“HOLLA atcha, Mary,” said the angel, “you’re finna have a kid, tho”: The Solemnity of the Annunciation

℣. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae,
℟. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

℣. Ecce ancilla Domini.
℟. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

℣. Et Verbum caro factum est.
℟. Et habitavit in nobis.

The less crass and more reverent version of the title of this post might go something like this:

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae
et concepit de Spiritu Sancto. 

The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit. (see Luke 1)

Today the Church celebrates the great solemnity of the Annunciation, calling to mind the sending of the Angel Gabriel to Mary announcing that she would conceive in her womb and bear a son, who would be the Messiah.

The image above is my all time favorite depiction of the Annunciation. A simple, humble, and completely pure Jewish girl alone in her room doing whatever it is simple, humble, and completely pure Jewish girls did in ancient Israel. She’s surrounded not by a chubby baby with wings or some great trumpet blaring bird-person, but a quiet and yet overwhelming beam of the purest light from on high. From this light, Mary received the most perplexing greeting: Hail, Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with you. (Lk 1:28) This, followed by the strangest news: “behold, you shall conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called son of the Most High.” (Lk 1:32)

Mary gives the almost-most perfect response: “How can this be?”

God barges into Mary’s life, indeed as the Incarnate Word he barged into the life of the entire world, and changed everything. All at once, the world and its apathetic inhabitants are shaken from the silence of their sinful slumber by the clamor of God’s own messenger proclaiming the dawn of the One to come, the One for whom all of Israel has waited. “For while all things were in quiet silence and the night was in the midst of her course, thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne into the doomed land.” (Wisdom 18:14-5)

Sometimes I feel guilty for having some encounter with the divine, or one that I at least believe to be divinely inspired, and instead of immediately saying, “yes, ok, God I believe it”, I often want to say, “but wait, how can this be?” Ours is a God of surprises. No one in ancient Israel would have guessed that the long-awaited Messiah would himself be God, or that this God exists as a trinity of persons, three-in-one, or that this being who is both fully God and fully man would himself become the expiation for our sins.

How can this be?

Our materialistic, utilitarian, purpose-driven world has trouble with divine things. We have trouble with things we can’t “wrap our minds around” by means of a microscope or lab test. We can’t quite get into things that seem to have no immediate purpose. We don’t like things that make reference to our jaded past, both as individuals and as a society, and we certainly don’t feel comfortable romping around in the wounds of that past for some glimpse, some key into our future health or healing or happiness.

So when we encounter divine things, maybe direct experiences of God or through messengers or through people or nature or whatever, we don’t always know what to do. In these moments, it’s not usually “how can this be”, and is instead “there’s no way this can be”, and we reject it.

This Lent, this Easter, this year, this life let’s make the decision not to let any good (and if you’re really brave, any bad) thing come into or out of our lives without asking that golden question: How can this be? How can it be that the God of the universe is here and wishes to make himself known to me? How can it be that despite everything I’ve said and done to him and against him that he is still here with me, pursuing me with the greatest fervor?

Ask that golden question so that eventually, with Mary, you can utter with confidence, clarity, and grace the platinum statement: Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum: “Let it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)

May the words of Elizabeth to Mary be true also of us: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Lk 1:45)

In Christ,

RA

The Angelus:

. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae,
. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. * Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

. Ecce ancilla Domini.
. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. * Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

. Et Verbum caro factum est.
. Et habitavit in nobis.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. * Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

. Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genetrix.
. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

Oremus. Gratiam tuam, quaesumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, Angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem eius et crucem ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. ℟: Amen.

. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
. And she conceived of the Holy Ghost.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with Thee: blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.* Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
. Be it done unto me according to thy word.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with Thee: blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.* Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

. And the Word was made flesh.
. And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with Thee: blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.* Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
. That we might be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray,
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that, we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord.
℟. Amen.

“My Life is Not my Own” and Some stuff I miss about college

original-dlcover1

Greetings from just about halfway through Lent 2015? Are you feeling #blessed yet or are you still basic as ever?

Great news on the vocations front! My friend from the University of St.Thomas, Lizzy Schmitt, found out that she’s been accepted by the Sisters of Life and will be entering the convent in fall of 2015! Please take some time to read up on this relatively young order with an awesome mission.

