30 December 2009

Around the blogosphere

• Over at the New Liturgical Movement, Shawn Tribe has posted a few Romanesque-inspired altars. I especially like the first and fourth ones.

• A Catholic Mom in Hawaii, a.k.a., Esther, passes on the news that St. Anthony Messenger Press is looking for stories about how a priest helped you grow in faith, challenged you in some way, or strengthened your faith.

Remember...

...it's still Christmas!


27 December 2009

Stupidity is

...looking for an alb in the sacristy closet and, not finding it there, realizing you are already wearing it. It's going to be a long day.

26 December 2009

In honor of the day


Sadness is

...having your escape from reality completely blocked.

It has been snowing much of the day here in Virden and the snow really picked up - or fell harder - sometime during the course of the evening Mass.

Since I had a few errands to run in Springfield, I decided tonight would be a good night to swing by the Hawaiian BBQ in an attempt to escape the reality of winter and dream of a happier place.

You can imagine my sadness when I pulled into the parking lot only to find the lights of the restaurant off. They were closed today yet for Christmas.

There once was a time when I saw the beauty of a freshly fallen snow, but no more. Snow may still be fun for sledding and having a snowball fight, but I see now beauty in it. In all honesty, if I were never to see another snowfall I would not be disappointed.

To add to the sorrow of the night, it seems as though people have forgotten how to drive in snow, even with no ice on the roads. I had to follow someone who insisted on staying twenty miles an hour below the posted speed limit, even in towns. It was most aggravating.

Happy winter. Humbug!

Looking for a picture

During the celebration of Christmas Mass at Midnight here in Virden, I heard someone snap a picture while I was at the altar.

If you, dear photographer, are reading this post, would you be so kind as to e-mail the photo to me at pastor[at]sacredheart[dot]dio[dot]org? Many thanks!

Remember the Octave!

Whereas today the secular world is already tossing Christmas trees and other decorations to the curb with yesterday's wrapping paper, Mother Church continues to celebrate Christmas Day for the next seven calendar days.

The observance of an octave - a period of eight days - is a way of drawing out a solemnity (in this case the birth of Christ) so as to mine its riches more deeply. The beauty of Christmas cannot be exhausted in one short day; there is simply too much to it!

I urge you, dear friends, not to give in to the spirit of the world and of this age! Do not been done with Christmas so soon, as though it were just another day! Sit with it. Stay with it. Pray with it. Mine every jewel and gem from this holy day that you can and bask in the light of the Christ Child! Do you find his beauty so repulsive that you want to be done with him?

Keep your trees decorated and your lights lit. Keep the nativity sets displayed as we await the visitation of the Magi from east. Even now they are making their journey and will arrive in eleven days. Say to the world, today a Savior has been for you who is Christ and Lord!

Remember the Octave! Remember, we are not secularists; we are Catholic!

Linkin' around the blogosphere

...it's a happy holiday. (If hear the melody for "Rockin' around the Christmas tree," you're on the right track.)
  • For your Christmas cheer, Mac McLernon, who blogs over at Mulier Fortis, has posted a reply from the North Pole for an order for the gift of the first day of Christmas. I hope she posts more like this for each of the twelve days of Christmas!
  • The Crescat wants to make it clear that she was not in the Vatican City State for Christmas and she's getting an extra special gift this Christmas (the rest of us might not be too far behind her).

25 December 2009

When was Jesus born?

For some years now various "experts" have been telling us that Jesus was, in all likelihood, not born on the twenty-fifth day of December. These experts tell us that the Church supplanted the pagan celebrations of the winter solstice with the celebrations of the birth of Christ.

I questioned these claims when first I heard them and wondered how the Church could simply declare the date of Christ's birth when surely there were those at the time who - if the date were false - would have known otherwise.

Fr. Longenecker directs us to an excellent article refuting such a claim. There is, however, one correction that must be made to the article. The author, Andrew McGowen, says: "The earliest mention of December 25 as Jesus’ birthday comes from a mid-fourth-century Roman almanac that lists the death dates of various Christian bishops and martyrs."

Just a few days ago, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that, in actuality, the earliest mention of December 25 as the date of Jesus' birth (at least that has come down to us) is found in the writings of Hippolytus of Rome around the year A.D. 204.

Homily - 25 December 2009

The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord
Mass at Midnight


Bethlehem. The City of David. It seems so far away from us, but it is not really all that far removed from us. It is here in our midst this night as we hear the words of the angels, “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord” (Luke 2:11).

This truly is “good news of great joy,” for it means that in this holy Child born of the Virgin that “God has visited his people” (Luke 2:10; Luke 7:16). Can this really be? It is a wondrous and astounding greeting the angels bring to us; is it true? Surely this question was found in the thoughts of those shepherds.

When the angels left them, the shepherds “said to one another, ‘Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place” (Luke 2:15).

Dear brothers and sisters, this night we, too, have gone to Bethlehem, for “today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). We, too, have gone to see what the shepherds saw, to behold the Child whom Mary wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger (cf. Luke 2:7).

What wondrous love is this! “The grace of God has appeared” (Titus 2:11)! Tonight we see “the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:13-14).

This night a savior is born for us, he who is Emmanuel (cf. Matthew 1:23). God is with us! He is not far from us, but here in our midst. The Creator of all things has made himself a creature and entered his creation. This

is a message that cannot leave us indifferent. If it is true, it changes everything. If it is true, it also affects me. Like the shepherds, then, I too must say: Come on, I want to go to Bethlehem to see the Word that occurred there.

If we go to Bethlehem, we, too, will see the Christ Child. We, too, will be invited to receive him, to worship him, to love him.

The shepherds recognized the truth of the angels greeting because they saw the promised sign: “you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). The sign given them is nothing spectacular or miraculous, but a sign of the mysterious humility of God. God makes himself small; he makes himself an infant so that we might touch him and give our love to him.

It is such a simple sign and yet one that the shepherds “went in haste to see” (Luke 2:16). Abandoning everything they went in search of a baby boy and found him just as they were told. Have we left also in haste, or are our thoughts wandering away from us this night?

The shepherds knew what was most important, what matters most. Placing all else after their search for God, they went in haste to find him. Tending their sheep was certainly important – indeed, it was their livelihood! – but worshipping God is still more important; it is most important. From these simple shepherds “we should learn the inner freedom to put other tasks in second place – however important they may be – so as to make our way towards God, to allow him into our lives and into our time.” We, like the shepherds, must make haste in our search for God, placing everything after this.

Even as we set out towards him, we know that he has already come toward us, that he continually comes toward us. Before he ascended to the Father, he promised his Apostles, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). It was the Lord’s way of answering their plea, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over” (Luke 24:29).

Gazing upon the Child of Bethlehem, do we not also say, “Stay with us”? Do we not want the Lord to remain with us so that he his love might always be in our hearts?

Centuries ago, Origen asked, “Indeed, what use would it be to you that Christ once came in the flesh if he did not enter your soul? Let us pray that he may come to us each day, that we may able to say: I live, yet it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20).”

Through the Blessed Sacrament, dear friends, the Lord Jesus remains with us always and enters into our souls, changing us into himself. It is a mystery already revealed at his birth.

Jesus, the “bread of life,” was born in the city of David, in Bethlehem (John 6:35). Having no room in the inn, the Virgin Mary “laid him in a manger,” a food trough for the animals (Luke 2:7). The name of the city of his birth, Bethlehem, means “the house of bread.” The Bread of Life was born in the House of Bread and placed in the manger. He has come to us to enter into us, to live in us that we might “share his life completely.”

How do we arrive at the city of Bethlehem? By going to the altar of the Lord for the celebration of the Mass. The same Lord born in Bethlehem comes to us wherever the Eucharist is celebrated and enters into us when we receive his Body and Blood.

Let us say with the shepherds, Transeamus usque Bethlehem, Let us go to Bethlehem! Yes, let us go to see love made flesh. Let us go to him to receive his gift of himself that produces within us “abundant joy and great rejoicing” (Isaiah 9:2). When we leave this night, let us announce to all we meet: “The Word of God became man; we have seen his glory” (John 1:14)! Amen!

To my dear readers, family and friends:

May the Child of Bethlehem, born for us this day,
fill your hearts with the great joy and peace
that comes from being loved by God.
May you hasten with the shepherds to Bethlehem
to behold your salvation
and be caught up in love of the Word made flesh.
Buon Natale!
Mele Kalikimaka!
Merry Christmas!

24 December 2009

A Christmas must read

Tonight, the Holy Father preached an excellent and moving homily, reflecting on the shepherds who went to see the newborn King. It is, in my estimation, one of his best homilies. Be sure to read it and share it with those you love.

I was about to post my homily for midnight Mass, but now I'm going to revise it significantly.

