Fr. Jacques, the police, and 11 years a Catholic

“As we have borne the image of the earthly man, so we shall bear the image of him who is from heaven; since the first man who came from the earth, is earthly, but the second man who came from heaven, is heavenly. And so, dearly beloved, we shall not die anymore. Even if we fall asleep in this body, we shall live in Christ, as he said: Whoever believes in me, even if he die, shall live.” -From a sermon on baptism, by Saint Pacian, in today’s Office of Readings

Père_Jacques_Hamel

Père Jacques Hamel, from the Diocese of Rouen

What does it mean to be Catholic, to live a life rooted in Jesus Christ? What does he call each of us to do, to give, to sacrifice? How are we called to love and to show mercy? I have been reflecting on these questions today for two reasons. The first reason begins Fr. Jacques Hamel, a retired priest in France who was murdered while he was celebrating Mass. He was a faithful priest who carried out his ministry, his life, centered on the Faith, someone who parishioners called, “a good priest … who did his job to the very end.” Fr. Jacques lived out his baptismal and priestly call to proclaim the truth to all nations and all people, even if that meant giving the ultimate sacrifice, even to his very last words.

How are we called to love Christ and his people?

This first reason began with Fr. Jacques and continues to my experience in Mexico, although they are very different. Several times I have visited public hospitals with my pastor, Fr. Augustín, and at each one, we were met by delays, questions, and outright indifference. One hospital prevented us from entering for over an hour, while streams of people proceeded past us and through security without a care in the world. Fr. Augustín later told me that many police officers, being an arm of the government, did not like Catholic priests, and tried everything they could to make life difficult for priests, even in the small ways. Fr. Jacques faced down responded to his call in a very defined and specific moment, and Fr. Augustín responds as well, even if in a different way. This was a shock for my American sensibilities; for as much trouble as we have right now in the United States regarding discrimination against those who are not  “with the times”, I would find it unfathomable if someone were to prevent a minister in this manner from seeing one of his people, whether in a public or private hospital.

As shown by these incidents, through our Baptism, we are called to sacrifice, love and mercy.

Bpatism

August 13, 2005

Which brings me to the second reason that I am reflecting on all of these questions: today, I celebrate 11 years since my Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion in the Catholic Church, taking Saint Benedict as my patron. So I am brought to consider how I have lived out that baptismal call in my own life: where am I called to love, to sacrifice, to show mercy? How am I called to give glory to God in the things that I say and do? Although I have discovered some answers, I am still searching, as I am sure many of my Christian brothers and sister do as well. After all, I don’t think most of us have it completely figured out!

As I look out the window onto the cityscape of Mexico City, just 16 days before I return to the United States, I have come to realize though that it is in the everyday interactions with people, here in Mexico and back in the U.S., that I am called to live out the love of Christ. I do not know if I will ever face situations as difficult or profound as Fr. Augustín or Fr. Jacques. After all, in the words of of St. Thomas More in A

Acolyte.jpg

11 years later, after institution as an Acolyte

Man for All Seasons, “this is not the stuff of which martyrs are made.” But as I continue preparation for a different type of calling in my life, the next step of which will be my Pastoral Year, I know that I, and all of us, are called to live out each day molding our lives to Christ. Sometimes we will fall, but then we must return to Him, recognizing that His mercy is ever-present, and that we are called to spread that mercy in our own lives and in the lives of others, something that I pray I will do faithfully when I am, Lord willing, ordained a priest. The Lord knows that since my baptism I have fallen many times, but it is my hope that through the faults and messiness of my life, Christ may work through me and through all of us to bring His message to the world.

Please pray for me, for all your seminarians, priests, and religious. Know that you remain in our prayers as well.

Sancte Benedicte, ora pro nobis.

A Naomh Pádraigh, guigh orainne.

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, ruega por nosotros.

