Bishop Robert Barron

Bishop Robert Barron

Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Contact him at www.wordonfire.org.

Website URL: http://www.wordonfire.org

The coronavirus and sitting quietly in a room alone

Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” The great 17th-century philosopher thought that most of us, most of the time, distract ourselves from what truly matters through a series of divertissements (diversions). He was speaking from experience. Though one of the brightest men of his age and one of the pioneers of the modern physical sciences and of computer technology, Pascal frittered away a good deal of his time through gambling and other trivial pursuits. In a way, he knew, such diversions are understandable, since the great questions — Does God exist? Why am I here? Is there life after death? — are indeed overwhelming. But if we are to live in a serious and integrated way, they must be confronted — and this is why, if we want our most fundamental problems to be resolved, we must be willing to spend time in a room alone.

The Ratzingerian constants and the maintenance of harmony in the church

Some years ago, my friend Msgr. Francis Mannion wrote an article concerning the three essential features of the eucharistic liturgy — namely, the priest, the rite and the people. When these elements are in proper balance, rightly ordered liturgy obtains. Further, from these categories, he argued, we can discern the three typical distortions of the liturgy: clericalism (too much of the priest), ritualism (a fussy hyper-focus on the rite) and congregationalism (a disproportionate emphasis on the people). It was one of those observations that just manages to spread light in every direction.

Spending time with my spiritual father

I write these words from the Eternal City of Rome, whither I’ve come with my brother bishops from Region 11 (California, Nevada and Hawaii) for our ad limina visit. This is a regular and canonically required trip to pray at the limina apostolorum (the threshold of the apostles), the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul, and to meet with the successor of Peter. Yesterday (January 27) was the first official day of the pilgrimage, and it was extraordinary indeed. We gathered early in the morning for Mass in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, in the presence of the tomb of the Galilean fisherman to whom Jesus gave the keys of kingdom of heaven. And then, just about a half-hour later, we were ushered into the Apostolic Palace, and after traversing a number of elaborately decorated corridors and receiving a few salutes from Swiss Guards (I’ll confess that I rather like the salutes!), we lined up to meet the pope.

Finding God in all things

There is, to be sure, a stress within the biblical tradition that God is radically other: “Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior” (Isaiah 45:15) and “No one shall see [God] and live” (Exodus 33:20). This speaks to the fact that the one who creates the entire universe from nothing cannot be, himself, an item within the universe, one being alongside of others. But at the same time, the Scriptures also attest to God’s omnipresence: “Your Wisdom reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well” (Wisdom 8:1) and “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there. … If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast” (Psalm 139:7-12). This speaks to the fact that God sustains the universe in existence from moment to moment, the way a singer sustains a song.