All posts by Father David Nix

Wedding Feast of Cana in the Old Testament

This sermon was given on the Second Sunday after Epiphany, 2018.  The featured picture on the blog for this sermon is from a stained glass window at my basilica of residence downtown.

A continued thanks for the music-bumpers of my sermons to the holy nuns of Ephesus.

Doctrine: Why We Can’t Crack

A young priest with whom I was once a seminarian is now on Facebook like me. About a year ago, he posted the account of how he asked an old priest if young priests would save the Church. The old priest said “No, Jesus will save His Church,” or something like that. Of course, this post had a ton of “likes.” For one, it seemed so humble for a young priest to admit that we young priests would not “save” the Church. Secondly, it tapped our modern Catholic desire to prove to Protestants that we only look to for Jesus for salvation.

Both are true, and I have no problem with either motivating factor for a lot of “likes” for that. But it diverts readers from the fact that God always sends real saints in the flesh like St. Catherine of Siena to fix real crises in the Church. When we all sit back and say “Don’t worry, Jesus is going to take care of it” (as everyone always tells me), well, that sounds very trusting and even saintly, but it is not Catholic. It misses the teaching of the Mystical Body of Christ, namely, that from the very beginnings of Christianity, Christ came first in the head (the Incarnation as Jesus Christ) and then in the body (His saints and martyrs.) See here what the Holy Spirit teaches about His own Catholic Church as the Mystical Body of Christ:

“And [Christ] is the head of the body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross…Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.”—Col 1:18-20, 23.

Notice two things from that quote:

1) The Apostle Paul was so confident that he was a living and real extension of Christ in the world that Paul could go so far as to say under inspiration of the Holy Ghost: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church.”—Col 1:23. So what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings? Nothing except my participation. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was 100% propitiatory, of course. Evangelical Protestants and Catholics agree on this. But what most people miss in this quote is my participation in Christ’s redemptive act lived in the world in 2018 can actually be missing. And when we don’t participate in the sufferings of Christ, the Church enters a crisis. Now we have the greatest crisis of faith ever seen in the Catholic Church, but if we take the Bible literally, it is because we in the Mystical Body want Christ without the Cross. It’s right there in Col 1:23.

2) Jesus is the head of the Mystical Body of Christ, but “Christ” includes the whole body of every baptized member, down to the smallest. Every time the littlest one suffers, it is still Christ suffering, as when we saw Jesus say to Saul while the latter was persecuting the Church: “And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus.’”—Acts 9:4-5a. In fact, St. Augustine went so far as to say: “If by Christ you mean both head and body, the sufferings of Christ are only in Christ.” Re-read that quote from St. Augustine a few times and let it sink in to get the Catholic idea of how we are all cells in the Mystical Body of Christ and that Jesus is the head and Mary is the neck (the mediatrix of all graces.)  1

Think how a modern Protestant or a modern Catholic would think it extremely arrogant if a modern pastor were to now claim that only Christ lived in that pastor: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”—Gal 2:20. But this is how the saving act of Christ continues on in the Church, by acting as loving and as bold as Christ in all our vocations. It is not to keep kowtowing backwards in doctrine for the sake of being “pastoral” that the Church will continue in the West.

We need a lesson from the East, from the Coptic Catholics and Chaldean Catholics and other Christians who balk at the threats of Muslims to abandon Christ, taking the knife the throat before capitulating to false-ecumenism.

St. Augustine taught something very profound on the mysteries of Christ’s Ascension and Pentecost. He wrote this: “And He [Christ] departed from our sight that we might return to our heart and find Him there. For He departed, and behold, He is here.”–St. Augustine. What St. Augustine means is that Christ went up at the Ascension, but He is now found on earth in His people after baptism and Pentecost. Thus, Christ saving the Church will happen through saints on earth, not a Protestant idea of a non-incarnate mystical body of Jesus just magically making things better at an emotional level. That idea is not Catholic. It’s not even Scriptural.

This is why St. Teresa of Avila wrote: “Christ has no hands but yours.” This includes the hands of bloggers.  So, in a doctrinal crisis in the Church, it matters that no one ever capitulate on doctrine, no matter how high the price. The first Great Commandment (love God) comes before and flows into the second Great Commandment (love others.) That means that we must love God before neighbor. We must say the right thing, of course in charity, but always regardless of what we guess to be the unintended negative consequences at the pastoral level.

Without this rather-reckless philosophy, Jesus never would have made the Pharisees angry enough to crucify him. When Peter put Jesus’ own awesome ministry of teaching and miracles above of the cross, Peter was called a “Satan.” So also, we who work for the Catholic Church (cleric and lay alike) must do the right thing, regardless of consequences even at the ecclesial level.  We can all be masters of our own deceit on what it means to be people-pleasing under the pretext of “pastoral.” We can all trick ourselves to say that cracking on doctrine for the sake of being pastoral will save souls.

It never will!

2

The end doesn’t justify the means, and this includes sins of omission.  If I fail to speak up for the truth in charity in a crisis in the Church for the sake of keeping the peace or keeping people in my pews or pleasing other clerics…I am sinning. I am literally sinning and harming the two primary missions of the Church: 1) The glory of God. 2) The salvation of souls.

Christ’s attitude to the Pharisees is all we need to assure us of this. Was it worth Christ angering the Pharisees that led to their jealousy that ended His ministry? Yes. We would never have the salvation of the cross if Christ had calculated in His sacred humanity the perfect way of pleasing everyone.  Of course, the Son of God would never do this, but just realize you are called to be as bold if we take Catholic Ecclesiology to the extent of how St. Paul and St. Augustine saw the Mystical Body of Christ on earth.

Or really any saint: Christ has no hands but yours. This means writing the truth when it is not popular. You are making a difference. Priests, this means preaching the truth, even if it means losing your jobs. You can never commit a sin of omission for the sake of a future good, for the end doesn’t justify the means. Why can I write this so confidently?

Because I very much believe deep in my heart: God is always faithful.


  1. An understanding of the redemptive suffering of the Mystical Body of Christ was inadvertently captured in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Professor X says: “It’s not their pain you’re afraid of. It’s yours, Charles. And as frightening as it can be, that pain will make you stronger. If you allow yourself to feel it, embrace it, it will make you more powerful than you ever imagined. It’s the greatest gift we have: to bear their pain without breaking. And it comes from the most human part of us: hope. Charles, we need you to hope again.”

  2. Even an elementary look at Church History would suggest that God is inspiring would-be saints to end this current crisis in the Church, but they/we are not responding to grace. Of course, I can not prove this, which is why it is only a footnote. The other option is that we are under such a heavy punishment from God for abortion and contraception and sacriligious communions that we are left “with no prophet” to guide us. This would be a sign of the Great Apostasy already upon us, so the first option is obviously a bit more cheerful, namely, that priests and bishops are not responding to the graces of boldness to end this crisis of modernism.

The Priest and Our Lady

I was staring at the Eucharist in my private chapel, and I marvelled at how the Eucharist came from me. And the Eucharist is Jesus. And Jesus is God. So…God came from me? I immediately knew there was something wrong about in my thinking. It was this: The Eucharist did not come from me.

The best preposition is probably “through.” That is, the Eucharist came through me. The Catholic Church uses the verb to confect as seen in Canon Law: “Can. 900 §1. The minister who is able to confect the sacrament of the Eucharist in the person of Christ is a validly ordained priest alone.” This verb comes from the Latin conficere, meaning to produce or to effect. It’s a variant-stem of con-facere, meaning “to make with.” Combine these two roots, and we have something like “to effect with.” So, the priest is an instrument who effects something with God…but even then it is only Christ Himself saying Hoc est enim corpus meum, or “This is my body.” This is the summit of a priest’s day when he functions in the person of Christ. He also functions as the person of Christ when the priest says Ego te absolvo or “I absolve you from your sins…” (See John 20:22-23.)

