Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday Viewing

In case you have a "case of the Mondays" I found some interesting articles to break up your day:

From the blog Whispers in the Loggia a couple different articles:

  • Whispers links to a great reminder on sin from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' Newspaper, The Tidings.
  • Whispers also has Pope Benedict's Sunday Angelus address where he says that the narrowness of the door to heaven is not privilege but selflessness. Read Whispers' text here. The full text of the Pope's Sunday message can be found here.

An article on abstinence education on the blog: Major Autem His Est Caritas (the name means: the greatest of these is love from 1 Cor. 13:13). The article is in response to a British Journal of Medicine research paper on abstinence is cuts through some things to the heart of what is at issue. Read it here.

Now I'm off to my day off. Maybe golf or a book...hmm....

Sunday, August 26, 2007


I see that I'm getting some good visits. I suspect that family and friends might be new to the world of blogs. Please take advantage of the "comments" link at the end of each post. Through comments you can ask a follow up question, add something that I missed or even disagree!

Though I don't know why anyone would disagree with me.

I try to keep track of comments and respond if you ask something, etc.

Between this, writing out the homily post, and some phone calls, it looks like I will neglect running today.

Homily 21st Sunday C

If I recall correctly, I first noticed this when I was 10 years old. It still happens today and it doesn't matter whether you are young or old, simple or smart- it happens to all of us. It is so subtle that I wouldn't have noticed if my dad hadn't said anything.

Every time I or my brother, or anyone of us sits down in front of a TV we look like this: [blank stare]. I'm sure you all recognize this reaction, whether from your own life or your friends and children. Well, I never recognized this until one day, my brother and I were [extended blank stare] with the TV. Dad came in and, neither loudly nor softly but normally, said "John, do you want $5?" John replied [blank stare]. Dad had a great laugh and told us what he had done.

A few weeks later as John and I were [blank stare] with the TV, Dad came in and, neither loudly nor softly but normally, said "John do you want $5?" John replied, "Yes!" Sadly, I never heard Dad make that offer to me.

That story came to me as I reflected on how I was struck by today's Gospel.
"you will begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us.' He will answer you. 'I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.' But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you come from.'"

I thought, don't I celebrate Mass daily, I eat the Body of Christ, I drink His Precious Blood, I hear His teaching in Scripture. What will He say to me? Am I partaking of this Mass, these Sacred Mysteries as an attentive, eager priest, or [blank stare] no different than TV or other things in life?

How do we participate in Mass? We, not simply you faithful people, but you and I: we. Thankfully, I came across a great saying that helped me focus myself for Mass. It is in Pope Benedict XVI's new book: Jesus of Nazareth. It is in Latin and I worked hard to remember it, so listen to it in Latin before I give you the translation. Mens nostra concordet voci nostrae. Again. Mens nostra concordet voci nostrae.

For those of you that aren't Latinists- "Our minds must be in accord with our voices." "Our minds must be in accord with our voices." Mens- minds, nostra- our, concordet- must agree, must be in accord, voci- voices. Mens nostra concordet voci nostrae, "our minds must be in accord with our voices."

Each Mass we say many words: peace be with you, our Father, we believe in one God, glory to God in the highest- and many others. Are our minds in agreement, in accord with our voices or are our minds [blank stare]? Let us take this and every Mass as an opportunity to grow in greater agreement with the words we speak and profess to believe. Mens nostra concordet voci nostrae.

If we live mens nostra concordet voci nostrae then at the end of our life, our Lord will say: "Welcome dear friends, enter the Kingdom of My Father, for you ate with Me and drank with Me and heard My voice."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mother Teresa Follow Up

I saw these comments at another blog: Vox Nova, and thought they were interesting. They speak to the notion of Christian Hope enduring in Mother Teresa even during her dryness of faith.
"While the secular press and even the writings of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta might indeed indicate some periods of doubt and disbelief on her part, the real truth of the matter is this: Teresa of Calcutta endured in her faith and offered people throughout the world the hope of Jesus Christ, despite a world of shattered peace and broken promises. She did this her entire life, it wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t always pleasant. It wasn’t always rewarding. However she never strayed from the message, the mission or the task. That’s why we hope and pray for her inclusion among the company of Saints. Even though she had reservations and doubts, she never stopped proclaiming her belief in the endless love of God’s infinite mercy.

We really need to recall not her doubts and spiritual pitfalls, but her legacy of success that will ultimately rank her among God’s saints."
Though I still believe that her doubt has merit for our own growth in faith.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Time Magazine and Mother Teresa

In this week's Time Magazine, they have an extensive review of Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, a collection of Mother's writings throughout her life. You can find the Time Magazine article in full at this link.

Some of you may be aware that Mother Teresa's life wasn't all champaign wishes and caviar dreams. We know that she lived a life of self-less service to the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India. Most of us assume that she lived this heroic life of service while she resided on cloud-9. Behind her wrinkled and smiling eyes we imagine her having warm and comfortable spiritual messages with Jesus. Perhaps we even excuse her example away with those notions. "I don't receive such unique and special blessings, I can't imitate her discipleship of Jesus."

Well there goes my excuse. As her personal correspondence has been released, we have received a very challenging image of Mother Teresa. While she did receive special, personal revelation, she didn't "float around on cloud-9." Mother Teresa lived almost 50 years in spiritual darkness. A Dark Night of the Soul.

This information first came out surrounding her Beatification in 2003. There is a fine article on the topic from the journal First Things which can be found here. So don't let anyone say the Church covered up Mother Teresa's struggles.

On to Time Magazine. I was interested to see how Time portrayed her life. I was first alarmed by such words and phrases as "self-contradiction" and "spiritual counterpoint." Not surprisingly, the author tries to through this into the new atheism debate of Hitchens and Dawkins. But, the article does not make Come Be My Light an opportunity for the triumph of atheism, it actually seems pretty fair- though somewhat disbelieving of the Catholic position.

To the undiscerning, some of Mother's writings might seem scandalous. But the Church sees in them no shame. Time opens up with this quote: "Jesus has a very special love for you. [But] as for me-- The silence and the emptiness is so great- that I look and do not see, - Listen but do not hear." M.T. to her spiritual director.

In fact, the atheist promoter Hitchens argues that Mother Teresa resided in cognitive dissonance- that she was in denial. Yet no account is offered for the joy that radiated from the woman. Hitchens will never discuss these aspects because joy, peace, the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the soul of a living saint, these are not explainable in his vision. There were no public cracks in Mother Teresa, she even found joy in her darkness, as the article explains. Not so cut and dry, Mr. Hitchins.

What can we ultimately learn from Mother Teresa? Faith is not simply a matter of feeling.

Part of the culture that we live in is a tendency to elevate feeling and emotion over everything else. "Obey your thirst," "Do what you feel," yet life must be more than feeling. We don't disregard feelings but we integrate them with all parts of our life. If Mother Teresa limited her life to feeling and emotion, she might have abandoned her beautiful mission for the poorest of the poor.

Instead Mother Teresa weighed her feelings and emotions against the evidence of her years of prayer in which she experienced the God of Jesus Christ and her conviction of faith in Jesus' promises. In this, she chose Jesus Christ. Mother Teresa exhibited heroic faith, hope and love in the face of dark challenges to despair. Mother Teresa desires us to follow her own example of radical and total devotion to Jesus, especially in His distressing disguise of the poor. With our lives of comfort, dare I say complacency, Mother Teresa is an even more powerful witness to the joy of choosing Jesus in our own difficulty.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dairy Visions

I think my greatest fear in life is to become lactose intolerant. Except for occasional brushes with arachnids, the loss of milk, ice cream, yogurt, and palatable delectable melt-in-your-mouth cheese would be life shaking.

With that in mind, it takes an awful lot for me to dislike a cheese product. Such as Cheez-It crackers. I love the original. Baked cheesy goodness, a bit greasy, a bit stomach turning (after half of a box while watching Notre Dame football), but capturing the essence of baked cheese.

So when I saw Cheez-It Crisps on sale, I thought "Hey, this looks like it would be a Cheez-It, only crispier, lighter, more "Better Cheddar"...y, but cheaper!" Boy was I disappointed and crushed.

So consider this a warning to all you cheese lovers.

Caveat Emptor!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Why I seem stubborn

I may not seem that way to you. You might think I'm easy going. But you would be wrong. I can be very stubborn. Or so some brides believe.

