Sunday, February 15, 2009

Don't Let Me Down

I saw a news article about Boston College today. A few days ago the CNA reported that BC decided to hang a Crucifix in all of the 151 classrooms on campus.
Click here to read the story.

I am all for the decision to display the icon of our faith, and I find it odd that several professors and faculty on campus disagree with the changes. This and other articles suggest that the Crucifix comes across as divisive -- that it appears offensive to non-Christians who happen to teach there.

Alas, human beings will always look upon the Good (be it self-sacrifice, freedom, or love) and call it something just the opposite. I imagine at the actual Crucifixion that the nearby Roman guards might have held a different interpretation than the mother of Jesus. Sometimes people don't like putting up with love, so they tear it down.

In a country where we have an inundation of icons secular and sour, let's raise this One a little higher. Don't let him down. In the words of George William Kitchin who wrote in 1887: "Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, till all the world adore His sacred Name."

First Georgetown. Then BC. Maybe next will be Loyola Chicago!

Oh, and lest I forget the significance of this day ... loving birthday wishes to my model of faith.
Happy birthday to my dear and beloved Mom.

Monday, February 2, 2009


They used to call it Candlemas Day, or the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. It is a major feast in the Church, one on which many Jesuits have professed Final Vows.
Today Catholics celebrate it as The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Your secular friends may grimace and grunt, "Uh ... Ah thot it wuz Grownd Hawg Daay."


February 2 is forty days after Christmas. And according to Jewish law, the first born was to be taken to the Temple. So, Mary (an observant Jew) was to "bring to the temple a lamb for a holocaust and a young pigeon or turtle dove for sin"; if she was not able to offer a lamb, she was to take two turtle doves or two pigeons; the priest prayed for her and so she was cleansed. (Leviticus 12:2-8)

Simeon was present in the Temple and recognized the baby Jesus as the "light to the Gentiles" or the salvation of all nations. And so we use candles as a symbol of the light of Christ.

Candles are blessed on this day, and then used on the next day to bless throats. All year, the Church uses candles prominently for all sorts of holy events: baptisms, funerals, and the opening of the Easter Vigil. I use a candle in my prayer sometimes, but alas that doesn't make it any more powerful or satisfying. In fact, at times I find my prayer rather dull, routine, and flat -- even when I have a candle burning.

When I was a Jesuit theology student, before my ordination, I took my concerns about weak prayer to my spiritual director, Fr. Howard Gray, S.J. Howard is a guru of sorts and listened carefully and patiently as I would complain about flat prayer and my tepid soul. I told him I'd light my candle and do my breviary, but I didn't feel very connected to God. Howard knew the Lord would grant me the light I needed for deeper prayer: a greater sense of God's presence with me each day.

A few weeks later, I returned to Howard and told him of a revelation (a light going on) that had happened in my prayer recently. I said, "Hey Howard, remember when I told you I lit a candle every day as part of my prayer. And how I felt that my prayer was going nowhere?" He remembered my complaints, and I went on. "Well, the other day, as I was filled with self-pity, I looked down at the little cup where stashed all the wooden matches that I used to light the candle each day. I noticed dozens of matches in that cup!

I then heard a voice inside say to me, "Hey look, you've really made great effort to be present to Me in prayer. I appreciate your daily desire to just show up and seek My presence."

The Lord had granted me a little light, and I had the matches to prove that He was right ... I did desire to be with him. At least I showed up, as the matches reminded me. Whether prayer was deep or flat was not my fault, but just the nature of prayer (alas, the nature of all relationships).

The first line of Psalm 27 reads,
"The Lord is my light and my salvation."
The last line reads,
"Wait for the LORD, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the LORD!"