Blessed Are They Who Mourn

A Jesuit father once told me that tears are a gift from God.  He told me at my father’s funeral.  I cried.

How could this be?

The Holy Father (while still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) explained in his book Jesus of Nazareth.  There are, he pointed out, two kinds of mourning.  “The first is the kind that has lost hope, that has become mistrustful of love and of truth, and that therefore eats man away from within.”  We’ve all seen this in action and may even have experienced it ourselves.  It truly is a vortex: by playing on the soul’s mistrust in face of the event, it chooses further mistrust as the solution.  The soul is then trapped.

There is another kind of mourning.  The Holy Father wrote: “But there is also the mourning occasioned by the shattering encounter with truth, which leads man to undergo conversion and to resist evil.  This mourning heals, because it teaches man to hope and to love again.”  The tears I shed for my father were of this kind.  Left alone, I would have been lost in the vortex trusting ever less until I lost the capacity to trust.  But I wasn’t lost.  I wasn’t lost because the Jesuit father who I mentioned, through his own tears (he and my father were friends), helped to teach me to hope and to love again.


The Wrestling God’s Blessing

Zenit is a wonderful news service focused on the activities of the Holy Father and other Roman officials. Sometimes, though, their headline writing is just a little off.  The latest example:

Benedict XVI Speaks of Wrestling God’s Blessing

Before this headline, I didn’t even know there was a Wrestling God or that he gave blessings!  Could this be him?


In any event, if you want to read a nice reflection on Jacob’s wrestling with God, read Zenit’s article.

Holiness Is What I Long For

At first, I thought linking to this piece would end up as a humorous item because of Zenit’s headline:  Holiness: As Easy As 1-2-3.  When I read what the Holy Father had to say, I realized that the flip headline was grossly improper.  The Holy Father’s advice seems spot on.

In his General Audience on April 13, 2011, the Holy Father concluded his long series of catechesis on the saints.  He started by defining “holiness.”

Holiness is the fullness of the Christian life, a life in Christ; it consists in our being united to Christ, making our own his thoughts and actions, and conforming our lives to his. As such, it is chiefly the work of the Holy Spirit who is poured forth into our hearts through Baptism, making us sharers in the paschal mystery and enabling us to live a new life in union with the Risen Christ. Christian holiness is nothing other than the virtue of charity lived to its fullest.

This is the clearest explanation of holiness that I have ever read.  It is simple: complete conformity to Christ in all of our thoughts and our actions.  As we will see, the Holy Father uses this idea well.

The first implication of this is that holiness does not necessarily require extraordinary actions.  As the Italian version of the catechesis explained:

Holiness, the fullness of Christian life does not consist of realizing extraordinary enterprises, but in union with Christ, in living his mysteries, in making our own his attitudes, his thoughts, his conduct. The measure of holiness is given by the height of holiness that Christ attains in us, of how much, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, we mold all our life to his.

While we stand in awe of St. Paul, St. Dominic, St. Francis Xavier and all the rest, “the fullness of the Christian life does not consist of realizing extraordinary enterprises,” but in “union with Christ.”  God’s call to holiness is merely (!) complete union with Him.  That life can be lived anywhere in any circumstance.

But how do we grow in holiness?  The Holy Father explained:

Perhaps also this language of Vatican II is a bit solemn for us; perhaps we should say things in a still simpler way. What is the most essential? Essential is that no Sunday be left without an encounter with the Risen Christ in the Eucharist — this is not a burden but light for the whole week. Never to begin or end a day without at least a brief contact with God. And, in the journey of our life, to follow “road signs” that God has communicated to us in the Decalogue read with Christ, which is simply the definition of charity in specific situations.

Encounter the Risen Christ at the beginning of the week, every week, without fail.  Pray in the morning.  Pray in the evening.  Follow the 10 Commandments.  So easy and so demanding.

“Can we, with our limitations, our weakness, reach so high?”  Is holiness open to 40-something doctors, lawyers, and cops in suburban DC?  Yes:

In reality, I must say that also, according to my personal faith, many saints, not all, are true stars in the firmament of history. And I would like to add that for me not only the great saints that I love and know well are “road signs,” but also the simple saints, that is, the good persons that I see in my life, who will never be canonized. They are ordinary people, to say it somehow, without a visible heroism, but in their everyday goodness I see the truth of the faith. This goodness, which they have matured in the faith of the Church, is for me a sure defense of Christianity and the sign of where the truth is.

Even us. Sometimes our heroism is invisible, even to ourselves, but that is not the test.  The test is whether we conform ourselves to Christ and whether we desire to conform ourselves yet more until our union with him is complete.  The Holy Father concluded with these words:

I would like to invite you to open yourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit, who transforms our life, to be, we also, pieces of the great mosaic of holiness that God is creating in history, so that the Face of Christ will shine in the fullness of its brilliance. Let us not be afraid to look on high, to the height of God; let us not be afraid that God will ask too much of us, but let us be guided in all our daily actions by his Word, even if we feel that we are poor, inadequate, sinners: He will be the one to transform us according to his love. Thank you.

News Flash From The Vatican!!!!!!!

Yesterday, Zenit, the non-profit Catholic news service, reported that:


Thank goodness he cleared that up!  The Church Guys are still considering their response to this development.  More news at 11:00!

+  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +

Seriously, though, the Holy Father’s reflection is interesting and worth reading.  (The actual title of the reflection is “On Sin and Evil.”)  He points out that the concept of “sin” is meaningless in a relativistic world without God.  When we ignore the shadow (sin), we lose the ability to know the light (God.)  Naturally, the Holy Father discusses it much better than I.

“I Like Bein’ A Catholic!”

The title says it all:

(c) 2009 justinstroh

Don’t mess with the Swiss Guard.  Bonus points for anyone who can name all of the Cardinals/Saints/Blesseds in the video.

A Word of Thanks For The Holy Father, Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

(photo credit)

Like all Catholics, the Papacy is special to me as a crucial part of Catholic identity.  John Paul II was much more than that.  He was larger than life and man overflowing with charisma and holiness.  He attracted, and then bound, me to the Catholic Church.

Benedict XVI is different.  His style of leadership is quieter.  We don’t have foreign trip after foreign trip.  We don’t have the same glamor as John Paul II.  Yet, with every passing day, I am more and more grateful to the Lord for giving us Benedict XVI.

Although difficult to put into words, three of Benedict XVI’s qualities draw me to him and through him to Christ.  First, Benedict XVI is unafraid.  He speaks the truth clearly and without compunction.  His remarks on China’s treatment of Catholics and his hopes for developments in other nations in his Urbi et Orbi address on Christmas Day could not be clearer:

May the birth of the Saviour strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the Church in mainland China, that they may not lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience but, persevering in fidelity to Christ and his Church, may keep alive the flame of hope. May the love of “God-with-us” grant perseverance to all those Christian communities enduring discrimination and persecution, and inspire political and religious leaders to be committed to full respect for the religious freedom of all.

These are strong words, especially in diplomatic circles, but words that he nonetheless has not hesitated to utter time and time again (as any search of the Vatican’s website for “China” will show).   Benedict XVI’s unflinching courage reminds the world that there is truth and that it must be spoken.

This brings me to the second quality.  Not only does Benedict XVI  speak the truth, he speaks it well.  Although an erudite, scholarly man, his writings are so simple, so clear that profound truths become accessible.  In getting ready for next Saturday’s meeting, I re-read the section about the Beatitudes in his book, Jesus of Nazareth.  Written while still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, he provided an image of what it means to be “poor in spirit”:

[T]hese are people who do not flaunt their achievements before God.  They do not stride into God’s presence as if they were partners able to engage him on equal footing; they do not lay down a claim to a reward for what they have done.  These are people who are lovers who simply want to let God bestow his gifts upon them and thereby to live in inner harmony with God’s nature and word.  The saying of St. Therese of Lisieux  about one day standing before God with empty hands, and holding them open to him, describes the spirit of these poor ones of God: they come with empty hands; not with hands that grasp and clutch, but with hands that open and give and this are ready to receive from God’s bountiful goodness. (Jesus of Nazareth, p.  76)

Never before had I understood the idea of being “poor in spirit” as well.  Benedict XVI’s lucidity turns the challenge into living the words, not understanding them.

The final quality is humility.  Even though he is the Holy Father, Benedict XVI exudes the poverty of spirit which he described in Jesus of Nazareth.  When he boldly speaks the truth, it never seems that he is saying believe this because it is I, Benedict XVI, who is saying it.  Rather, Benedict XVI says what needs to be said because the Lord has asked him to say it.  Benedict XVI’s courage comes from his humility.  His forcefulness comes not from self-assertion, but his humble desire to serve the Lord.

For all of these reasons and more, I offer a word of thanks to our Lord for choosing Benedict XVI to lead us.

Pope Benedict XVI Summarizes The Way To Heaven In Two Sentences

A short post for today. During his Homily at the Consistory, Pope Benedict said:

“What path must then be followed by those who wish to be disciples? The path of the Master is the path of complete obedience to God.”

As we saw in St. Luke, Chapter 2, Mary and St. Joseph would heartily agree.