31 March 2009

Homily - 29 March 2009

The Fifth Sunday of Lent (B)

Today’s Gospel is one dear to my heart, for in it I see the pattern of my own life. It has been so central to my spiritual growth over the years that I have already chosen it to be proclaimed at my funeral.

Central to this passage are these words of Jesus: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it does die it produces much fruit” (John 12:24).

The Lord speaks first of all of himself; he is the true grain of wheat who dies to produce much fruit, the eternal life of grace. Freely and willingly he gave his life for us; he accepted our sufferings as his own and carried them to the Cross. Throughout his earthly ministry, “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).

To say that he became perfect is to say he fulfilled his mission; this he did through his death and resurrection. It is from the Cross that his words continually echo in every time and place: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be” (John 12:26). If we desire to be with the Lord we must follow him; and whoever follows must be his servant, so that he might be called, in the end, his friend (cf. John 15:15).

Therefore, whoever wishes to be with Jesus must follow him to the Cross, and through the Cross. In a word, a Christian must be willing to suffer. This is, in effect, the response Jesus gives to those who said to Philip, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (John 12:21).

Is this not the desire of every heart, to see Jesus, to see him who is the fulfillment of our every desire? Yes, to see Jesus is the deepest longing of the human heart, whether implicit or explicit.

The Lord knows this – he has placed it with us – and so he says, “All, from least to greatest, shall know me… for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). This he accomplished on his Cross.

In the second place, Jesus speaks these words – unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies – to you and I, to everyone who would follow him. He calls each of us to become that grain and die to our selfish ambitions, desires and sin that we might produce much fruit, both in our lives and in the lives of others. He calls us to unite our sufferings with to his for the salvation of the world.

This is what we call redemptive suffering, a suffering that benefits others, a suffering that is not suffered in vain. This is what gives suffering its beauty, its power and its grace.

Whenever we say, “We wish to see Jesus,” the Lord responds as he did in the Gospel passage: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). It is as though he says, “The time has come for you to see my Cross. If you wish to see me you must look to my Cross; if you wish to see me look to your sufferings. In these you will see me and know my glory.”

Some of you know that I celebrated a birthday last week; I am now thirty-one years old. It seems to me that as we grow older we tend to use our birthdays to reflect on the trajectory of our lives.

Looking back over the years, many of us see our lives as though they were marked by certain pivotal moments that shaped and defined us, and marked the path on which our lives would progress. Some of these pivotal moments are joyous and others are heartbreaking.

As I look back over my life some of these such joyous moments include the day I receive my acceptance letter to the seminary; my first pilgrimage to the city of Saint Francis; and my visit to the grave of Blessed Damien of Molokai.

But as I consider these I cannot help but notice that most of the pivotal moments in life have been marked by a great sadness. I think of the circumstances of my birth; I was not expected to live long. I think of the death of my father and then my mother. I think of my struggle with arthritis.

Time after time I offered, with Jesus, “prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears” to the Father (Hebrews 5:7). The trajectory of my life has been repeatedly with great suffering and sadness.

I do not say this to evoke pity or to draw attention to myself; I say this, rather, to state with great confidence that we do see Jesus in our sufferings; we do see him when we look to his Cross. And when we unite our sufferings with his we do indeed see his glory. There is hope even in the midst of great suffering!

Thinking back to the Gospel passage, so many in the crowd did not recognize the voice of the Father but thought it was thunder (cf. John 12:29). I tell you, they did not see the truth because they remained in the crowd, on the outside; they refused to enter into the mystery of Jesus Christ.

The same is true with us. If we wish to remain bystanders only to suffering and the Cross we will not see Jesus. But if we enter into our suffering, if we embrace it, then we will see Jesus when we bring our suffering and pain to his Cross.

In the Cross of Jesus Christ we see the perfect model of obedience. If we follow this example of loving obedience – of humility, trust and faith – we, too, will be glorified in him. Let each of us, then, look to his Cross, that we might know the fullness of his glory, the splendor of his joy and peace. Amen.

A little humor

This I was chatting with one of our high school students - whom I will call Aethelred - on Facebook. Our conversation went as follows (please excuse the poor grammer):
Aethelred: here is a random question for ya..but do you ever watch sanford
and son?

Me: I've not heard of it

Aethelred: no kiddin?

Me: Yeah, I don't get out much

Aethelred: it was a sitcom in the 70's, maybe 80's

Me: I was born until 78

Aethelred: well...I wasn't born until 93

Me: Point taken

Oops! Sometimes I really am a bit of an idiot.

The story of my birth

Last week I promised to share with you the story of my birth.

My mother and father married on March 20th, 1976. On the second anniversary of their marriage, mom was in St. Mary’s Hospital in Quincy, Illinois “awaiting the birth of our twins.” We were born on March 26th, Easter Sunday, though we were expected to be born on or around May 17th.

Easter that year fell in the midst of a terrible ice storm that shut down much of central Illinois. I like to say, with tongue in cheek, that creation heralded my arrival.

Matthew William was born at 10:04 a.m., weighing five pounds and two ounces and measuring seventeen inches in length. He died the next day at 10:38 p.m.

I was born at 10:12 a.m., weighing four pounds and nines ounces and measuring seventeen inches in length.

Both Matthew and I were born with a blockage of some kind in our throats which made breathing very difficult. Matthew was viewed by the medical team as the stronger of us, while I was seen as the weaker and not expected to live long.

Since we were both very much in danger of death a priest was called to baptize us. Father Landry Genosky, O.F.M. came and not only baptized us, but confirmed us as well, a privilege granted to priests for those in danger of death (I’ll post about this later this week; Bishop Lucas comes on Thursday for Confirmation). We had neither Godparents nor sponsors and, to my knowledge, no Confirmation names. I am simply Daren Joseph.

I’ve also been struck by the fact that Fr. Landry was a Franciscan priest and a history professor at then Quincy College, my future alma mater. My love of Saint Francis of Assisi and of history are not hidden.

At any rate, at some point a tracheotomy was performed on me and a tube inserted into my throat to assist my breathing; I’m not sure if this was done before or after Matthew died. The tube remained for the first two or three years of my life, and I still bear the scar to this day.

Mom wrote that “the first three months have been bad. I spent two days in the hospital for dehydration.” I’ve no idea how my parents coped with the death of their firstborn child together with my difficult first few years. If they had a baby book for me I do not know where it is, but I do have Matthew’s baby book. It is an odd feeling to flip through a baby book with only a couple of pages filled in and I can well imagine why they may not have kept one for me.

I’ve often wondered why I, the weaker one, survived. My arthritis, too, before it was finally diagnosed, brought me near the point of death, and yet I survived. I see in these pivotal moments of my life the protective hand of God.

And though he lived only slightly more than a day, there is part of me that longs for the companionship of a brother and confidant, even a partner in mischief, which I know is the bond shared by twins.

And now you know, in brief, the story of my birth.

The disputed canons

Canonist Ed Peters takes us through the two different canonical approaches of Archbishops Wuerl and Burke in regards to the reception of Holy Communion by Catholic politicians who support issues and causes contrary to Catholic faith.

After reminding us that such disagreements between faithful Bishops are not unknown in the history of the Church, Dr. Peters offers these wise words:

[O]ne must avoid "personalizing" the debate. Both archbishops are distinguished
thinkers and both have many decades of loyal service to the Church behind them,
including some services rendered under very difficult circumstances. In short,
each is an attractive figure. But, while it's tempting to rally behind one or
the other, personalities are not what's at issue here.

Rather, if we want to resolve the question of Communion admission, we must plainly identify the core of the disagreement. I think it's this: may one rely on a single canon to absolve arch/bishops of any direct responsibility to act when pro-abortion
Catholic politicians present themselves for Communion, or must one read both the
relevant canons in these cases, even if one of those canons requires ministerial
intervention under certain circumstances?

Be sure to read the rest of his post.


