Catholic Husband

Love / Lead / Serve

Priorities

Much thought is given to priorities, especially around the beginning of a new year. Whether we set them intentionally or not, priorities are guiding our actions. Even if you set out with a solid plan, it’s easy to become overcome by events.

There are seasons for everything in life; work, family, relationships, school, and play have rhythms that seldom sync up. It’s why we can have fabulously productive days at work and end the day with the house a complete mess. On that day, we prioritized work over cleaning.

The problem with priorities is when we let them take us away from our principles. A father who spends all his days focused on work will lose his family. An employee who spends their days at home cleaning will lose their job. We have to fight for balance in our lives.

Our bodies are magnificent creations; they tell us when we’re out of balance. We’ve all felt that terrible, inescapable feeling of being overwhelmed. We’ve experienced the physical manifestations alarming us to the toll that stress is taking on us.

Though the demands on our time are many and very real, the truth is if we spend some time each day tending to our areas of responsibility, we can get it all done. The house will never be clean, relationships always need nurturing, and work will never be done. But if we keep the kitchen counter clear, take time for each child, and be focused while at work, we can end the day satisfied with how we spent it.

Heavenly Delights

On Saturday, my daughter, Felicity, received her First Holy Communion. It was a day that she’d looked forward to for months, and why wouldn’t she? Children are receptive to ideas that are hard for adults. It’s what makes them vulnerable, but sometimes vulnerability is a gift.

In the Gospel, we hear about how many people “went away” from Jesus as He gave His catechesis of the Eucharist because the truths were “too hard.” For a devout Jew, who observes restrictions about eating the flesh of certain animals, this is understandable. Jesus instructs His followers to not only eat flesh, but human flesh. Blood was understood as the source of life, so to drink someone else’s blood was an outrageous instruction.

I can’t fault these holy people who sought to more deeply obey God’s instructions. They, unlike us, didn’t have the benefit of thousands of years of theology. Like a child, they had to accept Jesus’ instructions at face value.

In the revised translation of the Mass, one of my favorite concluding prayers starts with, “Having consumed these heavenly delights…” It evokes the Jewish people in the desert, looking out of their tents to see manna waiting to feed them; bread from Heaven come to save us, having all sweetness within it. Felicity can now fully participate in the Mass. As she does, may she find fulfillment in these Heavenly Delights.

A Blast of Trumpets

The design of our parish draws heavy inspiration from the great Italian basilicas. A large dome binds together the transepts, and the oversized sanctuary, adorned in stone, creates a huge, open space with the altar perfectly centered. It’s the kind of design that elevates the mind; beauty that shocks the faithful out of the routine of our daily lives and reminds us of the specialness of this place.

To accompany the breathtaking architecture, we also have a robust liturgical music department. At many Masses throughout the year, guest instrumentalists join the organ and choir to truly elevate the music. A few weeks ago, a trumpet and trombone played at Mass on Mother's Day. The musicians are seated right up front, off to the right, but where the expansive sanctuary meets the dome. The result, in addition to the acoustically friendly building materials, is a church-filling sound that resounds throughout the entire space.

It’s been many years since I attended a parish where Mass was a standing-room only occasion, where young families like mine filled the pews, and where songs were sung by more than just the cantor. Add to the mix the sound of brass and stringed instruments, and it’s hard to not get taken up in the transcendent experience.

I’m grateful to Fr. Mike Schmitz and Ascension Press for their Bible in a Year podcast. It was just a few years ago that I completed the journey, and I find myself frequently reaching back to what I heard and learned that year. Having that grasp, that context, of the Bible is enriching to my daily life. Hearing the brass horns blaring at the Mass is one of those times.

We go to Mass weekly, sometimes more often, and that can have the effect of lulling us into complacency. Our encounters with the Divine are expected, scheduled, and presumed. But when you are at Mass, and the entrance procession is welcomed with a trumpet blast, your mind is immediately pulled to Psalm 47 or St. John’s descriptions in Revelation. It becomes so easy to imagine the triumph of Jesus Christ mounting His throne to the fulsome blasts of trumpets. You’re instantly reminded of what it is that you labor for, and why we don’t just give up our values and drift mindlessly through life like most of our friends and neighbors.

When I stand there, surrounded by my family, the blast of trumpets reminds me who I am, Whose I am, and where I want to be. It’s enough to shake me awake, to get back in the game, and to keep fighting for that day when I hope to be admitted to the Heavenly Mass, where the trumpets never stop blasting.

Mercy, Not Justice

Yesterday was the Feast of Divine Mercy, a holy day that Jesus Himself requested in His apparitions to St. Faustina. Mercy and grace are talked about frequently in Christian discourse and music, but it strikes me that many lack the comprehension of the completeness of God’s mercy.

In St. Faustina’s diaries, she records how Jesus describes His mercy. He uses words like “unfathomable” and “torrents.” The true meaning of these words is so deep that it’s beyond our comprehension. It’s akin to contemplating the depth and size of space, but even then, God’s mercy is beyond even that.

We receive God’s mercy for our venial offenses at the beginning of Mass, but to truly encounter the torrents of God’s mercy, we approach Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

On the evening of Easter, when Jesus appears to the 10 Apostles in the Upper Room, His first words to them are the first absolution. Despite their intimate years spent traveling around their region with Him, seeing all the signs and wonders He performed, and living with Him, at His passion they all abandoned Him. So, when He appears in their midst, He forgives them, “Peace be with you.” He then establishes the Sacrament by granting to them to power to bind and loose.

Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the torrents of God’s mercy are unleashed on the repentant sinner, and even those mortal sins that have suffocated their relationship with God and destroyed sanctifying grace in their life are forgiven. Like Lazarus, they are brought back from the dead and restored to the life given to them at Baptism. That is truly complete mercy.

In the early days of her encounters with Jesus, St. Faustina brought these experiences to her spiritual director. Seeking to test them, to ensure that they were truly Jesus, her director instructed Faustina to ask Jesus what sins he had confessed in his most recent confession. The next time Jesus appeared to Faustina, she posed to Him that question, to which Jesus replied that He had forgotten. Complete mercy.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not a sacrament of justice, but of mercy. In a true encounter with the risen Christ, out of total love for us, He forgives our worst failings so that we might be with Him forever. That is an unfathomable mercy.

Sequence

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia.