Friday, April 29, 2011

In the Beginning

What a wonderful time of year and feast to celebrate. There is something awesome about the baptismal integrity as it provides a footing for our Church. We are baptized into the Paschal Mystery and the prophetic witness of the Apostles. Our Pastoral Council commented my zeal for sprinkling the people. But lots of symbol draws us hopefully to lots of understanding and reflection.

The Easter readings these last few days outline an Easter faith to be lived by the Disciples of Jesus. Christian life is not easy. There are outside factions that accuse and abuse those who seek to remain faithful to the new life in Christ. There can also be brokenness within the community which can cause sin, hurt, and division. But our Easter life, when lived in communion with Christ and one another, can be a source of joy and peace. Perhaps this is why our early Church fathers and mothers so often encouraged us to love one another as God has loved us in Jesus Christ.

As Christians living in the world today it is easy to become discouraged or disillusioned. The early Church felt similar struggles. St. Peter will remind all faithful men and women that our faith and our hope are set upon the promise of God. God's goodness will enable us to counter the Sin and confusion of the world. We place our trust in the understanding that God shelters us beneath the shadow of his wings.

Our Church too is guided and guarded by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As a baptized people we go back to the well-spring of new life to find our courage and our strength. Our journey is with the risen Christ and is one of ongoing growth and transformation. By endeavoring in faithful witness we maintain lives that are buoyant in faith and daring in hope. Our trip through the baptismal font brings us to new life and sets us forth to love and serve the Lord.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Crux of Our Faith

The Triduum is a time whereas we as a believing community dissect the Paschal Mystery. We carefully take it apart, and look at each piece of it. We study, reflect and ponder the piece we are looking at. The highlight of our liturgical life comes tonight a the vigil. Some people like roller coasters I like doing the Triduum.

At the Ordination ritual the Bishop gives the newly ordained priest the chalice and paten, with the direction to believe in the mystery one is celebrating, and to imitate that same mystery. With this the Priest begins his work of preaching, teaching, and sanctifying. This weekend is really the springboard for that work. The Paschal Mystery establishing a communion between God and all men and women. For the Church, it continues on the mission and ministry of Jesus in proclaiming 'Good News.'

On Thursday and Friday our H.S. students did a fast for hunger. Bread and water for 24 hours. They were are the Mass of the Lord's Supper, Friday Morning Prayer, and the Veneration of the Cross. For some this was a powerful experience of making that connection between the suffering and death of Christ, and their own dying to self. Again it was an imitation of the mystery that they celebrate.

At mass we proclaim, "Lord by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free, you are the Saviour of the World." This profession of faith makes more sense after we have looked at all of the part very closely, and have experienced professing faith. In the collection of books, Jesus Freaks, we can read about ancient and modern martyrs. What makes them do this standing for truth, and standing with the anawim. I am convinced it is their full and complete understanding of what they are celebrating in the Paschal Mystery.

My Great Grandmother, who escaped eastern Europe at the time of the Russian revolution, settled in Chicago, then moved to Rockford. Every afternoon she would sit in her rocking chair and pray the rosary. When we grandchildren would come to visit their house, she always a joyful smile on her face. She would bring us a plate of fig newtons. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Wood of The Cross

Look down upon me good and gentle Jesus, while before Thy face I humbly kneel and with burning soul pray and beseech Thee to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity, true contrition for my sins and a firm purpose of amendment, while I contemplate with great love and tender pity Thy Five Wounds, pondering over them within me and calling to mind the words which David, Thy prophet said of Thee, my Jesus, “They have pierced My Hands and My Feet, they have numbered all My Bones.” [Psalm 21: 17 – 18]

This has been one of my favorite prayers since I was a child. There is something really powerful in the sign of the cross. As part of the Paschal Mystery it points to the intense love that Gos has for all peoples. Sin and sinfulness cause havoc in the human family especially in our relationship with God. I remember one writer suggesting that the sin and evil we find in the world today are sort of like growing pains. Until the finality of the Kingdom of God everything is in flux. In this constant state of getting reading, the world is in a mess.

