27 November 2006

Papal prayer request

During his Angelus Address yesterday, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, asked all of the faithful "to accompany me with prayer so that this pilgrimage [to Turkey] may bring all the fruits willed by God."

The Knights of Columbus are sponsoring a spiritual pilgrimage beginning today, extending through the Pontiff's visit to Turkey. Here follows the prayer composed by Bishop William E. Lori, Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus:

Heavenly Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, we humbly ask that you sustain, inspire, and protect your servant, Pope Benedict XVI, as he goes on pilgrimage to Turkey – a land to which St. Paul brought the Gospel of your Son; a land where once the Mother of your Son, the Seat of Wisdom, dwelt; a land where faith in your Son’s true divinity was definitively professed. Bless our Holy Father, who comes as a messenger of truth and love to all people of faith and good will dwelling in this land so rich in history. In the power of the Holy Spirit, may this visit of the Holy Father bring about deeper ties of understanding, cooperation, and peace among Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and those who profess Islam. May the prayers and events of these historic days greatly contribute both to greater accord among those who worship you, the living and true God, and also to peace in our world so often torn apart by war and sectarian violence.
We also ask, O Heavenly Father, that you watch over and protect Pope Benedict and entrust him to the loving care of Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Fatima, a title cherished both by Catholics and Muslims. Through her prayers and maternal love, may Pope Benedict be kept safe from all harm as he prays, bears witness to the Gospel, and invites all peoples to a dialogue of faith, reason, and love. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

On Christ the King

Jesus Christ came as King of the Universe not "to dominate peoples and territories, but to free men from the slavery of sin and be reconciled with God," the Holy Father said during his Angelus Address yesterday.

Sitting on his "throne," the cross, Jesus has defeated the power of the "prince of this world."

Jesus told Pontius Pilate that he came to "testify to the truth" (John 18:37), the truth that Jesus "is Love and Truth, and love as well as truth never impose themselves," said the Pontiff. "They knock on the door of the mind and heart and, where they enter, bring peace and joy. This is the way God reigns."

26 November 2006

Stay in that rut!

Yesterday I received an advert for a certain Bible which, quite regretably, came from Catholic publisher.

This particular advert reads:

Grandma's couch - not Grandma's Bible!
and, even more striking - and worse -

The Gift they'll take with them through life!
Now, first of all, just what is wrong with Grandma's Bible? Nothing at all, I suspect. Language that is outdated? Maybe. Difficult to understand? No, that is, not if effort and genuine thought is put into the reading. (If you're curious, the couch on which the young man reclines is hardly Grandma's couch. It's one of those new "modern" styled - and colored - couches. It's ugly, if you ask me.)

Secondly, do we really want someone reading the same thing at age forty-five as at age fifteen? Hardly! Where is the encouragment for spiritual growth? For maturity? For deeper understanding and knowledge?

Why bother to learn more? Everything we need to know must be in this particular publication. Let's just stay in our rut!

This particular publishing house has received a previous letter from me - about their slogan "Make religion relevant" (it already is, I'm afraid; the trick is getting people to set it's relevancy) - and I expect they'll be receiving another letter from me.

For those of you remember the cartoon, Animaniacs, it's time for "Good Idea / Bad Idea".

Good idea: giving a Bible as a gift. Bad idea: giving a Bible for youth and expecting them to use it for the rest of their lives.

More on Saint Paul

Last Wednesday - I'll try to keep up with these in the future - His Holiness concluded his reflections on the life of Saint Paul, a figure he says was marked with a "spirited determination."

"History shows us that one reaches Christ normally through the Church!," said the Holy Father. The same is true for Paul, though in a roundabout way: he discovered Christ while persecuting the Church. "Paul converted then, at the same time, to Christ and the Church."

Pope Benedict XVI devoted most of his address to Saint Paul's understanding of the Church, most notably as the "body of Christ" (cf. I Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12; 5:30; Colossians 1:24).

The Holy Father noted:

With all this Paul leads us to understand that not only is there a belonging of the Church to Christ, but also a certain form of equivalence and identification of the Church with Christ himself. It is from here, therefore, that the greatness and nobility of the Church derives, that is, of all of us who are part of it: Our being members of Christ, is almost as an extension of his personal presence in the world. And from here follows, naturally, our duty to really live in conformity with Christ.
Think about that the next time you want to whop the shopper who places their cart right between you and the items you are clearly investigating!

25 November 2006

Homily - 26 November 2006

There is within each of us a deep longing. We somehow experience that we are not complete, individually, independently and on our own. There is a longing within us that reaches out to other people. This longing, this desire, is the basis of all friendship.

I recognize within myself that I cannot make myself happy, that something within me is missing or incomplete. I therefore look outside of myself for what seems to be missing and I find this person or that person, maybe even you. I am drawn to something within you that I do not find in myself and thus a friendship is born, for you are doing the same thing that I am. We both are looking for what seems to be lacking in ourselves.

If we allow this friendship to deepen it often becomes love, and often enough there are many levels, as it were, to love. We know this to be true with married couples. They are drawn to each other at first seeking their own completeness but as they grow in love they no longer seek their own good, but only the good of their spouse. They become servants of each other and thus grow in love together, following the example of Christ.

This longing, though, can never be satisfied with human friendship or love, but only with the friendship and love of God. Saint Augustine put this desire best when he wrote: “You made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you” (Confessions 1.1). Only when we serve Christ for no other reason than his own goodness will our hearts ever find peace. Only when we acknowledge Christ as King, and we as humble servants, will our hearts be at rest. Only when we serve Christ in each other will our souls find rest, for we are made for love and for service.

In Jesus Christ we find the epitome of service and kingship, the King whom we are to serve with all that we have and with all that we are. A king is set up to govern, to protect and care for his people. We know that few earthly kings have faithfully fulfilled the duties of their office but Christ has fulfilled his office and, because of this, he is “the King of kings and the Lord of lords” (I Timothy 6:15). As the Great King, Jesus Christ is also the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep (cf. John 10:14). He is the King who carries with him the shepherd’s crook and the shepherd who carries the King’s scepter (cf. Psalm 23:4). He is the just and merciful judge.

It is this Jesus, Crucified and Risen, whom John calls “the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5). Precisely on the Cross is his power manifested and revealed. His power is not military or political might, but love. The Roman poet, Virgil, said: Omnia vincit amor; et nos cedamus amori: Love conquers all; let us, too, yield to love (Bucolics, X, 69). The power of love has forever conquered the power of sin and death.

Our King is victorious and he calls us his friends if we do what he commands us (cf. John 15:14). The King invites us to follow the way of his glory – to take up the Cross of victory and triumph – to live with him and to experience his love.

His commands are simple, though not easy: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24); “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 17:7); “Love one another as I love you” (John 15:12).

We know that Christ the King “is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him” (Revelation 1:7). We know, too, that “when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32). Then the Last Judgment will begin and “all the peoples of the earth will lament him” because they will see that their own love pales in comparison to his (Revelation 1:7).

There will be those who, like John Milton’s Satan, lived their lives thinking to themselves, “Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven” (Paradise Lost, 1.261). They would not serve Christ and never found peace. Having refused both to be loved and to love, these will be lead away from the Great King into everlasting punishment.

There will also be those who, like Saint Anthony of Florence, lived their lives thinking to themselves, “To serve God is to reign.” They served Christ and found peace, and, having yielded to love and having loved in return, these will be escorted into everlasting joy. Why? As the King himself says, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

We hear, at the end of the liturgical year, the echo of Jesus’ words: “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.” The King will come and we must be prepared. We must, then, stay clear of sin and close to Jesus Christ. We cannot remain close to him unless we open our hearts to his love and receive him with reverence and devotion, unless we yield to him and allow his love to conquer our heart.

This question remains: will you serve Christ the King and be at peace, or will you serve yourself and be restless? Will you make Jesus Christ the center of your life or will you focus on your own desires? Better yet: are you afraid of the love of Christ?

I tell you, “Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ - and you will find true life” (Pope Benedict XVI, Inaugural Homily, 24 April 2005). Yield to the majestic splendor of his love and serve the Great King of heaven and earth, for love conquers all things.

Bishop Lucas on Christ the King

In his weekly column, "Grace and Mercy," the Most Reverend George J. Lucas reflects on the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ the King. Here follows an excerpt:

The Feast of Christ the King tells us something about the life that is possible after death. The Christ whom we come to know and love in the Gospels is the same person who draws all people to himself through his death and resurrection. He came to serve, not to be served. He was obedient even to accepting enthronement on the cross. He invites us to prepare for life without end in his kingdom by learning obedience to the will of God and by serving the needs of others out of love for God. True obedience and true service are not coerced. Our willing participation in the life of Christ here and now deepens within us a desire for full life with him in the kingdom to come. This growing desire, strengthened by grace, shapes our choices according to the revealed plan of God.

Those who are already living in anticipation of the kingdom to come have no reason to fear death. It is normal to have some apprehension about what lies ahead. As we keep our focus on Jesus, our trust in him overcomes fear. Some of the fear has to do with the possibility of being excluded from the kingdom. Hell is really self-exclusion, freely refusing to love God, neighbor or self. Our culture would like us all to think that hell is an outdated concept. We know better because we understand what it means to be free, free to love God or to refuse to do so.

Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “thy kingdom come.” This week, in a reflective moment, picture yourself as part of God’s kingdom forever. Do you want what God wants for you, life everlasting? Pray for the wisdom to make the choices that lead there.

24 November 2006

The visit of the Excellent One

Another blog written during the useless meeting.

The Most Reverend George J. Lucas spent this past weekend with us for a pastoral visitation to St. Anthony of Padua parish.

His Excellency celebrated and preached all four of the weekend Masses and attended the meeting of the Dead Theologians Society.

After each of the Masses he visited with the parishioners, listening to their thoughts and concerns. He spoke to the DTS about the purpose of the Church as the place to encounter Jesus Christ.

It was a good visit and I hope he will be able to make such a visit on a more frequent basis.

Kairos to chronos

Here follows a post I wrote out Monday evening in the midst of the most useless meeting - truly! - I have ever attended.

Last week after returning from the conference on preaching Advent and Christmas at the Liturgical Institute - which yielded many good thoughts and inspirations - I left with our high school seniors for their Kairos retreat.

Kairos is the Greek notion of time where God interrupts, as it were, the usual course of time - chronos - and is encountered in a unique way.

Prior to the retreat, I told the boys who were leading the retreat that one of two things would happen before we returned: either I would kill them (to which they replied, "I think we can take you"), or they would kill me. Our two styles of working and preparing for the retreat were so different that I did not feel prepared for the retreat and we were driving each other crazy. Well, they were driving me crazy; I'm not sure they paid all too much attention to me. All the while, they kept saying to me, "Don't worry about it, Father. We have it all under control." This brought, of course, little comfort to me.

The advice of the boys, however, seems to have been well-founded. The retreat went very well and I am already looking forward to next year's retreat.

Now, some five days [actually nine now] after the retreat's conclusion, I am beginning to feel recovered, both in mind and body.

The energy and exhuberance of the youth is thrilling and even a bit contagious. I hope and pray that their enthusiasm continues to grow and spread. Thanks for your good efforts and work, guys!

21 November 2006

A Message from England

A friend sent the following to me. On the Interent, it is rumored to have been composed by Monty Python member John Cleese, a rumor that is, like most, quite false. Nevertheless, I did get a kick out of it and will pass it on to you.

In light of your failure to elect competent leaders of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (excepting Kansas, which she does not fancy).

Your new prime minister, Tony Blair, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary.

1. Then look up "aluminum," and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as "favour" and "neighbour." Likewise, you will learn to spell "doughnut" without skipping half the letters, and the suffix -ize will be replaced by the suffix -ise. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up "vocabulary").

3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.There is no such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter "u" and the elimination of -ize. You will relearn your original national anthem, God Save The Queen.

4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

7. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.

8. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

9. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling "gasoline")-roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.

10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

11. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

12. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie MacDowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

13. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).

14. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 21% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable.

15. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

16. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

17. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 PM with proper cups, never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; strawberries in season.Thank you for your co-operation.

Antique holy cards

Looking for just the right holy card to include with your Christmas cards? Look here. They have great cards!

18 November 2006

The Bishop is coming

The Most Reverend George J. Lucas, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, will be at St. Anthony of Padua parish this weekend for a Pastoral Visitation.

His Excellency will preach at all of the Masses this weekend (and celebrate most of them) and I will serve as the Master of Ceremonies, a role that I cherish and love very much. After the Masses he will visit with the parishioners. He will also attend the meeting of the
Dead Theologians Society.

Some weeks back, Bishop Lucas described his hopes for these pastoral visitations. You can read about them

Here is the welcome that I will give the Bishop at the beginning of the Masses:

Your Excellency,

May the Lord give you peace!

As you know, the Reverend Monsignor Leo J. Enlow, Vicar Forane and Pastor of St. Anthony of Padua parish is, regrettably, unable to be with us this evening. It is, therefore, my happy duty and honor as the Parochial Vicar of this parish to receive you in his name and in the name of our parishioners. With great joy do I welcome you and I greet you with affection.

Most Reverend Father, in this, your first Pastoral Visitation to us, you come among us to exercise the tripartite ministry of governing, teaching and sanctifying which was entrusted to you by the great Pope John Paul II in the name of Jesus Christ, High Priest of the New and Eternal Covenant.

As the Successor to the Apostles, we, the faithful of your Diocese, look to your guidance and example as we seek to follow faithfully after Christ the Lord. We look to your crozier – to your shepherd’s staff – to gently prod us ever deeper into the mystery of Christ. We look, too, to the tails of your mitre – your hat that symbolizes the Ten Commandments – that fly behind you as you run the race and fight the good fight, leading us into the new and eternal Jerusalem (cf. I Corinthians 9:24-27). We run the race with you and, following after you, take courage and inspiration from your example. We look to you also as our father and listen with love and devotion to your words and your teaching.

We welcome you, dear Bishop, and thank you for your presence among us. Be assured of our constant prayers for you, that you may be formed ever more closely to the heart of the Good Shepherd that your ministry might bear fruit that will last (cf. John 15:16).

Spiritual Pilgrimage

The Knights of Columbus are sponsoring a spiritual pilgrimage with Pope Benedict XVI during the time of his upcoming visit to Turkey, November 28th - December 1st. His Excellency, the Most Revered William Lori, has composed a special prayer to be prayed each day of the pilgrimage:

Heavenly Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, we humbly ask that you sustain, inspire, and protect your servant, Pope Benedict XVI, as he goes on pilgrimage to Turkey – a land to which St. Paul brought the Gospel of your Son; a land where once the Mother of your Son, the Seat of Wisdom, dwelt; a land where faith in your Son’s true divinity was definitively professed. Bless our Holy Father, who comes as a messenger of truth and love to all people of faith and good will dwelling in this land so rich in history. In the power of the Holy Spirit, may this visit of the Holy Father bring about deeper ties of understanding, cooperation, and peace among Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and those who profess Islam. May the prayers and events of these historic days greatly contribute both to greater accord among those who worship you, the living and true God, and also to peace in our world so often torn apart by war and sectarian violence.

We also ask, O Heavenly Father, that you watch over and protect Pope Benedict and entrust him to the loving care of Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Fatima, a title cherished both by Catholics and Muslims. Through her prayers and maternal love, may Pope Benedict be kept safe from all harm as he prays, bears witness to the Gospel, and invites all peoples to a dialogue of faith, reason, and love. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
I encourage all of you to join with me and the Knights of Columbus in prayer for His Holiness.

Bishop Lucas on Thanksgiving

In his weekly column, "Grace and Mercy," the Most Reverend George J. Lucas gave consideration to the upcoming national holiday.

Noting that "prayer of thanksgiving is the type of prayer that most characterizes Catholic prayer," his Excellency said we give thanks "that all of creation is set free from sin and death by the death and resurrection of Christ." He continued:

This week we offer special thanks for the fruits of creation and for the truth that this world is being transformed by grace. We have our citizenship in heaven, as St. Paul tells us. Yet we live as fully as possible here, because this is where God has put us. To live fully in this world means to live in Christ, to be transformed by grace ourselves and to lead all of creation in a prayer of thanksgiving for the gifts of life and redemption. Each baptized person shares in the priesthood of Jesus Christ and is therefore able to speak a prayer of thanks to God in and through Christ, on behalf of all creation.

Any prayer of thanksgiving of ours will be shallow if we fail to take account of the burdens of our brothers and sisters, even as we count our own blessings. At a minimum, we must be aware that the peace and plenty which most of us enjoy this Thanksgiving are not the experience of so many. In particular, we must admit that peace and plenty are not ours by right, especially if they are had at the expense of others. A prayerful attitude of thanksgiving to God draws us out of ourselves and helps us see the world as God sees it.

On the State of the Parish Address

Two weeks ago I posted briefly about the State of the Parish address given by the pastor. In this week's issue of the Catholic Times is an article concerning the event.

An unexpected gift

Today in the mail I received the book Days of the Lord: The Liturgical Year: Volume I, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany. I have no idea why I received the book - it came with no note or letter - other than to assume that it is a gift from an anonymous friend (it seems to have come from someone's personal library by initials of WKR).

I have wanted this book - and the others in the series - for some time and so I say to you, my generous benefactor: Thank you!

17 November 2006

A little something to think about

His Holiness did it yet again by providing some rich food for thought at this past Wednesday Audience:

It is as if saying that the Holy Spirit, n amely, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, becomes the soul of our soul, the most secret part of our being, from which rises incessantly to God a movement of prayer, of which we cannot even specify the terms. The Spirit, in fact, makes up for our deficiencies and offers the Father our adoration, along with our most profound aspirations. Obviously this calls for a level of great vital communion with the Spirit. It is an invitation to be ever more sensitive, more attentive to this presence of the Spirit in us, to transform it into prayer, to experience this presence and to learn in this way to pray, to speak with the Father as children in the Holy Spirit.

11 November 2006

Homily - 12 November 2006

Today Holy Mother Church presents for our consideration the story of two widows. Both women are quite poor and in dire circumstances. One we know has a young boy and neither has much money. Even so, the unexpected – and, in our estimation, the very foolish – was asked of these two women and in their responses we find for ourselves a very great challenge and the measuring rod of faith.

The first widow, and her son, clearly have eaten little or nothing for many days for she readily admits “we shall die” after they eat a small bite (I Kings 17:12). She has saved what little flour she had left as long as she could and when she can wait no longer the prophet Elijah requests her required hospitality. “Please bring me along a bit of bread,” he says to her, knowing full well, I expect, that she had none (I Kings 17:11). Nevertheless, the woman trusts in the generosity of the Lord who promised through his prophet: “The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry” (I Kings 17:14). Through the Lord’s goodness, her flour and oil remain for an entire year, enough to feed her, the young boy, and the man of God; a remarkable feat by any standard. The widow gave everything she had to the Lord, through his prophet, and held nothing back and the Lord met all of her needs.

The second widow surely knew the story of the. When she entered the temple to offer alms for the poor and needy she gave no thought to herself but only to those worse off than she. Whereas the wealthy gave but a small portion of what was left -after they acquired everything they wanted - this beautiful widow “from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mark 12:44). Unlike the wealthy, the widow gave everything she had to the Lord and held nothing back and the Lord met all of her needs.

These two widows both knew that “the LORD keeps faith forever” (Psalm 146:7). Both could easily have withheld their offering and we would say they would be justified in doing so. We would commend them for being wise stewards of what little they had, but this Jesus does not do. He commends them and praises them not for their foolishness but rather for their great generosity and concern for others more than themselves.

In their poverty these two women depended upon the Lord for their sustenance and livelihood. They did not trust in their own ingenuity or cleverness, nor did they trust in what little wealth they had. In the midst of their difficulties they trusted not in themselves or in their own work, but in the Lord alone. Can the same be said of us?

There are many today who still try, as it were, to buy their way into heaven. They lack the love of the widows. You who are rich: do not trust in your wealth. The Lord will not be fooled.

If money could purchase such things, then the woman who deposited the two small copper coins would have received nothing very large. But since it was not money but rather her intention that prevailed, that woman received everything because she demonstrated firm conviction (Saint John Chrysostom, Homilies on Philippians).
The Lord Jesus did not praise the woman for her gift of money, but for her desire to give all that she had. In this way, she imitated Christ who gave himself completely to us, sparing not even his own life. In this way she is a model for us.

There are also many today who make no offering at all to the Lord, thinking their small gift will be of little or no account. Others think that the Lord will not provide all of their genuine needs if they foolishly give away their hard-earned money. They lack the faith of the widows. You who are poor: follow the example of these widows and remember the multiplication of the loaves and fish. The Lord can take a small gift freely given an make of it something truly great.

There are yet others today who consider their entrance into heaven assured simply because of themselves. They rightly make no great pretense about following Christ, but, wrongly, they make no great effort to follow Christ, either. They say to themselves,

I am a good person and have lived a good life. I haven’t killed anybody or committed adultery. I haven’t stolen a car or burned a house. I have nothing to worry about. I haven’t done anything really wrong. I don’t have any big sins.
All the while they say this they forget that they hate the person three pews away from them; they forget they are not open to God’s gift of life; they forget they live in sin with their boyfriend or girlfriend; they forget they do not meet the genuine needs of their employees or fulfill their duties at school or at work. All this they do and say, “I am a good person; what more does the Lord want?” The answer is simple: the Lord wants everything you have and everything you are.

What are you withholding from the Lord today, from him who gave everything for you? He desires your love. Will you give it to him? Your heart desires his love. Will you receive it today?

We might well ask: what enabled this widow to give away even her livelihood? I tell you, it was her love. She loved the Lord so very much and trusted so fully in him that she withheld not a thing from him but gave him everything. In this way she is a great challenge to us and a demonstration of what love truly is.

As the season of Advent draws ever closer, the season of giving also comes near. Solicitations in the stores and in the mail will increase in the coming weeks, as will our response to them. We have a tendency to throw in only a few coins here and a few coins there, all to avoid looking stingy by not dropping something in every kettle we see. Where is the love in this act? This is no act of love but of pride and arrogance. Let us then follow the example of this widow and offer to the Lord whatever he asks of us. Let us remember the words of Saint Paul: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (I Corinthians 13:3).

07 November 2006

I've been promoted

This is a bit late, but I'll still post it.

I received an e-mail on October 10th from a dear friend in Quincy, of whose daughter, Rachel, I am the Godfather.

Rachel's Mom wrote this:

We went to our first First Reconciliation meeting last night. We talked about Baptism. Rachel said that it is neat to have the Pope be her Godfather.

State of the Parish Address

This past Sunday, 5 November 2006, marked a special day in the life of St. Anthony of Padua parish. The Rev. Msgr. Leo J. Enlow, Pastor, offered his State of the Parish Address before a gathering of some five hundred or more parishioners after the 11:00 a.m. Mass.

In his address, he focused mainly on stewardship, both the good and faithful stewardship of the past, and the need for a renewed sense of stewardship for the future.

At the conclusion of his address, he unveiled three new logos to be used within the parish: one for the parish, one for the high school, and one for the grade school.

I am having some difficulty loading these new logos, but when I figure it out I will post them.

A ministry fair followed the address, which was also very well attended.

At 3:00 p.m. a Bereavement Mass was celebrated in which we remembered our parishioners who died within the past year. At 7:00 p.m. the Dead Theologians Society met, which, all in all, made for a rather long day, though a good one.

04 November 2006

Homily - 5 November 2006

This month of November has long been given to the remembrance of the dead, and not simply to their memory but to the offering of prayers and sacrifices on their behalf. As we feel the temperatures fall and plummet, as the leaves turn their shades of colors and fall to the ground, as the grass turns brown and the darkness lengthens we see the slow death of nature and it is only fitting that we consider now our own death.

Saint John of the Cross pointedly reminds us: “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love” (Dichos, no. 64). Love is the measure of all things. This Jesus makes very clear today with his response to the question of the scribe:

You shall the love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-32).
When, at long last, the dust from which we were made “returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it,” we will indeed be judged on our love (Ecclesiastes 12:7). We will not be judged so much by what we have done or what we have failed to do, although these things will matter; what matters most is the depth of our love because love “is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:33). We will be judged according to our imitation of Christ Jesus.

When we stand before the throne of God and render to him an account of our life, “perfect love will make possible entrance into heaven, imperfect love will require purification, and a total lack of love will mean eternal separation from God” (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, 153). The angels and saints will escort those who have loved with the perfect love of Christ into the glories of heaven. Those who have loved, although imperfectly, will enter Purgatory to be purged and cleansed of the effects of their sins. Those who have not loved will enter the gates of hell because they have rejected love itself.

Here we might well ask what it means to love. The Holy Father once said, “In the end, in fact, love alone enables us to live, and love is always also suffering: it matures in suffering and provides the strength to suffer for good without taking oneself into account at the actual moment” (Address to the Clergy of Aosta, 25 July 2005). Here Saint John reminds us: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (I John 4:10). Indeed, in Jesus Christ, “No longer is [love] self-seeking, a sinking in the intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation, and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice” (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 6).

How very easy – almost too easy - it is for us to say to Jesus with the scribe:

Well said, teacher. You are right in saying ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’ And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12:32-33).
This man gives the correct answer and in so doing justifies himself; he knows he is to love God and his neighbor but he does not love either God or his neighbor fully. He will not let himself be vulnerable to love. If he were, he would have recognized Jesus not as a “teacher” but as the “high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26).

Jesus knows the scribe’s lack of love just as he knows our own and he says to him and to us, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). A high compliment, maybe, but if it was, why, then, did “no one [dare] to ask him any more questions” (Mark 12:34)? The scribe felt a gentle rebuke in Jesus’ words, because “to say ‘you are not far from’ suggests that the scribe was still at some distance from the reign of God” (Psuedo-Jerome, Commentary on Mark).

Inasmuch as we fail to love, we are far from the kingdom of God. Love is the measure of distance to the Kingdom of God. How readily do we humble ourselves to accept the love of God that we do not deserve? How readily do we return his love? How readily do we show to others the love that Jesus lavishes upon us?

Sad to say, not all of us understand these spiritual values as well as we should, nor do we give them a proper place in our lives. Many of us, in fact, strongly attracted by sin, may look upon these values as of little moment, even something of a nuisance, or we ignore them altogether (Blessed Pope John XXIII, Homily at the Canonization of Saint Martin de Porres).
Now, then, we return to our initial thought from Saint John of the Cross: “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.”

We know that we have not - and do not - always love perfectly as the Lord commands us. We grow jealous, we lie, steal and cheat; we grow angry and irritated at one another; we judge and condemn those who are one with us in Christ. In short, we fail to keep the supreme command of love and we fall into sin. And when we come to the end of our earthly life and suffer death we will stand before him who is Love itself.

We can be sure of this, that “all who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030).

We know, too, as we read in Sacred Scripture, that “it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins” (II Maccabees 12:46). This is why we visit the graves of our loved ones in November. This is why Holy Mother Church celebrated only days ago the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed. This is why we continue to pray for the dead, confident in the power of intercessory prayer. The Church has always commended “almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead” (CCC, 1032) because, as Saint John Chrysostom asks,

If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them (Homily in I Corinthians 41:5).
Said Saint Ambrose so many centuries ago: “We have loved [them] in life. Let us not forget [them] in death.” Let us continue our love for our beloved dead – and for all the dead. Offering our sufferings out of love for them, asking the Lord to make them “perfect forever” (Hebrews 7:28) and welcome them swiftly into his Kingdom of “light, happiness, and peace” (Roman Canon). Then, together with them around the throne of God, we will cry out with the angels and all the saints: “I love you, Lord, my strength” (Psalm 18:2)!

03 November 2006

On the Saints

Below are a few quotes from the Holy Father's homily given during the Mass for the Solemnity of All Saints.

The saints are not a restricted caste of elect but a crowd without number toward which, today, the liturgy exhorts us to lift our eyes.

Many there are whose faces and names we do not know but with the eyes of faith we see them shine like stars full of glory in the divine firmament.

Gazing upon the luminious examples of the saints the great desire to be like the saints is awakened in us; happy to live near God, in his light, int he great family of the friends of God. Being a saint means living close to God, living in his family. And this is the vocation of all of us, vigorously reaffired by the Second Vatican Council, and on this day brought to our attention in a solemn way. But how can we become saints, friends of God? An initial response to this question is this: To be saints it is not necessary to perform extraordinary deeds and works, nor is it necessary to possess exceptional charisms. But this only tells us what sainthood is not. The positive answer it that to become a saint it is above all necessary to listen to Jesus and then to follow him and not lost heart in the face of difficulties.

The example of the saints encourages us to follow in their footsteps, to experience the joy of those who entrust themselves to God, because the only cause of sadness is to live far from him.

Holiness demands a constant effort but it is possible for all since it is not just the work of man but is above all a gift of God, who is thrice holy (cf. Isaiah 6:3).

In our life all is a gift of his love. How is it possible to remain indifferent before so great a mystery? How is it possible to not respond to the love of the heavenly Father by leading a life of grateful children?

Thus, the more we imitate Christ and remain united to him, the more we enter into the mystery of divine holiness.

In the measure that we accept his proposal and follow him - everyone according to his own circumstances - we too can participate in his beatitude.
And one quote from his Angelus Address:

"Eternal life," however, does not mean for us Christians simply a life that lasts forever, but rather a new quality of existence fully immersed in God's love, which frees us from evil and death and which puts us in everlasting communion with all the brothers and sisters who share in the same love.

02 November 2006

My future resting place

Here's a post simply for the curious. Below is a photograph of my final resting place in Calvary Cemetery in Quincy, Illinois. As I took the picture I was standing on the spot where I will be buried.

Strangely enough, I will be buried next to the founding pastor of my home parish of St. John the Baptist.

A sobering day

For many years now, the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed has been one of my beloved days in the liturgical life and prayer of the Church. While I always anticipate All Saints' Day with great joy, I anticipate All Souls' Day with a certain sadness.

On this day I naturally consider my own future death, whenever it may come (I'm hoping for death before knee replacement). But importantly, my thoughts and prayers turn always on this day to my parents, Bill and Pat. Dad has been dead now twenty years and Mom eighteen.

I look forward to the day when I will at long last see them again; and yet, I somehow know that they will embrace me and swiftly take my hands and lead me to the Lord Jesus. It will be a joyous occassion not so much because of them, but because of Jesus. This realization is for me a bitter-sweet one.

The prayers for the Mass say it all and so well:

Merciful Father,
hear our prayers and console us.
As we renew our faith in your Son,
whom you raised from the dead,
strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters
will share in his resurrection,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Today is a day both of sorrow and of hope, a hope that somehow produces a joy. It is a day of one of those great paradoxes of the Christian life and faith and, as such, it is a beautiful and moving day.

Let us today recall the beautiful words of Sant Ambrose concerning the death of his brother:

Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree it from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy. Human life was condemned because of sin to unremitting labor and unbearable sorrow and so began to experience the burden of wretchedness. There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited. Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing. The soul has to turn away from the aimless paths of this life, from the defilement of an earthly body; it must reach out to those assemblies in heaven (thought it is given only to the saints to be admitted to them) to sing the praises of God.

Let us then raise our prayers to the Father for all of the dead remembering that "it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins" (II Mac 12:46). In the words of Saint Ambrose: "We have loved [them] in life. Let us not forget [them] in death.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

A night at the theatre

A cast and crew from St. Anthony of Padua High School will perfom a non-musical version of The Wizard of Oz this weekend at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The high school producations are enjoyable and entertaining. I'm looking forward to seeing the young student thespians in action.

The Effingham Daily News has a brief article about the production here.

A royal wedding

In case you have not yet heard the news, Lord Nicholas Windsor, son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, will wed Paola Frankopan, a British-born Croatian princess, by year's end in the church of Santo Stephano degli Abissini inside Vatican City State. Both have been received into the Roman Catholic Church from the Church of England.

With his entrance into the Church of Rome in 2001, Lord Windsor relinquished his claim, distant though it is, to the throne of England in accord with the 1701 Act of Settlement which barred any Catholic - or one married to a Catholic - from ascending the throne of England.

Her Majesty, the Queen, is said to be both "delighted" and "very pleased" about the coming marriage.

My congratulations and prayers to the couple.

More here and here.