30 January 2009

Away up north

Greetings from the frozen north!

Yesterday the parish music director and I drove from Effingham to Mundelein to attend today's Treasures of the Triduum workshop at the Liturgical Institute. I'm told some 160 people will be in attendance.

After a brief stop at the House of Hansen - and after ordering a vestment for Easter - we arrived at Mundelein about 4:30 p.m. Traffic - oddly enough - wasn't too bad. After touring the campus went to dinner with a friend of mine who is studying for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Later in the evening I bumped in to quite a few priests who were at Mundelein with me and we spent and good late evening carrying on and sharing our current stories. Much laughter was had. It is moments like these that make me miss seminary life and academia very much.

Registration for today's workshop opens in a few minutes. After the workshop concludes with Vespers this evening, we will go out for dinner - hopefully with our diocesan seminarians here, if schedules can be arranged - and return to Effingham very late tonight, or possibly very early tomorrow, traffic depending. I simply refuse to attempt to drive though Chicago at 6:00 p.m. on a Friday evening.

27 January 2009

Father Forecaster

Sunday afternoon I told our students at the soccer game that we would definitely have school on Monday, but that we would not have school on Tuesday; of this I was certain.

I'm happy to say that I read my arthritis accurately, even down to within the hour of when I thought the snow would begin to fall.

Word spread of my prediction and so all afternoon and evening yesterday I received messages from other students asking if we would have school today.

Given that I was right, this evening I've had several messages asking about tomorrow. I don't think we'll have school tomorrow, either.

It seems they've found a new use for me and I'm happy to fill it when I can.

Let's flood a few mailboxes

This past weekend we participated in the postcard campaign sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops urging our Senators and Representatives to oppose the Freedom of Choice Act.

I took the postcards to the high school yesterday where I recruited the help of a few students to first label the postcards and then separate them. It was a lengthy and tedious process, but we know that it was also a worthy one.

I'm not really sure how many postcards were filled out, but I do know that not a few people only filled out one card instead of three. We'll try to contact them and ask them to come in to fill out the ones they didn't already.

We didn't have school today so I finished up labeling and separating the cards on my own.

I wanted to find something to use for perspective and a can of Dr Pepper did just the trick. The big stack on the left will go to Senator Roland Burris, the big stack in the middle to Senator Richard Durbin, and the big stack on the right to Representative John Shimkus. The four small stacks on the right will be sent to the Senators and Representatives from Kansas (we must have had a few visitors) and the two single cards will go to other Illinois Representatives. The stack at the front of the table are cards that need to be completed because three cards weren't filled out by everyone. Those will take a bit of work.

It took quite a few pens to fill out so many cards, which were borrowed from local banks and businesses. When I say "borrowed," I mean it. One of our parishioners kindly went to the banks and businesses asking for pens; she also told them we would return the pens.

I don't expect we will have school tomorrow, so on Thursday I'll have some of the high school students help separate the pens.

Won't that be exciting?

26 January 2009

FOCA Postcard Campaign

In case you were not able to sign one of the postcards for the Freedom of Choice Act Postcard Campaign sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, you may write to your Senators and Representative with the following text, taken from the postcard:

Dear Senator/Representative N.,

At this time of serious national challenges, Americans should unite to serve the good of all, born and unborn. The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), the most radical and divisive pro-abortion bill ever introduced in Congress, would creat a "fundamental right" to abortion that government could not limit but would have to support. FOCA would overturn many existing widely-supported policies, including laws protecting parental involvement and conscience rights and those preventing partial-birth abortion and taxpayer funding of abortion.

Please oppose FOCA or any similar measure, and retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion. As your constituent, I would appreciate a written response telling me how you would vote on this matters.



25 January 2009

Around the blogosphere

The Curt Jester points us to an mp3 of an interview of Sandra Miessel and Carl Olson - of Ignatius Press - as they discuss tonight's broadcast of NBC's miniseries, The Last Templars. The two-part series is based on a book of the same name by Raymond Khoury. It's nothing more than more of the Da Vinci Code nonsense. The Curt Jester won't be watching it, and neither will I.

Father Joel Sember recounts how the frozen north froze his holy oil! Fortunately, it hasn't gotten that cold here.

A Catholic Mom in Hawaii passes on seven tips for raising boys.

Our favorite American Papist has posted a couple of hilarious Papist Pictures of the Day recently, first here and then here.

A few pictures

I think this year may be the last year that I bus out to the March for Life. Over the course of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night I think I might have slept six hours. Maybe.

We bussed out of Effingham Tuesday evening and the opportunity was there to sleep on the bus. I don't sleep well on planes and I sleep better on planes than I do on busses.

Between late night games of Apples to Apples - along with late night conversations - little sleep was had while in the hotel; I simply - somehow - was not tired.
But now I am. We returned to Effingham yesterday about Noon. I laid down for a nap about 2:30 p.m. and awoke to the telephone about 7:00 p.m. I ate supper and watched a bit of British comeday and was asleep again by 9:00 p.m. The alarm woke me this morning at 5:00 a.m., to give me time to work on a homily - yet to be fully typed or recorded - before Mass at 8:30 a.m.
It feels as though I am jet lagged and, on top of it all, the snow is falling and my joints are hurting. Nevertheless, I know that if I go to bed now, I won't sleep tonight, which, in the long run, will not at all be good.
This afternoon I will attend the kickoff for our annual Catholic Schools Raffle (if you like, I'll sell you a ticket) from 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. Afterwards, I'll make a thirty-minute drive north to watch some of out students play soccer at 4:10 p.m. And when I return to Effingham I'll attend dinner with our Sesquicentennial Committee at the home of parishioners at 6:30 p.m. That should keep me awake long enough so I can crash about 9:00 p.m.
Next year, I think I fly to the March, that is, unless the laws are changed this year.
I'll post a few pictures from the March until I can post a bit more.
First, our group of 171 pilgrims from across the Diocese:
Second, a view of the procession at the Vigil Mass:

My kids counted 893 seminarians, deacons, priests and bishops in the procession.
Third, a view from the sanctuary (it gets pretty tight up there):
Fourth, my pilgrims and I during the March itself:
More to come later, but before I go: I'm told that I was on EWTN's coverage of the Vigil Mass, both during the procession and the recession. Did anyone happen to record the Mass digitally, or know how I might view those pieces?

22 January 2009

Marching for Life

Just a quick note to explain my absence.

I'm currently in the Capitol for the March for Life, traveling with a group of 171 people from across the Diocese (just one of several groups arriving from central Illinois). I'm happy to have brought ten of our high school students with me and two adult chaperones.

We arrived in Washington, D.C. yesterday afternoon and went to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to attend the Vigil Mass. You might have seen our group on EWTN dressed in white hoodies:

One of my kids took a good picture of me at the procession into Mass:

Word from home has reached us that we were on EWTN a few times and yours truly was on twice. One of our parishioners - and a parent of one of our pilgrims - said he could count all of my grey hairs.

Later today we'll tour the war memorials and tomorrow we're heading to New York to visit St. Patrick's Cathedral, Ground Zero and the convent of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

I'll be returning to Effingham Saturday morning, when blogging will resume it's usual routine.

19 January 2009

A timely video

The good folks at CatholicVote.org have given us another timely video, one that takes one of the common reasons given that could supposedly justify an abortion and counters it well:

A wise answer

I've been hitting the ale again. Adam's Ale, that is! Sorry. It's a Monday.

Anyway, Fr. V. has just returned from his retreat and answers the question, "Why should a man be a priest?" It's a good question. He answers it simply:

...on this retreat I think I narrowed it down to only one: Is this the life to which you are called? Is God calling you into this particular relationship with Him and His people?

I have shared with you before the sadness of the stories I have heard over the years. Men especially who said they should have never married and how they wish they would have taken their call to the priesthood more seriously. (The converse is also true.) I cringe when I hear of a parent who tries discourage their son or daughter from the priestly or religious life. What if that is what they are called to? Despite the intention a parent might have to save their child from something that they do not value, they may be setting them up for a life of discontent. And a vocational discontentment effects not only the person, but all those who surround the person: those nearest and dearest.

