Friday, June 19, 2009

The great feasts of summer, pt. 2: Corpus Christi

Here at last is my long-overdue post on Corpus Christi. We were at the Cathedral again this past Sunday, but the homily, while good, did not give me as much food for meditation. They had a visiting Holy Cross missionary priest who shared stories about his time in Africa. Inspiring, yes - but the connection to Corpus Christi was somewhat tenuous.

My attention was instead captured by the reading from the Old Testament. Moses tells the Israelites about the Law - and they promise to keep it. Then the oath is sealed in blood:
Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites
to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls
as peace offerings to the LORD,
Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls;
the other half he splashed on the altar.
Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people,
who answered, "All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do."
Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying,
"This is the blood of the covenant
that the LORD has made with you
in accordance with all these words of his."
Powerful stuff, but the tale of a blood sacrifice seems nearly pagan to our modern sensibilities. What to make of this? I think it makes clear the sacramentality of our faith - God making himself present through the material things of this world. Surely an all-powerful God has no need for holocausts or the blood of young bulls. But the Jewish people needed that visible sign of their covenant, that unbreakable oath to their God.

And in the Gospel reading, we go on to the New Covenant - sealed not with the blood of mere animals, but the blood of God's only Son. Again God makes himself present, this time in an unbloody sacrifice of bread and wine - a miracle and mystery beyond our human comprehension.

How was the Passover sacrifice completed? The Jewish families ate the unblemished lamb. This type for Jesus' flesh and blood could not make itself more clear. And so I pray for a greater faith in the Real Presence. "Lord, I believe - help my unbelief!"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

First Friday Devotion

I was looking for information today on the First Friday Devotion, not realizing that the First Friday of June was last week. D'oh! I suppose I will be starting that in July instead. :)

Anyway, Happy to Be Catholic has a nice post here on the First Friday Devotion. I knew it involved going to Mass on consecutive First Fridays, but I didn't realize it was for nine whole months. I don't think I would have that much trouble going to Mass on the First Friday (one of the perks of being at Notre Dame). But the first week of a new month always seems to sneak up on me!

We live in a sad, cruel world. I think we could all stand to make some prayers of reparation. After the stories last year about the Eucharistic desecrations I used to pray in reparation nightly and sadly I've fallen out of that practice. I invite my readers to join me in the devotion of First Fridays.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The great feasts of summer, part 1: Trinity Sunday

The Easter season has drawn to a close with the feast of Pentecost, but I love the summertime feasts of Trinity Sunday and especially Corpus Christi. Being that Matt and I are on the south side of town now, we were at St. Matthew's Cathedral for Trinity Sunday. They had a wonderful young deacon preaching the homily, and surprise surprise - he incorporated the Theology of the Body into his sermon.

The Theology of the Body - and particularly Christopher West's commentary on it - has come under fire in recent weeks. This was fueled by a somewhat controversial Nightline interview in which West was portrayed as taking John Paul II and Hugh Hefner as heroes. Suddenly it seemed that every Catholic pundit had something to say and everyone wanted to jump on the West-bashing bandwagon - although most bloggers maintained charity. (Three of my favorite editorials on the flap are here: Jimmy Akin's commentary, Prof. David Schindler's criticism and Dr. Janet Smith's response.)

I am certainly not well versed enough in theology to even critique the critiques, but suffice it to say that I do think ToB has gotten somewhat of an unfair bad rap here. There seems to be a misconception that ToB exclusively relates to sex, and perhaps Christopher West is partly responsible for this. I have read The Good News about Sex and Marriage and found it to be solid, frank and open - exactly what is needed to explicate the "hard teachings" of the Church on sexuality. However, I have also listened to a talk of his about marriage and the Eucharist and as I recall, his language there did indeed veer on the side of too explicit. Let us not forget that the marriage of Christ and his Church is mystical, not fleshly! There is a genuine need in our modern world to understand the proper and holy function of sex - but narrowing the focus of ToB to the bedroom at the expense of what it has to say about ALL human love does not do it justice.

But, as the deacon reminded us last Sunday, ToB at its fundamental level is about relationships. God is present as a communion of Persons in the Holy Trinity. Since we are made in His image and likeness, we mirror that communion of persons in our own human relationships. The Hold Spirit proceeds from the love between the Father and the Son; so too, the life-giving love of husband and wife brings forth children. For the first time, I really felt I understood, at least a little bit, why God is Triune. The Trinity will always be a sacred mystery - that does not mean it is wholly inexplicable. Altogether a great homily and I look forward to more.

Side note: Does anyone know if any of the churches in the South Bend area have a Corpus Christi procession? I have a vivid memory of taking part in the Corpus Christi procession at St. Agnes Church in St. Paul, MN a few years back. I would love to do it again.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The death of an abortionist

I'm sure that by now everyone has heard about the shooting of the infamous abortionist George Tiller. Of course, the media and the pro-abortion partisans have wasted no time in using the actions of an unstable murderer as a club to beat all pro-lifers with. If this man had no qualms about shooting the abortionist in his church in cold blood...doesn't that maybe suggest he didn't really understand the meaning of the word "pro-life?" But, as usual, the peaceful majority are ignored in favor of the lunatic fringe.

Aside from being an evil action, this murder quite possibly could be the worst thing to happen to the pro-life movement in a long time. Think about it - polls showed that a majority of Americans identify themselves as "pro-life" now. Now, not only has the media linked pro-life activism to this murder, the abortionist himself is being glorified as a martyr by NARAL and the like.

Let me be absolutely clear - I did not wish this man's death, but his repentance and conversion. But make no mistake that what Tiller did was also evil. I read somewhere that he claimed to have performed over 60,000 abortions. That alone is chilling enough, but he specialized in late-term abortions. I have plenty of friends who are pro-choice, but I find that even they object to abortion when the baby is viable. Many of the abortions he performed were of viable babies just a few weeks from birth. The news on Tiller's murder is being framed in such a way that this sickening fact is being obscured. The "abortionist = courageous hero" angle is being pushed, and I think it's very possible that this is a deliberate attempt to turn the tide of public opinion towards the pro-abortion side.

The murder suspect should absolutely not be seen as some kind of emblem of the pro-life movement, or vigilante hero. From all accounts he seemed to be a troubled man who had a bone to pick with society in general. Blaming the pro-life movement for his actions would be as foolish as blaming all Muslims for the man who gunned down the two soldiers at the recruiting center in Arkansas yesterday. (It's a reflection on our society that the death of a soldier on American soil isn't getting nearly as much coverage as the death of an abortionist - and very telling that our president finds the death of an abortionist more worthy of comment. He sent out federal marshals to protect abortion clinics - but military recruiting centers are apparently expected to protect themselves.)

In the end, Tiller's murderer succumbed to the same falsehood that Tiller himself believed - that man can play God, taking life away at will. May God have mercy on them - and on us all.

"Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement." - Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings