Sunday, December 28, 2008

Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family

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The Apostles of the Interior Life, our sisters here at St. Lawrence, were featured in a beautiful article this week in the Lawrence Journal-World, and it is important that as often as we are disappointed in the media for casting the Church in a negative light, we should also thank them for the positive exposure they do give the Church. Even the New York Times recently ran some stories about the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, who are doing tremendous work with the poor in the south Bronx. The story in the Lawrence Journal-World did a good job of telling the vocation stories, albeit in short form, of Sr. Debbie and Sr. Loredana. Included was a brief mention of how Sr. Debbie and Sr. Loredana discerned between great opportunities to become married and this call that they felt to be married directly to the Lord, and to serve him in religious life.

One of the great treasures of our Catholic tradition and way of life is this beautiful interplay that we experience between the married vocation and the religious vocation and its promise of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom. Both vocations depend deeply on the virtue of chastity - loving purely and unselfishly in the same way that God has first loved us. The vocations are lived differently, of course, but they intersect quite beautifully in our Church in the same way that a husband and wife take different roles but interact to form a whole in a marriage. The religious vocation is of course dependent first upon the vocation of marriage. I do not know a single priest or religious who is not deeply grateful that his or her parents were not a priest or a sister. That goes without saying. As we see in today's great feast given by our Church, Jesus' vocation and mission began within the holy family, with his dependence upon the sacrament of marriage between Joseph and Mary. It was in the family that his vocation was received and nurtured.

The marriage vocation, in turn, is greatly enriched, especially in these times when the definitions of marriage and family are constantly trying to be re-defined within modern society, by the religious vocation. The religious vocation gives witness that although having a family is a great good to be pursued, that God is always the ultimate good to be pursued, and marriage and children are gifts that we receive from God. We see in Abraham and Joseph this obedience to the command of God to go where God commands them to go, and do what God commands them to do. Abraham and Joseph receive their families as a gift from God, and He is the ultimate Father of their families. Abraham is willing to sacrifice Isaac, his only Son, and Joseph presents Jesus in the temple in today's Gospel, showing that these men do not see their wives or their children as their property, but as precious gifts from God. These fathers are men of true obedience, and faith and generosity. They are the foundation of a holy family.

The religious vocation gives witness in today's world that God's grace is enough to fulfill the deepest needs for intimacy within a human person. The religious vocation, while always being dependent upon the married vocation for its existence, gives married couples and families encouragement to continue to make God and His will the center of their marriage, their family and their home. If we see our families as great gifts from God, and are able to celebrate His presence in our lives especially during this great season of Christmas, we may be able to keep our family lives strong, despite all the initiatives to redefine what it means to be married, be a family, and to have children. And as we pray for each other, to help keep our families strong in faith, hope, love and in obedience to God's will, let us do everything we can to be foster-families to those who are in need of a community of love. +m

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Homily for Midnight Mass - Christmas

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The God of Christmas is absolutely irresistible. No matter how hard we try, because of Christmas, we will never get rid of Him.

How could God become irresistible to those whom He created in His own image and likeness? How could He become irresistible to those who share in His intelligence and will, those to whom He gave the gift to question Him at every turn? How could God make Himself irresistible without destroying the very freedom that made us His greatest creation?

There are people who believe, of course, that God is necessary. But there are people who believe He is not. There are people, of course, who believe that God is patient and merciful. But there are people who think He is cold and distant. There are people, of course, who assert that God is just. There are others who think He is arbitrary and oppressive.

How could God become irresistible to creatures like us, who have the ability to question Him and criticize Him at every turn? We have resisted Him for thousands of years. We resisted Him yesterday. We resist Him now. We will resist Him tomorrow.

How could God overcome this resistance, this tragedy of being the most irresistible force in the world, and yet being resisted by the creatures He created with the greatest capacity for love? Was God trapped by His own decision to create us?

The answer, because of Christmas, is no. The answer, because of Christmas, is that God came up with a solution. Unwilling to change us as His greatest creation, God chose instead to change Himself. Unwilling to forsake us, He chose instead to forsake Himself. Utterly resistible in his divine form as the Almighty Creator, God chose to become utterly irresistible by being born as a helpless baby.

*Caesar Augustus, as we see in tonight's Gospel, was supposedly the most irresistible person on earth. He ordered a census to count His people so He could tax them better, use them better to become even more powerful. This is the man who could go wherever He wanted, have whatever He wanted, eat whatever He wanted, and had an army that no earthly power could exist. Caesar Augustus was the closest thing to having the almighty power of God! Yet Luke, in tonight's glorious Gospel, shows that a little baby born in Bethlehem, is more irresistible than this great king. That's right. A little baby, unable to go anywhere on His own, but bound tightly by swaddling clothes, has a kingdom more vast than the kingdom of Caesar. This little baby, who did not even have a place to be born on earth, possesses more than Caesar could ever possess. Even Caesar's most magnificent feast cannot compare to the food that this baby Himself will become, who being born in a trough foreshadows the destiny of His flesh to become the richest of foods, for whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood will live forever! Finally, the angels of the heavenly hosts present at this baby's birth show that this baby has vast armies who will guard His kingdom long after the armies of Caesar have been defeated.

This my friends, is why Christmas makes God irresistible. We see in ourselves, and in Caesar Augustus, that power is always resisted by power. God, showing His almighty power by creating creatures that shared in His power, will always be resisted by those of us who want to be more like Caesar Augustus. Rather than taking back our power, however, God has chosen to make Himself vulnerable. Power will always be resisted by power. Love, however, is irresistible. Because God has revealed Himself as love, He has made Himself irresistible.

The mystery of Christmas is the mystery of God placing Himself into our hands. Love shows itself making itself vulnerable before the other. How many of us could walk away from a newborn baby born in the cold, with nothing to wear, and nothing to eat? How many of us could walk away from a baby like that? See! Through Christmas, God has made Himself irresistible. He has confounded the proud who use the greatest gift of their freedom to resist His almighty power! God does not take back the freedom He gave to us! He does not force us to love Him! He makes Himself irresistible by coming not to threaten us, but to humble Himself before us! Because of Christmas, we can't help but want to love Him back and to serve His needs.

Because of Christmas, we know that God will never abandon us. He is Emmanuel - God with us! Because of Christmas, we know that the world will never be abandoned - the darkness will never overcome the light. Because of Christmas, we can say in every situation, no matter the dangers that surround us, that the world is headed to a new and more glorious future, because God has chosen to make His home here, with us! Let us not be discouraged by the circumstances of 2008 - they are no worse than the precarious circumstances into which Jesus Himself was born. May our great celebration of Christmas convince us again that instead of resisting God to preserve ourselves, we must abandon ourselves to serving God who has abandoned Himself to be born among us as a man. With the Virgin Mary, let us give birth to the Lord Jesus today and make Him present again through our acts of love and self-sacrifice. Most of all, let us not let our world continue to believe the illusion that it can resist God and live, but let us proclaim that in the babe born in Bethlehem, God has made Himself irresistible! +m

(I am indebted to Fr. Robert Barron's Christmas reflection from some years ago for much of the content of this homily!)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent

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Advent is hopelessly schizophrenic. Two years ago, the 4th Sunday of Advent fell on Christmas Eve. We celebrated Advent and Christmas on the same day. This year we have 5 days left of Advent until Christmas, but what does that matter? The two seasons are completely mixed already. Christmas programs and parties, not just at work but yes even at Church, have already taken place. Anyone who has not celebrated Christmas at least in part has had to play the part of the scrooge. Adding to the craziness of this year is the fine line we are walking between spending so as to not feel guilty for stifling the economy, and saving so as not to seem out of touch with the plight of many who are suffering and who will suffer economically. Finally, Advent itself is not a season that resists schizophrenia. It is a season that caves in to Christmas, for Advent gives us nothing to do. Christmas brings a flurry of activity. Advent is about being passive. Watching. Waiting. Preparing room in our hearts. Advent is a season that always falls apart, no matter how hard we try. This, as we know, is tragic, for without Advent expectation, our Christmas celebration will be half-hearted at best.

The subtlety of Advent makes it hard to begin, and even harder to end. Our final Advent prophet is not someone who tells us what to do either. At least John the Baptist told us to repent lest we miss entirely the coming of the Lord. Mary does nothing. She is nobody. She is not a great religious figure. She is young in a society that values age. A woman in a world ruled by men. Poor because she has not child and no husband to validate her existence. There is no reason to pay attention to her. Except that God sees her. Mary fits right in to the subtlety and ambiguity of Advent. She has no big message to announce to us. She doesn't tell us to do anything. She simply allows God to do something with her.

