Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chaput on Priests and the Public Life

Marvelous essay from His Excellency, Archbishop Chaput, on First Things blog today. Do read it. Of note:
It is the job of Catholic laypeople to change the thinking of their political party and their political leaders with the tools of their Catholic faith. But it is the job of priests to give people those tools—to form Catholic laypeople to think and act as disciples of Jesus Christ, in a manner guided by the teaching of the Church. Just as Catholic laypeople should be the leaven of Jesus Christ in the public square, so we priests need to be the leaven of Jesus Christ in lives of our people.
This is sometimes easier said than done. I've found that I have to fight off two opposite temptations in my priestly life: to do everything myself or to think others have it in hand. The term leaven is deliberate, we priests are dispersed amongst the dough and by the quality of our own lives- as witnessed by prayer, actions, and words- we effect the whole loaf. If yeast is dead, no replacement will be quite the same.
A feature of many priestly lives these days is an attitude toward the Church that could be called “pastoral despair.” In one sense, it’s a good thing to be tempted by despair about the Church, or at least by despondency, because that’s a sign that our hearts are unsettled and longing for something more...We have hope because it is the risen Christ who has willed that his Church be the principal form of his visible presence in the world. We know with confidence that in the Church, God—as in Christ—is reconciling the world to himself. We need to remember this because sometimes we priests become cynical. We know ourselves too well. We sometimes don’t really believe that God can do anything new in us. We accommodate to sin and failure and death.
This cynicism is most insidious and cannot simply be reduced to realism. Cynicism strikes to the heart of priestly identity- are you really an alter Christus, another Christ? If you were in persona Christi capitus then why do these failures and even crimes occur? Because it is Jesus' priesthood that we share, God CAN do something new with us and desires to each day.
[W]e need to think of the Church in America as a missionary church, and each of us priests as a missionary priest. We’ve probably known this all along, but now it has an immediate, practical urgency. Catholic demography is changing. So is our political environment. Additionally, we can’t count on the continued financial health of the Church in our country if our active Catholic base diminishes over the next generation—which is quite possible and already happening.
Sloth is a great enemy- I've done enough, I said my Mass, I did my paperwork, time for TV. I do this all the time. Sloth is a veiled threat, cloaked in morally harmless pursuits- woodworking, hunting, cooking, or exercise- that calls us from those moments of prayer and apostolic work. We must not neglect the spiritual life. We must pray for priests!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

FYI: Broom Tree

A commenter asks about Broom Tree for those near SD. It is a recent effort by the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls since 2005. The director is Father James Mason and he is a holy priest with a gift of preaching and direction. The highlight of their offerings are the Mens and Women's silent retreats offered according to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. No antler prancing here.

They are also available for outside groups to come in, though with discernment on the directors part- i.e., no freaks!

It is in a beautiful part of SD, glacial hills all around, deep quiet, and they have done a great job to bring in beautiful art work.

Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter

Retreat is a military term, meaning to withdraw from the fight to reassess how you can better enter into and execute the fight so as to win victory. Yet for most of my life the retreats that I went on were really more like assaults or attacks. Good programs like SEARCH or TEC were more of a marshalling of forces to enter the battle and win new ground as opposed to withdrawing to regroup. So when I took my first silent retreat in 2000, it was something completely different.

I enjoyed it so much that in 2002 my 3-day silent retreat became an 8 day and then in 2004 my 8 day silent retreat became a 30 day. For 30 days I had two responsibilities: to pray 4 holy hours a day and to be prepared for my next hour of prayer. I spoke to my spiritual director- who guided me through Sacred Scripture, but aside from the responses at daily Mass, I listened to our Lord. And I heard him.

That is why I spent last week on another silent retreat. To hear the voice of Jesus.

What does Jesus say today? “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Love and commandments don’t often go together, we often think: “If you loved me, you’d let me do what I want!” But when we reflect, even on our own lives, we find recognize this as an immature vision of love. True love demands a true response. This is why married couples wear rings- to signify the commitment they made at before the Lord. Even when they’ve been married 50 years, they wear the ring.

