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Friday Thoughts – Good Friday

Today we remember the worst day in human history that by the events that took place became the greatest weekend in human history. Man deigned to kill his redeemer. His redeemer humbly offered Himself as sacrifice for the sins of every man who living, dead, and not yet conceived. As St. Paul said, By one act man entered into sin, by one act man entered into salvation.

Today is not like any other day. It sanctifies Friday as a holy day, a day set apart, a day to enter more fully into the cross of Jesus Christ. We fast in order to remember. The pain in our stomachs keeps us from being complacent. We cannot sit in bodily contentment, but rather in yearning and desiring. The physical hunger reveals that we have an even deeper longing, the fulfillment of our salvation, the Resurrection.

Christ said to his disciples in the Gospel of John, It is good you call me teacher. For I am. His greatest lesson is to be learned today. If you are to rise, you must die. In order to receive the fullness of salvation I offer you, you, too, must take up your cross and follow Me.

Do not let this day pass by. Let this be a memorial and remembrance that our lives are gifts the were bestowed upon us this day 2000 years ago. The joy that we have, the sorrow we experience for our sins, the peace in trial, all flow from the side of Cross like a torrent with is as infinite as its source.

Friday Thoughts – Tenebrae and Liturgical Music

Last night I participated in a Tenebrae service here at the seminary, which you can find here. Tenebrae was originally a part of the Divine Office for Holy Week previous to the liturgical changes called for by Vatican II and promulgated by Pope Paul VI. There is still some retention in the Liturgy of the Hours we now use, but it became the practice of some parishes and monasteries to retain the older form as a preparation for the final days of the life of Christ which we celebrate liturgically on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. The basic format is: there are three nocturns followed by an silent Our Father, a closing prayer, and the strepitus, which if you watched in the video, is the loud noise at the very end. The strepitus symbolizes the earthquake at Jesus’ death. Each of the nocturns follows the story from garden of Gethsemane to Calvary, the pinnacle being the strepitus. Within each nocturn, there are three parts: a psalm, a reading, and response. As the liturgy moves on candles are extinguished from a large candelabra called a hearse.

The Schola Cantorum here at the seminary prepared pieces for the musical responses that are at the end each of the three nocturns. We tackled very difficult pieces. Believe you me, chanting with twenty men together at once, and sounding good, is very difficult. Trying to create one voice from twenty is a monumental task for amateurs like ourselves.

After the service, I was struck again by how moving it is. It proved to me that there are certain types, yes, types of music, specially suited for the liturgy. Yes, the church documents tell us Gregorian chant is the greatest form of liturgical music and is the scale by which all other liturgical music is compared, polyphony being the second loved but still very supported child. These forms of music conform themselves to the other-worldliness of the liturgy. They are intended for no other purpose and do not resemble any other form of non-liturgical music (unless those non-liturgical musics become derivative sub-genres of popular music that resemble the forms of chant and sacred polyphony). The allign the mind and the body toward that which is beyond complete intellection and sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. They are means by which the soul can encounter the divine. Through the creations of His creations, the Creator reveals Himself to His most beloved creatures.

If you didn’t before, click the link above and soak in some of the glory of God communicated through music. Be moved to sorrow for the sorrows of Christ in the garden. Be moved to hope by the small glimmer in Christ’s eye walking up to Calvary. Shudder in disgust and fear (the good kind) standing at the foot of the cross of the Savior of the world; and hear the loudness of the earthquake that shook the earth, the very cosmos commiserating with the death of Jesus Christ.

Friday Thoughts – the Ankler Makes a New Friend

Today is a turning point in the movement of the story of the Ankler. After over a month and a half with a external fixator keeping my bones in the correct place after a horrible dislocation, today, hopefully, is removal day.

I have been awaiting this day for over two weeks now. It has been a sort of Advent for me, in the middle of Lent while, still retaining the penitential atmosphere. The Lord suggest I give up walking. It’s been easier than you think, but the ease is not the point here.

Because of the nature of the surgery, I will be going under general anesthesia which is always a risk especially with someone with a breathing malady. So I was a little worried about it. I am not near where I desire to be upon leaving this vale of tears.

What has given me consolation is a new friend, San Turibio de Mogrovejo. San Turibio was introduced to me by a blogger/Twitter friend Billy Newton from The Blog of the Courtier. Today is the liturgical commemoration of San Turibio. Billy suggested a call for his intercession for a successful surgery and a promise from me to make a pilgrimage to his shrine in Peru. See, San Turibio was a Spanish missionary to Peru named bishop of Lima. In 1600, he established the first seminary in the New World. As a seminarian, he seemed like a person to turn to, recommended my Church militant friend. Billy had no idea, okay maybe he did, that he was establishing a lasting relationship between a current sojourner and one who has arrived into the glories of the beatific vision, all in the glorious providence of the Almighty.

Yesterday morning, during my holy hour, I download edan image of him on my phone and using that image had a conversation with him, telling him my story and asking him for his intercession for a successful surgery. I promised him that I would make a pilgrimage to Peru in thanksgiving.

I let it pass planning on coming out well tomorrow afternoon no longer looking like I’m in the beginning stages of being subsumed into the Borg.

Last night, Archbishop Aymond hosted all his seminarians for a dinner. Towards the end of our time there, some of my confreres were speaking about the celebrants chair in his private chapel in the John XXIII house where he lives. He said that it is nearly 500 years old and belonged to a bishop saint in South America, and I said with a glimmer of hope but knowing there were a few of these, “St. Turibius of Mogrovejo?” The Archbishop pointed and responded with enthusiasm, “Yes, yes, that’s it.” I must say dear readers my heart leapt with a quiet but determined joy. San Turibio had assured me of his prayers and intercession. In fact, his presence was much closer than I originally realized.

My friends and readers do not underestimate our relationships with the Church triumphant. They yearn to intercede for us to aid in some small way in drawing all things to Christ.

San Turibio de Mogrovejo, ora pro nobis

Saturday Thoughts – St. Patrick, pray for us

Back in the summer of 2001, I had the great gift to be a part of a program initiated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the People to People Program. Its goal was and is to build relationships with countries by send young people from the United States as student ambassadors to witness to the country visited the desire to maintain relations with that country. From the student ambassador perspective it was to learn about and interact with people from another country in their country and so grow in an understanding about the universality of human relationships.

People to People gave me the opportunity to go back to the cultural roots of the United States. We travelled to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. We saw some beautiful sights. We met some great people. We lived in homes with regular English and Irish families. We grew as a community of teenagers.

I speak of this because I got to see, talk with, and learn about Ireland. Those who look at me would think that there might be Irish in me. My mother’s father is of Irish descent from a family originating in County Down in the north of Ireland. You can tell from the way that family drinks despite being raised Southern Baptist. Spending time there in the country of my ancestors was almost surreal, even at 16. I spent two days living with an Irish family living forty miles outside of Dublin. The brogue of the mother of the family was so thick I had to get her children to translate. The crown of the trip though was visiting Glendalough Abbey.

photo by Eve Andersson

Founded by St. Kevin in the mid-sixth century. This was a place of prayer and asceticism for seven centuries before it was partially destroyed by a British invasion in 1398. It was my first encounter with a monastery and indeed it was in a sad state. An old simple church stood along with a large cemetery famous for its Celtic crosses. I remember being overly attached to a rosary I bought there that had clovers on each bead and a Celtic crucifix at its beginning.

Unfortunately, this monastery, at least for me, has become the image of the Church in Ireland. One can see the greatness that used to be there but what remains is mostly ruins and a few faithful standing strong with their bishops and priests.

The decline happened before then. In fact, Ireland is finally experiencing what Europe experienced a little over two hundred years ago. Once faithful group have turned to other things, in my opinion wealth. This opinion is based on my amateur study of history, but do not leave me just yet.

The Irish had a faith that withstood unbelievable persecution of the British since the time of Henry VIII. They dealt with oppression, violence, attempted genocide, and still trusted in the Lord Almighty, because he was their rock and their strength. Their witness to faith aided in the quick growth of the faith and its practices here in the US one hundred and sixty years, or so, ago. They brought with them the only three things they had, love of family, love of country, and love of God and His Church.

Some, tired of the oppression to the point of no return, fought violently for 500 years against the British government. You can find riddled throughout Ireland’s history during that time small and large revolts. Then, southern Ireland gained independence in 1921 through the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Then, men and women continued to fight some to the point of idolizing freedom.

Then the Celtic Tiger occurred. From 1995 to 2007, Ireland moved from the one of the poorest nations in Europe to being one of the wealthiest nations in Europe. They experienced uncontrollable economic growth after centuries of poverty and near starvation. Only the most virtuous of the poor cannot dream and be attached to money that they do not have. When the poor become rich and quickly, money can cloud their prudence and displaced their faith.

On the heals of the economic downturn, that brought Ireland away from this prosperity was the extraordinary amounts of priest abuse reports that had, like many diocese in the US, been covered up. What faith still remained in those who had come into prosperity was lost. Their faith weakened by the Tiger experience, unbeknown to them.

Now, today is St. Patrick’s Day. This holy man was the apostle to Ireland. He brought droves of Irish into the sacraments. He said in his Confession,

I came to the Irish peoples to preach the Gospel and endure the taunts of unbelievers, putting up with reproaches about my earthly pilgrimage, suffering many persecutions, even bondage, and losing my birthright of freedom for the benefit of others. If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for his name. I want to spend myself in that country, even in death, if the Lord should grant me this favour.

Even in death, does he want to give his life for the sanctification of this country. Let us implore him today to fulfill the desire and that promise made. We in the United States are indebted to the Irish through their descendants working to give some respect to the Catholic Church in this country, even if it is now lost again for different reasons. We are also indebted to the many sons of Ireland who came here as missionaries to serve in Catholic dioceses as priests.

Now, more than ever, is the time for the great conversion of Ireland, for us to call upon the powers of heaven to strip from the hearts of the Irish people the attachments to greed and pride and accept again, in fullness the faith of Jesus Christ.

St. Patrick, pray for us.

Friday Thoughts – The Ankler Experiences the Tragedy of the Healthcare System

Praise God. I have very little pain from the injury that is now a month old. I still have pins sticking out of my heel and shin, but unless, they are kicked, I’m doing okay on the infamous pain scale.

However, complications have now arisen with regard to my care. I have now experienced firsthand the problems with our current healthcare system. I got a call on Monday from the hospital where I was planning on having surgery next week to take these pins out. The lady on the other side of the line let me know, “Mr. Sanders, ________ Hospital is not covered by your insurance (which will remain nameless). If you have had surgery here, you would be out of network.” Despite all the headaches this phone call has caused in my life over the past week I praise God that it happened because I would have had to pain for a full surgery out of pocket with no money.

God’s providence seems to always come with some sort of suffering though. I’ve had to make countless phone calls to ______ Hospital and the new hospital and doctor with whom I am now going to be relating. I’ve had to call the insurance and talk with them.

Then, the frustration builds. I receive a bill from the insurance company (a very reputable one) letting me know they will not cover the emergency room visit, surgery, and care in the hospital the day after the surgery, which amounts to much more than I’ve ever earned in my lifetime of part-time high school jobs and seminarian stipends. What injustice! I was in a state of emergency. My foot needed to be nearly put back on! Hello! Then, I understood. Then, I realized, and now I’m empathetic. What is it?

Man has turned away from himself. His desire for happiness ends in money and in turn dehumanizes man into a means by which money can be extracted. I have  a serious injury, a poor woman has cancer; we can’t pay for our care but care we need. Care is denied or insurmountable debt is incurred. Either way they deny the necessities for good human living.

Honestly, in my ignorance I turned a blind eye. No more can I do that. I am deeply saddened that healthcare bureaucrats are dictating to doctors and nurses how to be of service to mankind.

How many people are swindled into this? I have the drive, the will and the social backing (by that I mean knowing people in the right places) to fight this and right this injustice for myself. I barely have a clue how to navigate this labyrinthine insurance system. Thank God I have family and contacts that do. Many people don’t and give up and pay for the rest of their lives care the should be normal.

I don’t say I have answer or have fully contemplated the different solutions to this healthcare system problem. I only know, now, that it cannot justly remain. Obamacare certainly is not the answer, but what is?

the Ankler

Friday Thoughts – Is Fiction Lying?

I subscribe to Fuel Your Writing with the amateur and fantastic intention of one day becoming a writer. The bloggers there usually have great insights into many aspects of writing. They often times keep me going. 

A month ago, I received one of their encouraging emails only to be thoroughly discouraged. It was called And Then the Beckham’s Paid Off Our Mortgage … Please read that quickly before continuing or this post might not make sense. 

The writer, Christopher Johnson, is the editor for Fuel Your Writing and I have no doubt sincerely desires to communicate the best information to his constituency. Furthermore, I thoroughly respect Stephen King as a writer and a writer for writers, but I disagree wholeheartedly with his statement, “Fiction is truth inside a lie.” 

This originates from the concepts that myths are lies. Tolkein and Lewis spent their lives combatting this literary heresy. Myths and with them, fiction, are not lies. Rather, they communicate truth through their stories. They communicate the truth of the human condition, of the sinfulness of man, of the desire for redemption not found. Fiction is the battleground of the human soul wherein men and women come to see the world in a different light through flights of adventure, romance (which, by the way I’m not a fan of romance novels, but they still communicate that which is true, lust), mystery, even science fiction. 

Take the story at hand, the Beckham’s. This story communicates man’s desire for unconditional love, a love which no matter the depth, can never be fully requited by man. The Beckham’s, in the story, are an image of Christ’s love for his Church. He’s willing to give without expecting but a little repayment (our cooperation with His unconditional gift), a repayment certainly not to the degree of the gift. 

Instead of a lie, the Beckham story becomes an image of the reception of divine love and our reticence to receive because of our wanting to hold onto to our own will. Fiction is not lying. Fiction, at its very essence, communicates truth, namely Truth Himself. When fiction betrays that, it betrays itself and destroys the reader instead of lifting him/her up toward that which is greater. 

Friday Thoughts – Fall Risk

As I continue on my journey to recovery from a most horrendous injury of my ankle, the Lord continues to teach me things. He won’t let me lie in my unreflective space. He continues to draw my mind to Him in simple ways.

Take for instance the photo to the left. I was given this wristband after my surgery. I thought it funny to keep it especially once I returned to the seminary because my fellow confreres would get a kick out of it.

I thought wrong. Most haven’t mentioned it, or if they have. They haven’t gotten the joke. (Just my luck, I’m the only one that fell for it)

Crutching around, at least in some areas, it is indeed very true. I am at risk of falling. Indeed, I have fallen to the chagrin of my Borg-like right foot, when pressure was placed on it before it was time for it to bear weight. Falling is a danger when I move too fast for my own good on the crutches. It’s just not the safest way to travel.

As I started reflecting deeper though, I came to realize the moral truth in the bracelet. I am indeed a fall risk. I know my own faults too well, and Satan does too. He wants to pull me, push me to fall, fall away from my Beloved. I am at a constant risk of falling into sin, of falling in love with creation neglecting to love my Creator. I am at risk of falling for the distractions of Doctor Who: Season 6 away from the calling of study I have received from the Lord while I finish my last semester.

I go even further though. If you look past my bracelet, you see my body, my humanity. It speaks its own language, and its weakness is a constant reminder that I am a fall risk. My inheritance of original sin and my previous revelries in personal sin make me liable. Even as I grow in union, which is slow, that liability will never cease.

The only insurance that I have is Christ. It is He who will catch me. It is He will even after I fall pick me up and restore me by His infinite mercy. It is He who will be next to me as a perpetual support. He never leaves His beloved. Although I may feel that I crutch alone, I crutch with the strength provided me by Him.

Lent is a great time to remember that we are all fall risks, and we are in need of internal purification. As our spiritual wounds heal, the day will come when we can, with the healing provided by the outpouring blood of Christ, walk on our own to feet and cut the band from our arms.

Let that day come, when it is best to come.

The Ankler

Friday Thoughts – Pray for Your Priests

There’s so much I want to write about. Much has happened in the last week. The Lord is doing great things in my heart, in the hearts of the people of this country, in the hearts of the seminarians. What going to write about might seem to some gloating, but the Lord has really convicted me.

Satan hates priests. He despises them worse than my sister hates roaches. They are so effective at doing God’s work, following His will, being manifold dispensers of His free grace. He wants nothing more than destroy every single priest that is alive. Anyone he can get his hands on, he wants destroyed. He does it in many ways. Some are drastic like what experienced last summer in Fr. Corapi. Most though, he works through a slow grind, weakening them to his prowl and deceits and leading them in this way or that direction to lead the people of God astray. He gets them thinking they are doing the work of God, glorious work for the sake of his people, but they are silently, subtly leading His flock astray. The temptations are great for Christ’s priests. Not much different than what Satan took Christ through after His baptism in the Jordan and in the Garden of Gethsemane. He hits priests at their weakest because the sin of a priest has greater affect than just the regular doctrine of social sin. The sin of a priest affects every one of his parishioners, students, his whole flock.

So I ask you, kind and few readers pray daily for priests. Pray daily that they stay connected and in communion with Christ whom they represent. Pray for seminarians for aspire to so noble a gift and discern whether God desires that gift them. Pray for our bishops who even more so are under great spiritual pressure to buckle and give in.

Jesus, meek and humble of hearts. Make our hearts like Yours.

Friday Thoughts – The Ankler

I had three other blog posts planned for this week with more than enough time to write them because I had read ahead in class. Come Monday night, my year changed. I decided to do what I do most every Monday night {no not take over the world, that’s Thursdays} I played basketball. Basketball has been my favorite sport since I was a child. Before I understood the full reality of professional basketball, i.e. it helps to be tall, I wanted to be a professional basketball player.

Ten minutes into the game, I go up for a layup, which is rare due to my aforementioned lack of height. At some point on the way up or the way down, my foot forgot to do its job and keep footing and my ankle gave way. It happens in games all the time, a twist here and sprain there. Nothing big, except for that night. I came to ground writhing in pain I looked at my ankle in utter horror. My foot had turn inward a full 90 degrees making its best Linda Blair impression. My fellow players went into panic mode. They called for a young priest, because all the old priests were asleep. It was after eight thirty. I received Anointing of the Sick for the first time. I tell you; it was a grace filled moment being on the other side receiving the sacrament as opposed to watching other people receive it. The comfort of the spirit was surely there and helped
me to patiently endure what came ahead.

One of my fellow basketballers hailed an ambulance with his arm out and robust whistle. In came not only EMTs but a doctor. Uh oh. A doctor is on the scene? They said they’d never seen anything like this. EMT’s have seen some crazy things for sure. So when I heard this I knew I was going to be the freakshow of the day.

“So what’s your name,” said the EMT that accompanied me into the ambulance.

“Deacon Kyle,” I responded.

“So your gonna be a priest,” he asked while jotting down my health insurance information.

“Sure am.”

This starts many conversations for me, never did I think I would be having it in an ambulance with the EMT caring for me. I used it as a jumping ground to see where the Lord was in his life. He hasn’t been very faithful to going to mass. His work is his life to the detriment of any romantic relationship. I definitely loves to help people who are in situations like myself. Please pray for him, either he’s called to the priesthood or he has met the girl that will help him to heaven. Either way he needs our prayers.

I arrive at the emergency room of University Hospital, the teaching hospital. I became the specimen of the day. Look at this guy’s injury. Something new. I was kindly given cc’s of something that can be sold for good money on the street. That gift was repeat about 10 minutes later. I was in a kindly state. Until the petite blonde doctor, let me know she was going to place my foot back where it should be. {I hadn’t listen to my mother. I didn’t put it back where I found it.} I experienced what a 10 on the pain scale feels like after an unknown number of cc’s of some drug was flowing through my system. I appreciated there the depth of the faithfulness of the Japanese martyrs we had celebrated that day. They went through much greater pain without meds and for the sake of their belief in Jesus Christ.

