Monday, January 31, 2011

It's Catholic Schools Week!

This week we celebrate Catholic Schools. Our own St. Mary's School opened it's doors way back in 1913. I recall when I was here before, During one of the liturgies, Msgr. Schwartz had asked for a show of hands of alumni. The greater part of the congregation raised their hands. Today we have less of the 'native born DeKalb-ers' in the parish, but the fact is that our grade school has been a major part of our parish.

In the beginning the catholic school was so as to maintain the faith, and to remove Catholic children from a hostile environment. Catholics were not treated well in the early part of our nation. Over time they became that bridge of the immigrant children into a new culture. As the suburbs took root in the fifties, it was advised that the parish build the school first, then the church building at a later time. Hence we have a lot of these gym/churches in so many parishes of that era.

The catholic schools continue to be academic high achievers. In standardized tests, the catholic schools will normally out-score the local public school system. To be sure religion is a big part of the curriculum, but there is also an environment that is geared towards learning, respect, responsibility, and stewardship. It is these elements that consistently set the catholic schools apart. This is especially important in a technologically changing world.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blessed are you

I love preaching on the Beatitudes. This section of Matthews Gospel is becoming very popular for funerals; at least here at St. Mary's. It is understandable since in a very short passage it sums up the values and virtues the Christian should live by. Matthew, as he unfolds his vision of the Church for us, places this near the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Then 20 chapters later the question is asked, "What will the last judgement be like?"

Jesus gives this great description of the Son of Man coming down out of the clouds and separating peoples into two groups. The sheep group and the goat group. Both groups, those who are entering into eternal glory, and those who are not, ask what they did to deserve their placement. And we hear the very well known answer, "When I was hungry, you gave me food; thirsty you gave me drink ... "

While the Beatitudes have a very ecclesial and even eschatological dimension, the practice of the beatitudes allows us, and the Church we minister in, to be a sign and symbol of Christ's grace. The last several times I have been at the nursing care centers I have become engaged in conversation with people who I have no idea who they are. But we start chatting about all sorts of things. It is a good thing to do. Not only do I personally like being around old people but any way the Church can share good news, it is good.

The Beatitudes reminds us that we are already blessed. We must live as holy people therefore. What psalm is it that asks, "What return can I make to the Lord for all the Lord has done for me?" Becoming Beatitude people is our 'Amen,' or our response, to the Holiness of God and the goodness that is within us.

In Matthew chapter 25, the righteous who are welcomed into the Kingdom, do not see themselves as anything unique or special. Goodness is their natural response. The Beatitudes can become such an integral part of our lives, that we do not have to try to be good. We just are because our Father in heaven made us this way.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Faith Seeking Understanding

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas has been called the "Preeminent spokesman of the Catholic tradition of reason and of Divine Revelation." (Delaney, Dictionary of the Saints) Thomas Aquinas taught that faith and reason help us to arrive at certain conclusions. His best known work is the Summa Theologica, in which he 'dissects' salvation history and its application to the nature of men and women. Thomas instructs us that Jesus had to die for us to, first, save us from our sins, and secondly, teach us how to act.

The Vatican II saw a Church in which the clergy and the laity would continue to study and learn together. More so, the leaders at that time understood the benefit of a Church that reflected theologically on its relationship with God, and the world. We saw that somewhat with small groups and lay ministry and the like. But it has basically fallen short of the expectations of the Council. Aquinas recognized the value of 'doing theology' was so to expand our minds with an understanding and appreciation of God, but also to expand our relationship with God.

As a Pastor what I see sometime there is sort of a 'Christmas Card' relationship with God. We all have folks on our Christmas Card list who we never remove, but we also never communicate with them during the year. Failure to continue to study, reflect, and mull over the truths of our faith can relegate God to the Christmas Card list.

St. Thomas shows us this wonderful relationship between Jesus Christ, and God the Father. Through our participation in the life of Jesus Christ, our ongoing study and reflection, we begin to share in that same relationship with God. Again its all about conversion and discipleship. Our sixth grade understanding of the sacraments, Sin and Evil, or scriptures does not help us much with our adult scenarios.

We pray the opening prayer of Mass today, "May we grow in wisdom, by his teaching and in holiness by imitating his faith."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Doing Church

“Christian love of neighbor and justice cannot be separated. For love implies an absolute demand for justice, namely a recognition of the dignity and rights of one’s neighbor.

Justice attains its inner fullness only in love.

Because every man is truly a visible image of the invisible God and a brother of Christ, the Christian finds in every man God himself and God’s absolute demand for justice and love.”

1971 Bishops Conference

As I am browsing through 'Internet-land,' I come across various religious and catholic sites. For the most part they are very good, but the message boards are always embroiled in some sort of controversy. One of the ongoing themes is he separation of church and state. Essentially it becomes the church should not comment on what has become a political issue. I do remember this sentiment growing up, adults protesting that the Church was becoming too socially active. In reality the church and state thing means something different and that might be a topic for another blog. But issues of life, justice, and dignity certainly do have strong religious origins.

The majority of people that come to talk with me do so out of the context of life or lifestyle issues. There are marriage difficulties, end of life matters, and questions about health and health care. A large part of our ministry is the care of the sick and dying, outreach to the poor, and preparing families for marriage. While politicians will speak and even legislate on these concerns, there are strong moral and value orientated roots that draw them into the realm of religion.

Jesus commanded the Church to go out and preach the good news. His only agenda was the Kingdom. I suppose that over the centuries we as Church could have done less orphanages, hospitals, and missionary work. But the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are so very basic to our mission as a Church, and bring the Church more closely into what Jesus did.

The Church is supposed to be counter-cultural. This is a good thing. I think that it is good that we bump heads with society on a regular basis. There are no wallflowers in faith. As a Church I think that we really have to keep evaluating our mission and ministries so that we might be sure that we are doing the right thing. Our Church has to be a sign and symbol of Christ in the world.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Conversion of St. Paul

There was no horse. Whenever we picture the moment of St. Paul's conversion, we talk about him being knocked off his horse. Artists throughout history have depicted him on a horse. But read the actual passage and you will discover that there is no horse. But perhaps it is his "high horse" he is being knock off of.

I think about what it must be like for moms and dads to have that first child. To be sure it has to be an awesome experience. But this new human needs everything done for them, and more so, they cannot communicate their wants and needs. There is this frustration and anxiety, and maybe even a little fear. It certainly makes one humble. A parent will need to reach out for help and will realize their limitations and weaknesses.

To experience Christ Paul maybe needed a bit of humility, to understand his weakness, and dependence on God and others. Once Paul understood that he was not in control he was more able to take note of the graces and blessings that God had given to him.

The opening prayer of the Liturgy today prays for the gift of the spirit in our lives. As a pastor type person, I can see where in the Church we need more Spirit, humility, and even humanness. I have met with married couples who are hyper-organized for the wedding day, but I realize they haven't a clue as to what awaits them. For all of us there is a need of conversion and discipleship.

And really, this is not just a one time deal. On our journey we are going to have a lot of conversions and revelations. It takes a lot of prayer and meditation. It is important to be attentive to the movement of the spirit in our lives on a daily basis. Even in simple ways, "What is God calling me to do today."

If you ever get a chance read, "Seven Story Mountain," by Thomas Merton. It gives a powerful example of conversion and discipleship. God bless you with peace today.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

They were fishermen

That line from Matthew's Gospel is amusing. Matthew describes a group of men in a boat, mending their nets, and feels the need to tell us that they are fishermen. I suppose when it comes to the Gospel, and the message presented therein, not everything is as obvious as it seems. Today we have this wonderful narrative by Isaiah, and are presented with Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophets and the Father. Jesus who has been presented as the light who shines in darkness begins his ministry. To start with he calls disciples to follow him.

A college friend of mine, who is a priest in our Diocese, and I have spoken many times of the college seminarians we were with. The ones who saw themselves as one step from ordination, who owned cassocks, perhaps a stole, and were shopping for chalices, rarely went to seminary, or were not ordained. Sometimes the most unexpected guys went to seminary and are now priests.

While sociologists will tell us of the importance of role playing for children, discipleship, following the way of Jesus in whatever vocation, is much deeper than playing a role. A conversion needs to occur whereas we move away from our former ways into a new way of being. If we are a manger, teacher, or a lawyer, at the end of the day we can close the door of our office and go home. Christians who have been baptized and confirmed, and have professed faith, cannot walk away from their Christianity for a short while.

While on pilgrimage in the Holy Land some years ago I remember hearing confessions of other pilgrims who were not in our group. And how many moms and dads might be up all night with a sick child, only to have to go to work in the morning. In an even larger sense our faithful witness is meant to be a source of light and brightness to those around us. "They will know we are Christians by our love." Many a folks my age remember that 60s church song, that bears a lot of truth.

At the end of his spiritual exercises St. Ignatius offers us a Prayer of Abandonment. "Take Lord, receive ..." The Liturgy, prayer and sacraments help us to keep on track. What do I do after I say, "Amen."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Respect For Life

Early on in the pontificate of John Paul II, he referenced our society as a "Culture of Death." To be sure the convenience of abortion and birth control, but our discussion easing the elderly and chronically ill into dying. In addition to these life issues, we hardly flinch any more when there are reports of shootings and killing in our urban areas. Back in the early 80s I had gone to a pro-life workshop in which the speaker suggested that more comfortable we become with abortion, the more we will look favorably on other sorts of killing. And that is where we are today.

The pro abortion people like bringing out the stories of poor woman forced to have children, or into dank back-alley establishments which jeopardize the life of the woman. In actuality it is medium to upper level income woman that are more likely to procure an abortion. Further, they will challenge that abortion should be left as it is, especially for situations of rape and incest. In reality the pregnancies resulting from these scenarios are about 1% of all pregnancies.

We have to go back to the beginning. The Genesis story needs to be burned into our minds. God declares all creation as good. God sends his spirit into all men and women and we need to remember that we are created in His image and likeness. From womb till tomb, we are sacred and filled with God's grace and blessings. All men and women share in the same dignity. I like using the image that we are tabernacles, holding the sacred within us.

Understanding that we are deserving of dignity and respect, that changes how we interact with each other, and respond to the challenges of our lives. Persons from the very moment of conception should be treated with a sense of reverence. This means all of the time and not just when it is convenient or expedient. Look at the holy men and women who have devoted their lives serve peoples who are poor or distressed. Their works help us understand how important it is to honor the human being, in whatever state he or she is in.

In the Gospel for today, the family and friends of Jesus believe that he has had a mental breakdown. As Christians, when we stand for the dignity and respect of all life we are assumed to be a bunch of "crazies." The mission and ministry of Jesus, and the values of sacred scripture, call us to be a counter-cultural people. We continue to pray, work, and speak-up, on the issues of life and respect of life. Our world tends to look at people as commodities. We need to re-assert our humanity into the discussion.

The challenge of our faith is to be that stumbling block for the peoples who abuse or violate the sanctity of life. Our precious gift of life needs to be nurtured as the holiness of God's gift to each and every one of us.

Friday, January 21, 2011

St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

St Agnes is one of these saints whom we know very little about, but have a fair amount of tradition surrounding the veneration of her life. She lived about the third century. It seems that at twelve years of age she rejected the proposals of several young men. Agnes had determined to dedicate herself to God, and to virginity. She was sent to a house of prostitution, where she was eventually martyred.
St. Ambrose writes about her in his Treatise of Virginity: "The cruelty that did not spare her youth shows all the more clearly the power of faith in finding one so young to bear it witness." The opening prayer from Mass today will remind us that "God chooses what the world considers weak to put worldly power to shame." St. Ambrose that witnesses of her life are amazed that one who is barely of legal age can make such a profound testimonial to God.
Virginity and chastity seem to be very antiquated virtues by today's standards. In his Theology of the Body, John Paul II would often reflect on the sacredness of our bodies, and how our bodies, how we use them, are intricately connected to our identity and values. Society seems to look at our bodies in the context of a consumer good to be manipulated, controlled and directed. Sexuality becomes less about a relationship and more about a function with various feelings and sensations. It becomes all very mechanical.
Agnes teaches us something about a saintly lifestyle. Early on we begin to make choices about what is valuable, true, and good. Hopefully we have a firm foundation and good resources to help us make these good choices. I remember my freshmen would come out with these broad statements on how they believed life should be. More often than not they did not have any basis in their convictions, but followed what those around them believed.
In recent years I have come to see how much charity and chastity are drawn together. They are virtues which strive for the deepest experience of Christ's love. We pray today that Agnes keep us pure in all of our convictions, and draw us into truth.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Small Christian Communities

Eons ago, When I was in Algonquin, many a pastor and parishioner, would worry about losing catholics to a mega-church in the northwest suburbs. The Sunday services there were a multimedia extravaganza. The music was loud and had an upbeat tempo. Lots of folk, especially the young would flock there on on weekly basis. Some would still have their kids baptized, the Eucharist, etc, at the catholic church, but go to the mega church on Sunday.

With all of the concerns and fretting, what very few realized is that the 'real' parishioners of that church met on Wednesday nights. It was then they had bible study, support groups for various concerns and needs of peoples. The Wednesday meetings, not Sunday, was where the community really gathered.

At church we are challenged to "Go forth and love and serve our God." As we grow though, and enter into a society that can be hostile to our beliefs, it is good to have support and catechesis on our journey. A typical homily might be seven to ten minutes in length, but in a small group we can discuss St. Paul for an hour or more. And while we pray before and after mass, what would it be like to discuss the Eucharist with other catholics.

Small Christian communities go beyond just learning about our faith, but offer reflection, support and encouragement, and especially strength and courage in our faith life. One of my favorite groups was back in Algonquin. A group of young parents would meet on Friday nights to discuss parenting issues in a Christian context. Again it offered them an opportunity to nurture and nourish faith, as well as support each other.

It seems that is what we need in the Church today. A way to extend our Sunday worship into the rest of the week. Our journey is not meant to be taken alone, but to be fostered in the context of a community. Jesus sent the apostles out in pairs, St. Paul had other catechists with him, all to foster the faith that had been hand down to them.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The best kept secret of the Church

At Vatican II, the Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, reflected that the difficulties our world experiences are not from individual sins, per se, but a Sinfulness that causes us to be off center. The story of Cain and Abel is about much more than jealousy and sibling rivalry. "Am I my 'brothers keeper' is a question that needs to be asked, articulated, and mulled over on an almost daily basis.

The Church gives us a plethora of social teachings, which hardly anyone knows about, that convey the dignity and respect afforded to all persons. These same teachings have a similar starting point. God created all things in love, and stated that they are good. More over we are made in the image and likeness of God, sharing in his grace and blessings. The Paschal Mystery re-affirms our worth and value as it opens for us the pathway to salvation and peace.

Like John the Baptist in today's readings we are challenged to recognize the Lamb of God. John is not soft and sweet. He is blunt in his assessment of the world around him. He refers to the religious authorities as a 'brood of vipers,' and reminds Herod that doing nasty things with his sister-in-law is not okay. See, john looks at the social climate at the time, where greed, the misuse of authority, unhealthy sexual relations, pride, and oppression, are all part of the social fabric.

John not only points to Jesus as the Messiah, but also ushers in a new era where justice, peace, reconciliation, and human dignity are central. The prophetic voice of John un-cloaks the Sin and sinfulness which had for so long hobbled men and women. On some of the message boards folks will decry that the Church should not be in politics. Perhaps it is the other way around. issues of dignity, respect, human life, poverty, and equality are really moral issues that the Church is mandated to speak on.

The Lamb of God commissions his Church to go out and share Good News. Our conversion and discipleship is also about a communal conversion. Our institutions and social settings are to seek justice and peace in their relations with God and others. We all have to be able to point out the Lamb of God who takes away the Sin of the world.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

JP II nears sainthood

The beatification of John Paul II has been in the news lately. Pope John Paul had a lifetime full of twists and turns. His eventual ordination and priesthood was hidden so as to protect his life and those of his countrymen. John Paul knew persecution and violence against one's faith in a very personal and close up way. In a sense this made him all the more zealous and committed to the priesthood and the sacraments he celebrated. John Paul was a true shepherd both as a bishop, but especially as a Pontiff.
For many catholics today, John Paul was the only Pope that they had ever known. He had understood the world as his parish and frequently visited his parishioners throughout the globe. Some have be taken aback that Pope Benedict does not travel often. But the charisma of John Paul could not be withdrawn from him, nor could anyone hold him in one place for long.
Whenever JP II came to a place, he would often remind his hearers to "Not be afraid." In many ways this was his own mantra throughout life. The idea of not allowing one's fears, or detractors, to keep one from living their profession of faith was so very important for John Paul. Perhaps because he did not fear Sin and Evil, he maintained a powerful stand against much of the brokenness and pain which afflicts our world. While seemingly traditional in some ways, John Paul spoke forcefully against oppression and the indignities which violated human life.
Even now the Internet is abuzz with whether his sainthood is a good thing or a bad thing. But in the end sainthood is about the virtuous and holy life we are all called to live. I look forward to seeing where the first St John Paul parish will be. In the end we continue to pray for the Church, its pastors, and especially its mission and ministry.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A hurting Body of Christ

A few years ago Father Frank DeSiano, C.S.P. came to speak to our presbyterate concerning Evangelization. Father has spent most of his priesthood studying and teaching on the needs of evangelization. On of the more ominous factors that many of us took home was the make up of the Post Modern society we live in today. This is not just cafeteria catholics that we are dealing with, but a persona that views the world in its effects on the individual. Our society, and our parishioners today, do not involve themselves in a 'community' unless it have some meaning or purpose for them self.

We go to the meeting on the landfill because its down the road from my house, not because I am concerned about the environment. In a minor manor when doing sacraments the vast majority want a 'private' ceremony. They reject the group communions or baptisms. But it is also difficult to explain 'parish' or church to these same folks. It is like the difference between JC Penney and Bergners.

The challenge is to be able to articulate for people today the 'practical' aspects of the Paschal Mystery, and apply it to their lives. From this understanding to help these same persons recognize the value and importance of community. As Father pointed out, and as it has been suggested from time to time, perhaps even parishes will lose their traditional role in celebrating the sacraments. Parishes will need to become partly community centers, partly human resource centers, and lastly places of sacraments and preaching the Gospel.

While spirituality is important to many young people today, religion is not. This is partly because of our failure to catechize over these last twenty years or so, and partly in trying to maintain a status quo. Now some detractors will suggest that Vatican II is the root cause for all of our problems today. In reality Vatican II would have had to happen sometime. Were it not to have, we would be this very small and insignificant Church.

I continually remind my staff that the three big words we need to follow are: catechesis, evangelization, and stewardship. Our Church is slowly coming around in understanding this. We talk a lot about the St. Francis adage, "Go out and preach, using words only if necessary." But there is still a wide chasm between this saying and reality. Ministry needs to be more one on one. So much like the scriptures we have to leave our offices and preach and proclaim on the streets and in the neighborhoods.

Its all about Good News.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Jesus occasionally would use the image of sheep and shepherd to describe his relationship, as well as the relationship of the Church, with all of God's people. Having been around sheep I can sort of understand this. Sheep can be skittish but at the same time very stubborn. Sheep watch the shepherd or rancher intently, looking for guidance and direction. They are prone to community and wandering as a herd (I guess that should be flock)

The "authority" that a shepherd has over his or her flock comes from the care that is given to the sheep. That whole notion that sheep know the voice of the shepherd is very much true. Good shepherds have to be firm but compassionate.

I write all of this as I have been reading about St. John Newmann. Bishop Newmann is understood to have been a wonderful priest and leader of his people. What is most outstanding about Newmann was his teachings, in which he conveyed the values of the Gospel, and of the Church, but did so with an sense of understanding and compassion. Those whom he ministered to understood from him a deep love and concern for all peoples. More so, whether these peoples were parishioners or priests, they recognized that all that he did, he did in the name of Jesus.

When the Church refers to being a 'shepherd' of God's people it reiterates the image of Jesus as the good shepherd, the model of ministry in the Church. Now some might mistake in this that the Church never says 'no.' We can do whatever we want because Jesus loves us. The Shepherd guides along right paths, into green pasture and living water. That means that we are on occasion nudged along.

St. Paul speaks about the importance to live rightly, and to use our gifts to influence others to live in the ways of Christ. While we might need to admonish each other, as St. Paul reminds us, we need to do so with love and charity.

We really need to prayer to the Holy Spirit and ask that God send us good shepherds. Our Church leadership really needs to proclaim the counter-cultural truths of sacred scripture, and celebrate the sacraments with dignity and reverence. But it is with compassion and gentleness that we enable men and women to be nurtured and nourished along the journey. Christ's authority is best recognized while washing feet and in the Paschal Mystery. Our own authority in the Church can best be observed in the self-less love for one another.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Baptism of the Lord

This feast ends the season of Christmas and begins winter Ordinary Time. John the Baptist plays a prominent role in introducing Jesus. He speaks about his role in fulfilling the prophesies, and his identity as the Christ. When John recognizes Jesus he proclaims him to be the 'Lamb of God.' It is important for us to hear that while John Baptizes with water, a symbolic bath, Jesus baptizes with water and the Holy Spirit. A sacramental commissioning by which we become disciples, and are sent out to proclaim 'Good News.'
I do not know whether we always recognize how important Baptism is for us as a people, and as a Church. Sometimes when I do Baptism it becomes apparent that the folks there are just going through the motions. Usually when I ask the congregants to renew their baptismal promises, the responses are few and barely audible. It is sort of amusing, there is usually a group that sits far from the family who seems to have been tricked into coming, and has not a clue as to what is happening.
Baptism is the foundational sacrament of our faith lives. Baptism unites us to the saving action of God through our sharing in the mystery of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In this sacrament we are removed from the effects of Sin and Death, and walk in the presence of God forever. Through Jesus Christ we have unity and communion with God. Sometimes parents will talk about Baptism "blessing" their child. Well, it is much deeper than that.
More so, Baptism calls us to a radical kind of faith. Our faith and religion are not simply fluffy nice things we take out once in awhile and on the holidays. We make choices against Sin and Evil and commit ourselves to doing good. Again there is a difference between living profoundly faithful lives, and simply being nice to each other
This is why we begin our life in the Church through Baptism. The ministry of the Church and Baptism go hand in hand. One does not make sense without the other. The Church teaches and demonstrates a right relationship with God. It is through the sacraments and scriptures that Jesus teaches us about righteousness, justice, and peace.
So next time you plunge your hand into the holy water to bless yourself, consider our baptism. Know that we need to buckle ourselves into the pews because doing Church can be a wild ride. God unites us with him - we are his beloved children.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Violence Against Christians

US bishops decry violence against Christians around the world

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two U.S. bishops condemned recent attacks on Christians, offering support to Orthodox Christians in Egypt and asking State Department officials to urge other governments to better protect human rights, particularly religious freedom. New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed "profound sorrow" over the deaths of about two dozen in a Coptic Orthodox church in Alexandria, Egypt, in a Jan. 4 letter to Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III. He also said American Catholic bishops "stand in solidarity with you and your church in this time of trial and suffering." In a separate letter Jan. 6 to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, said the recent spate of attacks on Christians in several countries deserves a response from U.S. diplomats. "We believe the egregious violations of human rights as well as indifference and inaction by foreign governments to the protection of their own citizens must be weighed seriously by the current administration as it makes economic and political decisions that impact these states," Bishop Hubbard wrote. He called upon U.S. diplomats to "raise with other governments the need to better protect the human rights, including religious freedom, for vulnerable minorities, especially Christians."

We have probably heard about this in passing during these last few weeks. During these solemn Holy Days, while most of us come and go into our churches, our brothers and sisters are being slain, in various localities. On the feast of the Holy Innocents one of the commentaries mentioned that right from the beginning, Jesus, and the Body of Christ, were subjected to violence. This is a terrible happening. During Christmas week we saw similar situations played out in Iran and Iraq.

When I was in the Holy Land, many of the Christians there spoke about how they are moved around and/or restricted in their travels. Granted Israel is surrounded by very hostile enemies. The Christians often experience the brunt of the security measures.

It is very important for us to be aware of our brothers and sisters and their struggle for dignity and justice. While we might complain about the music or a draft, Christians in some places of the world worry about being killed. It is important that we let our government leaders know our thoughts on these matters. We also want to keep these people in our daily prayers.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Telling Stories

On the eve of Passover the youngest in the family asks the eldest male, why this night is so important. So the celebration of Passover begins with the story of God and the Hebrew people, and the hope of the Promised Land. While this is part of the ritual the retelling of the story over and over again allows it to become our story. More so each time we hear the story we are in a different place in our own personal journey, so there can be new insights and understanding from hearing the same story over and over again.

I was thinking about this during a funeral mass yesterday. As I prayed the Eucharistic Prayer it was apparent to me that some there had heard this prayer on a weekly basis, others perhaps four or five times in a year, while some have never heard this prayer. This text which is so important for us catholics tells the story of our own relationship with God, and asks that through the celebration of the Paschal Mystery we might have communion with God. It could be that we who hear this on a regular basis might have an inspiring moment, and others might be moved to a greater understanding of faith and faithfulness.

