Saturday, May 24, 2008
Please pray for me, and the parishioners of St. Joseph the Workman and St. Rose of Lima, as I take on this new assignment.
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.
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
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
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.