29 August 2012

Wanting memories

As I was driving back to Honolulu from my morning hike up Makapu'u, I heard a moving song filled with much aloha, "Wanting Memories" by Kali'i Reichel.

You should listen to it:

This song captures so much of the beauty of the people of these islands.

If you'd like to listen to more Hawaiian music, let me recommend to you Hawaiian 105 KINE.

Augustine, Damien, and the Hawaiians

The natural beauty of the Hawaiian islands is but one reason among many that keep me coming back to the Land of Aloha each year (and sometimes twice each year, if I can swing it).

Sunset at Hale'iwa Beach Park, 25 August 2012
As we celebrate today the memorial of the great Saint Augustine of Hippo, Holy Mother Church draws our attention to these words of the Doctor of Grace:
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!  You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.  In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.  You were with me, but I was not with you.  Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.  You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.  You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  I have tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
As I walked this morning from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace to the church of St. Augustine by the Sea, I couldn't help but consider these words from a different perspective. Even if short in distance, it was a pilgrimage.

From the church of St. Augustine by the Sea, Honolulu, Hawai'i
Here in Hawai'i, "from the mountain to the ocean, from the windward to the leeward side," as John Cruz sings, it doesn't seem that the Lord so much shout as whisper.  It seems nearly impossible, seeing the beauty of this land, not to be drawn towards the Lord.  The lapping waves on the shore draw your thoughts to eternity; the brilliance of the stars leads your thoughts to the heavens; the wind seems a gentle kiss; the mountains recall God's firmness and strength; the many colored flowers of varied shapes and sizes are but gifts of love.  It is difficult here to be lost in created things but easy to be led to the Creator; here the fragrance of the Lord is to be found everywhere.

Rainbow over the Honolulu Harbor, 29 August 2012.
Perhaps this is why the Hawaiians (and here I do not simply mean people living in Hawai'i, but the descendants of the native Hawaiians) are so filled with the spirit of Aloha, the spirit of love and welcome and peace.

The other day I noticed a book written by an Hawaiian who lamented the fact that so many Hawaiians today think Christianity part of their cultural patrimony; indeed, the Hawaiians very quickly adopted Christianity perhaps because of their aloha.

Father Damien described the Hawaiians in these words:
You could not wish for better people, gentle, pleasant mannered, exceedingly tender-hearted, they neither seek to amass riches, or live in luxury, or dress much, but are most hospitable, and ready to deprive themselves of necessities in order to supply your every want if you have ask a night's shelter from them.
Each time I return to this blessed land, I find this description quite apt. Once you meet an Hawaiian, you are quickly part of their ohana, their family, and very often you instantly become an "uncle" or an "auntie".  Once you have been welcomed into their homes you are always welcome, even without notice.

One might well wonder from where this natural friendliness comes.  I would suggest it is both part of their blood, but also due very much to the natural beauty in which they live.

Even after only a day or so on the island, I already find myself - each time I return - quickly acclimating to island life and becoming quickly a cultural Hawaiian.  By this I mean that I become more patient, less hurried,  and more at ease than on the mainland (or elsewhere, for that matter).  I am more inclined to talk to strangers here and find Saint Paul's admonition to "pray without ceasing" much easier here because my thoughts are always being led to God by the beauty of Hawai'i.

Yes, here the words of Saint Augustine easily become my own: "You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  I have tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for more."

28 August 2012

Cardinal George needs your prayers

On behalf of His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced today some sad news:
Test results confirmed that the nodule on the liver contained cancerous cells. This nodule and surrounding tissue was removed on August 15, and there does not appear to be cancer in the liver now. While tests also confirmed that the right kidney contains cancer cells, additional testing did not conclude with certainty that there is cancer elsewhere in his body. Cancerous cells in the bloodstream, however, are impossible to detect.

Based on these medical findings, the Cardinal's doctors have recommended a course of chemotherapy. Beginning Wednesday, September 5, he will undergo six sessions, each session running three weeks. Chemotherapy will be administered the first two weeks of each session and the third week, free of chemotherapy, will allow the immune system to recuperate.
Please, pray for Cardinal George.

In honor of the day

Just in time for the memorial of Saint Augustine, Cody has a post reflecting on the quest for happiness.  Give it a read and leave comment for him.

A book on the beach

After a full and enjoyable day yesterday, I woke this morning feeling rather tired so I decided to take a quiet afternoon spent in a quiet spot on a quiet beach reading a book I picked up yesterday, Damien: The Making of a Saint.

It is a book unlike any other I ever seen.  It has a few pages of commentary by an anonymous editor, but otherwise is composed entirely of excerpts from the writings of Father Damien and those who knew him.  Scattered throughout the book are pictures of the Leper Priest and the settlements at Kalawao and Kalaupapa, his artifacts, and some of his letters that have survived.

The excerpts are arranged in a roughly chronological order to tell the story of the Hero of Moloka'i in a unique - and gripping - way.

If you don't yet have a book about Saint Damien de Vuester - and can't find a copy of The Heart of Father Damien by Vital Jourdain, SS.CC - this is the book for you.

25 August 2012

What to wear when flying

The Associated Press today has a story about dress codes for airlines – or the lack thereof - in which it is lamented that some passengers are "lectured" about the clothing they wear while flying and some are refused entry to the aircraft (not surprisingly, a woman wearing a shirt with a 4-letter expletive works for an abortuary).

The author, David Koenig, complains: 
It's not always clear what's appropriate. Airlines don't publish dress codes. There are no rules that spell out the highest hemline or the lowest neckline allowed. That can leave passengers guessing how far to push fashion boundaries. Every once in a while the airline says: Not that far. 
If we remembered modesty and decency in clothing, this would not be an issue at all.  If we respected other people as much as we demand that they respect us, this would be not an issue at all.  If we actually respected ourselves, this would not be an issue at all.

Frankly, I’m all in favor of the “airline clothing cops” and wouldn’t mind having other such cops elsewhere, so long as it brings back a level of decency and mutual respect in society.  I’m tired of seeing people out and about in their pajamas.

20 August 2012

Sunset at Hale'iwa Ali'i Beach Park

Last evening, after an enjoyable morning and afternoon celebrating the 169th anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, I joined a few friends and made several new friends for an Hawai'ian style party at Hale'iwa Ali'i Beach Park.

It was a perfect setting to spend the evening and was surprisingly quiet with lots of space, including both beach and grass.  Some of us sat around on the grass talking story (chatting, as we would say on the mainland) about everything under the sun, while others played football, Portugese horseshoes, flew kits, or played in the ocean.

Several honu (Hawaiian sea turtles) came up to shore as the sun was setting:

All in all, it was a great conclusion to a great day.

19 August 2012

The difference perspective makes


Last night I returned the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace which this weekend celebrates the one hundred and sixty-ninth anniversary of dedication.  I'd like to say I planned it this way, but it really is just a matter of coincidence.  Then again, Blessed John Paul II used to say there is no such thing as coincidence, only providence.

Earlier this morning I celebrated the 7:30 a.m. Mass and soon I will celebrate the Noon Mass, after which the festivities begin with food and games.  It's a celebration I'm very much looking forward to.

This evening I'll join a few friends for luau on the beach, which I'm also looking forward to.

After Mass this morning, several parishioners asked how long I would be staying this time, which brought again to my attention the difference of perspective.

"Seventeen days," I would say.  "It's my longest stay yet."

To a person, every one sincerely asked, "Is that all?"  Others said something like, "Just a short visit, then."  Back on the mainland, a seventeen day trip to Hawaii seems like a long time, but here in the islands it's really only a brief stay.

Someone else came up to visit with me and said, "You're the priest who likes chocolate and pineapple and Dr Pepper, right?"  (My reputation precedes me.)  To him, the combination of pineapple and chocolate or pineapple and Dr Pepper seemed quite bizarre.  His wife, though, loved the combination of pineapple and hamburgers, but back on the mainland most people I'm quite bizarre for even suggesting it.

It's a good reminder that many things in life are a matter of perspective.  In some places, you're sane; in other places, you're insane.  The trick is knowing where you are.

18 August 2012

Don't judge a gift by its package

Every now and again a curious and unexpected package will arrive for me.  Some weeks back such a package arrived for me at the Pastoral Center, which was particularly odd because I receive most of my mail at the Cathedral.

Of particular curiousity was the fact that this particular package was rather bear up in the postal system and clearly had seen better days.  But, as with so many things, you cannot judge a gift by its packaging.

Inside was a small pillow from the good folks at Klave Centesca embroidered with my coat or arms for use at the back of a chair:

Whether I use it or not in the sacred liturgy remains to be seen.  This might be a good solution to my difficulties with the presidential chair at the Cathedral.

