Category Archives: Saints

On the extreme violence of Saul and then Saint Paul, because Jesus…

Saint Paul Conversion Damascus Caravaggio

Amidst all the non-sense of the “Just.Wow.” moments in the past number of weeks (and I still must write much more about all that), a reader sent this in by email:

“Father ~ For he testifieth: Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedech. Anyone else notice that?”

Answer: I think we’ve pretty much lost sight of what, of who a priest must be. A priest is the one who, with Christ Jesus, is to bring not peace, but the sword of division. Harsh words? Christ Jesus is deadly serious. Jesus is the One who spoke those words. Jesus is the One who died in extreme violence because of those words. Just note His wounds from having been tortured to death with extreme violence on the Cross. Yep. Extreme violence. Because that’s exactly what sin has done to our souls, to society. If anyone is without God’s grace, that person will use violence, and finally, when pushed, extreme violence with anyone who bears the goodness and kindness and truth of Jesus. He said it Himself: As the Master, so the disciple. Saint Paul would end up meeting with that extreme violence himself, getting decapitated.

But when Jesus pursued Saul so as to make of him Saint Paul, that young Saul was the best student of the Law, and was zealous to the point of an off-kilter extreme violence, so much so that he was unthinking in all of his academic prowess, and decided to put his thoughts into action in the most cowardly way, which is typical. He armed himself with letters of authorization, and then chased off to Damascus with a posse to drag the new Christians out of their houses, the elderly, the middle-aged, the youngsters, the infants, the sucklings at the breast, so as to put them in chains and death-march them back to Jerusalem for trial as heretics, so that he could have the sick joy of executing them. He had blood on his hands already for having assisted at the stoning to death of the new Deacon, Saint Stephen. He couldn’t wait for more.

And then our Lord appeared to him and asked Saul why he was so set on persecuting Him, Jesus, for to persecute the ones Saul was running after was to persecute Jesus personally. Saul converted to Saint Paul. But with all that history of violence in a very violent society, Saint Paul used vocabulary of extreme violence:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12)

Saint Paul would have us all die off, that is, that we be crucified to the world, the flesh and the devil, to our fallen human spirits, so that we might live for Jesus. More succinctly, Saint Paul would kill us off with truth, with goodness and kindness, so that we can live for that truth and goodness and kindness by the power of that truth and goodness and kindness, by the power of Jesus’ life within us.

And then there’s Jesus, you know, with extreme-violence statements about us taking up the instrument of torture and death, the cross, and carrying this, following Him, into battle, with hell. Peaceniks beware! We’re out to kill you! Um… you know, with goodness and kindness and truth. I know a lady who kills people all the time, really evil people… she kills them with kindness. And I’ve seen people melt with such kindness, and they are killed off to themselves, and do change. God is good.

Jesus said that the violent are taking heaven, taking it with violent force. Yep. How’s that? Not with our evil violence. No no. But with a violence that is extreme, incomparably more violent than anything we can come up with: mercy. And while the cynics click away in haughty fear, real fear, running away in the confusion of fear, consider this: there is nothing more violent to ourselves, more geared to having us killed off, than the mercy we receive from Jesus in forgiveness. It kills us off to ourselves to live for him. But that does real violence to us. It is that violence of mercy, of forgiveness, that disrupts peoples lives for the better, which we want to bring others. Kill them all! You know, kill them all off with kindness, with goodness and kindness and truth.

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Homily 2018 04 23 – Saint George

saint george stained glass window

Re-posted today, the Feast of Saint George, as the pictures are great!

====================

Well now. That’s scary. I did a massive search for the fellow I mention in this homily and I couldn’t find one single trace of him anywhere.

Anyway, this is how Saint George was put to death by the Roman Empire:

saint george martyrdom

Anyway, Saint George lives! Saint George lives! Saint George lives!

saint george icon

SAINT GEORGE SLAYING THE DRAGON Unterlinden Museum Colmar

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Homily 2018 12 26 – Jews and the Holy Trinity

saint stephen stoned to death

References to the Most Holy Trinity are to be found throughout the Jewish and then the newly Catholic Sacred Scriptures from Genesis to the Apocalypse. When I was a seminarian in the bad old days, as bad or worse than today, when heresy was everywhere to be found among seminary profs, any references to the Most Holy Trinity in any of the Scriptures was simply denied, as if this were something palatable to, I don’t know, Jews, maybe Muslims. Maybe it was just lust to deny anything that was a teaching of the Catholic Church just to do it. One was then “hip” and “groovy” and “up-to-date”, but really just a thief who was stealing the truth away from the children of God.

