28 November 2008

A squirrelly moment

After attending my first Mass celebrated in the extraordinary form this afternoon at the Shrine of St. Rose of Lima, I went to the cemetery to pray at the graves of my parents. I try to do this every time I return to Quincy, at least for a few minutes.

This afternoon my prayer was distracted by two squirrels, both with rather bushy tails. One of them seemed to be running from the other who was not a bit deterred. It was quite funny.

I burst out laughing (that's not something you often do in a cemetery) when the one squirrel went behind a tombstone that was about two feet high and three feet long. This particular stone had flowers on top of it and two vases with flowers on either side of it. The second squirrel hopped on top of the stone and climbed up on the flowers, while the squirrel on the ground looked at it.

The second squirrel then put its head into one of the vases while keeping its body on the stone; the squirrel was now upside down. I think he must have been looking for nuts. After trying to peer inside the vase, he pulled himself out, picked up the flowers that were in the vase, tossed them on the ground and popped his head back in the vase. (That's when I burst out laughing.) It might be one of the funniest things I've seen. Not finding anything of note in the vase, the two squirrels went off and happily climbed a tree.

Before leaving the cemetery I put the flowers back in the vase.

Here's something to consider

My 87 year old grandmother's second favorite restaurant is Taco Bell. Tace Bell is the favorite restaurant of most of the soccer players. Wierd, huh?

He likes it

Growing up as a boy I remember one of my favorite toys. It was a koala with velcro paws which wrapped around and held a smaller koala. When I was in Australia last July for the World Youth Day 2008 wherever we went I kept my eyes open for a similar koala to give to my little nephew, Matthew.

Koala toys abounded, but the ones who held a smaller koala were not only cheaply made but also cheap looking. Finally, I found what I was looking for in the Sydney airport as we prepared to leave the great south land of the Holy Spirit.

Yesterday I was finally able to give the koala to Matthew (I kept forgetting to bring it with me the last couple of times I returned to Quincy. I think he likes it:

Isn't my nephew adorable?

Fair enough




You Are Christmas



More than most people, you are able to find magic in life's small moments.

Traditions mean a lot to you, and you tend to be quite nostalgic.

You are a giving, kind person who really understands the true meaning of holidays.

You inspire others to be as altruistic and caring as you are.



What makes you celebrate: Tradition and a generous spirit



At holiday get togethers, you do best as: The storyteller. You like to recount memories with everyone.



On a holiday, you're the one most likely to: Give a gift to everyone you know



Capello tip to A Catholic Mom in Hawaii.

26 November 2008

Days in the life of a priest

I have not posted anything over the last few days not because I haven’t been busy, but because what I’ve been up to doesn’t seem bloggable, really. Nonetheless, I should probably say something.

Let’s start with Monday. After celebrating Mass at 6:30, I went to the radio station for another interview. We had sort of a double shift – nearly thirty minutes, talking about the recent Synod of Bishops and then about the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite in Quincy at the Shrine of St. Rose of Lima.

I’ve made arrangements to attend Mass there Friday when I’m home for a few days. This will be the first EF that I have attended. I’m looking forward to the experience, though I’m not quite sure what to expect.

After the radio interview I raced off to the high school for an assembly to talk about the “Dawg Pound,” the place in the stands where the students cheer at basketball games. Over the years, the Dawg Pound has not always cheered with Christian sentiments in mind and at heart. Much of this has carried on for a couple of generations, making it all the more difficult to root out.

The high school principal, the head basketball coach and I each addressed the students asking them to be respectful toward the officials and other teams and to be supportive of our own team. We stressed time and again that we want them to have fun, but that we want them to remember also to treat others with the charity that is required of Christians. I reminded that I like mischief; I don’t like trouble. I’m happy to say that the Dawg Pound was well behaved at the game Monday night; I hope they keep it up at tonight’s game.

Later Monday morning I had a meeting discussing our current plans to give a complete overhaul to the entire parish and schools web site. This has been a dream of mine for many years. We’ve found the software and support we want and are moving forward at a quick pace, first with a brief survey to see what people use/like/dislike/want on the web site.

After this meeting it was time to play chess during lunch at the high school.

After chess club I snuck back to the rectory for a bit of quiet time and to work on a few things. I’ve contracted with Ignatius Press again this year to sell their books and movies as a fundraiser, this time to help with a pilgrimage to the March for Life in January. Part of the afternoon was spent sorting through the merchandise and pricing it.

Then I was off to wrestling practice for two hours, after which I dashed off to our mission parish for a Bible study on Saint Paul’s teaching on the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Immediately after the Bible study I raced back to the high school to supervise the Dawg Pound. Then I went to bed, only to wake up at 2:30 a.m. for some unknown reason.

When I awoke it was very clear to me that I simply would not fall asleep again. I decided, then, to head over to the office and clean out my e-mail inboxes (I have too many different accounts). By 4:00 a.m. that task was complete so I returned to bed for a short while before the 6:30 Mass. (In the time I was in the office the temperature dropped more than 10 degrees, which might be why I didn’t sleep well.)

After Mass I went to the high school to help answer phones and to remind students of the deadline for registration for the March for Life. At 8:30 I had another meeting for the web site survey.

At 10:15 I went to a midday prayer and a meeting of the priests of the Effingham Deanery. We were to discuss “Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest,” stipends, stole fees and compensation for “fill-in” priests. They were interesting discussions, to say the least. After the meeting we ate lunch. Priests can’t get together without food; if you don’t have food, they’re not likely to come.

After lunch I returned to the high school to watch a new cheer being taught to some members of the Dawg Pound; it should be great. Afterwards I stayed around the school for an hour or so chatting with students in P.E. and study halls.

Wrestling practice began about 3:30 and ended at 4:45. I then returned to the rectory to rest for a bit and to have something to eat. About 7:30 I went back to the high school to meet a friend who was in town for a basketball game. As it happened, his plans changed at the last minute and he didn’t make it to the game. I ended up visiting with two of the high school teachers – who are close to my age – for two hours. Then I went to bed.

This morning I celebrated the 6:30 Mass and went back to the high school to help answer phones (one of the secretaries is out this week) and to round up paperwork for the March for Life pilgrimage (it’s due today to me).

In a few minutes I’ll be off to celebrate Mass at one of the assisted living facilities in town that I like to call the “St. Anthony of Padua Retirement Monastery”.

At Noon today the Pastor will celebrate Mass for the high school students, which will be followed by their annual Thanksgiving dinner (it’s always a hit). I know I’ll be at the dinner. I haven’t decided about the Mass yet, but I’m told a number of students want me to be there.

Wrestling practice will follow the dinner. At 7:00 I have an appointment with a couple for marriage and at 8:00 I’ll head back to the high school to supervise the Dawg Pound.

As you can see, it’s been a busy few days with much of the time spent at the high school. When I met with Bishop Lucas last week he reminded me that time at the high school “is always time well spent.” He’s right, of course. It keeps me bouncing back and forth but it’s very enjoyable.

Tagged again

A Catholic Mom in Hawaii tagged me for the Book Worm Award and Meme, and a good thing, too, since I've not posted anything in two days.

The rules are simple:
Pass this on to 5 blogging friends. Open the closest book to you, not your favorite or most intellectual book, but the book closest to you at the moment, to page 56. Write the 5th sentence, as well as two to five sentences following that.

Here we go, then:
We can appreciate the beauty of life even among the thorns that surround us. This joy and consolation comes to so many through what the Lahoods call their "ministry"; it gives depth and meaning to humanity. It is not so much because they achieve "great" things, but because they do "small things with great love." Gift of self means everything we are given - every talent - is given as a gift (Carl Anderson, A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do to Transform the World).

If this is a meme you'd enjoying doing, consider yourself tagged.

25 November 2008

Christian liberty is not libertinism; the freedom of which St. Paul speaks is not freedom from doing good.

- General Audience, 19 November 2009

24 November 2008

There's still time!

Dr Pepper has extended their offer to receive a coupon for a free Dr Pepper through 6:00 p.m. this evening.

