Servants of Christ and Stewards of the Mysteries of God – A Reflection on Communion Calls

St. Paul says that we are to be regarded as “the servants of Christ and the stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1)


I’m reminded of one of the readings from the Liturgy of the Hours, I think it is from Romans, but the line says: “He whom you serve is the Lord!” I am always consistently amazed at the blessing that the Lord continually puts into my life. It’s not that I’m amazed that he would bless me or give me a joy, but sometimes in my own sinfulness, I think, “Who am I to be able to experience this?” I’m MLK-2832continually made aware of my own failings and lack of abilities, but when I place those in the presence of Christ at the foot of the cross, it’s amazing to watch and see how he will take something so small and turns it into something which I can experience his love and his mercy in my own life.

Part of my summer assignment at Holy Spirit is to join a group of faithful folks (called the Ministers of Care) each Friday morning to bring the Holy Eucharist and a friendly face to some of our shut-ins and homebound from the parish. I’m continually amazed at how the Lord never ceases to either smack me upside the face and bring me back to reality or how he humbles me through these Friday visits.

There are several people whom I have gone to see who are just sweet as can be, who love to sit and chat, ask about you and even remember your name and things you have spoken about even though you haven’t seen them for a couple weeks as someone else went. At the same time though, I am reminded of how much our world is hurting, how much healing is needed and how we need the presence and mercy of Christ more than anything in the world.

On one of my visits to the hospital, my first “communicant” if you will started talking ill of Muslim’s, RIGHT after he had received communion. The irony of having received the Sacrament of Charity, and some of the things he was trying to get me to comment on  was crazy! Another time, the spouse of a Catholic man would not permit us to visit him, due to her not agreeing with the Church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage. And then there was the time I got to visit and bring communion to a couple who had just welcomed their first child into the world. To think, I got to be the first person to bring Jesus to visit her outside of the womb!

This past week, one of the gentlemen that I visited was bed-ridden and had a huge pitbull and a boxer. As I went to see him the boxer hopped in bed with him and we began the Rite of Communion for the sick. It was a good learning experience for me of the need to be flexible. The gentleman was going in and out of consciousness and I was left praying a lot IMG_4958of the prayers like the Our Father by myself. I was reminded though in the moment, of the great “Cloud of Witnesses,” the “Communion of Saints” that were no doubt gathered around the bedside with me, adoring Christ and praying on behalf and for this gentleman.

When the priest celebrates a Mass by himself and not with anyone else he doesn’t say the responses to certain prayers. When he says: “The Lord be With You” or “Lift up Your Hearts” He doesn’t answer, because those present in the Communion of Saints answer them. We are always surrounded by those who having gone before us are marked with the Sign of Faith.

The gentleman, after receiving communion prayed the Hail Mary with me as a prayer of Thanksgiving. I always try to pray a Hail Mary after folks receive our Lord, that as Mary was the first to become a living tabernacle and bear Christ to the world, that as they become a living tabernacle will be able to bear Christ to all that they meet.

Immediately after receiving Communion, the gentleman said that he wished they made hosts for puppies and that I would give communion to his dog.

Oh my! I had to laugh and chuckle and remind him that only humans could receive the Eucharist, lest he try to take the host he was chewing and give some to his dog. It was amazing though that the dog in the cage stopped barking and the dog on the bed stopped moving and laid its head down when I brought the host out of my pyx and said: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the World…” Animals, being created by God have a sense of the holy. St. Francis of Assisi, my patron gave many wonderful examples of this.

As Christians, we are each called to be “Servants of Christ” as a man in formation for the priesthood, I hope one day to fully be able to be a “steward of the mysteries of God.” Until then, I get to have these small but beautiful encounters of the life of a priest, in bringing Christ’s healing love and mercy to the world, through the great Sacrament of Charity, the Sacrament of Unity, the Holy Eucharist.

I had a priest friend who told me that when I go on a Communion call, to help those I am bringing Christ to, to recognize that it indeed IS Jesus. So often, when we’re outside of the Sacred space of the Church building, and standing in the middle of a lysol-smelling hospital room, it can be easy to become lax, but the simple pauses, redirecting conversation back to the prayer, genuflecting to the pyx, before distributing communion, little details help to bring the Sacred to the secular. One of my favorite parts of Lumen Gentium is where the Council Fathers remind us that we are called to sanctify the secular. We are called to bring Christ to the world and remind them of his presence.

As I go on communion calls, as I spend those precious moments in the car, carrying Christ in my burse hanging upon my breast, over my heart I pray for those I am going to see. I pray for those that I drive by, that even if they don’t know Christ is passing them by, that he will touch them and bring them his love and mercy. Each time that I meet someone and get to bring Jesus to them in Holy Communion, I am reminded of the beauty of the Sacrament, and the great gift to be, at that moment, a servant of Christ and a steward of the greatest mystery of God.


AMAZING New Vocation Video!

Friends, please check out this AWESOME new video on “Becoming Who You Are” a video about seminary, discernment, and what seminary really is all about. Check it out, because it TRULY is an amazing video that will hopefully inspire and give assistance to men who are thinking about the priesthood, or just what God is calling them to do in their lives.

This video was produced by some of my brother seminarians. It was spearheaded by Michael Trummer, Joe Herring, and Charlie Wessel and then I helped with interviews and lighting, and CJ Glaser assisted with some of the equipment.

“Beauty as Criteria for Choosing Music for Catholic Worship” – My Senior Thesis

The following has been long coming, but it is my Senior Thesis on “Beauty as Criteria for Choosing Music for Catholic Worship” In it, I examine how we define beauty, beauty as a thing of God, and then how we apply beauty as Criteria for choosing the music we use in the Liturgy. This paper was inspired by my love of beauty, of music, the Liturgy, and also of my desire to post things on my blog that will help us in more closely walking the Way of Beauty. For, “if ugliness is imprisonment, beauty is a kind of liberation.”

“Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation. These considerations should make us realize the care which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate splendour.” – Pope Benedict XVI

Beauty as Criteria for Choosing Music for Catholic Worship:


An attempt to liberate us from the ugliness of the world.


John Adams once wrote: “Went in the afternoon, to the Romish Chapel [in Philadelphia]. The scenery and the music are so calculated to take in mankind that I wonder the Reformation ever succeeded … the chanting is exquisitely soft and sweet.”[1]

A lot has changed in the Church since when John Adams first visited a Catholic Church on October 9. 1774. The dominant language used in the Liturgy has changed, the “scenery” has changed as well, with most churches resembling some form of puritanical white washed sanctuary, with altars and ambos made to look like anything from fancy tables to meteor rocks. Rock bands have replaced the choir and organ with piano and guitars. “Cantors” have been restored to the Roman Rite, active participation is the new cliché phrase and those young and old who do not hold a songbook or sing along to Lord I Lift Your Name on High, are immediately singled out and exiled by members of the community as traditional, Latin-loving prunes who just want to return the church to the dark ages where the people had no say and the Mass was sung in Latin with Gregorian chants abounding. Okay, so maybe that’s a little harsh, but think of it. Surely you can at least name two situations where you have experienced a situation like the above.

If not, what about this one: “You are sitting in church preparing for Mass and 48 year old Mark steps up to the microphone on the side of the Sanctuary, welcomes you and invites you to stand for the gathering song. The guitarists start strumming, the pianists starts playing and everyone joins in singing Here I Am to Worship. But wait, is everyone really singing around you? All you can hear is Mark and his cousin Betty harmonizing on “I’m coming back to the heart of worship.” The microphones at the cantor stand are turned up loud and the microphones seem to be surgically attached to Mark and Betty’s faces.

When did the music used for worship become a show? When did the music of Adams’ time disappear? Why did it disappear? Surely music in Catholic Worship is not meant to resemble a protestant service, is it? Oh, but they tell you that the music you’re singing now is actually based on scripture, it’s none of those weird things in Latin that no one could understand and which didn’t have any biblical basis. No one can sing without a cantor leading them. The organ? Pshaw! That old piece of garbage? Don’t you know how much it cost to keep that thing working? Besides, Sister Pam had explained how the organ and chants were part of a former clericalist culture in the church, a church that oppresses women. Mark, Betty, guitars, and piano, these provide real music. They provide a welcoming environment, and make people feel at home. THIS is the future of worship. THIS is the sad state of music in the Catholic Church in America… or is it?

When was the last time that you heard something beautiful? What was it? Now ask yourself: “What made it beautiful?” How do we describe beauty? Beauty, especially in Catholic worship has been an aspect that connects the people to the Liturgical rites being celebrated. We are a sensory people. When encountering Christ and the Church, John Adams gave reference to the idea of beauty. He mentions the music was so calculated that it’s a wonder anyone would want to be protestant. Beauty as noticed by an outsider was something, which draw him upward, made him feel the power of the almighty in a way that he didn’t experience before.

“Like the terms “true” and “good,” the term “beautiful” (kalón; pulchrum, beau, schön, etc.) is familiar to all. To reach a definition of it let us question experience. What do men commonly mean when, face to face with some object or event, they say, “That is beautiful”?”[2] Beauty is something, which unites everyone. We can look at a picture of DSC_4070the sunrise over the Grand Canyon or the fall foliage in Frankenmuth Michigan and call it beautiful. We look at Michelangelo’s Pieta or Beethoven’s Symphony Number 9 and almost everyone can agree that they are beautiful. But what makes all of these things beautiful? What makes them any different from something we would call “vulgar” or “ugly?” Thomas Aquinas writes that the first thing we need to note is that “the beautiful pleases us, affects us agreeably, while the commonplace or the ugly leaves us indifferent or displeases us, affects us disagreeably.”

In the Catholic Church in America there are undoubtedly, two main types of music. You have hymn or chant based pieces and then you have what can be called Praise and Worship. Both of these types of music cause different thoughts from people. To many, both types of music are beautiful, but what makes them such? Is it possible that we misunderstand what it means to be beautiful in our worship? Why should music used in Catholic Worship even be beautiful?

St. Thomas Aquinas says: “”pulchra sunt quae visa placent” “Those things are beautiful whose vision pleases us.[3] Vision in this sense is understood to be something wider than just seen with the eyes; it is contemplation, apprehension, and a way of connecting what we are taking in to our intellect, our intelligence. The two higher senses of hearing and sight are the closest to the intellect, thus whatever we call beautiful has to use at least one or both of these senses. That being said, the beautiful cannot be that which just please the senses. To smell the turkey as it comes out of the oven or to see the pretty dress the bride is wearing on her wedding day pleases the senses. We might say that the turkey smells delightful and that the bride is beautiful, but these feelings of sensible pleasures are not the same as experiencing the authentically beautiful. These “sentient states of agreeable feeling are mainly passive, organic, physiological; while esthetic enjoyment, the appreciation of the beautiful, is eminently active.[4] “Eminently active. Being active in this sense implies the use of the intellect, the connection, which is made between some idea comprehended, and an idea, which exists within the object being sensed. Peter Coffey says that in order for the act of contemplation of this beautiful thing to please man, “it must be in harmony with his whole human nature, which is both sentient and intelligent; it must, therefore, be agreeable to the senses and imagination as well as to the intellect.”[5]

Music in Catholic Worship: The Sorry Current State and How it Came to Be

Thomas Day in his legendary work Why Catholics Can’t Sing discusses many aspects of the problems with music in the current Catholic Church. “My experience is that the average Catholic congregation sings well when it goes backward, as it were, and returns to the primitive stage of development that is missed. Everyone lowers the expectations, the instrumental accompaniment, and the amplification to the point where people can hear themselves as an assembly. They sing simple music, perhaps an old-fashioned hymn, perhaps an unaccompanied dialogue with the priest – not all the time, but at least occasionally. This results in a sound that is quite homely, but often something profound and devout comes through in that singing. That sound can be more impressive than artistic excellence.”[6]

There is a problem with how music is viewed in the Catholic Church. I remember my IMG_3212Episcopalian voice professor asking my during my first lesson 4 years ago what my opinion on music in the Catholic Church was like currently. Not really giving him a firm answer, he said something, which has stuck with me. “Music in the Catholic Church died in 1967. It’s up to us to bring it back!” There is truth in that statement. Ask anyone who took part in the liturgical renewal and restoration of the Second Vatican Council and they can tell you horror stories of music in the 30+ years following the releasing of the documents. A spirit of freedom and anything and everything seemed to become the law of the land, when reality was far from it.

Music had been for the longest time one of the ways in which the church exercised immense control over its liturgy and rites. Hymns in the vernacular though occurring sporadically at Low Masses were only officially approved in 1958. Pope St. Pius X was a great restorer of chant and polyphonic pieces in the Liturgy as evidenced by his Motu Proprio Tra La Sollecitudini in 1903. Before then other popes had forbidden the use of anything other than Gregorian chant, because the music was becoming too secular in style and word usage. Music has a way of uniting everyone, and at the same time dividing them all based on aesthetical preference, emotional attachment, and a host of other technical factors such as errors, poor acoustics, or perhaps a flat tenor. Music is a language that everyone can speak in some way or another, which is why for so long the Church has exercised complete and total control over how it is used in her worship.

One of the four marks of the Church is that she is one. This oneness is a unity that is expressed primarily through her worship; for centuries the Church had different rites, different ways in which the Mass was celebrated, depending on where you were located.[7] Then in the 1500’s things started to be ironed out. Following the Council of Trent, which occurred post-reformation, the Church published the Missal of Pius V in 1570,[8] a Missal, which unified the Order of Mass and helped to promote unity of worship among the people.

For centuries the Churches were built in an elongated style, with the sanctuary at one end and the nave where the common people would be in the other. In between these two was the choir, where clerics would sit and participate in the Liturgy through chants and thus aiding the music. Since only males could be clerics, only males were allowed in the choir to sit and participate in the sacred chants. This went on for centuries even after most churches started to abandon the sanctuary-choir-nave style. Churches began to build choir lofts, which played with the building’s natural acoustics and carried the sound downwards, toward those gathered below. These lofts were sometimes large enough to hold small orchestras; and the creative genius of the musicians of the age began to soar.[9] March4Life-2792Pius XII’s 1955 Encyclical gave permission by indult for women to officially sing in choirs instead of Pius X’s 1903 mandate that if they must sing, they were to be outside of the sanctuary. The use of the female voice had long been established though, which is part of the reason why choir lofts were built outside of the sanctuary area.

As previously stated, the Church has always guarded her music and prayers like a hawk. Those who would seek to change them into something trivial or bane would be cast out and order would be restored. That is, until post Vatican II, or at least it can be seen like that to some extent. Music post Vatican II, was in a sense “opened” to a wider variety. Permission was granted for other styles, cultures, and such to be sung within the Sacred Liturgy but it was not given how it was received. To those who were involved in music within the Church, an “anything goes” mentality seems to have taken root and prospered for a good ten to twenty years or so. “One has remarked that, in some parishes, the liturgical reform was so hasty and so violent that one forgot sometimes the presence of some gratuitous beauty which came from the past and still could embellish celebrations today…The new celebrations were correct, but all beauty of the past was gone. The Latin language, for instance, was still proclaimed to be the official language of the Roman Rite, but there was no more singing in Latin.”[10]

In a matter of a few documents, mis-interpreted to some extent the Church seemed to gain some beauty, but exchange it for her wealth and tradition of beauty, which had existed throughout the ages prior. How could one declare that something of the past, which was practiced for centuries, was in a minute wrong, forbidden, out-of-place? It couldn’t be so, but in many ways it was. In many ways, the wealth and tradition of Sacred Music in the Catholic Church, like my voice professor said: “died in 1967.”

Beauty, what is it? How does it relate to Church Music?

Beauty is an aesthetical value. It is something, which as Thomas Aquinas states is a good. Pulchra, bonum est. Beauty is a good. The “goods” that Thomas refers to are perfection, things that do not detract from themselves, but which point to the “Supreme Good,” that is, God. Something that is beautiful and is a good shares in the sole goodness, which belongs to God and is thus one of many “goodnesses.” Aquinas writes that Socrates[11] calls God the absolute good, from whom all that is good is good by way of participating in God’s goodness. Beauty then, as an aesthetical value is something good, which makes beauty belong to God.

If beauty then belongs to God and receives its goodness from him, it must be something, IMG_3396which is inspired or created by him. We see in nature the beauty of Mt. McKinley soaring up into the clouds, the largest peak for miles around. Knowing that God created the world and designed it, we can trace Mt. McKinley’s existence back to God’s divine authorship. Nature can be easily traced back to its creator; music on the other hand is a totally different bird.

If someone, a man, creates music and the man is created in the imago dei, surely what he does can be considered beautiful can it not? Yes, in some sense we could come to that conclusion, but in regarding a case of murder, where a man murders another, the brutality of his act, his action itself is not called beautiful, yet man who, created in God’s image, produces it and is inherently beautiful. The same is true with music. Just because someone who shares in the goodness of God and is beautiful makes it is, does not automatically mean that their music is beautiful. Beauty has other parameters that must be met, especially when it comes to judging music aesthetically beautiful.

As Thomas and Peter Coffey have noted, beauty is not something passive. It exists with an action; it is as Coffey states, “eminently active.”[12] Beauty reaches and connects to man through his senses, but it must connect what is sensed with the intellect, with the mind, the use of reason, the ability to judge between good and evil. For Thomas, the active intellect is something in the soul, it is something, which takes and draws its power from a higher intellect, which because of faith, we believe to be God. Psalm 4:7 states this with: “The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us.” This union of the intellect with the creator God helps us to see how music, when created for a religious purpose, inspired by the Holy Spirit, can be created beautifully, in honor of beauty, himself.

Beauty, I have long argued is not just an aesthetical principle or virtue, rather it is a person, it is the very person of Jesus Christ, God made flesh. The Church is where Christ dwells, it is where beauty dwells, it is where we encounter the Living God in very real, sentient ways, which in turn feed our intellect and connect us back to the Father. Day states that gestures and things, which Catholics do, that might seem out of place in the secular world are really only “attempts to transcend the ordinary.”[13] They are opportunities in which by performing some action, doing something that is not of this world, we get a glimpse of Heaven; we receive a glimpse of the extraordinary or supernatural.

Beauty though can still be a matter of taste. One person’s idea of what the beautiful is, will differ from another, except for certain things, which, everyone can admit, are beautiful. These things, which transcend the ordinary, everyone can agree on as being beautiful. If you look at Notre Dame Cathedral, everyone can say that it is beautiful. If you listen to Bach’s Mass in B minor or Handel’s Messiah, everyone can agree again that it is beautiful. It may not be what their taste is all of the time, but it can be understood and agreed upon as being beautiful. “At its highest, taste–as seen especially in the sense of beauty and in the sense of sublimity – enters into the sense of God and the sense of good.”[14]These things that we call beautiful and are of God, are things, which are in a way “larger than life.” Music, which is large, which is transcendental and out-of-this-world is normally what everyone can agree upon as being beautiful. This will be important to remember later, that the larger, transcendental seems to be a universal beauty, unlike things which are imminent and more ordinary, of this world.

