Musing on 1 Cor 9:24-27

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. –1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Cinderella.

Every March in the United States, this word gets thrown around continually and casually.

We all know what it means — the “Cinderella” team — the underdogs who proved themselves to everyone; the team no one believed in; the ones whom no one gave a second thought to; the team that everyone glazed over while filling out their brackets. “Oh an 11-seed? They’re going down in the first round, for sure.”

This year, I’ve had the privilege to watch my hometown team, the Wichita State Shockers, become the Cinderella of the 2013 NCAA Championship Tournament. A nine-seeded team that beat four teams — including the two best in its region — on its way to the Final Four.

Yes, we all love those underdog stories, don’t we? We latch on to movies like Seabiscuit, Glory Road, We Are Marshall, Cinderella Man, Miracle, and Cool Runnings (which are all based on true stories, by the way). Why? Because we love to see those teams, those players who weren’t the best still succeed, even when all the odds were stacked against them.

They take a stand for themselves — they prove to everyone that they’re worth something, that they shouldn’t be underestimated, that they shouldn’t be counted out.

We love underdog stories, because the idea of an ‘underdog’ is based on prejudice. “Oh, this team has more money, a better coach, more talented players, a tougher schedule — so, they’re definitely going to beat this second-rate team of schmucks, no problem. Right?”

The idea of an underdog also is based on empathy — we don’t like it when other people underestimate us, and count us out. So, when we see another underdog succeed, it gives us hope. The ‘little guy’ can win, even when the world is stacked against him. David can beat Goliath, and he does.

So life is for us Christians. We are the underdogs; we have the disadvantage, seemingly, against all that we try to combat — the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Think about it.

Everyday, we wake up to our ongoing struggles against all of our erring brothers and sisters, who pressure us (sometimes with good intentions) into joining their escapades with “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” — of rejecting our religion, our relationship with God simply to do what everyone is doing. We wake up to our own bodily desires, which were created good, but have been deformed through our own sinful nature, our predisposition to sin. We continue to pervert those gifts which God created good, because we believe that they will give us pleasure. And, lastly, and most frighteningly, we wake up everyday to combat all the demons of Hell, who have retained their angelic powers and use them to tempt us away from God — to give into our societal pressures, to give in to our own bodily desires, etc.

So, not only is the world against us, but the flesh and the devil, too!

How then — you might ask — can we possibly win?

And I would reply: How can we possibly lose?

We’re the underdogs! Our life as Christians is a classic underdog story. We win as any other longshot, counted-out team does: through Faith.

For athletes, it is faith in themselves, in their coach, in their teammates. For us, it is Faith in Our God, in our Church, in the Lord’s plan for us.

Train yourself for devotion; for, while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. For this we toil and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the savior of all, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. –1 Timothy 4:7-11

So, like those athletes — those dark horses, who find themselves down at halftime to the best team in the league — we draw on four components of our Christian faith to “run the race so as to win” so that we might win our “imperishable crown” :

HEART

We could also call this passion or desire. Think of those athletes when they say they give “110%” to their sport, to their team, etc. Let us think of HEART as that ability to give of yourself for your Teammates, for your Coach — in good times, in bad; in everyday practice, in a clutch championship game; always. I often see athletes use the Twitter hashtag #NoDaysOff.

Our Faith, our life of training for devotion, must be the same way. These athlete have such commitment and passion for their sport, their team, their way of life. Why can’t we do the same? We must have HEART — passion in our Faith, desire to live for Christ — to “win” in our lives of Faith.

SKILL

No basketball team is going to win in any game, let alone against the overall No. 1 seed, unless the players know the fundamentals. Many coaches describe this as “Basketball IQ.” Sure, sometimes a victory comes down to talent and talent disparity between one team and its opponent; but, as any basketball fan knows, talent doesn’t count for much if the talented players don’t have a high Basketball IQ — if they make bad passes, if they commit stupid fools, if they travel or carry the ball.

