Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From October 30th, 2011 Bulletin)

…whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

     Humility runs contrary to our current culture of self-aggrandizement.  “American Idol” is just one expression of the media-driven climate that pervades our daily life. This is not to say that I have anything against a talent show. We even had a young man from our local community make it high into the competition recently. He has an extraordinary voice and deserved to be there. He also has a great story that shows God’s blessing on his life. But the word “Idol” betrays a danger that exists in today’s world. Do we idolize people for their talents or social status?

     We must work against the pride apparent in our society and even in our Church. Pride has no place here. St. Benedict writes about the need for humility in his Rule:

The first degree of humility is obedience without delay. This is the virtue of those who hold nothing dearer to them than Christ; who, because of the holy service they have professed, and the fear of hell, and the glory of life everlasting, as soon as anything has been ordered by the Superior, receive it as a divine command and cannot suffer any delay in executing it. Of these the Lord says, "As soon as he heard, he obeyed Me" (Ps. 17[18]:45). And again to teachers He says, "He who hears you, hears Me" (Luke 10:16).

Remember Philippians 2, “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Let us pursue this great virtue of humility. It conquers all sin.
Part III – Archbishop Sartain’s Homily at the Red Mass in Washington, D.C.

     Try as I might to wrap my mind and heart around the image that Jesus presents in the gospel passage we have just heard, I am always utterly astounded and speechless when I picture it:

Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them (Luke 12:37).

     The Lord Jesus, having left us “in charge” until his return, will himself return – but still a servant, ever a servant, with perfect love and unimaginable humility – and will serve us at table. It could not be otherwise for the One who “came to serve” and to “give his life as a ransom.” Likewise, it cannot be otherwise for us who are his disciples. St. Augustine writes,

...the Christ who is preached throughout the world is not Christ adorned with an earthly crown, nor Christ rich in earthly treasures, but Christ crucified... Thus, at length, the pride of this world was convinced that, even among the things of this world, there is nothing more powerful than the humility of God (see Epistle 232:5, 6).

     In the end, it is in our relationship with the Lord that we find the spiritual health that reveals and makes possible true balance, true integrity. We are speaking here not of a formula, and certainly not of self-improvement: we are speaking instead of lives lived in God, for others. It is God who created us who makes us complete, and it is a life lived in humble union with the servant-Savior that literally does the most good.

     A sound soul in a sound body makes for a balanced life, a life of integrity. And such sound, integrally healthy lives given to public service lift up and transform society. And consciously committed lives of discipleship reveal the living, saving presence of the humble Savior who gives himself as food to those who are his own. It is his love, his sacrifice which sets the standard for every life of humble service – and thus it is a living relationship with him that integrates our lives and makes them truly healthy. That is what we call holiness.

     My sisters and brothers, we who are here this day know that it is from God that we come and toward God that we are headed. Each of us, according to the calling given us, has been put “in charge” of the Lord’s vineyard. The vineyard is his, we are his, and those we serve are his. And we pray that we will be humble servants like him, who seek to do only his good. It is that for which we were made – and it is that for which we are sent into the world. Amen.

Movie Recommendation: “Courageous”

     I was privileged to join a parishioner and his son this last week in watching the movie, “Courageous”, which is about four policemen grappling with their roles as fathers and men. It was powerfully presented and quite convicting for someone in the role as father. I couldn’t help but want all men to see this movie, including all priests and seminarians training to be spiritual fathers. The movie calls us men to take responsibility for protecting and serving the women and children around us. It calls men to hold other men accountable to one another for this vocation. I hope you can attend a showing. I viewed it at the Landing in Renton. May God bless all fathers with a renewed vision for their role and the courage to carry it out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From October 23rd, 2011 Bulletin)

…with all your heart

       “Dishes?!”, Cardinal George exclaimed, “I’m not talking about dishes!” The Cardinal of Chicago was meeting with some of my classmates at seminary and had broached the topic of manual labor. He told the group that he was thinking that it might be good for them to be doing some manual labor around the seminary grounds. At this suggestion one classmate said, “But Cardinal George, we do dishes once a month in the refectory.” The Cardinal’s head snapped in the seminarian’s direction, with his great Roman nose protruding and bald head shining, like an eagle ready to pounce.

        “Dishes?!” he shouted, angry at such a puny offering. “I’m talking about chopping wood and working up a sweat.” The seminarian caught the fullness of the cardinal’s rebuke. Cardinal George wanted men to be giving more of themselves, even the strength of their bodies. The command we hear from Jesus in today’s gospel speaks of the fullness of love we owe to God, that is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” While Matthew doesn’t include ‘strength’ in this quote, Mark and Luke do. It’s part of our offering to God. We are body and soul, and owe God everything.

       This past week’s gospel asks us to render unto God what is God’s. Shouldn’t we offer Him everything? The notion that 5% belongs to God as we tithe our finances can obscure the reality that everything comes from Him and a full Christian life offers everything back. Not that He doesn’t want us to spend money on ourselves; but if our whole self is offered to God, then even what we spend on ourselves will more likely be spent for His glory, and not our own. To love God with all of our heart would mean giving over all areas of life that ought to belong to Him. Are we doing something more worthwhile with our lives than offering just the minimum?

