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!

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Musing on God the Holy Spirit

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

Musing on God The Holy Spirit

Last night I prayed – ironically enough – to the Holy Spirit for some guidance on what to muse on in today’s post.

I flipped through the Bible, especially the Epistles of St. Paul, because – let’s face it – when (my man!) St. Paul wasn’t writing about Jesus Christ, he was writing about the Holy Spirit. Seriously.

Then, I’d like to think I got my inspiration, because I began to wonder at the term “Spirit” (as opposed to “Ghost”) and what it means for us when we call someone, or something, “spirited.”

A spirited person, according to the dictionary, is one who is courageous, energetic, animated and lively. We call them “spirited” because they have an unusual – or extraordinary – amount of “spirit.” They’re passionate and zealous – they have an unusual sense of freedom and preciousness of life.

There is one example of such a “spirited” person that immediately came to mind: St. Peter, giving the post-Pentecost evangelization speech. Full of the Holy Spirit, he stands on the rooftops and speaks to the masses, full of life – no longer doubting, afraid, or indifferent. He is passionate, courageous, and animated in his manner and his speech. And the people notice.

He is a spirited individual, in this instance, because he is filled with the Holy Spirit.

An individual is called “spirited” because they are lively – they are full of “life. And, as we hear in the Scriptures, it is the Holy Spirit who gives us this life. (See Romans 8)

…for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. –2 Cor 3:6

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. –John 6:63

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace… But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead, will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. –Rom 8:6, 11

Yes, the Spirit gives life, and gives it in abundance. But, I say we should ask the question: “How? How does the Spirit give us life?” (Again, I would argue) He gives life by:

  • Creating and sustaining us
  • Moving us
  • Uniting us

After all, there’s a reason we call the Holy Spirit the “Author of Life.”

CREATING AND SUSTAINING US

Tradition tells us the Holy Spirit, with the Other Two Persons, took part in creation of the Universe and Humanity.

Let Us make man in Our Image, after Our Likeness… –Genesis 1:26

And, some theologians have interpreted the “mighty wind that swept over the waters” in Genesis 1:2 as the Holy Spirit and His First Movements of Creation.

But, as we tend to attribute Creation to The Father, let us focus more on Spirit as the Sustainer of Life.

In the Scriptures and the liturgies, the Holy Spirit is connected with or manifested as things in nature that sustain life – fire, wind/breath, water, and clouds. We realize how important any of these things are in the natural cycle: clouds bring shade and rain; water quenches our thirst; fire keeps us warm in the cold; and wind is what we inhale and exhale daily.

But, whereas these things sustain physical life, the Spirit sustains our spiritual life – our relationship with The Triune God.

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him… So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh- for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. –Romans 8:9, 12-14

When we sin mortally, we no longer have the Spirit of God dwelling within us. Thus, we must beg for God to restore the Spirit to us through our repentance and by confessing our sins.

But when the Spirit dwells in us, which we pray it always does, we recognize ourselves as Temples of the Holy Spirit. We must ensure our spiritual and physical well-being, because the Spirit of God is in us – and that is a precious gift. If we do not take care of ourselves (again, spiritually or physically) we may lose that gift.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are… Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. — 1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19-20

We must continue to see the Spirit of God dwelling in us – sustaining us and all our brothers and sisters. Let us take care to treat ourselves and others with dignity, and to act as Temples of the Holy Spirit; for we “have been bought [for] a price,” so let us rightfully glorify the Lord as such. Let us glorify the Spirit, Who is within us.

MOVING US

In a very over-simplified analogy, if we are like a car or some other vehicle, the Holy Spirit is not only our fuel tank – which sustains our travel – but it also our engine. It is what enables us to move. While we might decide which direction we want to take, it is the Spirit dwelling within us that enables us to move. But, when we take our hands off the wheel, and let Him take over, He will guide us where we need to go.

