How The Visitation Can Increase Our Eucharistic Faith

The second joyful mystery is the Visitation. Mary visits St. Elizabeth. St. John the Baptist leaps in St. Elizabeth’s womb.

St. Elizabeth’s words – “how is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” — can be a key to deepening your Eucharistic faith.

What if you prepared for communion by changing her words just a bit – “How is it that my Lord comes to me? How is that bread becomes God…for me? How is it that God pours all of Himself into what was once bread … for me? How is it that He invites me to receive all of Himself without reservation as food? “How is that my Lord should come to me?”


“The intelligent faithful don’t need trinkets like this to justify their belief, surely?”

Sometimes one runs across an article that so aptly summarizes a point of view that it takes your breath away.  That is especially so when the point of view is articulated by someone whose error is matched only by his ignorance.  An example of this crossed my path recently.

The Shroud of Turin is mysterious.  A preponderance of the evidence, if not clear and convincing evidence, supports the idea that it was the burial shroud of Christ, the shroud that covered His body at the moment of His Resurrection.  If proven, the implications are breathtaking: we would have physical evidence not only that Christ lived, but that He conquered death.

As a result, an almost panicky body of writing has developed attempting to debunk the Shroud’s connection to Christ.  Some points are worthwhile. We will never be able to conclusively demonstrate the Shroud’s connection to Christ simply because no reliable chain of evidence carries us back to the tomb.  (Of course, this is just another example of religious and specifically Christian claims being subject to higher, impossible to meet standards of proof).

The recent discovery that the Shroud’s image may have been produced by extremely intense ultraviolet radiation set the so-smart-we’re dumb set into another round of the vapors.  Perhaps one of the best examples of such hand wringing came from one Tom Chivers, who holds the exalted position of “Assistant Comment Editor” for the Telegraph newspaper.  In response to the news from Italy, Mr. Chivers quickly manned the barricades with a wonderful post titled “The Turin Shroud Is Fake. Get Over It.”  

This is quite an assertion.  Mr. Chivers, “Assistant Comment Editor,” it appears, knows for certain that the Shroud is fake .  Surprisingly, Assistant Comment Editor Chivers does not explain what the Shroud is, which you would think he would do since he KNOWS it is not what those Christians think it is.  Wow! A question that has baffled scientists for more than a century has been resolved by an Assistant Comment Editor for the Telegraph.  (Maybe the Telegraph should promote him to a full-fledged Comment Editor.)  What groundbreaking evidence does Mr. Chivers advance for this assertion? The debunked (or at least questionable) radio carbon dating from the 70’s. Oh, my, bestill my afluttering heart.  Mr. Chivers, of course, does not answer exactly how the 13th or 14th Century artist (assuming it was art — Mr. Chivers does not deign to tell us what the Shroud “is;” only that it is not, not, what those Christians say it is.)  He also notes that St. John’s Gospel mentions two burial cloths.  Finally, he states that John Calvin was skeptical, which of all things is the most revealing comment.

All of this writing, however, only the lead up to Mr. Chivers’ deepest insight.  He wrote:

“The intelligent faithful don’t need trinkets like this to justify their belief, surely?”

This is simply classic: a combined ad hominem deprecation of one’s rhetorical opponents.  Presumably, “intelligent” works both as a psychic goodie for those who agree with him (if you agree with me, Mr. Chivers implies, you qualify as “intelligent”) and a slam on those who don’t.  No reasons needed; only self-regard and the more of it the better.  The choice of the word “trinket” is even better.  No matter what you think the Shroud of Turin is, it is not a trinket — a small ornament of little value.  It is large — more than 14 feet in length — and priceless.  Perhaps, trinket means large and priceless in England.

But Mr. Chivers unwittingly stumbled on a very important point.  The point of the Shroud is that it reminds us that God became man.  God, an ineffable spirit, became a human being in a very specific place at a very specific time in history.  He had features.  He had a voice.  He was tall or short.  He was strong.  He ate. He drank.  He was one of us in all things but sin.  Why did God do that?  Why didn’t he continue to interact with us as on an ineffable, intellectual plane?  While we do not need the Shroud of Turin specifically, we did need Christ to become man.  Why?

The answer is well beyond your humble blogger.  But part of it is this.  God treats us like persons.  Mark Shea put it best in one of my favorite quotations:

For all the folk notions in the press that God thinks he is the Great and Terrible Oz, it appears the reality is something much different: God treats us, not like cringing, mindless slaves, but like persons. And persons ask questions.

