Resurrection Preview: the 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time

jesus-raises-the-widow-of-nains-son-iconThere was a tradition at my grade school that, on the last day of school, students would visit the next grade up, in order to meet their teachers.

It was a preview of sorts. A mean teacher, a quiet teacher, a funny teacher: in just twenty minutes we would all get a taste of just what was in store for us after a glorious summer vacation

This Gospel – the story of the widow of Nain – is no different.

We cannot simply read this story as if it were a miracle, some type of good action: a fortuitous meeting in which Jesus, seeing a need, responds in the most extraordinary of ways. If we do, if we let this be a simply miracle, we create a God filled with caprice, a God who only intervenes in some places and for some people.

But, there is something much greater going on here: this story of resuscitation (because remember, the son would die again) is a preview of the truly momentous event in Jesus’ life, the resurrection.

It will only be two short years until another son of a widow is carried out from a city – this time Jerusalem, not from Nain. There won’t be a crowd, but there will be tears. No one will meet this widow – there won’t be mourners, nor a prophet available to great the broken and crucified body of her only son.

And yet, something will happen three days later: no one will tell his arise; no one, that is, other than the voice of his Heavenly Father who will bid him to rise.

This is, in fact, the challenge of this morning’s Gospel – to leave this place with the knowledge that Christ bids each one of us to rise – and to rise in a way more deeply felt that a simple chance encounter. Christ, indeed, does not meet us with a one-time fix. Those are only a preview to what is really coming.

On the Virtue of Prudence

Author’s Note: This is a revision of the final lecture I gave to my Senior Catholic Social Teaching course.

Tomorrow I’ll be passing out a review sheet and taking questions, but today I wanted to, for better or worse, actually give a lecture. I would ask, then, that you clear your desks, put away your pens, resist the temptation to use your phones, and just listen. A seeming lifetime ago, I made a fateful decision to stay with the Capuchins, rather than join another order. By doing so, I committed to a lifetime of ministry in a parish setting and gave up, most likely, what had been a dream of mine for quite some time: to go back to school to get my doctorate. I did – and still do, I must admit – dream of writing books, giving lectures, and researching. I still dream of the quest for knowledge as my life’s profession. Here I am, then, seeking knowledge in the B Wing of Sacred Heart High School. I sort of feel as if there is a conversation repeated inside my brain from Lord of the Rings, as if I were both characters. It goes something like this:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

The decision to be a Capuchin – to wear brown and not do one of the many other things I could have otherwise is one that I regret less than half the time, and so, in the eyes of the world, I likely made the correct choice. At the same time, I wanted to make the attempt to give a lecture like many of you will be hearing in the near future, so I beg your pardon.

I wanted to lecture today on the virtue of Prudenc: what Thomas Aquinas calls “Wisdom concerning human affairs” (STIIaIIae 47.2 ad 1) or “right reason with respect to action”

The great Isidore, quoted by Aquinas, wrote, “A prudent man is one who sees as it were from afar, for his sight is keen, and he foresees the event of uncertainties.”

We might ask, why is Father Matt boring us on a sunny day, taking about a virtue that we’ve hardly ever thought about, while quoting two men who are long dead. I’m doing so, I would respond, because without prudence, without the virtue of being able to step back and consider the consequences of our decisions, we simply become savage beasts who actually believe “You Only Live Once” will make us happy – or leave the world a better place.

Prudence is the quality that allows us to review our situations, be aware of the situations of others, and understand that our actions have real consequences, not only for ourselves, but also for those around us.

Indeed, prudence is the virtue that allows us to act rightly and justly – but also the virtue that allows us to act effectively.

Prudence is the virtue that prevents us from charging headlong as an army of one against a force arrayed against us in the thousands. Prudence prevents virtues from becoming vices: as the army of one’s bravery is transformed into foolhardiness and even, some might say, stupidity.

Prudence, put in another way, keeps us on the straight and narrow, moving us toward our final end.

Our final end: our destiny – that sounds scary doesn’t it?

But in actuality, our final destiny has been the goal of this course: we have attempted to view the world in a such a way that takes into account the paradox that, on the one hand, heaven and earth are not the same place. At the same time, we have (I hope) come to realize that it is the mission of every Christian to proclaim that heaven is indeed attempting to break into earth and, in the meantime, to we are called to do everything possible to make it a reality.

