December 13, 2014

·   Our Advent Lessons and Carols are this Sunday, December 14, at 7:00 PM, in the abbey church.  A reception follows; all are welcome.

·   Student are dismissed for Christmas vacation on Friday, December 19, at 12:15 PM (and no sooner).  They will have semester exams up until that point, therefore no student is allowed to leave early without the explicit permission of Fr. Victor.

·    First semester exams begin on Wednesday, December 17.  Students are encouraged to study; parents are encouraged to pray.

●Applications to renew tuition assistance are available now. Applications must be postmarked by February 3rd.  http://stmichaelsprep.org/images/stories/Admissions/psas_financial_aid_application.pdf

For several years Fr. John Henry has made regular contributions to the website of the St Josemaria Institute (www.stjosemaria.org), an Opus Dei apostolate that seeks to spread devotion to Saint Josemaria Escriva and knowledge of his spirituality. Father has recently collaborated with them in producing a novena booklet for "A Happy and Faithful Marriage." It is available for purchase from Midwest Theological Forum: 

·Congratulations to our basketball and soccer teams on their respective seasons thus far.  The next soccer game is Tuesday, December 16, at 3:15 PM, at St. Michael’s.  The next basketball game is not until after Christmas vacation.

Sermon by a Norbertine Priest
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…

The prayer which St. Paul made for the Romans, which we heard in today’s Epistle.  We hear a whole lot about joy in this season of Advent, and even more so during the season of Christmas.  Every other prayer in the liturgy seems to speak about joy.  In fact, we hear so much about it, that, if one is not feeling joyful, it can even get quite annoying.  Let’s face it, nothing is more bothersome as when someone keeps telling you to be joyful while you yourself are not.  But perhaps if we understood what joy is, where it is found, and how it is obtained—perhaps then we can better cope with all this joyful business.
Joy is that emotion which is activated when our intellect or will possesses something true and good.  This is not to be confused with simple pleasure.  It’s not that pleasure in itself is bad (that depends on what one is taking pleasure in); it’s just that joy is better, more noble than pleasure.  Pleasure is what we feel when our senses perceive something that brings delight.  When we sink our teeth into an In-N-Out burger, that’s pleasure.  Joy is something a bit more elevated, something spiritual—like when we come to know some new truth, or when we come to possess something which is good for us.  

For instance, when the doctor gives you medicine, the medicine may taste horrible and bring your senses absolutely no pleasure; but knowing that it will restore you to health, the taking of that medicine causes you great joy.  So joy is better than pleasure because its object, that is what brings it about, is greater than what brings about simple pleasure:  the state of good health is something better than a momentary good flavor.  Joy is in the intellect and the will alone; pleasure is in the senses.  Even the animals can have pleasure, whereas only man and the angels can have real joy.

Now since joy is caused by something which the intellect and will grasp as true and good, it follows that the greater the truth and goodness, the greater the joy.  Good physical health brings a certain amount of joy, as does having a good friend or knowing some lofty philosophical truth; but the greatest good and greatest truth there is, is God Himself—the Blessed Trinity.  So possessing God with our intellects and wills, insofar as we can in this life, brings us the greatest joy.  This is an undeniable fact.  One can say he doesn’t believe it, just as one can say that he won’t gain weight by overeating, but reality doesn’t change just because one chooses not to accept it.

So joy is something greater than pleasure; it comes when our intellect and will seize on something true and good; and the greater and more noble the object, the greater the joy.  But at this point you might be saying, “So what, Father, that all sounds great on paper, but I’m still miserable.”  This leads us to the last point, namely how do we obtain this joy.

Remember that St. Paul prayed to God for the Romans, that He would fill them with all joy and peace in believing.  Joy is ultimately an effect of charity, says St. Thomas.  That is why St. Paul prayed that the Romans would have joy “in believing”, because we first must believe in something in order to love it—we cannot love what we do not believe in.  So the first step towards joy is to believe in God and all His revealed truths.  The second step is to love God and His truths.  And both of these—believing and loving God—come as a gift for which we must pray:  for ourselves and for others, as did St. Paul.  But we’re not done yet... 

As we know all too well, we do not yet possess God perfectly as we will in heaven; we can still, and unfortunately often do turn our minds and hearts from Him.  Now just as one will never have the pleasure which comes from that In-and-Out burger until one actually eats it, so one will not have joy in God as long as he does not grasp onto Him, so to speak, by thinking about Him, by contemplating His truth and goodness, by speaking with Him and listening to Him, by actively loving Him.  Now there’s the key to finding joy even in this life.  The more closely united we are to God in prayer, in love (a love which expresses itself in doing God’s will), the more joy we will have.  Once again, it is an undeniable fact.

Consider the words of Mother Teresa:  We have a right to be happy and peaceful.  We have been created for this—we are born to be happy—and we can only find true happiness and peace when we are in love with God—there is joy in loving God…A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love.

We used to begin every Holy Mass with the words, Introibo ad altare Dei; Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam—“I will go unto the altar of God, to the God Who gives joy to my youth.”  Let this be a solemn reminder to us that true and everlasting joy is only found when we move towards God, when we “go up to His altar”, giving Him our hearts and minds, contemplating Him, speaking with Him, loving Him.  And let us pray at this Mass for the Gift of Understanding, that gift which moves our minds to penetrate into the depths of God’s revealed truths, and so develop a holy taste for spiritual things.  And so now let us continue this sacrifice of love and go unto God’s altar, for there awaits us joy and peace in believing.

Prayer Requests
● For Mrs. Donna Loeffler, who is undergoing some health problems.

● For all the benefactors of St. Michael’s Preparatory School, living and deceased.


December 6, 2014

·   Our school choir will be singing at two different Advent Lessons and Carols this year.  The first performance will be at Holy Family Cathedral, on Sunday, December 7, at 7:00 PM [choir members must arrive by 6:00 PM]; the second performance is here in the abbey church on Sunday, December 14, at 7:00 PM.  A reception follows this latter performance.  All are welcome.
·   Please note that the first class on Monday morning begins at 8:00 AM (not its usual 8:25).

·   Student are dismissed for Christmas vacation on Friday, December 19, at 12:15 PM (and no sooner).  They will have semester exams up until that point, therefore no student is allowed to leave early.

●Applications to renew tuition assistance are available now. Applications must be postmarked by February 3rd.  http://stmichaelsprep.org/images/stories/Admissions/psas_financial_aid_application.pdf

·         Congratulations to Coach Mike Smith and the school’s basketball team on their recent victories; the team is now 2-1 for the season.  The next basketball games are: Tuesday, December 9, at 7:00 PM, at Crean Lutheran [12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618]; and Thursday, December 11, at 4:00 PM, at American Sports Center [1500 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, CA 92805]; and Friday, December 12, at 4:00 PM, at American Sports Center .
·         The next soccer games are: Tuesday, December 9, at 3:15 PM, at TVT [5 Federation Way, Irvine, CA 92603]; Wednesday, December 10, at 3:15 PM, at St. Michael’s; and Thursday, December 11, at 3:00 PM, at San Diego Jewish Academy [11860 Carmel Creek Road, San Diego, CA 92130].

Sermon by a Norbertine Priest
With the particular genius of the Latin liturgy, today we pass with thematic seamlessness from the end of one Church year to the beginning of the next.  Last week we were presented with Christ our King coming in glory to judge the good and the wicked; and now, as we prepare ourselves anew for that last coming, Christ instructs us what we have to do lest we fail utterly and so be counted among the goats.

“Be watchful!  Be alert!” says our Gospel text.  As usual, the New American translation is deficient.  The Latin Vulgate follows other Greek authorities that add a third command.  Vidéte, vigiláte, et oráte.  “See!  Watch!  And pray!”  This second command, which can also be rendered, “Keep vigil,” is so important that in our brief passage today Christ says it three times.  Let us see what each of these commands has to offer us, so that we too may be ready to meet Christ whenever He decides to visit us.
Vidéte.  “See.”  It is hardly necessary for the Son of God to tell us to open our literal eyes, since so much of our sense knowledge comes through our  power of sight.  Those who are not physically blind can hardly take a few steps with their eyes closed without feeling at least a little off balance, if they don’t run right into things.

No, Christ is telling us to open the eyes of our minds.  That is, we are to look anew at the mundane events that make up our days by shining the light of faith on the objects of our physical sight.  Since not one thing that happens in our day escapes being ordered by the eternal providence of God towards our salvation and sanctification, we need to reflect on passing events and constantly ask ourselves: Why did God have this happen?  What is He telling me about myself?  Which virtue is He challenging me to exercise?  How does my belief in Christ Jesus demand of me a response, a course of action, that others will not approve or understand?

If a man were, for example, to break his foot, in exasperation he might well wonder why God allowed that to happen.  This is the vision Christ wants us to have.  Not simply pay attention to where you’re walking so you don’t crack a bone, but interpret the material circumstances from the perspective of faith.  Why does God will a man to suffer a broken foot?  To remind him by means of pain and suffering that we long for the unending joy of heaven.  To warn him that, if he can’t abide by a little discomfort now, much less will he be able to endure the everlasting torments of hell.  To offer him the opportunity to make reparation for all those times he callously trod others underfoot.  To exercise his virtue of patience.  To conform his soul more intimately with Christ crucified through suffering.

If we habituate ourselves to reflecting on the littlest moments of our lives in this way, we quickly come to the realization that Christ visits us, not just as a newborn child at Christmas and not just as the King of tremendous majesty on the Day of Doom, but in as many different and insignificant ways as there are actual graces offered to us.

Vigiláte.  “Watch.”  Once we know what we’re looking for—or better, how to look—it is incumbent upon us to focus our attention.  If he knows the king is coming, the watchman atop the city wall doesn’t just keep his eyes open and enjoy the view.  He scans the horizon with narrowed eyes, scrutinizing all possible avenues of approach, whether common or infrequent, for the first signs of the arriving monarch.  

Mr. Tomescu
Keeping watch for us must have that same intensity of purpose.  Having been convinced that Christ is coming, not only in the great and dramatic events of world-ending cataclysm but more so in the seemingly unimportant opportunities of grace, we need to sift all our impulses, all our conversations, our pastimes and work, our tragedies and triumphs, to seek out the presence of Christ, no matter how well disguised.

Such intensity, however, cannot be maintained indefinitely.  But Jesus tells us when we ought most to be on our guard.  “You do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.”  If Christ warns us that His arrival might find us sleeping, then He’s also tipping us off that He likes to come when we least expect it: when we feel most abandoned by Him.

We might have expected otherwise.  So often when our day is going great, our plans are successful, and we’re basking in the glory of God’s stamp of approval, it’s trivially simple to send up a word of recognition or thanks to God for His presence in our day.  But when it’s an evening in our lives, and darkness is descending, we know things are going to get worse before they get a lot worse.  Or when it’s midnight and we’re still awake, there’s a long stretch of silent and lonely waiting before the dawn.  Or at cockcrow, one side of the sky seems slightly less oppressed.  Or at morning, we barely believe we didn’t perish in the night.  From dusk till dawn—when God hides His face and we foresee our lives moving towards inevitable train wreck, through the desolation of disaster, all the way till the first streaks of the return of God’s love—then it is we least expect to find the approach of Christ. 

But the logic of the spiritual life unexpectedly parallels our sense experience.  We think that daylight is the time when our sight works best.  The sky is bathed in glory and heavenly beauty.  But the farthest we can see so long as the sun is up is no farther than the sun itself; and while our cerulean canopy is invigorating, it is also monochromatic.  Only when the sun has hidden itself do we see various colors of heavenly bodies, the eternal figures of fiery constellations.  Only when it’s darkest here below can we see to the other side of the universe.  So, too, the deepest insights into the heart of God come only when we’re in the darkest desolation and therefore are least inclined to be vigilant for the master who is at that very moment knocking at the door, trying to reveal to us His inmost secrets.
Oráte.  “Pray.”  The response of our heart to this new vision and focus must be to open the door to Christ and welcome Him in.  Not only does prayer help us maintain our spiritual edge and keep our vigilance from growing slack, but it also makes happen the very advent we’re expecting.  So closely connected are vigilance and prayer, that when in Gethsemane Jesus warned His disciples, vigiláte—“Watch!”—in the very same breath He told them, oráte—“Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  St. Augustine would have us understand by this prayer, not that we should never be tempted but that we should not fall to its strength.
For the moment of temptation is a moment of grace, and that is the advent of Christ.  If, then, Christ decides to visit us not just at the end of time but in every cross, tribulation and vexation—as a preparation for that final and definitive advent—may our minds be so opened and attentive to His daily coming and so prayerful for the strength to embrace Him that He never find us sleeping but rather ready to open at His knock.

See, watch, and pray.

Prayer Requests
● For Mrs. Donna Loeffler, who is suffering health problems.

● For all the benefactors of St. Michael’s Preparatory School, living and deceased.