It is the priest who confects the Eucharist. In my chapel in the picture above, I stared at Our Lord and I realized that this is another link between the priest and Mary:   Jesus came through Mary. In this sense, the priest is yet again like Mary: Jesus in the Eucharist comes through me. Although the dignity of being the Mother of God has no parallel, we can both say:  I do not make God. The priest only confects the Eucharist, and even that is God’s own supreme act of love and sacrifice lived through me at my fingertips.

But why was Mary such a perfect vessel? In some sense (and I mean this with the utmost reverence to the fact she is the Immaculate Conception and the Mother of God) it was because of what she was not. She was not impure. She was not arrogant. She was not self-centered. She was not a braggart. She had no concern with being popular. The Uncreated Light of the Blessed Trinity was too transcendent for man to see.  But at Christmas and Epiphany, the Divine Word was all of a sudden visible because of a pure prism with no selfishness.

That prism is of course the Holy Theotokos, Mary, Our Lady.  Because of her purity, Christ could enter the physical world through her. Like a perfect prism, purity is more about what is not there. There are no blemishes, marks, scratches or cracks. Purity of intention is more than just matters of the sixth or ninth commandment. Purity of intention is to ascribe nothing to oneself. He must increase and I must decrease. In fact, the word arrogance means to ascribe something to oneself that should not be there.

The mystics tell us that no one in first century Israel was praying for the coming of the Messiah more than Mary. In fact, she only wanted to be the maid of the mother of the Messiah. That is all that she wanted—to be the sidekick of the Mother of the Messiah! Of course, it was her humility that “troubled”  her (Lk 1:29) at the greeting of the glorious angel Gabriel.

Perhaps this is why the best of the desert Fathers did not want to be priests.

I have a good female friend who does a lot of good for the Church, but she is still unmarried and she does not have a religious vocation. The one place she finds great consolation is the most mysterious of all lines of the Apostle Paul: God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.—1 Cor 1:28-29. I can almost hear that deep movie-preview voice say, maybe for a new Lord of the Rings movie, that mysterious line about some barely-existing creature that would change the world: “even things that are not…” I don’t think she realizes how much this humility makes her like Mary, even when she doesn’t understand her vocation.  This is how Mary saw herself, as something that was not. I don’t mean this in the way of self-pity or lack-of-self confidence.  It actually takes an extremely humble person to have self-confidence.

In fact, without humility, God could not have made her the most famous woman in history. Yes, “He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”—Lk 1:48

What does this have to do with Our Lady’s priests?  As Archbishop Fulton Sheen got older in all his sermons and retreats, it seems to my listening ears (many years after his death) that there was a progression in all his talks through the 1970s of his growing concern about how many priests wanted to exert their own personality…to be funny, to be entertaining, to be relevant, to be hip. Archbishop Fulton Sheen would frequently boom a mockery-motto of the modern priest: “I gotta be me!” No, Mary did not need any of these things for Christ to come through Her. Rejecting popularity, she became the most popular woman in history. It’s quite a mystery, actually.

This is true for preaching, too.  We have had 50 years of the via positiva, people preaching from the pulpit that “God loves you.” And this is fine.  But there’s a detriment to no preaching the via negativa.  Years ago, when I first read the hellfire sermons of St. John Vianney, I was discouraged. When I first heard of St. John of the Cross, I thought that this saint spent too much time writing on detachment (the via negativa). Why not more time writing about God and His love? The answer is at the top of Mount Carmel: Because at the top of Mount Carmel, when one’s spiritual ego is totally sunk, the only thing that one experiences is in the honor and glory of God.