Following Jesus’ commandments is our ring. Following Jesus’ teaching, as taught by the Catholic Church, is the way we show our love. The more perfectly our lives reflect the Truth of his teaching, the more perfectly our lives reflect the Beauty of his love.

Let me put this different way. If we sit here and think, “I’m a Catholic, but…I’m a Catholic, but I don’t understand what the Church teaches about abortion…but I don’t agree with Confession…but I don’t agree with the ban on artificial birth control…I don’t think I need to go to Sunday Mass to be holy…I’m a Catholic, but…”

If this is you attitude, with great confidence, I invite you to ask our Lord to teach you. Buy yourself the Catechism of the Catholic Church, find those passages you disagree with or struggle with and ask our Lord to teach you. For twenty minutes day, in quiet, as you read and listen to his teaching through his Church, I am confident that your heart will hear his voice.

As we hear his voice teaching in his Catholic Church, we receive joy. We understand with new confidence how he says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” As the youthful rebellion of our hearts and minds is washed away in his love, we realize that there is nothing he will ask from us that he will not replace with the greater gift of his love.

Today, let us pray for new ears and new eyes to receive his call to live within his commandments, to live within his love.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wow!

I didn't know the Pope was coming when I picked this retreat date. But it was a good retreat and I did pray for His Holiness and His mission. I just didn't know Google Reader could back-log 1000+ messages!



Sunday, April 13, 2008

Retreat!

I'll be on retreat from April 14th through April 22nd at Broom Tree.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Population: Bomb or Dud?

The Distributist Review, a economics blog fostering a third way between consumerist capitalism and communism, has an interesting post on population numbers. Sometimes their posts are bit economically thick for me, but this is worth a read for all.
Does this mean that there is no “population problem”? There certainly is, but it is the opposite problem from what the latter-day Malthusians imagine it to be. It is not the population bomb, but the birth dearth...he population of children is actually shrinking; it is only the population of old geezers like myself that is advancing. “It is not,” as the film points out, “that people are breeding like rabbits, it is that they are no longer dying like flies.” While this causes a temporary rise in population, that situation is reversing itself with dramatic consequences.
This seems counter-intuitive to our culture. While I understand much of what the promoted film posits, I wonder how such a cultural force will change? Or is this another example of Homer's Cassandra in the Iliad?

Who are Malthusians?


Ratzinger on Benedict

With Pope Benedict's upcoming visit to the U.S., April 15th-20th, I thought I would look at a 2000 speech he gave to the Jubilee of Catechists and Religion Teachers. It is a short and accessible speech (only about 9 pages in 12 point font). It is also very revealing. Pope Benedict has said that his purpose in coming is evangelical, to proclaim the Gospel: "I shall come to United States of America as Pope for the first time, to proclaim this great truth: Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture, and social condition. Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us."

He begins by identifying mankind's common search:
Our life is an open question, an incomplete project, still to be brought to fruition and realized. Each man's fundamental question is: How will this be realized—becoming man? How does one learn the art of living? Which is the path toward happiness? ...To evangelize means: to show this path—to teach the art of living...This is why we are in need of a new evangelization—if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works. But this art is not the object of a science—this art can only be communicated by [one] who has life—he who is the Gospel personified.
Our Pope has a great love for St. Augustine and so begins with a classic Augustinian theme: "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee!" This is how St. Augustine begins his Confessions, which are not a "tell all" in the modern sense, but a description of Augustine's search for truth. Another notion worth noting is that Pope Benedict is firmly convinced that the Revelation of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church is the sure and certain path to happiness. This confidence in the Church's identity may prove difficult for our mass media.

On the structure of Evangelization, we find something quite un-American:
New evangelization cannot mean: immediately attracting the large masses that have distanced themselves from the Church by using new and more refined methods. No—new evangelization means: never being satisfied with the fact that from the grain of mustard seed, the great tree of the Universal Church grew; never thinking that the fact that different birds may find place among its branches can suffice—rather, it means to dare, once again and with the humility of the small grain, to leave up to God the when and how it will grow (Mark 4:26-29).
Pope Benedict is not afraid of this mustard seed size. This certainly smacks in the face of American values of size, pizazz, and glitz [can't forget glitz]. In another part he makes the clear connection with Israel, smallest of the nations, and Judah, a meager tribe. Remember also 1 Cor. 1:27: " Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong."

Finally, two quotes on methods of Evangelization:
evangelizing is not merely a way of speaking, but a form of living: living in the listening and giving voice to the Father. "He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak," says the Lord about the Holy Spirit.
and
Jesus had to acquire the disciples from God. The same is always true. We ourselves cannot gather men. We must acquire them by God for God. All methods are empty without the foundation of prayer. The word of the announcement must always be drenched in an intense life of prayer.
These two notions are intimately linked. The importance of witnesses, as evidenced by the Great Commission- not to write but to teach- is echoed [see #41] throughout the life of the Church. But this witness of integrated life is useless unless it is united with our Lord. Pope Benedict reechoed this in his greeting in advance of his trip.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The world at night from space

From the blog of John C Wright, a sci-fi author who got on my blog roll when he joined the Church this Easter, we get this fascinating youtube clip of the world at night. Amazing detail.

It is ten minutes long, but quite interesting, especially for kids.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

More Benedict

Thanks to Amy Welborn, she links an intriguing dialog between John Allen [of the National Catholic Reporter] and George Weigel regarding Pope Benedict. Here are a couple of nuggets:

Allen on the Pope and the U.N.:
I think the heart of his pitch before the U.N. probably will cut a little bit deeper. It will be Benedict’s argument that what the world desperately needs today is a global moral consensus – that is, a consensus on fundamental moral truths that are universal and unchanging that can serve as a basis for things like protection of human rights and human dignity. I think his analysis is that in an era in which you have several important players on the world stage – China and Iran come to mind – arguing that the whole concept of human rights is a sort of Western cultural artifact, I think the pope believes that the construction of a kind of moral consensus that we can all agree upon based on truths about human nature and open to the wisdom of spiritual traditions and religious traditions is a critical priority.

Allen on the Pope and U.S. Catholics:
I think the dominant note of the pope’s message will be various versions of what I have come to see as the interpretive key to his papacy, which is what I call affirmative orthodoxy. And what I mean by that is a strong defense of traditional Catholic faith and practice – that is, a kind of recalling people to those traditional markers of Catholic thought, speech, practice, but phrasing all that in the most relentlessly positive fashion possible. People know far more about what the Catholic Church says no to rather than what it says yes to, and so I think his effort is to try to present a positive vision of what the Catholic Church represents.

Weigel reminds on what changes in Papacy means:
changes of popes are not to be understood in any sense by analogy to changes of presidential administrations or changes of governments in parliamentary systems. Popes are the servants and custodians of what they understand to be an authoritative tradition, all of which is to say that they don’t make it up on their own. And in that sense, policy means something different in this context than it would in the political context with which we’re all familiar in our various countries.

Weigel on Benedict's inter religious accomplishments:
It has shifted the course of the dialogue by setting in motion a process that has now led to the formation of a Catholic-Muslim forum that will meet twice a year, once in Amman, Jordan, once in Rome, and that will focus its attention on the issues that Benedict XVI has put on the agenda – namely, religious freedom as the first of human rights and a right that can be known by reason, and secondly, the imperative of separating spiritual and political authority in a justly governed state...I would also point to the recent initiative by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who proposes to gather in his country a new forum of dialogue among the monotheistic religions, and the Vatican’s reported negotiations, about which John might have some more to say later, with the Saudi government over the unthinkable, or the hitherto unthinkable, namely the building of a Catholic church in Saudi Arabia.

Read it all [quite long]

Viral Pope

No, he doesn't have an infection. Viral is term for public relations or marketing that has to do with reaching individuals through social networks- such as the internets. Pope Benedict, in preparation for his trip to the U.S., has released a video greeting. Currently, it is only available on CNN's website. It is an easy listen, about 5 minutes long- though you will have to endure a commercial, and lets just say the Vatican didn't pick them!

