Friday, November 23, 2012



Each of us will one day die. St. Benedict taught us to remember death. “Keep death ever before your eyes.” Now this is not intended to be morbid. Not at all. Benedict wanted us to live each day of our lives as if that day will be our last. Jesus himself said it well: No one knows the day or the hour. “Watch!” “Be ready!”

This is also the time of year when many people come up with end day scenarios and try to pinpoint the end of time. And even though the Twinkie went extinct this week, and because both IU and Notre Dame are ranked # 1, for some that seems apocalyptic, it is not likely the end.

But the reality is that one day all of "this" will pass away. And death will come for us all. Death Judgment Heaven or hell. The end of all things. In theology we call this Eschatology, the study of the last things.

When we die, our souls return to God and we are judged at what is called the Particular Judgment, as individuals, and we will know whether we will spend our eternity in heaven or hell.

We may experience purgatory – the process of purification whereby our souls become accustomed to the light of God, much like after going to a movie during the day, after being in a darkened theater for two hours, when we reenter the lobby of the theater we squint as our eyes begin to adjust to the light of day. So it is with our souls, after living here on earth for so long, our spirits will enter eternal life and eternal light. C.S. Lewis referred to our earthly existence here on earth as the Shadowlands, and believed real life hasn’t even begun.

Then on the Resurrection and the Last Day, all the bodies of the dead, the saints and the damned will rise and be reunited with their souls, then Christ will come again in glory in what we call the Last Judgment or the General Judgment souls of all will be gathered before Christ and all things will be revealed. Then the Fulfillment of the Kingdom of God will take place.

These are the teachings of Christ, the Scriptures, and the Church. As St. Paul said, eye has not seen, ear has not heard, what God has ready for those who love him. Paul wrote: 1 Cor. 6:19 "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." If we have accepted Christ, been baptized, and are incorporated into the body of Christ, our souls and our bodies belong to the Lord. This is basic Christian teaching.

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King.

We began this month remembering all the saints who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, all those canonized and those thousands and thousands of holy ones whose holiness is recognized by God and the faith community. 

We also pray for all souls, all those who have died, the faithful and just who were redeemed by the Blood of Christ, and even those whose faith is known to God alone. 

Over the past few weeks we have experienced death here at our parish. Through the year members of our parish and family members and other loved ones have also died. But life for them is changed, not ended. 

Yet the souls of all the faithful departed who have served Christ as king, and our own souls, will one day be reunited with our bodies in a glorified form.

As St. John says, “We are God’s children, but what we shall be has yet to be revealed.” St. Paul also tells us that we will all be changed in an instant and we shall be caught up to God; and we pray every Sunday that: “We LOOK FORWARD to the resurrection of the Dead!

So, let us always pray for those who have died: as Saint Ambrose wrote: “We have loved them in this life; let us not forget them in death." 

So on this feast of Christ the King, which King will we serve? 

Imagine that you and I are on a great hill overlooking a valley. To the north we see a Christ the King with all his angels and saints. He seeks our love and service. And he promises a share in eternal life and victory over sin, death and Satan.

And then far to the south we see another king with his troops; this is Satan. He is surrounded by his demons and fallen angels that seek to devour human souls, to ensnare them in sin, and lead all to hell.

Satan tempts us with material possessions and earthly riches; he tempts us with fame and popularity and disordered pleasures; he tempts us with power; envy and jealousy of others’ successes; and a life of greed – even if that means others may have little to nothing.

And above all he tempts us with pride, an arrogant attitude of mind and heart. Satan offers us a life of power over others, especially the poor and lowly.

We are faced with this choice daily. Which King will we choose? Christ or Satan?

And so we turn to our Lord Jesus and our eyes gaze into his and we deny Satan any authority in our lives.

Jesus says, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must renounce himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” We will die with him and rise with him in our ministry to one another.

In our humility, Christ calls us forth and He gently places our Cross upon our shoulders which will be our weapon of faith, hope, charity and justice.

The kingdom of God is a kingdom of persons who have been freed for relationship with God and one another. We are free to serve!

It could be that one of the saddest things in hell may be a fairly decent sinner who lies upon the smoldering dung heap, weeping and wailing and gnashing his teeth in regret of the million daily choices where he was reluctant or unwilling to do good and care for others.

So whether we are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick, saint or sinner, it matters not as long as we are serving the Lord and giving glory to God by our love of God and love and service to our neighbor in our prayers and our deeds.

As St. Teresa of Avila said, the only treasure we take to heaven is that which we gave away while on earth.

Those who are living and giving the Kingdom of God live in hope and live a life of gratitude and thanksgiving!

This is the goal of our faith. This is our hope and our salvation.

Christ is calling each of us today to holiness and a life of gospel giving and thanksgiving.

The Church year always ends with the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. And how appropriate that we ponder our lives as the bright and beautiful leaves of autumn have died and fallen to the earth, crumbling to dust, preparing for the winter of death.

Yet we know that after the death of winter that new life will spring forth!

Nature itself proclaims resurrection!

And it is the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ that brings us to new and eternal life! So we pray to serve him in this life, so as to serve Him forever in the next, in his kingdom of truth and life, holiness and grace….the Kingdom of Justice, Charity, and Peace! 

Yet “each and every one of us at the end of the journey of life, will come face to face with one or the other of two faces: either the merciful, loving face of Jesus Christ or the miserable face of Satan. We can journey down a thousand times ten thousand roads, but we will end at either of those two faces. And one of them, either the merciful, tender face of Christ or the hideous face of Satan will say, ‘Mine…. Mine’” [Quote from Fulton J. Sheen].

Make no mistake, the Lord can make glorified saints out of the most ignorant sinners who are good-hearted and turn back to Him.

And, happily, the Lord longs for wounded souls to call upon Him for help and grace. That’s all it takes. And for this we are ever grateful.

He is the King who can grant clemency to those He wishes.

He is the Regent of a Kingdom of Mercy and Forgiveness.

May we be His and hear those blessed words: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter the Kingdom prepared for you! Come, enjoy the feast of Christ of your King.” 

¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Christmas Plains by Joseph Bottum

The former editor of First Things magazine shares his reflections of the mad joys and wild emotions of the season while growing up on the South Dakota plains.


What a refreshing and delightful collection of reminiscences from Joseph Bottum. The stories take us through a series of his memories accompanying the celebration of Christmas. Bottum also takes us to a beautiful part of the United States, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and to perhaps a simpler way of celebrating the holidays, but not without frenzy and chaos much like our own time.

Yet through Bottums reflections, the reader will also likely find, as I did, a flood of memories of his or her own Christmases past. And in the beauty of reading a book such as this I found myself momentarily putting the book aside and paging through my own memories - both happy and sad. And in there is plenty to consider for Christmas or any time of the year.

Bottum admits that: "These topics have proved a strangely joyful activity, whether the thoughts were bright or dark. But then as Charles Dickens himself once observed, contemplation of Christmas is 'never out of season'."

It is not a long book which will make it a nice read during the Advent Season or Christmas Season. 

Published by Image Books (2012)

JOSEPH BOTTUM is one of the nation’s most widely published essayists and poets, with work appearing in magazines and newspapers from the Atlantic to the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and National Review. A bestselling eBook author, Bottum is the former editor in chief of the journal First Things and former literary editor of the Weekly Standard, where he remains a contributing editor and regular writer. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy, lectures widely on literary and religious topics, and lives with his family far off in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
ISBN: 9780770437657
Format: Hardcover and e-book
Price: $14.99

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the above book for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Proclaim Liberty: Notes on the Next Great Awakening in America

Proclaim Liberty: Notes on the Next Great Awakening in America.

Beyond Republicans and Democrats, Conservatism and Liberalism

During the final days of the presidential campaign this November, I was on retreat and read Carl Anderson's Proclaim Liberty: Notes on the Next Great Awakening in America. Published by Image Books, © 2012. It was difficult to vote - yet again - when both parties - in both their candidates and their platforms - present a conflicting set of moral goods - or the lack thereof.

Proclaim Liberty: 
Notes on the Next Great Awakening in America.

Anderson gives voice to many voters' dilemma - Catholic and otherwise:  
"Unfortunately in politics, Catholics—and especially many in the Hispanic community—are too often confronted with a choice between a candidate who claims to be welcoming of immigrants (but supports legal abortion, restrictions on religious freedom, or other policies hostile to immigrants’ values ...) and a candidate who stands with the Church on these social issues but holds positions that might be less welcoming of immigrants.

"Every election year, many Catholic voters see their choices as between the lesser of two evils. They face candidates who argue that, while they may not be consistent with Catholic values on all issues, they are consistent on some and that should be good enough. But it is not good enough. And as bad as this situation is, it has produced an even worse result: it has blocked the potential of Catholic social teaching to transform our politics."

Anderson continues: "Obviously, there is a difference between a national referendum and the election of candidates for public office, but consider what we could achieve over the next decade if we insisted that politicians seek our vote on our terms—that is to say, on the terms of an authentic appreciation of Catholic social teaching. 

"Consider one example from recent history. In the 1976 Iowa caucus, Jimmy Carter and Sargent Shriver were both seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. As we know, Jimmy Carter won in Iowa and went on to win the nomination and become president. But what if Shriver had won in Iowa and he had gone on to become president? Is it likely that four years later, Ronald Reagan would have been able to build a winning coalition of so-called Reagan Democrats, composed primarily of blue-collar Catholics, to defeat an incumbent pro-life Catholic President Shriver? How would American politics have been different after eight years of a Shriver administration rather than of a Reagan administration?

"Shouldn’t our goal as Catholics be to achieve a political environment where Catholic voters can choose between candidates who are in agreement on the fundamental social teaching of the Church? And if so, how would that new reality change the platforms of both our major political parties regarding other principles of Catholic social teaching?

"I cannot predict the answers to these questions, nor can I say which political party would benefit. I cannot say how our political parties may change during the next decade if politicians take seriously Catholic social teaching. But the outcome could be a new political coalition in which Catholics would play an irreplaceable role. This is not promoting partisan politics—it is the opposite of partisanship.

"Our fourth step must be to transform our national politics on the basis of Catholic social teaching. It was in our grasp to transform American politics in 1976—and it can be again. No political party in America can be successful and at the same time lose a majority of Catholic voters. The solution is as simple as this: we should exercise our right to vote on our own terms and not on the terms of others. If we do, America will be a better place."

Carl Anderson is the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.

The Knights of Columbus was founded 130 years ago by immigrants and the children of immigrants to protect both the faith and the finances of their families. It was founded for another reason, as well.  In the face of massive immigration by Irish and German Catholics in the nineteenth century, the American Party, the “Know Nothings,” and other anti-Catholic bigots claimed that these new Catholic immigrants could not be faithful to papal teaching in matters of faith and morals and at the same time be loyal to the values of American democratic society. The Knights of Columbus sought to show that Catholics coming to the United States could be both faithful to their Church’s teaching and loyal Americans.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the above book for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”