Wednesday, November 21, 2007


No, I'm not dead...but you wouldn't know that by reading my blog. I have been really busy. Between running a parish, doing work in the office of vocations, and keeping up with the homeschool families I don't have to worry about being bored. Below you will find a number of homilies and bulletin letters which have been piling up for quite some time now.

Please keep me in your prayers and have a great Thanksgiving.

Homily: 33rd Sunday of the Year

Malachi 3:19-20
Psalms 98:5-6, 7-8, 9
Second Thessalonians 3:7-12
Luke 21:5-19

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever. Amen.

1. Well Thanksgiving is nearly upon us. What is it about Thanksgiving that appeals to us so much? Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that really gets our juices flowing. Maybe it’s the food…I like that part. Maybe it’s the family gatherings. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because deep within us there is a desire to give thanks to God. It seems to me, that in most people, there is an inherent knowledge that we should give thanks to God. We all know, deep within ourselves how very blessed we are, and so naturally we feel a need to give thanks to God, who has given us all of these gifts.

2. For us as Catholics this is especially true, because the spirit of giving thanks to God is at the heart of our lives. It is what we come every to Mass every Sunday to do, in fact the very word Eucharist means thanksgiving. So for us as Catholics, every day is Thanksgiving Day, every day is a day where we can come to the Eucharist- to Thanksgiving - in order to give God thanks for the gifts He gives us, and there are so many of them.

3. As Catholics we have been given so many gifts that often times we take them for granted. I would like to talk about three of these gifts, today. First, the gift of baptism which washes away original sin, makes us children of God, and members of His family - which is the Church. This is one gift that we Catholics share in common with our separated brothers and sisters. It is also a gift that we often take for granted, in part because most of us don’t remember our baptism, but nevertheless we could say it was the single most important day of our life, because it was the day we became children of God, and that’s no small thing. To be a child of God means that we have a Father who will always watch over us, who will always make sure that no matter what happens, that He is there to help us through it. It also means that we have a family, the family of the Church; a family which is full of heroes and saints, and a goodly number of sinners too.

4. Second, God has given us the gift of the Sacrament of Penance. A sacrament where we come to have a personal encounter Jesus and have our sins forgiven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that "Individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church…." In other words, the only way that we know for sure that our sins are forgiven is to go to confession. Some people out there might say that we don’t even commit sin, that it’s some sort of disease that can’t be stopped. Some people will tell you that you don’t even need to confess, since we don’t really sin. Or they might say we can just confess our sins in private prayer without going to confession. People who teach these things are not teaching what Christ taught. They have strayed from the true teachings of Christ, they have refused a gift that Jesus desires to give them, the gift of knowing for sure, without a shadow of a doubt, that our sins are forgiven no matter how horrible they may be. What an awesome gift it is to know that our sins are forgiven. It’s a gift that so many in our world, and even in our Church, to not accept as frequently as they should. So in thanksgiving to God for giving us the Sacrament of Penance we should accept the gift and go to confession.

5. The third gift from God that we often times take for granted is the Eucharist itself. The Eucharist, the Church teaches us, is the source and summit of our lives. It is the be all and end all of our faith. Why do we as Catholic put so much emphasis on the Eucharist? Because the Eucharist is Christ Himself. As most of you this past weekend I was at St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul with a group of eight young men who are thinking about the priesthood. While I was there I heard a priest share his vocation story. It was a story that was very powerful – almost unbelievable. One of the things that he talked about was how he was raised with really no religion at all – his family’s religion was sports, but when he was getting ready to go to high school his parents decided to send him to Catholic high school; not because of the faith, but because it had a good sports program. While he was there he had an experience of the Eucharist that changed his mind about religion and about the Catholic Faith. In a moment of prayer at Mass he knew that the Eucharist was Jesus – he knew in an instant, that what he thought was ridiculous – that bread and wine could turn into the very body and blood of Jesus – was real. After that, he knew he had to become Catholic, which is what he did. After High School he moved to Mississippi to play college baseball, and there, in the an environment which was predominantly protestant and anti-Catholic, he began to doubt his decision to become Catholic – after all, many of his new protestant friends were telling him that what he believed as a Catholic was not true. In the midst of this doubting he began to visit many protestant communities, he went worshiped with them, he prayed with them, and many of them had many great things going for them. For some it was the preaching, for others it was the music, for others it was their youth program, but no matter what denomination he worshiped with there was one thing missing. It was the Eucharist. It was the true presence of Christ in the tabernacle. It was the gift of being able to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. He found himself going to a protestant worship service, and then rushing off to Mass because he just couldn’t go without receiving the Eucharist.

