Will you Love your Bride?

Photo from the 25th Anniversary Mass of the Very Rev. Denis Robinson, OSB President-Rector of Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology April, 2018

We had the following words from Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor’s Ordination Homily in 1990 for our Catechesis and New Evangelization Class at the Seminary this week. They’re powerful, powerful words. And have been wonderful to reflect on and pray with. It’s a quick read. I encourage you to read it!

Ordination Homily, 1990
John Joseph O’Connor, Archbishop of New York (1920-2000)

I look at you as my 18 sons. I look at you as 18 bridegrooms whom I am about to give in marriage to your bride, the Church. You hav e spent many years in preparation. You have prayed, you have prepared yourselves as well as any bridegroom could to enter into your marriage. Now let us speak of this bride whom you take this day.

She’s younger than springtime, but she counts her years in centuries. She’s a startlingly beautiful bride, but she is deformed, disfigured with the wounds, with the scars of Christ Himself. She is weary with the centuries, ugly to those who do not know her as you know her.

She will be to you a gentle, patient and loving bride but she can be to you stubborn, unyielding even harsh. She will be faithful to you and yet at times, she will seem to turn away from you, even to betray you. She will be a consoling and a comforting bride, but she will be an extraordinarily demanding bride. She will lay down her life for you, but she will demand your life in return.

For this bride that you marry today is not the Church triumphant. This is the Church of this world, the Church of God’s people. God’s people who are strong and holy, God’s people who are weak and sinful. God’s people who are good and generous. God’s people who are selfish and demanding. God’s people who will love you beyond any love you ever imagined, but God’s people who, at times, will seem to you to hate you and to be resentful of you and to be spiteful toward you. God’s people, your bride, will give you ind escribable p leasure and i mme nse pain, unut ter able jo y and p rofo und sorrow . These a re God’ s people, not yet a fully risen people, not yet a perfect people. And these are the people that you take unto your own as their bridegroom, as their priest.

As your bishop, I give you but one mandate: love our Church, love God’s people. Love them for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Love them until death, after which both you and they will be transfigured in glory.

You will share intimacies with your people, but the intimacies will be your administering to them the Holy Sacraments of the Divine Bridegroo m. You will h eal, yo u will reconcile, y u will pour ou t love upon them. You will baptize their children, you will gently anoint the pained, the suffering, the dying. You will bury the dead, and above all you will enter into that most intimate of intimacies with your bride, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In the Mass you will lay down your life as Christ laid down His. Your body will be broken, as His body was broken. Your blood will be poured out as His blood was poured out. “Greater love than this no one has, ” and truly you will lay down your life for your bride, the Church, God’s people. And never, never will you find God’s people wanting in generosity, wanting in sacrifice, refusing to lay down their lives for you.

Love God’s people, be kind to them and gentle. Urge them to be what God wants them to be but forgive them when they fail to become what God wants them to become, as they, your bride, will forgive you for your sins, for your weaknesses. And if you love your bride, if you lay down your life for your bride each day, then you will find that your love will grow deeper and stronger as the years go on, just as we are told at the marriage feast at Cana, the bridegroom has saved the best wine until last. In the silver and the golden years of your priesthood, despite the sufferings you may have endured, the temptations you may have experienced, the pressures, the conflicts, the loneliness, the solitude, despite the fact that there will be days that you will ask, “Is this really what God wants of me?”– despite all of that, you will find that indeed, your love of God’s people and your priesthood will be richer, sweeter than even on this day of ordination.

My final word to you my brother priests: preach the truth always. God’s people deserve nothing less. There are ears itching for new teachings, as St. Paul tells us, but we have the teachings of Christ, of the gospel, of our Holy Father, of the bishops. Preach and teach courageously. Serve God’s people truly as their servants, never as their masters. Above all, love the Church which today you have taken as your bride.

As my Third Theology Classmates and I prepare to petition for and God/Bishop-willing be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate this school year, pray for us that we might love our Bride, love our Church, and give our lives completely to her.

Of O Antiphons, Passionist Nuns, and the silence of Advent…

“Everything that the church gives you to sing, every prayer that you say in and with Christ and his Mystical Body, is a cry of ardent desire for grace, for help, for the coming of the Messiah, the Redeemer.”

– Thomas Merton, The Seven Story Mountain
Passionist Nuns Monastery in Whitesville, KY

The Seven Story Mountain is definitely my favorite of Thomas Merton writings. The above quote popped up on my Facebook Memories this morning from a few years ago. I think that it highlights these final days of the Advent Season in a beautiful way.

Currently, at Mass and Evening Prayer we are hearing/singing/chanting/praying the “O Antiphons”, (See my post from a few years ago here.) today we heard O Clavis David…Key of David. These ancient titles for the Christ, the Messiah, the Redeemer connect us with our Jewish roots and with principal titles for the Messiah and what he will/has/does come to do for us.

This evening, we joined our dear Contemplative/Cloistered Passionist Nuns in Whitesville for a small social gathering, music, a very creative/funny skit, as well as to pray Evening Prayer in their beautiful chapel. The Sisters, like those of us at Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology  have the privilege of chanting the various hours of the Liturgy of the Hours in common. The Nuns used a beautiful tone for tonight’s Magnificat Antiphon:

O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel,
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
Come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.

As the Nuns tend to chant in a higher register than we men (it tests my Tenor voice at times) I was struck particularly during the chanting of this Antiphon with the quote I had reread earlier in the day. As the nuns chanted higher, I envisioned that Royal Power of Israel, the one who commands death and life coming from the heights and leading us forth into freedom from our sin, from our false sense of selves, from the weight of the culture’s-lived-out idea of Advent…

“Everything that the church gives you to sing, every prayer that you say in and with Christ and his Mystical Body, is a cry of ardent desire for grace, for help, for the coming of the Messiah, the Redeemer.”

– Thomas Merton, The Seven Story Mountain

To me this evening, that antiphon spoke light into the semi-dark corners of my spiritual life and helped me to see just a little bit more clearly how much more I needed Christ in my life. How I needed the Key of David to come and unlock the chains that still bind me, how I needed the Key of David to lead me into a deeper sense and lived experience of freedom.

As we have come to the end of the school semester and my mind has been bogged down for the past few weeks with finals, papers, and readings, Advent hasn’t been all that “peaceful.” Tonight, that changed. Tonight I entered a bit deeper into that peace, that quiet waiting with joy, hope, and expectation for the coming of the Messiah, our Redeemer. Tonight, in my heart, in my soul, I was able to cry out in song, chant…for grace…for help…for the coming of Emmanuel…God with us.

May you have the opportunity to sit a while, rest in the silence, the peace, the quiet waiting of these coming days so that we might join the Angels, Singing in Exultation as Christ comes not only in the manger of Bethlehem, but into the mangers of our hearts. May we make him room!

These are the wounds I wish for Lord…

“These are the wounds I wish for Lord…”

The statues of Mary and the Crucified Christ in the Church Escuela de Cristo in Antigua, Guatemala

Wounds. We all have them. Some we don’t want. Others we try to hide and still others we can’t help but recall from time to time, if not every day.

Wounds make us who we are. Wounds cut. They hurt. They go shallow and they go deep. Yet, they also can transform.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Pope Benedict XVI, in an idea that he takes from some of the Fathers. The idea that we must allow ourselves to be wounded by beauty. We must allow the beauty of God, the love of God to pierce our heart and to make it beat and bleed for love of God.

What wounds do you not want?



Not being loved?

Told that you’re worthless?

Told that you’re not beautiful?









The list could go on and on. But what happens if we allow the Lord to have that wound? What happens if we allow he Lord to take that wound and join it to his 5 most glorious and precious wounds? What if we allow the Lord to crucify that wound in our life to the cross with himself? What then?

How might our lives be changed? How might they grow? How might we be transformed by our wounds?

“Inspire our hearts, I ask you, Jesus, with that breath of your Spirit; wound our souls with your love, so that the soul of each and every one of us may say in truth: Show me my soul’s desire, for I am wounded by your love.

These are the wounds I wish for, Lord.

What if we allow our wounds to be replaced with new wounds? What if we allow Christ to wound us with his love?

The Abbot St. Columban put it beautifully in the Office of Readings this morning. Read his words below and imagine what would happen if you and I allow our wounds to be transformed by love? What would happen if we allow ourselves to be transformed by Him who loves us more than anything else he has created? What if?

From an instruction by Saint Columban, abbot

(Instr.13, De Christo fonte vitae, 2-3: Opera, Dublin 1957,118-120)

You, O God, are everything to us

Brethren, let us follow that vocation by which we are called from life to the fountain of life. He is the fountain, not only of living water, but of eternal life. He is the fountain of light and spiritual illumination; for from him come all these things: wisdom, life and eternal light. The author of life is the fountain of life; the creator of light is the fountain of spiritual illumination. Therefore, let us seek the fountain of light and life and the living water by despising what we see, by leaving the world and dwelling in the highest heavens. Let us seek these things, and like rational and shrewd fish may we drink the living water which wells up to eternal life.

Merciful God, good Lord, I wish that you would unite me to that fountain, that there I may drink of the living spring of the water of life with those others who thirst after you. There in that heavenly region may I ever dwell, delighted with abundant sweetness, and say: “How sweet is the fountain of living water which never fails, the water welling up to eternal life.”

O God, you are yourself that fountain ever and again to be desired, ever and again to be consumed. Lord Christ, always give us this water to be for us the source of the living water which wells up to eternal life. I ask you for your great benefits. Who does not know it? You, King of glory, know how to give great gifts, and you have promised them; there is nothing greater than you, and you bestowed yourself upon us; you gave yourself for us.

Therefore, we ask that we may know what we love, since we ask nothing other than that you give us yourself. For you are our all: our life, our light, our salvation, our food and our drink, our God. Inspire our hearts, I ask you, Jesus, with that breath of your Spirit; wound our souls with your love, so that the soul of each and every one of us may say in truth: Show me my soul’s desire, for I am wounded by your love.

These are the wounds I wish for, Lord. Blessed is the soul so wounded by love. Such a soul seeks the fountain of eternal life and drinks from it, although it continues to thirst and its thirst grows ever greater even as it drinks. Therefore, the more the soul loves, the more it desires to love, and the greater its suffering, the greater its healing. In this same way may our God and Lord Jesus Christ, the good and saving physician, wound the depths of our souls with a healing wound—the same Jesus Christ who reigns in unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

If you used to be Catholic, have been re-baptized, are a protestant, etc. Read this!

A disclaimer: This is a hard subject. So first, please don’t just read part of what I have to say and then stop. Read it all. From top to bottom. Thank you!

I have friends and yes, even family members who have left the Catholic Church for one reason or another. I pray each day that they might one day return home to the folds of the One, Holy, Catholic (the word means: Universal), and Apostolic Church, which Christ founded.

Why leave? Each person will say something different. They each have different reasons. And while those reasons have a value to them and deserve to be honored, and discussed so that wounds and misunderstandings can be healed, there is one main reason they leave which they won’t tell me, and I’d even dare to say it’d be something that some of them would argue about and deny. But I know. I know what the answer is that is at the root of their leaving. Because even with all of the other problems they might have with the Church, if they knew. If they believed. If they would vouch their life upon this ONE thing. They never would leave. Because that which they don’t believe is the most precious thing, the most precious person, this side of Heaven. What is the root of them leaving?

They don’t understand the Eucharist. They don’t believe Jesus at his word, that “This IS My Body…This IS My Blood.”

And who can blame them? I mean, even in the time of Jesus, as he taught this in Capernuam, many of his disciples turned and left him. Jesus says: “I am THE Bread of Life…Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life…For my Flesh is TRUE food, and my Blood is TRUE drink.” As John 6:6o says: “This saying is HARD…who can accept it?” And then later in John 6:66: “As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” (full text provided below)

Mayan woman kneeling in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament during the Octavo of Corpus Christi at the Cathedral in Antigua, Guatemala 2018

Today. In the Church. In 2018, many, many, many leave the faith. They leave the Church for one reason or another, but altogether at it’s core: “Because this teaching is hard.” If we took Jesus at his word, if we believed what he said, we would work to forgive any fault and heal any wound, because being able to consume and receive the living Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a gift we would never, ever want to be without.

So they leave the Church. They leave the Eucharist, the very Body and Blood of our Lord, and they leave his Body of the Church on Earth to join a broken part of that Body. Yes, while many protestant religions fall under the category “Christian,” they are not fully united to the Body of Christ on Earth. These aspects of “differences of faith and belief” separate and break the Body of Christ. But there is one thing that does unite us.

Baptism. Through the saving waters of Baptism, through the invocation of the Holy Trinity: “N. I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” All are united to Christ and to one another. We as Catholics profess “One Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” Once you have been baptized, whether as a baby, or a child, or an adult, the door to a Life of Grace is opened to you.

I have to admit. It stings when someone leaves the Church. It literally breaks my heart. It breaks my heart as well to see those Protestant brothers and sisters who have not yet come to the knowledge of the truth. They have intimate encounters with our Lord in prayer, with the Holy Spirit moving through their lives, but they are part of that broken body. On Good Friday, during the Solemn Intercessions, we pray and chant the beautiful prayers, praying for the whole world. The 5th Intercession is a prayer of Unity for All Christians. In it, we acknowledge that we pray for all who believe in Christ, that they who have been consecrated by Baptism, might be gathered together and united in Christ’s One Church.

V. For the unity of Christians

Let us pray also for all our brothers and sisters who believe in Christ,
that our God and Lord may be pleased,
as they live the truth,
to gather them together and keep them in his one Church.

Prayer in silence. Then the Priest says:

Almighty ever-living God,
who gather what is scattered
and keep together what you have gathered,
look kindly on the flock of your Son,
that those whom one Baptism has consecrated
may be joined together by integrity of faith
and united in the bond of charity.
Through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.


Many times, when someone leaves the Church, they are “re-baptized.” It’s as if they say that their Baptism didn’t work. Many say: “Oh, this time I chose it for myself.” Okay, real-talk-sassy, Corey is coming out now. When someone says that, do you know what an insult it is? I mean really. Saying that the faith your parents raised you in, that the saving waters pouring from the Side of Christ and opening the recipient to new life “didn’t work,” “didn’t take,” or “wasn’t your own decision” is a huge insult to the faith, the love, and the desire of your parents for you to be with them and more importantly, Jesus, forever in Heaven. By being “re-baptized” one is saying, that their parent’s desires of passing on the faith, of opening the Kingdom of Heaven and the Life of Grace to you through the saving waters of Baptism shouldn’t have been done. It’s not saying that it’s your own choice, it’s saying that Christ’s saving act wasn’t good enough for you the first time. He, the creator of perfection, the all-powerful God couldn’t do something right? I don’t think so.

