28 February 2010

Pardon me

My dear readers,

When I was busier I was far better at - and more motivated to - write out my homily for you each week and post it here. I am not quite sure what the difference is, to be honest, but I have my hunches.

Someone wise once said, "If you want something done, give it to someone who's too busy." The phrase has become something of a proverb and, of course, is entirely right, as only busy people can know.

The busier we - and I - are, the more likely we are to be motivated to get projects tackled and the more efficient we will be in doing so, for the time is, as we say, of the essence.

I have no written homily to offer you again this week, though I hope to type it up later this evening or perhaps tomorrow evening. In its place, I will leave you something better, something from the Evangelical Doctor, Saint Anthony of Padua:

Let us say, then: Jesus took Peter and James and John. These three Apostles, the special companions of Jesus Christ, may be understood as three virtues of our soul, without which no one can climb the mountain of light, the excellence of holy conversation. Peter is the one who acknowledged, James is "the supplanter," John is "the grace of the Lord." Jesus took PEter, and you too must take Peter, you who believe in Jesus and hope for salvation from Jesus. Peter is the acknowledgment of your sins, which consist in three things: pride in the heart, lust in the flesh and avarice in the world. Take James, too. He is the supplanting of these vices, so that you may tread the pride of your spirit under the foot of reason; so that you may mortify the lust of your flesh, and repress the vanity of the deceitful world. And take John, the grace of the Lord, which stands at the door and knocks, so that it may enlighten you to recognize the evil things you have done, and help you in the good things you have begun to do (Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent, 3).

27 February 2010

Please, in your charity, please pray for the people of Chile affected by this morning's earthquake and those who will be affected by the generated tsunami.

25 February 2010

Archbishop Vlazny on Father Damien

His Excellency the Most Reverend John G. Vlazny, Archbishop of Portland in Oregon, recently discussed Saint Damien of Moloka'i in his column in the Catholic Sentinel.

His Excellency writes, with my emphases and comments:

During this Year of the Priest, I have taken advantage of opportunities to write about priests outstanding in their life and ministry whom the church has honored with canonization and/or beatification [an excellent idea]. On my recent trip to Belgium, I was privileged to celebrate the Eucharist at the tomb of one of these great men, Jozef de Veuster, who received the name of Damien in the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Damien was canonized during this Year of the Priest by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009 [and a beautiful day it was]. Celebrating his canonization and visiting his tomb within less than four months prompted me to write about him and showcase his pastoral zeal as an inspiration for the rest of us during these early days of Lent [one day I hope to make it to his tomb].

In his homily at the Mass of canonization last October, Pope Benedict had this to say about St. Damien: “When he was 23 years old, in 1863, he left Flanders, the land of his birth, to proclaim the Gospel on the other side of the world in the Hawaiian Islands. His missionary activity, which gave him such joy, reached its peak in charity. Not without fear and repugnance, he chose to go to the Island of Molokai to serve the lepers who lived there, abandoned by all. Thus he was exposed to the disease from which they suffered. He felt at home with them. The servant of the Word consequently became a suffering servant, a leper with the lepers, for the last four years of his life.”

All good disciples of Jesus eventually come to the realization that the more self-serving their lives seem to become, the less can they consider themselves friends of Jesus Christ. Young Jozef was born in Belgium back in 1840, the seventh child of his family. His dad was a grain trader and wanted Jozef to take over the business on their farm. But Jozef’s dreams lay elsewhere. His older brother was a priest, and at age 18 St. Damien wanted to be a priest, too. He became a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, also described as the Picpus Fathers. He was sent off as a missionary. On the way he came down with typhus but eventually reached the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) in March of 1864 [on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, to be exact]. He became acquainted with the language and the customs of the Hawaiian people and was ordained a priest there in May of the same year.

Damien was no great scholar but he was truly a man of action. In embarking upon his mission to the Hawaiian people he initially regarded them as immoral, uncivilized and overly superstitious people. He traveled extensively in his efforts to convert many of them to Christianity and when asked where he lived, he would point to his horse’s saddle and say “That’s where I live.” St. Damien had a special concern for those who were experiencing great suffering. He was concerned about the mistreatment of the dead, the extensive drinking and gambling among the natives, the abuse of young orphans as well as the extreme prices in the shops. He also felt that lepers deserved better medical care. It was his dream that an ideal Christian community would eventually be established where he would be the father [that should really be the ideal every priest has for his parish]. His concern about the lepers continued to grow. He knew they lived in exile on the volcanic island of Molokai. He told the bishop he wanted to stay among them permanently because he thought this would be the only way he could win the lepers’ trust.

The leper colony was located at Kalawao on Molokai. This location was chosen deliberately because the village was very hard to reach. Because the lepers were placed in quarantine, the village was a kind of natural prison. When the quarantine laws were strengthened, St. Damien himself became an exile and a prisoner of his missionary calling. He was excluded from the outside world just like those whom he served. By January of 1885 Damien wrote, “I am still in good health… except my left foot, which has lost almost all sensation for three years now. It is a hidden poison which threatens my whole body.” He hoped he could get over his sickness or keep it under control, but more and more he would address his parishioners with these words, “We lepers.”

In concluding his reflections on the day of St. Damien’s canonization, Pope Benedict stated, “He invites us to open our eyes to the forms of leprosy that disfigure the humanity of our brethren and still today call for the charity of our presence as servants, beyond that of our generosity.” Every Lent we are called to embrace the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and good works. Many Catholics are generous, but the example of priests like St. Damien challenges us to take to heart the words of our Holy Father which invite us to move beyond the “comfort zones” of our own practical generosity. Certainly we can place some limits on the sharing of our time, treasure and talents, but the season of Lent asks us to re-examine those limits and to see if it might be possible to extend them somewhat, even to the point where they are less than comfortable, maybe even where they hurt.

It was the miraculous healing of a Hawaiian woman with cancer that led to the canonization of St. Damien. He himself died of leprosy at the age of 49. The fame of his life lived among the lepers led to an intensive study of Hansen’s disease (leprosy), which eventually led to a cure. In speaking to the International Theological Commission last December, the Holy Father reminded this learned assembly that, in the history of the church, many men and women who may not have been so scholarly were, on the other hand, capable of the humility that led them to reach the truth about the great mysteries of our faith. He mentioned St. Damien and described him as one of those “little people who are also wise,” from whom we draw inspiration because “they were touched in the depths of their hearts.” Small people like Father Damien often become great saints.

The priests who serve you in our parishes across western Oregon typically attract headlines or prompt letters to the bishop only for their misdeeds, not for their faithful service. They may be “little people” in the eyes of the world, and perhaps in your eyes, too, but every time they touch the depths of any person’s heart, they become great in the eyes of God. As Damien was a leper among lepers, we priests today are sinners among sinners. Please pray for all of us this Lent that, in spite of ourselves, we too will always want to be there for others, not just for ourselves, confident in the mercy of a loving God.

Thank you, Archbishop!

Capello tip to Mozlink.

Is the Bible right?

The Associated Press is carrying at a story by Matt Friedman titled, "Archeologist sees proof for Bible in ancient walls."

Here follows the text with my emphases and comments:

JERUSALEM -- An Israeli archaeologist said Monday that ancient fortifications recently excavated in Jerusalem date back 3,000 years to the time of King Solomon and support the biblical narrative about the era [notice first the underlying presumption that the overall historical narrative of the Scriptures is false. At least the bias is out in the open].

If the age of the wall is correct, the finding would be an indication that Jerusalem was home to a strong central government that had the resources and manpower needed to build massive fortifications in the 10th century B.C.

That's a key point of dispute among scholars [I've not seen such a dispute; have you?], because it would match the Bible's account that the Hebrew kings David and Solomon ruled from Jerusalem around that time [from where else would they have ruled?].

While some Holy Land archaeologists support that version of history - including the archaeologist behind the dig, Eilat Mazar - others posit that David's monarchy was largely mythical [I thought this article was about a find from Solomon's reign, who reigned after David...] and that there was no strong government to speak of in that era [I've never heard such a thing; who might I read for such a position?].

Speaking to reporters at the site Monday, Mazar, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, called her find "the most significant construction we have from First Temple days in Israel."

"It means that at that time, the 10th century, in Jerusalem there was a regime capable of carrying out such construction," she said.

Based on what she believes to be the age of the fortifications and their location, she suggested it was built by Solomon, David's son, and mentioned in the Book of Kings [that would be the first Book of Kings (5:15 - 8:66)].

The fortifications, including a monumental gatehouse and a 77-yard (70-meter) long section of an ancient wall, are located just outside the present-day walls of Jerusalem's Old City, next to the holy compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. According to the Old Testament, it was Solomon who built the first Jewish Temple on the site.

That temple was destroyed by Babylonians, rebuilt, renovated by King Herod 2,000 years ago and then destroyed again by Roman legions in 70 A.D. The compound now houses two important Islamic buildings, the golden-capped Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Archaeologists have excavated the fortifications in the past, first in the 1860s and most recently in the 1980s. But Mazar claimed her dig was the first complete excavation and the first to turn up strong evidence for the wall's age: a large number of pottery shards, which archaeologists often use to figure out the age of findings [if her dig has turned up such artifacts, it would seem her "claim" is correct].

Aren Maeir, an archaeology professor at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv, said he has yet to see evidence that the fortifications are as old as Mazar claims. There are remains from the 10th century in Jerusalem, he said, but proof of a strong, centralized kingdom at that time remains "tenuous." [Ah. Here's one archeologist I can read. What makes the proof "tenuous? Either the shards are from the 10th century B.C. or they are not.]

While some see the biblical account of the kingdom of David and Solomon as accurate and others reject it entirely, Maeir said the truth was likely somewhere in the middle.

"There's a kernel of historicity in the story of the kingdom of David," he said. [Why should we believe him over Mazar?]
When the Emperor Justinian dedicated the great Hagia Sophia in Constantinople in A.D. in 537, he reportedly exclaimed, "O Solomon, this day I have outdone thee!" Perhaps we're getting a bit closer to realizing more fully what he meant.

A question on parishes

Quite some time ago (January 14th), a reader wrote in with a question regarding what she read in a Catholic periodical concerning the establishment of a parish "as a personal parish to serve the Hispanic community, rather than a territorial parish with geographic boundaries."

She wondered about the appropriateness of such a decision and how it fosters or works against unity in the Church.

It is an excellent question and one that I regret taking so long to address.

It is a question that is likely not new to our own day and was likely present, in one form or another, in the time of the Apostles.

First, we should consider the definition of a parish. The Code of Canon Law describes a parish as "a certain community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church, whose pastoral care is entrusted to a pastor as its proper pastor under the authority of the diocesan bishop" (c. 515 § 1). In short, a parish is a group of Catholics in a diocese that the bishop has entrusted to the ministry of a priest whom he has appointed pastor to shepherd the parish in the name of the bishop.

There are two kinds of parishes, which are alluded to in the periodical's description, though perhaps not fully explained.

"As a general rule a parish is to be territorial, that is, one which includes all the Christian faithful of a certain territory" (c. 518). This is something we often forget.

Typically, at least in the United States of America, we think of our parish as the one in which we have "registered." Canonically, such registration has no bearing whatever. We belong to the parish in whose boundaries we reside. We are obliged to attend Sunday Mass, but the Church does not tell us where we must fulfill the Sunday obligation. Registering in a parish is simply a way for the parish to know who and where you are.

Even so, "when it is expedient, however, personal parishes are to be established determined by reason of the rite, language, or nationality of the Christian faithful of some territory, or even for some other reason" (c. 518).

This was often the case in many cities in the USA when the Church was being established on these shores. This, regrettably, often led to rivalries between, as in the case in my home of Quincy, between the "German" and the "Irish" parishes. Sometimes parishes have managed to overcome this, remembering that in Christ "there is neither Jew nor Greek," and in other cases they have not done so (Galatians 3:28). This division among Christians, though not intended, has sometimes been a cause of scandal.

Personal parishes, though, are never set up in opposition to one another, but with the aim of leading all people closer to Jesus Christ and to help them grow in holiness, in faith, in hope and in love.

To say that we are all one in Christ is not to say that we are all identical or that our ethnic and national traditions disappear. The Church is universal - catholic; she is present in all cultures and nations and excludes no one who seeks a life of ever-deepening conversion. To belong to the Church also does not require that national customs be dropped.

In some cases personal parishes are established because the pastor a territorial parish cannot speak the language of a particular national group. If he cannot speak their language then the Bishop must find a way to minister to them; hence, the establishment of personal parishes.

With the passage of time, one might hope that personal parishes would no longer be necessary as national groups settle into their new country and culture, while retaining their own culture. Such was the case with the German and Irish immigrants in this country, but it took a good length of time.

Pope Benedict XVI on St. Anthony of Padua

While I was away in Hawaii, the Holy Father Benedict XVI devoted his Wednesday General Audience to the person of Saint Anthony of Padua, the heavenly patron of my previous assignment.

Here follows the text of His Holiness' address, with my emphases and comments:


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Two weeks ago I presented St Francis of Assisi. This morning I would like to speak of another saint who belonged to the first generation of the Friars Minor: Anthony of Padua, or of Lisbon, as he is also called with reference to his native town. He is one of the most popular Saints in the whole Catholic Church, venerated not only in Padua, where a splendid Basilica has been built that contains his mortal remains, but also throughout the world. Dear to the faithful are the images and statues that portray him with the lily a symbol of his purity or with the Child Jesus in his arms, in memory of a miraculous apparition mentioned in several literary sources (we have such a statue here in Sacred Heart church. Just after Archbishop Lucas told I was going to Virden and Girard, I was pleased to find the statue on my unannounced and anonymous visit).

With his outstanding gifts of intelligence, balance, apostolic zeal and, primarily, mystic fervour, Anthony contributed significantly to the development of Franciscan spirituality (This is a remarkable combination of gifts for which we should give thanks to the Lord, and beg him to combine in a few preachers in our own day).

He was born into a noble family in Lisbon in about 1195 and was baptized with the name of Fernando. He entered the Canons who followed the monastic Rule of St Augustine, first at St Vincent's Monastery in Lisbon and later at that of the Holy Cross in Coimbra, a renowned cultural centre in Portugal. He dedicated himself with interest and solicitude to the study of the Bible and of the Church Fathers (this is always a good combination for study), acquiring the theological knowledge that was to bear fruit in his teaching and preaching activities. The event that represented a decisive turning point on his life happened in Coimbra. It was there, in 1220, that the relics were exposed of the first five Franciscan missionaries who had gone to Morocco, where they had met with martyrdom. Their story inspired in young Fernando the desire to imitate them and to advance on the path of Christian perfection. Thus he asked to leave the Augustinian Canons to become a Friar Minor. His request was granted and, having taken the name of Anthony, he too set out for Morocco, but divine Providence disposed otherwise. After an illness he was obliged to return to Italy and, in 1221, participated in the famous "Chapter of the Mats" in Assisi, where he also met St Francis. He then lived for a period in complete concealment in a convent at Forlì in northern Italy, where the Lord called him to another mission. Invited, in somewhat casual circumstances, to preach on the occasion of a priestly ordination, he showed himself to be endowed with such knowledge and eloquence that the Superiors assigned him to preaching. Thus he embarked on apostolic work in Italy and France that was so intense and effective that it induced many people who had left the Church to retrace their footsteps. Anthony was also one of the first if not the first theology teachers of the Friars Minor. He began his teaching in Bologna with the blessing of St Francis who, recognizing Anthony's virtues, sent him a short letter that began with these words: "I would like you to teach the brethren theology". Anthony laid the foundations of Franciscan theology which, cultivated by other outstanding thinkers, was to reach its apex with St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio and Bl. Duns Scotus.

Having become Provincial Superior of the Friars Minor in northern Italy, he continued his ministry of preaching, alternating it with his office of governance. When his term as Provincial came to an end, he withdrew to a place near Padua where he had stayed on various other occasions. Barely a year later, he died at the city gates on 13 June 1231. Padua, which had welcomed him with affection and veneration in his lifetime, has always accorded him honour and devotion. Pope Gregory IX himself, having heard him preach, described him as the "Ark of the Testament" and subsequent to miracles brought about through his intercession canonized him in 1232, only a year after his death.

In the last period of his life, Anthony put in writing two cycles of "Sermons", entitled respectively "Sunday Sermons" and "Sermons on the Saints" destined for the Franciscan Order's preachers and teachers of theological studies. In these Sermons he commented on the texts of Scripture presented by the Liturgy, using the patristic and medieval interpretation of the four senses: the literal or historical, the allegorical or Christological, the tropological or moral, and the anagogical, which orients a person to eternal life. Today it has been rediscovered that these senses are dimensions of the one meaning of Sacred Scripture and that it is right to interpret Sacred Scripture by seeking the four dimensions of its words. St Anthony's sermons are theological and homiletical texts that echo the live preaching in which Anthony proposes a true and proper itinerary of Christian life. The richness of spiritual teaching contained in the "Sermons" was so great that in 1946 Venerable Pope Pius XII proclaimed Anthony a Doctor of the Church, attributing to him the title "Doctor Evangelicus", since the freshness and beauty of the Gospel emerge from these writings. We can still read them today with great spiritual profit.

(This next section may well appear in a homily soon.) In these Sermons St Anthony speaks of prayer as of a loving relationship that impels man to speak gently with the Lord, creating an ineffable joy that sweetly enfolds the soul in prayer. Anthony reminds us that prayer requires an atmosphere of silence, which does not mean distance from external noise but rather is an interior experience that aims to remove the distractions caused by a soul's anxieties, thereby creating silence in the soul itself. According to this prominent Franciscan Doctor's teaching, prayer is structured in four indispensable attitudes which in Anthony's Latin are defined as obsecratio, oratio, postulatio, gratiarum actio. We might translate them in the following manner. The first step in prayer is confidently opening one's heart to God; this is not merely accepting a word but opening one's heart to God's presence. Next, is speaking with him affectionately, seeing him present with oneself; then a very natural thing presenting our needs to him; and lastly, praising and thanking him.

In St Anthony's teaching on prayer we perceive one of the specific traits of the Franciscan theology that he founded: namely the role assigned to divine love which enters into the sphere of the affections, of the will and of the heart, and which is also the source from which flows a spiritual knowledge that surpasses all other knowledge. In fact, it is in loving that we come to know.

Anthony writes further: "Charity is the soul of faith, it gives it life; without love, faith dies" (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi II, Messagero, Padua 1979, p. 37).

It is only the prayerful soul that can progress in spiritual life: this is the privileged object of St Anthony's preaching. He is thoroughly familiar with the shortcomings of human nature, with our tendency to lapse into sin, which is why he continuously urges us to fight the inclination to avidity, pride and impurity; instead of practising the virtues of poverty and generosity, of humility and obedience, of chastity and of purity. At the beginning of the 13th century, in the context of the rebirth of the city and the flourishing of trade, the number of people who were insensitive to the needs of the poor increased. This is why on various occasions Anthony invites the faithful to think of the true riches, those of the heart, which make people good and merciful and permit them to lay up treasure in Heaven. "O rich people", he urged them, "befriend... the poor, welcome them into your homes: it will subsequently be they who receive you in the eternal tabernacles in which is the beauty of peace, the confidence of security and the opulent tranquillity of eternal satiety" (ibid., p. 29).

Is not this, dear friends, perhaps a very important teaching today too, when the financial crisis and serious economic inequalities impoverish many people and create conditions of poverty? In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate I recall: "The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred" (n. 45).

Anthony, in the school of Francis, always put Christ at the centre of his life and thinking, of his action and of his preaching. This is another characteristic feature of Franciscan theology: Christocentrism. Franciscan theology willingly contemplates and invites others to contemplate the mysteries of the Lord's humanity, the man Jesus, and in a special way the mystery of the Nativity: God who made himself a Child and gave himself into our hands, a mystery that gives rise to sentiments of love and gratitude for divine goodness.

Not only the Nativity, a central point of Christ's love for humanity, but also the vision of the Crucified One inspired in Anthony thoughts of gratitude to God and esteem for the dignity of the human person, so that all believers and non-believers might find in the Crucified One and in his image a life-enriching meaning. St Anthony writes: "Christ who is your life is hanging before you, so that you may look at the Cross as in a mirror. There you will be able to know how mortal were your wounds, that no medicine other than the Blood of the Son of God could heal. If you look closely, you will be able to realize how great your human dignity and your value are.... Nowhere other than looking at himself in the mirror of the Cross can man better understand how much he is worth" (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, pp. 213-214).

In meditating on these words we are better able to understand the importance of the image of the Crucified One for our culture, for our humanity that is born from the Christian faith. Precisely by looking at the Crucified One we see, as St Anthony says, how great are the dignity and worth of the human being. At no other point can we understand how much the human person is worth, precisely because God makes us so important, considers us so important that, in his opinion, we are worthy of his suffering; thus all human dignity appears in the mirror of the Crucified One and our gazing upon him is ever a source of acknowledgement of human dignity.

Dear friends, may Anthony of Padua, so widely venerated by the faithful, intercede for the whole Church and especially for those who are dedicated to preaching; let us pray the Lord that he will help us learn a little of this art from St Anthony. May preachers, drawing inspiration from his example, be effective in their communication by taking pains to combine solid and sound doctrine with sincere and fervent devotion. In this Year for Priests, let us pray that priests and deacons will carry out with concern this ministry of the proclamation of the word of God, making it timely for the faithful, especially through liturgical homilies. May they effectively present the eternal beauty of Christ, just as Anthony recommended: "If you preach Jesus, he will melt hardened hearts; if you invoke him he will soften harsh temptations; if you think of him he will enlighten your mind; if you read of him he will satifsfy your intellect" (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, p. 59).
Amen!

Back to the air waves

At 7:45 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday) I'll be on Effingham's WCRA AM 1090/FM 104.7 (the AM station can often be heard as far west as Girard, at least in my car) with William Bence talking about Pope Benedict XVI's recent audience address on St. Anthony of Padua.

An unexpected interview

This afternoon, after awaking from a nap following the conclusion of two days of meetings of the presbyterate, I received a telephone call from WICS' Sara Vincent. She is working on a story on churches and the Internet and asked for an interview. I happily agreed.

She was very pleasant and the interview went rather well, I think. It will air on WICS ABC 20 Sunday evening at 10:00 p.m.

When the video of the story is posted online I'll post it here.

23 February 2010

Are we next?

Today the Holy Father appointed the Reverend Monsignor Joseph Bambera Bishop of Scranton and Father Terry LaValley Bishop of Ogdensburg, leaving just three vacant sees in the United States. They are, in order of vacancy: Springfield in Illinois, Harrisburg and La Crosse.

Curiously, both of the Bishops-Elect were the Diocesan Administrators of their respective new Dioceses.

Could we be next? Please, Lord, grant us a new shepherd!

The difference climate makes

Since returning to the midwest after my Hawaiian retreat on Oahu, I have noticed - as expected - my joints feeling worse than when I was away.

The curious thing is that whenever I leave for Hawaii I know that my joints will feel infinitely better than they do in the midwest, but that I do not so much notice it in Hawaii. I simply get up and go whenever I desire and for as long as I wish. I do not think I so much take it for granted as much as I want to savor every moment of it.

This evening, despite the tiredness of my body, I decided to go for a swim and get a bit of exercise. It seemed a good idea, especially as I feel another front moving in and will be away most of tomorrow and Wednesday for a gathering of the priests of the Diocese.

After the completion of lap two I could feel - and hear - my knees creaking. This isn't entirely uncommon with my knees; it happened quite a lot in the early days of my arthritis, though it hasn't happened too often in recent memory (or at least I haven't noticed it; somethings you just get used to and don't notice until someone points it out too long, like loud toys when you work in a toy store).

At any rate, I decided to keep swimming because I need the exercise. Halfway through lap three my knee let me know it had worked enough and would finish the lap, but not much more.

In the midwest I find myself in a great catch 22, as it were. I need to exercise to strengthen my joints and keep them strong, but they lack the strength - at least in the winter - to exercise. What's an arthritic to do? It's rather frustrating, really, so I hope you don't mind my quiet venting.

Much of the day today - when I was not pondering the moving of the offices into our school building - I was recalling my time in Hawaii a week ago yesterday and today.

A week ago yesterday I drove as far west as I could and parked my car. I then hiked several miles to Kaena Point, the farthest western point of Oahu and watched the Hawaiian monk seals and saw a young albatross. I was a beautiful afternoon spent walking on a rocky, dirt road will lots of divets and holes, or walking on the sand or rocky coast. Sunday I must have walked a good eight miles, not just there but all around. Without any difficulty or second thoughts.

