Episode 114: The Innermost Room

22 January 2022 | Third Monday in Ordinary Time | Menlo Park, Calif.

This week, I share about our silent retreat with Bishop Daly of Spokane, Washington, and the first days of the spring semester, with comprehensive exams right around the corner. We also begin our new series of Carmelite conversations on St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle. What does it mean for the soul to go within itself, even to the innermost room?

Opening music: “Shalom lakh, Miryam,” sung by Harpa Dei, 2021. All rights reserved.

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Episode 113: My Yoke is Easy

16 January 2022 | Second Monday in Ordinary Time | Menlo Park, Calif.

Although I’m away on retreat this week, I’m delighted to share this pre-recorded conversation with Fr. John Plass of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, in which we discuss the particular challenges faced by young people today and the wisdom offered by the Carmelite masters on living the spiritual life in our busy, modern world. Don’t miss this one!

Opening music: “Simon Ioannis,” communion antiphon for the Third Sunday in Easter (C), sung by the Schola of St. Benedict’s Abbey, Atchinson, KS, 2022. All rights reserved.

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Episode 112: We Two Make Only One

9 January 2022 | Baptism of the Lord | Menlo Park, Calif.

Speaking to you all once again from St. Patrick’s Seminary on this happy feast, I am very excited to share a conversation I’ve been “saving up” with Dr. Nina Sophie Heereman! This week, allow us to introduce our mutual friend and co-disciple of St. Thérèse: Marcel Van, the “pocket saint” of Vietnam.

Opening music: “Baptizatur Christus,” Benedictus antiphon for the Baptism of the Lord, sung by the Schola des Moines de l’Abbaye de Kergonan, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Episode 111: The Word of the Year

4 January 2022 | St. Elizabeth Ann Seton | Roseburg, Ore.

Happy New Year! In this episode, which I recorded a few days ago back home in Roseburg, I share about my first (and hopefully only) Christmas as a deacon, my preparations for my last semester of seminary, and my word of the year for 2023.

Opening music: “Vidimus stellam,” communion antiphon for the Epiphany of the Lord, sung by Bros. Stefan Ansinger and Pier Giorgio Galassi, OP, 2023. All rights reserved.

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God Saves

This homily was given at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, Cottage Grove, OR on the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, January 2, 2023.

“Hear, O Israel: the LORD is your God; the LORD is one!”

This prayer, called the Shema, is the essential prayer of the Old Testament.

It set the Israelites apart from all the other peoples of the ancient world.

Unlike the other nations, Israel had one God, who revealed himself to Abraham, to Isaac and Jacob, to Moses, to Joshua and the prophets.

But the name of this God was wrapped in mystery.

When Moses asked his name at the burning bush, he replied, “I am who am.”

Only in the Incarnation are the name and the face of God revealed.

And the name of this Child-God is the fulfillment of Israel’s faith.

Gabriel says to Mary, “You shall call him Jesus.

And this holy name means “God saves.”

God not only saved and delivered his people in the past; he will not only come to save them in the future; here and now, God is saving his people.

And here and now, at this Holy Mass, we are caught up in that saving work.

Today, call upon the holy name of Jesus, that name which many Hebrew generations longed to hear, but which has been revealed to us.

At the name of Jesus, every knee must bow; every spirit is taken captive; the wounded are healed; strongholds are broken, hopeless situations are resolved.

Call upon the holy name, then, for whenever our lips pronounce his sweet name, God comes with power and might to save us and set us free.

And on the last day, we who have pronounced his name on earth will hear him say our names in heaven: “Come, you beloved of my Father, enter into your Master’s joy.”

A Word for the Year

This homily was given at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Roseburg, OR on the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, January 1, 2023.

You might have seen a picture going around recently on the internet. 

It’s a comic in three panels. 

First it shows a woman smiling and laughing; the caption says “2019.”

The middle square is completely black and empty.

Then it shows the same woman, waking up, confused: “2023.”

That sums up the experience of the last few years pretty well: going from one thing to the next at breakneck speed, hardly knowing how we got there.

Today we’re on the threshold of a new year, but for many of us, the last one passed like a blur, not to speak of the one before that, or before that!

Today we are on the eighth day of Christmas … and it seems like just yesterday we were wrapping the presents and lighting the tree.

As we live faster and faster, hurrying from one thing to the next, even against our will or better judgment, the pace of our lives drives out recollection.

Recollection is that spirit of attentiveness, listening, staying alert, paying attention, being present to the present moment.

Like a fragile flower, it takes time and effort to cultivate, and it’s easily lost in a stormy season.

As we lose the spirit of recollection in our busy lives, we live more and more on the surface of things, becoming frazzled, burnt out … and we miss the deeper story of the passing years and seasons: what God is about.

We forget, in fact, that in each of our life’s stories, God is the author and the protagonist, and He is about something good, here and now.

Jesus Christ calls us to go deep this year with Him: to live our lives with him, to be attentive, listening, present to all that He is saying and doing.

And Mary, the ever-Virgin mother of God and our mother, goes before us this year, showing us how to live a life of recollection, a life with God. 

First: Mary listens. 

At her Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel arrives with a message from heaven which changes the course of her life and all human history, she is not busy or preoccupied. 

She’s listening, in prayer.

It may seem a small thing, but this posture of listening receptivity is the first principle and foundation of the Christian life.

As we listen, we become still and silent, waiting on the Lord in patient hope.

The silent, listening heart is ready to receive the words from heaven when they come: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”

Second: Mary believes. 

“How blessed are you,” says Elizabeth, “who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled!”

Hearing the voice of the Lord, she places her trust in Him.

As we believe what we have heard from the Lord, we choose to place our trust in Him and in His promises, not in ourselves or in any other power.

But we know it is not always that simple for us, to hear and believe.

We are beset with many doubts and distractions.

That’s why Mary’s third disposition is a very important example for us.

She not only hears and believes … she reflects on all these things in her heart.

Reflecting on the Lord’s words, His actions, His promises, His providence, His faithfulness, His mercy, His love, increases our trust in Him.

As we remember the goodness of the Lord, we can choose more easily to trust Him, here and now, even in the midst of storms and busy seasons. 

And then, fourth and finally, Mary acts. 

She does not live on the surface of her life; she acts out of the depths of her listening heart, from the fullness of her reflection and contemplation.

Having heard the word of God and placed all her trust in Him, she carries it out with hope and faith and love.

Today, at this first Holy Mass of the year 2023, we are at a new beginning. 

Here and now, ask Jesus to speak a word to you for the new year, and following the example of Mary, be patient in listening for the answer. 

When it comes, write down this word in a place you’ll see it throughout the year—the front of your prayer book, the visor of your car—and return to it often, telling Jesus you believe in the word He speaks over you. 

Use this word as a reminder that God is active, that He is present in your life; use the word He gives as a lens to interpret what He is saying and doing.

In your prayer times this year, reflect on the events of the year, the desires and movements of your heart, the graces and trials that will surely come, in the light of the word of God. 

And after listening, believing, reflecting … strive to act each day in accordance with what the Lord says and what He shows you. 

As we live in Mary’s spirit of recollection, listening, believing, reflecting, and acting, we become more like Jesus, her son. 

And on the last day of this year 2023, Jesus will be proud to stand before his Mother and Father in heaven and call us his brothers and sisters, for all who do the will of God, like Mary, belong to the family of God, and have a place in his home for ever. 

Episode 110: A Christmas Carol

26 December 2022 | St. Stephen the Deacon | Menlo Park, Calif.

Merry Christmas, one and all! On this very special holiday episode, I share a little Christmas carol by G.K. Chesterton and a lively and delight-full discussion of Dickens’ Christmas Carol with Rachel and Boze of the DCRC. God bless us, every one!

Opening music: “Chesterton Carol,” written by G.K. Chesterton, composed by Mark Nowakowski, sung by Vos Omnes Virtual Choir, 2020. All rights reserved.

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The First Martyr

This homily was given at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, Cottage Grove, OR on the Memorial of St. Stephen, December 26, 2022.

The Roman liturgical calendar places two feasts side by side: the birth of Christ and the death of Stephen.

Yesterday, the Church was clothed in white and gold to celebrate the newborn Christ-child; today, in red for the blood of the Church’s first martyr.

“Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin Mary’s womb and graciously visited the world … Today his soldier, Stephen, leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.”

Yet we know the child, laid in the wooden manger, would in fact be the first of all martyrs on the wood of the Cross; Stephen, on the second day of Christmas, is the second, first to follow in Christ’s footsteps on the royal road to heaven.

Love, self-giving love, unites them, the King and the first among his soldiers, as St. Fulgentius of Ruspe writes in a sixth-century sermon for this feast:

“The love that brought Christ down from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier.”

“Stephen’s love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him. 

“Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven.”

“Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayers of Stephen.”

“This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy … It was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.”

“Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defense, and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.”

“My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity; give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.”

Who is God?

This homily was given at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Sutherlin, OR on Christmas Day, December 25, 2022.

One dark night, a child was born.

He was born into a thick and heavy darkness, not only covering the eyes, but the minds and the hearts of man.

The darkness had weighed on us for centuries upon centuries, from generation to generation, as the whole world cried out with one question, one greatquestion: 

Who is God?

It’s the greatest and most important question of our human existence, because who He is determines who we are, the meaning and purpose of our life on this earth, and what comes after.

The Greeks sought God in philosophy, with reason and logical proofs.

They concluded, thousands of years before Christ, that there must be one Supreme Being, one Uncreated Creator of everything else there is.

They knew by reason that God must exist … but they did not know him.

They could not reason their way to discover this Supreme Being’s name, or his nature, or anything at all about who he is, what he’s like.

The long history of philosophy and human religions is the story of man seeking God in the darkness, groping for the truth by night, seeking but not finding, only seeing partial and obscure glimpses of the mystery.

Centuries before Christ, the prophet Isaiah sang: “Truly you are a hidden God, dwelling in inaccessible light!” 

As long as God remained hidden, the hearts of humankind were restless and unsatisfied, searching everywhere for the deepest truth of our existence.

Who is God?

Who is this Supreme Being, who is this Creator, who is it who holds the keys of life and death, who is it in whose image and likeness we are made, who holds the secret of our being, the reason of our existence, the purpose for which we were made and live and suffer and rejoice?

Some became afraid of finding the answer to the question: maybe there was no God there to find; maybe we are children of an absent Father!

Or maybe God is a tyrant, an abuser, who inflicts pain and suffering without lifting a finger to help.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come among us to answer the greatest question of our human hearts.

He reveals the whole mystery of God in Himself. 

“God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, but to us he has spoken through His Son.”

The Son of God, who reveals the face and the heart of the Father.

Who is God?

Look at the Nativity scene and see for yourselves!

God, who made the heavens and the earth, who set the stars in their courses, who created the universe and all humankind, God … is a little baby.

As we gaze upon the Nativity, so familiar to us, we discover that in these simple figures, the mystery of God is laid bare for our eyes to see: God made visible, touchable, adorable, unveiled, exposed, vulnerable before us.

God becomes a little baby precisely to reveal the depths of His heart for us.

For a God who can become a little child, laid in a manger among the straw, is a very different God than the philosophers could have imagined … different than the Jews ever predicted!

This is a God overflowing with love, a God who makes Himself poor and lowly so that we, little nothings that we are, might be lifted high, saved from the misery of sin and death, and filled with light and life.

This is a God who descends from the heights of heavenly glory to the depths of our poverty and hopelessness, into our darkness, into our sin and weakness, to save us and transform us and bring us back to Himself.

Now, today, all the ends of the earth have seen God and his saving power. 

Not power as we would expect; not power to force and coerce us to bend to God’s will.

No, the power of God is His glorious weakness: His making Himself the smallest, the weakest, to show us his heart and win our hearts for himself.

Christmas is God’s love story to humanity … and the Nativity of Christ is the beginning of the divine rescue mission to save mankind.

Jesus is the answer to which every human heart is the question.

So we come to Jesus, seeking the truth revealed in Him, today, and at every Holy Mass: We see Jesus born for us again, making Himself smaller than ever before: not wrapped in swaddling clothes this time, not lain in a manger, but clothed in bread and wine and laid upon our lips.

As we receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we ask Him to reveal to us the Father’s face and the truth of the Father’s heart He knows so well, and to draw us into their divine life, their communion of life and love.

Our hearts find rest in God, as we discover in Jesus the pattern of our human existence, made and modelled as we are on the very life of God: to give ourselves away in self-surrender and let ourselves be loved; to seek to be little, preferring weakness to domination and love to power.

And on the last day, when life is changed, not ended, as we have learned God’s heart and conformed our hearts to His, we will return to the Creator, not as strangers, groping in the darkness, but as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of Jesus, rejoicing to return to the home of our Father and enter into his rest, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Episode 109: The Virtues and the Passions

19 December 2022 | Fourth Monday in Advent | Menlo Park, Calif.

This week, I share some thoughts from a recent discussion on authenticity and relatability. Are they virtues, and if so, how do they fit into our moral life and pastoral work? We continue to prepare for Christmas with the Carmelites, reading St. John of the Cross’s beautiful “Romances on the Incarnation.” Finally, Rachel and I discuss Barnaby Rudge, discussing the passions that give rise to mob violence and the role of fathers and sons.

Opening music: “Rorate cæli,” composed by William Byrd, sung by the Gesualdo Six, dir. Owain Park, 2021. All rights reserved.

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