Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Back in the Saddle

After an eventful break (more on those events in a moment) I am back in the academic saddle. I arrived back at the Liturgical Institute on Sunday night and classes began promptly on Monday morning. This quarter (yes, the dreaded quarter system!) I am taking three classes for a total of 12 credit hours. The classes, are as follows: History of Christian Thought II, Sacramental Thought and Practice in the 20th Century, and Sacramentals, Blessings and Devotions. Maybe in a subsequent post I will give a brief overview of what each of the classes will cover.

Also, Fr. S. (who writes a lovely blog) is visiting, which makes for alot of fun times and good food (yeah, just what I need - more food).

My time home was very eventful. There seem to be two higlights which overshadowed my entire time back home - one happy, and one very sad. The happy event was a visit to St. Joseph's Cathedral in Sioux Falls, SD. This would not have been so exciting were it not being restored. I climbed the scaffold all the way to the ceiling to see the work that the artisans are doing. It will be truly magnificent when it is finished. You can find more information, complete with drawings, photos, and videos here.

The sad event was the death of a very dear friend in a horrible car accident. Jerry was 34 years old and would have been married 4 years only a few days after he died. He had a beautiful wife and two small children. Jerry was a very faithful, prayerful and virtuous man who will be missed by many, many people. I concelebrated his funeral along with five other priests. The Church, chapel, and part of the gym were packed for the funeral (nearly 700 people), which is a testament to the people he had influenced during his short life on earth. May he rest in peace.

But now, I am back, saddling up the old academic horse for round two in an eight round adventure.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Road

“The road to success is always under construction”

-Lily Tomlin

Apparently, so is the road to South Dakota.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Exams and Papers

As most of you know, I am currently studying at the Liturgical Institute. Today marks the end of my first quarter and the day when papers are due and exams are taken. So, as you read this, I am probably feeling a bit ragged. So please pray for this poor priest.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Confession: Letting the Lord Draw Us Close

. . . Like the 72 disciples sent out by the Lord, he [the Bishop] must be one who brings healing, who helps to heal man's inner wound, a person's distance from God. The first and essential good which man needs is closeness to God himself. The Kingdom of God of which the Gospel passage speaks today is not something "next to" God, not some worldly condition: it is simply the presence of God himself, which is the truly healing force.

Here the Holy Father, in his homily for the Ordination of Bishops, reminds us of something that is essential to every person’s spiritual health – our closeness to God. Pope Benedict says that it is closeness to God that is our first and essential good. In other words, it’s what’s best for us. To be near God, in fact to be taken up into the great mystery of the Holy Trinity in heaven is the goal of our lives. Yet we are wounded with the wound of sin which distances us from God. It is the Bishop, and the priests who are extensions of his ministry, who bring healing to this wound and restore closeness with God.

This is why the Sacrament of Penance is so important. In that Sacrament the wounds of sin are healed and we once again, like the prodigal son, find ourselves in the house of our loving Father. How long has it been since your last confession? A month? A year? Five years? However long it has been, the Lord is calling to you…He desires to heal your wounds, He desires to draw you close.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Widget

I just added a new widget on the right hand side near the bottom. It will show where the most recent vistors to White Around the Collar are from. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bearers of the Good News

Continuing our commentary on the Holy Father’s homily at the Ordination of Bishops we now move on to another sentence that is pregnant with meaning. He says that the Bishop, and by extension the priest, and even every lay person

“must bring to the poor the Good News, the true freedom and hope that gives
life to human beings, and heal them. “

How do we define the poor? Is the Holy Father speaking here only of those who are materially poor? It seems to me that included in the word “poor” are all those who suffer from want of any kind – material social, spiritual, moral, and psychological want, to name a few. It is to all of these that we are called to bring the Good News.

And what is this Good News? In this context it is the Good News that Jesus has come, and still comes in the Sacraments, to bring us true freedom – the freedom that comes from choosing Christ and His teachings – and hope – the hope that allows us to see beyond our current situation to joy that awaits us in heaven.

Not only are we to bring them the Good News of true freedom and hope, but also we are to bring them healing. This applies in a special way to bishops and priests who are spiritual physicians – doctors of the soul. They are men who are given the particular gift of being instruments of divine healing in the Sacrament of Penance and in the Anointing of the Sick.

What a great call we have been given. Whether we are a bishop, priest, or layperson we are called to be ambassadors for Christ, bringing His Good News to all around us, and that, my friends, is no small thing.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Living on the Holy Spirit

On September 12, 2009 our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, ordained five new Bishops in St. Peter’s Basilica. Recently I was reading the homily that he gave on the occasion and found it to be a wonderful reflection upon the ministry of Bishops, and by extension, the ministry of priests. We who are priests are co-workers with the Bishops, and so what is said of the ministry of Bishops in many ways can also apply to the ministry of priests, and sometimes, it even carries over to the lives of all God’s people, to all who in virtue of their Baptism are part of the priesthood of all believers (which, I might add, is essentially different than the ministerial priesthood). That being the case, I thought it might be good to share some quotations from the Holy Father’s homily and make some comments on it. The Holy Father said:

"The man consecrated must be filled with and live on the Spirit of God."

In Baptism, you and I were consecrated to God. And as the Holy Father says, those who are consecrated must be filled with the Spirit of God. We must live on His Holy Spirit. I think we can all agree that this is a nice statement that rings true, but more than just being a nice statement, it is a challenge for our lives. This short sentence makes me a few question of myself. Am I filled with the Spirit of God? How do I know if I am filled with the Spirit of God? Do I live on the Spirit of God?

Jesus said that we would know a tree by its fruit. We also read in St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians that the “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” We know that we are filled with the Holy Spirit to the extent that these fruits are active in our lives. I can only speak for myself, and when I look at that list and compare it to my life . . . well . . . I think I need to spend a little more time opening myself to the Holy Spirit in prayer.

Pope Benedict also says that we must “live on the Spirit of God.” In other words, the Spirit of God must be what sustains us. It must we what makes us strong. Again, I look at my life and see so much weakness, so many times where I fall, so many times that I do not persevere. Could it be that I am not living on the Holy Spirit? Could it be that I am living on things which do not strengthen me. Could it be that I am living on spiritual junk food? Could it be that I am not taking the time to receive the food that will strengthen me (The Holy Spirit) in prayer? Another challenge – another place to grow in my call as someone consecrated to God in Baptism and, in my case, in Ordination.

It’s amazing that just one sentence from the Holy Father can lead us to reflect upon our situations and challenge us to grow. We will continue with the Holy Father’s homily soon. Until then, let us pray for one another.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Saintly Advise

The second reading from Matins (The Office of Readings) for today, the memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, is a gem. It contains one of the greatest pieces of advise for those seeking holiness that has ever come forth from the mouth of a preacher. St. Charles says:

Would you like me to teach you how to grow from virtue to virtue and how, if you are already recollected at prayer, you can be even more attentive next time, and so give God more pleasing worship? Listen, and I will tell you. If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out. Keep the stove tightly shut so that it will not lose its heat and grow cold. In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can. Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter.
This piece of advise is good for everyone, whether priest or laity. We need to protect the spark of God’s love within us by guarding our senses. As you know, there is so much in our world today that threatens to blow out the spark of God’s love in our souls.

St. Charles, in the same reading, offers some challenging words to priests. To them he says:

Another priest complains that as soon as he comes into church to pray the office or to celebrate Mass, a thousand thoughts fill his mind and distract him from God. But what was he doing in the sacristy before he came out for the office or for Mass? How did he prepare? What means did he use to collect his thoughts and to remain recollected? . . . Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head . . . Are you in charge of a parish? If so, do not neglect the parish of your own soul, do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself. You have to be mindful of your people without becoming forgetful of yourself. My brothers, you must realise that for us churchmen nothing is more necessary than meditation. We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: I will pray, and then I will understand. When you administer the sacraments, meditate on what you are doing. When you celebrate Mass, reflect on the sacrifice you are offering. When you pray the office, think about the words you are saying and the Lord to whom you are speaking. When you take care of your people, meditate on how the Lord’s blood that has washed them clean so that all that you do becomes a work of love.

These are challenging words for me and my brother priests. Pray that we will be open to the challenge of living the life to which we have been called.

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Souls Day

Today we celebrate All Souls Day. When I was a child in Catholic School it was (erroneously) explained to us that All Souls Day was like a feast day for all those people who are in heaven but aren’t canonized saints. Thus, with that explanation, the day took on a festive tone. This is NOT what this feast day is about.

All Souls Day is about praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory who are still being purified before entering Heaven. Therefore it is not a feast of celebration, rather one of penance. This is why the Church encourages that black or violet vestments be worn on this day. The Church, in her great wisdom, provides this yearly reminder to pray for the dead. The Church also enriches this day with indulgences that gain be gained on behalf of those who have died. The following is from the Manual of Indulgences:

A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who (1) on any and each day from November 1 to 8, devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the departed; (2) on All Souls Day, devoutly visit a church or an oratory and recite an Our Father and the Creed.
Remember, that the usual conditions for gaining and Indulgence apply, namely that you must carry out the work(s) with the general intention of gaining the indulgence, be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin, have been to confession (you can go to confession several days before or after the work is carried out), go to Holy Communion, and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father (you must receive Holy Communion and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father for each indulgence that you wish to gain).

So, for the sake of your loved ones in Purgatory, gain these indulgences for them! They surely will appreciate it and pray for you when they reach heaven.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints Day

Today for Mass on the Solemnity of All Saints I went to Marytown, which is right next door to the University of St. Mary of the Lake and The Liturgical Institute. I know that if I go there I will not have to endure mediocre Liturgies, but rather a reverent celebration of the Mystery of our Faith. As we were gathered around the Altar of Sacrifice and the Celebrant was chanting the preface I was struck by its beauty. It goes like this:

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
We do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.