Now, it was time for surgery. They wouldn’t let me wear my scapular, which I was not a fan of, but I acquiesced. I went under anesthesia and … and … {cough} (cough} {heave} {heave} My eyes weren’t yet able to open and apparently neither were my lungs. I was having an unenjoyable {not that they’re ever enjoyable} asthma attack. In my asthmatic anesthetized daze I could see some sort of contraption on my ankle area, but it was too blurry to become reality yet. The nurse told me I couldn’t get my CAT scan until my breathing was controlled. I never like cats, but I did my best to steady my breathing over a 45 minute period.

My reward was received. My first CAT scan. The technician mentioned something about not being wise and I responded with, “In Proverbs, it says, “Wisdom is the fear of the Lord.” I took both him and me off guard. Post surgery Scripture quoting … only from a seminarian. We had a good little conversation about Scripture, before after my scan, which, thank God, involved no scratches or litter boxes.

Finally, I arrived at my room. It was a private room with a window overlooking the lit Superdome, excuse me, for trademark purposes, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It was in the light of the room that I could finally see what the surgery entailed. Two metal rods protrude from my shin while another protrudes perpendicularly from heel. Inside, the ace bandage and other medical linens is a cage called an external fixator that is intended to keep my bones in the right place. No more dislocation, it says to me.

Here is where my final road to priesthood begins … welcome to the life of THE ANKLER.

Friday Thoughts – Reflections on Catholic Education

We are at the end of Catholic Schools Week. Catholic education is something that is near and dear to my heart, not only because of the call the Lord has put on my heart as priest, who is both preacher and teacher, but, also, because I understand the great power and gift of Catholic education today in the United States.

Over the past  sixty years, there has been a drastic change in Catholic education. It is first felt by the students. Teaching orders have significantly diminished in vocations and have been forced to pass their ministry to the laity. Don’t get me wrong the best teachers I have had are lay. However, the lay teacher is, in a sense divided. He or she must first provide for children. This puts Catholic schools in a precarious situation, without government grant money, they cannot pay their teachers a competitive salary. The pay difference between public and Catholic school teachers here in New Orleans is about the price of new car. Whereas before the religious orders staffed the school because it was an integral part of their vocation as religious. For them it was community, prayer, and teaching.

To a certain extent devoted lay faithful have taken over that charism and have forfeited greater wage for the sake of the mission of Catholic education. I am all to grateful for that sacrifice. I would have been deprived of a Catholic education otherwise. I was not taught by a religious until my first semester of college seminary at a Benedictine monastery. That was twelve years of Catholic education provided by lay faithful. Some communicated their faith well. Some did not have a faith to communicate. My vocation indeed was fostered in way by their sacrifice.

As a student I did not understand their sacrifice at all, but by their silent witness of less pay for the sake of teaching in a Catholic school softened and prepared my heart for the day when the Lord would ask me to sacrifice my life.

That being said. I did not learn about the Tradition of the Church in any depth, other than sexuality and a short introduction to the Church Fathers in high school, until I arrived at seminary. Consecrated religious teaching in Catholic schools is by its existence a witness of faith. However, they have also entered into the Tradition of the Church and can communicate it while teaching about photosynthesis or multiplication tables. In their own study, they encountered Christ there.

Let us pray specifically for the growth in vocations of these teaching orders that the Lord is calling to re-catechize the Catholic education culture. Their witness was invaluable to the growth in faith of our grandparents and to some of our parents. At that same time, we need to pray in thanksgiving for the devoted laity who have stepped into and taken over the charism of these teaching orders.

St. Dominic, pray for us
St. John Bosco, pray for us
St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle, pray for us
St. Angela Merici, pray for us
St. Katherine Drexel, pray for us
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, pray for us
St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us