My pastor put it in a different way: when you bike against the wind, it’s strenuous, difficult, and exhausting. When you bike with the wind, it’s a breeze (ha, pun intended). You feel relieved, because the wind is doing half of the work for you. So it is with the Holy Spirit. You will still have trials – there will be hills to bike up – but with the Wind at your back, it’s always so much easier than going against It.

(Side note: That’s why I’m so thankful to live in a windy state. The Holy Spirit is constantly working around us and with us!)

The Chair of St. Peter in the Vatican, above which is a large stain-glass window of the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not only the fire that keeps us warm, but the furnace – the boiler – that fills our souls with a Divine Heat and propels us closer to God by doing His Will. I like to think of the Spirit as a driving wind – it drives, leads, guides, pushes, propels, fills, accelerates, and moves simultaneously.

For any number of Biblical examples of being led or guided by the Spirit, you need only to look at the prophets, Kings David and Solomon, the Apostles (post-Pentecost), and Jesus Christ Himself.

Truly, the Spirit is not only within us, He is around us. He tugs at our hearts from inside our beings – He leads us onward from His Inner Presence.

In Him we live and move and have our being. –Acts 17:28

Read more on Movements of the Spirit from this blog.

UNITING US

A closer look at the stained glass above the Chair of St. Peter.

And, because the Holy Spirit is within us, His Presence enables a grand union: between God (The Father and The Son) and His children.

Only think: the Spirit that is within you is the same Spirit that proceeds from God The Father and God The Son – from Their Eternal Love for One Another.

For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. –Mt 10:20

Yet, even as the Spirit unites us to the First and Second Persons of the Trinity, the Spirit also unites us to all our brothers and sisters – whether on Earth or in Heaven. For, as (my man) St. Paul writes:

To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. –1 Cor 12:7,11-13

As discussed earlier, we must recognize the Spirit of God in others and treat them as Temples of the Holy Spirit. Also, we must recognize that our brothers and sisters are our spiritual family because the same Spirit that dwells in them dwells in us also.

As science recognizes that all humans are connected and related because we descend from common ancestors, we Christians know that we are spiritually related because we have The Same Father, The Same Savior, and The Same Sanctifier all dwelling in us.

Generally, we treat our family differently than other people. We look out for them; we help them, even if we are ashamed of them; we sometimes think “If they weren’t my family, I don’t know if I would do this for them.” Hopefully, we don’t, but sometimes that is the case. We take special care of our family members because they’re family – and sometimes for no other reason.

Whether they’ve abused our generosity, disowned us, or hurt us (and themselves) repeatedly, we still care for them, even if we don’t love them.

But, we should do this for all people – because we are One Family in Christ. We are the Church. We are all sanctified by the One Holy Spirit of God.

Shouldn’t we take care to make sure that those in whom the Spirit dwells are loved and cared for? Shouldn’t we go out of our way to help them and forgive them, despite all they’ve done?

We shouldn’t help someone only because they’re family. We should help, love, and guide all people because God asks us to be One Body – One Spirit in Christ.

But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary… But God has so composed the body… so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. –1 Cor 12:20-26

So, let us pray to God The Holy Spirit, that He may continue to sustain, move, and unite us in Christ and His Church. Amen. +CHS

Musing on God the Son

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

Once again, how to begin?

Knowing, loving, and serving God The Son is the ongoing journey of Christianity: to (attempt to) understand Christ’s relationship with us as His Church, and to love and serve Him as members of His Body – as His adopted brothers and sisters.

But, let us muse instead on the relationship between The Father and The Son, for how can we ponder The First Person without thinking of The Second? The Two Persons are infinitely connected by Their Eternal Love, which begets the Third Person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ identity as The “Son” (as He as revealed to us, and inasmuch as we understand the word in our modern culture) is inherently derived from His Relationship to The “Father” (again, inasmuch as we understand the word):

Love creates our identity (who we are) and binds us inseparably with our beloved, to the point that we would not exist without the beloved. A husband without a wife does not exist. A wife without a husband is a nonentity. Thus a husband and a wife could look in each other’s eyes and say “Thank you for creating me” without fear of idiocy. Husbands are created by wives. Love makes our identity dependent on another.

