Praised be Jesus Christ! I was blessed to be installed as a lector last week, along with eight of my classmates here at St. Patrick’s, by Bishop Robert Christian of San Francisco. Please pray for me and my brothers, that we may proclaim the Word of God with dignity, attention, and devotion in the liturgy and in our lives.
See the official story from St Patrick’s Seminary website here!
“It was much to the devil’s advantage to turn the priest around to the people, creating a charmed circle of neighborly affirmation that brought the experience of the Mass down to the level of a horizontal exchange, a back-and-forth in everyday speech. There is nothing transcendent about that; on the contrary, God is domesticated, tamed, manipulable — not a recipient of sacrifice but a subject of conversation.”
I was hiking in the Adirondacks. I was standing on the bank of a wide, tumultuous river. The water was moving with incredible speed and ferocity. It looked dangerous, mighty, and much more powerful than I. Yet it was exactly as it should be, and in that, it possessed some kind of restfulness. As I watched it flow by, I felt a tinge of sadness, almost like envy but without the weightiness: how I wished to know my part in all of it, to move with that same confidence and serenity, unafraid of the gifts God has given – unafraid of letting his power crash its way through my life.
I have often felt that way when I’m in nature. I’ve never seen a tree going through an existential crisis – It must be nice to be so rooted, physically and metaphysically. But God became man, not a tree; so I’d rather take the tension.”
|Jesus, to aid thy feeble powers
I see thy Mother’s arms outspread,
As thou on this sad earth of ours
Dost set thy first, thy faltering tread:
See, in thy path I cast away
A rose in all its beauty dressed,
That on its petals’ disarray
Thy feet, so light, may softly rest.
|Jésus, quand je te vois soutenu par ta Mère,
Quitter ses bras,
Essayer en tremblant sur notre triste terre
Tes premiers pas,
Devant toi je voudrais effeuiller une rose
En sa fraîcheur
Pour que ton petit pied bien doucement repose
Sur une fleur!…
|Dear Infant Christ, this fallen rose
True image of that heart should be
Which makes, as every instant flows,
Its whole burnt-sacrifice to thee.
Upon thy altars, Lord, there gleams
Full many a flower whose grand display
Charms thee; but I have other dreams—
Bloomless, to cast myself away.
|Cette rose effeuillée, c’est la fidèle image,
Du coeur qui veut pour toi s’immoler sans partage
A chaque instant.
Seigneur, sur tes autels plus d’une fraîche rose
Aime à briller.
Elle se donne à toi… mais je rève autre chose:
|Dear Lord, the flowers that blossom yet
Thy feast-day with their perfume fill;
The rose that’s fallen, men forget
And winds may scatter where they will;
The rose that’s fallen questions not,
Content, as for thy sake, to die.
Abandonment its welcome lot—
Dear Infant Christ, that rose be I!
|La rose en son éclat peut embellir ta fête,
Mais la rose effeuillée, simplement on la jette
Au gré du vent.
Une rose effeuillée sans recherche se donne
Pour n’être plus.
Comme elle avec bonheur à toi je m’abandonne,
|Yet those same petals, trampled down,—
I read the message in my heart—
In patterns here and there are blown
That seem too beautiful for art:
Living to mortal eyes no more,
Rose of a bloom for ever past,
See to thy love a life made o’er,
A future on thy mercy cast!
|L’on marche sans regret sur des feuilles de rose,
Et ces débris
Sont un simple ornement que sans art on dispose,
Je l’ai compris.
Jésus, pour ton amour j’ai prodigué ma vie,
Aux regards des mortels, rose à jamais flétrie
Je dois mourir!…
|For love of Loveliness supreme
Dying, to cast myself away
Were bright fulfillment of my dream;
I’d prove my love no easier way;—
Live, here below, forgotten still,
A rose before thy path outspread
At Nazareth; or on Calvary’s hill
Relieve thy last, thy labouring tread.
|Pour toi, je dois mourir, Enfant, Beauté Suprême,
Quel heureux sort!
Je veux en m’effeuillant te prouver que je t’aime,
O mon Trésor!…
Sous tes pas enfantins, je veux avec mystère
Et je voudrais encor adoucir au Calvaire
Tes derniers pas!…
|—Tr. R. A. Knox (1888-1957)||—Ste. Thèrèse de l’Enfant Jésus|
Praised be Jesus! Today, my patronal feast day, I took one more step along the path to ordination as a priest. I wrote and sent to my Archbishop my formal petition to be installed as a Lector. If His Excellency accepts my petition, then I will be “installed” at a Mass with my classmates on November 15th—the commemoration of All Carmelite Souls.
