Thursday, January 29, 2015

Out of hell...

And now in Saint Petersburg, Florida. I came down here to visit friends. Very sunny, in the 60s. Locals are complaining about "the cold"!

Today I'll go see the Salvador Dali museum. So there, Fr. Z!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I'm in the lowest pit of hell right now

...that is, in my reading of Dante's Divine Comedy. I might have finished this last "canto," or chapter, last night, but this is where Dante and his guide, Virgil, encounter the "king of hell," Old Scratch himself. So I thought those might not be the best images to have in mind as I drifted off to dreamland! To fortify myself for this last episode in hell -- before we move to purgatory -- I am having breakfast at Denny's.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A few minutes ago...

Watching the sun go down on the Gulf of Mexico...

Stealing from a brother priest!

Last evening and today, I visited San Antonio Parish in San Antonio, Florida, just down the road from Saint Leo Abbey. Last night, the priest in residence, Father Emmanuel, persuaded me to be the celebrant -- but he preached. This morning, Father Palka, the pastor, did it all; I was the con celebrant. That is a great way for a priest to pray the Mass, so long as the Mass I'd offered reverently, which this was.

At the end of Mass, Father surprised me when he said more or less the following: 

Fr. Fox dutifully presented his letter from his bishop,attesting that he's really a priest, but I knew who he was, he's famous! (Uh oh...) then Father mentioned my blog, and encouraged people to go visit it! So I had to rush to get something posted!

I told him after Mass that I'd be stealing two things from him: 

First, his homily, in which developed the following point: that if someone says (regarding the first reading) that it is impossible for Jonah to have been swallowed by a big fish, because nature won't allow it, then that person ceases to be Catholic in his thinking. Note well: Father did not say one must interpret the Book of Jonah only that way; but he insisted that rule out super-nature ever overriding nature is to deny miracles, and eventually, everything of the Faith collapses. He's 100% right, of course!

Second, the parish has a very sensible arrangement for distributing Holy Communion. They have lined up several kneelers, and people come forward on one side, and line very much as they used to prior to Vatican II. Except--no one has to kneel. Many do, while many stand. Also, many receive in the hand, while many others receive in the age-old way, on the tongue. Meanwhile, on the other side, people line up in a fashion more familiar in most parishes.

Why do I like this so much better? Several reasons. First, it is much easier to give people communion this way with less chance of the host being dropped. Many times, people barely stop moving in a communion line; that makes dropping the host more likely. Second, many are unsteady, and this gives them something to hold onto. Third, this gives folks a chance to settle and be recollected before receiving the Lord, which is crucial. Fourth, it accommodates those who wish to kneel. Fifth and finally, I think it actually goes quicker, but I can't prove that. (Maybe it's a miracle? Hmmm...)

After last nights Mass, I joined a group for dinner, which was fun. I learned a lot about goats from one of the folks! I hope to visit with these lovely folks again before I go.

Now my breakfast is here, so...posting!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Saint Leo Benedictines

I am sitting on the screened-in back porch of the guest house at Saint Leo Abbey in Saint Leo, Florida. A gentle rain is falling; I suppose it's around 60 degrees. (By the way, does anyone else remember when typewriter keyboards had the degree symbol? I still hunt for it reflexively, even though it's probably been over 30 years, since I used a Royal manual typewriter in college!) It's very quiet.

The abbey is on the campus of Saint Leo University, which was founded with the abbey, but is now independent. It's a small place; I haven't relly looked around, as I got here from Tampa Airport not much before Vespers, then came dinner, then a short break before Holy Mass at 7. (And if you are wondering, no, I doubt I'll get up for Matins at 4:30 am.)

The March for life yesterday was a great experience as always. I have attended about fifteen times over the last 30 years, and I've never seen it so packed. We could barely move the whole way. For about the first third, we could only creep along. It helped that the weather was very fine, in the 50s and sunny.

During my retreat, I'll be reading and reflecting on Dante's Divine Comedy, or as much as I get through. Ive wanted to read it for years.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hitting the road...

I'm going to be away from the parish for the next ten days. Today I'm flying to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life tomorrow, and then on Friday I'm heading to Florida for my annual retreat, plus a visit to a friend.

It's not easy to post to my blog from my iPad, so updates may be rare. Perhaps I'll see you, however, at the March?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Availability (St. Remy Day homily)

Today we celebrate our patron, Saint Remy. 
His feast day actually falls on January 13, 
but we are able to move it to Sunday. 
To be honest, until I came here, 
I didn’t know anything about Saint Remy – 
or, Remigius, as he would have called himself. 
I suspect many of us don’t know much about him.