In our faith lives, we have something similar: we have four gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, and Knowledge.You can be a good Christian — you can have all the passion to be like Christ in the world — but how can you be like Him if you don’t know Him? If you’re not open to the Holy Spirit? If you have no fundamental knowledge of the Faith — of sin, of right and wrong?

Just as an athlete has to know his sport — know its rules, its strategies, its speed, its techniques, its competition — so, too, do we have to know our Faith. But, beyond that, we have to live it out. We cannot simply draw up the plays, but we must execute them as well. As St. Paul says to the Corinthians, No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1Cor 9:27)

FOCUS

I didn’t know what better word to sum up this idea. I see those athletes who, in a critical game, do something wrong — they do something really stupid: commit a bad foul, turn over the ball, drop the baton, miss a block, etc.

And we sports fans scream and holler at our televisions “What the heck was that? How could you be so stupid?” But, then later, and sometimes not even one minute later, that same player does something awesome — intercepts the ball, breaks a record, or makes a huge shot. And you wonder “How can he be so bad one minute, and so good the next?” Because of focus — of that ability to “shake off” the bad and focus on the good. We Christians must do the same.

Sometimes we mess up. We sin; we fall away from God; we stumble in our lives of prayer and/or ministry. We do something stupid. But, we cannot be discouraged. Because, like that player, if we only focus on the bad, we cannot move forward and do the good. We will be stuck in an endless mental loop of “What if?” We will be focused on the past, instead of on the present and the future.

Yes, we need to correct our mistakes, but we also need to forgive ourselves (and our Teammates) when we mess up, when we do something stupid. We must have that persevering mercy for ourselves and others — we must have that resolution to forgive our mistakes, to sin no more, and to continue on our journey of Faith.

To be good Christians — to be like Christ– we must correct our faults, and focus on our ongoing mission of sharing Christ’s Gospel with others through our prayer and our example.

Think of it this way: at the end of a game, do people remember that you had 29 points, or that you committed four fouls?

SPIRIT

Lastly, a true underdog has to have spirit. Again, I don’t know how else to describe this idea of a ‘spirited’ competitor in one word. But, I recognize those dark horse athletes who look their much bigger, more talented, better coached opponents in the eyes and (through their body language) tell them: “I am not afraid of you.”

That indomitable spirit, that courage, to never back down and to never give up. That spunk, that grit, that determination to keep fighting — and to keep fighting with everything you’ve got until the clock expires. To fight nobly; to compete with dignity.

Win with humility, and lose with dignity, as my bishop once told my high school’s football team.

And, so we as Christians must do the same.

We should not be afraid to go toe-to-toe with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Because, weak though we are, we have the Grace of the Father, the Strength of the Son, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to fuel us for our daily bouts against our three challenging opponents.

But, we cannot back down. We must have courage, fortitude, to keep running the race with faith in God and in His Love and Faith in us. We Christians must recognize that Christ’s grace is sufficient enough for us — He will get us through any fight, so long as we have faith in Him.

Remember St. Paul and his struggles, as he describes them in 2 Corinthians:

Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. –2Cor 12:7-10

IN CONCLUSION

“…the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize… They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.”

So, brothers and sisters, we must allow the Spirit of God — the Spirit of Courageous ‘Spunk,’ shall we say — to dwell within us.

These four things — Heart, Skill, Focus, and Spirit — are the four qualities, the four ‘virtues’ that any true underdog must have to succeed in his endeavors, no matter how insurmountable they may seem.

Whether in sports or our lives of Faith, we underdogs must hold fast to these four things to win — we must hold fast to these gifts that God has given us. We must strengthen our passion for Him (Heart); we must learn about Him (Skill); we must learn to forgive like Him (Focus); and we must have the courage to face our enemies head-on (Spirit).

For, while our enemies might scoff and underestimate us and our Gifts — Our Faith in God — we should not. Because we are the underdogs, and God willing, we will be victorious in our struggles. We will “run so as to win.”

After all, what better underdog story is there than the seemingly ordinary Man Who died… only to conquer Sin and Death, and rise Victorious from the grave?

Amen. Alleluia, Alleluia!
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Musing on the Resurrection

UPDATE ON “NOT IN INK” : The Lord is Risen! Alleluia, Alleluia! Truly, He is Risen! Alleluia, Alleluia! I hope everyone is having a wonderful Easter Monday, or as it is called in Italy, “Pasqueta” — or “Little Easter.” I apologize that I wasn’t able to update you all with too many meditations/musings during Holy Week, but I hope you all liked the Good Friday meditation on the Centurion. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out.

Because these (somewhat daily) meditations/musings were part of my Lenten regiment, I won’t be updating the blog as often. But, I would like to continue updating it with musings and meditations. My goal right now is to post something for you lovely readers maybe once or twice a week.

Please continue to read the blog, and pray for me and my family. I am praying for all of you, and I wish you the greatest and most blessed joys of the Easter season! Thanks!

A Musing on the Resurrection

As He was going [to Jerusalem]… the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” –Luke 19:36-40

Yesterday, on my way home from Easter Sunday Mass, I was — as is my Easter tradition — jammin’ out to Ron Kenoly, a 90s Christian/Gospel artist. The last song on the album is called “Ain’t Gonna Let No Rock.”

Of course, as it is Easter, I thought of the story of the women disciples finding the tomb empty on the first day of the week:

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. –Matthew 28:1-4

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. –Mark 16:1-5

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. –Luke 24:1-3

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. –John 20:1

All four Gospels speak of a body-less tomb, and each four remark that the stone was rolled away — the tomb was unsealed. Death was conquered! Christ was victorious!

Now remember Jesus’ words on His entrance to Jerusalem: “If (my disciples) keep quiet, even the stones will cry out!”

After Jesus’ death and burial on Good Friday, the disciples were silent. Judas had killed himself; Peter had denied Jesus; all of the 12 Apostles except John had abandoned Him after He was arrested in the Garden. Their Master and Teacher was dead — cold, executed, and defeated. They did not remember what He had told them. They were in mourning.

But, while they kept their silence, even the stones — or at least, one large stone in particular, cried out. Maybe its voice was not heard. But, its presence was known all the same, because every Christian knows the story of the stone that was rolled away, of the tomb that was empty.

Can you imagine what that stone would have said, if it could cry out? What mysteries it would have told?

The stone was, in an essence, the first to see and hear the Gospel, the Good News — that Christ is risen from the grave! It was, alongside the angel, the first herald of His Resurrection!

That stone, if it had a soul, if it had a voice, would have proclaimed the Gospel message to those women who came weeping and mourning to the tomb that Sunday morning. It would have told them immediately Who Had Risen; it would have turned their tears into shouts of joy!

And, so we must do the same. We are an Easter people, and “Alleluia” is our song! Our God Lives! He has conquered sin and death, and has risen from the grave!

God did not give that stone a voice, yet it proclaimed the Good News all the same!

Shouldn’t we then proclaim the Good News — the Joy of the Resurrected Lord — all the louder? All the more clearly? For indeed, God has given us tongues to proclaim, and hands to share the Good News with our Brothers and Sisters in the Lord!

For while the stone in front of the tomb may have been the first herald of the Resurrection, we should not let it be the last! We cannot be quiet and timid like the disciples; we should not be afraid or unbelieving of the Easter message, as they were at first.

For, if we do, even the stones will cry out instead. And, as Ron Kenoly says, “I ain’t gonna let no rock out-praise me!”

Let us continue our Christian mission of proclaiming the Gospel — the Good News — so that we may make Christ’s presence among us known throughout all the world.

For, we are an Easter people, and “Alleluia” is our song!

THE LORD IS RISEN, ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA! TRULY HE IS RISEN, ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA!

Musing on God the Father

Author’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series of musings on Each Person of the Holy Trinity. This musing is on God The Father. Read the musings on The Son and The Holy Spirit.

Musing on God The Father

Much can be said and written on Each Person of the Trinity, but ultimately it is a Mystery. All that we know of the Holy Trinity is what has been revealed to us by God, and what we can deduct from those revelations.

But, let us begin with God The Father.

Again, God is Infinite, and thus, if we completely understood Him (which we don’t), could be infinitely described, written about, etc. So, how and where can we even begin to muse, to ponder, to wonder about God The Father?

How about with His Name? The Father.

Jesus reveals His Relationship with His Father: “The Father and I are one,” and other similar passages found in the Scriptures. And, we as Christians accept that God The Father is Jesus’ (the Second Person of the Holy Trinity) Father, and ours also – just as we address Him in the “Our Father” prayer.

We attribute the title “Creator” to Him (as we do similarly with Jesus’ “Redeemer/Savior” and the Holy Spirit’s “Sanctifier”). We understand that He possesses, and is the source of, all the quintessential attributes of a father: loving, protective, caring, authoritative, and so on.

However – without forgetting the magnificence and importance of these above attributes – let us ponder on another attribute of God The Father: knowledge.

“God is a spirit, and the first act of a Spirit is to know and understand. God, knowing Himself from all eternity, brings forth the knowledge of Himself, His own image. This was not a mere thought, as our knowledge of ourselves would be, but a Living Person, of the same substance and one with the Father. This is God the Son. Thus the Father “begets” the Son, the Divine Word, the Wisdom of the Father.” — A Manual of Religion

Thus, we understand – through revelation and deduction – that God The Father’s Eternal Knowledge of Himself begets His Son, the Second Person of the Trinity.

Yet, why do we still call Him Father? Why do we not call Him “God The Knower,” or “God The Almighty” or some other such title?

Why is He The Father?

Because (I would contend) a principle function of a parent is to impart knowledge to his/her child. (This is not so much the case with Jesus, God The Son, as being Fully God, He is Omniscient.)

Think about what an earthly father does, ideally. (Mothers do these things too.)

Among many things, he teaches his children – how to walk, how to throw a ball, how to drive, how to stay away from dangerous things like hot stoves, strangers, and drugs.

But, even more importantly, he teaches his children about themselves.

For instance, my dad has shared stories about things I did as a baby or a toddler that I wouldn’t remember – how I was a fussy baby, but I was calmed by the sound of running water; how I would cry and plead to get a new pet each time we went to the pet store; how I had no scruples about sharing my very frank comments with my family members.

My father helps me know myself.

He is always ready to give me words of criticism or encouragement as the situation provides – “You’re being really negative today” or “You’re really smart, so you should try the advanced class.”

He helps me to see what I cannot see or do not wish to.

And because of that constant flow of (self) knowledge, I look to him for advice, for counsel, for guidance.

We do the same with Our Heavenly Father. For who knows us better than The One Who Created Us and Loves Us Best?

However, like our earthly parents, we can also rebel from Our Heavenly Father – “Oh, you don’t know me. You don’t know what I’m capable of. You don’t know what’s best for me.” But, while earthly parents can sometimes be wrong (but not very often, hopefully), Our Heavenly Father never is.

Another thing that our fathers (again, mothers too) also do is connect us to the past. They tell us stories about our grandparents, great-grandparents; how our family came from this place and settled in that place; and so on.

Happily, more often than not, we devour this (self) knowledge, because our culture has encouraged us to believe that our past will influence our future, for better or worse. Most times, we desire this knowledge, because we want to know where we (inasmuch as our family) came from.

We want to know who we are, and our parents help us in that task.

By learning about who we have been and who are families are, we want to figure out what we are ‘destined’ for – what the outcome of our lives will be.

But, we are created by God The Father out of Love. We are created to love and be loved by Him and our brothers and sisters. We have no need to search for our ‘destiny’ anywhere else, but with Him:

God is both our origin and, we pray, our outcome.