22 December 2009

For your holiday pleasure

Back in Effingham there is a foreign exchange student from Verona, Italy who apparently thinks rather highly of me. His parents arrived in the U.S. the other day and he wants nothing more than for me to meet them. On my part, I am looking forward to meeting them and will leave for Effingham in just a few minutes to join them for dinner.

Before I go, though, I wanted to share with you a recipe I found for a hot wassail in one of my favorite cookbooks: Hawaii's Favorite Pineapple Recipes. I picked it up at the Dole Plantation during my last visit. If couldn't be simpler to make and it's very tasty, especially during this time of year.

The wassail includes the following ingredients:

4 cups unsweetened apple juice
3 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
Combine the ingredients in a pot and simmer for about 10 minutes until hot. Stain the wassail into mugs and top with a slice of lemon.

I served it last night at a meeting and again today at lunch. I've not yet heard any complaints about it.

Enjoy!

I may need a dog

After Mass this morning I spent some time in the church talking things through our choir director and when I returned to the rectory I was surprised not to be greeted by a dog.

I'm not sure why I was surprised since I don't presently have a dog by which to have been greeted.

I suppose it may be time to really consider getting a dog. I'm thinking a beagle, a German shepherd or a lab (either golden, chocolate or black). What do you think?

21 December 2009

From the mouths of babes

Last evening we had our Advent Penance Service at Sacred Heart Parish.

Three of my brother priests assisted me and each of us heard confessions for a solid 75 minutes each, without any lull; it was quite remarkable. I've no idea where so many penitents came from for such a small parish; I think we had more people present last night than we have parishioners! God be praised!

One of the moms in the parish told me that as she brought her family to the church last night she reviewed with her children how to go to confession and remarked that there would be different priests present that he might they not know.

One of her boys thought for moment and said, "I think I'll go to regular Father." She found it amusing that I didn't have a name, just "regular Father." It is amusing, but also quite profound.

At the altar and in the confessional the priest acts in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. In this way, he himself does not matter. When the action is done and words spoken the sacrament happens. He is just a "regular Father."

19 December 2009

Just what I always wanted

As children, we were always encouraged to make a Christmas list so that Santa might know what he should bring to leave under our tree.

A great variety of things often ended up on my list, from Legos to roller blades to video games to chocolate covered cherries, but never did I ask for suspected terrorists, which makes the following report seem just a bit odd:
The decision to house both federal inmates and no more than 100 detainees
from Guantanamo Bay Detention Center at a largely unused prison in northwestern
Illinois should be viewed as a “billion-dollar Christmas gift for the people”
there, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said Friday [more].

Regardless of whether the people of Thomas are in favor of this decision, LaHood's comparison strikes me as a bit over the top.

18 December 2009

Fr. Barron on healthcare and "pro-choice"

Just in time for Advent!

A friend sent me a link to the movie, Born of Hope, a Lord of the Rings fan film. It's an excellent film lasting just over an hour:

A scattered people, the descendents of storied sea kings of the ancient West, struggle to survive in a lonely wilderness as a dark force relentlessly bends its will toward their destruction. Yet amidst these valiant, desperate people, hope remains. A royal house endures unbroken from father to son.

This hour long original drama is set in the time before the War of the Ring and tells the story of the DĂșnedain, the Rangers of the North, before the return of the King. Inspired by only a couple of paragraphs written by Tolkien in the appendices of the Lord of the Rings we follow Arathorn and Gilraen, the parents of Aragorn, from their first meeting through a turbulent time in their people's history.
Here the trailer:



I enjoyed it this morning as I attended to a bit of paper work.

17 December 2009

Looking for something different?

Over the course of years in parishes, priests grow close to certain families and with some of them they remain friends even after being assigned to a different parish.

One such family invited me to join them on Thanksgiving, and since my family gathered the evening before I happily accepted.

I ate there a dish that I had not heard of before: scalloped pineapple. Now, to be sure, when I first saw it, I was a bit taken aback and didn't quite know what to think of it. But, I thought, I've never met a pineapple I haven't liked and tried it. It was great!

Here's the recipe:

1 can pineapple tidbits in juice drained
4 slices of cubed bread
2 beaten eggs
pinch salt
2 Tablespoons lemon Juice
1/4 C milk
1 stick melted butter
3/4 C (or less) sugar

Spray 8x8 baking dish with Pam. Mix pineapple and bread and spread in pan. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over pineapple. Bake at 350 for 30-35 min until lightly browned.

Don't be afraid; give it a try!

16 December 2009

Warm up with Dr Pepper


Since it is so cold outside, why not warm up with nice, hot Dr Pepper?