Yet within the 'yes' of this girl we are to find the perfect way to finish Advent. It is Mary's humble simplicity that turns out to be the perfect antidote to the proud schizophrenia that the Advent/Christmas culture thrusts upon us. In the uncertainty of where we really are, Mary comes to save our Advent preparations even if we have just an hour, or just a moment, before loading the van or running to the airport or if you're a guy, hitting the store on the 23rd or 24th hoping beyond hope that Jesus will save you from your procrastination once again. Mary by her pure readiness can make us instantly ready for a joyful and fruitful celebration of Christmas, no matter how our Advent has gone. If nothing else has gone right this Advent, we have recourse to her. She is the savior of Advent who can give us the same expectation for Christmas that She had in the moments before giving birth to the Savior of the world.

In Mary we see the Advent hope that what God will choose to do with our lives is more important than what we choose to do with them. In Mary we see the Advent hope that God's decision to look upon us trumps our decision to look for Him. In Mary we see the hope that we might be humble enough to keep first things first. She teaches us how to believe that we can really be the dwelling places of God, and how this faith precedes and perfects any effort we make to love God in return or to be His presence to others. In Mary we see the hope that it is not our experience that determines what is possible. Rather, it is God's presence that can turn us back into children who count every second before Christmas with anticipation. In the same way, Mary shows us the way to the Christmas mystery that helps us to hope all things, believe all things, and endure all things in anticipation of seeing God's plan for us revealed in time. In Mary we see the hope that we are not too sophisticated and important to believe that God sees us, that He knows us, and that He is coming to live among us!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Homily for 3rd Sunday of Advent - Gaudete

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Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances, give thanks.

This is the advice chosen by the Church for us on Gaudete Sunday, or Rejoice Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent. It is the advice given by St. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances, give thanks.

What is proposed for us today, however, is not the joy defined by psychology. It is not the power of positive thinking. It is not pretending there is nothing wrong in the world. It is not looking at life through rose-colored glasses, not even on this joyful Sunday of Advent when we light the pink candle in our wreath.

St. Paul proposes to us a deep joy that belongs to the one who knows that the Lord is near. This is our entrance antiphon for this Sunday every year. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. The Lord is near. A Christian should be one marked by a joy that enables him to pray unceasingly and to give thanks in every circumstance, even in difficult ones.

We all know the circumstances that keep us from being joyful, prayerful and thankful. An unexpected conflict or misunderstanding with a friend can rob us of our joy. A busy schedule with lots of expectations can distract us from prayer. An injustice suffered can make us more resentful than thankful. In all these difficult circumstances, and in countless others, however, our knowledge that the Lord is near is supposed to make a difference. Yes, we are even supposed to be joyful. prayerful and thankful during Finals Week at KU.

John the Baptist was sent from God because it is so easy for us to forget that the Lord is near. John was not the light. He was not the Word. He was not the Messiah. He was only the wake-up call. He is the reminder that we all need that the Lord is much closer than we think. He tells the Pharisees bluntly that they are too full of themselves to recognize that the Messiah is in their midst.

We can easily make the same mistake of the Pharisees. The Pharisees are not joyful, prayerful or thankful because they pridefully see themselves as the most necessary thing, and thus God's closeness to them depends on their ability to find Him. Mary, on the other hand, as we hear in this evening's canticle, is always joyful, prayerful and thankful - her soul magnifies the Lord - her spirit rejoices in God Her Savior - because she humbly considers herself to be the most lowly and unnecessary thing, and thus God's closeness to Her depends on His decision to look upon Her.

This too is the true source of joy, prayer, and thankfulness for each one of us. Not that we have chosen God, but that He has chosen us. Not that we have made more time to search for Him, but that He will never take a break from searching for us. This is the attitude that we are to foster as we grow closer to Christmas. Only the one who sees himself as lowly and unnecessary, someone who is ready to be only the voice like John the Baptist - only this person can be ready for the coming of the Word, like the Virgin Mary was.

In these final days of Advent we are to remember simply how unnecessary we are. Our joy, prayerfulness and thankfulness stem from our humble confidence that even though we are not necessary, and neither is the gift of a Savior, still the One who is necessary sees us, searches for us, knows us, desires what is best for us, and will find us. The Lord's decision to look upon us is the source of our salvation. The Lord's decision to love us and to remain close to us His people, is more important than any decision we can make to look for Him or try to find Him or try to add Him to our lives. John the Baptist tells us that the Lord is near. If this is really true, then there should be no circumstance that can rob us of our joy, our prayerfulness and our thankfulness!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Homily for Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Advent

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Most of us, if not all, are tired. We are tired of striving to be holy. We are tired of the discipline of prayer. We are tired of being busy. We are tired of the pressure. We are tired of trying to become lovable and significant. We can even get tired of being tired.

The last thing tired people need is another yoke, and yet Jesus invites us to take His yoke upon us. Is this the yoke of 40 days in the desert, followed by torturous temptation by the devil? Is this the yoke of the via crucis, and the taking on the sins of the world by placing our lives in the hands of our enemies? If the yoke He is talking about is anything like Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ then excuse me for thinking this yoke may not actually be the remedy for my tiredness.

For I am meek and humble of heart. Jesus seems to say that His yoke is easy and His burden light not because He is inviting us to a week in Cancun being pampered, but because He does not consider Himself to be important. At a minimum, He sees His life as far less important than the lives of those He came to save. As we see also in the Virgin Mary, it seems like the biggest responsibilities are laid upon those with the greatest self-forgetfulness. In the face of real humility, every impossible burden become impossibly light. The Virgin says - How can this be? Yet let it be done to me according to your word. The Lord says - If it is possible let this cup pass me by, but not as I will, but as you will. He even says of his persecutors - Father, they are your gift to me.

If our significance is received as a gift from God and not pursued relentlessly as our greatest accomplishment, it is possible for even the heaviest burdens that come our way, even conforming our lives to the cross of Christ, to become lighter over time. May we be humble enough to let ourselves be yoked to the one who emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, while never counting the cost. +m

Monday, December 8, 2008

Homily for Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

What are we doing here on a Monday anyway? Haven't we gotten used to Holy Days of Obligation being moved for our convenience? What about the 'new rule' that we think now exists, that if a Holy Day is on a Saturday or a Monday it is either moved or dispensed with? What are we doing here today anyway?

Well, the fact that the Immaculate Conception of our Lady is a holy day that is not moved for any reason, tells us how important it is. By the simple fact that the Immaculate Conception is a Holy Day that is never abrogated, we know it is the most important of all the Holy Days of obligation outside of Sundays that we celebrate. The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is never abrogated because She is the patronness of the Americas, and in particular the patronness of the United States. Her patronage of our country represents the early piety of our colonies, and the great devotion Americans have always had for the Virgin Mary, from the time the first missionaries arrived on our shores. Bishops from our country attended the pronouncement of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. Her patronage of our country was declared shortly thereafter. You can see from all of this that today is a singularly important solemnity for us particularly in the United States, and a day that we never abrograte because of its importance for us to gather and pray for the protection of our country. We pray as well for growth in wisdom and virtue, among our citizens and especially within our leaders. We pray that our country, under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may retain its status as a great light shining in the darkness.

When a priest is ordained, Holy Chrism is poured, usually quite liberally, upon his hands, to sanctify those hands and to denote that he is now a man set apart especially to celebrate the Eucharist and to forgive sins. The same oil used for baptism and confirmation is used on the hands of a priest, but it is poured so liberally at the time of ordination that there is usually quite a residue that is traditionally wiped away by a linen cloth, called a maniturgium. This maniturgium is presented to the mother of the priest, and tradition calls for this maniturgium to be kept by the mother of the priest until the day of her funeral. On that day, the maniturgium is placed within the coffin of the priest's mother, and represents her free ticket to heaven, for having given birth to a priest.

Now of course this is pious tradition, and there is no guarantee that a mother of a priest has a 'free ticket to heaven. She may. She may not. Yet the tradition gives light to the Solemnity we are celebrating today. We say that the merits of Christ's victory over sin and death, were given to His mother, Mary, from the first moment of her conception, and thus Mary was conceived without sin. Just as placing the priest's maniturgium within the coffin of his mother represents the priest's desire to offer all the fruits of his priesthood first to his mother who gave him birth, so that she may go to heaven, so also we say naturally that Christ Himself gave the fruits of his priesthood first to His mother Mary. Just as we can and do today offer prayers and sufferings for our deceased relatives and friends, counting on the author of time to carry our offerings and to place them within the lives of our loved ones making up for anything that was lacking in their life, so too the dogma of the Immaculate Conception relies of God's 'time machine,' which works much better than any flex capacitor, by the way, to carry the merits of Christ's passion backwards in time and to apply them to His mother Mary from the first moment of Her conception. Thus, Mary, as we hear in the Gospel, is the one who is full of grace, because of this gift Her son made to Her.

In the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by our Church in 1854, we see the Church defining something as true that had been believed by people for centuries, ordinary believers who spend thousands of hours on their knees contemplating the mystery of how God redeemed the world through His Son. In meditating on the Scriptures, and the meaning of the words 'full of grace' as applied to Mary, believers, not theologians, were through their piety the first to define that Mary shared in the grace of Christ in a way that far surpassed all the angels and saints combined. She alone is the only creature who was full of grace. It was up to the theologians, then, over the course of many centuries, to find a way to reasonably explain this faith of the people, the sensus fidei, as we say, which pointed toward the truth of Mary's being conceived without original sin. Only when the Church was ready and able to explain why and how we believed that Mary's fullness of grace implied Her Immaculate Conception, did the Church define the dogma, almost 1900 years after the death of Christ and hundreds of years after the faithful had begun celebrating this great truth. This, my friends, is for all aspiring theologians among us, a definition of theology, faith seeking understanding, at its very best. Theology is not making up abstract theories about who God is, it is trying to use all human learning to show how the beautiful faith of people is consonant with human reason.

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception shows forth the beautiful way that the order of our salvation builds upon the order of nature. The theological principle is that grace builds upon nature. The supernatural is not separate from the natural, but always goes on top of nature. In other words, even when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, God chose not to abandon His creation, but to redeem it. God chose not to scrap everything, but to re-create the world beginning with His chosen instrument, Mary. And so, just as in the order of nature all of us began our lives being completely dependent upon our mother, so in the order of grace each one of us begins our lives being completely dependent upon Mary, just as Jesus Himself was. We who are the adopted sons and daughters of Jesus Christ, we who make up His body today, are as dependent on Her for life as Jesus Himself was, who was born of the Virgin. We are as dependent upon Mary for our supernatural life as we are on our birth mothers for our natural lives. No matter what our current relationship with our moms is, the fact is that we would not be here if they had not given us birth. God in choosing Mary from the first moment of Her conception to be the mother of Jesus, desired us to be given life eternal in the same way that we are given life on earth. And so the Lord during his last moment on earth, told John at the foot of the cross - Behold, your mother! +m

Friday, December 5, 2008

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent

This is probably just my insecurity speaking, but sometimes I feel like I get more stares wearing clerics than do people with tattoos, unusual piercings and outrageous hair. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. I love wearing my clerics almost anywhere except to sporting events, when I really really just want to watch the game and enjoy it for a few hours before going back to work. I love the unpredictable interactions that come my way because people can see by what I'm wearing that I'm a priest. I love the witness that wearing the Roman collar gives toward what I believe, without my even having to speak. I have to confess, however, that it was hard to predict before I started wearing clerics how counter-cultural being a priest really is. Although there are a few people who really don't care, generally speaking almost everyone takes a second look when they see a priest. As colorful and diverse and weird as the KU campus is, I wonder sometimes who would garner more interest walking down Jayhawk boulevard - me or John the Baptist, with his camel hair tunic and leather belt. I'm sure he would draw more attention than me at lunch, however, for I would probably opt for a chicken sandwich over an entree of locusts and wild honey!

Although we as priests do not wear a uniform anything like that worn by John the Baptist, we do wear something unusual, something that denotes that we have been called by God to give a prophetic witness that God is real and that He is closer than people usually think. St. Peter says in his letter for today that just because Jesus has been in his ascended 'semi-retirement' for some time now is no reason to think that He will be delayed in returning. St. Peter puts it this way - with the Lord, who is the maker of time, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. To paraphrase, just because 2000 years have passed since the Lord's ascension, does not mean that you and I will have all the time we need to get ready for the Lord's coming. We should prepare with the anticipation that He is coming back in a day or two. This is the joyful expectation that Advent rekindles in us, the anticipation that John the Baptist the wild man went out to proclaim. It is the expectation that a revolution is near, a revolution far beyond what President-elect Obama might be able to usher in. It is a revolution proclaiming that the coming of the Lord will be the source of everlasting prosperity and peace.

It is true. We are easily tempted to think that the Lord is not as involved as He could be or should be. We wonder why He is keeping his distance given the state of the world. As St. Peter assures us, however, the Lord patience, which is directed toward our salvation is a gift that should not be confused with His being distant. Because the Lord is patient, we should not be crushed if Jesus doesn't make it back in the next hour or so. Yet Advent is the time when we as Christians stop asking for more time. Asking for an extension from God is not a good spiritual strategy. In fact, it is a recipe for disasater, for we all know that the longer we put things off, the greater the possibility that we will never achieve them. All of us can think of hundreds of things we have always meant to do but never did because there seemed to be plenty of time. In reality there is never enough time. So actually Advent is the season when we ask the Lord to come back sooner rather than later. During Advent, we heed the advice of prophets like John the Baptist, who appear begging us not to ask the Lord for an extension, but that the deadline be moved up. Prepare the way of the Lord. Get ready. Make straight His paths. The Lord is coming soon. The expectation of Advent is meant to save us from going through life lackadaisically and in fear that He might come back before we're ready.

The Lord, whenever He comes, will bring good and not evil, and so there is no need for us to fear. Advent tells us however, not to be the kind of simplistic people who save trying to become holy as the last project of our lives, right before we die. Not only may we not have enough time. More importantly, we will miss the fun and the excitement, not to mention the fulfillment and happiness that belongs to one who waits in great anticipation for the coming of the Lord. Don't give in to the narrative that says it is more fun to disobey God now - you can always ask for forgiveness later. No, sin while bringing a brief moment of excitement can never compare with the excitement of living a life in preparation for seeing God, the one who made us and the one whom we were made to love above all things, face to face. God is coming to show His face to us. He is coming to be born among us in Bethlehem. This is the mystery of the Incarnation that we prepare to celebrate with unparalleled joy, if only we do not put our preparations off until tomorrow.

Priests and those consecrated to God are those who are called to live this Advent expectation. They are those chosen by Jesus to anticipate His coming in a special way, and to show the world the joy that comes from one whose heart and life has been redeemed by Jesus Christ. It is because of this anticipation of seeing Christ, and wanting to be the first in line to see Him face to face, that compels priests and religious to put their lives on fast-forward so to speak. Priests and religious by their vows make a sacrifice, and take one additional step out of this world that is passing away, not because they hate the world, but because they look forward to its being redeemed by the coming of Jesus Christ. Like John the Baptist, priests and religious are called to give an especially strong prophetic witness, to those who wonder why they would choose not to be married, for example, that the Lord is close. Priests and religious are wholeheartedly dedicated to preparing the world for the definitive coming of its Savior.

Let us pray for all those who inspired by the example of John the Baptist, are considering a radical gift of self in reponse to a call to be a priest or to be a consecrated religious. Let us pray that those who have chosen to follow the Lord more precisely in the priesthood and religious life will be able to do so all the more courageously. Mary, Queen of Vocations, pray for us! +m

Homily for Saturday of the 1st Week of Advent - Memorial of St. Nicholas

For daily readings, see

St. Nicholas was a bishop in Asia Minor during the 4th Century. He is one of the most popular saints of all time. He is legendary for fighting Arianism at the Council of Nicea, but it is very possible that he was not even there, since his greatest biographer, St. Methodius, does not even mention this. He is famous in Russia, in Italy, in England, where over 400 Churches are dedicated to him, and of course in America too, where he was first popularized not by Catholics, but by Dutch Protestants who advanced his legendary generosity to children and dubbed him Santa Claus. The legend of his generosity to children begins with his anonymous donation of three sacks of gold to a penniless family who had three daughters unable to be married for lack of dowries. St. Nicholas is the patron of prisoners as well, because of the story of his appearing to the Emperor Constantine in a vision on behalf of three prisoners who were unjustly accused.