I had very much looked forward to the opportunity to preach your baccalaureate mass, for this is the first class that has made me its own, and you were – and are – and always will be – my kids. I’ve had the opportunity to be your teacher, your coach, your (possibly) biggest fan on the court, your campus minister, and someone with whom you’ve been able to laugh and cry. Alas, that won’t be happening, so I’m here now attempting to lecture, three days before you’re out of here, on the virtue of prudence.

Prudence is the virtue that I have tried to make a part of each decision in this classroom, each decision that I make with respect to my interactions with you: I’ve always attempted to consider how my response to your requests, or my reaction to whatever it is the seniors were doing today balanced care and concern, a sense of fun, while not sacrificing the reality that all actions have consequences, and, quite plainly, the reality that many of the consequences of our actions cannot nearly be foreseen in the moment or even a few weeks later.

To speak about prudence in this way brings up major decisions: where to go to college, who to marry, or whether to buy a new home. At the same time, prudence in the moment has equally important, though less flashy consequences: knowing that one has had one too many drinks to get behind the wheel, taking a step back from a passionate moment with a significant other, telling the truth at the risk of getting someone in trouble, or even apologizing for something absolutely stupid we’ve done: these are the marks of a prudent person and prudence is, in fact, my deepest wish and prayer for you.

More than learning about solidarity or subsidiarity, deeper than the Just War Theory or solutions for the destruction of our earth’s resources, more complicated than the outline of Natural Law, or more hair splitting than what made me give you a 9.25 on a primary source document rather than a 10, this class was supposed to be about illuminating for you just how complicated our world is. It’s not nearly as easy as liberal or conservative, gay or straight, Democratic or Republic, male or female, black or white. This course cannot be summarized in a 160-character tweet and I have attempted to attend to questions that last longer than a post on Snap Chat. The questions that I attempted to ask, with varying degrees of success, is how do we respond to a world that is at once more beautiful and breathtaking than we dared dream, but at the same time, more devastatingly cruel than any situation cooked up on Grey’s Anatomy or the Walking Dead.

I can, then, in the final account, hope that you know less about the world than when you walked into the classroom. And I can also hope – perhaps more importantly – that you know that you know less. To know that there are things we don’t know is perhaps the greatest talent a person can have.

And so, before you fall asleep, I return to the virtue of prudence: it is not a virtue that tells us what to do, nor is it the virtue that tells us how to do it. Rather, prudence is the virtue that teaches us when we are to do what it is that we know how to do.

In other words, prudence is about knowing what to do with the time that we have been given. May you, my students, my brothers and sisters in Christ, my ones about whom I worried, panicked, cried, raged, and concerned myself, always know what and how to do what it is that you must do. But as for my wish and prayer, may you always know the right time to do it. Amen.




The Culture of Catholic Blogs, or A Word of Thanks

Follow @FatherRosica

Fr. Thomas Rosica, a long-time PR guru for the Church in North America, now an aide for the Church in Rome, spoke candidly about the culture of discord and division often found on Catholic Blogs.

I pray (and believe) that such a culture has never been present here.  Even more, I pray that I have never contributed to it through any post of mine, or any ignorant statement made therein.

Most of all, I want to thank all the writers here and all those who have read the entries here on CatholicHow (although we’ve been dormant for a few months!).  I have always found your posts and comments to come from a place of joy and curiosity, rather than from fear or judgment.

As we move forward and reinvigorate this forum of prayer, thought, and discussion I encourage everyone involved, writers and reader alike, not only to maintain this Spirit here but also to encourage it in other fora where perhaps it is sadly absent.

Thanks again to all.  You’re all great, and I’m honored to journey towards the Kingdom with folks like you.

Sortarican Out.

Vatican PR aide warns Catholic blogs create ‘cesspool of hatred’

The “Gift” of Pentecost

Pentcost Icon 2

By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

So often we hear Pentecost referred to as the birthday of the Church: associated with birthdays, of course, are celebrations, cake, candles, wishes and most especially, gifts.

Indeed, the Church receives a gift on Pentecost: it receives the gift of its own divine life, the Gift of the Holy Spirit that binds the entire community, as Saint Paul says, into a single body.

