplication for ALL the saints. Even those who have wounded us. Especially those who have wounded us. This is how we defeat our common Enemy. Let's remember who the real enemy is.