Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pro Soccer Player becomes seminarian!

Here is a great story by ESPN Page 2 about a soccer player who experienced a call to the priesthood of Jesus Christ and is responding. Check it out! http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=darcy/081023&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab4pos2

KU is fine - I think!

I followed the last two KU football losses distantly from Italy, and I'm glad I didn't get to see them because it helps me to be optimistic. Once KU beat Iowa State and Colorado to begin Big 12 conference play, I noticed immediately that KU would only have to win 2 of their next 5 in order to be able to play for the Big 12 championship against Missouri. Given the toughness of our schedule, I thought this would be the best case scenario for us this year, and it is still within reach, provided we get things together. I'm afraid from what I've read that even K-State could put up 35 on us this weekend and make it difficult to win, but let's hope KU gets some good breaks during this game and is able to put all the pressure on the Wildcats and their defense. The season is far from lost despite the game against Texas Tech, but of course this game Saturday is a must win if we are to have any chance of lining up against Missouri with something to play for at the end of the season.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Crown Club

My friends with whom I traveled gave me a pass to the Crown Club here at the Atlanta airport since I have a four hour layover. Remarkably, it's not much less busy than the havoc outside - the line for the bar is always four or five deep, and people are always looking for chairs. The difference, of course, is that the drinks are free here. Well, it is a new experience anyway, one I don't have to worry about getting used to. I've burned up all my computer power, having just three or four minutes left now. Was able to watch Archbishop Naumann's speech at KU that I missed when I was out of town (Vote the Rock event!). Spent a lot of time reading blogs, reading Catholic and national news, and making sure all email are returned before I hit Kansas City later tonight. All in all, I like times like this, when I can read a lot in one day and hit the reset button so to speak. I've been thinking so much about all the work the Church has done to promote the life issues in the coming election, and the fact that the most recent poll shows Catholic young people to be more willing to vote for pro-choice candidates. Is this a sign of sophistication that the Church can continue to work with, or a sign that the moral teaching of the Church in increasingly less relevant. At any rate, plenty to pray about and plenty that should be done. It makes you wonder if we are approaching everything the wrong way, and what we could change to do better. But of course all this is not a cause for despair, for life will be victorious!! +m

Flying Home

Sunday was a fun travel day to Milan, with time for seeing a few great things, thanks to my wonderful hosts in Milan. I took at 8:47 train from Siena to Florence and then to Milan (btw - it was the end of DST in Italy Sunday, and I get to fall back again this coming Sunday in the US - how lucky is that???). After a 2pm arrival in Milan I was checked into the hotel at 2:40 and on my way for a walking tour of downtown Milan. I have to admit that I did not do any preparation for my visit to Milan, taking the advice of others that Milan is most a modern business city without the kind of history you find elsewhere in Italy. Well, let's just say that my low expectations were blown away. Our first visit was to St. Ambrose Church, where the body of the great doctor and bishop is housed. The Basilica was begun in the 4th century and looks much different than anything else I have seen in Italy, with its red brick Romanesque construction. Then we were off to the ancient fortress of Milan, constructed in the 12th century and easily the most massive castle I have seen standing in Italy. It was really magnificent. Then we were off through the streets of Milan, where there were tens of thousands of Milanese young people just enjoying the fall weather and hanging out. We proceeded to the square of the Cathedral of Milan, an absolutely gorgeous Gothic church with great height and pretty good windows. The duomo was very busy, both inside and out, and it was good to witness a great amount of devotion on the part of the Italians there. After the duomo we visited La Scala Opera House, and then went along one of the ancient canals engineered by Leonardo da Vinci and had a great pizza in a restaurant that was formerly a carpenter's shop. I was really impressed with Milan - no, it doesn't have the ancient feel of the narrow medieval streets of other towns and cities, but it has so much history and culture, and of course incredible shopping. I was back in my hotel by 9:30 and went to bed before getting up at 4:30am this morning to head to Malpensa. The Delta flight was great, and the new release was The Dark Knight which I had been wanting to see. It made the first three hours of the flight 'fly by'! I'm not in the Atlanta airport killing four hours before the quick flight back to Kansas City and dinner with friends. The only bad part of the trip is turning in my Euros, that are worth less than when I bought them. The dollar has gained a lot on the Euro in the last three weeks, which actually helped our trip until I had to re-exchange. This is quite a small price to pay, however, for such an extraordinary trip! +m

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ready to take the train to Milan

Today was another incredible day in Tuscany. We left for a wine tour at 9:30am - we were late again because as much as we try we still can't get to bed at night nor out of bed in the morning - I am not going to master the time change while we are here. By 11am we were tasting incredible Brunello wine from Montalcino, which we really enjoyed and stayed much longer than we thought we would. Brunello is widely considered to be the most prestigious Italian red. Our guide tells us always that the French make better wine, but the Italians are very proud of their distinctive taste and they are very proud of the wines they make with 100% Sangiovese grapes. Our first winery had priceless views of the Tuscan countryside. We were late to midday prayer at a local abbey that had been standing for over 1000 years - unbelievable. Then we went back to Montalcino and had a wine tasting and lunch at the medieval fortress, before heading to Montepulciano for another wine tasting in the most incredible medieval wine cellar you can imagine, right within the walls of Montepulciano. We didn't care for the wines there as much, even though they were quite good. After another requisite stop at a gelateria, we returned late afternoon for our villa at Montechiaro. The guys went into Siena looking for a sports bar to watch the KU/Tech game, but it was just as well that we didn't find one since I now know it was a slaughter. We had an authentic Tuscan menu prepared in the villa for dessert, some great conversation and cards, followed by a good night's sleep (I hope) with an added hour for DST before I take the train to Milan tomorrow morning. Oh yes, I almost forgot the most important thing. When we returned in the afternoon I was able to celebrate Mass in a medieval chapel no longer in use. Talk about stepping back in time. There was no modern altar facing the people, and when I was celebrating Mass I thought of all the Masses that had been celebrated on that same altar since 1700 or so - incredible feeling. The Mass was the highlight of today, followed closely by hundreds of incredible views as we drove through the Tuscan countryside. +m

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tough internet connection in Tuscany

We are now in a Villa 7km outside of Florence, and the internet signal comes in and out at our villa, but tonight at least it is strong so I can give an update of our travels. Tuesday morning we had an early Vatican museum tour, and our guide was savvy enough to get us to the Sistine Chapel early so we had a fantastic and semi-private visit. I would have to visit the Sistine Chapel a hundred more times before I could lead a group myself. It is truly magnificent and there are so many things to think about when you are looking at the frescoes. After the tour of the Vatican Museums we went up the dome of St. Peter's for the magnificent inside and outside views, then we went did the requisite souvenir shopping and stop at the Vatican post office. After a great pizza lunch my friends headed back to the hotel for some needed R&R, while I headed to the North American college to visit my good friend Chris Berry and his wife Meredith for an afternoon glass of wine and chat. In the evening I met my friends at the Spanish steps for a look around and a fabulous dinner on another perfect evening in Rome. Wednesday we were able to secure tickets right near the stage for the papal audience, and unbelievably, we left early while the pope was still speaking in order to make our rendez-vous out in Tuscany at our villa. Driving in Italy was easier than we thought, at least at first. We arrived at our Villa, got an orientation tour, and the keys to our private chapel (no longer in use) at Montechiaro. Montechiaro is a villa 7 km northeast of Siena, with a beautiful view of the city. It is a fabulous villa, very friendly but not too extravagant, certainly not as extravagant as the medieval castles that dot the hills around us. Wednesday night a local cook came and made a great beefsteak and pasta meal, Tuscan style. I was the only one who ate the dessert - pears baked in chianti! Fantastic! Wednesday evening we made the mistake of heading into Siena for what we thought would be a quick orientation tour of Siena. We ended up getting lost walking the city without maps and didn't return to our car until 12:30am! Ouch! Of course the ladies blamed the guys for bad navigation, and they were mostly right, but somebody had to lead, if even we led badly. Thursday morning we were out touring castles of the region and wineries. I learned so much about the making of chianti classico, the signature wine of the chianti region. Although we found that when the sangiovese grape is mixed with other grapes, we liked the end product better, it was very interesting for me to taste and enjoy chianti classico made with 100% sangiovese, a very delicate grape. To make a long story short, I would be more proud to have chanti classico 100% sangiovese in my cellar, but would have more fun drinking the SuperTuscan wines that have been produced for the international market. Thursday evening we played it safe by eating pizza and drinking wine and playing cards at the Villa. Friday, the day just completed, we had a fabulous day in Florence, taking the train early in the morning, getting a guided tour of the Accademia and major landmarks of Florence, then having lunch, going to Santa Croce, and shopping the Ponte Vecchio on our own. A late afternoon train ride back to Siena gave us time for drinks and dinner in this very quaint and beautiful city of Tuscany. Saturday takes us to Montepulciana and Montelcino wine country, followed by Mass in our private chapel, then back to Siena to hopefully catch the KU/Texas Tech game (keep your fingers crossed!). We hope we can find it at a local sports bar! Rock Chalk! +m

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mass near the tomb of St. Peter