Let’s take a timely example of the Most Holy Trinity in the Scriptures. Right after Christmas we have the feast of Saint Stephen, Deacon, the First Martyr. Let’s take a look at the Lectionary entry for the first lesson (ACTS 6:8-10; 7:54-59).

Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit [the Holy Spirit: see “filled with the Holy Spirit” below] with which he spoke.

When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with [1] the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and [2] Jesus standing at the right hand of [3] God [the Father], and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

The Holy Spirit, inspiring the Sacred Scriptures, say that the Jews cannot withstand the Holy Spirit that filled Saint Stephen. They perceive the Holy Spirit even while Stephen speaks of Jesus and the Father.

Is the Holy Spirit being rude in pointing out “the Jews” like this? No. This is presented in the sense of even the Jews cannot withstand the Holy Spirit (so, much less us, the non-Jews). As the “young man named Saul” would later write as Saint Paul about the Jews:

“They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah. God, who is over all, be blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:4-5).

We are all the Jews who attacked Stephen. But only the Jews have the promises and patriarchs. But we’ve all crucified the Son of the Living God with our sin. And we are all redeemed. To be saved, well, that involves the free will of us all.

Let’s be up-to-date not be rejecting the Triune God who is Truth and Love, but by being lifted up into the timelessness of He who created time and entered into time, drawing all to Himself across time, across Calvary, when He was lifted up on the Cross, He who born to die, whose birth we celebrate even as we honor the first martyr for Him.

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On “Flowers from St Thérèse”

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These little flowers jumped up from a cactus right next to the statue of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux outside of our little church of Holy Redeemer in Andrews, NC.  A priest friend of mine has a great devotion to Saint Thérèse, who is forever all the time giving him flowers, that is, when he is reciting a novena asking her about some intention or other.

He said that this has nothing whatsoever to do with “getting an answer” about anything, as if she were equivalent to a séance or a crystal ball or to palm reading or to Tarot cards or a Ouija board or whatever other ultra-stupid dangerous things people do.

He explained that this was merely an indication that she is paying attention to what he or other similar devotees are praying about, and not at all that she is interceding in any other way than to put this matter before the Lord, whatever way it is that the Lord Jesus is going to go about His providence for us sinners while we are here in exile upon this earth. I’m good with that.

For myself, I don’t do that. But I do preach about, offer spiritual direction about Thérèse, about a particular stage of the spiritual life she went through. She’s one of the saints most influential in my own spiritual life, in my life as a priest. That refers to looking to Jesus to save us with us stripped of all pride. It doesn’t mean I’ve taken it all to heart!

People think they are smart to recall her name in religion: Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, and then citing her “little way.” Good! But, they should also remember her FULL name in religion: Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, as in the imprint of the image of the face of Jesus on the cloth Saint Veronica used to wipe His face from blood, sweat and tears as He carried His cross. You have to be a child to be in solidarity with Jesus as He is in solidarity with us in His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

But there’s more we often forget about Saint Thérèse. She is a daughter not just of Saint Teresa of Jesus, not just a follower of such as Saint John of the Cross. She speaks of the founder of her religious order as Saint Elijah, the greatest prophet of the Old Testament. She spoke of him, of course, in the traditional manner: “Our Holy Father Elijah.” You’ll remember one of his greatest moments that took place just below the Carmelite Monastery on the northern slope on the far eastern side of the ridge of Mount Carmel:

elijah judas tree

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Sts Paul VI, Oscar Romero

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Like Mother like Son)

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October and still blooming. All for Mary, that’s what I always say. All for Mary. But giving her flowers… is that too easy?

I recall another exclamation: “All for Jesus!” Behold, a conversation in which this comes into play, when the words have to be put into action. This is my absolute all time favorite video of Mother Teresa reprimanding a priest and bishop:

When it comes down to it, if we actually believe that it’s all for Jesus, all for Mary, it’s all just as giving a flower created by Jesus to Mary. Yep.

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Priest whistle blower to be canonized? Santo subito! Do it for vocations!

  • I’ve been weighted down with this since I saw it yesterday, and I’ve watched it many times.
  • I prayed for him, and now I’m praying to him.
  • The Diocese tried to discredit him by saying that he had a checkered history and that surely this was a suicide. Surely, a suicide: two bullets to the back of the head.
  • I find it interesting that the fax machine was taken. Who steals a fax machine and anything related to his being a whistle blower, except maybe the ones he’s blowing the whistle on? I bet the reporter who got the fax called the diocese for comment, was put off in some benign fashion, but later on received a threat to be silent and make the report disappear. When the reporter found out that Father Moreno was dead the reporter made sure to remain silent.

Thomas Aquinas says that the grace of final perseverance is not to be presumed, and that we should pray for this throughout our lives. Having considered that, now take a look at the grace that supports martyrs in their final moments while they persevere in giving witness to Christ no matter the cost, laying down their lives for their friends, the rest of us, which Jesus Himself says is the greatest demonstration of love that we can give. Such love covers a multitude of… of… checkered history or whatever. That’s why we say that martyrs go right to heaven. They were, in the moment of their deaths, at one with God who is love. It is the height of the grace of final perseverance.

His name is Father Joseph F. Moreno, Jr. It would be a great grace for the Church and the world if he were to be canonized.

SANTO SUBITO!

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For St John Vianney it’s all about Jesus

cure dars chapel john baptist

What’s that I hear? There are… are… are controverted issi-oos somewhere inside oneself, somewhere in the world, somewhere in the Church? Oh. That’s new. What a surprise.

Breathless argumentation which condemns all others to hell, all as heretics, all with simple emotional assertions on their own or simple emotional assertions shrouded lightly with – Oooo! – lots of verbiage…. all this breathless argumentation always and every time seems to forget entirely about Jesus. It is in this way that doctrine turns into ideology, meaning that it’s all about oneself asserting an assertion, any assertion, and whether right or wrong (that’s irrelevant as essentially important premises to the argument bite the dust and not essentially important premises are introduced as being totally decisive, ripping words and phrases out of context, which is pretext), it’s: “I’m right; you’re wrong. I’m justified; you’re not. I’ve condemned everyone to hell as a heretic and so that includes you too.”

The great thing about St John Vianney, as with any other saint, is that, for him, Jesus was of paramount importance, and more than merely paramount; for Father Vianney, Jesus was and is all important. It’s all about Jesus. He’s the One. He’s the only one. So, for him, it was all about him saying: “Father, please hear my confession.” And then he would hear confessions, confessions, confessions, confessions.

By the way, that picture up top is the chapel of Saint John the Baptist, the one who lost his head for a dance. Father Vianney literally knocked out the side of his parish church to build this side chapel to combat the brood of vipers in his mountain village.

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Homily 2018 04 30 Pius V – Lepanto

pius v

The typical painting of Saint Pius V above. Below, his tomb at Saint Mary Majors. That picture was taken on one of my day pilgrimages in Rome while on the Missionary of Mercy ad limina (so to speak).

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In this, the “Sistine” chapel at Saint Mary Majors, just opposite Pius V in location though not in faith, is Pope Sixtus V (also my hero whose repentance I strive to imitate) but I digress.

Today’s homily:

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Visiting prison: Tarcissius! Prayers for Father Gordon MacRae and Pornchai

In the last moments before leaving Rome I made it out to Saint Lawrence’s Outside the Walls. This is in the Blessed Sacrament chapel below the altar: Saint Tarcissius. Or am I wrong? This little boy was commissioned by the Pope (who would be forthwith martyred in the catacombs) to bring the Blessed Sacrament to prisoners at the Coliseum. He was doing this…

He was doing this when he was smashed down and beaten to death by some other boys who wanted whatever it was he was carrying. They could not wrench it from his hands, even in death.

I felt compelled to pray for Fr Gordon MacRae and Pornchai here. Will you join me with some prayers for them? It’s like taking the good example of Saint Tarcissius…

Angel of God…

Hail Mary…

Saint Michael the Archangel…

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St Lawrence’s prison: praying for Fr Gordon MacRae & Pornchai

During my last hours in Rome I made a pilgrimage to Saint Lawrence’s prison. It’s terribly, terribly tiny, and often has about an extra 18 inches of water on the floor when it rains. This

Here’s the high altar:

Some historical notes. I’m sure some of you can translate these:

And here’s the entrance to the prison. The steps down are very steep.

I felt compelled to pray for Fr Gordon MacRae and Pornchai here. Saint Lawrence was imprisoned with a non-Christian who was blind, but who miraculously received his sight at the intercession of Saint Lawrence and who then requested to be baptised there in prison. I’m sure you can draw an analogy. Will you join me with some prayers?

Angel of God…

Hail Mary…

Saint Michael the Archangel…

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Saint Paul’s chains and my good friend Fr Gordon MacRae

I made a pilgrimage to the Major Papal Basilica of Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls. What you see above is the baldacchinoed central altar with the apse in the background with its mosaic of Jesus and Paul. Far below the altar, down in the “confession” a bit of archeological digging was done recently. Saint Paul’s sarcophagus was found with all manner of indication that this is him. You can see one side of this in the back of the excavation. Between this and the altar you can see the chains which he wore and which he mentioned in his letters. On the top of that box you see three figures, Saint Paul in the middle and his two companion jailors to either side.

I felt compelled to pray for Fr Gordon MacRae and Pornchai here. Will you join me?

Angel of God…

Hail Mary…

Saint Michael the Archangel…

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Young St Benedict’s living quarters in Rome

3 feet wide, 10 feet long, 15 feet high. I bet he had a loft for his senatorial studies. Some pillows?

Here’s the new church, looking like it was built by the crusaders…

John and John, both my confirmation saints[!], Pointing out the Lamb of God. Always. It’s all about Jesus.

Superb architecture. We are just so boring and unimaginative these days.

Anyway, young Benedict found Rome so corrupt that he fled to a cave for three years in remote mountains at the center of his country. Imagine that. Who else in their right mind would ever do that?

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Assassination attempt. Building the shrines.

This is the spot not far from the obelisk where Saint John Paul II was almost taken out by the Muslim KGB guy. A humble marker. JPII lived another 24 years. But still. Can’t it at least say what happened? Or is that “building the shrines of the prophets” as the hypocrites do? He drew me into the confessional, to the priesthood, unto the Eucharist. He’s John Paul the great to me.

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San Lorenzo in Damaso: when Church – State politics get hot go to Confession

Jumping off bus 46, I headed into the side entrance of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Damaso. Greeting one of the elderly security guards – one of the quiet Saint Joeph like personages one sometimes meets – I then took this picture at a side chapel where a priest might say some prayers of thanksgiving after offering Holy Mass.

The security guard, spying with perpicasity my devotion, tapped me on the shoulder and silently bid me to follow him. He never once spoke. He pointed at a side altar and then at the explanation written out for pilgrims on the altar rail.

Many relics are above the altar as you can see, including those of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I had much to do with Mother Teresa. She was a huge influence in my life. Sorry, I’m nostalgic. I just about cried.

This is the Blessed Sacrament chapel whose altar rail and floor are featured in a certain book, as is the Tabernacle.

Glancing up one sees Saint Lawrence.

A most important place in the Basilica…

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Homily 2018 02 23 Hell and Purgatory Saint Polycarp to heaven. Fiery love.

The movie is by Ignatius Press. Came out a few years ago.

I wish there was a common calendar for the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms of the Mass. Polycarp falls on different days. Of course, that also means you could celebrate him twice, or, unfortunately, not at all, depending.

There have been a couple of boys over the years that I knew who took the name Polycarp for a Confirmation name, one in my own Confirmation group when I was a kid back in Minnesota, and another in one of my parishes in the outback of Australia. Good for them.

Saint Polycarp was a bishop and a martyr – imagine that: a bishop and martyr – burned at the stake. Today’s Mass was offered for the Bishop of this diocese.

Polycarp is also the name of a character in Jackass for the Hour, though he has the nickname of Carpe Diem.

Here’s the homily:

Here’s the prayer of Bishop Polycarp just before he was put to death:

O Lord God Almighty, the Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of You, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before you, I give You thanks that You have counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Your martyrs, in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost. Among whom may I be accepted this day before You as a fat and acceptable sacrifice, according as You, the ever-truthful God, have foreordained, have revealed beforehand to me, and now have fulfilled. Wherefore also I praise You for all things, I bless You, I glorify You, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, with whom, to You, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen.

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The Son-shine from within: Aquinas and donkeys in the sky

I guess I shouldn’t be seeing things in the clouds. But in the skies above I see a donkey. And, of course, I would see a donkey, right? But then I immediately recall someone who wrote words of straw (which donkeys eat) who had the Son-shine within him.

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7 — We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.

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Donkey Day. Jackass Jubilee. Jan 14. Patron: [Saint]: Alexamenos [Martyr] Gilbert Keith Chesterton to the rescue.

alexamenos crucified donkey

Yesterday was Donkey Day, or better, the Feast of “Jackasses” should we use the more technical, archaic English “jack” [for the male of the species such as Jackdaw, Jackrabbit, and so on] and the Latin scientific description asinus, short for its combined form with its high classification, equus asinus.

There is much to be said about this great feast day going back many centuries. There are videos, musical tributes, “liturgies.” But all of that has lost the plot, it seems to me. I think the origins of this ancient feast were obscured by time with the asinine (so to speak) activities of irony that abounded to such a degree that the more serious side was overshadowed.

I’m guessing that the original inspiration for this feast, inviting all the irony and carry-on to celebrate the irony that is so essential to Christianity, goes back to what I’m guessing is an incident which sparked the martyrdom of Jewish boy named Alexamenos (“Defender”) who had converted to Christianity and somehow found himself on the lower South slopes of Monte Palatino, opposite the Roman Forum and Colosseum, overlooking the Circus Maximus, in the Imperial School, studying up on how best to serve the Caesar of the day.

At the time, the chariot races and battle ship matches and such taking place in the Circus Maximus, for which he and his fellow students always had a front row seat, also afforded him a view of what was happening in the central divider island inside the “circus” itself. At regular intervals there were places where Christians were placed, and where they would be made sport of by gladiators until they died, one after the other.

It seems this was too much for little Alexamenos, so indignant, who then spoke of how wrong this was because it is another Jewish fellow, Jesus, God, who standing in our place, and crucified, was put to death for what we deserved because of sin so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. Being a Christian was, however, obviously outlawed by the Caesars of the day. It was a blood bath. The classmates of Alexamenos would first mock him, and then, I suppose, see an opportunity to be seen as being loyal to Caesar, they would betray Alexamenos and have him put to death.

The mockery involves the graffito etched into the stone walls of their classroom. That entire bit of the wall was removed when it was relatively recently discovered. A replica was made and placed into a museum just a stone’s throw from the Imperial School, the Antiquarium del Palatino. Yours truly took a picture of that, which is reproduced on the top of this post.

The graffito depicts a little boy worshiping a crucified donkey. Other nations held that the donkey was the national symbol of Israel, the Hebrews, the Jews. Jesus, the “King of the Jews” as Pontius Pilate had written, was to be depicted as a donkey.

The mockery is rather incisive. But Jesus came precisely to receive that mockery, to be that donkey, indeed, as Saint Paul says in his short hand, to become sin for us, standing in our place, the innocent for the guilty. If we have no sense of irony, we have no faith.

G.K. Chesterton, like St Augustine before him, had a great sense of irony. He has this about the greatness of donkeys.

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Or did you not know that donkeys were always with the Holy Family:

  • On the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem
  • At the manger when Jesus was born
  • On the trip from Bethlehem to Egypt
  • On the trip from Egypt all the back to Nazareth
  • On the trip into Jerusalem for Jesus to be crucified

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Seen at the soup kitchen

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My history with Thomas More

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My first experience with Sir Thomas was as a kid, rummaging through the book shelves on either side of the fireplace warming any reader during the long and cold Minnesota Winters. I ran across this small volume of Daniel Sargent with its wonderful quotation of Cardinal Pole in 1535, immediately after the decapitation of Thomas. That’s my dad’s signature when he was studying philosophy and law at Saint Thomas (Aquinas) in the Twin Cities, also thinking about being a seminarian. And then I found this gem by Robert Bolt.

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That was good, and then, wow, I saw, if once, then a thousand times, the film A Man for All Seasons. I know many priests who could spend an evening cooking a good meal while reciting the script of the film verbatim without missing a beat. Alfred Hitchcock had some great, tightly scripted films, but there is nothing like the tight script of this film, that is, because if plays off the scenes, the previous scenes, the following scenes, utterly brilliant. I guess I’m projecting a bit here, but I’m guessing that everyone knows the entire script of the film off by heart. No? For part of that, see: Being a hero by not being a hero.

Meanwhile, throughout my life as a deacon and then priest, Sir Thomas has very often come back to mind and heart and soul in damned if I do, damned if I don’t circumstances. I’ve asked his intercession quite continuously throughout the decades. I’ve learned in God’s grace simply not to compromise. I don’t congratulate myself for this, and Thomas would not glory in his non-compromise. It’s not about that. That’s idiocy. I’ve learned that if you don’t compromise, the Lord will take care of you one way or another. It’s about what our Lord wants. Love, given by the Lord, makes it reasonable. See, again: Being a hero by not being a hero.

When I got the chance in London, I went on a tour of the Tower of London and the various associated sites around the tower. The military operator guy who was our guide condemned Thomas for not compromising. Sigh.

Anyway, there are those who condemn Robert Bolt for writing a “based on a true story” script, saying that because of that talent in bringing an historical character to life for us, all is false and untrue, boldly stating that Thomas could not speak those words. But that is absurd. How can you say something never happened unless you were there yourself? Ah, I forgot:

richard rich thomas more wales

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