So, the best reason to become a priest? Because you are called to it. I know I would not change it for the world. I wonder if I have grown to love it so or if my disposition and joy are geared toward it. That is hard to tell. But forced to start all over again, I have no doubt but that I would make the same decision if the Church would have me again, for anything else would always be second choice for me.

18 January 2009

Bishop Lucas on FOCA

In his weekly column in the Catholic Times, "Grace & Mercy," the Most Rev. George J. Lucas addresses next weekend's postcard campaign to urge Congress to oppose the so-called Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).

One more podcast

I've just posted a podcast of last night's homily. It's a bit different from the text I posted yesterday. I hope you enjoy it.

Don't forget: you can subscribe to my podcast via iTunes. Simply search for "Daren Zehnle."

17 January 2009

Homily - 18 January 2009

The Second Sunday of the Year (B)

The celebrated author, 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.”[1] 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.

It is advice that Andrew also did not keep, for he was swept up in the story of Jesus Christ. When Andrew took his first step away from John the Baptist and after Jesus, he had no idea where that step would take him. He did not know that that one step would bring him to the multiplication of the loaves or would find him bringing the Greeks to Jesus (cf. John 6:8-15 and 12:20-26). Nor did he know that that first step, if he let himself be carried away and swept up into the life of the Savior, would take him to Patras to give his life for Christ on an X-shaped cross. Bilbo’s words are true indeed.

What did Andrew 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”?[2] He may not have heard the answer to his questions, but he knew that the one who passed by was himself the Answer.

Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, which meant that he was looking for something, for someone. This is why Jesus asked him, “What are you looking for” (John 1:38).

Andrew knew that John, whom he first followed, “was sent from God” and that he came “to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (John 1:6-7). Andrew sought this Light, the Lamb of God, the Messiah.

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.

Andrew knew that he could only find happiness in the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, and so for him he looked and waited. His desire to wait for the Messiah shows him to be “truly a man of faith and hope.”[3] The moment he heard John the Baptist say, as he pointed to Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” must have stirred him deep within, for at that moment he and another of John’s disciples followed Jesus, they took, that first step, which shows that he was also a man of deep courage and firm conviction (John 1:36, 37).

“Where are you staying,” they asked him (John 1:38). At the heart of this question lies a desire to know Jesus, to learn from him. It is as though Andrew and the other disciple wanted to make the words of Samuel their own: “Speak, for your servant is listening” (I Samuel 3:10).

Andrew and the other disciple – whom tradition says is John, the Beloved Disciple, the author of this Gospel – “stayed with him that day,” but not before bringing Simon Peter, Andrew’s brother, because in Jesus the words of the Psalmist were fulfilled for them: “I have waited, waited for the Lord, and he stooped toward me and heard my cry” (John 1:39; Psalm 40:2). Simon Peter went with them because they said, “We have found the Messiah,” the one who will fulfill of our hopes, expectations and aspirations (John 1:41).

We see in the call of Andrew, Peter and John 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, to stay with him, to be his ambassadors, his presence, in the world today and he continues to call them personally. He continues to call those whom he wishes to make his presence known through the forgiveness of sins and the Eucharist.

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 in the life of Christ.

The call of the Lord can be ignored and it can be stifled, but it often 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 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 needs to double 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 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. “The Lord’s ways are not easy, but we are not made for ease.”[4] 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.

In the end, 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?” If the answer is to follow him as did Andrew, Peter and John, 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.
Let each of us, then, encourage young men to say to the Lord, “Speak, for your servant is listening,” and if the Lord is calling them to his service, “Behold I come” (I Samuel 3:10; Psalm 40:8). Amen!

[1] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of the Lord of the Rings (New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994), 72.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience Address, 17 May 2006.
[3] Ibid., 14 June 2006.
[4] Ibid., Address to his countrymen, 25 April 2005.

The Holy See coming to YouTube

Fr. Ray Blake shares the exciting news that the Vatican is soon to have its own channel on YouTube.

15 January 2009

New podcasts

I'm happy to say that in the midst of these freezing days, I've managed to post two new podcasts.

The first is a recording of a question and answer session I held in the parish a couple of weeks ago.

The second is a class I taught to the RCIA on the Sacraments in general, and Baptism and Confirmation in particular.

I had hoped to post Monday morning's radio interview as well, but I accidentally deleted it from my digital recorder; it is unretrievable. Oops. Sorry.

14 January 2009

A good question

One of my wrestlers posed this very excellent question to me last week during practice:

If God knows what choices we will make then he knows that certain people will choose hell. If he knows before he creates them that they will choose hell, why does he create them?
I'm not quite sure how to explain it, thus none of my answers have yet satisfied him. Can anyone direct me to an article or two to help sort this question out?

A few more links

The Curt Jester points us to post by Fr. Philip Powell, O.P., in which he blogs about the differences between Religious Order priests and Diocesan priests.

The Crescat is holding another of her hilarious – and oft depressing – contests, this time for the world’s ugliest church building. E-mail submissions to her at the_crescat@yahoo.com.

Bishop Robert Lynch considers the “national moment” of the inauguration of President-elect Obama.

Over at Ubi Petrus, Peter has a good reflection on anger.

Meanwhile, Jonathan has a good reflection on authority over at Vinum Novum.

13 January 2009

Shimkus on FOCA

Congressman John Shimkus represents my district in the House of Representatives. I just contacted his office in Washington, D.C. to ask how he intends to vote on the so-called Freedom of Choice Act.

The lady with whom I spoke told me she could not answer the question because she had not spoken with him about the FOCA.

She then kindly took down my name and address and promised to contact me in the near future. She even asked if I wanted to leave the Congressman a message. I asked him to oppose the legislation.

Durbin on FOCA

Just a moment ago I spoke with a representative in Senator Richard J. Durbin's office in Washington, D.C. I called to request how Senator Durbin intended to vote on the so-called Freedom of Choice Act.

The lady I spoke with was kind enough, but entirely unable to help me. She seemingly had not heard of the bill and suggested I look on Senator Durbin's web site. I did, I told her, and strangely found nothing. A search for "abortion" turned up virtually nothing.

All she could suggest was that I keep checking his web site. That I shall certainly do, and I shall also send the Senator from Illinois a personal letter urging him to oppose the legislation.

My fellow Illinoisans, won't you please join me in contacting Senator Durbin's office requesting his stance on the Freedom of Choice Act? You can call his office in Washington at (202) 224-2152 or his office in Springfield at (217) 492-4062. I have called both offices; the Springfield office simply said that the office in Washington handles all legislative issues.

Please, act soon.

I'm not so sure about this

Yesterday morning our athletic director at the high school asked me if I would consider training with him and some of our students for a half marathon run in Champaign on Holy Saturday morning. I was quite baffled at his request; he knows I hate running and, basically, any real form of exercise.

He even tried to guilt me into by saying their are some students who will run only if I run. That guilt will not work on me.

At one point he mentioned that in addition to running, I'd also have to pay to enter the marathon. This doesn't make much sense to me. I told him we should turn it into a fund-raiser for me to attend the canonization of soon-to-be Saint Damien of Molokai (date yet to be announced, but rumored to be in October).

Because I really haven't been exercising much at all since, oh, August, and my doctors have advised me that I really need to excercise, against my better judgment, I'm going to pop over to the gym in a few minutes for the first day of training.

Given the marathon is on what is perhaps the busiest day in the life of a priest I doubt I will actually run it, but the training surely can't do too much harm. Can it?

11 January 2009

Back to the airwaves

Tomorrow morning I will be on WCRA, FM 104.7 / AM 1090 with William Bence at 7:40 a.m.

If you're free, be sure to tune in.

An excellent resource

If you're looking for a great book to help with a Bible Study - both for a group or for you individually - let me recommend to you the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series. I'd seen it advertised in jounals like First Things and decided to order the volume on The Gospel of Mark by Mary Healy.

Dr. Healy provides an introduction to the Gospel of Mark, and then procedes to comment on the text of the Gospel, giving both an historical and spiritual background.

The evidence of her research is seen clearly through the excellent connections between the Gospel and the Old Testament.

The volume provides the places in the Lectionary where a particular passage is found, as well as Old Testament foreshadowings and New Testament parallels, and commentaries in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

I used this volume to help prepare my homily for this weekend (the text of which I have abandoned in light of the auto accident, for which reason there is no homily post this week); this may be the best Scripture commentary I've seen.

You can read an excert from the book here. I look forward to seeing other volumes in this series.


In the charity of your prayers, please remember one of our high school students who is in serious condition. She was involved in an automobile accident late Friday night. At this time, I cannot give more information than this.

I've been very proud of our students. They've been contacting both the Pastor and I to help coordinate and organize prayers for those involved in the accident. Last night they prayed the Rosary after Mass, and they asked for a prayer service this afternoon.

At 3:00 p.m., we will pray the Litany of Saint Anthony of Padua, after a reading or two from the Scriptures and a brief homily.

I'm not sure what I'll say at this point yet, but I think I'll focus on the intercession of the Saints and why we can turn to them in times of difficulty.

08 January 2009

Wisdom from the young

One of the high school students today asked me why I thought I had as much gray hair as I do. Our conversation somehow found it's way here after he asked if I thought he should shave his head, or at least get a buzz. Who knows.

At any rate, I told him I thought my gray hair was a result of stress. I've had no small amount of it over the years, and the fact that I am a natural worry-er certainly doesn't help. What can I say? The tragedies of life have left an impression on me.

I first noticed a few gray hairs when I was sixteen and since then it has increased, slowly, at first, but increasingly so in the past two years or so. I'm hoping to be gray by thirty-five and white by fifty. But that's another matter altogether.

We started talking about the differences between our lives; mine has had much stress, while his has had little.

We know each other pretty well, this student and I. He's on the soccer and wrestling teams, and was one of our pilgrims to World Youth Day 2008.

He has a good head on his shoulders and though it sometimes seems he isn't really on this planet - he's one of the most laidback individuals I've ever met - he's wise for his age. He strikes me as having a good balance of joviality and seriousness, when it is required.

As we talked about the stresses of my life and the relative ease of his, he reminded me - as he does from time to time - that I worry too much. He's right. He put it this way:

Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere.
I told him I'd put that on my blog and he said he wanted attribution. His name: Cody Sandschafer.

Thanks, Cody! Keep reminding us all to slow down and relax; we need this reminder all too often.

Resquiat in pace

Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the top-notch journal First Things and frequest commentator on EWTN, died this morning. Please pray for him.

May flights of angels convey him into Paradise!
That sage of sacred symbol, Fr. V., who blogs over at Adam's Ale, has awarded me the Superior Scribbler Award:

In bestowing the award, he said I am "frank, learned, and never fails to be interesting. But most importantly he has fun being Catholic. Woohoo." Thanks, Fr. V.!

And now the rules for those who receive this award:

  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass the award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author and the name of the blog from whom he/she has received the Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display the award on his/her blog, and link to this post, which explains the award.
  • Each Blogger who wins the Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List (scroll down). That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives this prestigious honor!
  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

I hereby bestow the Superior Scribbler Award upon:

  1. Nicholas Hardesty, of Phat Catholic Apologetics. Nicholas always provides indepth and understandable answers to questions regarding the Catholic faith.
  2. Sr. Mary Martha, of Ask Sister Mary Martha. The good Sister applies her wit and humor to questions of all topics.
  3. Esther, of A Catholic Mom in Hawaii. Esther keeps us to speed with news from Hawaii and offers excellent items to reflect upon throughout the day.
  4. Julie, of Adoro te Devote. Julie chronicles her in life in insightful and humorous ways.
  5. Andrew, of Unam Sanctam. Andrew keeps us to speed on things happening on the other side of the world, often with great photos.

A great sale

Ignatius Press is holding a New Year Blowout Sale with some great deals.

07 January 2009

Today in Catholic History

Every wonder what happened on the current date in Catholic history. I do.

A friend of mine has started a new blog in this regard: Today in Catholic History.

That was odd

I awoke this morning from a dream just before my alarm went off. At the moment of waking, in the dream I was metamorphosizing into a fish.

I've no idea why. Perhaps I was a young King Arthur being taught by Merlin:

Who knows. (I was unable to locate a video of the actual transformation.)

What I do remember of the dream was that the process of the transformation was rather painful, but as I became more and more a fish the less painful it was; it even began to be comfortable. Untill I realized I was not in water. That's when I awoke.

As I pondered this dream for a bit I realized it realized the growth in holiness.

At first, growing in holiness is painful as we die to our own wants and begin to live for God and neighbor. The more we grow in holiness the more comfortable - the more "natural" - it becomes and we begin to need holiness to thrive, much as a fish needs water to live.

I hope that makes sense. I'm rather exhausted this morning; the weather is not being kind.

I must now be off for Mass, after which I will head to the See City for another meeting of the Priests Personnel Board. I hope to return to Effingham in time for wrestling practice, which will be followed by a meeting of the Pastoral Council. A day of driving and meetings. Wahoo.

To leave on a more pleasant note, here is one of my favorite parts of The Sword in the Stone:

Have a good day!

06 January 2009

Right to Life Breakfast

The 35th annual Effingham County Right to Life Breakfast will be held Sunday, January 18th at the Teutopolis grade school.

The breakfast will be served from 7:00 a.m. through 12:30 p.m.

Volunteers are being sought to work in two-hour shifts, and to help with dontaing breads and rolls. For more information, contact Mrs. Jack Koester.

Please make plans to attend the breakfast.

To lighten the day

It's a dreary, dismal day here in Effingham, with a threat of a wintry mix of precipitation on the day. The arthritis index for the area is listed as "very high," but I feel rather fine today and doubt the predictions of much troublesome weather.

Even so, the mist is falling, the clouds are loud and the temperature is cold. It just isn't pleasant day.

With this in mind I thought today would be a good day to post again one of my favorite videos, lest the season should pass without my doing so:

And while we're at it, here's another for the Epiphany:

05 January 2009

This gadget is great!

A little lunch

Today for lunch I made a smoked turkey with tomato cream sauce pasta, with peas and buttered bread. And a Dr Pepper with lemon.

First, I started with a bit of olive oil and diced tomatoes.

To this I added salt, pepper, sugar turkey and cream.

Afterwards I added a bit of parsley and some parmesan cheese.

It was delicious.

Oh, what would John Bosco do?

I don't like conflict and confrontation, but I'm also not one to shy away from it when the circumstances necessitate it.

This afternoon an incident occurred involving me and one of our students, the details of which need not be entered into here. Suffice it to say that the circumstances are such that disciplinary action must be imposed.

The difficulty here is finding the proper balance between justice and mercy, punishment and forgiveness, a lesson learned and a lesson lost. I hate being in this situation.

Fortunately, such circumstances are rare. Whenever I find myself in one, I always turn to the words of Saint John Bosco, words which were of great help in Australia:

First of all, if we wish to appear concerned about the true happiness of our foster children and if we would move them to fulfill their duties, you must never forget that you are taking the place of the parents of these beloved young people. I have always labored lovingly for them, and carried out my priestly duties with zeal...

My sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them...

See that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or willfulness. It is difficult to keep calm when administering punishment, but this must be done if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out anger.

Let us regard those boys over whom we have some authority as our own sons. Let us place ourselves in their service. Let us be ashamed to assume an attitude of superiority. Let us not rule over them except for the purpose of serving them better.

This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalized, and still others to hope for God's mercy. And so he bade them to be humble of heart.

They are our sons, and so in correcting their mistakes we must lay aside all anger and restrain it so firmly that it is extinguished entirely.

There must be no hostility in our minds, no contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips. We must use mercy for the present and have hope for the future, as is fitting for true fathers who are eager for real correction and improvement.

In serious matters it is better to beg God humbly than to send forth a flood of words that will only offend the listeners and have no effect on those who are guilty.
With these words, Don Bosco highlights the difference between a punishment and a discipline. A punishment is given simply out of anger, whereas a discipline is given with the aim of teaching.

Both discipline and disciple come from the same root, meaning to learn. A discipline is, it is true, a form of a punishment, but it's ultimate and primary aim is to teach and correct, to change a certain behavior.

By the grace of God I can honestly say that I bear no anger toward this student and that after having met with him and his mother his remorse is genuine and, I believe, a lesson has already been learned well. And no discipline has officially yet been given.

Just after the incident I told him already what the discipline would be, but now after seeing his sorrow my heart tells me to lessen the discipline because the lesson has been shown. What is needed now is mercy, mercy that highlights the Lord's own mercy toward each of us.

At the same time, my head tells me not to lesson the discipline, lest I appear weak to others, because the incident occured in public; but I must alter the discipline. In this case, my heart will win. After all, in the words of Saint James, "mercy triumphs over justice" (James 2:13).

My heart breaks for the boy and for his mother. He meant no offense - of this I am sure - but his action must be corrected. Both know this. At the same time, knowing the speed with which gossip travels here in Effingham, the entire school will likely know of the incident by morning and classes resume in the morning. This will not help the boy feel better; I pray the students will be respectful.

I have told him that I will hold nothing against him nor think any less of him in the days to come. I hope he believes me and knows it to be true. In fact, I think more of him for actually coming in to see me; not many would have done so.

Please, keep this situation in your prayers.

Let us pray:

you called John Bosco
to be a teacher and father to the young.
Fill us with love like his:
may we give ourselves completely to your service
and to the salvation of mankind.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saint John Bosco, pray for us!

Homily - 4 January 2009 - The Epiphany of the Lord

“We have seen his star at its rising,” the Magi told King Herod (Matthew 2:2). What does this mean?

These learned men from the East are much like the shepherds who adored the newborn King only a few days ago. The shepherds, we are told, were “keeping watch over their flocks by night” (Luke 2:8). The Magi were likewise keeping watch, not over flocks, but over the heavens. Both groups, shepherds and magi, awaited something – Someone – who would change their lives forever.

Why should the Magi have spent so much of their time and energy looking for some sign in the heavens? I tell you, they were not very different from us. They were weary, restless, uncertain and ill at ease. They sought meaning, purpose and direction for their lives. There was, perhaps, within their hearts an intimation of the profound insight of Saint Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”[1]

The shepherds learned of the birth of Christ through the announcement given them by the angels; the magi through the announcement of the star shining in the heavens. The shepherds set out “with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16). The Magi, too, having seen the sign they awaited, must have set out with haste to worship the newborn King of the Jews.

They left everything behind and went in search of him who was the fulfillment of the deepest desires of their hearts. Looking at the courageous faith of these Magi, the question rightly comes to us: What must I leave behind in order to go in search of Christ?

The journey of the Magi was no easy venture. Coming from the East, they arrived at the goal of their pilgrimage, Bethlehem, through Jerusalem.

Like the Magi, all believers – and young people in particular – have been called to set out on the journey of life in search of truth, justice and love. We must seek this star, we must follow it. The ultimate goal of the journey can be found only through an encounter with Christ, an encounter which cannot take place without faith.[2]
If we set out like the shepherds, like the Magi – with haste – we, too, will realize that the answer to our deepest yearning is not a thing, but a person. “The happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: it is Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist. Only he gives the fullness of life to humanity!”[3]

The Magi further told Heord, We “have come to do him homage” (Matthew 2:2). In Greek, they used a form of the word proskynesis, which is better translated as “we have come to adore him.” This is why, when they entered the house, “they prostrated themselves,” they fell down before the Holy Infant (Matthew 2:11).

Do we not imitate these Magi each time we enter the church? Do we not, too, fall down in worship whenever we genuflect before the Lord present in the Holy Eucharist? Yes, we, too, have entered the Lord’s house and have fallen down before him. But when we do fall down before him, when we bend our knee to him, is it merely an external action, or an internal one of deep faith as well?

This act of adoration is no simple gesture, but is one packed with meaning. To adore

refers to the gesture of submission, the recognition of God as our true measure, supplying the norm that we choose to follow. It means that freedom is not simply about enjoying life in total autonomy, but rather about living the measure of truth and goodness, so that we ourselves become true and good. This gesture is necessary even if initially our yearning for freedom makes us inclined to resist it.[4]
Only by adoring him will we find true freedom. We must learn to recognize the Real Presence of the Lord in the Sacrament of the Altar and to adore him with the Magi.

When the Magi fell down before him, they “opened their treasures” to the Christ Child (Matthew 2:11). We, too, want to open our treasures to him, but what treasure have we to give so noble, so beautiful, so holy a Child? We have the treasure of our heart, the treasure of our lives. Let us open it to him, and he will open his treasures for us!

The Latin word for this adoration is adoratio, meaning mouth to mouth contact. It is

a kiss, an embrace, and hence, ultimately love. Submission becomes union, because he to whom we submit is Love. In this way submission acquires a new meaning, because it does not impose anything on us from the outside, but liberates us deep within.[5]
This Herod failed to see.

Before the Magi and Herod said they wanted to adore the Child Jesus. The Magi wanted to do so internally in their hearts, while Herod wanted merely an external show. Herod refused to submit himself to the Child and hence refused to be conquered by Love. The Magi, on the other hand, allowed their encounter with Christ to transform their lives. This is why they “departed for their country by another way” (Matthew 2:12). They could not have returned the way they had come, for everything now was changed.

This is what happens to us when we adore the Lord, when we submit our lives to him: we are conquered by his love, we are changed and we become one with him, one with Love.

Here at this Holy Mass, we can adore with the Lord with the Magi.

Present on the altar is the One whom the Magi saw lying in the manger: Christ, the living Bread who came down from heaven to give life to the world, the true Lamb who gives his own life for the salvation of the mankind.[6]
Let us fall down before him, let us adore him; not as did Herod, but as the Magi, with hearts filled with faith and a desire for salvation. Amen.

[1] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Confessions 1.1.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Welcome Ceremony at the Cologne Airport, 18 August 2005.
[3] Pope Benedict XVI, Celebration Welcoming the Young People, 18 August 2005.
[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 21 August 2005.
[5] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 21 August 2005.
[6] Pope Benedict XVI, Celebration Welcoming the Young People, 18 August 2005.

Looking for a thurible

Over the weekend the thurible (censer) at the parish broke in a such a way that repairing it would not solve the problem well. As such, we are in need of a new thurible.

Looking through the catalogues this morning I'm not really pleased with much of what is offered. The ones I do like cost more than the pastor wants to spend (I do tend to have expensive tastes when it comes to things like this).

Do any of you happen to know of a worthy thurible that would work well in a gothic style church?

A gift for the King

While turning off the lights after Mass yesterday morning I noticed a touching sight:

There was a custom of offering a small token of gratitude to the Christ Child. Let this beautiful and pious custom return.

A blog description

I received an e-mail from the folks at CatholicEverything.com asking me to link to them. In return they have offered to list my blog on their site, complete with a description of my blog.

What should the description say?

01 January 2009

Sometimes I think too much

...and other times I barely think at all.

It occurred to me about an hour ago - quite out of the blue - that tomorrow is First Friday.

Given that I have known today is January 1st and that tomorrow is Friday, I've not idea how the two didn't connect in my mind and I'm not sure how I can remedy the situation. I can only hope one of our Sisters can cover me tomorrow because I need to be on the road by late morning.

I'm sure there's a patron saint for such circumstances.

The things

Have you resolved?

Bishop Lori and Sr. Mary Martha offer their thoughts about a new year's resolution.

In honor of the day

To make up for my previous rant, here's a pretty picture:

What ever became of manners?

It's been an irritating beginning to the New Year this morning already.

If the telephone rings one more time and the disembodied voice fails to offer any greeting whatsoever - whether "Hello," "Hi," "Good morning," etc. - before launching right into the question, "Uh, yeah, what time is Mass this morning," they will receive a brief lesson in manners from yours truly.

Is it really so hard to respond to the greeting, "Good morning; St. Anthony's," with a greeing in kind?

Perhaps I'm too sensitive to these things. Perhaps I want too strongly for decency, courtesy and respect to return to American society. Perhaps it's time for me to find a cave where I won't be bothered with lunacy.

How do you spot a future nun?

A reader asked this excellent question in response to my post, "I think I found a future priest": "How do you tell if have a future nun on your hands?"

This one isn't as easy for me to answer, but I would look for the following in a young lady: a spirit of prayer; a joyful, generous disposition; and a continuous search for something deeper, more meaningful.

What do you think?