Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Theology and Catechesis

At dinner with some priests the other night, we were talking about baptisms and the interesting happenings during this rite. We had all experienced the handful of family or friends of the couple, who adamantly refuses to respond to any of the prayers. "Do you believe in God the Father?" They will glare back, arms folded, without the slightest inclination to to be moved or swayed by the sacred rites before them.

In our post-modern age religion and faith has become a very personal object. "I believe' these particular objects or precepts of God, regardless of whether they are part of the larger teaching of the Church, or any other religious body. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are out, but smiling at a family member and wishing them a 'good day' is the basis of salvation. There is certainly a need of good and solid theology.

That need of course begins with the Theologians in Colleges and Seminaries. Father Thomas Weinandy, OFM Cap, is an executive secretary on the Bishop's Committee on Doctrine. In a 26th May address he called the role of the Theologian one of a vocation. Like any vocation there is a divine call and human response involved. Weinandy pointed out that a difficulty today is that theologians are almost antagonistic towards the theological tradition that has gone on before them, and seemingly try to disprove the pastoral teachings of the bishops.

Father Weinandy points to the fact that our faith and tradition are intimately connected. More so they can only be grasped by holy men and women. Theologians therefore need to strive for holiness, and remain in touch with the divine love of God, and our Church's faith tradition. Weinandy wants us to understand that one cannot stand outside the mysteries of our faith and speak to them, but the best conversation occurs when we are living within that mystery of faith.

Going on down the line, our religion teachers, catechists, and even parents, best convey the faith when they live as part of it. The celebration of the Eucharist, prayer, and works of charity help us remain connected to the faith that we profess. We can more easily speak and teach about the faith and teachings we profess when we live within the picture. Our spiritual bearing can and will influence others around us to contemplate faith and religion.

So come baptism Sunday, the question of belief in God will be met with seeking eyes, rather than defiance. Passing on the faith is just that. It is the teaching and understanding of the sacred scriptures and the Church. Not what I think that Church should believe in. By understanding this we are conveying all that we have seen and heard to others.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hunger Crisis in Africa

I have included here a news article from the U.S. Catholic Bishops. Presently the human toll of the draught, in addition to the political situation, in central Africa has reached beyond 1 million people. It is unbelievable to read about the starvation and disease that is afflicting so many people. Organizations that are willing to help are often hindered, and food and medicine is stolen or distributed to the wealthy or solders.

When we want to talk about Sn and Evil, this is an example of peoples and groups becoming self-centered to the point they disregard the dignity and life of other men and women. The power and prestige of a few is more important than the common good. CRS is one of many Aid organizations that does much to bring food and relief to these peoples. Sadly for tens of thousands this is already too late.

USCCB President and CRS Chairman Issue Aid Appeal for Drought and Famine Victims in Somalia and Parts of East Africa

August 10, 2011

WASHINGTON—Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, chairman of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), have asked the bishops of the United States to encourage pastors and parishioners to support emergency relief efforts in the Horn of Africa, possibly by taking up a second collection.

“Every day we are seeing more and more heartbreaking news about the drought and famine in Somalia and the eastern parts of Africa. We see millions of people being forced from their homes, leaving behind what meager possessions they had, and walking for days over rough terrain,” wrote Archbishop Dolan and Bishop Kicanas.

“There are parents whose little children have died, and children who have been orphaned.They are suffering from hunger, thirst, disease, and drought,” they said. “It is a humanitarian crisis that cries out for help to Christians throughout the world. The Holy Father, on several occasions, has asked Catholics to respond generously to the desperate needs of our brothers and sisters in East Africa.”

More than 12 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia because of what many are calling the worst drought in decades. This severe lack of rainfall has resulted in failed crops, deaths of livestock and critical shortages in food and water.

CRS has worked in East Africa for decades and is on the ground responding to this emergency. In Ethiopia, CRS is expanding its food distribution program to 1.1 million people and is working closely with local partners to provide livelihood support, water and sanitation. In Somalia, CRS is supporting local partners to assist highly vulnerable, displaced families with basic necessities, such as food packages, support for clinics, therapeutic feeding, and shelter. In Kenya, CRS is working both to assist newly arrived refugees with hygiene, sanitation promotion, and protection, and also to provide water, sanitation, and supplemental feeding to drought-affected Kenyan communities.

“CRS can use all the help we can offer in this current tragic situation,” wrote Archbishop Dolan and Bishop Kicanas. “Through CRS our generosity could literally feed thousands and provide them clean water, shelter and other life-saving goods. Over time, CRS will be able to expand already proven drought mitigation and other development programs that unfortunately are now only available in a handful of villages.”

They concluded by asking the bishops of the United States to request that their pastors “bring the plights of these poor people to our faithful and generous parishioners and ask for their support, possibly through a second collection.”

Monday, August 29, 2011

Martyrdom of John the Baptist

The outcry over the death of the Baptist had to have been great. Certainly the Disciples of John the Baptists would have denounced the killing, as would have a number of the religious leaders. Herod probably justified his action on security reasons. Today's feast reminds us al of how often those who speak what is true or good, are often pushed aside or silenced. It is an evil of our nature to manipulate that which makes us feel uncomfortable.

In very small matters we ignore or even try to justify persons rudeness, hostility, anger, or aggression, by calling them 'strong-willed,' or 'determined.' But in larger matters we sometimes try to avoid confronting evil or sinfulness by ignoring the activity or changing or behaviour so as to fit in with the brokenness and dysfunction. We see this in families, institutions, and in societies. Sadly the situation ends up in a major crisis or confrontation.

Herod is committing adultery with his Sister-in-Law. Now who is going to confront the king? Of course this kind of behaviour started early in life with Herod, this was probably nothing new. But John the Baptist cannot ignore the Evil here. John confronts Herod, and the entire royal family per se. This makes everyone very uncomfortable.

Today we do not do a lot of talking about social justice, substance abuse, or the effects of poverty on children and the elderly. We rarely see a news report detailing the scandal of poverty and hunger in Sudan and Kenya. Thes are real tragedies that are happening in our day. The challenge of John the Baptist is to have the courage and strength to identify brokenness, Sin, and Evil. By our faith, how do I make a response to the suffering and injustice that I see around me?

To be sure, we cannot 'do something' about every situation we see or know about. But an awareness certainly helps us to respond by how we use or resources and wealth, informing us how to vote, and makes us more attentive towards what is really important.

There is a saying that begins, "The main thing is to know what the main thing is." Recognizing the Truth certainly helps us focus on the 'Main Thing.'

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Have you Hugged your Cross Today?

Peter has just proclaimed Jesus the 'Christ,' the Son of the Living God. Jesus refers to Peter as a rock since he has begun to have a deep understanding into the mysteries of God. And yet in a few verses that same 'Rock' falls flat on his face. The Cross causes Peter, as it does all of us, to stumble and even want to run away.

We talk about people being our cross to bear, or an inconvenience being a cross we have to put up with. But the ideal of bearing our cross goes much deeper for the true disciple of Jesus. In the Incarnation Jesus becomes part of our lives. He shares all things with us, excluding Sin, so that by his suffering, death, and resurrection, we might experience new life. As Jesus is transformed as one like us, when we share in his dying and rising we become transformed to be more like him. That is our participation in the Paschal Mystery.

The late Father Henri Nouwen speaks of our bearing the cross in the world today, in that when we realize the hurt and brokenness of others, responding to their hurt and pain, and bringing them to prayer before the Father, we share in their life. More so, Nouwen would suggest, our understanding and compassion is increased the more we can empathize with others. Those around us really do become our brothers and sisters.

Cross bearers readily live a life that is counter-cultural. Our lives are based on understanding, compassion, mercy, honesty, and forgiveness. Jeremiah is distraught today in that his proclamations of truth and challenge of the covenant have led to him being hunted down. Folks are trying to do injury to him. And yet that is so much what the cross is about. Doing that which is right or good is not always easy, and most of the time very difficult. But the challenge is that we are transformed into an image of holiness and light.

The mission and ministry of Jesus shows us that God does not desire suffering, but rather salvation and peace. Jesus bring healing and wholeness into the lives of the people he encounters. Taking up a cross expands our world-view, and thrusts us into a lifestyle of doing what is right. We are to lift the cross of Christ high, because he is the source of our salvation.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I am in the Midst of Them

This is my bulletin article for the 23rd Sunday.

In our family, As us older ones grew older, we were often put in charge of the young ones. It might have been so mom or dad could go to the store, or to bring them to the park. But we were in charge of them and their well being. If they got into big trouble, they would have to answer to the consequences, but we would also have been admonished. “You should not have let this happen.” We would reply that we had no part in the young ones mischievousness. Mom and dad would reply that we were in charge of them, and should know better than them.

In a post-modern world where we believe so strongly in the individual and individual rights, it is hard to hear the words that we are responsible for one another. This is not simply a matter of providing canned food for the hungry, but the moral integrity and decency of each other as well. Jesus asks us to consider, in Matthew’s Gospel, if our brother or sister sins, we should take them aside and point out their fault to them. Then we bring in witnesses, and even the Church.

Matthew is attempting to keep Christians out of the courts, but most importantly to engage one another in a pattern of correction based in love and charity. St. Paul tells his followers, in another letter, to admonish each other in charity. The sign of a true Christian community is one where love can be demonstrated even in conflicts and disagreements. A sign of Holiness is to seek the truth and to teach and reprove our community with that truth we have received.

We are a church who is an assembly of people gathered to do the work of God. This work brings us together around the table of the Lord and sends us out to renew the face of the earth. The tasks and challenges that face us in the world are awesome, and the obstacles are formidable. The only way we can succeed is by staying together, with Jesus in our midst.

The mission and ministry of Jesus is one of making peace and reconciliation a practical reality. Forgiveness is not forgetting. To forgive, to challenge the brokenness and damage to human dignity, is the beginning of healing and wholeness of the human person. Just as Jesus lifted people up and restored them to their origins, our faith communities must do the same.

More so, when we discover the inadequacies and the failures to live up to the holiness of God, we ought to be courageous in speaking the truth. St James offers us the example of passing by a person in need. James says it is not enough to simply say ‘stay warm and well fed.’ When we discover Sin and confusion, we take responsibility to speak about the virtues we have received, and seek to set things right. Jesus tells us today that we are responsible.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Prophet is also a Verb

The Church and its leaders have been blasted lately in various editorials and on Blogs. As the Church has been re-asserting the importance of marriage and family life, the dignity of human life, and the call to respond to poverty and oppression, it has been told to stay out of all things political. This comes from a misunderstanding of religion and religious life.

Beginning with Matthew 25, people of faith are challenged to respond to the needs and concerns of society. Even the earliest social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church advocate a just wage, safe conditions at one's employment, shelter, respect and dignity. Wherever there has been injustice and the violation or oppression of human life, the Church has stood on its moral teachings calling for the goodness of the human person.

It is in St. James Letter where the apostle proposes the lack of Christian Charity were we to walk by the poor or anawim, and simply wish them well. St. James has reminded us that the Church has an obligation to work against oppression, injustice, immorality, and to respond to human suffering. As I had mentioned before, people are happy with the Church when we quietly dole out soup, and give out blankets. But we are told that we should not question poverty or the pain in peoples lives.

A few years ago a NIU student questioned why no one seems to make a big deal about the regular shooting which occur in Chicago. My inner-sociologist kicked in and I explained how situations like killings, poverty, homelessness, can become a norm. We come to accept terrible things because they are seemingly so much beyond our control.

Part of the Prophetic role of the Church is to look at the violence, hunger, hurt, pain, disregard of human life and dignity, and loudly proclaim the evil therein. Like the elephant in the living room we try not to notice and moreso we would rather not change. It is always easier to disrespect the message and/or the messenger then to be about conversion and discipleship.

We need to continue to pray for our Church to be sure. But it is also good for us to understand the 'what' and the 'why' the Church is teaching as it does. The proclamations of the Church do not seem to make sense when we do not understand the background or foundation of the teachings. The Church continues its role to preach, teach, and sanctify.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Christ, Son of the living God

Saint Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa, describes how we can come to know through grace, yet we still need to study and reflect on the mystery of the Godhead. We have knowledge as much as we are open through the spiritual gifts from God, and as we make an effort to draw more closely to God through our pondering the mystery of our faith. Vatican II, when speaking about the teachings of the Church, maintains that the Church holds a revelation from God the Father, but the Church needs to mull this understanding over and again so as the knowledge of God might be unfolded before it.

Peter's great proclamation of faith is a story which we can readily repeat. It is the foundation of of Peter's leadership and eventually the apostolic tradition from which the Church has depended upon. In its teaching and shepherding, the Church has had to return to Peter's words, and the profession of the early Church fathers so as to adequately respond to the needs and concerns of the Church today. When we profess faith, as a Church, and as individuals, we say something about our own identity as well. More over the ministry, teachings, and life we lead are and can be a much greater indication of what we believe than the words themselves.

When we baptize our children we make a proclamation of faith, we take upon ourselves the responsibility of passing our faith on, and we make a commitment to actively engage in the faith we profess. "Well Father, I haven't killed anybody." That is an answer I receive sometimes when I suggest that we be more proactive in our faith. Throughout the history of the Church, when the Body of Christ forgot that Petrine Profession of Faith, the Church began a rapid downward spiral. Holy men and women stood up in the midst of the Church, and offering a prophetic voice, called the Church back to its origins.

We cannot be shy about professing our faith. Way too often we are more concerned about hurting feelings than about being faithful witnesses of what we believe. Sometimes, and sadly so, because we forget to nurture what we receive, or ponder the mystery of faith, we approach life with a sixth grade religious understanding. We need to develop the courage to return to our spiritual roots to declare that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Such a proclamation informs our intellect and decisions and choices. The Body of Christ does well when it is made strong by the faithful participation in all that has been seen and heard.

When we are asked to profess our faith, it is a good idea to consider the words of St. Peter from today's gospel. He reaches into the depths of his heart to respond to what he has come to know through faith. Jesus commends the fact that his understanding is given him by God. May our words and wisdom also reflect what we have received through God's wisdom.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

St. Bernard was a most holy and zealous priest, as well as teacher, for the monks and people he served. At a time when some of the religious orders had pulled away from the Rule of St. Benedict, Bernard brought reform to the Cistercians. As a preacher he disputed the many heresies which had arisen during his life. A faithful pastor and shepherd, he sought to establish a unity amongst the many factions of the day. He used the mission and ministry of Jesus as his starting point in the various situations which he found himself in. The Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus were more than parts of a theology.

For St. Bernard it was very important for ones life to become a 'sign' of what we believed in. In the society in which Bernard lived, being a monk was a guarantee of food, clothing, and a bed. Bernard rejected what monasteries had become. Even worse was that some places were a great source of income for the Abbot and some of the monks. Bernard believed that these places needed to remain a place of prayer and solitude. More so, the monastery should be a space where men and women kept prayerful vigil awaiting the coming of the Lord.

To be sure his reforms were not all that well received. But the work of faith sometimes has to call us back to our source, our beginnings. At Easter we re-pronounce our baptismal promises. Unfortunately this too can become so rote that we do not pay attention to what we are saying. I is important to mean what we say we believe in. The invitation we have to to get in touch with that child, innocent and full of joy, who was brought to the Baptismal font so many years ago.

This week maybe we could re-read the Apostles Creed. Bless ourselves with holy water and consider why we are genuflecting before the Eucharist. We could have our own little Clairvaux experience and come out the other side renewed.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Pope Benedict XVI challenged the youth of today to avoid the cultural traps and snares which lead nowhere. Benedict spoke very bluntly about substance abuse, promiscuity, and unhealthy lifestyle choices. While he has received much flack for his comments, he has been firm in his challenge to live a virtuous and moral life.

Renew International is engaging the youth in a discussion activity which examines various moral and ethical dilemmas. This 'what would you do' game seeks to teach the young people about the various moral and social teaching of the Church. More so it becomes a starting point for the young people to continue to look at their lives through a moral lens. Sometimes we do not understand that our actions, or in-actions, have consequences beyond ourselves. These activities and workshops hope to help our young people recognize that we are in communion with one another.

Some of our youth went to World Youth Day a few years ago, and came back with a very different understanding of their place in the world, as well as the diversity within the Church. The teaching that Christ died for all men and women began to take on new meaning for these young people. To be sure anytime we can move outside of ourselves into the lives of each other, it is certainly a moment of grace and solidarity.

