31 January 2010

In honor of the day

O glorious Saint John Bosco, who in order to lead young people to the feet of the divine Master and to mould them in the light of faith and Christian morality didst heroically sacrifice thyself to the very end of thy life and didst set up a proper religious Institute destined to endure and to bring to the farthest boundaries of the earth thy glorious work, obtain also for us from Our Lord a holy love for young people who are exposed to so many seductions in order that we may generously spend ourselves in supporting them against the snares of the devil, in keeping them safe from the dangers of the world, and in guiding them, pure and holy, in the path that leads to God. Amen.

Today on EWTN

Two friends sent me notices of these two programs to air this afternoon on EWTN that I would otherwise have missed:

Mass in Honor of the Canonization of Saint Damien of Molokai - LIVE (90 min)
From the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Most Reverend Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America, Celebrant and Reverend William Petrie, ss.cc. Homilist

Sun 1/31/2010 2:00 PM ET / 11 AM PT

An Uncommon Kindness, the Father Damien Story (1hr)
Documentary about the life and mission of the famous “leper priest.” on the island of Molokai, Hawaii Later on in his ministry he contracted and died of the also known Hansen's Disease. Father Damien is also known as a "martyr of charity". Canonized on October 11th 2009 by Benedict XVI

Sun 1/31/2010 5:00 PM ET / 2 PM PT
Thanks for sending in the tips! I think I will use my DVR for the first time today.

Welcome news

For several years now I have said - somewhat in jest - that one day I would launch a campaign to ban the wearing of pajama bottoms in public.

Now, I like lounge pants just as well as everybody else, but I recognize that they are appropriate to wear in my home but not in public, both out of respect for myself and for others. They might even be appropriate to step out on the front porch to collect the morning newspaper. Maybe.

I am happy to say it seems I am not the only person who feels this. Tesco, a grocery store in the United Kingdom, has banned "nightwear" in their stores.

A spokesman for the stores said,
We're not a nightclub with a strict dress code, and jeans and trainers are of course more than welcome. We do, however, request that customers do not shop in their PJs or nightgowns. This is to avoid causing offence or embarrassment to others.
Tesco is to be commended for this decision; I hope others will follow.

Homily - 31 January 2010

The Fourth Sunday of the Year (C)

Dear brothers and sisters,

The Savior proclaims, “Today this Scriptures passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). What passage is it that is fulfilled?

Jesus today is present in the synagogue in Nazareth and has just sat down after proclaiming the ancient prophecy of Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord (Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 61:1-2).
After he spoke these words, Saint Luke tells us that “the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him” (Luke 4:20).

By proclaiming these words, Jesus announces the coming of the appointed time, the time of the Messiah, the fulfillment of the promises of God to Israel. Receiving such grand and long-awaited news, “all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth” (Luke 4:22).

All were to drawn to Jesus because of his words and in him they thought they saw their hope fulfilled. In this respect, many today are not unlike those men of old.

Yet, “they treated these words as worthless,” these words which at first they found so gracious and attractive. As they considered his words, they doubted him who spoke them, asking, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph” (Luke 4:22)? Isn’t he one of us? Who is he to say such things to us?

What was it that caused such a change in them, so much so that “they rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong” (Luke 4:29)? What was it that so infuriated them?

Christ Jesus rebuked them for finding his words so gracious yet not acting upon them, as their ancestors had done; though they spoke highly of him, they would neither accept him nor follow him. In short, he acted upon the word of the Father: “Stand up and tell them all that I command you,” and for this they rejected him whom they welcomed so warmly (Jeremiah 1:17). In this respect, many today are again not unlike those men of old.

As it was in the days of Saint Francis of Assisi so it is in our own day. There are many who profess the faith of Jesus Christ, yet have only “a superficial faith that does not form and transform life.”

Too many today try to live their lives as though their lives were a sort of town, with each building being a separate sphere of life, a separate aspect, which are loosely connected to each other but not necessary or integral. Too many view their faith in this way, as simply a small building down a back alley, rather than the square which lies at the center of town and connects everything together and influences all aspects of life, a square that is necessary for the town’s very existence. These are those who drive Jesus out of their towns, out of their lives, and seek to drive him over the cliff, yet he simply passes through the midst of them to call on them another day (cf. Luke 4:30).

The theological virtue of faith, which the Lord gives to us in Baptism, is given us to form and transform our lives, not to be hung on the mantle or worn as an ornament.

There are too many today who claim the name of Christian who do not truly live their faith fully; what is worse, there are those who simply do not care to try and live out their faith out of love for Christ. Some of these are here among us today, and many more are not.

These are those who drive Jesus out of their lives because they refuse to be transformed by his gracious words and live according to his commands.

Too often we, too, we speak well of Jesus praising his gracious words, his kindness and compassion, his willingness to go against social norms, but when he plainly tells us we must change our lives, we “are filled with fury” and refuse to listen to him (Luke 4:28).

There are many who claim the name of Christian but make little or no effort to arrive early to Mass to prepare themselves to worthily receive the Eucharistic Lord, and there are those who, like Judas, routinely leave Mass before being sent out to carry the love of Christ into the world.

There are too many today who say they follow Christ, but reject his teachings on marriage, divorce and sexuality. There are those who say they follow Christ, but ignore his teachings on justice for the poor and downtrodden. There are those who claim to follow Christ but ignore his teachings on the sacredness and dignity of all human life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. These are those who keep Jesus at a distance, quarantined, almost, and refuse to let their faith transform their hearts and minds.

If we are indeed followers of Jesus Christ, if we wish to receive the blessed joy and fulfillment he promises, we must let the faith he has given us have the central and unifying place in the town of our lives; everything we think, do and say should be done in the light of this faith, allowing it inform us and transform us. We must allow ourselves to be conquered by Christ; we must yield to him who is love.

If we are to live in this way we must fix our eyes intently on him, to see him “face to face” (I Corinthians 13:12). If we keep our eyes fixed on him and learn from him, imitating him in all things, we “shall know fully, as [we are] fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12).

Let us not be like those who reject Christ because he asks too much of them. It is not that he asks too much but that we expect too little of ourselves. All he asks is that we love, fully and authentically; is that really too much to ask? Those who truly live in love grow in holiness and become like him, and this he desires of each of us.

He gives to each of us whatever graces we need to live holy lives, to love as he asks of us; all we need do is cooperate with the grace he gives us.

From his Cross, the Lord Jesus said, “I thirst” (John 19:28). Even now he thirsts for our love! Let us not leave him thirsty, but let us quench his thirst with our eyes fixed intently on him and our hearts rooted firmly in his! Let us not live our faith in a weak and superficial way, but in a manner befitting true and authentic disciples to quench his thirst! Let us bring his love to the world, that, with him, we might announce a year acceptable to the Lord. Amen!

28 January 2010

The Lord's ways are truly wondrous

This morning I was interviewed by a reporter about my use of the new media, particularly through my blog and Facebook, in light of the Holy Father's recent encouragement to priests to enter into this new agora.

Many blessings have come to me through this new media, but few have been as touching as a note that accompanied a friend request through Facebook this afternoon.

The one requesting my friendship asked if I was born at St. Mary's Hospital in Quincy and if my mother was Patricia. I answered affirmatively to both and asked who this person knew my mother. She answered:

I met your Mother at St. Mary's Hospital when I took care of her, and your Father, both of them several times. Your Mother I probably knew better than your Dad, your Mother and I would talk after her treatments about just anything and have some laughs. But the best way I can tell you is, I also cared for you when you were born, such a little guy and very cute. Your Mom was very proud. We cared for you for awhile before you left the hospital. When your Mom entered the hospital for the last time, I was assigned to care for her again. So, when the article came out in the Catholic Times about you and the Priesthood, I showed it to my co-workers and you know we all wondered if you were Patricia's baby boy. We all liked her very much, not to mention the cute baby she had. So, since I am the Catholic in our group, it was up to me to find out. Not to be out of line, we just wondered. I hope that you will not be upset with me or with a bunch of people who are proud of the little boy who grew up and became a Priest. Also, my Sister-in-Law and Mother-in-Law live in Virden.
I am grateful to the Lord for this wondrous gift!

The picture is of my mother and me in the hospital sometime after my birth.

How do I get this job?


Benedict on Francis

Pope Benedict XVI frequently mentions the saints in his writings and speeches, with Saint Francis of Assisi perhaps receiving more mention than the rest of the saints, with the exception of the Mother of God. Imagine my delight then when I read His Holiness' audience address which he delivered yesterday on "the figure of Francis, a 'giant' of holiness, who continues to fascinate very many people of every age and every religion."

His address is simply too good not to post in it's entirety (with my emphases and comments):

"A son is born to the world." With these words, in the Divine Comedy (Paradiso, Canto XI), the greatest Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, alludes to Francis' birth, which occurred at the end of 1181 or the beginning of 1182, in Assisi. Belonging to a wealthy family -- his father was a textile merchant -- Francis enjoyed a carefree adolescence and youth, cultivating the chivalrous ideals of the time. When he was 20 he took part in a military campaign, and was taken prisoner. He became ill and was released. After his return to Assisi, a slow process of spiritual conversion began in him, which led him to abandon gradually the worldly lifestyle he had practiced until then.

Striking at this time are the famous episodes of the meeting with the leper -- to whom Francis, getting off his horse, gave the kiss of peace; and the message of the Crucifix in the little church of San Damiano. Three times the crucified Christ came to life and said to him: "Go, Francis, and repair my Church in ruins." This simple event of the Word of the Lord heard in the church of San Damiano hides a profound symbolism. Immediately, St. Francis is called to repair this little church, but the ruinous state of this building is a symbol of the tragic and disturbing situation of the Church itself at that time, with a superficial faith that does not form and transform life, with a clergy lacking in zeal, with the cooling off of love; an interior destruction of the Church that also implied a decomposition of unity, with the birth of heretical movements. [Sadly, much of this ruinous condition of the Church is present in our own day. Too few people truly allow the faith to form their lives; rather, their faith is simply an after thought and is never allowed to shape and inform every aspect of their lives. Too many clergy are still lacking in zeal. There is still a cooling off of love. And there is certainly a decomposition of unity among Christians. Would that the Lord give us another Saint Francis for our own day! Would that we look to the Poverello and learn from him!]

However, at the center of this Church in ruins is the Crucified and he speaks [as he is and does even today]: he calls to renewal, he calls Francis to manual labor to repair concretely the little church of San Damiano, symbol of the more profound call to renew the Church of Christ itself, with his radical faith and his enthusiastic love for Christ.

This event, which probably occurred in 1205, makes one think of another similar event that happened in 1207: the dream of Pope Innocent III. He saw in a dream that the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Mother Church of all churches, was collapsing and a small and insignificant religious supported the church with his shoulders so that it would not collapse. It is interesting to note, on one hand, that it is not the Pope who helps so that the church will not collapse, but a small and insignificant religious, whom the Pope recognizes in Francis who visited him. Innocent III was a powerful Pope, of great theological learning, as well as of great political power, yet it was not for him to renew the Church, but for the small and insignificant religious: It is St. Francis, called by God.

On the other hand, however, it is important to note that St. Francis does not renew the Church without or against the Pope, but only in communion with him [this central aspect of the life of Saint Francis is too little understood today]. The two realities go together: the Successor of Peter, the bishops, the Church founded on the succession of the Apostles and the new charism that the Holy Spirit created at this moment to renew the Church. True renewal grows together.

Let us return to St. Francis' life. Because his father Bernardone reproved him for excessive generosity to the poor, Francis, with a symbolic gesture, and before the bishop of Assisi, stripped himself of his clothes, thus intending to renounce his paternal inheritance: As at the moment of creation, Francis had nothing, but only the life that God gave him, and into whose hands he entrusted himself. Then he lived as a hermit until, in 1208, another fundamental event took place in the journey of his conversion. Hearing a passage of the Gospel of Matthew -- Jesus' discourse to the Apostles sent on mission -- Francis feels he is called to live in poverty and to dedicate himself to preaching. Other companions associated themselves to him and, in 1209, he went to Rome, to submit to the Pope the project of a new form of Christian life [Here we see him living out his desire to always be in communion with the Pope and through him the entire Church]. He was given a paternal reception by the great Pontiff who, enlightened by the Lord, intuited the divine origin of the movement awakened by Francis. The Poverello of Assisi had understood that every charism given by the Holy Spirit is placed at the service of the Body of Christ, which is the Church; hence, he always acted in full communion with the ecclesiastical authority. In the life of saints there is no opposition between a prophetic charism and the charism of government and, if some tension is created, they must wait patiently for the times of the Holy Spirit.

In reality, some historians in the 19th century and also in the last century tried to create behind the Francis of tradition, a so-called historical Francis, just as there is a desire to create behind the Jesus of the Gospels, a so-called historical Jesus. Such a historical Francis would not have been a man of the Church, but a man linked immediately only to Christ, a man who wished to create a renewal of the people of God, without canonical forms and without the hierarchy. The truth is that St. Francis really had a very immediate relationship with Jesus and with the Word of God, which he wished to follow sine glossa, exactly as it is, in all its radicalism and truth. It is also true that initially he did not have the intention of creating an order with the necessary canonical forms, but, simply, with the Word of God and the presence of the Lord, he wished to renew the people of God, to call them again to listening to the Word and to literal obedience to Christ. Moreover, he knew that Christ never is "mine" but always is "ours," that "I" cannot have Christ and "I" cannot reconstruct against the Church, his will and his teaching -- but only in communion with the Church, built on the succession of the Apostles, is obedience to the Word of God also renewed [Now you have your answer to the question, "Is Jesus your personal Lord and Savior?" You can answer either honestly, saying, "No; he is the Lord and Savior" or sarcastically, saying, "Yes, he's mine, all mine, and you can't have him!" though I daresay the latter won't be of much help].

It is also true that he did not intend to create a new order, but only to renew the people of God for the Lord who comes. But he understood with suffering and pain that everything must have its order, that even the law of the Church is necessary to give shape to renewal and thus he really inserted himself totally, with the heart, in the communion of the Church, with the Pope and the bishops. He knew always that the center of the Church is the Eucharist, where the Body and Blood of Christ are made present. Through the priesthood, the Eucharist is the Church. Where priesthood, and Christ and communion of the Church go together, only there does the Word of God also dwell. The true historical Francis and the Francis of the Church speaks precisely in this way also to non-believers, to believers of other confessions and religions.

Francis and his friars, ever more numerous, established themselves in the Porziuncola, or church of Saint Mary of the Angels, sacred place par excellence of Franciscan spirituality. Also Clare, a young lady of Assisi of a noble family, placed herself in Francis' school. Thus the Second Franciscan Order originated, that of the Poor Clares, another experience destined to bear outstanding fruits of sanctity in the Church.

The successor of Innocent III, Pope Honorius III, with his bull "Cum dilecti" of 1218, also upheld the singular development of the first Friars Minor, who were opening their missions in several countries of Europe, and even in Morocco. In 1219 Francis obtained permission to go to speak with the Muslim Sultan Melek-el-Kamel in Egypt, and also to preach the Gospel of Jesus there. I want to underline this episode of the life of St. Francis, which is very timely. At a time in which there was under way a clash between Christianity and Islam, Francis, armed deliberately only with his faith and his personal meekness, pursued with efficacy the way of dialogue. The chronicles tell us of a benevolent and cordial reception by the Muslim Sultan. It is a model that also today should inspire relations between Christians and Muslims: to promote a dialogue in truth, in reciprocal respect and in mutual understanding (cf. "Nostra Aetate," 3).

It seems, then, that in 1220 Francis visited the Holy Land, thus sowing a seed that was to bear much fruit: his spiritual sons, in fact, made of the places in which Jesus lived a privileged realm of their mission. With gratitude I think today of the great merits of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.

Returning to Italy, Francis entrusted the government of the order to his vicar, Friar Pietro Cattani, while the Pope entrusted the order, which continued gathering more followers, to the protection of Cardinal Ugolino, the future Supreme Pontiff Gregory IX. For his part the founder, totally dedicated to preaching, which he carried out with great success, wrote a Rule, later approved by the Pope.

In 1224, in the hermitage of La Verna, Francis saw the Crucified in the form of a seraphim and from the encounter with the crucified seraphim, he received the stigmata; he thus became one with the crucified Christ: a gift, hence, which expresses his profound identification with the Lord.

Francis' death -- his transitus -- occurred on the evening of Oct. 3, 1226, at the Porziuncola. After blessing his spiritual sons, he died, lying on the naked earth. Two years later Pope Gregory IX inscribed him in the register of saints. A short time later, a large basilica was raised in Assisi in his honor, still today a destination for very many pilgrims, who can venerate the tomb of the saint and enjoy Giotto's frescoes, a painter who illustrated in a magnificent way the life of Francis.

It has been said that Francis represents an alter Christus, he was truly a living icon of Christ. He was even called "Jesus' brother." Indeed, this was his ideal: to be like Jesus; to contemplate the Christ of the Gospel, to love him intensely and to imitate his virtues. [This, I think, is the great appeal of Saint Francis for so many, even if they do not quite recognize it.] In particular, he wished to give a fundamental value to interior and exterior poverty, teaching it also to his spiritual sons. The first Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount -- blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:3) -- found a luminous fulfillment in the life and in the words of St. Francis.

Truly, dear friends, the saints are the best interpreters of the Bible; they, incarnating in their lives the Word of God, render it more than attractive, so that it really speaks to us. Francis' witness, who loved poverty to follow Christ with dedication and total liberty, continues to be also for us an invitation to cultivate interior poverty to grow in trust of God, uniting also a sober lifestyle and detachment from material goods.

In Francis, love for Christ is expressed in a special way in adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. In Franciscan sources one reads moving expressions, such as this: "The whole of humanity fears, the whole universe trembles and heaven exults, when on the altar, in the hand of the priest, there is Christ, the Son of the living God. O wonderful favor! O sublime humility, that the Lord of the universe, God and Son of God, so humbles himself as to hide himself for our salvation, under the low form of bread" (Francis of Assisi, Scritti, Editrici Francescane, Padua, 2002, 401) [That is one of my favorite quotes of Saint Francis].

In this Year for Priests, it pleases me also to recall a recommendation addressed by Francis to priests: "When you wish to celebrate Mass, certainly in a pure way, carry out with reverence the true sacrifice of the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Francis of Assisi, Scritti, 399).

Francis always showed great deference to priests, and recommended that they always be respected, even in the case when, at the personal level, they are not very worthy. He cherished, as motivation for this profound respect, the fact that they have received the gift of consecrating the Eucharist. Dear brothers in the priesthood, let us never forget this teaching: the holiness of the Eucharist asks us to be pure, to live in a consistent way with the mystery we celebrate.

From the love of Christ is born love of people and also of all God's creatures. Here is another characteristic trait of Francis' spirituality: the sense of universal fraternity and love for Creation, which inspired his famous Canticle of Creatures. It is a very timely message. As I reminded in my recent encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," the only sustainable development is one that respects Creation and does not damage the environment (cf. No. 48-52), and in the Message for the World Day of Peace of this year I underlined that also the building of a solid peace is linked to respect for creation. Francis reminds us that in creation is displayed the wisdom and benevolence of the Creator. In fact, nature is understood by him as a language in which God speaks with us, in which reality becomes transparent and we can speak of God and with God.

Dear friends, Francis was a great saint and a joyful man. His simplicity, his humility, his faith, his love of Christ, his kindness to every man and woman made him happy in every situation. In fact, between sanctity and joy there subsists a profound and indissoluble relation. A French writer said that there is only one sadness in the world: that of not being saints, that is, of not being close to God. Looking at St. Francis' witness, we understand that this is the secret of true happiness: to become saints, close to God!