For the second time in my life, and for the first time by myself, I was able to celebrate Mass with good friends in the Vatican Grotto this morning at the Chapel of the Beata Virgine Bocciata. I had a reservation for Mass this morning, but when I arrived at the sacristy at 7:00am, I was informed that the 7:15am Mass was reserved for a Fr. Guiseppe. I tried to get the chapel anyway, thinking they had accidentally canceled or changed my reservation, but when I arrived at the stairs leading to the Grotto with my group, I was turned away and assigned to another chapel on the main level of St. Peter's. Because I had a 20 minute wait to use the chapel of St. Michael on the main floor, I returned to the sacristy and then found that I had the 8:00am reservation at the aforementioned chapel. My missal and Mass kit were taken away from me (but not my vestments!) and I returned to the basilica to wait until closer to 8:00am for my scheduled Mass. When I returned to the sacristy at 7:45am, I was told that Fr. Giuseppe never arrived, so my Mass was ready to go. Then, on my way to the chapel, a seminarian asked me if I could renew the wedding vows of a couple from Philadelphia. I said sure, now knowing that they had five small children with them who would be crying throughout our private Mass at the chapel in the Grotto. Well, a little unnerved by the uncertainty of when my Mass was supposed to start, coupled with little time to prepare in a new environment, and my unexpected guests, and the gravity of celebrating Mass so close to the tomb of St. Peter, one could say easily that I was quite nervous and it was hard to concentrate and to say a good Mass. If you've never been to the Vatican grotto, there are chapels quite close to each other and many Masses being said early in the morning, so it was also unnerving to be able to hear every word of a english Mass nearby that was on the same pace we were. Eventually I slowed down our Mass so that it wouldn't seem like we were racing each other. All in all, it was still a great experience and a very prayerful one with friends. While we were in the Grotto we were able to say a quick prayer at the tomb of John Paul II. After Mass we had a quick espresso and croissant, followed by a two hour tour of the Vatican excavations under St. Peter's (scavi tour). It was a magnificent tour once again and one is really captivated by the story of the finding of St. Peter's bones in the 20th century and the difficulties surrounding the excavation projects. We returned to the hotel after the Scavi, our faith greatly strengthened, and had a lunch near the Westin Excelsior before heading to the Colosseo. We paid extra for a tour that was somewhat of a racket, but we did get a few laughs from our tour guide, along with the standard hogwash of the Vatican 'stealing' 1600 year old marble from the Colosseo to build St. Peter's. We walked through the ancient Roman forum and then were able to visit St. John Lateran, to pray the Scala Sancta (the transposed steps that Jesus ascended en route to his judgment by Pontius Pilate) and then a trip to Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major). This was followed by a quick visit at dusk to St. Maria en Transtevere, the oldest Marian Church in Rome. The evening ended with a splendid cocktail hour, an extended dinner, and nightcaps back at the hotel. What a full and splendid day! Ad majorem gloriam Deam! +m

Sunday, October 19, 2008

No Pope in Rome today!

The Pope was in Pompeii today, so we didn't get to see him at the Angelus, but there were still tons of people at the square today and they were playing his Mass in Pompeii on the big screens in the square. We had a great flight out of Atlanta with lots of tailwind so we got into Rome an hour early (unspeakable!). We were able to get to St. Peter's for the 10:30am Mass and then had lunch on the Borgo Pio followed by a walk across the St. Angelo bride, a visit to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon and the Trevi fountain, then back to the hotel for cocktail hour and a nice pizza for dinner. Espresso and gelato finished off the evening, and we have successfully stayed up all day our first day in Rome (local time 9pm now) so we are looking good for the rest of the week. Tomorrow is Mass at St. Peter's at 7am, followed by a Scavi tour and then who knows what. Today was a perfect day in Rome and tomorrow promises more of the same! But now we are beat - more to come tomorrow!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

For daily readings, see http://www.usccb.org/nab/101208.shtml

My family back in western Kansas, especially on my mom’s side of the family, are huge Chiefs fans. I remember one of the most enjoyable days of the year was when my uncles would take me and some of my cousins on a six hour trek to Kansas City to watch a Chiefs game. Being from a small farming community in western Kansas, with only 900 people or so, you can imagine how awestruck we were by a full Arrowhead stadium. Unfortunately, the Chiefs have now broken my heart so many times, I barely follow them anymore. I usually don’t mind if I’m not able to see the game on Sunday nor go to the game, although my family still comes every year. A lot of our family conversation at Thanksgiving and Christmas every year, though, is about the Chiefs. At the end of the season, after the Chiefs have broken our hearts in one way or another, my grandfather always says the same thing to me and to my uncles and cousins. Remember, boys, that you learn more by losing than you do by winning. My uncles, after hearing this axiom time and time again from their dad, have come up with a reply that I think is pretty clever. My uncles say, ‘if you learn more by losing than by winning, then I want to be stupid, because I really like to win!’

In a week where many people lost 30% or more of their retirement savings in the stock market, there were a lot of losers, and there are many lessons being taught and learned as we uncover why something supposedly so secure like our markets became so vulnerable so quickly. We would rather not have to learn these lessons. Like my uncles used to say, we would rather be stupid and prosperous, than be intelligent and broke, just like we are happy Kansas won yesterday and Missouri lost. We would rather not have to go through painful realizations and lessons in life, and we can easily get disgusted when we realize how unnecessary the pain and loss had to be. We see the current market crisis, for example, as the product of human imprudence and selfishness, the misuse of freedom by people who are in power. I’m not here, of course, to diagnose the financial crisis, or to tell you what to do with your money, if you have any. There are of course, many students here at St. Lawrence who had no money before the stock market crash, and are no worse off today than they were a week ago. What I am here to do today, of course, if to use the current circumstances of our world to announce the good news of Jesus Christ.

