Thursday, December 13, 2018

Immovable St. Lucy: A Model of Constancy

The ancient Roman Martyrology preserves for us the brutal and glorious accounts of the martyrdoms of the saints. Although various legends that grew up around certain saints are often mixed in with these accounts, the legends themselves offer to us profound spiritual nourishment. Today, in fact, would be such an example. 

The Church today celebrates the Memorial of St. Lucy, a virgin and martyr of the Third Century in Sicily. Little is known of this young saint who dedicated her virginity to Christ and sought to give away all of her worldly possessions to the poor. Denounced as a Christian, Lucy--say some accounts--was ordered to be forced into prostitution. The legend goes that when the guards came to take Lucy away, they could not move her. She had become like an immovable column. Even after a team of oxen were put to the task, Lucy could not be moved. Unable to move her from the spot, they tortured and martyred Lucy where she stood. 

The legends surrounding Lucy's exterior immovability offer to all of us a salutary insight into the interior life of sanctity. Lucy was immovable because she possessed the grace of constancy. Constancy is the virtue whereby one is made able to stand firm in some good act in the face of external obstacles. Lucy sought to give herself entirely and solely to the Lord. She was surrounded by the threats of political officials and soldiers, but she remained constant in her determination. In other words, even a team of oxen could not drag her away from her good resolution.

Constancy is connected to the virtue of perseverance. Perseverance is put at risk by two opposing vices. St. Thomas Aquinas says that "soft-living" makes a person less likely to persevere in a good act because doing so might require the person to surrender certain pleasures which they have become unduly attached. Soft-living disposes us to taking the easy way out and avoiding situations that may require effort on our part. For those of us who are in the the clergy, it is easy to see how this is, in fact, quite true. We can be dragged away not by teams of oxen, but by our fear of losing human respect, power, or pleasure. 

On the other side of the equation is obstinacy.  Obstinacy "looks like" perseverance, but it is not perseverance. It is less a holding on to the truth as it is a holding on to one's own opinion. Obstinacy arises from vainglory and seeks to "win" at all costs. We see this, unfortunately, quite often in the life of the Church. Obstinacy can become a cheap imitation of perseverance. But St. Lucy offers us a tell-tale way of determining the genuine article from the cheap counterfeit.  

St. Lucy, a young woman is surrounded by powerful men--political leaders and soldiers. They seemingly hold all of the power--and her fate--in their hands. You can imagine them all brandishing weapons, shouting commands, and binding her to the team of oxen. They are the ones moving in violent contortions and rhetoric. In the midst of that scene, is Lucy, serene, peaceful, and immovable. And in this, I believe, is the tell tale sign of the genuine article. Lucy did not insert herself into a controversy. It was not her own will that she was attached to, but Christ. There was an interior peace in Lucy that was in stark contrast to the violence and chaos surrounding her. 

Those who surrounded Lucy were obstinate and given over to soft-living. They were used to being given whatever they wanted and they refused to be moved by anything other than self-will. Lucy--in her tranquil and peaceful constancy--puts the wicked to shame. Her purity and goodness shines ever more brightly in the midst of their darkness.

On her feast day, we might ask St. Lucy to intercede for us. We are often dragged from Christ and His Will for us--not by teams of oxen--but by the love of pleasure and of inordinate self-love. Through St. Lucy's intercession may we be freed from our attachments to soft-living and to our own wills so that we might always remain--no matter how difficult the circumstances that surround us--constantly and immovably attached to Christ and His Will for us. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Goodbye to a Great Dog and a Great Character

I often say that there doesn't seem to be as many "characters" around as there used to be; people who stand out for their zaniness, humor, eccentricities etc. Finbar, my German Shorthaired Pointer, he was a real character. Yesterday, unexpectedly I had to put him down. It was and is a real heartbreaker. Pretty much I've spent all day every day for the past ten years with that dog. He came to work with me every day and went home with me every night. 

As a puppy, he ate several phone cords, my glasses, somebody's phone, socks, gloves, those plastic Britta Filters with the charcoal inside, and a fish head that he found on the beach. I thought it would never end. I recall one late December day sitting in my rectory office and hearing people laughing. I looked out the window and saw about fifteen people watching Finbar whip the statue of Baby Jesus from the outdoor manger around the yard. He'd grab an arm or leg and fling it to the other side of the yard and then retrieve it. He was a character.

I swore he'd never get on my bed. But he wore me down. Around 5am each day, he'd appear at the foot of my bed and just stare until I said, "Fine." Then he'd jump up and go back to sleep. Then, 5am became 4am and 4am made it's way to Midnight. He was a character.

He had a knack for charging the rectory fence to scare unsuspecting passers by. More than one he sent into snowbanks as they tried to escape. Then, they'd laugh as they realized that Finbar wasn't a vicious dog, but just a clown. Well, most of them laughed. He was a character.

When my phone rang or beeped, Finbar would wake out of a sound sleep and wait for a cookie. He would whine and bark until I relented. The same thing went for anyone who came to my office to speak. It was a clever tactic. Since I couldn't hear the person I was speaking with--whether on the phone or in person--with Finbar barking, I would always have to give in to his demand. He was a character.

I've never been a fan of dogs at Mass, but the Catholic Center's
daily Mass chapel is more like a room in a big house, so there really wasn't a way to keep Finbar out.  He'd often stay in another room, until he heard us singing the Alleluia for the Gospel. Then he'd make his move. He knew that's when everyone stood up, so he'd sneak in and steal a couple of seats. If you sat in the seats where the sun was, you were going to lose that seat. He was a character.

He was addicted to playing with his ball. If Finbar wasn't by my
side, I knew he would be laying on the ground somewhere staring pathetically at his ball, waiting for someone to give in and throw it. He could chase that thing for hours. He had an endless supply of tricks that he would do. He was a character.

A lot of people who might not ever speak to a priest, stopped and talked to me because of Finbar. I liked to tell people who were nervous about confession that Finbar had heard hundreds of confessions with me and never once revealed anything that he heard. 

On the rare occasions when I actually got to go out without Finbar, I knew that if I looked up into the window, he'd be standing there staring pathetically down at me as though I had betrayed him. Yesterday as I left work and looked up, how I wished that my pal was there looking down at me. 

"Man's best friend," they say, and that he most definitely was. He was a noble dog, a faithful friend, and a real character. Is it a bit crazy to write so warmly and glowingly about a dog? It probably is. Maybe that makes me a bit of a character too. But I needed to say a word or two about my buddy Finbar. 

I'll miss him. He was a character. 

He was a good boy. Thanks Finbar. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Three Great Reasons Why Catholics Can Still Be Encouraged

Dear Friends in Christ,

More than one Catholic friend has expressed to me over the past week how disheartened they are by the state of the Church in the present moment. I'm sorry for that. What I am about to write here won't dramatically change the Church, nor will it restore your confidence in the Church's leadership. What I do hope is that I can adequately convey in words three experiences that I had this week that encouraged and strengthened me. They are not about popes and bishops. They are not about documents, synods, or meetings. They are not wordy statements or press releases. They are just three moments when I knew in the depth of my being, "This is the Church. This is why we are Catholic."

Austin and Rachel
The first was the marriage of Rachel and Austin. They met at the BU Catholic Center over the past few years, graduated a couple of years ago, and were married this past Saturday. The entire weekend was an extraordinary moment of grace. At the wedding reception, as I was preparing to leave, an older gentleman came up to me and said, "If you have a minute, I'd like to tell you something." Admittedly, I cringed a bit. I thought he was going to ruin my good day by blasting the Church or something.  But, I said, "Sure. What would you like to tell me?"  Then he said, "First of all, I'm Jewish. And I just want to say that your heart must be beaming with pride right now." For the next five minutes or so, he spoke to me about how all of these young men and women at the wedding were so free and joyful about their relationship with God. He said, "That's amazing in this day and age." He then went on to say what a wonderful group of friends they all are. That guy made my day!

He hit the nail right on the head. These young men and women, who had all met at the BU Catholic Center (most of whom have graduated, but some of whom are still there) have an amazing friendship with one another. After graduation, they've lived in various small communities together, attend bible
Some of the BU Catholic Center Crowd Before the Wedding Reception
studies together, socialize together, and live their faith together. They love one another. Anyone who attended that wedding on Saturday knew that they were witnessing something truly beautiful; something godly. It's been a privilege living the Catholic life with these young men and women and growing in our Faith together.  

The second of these three moments happened on Monday morning. I returned to my previous parish 
assignment in order to offer the Funeral Mass for a woman whose Marriage I had celebrated several years ago. On All Saints Day--her birthday--she attended Mass. That night, on All Souls Day, she died unexpectedly in her sleep. Her Funeral Mass was attended by hundreds of friends and fellow parishioners. Her Funeral Mass was simple, dignified, and beautiful. She was a woman of Faith. In the midst of so much shock and grief, there was a reassuring peace that only Faith can bring. I was not alone in this experience. Many who were in church for that Funeral had a sense that God was at work in
St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Beverly, MA is where the Funeral Mass took place
our midst. We were in the midst of something bigger than ourselves, something holy, mysterious, and salvific. 

The third of these moments happened on Tuesday. On many Tuesday nights at the Catholic Center, invited speakers come to address the community on a variety of topics. This week, our speaker was a former parishioner of mine who is a pediatric ER doctor. Many of our students are Pre-Med and have an interest in how their Catholic life and their medical professions will overlap. Kerry, our speaker, gave a beautiful witness about her development as a Catholic and as a doctor. Kerry, her husband, and their family have become dear friends of mine over the years. It gave me great joy to share them with others. And, it gave me great joy to share with them the young men and women of the Catholic Center. While I enjoyed Kerry's talk, what I enjoyed more was watching the young men and women afterwards as they gathered around Kerry and Peter to speak with them. There was a wonderful sense of camaraderie. More than that, it was an experience of profound communion. One of my great joys as a priest is introducing the various persons I've met along the way to one another, allowing good people to meet other good people. Living the Faith together is such a beautiful, life-giving experience. As I watched the students and Kerry and Peter relating to one another, I knew that the Lord was at work in our midst.
Students at the Catholic Center Listening to Kerry's Witness

So, here's my takeaway: There are some really messed up things going on in the Church right now. If you are a faithful Catholic who is struggling, find places where the Faith is alive and strong. Find a good parish. Find a good bible study. Find Catholic friends who build each other up into joyful saints. Maybe some committee, statement, or document might really inspire you, but I wouldn't wait for that. Instead, I'd find places where the Faith is being lived and where Catholics are loving one another and forming beautiful and faithful communities. They exist. These places will sustain you during these difficult moments.

Why should you not be discouraged or disheartened? Because Rachel and Austin got married, and they and all of their young Catholic friends are joyfully living Catholic lives together. 

Why should you not be discouraged or disheartened? Because Lawrie and Dean came to Mass together each Sunday and were part of a great Catholic parish. They grew in the Faith together and received the Sacraments together. Lawrie was given the grace to attend Mass on the morning before she died. While her funeral was a moment of sorrow, it was also a moment of beauty and goodness. It was a moment of Faith, Hope, and Charity. It was a moment of consolation.

Why should you not be discouraged or disheartened? Because on Tuesday night a room filled with Catholic college students listened attentively to a Catholic doctor share her witness and were encouraged by that. They have a desire to live their Faith in the world and to be holy.

These things are the life of the Church. They are real, true, good, and beautiful. Unfortunately, in many sectors of the Church right now, people are being taught that they cannot actually become holy, that it's beyond their reach. The three extraordinary events that I witnessed this week were all the result of people living in communities that strive for holiness together and who challenge one another towards the greatness of sanctity. They encourage one another, lift one another up, help one another. They struggle for holiness together. Those types of Catholic communities exist. It's those types of communities that I'm betting on.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

All Saints Day, the Red Sox, and Being In That Number

Boston University, where I am the Catholic Chaplain, is only a block away from Fenway Park. On October 31st, a million or so people in Boston lined the streets to participate in the Red Sox World Series Win Parade. As the Sox rode down the street, tens of thousands of others joined in, celebrating the Sox win. Some who went to the parade probably never watched a Sox game, but they wanted to be part of the event. Some may have bought a Sox hat and felt that that entitled them to say, "WE won!" Others, avidly watched every game throughout the long series. We like to celebrate when "our team" wins. We like being a part of it. Even though we had very little to do with it, we somehow feel like when they win, we win.

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. We celebrate the Win of our brothers and sisters who have fought the good fight and won the victory. The Sox didn't win the world series by lottery. They won by practicing and excelling. The Saints were not spectators in this life. They had a desire not just to watch others be holy. They desired personal holiness. They got in the game. By God's grace, they strove for excellence. They strove to win. They, as that old black spiritual says, wanted "to be in that number when the Saints go marching in." They did what it took and fought the good fight. The way to the World Series is a long slog. The way to heaven is a lifelong pilgrimage. 

The Sox won the Word Series. I can say, "We won," but nobody gave me the money or the trophy. Nobody asked me to be up on one of the trucks today. That's because I didn't actually play in the World Series. Sometimes, we think that we're going to heaven because that's just how it works. We bought a hat that, for instance, says, "Catholic" on it, so that's enough. But it's not enough. We actually have to want to be in that number when the saints go marching in. We have to be in the pilgrimage, not spectators of it. We have to be in it to win.

I want to propose four very simple ways that are indispensable for Catholics who want to be in that number when the saints go marching in.

1. Go to Mass. If you are a Catholic and are not going to Mass every Sunday, there's very good reason to believe that your soul is in big trouble. Yeah, I know: Lots of people go to Mass on Sunday who are bad people. Okay, great. It does not, however, follow that we are now able to excuse ourselves from following the very basic commandment of worshiping God. If you aren't going to Mass on Sunday (unless there is some grave reason), then you are putting yourself in serious spiritual danger. And the longer you don't go, the more difficult it will be for you to repent and to return. Shut the TV off on Sunday mornings, and go to Mass. The Saints worship God. They worshiped Him in this life, and they worship him forever in Heaven. Go TO MASS.  Never miss. Ever.

2. Go to Confession. Confessing our sins is humbling. Staying in our sins is deadly. Baseball players need constant instruction in order to improve. We need constant mercy and grace to grow into heavenly champions. 

3. Pray every day. Again, we can get so absorbed in everything else that we ignore the one most important thing: God. Talk shows, Twitter, sports, politics etc? None of these things are going to save us. If you don't know how to pray, ask someone to teach you. Learn how to read Scripture, how to pray the Rosary, how do mental prayer. 

4. Grow daily in virtue and in the life of charity. Find virtues that are lacking in your life and try to grow in them. Are you negative about everything and complaining about everything all the time? Perhaps attempt to grow in gratitude. Is your humor negative or biting? Perhaps seek to grow in encouraging others. Are you stingy and selfish? Grow in generosity. 

We shouldn't presume that we are bound for heaven. There's nothing inevitable about it. We should be striving to live a holy life. A holy life demands everything from us. The way of the saints is the Way of the Cross.  

On All Saints Day, we honor those in our company who have won the race. Their example ought to inspire and encourage us to continue marching in this great pilgrimage. We are not called to be spectators. We are called to be in that number. We are either playing to win or we are wasting our time. 

Get in the game, so that you can be in that number.

A Great Version of "When the Saints Go Marching In"

Monday, October 22, 2018

Then and Now, the Pope of the Youth. The Pope Who Trusted Us

I was able to meet the Holy Father in the early 2000s 
Some young Catholics that I know are throwing a party tonight. Why are a group of friends having a party on a Monday night?  Because it is the Feast of St. John Paul II.  Most of them were probably under ten years old when John Paul II died, but these young people have a profound affection for him. I love that they love him. I'm sure many of them went to Mass today. Some of them probably went to confession today. Some of them have been praying a Novena for the past nine days to St. John Paul II. John Paul would have loved that. What am I saying? John Paul does love that. And, he would love that these young people are having a party tonight.  

John Paul was my pope growing up. It's difficult to put into words, but John Paul inspired the youth to trust the truth. There was a lot of craziness in those days; people proposing various opinions as Christian Faith that were clearly not. For many of us, while we did not possess yet the capacity to make cogent and convincing arguments, we did have an innate sense of what was true. Standing on the side of truth, however, often came with a cost. Just to give a small example: When I was first in seminary, seminarians who requested to have more frequent adoration of the Eucharist (in those days we had it once a month) would have been looked upon by some as "trying to turn the clocks back." Being young and facing the opposition of those with more knowledge, more power, and more experience was intimidating. 

For many of us, however, we could have faced all of the opposition in the world because we knew that John Paul II was at our side. The Truth was not a battering ram. It was beautiful and attractive. The Truth spoke to the deepest desires of the human person. Yes, it was, at times challenging and required sacrifice, but John Paul exuded a confidence in the human person. We are indeed capable of living the Truth. The Pope, he was on the road with us. He was following Christ with us. He was at our side. He did not give up on us. While others were trying to give us the easy way out, he told us that we were capable of great things, all of us. Christ loved us and wanted to give us everything. And, Christ wanted everything. The Pope told us that we must lay down our lives for Christ, for the Gospel, and for our brothers and sisters. "True love is demanding. I wold fail in my mission, in my journey, if I did not clearly tell you so," he said on Boston Common in 1979. He roused us to greatness. John Paul II trusted us. He trusted that if we heard the full truth, we'd follow. He trusted our freedom. He even won over many of those who had originally feared the new enthusiasm that his pontificate infused into the youth.

John Paul II was an encourager.  Christianity was exciting. It was an adventure of following Christ, laying down your life, and doing great things. It was an adventure that demanded everything from us.  Marriage? It was an adventure of two spouses laying down their lives for each other and for their children. Religious life was to give up everything to follow Christ. Priesthood, was to lay down one's life for the flock. If one were to remain single, it must be so that he or she would give himself or herself away in some noble purpose for the sake of others. He encouraged the young and the old, the infirm and the poor. He encouraged all of us to follow Christ, to open our hearts to Him, and to make something great of our lives.  

John Paul II is still speaking to the hearts of the young. His words still echo throughout the Church. The young men and women who are having some beers tonight and toasting JP2, they are still moved by his example, stirred by his words, and consoled by his prayers. They are still living the Christian adventure. They are not discouraged, disheartened, nor are they afraid. They are men and women who pray together, serve together, go to adoration and confession together, and who evangelize together. They are having a party tonight because to follow Christ is a joyous adventure.

At Mass tonight, I prayed for them and for our whole community. At the altar at Mass tonight, I prayed especially for a few more priestly vocations from our BU family. 

St. John Paul, in this world, you stirred the hearts of young people to greatness. You encouraged us and reminded us that there is nothing greater possible than to open our heart to Christ and to lay down our life for the Gospel and in the service of our brothers and sisters. I pray to you now. I ask through your intercession, that a new wave of vocations, especially to the priesthood and to the Archdiocese of Boston is raised up. I ask you to remove all fear from those whom Christ is calling. Let them be bold and confident. St. John Paul II, Holy Father, let them know that you are walking with them, directing them to Christ. Let them heed the call of Christ. Amen.

The youth of my day would often chant, "JP2, we love you." Tonight, some of the youth of today, are still expressing their love for JP2. And together with JP2, they are loving Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Parish Renewal and the Altar

Our Lady's Chapel at Sacred Heart, North Quincy
Yesterday morning I offered a Nuptial Mass for a couple. By happy coincidence, they chose to be married at my home parish where I received all of my sacraments and offered my First Mass. Before the Mass, I walked from the sacristy, down the narrow hallway to the side chapel. Just walking down that hallway--used for storage of  typical liturgical items (kneelers, chairs, etc) filled me with a great sense of gratitude and nostalgia. I've walked down that hallway hundreds and hundreds of times in my life, passing the very same kneelers and chairs that were there 40 years ago. 

There was something about serving the 7am Daily Mass. It was dreadful to be dragged out of bed as a boy to go serve. During most of the year, you'd probably get assigned to the Seven only every few months. You'd be assigned for four Mondays or Tuesdays or whatever. But during Lent, there was an almost contest to see which of us could attend the most Masses. Some days during Lent there would be seven or eight of us serving a Daily Mass. Most of those Masses were spent less listening to the homily and more plotting how to get to the bells ahead of any of the other altar boys when the time came. In the fight for the bells, there was more than a few instances of bells sounding at the wrong time because two of us were fighting for control. An icy stare from Fr. Reilly brought that to a halt.

The sacristy was quiet in the morning before the Seven. Occasionally before the priest arrived I'd be sitting up on top of the vesting case. If Fr. Heery, the pastor, had the Mass, he'd come in and say, "We're not at the ballgame." That meant, "Get off of the vesting case and sit in a chair." At Seven, we'd walk down that long, narrow hallway, out into the chapel sanctuary, and the Mass would begin. The Seven probably had a good 130 people each morning and many more during Lent.

Sacred Heart Church, North Quincy

That chapel, dedicated to Our Lady, had a significant impact upon my life. "Small" funerals (those with less than a hundred people) were often in the chapel. Being an altar boy meant getting out of school to serve funerals. That was the best thing ever. There was an old sacristan named Stanley who would set up for funerals. After the funerals, as a way of delaying going back to school, we'd offer to help Stanley do various chores. When we'd show up back to school late, we'd explain to the nuns that Stanley had delayed us. 

On Sunday evenings during Advent and Lent I'd serve Evening Prayer and Benediction in the chapel. Whenever I pray the psalm of Sunday Evening Prayer, "You are a priest forever like Melchizedek of old," I hear the voice of our old pastor, Fr. Heery. On Monday nights, I'd serve the evening Mass which ahead of time involved the praying of the Rosary and the prayers for the Miraculous Medal Novena. At the end of the Mass, there was always the veneration of the relic of St. Catherine Laboure. 

A lot happened in that chapel. Among other things that chapel had daily adoration. Located along a very busy city street, walking into the chapel was like walking into a refuge. As the heavy wooden door of the chapel closed, it crushed the noise from outside with incredible silence. That chapel, with it's constant exposition of the Eucharist, became the heart of that parish. All day long, people stopped by for "a visit." 

There were many great things about that parish. A convent full of nuns, five priests, a packed school, parish shows, spaghetti dinners, Christmas fairs etc. It was a place of friendship. It was a normal part of life. The kids I hung out with, played with, got in trouble with, got in trouble with, got in trouble with, were all from the parish. It was a place where we spent a lot of our life. Being Catholic was not something just for Sundays. It was part of everything. All the normal stuff of life happened in relation to the parish. It was a great place to grow up.

When I walked into the chapel yesterday (and happily saw how well the new pastor has beautified it), I was filled with gratitude for all of the formation that I received there. At the time, I didn't really understand that I was being formed. It was just normal life. And yet now, looking back, I realize that Our Lady who looked down upon all of us as we lived our lives of Faith there, was interceding for us and drawing us closer to the Heart of her Son. True renewal of parishes and persons originates at the Altar and leads to the Altar. There were many great things that happened in that parish, but they all began and culminated at the end of a narrow hallway, at the Altar where God saves and renews the world.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Marriage Will Save the World

I have a love for words. Whether it is a clever joke, a poetic phrase, a beautiful song, a brilliant book, or a rousing speech, I enjoy words. Words contain incredible power. Recently, however, I've noticed that words are actually making me anxious. The words spoken about politics--mostly online--are vitriolic, demonizing, and divisive.  Most of what I read fills with me with either disdain for the author or for his opponents. And then there are the words spoken about the Church. I cringe when I see articles about the Church these days, even (actually, especially) when they are written or spoken by people in the Church. Words--which ought to unite persons--are now the weapon of division. 

Yesterday, a young couple that I had prepared for marriage was wedded. As many couples do, they chose the second reading to be from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians.  "If I speak in the tongues of angels and of men, but have not love, I am a noisy gone or a clanging cymbal." Words. There are so many words being spoken and written these days, but they are all noise. It's like the more that is spoken or written, the worse things become. 

And then, there we were in that sanctuary. A man and a woman held each other's hands and spoke very few words to each other. "I take you to be my wife (husband).  I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you all the days of my life." That was it. Simple words. Pure words. They were not clashing cymbals and noisy gongs. They were noble and dignified. That's because they were spoken in love. And in those words, God united them. It was beautiful. I need to hear and to witness words like that. God was healing the world through this newly established union. We were reminded that this is how God made it to be in the beginning. The union of Holy Matrimony gives us a glimmer of the original plan and it also is a manifestation of that original plan of union for which we have all been created. 

After that wedding, I went to the home of some friends and offered Mass for them on the occasion of their 25th Wedding Anniversary. It so happened that the readings for the Mass this weekend were all about marriage. The first reading spoke about the creation of woman and the union between husband and wife. In the Gospel, Jesus spoke about the permanence of marriage; that it is an unbreakable bond. I told them that the homily for the Mass was really what was right before me: A man and a woman who spoke vows to one another 25 years ago and their beautiful children. The world needs to see families like that; men and women who give over their whole life to the raising of their children. More than ever, the world needs to see what true communion looks like. I need to see and to experience this type of communion. Everywhere we look, things are breaking apart. Words are tearing us apart. The people who are saving the world are those who can speak to one another in love and vow themselves to one another for life. 

Today--Sunday--I have to preach to university students about marriage. It's challenging because the culture in which they live has a very deformed view of marriage. Like everything else, it has become politicized and weaponized. It is also often about "self-fulfillment" rather than about laying down ones life for the other person and for the children of that union. So many couples delay marriage or don't ever get married because they are not willing to lay down their life. Jesus' words in the Gospel today can appear to many to be mean-spirited or antiquated, and they reject his words out of hand. I think the key to understanding the Gospel is the last part. Jesus says that we must become like little children in order to enter into the Kingdom of God. 

Yesterday, as I was leaving the wedding, I saw a man and a woman and their little daughter walking along. The daughter--maybe two or three--was walking carefully on the edge of the sidewalk curb as though she were on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Her face was filled with wonder and awe about everything she saw; buildings, leaves, trees etc. When we hear Jesus speak about marriage being between a man and a woman, that it is exclusive and permanent, or when we hear that marriage is intended to be for the pro-creation of children, it can sound like another political discussion. This is where we need the grace to be childlike. We need to stand in awe of the gift of marriage and have reverence for it. This union, established in the Garden of Eden, is how it was in the Beginning. God creates in order for us to experience communion, primarily with Him, but also with one another. Marriage is something beautiful, pure, and holy. Marriage is a gift from God. Marriage is about union.

I've been a priest for almost 22 years. One of the great joys of priesthood is living my vocation close to those who are married. Today, in the midst of so much division, I think that marriage is the key to healing a world broken and devastated by division. Communion is attractive and pure. We need witnesses of communion. We need men and women to live marriage.