Today we keep the festival of your holy city,
the heavenly Jerusalem, our mother.
Around your throne
The saints, our brothers and sisters,
sing your praise for ever.
Their glory fills us with joy,
and their communion with us in your
Church gives us inspiration and strength
as we hasten on our pilgrimage of faith,
eager to meet them.

With their great company and all the
angels we praise your glory
as we cry out with one voice:

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis.
There were a few things that struck me as this preface was sung. First, the image of the heavenly Jerusalem, our Mother. Indeed, we are sons and daughters of the Heavenly Jerusalem. It, and only it, is our true home. As we celebrate all Saints Day our hearts should burn with longing for our heavenly home. Our hearts should burn with longing to join our elder brothers and sisters, the Saints, in God’s Glory.

Second, it is this very image as the Saints as our brothers and sisters that struck me. Whenever I baptize and infant I will usually explain why we have a litany of the Saints in the Rite of Baptism, especially if there are protestants present. My explanation revolves around the fact that the Saints are our brothers and sisters, and just like our natural brothers and sisters who may have died, we are still connected with them. Just because a member of our natural family dies doesn’t mean they are no longer part of the family. They are still connected to us, they are still part of the family. The same is true of the members of God’s family. We have elder brothers and sisters in the faith who have gone before us, and they are still connected to us. From their place in heaven they pray for us.

This solemnity is a great reminder of the destiny to which we are called. Whether we make it there is our choice. So, let us do all we can to cooperate with God’s grace, so that one day, we too will join that great company of Saints who sing God’s praise around His throne for all eternity.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Now That's a Down to Earth Bishop (Elect)

When Bishop-Elect Paul D. Etienne was asked what it was like to recieve the phone call informing him that Pope Benedict XVI had named him bishop of Cheyenne he said:

Well, it was bizarre. I don’t know what else to say. Archbishop Sambi called the office at the parish and it was my day off. We had to play phone tag. I was up at the [family] farm with a chain saw, working in the woods. And, when he called, I was just getting out of my pickup truck.

I was in my Carhart jeans and in my work boots, and had nothing to take notes with. I was just sitting there in my truck listening to him tell me that I’ve just been named [a] bishop. And he had to say ‘Cheyenne’ four times before I could understand what he was saying.

I still just can hardly believe it. It’s a very unusual experience. What can I say?

Read the whole interview and get the rest of the story, like how hard it was to keep it a secret, by clicking here.

A Nun's Story?

A recent op-ed piece in the New York Times by Maureen Dowd criticized, rather rudely I might add, the visitation of American Convents. What she wrote has led many to ask why we need this visitation. I mean really, what could nuns be up to that would make the Holy See want to look into what is happening at American Convents?

Well, one example might be something I recently found in a parish filing cabinet (I won't say which parish) in the file entitled RCIA (God save us!). I found three volumes of a series entitled "Woman's Song" published by (again, God save us!) the National Religious Vocation Confrence. It has all manner of strange sprituality and feminist propaganda filling its pages, including this little ditty:

Praise our Goddess in Her Universe
Praise Her in the Womb of Her Birthing
Praise Her for nurturing deeds
Praise Her with harmony and melody
Praise Her with dance and song
Praise her with strings and pipe
Praise Her with Sounding cymbals
Praise Her with dancing children
let everthing that has breath
Praise our Goddess in Her Universe
-Lucy Edelbeck, O.P.

That, dear friends, is why the good sisters need to be visited.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Spiritual Warfare

Recently I was talking to someone who was very troubled by the current moral and spiritual situation in the world. As politicians seem to be allowing, and in some cases openly promoting, immorality, many people are losing hope. In some way, I think we can all identify with this persons fears and concerns. Then, I came across a touching and encouraging passage from St. Faustina’s Diary on a blog I read regularly, so I thought I might share it with you.

In this passage, St. Faustina is recounting words spoken to her by our Lord. He said

“My daughter, I want to teach you about spiritual warfare. Never trust in yourself, but abandon yourself totally to My will…Do not bargain with any temptation; lock yourself immediately in My Heart and, at the first opportunity, reveal the temptation to the confessor. Put your self-love in the last place, so that it does not taint your deeds. Bear with yourself with great patience. Do not neglect interior mortifications… Shun murmurers like a plague. Let all act as they like; you are to act as I want you to.

…If someone causes you trouble, think what good you can do for the person who caused you to suffer. Do not pour out your feelings. Be silent when you are rebuked. Do not ask everyone’s opinion, but only the opinion of your confessor; be as frank and simple as a child with him. Do not become discouraged by ingratitude. Do not examine with curiosity the roads down which I lead you. When boredom and discouragement beat against your heart, run away from yourself and hide in My heart. Do not fear struggle; courage itself often intimidates temptations, and they dare not attack us.

Always fight with the deep conviction that I am with you. Do not be guided by feeling, because it is not always under your control; but all merit lies in the will… I will not delude you with prospects of peace and consolations; on the contrary, prepare for great battles. Know that you are now on a great stage where all heaven and earth are watching you. Fight like a knight, so that I can reward you. Do not be unduly fearful, because you are not alone. —Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul, n. 1760 (emphasis added)

I encourage you to take this passage to prayer and let the Lord stir up in your heart courage and a spirit of fearlessness so that we can fight the good fight and never give up.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

If St. John Vianney Were A Pastor Today...

Incorrupt body of St. John Vianney

Here is a wonderful quote from a letter by Bishop Robert Vasa:

"It comes as no surprise to any pastor that St. John Vianney was severely abused and derided because he called his people to chastity when debauchery was the norm, to sobriety when drunkenness was rampant, to holiness when secularity was much more popular. Because he loved, however, he did not cease to challenge sinfulness and call his people to repentance. He did this at great personal cost because of his determined love for souls. I strongly suspect that if St. John Vianney himself were in many of our American parishes there would be an abundance of letters from concerned parishioners about the direction in which he was taking the parish. This in no way implies that letters about priests to chanceries all across this country are not sometimes warranted and it in no way implies that our priests are comparable to St. John Vianney. It does imply that most of us do not respond well when the sinfulness of our own lives is challenged."

Very true indeed. To read the whole article (and I suggest you do) click here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Today is the memorial of St. Clare of Assisi, the holy companion of St. Francis and, with him, the founder of the Poor Clares. This past June I had the privilege of visiting Assisi and praying before the incorrupt body of St. Clare and visit the monastery in which she lived and died. What struck me about it was the absolute poverty in which she and her sisters lived. They embraced voluntary poverty as a way to holiness. Relying upon God for everything, even day to day needs such as food and clothing, they grew in holiness.

When I as in Assisi, I also noticed a small band of Franciscans who took the call to poverty quite literally. All one had to do was observe their way of dress, their bare feet, and their joy to know that these were men who embraced poverty just as St. Francis and Clare did.

Today as I reflect on these things it makes me wonder if I, as a diocesan priest, am called to some form of voluntary poverty. So I turned to Pope Benedict's letter to priests for the Year for priests. The Holy Father hold us up for priests the example of St. John Vianney, and points out the choice this great patron of priests made to live in poverty. This is what the Holy Father said:

It was complete commitment to this “new style of life” which marked the priestly ministry of the CurĂ© of Ars. Pope John XXIII, in his Encyclical Letter Sacerdotii nostri primordia, published in 1959 on the first centenary of the death of Saint John Mary Vianney, presented his asceticism with special reference to the “three evangelical counsels” which the Pope considered necessary also for diocesan priests: “even though priests are not bound to embrace these evangelical counsels by virtue of the clerical state, these counsels nonetheless offer them, as they do all the faithful, the surest road to the desired goal of Christian perfection”.[35] The CurĂ© of Ars lived the “evangelical counsels” in a way suited to his priestly state. His poverty was not the poverty of a religious or a monk, but that proper to a priest: while managing much money (since well-to-do pilgrims naturally took an interest in his charitable works), he realized that everything had been donated to his church, his poor, his orphans, the girls of his “Providence”,[36] his families of modest means. Consequently, he “was rich in giving to others and very poor for himself”.[37] As he would explain: “My secret is simple: give everything away; hold nothing back”.[38] When he lacked money, he would say amiably to the poor who knocked at his door: “Today I’m poor just like you, I’m one of you”.[39] At the end of his life, he could say with absolute tranquillity: “I no longer have anything. The good Lord can call me whenever he wants!”.[40]

So what do you think? Would you like to see your priest embrace voluntary poverty in order to more closely follow Jesus, or is that just too much? Let me know in the comments what you think.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bishop Tobin Strikes Again

The following is from an article by The Most Reverend Thomas Tobin, Bishop of Providence published on September 1, 2000. My emphasis and [comments] are added:

During vacation this summer I followed my normal practice of attending Sunday Mass as a “private citizen,” that is, in secular attire, with the congregation, in the pews. Even though I truly cherish the privilege of leading the liturgy as I do almost every Sunday, it is also refreshing once in awhile to be on the other side of the altar. Doing so allows me to avoid the public spotlight, eliminates the pressure of having to prepare a homily, and helps me to return to the ministry relaxed and ready to go. [I'm not so sure how I feel about this. I have no problem with a priest sitting in the pews if at some other time during the day he offers Mass.]

Whenever I join the rank-and-file, it’s amazing how quickly I assume the characteristics of what might be considered the “typical Catholic.” I planned my schedule so I wouldn’t arrive at church too early. I sat toward the back of the church to avoid special involvement. I complained, at least mentally, about the length of the sermon. I was dismayed to learn there would be a second collection —- and yes, I did pry open my wallet to contribute to both! And I was appropriately irritated by the log jam of traffic in the parking lot after Mass.

Forget my need for “full, active and conscious participation.” I was on vacation. I wanted something short, sweet and to the point, just enough to fulfill my Sunday obligation.

These bad habits aside, there were also some more beneficial lessons to be had from sitting in the pews. Doing so created a broader perspective for me and a renewed appreciation for the truly “faithful” who come to Mass Sunday after Sunday. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on the nature of the Church and the function of the liturgy.

As I sat in the Florida church that warm summer evening, I was gratified by the large number of people who took time out of their vacation to attend Mass. While a few were obviously local residents, it was apparent that most of the people in church were visitors from other parts of the country, even other nations. In the congregation were young couples (I imagined them to be on their honeymoon), families with restless kids and sullen teen-agers, college students participating silently, senior citizens, and folks with disabilities for whom it was a real personal sacrifice to attend Mass. But there they were!

Reflecting on the assembly I asked myself: Why do these people come to Mass Sunday after Sunday? What are they looking for? What do they want? What do they need?

I believe, first of all, that people come to Mass on Sunday to be part of the church, part of the Christian community. Please understand that by community here I don’t mean a “hello, my name is ____, what’s yours?” experience, but understanding something far more profound, an ecclesial community. Sometimes in the practice of liturgy we confuse the two.

The last time I attended Mass on vacation, the priest began by announcing: “As we begin today, folks, let’s take a few minutes to get acquainted with the people around you. Tell your neighbor your name, where you’re from, and what you do for a living.” And so the congregation sat down for this banal banter while the priest assumed his talk-show host persona and worked the middle aisle greeting people. Please . . . that’s not community; that’s a cocktail party! [Amen! This practice, which seems to be very common, is very annoying to me. It sets a tone for the Holy Sacrifice which is casual, noisy, and just plain not in keeping with the sobriety of what we are entering into. It reminds me of a story told about St. Pio. He was once asked how we should prepare for Mass. He responded by saying something like "we should prepare for Mass the way we would prepare to be at the foot of the Cross." Glad-handing, joking, and this sort of foolishness is no way to prepare for the terrible and awesome reality of Calvary.]

People want to belong to a Church community to be with and pray with other people who share their faith, their moral values, their liturgical practice. They want spiritual companions who will break bread with them and accompany them on their life’s journey. Ecclesial community doesn’t depend on personal, intimate knowledge of others, but on shared vision and values. As a member of the Church I am in community with people I’ll never know, never meet. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, nonetheless.

Secondly, it seems to me that people come to Mass on Sunday because they long to hear the Word of God preached with conviction and enthusiasm. They want homilies that are doctrinally sound, personally prepared and relevant to contemporary life.

It is a frequent complaint that our preaching has lost its spark, its zeal, that it has become too bland, cerebral and generic. Good preaching, on the other hand, needs to be clear, direct and simple. People seek moral guidance and want to learn the tenets of our Faith. They want to hear about the Ten Commandments, justice and peace, human life and family relationships, final judgment and eternal salvation.

In short, the faithful want preachers to preach as Jesus did, with power and conviction, challenging people, not avoiding difficult issues. People should leave Sunday Mass motivated to live the Gospel throughout the week, but confident they possess the spiritual means to do so.

Thirdly, Catholics come to Mass on Sunday because they want to receive the Eucharist. This is a foundational element of Catholic life.
Although national surveys have suggested that some Catholics lack proper understanding about the manner of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, I’m convinced that most practicing Catholics have a core belief that the Eucharist is really the Body of Christ. This “holy communion” is extremely important for them. Most members of the Church, while being unable perhaps to articulate the exact theology, know that the Mass is related to the Last Supper of Holy Thursday as well as the Cross of Good Friday.

It’s true that our celebration and reception of the Eucharist is far too casual at times. [Amen!] It’s true that we’ve tended to neglect the wonderful presence of Christ in the tabernacles of our churches. [You got that right!] But I don’t think our carelessness is a crisis of faith as much as a manifestation of our normal human nature. After all, we take many of our best gifts for granted all the time. Catholics believe in the Eucharist and fully realize how important it is for their spiritual lives. That’s one of the reasons they keep coming to Mass.

Finally, I believe Catholics come to Mass to find sanctuary from the turmoil of daily existence. Our lives are active, busy and noisy — but empty. We come to Mass to be refreshed, to find peace quiet and fulfillment. Catholics come to church on Sundays to pray not party, to converse with God, not chit-chat with their neighbors.

The church is, or should be, a true sanctuary. I’m convinced that some semblance of sacred silence is crucial, even when the community gathers together. I’m troubled that some of our churches have a free-for-all before Mass, with loud and distracting conversations and laughter, making it nearly impossible for people to pray, to be recollected before they enter into the presence of the holy. [I know a priest who shall remain nameless, who once, while hearing confessions, could hear the laughter and loud chatter from the Church in the confessional. He opened the door of the confessional and chastized the people by saying it "sounded like a sale barn" in there. Needless to say, the were quiet after that.]

The recently revised “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” makes the same point: “Even before the celebration itself, it is praiseworthy for silence to be observed in church, in the sacristy and adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves for the sacred rites which are to be enacted in a devout and fitting manner.” (#56)

People have enough, indeed, far too much, noise in their lives and the pilgrimage to church on Sundays should be peaceful, restful and refreshing. Churches should be a spiritual oasis in the midst of our secular desert.

So, authentic community, effective preaching, the Eucharist, and sanctuary — these are the things Catholics are seeking when they come to Mass on Sunday. It’s what they need for a faithful living-out of their Christian vocation. It’s what the Church should give them.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Happy Feast Day of St. John Vianney

Today is the 150th anniversary of the entrance into eternal life of St. John Vianney. St. John Vianney is the patron saint of priests, so today offer a little prayer for all the priests who you have encountered in your life; the priest who baptized you, who heard your first confession, who gave you your first Holy Communion, who witnessed your marriage. And if you really want to make a priest's day, give him a call to wish him a happy feast day and thank him for saying yes to God's call to the priesthood.

Also, during this Year for Priests you can gain a plenary indulgence on this day. For more information you can click on the title to this post or here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Alot of Hot Air...

This made me laugh out loud:

In a type of mock ceremony that's now been performed in at least four states, a robed "priest" used a hairdryer marked "reason" in an apparent bid to blow away the waters of baptism once and for all. Several dozen participants then fed on a "de-sacrament" (crackers with peanut butter) and received certificates assuring they had "freely renounced a previous mistake, and accepted Reason over Superstition."

Who Would Have Thought...

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What's really cool, is that I have visited Our Lady of Spring Bank Abbey a number of times. They are men who are truly striving for holiness. One of the monks runs a blog called Sub Tuum. It's worth a look.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bishop of the Moon?

“There's a story here in Baltimore about our beloved Archbishop-emeritus-emeritus, William D. Borders. He was ordained bishop in 1968 and made the first Bishop of Orlando, Florida. The new diocese encompassed central Florida and included Cape Canaveral, from where, the following year, Apollo 11 launched, bound for the moon. After that historic launch and lunar landing, with all the images of our astronauts walking, golfing, and planting the flag, Borders made an ad limina visit to Rome to meet with Paul VI. During their meeting, Borders rather nonchalantly observed, "You know, Holy Father, I am the bishop of the Moon." Pope Paul looked at him rather perplexed - probably wondering where along the line this American prelate lost his mind. Borders then continued by explaining that by the existing (1917) Code of Canon Law, he was the de facto ordinary of this "newly discovered" territory.

Archbishop Borders is 96 years old now, and he is still a beloved part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. I hope he is as beloved in his former diocese - and on the moon.”

Biretta tip to Jesus Goes to Disney World.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Now I'm not normally a fan of Thomas Merton, but in the current edition of First Things there appears a letter that Thomas Merton wrote to an sixth grader in 1967. It's rather delightful and worthy of sharing, so here it is:

Thanks for your nice letter. You want "any information whatsoever" to help the sixth grade in the study of monasticism. Well, I'll see if I can get the brothers down in the store to send you a little book about the monastery here. That ought to help.

The monastic life goes back a long way. Monks are people who seek to devote all their time to knowing God better and loving Him more. For that reason they leave the cities and go out into lonely places where it is quiet and they can think. As they go on in life they want to find lonelier and lonelier places so they can think even more. In the end people think these monks are really crazy going off by themselves and of course sometimes they are. On the other hand when you are quiet and when you are free from a lot of cares, then you don't make enough money to pay taxes, and don't have a wife to fight with, and when your heart is quiet, you suddenly realize that everything is extremely beautiful and that just by being quiet you can almost sense that God is right there not only with you but even in you. Then you realize that it is worth the trouble of going away where you don't have to talk and mess around and make a darn fool of yourself in the middle of a lot of people who are running around in circles to no purpose. I suppose that is why monks go off and live in lonely places. Like me now I live alone in the woods with squirrels and rabbits and deer and foxes and a huge owl that comes down by my cabin and makes a spooky noise in the night, but we are friends and it is all ok. A monk who lives all by himself in the woods is called a hermit. There is a Rock 'n' Roll outfit called Herman and his Hermits but they are no the same thing.

I do not suppose for a moment that you wish to become a hermit (thought now I understand there are some girl hermits in England and they are sort of friends of mine because they are hermits, so I send them stuff about how to be a hermit). But anyway, I suggest that you sometimes be quiet and think about how good a thing it is that you are loved by God is is infinite and who wants you to be supremely happy. Isn't that something? It is, my dear, and let us keep praying that it will work out like that fore everybody. Good bye now.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What I Am Doing

Well folks, it's been awhile, and some of you might be wondering where I have been and what I have been doing, so it's time for a little update.

As of July 1 my assignment has changed from being pastor of one parish, pastoral administrator of another, and associate vocation director to further studies in the area of liturgy. In the fall I will begin studies toward an STL (Sacred Theology License) at the Liturgical Institute in Mundelein, IL. It was a great surprise (that's an understatement) and a great honor to be asked by my Bishop to do this. In the meantime - right now - I am in residence at my home parish, St. Lawrence, and providing weekend coverage for a number of small parishes. Below is a picture of my home parish church and school/parish center, which by the way, was just recently paid off. This makes the pastor very happy.

During these months between my last assignment and my next I am doing my best to prepare myself by studying my Latin and Italian. Why Italian? Well, I need to be able to read another modern language, so I decided Italian would be fun. So pray to St. Benedict, St. John Vianney, and St. Joseph of Cupertino that my Latin and Italian studies will go well.

So, as I resuscitate this blog, any ideas on what I might write about? Shall we do an "Ask Fr. Christensen" sort of thing where you can e-mail me your questions? Or shall we do something else? Please let me know what you thing. You can post it either in the comments or you can e-mail me at padredana at gmail dot com.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Happy St. Benedict's Day!

Happy St. Benedict's day! Benedict is my Confirmation name so I consider him my patron, thus this is my feast day, and boy am I going to feast! As many of you know I am currently in transition from one assignment to another. I am no longer at my parishes, and in the fall I will begin working toward an STL (Sacred Theology License) in Liturgy at the Liturgical Institute in Mundelein, IL. Until then I am in residence at my home parish. During this transition time I have a little more time on my hands than normal, so I thought it would be good to resurrect this blog, and I can't think of a better day to do it than St. Benedict's feast day. So consider this blog live. Stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Congratulations Bishop Carlson!

Pope Benedict has named Bishop Robert J. Carlson as the new Archbishop of St. Louis.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Divine Mercy Novena: Day Two

"Today bring to Me the Souls of Priests and Religious, and immerse them in My unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave me strength to endure My bitter Passion. Through them as through channels My mercy flows out upon mankind."

Most Merciful Jesus, from whom comes all that is good, increase Your grace in men and women consecrated to Your service, that they may perform worthy works of mercy; and that all who see them may glorify the Father of Mercy who is in heaven.Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the company of chosen ones in Your vineyard -- upon the souls of priests and religious; and endow them with the strength of Your blessing. For the love of the Heart of Your Son in which they are enfolded, impart to them Your power and light, that they may be able to guide others in the way of salvation and with one voice sing praise to Your boundless mercy for ages without end. Amen.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Divine Mercy Novena: Day One

"Today bring to Me all mankind, especially all sinners, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. In this way you will console Me in the bitter grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me."

Most Merciful Jesus, whose very nature it is to have compassion on us and to forgive us, do not look upon our sins but upon our trust which we place in Your infinite goodness. Receive us all into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart, and never let us escape from It. We beg this of You by Your love which unites You to the Father and the Holy Spirit.Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon all mankind and especially upon poor sinners, all enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion show us Your mercy, that we may praise the omnipotence of Your mercy for ever and ever. Amen.

Chaplet of Divine Mercy:

The Chaplet is prayed on Rosary Beads.

1. Begin with the Sign of the Cross, 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary and The Apostles Creed.
2. Then on the Our Father Beads say the following:Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
3. On the 10 Hail Mary Beads say the following:For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
(Repeat step 2 and 3 for all five decades).
4. Conclude with (three times):Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Welcome to New Readers

Some of you may have heard me on "The Catholic's Next Door" (heard Monday through Friday on The Catholic Channel on Sirius Satellite Radio) talking about my use of Twitter in my ministry. So if you are stopping in because you heard me on the show, welcome!


Pope Benedict, in his message for Lent focused on fasting. He says that “it seems abundantly clear that fasting represents an important ascetical practice, a spiritual arm to do battle against every possible disordered attachment to ourselves. Freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire human person.”

Since fasting is the focus Pope Benedict has chosen for Lent, I thought it might be good to see what St. Benedict has to say on the topic. He addresses the topic in Chapter 41 of the Holy Rule which is entitled “At What Hours the Meals Should be Taken” St Benedict says:

From Pentecost throughout the summer, unless the monks have work in the fields let them fast on Wednesdays and Fridays until the ninth hour; on the other days let them dine at the sixth hour.

From the Ides of September until the beginning of Lent let them always take their dinner at the ninth hour.

In Lent until Easter let them dine in the evening.

In this passage we have described what many religious orders observe as part of their rule. They fast begin their fasting on the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross on the Ides of September and end it at Easter. There would be the lesser fast (the fast from the middle of September until Lent) and the great fast (from the beginning of Lent until Easter).

Fasting traditionally has meant only taking on meal a day, this is the kind of fast that St. Benedict is talking about in this passage from the Holy Rule. The only difference between the lesser fast and the great fast in the Holy Rule is when the meal is taken. During the times of the lesser Fast, the meal is taken at ninth hour (three in the afternoon). During the great fast the meal would be taken in the evening, yet before dark.

The first quotation also shows us that for St. Benedict, fasting is not just for Lent. He also has the monks fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays from Pentecost throughout the summer.