The good news of today’s Scriptures is that even though people prefer to focus on things that will pass away, even though people will mistreat each other, and misuse their freedom, nothing we do can change God’s love for His people, and nothing we do can change His desire to see all people come to the banquet He has prepared for humanity. Contrary to the passage given in Isaiah, which describes a feast of rich, choice foods and wines, the parable from Jesus describes as well what happens to people who reject God’s invitation – they are destroyed and their city is burned. We know very well that those who set their hearts selfishly on pleasure in this world only will have their kingdoms destroyed. It is just a matter of time, and the next lesson that nothing material lasts forever, like the lessons learned this week in the stock market, is always right around the corner for us. This terrible part of the parable, then, doesn’t really surprise us who are familiar with the necessity of being children of the spirit set on cultivating the highest divine gifts of faith, hope and love. To the contrary, the terrible part of the parable makes the good news of the parable even more dramatic and beautiful. Despite the fact that time and time again people refuse to come to the banquet God is setting for them, God’s invitation and His love are never changed or diminished. The king instead of giving up, and sending a flood to destroy all of humanity, like He did in times past, chooses instead to extend His invitation further in honor of His son, and this invitation will remain until the end of time, when the hall will be filled with guests! This is the great news of the parable for you and for me! Even though we are unfaithful, and even though 70% of Catholics will choose not to attend Mass this morning, God is ever faithful and His love does not change because through His Son, He has chosen to love us completely and irrevocably until the end of time.

For those of us who are here this morning at the banquet hosted by the Father in honor of His Son, it is incumbent upon us to make our response to the invitation ever more prompt and ever more complete. The process of conversion entails our discovering, in communion with those here with whom we pray and share God’s banquet, the uniqueness and the extraordinary depth of God’s love for each one of us, revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord. We have all come to Mass reluctantly and unprepared before, and it is better if we are here than if we are not here. Yet what is offered at this banquet we are about to share is much more, my friends, than a backup plan for when the world as we know it eventually passes away. What is offered in this banquet is food that is meant to completely redeem the human heart, satisfy the human mind, and complete the mystery that lies amidst the deep hungers of every human person. Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you, is how the Lord puts it to us. We strive to come to this banquet together not reluctantly, based on some faint hope that those who at least make it to Mass on Sunday might have a chance for a bonus round after life on this earth is done. No, we come to Mass because the Father has promised us that by eating and drinking the richest of foods and the choicest of wines, we will have through His Son a treasure that completes us more, and thus provides real security, in a way that a retirement plan never could. What we have set before us, my friends, is not spiritual 403b, but the beginning and end of a deep human happiness, and through our praying and eating with friends, the Father delivers on His promise of giving hope to every human person in every human situation. That is why we never fail to RSVP or to take a raincheck on the invitation to be here at Mass together, for it is here that God has promised that we will most consistently realize and believe that His love and His grace are enough to satisfy us! +m

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Homily for Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time - Our Lady of the Rosary

John Paul II did so much to increase our love of Mary, and of her rosary, during his wonderful pontificate, especially by his giving to the Church the mysteries of light for our meditation on Thursdays. It is safe to say that my own Marian piety is based on his. We did pray the rosary at home, occasionally, when I grew up, but I was never devout in my praying of the rosary, until I contemplated more deeply the motto John Paul chose for his pontificate, Totus Tuus.

With the loss of his mother at a young age, it makes sense that John Paul would have perceived the mother of God to be a more than worthy surrogate. I, too, lost my mother to cancer during my second year of seminary. The hole in my heart that I have for my mom makes the words that Jesus spoke from the cross ever more poignant for me - Behold, your mother. Mary is the mother of all of us who set our hearts on eternal life. By entrusting our lives to Her through our praying of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, she accompanies us on our journey to heaven and guides us as only a mother can.

I believe what John Paul sought to teach us as well, however, through the choice of Totus Tuus, Maria, as his motto, was not only the opportunity we had to claim Mary as our mother, but also the utter necessity of consecrating our lives to Mary if we are to have any hope of receiving Christ as our Savior. John Paul reminded us that we do not turn to Mary only in the unfortunate circumstance of our failure to get closer to Christ her Son. No, John Paul saw entrusting ourselves to Mary as the surest way of receiving Her Son into our hearts in a most complete, transformative, redeeming way.

In pointing us to Mary, John Paul shows the necessity of the feminine genius of receptivity. Before we can follow Christ or imitate Him precisely, it is necessary for us first to receive Him. Calling Mary the first and best disciple of Jesus points to Her willingness to receive Him with humility and joy. Being full of grace, it was then possible for Her to follow Him perfectly as His disciple. The story of Martha in today's Gospel is the all too familiar and frustrating story of what happens to you and me when we try desperately to do everything we feel needs to be done and yet still try to find time to be with Jesus. Mary in the story, and Mary, the mother of God, show us the one necessary thing - it is to drink deeply of the gift of the Lord and of His grace; otherwise we have no real capacity for following Jesus, but only the ability to ask Him to follow us.

