Posted by: frroberts | August 20, 2017

Audio recordings of homilies at my new parish

Click here to listen!

Dr. Ed Peters of Sacred Heart Seminary has responded to Fr. Aidan Nichols’ proposal that canon law be amended to provide for correcting an errant pope.  Dr. Peters suggests that Sacred Tradition has already provided a means to correct a pope who falls into heresy.  These are confusing times.  Pray for Pope Francis.  Do Penance.  Go to confession.

[A]nother check against this papal freedom turning into license, albeit a check harder to pin down than are neatly drafted canons, is “Tradition”.

Tradition, not canon law, holds the Church to accept a host of truths, for example, that Jesus rose from the dead, that canonized saints are in heaven, and that contraception between married couples is objectively gravely wrong, such that a pope who suddenly challenged the reality of the Resurrection, the status of one duly canonized, or the gravity of conjugal contraception—or who winked at others doing such things—would stand in urgent need of prayers and would be a proper object for some kind of correction, perhaps such correction as is apparently envisioned by Cdl. Burke and others.

But beyond even this—and moving back to what Nichols’ point seemed to be—Tradition has some even more startling things to say about popes who might fall into heresy. To summarize a long story already shortened here, the Church is not defenseless against heresy from popes. Under certain rare circumstances, one is talking, according to several weighty authors, about the loss of pontifical office itself.

There are, of course, several practical problems with Nichols’ proposal for changes to canon law (some of which problems he noted in the reported version of his remarks) and to which I would add a simple one: popes are the Legislator of canon law, and the chances of any legislator writing a law that could be used against him are slim. But, if the commentators cited in my earlier blog are really saying what they seem to be saying, we might not need new canon laws to deal with the problem.

Tradition might already have a solution.

Posted by: frroberts | August 19, 2017

Repost: Nathan’s Funeral Homily


We begin with a very practical note.  We celebrate a Solemn Requiem Mass at the request of Nathan’s wife, Jennifer, who indicated this would have been what Nathan wanted.  This form of the Mass, even for practicing Catholics, can be a bit confusing.  Like any Mass, we focus in this Solemn Requiem on the re-presentation of the One Sacrifice of the Incarnate Son of God on Calvary and His presence, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity under the appearance of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist.  This form of the Mass invites us to participate in this great mystery of Our Lord’s presence and sacrifice principally through contemplation and adoration.

Holy Communion will be offered only under one species, kneeling and on the tongue, not the hand, at the communion rail.  It is not customary to make any response when one receives Holy Communion.  If you are not accustomed to receive the Eucharist in this manner, observing others doing so can be a great help.

We welcome all those who are not practicing Catholics or who are ill-disposed to receive the Eucharist and invite them to remain in their pews and lift their minds and hearts by a spiritual communion with Almighty God when others are receiving the Holy Eucharist.

When Nathan asked me about a year ago which parish I thought would be a good one for him and Jennifer to attend after they settled in Indianapolis, I would have never imagined that when I put Holy Rosary on the top of the list I would be preaching at his funeral here before he had the chance to celebrate his first anniversary.  Today is a heart-rending day for all of us.

There is so much that we could say and so much that has already been said about Nathan in the past week.

We could reflect at length about his involvement in the pro-life movement and how he would pray rosaries in front of the abortion clinic near his home in the hope that his prayers would save the lives of little unborn babies.

We could share stories about his great love for his wife Jennifer and his soon-to-be born daughter Cecilia.

We could reminisce about Nathan’s intelligence, goodness and deceivingly keen sense of humor.

We could marvel about the tremendous outpouring of goodwill that Nathan’s murder has created.

But rather than focus on these very worthy themes, we will focus today on forgiveness.  We do so because Nathan Trapuzzano was a man who knew from his head to his toes that he was a sinner who was loved and forgiven by God.  He wanted everyone he met to know the same love and forgiveness.  I believe that he still does.

His friends report that during his college years he went to confession very frequently, even weekly, so that he could become more and more the man that God had created him to be.  Less than a year ago when I celebrated his wedding Mass, he asked me to hear the confessions of all of the Catholics in the wedding party after the rehearsal.  While I cannot remember his exact words, they were something like, “Father, don’t be surprised if some of them have not been to confession in a very long time.”  His wife Jennifer wanted everyone to know that celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation was one of the last things that Nathan did, going to confession a day before he died earlier this week.

We know Nathan to have been an exceptionally good person.  Why then, we might ask, did he confess his sins to a priest so frequently?

