Monday, October 29, 2007

Talkin' 'bout Revolution

"A true revolution can take place only by radically turning to God without reserve; he alone is the measure of all that is just, while at the same time existing as love eternal. And what could possibly save us if not love?"
Pope Benedict XVI, World Youth Day, Cologne, Germany, 2005

Full text here.

Friday, October 26, 2007

We are orphans no longer

Today is the 1st Anniversary of His Excellency Bishop Paul J. Swain. Upon receiving the news, an older priest of our diocese, near death and confined to his bed, said: "We are orphans no longer."

I found a quote from an Italian Cardinal and thought it would be a good prayer for Bishop Swain.

May Bishop Paul, successor to the Apostles, 8th bishop of Sioux Falls live out this high priestly vocation "with the warmth and the certainty of the faith, the concreteness of projects and initiatives, the capacity to respond to the issues of the time, not with surrender and accommodation, but by drawing upon the unalienable patrimony of the faith."

Amen.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Vision of Marriage

On Thursday I went to a workshop in Sioux Falls by our diocesan Marriage Tribunal. Wonderful. Never thought I'd say that about a 6 hour (total) drive and 5 hours of conferences, but they were wonderful. I really feel confident and hopeful about helping individuals in this regard.

What is a Marriage Tribunal you might ask? Sounds rather ominous, no? Maybe from a futuristic dystopia by Ray Bradbury?

As Catholics, we view marriage as a precious gift from our Lord and as a permanent endeavor for husband and wife. This permanence is reflected in marriage vows: "I Bob take you Judy to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, I will love you and honor you all the days of my life."

At its heart, Catholic marriage is the grace filled choice of husband and wife for each other. We respect your choice, your promise. We assume that the couple is true to their promise. But we are aware that sometimes, something goes awry.

The American legal answer is divorce. As the word suggests, divorce is the breaking, the division of something. In this case, a marriage. The marriage was real, the marriage was there, but now we give up on those promises. The Catholic response, in union with this vision is an annulment. An annulment means to recognize as null, non-existent, that the real thing was never really and fully there.

An annulled marriage might have lived out some of the particulars or parts of a good marriage. There might be children, their might have been a beautiful wedding, but in some small, or even large, way the marriage wasn't real. We often describe it as simulated. Children play doctor, house, or war, but it really isn't present. Some couples play at marriage.

It is the Marriage Tribunal who gathers facts, investigates, and judges this.

Why?

Because you can't marry two people at once. If you promised (and really did promise) "all the days of my life," and you're still breathing, then you are still in that promise. We take you seriously.

And because we don't want you to make the same mistakes. Why?

Because we love you!

Maybe more thoughts later.

If curious for more visit these resources:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What was that?

Individualism: noun, the habit or principle of being independent and self-reliant.

This habit underlies the way most of us look at the world (my own self frequently included). This habit or habitual mental posture, makes inspiring discipleship to be quite difficult. Of course discipleship is simply to be a student, a follower of someone or something else. Christian disciples are supposed to be followers of Christ. Yet we all want to create our own conditions for discipleship.

To quote Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge:
That was the sound of the AK-47 assault rifle. The preferred weapon of your enemy. It makes a very distinctive sound.
I think I'm finding the main weapon of our enemy (you may remember him as the Father of all Lies.). Now we need to work on the counter. More to follow.

Apologies for the Clint Eastwood thing- it was on at lunch!

As Promised: My Brother.

First Things, November Issue, Page 76- bottom right snippet of While we're at it. The section refers to a New England Journal of Medicine article The Intimidation of American Abortion Physicians. First Things had covered this earlier and so my brother responded. Here it is:
A reader writes: "I was surprised at the notion that physicians who support abortion are intimidated. As a young physician who is pro-life, I know about intimidation. We carry our convictions quietly within the established medical community. Biding our time, we wait to act or speak out when necessary to protect unborn life."

Alright brother! Get down with your articulate self!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My brother is in First Things!

Thats right! My brother is an unnamed quote in an informal "shoot from the hip" section of a religiously conservative magazine! WooHoo!

I'm trying to find the quote (I let my subscription lapse) and will post it shortly.

As Seen on TV

Each Most Some mornings I wake up early and hit the local YMCA before 6 to run or walk, getting my daily exercise. I'm usually locked into my iPod and then finding a treadmill in front of a TV with ESPN. News channels bother me, CNN, Fox, don't like 'em.

Yesterday, no ESPN, so I'm watching Headline news. I see a story about couple from Nebraska who get married in a "Cornhusker" themed wedding. My first observation was to how slow a news day Monday must be for this to be Headline news. Secondly, the details on this are fantastic (puns aside). They had a "tunnel walk" into their backyard- just like a team lining up in a tunnel to run onto the field. Their children (previous marriages) wore jerseys and cheerleading outfits. Guests touched a ceremonial red horseshoe upon entering. I'm surprised they didn't find Tom Osborne to officiate.

I'm just glad they didn't ask me...

See photos here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

St. Thomas Aquinas is smart...

That might not be news to some, that the Angelic Doctor is smart. I seem to be using his thought quite a bit lately and am finding it quite enlightening and accessible. Or at least more so than when I was required to read him.

Busy weekend, Fr. Joe is at National Guards, I have 4 Masses, 2 presentations, 2 funeral preparations and 1 Baptism. Maybe some intelligent thought tonight, if I hibernate with success this afternoon. The weather is promising for that- but the NASCAR race was last night, so I don't know what will soothe to slumber while on the couch.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Life Comes First

Thanks to the Drudge Report, I noticed that there is a new movie out attempting to cover the American debate over Abortion. The filmmaker, Tony Kaye, calls the movie Lake of Fire and you can find a newservice article here.

Of note, the filmmaker records an abortion. Horrifying is the word that comes to mind. Interestingly, Kaye claims this is the only recording of an actual abortion. Apparently he has never heard of Silent Scream, a 1984 ultrasound recording of an abortion. You can find a website here. Generally, abortion technicians (I hesitate to call them doctors) are reluctant to record their sad act.

In the article, Kaye claims: "You're not going to get the answers from holy texts. You're not going to the answers from biologists," he says. "These are matters of human concern. There are conflicting values and taken in isolation each of these values is quite legitimate," he adds. "Choice is legitimate, preserving life is legitimate."

This is a clear example of what we call Relativism. Relativism is the (largely) contemporary notion that you cannot find real answers, real truth that applies to all peoples. By calling abortion a "human concern," he claims there is no real answer to abortion. I would disagree with Mr. Kaye.

He is right to say that both choice and preservation of life are legitimate. All human beings are free to choose their own path, all human beings have a right to life. He is wrong to suggest that they are equal and so making abortion an unsolvable mystery. These "conflicting values" cannot be "taken in isolation." Life is not taken in isolation, life is interwoven and real. So life trumps decision. Without life, we are not free to decide, to choose, to determine anything. Life comes first.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Homily, 27th Sunday C

Why do the Apostles cry out? Why are the Apostles praying: "Lord, increase our faith."

This is an odd way to start our Sunday Gospel, so we need to remember what caused the Apostles to pray with such urgency. Our Sunday Gospels have lately come from a section of Luke's Gospel about Jesus great journey to Jerusalem. Jesus deliberately sets off towards the place where He will suffer crucificxtion and death and then rise to life on the third day.

As Jesus goes on His way, we encounter some of the richest stories of Luke's Gospel. The rich man and Lazarus from last Sunday, the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, these are the most famous stories Jesus told. Throughout these stories and miracles the Apostles have not only seen the love of Jesus, they've seen the sadness of the human condition.

Separation, distress, greed, estrangement, and death. These are the wages of sin. These are the greatest challenges we encounter. In the face of these challenges, the Apostles cry: "Lord, increase our faith!"

The prophet Habakuk, in our first reading, experiences the same sad condition of our race. "O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and thou wilt not hear? Or cry to thee 'Violence!' and thou wilt not save? Why dost thou make me see wrongs and look upon trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise." The prophet cries out from the depths of his heart, looking for the Lord's answer.

The Apostles have met the Lord's answer: Jesus the Christ. They beg for a greater trust in Him.

This Gospel is appropriate for today as we observe Respect Life Sunday throughout the United States. All around us we are confronted by the sad situation of sin and death. Our culture looks at the troubles, the difficulties of life and sees no solution but death. Our culture has lost hope in the face of difficulty. Our culture is a culture of death.

Consider the unexpectedly pregnant mother, overwhelmed by the prospect of raising a new life without assistance, when she chooses abortion she chooses death. She says that this life inside her and her own life have no hope but death.

Consider the forgotten man living in a nursing home, overwhelmed by the emptiness of his days, his strong hands now idle. He thinks that the world wants him dead and so he might as well accede. He believes that his life is useless, that he is already dead, he believes he has no hope.

Consider those who lost a loved one to violent crime, the absence of their son, their daughter is gapping, they see no easing, no relief, no peace except in the death of the murderer. They see no hope in life: theirs or the murderers, death seems like the only option.

In the face of these challenges we need to pray like the Apostles: "Lord, increase our faith." Notice that the Apostles do not pray only for themselves but for everyone. "Our faith." Not simply "my faith," but everyones, especially those who are overwhelmed by sin and death in our world. We need to pray and support those who feel that life offers not hope. We need to pray and support those who see life as burdensome: whether it is infant life, elderly life, or criminal life.

As we kneel and pray at this Eucharist, as we receive our Lord's Body and Blood, let our prayer be the Apostle's prayer. Not simply for ourselves but the whole world: "Lord, increase our faith."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Stand up, sit down...

An interesting and approachable article on unity of posture at Mass by the Bishop of Patterson, New Jersey, His Excellency Arthur J. Seratelli. Click here to read the full article.

Reader's Digest version:

You thought I'd include snippets? It is quite short and easy to read, so click on the link! For your own good and the good of all the world.

Recipe: Humble Pie

Monday I met up with some priest friends for some fraternity and encouragement. We went out to the little 9-hole golf course for a morning round. It was hardly surprising that the discussion turned to humility as we all struggled on the course. One priest joked "I ordered humble pie from my waitress so she grabbed a slice and spat in it." What is humble pie? What is humility?

Is humility merely lowliness? Is humility to eat dirt or wear rags? Is that simply holiness?

In a flash of inspiration, I went to St. Thomas Aquinas and the Summa Theologica to look at humility, specifically Question 161 on humility. The Summa can be a bit confusing for novice users, but I think I have a good handle on the Angelic Doctor's views.

  1. Humility is related to Temperance (not like Prohibition). Temperance is the "restraint or suppression of a passion," to eat less, to sleep less, to temper your excitement over Monday Night Football. You can be tempered by external forces (a bad football game) or by internal forces (desire to honor your wife by watching less football and talking more).
  2. Humility is the suppression of "the movement of hope, which is the movement of a spirit aiming at great things." Now why would we suppress hope? Lets flesh that out: humility is when a "man restrain himself from being borne towards that which is above him." Furthermore, humility resides in the cognitive faculty (the brain) in that "we should not deem ourselves to be above what we are."
  3. The inward disposition of humility is then outwardly displayed by signs, words, and deeds.
So is humility simply a matter of eating dirt? Mud pie? Humble Pie? No. Humility is first an inward attitude, tempering your desires, your self-assessment and your goals to at least be in accord with your capabilities. That assessment of your capabilities occurs in relation to earthly superiors (boss, parents, coach, etc.) and your heavenly superior (aka your heavenly Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit). Ultimately, the Father is the one who supplies the context, the framework for a life of humility.

Jesus lived perfect humility. Walking on water, multiplying loaves and fishes, carpentry work and Good Friday suffering are all in accord with His identity in relation to the Father. The beginnings of humility is the identification of one's strengths and weaknesses and presenting them to the Father through Jesus by the Light of the Spirit. Then we can adjust our desires, our hopes to be in accord with the gifts we have been given.

In example, my desire to shoot par on every hole is not in accord with my gifts as a golfer. When I don't, I would get frustrated, upset, and angry. Now I desire to shoot 2 over par. I am much more at peace now. Golf is good! My desires are in accord with my gifts.

We can deepen our humility by voluntarily making ourselves smaller than our gifts. We can set aside a gift, an accolade, a comfort that we deserve to temper our expectations and self-opinion. Thus we can grow in humility.

So how do we make a humble pie? Simple ingredients, not trying to do too much, acknowledging the good things you have to use. Humble pie.