TSD 6: Who's in Charge Here, Anyways?

Hint: It's never us.

My eldest daughter, five years old, said she hopes we don’t have any more kids. I had a little bit of fun with this on Twitter.

Truth be told I wasn’t mad at all: Actually, I was quite proud of her. She said it with genuine concern, and more importantly she got the decision-maker correct. This isn’t a question of us deciding to have more children, but whether God will give them to us.

The idea that children are supposed to be “planned” is one of the most vicious but pervasive notions in our culture today. In fact, we go so far as to make the very right to life of unborn children contingent on whether they’re “planned” or “unplanned,” “wanted” or “unwanted,” “loved” or “unloved.”

The idea that children are products of the sovereign wills of their parents is supposed to be liberating—an expression and assertion of our autonomy!—but of course it’s precisely the opposite. We become enslaved to our own plans and expectations rather than nimbly responsive to God’s will.

Meanwhile, children find themselves in the awkward position of being both expressions of their parents’ autonomy and bearers of their own. No wonder modern adolescence is more fraught than it needs to be, as children grapple with this unnecessary paradox—all while shouldering the expectations of their parents, who have invested their own sense of self-worth in them.

I know it seems harder, at first glance, simply to receive whatever children God gives to us. But that’s the truth of the matter! He’s in charge! And in the end, shouldering the tensions and stresses and contradictions of going to war with reality by asserting our priorities against God’s will always leave us less happy and peaceful than relinquishing control to Him.

These Seven Days…

…in the Ordinary Form

It is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, or Good Shepherd Sunday. The readings are Acts 13:14, 43-52; Revelation 7:9, 14b-17; and John 10:27-30, from the Good Shepherd discourse used in last week’s Extraordinary Form reading.

The reading from Revelation also addresses the theme of the Good Shepherd, playing on the mystery of Christ as both the Lamb and the Shepherd:

For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

This echoes the day’s Gospel:

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

This is the great inversion of the Gospel: The Shepherd who leads His flock to the eternal pastures must sacrifice Himself. This is in the nature of being a shepherd, but in so doing He also takes on the nature of the sheep. The omnipotent saves the world through powerlessness.

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Jan van Eyck, Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. This painting, depicting Revelation 5, is the center of the famous Ghent Altarpiece, which was seized at the direct order of Adolf Hitler during World War II and was featured in the film The Monuments Men.


Monday, May 13, is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, commemorating the first of the half dozen apparitions that culminated in the Miracle of the Sun on October 13, 1917. The most famous approved Marian event since Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima has inspired a century of dedication to penance and daily prayer, especially in the form of the Rosary.

Consider using some of these prayers, attributed to the Angel of Peace or to Our Lady herself, as part of observing this feast. And if you read the first letter of every line of this newsletter, you can unscramble the Third Secret.

Sister Lucia and Sts. Francisco and Jacinta, who would all rather be doing anything else than posing for this photo.


Wednesday, May 15, is the feast of St. Isidore the Farmer. One of the most celebrated saints in Spain and across the Spanish-speaking world, Isidore was a simple laborer who demonstrated extraordinary faithfulness throughout his life. He is said to have been accompanied by angels in the field, who would work the soil while he prayed, and after the miraculous rescue of his son from a well, he and his wife (venerated in Spain as Santa María de la Cabeza) made a lifelong vow of continence.

St. Isidore is the patron saint of farmers and of several Spanish cities, where this feast remains one of the larger celebrations of the year. His sanctification of simple and honest work presaged the twentieth-century emphasis on the Universal Call of Holiness, exemplified by fellow Spaniard St. Josemaria Escriva.

If you’re looking for a (more or less) authentic way to celebrate St. Isidore yourself, we’ve made a mean paella at home with rice, spices (cumin and turmeric), veggies (peas and bell peppers), seafood (bag of Aldi frozen shrimp), and meat (chicken and chorizo from the local Mexican grocer). Just cook the rice in the spices, saute the meat and seafood and veggies, and toss it all together.

St. Isidore procession in Madrid.


…in the Extraordinary Form

It is the Third Sunday after Easter. The Epistle is 1 Peter 2:11-19 and the Gospel is John 16:16-22.