Mary, the mother of God, who accompanies us on our journey of life as we daily pray the rosary with Her, brings to those who entrust themselves to Her the humility to allow Jesus to be born in their hearts anew each day as surely as He was born in Her virginal womb. It is only when we make a perfect and simple act of consecration to Mary, that Jesus can come close enough to us to fill us with grace, and show us how to follow Him exactly. Mary, Queen of Vocations, free us from the need to have Jesus follow us, but give us the grace to allow Him to choose a vocation for us like the one you received from Him! +m

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our Archbishop, Archbishop Naumann, and the bishop of Kansas City/St. Joseph, MO, Bishop Robert Finn, have issued a joint pastoral letter that is available in your bulletin on this weekend when parishes across the country celebrate Respect Life weekend. The pastoral letter is entitled Our Moral Responsibility as Catholic Citizens http://www.archkck.org/images/pdf/election.pdf and concerns our responsibliity as Catholics to sensitize our consciences to all intrinsic moral evils when we deliberate how to vote. Most grave of these intrinsic moral evils that can never be justified is the evil of abortion. Since 1973 there have been 45 million abortions in our country, a number so large that frankly, it is nearly impossible to properly sensitize ourselves to this evil as our bishops ask us to. Pope Benedict in commenting upon both abortion and euthanasia said that a Catholic would be guilty of formal material cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. Most of us are familiar with the efforts of bishops to get politicians who profess to be Catholic to understand the grave responsibility we all have to avoid formal material cooperation in evil, and to perhaps exempt themselves from Holy Communion if they disagree with Catholic teaching. The Church from the beginning of the United States, long before there was an IRS code prohibiting tax-exempt Churches from endorsing political parties or candidates, has always embraced the proper separation of Church and state, so that She Herself could remain the sign and the safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person (Gaudium et Spes, 76). Our Church has never and will never tell anyone who to vote for or align Herself with any particular political party. Yet in order to safeguard the spiritual nature of the human person, it has always been necessary for the Church to form the consciences of her members and of society, so that the kingdom of God could be built and may flourish within the confines of natural and divine law. Some people say the Church is being political and is outstepping Her bounds. They are wrong. The Church must preserve Her right and joyful duty to speak out on moral issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, the repression of religious liberty and racial discrimination. Otherwise She is forfeiting Her freedom to form consciences, something the Church cannot and will not afford to do.

Regarding the issues surrounding the sacredness of human life, it is clear to me at least that the Church's discernment of grave moral evil is grounded sufficiently within the natural law open to human reason. There has been reference by Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and others to a supposed theological inconsistency within the Church regarding when an embryo receives his soul, and thus when an embryo becomes a person worthy of rights. Based on old biological knowledge, there has been theological discussion regarding the time of ensoulment, which the Church now believes is concurrent with the time of conception. However, never in the Church's history has there been any moral confusion whatsoever about the morality of abortion. Never. Such rhetoric by Catholic politicians has tried once again to reduce the issue of abortion to a private religious issue when abortion is easily shown to be wrong by the light of human reason. There is no logical reason to treat fertility as a disease, as contraceptives do. There is no logical reason to justify performing invasive destructive surgery on a mother who is not made sick by any medical standard whatsoever by her pregnancy, or to call a human embryo in the exact same stage of development a 'baby' when it is desired by the parents and 'tissue' when it is not. All of these things are illogical in the light of reason. They go against the standard medical practice of trying to heal a person. All scientists can agree clearly that from the first moment of conception, a new baby needs only the things that you and I need to survive, a proper nourishing environment. The difference between me and an embryo then, is very, very small, as one would expect since I would not be here today if my right to life as an embryo had been discarded by my mother in 1974 as it was by Roe v. Wade in 1973. In gratitude for my life, conceived 5 months after the Roe v. Wade decision, I will make an effort to go to Washington D.C. for the March for Life every year until the decision is overturned, and every year afterward in thanksgiving for the restoration of the right to life of every child in our country.

What about the war in Iraq, you might say? Is that an intrinsic moral evil? Well, the Church has spoken consistently about the war, most often against it, and has advised throughout Her history that war is very difficult to justify, and oftentimes signals a loss of hope and a failure to use the best human resources available in service of peace. That being said, there are conditions within the just war doctrine of the Church that can make a war legitimate for the protection of the innocent, just as captial punishment can theoretically be justified if it is necessary for the protection of the innocent. Both war and capital punishment, however, should always be used as a last resort, as our Church has clearly stated, but neither of these issues mimics the deliberate taking of an innocent human life, which always makes abortion intrinsically evil and never justifiable. If you are a person who is strongly against the war in Iraq, I challenge you to become even more familiar with the just war doctrine of the Church, so that it can be applied more precisely and practically to actual war situations like Iraq. I really believe this is something that is needed by our Church and can be produced by young faithful philosophers and theologians.

Tonight's Scriptures show, if applied allegorically, what potentially happens to societies and individual persons who do not respect the natural moral law or the divine law given by God. The vineyard described in Isaiah and in the Gospel represent areas of God's kingdom, areas of human flourishing and happiness. There is to be a kind of intoxication of eudaimonia, or human happiness, produced when one lives according to the natural law. We see what happens, however, when this natural law is not respected. In Isaiah, the vineyard produces not good grapes, but ugly, distasteful, wild ones. Thus, the vineyard is torn down and given over to weeds and produces nothing. When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, by wanting his private right to determine good and evil for Himself to be respected by God, the natural happiness of the garden gave way to the long-enduring struggle against evil that you and I find ourselves in today. In tonight's parable, we see how invidious we can get when we determine that we are more necessary than God, that we are better off determining right and wrong for ourselves rather than following the natural law, and when we regard our lives and our bodies as our private possessions rather than as gifts to be cherished and to be made fruitful. When we do this, we destroy ourselves, not to mention our desire to destroy God and His representatives whenever they threaten our right to privacy. Isn't it more fun, my dear friends, not to jealousy guard our right to do what we want, but to welcome God into our lives that are filled with light, and to join Him in producing fruit that will last?

Thus, this homily can and should end on a happy note. The story of the vineyard is still being written, as we hear at the end of the parable, and wherever the vineyard of the Lord is being torn down it will be taken away and given to a people that will bear its fruit. Jesus Christ came to restore the vineyard of the Lord. He invites us to accept the challenge of caring for the most vulnerable in our society, and loving the people that no one wants to love. He invites us to build a vineyard with Him where those who have experienced the pain of abortion can receive His mercy and be healed and once again know themselves as beloved sons and daughters of God. He invites us to proclaim the Good News that the only thing that can meet the challenge of once again becoming and sustaining a culture of life that welcomes every child is the love that we now share around this Eucharistic table through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Project Andrew KCK Fervereno on Dating

Dear Project Andrew Participants -

I want to once again thank each one of you for accepting the invitation to be here tonight. I know that when I was your age and I was invited to a 'Called by Name' program with the bishop and the vocation director, I never really wanted to go, even though I knew that I should go because perhaps God was calling me to be a priest. I know there are many of your peers who should be here tonight, but did not come because of fear of feeling pressured to move closer toward accepting a priestly vocation. By the end of the night, I hope you will say that it was their loss that they were not here with us. My hope tonight is that you do not feel pressured at all to become a priest, especially if God is not calling you, but that you will find more freedom tonight in learning more about how God calls young men like yourself. I truly expect some of you here tonight who have vocations to the priesthood to one day be able to answer them. I do know that some of you who have vocations to the priesthood will not be able to answer them for one reason or another. That is the reality of life. One result I must insist on however, is that each one of you leave here tonight knowing how to help yourself and others to hear and to answer God's call to holiness and to priesthood. Even if you are not called or are not able to answer the call yourself, you will have opportunities to help other men understand the call to priesthood better and to be less afraid of it. There are just a few of us here tonight. There are literally thousands more young men your age across the archdiocese who need to be here but who are not. There are many I would like to be able to reach as a vocation director who will always be too afraid to talk to me, but they may not be afraid to talk to you. The result I must insist upon, then, is that each one of us leave Project Andrew tonight as a team of vocation directors. To this end, I deputize each one of you to be my assistant vocation directors in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Let me speak just a few words about dating, since the main reason most of your peers were too afraid to come tonight was that they are either dating girls at the moment or want to be dating beautiful girls in the near future. This is the biggest obstacle I have, as you can imagine, in being in dialogue with young men like yourselves. Everyone is either dating or wants to be dating, and thus they are afraid to talk to the vocation director lest he get the wrong idea that perhaps he can talk them out of liking girls too much. Well, believe it or not, guys, it is not my job, nor is it my intention, to talk you guys out of liking girls. You are regular guys, and girls are pretty, and I have been there so I know it is natural to be interested in dating. It is not even my job to tell you not to date, even though I think most guys your age start dating, and get physically involved with girls, without thinking about or praying about what they are really doing. Yes, that's right, this ferverino is not an exhortation for you not to date girls, even though I would support those of you who wish to take this course of action. It is instead an exhortation for you, if you date, and if you are interested in girls, to date and be interested in them in the right way, so as not to mess up your discernment of God's will irrevocably.

The call to priesthood which we are here to discuss tonight, and to learn more about, is a supernatural vocation guys. The word super means over and above. Thus a call to the priesthood is a call over and above the call to marriage. I rarely meet a young man who really understands this. Since everyone knows that priests can't get married, everyone thinks that you have to discern between getting married and being a priest. Given your situation more concretely, young men think that if they are called to be a priest then it means they will go make a holy hour by themselves on homecoming night, rather than asking a beautiful girl out to the dance. Again, this is dead wrong, but rarely do I meet a young man who does not think in this way. A vocation to the priesthood is a supernatural vocation, a vocation over and above the vocation to marriage. Thus, discernment of a priestly vocation is not necessarily about giving up your homecoming date, but is about conversing with the Lord regarding His will that maybe He is also calling you to priesthood. Do you understand the difference I am trying to point out? In thinking about a priestly vocation, we have to always think about both/and, not either/or. If we discern that we have the additional vocation of priesthood, this does not mean that we do not have a calling to marriage, nor does it mean that we don't like girls or kids. This is what a lot of guys your age think. No, a calling to the priesthood only means that in addition to the fact that we like girls, Jesus is also calling us to follow Him more precisely and to join Him in marrying His eternal bride, the Church.

What this boils down to, guys, is that even if you are dating, or thinking about dating, it is important that your friendship with Christ become the most important friendship in your life. A lot of guys will stop discerning the priesthood as soon as they get a date, because they do not want to hurt or disappoint their girlfriend. What they are saying, however, is that their new friendship with this girlfriend is immediately more important than their friendship with Christ, because they are more afraid of disappointing her than they are of missing a call received through their friendship with Christ. It is important, guys, that as you move forward in discerning what vocation God has marked out for you, that your friendship and conversation with Christ is deep enough that He can count on you to do whatever He asks. This friendship with Christ will make you afraid of disappointing Him, to be sure, but more importantly, it will give you the freedom that comes from allowing Christ to pick out a life for you that will be bigger and better than any life you would pick for yourself. Keep trusting Jesus in this way, and He will reveal whether or not He has a supernatural call in mind for you. You will see in the next section of our evening how faithful Jesus is to His promise to be close to those who try to follow Him exactly and who answer His call to be priests. Every priest here tonight wants that same peace and happiness and meaning for each one of you in your lives.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

KU football

Believe it or not, I'm following KU online instead of in front of a tv as I'm waiting for some guys to arrive for a retreat this afternoon. KU started off terribly but they are getting back in the game against Iowa State in the second half. Maybe they will be the cardiac kids again this year! Rock Chalk! Please pray this weekend for Project Andrew on Sunday night with Archbishop Naumann. I am praying at least 20 young men will make it for the evening and will us the evening to think and pray more deeply about their vocations. OK - back to following the Jayhawks online! Go KU! Beat Iowa State!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

NCDVD Convention Officially Over

OK - now I'm a 'better trained' vocation director after three days here in Denver. Aside from the 'business meetings' and a few workshops that weren't too helpful, it was really three great days of prayer, training and developing relationships that will keep me joyful in vocation ministry. Tonight before the final banquet we had Mass with Archbishop Chaput of Denver. He gave a great homily (sad I didn't ask him to record it so I could put it on kckvocations.com) and then I got a chance to meet him briefly at the reception. He is from Concordia Kansas not that far from where I grew up. Probably the most fruitful thing of the week was learning how not to just challenge young men to respond to the Church's objective and legitimate need for good and holy priests, but to actually help them to deepen their conversation and friendship with Jesus, and to allow Him to do the calling by getting guys to open up their lives to Him more deeply. This is hard and scary for me, but I hope to have gained some tools for helping with this. Of course, the challenge is always to grow deeper in intimacy with Christ yourself so that you can lead others to where you are. I am grateful for this chance to learn and to pray and am eager to return to the Archdiocese tomorrow. Go Angels - beat the Red Sox (they're losing as I post this!) I'm only an Angels fan because my dear friends the Larsons have moved this year from KC to LA and are big Angels fans! amdg +m

Talk to Johnson County Serrans 2 October 2008 - Cure of Ars Church

Mary, Queen of Vocations, pray for us!

Dear Serrans! I do look forward to this talk given annually to you Serrans of Johnson County. I look forward to it, not only for the chance it gives me to share with you the 'good news' of vocation work happening in our Archdiocese, but also it is my personal chance to thank each and every one of you for being persistent and joyful in your support of vocations. I was having dinner with a vocation director from Phoenix on Tuesday night in Denver, and he asked me what kind of support and prayer I had in my diocese for vocations. I didn't hesitate to tell him that between the Serra clubs of the Archdiocese and our adoration chapels, we are oversupported as priests, seminarians and religious, and although I cannot say that we pray too much in our Archdiocese, I can say that we pray consistently and well for vocations. Please know that I never take your prayer and your support for granted, even if sometimes as vocation director I do not spend significant amounts of time with you Serrans helping you with your wonderful vocation projects. As Archbishop Naumann likes to tell me, do not grow weary of doing good! I convey the same message to you, with of course my encouragement for you to do more if you can, and my appreciation for all that you do to support vocations.

It is a great joy and a challenge to work in vocations, a vitally important ministry for our diocese. It has been a ministry that has already stretched my faith, and I will admit that the transition from parish ministry to vocation work has been painful at times. During the first year in a new ministry you learn so much, and yet I still feel like I know next to nothing. If nothing else, vocation work keeps one very humble, as the need for good and holy seminarians will almost always certainly outweigh the response. I have learned to receive every new seminarian who actually goes through the application process as a gift, even as you and I work together with the diocese as if every new vocation is the fruit of our work.

As vocation directors, we were challenged this last week during our annual convention to place vocation work within the new evangelization of the Church fostered by John Paul II. If our culture remains unevangelized by the Gospel, then we can expect the vocational response to remain tepid. Fr. Bill Porter tells me all the time that the late Archbishop Strecker used to say this to priests. The Church, while not a product of the culture, is greatly affected by it, so that whatever we see happening in the culture, we will see happen in the Church. In an age where many are evangelized into seeking the comfortable life, the priesthood and religious life remain an option of last resort for many of our young people. Curtis Martin said at our annual convention this week that if we only teach our young people how to be comfortable, we will make them miserable. Our young people are caught between this calling to be comfortable and the calling to be great, with the latter neither being preached nor lived consistently enough to win the hearts of our young people. For vocation directors, then, there is rarely a shortcut to getting a young man to enter seminary withour first re-evangelizing him to this call to greatness, through personally renewing his intimate communion with Christ and through imagining with Christ ways to write the history of man's salvation.

To this end, even as we work to sharpen and improve our vocation programs for the diocese, even our prayer and posters and retreats, etc., there is no replacing the work that is the hardest and most time-consuming. This work is the work of building relationships and friendships in Christ with our young people. I do feel a responsibility to challenge young people to accept vocations to the priesthood and religious life, to challenge parishes and families to develop such vocations, to broadcast the tremendous opportunity to belong to Christ as a religious and to work in His vineyard, yet all of these cannot make up for a lack of being in relationship with our young people. I will talk some more about this as I make comments about our recent convocation done with priests of the Archdiocese. Suffice it for now to say that all our vocation efforts are like a radio station that doesn't come in very well unless we are in good relationship with our young people, so that they can see the joy that we have in Christ as priests and religious.

At our convocation last week, then, we were challenged by Fr. Ron Knott of Louisville to be as priests what we say that we are, an intimate sacramental brotherhood. There is no vocation program that can reproduce or replace the impact made by groups of priests gathering together to pray and to enjoy the redemption they have in Christ Jesus. This should really be the only vocation program worth talking about. How do we display to young people, who deep down want both greatness and communion, that these things are possessed within the presbyterate of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas? Those who come to me as vocation director who are looking for help entering religious orders almost always tell me they are looking for a convincing and challenging way of living the Gospel within an intimate communion. I can't necessarily blame them for failing to see this in the diocesan priesthood, neither do I blame my brother priests for failing to demonstrate it amidst all their other duties given to them. I came away from our convocation not so much blaming my brother priests for failing to show the attractive beauty of our presbyterate, but with questions in my heart as to how I as vocation director can work more closely with our priests and then make it easy for them to be vocation directors in their respective parishes and ministries. I am hoping that a recent feedback form I gave to priests, alongside some parishes doing the Called by Name program proposed for January of this year, will generate some new ideas and ways forward.

Skipping the Business Meeting

There is a business meeting of the NCDVD right now that I have chosen to skip so that I can stay caught up with a few things and make this blog post. They are voting to raise our dues, which is necessary but unpopular so I don't want to get in the middle of that during these days when I am trying to focus on becoming a better vocation director. Yesterday we had a great day of reflection at St. John Vianney seminary in Denver. The reflection was given by Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh, who reminded us that staying focused on spiritual growth for ourselves and for prospective candidates was tantamount in vocation ministry. I have had a chance to visit extensively with new and old vocation directors from dioceses like Phoenix, Omaha, Salina, etc. and that has been very helpful. It is easy to tell the places where there is hope for vocations and they places where there is a lot of spinning of the wheels and discouragement and blame. I am trying to learn how to stay above all that and really do the Lord's work in vocation ministry. Curtis Martin talked to us this morning about staying focused on evangelization in the Church, and re-evangelization, rather than just filling our good institutions with good people. He also challenged us to always get better at telling the story of redemption rather than settling for teaching the principles of our faith. It has been a fruitful time here in Denver but I am ready to get back to Kansas City and put some of these things to practice. Here are a couple of notes from Curtis' talk

  • Xty is a relationship - rules without relationship equal rebellion

  • young people must be in relationship with the most compelling figure of all time

  • Benedict XVI - deepest poverty is an inability to experience joy - more suicide in US and W Europe than in Africa

  • Invite young people to partner with God in writing the history of mankind

  • keep the eternal perspective - forward always looks long, backwards always looks short

  • you are not made for comfort, but for greatness

  • teach young people the 'art of living'

  • if we teach people to be comfortable, we will make them miserable

  • do not straighten out life and then give it to Christ, but vice versa, letting Him straighten it out, for we do not have that much to give Him anyway

  • the Church exists to evangelize

  • mustard seed - solutions are always small but with great potency

  • anything born large is a monster and will die - Escriva

Homily Before Deacon Promises Made

Here is the homily that describes the atmosphere right before a prospective transitional deacon makes his promises of prayer, celibacy and obedience. Taken from Fr. Denis Robinson, OSB, rector of St. Meinrad School of Theology. Link - www.substancehopedfor.blogspot.com