Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down upon the heavens and the earth?" This is what Israel sings in one of the Psalms (113 [112], 5ff.), praising God’s grandeur as well as his loving closeness to humanity. God dwells on high, yet he stoops down to us… God is infinitely great, and far, far above us. This is our first experience of him. The distance seems infinite. The Creator of the universe, the one who guides all things, is very far from us: or so he seems at the beginning. But then comes the surprising realization: The One who has no equal, who "is seated on high", looks down upon us. He stoops down. He sees us, and he sees me. God’s looking down is much more than simply seeing from above. God’s looking is active. The fact that he sees me, that he looks at me, transforms me and the world around me. The Psalm tells us this in the following verse: "He raises the poor from the dust…" In looking down, he raises me up, he takes me gently by the hand and helps me – me! – to rise from depths towards the heights. "God stoops down". This is a prophetic word. That night in Bethlehem, it took on a completely new meaning. God’s stooping down became real in a way previously inconceivable. He stoops down – he himself comes down as a child to the lowly stable, the symbol of all humanity’s neediness and forsakenness. God truly comes down. He becomes a child and puts himself in the state of complete dependence typical of a newborn child. The Creator who holds all things in his hands, on whom we all depend, makes himself small and in need of human love. God is in the stable. In the Old Testament the Temple was considered almost as God’s footstool; the sacred ark was the place in which he was mysteriously present in the midst of men and women. Above the temple, hidden, stood the cloud of God’s glory. Now it stands above the stable. God is in the cloud of the poverty of a homeless child: an impenetrable cloud, and yet – a cloud of glory! How, indeed, could his love for humanity, his solicitude for us, have appeared greater and more pure? The cloud of hiddenness, the cloud of the poverty of a child totally in need of love, is at the same time the cloud of glory. For nothing can be more sublime, nothing greater than the love which thus stoops down, descends, becomes dependent. The glory of the true God becomes visible when the eyes of our hearts are opened before the stable of Bethlehem.

Saint Luke’s account of the Christmas story, which we have just heard in the Gospel, tells us that God first raised the veil of his hiddenness to people of very lowly status, people who were looked down upon by society at large – to shepherds looking after their flocks in the fields around Bethlehem. Luke tells us that they were "keeping watch". This phrase reminds us of a central theme of Jesus’s message, which insistently bids us to keep watch, even to the Agony in the Garden – the command to stay awake, to recognize the Lord’s coming, and to be prepared. Here too the expression seems to imply more than simply being physically awake during the night hour. The shepherds were truly "watchful" people, with a lively sense of God and of his closeness. They were waiting for God, and were not resigned to his apparent remoteness from their everyday lives. To a watchful heart, the news of great joy can be proclaimed: for you this night the Saviour is born. Only a watchful heart is able to believe the message. Only a watchful heart can instil the courage to set out to find God in the form of a baby in a stable. Let us ask the Lord to help us, too, to become a "watchful" people.

Saint Luke tells us, moreover, that the shepherds themselves were "surrounded" by the glory of God, by the cloud of light. They found themselves caught up in the glory that shone around them. Enveloped by the holy cloud, they heard the angels’ song of praise: "Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace on earth to people of his good will". And who are these people of his good will if not the poor, the watchful, the expectant, those who hope in God’s goodness and seek him, looking to him from afar?

The Fathers of the Church offer a remarkable commentary on the song that the angels sang to greet the Redeemer. Until that moment – the Fathers say – the angels had known God in the grandeur of the universe, in the reason and the beauty of the cosmos that come from him and are a reflection of him. They had heard, so to speak, creation’s silent song of praise and had transformed it into celestial music. But now something new had happened, something that astounded them. The One of whom the universe speaks, the God who sustains all things and bears them in his hands – he himself had entered into human history, he had become someone who acts and suffers within history. From the joyful amazement that this unimaginable event called forth, from God’s new and further way of making himself known – say the Fathers – a new song was born, one verse of which the Christmas Gospel has preserved for us: "Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace to his people on earth". We might say that, following the structure of Hebrew poetry, the two halves of this double verse say essentially the same thing, but from a different perspective. God’s glory is in the highest heavens, but his high state is now found in the stable – what was lowly has now become sublime. God’s glory is on the earth, it is the glory of humility and love. And even more: the glory of God is peace. Wherever he is, there is peace. He is present wherever human beings do not attempt, apart from him, and even violently, to turn earth into heaven. He is with those of watchful hearts; with the humble and those who meet him at the level of his own "height", the height of humility and love. To these people he gives his peace, so that through them, peace can enter this world.

The medieval theologian William of Saint Thierry once said that God – from the time of Adam – saw that his grandeur provoked resistance in man, that we felt limited in our own being and threatened in our freedom. Therefore God chose a new way. He became a child. He made himself dependent and weak, in need of our love. Now – this God who has become a child says to us – you can no longer fear me, you can only love me.

With these thoughts, we draw near this night to the child of Bethlehem – to the God who for our sake chose to become a child. In every child we see something of the Child of Bethlehem. Every child asks for our love. This night, then, let us think especially of those children who are denied the love of their parents. Let us think of those street children who do not have the blessing of a family home, of those children who are brutally exploited as soldiers and made instruments of violence, instead of messengers of reconciliation and peace. Let us think of those children who are victims of the industry of pornography and every other appalling form of abuse, and thus are traumatized in the depths of their soul. The Child of Bethlehem summons us once again to do everything in our power to put an end to the suffering of these children; to do everything possible to make the light of Bethlehem touch the heart of every man and woman. Only through the conversion of hearts, only through a change in the depths of our hearts can the cause of all this evil be overcome, only thus can the power of the evil one be defeated. Only if people change will the world change; and in order to change, people need the light that comes from God, the light which so unexpectedly entered into our night.

And speaking of the Child of Bethlehem, let us think also of the place named Bethlehem, of the land in which Jesus lived, and which he loved so deeply. And let us pray that peace will be established there, that hatred and violence will cease. Let us pray for mutual understanding, that hearts will be opened, so that borders can be opened. Let us pray that peace will descend there, the peace of which the angels sang that night.

In Psalm 96 [95], Israel, and the Church, praises God’s grandeur manifested in creation. All creatures are called to join in this song of praise, and so the Psalm also contains the invitation: "Let all the trees of the wood sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes" (v. 12ff.). The Church reads this Psalm as a prophecy and also as a task. The coming of God to Bethlehem took place in silence. Only the shepherds keeping watch were, for a moment, surrounded by the light-filled radiance of his presence and could listen to something of that new song, born of the wonder and joy of the angels at God’s coming. This silent coming of God’s glory continues throughout the centuries. Wherever there is faith, wherever his word is proclaimed and heard, there God gathers people together and gives himself to them in his Body; he makes them his Body. God "comes". And in this way our hearts are awakened. The new song of the angels becomes the song of all those who, throughout the centuries, sing ever anew of God’s coming as a child – and rejoice deep in their hearts. And the trees of the wood go out to him and exult. The tree in Saint Peter’s Square speaks of him, it wants to reflect his splendour and to say: Yes, he has come, and the trees of the wood acclaim him. The trees in the cities and in our homes should be something more than a festive custom: they point to the One who is the reason for our joy – the God who for our sake became a child. In the end, this song of praise, at the deepest level, speaks of him who is the very tree of new-found life. Through faith in him we receive life. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist he gives himself to us – he gives us a life that reaches into eternity. At this hour we join in creation’s song of praise, and our praise is at the same time a prayer: Yes, Lord, help us to see something of the splendour of your glory. And grant peace on earth. Make us men and women of your peace. Amen.

-Pope Benedict XVI, Midnight Mass Homily

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Come Lord Jesus!

"Finally, a last point that perhaps seems a little difficult for us. St. Paul in the conclusion of his Second Letter to the Corinthians repeats and also puts on the lips of the Corinthians, a prayer originating in the first Christian communities of the area of Palestine: Maranà, thà!, which literally means, 'Our Lord, come!' (16:22). It was the prayer of the first Christian community and the last book of the New Testament, Revelation, also closes with this prayer: 'Come Lord!'

"Can we also pray like this? It seems to me that for us today, in our lives, in our world, it is difficult to sincerely pray so that this world perishes, so that the new Jerusalem comes, so that the final judgment and Christ the judge come. I think that if we don't dare to sincerely pray like this for many reasons, nevertheless in a just and correct way we can also say with the first Christians: 'Come, Lord Jesus.'

"Certainly, we don't want the end of the world to come now. But, on the other hand, we want this unjust world to end. We also want the world to be deeply changed, the civilization of love to begin, a world of justice and peace, without violence, without hunger, to arrive. We all want this -- and how can it happen without the presence of Christ? Without the presence of Christ, a just and renewed world will never really arrive. And though in another way, totally and deeply, we too can and should say, with great urgency and in the circumstances of our time, Come, Lord! Come to your world, in the way that you know. Come where there is injustice and violence. Come to the refugee camps, in Darfur and in North Kivu, in so many places in the world. Come where drugs dominate. Come, too, among those rich people who have forgotten you and who live only for themselves. Come where you are not known. Come to your world and renew the world of today. Come also to our hearts. Come and renew our lives. Come to our hearts so that we ourselves can be light of God, your presence."In this sense, let us pray with St. Paul: Maranà, thà! Come, Lord Jesus! And let us pray that Christ may be really present today in our world, and that he may renew it."

--Pope Benedict XVI
General Audience [fulltext]
12 November 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Strong Words for the New Administration

I think this is strong, firm, and certainly true. I wonder how the Administration and other Politicians will respond.

STATEMENT of the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

“If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil.” (Psalm 127, vs. 1)

The Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States welcome this moment of historic transition and look forward to working with President-elect Obama and the members of the new Congress for the common good of all. Because of the Church’s history and the scope of her ministries in this country, we want to continue our work for economic justice and opportunity for all; our efforts to reform laws around immigration and the situation of the undocumented; our provision of better education and adequate health care for all, especially for women and children; our desire to safeguard religious freedom and foster peace at home and abroad. The Church is intent on doing good and will continue to cooperate gladly with the government and all others working for these goods.

The fundamental good is life itself, a gift from God and our parents. A good state protects the lives of all. Legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed when the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973. This was bad law. The danger the Bishops see at this moment is that a bad court decision will be enshrined in bad legislation that is more radical than the 1973 Supreme Court decision itself.

In the last Congress, a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was introduced that would, if brought forward in the same form today, outlaw any “interference” in providing abortion at will. It would deprive the American people in all fifty states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry. FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars. It would counteract any and all sincere efforts by government and others of good will to reduce the number of abortions in our country.
Parental notification and informed consent precautions would be outlawed, as would be laws banning procedures such as partial-birth abortion and protecting infants born alive after a failed abortion. Abortion clinics would be deregulated. The Hyde Amendment restricting the federal funding of abortions would be abrogated. FOCA would have lethal consequences for prenatal human life.

FOCA would have an equally destructive effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children. It would threaten Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Charities. It would be an evil law that would further divide our country, and the Church should be intent on opposing evil.

On this issue, the legal protection of the unborn, the bishops are of one mind with Catholics and others of good will. They are also pastors who have listened to women whose lives have been diminished because they believed they had no choice but to abort a baby. Abortion is a medical procedure that kills, and the psychological and spiritual consequences are written in the sorrow and depression of many women and men. The bishops are single-minded because they are, first of all, single-hearted.

The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world. If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve. Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected. Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.

This statement is written at the request and direction of all the Bishops, who also want to thank all those in politics who work with good will to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us. Those in public life do so, sometimes, at the cost of great sacrifice to themselves and their families; and we are grateful. We express again our great desire to work with all those who cherish the common good of our nation. The common good is not the sum total of individual desires and interests; it is achieved in the working out of a common life based upon good reason and good will for all.

Our prayers accompany President-elect Obama and his family and those who are cooperating with him to assure a smooth transition in government. Many issues demand immediate attention on the part of our elected “watchman.” (Psalm 127) May God bless him and our country.

Friday, November 7, 2008

From Fighting Crime to Fighting for the Truth

New York, Nov 6, 2008 / 01:34 pm (CNA).- At the age of 25, Nicolas Fernandez had all of the qualities needed to be a great policeman and his future in the force looked promising. However, during his daily work he discovered he needed different weapons to help the “troubled souls” he encountered, so he decided to become a priest.

Born on Staten Island of an Irish mother and a Spanish father, Fernandez has begun his six year-long formation at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. He had been serving as a police officer for two years when, inspired by the teachings of John Paul II and the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to New York, he decided to change careers and become a priest.

According to El Nuevo Diario, the young seminarian recalls that when he was a policeman, people went to him with their problems because of the uniform he wore. “Now, they will do so because I’ll be wearing a priest’s cassock,” he said.

Fernandez was a patrolman in Brooklyn and his partner always said he could easily rise to the rank of lieutenant. “But that was the last thing I wanted,” he said.

“My choice for the priesthood was influenced by the discourses and speeches of John Paul II on the culture of death, which includes thousands of murders, suicides, homicides and national situations in which children are being abandoned or are victims of abuse in their homes because of drugs,” Fernandez said.

“For these turbulent souls, I never had an external solution as a policeman. There has to be an interior change, a change of heart and therefore, being a priest is necessary,” he added.

Telling It Like It Is

If you haven't figured it out yet, and I am sure you have, I have alot of respect and admiration for Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, MO. On the eve of the election he gave the following homily. I have highlighted a few sections that give us a glimpse into what we might be in for in the future.

Homily for the Eve of the ElectionNovember 3, 2008 – St. Therese North Parish
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph
Judges 7:1-22
Revelation 11:19; 12: 1-6, 10.
Matthew 10: 26-33

Dear friends,

Over the next 24 hours, millions of Americans will go to the polls throughout our country to cast ballots for the leaders of our nation, state, and community. We will make decisions about amendments and propositions. This is a wonderful process and privilege of citizenship in a country that values the ideal of freedom.

But let us have no doubt about this: through this process we are more than participants in a democratic process. We are becoming participants in life and death. The candidates we choose do not arise merely on their own. We place them in office.

Clearly, all these leaders are imperfect men and women like ourselves. They will make decisions day by day, and many of the circumstances of war and domestic work are not able to be known until they happen. Nonetheless, when they tell us specifically what they will do and we are therefore able to foresee some of the likely consequences of their leadership we share in the responsibility of their acts. In this sense an election is about even more than physical life and death. It is also about your eternal salvation and mine. This is the first reason to pray. Pray that we will take seriously – that every other voter will take seriously – the meaning of our choices. In a country where we have made choice an absolute, we must remember that underlying every choice is a value; that flowing from every choice is a consequence; that we must give an accounting to God for what we decide.

Our Lord instructs us in the Gospel we have heard, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna.” The enormity of this election is founded, in part, on the radical determination of some who would lead our country deeper than ever before into the darkness of the culture of death. This is a path that would certainly mean the death of countless more innocent lives. As shepherd of this Diocese I am also deeply saddened by the prospect of the cost in people’s souls, the souls of those who would place a candidate’s promise of economic prosperity above the life of the most innocent of our brothers and sisters.

Most perilous is the fate of those Catholics who, with hardened hearts, decide to create for themselves, and preach to others, a false gospel that the “right” to an abortion must not be challenged, or that the humanity of the child need not be protected.

Most fraudulent are those Catholic leaders, or alliances of Catholics, that insist that the radically evil injustice of abortion need not be directly opposed, but rather, that somehow solving the dilemma of the poor in a sweeping act of charity will cause the foundation of this monstrous crime to crumble.

Why is this so terribly amiss? Because the foundation and cause of abortion is not poverty but a blind disregard for personal responsibility, a heinous denial and disrespect for human life, and an idolatrous worship of personal convenience. This is why even in the wealthy countries of Scandinavia the highest rates of abortions are followed by rampant euthanasia.