Free DrPepper

For the next fifty-some minutes, you can get a free DrPepper.

More on silence

Julie has an excellenct reflection on silence in churches at Adoro te devote.

On sacred silence

Your God is listening
As His grateful friends adore
Tread softly to His presence
And gently close the door.

A noise may change the current
Of another’s train of thought
And steal from God the glory
Deep thinking would have brought.

At Holy Mass you’re kneeling
On Calvary’s lonely hill
A God is dying for your sins
For His sweet sake KEEP STILL.


From the Chapel of St. Joseph’s Hospice
Hackney, London

It's getting closer!

A Catholic Mom in Hawaii gives us news of forthcoming canonization of Blessed Damien of Molokai!

It's voting time

Please take a moment to answer the question to the right. Thanks!

23 November 2008

A sung oxymoron

This morning our high school choir sang at the 11:00 Mass. They always sing well, as they did this morning; had their microphones been working properly, they would have sounded even better.

As one of the preludes before Mass, they sang "Sacred Silence," by Tom Booth, Jenny Pixlar and Anthony Kuner. I've never really liked the song.

I've said before - and I'll certainly say again - that I think too much and it will probably be the end of me. At the same time, it seems as too few people put forth enough effort to carry a thought through to its logical conclusion.

Why don't I like "Sacred Silence"? It is a sung oxymoron.

The song begins, "Sacred silence, holy ocean, gentle water, washing over me." Now, let's think about this for a moment.

If silence is so sacred, the song should simply end and let the silence be. The more we sing the less silence we experience and, presumably, the less sacred will the moment be.

Of course silence is sacred, and it's presence in the Liturgy should be fostered, maintained and encouraged. We should sit, stand, kneel and pray in silence, not sing about it.

I don't know about this




There Are 0 Gaps in Your Knowledge



Where you have gaps in your knowledge:



No Gaps!



Where you don't have gaps in your knowledge:



Philosophy

Religion

Economics

Literature

History

Science

Art

Capello tip to Mulier Fortis.

A new experience

Tomorrow morning at our mission parish I will do what is for me a first: baptize a child during Mass. I'm rather looking forward to it.

I'll adapt the homily to focus attention on the parent's and godparent's duty to raise their son to live always as a faithful servant of Christ the King.

22 November 2008

Homily - 23 November 2008 - The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King (A)

We are gathered today by the Lord to celebrate a great mystery, to honor and adore the One who is both Lamb and Shepherd, who is both Shepherd and King, who is both man and God.

By and large the image of sheep is lost on us who have such limited contact and knowledge of them. Let us put it simply: sheep need a shepherd because they often stray away from the fold and find themselves in danger. Are we not very much like sheep? The prophet Isaiah says this of us: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).

It is not for nothing that God sees his people Israel as his flock, as his sheep (cf. Ezekiel 34:11-12). With all of the passion of his love, the Lord says,
I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest… The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly (Ezekiel 34:15-16).
The life of a shepherd is not easy as he stands under the sun and moon, in the heat and cold, in the wind, rain, and snow with his sheep. So great is the Lord’s love for his flock that he himself weathers the elements with his sheep, he suffers with them and guides them along right paths (cf. Psalm 23:3).

There is something within us that inherently recognizes ourselves to be like sheep. This is why so many of us have an almost automatic love of Psalm 23, which begins, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). The question, then, comes to us: How well do I listen to my shepherd and follow him? Do I know the voice of my shepherd? Do I let myself be led and guided by him?

One verse of Psalm 23 that is particularly comforting to many people is not sung in today’s Mass: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). The staff he carries is the shepherd’s crook, with its hook that is used for pulling back, prodding along and even an occasional knock on the head, in order to keep the sheep on the right path. The rod he carries is the scepter of a king, the symbol of his authority. What is the connection between these two?

Just after the Lord promises to judge between his sheep, he says through his prophet Ezekiel, “I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:23). David, then, was appointed to govern and shepherd of Israel, the two chief duties of a king.

When the only Son of God took on flesh and became man, he did so to shepherd his flock both as the Good Shepherd (cf. John 10:14) and as their true and eternal King; he came to fulfill what began in David.

We see this most clearly in today’s Gospel. He is the king who, like a shepherd, separates his flock into sheep and goats, into those who served him and those who did not (cf. Matthew 25:31-34).

Why is it that Christ, our King and Shepherd, will seek the lost and heal the sick, but destroy the sleek and strong? The lost and the sick are the sheep who, having heard the voice of the shepherd, have accepted his sovereignty and leadership; they accepted his love. The sleek and the strong are those who rely on their own power and strength and refuse to submit to the gentle yoke of Christ. They will not be pulled back from sin; they will not be prodded on to holiness; they will not take a knock on the head, even for the good of their souls. They will not kneel before Christ; they think themselves sovereign and free, but they are, in fact, slaves to themselves.

There is yet a further way that the image of Shepherd and King are joined together in Christ. John the Baptist announced Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Christ the Good Shepherd became a Lamb for us and in his vision of the heavenly liturgy, Saint John the Evangelist saw “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). The Lamb stands as though slain because he was in fact slain, but now is risen from the dead. The Lamb is victorious and “has put all his enemies under his feet” (I Corinthians 15:25). It is because of his victory over sin and death that the hosts of heaven cry out, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:12)! After this, John says, “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, “To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever” (Revelation 5:13)! Then they fell down and worshipped him.

This Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ the King is the last Sunday in the Church’s calendar; it is, in a certain sense, the culmination of the Church’s year. Everything leads up to this day, to the celebration of Christ as King and we as his servants, just as everything in our lives leads up to our judgment before the Redeemer King. It is a call for us to recognize our true identity as servants and sheep, to accept the lordship of Christ over every aspect of our lives, to place ourselves lovingly in his service, to worship and adore him alone.

Because we are human beings, because we are both body and spirit, our worship of the Lamb is also done in both body and spirit.

When we enter the Church and approach the Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament, we perform an act of adoration, of homage; we make a genuflexion. This act of reverence that we pay to our Eucharistic King – to the Lamb of God - is one that we too easily take lightly.

The word “genuflect” comes from the Latin genu flexio, meaning “to bend the knee.” From ancient times the knee has been seen as a symbol of strength; “to bend the knee is, therefore, to bend our strength before the living God, an acknowledgment of the fact that all we are we receive from him.”[1]

When we kneel before the Lord, the King of the Universe, we kneel before the humility of him who knelt to wash our feet. This act of adoration is an act of love and is the genuine response of faith to what the Lord has done.
Kneeling before the Eucharist is a profession of freedom: those who bow to Jesus cannot and must not prostrate themselves before any earthly authority, however powerful. We Christians kneel only before God or before the Most Blessed Sacrament because we know and believe that the one true God is present in it, the God who created the world and so loved it that he gave his Only Begotten Son (cf. John 3: 16).[2]
Whenever we bend the knee in church, let us do so purposefully and with great reverence, remembering always before whom it is we kneel. With this gesture, let us recognize him as our only king and serve him with great joy and devotion. Amen!

[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy. John Saward, trans. (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 2000), 191.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 22 May 2008.

Choose life that you may live

21 November 2008

Thanksgiving prep

With Thanksgiving Day not too far away, many people are busying themselves today and the next few days with the many preparations for the celebration, most notably the purchasing and preparation of food.

As important as these preparations are, we ought not neglect to prepare ourselves spiritually for the civic holiday. We are Catholic, after all, and our faith is to shape and inform everything we do. Even eating turkey or, my personal favorite, noodles. I'm also a big fan of homemade biscuits. And pie, but not pumpkin. And creamed turkey sandwiches the next day, but I digress.

Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport offers several questions for our consideration to help us prepare for Thanksgiving.

In these next few days as we ask the intercession of Saint Martha for help in seeing to the needs of hospitality, let us not forget that it was Saint Mary who chose "the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:42).

Well said, Holy Father

Yesterday over at Vinum Novum - that blog of affirmative orthodoxy - I posted a reflection on death, beginning with the statement that I pray for death every day. Most people do not understand this at all, and for that I do not fault them.

This morning I was reading the audience address Pope Benedict XVI delivered on Wednesday concerning Saint Paul and justification (Zenit has a full translation). I was struck especially because His Holiness said about Paul is a perfect summation of what I attempted to say yesterday:
The treasure hidden in the field, and the precious pearl in whose possession he invests everything, were no longer the works of the law, but Jesus Christ, his Lord. The relationship between Paul and the Risen One is so profound that it impels him to affirm that Christ was not only his life, but his living, to the point that to be able to reach him, even death was a gain (cf. Philippians 1:21). It was not because he did not appreciate life, but because he understood that for him, living no longer had another objective; therefore, he no longer had a desire other than to reach Christ, as in an athletic competition, to be with him always. The Risen One had become the beginning and end of his existence, the reason and goal of his running. Only concern for the growth in faith of those he had evangelized and solicitude for all the Churches he had founded (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:28), induced him to slow down the run toward his only Lord, to wait for his disciples, so that they would be able to run to the goal with him.

He is, as ever, the emminent and succinct teacher.

Remember death

Over at Vinum Novum, I have posted a reflection on death, ending with the question, "Is death natural?" Do take a look.

Fairly close

you are mediumauqamarine
#66CDAA

Your dominant hues are cyan and green. Although you definately strive to be logical you care about people and know there's a time and place for thinking emotionally. Your head rules most things but your heart rules others, and getting them to meet in the middle takes a lot of your energy some days.

Your saturation level is medium - You're not the most decisive go-getter, but you can get a job done when it's required of you. You probably don't think the world can change for you and don't want to spend too much effort trying to force it.

Your outlook on life is brighter than most people's. You like the idea of influencing things for the better and find hope in situations where others might give up. You're not exactly a bouncy sunshine but things in your world generally look up.
the spacefem.com html color quiz

I love that last line!

Capello tip to A Catholic Mom in Hawaii.

20 November 2008

A day in the life of a priest

It's been an interesting day. I think. Maybe.

I thought I had a meeting this morning at 8:20 at the high school. With this in mind, last night the Pastor and I switched Masses; I took the 6:30 Mass and he took the 8:30 Mass. After the 6:30 Mass, I would run up to the high school to celebrate Mass there at 7:10 and then go on to my meeting - after finding something else to do - to the 8:20 meeting.

I awoke at 5:00 and the morning proceeded as planned, until I learned at 7:45 that my 8:20 meeting wasn't today, but this coming Monday. Talk about starting off on the wrong foot.

It really hasn't been a very interesting day since then. It's one of those days when I have an appointment that lasts maybe twenty minutes and then thirty minutes later - or so - I have another short appointment. If you simply repeat that pattern throughout the course of the day, that's what my day has been like. It makes not only for a tedious day but a thoroughly unproductive one, as well.

When the pastor finished celebrating the 8:30 Mass, I went over to the church to bless rosaries made by the fifth graders. They were very appreciative.

I've been back and forth to the high school a few times today for various reasons. I've just returned from the grade school after reading a story to the second graders. In an hour I'll be off to the high school again for wrestling practice. Then early in the evening I have a series of pictures to take with various councils and committees for a parish directory. That won't exactly be exciting either.

To top off the day, it's very cloudly and cold here and it's been spitting snow all day. It isn't accumlating and it wouldn't add up to much. It's actually left me quite baffled because I didn't feel it coming at all and I still don't feel it. That's a good thing.

I've also managed to catch up on telephone messages and I've cleared out e-mail inbox. One more to go!

19 November 2008

Good conversations

Meetings of the Priests Personnel Board aren't exactly known for their excitement or fun. In fact, they often tend to be downright dull and tedious (at least for me, but I'm not much of one for meetings). Today's meeting, though, was not bad at all.

Granted, we didn't speak a great deal about assignments because there isn't much now to talk about (thankfully). Instead, we spent a couple of hours talking about topics of concern for the nation, the Diocese, and the priesthood. We shared thoughts and ideas and although we sometimes disagreed with one another, there remained a genuine respect for each other.

After the meeting concluded I asked Bishop Lucas if he had a few minutes to chat before going to his next appointment. He did.

We spent some time together talking about my ministry and his, my health (he encouraged me to exercise frequently and routinely, for health of body and soul) and even his next ad limina visit, which seems to now be pushed back until 2010 (he told me again he'll take me along!). We also talked about my future ministry in terms of what and where it might be. I shared my thoughts and concerns and he shared his in an open dialogue that felt, to me, like a son speaking to his father. It was a good dialogue and I'm glad we had it. At the end of our conversation he thanked me for my ministry and my "work" especially with the youth (he reminded me that it is always "time well spent"), saying that he doesn't say it enough. I left him feeling very much encouraged.

The more I get to know Bishop Lucas and the more I am able to speak informally with him one on one, the more I like him. I don't always agree with him, and I don't always understand why he says what he says or does what he does, but I do like him and respect him. He is a good man and I am glad he is my Bishop. Thank you, Bishop Lucas!

Historical trivia

Via Facebook, one of my friends reminded me that on this day in the year of our Lord 1302, Pope Boniface VIII (1235-1303) issued that famous Bull, Unam Sanctam. I've no idea why my friend knew this little tidbit. What can I say? I have strange friends.

It is a brief document, forever "enshrined" in the power struggle between Popes and Kings. Through it, Boniface asserted his sovereignty over King Philip IV (the Fair) of France. Philip's men beat Pope Boniface nearly a year later because of his continued insistence on the supremacy of the Pope; he died a month later. Not exactly what you might call a pleasant moment.

Here, an excerpt:
Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, since the Lord speaking to Peter Himself said: 'Feed my sheep' [Jn 21:17], meaning, my sheep in general, not these, nor those in particular, whence we understand that He entrusted all to him [Peter]. Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John 'there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.' We are informed by the texts of the gospels that in this Church and in its power are two swords; namely, the spiritual and the temporal. For when the Apostles say: 'Behold, here are two swords' [Lk 22:38] that is to say, in the Church, since the Apostles were speaking, the Lord did not reply that there were too many, but sufficient. Certainly the one who denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter has not listened well to the word of the Lord commanding: 'Put up thy sword into thy scabbard' [Mt 26:52]. Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered _for_ the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.

However, one sword ought to be subordinated to the other and temporal authority, subjected to spiritual power. For since the Apostle said: 'There is no power except from God and the things that are, are ordained of God' [Rom 13:1-2], but they would not be ordained if one sword were not subordinated to the other and if the inferior one, as it were, were not led upwards by the other.

18 November 2008

Back to the "war room"

In one hour's time I will again be on my way to the See City for a meeting of the Priests Personnel Board, aka the "war room." Does anybody specialize in making maps and plastic figures and buildings?

Tomorrow I will have to be in Springfield again for the second part of the meetings of training to be an advocate to help request declarations of nulity (the first meeting I missed last week).

Since I don't like driving very much - two hours each way on your own two days in a row gets to be a bit boring, not to mention a rather large waste of time - I called our very generous retired priest. He has agreed to take my Mass in the parish tomorrow morning so I can spend the night in Springfield tonight. I'll return to Effingham tomorrow after the meeting.

In the meantime, blogging will be sparse.

If you wouldn't mind, would help me spread the word about my new podcast? Thanks!

17 November 2008

I'm on iTunes!

I am happy to announce that you can now subscribe to my podcast through iTunes. In a day or so you should be able to search iTunes for my podcast.

At long last

I've finally started my podcast!

It's been submitted to iTunes and upon confirmation will be available for subscription through iTunes.

In the meantime, you can find it here.

16 November 2008

A demanding person?

As I sold tickets last night at the doors for the high school play, the parents of one of the actors (who is also on the wrestling team) asked me a great question about today's Gospel.

He asked what it meant to call Jesus "a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering when you did not scatter" (Matthew 25:24).

