The Secret of Happiness
The Secret of Happiness
May 23, 2023
Allow me to appeal to my Belgian heritage…. Joseph Mercier was a professor of philosophy at the University of Louvain and Archbishop of Brussels from 1906 to 1926, the year of his death. Noted for his staunch resistance to the German occupation of Belgium from 1914–1918, during the Great War, he that he was invited to visit the United States by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. He is also noted for his deep spirituality, which radiated in his interaction with people. On the upcoming feast of Pentecost (Sunday!), when we celebrate the Holy Spirit, the Promise of the Father, the Consuming Fire, the Comforter, allow me to share with you a secret from Fr. Mercier (he won’t mind!) :
I am going to reveal to you the secret of sanctity and happiness. Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to the things of sense and your ears to all the noises of the world in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctity of your baptized soul (which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit), speak to that Divine Spirit, saying to Him:
Oh, Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore you. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me. Tell me what I should do; give me your orders. I promise to surrender to all that you desire of me and to accept all that you permit to happen to me. Let me only know your will.
If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials. Grace will be proportioned to the trial, giving you the strength to carry it, and you will arrive at the gate of Paradise, laden with merit. This submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of sanctity and happiness.
Yours in the Holy Spirit,
“We Too Are Already in Heaven with Him”
May 16, 2023
This coming Sunday, we celebrate the Ascension (traditionally celebrated on the
sixth Thursday after Easter, moved to Sunday for the sake of our communal
celebration). We dare to trust and anticipate blessing, as our parish is named
after this mystery of Christ.
In preparation, let us be enriched by the insights of Saint Augustine (d. 430):
Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set
your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right
hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on
earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too
are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not
yet been fulfilled in our bodies.
Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth
all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this
when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and
when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food. Why do we on earth not
strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and
love that unites us to him?
While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with
him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot
be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by
He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he
withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was
in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement:
No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended
from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. These words are explained
by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one
ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the
Son of Man by his union with us, and we, by our union with him, are
children of God.
So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many
members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so
is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body. Out of
compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended
alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but
Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no
distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity
cannot be separated from the head.
(Sermo de Ascensione Domini, Mai 98, 1-7: PLS 2, 429-495)
Yours in our Ascended Lord,
Yearning for Oneness
Yearning for Oneness
May 9, 2023
As Christians, we believe the Church to be, first and foremost, a mysterious spiritual ever-lasting reality of which we become a part, into which are swept up by grace. We are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. And so, we are bound to one another wherever we may be, whatever we may feel. This is Christ’s own doing! As says Professor Scott Hahn (from my alma mater, the University of Steubenville), The Church is the Body of Christ, and as such it is both heavenly and earthly. The Church is the communion of saints, and it includes as members both angels and shepherds—cherubim and seraphim, and you, and me. And, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who died in Auschwitz in 1945, reminds us, “The temple of God is the holy people in Jesus Christ. The Body of Christ is the living temple of God and of the new humanity.” (The Cost of Discipleship, published in 1937).
Because we are bound to one another, we inevitably yearn for oneness. Awareness of the yearning can come and go—but that is another question! This yearning surely comes from the Holy Spirit, Who “intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Let us yearn for oneness. Let us labor to welcome the oneness, tearing down whatever walls we, at times, allow to divide us. And, in this labor, let us be encouraged by the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (d. 1892), English Baptist preacher: God loves the Church with a love too deep for human imagination: He loves her with all His infinite heart. Therefore, let her sons and daughters be of good courage; she cannot be far from prosperity (from “Morning and Evening”, published in 1865).
Yours in Christ, “Head of the Church” (BCP, page 369, Eucharistic Prayer B),
You Are a Royal PRiesthood
You Are a Royal Priesthood
May 2, 2023
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people…now you have received mercy. (this Sunday’s second reading, 1 Peter 2:2-10)
You may have heard it said that, by grace—in particular, the grace given through Baptism—we share in the priestly (as well as prophetic and royal) mission of Christ. We are a “royal priesthood”. What does this mean, however? Although, strictly speaking, not necessary, we are mediators of grace for one another. What a privilege! God wants to make use of little old (or young) me to touch others, to love and bless others. How creative and merciful and magnanimous of God.