Last night our Deanery gathered at our parish for our Epiphany dinner. I am one of the 'elders' now who can tell stories all the way back to Bishop Lane. While we spend time talking about pending moves, sickness, and money problems, we also revisit the seminary that almost was, pastors who have the status of being a 'character' and what the transition time was like just after Vatican II. For us 'oldsters' there might be new reflections. For the youngins there is understanding or even revelation.

It is so important to tell the stories of faith and family. The community is lively when our tradition is mulled over and passed on. It is a real living history when names, places, and times are given a sense of purpose and meaning. Our little "s" story has a place in the large "S" story of us all.

Monday, January 3, 2011

stewardship and evangelization

Go forth and share the 'Good News.' At another time and place people came into our churches looking to become part of our faith. Today we really need to go out and pound the pavement, get old catholics to come back, and to evangelize new catholics. But, we also have to have something at the parish for these folks to come back to. Our liturgies, programs, and classes have to excite the spirit of the men and women who come through our doors.

Two of the programs that I still want to do is the, "Seeking Christ," and the "Awakening Faith." The latter I tried earlier with little success. Lots of time the people who come to these programs are not the ones who need it (or at least in my estimation) I once had an older woman tell me, "I have no idea what you're talking about at these classes, but I like hearing your voice." This can't be good.

Anyway these very foundational courses are for fallen away or inactive catholics. In a very real way we have to go to their homes and invite them. Otherwise they ignore the invitation.

This summer I would like to try a series of neighborhood masses at peoples homes. Get some volunteers throughout the community, have Sunday mass in the evening, and then maybe a potluck dinner. It cannot hurt. Hopefully it can foster some new relationships in these communities.

I am getting to the point where I want to walk around town, knock on doors, and things of that nature. When I go to school or RE events, I recognize less than ten adults at these gatherings. I am about a year behind where I wanted to be at this point, but I cannot waste time picking at my belly-button weaving prayer rugs.

We cannot afford to have a parochial vicar. I will make this known to Rockford. If they send us someone, that is fine, but we really need more money at the parish.

Anyway, tomorrow I hit the office running with funerals, meetings and more meetings. I get to go and do home visits later in the week. I am excited about that. And Lent is around the corner.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


This feast is often referred to as the 'little Christmas,' or even the second Christmas. Amongst many of our eastern brothers and sisters, Epiphany has a greater significance, and solemnity, than the 25th of December date. If you will, Jesus makes his debut as in the words of the Psalmist, he is revealed to the nations. Though we will read from the Gospel of Matthew today, the first chapter of John dramatically sets the stage for Jesus.

As throughout the Advent season, we have this comparison of light and darkness. Jesus comes as the light, a light which the darkness of the world will not be able to overcome, so as to illumine the hearts of all faithful men and women. Even in the healing stories in the Gospel of John there are those present who will not accept Jesus, though they have witnessed some sort of miracle. These are the folk who prefer the darkness. Stepping into the light would require transformation and conversion which they are not ready or willing to undertake.

I tried to convey in my homily today the importance of being deeply committed to the mission and ministry of Jesus, and his Church. We have a society that is not supportive of religion or moral principles or values. We live in a post-modern society. I take from Karl Rahner's understanding that we need to be mystics. When many of us were little we learned our prayers from our parents, and people respected our faith. Not anymore.

On one of the county roads in Whiteside County there is a small stone building that sets about thirty yards off of the road. In one of the two windows someone has placed a candle. I suspect it is one of those battery operated things which we might use during the holidays. Anyway there it sits next to a cornfield near a road in a non-descript stone building. I have no ideas whether the intention of the person was to convey some deep spiritual meaning, or to let someone know they need to pick up a gallon of milk on the way home.

A light shines in the darkness. Jesus is the light to all nations pronouncing salvation and peace. Your light must shine brightly before all men and women, and not be his under a bushel basket. We have to look for signs of faith and hope wherever we our, no matter how obscure they might be. The Vatican Council conveyed this when they spoke of the Paschal Mystery being the pinnacle of revelation of God the Father. In the Church in the Modern World, Vatican II reminds believers of our obligation of sharing this revelation with the world, even when it will not listen.

What a great feast and what a great mystery to celebrate during this Christmas season. May the good things God has begun in you be brought to completion.