Articles by Father John Hollowell

Fatherly Advice

The Saint’s Homily that Inspired "The Matrix Revolutions"…I think

Death trampled our Lord underfoot, but he in his turn treated death as a highroad for his own feet. He submitted to it, enduring it willingly, because by this means he would be able to destroy death in spite of itself. Death had its own way when our Lord went out from Jerusalem carrying his cross; but when by a loud cry from that cross he summoned the dead from the underworld, death was powerless to prevent it.

Death slew him by means of the body which he had assumed, but that same body proved to be the weapon with which he conquered death. Concealed beneath the cloak of his manhood, his godhead engaged death in combat; but in slaying our Lord, death itself was slain. It was able to kill natural human life, but was itself killed by the life that is above the nature of man.

Death could not devour our Lord unless he possessed a body, neither could hell swallow him up unless he bore our flesh; and so he came in search of a chariot in which to ride to the underworld. This chariot was the body which he received from the Virgin; in it he invaded death’s fortress, broke open its strong-room and scattered all its treasure.

At length he came upon Eve, the mother of all the living. She was that vineyard whose enclosure her own hands had enabled death to violate, so that she could taste its fruit; thus the mother of all the living became the source of death for every living creature. But in her stead Mary grew up, a new vine in place of the old. Christ, the new life, dwelt within her. When death, with its customary impudence, came foraging for her mortal fruit, it encountered its own destruction in the hidden life that fruit contained. All unsuspecting, it swallowed him up, and in so doing released life itself and set free a multitude of men.

He who was also the carpenter’s glorious son set up his cross above death’s all-consuming jaws, and led the human race into the dwelling place of life. Since a tree had brought about the downfall of mankind, it was upon a tree that mankind crossed over to the realm of life. Bitter was the branch that had once been grafted upon that ancient tree, but sweet the young shoot that has now been grafted in, the shoot in which we are meant to recognise the Lord whom no creature can resist.

We give glory to you, Lord, who raised up your cross to span the jaws of death like a bridge by which souls might pass from the region of the dead to the land of the living. We give glory to you who put on the body of a single mortal man and made it the source of life for every other mortal man. You are incontestably alive. Your murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of men raised from the dead.

Come then, my brothers and sisters, let us offer our Lord the great and all-embracing sacrifice of our love, pouring out our treasury of hymns and prayers before him who offered his cross in sacrifice to God for the enrichment of us all.

Fatherly Advice

Thoughts on the Apostolic Exhortation "Amoris Laetitia"

1) Here’s one thing that people forget in all this divorce/remarriage/Communion discussion – I’ve had the hard conversations with people and explained to them the Church’s teachings on these things.  I’ve also explained to them that if they are remarried, have children, etc. – if they live as brother and sister and are not sexually active, they can take Communion.
But here’s the deal, if they come forward at Communion time, am I supposed to ask them, in the Communion line – “Remember what we talked about…are you and your partner sexually active? I just want to check before I give you Communion”???

 If that were the path forward, then I guess we priests should interview everyone that comes up. Perhaps a 200 question examination of conscience for each person taking Communion?
2) To those who think annulments are pharisaical bureaucracy – Chesterton basically said (paraphrasing here) “The Church is often described as being about rules and hell and damnation while Jesus is thought of in popular lore as being a hippie pacifist, when, in actuality, Jesus talks a lot about rules, hell and damnation, while the evidence shows that it is the Church that is often trying to help soften the blow”

Jesus says if you are divorced and remarry, then sexual activity with this new person is adultery.

The Church, then, is just trying to help soften the blow of Christ’s words through the annulment process (which, as a person who works with annulments all the time is beautifully in line with Christ’s teaching above.)

If you don’t like the annulment process, or think the Church invented it, and you decide to remarry after a divorce without getting an annulment, just make sure you’re ready to square that decision with Christ because He speaks quite clearly on the subject.

Side note: how Biblically literal Protestants overlook Jesus’ teaching on this subject will always baffle me

3) I’ve seen some traditional Catholics lamenting any mention of pastoral nuance and the messiness of life that Pope Francis mentions in “Amoris Laetitia.”  I don’t hear Pope Francis saying anything about getting rid of annulments whatsoever, nor do I hear him saying that as priests we can handle divorce and remarriage in the confessional.

As a rebuttal to these traditional Catholics, I would ask them to imagine that they are a pastor of a parish with 2,000 families.  Tell us priests how to do it!  How would you ensure that no one who is in an invalid marriage takes Communion ever at your parish?

Don’t say “preach against divorce” because I do that and so does Pope Francis and every priest I know

Don’t say “preach against contraception” because I already do. And so does Pope Francis and every priest I know

Don’t say “do better marriage prep” because I meet with them 6 times myself, require a retreat and a psych eval. So do my priest friends.

Don’t say “work on annulments with the people” because I DO work with them myself from beginning to end. So do most of the novus ordo priests that I’m friends with.

The only thing I could do is announce, before Communion at every Mass – “if you’re divorced and remarried, don’t take Communion” but then again that’s not in the missal so if I did say that I’d be a crazy liberal doing something NOT in the missal.

4) I remember being in the seminary and I had those 4-5 homilies I couldn’t wait to give because I thought it would change everyone and everything. I preached those homilies and they didn’t change everything. They helped. But they didn’t change the world. Most traddies think that one homily or even 20 homilies will change a parish. It doesn’t. I wish every lay person could preach for a year and see how little impact it makes compared to what they think it will.  That goes for Progressive Catholics as well.  The homilies you think the world needs to hear…it doesn’t change things like you think it will.

5) Am I saying the preaching can’t get much better, and much more orthodox…definitely not. Preaching in the Church has a LONG way to go. But if people think that this “divorced and remarried” thing will go away if you preach on it, then you’re deceiving yourselves. It’s a DEEP issue.

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