Where’s Everyone Else?

The arrival of the Magi before the Divine Infant, presenting their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh should rightfully take center stage on the feast of the Epiphany. The gifts are most fitting, of course, acknowledging the Infant to be the King, Priest, and Savior that He is.

And we can imagine the excitement of the Magi as they set out on their journey.

But we should not think that this was a thoughtless trip; years of preparation for all three of them went into this. They had heard of a prophecy – perhaps from their youth – of an Infant to be born who would be the King of the Jews and who would free them from a bondage that went beyond the political realm, a true Messiah in every sense whose influence and impact would actually extend well beyond one nation or people. This would have originated with the prophet Daniel during the Babylonian captivity, as he was put in charge of all the wise men of the kingdom.

So these Magi disciplined their minds and their lives to be sensitive to the signs that would indicate fulfillment of this prophecy. And with the passing of those centuries since Daniel, there was much expectation within the ranks that the fulness of time just may be on hand for the appearance of the “Long Expected of the Nations.” And these three Magi were ready.

Evidently, the star that was sent was no ordinary celestial occurrence; they were touched by a divine light to know this was the sign for them, and so they summoned their respective caravans and set out quickly.

How different from celestial manifestation given to the Jewish shepherds, to whom angels appeared with an announcement of great joy about where to find their Infant Savior! Instead, these Magi – representatives of the Gentiles – set out to follow a light that would guide them, all the while not knowing exactly what to expect when they finally arrived to pay homage to an Infant King.

Yet that does not mean that they did not have some expectations; after all, they were well-accustomed to the pomp and splendor of their Eastern homelands, so they naturally had in mind what would best befit an Heir to a throne, let alone One who fulfills an ancient prophecy. In all likelihood, though, they would have met with caution and resistance from some in their circles: the journey was long; things were uncertain – why be troubled over the prophecies of an alien religion; why give up the comfort and status of their respective stations – they may lose some credibility and influence; was it really that important to search out some foreign monarch?

But their faith stood steadfast and they went anyway, presenting us all perhaps with a hard lesson about what sincere faith should look like in the face of all-too-worldly objections.

As their journey progressed, no doubt their expectations grew, but the poor conditions of the Manger would have been the furthest thing from their minds! The star – His star as they called it – had proved to be a loyal companion. Providence had brought the three together for a common cause, and so their constant conversation would have been about the matter at hand. And so their excitement grew as the star led them towards Jerusalem. How could they not expect to find shared excitement when they arrived there? These Magi, these wise men from the East, were in the midst of the fulfillment of the greatest prophecy ever.

Certainly this would be the only talk of the town. Certainly there would be great crowds of Jews looking to just get a glimpse of the Messiah. Certainly, there would be celebration like never before.

But where is everyone else?!

This is quite bizarre, quite the unexpected blow. It is business as usual…everywhere.

Perhaps with some bewilderment (we are in Jerusalem, correct, not Seattle?), they found King Herod’s palace, made their entrance, and announced their intention: Where is He that is born, the King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to adore Him. (Mt. 2:2)

But it is business as usual there, too. What is going on, or more to the point, what is not going on?

Does anyone know? Does anyone care? Who missed the memo? Perhaps it had some resemblance to an old Western movie, that part when the cowboy enters the saloon and the piano music suddenly stops, leaving this heavy silence with everyone awkwardly looking at each other. As a spiritual writer astutely observes: To find the people of the Holy City utterly ignorant of the great event which had drawn them from the remote East must have been a rude shock, and must have had a chilling effect on the warmth of their imaginations.

Behold the first New Testament confrontation between the casual (or cultural) religious observer and those who consciously and conscientiously try to live the Faith in all charity. The inconsolable cries of Rachel are beginning to echo in the distance.

Confronted with this royal embassy, threatened by the reality, at Herod’s command an embarrassed flutter of activity follows among the chief priests and scribes to make up for the centuries of sleeping through class. In Bethlehem of Juda they determine was where our Lord was to be born. (cf. Mt. 2:4-5)

Interesting how the star, His star, first brings the Magi to Jerusalem, the custodian of the prophecy concerning the Messiah, for them to learn where Christ was to be. It is further interesting that the star disappears while this takes place. Perhaps God, in His mercy and in His desire to arouse faith in those “enlightened by birth,” as unworthy or careless as they may have been, used them to enlighten these already enlightened Magi on this one point. Only afterwards does it appear again to lead these faithful Magi to Bethlehem, finding its rest over the Manger.

But why would not King Herod and his embassy accompany them? Why not make an announcement to everyone in the kingdom of the wonderful news? Why not deck the halls and have a grand procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to greet their newborn King and Savior? Is not the star, His star, visible for all to see? Where is everyone else?

It seems then that the role of the Magi goes well beyond the gifts they present to Jesus at the Manger, as important and as significant as those are.

On this Epiphany, ponder their gift of Faith, their resoluteness in action, and the challenge they present to us all to live daily more consciously and conscientiously as stars that can lead souls to Him. God will do His part to let us know where everyone else is.

January 6, 2021

Litany of Our Lady of Victory

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of Heaven. Have mercy on us.

God, the Son, Redeemer of the world. Have mercy on us.

God, the Holy Spirit. Have mercy on us.

Holy Trinity, One God. Have mercy on us.

 

Our Lady of Victory. Pray for us.

Victorious daughter of the Father. Pray for us.

Victorious Mother of the Son. Pray for us.

Victorious Spouse of the Holy Spirit. Pray for us.

Victorious servant of the Holy Trinity. Pray for us.

Victorious in crushing the serpent’s head. Pray for us.

Victorious over the children of Adam. Pray for us.

Victorious over all enemies. Pray for us.

Victorious in your wedding to St. Joseph. Pray for us.

Victorious in the birth of Christ. Pray for us.

Victorious in the flight to Egypt. Pray for us.

Victorious in your exile. Pray for us.

Victorious in your home at Nazareth. Pray for us.

Victorious in finding Christ at the temple. Pray for us.

Victorious in the mission of your Son. Pray for us.

Victorious in His passion and death. Pray for us.

Victorious in His Resurrection and Ascension. Pray for us.

Victorious in the Coming of the Holy Spirit. Pray for us.

Victorious in thy sorrows and joys. Pray for us.

Victorious in thy glorious Assumption. Pray for us.

Victorious in the angels who remained faithful. Pray for us.

Victorious in the happiness of the saints. Pray for us.

Victorious in the message of the prophets. Pray for us.

Victorious in the testimony of the patriarchs. Pray for us.

Victorious in the zeal of the apostles. Pray for us.

Victorious in the witness of the evangelists. Pray for us.

Victorious in the wisdom of the doctors. Pray for us.

Victorious in the deeds of the confessors. Pray for us.

Victorious in the triumph of all holy women. Pray for us.

Victorious in the faithfulness of the martyrs. Pray for us.

Victorious in thy powerful intercession. Pray for us.

Victorious under thy many titles. Pray for us.

Victorious at the moment of death. Pray for us.

 

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Have mercy, O Lord.

Pray for us, blessed Lady of Victory. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

O Victorious Lady! thou who has ever such powerful influence with thy Divine Son, in conquering the hardest of hearts: intercede for those for whom we pray, that their hearts being softened by the rays of divine Grace, they may return to the unity of the true Faith. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

January 5, 2021

200th Anniversary of the Holy Death of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

An account of her final confinement and death, excerpted from the Life of Mrs. Eliza A. Seton, by Charles I. White, 1879. 

From the attack of illness which she suffered in 1818, Mother Seton never entirely recovered. Her constitution had been completely shattered, and, by greater exposure than her delicate health would permit, she contracted, in the summer of 1820, a pulmonary disease which confined her during four months to her room and baffled every effort of her medical attendants.

As she approached the term of her earthly career, no change was visible in her dispositions, except that she became more united to God and more disengaged from all created things. Though her sufferings were very great at times, no complaint ever escaped her lips, and it was chiefly her moaning during sleep that indicated the severity of her pains. Such was her attention to improve every opportunity of merit, that she felt distressed at the efforts which the affection of her spiritual daughters suggested for her relief, and submitted to them only by the advice of her director. If nature would sometimes manifest, under the influence of pain, an uneasiness which was altogether involuntary, she reproached herself with it and immediately sought to efface it by the grace of absolution.

Notwithstanding the painfulness of her situation, she was ever cheerful, ever ready to receive the visits of her sisters and to give directions relative to the affairs of the community. As to the children of the academy, she delighted to hear them at their innocent sport and to call them into her room to give them some token of her maternal kindness. The children of the poor school were special objects of her inquiry and affectionate regard.

While prostrate on the bed of sickness, one of her former pupils, about to enter upon a long journey, called to see her, and before leaving she knelt and asked her blessing. Mother Seton, raising her hand, replied, “God bless you, my loved child. Remember Mother’s first and last lesson to you : seek God in all things. In all your actions submit your motives to this unerring test : ‘Will this be approved of by his all-seeing eye?’ If you do this, you will live in his presence and will preserve the graces of your first communion. You will never see Mother again on this earth. May we meet in heaven ! Three wheels of the old carriage” (a term she often applied to her body) “are broken down, the fourth very near gone ; then with the wings of a dove will my soul fly and be at rest. Remember me, and, if you love poor old Mother, pray for her.”

Perceiving that her young friend was very much affected, she called her back, embraced her affectionately, and said, “Not forever do we part: a few short years, dearest, and we will be united, never, never to part. God bless you again !” These words display the whole spirit of Mother Seton during her illness. Peace, love, confidence, joy, such were the sentiments that supported her in her last trial and by which she administered comfort to those around her. When she perceived the anxiety of her sisters in regard to her situation, she would try to calm their apprehensions, by saying, “His will be done!” The peaceful quiet which she enjoyed was not the result of a presumptuous reliance upon her own merits; for she had a lively fear of the divine judgments. But her soul was tranquilized by that filial confidence which is inspired by the love of God and the consideration of his infinite mercy.

One of the sisters having expressed the wish that God would grant her the opportunity of entirely expiating her faults during life, that at the moment of death she might fly to the embraces of her heavenly Spouse, Mother Seton raised her eyes and said, “My blessed God ! how far from that thought am I, of going straight to heaven ! such a miserable creature as I am!”

Another time the same sister inquired how she felt. “I do not suffer,” she said; “I am weak, it is true; but how happy and quiet the day passes! If this be the way of death, nothing can be more peaceful and happy; and if 1am to recover, still, how sweet to rest in the arms of our Lord! I never felt more sensibly the presence of our Dearest than since I have been sick; it seems as if our Lord or his blessed Mother stood continually by me, in a corporeal form, to comfort, cheer, and encourage me, in the different weary and tedious hours of pain. But you will laugh at my imaginations; still, our All has many ways of comforting his little atoms.”

To the last, she gave an example of the most faithful submission to the divine will, following as much as possible the spiritual exercises which the rule of the house prescribed. Obedience to the rules was a lesson which she most earnestly inculcated to the sisters, during her illness, as the surest means of sanctifying themselves and promoting the glory of God.

To maintain in her soul this holy disposition of entire submission to the will of Providence, she prayed continually and fervently, and availed herself with the greatest avidity and thankfulness of every aid and blessing that her holy faith could impart. Mr. Bruté, her confessor and director, was constantly at her side, suggesting the most perfect sentiments of resignation, penance, love, confidence, and union with Jesus Christ. His ministry was a source of the most abundant graces to her soul. (M) But the happiness of receiving our Lord in the sacrament of his love was the chief object of her pious aspirations. This was her treasure and her support.

The bread of angels was administered to her frequently during the week, and on one of these occasions she exhibited that ardor of faith which indicated the almost sensible presence of her God and struck the beholders with astonishment. Such was her joy at the anticipation of the holy communion, that, when the priest entered her room and placed the consecrated species on the table, her countenance, before pale, began to glow with animation. No longer capable of suppressing the lively emotions of her soul, she burst into tears and sobbed aloud, covering her face with her hands Supposing at first that she feared to communicate, the minister of God approached, and said to her, “Peace, Mother! here is the Lord of peace. Have you any pain? Do you wish to confess?” “No, no; only give Him to me,” she replied, with a fervency of manner which showed the burning desire of her heart to be united to Jesus Christ.