As his name suggests, Remigius was a Roman; 
he lived in northern part of the province of Gaul,
in an area near the border between France and Belgium. 
As a boy, Remy was very bright and well read; 
he was renowned for his learning and his holiness. 
When he was 22, he was nominated to be bishop – 
and he wasn’t even a priest!

Remy was born in AD 437. 
That means he lived at a time when Roman society was falling apart. 
Try to imagine what that might be like. 
Imagine if we, in Ohio, 
had some group in Cleveland start their own country; 
and we would send messages to Washington, asking for help; 
but little help arrived.

The new nation that was coalescing around Remy and his fellow Romans 
was the Kingdom of the Franks; 
the Franks were a Germanic people that had migrated out of the east. 
The king of the Franks was Clovis. 
The Franks were the rising upstarts, the “new rich”; 
the Romans were the upper-crust whose star was fading fast. 

In the year 486 – Bishop Remy was 49 – the tide turned decisively. 

King Clovis defeated the last Roman forces in Gaul; 
the Roman era was finished.
Again, imagine what that might be like – 
seeing your country and your culture washed away. 

How easy it would have been for Bishop Remy to fear
and even hate Clovis. 

Instead, Remy fostered good relations with the Franks. 
He may well have been influenced 
by Saint Paul’s words in the second reading: 
“I have become all things to all, to save at least some.” 

Because Remy made himself available to the Lord, 
not only was King Clovis baptized, so were many of his advisors. 
That set the whole kingdom on the path to becoming Catholic; 
and thus the future nation of France.

There is another story about Bishop Remy 
and it concerns the ampoule which you can see in his hand here. 
It seems a dying man asked to be baptized; 
and when St. Remy went to get 
the oil of catechumens and sacred chrism, the containers were empty. 
So Bishop Remy placed them on the altar and prayed; 
and they miraculously filled. 
The ampulla were buried with him, and when someone found them, 
three or so centuries later, they still had oil in them. 
These oils were then used, for many centuries, 
to anoint the kings and queens of France. 

Now we can understand why our French forebears, arriving here, 
decided to name this parish after Saint Remy.

Now, let’s see if we can connect St. Remy to our own times. 
Some of us can remember taking for granted 
that our society around us knew who Jesus Christ is. 
If that was ever really true, it’s not true now. 
I won’t compare our society to the dire straits of the Romans – 
but a lot of us think it feels that way! 
And that brings fear. 

What we know about Bishop Remy is that he was confident 
that Christ would be the light of the new world 
that was rising around him; and he was right! 

More than that, he made himself available to the Lord – 
and the Lord made it happen through Remy.

Availability. That’s our task. 
You and I have no control over the future. 
We have this moment – and it is up to us what we’ll make of it. 
Will we, like Remy, fill this moment, this time, 
with hope in Jesus Christ?
The Lord called Isaiah – he went; 
he called Peter, Andrew, James and John. 
They dropped their nets. 
Something new was asked. They went.

Every year around this time, 
we talk about the Catholic Ministries Appeal. 
Next weekend, we’ll look at the needs that this fund covers 
in more detail. 

But just a brief reminder: 
the Catholic Ministries fund is how the Archdiocese provides 
for many in our communities who are poor and without resources. 
Counseling and family assistance through Catholic Social Services. 

Part of it goes to provide for our retired priests. 
Part of it helps with outreach to colleges, prisons and hospitals. 
And a portion of it supports our seminary and our vocation programs.

Archbishop Schnurr asked me to share with you 
his own words on this subject. He provided a recording to play; 
but that’s always a little awkward. 
Instead, let me share part of what he said:

The Catholic Ministries Appeal, which begins today,
is our annual invitation to participate in God’s plan for His Church
by supporting these vital ongoing ministries.

Giving to the Catholic Ministries Appeal,
especially when our gifts are given out of joyful gratitude
for God’s generosity to us,
is much more than simply pledging financial support.

By giving to the Catholic Ministries Appeal
we are agents of these ministries –
feeding, teaching, and healing the people of Southwest Ohio
in the name of Jesus Christ.

In this way, we invite our neighbors to a closer encounter with Jesus –
to come and see, to “stay” with Him.

Here’s something Pope Francis said:

“In the light of the word of Jesus, 
love is the measure of faith, 
and faith is the soul of love. 
We cannot separate … the life of piety … 
from that of service to our brothers and sisters, 
those flesh-and-blood brothers and sisters we actually meet.”

This week, you will receive a personal invitation 
from the Archbishop in the mail. 
Please consider your response prayerfully, 
and pledge as generously as you can, even – or especially – 
if you have never given to the Catholic Ministries Appeal before.  

The Archbishop asks you to “consider this an invitation from Jesus 
to ‘come and see’ what a difference your generosity can make.”

This is our chance to do in a practical way 
what we prayed in today’s psalm: 
“Here we are, Lord. We come to do your will.”

Friday, January 16, 2015

Parish vignettes

It's Friday already! How did I get here?

Tuesday --

Not particularly noteworthy. I did have a bunch of phone calls to make, in order to line up priests for confessions in Lent. Yes, Lent! About a month away; and hereabouts, priests-for-confessions get signed up early.

Also, Tuesday evening I was with the two gentlemen who are receiving instruction in the Faith. If all goes well, they will be received into the Church, confirmed, and make their first holy communion at Pentecost. Pray for them, and for me, their instructor.

Wednesday --

Up at 5 am for early-early Traditional Latin Mass. I think I'm actually getting the hang of it; I don't think I made any mistakes. Did I, folks?

Another Mass at 8:15 am.

At 10:30 am, I visited the nearby "Little Lambs" preschool. It was "P Day"; and as the parish priest, I was the star attraction! The children were in their pajamas! We talked about things the parish priest does, with emphasis on "p" words; I felt like Sylvester from the Loony Toons cartoons.

After lunch, I'm dragging. I wasn't much good the rest of the day.

Thursday --

Ah, a good night's sleep makes all the difference!

Mass at 8:15 am; later in the day, I assisted at a funeral for a family member of a parishioner at a nearby parish.

In between all this, I am working on my homily for this weekend. Saint Remy's feast day fell during the week; but because it's a solemnity for the parish, we can move it to the nearest unimpeded Sunday, which is what we did.

The truth? I didn't know anything about Saint Remy till I got here; so it was time to bone up. I'd been reading about him this week; and someone in the office brought me a book about Saint Clothilde, whose husband, Clovis, King of the Franks, Remy baptized. Fascinating stuff.

A wrinkle: when I planned to celebrate Saint Remy on Sunday, I forgot that this was the Sunday when we kick off the Archdiocese's "Catholic Ministry Appeal." My assistant reminds me, showing me the CD with the Archbishop's special homily. D'oh!

Well, in years' past, I've omitted playing a recording of the Archbishop's message, and instead worked his message into my homily. So now that was my task again. When you see the homily on this site on Sunday, let me know how I did.

Meanwhile, in the fridge was thawing a lasagna. Remember the two pans I made last month? This was the one I shoved in the freezer. Now I had to think a bit.

I had confessions from 7-8:30 pm, and Benediction following. I didn't want to eat beforehand, so I had to time the baking so it would be ready when I finished. Only I didn't want to overcook it, as I had the last pan. So I put it in the oven at 200.

It worked!

When I came back, I had a pan full of melty, tomatoey goodness. It was delicious! (Sorry, no photo, but I was hungry!)

Plus, my leg was smarting.

At the beginning of Benediction, just as I knelt down, I felt it in my right leg. Charleyhorse! What do you do? Normally, I'd jump up and walk it off. But I couldn't do that. I stretched out my leg a little (hoping no one noticed; although the server heard me sigh and noticed I hadn't started the prayers); it subsided. My mother's words came back: "offer it up." There above me, on the altar, was our Lord; behind him, the crucifix. So I started the Litany of the Sacred Heart.

It starts to feel better; after a bit, my leg actually feels good. Thank you Jesus!

Then I shift slightly. It starts all over; worse this time. "Desire of the Everlasting Hills...have mercy on us!"

I was hobbling a bit through the rest of it, afraid to genuflect, for fear of setting it off again.  Not a big deal, but one of those things I bet you didn't know happened to deacons and priests during Benediction.

Friday --

Mass at 8:15 am. A larger crowd, because a 12-year-old boy, the grandson of some of our parishioners, was facing major surgery this morning. Yesterday, someone asked me, could I remember him at this Mass? Sure; so word spread that we would do that; and something like an extra 40 or so people came. Very encouraging!

After Mass, a quick bite to eat for breakfast, and then back to my homily.

...Which I just finished!