Friends, the poor do not hate their children any more or less than the rich. The poison of which abortion is the most dreadful manifestation is the sinful suffocation of selfishness, and it can and does affect all strata of society. Woe to those, particularly Catholics, who dare to try to convince us that their “choice” of a radically pro-abortion leader is within the parameters of conscience. God have mercy on those who exude freely this salve for their partisan cooperators. I fear that they will bear a greater responsibility than most. Against them will come not only the cry of millions of human lives savagely destroyed, but the souls of those they have sucked down with themselves. This is the very definition of scandal, and the reason that so many have spoken out with such urgency to announce the authentic teaching of the Church.

Part of the damage we have been promised is encapsulated in the Freedom of Choice Act, which has been held at bay the last eight years. When all the reasonable limits on abortion, gained in the last 35 years have been summarily swept away: parental notification, waiting periods, counseling and informed consent, the number of those killed will grow by more than 100,000 a year.

The Freedom of Choice Act will mark the beginning of a great persecution against religious liberty, because it will require tax payer money to be used for abortions. You and I will be faced with this legal trial: whether we should pay our taxes making us participants in the slaughter of Innocents or be liable for jail and fines.

And what of our Catholic hospitals? If we are forced to provide such destructive services under the Freedom of Choice Act, we will have to refuse. Catholic health care workers, and other men and women of good conscience, will risk losing their jobs when their conscience exception is lost and they are pressured to participate. I read a letter recently in our daily paper: The man said, “If you don’t want an abortion. Don’t have one.” Under a regime of such change, you and I will not have such an easy choice. By paying, it will become “our abortion.” Lord, have mercy on us, and on our country.

In the light of these clear and present dangers, I chose tonight’s Gospel, in part, because four times it tells us, “Don’t be afraid!” Let us not be afraid, dear flock. You are worth so much to God; more than sparrows, more than an election, more than any man can measure. Our first goal is this: we must get through tomorrow with our eternal souls intact. We know that God will take care of the rest.

A week ago, I wrote our diocese a letter hoping that it would be heard by all as a necessary call to prayer. Many of our pastors read it to their people. Some, I am sure, suffered a bit from doing so. Thank you, dear brave priests.

I also know that it wasn’t heard by all. Let us not be too hard on those who, for fear or even disagreement, have shrunk back even from the call to pray! It takes time for us to learn to carry our burdens, our obedience, our responsibility. I want you all to pray that – at the hour of greatest need – none will step back from the sacrifice that makes us most like Jesus Christ.

In the first reading, God tells Gideon that He is going to win a great victory. So that Gideon and the People of Israel don’t get too big a head, God determines to go against the hundreds of thousands of the enemy with only three hundred men. He even proceeds to choose those who are perhaps the least sophisticated of all, “those who lap up their water like dogs.” God certainly doesn’t pull any punches!

St. Paul says something similar when he announces that God chooses those whom the world considers foolish to shame the wise. (1 Cor 1:27) Dear friends, there is hope for us! God can use us – few and unsophisticated as we are to win the victory of life. God can choose “the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something.” (1 Cor 1: 28)

I pray this reading from about Gideon’s lopsided battle will remind God and us of the kind of victory He can win for His people. May He grant us this same mercy these days, all in accord with His will and plan; all for the glory of His name; all for the protection of human life.

In the second reading we have the image of Mary, the Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and the crown of stars on her head. Mary, we cry out to you, O Mother of life, O Empress of America, O Star of the New Evangelization, O Immaculate patroness of our Diocese and our country: Gather us under the mantel of your maternal love. Mary, Lady of the Rosary whom we have invoked so often, particularly in the last month, “Pray for us sinners!” You, O Queen and our Mother, “despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all dangers, O ever-glorious and blessed Virgin.

Dear friends, over the next 24 hours, millions of Americans will go to the polls throughout our country to cast ballots for the leaders of our nation, state, and community. We are called to be participants in life and death. May God guide us to choose life. May He make us his fearless apostles, and use us to construct a civilization of life and love.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bishop Finn Strikes Again

From the Catholic Key Blog:

KCMO 710's Chris Stigall interviewed Bishop Finn on the subject of the election this morning. As he has in the past, Bishop Finn emphasized the priority of life and had this to say, excerpt:

Chris Stigall: There are Catholics listening right now who are thinking strongly or are convinced that they will vote for Barack Obama. What would you say to them?

Bishop Finn: I would say, give consideration to your eternal salvation.

Listen to whole whole interview in the player above to hear why. The audio clip has a short station intro and then goes right into the interview. It's short and concise, so it's worth listening to the whole thing. You can also download the audio here.

From The Bishop of Sioux Falls

Statement on Elections
Most Reverend Paul J. Swain
Bishop of Sioux Falls
October 31, 2008

As we approach the elections, I urge all Catholics to exercise their right to vote. We are called as good citizens to do so, and to do so with informed consciences grounded in the teachings of Christ.

Respect for the sanctity of life from conception to natural death ought to guide our decisions every day including Election Day. While it is true that there are a variety of important issues affecting the quality of life in the years after birth and before death, they are meaningless if there is no life to begin with. Without life there are no other issues. This is the stark reality we as faithful Catholics should bring to our election decisions concerning candidates and referenda. When we do so, we do not stop caring about other issues which also reflect our respect for life or working to address them. We simply acknowledge God as the giver of life.

That is why I encourage a Yes vote on Initiated Measure 11. Even though it is not the fullness of Catholic teaching, it will prohibit almost all abortions. Those who oppose Initiated Measure 11 have used a variety of tactics to distract voters from the core issue: Do we wish to change state law from allowing abortion on demand. My answer is yes.

Know of my prayers for you as you exercise this precious and serious duty. Together let use pray for our country that the common good be our common goal.

For more detailed statements on these issues, please reference the diocesan website.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bishop Finn With Another Excellent Article

Bishop Robert Finn from the Diocese of Kansas City/St. Joseph MO recently wrote and excellent article in his diocesan newspaper about the Church Militant and our roles as warriors. We don't hear much these days about the Church Militant, in fact, it has all but been forgotten so it is refreshing to hear a Bishop speaking in such terms. Here it is for your reading and praying enjoyment:

Warriors with Our Eyes Fixed on Heaven

Last Saturday I had the privilege of consecrating the restored church of Old St. Patrick. This is the oldest existing Catholic church in Kansas City. It will serve as the Oratory for the Latin Mass community which first began here under Bishop John Sullivan, and for many years has shared the parish of Our Lady of Sorrows. One of the beauties of the Traditional Latin High Mass that I celebrated is that it highlights a most profound aspect of the Mass, namely our participation with the Communion of Saints. The high altar, multiple candles, incense and Gregorian chant, collectively give us a striking image of the Heavenly Jerusalem which is our ultimate home. Every Mass celebrates this reality, but I must admit that the traditional Mass captured this magnificent expression of the ultimate hope and goal of Christians in a powerful way. We should reflect on this often, because the ultimate goal of everything we do is to get ourselves to heaven and bring with us as many as we can.

The month of November begins with the two great celebrations: All Saints day (November 1) and the Commemoration of All Souls (November 2). These feasts celebrate our communion with the "Church triumphant" in heaven, and the "Church suffering" in purgatory. Today I would like to share a few brief comments about what we have sometimes called the "Church militant," the Church here on earth.

We, the Church on earth, have a very special challenge as participants in the grace and life of Jesus Christ to "fight" against the enemies of Christ's justice and truth and light and life. We must be attentive to the demands of this daily "battle" in a peaceable but serious manner.

I am sometimes amazed at the casual manner with which Christians, Catholics included, take up our life within what Pope John Paul II rightly called the "culture of death." The Church, by comparison, reminds us that we are engaged - by reason of our Baptism and Confirmation - in a battle, "not with flesh and blood, but with the principalities and powers, with the rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in heaven." (Eph 6:12) Jesus Christ has won the ultimate battle, but we, in the course of our human life must make our choice, determining on whose side we will live and die. Whose side will you choose?!

What is at stake in this battle is our immortal soul, our salvation. My responsibility as bishop is with the eternal destiny of those entrusted to my care. My total energies must be directed to the well being of those who otherwise may come under the spell of a radically flawed and fundamentally distorted moral sense, at odds with what our Mother the Church teaches. There are objective and transcendent truths. There is such a thing as right and wrong. There is a legitimate hierarchy of moral evils, and the direct willful destruction of human life can never be justified; it can never be supported. Do you believe this firm teaching of the Church?

Did you know that in Canada priests and Christian ministers have already been brought before tribunals for preaching and teaching in support of marriage? They are charged with "hate speech" against homosexuality. In light of the tyranny of choice growing each day in our own beloved country, we ought to be ready for similar attacks on religious freedom. We must not fail to preach the Gospel. We can not withhold the truth of our faith. That is why I will never be silent about human life. It is why I am proud of so many others - bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity - who are not afraid to speak out about the values that matter most. What about you?!

Our Lord told His apostles that they would be hated by the world, just as He was. Nearly all of them died a martyr's death. As warriors in the Church militant, we must never resort to violence. But we must stand up fearlessly against the agents of death, the enemies of human life. Human beings are not Satan, but we know too well that they can come under his spell. They can become willing agents of death, numbed and poisoned in this culture of death. What about you?!

As we begin this month of November, the month of the Church, let us call upon the Saints to inspire us, befriend us, and pray for us. Let us offer many prayers and sacrifices for the poor souls who have gone before us. They need our meritorious suffrages to help them reach heaven. And let us resolve to be warriors of the Church militant; warriors with our eyes fixed on heaven. Let us ask God's mercy and strength to persevere in our call - individual and collective - to holiness. Mary, Mother of the Church, Pray for us!

No, I'm Not Dead...

...although I am sure that some people wish that I was. The fact is that I haven't been around because I haven't felt the need to post anything, and I am trying my best to stay out of politics. Those of you who know me well know that I love politics and it is taking all I have not to endorse any candidates, so in order to avoid a near occasion of endorsement I have been staying away from the blog.

Now that the election is nearly over (thanks be to God!) I am ready to start doing a little more blogging. So here we go...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

On Retreat

Sorry things have been slow everyong. It's going to be slow for yet another week because I am on retreat. Please pray for me that it will be fruitful.

In the meantime check out a new blog for priests by a good friend called Clerical Reform.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Quite a Discussion Going On...

There is quite a good discussion going on in the comment box for the post entitled Homily: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A. It's not often we have a good discussion of substance going on, so I thought you might want to know, and maybe throw in your two cents.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Homily: 17th Sunday in Ordinary TIme

I have been experimenting a bit with music in my podcast. Let me know what you think about it, and if you have any pointers about adding music to the podcast, mixing, etc.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Tribute to Archbishop Burke

Bishop Robert Hermann, the Archdiocesan Administrator elected after Archbishop Burke was named Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, has written a very honest and truthful article in the St. Louis Review regarding Archbishop Burke:

Bishop Hermann: 'I thought you should know' On Archbishop Burke’s love for Christ’s Church

by Bishop Robert J. Hermann, Archdiocesan Administrator

I am hoping that this column will be short-lived and that we will have a new archbishop in a timely fashion. In this weekly column, I wish to reflect briefly on issues significant to you and to our archdiocese.

Looking back, I am so grateful for the leadership of Archbishop Raymond L. Burke. While I could focus on the phenomenal influence he has had on our priests and seminarians, in this column I wish to focus briefly on his great love for the Church and his commitment to teach the timeless truths of the Catholic faith, whether or not it was popular.

On the night before He died, Christ prayed to the Father: "Consecrate them in the truth. Your Word is truth." (John 17:17). Archbishop Burke has committed his life to witnessing to the truth of God’s Word as it has been proclaimed by the Catholic Church from the very beginning. He knew very well that this would cause him much suffering, but Archbishop Burke’s love for Christ and His Church made it very clear to him that he had no choice.

In the 21st chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus talked about the coming persecution, he said: "It will lead to your giving testimony." Whether it was witnessing to life issues or to Catholic identity, Archbishop Burke never flinched from standing up for the truth. He knew very well that many times he would be perceived as not being politically correct. Yet, he did it, and he did it out of love for Christ and His Church.

A few well-meaning Catholics are simply embarrassed by some of the teachings of the Catholic Church because when these teachings are played out in the court of public opinion, these Catholics feel uncomfortable. It reminds me of a teenager who is embarrassed by his mother or father as being out of touch with what is politically correct in the eyes of his teen peers. Pope John Paul II would repeat over and over again Christ’s words to His disciples: "Do not be afraid." Witnessing to the Gospel was never intended to fill us with warm fuzzies but to help define us as courageous disciples.

Again and again, as I go around the archdiocese, I hear high praise for Archbishop Burke’s firm commitment to witness to the truths of the Catholic Church.

Another point that some people do not see is that Archbishop Burke sees canon law as a pastoral tool intended to help the faithful live the teachings of the Catholic Church. He understands that canon law was developed as a pastoral response to pastoral problems. I and others who have worked closely with Archbishop Burke see him as a very warm, compassionate and caring shepherd who wants to help his people in the very best way he can.

We owe it to Archbishop Burke to pray for him daily. He has given us such a clear vision of what the Church expects of us. He has courageously witnessed his love for us and for the Church. He has spent himself tirelessly on our behalf. Pope Benedict XVI sees all of this and more, and now needs Archbishop Burke in the Apostolic Signatura at the Vatican. As an archdiocese, we are incredibly honored to have had him serve us so well, and now we see that the Vatican needs those services for the universal Church. Our hearts are overflowing with great wonder and gratitude!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Humane Vitae: 40 Years Later

"What was true yesterday is true also today. The truth expressed in Humanae Vitae does not change . . . . The transmission of life is inscribed in nature and its laws stand as an unwritten norm to which all must refer. Any attempt to turn one's gaze away from this principle is in itself barren and does not produce a future."

-Pope Benedict XVI

Today is the 40th Anniversary of the publication of Humane Vitae, the still controversial Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI, in which the Church's belief that Contraception is a grave moral evil was once again reaffirmed.

This morning I read an excellent article by Russel Shaw (one of my favorite authors) on the topic over at Read the whole thing, but here are the first few paragraphs to wet your whistle:

I know a woman – and, in fairness, I must say that she's a truly good Catholic woman -- who's slightly bonkers on the subject of birth control. I suppose there are people like that on both sides of this argument, but this woman happens to be bonkers on the pro-contraception side. You can't help noticing it. Whenever the subject comes up in conversation -- and, not infrequently, even when it doesn't -- she lets everybody within earshot know that the Church is flatly wrong about birth control and absolutely, unquestionably, and incontrovertibly must change its position without further delay.

Poor lady. She may be in for a hard time of it in the next several weeks. Today is the 40th anniversary of the publication of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI's encyclical reaffirming the Church's teaching against artificial contraception; and although, among those taking note of the occasion, some will undoubtedly join this good Catholic woman in rapping the document and calling for change, many others just as certainly will praise the encyclical as not just true but even prophetically so. Pope Benedict XVI got in the first licks a little while back when he spoke to a group meeting in Rome to celebrate the anniversary.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More on Comments

Well folks, the moderated comments seem to be working much better, but I wanted to say a few things about what constructive criticism is. I appreciate criticism that is constructive because it helps me to hone my homilitic skills. But there seems to be some misunderstanding about what constructive criticism really is. It is not saying something like "that homily was horrible." Rather,it would be something like "I didn't like the homily because Father used a bad analogy. He might try using this one..." Constructive criticism will help me improve my homilies, so if you want your comment posted please make sure the criticism is constructive not just destructive.

Homily: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

This is the first homily I recorded using my new recorder and the quality is much better, so thanks to the anonymous donor!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Moderated Comments

Because of the continued foul language and rudeness I will now be moderating the comments to make sure that foul, rude, and sometimes downright blasphemous comments will not be posted.