A week ago today was the Great Aloha Run, an 8.15 mile walk that I did from the Aloha Tower in downtown Honolulu to the Aloha Stadium. By the end of Monday I must have walked at least 11 miles. Without any difficulty or second thoughts.

Today I'd be hard pressed to walk one mile. Oh, the difference climate makes.

I was able to get some good things accomplished today. And before I go to bed early tonight I'll spend some time with a good book.

22 February 2010

That's how he did it!

From time to time I have wondered have Saint John Vianney could hear confessions for up to sixteen hours a day.

Often enough I simply attributed the claim to pious exaggeration - I mean, really, that would only leave a few hours for sleep, food and other duties - and then I read this in Fr. Rutler's biography of the holy man:

The Curé never left the church before ten and sometimes remained until midnight. He was back at the stroke of one. This means he slept two hours at most before beginning a new day. And he did this seven days a week for thirty years (189).
That certainly is a special grace from the Lord.

In college, I had a professor with a similar grace: he slept only three hours each night.

It is a grace, frankly, I am glad the Lord has not seen fit to grant me; I like my sleep, but not more than about six and a half hours.

Papal Preparations

Blog reader Anita sent me a link to a reflection written by one of the seminarians who served the Mass of Canonization for Saint Damien of Molokai et al.

He offers a moving account of hope Pope Benedict XVI prepares to celebrate the Holy Mass:

The entire time Pope Benedict XVI was facing an altar lit by two candles, with his gaze fixed on a crucifix hanging just above the altar. As the MCs helped him vest each garment, Benedict prayed the ancient “Vesting Prayers” in preparation to celebrate the Mass. There is a special prayer assigned to each garment a priest is to wear, which helps the Priest to meditate on the Mystery at hand and to begin offering his entire Self in union with Christ.

As I watched the Holy Father pray in this way, a part of me--namely my ego--really wanted him to turn, look at me, shake my hand, and say something inspirational. But not once did Benedict’s gaze betray the crucifix before him. I will never forget that image. It spoke volumes to me...about what really mattered...about what that day was all about--not me...not my ego....something else...something so much greater...something deserving of all our attention, all of our praise, all of our love. I found myself praying something like this, deep in my heart, “May the Cross of Christ never leave my gaze, so that I May never forget how greatly I am loved and by what measure the King of Kings gazes back upon me.”
The rest of his account is worth a read, too.

On "Ashes"

Over at the Ignatius Insight Scoop, Carl Olson addresses an incorrect lyric in a popular hymn that happens to be on my unofficial forbidden list: "Ashes."

I'm happy to say that - by my request - the song was not sung this year in either of my parishes for the very reason Carl addresses.

20 February 2010

Hawaiian translation wanted

Could one of my Hawaiian readers please translate for me the lyrics to Israel "IZ" Kamakawino'ole' "Ke Alo O Iesu:"

E hele makou i ke alo o Iesu
E `ike i ka nani mau loa
E hele makou i ka poli o Iesu
I ka mehana a ke aloha
E hele makou i ke alo o Iesu
E `ike i ka nani mau loa
E hele makou i ka poli o Iesu
I ka mehana a ke aloha

Aloha ka hale kula o ka Haku
I ka lani, i ka lani kuakaha
I laila i ke ao
O ka hoku `imo`imo
O Iesu tu`u Hatu maita`i

Aloha ka `âina o ke Akua
I ka nani, i ka nani mau loa
I laila i ke ala
Onaona o ka rose
O Iesu tu`u Hatu maita`i
I cannot seem to find a good online translator from Hawaiian. Mahalo!

Congratulations!

The students at the St. Anthony High Blog pass on this happy news:

First off, congrats to everyone on the WYSE team! We took first at regionals, and we totally dominated with a perfect score of 500 :) Quite a few of our members placed:

Myles Baker - 1st in physics, 2nd in math

Andrew Grunloh - 1st in physics

Marty Jansen - 2nd in physics

Kathleen Kay - 2nd in chemistry

Caroline Robb - 1st in biology

Drew Willenborg - 1st in chemistry, 1st in math
Well done, everyone! Keep up the excellent work!

19 February 2010

What to do, what to do?

Today I was asked to give a confirmation retreat for a group of 8th grade students toward the middle of March.

It has been a while since I've done such a retreat. Do you have any suggestions for what I should - or shouldn't - do?

HB 6205 Online Petition

A parishioner sent a link to me for an online petition to stop Illinois House Bill 6205, the so-called Reproductive Health and Access Act (the Illinois version of the so-called Freedom of Choice Act), which has again been introduced by Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25th).

We successfully stopped the bill last year and we can do it again this year. Please, sign the petition and contact your representatives.

Fr. Barron on Lent

18 February 2010

Why do eat fish on Fridays?

Read this post from a couple of years back.

Why I'm not giving up Facebook for Lent

...Or following Papal Direction

With the season of Lent now upon us, many of my friends are giving up Facebook for Lent and some have asked me if I wanted to do the same. My answer is a solid, "No." And for good reason, I think.

Some weeks back the Holy Father released his Message for the 44th World Communications Day in which he focused on the use of the new media - of which Facebook is one of many - in the ministry of priests. It is an excellent message for our times and proof that Pope Benedict "get's it," so to speak.

Here the text of the message, with my emphases and comments:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The theme of this year’s World Communications Day - The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word – is meant to coincide with the Church’s celebration of the Year for Priests. It focuses attention on the important and sensitive pastoral area of digital communications, in which priests can discover new possibilities for carrying out their ministry to and for the Word of God. Church communities have always used the modern media for fostering communication, engagement with society, and, increasingly, for encouraging dialogue at a wider level. Yet the recent, explosive growth and greater social impact of these media make them all the more important for a fruitful priestly ministry.

All priests have as their primary duty the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, and the communication of his saving grace in the sacraments. Gathered and called by the Word, the Church is the sign and instrument of the communion that God creates with all people, and every priest is called to build up this communion, in Christ and with Christ. Such is the lofty dignity and beauty of the mission of the priest, which responds in a special way to the challenge raised by the Apostle Paul: “The Scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame … everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? (Rom 10:11, 13-15).

Responding adequately to this challenge amid today’s cultural shifts, to which young people are especially sensitive, necessarily involves using new communications technologies (I found that ministry with the youth took off, as it were, once I started using Facebook. The Holy Father knows well of what he is speaking, even if he himself does not use these new media). The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more Saint Paul’s exclamation: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16) The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility on the part of those called to proclaim the Word, but it also requires them to become become more focused, efficient and compelling in their efforts. Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: as new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word (This isn't the first time the Holy Father has called this to our attention, even as many others lament the increased use of the Internet as an impersonal means of communication. Clearly, Pope Benedict recognizes this potential risk, but he also recognizes the great good the Internet offers and the way in which it draws many people together who otherwise could never meet).

The spread of multimedia communications and its rich “menu of options” might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different “voices” provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.

Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ. They will best achieve this aim if they learn, from the time of their formation, how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord. Yet priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ. This will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a “soul” to the fabric of communications that makes up the “Web” (Naturally, the priest must use the Internet well, but not lose his primary focus. Thankfully, the new media is becoming easier and easier to use and more and more of the laity are willing to offer they capable assistance to priests).

God’s loving care for all people in Christ must be expressed in the digital world not simply as an artifact from the past, or a learned theory, but as something concrete, present and engaging. Our pastoral presence in that world must thus serve to show our contemporaries, especially the many people in our day who experience uncertainty and confusion, “that God is near; that in Christ we all belong to one another” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, 21 December 2009).

Who better than a priest, as a man of God, can develop and put into practice, by his competence in current digital technology, a pastoral outreach capable of making God concretely present in today’s world and presenting the religious wisdom of the past as a treasure which can inspire our efforts to live in the present with dignity while building a better future? (Who indeed? I seem to remember in my seminary days that seminarians were cautioned against blogging, sites like Facebook and MySpace, personal web sites and even giving out our e-mail addresses. I accepted this caution for what it was, but continued to maintain a visible presence on the web.) Consecrated men and women working in the media have a special responsibility for opening the door to new forms of encounter, maintaining the quality of human interaction, and showing concern for individuals and their genuine spiritual needs. They can thus help the men and women of our digital age to sense the Lord’s presence, to grow in expectation and hope, and to draw near to the Word of God which offers salvation and fosters an integral human development. In this way the Word can traverse the many crossroads created by the intersection of all the different “highways” that form “cyberspace”, and show that God has his rightful place in every age, including our own. Thanks to the new communications media, the Lord can walk the streets of our cities and, stopping before the threshold of our homes and our hearts, say once more: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).

In my Message last year, I encouraged leaders in the world of communications to promote a culture of respect for the dignity and value of the human person. This is one of the ways in which the Church is called to exercise a “diaconia of culture” on today’s “digital continent”. With the Gospels in our hands and in our hearts, we must reaffirm the need to continue preparing ways that lead to the Word of God, while being at the same time constantly attentive to those who continue to seek; indeed, we should encourage their seeking as a first step of evangelization. A pastoral presence in the world of digital communications, precisely because it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, non-believers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute. Just as the prophet Isaiah envisioned a house of prayer for all peoples (cf. Is 56:7), can we not see the web as also offering a space – like the “Court of the Gentiles” of the Temple of Jerusalem – for those who have not yet come to know God?

The development of the new technologies and the larger digital world represents a great resource for humanity as a whole and for every individual, and it can act as a stimulus to encounter and dialogue. But this development likewise represents a great opportunity for believers. No door can or should be closed to those who, in the name of the risen Christ, are committed to drawing near to others. To priests in particular the new media offer ever new and far-reaching pastoral possibilities, encouraging them to embody the universality of the Church’s mission, to build a vast and real fellowship, and to testify in today’s world to the new life which comes from hearing the Gospel of Jesus, the eternal Son who came among us for our salvation (I am always a bit baffled at the readership that I have here: Great Britian, India, Malaysia, the United States of America, and other places in between). At the same time, priests must always bear in mind that the ultimate fruitfulness of their ministry comes from Christ himself (Again, they must keep their proper focus), encountered and listened to in prayer; proclaimed in preaching and lived witness; and known, loved and celebrated in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.

To my dear brother priests, then, I renew the invitation to make astute use of the unique possibilities offered by modern communications. May the Lord make all of you enthusiastic heralds of the Gospel in the new “agorà” which the current media are opening up.

With this confidence, I invoke upon you the protection of the Mother of God and of the Holy Curè of Ars and, with affection, I impart to each of you my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2010, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales.

BENEDICTUS XVI
To sum up, I'm not giving up Facebook for Lent because the Bishop of Rome has encouraged me to use it in my ministry. And as it has proven most effective in the past, so I expect it to continue to prove.

17 February 2010

Into the West

In their beautiful singing of “Something sings,” the boys of Libera sing, “But in the dark and cold of things, there always, always something sings.” In the Land of Aloha, something always sings within me. Something sings from the blue skies, from the rainbows, from the joyful Hawaiians, from the deep waters, from the forests and from the mountains and stars. Somethings sings, calling to me.

It is something I cannot fully put into words, and I feel it most deeply in Hawaii.
Father George William Rutler, in his masterful biography of Saint John Vianney, says of the patron of priests:

Vianney had a special kind of physics, the meta kind, according to which, by going west he might grow young. There is a curious human urge to move west; it is a symbol of the desire to find new things and be young where there is no past; it was symbolized in myth by the glorious sun spirit, Phoebus Apollo, who fed ambrosia to his horses before dawn and rode them westward in a chariot of diamonds and chrysolite. But the very strange people one meets in parts of California, for instance, are a clue that the west can have a disastrous effect if you think you have reached it. To think that the farthest horizon is the final limit of all that exists is a flat way of looking at a round world. Materialistic people are spiritual flatlanders, and they will not easily understand their place in a round world; they think of the west as a physical direction, whereas the saints also know of a metaphysical west that is a destiny. Looking for direction without a loftier destiny is devastating madness (95).
This desire to go west sings within my soul, beckoning me westward, in both a physical and metaphysical sense.

Physically, in Hawaii strength returns to my weak joints and I feel young again, even to the point of being able to walk and hike several miles each day (Sunday I easily hiked five miles and then walked at least ten on Monday) without wearing out; in Illinois I could hardly do the same.

This difference, too, can hardly be put into words and each time I return from Hawaii I become increasingly aware of the effects of climate on my arthritis. With the return of strength to my joints I also find I have much more energy and stamina in Hawaii than in the Midwest, especially during the winter months, which gives to me a youthful spirit and an easy smile on my face.

Even so, the great draw of Hawaii for me lies much more so in the metaphysical direction, to go west, towards God.

Standing on the shore I feel a deep desire to cross the waters, which seem to have no end. Something sings.

Looking up from the base of the mountains, I feel a deep desire to ascend to the summit. Something sings.

Walking through the forests, I feel a deep desire to leave the path and enter the deepest part of the woods. Something sings.

Looking up in the dark of night into the brightest stars I have seen, gazing in wonder at the twinkling in the heavens, I am drawn to contemplate with King David: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established; what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him” (Psalm 8:3-4)?

It has often been remarked that the natural beauty of the islands is a profound aid to a life of prayer and have made the Hawaiians a deeply religious people. Father Damien wrote to his brother, saying, “You could not wish for better people; gentle, pleasant-mannered, exceedingly tender-hearted.” They are this way because the natural beauty which constantly surrounds them lifts their thoughts to the Most High, always singing to them, calling them beyond to life with God.

This is my experience of Hawaii. The ocean, mountains, forests, stars and people all sing to me. Their song is a summons to prayer, an invitation to enter the metaphysical west, to be lost in God.

This is especially true of the waters. The ocean seems to beckon to me, to cross beyond to the hidden horizon, to go into the west, to enter the presence of God. In the sound of the waves the Lord calls to me. The vast expanse of the waters call to mind the greatness of God. The pounding of the waves on shores call to mind the power of God. The calming repetition of the waves call to him the gentleness of God. And when the waves crash upon the shore, leaving behind a shell or a rock or a branch, they are a reminder that when the grace of God washes over us something is always left behind on the shore of our souls.

In Hawaii something sings and I hear its melodious song – at the same time joyful and melancholic – in the depths of my soul, and my longing for God is increased. This, then, was the fruit of my days of retreat: a deeper longing to be with God.

At the end of his great trilogy of the War of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien describes the parting scene of Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee. Sam says to Frodo, "But I thought you were going to enjoy the Shire, too, for years and years, after all you have done." Frodo answers, "So I thought too, once. But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam."

I, too, have been deeply hurt, wounded, one might say, and I long for the place of rest, for what Tolkien calls the Grey Havens. This life is good indeed and the Lord has blessed me in many, many ways, but it is also profoundly marked by the deaths of my parents and my arthritis.

Frodo, Tolkien recounts:

And the ship went out of sight and sailed into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet frangrance ont he air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.
I want to see those white shores and that far green country, to see that swift sunrise, the face of God. But to Sam, who was left behind by those he loved to remain with those he loved:

...the evening deepened to darkness as he stood at the Haven; and as he looked at the grey sea he saw only a shadow on the waters that was soon lost in the West. There still he stood far into the night, hearing only the sigh and murmur of the waves on the shores of Middle-Earth, and the sound of them sank deep into his heart.
This is something like my experience standing still on the shores of Hawaii, gazing out over the waters and looking up at the stars. It is a melancholic experience as it deepens my longing for God and, as such, it is also a comforting, peaceful and joyful experience.



On my final day in Hawaii, I was looking for a new pair of shoes, having worn out the pair I brought with me from lots of walking. After talking with the sales associate for a while and telling him what I was looking for, he asked, “You’re from here, yeah?” (Whereas the British might have asked the question, “You’re from here, no?”, the Hawaiians always seem to end question of the sort with the positive, “yeah?”)

His question certainly ranks among the top five things anyone has ever said to me. In my heart, I am from Hawaii; in location, I am not, but hope one day to be.

I never did find a pair of walking/running shoes. I am looking for something light, simple and not flashy; apparently Honolulu isn’t the place to find non-flashy shoes.

I am off now to Springfield to look for shoes and think I will have the small portion of the grilled mahi mahi at KS Hawaiian BBQ.

Over population is a myth

Mahalo to the American Papist.

Here we go again

It seems the Illinois version of the so-called "Freedom of Choice Act" is back, as we knew it would be.

From the Catholic Conference of Illinois:

The abortion bill we worked so hard to defeat last year has been reintroduced as House Bill 6205. We must mobilize our networks to contact State Representatives and urge the defeat of House Bill 6205.

Like last year, this legislation seeks to: (1) pay for abortions and many other types of reproductive healthcare (including contraceptives) with public funds; (2) make any regulation of abortion beyond the purview of state and local government; and (3) demand that the proponent’s version of comprehensive sex education be taught in every school, grades K thru 12.

The supporters of House Bill 6205 claim this year’s version of the legislation excludes the Health Care Right of Conscience and Parental Notification of Abortion Acts. We have carefully read HB 6205. Their claims are incorrect. In Section 15, the legislation states that notwithstanding any other current law neither the state nor any political subdivision may “interfere” with access to abortion.

Judging by past legislative initiatives and lawsuits, the proponents obviously believe these important laws constitute state “interference” with access to abortion. This legislation is designed to set up legal challenges to both statutes and strip away health care professionals’ right of conscience and parents’ right to know of their daughters’ well being.

Linked below are talking points and a fact sheet on House Bill 6205. Use them to familiarize yourself with the bill and then call your state representative with a message similar to:

"House Bill 6205 seeks to publicly fund abortion, undermine the Health Care Right of Conscience and Parental Notification of Abortion Acts and impose comprehensive sex education on all students, K-12, in this state. It is extreme, unnecessary legislation. Please vote NO."

To find your state representative, go to www.ilga.gov and click on Legislator Lookup in the lower, right-hand portion of the page. You can then search your state representative by district #, home address, or zip code. You can also call our offices at 312-368-1066 or 217-528-9200.

Click here for Talking Points.

Click here for Fact Sheet.

Almost heaven

N.B.: One of the paintings in the video contains an artistic nude.

16 February 2010

On the priesthood

Mahalo to A Catholic Mom in Hawaii.

A taste of things to come

I am working on a post reflecting on my most recent time in Hawaii, which ended just a few hours ago. I am now in DFW waiting to board a flight to STL.

As always, my time in the Land of Aloha was spiritually fruitful and refreshing. Now if I can only prepare myself to return to winter; I can already feel the cold settling into my bones, and I have yet to encounter the snow. Obedience has brought me back again.

At any rate, here is a small taste of things to come:

The lyrics:

Let me go where I will,
I hear a sky born music still
It sounds from all things old,
It sounds from all things young

From all that’s fair, from all that’s dark,
Peals out an everlasting song

Not only in the rose,
It is not only in the bird
Not only rainbow glows,
Nor in it’s music heard

But in the dark and cold of things,
There always, always something sings

‘ Tis not in stars alone,
Nor in the bloom of spring born flowers
Nor in the robin’s song,
Nor in the glint of showers

But in the dark and cold of things,
There always, always something sings

15 February 2010

Running for vocations

In just a few moments the Akua Run/Walk for Vocations, held in conjunction with the Great Aloha Run, will commence.


As we walk the 8.15 miles we will be begging the Lord to raise up more priests for the Diocese of Honolulu.


I will also be praying that more will respond generously and courageously to answer the call of the Lord to priestly service.  I have six young men specifically in mind.


Please join us in prayer.


11 February 2010

Pope: The Cross is God's "Yes" to mankind

Today marks the 19th World Day of the Sick.

The Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the ocassion follows, with my emphases:

Dear brothers and sisters!

Every year, on the occasion of the memorial of the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes, which is celebrated on Feb. 11, the Church proposes the World Day of the Sick. This circumstance becomes, as the venerable John Paul II desired, the propitious occasion to reflect on the mystery of suffering and, above all, to make our communities and civil society more sensitive to sick brothers and sisters. If every man is our brother, much more are the weak, the suffering and those needful of care, and they must be at the center of our attention, so that none of them feel forgotten or marginalized; in fact, "the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through 'com-passion' is a cruel and inhuman society" ("Spe Salvi," No. 38). May the initiatives that individual dioceses promote on the occasion of this day be a stimulus to make care for the suffering more and more effective, also in view of the solemn celebration that will take place at the Marian shrine in Altötting in Germany.

1. I still have in my heart the moment when, during the course of the pastoral visit to Turin, I was able to pause in reflection and prayer before the sacred Shroud, before that suffering countenance, that invites us to meditate on him who took upon himself man's suffering of every age and place, even our sufferings, our difficulties, our sins. How many faithful over the course of history have passed before that sepulchral winding sheet, which covered the body of a crucified man, which in everything corresponds to what the Gospels transmit about the passion and death of Jesus! Contemplating him is an invitation to reflect on what St. Peter writes: "By his wounds we have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24).

The Son of God has suffered, he has died, but he is risen, it is precisely because of this that those wounds become the sign of our redemption, of our forgiveness and reconciliation with the Father; they become, however, a test for the faith of the disciples and our faith: every time that the Lord speaks of his passion and death, they do not understand, they reject it, they oppose it. For them as for us, suffering is always charged with mystery, difficult to accept and bear. Because of the events that had occurred in Jerusalem in those days the two disciples of Emmaus walk along sadly, and only when the Risen One walks along the road with them do they open up to a new vision (cf. Luke 24:13-31). Even the apostle Thomas manifests the difficulty of believing in the redemptive way of suffering: "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25).

But before Christ who shows his wounds, his response is transformed into a moving profession of faith: "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). What was at first an insurmountable obstacle, because it was the sign of Jesus’ apparent failure, becomes, in the encounter with the Risen One, the proof of victorious love: "Only a God who loves us to the extent of taking upon himself our wounds and our pain, especially innocent suffering, is worthy of faith" (Urbi et Orbi Message, Easter 2007).

2. Dear sick and suffering ones, it is precisely through the sufferings of the Christ that we are able to see, with eyes of hope, all the maladies that afflict humanity. Rising, the Lord did not take away suffering and evil from the world, but he defeated them at their root. To the arrogance of Evil he opposed the omnipotence of his Love. He has shown us, then, that the way of peace and joy is Love: "As I have loved you, so must you love one another" (John 13:34). Christ, victor over death, is alive and in our midst. And while with St. Thomas we also say: "My Lord and my God!" we follow our Lord in readiness to spend our life for our brothers (cf. 1 John 3:16), becoming messengers of a joy that does not fear pain, the joy of the Resurrection.

St. Bernard said: "God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with." God, who is Truth and Love in person, wanted to suffer for us and with us; he became man to suffer with man, in a real way, in flesh and blood. Into every human suffering, then, there has entered One who shares suffering and endurance; he offers consolation in all suffering, the consolation of the participating love of God, which makes the star of hope rise (cf. "Spe salvi," 39).

I repeat this message to you, dear brothers and sisters, so that you become witnesses through your suffering, your life and your faith.

3. Looking forward to the meeting in Madrid, in August 2011, for World Youth Day, I would also like to address a special thought to young people, especially those who live the experience of sickness. Often, the Passion and the Cross of Jesus cause fear, because they seem to be the negation of life. In reality, it is exactly the contrary! The cross is God’s "yes" to mankind, the highest and most intense expression of his love and the source from which flows eternal life. From the pierced heart of Jesus this divine life flows. He alone is capable of liberating the world from evil and make his kingdom of justice, of peace and of love grow, the kingdom to which we all aspire (cf. Message for World Youth Day 2011, 3).

Dear young people, learn to "see" and to "meet" Jesus in the Eucharist, where he is present for us in a real way, to the point of making himself food for the journey, but know how to recognize and serve him also in those brothers who are poor, sick, suffering and in difficulty, who have need of your help (cf. ibid., 4). To all of you young people, sick and healthy, I repeat the invitation to create bridges of love and solidarity, so that no one feels alone, but near to God and part of the great family of his children (cf. General Audience, November 15, 2006).

4. Contemplating Jesus’ wounds our gaze turns to his most sacred Heart in which God’s love manifests itself in the supreme way. The Sacred Heart is Christ crucified, with his side opened by the lance, from which blood and water flow (cf. John 19:34), "symbol of the sacraments of the Church, that all men, drawn to the Heart of the Savior, might drink from the perennial font of salvation" (Roman Missal, Preface for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus). Especially you, dear sick ones, should feel the nearness of this Heart full of love and draw from this font with faith and with joy, praying: "Water from the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me. O good Jesus, hear me. In your wounds, hide me" (Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola).

