26 May 2012

Three new priests!

This morning, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki ordained Albert Allen, Zachary Edgar, and Scott Snider to the Sacred Order of Priests.

Father Edgar, Father Snider, Bishop Paprocki, and Father Allen
pose for a picture following this morning's ordination Mass.
Effective July 1, 2012, Father Allen will be Parochial Vicar of Annunciation Parish in Shumway, Sacred Heart Parish in Effingham, and of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham; Father Edgar will be Parochial Vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield; and Father Snider will be Parochial Vicar of St. Paul Parish in Highland, Immaculate Conception Parishin Pierron, and of St. Nicholas Parish in Pocahontas.

Just before the Mass began, I stepped into the sanctuary to place the program booklets on the chairs for the ordinandi when I realized that two of our seminarian-servers were having no small difficulty lighting the paschal candle (they apparently had been at it for several minutes with no success).

I took the candle-lighting-device (I'm sure it has a name) from them and successfully lit the paschal candle on my second attempt:

The above picture was taken by the Director of the Office for Catechesis from the choir loft (he was at the timpani drums).

After I lit the candle, the congregation caught me rather off guard when the erupted in applause at my success.

The secret to this success is really quite simple.  To light a high candle, extend the wick and bend it straight down so the flaming wick drops down into the follower right to the wick of the candle.  You may have to move the flame around a bit to find the wick, but it shouldn't take too much effort.  I suppose this is a lesson I'll have to teach the seminarians some time.  They don't teach you such practical things in the seminary.

This unexpected episode only contributed to the great joy of the day.

At any rate, congratulations, Fathers!

24 May 2012


About two weeks ago I received a message from a young man who's been involved with youth ministry in the Diocese that read, "Hey that timothy retreat that you're going to is next week."  I think it was a subtle hint.

I was already planning on stopping by and was glad to do so last Saturday afternoon.  Having never helped with a Timothy Retreat before, I was going really just to be present and perhaps offer a few words.

After a spontaneous period of Q & A - which I love doing - I found myself speaking with a couple of the team members.  As the conversation progressed, a couple other people joined in and I - standing against a wall - suddenly realized I was surrounded:

At some point the young people I guess grew tired of standing and simply - and almost all together - pulled up chairs and sat down in a semi-circle around me - leaving me still standing with my back against the wall.

Realizing there was no way out - which was fine because the conversation was varied and enjoyable (from video games to homosexual "marriage" and everything in between - I asked for a chair and was given one.

It goes to show, I suppose, that you never know what will happen when yous how up without a plan.

23 May 2012

Moving Bishops

This evening I was back in my hometown of Quincy with the Bishop for the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation of St. Francis Solanus Parish.

During reception, one of the servers - a younger boy - came over to me and said, with all seriousness, "I thought bishops only moved diagonally."

Not quite sure how to respond, I answered, "Only when he plays chess."  The boy just looked at me with a look of uncertainty.

I suppose I'll have to work on a response for that question should it arise again.

19 May 2012

What to wear to church

As the temperatures warm, the annual debate as to appropriate clothing for church will likely crop up - or perhaps already has - in parishes and congregations across the country.

Most pastors will, sadly, say nothing, accepting to the platitude that "God's just happy that they're here."  Given Jesus' words about the wedding garment (Matthew 22:12), I don't think that's true.

I like to suggest that we should not wear to church what we might wear to bed or to the beach.  It seems simply enough, really.  Perhaps you are going to the beach after church; I'm sure the church has a restroom in which you can change afterwards; if not, the beach surely does, or a gas station on the way.

Over at Adam's Ale, Father Valencheck offers his own thoughts on the subject:
On the other hand are those who know and can dress better for Mass. The idea that God loves me “as I am and so should you” is an inherently selfish one. It is not about you. It is about us. And part of being “us” is showing respect to those around you. The reason we dress up for a potential employer or the judge at our trial is because it shows respect for that person and a willingness to be part of the goings on. We do not expect them to “take me for who I am,” an absolutely ridiculous thing to do.
So what to do? There was a group of young people in Cleveland that thought people should be dressed up for the opera. Instead of passing edicts they went out, got very nice clothes, and started setting the bar higher themselves. So the first step is to take care of self and family first. Show that it is possible to survive for an hour or so in the summer in one’s Sunday best. 
The second is to not too quickly take others to task who look like they are rather going to a beach party. The reason we hear of no clothing disputes with Jesus is that he first got to know people and then invited them higher. Imagine the difference in these examples: 1) The look of “how dare you dress like that” and the loud whisper to another saying, “how could s/he come dressed to Mass like THAT?” or 2) Getting to know someone and saying, “Next Sunday we are going out to breakfast after Mass. Why don’t we all get dressed up and go out together?” [more]

Hypocrsy for the National Day of Prayer?

In keeping with a proclamation of the President of the United States of America given May 1, 2012, we were to have observed a National Day of Prayer on May 3, 2012.  Maybe you missed it; I know I did.

The proclamation of President Obama read as follows:
Prayer has always been a part of the American story, and today countless Americans rely on prayer for comfort, direction, and strength, praying not only for themselves, but for their communities, their country, and the world.

On this National Day of Prayer, we give thanks for our democracy that respects the beliefs and protects the religious freedom of all people to pray, worship, or abstain according to the dictates of their conscience. Let us pray for all the citizens of our great Nation, particularly those who are sick, mourning, or without hope, and ask God for the sustenance to meet the challenges we face as a Nation. May we embrace the responsibility we have to each other, and rely on the better angels of our nature in service to one another. Let us be humble in our convictions, and courageous in our virtue. Let us pray for those who are suffering around the world, and let us be open to opportunities to ease that suffering.

Let us also pay tribute to the men and women of our Armed Forces who have answered our country’s call to serve with honor in the pursuit of peace. Our grateful Nation is humbled by the sacrifices made to protect and defend our security and freedom. Let us pray for the continued strength and safety of our service members and their families. While we pause to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending liberty, let us remember and lend our voices to the principles for which they fought — unity, human dignity, and the pursuit of justice.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 3, 2012, as a National Day of Prayer. I invite all citizens of our Nation, as their own faith directs them, to join me in giving thanks for the many blessings we enjoy, and I call upon individuals of all faiths to pray for guidance, grace, and protection for our great Nation as we address the challenges of our time.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.
The reference to religious freedom the President makes, given the current move of the Administration to force Catholics and their institutions to violate their consciences, is particularly curious:
On this National Day of Prayer, we give thanks for our democracy that respects the beliefs and protects the religious freedom of all people to pray, worship, or abstain according to the dictates of their conscience.
In a second reference to religious freedom, President Obama invited the citizes of these united States to join him in thanking God "as their own faith directs them.

Why is it, then, that the Department of Health and Human Services, following the dictates of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, refuse to allow Catholics the freedom "to pray, worship, or abstain according to the dictates of their conscience."

It's time for the present Administration to be more honest.

The new Kulturkampf

Just over a year ago when the Attorney General of the State of Illinois first moved to force Catholic Charities out of foster care and adoptions, His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, made reference to the Kulturkampf of Otto von Bismarck.  Writing in his column in the Catholic Times, he said:
I write all this because we are seeing a different but very virulent form of Kulturkampf gaining ground here in the United States. In our American context, this has been referred to as the “Culture Wars,” which, like Germany in the 19th century, promotes a secular view of the world and seeks to diminish the role of religion and restrict the influence of Christians in general and Catholics in particular. Prominent in this secular agenda are the promotion of abortion and assaults on the traditional understanding of marriage and family life [more].
Bishop Paprocki is not the only one to make this connection.

A couple of weeks ago, His Excellency the Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, Bishop of Peoria, said, in a homily that has been very much taken out of context:
Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room.

In the late 19th century, Bismarck waged his "Kulturkampf," a Culture War, against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital, convent and monastery in Imperial Germany.

Clemenceau, nicknamed "the priest eater," tried the same thing in France in the first decade of the 20th Century.

Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.

In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama - with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.
Now things have come to such a pass in America that this is a battle that we could lose, but before the awesome judgement seat of Almighty God this is not a war where any believing Catholic may remain neutral.

This fall, every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences, or by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries -- only excepting our church buildings - could easily be shut down. Because no Catholic institution, under any circumstance, can ever cooperate with the instrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the womb [more].
On the Square, Leroy Huizinga recently wrote of The White House's Contraceptive Kulturkampf.  In this new culture war, he sees a difference:
Unlike the war waged against Catholics in the nineteenth century by Germany’s Iron Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, a devout pietist Christian, our battle has been joined not only by many of our Evangelical brothers and sisters but also by many Mormons, Jews, and others of good will [more].

18 May 2012

Does Sebelius understand religious liberty? No.

On April 26, 2012, Representative Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina) questioned Secretary Sebelius regarding certain aspects of religious liberty.  Please, watch this five minute interchange and pay very close attention:

Remember, Secretary Sebelius has been tasked with creating most of the regulations that come from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, yet she does not understand religious liberty in this nation.

There are difficult days ahead.

A visit to my alma mater

This past Sunday I had the honor of accompanying Bishop Paprocki to Quincy University - my alma mater - for their Commencement exercises. 

During the commencement exercises, the Very Reverend William Spencer, O.F.M., Provincial Minister of the Province of the Sacred Heart, presented to Dr. Robert A. Gervasi, President of Quincy University, the decision of the Board of Trustees to aware His Excellency an honorary doctorate.

Father Spencer presented Bishop Paprocki to President Gervasi, saying, in part:
Whereas, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki is both a scholar and servant, a person determined to use his time, talents and training to improve the lives of others and to make the world a better place to live; [and]

Whereas, Bishop Paprocki is an articulate and committed voice for Gospel values in the Catholic Church and in the larger society; [and]

Whereas, Bishop Paprocki's use of his experience, education and expertise for the good of others encourages each of us to do the same; [and]

Whereas, Bishop Paprocki understands what it means to "love God with his whole heart, soul, strength and mind, and his neighbor as himself" (Luke 10:27);

Therefore, be it known that the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki is hereby awarded the degree Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on this thirteenth day of May, 2012.

After receiving the honorary doctorate, Bishop Paprocki addressed the Class of 2012, speaking on the topic of religious liberty.

When Bishop Paprocki's address is posted on the Diocesan web site, I will link to it here.

The ceremonies concluded with the singing of the Quincy University Alma Mater:

WGEM-TV ran a story on the day.

10 May 2012

Who is Saint Damien?

Every now and again a movie capably captures the personality of a person and the drama of his life.  Moloka'i: The Story of the Father Damien is such a movie.

If you have not yet seen it, I highly recommend you watch it.  And if you have seen it, I highly recommend that you watch it again, especially today as celebrate the Memorial of Saint Damien.

To whet your appetite, here is the trailer (the embed feature seems not to be working at the moment).

You can even watch the movie on YouTube, broken down into several short segments, beginning with this video.

Happy Damien Day!

Saint Damien, brother on the journey,
happy and generous missionary,
who loved the Gospel more than your life,
who for love of Jesus left your family,
your homeland, your security, your dreams,
Teach us to give our lives
with a joy like yours,
to be in solidarity with the outcasts of the world,
to celebrate and contemplate the Eucharist
as the source of our committment.

Help us to love to the very end
and, in the strength of the Spirit,
to persevere in compassion
for the poor and forgotten
so that we might be
good disciples of Jesus and Mary.


08 May 2012

A Prayer to the Risen Lord

O Risen Jesus,
may I always seek you and find you,
think about you, speak to you,
and do everything
for your honor and glory.

Be always my hope, my peace,
my refuge and my help
in whom my heart is rooted,
so that I may never be separated from you.

- Saint Bonaventure

05 May 2012

Homily - 6 May 2012

The Fifth Sunday of Easter (B)

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today Saint Luke, in his Acts of the Apostles, presents us with two opposite dispositions: one of fear and one of boldness. Whereas the disciples lived in fear, Saul “spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:29). Indeed, he even “spoke and debated with the Hellenists” who wanted to kill him (Acts 9:29).

The fear of the disciples in Jerusalem is – in some way – understandable. It was Saul, after all, who stood by at the stoning of Saint Stephen and “was consenting to his death” (Acts 8:1). Who could fault the disciples for “not believing that [Saul] was a disciple” when they saw the man “whose very look inspired fear” (Acts 9:26). Finally, through the efforts of Saint Barnabas, whose name appropriately means “Son of Encouragement,” the disciples come to accept Saul as one of their own (cf. Acts 9:27-28).

This situation of the early Church is not so different from the context in which we find ourselves today. I ask you: When was the last time you spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord? When did you last proclaim the Gospel to your family, friends, co-workers or even strangers? When was the last time you defended the Catholic faith from assaults or misconceptions? To put it another way: Are you bold in your faith or fearful?

To be bold is not an expression we commonly use these days. When we do speak of someone being bold, it is usually not as a good thing. For example, “That was rather bold of him,” we might say of someone who has overstepped his bounds to offer a suggestion or make a request. But of the meanings which the dictionary gives to the word bold, this is the fifth meaning. The primary meaning of the word bold is “not hesitating or fearful in the face of actual or possible rebuff; courageous and daring.” Indeed, the word itself comes from the Old English word meaning “brave, confident, or strong.” Are you brave, confident, and strong in your faith?

Faced with mounting threats to our religious freedom, our Bishops have called us to a Fortnight for Freedom. Some of these threats to our religious liberty include:

• The federal mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services that would force Catholic institutions to provide contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in violation of our religious beliefs;

• State immigration laws that would make it illegal for a priest to baptize or even hear the confession of an illegal immigrant (such a law has been passed in Alabama);

• Government attempts to alter the structure of the Church, such as happened in 2009 in Connecticut when the legislature attempted to restructure parishes according to a congregational model and to redefine who a Catholic “religious minister” is;

• Discrimination against student groups because of their faith, such as at the University of California Hastings College of Law or at Vanderbilt University where student religious groups cannot require their leadership to be of the same faith as the group;

• In Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the State of Illinois Catholic Charities has been forced out of adoptions and foster care;

• In New York City and in other places, Christian groups are not allowed to rent public schools on weekends even when other groups may do so;

• And the federal government has recently discriminated against Catholic humanitarian services by refusing contracts with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services only because it will not provide abortions and contraception.

These are just some of the assaults on our religious freedom and they will only grow unless we speak up.

Beginning on June 21st, the vigil of the Feasts of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, through July 4th, Independence Day, this Fortnight for Freedom called for by our Bishops is meant to be “a great hymn of prayer for our country. ”

Since the founding of these United States of America, Catholics “have been staunch defenders of religious liberty” and “we have a solemn duty to discharge that duty today. We need, therefore, to speak frankly with each other when our freedoms are threatened. Now is such a time.”

This is the time for us to follow the example of Saint Paul who spoke boldly in the name of the Lord and spoke and debated with the Hellenists. The Hellenists with whom Paul debated likely included “Jews and Christians in a city-wide constituency.” It is time for us also to speak boldly in the name of the Lord and to debate with the Hellenists of our own day, who are both within and without the Church.

In our efforts to defend our religious liberty, we must make it clear that we are not seeking special treatment, but rather the freedom to live our faith freely and that this right is guaranteed by the First Amendment; in fact, it is the first of our freedoms. We seek not a sacred public square, but “a civil public square, where all citizens can make their contribution to the common good. At our best, we might call this an American public square.”

In their statement on religious liberty, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, our Bishops wrote:

As bishops we seek to bring the light of the Gospel to our public life, but the work of politics is properly that of committed and courageous lay Catholics. We exhort them to be both engaged and articulate in insisting that as Catholics and as Americans we do not have to choose between the two. There is an urgent need for the lay faithful, in cooperation with Christians, Jews, and others, to impress upon our elected representatives the importance of continued protection of religious liberty in a free society.
They went on to remind us that

this ought not to be a partisan issue. The Constitution is not for Democrats or Republicans or Independents. It is for all of us, and a great nonpartisan effort should be led by our elected representatives to ensure that it remains so.
To be sure, the task before us is neither easy nor simple and it will require much boldness on our part even when we may be afraid or feel intimidated in the face of such strong opposition. But we must remember the words of Saint Paul: “God did not give us a spirit of timidity but of power and love and self-control” (II Timothy 1:7). Or, as William Shakespeare put it, “Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful.”

All of our efforts and all of our words must be grounded in prayer, which is why our Bishops have called us to this coming Fortnight for Freedom to pray for our country. It is a way of reminding us that we seek to remain always attached to the vine that is Jesus Christ, because “just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can [we] unless [we] remain in [him]” (John 15:4).

By receiving strength from Jesus Christ who has given us his Spirit and who nourishes and strengthens us with his Body and Blood, we, too, can and should speak boldly in the name of the Lord. When we do so, we, too, with Saint Barnabas, become sons and daughters of encouragement, because “what is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society – or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it.” We must not forget that an assault on religious liberty is an assault on civil society.

May the Lord see fit to bless our efforts to defend religious liberty so that we may truly sing with the Psalmist: “I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people” (Psalm 22:26). Amen. Alleluia!