Homily: Scandal

Fr. Allen's homily on Sunday, 19 August, concerning the abuse scandals in the Catholic Church:


I want to speak to you this morning about the latest abuse scandals in the church, emanating especially from the release last week of the grand jury report in Pennsylvania, but also from the revelations about Cardinal - now former Cardinal - Theodore McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington, D.C. I know it’s not pleasant to hear these things, and one aspect of the harm done, though certainly not the worst, is that rather than pondering the words of our Lord - Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you - we are talking about these sordid, vile, and criminal betrayals instead. But we must.

And the first thing I want to say is, I am sorry. I am sorry for what has happened at the hands of my fellow priests. I have begun doing penance for reparation of these sins, and my private Masses, for at least the rest of this year, are offered for the victims of priestly abuse.

As to these latest revelations, you should understand that, in the main, the Pennsylvania grand jury report confirmed what we already knew, both good and bad. First the good, and this really is important. The Catholic Church in the United States, our parishes and our schools, today are very safe places for children. Since the rounds of scandals that began to emerge in the 1990’s and especially the Boston-area scandals of 2002, incidents of abuse are very low, particularly as compared to other institutions both religious and secular, and when they do occur and are reported, they are handled immediately and properly - that is, transparently and with the immediate and appropriate involvement of the civil authorities. Here at Corpus Christi and St Mary’s we very carefully and intentionally adhere to all the safe environment protocols put in to place since the Dallas Charter was adopted in 2002. Your children are safe here, and I say that as one who is a father of young children. They are safe at our local Catholic Schools. That doesn’t mean that continued and careful vigilance isn’t needed; it is. And you must hold your priests and principals and teachers and other leader’s feet to the fire.

The Pennsylvania grand jury report covers abuse reported to diocesan chanceries going back 70 years. The overwhelming majority of that abuse occurred in ‘60s and ‘70s by priests born in the ‘30s and ‘40s. This is just what we learned in 2002. What is new in the Pennsylvania report, and what has, very appropriately, I think, aroused so much anger, is that it gives a deeper, more clear, more horrifically detailed picture of the nature of the abuse that occurred, and also of, in some cases, the utterly inept, and in many other cases actually malfeasant, covering-up, protect-themselves-and-their-institutions-first response of the bishops in question, some of whom are still active. And making things worse is that as these revelations came out, so many bishops and cardinals came out mumbling PR firm-provided talking points about the need for new policies and procedures rather than lamenting their own sin and promising penance, amendment of life, and reparation. Some of them failed in their duty to protect the sheep, but have avoided accountability under a subterfuge of management-speak and corporate expressions of sorrow rather than taking personal responsibility. I don’t think they will be able to escape that responsibility any longer, but we will see.

A couple more observations:

  • This is not a uniquely Catholic problem. Again, other religious and secular institutions are having the exact same issues. That itself is not an excuse and shouldn’t make us feel better; we ought to be better. We are the Catholic Church, the Church founded by Jesus Christ, and the Church ought to be a beacon of light, sanity, charity, and rightly-ordered life in the midst of our confused and darkened culture.

  • This horror is not a product of priestly celibacy. Our celibate priests are less likely to be abusers than the population at large, or, for that matter, the married clergy of other denominations. We know that the great majority of abuse is perpetrated by adults against their own children. And it strikes me as passing strange - I say this as a Catholic priest who actually is married and has children - to suggest that what would help these predators is to have a wife and children.

  • Having said that, there is something no one has wanted to talk about but which has been dragged into the light by the McCarrick scandal, which has to do with abuse and harassment of seminarians and young priests. There is a crisis of chastity within the priesthood, which is related to the abuse scandals (which are overwhelmingly same-sex in nature) and that crisis is related to the sexuality of some of our priests. It’s difficult to talk about in this setting, both plainly and with the nuance required, and to take grateful of account of the great majority of priests who live good and holy lives in the face of all sorts of challenges and temptations, but it will have to be dealt with.

Now, where do we go from here. I’ll offer just two thoughts, one on the institutional level and one on the more personal, spiritual level.

First of all, on the institutional level, there should be a forensic audit of every diocese related to abuse claims with the results made public. Every diocese will need to have its Pennsylvania moment. We will find, no doubt, many more examples of bishops and their chancery staffs having failed to properly handle abuse claims and having facilitated abusers by moving them around from parish to parish. We will find that some beloved bishops, bishops who have otherwise done good and beautiful service to the church have badly failed in this regard. But it all needs to come out, every last sordid bit of it. Truth, reconciliation, healing - these things are inextricably linked. We cannot heal without truth. Our bishops have now asked for an Apostolic Visitation - that means a Vatican investigation. Good. But let me say, as many have said, that for that investigation to have any credibility it must have significant, competent, and independent lay leadership. I think that’s what we’re going to get, but if not, we must be prepared to demand it by whatever licit tools of protest are at our disposal.

And second, and on the more personal and spiritual level, there is a place for anger. Not the deadly sin of anger, the anger that burns out of control and destroys and generates hate and resentment, but the anger of our Lord before the money changers in the Temple, the anger of our Lord as he stood before the grave of Lazarus, the anger of the psalms that long for justice and wholeness and will not be satisfied with less, the anger that serves charity.

But what is that place? How can anger be channelled to charity? I read an interview yesterday with Leah Libresco, a young writer and convert several years ago from atheism. She was asked how she remains joyfully Catholic in the midst of these scandals. She notes that she knew enough biblical and church history before her conversion to be aware of the reality of sin and hypocrisy within the Church. But then she said,

But I think one thing to hold onto is that when we recognize these abuses as horrific, the strength of our response also invites us to recognize the holiness of what has been profaned. A priest’s abuse of seminarians carries an additional evil, in addition to the grave evil of sexual abuse and the profanation of authority (that would also apply when any boss or supervisor used his power to entrap his [employees]). The priest also sins as a husband to the Church, dishonoring his vows of chastity. He sins as a father, who wounds his children when he was ordained specifically to heal them through the Eucharist and in the confessional. Hold on to your horror, and remember you are angry because holy things are profaned (the child of God treated as a plaything, the sacraments, etc.). Then run to adore those holy things, as well as to admonish those who profaned them.

And that is what I invite you to do now, this morning. Remember why you are angry - holy things, the gifts and sacramental mysteries of God grace, and God’s own beloved children, have been profaned. Hold on to that horror, but then let us adore those holy things even as we demand change so that these things never happen again.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

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End of Summer Letter from Fr. Allen

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+JMJ+

Dear friends,

Somehow, and very much without my acquiescence, the summer is winding down and "fall" - busy with activity - is upon us again. But, at least for me, and I know for many of you as well, the summer itself has been busy with activity. But here we are - our children return to school on Monday and door is closed on summer. 

But of course, all those "school year" activities are themselves, I hope, fun and enriching. And in that regard, you will shortly receive notice of our "Wednesday School" offerings and calendar. But for now, please note that on Wednesday, September 12, we will have our "safe environment" workshops for both parents and children (you will receive more information about that well beforehand), and the adult class and children's catechesis will begin the following week, on September 19.

Having said that, and with that "safe environment" note still ringing, I can't help but turn once again to Jeremiah, the weeping prophet: "The harvest is past, the summer is over, and we are not saved." This melancholy summing up comes to mind with the abuse scandals that once again wrack the Church. This is just to let you know that I will be speaking about the latest revelations of abuse in the homily this Sunday. It will be entirely G-rated, and of course I want to shine the redeeming - and purifying - light of the Gospel on the entire matter. In the meantime, I hope that you will keep yourself informed and pray, pray, pray:

O GRACIOUS Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

We are going to the East -- a letter from Fr. Allen

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+JMJ+

Dear friends,

The image [shown below] at the top of this week's newsletter (chosen not by me but by erstwhile parish clerk Connie M.) is from the 15th century Ranworth Antiphoner (an antiphoner is a book of Mass and Office chants for use by the choir). One thing we might notice right away is that the priest is celebrating the Mass ad orientem, or, "to the East." That is, he is standing on the same side of the altar and facing the same direction as the (presumed) congregation, as is our custom at Corpus Christi and is indeed normal throughout the Ordinariate (and is actually normative, though not normal, throughout the Church).

I bring this up because of today's saint: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross; or, as she more usually know, St. Edith Stein. Edith Stein was a Jew, a convert from Atheism, a professor of philosophy, and a Carmelite nun, murdered by the Nazis in the gas chambers of Auschwitz on 9 August 1942. Bishop Barron has a short but insightful reflection on her life and witness here, in the course of which he relates this story of her forced journey to Auschwitz:

'The sisters were held briefly in a camp in Holland and then were packed onto what amounted to a cattle car for the trip to Auschwitz. A former student of Edith’s reported an encounter with the nun when the train stopped briefly at a platform in Germany. After greeting her, Edith asked her to convey a message to the mother superior in Echt: “We are going to the East,” a sentence with both a literal and a spiritual meaning. She was undoubtedly trying to communicate information about their geographical destination, but “the East” is also mystical language for heaven and eternal life...'

"We are going to the East." The saint's statement reflects her firm belief, her "sure and certain hope" in the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come. This is precisely why in the churchyard at St. Mary's, with only two recently added exceptions, all 338 of the graves face east - that is, the direction of heaven and the returning Lord. Churches anciently were always build so that direction of prayer was toward the east. (St. Mary's is oddly oriented - meridianated? - to the south; I suppose this is due the exigencies of 18th century property availability.) I haven't done the research, but it's unlikely that St. Edith Stein ever attended Mass except facing literal east. For her, "going to the East" was going to the Lord.

Long ago, St. Augustine put it this way: 

"When we rise to pray, we turn East, where heaven begins. And we do this not because God is there, as if He had moved away from the other directions on earth..., but rather to help us remember to turn our mind towards a higher order, that is, to God."

This is why we celebrate Mass ad orientem (even if only figuratively). With Edith Stein and aided by her prayers, and with all the Church, "we are going to the East," and every Mass is another step in our journey to meet our Lord.

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

P.S. Please remember that Wednesday, 15 August, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a holy day of obligation.

Update: Regarding the scandal involving Cardinal Theodore McCarrick about which I have previously written to you, I recommend the following letters and articles:

 

 

A Homily Thread on the Transfiguration

August 6 is the Transfiguration of the Lord


Collect of the Day  O God, who on the holy mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine Only Begotten Son wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in his beauty; who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end. ℟ Amen.

Happy Feast of the Transfiguration!

So what is it about the Transfiguration that should be so encouraging, so enlightening? Well, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty, Peter says. His majesty. Peter knew and had followed Jesus, the mostly homeless and itinerant rabbi.

And for all the power of his teaching, and even the miracles he had witnessed, Jesus is still, far as Peter can see, subject to all the usual and unjust earthly powers and authorities.

After all, just a week prior to this, Jesus had announced his intention to go to Jerusalem, where Peter and the other Apostles are sure he, and probably they as well, will be killed. “Let us go with him that we may also die with him,” Thomas says.

And Peter himself tries to prevent Jesus from going, only to have Jesus say, “get behind me Satan.” Peter is worried. Jesus is taking them to a dark and dangerous place.

But before Jerusalem, before Mt Calvary, Jesus takes Peter and these other “chosen witnesses” up Mt Tabor, and there the veil of dust and care and time and frail, oriented-to-death human flesh is pulled back for just a few minutes, and the Apostles see, and we by faith see with them, the Incarnate Son of God in his eternal glory. That is, we see his glorified humanity - which is our own humanity, in perfect and complete union with his divinity.

In other words, in the Transfiguration, the Apostles received a glimpse, a foretaste, of Christ’s victory, and they see their own potential, the potential of every single human being who is united to Christ by faith and baptism.

As St Irenaeus said all the way back in the second century, in Christ “God became what we are in order to make us what he is himself." In Christ, our own humanity, purified by grace from every spot and stain of sin, may have a share in divinity, in the eternal life and light of the Most Blessed Trinity.

And with that hope, and keeping our eyes on that prize, we may have courage to face up to what our collect, with affecting understatement, calls, “the disquietude of this world.”

Hell and its fruit: a summer meditation on watermelon, the real God, and community

 image source: PardeevilleWatermelonFestival.com 

image source: PardeevilleWatermelonFestival.com 

We all have our private metrics by which we determine the rate at which Western Civilization is declining, civil society deracinating and withering, and the world generally going to hell in a hand basket. I know this because there are curmudgeons in our midst (to be carefully distinguished from gorillas in the mist) who keep me informed. For some, the slide down into a well deserved cultural oblivion can be measured by the number of grammatical errors in The Post and Courier, for others in the sartorial standards of "kids today," and for still others (and you know who you are) in the ratio of video screens to hymnals and prayer books in Episcopal parishes.

Though not so curmudgeonly as some, I, too, try to read the signs of the times, and there is one sign I pay particular attention to each summer and which, I regret to report, bodes ill for truth, justice, and my way. I refer to the price of watermelons: $5.99 apiece this week at the Piggly Wiggly. Who ever heard of a six dollar watermelon? Six dollars! And not only are these melons exorbitantly priced, they are defective. They are "seedless." Leaving aside the botanical perversity of a fruit without seeds (cf. Gn 1.11), one of the great pleasures of watermelon eating is spitting the seeds over the porch rail or, perhaps, at one's sister, with points awarded for distance and accuracy.

 image source: whataboutwatermelon.com 

image source: whataboutwatermelon.com 

And I'm afraid things are much worse than even a contrary-to-the-Divine-intent six dollar seedless watermelon would indicate. Because there, in a bin just next to the contrary-to-the-Divine-intent six dollar seedless watermelons, are, I kid you not, "personal watermelons," also without seeds. This is a small cultivar, about the size of an anemic cantaloupe, intended for consumption by one.

The personal watermelon is a signpost on the way to a particularly modern kind of hell - albeit, like Eve's apple, a delicious one.

Enabled by the incredible potencies of digital technology and urged on by marketing marksmen, we live in an age of ever-increasing personalization and, inevitably, privatization.   

This past spring, I happened to be driving late one afternoon down Calhoun Street past the MUSC bus stop. There must have been 25 or 30 people waiting on the bus, sitting along the low wall, and all of them – every single one of them – were hunched over, staring at the small screens of their smartphones, most with earphones. Here were people who worked in the same locale (if not actually together), who apparently lived in the same part of town, who at least had certain transportation needs or priorities in common, yet were not sharing stories, asking after one another's children, or making plans to get a beer together. They were 30 people together, but altogether alone, though their personal tastes – in music, in news, in reading – were being meticulously catered to through the magic of digital technology.

It is an isolating dynamic to which we middle class Americans, raised to be consumers, are particularly liable. In 2005, the sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist published Soul Searching: the Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford University Press), in which they famously described the religion of young people (which they learn from their parents and in their churches) as "Moral Therapeutic Deism." They described this religion's god as,

"... primarily a divine Creator and Law giver. He designed the universe and establishes moral law and order. But this God is not Trinitarian; he did not speak through the Torah or the prophets of Israel, was never resurrected from the dead, and does not fill and transform people through his Spirit. This God is not demanding. He actually can't be, since his job is to solve our problems and make people feel good. In short, God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist."