10 August 2012

An afternoon in Alton

On Wednesday I traveled with Bishop Paprocki to St. Anthony Hospital in Alton for a Mass and luncheon with the Serra Vocations Club of Madison County.  The Serra Club meets at the hospital the second Wednesday of every month, beginning with Mass at 12:05 p.m.  If you are in the area and would like to join the Serra Club, I will be happy to put you in contact with the group.

The chapel, I was very happy to see, was filled both with members of the laity and with the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George.  The fourth degree of the Knights of Columbus provided an honor guard for the Bishop, who was assisted by two deacons.  Four priests also concelebrated the Mass the vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate, and the consecrated life.

Bishop Paprocki received a very warm welcome at the luncheon from all in attendance.  He used the occasion to speak of the dual importance of prayer and personal invitation in the work of vocations.  The group must have enjoyed the Bishop's remarks, which they interrupted with applause at least three times.

As always, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George were very gracious in hosting us.

When the Bishop and I arrived in the Bishop's Conference Room to vest for the Mass, I was surprised to find a small gift for me:

Against my better judgment, I didn't look inside until after the luncheon; one of the Sisters gave me a can of Dr Pepper (I love those Sisters!).

Inside were also two cards from two of the Sisters.  The first was from one of the Sister Karolyn, who helped us on the recent Catholic Leadership Institute.  I particularly enjoyed the back of the envelope she used:

If you can't make it out, she wrote: "Because otherwise this poor letter never gets good use!"

The second card was from Sr. Alexandra, with whom I have been coordinating for their Feastday celebrations next week:

The next few days for her will be tremendously busy as she sees the final preparations for the Mass in which 13 Sisters will make their final profession, 3 will make their first profession, and two will be received as postulants.

Those making their final profession are:

Sister M. Mercedes Diaz
Sister M. Christina Lanuzga
Sister M. Ignatia Cooney
Sister Mary George Brown
Sister M. Andrea Goeckner
Sister M. Vianney Ebben
Sister Mary David Tappan
Sister M. Clementia Toalson
Sister Mary Jude Marsella
Sister M. Bridget Martin
Sister Mary Gianna Nazar
Sister M. Catherine Welter
Sister M. Teresa Pandl

Those making their first profession are:

Sister M. Lucy Gantt
Sister Karol Marie Baumgarten
Sister Cordia Marie McKenie

Those being received as postulants are:

Lauren Kissel, who will receive the name Sister M. Gemma
Marilis Pineiro, who will receive the name Sister M. Immanuela

Please keep these Sisters in your prayers as the continue their retreat leading up to the Feastday on Wednesday, which will be a glorious and happy day!

05 August 2012

Homily - 5 August 2012

The Eighteenth Sunday of the Year (B)

The desire for food and drink is perhaps the greatest desire about which we think most.  It is certainly the one felt most physically and the one toward which we often put the greatest amount of effort toward satisfying.

It is this desire for food and drink that led the Israelites to grumble against Moses and Aaron (cf. Exodus 16:2).  It is this same hunger and thirst that led the crowds to follow Jesus (cf. John 6:24).

Even so, there is something more happening in these passages than a simple physical hunger and thirst, for we use this desire for food and drink as a metaphor for other desires.  We speak of a person’s thirst for power or of a hunger for wealth.  Jesus, too, spoke in this way about “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6).

Hunger and thirst, then, can be said to encompass all of our desires, all of our passions.  When the Israelites grumbled against Moses, when the crowds followed Jesus, they were not simply looking for earthly food; they sought, rather, the satisfaction of their deepest yearnings and longings, even if they did not quite recognize it.  They sought that which truly satisfies (and it was not a Snickers bar).

We heard last week that with the multiplication of the loaves and fish, everyone in the crowd “had eaten their fill” before the fragments leftover were collected (John 6:12).  But this was not the purpose of this miracle; rather, Jesus intended to teach them something far more profound and important.  If Jesus can satisfy their physical hunger so completely, how much more can he satisfy their spiritual hunger!  It is of him that the Psalmist sings: “As the deer longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2).

Toward the end of his life, Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest minds the Church has ever known, was writing a treatise on the Eucharist, struggling to complete it.  In great frustration, the quiet man of God threw his text at the foot of a crucifix, asking the Lord what he thought of what he had written.

The voice of God came through the figure of the Crucified Christ, saying to him: “You have written well of me, Thomas.  What would you have?”

Saint Thomas could choose whatever he wanted, whatever he desired.  Would he ask for wealth or fame or power?  Would he ask for love or athletic skill or simple pleasures?  He could ask for anything; what would he ask of the Lord?

He answered the Savior with these words: “Nil nisi te, Domine, nil nisi te.  Only you, Lord, only you.”

The Angelic Doctor answered wisely and honestly.  Saint Thomas “wanted nothing more than Christ, nothing other than Christ, nothing less than Christ.” [1]  He knew that, as he had written earlier in his life, “God alone satisfies.”[2]  I wonder, what would you or I ask of the Lord?

Here at this altar he gives himself to us, the bread “which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” and those who eat his Body “will never hunger” (cf. John 6:33; John 6:35).  How is it, then, that so many come here week after week and leave hungry each time?  How is it possible to leave here with a heavy and empty heart?

The answer is simple: they do not recognize him; they do not adequately prepare themselves to receive him; and they do not believe that he wants to satisfy their every desire.  What is more, they do not recognize in the Eucharist the very Body and Blood of our Lord.

For if we recognized his Real Presence among us in the Eucharist, who would arrive late to Mass or leave before the dismissal; who would not come to the Mass dressed appropriately and modestly; who would receive Holy Communion in a sloppy or hurried manner; who would hesitate to show their devotion and love and spend time in prayer to prepare themselves; who would fail to confess their sins and receive absolution?

Too many come here day after day never recognizing – or at least never admitting – their deep hunger and thirst for Christ!   Because they do not know for what they long their hunger is not satisfied and their thirst is not quenched.  Still hungering and thirsting they seek to satisfy their desires in the things of this world, and yet never do they find lasting satisfaction.

But to those who receive the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ in faith, who have prepared themselves well to receive him, he addresses his promise: “I am the bread of life: whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35).  In receiving him, they receive all they seek; they find in him lasting happiness, joy and peace.  This Saint Thomas knew well and so he said, “God alone satisfies.”

My dear brothers and sisters, the Lord wishes to satisfy the true desire of our heart, if we but come to him in faith.  If the Lord asked us, as he asked Saint Thomas, “What would you have,” what would we ask of him?  Would we ask for the things of this world – those things that promise to satisfy us but never do - or would we say with Saint Thomas, “Nil nisi te, Domine; only you, Lord”?

[1] Robert Barron, Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1996, 2008), 12. 
[2] Saint Thomas Aquinas, Expos. In symb apost, I.  In Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1718.

02 August 2012

A new blog

I'm happy today to introduce you to a new blog that launched yesterday: From the Interior Castle.  Written by Cody Sandschafer, one of our Diocesan seminarians, this blog, he says, "will primarily consist of my personal reflections upon the wisdom of the words and lives of the Saints as well as the Sacred Scriptures."

Cody is a fine young man whom I've known for many years; he was one of my students at St. Anthony High School in Effingham.  Cody possesses an inquisitive mind and an infectious joy that he often uses to delve into the mystery of God and lead others along this path with him.

Go ahead and give his first two posts and read and follow his blog or add it to your reader.  I don't think you'll be disappointed in his future posts.

01 August 2012

Of books and people

Whenever I visit a friend - or even someone I haven't met before or don't know very well - I browse through their books.  You can learn a lot about someone by the books they keep.

I was reminded of this this morning.  The Rector and Vice-Rector of my seminary alma mater were in Springfield today and I the happy opportunity to visit with them.

Both are relatively new in their positions; the rector was one of my professors and I don't know that I'd every actually met the vice-rector before.

The rector would always tell us in class that this book and that book should be on our nightstand.  If we actually kept all of the recommended books on our nightstands we would all be buried in books by the morning!

We went to visit the Abraham Lincoln's Springfield home and while browsing Lincoln biograhies in the gift shop, a boyscout asked which biography he should buy.

The rector asked, "Have you read anything about Lincoln before?"

"Not really," came the reply.

"Then you should get Sandburg's multi-volume set," the rector answered.  It was a suggestion that was both quite comical and one only a true bibliophile could make; Sandburg's biography comes in 6 volumes!

When we returned to the rectory, the vice-rector, who stayed behind in my sitting room/study, said to me, "I think, after being in your room and looking at your books, I can tell three things about you."

He peaked my curiosity.  He first speculated that I have a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is correct.  Second, he speculated that I enjoy reading the lives of the saints, which is also correct.  And, third, he said, "And you love Hawaii."

How right he was!