31 January 2013

A March for Life re-cap

This past Friday I traveled by bus with 228 other pilgrims - mostly youth - from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois to Washington, D.C. to participate in the March for Life.  In addition to our four buses and two vans, I know that at least two other vans and four other buses went to the March for Life from the Diocese.

Aside from one incident in which the bus on which I was riding was clipped by a semi (thanks be to God, only the outside mirror was scuffed), it may have been the smoothest pilgrimage to the March for Life I have been on yet.  I really could not have asked for a better group of pilgrims.

We arrived in Washington, D.C. later than planned because the weather we drove through slowed our travel across the country.  With this in mind, we went straight to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to join some 13,000 of the faithful for the Vigil Mass Thursday night.

Naturally, the Basilica filled quickly as the afternoon progressed.  When I made my to the Crypt Chapel where the seminarians, deacons, priests, and seminarians vest for Mass, I could tell there were more people in attendance than in previous years.  In years past, the time before the Mass is a good opportunity to visit with priests that I don't get to see throughout the year.  This year, though, there were so many people downstairs it made it difficult to find the priests I know.

After the Mass, the priests often sneak out a side door and walk down the front steps of the Basilica on our way to our buses.  In years past, it was easy to walk down the steps at the buses without fighting through our a crowd.  This year, though, there were several crowds to fight through.

The next morning I celebrated Mass for my group of pilgrims at St. Peter's on Capitol Hill (you can read my homily here).  The staff of the parish has been very welcoming and hospitable to us for many years now.  Several smaller groups of pilgrims from the Diocese also joined us for the Mass.

After the Mass we made our way to the national mall and waited for the March for Life to begin.  We somehow managed to take our places in the "line up" in such a way that we found ourselves toward the beginning of the March.

As we neared the Supreme Court building, I began to see a great number of police officers lining both sides of the street, which I did not remember seeing in previous years.  As we turned toward the Supreme Court building I saw a dozen officers or more standing on the steps, the sight of which gave me some surprise.

The closer we marched to the Supreme Court I became more aware of the reason for the heavy police presence: some forty pro-abortion demonstrators standing on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court.  Without a doubt, this is largest number of abortion supporters I have every seen at the March for Life and the first time I remember seeing them there.

What especially struck me about their presence was the striking difference between the two groups of people.  On the one hand were some 650,000 people marching peacefully in support of life, who were praying, singing, and laughing on their way.  On the other hand were some forty people yelling and screaming with great anger and hatred at those who disagreed with them.  We simply walked past them.

After the March we toured Ford's Theatre before having supper at Union Station.  The next day we visiting Arlington Cemetery, the Holocaust Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution before hopping back on the buses to make our way home.

For several years now the group I travel with has been wearing red and white striped scarves to help us keep an eye on the members of our group.  The scarves have led some to call us "the Waldos," a nickname we enjoy.  The scarves also serve as a useful way for other people we know to find us, though this year Sr. Karolyn, F.S.G.M. could not find us.  She sent the following note:
I looked for you at the March but amazingly did not run into ANYONE from Springfield.  I was even carrying a Dr. Pepper to give you.
I knew those Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George were fantastic!

But though Sr. Karolyn could not find us, Imagine Sisters found her and took a picture of her (on the right) and two of her Sisters singing "God Bless America":

The picture was used as the cover image on their Facebook page.  Be sure to "like" them.

25 January 2013

Homily - 25 January 2013

Mass Before the March for Life
The Solemnity of the Conversion of Saint Paul
My brother priests and deacons, consecrated men and women, seminarians, parents and chaperones, my dear young friends, Pilgrims for Life: May the Lord give you peace!

I bring you greetings from His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, and in his name I thank you for your presence here today and for your invaluable witness to life.  He wishes he could be here with you today and is remembering you in his prayers, especially at the altar of the Lord.  Let us remember him in our prayers, as well.

When Bilbo Baggins returned to his hole in the hill after his adventure with thirteen dwarves and a dragon, the wizard Gandalf said to Bilbo, “Something is the matter with you!  You are not the hobbit that you were.”[1]  Indeed, having gone to Lonely Mountain and back again, Bilbo lost the respect of his neighbors, but he won the esteem of the great lords of Middle earth.

In the very dangers and marvels in which he found himself with Thorin and Company, Bilbo encountered something numinous – we might say it was grace – and he was never the same because of it.  His adventure, then, was more than an adventure; it was a pilgrimage, though he did not know it when he left his comfortable hobbit hole.

As we celebrate today the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, we see that he, too, encountered something – rather someone – numinous during his travels on the road to Damascus; he encountered Jesus Christ, whom he had been persecuting, risen from the dead, and he would never be the same because of it (cf. Acts 22:8).  His journey, then, was more than a journey, though he did not know it at the start; it, too, was a pilgrimage of sorts.

Whenever we think of Saint Paul’s conversion and how it occurred, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that 

we may be tempted to linger too long on certain details, such as the light in the sky, falling to the ground, the voice that called him, his new condition of blindness, his healing like scales falling from his eyes and the fast that he made.  But all these details refer to the heart of the event: the Risen Christ appears as a brilliant light and speaks to Saul, transforms his thinking and his entire life.  The dazzling radiance of the Risen Christ blinds him; thus what was his inner reality is also outwardly apparent, his blindness to the truth, to the light that is Christ.  And then his definitive “yes” to Christ in Baptism restores his sight and makes him really see.[2]

On the day of our baptisms, the light of Christ shone brightly before us, as well, and we also gave our definitive “yes” to Jesus Christ.  It is this great yes - by which we have entrusted the entirety of our lives to the Lord - that has brought us here together in faith in our nation’s capital city.

Like Bilbo and Saint Paul, we, too, have set out from our respective homes on a journey.  And like Bilbo, we know at least where we are going and that we intend go back again; like Saint Paul, we are zealous for God, or at least we hope to be when we, too, return changed (cf. Acts 22:3).  But unlike Bilbo, we have not set out on a mere adventure, and unlike Saint Paul, we have already encountered the Risen Lord.  Why, then, have we set out on a long ride through the night, through cold and snow, only to stand around a long time to walk through crowded streets in the cold, and possibly in the snow?  From a pragmatic perspective, it seems rather foolish, but we know, as Bilbo knew about adventures, that pilgrimages “are not all pony-rides in May-sunshine;” a pilgrimage necessarily entails a sharing in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.[3]

To be sure, we have set out not as adventures, not as tourists, but as pilgrims; this we must not forget.  An adventurer seeks a tale to tell; a tourist looks for a quick image to capture or a meal to enjoy; but a pilgrim searches for the face of God (cf. Psalm 42:3).

Today, in the streets of Washington, D.C., we will join hundreds of thousands of others in the great March for Life.  In so doing, we take up the command of the Lord to “go out to all the world and tell the Good News” of God’s love (Mark 16:15).  We come in peaceful protest of the terrible – in the true sense of that word – decision of the Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade.

As you know, this decision legalized the killing of unborn children through the despicable practice known as abortion.  Since that horrid day on January 22, 1973, more than 55 million babies have been killed in this nation alone.

To put that number in some perspective, some 1.5 million Americans have been killed in every war in which this country has fought since 1775.  Put another way, the number of children killed by abortion each year is this country is greater than the present populations of the States of Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Tennessee combined.  To put it even more starkly, in the same span of time in which more than 55,000,000 children were aborted in our land, just 133,115,440 were born.  The number is staggering.  And terribly sad.

All of this in this nation founded on the very principle that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”[4]  These rights, we say, are “self-evident,” though many in our day are, like Saul once was, blinded to the truth.  We march today and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves; we ask for the recognition of their same inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Today, dear brothers and sisters, let us remember that we come as humble pilgrims of peace who seek not only to share in the sufferings of Christ for the redemption of the world, but also to imitate him in his Passion.  Saint Paul knew the power of redemptive suffering very well.  He realized it so well that he wrote, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).  What is more, the Lord Jesus said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (IICorinthians 12:9).

Today we march not with power, but with weakness; not with anger, but with love.  We come in imitation of Our Lord who, when mocked and taunted, reviled and beaten, “though harshly treated, he submitted and did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).  We cannot forget what the philosopher Peter Kreeft has wisely observed: 

The weakness of evil is that it cannot conquer weakness.  No matter how much power evil has, it is always defeated by the free, loving renunciation of power.  It can be defeated in Middle-earth as it was on Calvary: by martyrdom.  Scripture’s image of the last battle between good and evil is a battle between two mythical beasts: Arnion, the meek little Lamb, and Therion, the terrible dragon beast.  And the Lamb overcomes the Beast by a secret weapon: His own blood. 

Evil is limited to power; it cannot use weakness.  It is limited to pride; it cannot use humility.  It is limited to inflicting suffering and death; it cannot use suffering and death.  It is limited to selfishness; it cannot use selflessness.  But good can.[5]
It is with this weakness, humility, suffering, death, and selflessness that we march today; we march in the name of the One who is Goodness itself.

Having received baptism into the Death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, let us call upon his name, imploring him to open the eyes of those blinded to the slaughter of so many innocents.  Let us ask also the intercession of Saint Paul whose own eyes were opened to the truth of Jesus Christ, to him who is “the way and the truth and the life,” that those who are blinded by selfishness and greed may be converted from the Culture of Death to the Culture of Life, the Culture of Love (cf. Acts 22:16; John 14:6).

On our way to the Supreme Court, let us also humbly ask to encounter the Lord ourselves, that our hearts, too, may be changed and filled with an ever greater love of God and of neighbor.  Let us pray that our walking and witnessing today will bring us into greater conformity with the Person of Jesus Christ so that, on seeing us on our return home, others may rightly say, “You are not the person that you were.”  May we, and all who see us this day, know that “steadfast is his kindness toward us, and the fidelity of the Lord endures forever” (Psalm 117:2).

By our presence here today we may lose the respect of our neighbors, but will win the esteem of the friends of God.  Amen.

[1] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001), 4.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience Address, 3 September 2008.
[3] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001), 37.
[4] The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.
[5] Peter Kreeft, The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings.  (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005), 184-185.

23 January 2013

Prayers for the Mass for Saint Marianne Cope?

The November-December 2011 issue of the Newsletter of the Committee on Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reported:
Two liturgy action items were approved by the body of Bishops during the USCCB plenary meeting in Baltimore, Maryland on November 14-16, 2011. The Bishops approved the inscription of Blessed Marianne Cope and Blessed John Paul II into the Proper Calendar for the Dioceses of the United States of America.

The inscription of Bl. Marianne Cope was approved by a vote of 216-2 with two abstentions. Although she died on August 9, 1918, her liturgical memorial is currently celebrated on January 23, the date of her birth in 1838. This discrepancy will be addressed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments if and when her Optional Memorial is confirmed for the United States. In addition, while Latin and English editions of her liturgical texts were previously confirmed by the Holy See following her beatification in 2005, a Spanish translation had to be prepared for use in the United States.
I cannot seem to locate the English text of these prayers.  Can any of you be of help?

21 January 2013

A media blackout on the March for Life?

On January 22, 2012, more than 400,000 people rallied in Washington, D.C. for the 39th annual March for Life in protest of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.  But if your only source of news is the mainstream media, you likely never heard about it.  It's amazing how the media simply ignores what they don't like.

Have you heard about the growing of people in France rallying in support of "traditional" marriage?  Over the past several weeks the numbers have grown to more than 1.3 million people.  Even French homosexuals have joined the ranks.

Ireland recently saw it's largest pro-life rally, with more than 30,000 turning out in Dublin against abortion.

By any sensible measuring standard, both numbers are too great to simply ignore.  Remember: If it isn't reported, it must not have actually happened.

In years previous, the media reported "tens of thousands" of those marching for life, and focused on a very small number (I've never seen more than a dozen) "pro-choice" protesters.

The 40th annual March for Life will be held this Friday, January 25, 2013 in Washington, D.C.; it is delayed a few days this year because of the second inauguration of President Obama.

Call me a cynic, but I can't help but wonder how many different ways the media will find to ignore protesters numbering at least as many as last year, and perhaps even more than were present today at the inauguration ceremonies.

19 January 2013

This is why we will march

For whatever reason, this morning I found myself wondering how many children have been born in the United States of America since the decision of the Supreme Court in the case Roe vs. Wade.

Since 1973, 133,115,440 children have been born in the U.S.A.

Since 1973, more than 55,000,000 have been "aborted" in the U.S.A.

It is simply staggering.

18 January 2013

Comment moderation intensified

Many moons ago I set comment moderation in place that required me to approve every comment before it could be read by the public.  I did this at the time because of a number of troll-like comments that were being left by - surprise, surprise - anonymous readers.

Over the past several weeks I have been receiving a great number of spam comments.  Because I have grown tired of policing spam comments, I am now requiring all commenters on this blog to sign-in (you can still comment anonymously, after signing in, if you so wish).

I'm sorry for the inconvenience and the annoyance factor this may cause, but as most of my regular commenters do so on Facebook, this shouldn't post too great a difficulty to anyone.

To Live Pono: Staying home when sick

No small space of time has transpired since my last post in this series I am calling "To Live Pono," not because of a lack of suggestions about living life more righteously but for the timeliness of such posts.

This morning at Mass I could not help but notice the great number of people who spent a good deal of their time at Mass coughing and blowing their noses.  Clearly, they are ill.  To be sure, they do not have the flu, but neither are they well.

Much of living pono involves a respect for other people.  The phrase, "To live pono," might well be replaced with Jesus' great teaching: "Do to others whatever you would have them to do to you" (Matthew 7:12).  This teaching applies equally to those who are well and to those who are not.

Please, when you are sick with a cold, and especially with the flu, remember that there are people around you who have weak immune systems.  The cold that you might fight for only a few days might well take someone else two or three weeks to fight off.  When you are ill, if you do not have to be out and about, please stay home, get well, and help those of us with weak immune systems stay healthy.

This little bit of pono will be greatly appreciated.  Mahalo for your kindness!

This is why we will march

16 January 2013

Caring for the poor, one microwave and crock pot at a time

I'm sure you've often heard the complaint that the Church doesn't do enough to help the poor, despite the fact that the Catholic Church provides more funds and services for the poor than any other organization in the world.  To be sure, there is always more that can be done even as we know that, as the Lord Jesus says, "The poor you will always have with you" (Matthew 26:11).

We often forget that the poor will always be with us so that can always serve Christ in them.  Pope Benedict XVI highlighted this this morning when he tweeted, "If we have love for our neighbor, we will find the face of Christ in the poor, the weak, the sick and the suffering."

A recent report indicates that 1 in 3 Illinoisans lives in - or near - poverty.  This news is staggering and should spur each of us to act in love for the good and betterment of the poor.  Such activity can be done in any number of ways, but the most important is individual contact.

One of my good friends volunteers regularly at a food pantry in Quincy.  Just the other day she shared that several families would not take items that required a microwave because they do not have one and cannot afford a microwave.  My friend then asked her friends on Facebook if they had a spare microwave or crock pot that could be given to these families in need. If we get the items to her, she will get them to the families.

Because I was touched by her desire to help by reaching out to us for help, I shared her story and received today a crock pot from a friend in California.  I have a gift card that I will use toward the purchase of a microwave later this week.  Other items have also been donated.

This is how the Church principally cares for the poor, person to person.  You and I are called to care for the poor, to do what we can when we can to help.

The need that my friend saw is not a difficult one to meet, but she can't meet it alone; together, though, we can.

Was that tweet meant for me?

From time to time someone will say to a priest of deacon that he felt as though thet words of his homily were meant directly and specifically for him or her.  These are always humbling and encouraging words.  This morning, I can say that the Holy Father tweeted just for me.

I awoke today feeling rather sorry for myself and overwhelmed and heavy burdened.  And, to be honest, a bit grumpy.  I could easily make Bilbo's words my own:
Why I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. … I want to see mountains again, Gandalf- mountains; and then find somewhere that I can rest. In peace and quiet, without a lot of relatives prying around, and a string of confounded visitors hanging on the bell. I might find somewhere where I can finish my book (The Fellowship of the Ring, 1.1).
To be fair, my relatives aren't prying around and instead of visitors hanging on the bell additional work seems to be hanging on the bell.  I've been trying to make progress lately but haven't had much success at it.  I went to bed last night remembering these lyrics of Rich Mullins: "There was so much work left to do, but so much you'd already done."  It's all rather frustrating, and we've all been there a time or two before and will likely enough be there a time or two more again.

As I looked over the daily readings, it almost seemed as the Apostles were speaking directly to me: "Everyone is looking for you" (Mark 1:37).  Yes, everyone - not really, but it sometimes feels that way - is looking for me and I wanted to do the opposite of what Jesus did.