All identity is created by love. The identities of “husband” and “wife” are merely good examples of this fact. The truth is actually all-encompassing. Consider how the identity of everyone in a family is created by their loving relation to one another:

You cannot be a father or a mother without a child. Thus, in a typical paradox of love, the child creates his mother, for prior to the existence of the child the “mother” did not exist. The child creates his father in the same way, and none would deny that it is the mother and father who create the child in the physical act of love. — “Love Creates Us”

Again, the terms “Father” and “Son” have been revealed to us, because through their use, we can begin to understand the Mystery of the Trinity, though we will never be able to comprehend it fully (in this life).

So, why would God use the terms “Father” and “Son” to describe the relationship between The First and The Second Persons of the Trinity?

Because, the relationship between a father and a son, either Divine or human, I would argue, is based on three points:

  • Inheritance
  • Reflection
  • Love

There obviously are other aspects, but these three all tie in with each other. And, again, this is a crude way to define human and Divine relationships, but we must work with what we can.

INHERITANCE

Because a son inherits from his father. Historically, the firstborn son inherits his father’s property, title, and so on. More modernly, he might inherit his father’s business, debts, etc. Whatever belongs to a father will belong to his son. Across the ages, though, the eldest son inherits the father’s responsibilities at his death. He must become the head of the household; he must look after his widowed mother and fatherless siblings; he must look after whatever his father has left him (property, debts, instructions in his will).

Likewise, Jesus inherits many duties from His Father: He is sent by the Father, as He tells us many times in the Scriptures.

I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father [Satan]… If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. — John 8:38, 42

He also ‘inherits’ His Divine Authority from The Father: “He (The Father) gave Him (Jesus) authority to execute judgment, because [Jesus] is the Son of Man” (John 5:27); and “But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me.” (John 8:16)

Thus, because The Son inherits His Authority from The Father, He is able to act as a proxy for The Father.

Recall the Parable of the Wicked Stewards: When the harvest time approached, [the landowner] sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. He sent another group of slaves; and they did the same. But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. –Matthew 21:33-40

REFLECTION

Consider the idea of the proxy – someone whom you send on your behalf to complete a task which you cannot. In an essence, this person is able to speak and act for you – with your equal authority. He (or she) is allowed to act as you, seemingly, – as a ‘second you,’ as it were.

Jesus – God The Son Incarnate – is able to act as The Father’s “proxy” not only because He is Equally God, as The Father is; but, because He is a reflection of the Father – His Second Self, as it were.

Today, we might say that The Son is the “spitting image” of His Father.

Jesus does not simply do things for His Father – He does things like His Father.

A few years ago, my theology teacher used me and my dad as an analogy of this Divine Resemblance. My dad and I have similar mannerisms, similar personalities, similar senses of humor. So, when my theology teacher met my dad at a parent-teacher conference, she could definitely see the resemblance between us. Using this as an example to the class, she said she could see my father in me, and me in my father; and that by knowing one, she knew the other.

So it is with The Son and The Father (although on a Divine and humanly incomprehensible level):

If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? —John 14:7-10

LOVE

As discussed above, our identities as “parent” and “child” come from love. Similarly, Jesus’ relationship with His Father is also characterized by Love – such a Love that we can only imitate in our limited human capacities, for it is a Love we cannot comprehend, though we see it working in our lives.

This Love between The Father and The Son is so powerful and immense, The Holy Spirit proceeds from it.

It is out of Love for His Father and for us that Jesus becomes man, dies for our sins, and rises again. It is out of Love for His Father and for us that Jesus continues to reveal Himself and make Himself present to us again each day – through prayer, through the liturgy, and so on.