The cross challenges us to understand that we are about God and God's kingdom. The Christian is counter-cultural and lives his or her life with the Passion, Death, and Resurrection in mind. Just as Jesus is lifted up on the cross, we are lifted up from our crosses by the Christ who loved us.

To be sure there are the Mother Teresa's and Oscar Romero's who had embraced the cross and brought life to others. But living the cross is also about sharing in another's sorrow, remaining faithful to charity and chastity, and embracing the dignity and integrity in life. The cross makes us strong in doing what needs to be done as disciples of Jesus Christ. God so loved the world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

the Confession Circut

About this time of year I have an alb and purple stole rolled up in the back seat of my car. Tonight I get to do some parish confessions and then go to help at a high school retreat. It is good to do.

As a young priest there were two other parishes that we were connected with. Reconciliation was in the context of a Reconciliation Service. On Mondays we all gathered at St. Thomas, Tuesdays was Ss. Peter and Paul, and Wednesday was at St. Margaret's. At each parish there were about one hundred persons each. The priests would gather for dinner before hand, and then go to the service which would last about two hours.

Today the Reconciliation services seem less popular. It is also difficult to gather priests together for dinner anymore. It is common now to have time available for individual confessions. That seems to work out fine.

In I Corinthians St. Paul alludes to the fact that we are members of the Body of Christ. Paul will use this image to convey the responsibility which we have with and towards each other. If part of the body hurts, the entire body hurts. We do not have to look too far to see how this works in the real world. Just in simple ways disrespect, arrogance, and anger, all lead to brokenness in our homes and communities.

More often than not Reconciliation becomes like spiritual direction. While communal reconciliation made a clear statement that we are sinners together, the one on one approach can be a powerful experience for many people. It is a great sacrament of healing and the affirmation of God's love and mercy.

I will be bouncing around the county for next few days - minus the dinner. It is part of priestly ministry to share the 'Good News.'

Monday, April 18, 2011

Way to the Cross

We have been reading from St. Augustine in the Office of Readings, and of his Sermo Guelferbytanus. As Augustine reflects upon the suffering and death of Jesus, he borrows heavily from St. Paul. In this sermon Augustine recognizes the significance of the cross and that we like Saint Paul keep the cross and its spirituality as the center of our faith lives. To be sure it cannot be in some superficial sense in which we reflect on 'taking up our cross.' Rather the cross of Christ calls us to transformation. Since we began looking at and reading the Theology of the Body, I have found it revealing to re-examine the Genesis story of creation. The story reminds us of the sacred nature of men and women, and our participation in the dignity and integrity given to us by God. God sees us as 'good' and worth redeeming. Jesus comes in human form to bring us salvation. Saint Augustine reflects that Jesus' death should not be a cause for shame, but one of joy. Jesus suffered the death we deserved for our sins and for Sinfulness, Augustine will say. So that while a solemn time this is a week of joy and celebration as we recount all that Jesus did to save us. "By your own blood Lord you brought us back to God" While Jesus does not die year after year, his one death, through his blood, we have life and have this life abundantly. When I was young, during the time of dinosaurs and glaciers, we started this 'doing something for Lent.' I think that the idea was that our Lenten practice was to draw us closer to God and God's love. To forgive or do charity might bring us that much closer to the transformation we are called to. As Saint Paul reflects upon, the instrument of death, in the cross, becomes for us the instrument of life.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Jesus enters into Jerusalem triumphantly. It will be many of the same people who proclaim, 'Crucify him!' Sin and Evil do terrible things to us. On this Palm Sunday we witness the central act of Jesus' mission, his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. The Paschal Mystery draws us into the salvation and peace of Jesus Christ. Matthew who is speaking to a largely Jewish audience wants us to understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of the covenant and the promise of the prophets. Salvation is not only about the forgiveness of Sins, per se, but it ushers in a new lifestyle.