FYI, here's King Clovis, being baptized. I am amused to see he has his battleaxe at the ready.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Monday Dinner: Beef Stew

I don't recall making beef stew before; but it sounded good, especially this time of year. So I picked up some stew meat at Buschurs, which is next to the church, and I got some carrots, celery and onions at John's IGA in Versailles. Everything else I needed, I had (or so I thought!).

But first, a puzzle and a poll. Can you guess why the drawers and doors under my sink are open thusly:

Is this because (choose answer you think is closest to the truth)

a) I am too lazy to shut them
b) I'm so forgetful I need to keep doors and drawers open so I can remember where things are
c) It's related to me being cheap
d) Because my pet parakeet likes me to do this

You can give your answer in the comments.

Meanwhile, let's talk about the stew. I used a recipe I found online. When I pulled it up, I realized it called for beef boullion cubes, which I didn't have; nor did I have any beef broth. When I go to the store next, I'll get some of that. But no worries, I found a solution I'll describe below.

The first step is to get a pot out and get some oil heating up. I thought about using bacon fat, but decided against it. Maybe next time I'll try that. Then I got the beef out and rolled it in flour.

Then that went in the pot, and started to brown. Meanwhile, I cut up my vegetables -- several carrots, an onion, and several potatoes. I had some that were getting a little soft, and the potatoes were sending out little shoots -- but that is no problem; just cut them off. I also had some shallots, so I chopped them up as well. And I decided to throw in some garlic; it wasn't called for, but so what?

While I was doing this, I kept checking and stirring the beef. As the meat was getting nicely browned, I consulted the recipe and saw the beef boullion. My solution? I substituted red wine for half the water. I had some Chianti on hand, so I used that; but something like Cabernet or Burgundy might have been better.

So the beef and broth -- plus some rosemary, parsley and pepper (I added red pepper, plus some salt since I'd left out the boullion) -- all had to simmer for an hour.

Here you can see the chopped vegetables sitting in two bowls, waiting to be thrown into the simmering pot.

After this, I went away and had something to drink while I watched "Shark Tank." I came back about an hour later, and threw in the vegetables. I forgot to take a picture, sorry. The recipe said to let it simmer another hour. When an hour was almost up, I came back, took a look, and thought, "I think I have some peas in the freezer, those would be good." I also wanted the stew thicker, so also added some flour, using the roux method (i.e., melt butter, stir flour into the butter, put butter-flour mixture in stew). So I threw those in. After another 20 minutes or so, I came back to this:

It was about 8 pm, and it was supposed to be ready. So I got some rolls out of the freezer and heated them up in the oven; buttered them, and had them with a bowl of the stew. Plus some more Chianti.

Again, I forgot to take a picture. Then the Bucks-Ducks game came on, and I had more important things to worry about, such as too many OSU turnovers! Then it was well after midnight -- to bed!


Very good! I liked this a lot. It needed a bit more salt, and would have benefited from longer cooking; the potatoes were fine, but the celery and carrots needed a bit more time. Maybe more onions; certainly more shallots and garlic would have worked. Some more broth might have been good, too. so I think the beef broth would make it better. I thought about tomatoes, too -- what do you think?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

How awesome is this feast! (Baptism of the Lord homily)

This is the last feast of the Christmas Season. 
And it might be confusing, 
since it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Christmas. 
Here, Jesus isn’t a child, but a full-grown man. 
But it does – because this shows why Christmas happened. 
Jesus was born to grow up, after all; 
and to go and say and do things to save us.

This feast recalls something he did at the very beginning. 
He goes to John to be baptized.

Stop and think about that. 
Everyone who was in line, at the Jordan River, to be baptized, 
was doing so for repentance of sins. 
It’s like the line for the confessional. 
They were there to tell God they were sorry for their sins 
and ask forgiveness.

What if the Lord Jesus came and got in line for our confessional? 
Can you imagine what that would be like for the priest? 
If I’m sitting in the confessional, and the Lord came in!? 
I imagine John the Baptist must have felt that way, don’t you?

Here’s why our Lord did that. 

He came to earth to be with us. He stands in solidarity with us. 
Everything in the Gospels shows us this. 
He works with us, he eats what we eat, he walks with the disciples, 
he prays with us, he gets tired the way we get tired. 

So he stands with sinners. 
Literally stands with them, as they all waited their turn 
to step into the river to be baptized. 
While they waited, what happened? 
Did Jesus stand aloof—
did he keep his hands folded and his head down? 
Did he talk to the others? Did he ask about them? 
Did he pray with them?

It calls to mind what I shared with you last weekend, 
about our task – from the Lord – 
to share our Faith with everyone around us; 
to reach out, to be friends and companions with others. 
Sooner or later, that means neighbors we may not know very well. 
Maybe folks whose life and experiences are very unlike ours. 
What do we do? 

I don’t mean to be glib about this. 
Some of us can see a crowd, and plunge in. 
But for others, that’s the hardest thing imaginable. 
My point is that we accept as our task 
to care about the needs of others; 
but we may not all do it the same way.

So, for example, a number of us are planning 
to go to Washington, D.C. for the March for Life, 
to pray for conversion of our country and the laws 
so that we end abortion.

Some of you are really hardcore – you’re riding a bus all night, 
both ways! I’m not quite that saintly! 
I’m taking an airplane—but it’ll be coach! 

But many of us can’t go, because of family or work 
or because of health, or it’s just too overwhelming. 
Fair enough. 
But we are collecting funds to help meet the expenses of the bus trip – 
can you help with that? 

There’s a prayer vigil to see people off the night before – 
can you come to that? 
Will you be in solidarity in prayer 
while folks are praying and walking in Washington? 
One way or the other, every single one of us 
can find a way to “stand with.”

Once we decide we’re willing to do as Jesus did – 
to stand with others in their trials and pain and searching – 
then if we don’t know how, don’t worry about that. 
Jesus himself will show you how; just ask him.

The other aspect of this event 
that is worth reflecting on is baptism itself. 
Just as this event – Jesus being baptized – 
is about God coming to be where we were, 
our baptism, our sharing in the life of the sacraments, 
accomplishes the reverse: 
it is about God bringing us to be where he is.

When we have a baptism, part of it is a litany of the saints. 
We “call ahead” to let the saints know, another one is one the way! 

Am I saying it’s that easy to become a saint? Yes! 
But staying a saint is much harder – 
which takes us back to the confessional line!

But to reiterate, baptism—
along with the whole of our life as Christians—
is about us becoming saints. That’s our destiny. 

Right after baptism comes anointing with sacred chrism: 
that’s the very fragrant oil 
that’s also used for confirmation, 
for anointing a priest’s hands when he’s ordained, 
and for consecrating an altar and a church before it’s used. 
It can only be blessed by the bishop.

That chrism signifies what we see happen in the Gospel. 
The Lord Jesus is anointed with the Holy Spirit; 
the Father declares from heaven, “You are my beloved son.” 
Now, Jesus himself didn’t need these things to happen; 
he already had them from eternity.

They happened for the benefit of the rest of us, as we look on. 
Both to tell us that Jesus really is the Messiah; 
but also, to tell us what our baptism means. 
In baptism, we are anointed with the Holy Spirit; 
we are told, by God, we are his beloved child, 
in whom he is “well pleased.”

How perfect this feast is! 
When we get in line to acknowledge our sins, 
we find Jesus standing right there with us! 
And when we get our turn at confession, 
we hear the Father say, “I am well pleased.” 

Isn’t that awesome? How wonderful is that?
What more do we need? 

Friday, January 09, 2015

Should I publish an image of Mohammed?

Christ the Pantocrator, from the Hagia Sophia, Constantinople
As everyone knows, a few days ago Islamist terrorists in France burst into the offices of a satirical publication, called Charlie Hebdo, and gunned down the editorial staff there; they also murdered two police officers.

The presumed reason was that they were offended by the publication's many cartoons that mocked Islam, and specifically, its founder, Mohammed.

All this brings up an aspect of Islam that many of us are unfamiliar with: the objection -- of at least some Muslims -- to any depiction of Mohammed whatsoever. (I.e., I think we can all figure out why they don't like mocking depictions; we Catholics don't like that when it happens to us. No one likes that.) This item at CNN seems to explain it fairly well.

In the wake of this terrorist act, there have been some who wring their hands and say the murders are "understandable." Others, repulsed not only by these fascist acts, are further inflamed by this pusillanimous response, who insist the right response is to republish the offending images.

You may recall, for example, something similar a few years ago, called "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day."

Part of me reacts just like so many others who refuse to be intimidated -- and is tempted to say, sure, I'll publish an image of Mohammed. Why not? As a Catholic, I have no objection to images of Mohammed, or anything else. After all, we have images of God, saints and angels in our homes and churches. No problem.

But then there is the question of neighborliness and courtesy. And there, I follow a rule that I suspect most people do: I am fine with observing customs of others, when around them, provided doing so involves no compromise of anything I hold dear.