"A Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist" – in other words, a very personal and private Lord and Savior. There is, of course, a very important truth in the evangelical Protestant language of "personal Lord and Savior": I am a sinner, and I must repent, and I can and must because, it is true, Jesus loves me. But it is an easy slide into conceiving of a god who exists to serve me and my needs, to make me feel better about myself (absent any need for repentance), and who would not dare question, and wouldn't want me to question, the dictates of my own private judgment.

But the Gospel calls us out of ourselves and towards our neighbor. Jesus is the common Lord and Savior of all Christians, and we serve him together in his Church, which is his Bride – his one and only Bride, for, as it has been said, our Lord is no polygamist. He is calling us together into a new community of love, which is personal (real love always is) but not particularly private, because it is and must be shared. To prepare for that heaven, we must push back against the encroachments of our modern isolating hell. The place to begin, of course, is to share with our brothers and sisters in the Communion of Christ's Body and Blood at Mass. And perhaps a good second step is to share with friends and neighbors a very large, public, and social watermelon, complete with seeds, on a sunny summer Sunday afternoon.

-- Fr. Patrick Allen

 image source: PardeevilleWatermelonFestival.com 

image source: PardeevilleWatermelonFestival.com 

Fr. Allen addresses the Cardinal McCarrick scandal

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+JMJ+

Dear friends,

In last Sunday's first reading, we heard the word of the Lord by the Prophet Jeremiah:

'Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!' says the Lord.

These last weeks have seen new revelations of shepherds within the Church who destroy and scatter the sheep. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington D.C., has been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors and prohibited from exercising any public ministry. These accusations of abuse against minors have become the occasion, though, for the public airing of many more charges against the Cardinal - namely, that he was a sexual predator who used his position of power to coerce seminarians into sexual relationships, essentially purchasing their silence. It also turns out that two of his former dioceses paid settlements to men who accused the Cardinal of sexual harassment. But most distressing of all, it is now plain that many within the Church, including bishops, knew of McCarrick's proclivities but did nothing to stop him or prevent his rise through the ecclesiastical ranks. I myself have talked to priests who had heard these rumors decades ago when they themselves were seminarians. Journalists had verified these rumours but could get no one to go on record. When McCarrick was named Archbishop of Washington, a delegation of well-placed Catholics went to Rome to warn curial officials at the Vatican of McCarrick's abuse, and still no one acted. In short, everyone knew.

Here is a New York Times piece reporting on the accusations against McCarrick (warning: it is horrible to read). Here is a helpful analysis from the Catholic News Agency. I encourage you to read both.

As I say, it is distressing. It was painful for me as a Protestant contemplating conversion to the Catholic Church in 2002 when the abuse scandal here first exploded, and it is more painful now, as a Catholic and a priest, when it seems like 2002 all over again. But Jeremiah's invective against Israel's false shepherds reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun. It also tells us that God will judge our false shepherds. So while rightly distressed, we do not despair. We must pray that God will do whatever, and to whomever, is necessary to purify the Church from this filth in our own time, and especially that he would strengthen our bishops, who are our chief shepherds and pastors, to act boldly and transparently. We must pray for that, but we must also demand it from the bishops.

I am sorry to have to write to you about these things, but it is important for the good of the Church that you know, understand, pray, and act. And yes, there are many wonderful things happening in the Church and, indeed, in our own midst, and so we may pray with Jeremiah (who was not always weeping): 

It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed,
because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

Kyrie eleison.

God bless you,

Fr Allen

[Editor's note: in Fr. Allen's weekly letter to his parishioners on 9 Aug 2018, he referenced his letter from 26 Jul (above) and added the following.]

