Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Choice You Make—Sixth week in Ordinary Time (Cycle A)

Sirach 15:15–20; 1 Cor. 2:6–10; Matt. 5:17–37
I'm going to be bold and propose something to you that I believe is true and consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church, even though many of us don't realize it. Actually, I know it to be true, but it's one of those truths that isn't spoken often enough.
God will not condemn anyone who chooses Him. God will not forsake those, flawed as they may be, who sincerely and earnestly desire to be with Him.
By proposing this, I am not saying that sin doesn't matter or that God will not act justly and condemn some—perhaps many—of those who call themselves Christians, and some—perhaps many—who are not. But God will not condemn anyone who chooses Him.
What do I mean by that? How is it that Christians might not be saved or that non-Christians might be saved? I would point to our first reading from Sirach as a clue.
He has set  before you fire and water: to whichever you choose, stretch out your hand. Before a man are life and death, good and evil; whichever he chooses shall be given to him.
This passage is an allusion to one from Deuteronomy, Moses' final exhortation to the People of Israel as they prepare to pass into the Promised Land
I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him.
Notice that the Promised Land is already theirs. All they have to do is grasp it. They just need to make the right choice. There's no more searching and waiting. The choice is right there before them. They just have to choose the blessing, and that blessing resides in the words of the Law and the prophets.
            Now you would think that you could look at two such clear choices—life or death—and know exactly which you would choose, but human history demonstrates that we're really bad at this game. It goes back to the very beginning. Adam is plopped down in a garden where all these beautiful fruit trees and edible plants are, including the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God tells him, "You can eat from anything in the garden except that tree right there— the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil."
            It's right there next to the Tree of Life! Yet even then, which one does mankind choose?
            Such is the nature of mankind. Part of the problem is with our vision—our perspective. We simply don't see with clarity. Our vision is obscured, so how could we choose correctly? As St. Paul points out, "What eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love Him" or elsewhere in 1 Corinthians, "we see indistinctly as through a mirror." If we can't choose wisely from the obvious goods in front of us, how can we forestall those choices and choose what God has prepared for us—the greatest good that is so far beyond our understanding?
            We live in a world that does its best to muddy the moral waters and culture that encourages relativistic moral thinking. Nothings is black and white, just shades of gray. Never mind that you can't have gray without blending black and white. Now I'm not suggesting that all moral distinctions are easy to make, but some most certainly are, so long as we are willing to see.
            That's really Jesus' point here in the Sermon on the Mount. He's telling us that sometimes those gray areas we think exist between one choice and another, morally speaking, are not gray at all. The law says that those who commit murder are liable to the Law, but Jesus says anger at your brother, calling him Raqa or fool makes you liable.
            The law says not to commit adultery, but Jesus says even looking at someone with lust is equal to adultery. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. If your hand, cut it off.
            I don't think Jesus is buying this stuff about shades of gray either. In fact, he intensifies every law: not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter of the Law will pass away, He says. If anyone sets the bar high for righteousness, it's the King of Righteousness right here in this gospel.
            But how can anyone hold up to such a standard? To never condemn someone in thought? To never think a lustful thought, or to see and not covet? How can we hold to that expectation always?
            Well, fortunately, we get a bit of a break, because Jesus is using hyperbole in this passage. He's exaggerating in order to drive home His point. He knows that we have difficulty seeing clearly, so He blows up the examples to the point that no one can miss the message.
            Jesus doesn't mean that we should be cutting off our errant hands and blinding ourselves for the least temptation. He is telling us to be aware of the source of all sin: the mind and heart, because they drive the human will. The will is the immediate source of an act. Any wrong act that is not motivated by will is simply an accident. But only a wrong act motivated by will can be sinful. Sin is always a matter of the will and of choice. And our will is informed and motivated first and foremost by what resides in our hearts and thoughts. To the Jewish mind of Jesus' time, heart and mind would be one and the same.
            So Jesus isn't saying that your eye in itself is sinful, or that your hand is sinful. He's saying that when you hold something in your mind and heart that can motivate your eye or your hand to sin, you are already on the pathway. If you dwell on evil thoughts, you are giving them a chance to grow into evil action. Jesus is telling the crowds and his disciples to go beyond the letter of the law to its spirit. You can murder someone literally, which most of us would never do, but we can also murder them in our thoughts, in our hearts, or in our words. We might not commit adultery, but if we're harboring lustful thoughts toward someone, we're already building the doorway that lets us into that room.
            So at every moment, we need to be ready to resist, and resistance is a choice, which brings us back to what I said at the beginning of this homily.
God will not condemn anyone who chooses Him. God will not forsake those, flawed as they may be, who sincerely and earnestly desire to be with Him. Then how do we choose Him? Is it simply a matter of an altar call? Do we just believe in the Lord Jesus and recite the sinner's prayer, as some of our Evangelical brethren believe? I'll make another bold move now and propose, no. It is not enough to say the sinner's prayer or simply "believe in the Lord Jesus" or to simply "believe in God." St. James says that the "demons believe—and tremble." If belief were enough for salvation, then demons would have no need to tremble.
So belief alone is not enough. We must act on belief. We must choose, because only in our choosing God do we demonstrate faith. Faith and belief are not equal. I can believe that our government has the ability to make dramatic societal change in our time but have no faith in them at all. Belief and faith aren't the same thing.
If I have belief in God but don't trust His will for me, then I have no faith. If I believe in an all-powerful benevolent being who wills what is best for me but constantly choose what is worst for me, then I have no faith. If I consistently choose myself over my neighbor, myself over God's revelation, myself and temporal things over my own greatest good, I might have belief, but I don't have true faith.
Faith is what allows me to choose the thing that draws me closer to God. Through faith, I can understand that I do not see all matters clearly. I can grasp that my notion of what is good for me is distorted. I can accept that my will might not lead me to the greatest good, but God's will always does. So if I choose to align my will with God's, I will be saved. If I choose to seek Him in everything I do, I will be saved. If I choose always to have my own way, then it will be, and it won't be the will of God.
In the end, there are two outcomes. Either I say to God, "Thy will be done," or God says to me, "Thy will be done."