This special young man went to confession so often because he had a deep desire to love others with the love of the heart of Jesus and would stop at nothing until he did.  He didn’t just want to be good as the world reckons it; he wanted to be like Jesus.  He wanted to love others with a pure and humble heart.  One of the most important aspects of having such a heart is being able to forgive unconditionally.  Nathan knew that the best way to learn how to do that was to ask for such forgiveness for himself.  He prayed the Our Father frequently and asked,

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is not looking at an evil and being too cowardly to call it evil.  Nor is forgiveness acting as if something that is a big deal really is not.  Rather forgiveness looks at something done that is evil and recognizes it as evil, comes to a sober conclusion about the extent to which the guilty party is responsible and then extends love to the offender and hopes for repentance and change of heart.

Our Blessed Lord teaches us what forgiveness is from the Cross when He says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  He looked squarely at the crime being committed, namely the execution of an innocent man who also happened to be God in the flesh, and recognized that what was happening was an unspeakable injustice. He knew that those killing Him did not have full knowledge of what they were doing, which diminished their guilt.  Most importantly, Our Lord did not withhold His love from His executioners, but desired their repentance and return to communion with His Father.

Nathan would have wanted everyone here to know something in our bones.  Each one of us here is loved with an infinite, personal and unconditional love by a merciful God.  There is nothing that we can do that God will not forgive.  We can refuse to accept that mercy, but God will never stop extending it.  God loves each one of us more than we can ever know.  He wants nothing more than for us to return to Him and let Him fix His merciful eyes on us and say, “You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter, in whom I am well-pleased.”  He wants to run out to meet us just as we decide to come back to Him, to embrace us and to shower us with kisses.  This is true no matter how grievous our sins are.

We cannot be certain exactly what was going through Nathan’s mind in the last moments of his life.  But as one who knew Nathan’s soul well as a priest, I believe that he would have desired to do God’s will with all his heart, just as he sought to do throughout the entire time that I knew him.  For myself, I have little doubt that as his soul drew near to his particular judgment on Tuesday morning, perhaps even after he had passed out of consciousness, Nathan forgave his murderers.  That was the kind of man that I knew him to be.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they have done.”

Like some of us here, I met Nathan when he was a parishioner at Saint Francis in Muncie. The last lines of the Prayer of Saint Francis capture the Christian mystery that gives us hope today: “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;/ and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.  And let perpetual light shine upon him.

May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Posted by: frroberts | August 19, 2017

Fr. Brown: The Honor of Israel Gow

Posted by: frroberts | August 19, 2017

Francis just lost Cronkite

In the wake of the Tet offensive in the Vietnam War, the CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite made the following trenchant observation:

To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy’s intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.

Johnson dropped his bid for the Democratic nomination for re-election as president in 1968.   He is the only president who was elected after the passage of the 22nd amendment in 1951 who chose not to run for re-election.

Speaking recently at an ecumenical conference, the well-respected English Catholic theologian Aidan Nichols, a luminary in the Anglophone theological world, proposed the following regarding the increasingly troubled pontificate, tainted by cocaine-fueled gay orgies involving priests close to Francis’ inner circle:



Fr Aidan Nichols, a prolific author who has lectured at Oxford and Cambridge as well as the Angelicum in Rome, said that Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia had led to an “extremely grave” situation.

Fr Nichols proposed that, given the Pope’s statements on issues including marriage and the moral law, the Church may need “a procedure for calling to order a pope who teaches error”.

In his paper Fr Nichols mentioned some of the same concerns as the letter: he noted, for instance, that Amoris Laetitia could seem to imply that the monastic life was not a higher state than marriage – a view condemned as heretical by the Council of Trent.

The exhortation has also been interpreted as arguing that the divorced and remarried can receive Communion without endeavouring to live “as brother and sister”. This contradicts the perennial teaching of the Church, reaffirmed by Popes St John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Fr Nichols said that this interpretation, which Pope Francis has reportedly approved, would introduce into the Church “a previously unheard-of state of life. Put bluntly, this state of life is one of tolerated concubinage.”

He also drew attention to the statement – presumably referring to attempts to live continently – that someone “may know full well the rule yet…be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin”. Fr Nichols noted that the Council of Trent had solemnly condemned the idea that “the commandments of God are impossible to observe even for a man who is justified and established in grace.” Amoris Laetitia seemed to say that it is not always possible or even advisable to follow the moral law.

If such general statements about moral acts were correct, Fr Nichols said, “then no area of Christian morality can remain unscathed.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke has publicly discussed making a formal correction of the Pope. However, Fr Nichols said that neither the Western nor Eastern Codes of Canon Law contain a procedure “for enquiry into the case of a pope believed to have taught doctrinal error, much less is there provision for a trial.”

