Monday, May 12, 2008

Bishop Swain's Joy

25 Years ago, Bishop Paul Swain was received into the Catholic Church. He honors this occasion by a pastoral letter, sharing those distinctively Catholic gifts that he has received these past years. Nothing fancy, but a shepherd simply speaking about his faith in Jesus Christ living through his Church, the Church, the Catholic Church.

Read it here. [pdf alert, sorry!]

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Not News

Blogging will be light-sporadic* over the coming week. I am going to Chicago to begin a three year venture in Spiritual Direction training. [I won't be there three years, simply three weeks a year for three years- just click the link if you're really curious] Then I'll be heading off to a friends ordination- good times!

* As opposed to?


Local Catholic institution, Presentation College, uninvited their commencement speaker one day before the ceremony. Bishop Swain, present for the Commencement Mass, filled in admirably. Parishioners and employees of PC were complimentary to him.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pentecost Homily

Mothers Day— Pentecost— to whom to pay attention?

—The Church says, “Pentecost!”
—Our hearts say, “Mom!”
—1.13 billion Catholics around world today pray for an increase of the Holy Spirit
—301 million Americans honor their mothers

Can I? Dare I? I choose them both, in honor of our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, our patroness.

The greatest honor ever received by the Mother of Jesus was to be called his disciple. Carrying him in her heart, mind, and soul, was greater than carrying him in her womb. Carrying him in her heart, mind and soul, was greater than nursing him as an infant. Nothing is as dear to mother as her baby. The reality of that connection is something at which I can only guess. Yet for the Blessed Mother, a real mother, something was greater. Following God in Jesus Christ.

My own sister-in-law just gave birth over 12 weeks ago. The love and the joy she has for my nephew is staggering, can I say that I love Jesus as much as, let alone more than she loves Jack? Can we say we love Jesus as much as or even more than our mom loves us? I can only speak for myself, and the answer is no. If your answer is no, then together, we need the Holy Spirit. We need a new Pentecost.

Today’s gospel, the Holy Spirit is given for the forgiveness of sin. If we don’t love the Savior, it is because we don’t know we are saved. The forgiveness of sins always deepens our love for Jesus. To put it another way, if we don’t go to confession, then we don’t know the love of God for us in Jesus. To encounter the Holy Spirit of God is first to encounter our weakness, our sinfulness and our need for God. This is the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit—to know our need for God.

In our world where mothers, sadly, forget their babies, in our world where babies, sadly, forget their mothers, is it any wonder we forget God? We need a new Pentecost, a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit to remind us that everyday we need our Lord. We need him in the shower, in the car, at work, at a concert, and when going to bed. We need him. We need the Holy Spirit.

On this Pentecost, I hope you can reflect on the love of your mother, or the mother of your children, or your own motherhood. Then, on this Mother’s Day, ask yourselves, “Do I love the Lord and His Church as much as or even more than a mother loves her child?” When the answer is no—and I suspect that it will be—pray with me at this Mass:

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.

The Uniqueness of American Secularism

Pope Benedict's remarks about American Secularism to the U.S. Bishops were quite erudite and inspiring, here is a short breakdown I gave to our Adult Ed. on Tuesday mornings.

Secularism- denoting activities, attitudes, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis

America, while holding a separation of Church and State has retained a fundamental respect for religion and its voice in the public life. In this balance, the Pope notices a specific problem—allowing for belief in God and a public role of religion while, at the same time reducing religion to a lowest common denominator.

“Faith becomes a passive acceptance that things “out there” are true, but without practical relevance for everyday life. The result is a growing separation of faith from life... This is aggravated by an individualistic and eclectic approach to faith and religion: far from a Catholic approach to "thinking with the Church", each person believes he or she has a right to pick and choose, maintaining external social bonds but without an integral, interior conversion to the law of Christ. Consequently, rather than being transformed and renewed in mind, Christians are easily tempted to conform themselves to the spirit of this age (cf. Rom 12:3).”

In other words, we can’t take this freedom of American Secularism for granted. We cannot reduce our faith to a commonality that we share with everyone else at the forfeit of its distinct Catholicism. We need to promote every aspect of the Church’s teaching: Scripture and Tradition, Faith and Reason, and the Human person- all seen within the drama of sin and grace. “In a word, the Gospel has to be preached and taught as an integral way of life, offering an attractive and true answer, intellectually and practically, to real human problems.”

