Today is the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. St. John has the distinction of being among only Jesus and our Blessed Mother who are honored with the celebration of their birth on the Church calendar. Today is also a special day for me as St. John the Baptist is my primary patron and the namesake of this website. Shawn being the Irish rendering of John, that makes me “Shawn the Baptist.” I pray for the grace to be the faithful prophet that St. John was and to always point people to Jesus. That he may increase and I may decrease.
By now many Catholics are aware of the scandalous situation regarding Fr. John Corapi, the once great preacher, teacher, and priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT). I have refrained from posting comments about this as I don’t want to be seen as kicking a priest when he’s down. Fr. Corapi needs our prayers. He has done much good for the Church and no doubt Satan has tested him severely. Unfortunately, the great strength that was so attractive in his preaching has failed him at this critical moment.
Like many, I was incredibly surprised to hear Fr. Corapi’s statement that he is abandoning the priesthood of Jesus Christ to become “The Black Sheep Dog.” It is a move so bizarre and sad that for the first few hours after his announcement, the opinion among a good number of his fans was that his website had been hacked; this simply could not be him. Much of the analysis of this sad situation has been handled ably by others and you are welcome to see the National Catholic Register’s coverage for details. However, in light of the new statement Fr. Corapi released yesterday, I would like to add something of my own, as someone who once very much admired Fr. Corapi.
Perhaps the thing that most bothered me about Fr. Corapi’s proposed plan of action was that he indicated that he was resigning from public ministry and leaving the priesthood, yet seemed to think that he would just go on doing basically the same things he had been doing. “How on earth does he expect to do that?” I thought. How can someone who spent so much effort teaching people to love and respect the authority of the Church think that he is just going to continue, business as usual, while living a life radically opposed to his own teaching? Does he really think that somehow the priesthood was just superfluous to his teaching the Catholic faith? Does he really hold the priesthood that cheaply?
The answer came in his statement yesterday (see www.theblacksheepdog.us for more). Speaking of the great privilege he enjoyed as a sacred minister of the greatest gifts Our Lord ever gave us, of the supreme call from God he received to make Jesus Christ present thought the Sacraments, Fr. Corapi said simply,
I didn’t do very much of that, quite honestly, in the 20 years that I did minister. About 90% of what I did in the past did not require ordination.
To further answer all my questions, he concluded,
What I’m going to be doing in the future is pretty much the same thing [I've been doing].
No, no, and no. There is absolutely no way he will continue doing “pretty much the same thing” that he’s been doing. This whole situation reminds me of a quote of Pope Paul VI:
Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.
Fr. Corapi was a great teacher of the faith. He proclaimed the truths of the Catholic Church with great conviction. But people listened to him for only two primary reasons. First, because the truth he taught was so attractive. He taught the fullness of the faith to a culture that is often left with only watered down Catholicism. That this truth is attractive is nothing for which Fr. Corapi or any priest should dare take credit. When we give people authentic Catholicism it’s like water in the desert and it’s no great coup for a priest that people drink and desire more.
While it is true that “John Corapi” could go on proclaiming the truths of the faith “pretty much” as before, no one will listen to him. At least very few will listen, and that is because the second and most important reason people listened to Fr. Corapi was because he was a witness. Anyone can read the Catechism. People listened to Fr. Corapi because they found him to be an authentic, credible witness. He could command obedience to Holy Mother Church because he himself had pledged his life to such radical obedience. He had made public promises to God that his life was no longer his but was given totally to God through the Church. This is what made his teaching, and that of any true witness, powerful.
The “Black Sheep Dog” now thinks that he can simply go on doing “pretty much the same thing.” He is like Sampson who has not yet realized that his hair has been cut (no pun intended). The strength of the Catholic Church and her teachings remain, but Fr. Corapi’s strength to teach these truths is gone. He thinks that he can be a teacher without being an authentic witness. The words of Paul VI foretell his future. No one will listen to him any more…and that is a shame. We needed teachers like him.
Fearful Yet Overjoyed
After encountering Jesus after the resurrection, the gospels describe the apostles as being “fearful, yet overjoyed.” Perhaps that’s the best description we can hope for to describe how we should feel in the presence of God. On today’s Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity we try to put into technical language what is ultimately a mystery. How do we properly describe God? Is God a powerful force that created everything, the “Lord” who appears to Moses in smoke and fire? Or is God a loving father, who sends his son on a rescue mission to save his beloved children? Yes…”both and.”
On this Fathers’ Day we are reminded that earthly fathers are meant to be an image of our heavenly Father. Although we should always know that our fathers love us, my experience is that when you’ve been bad, no words strike more fear than the infamous, “Wait until your father gets home!” Earthly fathers image this “both and” of the Trinity. God loves us, but he also expects certain things. We pray for our fathers today that God will strengthen them to carry out their mission. Through them, may we come to know a little bit better the love of the Holy Trinity.
Theologically speaking, it is always stupid to break one of the ten commandments. However, some people add an exclamation point to the 7th commandment by stealing some really stupid stuff. For instance, don’t steal something that can automatically track where it’s at and report your exact position to the police, like stealing a GPS enabled phone. In a similar vein, a recent story from California falls into this category and I guess would be filed under “religiously stupid” acts.
A woman decided to steal a 1st class relic of St. Anthony from the church bearing his name and on the saint’s feast day nonetheless. Now, those who don’t fall into the “religiously stupid” category will quickly note that St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things. What do you suppose the chances would be of a 1st class relic of the patron saint of lost objects staying…lost? I’d say about zero, and that is how this bizarre story ended today. The relic, along with the stupid person who stole it, have been found. Another triumph for St. Anthony who today got himself…unlost.
Do Not Be Afraid
Today is not any ordinary day. Today is Pentecost. It is a day filled with the power of the Spirit. Today the apostles went from being locked in a room in fear to spilling out onto the streets to boldly proclaim the Gospel. The Spirit was present on another fateful Pentecost in Warsaw Poland in 1979. John Paul II returned to Poland for the 1st time as Pope and told the millions gathered, “Do not be afraid.” The Catholic Church in Poland came out of their locked rooms and the Spirit sowed the seeds that would lead to the end of atheistic communism in just 10 years.
The Spirit continues to come to us today. Pentecost is a day on which we can change the world…one family at a time. All it takes is one family, one person, to say yes to the Holy Spirit and we can change the world. Let’s not try to contain the Holy Spirit. Let’s say yes to the Spirit today, and when you do…do not be afraid.
I Am With You Always
There is more to reality than what we experience in the material world. Many things are very real that are beyond our senses. Today we celebrate the day when Jesus Ascended into heaven and left this material world. Yet, as he was leaving, he promised that “I am with you always.” As the Church fathers put it, the Christ of history is now present in mystery. Sometimes we think that the apostles had it better because they experienced Christ physically present in the world. The truth is that the presence of Christ which we experience today is every bit as real, more real in fact.
The Second Vatican Council taught that the presence of Christ can be experienced today through the Word of Sacred Scripture, through the Sacraments, the person of priest, and especially through the Eucharist. When we realize that Jesus is with us always, we are no longer tied to just one physical place as the apostles were. Now we are ready for mission. Jesus’ last words to the apostles were instructions to “Go!” So at the end of Mass, after we have been filled with the presence of Christ, we too are told to “Go!” As we are sent we hear Jesus say to us as he did to the apostles, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Reason for Our Hope
St. Peter reminds us in the 2nd reading today to always be ready to give an explanation for the “reason for your hope.” Perhaps we don’t know the faith as well as we should. Maybe we are afraid when others question or challenge us about teachings of the Church. St. Peter reminds us that the faith is reasonable. Our faith “makes sense” and can be defended. However, our faith is much more than just a reasoned deduction. Hope is not quite as tangible as reason, but is just as real. Our hope points us toward heaven and our relationship with God.
To God We Plight Our Troth
In today’s gospel Jesus says that he goes to prepare a place for us and will then return to take us to be with him forever. It sounds like the end of the world…and it is. But, the language also tells us something about our relationship with God right now. In the time of Jesus, when a couple became engaged it was known as betrothal. The formal period of betrothal began when the husband paid the father of the bride the “bride-price.” The couple was then known as husband and wife. However, they were not yet married. The period of betrothal would last around a year.
During the year of betrothal, the husband had to ensure proper employment such that he could support a family and he had to go and build a home for this new family. Literally, he had to go and prepare a place for his wife and children. After a year, the marriage was sealed when the husband came to the home of the bride and took her in solemn procession into his new home. During this period of betrothal, the couple did not engage in marital relations. Rather, the time of betrothal was meant to prove that the couple could live chastely and were not mere slaves of their passions.
It is in this context that Jesus says in the gospel that he goes to prepare a place for us and will return to bring us to himself. Jesus is saying that he is our bridegroom who has betrothed himself to his bride the Church. This means that in this life we should be waiting expectantly for the coming of Jesus the bridegroom. It also means that during this time of preparation we are called to faithfulness. How are we doing?
We can certainly see that with regard to marriage we could be doing a lot better. Moving in together is no longer seen as the sign of marriage. In fact, couples live together today with almost no commitment at all. It wasn’t too long ago that if a boy tried to take some young lady to live with him outside of marriage that the father of the girl would have been there with a shotgun. Where are the fathers today to protect their daughters? Where are the fathers to show their sons how to be real men and care for women?
St. Philip the apostle begs Jesus today, “Show us the father.” Indeed, we are in dire need of strong fathers who will protect their families from evil. We also must see in Philip’s request the great desire we should all have to be in heaven. During this time of betrothal we pray that we can have the expectant joy of a bride preparing for her husband. We pray that we will be faithful.
Good Shepherd Sunday
We often think of sheep as being cute and fuzzy little creatures that you just want to hug when you see them. However, I was reminded of a different side of sheep recently when I saw a book written by a Protestant pastor entitled, “When Sheep Attack.” We often like to think of ourselves as cute little sheep, but the truth is that sometimes we attack. We often find ourselves frustrated with our shepherds. Yet, we need to stop and think about how we got these shepherds leading the Church in the first place.
The Church does not have the leaders she does because our bishops and priests are are so incredibly talented and holy. In fact the Church succeeds in spite of the often obvious unholiness of her leaders. There can only be one reason that the Church is what it is today, and that is because God is holy. He chooses to work through unworthy servants that he calls to be shepherds of his people. If chose the leaders of the Church, we would probably pick different people than what we’ve got, but then we’d also want to take credit for any success.
Today we thank God that we are not in charge of the Church; he is. If our shepherds are holy men, praise God. If we are frustrated by our shepherds at times, pray for them. Above all, trust that, no matter who the shepherd might be, the voice of the Good Shepherd speaks through them. Learn to hear his voice, no matter how unworthy his instrument may be. May God bless us with holy shepherds…and more of them!
We Are the Blessed
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Like a time capsule left for us in scripture, these words are addressed to us living today. We never saw Jesus during his public ministry. We did not see him die on Good Friday. Except for a few mystics, we have never seen him alive after his resurrection. Yet, billions of Christians all over the world gather today and profess our whole-hearted belief in Jesus Christ. Have you ever stopped to think how amazing this is? St. Paul tells us that “without seeing him, you love him.” On this day that see our beloved Pope John Paul II officially named “blessed,” the words of Jesus remind all of us who believe that truly we too are among the blessed.