21 May 2017

Homily - 20 May 2017 - The Wedding of Ashley Almuena and Bryan Domingo



The Wedding of Ashley Almuena and Bryan Domingo

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We have come together this morning into this church dedicated to the honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to witness the exchange of consent between Bryan and Ashley. We have come together to celebrate with them as today they “establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life,” which, by its very nature, “is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children.” They will begin this partnership in this church because marriage has “been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” (canon 1055). This is why the ancient Christian, Tertullian, asked:

How can I ever express the happiness of the marriage that is joined together by the Church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels and ratified by the Father? ...How wonderful the bond between two believers with a single hope, a single desire, a single observance, a single service! They are both brethren and both fellow-servants; there is no separation between them in spirit or flesh; in fact they are truly two in one flesh and where the flesh is one, one is the spirit.[1]

All of this will be brought about today by the Lord’s grace and favor.

On behalf of Bryan and Ashley, I greet you, their ohana (family) and friends, with much aloha and I welcome you in the name of Christ. I thank you for the love, support, and encouragement which you give them by your presence today and which you have shared with them in the previous days, weeks, and years. I am confident they will be able to count on you in the days, weeks, and years ahead for this same encouragement, support, and love. Now, my friends, before we witness the exchange of their promises to live the remainder of their lives together in committed love, I ask you to allow me to speak directly to the couple; you, of course, are welcome to listen in.

Saint Marianne Cope
Bryan and Ashley, among the words of profound spiritual counsel Saint Marianne Cope has left us, we find some words that you, no doubt, know well: “Creep down into the heart of Jesus.” The reason she tells us to do so is simple: “He alone can comfort you in your supreme hour of sorrow.” These might seem strange words with which to begin a homily for a wedding, but the truth of her words cannot be ignored, nor can the reality of marriage as a cross, in that marriage requires a daily renunciation of oneself in favor of the spouse.

We know that “love is the foundation of everything,” including marriage and the Cross, but just as there is a temptation today to over-romanticize love, so is there a temptation to over-romanticize marriage, to think it will automatically bring about a life of bliss without any difficulties whatever.[2] The reality, however, as any honest couple will tell you, is not quite so picture perfect. Marriage is difficult and requires compromise, patience, and gentleness, but when the difficulties of marriage are embraced, marriage is beautiful. Just as the Cross is difficult, so, too, can marriage be difficult; but in the same, just as the Cross produces joy within those who embrace it, so, too, does marriage (cf. John 15:11-13).

Like the Christian life in general, marriage is simple, but it is not easy; marriage is simple because, at its core, it involves only one thing, namely, the acceptance of the Cross in imitation of Christ Jesus who “first loved us” (I John 4:10). In marriage, you, Bryan, must always put Ashley’s good before your own; likewise, you, Ashley, must always put Bryan’s good before your own. If you live in this way, you will indeed “be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” and your married love will shine like a great light upon all who see you (Ephesians 5:21). All of this, of course, requires a repeated and continual embracing of the Cross.

John Ronald Reuel and Edith Tolkien
The great J.R.R. Tolkien, a devout Catholic and author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, reflected on the reality of marriage in a letter he wrote to his son Michael in 1941. Then, after twenty-five of his fifty-five years of marriage to his beloved wife Edith, the elder Tolkien wrote these words:

Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification… No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial. Too few are told that – even those brought up ‘in the Church’.[3]

Tolkien here speaks of a danger for the groom in marriage, but lest some think marriage brings no danger for the bride, we might note also the temptation of the wife always to be right. Marriage, for her, too, requires deliberate conscious exercise of the will, that is, self-denial. I do not want the two of you to be unaware of this; this is why I began with Mother Marianne’s counsel to creep down into the heart of Jesus, for his Sacred Heart is always intimately connected with his Cross. How fitting, then, even providential, that you begin your married life together in this church dedicated to that Heart that was pierced in love for us and remains open for us as a safe harbor in the storms of life and a happy hale (home) in the joys of life.

As you help each other creep down further into the heart of Jesus to conform your hearts ever more closely to his own, you will help each other to become saints, which is, of course, the first and primary purpose of marriage. You will help each other to shine like lampstands in a world that too often seems filled with much darkness. We know that “when we as Christians fail to be saints, when we fail to live the beatitudes and be light, the world suffers.”[4] Strive, then, to “let those you illumine by the light of your words be seasoned by the salt of your good works.”[5] If you help each other to live in this way, you will be true a husband and a true wife.

Saint Joseph Damien de Veuster
As you help each other to daily creep into the heart of Jesus, do not forget these words of Father Damien: “To have begun is nothing, the hard thing is to persevere. This is the work of God’s grace. That grace will never fail me, I am sure of that, provided I do not resist it.” Help each other to persevere in love and the grace of God will never fail you. What is more, your lives joined together as one will be like that great multitude in heaven continually crying out, “Alleluia! Salvation, glory, and might belong to our God” (Revelation 19:1). It will be as if you say to each person you meet, “Praise our God, all you his servants, and you who revere him, small and great” for you “have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:5, 9).

If you recognize that you, too, have been called to that same heavenly feast and are called to reflect him who is “the Light of the world,” you will indeed be light and you will be salt (John 8:12; cf. Matthew 5:13-14). From this day forward, may you, as husband and wife, together season the world with acts of mercy and shine the light of love upon those who do not know the beauty of the Sacred Heart. May you - and everyone who sees you - “live in love” (Ephesians 5:2). Amen.


[1] Tertullian, Ad uxorem, II.VIII.6-8. In Pope Saint John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 13.
[2] Saint John Chrysostom, Homily on Ephesians 17.4.32-5.2. In Thomas C. Oden, et al, eds., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament Vol. VIII: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1999), 173.
[3] J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter to Michael Tolkien, 6-8 March 1941. In The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Humphrey Carpenter, ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000), 51.
[4] Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, Catholic Commentary on Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2010), 92.
[5] Anonymous, Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 10. In Thomas C. Oden, et al, eds., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament Vol. Ia: Matthew 1-13 (Downers Grover, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2001), 95.

15 May 2017

Rock the Rotunda for Religious Freedom

In what has begun a tell tale sign of summer, things are gearing up for the Fortnight for Freedom, which is observed annually from June 21st through July 4th to promote and defend what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops calls "our first, most cherished liberty."

In conjuction with the Fortnight for Freedom, the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois will hold a special event at the Illinois State Capitol to Rock the Rotunda for Religious Freedom on Wednesday, June 28th beginning at Noon. We gathered outside at the statue of President Abraham Lincoln in previous years, but this year we will move inside the Capitol itself.

Here is the bulletin announcement sent out yesterday concerning this important gathering about a vital aspect of our common life:
ROCK! The Rotunda for Religious Freedom - Mark your Calendars! The public is invited on Wednesday, June 28 at 12 Noon to the Rotunda of the State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. Devote an hour to music, prayer, and dialog for religious freedom. Hillary Byrnes, Assistant General Counsel for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Washington, DC, will give a powerful witness for Religious Liberty. Join in prayer with Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Also, listen to the passionate music of Michael James Mette. Bring a bag lunch, enjoy some light refreshments in air conditioned comfort. Let’s ROCK the Rotunda for religious freedom!
I will be unable to rock the rotunda this year because of my coming studies at The Liturgical Institute, but I hope you'll make plans to attend. Don't forget to bring a friend!

14 May 2017

St. Peter's student raises most money nationally for Jump Rope for Heart

This morning I was both pleased and surprised to learn that a student at St. Peter's School in Quincy raised more money than any other student in the nation for the American Heart Association's Jump Rope for Heart campaign.

Ella Sprague had no idea when she was recognized during a school assembly she had raised more money through the American Heart Association's Jump Rope for Heart than any other student in the country. 
A New Canton, Ill., resident, Ella, 10, knew at $13,644 she had raised more than anyone else in the school, and she had a pretty good shot at being top in the state. When her peers jumped to their feet in a standing ovation during the April 24 assembly, she was shocked. 
"I don't do it for the attention," Ella said. "I just want to give back." 
Born with a hypoplastic right heart, a rare condition in which the right side of the heart does not fully develop, Ella had two surgeries before she was two. Having survived the early ordeal, she now wants to help other children who may be facing similar circumstances. 
"Ella is in a special situation, and she takes great pride in giving back," said Ella's father, Ted Sprague. "We're all extremely proud, and we feel it's important to teach children the significance of fundraising and giving back."
Ella almost singled-handedly doubled St. Peter School's goal of raising $7,500 through Jump Rope for Heart. The school brought in more than $20,000 [more].

Congratulations, Ella!

Homily - 14 May 2017 - Will the face of the God be enough for us?

The Fifth Sunday of Easter (A)

Dear brothers and sisters,

It is a simple and beautiful prayer the Apostle Saint Philip utters today: “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (John 14:8). It is a plea simple, beautiful, and bold. With these words, Philip expressed the deepest yearning of the human heart, to look upon the face of the Creator. David, the great King of Israel, recognized this longing and sang to God in words each of us can also sing: “You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek.’ Hide not your face from me” (Psalm 27:8-9).