H.L. Mencken, in a poem once wrote: “The Latin Church, has always kept clearly before it the fact that religion is not a syllogism, but a poem.” Beauty like the faith has a poetic nature, it is something, which speaks on different levels to the listener and can cross boundaries that separate and divide. Music, like beauty has a way of unifying, of connecting, of creating a commonality among people of different race, creed, and background. The unity, which is created by beautiful music, is extremely important as the Church seeks to be one and unite all under the banner of Christ triumphant.

Unity of Voice: How can we achieve it?

IMG_3526“The mystery of the liturgy, with its hierarchical and communitarian characteristics, is more openly manifested; the unity of hearts is more profoundly attained by the unity of voices.”[15] Unity is an important factor toward deciding what is beautiful and fitting for use in worship. The Second Vatican Council called for the Full, Active, & Conscious Participation of all of the faithful in the rites and liturgies of the Church. In deciding what music should be used for the Liturgy the Church puts forth three judgments with one evaluation. All three judgments must be considered as a whole. You cannot consider one or two and forget the other.[16]

It is through these three judgments that the Church decides what is truly beautiful and fitting for use in the liturgy. The pride of place of Sacred Scripture, and the use of the human voice, which is found in scripture, is preferred in selecting music for the Liturgy. If we look at a common hymn that most parishes know: Here I am Lord written by Dan Schutte in 1981 we can try to apply the three judgments and see if it works. Normally in a parish you will have a cantor who will start the piece and then the congregation will join in. This piece is normally sung during the Offertory or Communion; taking this into mind, let’s apply the three judgments.

The piece is indeed scripturally based. It’s words come from Isaiah 6:8, Exodus 3:4; and 1Sam 3:4-6,8. It does meet the structural requirements of the point in the Mass where it would be sung, especially if it was related to the readings that were being sung that day. Pastorally, it speaks of God, drawing mankind to himself, letting them know that he will save them from their sins if they turn to him, but how does it fit musically? The piece is indeed beautifully composed. It has an easy to sing melody line, it might be a little harder to sing without accompaniment on an instrument, because of the rests and pauses, but it can be done. So it passes these three judgments we think, but we forgot how it would be sung. Most parishes would have the cantor start and the people would sing through it in its entirety. But if we look at the lyrics: “I the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard…my hand…I who made… I will make…” The verses are all God speaking to man, yet the whole congregation is singing them then they switch back to themselves singing: “Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?” The piece creates a weird, and slightly disturbing God-complex among the congregation as they switch from god to themselves. Musically and pastorally speaking, it would make far more sense for the congregation to sing the refrain, while the choir sings the verses and plays the voice of God. But can you do that in a parish today? I would say no. The parishioners have claimed this God-complex singing of Here I am Lord as their own and to ask them to change might create a riot. What then are we supposed to do, to use some sort of music, which is beautiful, fulfills the three judgments and fosters unity of voice and the use of Sacred Scripture?

“Music arises from silence and returns to silence.”[17] Music has a ministerial function in the Liturgy. It must serve the Liturgy and the prayers; the prayers do not serve it. It is better to not sing then to change the prayers of the Church and try to force them into DSC_2979music. Granted, some liberty is permissible, but the efficacy of the primary and actual text must always be fought for. The Church teaches that with the hierarchy of the roles played in the liturgy, there is also a hierarchy of which is more important to be sung. The dialogues and acclamations, integral parts to the Liturgy should be sung above all us, because of the unity that they create between the priest-celebrant and the congregation in worshiping together. Secondly the antiphons and psalms should be sung, as they are prayers from scripture, which connect us back to our tradition and promote unity of worship among the universal church. Thirdly, refrains and responses such as the Kyrie, Agnus Dei should be sung, as they are a response of the people of God, crying out to God in the form of intercessory prayer. Fourthly, hymns are the last thing, which should be sung during the Mass[18] their use originally belonged to the Liturgy of the Hours, though some hymns were sung in the early days of Christianity, hymns which were basically the psalms set to music.

There is definitely a lot of rules and guidelines which have to be followed for music to be able to be used in the Liturgy, there are questions which must be asked, and criteria that must be met, to do this for each and every piece though seems to take a lot of time, but music like the Liturgy is a work, in a way it can have a very salvific action that it performs, because it is through music done well and beautifully that Christ in a way is made present. Music, which accompanies the rites, helps to make Christ present among his people and he then leads them in worship to and of the Father.

If Hymns then are the last thing, which should be sung, how do we go about singing the other recommended parts properly? Pun intended, The Propers are original psalms and verses set to music, which are an integral part of the Roman Rite. If you ask those sitting in the pews and even most music directors, they either won’t know what the Propers are, or they won’t want to sing them because they have attached them in their mind to some form of Catholicism, which is long gone. But that is anything but the truth. As mentioned before, in a normal parish setting you have the 4-hymn sandwich: a piece for the processional, offertory, communion, and recessional (Which isn’t even a part of the actual Mass.). The Church provides an easier route than choosing different hymns to fit the mold each day. The Propers are psalms, that provide the text for proper parts of the Mass. Ie. Introit (processional chant), Offertory, and Communion chant set with refrain and verse. One of the most common forms of music in the Church, which is preferred, is the use of antiphonal or refrainal styled music. The congregation is easily able to join in on singing the refrain, usually set to a simpler mode or tune and the choir is then able to build on the verse and expound upon it with harder parts than what the normal congregation would be capable of. The Ministerial function of the choir within the Mass has long been an integral part of Catholic worship. The Propers enable them to exercise their ministry and for the congregation to be able to sing as well. It keeps Mark and Betty from having to have the microphones surgically removed from their faces and keeps the Mass oriented toward God, not a performer.

Hymns too though can continue to be used. To totally remove them from the Liturgy when they have become such an integral part over the past 50 years could be catastrophic, but in selecting hymns for use, the idea of beauty really should play an integral role. We’ve discussed how things, which transcend the ordinary, help us to encounter the extraordinary. This doesn’t mean that only transcendental hymns which talk of the glories and powers of God such as Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, or O God Beyond All Praising should be used. Other hymns like Here I Am Lord, or Center of My Life can be used as well as they are now part of our tradition, but they must be used properly and hymns must face the three-judgment test. I would argue that hymns should also be placed against the test of beauty. If a hymn has not lasted well for 50 years like Gather Us In, it probably shouldn’t be used for the Mass. The test of beauty is uniquely tied to the test of time. When people sing a hymn that they really like, like Here I am Lord, it is because the piece has struck a chord within them and the beauty of it has emerged. Here I am Lord will probably continue to stand the test of time at least for a while and during that while it will have a place within the Liturgy where it can be sung and used.

Recently a priest friend and I were discussing his preaching style. Several people in the parish would comment every once in a while that his homilies went right over their head. They could get bits and pieces, but he would lose them on some points and they would have to find out what he was talking about later. The priest told me that one of the reasons he didn’t lower his preaching style was because he was building the people up to that level of their intellect. I have yet to hear him preach a homily where someone couldn’t understand everything except for a few words or something, which they could take home and research. Father’s whole point of his sermons were to teach his parishioners and give them something to meet them where they were and then challenge them to grow and learn about their faith. This is the same way; we must be with music in the Church.

Music is meant to inspire. Music can bring someone to their knees in tears and it can infuriate and madden. Music touches us at every point in our lives in very intimate ways, much like Christ touches us. Music in worship then, unites us to Christ and adds a depth to our prayer; it connects us to the Liturgical actions, and brings us in communion with our tradition and heritage. Music must be beautiful. In the Liturgy, it must touch our souls and wound them with love for Christ.

Beauty did not die with Vatican II, beauty had to have been re-born! As Aquinas says: March4Life-2781“Beauty is that, whose vision pleases us.”3 Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, but: “To admit to the Liturgy the cheap, the trite, or the musical cliché often found in popular songs is to cheapen the Liturgy, to expose it to ridicule, and to invite failure.[19] Songs, which mimic the songs on the local pop radio station, can seem to cheapen the Liturgy. Here I am to Worship or even one of my favorites: Lord I Need You, sadly do not have a place within the Liturgy. They can be used for prayer, and other forms of worship, but they do not agree with the documents and the teachings of the Church, when selecting a musical piece for the Liturgy. One of my favorite memories is of singing the above two songs at our local Catholic youth camp during adoration. There in the middle of the dark, listening to the crickets sing outside and seeing Jesus in the Monstrance lit up by candles with the kids passionately pouring out their hearts in song before the Lord those pieces fit. In the ritual-rich, Liturgy of the Mass, they find themselves out of place.

So, beauty is that whose vision pleases us. It is that which connects and unites across barriers. Beauty is the connection of the sentient experience to the intellect, to the good, to Him, who created us. Beauty is an integral part of choosing music for Catholic Worship, because it is an integral part of recognizing the very person of Christ in our midst. Beauty is like a poem of the faith. It is attempts to transcend the ordinary of the world, to lose control, and to experience the extraordinary of Heaven. It is a chance to encounter love and to be love for those we meet.

“The singing of the Church comes ultimately out of love. It is the utter depth of love that produces the singing. “Cantare amantis est”, says St. Augustine, singing is a lover’s thing. In so saying, we come again to the Trinitarian interpretation of Church music. The Holy Spirit is love, and it is he who produces the singing. He is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit who draws us into love for Christ and so leads to the Father.”[20] Beauty is an integral part of the Church; it is a process by which Christ claims all for himself. “Beauty is the Christianized cosmos in which chaos is overcome; that is why the Church may be defined as the true beauty of existence. Every achievement of beauty in the world is in the deepest sense a process of Christianization. Beauty is the goal of all life; it is the deification of the world. Beauty, as Dostoievsky has said, will save the world. An integral conception of the Church is one in which it is envisaged as the Christianized cosmos, as beauty.’[21]

Beauty again is salvific. Musical beauty helps us to recall the redemption of man by Christ March4Life-2857on the Cross. It calls us to unite with those around us. And at the same time it calls us to the heart of the Christian message, one of recognizing the other. It is a way to free us from the ordinary and enter the extraordinary. “The Christian religion is all about a beauty that ‘saves’ us. For beauty is that quality in a thing, which attracts us towards itself, that calls to us. It calls us out of ourselves, towards something other. The aesthetic experience is thus one of self-transcendence. If ugliness is imprisonment, beauty is a kind of liberation.[22]


Works Cited:

Baldovin, John Francis. “A (Very) Brief History of the Mass.” In Bread of Life, Cup of Salvation: Understanding the Mass. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.

Brown, Frank Burch. Good Taste, Bad Taste, & Christian Taste: Aesthetics in Religious Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Chase, Gilbert. America’s Music New York: McGraw- Hill Book Company, Inc. 1995. Print

Day, Thomas. Why Catholics Can’t Sing: Revised and Updated with New Grand Conclusions and Good Advice. New York: Crossroad, 2014.

Deiss, Lucien, and Jane M. Burton. Visions of Liturgy and Music for a New Century. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1996.

Vatican II. “Sacred Music ,” Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Study ed. Collegeville, IN: Liturgical Press, 1987.


[1] Gilbert Chase, America’s Music (New York: McGraw- Hill book Company, Inc., 1995), 61

[2] Peter Coffey, Ontology of the Theory of Being. 254

[3] Peter Coffey 255 “Ad rationem pulchri pertinet, quod in ejus aspectu seu cognitione quietetur appetitus … ita quod pulchrum dicatur id, cujus ipsa apprehensio placet.”—ST. THOMAS{FNS, Summa Theol., ia . iiæ., q. 27, art. 1, ad. 3. And the Angelic Doctor justifies the extended use of the term vision: “De aliquo nomine dupliciter convenit loqui, uno modo secundum ejus primam impositionem, alio modo secundum usum nominis, sicut patet in nomine visionis, quod primo impositum est ad significandum actum sensus visus; sed propter dignitatem et certitudinem hujus sensus extensum est hoc nomen, secundum usum loquentium, ad omnem cognitionem aliorum sensuum; dicimus enim: Vide quomodo sapit, vel quomodo redolet, vel quomodo est calidum; et ulterius etiam ad cognitionem intellectus, secundum illud Matt. v. 8: Beati mundi corde quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt.”—i., q. 67, art. 1, c.


[4] Peter Coffey. 258.

[5] Peter Coffey. 259.

[6] Thomas Day 134

[7] John Baldovin, Bread of Life, Cup of Salvation (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 37.

[8] Ibid. 57

[9] Ibid. 59

[10] Lucien Deiss, Visions of Liturgy and Music for a New Century (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1996), 17.

[11] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica: First Part, Question 6. The Goodness of God (New Advent digital edition accessed December 15, 2015)

[12] Coffey, 258

[13] Day. 53.

[14] Frank Burch Brown, Good Taste, Bad Taste, & Christian Taste: Aesthetics in Religious Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 23.

[15] Vatican II. “Sacred Music” Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1987), 81.

[16] Sing to The Lord (From the USCCB: Pastoral document on Music in Catholic Worship)

[17] Sing to the Lord. 118.

[18] Ibid. 115

[19] Ibid. 136

[20] Joseph Ratzinger “The Spirit of the Liturgy“, (SF, CA: Ignatius, 2000), 142.

[21] Nicholas Berdyaev “Freedom and the Spirit” 332.

[22] Stratford Caldecott “Beauty will Save The World

The Woman Clothed with the Son

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The following is a paper that I wrote for New Testament Class on “the Woman clothed with the Sun” in Revelations 12. I argue that although others say that she can be multiple images, (ie. The Church, Israel, People of God) she is firstly the Blessed Virgin Mary, and only because of that can she also be seen as other images.

Written for Mr. Mark Reasoner, Ph.D. Marian University April 2016.

The woman, “clothed with the sun” in Revelation 12:1 has been identified in a variety of ways. Some interpret that she is symbolic of Israel or the Church, and still others say that she is the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Through a careful reading of Sacred Scripture it is obvious that the woman cannot be at one time, universally all of these symbols…or can she? In this paper I will highlight how the “woman clothed with the sun” in Revelations 12 is firstly the Blessed Virgin Mary, then how because of this fact, she is also able to be seen as Israel, and the Church as a whole. We will accomplish this specifically by highlighting what makes the woman appear to be Mary, and why that keeps being affirmed throughout history, specifically through the way the Catholic Church uses the text in it’s worship. Then we will highlight the woman’s role in Revelation itself, and how the Sacred Scripture leads us through the text to understand who she is and thus the ways in which those who object to the woman as an allusion to Mary, the Mother of God try to make their case. Finally we will close by examining all of these “attributes” of Mary that we have pulled from the Scripture, as well as the objections posed by others and identify whether or not the woman is indeed, Mary, Israel, and the Church at the same time.

If you ask any Catholic who has a small idea of the role Mary plays and will play in Salvation history, you will discover that most believe that she in the end will “crush the head of Satan with her foot.” This outlook on Mary’s unique role as co-redemptrix is too large a discussion for this paper, but for the purposes of setting up the idea of Mary in Revelation 12, it is necessary to return for a moment to Genesis in which is said: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (RSV, Gen. 3:15) This phrase is important to remember as it is because of a mistranslation of the Latin Vulgate from the Hebrew and Greek texts that “she” replaces “he.” This “translation error” has gone so far that even Pope Pius XI used it in his Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus to describe Mary as crushing satan with her heel. While, the idea lines up with Christian theology that anything Mary triumphs over is only through Christ, it has now made its way into how we look at the woman in Revelation 12, polluting in some sense the interpretation of the chapter.

The following is the text of Revelation 1:19-12:12 as it appears in the Lectionary for reading on the Solemnity of the Assumption. Those verses, which are not included in the Lectionary, I have italicized:

“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman* clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon,* with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days. Then war broke out in heaven; Michael* and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent,* who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night. They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them. But woe to you, earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great fury, for he knows he has but a short time.” (NABRE Rev. 11:19-12:1-12)

The reading of this text, without the italicized words on the Feast of the Assumption, works beautifully in describing Mary as the Mother of the Messiah and thus outlining the reason she was assumed into Heaven. Primarily by leaving out the text of the battle between Michael and the dragon, the battle or enmity of the woman and the dragon are left in limbo. So much, that no one knows from the text who will triumph in the fight. Insert the mis-translation of Genesis and you have your answer. Mary, of course will triumph, because she is the New Eve, and with the first part of Revelation 12:10 ending the reading from the Lectionary; the role of Mary as Mother of God is affirmed. Further, by being paired with the Gospel of Luke 1:39-56, Mary, the Queen of Heaven is “blessed among women” as she praises the God of Israel whose victory (over the dragon) has manifested his mercy and covenant with his people in the person of the Messiah.

Through identifying Mary as the woman in Revelation 12, no real theological error has occurred. Everything that Mary does always points back to God. In Luke 1:46 she states that she “magnifies the Lord!” Because Christ was born of Mary, and took his flesh from her, she was the first sharer in Christ’s victory over sin on the Cross. Thus through Mary every man, woman, and child also shares in Christ’s victory, in a sense, crushing the head of Satan with their own heel.

Throughout Revelation 12, the woman plays a specific role, everything about her, including the way she appears gives witness to interpretations of who she really is. Jerry L. Sumney in his 2001 work: The Dragon Has Been Defeated – Revelation 12 quotes Eugene Boring as saying: “She is not Mary, the Church, or Israel; rather she is the experience of the people of God at all times. So she is all of these, yet more than any or all of them.” (105) That final line stating that the woman is all of them, yet much more than any or all of them has profound depth to it. If we were to rearrange Boring’s quote and say that the woman is not just the Church, Israel, or the experience of the people of God at all times, she is all of these, yet more than any or all of them; because she is firstly Mary, the Mother of God.

Mary, is often seen as the daughter of Zion, because she is seen as the new Ark of the Covenant. Throughout the Gospels, typology is used, where different parts of them reference the Old Testament. This can be seen for example on the Cross in Mark 15:34 when Christ exclaims: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Christ was reciting Psalm 22, for a Jew reading the Gospel they would think back to the Psalm, for us as Christian’s we have lost some of that over time. In Luke 1 the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive and bear a son, not just any Son, but the Son of God, thus a God, thus God himself. A Jew could read this and see how God came and made himself present to the Israelites by the Ark of the Covenant, which was his dwelling place when they would set up camp and as they moved around. Mary, then would receive God in the flesh inside of her, thus she is the perfection of the Ark of the Covenant, as God does not bind himself to breakable stone tablets, but to human flesh itself, impregnated within the womb of Mary.

In Rev. 11:19, John says: “Then God’s temple in Heaven was opened, and the Ark of the Covenant could be seen in the temple…” After this verse the 12th chapter starts, but for John who wrote Revelation, there were no chapters or verses until around the 12th century. For John, there was no division; the text was seen as a whole. If we look at it that way, then after John beheld the Ark of the Covenant in Heaven, he saw the woman clothed with the sun. Mary who is seen as the daughter of Zion, the people of Israel in Zephaniah 3:14-17 and as the Ark of the Covenant for Luke is now seen as the new Ark of the Covenant, a more perfect dwelling place for the woman who “was with child” (Rev. 12:2) “a Son…destined to rule the nations.” (Rev. 12:5) The Ark had been lost for 600 something years by the time John wrote Revelation and now, seeing the Ark again as the woman, bears new light on who she really is.

Mary is then seen as the new Ark, the daughter of Zion, a representative of the people of Israel. She is the New Eve, as she is seen delivering her child in pain (Rev. 12:2) a stipulation because of Eve’s sin in Genesis 3:16. The woman is also seen in Revelation 12:1 as wearing “on her head a crown of twelve stars.” The word for “crown” according to Joy A. Schroeder in her work: Revelation 12: Female figures and Figures of Evil is stephanos. (179) Stephanos, as they were called are used to “describe the reward given to those who are faithful unto death. (Rev. 2:10 & 4:4)” (179) The crown the woman wears then denotes victory, triumph over the enemy, a sign of her faithfulness to what God has asked of her. The crown denotes 12 stars, symbolic of both the 12 Tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles, a symbol of the Christian Church, just beginning their mission at that time. John, a Jewish-Christian, paints the woman as the continuity between the Jewish and Christian faith; “For John, Israel’s true children are the faithful Christians who are persecuted by the dragon… Satan, the ancient enemy of God.” (Schroeder 179)

The woman then is also seen as a symbol of the Church, the people of God as a whole (both Jews and Christians). Christ is often called the New Adam, with Mary being the New Eve; their children cleansed in the blood of the lamb are those members of the Christian church who are being persecuted by “the Roman imperial cult, which opposes the worship of the Lamb of God. (Into the World of the New Testament, Daniel Smith 192) The woman can be seen in some sense then as the Church, the people persecuted by Nero, or the “dragon”, and having to flee into a place prepared for them by God, where after staying true to him they will receive a stephanos of victory, but this argument doesn’t seem to be very valid. How could the woman, give birth to the Son of God, if she is the Church? Maybe it is supposed to mean in the sense of giving witness to Christ and to his message, but the argument seems to have several flaws and lapses in the ways with which to explain it properly. Truly, Mary was with Christ along each part of his earthly life. From his birth to the Wedding at Cana, and then to his death on the Tree, Mary walked beside him and said yes as she gave him repeatedly to the world, to the church.

Mary and Christ’s other “Brothers and sisters” then are the members of the Church, in Revelation 12:17, the dragon is seen as going off to fight against the other offspring of the woman. Mary was given to the Church and the world as their Mother as Christ hung upon the Cross. (John 20:26) her other offspring in Revelation can very well be seen as the persecuted Christians of John’s time who were being killed and persecuted for their faith.

What makes Mary then seem to be the first and best explanation for who the woman of Revelation 12 really is? We have seen a few examples now of how the Old Testament is perfected in the New. Mary is seen as the New Eve, the fulfillment and reclamation of the flesh of woman, tainted by sin in the beginning. Mary is the daughter of Zion, the one chosen by God in whom he would choose to come to dwell. Mary is because of that, the new Ark of the Covenant. She is the perfect Ark, which would not be lost as the old had been, but who would stay with the people. She is seen by John as the new Ark, and the imagery of her bearing a child, delivering him in pain, and the acknowledgement of the child’s opposition to Satan, the dragon are undeniable. Mary must be at least one of the images presented in Revelation 12 as the woman.

The woman’s role as the Church is believable as well. The church as giving birth to Christ, can be argued, but there does seem to be some faulty reasoning behind it, it would be safe to say that the woman cannot solely be the Church. There has to be someone or something else that she is as she cannot stand as an example of the Church only. Nor can she stand as Israel only as she is a perfection of Israel, which is revealed in and through the Church. Mary seems to be the only viable option of who the woman in Revelation is primarily. Yes, she can be seen as the Church, and yes she can be seen as Israel and thus the people of God as a whole, but she can only be seen as those things because of who she is first. Mary, the Mother of God, the New Ark of the Covenant, the daughter of Zion, the Mother and Help of Christians, the one who was assumed into Heaven as evidenced by her stephanos and the wings of an Eagle, which allowed her to fly to her place of safety and comfort.

There are many Marian dogmas and teachings, which are defined or at least described by Revelation 12 and the “Woman clothed with the Sun.” Yes, arguments could be and are made against the woman as being Mary, but it is only because of Mary, that the images take on meaning. According to tradition, after Christ gave Mary to John upon the Cross, John cared for her until she was assumed into Heaven. Because of that, John did not die the death of a Martyr. He lived his life with Mary, learning and being formed by her much in the same way Christ was. Mary was a person John knew and of whom he no doubt thought of as he wrote the Book of Revelation. For John, and for us, the Woman Clothed with the Sun can only and must be firstly Mary, the Virgin Mother of God from Nazareth who gave birth to the Savior of the World, Christ who has defeated sin and death and ended the reign of the dragon among the people of God.

Added for this post: The woman then is clothed not just with the “sun,” but with her “Son.” For Mary always leads us to Christ and points us to him. The Woman clothed with the sun in Revelation 12 is only seen as so many different images, because she is the Woman clothed with the Son.

Works Cited:

Ruiz, Jean-Pierre. “The Apocalypse of John and Contemporary Roman Catholic Liturgy.” Worship 68.6 (1994): 482-504. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 20 Apr. 2016

Schroeder, Joy A. “Revelation 12: Female Figures And Figures Of Evil.” Word & World 15.2 (1995): 175-181. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 20 Apr. 2016

Smith, Daniel Lynwood. Into the World of the New Testament: Greco-Roman and Jewish Texts and Contexts. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. Print.

Sumney, Jerry :. “The Dragon has Been Defeated—Revelation 12.” Review & Expositor 98.1 (2001): 103-115. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 20 Apr. 2016

The New American Bible: Translated from the Original Languages with Critical Use of All the Ancient Sources: With the Revised Book of Psalms and the Revised New Testament. IA Falls, IA: World Bible, 1991. Print.





“Behold Your Mother” – A Lenten Reflection

Below is the video of the Lenten Reflection, which I gave to my brother seminarians at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis this evening. This is the third in a series of Lenten Reflections, which our senior class gives each year on the 7 Last Words of Christ. May our Blessed Mother intercede for us as we walk the Way of Beauty, and may we accept her into our lives, that she may cooperate with us in our vocations now, and in the future as priests.


The full text of my reflection follows, it draws on the book: “Mary and the Priestly Ministry” by Father Emile Neubert, SM:

7 Last Words Reflection                                                                                        2-23-16

   “Behold your Mother”


+In the name of the Father, and of the Son…


“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “behold your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:26-27).


As his final gift, right before he died, Christ gave His mother to His whole family on Earth. Christ says: “Woman behold your Son. He gives us to his Mother, to be placed under her care. For us who feel called to give our lives to the service of God as a priest, Christ in a very special way through these words, commits us to the School of Mary. He says: “Look, this is your Mother. Go to her! Son, behold your mother!


The Son of God, became flesh in the womb of a little Jewish girl from Nazareth. While we call this the Incarnation, the Council of Ephesus taught that Mary is also “Theo-Tokos, Greek for Mother of God, or God bearer. This is profoundly at its heart a Christological declaration. It depends on Christ in order to be real.


The one whom Mary bore is truly God and truly man. Christ, the high priest received his human nature from Mary. Thus the Blessed Virgin, is involved in making the Son of God our priest. He received his priestly vocation from the Father, who sent him into the World. His priestly anointing is the grace of the hypostatic union, a gift of the Holy Trinity. But it is his human nature, which enables the Son of God to be Priest, to offer sacrifice on our behalf and it was Mary who gave it to him.


The words of Christ from the Cross, “Behold your Mother!” confirm then the spiritual maternity of Mary and they proclaim the culmination of it, at the very moment the mystery of the Redemption itself is achieved. If we notice at the foot of the Cross there are others who would have seemed more likely to be chosen by Christ to care for his mother. Mary the wife of Clopas, the brother of St. Joseph who is the mother of St. James, Mary Magdalen, whom Christ had a special affinity for and John whose mother, Salome was still alive. Nonetheless, it was to John that Christ confided Mary. Precisely because John was a priest and it is to priests, above all, that Christ gives His Mother because He has a great love of them and they have a greater need of her.


Mary, too though needs priests. It is especially through them that she is able to continue to carry out her mission of giving Jesus to the world, of sanctifying souls and transforming them into other Christ’s. Thus, as men in formation for the priesthood Mary has a special love for each one of us. She desires to help us in our Vocation and in the future as priests of the Church.


In his very nature a son carries something of his mother. He receives his body and his very life from her. The nurturing she gives him reflects all that is the best, the noblest, and the most generous in her. All of these make him an extension and a part of her with the consequence that whatever pleases him, pleases her, whatever he suffers, she suffers; and when he dies, something more precious than her own life dies within her.


In Mary’s case, these maternal rights were more intense than any other mother. Mary’s motherhood was uniquely for her only Son. She existed only for him and she alone through the Holy Spirit formed him within her womb. Mary, shares in the redemptive and sacrificial nature of Christ’s death on the Cross. She cooperates with his priestly service. From the moment she presented him in the temple, and heard the words of Simeon she knew of the sorrowful role she would eventually play in his Sacrifice.


She nurtured the Victim in view of the Cross. As Jesus grew in age, the closer the fatal hour came. Yet, still she loved him. Her fiat becoming ever more sorrowful and yet, more determined, became more loving. With every step of Christ in his passion, she renewed her fiat. She gave her yes to God, again and again and again. This time, instead of giving Christ to her, her yes gave him away to the world. It was then at his crucifixion, that Mary, united herself to the will of the Father regarding her Son, and to the intentions of her Son regarding the Father and the redemption of mankind. Her will, her love, and her sufferings were entirely one with those of her Son. She offered him, and offered herself with him.


Mary played a real part in the Sacrifice of the Cross – a part of unlimited suffering and love that lasted thirty-three years. If Christ then was willing to make Mary an associate of his priesthood as Pius X states, then any man who desires to be effective in his future priestly ministry, must allow the Blessed Virgin to be an associate and cooperate in their vocation and their priesthood as well.


The last gift, Jesus gave us before giving every drop of his Sacred Blood on the cross, was His mother.


Most of you know that on the first day of class this semester I was in Chicago for my Great Aunt’s Visitation. I was blessed to get to go and take my Mom and Grandmother to go and spend some time with her a few days before our retreat. While we were there, my grandmother pulled out one of our Schola CD’s and gave it to her. Aunt Carol looked down at the CD and the image of our Lady on the cover and began to cry. She had battled cancer, mourned the death of her husband, and had lost most of her desire to eat. With an infection on her lungs she struggled to breath. Aunt Carol was dying. As she started to cry, Aunt Carol made a statement, which I believe sums up the role that Mary must play in our discernment of the priesthood: “Without her, I don’t know what I would do. Without Mary helping me and giving me strength, I don’t know how I could do this and be able to embrace it….”


Mary, comforted Christ through his passion. She bore his sufferings within her heart, and still she gave her yes, totally, freely, and thus fruitfully back to the Father. I think it is safe to say that Mary helped Christ to embrace his death. She loved him and formed him for 33 years in preparation for it.


If you want to know your vocation, go to Mary. If you want to know Christ, go to Mary. If you want to have strength to say yes to a major decision in your life, whether it is to become a Rector of a seminary or to embrace your death, go to Mary. If you want to be a priest, you cannot do it without her help. We must go to Mary. Mary, our mother always leads us to Christ, she always points us to her Son, and she always helps us in whatever we need. We like John must be willing to take her into our home, we must take her into our hearts. If we want to be like Christ; if we want to be a priest, there is no other way. And so we too must act when we hear Christ say: Woman, behold your son. For brothers, we must behold our mother. Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary…

Aunt Carol: A Reflection on Mary, Death, & a Story I have never told about my Vocation.

A Visit:

Today, I drove my Grandma and my Mom up to Aurora, Illinois so that my Grandmother could visit her sister one last time. Aunt Carol has been struggling with several different illnesses lately, but as her breathing has gotten harder and harder, the doctors and she, think that her remaining time here is short.

We had a beautiful visit, full of lots of laughs, some tears, and a lot of story telling. I can’t tell you what I felt watching my Grandma reminisce with her sister about their time growing up. It was hard to not cry. When we arrived, Aunt Carol was incredibly surprised as no one had told her that we were coming. Grams and Aunt Carol embraced in a hug with tears in their eyes. I knew that this trip to visit Aunt Carol one last time was important for my Grandma, and watching them embrace, meant the world to me, and probably to them as well.

Grams and Aunt Carol

I wanted to share a little bit from our visit with Aunt Carol, reflect on death and the relationship Mary has with it, and also tell a story about Aunt Carol and myself that I don’t think anyone knows, or at least remembers.

Aunt Carol is ready to go. Watching and listening to her talk of how this is God’s way of keeping her from having a prolonged illness brought tears to my eyes. I have only three memories of Aunt Carol. The first is one time I went to pick up my Great Grandmother with Grams from Aunt Carol and we met at a truck stop. (I had met her before, I was just too young to remember.) The second was at my Great-Grandmothers funeral (we’ll get there in a moment.) and the third was today, after our visit.

Mary, help us to embrace our death!

Most of you know that we produced a Marian Hymn CD at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary this year. Mary has a major role in the lives of seminarians and priests, and as Aaron stated in his little message inside the CD, “It was only fitting…that our cd should focus on Mary, our Mother…”

While we were visiting with Aunt Carol and laughing about stories of her and my Grandma sleeping on comforters and “soaking up the dew” at the state fair, or when they and Grandpa Meyer would go black-walnut hunting, my Grandma gave Aunt Carol a copy of our Mary CD.

imageThe front of the CD has a beautiful image of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on the front. When Aunt Carol’s eyes hit the front she started crying. I don’t know what was going on inside of her, but she said a line that has stuck with me all day:

Without her, I don’t know what I would do. Without Mary helping me and giving me strength, I don’t know how I could do this and be able to embrace it.

To watch a woman, just a few days shy of her young 84th birthday, have this much devotion, trust, and love of our Blessed Mother as she prepares for her end, made me start crying. Turning to the back and reading some of the songs, Aunt Carol looked at me and mentioned about how Gentle Woman was one of her favorite songs, then with her short breath, and with tears in our eyes, Aunt Carol started singing the first verse and refrain of Immaculate Mary.

Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing! You reign now in Heaven, with Jesus our King! Ave! Ave! Ave Maria! Ave! Ave! Maria!

Mary means a lot to my family, and to watch, listen, and sing with Aunt Carol, to our Blessed Mother meant so much.

Sister Death

Death comes for each of us, when we least expect it. I remarked to my Grandma and Mom over dinner tonight after our visit, how humbling old age and death must be. Like when we are born, we go out of this world with nothing, reliant on those around us for our needs. What a beautiful thing death is! St. Francis in his Canticle of the Sun, mentions:

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death, From whose embrace no mortal can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your will! The second death can do them no harm. Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks. And serve him with great humility.

For Francis, death was simply a transition, a passing into the next part of our lives with God. It was a necessary action which gave birth to life eternal. It was a humbling, and even humiliating action which bestowed so much on us, if we properly embraced it.

For my Great Aunt Carol, I think that she too, like St. Francis is preparing to embrace Sister Death. She praises and blesses God for giving the gift of death to her. Yes, she will miss those in her life, but I bet she cannot wait to be counted among the saints in Heaven.

Mary, always…ALWAYS leads us to Christ. She always points us to her Son. Normally in the Church, we pray that St. Joseph will help us to have a well-prepared for death, a happy death. Watching my Aunt though, I think that Mary surely has to be there with St. Joseph, calling us home to be with her Son. I love my earthly Mom, Sue Bruns. I love my Heavenly Mother Mary, I want her to be there to prepare me, and walk with me on the road to death. I want her there to be able to comfort me. I want to ask, she, who “reigns in Heaven with Jesus our King” to bring me to be with him.

Watching, listening, and visiting with Aunt Carol today, made me see Mary at the foot of the Cross, Mary who walked the road to Calvary, and watched her Son be brutally killed upon the Cross. Mary was with Aunt Carol and will continue to be as she continues to progress as we all do, toward Sister Death, from whom no living mortal can escape.

A Story:

Those who know me and have heard my Vocation story before, know that I first really started considering the priesthood when I was in the 5th grade. My Great-Grandmother had died shortly after I had started thinking about it and the whole family was gathered in Quincy for her funeral. I remember sitting on the fireplace hearth downstairs in my grandparents old house with Aunt Carol. Aunt Carol, and I were having a conversation about what I wanted to do when I grew up. She was the first person that I told besides a priest that I could actually see myself as a priest. We had a wonderful conversation and at the end of it, Aunt Carol gave me a hug, told me to be strong, that I would make a great priest, and that she would pray for me. Being the first person I mentioned that I was sincerely thinking of the priesthood to and had an honest heart to heart conversation with, made her a very special person to me, especially because of her words of support and encouragement after I told her.

Today, as we prepared to leave I bent down and gave Aunt Carol a hug and a kiss. She whispered in my ear that she was proud of me, that she loved me, and that I would make a great priest. I told her that I would have some priests at our Seminary offer Mass for her, when I got back to school and said let’s keep praying for each other. She kissed my hand, we spoke for a few more moments and we said goodbye.

Grams and Aunt Carol hug and say goodbye

In Conclusion:

I never thought that I would have had such a deep theological encounter with the Lord today. I am so happy and so blessed to have been able to go and visit Aunt Carol one last time. She was one of the first to support me in my vocational discernment of the priesthood and she will be missed by many. In her last few, days, weeks, or however long the Lord grants her here on Earth, I will pray for her each day, that Mary will be with her. That Mary will give her strength and will lead her to her Son. I pray that one day I am as at peace with death and with God as Aunt Carol seemed. May we all have that grace to have a well-prepared for death! I’m thankful for Aunt Carol in my life and for her support of me. I can only imagine what others in the family are thankful for her for!

My grandmother’s name is Mary. I know that Momma Mary had something to do with making sure that Grams (Mary) and Aunt Carol got to see each other one last time. Thank-you Momma for making it possible for that to happen and allowing us to be here! Death is something that I know I will struggle with as a priest. It’s hard seeing someone you love die, but at the same time with a firm hope in the Ressurection, I think, preparing souls for death will be one of the most fruitful parts of priesthood for me. Getting to be with Aunt Carol for a few moments today touched me immensely.

As I come to the end of my time in college seminary and move on toward major, Aunt Carol’s comment: “Without her, I don’t know what I would do. Without Mary helping me and giving me strength, I don’t know how I could do this and be able to embrace it.” rings true in my own life. It’s amazing what our Mother does for us, isn’t it? Aunt Carol is walking the Way of  Beauty!

I love you Aunt Carol! Pray for me when you get to see Jesus first! I will be praying for you!

Now that I have tears as running down my face again, I’m gonna wrap up. Will you join me in praying a Memorare for my great Aunt and her family?

Remember O Most Gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided, inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of Virgins, my mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful, O Mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

We prayed a rosary on the way home tonight and offered it for several intentions, but firstly for Aunt Carol. The first luminous mystery is The Baptism in the Jordan. May she who died to a life of sin, and rose with Christ in her Baptism, one day rise too with him to Life eternal. Amen.

Beauty Will Save The World

Pope Francis incenses the Altar and gifts during the Mass for the Canonization of St. Junipero Serra in DC, which I attended in September.
Pope Francis incenses the Altar and gifts during the Mass for the Canonization of St. Junipero Serra in DC, which I attended in September.

“The Christian religion is all about a beauty that ‘saves’ us. For beauty is that quality in a thing which attracts us towards itself, that calls to us. It calls us out of ourselves, towards something other. The aesthetic experience is thus one of self-transcendence. If ugliness is imprisonment, beauty is a kind of liberation.” – Stratford Caldecott, Beauty will Save The World 

Beauty is everywhere. Beauty is especially to be found in the Church. In Freedom and the Spirit, Nicholas Berdyaev wrote, concerning the church:

“She is the heart of creation remade, rewoven, rebuilt as a Temple and a Palace, as the shining and unbreakable core and foundation of a Church that is destined to become the home for all that is true, good and beautiful in the world. It is in this Church that ‘the grass grows and the flowers blossom, for the Church is nothing less than the cosmos Christianized’  p. 331).

If the Church then is the Cosmos (Everything to do with God, the supernatural, etc. made present in Christianity through the person of Jesus):

“Beauty [Berdyaev also wrote] is the Christianized cosmos in which chaos is overcome; that is why the Church may be defined as the true beauty of existence. Every achievement of beauty in the world is in the deepest sense a process of Christianization. Beauty is the goal of all life; it is the deification of the world. Beauty, as Dostoievsky has said, will save the world. An integral conception of the Church is one in which it is envisaged as the Christianized cosmos, as beauty’ (ibid., p. 332).

“Beauty, will save the world.” The Church is the “holder” if you will, of beauty. She holds it in her heart, because beauty is not just a visual or auditory sense, but it is a he it is a person. The very person of Jesus Christ. The Church holds Christ in her heart. She holds his message of the Gospel and proclaims it to all corners of the earth.

We then, must be bearers of that beauty, to all whom we encounter. We must let that beauty shine forth in our lives through our worship, our actions, our attitudes and our speech. Beauty can and will save the world, if we just let it. If we open ourselves to God, the author of beauty, allow his Son to enter our lives, and follow the Spirit’s will we can have an amazing impact on our world.

Lucien Deiss in his book that we have been reading in my Music in Catholic Worship class says: “Beauty will also save the liturgy with its music and song. In the future, there will be no place for ugliness and vulgarity.” The Second Vatican Council wrote in its message on December 8, 1965:

“The world in which we live has need of beauty if it is not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, is what puts joy into human hearts. It is a precious fruit which resists the wear of time, and which unites generations in a common admiration.”

Let us be bearers of that beauty to those who we meet. Let us save the world, by bringing it the beauty which it is so desperatley in need of. Let us continue to walk, this Way of Beauty together.


John Henry Newman on Liturgical Reverence – Re-Post

Today is the feast of Cardinal Blessed John Henry Newman, here’s a post about Newman and his idea of “Liturgical Reverence” from the National Catholic Register a few years ago. Read it, you’ll be glad that you did!

The great English convert and Cardinal Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was convinced that the issue of liturgical reverence was of decisive importance in every age of the Church.
In fact, he contended that the presence or absence of this virtue distinguished true believers from fraudulent Christians.
With audacious verbiage, Newman declared, “There never was a time since the apostles’ day when the Church was not; and there never was a time but men were to be found who preferred some other way of worship to the Church’s way. These two kinds of professed Christians ever have been — Church Christians and Christians not of the Church; and it is remarkable, I say, that while, on the one hand, reverence for sacred things has been a characteristic of Church Christians on the whole, so, want of reverence has been the characteristic on the whole of Christians not of the Church.”
He deplored that so few believers possess this virtue.
In a staggering assertion, the cardinal said, “Whole societies called Christian make it almost a first principle to disown the duty of reverence; and we ourselves, to whom as children of the Church reverence is as a special inheritance, have very little of it, and do not feel the want of it.”
His analysis is pertinent to our times. In many parish liturgical celebrations, it is not common to find the spirit of reverence of which Newman speaks.
Today, Roman Catholic worship has become tainted with abuses, with illicit deviations, with tactless familiarity, with a loss of the sense of the sacred and with an array of disorders that trivialize the sacraments. One often sees that liturgical services have assumed the countenance of a festival of self-affirmation, are driven by formulas of consumerism, entertainment and psychotherapy or reduced to “artificial theatrics,” to use a phrase coined by our present Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.
As Newman explains, such disregard for the virtue of reverence in the sacred liturgy is not authentically Christian; it is not even authentically religious.
He asserted, “Indeed, so natural is the connection between a reverential spirit in worshipping God and faith in God that the wonder only is how anyone can for a moment imagine he has faith in God and yet allow himself to be irreverent towards him. To believe in God is to believe in the being and presence of One who is all-holy and all-powerful and all-gracious: How can a man really believe thus of him and yet make free with him? It is almost a contradiction of terms. Hence, even heathen religions have ever considered faith and reverence identical. To believe and not to revere, to worship familiarly and at one’s ease, is an anomaly and a prodigy unknown even to false religions, to say nothing of the true one. Not only the Jewish and Christian religions, which are directly from God, inculcate the spirit of reverence and godly fear, but those other religions which have existed or exist, whether in the East or the South, inculcate the same. Worship, forms of worship — such as bowing the knee, taking off the shoes, keeping silence, a prescribed dress and the like — are considered as necessary for a due approach to God. The whole world differing about so many things differing in creed and rule of life, yet agree in this: that God being our Creator, a certain self-abasement of the whole man is the duty of the creature; that he is in heaven, we upon earth: that he is all-glorious and we worms of the earth and insects of a day.”
Liturgical reverence or lack thereof is ultimately a question of faith. Do we believe that the Lord of heaven and earth is made present to us in the prescribed rites, words and symbols of the Catholic
liturgy or not? If our answer is Yes, Newman has a response to our acclamation of faith: “I say this, then, which I think no one can reasonably dispute. There are a class of feelings we should have — yes, have in an intense degree — if we literally had the sight of almighty God; therefore, they are the class of feelings which we shall have if we realize his presence. In proportion as we believe he is present, we shall have them; and not to have them is not to realize, not to believe he is present.”
Newman’s words capture the essence of liturgical reverence: Believing deeply in the Church’s liturgy, we stand before the ineffable majesty of the infinite God and behave in accord with that belief.
This is the virtue that must be rediscovered in Catholic worship today, and there is hope on the horizon. The revised English translation of the Roman Missal will be implemented in English-speaking countries this November. This translation reintroduces exalted language throughout the Mass that accentuates the holiness and glory of the Lord. We have every reason to believe that it will infuse a new spirit of reverence in the liturgy and help Catholics once again to perceive who it is they come to encounter at church and thus worship him with the profound honor and respect that he deserves. Or, as Newman would say, we are optimistic that the new translation will arouse “feelings of awe, majesty, tenderness, reverence, devotedness and other feelings which may especially be called Catholic.”
Father Timothy Byerley, Ph.D., is a priest of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey.
Read more:

Thanks be to God for the gift of the New Translation! I dare say that it has inspired a greater sense of the beauty and “other-worldliness” in the Mass. Let us continue to Walk this way of beauty together!

Let Us Together, Attempt To Transcend the Ordinary in Our Liturgies, So That The Poem May Come Alive!

The Wedding Party and Ministers
The Wedding Party and Ministers

“In courtship rituals, a gentleman might give flowers to his beloved as a token of his love; in church, Catholics genuflect or bow before the tabernacle as a sign of their faith. These gestures are completely unnecesary (some would call them artificial) but, like poetry, they are attempts to transcend the ordinary. The male suitor could have sent his beloved a note to the effect that certain biological and socially conditioned response had produced in him a feeling that is generally classified as affection; the Catholic could have quite simply stated that he believed in a divine presence then walked past the tabernacle. But in both cases the emotions spill over; ordinary language and actions cannot contatin the feelings; there is a need to break the restraints out of the practical, to “lose control,” and the result is an irrational, out of the ordinary, poetic gesture.” – Why Catholics Can’t Sing by: Thomas Day

“The Latin Church, has always kept clearly before it the fact that religion is not a syllogism but a poem.” – H. L. Mencken

Brass Quartet
Brass Quartet

This past weekend (Now two weekends ago) I was blessed to be able to attend the Nuptial Mass of two of my friends from school: Michael and Emily (Bockweg) Haley. The weekend was full of adventure, from staying at our former classmate Ben’s funeral home. But, I digress…

Procession of priests and Bishop
Procession of priests and Bishop

The first quote, listed above comes from a book that I am reading for my Senior “Thesis” paper. I am trying to discuss how we discern whether a song (or hymn) is aesthetically pleasing and appropriate for usage at Mass. Before I entered seminary I had a huge love of Liturgy. I still have a huge love of it. But, since being in seminary and joining the Schola and finally having a chance to take organ lessons I have fallen deeply in love with the life of music in the church. There is such an amazing wealth in our historic tradition of music as Catholics, things I never knew existed until coming to seminary and taking some of the classes I have on music in worship.

