31 December 2008

Just a reminder

With the evening's festivities in which many will partake, I thought it prudent to offer the following reminder:

To purposely get drunk is always seriously sinful and should be confessed before receiving Holy Communion. If you feel yourself getting tipsy, it's time to stop drinking; it's that simple.

Drinking itself, of course, is not sinful, provided it is done in moderation. Remember what the Psalmist says: "Wine gladdens the heart" (Psalm 104:15), but also remember the words of St. Paul: "Do not get drunk" (Ephesians 5:18).

Choose your weapon

In response to my comment that I'm better with swords, Jake asked the question:

'If' you were to hunt ducks and gophers, would you use:

a)Durandal:

b)Excalibur:

c)Rhindon:

d)Anduril

e)Curtana


For those not in the know, Durandal is the legendary two-handed sword of Roland; Excalibur is the sword given to King Arthur by the Lady of the Lake [the sword from the stone was Caliburn]; Rhindon is the sword of the High King Peter in the Chronicles of Narnia; Anduril is the sword of Aragon in the Lord of the Rings, forged from the shards of Narsil; and Curtana (known as the Sword of Mercy) is the sword of King Saint Edward the Confessor.
"If" I were to hunt ducks and gophers, I would use Excalibur, with it's scabbard. Merlin made it known to King Arthur that he would never die of injury so long as he wore the scabbard of the great sword. You never know when you might run into a giant killer gopher.
I admit it: I am a nerd.

Catching up

Bishop Lucas gathered in the See City yesterday with his seminarians for their annual Christmas gathering.

The priests and deacons (with their wives) are invited each year to join them for Vespers and dinner. It is always an enjoyable time and a good opportunity to catch up with the seminarians and our brother priests.

In between Vespers and dinner we usually have about an hour’s time to visit and mingle. I was surprised to learn how many deacons are following my blog and listening to my podcasts and my radio interviews.

Thanks to the continuing help of our retired priest, I was able to stay the night in Springfield to visit more with the seminarians. After dinner I introduced some of them to that wonderfully entertaining game, Apples to Apples. We played until 12:30 before calling it a day.

I rose early this morning and returned to Effingham in time for the last part of wrestling practice.

After doing a few things around the office and rectory I rested for a short while before resuming the day.

Some of the high school boys have been asking me to join them at their new favorite restaurant: Buffalo Wild Wings. We had planned on going last week, but an ice storm that shut down the Interstate canceled those plans (the restaurant is 30 minutes away).

The boys were at a basketball game not far from the restaurant so I met them at B Dubs – as they call it - after the game. I’m not generally a fan of wings, but the sauces were great! I ordered a garlic parmesan chicken flatbread (something like a pizza) and was told that I had to have at least six wings (with a honey BBQ sauce). I gave in; it’s usually easier.

As we waited for our food we played an arcade game that struck me as a much more impressive version of Duck Hunt. You could hunt ducks, antelope, moose and even gophers. I wasn’t very good – I’m better with swords – but it was a good time. All in all, I was pleased and may join them again sometime.

I’ve been taking a quiet evening catching up on some reading, and I intend to do so for the next hour or so.

Father Fix It

It is common knowledge that priests are often required to be jacks of all trades, as it were. One of those tasks involves being fixers of doors.

When I stepped out of the church Sunday morning to greet people after Mass I discovered that the handle to one of the two main doors was broken:

When I examined the situation after greeting people I saw that the screw was still in the door and must have somehow been unscrewed from the handle. As I pondered - briefly - whether the screw was stripped, it occured to me that this could be either a five second project or a five hour project.

After fetching a screwdriver - and my camera - from the sacristy I returned to the door and set to work. Much to my delight the screw went tightly into the handle and all is fixed. The entire project took all of five seconds:
For the curious, here is an exterior shot - albeit a bit slanted - of the main doors:

28 December 2008

New podcast

My homily for the Feast of the Holy Family is now available as a podcast.

For the locals

The Why Catholic? sessions have surfaced many questions about the Holy Mass and other things Catholic and I want to answer them. Maybe you slept through that part of religion class and now you have questions; maybe you knew it once but forgot it; maybe it just never occurred to you until now.

I will answer these questions in the parish center on Sunday, January 4th, at 4:00 p.m. No question is too simple or too complex.

You can drop questions off at the parish center, or you can call them in or drop me an e-mail. Questions will also be taken that day.

Adults and children are welcome. If you ask a question I can't answer, I'll be sure to find the answer and get back to you.

I think I found a future priest

Yesterday after Mass I was talking with one of our seventh or eighth grade boys (I can't remember off hand which grade he is in).

He is an intelligent, inquisitive and talkative boy whom I don't think has ever met a stranger. At Masses with the grade school students he often serves Mass or reads and never shys away from offering to help.

As we talked last night I said to him, "We want you to be a priest" (I can't remember who "we" was/were at the moment). His response: "Maybe." "That's all we ask," I said. I will continue to suggest it from time to time.

Remember: suggest the priesthood as a viable option to boys. The response you receive may well surprise you (though I wasn't at all surprised with this boy; he's one, I think, that will only find fulfillment in the priesthood).

Future priests aren't really difficult to spot. They're all around us. We just need to help them see it.

Uh-oh

Your result for Survival Test...

Once a year backpacker

43% Death!



Clearly you have a love for the outdoors and you are awesome when in comes to the occassional "planned out" backpack trip.... No worries, you just need to brush up or learn some additional skills. You still rock in my book!! Get back out there and join a group of people and enjoy the outdoors. Always bring all you need to survive, then practice your skills in a safe environment. You do not want to get caught in a survival situation without your skilks.


There are many resources on the web for wilderness survival, please check them out. However, my personal favorite is Hoods Woods...but decide for yourself.


It would be appreciated if you could vote on my test. Thank you



Take Survival Test
at HelloQuizzy

Capello tip to Adoro.

Homily - 28 December 2008

The Feast of the Holy Family

As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family during this Octave – this eight-day celebration – of Christmas Day, we see the model of every family. Indeed, every family is meant to be a holy family, a family marked by love, faith and devotion to the will of God. The family is where we first experience love; it is where we learn the fundamentals of the faith; it is where we learn the discernment of the will of God.

Pope Benedict XVI reminds us:

In the Gospel we do not find discourses on the family but an event which is worth more than any words: God wanted to be born and to grow up in a human family. In this way he consecrated the family as the first and ordinary means of his encounter with humanity.[1]

The task for every family, then, is to resemble, as much as possible, the Holy Family of Nazareth.

My own early experience of family life was somewhat different than that of most children. Before I was five years of age my mother developed a brain cancer that confined her to a hospital bed in our home. As such, mom was always near, even if unable to care for my brother and I. Some of my fondest memories are of mom reading stories to us as we lay on her bed. The care of the home was left largely to my father, who stayed home to care for my mother; dad, too, was always near. Their marriage had not been easy and it certainly was not the happy and pleasant dream they must have once had. They had already lost a child – my twin, Matthew – the day after our birth.

Though I certainly did not realize it at the time, I learned from my mother - from a very early age - a certain patience in suffering; not once can I remember her complain about her lack of health. And from my father I learned the value of loyalty; how easy it would have been for him to leave, but he stayed with my mother, keeping the commitment he made. Both of these lessons have served me well and will help me to be – with the grace of God – a holy priest, according to his will and pleasure.

I do not mean to give the impression that my parents were saintly individuals; they certainly had their sins, as do we all. I simply mean to emphasize that certain key aspects of character are learned best – for good or for ill - from the family.

My own family was irreparably wounded when, in 1986, my father died; I was almost eight years old. My brother and I moved in with my father’s sister and her family. I distinctly remember a conversation she and I had: she knew she and her husband could not take the place of my parents, nor would they try. Nonetheless, my brother and I were welcome in their home and they extended their love to us.

There are many today who try to convince us that it is not the make-up of the family that matters, but the love that is shared. This is true as far as it goes, but, from my own experience, I know the great importance of the biological family; it cannot be denied. It is fundamental and irreplaceable to the good of humanity. Children have the right to grow in a family with a mother and a father; if we would stop making excuses for our failings and sins we would all recognize this.

This is not to say that some situations are beyond repair; rather, it is to highlight the great responsibility that each of us has for and toward the family. We know that the family “comes into being from the responsible and definitive “yes” of a man and a woman, and it continues to live from the conscious “yes” of the children who gradually join it.”[2] It is this commitment made by a husband and wife to live in love until death that is the beginning of the family; the family springs forth from love.

Regretfully, the family is today confronted by assaults from every side. Far too many families are broken and weak. What we need today are more families who model their lives on that of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

What is it that is characteristic of the Holy Family? If we look to the window depicting the Holy Family here in this church, we see a glimpse of the life of the home in Nazareth. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are depicted in the workshop. Mary stands in the background with her needlework, while Joseph takes a brief break from his labor. Both of their eyes are fixed on Jesus, who, even as a young boy, holds a small cross. This is what distinguishes the Holy Family: their attention is focused on Jesus Christ, who gives meaning and direction to their lives.

If our families are to be truly holy families – families marked by love, peace and happiness – then we, too, must look to Jesus Christ and build our lives upon his solid foundation.

Looking to the home in Nazareth we see the beauty of silence and simplicity. In the silence of their home Jesus, Mary and Joseph prayed together and individually.

A life of simplicity naturally flowed form this atmosphere of quiet reflection. Mary and Joseph knew that love cannot be adequately communicated through material things. They communicated their love for each other and for Jesus by their attentive presence and concern for each other. It is a lesson for us all that our children do not need the newest and latest of everything; that they do not need what we did not have; that we cannot really know our children if we only see them for a few brief minutes each day.

For parents, Mary and Joseph provide the perfect model of mothering and fathering. They will teach parents how to communicate love to their children; they will show parents how to instill the faith in their children; they will teach parents how to discern the will of God for themselves and for their children.

For children who are separated from parents through death, divorce or other circumstances of life, Mary and Joseph will adopt them as their own. Under their guidance and protection we will know the joy of being loved in the communion of saints. They will watch over us as they watched over Jesus, helping us to grow in wisdom and grace.

How do we move forward from here? The answer is simple: we, as families and as individuals, need to recover the simple things of life. Would that families today would recover that spirit of prayer! Would that the family dinner return! Would that discipline and work be honored and respected!

Love is a sacrifice. Returning to the core values of family life will not be easy, but it will be worth it. Let each of us look to the Holy Family. They will lead us all to Jesus Christ. From them, each of us can receive love; each of us can learn the faith; each of us can discern God’s will for us.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 31 December 2006.
[2] Ibid., Message for the World Day of Peace 2008, 6.

25 December 2008

Christmas greetings

Dear friends,

Let us approach the manger of Bethlehem in humble adoration of the Word made flesh.

Merry Christmas!

Guadete, Christus es natus!

Papal Christmas Homily

Rocco gives us the text, via Vatican Radio, of the Holy Father's homily at Christmas Midnight Mass. It's excellent!

Plans for tomorrow

Today I received two items which brought pleasure to me. The first was my coupon for a free Dr Pepper. The second was a Christmas card.

Now, I've been receiving numerous Christmas cards each day for the past several weeks and, thus far, I've somehow managed to stay on top of responding to them. I've managed to send out a few cards before first receiving one.

Anyway, back to the particular card I received today. There is nothing especially striking about the card itself, but the handwritten message inside cut straight to the heart. The card is from two of our parishioners who penned, "Father, have a peaceful Christmas. Thanks for all you do."

A peaceful Christmas. That's just what I have in mind. It's been a rather quiet day today, with the exception of the unsuccessful search for a copy of Handel's Messiah (I'm still baffled by that; I can find it easily enough most times of the year). And tomorrow promises to be quiet as well. Quiet and peaceful.

I'm delighted to say that after celebrating Mass at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, I have - of my own will and choosing - no plans whatsoever.

I'll be spending a quiet Christmas afternoon here in the rectory, under an afghan on my couch with a good book. I've already picked out the book: Peter Seewald's Benedict XVI: An Intimate Portrait. I've read only a few pages, but I'm already hooked.

Toward the late afternoon or early evening - if the mood strikes me - I may pop around town to visit a few parishioners. If not, I'll simply continue reading. If any blog readers want to pop over tomorrow, feel free to do so.

I'm really looking forward to the day tomorrow. My family will be gathering for Christmas the first weekend of January, and I'm also looking forward to that. But first, a break is needed.

Homily - The Nativity of the Lord, at Mass During the Day

Each year this Gospel seems to us an odd one to proclaim on Christmas. Where are the oxen and sheep? Where the shepherds? Where, even, are Mary, Joseph and the Child?

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

We know John the Baptist to be the last of the prophets who “came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (John 1:7). Who, then, is this light?

John prepared the way for Jesus Christ, “the true light, which enlightens everyone” (John 1:9), through whom we have received “grace and truth” (John 1:16).

The True Light, Jesus Christ, is also the Word who “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). The Father has spoken to us through his Son, the Word, the Light, who now sits “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).

It was not enough for us to hear the voice of God; it was not enough for him to speak to us in partial and various ways. In the birth of Jesus Christ, no longer will we simply hear his voice; now we can see him and touch him. Now – because of the mystery of Christmas – the Word, the Reason and eternal Meaning behind all of creation – “has made himself tangible to our senses and our intelligence. Now we can touch him and contemplate him (cf. I John 1:1).”[1] It is him whom we come today to adore.

Today, the glory of the Son, who is “far superior to the angels,” is hidden in human flesh (Hebrews 1:4).
In the child Jesus, the defenselessness of God is apparent. God comes without weapons, because he does not wish to conquer from outside but desires to win and transform us from within. If anything can conquer man’s vainglory, his violence, his greed, it is the vulnerability of the child. God assumed this vulnerability to conquer us and lead us to himself.[2]
Can there be anything more vulnerable or defenseless than a newborn child? Yet it is precisely this that the Son of God becomes for us to manifest the depth of his great love.

As we consider this Word made Flesh, this True Light, let us direct our eyes heavenward – for just a moment – and look upon the statue of our heavenly patron, Saint Anthony of Padua. He holds in his arms the Christ Child. How could he hold the “newborn King of the Jews” if he lived some twelve hundred years after the mysterious birth in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:2)?

The story is told to us that one day Saint Anthony was staying in the home a man named Tiso. He was given “a room in an isolated part of the property so that he might be undisturbed in his study and contemplation.”[3] Anthony’s holiness was already well known and Tiso wanted to be certain to take care of his blessed guest. To do so, he frequently passed by the room in which the Saint was staying. At one point he peered through the window and saw
a most beautiful and joyous baby appear in the arms of Blessed Anthony. The Saint hugged him and kissed him, gazing into his face with ceaseless affection. The man was awestruck at the beauty of that baby. He wondered where such a beautiful child came from.[4]
The baby, of course, was Jesus, the Christ Child. This must surely have been the most profound experience of Anthony’s life. We know the joy of kissing a human baby, but to kiss God himself?

Why would the Child appear to Saint Anthony? The reason is found in the Gospel proclaimed today. Saint Anthony is known as the Evangelic Doctor, the Doctor of the Gospels, because of his deep knowledge of and love for the Scriptures, and of the Gospels especially. Through his prayerful reading of the holy Gospels that night, the Word truly became flesh and was held in Anthony’s hands.

If we look again to the statue above us, we see that the Christ Child holds his hand out toward us. It is an invitation for us to take his hand and to allow him to grasp our hand, as any child does. It is this hand that “has won victory for him, his holy arm” (Psalm 98:1); it his hand that will guide us (cf. Isaiah 11:6).

But why was Saint Anthony given the grace to hold the Child in his arms? The answer is given us in what he holds in his other arm: lilies. The lily in Christian art represents purity, which is why Saint Joseph – who also holds the Child – holds a lily. The Child for whom we have all awaited and prayed (cf. I Samuel 1:27) comes to those who are “clean of heart” (Matthew 5:8).

The Roman poet Virgil has given us a well-known phrase: omnia vincit amor, “love conquers all;” but whereas we end his phrase there, he went on to say, et nos cedamus amori, “let us, too, yield to love.”[5]

As we gaze upon the Christ Child we see God himself, God who “is love” (I John 4:16). When a child reaches out to grasp our fingers, who pulls their hand away? None of us do. We let the baby grasp our fingers and play with them. How could we do differently when it is God who reaches out to us?

When the newborn Son of God reaches out to grasp our hand, will we pull away, or will we let him take us by the hand and lead us along the paths of purity, holiness and grace?

As we approach today the manger of Bethlehem, let this holy infant take your hand; let yourself this day be conquered by love! Amen! A merry Christmas to you all!

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Wednesday General Audience, 17 December 2008.
[2] Joseph Ratzinger, Images of Hope: Meditations on Major Feasts. John Rock and Graham Harrison, trans. (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 2006), 12.
[3] The Book of St. Anthony’s Miracles, 22. Virgilio Gamboso, ed. (Padua, Italy: Edizione Messagero Padova, 2004), 39.
[4] Ibid., 40.
[5] Virgil, Bucolics X, 69. Quoted in Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 4.

24 December 2008

Homily - The Nativity of the Lord, at the Vigil Mass

Dear brothers and sisters,

As we wait here in vigil in the darkness of the night, we “know that the Lord is coming to save us, and in the morning [we] shall see his glory” (Exodus 16:6-7). We await the birth of the one who is mightier than the last of the prophets (cf. Matthew 3:11); we await the birth of “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).

This period of waiting is one of joyful expectation; it is the culmination of the season of Advent, a blessed and holy time. It is a time of deep and profound silence in imitation of Saint Joseph.

Joseph’s role is too often passed over in our thoughts. Let us, then, turn for a moment toward this holy man, “who lived with unique intensity the period of expectation and preparation for Jesus’ birth.”[1] If we look to him, we will learn how to prepare ourselves for his birth.

When the angel of the Lord said to him, “do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into home,” Joseph offered neither objection nor question (Matthew 1:20). Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, doubted Gabriel’s announcement of John’s conception; Mary asked Gabriel for clarification; Joseph accepted as his duty and privilege the task entrusted to him: “She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). It is his silence in the presence of the mystery of Christmas that particularly strikes us.

Too often silence is seen today as a sign of confusion, weakness or loss, but this is not the case with Joseph. His “silence does not express an inner emptiness but, on the contrary, the fullness of the faith he bears in his heart and which guides his every thought and action.”[2] His silence is a sign of his knowledge, strength and the gift he has received.
It is a silence thanks to which Joseph, in union with Mary, watches over the Word of God, known through the Sacred Scriptures, continuously comparing it with the events of the life of Jesus; a silence woven of constant prayer, a prayer of blessing the Lord, of the adoration of his holy will and of unreserved entrustment to his providence.[3]
It is a silence born of awe and wonder, one that we would do well to emulate.

Indeed, before so great a mystery as the birth of the only Son of God, of God made man, what else is there to do but kneel down in humble and silent adoration? What words could possibly be uttered in the presence of the Divine Child? For this reason that ancient and beloved hymn sings,
Let all mortal flesh keep silence
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly minded,
for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth
our full homage to demand.
This is the mindset of the one who awaits in silence, with Blessed Joseph, the birth of the Christ Child.

In these last few hours before the birth of the Messiah, let us heed the plea of our Holy Father:
Let us allow ourselves to be “filled” with Saint Joseph’s silence! In a world that is often too noisy, that encourages neither recollection nor listening to God’s voice, we are in such deep need of it… [L]et us cultivate inner recollection in order to welcome and cherish Jesus in our own lives.[4]
Let each of us this night approach the manger of Bethlehem in humble silence, ready to adore the Holy Infant when he is born. Amen! A merry Christmas to you all!

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 18 December 2005.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

A few links

Matthew Archbold of the Creative Minority Report considers the song, “Mary, Did You Know?

Fr. Z. answers the question, can you still kiss the ring of a Bishop or Cardinal?

Be sure to stop over at The Crescat’s place. She’s been posting some beautiful images lately.

Bro. Thomas Skeats, OP has a fine reflection on Christmas over at Godzdogz.

Fr. Barron on the genealogy of Jesus

Looking for the Messiah

It's always hard to decide what to give a person for Christmas who has passed their eightieth year. By now they already have everything they want and they don't really need anything. The dilemna intensifies when said octogenerian is also a priest, a priest who has helped you tremendously.

Our very generous retired priest mentioned to me last week or the week before that he wanted to borrow my CDs of George Frederick Handel's Messiah. He said he had never heard the piece, but only parts of it. Handel is my favorite composer so I was happy to agree to let him borrow it. Only I kept forgetting to keep it handy and I still haven't lent it to him.

So then I thought: That's the perfect gift for him! Knowing his taste in music I know he'll enjoy it. Only I haven't been able to find a good copy of it in Effingham. In fact, the only copy I've managed to locate is a Thomas Kincade version, which I absolutely refuse to buy.

Do any of you local readers know where I might pick up a copy of it? If homily work goes well and swiftly, I might be able to make a quick trip to Mattoon later this morning.

23 December 2008

Do you know what I know?

Some of our Christmas customs baffle me.




Preparations were made and decorations were put up in the church yesterday in preparation for Christmas. The trees were strung with lights, poinsettias were placed throughout the church and the stable was erected.



Mary and Joseph wait in the stable at the manger, an angel hovers above them crying, "Gloria in excelsis" and the shepherds have already arrived:



I wonder, what do the shepherds know? They know that their salvation is at hand and so they wait at the manger.

Where we are we waiting?

Homily - 21 December 2008 - The Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Fourth Sunday of Advent (B)

The celebration of the Lord’s birth is now only days away and this season of Advent is swiftly drawing to a close. What does it all mean?

The days of Advent are a precious gift given us by Mother Church to draw closer to the Lord as we look for his coming. These days are to be used to increase and strengthen our longing for the Lord until the ancient and beloved cry bursts forth from within us: Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus (I Corinthians 16:22)!

I do not know about you, but, for me, these past few weeks have been anything but restful. With Monsignor Enlow’s recent illnesses I have had precious little time to watch and wait for the Lord and grow in eager expectation of his coming. It has been the most trying Advent of my life.

Advent is my favorite season and one that ordinarily fills me with great joy, but, I am sad to say, amidst the flurry of the last few weeks, such is not the case this year, at this moment. I should like very much for Christmas to come tomorrow, if only to have Advent finished and to find days of rest. I suspect the same may be true for many of you.

There is a certain ironic beauty in this, for my desire for the coming of the Lord has increased, though not for the proper reasons. Then again, the Lord does come to give us rest. He said to King David, “I will give you rest from all your enemies” (II Samuel 7:11). He will also give us rest from our enemies.

If the Lord would come tomorrow he would not find the house of my soul ready to welcome him and receive him warmly. He would find, rather, a home in disarray and me collapse on the couch. There are simply too many other things on my mind at the moment – all of them good and just – but not all of them necessary. I am not proud of this, and this is not where the Lord is calling me to be.

This is not the Advent I had hoped for, nor is it an Advent I would seek again; but it is the Advent the Lord has allowed me to experience and as such it is a graced time. What is important now in these last few days is that I, that we, set aside all distractions.

It is a time for me – for us – to examine the house of my soul. Is Christ the foundation of this house? Is there room for him in the house of my soul, or is the space that is rightly his cluttered with too many other things? Will he find a clean house or a cluttered one? Will we allow him to fashion the house of our soul according to his own design?

Where, then, are we to find this rest, this peace, that he brings with him? We will find it in turning our attention to the words spoken by the Archangel to the Virgin Mary: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” (Luke 1:31).