Origen answers the question this way:
The righteous man "sows in the Spirit," from which he will also "reap eternal life" (Galatians 6:8). Everything that is sown and reaped for eternal life by the righteous man, God reaps. The righteous man belongs to God, who reaps where not he but the righteous man has sown. So we may say that the righteous man has "scattered and given to the poor" (II Corinthians 9:9). The Lord, however, gathers to himself whatever the righteous man has "scattered and given to the poor." Reaping what he has not sown and gathering where he has not winnowed, he counts as having been done to himself whatever the faithful have sown or winnowed for the poor. He says to those who have done good to their neighbors: "Come you, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom which was prepared for you. I was hungry and you gave me to eat..." (Matthew 25:34-35).

And since he wishes to reap where he did not sow and to gather where he did not winnow, when he does not find anything, he says to those who failed to reap and gather: "Depart from me, you wicked, into everlasting fire, which my Father has prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you did not give me to eat" (Matthew 25:41).

Homily - 16 November 2008

The Twenty-third Sunday of the Year (A)

“A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them” (Matthew 25:14). Who is this man if not Jesus Christ, and who are these servants if not his disciples? But what is this journey on which he sets out, and why does he not take us with him? The journey on which he set out was his Ascension into heaven where he sits now at the right hand of the Father.

This journey of the Redeemer is one that he calls each of us to embark upon, following after him. He says, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be” (John 12:26). If we are faithful servants, “our future is ‘to be with the Lord.’”[1] The Lord has not so much left us or forgotten us as he has prepared the way for us. He now beckons us to embark upon his journey with him, toward him.

Through the parable Jesus tells today, it is clear that we will attain heaven – that we will be with him – only if we use the talents he has entrusted to us wisely and well. We know that he has gone away, but we also know that “he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead” and that “of his kingdom there will be no end.”

When will he come again? We do not know. What we do know is this: “the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night” (I Thessalonians 5:2). “Therefore,” Saint Paul exhorts us, “let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober” (I Thessalonians 5:6). What is more, “God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep [whether we are living or dead] we may live together with him” (I Thessalonians 5:9-10).

Saint Paul also tells us that the day of the Lord will not catch us off guard because we are not in darkness. Rather, we are “children of the light and children of the day” (I Thessalonians 5:5). On the day of our Baptism we were entrusted with this light, with the light of Christ, “to be kept burning brightly” and to “keep the flame of faith alive” in our hearts.[2] If we have guarded the flame of faith and remained faithful then on the day when the Lord comes in his glory, we will “go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.”[3] There will be no reason to fear.

We know that without Christ the future is dark and bleak, for Christ himself is the Light. We are not without Christ; we are not in darkness but in his light, because Christ is with us and we are in him! “The Christian knows that the light of Christ is stronger [than the powers of darkness] and because of this, lives in the hope that is not vague, in a hope that gives certainty and courage to face the future.”[4] We wait, then, in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Waiting for the return of Christ “does not dispense with the work of this world, but on the contrary, brings responsibilities before the divine Judge regarding our way of acting in this world.”[5] It is precisely this recognition that we will have to render an account of our lives before Christ the Lord that gives life meaning, purpose and direction.

Pope Benedict famously said, “The one who has hope lives differently!”[6] The meaning, purpose and direction of human life are all found in Jesus Christ. From him we learn that we are made by love and for love; from him, we receive the command to lead all people to him; and it is toward him that every aspect of our lives must be directed. This is what it means to live differently, to live only for Jesus Christ. Only in this way will we come to know the true and lasting joy and peace of the kingdom of heaven.

What does the Lord say to those servants who used wisely those talents he entrusted to them? “Well done, my good and faithful servant… Come, share your master’s joy” (Matthew 25:21). Christ the Lord told us that he came “so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete” (John 15:11). If we want to be filled with joy then we must live according to the way of Christ, using what he has given us freely and without concern for what it will cost. We must, as he says, give our life away in order that we might find it.

To those who did not use his talents well and wisely he says, “You wicked, lazy servant! Throw this useless servant into the darkness outside” (Matthew 25:26, 30). These are the ones who tried to keep their lives but have now lost them.

We see, then, that the manner in which we live our life does matter, and that heaven is not a guarantee for any of us. Are we then to fear the Second Coming of Christ? Are we to fear our own death? Not if we live for Christ and for others, not if we live as true servants of Jesus Christ.

One cannot wisely use the gifts Jesus entrusts selfishly; the good and faithful servant uses the talents given him with no thought for himself; he uses them out of a genuine love of God and of neighbor, without counting the cost.

No, we are not afraid of death or of the end of the world because we know that Christ Jesus is risen from the dead. We know that he is with the Father and that he is also with us always. Regardless of how powerful the forces of darkness may be, “no one is stronger than Christ, because he is with the Father… Because of this, we are secure and free of fear.”[7] Death holds no more power over us; we, too, will rise again.

The Christian remains confident in Jesus Christ, and “with this certainty, with this freedom, with this joy, we live.”[8] This is the blessed assurance of faith. What is this talent, this gift that the Lord entrusts to his servants, if not the gift of faith?

How, then, do we make a return on this faith? We see that the good and faithful servants doubled the talents given them because they invested everything, they risked everything with nothing more than the hope of gaining more. The manner in which we live our faith must be just as bold, just as reckless. We must be willing to lose everything for Christ in order to gain everything. If we follow the wisdom of the world we will lose all that we think we have; but if we follow the way of Christ we will gain everything.

If we desire to be with him in heaven then we must live “in this world according to his way living.”[9] Let each of us cry out, “Your servant, Lord, your servant am I” (Psalm 116:16); “I come to do your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7).

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Audience Address, 12 November 2008.
[2] Rite of Baptism for One Child, 100.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Audience Address, 12 November 2008.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid., Spe salvi, 2.
[7] Ibid., Audience Address, 12 November 2008.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.

15 November 2008

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

This evening I attended the opening night of the high school's Fall play, "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians." If you're looking for a good, light-hearted entertainment filled with laughs, this is the play for you. It's just what we need in cold, rainy - and potentially snowy - weather.

The students will perform again Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students.

From the Effingham Daily News:
The play, written by St. Anthony teacher Nick Slicer, was adapted from the
1964 cult classic movie of the same name directed by Nicholas Webster.When the
children of Mars begin to suffer from a great depression, the Martian High Chief
Kimar realizes there is only one man to help save the planet: Santa Claus.
Kidnapped from his snowy fortress, Santa encounters killer robots, high-flying
spaceships and deadly ray guns as he attempts to spread Christmas joy throughout
the red planet. Meanwhile, an evil Martian named Voldar refuses to let this
happiness continue and plots to destroy Santa Claus and overthrow Chief Kimar.
[more]

Hopes raised and quickly dashed

As part of my not very secret desire to one day live in Hawaii (and the sooner the better), I am hoping to visit the fair islands sometime during the winter months for a bit of a medical experiment: I want to see if my arthritis disappears there in the winter as it does in the summer. At the very least, I hope to at least spend part of future winters there.

I would use a winter trip both for my annual retreat and to spend an extra day or two visiting my friend from college.

To this end I sat down this evening to look into fares sometime in the month of February. I was happy to see that the prices decreased more than $200 since I last checked a few weeks ago. I quickly grew hopeful that fares for a sooner trip would also have gone down.

With this hope in mind I searched for fares beginning tomorrow through January. "Eureka," I thought! A ticket for $417!!! I was elated!

And then I saw that I had to use the ticket before December 16th. With Thanksgiving just around the corner and Advent Penance services not far behind, it isn't possible for me to hop on board.

Nonetheless, I'll keep looking for cheap flights in February, hopefully before the beginning of Lent.

Until I return to Hawaii, I suppose I'll have to content myself with a picture:

14 November 2008

Mental shut down

I'd like to give you a thoughtful post this evening on something interesting, but my intellectual faculties seem not to be functioning at the moment. I'm sure they'll be back up to speed in the morning.

