Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Sun

There is a great hymn that I have only ever heard on Good Friday at St. Ben's (aka, St. Joseph's Abbey and Seminary College, St. Benedict, Louisiana). It is called "Sunrise to Sunset Changes Now." It was first written (though not in English) by St. Clement of Alexandria, a Father of the Church. In prayer today, the lyrics came back to mind. I decided I ought to share the image.

In our lives, we all experience the gloom. It's not a total darkness, but we all know it in some way or another. For all of us, there is at least some suffering, though for some maybe more than others. We all realize not only the suffering we experience due to the wrongs that are done to us, but we're also very aware (though we might not admit it) of how much suffering we've caused through the wrong we have done to others. (And that's not even to consider the uncontrollable circumstances of the gloom, like sickness or hard economic times.)

Still, we all know joy as well, even if we don't always remember it. We dwell in darkness, but only to a certain extent. There is just enough light perhaps for us to trip and stumble if we don't have a guide.

We live in a kind of grey-ness, but what sort of grey is it? Is it dusk or is it dawn? Here's where the hymn comes into play:

Sunset to sunrise changes now,
for God doth make his world anew;
on the Redeemer's thorn-crowned brow
the wonders of that dawn we view.

E'en though the sun withholds its light,
lo! a more heavenly lamp shines here,
and from the cross on Calvary's height
gleams of eternity appear.

Here in o'er-whelming final strife
the Lord of life hath victory,
and sin is slain, and death brings life,
and earth inherits heaven's key.

Before Jesus came among us, before God became Man and gave himself for us, our state was that of sunset. The day was headed steadily into night. Our existence, originally intended to be lofty, was speeding toward total darkness, and without the great divine intervention, we were without hope. Through our Original Sin, we did our very best to thwart God's original intention for us.

But He does not give up so easily.

Night was coming fast, and we were caught in the near perfect gloom. But then, in what seemed like defeat, in that moment wherein His human life was extinguished, our truly human life was given back. Sunset was changed into sunrise. Now, we are still waiting in a grey world, but it's the grey of dawn, not of dusk. The sun was so near to sinking with great finality, but now the Sun is about to rise (or rather He IS risen!) and the night will be clear as day.

"You are not in darkness, that the day should catch you off guard like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and of the day. We belong neither to the night or to the darkness." (1 Th 5:4,5)

Indeed, when that Day shall come in all its fullness, the words of Revelation will ring truer than ever: "They shall see the Lord face to face and bear his name on their foreheads. The night shall be no more. They will need no light from lamps or the sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever." (Rev 22:4,5) Just like the hymn says: Lo! a more heavenly lamp shines here! The Cross is the new dawn of the human race.  Just imagine what the day will be like...

Back to the irrelevant photos:
Well, it's not a great photo, but it's the only one I've got of the whole band:
my dad, my three brothers, and me.  This is from our family's celebration of my grandma's 80th birthday.
I've also realized that for a blog entitled "Keytar Catholic," there aren't many pictures of said instrument.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What to Write About...

...when there are so many things to choose from?

The past week has been full of terribly significant events:

  • I showed Rome to my family after 3 years of keeping it to (mostly) myself.
  • After seven years, I shaved my moustache.
  • I was ordained a deacon. ... That deserves reiteration:  I received the Sacrament of Holy Orders!
  • I was ordained, with my class, at St. Peter's in Rome!
  • My uncle, also a deacon, vested me.
  • I left tears on the floor of St. Peter's during the Litany of the Saints.  (It's not like I could wipe my eyes.)
  • I preached a real homily for the first time.
  • I proclaimed the Gospel (three times thus far).
  • I can and have blessed things.
  • I had the privilege of accompanying my grandmother to her ancestral home and visiting the church where my great-grandfather was baptized.
So, let's pick one:  Proclaiming the Gospel (interspersed with photos from the whole week)

The first time I proclaimed the Gospel was with part of my family group during the scavi tour at St. Peter's. The scavi are the excavations below the Basilica that delve down around and into the tomb of St. Peter himself.  Our tour guide, a seminarian from the great Diocese of Brooklyn, usually reads a passage from Gospel at the end of the tour, in the presence of the bones of Peter.  He was about to start when I asked him if I could do it, since I was just ordained a deacon and had not yet proclaimed the Gospel.  He said sure.

Me with Mom and Dad - prior to cutting the moustache

So, I began (and this was cool), "the Lord be with you."  That was the first time I had said those words and the people (my family!) responded.  Then I went on, "A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John."

The reading was from John 21.  I taught a class this summer on the Gospel of John, so I have been pondering this passage and indeed the whole structure and theology of the 4th Gospel for a few months now.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He then said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." (Jesus) said to him, "Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.

Litany of the Saints:
I'm 2nd from the left.

I almost couldn't finish it.  I don't know if those present understood why, but I was moved to tears for so many reasons.  I can't deny that one of the factors was realizing in the midst of reading that it was the first time that I would proclaim the Gospel of Christ, the very thing which had been handed over to me the day previous by Bishop Hebda.  The good news has been given to us for our own good and salvation, but also it is given to us precisely to share with others.  I was, in that moment, doing precisely that - handing on what had been entrusted to me.  But that wasn't what did me in...

Laying on of Hands by Bishop Hebda

Like I said, I've been pondering the 4th Gospel a lot, but ever since I visited the Holy Land two years ago, the story of Peter has spoken to me in a particular way.  This passage marks the reconciliation of Peter and Jesus after Peter's denial - a threefold denial deserves a threefold reconciliation.  And the reconciliation is not expressed in terms of satisfaction, of making up for the wrong Peter had done.  It's all in terms of love.  Since you love me Peter, then this is what you will do.  I am the Good Shepherd, but I'm trusting you to feed my sheep.  And that's just what happened.  Still, it's not what got me so emotional...

Just after receiving the Book of the Gospels:
"Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald
you have become.  Believe what you read,
teach what you believe, practice what you teach."

Remember, we were there at the tomb of Peter, which itself is very near the spot where he was crucified.  Here I was proclaiming the words of Jesus to Peter prophesying the events that would later take place right where we were standing.

Newly Ordained!

At the words, "but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands," I started to crack.

When I read, "and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go," I had to stop speaking for a second and attempt (in vain) to regain my composure.  Not 24 hours prior to this, I was upstairs in the same Basilica being dressed by someone else.  I've always felt a strong connection to St. Peter, but never like it was at that moment.

Offertory Procession:
I'm third from the front.
Offertory Procession:
had to include this shot.

Finally, I read, "He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God."  These words barely made it out of my mouth, and in fact, may not have been comprehensible.

Irenaeus (who was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John - not irrelevant) says, "the glory of God is man alive."  This means (ha! to presume to define what this means in a couple sentences!) that when we are truly living, when we are who we were created to be, this gives glory to God.  Peter, who the night before Jesus died was yet incapable of glorifying God and in fact denied Him, later gave over his living completely to God and the Church, finally to glorify God by his holy death.  His death was a witness to and a joining in the suffering of his Lord and Brother Jesus Christ.

And there we were right where it had happened.

There I was, hoping to glorify God with my life as well, reading (rather, proclaiming) to my family the story of one who had glorified God.  I was telling the story of one who was a friend of He who was lifted up and taught us how to Glorify God.  

Love for life did not deter them from death.

Preaching for the first time
at St. Lawrence Outside the Walls
The two Deacons Vrazel at St. Lawrence:
Uncle Bill vested me the day before.

Martyrdom is not just a sacrifice of one's life for others; it's not just an instinctive falling on the grenade, however noble and good such an action is.  Martyrdom is nothing short of entering into the Glory that Jesus Christ, the Son, gives to the Father.  Peter asked to be crucified upside down because he rightly considered himself unworthy/incapable of doing what Jesus did, but I wonder if in that moment Peter realized that we (myself, my family, millions of other people, you reading this) would see what he did and see in it the Glory of God.

Everything came into sharp clarity at that moment.  The dawn from on high was shining upon us.  I was given a glance into the whole reason why anyone would care to come to Rome, would care to dig around in those humid tunnels, would build such a huge church above them - in moments of such intense clarity, I don't think I can but weep.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I was just ordained a deacon yesterday at St. Peter's in Rome, and today preached at my Mass of Thanksgiving.  It has been an awesome week, and new posts are coming to tell all about it!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Moustache Gone

That's right.

Here's a very relevant photo taken this evening: