Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Vatican finds evidence of miracle in Kansas case - Kansas City Star

Vatican finds evidence of miracle in Kansas case - Kansas City Star

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My Unforgettable Day

This is too good of a post not to share, if you are not a reader of creative minority report!

My Unforgettable Day

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Scavi virtual tour - less hassle and less expensive

For those of you who haven't had the good fortune or opportunity to visit the Vatican necropolis, or make the Scavi (excavations under St. Peter's tour) the Vatican has put together a virtual tour that is pretty good, and you get to practice your Italian (English subtitles) while going under the Vatican necropolis - it really is a great story, the finding of the bones of St. Peter (likely his bones - still takes faith!). Enjoy!

cool photo album

showing the liturgy inaugurating the Year of the Priest, including the Holy Father venerating the 'heart' of St. John Vianney, now universal patron of priests!

Pope is pumping out 'Year of Priest' reflections

this one pertains to the 'identity' of the priest - what he does and is called to do flows from who the priest is, 'heart to heart' with Christ -

"Dear brothers and sisters, Last Friday, June 19, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the day traditionally dedicated to pray for the sanctification of priests, I had the joy of inaugurating the Year for Priests. The year was proclaimed on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the "birth into eternal life" of the Curé d'Ars, St. Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney. Entering into the Vatican basilica for the celebration of vespers, almost as a first symbolic gesture, I paused in the Choir Chapel to venerate the relic of this saintly pastor of souls: his heart. Why a Year for Priests? Why particularly in memory of the holy Curé d'Ars, who apparently did nothing extraordinary? Divine Providence has ordained that this personage would be placed beside that of St. Paul. As the Pauline Year is concluding, a year which was dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles, the epitome of an extraordinary evangelizer who made various mission trips to spread the Gospel, this new jubilee year invites us to gaze upon a poor farmer turned humble pastor, who carried out his pastoral service in a small town. If the two saints are quite different insofar as the life experiences that marked them -- one traveled from region to region to announce the Gospel; the other remained in his little parish, welcoming thousands and thousands of faithful -- there is nevertheless something fundamental that unites them: It is their total identification with their ministry, their communion with Christ. This brought St. Paul to say: "Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). St. John Vianney liked to repeat: "If we had faith, we would see God hidden in the priest like a light behind glass, like wine mixed with water."

The objective of this Year for Priests, as I wrote in the letter sent to priests for this occasion, is to support that struggle of every priest "toward spiritual perfection, on which the effectiveness of his ministry primarily depends." It is to help priests first of all -- and with them all of God's people -- to rediscover and reinvigorate their awareness of the extraordinary and indispensable gift of grace that the ordained ministry is for he who receives it, for the whole Church, and for the world, which would be lost without the real presence of Christ.Undoubtedly, the historical and social conditions in which the Curé d'Ars lived have changed, and it is justifiable to ask oneself how it's possible for priests living in a globalized society to imitate him in the way he identified himself with his ministry. In a world in which the customary outlook on life comprehends less and less the sacred, and in its place "useful" becomes the only important category, the catholic -- and even ecclesial -- idea of the priesthood can run the risk of being emptied of the esteem that is natural to it. It is not by chance that as much in theological environments as in concrete pastoral practice and the formation of the clergy, a contrast -- even an opposition -- is made between two distinct concepts of the priesthood. Some years ago, I noted in this regard that there is "on the one hand a social-functional understanding that defines the essence of the priesthood with the concept of 'service': service to the community in the fulfillment of a function. … On the other hand, there is the sacramental-ontological understanding, which naturally does not deny the servicial character of the priesthood, but sees it anchored in the being of the minister and considers that this being is determined by a gift called sacrament, given by the Lord through the mediation of the Church" (Joseph Ratzinger, Ministry and Life of the Priest, in Principles of Catholic Theology).The terminological mutation of the word "priesthood" toward a meaning of "service, ministry, assignment" is as well a sign of this distinct understanding. The primacy of the Eucharist is linked to the sacramental-ontological conception, in the binomial "priest-sacrifice," while to the other [conception] would correspond the primacy of the word and service to the proclamation.

Considered carefully, these are not two opposing understandings, and the tension that nevertheless exists between them should be resolved from within. Thus the decree "Presbyterorum Ordinis" from the Second Vatican Council affirms: "Through the apostolic proclamation of the Gospel, the People of God are called together and assembled. All belonging to this people … can offer themselves as 'a sacrifice, living, holy, pleasing to God' (Rom 12:1). Through the ministry of the priests, the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect in union with the sacrifice of Christ. He is the only mediator who in the name of the whole Church is offered sacramentally in the Eucharist and in an unbloody manner until the Lord himself comes" (No. 2).We then ask ourselves, "What exactly does it mean, for priests, to evangelize? What is the so-called primacy of proclamation?" Jesus speaks of the proclamation of the Kingdom of God as the true objective for his coming to the world, and his proclamation is not just a "discourse." It includes, at the same time, his actions: His signs and miracles indicate that the Kingdom is now present in the world, which in the end coincides with himself. In this sense, one must recall that even in this idea of the "primacy" of proclamation, word and sign are inseparable.Christian proclamation does not proclaim "words," but the Word, and the proclamation coincides with the very person of Christ, ontologically open to the relationship with the Father and obedient to his will. Therefore, authentic service to the Word requires from the priest that he strains toward a deep abnegation of himself, until being able to say with the Apostle, "It is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me."The priest cannot consider himself "lord" of the word, but rather its servant. He is not the word, but rather, as John the Baptist proclaimed, (precisely today we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist), he is the "voice" of the Word: "A voice of one crying out in the desert: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths'" (Mark 1:3).Now then, to be the "voice" of the Word doesn't constitute for the priest a merely functional element. On the contrary, it presupposes a substantial "losing oneself" in Christ, participating in his mystery of death and resurrection with all of oneself: intelligence, liberty, will, and the offering of one's own body as a living sacrifice (cf. Romans 12:1-2). Only participation in the sacrifice of Christ, in his kenosis, makes the proclamation authentic! And this is the path that should be walked with Christ to the point of saying with him to the Father: Let it be done, "not what I will but what you will" (Mark 14:36).

The proclamation, therefore, always implies as well the sacrifice of oneself, the condition so that the proclamation can be authentic and effective.Alter Christus, the priest is profoundly united to the Word of the Father, who in incarnating himself, has taken the form of a slave, has made himself a slave (cf. Philippians 2:5-11). The priest is a slave of Christ in the sense that his existence, ontologically configured to Christ, takes on an essentially relational character: He is in Christ, through Christ, and with Christ at the service of man. Precisely because he belongs to Christ, the priest is radically at the service of all people: He is the minister of their salvation, of their happiness, of their authentic liberation -- maturing, in this progressive taking up of the will of Christ, in prayer, in this "remaining heart to heart" with him. This is therefore the essential condition of all proclamation, which implies participation in the sacramental offering of the Eucharist and docile obedience to the Church.The holy Curé d'Ars often repeated with tears in his eyes: "What a frightening thing to be a priest!" And he added: "How we ought to pity a priest who celebrates Mass as if he were engaged in something routine. How wretched is a priest without interior life!"May this Year of the Priest bring all priests to identify themselves totally with Jesus, crucified and risen, so that in imitation of St. John the Baptist, we are willing to "decrease" so that he increases; so that, following the example of the Curé d'Ars, they constantly and deeply understand the responsibility of their mission, which is sign and presence of the infinite mercy of God. Let us entrust to the Virgin, Mother of the Church, this Year for Priests just begun and all the priests of the world.

An emotional ferverino to priests and the faithful given by Pope Benedict XVI for the Year of the Priest

excerpts from his homily on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, in a little while, we shall be singing in the Antiphon to the Magnificat: "The Lord has welcomed us in his Heart."

"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son" (Hos 11: 1). Israel, in fact, responds to God's tireless favour with indifference and even outright ingratitude."The more I called them", the Lord is forced to admit, "the more they went from me" (v. 2). Nonetheless he never abandons Israel to the hands of the enemy because "my heart", the Creator of the universe observes, "recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender" (v. 8).The Heart of God throbs with compassion!"

On today's Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus the Church offers us this mystery for contemplation, the mystery of the Heart of a God who feels compassion and pours forth all his love upon humanity. It is a mysterious love, which in the texts of the New Testament is revealed to us as God's immeasurable love for the human being. He does not give in to ingratitude or to rejection by the People he has chosen; on the contrary, with infinite mercy he sends his Only-Begotten Son into the world to take upon himself the burden of love immolated so that by defeating the powers of evil and death he could restore the dignity of being God's children to human beings, enslaved by sin. All this comes about at a high price: the Only-Begotten Son of the Father is sacrificed on the Cross, "having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (cf. Jn 13: 1). A symbol of this love which goes beyond death is his side, pierced by a spear. In this regard, the Apostle John, an eye-witness, says: "one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water" (cf. Jn 19: 34).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pause together to contemplate the pierced Heart of the Crucified One. The essential nucleus of Christianity is expressed in the Heart of Jesus. His divine Heart therefore calls to our hearts, inviting us to come out of ourselves, to abandon our human certainties to trust in him and, following his example, to make of ourselves a gift of love without reserve.

If it is true that Jesus' invitation to "abide in my love" (cf. Jn 15: 9) is addressed to every baptized person, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Day for priestly sanctification, this invitation resounds more powerfully for we priests, particularly this evening at the solemn inauguration of the Year for Priests, which I wanted to be celebrated on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of the Holy Curé d'Ars.One of his beautiful and moving sayings, cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, immediately springs to my mind: "The Priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus" (n. 1589).How is it possible not to remember with emotion that the gift of our priestly ministry flowed directly from this Heart? How can we forget that we priests were consecrated to serve humbly and authoritatively the common priesthood of the faithful?Ours is an indispensable mission, for the Church and for the world, which demands full fidelity to Christ and in unceasing union with him this to remain in his love means that we must constantly strive for holiness, this union, as did St John Mary Vianney.In the Letter I addressed to you for this special Jubilee Year, dear brother priests, I wanted to highlight certain qualifying aspects of our ministry, with references to the example and teaching of the Holy Curé d'Ars, model and protector of all of us, priests, and especially parish priests.May my Letter be a help and encouragement to you in making this Year a favourable opportunity to grow in intimacy with Jesus, who counts on us, his ministers, to spread and to consolidate his Kingdom, to radiate his love, his truth.Therefore, "in the footsteps of the Curé of Ars", my Letter concluded, "let yourselves be enthralled by him. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!" (L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, see p. 5).

To let oneself be totally won over by Christ! This was the purpose of the whole life of St Paul to whom we have devoted our attention during the Pauline Year which is now drawing to a close; this was the goal of the entire ministry of the Holy Curé d'Ars, whom we shall invoke in particular during the Year for Priests; may it also be the principal objective for each one of us.In order to be ministers at the service of the Gospel, study and a careful and continuing pastoral and theological formation is of course useful and necessary, but that "knowledge of love" which can only be learned in a "heart to heart" with Christ is even more necessary. Indeed, it is he who calls us to break the Bread of his love, to forgive sins and to guide the flock in his name. For this very reason we must never distance ourselves from the source of Love which is his Heart that was pierced on the Cross.Only in this way will we be able to cooperate effectively in the mysterious "plan of the Father" that consists in "making Christ the Heart of the world"! This plan is brought about in history, as Jesus gradually becomes the Heart of human hearts, starting with those who are called to be closest to him: priests, precisely.We are reminded of this ongoing commitment by the "priestly promises" that we made on the day of our Ordination and which we renew every year, on Holy Thursday, during the Chrism Mass. Even our shortcomings, our limitations and our weaknesses must lead us back to the Heart of Jesus.Indeed, if it is true that sinners, in contemplating him, must learn from him the necessary "sorrow for sins" that leads them back to the Father, it is even more so for holy ministers. How can we forget, in this regard, that nothing makes the Church, the Body of Christ, suffer more than the sins of her pastors, especially the sins of those who are transformed into "a thief and a robber" of the sheep (Jn 10: 1 ff.), or who deviates from the Church through their own private doctrines, or who ensnare the Church in sin and death?Dear priests, the call to conversion and recourse to Divine Mercy also applies to us, and we must likewise humbly address a heartfelt and ceaseless invocation to the Heart of Jesus to keep us from the terrible risk of harming those whom we are bound to save.

I have just had the opportunity to venerate in the Choir Chapel the relic of the Holy Curé D'Ars: his heart. It was a heart that blazed with divine love, that was moved at the thought of the priest's dignity and spoke to the faithful in touching and sublime tones, affirming that "After God, the priest is everything! ... Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is" (cf. Letter, Year for Priests, p. 3).Dear Brothers, let us cultivate this same emotion in order to carry out our ministry with generosity and dedication, or to preserve in our souls a true "fear of God": the fear of being able to deprive of so much good, through our negligence or fault, those souls entrusted to us, or God forbid of harming them.The Church needs holy priests; ministers who can help the faithful to experience the merciful love of the Lord and who are his convinced witnesses.In the Eucharistic Adoration that will follow the celebration of Vespers, let us ask the Lord to set the heart of every priest on fire with that "pastoral charity" which can enable him to assimilate his personal "I" into that Jesus the High Priest, so that he may be able to imitate Jesus in the most complete self-giving.May the Virgin Mary, whose Immaculate Heart we shall contemplate with living faith tomorrow, obtain this grace for us. The Holy Curé d'Ars had a filial devotion to her, so profound that in 1836, in anticipation of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, he consecrated his parish to Mary, "conceived without sin".He kept up the practice of frequently renewing this offering of his parish to the Blessed Virgin, teaching the faithful that "to be heard it was enough to address her", for the simple reason that she "desires above all else to see us happy".May the Blessed Virgin, our Mother, accompany us during the Year for Priests which we are beginning to day, so that we are able to be sound and enlightened guides for the faithful whom the Lord entrusts to our pastoral care. Amen!

Holy Father's words to seminarians - our future priests!

Please continue to pray for our men in formation - that they become excellent priests!

"The task of forming priests is a delicate mission. The formation offered by the Seminary is demanding, because a portion of the People of God will be entrusted to the pastoral solicitude of the future priests, the People that Christ saved and for whom he gave his life.It is right for seminarians to remember that if the Church demands much of them it is because they are to care for those whom Christ ransomed at such a high price.

Many qualities are required of future priests: human maturity, spiritual qualities, apostolic zeal, intellectual rigour.... To achieve these virtues, candidates to the priesthood must not only be able to witness to them to their formation teachers but even more, they must be the first to benefit from these same qualities lived and shared by those who are in charge of helping them to attain maturity."

- remarks made by the Holy Father in an address to the French seminary

Getting into the Year of the Priest

The Holy Father offered this reflection on the eve of the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul, which closed the Holy Year of St. Paul. He used the occasion to define further the fruit that he desires for all priests during this holy year dedicated to them!

St. Paul is an example of a priest who was completely identified with his ministry -- just as the holy Curé d'Ars would also be -- conscious of possessing a priceless treasure, that is, the message of salvation, but in an "earthen vessel" (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7); thus he is at the same time strong and humble, intimately persuaded that everything is God’s doing, everything is grace.

"The love of Christ possesses us," the Apostle writes. This could well be the motto of every priest -- that the Spirit compels (cf. Acts 20:22) him to be a faithful steward of the mysteries of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2). The priest must belong totally to Christ and totally to the Church; to the latter he is called to dedicate himself with an undivided love, like a faithful husband to his bride.

Dear friends, together with that of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, we call upon the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that she obtain from the Lord abundant blessings for priests during this Year for Priests, which has just begun.

May the Madonna, whom St. John Mary Vianney loved and made his parishioners love, help every priest to revive the gift of God that is in him by virtue of his holy Ordination, so that he grow in sanctity and be ready to bear witness, even to the point of martyrdom, to the beauty of his total and definitive consecration to Christ and the Church.

Nick Blaha in El Salvador

Seminarians having fun in their summer assignments!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Homily for 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
27 June 2009
Year of the Priest

Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake. I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen. Most of you knew this prayer as soon as I started saying it. It has been part of the nighttime prayer tradition of Catholic children (and adults, sometimes) for a long time. It is a prayer I said growing up. But I find that there are a lot of children today who do not know this prayer. One of the reasons is because death is scary for us sinners. We try to protect our children from scary things. This prayer about possibly dying before we wake is considered by some to be too scary. Out of sight, out of mind, is perhaps a better way to deal with death. I remember when we taught the St. Michael prayer to children at my first parish, St. Michael's in Leawood, that the kids loved the prayer, even though it was scary. Of course, they could memorize it 10X faster than their parents. But every once in a while we got a complaint from a parent that we were scaring their children. When we prayed that the great St. Michael would thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits prowling about the world seeking the ruin of souls, it was too graphic for some. For some, Satan is better ignored than confronted. Out of sight. Out of mind. Out of reality.

Jesus came down from heaven to be with us so that we could openly confront death and evil without fear. He says to those who report that the little girl in today's Gospel is already dead to not be afraid. Just have faith! Jesus came to deliver in person the message we heard in today's first reading from the book of Wisdom. God did not make death. Nor does he delight in the destruction of the living. No, he made man to be imperishable, in the image of his own divine nature. Jesus says to those who say that evil has overcome the little girl, that her life is completely lost, that death is not to be feared. Nor does it have the final say. Nor does it mean that evil has won a final victory. No, Jesus steers those around Him away from fear and toward hope, by saying that the girl is not dead, but she is sleeping. And He is ridiculed for saying so, but then He goes to show that the Son of God has power over death, and through his resurrection of this little girl he foreshadows his own glorious and victorious resurrection!

Once we have prayed the 'Now I lay me down to sleep' prayer a few thousand times, or ten thousand times, the prayer really doesn't scare us. In fact, the prayer teaches us something important, that our eventual death is to be feared no more than our going to sleep at night. When we go to sleep, we lose awareness of what is happening to us, and we lose control over what the state of the world might be when we awake. Yet we generally fall asleep in peace, with confidence, and with faith that the world is mostly good, and that everything will be ok. In the same way, although death has entered the world, God does not desire it something to be feared as a great evil. Just as going to sleep is a transition to something new, so also dying in this world is to be welcomed as a transition to something new. We are to always look forward in hope, for as good as this world is in which we live, we are not to hold on in fear to something the Lord wants to replace with something better. This world is only the beginning of God sharing His life with us, not the end. As St. Paul says, eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned upon the mind of man, what God has ready for those who love Him!

In the night prayer for priests, we pray a little differently than the 'Now I lay me down to sleep prayer.' We pray that God will grant us a restful night and a peaceful death. Different words, but the same message. Dying and going to sleep are not that different after all. Not for the person with faith. Nor for the person whose sins have been washed away in the blood of Jesus. Mary, our mother, who was assumed into heaven at the moment of her earthly death, did not fear death, but looked forward in hope to her falling asleep, her chance to complete her work on earth and then to assume her new role in the history of salvation as the Queen of Heaven. May Mary teach us not to be afraid of death, for God does not will it, but by the power of the Eucharist that we will now share together, may we through the intercession of Mary, grow younger each day toward the eternal life that God desires for us His children, made in His eternal image and likeness! +m

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pro-life Money is No Good Here

Ah, my beloved Royals got cold feet about Missouri Right to Life night. Read the story here. Too bad! I wonder if Mike Sweeney would have said anything to them, or if it would have mattered?

Pro-life Money is No Good Here

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Homily for 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B1

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
21 June 2009 Father's Day
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
St. John Vianney, patron of priests, pray for us!

Whether it's an actual storm, like Katrina or a tornado or a tsunami, or a crisis of grand scale, like a war, global poverty and hunger, the priest sex abuse scandal, the killing of an abortion doctor, or a storm of a much more personal nature, a crisis of faith brought on by death or disease, a relationship in danger of being broken, a sin that continues to rear its ugly head - whatever it is that most has our attention, it is usually true, even on our best days, that the storms are all around us. They will continue to be all around us. Kansas has tornadoes. Florida has hurricanes. Minnesota has ice. Phoenix has drought. California has wildfires. The storms are everywhere. We will always be in the middle of them. We see Jesus in today's Gospel leading his disciples right into the middle of a storm, to test their faith. To see where they are with knowing who He is and how He is to be trusted. There are times when Jesus takes His disciples away from the storm. But there are times when He allows Himself, and His disciples, to remain right in the middle of the storm. The God of Israel says as much to Job in today's first reading. God is reminding Job that if Job finds Himself in the midst of the storm, it is not because God has lost power over storms. No, quite the contrary, God Himself set the limits of storms, and promised through the sign of a rainbow after the Great Flood that He would never again let the floods overtake the earth, out of love for His people. Still, God, the Lord of all creation, obviously still allows storms, big ones like Katrina, moral storms like those facing the world today, and personal storms like the unexpected news of a tragedy or crisis that hits us when we least expect it.

When too many storms come our way, or storms that confound our expectations of how things should be and how things should go, storms that cause us to re-write our autobiography according to a new set of circumstances, our first assumption is that God has fallen asleep. This is the response of the disciples in Mark's Gospel. When the storm hits, and they notice that Jesus is asleep, they do not immediately respond in faith, or see in Jesus' calmness an example of trust in God. No, their first assumption is quite the opposite - they assume that God does not care. They do not respond in faith, remembering that God sees them and knows them and loves them, and wishes their good, nor do they see the storm as a means by which their faith in God could grow stronger. No, they respond with fear and assume betrayal, and jump to the conclusion that God has forgotten them. They do not say - everything will be all right - which is our common ordinary expression of faith when things seem to be going badly. No, they respond with fear and dismay.