Update: Regarding the scandal involving Cardinal Theodore McCarrick about which I have previously written you, I recommend the following letters and articles:

Fr. Allen on the 50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

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+JMJ+

Dear friends,

This coming Wednesday, July 25th (the Feast of St James), will mark the 50th Anniversary of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae vitaewhich again confirmed the Church's perennial teaching concerning the vocation of marriage, including that sexual relations are ordered toward procreation, and so contraception is contrary to God's will and objectively sinful. Again, this is the Church's perennial teaching; it was not new or even a development of previous teaching when Humanae vitae was published. (Interestingly for us Catholics of Anglican background, that teaching had last received magisterial reaffirmation in Pope Pius XI's 1930 encyclical Casti connubii, issued in response to the 1930 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, which had abandoned that perennial teaching with cascading consequences we know only too well.)

The prohibition of contraception marks the Church, like her Head whose Body she is, as a "sign of contradiction" in the modern world. Sexual pleasure and "freedom" is seen by most in our time as a - or even the - fundamental good to which all humans are entitled, to be had at one's whim and without any natural consequences, be emotional, relational, or biological (i.e., babies). But even among married Catholic couples striving to be faithful, and many others of good will as well, for whom sex is a unitive good and "mutual joy" within marriage, this teaching has proven difficult to receive and live out.

But its difficulty can be in no way a strike against its truth - indeed, why would we expect it to be? What is good in this fallen world is often difficult, and we would expect a good which sits so close to the center of our humanity - the love between husband and wife, the begetting and raising of children - to be obtained only with difficulty and, ultimately, when carried along by God's grace. But conformity with the truth is the only true freedom and always worth striving after. And the dire consequences, for individuals and our society, and especially for women and children, of living against the grain of God's truth are increasingly plain for all to see (cf. the articles by Mary Eberstadt linked below).

I often hear it said that, because they are unmarried, Catholic priests have no credibility when it comes to counseling married couple in this area. Well, that has always seemed silly to me. Chastity is chastity, and it seems obvious that those who are perpetually celibate might indeed have something to say to those who, for the sake of spacing children and cooperating with nature, might be only intermittently and briefly celibate. But, for what it's worth, I am a married Catholic priest, and happy to offer whatever counsel I may to Catholic couples who desire to order their sexual lives in accord with God's will, including of course the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I believe this difficult teaching of the Church is true and that it is a way to happiness and wholeness.

In the meantime, here are a couple resources to help those who want to understand the Church's teaching in this matter:

Again, I'm happy to talk (confidentially!) with any of you who wish to pursue this further, and to offer whatever pastoral and sacramental support I may as we all seek to live in to the beautiful truth of God's design for our bodies, for our families, for the Church.

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

Letter from Fr. Allen: July 12, 2018

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+JMJ+

Dear friends,

In the image [below], our Infant Lord, seated in the lap of our Lady, holds an orb surmounted with a cross. This is not, as has been suggested by one or two of our parishioners, the "Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch." Rather, it is properly known as a globus cruciger, which simply means "cross-bearing orb." From the middle ages, it has represented Christ's lordship over the orb of the world. Iconography in which Jesus is depicted holding the globus cruciger is called a Salvator mundi ("Savior of the World"). Last year an idiot (I use the term advisedly) paid $450 million dollars for a Salvator mundi that may, or may not, be the work of Leonardo DaVinci. In fact much of the argument among art historians centers on the orb in that picture, which some experts feel is not up to Leonardo's usual standard.

In any case, images of Christ as Salvator mundi depict an important truth, which we need always before our eyes, straining as we sometimes do to see God's kind providence in this dark and fallen world. Christ is Redeemer of the world and reigns over the world, and he is bringing all things to their perfect consummation. Christ is, as St Paul writes to the Ephesians, "head over all things for the Church" (Eph 1.22).

In other words: he's got the whole world in his hands.

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

 Our Lady of the Atonement 

Our Lady of the Atonement 

A Prophet is Not Without Honour, Except in His Own Country: a Homily Thread

Fr. Allen tweeted a portion of this morning's homily, for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity (the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B), the Gospel reading for which is Mark 6.1-6. 

Jesus came to his own country; and his disciples followed him.  And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this?  What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at him.  And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.”  And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief.  And he went about among the villages teaching.

Homily thread (Trinity 6; OT 14b):

We have to acknowledge that the people of Nazareth were right; or, their expectations wrong but - kind of - justified.

After all, Jesus was fully human. He was a man like other men. He really was the carpenter from Nazareth, whose mother and half-brothers and sisters and cousins they all knew. St. Paul, writing to the Thessalonians said, “Make it your ambition to live a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands,” and it seems that is exactly how our Lord lived in Nazareth, before he went down to present himself to John for baptism in the river Jordan.

In other words, he was normal, not that impressive; indeed, in some sense even unimpressive. As the prophet Isaiah had said, “He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”

That is how he came, and that is how he comes among us still. St. Augustine said, “I am afraid of Jesus passing,” because he might pass without my realizing it, without my being ready to receive him. He comes to us still in ways that are familiar, normal, even unimpressive.

A carpenter, who constructed the world. A poor Nazarene, but King of the Universe. A crust of bread, but his sacred Body. A sip of wine, but his precious Blood.

And the poor who, as he Jesus said, “are always with us,” and in whom he presents himself, wounded and in need, for our love and adoration. We have a great addiction to “new and improved” - in our technology, in our vehicles, in our toys, sometimes in theology and liturgy.

We want to be impressed. But our Lord comes to us along old and familiar pathways: the Bible; Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be; the 10 Commandments; Confession and penance; as we visit the sick and help our neighbor in need.

But, you know, that itself is an expression of his love for us, his respect for our freedom. He does not trick us, does not manipulate our feelings and energy with novelty, but invites our love.

In a sense, he is still among us leading a quiet life and working with his hands, and does not want us so much to be dazzled by him, as to know him, to seek friendship with him.

And friendship grows from companionship, from shared work, from conversation, from the patterns of relationship that are, in a sense, old and familiar, but - in a living relationship animated by love, are always new.

And this morning, on this Altar, across this rail, Jesus returns to his own country, to you and me, clothed in the humble and familiar robes of bread and wine, and presents himself to us - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

Let us learn the lesson of the people of Nazareth, and give him honor, and receive him when comes.

[Leaned on this homily by Fr Cantalamessa: https://zenit.org/articles/father-cantalamessa-on-a-prophet-without-honor/ ]

 

Letter from Fr. Allen: July 5, 2018

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+JMJ+

Dear friends,

As you will see, there are lots of ordination-related items in this week's newsletter. This past Friday, on the Solemnity of Saints Peter & Paul (6/29), Bishop Lopes ordained three priests for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (two of whom are establishing a revived form of religious life). Friday, 6 July, is the 27th anniversary of Fr West's priestly ordination, and this Saturday is the 5th anniversary of my own ordination as a Catholic priest. 

I serve on the "Vocations Team" for the Ordinariate, and it has been a great privilege and an encouragement to talk and pray with so many men seeking to discern God's call on their lives. We currently have five men in seminary (including of course our own Robb Lester), a dozen or so former Anglican clergy in formation, and a lovely backlog of applications and inquiries to work through. As of this month, the Ordinariate has a new Director of Vocations and Clergy Formation, Fr. Rick Kramer. Fr. Kramer's wife, Kathi, is also a former Episcopal priest who has embraced the Catholic faith, and she will be taking up a post as Assistant Director of Pastoral Formation at St. Mary's Seminary in Houston.

All of this ordination and vocations related news is simply the opportunity to ask you again to pray daily for vocations to the priesthood and religious life,  for our seminarians and those in formation for the priesthood, and for all bishops, priests, and deacons, "that they may, both by their life and doctrine, set forth [God's] true and lively Word, and rightly and duly administer [his] holy Sacraments."
 

God bless you, 
Fr Allen