The History of Henry VIII: an opportunity taken...

"To be deep in history is to 
cease to be a Protestant."
~ Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman
Last week I wrote about an opportunity missed. This week, I seized an opportunity.

Yesterday, for the first time in months, I paid for a haircut. I am a fan of traditional barbershops, and the only traditional barbershop I know of in the area is about 45 minutes away. It is the same barber shop where I got my hair cut the day before my wedding.

The gentlemen there are always professional and personable. This time, as I was sitting in the barber chair, when I was asked what I do for a living. It is usually a conversation I do not enjoy having. When I say I do theology, I usually get one of two responses. The first is something to the effect of, "I don't see how anyone couldn't believe in God." The second is usually, "Oh..." and then silence.

This time the conversation was quite different. I was asked where I work. I told him that I do not currently have a job, and that finding a job in this area is difficult. I said that as a Catholic it is not like I can just go out and start my own church. To this, he replied, "Maybe God's telling you that it's time to join a different church."

Ah! Yes! An opportunity to evangelize!

He continued saying, "Maybe if you were Episcopal you could be a priest and have a wife, I know it's difficult to do something like that if you're Catholic."

I asked him how much he knew about the history of the Episcopal church. He admitted that he didn't know much. I explained to him that the Episcopal church was an extension of the Anglican church in America. It maintained the liturgy of the Church of England and its structure. I then asked how much he knew about the Church of England. He acknowledged that he did not know anything.

King Henry VIII
I explained to him that the Church of England was part of the Catholic Church until the rule of Henry VIII. Henry ultimately decided to proclaim himself the head of the Church in England, because the Church refused to annul his marriage. I asked him if he thought that was a good enough reason to leave the Church.

He admitted it was not and we continued to talk. I expressed as subtlely as possible the idea that the more you know the history of Christianity the more certain you are that the Catholic Church is the only true Church. I did this from my own perspective, saying, "I can't imagine being any Christian denomination. The more I've learned the history of any denomination of Christianity, the more certain I am that their reasons for separation are unfounded and it leads to error. So, naturally I wouldn't consider leaving the Church myself just so I could get a job."

We continued talking but at this point he seemed to concede that my decision was well formed and he asked if there were other ways that I could help the Catholic Church. He made several suggestions, but nothing that I have not already thought of and tried. I expressed my own desire to work in college campus ministry again, and my love for working with that age group. He seemed interested in what I had to say and I thanked him for the opportunity to talk and for the wonderful haircut.

It was a great opportunity, and I am glad I took it. Now, it is up to the workings of the Holy Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth.

 O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Wedding Feast: An opportunity missed

I slept in recently on a Sunday, not too late, but late enough to have to go to a parish other than my own. My wife and I arrived a few minutes late, and to make matters worse, there wasn't a parking spot in sight.

The parking dilemma has happened before (not having been late), and it was because that Sunday was the "Children's Mass." So naturally I was cursing the concept of a "so-called-Children's Mass" on my way in asking, "Why isn't every Mass a Children's Mass? Why isn't every Mass an 'Everybody Mass'!?"

This is one of those moments when you feel like slapping yourself in the face: I walked in at the start of the Gloria and could not find a single seat open. I was not too worried about finding a seat since I had brought my pregnant wife with me, and I knew there had to be at least one gentleman in the place who would make some room for us. But as we were scanning for seats, I noticed two things. First, everyone was wearing there Sunday's best, which is sadly unusual. Secondly, there were a lot of children in the first set of pews wearing little suits and white dresses. *Slap* First Communions! "I'm sorry, Lord, I take it all back."

My frustration turned to joy almost immediately; there are few things as beautiful as witnessing a First Communion. The Collect was said, and the readings were read. We sat knowing what the homily would be about, namely, First Communion.

Fr. Bob (not his real name), is one of those priests who sincerely loves God and His Church, but is not the most 'liturgically' or 'theologically minded.' After finishing the Gospel, he kissed it set it down, and walked down into the nave. Pacing back and forth he asked the children, "Why are you all dressed up?"

To which one replied, "We're getting married."

A roar of laughter erupted and Father said, "I hope there's an equal number of boys and girls." He then proceeded to correct the child and explain that they were receiving the Eucharist for the first time. And what he said was very encouraging and good.

I feel, however, that missed an opportunity. That whole parish was rocking with laughter to the embarrassment of one child. Here was the perfect opportunity to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. In the midst of the laughter he could have said, "In a way, that's true."

Certainly not every child was preparing to marry another child, but in that moment, they were preparing to enter into a union of one body with Christ, which is itself very much like the union of a husband and wife.

Stop and think for a bit, if you do not already know what I am talking about. In the Mass the priest repeats the words of St. John the Baptist saying, "Behold Him, who takes away the sins of the world" followed by "Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb." This second text is an allusion to Rev. 19:9 which says, "Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb."

There is a marriage taking place between the Lamb and His bride, the Church, who we traditionally call the Bride of Christ. We tend to forget this aspect of Communion, because we no longer follow the traditional order of the Sacraments of Initiation—Baptism first, Confirmation second, then Eucharist last—with children who have received infant Baptism.

The difficulty is that Communion is not the marriage itself, but rather the consummation of the marriage that takes place in Confirmation. The analogy is that we enter into a solemn relationship, much like betrothal, in our Baptism. We swear our fidelity to our beloved. In Confirmation, we perfect that promise made in our Baptism and receive the necessary graces to carry out the duties of our perfected relationship. In this way, Confirmation is more like the rite of Matrimony. Furthermore, Communion is the full expression of that love between us and Christ. It is an expression of fecund self-giving. It is deeply intimate and is more like the consummation of marriage. It can and should be repeated as an expression of love that is life-giving. Baptism and Confirmation, much like betrothal and the marriage rite, cannot be repeated because they carry with them a permanence, a solemn promise.

Now, obviously not all of this can be explained in depth to a seven-year-old, who would lack the comprehension of the full sense of the analogy, but nevertheless, it ought to be explained in part that we unite ourselves to Christ by this Sacrament and in doing so we express our mutual love for each other.

I should note that the reception of Confirmation is not restricted to those who have received their First Communion. Archbishop Aquila, while serving as the Bishop of Fargo, re-established the order in that diocese.