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.