Second Sunday of Easter: Divine Mercy Sunday (Reflection)

For His mercy endures forever…

Acts 5:10-16, Ps. 118.2-4, 13-15, 22-24

Rev. 1.9-11A, 12-13, 17-19

800px-The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas_by_Caravaggio

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What is mercy? Well, let me ask you another question, in hopes that we discover the answer: Are you a “doubting Thomas?” If you are anything like me, there have probably been many times throughout your life where you could answer “yes” to that question. Especially in our world today, we tend to look for hard, physical evidence, looking for the scientific basis of this or that situation. But even more so, I think there is another reason why we can call ourselves, at times, “doubting Thomas.” It’s hard for us to believe that our Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, hung upon the cross for us, and not just us as a collective group, but for you and me individually, as if we were the only persons in existence. Even though it is only a week after we celebrated the Resurrection of our Lord, we might have doubts and questions! But this is why we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, to serve as a reminder that all of us have received the free and unmerited gift of His mercy, that His triumph over death is real, if only we are willing to accept it. We see this in our first reading as the “believers in the Lord” were gathering: even though they were sick and maligned, “they were all cured”[1] at the hands of the apostles. Nothing was asked of them but faith in Jesus Christ, and nothing more is asked of us in order to find true healing. All we have to do to accept this gift of mercy is proclaim Jesus as the one who triumphed over death, and to embrace that “[our] strength and [our] courage is the Lord.”[2]

So let’s return to the image of the doubting Thomas: where can we find mercy? A doubting Thomas looks for the proof, and finds it difficult to accept in faith, something that many of us may be able to readily identify with! The beautiful reality, brothers and sisters, is that He brings the proof to us; He meets us right where we are at, with all of our sins and failings, inviting us to something more, something beautiful and glorious. This is mercy! When Thomas expresses his doubt, the Lord, in His mercy, approaches him and invites Thomas, invites him!, to bring his hand and place it into the Lord’s side. Only then, when Thomas is able to physically touch the Lord, does He exclaim, “My Lord and my God!”[3] The Lord knew Thomas, and knows us, and just as he knew that Thomas needed that moment of physical touch, so too does He know exactly what we need in order to experience and accepts His grace and mercy. Mercy is the Lord reaching out to us.

Divine Mercy

Pope Francis describes mercy as, “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”[4] But we do not build this bridge; it is Christ’s mercy, Christ’s bridge, that brings us closer to Him. Just as the Lord knew what bridge had to be built for Thomas, namely showing him and allowing him to feel the wounds in His side, He knows as well just what form the bridge needs to take for us, but we have to be willing to cross it to accept His mercy.

But where is our bridge? Of course, each one of us experiences Christ’s everlasting mercy and love in a unique manner, but it all flows from one place: from the sacraments, from confession, and most especially, the Word made flesh on the Eucharistic table. It is here that He calls to us and tells us, “do not be afraid.”[5] In His mercy, He provides the bridge, beckoning us to open our hearts to being led across, telling us, “do not be unbelieving but believe.”[6] The gift is there waiting for us; we just have to accept it. When we do cross this bridge, we die to sin, and are born to new life.[7]

So brothers and sisters, the Lord invites you and me, as He invited Thomas, to a deep and personal encounter with Him. This encounter, which takes place especially in the Eucharist and Confession, is one where we will discover the mercy of Christ, “by whose Spirit [we] have been reborn and by whose blood [we] have been redeemed.”[8] Let us “receive the Holy Spirit”, inviting mercy into our lives. As we profess our faith, let us keep the Easter acclamation, “Alleluia!” in our hearts, minds, and actions, proclaiming to the world that His mercy endures forever, and His love is indeed everlasting.[9]


 

  1. [1] Acts 5.16
  2. [2] Psalm 118.15
  3. [3] John 20.26
  4. [4] Pope Francis, Misericordae Vultus
  5. [5] Rev. 1.17
  6. [6] John 20.27
  7. [7] CCC 1988
  8. [8] Collect for 2nd Sunday of Easter, Yr. C
  9. [9] Ps. 118 and Response

On the passing of Mother Angelica

“The sun and all the stars cannot compare with the beauty of one holy soul.” -Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, PCPA, founder of EWTN

Mother Angelica

If there is one thing I hope to express with this blog, with as much as I love astronomy, it is the above sentiment given by Mother Angelica; if there is a second, it is the fact that we are all on a journey to becoming that holy soul, a journey that has twists, turns, hills, and valleys. That’s OK. Mother Angelica experienced that in her own life too.