It couldn't be simpler. Just warm up the contents of a can in a saucepan or in the microwave and add a fresh slice of lemon.

You could also try a Dr Pepper wassail as you go awassailing. Or how about a nice Dr Pepper punch for your next Christmas party?

15 December 2009

Have you prayed for your priest today?

Yesterday morning I awoke with the beginning of a cold, which seems to have settled in by the time I awoke this morning.

Knowing how long it takes my already weakened immune system to defeat a cold - and not havinig a lot on the agenda today - I have spent the day napping, resting and reading. One of the books I picked is the Sermons of the Cure of Ars, Saint John Marie Vianney, patron of this Year for Priests proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI.

In the first sermon collected in the book, Saint John said to his people:

...I am going to show you this [the dreadful state of a lukewarm soul] so clearly that perhaps many among you will be hurt by it. But that will matter little to me, for I am always going to what I ought to tell you, and then you will do what you wish about it...
The man of God says this not because of a callous spirit, but because of his zeal for souls. He knows that he, a priest of Jesus Christ, must proclaim the truth to his people, that he must call them to a life of repentance and conversion. To do so he must point to sin wherever he finds it, thus calling people to change their lives.

It is this pointing out of sin, this demand to turn away from sinful living, that causes people pain because admitting our failures is never easy.

Ultimately, he knows that his duty is to preach to the truth, but that he cannot force anyone to accept it and live by it. Nevertheless, he is duty bound.

I often wonder if too few priests preach in clear and simple terms for fear of offending their hearers. The patron saint of priests never feared offending people; he feared, rather, allowing them to continue living in sin.

Let us pray for all priests, that following the example of the Cure of Ars, that they will realize more and more the great duty that is theirs and always speak what ought to be spoken.

Let us pray, too, that we will heed their words and do what we ought to do.

That said, in just a few minutes I will head north to Chatham to have dinner with a few priests and then hear confessions. Upon my return to Virden, I'll finish up a bit of paperwork and head to bed.

Should I grow a beard for charity?

Last night a friend invited me to join a fundraising effort he is calling "Beardfest 2010."

The rules are simple: beginning February 1st and clean shaven, those participating will grow their beards for forty-five days. A $5 donation will be given by those participating and will be given to a worthy cause yet to be determined (I suggested Catholic Relief Services or Aid to the Church in Need; do you have another suggestion?).

On the fifteenth day, but not before, participants will be allowed to post pictures of their beards to show their progress.

At the end of the contest, a prize will be awarded based on the judgment of the group, who will vote the winning beard on the following: 33% fullness, 33% length, and 33% cleanliness (I'm not sure what happened to the other 1%).

Other prizes may also be awarded, perhaps for the Best Effort or Most Pathetic.

It sounds like a great deal of fun, especially given the final line of the rules: "Have fun, and let the smack talking begin."

I am very tempted to participate. What do you think: should I do it?

The contest would begin before Ash Wednesday (February 17th) and end before Easter (April 4th).

You can cast your electronic ballot in the poll on the sidebar to the right. You have six days to do so.

14 December 2009

Standing or sitting? Chair or Ambo?

In my post over the weekend about the scaffolding in the sanctuary, I mentioned that "ordinarily I preach from the chair."

Peter, who blogs at Ubi Petrus, raised the following question:

I've only heard of Bishops preaching from the chair (or, in their case their Cathedra). Is this generally allowed for anyone or is it a special allowance given your health? I'm just curious as I've never seen it done before.
His is a question I thought others might as well.

According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, "the priest, standing at the chair or at the ambo itself or, when appropriate, in another suitable place, gives the homily" (n. 136).

Not only is it licit for a priest to preach from the chair, it would seem that the ordinary place from which to preach is the chair, even though most homilies are given today from the ambo.

Only rarely do I preach away from the chair or ambo, moving about as some priests do, since that would seem to be a series of suitable places and not one place. That, and it just drives me crazy; I hate having to follow someone moving about when I'm trying to listen to them and I know I am not the only one (I also know there are those who prefer a moving target).

The distinction that Peter raises, I think, rests on the posture of the priest who is preaching; is he sitting or standing?

A priest is to stand at the chair when he preaches. A Bishop, on the other hand, according to the Ceremonial of Bishops, "gives the homily seated in the chair (cathedra), unless he prefers some other place in order to be easily seen and heard by all" (n. 142).

We see, then, that priests preach standing while Bishops preach seated, in keeping with the ancient custom of teachers.

And then there is me.

This past April, I wrote to the Most Reverend George J. Lucas, now Archbishop of Omaha, requesting permission to preach while seated in the chair, on occassion, for reasons of health. At the time, my arthritis was acting up quite painfully in my hips and I am under no disillusion that the arthritis will go away any time soon.

His Excellency answered my request, saying, "I give you permission to preach the homily at Mass while seated, when you feel that this is necessary. I will leave that to your judgment." As I understand it, this permission remains in force, unless another Bishop should revoke it.

Prior to making my request to then-Bishop Lucas, I had already preached while seated two or three times because of my arthritis, hence the reason I wrote to him in the first place.

I find it much easier to preach while seated. It feels, to me, at least, more natural and I think my delivery comes across more easily, comfortably and enthusiastically.

I did preach from the ambo Saturday evening, but found I didn't like it at all and returned to the chair on Sunday morning. The ambo just seems to get in the way.

13 December 2009

Homily - 6 December 2009

The Second Sunday of Advent (C)

Dear brother and sisters,

Over the past several weeks we have seen here an increase in the number of people attending Sunday Mass. I gladly welcome the return of so many - as I know you do as well – and with Saint Paul I pray “that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10).

It is this “day of Christ,” his glorious return at the end of time, for which Holy Mother Church seeks to prepare us through the observance of the season of Advent. She teaches us to be ever vigilant because we do not know the day or the hour of his return (cf. Matthew 24:36). How, then, do we best prepare ourselves to welcome the Lord when at last when he comes? We do so by heeding the cry of the Forerunner of the Lord, Saint John the Baptist, to “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3).

If we are to repent of our sins we must “discern what is of value” and what can be more valuable than the very reason for which we have gathered here today: the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saint Paul warns us sternly that we must receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner:
Whoever therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself (I Corinthians 11:27-29).

It is this admonition that tempers my joy at the return of so many with a deep sadness, for I fear that many who have returned after being away from the Holy Mass for so long have been receiving Holy Communion without first making a sincere sacramental confession.

We know that purposefully missing Mass on Sundays and holy days is mortally sinful and that receiving the Eucharist when not in the state of grace – as the Apostle instructs us – compounds the gravity of the situation with the sin of sacrilege.

This concerns me greatly. When I was appointed your pastor I was entrusted with the care of your souls and my chief duty is to do what I can to help you grow in holiness and lead you to heaven. I implore you most earnestly to examine your lives before receiving Holy Communion, lest you eat and drink judgment on yourself.

My brothers and sisters, this is a most serious situation and I urge you with all my heart to get to confession as soon as possible. I urge you to do so because “God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God” (Baruch 5:7). We must tear down the mountain of our pride, with the Lord’s help, that he might “remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy.”

In these holy days, as we prepare for the day the day when “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6), let us beg the Lord for the grace of true repentance that the words of the Psalmist might be fulfilled in us: “Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves” (Psalm 126:6).

When we enter the confessional we enter carrying the seeds of our repentance, the tears of sorrow for having failed to return the love of the Lord Jesus Christ in neglecting the love of God and of neighbor. After our encounter with the Lord, the fruit of the seeds we have sown, we carry the sheaves of the grace and mercy of God.

Inside the confessional, the penitent soul “take[s] off [the] robe of mourning and misery” (Baruch 5:1) and the Lord purifies the baptismal garment, making it “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18), and clothes the penitent with “the splendor of God” and “the glory of the eternal name” (Baruch 5:1, 2).

This great Sacrament commonly goes by three names: Confession, Penance and Reconciliation.

It is called confession because that is what happens. The penitent confesses the sins he or she has committed in kind and in number, as best as can recalled.

It is also called penance, because a penance is given to the penitent as a means of demonstrating sorrow for his or her sins and as way to try to make right what was made wrong, however large or small the penance may be.

This Sacrament is also – and more commonly in our day - called reconciliation because through it we are reconciled with God and with one another because the Lord himself removes what stands between us and him and each other. We are able to raise our eyes to God and to look each other in the eyes again because through the Sacrament the obstacles are taken away by the grace of God.

Let us examine ourselves in these holy days that we might be filled with the joy of the Lord and stand pure and blameless before him. Through our reception of the sacraments may he “teach us to judge wisely the things of earth and to love the things of heaven,” that when he comes again we may lift our eyes to him in joy and behold the power, the splendor and the loveliness of his face. Amen!

This should lighten your day


Gaudete!