Lots of Catholic-bashers might be surprised to know that the Church does not have unlimited funds to be spending on whatever it wants, and something that slows down a lot of vocations, especially to religious life, is existing debts that must be paid before a person can enter an order. Lizzy’s case is no exception. BUT! She’s turning this problem into a blessing and a way to spread not only her talent as a beautiful musician but to spread the love of God in other people’s lives. Lizzy along with a bunch of other great music peeps have put together an awesome CD, “Deep Longing” as a way to raise money. You can download the CD here and get more info about donating to help Lizzy pay off her student loan debt here.

I’ve been listening to the CD for the last couple of days and I’m just so amazed at the quality of the music, duh, but the way it is touching my soul and leading me into prayer is incredible. One of her songs, “My Life is Not My Own”, has a refrain that pretty much sums up what its like to choose a state of life that requires pretty much total renunciation of the world’s plans and expectations (and certainly, sometimes, your own plans and expectations) so that a person can live in total conformity with the plan of God. Lizzy takes the famous words of St. Kateri Tekakwitha: “My life is not my own / I have given myself to Jesus” and turns them into a beautifully contemplative song….the kind that refocuses even the most distracted, impatient, balding seminarian (*ahem*) on what really matters: Jesus.

And this song got me thinking: I really miss college.

(Ryan, what does that have to do with anything?)

Internet, I’m glad you asked. Each of us has the capacity to say those words: My life is not my own, I have given myself to Jesus. But what it means for you will be different than what it means for me. Even if, for example, you’re another seminarian who’s given his life to Jesus to serve him and his Church as a priest, our vocations will not, nor should they, be totally identical….mainly because we are not, nor should we be, totally identical. In other words, that phrase…that statement of your commitment to Jesus says one thing: This is my journey with and in and toward and for and through and because of Christ; my life is not my own, I’m on a journey with the Lord. 

Out for a stroll, UST May 2014
Out for a stroll, UST May 2014

When stuff got boring or old at St. John Vianney (which obviously never happened #LOL), I could leave the seminary and walk through campus and run into people from every place and walk of life. And it was those walks and experiences on campus that led me to meet Lizzy and so many others like her who are also on their journey. And I miss hearing about them and their lives. I miss chatting with people in the student center about how the Lord is working in their lives, about how the test went, about how their new business is coming along, or even about the weather and the creepy devil worshipers who hung out at the end of Summit Avenue. Mundelein is great and I love major seminary, but it’s pretty much just us: 210 dudes studying the same stuff all day.

studying all day (and writing about doorknobs, of course: https://cocacolaman.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/the-cross-on-the-doorknob/)
studying all day (and writing about doorknobs, of course: https://cocacolaman.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/the-cross-on-the-doorknob/)

I love to learn and am glad to do it. Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying as “school is dumb, major seminary should be different, I can’t wait to blow this Popsicle stand and get out there in the real world where stuff really matters”….’cuz I’m not saying that.  But more than anything, I long for pastoral service. I yearn (as our ol’ pal Frank has asked of us) to have the smell of my sheep. To know their stories, and not just to hear about their journey, but to be a part of it; to walk with my people as they, and I, encounter God in our midst.

So with that, please pray for me BUT especially pray for Lizzy and other young women and men who are discerning God’s call in their lives. May God bring to fruitful completion what, on the day of our baptism, was so wondrously begun in us.

All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you.
All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you.

In Christ,

RA

Click the pic below to download the CD

original-dlcover1

Week in Review and What I’m Doing for Lent

IMG_9519

Hello everyone! It’s been awhile since I’ve really written about what’s happening in my life, so I thought I’d give you a brief synopsis:

In case you missed it living under your rock, I’m currently in my first year (of four) studying theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake – Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, IL. It’s the theological school and major seminary for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

IMG_9476 IMG_9481 IMG_9513 IMG_9519

It’s a nice place, yeah?

Fast forward a little bit. Had a very successful fall semester here and am knee deep in the new spring semester with a full load of classes:

  • Christology and Soteriology (study of who Christ is and how He saves us)
  • Doctrine of God (taught by Father Robert Barron; aptly nicknamed “Doctrine of Bob”)
  • American Church History
  • Medical Ethics and Suffering (a neat, neat class)
  • Ecclesiastical Latin (yay…)
  • Principles of Sacred Liturgy
  • Liturgical Chant
  • Theological Reflection
theoaula1
Now you know why the Theology Classroom building looks like a haunted house

This week, we just finished up our “spring” break. It was a great opportunity to get away and rest awhile, but as usual I ignored the opportunity and stayed pretty busy.