During her last illness Mother Seton appeared to realize more than ever the happiness of dying in the bosom of the Catholic Church. Having been asked by one of her spiritual directors what she considered the greatest blessing ever bestowed upon her by the Almighty, she answered, “That of being brought into the Catholic Church.” She now experienced all the consolation that this tender mother offers to her children in the most trying hour of existence, and she often spoke with a holy transport of the happiness of dying in her arms, saying, “How few know the value of such a blessing!”

Her symptoms having become very alarming, it was thought advisable to administer the last rites of religion. At that impressive moment all her spiritual daughters were called into the room, and, as she was too feeble to address them herself, the Superior, Rev. Mr. Dubois, performed this office in her name, and thus delivered to the assembled community the last will of their dying Mother: “Mother Seton, being too weak, charges me to recommend to you at this sacred moment, in her place, first, to be united together as true Sisters of Charity; second, to stand most faithfully by your rules; third, that I ask pardon for all the scandals she may have given you, that is, for indulgences prescribed during sickness by me or the physician.”

She then lifted up her faint voice and said, “I am thankful, sisters, for your kindness to be present at this trial. Be children of the Church; be children of the Church,” she repeated, with a lively sense of the consolation and grace she was about to receive in the sacrament of Extreme Unction. With the same intense appreciation of the divine blessings did she unite in the ceremony.

Some of the sisters, with her only surviving daughter, were always near her; but what were their feelings at the anticipation of the sad bereavement they were soon to experience may be more easily imagined than described. When, at length, the fearful conflict for their hearts arrived, they pressed around the couch of their dying and venerated Mother in fervent prayer and deepest anguish. Mother Seton alone seemed to possess true fortitude in this eventful moment, and to enjoy the most profound peace. Though distress was depicted in every countenance, though she heard the heart-rending sobs of her beloved daughter and saw her swooning away in an agony of grief at her side, she evinced no emotion; not the slightest agitation was visible in her appearance. All was peace, and entire resignation into the hands of God. Raising her hands and eyes to heaven in a spirit of the most humble submission to the decrees of Providence, she repeated the words, “May the most just, the most high, and the most amiable will of God be accomplished forever!”

She then requested one of her attendants to recite for her the favorite prayer, “Soul of Christ, sanctify me; Body of Christ, save me,” etc. ; but the sister, overpowered by her grief, not being able to proceed, Mother Seton continued the prayer herself. Her last words were the sacred names of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, to whom she yielded her heart, her spirit, her life, to whose care she committed her last agony, and in whose blessed company she hoped to repose forever.

After this she lost the power of speech, and it appeared to the sister who was nearest to her that our Lord was in a special manner present at her side, as if waiting to bear away in triumph that precious soul.

Thus did Mother Seton pass to her eternal rest, about two o’clock in the morning, on the 4th of January, 1821, in the 47th year of her age.

January 4, 2021

A Blessed Octave of the Nativity, and Happy New Year!

“At that time, after eight days were accomplished that the child should be circumcised, His name was called Jesus, which was called by the angel, before He was conceived in the womb” – Luke 2, 21: the Gospel for the Circumcision of Our Lord

 

January 1, 2021

Thoughts for an Extraordinary Christmastide Printable Guide

Fr. William Rock, FSSP has compiled some printable guides for the liturgical seasons–you may remember the Advent guide that we published earlier in December.

As we are joyfully celebrating the Octave of the Nativity, we are pleased to now provide Fr. Rock’s Thoughts for an Extraordinary Christmastide. Feel free to use, print out, and share!

Thoughts for an Extraordinary Christmastide (PDF)


 

December 30, 2020

Un-covered Boss

Many of us may be familiar with the popular “reality” television series Undercover Boss, which began airing in 2010 during the recession, where either a CEO or upper-level manager goes to work in various entry-level positions for a week in his or her own company.

The boss assumes an alias and fictitious back-story, dresses in disguise, and works among the rank-and-file, often having his eyes and ears opened to a number of issues. Sometimes the boss is quite moved by the dedication of the employees despite difficult conditions or personal circumstances; other times he may have good reason for concern about things. It can also be humorous to watch the bosses themselves struggle at tasks they really have no talent for, and even get terminated for it.