Mother Angelica, the founder of EWTN, passed to her reward this Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016. Today she was laid to rest in Alabama, her home for almost 60 years (you can read the homily here).

If it were not for Mother Angelica, I probably wouldn’t be a Catholic, much less in seminary studying to be a priest.

About the same time I was first considering the Church after stumbling into a Catholic bookstore, I also discovered the Eternal Word Television Network. The first show I saw on this strange Catholic T.V. network (who knew Catholics had bookstores, much less television stations!) was, you guessed it, Mother Angelica’s famous call-in program. By this time she was in reruns, as she had experienced a severe stroke three years prior to my discovery, but her points were no less relevant. In fact, I have found that the more I have watched her over the years, the more I see that she knew what she was talking about, and could foretell where our society was heading.

So I watched as much of this old nun on T.V. late at night as I could, as I didn’t want my roommates discovering my secret (let’s just say they weren’t fond of Catholics). Mother Angelica, in her straightforward, no-nonsense, and humorous manner taught me about the faith. Along with the catechism lessons I was receiving at the time, and with the many books given to me by the aforementioned bookstore, Mother Angelica imparted to me a foundation in the faith I will cherish to my last days. She was truly a Godsend in my life, and the lives of many others, teaching us about faith, hope, love, beauty, and the value, and necessity, of sacrifice. She taught us about trusting in God, radical obedience, and keeping our hearts open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. In other words, she taught us about being followers of Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Mother Angelica, for so readily responding to the Lord’s call, and for following Him in all things, no matter what the cost. If, in my vocation and life, I can emulate your example even by a fraction, then it will have been fruitful. May you come you come to rest in the peace of Christ, and hear those words which we all long for: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter now into your Master’s house…” Thank you, Mother Angelica, for being that beautiful soul, for outshining the sun and all the stars.

Réquiem ætérnam dona ei Dómine; et lux perpétua lúceat ei. Requiéscat in pace. Amen.

You can find more about Mother Angelica, including writings and video, at EWTN’s memorial site.

From Wandering Hobbit to Believing Astronomer

Well, I meant to post this update about a week ago, but alas, as a seminarian in graduate-level theology, other matters tend to take the forefront (and rightly so!). But I finally have a moment to sit down and give a proper update here at The Believing Astronomer, what used to be The Road Goes Ever On.

First, you’ll notice that I have my own website domain now, thanks to a generous Christmas gift from a family member (thanks Dad!). I’m still running trusty ol’ WordPress, but it should be easier to find the site now. The new address is also reflected in the new title, which is, as you can see, The Believing Astronomer.

But why the new name? Well, there are a couple reasons:

  1. Science and faith are two important aspects of my life, especially astronomy and cosmology in terms of science. While science can never replace my faith, I fully believe that faith and reason go hand-in-hand. God gave us minds to use and to observe, to study the world. We are called to a responsible examination of everything around us, and by doing so, we can get to know His creation even better. I wanted this to be reflected in the blog, not only in title, but in actuality: I plan on posting more astronomy and cosmology based articles from time to time, as well as other odds and ends such as a series on backyard astronomy basics, the first post of which can be seen here. At the same time, my faith, as I said, remains paramount, so I will continue posting on matters concerning my Catholic beliefs, and continuing series such as On the Journey. From time to time, the two topics will most certainly intersect. Of course, I will also post updates on my journey towards the priesthood, as that is, of course, my first concern in my life (well, besides loving and serving God and neighbor, but they all go together, in my opinion).
  2. While I loved the Tolkien reference in the name of the blog (from the poem “The Road Goes Ever On“), I fear that it might be a copyright issue, so rather than even have the remote possibility of receiving a friendly note from the Tolkien estate (although I would like to think he might appreciate some of the work here), better safe than sorry.

So there you have it. This particular hobbit continues the journey, seeking God, looking up, and as always, keeping you in prayer. Please pray for me as well!

Pax.