Yet, to be with Him, we must first know Him; then, love Him; and serve Him.

So, like an earthly parent, God The Father tries to impart all this (self) knowledge onto us, but it is up to us to decide what to do with it. Like our parents, He assists, protects, and guides us on our path, but we make our own choices. He just wants us to make the right ones, so that we can be with Him one day in Heaven.

Musing on Matt 5:27-30

You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. –Matthew 5:27-30

Musing on Personal Temptations from Mt 5:27-30

I know a man who drives a sports car. He loves it. He likes to drive it around the corners, and take the highways to work because he has more horsepower than other drivers. He feels invincible in his little roadster.

But, he also has a problem with the nerves in his arms. He had it before he got the car, but – although he likes to think that driving his car makes him happy – it actually makes the pain in his arms worse. Trying to handle his little roadster does him more harm than good at the end of the day, even though he will not admit it.

So is temptation and sin for many people. We like to think that we are invincible, that we can handle temptation – we like to think we have strong enough wills to master our desires and stop before crossing the threshold between temptation and sin.

But, truly, it does us more harm than good – like the man and his sports car.

For many of us, there is a particular sin (or multiple) that – for physical, familial, psychological, social, or political reasons – we, sadly, struggle with more so than others.

Jesus gives the example of a man who looks at a woman lustfully, because men – by their physical and physiological design – are attracted to a woman’s appearance. While God created us good, and those desires to be natural, it is when we dwell on them and with them that we lead ourselves into sin.

I would give the example of someone who grew up in a family (and society) where alcohol was not consumed temperately, but was abused, and its abuse had negative consequences. Alcohol is in and of itself a good thing. The Apostles drank wine at the Last Supper; Jesus turned water into wine for his first miracle. But, like a hammer or a car, it is a tool – it can be used wisely, but it can also be abused.

Just as, for most people, driving a sports car isn’t a painful task, it is for the man mentioned above. Similarly, some people are not (greatly) tempted by a certain thing; while, for others, it is a very serious, personal temptation.

Continuing the example, for someone who struggles with a history of alcohol abuse, being around alcohol or people drinking – even moderately – is a temptation that could lead him into sin. While his friends might goad him, or perhaps encourage him to overcome his temptations and drink, it would be wiser if he didn’t.

If your right hand makes you stumble [sin], cut it off and throw it from you. Jesus would say that, no, you shouldn’t even surround yourself with things that could lead you into sin.

Oftentimes we try to convince ourselves, “No, I’m strong enough. I can resist.” If we do, it is only through God’s Grace. And, while we might resist it the first time, are we willing to risk it a second, third, or fourth time?

And, while we’re in the midst of trying to shake off our own personal temptations, we might forget that our friends could struggle with them also. Maybe we mean well when we encourage our friends to overcome their temptations and join us in something they’re reluctant to do, because they’ve struggled with it before (or believe they could). And, if even if we have strong wills and can resist, what if our friends aren’t as strong as we believe we are?

However, a personal relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not something I would want jeopardized because I surrounded myself, or my friends, with our greatest personal temptations.

Yes, we can overcome our own personal demons, temptations, etc. But, only through Christ’s Grace and Strength. Will God provide if we ask Him? Yes. But, if we are being greatly tempted, we might not consider asking at all.

So, perhaps it is better to do as our Savior advises us: If your right hand makes you stumble [sin], cut it off and throw it from you.

If there is a thing, an event, a person (or people) that is causing us to sin, we should avoid that thing/event/person as much as possible. And, if we are forced into contact with it, we should ask for God’s Strength, Grace, and Mercy; and then get away from it as soon as we can.

Let us pray that we surround ourselves with good people, places, and things, so that we can avoid those personal temptations as much as we can. Preserving and strengthening our relationship with God is the greatest good; but sadly, we might be tempted to break that amazing bond for very stupid reasons – if we did, we would be trading our Heavenly Inheritance for fool’s gold.

Yet, praised be God for His Boundless Love and Mercy!

Musing on Matt 5:14-16

A Musing on “The Light of the World”

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” — Matthew 5: 14-16

When I walk into a dark church, the first thing that catches my eye isn’t the Tabernacle, it’s the sanctuary candle. Most times it is the only thing that I can see, because the church is so dark.

The sanctuary candle’s presence reminds me that Christ is present – and that is all it needs to do. It does not serve any other function. It doesn’t need to smell nice, or look pretty. It’s not a decoration. It’s not practical. It is there, as a herald of Christ’s Presence in a church.

The sanctuary candle’s only purpose is to remain beside the Tabernacle, and remind us of God’s presence. And that is all.

My pastor told me to remember this idea of the sanctuary candle when I pray – that it does nothing except be with God. He said, that is what we are called to do in prayer, simply to be with God. (Or at least, in meditative prayer.)

As I meditated on this image of being like the sanctuary candle, and simply being with God, I noticed the sanctuary candle in the church and remembered the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world.”

Yes, we are. We are the light of the world – the ones who reveal Christ to others, by our ministry in the world – our serving others, teaching about the Faith, and so on. Yes, we are the Light of the World in that.

But, we are also the Light of the World in our prayer lives. Our purpose is to know, love, and serve God – but how can we accomplish that if we do not pray? If we do not talk to Him?

So, we are the Light of the World – that sanctuary candle that burns in the darkness of a church, that reminds all that Christ is present among us. We gain our strength, our confidence, our spiritual nourishment from remaining with God, as the candle does.

If we remain with God, He will enable our lights to be visible to others. Thus, prayer is all the more important in our lives of ministry. We must serve and teach others, as we have the responsibility to do. But, first we must pray – we must know the One Whom We Serve, in Whose Name we serve others.

So, as you and I go about our busy lives of work, ministry, play, rest, etc., we must be more than merely light in the world:

We must be the light that shines forth in the darkness of the world, because we bespeak the Presence of Christ within our minds and hearts – within our lives. Our very existence, like that of the sanctuary candle, should be to remind all that Christ is present within our world because He is in us and we are with Him.

I pray that, through our closeness with God, we continue to shine forth in the darkness, to give light before all men, so that they too may glorify God with us in prayer.

Musing on the Holy Father & His Successor

March 13 Update: Welcome to our new Holy Father, Pope Francis I!

He succeeds Pope Benedict XVI (and St. Peter) as Pope and Bishop of Rome!

Author’s Note: I realize that not all of you dear readers are Catholic, but the current situation with the Catholic Church’s Pope is a very interesting and bemusing one, even if you are not Catholic. So, with that being said, I hope you enjoy the post. (The following was written on Feb. 28, 2013, as Pope Benedict was resigning from the Papal office.)

A Musing on the Holy Father and His Successor

Today, as I write this, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, is resigning the office of the Papacy – a move that is unprecedented in the modern era.

A few weeks ago, when the Holy Father announced his intention to resign, the faithful had many questions, as a pope’s resignation hasn’t been seen in 700 years or so.

“What do we call Pope Benedict once he resigns? Where will he live? What will he do? How are we supposed to address him, if we were to meet him?”

Pope Benedict has answered these questions, but there is one uncertaintly that has yet to be addressed (and cannot be addressed for some time):

Who will be the Pope’s successor, and what will the relationship be between the two popes?

The Pope’s successor will be elected, hopefully, before Easter by the conclave of cardinals. But, as mentioned above, the relationship between the Holy Father and the Pope emeritus is a relative unknown.

As I was thinking about this earlier today, I remembered a line from the movie The King’s Speech, which portrays Britain’s King George VI’s rise to the British throne after his brother, King Edward, abdicated. In the movie, King George (portrayed by Colin Firth) says:

“Every monarch in history has succeeded someone who is dead. Or just about to be. My predecessor’s not only alive, but very much so.”

Although Pope Benedict has resigned due to his failing health and “advanced age,” his successor will – similar to King George – take the papal throne (the Chair of St. Peter) while his predecessor still lives, God willing.

The Holy Father has pledged his obedience to whomever succeeds him, but what about the new Pope’s relationship with his still-living predecessor?

Will the new Holy Father reach out to our Pope Emeritus? Will he ask Benedict for advice? For counsel about the papacy?

There are probably many things a pope wishes he could have asked his predecessor about, but in most cases, his predecessor was dead. Odds are, the cardinal who will succeed the Holy Father already knows Pope Benedict. But, surely, there are things our new pope will want to ask the pope emeritus.

But, the best precedent I could find for this in the Scriptures was the relationship between Elijah and Elisha.

In 2 Kings 2, when Elijah is making his preparations before being swept up into Heaven, he asks Elisha three times to remain behind and allow him to leave. “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”

The sons of the prophets who were (there) approached Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be still.” –2 Kings 2: 3 & 5

Before Elijah leaves, he asks Elisha Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” He said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” Then, Elijah is taken up, and Elisha inherits Elijah’s spirit, which the people acknowledge.

Elisha shows his obedience to his master Elijah; he refuses to leave him and follows him until he is taken up by the chariot and the whirlwind.

Elijah, in return, shows his obedience to his successor, asking if there is anything Elisha will need from him before they part.

They acknowledge each other’s office and duties as a prophet of Israel – with Elisha knowing his place as the under-study (as it were) to his master and “father” Elijah, who in turn, recognizes that his work is completed and wants to help the new prophet in his duties. In essence, Elijah, by taking his leave of Elisha, acknowledges him as his successor.

While the situation between the new Holy Father and the pope emeritus will be different than that between Elijah and Elisha, they will share a mutual respect and obedience for one another.

Benedict has and will continue to acknowledge whomever succeeds him as the pope – the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of Peter.

But, in turn, Benedict’s successor will show his loyalty, respect, and obedience to his predecessor, and will recognize that he succeeds not only Peter, but Benedict.

He should savor the time he can spend with his predecessor, as Elisha did with Elijah. The new Holy Father will know that, when God wills it, Benedict will be taken from this life.

But, our future pope must be still and treasure this time with his predecessor by following him and learning from him – taking up his mantle, as Elisha did for Elijah.

And, when he is elected, our new Holy Father will fill the office and seat of, not only Benedict, but every Pope who has preceded him – ultimately to Peter who was commissioned by Christ Himself.

So, I pray for our new Holy Father, that he will realize that his predecessors – and the lessons they have taught and will teach him – are precious because they ultimately connect him to Jesus Christ, the Head and Bridegroom of the Church.

For the mantle of Christ is the one every Pope must take up. He is the God-Made-Man Whom each of them must succeed, as the Head of the Church of Christ here on Earth.

Musing on Mother Seton

Author’s Note: This musing turned out longer than I had planned, so there will be no musing/meditation tomorrow. Sorry, but I feel like this one is two days’ worth of reading, anyway. Still, I hope you enjoy it!

A Musing on Mother Seton (and Why I Admire Her So Much)

Anyone can be a saint. A saint can be anyone from anywhere at any time in history. We are all called to holiness — to be a child of God who strives to preach the Gospel.But, when I say “think of a saint,” you probably think of an Apostle, early church martyr, or Doctor of the Church – odds are, they’re male, they’re European (or from the Holy Land), and they’re a religious or priest.

Saints can come from any walk of life, but the majority of the canonized saints — and the most well-known ones — are European (or Middle-Eastern) male religious/priests: Saints Peter and Paul, and any of the other Apostles; St. Benedict; St. Augustine; St. Francis of Assisi; St. Dominic; St. Thomas Aquinas; St. Ignatius of Loyola; St. John of the Cross and so on.

That is not to say that any of the aforementioned saints are not worth studying, imitating, etc. They are. They are awesome, and I want to imitate their love for Christ and His Church in every moment of my life.