But, here is the point we must take away: we are also called to share in this Love – to imitate it and reciprocate it as best as we can.

For Jesus tells His Apostles and us: “Just as the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9)

But, then only three verses later, He says: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

So, Jesus is inviting us – asking us – challenging us to Love one other as The Father Loves Him, and as He Loves The Father.

This is an impossible challenge for us while we are in this life, but we must ask for God’s Grace to attempt, in every human way that we can, to share in this Mysterious, Divine Love by loving God and neighbor:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. –Luke 10:27

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.

Feature Story: “Faith In Service”

Author’s Note: This article was written as a school project and ran in the Wichita Catholic Advance in January 2008. The Wichita Catholic Advance is the diocesan newspaper for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita Kansas.

Faith In Service

Lt. Guy Schroeder had not been a Wichita police officer long when he was stopped by an elderly lady while patrolling the Wichita streets. The woman, whom he had never seen before, took great care to wave him down.

As he stopped his patrol car, the woman handed him a St. Michael prayer card. There were no spoken words, but Schroeder said there was a silent understanding between them. Even though he is now a lieutenant, Schroeder keeps the card with him while on duty.

“I have no doubt,” he said, “that there is someone over our shoulders, looking out for us.”

Lt. Guy Schroeder with the St. Michael the Archangel prayer card that an elderly woman gave him.

Lt. Guy Schroeder with the St. Michael the Archangel prayer card that an elderly woman gave him.

For the average 9 to 5 worker, faith may not play a significant role during the workday. But for the Catholic members of the Wichita Police Department, faith has a definite impact on their careers.

Faith affects work

Detective Hans Asmussen converted to Catholicism in 1996 and currently works as a Crime Stoppers coordinator for the Wichita Police Department. Asmussen admits that he wasn’t always as involved in his faith as he is now.

“I was more nominal as a Catholic, at first,” he said. “It wasn’t until I became a detective that I became more active in my faith.”

Asmussen acknowledges that his Catholic faith has had a beneficial influence on his career as a police officer.

“I try to treat everyone as someone created in the image of God,” he said. “We are constantly confronted with people who need compassion, both victim and suspect, but are often overlooked. I must see Jesus in both and treat them with charity.”

“I am much more compassionate,” Lt. Schroeder said. “My faith gives me direction, and helps me understand the needs of people in all types of situations.”

Schroeder, who volunteers as a resource officer at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School, also says that his Catholic faith helps him make a better connection with the students and their families.

“It makes it that much easier,” he said. “You can talk about things that you can’t talk about at a regular high school.”

“My faith helps me to be a factfinder, not a judge – to assist in justice, not to deal out judgment,” Detective Asmussen said.

Work affects faith

Officer Daniel Oblinger once considered becoming a priest and attended the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minn.

However, Oblinger did not feel called to serve God in the priesthood, and has now been an officer on the WPD for five years.

As an officer, Oblinger has noticed how the things he sees on patrol affect his Catholic faith. Oblinger, who works on a Drug Recognition Expert Unit, has encountered several cases of drug and alcohol abuse, and realized it was a slavery to sin.

“My career helps in my spiritual life by showing me both the best and the worst in humanity,” he said. “I get to witness the capacity of men to harm their brothers and sisters.”

Several officers agree with Oblinger and admit that their careers in law enforcement have only strengthened their spiritual life, including Sgt. Clark Bolan and Detective Sarah Hamilton.

Lt. Schroeder and Sgt. Clark Bolan pose with the Wichita Police Department squad car.

Lt. Schroeder and Sgt. Clark Bolan pose with the Wichita Police Department squad car.

Sgt. Bolan, who has been on the force for 25 years, works as a Community Policing Sergeant for Patrol West. He, like Oblinger, has noticed how his career has impacted his Catholic faith.

“I see a lot of bad things on the job,” said Bolan, who converted to Catholicism in 1984. “I think it’s made my faith stronger.”

“I’m dealing with the people Jesus dealt with – the people that are suffering, like addicts and the homeless,” Detective Sarah Hamilton said. “This job is about helping people.”

Hamilton works as an investigator for the Gang/Felony Assault Unit and sometimes assists on homicide cases. While she just converted to Catholicism two years ago, Hamilton prays for the victims she encounters, both at home and on the job.

“If one had no faith,” she said, “they could become overwhelmed by all the bad things on this job.”

Detective Asmussen had a similar feeling about prayer’s role in his career.

“I get to see evil firsthand in the world,” he said, “and I understand my role in praying against it.”

Faith on the job

Since law enforcement can sometimes be a dangerous occupation, a number of Catholic officers find comfort and strength in using their Catholic faith while at work.

Detective Hans Asmussen kneels in prayer.

Detective Hans Asmussen kneels in prayer.

Several officers, like Detective Asmussen and Sgt. Bolan, wear a medal of St. Michael, the patron saint of police officers, while on patrol.

Officer Oblinger wears a vest underneath his uniform that says “Roman Catholic, send for priest.” This ensures that his spiritual needs will be met, in the event that he is wounded while on duty.

In addition, Asmussen, Oblinger, and Lt. Schroeder pray before they go to work. Bolan says that he offers a prayer every weekend at Mass, asking God to help him make good decisions and become a better officer.

“Without faith,” said Oblinger, “we can go pretty far astray.”

A strong connection

Although the Wichita Police Department doesn’t maintain records on religious affiliation, Deputy Chief Tom Stolz believes there is a definite religious diversity among the department.

“I believe there is general connection between people of faith and police work. The Wichita Police Department is made up of many good and decent officers who are Methodist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Protestant, among others,” Stolz said. “I know people of faith who use their various spiritual principles to help guide them in their daily jobs as police officers – to help people and to serve others.”

Stolz, who was raised Catholic, has seen a relationship between the Catholic faith and serving as a police officer during his 26 years with the WPD.

“In my view, there are strong similarities between the Catholic faith and working in the police department,” he said. “They both care about social justice – about people that are less fortunate or who are enduring hard times. As police officers, our job is to help people, no matter what social strata they fall into.”

While there are many different law enforcement agencies throughout the country, all are vital to members of the Catholic community and ultimately, to the world.

“Law enforcement is a sociology,” Detective Asmussen said. “We help people, so that crime exists at its bare minimum.”

“Without the police department,” said Officer Oblinger, “there wouldn’t be an environment where people can go out and witness.”

Musing on Mercy & Justice

les-miserables-posters-jackman-crowe

The Mercy of Valjean and the Justice of Javert

Author’s Note: This musing is based on my knowledge and understanding of the musical “Les Miserables” and its movie adaptation that was released in theaters last December. I fully admit I have never read the book “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo, and I realize there are differences in characters, plot, etc. between the musical and its source material. Still, I hope you enjoy it!

Meditation on Mercy & Justice from “Les Miserables”

In 19th century France, the starving teenager Jean Valjean, in desperation, steals a loaf of bread to feed himself and his family members. For his crime, and various escape attempts, he is imprisoned for 19 years. Upon his release, he finds little welcome in the world outside prison. He is treated as an outcast, because of his brand as an ex-convict. He struggles to find food and shelter, as few are willing to help him. As he sleeps in a graveyard, a bishop finds him and offers him food and shelter for the night.

Later that night, Valjean takes advantage of the bishop’s kindness by stealing his silver. The police arrest Valjean and return him to the bishop, as Valjean claims that the bishop gave him the silver as a present. The bishop confirms Valjean’s story, and by doing so, saves him from returning to prison:

“And remember this, my brother,
See in this some high plan.
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man.
By the witness of the martyrs,
By the passion and the blood,
God has raised you out of darkness” (Valjean Arrested / Valjean Forgiven)

Because of this act of mercy, Valjean realizes the sinfulness of his life as a criminal and commits himself to God. Valjean expected justice, but received mercy instead. He sees and experiences the bishop’s and, more importantly, God’s love for him. And thus, sees his unworthiness, and desires to change his ways by committing himself to God.

And, because of the bishop’s single act of mercy, Valjean, in turn, becomes an apostle of mercy – spreading Christ’s love and forgiveness throughout the rest of his life.

Because of Valjean’s commitment to mercy, he:

  • rescues a man who was trapped under a cart;
  • reveals himself as the ex-convict Jean Valjean, to save an innocent man (whom the police had identified as Valjean) from going to prison;
  • saves the prostitute Fantine from jail and ensures she receives medical care;
  • saves Fantine’s daughter Cosette from her unloving caretakers and adopts her as his own daughter, continuing to provide for her;
  • joins the revolutionaries, trying to help as many of them as he can, and ultimately saves Cosette’s boyfriend, Marius;
  • spares the life and career of his ruthless pursuer, the policeman Javert; and
  • continually gives money to the poor and various charities, etc. throughout the course of the story.

Conversely, the police inspector Javert, who pursues Valjean after he broke parole, has committed himself to justice. He simply cannot allow himself to do anything except what is right by the law. He tells Valjean:

“Men like me can never change
Men like you can never change…
My duty’s to the law…
Dare you talk to me of crime
And the price you had to pay
Every man is born in sin
Every man must choose his way” (The Confrontation)

He believes that men are set in there ways: they are either good or bad, and their choices prove their character. Because Javert has dedicated himself to following the law and punishing those who do not, he believes he is a good man. Those whom he pursues, like Valjean, because they broke the law, are bad.

And neither can change. Good men cannot become bad; and bad men cannot become good.

Yet – unlike Valjean, the apostle of mercy – Javert is an administer of justice. No long-term goodness comes from his actions; he does not directly impact anyone’s lives for the better. He arrests and imprisons those who commit crimes; he “cleans the garbage off the street” (Look Down). He has no sympathy for the poor, and only looks to please the rich.

Valjean spreads his virtue through God’s grace and love; Javert spreads his through his position and the force of the law.

The difference source of their virtues results in different lives, different impacts, and different fates.

Even so, Javert admits that “every man is born in sin,” but will not admit that he is guilty of any sin, seemingly, except for original sin. He is committed to goodness, perfection, and the law.

But, after Javert infiltrates a group of rebels and fails in his deception of them, Valjean spares his life and allows him to go free, allowing the rebels to believe he did kill Javert. Later, Javert catches Valjean as he carries the unconscious Marius home; Valjean pleads for Javert to let him take Marius to a hospital, and he will return and “all our debts are paid.”

Yet, as Valjean walks away with Marius on his back, Javert tells him to stop. Valjean continues to walk away, and Javert cannot bring himself to shoot Valjean.

Damned if I’ll live in the debt of a thief!
Damned if I’ll yield at the end of the chase.
I am the Law and the Law is not mocked
I’ll spit his pity right back in his face
There is nothing on earth that we share
It is either Valjean or Javert! (Javert’s Suicide)

Javert cannot reconcile himself to accept that has received mercy, and – though unwilling – has shown mercy in return. He cannot accept that he lives because of the goodness of a criminal; and, because of this, he jumps off a bridge into the river, ultimately killing himself.

He gave me my life. He gave me freedom.
I should have perished by his hand
It was his right...
Can this man be believed?
Shall his sins be forgiven?
Shall his crimes be reprieved? (Javert’s Suicide)

Here is the difference between the two, and the focal point:

As Javert could not accept, justice and mercy are not mutually exclusive. One can accept both, as justice is what we deserve from God, but mercy is what we receive. A man can change, but only through God’s mercy.

Through our sin, we fall; through God’s grace, we rise.

