The point of running in any race is to finish first. A track runner toes the starting line with the intention of beating the competition. Without this purpose, why bother?
There has been much attention given to the recently published doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious (LCWR). The document, produced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), identifies several problems, including dissent from Church teaching (e.g., concerning the reservation of priestly orders to men), the inviting of speakers who ignore or contradict the teaching of the Church, and the justification, by some speakers, of dissent against the Magisterium as a “prophetic office.”
This spring, when the weather turned nice, I went outside to “exult in the day the Lord had made.” As I searched for words to express my delight, I tried to remember some of the best spring poems I knew. My Dominican brothers will probably not be surprised that I thought of an ode by Horace, nor that I started reciting it to myself: Diffugere nives, redeunt iam gramina campis arboribusque comae. “The snows have fled, the grass returns to the fields, and the leaves to the trees.” I wondered how the rest of it went, and remembered that a noted scholar had called this ode, celebrating the arrival of spring, “the most beautiful poem in ancient literature.” Back inside, I looked it up and saw, to my surprise, that its celebration of spring lasts only about six lines. After that, we are introduced to the main theme:
Consciously or unconsciously, many of us say to ourselves, “I don’t want to be a saint. I just want to sneak into Heaven.” But asking “Do I have to do this to get to heaven?” is like the student who asks, “Is this going to be on the test?” Sometimes we just want to put in the minimum amount of effort so that we don’t fail, which in this case means going to hell. We say that we don’t presume to think that we could be saints because we think sanctity is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve, and we are afraid of the demands that sanctity would make on us. So instead of striving for excellence, for perfection, we are willing to settle for mediocrity.
The problem with this attitude is that God wants us to be saints: ”You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).
Pope St. Gregory the Great was renowned for being so humble that he would not allow anyone to compliment him. On one occasion, he chided a correspondent for his fulsome praise: “When in writing to me you match the name to the thing and put forth resounding statements and rhetorical touches in my regard, surely, dearest brother, you are calling the monkey a lion, which we are seen to do when we call mangy kittens leopards or tigers.”
Listening to the National Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of The Sea—to use an odd but apt comparison—is like hearing an Impressionist painting. Composer Frank Bridge surveys in sound the motion, the interplay of light and darkness, and the rich colors of the ocean in a way reminiscent of a landscape by Monet, Renoir, or even Cézanne. The varying timbre of each of the suite’s four movements evokes a different aspect of the sea’s mighty character. Admittedly, Bridge is one of the lesser-known English composers, but The Sea is proof enough that he is worthy to be numbered among his more famous contemporaries, such as Ralph Vaughn Williams, Edward Elgar, and Gustav Holst.
Everyone knows that Easter is about the Resurrection: although at one time dead, Christ is now alive. Anyone who has lived in Western society at some point during the last two thousand years could probably affirm this. Most practicing Christians could go even further, saying with St. Paul that Christ’s resurrected life means life for us who believe in his name (see, for example, 2 Corinthians 5). Since the earliest days of Christianity, however, saints, mystics, and ordinary folk have struggled to internalize the meaning of this mystery. What does it mean to live not for ourselves, as St. Paul says, “but for him who died and was raised”?
A week ago Cardinal George Pell publicly debated atheist celebrity Richard Dawkins on the subject of God’s existence. When Mr. Dawkins was asked about the cause of the universe, and how something could come from nothing, he replied that while his own theory cannot sufficiently answer this question, any answer would be better than something as complex as God. “Nothing is very, very, simple,” Dawkins says, “but God as a creative cause is very complex.”
On the same day that Peter stood stupefied at Jesus’ empty tomb, the risen Lord walked with two of his disciples to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. There, he sat down to share a meal with them, and in the breaking of the bread they finally recognized their Teacher, who promptly vanished from their sight. Immediately, St. Luke tells us, the astonished pair returned to Jerusalem and (breathlessly, it would seem) told the Eleven what had happened.
Jesus Christ is risen! Alleluia!
That’s right, I said the “A” word, and I’ll say it again. Alleluia! This word has been entirely absent during the forty days of Lent, and now it reappears with renewed vigor. It finds every nook and cranny to make its home. In the Divine Office it is sung at the end of each and every antiphon. It infiltrates our prayer to such an extent that we cannot help but remember that this is the Easter season, the season of the Resurrection.