It was with this frame of mind that I checked my Twitter feed and read the following from Pope Benedict XVI (@Pontifex):
If we have love for our neighbor, we will find the face of Christ in the poor, the weak, the sick and the suffering.
My love for my neighbor was weak, and, hence, so, too, was my love for my Lord.  It is not about me; it is about him and rest will come in time.  One step, one project, at a time.

Thank you, Holy Father, for your simply and timely tweet.

12 January 2013

On Godparents

Too often when choosing Godparents for their children parents simply choose one of their siblings or friends of college because, I presume, they think it is expected.

In his bulletin column this weekend for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Father Toborowsky takes a look at the important role Godparents play - or, at least, should play - in the life of their spiritual child.  For example:
A Godparent should not be chosen just because they’re your best friend or a sibling or because they cried because you did not ask them the last time. When you ask someone to be a Godparent, you’re asking him/her to take on what I wrote above: to help the child lead a Christian life. How can they do this if they’re not practicing their Catholic faith themselves?
To be chosen as a Godparent is indeed a great honor, but like most great honors such a selection brings with it great responsibility:
First, congratulate yourself; it’s an honor to be asked. Second, know what you’re committing to: in God’s eyes, you are going to be “bonded” to the person being baptized. You will be asked by the Church to make a vow, committing to work with the child’s parents to help him/her to see their faith as an important part of their life. Yes, it’s work.
Let's presume that a person is chosen to be a Godparent but doesn't practice the faith and their Pastor, for one reason or another, gives them an "endorsement" to be a Godparent anyway.  Such a person may well realize he or she is unworthy to be a Godparent (indeed we all are), what can he or she do to remedy the situation?
As soon as you’re asked to be the child’s Godparent (even if the baby has not been born yet), start attending Sunday Mass. Make sure you’re registered at a parish. Make sure the parish clergy know you’re going to Mass each week.
It really can be that simple.   Be sure to read his entire column.

11 January 2013

Bishop Silva to surfers: "The search for the 'sweet spot' on perfect wave is really a search for ultimate happiness"

As I look forward to my next return to Hawai'i next month, I can't help but think of the many sunsets I have seen as I watched the surfers catch their waves they ride as masters of the waters.

Watching the grace and skill of the surfers against the setting sun not only brings great joy but also provides a opportunity for reflection on the spiritual life.

Earlier this month, His Excellency the Most Reverend Clarence "Larry" J. Silva, Bishop of Honolulu, issued a Pastoral Letter to Surfers for this Year of Faith in which he invited surfers to enter more fully into a life of faith.

The text of his pastoral letter follows, with my emphases and comments:

“Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty!” Psalm 93:4 (RSV) 
Aloha, Surfers! 
Surfing is a sport of kings that captivates the hearts of the dedicated participant and the spectator alike. 
Surfers are unique. Perhaps part of your attraction is your marvel of the sea, so you spend much time in the ocean at beautiful locations.  
Captain James Cook captured this attraction in 1777 when he observed a surfer and wrote: “I could not help concluding that this man felt the most supreme pleasure while he was driven on so fast and smoothly by the sea” [that's my thought every time I see them]. 
Surfers are always trying to get their friends into the waves. The exhilarating feeling they experience cannot be put into words but needs to be experienced. Some see surfing  as ‘mystical’ and an experience of the presence of God. The spiritual parallel is eloquently captured by St Thomas Aquinas:  “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” 
Just as you search for waves, do not be afraid to search for truth. Do not let the many competing voices cause you to give up on the possibility of discovery.  Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” [John 14:6] As Pope Benedict XVI encourages:  “[T]he happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: it is Jesus of Nazareth.” (World Youth Day, Madrid, 2011)  
Surfers know the meaning of risk but still have the courage to set out into the mighty waters.  For some there is the concern that following Jesus is a big risk. Yet as the Pope goes on to say: "If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation." 
A relatively unknown but truly remarkable connection to Christianity is that twenty of the last thirty surfing World Champions have had a secret Christian symbol, the fish, on their boards. In Greek the word for fish is icthos, and this is an acronym for: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior. Not many other sports can make such a claim and be so connected to the sea. 
There is a tendency in surf culture to see surfing as a religion: to settle for creation rather than Creator.  Yet the ocean is an “icon of God”. The beauty, awe, and joy you experience should lead on to the Author of the universe: our loving God (Rom 1:19-20). The search for the “sweet spot” on perfect wave is really a search for ultimate happiness, which leads us to God, because nothing else totally satisfies that desire. As St. Augustine put it: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” 
In what can sometimes be a self-absorbed sport, one of the greatest icons of surfing is Eddie Aikau. He heroically sacrificed his own life in an attempt to save those on the capsized Hokulea by paddling for help to the island of Lanai. As his plaque reads at Waimea Bay: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" [John 15:13]. Eddie, who grew up as an altar boy, is a timely reminder of the noblest of human actions. 
Eddie’s heroism happened south of Molokai Island, where St. Damien, affectionately known as the Leper Priest, ministered to those with Hansen’s Disease. We can learn much from this great Saint of Hawaii, a missionary priest who spent 16 years caring for the poorest of the poor before contracting the disease himself.  St. Damien is a witness to “authentic love,” modeled by Jesus himself, which is the purpose of human life, the key to lasting marriages, and the path to joy and inner peace that each heart desires. 
While there are many redeeming aspects of surf culture, it would be naive to pretend that it did not have a darker side. The polluted waters of drugs, partying, hedonism, and immodesty come readily to mind. As Christian surfers you are called to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). As unofficial ambassadors of Aloha, I implore you to stand up for truth, for the right to life, and to be the hands and feet of Christ in a world that needs to hear the Good News.  Powerful currents want to drown the truth, but you, with the help of God, are called to help us all rise above the waves and move according to God’s plan. 
If you have drifted away from living the Catholic faith, remember that our Heavenly Father is waiting with outstretched arms, seeking to heal and transform you through the Sacrament of Penance (John 20:23) and the Eucharist (John 6). A short drive to your local parish is all that it takes to reconcile with God through a sincere confession. Just like surfing, progression in the spiritual life involves commitment and escaping our comfort zone. 
To our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are separated from the Catholic Church: You may be surprised to find that early Christian writings (such as Ignatius, Clement, Irenaeus and the Didache) contain what Catholics believe today. Unity with the Church, which Sacred Scripture describes as the ‘pillar and foundation of the truth’ [1 Timothy 3:15 NAB] is vital in building the Kingdom of God and a culture of life.  
May Mary, Star of the Sea and our spiritual mother (John 19:27), be a shining example of faithfulness to God and a sure guide through the stormy waters of our earthly pilgrimage. 
Sincerely yours in Christ, 
Most Reverend Larry Silva 
Bishop of Honolulu