In Matthews passion narrative two figures stand out: Judas and Peter. Judas is becoming disillusioned with Jesus. Perhaps he is still looking for that warrior king. Seeing that this is not in the near future, he arranges to have Jesus arrested. Peter has moments of understanding and revelation. He reaches back into his upbringing, begins to understand the 'Christ,' but then he gets in the way and makes silly statements. Fear and bravado are two of his major obstacles.

Because Judas cannot understand the 'Christ' part of Jesus, realizing what is happening (he just wanted the Pharisees to rough him up a bit) he goes out and ends his life. Peter has begun to have insights into Jesus the Christ, realizing the possibility of forgiveness, goes out and weeps bitterly.

Matthew wants us to understand that Jesus who takes away our Sins does so by his sacrifice, as well as his lifestyle of holiness. The latter is a life in which his followers are invited to participate in. Remember Jesus begins his ministry with the Beatitudes. What better way to describe a life of selfless-ness and mercy than to espouse values which are counter cultural. But it is a life in which we participate in too. The last judgement scene is great. Blessed are those who give water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, and comfort the grieving.

What a wonderful week we are to begin. I love Holy Week. The Paschal Mystery frees us from Sin and Evil, and allows us to be children of God. "He will save his people from their sins." So we continue to live with Christ boldly pronouncing, Lord by your death and resurrection you have set us free, you are the Saviour of the world.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Get Ready to Lift

When I was little I was enthralled by the story of St. Isaac Jogues and his companions. Isaac as you remember was a Jesuit missionary who established missions in northern New York. His primary work was with the Iroquois and Mohawk peoples of that region. At one point he was captured by the Iroquois, tortured and left to die. He escaped, recovered from his multiple wounds, and returned. He would be captured again and eventually killed. This story helped me to understand the power of the Gospel, and the courage of the men and women who take it to heart. As I had mentioned before our associate pastor gathered a group of us altar servers together on Saturday mornings, for a 5th grade version of a bible study. The notion of prophets and being prophetic became very important. In my small ten year old understanding I had come to realize that when it comes to faith, running away is not an option. Do you suppose the Roman solders who forced Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross of Jesus first said something like, "Remember lift with your legs." I can think of about a dozen parishioners off hand who have been forced into difficult situations. And I know there are more. These folks had no time to prepare for health, personal, or employment issues. They literally were doing what they always do, and life fell on top of them. Suddenly there was this heavy burden in their life. In most cases their faith was their one and only safety net. The challenge to always be prepared to pronounce our faith and to proclaim our belief in Jesus as the Messiah. I know that we always talk about being ready, but we really do have to be connected to our faith at all times. It was sort of unique a many years ago in another parish, as I was greeting people after mass, one woman walked up to complain about the cantor. Behind her was an elderly couple, the woman using a cane, was hunched over and supported by her husband. The older woman looked at me, smiled and said, "Father I think that spring is just around the corner." Some people are better at lifting than others.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's Magic

One of our high school-ers was sharing how during a science class, when asked why a reaction had occurred during an experiment, a fellow student blurted out, "It's magic." I understand that even the teacher laughed. The same student suggested that this might be the theological or spiritual explanation of many of the miracles stories of sacred scripture. Perhaps even the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ. As we reach the end of Lent, and prepare for Holy Week, I cannot help but wonder how many of the multitude of peoples who received ashes have made real progress during this Lenten season in moving from Sin and sinfulness, and moving towards a life of grace. And as I sat for First Communion pictures the other night, I realized how many parents I did not recognize. Sadly our religious practice can seek out a magical relationship with God and God's grace. In some of Pope Benedict's recent letters he outlines the importance of a lifestyle that is attentive to the need to move from Sin into grace. Benedict affirms that God's grace certainly allows us to strength to make change in our life, but we also have to put effort into conversion and discipleship. I love telling the story of the rather overweight man, who seemed to reside in the locker room, reading the local paper. I always imagined that he told people that he was going to the 'Y' but secretly wondered why he was not losing weight. Recently I have found myself thinking about the story of the rich man who approaches Jesus concerning the Kingdom of God. He offers of list of things that he does that are religious. When Jesus suggests that he sell his possessions and then to come back and follow him, he walks away sad because of his connection to his stuff. Perhaps throughout our history of God with us we have come to believe in magical solutions. So if I pray these prayers just right, I don't have to work at being kind or forgiving. As I have been re-reading a lot of Henri Nouwen these last few weeks, I am reminded of the importance of relationships in our faith walk. With Jesus of course, others around us, and righteousness and truth. I added the last two. I talk quite a bit about conversion and discipleship. But it's not magic. It is work and attention to what is happening around us. I am looking forward to this coming week. I am determined not to become angry when crowds come to the magical Easter show. I will raise them up to God with the bread and wine, and ask that through the Holy Spirit he change these gifts into the Body and Blood of Christ.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Stewardship Leader

The theme for the National Catholic Education Association conference this year is, Leadership, Direction, Service. Educators are servant leaders in a variety of means. "Whoever welcomes a child ..." For generations educators have welcomed and guided children into adulthood. Some of our H.S. seniors are thinking about going into teaching. Each of them can recount a favorite teacher as well as something unique that teacher did for them. Catholic teachers of course have the added responsibility of teaching through the prism of our catholic faith tradition. In the catholic schools we want to help the children understand the wonders of God's creation, through math, science, the study of cultures and experience of art and music, and religion. Teachers are the ones who help children grow in understanding and an appreciation of all that is around them. The teacher can help nurture a sense of awe in the child. In matters of faith, the mom and dad are the first teachers of faith. From the moment they show their child how to make the sign of the cross, throughout their lives the parents will teach by word and example how we love God and others. Moms and dads tend to the garden of their home life through their spiritual tilling and weeding. The home becomes a springboard out into the world. In the end, Leadership is a gift and a ministry in the Church. In the realm of Stewardship it becomes a way in which we take responsibility for our faith. Jesus reminded the disciples as he washed their feet that this action is something that we need to do for one another. Leaders in the Church take the Paschal Mystery seriously and lead under the auspice of the cross. While this might be easy for people on the liturgy or R.E. committee to understand, it is much more difficult for buildings and grounds people to grasp this concept. Good parish leaders follow the way of the Teacher, Jesus Christ. They become active learners and direct their efforts to the One who has made and sustained us. It is a wonderful ministry that continues to grow the Church.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lazarus Come Forth

This is a familiar story that we all know. Jesus' friend, brother of Mary and Martha, is ill. Jesus decides to stay away for another two days and returns to Bethany only after Lazarus is dead. After a long dialogue with Martha, Lazarus' sister, Jesus resuscitates him. Of course the questions of the sisters is our question too: "Why did Jesus wait so long to go see his friend.

Perhaps Jesus wants us to know that his mission is about salvation and peace. No really - salvation and peace and eternal life for all men and women. Jesus did not come to simply do some good deeds so that we might become excited and love Jesus and God more. The Paschal Mystery conquers Sin and death, but does not abolish it. At least not yet. Jesus enters into our suffering and death and shares with us the intensity of sorrow and anger in the experience of sickness and death.

We like the men and women of all ages will still be moved to cry out, "My God my God, why have you forsaken me?" Jesus helps Martha, and us hopefully, to move from our belief in eternal life to our belief in Jesus Christ. Jesus says that he is the resurrection and the life, and our belief is to be in Him and His life for us.

This mystery challenges us to trust in God with our whole selves. We can relate to Jesus in the garden who prays that if it is possible to allow the cup of suffering to pass from him. But we come to understand that Jesus is obedient unto death. Just as Jesus trusts in God the Father in heaven we have to somehow maintain that same trust and confidence in the Father.

And we can see what happens to such people. Those who believe and trust in God the Father are raised up to share the joys of the Kingdom of God. Drawn into this very intimate relationship with God, we need to be able to proclaim our faith again and again. Fear and despair have no part in our relationship with God. We maintain a vigil of eternal life.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Reconciliation Time

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, presented a pastoral letter on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, entitled The Altar and the Confessional: Pastoral Letter on the Sacrament of Penance. Archbishop Dolan begins his letter with the very beautiful words from the formula of absolution. While Dolan offers a humorous missive of a priest dying in a confessional, and not being found for days, my own experience is that this sacrament is rather healthy - at least in my parish. Archbishop Dolan quotes scripture scholar Msgr. Roland Knox who makes the analogy between the Word of God bringing all creation into being, and the words of absolution bringing new life into the penitent. To be sure there have been times when helping an individual make a confession, speaking to them about sin and sinfulness, and assuring them of God's love and mercy, there is a life-giving feeling in the reconciliation room at that moment. Zillions a years ago there was an attempt to move people away from a litany of sins, and to confess just one sin, or the most troubling of their sins. The idea here was to get people to look carefully at their sins, and also those things that led to sin. This really did not work out well. Transformation and conversion are very important parts of this sacrament. "Why can't I just tell Jesus my sins?" One of the most common questions especially from high school freshmen. Sin are never really private. St. Paul speaks quite well about the connection we have within the body of Christ. One one member hurts we all hurt. Anger, jealousy, pride, envy, and countless other sins, affect the household, the community, and the relationship in some way. The Priest is the 'Father' of the house. It is he, through the sacramental graces provided, who reconciles us to God and the community. Dolan creates this triad relationship of cross, altar, and reconciliation. The priest as the minister of the Word of God, speaks words of absolution. This sacrament is really a sacrament of joy as it unfolds the salvation and peace we have from God in Jesus Christ. May God who knows our minds and our hearts help you to know your sins and to trust in his love and mercy.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Jesus Cried out in the Temple

There is this story I sort of remember from my Seminary days. A young woman in Nazi occupied Holland would week after week attend Synagogue, in great anticipation. Realizing the horror that was occurring all around her, she realized that at any time the Rabbi would begin to shout and declare the injustice that was festering only a few yards away. The rabbi would go to the pulpit, clear his throat, and she would yearn for the prophetic words. She knew that these words would match those of Ezekiel or Elijah. But as he began to speak, she realized that this was not going to be the time of prophecy.

In a few days we will hear that Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem because of its lack of faith. I have to say I wonder if Jesus weeps over Rome, the inner city of Chicago, third world nations, and our churches today. About the same time we were in seminary there was a song entitled "Shout," by Boys to Men (or something like that) As we approach the end of Lent there is a real urgency in the ideal of conversion and discipleship. And more than changing our lives, pushing back against Sin and Evil in the world today.

Doing Mass with the children today I could not help but wonder, and worry, about their moral futures and what decisions they would have to make in life. When I was in school it was fairly easy to avoid 'bad' situations and temptations. But today what was once consider wayward or even bad behaviour is now more or less the norm. Who was it that said that today we are in need of mystics and prophets? This is true.

My theme song for Kairos had been, Calling all Angels, by Train. Maybe that is what we need to do more and more. Shout for angels. In the middle of Mass call on the Holy Spirit. Preach the Gospel loudly and boldly.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lenten Movement

My parents mentioned the other day that their pastor informed them that I was moving this year. About a year ago I had heard I was going to a parish in my hometown, after that pastor had retired. And I understand through the gossip mill that I am one of four possibilities for a very large parish in the 'burbs. All of these rumors and whisperings makes my staff nervous. I find it sort of amusing. The Vicar for clergy likes to give the presbyters the impression that he enters some sort of spiritual trance and receives messages from the Holy Spirit as to where to assign priests. I just like celebrating mass, anointing the sick, and celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation. I would really like to live in western Wisconsin. I wish I spoke Polish better, and I wish I could still run. In a very real way our Lent is a transition. It would seem that our spiritual journey calls us to be somewhat uncomfortable throughout our lives. If we take our journey seriously it is a time of already here, but not yet. So we struggle for perfection and understanding. When I speak about vocations I am apt to tell peoples that the reason I became a priest is not the reason I am a priest today. And I know my vision of Church is very different than my parent's (and parishioners for that matter) and the generation before me. We are continually challenged to move and transition throughout our days. Part of that though is the insight we receive in our celebration of the liturgy, reconciliation and prayer. I am always reminded of how comical the storeroom at St Margaret Mary's was. One whole wall, devoted to liturgy, was divided into the liturgical seasons. We cannot limit our faith to a series of boxes or a pamphlet. Lent asks us to follow Jesus very closely, always ready for change and conversion in our lives. Hopefully the experience of prayer, fasting, and works of charity makes us at least somewhat different by Holy Week. We come out of the Lent experience in different places. And really, that is okay. If we want to be in control and determine the outcome, then we miss the fullness of this spiritual journey. In the end, it's not just about giving up cookies.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Of weddings and funerals

At St. Mary's we probably have 40+ funerals year, and about 18-20 weddings. I have to admit I am becoming one of those priests that prefers funerals over weddings. We had a clergy conference on evangelization some time ago in which we dialogued about our post-modern society. This same sense of individualism has permeated the celebration of marriage, and salvation, at the time of death. These can be great moments of catechesis and spiritual growth. It is always difficult to find a starting point in faith. Unfortunately when we meet with the couple, or the family, we quickly realize that any catholic training ceased at about the eighth grade. The wedding then becomes about the bride and the funeral is a commemoration service. This is the time really to do some sort of adult religious education. If we can help people understand the basic concepts of sacraments, signs, and symbols, we might do well to open an understanding to our life of faith, and relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Even an atheist will understand that it is important to welcome people into the gathering. I try to help peoples consider a theology of life and communion, especially when choosing music or readings. There are times when I think we should do the Sacrament of Marriage after the homily at Sunday Liturgy, and include funerals in the weekday Liturgy. The challenge is to move peoples from a 'show' or a time of remembering, to an experience of prayer and faith. The introduction to the Rite of Funerals reminds us that what we are doing is about hope and Christian witness. If those ideals could be maintained as a starting point, we might reach the spiritual celebration that the Church envisions. It is certainly a mission in progress.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Blindness and Conversion

John's presentation of the Healing of the Blind Man almost reads like a comedy. Suddenly everyone seems to forget whether or not the beggar had been blind. Even the man's parents are uncertain of the fact in the life of their son.

But we have a sense of a tremendous amount of fear. The parents, we are told, fear being thrown out of the synagogue. Others in the story respond with a similar anxiety. Now the man born blind is the only one in the story who seems to show any sort of courage. We come to understand that the Pharisees have used religion as a weapon rather than an instrument of salvation.

I believe it was C.S. Lewis who reflected that Christians can be like slum children, satisfied with playing in the dirt with sticks, because they cannot even imagine a sunny day on a beach. The gospel presents us with a people who assume that blindness is somehow a curse from God. And God cannot do anything to change the situation - because the people of God have said so. For ourselves we might consider how good it would be to change a habit, forgive another, or even to seek forgiveness; but we are afraid of what life would be like for us if we did.

So we are satisfied living with the brokenness and unhappiness because stepping into healing and peace are unknown endeavors. More so what is expected of us if we convert and transform our lives. That is a lot of pressure.