So, for example: while my religion does not prohibit me from any food, nor from consuming alcohol, when I am with someone whose religion does have such strictures, I am fine with avoiding those things -- simply as a matter of courtesy. When I visited the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem, I was advised not to bring a Bible or a prayer book; since I had no need to bring them, I did not. I did, however, wear my roman collar, and no one gave me a second look. When I visited a mosque in Turkey, I took off my shoes. That did not compromise my beliefs in the slightest. I was quiet and paid close attention to what our tour guide explained, but I was careful not to engage in any visible acts of prayer, so as to avoid any confusion -- or to give offense.

So here's how I see it. My religion says we honor God and his saints by veneration of images of him and them; so I have happily posted such images here -- such as the image above. I am sorry if other people disapprove, but this is my blog; and I am not doing it to offend you. I am a Christian, and am not shy about announcing it.

And if the day ever comes when it seems necessary not only to write about Mohammed (which I rarely do, as it happens), but to show a picture, then I guess that's what I'll do.

But I don't see why I need to do that. And I certainly see no reason to publish anything that is insulting. I didn't do it before; why should I start now?

Think of this way. The magazine that was attacked also published cartoons that mocked Jesus Christ and the pope. If it had been some fascistic "Catholics" who did this, would I then be obliged to republish those images? I don't think so.

What do you think?

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Are you leading others to Christ? (Epiphany homily)

The last few days, when I’ve been wishing people “Merry Christmas,” 
I have gotten more than a few odd looks. 
Why do I insist on wishing people “Merry Christmas”?

Because Christmas goes beyond just a single day. 
Many tend to pile all the features of Christmas onto one day, 
where the Church spreads them out over a couple of weeks.

Today we recall the story of the Magi. 
We often call them the “kings,” but the Gospel doesn’t say that. 
They were, in fact, priests. 
They weren’t Jewish, they were pagan, 
very likely from present-day Iran. 
And they studied not only sacred texts, but also the stars. 
That’s why they are also called the “Wise Men.”

The important question to ask is this: 
why does the Gospel of Matthew tell this story? 
Why is it important?

Matthew – who was one of the Twelve Apostles – 
wrote his Gospel with two big points he wanted to make. 

First, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, 
who was promised to the Jewish People. 

And the second point Matthew works hard to make 
is that the Jewish Savior isn’t just for the Jews, 
but for the whole world. 

All the world would hear about it; and it starts right here, 
when “the world” – that’s what the Magi represent – 
come in search of the Jewish Messiah.
So let’s notice how this adds to Christmas.

Christmas is, Jesus is born. God enters our world. 
The first light of salvation dawns.

But who is Christmas for? Not just Mary and Joseph. 
Not just the angels or the shepherds.

This is for the whole world.

One of the terms you may have heard once or twice 
is what Pope Francis calls “the new evangelization.” 
The pope and bishops have been talking about this for awhile.
The point being that there is a lot of our world 
that needs to know who Jesus is, 
and needs to come to put their faith in him. 
A lot of that “world” that needs it, 
includes folks right here in our own country; 
right here in Shelby County. Yes, even right here in Russia.

There’s been a complacency among Catholics 
in our part of the world for some time; 
we don’t think much about evangelizing; we don’t even like the term. 
To a lot of folks, that sounds like 
going door-to-door on Saturday mornings to pass out literature.

Meanwhile, our culture is going to hell. 
I don’t mean that figuratively. 
Our culture is quite explicitly rejecting the values of God 
and embracing the values of hell. 

So we can look down on those folks 
who come around and knock on doors, 
or who hold up signs at football games, 
but at least they feel the urgency. 

The Magi must have felt some urgency, 
or else why did they make that long journey to adore the child Jesus? 

And, more to the point, did they make a mistake?

After all, there are folks who say, 
oh, it doesn’t really matter what you believe, what your religion is. 

Well, if that’s true, the Magi were big fools. 
They could have stayed home!

Yes, there is an urgency to the Gospel. 
It leaps off every page, 
and we can hear it in almost everything Jesus says or does. 

When I was meeting parishioners last summer, many folks asked me, 
what are your plans? What’s your agenda for the parish? 
I was reluctant to get into that question at the time, 
because I was still get acquainted. 
It was important I meet you, and get to know the parish, 
before trying to offer anything like that.

But now I think I can offer an answer to those questions.

My great goal for our parish, 
which you will hear from me pretty often, is evangelization.

Simply put, it is my job – and your job – 
to make sure everyone we know, everyone around us, 
knows who Jesus is, 
and is given every opportunity to put their faith in him.

We start, well, with ourselves! Do you know who Jesus is? 
Do you know more than a few facts about him – do you know him? 
Can you honestly say that Jesus is a friend? 
Yes, he is our Savior, our Lord and our God; 
but he came to earth, as one of us, 
precisely so that we could also call him brother and friend.

If you’re not so sure you can say 
you have a close relationship with Jesus, 
then there’s goal-number-one for the year of our Lord 2015.

And then there is the task of sharing our Faith with others.

Now, let me explain just what I mean. 
To evangelize – to share our Faith – means a whole lot more 
than knocking on doors, or passing out literature. 
It can mean that; and there is a time for that.

But the main task of evangelizing is both simpler, 
and in many ways, harder.

You and I share Jesus with others 
when we share our own lives with them. 
Let me say that again, so it’s clear: 
we share Jesus with others when we share ourselves.

Or, if you like, let me make it a question: 
when people get to know you, how much of you shows them Jesus? 
If they come into your home, what will that tell them?
What will people learn about you, both in what you say, 
and more importantly, in what they see that you value? 
In the decisions you make?

When you and I live as Jesus taught…
When we speak his name 
as the most beautiful word in the universe…
When we give and love and forgive generously…
When we talk about him naturally, not in a forced way…
When prayer is something woven into our lives…
When Sunday is first-and-foremost his day…

Then we can be talking with our neighbors about cooking, 
or football, or the news, or the weather…but Jesus will be there. 

We don’t have to whack anyone with our bibles 
or lasso them with our Rosaries. 
We just share…ourselves and our lives. 

And if our lives are full of hope in Jesus, full of love as he loves, 
full of peace that comes from a fruitful sharing of the sacraments…

People will see something, just as the Magi did.
You and I will be the star, that leads them to Christ.

Friday, January 02, 2015

What's your 'love language'?

(Reprinted from St. Remy Bulletin, Feast of the Holy Family)

I have been reading a book Father Amberger had provided to couples during his time here; so I imagine some reading this are familiar with it. It’s called The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. I am very impressed with the common-sense observations and suggestions he offers for couples who may have found that “the thrill is gone.”

Obviously a priest doesn’t marry; but he learns a lot about marriage from what married couples tell him. And I know that there are lots of marriages that lack joy and encouragement; and it’s a trial for many. Many spouses wonder what to do.

Although Dr. Chapman is not Catholic, I am very comfortable recommending this book. You can also visit the website and get a flavor of what the author has to offer.

The basic insight is this: all of us need to be loved; and he describes spouses as each having a “love tank” that needs to be filled. Spouses do this for each other. The way they do it is in the “love language” they speak to each other – that is, the manner in which they express their love.
Further, people don’t always speak the same “love language.” So you may think you’re telling or showing your spouse you love her or him; but it’s not getting through. So Dr. Chapman explains how to learn the language your spouse speaks – and how to speak it yourself.

How do we enliven our marriage? Dr. Chapman reminds us of some basics: couples need to spend real time—alone-time—with each other. Spouses must talk to each other and help each other. Don’t assume “she knows what I want” or “he knows how I feel”—tell each other. The world has never had a surplus of kind words and kind gestures. Do things for each other. Give each other gifts—they don’t have to cost money. Never stop “courting” your spouse.

But don’t rely on my summary. Read the book.

What do I do if my spouse won’t cooperate? One of the last chapters is particularly powerful. It deals with a scenario I have found is all too common. One spouse in a troubled marriage is ready to do something, but the other won’t cooperate. Dr. Chapman described how application of his “love language” approach can help turn things around. While his information is hopeful, that doesn’t change the basic fact that both spouses must work together.

Making a successful marriage and family is one of the hardest things we do in life; and the success of our families is important to all of us.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

'Holy Mother of God!'

At the eleven o'clock Mass today, when I came to prepare the altar and the gifts for the offertory, I was still dwelling on the point I made in my homily about how our Lord Jesus thinks about devotion to his mother. Namely, that as a devoted son, Jesus surely is delighted! (i.e., not offended as some of our fellow Christians maintain) when we give praise and love to his mother. Surely, surely it pleases him, to see his creatures come and bring bouquets of devotion to Mary!

Then I offered the "prayer over the offerings," singing these words: "...of the holy Mother of God" -- and then I could hear, in my head, how often those words: "Holy Mother of God" are spoken as a joke or as "just an expression."

Oh my.