In the end, when the boss’s identity is revealed to the surprised employees, the employees are rewarded or corrected accordingly (but never fired, at least on camera). While the show certainly has cause for some criticism – for instance, how much reality is there when the company is always portrayed favorably – the premise behind the show has some value, and benefits come from the “little guy” feeling appreciated.

Moaning about a boss’s “lack of concern or being in touch” is a common occurrence in workplaces.

It can be a real problem at times, but maybe not as universal as many think. Nonetheless, this sentiment can often find its way into religion, especially among those disposed to complain often about life and perhaps blame everyone else for their problems. This was encapsulated in that awful top-ten song One of Us (1995) by pop-artist Joan Osborne, where she criticizes God for being out of touch with human suffering, if only He were one of us. Though baptized Catholic, it seems she has not let that Faith penetrate (we pray the Holy Ghost to stir up those baptismal graces within her). There have been worse songs that have hit the charts since then, but it demonstrates the point that much complaining closes the eyes to greater realities in play.

After all, CBS was not the inventor of the premise for Undercover Boss; God had that one covered in Eden after Adam’s sin, and it would be far more real than any reality show could ever be.

The Incarnation paintingThrough His Incarnation and Birth, God is the original Undercover Boss, taking on human flesh for the redemption of humanity. And unlike any human boss, our Lord was well-aware of the working conditions He was walking into. He knows the name of every employee and knows everything about them, and what they need most. He knew what was in man on account of sin (Jn. 2:25), and so came as man to redeem humanity as man.

In all humility, and with no unnecessary displays of divine power, dispensing with the legions of angels that stood ready at any moment, He is born in abject poverty and lives a hidden life for thirty years doing the most menial of tasks in subjection to Our Lady and St. Joseph. He confronts Evil itself in the desert at the outset of His public life – and wins. Behold: the lame then walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, the poor have the Gospel preached to them. But scandalized will most men be (cf. Mt. 11:5-6).

Only in His last few months does He reveal Himself to be true God and Creator of all – and despite the supporting proof of His claim, humanity fires Him by way of crucifixion.

But having borne the burden of our iniquities and becoming like us in all things but sin, He is most in touch with us and invites us to connect our sufferings to His. and for this reason: He rises from the dead on His own power so that we may rise with Him – promotions offered for everyone by grace provided one loves Him and keeps His Commandments – and calls now for Faith and membership in His Church for all until He comes again.

How appreciated we should feel for being visited by God Himself, but how much more should we appreciate and love Him for what He has done.

It should always be a Merry Christmas, because the Manger proves that the best bosses can never be undercover, nor have any need for an alias or fictitious back-story.

December 28, 2020

Puer Natus Est Nobis!

Puer natus est nobis,  et filius datus est nobis:
cujus imperium super humerum ejus…

A child is born to us, and a Son is given to us,
Whose government is upon his shoulder…

From all of us at the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, we wish our beloved parishioners, supporters, and friends a Holy and Merry Christmas. Christ is born!!

December 25, 2020

Christmas Eve Prime: The Whole World at Peace

by Fr. William Rock, FSSP.

In the early morning of December 24, the Vigil of Christmas, Christmas Eve Day, those in choir hear sung, as part of the Office of Prime, the Christmas Proclamation. After recounting how many years have passed since various historical events, the Proclamation declares that:

…ab urbe Roma cóndita, anno septingentésimo quinquagésimo secúndo; anno Impérii Octaviáni Augústi quadragésimo secúndo, toto Orbe in pace compósito, sexta mundi ætáte, Iesus Christus, ætérnus Deus æterníque Patris Fílius, mundum volens advéntu suo piíssimo consecráre, de Spíritu Sancto concéptus, novémque post conceptiónem decúrsis ménsibus, in Béthlehem Iudæ náscitur ex María Vírgine factus Homo. (Hic autem in priori voce dicitur, et in tono passionis:) Natívitas Dómini nostri Iesu Christi secúndum carnem. … in the 752nd year from the foundation of the city of Rome, in the 42nd year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus, in the 6th age of the world, while the whole world was at peace, Jesus Christ, Himself Eternal God and Son of the Eternal Father, being pleased to hallow the world by His most gracious coming, having been conceived of the Holy Ghost, and when nine months were passed after His conception, was born of the Virgin Mary at Bethlehem of Juda made Man, Our Lord Jesus Christ was born according to the flesh.