However, I’ve found that sometimes it’s harder to relate to these saints. They were from another country, another time, another vocation, etc. But, in my own life, I have been blessed to spend time at parish named for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Mother Seton is awesome, as are all the saints – canonized or not. But, unlike many of the aforementioned saints, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton seems more ‘approachable’ to me — as a lay, American woman — for three very simple reasons:

She was an American woman.

The Church recognizes 17 canonized American saints, but only three of them were born in (what is now) the United States: Mother Seton and Saints Katherine Drexel and (newly canonized) Kateri Tekakwitha.

Mother Seton was born in the British colony New York in 1774 — so, the American Revolution took place during her childhood. During her lifetime, she would have experienced things like George Washington become the first U.S. President; Washington D.C. established as the nation’s capital; and the newborn United States fight with former mother-country Britain during the War of 1812.

Today, Mother Seton’s remains are enshrined at the National Shrine in Emmitsburg, Maryland. There is also a shrine to her near her former home in New York City.

Mother Seton is the patron saint of Maryland and American Catholic schools (as she founded the first free ones in America).

As a relatively new country, there aren’t very many canonized American saints yet.

But the ones that we do have truly embody many of those ideals and virtues that Americans and Catholics alike greatly value: courage, independence, a strong will, generosity, benevolence, kindness, and so on.

She was a wife and mother.

Tying into the above point, Mother Seton’s life attests that people from any vocation can become saints. Everyone is called to holiness, and people in all vocations and walks of life will have their trials to overcome.

Elizabeth Bayley was married to William Seton when she was 19. They had five children together, and – despite her busy life as wife and mother – she helped organize a lady’s charity group that would distribute food to the poor.

Her husband, whose shipping company had went bankrupt, was in poor health, and the family sailed to Italy for William’s health. He died on the way, and Elizabeth Seton landed in a foreign country as a widowed mother to her five children.

As a wife and mother, Mother Seton had her own struggles; but she was still able to live a noble and charitable life. We do not have to be a religious or a priest to do the same.

She was a convert.

Saints can come from any kind of initial religious background, and Mother Seton can attest to that. She grew up in a devout Episcopalian household. Her husband and children, too, were raised in the Episcopalian faith.

After her husband died en-route to Italy in 1803, Elizabeth stayed with the her late husband’s friends – the Filicci family, a prominent Italian Catholic family.

The Filiccis introduced Elizabeth to Catholicism, and when she returned to New York, she continued studying the Faith and finally converted in 1805.

After her friends and neighbors found about her conversion, she was shunned and avoided by many members of her community. Many parents withdrew their children from her school, which she had started to support her family.

In the years following, Mother Seton founded the first free Catholic school in America and started a religious order – the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph – in Emmitsburg. Her daughter Catherine was among the first sisters to join her.

In common with many saints, St. Elizabeth had a special devotion to the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother. Truly, her conversion was whole-hearted, and despite the social stigma of the time, she became an important figure in the Church’s history in the United States.

In Summary

I believe that we like to find people that we can relate with – someone who’s on “our level,” so to speak. Whether it is in life, literature, or anything else, we like encountering people who are like us in some aspect.

Our mindset is: “If she can do it, then I can do it, too.” If we are like them, in some aspect or other, whatever they achieve, we realize we can achieve, too.

So, why should our spiritual lives be any different? If the saints can share God’s Love and Joy in the world, despite all the adversities in their way – torture, loneliness, abandonment, persecution, alienation, and personal attachments – why can’t I do the same?

That’s why I admire St. Elizabeth Ann Seton so much: because, as a lay, American woman, she and I are alike. And, if she can become a saint, then I can become a saint, too.

We all have saints that we relate to because we have common ground with them – shared life experiences, trials, vocations, etc. We admire them because they are like us – and they are holy.

And that is why I love all the saints, including Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton! They all give me the hope that…

If they can do it, then I can do it, too.