I'm not big on changing things in the Mass, the public prayer of the Church. "Maybe we could do that differently?" I most often get questions like that at weddings. Brides will see somethings in movies or at a friend's church- even another Catholic one- and will ask if I can do the same. One couple recently asked me if I would use a different translation of the Sacred Scripture for their wedding. Sorry.

I am not trying to be difficult. Nor am I underestimating my own intelligence and sensitivity. I would rather trust what the Church has given me than strike out on my own.

While (slowly) reading Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth I spotted a great expression of the position I try to take on these matters.

In his discussion on the Our Father, Pope Benedict cites one of his namesakes- St. Benedict, founder of the Benedictine Order. From the Rule of Benedict Pope Benedict quotes: mens nostra concordet voci nostrae translated our mind must be in accord with our voice.

Both Benedicts, the pope and the saint, are talking about the unique posture of the Christian at prayer. Usually, in human experience, our thoughts come first and then we search for words to express ourselves. The Christian at prayer is given words- primarily in Jesus' own prayer, the Our Father- to which we strive to conform our minds. Forgiveness of sins, desiring the Father's will, and relying on the Father's providence are all petitions in the Our Father with which we strive with to be in accord. This is the heart of our active and actual participation in the Sunday Mass- to bring our thoughts, feelings, and desires in agreement with the words we pray.

As a Catholic I believe that Jesus has entrusted us with prayers, Sacred Scripture, and the celebration of the Eucharist (the Mass). He entrusted these to us through His Church. I want to trust Him and I want to trust the Church. I want to give my own mind over to the mind behind those prayers. I desire that, through the living out of my Catholic faith, my mind might be in accord with my voice.

So when I say "I forgive you," "Peace be with you," and "I am sorry," I want to mean it. I know myself, I know that I want to hide from challenges, so I am wary that if I change one thing in the Mass, there is no telling what I'll change, what I'll hide from next. Jesus and His Church are the ones we strive to be accord with, not the other way around.

Mens nostra concordet voci nostrae

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Freedom of Conscience?

Last week was the 125th International Gathering of the Knights of Columbus. Who knew they were so big in Poland and the Philippines, eh? My pastor, Fr. Joe, was there in his capacity as State Chaplain. Receiving slightly more press was Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State.

Cardinal Bertone is a career non-diplomat, like Pope Benedict, and is building a reputation for off-the-cuff remarks in conferences and interviews that are refreshing in their lack of political language. While political nuance is a necessary aspect of our world, straight talk is always welcome. At least by this Parochial Vicar.

In a characteristically free interview, Cardinal Bertone makes this explosive observation:

"I’d like to underline one particular thing, especially here in the United States where the freedom of conscience is a major issue. On the basis of the Catholic identity, the man who is in public office or the man who is a politican, I can’t understand how a party whether it be an American party or an Italian party, how a particular political party can impose an ethical choice on the member of that particular political party...
It’s exactly based on the question of this freedom of conscience that a party cannot impose a particular choice on an individual. I find this a great contradiction here in the United States but also in other places as well that these ideas can be imposed by a particular party."

The imposition of the particular party. Notice that this is not a partisan statement, but an evaluation. It seems to be an increasing difficulty for individual variance within the political system. My own father spent a long afternoon in June of 2006 arguing at a state political convention. What was he arguing for you ask? Freedom of Conscience by the individual candidate on a state-wide initiative that same election.

Cardinal Bertone is deriding a political process that makes its representatives repress their views as contradictory. You are free to express anything you want, just so it doesn't effect the party's chances. How does that sit with your American free spirit? Not to well, huh? Is there no freedom on certain issues? Is there no room for individual expressions of the same general vision of one party? I'd like to think that American ideals would allow for such expressions.

From a Catholic Vision, Cardinal Bertone's comments also touch a key point of Pope Benedict's expression of the Catholic faith. The truth of the revelation of Jesus Christ will always win in a fair public consideration. We Catholics have a duty to know and so propose this truth. Human governments must protect the process that allows free and sensible expression. Perhaps that is at risk here?

Homily, 19th Sunday C

It is great to be back home to St. Mary's after my vacation. I had a wonderful vacation with my family. I saw family in St. Paul and St. Louis and then witnessed the Sacrament of Marriage for some good friends in Memphis, TN. A beautiful time but it is good to be back. We are awfully close to the school year now, only 11 days away. We all start preparing, getting our backpacks, binders, pens, pencils, crayons, and calculators ready. We know that it is coming, we know that on August 23rd, Roncalli Catholic schools will be full and busy again. But what of the unexpected? The unknown in the midst of the familiar, the "normal."

The unknown can be the most exciting and informing of places. On my trip back from Memphis I entered the unknown, the unexpected.

I don't consider myself a world traveler, but I have flown quite a few times. As I've flown, I've listened less and less to the pre-flight instructions. I apologize to any flight attendants who are with us. But once you've learned about seat belts and oxygen masks and flotation devices and exits behind you, you pretty much know it all. Or so I thought.

Somewhere amongst turning off my cell phone, getting out my iPod, and opening my book, I heard: "In case of an emergency evacuation, leave all carry-on luggage behind."

"What!? But this is my STUFF, I need this STUFF. Maybe I'll just grab my backpack, it should fit snug and I can still run, right? I mean, come on, I ran with a backpack all the time in grade school, I can make it off of this plane. Silly flight regulations. They obvious don't understand how much I need this STUFF." Though I didn't say that out loud, I felt rather justified in my stance.

Then I read this week's Gospel as I prepared for this homily. Flight safety zipped right out of my head.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

Oh boy. That hit right in the gut. Not so much in the stomach, but inside where my pride and self image reside. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

Look at all of you here at this Mass. You show your heart by being here, with Jesus in the Eucharist. Such a beautiful August day, you could be at Wiley Park or the water park, or golfing- but you are here, you chose to be here at Mass. What a gift! What a witness to your treasure, your love for Jesus.

As we try to witness to Jesus, our treasure, we sometimes make mistakes. We sometimes don't treasure Him as we know we should. So what do we do when we fail to treasure Jesus? Do we just shrug and keep going? Do we keep on ignoring our treasure? Jesus gives us a warning against ignoring our treasure, against trudging on in our mistakes. "You must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

Just as much as the start of school is expected, consistent, the return of Jesus will be unexpected. Whether we meet Our Lord in the Final Judgment, our individual death, or in moments of conversion- "the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." So we live our lives in anticipation of our Lord's return, focused on Him who we profess to be our treasure.

Let us pray at this Mass for ourselves and for our loved ones, that they may focus their vision on Jesus- the only true and lasting treasure- and so hear Him cry out in joy: "Well done, my good and faithful servant! Receive your Master's reward."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Back from Vacation...

Vacation was very satisfying and invigorating, especially witnessing the marriage of two good friends. The ribs at Rendezvous Ribs in Memphis were kickin'! The waiters at Rendezvous are famously rude- they sometimes simply bring you ribs without even asking. Though, having had the ribs, that rudeness is really kindness.

My niece in St. Louis was adorable as always. She is growing up and is the big sister now, as my brother and his wife are expecting their long awaited second. I had Ted Drewes custard and Gus's Pretzels (the Italian Sausage stuffed ones are superb!) but my only regret is that Grant's Farm wasn't open so my niece could show me the Clydesdale Stables.

Back to the vineyard of St. Mary's!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

I'm down in St. Louis and Memphis for a visit to my brother's new digs and a wedding. Very exciting, especially after a busy couple of weeks in Aberdeen (though no work on St. Mary's website yet).

Tonight, my brother, his wife and I were talking and it was late. My brother wanted to make a sandwich for work tomorrow.

Problem. No more peanut butter.

Solution. His wife and I head out to Schnucks (ahh...southern names!).

As we head out, I'm thinking: "10pm, clerics, traveling with a woman...prudent? Too tired to change, lets go!"

We get the peanut butter and some apples for my drive to Memphis. As we leave Schnucks, an employee comes up to me: "Excuse me, are you some kind of minister or something?" It turns out "A" is in serious marital trouble. We talked a bit and "A" seemed genuine and contrite. He knew that he hadn't been a good husband to "R" but didn't want to loose her. It was actually very moving.

Thank you Lord Jesus, Divine Physician, for the gift of encountering "A"'s earnest desire for you within my priesthood. Thank you Jesus, Great High Priest, for an envigorating and rejuvinating beginning to my vacation.