5. At the end of this message of mine for the next World Day of the Sick, I would like to express my affection to each and every one, feeling myself a participant in the sufferings and hopes that you have daily in union with Christ crucified and risen, that he give you peace and healing of the heart. May the Virgin Mary keep watch over you together with him. We invoke her confidently under the titles Health of the Infirm and Consoler of the Suffering. At the foot of the cross there is realized through her Simeon’s prophecy: her Mother’s heart is pierced (cf. Luke 2:35). From the abyss of her pain, a participation in her Son’s, Mary is made capable of accepting her new mission: to become the Mother of Christ in his members. In the hour of the cross Jesus presents her to all of his disciples: "Behold your son" (cf. John 19:26-27). The maternal compassion for the Son becomes maternal compassion for each one of us in our daily sufferings (cf. Homily at Lourdes, Sept. 15, 2008).

Dear brothers and sisters, for this World Day of the Sick, I also invite the political authorities to invest more and more in health systems that are a help and a support for the suffering, above all the poorest and the most needy, and, addressing all the dioceses, I offer an affectionate to the bishops, the priests, consecrated persons, seminarians, health workers, volunteers and all of those who dedicate themselves with love to care for and sooth the wounds of every sick brother or sister, in hospitals or nursing homes, in families: in the faces of the sick know how to see always the face of faces -- that of Christ.

I assure everyone a remembrance in my prayer, while I impart to each of you a special apostolic blessing.

From the Vatican, Nov. 21, 2010, Feast of Christ the King of the Universe

Translation via Zenit.

08 February 2010

Honolulu bound

As snow gently falls in the St. Louis area I am waiting in Lambert airport through Dallas to Honolulu.


My coat and gloves are packed in my carry-on and I am ready for warmth.


Please pray for safe and restful travels for me and my fellow travellers.


07 February 2010

Is wine good for the soul?

Drink wine, and you will sleep well.
Sleep, and you will not sin.
Avoid sin, and you will be saved.
Ergo, drink wine and be saved.

According to the above Medieval German proverb, it would seem so.

Homily - 7 February 2010

The Second Sunday of the Year (B)
Diocesan Day of Prayer for Priestly Vocations

The celebrated literary genius and devout Catholic, J.R.R. Tolkien, put these words into the mouth of his illustrious hobbit, Bilbo Baggins: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.” It is advice that Bilbo himself did not keep and neither did Frodo, for they found themselves swept up in the story of the Ring of Power.

It is advice that Saint Peter, too, failed to keep, for he found himself swept up in the story of Jesus Christ. He could not have known that leaving everything behind would lead him from Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome; he could not have known the Lord would establish his Church upon his ministry (cf. Luke 5:11; Matthew 16:18). He did not know that that first step, if he let himself be carried away and swept up into the life of the Savior, would bring him to Rome where he would be catching men and where he would shed his blood. “He accepted this surprising call; he let himself be involved in this great adventure: he was generous; he recognized his limits but believed in the one who was calling him and followed the dream of his heart. He said ‘yes,’ a courageous and generous ‘yes,’ and became a disciple of Jesus.” Bilbo’s words are true indeed.

What did Peter see in Jesus that led him to drop everything and follow him? Why did he follow Jesus who, as Pope Benedict says, “did not give him answers but required him to trust”? He may not have heard the answer to his questions, but he knew that the one who boarded his boat, who told him to “put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch, was himself the Answer (Luke 5:4).

What is it that you and I seek? There is one thing that each of us seeks, even if we do not quite know how to express it: we desire the happy life, but we often do not know where or how we will find it. We do not often even know what we mean by the happy life, but we do know what we do not mean.

That day at the Lake of Gennesaret Peter took his first step; he “left everything and followed” Jesus (Luke 5:11). I took my first step after Jesus – not knowing where it would or will yet lead – many years ago. The Lord first began to call me through the two most decisive moments in my life.

The vocational story of every priest is different because the Lord calls men to serve him through the very personal experiences of their lives; no two priests are the same. The Lord continues to call men to his own priesthood so that, as he says through his prophet, “I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart” (Jeremiah 3:15).

I want to share with you today how the Lord called me to his sacred priesthood, both to encourage those whom he is calling to the priesthood in this parish right now, and to help you support them as well.

When I was about five years old my Mom developed a brain cancer that confined her to a hospital bed in our home. Dad stopped working to care for Mom, my brother and I. Even so, it was a happy childhood and I was carefree like most children.

On the morning of 20 February 1986 my brother and I awoke and got dressed for school as we always did. Something was different, though: Dad was not up and breakfast was not ready for us. I went to his bedroom to wake Dad, but he wasn’t there; apparently, he fell asleep on the couch. I walked over to wake him, tapping him on the shoulder and calling to him. Thinking he must have just been sleeping heavily, I woke Mom and asked her to rouse Dad. She failed, too. We called the ambulance and when they arrived my brother and I were taken outside to wait with the neighbors in the gently falling snow.

When the paramedics came out of the house, one of the two looked at me and said not a word. He simply shook his head and I knew that Dad was dead. My happy and carefree world came crashing down around me.

My brother and I then moved in with Dad’s sister’s family and Mom was placed in a nursing home. We visited her every Sunday after Mass and during the week. On 18 January 1988, as we were playing with Legos in the living room, building a bigger and better castle than the day before, the nursing home called: Mom had just died. At not quite ten years of age I was an orphan and filled with profound pain and sorrow. My life, personality and thought would forever be marked by these two events.

At this tender age, I asked God, “Why me” How could God allow the two most important people in my life to be taken away from me? I never blamed God for their deaths but I demanded an answer.

I slowly found myself praying and in the midst of this prayer I heard him say to me, “It is I. Do not be afraid” (John 6:20). “I am here. I love you.” “I will not leave you orphaned; I will come to you,” and come to me he did: through the Scriptures, prayer and the sacraments (John 14:18). With Peter, the Lord gave me no answers but required me to trust.

The words of the Psalmist could easily be my own: “When I called you answered me; you built up strength within me” (Psalm 138:3). I sought the Lord, I cried out for him, and when at last I found him I stayed with him, I rested in him, and I learned from him.

I came to believe ever more strongly that “his grace in me has not been ineffective” (I Corinthians 15:10). As a young boy, I learned all too well the frailty and brevity of life, along with its sufferings. I knew, almost intuitively, that what Saint Paul said is true: “You are not your own. For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” (I Corinthians 6:20). I asked the Lord for answers, but found peace instead.

In high school, I began to feel him stirring within my heart, calling me to his service. I heard his voice “in a tiny whispering sound” in the stillness of my heart (I Kings 19:12). I came to realize that his love required me to give it to others; I could not keep it to myself. I heard him calling, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8). Almost subconsciously, I quietly answered, “Here I am; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

As he called to the Apostles so he called to me, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). But unlike the Apostles I did not immediately leave everything to follow him. I said, “I am too young” (Jeremiah 1:6) and he responded: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10).

Even so, I thought myself unworthy of so generous a calling; indeed, I am unworthy of it. There were others in my parish more fit for his service, I thought. There were others more popular, more intelligent, more talented, more loving than I, and so I at first declined his invitation, choosing instead to teach history. I could not see why the Lord wanted me, wounded as I was. With Saint Peter, I said to him, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). I did not yet realize that “In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.”

At this time, I told no one about what the Lord was saying to me, which made even more remarkable what soon happened after: parishioners approached me before, after, and during Mass and told me, “You should think about the priesthood; you’d make a good priest.” I was stunned. Within a matter of weeks, it was not simply a handful of my fellow parishioners saying this to me, but dozens, and the number grew with each passing week as if they, too, were saying to me, “Do not be afraid.”

Again I asked the Lord, “Why me?” “But love knows no 'why'; it is a free gift to which one responds with the gift of self." I knew this to be true. I was left with only one question: Why not me? I had no answer and so I knew that I must give myself to his service.

I decided that my fellow parishioners must see something in me that I did not see and so I took another look at the priesthood and realized that God created me for it and only in following his call would I ever find the happy life.

