Christmas Poem: Conception

In endless absence, Presence spoke a whispered Word, and Love awoke.

The Word, unheard in any tongue, created all: The stars were hung;

The earth and waters teemed with life—the man woke singing to his wife.

In love the cosmos had its start, and at its core: a flaming Heart.

In perfect rhythm dwelt our kin until in pride they chose to sin

And, grasping godhood, fell from grace, condemning all the human race.

 

When in God’s time the angel spoke his gentle ave, Hope awoke

Inside Maria’s sinless breast—and grew with her obedient yes.

The Holy Spirit took a wife; her virgin womb then bloomed with Life.

Her fiat was Salvation’s start, and in His chest: a flaming Heart.

It beats though punctured by our pride, and new life gushes from His side,

Restoring mankind to God’s grace, for He has suffered in our place.

 

So to my knees I fall and pray: How shall I conceive Christ today,

Like that heroic holy girl, and bear Him to a waiting world?

 

Blogger’s Note: My Christmas poem is a few weeks late, due to an unusually eventful (and fruitful!) December. Check out past Christmas poems and other related writings!

Call and Response: Embracing the Already of Christ’s Saving Act

Blogger’s Note: This was my final paper for the fourth semester of the Catechetical Institute, “Prayer: The Blessing Given and Received.” In this reflection, we were not only to discuss the final pillar of the Catechism, but the book and Institute as a whole. After two years of study, the Class of St. Padre Pio graduated this evening, following Mass with Bishop Kettler presiding. 

The fourth pillar of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) calls us to deeper relationship with our heavenly Father who loves us and redeems us by the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, and the actions of the Holy Spirit in the world today. This relationship is cultivated through the gift of prayer, “a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God” (CCC 2558), approached “‘out of the depths’ of a humble and contrite heart” (CCC 2559). We are creatures, completely dependent on God’s love and mercy, not only for salvation, but for our basic needs, our next breath, our very existence. Even our desire to pray is prompted by the One who desires us, seeks us, spies us from afar and runs to greet us with great joy and love.

As with the previous pillars, I was struck by how much of the “work” of prayer is in God’s hands, not ours. We bear it like a burden at times, but it is He who beckons and inspires, who teaches us what to pray for and in what order (CCC 2763), who knows our needs before we express them and even when we can’t express them. It is He who changes us in prayer, not the other way around. I was also drawn again to His proximity: We sometimes cry out to Him as though He dwells a long way off in Heaven, but that Catechism reassures us that the heaven in which God dwells—“Our Father who art in Heaven”—is less elsewhere and more elseway:

This biblical expression does not mean a place (“space”), but a way of being; it does not mean that God is distant, but majestic. Our Father is not “elsewhere”: he transcends everything we can conceive of his holiness. It is precisely because he is thrice holy that he is so close to the humble and contrite heart.

“Our Father who art in heaven” is rightly understood to mean that God is in the hearts of the just, as in his holy temple. At the same time, it means that those who pray should desire the one they invoke to dwell in them (CCC 2794).

So we are not only immersed in God, but He in us—the Holy Spirit is not only as close as oil on skin, but so thoroughly fills us that, in truth, our only escape from Him is an act of the will in which we reject His love and refuse to turn back to Him. He who has the power to save us desires my salvation more than I do myself! Continue reading

No Longer I: Living In Christ, the Very Image of God

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).

Continue reading

Wednesday Witness: Confirmation Pep Talk

Note: Last Saturday evening we had an informational meeting for Confirmation students and parents. Not everyone was able to attend, so I am attempting to recreate the brief Confirmation pep talk I gave, in writing, for those who missed out.

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I want to start with a question: Why are we here? Does anyone know? Is it just because I called a meeting?

I’m wearing one of my favorite shirts today: It has a drawing on it of two hands knitting what looks like a DNA strand, and if you look closely at the helix, you’ll see the word HANDMADE. At the bottom is a reference to Psalm 139:

You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be. – Psalm 139:13-16

What does this tell us about why we are here? It tells us that God created each of us individually, with a specific purpose in mind, that He knows us intimately and loves us completely. Genesis tells us we are made in God’s image, and the Gospel of John tells us God is Love. We are made by Love, from love, to give and receive love. This is our whole purpose: to learn to love as God loves and ultimately find our way back to Him. The meaning of life is no more complicated than that. Continue reading

Wednesday Witness: Equipping the Called

After a whirlwind road trip to Michigan with my oldest to visit my parents, I returned last night and had to make a concerted effort not to plunge neck deep into email. The temptation to see what I would be facing at work this morning nearly got the best of me, but I fought it off and visited with my bride and family, then went to bed.

I rose this morning with a knot of dread in my belly. Over the past few days of travel, I had made it to Sunday Mass, of course, but had not dedicated as much time to personal prayer as usual. I felt the consequence this morning as a distance from God.  I was distracted and foggy, even after coffee. I caught myself expecting the worst and feeling unready, unprepared, unequipped. Continue reading