On Sunday, I gave my favorite talk of the year to the high school teens and their leaders and my awesome home parish of St. Anne’s in Oswego. I talked a little bit about what Oswego means to me and how it was the stage for my meeting God.

stannetalk1
But first…

Then, on Wednesday I served at all five Ash Wednesday Masses. Totally pooped by the end of it but it was certainly worth the work! There are two forms that are allowed to be used when applying the ashes:

  • Repent and believe in the Gospel
  • Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return

I always go with the latter option. I can remember having someone say that to me when I was in the RE program. The phrase and its implications have always stuck with me. It was really something to have a line of people all coming forward to receive ashes. You can learn a lot about a person by their forehead, you know. The young people had smooth, worry-less brows while the older people had mostly furrowed brows, wrinkly and worn out foreheads, foreheads that had seen the wear and tear of a life well lived.

There was a woman who came up, walking slowly and cautiously, accompanied by her daughter, and was using an oxygen tank. She looked to be in her 80’s. When I put the ash cross on her forehead and said those words, she sighed a bit as if to say “yes, I know, and I am ready.” She glanced up at the crucifix and continued on her way. I was so moved by that. Later on in the same line, a young mother came down the aisle holding her smiley newborn in her arms. I put the ashes on each of them with the same line as before, but ever more cognizant of the beauty of life and the importance to live well the one we’ve been given…we only get one chance.

sjvcross
Remember, man, that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.

Then Friday I spent the day at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox speaking to the seniors about vocations and the Church. It was so much fun! The students were awesome and very receptive. These visits always serve as a good reminder that, contrary to popular opinion, there are a lot of young people who love the Lord and want to do his will in their lives. So much fun.

providence
Not to mention the awesome swag!

Later Friday night, I went back to St. Anne’s to serve the Lenten Stations of the Cross service which included adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and benediction. Three charcoals in that thurible!! Talk about Holy Smoke! One of my favorite things to do. There was no cantor, so I had to lead all of the singing as well which was really cool. It was humbling when people came up afterwards and thanked me for helping to make the service beautiful. A very moving evening.

Saturday, I went with my brother to visit my dad at his house in Stevensville, Michigan. My family has been vacationing in this part of Michigan since my mom was 5 years old; the area means so much to my brother and me. It was neat to see our favorite town, St. Joseph, covered in snow and ice instead of sandy beaches and tourists!

This morning we had Mass at the seminary and then I went to St. James parish in Highwood, IL to teach 8th grade confirmation prep as I do each Sunday. Love it!

And now here we are on Sunday evening. I’m back in Mundyville ready for the next leg of the semester. I have a big presentation on Thursday and will be speaking to the confirmation students at St. James in Glen Ellyn on Saturday. The Joliet Vocations director, Fr. Burke Masters, will be at Mundelein on Wednesday to lead our Morning of Prayer. Busy, busy around here but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And now, some small things I’m doing for Lent. If you’re still in the market for some ideas, maybe try a few of these?

  • Turn off LTE on my phone, only use 4G
  • Heroic minute: no snooze button…up and outta bed in under a minute!
  • Only one episode of Blue Bloods on Netflix per day, no binge watching!
  • No soda during the week
  • Delete Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone
  • No checking texts, Instagram, or Snapchat before saying Morning Prayer
  • No checking my phone once in bed (sadly, this includes Temple Run :[ )
  • Eating healthier; less carbs, more fruits and veggies.

These are all very little things, but they can add up to a lot! They save time, center me, and help to focus on what’s important in life (and don’t steal all of my time away from homework!). Hopefully something on that list will help you, too!

Know of my prayers for a blessed Lent!!!!!!!!! Please pray for me.

Over and out,

RA

The Cross on the Doorknob

studying all day (and writing about doorknobs, of course: https://cocacolaman.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/the-cross-on-the-doorknob/)

When he was working with architects to design and build his dream seminary, Cardinal George Mundelein, the archbishop of Chicago and first cardinal west of the Appalachians, had to make a lot of tough decisions. Where should we build? What should the buildings look like? Will there be enough room to park both my boat and my car? (Just kidding…well….)

As anyone who has taken on the task of any great design project knows, once the big details are set sometimes an even bigger challenge still lies ahead: what will be that perfect finishing touch that really “ties the whole shebang together”? For Mundelein’s St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, some might argue it was the subtle placement of the golden bees on the ceiling of the library, a little extra height at the top of the Immaculate Conception column, or maybe even those nice, matching table clothes in the refectory (definitely kidding this time). I disagree. It seems that Mundelein and his team decided to make (of all things) a doorknob that central, finishing touch by installing the same knob on nearly every door on campus. The residence rooms, closets, offices, and, yes, even the bathrooms have the same knob.

So what?

Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”. (Mt 16:24) Anytime anyone wants to enter or leave a room on this campus, he has to look at, and then wrap his hands around the cross of Christ. A constant reminder to us, the future priests, and to everyone else who comes here to work, pray, study, or play that no matter whether you’re coming or going the cross around which your hand is grasped must be your guide, your crutch, your inspiration for, indeed, it is already your salvation.

Some people get weird about Christianity, especially Catholicism, and our obsession with the cross. “Isn’t that just a Roman torture tool?” they’ll often ask. Indeed (well, sort of). Before Christ blessed that torture instrument with his Precious Blood that wipes away the sins of the world, it was just another means of torture used by Rome. But precisely because the King of kings and the Lord of lords was hung up on that tree, it is for those who believe no longer a primitive torture device but a sign of victory; the victory of Christ and his Church over the darkness of sin and death.

St. Paul, in his zeal, constantly preached “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23) but you’ll notice there is no corpse on those doorknobs. Every time I open the door, the empty cross there tells me how the man who once hung upon it has opened the most important door all: he has opened for me the narrow gate, the way from the sorrows and plights of earth to the magnificent joy of heaven and of intimate and unceasing union with God made possible by a humble obedience to his commands and by a constant, often difficult, denial of self, picking up of my cross, and setting out to follow him.

IMG_0442

Sometimes, when things get old, they fall apart or fall off and get put back on upside down. American Catholicism’s Enchanted Forest is no exception. “Aha!” you’re thinking, “an upside down cross at a Catholic seminary! I knew it! Diabolic Catholics!!” (#LOL)

Since the earliest days of Christianity, really since the martyrdom of St. Peter in the 1st century, the upside down cross has been a symbol of Peter and the Petrine Ministry aka the Papacy and not a symbol of the demonic as the new-agey people would have us believe. A few of the rooms have upside-down doorknobs which brings to mind, usually, two things:

First, it reminds about what I mentioned earlier: there a lot of people who do not understand the Church or what she teaches. What did the Ven. Fulton Sheen say?

“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

or something like that.

It’s our job, Church, to press on with love and with truth so that all the world might come to know the Church that Christ founded for the forgiveness of sins and salvation of souls. It’s our job, Church, to represent with accuracy and with charity and with JOY what the signs and symbols of our faith are really all about so that this world which increasingly moves away from Christ might have some taste of what it’s missing.

Second, it reminds of you, Church. It reminds of the Petrine Ministry and to pray for the pope, for the bishops, the priests, and all the clergy. But most of all, it reminds to pray for you! To pray in thanksgiving for your prayers and support of all kinds (but seriously stop sending me cookies…I need a new belt), and to pray in humble petition for you and your needs. The Church is principally a community and, through prayer for one another, we will only get stronger.

Alright.

So the next time you come to visit Mundelein Seminary, take a look at the buildings and the grounds and the main chapel and the lake and the boathouse and the cardinal’s villa and the gym with the pool and Principal Avenue and the Lourdes grotto and, for the sake of Fr. Barron’s sanity, please “ooh” and “ahh” at the newly completed John Paul II chapel.

But if it’s the spirit of the place and of its men, if it’s the stories of those who’ve come and gone from here, if it’s the message of the Christian life, or if it’s some inspiration that you seek….remember that a simple glance at the humble knob will tell you everything you need to know.

Walking through open doors,
RA

1/22/14: 650k will March on Washington but You Won’t Hear Anything About it

march-for-life-photo-2

Tomorrow, Wednesday, January 21 through Friday, January 23 I have the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. for the annual March for Life which is a pro-life rally and peaceful protest occurring each year to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Year after year, it is consistently one of the largest rallies in the United States and it’s only getting bigger. In 2003, the event drew 250,000 people to the capitol. By 2011, the number was up to 400,000 and in 2013 the number was 650,000. Interestingly, the turnout is not by a bunch of old religious fuddy duddies. In 2010, the Washington Post estimated that more than half of the marchers were under the age of 30, and that number continues to grow.

But this post is not really about abortion.

My question is this: In two days, there will be over 650,000 young people marching on our nation’s capitol, shutting down streets, holding banners, and taking part in this pro-life, pro-women display and the national news media will be almost silent about it….why is that?

26march-articleLarge

Why did the riots in Ferguson captivate hours of air time on nearly every news channel, despite being much smaller than the March for Life? Why did the Eric Garner protests likewise receive live coverage and interviews? Last year, ABC and NBC gave the March for Life a combined 46 seconds of air time, donating nearly 5 times that much to BaoBao, a new panda cub at the National Zoo. CBS didn’t even mention the March. The year before, networks gave 521 times more coverage to Manti Te’o and his fictional girlfriend than they gave to a rally that effectively shuts down Capitol Hill. Whatever your stance on abortion, certainly we can agree that the issue is more important that the birth of a baby panda or some football player’s love life!

And even when we do gain some attention, we are labeled as merely “antiabortion activists”, clearly intending to cast a negative light on our position.

Watch the news this week and you’ll probably be able to count the embarrassingly low number of seconds of air time this important event receives on the news. But enjoy your 10 minutes of Kim Kardishian’s big, ugly butt.

march_for_life_2013_getty-e1359149626459

A comment on Homosexuality and the Catholic Church and the Cardinal Burke ordeal

FT_13.07.11_PopeFrancis

Nota bene: please give me the benefit of the doubt and read this message in its entirety.

Cardinal Burke did not say that gay “people” are intrinsically evil as is being spouted all over the media. He said, along with every other bishop, cardinal, pope, priest, and lay person who knows what the Church teaches and is faithful to that teaching, that homosexual “acts” are intrinsically evil; the same stance, of course, of Pope Francis and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (Scroll to paragraph 2357-9)

The trouble is that our society has equated people with their actions. People say “I am gay” when really that’s not true. Your sexuality is not your identity; your sexuality (and all that entails, which is more than orientation) is a part of your identity, but our society wants to reduce the person to his or her sexual orientation. The Church has always spoken against this reduction because it is a reduction of your human dignity. To identify ourselves as people with what we do is a degradation of us as persons. It is as if I were to say “I am financial strain.” This is why the Church describes homosexuality as “same sex attraction”; “I am attracted to the same-sex”; “I experience same-sex attraction”; “This person experiences homosexual tendencies.” When someone says an act, an idea, a proposal, etc is evil, is wrong, is false, they are not talking about YOU. You are more than your ideas. You are more than your actions. You are more. You are made for greatness. 

Do you have same sex attraction? Cool. In the eyes of the Church, you’re a human being. In the eyes of God, you’re a beloved son or daughter. In the eyes of any faithful Catholic who knows what the Church teaches, you’re a beautiful human being who is broken by sin, just like the rest of us. Original sin and the brokenness of humanity might look different on the outside from one person to the next, but we are all sinners bogged down by sin. That’s all there is to it. The Church teaches what she does because she wants you to be led to Jesus and to experience his healing love for you; not so that you “won’t be gay anymore” or so that you’ll be “fixed” and “all better”; BUT SO YOU CAN TURN AWAY FROM SIN! So that you can live and love and laugh and cry and jump and run and be fully alive! Sin is darkness; sin is death; sin is pain; sin is shame; sin is weakness; sin is debilitating; sin is crippling. Christ, and his Church, and me, and all the members of the body of Christ want you to be the beautiful person you are created to be, meant to be, without the heavy weight of sin and darkness and shame. Christ, and, in turn, the Church, wants to set you FREE! “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the FULL.” (John 10:10)

Look at the face of the other. Discover that he has a soul, a history, and a life, that he is a person and that God loves this person. -Pope Benedict XVI

If you don’t believe in what the Church believes, also cool; my goal here is not conversion but comprehension. The Church isn’t asking you to believe what it teaches; but if you’re outside the Church and have no idea what the Church is saying or what she means when she says it, well, then, to use the words of Pope Francis, “Who [are you] to judge?” When the Church makes a judgment about homosexuality, or any other issue for that matter, she is not judging you; she is judging an action. Hate the sin but love the sinner. The Catholic Church to which I belong and for which I am preparing to lay down my life as a priest is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners. We are all in this together, but it takes a radical laying down of one’s life, and a picking up of one’s cross, and a committed following of the Lord. Even Peter took his eyes off Christ and began to sink (Matthew 14:22-33); no one is expected to turn to Christ and never sin again. But the faithful follower of Christ is expected to no longer be content with turning away and falling into sin but, like St. Peter, must be prepared to give up his very life for the glory of the God, the Messiah, who saved him.

“…They feel like the Church has condemned them. But the Church does not want to do this…Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free.” -Pope Francis

That is the context from which the Church is operating. This is not an issue of social justice, but an issue of the dignity and nature of who man (humankind) is, was, and is created to be.

Please let me say this with utmost sincerity:

To anyone who has been hurt by someone in the Church because of their words or rejection, please accept my apology to you on behalf of them. Let us learn from Pope Francis the message of God’s MERCY and unconditional LOVE, regardless of sexual orientation or any other factor. But we are called not just to accept this love and keep on living the way we lived before; we are called to LOVE GOD IN RETURN and give ourselves over to him, even to the deepest fiber of our very being, even our sexuality.

I love you. God loves you. Pope Francis loves you. Yes, even Cardinal Burke loves you.

What Rob Thomas and St. John XXIIII can teach us about life

Comeawayandrest

I have this tendency to get ahead of myself. You know…to get too excited too fast about something and then before I know it I’ve created an entirely new universe in my head. It’s one of those annoyingly human problems that I have. When I started studying for the priesthood I thought that I was supposed to live like that; thinking lofty thoughts and dreaming impressive dreams; somewhat ashamedly, that’s what I thought prayer was. But of course I’ve now come to see that prayer, that contemplation, that union with God does not come primarily from within, but from without; I’ve said it a hundred times (so what’s one more?): prayer is a response to God who seeks man first.

Spending my days lately with my nose stuck inside of theology textbooks and the works of the great Christian spiritual writers, sometimes I forget where and who I am; sometimes I even have to stop and remind myself who I am and what I’m doing. Usually, it goes like this: “I amRyan Adorjan and I am sitting in a room on a campus most people have never heard of in a town that most people have heard of but couldn’t find on a map; and that busy street out there? Those people whizzing by in their cars are doing exactly what you’re doing: living their life. You, friend, are just one among on this great big earth.” And all of a sudden, my complicated reality begins to seem so…..obscure.

I think our culture has taught us to fear obscurity. Every person is a big deal at every moment of the day! The whole world is connected and with the advent of the “selfie” and Instagram and Snapchat we can share our *EXCITING* lives with everyone always. Gone are the days of the mundane. In high school, I remember deciding that I was going to document every moment of my life so that everyone would know how cool and wonderful my life was. In fairness, I think it was about 10% my actually believing my life was so exciting and about 90% my desire for attention.

If that strikes a chord with you (maybe you live a 100% exciting life or seem to be fueled by the attention of others like me), I think we can learn from St. John XXIII and his description of the first 30 years of Jesus’ life, before his public ministry, growing up in Nazareth. There, so says Thomas a Kempis in his spiritual classic Imitation of Christ, Jesus learned a “love to be unknown.” Let that sink in for a sec.

St. John XXIII relates this to the achievement of perfect humility. He says:

I seem to learn only a semblance of humility.; its real spirit, Jesus Christ in Nazareth’s ‘love to be unknown’ is known only to me by name. To think that our blessed Savior spent thirty years of his life in obscurity, and yet he was God, he was the splendor of the substance of the Father, he had come to save the world; …he did all this only to show us how necessary humility is and how it must be practiced.” Journal of a Soul, 132

Another way of understanding this whole concept is explained to us by singer/songwriter Rob Thomas in his song “Little Wonders”. In that song, some of the most helpful lyrics in my life are found:

“Our lives are made in these small hours, these little wonders, these twists and turns of fate. Time falls away, but these small hours, these small hours, still remain…..all of our regret will wash away somehow. But I cannot forget the way I feel right now.”

I have loved this song for a long time. Our lives are not made by the rare moments in the spotlight. But who we are is determined in the crucible, the testing ground, of life; in a word, our lives are made in these small hours.

Because of the transformative power of God’s grace alive within me, I have changed my course; the eyes of my heart have been opened to a new course! This new course is not that so much seeks “to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love” (from the Prayer of St. Francis). And what is it that I seek to love? I seek to “love to be unknown”, not so that I can simply disappear into obscurity, but so that I might join Jesus in the little wonders and small hours of life as he teaches me to grow more deeply into perfect humility and so that I might eventually enter into a perfect intimate and unceasing union with the Lord.

So, friends, if your lives sometimes seem obscure, that’s ok! Jesus lived and learned and “grew in age and wisdom before God and men” (Luke 2:52) in the context of the unknown life of Nazareth…and he’s God!

Let us embrace “the little way” of perfect love and allow God to do the rest; draw near to him and we will be richly blessed. AND let’s pray for one another!

God’s blessings,
RA