The legends of St. Nicholas make us curious for more information that may never be forthcoming about his bishopric in Myra. His election as bishop was most likely by popular acclaim. A crowd may have gathered around Nicholas, like the crowd that pushed up against Jesus wherever he went. The Lord's heart was moved because they were like sheep without a shepherd. St. Nicholas, like every bishop, is pictured with his crosier, which reflects Jesus' command to his apostles to go out and to feed his sheep.

The apostles received a three-fold ministry from the Lord, a ministry that has been handed down to the bishops of the Church today who are helped most closely by their priests. Every bishop has the responsibilities outlined in today's Gospel - to announce the Kingdom, to sanctify the world, and to build the Kingdom especially by gathering up those who have been lost. A bishop, helped by his priests, must give wholehearted attention to these three indispensable parts of his one mission, for the Lord reminds his apostles that without cost they have received, without cost they are to give.

In a special way the bishop must depend on the laity to do their part to announce the Kingdom of God and to heal the world, especially in the marketplace where they have special expertise and are regularly present. Pope Benedict in his missionary intention for the month of December asks us to pray that all Christians may show by their charity the hope they have received through the Christmas mystery. Inspired by the generosity of St. Nicholas, and in anticipation of the Lord's coming at Christmas, let us together ask how the Lord may be asking us to stop counting the cost, and be more generous in building up the Kingdom, and making the world more ready for His final coming in glory! +m

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Homily for Thursday of the 1st Week of Advent

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Katrina. Ike. Fill in the name of your least favorite hurricane. Or tsunami if you prefer. Or tornado, like the one that hit Greensburg, Kansas. The floods came. The winds blew. And there is always lots of video footage of the damage that can help deliver visually the metaphor of today's Gospel.

Jesus says that those who are 'pretty good guys' and those who have a modicum of piety may not enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Our willingness to give up our own will to do the will of the Father is much more important than our simply finding something worthwhile to do with our lives. Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the One who came not to do His own will, but to do only the will of His Father. Jesus' trust in the Father's love for Him allowed Him to wait patiently for 30 years before being driven by the Spirit into the desert to be purified in advance of His three years of public ministry.

Let it not be said of us that we say 'Lord, Lord' easily but instead of being driven by the Spirit, we are instead driven by our wants, desires and ambition. There is no room in heaven, according to the words of our Lord, for one who tries to 'match' His will with the will of God. There is only room for the one who abandons His own will so that he may follow the will of God with more perfect trust and obedience. The only true disciple is the one who daily sacrifices His own will so that He may receive with joy and expectation the will of God the Father, even if God the Father points him toward something difficult, unexpected, and something that requires a great leap of faith. We must be able to pray daily with Jesus our brother - Lord, if it is possible, let this cup of suffering pass me by, but not as I will, but as you will.

The only way to be sure that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone on which our spiritual lives are built is to let God the Father lay every stone in our house. This takes patience. This takes perseverence. It takes a resolution on our part to never try anything in our lives without first seeking the Lord's permission and blessing. Yes, that's right, in building our home, it is harder to ask for permission than to ask for forgiveness, but we should ask for permission anyway. If we look back on our lives to those times when we have been discouraged and disillusioned by a storm that passed our way, we can usually see how our own will contributed to the disaster. The prophet Isaiah tells us that we must instead trust in the will of God forever, so that He may set up walls and ramparts to protect us. +m

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Homily for Wednesday of the 1st Week of Advent

Some of us are more lame than others (I mean in the physically challenged way, not those of you who lack a healthy sense of humor), while some of you are tremendously gifted athletically. Some of us are more blind than others (I was 20/180 before my Lasik surgery, and still do not see very well) while some of you see 20/20 or better. Some of us are more deformed than others, although there are a few of you with the unblemished good looks of models. Some of us are more mute than others, although there are some of you who could give a homily and say Mass much more eloquently than I ever could.

Some of us get hungrier than others, although there is not a person out there today who never needs food. Jesus in revealing his compassion begins by healing those with rare bodily deformities, then moves in pity to address a need that everyone in the crowd has - a need for food. Then, as we know from the latter pages of the Gospel story, Jesus will direct his compassion to the most debilitating disease affecting human nature, a disease that damages the human soul in ways that blindness, muteness or hunger never can, the disease of sin.

Jesus reveals Himself through the miracle of the loaves and fish to be the Savior of everyone, for presumably everyone in the crowd was hungry, for they had been with Him three days with nothing to eat. How many of us have begun Advent with three days of fasting, so that we limped into Mass tonight almost ready to collapse? That's right - I didn't think so! The miracle of the loaves and fish shows how everyone in the crowd was dependent upon Jesus for healing, not just the lame, the blind, the deformed and the mute who were the first to be healed by Jesus.

I don't get mad at myself for needing contacts to correct my vision. I don't get mad at myself for needing chapstick to soothe my lips during the winter. I don't get mad at myself for needing a slice of one of Sr. Loredana's pies in order to satisfy my sweet tooth. I do get mad at myself, however, when I have to depend on Jesus for forgiveness. Why do I get so angry and disappointed at myself? Because I am often too proud to embrace my identity as a sinner, as one completely dependent upon a Savior to defeat an enemy that has already defeated me. I would oftentimes rather be independent, and all-powerful and the equal of Christ rather than having to beg for the food of forgiveness because my soul is empty and my spirit is ready to collapse.

Hating our sins perfectly is one thing. Hating ourselves because we are sinners in need of God's mercy is another thing; in fact, hating ourselves is the surest way to isolate ourselves and to cut off the one relationship that restores life in abundance. Entering into a conversation with Jesus about how we can both hate our sins more perfectly while at the same time depending more deeply on His life-giving mercy will lead us no longer to isolation, but to communion with the One who spreads before us a feast of juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines that is the sure remedy for the deepest spiritual hungers of the human heart. Come, Lord Jesus! +m

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Homily for Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

A child does not know how to read or do calculus. He does not know how to engineer, litigate, teach or write a business plan. Neither does he have a busy schedule, a contingency plan, a to-do list, or self-improvement projects. A child has none of this valuable wisdom. A child barely has the sense to avoid danger. A child has only has one kind of wisdom. He has faith that someone desires what is good for him, and that someone will deliver what is best for him.

Jesus proposes to His disciples that all other wisdom is rubbish compared to this wisdom possessed by a child. Pope Benedict in his personal reflections on the life of Jesus, said that understanding the uniqueness of Christ is to understand that He is the one who always sees the face of His heavenly Father. He is thus the one who always remains a child in relationship to His Father. Jesus never forgets that His Father will take care of Him. Jesus proclaims Himself to be the one who knows the Father. He is the one who can reveal to us how to remain as children before the Father.

Prophets and kings desired to see one who was sent by the Father to be the Messiah. They wanted to see the Son of God, most likely because of the awesome power such a figure would bring with Him. Whether they knew it or not, what they watned to see was one who because He was sent from the Father could live with perfect trust, dependence and obedience to the will of the Father. This promised Messiah however they did not see. The disciples to whom Jesus is talking are seeing the Son of God. In seeing Jesus, they are privileged to see how much greater is the freedom of one who always remains a child before God. Jesus' trust in the goodness of His Father allowed Him to always remain a child, and to be the baby who is always able to play by the cobra's den without fear, from the moment of his birth in Bethlehem to his trial before Pilate, to His willingness today to be crucified for our sins. He does all of this with the faith of a child, knowing only that the Father desires His good, and will not allow evil to have the final say.

Even as we increase our freedom through learning, discerning and praying, Jesus invites us to remember that the greatest freedom comes from the greatest faith, the faith of a child. The greatest wisdom is trusting that God our Father sees us, even when we do not see Him, and that He knows our good and desires our good and delivers our good. We prepare this Advent to welcome the light that scatters the darkness of failed human wisdom. A little child born in Bethlehem will bring with Him the wisdom and the justice of God! +m

Monday, December 1, 2008

Homily for Monday of the First Week of Advent

Jesus is not a pacifist simply because war does not work. He is a pacifist because war has worked, and by His stripes, we have been healed. Jesus does not tell us to love our enemies because He does not know how to fight. If anyone teaches us how to fight, it is the One who came to conquer sin and death. Jesus in learning obedience from what He suffered showed Himself to be the ultimate fighter. From the cross, He revealed Himself as the ultimate victor in the battle to do only the will of His Father, even as He prayed that His cup of suffering would pass Him by. It is because Christ does battle for us on the cross, and there conquers the enemy that has already conquered us, that He has the power to heal us! In Christ, the tiny defenseless babe born in a manger, and in every martyr who follow Him, God chooses the weak and makes them strong in bearing witness to the almighty power of God, a power mysteriously able to be held by frail humans like you and me.

