Misericordes oculos

There is nothing on this earth that can fully prepare a man for becoming a priest. There is nothing else that is quite like it. Even while I was a deacon, I didn’t expect such a clear distinction between my life before priestly ordination and after. My expectations were very wrong: My experience of life changed at priestly ordination as I began to experience my vocation. The priest stands in persona Christi capitis (in the person of Christ as head of the Body of Christ) during Sacraments. He is the instrument chosen by God to speak Christ’s words and transform bread and wine into his Most Precious Body and Blood, the instrument chosen by God to stand in the breach as both judge and dispenser of merciful forgiveness in the sacrament of Confession, the instrument chosen by God to prepare people for their last moments on this earth as they go to their eternal reward. We are there for God’s people in their moments of greatest joy and their moments of deepest, soul-wrenching sadness. Though this is often painful, it is a great privilege for us priests to walk with God’s people in these moments. In these moments, we are permitted to see God’s love for his people in a way that nobody else does.

Because of our unique view of God’s love for his people and the life-changing experience of being the instrument of God’s sacraments and the ministers of his grace, there is a deep fraternity amongst us priests. We call each other “brother” because through our ordinations we have become brothers in a way that transcends material reality. One way this common brotherhood is visible is what happens when one of us passes to our eternal reward. We make every effort to go to the funeral of our brother who has died, even if that brother died 70 years ago in a Korean prison camp.

I wasn’t sure what to expect during the week when we held the liturgies for Fr. Kapaun and his funeral. In addition to the Rosary, Vigil, and Funeral Mass, the priests had a private gathering for Vespers for Fr. Kapaun. Each one of these events brought me to the brink of tears multiple times. This man who has inspired so many is one of us. And he’s finally home. Even now, it’s hard to contain the tears that well up. I’m so proud of my brother for saving so many lives. I’m overjoyed that so many people have recognized his impact on their lives and that so many continue to be inspired by him. I’m sad that I never met him in person and that his family suffered so much. I feel a sense of wholeness now that our brother is back home, finally laid to rest and accounted for.

Many moments during the week struck me right to the heart. I would like to share two with you.
The first moment was Monday night at the Vespers service. Fr. Eric Weldon, in his homily, pointed out that Fr. Kapaun would have not been able to say Mass on the last Christmas and Easter of his earthly life. I can’t imagine the pain in his heart on those two days. I remember the strangeness and pain I experienced during the first Easter of my priesthood, when COVID regulations forced us to say Easter without parishioners in attendance. It was terrible, and yet, at least I still got to say Mass. How must his heart have ached! It is an important reminder to me that the Mass is a gift, and any time we get to celebrate Mass together, it is a privilege.

The second moment was during the committal service at the Cathedral following the funeral and procession. After we laid Fr. Kapaun’s mortal remains into his tomb in the cathedral, one of the brother priests started singing the Salve Regina, as is tradition when we lay one of our brothers to rest. The sound of our unaccompanied voices echoed loudly through the cathedral, and I don’t even have words to describe it, but it was a perfect and fitting culmination to everything we had all experienced over three days. We brought our brother home, prayed for him, laid him to rest, commended him to God, and pleaded that Mary look at Fr. Kapaun with her misericordes oculos, her eyes of mercy, and show him the way to the fruit of her womb, Jesus Christ.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Chaplain Kapaun, pray for us.

St. Alphonsus Liguori on Mary

In danger of sinning, when assailed by temptations, when doubtful as to how you should act, remember that Mary can help you, and if you call upon her, she will instantly help you.

— St. Alphonsus Liguori

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Saint PatrickToday is the feast of St. Patrick. For those who are parishioners in a parish named after St. Patrick, today is a solemnity!

The readings for the feast of St. Patrick are: 1 Pt 4:7b-11; Ps 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8b, 10; Lk 5:1-11

Make sure to make prudent decisions when celebrating St. Patrick’s feast! It is still a Lenten Friday, and in many places the people must still abstain from meat.

St. Methodius

June 14

Methodius I was a Patriarch of Constantinople. Before he became the patriarch, he spent years fighting the second outbreak of the iconoclast persecution in the Eastern Church. Niκephoros, the patriarch of Constantinople, was banished and replaced with an iconoclastic patriarch. Methodius, a monk, was sent by the deposed patriarch to Rome to report the matter. After several years in Rome, and a change in the eastern emperor (Leo V was murdered and replaced by Michael II), Methodius returned with a letter from the pope that attempted to persuade the eastern emperor to change his ways and restore Niκephoros. That didn’t work out so well. Methodius was scourged and imprisoned. After 7 years, Methodius was let out of prison, and he defended the icons even more strongly than before.

When the emperor Michael died, his son Theophilus re-invigorated the persecution. Methodius, after going toe-to-toe with the emperor was again scourged and imprisoned. He managed to escape after a day this time, and continued to work on the emperor.

After Theophilus, the Iconoclast persecution was brought to an end. Theodora, Theophilus’s wife and the regent for Michael III, restored images and freed the prisoners. The current patriarch of Constantinople was an unrepentant iconoclast setup by the government. He was deposed and Methodius was made patriarch. He restored the icons to the Hagia Sophia (yeah, that Hagia Sophia, the one that was a Catholic or Orthodox church from 562 to 1453) in a solemn procession and deposed many iconoclast bishops throughout his patriarchate. The restoration, or “Feast of Orthodoxy” is still celebrated in Byzantine Churches today.

Methodius is a Catholic and an Orthodox saint. He is named in the Roman Martyrology on June 14.

St. Anthony of Padua

Memorial; June 13

The patron saint of lost things devoted his entire life to losing himself in God’s will.

After switching from the Canons Regular of St. Augustine to the Orders of Friars Minor, St. Anthony wanted to go to Africa and spread the faith, but he soon found that God’s plan was different. On the way to Morocco, Anthony became ill and due to poor weather was forced to stay in Sicily to regain his health. After moving around a bit, he stayed in the town of Forli. While he was attending an ordination, those present discovered that no speaker had been appointed. St. Anthony was called to speak. Those in attendance were not expecting much, but the Holy Spirit inspired St. Anthony to give an excellent speech.

After this, St. Francis himself instructed him to teach theology to his brother friars. Later in life, he was a forceful speaker against heretics. He performed many miracles and converted many of them. He was so successful that he was called the “Hammer of the Heretics” (Malleus hereticorum). Some of the miracles he performed while alive include bi-location, rendering poisoned food safe to eat and preserving people from the rain on numerous occasions.

There are many other interesting stories and facts about St. Anthony at the Catholic Encyclopedia.

St. Barnabas

Memorial; June 11

St. Barnabas was a very early member of the Church. Born a Levite on Cyprus, he spent much time in Jerusalem. According to most accounts, he converted during the Pentecost and is mentioned in Acts for selling his property and giving the proceeds to the church (Acts 4:34-37).

Barnabas introduced Paul to the Apostles, who were wary and slow to believe his conversion. Much of Barnabas’s ministry after this involves Paul. He convinced Paul to start his journeys in Antioch, and accompanied on many of his voyages. His desire to bring St. Mark (the Gospel writer) along with them on one of the journeys caused a temporary rift with Paul. Barnabas was present at the Council of Jerusalem, and sided with Paul on the circumcision debate.

After his journeys, not much is written about Barnabas. He was one of the most highly esteemed men of the Church outside of the 12 Apostles. Many writings are attributed to him: Tertullian attributes the Letter to the Hebrews, Photius claims Barnabas, not Luke, wrote Acts of the Apostles and many attribute the Epistle of Barnabas to him, but these claims are doubted.

Further reading:
The Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02300a.htm
Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnabas

St. Norbert

Note: I promise that I’ll eventually get back to my series about Love, but there is much work for me to do before I continue. For now, I am trying to simply update the site more frequently. I’m hoping to improve my writing skills and simply get in the habit of writing things that are meant to be read. I spend so much time at work writing computer code and technical documentation that I fell this is necessary.

Also, you should go see For Greater Glory. It’s about the Mexican Revolution, and I’m told that it is very powerful. I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, but hope to soon.

Optional Memorial; June 6

St. Norbert was a bishop to Germany a few hundred years after St. Boniface. St. Norbert was especially devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. I could regurgitate his life story here, but the Catholic Encyclopedia and Wikipedia have already done a pretty good job of that.

What strikes me about St. Norbert is his complete devotion to God, as shown through what he said at his ordination:

O Priest! You are not yourself because you are God’s. You are not of yourself because you are the servant and minister of Christ. You are not your own because you are the spouse of the Church. You are not yourself because you are the mediator between God and man. You are not from yourself because you are nothing. What then are you? Nothing and everything. O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you: “He save others, himself he cannot save!”

St. Boniface

Memorial; June 5

The German Church was in desperate need of reform in the early to mid 700s, and Pope Gregory II thought that St. Boniface was just the man for the job. Boniface, an English Benedictine Monk, gave up his election as abbot and went on a missionary journey to German lands in 719. What he found were pagans and poorly formed Christians. (Remember that at this time, the Catholic Church was the only Christian church.)

Soon after this first journey, Boniface started the hard work of reform. His primary aims were to increase the clergy’s loyalty to their bishop and to the pope and to open many houses of prayer. He was very successful in both of these tasks, and was responsible for getting the Benedictine nuns into the education business.

St. Boniface is also known for chopping down a tree—but not just any tree. He chopped down Donar’s sacred oak tree on Mount Gudenburg. As the people waited for their gods to strike him dead, he kept chopping until the trash crashed down and split into four parts. Legend has it that Boniface used the wood from the tree to build a chapel.

For his efforts and work at reform, Boniface was massacred with 53 companions as he was preparing them for confirmation.

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