Capello tip to Thomas Peters.

Papal Prayer Intentions for April

As you say your daily prayer, do remember the intentions of the Holy Father for the month of April:
General: That the Lord may bless farmers' work with an abundant harvest and sensitise the richer populations to the drama of hunger in the world.

Mission
: That the Christians who operate in the territories where the conditions of the poor, the weak and the women and children are most tragic, may be signs of hope, thanks to their courageous testimony to the Gospel of solidarity and love.

29 March 2009

A new poll

Last week the athletic director of our schools tried to convince me to get a license to drive our 14 passenger shuttle bus (of which we have 3).

My initial thought is not to pursue such a license for fear of being asked to drive everywhere for any reason.

On second thought, having such a license could come in handy for various trips, though I do not really like driving large vehicles.

What do you think? Should I get the license. There's a poll on the side bar.

27 March 2009

Why is Pope Benedict XVI so popular?

Sandro Magister offers his answer:

This pope is respected and admired for one fundamental reason. Because he has placed above all else this priority, which he formulated in the letter to the bishops last March 10, one of the essential documents of his pontificate:

In our time, during which in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of being extinguished like a flame that has run out of fuel, the priority that stands above all others is that of making God present in this world, and
revealing to the eyes of men the path to God. And not to any sort of god, but to that God who has spoken on Sinai; to that God whose face we recognize in love to the end (cf. John 13:1), in Jesus Christ crucified and risen. The true problem at this moment in history is that God is disappearing from the horizon of men, and that with the extinguishing of the light that comes from God, humanity is seized by a lack of direction, the destructive effects of which are becoming increasingly clear.

26 March 2009

An enjoyable day

Thirty-one years ago this morning - at 10:12 a.m., to be precise - your humble blogger was born into this world in the midst of a great ice storm on Easter Sunday. On this same day I was baptized and confirmed, by a Franciscan priest who taught history at Quincy University.

There have been several inquiries into the circumstances of my birth and I will address them later. I thought I did a post on them somewhere but I can't seem to find it.

At any rate, it's been a good so far and promises to continue as such.

After Mass this morning I joined the early bird P.E. class - the same one in which I pulled a muscle in my back, which, I'm happy to say, seems to be mending nicely - for breakfast.

I spent some time goofing around in the high school and returned to my office to tidy up my desk a bit, and then I went and laid down for a bit.

At Noon I celebrated Mass for our senior girls who will leave tomorrow morning for their Kairos retreat.

After Mass, I spent some time with the eighth-graders who are visiting the high school for their Bulldog Preview Day.

I'm back in my office now for a bit tidying up a few more things while trying to fight off a cold.

At 3:00 I will go back to the high school for track practice, which usually simply involves me goofing around and poking fun at exhausted runners. It's always a good time. Today, though, I think I will resume a bit of weight lifting. I haven't lifted since I pulled that muscle in my back and, though I don't lift a lot of weight, I can tell the difference.

After track practice one of the high school students who is looking for a bit of spending money is going to help me file various articles that I've collected over the past few years. Whenever I find an article in a newspaper or journal I keep it to use in future classes. Since I've come to the parish I really haven't spent much time sorting through them and have a stack nearly two feet high to file. Having someone to help with it will add incentive to get it done. This will be the first of several filing sessions.

At 7:00 I will go out to dinner with two families from the parish to celebrate a common birthday.

I've received a number of enjoyable cards and in the next few days I may share a few of them with you.

Until then, I received the following via e-mail from some good friends in Quincy:
Hippo birdies two ewes!
Hippo birdies two ewes!
Hippo birdies, dear [Fr.] Daren,
Hippo birdies two ewes!

25 March 2009

Wonderful!

The Crescat's outdone herself today in posting paintings of the Annunciation. Do have a look.

A little office humor

From time to time we all get in the routine of making the same motion over and over as we carry about day to day business. One of those routines for me is passing my right hand across my desk and down to the trash can immediately to my right.

Just a few moments ago I was speaking to someone through the telephone. After our conversation I made said motion and just about tossed the receiver into the trash can before saying to myself, "That doesn't belong there."

It's probably a good thing I haven't spent much time in the office today.

A celebration

The little mission parish in Shumway which we here at St. Anthony of Padua Parish tend is dedicated to the Annunciation and was founded in 1879.

In honor of our patronal feast day, I will celebrate Mass there this evening at 6:00 p.m. at the high altar. The Mass will be followed by a potluck dinner. It should be a enjoyable time.

Are you sure I should save my gold chasuble until the Easter Vigil instead of wearing it tonight?

23 March 2009

Around the blogosphere

Ralph McInerny, a well-known academic and member of the faculty of Notre Dame for more than half a century, said Notre Dame has “forfeited its right to call itself a Catholic university.” Capello tip to the American Papist.

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop Salvatore Cordileone - whom you might know from his time given to Catholic Answers Live - Bishop of Oakland this morning. The American Papist and Whispers in the Loggia has coverage.

I’m happy to hear that Fr. Guy Selvester has resumed blogging at Shouts in the Piazza.

The American Papist passes along Fr. Jenkin’s refutation of criticism over the invitation of President Obama to the commencement exercises of Notre Dame.

HB 2354

Help stop Illinois House Bill 2354 by visiting Stop Illinois FOCA.

Can you answer this?

A priest friend of mine just phoned to ask a question the answer of which he was certain I would know right off the top of my head. I'm sorry to say I don't know it.

He is looking for a reference in a liturgical document answering the question of how and when the Eucharist is to be taken from Mass by the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to the homebound.

He and I are both sure that we have read somewhere that it is to be done after the reception of Holy Communion but before the Prayer after Communion, but neither of us can remember the source.

Do any of you kind readers happen to know this one?

Homily - 22 March 2009

The Fourth Sunday of Lent (B)

The entrance antiphon of today’s Mass seems quite out of place with the reading from the Second Book of Chronicles and the Psalm. Today’s Liturgy begins with these words: “Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for you, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her, and you will find contentment at her consoling breasts” (cf. Isaiah 66:10-11).

Yet the chronicler relates to us today the capture and sack of the holy city: “Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire, and destroyed all its precious objects” (II Chronicles 36:19). How can we rejoice for Jerusalem when she has been conquered?

What is more, “those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon,” where, as the Psalmist sings, “By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. On the aspens of that land we hung up our harps” (II Chronicles 36:20; Psalm 137:1-2). How can we rejoice for Jerusalem when her citizens are either slain or carried away?

Given all of this, how can Holy Mother Church say, “Rejoice, Jerusalem?” She dares to utter these words because the Lord used Cyrus, King of Persia, as his chosen instrument, who said to the people of Jerusalem, “Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him” (II Chronicles 36:23).

Cyrus delivered Jerusalem from the bondage of Syria, for which rejoice Jerusalem – and all who love her - is told to rejoice. Christ Jesus has delivered the new Jerusalem – the Church and all who belong to her – from the bondage of sin and death, for which reason we are told to rejoice.

Are there not times in each of our lives when we feel like exiles, as though the city of our life has been destroyed, either through the consequences of our sin or as a result of the drudgery of life (cf. Job 7:1)? Do we not feel like exiles when we feel our sin, selfishness and pride separate us from God and from those we love? Do we not feel like exiles when the trials of life beset us: when parents divorce, when a loved one dies, when we suffer hunger, when find ourselves in financial difficulties or suffer the ravages of nature?

In such circumstances we feel uncomfortable and out of place. We ask with the Psalmist, “How could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land” (Psalm 137:4)? Yet even in such times Mother Church says to us, “Rejoice, Jerusalem!” She calls us to sing with joy!

How is it possible to sing the praise of God in the midst of such suffering and pain? From the experience of my own life, I tell you, it is possible, for it is the Lord himself who gives us a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God (cf. Psalm 40:4).

