I love this quote from Matthew Kelly’s “Rediscover Catholicism.” The Church does so much for the world. Little did I know until I read more about the history of the Catholic Church’s contribution to civilization.
Prior to the Church’s introduction of education for the common man, education was reserved only for the nobility. Almost the entire Western world is educated today because of the Church’s pioneering role in universal education.
The global reach and contribution of the Church is enormous, but the national impact of the Church on every aspect of society is also impressive, though largely unknown. In the United States alone the Catholic Church educations 2.6 million students every day, at a cost of ten billion dollars a year to parents and parishes. If there were no Catholic schools these same students would have to be educated in public schools, which would cost 18 billion dollars. The Catholic education system alone saves American taxpayers 18 billion dollars a year.
I love this last paragraph from Father Ron Rolheiser’s reflection on this Sunday’s Gospel (The Epiphany of Our Lord):
To bless another person is to give away some of one’s own life so that the other might be more resourced for his or her journey. Good parents do that for their children. Good teachers do that for their students, good mentors do that for their protégés, good pastors do that for their parishioners, good politicians do that for their countries, and good elders do that for the young. They give away some of their own lives to resource the other. The wise men did that for Jesus.
How do we react when a young star’s rising begins to eclipse our own light?
Have you ever wondered what ever happened to the Three Wise Men? According to Fr. Rolheiser, while there are myths, the fact that there is no real historical proof is part of their gift. Jesus was the Star. So the three kings, who were probably stars in their own right, were able to exit the stage:
The wise men follow the star, find the new king, and, upon seeing him, place their gifts at his feet. What happens to them afterwards? We have all kinds of apocryphal stories about their journey back home, but these, while interesting, are not helpful. We do not know what happened to them afterwards and that is exactly the point. Their slipping away into anonymity is a crucial part of their gift. The idea is that they now disappear because they can now disappear. They have placed their gifts at the feet of the young king and can now leave everything safely in his hands. His star has eclipsed theirs. Far from fighting for their former place, they now happily cede it to him. Like old Simeon, they can happily exit the stage singing: Now, Lord, you can dismiss your servants! We can die! We’re in safe hands!
You should read his bio here, and while I was there myself, I picked up this wonderful passage from one of his old columns:
All of us live our lives in exile. We live in our separate riddles, partially separated from God, each other, and even from ourselves. We experience some love, some community, some peace, but never these in their fullness. Our senses, egocentricity, and human nature place a veil between us and full love, full community, and full peace. We live, truly, as in a riddle: The God who is omnipresent cannot be sensed; others, who are as real as ourselves, are always partially distanced and unreal; and we are, in the end, fundamentally a mystery even to ourselves.
Isn’t that beautiful? He articulated what I felt while going home on the subway this past Tuesday.
God bless Father Rolheiser. May his wisdom set other souls on fire.
One year ago, I became a first-degree Knight of Columbus. This past Saturday (12/06), right before the Vigil Mass for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, I entered the fourth-degree. I’ve come to learn a lot more about the organization, and I plan to make a series of posts on my Facebook Page to share what I now know. For this post, I want to share some thoughts on how God is leading me to grow within His Church.
We cannot become holy — the best-version-of-ourselves — in isolation. Holiness is achieved in community; it is achieved through the Church. I was reading the early chapters of Cardinal Ratzinger’s (a.k.a. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, when this truth about holiness resonated in me. I felt like God was leading me more into the Church, to see the mystery of Christ’s Body. Imperfect people make up the divine, holy Mystical Body of Christ. The source and summit of our faith is the Eucharist. Prayer is the foundation of all my Christian movement – I cannot hope to dance with the Holy Spirit without growing in prayer. And, as my prayer life grows (a solitary activity), I am led to be more active in the Church (a very social activity).
My involvement in Church itself is a form of prayer. This is what is different, now. Before, I saw my Church commitments as, well… commitments. Was it a burden? No. But, commitments are something you keep regardless of how you might feel about it. I happen to feel good about my commitment to the Church, but still…. Now, the feeling is different. Being involved with the Church is now infused with a different meaning. It’s like a red blood cell that suddenly gained individual awareness. I’m a tiny, tiny thing in the scheme of the whole body, but I play a role in bringing oxygen to the various body parts. I return to the heart for communion and rejuvenation, and then go out again to fulfill my duties. Whereas before, it’s what I did as a red blood cell, now I see that I’m part of a very special body. It’s not just any body. It’s Jesus Christ. And to be a red blood cell in the body of Jesus Christ is an incredible privilege. This is what it means to be active in the Church: I’m a red blood cell in the body of Jesus Christ. By virtue of our Baptism, we all are.
So, the Knights of Columbus has a special charism that attracts certain types of people. I never gave it much thought until now, but I guess its charism appeals to me. God knows I’ve been trying to find a group (an organ) within His Church where I could attach myself and grow. I looked into Opus Dei. I thought about the various Third Orders. Maybe my Good Shepherd has led me to this particular pasture, where I can fatten up and be a fragrant offering when the time comes?
Oh, Lord, I love you. It is always such an adventure with you. I trust in you and I know you won’t lead me where I ought not go. May I persist in prayer, and may I have greater fervor for your Body & Blood with every Communion. Help me grow in charity; help me bring my family along with me. Show me my weaknesses so that I can offer them to you, and depend more on you. Shame me so I can strengthen the bedrock of humility, and build a temple worthy of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Don’t let me slip in my prayer, but help me make everything I do a form of prayer. As my daughters desire me to be ever-present in their daily lives, so I desire you to be ever-present, watching me, teaching me, smiling at me, and awaken my spiritual imagination. God, you are my Father; Christ, you are my Lord and brother; Holy Spirit, you are my love.
I thank God for the blessing in getting to know you. My soul leapt when I met you, just as the baby leapt inside Elizabeth when he was in the presence of Christ (cf. Lk 1:41). I intuited that Christ was strong within you and I praise God for making our meeting in Atlanta possible. As iron sharpens iron, I pray that we will sharpen one another (cf. Prov 27:17), that we will encourage one another and build one another up (cf. 1 Thess 5:11), and through our exchanges we can test to discern the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect (cf. Rom 12:2). I pray that God’s face will shine upon you during your time at seminary.
Reformed Calvinists and other Protestants all find common cause against papal authority. If Protestantism is true, after centuries of its existence, God decided to eradicate the office of the papacy. I would claim that because Catholicism is true, the papacy was established by Christ, has endured, and retains the authority entrusted to it by Christ, even to this day.
I don’t like being interrupted during “me time.” Unfortunately, sacrificing “me time” is part of the covenant when I said, “I do.” By the grace of the Holy Spirit, I find myself being happy instead of frustrated. Please witness:
I’m engrossed in a short biography of Larry Page from the Business Insider. I’m sitting in our oversized, super-cushioned rocking chair and the lighting is soft and relaxing. The house is quiet. I thought my wife and daughters were asleep and it was only 8:30pm. I was going to enjoy a lot of “me time” tonight!
Then my wife storms out of our bedroom. She throws down the Ergo Baby carrier like a gauntlet and Hana slides down her leg and onto the floor. My wife isn’t mad at me, but she’s frustrated that Hana isn’t falling asleep. It’s my turn.
Hana runs to me with a squeal of joy. Her big, round eyes hide behind wispy long black hair. Hana’s pink jammies are all bunched up on her chunky baby legs. I chuckle and smile at her, put away the article, and pick her up just as she hugs my leg.
If I was a man without the Holy Spirit, I would not find joy in this interruption. I would have been slightly irritated that my wife was unsuccessful in putting Hana to sleep. I would have resented the need to put both our daughters to sleep for the past few evenings. I suffered a screaming shower session and would just like a little time to unwind.
Thanks to the Holy Spirit, those thoughts didn’t even cross my mind. Actually, I had to force myself to think that way just now in order to draw a contrast. I’m a changed man because of continual conversion into Christ. The fruit of my faith can be seen in the joy, patience and charity I experience instead of the anger, impatience and “counting the cost” that the old me would have done.
Hana snuggles the side of her face against my chest as I carry her. When I change her into a fresh diaper, I have to tell her to not laugh or talk because big sister is sleeping. I pick her up and kiss her for the hundredth time that day and then strap her onto my chest with the Ergo Baby. I can see the anticipation of my baby daughter’s eyes as the plastic “click, click” of the buckles lock around my waste and shoulders. After turning off the lights around the house, we walk to the kitchen. I turn on the stove-oven ventilator to create the magical white noise. Hana clonks her head against my chest, like she was hypnotized. I pace back and forth as she starts to relax. Hana stretches out her small hands and absent-mindedly caresses the stubble on my chin. From the broken pale light streaming in across from our neighbor’s porch, I could see that Hana’s eyes were drooping. I kiss her forehead and stroke the bridge of her nose with my thumb. Hana can resist no longer: her hand goes limp against my stubbly chin.
I often wondered why the Gospel writers left so much of Jesus’ childhood and teenage years to the imagination. Folks called this the “hidden life” of Jesus. Being a father, I questioned why God didn’t give more guidance on how to imitate the Holy Family. How did Joseph and Mary deal with a whining toddler? How did they counsel other parents who had rebellious teenagers, even if the teenage Jesus was obedient?
These moments I have with Maya and Hana give me such profound joy. It is a kind of joy that escapes description. It’s fleeting and easy to miss if I worshipped money, fame, power or beauty instead of God. As it is, I’m blessed. Dozens of moments like these happen in the course of a full day with my children. I can’t remember them all, but I trust that Heaven is recording them even if I don’t have the camera on my smartphone ready. I may forget these small moments, but they all add up to this emotion, this absolute certainty of love. What I feel towards my children is merely a shadow of what God feels for me. I cannot touch, see, hear or measure this love I have for my daughters, but I’m experiencing it. So, it’s true. I cannot touch, see, hear or measure the love that God has for me, but with eyes of faith, I see. So, it’s true.
My love is only a shadow of God’s love. This fact compels me to love even more. It is the only natural response to someone who loves you this much. It’s not easy to go from loving just your daughters to loving even the people who persecute you. Yet, if the Holy Spirit can convert me from a man who loves his “me time” to a father who can give it up without even a second thought, then I trust He can convert me as I grow into Christ even more. As I live out the hidden life of Jesus in my own family, grow in my belief of the Eucharist and progress in my prayer life, I am drawn deeper into Christ.