It’s like when someone gives you a gift at Christmas, they thought you would love, and instead of taking and saying thank-you, you say: “Oh, I don’t want that, you can go return it.” Seriously. It’s a huge insult. Parents at baptism, give their children the second greatest gift they can after choosing life for their child. They give them the gift and hope of Eternal Life. That’s not a gift with a gift receipt. It’s not returnable. It’s eternal. *Sassy Corey, checking out…

NB: If you have been “re-baptized,” I’m not mad, and I hope that I didn’t offend you too much with my sassy-talk. There’s a reason though that re-baptism is a sting to the faith you practiced/were raised in. And the good news is that it’s just a sting. It’s not the end of the world, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Be happy that you have chosen Christ. Be happy and rejoice in your Baptism, and in the saving gift of Grace it offers you, but please read on and see why you shouldn’t go for that third “re-baptism.”

So, what does the Church have to say in all of this? She says, as long as Baptism has been performed through the Trinitarian formula, we acknowledge it and respect it for we are baptized once for the forgiveness of sin. Throughout my years of working with men and women coming into the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, I am always overwhelmed and overcome with joy when they learn that they don’t have to (nor can they) be re-baptized. The marks of Baptism form an indelible mark on the Soul of a Human person. They claim that soul for Christ. It is a mark that can never be washed away or erased. For someone who has had a long life as a member of another Christian denomination, to hear that those years of learning and growing in their relationship with Jesus mean something, that their choice to choose Baptism (or their parent’s choice to choose Baptism for their child) means something is always an overwhelming moment for those individuals.

The Church recognizes the unity and the joining into the family of God which Baptism initiates in the lives of the Christian. We respect that. We honor that. Because we honor Christ. Because we honor the faith. Because we honor and take him at his word.

St. Augustine put it beautifully in the second reading from the Office of Readings today (the full text is provided below): “Those then who tell us: You are not our brothers, are saying that we are pagans. That is why they want to baptize us again, claiming that we do not have what they can give. Hence their error of denying that we are their brothers. Why then did the prophet tell us: Say to them: You are our brothers? It is because we acknowledge in them that which we do not repeat. By not recognizing our baptism, they deny that we are their brothers; on the other hand, when we do not repeat their baptism but acknowledge it to be our own, we are saying to them: You are our brothers.”

You are our brother. You are our sister. That is what the Church says when she says that we recognize one Baptism for the forgiveness of sin. We recognize the unity of the Family of God, even though that Body might be broken, that Body is still one.

One of my friends has a very, very deep faith life. She has an incredible relationship with Jesus Christ, one which at times I could be a little envious of. She was telling me the other day about how she lives down the road from a Catholic Church. She said that when life gets stressful, when she doesn’t know what to do, when she is struggling in prayer she walks down to the Catholic Church because they have a “24/7 prayer room.” (her words) She said that when she is in that room, she can’t explain it but she has the deepest prayer experiences and the greatest amount of comfort and experience of peace she ever has. I had to laugh.

The prayer room she talks of is the Perpetual Adoration Chapel at this Church. It is the chapel where Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, our Savior and Redeemer, is exposed in the Monstrance upon the Altar. He the Lord of all, the King of Kings, the Creator of the Universe is hidden under the simple form of a piece of bread. The ultimate act of humility. God becomes man and not only does he become man to redeem man, he hides his flesh under the forms of simple food; bread and wine, which he gives to man to nourish him, restore and strengthen man’s relationship with God and bestow upon him grace upon grace upon grace. I laughed, because she experienced this peace,  the greatest sense of comfort she has ever felt because as she sits in that “24/7 Prayer Room.” She sits face to face with the Body, the very person of her Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. And slowly. Slowly she’s coming like the men along the Road to Emmaus to know Him in the Breaking of the Bread.

Whether they like it or not, those who are outside the Church are our brothers. And as our brothers and sisters, I promise you that we will strive to treat you with love, respect, and dignity.

To my brothers and sisters, my friends, my family members, come home. Please. I mean this with all of my heart. Whatever is keeping you, is separating you, is stopping you from remaining in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church that Jesus Christ founded upon the rock of Peter and the 12 Apostles, don’t let it have any more power over you! Don’t let Satan continue to deceive you and keep you from Him, the Creator, the Master Sculptor who created you wonderfully, and beautifully, to be his and His alone. Come home to Jesus. Come home to his Church. Take him at his word. If Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords said that: “This IS My Body, This IS My Blood” Why not believe him? Why not take his words and believe them completely?

If you have wounds. If someone in the Church has wronged you, if you don’t understand something, I’m sorry. I truly, truly am. And I extend to you the invitation to reach out, I won’t be sassy. I won’t be judgmental. I just want to listen, acknowledge and honor your wounds, misunderstandings, your past and I want to invite you to be healed. And I promise to stand by you and walk beside you as you explore, search, and consider coming home to Him who died for you.

We love you! HE loves you! Come home!



Full texts to both John 6:48-69 and St. Augustine’s words are provided below:


From a discourse on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop:

(Ps. 32, 29; CCL 38, 272-273)

Whether they like it or not, those who are outside the Church are our brothers

We entreat you, brothers, as earnestly as we are able, to have charity, not only for one another, but also for those who are outside the Church. Of these some are still pagans, who have not yet made an act of faith in Christ. Others are separated, insofar as they are joined with us in professing faith in Christ, our head, but are yet divided from the unity of his body. My friends, we must grieve over these as over our brothers; and they will only cease to be so when they no longer say our Father.

The prophet refers to some men saying: When they say to you: You are not our brothers, you are to tell them: You are our brothers. Consider whom he intended by these words. Were they the pagans? Hardly; for nowhere either in Scripture or in our traditional manner of speaking do we find them called our brothers. Nor could it refer to the Jews, who do not believe in Christ. Read Saint Paul and you will see that when he speaks of “brothers,” without any qualification, he refers always to Christians. For example, he says: Why do you judge your brother or why do you despise your brother? And again: You perform iniquity and common fraud, and this against your brothers.

Those then who tell us: You are not our brothers, are saying that we are pagans. That is why they want to baptize us again, claiming that we do not have what they can give. Hence their error of denying that we are their brothers. Why then did the prophet tell us: Say to them: You are our brothers? It is because we acknowledge in them that which we do not repeat. By not recognizing our baptism, they deny that we are their brothers; on the other hand, when we do not repeat their baptism but acknowledge it to be our own, we are saying to them: You are our brothers.

If they say, “Why do you seek us? What do you want of us?” we should reply: You are our brothers. They may say, “Leave us alone. We have nothing to do with you.” But we have everything to do with you, for we are one in our belief in Christ; and so we should be in one body, under one head.

And so, dear brothers, we entreat you on their behalf, in the name of the very source of our love, by whose milk we are nourished, and whose bread is our strength, in the name of Christ our Lord and his gentle love. For it is time now for us to show them great love and abundant compassion by praying to God for them. May he one day give them a clear mind to repent and to realize that they have nothing now but the sickness of their hatred, and the stronger they think they are, the weaker they become. We entreat you then to pray for them, for they are weak, given to the wisdom of the flesh, to fleshly and carnal things, but yet they are our brothers. They celebrate the same sacraments as we, not indeed with us, but still the same. They respond with the same Amen, not with us, but still the same. And so pour out your hearts for them in prayer to God.