As Saint Paul tells us today, it is precisely because of the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus, because “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). Even when we hang up our harps in anguish and sing no more on account of suffering and pain, the Lord does not leave us in darkness, but beckons to us with his own marvelous light, to sing anew (cf. Psalm 137:).

The Lord is present even – and especially - in the darkness of life. The Son of God took on our flesh to share our sufferings, to endure our death and to rise triumphant over sin and death. The Father has lifted up his Son before us so “that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:16). He was lifted up on the Cross to heal us and make us whole, and it is from his Cross that his light shines forth, calling to all who will turn toward his light.

This raises the question for each of us: will we turn toward the light, toward the Cross, or will we flee from the light?

We know that “people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil” (John 3:19). So often we know our sin and yet we refuse to humble ourselves before the Lord and implore his mercy and forgiveness. We hide from him, thinking somehow that if we stay in the darkness, so long as his light does not shine upon us that will be at peace. But our experience proves this false. The more we hide from his light, the greater our pain becomes. It is only by stepping into his light, by seeking his mercy, that our hearts find peace.

Pope Benedict XVI once described humanity as a beggar for love.[1] And Saint Augustine said that to sing belongs to lovers. Given that both are truth, where there is no love, there is no song.

Let us not leave our harps hung on a tree in our anguish; let us not abandon our song. Let us, rather, look to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and see there the depth of love so freely given for us so as to receive a new song.

When we behold his love we again hear the words of Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).

When see his love – and the great and incomparable extent to which he has given it – how can we not respond in kind with love? How could anyone look upon Christ crucified and not be moved?

Look to the Cross and there you will see the cause of our hope, the font of our joy and the consolation of every wounded heart!

To be a beggar is to be vulnerable and open. If we know ourselves to be beggars for God’s own love, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable to him; we must open our hearts and our lives to receive his grace, the grace that fills our soul with a new song, the song of love. As it is with our love for one another, so it is with our love for God: it cannot be forced; it must be freely given and freely received.

Many come here to the altar of the Lord each week where the sacrifice of Calvary is re-presented to us and we present it again to the Father. Here, the Lord comes to us; here, we can find the depth of his great love; here, we receive a new song.

But many come each week and never experience anything because they refuse to open their hearts to experience all that the Lord wishes to give them here, at his altar.

My brothers and sisters, if you want to know the joy of the Lord, if you want to take up your harp and sing again, look to the Cross and open your heart to his love! Receive his Body and Blood humble and give yourself to him, because he has given himself to you.


[1] cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 29 March 2007.

21 March 2009

Fallen?

The prestigious University of Notre Dame has surprisingly announced President Barack Obama will speak at the commencement exercises at the end of this academic year. This invitation raises serious questions about the university's public mission as an institute of Catholic learning and faith.

Thomas Peters, the American Papist, doesn't expect the President to be dis-invited but that a massive pro-life rally will be held on campus (I believe he's right on this).

An online petition has been created to ask Notre Dame's president, Father John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., to rescind the invitation and seek a speaker whose life and faith is more consonant with Catholic teaching.

20 March 2009

Clue: The Musical

For the first time in the school's history, St. Anthony High School will have a double cast for the performances of Clue: The Musical. The musical will be performed Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m.

Over the past few weeks I've watched some of the practices for the musical and am very excited about the performances. The show should be a very entertaining time, with something for everyone.

If you're free, please come watch the musical and support our talented students. Tickets can be purchased at the door for only $6.00.

The Effingham Daily News carried a story on the musical in yesterday's paper.

Curious

The National Catholic Reporter's recent article concerning Ms. Ruth Kolpack seems to be missing (see my initial post). Does anybody know where it went?

There is, though, another article about Ms. Kolpack's thesis, which should raise concerns about her ecclesiology. Consider this excerpt from the article:

She cites as an example of the “evil of literalism,” the late Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter “Ordinatio Sacredotalis.” The document, she writes, is an example of “dual anthropology” that often is applied to women in the church,. “Women are ‘necessary and irreplaceable’ in the church as ‘martyrs, virgins and mothers.’ On the one hand, John Paul is accepting women’s role in the church but, on the other hand, is relegating them to the home to be physical mothers or to religious life to be spiritual mothers.”

In the document, John Paul three times mentions that the church cannot ordain women because Christ chose only men and only 12 men. “If this literalism were followed through in every way,” she writes,” there would be only twelve priests in the church and they would all be Jewish Middle Eastern men.” The purpose of such a “literalist argument … appears to be to exclude women from ordination,” she said.
That position is a bit problematic.

Update: I found the initial article at the NCR's web site. It seems the article was moved from one section of the web site to another.

I'm not as young as I once was

This morning I decided to join the early bird P.E. class for a game of dodge ball.

Mind you, this isn't the dodge ball I grew up with, where the group forms a square around the person in the middle, at whom a ball was thrown.

These days a game of dodge ball is played with two teams, each in a line or sorts facing the opposing team. Several balls are now employed in the game - the favorite being a volleyball. The object of the game is to eliminate each player of the opposing team by hitting them with a ball. If a player should catch a ball, the one who threw it is out and another player on the catcher's re-enters play. The game is much more lively than it was when I was a kid.

I agreed to play on one condition: that the opposing team not throw every ball at me all at once (I remember being in high school), a condition they kept.

At one point during the game I was standing on the sidelines - I missed a dodge - and I noticed that my lower back felt like it needed a good stretch. After a visit to the doctor it was determined that somehow I pulled a muscle.

I've no idea how I did it. I was never hit in the back. I never hit the floor. And I don't remember making any real sudden moves. Nonetheless, somehow I managed to pull it.

I'm now on a regimen of muscle relaxers, ibuprofen and heat, trying to determine what activities can be scaled back over the weekend so as to have the opportunity to rest.

If I sit or lie down I feel okay, but walking for a length of time is rather painful. Not excruciating, but painful.

Today yet, I have Vespers at 5:30 (which I may ask another to lead) and Stations with Benediction at 7:00. I should probably go to the fish fry and then there's the high school musical that I would like to at least make an appearance at.

Tomorrow morning, I'm to go with the track team to a meet in Charleston (I've already rearranged tomorrow's schedule to be able to go) and at 1:30 I'm supposed to give a talk at a De Colores weekend. Confessions need to be heard at 3:30, Mass celebrated at 5:30 and a baby is to be baptized after the Mass. Then there is the high school musical that I should go to, because I won't be able to see the first half of it tonight.

Sunday morning I will celebrate two Masses and the high school musical will be performed in the afternoon (we have a double cast this year, so I should be there, too). After the musical I'm thinking of celebrating a Mass for our high school students who can't attend Mass Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning (because of work) and who don't enjoy the Life Teen Mass in the area. In the evening, I think the Dead Theologians Society is meeting, but I've not heard confirmation of that yet.

What to do, what to do...

Creative help needed

Somehow I have been given the charge to come up with a creative motto for the new bass fishing team at the high school.

I'm not typically very good at such things - or at least not at finding a motto high school boys like - and so I'm asking your help in this regard. What motto would you suggest our team use?

Our mascot is the bulldog. St. Anthony preached to the fish. Peter, James and John were fishermen. I'm afraid I don't have much else with which to work.

19 March 2009

The fruits of our labors

I was especially struck this morning by these words of Pope Benedict XVI in the homily he preached for the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husbund of Mary:

Although the first reading which we have just heard does not speak explicitly of Saint Joseph, it does teach us a good deal about him. The prophet Nathan, in obedience to God’s command, tells David: “I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins” (2 Sam 7:12). David must accept that he will die before seeing the fulfilment of this promise, which will come to pass “when (his) time comes” and he will rest “with (his) ancestors”. We thus come to realize that one of mankind’s most cherished desires – seeing the fruits of one’s labours – is not always granted by God. I think of those among you who are mothers and fathers of families. Parents quite rightly desire to give the best of themselves to their children, and they want to see them achieve success. Yet make no mistake about what this “success” entails: what God asks David to do is to place his trust in him. David himself will not see his heir who will have a throne “firm for ever” (2 Sam 7:16), for this heir, announced under the veil of prophecy, is Jesus. David puts his trust in God. In the same way, Joseph trusts God when he hears his messenger, the Angel, say to him: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her” (Mt 1:20). Throughout all of history, Joseph is the man who gives God the greatest display of trust, even in the face of such astonishing news.
It is much the same in the life of a priest.