Our enemy, in this is “relativism.” Relativism is the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morals exist in relation to culture, society, and human context, and are not absolute. Bishop Swain, my ordinary, would add that relativism is also the fear to tell someone they are wrong. Do not be afraid. Speak the truth in love.

“I believe that the Church in America, at this point in her history, is faced with the challenge of recapturing the Catholic vision of reality and presenting it, in an engaging and imaginative way, to a society which markets any number of recipes for human fulfillment.”

--Taken from Pope Benedict’s discussions with American Bishops.
April 16, 2008

Happy Mothers Day!

A Sermon by St. Augustine:
Stretching out his hand over his disciples, the Lord declared: Here are my mother and my brothers; anyone who does the will of my Father who sent me is my brother and my sister and my mother. I would urge you to ponder these words. Did the Virgin Mary, who believed by faith and conceived by faith, who was the chosen one from whom our Savior was born among men, who was created by Christ before Christ was created in her—did she not do the will of the Father? Indeed the blessed Mary certainly did the Father’s will, and so it was for her a greater thing to have been Christ’s disciple than to have been his mother, and she was more blessed in her discipleship than in her motherhood. Hers was the happiness of first bearing in her womb him whom she would obey as her master.

Now listen and see if the words of Scripture do not agree with what I have said. The Lord was passing by and crowds were following him. His miracles gave proof of divine power, and a woman cried out: Happy is the womb that bore you, blessed is that womb! But the Lord, not wishing people to seek happiness in a purely physical relationship, replied: More blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it. Mary heard God’s word and kept it, so she is blessed. She kept God’s truth in her mind, a nobler thing than carrying his body in her womb. The truth and the body were both Christ: he was kept in Mary’s mind insofar as he is truth, he was carried in her womb insofar as he is man; but what is kept in the mind is of a higher order than what is carried in the womb.

The Virgin Mary is both holy and blessed, and yet the Church is greater than she. Mary is a part of the Church, a member of the Church, a holy, an eminent—the most eminent—member, but still only a member of the entire body. The body undoubtedly is greater than she, one of its members. This body has the Lord for its head, and head and body together make up the whole Christ. In other words, our head is divine—our head is God.

Now, beloved, give me your whole attention, for you also are members of Christ; you also are the body of Christ. Consider how you yourselves can be among those of whom the Lord said: Here are my mother and my brothers. Do you wonder how you can be the mother of Christ? He himself said: Whoever hears and fulfills the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother. As for our being the brothers and sisters of Christ, we can understand this because although there is only one inheritance and Christ is the only Son, his mercy would not allow him to remain alone. It was his wish that we too should be heirs of the Father, and co-heirs with himself.

Now having said that all of you are brothers of Christ, shall I not dare to call you his mothers? Much less would I dare to deny his own words. Tell me how Mary became the mother of Christ, if it was not by giving birth to the members of Christ? You, to whom I am speaking, are the members of Christ. Of whom were you born? “Of Mother Church,” I hear the reply of your hearts. You became sons of this mother at your baptism, you came to birth as members of Christ. Now you in your turn must draw to the font of baptism as many as you possibly can. You became sons when you were born there yourselves, and now by bringing others to birth in the same way, you have it in your power to become mothers of Christ.

Friday, May 9, 2008


Governor's veto prompts pastoral action.

What an article by the Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, Joseph Naumann!

Having made every effort to inform and to persuade Governor Sebelius and after consultation with Bishop Ron Gilmore (Dodge City), Bishop Paul Coakley (Salina) and Bishop Michael Jackels (Wichita), I wrote the governor last August requesting that she refrain from presenting herself for reception of the Eucharist until she had acknowledged the error of her past positions, made a worthy sacramental confession and taken the necessary steps for amendment of her life which would include a public repudiation of her previous efforts and actions in support of laws and policies sanctioning abortion.
Recently, it came to my attention that the governor had received holy Communion at one of our parishes. I have written to her again, asking her to respect my previous request and not require from me any additional pastoral actions.

The governor has spoken to me on more than one occasion about her obligation to uphold state and federal laws and court decisions. I have asked her to show a similar sense of obligation to honor divine law and the laws, teaching and legitimate authority within the church.
I have not made lightly this request of Governor Sebelius, but only after much prayer and reflection. The spiritually lethal message, communicated by our governor, as well as many other high profile Catholics in public life, has been in effect: “The church’s teaching on abortion is optional!”

I reissue my request of the faithful of the archdiocese to pray for Governor Sebelius. I hope that my request of the governor, not to present herself for holy Communion, will provoke her to reconsider the serious spiritual and moral consequences of her past and present actions. At the same time, I pray this pastoral action on my part will help alert other Catholics to the moral gravity of participating in and/or cooperating with the performance of abortions.
The professional bloggers: Whispers and Amy Welborn were first on the case. Join me in saying sincere prayers for the Bishops of Kansas as well as Governor Sebelius.

Happy Anniversary! me! In the liturgical calendar, today is the two year anniversary of my ordination, the Friday before Pentecost. Never you mind that the actual day was June 2nd, we take 'em where we can get em. Here is the photo I used for my Holy Card.It is an by Jean Restout, an 18th century French painter. I had never seen the image before, but now it is all over the place. EWTN is using it for Pentecost this year.

Stay at home and save

No, this isn't about gas prices, but thought this article interesting. Can you live on one income? Its worth the try. No cultural question there, solely financial, apparently.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Catholic Business

I've only been to Costco once- and I got some kickin' jeans- but I stumbled across this article on a sports blog. It is from the 2005 NYTimes and describes the difference in employee pay and benefits between Wal-Mart and Costco. You can read it all if you want, but this was most interesting:

But not everyone is happy with Costco's business strategy. Some Wall Street analysts assert that Mr. Sinegal is overly generous not only to Costco's customers but to its workers as well. Costco's average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam's Club. And Costco's health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco "it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder."...Despite Costco's impressive record, Mr. Sinegal's salary is just $350,000, although he also received a $200,000 bonus last year. That puts him at less than 10 percent of many other chief executives, though Costco ranks 29th in revenue among all American companies..."I've been very well rewarded," said Mr. Sinegal, who is worth more than $150 million thanks to his Costco stock holdings. "I just think that if you're going to try to run an organization that's very cost-conscious, then you can't have those disparities. Having an individual who is making 100 or 200 or 300 times more than the average person working on the floor is wrong."
Let that sink in. Does BP, or GM, or anyone else hold that attitude. I'm not sure what they're background is, but that is refreshing. A great example of reasonable and responsible capitalism. Would there were more...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Gospel of Godspell

Our Catholic high school performed the musical Godspell this weekend. Inspired by St. Athanasius, I threw a homily grenade into the mix during our Friday school Mass. "Don't rely on Godspell for your gospel!" So after the play, I hung around the students as they struck the set to show my solidarity. A few of them and the director, wanted to know my thoughts.

The execution of the play was wonderful. The students surprised me with some hidden vocal talent that we need to harness for the parish! Very well done. Staff and students made it their own and as Catholic as they could, but I still have a couple fundamental points that struck me.

Before hand, it is important to note that this musical is really a moral interpretation of the Gospel of Matthew. It is reacting against the historical critical movement and its disarmament of the Gospel challenge. In that sense, it condenses the Gospel to the Beatitudes and parables. So two main flaws were evident in the songs and script and both were omissions.
  1. The identity of Jesus as Emmanuel
  2. The establishment of the Church
Jesus' identity as Emmanuel is core to the Gospel according to St. Matthew. The genealogy beginning the Gospel points to the history of God's action with Israel. Jesus is the fulfillment of God's saving action. Notice how in today's Gospel for the Ascension, Matthew concludes with the notion of Emmanuel- God is with us. The genealogy and Joseph's dream herald the promise of Emmanuel. Godspell portrays a Jesus who comes as teacher and sacrificial lamb yet misses the boldest claim of all- God is with us. God does not abandon us in sin and suffering but makes an unexpected move and enters into our very existence to sanctify and elevate us to himself.

The absence of any mention of the Church was also glaring. When Matthew is stripped of the Church, it seems bare and harsh and even antisemitic. While Godspell includes Jesus' many and correct critiques of the faith in his day, they do not include his reestablishment of the Jewish faith around his own person. Jesus' critiques are scathing but they are not antisemitic, they are directed to recreating Israel around himself- that is why he names twelve apostles to imitate the twelve tribes.

The first song of Jesus in the play proclaim an individual salvation, omitting the idea that Jesus was recreating the Kingdom of Israel around himself and his life of grace. "Lord save your people, not thrones and crowns, but men!" The Gospel needs the Church. Without the Church, without those men Jesus commissioned at the Ascension, without those men and women who proclaimed him throughout the world there is no Gospel. Further, the Church is needed as Jesus' own voice, to teach the true understanding of him in the face of many conflicting and confusing visions of Jesus.
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Matthew 16:13-19

If any of you read this, you did a great job!