In blue-collar terms: All we need to do is reduce the bad, and God will do His job of turning up the good.   The great saints of old spent so much time preaching against vice precisely because they were sure that God would do his job of shining through us if we could discipline ourselves (of course after the unmerited forgiveness of the blood of Christ arriving via the sacraments and faith.) The preaching of detachment was ironically a brilliant plan to make saints in love with God even more than the modern preachers who demand that we all become “saints in love with God” without any plan, without any content.  The call to surrender without content is comforting…but not for long.    People now again long for the clear moral directives of the old saints and Popes again.  The old-school spiritual writers who wrote so much pro-detachment and anti-vice seem to have treated the spiritual life as an aqueduct:  In a non-Pelagain way, after the grace of our initial conversion, the walls of discipline need to be built by us, and then the Divine Water will flow constantly.

My favorite line from GK Chesterton is: “And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was for good things to run wild.” Rules make us run faster!  The zealous and scary saints like St. Vincent Ferrer spent so much time preaching on the moral life not because they thought the moral life is the end-all be-all of the life of grace, but because they knew that if we drew strong parameters, the aqueduct bridge of grace would flow quickly into our lives.

This was true for the Apostle Paul:  “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”—Rom 8:6-7.  This certainly includes sexual sins for any vocation, for the Spirit of life cannot reside in a body that is impure: “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”—Romans 8:10. All vocations must live this purity, but especially the priest. St. Alphonsus Liguori said that the priest who confects the Eucharist in mortal sin actually tags four new sins onto it!

But as I wrote earlier, this is not only about purity in body. Purity of intention is to want only one thing. That one thing is God’s glory, that is, sinking popularity and personality-cult followers. The priest must be like Our Lady, to want God’s glory alone, even at the price of a funny or witty mind.  The truth is:  None of it matters to Our Lady.  She loves her priests, but not our egos.  She knows that especially the priest’s heart will ebb and flow in one front of love and purity and orthodoxy as the Catechism points out:

The sixth beatitude proclaims, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” “Pure in heart” refers to those who have attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God’s holiness, chiefly in three areas: charity; chastity or sexual rectitude; love of truth and orthodoxy of faith. There is a connection between purity of heart, of body, and of faith: The faithful must believe the articles of the Creed “so that by believing they may obey God, by obeying may live well, by living well may purify their hearts, and with pure hearts may understand what they believe.”—CCC 2518

Notice that the beginning of chastity is not doing seemingly-creative things with the body.  Notice that orthodoxy is not doing seemingly-creative things with doctrine.  Both seem boring, but both lead the via negativa to supernatural love (charity.)

How about the via positiva?  How do we get to God through positive actions?  In some sense, it really is how much time any of us in any vocation we spend with the Eucharist and with Our Lady.  It’s not that God counts how many prayers we do (though He does know this, of course) but rather, as the Catechism says:  “The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart.“—CCC 2710

Why is the pathway to high levels of supernatural love in the 21st century going to be found in much time with the Eucharist and the Rosary?  Because St. John Bosco predicted these days 150 years ago in his prophetic dream:  “Very grave trials await the Church. What we have suffered so far is almost nothing compared to what is going to happen. The enemies of the Church are symbolized by the ships, which strive their utmost to sink the flagship. Only two things can save us in such a grave hour: devotion to Mary and frequent Communion. Let us do our very best to use these two means and have others use them everywhere.”

Perfect Contrition Audio-Pamphlet

This podcast is actually a short audio-book. I originally believed it was by St. Alphonsus Liguori, but it’s actually by Fr. J. Von Den Driesch. I’m sorry for the confusion on that.  Still, it is a time-trusted old-book of the Catholic Church that was also distributed to the public in large quantities by America Needs Fatima. It was translated by Fr. Simon SJ to English, and it was turned into an audio recording in 1950. Because it is old, I found no copyrights, so I re-published it here. Because it is not an original, I did not publish this as a podcast, but I can say that this unknown treasure has been one of the most life-changing books in my priesthood. I think it will help everyone to discover (or re-discover!) the gift of supernatural faith. It is truly a treasure and a Golden Key to show that Perfect Contrition is not as hard as we thought.

Nota Bene: On the other side of the coin, there is a modern myth that perfect contrition is sufficient for the reception of Holy Communion if you are in mortal sin.  This is not true.  Notice that St. Alphonsus teaches that perfect contrition will relieve mortal sin or even original sin for salvation when in danger of death without a priest at hand.  However, sacramental confession of all mortal sins is still required for the reception of Holy Communion.  The new Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) upholds this teaching.

Christmas Vigil Mass Sermon

In the old calendar, when Christmas falls on a Monday, the fourth Sunday of Advent is subsumed into the Christmas Vigil Mass, meaning the priest in purple.  This will probably be my only sermon posted for Christmas, due to a short one in tomorrow’s Missa Cantata.

VENI veni, Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio,
privatus Dei Filio.
R: Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!
O COME, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that morns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
R: Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!
Veni, O Sapientia,
quae hic disponis omnia,
veni, viam prudentiae
ut doceas et gloriae. R.
O come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,
and order all things far and nigh;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go. R.
Veni, veni, Adonai,
qui populo in Sinai
legem dedisti vertice
in maiestate gloriae. R.
O come, o come, Thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law,
in cloud, and majesty, and awe. R.
Veni, O Iesse virgula,
ex hostis tuos ungula,
de specu tuos tartari
educ et antro barathri. R.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem,
from ev’ry foe deliver them
that trust Thy mighty power to save,
and give them vict’ry o’er the grave. R.
Veni, Clavis Davidica,
regna reclude caelica,
fac iter tutum superum,
et claude vias inferum. R.
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav’nly home,
make safe the way that leads on high,
that we no more have cause to sigh. R.
Veni, veni O Oriens,
solare nos adveniens,
noctis depelle nebulas,
dirasque mortis tenebras. R.
O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadow put to flight. R.
Veni, veni, Rex Gentium,
veni, Redemptor omnium,
ut salvas tuos famulos
peccati sibi conscios. R.
O come, Desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease
and fill the world with heaven’s peace. R.

The Last Jedi and the Priesthood

The Prequels

Towards the end of our first year in seminary, we were required to take a 30-day silent-retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It was the summer of 2005, and we seminarians arrived in Omaha for a month off the grid. We were taken about 45 miles northeast of Omaha to a forest in Iowa, where we would pray along the Nishnabotna River for 30 days in silence. Every day would include four to five hours of meditation on the Gospels (Ignatian mental prayer) as well as daily Mass, Rosary, Divine Office and manual labor. The Spiritual Exercises are truly that: Exercises, not a sleepy retreat. However, because of the intensity of our retreat, they gave us weekends to talk with each other and go to town.

One weekend, we went to Omaha to see the newly-released prequel called Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. It was the third prequel that was the missing link between little podracer Anakin Skywalker and his future self, Darth Vader. If you remember the movie, the Jedi were celibate warriors who saved the universe. People like Qui Gon and Obi Wan looked like Franciscans but acted like Jesuits (old-school ones.)

We seminarians came bounding out of that theatre like high schoolers who had just seen Remember the Titans. We exalted in the fact that the Jedi were so clearly the priests of the Universe.  We saw: They were warriors, not administrators. It was very obvious that the most talented member of the Jedi order, Anakin Skywalker, had lost his way only when he cracked on his vows of chastity and obedience. The Jedi were so clearly the Holy Priesthood! Seeing that movie was an unexpected boost to our thrill of the potential-future-gift of the priesthood.

Fast-forward 12 years. I have now been a priest for seven years and I have been stabbed in the back by many priests, lied to by many priests, lied about by many priests and betrayed by many priests (including this event that I blogged about a couple years ago which shook my faith not only in the priesthood but even the Catholic Church.) No, I did not come bouncing into the theatre this week. I came trudging into the theatre with my 57 year-old widower-friend who told me as we entered the theater that his brother (who loves Star Wars so much that he actually shows up to parties dressed up as Chewbacca) actually walked out on this movie. I almost turned around when he said this, but I clopped into that theatre, 20 pounds heavier than in my joyful seminarian days. It’s not so much that my vocation is in danger, but I’m just tired of life, jaded at how other priests will just throw me under the bus to save themselves a fraction of the cross in defending tradition. I still walked into that movie theatre in my cassock, but I didn’t care if the teenagers had comments about my cassock being a Jedi outfit or not.

It just didn’t matter.

However, something changed in watching that movie. Not only was The Last Jedi my favorite of the last three Star Wars (and pretty funny, too) but also it completely opened my eyes as to why Satan has attacked the priesthood so much, even from within. A Jedi falls hard in the 2005 Revenge of the Sith after sins against chastity and obedience.   But 2017’s The Last Jedi reveals a spiritual force opposed to the Jedi. To wipe out hope in the hearts of the Jedi themselves, regarding themselves, would be all that would be needed to stop a real hope of the galaxy being free.

If I go forth into the fields, behold the slain with the sword: and if I enter into the city, behold them that are consumed with famine. The prophet also and the priest are gone into a land which they knew not.—Jer 14:18

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The movie starts with Luke Skywalker, forlorn on an island. He has seen enough of the Jedi:  “I only know one truth:  It’s time for the Jedi…to end.”  Although a fair critique of the movie has been the lack of a plot-line (as well as a tired, old attempt at feminism) there has been some key developments in the understanding of the Jedi order. It seems that the traditional books of the Jedi order were destroyed along with the Jedi order, but one website noted:

“Rey isn’t [a Jedi], at least as it’s been traditionally defined, so as far as we know there aren’t any Jedi to teach [the little boy.] And yes, the Jedi sacred books survived—stowed away by Rey on the Millennium Falcon—but studying from a book is very different from the master/padawan dynamic built up over generations of Jedi. As Luke vowed before becoming one with the Force in the final act, he won’t be the last Jedi—but what it means to be one, and who gets to carry that mantle going forward, is wide open.”

We soon see a disproportionate attack of the First Order upon the Jedi order, quite odd as the Jedi are only a single part of the Resistance. Indeed, there might be galaxies of normal “lay organisms” (so to speak) who have some ability to tap into the Force, but the main target in the crosshairs of both Snoke and Kylo Ren is so clearly the Jedi order. Of course, the First Order (the Empire in the original ones) hates anyone who opposes them, but the First Order knows that the very existence of the Jedi maintain an invisible grasp on the hope in the galaxy that extends much father than any light-saber.

Towards the end of the movie, Kylo Ren is in an AT-AT and finds Skywalker on the ground. Ren orders his AT-AT and every AT-AT to aim at Skywalker and release everything they got. Hundreds of high-power laser blasts obliterate the area of the target.  We see a totally disproportionate hatred of the Jedi order, symbolized in Skywalker’s ground being blasted away. Even Kylo Ren’s underlings remark on his unusual and disproportionate use of firepower for a single target. Somehow, this does not kill Skywalker. Kylo Ren realizes that he must face him on the ground, light-saber to light-saber. We hear this conversation:

Luke Skywalker: “I failed you, Ben. I’m sorry.”

Kylo Ren: “I’m sure you are! The Resistance is dead, the war is over, and when I kill you, I will have killed the last Jedi!”

Luke Skywalker: “Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong. The Rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi.”

He will not be the last Jedi?  Who will be the one to carry the torch for the Jedi? The movie ends with a slave-boy manipulating a broom without touching it. He shines a ring that is symbolic of some force or use of the Force. We don’t know who he will be.

The Holy Priesthood in the 21st Century

I have been seeing a certain meme on Facebook that contains a quote by one of my priestly heroes, Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen. I like this quote because I have a lot more hope in the lay people carrying the faith than the priests and bishops who are afraid of their own shadow in this crisis in the Church.

But The Last Jedi made me re-think the above meme. The Last Jedi made me realize that there will be no restoration of things holy in the Catholic Church without the Holy Priesthood. It’s not only because the priest is the portal to both Confession and the Holy Eucharist. There is something vital to the priesthood to the future of the Church.

A recent non-Catholic study in Christianity Today revealed that the number of Catholics in the world is growing by birth rates, but not by the conversions or even retention rate of past ages of the Church. But the most astonishing fact in the Christianity Today article is how the number of priests is tanking on all continents, even the ones we claim are doing so well in vocations. For example, Africa is doing better than South America in producing priests, but it’s a miserable number considering the Catholic birth rate in African countries. Or, consider the United States: From 100 years ago to 50 years ago, the United States saw one of the greatest vocation booms in the history of the Church to the Holy Priesthood. From 50 years ago until now, vocations have plummeted in an unprecedented manner.

Why has the enemy attacked the priesthood so severely? The answer comes from the attempted-burning of the Sacred Books in the movie, for Skywalker knows that destroying tradition will also destroy the Jedi. The enemy knows this as well as Skywalker, as seen in the dual enemy’s disproportionate attack on the Jedi order.

After St. Francis Xavier brought Christianity to Japan in the 16th century, many more holy Jesuits arrived after him. Soon, a persecution began that forced all priests underground. Although the movie Silence is about those who crack under pressure, the truth of history reveals that countless laymen and women and children and priests endured one of the worst persecutions of in the history of Catholicism for refusing to denounce Jesus and Mary. They were tortured mercilessly upside down (as seen in the movie) but also burned alive, crucified and lowered into active volcanoes. The Emperor hated Christians, but he especially hated priests. If you turned over to the Emperor’s men a Jesuit brother, you were awarded 300 pieces of silver. But if you turned over a Jesuit priest, you were awarded 500 pieces of silver.

Why this disproportionate reward from the enemy of Christ to turn over a priest instead of a brother? The easy, modern answer is “the sacraments.” But the movie revealed that simply having the presence of the Jedi in the universe brings it hope. Remember: Holy Orders without bread and wine to confect the Eucharist is still a sacrament all on its own: Holy Orders. The Japanese smoked out every last priest to the point that in 1644, the last Jesuit was dragged out and killed, and the Japanese had to keep the Catholic Faith underground for 250 years following a persecution of Christians that rivals modern day Islam or the early Roman Empire.

There are many other accounts to show the disproportionate hatred that Satan has for a holy priest above and beyond a holy layman. But I’ll use the enemy’s words, himself. Satan once said to St. John Vianney: “If there were three such priests as you, my kingdom would be ruined.”

St. John Vianney, one of the holiest priests in 2000 years of Catholicism, always with an outrageous haircut that no one ever seems to question.

The power of the priesthood is linked to Christ and the fullness of what He passed down. When people ask me about being a normal diocesan priest who does only the Latin Mass, their vocabulary seems to imply that I like delicate things, whispering Latin as I turn away from the people to face the altar, almost like I like to “play priest” in days of yore, as if I preferred to wear long, flowing albs with lots of whispy lace. Well, I always need to inform such people that it has little to do with the Latin language (as powerful and beautiful and as clear as it is.) Rather, what Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum opened for us priests was a tradition commensurate with the power of the Gospel.

For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.—Hebrews 7:12

The old-rite exorcism is used by every exorcist I know. (It was crystallized in 1614 AD, but it goes back at to about 600 AD.) The sacrament of Extreme Unction in the old Roman Rite (permitted even for us new priests via Summorum Pontificum) contains the most beautiful words of any sacrament I have ever heard or read in the Western Church. The ancient words of absolution that I say dozens of times a day includes the verbiage of the lifting of excommunications (to the extent a priest is able under his bishop) in every single absolution. The approach to the Holy Eucharist in the Traditional Latin Mass fits like a glove in the moral theology of the Church regarding the holiness and dignity of the human body, especially in approaching God in awe and sexual purity.