God chooses the centurion, presumably a foreigner who does not know Abraham, and thus is weak in faith, to demonstrate the supernatural gift of real faith in the victory Christ has over sin and death. Christ's victory in Jerusalem is foreshadowed before He ever arrives there in the healing of the centurion's servant. Like the preservation of Mary from original sin, the merits of Christ's victory go backward in time, and fortunately for us, they also go forward in time so that we too are healed completely by the fruits of His victory. We receive these fruits of victory most completely in the Holy Eucharist. Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.

Gandhi can show us the futility of war. Jesus shows us that the victory over sin and death is already won, and this victory, not tolerance, is the source of everlasting peace. We fight no longer for the victory itself, but that His victory would be born in us anew on Christmas morning. If this victory is born in us again, we will go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere, so that the knee of every nation will bend before the everlasting Prince of Peace!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent

Advent is wanting God to come closer. Advent is wanting God to come sooner. Advent is wanting God to come closer and sooner, and actually meaning it!

To borrow a metaphor from yesterday's momentous KU game, Advent is 4 and 7 from the 21 with 27 seconds left, down by four to Missouri. Advent is 10 seconds left, down three against Memphis. It is watching Mario's shot in the air.

Advent is a hospital waiting room. It is pregnancy tests. It is biopsy results. It is keeping vigil when a child is to be born, or a loved one is about to die.

Advent is the hour before a first date. It is the moment before a first kiss. It is making the final preparations for a perfect proposal.

Advent is the fear before going into enemy fire. It is the anxiety we have in answering the phone when we know a loved one has been in harm's way.

Advent is opening the mail after taking the ACT. It is applying for a job that my family really needs, and waiting for the answer.

Advent is the excitement of getting ready to see someone we love whom we have not seen in a really long time.

Advent is wanting God to come closer and sooner, and actually meaning it!

Advent invites us to become more like those who pray in today's first reading from Isaiah, those in exile to Babylon, who actually blamed God, and His distance from them, for their plight. You and I are probably too timid to blame God for our exile, for our long-suffering inability to make ourselves into what we want to be. We instead blame ourselves, and ask God to keep his distance and to give us more time to tinker with our self-improvement projects. This is not the attitude taken by those exiled to Babylon. Isaiah reports that they refuse to believe God has decided to keep his distance from them. They want God to come closer, and to come sooner, and they really mean it!

Advent is the time for us to stop asking God to leave us alone as long as possible, so that we can mold ourselves, before having to turn in the final product for judgment at an unspecified date. Jesus tells his disciples that they may never be ready to turn in their final product, for they do not even know the deadline. Rather than despairing, however, He tells them to keep vigil. Isaiah shows us the way of the Israelites who prayed for God to come sooner rather than later. It is futile to pray that God will give us all the time we need. Rather, we are to expect that God is coming now, so now is the time to beg God Himself to mold us into what we are supposed to be, according to His will.

Most of us are too timid to blame God for our exile. We are too self-centered to ask God for less time instead of for more. Yet if we ask God to come closer, and to come sooner, and we mean it, what but good can result? If we place our lives are in God's hands, if He is the potter and we are the clay, we can and should rejoice that every situation, especially the ones we cannot control, and the ones fraught with the most excitement, vigilance, and yes, even anxiety, is a situation of God's molding us into someone beautifully ready to participate in the eternal mysteries of divine life and divine love, the mysteries that complete the mystery of who we are.

Advent is about asking God to come closer. Advent is asking God to come sooner. And actually meaning it!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Homily for Solemnity of Christ the King

President-elect Obama has outrageous expectations. Although he has never claimed to be a miracle-worker, if the crowds that cheered his election are any indication, there is a tremendous faith out there that he will do amazing things as President of the United States. The expectations of the president-elect as he prepares to enter Washington are not unlike the expectations placed on Jesus Christ, who was indeed a miracle worker, as He entered Jerusalem to the shouts of great crowds. The inauguration of the next president will be an amazing sight for all of us indeed, as was the welcome of Jesus into Jerusalem. Let's hope, however, that the President-elect will have better luck at fulfilling the expectations of his fans than Jesus did at fulfilling the expectations of His fans. Remember, those fans who chanted Hosanna to the Son of David were the same ones who chanted 'Crucify Him' when He did not turn out to be the Messiah who could liberate Israel from Roman occupation.

Who is the most powerful person in the world after the last set of elections anyway? Certainly most of the world would say president-elect Obama, the leader of perhaps the most powerful and prosperous kingdom the world has ever seen. Who is the most powerful person in the world? Well, actually we gather tonight on this great Solemnity of our Church at the end of the liturgical year to proclaim that despite the results of the most recent elections, Jesus Christ remains the most powerful man in the world, for unlike any other figure in human history, He has a kingdom that is both universal and eternal. It is a kingship, as we know, that is unlike any other kingship in the world. President-elect Obama has the secret service, even the Pope has the Swiss guard. Jesus Christ the eternal and universal King has neither, only the heavenly weapons of truth and love.

As Catholics it is especially important for us, even as we respect and support the legitimate authority of our elected leaders, and even as we challenge them, especially our Catholics in elected office, to govern us in accordance with the natural and divine law, that we do not place expectations on our elected officials that we should rightfully place instead upon Christ our eternal King. In our proclamation of Christ as the eternal and universal King, we assert that any temporal earthly authority that does not recognize and participate in the kingship of Christ is ultimately a house built on sand. Remember the question that Pilate posed to Jesus? 'Do you not know that I have the power to crucify you?' Jesus replied, 'You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above.' In the same way through our celebration tonight we recognize that an earthly kingdom that does not share in the kingship of Christ can only give limited and temporary prosperity, whereas Christ promises life in abundance to those who belong to His kingdom, and guarantees that the Church He founded to extend His mission will prevail against all evil, even the gates of hell. As Catholics who celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King then, we are to be at the same time more detached from political life, avoiding anointing anyone a Messiah except the one who can bring everlasting life, and also more involved in political life, working to build a civilization redeemed by the love of a King at whose name every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth.

When we place expectations on political leaders, and even on political systems like democracy, to guarantee our lasting prosperity, we can fail to focus instead on the abundance of life that Christ our King provides for us, especially through the gift of the Eucharist. Christ shows Himself on the cross, where He was proclaimed to be the King of the Jews by Pilate, that He is the most self-forgetful of kings, measuring His life's worth not by any earthly standards of accomplishment but by how radically He could serve and make the love of God more visible and real to you and me. Rather than seeing his own self-importance, Christ the King gives His life for His subjects, carelessly, it would seem, forgoing any protection whatsoever and throwing His life into the hands of His enemies, out of love for them. This is why if Christ is our King, we can say with the psalmist that the Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. Who can ask more than for a King who is willing to lay down His life for them, even when they hate Him in return? In asking Christ to be the King of our hearts, we place our ultimate prosperity in His hands. In doing so, we gain much freedom. We gain the freedom to forgo the futility of having to place a price tag on everything we might cram into our busy lives, including God Himself, in the hopes of making our lives more important and prosperous. What is more, we no longer need to employ the secret service of pride and fear to distance ourselves from those who threaten our precious little kingdoms. With Christ as our King, we escape the the sinful tendency to build a kingdom of self-importance, and we escapte the need to preserve that kingdom by neglecting our brothers and sisters in need. +m

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Homily for Wednesday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

For daily readings, see

The way Luke frames tonight's Gospel, it seems that the Lord is instructing his disciples that things will be incomplete even after the fantastic events that will happen in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem Jesus would perform the most important signs He had performed to date, the sign of the Last Supper, and the signs of his suffering, death, resurrection and Ascension. It is in Jerusalem that the kingdom of God would be most fully revealed, as his disciples were expecting. Luke, however, points out in this Gospel that although God's revelation would be definitive in Jerusalem, the end of the world was not promised by Jesus. Quite the opposite, Jesus teaches his disciples that the road ahead may be a long one, like a king going away for a time until an indefinite return, but that the necessity to live fruitful lives in fidelity to the king would remain and would be the sure way to salvation.