12 December 2009

I haven't done this before

I have offered the Holy Mass in many settings, but I have yet to do so in a construction zone. Soon I will have done so.

We are in the process of replacing not only some of the lights in the sanctuary, but the sockets, as well:
As Murphy's Law would have it, the work is taking longer than was hoped so some scaffolding remains in the sanctuary, pushed as best out of the way as possible, though it will still be a distraction:

I almost wish there was another set of scaffolding on the opposite side, but I may like symmetry just a bit too much.

Ordinarily I preach from the chair. This weekend I think I'll preach from the ambo. It might not be quest as distracting.

On a mostly unrelated matter, I will try to post last weekend's homily this evening. After each Mass I did some touch ups to it on paper but have yet to type them in. I hope to finish that tonight and, if I do, will post it for you.

Homily - 13 December 2009

The Third Sunday of Advent (C)

Dear brothers and sisters,

When the Holy Father Benedict XVI visited this nation, he reminded us of what he wrote in his encyclical letter Spe salvi, that “the one who has hope lives differently.” Who, then, is the one who has hope and what does his life look like?

The hope of the Christian is not as Denethor said to Gandalf as the armies of Mordor encircled the city of Gondor: “[T]hy hope is but ignorance.” Such a hope is founded only on possibilities, the chance of victory, but the hope of Christians is founded on no mere possibility, but on a certainty. It is founded on the certainty of the Birth of Jesus Christ at Bethlehem and of his glorious return at the end of time. What is more, it is founded on the certainty that “the Lord is near,” present in the Scriptures, in his sacred ministers, in his people and, above all, in the Holy Eucharist (Philippians 4:5).

The one who has hope – true and authentic hope and not simply optimism – is the one who has God, or, rather, who is possessed by God and has known his love. The hope of Christians is founded on their union with Christ, who has baptized them “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). This is why the one who has hope lives differently. They are to live, as Saint John the Baptist teaches, lives of generosity, honesty and humility, in imitation of Christ Jesus (cf. Luke 3:10-14).

It is God himself who “is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety,” who was born at Bethlehem and placed in a manger, crucified for the sins of humanity, rose from the dead and will come again.

The one who has hope lives differently because he lives not only hoping in God but also lives in the joy of God’s love. On the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus said, “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). This joy, my friends, comes from God who is our hope (cf. Psalm 71:5).

Absence, they say, makes the heart grow fonder. Whenever we learn a loved one whom we have not seen in some time plans to visit us, our hearts rejoice at their expected return. So should it be with us who await the return of Christ our King.

Everyone who lives the season of Advent well cannot help but notice and be almost overwhelmed by the great hopefulness of these days as we await the coming of the Lord. This expectant hope produces within the soul a deep pocket of joy seemingly ready to burst forth and overflow. It is for this reason that the readings today are so marked by the themes of joy, rejoicing and gladness.

The prophet Zephaniah exclaims, “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel” (Zephaniah 3:14)! Isaiah calls us to “cry out with joy and gladness” (Isaiah 12:6). Saint Paul tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). Even the opening prayer, which collects all of our individual prayers and raises them before the throne of God, prays that we might “experience the joy of salvation.”

What is the cause of this joy, what is the reason for our rejoicing, if not the certain knowledge that “the LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals” (Zephaniah 3:17). This, brothers and sisters, is the hope of Christians, founded in the certainty that Christ has come “to bring glad tidings to the poor” (Isaiah 61:1).

The glad tidings that he brought was the good news of victory over sin and death through his total giving of self that has won for us the forgiveness of sins. With the prophet Isaiah we can say, “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior” (Isaiah 12:2).

This same Lord who came among us so many centuries ago, who gives us courage and strength by his presence among us even now, will also come in his glory to judge the living and the dead. This realization gives the season of Advent a profound sense of joyful hope and at the same time it gives it a penitential character. It is, one might say, a spirit of joyful penance or of penitential joy, for while we know that he is coming we also know that not all of us are ready to receive him and greet him when he comes.

This is precisely why the Lord gives us these holy days to prepare for his coming and to meet him in the Sacrament of Penance to be reconciled with him and our brothers and sisters. This requires, first of all, an awareness of the reality of our sins. Each of us is sinful and has committed sin, whether great or small.

Too often today it is said, “I’m a good person. I haven’t stolen anything, killed anyone or committed adultery. I don’t have any real sins.” Rubbish! We have all sinned and are in need of his mercy, which he wishes to bestow upon us in the confessional. Let us hasten there that the words of Isaiah might be fulfilled in us: “With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).

