Two Loves, One Fearlessness, and One Fear

The whole art of being a parish priest can be summed up in two loves, one fearlessness, and one fear.

The first love: Love of God. My predecessor in Sulz, the late Pater Norbert, used to spend an hour kneeling in prayer in the parish Church before Sunday Mass, and many of his parishioners have told me how moved they were by his evident friendship with God. Nothing inspires to prayer as much as seeing someone fulfilled by prayer.

The second love: Love of the parishioners. This means willing their good, and that necessitates being interested in their lives, remembering their names, suffering with those who suffer and rejoicing with those who rejoice. There is a priest in the Archdiocese of Vienna who carries a bouquet of flowers to every married couple in his parish on their wedding anniversary every year. Most every day he has several bouquets to deliver.

The one fearlessness: In order to truly love his parishioners it is important that a priest not fear them, that he not be dependent on their praise and approval, that he not be too weighed down by their criticisms. People will always be upset about something or other (“You coward! How dare you follow the Bishop’s directives on the Corona prevention!” etc.). It is important to be able to accept their anger with patience and good humor.

The one fear: The Fear of God. Nothing drives out the fear of human persons more than the fear of God. One has to realize that one will be answerable at the judgement Seat of Christ for every time that one gives way out of respect of persons.Obviously, these habits are easy to blog about, but are difficult to live in real life, as I am discovering through experience.

‘Tu se’ lo mio maestro e ’l mio autore’: In Memoriam Thomas Howard, 1935-2020

Tom Howard is dead, and the tributes are pouring in (First Things, The Catholic Herald, Catholic World Report, etc). I don’t want to repeat the story of his life that they tell, but only to write a few words of gratitude for having known him. He was one of my favorite people in the whole world. And he had a lasting influence on my life.

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St. Benedict and the Spirit of the Council

Although St. Benedict flourished two hundred years after the Council of Nicea, his Rule is nonetheless imbued with its spirit. Arianism was still a force to be reckoned with at his time. The spirit of the Council of Nicea can be seen all over the Rule, in its Christocentrism, and its veneration for the “orthodox catholic fathers” (i.e. the anti-Arian writers). Sometimes the spirit of the council leads St. Benedict into unexpected interpretations of Sacred Scripture. Thus, in chapter 2, on the character of the abbot, St. Benedict gives a startling interpretation of Romans 8:15:

A abbot who is worthy to preside over a monastery ought always to remember what he is called and to justify his title by his deeds. For he is deemed in the monastery the vicar of Christ, since it is by His [Christ’s] title he is addressed, for the Apostle says: “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption of sons in which it is we cry out Abba, Father.”

The cry “Abba, Father” is here taken to be directed at Christ, and the old monastic title of ‘abbot’ is interpreted Christologically. It is a very daring reading of Paul, and I don’t think it would have occurred to anyone before Nicea.

Conservationists vs. Animal Rights Activists

The Guardian notes an important difference between conservationists, willing to cull invasive species to preserve biodiversity, and animal rights activists:

Ultimately, however, despite sharing a passionate concern for other organisms, conservation and animal rights groups base their actions on a profoundly different philosophy. Conservationists value species; animal rights campaigners cherish the life of each individual animal.

From a Thomist perspective it is clear that the conservationists are correct. Man is the only animal who is “for his own sake,” since man alone has reason and will, and can therefore understand the good to which he is ordered. Irrational animals exist primarily for the sake of their species, through which the wisdom of the Creator is manifested. As Pope Francis put it:

Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

Joseph Ratzinger on the Creeds of Nicaea and Constantinople

The following is an excerpt from Joseph Ratzinger’s Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, available online at TCR1.


Sixteen hundred years ago, at the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, that confession of faith was formulated that, even today, is the common possession of nearly all Christian churches and ecclesial communities. Memorial celebrations in Rome and Constantinople reminded us of the date; in Germany, it was underscored by a joint statement of the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches. The ancient Creed became, for separated Christians, a signpost on the road to unity. It will be rewarding, therefore, to examine it more closely. How did it originate? What does it mean? Continue reading

Resurrection as the Reconciliation of the Bridegroom with the Bride

Mary Magadalene, the repentant sinner, weeping in the garden in front of Christ’s empty tomb is a figure of the People of God. God espoused Himself to His people in the covenant, but she, His bride, was unfaithful, and went after false gods, committing adultery against her divine Bridegroom. Mary is weeping that the Lord has been taken from her. And it is the sins of His unfaithful bride that have put Jesus to death. But He loves His Bride so much that makes atonement for her unfaithfulness. “For a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:8).

“And as she wept, she stooped and looked inside the tomb, and she saw two angels, in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet” (John 20:11-12). She is looking at an image that calls to mind the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem: the two cherubim on either side of the Ark of the Covenant, looking at the kaporet, the mercy seat, the golden lid of the Ark, which in Greek is called hilasterion (instrument of atonement). Once a year the High Priest would come into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle blood on the kaporet to atone for the people’s unfaithfulness to the Divine Bridegroom. Now Mary Magdalene sees the blood of Christ staining the funeral shroud lying between the two angels. “But Christ arrived as high priest of all the good things which have come about through the greater and more final tabernacle not made by human hands, that is, not of this world; and not by the blood of goats and calves but by his own blood he entered once for all into the holy place, having found everlasting redemption” (Hebrews 9:11).

So great is Jesus’s love for His unfaithful Bride that He enters into the darkness of this world bearing to bear in full the suffering that reverses her sin.

Mary Magdalene is therefore a figure of the Church also in this: that she recognizes the reconciliation that has taken place, and calls out to Christ with love and joy. This is what the whole Church, the Bride of Christ, does now on this great Feast of Easter. This is what we de as parts of the Church—all of us:

Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden: feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted: let no one go forth hungry! Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness. Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.

Paschal Homily attributed to St. John Chrysostom