People say things about me, I don't like it, be it. But if you were to insult my mother? How do you think any red-blooded man would react?

Jesus was silent as they heaped abuse on him. He is a red-blooded man. How would anyone suppose he reacts, when he hears people insult his mother?

That thought roughly coincided with these words during the preface, as I sang it: "Dominions adore, and powers tremble...."

Jesus' Circumcision and Mary's Motherhood (January 1 homily)

There are actually three things we recall on this feast day, 
and none of them has anything to do with the New Year.

First is the circumcision of Jesus; second is his naming; 
and third, is the Motherhood of Mary.

According to the law of Moses, 
a boy was to be circumcised on the eighth day; 
and at that time, he receives his name publicly. 
This is what observant Jews do to this day.

Now, we don’t talk much about the circumcision of the Lord, 
but there are several reasons it is important.

First, because it is a vivid reminder that God really did become human. 
Second, this reminds us that Jesus was and is a Jew. 
God became a member of his own Chosen People. 
He came to be the Savior of his Holy People, 
and through them, of all humanity. 

Third, the ritual of circumcision is a foreshadowing of the Cross. 
There is pain involved, and the shedding of a small amount of blood. 
The circumcision, for Jews, is a sacrifice 
that coincides with a boy entering into covenant with the God of Israel. 

Now, let me make another connection. 
Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that because of the perfection of Jesus, the Son of God, 
any suffering of his, however slight, 
would have been sufficient to atone for all the sins of humanity. 

That means that this ritual, when our Lord was an infant, 
would have been enough! And yet this was only the beginning.

Think about that. The “necessity” of the Cross 
lies not in there having to be a shedding of blood; 
that happened on this day, when Jesus was still a baby. 

Rather, the necessity of the Cross 
lies in God choosing to walk the entire way with humanity. 
Jesus went all the way for us. 
He went as far as he could go, all the way to death, death on the Cross.

The Gospel also emphasizes his being named on this day. 
Of course, we remember that the Archangel Gabriel 
told both Mary and Joseph, “You shall name him Jesus.” 
Don’t forget what the name Jesus – 
in Hebrew, Yeshua or Joshua – means. 
It means, the salvation of God, or God saves.

All this still would have taken place at home, not the temple. 
Most likely, after Jesus was born in the stable, 
Joseph found some more suitable quarters for the Holy Family. 
And it would have been there 
that this first ritual in a Jewish boy’s life took place. 

This day recalls the first time the Gospel was announced: 
when Mary, or Joseph spoke up and said, “His name is Jesus!” 
That is to say, “Here is the salvation of God!”

Finally we come to the name of today’s feast: “Mary, Mother of God.” 
That title isn’t mainly about Mary, as much as we love 
to honor and celebrate her faithful cooperation with God’s plan. 

The point of the title is to emphasize who Jesus is. 
Son of Mary, yes; Son of David, yes; 
Savior, yes; but also: True God from True God!

This is why Mary was called “Mother of God” early on, 
and when some attacked this title, the Church’s bishops, 
at the Council of Ephesus in AD 431, 
reaffirmed that Mary truly is the “God-bearer.”

Even though this title, “Mother of God,” 
is mainly about who Jesus is, 
that doesn’t keep us from taking this opportunity 
to honor Mary as well. 

Some of our fellow Christians find fault with this; 
as if to say that somehow, Jesus isn’t happy 
when we his disciples shower our love on his mother. 

But once I say that, doesn’t that seem silly? 
Why wouldn’t Jesus, like any devoted son, 
be delighted to see his mother treated with great love?

It reminds me of a custom we had in my home, growing up. 
On our birthdays, we would go find mom 
and wish her “Happy Mother’s Day.” 
Because, after all, isn’t that true? 

And so, that’s what the Church does throughout the world today. 
We come to Mary, still holding her Son, our Savior and our God; 
we adore him; and to Mary, we say, 
“Hail Mary!” “Thank you Mary!” “Happy Mother’s Day!”

How fitting then that the Church grants a plenary indulgence 
when the Faithful recite on Dec. 31 the Te Deum,
and on January 1, the Veni Creator.

The indulgence is granted 
when we also make a good confession and receive holy communion – 
within eight days is a good rule of thumb –
and say a Hail Mary and an Our Father 
for the intentions of the holy father. 

So at the end of Mass, instead of the Saint Michael Prayer, 
we’ll pray the Te Deum/Veni Creator together, 
plus an Our Father and a Hail Mary. 
The prayers are in the books in your pews, and are in English.