We are in year 2000 or so since the Lord's Ascension. Those events in Jerusalem that established the everlasting covenant between God and man have indeed been remembered and celebrated for a long time, including our celebration of the Mass tonight. It should not be a surprise to us that the everlasting covenant has lasted for what seems like forever, nor should it surprise us if the Lord wishes it to continue for a great while longer until He comes in glory. The reading we have from the book of revelation helps us to keep the end in sight, the return of the King in all His glory. It is for this end that we prepare and for which we pray, that the Lord may come and complete the work of redemption initiated by the events in Jerusalem. We pray for Jesus to return sooner rather than later, for His coming brings good and not evil to us. We know that His presence brings eternal significance to the lives of those for whom He died. His coming raises our human dignity 5 times, 10 times, more times than any parable could signify. This is the expansion of life, human and divine, for one who has faith, for one who no longer wants to be merely a child of dust. So we so we await that coming of Jesus, experienced most intimately on this side of heaven in the Eucharist, with great joy and optimism, not with fear that He will get back while our lives are still buried in the ground. +m

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Homily for Tuesday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

For daily readings, see
St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, pray for us!

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, the only canonized saint to have done part of her work in Kansas, albeit only for a brief period of one year in 1840 with the Potawatomi indians near Sugar Creek, is a saint known mostly for the heroic virtues of patience and perseverence. The Potawatomi indians, whose language she could never master, described her as the woman who 'prays always.' Her prayer must certainly have been the source of her perseverence despite the obstacles that stood in her way beginning at the age of 17. St. Rose, even from an early age, was not known to be an especially beautiful or happy child. She was known to be quite irascible and selfish actually, and surprised many when she indicated her desire to go to the convent at age 17. After four years of formation, Rose was forbidden by her father to make final vows, as he correctly saw the impending breakup of religious orders by Napoleon during the French Revolution. Rose's vocation had to wait for about 15 years, before a Concordat between Napoleon and the Church allowed her to return to religious life. It took her another 15 years before she could convince anyone to allow her to go to the United States as a missionary, something she had wanted to do since studying history at age 17. She was named the superior of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, and founded several schools along the Mississippi for poor children, the majority of them around St. Louis, where she is today buried. Her sisters always suffered from many setbacks and the lack of money, but her saintly virtue was proven by her steadfast determination in the face of any difficulty. St. Rose lived up to the prophetic challenge of today's reading from Revelation, allowing herself to be refined and made into pure gold by the chastisements and crosses that came her way. She resigned as mother superior at the age of 71 to fulfill her final wish to establish a mission among the indian peoples of Kansas. Even though she never learned to speak the language, and was only able to stay in Kansas for a year because of declining health, she gives to our great state the privilege of having had a canonized work on our soil. She was canonized by John Paul II in 1988 and is the secondary patron of the St. Lawrence Center.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Homily for Sunday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

For daily readings, see

Guys, tonight's first reading from Proverbs is an encouragement for you to 'marry above yourself''! Now don't get the wrong idea. The proverb is not about marrying a girl better looking than you, although that is not a bad idea and usually not that hard to achieve. The proverb is not about marrying a girl who will make more money than you, although that also perhaps is not a bad idea, and not as hard to achieve as it used to be, since almost 57% of college students are now women. Guys, tonight's proverb is about marrying a woman that is holier than you. The proverb extols the virtues of a good and holy wife, whose worth is beyond measure. In terms of our faith, this means that the kind of woman that a guy should be looking for is a woman that knows Christ so well that a guy has to deepen his faith in Christ if he is to have any chance to get the girl. Ladies, I'm sorry that you perhaps do not have the same luxury of looking for guys who are holier than you. Although it is difficult for anyone in today's culture to live a virtuous life, especially in the area of sexuality, it is more than safe to say that women are more naturally virtuous and open to the things of God. That is why of course that God, when He was ready to make an everlasting covenant with His people, went to a woman, the Virgin Mary, as the representative of all of humanity, to receive a 'yes' to his invitation. Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to thy word. Ladies, I pray that you will be able to find guys who desire such goodness and purity from you. I know your situation of trying to find a man who is virtuous enough to marry is a difficult problem. Besides, if I find a virtuous and holy guy, I'm not going to ask him to date, but I'm going to ask him to go to seminary. Well, at any rate, the discernment of vocations takes a lot of prayer, so I invite everyone to keep praying.

St. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians invites them to be children of the day and not of the night. He invites his audience to invest liberally in the things of heaven, the things that last forever, and to invest conservatively in the things that provide only fleeting peace and security. Now St. Paul did not know the current condition of the stock market when he wrote his letter to the Thessalonians, but he did know the fragile nature of the human condition. If you turn on the tv this evening, you could find financial advisors telling us to do 10 different things with our money. Some will be telling us to be very conservative; others, to take advantage of the current situation and take risks that may pay off. But St. Paul reminds us that no matter what our investment strategy is with our money, based on the current conditions of the market, that our trust in money should always be conservative when compared to the trust that we put in the promises of God. In reference to God's gifts of faith, hope and love, we are to be as liberal as possible in asking for these gifts from God and sharing these gifts around us. This is how we become children of light.

The parable of the talents reflects what happens to a person who keeps his faith hidden. The parable shows that there is no 'safe way' to get to heaven. We cannot get into heaven by trying to keep some small spark of faith alive and living a barely good enough life to get in the back door of God's favor. No, if we live this kind of faith, we will be called wicked, lazy servants. Faith is a gift that can only grow when it is risked, when it is exposed to those who might try to take it away. In such an environment, however, faith grows bigger and stronger, and we grow in confidence as children of God in the midst of a generation that puts its trust in things that easily pass away. Keeping our faith to ourselves is a short road for losing our faith, and this is the path that I would say at least 90% of Catholics students take when they are in college. There will always be challenges to our faith - moral, personal, philosophical - challenges to God's goodness or to his existence. But we have to risk our faith anyway, or else it will quickly become worthless.

One of the ways we grow stronger in faith is to be generous with our time, talent and treasure. We volunteer to reach out to the poor, we volunteer to teach our faith, and we willingly sacrifice and fast from our own wants in order to contribute financially to the Church. This is the risk of faith that everyone should be taking. Thankfully, college students are mostly poor, so the temptation to keep too much money to yourself is not as dangerous as it would be for a rich person. Most of you have debt, which is a better position to be in when Jesus return than to have too much money. Still, all the same, it is possible for a rich person to be detached from his money and generous, and for a poor person to be attached to what little he has, and to be stingy. The parable of the talents show us this clearly. Our giving to the Church is an indication of our detachment from the things of this world. Giving to the Church is always more about us living our faith than about the Church's need to receive. We do want to invite students to help pay the light bills around here, and to take ownership of the Center. This is important and is a constitutive element of being a full member of the Church. It is something you will all be asked to do in your future parishes. But most of all, we want students who are only conservatively attached to the things of this world, and are liberally attached to the things of God. And so we invite you all, through the forms that are in the bulletin this weekend, to contribute $15 a month to the St. Lawrence Center, and more if you can or should. If you do an EFT, you don't have to worry about bringing cash when you come to Mass. Please take a bulletin as you leave Mass today and prayerfull consider what God might be asking you to do. +m

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Students at Catholic Universities - new study

New study reported by National Catholic Register -

The survey’s findings also showed that the experience of attending a Catholic institution of higher education did not appear to increase Catholic faith and practice for most students.
57% said the experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their participation in Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation.
54% of respondents said that their experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their support for the teachings of the Catholic Church.
56% said their experience had no effect on their respect for the Pope and bishops.
Finally, the survey also found that 6% of students who were Catholic while in a Catholic college are not now Catholic. Only 1% who were not Catholic while at a Catholic college are today Catholic. According to the survey, “This net decline in Catholic self-identification suggests that very few convert to the Catholic faith after leaving college.”

A groundbreaking study of Catholic college students and recent alumni found:
60% say abortion should be legal.
60% say premarital sex is not a sin.
57% say same-sex “marriage” should be legal.
39% saw officials or staff encouraging contraceptive use.
31% saw officials or staff encouraging acceptance of homosexual activity.
Men vs. Women
50% of college women engage in premarital sex.
41% of college men engage in premarital sex.
23% of college women are drawn to the sacraments.
40% of college men are drawn to the sacraments.
Source: Center for the Study of Higher Education, QEV Analytics

Missouri maybe no longer a 'bellweather' state - how did Catholics vote?

from Our Sunday Visitor -

Obama getting few votes than Kerry only in a few states - interesting!