Yet the very existence of the Church is not a celebration in and of itself: the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church is not a present to be hoarded. We cannot sit within the walls of this church, enjoying the Holy Spirit any more than the Apostles could on the day of their Pentecost.  The very nature of a gift is that it is not earned, nor is their expectation of repayment. And so, the Holy Spirit’s descent on the Apostles in the upper room is not simply a gift, not another present to be opened and then put on a shelf.

The Holy Spirit is not a birthday present, but rather a birthday mission.

We are sent forth from this place, just as the Apostles were sent from their places, into a world equally as challenging, equally as dark, but equally as desperate for the message of Jesus the Christ.

As Saint Irenaeus wrote, the Holy Spirit has given the image and inscription of the Father and Son to us, and it is our mission to make a profit. Irenaeus actually refers to this gift as “two coins,” which need to be invested in others.

The ways in which we leave this place on mission are as different as each person: yet perhaps it is most important to remember that we are all sent, we all have a part to play, we all have the currency of Christ in our hearts: spend this birthday well!!!



Paris and Denying Refugees – How evil sneaks in

The attacks around Paris have left me with a significant heaviness in my heart that, to be quite honest, surprised me a bit. I was living in Boston at the time of the bombing at the Boston Marathon and have visceral memories both of the day of the Marathon and the day the city shut down to hunt down the suspects. I studied in Paris and spent part of my honeymoon there. Paris has significant gravity for me, always calling me back. It’s a strange reality to know two places that have been home for me have been violently attacked in a very personal way.

But Boston isn’t Paris. The brothers Tsarnaev are not ISIS. In many ways Paris frightens so many not just because ISIS is particularly terrifying but because – unlike places like Beirut or Kenya – Paris feels close to home. A Western developed country that feels ‘safe’ to so many. I would like to think that between my connections to Boston and Paris, I am not so naive as to the realities of evil in the world. Though as someone who is in many ways still distant and does not know the much starker reality of living under the threat of violence, I realize I still have much to learn about evil, but am not utterly separated from it myself.

Evil is a strong word and a very serious undertaking by any means. I do not hesitate in naming the attacks in Paris as acts of evil. I do not hesitate in naming ISIS as an agent of evil in the world. But these things are also the easy side to evil. It’s easy to name and fairly obvious that these heinous and horrifying events are just that. This is also where I worry that the other side of evil comes alive without us knowing, the sneaky and quietly malicious side of evil.

What happened in Paris calls us to grieve, to take the time to let the reality of what happened sink in and to process what it is to lose so many people in such a manner. But as disciples, we are always called to go beyond grieving in the wake of evil actions. There are many cries for justice rising into the air now – but if justice is to be more than vengeance, to truly seek right relationship, we would be remiss if we did not pause to reflect on how we – as Christians, as Catholics, as citizens of the United States and of the world – may perpetuate evil or be complicit in other acts of evil.

While we rightfully ought ask ‘How could they have done this?’, such a question rings hollow if we do not also inquire as to how we got to where we are in the first place. How we may have allowed the situation to progress to how it is. We also then must ask ourselves how we move forward and seek justice that is truly justice and not trumped up vengeance.

As days pass, it seems that evil is creeping its way in, whether through blaming all Muslims collectively for the actions of ISIS, or – the popular new move – blaming refugees.Despite the role of a French-born man in the attacks, having one possible refugee involved seems justification to refuse to accept refugees. Regardless of whether or not state governors have the power to refuse or accept refugees, the effort on the part of so many to keep refugees out betrays the sneaky way evil sneaks into our hearts and convinces us to act on its behalf. Refusing refugees means condemning these people to suffer the fate which we so fear ourselves that we are willing to justify their suffering in place of our own.  Evil manages to twist our logic so that we can feel confident in denying a safe haven to others to allegedly ensure our own.

It’s easy to claim courage when condemning the obvious evil of the acts of ISIS, an evil that has no easy or obvious solution and will continue to try our courage as a whole human race. The real courage comes when one is willing to examine how they might perpetuate evil on their own. Real courage comes to life when we are willing to say ‘we will take in those most in need, fleeing this evil we fear and abhor, even at the risk of suffering it ourselves.’ Denying refugees does not guarantee that we will not suffer the evils of ISIS. Accepting them means that we resist causing others to suffer from the evil that breeds within us and quell it instead.

