Last Sunday we were blessed to host a party of sorts. What started as my attempt repay the “Poland daughters” who took me out to dinner for my birthday last fall turned into a mini-World Youth Day reunion, with many of the teens and a couple of the adults from our trip to Krakow a year ago.
We visited, prayed together, and shared a meal: grilled kielbasa and pierogies, pasta and sauce and salad, cookies and root beer floats. We shared our favorite memories and laughed and laughed. We talked about future plans—many of my Poland daughters are starting college this year. And I think we all longed to go back to visit the Motherland.
The next morning I thought I should re-share the post I wrote after the pilgrimage—only to realize I never wrote a recap. I thought about doing a standard Top-10 list, but no matter how I counted or grouped things together, I had too much to share.
So I’ll keep this to three moments that stand out to me above the others. Continue reading
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and Earth, of all things visible and invisible. — the Nicene Creed, emphasis mine
Each time we pray the Creed at Mass, we acknowledge—in fact, we profess our sincere belief—that there is more to this world than meets the eye. We believe in saints and angels, heaven and hell, the devil and his minions. We believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ—body, blood, soul, and divinity—in the Holy Eucharist. We believe in the power of prayer and redemptive suffering.
Practicing Catholics proclaim this belief in the invisible world and spiritual realities at least once a week. But do we live daily as if we believe heaven is for real? Continue reading
Put no trust in princes, in children of Adam powerless to save.
Who breathing his last, returns to the earth; that day all his planning comes to nothing. – Psalms 146:3-4
This Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King, celebrating the authority and lordship of Jesus over all of creation and marking the end of the liturgical year. Falling just before the all-consuming holiday season and the secular New Year, this feast provides us with an opportunity to reflect on what holds mastery over our hearts before the avalanche of turkey and tinsel. And since it specifically celebrates Chris’s kingship, it takes on special relevance in the aftermath of a contentious election.
Who is this Jesus who rules over all? We are blessed to have an immense icon of Christ the King in the dome of our church. This image, called Pantocrator or “ruler of all,” depicts our glorified Lord looking down from heaven, holding the Book of Life by which we are judged (God’s justice) but with His right hand raised in blessing (God’s mercy). The three-rayed halo behind His head and Greek letters in the image identify Him simultaneously as Jesus Christ (IC XC) and as “I Am Who Am” (WON), or God Himself. This God-man is the same Jesus who was born in a stable; who grew up a carpenter’s son; who ate with sinners and challenged authorities; who said to His followers, “This is my Body; take and eat;” who suffered humiliation and torture to die on a cross; who rose from the dead and ascended to heaven; and who sent the Holy Spirit to guide the Church in these latter years. This is the same Jesus about whom Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46) and Thomas said, “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28).
We have a second icon of Christ behind the altar and tabernacle, depicted in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. Though within His mother, He does not appear as an infant or as any child we have likely ever seen. His high forehead and discerning eyes convey wisdom and judgment beyond His years. This is the same Jesus that St. Augustine calls, “ever ancient, ever new” and that dwells in the tabernacle, in the Eucharist. He is the very Word of God referenced in John’s Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:1-5
What joy, what hope, what light we have when He who is the very source of all blessing sits upon the throne of our hearts—and what sorrow, what despair, what darkness we experience when we yield His seat to idols: to fallen persons or passing things that will not—cannot—sustain us.
Advent begins next weekend: four weeks of penance and preparation Christmas. As the Church year ends and we prepare to welcome the newborn King of Kings, let us ask ourselves in whom we have placed our hope and trust. What or whom have we set upon the throne of our hearts? The time is now to elevate Christ to His proper place, that all else may fall into place and peace may prevail.