Bread of Life Discourse:

John 6:48-69

48I am the bread of life.49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”a

52The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”53Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.54Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.57Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.b58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”59These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

The Words of Eternal Life.*60Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”61Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?62What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?*63It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh* is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.64But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.c65And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

66As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.67Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”68Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.69We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

48I am the bread of life.49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”a

52The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”53Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.54Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.57Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.b58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”59These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

The Words of Eternal Life.*60Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”61Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?62What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?*63It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh* is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.64But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.c65And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

66As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.67Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”68Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.69We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”


Can I Be A Weak Priest?

“Can you be a weak priest?”

So ended a conversation I had recently with my mentor for my Pastoral Year. Both Fr. Jerry and I had stayed up way too late enjoying a drink, celebrating Easter and discussing different aspects of my time at St. Stephen Cathedral. The school year ends in just a matter of weeks and I was discussing my final evaluation with Father, talking about areas I have grown in and areas that still challenge me.

Since that conversation, I have taken the “rhetorical question” Father Jerry asked me to prayer, asking our Lord, what it means to me and in my discernment at this time. “Can I be a weak priest?” Maybe it would help a bit if I put this statement into some context.

I have been called many things in my life and during this Pastoral Year. I heard a new one on Monday; “Chief bottle-washer.” I honestly had no idea what that meant, so I asked some of our office ladies. They responded that it was the 17855438_1445955895454724_1865125997131649018_osame as when I say: “Im a jack of all trades and a master of none.” I’m a talented individual. I’m not bragging by this statement, but honestly acknowledging that God has blessed me with many gifts. I’m a musician, a woodworker, a photographer (amateur), I can fix plumbing problems, I’m a gardener, I’m a techie, I’m a decorator, I’m a extrovert, I’m a host, I’m an MC, I’m a cook, I’m a Youth Minister, I’m a graphics designer, I’m a team player, I’m a doer, I’m a leader, I’m a man of community, I’m a friend, I’m a tractor-driver, I try to be generous with my time, I’m many many things. God has blessed me abundantly, and for that, each day I am truly thankful.

With being a man of many talents I pray, and work that I will be a good investor, a good sharer, and user of my talents, like we hear Christ speak of in Matthew 25:14-30 in the Parable of the Talents. At the same time that I have and use all of these talents I like any other man am weak. I have weaknesses and challenges like anyone else, though I don’t always show them. This gets to the heart, I think of what Fr. Jerry was challenging me on and encouraging me to grow in. He also said: “I think that sometimes people like to see their priest mess up and make mistakes. They’ll talk about it for a long time after, not because they think it’s funny, or like to see someone do something wrong, but they want to see that their priest is human.”

In the Exsultet, which I was blessed to chant at the Easter Vigil at St. Stephen Cathedral this year, is an ancient hymn of praise, recounting the blessings and workings of God through man across the centuries, from the first fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden, to the saving of the Israelites from the Egyptians in the Red Sea, to the coming of Christ, the Son of God and Man to redeem the world and draw it back to his Father. There are countless beautiful images of light versus 17904067_10212867266013332_7236651706856425136_ndarkness, with the light always triumphing and coming over the darkness, allowing the mercy, love, and strength of God to show. As I sang “the praises of this pillar, which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor,” I was filled with love. I made the chant my prayer, recounting how God was “leading them (the people) to grace and joining them to his holy ones.” As I sang of how “This is the night, when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld” I also sang of how the first sin of Adam and Eve was indeed a “happy fault, which earned for us so great and glorious a redeemer!” I chanted of how that happy fault, which wounded the world was necessary for salvation. I love that line: “happy fault.” Yes, sin is bad, yes when we fall we sometimes do so pretty hard, yet it is what comes after that defines us. It is what comes after that makes us into the better men and women God has called us to be.

I have a lot of gifts. I also have a lot of weaknesses. I have a lot of faults, which through the grace of God I continually try to turn into those “happy faults,” and use them to become a better man. I can be cynical, I can gossip, I can curse like a sailor, I can be angry, I can be selfish, I can make it all about me, I can be jealous, I can be lazy, I’m the king and first card-carrying member of the procrastination club, I can be a perfectionist, I can be overly OCD, I can judge others, I can be a lot things and do a lot of things that separate me from God, the church, and the community as a whole. Yet, like Venerable Bruno Lanteri I remember and act on: Nunc Coepi! Being again! I rise and turn my fault into a happy fault, I use it as a stepping stone into something greater that God has called me to do.

So. Can I be a weak priest? Can I let another see my wounds? Can I allow the Lord to not only work through my strengths and gifts, but also through my weaknesses? Can I let my weaknesses transform me more after the Heart of Christ into who he wants me to be and not just what I think I should be?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,* in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Father Jerry’s question will continue to be a challenge for this hard-headed, german-blooded, blessed seminarian who is just trying to make sense of what the Lord is asking of me each day. It is something that will take time to become more “okay” with. Bearing our wounds to another, letting another know that we are broken, that we have faults, that I have shortcomings, is never easy. But it is necessary.

As Christ hung upon the cross, stripped of his dignity, bearing everything from the weight of our sins, to his own human emotions had to be rough. But, the Resurrection, the story of new life doesn’t come easily. It is only through hardships, through trials, through faults-made happy, that we are able to glimpse and better come to understand the loving God who made us and calls us to be His.

IMG_5529Pray for me, as I continue to try to be okay with being a weak seminarian and hopefully one day a weak priest, for it is only then, that Christ will more fully be able to dwell with me. Pray that: “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ;…”*

” for when I am weak, then I am strong.” *- 2 Corinthians 12:9

On the Day I Called for Help – Reflection on Faithfulness in the Lord’s Prayer


In today’s Responsorial Psalm, we hear:

“Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.” – Psalm 138

Each and every time that we invoke the name of the Lord, he answers us. It might not DSC_5533always be in the way which we desire him to answer, yet he is always there and always answers. We read in Isaiah 55:8:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways.”

One of the things which Father Jason, my Vocation Director and I talked about recently was that at the end of our lives we will not be judged so much by what we have done wrong, our sins, yes those will be taken into account, but we will be judged by our faithfulness. Christ will not ask us why did you lie to your mother when you broke the vase? Why were you unfaithful to your wife? Why did you abort your child? Instead he will ask us, “How did you remain faithful to me?” “What did you do after you fell?” Christ asks each of us for our faithfulness. He is a loving and merciful God, if we pick ourselves up each time we fall, if we go and place our trust, our hope, our faith, our love in Him, nothing else matters. We always end up falling, sinning, but it’s in those moments of standing back up and re-orienting ourselves toward God that Christ extends his mercy towards us, calls us to Himself, and sanctifies us through his Blood.

How will we remain faithful to him? How each day can we give completely of ourselves to the work of the Lord in our lives?  In today’s Gospel, Christ teaches his disciples (us) how to pray. He teaches us through this prayer how we can remain faithful in the simplest way. Now, this is different from the normal Lord’s Prayer or Our Father that most know how to pray, as the one Christians normally use comes from the Gospel of Matthew, and not Luke. Luke’s version is a little shorter and is different yet very much the same at its core.