Many will say that their sins are always the same and wonder about the point of going to confession, if it does any good at all. Pope Benedict once put it this way:
It is true: Our sins are always the same, but we clean our homes, our
rooms, at least once a week, even if the dirt is always the same; in order to
live in cleanliness, in order to start again. Otherwise, the dirt might not be
seen but it builds up. Something similar can be said about the soul, for me
myself; If I never go to confession, my soul is neglected and in the end I am
pleased with myself and no longer understand that I must always work hard to
improve, that I must make progress. And this cleansing of the soul which Jesus
gives us in the sacrament of confession helps us to make our consciences more
alert, more open, and hence, it also helps us to mature spiritually and as human
persons.

By going to confession on a regular basis, even if confessing the same sins again and again, we are strengthened with the Lord’s grace, and this is always a cause of joy and gladness.

Let us seek his mercy so that we might rejoice always in the Lord, confident that he is near, and so celebrate the festival of his Birth “with love and thanksgiving.” Amen!

Have you wondered what seminary life is like?

10 December 2009

Preparations and unexpected findings

This morning it was made known to me that no one seemed to be aware where predecessor placed the infant Jesus that belongs to the Nativity set that will soon be displayed in the church. The task fell to me to try and locate him.

When I returned to Virden this evening after running a few errands in Springfield and having dinner with a couple of college friends, I went over to the church to begin the search.

I looked through every cupboard, cabinet and drawer I could find, but to no avail. I did find one infant with two broken hands - he is missing several fingers - but I am certain this cannot be the one for which I was looking. (After Christmas he'll have to be sent away for repairs.)

When I was about to leave the church and give up the search, I remember a tabernacle built into one of the cabinets in my sacristy. I do not know why it is there. At any rate, I decided maybe - just maybe - the holy infant might be in the tabernacle. Stranger things have happened.

After searching and searching for the key - and trying numerous possibilities - I finally found the right one and opened the tabernacle. Inside were three chalices, quite a few other keys and, sure enough, the Baby Jesus.

Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20. I suppose a tabernacle should have been the first place I looked for Jesus.

09 December 2009

Good advice

The esteemed Fr. Zuhlsdorf suggests the proper response - some of it serious and some of it humorous - to disturbances at the Holy Mass.

Sad news

When times turn difficult and expectations remain, you can never quite be certain of people's actions, especially given the sinful condition in which we live.

This morning the Springfield State Journal-Register carries the sad story of stolen Christmas gifts from a Catholic Church:

Police are looking for the Grinch who showed up at Church of the Little Flower on Tuesday and stole about 100 toys that parishioners donated for children in need this Christmas.

The Rev. John Ossola said the toys were mostly in plastic store bags underneath an “angel tree” in the vestibule of the church. Parishioners had been bringing in toys for about three weeks. Only about 30 remain [more].

08 December 2009

New furniture

Courtesy of an anonymous benefactor, a new kitchen table and chairs arrived today for the rectory:

Last week I was told to go to the local furniture store and select a table and chairs for the kitchen and someone would provide them for the rectory. I am grateful to this anonymous donor; thank you!

I selected a high table and chairs - something like a bistro style - to help balance out the lack of counter space in the kitchen. Now when I need to slice tomatoes and combine ingredients for a pasta I will be able to do so with plenty of room at the table.

This could be helpful

His Hermeneuticalness Father Finigan passes on the happy news that New Advent now has a new biblical feature presenting the Greek, Latin and English texts of the Scriptures on the same screen.

In honor of the day

O Holy Mary, Immaculately Conceived,
receive the prayers of the faithful
of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois
who have placed themselves under your patronage.


Present our humble supplications to your Son and intercede for us.


Pray for us, dear Mother,
that we might soon have a Bishop
to sit in the seat of the Cathedral dedicated to you.

Transforming a worship space

In a post at the Creative Minority Report, Denis McNamara, one of my professors at Mundelein Seminary and at the Liturgical Institute, shows what can be done to a plain church with a small budget, strong leadership and a good architect.

07 December 2009

Sometimes people do listen

It seems that at least once a day I wonder if people listen to a word I say. I'm sure you wonder the same about yourself from time to time, especially you parents.

You know what I mean. I ask a server before Mass to bring something to me and he or she simply looks at me. I ask the server at Subway for a twelve-inch tuna on wheat and she gives me instead a six-inch turkey on wheat (don't laugh; it happened). You get the idea.

Before I left St. Anthony's in Effingham, the primary grades (kindergarten through third grades) wanted to say good-bye to me and presented me with a big banner and numerous letters. It was an enjoyable and brief time with them.

Such occassions are always moments to address a lot of people all at once (even little people) and I rarely shy away from such moments.

Yesterday I received a request from one of the parents seeking help recruiting the high school students to decorate luminaries for life. She wrote:


Before you left Effingham you must have said something to the kindergarteners about how you'll pray for them if they'll pray for you. Well, that certainly stuck in my son Henry's head because ever since then he's been consistently including you in our daily family prayers. Did you realize the extent of your influence on 5 year olds?
I did indeed tell them I would pray for them every day if they prayed for me every day, but I certainly had no idea of my influence on five-year olds (I barely know how to talk to them!).

It looks like I'll have to add another specific person to my daily prayer list. Perhaps one day he'll be a priest.
Over at the Creative Minority Report, in a great piece of satire, Patrick Archbold demonstrates the absurdity of the "personally opposed" position using unconventional circumstances.

06 December 2009

Yes, Virginia, there is a sword in the stone

I have been a great fan of the legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. I was fascinated by the stories as a boy and now I am particularly interested in trying to discover just who this "king" upon whom these legends are based was. One of my dream vacations would be to drive around the British Isles in search of King Arthur and his pursuits.

Saint Francis of Assisi, too, being a trabadour of sorts, must also have enjoyed the legends because he once referred to his friars as his Knights of the Round Table (one of these days I'll write an article about this).

I bring this up today because the Lion and the Cardinal has a post about about the sword of Saint Galgano:


You are eyes do not receive you. That is indeed a sword thrust into a stone.
Saint Galgano was born in 1148 in Chiusdino. Saint Michael the Archangel twice appeared to him in a dream when he was twenty years old, initiating a great conversion in the life of the soldier.
Galgano eventually became a hermit. After Pope Alexander III (probably in 1180) urged him to build a monastery, Galgano returned to his hermitage and put his sword into a stone, which, we are told, received the sword easily up to the hilt, thus forming a cross.
Galgano died in 1181, the same year Saint Francis of Assisi was born.

Handel sung by silent monks

The following video comes to us from the Creative Minority Report via Mac McLernon, who blogs over at Mulier Fortis.

I think you will enjoy it:

02 December 2009

Worth the wait

Today's dedication of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception went very well; thank you for your prayers!

At this point I'm a bit too worn out to offer any decent reflections for you, but I've posted a few pictures I took throughout the day in my Facebook albums.

You might also be interested in the Springfield State Journal-Register's story (as before, feel free to ignore the comments) and WCIS' story.

Be careful where you sit

When I was in the seminary I took two quarters of Latin. It was not enough but I could not fit more into my schedule.

The professor was one of my favorites, a witty, sarcastic priest with a monotone teaching voice that could put you to sleep in moments who taught via tangents (which is part of why I enjoyed him), but if you stayed awake you were guaranteed many good chuckles. Uproarious laughter, though rare, was also a good possibility.

At any rate, I sat in the back row and was part of what the professor referred to as the turba, the unruly crowd.

I have always enjoyed plopping down at a table in the corner or the back of a room with good friends making various remarks of humorous quality, quietly, of course, and generally unnoticed by the crowd. Such was my intention today at the dinner preceeding the dedication of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

A priest friend and I were about to join a table when we realized it was full. I suggested we start a new table and so to the empty corner table we went where we could make humorous comments and where I could also take pictures.

No sooner did we sit down than His Excellency the Most Reverend George J. Lucas, Archbishop of Omaha, pointed to the table at which we just sat, saying, "There's room over here." Before I knew it I was sitting next to His Emminence Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago and his secretary Fr. Dan who's-last-name-I-never-remember, and with His Excellency Edward Braxton, Bishop of Belleville, and His Excellency John Gaydos, Bishop of Jefferson City. I really should be more careful in the future where I sit.

As one of the Masters of Ceremonies at the seminary, I had the opportunity to chat with Cardinal George several times and I always enjoy visiting with him. Just before I excused myself to return to the Cathedral he said the next time he's near Virden he'll stop by and say hello. I'll have to send him a note telling him he's always welcome; I doubt a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church has stopped in Virden before.

Though I was not able to make too many comments during the dinner, I did get a couple of pictures of Archbishop Lucas with the crozier the priests of Springfield in Illinois gave him as a farewell gift: