28 February 2009

Reminder for the locals

From our high school music department:
The cast of the HS Musical, CLUE, will be having a fundraiser this Sunday, March
1st at Culver's. They will be helping deliver food, bus tables, and greet
customers from 11-2 and 4-7. A portion of the profits Culvers makes during this
time will be donated to the musical. Please come and support our drama
students by enjoying some Culvers this afternoon.

Go have a delicious butterburger and support our kids! I'll be sure to be there!

Homily - 1 March 2009

The First Sunday of Lent (B)

Have you ever noticed how people react upon seeing a rainbow? For those of us who do not often experience them, rainbows elicit a great excitement and a certain childlike joy as we see the colors stretching across the sky, and the fuller the rainbow, the greater our excitement.

We know perfectly well why the bow forms as sunlight passes through the droplets of water and yet we still pause to look at rainbows. There is something about a rainbow that simply captures our attention. I wonder, though, how often do we see through the rainbow, beyond the arc and the colors and the natural wonder, to the covenant that the Lord has made with us?

After the waters of the Flood receded, and after Noah built an altar to the Lord and offered sacrifice, God said to him:

This is the sign of the covenant that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings (Genesis 9:12-16).
If the Lord of heaven and earth recalls the covenant he has made each time a rainbow appears, should we not, too, also recall this covenant? Yes, we should, but too often we are forgetful of God, though he never forgets us.

But when we see a rainbow, what is it that we are to remember? What is the covenant the Lord has made with us? It is the covenant first made with Noah and renewed with Abraham and then with Moses, the covenant that was fulfilled and perfected in Jesus Christ. It is the covenant that we receive Baptism, the covenant sealed in the Blood of Christ.

Saint Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, tells us that the waters of the Flood “prefigured baptism, which saves you now” (I Peter 3:21). Just as Noah and his family was saved through the waters of the Flood inside the ark, so, too, Christians are saved through the waters of Baptism in the Church, which is the Barque, the ship, of Peter. Baptism “is not a removal of dirt from the body,” Peter says, “but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him” (I Peter 3:21-22).

How is it that the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven and sits now at the right hand of God? When Jesus accepted John’s baptism “of repentance for the forgiveness of sin”, the Spirit “immediately impels him into the consequences of that decision – consequences that will eventually lead to the cross” (Mark 1:4).[1] Just as Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise (cf. Genesis 3:24), so “the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert” to be tempted for forty days (Mark 1:12), just as Israel was tested for forty years in the desert (cf. Deuteronomy 8:2).

When he allowed himself to be driven out into the desert, he accepted the history of Israel. “Jesus relives the story of Israel, but as an obedient son who is totally faithful in his own trial in the desert.”[2]

When Satan tempted Jesus in the desert he was given the same choice as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the same choice as Israel in the desert. But unlike Adam and Eve, unlike Israel, Jesus remained faithful and obedient to God. Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father, victorious over Satan, sin and death, because he accepted his Messianic ministry from the Father in full obedience, docility and love.

Jesus goes into the desert for one purpose: to be “tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:12). From ancient times the desert symbolized the realm of evil, which was represented by the beasts dwelling there. Jesus goes to be tempted by Satan, “the prince of demons,” whose very name means “adversary” (Mark 3:22). It is this adversary, this enemy, who seeks to thwart Jesus’ every move throughout the gospels.

When Jesus enters into the desert, he “enters into Satan’s territory deliberately, to begin his campaign against the powers of evil. He is looking for a fight! Yet he will confront Satan not with a blast of divine lightning, but in his frail human nature, empowered by the Spirit.”[3]

This battle with Satan that Jesus begins today is the very reason for his coming among us at Christmas, but why would he wish to fight the adversary in this way when he could easily fight him with his glory and majesty? Saint Lawrence says:

…in order that his victory might be the more glorious, he willed to fight Satan in our weak flesh. It is as if an unarmed man, right hand bound, were to fight with his left hand alone against a powerful army; if he emerged victorious, his victory would be regarded as all the more glorious. So Christ conquered Satan with the right hand of his divinity bound and using against him only the left hand of his weak humanity.[4]
He did so as an example to his disciples; he showed them how to overcome Satan and temptation by fasting, prayer and complete trust and obedience to the Father.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the attacks of the adversary increase all the more after Baptism as Satan tries to steal us back. But we can be confident of victory if we follow the example of Jesus; if we fast, if we pray with patient hope and if we remain attached to God in obedient trust, the victory belongs to us, or, rather to Jesus Christ, in whose victory we will share.

This is why the liturgical color for this season is violet. Violet is both the color of repentance and the color of royalty. The violet vestments call us to repent of our sins and amend our life even as they remind us of the victory of Christ over Satan.

These, then, are the weapons that we take up in the battle against Satan: prayer, fasting and alms-giving. These three weapons, these forms of penance, we call the Lenten discipline. The word discipline comes from the same root as the word disciple, a root that refers to a student. Discipline, then, is always meant to teach; the disciplines, the weapons, of prayer, fasting and alms-giving teach us to live more like Jesus; they teach us to be faithful to God even as they fight off the attacks of Satan.

This fight with the tempter is serious and one in which every Christian must engage. Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that

Fighting against evil, against every form of selfishness and hate, and dying to oneself to live in God is the ascetic journey that every disciple of Jesus is called to make with humility and patience, with generosity and perseverance.[5]
Jesus’ example and victory in the desert shows us how to live in this way. In the desert, as on the Cross, “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God” (I Peter 3:18).

Let each of us, then, recall the covenant the Lord has made with us, seeking in these days of Lent to renew the promises we made at Baptism to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ that the glory of Easter, the joy of heaven, might be ours. Amen.

[1] Mary Healy, Catholic Commentary of Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Mark, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2008), 38.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] From A Word in Season: Readings for the Liturgy of the Hours (Villanova, Pennsylvania: Augustinian Press, 1999), 7:245. Quoted in Healy, The Gospel of Mark, 39.
[5] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 1 March 2006.

Illinois Petition Against FOCA

From Students for Life of Illinois:

SPRINGFIELD, IL --- House Bill 2354, also known as the Reproductive Justice and Access Act (RJAA) has been dubbed the Illinois version of FOCA. The bill is set to be heard on March 4th.

In response, Students for Life of Illinois has initiated a petition to lawmakers in Springfield to show them that Illinois does not support what HB 2354 proposes. The petition will be presented to legislators in Springfield on March 4th.

"Planned Parenthood is leading a Lobby Day on March 10th in support of HB 2354. We must have a strong showing both in Springfield and for those who cannot make it to Springfield. That is why we initiated this petition. We want every pro-life voice to be heard," said John-Paul Deddens, director of Students for Life of Illinois. "We will get to Springfield first, but it is imperative that we arrive with as much support as possible."

The petition is posted on the SFLI website at http://www.prolifeillinois.com/. Hard copies can be requested to circulate in your local community this weekend.
That same day is also Catholics at the Capitol day; I will be bringing five of our high school students with me that and one of our teachers.

Comments

I cannot seem to access my Haloscan account at the moment, and haven't been able to do so for several hours now.

I've sent an e-mail to the support desk and await a response. Until such time I am unable to moderate comments or, apparently, even to receive e-mail notification of them.

In the meantime, if you have a comment you want to leave for me you may e-mail it to me at daren[at]servantandsteward[dot]org.

27 February 2009

Just a little Friday humor

From time to time I receive text messages from some of our students on various topics. Generally, they involve worthwhile questions, but sometimes I receive texts like the following:

Student: I need food
Me: I'm not a delivery boy.

Student: Yes huh
Me: No, I'm not.

Student: Ha fine
Me: You'll get food soon.
This particular student was in study hall at the time (using his time today very productively, no doubt), about forty minutes before lunch.

Sometimes all you can do is laugh, smile and shake your head.

What did Saint John Bosco say:

The teacher who is only seen in the classroom, and nowhere else, is a teacher and nothing more; but let him go with his boys to recreation and he become a brother.
Now I'm off for a quick lunch and then to visit with one of our fourth grade classes.

I hope we're ready for this

...and what may come later.

The Washington Post reports that President Obama's administration has proposed the removal of a clause that allows healthcare workers to refuse to perform certain procedures as a matter of conscience:

The Obama administration has begun the process of rescinding sweeping new federal protections that were granted in December to health-care workers who refuse to provide care that violates their personal, moral or religious beliefs.

The Office of Management and Budget announced this morning that it was reviewing a proposal to lift the controversial "conscience" regulation, the first step toward reversing the policy. Once the OMB has reviewed the proposal it will published in Federal Register for a 30-day public comment period.

"We are proposing rescinding the Bush rule," said an official with the Health and Human Services Department, which drafted the rule change.
Capello tip to Carl Olson.

From the Archives: Why do we eat fish on Fridays?

Here's a timely post from last year that I'll repost here today (the comments there are always worth a read):

Why do we eat fish on Fridays (in Lent)?

It may well be at this time of year that the most frequently asked question of Catholics concerns the eating of fish on Fridays during Lent.

First, we should recall that Catholics are obliged to refrain from meat on every Friday during the year (canon 1251). There are, though, as is often the case with canon law, exceptions: unless the Conference of Bishops decides otherwise or a particular Friday happens to be a Solemnity.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has decided to allow Catholics to eat meat on Fridays outside of Lent if – and here’s the kicker – they perform a different act of penance in its place. I know. You probably haven’t heard this before, but now you have. And now that you know you have to follow it. Sorry. It’s what I do.

The second exception reminds me of an episode in the life of my favorite saint, Francis of Assisi.

The Poverello loved Christmas more than any other Feast or Solemnity and he encouraged great festivity for the Nativity of the Lord (but he still put ashes on his food so as not to enjoy it too much [I’ll follow him in some things but I won’t go that far]).

One particular Christmas one of the brothers didn’t think he should eat meat at Christmas because it fell on a Friday. Francis reprimanded him severely, saying that even the walls should eat meat on Christmas and – if they couldn’t (he must have been a bit delirious from lack of food) – that the meat should be smeared on the walls of the rooms of the house (kids, don’t try that at home).

Now, if you happen to live in a parish or a Diocese under the patronage of Saint Patrick you can eat meat on his feast if it should fall on a Friday because his feast – for you – is a solemnity. For everybody else, you have to ask your Bishop for permission. But, really, I don’t think Patrick would mind if you didn’t have corned beef on his feast day and wanted one more day. I can’t understand why anybody would eat corned beef anyway, but that’s just me.

Where was I going?

Oh, yes.Second, we should note that we are not required to eat fish on Fridays. We are merely told to abstain from meat. In the Latin, we are told to abstain from carnis, which from the most ancient of times has always meant the meat of things that walk on the ground.

Now, fish resembles meat to some extent and Catholics, being the clever folks they often are, knew that they couldn’t eat meat but that fish were not mentioned. So they kept the rules and ate fish. Ah, yes, loopholes are a glorious thing, aren’t they?

It has absolutely nothing to do with fishmongers needing more money and talking to the Pope. That’s a bunch of rubbish from people too lazy to do a bit of investigating.

Catholics eat fish on Fridays because they can’t eat meat (and apparently we don’t want to eat a meal of only grains, fruits and vegetables). Personally, I love fish, especially a tuna with lemon and dill…

(My mind is wandering quite a bit right now. I wonder if I’ve had too much Dr Pepper?)

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon an intriguing explanation as to why we eat fish on Fridays but not meat, and one that I rather like. The explanation comes from – I believe – the fifteenth century (though it might be sixteenth), from one John Myre in his Liber Festivalis:

For when God, for Adam’s sin, cursed the earth and the land, he cursed not thewater; wherefore it is lawful for a man to eat in Lent that which cometh of thewater.

Ponder that, and try that answer the next time somebody asks you about your fish sandwich.

26 February 2009

Around the blogosphere

Jimmy Akin has a post with excellent resources for Lent, as does Father Toborowsky.

Patrick Madrid offers his Top Ten Catholic Pickup Lines, and his Top Ten Least Favorite Children’s Bedtime Stories, and his Top Ten Least Popular Medieval Penances.

One of my kind readers pointed me to this link with a short biography of Blessed Father Damien and some interesting information on the church of St. Philomena.

Senator Durbin responds

When I return from Hawaii last week, I found a letter from Senator Richard Durbin, dated 11 February 2009, in response to my letter regarding the Freedom of Choice Act.

His letter reads as follows, with my emphases and comments, a la Fr. Z.:

Dear Mr. Zehnle [my printed signature read "The Rev. Daren J. Zehnle," and my written signature read "Fr. Daren J. Zehnle;" apparently someone wasn't paying attention. It might be noted that Senator Durbin is a Catholic.]:

Thank you for contacting me about the Freedom of Choice Act . I appreciate hearing from you.

The Freedom of Choice Act was introduced in the 110th Congress [Notice the positive spin he gives it.]. It would have prohibited governments from denying or interfering with any woman's right to bear a child, to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, or to terminate a pregancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman [That's one way to put it.] The measure would also have prohibited governments from discriminating against the exercise of these rights in the provision of benefits, facilities, services or information [To say nothing of the good of the child].

I understand your concern about the conscience rights of providers and others who might be affected by the Freedom of Choice Act [With all due respect, Senator, it does not seem you do.]. I will keep your views in mind in case the Freedom of Choice Act is reintroduced in the 111th Congress [I think he means when.].

I believe we can respect the rights established under Roe v. Wade and still work to reduce the number of aborations in America [Really? Would you care to elaborate on how that might be possible?]. Abortion should be safe and legal [It is rarely, if ever, "safe"], consistent with Roe v. Wade. It is a decision best left to a woman, her family, her doctor, and her conscience. Late-term abortions, including so-called partial birth abortions, should be strictly limited to cases where the life of the mother is in danger or she faces a medically certified risk of grievous physical injury [Apparently the death of a child is not a "grevious physical injury".].