St. Paul takes us to task today by helping us remember we are children of light. Paul himself was in the dark imposes his laws out of self-righteousness and arrogance. Seeing the light of Christ allowed him to see clearly and to believe in Jesus Christ. We are to cast off deeds of darkness and to live good and holy lives. This is not a matter of being nice to each other, it is much more than that. To paraphrase a sixties mantra, people should know we are Christian by our love.

Seeing in the light of Christ, we ought to be bold in our proclamation of faith. Despite being surrounded by folks who chase us around with pointy sticks and sharp instruments, because of what we believe, we need to all the louder proclaim, "I believe."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

All cracked up

There is a story that I love involving a monk at a very strict monastery. The monks are only allowed to say two words a year. One monk, newly professed, goes into the office of the Abbot to speak his two words. He sits in a chair across from the abbot and states, "bed hard." A year later the same monk is before the Abbot, "food bad." The following year we find the Abbot and monk together for their meeting. "I quit." "It's no wonder," says the Abbot, "You've been complaining ever since you got here." In the his Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul compares us to earthen vessels. I like to think of those old clay flower pots that were chipped and cracked. Paul recognizes that despite our flawed state of being the presence of Christ dwells within us. We hold a treasure deep inside of us which is God's Spirit. This is important for us to contemplate as we draw close to baptism and shortly thereafter the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Most of us would live our lives differently if we realized the sacredness we possessed. Saint Catherine of Siena reminds us, "If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire." Remember the old recruiting slogan for the Army, "Be all that you can be." While recognizing our own sins and foibles, we rely on the grace and love of God, through Jesus Christ, to overcome our weaknesses and live as disciples of Christ. To be sure this season of prayer, fasting, and alms giving, is a foundation towards conversion and discipleship. God's grace moves us away from sin and temptation so that we might live the reality of our of lives made in the image and likeness of God. Sin and Evil move us away from the people we ought to be. God's spirit, love, and mercy, helps us to be kindly, gentle, prophetic, and grace-filled people. St. Paul speaks so often about the pain he suffers in proclaiming Christ. Yet he acknowledges that by embracing this same suffering and dying to oneself, that he is better able to articulate the word of God. Not unlike the cracked flower pot God plants a beautiful flower inside of us. We should pay attention to the flowers and not the cracks.

Friday, April 1, 2011

What's a Monsignor and Other Mysteries?

I gave a presentation on the Catholic Church to an adult study group yesterday. 2000 years of the Catholicism in 2 hours. The quandary as to what a monsignor is, as well as other like questions, were the majority of the interests. I barely touched the surface of liturgy and spirituality. Even amongst the most earnest catholics these definitions seem to be very important. Perhaps I cringe because I see these things as the most unimportant of everything that we do. When I was a youth, just beginning altar serving, the associate of the parish invited us young servers to meet on Saturday mornings for continued altar server training. What it turned out to be was a Bible study for fifth graders. It was awesome. Fr. Raun has us read, and spoke about, Amos, Habakkuk, Elijah, and some of the other prophets. Perhaps because we lived on the west side of Rockford, but we did have an understanding of poverty and discrimination. The prophets sometimes stood alone in decrying the Sin and Evil they witnessed. This past week as Benedict prayed before the site of a horrendous massacre, perpetuated by the Nazis in World War II, he reminded all of us of how important it really is to bring attention to the Sin and Evil that is in our midst. The role of the Church to teach, preach, and to sanctify, draws us all into an understanding that Jesus' work continues today through the ministry of the Church. There is a prophetic role of the Church that recognizes the dignity of men and women and must remain steadfast in matters of justice and peace. Matthew doesn't place the Beatitudes at the beginning of his Gospel because it sounded nice there. Understanding that Sin and Evil are real entities challenges us to pay attention to what is really important, what really matters, in our Church. As we get closer to Easter we begin to reflect on the Paschal Mystery. This is what it is all about for us. The Church is in the world to proclaim Good News.