In a way, installation as a Lector is the first official recognition on the part of the Church of a candidate for Holy Orders. In the olden days, before Vatican II, there were 7 minor orders which a man would receive successively each year throughout his formation:
When a candidate was accepted into the seminary, he would receive “tonsure” (clipping of a lock of his hair), which marked his entrance into the clerical state. However, Pope Paul VI eliminated first tonsure and the minor orders of porter and exorcist, as well as the subdiaconate, with his apostolic letter Ministeria quaedam in 1972. The remaining minor orders of lector and acolyte were renamed “ministries,” in part to better express the fact that, with the elimination of the rite of tonsure, those who receive these ministries remain laymen. (Entrance into the clerical state now takes place with ordination to the diaconate.)
Thus there are now 4 “steps,” with associated liturgical rites, on this staircase: institution first as a lector, then an acolyte, and ordination first as a deacon, then a priest!
Please pray for me, that I “may be faithful to the work entrusted to [me], proclaim Christ to the world, and so give glory to our Father in heaven” (De institutione lectoris, 4).
21 September 2018
Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist
In accordance with Canon 1035, §1, of the Code of Canon Law, which requires those seeking Holy Orders to have received the Ministry of Lector and to have exercised that ministry for a suitable period of time, I do hereby petition to be installed in the Ministry of Lector.
I am aware of the responsibilities of the ministry I am requesting, namely, to proclaim the Word of God with reverence, attention, and devotion in the Sacred Liturgy. I therefore promise to meditate daily on Sacred Scripture, “that Christ, by faith, may dwell in my heart” (Oratio ante S. Scripturae Lectionis).
Furthermore, I resolve to make every effort and employ all suitable means to acquire that living love and knowledge of Scripture which will make me a more perfect disciple of the Lord. I firmly intend to exercise this ministry in faithful service to God and the Church, for the glory of the Blessed Trinity and the salvation of sinners, of whom I am the first.
I make this request for installation in the Ministry of Lector freely and in my own hand.
With all filial devotion, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
“Out of respect and honor for Matthew, the other Evangelists did not wish to give him his usual name. They called him Levi; for he had two names. But Matthew (according to the saying of Solomon, ‘The just man is the first to accuse himself,’ and again, ‘Confess your sins that you may be justified’) calls himself Matthew and a publican, to show his readers that no one need despair of salvation if he is converted to better things, since he himself was suddenly changed from a publican into an Apostle.”
I close my eyes, and while my lips murmur the words of the Breviary which I know by heart, I leave behind their literal meaning, and feel that I am in that endless land where the Church, militant and pilgrim, passes, walking towards the promised fatherland. I breathe with the Church in the same light by day, the same darkness by night; I see on every side of me the forces of evil that beset and assail Her; I find myself in the midst of Her battles and victories, Her prayers of anguish and Her songs of triumph, in the midst of the oppression of prisoners, the groans of the dying, the rejoicing of the armies and captains victorious. I find myself in their midst, but not as a passive spectator; nay rather, as one whose vigilance and skill, whose strength and courage can bear a decisive weight on the outcome of the struggle between good and evil, and upon the eternal destinies of individual men and of the multitude.”
During my summer assignment this year at St. Monica’s parish in Coos Bay, Oregon, I was blessed to be able to lead a three-week faith formation class on poetry in the Catholic tradition. If you know me at all, you will not be surprised to learn that I spent all three weeks talking about my “old friend,” Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ—specifically his great masterpiece, the Wreck of the Deutschland.
Gerard Manley Hopkins was a 19th-century Englishman, the son of a wealthy insurance broker, who—like most of the respectable and well-to-do in that particular time and place—was raised Anglican, but “fell in with the wrong sort” at Oxford and converted to Catholicism. In fact, not only did he join the Romish Church, but he soon applied to join the Jesuits—then one of the strictest religious orders around!
Nothing could deter Hopkins from his Jesuit vocation: not his family, who disowned him, nor his “secondary” vocation of poetry, which Hopkins felt to be incompatible with the ascetic life of a priest and religious. He did his best to suppress the yearnings of his nature to write, practicing strict custody of the eyes (so as not to be enthralled by the beauty of nature and perhaps spark some “fancy”) and burning all of his poetry after his entrance into the Society of Jesus, an event which he recorded somberly in his diary as the “slaughter of the innocents.”