I will be marching for Life. Will you?

Washington, D.C. will be quite a busy place in two weeks' time, what with the second inauguration of President Obama (on January 21st) and the 40th March for Life (on January 25th) taking place in the same week.

I will be part of a 4-bus pilgrimage from the southern half of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. I know of at least four other busses from the Diocese that will make long drive through the night, as well. Historically, our Diocese has been well represented at the March for Life for the past twenty years, or so, especially with the number of our young people in attendance.

In preparation for this 40th March for Life in protest of the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Woe that legalized abortion, Black Stone Films has produced an excellent promotional video titled, "A Nation Rises - March for Life." The video makes of President Obama's words following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut:

The Washington Examiner expects the number of pilgrims in support of the unborn to rival the number of President Obama's supporters:
The march, expected to attract tens of thousands more than the record 400,000 two years ago, could rival President Obama's Inauguration Day crowd, propelled by the growing youth support of efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, which the president has embraced with open arms. Obama drew 1.8 million in 2009. Just 600,000 are expected January 21st.
Despite the record number of Pro-Life supporters last year, the main stream media purposefully ignored the March for Life, as it has the past several years.  At most, a story might be run on those protesting against the March for Life, which never actually count more than a dozen people (unless have a special hiding place), but the media makes their numbers look considerably larger.  I expect more of the same this year.

I have been marching for Life in Washington, D.C. since my time in college. Though I haven't been able to go every year, I have noticed a growing number of participants as the years have progressed, and the number of young people marching with joy and fervor is simply astounding.

Time Magazine recently noted this fact with a front-page story titled, "They've been losing ever since," the "losers" being the abortion industry. The New York Times is also concerned about what it calls, very professionally, I might add, "crazy new rules that make it impossible for them operate."

And all of this when Planned Parenthood reports a record number of abortions performed in its "clinics." In the fiscal year 2011-2012, Planned Parenthood killed 333,964 babies. And let's not forget that in the same year Planned Parenthood received a record amount of tax-payer money totalling $542,000,000.

08 January 2013

+Paprocki testifies before the Executive Committee

Knoxnews.com has posted an excellent picture of Bishop Paprocki testifying before the Illinois Senate Executive Committee last Thursday evening regarding the so-called Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act as the sponsor of the bill, Senator Heather A. Steans (D-Chicago) looks on, and none too happily:

AP Photo: Seth Perlman
Please continue to pray for the defeat of this proposed legislation that would so drastically limit and restrict the religious liberty of all Illinoisans.

07 January 2013

Good news on a Monday morning

On his Twitter account, Thomas Peters (@AmericanPapist) passes on this impressive and happy news:

Bp. Paprocki's letter in defense of marriage read over 87,000 times: scribd.com/doc/118848785/… people listen when bishops speak @diospringfield
Please continue to pray for Bishop Paprocki and for our religious liberty.

06 January 2013

Illinois Stories discusses Father Tolton

At a recent dinner, I was told about a recent episode of WSEC's Illinois Stories I somehow missed on the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton.

You can watch the thirty minute episode for yourselves:

Father Roy Bauer, who has long studied the life of Father Tolton and done much to promote his cause for beatification and canonization, does a fine job discussing the life of the country's first black priest.  Father Bauer is joined by several other people in a series of interviews with Illinois Stories' Mark McDonald in Quincy's Gardner Museum of Architecture.

05 January 2013

Illinoisans, you're about to lose your religious liberty

After President Obama was re-elected to the Presidency of the United States of America I expressed my disappointment and concerns for the future, saying:
As a student of history, what do I see as I look to the coming months and years?
"Gay marriage" is now legal in nine of the fifty States.  The push for its legalization in other States and on a federal level will not end or slow down.
Here in Illinois, we have seen the effects not of legalized "gay marriage," but of civil unions.  After legalizing same-sex civil unions, the State forced Catholic Charities out of foster care and adoptions.  The same has happened in Boston and will continue to happen with increasing speed in other cities and States.
Laws were enacted some years ago to classify certain attacks as "hate crimes," many of which include attacks on those who take part of the gay subculture.  Though such laws have unfortunately not included attacks against people of faith as hate crimes, I do not deny or dispute the good such laws can do.
New laws, however, will soon be enacted that will classify the teachings of the Church on homosexuality, contraception, abortion, and marriage as "hate speech."  Such laws will be the beginning of a concerted and purposed persecution of the Church; the government will seek to silence the Church by removing her pastors.
Once her pastors are silenced or removed, the rights of the Church and of the faithful will be increasingly curtailed and taken away.  Once the freedom of religion is taken away, every other freedom will also be removed.
I know that many of you agree with my concerns.  At the same time, I know that some of you think my concerns unwarranted, far-fetched, and impossible.  This is America, you say, nothing like that can happen here.  History has heard words such as those before and not been impressed.

To illustrate the validity of my concerns, please take the following items into serious and thoughtful consideration.

A clause in the National Defense Authorization Act provides that no military chaplain can be required to perform a ceremony that would violate his (or her) conscience.  This protection presently applies even to called same-sex "marriages."

President Obama claims this clause - which is in keeping with the First Amendment - is "unnecessary and ill-advised" because, he says, this protection is already granted else in military policies.  Such a claim, however, is unconvincing.

Here in Illinois as the legislature prepares to pass the deceitfully named Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.  Despite weak assurances from Senator Heather Heans (D-Chicago) - one of the bill's two sponsors - that the act protects religious freedom, it actually does not, as Bishop Paprocki recently explained:

In his questions of Senator Heans, Senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) also addressed the serious limits this proposed legislation will impose on religious liberty:

The stripping away of our religious liberty begins with the drive to redefine marriage and make it something it is not and cannot be.

Update: When I posted this earlier this morning I knew there was another story I wanted to tie in but I couldn't find it.  Now I have found it.

Following the Holy Father's address to the Roman Curia, an online petition has been started at the White House to "officially recognize the Roman Catholic Church as a hate group."   

Notwithstanding with the inaccurate casting of the words of Pope Benedict XVI, the petition, launched on Christmas Day, has - as of this writing - 1,775 petitions.  If it receives an additional 23,225 by 24 January 2013, the Administration will respond to the petition.

If you think there is not an active movement to completely remove the Church and those who are her faithful sons and daughters from public life, you are woefully blind to the reality around you.

03 January 2013

Same-sex "marriages" to be voted on as amendment to nursing home bill

The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act is far more devious and deceptive than I ever imagined.

Today the Illinois Senate Executive Committee will hear the testimony (live feed here) of His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki concerning the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, but this piece of legislation seems not to be an Act in its own right.

Today the Senate is expected to hear and vote on House Bill 5655, the Nursing Home Care Act, which was reassigned to the Executive Committee.

On January 2, 2013, Senator Heather A. Stearns (D-Chicago) proposed an amendment to the Nursing Home Care Act, which, according to the language of the amendment, "may be cited as the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act."

So...the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act will be voted on as an amendment to the Nursing Home Care Act.  The way in which Stearns and company is going about this is nothing short of nefarious and deceitful.

It clearly shows that they are not really convinced of the moral rightness of their claims or else they would be proceeding in the full light of day.

I'm really quite dumbfounded at all of this.

Paprocki: A more fraudulent title for this dangerous measure could not be imagined

While in a "lame duck" session, the Illinois Senate is prepared to vote on the so-called Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act (we've seen such language before, and it didn't end well), a piece of legislation which has, thankfully, hit a snag, as the State Journal-Register calls it.

It was only two years ago that Illinois lawmakers passed the so-called Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, a bill which actually granted no real religious freedom and forced Catholic Charities out of foster care and adoption services.

In response to the proposed legislation, His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, has written a two-page letter to be read and/or placed in the bulletins of his parishes this weekend.  The text of his letter follows, with my emphases (original):
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Our state's elected lawmakers will soon consider a bill called "The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act."  A more fraudulent title for this dangerous measure could not be imagined.  The proposed law is, in truth, a grave assault upon both religious liberty and marriage.  All people of goodwill, and especially Christ's faithful committed to my pastoral care in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, should resolutely oppose this bill and make their opinions known to their representatives.
 The pending bill would, for the first time in our state's history, redefine marriage to legally recognize same-sex "marriages."  But neither two men nor two women - nor, for that matter, three or more people - can possibly form a marriage.  Our law would be lying if it said they could.
The basic structure of marriage as the exclusive and lasting relationship of a man and a woman, committed to a life which is fulfilled by having children, is given to us in human nature, and thus by nature's God.  Notwithstanding the vanity of human wishes, every society in human history - including every society untouched by Jewish or Christian revelation - has managed to grasp this profound truth about human relationships and happiness: marriage is the union of man and woman.
The bill's sponsors maintain it would simply extend marriage to some people who have long been arbitrarily excluded from it.  They are wrong.  The pending bill would not expand the eligibility-roster for marriage.  It would radically redefine what marriage is - for everybody
It would enshrine in our law - and thus in public opinion and practice - three harmful ideas:
  1. What essentially makes a marriage is romantic-emotional union.
  2. Children don't need both a mother and father.
  3. The main purpose of marriage is adult satisfactions.
These ideas would deepen the sexual revolution's harms on all society.  After all, if marriage is an emotional union meant for adult satisfactions, why should it be sexually exclusive?  Or limited to two?  Or pledged to permanence?  If children don't need both their mother and father, why should fathers stick around when romance fades?  As marriage is redefined, it becomes harder for people to see the point of these profoundly important marital norms, to live by them, and to encourage others to do the same.  The resulting instability hurts spouses, but also - and especially - children, who do best when reared by their committed mother and father.
Indeed, children's need - and right - to be reared by the mother and father whose union brought them into being explains why our law has recognized marriage as a conjugal partnership - the union of husband and wife - at all.  Our lawmakers have understood that marriage is naturally oriented to procreation, to family.  Of course, marriage also includes a committed, intimate relationship of a sort which some same-sex coulples (or multiple lovers in groups of three or more) could imitate.   But our law never recognized and supported marriage in order to regulate intimacy for its own sake.  The reason marriage is recognized in civil law at all (as ordinary friendships, or other sacraments, are not) is specific to the committed, intimate relationships of people of opposite-sex couples: they are by nature oriented to having children.  Their love-making acts are life-giving acts.
Same-sex relationships lack this unique predicate of state recognition and support.  Even the most ideologically blinded legislator cannot change this natural fact: the sexual acts of a same-sex couple (regardless of how one views them morally) are simply not of the type that yield the gift of new life.  So they cannot extend a union of hearts by a true bodily union.  They cannot turn a friendship into the one-flesh union of marriage.  They are not marital. This is not just a Christian idea, but one common to every major religious tradition and our civilization's great philosophical traditions, beginning with ancient Greece and Rome.
The pending bill is not only a dangerous social experiment about marriage.  It is also a lethal attack upon religious liberty.  This so-called "religious freedom" would not stop the state from obligating the Knights of Columbus to make their halls available for same-sex "weddings."  It would not stop the state from requiring Catholic grade schools to hire teachers who are legally "married" to someone of the same sex.  This bill would not protect Catholic hospitals, charities, or colleges, which exclude those so "married" from senior leadership positions.  Nor would it protect me, the Bishop of Springfield, if I refused to employ someone in a same-sex "marriage" who applied to the Diocese for a position meant to serve my ministry as your bishop.  This "religious freedom" law does nothing at all to protect the consciences of people in business, or who work for the government.  We saw the harmful consequences of deceptive titles all too painfully last year when the so-called "Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act" forced Catholic Charities out of foster care and adoption services in Illinois.
These threats do not raise a question about drafting a better law, one with more extensive conscience protections.  There is no possible way - none whatsoever - for those who believe that marriage is exclusively the union of husband and wife to avoid legal penalties and harsh discriminatory treatment if the bill becomes law.  Why should we expect it be otherwise?  After all, we would be people who, according to the thinking behind the bill, hold onto an "unfair" view of marriage.  The state would have equated our view with bigotry - which it uses the law to marginalize in every way short of criminal punishment.
The only way to protect religious liberty, and to preserve marriage, is to defeat this perilous proposal.  Please make sure our elected representatives understand that and know that they will be held to account
Sincerely yours in Christ,
/s/ Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki
Bishop of Springfield in Illinois
We can be certain of this: If this bill passes and is signed into law, it will only be a matter of time - and not a long one - before our belief that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman will be criminalized.

Please, contact your representatives and pray for Bishop Paprocki.

02 January 2013

A Review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Over the past several weeks many of you have asked my opinion of Peter Jackson's recently released The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Naturally, I saw the film at the opening show and spent most of the movie both frustrated and angry.  Consequently, I have thus far refrained from offering my thoughts because I realized fairly quickly that my expectations were perhaps too high.  This is a common problem with me and I'm told I would be much happier if I simply lowered my expectations of myself and of others (but that isn't likely to happen).

Be that as it may, I wanted to wait until I saw the film a second time, with my expectations lowered, before offering a review of the first of Jackson's three-part installment of the journey of Bilbo Baggins.

Let me begin by saying that if you have not read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, or at least did not read it attentively, you will very much enjoy An Unexpected Journey (unless you somehow missed the fact that this is only part one of three).  The acting, the costumes and sets, the CGI, and the cinematography all combine in a glorious fashion.  Let me also say that the soundtrack composed by Howard Shore is, once again, superb.

Jackson's An Unexpected Journey has a decidedly different feel than his trilogy of the Lord of the Rings.  Precisely what this different feel is, I cannot say, except that it feels somehow heavier and more serious.

Whereas the first part of Tolkien's book has a certain whimsical feel, Jackson's movie is missing this same whimsy.  Attempts are made to insert it in different spots throughout the film, though they don't seem as effective as Tolkien's original and feel somewhat forced.

For whatever reason, Jackson and his team made several changes to the story that, to my mind, do not help the movie but will only serve to frustrate Tolkien fans.  While I acknowledge the team did the same with the Lord of the Rings, the changes to The Hobbit are more noticeable to me - and more substantial - perhaps because it is my favorite of Tolkien's books.  I probably shouldn't have re-read the book the week the movie was released (I clearly didn't learn my lesson with Prince Caspian).

For instance, in the book, Bilbo is surprised and flustered when the Dwarves begin arriving, but in the movie he seems angry from the very moment the first dwarf arrives.  Tolkien writes of Bilbo, "He had a horrible thought that the cakes might run short, and then he - as the host: he knew his duty and stuck to it however painful - he might have to go without."  This sense of honor is somewhat lacking in the depiction of Bilbo in the film.

Several scenes in the movie were significantly altered from those in book: the trolls (how they are turned to stone), for one, and the wargs (which makes Bilbo more heroic than he was at that moment), for another, and the arrival of Thorin (which doesn't really have any impact), for a third.

In terms of the flow of a movie, particularly for those not familiar with the book, I can understand why such changes were deemed appropriate (though I do not like them).  One change I do not understand is the lack of colored hoods belonging to the dwarves (Tolkien goes to great length to point them out).

Some scenes in the film seem to have been shot for no other reason than to impress audiences watching in 3-D (the encounter with the stone giants and the escape from the tunnels of the Great Goblin, come to mind).

All that being said, I did enjoy the movie on the second viewing and expect I'll enjoy it all the more with a third viewing.

By far, the best scene in the film was Riddles in the Dark (though a riddle was curiously omitted). The CGI begind Gollum is a visual treat, stunning and captivating, and the way the riddles were asked and answered was simply brilliant, a job very well done.

Some have said the movie is too long.  I do not think it is too long, but an intermission would be helpful; movie theatre seats aren't the most comfortable things around, but then, as Tolkien would say, "adventures are not all pony-rides in May sunshine."

While The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey isn't what I had hoped it would be - perhaps unreasonably - it is a good film and I look forward to watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: There and Back Again.

The movie, as someone has said, is not Tolkien's The Hobbit, but rather Jackson's The Hobbit.  Be that as it may, Jackson's film is leading me once again back into the book, which is no small gift or treat.

01 January 2013

Homily - 1 January 2013

The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Dear brothers and Sisters,

Saint Francis of Assisi loved the Blessing of Aaron, which was proclaimed to us in the first reading from the Book of Numbers.  In September of 1224, Brother Leo, one of Saint Francis’ closest collaborators, found himself very much ill at ease with some sort of spiritual temptation.  He longed to ask Saint Francis, who was making a solitary retreat at the time, for a few words from Scripture to comfort him and ease his temptation.

By the grace of God, Saint Francis became aware of Brother Leo’s desire and called for him to bring paper and ink.  On one side, Saint Francis wrote his Praises of God and on the other side he wrote the Blessing of Aaron, which he concluded, “May the Lord bless you, Brother Leo.”  Saint Francis then told Brother Leo to “take this little piece of paper and safeguard it diligently until the day you die.”[1]  Upon receiving the parchment Brother Leo’s temptation immediately went away and many miracles were worked through the parchment.  To this day, it is kept in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.

Saint Francis gave to Brother Leo a blessing for peace.  Do you and I not also desire the same blessing?  We know that, as Pope Benedict XVI observed in his message for this 46th World Day of Peace, “In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy, and successful human life.”[2]  Is this not why we have come today, to beg from the Lord the blessing of peace upon the New Year?

The peace for which we long is to be found where Brother Leo found peace: in the face of God; the Lord turned his face toward him and he found peace.  In the midst of these Christmas days we recall the words the Lord addressed to the Apostle Philip: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  So it is that today we make the words of the Psalmist our own: “May he let his face shine upon us” (Psalm 67:2).  At the conclusion of the Octave of Christmas as we celebrate this  Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, we, too, wish to see the “infant lying in the manger,” to see the face of God himself (Luke 2:16).

We know that Mary welcomes us to the manger so that we may look with her in wonder upon her Holy Child who is our peace (cf. Ephesians 2:14).  She shows us her Son and urges us to open ourselves completely to him, to welcome the gift of faith he gives, and to trust in him.

 In the Child of Bethlehem, we see the strength of God.  He is strong enough to become small.  The infant Son invites us, from the manger, to open ourselves to him, to receive the gift of his love, and to give him the gift of our love.  Standing or kneeling before him, we are free to love him or to reject him; the choice is ours.  If we love him, we receive peace; if we reject him, we reject peace.

The more we open ourselves to him and put our trust in him, by his grace he helps us “to live every situation of life in peace and in the assurance of his faithfulness and of his love.”[3]  It was in his abiding presence that Brother Leo found his peace and if we turn to him we, too, will find our peace.

We often think of the Birth of the Savior as a calm and serene moment, a silent night, as it were.  But stresses must surely have abounded that night as Mary and Joseph sought a place to stay and for the Child to be born.  It will not be long before they must flee with the Child to escape the jealous wrath of King Herod.  Yet in all of this, Mary and Joseph themselves seem to be calm and at peace.  How is this possible?

Not very long ago Pope Benedict XVI reflected on this very question.  In answer, he said:

There is an underlying attitude Mary assumes in the face of what happens in her life.  At the Annunciation she is disturbed by hearing the angel’s words – it is the fear a person feels when touched by the closeness of God – but it is not the attitude of those who are afraid in front of what God may ask.  Mary reflects, she ponders the meaning of this greeting (cf. Luke 1:29).  The Greek word used in the Gospel to define this “reflection”, “dielogizeto”, evokes the root of the word “dialogue”.  This means that Mary comes into intimate dialogue with the Word of God that has been announced, she does not consider it superficially, but pauses, she lets it penetrate her mind and her heart to understand what the Lord wants from her, the announcement’s meaning.  We find another hint of Mary’s interior attitude in front of the action of God, again in the Gospel of St. Luke, at the time of the birth of Jesus, after the adoration of the shepherds.  Luke affirms that Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19), in Greek the term is symballon, we could say that she “held together”, “put together” in her heart all the events that were happening; she placed each single element, every word, every fact within the whole and compared it, guarded it, recognizing that every comes from the will of God.  Mary does not stop at a first superficial understanding of what happens in her life, but is able to look deeper, she allows herself to be questioned by the events, processes them, discerns them, and gains that understanding that only faith can provide.  It is the profound humility of the obedient faith of Mary, who welcomes into herself even what she doe not understand of the action of God, leaving it to God to open her mind and heart.[4]

Is this not why we have come to the altar of God today at the close of an old year and the beginning of a new year?  We long for peace and we know in the depths of our hearts that we will only find it in the Son of Mary.

If Mary is the Mother of Jesus and we are members of his Body, which is the Church, then Mary is also our Mother, and we would do well to follow her example (cf. Colossians 1:18).  We, too, must seek to place the events of the past year within the whole of our lives.  We must not stop at a superficial glance back over the year, but must truly spend time prayerfully considering, delving deep in the events and the words, questioning them and allowing them to question us.  We, too, must seek, with true sincerity, the understanding that only faith can give.

This will require us to be still, to be silent, to spend time with her Son and to truly be open to him.  We must open every aspect of our lives to him and beg him to turn his face toward us, even as we turn our faces toward him.  If we live in the light of his countenance we will indeed know peace, even in the midst of the turmoil of this world. This is the lesson we learn from Mary; may it be a lesson we learn well.

In this New Year, may the Lord turn his toward us.  May he bless us and give us peace, that we, with the shepherd, may glorify him and make known the message of his peace (cf. Luke 2:20, 17).  Amen.

[1] Thomas of Celano, Second Life II.22.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Message for the 46th World Day of Peace.
[3] Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience Address, 19 December 2012.
[4] Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience Address, 19 December 2012.