Jesus did not call his disciples to seek self-preservation, but to give up one’s life for their friends. Jesus himself, with all of the Holy Family, sought refuge from persecution in a strange land. As we enter into Advent, may we remember that Jesus suffered for all, not just for some, and that ultimately we are called to do the same.

Holy Family, who were refugees in a foreign land, pray for us.

Jesus, light in a darkened world, pray for us.


500 Years of No Shoes

Yesterday was a BIG DEAL in the Palanza household.  Mama Palanza, OCDS of over 25 years, suspended the painfully low carb diet that my ever pudgy, Italian family agreed to follow.  It only took a couple of deliciously glutenous, thin crust pizzas from Bertucci’s to make our celebration feel like one of the most important, joyful days we’ve ever had.  Yesterday, an important member of our family had a birthday – a milestone birthday that most families never get to celebrate – a Quincentenary birthday!

Yesterday was the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila).  That’s not actually a member of our family, you might say.  Well, I suppose that’s technically true.  Yet, thanks to my mother’s charism, Teresa really is the source of the way my siblings and I pray, she’s the one who gave us our spiritual goals, she taught us how important humility is, and she challenges us to become closer and closer to Christ – despite and especially when we think we are close enough.  How many “members” of our family have that kind of influence on us?  And if that isn’t proof enough that she’s part of the family, then just do a count of who has the most pictures up in the house!

You can find all kinds of information on Teresa from a simple Google search so I’ll just highlight two things here.  First, Teresa was named the first female Doctor of the Church by Paul 6th in 1970 (yeah, it took that long).  When you start reading Teresa, be sure you do so with that fact in mind.  You are about to read something written by a DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH (something of the same level as Augustine or Thomas Aquinas).  You are not about to read a short devotional book of comforting advice and pretty poetry written by a sweet, old nun.  You will be incredibly disappointed, frustrated, and perplexed if you expect to pick up the Interior Castle and get it the first time!  Second, Teresa is well know for her reform movement in the Carmelite order.  She had no intention of starting a separate group, she just wanted to live closer to what the original Carmelite rule laid out: live simply, pray a lot.  Not everyone was okay with Teresa’s reform, so separate groups eventually formed.  O. Carm. is the shorthand of the original group (Order of Carmelites), O.C.D. is the shorthand for the group that Teresa spearheaded (Order of Carmelites Discalced, “discalced” means “shoeless”).  O.C.D.S. is the shorthand for Mama Palanza’s group, which is the secular part of Teresa’s group (Order of Carmelites, Discalced, Secular – lay people with families who live out Teresa’s lifestyle as their situation in life allows).

To finish, here’s a passage from the Office of Readings for Teresa’s Memorial.  FELIZ CUMPLEANOS TERESA!

If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend. And I clearly see that if we expect to please him and receive an abundance of his graces, God desires that these graces must come to us from the hands of Christ, through his most sacred humanity, in which God takes delight.

Many, many times I have perceived this through experience. The Lord has told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we wish his Sovereign Majesty to reveal to us great and hidden mysteries. A person should desire no other path, even if he is at the summit of contemplation; on this road he walks safely. All blessings come to us through our Lord. He will teach us, for in beholding his life we find that he is the best example.

What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side? Unlike our friends in the world, he will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed. Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near. Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul: it seems that no other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, because the name of Jesus was fixed and embedded in his heart. Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they took no other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of Siena. A person must walk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God’s hands. If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept this gladly.

Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favours, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love calls for love in return. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to rouse ourselves to love him. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the grace of impressing his love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall accomplish great things quickly and without effort.

A Look at the Francis Effect

Daily Mail – Pope Francis Kissing a Baby

I remember “working” at my grad student job at Boston College in the Roche Center for Catholic Education with both eyes locked in on the live feed focused on the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. I, along with much of the world, awaited the simple, yet dramatic, sign of white smoke that would signify a new era of Catholicism.

Though we get to experience something similar every four years in the United States, this type of event is different. Electing a Pope is not usually something that happens as often or as regularly as the election of the President of the United States. This particular papal election was even more significant in that it was preceded by the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, an event about as unusual as a total solar eclipse occurring at the passing of halley’s comet (6 times in last 2,000 years to 5 papal resignations). It was, to say the least, a monumental moment in history. Continue reading A Look at the Francis Effect

What I Really Want from the Synod on the Family

Pope Francis and prelates attend the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See SYNOD-CONTRACEPTION and SYNOD-ISLAM Oct. 9, 2014.
Pope Francis and prelates attend the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See SYNOD-CONTRACEPTION and SYNOD-ISLAM Oct. 9, 2014.

By Brian Romer Niemiec

A few days into the Synod on the Family, and we have already seen a wide range of topics and opinions being presented and discussed in Rome. Any hesitation or passivity that may have been present at the beginning of the extraordinary synod last year has been thrown away.  It is no secret that these upcoming conversations are going to be a conversion experience for all involved if the synod is to speak with one voice at the end of its time together (naïvely optimistic, I know).

These hot button issues are incredibly important subjects to discuss, and I am very gratified by many of the people present at the synod for wanting to work through these topics to find a life-giving truth for the betterment of Christian families.  I was, however, even more delighted to hear some of the bishops request time to talk about less sexy, but no less important issues surrounding ways to support and strengthen family life within Church communities.

It is this question – one of many – that I am wrestling with now in my parish collaborative. I see families in both churches with various levels of need in the area of faith formation.  There is the family that comes to mass every Sunday, volunteers in a number of parish activities, and prays as a family at home.  There is also the family that shows up only to mass on weekends with Religious Education, and when asked why they attend class the oldest son responds, “Well, my grandmother thinks it is important, so my mom makes us all go.”

Continue reading What I Really Want from the Synod on the Family

On Chaos and Compassion


By Claire McGrath

“There’s a BUG in here! A BIG BUG!!!” It’s been a pretty hectic day, and those are not the words I want to hear right now, being that I don’t exactly consider myself a fan of “big bugs.” Tonight was our community night at L’Arche Harbor House—an evening when anyone with any connection to or interest in Harbor House is invited to join the community in celebrating all that is L’Arche. After participating in a program at our community center, which involves plenty of singing, dancing, prayer, and reflection, all are invited to one of the homes for dinner. Our house had hosted about 20 people. It’s a joy to be able to share the gift of L’Arche—but it’s also a lot of preparation, and by the end of the day, I’m pretty tired. Our guests have returned home, and the core members are getting ready for bed; the day is finally winding down, or so I thought, until I hear one of the core members shouting about the alleged “big bug” from the bathroom. “What is this bug DOING in here?!” I move closer to the door, trying to pretending that I am not at all phased by the idea of a large bug in the bathroom. Then the door to the bathroom cracks open, and a hand thrusts out as a voice exclaims, “HERE. A big bug!!!” In his hand, he holds a palm-sized stuffed ladybug that belongs to one of the other core members, and I dissolve into relieved laughter as I take the stuffed animal. That’s enough excitement for one day.

Continue reading On Chaos and Compassion

Pope Francis on the Family… and Beyond

By Matt Keppel

Two weekends ago, I had the immense blessing to be in Philadelphia to witness the beautiful representative of the Catholic Church that is Pope Francis. The conference that he was attending, and closing, was on the family and the life of the family within the Church. Following the World Meeting of Families, he is going to follow up his historic visit to the United States with the Synod on the Family. So, it would seem that family is significant on Francis’s list. After listening to him multiple times this weekend, I can attest to what he believes about the life of the family: love.

Just as Francis has been clear about some issues regarding families, he has been interestingly vague on others. On nearly every street corner in Philadelphia the throngs of people were confronted by men, young and old, asking us (mostly men, really) to sign a petition intended for Pope Francis that he might make a definitive statement about marriage being between a man and a woman. And yet, at the World Meeting of Families what did he tell us about families? That they are called to love the members within them; children are valuable to us because they are our future; our grandparents are our familial memory; and the love of the family should be lived out to bring love and joy to our communities. Many of us standing there were shocked. Francis finished his Saturday evening address without addressing what so many people had hoped he would: same-sex unions. Continue reading Pope Francis on the Family… and Beyond

Catholics thinking "how"!