Who got Catholic vote?
Obama's percentage of the Catholic vote represents a gain of 7 percentage points from the vote totals for the Democratic Party's 2004 candidate Sen. John Kerry. But while Obama won the overall Catholic vote, McCain won majorities of non-Hispanic white Catholics (52 percent to 47 percent) and Catholics who say they attend Mass weekly or more often (50 percent to 49 percent). But the estimated margin of victory among weekly Mass-goers is too close to the margin of sampling error for the exit polls to be decisive. Even in losing among these Catholic sub-groups, Obama made gains compared to Kerry's results in 2004 of 4 percentage points among non-Hispanic white Catholics and 6 percentage points among weekly Catholic Mass-goers.
How about Hispanics?
The exit poll results currently do not break out vote percentages for Hispanic Catholics. However, these do reveal that Obama won 67 percent of all self-identified Hispanic voters of any faith compared to McCain's 31 percent. CARA's surveys estimate that approximately 70 percent of Hispanics in the United States self-identify as Catholic.
Bellwether no more
The Catholic vote in Missouri may have an historical consequence. At the time of this writing McCain leads Obama in total votes in the state by just more than 5,800. The state has yet to be called for either candidate. If Obama does lose this state, one of the central reasons will be his inability to attract the support of a majority of Catholics. If Missouri is declared for McCain it will have lost its "bellwether" status. Missouri has voted for the winning candidate in every election since 1960 and no Democrat has ever been elected president without winning Missouri.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Homily for Monday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time

For daily readings, see
St. Leo the Great, pray for us!

St. Leo is one of only two popes to be called 'Great,' although there are already many who have begun called John Paul II this, in the hope that it will catch on. As far as I know, and I could very easily be wrong, there is no official process as to whether a Pope is declared Great or not - it is more by popular acclamation and usage. The fact that this title has stuck only to the names of two Popes in all of the history of the Church, gives us a great indication of the kind of man Leo was. He is known to be the principal theologian of the Council of Chalcedon, which solidified and codified the Church's belief in the two natures of Christ. As we know from studying Church history, the doctrinal statements of Chalcedon were essential in preserving the unity of the Church, especially in what she believed about Christ. St. Leo's defense of the unity of the Church extended as well to his work on behalf of the temporal welfare of the Church. He is known for protecting Rome and her most sacred churches and shrines, most of which were less than 100 years old at the time, from the onslaught of barbarians.

The commemoration of St. Leo gives us a chance today to pray for our holy father, and as St. Paul instructs in his letter to Titus, for our presbyters and bishops. The surest way to defeat the Church is to weaken her sacred ministers. We know well in the current situation of our Church, the immense amount of damage that can be done when a bishop or priest is not living a virtuous life that fosters unity within the body of Christ. St. Paul instructs that the Church cannot be too careful in who she ordains to the sacred ministry. The efficacy of the sacraments is never in question, but the fruitfulness of the sacraments is effected by the holiness of the ministers who dispense the grace. In addition, the first responsibility of bishops and priests is to preach the word of God. Jesus Himself warns that it is one thing to sin personally, but quite another thing to lead another person into sin. Just so, we should pray for the strength of our bishops and priests, who act in the person of Christ, that they would never give scandal by their conduct, and that they would form consciences with great courage and fidelity through their preaching and witness. St. Leo the great, pray for us, and for our pope, bishops and priests! +m

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Homily for the Feast of St. John Lateran

St. John Lateran, although it is one of the four major basilicas of Rome, is not the most famous. When most of us think of Rome, we think of St. Peter’s and its magnificent square. We think of the Pope celebrating Mass in the square or insider St. Peter’s basilica, or appearing at his window from his apartment overlooking the square. Throughout the history of our Church, however, the Pope has appeared more times at the Church of St. John Lateran, the oldest western Church, and the mother of all other Churches, including St. Peter’s. The popes lived for many centuries on the property given by the Laterani family in Rome, and the Holy See was housed there, before eventually being moved to its current location on the Vatican hill overlooking St. Peter’s. While St. Peter’s has always been a greatly significant Church, since it is built on the site of St. Peter’s crucifixion, since it is built over the place where St. Peter was buried, and since it houses the relic of the chair St. Peter sat upon, St. John Lateran has the distinction of being the first Church built by Constantine, and dedicated as the cathedral Church for the bishop of Rome. While there is no doubt that St. Peter’s is more famous today – many people who go to Rome never visit St. John Lateran – it is important to know that St. Peter’s is a daughter Church of St. John Lateran, and that St. John Lateran is the Pope’s principal Church, even if he has to take a short cab ride to get over there.

Any celebration of the dedication of a Church, especially a Church like St. John Lateran, the mother of all western Churches, gives us a chance to reflect on why we build Churches, how we use them, and what kind of Churches we should build. As we remember from David’s conversation with the Lord in the Old Testament, David was embarrassed that he lived in such opulence as king of Israel after all his great military victories, while God, whose presence was signified by the stone tablets of the law, was made to dwell in a tent, the ark of the covenant. David resolved to build a magnificent temple for the Lord, and although David’s desire was holy, he was reminded by the Lord that no temple David could build could adequately house God, who Himself made the world and all it holds. The same stands true for today, our Churches, no matter how beautiful or magnificent, can never adequately ‘house’ the glory of God or ‘house’ His presence. God does not need us to build a house for Him – this was the message to David that still holds true today.

So why do we build beautiful Churches like this magnificent chapel built in the 1980s by Msgr. Krische and many others who wanted to have, and to pass on, a beautiful chapel in which students, faculty, staff, and visitors to the University of Kansas could gather and worship God. God does not need this Church for Himself. It was rather a recognition on the part of those who built this Church of the need we have to give witness to our faith. We do this all the time as human persons. We give witness to who we think we are, and give witness to what we believe, by the way we dress, by the kind of houses we build, by the way we decorate our rooms. We surround ourselves with things that indicate who we are and what we believe – what is important to us. In the same way, building a Church is something we need to do to give witness to who we are as the people of God. St. Paul says to the Corinthians in tonight’s second reading – You are God’s building. Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? St. Paul tells us how easy it is to forget the dignity given us by Christ. Through Him we have become the very sons and daughters of God. That is why we build Churches, so that we do not forget. A Church like St. John Lateran, the first church built in western Christianity, and every one built after it, are meant to serve as necessary reminders of who we are. They are sacraments of who God has chosen us to be, temples of His glory. It is true that each person in this Church today is infinitely more valuable than this Church itself. This Church, although extremely important because it houses the Blessed Sacrament, is here only to facilitate the transformation of human persons into becoming the body of Christ temples of the Holy Spirit. God does not need a house made by human hands to dwell in, but we need a place where we can accomplish our transformation to becoming people in which God can dwell. This is why we build Churches, to remind ourselves of what we are becoming, what our true destiny is.

If you ever visited Rome you know that there are countless Churches which are more magnificent than this Church, Churches that have a tremendous capacity to lift hearts and minds to God, and yet you also know that these Churches mostly sit empty. It is important to try to think about why this is. Jesus experienced the Jerusalem temple as a busy place, but busy not because people were coming there to be transformed by God, but because they were there to do business. So he cleared out the temple, in a fit of righteous anger. Jesus in turn warns us against turning our Churches, which are supposed to be sacred spaces dedicated to intimate and deep encounters with God, into utilitarian spaces that are more about us than about God. There is a great temptation not to build great Churches or to make Churches multi-purpose facilities, thinking that God is more than willing to come and meet us where we are, even if we do not build a great Church or if we use it as a meeting hall. The humility shown by our Lord in being born in a manger in obscure Bethlehem does indeed show that He is willing to come be with us wherever we are. Yet we must remember that the Lord came among us not only to be a companion to our humanity, but to open the gates of heaven to us, and to transform us through the gifts of grace that come from heaven. Our Churches then are sacraments of what we imagine heaven to be like. They are not so much places to celebrate our like-mindedness in having chosen to worship God in the same style. No, they are places not where we choose God, but places where He chooses us, and showers down the grace that even now is transforming us into citizens of heaven. It is a tragedy in my own mind that some of the most magnificent Churches sit empty, because people are afraid of becoming all that God is calling them to be, whereas pedestrian Churches are oftentimes packed, because this is where we feel most comfortable, expecting God to conform Himself to our expectations of who He is. Jesus in the Gospel points to a continual need we have to cleanse our Churches from utilitarianism. Our Churches are never to become places where we come to purchase God with our capital, but places where we allow Him to purchase us and to draw us to a destiny beyond our imagining. +m

Friday, November 7, 2008

Conception Seminary has record enrollment - including the best 4 students - from our archdiocese (bias blatant!)