GospelLK 11:1-13

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Christ teaches us through the Lord’s Prayer and the parables after that what we ask will be given us by the Father, in his way, but still if we ask we shall receive, if we seek, we shall find, if we knock the door to Eternal Life will be opened up to us.

How do we remain faithful to Christ?

We go to him each day and we ask for our daily bread, we ask for what we need, knowing that it will be done as is in his kingdom, we ask for forgiveness of our sins,DSC_5536 knowing that we too must forgive others of theirs towards us. And we ask that God will not abandon us, that he will help us to stay faithful to him, especially as we walk through the final test, the temptations of the world, at the end of our lives, at every moment where we know we need God’s help.

May we pray the Lord’s Prayer with great fervor in our lives. May we give completely of ourselves to His will, towards the movings and calling of His Spirit, and may we through the grace of God always stand up when we fall, turn back to the Lord with all our heart, may we always stay faithful to him, who is first and always faithful to us. Then, we will know the mercy and faithfulness of Him like the Psalmist knows as he prays:

“Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.” – Psalm 138



“That All Might Sing” – My Paper on Pope St. Pius X’ paper on Church Music and the Chant Method of Justine Ward

For the Feast of Pope St. Pius X:

Originally written for Dr. Katharine Harmon’s History of the Catholic Church in America Class on 11-21-14.

690_Justine_Ward_Gajard_1949I enjoyed writing this piece on how Pope St. Pius X’ document Tra Le Sollecitudini was interpreted and engaged here in America, specifically by Justine Ward, who founded an amazing way of teaching Gregorian Chant to children. Justine started and held the first Congress for Chant in America. “What she wants above all,” wrote Dom Augustine Gatard, O.S.B., Prior of Farnborough Abbey, England, who was at the Congress, “is to put the faithful, all the faithful, in the position to participate actively, as much as possible … in the liturgy and in the chant of the Catholic Church.” (2) She especially encouraged girls’ choirs. (3) In a private audience in 1924, Pope Pius XI gave his Apostolic blessing to her work. (4) Thanks be to God for Justine Ward and the many others who assisted in the beautiful Liturgical Renewal we have had in the Church. May it continue to be renewed and may Justine Ward and St. Pius X, help teach us a little bit about walking the Way of Beauty to Heaven, more specifically through the Heavenly Liturgy.

That All Might Sing: American Catholic Responses to Pope St. Pius X’ Tra le Sollecitudini

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.” (Chase, 61) While Adams witnessed the beauty of the proper execution of “Romish” chant in October 9, 1774 he never could have envisioned what would one day take place in the country soon to be founded in regards to the proper execution, teaching, and use of Gregorian chant. Throughout the early part of the 20th century a response to Pope St. Pius X’s 1903 Tra le Sollecitudini (Instruction on Sacred Music) was carried out across the globe by Catholic musicians in different ways. Some, embraced the changes wholeheartedly, others chose to implement parts of them with and without proper catechesis. In the United States of America Pius X’s Motu Proprio was embraced particularly by Justine Ward a woman with little musical instruction, but with a passion for music and her new faith. Across the board, the training of the young in the church’s tradition of music was seen as one of the most important responses to Pius X’s instruction on Sacred Music. Ward and others took this to heart in developing programs, which educated the young in methods of chanting and ensured that all might sing.

From 1903 on into the 1920’s and finishing up around the 1950’s what could be called as the last “traditional” Catholic music movement occurred in response to Pius X’s Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini (hereafter referred to as “TLS”). TLS was written and promulgated by Pius X after a series of abuses in regards to music in the liturgy kept happening. Pius ordered that there be two particular types of music to be used in the Roman Liturgy. That is, Gregorian chant, which has been “inherited from the ancient fathers” (Pius X, II 3) and Classic Polyphony. The main reason for these abuses was that the music was becoming quite operatic and theatrical. Instead of being music, which by nature of its’ composition and execution lifted the congregation to God and was a prayer in itself; music in the Sacred Liturgy had become a show, detracting from the sacred action occurring.

As previously stated, throughout the early twentieth century there was a varied array of

Pope St. Pius X

Pope St. Pius X

responses to Pius X’s TLS, one of which was the action of Justine Ward. Ward, thought to have had no formal training in “vocal music, choral music, or pedagogy” (Brancaleone, 7) became known as one of the leading advocates of and promulgators of Gregorian chant in America. Due to her parent’s wishes for her to not pursue a musical degree in Europe, she was left with receiving private musical instruction. (Zuberbueler, 14) Ward, a Catholic convert started to fall in love with Gregorian chant due to her friendship with Fr. Thomas E. Shields and Fr. John B. Young SJ (Brancaleone, 8) and having attended a retreat given “at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Manhattanville in Harlem” (Brancaleone, 8) by another Jesuit she began to learn the basics of pedagogy (the methods and concepts of teaching) and formulate ideas on how to teach Gregorian Chant to children.

America in the 20th century was still largely protestant, no doubt due to the large number of protestant immigrants who settled the country early on. One has to wonder as to why in 1903 a church, struggling to become better recognized and understood in the mainstream (and mostly protestant) culture would continue to push the use of a language (latin) which was no longer spoken conversationally, in not only their worship but especially in their music. Robert Holzmer S.M. wrote an article about the people not “liking” Gregorian chant in the then-popular Catholic Music journal: The Caecilia. In his article he discusses a few reasons of why Gregorian chant is not liked by the majority of Catholic congregations. Pius X and his Motu Proprio is one of the first “authorities” on the subject that he quotes. Holzmer argues partially that because the pope said it, it must be true, but also from an informed knowledge and understanding of Gregorian chant. “Gregorian Chant is Church music while the other forms are also church music” (241) Holzmer reconnects his future points back to Pius X, reaffirming what he stated of Gregorian chant as having pride of place in the Roman Liturgy, but also acknowledging that other types of music (classical polyphony) can be used as well. Holzmer goes on to state that there are several factors at play with why people don’t like Gregorian chant. Factors such as an ill-trained choir, poor musicianship on behalf of the choir, conductor, and organist, and the basic element of people not understanding the reasons for the use of Gregorian chant or the language it is in. Holzmer closes his article by stating: The most important of all, and, unfortunately, the most neglected. It is the training of the young in music…” (241) Like Ward, Holzmer recognized that without the training of the young in the music of the church, there would never be a hope for “this venerable music…to come back to its rightful domain, when it will be supreme again in fact as it has always been by right?”

Dom G Mercure, a Benedictine Monk of the Monastery of St. Benoit-du-Lac, Quebec wrote in a 1935 issue of The Caecilia: “one of the reasons why Gregorian Chant is not more widespread in ecclesiastical music circles is because the public expect to find in Gregorian chant, or plain chant, the same element of sensible pleasure that is found in profane music or even in religious music other than plain chant.” (213) Pius X in his Motu Proprio TLS knew well the state of music in the church and world. For instance throughout the War Between the States (1861) Union and Confederate Soldiers used hymns as a way of rallying the troops and bringing them comfort from home. Hymns such as the Battle Hymn of the Republic, or Dixie would be heard across the battlefields as soldiers marched. Still others such as Amazing Grace, or It Came Upon the Midnight Clear were sung in many protestant churches at their services. Hymns in the spoken language of the people gathered, tended to have more emotional and pleasurable connotations associated with them. As people heard these hymns full of poetic and beautiful language they were attracted to them more and more. The chants of the church in a language unknown seemed distant and did not stir the emotions of the musically untrained ear. How were the Catholic musicians in America supposed to combat these feelings, which could not be ignored?