6. My brothers and sisters, what a gift it is to have the Eucharist. What a gift it is to have this act of thanksgiving where we literally receive into our bodies God Himself, yet so many of us take it for granted, so many of us fall into the trap of making something so extraordinary, something so amazing, into something that is just routine. May God deliver us from such a thing! May He make us truly grateful for this gift. May he inspire in us a desire to give thanks for such a gift by accepting the gift frequently – certainly every Sunday since it would be sinful to willing miss Mass on Sunday – but also on other days as well. Thanksgiving Day would be the perfect day to accept this gift, to come, grateful for the gifts God has given us and give thanks, the Thanks of the Church, which we call the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. May we never, on a day set aside by our Country to give thanks, fail to give the greatest Thanksgiving we could give: that of joining in the eternal Thanksgiving which is the Holy Mass.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,
Mary, Queen of all Saints, pray for us.
St. Rose, pray for us. Amen.

Homily: 32nd Sunday of the Year

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever! Amen.

“It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law. One of the brothers, speaking for the others, said ‘What do you expect to achieve by questioning us? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.’”

1. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our readings today all speak of the resurrection of the dead and life after death, but that’s not what I am going to preach about today. Something else in our readings today, especially in our first reading, struck me while I was reading and praying over it. The theme that seemed to jump off of the page was that of family and heritage and history, a theme which is at the heart of this parish family, a theme which is at the heart of who we are as Roman Catholics in the twenty first century.

2. One of the things I have liked to do since my childhood when I was growing up in Milbank is to pray my rosary while walking in the cemetery. I find it to be a very peaceful and quiet place to pray, but also a place which reflects the great heritage and the great history of our families. Just the other day I was doing this very thing in our parish cemetery and I was once again reminded of the value of family, the value of our common heritage that has been passed on from one generation to the next, down to this very group of people gathered here today. It was the men and women buried in that cemetery who gave birth to us, who raised us, and most importantly, who passed on to us our Catholic faith, our strong moral fiber, and our life of prayer and devotions. It was the men and women buried in that cemetery who out of their faith and love for God built this very building with the labor of their own hands and the sweat of their brow. It was they, our ancestors, who gave us this great gift, who built for us this place in which to offer sacrifice to God and nourish the faith which they instilled in us.

3. The brothers Macabee who we hear about in our first reading understood the great gift which their ancestors had passed on to them in their Jewish faith. Their parents, especially their mother, had instilled in all seven of them the great value of their faith, of the laws which guided their life, and the way in which they worshiped God. It was their faith in what had been passed on to them from their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents which gave them the strength to say “We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.” Their faith ran deep through the generations. Their faith was so deep, so rooted in history and family, that they were willing to endure some of the greatest cruelties ever recorded in order to hold firm to what their ancestors passed on to them. What an amazing example for our world in which so much of what was passed on to us from our ancestors is easily discarded as old fashioned, archaic, or irrelevant. As people of modern society we all too often have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. We have all too often been unfaithful to the heritage and traditions which our ancestors worked so hard to instill in us. This is why it is so important for us as a parish to remember our ancestors and what they did for us. This is why it is so important that we be good stewards of what they have passed on to us, whether it is this beautiful building or whether it is our strong work ethic. As good stewards of God’s gifts we should seek to preserve, and in some cases even restore, what they worked so hard to give us.

4. The other thing that struck me about this reading was that all seven brothers, along with their mother, remained united and steadfast when they were confronted with hardship and death. They, as a family, supported one another in their darkest day. Something tells me that if they did not all hold firm, that if even one of them had left, that they might have all left and denied their faith, their family, and the heritage given them by their ancestors.

5. This is why it is so important that we, as individual families, but also as a parish family, support one another; that we stick together, that we never, for any reason whatsoever abandon the faith entrusted to us by our ancestors. Because if one of us leaves, the rest are affected - it brings down the whole family. So let us be strong, let us embrace the faith traditions given to us by our ancestors, let us stick together through thick and thin, so that as one family, whole and entire, we can support and uphold one another when the faith of our Ancestors is threatened by outside forces as it is today. Our ancestors gave their blood, sweat and tears so that we might worship freely as Roman Catholics. So let us stick together as a family when so many in our world tell us that this very faith we believe, that our life of prayer and devotion is old fashioned and irrelevant to the modern world. Let us, along with the brothers Macabee and their mother proclaim that we would rather die than abandon the Catholic faith and traditions passed on to us by our ancestors.