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Darwin's Immediate Book Meme

Simcha Fisher is joining Mrs. Darwin in the Immediate Book Meme, so I though I'd join in too. Because I have too many books to read... and am reading too many right now.

1. What book are you reading now?

The Building of Christendom by Warren H. Carroll

This is the second in a five volume series that details the rise and fall of Christendom, by which Carroll means the regions in which the Christian faith came to dominate, not necessarily Christianity itself.  He by no means white washes some of the ugliness of history (unlike some Catholic historical treatments), but he does highlight the ebb and flow of Christian civilization throughout the last two millennia. I'm a bit over halfway through and am thoroughly enjoying it. I've got vol. 3 waiting in the wings.

2. What book did you just finish?

The Galilean Jewishness of Jesus by Fr. Bernard Lee.

The mentor from diaconal formation was purging his library offered me a bunch of his books. This one caught my eye, as I've been fascinated by this topic since I wrote my MA thesis. So much of biblical analysis of the last two hundred years has been essentially projection of the interpreter's values onto the text (eisegesis rather than exegesis). I've always considered it vital to understand the audience, linguistic, and cultural contexts in which the Gospel stories take place. This is Lee's attempt at addressing the issue. While I wasn't dissatisfied with it, I can't say it edified me as much as The Nazarene by Eugenio Zolli. But, then, Zolli's backstory also makes the book that much more intriguing. 

3. What do you plan to read next?

Hmmmm. Good question. Probably...

although anything that pops up in my radar could be fair game.

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

Yeah, about that. I've got a bit of a backlog.

Probably a whole lot of others.

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

All of them.

6. What is your current reading trend?

Mostly Christian history, philosophy, and theology. A bit of fantasy fiction thrown into the mix. I would love to read more fiction, but get so torn about what to read.

7. What are you reading out loud? 

Simcha added this one, and my reason for reading out loud is way different than hers. 

Have to read it out loud to practice! This was a great discover from my brother Deacon Scott Pearhill. It's laid out a lot like the Navarre Bible Series, with the Hebrew text and the translation next to it, with commentary. Scott's was so loaded with notes—I feel like a slacker for not marking mine up.

So that's most of what's on my list. If you want to join, here are the questions for you to answer.

1. What book are you reading now?
2. What book did you just finish?
3. What do you plan to read next?
4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?
5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

6. What is your current reading trend?
[and Simcha's additional question:] 7. What are you reading out loud? 


Sunday, January 08, 2017

The Epiphany of Our Lord

Isaiah 60:1–6; Ephesians:2–3a, 5–6; Matthew 2:1–12
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, an ancient celebration of the Church in both the East and the West.
In the common use of the word, an epiphany is a sudden perception of absolute clarity, a moment at which some mystery becomes startlingly obvious. Whenever the Epiphany comes around, I always remember a scene from Hook, a great movie with Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams. Captain Hook's somewhat dimwitted first mate Smee, played by Bob Hoskins, is staring out the window of the captain's quarters, and he gets this wide-eyed look on his face and says, "I've just had... an apostrophe."
Apostrophe, epiphany... close enough. Smee describes it as like lightening striking his brain. Suddenly he sees something in a flash that he didn't grasp before. His mind takes ownership of something he perhaps had been told many times but never quite understood himself. In that way an apostrophe is like an epiphany. In our written language, an apostrophe represents ownership.
That's what the Epiphany is about—suddenly seeing what was not apparent before; suddenly grasping a mystery that was beyond reach just moments ago. We come to own a truth of the faith that was previously beyond us.
As I mentioned, this feast day is an ancient observance in the Church. It first began in the 3rd century as a commemoration of the Baptism of the Lord, which we now celebrate one week or an octave after the Epiphany. (My bad here, looks at the wrong dates in the planner. It's Monday 1/9.) In the 4th century, it also came to be associated with the changing of water to wine at Cana, as well as the visit of the Magi. For the Western Church, it has been more closely associated with the visit of the Magi since that time. So we have these three events that are separated in time and seem at first glance to be completely unrelated. We have to delve a bit deeper to understand the ancient thinking on these three events.
By the way, I would recommend to all of you who want to understand better the roots of our Catholic faith to study the early Church Fathers. We have our traditions and our understanding through their thought and reflection on such events as this one. To be steeped in the thought of the Fathers of the Church is to have a true foundation in the Catholic faith.
That's my little plug for the Patristic Tradition of the Church.
So how are these three events related? How do we tie them all to this notion of epiphany, of revelation? The word itself means "manifestation," and Pope St. Leo I, one of the Fathers of the Church I just mentioned,  clarified it a bit more and referred to the Theophany—the manifestation of God. In the Baptism of Jesus, God the Father Himself claims Jesus as His begotten son. In the Wedding at Cana, Jesus reveals Himself through the changing of water to wine. And in the visit of the Magi, God made flesh is revealed to the Gentiles.
Each of these events depicts the further manifestation of God, not in the veiled forms and words of the prophets and nature, but in His physical presence on earth, here with us. That is what His name Emmanuel means: God with us.
The earliest is the visit of the Magi. The wise men of the other nations—the pagan nations—recognize the arrival of the newborn king of the Jews. These wise men from the east are often associated with Persian astrologers, but some scholars now think that there was perhaps a bit more influence from the Jewish faith on the Persians. Recall that Israel was exiled to Babylon and dispersed for many years prior to the coming of Christ. They weren't among ignorant people but civilized, advanced societies. It was a Persian king, Cyrus the Great, who sent the dispersed Jews back to Jerusalem and who funded the rebuilding of the temple. No doubt the leaders of the Jewish people exchanged ideas with the learned of Persia. So it's not hard to imagine that the scriptures of the Jews were known to some of them, and perhaps they developed their own understanding of God and His Messiah, His anointed one.
So following whatever sign they witnessed—a comet, an alignment of planets, or some other mysterious sign in the heavens—the Magi came bearing gifts and inquiring about the newborn king.
Let's think about what this manifestation means to the Magi, to Herod, and then to us. The Magi travel most likely from Persia, a journey of more than 1000 miles on the routes of the time. They travel trusting the words of prophets from scripture, trusting that this sign will confirm a revelation. What is it they expect? Are they simply coming to pay their respects to royalty? Notice that the reading doesn't say, "They bowed down and did obeisance to him," which would be the expected behavior of visitors to a king. No, as Matthew says, "They fell down and worshipped Him." Bowing down in obeisance is something someone does as an act of the will. But falling down in worship? That's an intuitive, emotional response. They recognized something here greater than any earthly king. Something Divine, God's anointed, was manifest, and they responded as anyone should who gets a mere glimpse of the Christ, the Anointed One of God.
Compare this to Herod's response. While the non-Jewish Magi travel over a thousand miles, instigated by the appearance of a star, Herod—an Idumean and nominal convert to Judaism at best, lives a short walk from Bethlehem, less than six miles. He's completely oblivious to the prophesies about the newborn king. And when he does learn of Him, he responds with little alacrity. He doesn't get up and rush on to Bethlehem but sends the Magi on ahead. "You go on and then let me know where He is so I can see him later."
That doesn't sound like someone looking forward to the consolation of Israel. It sounds like someone who couldn't care less. Or worse.
And it is worse, as we learn before the chapter is out. Herod sends his troops to slaughter all the newborn boys up to two years of age. So Herod's seeming indifference is really much more malignant. He can't even look on the newborn king himself. He sends others to destroy Him.
So there are the responses to the Epiphany: go searching far and wide for the anointed king, wave him off as something to be sought later, or seek to kill him and never look him in the face. Those are our choices.
What are we going to choose? The Messiah, the Lord's Anointed has been revealed to us. How will we respond?
Some of us act as if there is no urgency, no immediate need to seek God, to seek repentance. We wave it off as if it's something we can take care of later. Or perhaps we are unaware of our own need for salvation because we no longer have any sense of sin.
How many times have you heard people say, "Hey, I'm a good person. I haven't killed anyone"?
That is not exactly setting the bar very high.
But that is exactly what most of us do. We look around at the obvious presence of God around us in the world and say, "Meh, it looks better in high definition." We are so unimpressed with the beauty around us, so accustomed to comfort that we don't see the miracle of natural design, of Divine intervention as the very fabric of our lives. That is why we need an Epiphany. We need to be slapped upside the head with the manifestation of God in the flesh.
So some of us wave off the Epiphany out of ignorance and apathy. But some of us resist it violently. The last thing we want is an Epiphany. We not only don't feel the need to pursue truth, we want to ignore it, to deny it... to kill it.
That is Herod's response. He sees the manifestation of God only in terms of his station, only in its temporal effects, only as a threat. So he doesn't seek to face it or comprehend it. He wants to extinguish it.
But to those who are open to the mystery, the Epiphany is a wonder. It draws us in. We seek it, not out of duty, but out of love and awe. The pope, in his Epiphany homily on Friday, says that Magi represent all of those who long for God, those who have grown restless and are, in his words, rebelling against those forces of secularism that try to reduce and impoverish our lives.

It took courage to set out on a journey of a thousand miles. The Magi were willing to risk it for a glimpse of the new king. It took courage to follow Him during the early years when the Church faced intense persecution. What does it cost us today? What risks are we willing to face to look into the face of God?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Hope We Await—Third Sunday of Advent(Cycle A)

Isaiah 35:1–6a, 10; James 5:7–10; Matthew 11:2–11
            This third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin Introit for today's Mass from Philippians 4: "Rejoice in the Lord always." The light of Jesus' coming is dawning on us, and so we light a rose colored candle and wear rose colored vestments to celebrate and rejoice in the coming dawn. Some ministers will rejoice a bit less if you tease them about wearing pink today, so for the record, I will remind you that we are wearing rose colored garments.
            So my question to you today is for what are we waiting?
            Advent is about anticipation. We are in waiting for the coming of Jesus, not once but twice. First, we await His coming in human history, in the Incarnation. Second, we await His final coming at the final judgment. And for both of these events we rejoice. But I think we see these as two separate events. We have the Incarnation of the Son of God in the world, and few millennia later we have the Son of God coming on the clouds to judge the nations.
            I'd like to suggest we look at these events as not two separate and disconnected events but as a single continuous reality. Not as individual events in history but as two instances connected by a single thread.
            This is not an unusual way to look at events in the Church. The Passover that the Jews celebrated has always been seen as a single event entered into annually by the people of Israel. The Eucharist is our own celebration, an evolution from the Passover and the Todah (thanksgiving) offerings in the temple, but now an eternal offering: one that took place at the Last Supper, but also one that takes place simultaneously here on this altar and in eternity as the wedding feast of the Lamb.
            And in a way, Advent is the same. We have two events separated by time, but the first is the precursor to the last. Christ's incarnation is necessarily joined to His coming again, and His coming into the world instigated a process that will be complete when He comes again.
            So for what are we waiting?
            The second reading perhaps captures this sense of anticipation best. James writes to believers in what he calls the "twelve tribes in the dispersion." This language is usually used to speak of the People of Israel, but James is specifically addressing Christians in the diaspora. And he is telling them to be patient. They are experiencing a time of trial, but the judge is waiting and will soon come to set things right. That's really what the prophets say consistently throughout the Old Testament.
            A few weeks ago on Christ the King Sunday, I mentioned that Christ is the God of reversals. And our readings this week bear this out. Our first reading from Isaiah proclaims,
Here is your God; he comes with vindication; with Divine recompense he comes to save you. Then the eyes of the blind will  be opened, the ears of the deaf will be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Isaiah anticipates that the just judge will reverse the injustice and misery of the people. Recall that our first parents in Eden lived in original innocence and suffered from none of the maladies from which the rest of us now do. Their disobedience introduced suffering into the world. But even before they exit the garden, God the Father has already pointed the way forward to a remedy, to His vindication:
Then the LORD God said to the snake: Because you have done this, cursed are you among all the animals, tame or wild; On your belly you shall crawl, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel.
Even as God explains the consequences of their actions to Adam and Ishahwoman, which is her original name—she doesn't get the name Eve until after the incident—even as He explains the consequences to them, he announces that there is a plan: the seed of the woman. "They will strike at your head." Mother and son will both strike at the head of the serpent. That is one interpretation, at least. Either way, God has a plan, and the Son is its fulfillment.
            And Isaiah picks up on it. He predicts that the just judge will vindicate and save the people. And then he gives all the signs of that vindication: the blind see; the deaf hear; the lame walk; and the mute speak.
            Remember, all of these ill effects are consequences of the disobedience of Adam and the Woman. So everything that Isaiah proposes is an undoing of the effects of our first parents' disobedience.
            We get a lot of these kinds of reversals in scripture—the undoing of evil by the redeemer who flips history on its head. It begins with the small reversals, like when Sarah's son Isaac precedes the first-born Ishmael, or when Joseph's slavery becomes the redemption of his family. In 1 Samuel 2, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, sings of the reversals that God brings to the righteous: those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. This song has a parallel in the liturgy of this season, in the Magnificat of Mary in Luke 1: " The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty."
            John the Baptist reflects the same hope, the same desire, when he sends his disciples to ask Jesus if He is the one. And Jesus responds by pointing to the reversals taking place in their midst: "The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them." All of the reversals proclaimed by Isaiah and then some. He goes beyond all our hopes.
            All of these signs reiterate James' message to the dispersion: Be patient. Our vindication is coming. They are all signs of the hope of Israel, and signs that point forward to our hope.
            For what are we waiting? For what are we hoping?
Jesus is the God of reversals. He undoes the disobedience of Adam, he unties the knot of original sin that bound us. What more does He need to unbind in our lives?
            All of us have those wounds, those weaknesses, those bad habits and attachments that weigh us down and bind us to this world. What in your life does Jesus need to unbind?
            That is our hope this season, to be released from our own failings, from our anxieties, from our sorrow. Sometimes we can successfully paper over our brokenness, hide it, and forget that it's there. We can fill our lives with noise, wealth, parties, and busyness—but all of that ends. All of that leaves us in a short time, and the emptiness is still there.
            Unless He comes and unbinds us. Unless He comes and removes our brokenness. Until He undoes our failings and refills that emptiness, that God-shaped hole in all of us that was left from our loss of grace.
            Until He comes again to fulfill all that He promised.
            God has no intention of letting us go, of letting us fail, of letting us remain in our brokenness. He continues to carve out paths where we build walls. And with every wall we throw up, He provides a gate. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