Gabriel was sent to Mary because the house of her soul was found worthy of so great a guest because of the singular grace given her at the moment of her conception. Mary welcomed this Divine Guest, saying, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

There still is time for me, for you, to ready the homes of our souls to receive the Divine Child with joy and faith. In these last days of Advent, we must look to Bethlehem and focus our attention there in these remaining days. The Lord will help us prepare a place for him, so that he might make his home in us.

To focus so intently on Bethlehem is not easy, especially given the many distractions that we face.

Under the influence of a hedonistic consumerism, unfortunately, Christmas runs the risk of losing its spiritual significance to be reduced to a mere commercial occasion to buy and exchange gifts… [But] stripped of consumerist and materialistic incrustations, Christmas can thus become an occasion to welcome, as a personal gift, the message of hope that emanates from the mystery of the birth of Christ.[1]

If anything other than the mystery of Christmas holds the primary place in our thoughts, we are not yet prepared to celebrate this great feast.

As we approach the celebration of the Lord’s birth, we remember that central moment in history, when, “in the darkness of the night of Bethlehem, a great light was lit.”[2] This light continues brightly shining, illuminating the darkness of our lives and shining it’s radiant light along the path to true and lasting joy and peace.

This Child, this Light, “wants to be the travelling companion of each one of us on our life’s journey” and we must be ready to receive him.[3]

Let us prepare for Christmas, therefore, with humility and simplicity, readying ourselves to receive the gift of light, joy and peace that irradiates from this mystery. Let us welcome the nativity of Christ as an event capable of today renewing our existence. … Let us ask most holy Mary, the tabernacle of the incarnate Word, and St. Joseph, silent witness of the events of salvation, to communicate to us the sentiments they had while they awaited the birth of Jesus, so that we can prepare ourselves to celebrate in a holy way the coming Christmas, in the joy of faith and enlivened by the determination of a sincere conversion.[4]
[1] Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience Address, 17 December 2008.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., Angelus Address, 24 December 2006.
[4] Ibid., General Audience Address, 17 December 2008.

20 December 2008

I am pleased

Yesterday morning the grade school students held their annual band and chorus Christmas concert. They did very well.

As I watched the band the students it seemed to me that the instruments the students played seemed to match their personalities rather well. So I started to wonder: what instrument would I have played?






You Scored as Timpani

You are a born TIMPANI PLAYER!!! You are easy going and level headed. You love to play for the shear love of the music. (But secretly you know that you are better that the snare player.)






Timpani




78%





unique




67%





Trumpet




67%





Snare




67%





Saxaphone




56%





Trombone




45%





Clarinet /Flute




33%


I do love the timpany!

19 December 2008

Papa's episcopal ordination

Carl Olsen posted the video of Fr. Joseph Ratzinger's ordination to the Episcopate:



I've no idea what he said.

Catholic radio coming to Effingham!

I received the following very good and exciting news today:

We've recently received a license to operate a 24/7 Catholic radio station in
Effingham on bandwidth FM 91.3.

As you may know, a few years ago some local Catholics came together to form Brindisi Consortium, an Effingham-based 501 (c) 3 charitable organization dedicated to Catholic evangelization and apologetics.

We're very happy about the prospect of being able to provide quality Catholic programming - devotional, catechetical, history, culture, news, and apologetics to our Catholic community.

It's going to be all Catholic, all the time on 91.3! We are assured that Catholic radio bears good fruit in the communities that have it - conversions, people being strengthened in the Faith, people being brought to the Faith.

No word yet on a launch date, but I'll keep you posted. If you would like to contribute toward this worthy cause, please contact me via e-mail and I'll put in contact with the proper people.

News flash

Fr. Robert Barron of Word on Fire will be on ABC News Friday night at 5:35 p.m. CST. Tune in if you can.

For your amusement

My friend Jonathan - who is the founder of Vinum Novum (to which I should contribute something soon) - sent along a new: Where's Father Zehnle?

I thought it was hilarious:

He first put it on my Facebook page, to which my friend Fr. House asked, "Who else would wear a cope to an amusement park?" I love it!

17 December 2008

Curious

The National Weather Service has just issued a Freezing Rain Advisory "in effect from 3 PM Thursday to 6 AM CST Friday."

It's only 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. How can they be so certain so far in advance?

The O Antiphons

Today begins what might be called the “second phase” of the season of Advent, in which Mother Church returns to the “O Antiphons.” The antiphons are taken from a collection of Messianic texts throughout the Old Testament.

These seven antiphons are used as the Alleluia verse during Mass and as the antiphon at the Magnificat during Vespers. When combined together they make up the ancient hymn Veni, veni Emmanuel, “O come, O come, Emmanuel” (which happens to be one of my absolute favorites).

The O Antiphons begin a novena, of sorts, culminating with the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, Christmas Day.

The antiphons begin as follows, in the order they are used:

O Wisdom
O Sacred Lord
O Flower of Jesse’s Stem
O Key of David
O Radiant Dawn
O King of all the Nations
O Emmanuel (“God with us”)

The ever-clever Medievals noticed something especially powerful when the order of the antiphons reversed: Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai and Sapientia. The first letter of each of the antiphons spells Ero cras, Latin for “Tomorrow, I will come;” tomorrow, of course, being Christmas.

The antiphons, then, are a poetic reminder of the promised Messiah who has come to us and will to us again. Come, Lord Jesus! Do not delay!

Help needed

Sometime last week - or maybe the week before - I remember something somewhere that argued, from the basis of the timing of the conception of John the Baptist and the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth as described in the Scriptures, that Jesus actually was born on December 25th.

Does anyone remember seeing this somewhere?

16 December 2008

Here we go again

My Pastor was hospitalized again yesterday afternoon, for a different set of circumstances than before. Please keep him in your prayers for a swift and full recovery in time for Christmas. We'll know more about his condition - and how it might impact next week - in the morning.

Our retired priest is again generously assisting me in meeting the sacramental needs of the parish. Please keep him in your prayers, as well.

The positive side to this is that this week is a relatively quiet one, the calm before the storm of Christmas, as it were.

When I spoke with Bishop Lucas last evening he asked me how I was doing. I didn't have much of an answer for him then, and I don't have a better one now; frankly, I'm not sure how I'm doing. I haven't had much time to think about it. (I could have done so yesterday but opted instead for a day of doing absolutely nothing, the first in some sixteen days; it felt good, and I'm glad I wasted it.)

The high school kids often ask me how I can get up at 5:00 a.m. day after day (only six in a row) for the 6:30 a.m. Mass, and keep functioning reasonably well through, say, 8:00 p.m. My only explanation is that I get up when the alarm goes off, hop in the shower, and don't sit down for long until the day is well under way. If I sit down too early (or too late) it's all over, but if I keep moving my energy stays decently well.

It's been much the same these past two weeks and will be now, presumably, the rest of this week. I try to think only of one day at a time (though it's hard now not to think about Christmas) and I just keep marching forward.

May the Lord give me the grace to keep doing so.

WYD themes

The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has chosen the following themes for the respective World Youth Days:
  • 24th World Youth Day (2009): "We Have Set Our Hope on the Living God" (1 Tim 4:10)
  • 25th World Youth Day (2010): "Good Teacher, What Must I do to Inherit Eternal Life?" (Mk 10:17)
  • 26th World Youth Day (2011): "Rooted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith" (cf Col 2:7).
The twenty-sixth World Youth Day will be held in Madrid, Spain.

15 December 2008

A few reminders

Given that it is that time of year again - and the same questions generally resurface each year - I thought it might be helpful to point your attention to a few posts that might be of particular interest:

The resemblance is a little uncanny

On a day as frigid and dismal as this, we need a little something to bring a smile to the face. This brought one to mine this morning:



It's good to be able to laugh at ourselves now and again.

Capello tip to Orbis Catholicus.

14 December 2008

Real priests wear rose

Society is a most curious collection of people with often contradictory views.

In recent years we have been told - frequently and loudly - that "real men wear pink." Boys are now wearing pink polos and business executives - and lackeys - are wearing pink oxfords.

Take it for what it is worth. It might be right; it might be wrong. Either way, this man does not wear pink, nor do I own anything pink, or with pink in it.

I thought about that phrase, "real men wear pink," as parishioners - and maybe others - either chuckled quietly as I walked by in a rose chasuble this weekend or proffered comments such as, "Father, you look good in rose," with a grin.

If real men do indeed wear pink, why is it such a big - and even laughable - event when a priest or deacon wears rose vestments, as prescribed by Holy Mother Church? If real men wear pink, real priests wear rose, at least according to Fr. Z.

I don't at all mind wearing rose twice each year, and I quiet look forward to it each Advent and Lent.

I simply wish that people would be reasonable and consistent.

Podcast update

After a bit of difficulty posting last night's homily as a podcast, I'm happy to say it is now posted.

13 December 2008

Homily - 14 December 2008 - The Third Sunday of Advent

This being Homecoming Week at our high school and tonight being the Homecoming Dance, most of our students will be at Mass this evening in their finest attire, prior to dinner and the dance. Because they will all be together at once I wanted to address them particularly:

The Third Sunday of Advent (A)
Gaudete Sunday

My dear young friends, it is to you, especially, that I wish to direct my words this evening. Please, to quote the great Shakespeare, “lend me your ears;” listen to my words this evening. [1]

Pope Benedict XVI, whom you know I greatly admire, once said, “My greatest concern is for young people.”[2] My greatest concern, too, is for young people, for you.

Deep within your souls burns the flame of joy, a flame that too often has grown cold in the souls of adults with the passage of years. Guard this flame; guard this powerful and enthusiastic desire for joy. You have been made by the very hand of God; you have been made for joy and nothing less!

I know that among some of you the flame of joy has already been nearly snuffed. The tragedies of death and of divorce, of falling for the lies of the world and other tragedies besides, have sadly already visited many of you, leaving the flame of joy not brightly burning, but dimly flickering. Guard this flame, my friends! Do not let it be extinguished!

You know that my own life, too, has been marked by tragedies that threatened to steal away my joy. When my father died of alcoholism twenty-two years ago, and when my mother died of a brain cancer twenty years ago, my life was all but shattered, as some of yours have nearly been. Somehow, by the grace of God given me in the Scriptures and in the Sacraments, the flame of joy burned gently and quietly in my soul for many years, at times almost unnoticed.

It was an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ I had in high school that gave me back the joy of my youth (cf. Psalm 51:14). With the prophet Isaiah, I came to say, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul” (Isaiah 61:10).

This joy is not some mere emotion that comes and goes with each passing day; it is not some empty smile or laugh. No, it is something much deeper and more abiding than that. It is the knowledge that the Lord has “remembered his promise of mercy” (Luke 1:54), that “he has looked upon his lowly servant” (Luke 1:47). This joy becomes the foundation of life itself; it is a joy that no one and no thing can take away; despite whatever tragedies may come the joy of God’s own love remains.
Christian joy thus springs from this certainty: God is close, he is with me, he is with us, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as a friend and faithful spouse. And this joy endures, even in trials, in suffering itself. It does not remain only on the surface; it dwells in the depths of the person who entrusts himself to God and trusts in him.[3]
My friends, so many of your energies are spent in the continual search for joy and happiness. At times you search in the true direction and at others you follow the way of falsehood. You do not need me to tell you that there are many people today telling you where you will find this happiness, though they themselves have never found such a joy. Do not listen to them! Do not give in to their lies!

They tell you to turn to the latest technology, to the current trends in fashion or music, to food, drink, sex, drugs and all of the rest. If they have not found the happiness they tell you you will find, why listen to them? In the end, they tell you to search for joy and happiness within yourself. A noble thought, perhaps, but how could we possibly find happiness in ourselves, in we who so very often do not even know what it is we want? No, we are not the cause of our happiness and joy.

If we consider all of these voices, do they not give us at least some measure of joy and happiness? Yes, they do, but what they offer does not last, it is not authentic and true. Christ calls us to something so much greater than these passing things! He calls us not to a life of mediocrity, but to a life of courageous discipleship through which we will find true and lasting joy. We know that he was born at Bethlehem so that, as he said, “my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

I know that you are not afraid of sacrifice and of hard work, but that you are instead afraid of a life devoid of meaning.[4] This is the fear of every honest person, young or old.

If you ground your life in Christ, in him who is “among you,” I assure you, with the firm conviction of my own experience, your life will be filled with meaning, and because it is filled with meaning, it will be full of joy (John 1:26).

Is this not the life for which we all long, the life of purpose and joy? It is this life that Christ will give us. It is this life that will enable us to follow the words of Saint Paul: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

If you want this joy, this joy that is lasting and true, you must follow the words of Saint Paul: “Do not quench the Spirit… Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:19, 21-22). This is the path of joy, the path of virtue and grace.

It is possible for us to extinguish and dim the flame of the joy of the Lord given us in Baptism. For this reason, the Apostle says, “Do not quench the Spirit,” the gift of grace. We know that “an impure life extinguishes the gift of grace.”[5] If we toss dust or water over a fire the flames are extinguished. It is the same with the life of the Spirit. If sin and impurity are continually tossed upon the flame of joy, if it is not fanned by virtue and grace, it will be snuffed out.

If you consider those of the world who tell you where happiness lies, how many of them are caught in webs of depression, despair, chemical and substance abuse? They have not found the source of joy.

But if you consider the lives of the Saints you will see them as those shining lights that beckon us onward toward Him who is our joy, to Christ Jesus! In your own lifetime you have the lights of Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. There are countless others beside them who have also found the source of true joy. We have also to look to Pope Benedict XVI and we must never forget our patron, Saint Anthony of Padua, who experienced so powerfully the joy of holding the Christ-child in his arms. Look to these lights and you will know joy and peace! Follow them, and you will never be led astray!

We see from the witness of their lives, that “following Christ always requires the courage to go against the tide. However, it is worth it” this is the way to real personal fulfillment and hence to true happiness.”[6]

You, too, can live as they have done, if you ground your life on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ, on him who is the joy of my soul. If you allow him, if you cooperate with the grace he gives you each day, he will “make you perfectly holy” and will preserve you “blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it” (I Thessalonians 5:23-24). Amen!

[1] William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, 3/2.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Address at the Welcome Ceremony and Meeting with the French Authorities of State, 12 September 2008.
[3] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 16 December 2007.
[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, 13 May 2007.
[5] Saint John Chrysostom, Homilies on I Thessalonians 11. In Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament IX: Colossians, I-II Thessalonians, I-II Timothy, Titus, Philemon. Thomas C. Oden, et al, eds. (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2000), 99.
[6] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 17 May 2008.

Enjoyable learning

It's homecoming week at the high school and I've just returned from the basketball game at which the King and Queen were announced.

After the game, which we won, I stopped in the multi-purpose room where decorations were being set up for tomorrow evening's homecoming dance. I almost didn't stop in (I have Mass at 6:30 in the morning), but something told me I should pop in to see how things were going. I'm glad I did.

As no small number of girls arranged balloons and hung banners and the like, I started talking with a couple of freshmen boys who were just standing around. One of them was even trying to hide around a corner as some of the girls were trying to recruit his help; he didn't want to work.

I told him if was going to stay around - which he was - he might as well help. He said he'd help if he could wear my capello Romano, my Roman hat. I agreed and handed it to him. The other boy decided it was time to wear my cape.

I spent the next several minutes showing them the proper way to walk while wearing a cape so your shoulders don't bounce from side to side (it makes you look silly even when not wearing a cape). Then I had to correct their hands as they walked with their hands folded, as I do at Mass; their fingers needed a bit of straightening. Next came lessons in genuflecting (they seemed to have forgotten that you go down on your right knee), followed by lessons in cape twirling. It was a blast and provided no small amusement to the workers around us.

After about twenty minutes of this it was time for me to return to the rectory. I'm not sure if the boys ever did help with the decorations, but they learned a lot tonight.

It's amazing what happens when you wear funny hats and capes (they want me to wear the biretta more often). People really are drawn to them.

Curious

On Facebook there is an application called "Compare People" in which two people are pitted against each other - by photo - to be judged according to various categories. "Best smile," for example.

Today I received an update on my "rankings." My friends have decided that, as one of my strenghths, I am the "best to hang out with for a day," but at the same time I would not be the "best companion on a desert island."

I won't disagree with this; I would make a lousy companion on a desert island. My friends must be perceptive.

12 December 2008

R.I.P.

His Emminence, Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. died this morning. May he rest in peace!

The Tiber is high

Fr. Z. passes along photos that show how high the Tiber is in Rome at the moment. That water's getting high!

What to do?

Sometimes Christmas cards can pose a small dilemma or two. For example:

I ordered Christmas cards from The Printery House some months ago when they had a sale on their cards. For my Christmas card this year, I chose this image. So did Bishop Lucas.

I suppose it means that one of us has good taste.

Now, the dilemna: do I send him the same card he sent me, or go out and find a different card for him?

I think I'll just send him the same card.

Don't forget

As you address and write your Christmas cards, please remember to send one also to the Holy Father. His address:
His Holiness
Pope Benedict XVI
The Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City
Europe

Who knows? He might even send a Christmas card to you.

Argh!

I have a few personal pet peeves, and maybe a few more than most people. That's simply because I often expect too much out of people, but only what I consider reasonable expectations. Others must disagree.

Being that time of year again, Christmas cards have been arriving on my desk for the past few days. For these I am very grateful and hope in the near future to begin answering them and sending out my own. (I'm even thinking about including a short letter, which I've not done before. We'll see how time goes.)

Every year it happens that some silly card maker thinks - for some bizarre reason - that it would be good to put glitter all over a card. Let it be known that I very strongly dislike these cards.

Consider this. Father So-and-so is quietly sitting at his desk during a quiet moment of the day, happily going through his mail. Naturally, he is in his clerics (the "black suit"). He opens an envelope and glitter flies everywhere. Have you ever tried to remove all traces of glitter from black clothing? It even seems to linger around the office for days.

Remember, friends don't let friends send glitter cards. Please. Thank you.

Priests are people, too

One thing that will most likely never cease to surprise me is how very often - and in how many different ways - people view priests as somehow more than human (and not in a theological way).

One day last week I mentioned something about one of my "best friends" to one of the wrestlers. It caught him off guard.

He asked, "You have a best friend?" "Of course," I answered.

Let's not forget that priests have and need friends like everyone else. Indeed, I should be very concerned about a priest who seems to have no friends.

Funeral Homily

Here is the homily I preached at a funeral this morning:

My dear friends in Christ,

May the Lord give you peace.

It is with sorrow and grief that today we gather with the mortal remains of N. to entrust her now to the “grace and mercy” of the Lord (Wisdom 3:9). We gather also to support one another and to encourage each other with the assurances of faith in the death and resurrection of Christ the Lord and in the power of his love.

To you, her family and friends, I extend the loving prayers and sympathy of Msgr. Enlow and of the entire parish. We pray and mourn with you during this time of death and grief. May the presence of Christ and of his Church buoy you up and give you comfort and peace.

Throughout his letters Saint Paul speaks of the dead as “those who have fallen asleep in Christ” (I Corinthians 15:18). Jesus, too, speaks of his friend Lazarus as not dead, but sleeping (cf. John 11:11). He spoke the same way of the little girl who had died (cf. Mark 5:39). Yet it is clear the people die, that you and I will also die. What are we to make of this?

Neither Jesus nor Paul want us to consider the dead as dead, but rather as those who are sleeping. This is why the Apostle today reminds us, “we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed every day” (II Corinthians 4:16). Because of the words of the Lord Jesus, we know that all who believe in Christ will never die. We know that Christ Jesus our vindicator is not dead but lives; nor shall we die (cf. Job 19:25). We shall fall asleep in Christ, to be awakened by him to glory. This “bodily death is a sleep from which God can awaken us at any moment.”[1]

Today Holy Mother Church celebrates the memorial of Pope Saint Damasus I. Damasus possessed a deep devotion to the martyrs of the Church, to those who gave their very lives for Christ and his Gospel. These holy men and women knew that they had already received the promise of everlasting life with Christ in Baptism and for this reason they were not afraid of their earthly death; they knew they would live.

It is was this confidence in the resurrection of the dead shown by the example of the martyrs that led Pope Damasus to write this as his epitaph:
He who walking on the sea could calm the bitter waves, who gives life to the dying seeds of the earth; he who was able to loose the mortal chains of death, and after three days’ darkness could bring again to the upper world the brother for his sister Martha: he, I believe, will make Damasus rise again from the dust.[2]
It is this same confidence that every Christian is to have.

We believe that when Christ Jesus “will at last stand forth upon the dust; whom I myself shall see” he shall indeed raise Damasus from the dust, that he will raise N. from the dust, that he will raise me from the dust (Job 19:25). This is the confidence of Saint Paul: “We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you in his presence” (II Corinthians 4:14).

The resurrection of the dead is our hope; it is what encourages us each day to follow after Jesus Christ. When know that when the Lord comes again he will indeed “raise our mortal bodies to be like his own in glory” and that we shall be reunited with those whom we have lost here. How can Christ do this? How can he raise the dead? Saint Braulio tells us that,
His power is so great that it is easier for him to raise the dead to life than it is for us to arouse those who are sleeping. As we are saying all these things some unknown feeling causes us to burst into tears; some hidden feeling discourages the mind which tries to trust and to hope. Such is the sad human condition; without Christ all of life is utter emptiness.[3]
Christ is able to raise the dead because he has already conquered sin and death by his death on the cross.

It is with this confidence in the power of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ that we come today to entrust N. to the loving hands of God. As we ask the Lord to raise her from the dust of the earth when he comes in glory may each of us say with Job, “And from my flesh I shall see God; my inmost being is consumed with longing” (Job 19:27). Amen.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 9 March 2008.
[2] Pope Saint Damasus I. In Butler’s Lives of the Saints: December. David Hugh Farmer, et al, eds. (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2000), 94.
[3] Saint Braulio, Epist. 19. In the Liturgy of the Hours.

10 December 2008

News flash!

It's Wednesday, not Tuesday.

Just thought you might like to know.

A little update

Last week ended well enough - given the circumstances - with a very quiet and peaceful Sunday evening.

I celebrated the usual two Masses that morning - which ordinarily leave me rather tired - and baptized a boy after the second the Mass. After that Mass I ate a sandwich and prepared for our second graders' First Confession.

After my homily (about the Prodigal Son) in which I encouraged the children to make this the first of many confessions throughout their lives and invited their parents to return to the Sacrament, I said someting along these lines: "If the children would please come forward to lead us in an examination of conscience." That was a mistake. Never let someone without direct experience with children say anything like that without first being coached.

At my invitation, all of the second graders - forty plus! - began to get up and make their way toward the sanctuary. One of their teachers said to me - not quite frantically, "Only the ten who are supposed to read something, Father." Oops. Somehow it was all straightened out and all went well afterwards.

Thanks to the generosity of my brother priests we had five confessors in all that afternoon and I'm told that nearly everyone present received the Sacrament. Praise God!

It was my first time presiding over a First Confession and not a bad experience, all in all.

I was quite worn down afterwards and retired to the rectory for what I hoped would be a quiet evening. It was.

Yesterday, being the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, found me quite busy teaching two classes and celebrating three Masses. My energy reserves bottomed out just before the third Mass began; it was all I could do to make it through. The end of the day came for me at 8:00. I simply could not make it any longer.

So far today I have only celebrated one Sacrament, which has helped a bit toward a recovery a strength. Unfortunately the weather has not cooperated. On the day when our governor was arrested, the temperatures reached 58 degrees and tonight they are supposed to drop into the 30s, with sleet and snow a possibility in the morning. Sunday is supposed to be in the upper fifties again. I will go to bed early again tonight.

To be on the safe side - and in hopes of recovering a bit more strength yet - I cancelled a Bible Study this evening at our mission parish. I really didn't want to cancel it but I also wasn't sure if I'd be functioning by the time it was to start.

Tomorrow will find me celebrating one Mass in the morning, followed by two hours of confessions for the gradeschool. In the afternoon I need to write a homily for a funeral on Thursday (which has pushed three hours of confession from Thursday to next Wednesday afternoon). After wrestling practice tomorrow afternoon, I am to drive to Pana, Illinois - some thirty minutes away - to help hear confessions there. We'll see how the roads are and how the weather treats my body.

As I'm finding the end of my energy reserves, my Pastor is continuing his slow recovery. If all goes as planned and his strength returns he'll be ready to begin public ministry again on Monday. No one will be happy at his return than me!

That reminds me: tomorrow I'll have to reschedule an appointment on Monday with my rhuematologist (arthritis doctor) in St. Louis for the third time now (first for two funerals and now just to be safe).

Though my body is weak and run down, my spirit is good. By God's grace and your many and welcome prayers, the sacramental ministry of the parish has continued. Naturally, this is the most important function of a priest. Please continue raising your prayers heavenward and be assured of my remembrance in prayer of you.

09 December 2008

Corupt politics

Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-Illinois) was arrested just a few hours ago on charges to sell the U.S. Senate left vacant by President-Elect Barak Obama. Frankly, I'm not really surprised.

Doesn't it just make you proud to be an Illinoisan?

08 December 2008

Homily - 7 December 2008 - The Second Sunday of Advent

The Second Sunday of Advent (B)

Last week we implored the Lord, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 63:19)! Today he answers our prayers and he sends among us the “voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’” (Mark 1:3). The Lord is coming, and he is coming soon.

The one for whom John the Baptist prepared the way is none other than Christ Jesus our Lord, God made man. The Lord Jesus said that “there is none greater than John” born of woman (Luke 7:28). His great honor is to have been given “a grace so great that he was deemed worthy to precede the final Judge of history, and to point him out with his finger.”[1]

John used his voice to prepare the way for the coming of the only Son of God who came to speak to his people. If John spoke of the coming Messiah, of what did Jesus speak?

The Psalmist answers our question: “I will hear what God proclaims; the Lord – for he proclaims peace to his people” (Psalm 85:9).

At his first coming his voice was quiet, the cry of a tiny infant. At his second coming his voice will not be so quiet. Hear what the prophet Isaiah says of his second coming: “Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him” (Isaiah 40:).

If the Lord brings his reward with him, it means that his voice will be the voice of judgment, for no one gives rewards without first making judgments. The word “reward” comes from a Middle English word, rewarder, meaning “to take notice of.” Of what will the Lord take notice?

On the day when he comes at last, Saint Peter tells us that the Lord Jesus “will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out” (II Peter 3:10). The Lord, then, will take notice of everything that has been done on the earth; he will give his reward based on the way lives were lived. When he gives his reward, he gives his recompense; he will compensate each person for the way they lived, for the way they loved.

That day when he comes will be the day of power and glory, the day of judgment. And because his judgments are “just and true,” his voice of judgment is also the voice of peace (Revelation 19:2).

For those who have heard and heeded the voice of John the Baptist, for those who have prepared the way of the Lord in their lives, the judgment of Christ is not a moment to be feared. It is the very moment of truth, and there is need to fear the truth.
In death a human being emerges into the full light of reality and truth. He takes up that place which is truly his by right. The masquerade of living with its constant retreat behind posturings and fictions, is now over. Man is what he is in truth. Judgment consists in this removal of the mask in death. The judgment is simply the manifestation of the truth.[2],
The judgment of Christ will be based on the basic orientation of our life. Either I have lived a life centered on Christ and desire to be with him forever, or I have lived a life focused on myself and have no real openness for Christ.

As such, his judgment will either be for everlasting life in heaven, or everlasting pain in hell.

Some today suggest that if God truly is a loving God that he would never send a soul to hell, but this is a misunderstanding of what happens in the judgment. God judges and ratifies the decision that we have already made. Those who are judged worthy of heaven have lived lives of faith, hope and love; they have sought to imitate and to serve Christ. Those who are judged as deserving hell are those who have lived only for themselves and have served themselves, taking from life all that they could get. We make this fundamental choice in the concrete experiences of life.

If we consider those who have refused to serve Christ and have instead served themselves, Christ “cannot very well grab them by the seat of their pants and pull them kicking and screaming into the Precincts of Joy and Felicity, can he?”[3] Of course not! It is precisely because of his love that he allows us to refuse to serve him; he allows us to choose heaven or hell.
As we use these remaining days of Advent to focus on and prepare for the coming of Christ in glory, we hear again the words of the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2)! Now is the time to orient every aspect of our lives toward Christ that he might be at the center of all we say, do and think. We must follow the admonition of Saint Peter: “be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace” (II Peter 3:14). Let us, then, level the mountains of our pride and fill in the valleys of our greed with humility and trust. Let us make straight the wasteland of our self-centeredness that the peace of Christ may reign in our hearts.

The best way to follow this advice is to seek the Sacrament of Penance that we might be reconciled with the Lord and be able to look into his eyes. Some will say that they have nothing to confess to the Lord; this, then, is the perfect time to go to confession. The more we confess our sins, the more aware of our many sins we become. And the more aware of our sins we are, the more aware we are of the great mercy and love that God has given us in Christ Jesus. And the more aware we are of his merciful love, the better prepared we will be to welcome the Lord at his Second Coming. The better we will also be prepared to celebrate his birth.

If we focus our life so intently on Christ then we will be able to say with Saint Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (cf. Galatians 2:19).
[1] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Tractate on the Gospel of John 5.6.2. In Ancient Christian Commentary on Scriptures: New Testament, Vol. II: Mark. Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall, et all, eds. (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1998), 3.
[2] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life. Michael Waldstein, trans. (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 1988), 206.
[3] Regis Martin, The Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell. (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 1998), 89.

Priestly exhaustion

The proper celebration of the Sacraments often leaves me - and other priests - exhausted. I find that after two Masses in celebrated closely together leaves me quite worn out, and to celebrate a third Mass in short time is no easy feat.

Likewise, the celebration of Penance - when there are many penitents - also saps my energy. The exhaustion is heightened when Penance is celebrated after two Masses and a Baptism, as I did today.

The exhaustion following the celebration of the Sacraments is not so much a physical exhaustion, as it is a spiritual and emotional one; I am simply drained, feeling something like a zombie (presumably, anyway). Physically, I could keep going along easily enough, but having all but nothing left spiritually or emotionally there is little that can be done. Often times, all I want to do is sleep, but since my body is not tired I cannot.

It is not uncommon for people to express surprise when learning about this exhaustion, but if we consider what it is a priest does - or should do - it comes as no surprise.

When he celebrates the Sacraments, a priest allows himself to become the channel, if you will, for the power of God; he is the conduit of God's grace.

By the sacred powers entrusted to him at his ordination the priest invokes the Holy Spirit upon the things of this world. It is through the hands - and the words - of a priest that bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. It is through the hands and words of a priest that sins are absolved and the sick are healed. Christ Jesus uses his priests to effect his presence in the world.

This is no simple matter. To invoke the power of God upon the things of this world a priest must lay himself aside and allow himself to be exhausted in the service of his Master. Physically, this takes very little effort, which is why so many are surpristed that a priest would be exhausted after celebrating Mass.

It is true, he has expended little physical effort, but the power and grace of God have flowed through him nonetheless and this is why he is exhausted.

06 December 2008

For Jay and Michael

They know who they are. They keep hounding me for help on a paper or presentation they have for homework.

Jay and Michael:

For info on "global warming," go here, here and here. There are, of course, many other good places to go, but these are a good start.

When you've seen this, please leave a comment so I know you've been here. Afterwards, I will remove this post.

See, I told you I was a nice guy.

03 December 2008

Don't forget the podcasts

Just a reminder that you can find podcasts of my past three Sunday homilies here. I'm also searchable on iTunes.

What a week!

You may have noticed that I have taken a bit of hiatus from the blog over the past recent days. There is good reason for this.

Saturday morning my Pastor was hospitalized with great pain, which resulted in an unexpected surgery yesterday morning. It was a successful surgery and he is now resting uncomfortably in the hospital. We expect him to be released in the next day or so.

In terms of parish life, he really can’t have fallen ill at a worse time. This afternoon began the Advent round of confessions with the seniors and juniors at the high school. Tomorrow evening we have a Penance service at our mission parish. Our second graders will make their first confession Sunday afternoon. Next week the grade school students receive the Sacrament.

During his absence I have been attempting to find additional confessors for the many Penance services; I am delighted to say that I’ve found all that I need for this week and Sunday, which is especially remarkable given that there are at least three other penance services in our deanery tomorrow evening.

Our retired priest – may God bless him richly! – is taking one of our two Masses each weekday, and helping out with confession and Masses this weekend and on the holyday Monday. The parish staff has also been very helping in reminding me of what needs to be and assisting me in finishing some of it.

I’ve also covered the Pastor’s classes this week, written a bulletin column in his stead and somehow not to go completely insane. I’ve been stressed a bit lately, and mostly only because I worry too much, as one of the wrestlers reminded me this evening. I’ve been a worrier as long as I can remember; it’s part of my nature. He’s right, though, I do worry too much.

To help survive the week, I’ve cancelled all unnecessary appointments and engagements, which was a good idea since other appointments and tasks have naturally come my way. But of all of my weekly appointments the one that I refused to cancel was wrestling practice.

What I’ve found is that if you’re ever stressed and overworked, all you have to do is visit with high school students and you’ll find worries largely going by the wayside for a bit. I’ve even popped into the high school a few times at random just for a laugh or two.

I’m now a bit worn out from confessions this afternoon (you’d be surprised how tiring hearing confession can be for priests). If my guestimation is right, I heard the confessions of about a third of the junior class (and there were three other priests present!). As they were coming into the confessional one after another, I wanted to step outside for a moment and say, “I can’t hear all of your confessions. Visit another priest, please.” But I didn’t.

I’ve already received word that no small number of sophomores intend to come to me for confession tomorrow, and I suspect it will be the same with the freshmen. I suppose having them line up to confess to me is better than having them stay clear.

Even with all of the added activity it has been a good week, one to remind me to trust in God; he’ll sort out the problems in his own good time and see to it that every task is accomplished. For this, I am grateful. Still, it will be good to have the Pastor back; he does quite a bit more than I thought!

If you would, please ask the Lord to give me additional stamina and energy over the next couple of days. As the week goes on my energy reserves will soon be depleted; today I’ve stayed awake on adrenaline; I do intend to go to bed early tonight. Also, please ask the Lord to bless those who have been so helpful to me over the past few days.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to post much over the next several days, but if I can I will.

01 December 2008

Homily - 30 November 2008 - The First Sunday of Advent

The First Sunday of Advent (B)

“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 63:19)! Is this not the quintessential cry of the human heart that rises up to God: “rend the heavens and come down”!

The Psalmist, too, echoes these words of the prophet: “O shepherd of Israel, hearken, from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth. Rouse your power, and come to save us” (Psalm 80:2-3)! Yes, this is the cry of every human heart, whether we recognize it or not.

We want God to enter into our midst and set all things right. We long for justice to be meted out to the nations, for wrongs to be righted and the dead to be raised; in short, we long to be with Christ. We long for “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 1:8) when the Lord will “wipe away the tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:8). This tremendous and unrestrainable longing is fulfilled in the hope of Jesus Christ because he has come to us and he will come again. This is the hope of Advent.

The Lord rent the heavens and came down upon Mount Sinai when he gave Moses the Law and led the people from slavery in Egypt through the Red Sea. The Lord rent the heavens again – albeit quietly – and came down when he was born in Bethlehem and the angels announced his birth to the shepherds. The Lord rends the heavens and comes down whenever a priest invokes the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments. The Lord will rend the heavens one final time and come down at the end of time, which is also the end of all things. Yes, Lord, rend the heavens and come down! Fulfill our hope!

From where does this deep longing for God come? From within our very being. Saint Augustine hit the proverbial nail squarely on the head when he said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”[1] Advent, then, is the season to long for God, to yearn for him, to ache for him. We long for the peace of Christ, which the world cannot give, for the rest that comes only with the coming of the Lord (cf. John 14:27).

The words of our Lord today underscore and highlight the watchfulness that must mark these days for every Christian. At the beginning of Advent we watch for the coming of the Lord at the end of time when he will judge the living and the dead. For this reason we will pray at the end of this Mass that our reception of the Body and Blood of the Lord will “teach us to love heaven. May its promise and hope guide our way on earth.”[2]

The Lord tells us to watch and be alert for his coming that “he might not come suddenly and find you sleeping” (Mark 13:36). The Lord speaks this command to every person in every age, “for that day will come to every single one, when the day comes for him to leave this life, such as it is, to be judged on the last day.”[3] Death – or the Second Coming – will come for us all, and we must be prepared for that day.

It may seem strange to speak of death at the beginning of Advent, but given the two purposes of Advent death is a fitting consideration. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ the Lord we remember that he was born of the Virgin Mary to liberate us from unending death and to give us everlasting life. As we prepare for his Second Coming we remember that we must be prepared to welcome him when at last he comes.

For all who are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ - for all who are members of his Body - death is not a moment to be feared, but to be welcomed and embraced. It is, rather, the moment of joyful hope, the very culmination of life, when we look upon the face of the Lord and be saved (cf. Psalm 80:4). It is the moment when the deepest longings of the human heart will be realized, satisfied and fulfilled. The Christian, then, says with Saint Francis of Assisi:

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no living man can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin. Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.[4]

Our first death happened at the moment of Baptism when we died with Christ and rose with him to new life. The second death – bodily death – shall not harm us because we are already dead, and yet we are alive in Christ.

If we live with this moment of encounter with the Lord ever in mind – if we live with the moment of death in mind – then we will live well. The consideration of death gives purpose, meaning and direction to life. It leads us to follow ever more faithfully after Jesus Christ. It leads us to cry out with the Psalmist, “take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted” (Psalm 80:16).

King David once prayed, “Lord, let me know my end, the number of my days, that I may learn how frail I am” (Psalm 39:5). He went on to pray, “And now, Lord, what future do I have? You are my only hope” (Psalm 39:8). In Christ alone is salvation and life.

Indeed, Saint Paul tells us that the Lord has bestowed his grace upon us and we were “enriched in every way” (I Corinthians 1:8). Every morning we awake, the Lord Jesus gives us the grace to attain heaven; we need only cooperate with this grace. It is our confident hope that the Lord “will keep [us] firm to the end, irreproachable on the day our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 1:8). We are confident in this hope because “God is faithful, and by him [we] were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Corinthians 1:9).

Someone once said, “Unless you have found something worth dying for, you have not really lived.” Is life with Christ worth dying for? The martyrs have all answered this question with a resounding, “Yes!” God himself answered with a resounding, the “yes” of Jesus Christ (cf. II Corinthians 1:19). Indeed, Christ Jesus desires us to be with him so greatly that he gave his own life to free us from the tyranny of sin and death.

It is his desire for us that gives us hope, that increases within us the longing for his coming in glory. Let each of us live these Advent days well and be found watching and waiting for him in joyful hope and eager expectation. Amen!

[1] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Confessions I.1.
[2] Roman Missal, First Sunday of Advent, Prayer after Communion.
[3] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Letter 199, To Hesychius, 3.
[4] Saint Francis of Assisi, The Canticle of Brother Sun, 12-13, in Francis and Clare: The Complete Works. Regis J. Armstrong and Ignatius C. Brady, trans. and eds. (Mahway, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1982), 39.