 

The phrase, “while the whole world was at peace” (“toto Orbe in pace compósito”) is an interesting one and naturally gives rise to the question:

Was the whole world actually at peace? 

Roman coin depicting the Temple of Janus
Roman sestertius depicting the Temple of Janus.

To answer this question, we must look at what peace would have meant to a Roman living at the time, as, after all, Our Lord was born in, more-or-less, a part of Roman Empire.

In the Forum at Rome stood a temple dedicated to the Roman deity Janus.  This temple was created by the second King of Rome, Numa Pompilius.  Particular to this temple was that it had a set of doors at either end.  These “Gates of Janus”, as they were called, were opened when Rome was at war and closed when Rome was at peace.

Plutarch, in his Life of Numa, wrote about this Temple as follows:

There is a temple to him [Janus] in Rome, which has two doors, and which they call the gate of war. It is the custom to open the temple in time of war, and to close it during peace.  This scarcely ever took place, as the empire was almost always at war with some state, being by its very greatness continually brought into collision with the neighbouring tribes.

In fact, prior to the rule of Augustus Caesar, the Gates of Janus were only closed twice, once in 700 B.C., during Numa’s reign, and again in 253 B.C., after the First Punic War.

But what was the status of the Gates of Janus during the time of Augustus Caesar, during the time of the birth of Our Lord? In his Res Gestae (sections 2.41-2.45), Augustus tells us the following:

[Ianum] Quirin[um, quem cl]aussum ess[e maiores nostri voluer]unt, [cum p]er totum i[mperium po]puli Roma[ni terra marique es]set parta vic[toriī]s pax, cum priu[s qua]m nāscerer a condita urbe bis omnino clausum [f]uisse prodātur m[emori]ae, ter me princi[pe senat]us claudendum esse censui[t]. (The temple of) Janus Quirinus, which our ancestors wished to be closed whenever peace had been obtained, on land and sea, throughout the entire realm of the Roman people, was decreed by the Senate to be closed three times during my time as emperor; even though it is handed down to memory, that before I was born, it had been closed a grand total of two times since the founding of the city.

 

During Augustus’ reign, the Gates of Janus were closed a remarkable three times!  From the writings of Cassius Dio, we learn that the Gates were closed in 29 B.C. and 25 B.C. There is some dispute among scholars as to when the third closing of gates occurred, but the Christian Priest Paulus Orosius, a contemporary and companion of St. Augustine and St. Jerome (4th-5th Century A.D.), assigned this third closing to the year of the Birth of Christ (In Paganos 6.22.1, 5):

Itaque anno ab urbe condita DCCLII Caesar Augustus…Iani portas tertio ipse tunc clausit…Igitur eo tempore, id est eo anno quo firmissimam uerissimamque pacem ordinatione Dei Caesar conposuit, natus est Christus… And so, in the 752nd year from the foundation of the City of Rome, Caesar Augustus…then himself closed the Gates of Janus for the third time…Therefore at that time – in other words, in that year in which, ordained by God, Caesar arranged the most firm and most true peace – Christ was born…

 

It should be noted that Orosius places the birth of Our Lord in the 752nd year since the founding of the City of Rome, which is the same date given in the Christmas Proclamation.  Unfortunately, as was indicated above, not all scholars agree with Orosius’s assertion.

But even if Orosius’s assertion that the third closing of the Gates of Janus corresponded with the Birth of Christ is not historically accurate, it is clear that the Roman world was experiencing at that time an unparalleled period of peace.  The Gates of Janus had only been closed twice during the 700 some-odd years between the dedication of the Temple of Janus and the reign of Augustus, during which it was closed a remarkable three times.

Having the Gates closed three times within one lifetime would have most assuredly been seen by the people of Rome as indicating a time of unmatched peace, a time when one could safely state, even if there were some military engagements occurring, that “the whole world was at peace.”

Fr. William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently Assistant Pastor at Mater Misericordiae parish in Phoenix, AZ.  Thanks are due to Mr. Jared Copeland for his assistance on this article.

December 24, 2020

Out of My Way!

Any of us who drive are likely guilty of getting annoyed with other drivers from time to time.

We all have our pet peeves about what others do on the road, from the perpetual blinker, to those forgetting that a right turn can be made on the red, to those backing up traffic while trying to parallel park in a space that even a toddler could realize is too small. Even an old Far Side cartoon shares the sentiment by depicting hell with a special room reserved for those who drove too slow in the fast lane.

Kidding aside, what this annoyance really boils down to is the fact that someone is observed to “be in my way.”

I am trying to get somewhere in a certain amount of time, and all these other drivers are preventing me from doing that; and if I am running late, especially through my own fault, the annoyance increases because they are now really getting in my way. After all, why must all these other drivers choose to be out on the road at the same time I am? But since they are, why cannot they just drive the same way I do? They are in my way.

Obviously, while sitting here calmly, we can all realize the opportunities such situations afford to practice charity and patience if we really took advantage of them.

When was the last time, for instance, we said a Hail Mary for the person who cuts us off, instead of saying other things, or even making gestures?

The traffic is what it is, people drive the way they do. We will always have our self-righteous slowpokes with identity-politics bumper stickers and inattentive drivers to deal with. But this attitude of annoyance we may sport towards other drivers gives us plenty of food for thought in regard to the care we must have for our souls, especially with Christmas fast approaching.

Once again, I get annoyed because someone is in my way; they are perceived to be an obstacle to reaching my desired destination.

But where are we supposed to be going in this life of ours? What is our final destination?

It is heaven. It begins here and we all have work to do in order to get there, not just externally but interiorly in our own souls. It is not a place we magically arrive at.

Yet in contrast to how we drive, how little annoyance we seem to have for things that get in our way and stall our growth of love for Christ.

If we are striving to take reasonable care of our souls, we should all be able to say with some measure of annoyance that we wish certain things were not there, or that certain things were there: this or that inclination to a sin, a lack of some virtue that is particularly difficult, a lackadaisical or superficial approach to prayer and the Sacraments that spur no real conviction of Faith, all things that impede my progress towards love for God and truly get in the way.

But this cannot just stop at annoyance. Reacting to something is not the same as doing something about it.

On the last two Sundays of Advent, the Church presents us with the great and steadfast figure of St. John the Baptist, fulfilling the words of the prophet Isaias: A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. Every valley shall be filled; and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways plain. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God (Lk. 3:2-6).

Although John would point out Christ at the advent of His public life, this passage rightfully applies at the advent of His Birth. It is that call to reawaken our sense of responsibility towards our spiritual lives and how our own efforts of sanctification actually affect those of others. It is a call to be challenged by the Manger and subsequently by the Cross that follows it. It is an impetus to appeal the Holy Ghost to stir up in us a more devout practice of the Faith, the desire for good and frequent use of the Sacraments, a spirit of self-denial that seeks the will of God and acceptance of the hard things, to abandon escapism, to carry our crosses, to cultivate a relationship with Christ that impacts and transforms the soul, sparking a love for virtue, a hatred for sin.

It should compel us to pray what we need to pray about. In this way do we discover the crooked paths of false zeal, impure inclinations, and bad intentions that need straightening; the valleys of cowardice and sloth that need filling; the mountains of pride, selfishness, and worldly ambition that need leveling; and the rough paths of jealousy, hatred, lack of charity, and unwillingness to forgive that need smoothing.

The wood of the cradle and the wood of the Cross are inseparably linked.

This is how we have redemption; this is the Savior we look for and need. It is not just some honorary title. This is the meaning of Christmas that we all have the responsibility to profess in a world that thinks it has no need for a Savior.

And the greater our conviction of that, by the grace of God, so the higher we keep our standard and more readily admit to the things that we let get in our way.

December 22, 2020

Mail Delays for Christmas Cards etc.

We have received word from the US Postal Service that they are experiencing a large backlog of packages and and mail, because they lack the manpower to sort and deliver them quickly.

So please be advised that timely delivery of Christmas cards and other FSSP mail to your homes may be seriously affected this year.

We apologize for the inconvenience and ask for your patience and understanding as the Post Office catches up with its backlog.

December 21, 2020