There are times, to be sure, that our faith in God takes us away from storms and gives us a peace that is like a beach vacation. No worries. Be happy. Everything is perfect. Our faith in God gets us out of many storms that others find themselves in, since through obedience to God we take ourselves out of the world, and live in this passing world with our hearts set on the world that will never end. There is a peace that comes from this, from knowing that this world is not our final home, nor do we have to expect that things go perfectly or go our way, nor do we have to squeeze every ounce out of this world that we can. This is the peace that comes from being apart from the world, which a Christian is, living a life of faith that enables us to grow younger toward the eternal life God has promised even as we grow older in this world.

But our faith does more than simply make us separate from the world. Our faith allows us to be in the world, and to endure the world's storms, confident that God our Heavenly Father knows us and sees us and loves us, and desires what is ultimately good for us. What is more, we do not pray that God will leave us alone and deliver us from every storm; no, we pray that God's will be done, even if that will be that He leads us right into the midst of a storm where our faith will be tested and purified and grow deeper. And even when we agree to allow the Lord to lead us, and He ends up leading us to a place where we did not intend to go, nor would we ever have gone on our own, even there we are able to respond with faith as did Jesus in the midst of the storm.

As we gather to celebrate Father's Day, we look first to the example of Abraham, our father in faith, who did not understand why the Lord would ask Him to sacrifice His only son Isaac, as a prefigurement of the love God the Father would eventually show us by giving us His only Son. Abraham did not understand why He was in the midst of a storm, and yet He remained fixed on the will of God, knowing that God alone knows what is good. Through the example and intercession of Abraham, we pray for all fathers today. With their wives they are the first teachers of children in the ways of faith. May they continue to be the best of teachers, bearing witness to our faith, by what they say and do in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. May our Fathers be the first ones to imitate the love that God the Father showed us His children by refusing to spare even His only Son, and may our fathers be always the first to respond with faith, reminding us all that everything will work out for the good for those who love God. May they be the first always to console us and to assure us that everything is going to be all right, for God is never asleep. God our heavenly Father sees us, and knows us, and loves us, and desires what is best for us, and will not let the worst kind of evil triumph over us. May our fathers teach us how to trust God, and to love Him in return with all our hearts, and all our minds, and all our strength. Amen. +m

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Year for Priests begins tomorrow

Here is the papal announcement encouraging the Church to celebrate Her priests and to pray for them. The USCCB has produced prayer cards and a rosary booklet to aid in this prayer. Let us pray for many graces to descend upon priests, that they may serve the Lord ever more courageously and generously, and may many young men decide to accept this invitation from Christ to be one of His priests. Mary, Mother of priests, pray for us!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Homily for Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Homily for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
14 June 2009
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center

Well, I couldn't find a Holy Thursday homily from the past that could be recycled or rehabilitated for this year's Solemnity of Corpus Christi, so I'll try preaching on something new. Usually, Holy Thursday, the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, when we celebrate the Institution of the Eucharist, is far enough away from today's Solemnity of Corpus Christi that you can get away with using some of the same themes, without any objections from people who may have been present at both homilies, but I couldn't really find anything from the past that I have done that was good enough that I wanted to bring forward to today. So let's talk about Eucharistic processions.

Today is a solemnity set apart not only for a deeper reflection on and celebration of the mystery of the Eucharist. Today is a day when we focus even more precisely on this sacrament of sacraments, the source and summit of the life of the Church, the instrument of our salvation, the body and blood of Jesus. But it is also a day when we as Catholics are encouraged to make the Eucharist more present in the world around us, and to propose to the world that Jesus has gifted Himself in a most perfect way, and has fulfilled His promise to remain with us until He comes again at the end of all time, through this Holy Sacrament. Today is a day when the Church is especially encouraged to take the miracle of the Eucharist out of the Church and to propose to the world that Jesus is truly present to us through the appearance of ordinary bread and wine. He is present to us fully and really and perfectly, body and blood, soul and divinity, and that whoever eats the body of Christ and drinks His blood, will never die, but has eternal life! Today is a day for Eucharistic processions around the world, and the practice of taking Jesus out of the Church, is a practice that is slowly coming back into Catholic piety. Today at 2pm there will be a Eucharistic procession co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph from St. Agnes Church in Roeland Park to Bishop Miege High School. Many people my age, and even some older than me, have never been in a Eucharistic procession, when the Eucharist, the most precious possession of the Church, is taken out as a way of proclaiming that Jesus Christ remains fully and really and perfectly with his people, not only spiritually, but through the gift of His body and blood. Even though He must be seen with eyes of faith until He comes again in glory, through the Eucharist, Jesus remains physically present to us, so that we can not only think of Him, but also be near Him physically, and what is more, we can prepare our bodies to be one with Him as He humbles Himself to be the food that sustains us to eternal life.

Whether or not we will take part in today's Eucharistic procession in Kansas City, we should all look for an opportunity to be a part of a Eucharistic procession when we can. Our faith changes dramatically when we take Jesus out of the Church. When you are part of a Eucharistic procession, you get a real sense of how private our faith in the Eucharist really is. You get a sense that this faith has become overly private perhaps, so that the Eucharist has become more of a private gnostic possession of the Church rather than something we greatly desire to share with the world. Until you get used to it, to be quite honest, it can be quite embarrassing to be doing something so absurd as praying in public while following a gold monstrance holding what appears to be only a piece of bread. Taking Jesus outside reminds us of how easily we take our faith in the Eucharist for granted when we are going to Mass, and how quickly we can shut that faith off when we go into the world, even if we don't mean to. What is more, taking the Eucharist outside reminds us that the Eucharist is not only the source of our unity as Catholics, not only the guarantee that we will remain one around the table of the Lord despite all the things that continue to try to tear the Church apart - the Eucharist is not only the source of our unity. It is also a great motive for evangelization, for when we try to take the Eucharist outside, either in Eucharistic procession or simply in trying to witness to our Catholic faith, we see how many people do not believe that Jesus could possibly be present in this sacrament, and we see that faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a most precious gift that we must not keep to ourselves. And we realize that we cannot cheapen the gift in order to share it, but we must bring people to real faith in the abiding presence of Jesus through the Eucharist. I am a firm believer that once someone has the gift of believing that Jesus is fully present to them in the Eucharist, their Catholic faith is unshakeable!! It is one thing for us as Catholics to wish others well. It is one thing to pray for their salvation. It is quite another to find a way to bring others to faith in the Eucharist, which is for us the surest path of salvation, for in eating the body and blood of Jesus, we have confidence that we are inseparably united with Him who once was dead but now lives forever. Through the Eucharist, we the Church are united with Jesus not only soul to soul, but body to body. For us Catholics, salvation means not only professing faith in Jesus with our lips, but accepting this gift of this sacrifice, a perfect sacrifice that fulfills our own desire to give our lives back perfectly to God, and being one flesh with Him as a bride is one flesh with Her husband. By taking Jesus out of the Church, we profess to the world that our faith in the Eucharist, the source and summit of the life of the Church, is worthless if we do not find a way to share it with those who do not yet believe that God loves them and wants to be with them forever in a most perfect way! +m

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Homily for Trinity Sunday

7 June 2009
St. Lawrence Catholic Center


During the priest retreat last week, Archbishop Naumann took a few moments to talk to us about the death of Dr. George Tiller, the notorious abortion doctor in Wichita, who as you all know, was murdered in his church last week by a lone gunman. Archbishop Naumann wrote a column that echoes what he said to us his priests, for The Leaven, and I hope you will read it there, if you have not already done so, but he invited us to comment on the killing this week at Mass as well if we chose to do so. The Archbishop chose to write this last week for the Leaven, even though he does not normally write in the summer, because he has so consistently written about the evil of abortion in his weekly column, and as many of you know, has garnered quite a bit of national attention surrounding the pastoral advice he has given former Governor Sebelius. At any rate, the column to which I refer you is expertly written, and helps us as Catholics to navigate our feelings surrounding the death of Dr. George Tiller. The article is clear that any feelings of justice being done or any triumphalism over such a terrible crime is a matter of conscience for us, for our consciences must be formed in such a way that we know firmly that violence is never solved or changed or healed by more violence. The article comes on the heels of the immediate and unequivocal condemnation of the killing by all the bishops of Kansas, speaking on behalf of all Catholics, and by all the major pro-life groups that have spoken strongly against abortion. The suspected shooter was not a member of any reputable pro-life movement, and clearly acted on his own as a vigilante. Therefore in addition to condemning the killing, the Church also wants to make it clear that any attempt to link this killing to the Church or the pro-life movement is unfair. What is more, the Archbishop’s column expresses genuine sadness for the family of Dr. Tiller, and that this killing, as violence and evil usually do, has the potential to harden the hearts of those who might one day be won for the cause of life. The Archbishop expressed sadness that the pro-life movement, by its prayers and tireless work for justice, has not yet been able to turn the hearts of all toward the cause of life, nor has it been able to restore legal protection for the unborn. He urges all of us not to reduce our efforts for the cause of life, as some in the media might suggest us to do, but to pray and to sacrifice even more for the conversion of hearts, and to work even harder within the confines of the law, for an end to abortion, which continues to be a scourge in our nation.

A few words as well today about the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, our celebration that always follows one week after Pentecost Sunday. This feast has the reputation of being a feast that priests hate to preach, for how does one go about preaching the most inaccessible mystery of the Trinity? How can we have any meaningful access to God’s innermost secret? Clint Eastwood's character in the movie Million Dollar Baby, has a habit of going to daily Mass, and then badgering the priest every day with a question that is hard to answer. In one scene in the movie, he asks the priest to explain the Holy Trinity to him. The priest replies that he doesn’t have time to do so, and that Clint’s character should stop bothering him, and finally, he says that the only people that go to daily Mass as much as Clint’s character are the people that can’t forgive themselves for something. This feast has the same reputation, that the priest is just trying to get through preaching the Trinity without spouting any heresy. He is always glad when it is over. How do you help people to understand the Trinity?

The answer, I think, does not lie within any human philosophical genius, no matter how much philosophy or theology one has studied. For geniuses, the Trinity is indeed a worthy subject for contemplation, an inexhaustible mystery that is worthy of pursuit by the best minds. But explaining the Trinity is not so much about finding a way to teach deep philosophy and theology to regular folks, it is about listening to God’s revelation in such a way as to see and to hear that we are right in the middle of the Trinity. That’s right, the mystery of the Trinity is not only a deeper and more remote attribute of God. It’s not that we say that God is omnipotent, eternal, divine, completely unlike you so much so that you will never understand Him, and oh yeah, even if you think you are getting close to understanding Him, He is also three persons in one nature, even more unlike you, so that you never have any chance of understanding Him. No, although the Trinity is like that, that is not what this Feast is about – celebrating that God is unlike us in every way! No, this Solemnity is given us by the Church for us to celebrate, not any frustration or distance between us and God, but that we are in the middle of the Trinity. We are at the heart of the mystery of who God is. God is love, and He is an eternal exchange of love between three distinct persons, and we His beloved children are right in the midst of this exchange.

Let’s try to understand the Trinity this way. God the Father sends His Son on a mission. The mission is this – for the Son to go to the very edge of God-forsakenness. The mission of the Son is to go as far away from God as He can, to allow Himself to be crucified and counted among the wicked who seem the very farthest from God. To go so far away from God that part of his conversation with His Father is this – My God, why have you forsaken me. And then the Son goes even farther away after his death. As we say in the creed, he descends into Hell, to go farther away from God than even those who were thought to be outside of God forever. As our seminarian Nathan reminded me this morning, it is as if the mission of the Son was to stretch a rubber band as far as it could possibly be stretched, before snapping back to the Father from which the Son came. Even in the depths of Hell, the Son spoke to the Father – Father, I praise you for all things! These people are your gift to me! Let them be one in us!

This conversation between the Father and Son is the Holy Spirit. In the Trinity, there is the one who loves, the one who is beloved, and the exchange of love between the two. This exchange of love between Father and Son, the love that they share, is the Holy Spirit, and is a conversation that we are in the middle of. It is an exchange of love that includes the mysteries of creation and redemption. It is a conversation we have access to, as God has revealed to us his innermost secret. We have access to this mystery most intimately as we celebrate the liturgy. We pray to God the Father, with Christ the Son who has taken on our humanity, and we pray in the Holy Spirit. We pray not only to our Father as children, not only with the Son who is our brother, but also in the Holy Spirit, as we listen to the Father and the Son speak to each other! All of this is present in the prayers we are about to pray together. Listen! This is the celebration of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. We are here to listen to the Father and Son speak to each other. We are able to hear with our own ears the innermost conversation God is having within Himself. And we are able to do this not because we have broken some encrypted code, but because God has first loved us, and chosen to include us at the very heart of who He is! +m