Red Mass, Part II (of III): Archbishop Sartain’s Homily for Members of the Supreme Court

       …The Desert Father Poemen said, “Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.”
       St. Paul recognized that Christian freedom is not only freedom “from” the constraints of sin but freedom “for” positive striving for fulfillment in Christ, a natural and critical outgrowth of faith and one’s desire to live life to the full, peacefully and integrally.

       He also knew that at the heart of the Gospel is a mandate which both draws challengingly on the deepest resources of human freedom and opens up for the individual and for society the most complete fulfillment possible: and that is the spirit of loving self-giving, made manifest in acts – in lives – of total sacrifice.

       As human persons we are not fully alive – even if we follow a balanced, healthy lifestyle and nourish ourselves with all that is good and beautiful in culture – unless we live for something beyond ourselves, unless we give ourselves to Someone beyond ourselves. It was that spirit, that stance, in Solomon which caught God’s eye:

Because you have not asked for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right – I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you (1 Kings 3:11-12).

       Solomon desired to use his gifts for others – literally for the good of his people, who were, after all, God’s people – and thus for the purpose for which God gives every one of his gifts. It is love which makes the using of one’s gifts perfect; it is love which makes the gift of oneself beautiful in the eyes of God; it is love which best manifests the presence of God in our personal and public lives. This love is not just altruism. Rather, it is conscious participation in the sacrificial love of Christ, which the Christian disciple realizes he or she is called to communicate and proclaim – in everything.

       It is impossible to overstate the importance of the perfection and integration which self-forgetfulness, generosity, and humility bring to a Christian’s life of service. Why? Because these virtues manifest our desire not just to do well, but to do the good and to deliberately manifest in our lives the One Who Is Good. We can barely grasp the extraordinary depth of God’s humility, the infinity of his love, and the mind-boggling truth that he has invited us to share in his very life and in his care for his people.

For the full account of the Red Mass see:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Words from Fr. Ed (from October 16th, 2011 bulletin)

 “…give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

     This classic phrase of Jesus calls us to consider what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God. Caesar represents the secular, temporal world which is fading away. God is the world that lasts forever. We do have a responsibility towards the temporal world, to shape it according to God’s kingdom. This is done, however, with one foot in heaven so to speak.

     I suppose I had heard it said before, that when getting on or off a boat, one should have at least one good handhold on the boat or the dock, and never be caught in between. I learned the hard way when fishing with a friend. He was pulling into a dock and I was preparing to jump to it. As we approached a boat in front of us, he shifted the engine into reverse rather than neutral. The abrupt change of direction threw me straight off the bow into the boat and water in front of us. So much for pride!

     We have a secure place from which we can hang on to God. It’s called a ‘state of grace’. Through prayer, the sacraments, and a life of charity, we are assured of the grace from God to lead a life that arrives at heaven. What a great gift, but not to be taken for granted. Especially as our secular world chooses values contrary to the Gospel, we must ‘swim upstream’ like our northwest salmon, making real decisions in favor of the ways of God. This takes grace. It takes daily prayer and a conscious effort to grow in our relationship of love with God and neighbor. This life of grace is in fact what sanctifies the world. Let us continue on this path of holiness with Christ at our head, leading us home to the Father.

Red Mass

     Every year in Washington, D.C., before another session of the Supreme Court, a ‘Red’ Mass is offered, invoking the Holy Spirit. This year the guest homilist was none other than our own Archbishop Sartain. I include Part I of his homily as a sample of one way we can sanctify our world:
     When I bought my first pair of Asics running shoes many years ago, I noticed a familiar Latin maxim on the box – “Anima sana in corpore sano” – and soon realized much to my amazement that the name “Asics” is in fact an acronym for that very maxim. It is a variation on “Mens sana in corpore sano,” usually translated, “A sound mind in a sound body.”

     The Roman poet and satirist Juvenalis (55-127 A.D.) is usually credited with the saying, and his point is a good one. People of every age have championed the value of a healthy body, even if notions of health and beauty have varied greatly through the centuries. The body/mind connection is a reminder that we are whole persons, that one aspect of living directly affects the others. Physical, intellectual, and psychological health go hand-in-hand. We live more serenely, think more clearly and work more energetically when we take care of our bodies – when we literally put our Asics to use.

     It is interesting that Asics chose “anima” over “mens” for its corporate slogan, because while “mens” usually referred to the mind in its intellectual aspects, “anima” referred to the more encompassing “vital principal” of life, the “breath of life,” one’s “heart,” and one’s overall sense of well-being. In fact, “anima” is the word used for “soul” in the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, in Church writings and in the liturgy.

     Juvenalis was not a Christian, but his famous maxim certainly lends itself to an essential Christian application: “A sound soul in a sound body.” We do well to remember that there is something deep within, something all-encompassing and literally life-giving, the very life-principle that makes the body human, which begs for attention, discipline and nourishment: our soul.

     Juvenalis was just a kid as St. Paul was drawing near his martyr’s death, but Paul was keenly aware of the influence of  comparable writers and thinkers in Greco-Roman culture. They shaped in part the environment into which the Lord sent him to preach the gospel, and it was critical to his mission to be familiar with them. Paul was a master of observation when it came to culture, law, language, philosophy – and yes, athletics – and put to work his highly-honed skills when framing the proclamation of the Christian message.

     He borrowed from Stoic thought to exhort the Christian community in the Roman colony of Philippi to live a life of integrity:

“...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philppians 4:8).

     A sound, healthy soul will be truly nourished only by the good and the beautiful, the noble and the pure. A Christian cannot live a life of integrity or peace when wittingly or unwittingly stuffing oneself with or indifferently absorbing the superficial and the fleeting. Moreover, one cannot hope to be healthy or to do well in one area of life when the rest of life is malnourished. The Desert Father Poemen said, “Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Words from Fr. Ed (from October 9th, 2011)

 “The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come.”

     If you are reading this you are probably going to Mass every Sunday. “The feast is ready”, you have been invited, and you have said ‘Yes’ to Our Lord. This ‘Yes’ that you have said by being committed to Sunday Mass is no small thing. Jesus said in the Gospel of John, “I am the living bread come 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.” (Jn 6:51) Receiving Jesus every week is no less than eternal life.

     “The week”, if we look at the creation story, is see a symbol of all creation. We read in the first few chapters of Genesis that God prepared a creation for humanity. Within the gift of humanity, we see man and woman. We even see the aspect of rest, Sabbath, where God, resting from His works calls to humanity to rest in Him. He is our rest, and this, not just once per week, but for all eternity.

     Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ, is rest for our souls. As I quoted Augustine last week, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Why? Because “God is love” and we were made for love. Does not human love give us some tremendous sense of rest, of peace, even exhilaration? When we love we achieve the purpose of our existence. In a sense, we have arrived at our goal. There is at least a subconscious sense of ultimate accomplishment.
     One thing I love about manual labor, such as gardening, is that we can see the result of our work. Spiritual work as a priest can be less tangible or concrete in a physical sense. But the spiritual work that we are all called to is more permanent than any gardening. In fact, it is a return to the Garden of Paradise, or even better, an entry into the New Paradise of the New Jerusalem. We are elevated by the Redemption wrought in Christ Jesus. That’s why we can sing at the Easter Vigil, “O happy fault of Adam…”
     This Sunday, let yourself rest in Him. Be at peace. You have received Jesus, the summit of all our desires, the healing for all our wounds, the satisfaction for all our sins.

Saturday, October 15th: Feast of St. Teresa of Avila

     I cannot help but comment on this mother of mine, St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). We just celebrated the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897), otherwise known as the Little Flower. Thus we call St. Teresa the ‘Great Teresa’ to distinguish between these two Discalced Carmelites. St. Teresa was the foundress of the great renewal of the Carmelite Order, which began in 1214 on Mt. Carmel in Israel by crusaders who wanted to remain in the Holy Land and lead lives of prayer. They were hermits gathered around a common chapel.
     When these brothers migrated to Europe, they soon lost their eremitical (related to hermits) roots. Gathering in larger monasteries of both men and women, they began to mitigate, soften, the primitive rule of life for hermits that they had originally inherited. St. Teresa felt the impulse to return to a more austere form of life with greater solitude and silence included in their day, so she founded new and smaller Carmelite monasteries of women, and with the help of St. John of the Cross, friaries of priests and brothers.
     St. Teresa was primarily a woman of prayer. Her writings on the mystical life have earned her the title, “Doctor of the Church”, one of only three women given that designation along with St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Therese of Lisieux. Her works are priceless to read, beginning with the Way of Perfection, a treatise on the evolution of her first monastery along with a commentary on the Our Father. I include the passage that I use the most when teaching Christian meditation, of which she was a master:

Let us now return to our vocal prayer, so that we may learn to pray in such a way that, without our understanding how, God may give us everything at once: if we do this, as I have said, we shall pray as we ought. As you know, the first things must be examination of conscience, confession of sin and the signing of yourself with the Cross. Then, daughter, as you are alone, you must look for a companion— and who could be a better Companion than the very Master Who taught you the prayer that you are about to say? Imagine that this Lord Himself is at your side and see how lovingly and how humbly He is teaching you— and, believe me, you should stay with so good a Friend for as long as you can before you leave Him. If you become accustomed to having Him at your side, and if He sees that you love Him to be there and are always trying to please Him, you will never be able, as we put it, to send Him away, nor will He ever fail you. He will help you in all your trials and you will have Him everywhere. Do you think it is a small thing to have such a Friend as that beside you? (Chapter 26, found at

I close with this beautiful poem of St. Teresa:
Nada te Turbe
(Let Nothing Disturb You)
Let nothing disturb you,
nothing frighten you,
all things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience wins all things;
whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.