May the Virgin, tenderly loved by Francis, obtain this gift for us. We entrust ourselves to her with the same words of the Poverello of Assisi: "Holy Virgin Mary, there is no one like you born in the world among women, daughter and handmaid of the Most High King and heavenly Father, Mother of our Most Holy Lord Jesus Christ, spouse of the Holy Spirit: pray for us ... to your most holy favorite Son, Lord and Master" (Francis of Assisi, Scritti, 163).
For more of Pope Benedict on Saint Francis, you can read again the words he spoke during his pilgrimage to Assisi.
It may be time to revive my series from many years ago, the Ponderables from the Poverello.

27 January 2010

Around the blogosphere

• Fr. Zuhlsdorg has posted his tips for making a good confession. They are well worth a read and even a printing and pasting in your favorite prayerbook.

• Over at Godz Dogz, Fr. Lawrence Yew has a good post on St. Thomas Aquinas, whose memorial we observe tomorrow.

26 January 2010

A new blog

Through a friend on Facebook, I learned today of a new blog from the Pacific, the blog of Fr. Marc Alexander, Vicar General of the Diocese of Honolulu: Musings from the Pacific.

The changing of the chair

Before Mass this morning I sat at my desk checking the status of the world on the Internet (someone has to do it) when I sensed something did not quite seem right with the chair upon which I sat.

I could not quite be certain as to what, precisely, was wrong, but it quickly came to me. I shifted slightly in the chair and realized the back of it lifted up.

When I turned to investigate the back of the chair, the back simply lifted up from the base of the chair. It was then that I realized the rungs of the chair where not quite as stable as I should like.

Presently, the chair looks like this:

I am exceedingly happy the chair did not collapse beneath me. The chair has served it's purpose well these past many decades.

I suppose now is as good a time as any to journey down to the local furniture store and buy a new chair for the desk in my study (if I sort through a bit of paperwork this morning as I intend, I'll post pictures of the study this afternoon).

I am in search not of an office-type chair on wheels, but more of an armed-dining room chair. I've always found these more comfortable to sit in for periods of time. And they help me feel like a medieval magistrate.

25 January 2010

Follow me

...on all sorts of new media.

In light of the Holy Father's strong encouragement to priests to utilize well the new forms of communication (more on this later today) I thought I might pass on a few ways you can follow my blog.

If you are on Facebook, you can follow me through Networked Blogs. When I post to the blog, you'll see it on your Facebook newsfeed. Currently, I have 200 followers on Networked Blogs and that number grows each day.

You could also join the 75 readers who follow the blog through their Google account.

And don't forget about Google Reader. I can't remember how many readers follow me this way and I can't seem to remember how I once found that number.

24 January 2010

It is a bit of a dreary day today here in Virden. The fog has finally lifted after eight days and has been replaced with rain and falling temperatures, which may result in a bit of snow (though I don't expect the nasty white stuff). Consequently, I'm feeling a bit worn down today as the weather changes.

I should probably sit down this afternoon and write a few letters, particularly the one to the young man who asked how he might deepen his spiritual life. When I was in Quincy this past weekend I sat down and wrote a bit more to him to add to what I have already typed. Now, though, I cannot seem to find what I wrote.

I hope St. Anthony is too busy this afternoon to be bothered by me again.

23 January 2010

Prayer for the Election of a Bishop

Lord God,
you are our eternal shepherd and guide.
In your mercy
grant your Church of Springfield in Illinois
a shepherd who will walk in your ways
and whose watchful care will bring us your blessing.
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.

Homily - 24 January 2010

The Third Sunday of the Year
Mass for the Election of a Bishop

Today, brothers and sisters, we gather as the Body of Christ, united under him who is our eternal high priest, our shepherd and head, to implore the Lord for the gift of a new Bishop.

We do not know who our next Bishop will be, nor do we know when the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI will see fit to appoint him. Even so, we pray with the Lord Jesus that the man to be chosen will be consecrated in the truth, even as were the Apostles (see John 17:17).

To consecrate a person or an object is to set him or it apart for sacred use, for the worship of Almighty God. In the case of a deacon, priest or Bishop it is the Lord who sets the man aside by calling him to his service “to bring glad tidings to the lowly” and “to announce a year of favor from the LORD” (Isaiah 61:1, 2).

The task of a Bishop is a great challenge and for this reason, “no one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was” (Hebrews 5:4). The Bishop is to dedicate himself to the proclamation of the Gospel, to the sanctification of his flock, and to the governance – both spiritual and temporal – of the local Church entrusted to him. But because this duty comes from Christ, for the man who loves God and neighbor it is a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light (see Matthew 11:30).

As we pray today for “the joy of receiving a shepherd who will be an example of goodness to [his] people and will fill our hearts and minds with the trust of the gospel,” we pray in a particular way not simply for this gift, but for the Lord’s chosen one (see Psalm 89:5).

Let us pray that the hand of the Lord may be always with him and that his arm will always make him strong so that he will boldly proclaim the faith of the Jesus Christ (see Psalm 89:22). Strengthened by the Lord himself, may our new Bishop never back down for fear of the wolves, but announce the Gospel with zeal in all circumstances.

Let us pray that faithfulness and mercy of the Lord also rest upon him, that he will “deal patiently with the ignorant and erring” (see Psalm 89:25; Hebrews 5:3). When we stumble and fall, may he raise us up with a father’s love, and when we do not fully understand his vision may he lead us with a shepherd’s care.

Let us pray that he will be a man of great reverence and devotion, that the Lord will hear and answer the many prayers he will raise on our behalf (see Hebrews 5:7).

Let us pray, too, for His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI as he chooses the man who will be our Bishop. Guided by the light of the Holy Spirit, may he choose a man who will be equipped with all of the necessary gifts and graces to lead us closer to Jesus Christ and to help us grow in holiness, in faith, in hope and in love.

Finally, brothers and sisters, let us pray for ourselves as well, that we will receive our new Bishop with joy and greet him as we would greet one of the Apostles themselves, whose successor he will be. Let us pray that we will follow him in faith be united in him and under his care.

It is the Bishop who, in a particular way, is the source of unity for the local Church for he is sent out into the world by Christ himself to bring salvation through his ministry and preaching.

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who was martyred in Rome about the 107 under the reign of the Emperor Trajan, spoke eloquently about the essential role of the Bishop for the Church. To the Church in Tralles, he wrote, “do nothing apart from the bishop.” In another place he wrote, “It was the Spirit that proclaimed these words: Apart from the bishop let nothing be done.” He testified to the presence of the threefold ministry of Bishops, priests and deacons from the earliest days of the Church when he wrote:

In the same way all should respect the deacons as they would Jesus Christ, just as they respect the bishop as representing God the Father and the priests as the council of God and the college of the Apostles. Apart from these there is nothing that can be called a Church.
We see, then, that we need the ministry of a Bishop to fully be the Church.

There is one beautiful image of the Bishop that I wish to mention. He referred to the Bishop of Philadelphia as a man who “has been attuned to the commandments like a harp with its strings.” To the Ephesians he wrote:

For your priests, who are worthy of the name and worthy of God, like the strings of a lyre, are in harmony with the bishop. Hence it is in the harmony of your minds and hearts Jesus Christ is hymned. Make of yourselves a choir, so that with one voice and one mind, taking the key note of God, you may sing in unison with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father, and He may hear you and recognize you, in your good works, as members of His Son. It is good for you, therefore, to be in perfect unity that you may at all times be partakers of God.
United in this way around the Bishop, “for ever [we] will sing the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 89:2). As we sing together this new song to the Lord, the hymn that is Jesus Christ, the world will come to believe that he was sent by the Father and will come to know his love (see John 17:23).

When the Holy Father sends a new Bishop to us, let us, then, heed the words of Saint Ignatius: “Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” Amen!


Over at Singulare Ingenium Patricius passes on the happy news that J. R. R. Tolkien's translation of The Book of Jonah will soon be released.

22 January 2010

Who's to blame?

Down in Hawaii, Sarah has been reading the comments on stories about Grant Desme, who formerly played professional baseball for the Oakland A's and is preparing to study for the priesthood (Sarah must be braver than I; I avoid such comments nearly as much as the plague).

Reflecting on those who cannot imagine why a man would want to forsake the world for a good reason, she says this:

Young men raised Catholic should be raised with an openness to the call to the Priesthood or life of a religious. I say should, because I do not think all of them are! And, why not? What are we afraid of? Honestly: IF WE PROFESS TO BELIEVE IN GOD, IF WE PROFESS TO LOVE GOD WITH ALL OUR HEART, ALL OUR MIND, ALL OUR SOUL . . . THEN WE ARE BIG FAT BLOODY LIARS IF WE DENY OUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS TO BE CALLED BY GOD FOR HIS PURPOSE, ESPECIALLY IF CALLED TO THE LIFE OF A RELIGIOUS OR PRIEST (in the case of our boys). We do not love God if we deny Him our children.
You really should read her entire post.

Professional athlete to study for priesthood

Grant Desme, 23, of the Oakland A's has stepped aside from professional baseball to study for the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Capello tip to a friend on Facebook.

Nearing publication

You may remember some time ago Word Among Us Press contacted me requesting permission to use my vocation story for publication in a book being published in honor of the Year for Priests, A Priest's Life: The Calling, the Cost, the Joy.

Yesterday I received word that the book has gone to press and will be available 1 March 2010. You can place an order for the book now and it will be shipped to you when it is available.

Update on comments

I have not been too inmpressed with the KS-Kit comment system so I have reverted to Blogger's basic comment system.

A week in review

This past weekend I returned to the Gem City to serve as the Spiritual Director for Great River Teens Encounter Christ #263. It was an amazing weekend in which the love and mercy of Christ Jesus moved many young hearts. I am humbled to have been a part of it.

Anyone who has participated in such retreats knows how little sleep is often had on them. This weekend was no exception to that norm, except in that I had less sleep than usual on such retreats.

Sunday and Monday evening I stayed up with several of the young team members – the candidates we sent to bed – answering their many questions about the faith, morals, discipleship and the state of the world (I am very much encouraged by their great interest in the politics of the day and their disgust of it), honestly and directly, challenging them to think more logically about the faith and to consider their logic from the use of reason rather than emotion. In this way, it seems I answered their questions in a manner they did not expect, but to which they responded well and even gravitated toward.

As I answered their questions I tried to help them move beyond the starting point of “I think that…” to move toward the starting point of what the Church has always taught and what Christians have always believed. This is the starting point of our faith; it has been handed on to us and is not something we have created.

Since the end of the retreat I’ve been receiving several questions from them still and many of them good ones, some of which I may post on these pages.

Too often have we distanced ourselves from their questions, giving them only a cursory answer and backing down when they have disagreed with our reasoning. We have not often given them enough, a thorough, well-reasoned argument. Too often have we shied away from demonstrating the illogical argumentation of the world, which has frequently clouded their own logic.

From what I have found on retreats such as this – and from my ministry with the high school students at St. Anthony’s in Effingham – young people today are drawn to someone who answers their questions directly and challenges them plainly and is not afraid to tell them they are incorrect, if he does so out of love for them and for God. Correcting them, though, must be done without judgment or condemnation, keeping the focus always on the faith of Jesus Christ. Young people today are drawn to the logic of Jesus Christ; they simply need someone to present it to them.
With as little sleep as I took over the four nights I was away, and with the tremendous fog that never lifted, I am surprised at how well my body did. The arthritis was certainly present and the tiredness that comes from it, but it never overwhelmed me as it would have in the normal course of events with fog and little sleep. It was a reminder to me that although he does not always give the strength I want, the Lord always provides for me what strength I need for the day.

Since returning to the parishes I have been attempting to catch up on a bit of sleep. I have also been trying to get the end of the year paperwork in order and continue the work of putting everything else in order. My secretary and I are getting there, one small step at a time.

20 January 2010

A good laugh on a Wednesday

When I read the Creative Minority Report I could not help but laugh at what they propose to be President Obama's first-year-in-office report card.

19 January 2010

Mass for the Victims of the Haitian Earthquake

From the Office of the Diocesan Administrator:

Msgr. Carl Kemme, Diocesan Administrator will celebrate a Special Mass for the many victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti . The mass will be held on Sunday, January 24th at Ss Peter and Paul Church in Alton at 5:00 p.m. Fr. Delix Michel, a native priest from Haiti will be homilist. Fr. Michel is the pastor of Ss Peter and Paul. People from the Diocese of Springfield are invited to attend. Please remember those who have died from this natural disaster and those left to rebuild their lives. All priests are invited to concelebrate.


Carl Olson passes on the most welcome news that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has finished the second volume of his Jesus of Nazareth project. Now the only question is when we'll be able to get a copy of it.

If you haven't yet read the first volume you really should do so.

16 January 2010

Prayers requested

Last evening I returned to the Gem City to serve as the Spiritual Director for Great River Teens Encounter Christ #263. For this weekend I humbly ask your prayers and assure of your remembrance in my prayers this weekend.

Today is the memorial of Saint Berard and Companions, the first sons of Saint Francis of Assisi to receive the grace of martyrdom in the year of our Lord 122o.

When the relics of these five Friars Minor were received at the Monastary of Coimbra, the future Saint Anthony of Padua resolved to enter the new Order and travel to Morocco to receive the crown of martyrdom with these holy men. Providence, though, had other plans for the Evangelic Doctor.

My great-uncle, Father Berard Zehnle, O.F.M., is named for today's saint. Since he is buried in Quincy just a block away from where I am staying in my old dorm I walked to the cemetery to pray at his grave. May he rest in peace!

15 January 2010

How is this not contradictory?

Martha Coakley, an Attorney General who is campaigning to win the Senate seat in Massachusetts, recently made a very curious statement regarding the freedom of conscience clause as it applies to the medical field:

You can have religious freedom, but you probably shouldn’t work in an emergency room.
Could someone please explain to me how that could possible work? Where is the logic?

Capello tip to Fr. Z.

14 January 2010

Pray that you may not undergo the test

In recent years we have seen western governments encroaching upon the religious freedom of their citizens. It is a trend that, most regrettably, is not abating but only increasing.

Take, for instance, this piece of proposed legislation (that could become a new swear phrase) - the Equality Bill - from the United Kingdom. The proposal would make it "illegal for a Christian charity to sack a senior manager for adultery or living an openly gay lifestyle." It should be noted that the same legislation would "apply to Muslim and Jewish churches and charities."

What is most troubling about this bill is that it would also make it illegal for the Catholic Church not to ordain women as priests or bishops, which, of course, the Church has no authority to do.

Lest you think these encroachments and all but outright attacks on the Church are only happening across the pond, as it were, consider this news that President Obama's Faith Council is considering requiring religious organizations who receive federal funds to remove all symbols of their faith.

For example, if a church gets money for a soup kitchen, would it have to remove or put a cloth over all crosses, pictures, etc., every time it gets ready to feed the hungry?
It would seem so. God help us.

This should be...interesting? I hope.

This morning one of the Diocesan finance officers will come to the parish to meet with my secretary and I to help us go through end of the year payroll and tax matters.

Ah, the joys of being Pastor.

What is excommunication?

The Most Reverend Robert Vasa, Bishop of Baker, recently discussed excommunication in his column in the Catholic Sentinel.

His Excellency notes that an excommunication is

a declaration, based on solid evidence, that the actions or public teachings of a particular Catholic are categorically incompatible with the teachings of the Church. It is intended primarily as a means of getting the person who is in grave error to recognize the depth of his error and repent. A second reason, while somewhat secondary but no less important, is to assure the faithful who truly are faithful that what they believe to be the teaching of the Church is true and correct. Allowing their faith to be shaken or allowing them to be confused when Catholics publicly affirm something contrary to faith or morals, seemingly without consequences, scandalizes and confuses the faithful. This is no small matter. The Church, and particularly bishops, have an obligation to defend the faith but they also have an obligation to protect the faithful. We do not generally see the dissidence of public figures as something that harms the faithful but it has a deleterious effect upon them.
Seeking to further clarify what it means to declare someone excommunicate, the Bishop used an old metaphor of the Bishop as a spiritual doctor:

This declaration no more causes the excommunication than a doctor who diagnoses diabetes causes the diabetes he finds in his patient. The doctor recognizes the symptoms and writes the necessary prescription. Accusing the doctor of being a tyrannical power monger would never cross anyone’s mind. Even when the doctor tells the patient that they are “excommunicated” from sugar it is clear that his desire is solely the health of his patient. In fact, a doctor who told his diabetic patient that he could keep ingesting all the sugar he wanted without fear would be found grossly negligent and guilty of malpractice.

In the same way, bishops who recognize a serious spiritual malady and seek a prescription to remedy the error, after discussion and warning, may be required to simply state, “What you do and say is gravely wrong and puts you out of communion with the faith you claim to hold.” In serious cases, and the cases of misled Catholic public officials are often very serious, a declaration of the fact that the person is de facto out of communion may be the only responsible and charitable thing to do.

Failing to name error because of some kind of fear of offending the person in error is neither compassion nor charity. Confronting or challenging the error or evil of another is never easy yet it must be done.

Do you have a priestly vocation?

His Excellency the Most Reverend Robert W. Finn, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, offers a few words about a man might discern if he has a priestly vocation:

The healthy man (healthy in body, mind and soul), as he matures, wants to give himself in an honest and generous way. It is important and normal that he sees the beauty of marriage, and its central meaning and purpose in society. At the same time, he realizes he has a spiritual dimension to his life and he wants to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and follow God’s call wherever it may take him. He works hard at every task before him, and finds joy in generously reaching out to others. He studies with zeal. He prays. He establishes caring friendships, and determines to live a moral life, growing in the frequent reception of the sacraments, particularly of Confession and Holy Eucharist.

As a man experiences this spiritual depth to his life, he does not seek a vocation that makes him materially rich or famous. Instead, having realized something of the cost and demands of authentic human love, he is ready to trust God and give himself to others out of love for God. He realizes that the Father in heaven has loved him a lot, and the awareness of this love and mercy makes him want to follow God’s plan in his life. Our seminarians are responding to this vocation to the priesthood. Our priests are living this out with dedication. Keep praying for them to persevere.

The role and support of parents is very important to those who are discerning God’s call. Your sons (and daughters) look up to you for approval. They should. Your love for them is unconditional and unselfish. I do not suggest that you should urge your sons to go to seminary, but pray for them, that they do whatever God wants for them. Support them in their search. I pledge once again to our parents that if we receive their sons as our seminarians we will do all in our power to see they get good formation.
Let each of us pray the Lord to give us more shepherds after his own heart and let us do what we can to encourage and inspire young men to service as priests.

13 January 2010

Back to the airwaves

For those in the Effingham area, I will be on WCRA AM 1090/FM 104.7 with William Bence Thursday morning at 7:45 a.m.

Do younger priests not drink coffee?

Apparently the younger clergy of the Diocese are developing a reptutation for not drinking coffee, or at least that is the impression I am given from one of our retired priests who will generously be covering my parishes this weekend while I am away on Teens Encounter Christ retreat.

He wrote:

Hey! What's with you younger clergy and not drinking coffee? When I supply for a young man, I usually have to find a Casey's or Hardee's to get my morning fix.
Lucky for him there's a Hardee's just a block north of the rectory. Personally, I can't stand even the hint of coffee.

I wonder: is he right? Do older priests drink coffee and younger priests not? If so, why might this be?

My brother priests: what do you think?

A great devastation

As you no doubt have heard, the nation of Haiti was struck by a terrible earthquake that has devastated the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere.

Among the dead His Excellency the Most Reverend Serge Miot, Archbishop of Port-au-Prince.

The Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, His Excellency the Most Reverend Bernardito Auza, told the Fides news agency:

Port-au-Prince is totally devastated. The cathedral, the Archbishop's Office, all of the big churches, all of the seminaries have been reduced to rubble. The same luck for the Ministry buildings, the Presidential Palace, the schools. The Parish Priest of the Cathedral, who was spared, told me that the archbishop of Port-au-Prince would have died under the rubble, together with hundreds of seminarians and priests that are under the ruins.
Let us assist our Haitian brothers and sisters with the help of prayers and fastings and with our financial support, all of which they need so desparately at this dark hour. Contributions can be sent to

Catholic Relief Services
228 W. Lexington
Baltimore, MD 21201-3413
or made online at www.crs.org/haiti.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord!

A suggestion for the best window ever

Commenting on the window depicting the Ascension of the Lord, new reader Julia suggests the best window ever would be one depicting Acts 20:8-9:

There were many lamps in the upstairs room where they were gathered, and a young man named Eutychus who was sitting on the window sill was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. Once overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and when he was picked up, he was dead.
I think she is right. Does anyone know of such a window?

12 January 2010

Best window ever?

Hidden in the choir loft of Sacred Heart church in Virden is this gem of a window demonstrating in clear fashion good Catholic humor:

While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going... (Acts 1:11)

Powerfully moving

When it comes to funerals one of the old standby hymns is "How Great Thou Art."

Whenever I have heard it sung, it has always sounded rather like a dirge, despite the fact that the lyrics are actually words of praise. As such, it a song that I have never really like nor appreciated, until I heard Susan Boyle sing it:

Well sung, Ms. Boyle! Thank you for giving me a new appreciation of this beautifully moving hymn.

One more irritation

Life in two small parishes is extremely quiet, with the exception of calls from telemarketers. On a busy day here we may receive ten telephone calls, as was the case this past Friday.

The first call of the day was someone wanting to reserve one of the parish halls. Another caller wanted to schedule a wedding. Of the remaining calls, two callers hung up after the first ring and before I could get to the phone. The remaining calls were telemarketers, three from companies wanting to sell me religious education textbooks for our parish school, which does not exist.

This has become a routine pattern so yesterday I added the parish's number to the National Do Not Call Register. It takes up to thirty-one days for the addition to take effect, so we'll see if it has an effect in the end.

So far today there have been three phone calls, one concerning an upcoming ski trip for the youth, one was a person who refused to speak when I answered, and the other - you guessed it - a telemarketer.

Here, the conversation:

Me: Good morning, Sacred Heart.

Him: Yes, good morning. Could I speak with the person who handles your AT&T account.

Me: We don't have an AT&T account [we really don't].

Him: I'm sorry...
And with that, I hung up.

11 January 2010

An invitation accepted

I received today an invitation from the Diocesan Administrator to celebrate Mass for the curial employees this coming May 1oth, the memorial of St. Damien of Molokai. The good Monsignor invited me because of my devotion to Father Damien.

I happily accepted and made mention to him that I would be away from my parish for one week in February for my annual retreat and a couple days of vacation.

He said, "Have a great time in Hawaii, but make sure to come home."

He knows me too well; it looks like I won't be moving to Paradise just yet.

Update on the comments

I believe I have now resolved the issue with the new comments feature, thought some comments left over the past few days somehow have regretfully disappeared.

If you left a comment asking for my thoughts, please comment again.

Pray for the Church in Malaysia

On 31 December 2009 the High Court of Malaysia ruled that a Catholic newspaper could print the word "Allah" to refer to God in the native Malay language edition of The Catholic Herald, as has been done since the 1800s (local blogger Andrew explains).

The ruling has resulted in the vandalism of eight churches, ranging from paint to arson by angry protesters.

Andrew has a photopost of the protests and a couple of newstories, as well.

Please, pray for the Christians of Malaysia.

Update: CathNews USA reports the number of the churches targeted since the ruling at nine.

10 January 2010

Memento mori

I saw this video of Eirik Solheim at the Deacon's Bench at thought I would share it with you:

One year in 120 seconds from Eirik Solheim on Vimeo.

It is a silent - and moving - look at life and death, at winter and spring.

A note on the comments

Haloscan, which I had been using for my comments, seems to have been acquired by JS-Kit.com, which required me to upgrade my comments services.

Not surprisingly, this has resulted in the loss of my comments for the time being and I cannot quite seem to figure out how to get them back, how to moderate the comments that are waiting to be posted, or how to simply revert back to Blogger comments.

I thought I already resolved it the other day by following instructions e-mailed to me, but apparently not. Once I have this figured out, I will let you know.

09 January 2010

Looking for a good book?

This morning I began reading Peter Kreeft's Love is Stronger than Death. After only a few pages, I can tell this will be a book I will very much enjoy and already I recommend it to you.

From the link provided, you can read the Foreword, Introduction and first chapter, "Death as an Enemy."

If you are not yet familiar with the works of Peter Kreeft, now is just as good a time as any to pick one up.

08 January 2010

Growing disciples

One of my greatest joys at St. Anthony's was talking with some of the students who sincerely sought the will of the Lord for their lives and who wanted to grow in faith, hope and love. Over the course of four years several good friendships were forged that I expect will continue in the years to come.

I gave a couple of the students Fr. Larry Richards' book, Be a Man! as a Christmas gift, having had with them several conversations about this topic in the past. I had heard several good things about the book and was confident it would be enjoyed by them and be of help to them.

One of them called today to say that he had already read the first two chapters and was anxious to continue reading the book. He asked about ways to strengthen his prayer life and his relationship with God saying that he wanted to go to God more often than when he needed something.

I was filled with deep gratitude and joy and recommended he spend at least a few minutes each day with the Scriptures and seek to spend time each week before the Blessed Sacrament.

The more I thought about our brief conversation the more I thought I should give him a bit more than that and decided to write a letter with the following suggestions:
  • Begin each day before a crucifix
  • Read from the Bible each day
  • Spend time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament
  • Read some lives of the Saints to find a couple of particular favorites to imitate
  • Confession once a month, or more often if needed
  • Pray the rosary and the stations of the cross
  • Remember that you will die

What else might I suggest to him?

07 January 2010

Who will our Bishop be?

From the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois:

Would you like to be among the first to know when Pope Benedict XVI names a new bishop for the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois? Simply signup below to receive a text message notification just moments after the announcement is made public.

Traditionally, the Vatican Press Office makes announcements of episcopal appointments at noon Rome time (5 a.m. Illinois time). The information is simultaneously released from the office of Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, based in Washington, D.C.

Once the announcement is made public, we will send out a massive text message with the name of the individual who will serve as our new shepherd. Additonally, members who receive the online version of Catholic Times or have joined our fan page on Facebook will receive the same notification.
A marvelous idea, begun, I believe, by the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

06 January 2010

To my Hawaiian friends

I plan to be in Hawaii for retreat and a couple days of vacation February 8th through 15th.

On the 15th, I will participate in the Akua Run/Walk for Vocations in conjunction with the Great Aloha Run. If any of you would like to walk with me, I would be happy to have you join me.

Sometime between February 9th and 12th I would like to make a pilgrimage to Kalaupappa. Would any of you like to join me?

2009 in Photos

One of the cool applications on Facebook randomly chooses a series of pictures from your albums and gives you your year in photos. The above is what I was given. It seems an accurate summary.

Blow, blow thou winter wind

...for soon I will be far from you.

I am well known among my friends for my ability - be it either a blessing or a curse - for determining the accuracy of forecasted weather, particularly in the winter months. While I am sometimes wrong in my reading, my weary bones and joints are correct more frequently than the meteorologists.

And so it is that I have found myself fielding text messages and calls to my cell phone today inquiring into the accuracy of the predicted winter storm expected to drop up to seven inches of snow upon central Illinois beginning about Midnight and ending sometime Friday morning.

Yes, my bones agree with the forecast. If we do not receive at least four inches of snow, I will be very much surprised, but very happy, too.

Old Man Winter is preparing to rear his ugly head even as just moments ago I confirmed lodging and a flight for my annual retreat in Hawaii, which I will take in five weeks and return just in time for Ash Wednesday.

O winter, you will not conquer me!

04 January 2010


Looking through Granda's current e-newsletter, I found a new model of chasuble they are making that I like very much:

Fr. Snowman?

The ever-cleverly industrious Fr. V. at Adam's Ale set to work in the snow recently and made Fr. Snowman. He posted a picture of his creation; do take a look.

Pontiff goes to Bethlehem

As much of an idealist as Saint Francis of Assisi was, he could also be quite pragmatic and realistic. Knowing that most people had neither the means nor the luxury to make a pilgrimage to Bethlehem, the Poverello decided to bring Bethlehem to the people so they could make a pilgrimage in their to the place where the Lord was born, thereby giving us our beloved Nativity displays.
Recently the Holy Father Benedict XVI knelt in prayer before the creche in St. Peter's Vatican Square:

His Holiness shows us how to adore the newborn King. May the Lord grant him health, joy and peace in this new year.



02 January 2010

New curtains in the living room

Today a couple of parishioners arrived bearing gifts of new curtains for the living room and stairway. The old ones were in sore need of replacing:
The new curtains are heavy and will help keep the warmth in and the sunlight out. They are also much richer in color than these pictures show; when the sun strikes them the gold in them shines. They're quite lovely:

The new curtains help very much to help the rectory feel like a home. Thank you!

A year in review

Keeping an annual calendar carries with it many benefits, from being on time for meetings and appointments to reflecting back over the course of a year. As I look back over my calendar for 2009, I cannot help but be grateful to the Lord for the many blessings given me over the course of the past twelve months.

It was – to say the least – an eventful year, from meetings of the Priests’ Personnel Board to wrestling and track meets, soccer games, weddings, funerals, additional meetings, retreats, classes and other various travels and duties.

Without a doubt, the greatest blessing of the past year for me was my ministry among the high school students of St. Anthony High School in Effingham. If found me fielding questions from all areas of life wherever I went and absolving sins in extraordinary places.

Each month, too, was marked with it’s own particular blessings and joys. January found me in Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life. While the occasion for such a pilgrimage is truly lamentable, the March itself is quite inspiring. Seeing so many people gathered in the nation’s capital for one purpose is most moving.

February found me back in Hawaii for my annual retreat. It was, without question, the most powerful retreat of my life under the unintended guidance of St. Damien of Molokai.

In March I was the spiritual director for a De Colores weekend outside Effingham. It was a blessed time spent with people searching for the face of God and gave me many opportunities to share my faith and what I have learned with others.

April brought the news of the appointment of His Excellency the Most Reverend George J. Lucas as the Archbishop of Omaha. While the news was sad for us here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, it was happy news for the good people of Omaha. Now we continue to wait for the appointment of a new Bishop, a time to look in confidence to the Lord to give us another shepherd after his heart.

It was in May that I learned of my appointment as Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Virden and of St. Patrick Parish in Girard, from Parochial Vicar of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham. It was an appointment I did not seek and, as such, came as quite a shock to me. It was an invitation for me to give my myself over more fully to the will of God for my life, to let go of my own desires to go wherever the Lord should have need of me.

Whereas May brought news that tore my world apart, June brought a great tragedy in the death of the soccer team’s Coach K, a good friend, that, in some ways, cemented it back together. I watched with much wonder and gratitude the team’s reaction to his death, from their quick action on the field in calling for help and doing all that was necessary, to their gathering in the church to pray for Coach K, to the way they came together and played well for him throughout the season. It was all a testimony to Coach K’s influence on the boys – and on me – though he was only with us a couple of weeks.

July was a rather quiet month, spent among good friends and in much prayer, both of which are always welcome.

Much of the month of August was spent bidding farewell to the many friends I made in Effingham over the course of my four years among them. Though many tears were shed, the opportunity to say farewell was a tremendous blessing not always given priests at the time of a transfer.

In September I moved to Virden with the help of some of the high school students and was welcomed most warmly by my new parishioners. The cordial welcome they extended through a pot luck dinner (who doesn’t like a pot luck?!) assured me that I had been sent to minister to good people seeking to follow Jesus Christ.

In October I went to Rome with a couple of friends for the canonization of Damien of Molokai, who over the past couple of years has become one of my spiritual heroes. Too many blessings were experienced during that pilgrimage to recount here.

November found me travelling much of central Illinois for retreats and confessions, even as I grew accustomed to my new home in Virden and began to get a feel for the life of the two parishes.

The restored Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was rededicated in December with much joy and gladness. The beauty of the house of pray will inspire many and strengthen their faith, hope and love.

All in all, 2009 was a year filled with many joys and sorrows, a year of many blessings. I, for one, am sad to see it go, yet look forward with hope to 2010, curious as to what the Lord will ask of me.

01 January 2010

In honor of the day

When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best. I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others. Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy. Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still. It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy. Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.

Papal Prayer Intentions for January 2010

General: That young people may learn to use modern means of social communication for their personal growth and to better prepare themselves to serve society.

Mission: That every believer in Christ may be conscious that unity among all Christians is a condition for more effective proclamation of the Gospel.