The Lord, the Good Shepherd, calls out to each of us; he seeks us, even as we seek him! When Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord, he called out to them, "Where are you" (Genesis 3:9)? Does he not likewise still call out to us? Are these not the very words we so often use when we cry out to him? How often do we cry within our hearts, "O that you would tear the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake in your presence" (Isaiah 64:1)?

King Solomon, David’s son and heir, likewise sang words that may be both addressed by us to the Lord and by the Lord to us: "O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is comely" (Song of Songs 2:14).

And yet, despite his longing to see us and our longing to see him, the Lord said to Moses, "[Y]ou cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live," so great is the glory of the Most High (Exodus 33:20). Even the prophet Elijah heard the Lord in “a still small voice,” he “wrapped his face in his mantle” let his see the face of God (I Kings 19:12-13). Knowing all of this, Philip said, “Show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Is it true? Is seeing the face of God enough for us, or do we want something more? To look upon him who is Goodness, Beauty, Truth, and Love, what more could the human heart desire?

Generation after generation longed to look upon the face of God but none could because they were not pure, because they were not holy and without sin. King David knew that only "he who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully," "shall stand in his holy place" (Psalm 24:4, 3). Even so, David sensed he would come to know the satisfaction of his – and our - deepest longings: "As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with beholding your form" (Psalm 17:15).

Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man's immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it.”[1] For this reason, in the fullness of time, the only begotten Son of God took on our flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary; he who was invisible made himself visible and said to the Apostle Thomas, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). In Jesus, humanity can now look upon the face of God and live.

Now that he has ascended to the right hand of the Father we still call out to him, "Your face, Lord, I seek!" He has left us the image of his face in the Shroud of Turin - the linen cloth in which he was buried - and in the Veil of Manoppello - "the napkin, which had been on his head" in the tomb and which Saint Peter found "not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself (John 20:7). The one shows his face in death; the other, his face risen from the dead. In Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, the one who died and is raised, we can look upon the face of God and live. In him, “the human face of God has burst into history to reveal the horizons of eternity.”[2]

The Holy Face of the Shroud of Turin (left) and of the Veil of Manoppello (right).
In death, each of us will stand before him and see him as he is; we will look upon his face and look upon our faces. What will we see? We know that

before his gaze all falsehood melts away… His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God… At the moment of judgment we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy.[3]

This is why Saint Philip can say that the Beatific Vision, the sight of the face of God, will be enough for us.

If the vision of God’s holy face will satisfy the deepest yearnings of our hearts, why does Jesus tell us today not to let our hearts be troubled (cf. John 14:1)? The reason is twofold:

In commanding them not to be troubled, Jesus placed them, as it were, on the threshold between hope and fear. This way, if they fell into weakness and suffering in their human frailty, the hope of his mercy might help them to recover. On the other hand, the fear of stumbling might urge them to fall less often…[4]

We should not let our hearts be troubled, so long as we acknowledge our sinfulness and confess our sins, because Jesus “is the face of the Father’s mercy” and there is nothing to fear in mercy.[5]

Let us, then, seek to be so transformed through the power of his love that we will desire nothing else than to see him face to face knowing that it will be enough for us. Amen.



[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1028.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Prayer Composed Following a Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Manoppello, 2006.
[3] Ibid., Spe salvi, 47.
[4] Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 9. In Thomas C. Oden, et al, eds., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament Vol. IVb: John 11-21 (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2007), 120.
[5] Pope Francis, Misericordiae vultus, 1.

13 May 2017

Homily - 13 May 2017 - Wedding of Lewis and Brooke Martin



The Wedding of Brooke Zerrusen and Lewis Martin

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We have come together this afternoon, in this church dedicated to the honor of God and of Saint Francis of Assisi, to witness the exchange of consent of Lewis and Brooke, and to celebrate with them as they “establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life.” By its very nature, this union “is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children.” They will begin this partnership in the presence of the Church because marriage has “been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” (canon 1055).

On behalf of the couple, I greet you, their family and friends, with affection and I welcome you in the name of Christ. I thank you for the love, support, and encouragement you show them by your presence with us today and I am confident they will be able to count on you in the days, weeks, and years ahead for this same encouragement, support, and love. Now, my friends, before we witness the exchange of their promises to live in committed love until death, come what may, I ask you to allow me to speak directly to the couple; you, of course, are invited to listen in.

Lewis and Brooke, some years ago, when you were washed in the regenerating waters of Baptism, those waters that receive their power from the wounds of the Savior, you were clothed in Christ, as the Apostle Saint Paul teaches (cf. Galatians 3:27). This is why you were given a white garment, the Baptismal garment, and were instructed to see in it “the outward sign of your Christian dignity.” Moreover, you were told to “bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”[1] It was also on that day that you were “once and for all incorporated into the covenant of Christ with the Church,” becoming members of his Body.[2] This covenant between Christ and the Church is repeatedly described as that of a marriage, particularly by Saint Paul, who calls it as “a great mystery” (Ephesians 5:32). Who, then, are the parties in this heavenly marriage?

Saint John the Baptist spoke of himself as the “best man” when he said, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens to him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:29-30). The bridegroom is none other than the Lord Jesus, who referred to himself when he asked, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them” (Luke 5:34)? The Bride of Christ is none other than the Church, composed as it is of every member of the Baptized, for when Saint John the Evangelist saw his vision of the Revelation, an angel said to him, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:9). He was shown “a holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride for her husband,” a city with “twelve courses of stone as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:2, 14).

MS Francais 403, f. 35v
We might say the betrothal of the Lamb of God, the Divine Bridegroom, to the Church, both the Body and the Bride of Christ, occurred when Jesus offered himself on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins and rose victorious over the grave. The marriage celebration between the Lamb and his Bride will take place on the Last Day, when it will be said, “For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready. She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment,” which is both the Baptismal garment and the wedding garment (Revelation 19:7-8; Matthew 22:12). At each celebration of the Holy Mass, we share in the foretaste of that great nuptial banquet.

By virtue of your Baptisms, your marriage to each other “is assumed into Christ’s charity and is enriched by the power of his Sacrifice” so that your married love will be a sacrament, not only for yourselves, but for all the world. Because the things of heaven are always to be the model of the things of earth, from this day forward, the love which you have for each other must always be a reflection of Jesus’ love for his own Bride, the Church.[3] This daily requires self-denial and, for this very reason, marriage is not easy, but it is beautiful.

Edith and John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
The great J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, reflected on the reality of marriage in a letter he wrote to his son Michael in 1941. Then, after twenty-five of his fifty-five years of marriage to his beloved wife Edith, the elder Tolkien wrote these words:

Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification… No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial. Too few are told that – even those brought up ‘in the Church’.[4]

Tolkien here speaks of a danger for the husband, but lest some think marriage brings no danger for the bride, we might note the temptation of the wife to be always right. Marriage requires of both the deliberate and conscious exercise of the will, that is, self-denial. I do not want the two of you to be unaware of this.

If you are to live the mystery of the Lord’s love for each other and for the world, if you are to “signify and participate in the mystery of unity and fruitful love between Christ and the Church,” you must follow the admonition of Saint Paul, which you chose for us to hear today.[5] You must daily “put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). You must always remember that you “have clothed yourselves in Christ,” in him who is Love; therefore, you must imitate him in all things (Galatians 3:27; cf. I John 4:8).

From the example that he has given us of selfless love, we know that “true love is shown by deeds,” that love is shown in the details.[6] Jesus showed his love for us upon the Cross and you, too, must take up the Cross each day of your married life. You must always consider one another’s holiness as more important than your own wants. You, Lewis, must ask each morning, “How can I help Brooke grow in holiness today?” Likewise, you, Brooke, must ask each morning, “How can I help Lewis grow in holiness today?” If you live your married life in this way, you will indeed, “over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14).

We know that “love is the bond of perfection in the sense that it completes and unifies the virtues, and more importantly it perfects, or matures, the community itself.”[7] If you love each other with the love of Jesus, with a love that is selfless and pure and always seeks the good of the other, you will indeed mature and be perfected together; you will become a source of light, of goodness, and of love in a world filled with so much darkness, emptiness, and hatred. The world needs you to be witnesses to the love of Jesus; let his love be always seen in your love for each other.

If you hold fast to the sacred duty you received in holy Baptism to love both God and neighbor, if you remain in the love of Jesus, you will live, as the fairy tales say, happily ever after and your joy will be complete as you help each other become saints (cf. John 15:10, 11). You, Lewis, will begin to love Brooke as Christ loved the Church and, you, Brooke, will be “like the sun rising in the Lord’s heavens” (cf. Ephesians 5:25; Sirach 26:15). By encouraging each other to imitate the love of Jesus each day of your lives, may you stand before him when he comes at last, “giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). Amen.


[1] Rite of Baptism for Children, 99.
[2] Ordering of Celebrating Matrimony, 7.
[3] Ibid.
[4] J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter to Michael Tolkien, 6-8 March 1941. In The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Humphrey Carpenter, ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000), 51.
[5] Ibid., 8.
[6] Saint Bonaventure, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 15.10. Robert J. Karris, trans. Works of St. Bonaventure, Vol. XI: Commentary on the Gospel of John (Saint Bonaventure, New York: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2007), 762.
[7] Dennis Hamm, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2013), 220.