For the youth, issues like justice, poverty, hunger, and peace, become central as they wander through the Church, seeking understanding and resolution. Sadly many of our youth do not feel part of the Church. Growing up, and as a young priest, I heard the phrase, "The future of our Church," in relation to our youth. In reality they are members of our Church today.

Together we come away with an awareness that Jesus Christ is the source of our salvation and peace. Hopefully the excitement and joy of the youth can help us to understand and to embrace the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Separation of Church and State???

In recent weeks there has been much ado about Governor Kerry offering a prayer before a political meeting, as well as the place religion has in the public sphere. The Blogosphere proclaims religion as being the root cause of what's wrong in the world today. Message boards remind us that religion should not be speaking on such "political" topics such as abortion, poverty, housing, and hunger. If the religious could just offer a prayer and a bowl of soup everything would be okay.

In our post modern culture we have lost any understanding of communal sensibilities and an appreciation of natural law. Even Greek philosophy maintains a basic set of 'rights' or virtues that are foundational to each human person. Both the Magna Carta and the Constitution of the United States recognize the basic dignities we possess, and the responsibility of the State to maintain a common good. More so, the concepts related to justice and peace, while are fundamentally based in a religious motif, are part of many a culture. Values related to life and human dignity are protected by social mores as well as law.

The scripture that we have been hearing at daily mass reminds us what happens when Sin and Evil become acceptable by institutions and governments. Those who are faithful to higher truths and goods are often dismissed or seen simply as a nuisance.

Today because a politician speaks on a particular topic or advocates a particular agenda, it becomes political. Life and death issues and those pertaining to the value of our relationships are first and foremost moral issues. Perhaps it is not a matter of the Church sticking its nose into the political realm, but the state interfering with religious matter.

But what is really important is that we who are religious, living in a social culture, should see to it that we respect life, care for the poor and anawim, provide safety and security for all men and women, and care for the well being of each other. The Church for its part remains prophetic and vigilant in regards to what is right and good.

Our biggest concern is how we might be able o maintain the image and likeness of the creator in which we have been made.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Assumption of the BVM

Our celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, has much to do with the Paschal Mystery, and God's plan of salvation. The Assumption teaches us that Mary is set apart as the Theotokos, or God-bearer, and has a special part in God's plan of salvation and redemption. Because she bore the Word of God made flesh, she was taken into heaven body and soul. Two things to remember, that Mary was not effected by original Sin, and the body is made sacred.

Mary shows herself to be a faithful disciple. She trusts and believes in the Word of God. So much so that she actively participates in the action of salvation. When she hears about Elizabeth's status, she goes to help her. Receiving the Word of God requires faith and trust in God's promise. Possessing the Word of God challenges us to take responsibility for the faith we have received. The love of God and of others is paramount to our faith.

The Magnificat that we hear in Luke's Gospel today is sort of a summation of salvation theology. God continues to intervene in human history to bring about the Kingdom of God. Using simple and broken human instruments God lifts up the lowly and feeds the hungry. Perhaps this is why Mary's soul is so full of joy. Once again God enters our lives to bring us salvation and peace.

This feast is about the communion we have with God through Jesus Christ, and a reminder of God's great faithfulness in our lives. Hopefully like Mary we can be full of joyfulness as we reflect all that God has done for us, and share in becoming true disciples like Mary.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Those dog-gone papists

There was an editorial in the America magazine last week that commented on the "New Americanism" In its review of the history of our nation the editor brought forth the fact that our country was greatly influenced by Puritan ideals. Though one of my summer reading books suggests though we were founded around religious ideals, we were never a Christian nation. Back in the days of Leo XIII the Church was concerned with the American ideas of charity and responsiveness to the poor and anawim. The Church was muted throughout history because many saw the Church as a foreign entity.

Pope Benedict XVI almost seems to be addressing our post modern culture when he speaks about the necessity of solidarity with the poor and the suffering. Our cultural response to those who are in need is to place them in a program, and give money to the enterprise. The Church would ask that we change our relationships with those around us so that those who are poor, widowed, orphaned, addicted, unemployed, or homeless, would find support and encouragement on the local level. The Church's teachings on social justice talk about addressing the root causes of the evil and brokenness that afflicts our society.

The notion of community is difficult for us. We easily put a dollar or two in a jar for hungry children, but we do not want to think about them beyond that. Each year at Lent we do the Rice Bowl, via CRS, as part of our Lenten alms giving. Hopefully the parishioners are actually being aware that that are emptying pocket-change for those in Sudan, or Southeast Asia. Or as they are eating soup and crackers for a 'fast-meal,' they pray for and make mention of the poor and the suffering. Our social justice teachings challenge us to share and to be made aware of the needs and concerns of others.

That awareness and understanding effects our attitudes and even our use of time and money. More so the Eucharistic celebration becomes a reflection of the Bread of Life, and our participation in the Paschal Mystery.

There are today many needy people who require what a government program cannot give - compassion, dignity, and respect for all life. Our Catholic faith needs to fill the gap that these folks so often fall through. We stand together with our brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus Christ. Our Catholic faith is prophetic, and must be a beacon of hope shining in the darkness.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Of Monks and Nuns

Today is the Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin and Religious. A contemporary of Francis of Assisi, she was moved to embrace a life of strict poverty and prayer. Saint Clare is noted for her intensity of prayer, patient suffering, and endurance, as she led the new founded order in a rather secular society. Clare based the spirituality of her order, as well as her own life, upon the ideal of gospel simplicity and following Christ Jesus.

In a letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague, Clare reflects upon the role of being a bride of Christ. "Look into that mirror daily and study well your reflection, that you may adorn yourself, mind and body, with an enveloping garment of every virtue ... most chaste bride of the King on high." I like that imagery. We probably do not make a big enough deal of it, but at baptism we give the newly baptized a garment, a candle and anoint them. These are powerful symbols that point to the fact that we are putting on Christ.

For those of us who went to catholic grade school, we remember that we had to change out our school uniforms after school. Those blue slacks and shirts, or skirts and white blouses for the other gender, communicated to others that we belonged to a catholic school community. In the same way our baptismal garment says that we embrace a particular lifestyle based upon Christ Jesus. So our words and actions are commensurate to that life.

The Monastic communities can teach us a lot of living out our baptismal commitment. Everything from treating each encounter as if we were meeting Christ, to the importance of not allowing anger to build up within us. There is a balanced life which challenges one to be fully human and alive for Christ Jesus. In a noisy and chaotic world quiet and heart-felt reflection give us the strength and courage to meet the challenges of life. Monastics are wonderful stewards whereas stuff does not own us, and our gifts and talents are shared with the community.

Monks and Nuns are some of those stumbling blocks that cause us to pause and consider what is important and what really matters in life. Maybe we do not live in a monastery or convent, but hopefully all that we do is done for the glory of Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Witness Faith

In a recent conversation with Directors of Catholic Social Services, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Bishop of New York, lamented the obstacles that Catholic institutions face today. New Government regulations and recent Court rulings make it more difficult to maintain Dolan reflected that more and more it becomes difficult to offer the traditional ministries of Catholic Charities and Catholic Social Services. In many cases within the past year, Some dioceses have abandoned particular aspects of Social Service, namely those of adoption and foster care.

Archbishop Dolan challenged those involved in this ministry to remain and grow firmer in their Catholic identity. He reminded the directors of these ministries that what they do is a ministry, and not simply social work. To be sure the Catholic Social services offers assistance to all persons, irregardless of their faith, race, or social background. It is imperative that these ministries reflect a Catholic theology and spirituality.

In explaining his challenge, Dolan borrows quite heavily from the Catholic Social teachings. These are the best kept secrets of the Catholic Church. The Church's social teachings reflect the dignity and wholeness of all men and women. Our social services cannot offer or direct persons to resources that might disregard the humanity and sanctity of our lives. Men and women disire and deserve love and respect from conception until natural death. To be sure what Social Service providers in the Church do is a ministry.

Dolan admits that while evangelization and catechesis is a must, it cannot be blatant or even offensive. When the opportunity arises, Dolan suggests, and when a client is ready, it is not unreasonable to share one's faith and the faith of the Church. Overall the mission of any Church ministry is to convey the vision of truth and the Kingdom of God.

Today as we celebrate the Feast of St. Lawrence it is important to recognize how our faithful service can give witness to the name of Jesus. Like Lawrence our Church is called to serve all men and women, especially the poor and anawim, even in the face of adversity. Our true treasure resides in the people of the Kingdom of God, and making known the name of Jesus.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Sound of Silence

This part of Kings, concerning Elijah, is best understood when we go back a bit. Elijah has just challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest to see whose 'god' is the best. The prophets of Baal spend most of the day chanting and dancing and do not cause a reply from Baal. Elijah invokes the name of the Lord God, and the mountaintop is consumed in fire and a flood. The queen Jezebel is not real happy and sends her guards to kill Elijah. So Elijah is taking refuge in this cave, fearing for his life, wishing he had never agreed to be a prophet.

The Apostle Peter is the leader of the Apostles, but so often falls short of the expectations of discipleship. Here we have Peter in the boat and are full of awe as he climbs out onto the water. But the wind and waves are too much for him as he begins to sink. "Lord save me."

To be sure in the midst of Sin and confusion we can wonder why God is not hearing our voice. Sure the mountain is engulfed in fire for Elijah, but then he has people chasing him with sharp instruments. He probably thought propheting would be a lot easier. But then we recognize that Jesus speaks to us in quiet and simple ways. Bread, wine, a word, or a touch. Even his Crucifixion was most likely unnoticed by most people on that Good Friday.

The real challenge as we are taken by the storms of life is to remain focused in faith. It is too easy to wander away looking for easy fixes and simple solutions. Sin and sinfulness can so easily distract us that we do not always recognize that Jesus is standing before us inviting us to come to him. As disciples in the boat we need to be real attentive as he calms us, "Have courage, do not be afraid, it is I."

Saturday, August 6, 2011


In the orthodox churches there is a large screen that is placed at the front of the sanctuary. This wall of icons, or Iconoclasis, distinguishes the sanctuary from the nave of the church. There are certain Icons that must be included on this wall, in a particular order. The priest and deacon enter the sanctuary from the right, and leave on the left side. The liturgical rites are not seen by the congregation, but throughout what would be the Eucharistic Prayer, the deacon comes to the entrance of the sanctuary and leads the people in chants and song.

The feast we celebrate today is that of the privilege which the Apostles, and we the hearers of the Gospel, have in seeing Jesus in his glory. Jesus is not simply a doer of good works, or an articulate speaker, he is the Son of God who shows us the way to the Kingdom. Towards the end of this Gospel people wander away from Jesus as he expresses the demands of discipleship. In John's Gospel we begin to witness the hostility towards Jesus because of his teachings and actions. These folks have not allowed Jesus to lead them through the "portal" into the vision of the Kingdom.

The Transfiguration calls to mind for us the fact that God has a plan. The prophets and all of the holy men and women call upon us to be true to the covenant and to live a worthy life of conversion and discipleship. Remember several weeks ago whereas we heard Jesus remind his followers that some would call out his name, to which he would respond that he does not recognize them.

The challenge of that our faith conveys is a certain depth and intensity in regards to our relationship with Christ. Christianity is a climbing the mountain experience, not a stroll through the park. One has to wonder how often that vision was discussed by Peter, James, and John. And in their ministry after the death and resurrection how it might have become that source of strength and confidence.

Today's feast gives us a momentary glimpse into the everlasting banquet, beyond the screen. It reminds us in a most powerful way of our ultimate life with God; challenging us to live as God's holy people.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Taking up the Cross

We hear this admonishment often in our spiritual and religious lives. It seems that this is a common theme to preach; we must take up our cross. We like to think that if we "do things," then we will move forward into heaven. The misunderstanding that comes about here is that we move into a point system mentality in which we are barely conscious of counting the cost, in order o gain God's favor. It becomes sort of like, 'I shared a cookie with a coworker, smiled at the nasty woman at the front desk, and waved someone in front of me in traffic - 248 points.'

Martin Luther would suggest that we look not so much at what we do, but what God did for us. God has resolved our salvation problem through the Incarnation. Jesus Christ comes into our lives very much like us; except the Sin. In that marvelous Philippians hymn, Paul states that Jesus emptied himself of heavenly glory to take on our human nature.

'Doing' charitable works is important to be sure. Such actions might lead us to discover where we need to become emptied. The real hard work of the cross is to rid ourselves of pride, anger, jealousy, self-importance, and the like. These vices are more difficult than the garden variety of sinfulness that can often plague us. Jesus embraces his human nature and brings it to the cross. We want to make sure that our religious life is not a pretense or a front in hopes of finding favor with God and others.

There is that phrase from the sixties or seventies, "I am number three." God is first, others are second, and I am number three." It is harder than it looks. Back in Fulton we had an ecumenical stations of the cross on Good Friday. The Methodist pastor carried the cross one year. This was two 4x4s, about five and one half feet tall, and four feet across. At the end of the service he commented that it is harder than it looks. How true that is for all of us.

We begin each Mass by praying, "I Confess to Almighty God ..." This is a good daily prayer to recognize our masks or attitudes that distract us from our Holy enterprise. May what God has begun in us be brought to completion.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney

Saint John Vianney was born on 8 May, 1786, shortly before the French Revolution. A patron of parish priests, John Vianney's life was affected in one way or another by the political climate of the time. Being a faithful priest was a very difficult prospect in the culture at the time, and in the spiritual sense. Perhaps earlier than we might imagine, France was undergoing a secular transformation in the latter part of the 18th century.

John Vianney was not a scholar but a wise and loving pastor. He was known best for his simple lifestyle, practical wisdom, charity, and spiritual guidance. He was sent to the town of Ars which was both challenging and needy. His life there eventually brought about a spiritual renewal. People would flock to Ars for spiritual direction by this wise and loving man.

Moses the 'pastor' has had to struggle to maintain faithfulness amongst the people he shepherds. Often Moses engages God with the various grips and complaints he receives from these chosen people. At times Moses wants to run away, and at other times Moses is filled with anger. Mostly though Moses loves the people he serves. And this is important.

I was at the investiture of a Monsignor over the weekend, an older man who has been a priest for nearly 50 years, and was surrounded by people and priests who have been loved by this man. His faithfulness to the priesthood, and the love of the people he served, is the single characteristic which stands out about him. Now we are not talking about the 'kissy-face' butterflies and rainbows love. His is a love of compassion and kindness. Truly a shepherd he would challenge when it was necessary to do so, and always affirming others dignity and goodness. A very good priest.

On this memorial we are reminded that priests are other Christs' in the world, unfolding the Kingdom of God by teaching, preaching, and sanctifying. Over the years I have become more aware of what the title 'Father' really implies. The Gospels help us focus on the fact that even Jesus went to speak with God the Father in the midst of doing mission and ministry. St. John Vianney, and now the good monsignor, as well as countless priests have served as models of priesthood, and most importantly an occasion of Christ, for the Church.

All for the glory of God.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Saint Eusebius

Saint Eusebius is little known saint, who lived during the Third Century. A bishop and martyr, he experienced death because he defended the teachings of Saint Athanasius, another bishop/martyr. During the early Church it was a difficult task to remain true to the teachings of the Church, and of course to sacred scripture. Living a virtuous life in a secular and pagan society was grounds for scorn, ridicule, and even death in some cases. Of course today one's name is mis-spoken and blasphemed on talk shows and on the Internet.

Just as it was in the early Church it is absolutely essential that we are connected to what is true and good. Today's readings include an admonition that when we engage in wrongful actions, allow fear and anxiety to hobble us, to seek our own cause as opposed to that of God, then our lives begin to break apart. Sin and confusion can lead us quite easily from what we ought to be as God's holy people.

I guess I should not be amazed, but it is overwhelming to read on message boards and the like the various misunderstandings of the Church specifically, and Christianity in general. As I have mentioned before, when movies and television portray priests and women religious, they show a vesture worn long before the late sixties. Their depth of knowledge is lacking any meaningful or credible understanding of the teachings of Christ, and his Church.

We experience healing and peace when we are connected to the grace and blessings that our God offers us through Jesus Christ. Conversion and discipleship is an ongoing process by which we continue to pronounce our faith, and seek healing and reconciliation where it is needed. What is the one line of that song, 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.' It really is an ongoing struggle and time of seeking. We want to find peace and solace, and the kingdom, rather than meanness and a hardened heart.

We stand firm in the faith in which we have been planted. We cannot shy away from the cross because that is where we will find healing and new life.