Justice and mercy are both virtues; neither is a weakness. And, because we have received mercy from God, we must show mercy to others (as Javert could not understand or accept). Justice, or giving someone his/her due, is also a righteous thing. In our society, we recognize that those who commit dangerous crimes should be kept apart from the public for safety.

But, as Javert did not understand, there must be a balance between the virtues. In some cases, we can and should show mercy; in others, we might not have that ability (such as a judge during a court case).

The hard part is knowing when to show justice, and when to show mercy.

But, when we pray, we cross our fingers right over left – mercy over justice. We pray for mercy; we appreciate when others are merciful to us; and we hope that our mercy toward others is not abused.

Yet, that is the risk with mercy. Like love, it is a virtue that many can take advantage of. Just so, we have taken advantage of God’s mercy toward us by continuing to sin; still, he continues to show us mercy, despite repeatedly injuring Him.

So, we must – to the best of our ability – show mercy to our brothers and sisters. And when they abuse our ‘pity’ and ‘leniency,’ we must show them mercy once again, in the hopes that they will realize our love for them and change their ways.

The rippling effects of mercy, seemingly, flow out much farther than those of justice. In Valjean’s case, through the bishop’s mercy toward him, many lives were saved and changed for the better. In Javert’s case, many criminals were imprisoned, and he advanced further in his career.

Thus, we should continue to cross our fingers right over left – mercy over justice. For “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy” (Matt 5:7)

For further reading about Les Miserables and Catholicism, check out this FOCUS blog post. Kudos to its author! Very well written, and much shorter than my stuff. 🙂

Poem on Fr. Emil Kapaun

Fr. Kapaun says Mass for soldiers on a battlefield in Korea.

Author’s Note: This poem was written in 2008 or 2009 to honor Fr. Emil Kapaun, an Army chaplain during WWII and the Korean War. He died in a prisoner-of-war camp in China, after spending months praying with and ministering to his fellow soldiers. He was from the Diocese of Wichita, and he has been honored with the title “Servant of God.” His cause for beautification has been submitted to the Holy See in Rome. For more information on Fr. Kapaun’s life, please visit www.frkapaun.org . Also, I apologize but this blog is not very conducive to poetry.

A Man of God

He was a farm boy

Born on Holy Thursday

Raised on Pilsen prairie

Always looking up to God

He was an altar boy

Who strove to be perfect

And practiced whenever he could

Always looking up to God

He was a good student

With an agile mind and memory

Constantly challenging himself

Always looking up to God

He was a classmate

Who loved to fish and play

Had a lively wit and good humor

And was always looking up to God

He was a seminarian

With a special devotion to Mary

Sometimes doubting his call

But always looking up to God

He was a friend

Who loved to play a harmless joke

Wrote humorous letters when he could

While always looking up to God

He was a priest forever

In the line of Melchizedek

Ordained June 9, 1940

While looking up to God

He was a young pastor

Playing with the children

Dressing as a “cowboy priest”

Always looking up to God

He was an auxiliary chaplain

Writing letters to those in service

Gathering the wandering sheep

Always looking up to God

He was an obedient servant

Who did the will of his bishop

But also wanted the best for his men

Always looking up to God

He was military chaplain

Driving thousands of miles

To say Mass for the troops in India

While always looking up to God

He was a university student

Working toward a master’s degree

Anxious to lead others to salvation

While always looking up to God

He was an Army chaplain

Serving on the front lines in Korea

Guiding his brothers in their fight

Always looking up to God

He was a leader

That could have fled to safety

But instead stayed behind to help his men

While always looking up to God

He was a shepherd

Who prayed with his men when he could

And always had a smile on his face

While always looking up to God

He was a prisoner of war

Who stole food and washed clothing

To provide for the suffering troops

While always looking up to God

He was a man of God

Who forgave his captors

And loved his men to the end

While always looking up to God

He is Chaplain Emil Kapaun

A martyr and a saint

And even now, he is

Always looking up to God