I am always grateful for constructive criticism, but will not tolerate rudeness.

Thank you and God Bless.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Homily: Vigil of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Here is my first attempt at a podcast...It will go much smoother with the new digital voice recorder (thanks again to the anonymous donor), and hopefully I can do some other fun things like a musical intro, etc in the future. Anyway, here you go:

Thank You!

Thank you to the anonymous reader who sent me a gift card to buy an digital voice recorder with MP3 output. I will offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for your intentions.

I am already working on being able to podcast my homilies, so stay tuned...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Congratulations Archbishop Burke

Well, what many have suspected has come true. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke has been named by the Holy Father as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church's Supreme Court.

This is the statement issued by His Grace:

I am deeply humbled by the trust which His Holiness has placed in me, and, in priestly obedience, I have pledged to serve our Holy Father to the best of my abilities. Although you will no longer pray for me as your archbishop, especially during the celebration of the Holy Mass, I ask your prayers for me, that I may faithfully and generously cooperate with God's grace in fulfilling my new responsibilities.

Leaving the service of the Church in the Archdiocese of St. Louis is most sad for me. It has been an honor and gift for me to serve the archdiocese over the past four years and five months. It had been my hope to serve here for a long time, but, as the bishop who called me to priestly ordination often remarked, "Man proposes, but God disposes." I trust that doing what our Holy Father has asked me to do will bring blessings to the Archdiocese of St. Louis and to me.

St. Louis is a great archdiocese which will always have a treasured place in my heart.In a particular way, I am saddened to leave my fellow priests, whom I have so much grown to esteem and love. Often, I have spoken about the remarkable unity and loyalty of our presbyterate.

For me, it has been a special grace to work with them in the service of God's flock in the archdiocese. I thank them for the priestly fraternity which they have always shown me, and for the generous obedience with which they have responded to my pastoral care and governance of our beloved archdiocese.

With regard to the governance of the archdiocese, the College of Consultors will meet to elect an archdiocesan administrator who, with the help of the consultors, will govern the archdiocese, until the new archbishop is appointed and installed. Please pray for the College of Consultors and for the archdiocesan administrator whom they will elect.

Again, I ask your prayers. You can count upon my daily prayers for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, always.

For the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Church in the United States this news is sad, but for the Universal Church it will be a great blessing. Archbishop Burke was one of the greatest leaders and defenders of the Faith in the United States which won for him great admiration by some (like myself) and sadly, many enemies as well.

I have known Archbishop Burke since he was Bishop of LaCrosse Wisconsin, but became more aquainted with him during my seminary studies in St. Louis, and most recently I was on a pilgrimage that he lead to the Holy Land. He has been, and hopefully will continute to be, a great source of encouragement for me and my priestly ministry.

Let us pray for this great man, that He will be able to faithfully carry out his duties in this new post.

UPDATE: You can also go the Archdiocesan Website to watch a video statement from the Archbishop.

St. Mary's Catholic Church Blog

The Pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Salem, SD has of late been posting on the parish blog. He is doing marvelous work at this parish, particularly in the area of the Sacred Liturgy. In fact, they are in the midst of a Church restoration project which is magnificent. Check out St. Mary's Catholic Church blog for pictures and more information. Here are a few pictures just to wet your whistle:


Audio Homilies?

Well, I have decided to try something new. I am not sure I am sold on the idea, but I thought I would give posting audio homiles a try. I am borrowing a recorder and playing around with it and trying to figure out the best way to add the audio to my blog. So below is my first trial run of a daily homily. Don't expect much, but do let me know if you like this idea or not, or if you have suggestions on recorders, ways to post the audio on my blog, etc...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Going Against the Grain

From an article in

Members of St. Barnabas Parish in Mazomanie say they are stunned to learn that the priests leading their Catholic community will no longer allow their daughters to be servers at Mass. From now on, only boys will be able to assist priests in the ancient religious rite.

The new policy was announced at a meeting with parents Tuesday by Rev. John Del Priore, who was assigned to the parish on June 1....

...The Catholic Church broke with centuries of tradition in 1994, when the Vatican said girls would be allowed to join "altar boys" in assisting priests at Mass. It is up to the local bishop to decide whether to allow lay women, or girls, to serve when needed, said Brent King, director of communications for the Madison Diocese. Female servers have been allowed in the Madison Diocese, King said, but it is ultimately up to each individual priest to decide whether he needs help at the altar. Priests may ask whomever they wish to assist them, so long as that person is a Catholic in good standing, King said.

He stressed that servers take on the duties of acolytes, traditionally a low clerical rank."Neither lay women nor lay men have the right to carry out the function of acolyte," King said.Altar service is being reserved for boys to promote vocations to the priesthood, Rev. Jared Hood, one of a group of priests that serves the St. Barnabas cluster, said in an interview. Hood said he is a member of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest, a religious order that ministers to boys to inspire them to become priests. The order offered its services to the Madison Diocese, which is consolidating parishes because of a shortage of priests.

"Very many priests began as altar boys," Hood said. "Without contact with a priest it's difficult for boys to even think about a vocation as a priest." He first learned about the order of which he is now a member as an altar boy in New Jersey, he said.

Four priests from the order now oversee a cluster of five parishes: St. Barnabas, St. Aloysius in Sauk City, St. Norbert in Roxbury, St. John the Baptist in Mill Creek, and St. Mary in Merrimac. Hood said boys only will be servers for each of the parishes.

That's been the case at St. Aloysius for more than a year, and the furor that met the change in policy has evaporated, said Ann Cicero, a secretary for the parish whose sons serve as altar boys.The commitment by parish boys to altar service is proof that it's right to reserve it for boys, she said. When girls were allowed to be servers, it became less popular among boys. Now that it's a thing for boys only, they revel in it.

Besides, having girls on the altar is misleading about what the church is about, she said."Women are not ordained," Cicero said.

The boys meet weekly with priests for training, spiritual growth and outings as the group, St. Michael Altar Guild, a practice that strengthens their ties to the church and parish community, she said. Girls, too, meet regularly and do things "more appropriate for girls."Cicero said several young boys have begun to talk about vocations to the priesthood...

A large part of my own vocation to Holy Priesthood was serving Mass. It gave me an opportunity to get to know the parish priest and learn more about his life.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Recent Bulletin Columns

Here are some excerpts from recent bulletin columns that you might enjoy:

First from the May 25th:

...I wanted to try to answer a question that was put in the Liturgical Question Box. The question is this “I have noticed that the Pope has been wearing older style robes. Does this mean we are going back to the old ways?”

That is a very good question and one that I think has been on minds of a lot of people lately. Yes, the Holy Father has been wearing some styles of vestments that we have not seen for quite awhile; vestments that many associate with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. These styles of vestments are one style of many styles that we have had throughout the History of the Church. As times change so do vestments, and sometimes for very practical reasons. For instance, before air conditioning was common vestments tended to be smaller and not so heavy so that the priest wouldn’t become so hot during the summer months. The thing to remember is that all the various styles and forms of vestments are acceptable. A priest is able to choose from all styles that have been approved over the centuries, and that is what the Holy Father is doing. He is showing that there is continuity between the past, the present, and the future. He is showing us that was holy at one time in our history is certainly still holy now.

So, as warmer weather approaches, and I begin my usual excessive summer time sweating, don’t be surprised if you see smaller, lighter vestments. And if you do see them, please don’t think it is some sort of sign that we are going to start celebrating Mass in Latin or in the Extraordinary Form, rather see it as sign that I am hot and trying to stay cool. Nothing more, nothing less.
Second from June 8th: I mentioned a few weeks ago, there are many styles of vestments that have been used for the Celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the centuries, and all of them are acceptable to be used. Given that I tend to sweat a lot (some of you noticed this at Mass this last Sunday). and summer has just barely begun, in the next couple of weeks, depending on the weather, you may see a new vestment. Some of you may associate this particular style of vestment with the Mass in Latin, but it is not associated only with Mass in Latin, but also with Mass in Italian, German, Polish, French, Spanish, Swahili, and yes, even English. Some may be tempted to make assumptions that because I am wearing this particular style vestment that I intend to start saying Mass in Latin. Let me assure you, the wearing of this vestment has nothing to do with Latin, it has everything to do with me not overheating or sweating profusely during Mass. It is also a good reminder that we should never forget our history which is varied, rich and full of great beauty.

And this one from June 15:

...Last weeks column ended with this phrase: “…we should never forget our history which is varied, rich and full of great beauty.” Below is a continuation on the theme of history.

We all have histories; we have personal histories, family histories, community histories, national histories, many, many more. One of the greatest histories that has ever been lived is the history of the Church. For over two thousand years She has existed, passing on the faith in every generation. Through trials and tribulations, through good times and bad, through persecution and triumph She has been there bringing the hopeful message of Christ to all, and it continues to this day.

From the first days of the Church there has been continuity, an unbroken line of teaching and worship, which winds its way through history. The theme of continuity with the past is one that has been brought to our attention once again by our beloved Holy Father, Pope Benedict. It seems that one of his greatest concerns is that in the modern world we have a tendency to abandon anything that is old, because we assume that because it is old it is outdated, useless, and boring. When we engage in this sort of wholesale abandonment of things that are deemed “too old” we are, in effect, abandoning our history, we are forgetting where we have come from, we are forgetting the great hardships that our ancestors endured in order to have the very things we are now abandoning. This abandoning of anything “old,” has even found its way into the Church, were there is arising a false distinction between the “old” and the “new.” Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in his book entitled “Feast of Faith” said “First of all I must take up the distinction you have just made between “the old belief” and “the new”. I must emphatically deny such a distinction. The Council [Vatican II] has not created any new matter for belief, let alone replaced an old belief with a new one…I must admit that in the wake of the Council a lot of things happened far to quickly and abruptly, with the result that many of the faithful could not see the inner continuity with what had gone before.”

Now, thanks be to God, the Holy Father is trying to restore the lost continuity so that we can respect our history and our ancestors. Recently, in response to a question about why the Holy Father is wearing vestments that are “old,” his Liturgical Master of Ceremonies said "The vestments chosen, as also other particulars of the Rite, are intended to underscore the continuity of the present liturgical celebration with that which characterized in the past the life of the Church. Continuity is the interpretive key, always the exact criteria for reading the Church’s journey through time. This is valid also for liturgy…As one Pope cites in his documents the Pontiffs who precede him, so as to indicate the continuity of the Magisterium of the Church, so in the ambient of liturgy a Pope uses also the vestments and sacred accoutrement of his predecessors to show the same continuity also in his celebrations…”

The Holy Father is providing an example for the whole Church of how we can be sensitive to our history and the hard work of our ancestors that got us to where we are in our history. So when we see things that we may consider “old” and “out of date” try rather to think that these things are reminders of our history, reminders of our ancestors, and reminders of where we have been, for without knowing our history; without knowing where we have come from, we can never know where we are going.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Parish Assignments

Tis the season for new parish assignments. I have recieved a new addition to my current assignment. In addition to my current assignments as Pastor of St. Rose of Lima in Garretson, Associate Director of Vocations, and Chaplain to St. Margaret's Fellowship Homeschool Association, Bishop Paul J. Swain has appointed me as Administrator of St. Joseph the Workman parish in Huntimer.

Please pray for me, and the parishioners of St. Joseph the Workman and St. Rose of Lima, as I take on this new assignment.

From the Desk of the Pastor

I haven't posted one of these for awile, so here is this current weeks installment:

Today I will again answer a question from the Liturgical Question Box. The question is this “I have noticed that the Pope has been wearing older style robes. Does this mean we are going back to the old ways?”

That is a very good question and one that I think has been on minds of a lot of people lately. Yes, the Holy Father has been wearing some styles of vestments that we have not seen for quite awhile; vestments that many associate with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. These styles of vestments are one style of many styles that we have had throughout the History of the Church. As times change so do vestments, and sometimes for very practical reasons. For instance, before air conditioning was common vestments tended to be smaller and not so heavy so that the priest wouldn’t become so hot during the summer months. The thing to remember is that all the various styles and forms of vestments are acceptable. A priest is able to choose from all styles that have been approved over the centuries, and that is what the Holy Father is doing. He is showing that there is continuity between the past, the present, and the future. He is showing us that was holy at one time in our history is certainly still holy now.

So, as warmer weather approaches, and I begin my usual excessive summer time sweating, don’t be surprised if you see smaller, lighter vestments. And if you do see them, please don’t think it is some sort of sign that we are going to start celebrating Mass in Latin or in the Extraordinary Form, rather see it as sign that I am hot and trying to stay cool. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Their Joy May Be Complete

His Excellency, Bishop Paul J. Swain, recently released a Pastoral letter commemorating his 25th anniversary of being recieved in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The document comment on seven particular joys that have come to Him in and through the Church. Here is the intro to wet your whistle, to read the whole thing (in PDF form) click here.

That Your Joy May Be Complete
Reflections on 25 years as a Roman Catholic

To the Clergy, Consecrated and Lay Faithful of the Diocese of Sioux Falls
The Convert

After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white,
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead.

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

-G. K. Chesterton

Twenty-five years ago, on March 31, I stood before the sacred altar in Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Madison, Wisconsin and professed faith in the Roman Catholic Church. That humbling Holy Thursday I was also confirmed, offered my first confession and received my first Holy Communion. It was the turning point in an unpredictable journey that has been filled with great blessings and humble lessons, with pride challenged and mercy granted. It was a day of joy. Like the author of the poem above, a fellow convert, my world turned over and came upright, and I live. Deo gratias.

“I tell you this that my joy may be yours and that your joy may be complete,” Jesus prayerfully told the Apostles (cf. Jn. 15:11). It is my prayer for each of you. Our Lord Jesus Christ not only wished and wishes you joy, but He offers it. On my own faith journey I sought that joy in ways that did not fulfill. Thankfully, God is persistent in offering His love to us. When we own up to our distractions and seek His mercy, His love can transform us. He allowed me to exercise my freedom to stumble but also allowed me to recognize where true peace is found, in Christ alive in His Church. It has resulted in the joy that I experience as a priest and your bishop, appointed by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, who himself is a source of joy.

In this Pastoral Letter, which is in truth a personal letter, I share with you several sources of joy I have discovered in the Roman Catholic Church. Through the Catholic Church, we can discover joy, because it is precisely in and through the Church that we encounter Christ. The Church is the Body of Christ, and therefore, if we wish to find Christ and the joy that He brings, we must look to the Church. This letter, then, is addressed to you the faithful active in your parish, and it is addressed to you who are struggling in faith or in your personal life from fear, from wonderment, from doubt or from confusion. It is especially addressed to you who are seeking purpose and meaning in your lives in the secular world, as did I. And it is addressed to any who have “fallen away” from the Faith yet remain searching. I pray for you and wish for you to return home. As one who has “fallen in”—in love with Christ and His Church—the joy I have found I wish for you all.

The joy I speak about is not an empty happiness that protects us from the realities of life. Such vacuous happiness is soft and fleeting; joy in Christ touches our souls and sustains. It is a joy that offers perspective in times of challenge and hope in times of trial. We all yearn for that peace that comes with resting in God. We all need encouragement to continue our journey of faith in a world full of division, violence, loneliness and mystery. We all seek the strength to be open to God’s will and God’s way every day, but especially when it is hard. The Church, one, holy, Catholic and apostolic, instituted by Christ, offers us that strength and encouragement. Through the Catholic Church we can know Christ and experience lasting joy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Archbishop Chaput on "Catholics for Obama"

First things has a little article by Archbishop Chaput addressing the theological and moral problems with a group called "Catholics for Obama." It's an interesting read, not because of what it says about Senator Obama, but because of the honesty and frankness with which Archbishop Chaput addresses Catholics who say they are "personally opposed" to abortion but will do nothing about it. Below is an excerpt:

Carter had one serious strike against him. The U.S. Supreme Court had legalized abortion on demand in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, and Carter the candidate waffled about restricting it. At the time, I knew Carter was wrong in his views about Roe and soft toward permissive abortion. But even as a priest, I justified working for him because he wasn’t aggressively “pro-choice.” True, he held a bad position on a vital issue, but I believed he was right on so many more of the “Catholic” issues than his opponent seemed to be. The moral calculus looked easy. I thought we could remedy the abortion problem after Carter was safely returned to office....

In the years after the Carter loss, I began to notice that very few of the people, including Catholics, who claimed to be “personally opposed” to abortion really did anything about it. Nor did they intend to. For most, their personal opposition was little more than pious hand-wringing and a convenient excuse—exactly as it is today. In fact, I can’t name any pro-choice Catholic politician who has been active, in a sustained public way, in trying to discourage abortion and to protect unborn human life—not one. Some talk about it, and some may mean well, but there’s very little action. In the United States in 2008, abortion is an acceptable form of homicide. And it will remain that way until Catholics force their political parties and elected officials to act differently.

Why do I mention this now? Earlier this spring, a group called “Roman Catholics for Obama ’08” quoted my own published words in the following way: So can a Catholic in good conscience vote for a pro-choice candidate? The answer is: I can’t, and I won’t. But I do know some serious Catholics— people whom I admire—who may. I think their reasoning is mistaken, but at least they sincerely struggle with the abortion issue, and it causes them real pain. And most important: They don’t keep quiet about it; they don’t give up; they keep lobbying their party and their representatives to change their pro-abortion views and protect the unborn. Catholics can vote for pro-choice candidates if they vote for them despite—not because of—their pro-choice views.What’s interesting about this quotation—which is accurate but incomplete—is the wording that was left out. The very next sentences in the article of mine they selected, which Roman Catholics for Obama neglected to quote, run as follows:

But [Catholics who support pro-choice candidates] also need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it. What is a “proportionate” reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life—which we most certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed.

On their website, Roman Catholics for Obama stress that: After faithful thought and prayer, we have arrived at the conclusion that Senator Obama is the candidate whose views are most compatible with the Catholic outlook, and we will vote for him because of that—and because of his other outstanding qualities—despite our disagreements with him in specific areas.I’m familiar with this reasoning. It sounds a lot like me thirty years ago. And thirty years later, we still have about a million abortions a year. Maybe Roman Catholics for Obama will do a better job at influencing their candidate. It could happen. And I sincerely hope it does, since Planned Parenthood of the Chicago area, as recently as February 2008, noted that Senator Barack Obama “has a 100 percent pro-choice voting record both in the U.S. Senate and the Illinois Senate.”Changing the views of “pro-choice” candidates takes a lot more than verbal gymnastics, good alibis, and pious talk about “personal opposition” to killing unborn children. I’m sure Roman Catholics for Obama know that, and I wish them good luck. They’ll need it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Where is Fr. Christensen?

I'm in Chicago, or more accurately in Libertyville, IL. I am on my first week of a three week per year, three year course which results in a certificate in Spirituality of Diocesan Priesthood and Spiritual Direction. This course is put on by the Institute for Priestly Formation. The classes and yearly retreat are held at Mundelein Seminary. The grounds here at the Seminary are beautiful, and lend themselves easily to prayer and reflection. So, if you would be so kind, offer a prayer for me and the other priests and deacons who are here seeking to better serve the people of God.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Well folks,

After recieving a stern talking to by a number of my readers for not posting my homilies regularly I have finally gotten around to posting a few. You can see them below.

Also, please keep me in your prayers as I will be doing a fair amount of traveling around in the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow I am taking four high school students to visit the Seminary in Fargo. On Sunday night I will be at our Diocesan Retreat Center for a newer clergy gathering. On Monday I leave for Denver to pay a visit to our seminarians studying there, and then on May 11th, I leave for a the first week in a series of nine weeks of study in giving Spiritual Direction. So please pray for my sanity (which is always a concern), for my parish as I will be away from it alot in the next couple of weeks, for the men discerning a vocation, and for safe travel.

Homily: 5th Sunday of Easter

“You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. This has been a significant week for us as Catholics in the United States. Our Shepherd, Pope Benedict XVI, has come to our country to bring to us the message of Christ, who as today’s Gospel says, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; the only way for us to reach the Father and His kingdom in Heaven. Truly, as the Holy Father has repeated over and over this week, Christ is our Hope, it is He who can give us the hope of eternal life.

2. The Holy Father has also, on a number of occasions during his time in the United States, called upon all Catholics, and especially the laity, to be a “leaven in society.” In speaking to the Bishops of the United States the Holy Father called upon the Bishops to work toward “the gradual opening of the minds and hearts of the wider community to moral truth.” He went on to say that “Crucial in this regard is the role of the lay faithful to act as a ‘leaven’ in society.” This call is based in part upon the fact that all members of the Church are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own.” Because of this status we are called to “announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Flowing from our status as God’s Children, as His people, as sharers in His Holy Priesthood we are given the mission and the mandate of “announcing the praises” of Jesus among our fellow people; to be a “leaven in society.”

3. Many of us have had the experience of making bread from scratch and so we naturally understand what leaven, or yeast, does to the dough. It causes it to rise, it causes it to grow and spread. This is what we are called to do in society, we are called to spread the faith among those around us so that faith and hope in Jesus will cause society to rise toward heaven, it will cause the faith to spread and grow throughout the world. As the Second Vatican Council pointed out, it is the duty of all of the faithful, not just priests or religious, to carry this out. In fact, the spreading of the gospel throughout society is primarily the duty of the laity, because you can do it in a way that I as a priest could never do. The fact of the matter is that when a priest walks into a room it gets quiet, when a priest sits down at a table it puts a damper on the conversation – something that probably wouldn’t happen when most of you do these same things. You, as laity, are in a better position to evangelize your friends and coworkers than I am. As Pope John Paul said when he visited our country in 1987 “Primarily through her laity, the Church is in a position to exercise great influence upon American Culture.”

4. In the mind of the Church, it is the duty of priests to form the faithful, to teach the people entrusted to his care the truths of the faith so that they in turn can share it with those around them – to evangelize their family, their friends, their co-workers, and thus be a “leaven in society.” For too long society has been changing the Church, when if fact it should be the other way around. The Church is called to change society, to be a leaven within it, causing it to rise heavenward.

5. But lets be honest, the fact of the matter is that most Catholics are hesitant to speak up and share their faith, even with some of their closest friends. As Bishop Robert Carlson, the Bishop of Saginaw and our former Bishop, recently said in his Pastoral Letter on Evangelization “When we find a good restaurant we want to share it with our friends, and we do. When we hear a good song we want to share it with our friends, and we do. When we see a good movie or read a good book or find a good recipe we want to share it with our friends, and we do. The good diffuses itself. The good wants to be shared, and anyone who resists the desire to share it is rightly called selfish.” He goes on to say “It’s a curious fact about many Catholics, however, that there is one good thing what we are reluctant to share: the good news of faith in Jesus Christ. For one reason or another, our culture tells us that it is selfish to keep good things to ourselves, but rude to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And, for one reason or another, we have grown comfortable with this double standard. We have believed what our culture has told us.”

6. My dear parish family, it is time for us to step up to the plate and begin to play ball. It’s time for us to be a “leaven in society.” It is time for us to change society instead of it changing us.

7. But how? That is a good question. The first and most important step is for us to become friends with Christ our hope. We, if we want to change society, must begin by changing ourselves. We cannot share a faith that we do not have. So we must begin by deepening our relationship with Jesus. We do this primarily through prayer. Prayer, especially prayer in the presence of Jesus present in the tabernacle, is where we meet the risen Lord and grow in our friendship with Him. “Oh, but Father, I don’t have time to pray,” you might be thinking. Horse feathers! Every Catholic has time to pray. We have time to watch sports on TV, we have time to drive all over the country side to go hunting or fishing, we have time to go to sporting events and to go shopping, we have time to sit at the bar and shoot the breeze, but we don’t have time to pray? Yes, we have a lot of very good things to do, but we have nothing better to do than to spend time with Jesus in prayer.

