Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Homily: 17th Sunday of the Year

“Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”

1. “Lord, teach us to pray.” This phrase, which has been uttered by Christians through the ages, resonates within every person who seeks to follow Christ. Within each of us dwells a desire to be able to pray as the saints have prayed; with fervor, with great love, and with a burning passion that surpasses no other passion known to man. And the good news is that this kind of prayer is available to each and every one of us. This kind of prayer, this deep and passionate prayer, is not just for monks and nuns, it is for married people, for single people, for men and women, for children and adults, for rich and poor, for teenagers and the elderly…it is for everyone without exception.

2. My brothers and sisters, the world is in dire need of men and women set on fire; for it is only men and women set on fire with love for Christ, men and women living saintly, prayerful and virtuous lives who can transform our sinful world into a place of peace and holiness. As Fr. Thomas Dubay, a noted expert on prayer has said “As the experience of centuries attests, true transformations in the world and in the Church continue to come about only through the interventions of men and women on fire – that is, through saints. The evidence is overwhelming.”

3. Even in our own time the evidence piles up. I don’t think you would disagree with me when I say that world we live in has been and is continuing to be transformed by the lives of such people as Pope John Paul the Great and Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Two people, who against all odds, set the world on fire with love for Christ and His Church; two people who were and still are blazing bonfires giving light to those around them in the midst of a world darkened by sin. And, my brothers and sisters, each of us, no matter who we might be, are called to become bright lights, blazing furnaces of love for Christ, men and women who will bring the transforming light of Christ to the world.

4. Yet, if we are honest, we may find that we are a bit doubtful as to whether we can really be set ablaze with the fire and passion of the saints. Even though we can believe in our minds, agreeing in theory that we are called to a life of holiness, we fail to believe it in our hearts. And even more, some of us might be reluctant to take the path that leads to holiness because of the changes that we would have to make in our own lives. But today, my people, Jesus is calling us to move forward, to trust Him enough to abandon ourselves into His loving embrace knowing that He will lead us and give us the strength to transform ourselves into the blazing fire that we are called to be.

5. If we, my friends, want to be set of fire with love for Christ, if we want to set the world on fire, then we must ask the question ‘Lord, teach us to pray.” For it is only prayer that will set us on fire with passionate love for Christ.

6. So, how is the Lord teaching us to pray? When he was asked by His disciples to teach them to pray He responded by teaching them the Lord’s Prayer, but He didn’t stop there. He continues, even today, to teach us how to pray. He does this primarily through the Church, who throughout the centuries has continued to teach us how to pray in the name and with the authority of Christ Himself.

7. One of the best ways that we can spend time in prayer is by making visits to the Blessed Sacrament. To come here, to the Church, to adore Christ, who day and night dwells in our tabernacles. St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests said that ‘I fall before the tabernacle like a dog before it’s master.” Why? Because dwelling within the tabernacle is the God Man, Jesus Christ. Dwelling here, veiled in mystery is Christ Himself, waiting to set us on fire with His love.

8. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, whom many of us know from watching his Emmy winning television show Life is Worth Living, was a man who knew how spending time before the Blessed Sacrament could set us on fire. For Archbishop Sheen, his daily hour of prayer before the tabernacle was like “an oxygen tank that revived the breath of the Holy Spirit.” In explaining why this form of prayer is so important he said “We become like that which we gaze upon. Looking into a sunset the face takes on a golden glow. Looking at the Eucharistic Lord….transforms the heart in a mysterious way.” In another place he said “Sitting before the Presence [of Christ] is like a body exposing itself to the sun to absorb its rays.” Archbishop Sheen believed in the importance of daily prayer before the Blessed Sacrament that he himself, from the day he was ordained never missed his daily holy hour, even until the day he died.

9. My brothers and sisters, we must pray. We must allow the fire of Christ Himself to transform us, to set us on fire so that we might set the entire world on fire with Love for Christ beginning right here at St. Rose of Lima in Garretson. For then, and only then, will the world find true peace and joy. It is only then that we will find the fervor, the great love, and burning passion which characterized the saints. It is only then, that we can truly become the saints God is calling us to be.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, have mercy on us.
Mary, Queen of all Saints, pray for us.
St. Rose of Lima, pray for us. Amen.

Busy, Busy, Busy

It has been quite some time since I posted, but there is good reason. I have been settling into my new parish as well as getting started on my work as associate director of vocations. It has been somewhat of a whirlwind, but it is all for the Glory of God. Stay tuned for my latest homily....

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Pope on Vacation

Here is some great footage of the Pope on vacation. I think it gives a great and refreshing look at how loving and gentle (contrary to the media) our beloved Holy Father is. Click here to check it out.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Homily: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deuteronomy 30:10-14
Psalms 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37
Colossians 1:15-20
Luke 10:25-37

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever! Amen.

“But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him.”
~ Gospel of the Day

1. In today’s gospel reading we encounter the familiar figure of the good Samaritan; the generous man who stops to help his fellow man who has been robbed, severely beaten, stripped of his clothing, and left on the roadside for dead. But have you ever stopped to wonder just who this Good Samaritan is? Even though this may be a parable, or story, there most certainly must be someone that Jesus had in mind when he told this story.

2. So who is it that he had in mind? It seems to me that most of us would answer that he had us in mind. He wanted us to see ourselves as the good Samaritan who should, and hopefully would, stop and help anyone who is in need, and surely that is true. He is clearly challenging us to be good Samaritans, but today I would like to examine this parable in another light, from a little different angle. I would like to examine this parable in a way that the Ancient Fathers of the Church looked at it: from the perspective that we, us, you and me, are not the Samaritan, but rather we are the man robbed, beaten, stripped, and left for dead, and Jesus Himself is the Good Samaritan who comes to our rescue.

3. My brothers and sisters, what a powerful and moving image of our Savior is this image of the Good Samaritan. All of us know the experience of being robbed of God’s grace and our peace of mind, stripped of our human dignity, and left for dead by sin.

4. Sin, especially mortal sin, robs us of God’s grace and our peace of mind, mortally wounds our soul, and strips away our dignity. Often I hear people comment that the Church’s teaching on mortal sin has changed. I hear things like “Oh Father, the Second Vatican Council did away with all that Mortal Sin stuff,” but that is not the case. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reiterates the constant teaching of the Church when it says that “Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him. (CCC 1855)” My friends, mortal sin robs us of sharing in God’s life, it robs us of grace, and because of that it robs us of our peace of mind, it makes us worry, it makes us feel alone and abandoned, and causes us to fear that we may never be rescued and saved.

4. Sin strips us of our dignity and our identity as sons and daughters of God. It is no coincidence that in telling this story Jesus mentioned that the victim of the robbers was stripped. Clothing, in ancient times, was as sign of position, ethnic background, religious identity and dignity. Ones clothing told others who and what you were. At our Baptism each one of us was given a white garment, a sign that in Baptism we have taken on a new identity and been raised to the dignity of God’s children. Sin robs us of this identity and dignity. Sin lowers us, strips us of the identity and dignity of being sons and daughters of God.

5. Satan, the tempter who leads us to sin, wants nothing more than to see us dead in a ditch. He just loves to use us for his own evil purposes and then leave us for dead, just as the robbers left the man from the gospel on the side of the road to die a lonely and pitiful death. Satan’s plan, however, is foiled by Jesus, who as the Good Samaritan comes along, and unlike other people, stops to help.

6. The gospel says that the Samaritan “was moved with compassion at the sight” and then “approached the victim.” When we are crippled by sin, when we are beaten down by guilt and discouragement, when our ego is bruised by our own falls, when we are so wounded that we cannot go to Jesus to be healed on our own, He sees us and is moved with compassion at the sight of us so beaten down by sin, an He approaches us. He reaches out to us and brings us the healing and strength we so desperately need.

7. The Samaritan then “poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.” When we come to Him Jesus will apply to our wounds the medicine needed, the remedy which will help us to overcome the sins which wound our hearts, and then he will bandage them to help protect us from future wounds. This is exactly what happens in the Sacrament of Penance. We come before the Lord wounded by sin, and through the ministry of the priest, He cleans the wound, He washes it, He applies the medicine needed, and then strengthens us against future falls by binding our wounds.

8. My dear parish family, we need a good Samaritan, we need Jesus, especially in the Sacrament of Penance, in confession. We need to experience His compassion and mercy. We need the remedy for our wounded souls that only He can give in the Sacrament of Penance. So please, take advantage of this great gift, come frequently to confession and allow the Lord to pick us up from the side of the road and heal our wounds.

9. In order to help all of us to do this I am going to add some more confession times. In addition to offering the Sacrament of Penance on Saturdays at 3:15, I will also be in the confessional at 9:45 on Sunday mornings and one half hour before daily Masses. And of course I am more than willing to make an appointment to celebrate this Sacrament if those times are inconvenient for anyone.

10. Our Lord loves us and wants us to be happy with Him forever in heaven, so let us work with Him, the Good Samaritan, to achieve that end by allowing Him to heal us and strengthen us in the Sacrament of Penance…he waits for us in the confessional; let’s visit him soon.

Blood of Christ, torrent of mercy, save us.
Mary, refuge of sinners, pray for us. Amen.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New Document From the Congregation for the Doctine of The Faith

The Congregation for the Doctine of the Faith has recently issued a very good document which clarifies some commonly misunderstood doctrine regarding the Church. I think it does a rather good job at explain exactly what the Church means when She says what She does regarding Herself. Here are a few highlights, but the entire text can be found here.

First Question: Did the Second Vatican Council change the Catholic doctrine on the Church?

Response: The Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine, rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it.

This was exactly what John XXIII said at the beginning of the Council[1]. Paul VI affirmed it[2] and commented in the act of promulgating the Constitution
Lumen gentium: "There is no better comment to make than to say that this promulgation really changes nothing of the traditional doctrine. What Christ willed, we also will. What was, still is. What the Church has taught down
through the centuries, we also teach. In simple terms that which was assumed, is now explicit; that which was uncertain, is now clarified; that which was meditated upon, discussed and sometimes argued over, is now put together in one clear formulation"[3]. The Bishops repeatedly expressed and fulfilled this intention[4].

Second Question: What is the meaning of the affirmation that
the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church?

Response: Christ "established here on earth" only one Church and instituted it as a "visible and spiritual community"[5], that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted.[6] "This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic […]. This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him"[7].

In number 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen gentium ‘subsistence’ means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church[8], in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth.

It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them.[9] Nevertheless, the word "subsists" can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the "one" Church); and this "one" Church subsists in the Catholic Church.[10]

You can read more of the document here.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Homily: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In today’s Gospel Jesus sends out the seventy two disciples to prepare the way for Him. They went to every city and village he intended to visit and in those towns and villages they worked miracles, healed the sick, and cast out demons in order to prepare the way for the Lord, to open their hearts so that when the Lord came they would be ready to receive him.

Jesus gives these seventy-two preachers instructions about how they are to minister to the people they encounter, how they are to travel, and even what to do if they are rejected. But there is one thing that seems to stand out in His instructions to them. They are whether accepted or rejected, to proclaim to those they encounter “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.”

In many ways I can identify with these seventy two disciples, for I too have been sent by the Lord, through the mediation of Bishop Swain, to minister to you, the people of St. Rose of Lima Parish. And I must admit right up front, that I did not follow perfectly the instructions of the Lord in our Gospel; I did not come with “no money bag, no sack, [or] no sandals.” In fact I came with all three, and a whole lot more.

I am sure that many of you are wondering about me. Honestly, I sometimes wonder about me too. You may be wondering “What kind of priest is this man?” “What changes is he going to make?” “Will he be like Fr. Tom or will he be more like Fr. Tony?” I am sure these and many other questions are on your mind, and in time they will be answered.

As time goes on you will also realize that I will make some changes. Some of you might have already notices some small changes. Every priest has his preferences, and I am no different. But know this; I will never make a serious change without first praying and reflecting over the matter. I will never make a serious change without first seeking the opinions of other, more experienced priests as well as others who would be able to help me in these sort of decisions. I will always seek, above all, to do the will of the Lord as given to us through the teachings of His Church. I seek to be a servant of God, and thus I seek to His will, expressed it the teachings of the Church, in all things.

You will probably soon realize, if you haven’t already, that I am not Fr. Imberi, Fr. Mason, or Fr. Fitzpatrick. Certainly they are much thinner and better looking than I can every hope to be. Realistically, I know that I will probably be compared to them, and that’s only natural. Like all of us, I have my strengths and weakness, my triumphs and failures. So please be patient with me as we get to know each other better over time.

In our Gospel Jesus tells the seventy-two to preach that “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you” whether they are accepted or rejected. This message is at the heart of the message of Jesus, and thus it is the message I hope to bring to each member of this Parish.

The Kingdom of God is at hand for you. This, like everything Jesus said and did is not only meant for all of us as a group, but for each of us as individuals. Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to say “The kingdom of God is at hand for everyone” But he told them to say that “The kingdom of God is at hand for YOU.” Our encounter with Christ, although communal, is also personal. He calls each one of us by name. He calls to each of us and reminds us that His Kingdom is near to us.

This personal encounter with Christ is at the heart of the ministry of the pastor. He is to be Christ’s personal representative to the whole parish, but also to each individual in the parish. These encounters with Christ through the ministry of the priest happen in a very particular way through the seven Sacraments. Whether Baptism, Confession, The Holy Eucharist, Marriage, or The Anointing of the Sick, it is a personal encounter with Jesus Himself through the Ministry of the Priest. Truly in the Sacraments the Kingdom of God is at hand for us, individually and personally, and that, my people, is powerful. God loves you so much, that He has sent Christ to you in the Sacraments, so that you, individually, personally, might have an encounter with Him.

As I begin my time here at St. Rose I am mindful that I am here to be Christ in your midst. I am here to make present to each and every one of you the Kingdom of God. I am here to make that Kingdom so present in our lives and in your community that when the Lord calls us home, we will gently step out of this world into the glorious Kingdom of God, which although present here and now is hidden from our eyes. In other words, I am here to lead you to heaven.

As we begin this new adventure together let us pray for one another, that together, as one family, we may make progress in our way to heavenly Kingdom of God. For truly, my brothers and sisters, the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

South Dakota Bishops Step Up to The Plate

Sometime this coming week the State of South Dakota, barring the intervention of Governor Michael Rounds, will execute Elijah Page. This will be the first execution carried out by the State of South Dakota in 60 years. In response to this upcoming execution Bishop Paul Swain and Bishop Blase Cupich, the two bishops ministering in the State of South Dakota, issued the following statement. It's a good refresher on the Church's teaching on capital Punishment so I included the whole text which can also be found here.

Statement on the death penalty by Most Reverend Blase Cupich, Bishop of Rapid City and Most Reverend Paul J. Swain, Bishop of Sioux Falls

Elijah Page is expected to be executed by the State of South Dakota the week of July 9, 2007, the first execution in our state in nearly sixty years. He and his accomplices have been convicted of the brutal beating, torture and slaying of Chester Poage. In addition to taking an innocent human life, they have inflicted a great deal of suffering and pain on Chester Poage’s family and friends that will last a lifetime. The hearts of all South Dakotans grieve with those who loved this young man and share their outrage at this unspeakable crime. We pray that healing may come to

Clearly, the state has an obligation both to hold violent criminals accountable for their actions and to protect society from those who are a threat. We sincerely appreciate the burden our elected officials bear as they struggle to exercise their responsibilities in good conscience and
according to law. The execution of Elijah Page ought to concern us all, however, for it is an act of violence in which we, through our representative form of government, participate.

The fact that South Dakotans have not put anyone to death for a criminal offense in nearly 60 years makes this scheduled execution all the more significant. At the same time, it forces us to confront serious questions about the kind of state we want to be. For this reason, we, the Bishops of the two Catholic Dioceses within the State of South Dakota, issue this brief statement.

The state-sponsored death of any man or woman does a disservice to those people who have vigorously defended the dignity of human life against the many threats in our time. Likewise, it only adds to the cycle of violence which continues to erode respect for human life. In addition, it terminates the possibility for conversion and rehabilitation, for which the state has an obligation to allow every opportunity.

Pope John Paul II, a man respected by people of all faiths and of no faith, understood that the preeminent moral challenge facing our time is the defense of the sacredness and value of human life. For this reason, he resolutely called for the abolition of capital punishment, arguing that when the protection of others is not an issue, the use of the death penalty cannot be morally defended. Undoubtedly the safety of society, which includes prison personnel and other inmates, is a grave obligation on the part of the state. However, with the steady improvement in the organization of the penal system, threats to society and the prison population by convicted criminals are as the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, “very rare, if not practically nonexistent” (2267).

But even if such circumstances were to arise, the first response should be to promote, as much as humanly possible, prison reform that makes appropriate provision to protect all from danger, rather than to justify taking the life of any person. Thus, if there are weaknesses in the penal environment or legal system in South Dakota, such that our prisons are not safe and are a venue for more crime, then they ought to be alleviated. This could be done by drawing on the experiences of other states which house dangerous criminals without resorting to the death penalty, including our neighboring states of Iowa, North Dakota and Minnesota.

We should not attempt to teach that killing is wrong by state-sanctioned killing. This is precisely the moment for us as a state and for our leaders to affirm that those who commit horrific crimes will be held accountable for their actions, but in a way that teaches the sacredness of all persons gifted by God with life. This is a message we desperately need in our time, as this brutal murder so painfully reminds us. We have had enough violence in our society. The death penalty only adds more.

We invite South Dakotans to prayerfully reflect on the implications of the use of the death penalty by our state and its impact on our society not just in this difficult case, but in all such cases. We, citizens and leaders alike, must continue to work to assure that justice is sure without state-sanctioned violence. We must also continue to work to assure that the sacredness of all human life is protected and promoted by all.

Motu Madness: It Has Arrived

Here is the English Text of the Motu Proprio and the Explanatory Letter.

If you want some good commentary you can go here, here and here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Packing and Unpacking

Well, I have moved in (but not fully unpacked) to my new rectory and office.

As I packed and unpacked I realized how much junk I have, not to mention books, vestments, and other "stuff" of all sorts (and yes I did take my coffin with me.)

I ask for you continued prayers as I begin in earnest my new assignment. It is a daunting task to be appointed Pastor for the first time.