Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Through the Mercy of God Rest in Peace

Yesterday I went to a funeral for a brother priest. He had been a Jesuit, a professor at Boston College, served in two parishes in our diocese, before retirement. In these last few months he had begun to feel weakness and extreme fatigue. He was diagnosed with ALS, and died several days later.

Father John was a wonderful man, a great sense of humour, and most importantly a great love for the Eucharist and the Liturgy. Priesthood was very important for him. We look at people like this, those with great intellects and talent, and think of how unusual it is that they are drawn to the priesthood. And yet I think that he could not possibly have seen his life outside of the priesthood and ministry.

I am always moved also at the sight of the number of priests at a priest funeral. This is especially true when the priest was elderly. There might be a very few family and friends there, but anywhere from thirty to sixty priests. Some would accuse our life as one of loneliness. In reality we belong to a fraternity which extends even beyond our diocesan boundaries. I am reminded of this especially when we concelebrate the Liturgy, but throughout our ministry. And a priest funeral is a time to recall the very beautiful mystery we celebrate in the Eucharist.

At the end of the Funeral Mass the priests sang Salve Regina. A fraternal send off for one who had been so faithful and devoted to the saving mystery of the cross and resurrection. A sad day in some ways, but also a time of great joy and happiness as we return to God one of his gifts.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Working saints

Last night I was noticing how dirty our Mary statue had become again. We painted it last summer, and cleaned it up again in the Fall. But it has become really dirty again. It sits under a tree near some other bushes and the like. All of that probably gets sprayed onto the statue.

But I was also thinking, as I was walking the dog this morning, the saints were folks who were not afraid to get dirty. Even our great intellectual saints were most likely least concerned about their pristine appearance, and more focused on the truth of the Gospel. The men and women who focused on the Good News would not have time for the latest fashions or finery. I like to look at parents as examples of unselfish love. Here we have people who swallow hard to clean dirty diapers, wipe dirty faces, and clean up all sorts of food mess, as they center on the more important aspects of raising children.

And isn't that what the Eucharist calls us to be about. At the Last Supper Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. He reminds them that what he is doing, we must do for one another. I have sometimes thought this would make a nice 'sign of peace' gesture at mass. Wash each others feet. There is an intimate connection between this action of foot-washing and Eucharistic celebration.

Doing Christian life is a messy action. The Gospels tell us that it is no walk in the park. To proclaim good news is a lot of hard work. We have the saints and holy men and women to be models and guides in this endeavor.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

It's Fatehr's Day

Over the last several months I have gone back to the creation stories in Genesis as a source of personal inspiration, and for use in pastoral care as well. St Mary's has been using the Theology of the Body for teens, in its confirmation preparation. I am always taken aback by the power of the Word of God. God speaks and creation comes into being. And is it in Jeremiah where the prophet alludes to God carving us in the palm of his hand. In God the Father there is this great power and strength, but also an intimacy and compassion.

Back in the late eighties and nineties there was sort of a mini-men's movement. Over the previous twenty years men had become lost in the cultural shuffle of the time, and sort of lost their place. What is man's role in society and in the family? Books like Iron John sought to provide some models and examples of how to be 'manly' in our culture today.

But to go back to Genesis, we as Christians have been given the role of men and women in our world today. Males and females are meant to compliment each other. Somehow we reached a place whereas we believed we were in direct competition. But no, we are made for each other. Now there was an article I found on the Web some days ago, entitled, "Why women can't park?" While it seemed like it might be an attempt at humour, in reality it spoke to the truth that men' s and women's biology is very different - apart from the obvious. Our brains and physiology respond to various stimuli in very unique and different ways. It is all good stuff too.

About five years ago the University of Wisconsin, Madison, came out with a series of studies on the family, and familial roles. Time and again the researchers reiterated the importance of a mother and a father. Moreso, while T.V. and movies relegates the father to a secondary role, or that of a buffoon, the reality is that the male parent provides a unique set of principles and directions which compliment and enhance the role of the mother.

Going back to Genesis, God makes them male and female, commanding them to go forth and multiply. God the Father is the creator and the giver of life. God the Father shows strength and compassion. Where do we find our models of Fatherhood? It is in the Sacred Scripture where God's word brings all things into being. Today we honor fathers for their strength and leadership. They reveal to us the fullness of life and all that is of value and importance. We ask God the Father to be with these men always.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The place where Christians came from

These past several weeks tensions have been extremely high in the Middle East. Peace groups, mainly from Turkey attempted to bypass an Israeli blockade, and deliver food and medicine to Palestinians in Gaza. Of course you all heard about the Israeli response, and the world-wide outcry. In the middle of this ongoing test of wills and clash of cultures, are people who try to go about their daily life.

For the Christian this is no easy task. In the Middle East world, Christians are most definitely seen as outsiders. They face added hardships, oppression, and discrimination. In his recent trip to Greece, Pope Benedict prayed for a resolution in the areas conflictual nature. Benedict spoke about the hardships caused by ongoing violence and urged all sides to work for a lasting solution which would bring peace and unity to the region.

At the Request of the Holy Father, the regions Bishops will begin creating a document which will focus on the faith witness, and the value of publicly pronouncing a Christian faith in the Holy Land today, and encouraging Christians to be advocates for peace.

These are our brothers and sisters in Baptism. The creed reminds us that we are One, Holy, catholic, and apostolic. The Christians in the Middle East need our prayers and support. We have a responsibility to understand and support their struggles through our prayer and faithfulness. While I do not expect my readers to engage in any kind of public protest, it can only help to contact our congress people. Lastly we remember our friends in Christ through our prayer and sacrifice.

St. Paul will remind us that when one part of the body hurts, the whole body is in pain. We ache for our broters and sisters, and maintain an awareness of their plight, as we lift them up to the Lord.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Where Charity and Love Prevail

This past Sunday I had a great time at a neighboring parish attending their Bean Bag contest. It was rained out, which created a great opportunity to watch this parish in action. As soon as the rain began parishioners scrambled to bring food, chairs, and tables into the parish hall. It was in that order mind you! Save for the very old and very young, there were no slackers. Everyone helped in some way.

When I was growing up in Rockford, during one particular rainy weekend, we received a call from some of the 'men of the parish.' The Church hall, which sat at the bottom of a hill, was flooding. There had be forty to fifty men, teens, and pre-teens, with mops, buckets, wet-vacs, and anything to move water. It was an action that saved the floor and tables from damage, and it was a great service to the parish.

Today I wonder if we could do that again. Here at St. Mary's our usher population is dwindling, I have a hard time getting lay-people to visit the home bound, and we scurry about in the Fall trying to find catechists. I know that we are very busy now-a-days, but I would think as a parishioner one would want to have some connection to the parish family.

The documents, "Stewardship: A Disciples Response," and "Called and Gifted," invite men and women to a fuller response in parish life. This is our faith community and we want to nourish and nurture it. It is our mandate to share the Good News, something which we cannot do standing against a wall. We take responsibility for our faith and for our parish community. Baptism calls us to a communion with God, and each other. Just as the disciples are sent out to proclaim, the gospel message, we engage in that faithful witness too.

Again we are not talking about coordinating a multi-faceted religious education program. But we are inviting to gather together and respond to the needs and concerns of each other. Sometimes that means lectoring at Liturgy, and other times it means attending a Lenten supper.

Jesus washes the feet of his disciples before they share the Eucharist. He reminds those disciples that what he is doing, they must do for each other.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Church Culture and Sex Abuse

A letter written by Bishop Mark Coleridge, of Canberra, Australia, given on Pentecost, attempts to give the clergy sexual abuse some perspective. Bishop Coleridge draws some conclusions as to the root causes of clergy abuse. He reflects that it is not really one thing, but a series of factors. These include the Church teachings on sexuality, human formation in the seminary, institutional immaturity, clericalism, and a culture of secrecy.

Bishop Coleridge, like many in and out of the Church, found it incredulous that pedophilia could exist at all in the Church. Many believed, that as the cases began to surface in the 80s and 90s, that these were isolated situations. Sexual abuse became the elephant in the living room. It would take almost a decade for Church leaders to comprehend the power and depth of this pathology. The wounds from this crisis are deep, and the division it has caused is immense.

In speaking with some older priests, they comment that some thirty plus years ago, when abuse cases were brought forth, many of the bishops went to psychologists for help. Back then the understanding of pedophilia was very different. The bishops were told to treat the situation like a priest having a relation with a woman. If he is removed from the temptation, the action would cease. Remember that bishops back then, and few today, had any sort of psychology or social science background. Not to offer excuses but were not always able to make the best judgements. Perhaps they relied to heavily on psychology of the day.

The Protecting God's Children charter did much to initiate a climate for the safety and well being of children. This charter insisted that all of our interaction with young people be done openly and in public view. In all of the training, one of the aspect that was emphasized again and again, was there should not be secrets between adults and children. Children, and those who work with them, are safer with the various mechanisms which are in place today.

Today many of the detracters of the Church use the sexual abuse to call for demolishing celibacy, the heirarchy, and many of the teachings of the Church. The Church has been bruised and battered. To be sure we as Church have an obligation to work for forgiveness and reconciliation, but there is also a matter of justice. We serve our Chuch best when we take responsibility for the hurt and pain inflicted on others, especially the vulnerable.

Where do we go from here? The Church will have o continue to be open the the voices of leadreship, and will have to work at bringing peace and reconciliation to victims and their families. Our Church leaders can be a catelyst for nurturung forgiveness and healing. We also have to continue to be Church, The Church should not be afraid to do the mission entrusted to it. The Church must contunue to preah, teach, and to sanctify,

As church we sould strive to be the very bes we can be. With God's help we can be instruments of peace and love.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Back to Ordinary Time

School is out, our office staff hours have changed, R.E. is finished until the Fall, and summer has begun. We are also back to the Ordinary time of the Church year. There is sort of a laid back feel at the parish too. Actually we do not actually put all of the spring things away until mid-June, but there is some more down time.

I like the readings for the next few weeks. This coming week we will talk about recognizing our need of forgiveness, and the difference between being righteous and self-righteous. The week after that Jesus poses the question to us: "Who do you say that I am?" We will examine our faith response to Jesus. And, by the Fourth of July, the disciples will recognize the power they have, in Jesus' name. The summer holds a great profusion and abundance of themes and reflections for us in our faith journey. To be sure it is not the heaviness of Lent, but asks us to take some time and call to mind our faith and faithfulness.

We are in an era where faith seems to be a quaint concept. Granny and Aunt Marge have faith and pray and do nice things, and we are happy for them. We can easily confuse being religious with being nice. So much to the point where w might state 'I don't need God to be nice." But in reality our faith is not calling us to be 'candy stripers' but to pour out our lives in compassion, peace and forgiveness. Our day to day living needs to be a bit more prophetic than simply wearing a happy face.

In years gone by our Bishops have spoken on poverty, the crisis in Sudan, the war in Iraq, genetic testing, and political responsibility. Some thought that the Bishops were out of line in addressing these issues. But these are the moral and ethical ethical dilemmas which our faith struggles with on a daily basis. Our Church must take a prophetic stand and speak up where there is human tragedy, questions, and crisis.

During these summer months it is not unusual not to see people at Church. Our lives continue though, albeit at a slower pace, and we need that strength and guidance which our communal worship offers us. This is a good time to take in the beauty of creation and reflect on our own pathways of life. The summer months are perfect to regroup and to re-invest ourselves in life of our family and friends.

Ordinary time is not really about sameness, or even worse boredom, but in taking time and discovering the extra-ordinariness of God and one another. Let's take time to praise God and recognize we are God's holy people.