"Freedom of Choice" Act

If you aren't familiar yet with the mis-named Freedom of Choice Act that President-elect Obama has promised to sign into law, please familiarize yourself with it (the American Papist probably has the best coverage I've seen on it).

Then, if you're as appalled at it as I am, please sign the Fight FOCA Petition.

13 November 2008

Is there sex in heaven?

Before returning to the weight room in two hours' time to argue again the question, "is there sex in heaven?," I decided to do a bit of research into the question to better answer the students' questions.

I stumbled upon a lecture given by Peter Kreeft at Columbia University some years ago in which he addresses this very question. After a lengthy and excellent consideration of the merits of the question, he concludes:
I think there will probably be millions of more adequate ways to express love than the clumsy ecstasy of fitting two bodies together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Even the most satisfying earthly intercourse between spouses cannot perfectly express all their love. If the possibility of intercourse in Heaven is not actualized, it is only for the same reason earthly lovers do not eat candy during intercourse: there is something much better to do. The question of intercourse in Heaven is like the child's question whether you can eat candy during intercourse: a funny question only from the adult's point of view. Candy is one of children's greatest pleasures; how can they conceive a pleasure so intense that it renders candy irrelevant? Only if you know both can you compare two things, and all those who have tasted both the delights of physical
intercourse with the earthly beloved and the delights of spiritual intercourse with God testify that there is simply no comparison.

This spiritual intercourse with God is the ecstasy hinted at in all earthly intercourse, physical or spiritual. It is the ultimate reason why sexual passion is so strong, so different from other passions, so heavy with suggestions of profound meanings that just elude our grasp. No mere practical needs account for it. No mere animal drive explains it. No animal falls in love, writes profound romantic poetry, or sees sex as a symbol of the ultimate meaning of life because no animal is made in the image of God. Human sexuality is that image, and human sexuality is a foretaste of that self-giving, that losing and finding the self, that oneness-in-manyness that is the heart of the life and joy of the Trinity. That is what we long for; that is why we tremble to stand outside ourselves in the other, to give our whole selves, body and soul: because we are images of God the sexual being. We love the other sex because God loves God.

The entire article is well worth a read.

Good news

I just learned that the percentage of voters in Effingham County who voted for Senator Barack Obama and Senator Joe Biden was the lowest in the state of Illinois at 31%.

Have you voted?

...for Thomas Peters - the American Papist - to receive a $10,000 scholarship?

Papal homily helps

Brother priests and deacons, if you've not yet taken a look at Pope Benedict XVI's General Audience address today, I would highly recommend it as fodder for this weekend's homily. Take this little nugget as one example:
In other words, the awaiting of the parousía of Jesus does not dispense
with the work of this world, but on the contrary, brings responsibilities before
the divine Judge regarding our way of acting in this world. Precisely thus, our
responsibility to work in and for this world arises. We will see the same thing
next Sunday in the Gospel of the talents, where the Lord tells us that he has
entrusted talents to everyone and the Judge will ask us to account for them,
saying: Have you given fruits? Therefore, the awaiting of his coming implies a
responsibility toward this world.

The English translation is not up yet on the Vatican web site, but the ever trusty Zenit has the translation.

An unexpected day

I fully expected - and indeed looked forward to - to spend the majority of the day on my couch with an afghan and a few good books and articles that I've been meaning to read for some time now. But, as happens often enough, such was not the case.

I did spend much of the morning, which I enjoyed very much. About lunch time I went up to the high school to join the teachers for a lunch welcoming back the teacher that I filled in for the past several weeks (he returned on Monday).

As I was about to return to the parish one of the teachers called my cell phone. I hear the ring tone in time (the original Super Mario Bros. theme) so I walked up to his classroom to see what he needed.

This particular teacher will often start his classes (this one happened to be a chemistry class) at the beginning of the week asking his students what they remember from the Sunday homily. One of his students apparently remembered what I said toward the end of my homily comparing going to church to going to the gym. The student not only remembered it but thought it made a lot of sense. The teacher, thinking I might enjoy hearing this, called me so that student could tell me. I'm very glad he did.

I ended up sitting through the class as the students went over a test they took on Monday. Looking at the questions I realize how much chemistry I've forgotten. I stayed through most of his next class (conceptual physics), as well. The teacher spoke about why he stays at a Catholic school making far less money than he could elsewhere.

I then followed it up with some thoughts on what everyone wants from life: happiness, peace and fulfillment. Naturally, I connected this to the will of God for our lives.

After leaving that class I was pulled into the multi-purpose room to join a study hall and a geography class that was eating food; the food was gone by the time I arrived. While I was there two students asked to go to confession, which always brightens my day.

After a brief return to the rectory I went back to the high school for wrestling practice. As I was talking with the students in the weight room another student came looking for me, also to go to confession. When I returned to the weight room we had another interesting conversation about sex. I'm told tomorrow's conversation will be the question: is there sex in heaven? I answer, "No," simply because there is no marriage in heaven. Because sex outside of marriage is gravely sinful there can be no sex in heaven. I expect this will turn into quite a debate. I wonder if St. Thomas Aquinas addressed this question somewhere.

After wrestling practice I popped in to see how the preparations for the Fall play are coming along; the play opens on Friday. All seems to be well in order.

I finally returned to the rectory about twenty minutes ago. After playing with the Pastor's dog for a bit, I have now returned to me suite.

All things considered, it's been a great day!

12 November 2008

I don't know about this one




You Are Chinese Checkers



You live a hyper, fast paced life. You rarely ever slow down.

You are good at juggling many things at once. You are the ultimate multi-tasker.



You enjoy being in a group - in fact the bigger the group, the better.

You are an enthusiastic competitor, and you can be a little ruthless when you play games.



I really don't like large groups, though I can be ruthless at a game of Uno.

Capello tip to a Catholic Mom in Hawaii.

Autumn has fallen

With each passing year the season of autumn means for me – above everything else – the beginning of several months of slowing down and committing myself to very little, not knowing what each day will do to my joints. The cooling temperatures, the falling leaves and the increasing clouds herald the coming of that destroyer, winter, and the undeniable return of arthritis within my joints.

Yesterday, being Veterans’ Day, the parish office was closed. With this in mind, Monday evening I started to put a pseudo-plan together to visit a friend in Springfield whom I haven’t seen in many months.

Awaking yesterday morning I found a chilly and wet morning, which is always a bad combination for arthritis. What was more, the forecast throughout the day promised little more than chilly temperatures and more rain. The forecast in Springfield called for the same and my friend – who knows the state of my health – advised against my driving there and back.

With nothing else planned yesterday I set about the annual task of packing up my spring and summer clothing, sorting out what to store and what to give away. It is amazing how many t-shirts I can acquire over one year’s time.

Today I awoke to a very similar morning as yesterday, though it is a bit warmer. Nevertheless, I could tell a noticeable difference in the level of inflammation in my joints today over yesterday: today it is worse in my left hip (my other joints are fine).

I was to go to the Catholic Pastoral Center today for annulment advocacy training, but checking the forecasts again and using a bit of good old-fashioned common sense I called ahead to say that I would not be coming. They will send the materials to me and I will try to attend the second session a week from today.

Nonetheless, my spirits are good. This is an annual adjustment and something I simply have to live with so long as I live in the Midwest. It does, though, cause me concern for my future as a Pastor. How effective of a Pastor can I be if I have not always the energy and stamina necessary to carry out the duties entrusted to me?

As a Parochial Vicar, I have, thankfully, very few duties. My primary duty is to celebrate the Sacraments when the Pastor cannot do so. I have the strength to do this, though there will soon come some Sundays when even this will be difficult (I can celebrate two Sunday Masses easily enough, but a third Mass saps my reserves completely, and even more so in the winter).

Aside from these duties, I carry out others as the Pastor gives them. Since he gives very few to me I often set about things that interest me, like Bible studies, short classes on various topics and helping out with the soccer team.

One day during lunch last week one of our wrestlers asked if I would be the “assistant coach” for the team. I told him I would think about it and would get back to him. When I returned later that afternoon as classes ended I learned he already told everybody I accepted. So now that soccer season is ended, I guess I’m “helping” with the wrestling team, which really just means hanging around and telling a few jokes. And keeping bottles of water handy. The positive side for me is that the wrestlers will keep me accountable to real exercise and to lifting a few weights, which will help keep the arthritis at bay (and fulfill doctor’s orders that I’ve had for a few years now), if only a little more.

The next day the cross country team and then the track team asked me to be their “assistant coach” as well. This is all very strange to me. I accepted the invitation of the track team but declined the cross country team as they compete during the soccer season. I really don’t’ quite understand why they keep asking me to help out – especially given my very public dislike of athletics – but since they do, I think I have to say yes.

I am now into my fourth year here at St. Anthony’s and I suspect my days here are – as it were – numbered. I hope and pray that more will not be asked of me in the future than I can physically do. Being but thirty years of age and looking younger than most in their early thirties (despite my gray hair), it is often difficult for those older than me – whether priests or laity - to understand that I simply do not have the stamina that they have in the autumn and winter months (and sometimes even in the spring and summer months).

Sometimes I want to echo the words of that fibromyalgia commercial: “If I looked as bad as I feel, then would you believe me?”

Just a few gloomy thoughts for a gloomy day.

10 November 2008

Spotted!

I just spotted Bishop Lucas at the meeting of the USCCB. Have you seen your Bishop today?

In honor of the day

As Mother Church celebrates today the life of Pope Saint Leo the Great my Pastor and his father celebrate their name day.

If you're looking for a great little biography of Pope Leo I, look no further than the Wednesday Audience that Pope Benedict XVI dedicated to his predecessor. Among other things, Pope Benedict says this of Pope Leo:

Leo the Great knew how to make himself close to the people and the faithful with his pastoral action and his preaching. He enlivened charity in a Rome tried by famines, an influx of refugees, injustice and poverty. He opposed pagan superstitions and the actions of Manichaean groups. He associated the liturgy with the daily life of Christians.

When I was in Rome this past January I was able to celebrate Mass at the altar under which the mortal remains of Pope Leo remain.

If you're looking for a good laugh

...give these a try:

Fr. Toborowsky posted a few hilarious lines from tombstones.

A Catholic Mom in Hawaii passes along a priest’s Top Ten Liturgical Abuses that Should Be Punished by Public Beating.

The SFO Mom passes along these handy Halloween Candy Trading idea. It’s simply brilliant…

In honor of the day

As is his custom, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his Angelus address to today's feast.

The ever-helpful Zenit provides the translation:

Today the liturgy celebrates the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, called “mother and head of all the churches of the city and the world.” In fact, this basilica was the first to be built after Emperor Constantine’s edict, in 313, granted Christians freedom to practice their religion.

The emperor himself gave Pope Miltiades the ancient palace of the Laterani family, and the basilica, the baptistery, and the patriarchate, that is, the Bishop of Rome’s residence -- where the Popes lived until the Avignon period -- were all built there. The basilica’s dedication was celebrated by Pope Sylvester around 324 and was named Most Holy Savior; only after the 6th century were the names of St. John the
Baptist and St. John the Evangelist added, and now is typically denominated by these latter.

Initially the observance of this feast was confined to the city of Rome; then, beginning in 1565, it was extended to all the Churches of the Roman rite. The honoring of this sacred edifice was a way of expressing love and veneration for the Roman Church, which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch says, “presides in charity” over the whole Catholic
communion (Letter to the Romans, 1:1).

On this solemnity the Word of God recalls an essential truth: the temple of stones is a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, which in their letters the Apostles Peter and Paul already understood as a “spiritual edifice,” built by God
with “living stones,” namely, Christians themselves, upon the one foundation
of Jesus Christ, who is called the “cornerstone” (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17; 1 Peter 2:4-8; Ephesians 2:20-22). “Brothers, you are God’s building,” St. Paul wrote, and added: “holy is God’s temple, which you are” (1 Corinthians 3:9c, 17).

The beauty and harmony of the churches, destined to give praise to God, also draws us human being, limited and sinful, to convert to form a “cosmos,” a well-ordered structure, in intimate communion with Jesus, who is the true Saint of saints. This happens in a culminating way in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the “ecclesia,” that is, the community of the baptized, come together in a unified way to listen to the Word of God and nourish themselves with the Body and Blood of Christ. From these two tables the Church of living stones is built up in truth and charity and is internally formed by the Holy Spirit transforming herself into what she receives, conforming herself more and more to the Lord Jesus Christ. She herself, if she lives in sincere and fraternal unity, in this way becomes the spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God.

Dear friends, today’s feast celebrates a mystery that is always relevant: God’s desire to build a spiritual temple in the world, a community that worships him in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23-24). But this observance also reminds us of the importance of the material buildings in which the community gathers to celebrate the praises of God. Every community therefore has the duty to take special care of its own sacred buildings, which are a precious religious and historical patrimony. For this we call upon the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that she help us to become, like her, the “house of God,” living temple of his love.


If you don't already subscribe to Zenit's daily e-mail of "the world seen from Rome," you really should. If you don't like e-mail, you can also get it by RSS. Best of all, it's free!

09 November 2008

A few links

Carl Olsen offers two top ten lists of the most irritating phrases. If you read them you’re bound to laugh.

Fr. Ray Blake asks, “Are Saints perfect?”

The New Liturgical Movement has a great photo post on the Lateran Basilica.

Curious. It seems President-elect Obama has changed his mind on “required” volunteer service. Let’s hope he indeed has. You really should read this article.

Fr. Longenecker answers some questions about what a church building is.

An anniversary, Hawaiian style

One hundred and twenty-five years ago yesterday, Blessed Marianne Cope and her sisters arrived on the shores of Oahu.

Easter has a great photo post of the yesterday's celebrations marking the anniversary. How I wish I could have been there!

Will the Lord grant me to return to the island soon? I do hope so!

Update: Esther has pictures, too!

More on Obama

Fr. Longenecker offers his thoughts on President-elect Obama. I couldn't agree more.

08 November 2008

Homily - 9 November 2008 - The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Today we celebrate the birthday of the Lateran Basilica in the city of Rome. Built by the Emperor Constantine and dedicated on this day in the year of our Lord 324 by Pope Saint Sylvester I to the Divine Savior, this basilica was later dedicated by Pope Saint Gregory the Great to Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. Today it is known as San Giovanni in Laterano, Saint John in the Lateran.

It seems, perhaps, rather odd to celebrate the birthday of a church in Rome, but this is no ordinary church. This basilica on the Lateran Hill is known as omnium ecclesarium Urbis et Orbis mater et caput: “mother and head of all the churches of Rome and of the world.” We shall soon see why, but before we do let us first consider the purpose of a church building.

Far more important than being a place for the People of God to gather, a church building is meant to show us something. It is meant to show us the mysteries of the faith, to reveal to us, as much as possible, the divine realities celebrated in the sacraments. To the extent that a church shows us something of the heavenly realities it is a beautiful building and one worthy of sacred use.

If we consider the Lateran Basilica whose dedication we celebrate today, we recognize, clearly and vividly, several mysteries of the faith. Approaching the entrance to the basilica one cannot help but notice the fifteen statues standing on top of the façade.

The central statue and the highest is the Savior himself, Christ Jesus, stretching out his right hand in blessing and holding the Cross in his left. On his right is Saint John the Baptist pointing, as he did in life and death, to Christ. On the left of Jesus is Saint John the Evangelist, the Beloved Disciple, holding his quill and his Gospel, his letters and his Revelation. Next to these Johns stand the great teachers of the faith.

Looking at this façade we learn that the Church has no words of her own to say but only the Word made flesh, Christ Jesus. Like John the Baptist, the Church always points the way to Christ as she preserves the Scriptures down through the ages. Looking at the Doctors of the Church we see that the Church’s task is to interpret the Scriptures to every generation. Everything the Church does is centered on Christ and flows from him.

Entering into the great basilica one cannot help but notice the twelve niches made of the supporting columns in which are found statues of the Twelve Apostles. The image is clear: the Church is built, as Saint Paul teaches, “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone” (Ephesians 2:20).

Walking along the main aisle one comes to the altar. If one goes down the stairs at the foot of the altar you enter the confessio, in which is kept a wooden altar which, according to tradition, was used by the Popes – even Saint Peter - until the fourth century. In the canopy above the altar are kept the heads of Saints Peter and Paul, the two great pillars of the Church.

Moving beyond the altar one comes to yet another important aspect of this basilica and the reason we celebrate its dedication here in Shumway: the cathedra.

Every cathedral takes its name from the cathedra, from the chair from which the Bishop presides over his Diocese. The cathedra in the Lateran Basilica is the chair of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Though the Pope now lives on the Vatican Hill, his Cathedral still is on the Lateran Hill.

The chair represents that authority given by Christ to Saint Peter when the Savior said to him, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Under the guidance and assurance of the Holy Spirit the Popes, in union with the Bishops, have handed on through the centuries the living and true faith of the Apostles. It is this unity with Saint Peter that we celebrate today.

As we consider this earthly temple built to the glory and honor of the Divine Savior Jesus Christ, we cannot help but consider also the temples of our bodies. As important as having churches is for the life of the Church, more important than these are the living temples of the Spirit.

If the Lord himself chose to build his Church on the foundation of Peter, we, too, must have our foundation in Peter, whose own foundation is Christ. Like that wise master builder, we must build our lives on the foundation laid by Peter and the Apostles, the foundation that is Christ himself. But, as Saint Paul warns us, we must build on this foundation cautiously and wisely (cf. I Corinthians 3:10). We do so by listening always to the teaching of the Church, for what she teaches is not her own, but Christ’s.

Today Saint Paul pointedly asks us, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you” (I Corinthians 3:16)? If I am God’s temple then it must mean that I do not belong to myself; I am not my own. In this same letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle asks,

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

We glorify God in our bodies by continually building our lives upon the solid and rocky foundation that is Christ, by listening to and following the teachings of the Church to better follow Christ, so that when the winds and storms of life come we might remain firm (cf. Matthew 7:24-27).

Paul’s warning is clear: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person” (I Corinthians 3:17). With every sin we commit we harm God’s temple and if our sin is grave enough we can destroy this temple. But the Lord Jesus – the true Master Building – can refashion these lowly temples through the grace of the Sacraments which he entrusted to the Apostles.

Through the waters of Baptism we become one with Christ Jesus and become his temple. In Confirmation, the fullness of the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Through the Eucharist our temple is cleansed. In Reconciliation our temple is rebuilt and made firm.

For all of these reasons we celebrate today the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica 1,674 years ago. The truths of the faith which are found in the very structure of this building remain true. The Popes continue the ministry of Saint Peter, guiding and teaching us always in the way of faith, and we must listen to them because they speak in the name of Christ.

If, then, we wish to celebrate this birthday of the Lateran Basilica with a joy that befits such an occasion, then let us not defile the temple of God in ourselves with sin.

Too often we miss the simple and obvious meaning of coming to Church. We might say that is like going to the gym. Going to the gym is a start, but it is not enough. It is too easy to go to the gym with the intent of exercising, but instead chatting with people and not really doing any real work. It is one thing to go to the gym; it is another thing altogether to exercise. It is, by way of analogy, the same with coming to church.

It is a good first step to come and a necessary one, but simply being in church for Mass does not mean I have actually prayed or listened or participated in the saving action of the Liturgy. It is too easy to enter the church building and simply stand, sit and kneel without any real recognition of what is happening. It is too easy to simply “go through the motions” and we must always be on guard against it.

Whenever we come to church, we must prepare our hearts to be as beautiful as we expect this church to be. Do you wish to find this [church] immaculately clean? Then do not soil your soul with the filth of sins. Do you wish this [church] to be full of light? God too wishes that your soul be not in darkness, but that the light of good works shine in us, so that he who dwells in the heavens will be glorified. Just as you enter this church building, so God wishes to enter into your soul, for he promised: “I shall live in them, and I shall walk the corridors of their hearts”.[1]
Let each of us then this day open our hearts to the Lord, allowing him to walk the halls of our hearts every moment of our lives. Amen.

[1] Saint Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 229, 3.

News from Quincy

First, the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy has voted to align itself with the South American Province of the Southern Cone.

Second, the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Liturgy will be celebrated daily at the Shrine of St. Rose of Lima beginning tomorrow.

Umm...

Update: Leave it a high school kid to put things in perspective. Joey, of Catholic homeschooled Teens, give us his take on the below story.

I think we've seen this tried before somewhere in history. And I don't think it turned out too well.

It is one thing for the federal government to encourage service; it is another thing entirely for the federal government to require it.

07 November 2008

Day is done, but love unfailing

dwells ever here:


Shadows fall, but hope prevailing

calms every fear.



A rainbow as seen this evening over our high school.

The holly and the ivy...

Admit it: you're singing it, aren't you?
The other day I noticed that holly tree in the rectory backyard has red - very red - berries:

I confess to knowing nothing about holly trees and berries, but it seems strange to me that the berries should be present so early. Is it early?


This could very well have happened at this time for the past three years and I simply never noticed. It wouldn't be the first thing I've not noticed. Does anyone out there know anything about holly berries?

06 November 2008

The simplicity of life

I received an e-mail from a dear friend whose sister is in the hospital and could very much use your prayers.

My friend updated us on her sister and as she said how good it was simply to stand by her bed and watch her breathe. She then asked,

Did you take the time today to watch someone you love breathe...or blink an eye...or stretch....or smile? Life is so simple, and God is so good.

A very good question, indeed. Thank you.
From the time I was a young boy I have always enjoyed the legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. I spent much of my childhood building bigger and better castles with Legos and even playing in the fields as knights. One of my senior seminar papers - required to receive the B.A. - concerned King Arthur.


Lately I have not had much opportunity to pursue my love of all things Arthurian; priestly duties and, more lately, teaching must take priority. (When my students ask what I would be if not a priest, I tell them I would be in England looking for King Arthur.)


This morning I just happened to open the November volume of Butler's out of curiosity to see which saints are celebrated today. The first listed is the sixth century Saint Illtud.

"'Illtud?' I thought. Wait, I know that name!" Saint the Illtud has connections to the legends of King Arthur.

In the Life of Saint Illtud - which I've seen dated anywhere between the ninth and twelfth centuries - we are told that Illtud is a cousin of King Arthur. The intertwining of the two personalities are brief. Illtud,
hearing of the magnificence of his cousin, king Arthur, desired to visit the court of so great a conqueror. He left what we call Further Britannia, Brittany, and arrived by sailing, and here he saw a very great company of soldiers,being also honourably received in that place, and being rewarded as regards his military desire. His desire to receive guerdons being also satisfied, he withdrew very pleased from the royal court (Life of St. Illtud, 2).
I just thought you might like to know.


Today - being a rainy, dreary day durning which the temperature is to begin falling - may well be a good day to pick up the legends again. With the change in weather my left knee is throbbing; if I could make my knee cap pop right off I would do so gladly! Laying down with a good book may be just the remedy!

Local election results

I'm very happy to say that, locally, voters seem to have cast their ballots largely in support of life. The only exception seems to have been the relection of Senator Durbin, but that race was close here.

05 November 2008

The morning after

I slept precious little last night after watching coverage of yesterday's election of Senator Obama to the Oval Office. I spent much of the night in prayer and - after retiring for the night - what little sleep I did have could have been more restful.

It will be an interesting day in the high school where in their mock election Senator McCain won the election something like 150-50. Questions will come full force today and I am not ready for them. I fear for the future of this nation and pray to be proven wrong. Judging by Facebook statuses, my students are also greatly concerned for the future.

Over in England, Fr. Ray Blake comments on the election of Senator Obama, saying,

As an outsider I can't help but think Mr Obama's election is the triumph of form
over substance, and rhetoric over policy.

Sadly, he could not be more correct.

I was astounded last night at the claim of so many supposed "commentators" and "experts" who repeatedly said that we do not know Senator Obama, neither his past nor his policies, yet we elected him anyway.

It is a very sad day indeed when a nation elects a man whom they do not know and whose policies they know not to the highest office.
There have been a few who tried to pass on knowledge of Senator Obama's policies but the majority of people simply would not listen to them.
Fr. Blake also asks an exellect question: "Where was the Catholic vote? And what will the American biships says?" I should like to know the same.
For more on the so-called Catholic vote, Rocco has much of that information for us today.

Initial thoughts on the election results

I only hope we don't have to say, "We told you this would happen. Why didn't you listen to us?"

God protect us.

Faithful citizens

In response to the Most Reverend George J. Lucas' call for a voluntary day of fast yesterday and for prayer before the Blessed Eucharist before today's election, yesterday we hosted an evening of prayer.


We began at 5:00 p.m. with exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The rosary was prayed at 5:15 p.m. and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was given at 9:45 p.m.


I was - frankly - surprised by the numbers of parishioners (and others) who came to pray throughout the night.


More than one hundred people gathered to pray the rosary. Fr. Carl, our retired priest, led us in the rosary and I prayed it from the back of the church to take a few pictures:



Young families, retired couples, widows and widowers and everyone in between came to pray for our nation, that we might today elect virtous leaders.

I must confess that throughout the praying of the rosary I was rather distracted. What caught my attention was not so much the number of people who turned up or the piety of their prayer, but the young families kneeling in the pews in front of me.

As a priest, I almost never get to see what it is like "praying in the pews." It is true, I suppose, that during the Mass I could look out onto the congregation to observe, but I'm during the Mass I'm praying myself.

As I watched a young father teaching his children to pray the rosary and a young mother talking with two daughters answering their questions, I noticed a young baby holding a rosary made of very large beads.

As I watched the parents pray with their children, talking to them and teaching them, I was struck by this observation: I have no idea how parents ever find time to pray. But I am grateful that they do!

At the end of the evening, somewhere between 75 and 100 people came for Benediction, and there were twice as many people at the 8:30 Mass this morning than usual.

The people are praying. Let us beg the Lord to hear and answer our prayer.

An excellent question

The other day this question was posed to me:
What are we to make of the differences in the accounts of the death of Judas
found in Matthew 27:5 and Acts 1:18.

My books don't seem to comment on the apparent discrepancy. Can anyone offer any insight?

02 November 2008

Blessing of Graves

I forgot to post this earlier.

At 4:00 p.m. this afternoon we will visit the cemetery to bless the graves and to pray for our beloved dead.

We will gather at the entrance of the cemetery and process to the cross where the blessing will take place.

If you are in the area and are free, please join us.

I hate this time of year

By that I mean I very strongly dislike the day we - for reasons that make no sense to me - set our clocks back one hour.

It is bad enough the temperatures are cooler (usually, anyway), the leaves are falling and the days are getter shorter. It is bad enough that we already rise when it is dark - many of yes, at least; why must we also return home when it is dark? Why can't we just leave the clocks the way they are now so we can at least have a bit more sunshine as people head home from work?

I think a large number of us should simply refuse to change our clocks. If enough of us refuse the government will have to give in, right?

01 November 2008

Homily - 2 November 2008 - All Souls' Day

The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed
All Souls Day


Today Holy Mother Church prays for her children who, at the moment of death, though destined for the everlasting glory of heaven, were not yet prepared to enter into that joy but who were also not deserving of hell. These are the Poor Souls in Purgatory, those who are being purged – purified – for the everlasting life of heaven.

This Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, this All Souls Day, is a stark reminder to us that not every soul enters the glory of heaven immediately at the moment of death.

This realization marks us with great sorrow and so we pray the Father of Mercies “hear our prayers and console us” and “strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters will share” in the resurrection of Christ Jesus, and we with them.[1]

Whereas yesterday Mother Church honored her heroic children who lived well the faith of Jesus Christ – the saints of every age and place – who are now with the Lord in glory, today we pray for those who hope to share in that glory, “those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.”[2]

Jesus says to us, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me” (John 6:37). It is our choice in this life whether or not to belong to Christ, but just as he will not reject anyone who comes to him, neither will he force anyone to come to him. The choice is ours, to be made again and again, at every moment of our lives. With every word we speak, thought we think, deed we do, we are free to accept or reject the grace given us. He extends his hand toward us, saying, “Come, follow me” (Luke 18:22), and he waits for us to either grasp his hand or walk away.

We know that “death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.”[3] This is why the manner in which we live this life is so important, for by it we make our decision for or against Christ. “With death, our life-choice becomes definitive – our life stands before the judge.”[4] Today is a fitting day for us to consider what the choice of my life is, what my life is oriented towards.

This choice can have a multiplicity of forms, for each of our lives is different, but the fundamental choice before us remains the same.

There are some people whose lives are so filled with wickedness that any desire for truth and love has been completely destroyed within them. This is what is meant by the word, “hell.” There are also people whose lives are so imbued with love and purity that their love for God flows readily to their neighbor. Such holiness of life clearly marks one for heaven. But such people are not common, are they?

What, then, of the rest of us? What of those of us who want to live holy lives but fail so often?

We can presume that in the majority of people

there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil – much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains, and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul.[5]

What, then, becomes of these souls who are open to and are desirous of truth and love, but whose lives are also marked with sin? “Will all the impurity they have amassed through life suddenly cease to matter?”[6] Certainly not.

Update: word order fixed: It would go against God’s mercy to cast them into hell, but it would also go against his justice for them to enter into heaven straight away with such filth covering their souls. The answer is clear: they must first be purified. Thus we hear the words from the Book of Wisdom: “God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself” (Wisdom 3:5-6).

This process of purification is called purgatory for it is a purgation, a cleansing, of the soul. “[Purgatory is] the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God, and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints.”[7]

We often speak of the pain of the fire of Purgatory; why do we do so? The Psalmist tells us, “fire goes before [the Lord]; everywhere it consumes the foes” (Psalm 97:4). Saint Paul tells us that we will be saved, “but only as through fire” (I Corinthians 3:15). What is this fire, then, but the fire of love?

The Lord’s “burning flame cuts free our closed-off heart, melting it, and pouring it into a new mold to make it fit for the living organism of his body.”[8] This fire is the encounter with Christ Jesus himself, who is both Judge and Savior, and this encounter with him is the moment of judgment. Many today are afraid of the notion of judgment “because they confuse judgment with petty calculation and give more room to fear than to a loving trust.”[9]

Pope Benedict explains this encounter with Jesus most powerfully:

Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms us and frees us, allowing us to become fully ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives becomes evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire.” But it is also a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally of ourselves and totally of God. In this way the interrelation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us forever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love… The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy.[10]

Today’s celebration, while it is one of deep sadness as we mourn our beloved dead and pray for them, is also one of profound hope rooted in the love of God.

Let each of us, then, raise our prayers and offer our sufferings to the Father for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. We know that our prayers on their behalf are beneficial to them because, “No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone.”[11] We are all one in the Body of Christ. Therefore, let us keep ever in mind the words of St. Ambrose: “We have loved them in life; let us not forget them in death.” Amen.

[1] Collect of the day.
[2] Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer I.
[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1021.
[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Spe salvi, 45.
[5] Ibid., 46.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, Second Edition. Michael Waldstein, trans. with Aidan Nichols, O.P., ed. (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1988), 230.
[8]Ibid., 229.
[9] Joseph Ratzinger, Seek That Which Is Above: Meditations Through the Year, Second Edition. Graham Harrison, trans. (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 2007), 77.
[10] Pope Benedict XVI, Spe salvi, 47.
[11] Ibid., 48.