Justine Ward in her article for the Atlantic Monthly published in 1906 The Reform in Church Music puts it well: “church music is made up of two elements, music and prayer, and it cannot be judged by the value of one of its elements tested as a separate entity . . . “Lex orandi lex cantandi”… Prayer and music must so combine as to make one art; the music must pray, the prayer-must sing…This, then, is the true test of a musical composition for the church: Does it conform to the law of prayer?” (455) According to Justine music should not be judged as solely inspiring emotion or being judged on the music alone, rather music for use in the Liturgy is interwoven with prayer in such a manner that the two cannot be separated. For to separate these two things, which in a way are one, is to tear that work of art apart. To Pius X, Gregorian Chant is the primary music of the church. Holzmer, Ward, and Mercure all agree that there are certain aspects of Gregorian Chant which must be met in order to ensure that it is sung properly and can truly be that unification of “music and prayer” (Ward 455) The promulgation of Gregorian chant in the church as well as to provide the means necessary for its’ survival relied upon the teaching and training of the young in chanting and the proper execution of this tradition. Ward, working with Fr. Shields, Fr. Young, and eventually Dom André Mocquereau (founder of the Solesmes method of Gregorian chant) created a program that would do just that.

Early in her career, after her conversion to the Catholic Church and divorce of her husband (which left her considerably wealthy) Ward started working with Fr. Shields and Young while assisting at the Catholic University of America. After a short period there “in the summer of 1916, Mother Georgia Stevens asked Ward to come to Manhattanville” (Brancaleone 10) In 1917, she with the help of Mother Stevens created the Pius X Institute of Liturgical Music, a school devoted to training teachers and students in not only what was becoming known as the “Ward Method,” but also in other forms of Liturgical Music in the Church. Ward’s method of teaching chant to the young was unique in that it used body movements as a way of understanding rhythm. Through the Pius X Institute and her newfound friendships with Dom Mocquereau, and others Ward began to share her method of teaching Gregorian chant with others in other countries. “In 1925, Ward brought her method to Holland…Belgium, France, England, Ireland, New Zealand, China, and Italy.” (Zuberbueler, 16) For Ward teaching and singing Gregorian chant was a chance at learning, singing, and praying. It was a way of living the liturgical life of the church in a new way.

While Ward worked on the teaching of Gregorian Chant others in America took a different approach to the Pius X’s TLS. According to Paul Hume’s Catholic Church Music, one of the ways in which the objectives of the Motu Proprio were enforced was through the creation of a “White List.” “The “White List” is a list of music approved for use in church by the St. Gregory Society of America. The idea of having a “white list” comes from Pius X: “Still, since modern music has risen mainly to serve profane uses, greater care must be taken with regard to it, in order that the musical compositions of modern style which are admitted in the Church may contain nothing profane, be free from reminiscences of motifs adopted in the theaters, and be not fashioned even in their external forms after the manner of profane pieces.” (Pius X, II 5) This movement in the church away from music of a secular nature was led by Pius X and joined by Ward, the St. Gregory Society of America and others. Ward and the St. Gregory Society of America published hymnals containing chants and hymns, which followed the “Classic Polyphony” called for by Pius X. Pope Pius XII later in 1955, published Musicae Sacrae Disciplina an instruction on the usage of hymns for the liturgy.

In Musicae Sacrae Disciplina, Pius XII says: “We must also hold in honor that music which is not primarily a part of the sacred liturgy, but which by its power and purpose greatly aids religion. This music is therefore rightly called religious music. The Church has possessed such music from the beginning and it has developed happily under the Church’s auspices. As experience shows, it can exercise great and salutary force and power on the souls of the faithful, both when it is used in churches during non-liturgical services and ceremonies, or when it is used outside churches at various solemnities and celebrations.” (Pius XII 36) Granted the usage of hymns was already something that was customary in the church at the time. With the stipulations imposed on music by Pius X, hymns (note: vernacular hymns) were not to be used in the Liturgy, but instead could be used for prayers, gatherings, processions, novenas, etc. In short, they could only be used for celebrations outside of the Liturgy. Gregorian Chant was still the official music of the church and remains so to this day.

For some 60ish years the stipulations imposed by TLS stood and the Ward Method helped ensure its’ future survival. Though as the Church drew closer and closer to the middle of the 20th century the advent of the Second Vatican Council appeared on the horizon. Up until this point Gregorian Chant and Classical Polyphony were the only types of music to be used in the Liturgy. Ward’s method seemed to prosper, for decades, being spread throughout the world. With the end of the 1950’s and the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in sight, church music in America was once again something talked about. Gregorian Chant was the norm for music in parishes; even the smallest tried to create a choir, which would be able to chant the Propers of the Mass. Hymns were sung by Catholics in the 20th century (including some protestant ones) as long as it was for worship outside of Solemn Liturgical Functions.  The renewal of Gregorian Chant in the church was almost complete and there were many to thank for it. The movement of 20th century Catholic Church Music in America was one that will forever define the history of the church here and around the world. The impact of one woman who embraced the call of the Holy Father to return to the sacred traditions of music in the church through the construction of her teaching methods ensured that all, whether young or old could chant with a little effort. For Justine Ward chant could not be “listened to as music” rather through the “ears of faith”(Ward, 460) To her “the music must pray and the prayer must sing” (455) “For the carrying-out of the full ideal demands the co-operation of the entire people, who will no longer assist at, but take part in, the liturgy. This may not be accomplished in a day, but the Church works for the future, and already she is sowing the seeds. The little Catholic school child is learning to pray, not only in words, but also in song; not only in the Church’s language, Latin, but in her musical language,

Chant; and when these children grow up, our choirs will be the whole Catholic world. While the variable and the more elaborate parts of the liturgy will demand the great genius, the great artist, the simpler parts will be taken up spontaneously by the entire congregation; producing the superb contrast of, on the one hand, the perfection of art, and on the other, the majesty of numbers. This is, indeed, nothing new: it is thus that the liturgy is intended to be rendered; it is thus that it has been rendered in the past, and is still rendered in a few centres of Catholic life. It is simply a return to the true ideal, a “renewing of all things in Christ,” a revitalizing, through art, of the spirit of Catholic democracy and universality.” (Ward 462-463)

Justine Ward and others worked tirelessly, embracing the call of the reforms instituted by Pius X and catered them specifically to children. They worked for an idea that would be largely envisioned in coming years by the Second Vatican Council. They worked to ensure that all might sing.

Work Cited

Brancaleone, Francis. “Justine Ward and the Fostering of an American Solesmes Chant Tradition” Sacred Music Fall 2009: 6-26. Print.

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

Holzmer, Robert. “People don’t Like Gregorian Chant” The Caecilia May 1935: 239-232. Print.

Hume, Paul. Catholic Church Music Binghamton: Vail-Ballou Pres, Inc. 1956. Print.

Mercure, Dom G. “True Church Music Should Calm the Mind Not Minister to the Senses” The Caecilia May 1936: 213-214. Print.

Pius X, Pope. Tra Le Sollecitudini, Vatican City: Vatican State, 1903. Vatican.va

Pius XII, Pope. Musicae Sacrae, Vatican City: Vatican State, 1955. Vatican.va

Ward, Justine B. “The Reform In Church Music” The Atlantic Monthly January 1907:455-463. Print.

Zuberbueler, Amy. “The Ward Method: Chant from the Ground Up” Sacred Music Spring 2006: 14-17. Print.

How Make a Wish and a Bishop helped an 11 year old boy be a “priest for a day.”

Brett Haubrich and Archbishop Carlson

Brett Haubrich and Archbishop Carlson

Reposted from: http://stlouisreview.com/article/2015-04-02/priest-day-wish-came

Make-A-Wish requests often involve meeting athletes, attending sporting events or traveling to amusement parks or beaches.

When it came time for 11-year-old Brett Haubrich of south St. Louis County to make his wish, he not only listed none of those things but had no request at all.

“He didn’t want anything,” explained his mother, Eileen. “They had to keep asking him, ‘What would you like to do? Do you want to meet anybody? What do you want to be when you grow up?'”

The answer to the last question became part of his wish — what Make-A-Wish calls “wish enhancement” to complement the main wish. The sixth-grader at St. Mark School wants to be a priest, a doctor or an engineer, in that order.

Priest was No. 1

“I said, ‘I really want to be a priest,'” he said.

So, on Holy Thursday, at the invitation of Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Brett took his place beside the altar at Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis as “Priest For a Day.”

Brett served not one but two Masses — the Chrism Mass and the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper — and held the book for Archbishop Carlson for prayers after the homilies. At the evening Mass, he was with 11 seminarians having their feet washed by Archbishop Carlson, and his parents brought up the gifts of bread and wine.

He also joined Archbishop Carlson for two meals; a luncheon with archdiocesan priests and deacons after the Chrism Mass and a dinner with seminarians at the archbishop’s residence before the evening Mass.

Best of all, he wore a collar provided by a seminarian from Kenrick-Glennon.

As for his favorite part of the entire day, Brett was unequivocal in his answer.

“The whole thing,” he said as he waited for his dad, Conrad, near the Cathedral Basilica sanctuary with his mom and older sister Olivia after the Chrism Mass. “It was really neat for them to let me do this stuff.”

And cool, too — a term he used often in describing the day.

“Just a really cool experience,” he said.

His actual wish is cool, too.

“Eating mangoes on a beach,” his mother said.

That trip will come later. His interim “priest-for-a-day” request didn’t surprise his family.

“For years, he has loved the Mass and been religious,” said Eileen Haubrich, a graduate of Notre Dame High School. “He has such a good heart. He’s a very caring boy.”

The second of Eileen and Conrad’s four children and oldest of two sons, Brett has served at his school church and at his parish, St. Martin of Tours, which is visible from the back door of his house only a short walk away.

He digs the smell of incense burning in the thurible, enjoys confession and likes “communion, and the songs, too.”

Communion — the Eucharist, the living presence of Jesus Christ — stands out.

“I like receiving the Body and the Blood,” he said, simply

Brett and his family told several priests about his request, and they offered several options – like shadowing one, spending the night at a rectory with his dad or serving a Saturday morning Mass at the New Cathedral.

The latter request was made of Father Nick Smith, the Master of Ceremonies at the Cathedral Basilica. His initial response was “no way,” followed quickly by “we can do way better than that.”

Sure enough, they did.

“I said, ‘Why don’t we have him come down for Holy Thursday? He can serve the Chrism Mass — it’s a Mass for priests — and that night mass is always about the Eucharist,'” Father Smith said, repeating the two main aspects of the Masses that fit Brett. “Priests and Eucharist.”

Archbishop Carlson also played a big role. During the initial phone call about Brett’s request, he actually was with Father Smith in the Cathedral sacristy getting ready for his Lenten reflection

“It just so happened he was standing right next to me,” said Father Smith, who described Archbishop Carlson as “very excited. He was throwing out ideas right and left, ‘Let’s do this, let’s do that.'”

Archbishop Carlson came up with ideas of the seminarians dinner and of the foot washing.

“He said, ‘Put him in there; we’ll wash his foot,'” Father Smith said, with a laugh. “Before you knew it, it turned into a whole day.”

Father Smith prepared an itinerary and delivered it in person along with a letter signed by Archbishop Carlson asking for Brett’s help at the Masses.

“I handed it to him, and when he got to the first line, ‘I’m making you a priest for a day,’ his eyes got as big as half-dollars,” Father Smith said.

Brett admitted to being a little nervous heading into Holy Thursday, but the events went off like clockwork. Wearing the collar, Brett processed down the center aisle at the New Cathedral with priests, deacons and seminarians at the Chrism Mass — at which Archbishop Carlson blessed the oils to be used throughout the archdiocese for sacraments for the next year — and took his spot near the altar.

He performed flawlessly.

“He did pretty well,” Archbishop Carlson said.

See more photos from his adventure here: http://stlouisreview.photoshelter.com/embed?type=slideshow&G_ID=G0000NHpmvWiCF1w#!/slideshow/I0000LbhITXvu2SI/null 

Pretty cool eh?!? What can you do to inspire vocations and help instill a love of the Mass, Liturgy, Christ, and his church in our youth? How can we help others to join us in walking this Way of Beauty even closer?

Avoiding Hypocrisy of Prayer in Seminary :: Reflections from praying Compline on Campus

Adoration & Compline on Campus

Adoration & Compline on Campus

Being in Seminary I tend to take things for granted. The beautiful liturgies, structured prayer time, community of men who all thirst for holiness, etc. Over time I think that it can become a sort of routine and we lose sight of what is really important and the focus of our prayer. This sense of “hypocrisy in prayer” can be looked at as being false piety, laziness in prayer, or just having no motivation to do anything spiritual or deepen our prayer life.

This evening I was invited to come to Night Prayer on campus and help teach everyone how to chant the Ave Regina Caelorum, which is the Marian Antiphon we sing from February 2 until Easter after Night Prayer. Now let me be frank with you all. Prayer opportunities on campus can sometimes challenge me. They can sometimes be deeply soaked in too much social justice and strange theological errors, or just be stuck a few decades behind. This causes problems because those present can lose sight of the need to focus on our own spiritual growth. Social Justice and music from the 70’s can be good, but as Aquinas said: “Moderation.” Not to mention that sometimes the community on campus can be seen as doing things in ways contrary to how we are being trained to do them at the seminary. This can cause pastoral situations which put men in formation in a bind as to what they should do. (Which, is actually good for Ministry, but enough of that.)

So basically, I was a little worried about this experience, but I should have remembered not to judge a book by its’ cover. Lesson learned. (Hey, I’m human and I make mistakes) When I got over to campus we all had to wait outside the door, since the electronic pass for our ID’s wouldn’t let us enter the building. A quick call to Daniel and we were let in. We headed to the chapel and after about 10 minutes of quiet prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament we began to pray Night Prayer.

Let me first speak of the quietness and reverence which existed in that small chapel. I was talking with a priest friend the other day who remarked that it was odd that on the weekends we had to stay at the seminary for Mass. In his mind, we should be out at the parishes, giving witness to vocations and gaining valuable experience. There is something to be said of this. Being stuck in the seminary we can get caught in the wake and lose sight of that vocation to service, which is the priesthood. Countless priests have remarked to me that: “You do not have a vocation to seminary, but priesthood.” When we have moments of service to others and experiences of encountering others in intimate ways it helps to refocus on what we are in seminary for.

The priest is first ordained a deacon, the ministry of service. As Christ served others, so we are called to serve. Kneeling and sitting in the chapel I was surrounded by quietness, and a wide range of postures. People kneeling without kneelers, making themselves as small as they could by lying prostrate, sitting in the pews, and a multitude of other movements. During adoration at the seminary we all kneel together, or sit. The routine-ness of our posture at times can make us forget what we are doing I think. Before we began to pray I sang the Ave Regina Caelorum one time through so that everyone sort of knew how it went, before we began to pray. Night Prayer at the seminary and really any prayer can seem rushed. Guys are so used to doing it and let’s face it it IS mandatory that we be there and do it, so it can be seen as something to just be gotten done with and over with. Fr. Joe commented the other day on how praying the Liturgy of the Hours is called the Work of the Church. We are called to make sacrifices when we pray it and to really work at it for the salvation of all of the people of God.

Sitting in the chapel as we began to pray there was a slow, even pace, with ample times of pause and silence between stanzas and parts for reflection and meditation. There was time to sit in the presence of Christ and just be. I was asked to read the reading, which surprised me but I appreciated the offer and the sense of want to include me as I technically was/am a bit of an outsider to the community gathered. We then chanted the Ave Regina Caelorum and sang Tantum Ergo before one of the students reposed the Blessed Sacrament. Even singing the Tantum Ergo was slow and thoughtful. Then we shared a Sign of Peace with each other and went our separate ways.

So in short, what am I thinking of?

Prayer is a labor of love. As Men in formation we are called to fall in love with Christ and develop a deep and intimate relationship with him. Overtime, the way we pray in the seminary can seem routine, and we can get stuck in the rut of praying, but really not being all there. I am calling this: The hypocrisy of prayer. How do we remedy it?

  • Get out of the seminary! Spend some time on a Saturday evening at a parish Mass in town. Meet some friends for prayer on campus throughout the day or go to Stations of the Cross at a parish nearby.
  • BE Active. Don’t wait for your prayer life to improve. MAKE it improve. Offer 110% to God and he will repay you tenfold. Make your prayer your work. Make it a labor of love.
  • Fall madly in love with Christ. Spend time with him. Change up your prayer habits. Whether it means kneeling or walking when praying the rosary or singing your office instead of reading it silently. Change it up every now and then to keep it fresh and new.
  • Pray INTENTLY and WITH MEANING. One of the things I love about praying with some of my priest friends back home is that we pray the LOTH as if it were a conversation. (And it is. We join Christ in offering it up to the Father.) Put emotion and emphasis behind it. Don’t just be monotone. Focus on what you say and pray.
  • Slow it down. Breath, relax, think about what you pray and take some time. Give to God your time and you will still get everything else in life done, usually easier than if you did it yourself.

I am going to try to avoid falling into the hypocrisy of prayer while I continue throughout Seminary. I encourage you to encourage/challenge me, and to strive to grow as well. Prayer is a beautiful thing. Let’s make it matter more to us. Don’t fall into the rut, but if you do, climb out and try again. Our Lord doesn’t demand our love. He invites us to give it to him. Fall in love. Pray like you mean it. Strive for holiness as we continue to walk this Way of Beauty together.

Notate Bene: Thanks so much to Fletcher, Connor, Billy, and everyone on campus who made tonight so special for me. Your sense of love and devotion to our Lord is so refreshing and has truly helped me to grow. Thank-you!

Walking along the Sea of Galilee – The first seminary for the Fishers of Men


The Sea of Galilee

Todays introit give us a foreshadowing of the Gospel for this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time B: “The Lord walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Peter and Andrew, and he called out to them: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

And since I can’t help myself, here’s the original latin text with my meager translations: “Dominus  secus (walking by or along) mare Galilaeae (the sea of Galilee) vidit duos fratres,(He saw two brothers) Petrum et Andream,(Peter and Andrew) et vocavit eos:(And “He” called them) Venite post me: (Come follow after me) faciam vos fieri piscatores hominum.”(I will make you become”fieri” fishers of men)

This Sunday’s Gospel comes from the first chapter of Mark and recounts what happened after John had been arrested. Christ came and called Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John. He told them, come. Follow me. I will make you fishers of men. There was something special about what Christ told these four men. Something that they knew instantly upon hearing his words that made them follow him.

If you ever have read or listened to anything about vocations the phrase: “Fishers of Men” is very very common. It has become something synonymous with the priesthood. The idea of a man going out and fishing, not for fish, but rather for men seems similar to the idea of a man going out and seeking souls, winning souls for Christ and his kingdom of Heaven.

In the time of Christ the Rabbi was a reverenced and very well-respected member of the community. The smartest Jewish boys were chosen as apprentices of sorts who would follow the rabbi and learn from him. Most likely this was the same case with Christ. He was the rabbi and the four he called had heard of him and his preaching. These simple somewhat common or to some “stupid” uneducated men were chosen by Christ to learn from him and pass on his teaching, eventually pastoring and establishing the church. These men literally “JUMPED” at the invitation of Christ, this rabbi, and the chance to study under him. “They left their nets and followed him.”


The Sea of Galilee

As I continue throughout seminary I think back to when I first heard Christ’s call in my own life to discern the priesthood. I pray every day that I might come to know what the meaning of that call was, what the outcome will be. This time in Seminary is somewhat like when those four were chosen by Christ as he walked along the Sea of Galilee. That was their time in seminary.

Seminary comes from the latin root semen or seed. Literally seminary means seedbed. So the primary seedbed of vocations which is started by a family and the upbringing of a young man eventually leads to his formation in the church’s seedbed, the physical seminary, a time in which Christ converts our hearts and draws them closer to himself. In seminary a man grows into who God created him to be with the help of his formators and spiritual directors. He spends time praying in the garden with Christ, weeping over the sadness he experiences and the struggles along the way. He spends time walking along the Sea of Galilee immersing himself in the scriptures and beginning a life of ministry to those around him. He goes and witnesses his own “first miracles” as he experiences the opportunities for Christ and the way in which Christ works through our lives.

The four men called on the Sea of Galilee heard their call and started seminary. They began the path to become Fishers of Men, priests, bishops, men thirsting after the heart of Christ and wanting to share him with everyone they meet. As a seminarian in this now 2000 year old church I experience my own call from Christ. I experience my own time praying with him in the garden, my own experiences of his mercy and love working through those around me. In fact through the seminary I too was able to follow Christ’s footsteps and walk by the Sea of Galilee in my Pilgrimage to the Holy Land last year.

Following Christ and being in seminary has proven to be hard at many different points thus far. I have had to surrender my will, and strive to follow Christ and his church more closely. But with every turn of trial or surrendering of my will comes great peace. There is a great joy in being able to surrender yourself to another and practice humility. It can be very freeing. Seminary has been so many joys and gifts as well. I have grown so much and continue to do so. Through seminary I am able to walk beside Christ and give myself to him more completely so that one day I can stand in his place during the Mass and consecrate bread and wine through him into his very flesh and blood.

Let us each regardless of being in seminary or not strive to walk beside Christ and learn from him along the way. Let us lean on him in our struggles and walk along the Sea as we become fishers of men!

Me, on the Sea of Galilee

Me, on the Sea of Galilee