Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stop Clowning Around

Whispers reports something the Holy Father said at his Wednesday Audience. I think it is quite good and pertinent to the Church today, so I thought I would share it.

Those who teach the faith “cannot run the risk of appearing like a type of clown who is playing a part; rather he must be like the beloved disciple who rested his head on the Master’s heart and learned therein how to think, speak and act”. Because “at the end of it all a true disciple is he who announces the Gospel in a credible and effective way”, in short “authentic witness”...According to the Pope, an effective announcing of the Gospel can only occur there where the “witness” of the preacher’s life and the “exemplary conduct of the Christian community” are credible, as was the case with Saint Ambrose and his Church. As Augustine himself writes in his ”Confessions” what urged the young sceptical and desperate African to convert was in fact “Saint
Augustine’s witness and that of his Milanese Church, which sang and prayed as one united body, capable of resisting the arrogance of the Emperor and his mother”, who demanded a building for the Arians. But in that building “the people held vigil ready to die together with their bishop”. “It is all too clear – commented Benedict XVI – which the witness of the preacher and the exemplary conduct of the Christian community condition the effectiveness of the spreading of the faith”.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Another Ministerial Appointment

His Excellency, Bishop Paul J. Swain has entrusted to me, in addition to my current assignments, another ministry. He has appointed me Chaplain to St. Margaret's Fellowship, a Catholic homeschool organization for families in the Sioux Falls, SD area. I look forward to serving this wonderful group of families and, with God's grace, lead them closer to the heart of Christ, the Divine Teacher.

Please remember me in your prayers as I take on this new ministry.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

And The New Cardinals Are...

New Cardinal Electors:
1. Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern
2. Archbishop John Patrick Foley, Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order
of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem;
3. Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, President of the Pontifical Commission for
the Governance of the Vatican City-State;
4. Archbishop Paul Joseph Cordes, President of the Pontifical Council "Cor
5. Archbishop Angelo Comastri, Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica, Vicar
General for the Vatican City-State and President of the Administration of St.
6. Archbishop Stanisław Ryłko, President of the Pontifical Council for the
7. Archbishop Raffaele Farina, Head of the Vatican Archives and
8. Archbishop Agustín García-Gasco Vicente of Valencia (Spain);
9. Archbishop Seán Baptist Brady of Armagh (Ireland);
10. Archbishop Lluís Martínez Sistach of Barcellona (Spain);
11. Archbishop André Vingt-Trois of Paris (France);
12. Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genova (Italy);
13. Archbishop Théodore-Adrien Sarr of Dakar (Senegal);
14. Archbishop Oswald Gracias of Bombay (India);
15. Archbishop Francisco Robles Ortega of Monterrey (Mexico);
16. Archbishop Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston (USA);
17. Archbishop Odilio Pedro Scherer of São Paulo (Brazil);
18. Archbishop John Njue of Nairobi (Kenya).

Honorary Cardinals:

1. His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of Babylon of the
2. Archbishop Giovanni Coppa, emeritus Apostolic Nuncio to the Czech
3. Archbishop Estanislao Esteban Karlic, emeritus of Paraná
4. Fr. Urbano Navarrete, S.J., former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian
5. Fr. Umberto Betti, O.F.M., former rector of the Pontifical Lateran

The big surprise, at least for us Americans, was Archbishop Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. This is a new thing, but a sure sign of the Holy Fathers realization that there is something very important going on in the Southern United States.

Let us pray for these men that they will continue to be faithful servants of Christ, even to the point of shedding their blood.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Homily 28th Sunday of the Year

Second Kings 5:14-17
Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
Second Timothy 2:8-13
Luke 17:11-19

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever. Amen.

1. When I was in the seminary in St. Louis one of the things our rector, the head of the seminary, would say over and over again in his homilies and in the conferences and talks, was that as Catholic Christians we should always cultivate an attitude of gratitude. At the time I thought the saying “attitude of gratitude” was a bit hokey, but nevertheless there is a great truth in that statement. We, my brothers and sisters, do need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for what God has given us. For He has given us so much, he has blessed us as individuals, as a community, and as a parish family.

2. Our first reading from the Second Book of Kings recounts for us the healing of Naaman by the prophet Elisha and his immense gratitude for that healing. But what the reading doesn’t recount for us are the events leading up to this, and the fact that right before this, Naaman wasn’t exactly grateful at all, in fact he was rather upset that he didn’t get what he wanted from Elisha.