Not only do persons ask questions, they relate to others concretely through sight, sound, smell, and touch.  I wonder if Mr. Chivers ever received a perfumed note from his girlfriend.  I wonder how he reacted.  Did he say, “Intelligent persons in a relationship don’t need such trinkets, surely?”  I doubt it.  I think he was happy to receive it and hold on to it because it was a concrete reminder of his affection for her.  On their most recent date, I am sure Mr. Chivers did not refuse to hold her hand, saying drily “Intelligent persons in a relationship don’t need to hold hands to know that we love each other, surely?”  I doubt there’d be another date if he did.

God’s approach to humanity is the same.  He could have remained an ineffable Spirit, complete in His perfections.  But He wanted us to love Him and if relating to us in a concrete form in a historical place and time was what it would take, then so be it.  Again, the insight is that God relates to us as persons.  He meets us much more than halfway — sort of a cosmic “come as you are.”

The answer to Mr. Chivers’ snark is this: the “intelligent” faithful do not turn the faith into a dry, inhuman intellectual exercise that demands that we cease to be persons.  For Mr. Chivers, God does not relate to us as persons, but as something else entirely — something that does not exist.  Our faith is a faith of sights, sounds, smells, and pageant of the whole human experience, concretely lived.  It is as much the stately beauty surrounding  a Carthusian monastery as it is the sights, sounds, and smells of a hospital ward in which a priest is administering the final Anointing and Viaticum.

So while the Shroud may not be the burial cloth of Jesus — we will never know for certain this side of Eternity — it is important because it is one thing among many through which God relates to us, not as automatons, but as people.  The Shroud reminds us that “smells and bells” are important and that a religion that posits a purely intellectual relationship between a god and man is a false one, no matter how intelligent the faithful are or how small the trinkets.

"Thy Face, I seek, O Lord"

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.

Catholic Boot Camp: Eucharistic Adoration

A long time ago I went to a Third Day/Michael W. Smith concert. Between acts, the preacher Max Lucado spoke. He took as his text Moses’ encounter with God in which God promised Moses anything. Moses had one request — “Show me your glory.” I remember hearing that and instantly picturing a monstrance with Christ present and his glory streaming forth. Everyone else in our group pictured something similar.

Eucharistic adoration is straightforward. A consecrated Host is placed in a monstrance. A monstrance is a specially designed holder for displaying and reverencing the Christ really present in the Eucharist. (You will see several monstrances in the video.) Once the Host is displayed, we reverence it for an hour. Why one hour? Because we are answering Jesus’ question to Peter — “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” — with an enthusiastic yes.  So what do you do? Nothing except worship your God.  Nothing except encounter His love.  Nothing except pour your heart to Him.  Nothing except love Him.   Why? Because Jesus is waiting for you. . . .

(c) Jeff Lloyd; song: (c) Mercy Me

St. Thérèse’s First Communion

One of the Church Guys said today that he wished to become a drop in an ocean in Christ.  He is in good company:

But I would not and I could not tell you all. Some things lose their fragrance when exposed to the air, and so,too, one’s inmost thoughts cannot be translated into earthly words without instantly losing their deep and heavenly meaning. How sweet was the first embrace of Jesus! It was indeed an embrace of love. I felt that I was loved, and I said: “I love Thee, and I give myself to Thee for ever.” Jesus asked nothing of me, and claimed no sacrifice; for a long time He and little Thérèse had known and understood one another. That day our meeting was more than simple recognition, it was perfect union. We were no longer two. Thérèse had disappeared like a drop of water lost in the immensity of the ocean; Jesus alone remained–He was the Master,the King! Had not Thérèse asked Him to take away her liberty which frightened her? She felt herself so weak and frail, that she wished to be for ever united to the Divine Strength.

This is St. Thérèse de Lisieux describing her first Holy Communion in The Story of A Soul.    If it all starts with desire, that Church Guy is heading in the right direction.

Poll: Should Kids Who Have Not Received Their First Communion Approach The Altar?

Forget the election, that’s just politics. . . here’s a poll worthy of intense scrutiny and great debate. . .

One man’s opinion is: “yes, if they cannot behave and are more than a year away from their First Communion.”  The parent should use it as an opportunity to increase the child’s desire for the Eucharist.