Fr Nichols observed that the tradition of canon law is that “the first see is judged by no-one.”  But he said that the First Vatican Council had restricted the doctrine of papal infallibility, so that “it is not the position of the Roman Catholic Church that a pope is incapable of leading people astray by false teaching as a public doctor.

“He may be the supreme appeal judge of Christendom…but that does not make him immune to perpetrating doctrinal howlers. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly given the piety that has surrounded the figures of the popes since the pontificate of Pius IX, this fact appears to be unknown to many who ought to know better.” Given the limits on papal infallibility, canon law might be able to accommodate a formal procedure for inquiring into whether a pope had taught error.

Posted by: frroberts | August 18, 2017

Recommended Reading: Teens and Adults

Lovasik, The Hidden Power of Kindness.

Noll, Father Smith Instructs Jackson.

Bromwich, Toolkit for Evangelization: Talking to the Culture.

Lovasik, Basic Book of Catholic Prayer.

Marshall, Sword and Serpent.

Marshall, The Tenth Region of the Night.

Lovasik, Clean Love in Courtship.

Kheriaty, A Catholic Guide to Depression.

Weigel, Letters to a Young Catholic.

Gaitley, Thirty-three days to Morning Glory.

Lovasik, Church History.

Bennett, The Temperament God Gave You.

Lovasik, The Basic Book of the Eucharist.

Posted by: frroberts | August 17, 2017

The truth about men and women

Posted by: frroberts | August 17, 2017


On Thursday, August 17, there will be an initial meeting for those interested in forming a Juventutem Chapter in the Diocese of Lafayette.  We will be meet at the Saint Elizabeth Adoration Chapel in Lafayette (1501 Hartford St., Lafayette, IN) at 6 pm for a Holy Hour followed by dinner at a site that we will arrange after adoration.


Juventutem (Latin: Fœderatio Internationalis Juventutem) is an international movement of young Roman Catholics of the ages 16 to 36 who are devoted to the Tridentine Mass.[1] The aim of the society is to foster and strengthen relationships between these young people at the national and international levels, and to encourage and assist them in developing their faith.

Posted by: frroberts | August 17, 2017

Repost: Remembering Nathan Trapuzzano

Originally Posted April 2, 2014

In my first years as a priest, on Tuesday evenings during the academic year I drove from the parish where I was assigned in Carmel to spend some time with the Catholic students at the Newman Center at Ball State.  My visits involved an hour conference on some aspect of the faith and exposition the Blessed Sacrament in the church.  During Eucharistic Adoration I  heard confessions while the students were praying.  Most of the time I stayed afterwards to give students who desired it spiritual direction.  At the request of my bishop, once a month I celebrated a Latin Mass at Saint Mary in Muncie before going to the Newman Center at Saint Francis.

One of the Ball State students who faithfully attended these Tuesday evenings was Nathan Trapuzzano.    Nathan was a classics student who enjoyed teaching me a thing or two about Latin.

There were two things beyond his command of Latin letters that impressed me about Nathan from the start.  The first was his goodness.  He was a true gentleman, considerate of others and always wanting to become a better man.    The second thing that impressed me about Nathan was his deep Catholic faith.  He wanted to understand and live his faith at the greatest depth possible.  His questions during the conferences betrayed both intelligence and humility.  Nathan’s starting point as a Catholic was full acceptance of what the Church taught.  From there he sought to apply his considerable intellectual gifts to not only understand it for himself but also to be able to explain it others.  Fides quaerens intellectum.  His childlike trust in the Catholic faith sought adult understanding in order to be able to give a reason for his hope to others.

I saw in Nathan all of the qualities that one would look for in a good husband and father, which also happen to be the qualities that make a good priest.  When I told Nathan this, he took it to prayer.  Eventually, God made it clear to him that his vocation was to be a husband and a father.  While part of me was disappointed, I realized that one day he would make the woman he would marry very happy.

Eventually I moved on to another assignment and lost touch with Nathan.  I was so happy about a year and a half ago to receive an email from him telling me that was engaged and asking me to celebrate his wedding Mass at Sacred Heart in Indianapolis.

Nathan’s deep faith shone in the planning of the ceremony.  He wanted a full compliment of altar servers in the procession and the maximum amount of ceremonial possible.  Both he and his fiancé wanted the focus of their Nuptial Mass to be first on Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist and then on the Sacrament of Matrimony that they would receive.  Everything else that is usually the focus in a wedding was of lesser importance in their minds.  On the night before wedding after the rehearsal, Nathan insisted that everyone in the wedding party have an opportunity to go to confession. This was the first and only time I have been asked to hear confessions after a wedding rehearsal in my almost seven years as a priest.

Nathan was a man who knew God to be a forgiving and loving Father.  He wanted to share that experience with others.

The wedding itself was profoundly beautiful.  My prayer for Nathan and his wife was simple, “May God grant you many, many happy years.”

While Nathan was a serious young man, he knew how to have fun.  One of the gifts that he and his wife gave me for celebrating the wedding was a thick Latin textbook, which, as I am writing this, sits on the coffee table in my study.

Yesterday morning Nathan Trapuzzano was shot in the abdomen in an apparent robbery.  He died shortly thereafter.  His pregnant wife survives him.

We remember his wife and their unborn child in our prayers.  We ask God to grant wisdom to the police as they try to take the two dangerous men who killed Nathan off the streets.  We pray also for his murderers, who took the life of one of the best young men I have ever known.  May God forgive them.

Posted by: frroberts | August 16, 2017

Recommended Reading for Catholic Children

Lovasik, Picture Book of Saints.

Lovasik, Book of Saints Gift Set.

Lovasik, New Catholic Picture Bible.

Lovasik, Going to Confession.

The Mass Illustrated for Children.

Bouetiez, Catholic Saints for Children.

Lefevbre, A Child’s Treasury of Bible Stories.

Tierney, A Little Book about Confession for Children.

Bible Stories for Little Children.

Dababie, A Missal for Little Ones.

Lovasik, The Mass for Children.

Amiot, The Catholic Bible for Children.

Posted by: frroberts | August 15, 2017

Pope Francis on Horoscopes

Posted by: frroberts | August 15, 2017

Assumption Homily

Lunches while I was a seminarian at the North American College in Rome from 2003-2007 were usually an interesting experience.  One Sunday I sat down at a table only to realize later that I was sitting with George Weigel and the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago!  Typically, however, what made lunches in seminary interesting was not the presence of larger than life figures in the Church, but the give and take between classmates.  Oftentimes we would discuss theology or the adventures of life in the Eternal City.   Sometimes we would discuss our “apostolic works” — formal seminary speak for our pastoral training that took place while we were full-time theology students.

The most interesting story I heard during my four years studying theology came from a classmate whose apostolic work was to give tours of Saint Peter’s Basilica.   Saint Peter’s was built on the Vatican Hill, outside of ancient Rome, precisely because it was there that the bones of Saint Peter were buried after he was martyred.  The high altar in the Basilica is built over the tomb of Peter.  Peter is not the only saint whose remains lie in Saint Peter’s.  Under most of the altars there are the mortal remains of a saint.   One day at the end of a tour when my classmate gave the pilgrims time to ask questions, an American spoke up and asked, “I just have one question…where do you guys keep the bones of Jesus?”  An awkward pause followed.

The empty tomb of Christ constitutes one of the central, if not the central, point in the Christian faith.  We must always keep in mind the physicality of the Resurrection.  Jesus’ human body actually rose on Easter Sunday and is in heaven right now.  In this language we recognize elements that go beyond our experience, so it is important that we do not interpret them in overly physical ways.

What does it mean when we say that all of Jesus’ human nature, His body included, is in heaven right now?

At the very least, it means that our Lord’s human nature has become fully divinized, totally permeated by the glory of His divine nature.  We are in very deep water here and need to make two things clear:

(1) While distinct, Christ’s human and divine natures are always united in one divine Person after His incarnation.  That is to say, we can never speak of a human nature in Jesus’ person as ever being separated from His divine nature.

(2) Jesus’ human nature becomes more and more divinized quantitatively but not qualitatively, until His Ascension.  Thus, Saint Luke recounts that “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”   This dynamic movement is especially true in the case of the Paschal Mystery, wherein the Second person of the Blessed Trinity experienced death and being dead by means of the human nature He took to Himself.  In some sense we can say that in His Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension that Jesus’ human nature became fully divinized–not because it was not divine before these events, but in the sense that His divinity filled up the human experiences that defined the end of His natural life and beyond.

Turning to the feast that Mother Church celebrates today, the Assumption of the Mother of God into heaven, we encounter a curious thing.  No city in Christian history has ever claimed to have any relics of Mary’s body.  In the days of faith, cities would often have competing claims to relics of saints.  Wars were even fought over such claims and relics.  Dan Brown’s fictional claim in the Da Vinci Code that Mary Magdalene’s bones were lost is laughable in this sense because there are three different cities in France that have claimed to have them!

Mary’s body is in heaven with God.  Our Lord’s first and greatest disciple has followed Him into glory.  In heaven Mary enjoys by grace that which Jesus experiences by nature, participation in the divine nature (cf. 2 Peter 1:4)  The Assumption is the revelation of Mary’s divinization, not meaning that Mary is now metaphysically divine, but that her human nature has become like her Son’s to the extent that she participates fully in the life of the Trinity like He does in His humanity.

Mary is the Hope of all Christians because we hope to follow her where she has gone already.  If we die in a state of friendship with God, we can look forward to our souls being gloriously reunited to our bodies on the last day and experiencing the same glory in heaven that Mary does today.  We will share in this glory because our human natures will be conformed to Christ’s, and be, like Mary’s full participants by grace in the divine nature.  The Assumption of Mary into Heaven, Body and Soul shows us the goal of our life as Christians.  If we are open to grace, we will, after much purification either here on earth or in Purgatory, become godlike just like our mother Mary is now.

Posted by: frroberts | August 15, 2017

Heaven: Our great hope

God created us to be with Him forever in heaven. This eternal destination is the only true ultimate end we can ever pursue in this life. Everything else, a marriage, a job, material wealth, academic training, priestly ordination, sports, is worthwhile only to the extent that it brings us closer to God. If it doesn’t bring us closer to God, it is at best a distraction, at worst, a serious threat to our eternal happiness.
Only when we have our gaze fixed on heaven do we see living out faith everyday as a privilege and not a series of obligations we have to fulfill to be “good Catholics.” A great example of someone who lived the Principle and Foundation, is Saint Paul. After meeting Christ, he lived his entire life with an eye turned toward heaven.  Paul knew that God was using him to preach the Gospel, that his missionary work was vital to the growth of Christ’s infant Church. It was a joy for him to labor in the Lord’s vineyard. On the other hand, he “long[ed] to depart this life and be with Christ.” He knew that this earthly life is a just a pit stop on the way to our eternal destiny. And he longed more than anything else to see God face to face.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us that he God gave him the favor of having a vision of heaven. We hear him describe the heavenly reward of which he had already received a foretaste in several places in his letters:
“Eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has ready for those who have loved Him. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Now we see as through a mirror dimly, then we shall see face to face and understand as we have been fully understood.”
Paul looked forward to heaven because he had experienced it. He knew that it would be a joy beyond all telling. In contemporary language, we could describe it something like this: imagine the euphoria of being at a Colts’ Super Bowl victory and the sublimity of the marital embrace all wrapped into one extended through all eternity…and that will be only the beginning of the joy we experience in heaven.
How do we live this life with our eyes fixed on heaven? The first thing we can do is focus on the blessings that God is giving us everyday. It is very easy for us to become fixated on the handful of things going wrong in our lives when we should be focusing on the dozens and dozens of things going right. So often we take things for granted rather as granted. We forget that everything we receive is a gift from a God who is madly in love with us.
The second thing we can do is to give ourselves the privilege of daily prayer. Too frequently we think of prayer as a punishment meted out because of our sinfulness rather than a call into God’s loving embrace. This was even true in the case of the great Spanish mystic Saint Teresa of Avila. At the beginning of her religious life, she viewed prayer as penitential act. When her spiritual director told her to pray not as a penance but as joyful way of entering into God’s infinite love, prayer became the great joy of her life. And God wants prayer to be the great joys every one of our lives. THE ONLY FULFILLMENT OF OUR DESIRE FOR HAPPINESS WILL COME IN HEAVEN. GOD WANTS US TO START EXPERIENCING THE JOYS OF HEAVEN RIGHT NOW, IN THIS LIFE BY CULTIVATING HABITS OF THANKSGIVING AND DAILY PRAYER.
Posted by: frroberts | August 15, 2017

Marian thought for the day

Saint Thomas Aquinas’ “new approach entails that Mary belongs not only to the order of grace- as in her congruent meriting, as the greatest of saints, of her own status as mother of the Lord.  Rather, in the scheme put forward in the Summa theologiae she belongs to a higher order than that of grace, she belongs to the divine hypostatic order, the order of the communion of the Trinitarian persons.  Mary’s role is not now restricted to that of a superlatively virtuous woman offering biological means of entry to the divine.  For the later Thomas, although the hypostasis of the Son of God has no inherent relation to the Virgin according to the Son’s eternal generation from the Father, that hypostasis does have an inherent relation to her person through the assumption of the human nature that originates from her, in the Son’s birth in time.”

Aidan Nichols, There is no Rose, 41.

Posted by: frroberts | August 15, 2017

What I am reading now

Preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary for Families.

Milton, Paradise Lost.

John Paul II: Mary: God’s Yes to Man.

Newman,  An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.

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