Today’s reading from Peter’s first letter includes one of my favorite lines in Scripture, so perfectly concise yet pregnant with theological meaning and practical significance:

Omnes honorate: fraternitatem diligite.

Honor all men. Love the brotherhood.

The Lewis & Short Latin dictionary specifies that the word for “love” here, diligo, has a special, formal, almost hierarchical sense: “to distinguish one by selecting him from others.” This confirms the clear sense of the verse, that we are to honor the dignity of all persons made in God’s image, but give special respect and affection to our brotherhood in Christ. There’s a sense, then, that the “brotherhood” is a place of emotional and physical security, of mutual trust, where we rest and recharge before going back about our business in the world. This is the parish, the family, one’s Catholic friends—places where we are strengthened in our shared vocation to holiness and evangelization. Our love for the brotherhood, then, does not undermine or supplant but rather supports the honor we give to all men.


The introit this Sunday is the triumphant Jubilate Deo:

Jubilate Deo, omnis terra, alleluja: psalmum dicite nomini ejus, alleluja, date gloriam laudi ejus, alleluja, alleluja, alleluja. Dicite Deo, quam terribilia sunt opera tua, Domine! In multitudine virtutis tuae mentientur tibi inimici tui.

Shout with joy to God, all the earth, alleluia: sing ye a psalm to His Name, alleluia: give glory to His praise, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Say unto God: How terrible are Thy works, O Lord! In the multitude of Thy strength Thine enemies shall lie to Thee.

Dom Johner does not disappoint in his commentary (p.194):

How vigorously omnis terra is stressed! All countries are to join in this jubilation. That should, at any rate, be the effect on ourselves as a result of meditating on the wonderful works of God, on the realization of His plan of salvation, the redemption through Christ's death upon the cross, our predestination to eternal glory. The very thought is enough to make the entire earth prostrate itself in humble obeisance before God's face with its heart filled with joy. This will one day come to pass; at the great final resurrection all the earth will pay reverence to its King, its Lord, its God. Then those, too, who now boastfully pose as enemies of Christ and His kingdom, will of sheer necessity throw themselves on their knees in adoration, and the entire celestial host will sing to Him its eternal Alleluia.


Thursday, May 16, is the historical feast of St. Brendan. I, of course, have a special affinity for this saint, from whom my name derives. It is reasonably well attested that Brendan was quite busy in Ireland, founding sees and monasteries and so forth, and he surely did enough good on that count alone to merit canonization. But he is mostly remembered for his legendary seven-years voyage to the Island of Paradise, during which he may or may not have found Florida:

They rest this claim on the account of the Northmen who found a region south of Vinland and the Chesapeake Bay called "Hvitramamaland" (Land of the White Men) or "Irland ed mikla" (Greater Ireland), and on the tradition of the Shawano (Shawnee) Indians that in earlier times Florida was inhabited by a white tribe which had iron implements.

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The first (European) Florida Man.

Those Seven Days…

…in Catholic Twitter

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Jake has the perfect EWTN pitch:

Fr. Ryan Hilderbrand nukes trad lads:

My friend and fellow Pittsburgher Aimee Murphy makes a salient point about the perverse incentives created by assisted suicide measures:

Steve Lewis observes how pro-choice attempts at reductio ad absurdum actually sound pretty good, thank you very much:

This would 1000% be my daughter:

…in the Content Mines

In the wake of Jean Vanier’s passing, David Mills writes on the pollyannaish way we often speak and write about death.

My local symphony orchestra got a great write-up in the New York Times. This is relevant here because its music director, Manfred Honeck, is a serious Catholic who’s often seen at daily Mass at the downtown parish here, and it comes through in his music. In his iconic reliturgization (to coin a term) of Mozart’s Requiem, for instance, Honeck intersperses readings from Scripture and the composer’s letters and concludes with the Ave Verum Corpus. Here are the Maestro’s remarks on the concert given at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Jeannie Ewing delivers ideas for meditating on Mary’s hymn of praise, the Magnificat.

An exorcist points out that, while extravagant accounts of possession might dominate our thinking about demons, everyday temptations are their most common attack.

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