The Schola Cantorum
The Schola Cantorum

At the wedding this past weekend, (now two weekends ago) I was blest to be part of a 8-person Schola Cantorum, accompanied by a Brass Quartet and Organist. My classmate and dear friend Aaron Hess, conducted the group. The music was absolutley glorious. The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield, IL and concelebrated by 6 priests, including our seminary rector and a priest MC. There was incense, torches, seminarians, a deacon. If it could be done, it was almost probably done. Everyone after the Mass commented on how absolutley beautiful it was. In fact, as we were singing the Recessional: O God Beyond All Praising, several of those around me in the choir loft (including myself) just started having tears come to our eyes. You see, we had worked on the music for this Mass for almost a year. We had poured sweat, tears, laughs, and time…lots of time into these pieces. Our hearts came out when we sung the texts or played the instruments.

We had invested not only time, but most importantly ourselves into the music, into the prayers of the Mass.

Charity & Rose singing the Ave Maria
Charity & Rose singing the Ave Maria

From the reading I have done on the Liturgical Renewal in America for some of my classes I believe that many of those calling for and starting the renewal invested themselves into it. Justine Ward, one of my personal favorites, developed a methodology of teaching chant to children so that they would be able to sing the prayers of the Mass. Ward, invested herself in these children because of her love of the texts, because of her love of the Mass. Thanks to her and others we now have what is commonly called: The Dialogue Mass. A Mass in which the people and the priest share in singing, in praying the Mass.

The Schola Cantorum for the Haley Nuptials, the brass quartet and organist, all of us loved the Mass. We loved  the prayers. We loved what we were singing/playing. There’s an importance to that. When we invest ourselves in something, we find that we end up leaving a little bit of us there in it. As Mencken stated: “religion is … a poem.” The ways in which we encoutner the divine, can be simple, as Day states, they can be someone acknolwedging God’s existence in the Divine substance of the Eucharist with their voice, but as humans there is an importance to our rituals. When we genuflect we enter into that poem, we enter into the love relationship of God and Man. The Constant wooing, if you will of God and Humanity.

The Bishop sealing their love with his stole, the sign of his office.
The Bishop sealing their love with his stole, the sign of his office.

These ritualistic gestures, like when Michael prayed Evening Prayer with Emily on the side of her family’s lake and popped the question of “Will you marry me?”  or when the congregation at the Nuptial Mass knelt for the Eucharistic Prayer helps us to enter into  and invest in what we are doing. As Day states: “They are attempts to transcend the ordinary.”

The music which we sang for the Haley Wedding included beautiful pieces from our heritage as Catholics. There was the words of Thomas Aquinas for the Thanksgiving piece after Communion: Adoro Te Devote,  Devoutly, we adore you… As the bride, Emily walked down the aisle there was Brewer’s Magnificat in D, speaking of Mary saying yes to the Lord’s will and now Emily giving herself to her new vocation of marriage. After communion, during the devotion times, we sang Schubert’s Ave Maria  and a Litany to St. Joseph, as Emily and Michael placed flowers on Mary and Joseph’s altars asking them to intercede for them in their new life together. Finally the recessional was O God Beyond All Praising, singing worship and praise to God as we joined the happy couple in thanksgiving for their marriage.

The entire wedding was absolutley beautiful. Watching Bishop Paprocki, place his stole on their hands and say: “What God has joined, let no man seperate” left chills with all of us. As we sang the final verses of O God Beyond All Praising, I couldn’t help but to glance and smile at the other members of the choir. The hard work we has placed into the music for this beautiful ocasion had blossomed and come finally to completion. I glanced at Rose, one of my former classmates before she transfered and we both had tears coming down our faces. Our prayer was our singing. Our prayer for Michael and Emily was the gift of our voice. Our words helped to write the poem of this Liturgy and to assist each of those gathered and participating to transcend the ordinary, to lose control and to worship the God we all love in the best and most perfect way, we imperfect

Our organist, Mrs. Jamison
Our organist, Mrs. Jamison

people know how.

Let us together seek to, transcend the ordinary in the way we celebrate the beautiful Liturgies of our Roman Rite, so that this poem of the Paschal Mystery may come alive! Let us Walk this Way of Beauty together!




Wedding Party
Wedding Party

Oh Holy Family of Nazareth, pray for Michael and Emily Haley and help their family to be like thine!

Here’s the Video link to listen to the music from the Nuptial Mass:

“Random Organ piece??” 0:00
“Trumpet Voluntary” 2:38
“Let All Mortal Flesh” 4:06
“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” 7:38

“Introit chant (Latin)” 13:36 (Ministers, Groomsmen, and Groom)
“Canon in D” 19:37 (Bridesmaids)
“Magnificat in D Brewer” 27:14 (Bride)

“Gloria from the Mass of Wisdom” 31:05
“Responsorial Psalm” 33:17
“Festival Alleluia” 36:07

“The Servant Song” 40:16

Mass Parts were chanted simple in Latin

“”Where Charity & Love Prevail 46:17
“Adoro Te Devote” 55″05

“Ave Maria” (Schubert) 56:56
“Hymn to St. Joseph” 59:16

“O God Beyond All Praising ” 1:01:54

Seminaries are Full of Death and Dying Men

“Hey Cemeterian Corey!” is a phrase that I will never forget one of the kindergartners in Mrs. Stringer’s class at St. Joseph in Bowling Green shouting at me as they came back inside from the playground when I was visiting them a couple of years ago. Calling a seminary or a seminarian a “cemetery” is more common than you would think. Heck, even I slip up some times and say that I go to the cemetery, when I mean seminary

Fall at Crown Hill Memorial Cemetery
Fall at Crown Hill Memorial Cemetery.

For all the times that I and other brother seminarians have heard that, I wonder if it has ever really sunken in?

You go to seminary to die, in a multitude of ways. Your life is not really about you anymore, and that can really be a hard pill to swallow.

The cross that we encoutner in seminary is often carried and met in very simple ways: breaking out of your old routines, moving and pushing back your comfort zones, and pruning those areas of your life out that are detrimental to grace. The word “seminary” literally in Latin means “seed bed,” for this is where men go to become the fertile ground out of which one’s spiritual life can grow. Thanks be to God you’re not walking alone through this period of purification.

I had friends growing up and ones that I really enjoyed the company of in high school, but in seminary I finally encountered other guys wanting to be men after the heart of Christ, men who had a love of and devotion to Mary. This love of Christ saturated our conversations and guided our activities.

If you will permit me to use another analogy; seminary in a way is like a river. (And now the voice in my head is singing Peace is flowing like a river but replacing it with: “Seminary’s like a riiiivvver.” Such is my life!) IMG_0217The seminarians are the stones and the moving water is community life. Living in close quarters with 40 men is a plethera of purification. In seminary you get to learn a lot about your brothers. You learn their sleep schedule, the times of day (morning) when you don’t say anything to them lest you die. You quickly learn the patterns, peeves, and quirks (smells) of these men who you call your brothers. Like the stones in the river, community life tests and purifies you, hopefully smoothing out your rough spots, though not always. The grace is abundant though and the amazing ways in which the Lord works through your life in community can be incomprehensible.

So yes, you go to seminary to die. Seminaries are full of death. In fact every one of the men there is in the process of dying. But it is a beautiful death. A death which gives birth through Christ to a new life full of love.

In Conclusion:

Seminary life in many ways is like a cemetery. It is like a river. It’s a place where we are in a sense forced to die to ourself and our narcissitc desires and focus on others. It is in seminary that we learn the way we can love as Christ did and be able to give completely of ourself to the church. Priests marry the church. They marry the people of God whom they will serve (everyone else in the world.) As seminarians we start to be betrothed if you will to the people (the church) through our ministry experiences. We “date” the Church and decide if we are called to give of ourselves totally to her. Likewise, the people of God choose us and “date” us. At Ordination, God-willing as in a marriage when a man and woman marry one another and give their consent to marry each other. “I do.” So too, a man at his ordination standing before the Bishop and the people of God, is asked: “Do you know him to be worthy?” After which the Vocation Director responds and the people join in an affirmation of their consent by applause.

Seminary, a seed bed is a place of death. It is a cemetery of sorts, a place where we die to ourselves and our sinful desires so that we may love Christ more. Seminary is a river. It is a place where our rough edgs are made smooth and the good that the Lord has begun in us is finally brought to completion. Please pray for your seminarians. You want to have good priests? Pray for good and holy seminarians! Pray that we might be faithful to our Lord, that we may have the grace to completely surrender our will and ourselves to the process of formation. Pray for all of the new seminarians who are starting this Way of Beauty, that is seminary. Pray for us as we die to ourselves so that through Christ we might rise to give ourselves to you.

Bruté Seminarians attend the Right to Life Dinner - Indianapolis 2014
Bruté Seminarians attend the Right to Life Dinner – Indianapolis 2014