Here is the story from

An Opinion on the Effectiveness of the Bishop's Teaching in this election from

from Brian Burch, founder of Fidelis and

Q: Did the strong stance of the episcopate have any noticeable affect on the election? What could the Church have done more of?

Burch: The results of the election seem to indicate that, for the most part, Catholic voters ignored the guidance of their bishops. The results simply do not show any dramatic shift away from the larger trends seen during the past several election cycles.One area of concern was the document "Faithful Citizenship," which was used by many organizations to improperly justify support for pro-abortion candidates. The shortcomings of the document forced many bishops to issue their own pastoral letters, leaving many voters confused. Regrettably, I believe the net effect of "Faithful Citizenship" was more confusion than clarity.We must also remember that the bishops can only do so much. The teaching of the Church is clear, and the laity must be equally dedicated to pastoral efforts in this area. The task of evangelization is most effective, where possible, person-to-person, in a spirit of charity.You probably have heard the saying that all politics is local. In the same sense, the moral witness of individual Catholics, in their families and in their parishes, will likely do more good than any teaching document from our bishops.

Parables, the Catholic Sacramental Imagination, and Priesthood

Looking at life through the eyes of Cardinal Newman - thanks Fr. Denis, OSB for this reflection!

Words from SJV just in case a priest is having a bad day!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Homily for Friday of the 31st week in Ordinary Time

There are so many spiritual weapons at our disposal. The sacraments, especially daily Mass and frequent confession. Prayer - especially in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Fasting - keeping our stomachs or material things from becoming our Gods, as St. Paul tells us. Almsgiving - sharing what we have and working for justice for the poorest and most vulnerable. Friendship with the saints. Hundreds of devotions, including consecrations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In our Catholic tradition, we have so many spiritual weapons at our disposal, so many ways to keep our hearts set on the highest things of heaven, rather than on focusing narrowly on our own comfort and prosperity. Yet, we oftentimes remain in our sins, and the momentum they have in our lives seems to remain greater than our willpower and our growth in virtue.

Jesus tells his disciples through the parable not to be discouraged or to lose heart. When faced with a sin that persists, or with a difficult situation where we do not know exactly what to do, or with the enormity of our own vocation, we are to simply look at the other areas of our lives where we are effective and to make similar progress in the spiritual life. The dishonest steward is good at making deals to keep himself afloat in today's parable. Of course we should not imitate his dishonesty, but Jesus proposes his resourcefulness and getting what he wants. We have so many spiritual weapons at our disposal. We just have to become better at using them, instead of remaining pushovers who give in to sin to easily, and accept less than that for which we are made. If we really desire holiness, we can't take shortcuts, but there is plenty of help available for us, and plenty of nifty tricks we can use against Satan on our way to perfection. Jesus encourages us to never lower our standards, but to look around at the resources available to us. He challenges us to find a way to get the job done! +m

New Jayhawks getting love on

I actually thought the Jayhawks, especially Morningstar and Reed, looked pretty good in the first exhibition game. Those two can shoot and maybe will get a lot of playing time as the newcomers learn the college game. In a new way, this season will be really fun as we won't have to be biting our nails worrying about an upset but can really get after our opponents and maybe surprise some people. I hope we're hungry!!!

Pope Benedict welcomes Muslims

and reminds them to remain focused on God's love, which necessarily entails love of neighbor, and on the rights of individuals to worship in freedom.

Dear Friends,I am pleased to receive you this morning and I greet all of you most cordially. I thank especially Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran as well as Shaykh Mustafa Cerić and Mr Seyyed Hossein Nasr for their words. Our meeting takes place at the conclusion of the important Seminar organized by the "Catholic-Muslim Forum" established between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and representatives of the 138 Muslim leaders who signed the Open Letter to Christian leaders of 13 October 2007. This gathering is a clear sign of our mutual esteem and our desire to listen respectfully to one another. I can assure you that I have prayerfully followed the progress of your meeting, conscious that it represents one more step along the way towards greater understanding between Muslims and Christians within the framework of other regular encounters which the Holy See promotes with various Muslim groups. The Open Letter "A Common Word between us and you" has received numerous responses, and has given rise to dialogue, specific initiatives and meetings, aimed at helping us to know one another more deeply and to grow in esteem for our shared values. The great interest which the present Seminar has awakened is an incentive for us to ensure that the reflections and the positive developments which emerge from Muslim-Christian dialogue are not limited to a small group of experts and scholars, but are passed on as a precious legacy to be placed at the service of all, to bear fruit in the way we live each day.The theme which you have chosen for your meeting – "Love of God, Love of Neighbour: The Dignity of the Human Person and Mutual Respect" – is particularly significant. It was taken from the Open Letter, which presents love of God and love of neighbour as the heart of Islam and Christianity alike. This theme highlights even more clearly the theological and spiritual foundations of a central teaching of our respective religions.The Christian tradition proclaims that God is Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:16). It was out of love that he created the whole universe, and by his love he becomes present in human history. The love of God became visible, manifested fully and definitively in Jesus Christ. He thus came down to meet man and, while remaining God, took on our nature. He gave himself in order to restore full dignity to each person and to bring us salvation. How could we ever explain the mystery of the incarnation and the redemption except by Love? This infinite and eternal love enables us to respond by giving all our love in return: love for God and love for neighbour. This truth, which we consider foundational, was what I wished to emphasize in my first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, since this is a central teaching of the Christian faith. Our calling and mission is to share freely with others the love which God lavishes upon us without any merit of our own.I am well aware that Muslims and Christians have different approaches in matters regarding God. Yet we can and must be worshippers of the one God who created us and is concerned about each person in every corner of the world. Together we must show, by our mutual respect and solidarity, that we consider ourselves members of one family: the family that God has loved and gathered together from the creation of the world to the end of human history.I was pleased to learn that you were able at this meeting to adopt a common position on the need to worship God totally and to love our fellow men and women disinterestedly, especially those in distress and need. God calls us to work together on behalf of the victims of disease, hunger, poverty, injustice and violence. For Christians, the love of God is inseparably bound to the love of our brothers and sisters, of all men and women, without distinction of race and culture. As Saint John writes: "Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen" (1 Jn 4:20).The Muslim tradition is also quite clear in encouraging practical commitment in serving the most needy, and readily recalls the "Golden Rule" in its own version: your faith will not be perfect, unless you do unto others that which you wish for yourselves. We should thus work together in promoting genuine respect for the dignity of the human person and fundamental human rights, even though our anthropological visions and our theologies justify this in different ways. There is a great and vast field in which we can act together in defending and promoting the moral values which are part of our common heritage. Only by starting with the recognition of the centrality of the person and the dignity of each human being, respecting and defending life which is the gift of God, and is thus sacred for Christians and for Muslims alike – only on the basis of this recognition, can we find a common ground for building a more fraternal world, a world in which confrontations and differences are peacefully settled, and the devastating power of ideologies is neutralized.My hope, once again, is that these fundamental human rights will be protected for all people everywhere. Political and religious leaders have the duty of ensuring the free exercise of these rights in full respect for each individual’s freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. The discrimination and violence which even today religious people experience throughout the world, and the often violent persecutions to which they are subject, represent unacceptable and unjustifiable acts, all the more grave and deplorable when they are carried out in the name of God. God’s name can only be a name of peace and fraternity, justice and love. We are challenged to demonstrate, by our words and above all by our deeds, that the message of our religions is unfailingly a message of harmony and mutual understanding. It is essential that we do so, lest we weaken the credibility and the effectiveness not only of our dialogue, but also of our religions themselves.I pray that the "Catholic-Muslim Forum", now confidently taking its first steps, can become ever more a space for dialogue, and assist us in treading together the path to an ever fuller knowledge of Truth. The present meeting is also a privileged occasion for committing ourselves to a more heartfelt quest for love of God and love of neighbour, the indispensable condition for offering the men and women of our time an authentic service of reconciliation and peace.Dear friends, let us unite our efforts, animated by good will, in order to overcome all misunderstanding and disagreements. Let us resolve to overcome past prejudices and to correct the often distorted images of the other which even today can create difficulties in our relations; let us work with one another to educate all people, especially the young, to build a common future. May God sustain us in our good intentions, and enable our communities to live consistently the truth of love, which constitutes the heart of the religious man, and is the basis of respect for the dignity of each person. May God, the merciful and compassionate One, assist us in this challenging mission, protect us, bless us and enlighten us always with the power of his love.