We should encourage abstinence among our youth [how does legal abortion possibly do this?] and support family planning to avoid unintended pregancies that may lead to abortion [How many married couples seek an abortion? This is a serious question; I don't know this answer, but I can't imagine the number would be high.]. If a woman is confronted with an unintended pregnancy [there is a very easy way to avoid this], we should work to ensure that motherhood and adoption are realistic options [I fail to see how this is consistent with what he has said above]. I support programs that provide assistance to pregnant women to help them face the costs of continuing a pregnancy. In addition, we should support pregnant women by working to address underlying concerns such as affordable health care [the FOCA would, unless I am quite mistaken, make abortions part of this affordable health care, which contradicts what the Senator says], wages, child care, and education that may make it harder for a couple to welcome a child. I also favor tax breaks to help families afford adoptions, and I have cosponsored legislation, subsequently enacted into law, that extended and increased the tax credit for adoption expenses [is this somehow supposed to make up for your support of abortion?].

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me. Please feel free to stay in touch.
You can be sure I will stay in touch with Senator Durbin.

Blessed Damien Quotes

I noticed a few people today stumbled upon this little blog search for quotes from Blessed Damien of Molokai. Here are a few I copied down from his letters:

The sacrifice is great for a heart which tenderly loves his parents, family, religious brothers, and the land where he was born. But the voice which invites us, which has called us to make the offering of everything we have, is the voice of God Himself. It is our Divine Savior Who says to us as to His first apostles: “Go, teach all nations, instructing them to observe all my commandments…”

A parent’s first duty is to provide for the children. I have the obligation of giving my children, newly born of water and the Holy Spirit, the things that are necessary for spiritual life.

I wish to give myself unconditionally to the poor lepers. The harvest appears to be ripe here. Pray, and ask others to pray both for me and for all.

“…that we must choose the state God has predestined for us, so as to be happy in our next life.”

“Obedience to our parents is one of God’s commandments, not only in our childhood but also when we have reached the age of reason.”

“I would gladly give my life for them. I do not spare myself when it is necessary to go on a sick call that takes me twenty to twenty-five miles away.”

“My greatest pleasure is to go there [the cemetery] to say my beads, and meditate on that unending happiness which so many of them are already enjoying.”

“I confess to you, my dear brother, the cemetery and the hut of the dying are my best meditation books, as well as for the benefit of my own soul as in view of preparing my instructions.”

“My greatest pleasure is to serve the Lord in his poor children rejected by other people.”

“Be severe toward yourself, indulgent toward others. Have scrupulous exactitude for everything regarding God: prayer, meditation, Mass, administration of the Sacraments. Unite your heart with God… Remember always your three vows, by which you are dead to the things of the world. Remember that God is eternal and work courageously in order every day to be united with him forever.”

“I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ.”

“Having no doubts about the true nature of the disease, I am calm, resigned, and very happy in the midst of my people. God certainly knows what is best for my sanctification and I gladly repeat: ‘Thy will be done.’”

“A parent’s first duty is to provide for the children. I have the obligation of giving my children, newly born of water and the Holy Spirit, the things that are necessary for spiritual life.”

“Jesus Christ treats missionaries in a very special manner, for it is He who guides their footsteps and preserves them from all danger.”“I find my consolation in the one and only companion who will never leave me, that is, our Divine Saviour in the Holy Eucharist. . . .It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength necessary in this isolation of ours. Without the Blessed Sacrament a position like mine would be unbearable. But, having Our Lord at my side, I continue always to be happy and content. . . . Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends with souls who seek to please Him. His goodness knows how to proportion itself to the smallest of His creatures as to the greatest of them. Be not afraid then in your solitary conversations, to tell Him of your miseries, your fears, your worries, of those who are dear to you, of your projects, and of your hopes. Do so with confidence and with an open heart.”

Lent Central 2010

Here again this year is "Lent Central," filled with links to excellent resources for the season. I've also placed a link for it on the sidebar to the right. Throughout the season I will continue to update it.

Pope Benedict XVI's Ash Wednesday Audiences:

Pope Benedict XVI's Ash Wednesday Homilies:

Pope Benedict XVI's Messages for Lent:

Pope Benedict XVI's Lenten Homilies:

Pope Benedict XVI's Lenten Addresses for the Angelus:

Pope Benedict XVI's Holy Week Homilies

My Ash Wednesday Homilies:

Lenten Q & A:

My Lenten Homilies:

My Holy Week Homilies:

Various Lenten Resources:

Homily - 25 February 2009

Ash Wednesday

Dear brothers and sisters,
As we enter into the sacred season of Lent, we are aware of the somber tone of these days, but we are also aware of the joyful tone of these days.
The sobriety of Lent is marked especially by the imposition of ashes, that profoundly simple rite that calls so many of us to the Lord each year. Although we do not enjoy it, something about this day seems absolutely necessary to us, and, indeed, it is.
The ashes, of course, are a sign of our frail humanity and a potent reminder that we will die, for as the Lord said to Adam: “you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). They remind us that death is the just reward for our sin (cf. Romans 6:23).
Our own mortality is not something we often like to consider, but consider it we must. The ashes remind us that the way we live is not trivial, it does matter; the ashes call us anew to be faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, that having died with him Baptism we might live forever with in newness of life.
Throughout the ages the Lord called out to his people, “Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:19). This, then, is the goal and purpose of Lent: to cling to ever more to the Lord, to the listen more intently to his voice, and to love with our fiber of our being.
We hear the words of the Lord echo in the depths of our souls: “Even now … return to me with your whole heart” (Joel 2:12). It is this invitation that marks these days with joy, for it is in these words that we know what the prophet says is true: “For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Joel 2:13).
It is this plea of the Lord that has brought us here today. It is an invitation for us to receive his mercy and to be healed by his love that we might share fully in the joyful glory of his resurrection. Let us, then, use these ashes well. As they remind us of our sinfulness, they also remind us of the Lord’s mercy. Let us all remember that we are dust. Let us all turn away from sin. Let us all choose life, Jesus Christ, and be conformed ever more closely to him. Amen.

24 February 2009

Ugh

One of these days people will start listening to me, though I will not hold my breath until then.

Sometime over the weekend a bird found its way into the church. Apparently the bird was in the church Sunday morning, flying around throughout the 11:00 a.m. Mass, which I celebrated. I also celebrated Mass in the church yesterday morning at 6:30 a.m. I was completely unaware of the bird until someone mentioned it to me last night about 6:30 p.m.

How I missed the bird fluttering around the reredos during mass is beyond me. Because of these observational skills, my family often dubs me the "Master of the Obvious," a title of which I am rather proud.

Now, I may not notice a bird flying around; or a corn field that has been growing for months and is now ready for harvest; or that a house has been torn down, the wreckage of which I've driven past every day for a week, but I will most always notice a crooked picture. I don't know why. Perhaps this is why people don't always listen to me; I can often come across as a bit of an idiot. It's part of my charm.

However, I do know how to get a bird out of a church. Apparently it was decided sometime yesterday afternoon to try to catch the bird in a trap. It didn't work yesterday so it was tried again this morning after the 8:30 a.m. Mass, which I celebrated.

I said to the trapper, you try it your way and I'll try it my way; we'll see who's works.

I proceeded to the main entrance of the church and flung open the doors, propping them open. Within five minutes the bird flew out of the church and the doors were closed behind him. Problem solved, thank you very much. It couldn't have been simpler. Why nobody tried it before is simply beyond me.

Comments

For one reason or another I am not receiving e-mails from Haloscan regarding new comments awaiting approval. If it takes a while for your comments to be posted, this is the reason.

A Saint on Capitol Hill

Tom Piatek notes that there will soon be a Saint on Capitol Hill, suggesting that "the composition of this collection is one clue that the new atheists have greatly underestimated the impact Christianity has had on America from our earliest days."

Update: The link has been corrected.

A little poll

The Crescat wants to know how long you keep your ashes on your forehead.

If they are put on my forehead, I wash them off before my next Mass. Last year, though, I think I put on the crown of my head and didn't worry about it.

Attention Hawaiians

Easter has a report on Sunday's rally at the Hawaiian State Capitol to defend traditional marriage. Apparently some 10,000 of you turned out for rally; well done!

However, your help is still needed; please, contact the members of the State Judiciary Committee today. Easter has the details.

23 February 2009

For the locals

From our high school music department:
The cast of the HS Musical, CLUE, will be having a fundraiser this Sunday,
March 1st at Culver's. They will be helping deliver food, bus tables, and greet
customers from 11-2 and 4-7. A portion of the profits Culvers makes during this
time will be donated to the musical. Please come and support our drama
students by enjoying some Culvers this afternoon.

Go have a delicious butterburger and support our kids! I'll be sure to be there!

Happy news

My pastor has given me permission to attend the canonization of Blessed Damien of Molokai!

I'm currently in the process of speaking with a travel agent to look into the possibility of taking a few parishioners with me (up to 12 people).

My thoughts at the moment are to make a visit to Padua for a day, to spend 3 days in Assisi and to be in Rome for 5 days.

The pilgrims who would come with me would need to be somewhat self-reliant. I would anticipate morning activities as a group, with free afternoons and maybe even evenings. I like my free time.

More to come!

Representative Shimkus responds

Before I left for Hawaii I received a response from Congressman John Shimkus regarding the Freedom of Choice Act, dated January 28, 2009.

Mr. Shimkus wrote:
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for contacting me regarding my position on the fundamental right to life for all.

My response, albeit brief, is straight to the point. I support the fundamental right to life. My votes have always reflected that position and always will.

I appreciate the time you have taken to share your opinions with me. I would encourage you to stay up to date on this and other issues of interest by signing up for my weekly electronic newsletter. You may do so by visiting my website at www.house.gov/shimkus.

I did sign up for his e-newsletter; you can subscribe to it in the sidebar in the righthand side of the screen.

I also have a lengthier response from Senator Richard Durbin which will require a good fisking. As I have that in the house, it will have to wait.

Two links

Thomas Peters has a post correcting Doug Kmiec's article, "Catholic Judges and Abortion: Did the Pope Set New Rules?," published in Time magazine, answering Kmiec's question in the negative (a point Kmiec seems to have missed).

John Allen notices a pattern in Pope Benedict's appointments of U.S. Bishops.

A couple of links

Patrick Madrid corrects Time magazine’s assertion that the Freedom of Choice Act is a “mythical bill.” Matthew Archbold tackles this one, too, as does Fr. Z.

Over at Ubi Petrus, Peter answers the question, "Why do priests where black?"

22 February 2009

On the new media

The forty-third World Communications Day will be observed 24 May 2009. In Message for the day, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, titled "New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship," His Holiness reflects on ...

Below I provide the text of his Message, and give it a fisk, a la Fr. Zuhlsdorf, with my emphases and comments.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In anticipation of the forthcoming World Communications Day, I would like to address to you some reflections on the theme chosen for this year - New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship. The new digital technologies are, indeed, bringing about fundamental shifts in patterns of communication and human relationships. These changes are particularly evident among those young people who have grown up with the new technologies and are at home in a digital world that often seems quite foreign to those of us who, as adults, have had to learn to understand and appreciate the opportunities it has to offer for communications. In this year’s message, I am conscious of those who constitute the so-called digital generation and I would like to share with them, in particular, some ideas concerning the extraordinary potential of the new technologies, if they are used to promote human understanding and solidarity [Notice, here, that he does not immediately condemn the use of such new means of communications, when others are too ready to do so. Pope Benedict sees the good that can from them, if they are used well]. These technologies are truly a gift to humanity and we must endeavour to ensure that the benefits they offer are put at the service of all human individuals and communities, especially those who are most disadvantaged and vulnerable.

The accessibility of mobile telephones and computers, combined with the global reach and penetration of the internet, has opened up a range of means of communication that permit the almost instantaneous communication of words and images across enormous distances and to some of the most isolated corners of the world; something that would have been unthinkable for previous generations. Young people, in particular, have grasped the enormous capacity of the new media to foster connectedness, communication and understanding between individuals and communities, and they are turning to them as means of communicating with existing friends, of meeting new friends, of forming communities and networks, of seeking information and news, and of sharing their ideas and opinions. Many benefits flow from this new culture of communication: families are able to maintain contact across great distances; students and researchers have more immediate and easier access to documents, sources and scientific discoveries, hence they can work collaboratively from different locations; moreover, the interactive nature of many of the new media facilitates more dynamic forms of learning and communication, thereby contributing to social progress [Here Pope Benedict not only recognizes the benefits that the new media bring, but he names them explicitly].

While the speed with which the new technologies have evolved in terms of their efficiency and reliability is rightly a source of wonder, their popularity with users should not surprise us, as they respond to a fundamental desire of people to communicate and to relate to each other [The Holy Father seems to have a knack for getting to the heart of the matter, whatever the situation. He is quite right in his assesment of the new media. Young people today use them so readily because they want to maintain contact with each other at all times. Hence, the great use of text messaging among them as opposed to, say, e-mail. The find texting faster and easier, a better way to keep in touch, a notion some older people have difficulty accepting]. This desire for communication and friendship is rooted in our very nature as human beings and cannot be adequately understood as a response to technical innovations. In the light of the biblical message, it should be seen primarily as a reflection of our participation in the communicative and unifying Love of God, who desires to make of all humanity one family. When we find ourselves drawn towards other people, when we want to know more about them and make ourselves known to them, we are responding to God’s call - a call that is imprinted in our nature as beings created in the image and likeness of God, the God of communication and communion.

The desire for connectedness and the instinct for communication that are so obvious in contemporary culture are best understood as modern manifestations of the basic and enduring propensity of humans to reach beyond themselves and to seek communion with others [He offers a philosophical grounding the flourishing of the new media]. In reality, when we open ourselves to others, we are fulfilling our deepest need and becoming more fully human. Loving is, in fact, what we are designed for by our Creator. Naturally, I am not talking about fleeting, shallow relationships, I am talking about the real love that is at the very heart of Jesus’ moral teaching: "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength" and "You must love your neighbour as yourself" (cf. Mk 12:30-31). In this light, reflecting on the significance of the new technologies, it is important to focus not just on their undoubted capacity to foster contact between people, but on the quality of the content that is put into circulation using these means [This, I think, is where so many people have a difficulty in accepting the use of the new media. They see it as shallow, superficial, or perhaps too brief, as though the use of such communications were not real, but merely superficial. I would ask: how is this different from that thought that greeted the advent of the telephone?]. I would encourage all people of good will who are active in the emerging environment of digital communication to commit themselves to promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship.

Those who are active in the production and dissemination of new media content, therefore, should strive to respect the dignity and worth of the human person. If the new technologies are to serve the good of individuals and of society, all users will avoid the sharing of words and images that are degrading of human beings, that promote hatred and intolerance, that debase the goodness and intimacy of human sexuality or that exploit the weak and vulnerable.

The new technologies have also opened the way for dialogue between people from different countries, cultures and religions. The new digital arena, the so-called cyberspace, allows them to encounter and to know each other’s traditions and values. Such encounters, if they are to be fruitful, require honest and appropriate forms of expression together with attentive and respectful listening. The dialogue must be rooted in a genuine and mutual searching for truth if it is to realize its potential to promote growth in understanding and tolerance. Life is not just a succession of events or experiences: it is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this - in truth, in goodness, and in beauty - that we find happiness and joy. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by those who see us merely as consumers in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.

The concept of friendship has enjoyed a renewed prominence in the vocabulary of the new digital social networks that have emerged in the last few years. The concept is one of the noblest achievements of human culture. It is in and through our friendships that we grow and develop as humans. For this reason, true friendship has always been seen as one of the greatest goods any human person can experience. We should be careful, therefore, never to trivialize the concept or the experience of friendship [From my use of the social networking site Facebook and my use of texting with the high school - trying to contact them another is all but impossible - it seems to me that such forms of the new media do not trivialize, but strengthen, the experience of friendship. The young people seem to use such media as a way to get to know someone from a distance, as a way of becoming acquainted with someone before before building a more solid friendship. This notion can be criticized ad nauseam, but it does nothing to accept the situation as it is and to make use of it. I am confident that my presence on Facebook has much to do with ministry that I have with the high school students; without Facebook, I do not think my ministry would be as fruitful, for it provides the students a way of learning more about me and of what I believe, in a manner with which they are comfrotable]. It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop on-line friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbours and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation [This is something for us to work on with young people, particularly, but older people, as well. Many young people seem to have lost the thought of greeting someone on the telephone before launching into what they want. This is unfortunate, but not, I think, irreparable. This is due, I think, not so much to the use of the new media, but to a declining sense of respect and courtesy in society; the two may be related, but the connection is not so obvious to me]. If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development [While this certainly does happen from time to time, I think such situations are rare].

Friendship is a great human good, but it would be emptied of its ultimate value if it were to be understood as an end in itself. Friends should support and encourage each other in developing their gifts and talents and in putting them at the service of the human community. In this context, it is gratifying to note the emergence of new digital networks that seek to promote human solidarity, peace and justice, human rights and respect for human life and the good of creation. These networks can facilitate forms of co-operation between people from different geographical and cultural contexts that enable them to deepen their common humanity and their sense of shared responsibility for the good of all. We must, therefore, strive to ensure that the digital world, where such networks can be established, is a world that is truly open to all. It would be a tragedy for the future of humanity if the new instruments of communication, which permit the sharing of knowledge and information in a more rapid and effective manner, were not made accessible to those who are already economically and socially marginalized, or if it should contribute only to increasing the gap separating the poor from the new networks that are developing at the service of human socialization and information.

I would like to conclude this message by addressing myself, in particular, to young Catholic believers: to encourage them to bring the witness of their faith to the digital world [Knowing their propsensity for the new media, the Holy Father entrusts this realm to the youth. Truly, there is great potential here]. Dear Brothers and Sisters, I ask you to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communications and information technology the values on which you have built your lives. In the early life of the Church, the great Apostles and their disciples brought the Good News of Jesus to the Greek and Roman world. Just as, at that time, a fruitful evangelization required that careful attention be given to understanding the culture and customs of those pagan peoples so that the truth of the gospel would touch their hearts and minds, so also today, the proclamation of Christ in the world of new technologies requires a profound knowledge of this world if the technologies are to serve our mission adequately. It falls, in particular, to young people, who have an almost spontaneous affinity for the new means of communication, to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this "digital continent". Be sure to announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm. You know their fears and their hopes, their aspirations and their disappointments: the greatest gift you can give to them is to share with them the "Good News" of a God who became man, who suffered, died and rose again to save all people. Human hearts are yearning for a world where love endures, where gifts are shared, where unity is built, where freedom finds meaning in truth, and where identity is found in respectful communion. Our faith can respond to these expectations: may you become its heralds! The Pope accompanies you with his prayers and his blessing.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2009, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales.

This is a marvelous message and one with considering many times over as we seek to bring the Gospel to all people. It is no secret that more and more people are turning to the Interent to gain knowledge of the faith and look for opportunities for spiritual growth. The Vatican's YouTube channel is a good response to this reality, but many more are needed, both from the Holy See and from local Dioceses and parishes.

Looking for a good book?

If you are looking for a source for daily reflection and prayer for the season of Lent, let me recommend again to you Daily Prayer 2009.

The book contains the Gospel for each day of the year, together with a short reflection, a few intercessory prayers and a closing prayer. It can be a helpful book for those seeking an aide for daily prayer or a help for preachers in preparing a homily. The intercessions could also be used at Mass.

I was asked to author the prayers and reflections for Advent, Christmas, Lent and much of Easter (through the third week). Many parishioners have purchased the book and found my Advent reflections very helpful. It is my hope that they will also find my Lenten reflections to be of help.

As a sort of preview, here is the reflection I wrote for the Thursday after Ash Wednesday:

Why do we look for great reward here in this life? Why do we convince ourselves that this life matters more than the one to come? In these days of penance, we have a graced opportunity to encounter the mercy of the Lord and to carry our cross with him. If we abandon ourselves to the Lord he will not abandon us, but will cary us to the glory of the Resurrection. For what, then, are we waiting? Let us enthusiastically take up our cross, embrace our penance, and follow after the Master. If we lose our lives in Christ Jesus we will find all that our hearts have ever sought.
For the record, I have already received my compesation for my work and receive no futher proceeds from the sales of Daily Prayer 2009.

Video: Approval of Canonizations

Homily - 22 February 2009 - On Blessed Damien of Molokai

This is the homily I actually preached this evening. It is a bit long, so I will edit something out tomorrow. I do not yet know what, and I am too tired to think about it yet tonight.
The Seventh Sunday of the Year (B)
On Blessed Damien of Molokai

The Psalmist sings, “Blessed is the one who has regard for the lowly and the poor; in the day of misfortune the Lord will deliver him” (Psalm 41:2). In the Gospel today we find four such men who “came bringing to [Jesus] a paralytic” (Mark 2:3). What greater regard for the lowly and poor could there be than to bring them to the Lord?

Jesus does not seem to mind that they have torn a hole in the roof, which cannot have been a clean or neat affair, nor does Peter, whose house Jesus was presumably in. These four men were so determined to get near the Lord that they let no obstacle stand in their way, neither crowd nor roof; this is what caught the attention of the Lord, or will we be defeated by them?

Certainly each of us encounters one obstacle or another in the journey of faith. Will we let them, or will we spend all of our strength to get around them so as to arrive at Jesus and speak with him? Will we use the obstacles as a means to encounter him?

For so many people one such obstacle is suffering, whether it be physical or emotional, mental or financial, or any other form. Certainly the sufferings that we experience are numerous and varied. So very often, it is through our sufferings that the Lord comes to meet us, to take us by the hand, to lift us up and heal us. He comes to give us the joy of our heart, and we often find it by uniting our sufferings with his on the Cross.

We have no indication at all of the faith of the paralyzed man. Presumably his faith was not strong since Jesus said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven,” after he saw the faith of the four who carried him (Mark 2:5). It is a reminder to us all that we must always lift up in prayer those whose faith is weak and those who have fallen away from the Lord and from his Church. In this way, each of us will have regard for the poor and lowly and the Lord will deliver us and, we pray, them as well.

We find such strong and lively faith in the men and women of the ages who have been enrolled in the lists of Saints. We honor and revere them as we seek their intercession for us as we try to follow their example so as to follow Christ. This morning His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI announced the day on which one such disciple, Blessed Damien of Molokai, the Leper Priest, will be declared a Saint: 11 October 2009.

My affection for Father Damien, and my devotion to him, are no secret. When I was away these past few days for retreat and a little vacation in Hawaii, I made it a point to visit – for the second time - the Kalaupapa Peninsula where he ministered for sixteen years among the lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. I stayed at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace and celebrated many Masses there, where Damien was ordained a priest in 1864. Even when I was walking along the beach or watching the sunset into the ocean, I was often thinking about his life and the example he gives to us all, but especially to priests. I asked him to show me how to be a good and holy priest, how to united the sufferings of my arthritis with those of Christ for your good, and how to serve better those whom the Lord has entrusted to me, especially the youth.

He was born Joseph DeVeuster in Tremelo, Belgium on 13 January, 1840. He entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts in 1859, when he took the name Damien, after an early physician and martyr.

His brother, Pamphile, also a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, was to leave for the Hawaiian missions in 1863, but he fell seriously ill and was not strong enough for the journey. Damien promptly wrote to his superiors and his offer was accepted; he would go to Hawaii in his brother’s stead. He landed in Honolulu in 1864 and died in 1889 at the age of 49.

Before he left Belgium, Damien wrote to his parents reflecting on the voyage on which he was about to embark:

The sacrifice is great indeed for one who tenderly loves his parents, his family, his brethren, and the land of his birth. But the voice that has called upon us to make a generous sacrifice of all, is the voice of God himself.
Damien heard the call of the Lord and he knew he had to answer it. He knew that “we must choose the state [in life] God has predestined for us, so as to be happy in our next life.”

For nine years he ministered on the Big Island, building churches with his own hands and meeting the spiritual needs of his people. In one letter, he wrote:

Our poor Islanders are always very happy when they see Kamiano coming, and I, for my part, love them very dearly; I would gladly give my life for them… All things considered, I am very happy, for, along with all the privations and hardships, God often gives me consolations beyond expectations.
In another letter, Damien wrote these words: “It is [Jesus] Who in the midst of trials, contradictions, and sufferings, will cause us to enjoy a happiness of which he who has never experienced it can form no idea.”

With time, Bishop Maigret became increasingly concerned about the spiritual needs of those who lived in the leper colony. He found four priests who were willing to take turns in caring for them, each taking a three-month shift. Father Damien agreed to go first and arrived at the colony on 10 May 1873, accompanied by the Bishop. Damien would not allow his turn to end, and there he remained, willingly and gladly, where others were hesitant to go.

Upon arriving at Molokai, Bishop Maigret gathered the people together and said to them:

So far, my children, you have been left alone and uncared for. But you shall be so no longer. Behold, I have brought you one who will be a father to you, and who loves you so much that for your welfare and for the state of your immortal souls, he does not hesitate to become one of you, to live and die with you!
He had no idea how true his words would prove.

When he first arrived at the leper colony, Damien was not trusted because the people did not know his motives. He slowly won them over by eating from the same poi bowls, sharing a pipe with them and speaking their language. When was sent to the lepers he was told to stay several feet away from them, lest he, too, contract the disease. Those who had gone before him followed this advice, but he ignored it; instead, he bent down to the touch and embrace the lepers. In Damien, the people could say, “We have never seen anything like this” (Mark 2:12).

Father Damien once said, “I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ.” In these words he echoes the words of Saint Paul who said that he became “all things to all to save at least some” (I Corinthians 9:22).

This is the duty of a priest, to become like his people, to share in their suffering, to show them how to suffer with and for Christ. In doing so Father Damien imitated the love of Christ who gave himself for our salvation.

When he said, “I would gladly give my life for them,” he showed that “greater love has no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

After he contracted leprosy because of his close work with the lepers, Father Damien accepted this Cross as a true disciple. He said,

Having no doubts about the true nature of the disease, I am calm, resigned, and very happy in the midst of my people. God certainly knows what is best for my sanctification and I gladly repeat, “Thy will be done.”
He knew that his sufferings would lead him to grow in holiness if he offered them for his people with the sufferings of Christ.

He found that his “greatest pleasure is to serve the Lord in his poor children rejected by other people.” He devoted all of his efforts to the lepers of Molokai, often ignoring his own needs; he spent his life in their service.

His example shines brightly before me, and, by God’s grace and Damien’s intercession, I pray that I will be able to imitate his zeal for souls, his tireless dedication and his acceptance of suffering with joy and gratitude for the salvation of others.

How was he able to serve so faithfully those who were rejected and reviled? Damien found his strength in the Holy Eucharist. Listen, my friends, to his words:

I find my consolation in the one and only companion who will never leave me, that is, our Divine Savior in the Holy Eucharist. . . .It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength necessary in this isolation of ours. Without the Blessed Sacrament a position like mine would be unbearable. But, having Our Lord at my side, I continue always to be happy and content….

Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends… Be not afraid then in your solitary conversations, to tell Him of your miseries, your fears, your worries, of those who are dear to you, of your projects, and of your hopes. Do so with confidence and with an open heart.
In these coming days of Lent, let us deepen our devotion to the Lord’s true Body and Blood. Let us seek to imitate him who gave himself for us.

Father Damien found his holiness on Molokai and we, too, are called to holiness. Joseph Dutton, one of his most trusted helpers, said, “One’s Molokai can be anywhere.” Let us, then, ask the Lord to lead us to our own Molokai, that, we, too, might grow in holiness and deepen our regard for the poor and lowly, leading others to Jesus Christ. Amen.

21 February 2009

Homily - 22 February 2009

The Seventh Sunday of the Year (B)

We are now but a few days away from the great season of Lent, the time for us to dedicate ourselves anew to living as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

There are many today who question Christianity and its followers. Why would anyone follow such a man? Why would anyone – especially priests and religious – voluntarily choose to “give up” so much of what is good?

These are very good questions for us to consider, especially throughout the season of Lent. Why do I follow Jesus Christ? Why do I – assuming I do – seek to live faithfully adhering to his teachings? Why should I keep his commandments at all?

In the end, the answer is simple: either Jesus Christ is God, or he is not. If he is not God, then we need have nothing to do with him. But if he is God, then our very existence belongs to him and our happiness is found in him alone by observing what he says.

In the Gospel today, Jesus demonstrates – in both word and deed – that he is indeed the Lord God. The scribes are quite right when they ask, “Who but God alone can forgive sins” (Mark 2:7)? Only God can forgive sins for says, “It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more” (Isaiah 43:25).

In response, Jesus begins to show them that is, in fact, God and that he does have the authority to forgive sins. He asks them, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’” (Mark 2:9)? Why might say the first is easier, for it requires fewer words; but we would be incorrect. It is easier to tell a man to pick up his mat and walk, for he might be able to so. To say to someone, “Your sins are forgiven” would require that he actually be able also to forgive the sins, otherwise he would be a liar.

When Jesus says to the man, “Your sins are forgiven,” he also demonstrates that what he says has happened. This is why he says, “But that you many know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth … I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home” (Mark 2:10-11). Jesus, the Word made flesh, God himself, accomplishes what he says, and he wants to do the same to each of us (cf. John 1:14).

Before we enter into these solemn days, the Lord says to us, “[S]ee, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it” (Isaiah 43:19)?

What new thing is it that the Lord is doing? For him, it is nothing new at all, but what he always does. For us, it is indeed something new: the Lord is calling us to remember him, to cease our forgetfulness of him.

The Lord is calling us to himself that we might confess our sins and be restored to health. Yes, do you not perceive it? Do you not feel the call of the Lord resonating deep within you? Do you not feel something stirring within you, some deep desire that you cannot seem to satisfy? Of course you do! That is the longing within you that you have for God; it is God himself calling to you: “Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

In our forgetfulness of God we have turned away from him and abandoned him and have offended him greatly by our sins. But though we forget him, he does not forget us. He says to us: “You burdened me with your sins, and wearied me with your crimes. It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more” (Isaiah 43:24-25).

Christ Jesus came among us to fulfill these words when he said,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord (cf. Luke 4:18-19).
He has come to free us from the slavery to sin which weighs us down.

Our sin has robbed us of the heavenly riches, of that pearl of great price and that treasure hidden in the field (cf. Matthew 13:44-26). But God himself has come to us to restore our inheritance, the joy of our hearts and the fulfillment of our every desire, “for however many were the promises of God, their Yes is in [Christ]” (II Corinthians 1:20).

To do so he has entrusted his Sacraments to his priests who act in his name, making his ministry present in every age and place. In Baptism and Confirmation, the Lord Jesus has “put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment” (II Corinthians 1:22). In Reconciliation, he continually offers his merciful love to us, saying again and again, “Child, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). In the Anointing of the Sick he says to those who are made whole again, “Rise, pick up your mat and go home” (Mark 2:11).

Before the glory of Christ was fully revealed, the people said, “We have never seen anything like this” (Mark 2:12). This is precisely because, in Christ Jesus, the Lord has done something new!

Let each of us then prepare well for the solemn season of Lent, that we might humbly come before him, saying, “Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you” (Psalm 41:5). Let each of us turn to the Lord, to him who is faithful (cf. II Corinthians 1:18), and renew our dedication to live for him alone. Amen.

At long last

The announcement for which we have waited so long finally has come: Blessed Damien of Molokai, the Leper Priest, will be canonization by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday, 11 October 2009! Deo gratias!

Now I have to convince my pastor to let me attend that blessed occassion...

This prayer comes from the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts:

God of mercy,
We thank you for Damien, brother to all,
father to lepers, child of the Sacred Hearts.
You inspired in him a passionate love for the life,
health and dignityof those he found fallen
by the side of the road.
Thank you, for like Jesus
he knew how to love until the end.
Thank you, for like Mary
he knew how to give himself without reserve.
Thank you Father, for through Damien
you still inspire holiness and passion for your kingdom. Amen
Damien, brother on the journey,
happy and generous missionary,
who loved the Gospel more than your own life,
who for love of Jesus left your family, your homeland,
your security and your dreams,
Teach us to give our lives with a joy like yours,
to be lepers with the lepers of our world,
to celebrate and contemplate the Eucharist
as the source of our own commitment.
Help us to love to the very end and,
in the strength of the Spirit,
to persevere in compassion
for the poor and forgotten
so that we might be good disciples of Jesus and Mary.
Amen.

Back at it

After a vain attempt at a nap this afternoon I went to the high school to see the students and to see what my new duties as the assistant track coach might entail (the wrestling season ended while I was in Hawaii).

The students were happy to see and I was happy to see them. They seem eager to help me get in shape beginning Monday with a renewed focus on running and weight lifting. I have to keep reminding myself that it will be good for me and they'll enjoy making me work every step of the way.

After track practice I returned to the rectory for dinner and ended up helping a couple who were in need of assistance with gas and a meal. I met with them briefly in my office and they seemed a bit nervous until one of them noticed a little plaque on my bookshelf that came to me as a Christmas gift. It read: "Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup." It seemed to put them at ease.

I lead them to a gas station, filled up their car and gave them a gift card to one of the local restaurants. If I have a gift card handy I prefer to give them out instead of cash. Somehow a card to a local restaurant - not fast food - seems to add a sense of dignity to the gift that is begged and helps to lift up those who find themselves in need. They can also get healthier food and more of it.

From the gas restuarant I went to the high school for what was my first public appearance since my return at a basketball game, which also happened to be senior night.

I spent the time in the stands answering questions, picking up plastic bottles and just chatting with the kids. It was an enjoyable time.

And now, I'm going to review Sunday's readings for a bit and go to bed. Good night!

On the way to page 2

We currently stand at 28 votes in the Bloggers Choice Awards, one vote above Adoro te devote (sorry, Adoro!) and only 5 votes below Damien Thompson's blog for the Daily Tablet.

Just 6 votes will not only put me ahead of him, and seven votes will bump me up to page 2 in the category of Best Religion Blog.

If you haven't yet voted for me, won't you do so? Thanks!

Thanksgiving for Priests

Someone sent this to me today so I thought I might share it with you:

LEADER:
The priest is another Christ.
Our faith recognizes in him
the Lord who walks with us in history.
We honor him because in him we see Jesus Christ Himself.
He is a man among men,
yet you have chosen him
to celebrate the sublime mystery of the Eucharist,
to perpetuate your love through the ages,
to forgive sins in your name,
to save in your name,
and to consecrate mankind and all creation
in the name of the Blessed Trinity.

ALL:
Thank you, Lord, for the gift you gave your Church in the priesthood.

20 February 2009

En route

I arrived a short while ago on the mainland (thankfully without going through Portland; I'm in Minneapolis/St. Paul), and I cannot say that I'm thrilled to be back.

Time wise, the flight was about thirty minutes shorter than anticipated, due to helpful winds, but the flight did not feel too short. Shortly after reaching our flight altitude, the arthritis in my left hip began to act up, and it is still doing so now. Sitting is not quite a pleasant activity at the moment, though, I suppose, it is tolerable. It does, however, make sleeping on a plane more difficult than usual.

As I exited the plane I could feel the cold of winter and I was none too thrilled about that. It is about 10 degrees here, and it isn't much warmer in Effingham. This past stay in Hawaii has only taught me to despise winter all the more.

Still, I shall try to accept it and offer it for the high schoolers, who seem eager to see me immediately upon my return. They may just have to wait.

My flight to St. Louis leaves in just under an hour, and from St. Louis I have yet a two-hour drive to Effingham. Once I get to Effingham - hopefully by 1:00 p.m. - I will put my pineapple in the refrigerator and lie down for a nap.

On a happier note, it's only a few more hours until we learn the date of Blessed Damien of Molokai's canonization! Deo gratias!

A rainbow from above

As I departed the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace this morning for the airport, I was told by one of the Cathedral employees, "You always have a room here, Father." I was deeply touched and realized how very easy it is to make friends in Hawaii, much easier for me than it seems to be back on the mainland, perhaps because I am more relaxed and at ease in Hawaii.

When I arrived at the office of Captain John Callahan, who runs Hawaii From Above, I was delighted to see that he and his assistant, Cyndi, both removed me from my flight with them last August (I give him my highest recommendation!). In fact, both mentioned the "thank you" I sent them and John had even kept my business card (which came in handy because he had to call my cell phone when he realized I left my credit card there; oops!).

When our guide from Damien Tours, Keanini, who runs Molokai Mule Ride, arrived to pick us up at the Kalaupapa "International" Airport he remembered me from my pilgrimage in August. I was very grateful and he gave another excellent tour.

At one point I mentioned to him that I would like to bring my World Youth Day pilgrims to Kalaupapa after Father Damien's canonization; he responded by suggesting that I bring them to Kalaupapa for a few days of service work. It's a brilliant idea! I'll be in touch with him upon my return.

What was supposed to be a rainy day in Kalaupapa turned out to be a rather pleasant day, which resulted in my seeing a rainbow from above:




Excitement is naturally building in Kalaupapa over Blessed Damien of Molokai's upcoming canonization. The church of St. Philomena, where he served, is currently being restored in preparation for the many pilgrims who are expected after the canonization, and are to be completed by October (pictures will come later).

When I departed the Cathedral, I was encouraged to return soon; when I left Kalaupapa, I was encouraged to return soon; when I left the airport in Honolulu, I was encouraged to return soon. Truly, good friendships have been formed here, and I cannot wait to return.

In about an hour I will board my flight for St. Paul, from where I will continue to St. Louis. Your prayers for a safe flight - and for sleep on the flight - will be much appreciated.

Mahalo, Hawaii! Aloha!

19 February 2009

A BCA update

Thanks to you, kind readers, I have now have more votes than those two atheist blogs; thank you! Votes at the moment stand at 24, just two spots below Adoro te Devote, landing me on page three in the category of Best Religion Blog in the 2009 Bloggers Choice Awards.

If you're of a mind, and you haven't already done so, won't you cast your vote for me? Registering is simple, only takes a moment, and you won't receive any e-mails. Come on; how about it?

Fr. Tolton

Brad Watkins of Roman Catholic Vocations points us to an article on Father Augustine Tolton, the first black priest in the United States, whose life is intimately tied to Quincy.
The faithful nearly always impress me.

Last week Wednesday the Parochial Vicar of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace was appointed Parochial Administrator of two parishes, effective this past Monday. This put the Rector of the Cathedral in a bit of bind; his vicar would not be immediately replaced.

Knowing this, I offered myself to assist the Pastor in whatever way I could and he allowed me to celebrate the Noon Mass this Tuesday and Wednesday, and to hear confessions before Mass Wednesday.

Yesterday morning - before confessions - I went to the Aloha Stadium for a swap meet (I found a great little oil painting for only $2!). When I went to leave the stadium - with more than enough time to return to the Cathedral - I couldn't find my car.

I circled the stadium twice, and didn't find it. I found security and was driven around the stadium - a third time - in a golf cart to look for the car. Neither the driver nor I saw it.

A second worker drove around the stadium - a fourth time - looking for the car, but he didn't find it either.

Finally, a third worker drove around the stadium and found the car right where I left it. How we missed it so many times is impossible to stay, but I was greatly relieved when he called with the news.

At any rate, this put me behind schedule and made me fifteen minutes late to hear confessions. I called the Cathedral ahead of time and they explained the situation to those wanting to go to confession that I would be late; at this point no one knew how late I would be. The faithful simply sat there waiting for me.

I heard confessions until shortly before Mass began. At the end of Mass I thanked the people for their very warm welcome of me and told them I hope to see them again soon. After Mass they were so kind to me. I will miss it here, very much.

In a couple of hours I will begin my little pilgrimage to Molokai to the grave of Blessed Damien. I will pray for all of my readers at his grave.

I will return to Oahu midafternoon and leave for the mainland right about 6:00 p.m. Though I don't want to leave Hawaii, it will be nice to return to Effingham. I'm already looking forward to my next return to these islands.

Mahola, Hawaii! Aloha!

17 February 2009

A Prayer for Vocations

Heavenly Father,
your divine Son taught us
to pray to the Lord of the harvest
to send laborers into His vineyard.
We earnestly beg you
to bless our Diocese and our world
with many priests, deacons and religious
who will love you fervently and gladly
and courageously spend their lives
in service to your Son's Church,
especially the poor and the needy.
Bless our families and our children,
and choose from our homes
those whom you desire for this holy work.
Teach them to respond generously
and keep them ever faithful
in following your Son Jesus Christ,
that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit
and with the inspiration of
Blessed Damien and Blessed Marianne
the Good News of redemption
may be brought to all.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Akua Run for Vocations

Yesterday I participated in the first Akua Run for Vocations, held in conjunction with the 25th Great Aloha Run from the Aloha Tower in downtown Honolulu to the Aloha Stadium, a journey of 8.15 miles.

The Akua Run for Vocations is the brainchild of Fr. Peter Dumag, Vocations Director for the Diocese of Honolulu. It is actually a series of runs/walks held in conjunction with the various marathons held on the Hawaiian islands.

This series of runs "is a creative way to raise awareness and to strengthen the culture of vocations to the ordained ministry and consecrated life in the Diocese of Honolulu." Those who participate in the runs seek not monetary pledges for each mile run or walked, but pledges of prayers for vocations.

About 65 runners and walkers participated in this first event by gathering at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace at 6:00 a.m. for a blessing given by Bishop Larry Silva and a group photograph (I'm afraid I missed the photo as I had forgotten my sunglasses).


Before heading down to the Aloha Tower,
Bishop Silva and I pause for a quick picture,
after which he stood with a number of the Sisters present
(I can't recall who the man is or how he got in the picture).


I was impressed by the camaraderie of the group as a whole, and by how quickly Bishop Silva plodded ahead. Aside from one brief stop, he remained, I believe, well at the head of the walkers, passing quickly enough out of sight. If I'm back in Hawaii again on President's Day, I will happily participate in the Akua Run (Walk) for Vocations.

The Great Aloha Run officially kicked off at 7:00 a.m. and I crossed the starting line at about 7:20 a.m.


I walked the route with Fr. Marc Alexander, Vicar General of the Diocese of Honolulu, and Stephanie Conching, a teacher at Maryknoll High School. The provided good companionship and an enjoyable walk.


Fr. Marc (far right), Stephanie (second from right) and I take a quick picture at mile marker 3, with a few others.

At long last, the Aloha Stadium came into sight, and after winding our way through the parking lot we entered the stadium and saw our goal.


The official clock said that we crossed the finish line at 2:53:37, but given that we didn't actually begin until 7:20, we figure we walked the 8.15 miles in 2 hours and 43 minutes.

I've posted additional pictures from the run here.