We see in the call of Peter and of Paul that the Lord called them to a deeper communion with him than he called his other disciples. Before long, Jesus would choose from his disciples twelve men whom he called Apostles. These Apostles were his ambassadors, those who would act in his name and carry on his mission, and their ministry has been passed down through the centuries through the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

As we consider the call of the Apostles, we see that the Lord Jesus did not simply call everyone to fulfill his ministry, nor did he call a random few. He chose specific men to fulfill his mission for the forgiveness of sins. The Lord Jesus continues to call certain men to himself, certain men whom he calls to stay with him, to be his ambassadors, his presence, in the world today, and he continues to call them personally, just as he called Isaiah, Peter and Paul. He continues to say to those whom he calls, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will catching men” (Luke 5:10).

Regretfully, too few young men are responding to the call of the Lord with generous and courageous hearts; too many keep their feet, as it were, and will not allow themselves to be caught up and swept away in the life of Christ; too many remain afraid.

The call of the Lord can be stifled and ignored, but it cannot be silenced. If we consider again the fact that each of us wants the happy life, we know, too, that the Lord desires the happy life for each of us. And what is more, he knows what will bring us happiness better than we do, for it is he who made us. If we knew what would bring us lasting happiness we would already have attained when first we recognized it.

My brothers and sisters, we know that the Eucharist is central to our life and faith and that without priests we cannot have the Eucharist. Who will celebrate the Mass for future generations? Who will absolve sins in the Lord’s name? Who will anoint the sick? Who will accompany us on our final journey?

Each of us must redouble our efforts and prayers to encourage young men to follow after Jesus Christ as his priests. Priests do not simply fall out of heaven; they come from within families. Could it be that the Lord is calling your son, your grandson, your nephew, friend or neighbor to the priesthood? If he is, encourage him to respond generously and courageously.

It is true that a priestly life is not always easy, but no life is; even married life has its struggles and hardships. We must always remember that “the Lord’s ways are not easy,” and “we are not made for ease.” We are made, rather, for virtue, for growth in holiness, which always involves a certain amount of difficulty as we die more and more to our desires and passions. For some, holiness is attained through marriage or the single life; for others, holiness is attained through a life of priestly service. In the end, holiness always leads to joy, for it is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus.

The question that all young men must ask is not so much, “What do I want from life,” but “What does not God want from my life; what does God want me to do?” This is the question parents must pose to their children. If the answer is to be one of his priests, then that young man should lose his feet and be swept up in the great adventure of Jesus Christ. He should find in his family and friends all of the support and encouragement he will need to do so. Let us say to them, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Amen!

iConfess

Capello tip to the Ironic Catholic.

05 February 2010

Grr...

I'm very irritated at the moment, and have been since 8:40 this morning. It isn't good for my soul. Or for those around me, either; thankfully, I haven't been around too many people this morning and those I have been around understand.

Since Monday, I had been planning to use today as the "catch-all" day to prepare for my retreat next week in Hawaii. When I awoke this morning I was energized and ready to set to work, and looking forward to it.

I was going to complete all unfinished paperwork for the parish and Diocese this morning, pay bills, sign checks, write letters to parishioners and a couple letters of recommendation, finish next week's bulletin, work on the parish directories. This afternoon I was going to clean the rectory thoroughly and pack for my retreat. This evening I was going to work on my homily for Sunday's Masses. Very little of any of that has come to pass.

Yesterday I returned to Effingham to celebrate Catholic Schools' Week. When I returned last night I had a message that the washer and dryer I ordered some weeks ago were to be delivered today between 2:00 and 4:00 (they called like this last week but I had to be out of town when they said they'd arrive); thanks for the notice. They just called to say they'll be arriving closer to 5:00. They best work quickly; I have Exposition at 6:00.

This morning I had business thirty miles away for which I left after Mass. When I arrived, I learned that what I was promised would be done last night was not. After waiting an hour and a half for the work to be finished, I finally left because there was no sign that what I needed would be finished anytime soon. After being back in Virden for about an hour I received a call telling me the project was ready to be picked up, so back in my car I went. What should have taken only an hour and fifteen minutes took close to five and a half hours.

Now it looks like plans for tomorrow will have to be changed, which I am loathe to do.

I don't mind it when days like today fall apart because of what I have or haven't done; if I ruin my own schedule and fail to do what I needed to do, so be it, but I really do not like my entire day falling apart because of what other's haven't done.

Dear Lord, give me patience! Saint Jerome (with whom I feel very close at the moment), pray for me!

03 February 2010

Good news from Libera

Libera's new album Peace will be released in the United States March 8th.

Here's a music video of one of the tracks:

Curious

If the Canadian health care system is a good as some would have us believe, then why would Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams have heart surgery in the United States?

Capello tip to the William Show.

Thus it begins

Thomas Peters passes on the regrettable news that a Texas clergyman has actually been sentenced for ten days in jail for ringing the bells of his church; his appeal was denied.

Interestingly enough, the law regarding excessive "noise" has exemptions for ice cream trucks but not for churches [more].

Thus the persecution begins.

Boyle and Benedict?

It is being reported that Susan Boyle would like to sing for Pope Benedict XVI when he visits the United Kingdom this coming September. I certainly hope she does.

02 February 2010

What's taking so long?

Springfield's State Journal-Register reports the City of Springfield (Illinois) is still awaiting reimbursement for hosting President Barack Obama's visit to the Capitol during his campaign on 23 August 2008:

Obama’s presidential campaign was sent a bill for $68,139, and still owes the city $55,457, according to Ernie Slottag, the city’s spokesman.

The city has been trying — unsuccessfully — to collect payment, Ken Crutcher, the city’s director of office of budget and management told aldermen recently [more].
The cynic in me has quite a few comments inside, but I'll refrain from making them today. I'll simply say there seems to be a pattern here.

Who needs a groundhog?

This morning I learned an interesting phrase which suggests the weather on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, otherwise known as Candlemas Day, which we observe today, indicats the length of winter yet to be had:

Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,
Go winter, and come not again.
PETA does not like the use of a groundhog because they say it is inhumane and suggests instead we use a robot, a silly argument to be sure.

I don't mind the use of a groundhog, but I'd rather see us use our Catholic culture. Besides, Puxatony Phil isn't always right. Maybe Candlemas' weather will be.

On a related note, the forecasters called for flurries here in Virden this morning; we have nothing. Last night I called for nothing this morning, and more than flurries late tonight or early tomorrow morning. We'll see who called it.

A day in the life of a pastor

Today brought about the beginning of Beardfest 2010, together with a flurry of activity.

The day began with Mass at 7:15, after which I ate breakfast and set to work on a bit of paperwork, particularly this weekend's and next weekend's bulletins.

About 9:00 I went to put my "Mass kit" together for Mass "on the go." When I tried to twist the cap off of my little bottle for wine which needed to be refilled, my fingers, feeling the effects today of arthritis, were unable to remove the cap; apparently when last I used it I put the cap on too tightly. I found another bottle that sufficed and hope my fingers will have enough strength tomorrow to twist off th cap.

I celebrated Mass at the nursing home at 9:30 and visited with a parishioner afterwards.

When I returned to the rectory I worked with my secretary to pay parish bills, write a couple of letters and start planning ahead for next week during my absence from the parish. I also fielded a few telephone calls.

Just before Noon I went over the to the church to work on the sound system and hook up a newer microphone. We'll see how well it works.

I returned to the rectory for a quick lunch and continued attending to more paperwork.

Just after 1:00 I took a little walk downtown to do a bit of business at some of the local stores and to pick up a box of envelopes we ordered. From this I learned a valuable lesson: check to see how many envelopes you ordered before you decide to pick them up on foot; it isn't terribly fun carrying 2,000 envelopes for several blocks.

By the time I returned to the rectory the mail had arrived so I went through it and paid a few more bills with the help of my secretary.

And then it hit: a change in the weather. Before I really knew what happened my energy level bottomed out and my exhaustion showed clearly on my face. Try as I might, I simply could do no more and went to bed.

This, naturally, only increased my anticipation of my retreat in Hawaii which begins one week from today.

The forecast calls for only a flurry or two in the morning, but I think we'll get more than a flurry; not in the morning, but tomorrow night and into Wednesday morning. We'll see who is right.

After eating dinner I met with the parents of our first communicants.

This evening I have spent writing a few more letters and searching for the year the present rectory was built; I haven't yet found it.

It's been a full day and I'm happy to see it to it's end.