Feeds:
Posts
Comments

78A9AA15-363E-44E8-A887-B22C813F4CE7

Are We the Less Fortunate?

What was it about John the Baptist that so attracted people?  By most any standard he didn’t have a magnetic personality.  In fact he was just plain strange.  His clothing was unkempt;  his diet was bizarre;  and the gospels are silent about his housing other than that he lived somewhere out in the desert.

Two things about John stand out in my mind.  First, he seemed not to have been in it for himself.  He certainly wasn’t in it for the money.  Nor did he try to con people with promises of social respectability.  On the contrary, in receiving baptism from John people ran the risk of compromising their social position.  Others would whisper and point fingers, identifying them as followers of John, the weirdo of the desert.

039B2AB6-29FB-4F38-8BAB-90785BB0385EThe second notable feature of John has to do with his personal charisma.  Everything about John should have sent people scrambling away from him.  Yet people lingered in droves to hear what he had to say.  Obviously they were curious about this social misfit, and they were also curious because John seemed to speak with authenticity.    Unlike many of the appointed religious leaders, he seemed to be someone who knew God personally.  And he preached not to win mobs of followers and the power that might come from that.  Rather he preached to stir his listeners to the potential for life that was latent within them.

Social standing has been important in every era of human history;  and we are kidding ourselves if we think that we’re untouched by peer pressure and the herd mentality today.  Ironically we’ve created a society that idolizes individual freedom, but we are simultaneously intolerant of any individual who would choose to swim against the current.  But in the process we risk the loss of our integrity, and we pay a heavy price for our indifference to those who are suffering around us.  We pay dearly for sticking with people who are exactly like us, even as it becomes a real stretch for us to reach out in love and friendship to those whose lives seem less fortunate then our own.

The inability to reach out to the poor and the suffering may actually indicate that it’s we who have become the less fortunate.  It’s we who have sold our souls for all sorts of things that don’t really matter.  It’s we who have become insensitive to the possibilities of a full life.

9AD6F7D0-31D9-4AC9-8F85-567CB86F053FIn the end I think that John spoke to an audience that represents people of every era.  On one level people fear that they might miss the boat that sails with the elite on board.  John, however, stirs within us an even deeper fear.  What if by choosing to book passage on the ship of the self-absorbed we actually miss the better boat — the boat that sails to a full and loving life?

NOTES

+On December 2nd I attended the blessing of the Christmas tree in the Great Hall at Saint John’s University.  Once upon a time the tree was one cut from our forest and forced through the main door of the Great Hall.  The video of that yearly struggle is still available on You Tube.  Alas, the fire marshall put a stop to that not so long ago, mainly because if it ever caught fire it could take down the entire Quadrangle with it.  So today it is artificial, but splendid all the same.

+For whatever reason this was the week for an inordinate number of meetings, all of which I was expected to attend.  Oddly enough I enjoyed them, mainly because I learned a lot from my colleagues.

+Today’s post is a reflection on Matthew 3: 1-12, which was the gospel for the 2nd Sunday of Advent.  The photo at top is a stained glass rendition of John the Baptist, and it greets people as they enter the Great Hall.  Below that is a photo of the Christmas tree and then a trio of angels.  At bottom is another stained glass window from the Great Hall, with Saint Benedict front and center.

89C07466-32D8-46DB-A75B-38C0CA6C3A0F

BA2019E1-0407-49D0-80FF-C49381F7EFF3

Advent:  Not Just for Winter

“It is the hour now for you to wake from sleep.”  (Romans 13: 11)

Every now and again it hits me that the liturgical calendar was made to order for people living in the Northern Hemisphere.  Easter and the resurrection of Jesus align rather nicely with the flourish of new life in springtime.  Advent by contrast gets its oomph from the approach of winter and the longest nights of the year.

Now disconnect those experiences for people living in the Southern Hemisphere and you appreciate the challenge.  How do Australians digest Advent readings that evoke dark days and deep sleep as they’re driving off to the beach for a day in the sun?  I honestly don’t know how they do that, and were it not so far away I’d be willing to go and find out for myself.  But then I’d miss out on the idyllic Advent weather that we have in Minnesota.

3A22527F-F91D-47D4-814E-FA2615F7E295It’s nice that the climate can reinforce the readings of Advent for those of us living in the northern half of the planet.  However, the word of God was meant for people of all ages, living in all sorts of climates, and spread across an array of geographies.  So it is that we cannot relegate to the summertime Isaiah’s invitation to “walk in the light of the Lord” (Is 2:5).  And when Jesus urges his disciples to “stay awake” in Matthew 24: 42 he’s not talking about the urge to nap on a long winter’s day.  No, in both cases the passages encourage readers to get a grip on their lives and make the most of each and every opportunity to live in the light of the Lord — all the year round.

Without pushing it too far, Advent is much more than a segment in the march of the liturgical calendar.  Advent is a not-so-subtle reminder that we can drift away from the Lord in virtually any season or on any day of the week.  It can happen over the course of half a lifetime or in the space of a few minutes on a summer afternoon.  When that does occur we’ve given up on an anchor that can give stability and meaning.  Absent that meaning we wonder about the direction of our lives.  In the process we shut our eyes to those unique chance encounters with Christ.

So what are we to do in response to the call to be alert — always?  Well, first of all it involves a leap of faith.  It also includes an awareness of the principles by which we choose to live.  Are there ideals for which we strive?  Are there boundaries over which we will not step?  These are the qualities that make us noble in the master plan of God, and this is the fruit of the self-awareness to which Jesus invites us.

Of equal importance is the need to be opportunistic.  By that I don’t mean that we take advantage of others every chance we get.  No, this opportunism looks for the encounter with God at every turn.  It requires we be alert not just for a few minutes or for a day, but for all of Advent if necessary.  The good news of the gospel is that the Lord won’t keep us waiting for very long.  Quite possibly around every corner and on the other side of every door we’ll see the face of Christ.

49DF0273-3432-4830-A43E-ED663312B5D9NOTES

+In my first year at Saint John’s the first snow of the winter arrived on Thanksgiving Day.  Ever since then I’ve thought of Thanksgiving as the official start of winter, though I also accept that winter reserves the right to show up whenever it wants.  This year’s first big snow came a few days earlier, and the snows are here for the long haul.  Now every trip by car requires extra time to brush and scrape off the snow.

+While we enjoyed the winter landscape over Thanksgiving in the monastery, the University’s football team flew off to Orange County, CA, where I presume there was no snow.  There it won its playoff game against Chapman University.  By coincidence I spoke at Chapman last year, and it happens to own a copy of the Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible.

+Over Thanksgiving I finished a book that took me a while to get through, and which I found fascinating.  William Dalrymple is a prolific author, with an interest in India.  Several years ago we read in the monastery refectory his book From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium, and we enjoyed it.  I read a review of his newest book in the Wall Street Journal, got it, and then spent weeks of spare time getting through it.  The Anarchy:  The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire, details the history of the East India Company.  It’s the story of a corporation that conquered a rich empire, systematically looted it, and left it impoverished.  Appalled by the atrocities, the British government nationalized the company in the 19th century, and so began the British Raj in India.  Dalrymple’s work is a good read, though the flood of unfamiliar Mughal and Indian names left me dizzy now and again.

+At the top of today’s post is a photo of the Advent wreath in the abbey church, and below that is the view we monks see as we process from the cloister into the church for prayer.  The Annunciation (ca. 1490) is by the French artist Jean Hey, and is housed at the Art Institute in Chicago.  Like so much of religious art of the time, the artist made no attempt to portray the scene as it may have looked in the 1st century, and as a result such renditions are often replete with wonderful historical anachronisms.  In this case, Mary prays from a book, even though the artist knew good and well that Jewish sacred texts were scrolls.  Even more curious is the painting of her son Jesus that Mary has hanging over her bed.  Artistically it makes the important statement that Mary’s life points to Jesus.  Please click on the photo for a closer look.  Finally, at bottom is a view into the courtyard of the east cloister walk of the abbey church.  Winter is here to stay.

7FF8956E-21F8-4982-BC9E-97A5DE98D644

520F3155-6684-40F4-8C27-F7631516BCAD

God Issues a Challenge Grant

[The following is a reflection on Luke 19: 11-28.  This passage recounts the king who entrusted to his servants various amounts of money before going off on a trip.  On his return he was both delighted and dismayed at the ways in which his servants made use of those resources.]

Years ago, when I was still a novice preacher, I addressed this gospel at a Sunday liturgy.  I know I did really well — not because I recall what I said that day — but because I recall what somebody else said afterward.

D30251B3-A380-46FE-BBE5-E43C765B45CFThat person, an experienced college teacher, had puzzled over this parable until one day it finally hit him.  He’d just returned exams to his students, and one student protested the C he had gotten.  His complaint was tightly reasoned, and it went like this:  “I got every answer right.  I even quoted you word for word in places.”  To which the professor answered:  “Yes, and I applaud you for accuracy.  And for being correct I gave you a C because you told me what I already knew.  Had you taught me something I didn’t know I would have given you a B.  Had you dazzled me, I would have given you an A.”

For all those who think the king in today’s parable is unjust, consider it from God’s perspective.  God has given each of us talents and opportunities, and for most of us in this church that’s given us a head start over 90% of the people on this planet.  What more should we expect from God?  Should God pat us on the back because we maintained some of our gifts in mint condition?

It might be helpful to think of our gifts and talents as a challenge grant from God.  One way to respond is to sit on our behinds, trying to keep things just the way we found them.  Or we can use them as tools that can make a difference in the lives of others.  If we choose to do the former, we can begin to understand the anger of the king in the parable.  If it’s the latter, we can appreciate the joy we see in the face of the Lord.

For God’s best students there can be only one good response.  Given what you and I have been given, maybe good enough is no longer good enough.

F1538F48-3EDE-447D-98FE-6469D34A2416

NOTES

+On November 20th I presided and preached at the abbey Mass.  Today’s post is the reflection I offered on Luke 19: 11-28.

+On November 20th many of the monks joined other faculty and staff of Saint John’s University in serving Thanksgiving dinner to our students.  It’s a dress-up affair, served family style, and after many years of doing this it has become a great tradition.

+During the month of November we monks remember those who have been commended to our prayers.  Friends send in slips of paper with the names of the deceased for whom they ask remembrance, and we place the slips in baskets at the entrance into the church.  We in turn take a name from the basket when we file in for the liturgy of the hours and Mass.  Once in a while we will draw the name of someone we know, which makes it particularly poignant.  As for me, I have lost three good friends during the past month, and I remembered Jean from Santa Clara, CA, at Mass on the 20th.  Jean’s husband, John, was an alumnus of Saint John’s University who taught physics and was dean at Santa Clara University for much of his career.  My other two friends were also from the Bay Area.  May Jean and Dick and Hardy all enjoy eternal life with Christ.

+The recent flooding in Venice saddens all who love that extraordinary city.  I’ve had a particular fondness for the mosaic floors of the city churches, which have been hard hit.  I’ve used several of these floors as screen savers on my computer, and they never fail to strike me with their whimsy.  These samples are from the Basilica of San Marco.

6E0EED8B-B736-49E4-A5AA-4FBC943AD794

054B650B-6607-4043-85F2-0DC13CDDAE78

Saint Martin of Tours:  A Survivor

Modern visitors to the cathedral of Utrecht may find it slightly odd that Saint Martin of Tours is there to greet them.  It’s odd because this church built in his memory has been Dutch Reformed since 1580.  How in the world did Saint Martin make the cut?  Why is it that he’s still around when the Dutch Republic pulled his peers down from their pedestals and banished them into exile?

Martin is a survivor in part because he was unconventional.  First, Martin had been a soldier in the Roman imperial legions.  After his baptism he resigned his commission because he would only fight for Jesus Christ and no longer for the emperor.  Coincidentally that’s what the Protestant Dutch were doing when they rebelled against the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor.  Did their devotion to Martin serve double duty as an ironic poke in the eye of their modern emperor?  Probably.

328E7938-1A4F-4C2C-B011-68564A604136Then there is Martin’s identification with the poor.  In an act that made him a favorite for artists for centuries, Martin cut his cloak down the middle and shared half with a beggar.  The story is that Jesus came disguised as the beggar, and it underlined the notion that what we do for the least of people we do for Christ.

Martin eventually became a hermit, and to his hermitage flocked droves of young people.  So great was his reputation for holiness that the local Christians drafted him as bishop.  Reluctantly he accepted, but he did so only on his own terms.  Forced to be bishop, he still lived in his monastery, surrounded by his monks.

All this sounds like just another innocuous life of a saint, but embedded in it is yet one more poke in the eye.  By Martin’s time many of the bishops in Gaul were aristocrats who preferred life on their estates.  Martin’s way of life was a deliberate affront to them.  What rubbed salt in their wounds was one item that’s easily overlooked.  Many of those who joined Martin at his hermitage were the sons of those same aristocrats.

So there is in Martin’s story all sorts of countercultural symbolism.  He was a military man who swore off allegiance to the emperor.  He was oblivious to his own creature comforts and preferred to tend to the poor and suffering.  And while he finally caved in to the demand to become a bishop, on some things he would not compromise.  Power and luxury and aristocratic status were okay for other bishops, but that was not the kind of bishop he felt called to be.

EAAB366E-39B4-4C23-8B8F-514A7CA6AB45I used to wonder why Saint Benedict dedicated a chapel at Monte Cassino to Saint Martin.  Eventually I concluded that it was Benedict’s nod to Martin as a monk who was willing to combine service to the people of God with life in a monastery.  But now I think there’s more to it than I had thought.  Could his respect for Martin be a veiled warning to his own monks to be wary of both secular and ecclesiastical power?  It’s entirely possible.

Today I regret Saint Martin’s relative obscurity in the Catholic world.  If Martin had so much to say to Saint Benedict and to some Dutch Protestants in the 16th century, has he nothing to teach us today?  I certainly hope not, because what Saint Martin had to say then is what we need to hear now.

NOTES

+On November 11th we celebrated the feast of Saint Martin of Tours.  Quite by chance this year November 11th happened to fall on the Monday when we celebrate Veterans Day in the US.  Today’s post was not a sermon I gave that day but rather comes out of my memory as a teacher who has learned quite a lot since I left the classroom.

+On November 12th I celebrated the Eucharist for the annual meeting of the San Francisco area of the Order of Malta.

+On November 15th I attended the meeting of the Board of Directors of Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton, CA.

+The photos in today’s post show the cathedral of Utrecht in the Netherlands, which I visited many years ago.

3F067013-6A91-44E0-9D46-DCF54CB7BF74

BFB5A6EC-684E-451B-822F-05AF690CFB8E

We Are God’s Building

I have to admit that I find it easier to get worked up about some feasts more than others. Christmas and Easter obviously attract.  On the other hand, lesser saints challenge my interest, though I’m always intrigued by some of the more arcane monastic saints.  Who doesn’t find the feast day of Saints Odo, Odilo, Maiulus, Hugh and Peter the Venerable not exciting?  Well maybe not a lot of people do, but I for one feel like I know them like old friends.  They were the five long-lived medieval abbots of Cluny in France.

Still, testing the limits of my enthusiasm are feasts that celebrate furniture — like the Chair of Saint Peter — and the dedication of buildings.  That said, I do make exceptions, and my favorite is the dedication of Saint John Lateran, which we celebrated on November 9th.  It’s a building, of course, and it’s in Rome.  But beyond that I have always felt a bit sorry for it, simply because it does not get the respect it deserves.

15A0A072-524B-4372-8506-5735992A2F90Why does it deserve better?  Well, for one thing it is the seat of the bishop of Rome, someone who also carries the title of pope.  Most people believe that Saint Peter’s is the presiding church in Rome, but in this case most people would be wrong.  Saint John Lateran heads the diocese of Rome, and all of its administrative offices have been there for centuries, and they still are.

Hands down Saint Peters draws more visitors than Saint John, but those who do visit Saint John are rewarded with a glimpse of a complex filled with history.  Originally an imperial palace, Emperor Constantine in the 330’s gave a boost to the local Christian community by building a massive basilica on the site.  It had the look and feel and size of an imperial basilica, as was fitting for a space meant to be the home of the Christian community of Rome.  It was not intended to be a place for a parish community, however, so modesty was not one of the goals in its construction.  It was meant to impress an entire city.  It asserted that after nearly three hundred years of persecution the Church was there to stay.

8F787189-70BA-4DF7-8D7C-EA4F6347D971Saint John Lateran has hosted five church councils (three more than the Vatican) and it’s seen fires and all kinds of change through the centuries.  But the interior still has the feel of an ancient basilica, and it has one surprise that Saint Peter’s lacks, a wonderful medieval cloister.

Sadly, most visitors are in too much of a hurry to venture through an unobtrusive door into the cloister, but those who do discover a stunningly beautiful and serene space.  Those precincts housed the community of Benedictine monks who served pilgrims for centuries.  The monks are long gone, but thankfully the cloister has survived generations of modernizers.  Not so fortunate was the old Saint Peter’s, which Pope Julius II had the temerity to pull down in the early 1500s.

A visit to Saint John Lateran conjures up an extraordinary history, but what it does best is remind tourists of the people who have entered its doors as pilgrims and as participants in grand liturgies through the centuries.  It is precisely for this reason that we should recall the second reading from the feast of the dedication of Saint John Lateran when we enter these monuments to faith.  In I Corinthians 3:9 Paul reminds us that we always have to maintain a proper perspective when we behold such stunning edifices.  “Brothers and sisters, you are God’s building.”

0CD325CD-28A9-4B9F-A1DA-09E86B147018NOTES

+This was an exceptionally busy week for me, and one which I will not repeat any time soon.  It began with a talk on The Saint John’s Bible that I delivered on November 5th at Marian University in Indianapolis, IN.

+On November 7th I spoke at Baylor University in Waco, TX.  This visit had special significance for me, since my father was born a few miles to the south in the village of Westphalia, TX.  My grandparents and great-grandparents are buried in that area, and our twice-yearly visits meant that we drove by Baylor on the way to see them.  I have absolutely no doubt that my grandparents would be stunned to know that I had spoken there.

+On November 8-10 I gave a retreat to members of the Lancaster PA area of the Federal Association of the Order of Malta.  I had given their retreat last year as well, and I enjoyed the return.  But it capped a busy week, and the last of my major commitments of the fall semester.

+The photos in today’s post show the apse of the basilica of Saint John Lateran and perspectives from the cloister where the monastic community lived in the Middle Ages.

165A4EA6-6654-48D8-B561-47299A657BB4

 

 

8EF51D9C-188B-4E7B-B6B5-8F0EBA93A573

An All Souls Reflection

”The souls of the just are in the hand of God….” (Wisdom 3:1)

I’ve always found today’s reading from the book of Wisdom to be a wonderful consolation.  It’s a consolation because these words remind us that at death life is changed not ended.  Death does not mean the obliteration of all that is significant about us, but rather it is only the next step in the great pilgrimage of life.

EBC62ADE-1154-4854-92EF-ECC34322C23DLife itself is God’s greatest gift to us.  Out of it flows other gifts like family and friends and creativity and all those other things that fill our days with meaning.  And so it is that when life seems to be snatched away from us it puts closure to everything.  That’s it.  That’s all there is and there ain’t no more.  But not so.  We as Christians believe that we’re just getting started when we cross the threshold into eternal life.  In fact, the best is yet to come.

I think what distresses many is the thought of a life that seems cut short.  When someone passes at the age of five or twenty or fifty or sixty, somehow they’ve been cheated.  On the other hand, to pass at 105 is to celebrate the fullness of years.  Such a life, we presume, is filled with potential that has been realized.  But to die before our time is to be denied the chance for a fulfilled life — or so we think.

The Book of Wisdom reminds us that our lives — whether short or long — have just enough time to accomplish something wonderful.  We have just enough time to do that one thing that we were put on this earth to do.  It affirms that God created us not to do everything, but to add one measure of value to the lives of others.  And so on All Soul’s Day we celebrate what our beloved friends and family have done.  As surely as each had a unique personality, each also accomplished something unique.  And for that we give thanks.

F63491DB-E38A-414D-BE4A-ED904E4DC85FIn the gospel reading from John 6: 37-40 Jesus says that he came down from heaven not to do his will but to do the will of the one who sent him.  Jesus is God’s gift to us, but if we think God hasn’t given us our own personal mission in life, then we are short-changing ourselves.  God has sent each of us to do something of value — to do that one thing that explains why we’ve been given a singular set of talents and gifts.

We often take for granted our privileged status as beings created in the image of God.  Unlike God’s other creatures, we have the capacity to be self-conscious about where we are going with our lives.  We can have a sense of purpose that sets us apart, and that sense of purpose comes from God who breathed life into us and sent us to do his work in our little corner of the world.

And so today on the feast of All Souls we remember all those who toiled in the vineyard of the Lord.  Let us thank God for them, as they were certainly God’s gifts to us.  But let us thank God for our own opportunity to do something of value this day and every day.  It’s what God has sent us to do.  May God who has begun this good work in us bring it to completion not just in this phase of our lives, but in the new and eternal Jerusalem.

DCBAEB8D-A652-4D79-9AD4-2B49D1C0A252NOTES

+On October 31st, at the vigil of All Saints, we hosted 150 visitors who joined us for evening prayer.  Earlier in the evening our confrere Fr. Bob Koopmann hosted forty individuals who have been supporters of the addition to the abbey organ.  Several weeks ago the 3,000 new pipes had been stacked on the east pews of the church, but now the great majority have been hoisted up into the organ loft, where already some look quite stately.  Organ builder and designer Martin Pasi spoke about the expanded organ, and collaborator Casey Marrin demonstrated the sound of two of the tallest pipes.

+On November 2nd I presided and preached at the All Souls Mass at the Little Sisters of the Poor in San Pedro, CA, and today’s post is the sermon I delivered that day.  For decades members of the Los Angeles area of the Order of Malta have volunteered their services to the sisters and the elderly poor whom they host in their facility.  Following the Mass the Malta members served lunch to the residents.

ED207614-1EAE-4488-AC5A-1BF334A86C86+Travel certainly brings the unexpected, and I’ve always enjoyed the steady diet of little eye-openers that comes with it.  On the way to the airport in Los Angeles I and my friend and host from the Order of Malta stopped to enjoy the view at a secluded resort that came with its own beach and view of Catalina Island.  Our first surprise came from a dog walking with his owner.  “That dog’s wearing a Fitbit,” my friend blurted out.  The owner smiled and rather sheepishly owned up to this little doggie luxury.  As for me, I didn’t even know they made Fitbits for dogs.  But since I live in a monastery, how was I supposed to know?

A second surprise at that resort was a ritual that greeted every car at valet parking.  Once guests were out of sight attendants discreetly circled each car, pointing out any significant dents.  An unseen camera recorded the dents, for a purpose I had never thought of.  “It’s just part of the legal trade these days,” pointed out my lawyer host.

+Late medieval and early modern tomb designers raised funeral monuments to an art form, as the sculptures in todays post suggest.  The four individual mourners are housed at the Cluny Museum in Paris, which is pictured at top.  It was the late medieval residence of the abbots of Cluny, along with monks who were in Paris for university studies.  The tomb was commissioned by Philip the Bold in ca. 1435.  At bottom is the tomb of Philippe Pot, carved ca. 1480-1483.  Once housed at the abbey of Citeaux in Burgundy, it is now in the Louvre.  All of the images can be enlarged for more detailed inspection.

820712D8-3A84-4198-96A4-8FBEAC166352

03D3B943-9A0C-4C7D-B04A-3793D611E17F

The Discipline of Self-Awareness

Every now and again I have the feeling that Jesus must have lost patience with some of his audience, and that shows in a hint of sarcasm about those who purport to know most everything and are experts in all things save self-understanding.

In the passage which we’ve just read from the gospel of Saint Luke Jesus opens with the implication that we sometimes think we possess all the wisdom of the earth.  We know the weather, we can interpret enigmatic signs, and by implication we seem to know what’s best for other people.

DA5E931D-FBA8-4071-9648-5E1253BB3221Given all that abundance of knowledge about everything else, however, we can be surprisingly ill-informed about ourselves.  And the image of the plaintiff going to court is a good one that Jesus uses to make his point.  The plaintiff must have thought he had an air-tight case.  But he was done in by a critical lack of self-awareness.  So he naively but confidently approached the judge, assuming that victory would be his.  By the time it was all over, however, the process had chewed him up and spit him out.  Even a dollop of self-awareness could have saved him a lot of trouble, and it might have suggested that compromise sometimes is the better option, as opposed to risking and losing everything.

In today’s gospel Jesus invites us to to search for the self-awareness that in practice can change the course of our lives.  So important is Jesus’ advice that we even incorporate into the liturgy opportunities to own up to the need for self-awareness.  In the penitential rite that begins the Eucharist we confess our faults, and in the sacrament of reconciliation we confess yet again our sins.  Later this afternoon at our service of reconciliation we will all have the opportunity to confess our sins in conversation with another person — a confessor.  But the important point of all of this is that we approach the altar of the Lord to confess our sins.  So if by chance this afternoon you are coming to confess somebody else’s sins, please don’t.  Much better would be your chances for success if you went to some judge somewhere.

60357AD5-AD1B-416D-881F-18290262929ENOTES

+Today’s post is a sermon on Luke 12: 54-59 that I delivered on Friday October 25th.  The occasion was a liturgy for members of the Order of Malta, who had gathered at San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, CA.  While I did not expect that this sermon would be remembered by the participants, little did I know that it would be eclipsed so quickly by events of the weekend.

Danville is not all that far from the fires that scorched Sonoma County this weekend, and the smoke from those fires drifted our way.  On top of that, the threat of high winds meant that the electric company had to turn off the power for nearly a million people, ourselves included.  So on Saturday evening the power went out, and it was scheduled to remain so until later today, Monday.

The impact was felt by all of us who woke up early on Sunday.  I woke up at 3:00 am, and there was absolutely nothing to do to occupy myself until the sun came up at 7:30.  No reading, no writing, no nothing.  And so for the next four hours I simply enjoyed the darkness and tried to fall back to sleep.  Mass later that morning was in a fairly dark chapel.  A bank of candles and a flashlight pierced the darkness, but it was much like it must have been in the 19th century.  Actually, it was a fascinating experiment on survival without power.

+On my recent visit to Frankfurt I was surprised by the reminders of the medieval city that are sprinkled through the old quarter of the city.  Most of the medieval city was flattened by the bombing of WW II, but the decision to rebuild just a portion of the old city gives a reminder of how interesting it must have been.

A759ADD3-1828-43C0-893F-DE01523B48B7