There is, of course, as second, distinct participation in the one Priesthood of Christ, given through the sacrament of the “apostolic ministry”, “Holy Orders”. It has three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate. This priesthood, centered on the sacraments and the life that flows therefrom, and only for this earthly pilgrimage, is entirely at the service of the royal priesthood, which lasts forever. In other words, the ordained ministers of the Church are but (hopefully, grateful!) “unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10) for a time. Together, we are all turned towards the great High Priest, Jesus, the “author of our salvation” (Eucharistic Prayer B, BCP, p. 369), Who lavishly showers us with blessing and with Whom we shall live for all eternity.
April 25, 2023
This coming Sunday (the fourth of Easter) is traditionally called, by some Christians, “Good Shepherd Sunday”. The Risen Lord, in the Gospel of John (10:11,14), declares himself the Good Shepherd. But what exactly is Jesus revealing? Having little experience with shepherds and sheep, the analogy may seem distant and abstract for many of us.
Well, we at least know that a shepherd is a sort of care-taker. Jesus takes care of us. And the more caring, the “gooder”, the better! Indeed, Jesus goes to loving extremes in caring for us. As Saint John says (10,11), the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Now, ought not the Eucharist, a guaranteed encounter with Jesus, reveal to us something about Him as our Good Shepherd? I would venture to say “yes”. Indeed, listen to what Saint Peter Julian Eymard, a French Catholic priest, who died in 1868 (founder of two religious communities: the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament for men and the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament for women) says about Jesus in His care-taking:
Is not our Lord as meek and humble in the Blessed Sacrament as He was during His life on earth? Is He not always the Good Shepherd, the Divine Consoler, the Changeless Friend? Happy the soul that knows how to find Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, and in the Eucharist all things!
The relationship between sheep and the Good Shepherd is one of intimacy and safety. Let us rejoice in being sheep! Our Risen Lord knows where He is leading us: to verdant pastures, where He gives us repose for our souls. Let us follow in faith, hope and love…
Jesus is Alive
Jesus is Alive
April 18, 2023
Happy Easter! The celebration continues—for an octave, for a season, for ever. Indeed, the mystery of the Resurrection is inexhaustible.
Allow me to share with you an excerpt from a sermon preached many, many years ago, by Saint Quodvultdeus, Bishop of Carthage in what is now Tunisia. He was a spiritual student and correspondent with Saint Augustine of Hippo, forced into exile near Naples by the Arian King Geneseric, where he died in 450.
Yours in our Risen Lord,
Corruption will no longer have dominion over us, as we live in immortality and dwell with Eternal Life Himself. Nor will we need clothing, for there we will be dressed in immortality; nor will we lack food when we have the Living Bread that came all the way from heaven to earth for us. For He will satisfy our souls with His presence. Nor, with the Fountain of Life present, will we lack drink. For He will satiate us with the abundance of His house, and He will provide water for our hearts with the torrents of His delights. We will not suffer from heat there, for our refreshment is there, the One who sheltered and shelters us under the shadow of His wings. We will not suffer from the cold there, for there is where the Sun of Justice is. He it is who warms our hearts with His love, and who give sight to our eyes with the rays of divinity, so that we will see the divinity and equality of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We will not get tired there, for our Strength will be with us, the One to whom we say, I love you, Lord, my strength (Psalm 18:2). We will not sleep there, for there is no darkness there that can blot out everlasting day. No commerce, no labor will be there. And what are we going to do there? Perhaps what it is written: Be still and see that I am the Lord (Psalm 46: 11). This leisure of contemplation itself will constitute our activity, so that we delight to contemplate and contemplate to see with delight. To see what? The good things of the Lord (Psalm 27:13). What good things? We will be able to express what neither eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor arises in the heart of man (Isaiah 64: 3.; I Corinthians 2:9). We will be able to explain how God will be all in all (I Corinthians 15:28).
Believing more than seeing
Believing: More than Seeing
April 11, 2023
In this coming Sunday’s gospel of John (20:19-31), Jesus declares “Blessed are those
who have not seen and have come to believe.” What a strange declaration. Haven’t
we always been told that seeing is believing? And don’t we know from experience that
we are only really happy when we see for ourselves?
Happiness is indeed always linked to experience—most particularly the experience of
persons we love. And human experience does always entails seeing for ourselves, i.e.,
face-to-face, personal interaction. Jesus is telling us, however, that, when it comes to
Him, we can and will be happy even without seeing Him. How can this be? It’s called
faith! Faith is not simply a belief system about God. Faith opens us experientially to
God’s revealing of Self. Faith is a mysterious experience of God—without seeing a
thing… Strange indeed. Happy indeed. Our Risen Lord is alive and present and He
draws us to Himself.
Yours in Him,
March 21, 2023
This coming Sunday’s gospel (John 11:1-45) is the moving story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, in which Jesus reveals Himself as “the Resurrection and the Life”, as the One by Whom, as St. Thomas Aquinas says in “Commentary on the gospel of Saint John” (chapter 11), at the last, “everyone will rise in their souls and in their bodies”.
In the same Commentary, in considering the sisters’ initial message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill”, St. Thomas underscores two things about friendship with God:
We are invited to be friends with Christ (in the deepest not the Facebook sense!). Christ knows what we need and in Him we can have complete confidence. He the friend par excellence, Whose love knows no bounds and Whose faithfulness is perfect. Lent is about divine friendship.
“The Will of God: Food for the Heart?”
In the gospel for this coming Sunday, the third of Lent (John 4:5-42), “the disciples were urging Jesus” to “eat something.’” Jesus appeared to be hungry, and they were being thoughtful. Common sense and common decency. Jesus’ response, however, takes them completely beyond the realm of the common. “He said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about…My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work’.” Huh?
Let us look to two spiritual writers for insights into the mystery of God’s will…
St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Italian Bishop, spiritual writer, theologian, composer, musician, poet, and lawyer (d. 1787) reminds us of the goodness of God’s will:
God wills only our good; God loves us more than anybody else can or does love us. His will is that everyone should save and sanctify his soul…God has made the attainment of our happiness, His glory.
St. Jane Frances de Chantal (d. 1641), a French woman, who, after the death of her husband, founded a community of nuns called Congregation of the Visitation, encourages us to trust in the goodness of God’s will:
When shall it be that we shall taste the sweetness of the Divine Will in all that happens to us, considering in everything only His good pleasure? When shall we cast ourselves undeservedly into the arms of our most loving Father in Heaven, leaving to Him the care of ourselves and of our affairs, and reserving only the desire of pleasing Him, and of serving Him well in all that we can?
Seeking God’s will with you,
The Rev. Dominique Peridans
Unworthy and Joyous
Unworthy and Joyous
December 6, 2022
Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!
This Sunday, we once again encounter John the Baptist. He is apparently an important figure on our path! Recall that the saints are not distant, pious persons on pedestals, examples of virtue beyond the reach of us ordinary people. The saints are divine friends actively journeying with us.
As those of us familiar with our tradition know, John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus. John is wholly other-centered. Indeed, last Sunday, we were told, This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness.’ The Voice, not the talent show, but the precursor, forerunner, the last of the prophets, wholly other-centered.
In John the Baptist, we see the attitude of heart that we are to have if we really want to experience how awesome Jesus is: a sense of our unworthiness. Indeed, similar to what John says, I am not worthy to carry his sandals, at every Mass we say, “Lord I am not worthy to that thou shouldest come under my roof…” (Matthew 8:8). This is not an act of self-deprecation, but a happy acknowledgement of how perfect Jesus is, i.e. how unconditional and generous is His love.
Beyond or deeper than the decorating, shopping, baking, visiting and the “already”-Christmas parties (!), such a sense is the right preparation for Christmas. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to awaken this in us. Interior freedom, awe and joy will follow. This is Gaudete Sunday (always the third Sunday of Advent), “rejoice” Sunday. Our joyous Lord gratuitously comes to us in our unworthiness, and we rejoice.
Yours in the Lord of joy,
THE REV. DOMINIQUE PERIDANS