As a seminarian in 2009, I introduced two of my close friends to each other at the March for Life in San Francisco. Although from different parts of the country, they too became good enough friends for Beth to fly out to Denver for Fr. Nepil’s ordination in 2011. There, Beth came to know Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, a 20th century Italian mountain-climber and servant of the poor who died young; he was found on Fr. Nepil’s ordination card. What Beth did with that ordination card led to a series of events (on Long-Island with her family of origin) which were recently scrutinized by the Papal Nuncio of the Vatican to possibly make this story below the second miracle needed for Frassati to become a Catholic saint:
Should God have ended the world when Adam and Eve sinned?
As I tell high-school kids, as soon as Adam and Eve had sinned…There were only three options that God had for a planet spiraling towards total sin:
1) Blow up earth to end both sin and free-will…or…
2) Turn people into robots that would automatically obey, so as to terminate free-will but keep the planet…or…
3) Send a rescuer who could transform the human state of suffering into redemptive suffering.
If you can think of a fourth option, let me know. In the mean time, notice that only the third option allows for free-will.
Because option #3 allows for free-will to continue among both the good and evil people on this blue planet, it is the only option that allows for either love or harming people until the end of time.
For example, if a woman is choosing to offer up her suffering for her children after her husband was killed by a drunk driver, she can only choose to unite her redemptive suffering to Christ’s infinite merits of the cross precisely because she lives in a world where someone else can choose to drive drunk. This is why widows must live side-by-side with drunk drivers until the final judgment.
We each have the option to continue the cycle of suffering and sin, or… we can choose to escape from that horrible cycle. Baptism ends sin (original sin, at least, and actual sin in the lives of some saints) but suffering continues for them. However, their suffering then ceases to have a certain mental pain, as God said to St. Catherine of Siena. When you carry the cross God has allowed in your life, your suffering can become redemptive because it more easily fits with the merits of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. With Christ, we escape the red patten to the left in favor of the orange trajectory, a different trajectory of suffering:
This is only possible by the cross. I put the cross in blue for two reasons. The vertical blue bar shows that Mary gave God the one thing He didn’t have: The ability to die. This symbolizes Christ’s incarnation and His approach to us. Secondly, our incorporation into the mystical body of Christ happens in the waters of baptism (the horizontal blue line.) As St. Peter writes, “It is baptism that now saves you.”—1 Pt 3:21. Suffering has little value in itself until it be incorporated into the suffering mystical body of Christ. This happens at baptism, because it is at that moment that we receive all of the merits of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ as a free gift of redemption. The best description of death to oneself, baptism, and this new life can be found in Romans 6:3-11.
Death is the cycle to the left. The requirement for new life is: a new life. The gift of the cross is free (gratis) to us at the high price Jesus paid for us in his 17 hours of torture…nay, His whole life lived for us. But, for salvation to be realized, we must cooperate. The cross doesn’t offer an escape from suffering but it does offer an escape from sin, and that part is up to our cooperation with grace in living in our free will as we become transformed, divinized sons and daughters of God.
We are then given the chance on this earth to let our sufferings be united to those of Jesus (through Mary) so as to become participators in redemptive suffering. Again, in itself, suffering has no value. But joined to the cross, it helps redeem the world. It helps pull more people out of the cycle on the left to the orange bar on the right. This is all that the old-school (and now new-school) nuns meant when they said “Offer it up.” It all comes from what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians: “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 1:24.
What is lacking or wanting in the suffering of Jesus? Nothing except my participation. It was 100%, but that 100% continues in His mystical body. As long as sin continues on the earth, so also must the suffering of Christians. It is a gift, not a burden, and it is joined to Christ’s sufferings at the nearest Mass. That is why both the suffering of the Mystical Body and the Mass continue until the end of time.
At the final judgment, the left cycle will continue in hell. However, the right trajectory will become heaven.
Here on earth, both cycles have to suffer. So, if you have your choice between the devil’s eternal cross and Jesus’ temporary cross, why not avoid sin and choose the pattern to the right?
JFK said Washington DC “is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.” I don’t know about that, but right across the Potomac outside the District, the lovely opposite is true: Virginia is a place of Northern efficiency and Southern charm…and hospitality. Proof of this is the work my friends went through to smoke a shoulder and prepare a smorgasbord of ribs for several other young families on this wet 4th just outside the Nation’s Capital:
You might think that this is a grumpy-the-grump post on bad liturgy with a title like “the End of the Mass,” but it is not. The “end” simply means the goal of something. The Greek word telos was appropriated into the English to mean “the end term of a goal-directed process.” For philosophy students out there, it’s the final cause. What is the telos or goal or end of a pencil? Writing.
What is the goal or telos of the Mass?
We will get to that, but—okay—permit me one grumpy-the-grump story in contrast. Last year, I was traveling across Florida. In Tampa, I stopped into a Church one afternoon. I kindly told the secretary of the parish that I was a traveling priest and that I’d like to offer Mass. She was confused, and asked if I had a group of people to join me. Maybe a youth group? When I told her that I did not have anyone else, she simply couldn’t imagine why I’d be offering Mass…and refused me.
She was a kind woman, but perhaps she believed that the Mass would have no value without people receiving Holy Communion. Clearly, she did not have an evil will. But this account demonstrates that theological ignorance can have the same outcome as a malicious will (eg. one less Mass in the world, in this case.) Would that every Catholic Church secretary in the world read this single post!
The month of July has traditionally been consecrated and devoted to the Precious Blood of Jesus. To learn the telos of the Mass would be a great resolution for this month. To reveal those goals, I want to show the prayer that every priest (before Vatican II) would pray before the Mass. It’s in Latin, but with the English there, too. I give here my translation a bit more word-for-word:
I will to celebrate Mass and to confect the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the rite of the Holy Roman Church, unto the praise of the omnipotent God and all the Triumphant Church, for my good and the good of the entire Church Militant, for all who have commended themselves to my prayers—in general and specifically, and for the happy state of the Holy Roman Church. May the omnipotent and merciful Lord grant us joy with peace, amendment of life, space for true repentance, consolation of the Holy Spirit and perseverance in good works.
Jesus offers Himself in the sacrifice of Calvary at the Mass. This prayer tells us, in the order of importance, the ends of the Mass, taking the italics below from the prayer above:
1) The Blessed Trinity: Unto the praise of the omnipotent God.
2) The priest: For my good.
3.) All the Saints: All of the Triumphant Church.
4) All the Catholics on earth: The good of the entire Church Militant.
5) Those who have generally given themselves to the prayers of the priest: For all who have commended themselves to my prayers—in general.
6) Those who have commended themselves specifically to that priest’s prayers at Mass: For all who have commended themselves to my prayers…specifically.
7) For the happy state of the Holy Roman Church.
Notice that at the end of that prayer, I ask God to “grant us joy with peace, amendment of life, space for true repentance, consolation of the Holy Spirit and perseverance in good works.”
I have done this prayer almost every day for five years, spoken right before I offer Mass. It makes me think about why I’m doing it. Jesus offers Himself first in an act of infinite love to the Blessed Trinity, even if the priest has no altar server. That means that the priest offering Mass brings infinite value to the world when he offers Mass—alone or with thousands in attendance. Another reason to ignore numbers is because the Mass has billions of angels in attendance, anyway. One should really have a holy fear of God when you consider that at consecration even Mary adores, from the highest point in heaven.
When Church authorities put Padre Pio (see picture above) under interdict for ten years, prohibiting him from offering anything but a private Mass, was Padre Pio’s Mass of any less value during those ten years? It’s my unproven opinion that Padre Pio’s suffering (conjoined to Christ’s merits in the Mass Pio offered) deferred the wrath of God from ending the world during two World Wars.
Mary told the children of Fatima, after the main apparitions, that souls fall into hell “like snowflakes” every day. Thus, we can not hope that “all men be saved.” The Mass is offered for the salvation of the world—whether or not physical people be in attendance or not.
Giving glory to God and the salvation of souls is the telos of the Church, whether or not anyone show up. This is the theology that will determine if Mass be worship or entertainment. This is the theology that informs every vocation: that we must strive to please God, and not men.