8. I think a great way to move closer to our Lord would be to commit ourselves to a few things, that even with our busy schedules, we should be able to fit into our day. First, we need to come to Mass every Sunday without fail, and maybe even try to get to daily Mass once in a while too. Daily Mass can be a great help in our growth in holiness because the more we feed on the body and blood of Jesus the more strength we will have to fight against sin. Second, we should frequent the Sacrament of Penance. When people ask me how often they should confess I tell them that if they are serious about growing in holiness, and I assume all of us are, that they should go to confession at least once a month. The more frequently we are able to receive the forgiveness and strength that comes from the Sacrament the easier it will be to grow. As Pope Benedict said in his homily on Thursday “to a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America and throughout the world depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that sacrament both inspires and accomplishes.” Third, we should spend a few minutes every day slowly reading the New Testament, particularly the Gospels. This will help us to know Jesus through reading and interiorizing what he did and said. Fourth, we should pray the Holy Rosary or at least part of it every day. Our Blessed Mother always leads us to her Divine Son, and spending time with her will certainly help us to grow in friendship with Jesus. A perfect time for this devotion is while we are driving. I know that many of us commute to work every day and that can be a perfect opportunity to pray the rosary.

9. These few things, if we make the effort to do them consistently can change our lives and help us to know Jesus, to become so close to Him that we could honestly say that He is our best friend. By knowing Christ, by being His best friend, by possessing this great good we will want to share it with others, we will want to share the good we have with those around us. When we do this we will truly be living out our vocation to “announce the praises” of God; to be a “leaven in society” and thus change it from within into a civilization of love and peace where all people live in hope, for all will know and love Christ who is our only hope.

Jesus, risen from the tomb, have mercy on us.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, star of the new evangelization, pray for us.
St. Rose, pray for us.

Homily: 4th Sunday of Easter

The Shepherd “walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.”

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
1. On my recent trip to the Holy Land one of the things that was a common sight as we were traveling through the rolling hills surrounding Jerusalem was the sight of shepherds and their sheep. To a large extent the shepherds of Israel that live in the hill country still lead the same life they did at the time of Jesus. They literally live with the sheep, they lead them through the hills to verdant pastures, they lead them to water, they protect them from predators, and they lead them to shelter when night falls.

2. I find it amazing that in today’s Gospel reading our Blessed Lord was able to draw on something so familiar and so common with those who were listening to Him in order to explain them His relationship with the Church He would found, and the role of the leaders of that Church in relation to the members of the Church.

3. There is one particular image that Jesus uses in this Gospel that I would like to expound on and relate to our current situation in the Church and in the world.

4. During the time of Jesus, and indeed still today, when night falls in the fields the shepherds gather their individual flocks in to one large sheepfold and then the shepherds take turns keeping guard while the rest would sleep. In the morning all the shepherds return and enter the sheepfold and call out to their sheep, and the sheep recognize the voice of their particular shepherd and they follow him out to green pastures. Jesus draws upon this image in order to teach us the importance of being able to recognize the voice of the Shepherd, the voice of Christ among all the various voices that we hear every day.

Mary 5. We all know from experience that there are so many voices out there telling us what to do and how to think. All we have to do is turn on the TV and the talking heads and spin doctors are blabbering on about this and that. Interspersed with them there are an endless stream of commercials trying to convince us to buy this or go to that or to vote for this person. When we turn on the radio, we hear even more voices. We drive down the highway and there are billboards inviting us to visit various places of business or to go to some event. Everywhere we turn there are voices, all trying to lead us somewhere, but not all are the voice of the Good Shepherd, not all are the voice of Christ, and sometime it is hard to tell which one is which.

6. Even within the Christian community there are many voices all claiming to be the voice of Christ. Take for instance the issue of Abortion. There are many church communities that will say abortion is morally acceptable, there are some who will say it acceptable is certain situations, there are some who even actively promote its use, and then there are those who say it is wrong in each and every circumstance no matter what. Now lets be honest; they can’t all be right. Either it is Christian to be apposed to abortion, or it is not…it can’t be both. So, which one is the voice of Christ? How do we distinguish His voice from all the others? It’s a tough question, but believe it or not, it has an easy answer.

7. Jesus, being reasonable and realistic, knew that at times it would be hard for us to know His voice and so He provided for us sure guides. He provided us with living, breathing shepherds to guide His flock on His behalf. He also provided that those shepherds would be given the constant and never failing guidance of the Holy Spirit so that they would always speak the voice of Christ to us in matters of faith and morals. Who are these shepherds? Who are these people who have the gift of speaking with the very voice and words of the Good Shepherd? They are the Pope and the Bishops who are united to him. The Pope and Bishops, and only the Pope and Bishops have been entrusted with the unique gift of speaking with the very words and authority of Christ. The buck stops with them. They have the final word on all matters of faith and morals, and we know from Sacred Scripture that the final word spoken by the Pope and the Bishops in union with Him are inspired by the Holy Spirit and because of that, their final word on matters of faith and morals cannot be wrong.

8. So there you have it, a sure guide for distinguishing one voice from another. We know that the voices that speak words that match the voice of our Shepherd, the Pope, are from the Lord, and those that do not, are from the evil one. As Jesus Himself said, they are “thieves and robbers.” As St. Josemaria Escriva said “Christ has given His Church sureness in doctrine and a fountain of grace in the sacraments. He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way.”

9. You know, some will say that this sort of belief is oppressive, and that it is a way that the Church uses to keep tight control over people, a way that keeps Catholics from thinking for themselves, but if we look at it honestly, we see that it is a great act of Love from Christ. He loved us so much that He didn’t want to leave us without a guide; He didn’t want to leave us without someone to keep us on the straight and narrow way that leads to life.

10. The other evening I was watching a little TV and I came across a program about a man who is dying of cancer. This man has three small children, and as became abundantly clear, are the apple of his eye. He said that his greatest suffering is not the pain of the cancer or the knowledge that he is going to die, but rather, that he will not be around to keep his children on the straight and narrow, that he won’t be able to be a guide for them. I think that would be on the mind of any father who has young children and is nearing death.

11. Wouldn’t it be great if this father could somehow give someone his thoughts and his voice to speak to his children, to guide them, to keep them on the straight and narrow? Well Jesus, in his love for us actually provided for this in the person of the Pope and the Bishops united to Him. They, as the shepherds of the Church guide us and keeps us on the straight and narrow way that leads to life.

12. We, as citizens of the United States are being given a great gift this coming week. Our Shepherd, the man who speaks with the voice and authority of Jesus the Good Shepherd, is coming to speak to us, to teach us, to guide us on the path of life. Our Shepherd is coming. I hope we are listening. I hope we have ears to hear His message, a message in which he will bring us “Christ our Hope.” The Holy Father, in a video message to the United States earlier this week, said that he “…shall come to United States of America as Pope for the first time, to proclaim this great truth: Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture and social condition. Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us. Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father.”

13. I encourage all of us to watch as much coverage of his visit as we can. But beware… there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing. We all know the media is rather anti-Catholic, and many will take every opportunity to distort the words of the Holy Father. I recommend watching EWTN’s coverage which certainly will provide good coverage and commentary that is faithful to the Holy Father and the message he seeks to bring us.

14. I encourage all of us to listen to his homilies and speeches as well as watch his actions. Pope Benedict, in a particular way, has a great gift for teaching not only with his words, but also with his actions, by how he celebrates the Holy Mass, by what kind of vestments he wears, by his very demeanor. So we need to open our eyes as well as our ears so that we can learn from our shepherd the way that Christ marks out for us. With our shepherd, Pope Benedict in the lead, let us all turn toward the Lord and make our way to heaven our eternal destiny: the eternal verdant pasture where there are restful waters and joy beyond compare.