3. The whole story begins like this: “Naaman, commander of the army of the King of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper...”

4. As the story continues Naaman, through one of the servants of his wife, heard that there was a great prophet who could heal of him of his leprosy, so he went and sought him out. After a stop to see the King of Israel, he eventually made his way to Elisha. Here is how the Scriptures recounts the encounter between them:

Elisha said “Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a
prophet in Israel. So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and halted
at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying
‘go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you
shall be clean.’ But Naaman was angry, and went away, saying ‘Behold, I thought
that he would surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord
his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper. Are not
Abana, and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of
Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away
in a rage.”

5. You see, Naaman had a preconceived notion about how the Lord would work in his life. He thought that there would be some sort of special encounter with all sorts of theatrics and special effects, and that the would be healed through this. As the story says, he wanted Elisha to come out and stand before him. He expected him to call on the name of God and wave his hands about and thus cure him. That’s certainly not what he got; all he got was Elisha’s servant telling him to take a bath in dirty water. He didn’t get what he wanted, and this reduced this great man of valor, this mighty warry to nothing more than a tantrum throwing self centered brat. He was healed, but not the way he wanted to be healed. Even though he was healed, he complained and moaned and groaned because he wanted it to be done according to what he like and what he wanted.

6. Sometimes we can be a lot like Naaman. We can be given everything we could ever desire, but we still complain, we still moan and groan because it wasn’t done the way we like it, or the way we are used to, or the way it’s always been done.

7. This sort of attitude can find its way into a lot of aspects of our lives. It can find its way into family life, into our work, into our social life, and sadly, even into parish life; even into the Holy Mass.

8. In the Mass we are given literally everything we could ever want, for we are given Jesus, God Himself, in the Holy Eucharist. We are fed with the very body and blood of Jesus, we are given the very life of God in our souls. What more could we possibly want? Yet, as any priest will tell you, there is nothing more complained about, nothing which attracts more moaning and groaning than the Holy Mass. It seems that no matter what parish one is at there are complaints about the décor of the Church, or about the music, or about the homily; and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Things like the use of chant, Latin, incense, and a whole host of other liturgical items can overshadow the beauty and true meaning of the Sacred Liturgy and foster a spirit of division and whining rather than a spirit of unity and gratitude which is at the heart of what the Eucharist is all about. Surely, there can be valid reasons to discuss why some of these things are used, but the discussion should always have gratitude and a spirit of thanksgiving for what we do have as its basis. Maybe in some places the music is bad or the homilies are boring, but at least there is Mass, at least there is the possibility of receiving Holy Communion, something that not everybody in our world has.

9. My brothers and sisters, God has given us so very much. We have so much to be grateful for, so much to thank God for. I hope and pray that the Eucharist can truly be a time to express an attitude of gratitude rather than a time to moan and groan. I hope that all of us can overcome in our lives that part of us that is like Naaman, who even though he was healed, was not satisfied because he wasn’t healed in the way he thought he should be healed. I hope that all of us will truly be grateful for the gift which is the Mass, even if it isn’t celebrated the way would like it to be celebrated. After all, the Mass isn’t about us and what we want or what we get out of it. The Mass is about God, and giving Him what is due to Him, namely our thanks.

10. Mary, our mother, is the perfect example for us of what it means to be men and women of gratitude. Her attitude of gratitude shined brightly throughout every moment of her life. I am sure that she didn’t particularly enjoy giving birth in a stable, or fleeing to Egypt, or seeing her Son suffer unimaginably. Yet she never uttered a single complaint, rather, she was grateful for the great gift which was bestowed upon her, namely Jesus. May we, like her, always be grateful that to have been bestowed the grace of having Jesus, God Himself, dwell within our very bodies in the Holy Eucharist. May we, like her, never give in to the spirit of complaining even if things aren’t the way we would like them to be. For by rejecting that spirit we will be embracing a true and holy attitude of gratitude.

Heart of Jesus, generous to all who turn to you, have mercy on us.
Mary, vessel of selfless devotion, pray for us.
St. Rose, pray for us.

From the Desk of the Pastor: 28th Sunday of the Year

This week we continue our journey through the Holy Mass by delving into the Liturgy of the Word. The Institutio gives a wonderful overview of the Liturgy of the word by saying that “The main part of the Liturgy of the Word is made up of the readings from Sacred Scripture together with the chants occurring between them. The homily, Profession of Faith, and Prayer of the Faithful, however, develop and conclude this part of the Mass. For in the readings, as explained by the homily, God speaks to his people, opening up to them the mystery of redemption and salvation and offering them spiritual nourishment; and Christ himself is present in the midst of the faithful through his word. By their silence and singing the people make God’s word their own, and they also affirm their adherence to it by means of the Profession of Faith. Finally, having been nourished by it, they pour out their petitions in the Prayer of the Faithful for the needs of the entire Church and for the salvation of the whole world.”

The Institutio also speaks of the great value of silence during the Liturgy of the Word. Often times people become uncomfortable with the amount of silence that many priests insist upon during the Liturgy of the Word, but according to the Institutio this silence is to be observed and valued, in fact, it says that we should never hurry through this time set aside to listen to the Word of God. It says “The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to promote meditation, and so any sort of haste that hinders recollection must clearly be avoided. During the Liturgy of the Word, it is also appropriate to include brief periods of silence, accommodated to the gathered assembly, in which, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared. It may be appropriate to observe such periods of silence, for example, before the Liturgy of the Word itself begins, after the first and second reading, and lastly at the conclusion of the homily.”

The readings from Sacred Scripture, except for the Gospel, are proclaimed by a Lector. The Gospel is proclaimed “by a deacon or, in his absence, a priest other than the celebrant. If, however, a deacon or another priest is not present, the priest celebrant himself should read the Gospel.” The office and role of the Lector will be discussed next week.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Rectory

Here is a lovely little parody done by some of the pius seminarians at my alma mater Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis. It's quite amusing.

From the Desk of the Pastor: 27th Sunday of the Year

Once again there are no questions in the Liturgical Question Box and so we continue our discussion of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Last week we began our discussion of the Gloria. The roots of the Gloria are found at the very beginning of the life of Christ when, as the scriptures say, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glòria in excèlsis Deo et in terra pax homìnibus bonae voluntàtis.’” (Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.) The origins of this great hymn of praise remind us again of how in the Holy Mass we truly do join with this great multitude of the heavenly host in their song.

The Institutio says of the Gloria that it is “intoned by the priest” or if it is necessary, it can be intoned by a cantor. “It is sung either by everyone together, or by the people alternately with the choir, or by the choir alone.” The Institutio also points out that this hymn can never be replaced by another song.

After the Gloria the priest invites the people to pray. After this invitation there should be a short moment of silence so that all “may be conscious of the fact that they are in God’s presence and may formulate their petitions mentally.” Then the priest sings or says the collect. This opening prayer is called a collect because, as the Latin word suggests, this prayer collects all the prayers that we have offered in silence and offers them, through the ministry of the priest to God the Father.

After all respond with the Amen, everyone sits for the Liturgy of the Word, which will be our topic next week.

From the Desk of the Pastor: 26th Sunday of the Year

This week, since there are no questions in the Liturgical Question Box, we continue our explanation of the Mass. Last we examined the procession and entrance into the sanctuary focusing on the use of incense. This week I will begin by quoting someone much smarter than I, Bishop Peter J. Elliott who has written a wonderful book entitled “Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite” Bishop Elliott says “…the celebrant makes the sign of the cross, saying or singing, “In the name of the Father…”, and then joins his hands. He opens his hands as he says or sings the liturgical greeting, and closes them at the end of the chosen formula. He does not say “Good morning”, etc, as the sacred greeting obviously includes all human sentiments of goodwill.”

After the sign of the cross and the greeting we enter the Act of Penitence. The Institutio says that there should be a brief pause in order to call to mind our sins. You may have noticed that I truly do try to pause at this time. All to often the pause seems to be hurried and not at all long enough for us to truly enter into prayer and recall that we are sinners and in need of God’s Mercy and forgiveness.

When it comes to the Penitential Rite itself there are three options. Option A is the Confiteor (I confess…). As part of this option all should strike there breast at “through my own fault.” Option B is unfortunately rarely used and therefore most Catholic are unfamiliar with it. I encourage you to pick up the Missalette and become more familiar with this option. Option C is a series of invocations followed by Kyrie Eleison... When form A or B is used the Kyrie is “sung or said in the vernacular or in Greek. Form C includes the Kyrie within it and therefore is not repeated afterward.

After the Penitential Rite, on Sundays and Solemnities, comes the Gloria. According to the Institutio “The Gloria is a very ancient and venerable hymn in which the Church, gathered together…glorifies and entreats God the Father and the lamb. The text of this hymn may not be replaced by any other text.”

Next week we will continue discussing a few things about the Gloria and move on to the Collect or Opening Prayer.

From the Desk of the Pastor: 25th Sunday of the Year

Since there were no questions in the Liturgical Question Box we continue with our journey through the Holy Mass. Last week we discussed the beginning of this journey, the procession. Once the procession reaches the sanctuary, the most sacred part of the Church building, the Altar Servers (if they are not carrying anything) genuflect along with the priest. The genuflection is a sign of reverence for our Lord truly present in the Tabernacle. After this the priest and deacon reverences the altar with a kiss. The altar is venerated in this way because the Altar represents Christ Himself. This is also why at this time the Altar is often times incensed.

Incense, according to the Institutio “is an expression of reverence and of prayer, as is signified in Sacred Scripture (Psalm 141:2, Revelation 8:3). Incense may be used…in any form of Mass.” Incense is a beautiful expression of our prayer rising before the throne of God, and its sweet aroma reminds us that our prayers are pleasing to God. Incense is also a beautiful reminder that the presence of God is mysterious. Just as He appeared to Moses in the cloud on Mt. Sinai, and as He appeared to Peter, James and John on Mt. Tabor in the midst of a cloud, so in the Eucharist He comes to us in the midst and mystery of a cloud.

Incense also allows us to enter into the Liturgy using all of our senses. The Liturgy is meant to involve the whole person, not just parts of us. So in addition to hearing the words of scripture, the music and the bells, seeing the altar, the statues, the windows and many other beautiful things in our Church, tasting the very Body and Blood of Christ, touching Him with our tongue or hands, we also see clouds of smoke and smell its sweet odor. Truly then Mass becomes a full body, full sense experience, which is exactly what it is supposed to be. Truly then we are living out what the Second Vatican Council called for when saying we should have “full, conscious, and active participation” in the Liturgy.

Next week we, unless there is a question, we will move on to the Greeting, Act of Penitence, and the Kyrie Eleison.

Homily: 24th Sunday of the Year

Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Psalms 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
First Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-32 or 15:1-10

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever. Amen!

1. There is a story about a little boy that I know. Being the good, warm hearted boy that he was, Tommy decided to do a good deed.

2. Lying in bed early one Sunday morning he decided to make his mom and dad breakfast, and he immediately set out for the kitchen. He had seen his mom make pancakes a hundred times so he knew exactly how to make them. First, he needed a big bowl, so he opened the cupboard and peered into the darkness inside…he finally caught sight of the big bowl way in the back. He reached in, grabbed it, and yanked. It made the biggest racket he had ever heard when all those pots and pans came tumbling out…they were strewn all over the floor.

3. Next, he pulled a chair over to the counter, crawled up on it, opened the cupboard and pulled down the big canister of flour, spilling it all over himself, all over the countertop, all over the floor, and even all over the dog. Needless to say, the little guy was getting a little frustrated, but he really wanted to do this nice thing for his parents so he kept plugging along. Suddenly, he saw his puppy licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push him away and in the process knocked the eggs onto the floor. He tried to clean up this huge mess as fast as he could, but he slipped on the eggs and got his pajamas all dirty. He was nothing but a big bundle of mess, covered from head to toe in flour and eggs.

4. Just then he noticed his dad standing in the doorway and the tears began to well up in his eyes. All he wanted to do was a good deed for his mom and dad, but all he ended up doing was making a really big mess…he thought he was in for a talking to…and maybe a little spanking, but his father just stood there and watched him. Then, walking right through the mess, his dad, with tears in his own eyes picked Tommy up in his strong yet gentle arms and hugged him, getting his own pajamas dirty in the process.

5. In today’s readings we hear a lot about people who have made messes; people who have turned aside from the way that God had pointed out, people who worshiped idols, people who were blasphemers and arrogant, people who left home and squandered their inheritance on a life of dissipation. People like us. We are all sinners…you and me. There is no way to avoid that fact – even St. Paul in the second reading admits that he was a sinner. In his own words, he was “the foremost” of all sinners.

6. St. Paul had a very healthy sense of his own sin. On one hand he knew he was a great sinner, but on the other hand he also knew that he was redeemed by the blood of the Lamb – Jesus Christ. He knew that like the prodigal son, he could run back to his Father at any time, and he would welcome him back with open arms, and a fabulous feast. He knew that even though he was weak and foolish, his Father would lift him out of his mess and embrace him in his most loving and merciful arms.

7. We, like St. Paul in the first reading, and the prodigal son in the gospel have made messes in our life – some big, some small, but messes nevertheless. But I don’t care what mess – what sin we are involved in, God wants to enter that mess and lift us out. Whether it’s an addiction to pornography, a past abortion, contraception, marriage problems, a living together before marriage, drinking, drugs, murder, or theft, God wants to forgive us. He wants to enter our messes and rescue us from them. He wants to wipe away our tears. He wants to forgive us. But my friends, are we humble enough, are we childlikee enough, to let him love us?

8. Letting God love us, letting him forgive us…that is what the Sacrament of Penance is all about. It’s not about beating ourselves up. It’s not about telling our sins to a priest just for the sake of telling them. In fact it’s really not even the priest that we are confessing our sins to. We are really confessing them to Jesus, Who is present to us through a mere instrument; the instrument of His priest. It is Jesus himself who is sitting in the confessional through the mysterious ministry of the priest. This is the very reason why my personal preference as a priest is to hear confessions behind the screen. It helps us to remember that it’s not Fr. Christensen, or Fr. Tony, or Fr. Tom to whom we are confessing, it is Jesus, and the fact that you don’t have to look at us will hopefully help to remind you that it is Jesus, not Fr. Christensen or any other priest who you are confessing your sins to, it is Jesus Himself.

9. Still, even though we know it is Jesus to whom we are confessing it can be hard. I know that sometimes we may feel like little Tommy – waiting for the wrath of our Father – a talking to, or a spanking. But we know from scripture and from our own experience that Our Father is not going to turn his back to us, but rather he will run to meet us like the father of the prodigal son. He’s not going to be angered at our sinfulness; rather he will rejoice that this child of His who was dead through sin is once again alive.

10. My friends, today we gather around this altar to enter into greatest act of love our God could ever offer to us, the very death and resurrection of his own Son Jesus Christ. Today we will truly and really be present as he freely gives his life so that we might live. So let us resolve right here and now to allow God to love us, to let him enter our messes through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I promise you, that if you allow yourself to be honest, if you really open up your messes to the Lord in the Sacrament you will not regret it, for in that moment He will look at you, and with tears in His eyes He will walk right through the midst of your mess, He will lift you up and hold you in His strong yet gentle hands, and love you with all His Merciful Heart. And then, my friends, the celebration in heaven will begin.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation, have mercy on us.
Mary, refuge of sinners, pray for us.
St. Rose, pray for us. Amen.

From the Desk of the Pastor: 24th Sunday of the Year

This week we begin our discussion of the Holy Mass. The source of the information I will use to discuss the Mass comes largely from a document called the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (Latin for: General Instruction of the Roman Missal.) This document is often times called the GIRM but since I don’t particularly like to refer to Church documents as germs I usually refer to it as the Institutio. The Institutio is basically the Church’s rule book for the celebration of the Holy Mass. It tells us how the Holy Mass is to be celebrated and what things we should avoid.

Since, as the song from The Sound of Music states, the beginning is “a very good place to start” I thought we would begin at the very beginning of the Mass, the Entrance Procession.

The Institutio says that “after the people have gathered, the Entrance chant begins as the priest enters with the deacon and ministers. The purpose of this chant is to open the celebration, foster unity…introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical season or festivity, and accompany the procession of the priest and ministers.”

The Holy Mass begins with a procession, which, although a great way to get from point A to point B, has a very important symbolic meaning. It symbolizes the journey that all of us make from Baptism (this is why the baptismal font ought to be in the entrance to the Church) to Eternal life in heaven, which is symbolized by the sanctuary since it is there, in the sanctuary, that we truly enter into heaven whenever we celebrate the Holy Mass.

The procession is made up of the Thurifer carrying the thurible (incense burner), the Crucifer who carries the cross, the candle bearers, the other Altar Servers, any concelebrating priests, the deacon(s) and finally the Presider.

Every time that we see the procession, or if we are so privileged to participate in it, we should be reminded that we, as one family in Christ, are on a journey from Baptism to Heaven. We should also be reminded to pray for those, who during their life, have lost their way and have strayed from the path that leads to eternal life.


Some of you may be wondering by now if I am still among the living. Well, I am, but it has been a bit of a whirlwind lately. That being the case there is quite a backlog of homilies and bulletin letters. You will see them appearing shortly.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Requiscat in Pace

Please remember in your prayers my uncle, Roger Christensen, who died early this morning.