Only rarely do we see the fruits of our preaching, of our conversations, prayers and efforts on behalf of those to whom we are sent.

I often wonder if all of my efforts with the high school students will bear good fruit, if it will truly lead them ever closer to Jesus Christ, yet I keep at it nonetheless.

It is true that from time to time I do see signs of hope, of grace at work, but at other times I do not. This is true of all forms of priestly ministry.

This is why daily prayer for one's ministry is so vital. We must entrust each of our efforts to the Lord, trusting that he knows how to water the seeds that are planted.

I have already asked for the special guidance, protection and intercession of Damien of Molokai and John Bosco in my ministry with the high school students. Today I entrusted these efforts also to Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus and of each of us.

May Joseph teach me to trust ever more deeply in the Lord in full humility as he did. May he also teach me to care for those entrusted to me, as he cared so well for Jesus and Mary.

Pope Benedict on Saint Joseph

As I sat down to prepare my homily this morning for the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary (and my Name Day), I wondered what I might say about my powerful patron that I hadn't already said in previous homilies.

When preaching on Mary, or one of the other more popular saints, material that sparks a homily is abundant, but when it comes to Joseph there seems to be precious little material to be had.

I then decided to a look at what Pope Benedict XVI said at Mass in Cameroon and I'm glad I did.

The homily he preached for the Solemnity is another excellent example of why everyone should read his homilies. It is a beautiful homily and well worth a read. Just consider this:

We are all members of the peoples that God gave to Abraham as his descendants. Each and every one of us was thought, willed and loved by God. Each and every one of us has a role to play in the plan of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If discouragement overwhelms you, think of the faith of Joseph; if anxiety has its grip on you, think of the hope of Joseph, that descendant of Abraham who hoped against hope; if exasperation or hatred seizes you, think of the love of Joseph, who was the first man to set eyes on the human face of God in the person of the Infant conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Let us praise and thank Christ for having drawn so close to us, and for giving us Joseph as an example and model of love for him.

Homily for High School Penance Service

High School Penance Service
John 12:20-26

As we consider this passage from Saint John’s Gospel, we might ask ourselves why some Greeks went up to the Jewish feast. They would not be able to participate fully in the feast, so why would they go?

I suspect those who worshipped the One God intrigued them, and they wanted to learn more about the God of Israel in the hopes of joining in their worship.

This naturally leads to the question of why we have come here today. It seems to me that there are two reasons why we have come. Some have come simply because they have to, or else face a possible suspension. Others have come because they realize that something in their lives is out of place, to one degree or another.

To those who have come simply because it is part of the school day, there is very little I can say, but those who have come with the recognition of their faults have come like those Greeks who said to Philip, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (John 12:21).

They have come because something is missing in their lives, be it peace, joy or contentment and satisfaction. Their hearts are ill at ease and because they have come seeking that which was lost they will find it. They shall find it in Jesus Christ, in him who is that grain of wheat who fell to the ground and died, in him who is waiting for them in the Sacrament of Penance (cf. John 12:24).

They recognize in the depths of their souls the truth of the words of Saint Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

As we meet him in this Sacrament we must make ourselves like a grain of wheat, willing to fall to the ground and die. We must be willing to die to our pride, which is the root of all our sins. We must humble ourselves before the Lord, sincerely confessing our sins in integrity of heart, that we might produce much fruit, the fruit of a life lived in faith, hope and love.

When the Greeks are brought to Jesus, he says to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). We know that his glorification took place precisely on the Cross, where he humbled himself and accepted death for our sins.

In the Sacrament of Penance the Lord wishes to share with us the fruits of his death and resurrection: the forgiveness of sins. It is here that he wishes to bestow his mercy upon us, to heal our soul and give rest to our heart. It is here that he will be glorified.

As he beckons us to his mercy, he says to us: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). But, we ask, how can someone who loves himself deny himself, for this is what the Lord means? Saint Augustine answers the question this way:
There is not anyone, after all, who does not love himself. But we have to look for the right sort of love and avoid the wrong sort. You see, anyone who loves himself by leaving God out of his life (and leaves God out of his life by loving himself), does not even remain in himself. He actually leaves his self. He goes away into exile from his own heart by taking no notice of what is inside and instead only loving what is outside….

For instance, let me ask you this: Are you money? …And yet, by loving money, you end up abandoning yourself. First you abandon and then later end up destroying yourself. Love of money, you see, has caused you to destroy yourself. You tell lies on account of money. ….While looking for money, you have destroyed your soul.
If we wish to follow Christ so as to attain the deepest longings of our heart, then we must follow him and sow our soul in this world, so as to harvest it in the next. We must die each day to sin, in whatever form we are tempted, that we might be found with Christ whom we seek, so as to be honored by the Father.

Let us then hasten to confession, to confess our sins to the Lord, doing so honestly, sincerely and in integrity of heart. If we confess well, if we are truly sorry for our sins and intend not to commit them again, the grace of this Sacrament will transform us ever more closely into the image of Christ, whose servants we are. The more we resemble Christ, the great our joy and peace, the greater our contentment, will be.

Let each of us say, “I wish to see Jesus,” and go humbly where he is found. Amen.

17 March 2009

Bishop Lucas on Illinois HB 2354

A few days ago, one of our readers, Jake, suggested we find a new name for Illinois House Bill 2354 other than the Illinois version of the Freedom of Choice Act.

It seems HB 2354 does have a different name: the Reproductive Health and Access Act.

We received this afternoon a letter from His Excellency, Bishop Lucas, asking the faithful to urge their representatives to oppose the bill. He requested that his letter be copied and inserted into the bulletins of his parishes this weekend.

We are working on that here in the office and I thought I would post the text of the letter for you, with my emphases:

Dear Friends in Christ,

I write to you about a serious threat to our freedom to practice our Catholic faith in the state of Illinois.

A bill has been introduced in the Illinois General Assembly (HB 2354, the "Reproductive Health and Access Act") that would remove the right to conscientious objection to abortion and related procedures for all health care workers. For thirty years we have been told by the courts and by legislators that abortion is a rare but necessary tragedy and that abortion providers should not face legal punishment. Now some are proposing that abortion is a human right, and worse, that those who would try to qualify it in any way or who will not provide it should be punished under law.

This proposed law will drive Catholic doctors and nurses from health care and will make it impossible for Catholic hospitals to continue to be places where life is always respected, where no one is deliberately killed. In our country, we recognize conscientious objection to war, even though defending one’s country is a noble and moral act. We recognize the conscientious objection of those doctors who will not cooperate in administering the death penalty, even for terrible crimes. Some Illinois legislators want to take away conscientious objection to abortion.

The enemies of human life and religious freedom in Illinois are well funded. Pressure on legislators is great and is increasing. I ask you to contact your Representative this week to express your dismay that the Illinois legislature, elected democratically, would debate a bill that removes freedom of conscientious decision-making for health care workers as a condition of their employment. Surely people of good will can agree that the State should not come between a health care worker and God.

Unfortunately we have had to live with the fact that our laws no longer protect unborn human life. We cannot live with the prospect that our laws will no longer protect conscience. In 1844, Abraham Lincoln broke with his own party, the often anti-Catholic Whigs, and proposed: "Resolved, that the guarantee of the rights of conscience, as found in our Constitution, is most sacred and inviolable, and one that belongs no less to the Catholic, than to the Protestant; and that all attempts to abridge or interfere with these rights, either of Catholic or Protestant, directly or indirectly, have our decided disapprobation, and shall ever have our most effective opposition." Illinois HB 2354 betrays the legacy of Lincoln in his home State.
Catholics and all people of good will should work to ensure its defeat. I also ask you to thank those legislators who are courageously opposing HB 2354 and to pray for those who are supporting it. To contact your legislator, please go to www.ilga.gov, or call 312-368-1066.

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverend George J. Lucas
Thank you, Bishop Lucas!

A classic line

...from Sr. Mary Martha, as she ponders why Saint Patrick is more famous than the other Saints who share his date in the calendar:

Why St. Patrick and not St. Jan Sarkander? It's St. Jan Sarkander's feast day, too, and also St. Gertrude of Nevilles (the patron saint of cat lovers) and St. Joseph of Arimathea. I don't see anyone wearing cat suits or giving out free graves.
I have to admit: I burst out laughing.

Trouble in the north

The National Catholic Reporter is carrying a story about one Ruth Kolpack, who was relieved of her position as Pastoral Associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Beloit, Wisconsin by Bishop Robert Morlino.

I am not usually one to comment on such stories, but something caught my eye in this article and raised warning signals alarmingly high. One parishioner, Stephanie King Norton, said of Ms. Kolpack:

She's been through four priests, and we always knew she would be there. She's the heart and soul behind everything that goes on. Our priest is only 40 percent, so she was responsible for sacramental work as well. People converted and were brought back to the Catholic faith were crying because their friend was dismissed. (emphasis mine).
First things first: only a priest or deacon may do sacramental work. Second, if Ms. Kolpack is the "heart and soul behind everything that goes on," something is drastically wrong.

To better illustrate what I mean, consider these words of Ms. King Norton: "I don't know anyone at St. Thomas who would say that Ruth isn't the foundation, even if they don't always agree with her."

Every parish has one foundation: Jesus Christ. No one person, even a priest, is indispensable to the life of a parish. The parish existed before Ms. Kolpack and it will certainly exist after Ms. Kolpack, just as the parish has continued after four different priests in her time there.

I will grant that it is possible Ms. King Norton was simply exaggerating to make her point; I think we can all imagine what she might have meant.

There is, of course, still the question of Ms. Kolpack's dislike of the word "Father" used in reference to God, despite the fact that this is the word Jesus gave us to use. To suggest we not use the term goes against what has been divinely revealed to us and is cause enough for concern.

Outwitted

Sometimes I think I might be too much of a sucker.

The head track coach could not attend practice today and left the session in my hands. Thankfully, he is very relaxed with the kids and trusts that they will do what needs to be, which they usually do.

After practice yesterday he mentioned to me that if I didn't want to come to practice I could simply cancel it, but since my calendar was opened I said we could the practice as scheduled.

He gave a few instructions to the boys and went on his way.

It was suggested to me this afternoon that we not have the normal practice and instead take a run to Homewood Grill, a local ice cream stand and a favorite of the kids. (I had a pineapple shake there the other day; it was good.)

After hemming and hawing a bit, one of the boys said, "If Jesus went to Calvary, Fr. Daren, you can run to Homewood." How could I argue with that logic?

Being half my age and in far better shape than I have ever been in, they ran about twice my pace and, though one of the kids stuck back with me, I ended up walking about a third of the way. My heart and lungs aren't quite what they used to be and I forgot to grab some water before we left, a mistake I won't make again.

We ordered our ice cream (I had a chocolate covered cherry shake 'n more, something like a blizzard) and walked back to the high school as we ate our treats. Once we were back at the track the boys went to work and I watched the pole vaulters practice. It looks to be a lot of fun, but it's also a lot of work.

Brackets

There are two sets of NCAA brackets circulating in the parish office this year as in year's past. Since I pay no attention to basketball whatever, I don't really have any way to know which teams have a chance, and I refuse to research this.

I participated last year by choosing a Catholic school over another school and if two Catholic schools played each other, I chose the school whose patron I liked more.

It didn't work very well.

This year I think I'll have the school students pick them for me.

Daily work of priests fundamental for humanity, says Pope

Father Giampiero Ialongo posed the fourth question of the day to His Holiness on 26 February 2009 during his meeting with the Clergy of the Diocese of Rome.

Father Ialongo's question concerned the global crisis of the economy in these days and how Pope Benedict thought best to address "the causes that have led to this widespread crisis."

The Holy Father said that it is the duty of the Church to denounce injustice and to also show the way forward. At the same time, however, "lofty moralizing does not help if it is not substantiated by knowledge of the facts, which also helps one understand what it is possible to do in practice to gradually change the situation." The Church, then, must speak competently on such issues so as not to lose credibility.

For Pope Benedict, the question boils down to original sin; does it really exist? His answer is worth quoting in full:

If it did not exist we could simply appeal to lucid reason, with arguments accessible and indisputable by all, and to the good will that exists in everyone. In this way we could make good headway and reform humanity. But it is not like this: reason including our own is obscured, we notice this every day. For selfishness, the root of avarice, lies in wanting above everything only for myself, in being concerned for the world only as far as it serves me. It exists in all of us. It clouds reason which can be very learned, the finest scientific arguments, yet still obscured by false premises. In this way we can move along with great intelligence, bounding ahead, but on the wrong road. The will too, as the Fathers say, is distorted, it is not simply inclined to do good, but can seek above all else itself or its own interests. To find the way of reason, of true reason, is therefore already something far from easy, and is developed only with difficulty in dialogue. Without the light of faith that penetrates the shadows of original sin, reason cannot progress. But faith itself then comes up against the resistance of our will. The latter does not want to take the path of self-denial and a correction of the individual will in favour of the other rather than for ourselves.

I would say, therefore, that these errors should be addressed with reasonable and reasoned arguments, not with high moralizing but with concrete reasons that are understandable by economics today.
The only way out of this situation is for just men to stand up, "for if there are no upright people ... justice will remain theoretical" and "and there cannot be just people without the humble, daily work of conversion of hearts, of creating justice in hearts," the daily work of priests. Consequently, "the work of the parish priest is so fundamental, not only for the parish but also for humanity."

Benedict on culture, youth and young priests

The third question posed to Pope Benedict by Father Giuseppi Forlai during his annual meeting with the Clergy of Rome is one dear to one my heart. Father Forlai addressed two concerns: ministry to the youth and the length of stay of a Parochial Vicar. Father Forlai asked His Holiness for "an authoritative word on these two aspects of the challenges facing educators: the necessary length of appointment and the urgent need for priest-teachers who are adequately prepared culturally."

In response, Pope Benedict spoke about the nature of a parish, noting that a parish "where only games were played and refreshments provided would be absolutely superfluous." The meaning of a parish, he said, "must be cultural, human and Christian formation for a mature personality."

In today's culture, "so many things are known, but without a heart, without an interior connection, because a communal vision of the world is lacking. For this reason a cultural solution inspired by the faith of the Church, and by knowledge of God, is absolutely essential. I would say that this is precisely the role of such a centre, that one not only finds possibilities there for one's leisure time but above all for an integral human formation that completes the personality."

A priest, then, must somehow "fit into today's culture, and be deeply cultured if he is to help young people to enter a culture inspired by faith."

Culture itself is what is at stake, for a true culture always God as its end.

We see today that there are people with very great knowledge but lacking an inner orientation. Thus knowledge can also be dangerous because without a profound ethical orientation it leaves the individual to his own devices, and hence without the necessary indicators to become truly human. In this regard, the core of all cultural training, which is so necessary, must undoubtedly be faith: to know the face of God, revealed in Christ, and thus to have the fundamental point of reference for the rest of culture, which would otherwise become disoriented and disorienting. A culture without a personal knowledge of God and without a knowledge of the face of God in Christ is a culture that could be destructive, because it would have no knowledge of the necessary ethical bearings. In this regard, I think, we really have a profound cultural and human mission, which opens people to all the wealth of the culture of our time but also provides the criterion, the discernment to test what is true culture and what might become anti-culture.
This is the task of the priest today, especially in regards to the youth.

When speaking of the relationship between a priest and young people, Pope Benedict said, "There is no doubt that a personal relationship with the educator is important and demands a certain amount of time so that he and the young people may get used to each other."

The Holy Father noted especially the years between 16 and 19 in which "the personality is formed: it is an inner journey of great importance, of great existential growth." As such, he suggested an assignment of three years for each Parochial Vicar so that they might establish a relationship with young people and still be able to receive a few assignments as a young priest in order to "become acquainted with other contexts, learn about other situations in other parishes and thus enrich his human skills."

In this response, the Pope Benedict sees "that both needs can be reconciled: on the one hand, the young priest can have different experiences to enrich his own human experience; and on the other, the need to be with young people for a certain length of time, to be able to introduce them into life, to teach them to be human people, is recognized."

I am now in my fourth year as the Parochial Vicar here at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, and I expect to be able to have fifth year here before being assigned to another parish, either as Parochial Vicar or as Pastor (the latter seems more likely).

I certainly cannot argue with the Holy Father's suggestion, but I'm also grateful for the possibility of another year here.

Let us pray that even without a number of assignments the Lord will grant to me the skills that will be necessary in the years ahead.

Kudos to Cardinal George



Thank you, Your Emminence!

Pope Benedict on Evangelization

When the Holy Father met with the Clergy of the Diocese of Rome on 26 February 2009, Father Fabio Rosini posed the second question to His Holiness, but before doing so Father Rosini offered the following observation:

We have realized how important the transformation of ordinary pastoral activity is, no longer content with caring only for that portion of believers who persevere in Christian life but, more decisively and more systematically, caring also for the many sheep who are lost or bewildered.
This is a most astute and important observation, and a difficult one. How can the Church and her ministers best do so? And so we come to his question: "What, in your view, are the elements that guarantee that one does not rush in vain into the pastoral demands of proclaiming Christ to our generation?"

Anyone who would offer concrete examples in this arena straightaway should be heard with a bit of skepticism. "Little can be said in theory," Pope Benedict said, "but practical experience will show us the paths to follow"

While noting "that I can give no recipes for this practical work because the paths to follow differ according to the people, their professions, and the particular situation," Pope Benedict did propose "two elements: the Word and witness."

This proclamation of the Word as experienced in the here and now validates, as it were, the experiences of the past. This union of Word and witness in proclamation, says the Holy Father, "is absolutely indispensable, fundamental, to give credibility to this word through witness so that it does not only appear as a lofty philosophy or a fine utopia, but as reality, a reality with which it is possible to live, but this is not all: a reality that is life-giving."

"The need to associate the word with the witness of a just life, being for others, opening oneself to the poor, to the needy, and also to the rich who need to have their hearts opened, to feel someone knocking at their hearts" is very important, he said. "So, it is a question of different avenues, according to the situation."

Darenham?

It has always been a dream of mine to live in a medieval manor (I've often said I was born a thousand years too late and an ocean away).

In the seminary each floor typically had a resident priest who served as a mentor and also a seminarian representative for the floor who received memos and other such things. I received the questionable honor of being elected as the representative on my floor. Our resident priest was also responsible for the pre-theology program and transferred from our floor to another and was not replaced, while I remained the representative. Shortly thereafter I adopted the title of Lord Regent, which became a good joke across campus.

Some of my classmates even joked about what name the village in which I might live would be called. Some suggested Darenbridge and others Darenham, which seems to flow better. Zehnle just doesn't seem to work as a village name.

Now it seems this might actually be possible. A friend sent in this delightful news:

(Linkenholt, England) -- A complete English village is going up for sale. The hamlet is complete with 22 houses and cottages, a clock tower, two blacksmiths and a cricket pitch. It's listed for sale at more than 31-million dollars. It's nestled in rolling countryside and is part of a two-thousand acre estate. One of the residents says he hopes the buyer will live on the property and act as lord of the manor. The agents for the property call it a "safe and sound investment," noting the spread includes 15-hundred acres of farmland. The late owner of the village died with no heirs and left the property to a trust to benefit sick children, the elderly and injured jockeys.
It sounds perfect! Is there a kind and generous donor willing to purchase the village?

News Flash: "We are not living on the moon!"

So said the Pope Benedict to Father Gianpiero Palmieri during his annual question and answer session with the clergy of the Diocese of Rome. Father Palmieri's posed this question to His Holiness:

In our Christian communities so many people are wounded. Where and how can we help others to come to know Jesus? And also, how can we priests build within us a beautiful and fruitful humanity?
Pope Benedict said that it is "essential" to preach with the "precious knowledge acquired in the study of theology" but that it must also be "assimiliated: from academic knowledge, which we have learned and upon which we have reflected, within a personal vision of life, in order then to reach out to other people."

This, I hope, is what began to happen with me in the first years after ordination. So far as I can tell, the first year after ordination was spent trying to figure out just what a priest did, day in and day out, and how to do it. It is one thing to study the priesthood and another thing to live it.

The second year was then spent trying to assimilate this into my own life, to answer the question, "Now that I know what a priest does, how am I a priest? How can I best be a priest with my gifts and weaknesses? How is the priesthood embodied in my life?"

After learning what a priest did and how the priesthood could be personalized in my life, I could then look about in the third year after ordination and ask, "Who are all of you?"

Naturally, in one way or another, each of these questions will need to answered each day of my life.

It may not have been the best of orders but it seems to have happened with me naturally enough in that way.

In doing so, priests must "make the great word of faith concrete, by our personal experience of faith, in time spent with parishioners," but "it is also important not to lose its simplicity." But back to the quote at hand: "We don't live on the moon!" The Holy Father continued in these words:

I am a man of this time if I live my faith sincerely in the culture of today with the mass media of today, with dialogue, with the realities of the economy, etc if I myself take my own experience seriously, and seek to adapt to this reality. In this way we are on the way to making ourselves understood by others.
In short, he says that we construct a beautiful and fruitful humanity, that we bring the Gospel to others, simply by living the faith in ever aspect of our lives. Priests do not live in some far off world but in the same world inhabited by every other person. Our lives are different, yes, but not distantly removed.

Too often, I think, some priests ignore sharing their own experiences of the faith and water down the Gospel in an attempt to reach people where they are. In doing so, the fact that the life of a priest is different from the lives of others is neglected and the proclamation of the Gospel would seem to be hindered.

To illustrate this point, Pope Benedict quoted Saint Bernard of Clairvaux: "Contemplate drinking from your own well, that is, from your own humanity."

"If you are sincere with yourself," said the Holy Father, "and begin to realize what faith is for yourself, from your human experience now, drinking from your own well as St Bernard put it, then you will also be able to say to others what needs to be said. And in this regard I think it is important to be truly attentive to today's world but also to the Lord within: to be a man of this time and at the same time a believer of Christ, who in himself transforms the eternal message into a current message for today."

Many people today claim that priests are so removed everyday life that they do not adequately know the circumstances of the day or the struggles people face today. Pope Benedict could not disagree more strongly with this claim, and convincingly argues against it:

Who knows the men and women of today better than the parish priest? The rectory is not in the world; rather it is in the parish. And people often come here to the parish priest, usually openly, with no pretext other than suffering, sickness, death or family matters. And they come to the confessional stripped of any veneer, with their very being. No other "profession", it seems to me, gives this possibility of knowing the person as he is, in his humanity, rather than in the role he plays in society. In this sense, we can truly study the person in his core, beyond roles, and learn ourselves what it is to be human, what it is to be in the school of Christ.

15 March 2009

Wedding etiquette

One of our readers sent in a question regarding wedding etiquette, which I thought would be a good one to also address here:
Do you think it is appropriate to also invite the priest to the wedding rehearsal dinner and the reception?

Absolutely!

I was always raised not to crash a party and so if I do not receive an invitation to the rehearsal dinner or the reception I do not go. Even if I am invited the day of the rehearsal or the reception (which happens more often than you might think), I do not go; nobody likes to be an after thought.

Think about it this way. You send an invitation to your third cousin twice-removed (whatever that means), whom you have not seen in a decade and do not especially care if he or she attends; you send them an invitation simply to be polite, lest they feel slighted.

Presumably, you want the priest to attend the rehearsal dinner and the reception so he, too, ought to receive an invitation. It is simply good form.

Certainly, not every priest will stay away if not invited as I do (for me, this extends to more than just weddings), but I am sure receiving an invitation will not offend him. It might even brighten his day that you want him to be at the events enough to invite him, rather than simply expect him.

On baptism

I had every intention of preparing the text of a homily to preach this morning for the First Scrutiny of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, but we all know what happens to the best of plans.

Last evening I was called to the hospital to be with a dying parishioner and his family who died late last night, peacefully and surrounded by his family. Please keep them in your prayers.

Consequently, morning came all too quickly and I lacked the energy to write out a homily early this morning. I did, though, borrow these words Saint Cyril of Alexandria addressed to his Elect:

May the gate of paradise be opened; may you then enjoy the fragrant waters, which contain Christ; may you then receive Christ’s name, and the efficacious power of divine things! Even now, I beseech you, lift up the eye of your understanding; imagine the angelic choirs, and God the Lord of all sitting, and His Only-Begotten Son sitting with Him on His right hand, and the Spirit with them present, and thrones and dominions doing service, and each man and woman among you receiving salvation. Even now let your ears ring with the sound: long for that glorious sound, which after your salvation, the angels shall chant over you, “Blessed are they whose iniquities have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered” (Psalm 32:1); when, like stars of the Church, you shall enter in it, bright in the outward man and radiant in your souls.

Great indeed is the Baptism which is offered you. It is a ransom for captives; the remission of offenses; the death of sin; the regeneration of the soul; the garment of light; the holy seal indissoluble; the chariot to heaven; the luxury of paradise; a procuring of the kingdom; the gift of adoption. But a serpent by the wayside is watching the passengers; beware lest he bite thee with unbelief; he sees so many receiving salvation, and seeks to devour some of them. Thou are going to the Father of Spirits, but thou art going past that serpent; how then must thou pass him? Have “thy feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15); that even if he bite, he may not hurt thee. Have faith indwelling, strong hope, a sandal of power, wherewith to pass the enemy and enter the presence of thy Lord. Prepare thine own heart to receive doctrine, to have fellowship in holy mysteries. Pray more often, that God may make thee worthy of the heavenly and immortal mysteries.[1]
[1] Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, the Protocatecheses 16, in Lectures on the Christian Sacraments, ed. F. L. Cross (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995), 50-51.

Homily - 15 March 2009

The Third Sunday of Lent (B)

Too often we set ourselves up in opposition to the One who created us, as if we were rivals, at odds with each other. We consider the Ten Commandments an infringement on our freedom, something perhaps arbitrary and unjust. But is this really the case?

If we sincerely examine the commands that the Lord gave to Moses with his own finger, we will find that they “are not a burden, but a sign-post showing the path leading to a successful life,” and a successful life leads to life eternal (cf. Exodus 31:18 and Deuteronomy 5:22).[1]

When that rich young man asked Jesus, “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” the Lord answered, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:16-17). This is why, as the Psalmist sings, “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul” (Psalm 19:8). The commandments are an invitation to return to life with God in Paradise and, as such, they are “more precious than gold” (Psalm 19:11).

There are many people today who try to convince us that the Commandments are no longer relevant for modern man, that they are better relegated to the rubbish heap of history. But if we consider what we know to be true in the depths of our hearts we see that it is a false and dangerous claim, for these commandments come from him who is the Creator of all things. Not only are the Ten Commandments relevant for us here and now, they are absolutely necessary for in them is the path to life and apart from them is death.

Simply consider the beginning of the commandments: “I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 20:1). The Lord, who in love delivered us from slavery in Egypt and from sin and death, addresses each of us, both individually and collectively. He speaks directly to us so that he might give wisdom and rejoicing to the simple (cf. Psalm 19:8-9).

When we rebelled against God in our pride, we were cast out “from the paradise of freedom to the slavery of this world.”[2] The commandments of the Lord are given us that we might be slaves no longer but free, free to live in God’s own life and love, free to be fully and truly human.

Whenever we view God as a rival, whenever we fail to obey and keep the commandments, we do so thinking that we will find freedom. We bow down not before God, but before ourselves, before our own selfish desires and ambitions (cf. Exodus 20:5). In the end, we find that we have become slaves to ourselves; this is not freedom, but the foolishness of man that enslaves him to himself.

The Commandments address, first and foremost, the love of God that has saved us and has established his Covenant with us, first sealed with the blood of animals, now sealed once and for all with the blood of Christ (cf. Hebrews 9:12).

Secondly, the Ten Commandments state the authentic response of man to God who first loved us (cf. I John 4:10). The only authentic response to such love is that of a moral life, a life lived in accord with him who is Truth (cf. John 14:6). We see, then, that through giving us the Ten Commandments, “God prepared man to become his friend and to live in harmony with his neighbor.”[3]

Because of this, we cannot pick and choose which of the Commandments we will obey; whoever wishes to have life must obey each of them, in all ways and in every place. “To transgress one commandment is to infringe all the others. One cannot honor another person without blessing God his Creator. One cannot adore God without loving all men, his creatures.[4]” In this way, the Ten Commandments unite our religious and social life together as one.

When we keep the commandments we build up the temple of the Holy Spirit within us (cf. I Corinthians 6:19). It is this temple for which the Lord is jealous, and he desires his temple to be a place of life, not of death (cf. Exodus 20:5).

This is why the Lord Jesus was so enraged when he found the moneychangers inside the Temple. They had turned his house of prayer into a place of greed and iniquity (cf. John 14). Standing within the Temple itself, they turned away from the Lord their God and bowed down before mammon, before money and avarice. And so, knowing that “no one can serve two masters,” the Lord took up a whip drove them out of his house (Matthew 6:24; cf. John 2:15).

Jesus made it clear that the Temple in Jerusalem was a symbol of himself, saying, “Destroy this temple and in there days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Saint John makes the connection impossible for us to miss: “But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:21). At the same time, we know that the Church is the Body of Christ, with Christ himself as her Head (cf. I Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 5:23).

We see then that Christ Jesus has come not only to cleanse the Temple in Jerusalem, but to cleanse also the temples that we are as members of his Body, the Church. If we listen to him in these days of Lent, he will enlighten the eye of our heart and fill us also with zeal for the things of God (cf. Psalm 19:9; John 2:17).

Even now the Lord desires to cleanse his house of all evil and wickedness, and so he waits patiently for us in the Sacrament of Penance because he wishes to bestow mercy on those who love him (cf. Exodus 20:6).

My brothers and sisters, we must allow ourselves to be built up into his temple and be cleansed; we must allow ourselves to be governed by him who is Love (cf. I John 4:8).

It is only in having “Christ the power and wisdom of God” as the cornerstone of our lives – in such a way that without him our lives make no sense and fall apart – that we will find the joy and peace we seek, the eternal life that is pledged to those who keep his covenant (cf. I Corinthians 1:24).

Let us briefly consider the meaning of the word “commandment.” It comes from the Latin word mandare meaning, “to entrust.” Life itself, eternal life, is entrusted to us in the Commandments. If we keep the commandments we will live; if we disregard the commandments we will die.

We know that “Anyone who turns from God not only departs from the Covenant but from the sphere of life; they ruin their own life and, in doing so, enter into the realm of death.”[5]

Let each of us then turn not away from God but toward him. Let us look to the commandments to mark out for us the path to life. Let us strive to keep them faithfully and if and when we fail, let us hasten to meet the Lord where his mercy abounds in the confession of sins.

Our beloved patron, Saint Anthony of Padua, teach us to love this great gift from the Lord. He says:
Truly, truly it is the gate of heaven! Truly it is the gate of paradise!
Through it, as through a gate, the penitent is led in to kiss the feet of divine
mercy; to be raised up and kiss the hands of heavenly grace.[6]

Let each of us then run to this gate, that we might “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Amen!

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Visit to the Synagogue of Cologne, 19 August 2005.
[2] Origen, Homily on Exodus 8.1, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2061.
[3] Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 4.16.3, in ibid., 2063.
[4] The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2069.
[5] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald, trans. Henry Taylor (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 2002), 168.
[6] Saint Anthony of Padua, Homily for the First Sunday of Lent, 2.19.

Latin phraseology

The other day I stumbled upon this fun little site that offers commonly used phrases in Latin.

14 March 2009

Moneychangers? Where?!

Bishop Robert Lynch provides a fine explanation of Sunday's Gospel and offers a few points for reflection.

13 March 2009

Around the blogosphere

Bishop Robert Lynch asks your prayers as he prepares to preach two parish missions in his diocese.

Fr. Z. wants to know which style of chasuble you prefer.

12 March 2009

Really, now?

If you're looking for a good reason as to why we should not trust politicians with medical decisions, consider former President Bill Clinton's insistence (repeated five times) that an embryo is not fertilized, for which reason Fr. Z. gives him a good lesson.

Here's the video:

Ha!

I just saw this on a local message board and thought I'd share it with you:


If you don't attend a Mass this Sunday in which the First Scrutiny is held, this is the Gospel you will hear.

Hearty congratulations!

This morning a group of our high school students went to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston for the sectional Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering competition.

When they competed in the regional competition, they not only took first place in their division (earning all possible points), they also took first place among every division.

When I saw them off this morning I told them to bring back first place, and I've just received word that they did! Our teams' results are as follows:
In math, Craig Brummer took first, Alex Bauer took second and Heather Esker
took third.

In physics, Miles Baker took first and Marty Jansen and Taylor Oltman tied for third.

In chemistry, Greg Schmidt took first, Drew Willenborg took second and Miles Baker took third.

In english, Craig Brummer took first.

Congratulations on a job very well done! You've made us very proud!

When I know how they performed overall, I will update this post.

An invitation accepted

I received last week an unexpected telephone call from Dr. Robert Gervasi, the President of Quincy University.

When I returned his call, I wondered why he had called me. The answer was simple: he called to invite me to his Inauguration and the luncheon preceding on April 3rd. When I spoke with him I assured him that I would make every effort to attend.

This morning the invitation arrived in the mail and I am delighted to accept it.

The day will begin at 9:30 a.m. with a symposium on Franciscan spirituality in the educational setting; I am especially looking forward to this. The Luncheon will follow at Noon and the inauguration will be held at 2:00 p.m. The day's celebrations will conclude with Holy Mass in the chapel at 5:00 p.m.

ACTION ALERT: HB 2354 Out of Committee

There is unfortunate news in Illinois: yesterday morning the Illinois version of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), House Bill 2354, passed the Illinois House Human Services Committee and is now headed to the floor of the General Assembly.

If you are an Illinois, please contact your representative to oppose HB 2354. If you do not know your State Representative, you may find him or her at http://www.ilga.gov/ at the bottom right under "Legislator Lookup."

This bill would:
  • make abortion a fundamental right;
  • expand public funding for abortion through Medicaid and possibly state health insurance programs;
  • undermine the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act; and
  • mandate comprehensive sex education for all children in public schools.

11 March 2009

New podcasts

At long last - and with many apologies for the delay - I have recorded four homilies and published them as podcasts: the Seventh Sunday of the Year (on Damien of Molokai); Ash Wednesday; the First Sunday of Lent, and the Second Sunday of Lent.

They should soon be available for download via iTunes; simply search for me.

Have you seen this?

This autumn I will be teaching a class in our lay ministry formation program called An Overview of the Catholic Faith.

Last year I assigned Credo by Hans Urs von Balthasar and this year I'd like to try a different book.

I see that Ignatius Press will soon publish Pope Benedict XVI's Credo for Today: What Christians Believe, which will be available this spring. Has anyone by chance seen an advance copy of this book?

On a related note, the collected audience addresses of Pope Benedict on Saint Paul will be released in the book Saint Paul, due out the day after my birthday: March 27.

Bishop Lucas: Do "not ignore" Confession

Bishop Lucas recently addressed the sacramental economy in his weekly column in the Catholic Times, "Grace and Mercy."

"The traditional meaning of the term economy," he wrote, "refers to the system set up within a family or hoursehold to use resources to provide for the needs of all. It should give great cause for celebration to know that God provides the sacraments in the church as the means for us to participate in the salvation won by Jesus Christ."



As he encouraged the faithful to meet Jesus in the Sacrament of Penance, His Excellency said that through this Sacrament "God provides this powerful sign of his faithful love for us who have turned back to unfaithfulness after our Christian initiation."



Even though this Sacrament is "an effective encounter with the risen Christ in which real sins are taken away by an act of real forgiveness," he recognized that because receiving the Sacrament "can be painful and embarrassing to face our sins, we might avoid doing so, making the mercy of God seem to us not so important."



Because "there are some things only God can do" and because "our spiritual life is stifled by sin," Bishop Lucas said "we should not ignore this renewed invitation to live now as full participants in the economy of grace."

10 March 2009

The new vestment

It is with great pleasure that I present to you pictures of my new gold chasuble made by the fine folks at The House of Hansen:




There is yet one question that remains: When do I first celebrate Mass in this chasuble: the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday or at the Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter on Holy Saturday?
The House of Hansen also makes a chasuble with this banding in black that is breath-taking. I think I'll be ordering it in time for All Souls' Day.

Good news!

The Connecticut bill set against the Catholic Church has been pulled.

A Prayer for Priests

A member of our parish pastoral council shared this prayer at our last meeting:

Almighty God,
look upon the face of Him
who is the eternal High Priest,
and have compassion on your priests in today's world.
Remember that they are but weak and frail human beings.
Stir up in them the grace of their vocation.
Keep them close to you
lest the enemy prevail against them,
so that they may never do anything
in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation.

O Jesus,
we pray for your faithful and fervent priests,
for the unfaithful and tepid ones,
for those laboring at home
and abroad in distant fields;
for those who are tempted;
for those who are lonely and desolate;
for those who are in purgatory.

But, above all, we recommend to you
the priests dearest to us:
the priest who baptized us;
the priests who absolved us from our sins;
the priests who instructed us
or helped us by their encouragement.
We pray devoutly for all the priests
to whom we are indebted in any other way,
in particular for N. and N.

O Jesus,
keep them all close to our hearts
and bless them abundantly in time and eternity.
Amen.

Oh, happy day

I was hoping that a gold chasuble I ordered from The House of Hansen would arrive sometime this week. It arrived today, and I could not be more happy about it.

I have to go play chess at the high school in a few minutes; I'll post pictures of the chasuble after lunch. I think you'll like it.

A new look

From Across the Net, Ellen noticed yesterday the blog has a new look (for those of who using a reader program, the blog now has a white background with black text, a reversal of the original look).

I changed this yesterday with the intention of making it easier to print and copy/paste items. I'm still working on the header; it doesn't seem to want to put the picture of the church and offices behind the text. It will place the text or the picture, but not both, even when it says it will do both.

Links

There is a blatant attack on the Catholic Church being launched now in the State of Connecticut, which Peter, of Ubi Petrus, discusses in his post, "Connectictut, how thou hast fallen."
Update: The American Papist provides us with a good round up of the Connecticut affair.

Jimmy Akin has a good review of the media reports concerning President Obama's executive order allowing federal funding for the destruction of new embryos for embryonic stem cell research.