So what does this mean for us, and how might we apply it to our lives? I think that the first thing we can glean from this is that St. Benedict feels that fasting in necessary in that it helps us to grow in holiness through self denial. He knew that monks, like all of us, are in need of training oneself in the fine art of saying no to ourselves, something that fasting teaches us in a hurry.

We also learn that he is of the opinion that fasting should be something not just reserved for Lent, but is something that we can profit from at other times of the year as well, even though it may not be as severe.

If we are ambitious in spiritual matters, and if it is prudent, we might consider only taking one meal every day during Lent. For some of us, like myself, who are more attached to food, this might be quite a struggle, and so we might not want to take on so much. Maybe we could stick to only taking on meal in the evening on Wednesdays and Fridays.

St. Benedict is very balanced and prudent and is always clear that these sorts of things are to always done under the guidance of the Abbot, or the Father of the monastery, and that they should help us to save our souls and the souls of others. We too would be wise to discuss our penances and mortifications with someone who is wiser than us so that we don’t fall into spiritual pride or incur physical harm.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ash Wednesday

The last post stated that it is my hope to take a chapter of a book, a article, or some writings of the Saints and comment upon it, and now it is time to begin.

One of my favorite spiritual works is The Holy Rule of St. Benedict. I grew up with Benedictine Monks from Blue Cloud Abbey as pastors of my parish, and the Monastery was only a few miles away from my home town. This, of course, gave rise to curiosity about what sort of life monks lead. I spent alot of time at the Abbey, including working a few summers there. During that time I came to love the Holy Rule. It is very practical, straightforward, and applicable to the daily life of a priest like myself, or the life of an average layperson. So naturally I would like to share it with you. We won't go through the entire Rule, only some choice selections.

Since tomorrow is the first day of Lent I thought we might turn to Chapter 49: On the Observance of Lent.

Although the life of a monk ought to have about it at all times the character of a Lenten observance, yet since few have the virtue for that, we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent the brethren keep their lives most pure and at the same time wash away during these holy days all the negligences of other times. And this will be worthily done if we restrain ourselves from all vices and give ourselves up to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.

During these days, therefore, let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service, as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink. Thus everyone of his own will may offer God "with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 1:6) something above the measure required of him. From his body, that is, he may withhold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting; and with the joy of spiritual desire he may look forward to holy Easter.

Let each one, however, suggest to his Abbot what it is that he wants to offer, and let it be done with his blessing and approval. For anything done without the permission of the spiritual father will be imputed to presumption and vainglory and will merit no reward. Therefore let everything be done with the Abbot's approval.
There are a number of things here which are applicable to our observance of Lent. I will touch on two of them.

First, St. Benedict counsels the brethren to joyfully offer something above what is required during this holy season. Sometimes it is easy to do only what is required during Lent. We don't break any rules; we fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and we abstain from meat on Fridays. We might even give up candy. But St. Benedict urges us to do more than the bare minimum during Lent as an act of love for God and as a way to "wash away during these holy days all the negligences of other times." For him, and hopefully for us, Lent is a time of greater generosity and courage in the spiritual life than normal.

Second, he encourages a level of accountability regarding our Lenten resolutions. He says that the monk should share with the Abbot, or Father of the monastery, what he intends to do. This does two things, it makes sure that the monk doesn't take on too much, and also to provide some accountability. This would be good advise for us as well. During Lent we want to be generous in our penances and good works, but we also do not want to do so much that it takes us away from the duties of our state in life or cause us to not perform them well. So before taking on our penances and good works we might consider sharing them with another person. Hopefully we will share them with someone wiser than us, who can give us good and honest advise. That person can also keep us honest about our progress.

Both of these things are certainly applicable to monks and nuns, but also to all of us who seek to grow in holiness.

Let us keep each other in prayer during this holy season.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Proposal

After hearing the comments here, on facebook and twitter, and in person, it seems as though this blog is of some use to people. So here is a proposal that I would like some feedback on: I will post most of my homilies in audio format, which you would also be able to download and listen to via itunes. I will also endeavor to post something two or three times a week. I am thinking that it should be something spiritual, along the lines of what Fr. S. is doing at Clerical Reform. His blog is geared more toward priests, but I hope to be a bit more broad than that. Fr. S. usually goes through a chapter of a book, an article, or some writitings of a saint bit by bit and adds his commentary as he goes along.

So what do you think? Does it sound like a good idea to you, or would you like something different? Please let me know in the comments, on twitter, on facebook, or in person.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Anybody Still Out There?

Well, if you haven't already abandoned reading my blog for lack of posts, here is a question for you. What would be most useful to you for me to write about? Current events? Sprituality? Saints? Posted homilies (if you want homilies do you want them in audio or written form)? Anything else?

I think there are so many blogs out there that do a very fine job, and sometimes I think that there is really nothing left for me to say.

You can also follow me on twitter (Padredana) and on facebook (Fr. Christensen).

Let me know your thoughts, and if there is a positive response maybe I will do more writing.