The old Roman Breviary (Divine Office) is the public prayer of the Church where the priest prays all 150 Psalms a week in Latin. It takes between two or three hours a day. The old Roman Breviary is the most exhausting, the most life-giving challenge of my priesthood, for the mental protection that it provides me is worth it. (If I lapse, I “lapse” into the new and easy Liturgy of the Hours. For all my sins, I always pray my office.) The old calendar is airtight with all of liturgy and doctrine. There is no “ordinary time” in the extraordinary form calendar.  There is nothing “ordinary” about it, just as there is nothing “ordinary” about being a Jedi.  Why would you be celibate in order to be “ordinary”?

Our Lady of Good Success

In 1600, the Mother of God appeared to Mother Mariana of Jesus Torres y Berriochoa, a nun of the Conceptionist Order, in Quito, Ecuador. These apparitions are known as Our Lady of Good Success and they are Vatican-approved. Shockingly, Mary told Sr. Mariana some very specific things that would happen to the Catholic Church in the 20th century. Again, remember that Sr. Mariana wrote this in around 1600 regarding the coming issues of the Catholic Church 400 years later.  Here are just seven things I chose to share that Mary said to Sr. Mariana:

1) “Unhappy, the children of those times! Seldom will they receive the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. As for the sacrament of Penance, they will confess only while attending Catholic schools, which the devil will do his utmost to destroy by means of persons in authority.”

2) “The sacrament of Matrimony, which symbolizes the union of Christ with the Church, will be thoroughly attacked and profaned. Masonry, then reigning, will implement iniquitous laws aimed at extinguishing this sacrament. They will make it easy for all to live in sin, thus multiplying the birth of illegitimate children without the Church’s blessing….”

3) “Unbridled passions will give way to a total corruption of customs because Satan will reign through the Masonic sects, targeting the children in particular to insure general corruption…There shall be scarcely any virgin souls in the world. The delicate flower of virginity will seek refuge in the cloisters.…Without virginity, fire from heaven will be needed to purify these lands…”

4) “The same will occur with Holy Communion. Oh, how it hurts me to tell you that there will be many and enormous public and hidden sacrileges!”

5) “In those times, the sacrament of Extreme Unction will be largely ignored… Many will die without receiving it, being thereby deprived of innumerable graces, consolation, and strength in the great leap from time to eternity.”

6) “Religious communities will remain to sustain the Church and work with courage for the salvation of souls… The secular clergy will fall far short of what is expected of them because they will not pursue their sacred duty. Losing the divine compass, they will stray from the way of priestly ministry mapped out for them by God and will become devoted to money, seeking it too earnestly.”

7) “Unhappy times will come wherein those who should fearlessly defend the rights of the Church will instead, blinded despite the light, give their hand to the Church’s enemies and do their bidding. But when [evil] seems triumphant and when authority abuses its power, committing all manner of injustice and oppressing the weak, their ruin shall be near. They will fall and crash to the ground.”

How can anyone deny that these have come true in the Catholic Church in the 20th century and the 21st century?

But there is great hope, because the Mother of God promised this to Sr. Mariana:

“The free men from this slavery of heresies, those whom the merciful love of my most Holy Son will destine for the restoration, will have a great strength of will, constancy, valour and much trust in God. To test this faith and trust, there will be times in which everything will seem to be lost and paralyzed. This, then, will be the happy beginning of the complete restoration.”

The Spanish for the last two words of that quote is restauración completa. Mary promised that after the 20th century we would see the “complete restoration” of the Catholic Church! And this is a Vatican-approved apparition. Notice that we are not talking about a renovation or a renewal or a revolution. “Complete restoration” implies that something will have been lost that was there before. “Complete restoration” implies that something ancient and good will return to power.  The complete restoration of the Catholic Church will not happen simply because lay people are angry about the crisis in the Catholic Church. The complete restoration of the Church will come from the next generation of priests restoring all that is holy and powerful, for the salvation of souls. The next of these spiritual, priestly warriors will come from families like yours, for better or for worse.

We have seen neither the end of the Jedi, nor the end of their tradition of power.