            He is the fulfillment of our hope in this season.

Monday, November 21, 2016


The primary posts for this trip are here and here. This one I wanted to address separately.

When my friend Teri mentioned that Dachau was close to Munich, I was hesitant to commit to visiting. I had one day in Stuttgart and one day in Munich for sight seeing, and I didn't know if I wanted to give up a good part of that time.

But you simply have to go to places like Gettysburg, or Yad Vashem, or Dachau. Our shared humanity obligates us to do so.

So after attending Mass and eating brunch, I hopped on the S-Bahn toward Dachau. The ride was pleasant enough. I sat across from another U.S. citizen, whom I later saw at the site. I walked the distance from the Dachau train station to the camp. What struck me was just how ordinary the town is. It's not that easy to find information about the town prior to the 1930s. Almost everything I can access starts with the concentration camp, but it was a town hard hit by the concessions of World War I. Dachau was led primarily by the Bavarian People's Party (Bayerische Volkspartei or BVP).

All of this backstory I got while at Dachau. Now, trying to find anything on the city from a simple search is rather difficult. The Jewish Virtual Library does give some idea of how Dachau went from a blue-collar town with a WWI munitions factory to a concentration camp.

Dachau is a charming town. The normalcy of the here and now is part of what challenges me.

Anyway, I walked about 2 kilometers through a German suburb, and came here.

It doesn't exactly look like the gates of hell. Even the gate itself doesn't look like its equals at Auschwitz and elsewhere. It was a work camp. A model.

Arbeit macht Frei. Work brings freedom. For the people who passed through this gate, work brought death, and in death, they had freedom. So in a sense, it was true. Like so many of Satan's lies, there is a kernel of truth... wrapped up in a tremendous lie.

This is a view from the parade grounds, just after the entrance.

There's a monument as you enter, which is easy enough to read when you're there, but difficult to capture by photograph.

It says, "May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 - 1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unify the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow man."

Never forget.

This is the maintenance building, and the reception area for incoming detainees. They would record their information on note cards, using ink for permanent information and pencil for anything that might change. That little detail struck me.

The maintenance building had details about the how the various political parties, the BVD included, were suppressed. Eventually the National Socialists took control. The concentration camp is their work.

I had limited time, so I skimmed a lot of the exhibits. I wanted to hear the docent's explanation of the badges. Apparently, Jehovah's Witnesses were commonly held and persecuted, and they took pride in it and resisted. They wore a purple triangle. This exhibit below displays the clothing of a polish priest. It bore a red triangle. You can read more about it in this memoir.

This is the entrance of the baths. Prisoners were shaved here.

This monument is outside the maintenance building and displays the various badges.

I took this image with my phone, but it doesn't really do justice to the artwork.

Here's a better shot.

Never again.

A shot of the barracks.

This is the Catholic memorial on this site.

It looks as though they celebrate Mass here.

Next door is the Jewish memorial.

This is the entrance to a Carmelite convent that has been at this location since 1963.

This is one of the crematoriums at Dachau.

Crematorium ovens at Dachau.

This is a gas chamber at Dachau. Thank God, it was never used, but it's mere existence is foreboding.

This final image is the Eastern Orthodox memorial at Dachau.

Dachau was a work camp, and the mass slaughter of the Shoah wasn't part of this camp's history. But it was the model camp, the example of the others. It was the beginning of the horrors that followed, and it certainly had its own horrible legacy.

And now we face our own demons in the U.S. While some would like to think that the election of Trump is the new thing, the new and surprising fascist movement in our political marketplace, this movement has been long in the coming, as Jonah Goldberg pointed out in Liberal Fascism,

This is not a Democrat thing or a Republican thing. Both parties are party to it because both have lost the notion of service and have embraced the lure of power. So long as we allow ourselves to be seduced by power, we will be prey to the forces that inflict these monstrosities on us.

Unless we say... unless we demand.. never again.

Never again.


Week 1 of my European tour is recounted here. Week 2 would include the CMS/DITA Europe conference, where I gave a presentation with a colleague and exhibited for my employer(s), Vasont Systems and Transperfect.

After spending my only free day traipsing around Stuttgart, I hopped on an ICE Train and headed to Munich. (ICE stands for intercity express.)

The ride was interesting. I wound up in a compartment by myself, which isn't really as great as it sounds since no one joins you, and you can't really leave your luggage and go to the lounge car. On the plus side, it's sort of like riding the Hogwarts Express.

Okay, not so much.

I did get to see some really beautiful landscapes, and I was reminded that Europeans apparently do not have the same fears of nuclear energy as we do in the U.S. 

I arrived at the hotel (Hilton Munich City) around dusk, so I had time to forage for supplies and go to dinner—no real sight seeing. But I planned to get up early and head to Marienplatz for Mass and a little exploration. 

I struggled a bit with my plans for the morning since Dachau is 20 minutes by U from where I was staying. I had one day only and didn't know if I wanted to spend it there. The better angels of my nature convinced me that I had an obligation to go. I'll write about that in a separate post.

So I had intended to go to mass at St. Peter's in Marienplatz. I had my choice of locations since there are three churches within walking distance of the Rathaus, one of which is the cardinal archbishop's cathedral. It looked like I would be able to make Mass at St. Peter's, and so I headed the direction I thought it was, saw this place, and headed in. Never mind that it had ad majorem dei gloriam prominently emblazoned on the facade.

The priest was in the middle of the anamnesis when I arrived, so I was too late. However, the music was stunning, and the chanting of the mass was also beautiful. I was still mystified why they would be in the middle of Mass at 9:30 if one was to start at 10:00. (Hint, hint. Wrong church.)

So I figured I should shuffle off to Frauenkirche, the cathedral of the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, for their primary Sunday celebration. This was once the see of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Anyone who knows me knows that I love Papa Ratzinger. 

I wasn't sure what to expect of Mass (fears of clown masses or other oddities that apparently happen in parts of Europe), but I have to tell you that it was beautiful, even though I could understand very little of the homily. The whole liturgy was chanted, and the Mass was J. G. Rheinberger' Mass in A op. 126. Smells, bells, and a crotalus? I've never encountered one of these, but I'm guessing that since the cathedral bells were being rung during the consecration, they chose to use the crotalus inside so that both could be heard.

Two deacons, by the way, and the gospel was chanted as well.

Anyway, after mass I poked around a bit. This statue of the Blessed Mother was right across from the image of Pope Benedict. It's not really a style I like, but in a way those twelve stars means something a little different in Europe. With prayer and maybe the consecration of Europe to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, something new will happen there.

Some of the side altars were closed, but this one honoring Blessed Mary, Mother of Sorrows was open.

The door to the sacristy had this painting depicting the Assumption overhead. Apparently this painting was over the high altar at one point in the cathedral's history.

One of the cool things about these churches is that they have all sorts of small items with no explanation whatsoever. I would have been good to have a docent to explain. Even the website only covers a small number of the items. This reliquary had no visible explanation. 

Here's another example of something with no explanation. It just so happens to be next to another part of the cathedral's history...

... the automaton clock. So guess what gets all the attention?

I have to admit that the clock grabbed my attention, too, but I loved some of the details of the piece to the left. Another side altar had this statue of St. Sebastian.

And of course, lots of stained glass.

I have no explanation for this altar, but I liked it.

Along the exterior of the choir were the coats of arms for all of the archbishops, including the current cardinal archbishop, Reinhard Marx (don't get me started). I really should have looked closer for Papa Ratzinger's.

Finally, here is the main altar. For some reason, I couldn't get a straight shot for the life of me.

And, of course, the organ and choir loft for my friend Dr. Ray.

In the back of the cathedral is the cenotaph of Emperor Ludwig the Bavaria.

Unfortunately, the front of the cathedral was completely covered with scaffolding, so I wasn't able to get a good picture of the exterior. This should give you a sense of its immensity.

And being the cathedral parish, they also had a door of mercy. After I returned from my trip to Dachau, I met up with a colleague, and we went to have dinner at Andechser am Dom, which is right behind the cathedral and is a very Catholic restaurant (crucifix over the kitchen entrance, pictures of cardinals and popes on the wall).

As we were eating, the late mass ended, and the cardinal archbishop officially closed the year of mercy. The procession walked around the back of the cathedral, and I was able to point it out to my colleague.

I did manage to get some shots of the neues Rathaus (new city hall) and the famous glockenspiel there, although I wasn't able to see it run. However, I did eat at the Glockenspiel restaurant. That might be something like staying at the Holiday Inn Express.

So after brunch, I thought I'd try to find the other church I'd missed. Thinking it was Heilige Geiste (Holy Spirit, the Jesuit church), I tromped off down the street, and found that I had actually mistaken Heilige Geiste for St. Peter's. Frankly, the latter was beautiful, so I wasn't sorry that I had gone there, but I wasn't prepared for St. Peter's.

I wasn't even sure I was in a different church at first, as the design was so similar, but then I turned to look at this high altar...

... and I was overwhelmed. My photos don't begin to do it justice. Notice the statues on the colonnades, mostly of the Apostles. The image of St. Bartholomew was my favorite (holding a knife in one hand and his own skin in the other).

Another choir loft and organ for Dr. Ray. My dad would have loved this as well.

This was another of the side altars. Every altar in this church was set up for ad orientum celebration.

Here's a close shot of the high altar. The cordon around the approach to the rail made it difficult to get a good shot.

The ambo was stunning as well. I would love to hear someone preach from one of these.

Along the exteriors of many of these churches are memorials to parishioners.

Having realized my error, I headed back to Heilige Geiste to take some photos. The artwork there was exquisite.

And it had some beautiful altars as well. 

Here's one of the ceilings.

But not the only one of note...

I went to mass twice, and I noticed that even with three enormous, beautiful churches within a short distance of each other, there were plenty of people engaging their faith. Whatever is lacking in the rest of Europe, Munich seems to have a thriving Catholic faith. I was blessed to have the time there and hope I can go back soon.