Ecclesial Anatomy

This weekend in prayer, I ran across this small quote from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “Let us profess the truth in love and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head. Through him the whole body grows, and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament, builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

This is not the only place where St. Paul discusses Christ as the “Head” and the church/believers as “the body”. For example see Col 1:18 and compare with 1 Cor 12:12–27 and Romans 12:4–5 where Christ is identified with the whole body, including the head. (The full scriptural quotes are provided below for your consideration) Continue reading

The Porch Light

It is not all that unusual that people will tell me that they find themselves waking up on Sunday morning somewhat less-than-excited about coming to Mass. “Father, it is so the-same-thing week after week, I find my mind wanders, I don’t get much out it, too many times I receive Communion and just keep walking out the door” I will almost always ask them, “When are thinking about coming to church, who do you look forward to seeing” – and I ask that God, Jesus or the priest not be their answer. Almost always the reply is “no one” or “I really don’t know anyone at the parish – I just park, come in, receive Eucharist, and go home.” Continue reading

Differences and divisions

emaus02There is a fine line between differences and divisions. Think about our own families – the kids are different, unique and that what makes them remarkable and fascinating. In my family growing up, the middle child Patricia, very different from her older sister Kathy, and her favorite brother – that would be me – and the fact that I was the only brother is but a secondary detail. Patricia was always aware of the differences and, on occasion, would proclaim, “I am adopted.” On occasion we would agree, although she was a dead ringer for Grandma Kate at the same age. Those differences were part of what made us unique and what made us family. They never became divisions. Continue reading

The Work of the Church

My Franciscan brother, Fr. Dan Horan OFM, had a nice insight this morning over at his blog DatingGod. In short, while the world has focused on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the gathering of cardinals, the pomp and circumstance of the electoral process, and all thing papabili, the work of the Church continues.

While the spectacle of papal elections, with the pomp and circumstance of crimson cassocks and Latin chant captures the imagination of many the world over, the work of the church doesn’t end (nor begin, for that matter) with these attention-grabbing events.

The work of the church is in the parish, the ministry center, the homeless shelter, the Catholic Charities office, the Franciscan missions in Peru, the classrooms of Jesuit schools, the hospices of the Sisters of Charity, and so on. The life of the church is found not in the grand processions of cardinal electors or the daily routines of the Roman dicasteries, but in the experience of the Body of Christ, which is the People of God, living a life of faith, striving to follow the Gospel, and caring about how to be a good and holy person — every day, here and now.

Journalists, columnists, pundits, and the like will get their fair share of news and “exciting events” over the next few days, but when the TV cameras and reporters vacate St. Peter’s Square, the nuns who care for Rome’s homeless population and the doctors who work in the Catholic hospitals of that city will continue the mission of the evangelica vita.

Forming a moral conscience

There is a current NY Times article about the “Vatican” and “bishops” being out of touch with the people of the United States.  My Franciscan brother, Fr. Dan Horan, OFM, has an insightful article over at his blog about what he finds truly significant about the poll.  Take a read. Interestingly, he touches on two points that are always close to my thoughts: (a) people and the formation of a moral conscience, and (b) US Catholics are really a very small percent of the whole-wide Catholic Church. Continue reading

Thomas Merton on Christian Self-Denial

This is from Fr. Dan Horan, OFM at his blog Dating God.  I thought it was another take on the classic Lenten question: “So….what are you giving up for Lent?” One point of Fr. Dan’s insight is that ultimately self-denial needs to lead to new life.

“No one can really embrace the Christian asceticism mapped out in the New Testament unless he [or she] has some idea of the positive, constructive function of self-denial. The Holy Spirit never asks us to renounce anything without offering us something much higher and much more perfect in return … The function of self-denial is to lead to a positive increase of spiritual energy and life. The Christian dies, not merely in order to die but in order to live. And when he [or she] takes up his cross to follow Christ, the Christian realizes, or at least believes, that he is not going to die to anything but death. The Cross is the sign of Christ’s victory over death. The Cross is the sign of life. It is the trellis upon which grows the Mystical Vine whose life is infinite joy and whose branches we are. If we want to share the life of that Vine, we must grow on the same trellis and must suffer the same pruning.” — Thomas Merton Continue reading