That resolution changed, however, with the shipwreck of the S.S. Deutschland off the coast of Kent in 1875. Bound for America from Germany, she struck a sandbar in a midnight storm and foundered far enough off the coast that no-body could come to her aid until late the following day. During the night, more than a quarter of the ship’s passengers perished. Among them were five Franciscan nuns.
Hearing of this tragedy soon after in the newspapers, Hopkins’ Jesuit superior remarked to the community at large that somebody ought to write an elegy for these holy souls. Hopkins, for his part, took that comment as a direct order from his superior, and the Wreck of the Deutschland was the result: some 35 stanzas into which he poured all those years of pent-up creative energy and passion. It is an intense, at times lyrical, often quite difficult, but deeply arresting meditation on suffering, vocation, providence, and the presence or even pressure of God in the world. (“Past all,” Hopkins urges his reader, “grasp God, throned behind!”)
Why am I telling you all this? If any of the above has piqued your interest, the second and third classes are available below for your listening pleasure! (The first class was not recorded, but it is not necessary in order to understand the second, since we begin with a brief recap.)
Click here to listen to the second class (02:02:02).
Click here to listen to the third class (02:06:17).
Note: You may also right-click these links to download them to your computer or mobile device for later listening.
Further Links of Interest:
You can read along with the poem by clicking here.
You can also listen to the entire poem read brilliantly by British stage actor Paul Scofield here (just ignore the computer-generated animation which goes along with it!)
Last summer, I spoke on a similar topic at one of my parish’s monthly Philosophy Nights. Rather than a close reading of a poem, that talk was focused more broadly on the intersection of poetry and philosophy, reading an essay by Martin Heidegger and some selections from St. Thomas Aquinas. But you know we also read the Wreck, because—it’s me! The full talk was recorded by a parishioner and made available here.
During the Philosophy Night talk (which I gave before writing my philosophy thesis) as well as these classes (post-thesis), I reference said thesis quite a few times. If you are really interested in poetry and philosophy, especially Hopkins and Aquinas, you can download a copy of my thesis here.
Finally, you can listen to musical settings of many of Hopkins’ poems (including the Wreck) by Sean O’Leary here. Thanks to a parishioner of St. Monica’s for this recommendation.
At Matins, the first hour of the Divine Office this morning, we had one of my favorite verses as a responsory: “Cum essem parvula, placui Altissimo.” ‘When I was little, I pleased the Most High!’ It reminded me at once of this holy card I have posted on my door at the seminary, which shows St. Thérèse in Heaven kneeling at the feet of Our Lady and the child Jesus she loved so much. Mary has a bouquet of roses in her lap, and Thérèse is taking them one by one and dropping them down to earth, fulfilling her promise to spend her Heaven throwing down a shower of roses. If you look closely at the horizon, you will see the dome of St. Peter’s and the spires of the city of Rome: Thérèse, the “Little Flower,” is throwing her flowers of love down over the whole Church!
“When I was little, I pleased the Most High.” It seems to me that those few words are a concise summary of everything St. Thérèse taught in her simple, hidden life. To live a life pleasing to God does not require one to do great things. Maybe that’s the way to live a life pleasing the crowd, striving for greater and greater accomplishments to win people’s admiration or respect, but it is not the way to the heart of the Most High.
To please God does not require one to be the best, the brightest, the greatest looking, the most (fill in the blank). God does not need my eloquence to be pleased with me. God does not need my works or my many words to be pleased with me.
“When I was little, I pleased the Most High.”
Not: “When I stayed up all night keeping vigil (or working on that paper until 3:00 in the morning), I pleased the Most High.”
Not: “When I M.C.’d that Mass, I pleased the Most High.”
Not: “When I gave a talk or led a prayer night at my youth ministry placement, I pleased the Most High.”
Not: “When I got all A’s, I pleased the Most High.” (Good thing, too, because I definitely didn’t last semester!)
Yes, all those things may please Him, but it is not because they are great things in themselves. It’s not as if our works please God in proportion to how important they are in the sight of the world or how perfectly we do them. They give joy to the Father’s heart only in the proportion that they are done with love.
“The value of the gift is in the love of the giver,” they say. The great things we do so that others will see them, or to live up to our own Pharisaical standards for ourselves, count for nothing in the light of eternity. They weigh no more than rust on the scales, a drop in the bucket. But the little things we do, which no one will ever know about except you and God, done purely out of love for Him and because you know they will please Him—those are truly great in His sight.
And love increases as selfishness decreases. I have to be empty of self-interest, of pride, of vanity, of concupiscence, of greed, and of all the other little teeming grasping lesser loves if I am to be filled with the one Love which really satisfies. I have to be “nada” if I am to be filled with God’s “todo.” To truly love is to be truly little.
“When I was little, I pleased the Most High.”
And so, all God desires of me is … my littleness. My lowliness. My ordinary, sleeping-in-late, distracted-at-prayer-ness. My sinfulness! My weakness! God desires it. Not any of it for its own sake, but all of it for my sake. He desires me as I am, here and now, on April 9th, 2018 A.D.
Speaking of which, today is a pretty special day to me for a number of reasons:
- It’s my 22nd birthday,
- It’s the day St. Thérèse, my awesome Sister-Saint, entered the Carmel of Lisieux in 1888 (130 years ago today!),
- It’s the feast of the Annunciation—normally celebrated on March 25th (nine months before Christmas), but as Palm Sunday fell on that day this year, the feast was “translated” to the first available date after the Easter Octave—which happened to be today.
- The exact same thing happened in 1888, so Monday, April 9th of that year, on which St. Thérèse first received the Carmelite habit as a postulant, was also the feast of the Annunciation. (So cool!)
- As you may remember, my religious title as a Carmelite was Bro. Matthew of the Incarnation, so today is not only my birthday, but would have been my feast day in the Order! (I’m still celebrating it as my own 😉 )
- Today also marks a year and a day since I returned from Carmel to the Archdiocese of Portland. My two brother novices who “ran the course with joy” have both now professed their first vows as Carmelite friars. I was blessed to be able to attend Bro. Dustin’s first profession last month back in San Jose and Bro. Frank’s two days ago in Vancouver, B.C. Our Holy Mother Teresa is smiling in Heaven to have received these new sons!
I have had a year since I left to think, to pray, to keep discerning how God is calling me to live out my vocation. To enter deeply into the mysteries of all He has been doing in my life and in my heart. I do not have all the answers yet; I can’t say everything is clear. But I can say that the further I persevere in darkness and obscurity, “without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart,” the simpler and littler things seem to become.
For example, my heart is not wrestling with big questions or anxious about future possibilities. My discernment is no longer about which state in life God is calling me to—diocesan priest? Carmelite friar? husband and father? I am content to leave all of that in my Father’s hands. He has brought me to this place and state, and my heart resounds with a deep loving confidence that He will perfect the work He has begun. My discernment now is about what will please Him today, this hour, this minute: how I can be open to His love in this class, in praying this hour of the breviary, in this conversation: how I can be receptive to that love, and how I can be more open to reveal and share it with those around me.
“While I was yet a little one, I pleased the Most High.” And the littler I am, the more I please him! The abyss of my misery calls out to the abyss of God’s mercy, crying: Which is greater? The deeper my nothingness, the more deeply I can be filled with His All. “For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.” (Romans 11:32).
God desires you, too, as you are at this time, wherever you are, however you are feeling, whatever you may have done or failed to do. Not at some unspecified future date. Not if you meet some preconceived list of conditions or achieve some hoped-for success or fame. Here. Now. In this place. As you are. “The Spirit and the Bride say: ‘Come.'” (Revelations 22:17).
Our Holy Father Francis gave me a great birthday gift: his new apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, “On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World.” In it he writes:
15. Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (cf. Gal 5:22-23). When you feel the temptation to dwell on your own weakness, raise your eyes to Christ crucified and say: ‘Lord, I am a poor sinner, but you can work the miracle of making me a little bit better’.
And again a little later on:
34. Do not be afraid to set your sights higher, to allow yourself to be loved and liberated by God. Do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace. For in the words of León Bloy, when all is said and done, ‘the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint’.
AMEN! Let us listen to the Holy Spirit whispering to us through the words of Our Holy Father. “Do not be dismayed … Do not be afraid … Let everything be open to God … Allow yourself to be loved and liberated.”
Let yourself be little. Let yourself remain little. “‘Remaining little’,” writes Thérèse, “means that we recognize our own nothingness, that we await everything from the goodness of God, as a little child expects everything from its father, that we are not solicitous about anything, and that we do not think about amassing spiritual riches.”
“That is why I have remained little; my only care has been to gather flowers of love and sacrifice and to offer them to God for His good pleasure.”
“When I was little, I pleased the Most High.”