6. My parish family, let us be strong, let us be united, let us be men and women of faith no matter what people might say or think. For by standing firm we will one day be given the inheritance reserved for those who keep the faith to the very end; we will be given the kingdom of heaven.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, overwhelmed with insults, have mercy on us.
Mary, gate of heaven, pray for us.
St. Rose, pray for us. Amen.

From the Desk of the Pastor: 31st Sunday of the Year

This week we continue our liturgical discussion by answering a question which was placed in the Liturgical Question Box. The question is this: “What is the difference between a normal Mass and a Solemn Mass?”

First of all, we should define what we mean by a Solemn Mass. The term Solemn Mass could be interchangeable with the terms Sung Mass or High Mass. A Solemn Mass could include (but doesn’t have to include) things like the singing of the prayers, the Gospel, the first and second reading, the responsorial psalm, and even the Eucharistic Prayer itself. It may also include incense, the use of more candles and the use of festive vestments. Now certainly not every parish has the resources needed to do all of these things, but every parish certainly has the ability to do some of these things in order for some of their celebrations to take on a more solemn nature.

One thing I would like to clarify is that in some ways a Solemn Mass is indeed the “normal” way of celebrating Mass. In fact, The Solemn/Sung Mass remains the normative (normal) form of Celebrating the Mass, but, sadly, it is not the norm in most parishes. “A liturgical service takes on a nobler aspect when the rites are celebrated with singing,” says the Second Vatican Council. Another post Vatican II Church document refers to the sung or Solemn Mass, saying “For the celebration of the Eucharist with the people, especially on Sundays and feast days, a form of sung Mass is to be preferred as much as possible, even several times on the same day.” (Musicam Sacram).

As we can see from the documents of the Church, the solemn celebration of the Mass is to be preferred. That being the case the Holy Father, both before and after his election to the papacy, as well as Francis Cardinal Arinze, head of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, as well as many other liturgist and theologians recommend that every parish, even those who are small and in remote areas, have at least one Solemn Mass for every Sunday and Holy Day. This will enable the parishioners and priests to offer their very best to God, something that should not be out of the ordinary, but a regular occurrence.

I hope that answers your question sufficiently, and as always, feel free to ask me any questions either in person or through the Liturgical Question Box.

Homily: 30th Sunday of the Year

Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18
Psalms 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23
Second Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever! Amen.

1. On a British Airways flight from Johannesburg, a middle-aged, well-off white South African Lady had found herself sitting next to a black man. She called the cabin crew attendant over to complain about her seating. “What seems to be the problem Madam?” asked the attendant. “Can’t you see?” she said. “You’ve sat me next to this man. I can’t possibly sit next to this disgusting human. Find me another seat!” “Please calm down Madam.” the stewardess replied. “The flight is very full today, but I’ll tell you what I’ll do- I’ll go and check to see if we have any seats available in club or first class.” The woman cocks a snooty look at the outraged black man beside her (not to mention at many of the surrounding passengers also).

2. A few minutes later the stewardess returns with the good news, which she delivers to the lady, who cannot help but look at the people around her with a smug and self satisfied grin: “Madam, unfortunately, as I suspected, economy is full. I’ve spoken to the cabin services director, and club is also full. However, we do have one seat in first class”. Before the lady had a chance to answer, the stewardess continues, “It is most extraordinary to make this kind of upgrade, however, and I have had to get special permission from the captain. But, given the circumstances, the captain felt that it was outrageous that someone be forced to sit next to such an obnoxious person.” With which, she turned to the black man sitting next to her, and said: “So if you’d like to get your things, sir, I have your seat ready for you in first class up at the front...” At which point, apparently the surrounding passengers stood and gave a standing ovation while the black guy walks up to first class in the front of the plane.

3. You know, as we listen to this story, hopefully it disgusts us. The prideful attitude of the woman who would not sit next to the African American man should cause us to be utterly repulsed. This attitude of thinking oneself superior to others rears its ugly head in our Gospel as well. There, it is not a white woman and an African American man, but rather a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee stands in the front of the temple and prays loudly so that all can hear him as he says “'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity -- greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax collector.” In other words, “Thank God I am not like those people. Thank God that I am so much better than them.”

4. It’s sad that this Pharisee thinks he is better than others, when in reality, it is he who is in need of changing. In this story it is he, and not the tax collector, who has the problem. It is he who needs to learn to be welcoming and loving toward all no matter what their background or heritage or social and economic status. We are all brothers and sisters and should treat each other that way.

5. This is something that, to a more or less degree, we all need to work on. All of us have our prejudices and stereotypes that we need to overcome. And not only do we need to work on this as individuals, but also as groups. Maybe it’s a clique at work that is not welcoming to others. Maybe at school, it’s a group of friends who for one reason or another, feel the need to bully others and treat them badly.

6. Sometimes this sort of prideful attitude finds it’s way even into a parish. I have been to many parishes where there was a kind of an attitude of pride where if you weren’t financially well off or if you were not of the right ethnicity, or if you were a newcomer of any kind, you really didn’t feel welcome. I have even been to a parish where families with children were not allowed…imagine that, a parish without children…how sad.

7. We, as a parish family, need to make sure that we never fall into this same trap. We must all make sure that we never look down upon any of our brothers and sisters for any reason whatsoever. We must make sure that everyone, no matter who they are, what they do, where they come from, or how long they have been in our community, always feels welcome. The day that I hear from someone that they did not feel welcome to be part of our parish or any group within our parish is the day that I know we have, as a parish family, fallen into the sin of the Pharisee who looked down on the tax collector or the woman on the plane who didn’t want to sit next to the African American. God forbid that we as individuals or as a parish would ever fall into such a sin.

8. You know, we as Catholics are about the salvation of souls, nothing more and nothing less. We want all people to be saved, and if we treat others badly, we are failing in that task. Bishop Swain spoke about this very thing when, one year ago this past Friday, he was ordained and installed as our Bishop. On that day, in speaking to us for the very first time as our Bishop he said “Some view the Church as just another special interest group, but the Catholic Church is a not political institution or a non profit agency organized to do good things, although it does. We don’t endorse candidates or support political parties. The Church, rather, is a mystery of God’s plan to sanctify and to save. The Church is the people of God, the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. She is God’s instrument for the salvation of souls. Yet we must take stands on issues in the public sphere when they touch the core of what we know by reason to be true and affect the salvation of souls. We care about all our brothers and sisters.”

9. Yes, my friends, we care about all our brothers and sisters, we want them all to find salvation; and by being prideful, in looking down on others, by judging them, by not including them in our families, in our groups of friends, in our communities, and in our parishes we are not doing that.

10. Today, as we gather around the Altar of Sacrifice, let us ask God for the grace to always be welcoming, to always be ready to lead others, no matter who they are, to Christ, the one who, through the Church, offers us Salvation.

Blood of Christ, generous to all who turn to you, have mercy on us.
Mary, gate of heaven, pray for us. Amen.
St. Rose, pray for us. Amen.

From the Desk of the Pastor: 29th Sunday of the Year

Glory Halleluiah! A question has appeared in the Liturgical question box, and it fits right into where we are in our discussion of the Holy Mass. The question is this; “how were the readings chosen? Of all the messages in the Bible why are these chosen as more important?” This is an excellent question.

The Lectionary, or book of readings used at Mass, has a long history in the Church. Prior to the Second Vatican Council there was only a one year cycle of readings. This means that the same reading would be heard on the same Sunday or Feast Day every year. Now we have a three year cycle for Sundays (Years A, B, and C) and a two year cycle for weekdays (Years 1 and 2). This allows for a greater variety of scriptures to be used, in fact, if one were to go to Mass every day (which is a good idea by the way) they would hear almost all of the Bible (with the exception of some of the more obscure passages) over the course of three years.

The readings that have been chosen to be part of the Lectionary were chosen by a group of scripture scholars, bishops and priests and reflect the season, feast day, or theme of any given Mass. On Sundays the first readings is taken from the Old Testament, the Second reading from the New Testament and the Gospel is from one of the four Gospels. If we pay attention we will find that there is usually a theme or connection between the readings chosen. Granted, sometimes I even wonder why a particular passage was chosen when another reading might fit in better, but the Holy Spirit works through the Church, and He must have a reason, even if you and I don’t understand what it is.

There is a common misconception that Catholics do not read the bible, but protestants do. This may be true when it comes to our private bible reading, but when it comes to our liturgical celebrations Catholics by far have more scripture than any protestant denomination. There is a wonderful book entitled “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic” by David B. Currie. In the book he recounts his journey from Protestantism to Catholicism, part of which was his own survey looking into which Church was really a “bible based church.” He did an informal study of what percentage of any given denomination’s worship service was actually scripture reading. The results are amazing. “The Evangelical Church…spent less than 6 percent of its Sunday Service in Scripture. The fundamentalist church….which considers itself biblically based spend 2 percent of its morning in Scripture….Catholics at Mass spend more that 26 percent of the time is Scripture.” Surely, for us as Catholics scripture is important, and that is why we spend so much of our time at Mass reading Sacred Scripture.