Blogger’s Note: This was my short final paper for the third semester of the Catechetical Institute, “The Moral Life: Fulfillment in Beatitude.”
The third pillar of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Life In Christ, pertains to the moral life, as summarized in the Ten Commandments and perfected in the Beatitudes (CCC 1965 and following). This initial point is not a small one: Many of us grow up with the commandments as the foundation for our moral life and do not mature past that point. I have seen two impacts of this in my own life. The first is a simplistic notion of sin and my own so-called goodness (“Well, I haven’t killed anyone…”). The second is a legalistic approach to practicing Catholicism, as though if I just learn the rules well enough and follow them closely enough, I can get to heaven.
But the further one reads beyond those first stone tablets, the more rules one finds, and it seems impossible to achieve holiness on our own steam. By contrast, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us a positive (both in the emotional and legal sense) restatement of God’s laws, which both challenge and inspire us to do good instead of simply avoid evil. God’s beatitude—His kingdom, His vision, His joy and His rest (CCC 1720)—gives each of us and the Church as a whole our purpose (CCC 1719), and “confronts us with decisive moral choices”:
It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else. It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement…but in God alone, the source of every good and all love (CCC 1723).
Late last month I was invited to speak to the Men’s Club at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in South Minneapolis, where our former associate pastor at St. Michael, Fr. Joah Ellis, is now pastor.
The event was an annual lecture they have called Decuria Schola; the talk was titled “Little Lower Than the Angels: Creation, Evolution, and the Origins of Authentic Manhood.”
If you have time, the video is below—it’s not much to watch, but take a listen and let me know your thoughts.
There is a cave between my lungs,
A hollow where my heart should be.
But lo! our Lord an infant comes
And gives His heart to me.
It is a hard unfeeling place
Of stone and stench and rotting hay.
But lo! His virgin mother comes
To clear the filth away.
It is a dark and frigid space
Where creatures wallow in the mire.
But lo! His foster father comes
To light and tend a fire.
It is a black and hidden hole
No other is supposed to see.
But lo! The Holy Family comes
To make a home—in me.
— J. Thorp
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Wishing you the merriest of Christmases and a blessed New Year. Know that our thoughts and prayers are with you even when we, ourselves, are not. We love you.
The Thorp Gang: Jim and Jodi; Brendan, Gabe, Emma, Trevor, Lily and Bruno
We’ve come full-circle.
Three hundred and sixty-two days ago, my eldest daughter and I were in a car accident. She had her permit and was merging onto the freeway the first time. It was the very definition of an accident—it was no one’s fault—but it totaled our old minivan and ruined Emma for driving until the pavement warmed up and dried off in spring.
Three hundred sixty-two days ago, I realized how illusory my sense of control is and exactly how much I love my children.
I worried how Emma would respond to the snow this winter. Today the question was answered definitively: We have another licensed driver in family. Congratulations, Rosebud. You deserve it—and I know you’ll be careful out there. You know better than most.
I love you, girl.
Not long ago, our pastor implemented the practice of having parishioners stand and greet those around them just before Mass begins. Predictably, the reaction was split: Some people like it as a small gesture of warmth, welcome and connection, while others think it’s unnecessary, corny or even disruptive to their preparations to worship God in the Divine Liturgy.
What struck me most among the reactions, however, was something I saw on social media: That standing and saying good morning to each other before Mass is fake in some sense and doesn’t make us more welcoming. This observation bothered me enough that I set out to determine why. Here’s what I discovered in my own heart.
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For several years now, Fr. Richards has challenged us to intentionally seek out and introduce ourselves to people we don’t know in the parish, especially people who appear to be new to the community or otherwise disconnected. I have never taken this challenge seriously. Instead, I have a list of rationalizations, excuses and cop-outs that will show up rather poorly when I have to explain them to Jesus. These are just a few: Continue reading