Here are some parts I particularly enjoyed:
Dear friends, I say this because I am convinced that without the power of prayer, without that intimate union with the Lord, our human endeavors would achieve very little. Indeed this is what our faith teaches us. It is God who saves us, he saves the world, and all of history. He is the shepherd of his people. I am coming, sent by Jesus Christ, to bring you his word of life.
...
I shall come to United States of America as Pope for the first time, to proclaim this great truth: Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture, and social condition. Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us. Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father.
How is that for a friendly hello?

CNN link again

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What is your vision of children?

This isn't a political blog. Christ is greater than conservative or liberal.

That being said, a friend of mine catches an intersting quote from Senator Barack Obama, regarding abortion:
"Look, I got two daughters — 9 years old and 6 years old," he said. "I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby."
Professor Schaff acknowledges that the Senator and Presidential hopeful was speaking off the cuff, but isn't this symptomatic of the culture of death? Isn't this symptomatic to say that the way many Americans view children is as a hindrance goodness or a bad thing in and of themselves- "punished?"

Or do we read a blurb too far?

Homily for 2nd Sunday of Easter

Which is more important, Lent or Easter?

We hear a lot more about Lent than we do about Easter. We are all abuzz when Ash Wednesday hits: “What are you giving up?” Look at me! I’m wearing my ashes! Forty days of Lent. Lent is even out and about on TV and radio. But what about Easter?

Do we know that the Easter season is 50 days long (longer than Lent)? Do we know that These 50 days should be like one long Easter Sunday? If you went up to someone eating a fish sandwich on Friday in Lent, you would commiserate. How do you greet someone on the 5th Sunday of Easter? Why do we not observe Easter like we observe Lent?

Look at St. Thomas in today’s Gospel. “I will not believe,” he says. St. Thomas doubts. Why?

Something in our hearts resists Easter. Something in my own heart resists Easter. If Easter is true, if Christ truly rose from the dead then I have to live my life differently. Personally, I'm afraid of Easter. I'm afraid of the claim that Jesus, conquerer of sin and death, makes on my life. If I keep saying, "Happy Easter," then I have to change. Like St. Thomas I look for that absolute proof- not because I don’t believe but because if Jesus really did conquer death than He can conquer sin in my own heart. And I am ashamed to say, but I must say, I don't know what I'd do without my sin. I still cling to sin like as ridiculously as a 14 year old holding onto a babies blanket.

We spent 40 days of Lent thinking about our sins, our weakness and our need for salvation. Can we now spend 50 days thinking on our salvation? That is why, one week after Easter, we still sing “Jesus Christ is Risen today!”

We spent 40 days of Lent praying on and experiencing our sins, our weakness and our need for salvation. Can we now spend 50 days thinking on God’s answer? All of St. Thomas’ doubts are answered: “here are my hands and my feet, here is my side.” But what does Thomas have to do?

Thomas must dive in! I must dive in! We must dive in! Jesus has definitively answered all of our doubts, longings, and worries; now we must dive in. Jesus cannot make Thomas probe His hands or feet, He can only invite. Jesus cannot make us live the Sacraments, He can only invite.

The early Church answered that invitation. “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers…Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes.” That early Church, those 12 apostles and bare hundreds of disciples converted their entire world. What can we do when we observe Easter, when we answer Jesus’ invitation?

Once again we must hear, I must hear the message of the Easter angel: "Do not be afraid!" This mercy, this forgiveness, this cure for our sins will not strip us of our identity. God's answer to sin and weakness will not harm us- but it will challenge us and it will change us.

Dive into the life of Christ, dive into the life of faith these 50 days of Easter! Jesus promises us peace, forgiveness of sins, and abundant life when we live united to Him. There is no other path than the Sacraments that Jesus has given us. Why do we wait? Dive in and be renewed!

Is God Calling You?

St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul, MN, has placed some wonderful videos on Youtube. St. John Vianney was my college seminary and Father William Baer is a wonderful rector. Enjoy!

Part I:



Part II: