Thursday, August 25, 2016

YOU CAN PLEASE ALL OF THE PEOPLE SOME OF THE TIME . . .

Not too long ago we went from permanent pastorates to term limits in our diocese.  I was on the committee.  One of the points I bought up was that the reason there are two methods (you may have one or the other in a diocese, not one for some and one for others) is that they both come with their own set of problems.  Neither is particularly better than the other.  With one there is a particular set of difficulties and advantages and likewise with the other.  So today we have what we have and while it cleared up a lot of difficulties in the diocese, we are faced with a whole new set.

Many people would like to see a more Protestant form of choosing a pastor: that of a board at any given parish hiring and firing the priest.  Once again, that would mean some great advantages and some disadvantages.  One of the (depending on who you are this is either a dis or an advantage) is this: because a pastor does not have to worry about teaching and preaching about something that pleases a board, he may be more daring.  If a parish has a large percentage of euthanasia proponents, for example, he need not fear for his livelihood preaching that older Americans are people with dignity and rights too and should be treated as such..


Leading a parish, in some ways, is not much different than being the mayor of a town.  There are decisions that you make that you know will leave 10% ecstatic, 10% furious, and most the rest just fine.  Sometimes you weigh popular demand, sometimes you weigh Church teaching, sometimes you guess and you try to remember that the worst thing is not that someone might be angry because if they are angry, they are still invested.


It is an imperfect world and all of our human institutions, even those inspired by God Himself, are imperfect and are incapable of pleasing everybody so you try not to take it seriously when you’ve not pleased everyone.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCLIX

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Honking horns and computer screens and long lines in airplane terminals can make us sick, but the stress of living near saber-toothed cats on the prowl was probably sickening too.  Maybe balancing on the edge between sickness and health is what it is to be alive."  

IN OTHER NEWS:

Monday, August 22, 2016

MONDAY DIARY: ALMOST EXCRUCIATINGLY TRUE STORIES: JUST WHEN YOU THINK EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL

Sebastian (my dog) had a play date the other day with Atticus and Monsignor, the dogs of two other pastors.  (Talk about three pretentious names for a pack of dogs.)  We all got together along with a couple of seminarians for an afternoon.

I needed to lock up the church and so invited the seminarians who had not been in the church before to join me for a little tour.  As we were about to enter the secret tunnel from the rectory to the church (which is neither a secret nor a tunnel) the dogs sat at the door with pathetic looks on their faces.  

Sebastian often goes with me to lock up the church.  At least one time he has caught someone hanging out in a hidey hole and assisted me in escorting the person out of the building before the locks were engaged.  One of the many perks of having a rectory dog.  Atticus too has joined us on the final locking up rounds.  But Monsignor, being just a wee pup has never had the opportunity.  All the same, all three were invited to walk with us on our rounds of the doors of the church.

When we were at the rear of the church, the whole pack was escorted up into the choir loft so I could show them the new organ.
I fired her up and told them that I was going to play a little on it for their entertainment and edification.  But first I wanted to demonstrate what the mighty organ could do and nothing is more powerful and shocking as the Festival Trumpets!

Yep.  We scared the p**p out of the dog. 

And they all got to go back to the party and I stayed in the choir loft to undo the redecorating job performed by Monsignor.  So perhaps there are really good reasons for not letting animals in the church and let that be a lesson to you young priests out there.

Friday, August 19, 2016

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: IS IT ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ OR HOME SWEET HOME?

Say that you are invited over for dinner to somebody’s house: when is the proper time to leave?  Perhaps there are those who, in not really wanting to be there in the first place, try to leave after the main course but before desert thinking they have fulfilled their obligation to “eat dinner.”  There are those who will stay for desert but then skedaddle not staying for postprandials and taking pride in the fact that they stayed for the entirety the request.  There are those who will gladly stay for a digestive and thank their hosts for a wonderful evening. Then there are those who will simply not go home even after the host has put on his pajamas.

Mass is much the same.  Citing pre-Vatican II rubrics there are those who leave after Communion because they have fulfilled the minimal requirements of getting there in time for the Gospel and staying through the reception of Communion.  This is particularly prevalent in parishes that have poor parking lots with minimal exits to busy roads.  There are those who will not stay for the closing song since, “It really isn’t part of the Mass.”  There are those who will stay and offer a prayer of thanks to God for the graces received and perhaps stay for donuts and/or conversation with parishioners.  Then there are those who will not go home.

Ever.

So when does Mass end?  The final rubrics in this part of the GIRM (paragraph 90) say four things make up the concluding rite.  (Note that the Prayer after Communion is not part of this because, as you can tell from the title, it is part of the Communion Rite.  These four points immediately follow.

ONE: With heavy heart I report that the first is “any announcements” but stress the second part states, “should they be necessary.”  And really, how necessary are they?  (I know, I know - get over it.)

TWO: The priest’s greeting (the Lord be with you) followed by the blessing.

THREE: The dismissal, “So that the people may go to continue doing good works, praising and blessing God.”

FOUR:  The reverencing of the altar (when the priest kisses the altar) followed by the profound bow (or genuflection if the Blessed Sacrament is in the sanctuary.)

That’s it.  So technically you have fully participated in the strictest requirements of the Mass if you stay for the bow or genuflection.  Time to hit the beach!  Unfortunately for such, point four usually takes place during a hymn - and it would be rude to lead the priest down the main aisle so that you can get to your car before anybody else.  




Now as a priest, I have to remember there are all kinds of reasons that people leave Mass early and they are not all owing to minimalist participation; someone at home is ill, work starts in 10 minutes, the kid just soiled himself, they guy you owe money to is in the first pew. . . 

My suggestion?  (This is not the official teaching of the Catholic Church.)  On average, neither a borrower or a lender be.  Remember this is about being in love with Somebody.  When you were thinking of getting married, eating dinner with your prospective in-laws may not have been one of your top 100 things to do on a Friday night but you did it and stuck around a little after for love of your fiancĂ©.  So minimally stay for the closing hymn or at least until the priest is gone.  Say a quick prayer of thanks.  (Saying, “Thank you God that was awesome” is better than saying nothing at all.)  And say “hello” to a couple of your brothers and sisters on your way out.  


On the other hand, when all the lights have been turned out, the doors are locked, and it is you and one other person, and the priest is leaning up against his car in his bathing suite twirling his keys and he nieces and nephews crying to go to the beach, you might want to consider taking the conversation to the coffee house.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

MONUMENTS AND MONUMENTS

Every brick at St. Sebastian Parish is from the Belden Brick Company in Ohio.  Every brick in our nine buildings was designated where to go by Robert Kraus Sr.  He grew up in Akron and went to St. Bernard Parish School with our founding pastor Monsignor Zwisler.  Monsignor went on to Rome to study and become a priest and Mr. Kraus became an architect opening his offices in the Highland Square area, a hop, skip, and a jump from St. Sebastian.

When (then) Father Zwisler was brought to Akron to found a new parish, his old school chum gave him space for a parish office at his architectural firm and they set about designing first building; a combination church, school, convent, and hall, a building that has held up spectacularly for almost 90 years.



Since then, other buildings have dotted our campus.  The most recent one, the “new” church had the cornerstone set in 1958.  It was this building that his son, Mr. Bob Kraus assisted is some of the design.  Later, the son would go on to design many ecclesial buildings in the Diocese of Cleveland including such places as St. Francis de Sales in Portage Lakes, Sacred Heart in Barberton, and St. Ambrose in Brunswick.  He died this past week and his funeral is today.  What a legacy to leave behind.  His work for the Lord will stand for generations.


But there is one thing that we can do that will stand even longer - guaranteed.  Whether you are a parent, Godparent, catechist, priest, deacon, or supporter, when you help guide a soul toward baptism and faith, you establish a work that lasts eternally.  When the memory of you work fades on earth, the monument built by your efforts is still shiny, new, and impressive in the eternal kingdom.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

THE TRIP CONTINUED . . .

We left the basilica and headed out to the reception.  We were stopped by a kindly nun on the narrow road confined by a low and sturdy stone wall like you might find in Ireland (in fact. the Irish who were with us remarked that it was about time they saw a stone wall in the United States) in front of the villa.  She informed us that we would have to park down the street and that a shuttle would bring us up the reception.

The bus dropped us off on the sprawling lawns, dotted with enormous trees and three giant white tents just a tad smaller than circus tents.  The sisters were busy with preparations and we were escorted into the villa, owned by the Knights of Columbus and which is used to host retreats by the sisters.  Despite the enormous space allocated for the event, it was quite packed with the Sisters of Life, other religious orders of women and men, priests, family, and well wishers.  


The sisters were expert in feeding a lot of people quickly.  It must be one of their charisms.  

We sat at tables on white chairs and feasted and talked with the many people there.  Then later, standing on the lawn, I heard a jazz band start playing.  I thought they were Okay until I turned around and saw that I could not see them.  They were entirely hidden by the bushes.  It was not owing the the hight of the bushes for they were short, but that the musicians were under 10 years of age AND AMAZING.

They stood on the front porch of the villa which was designed a little bit like a stage.  The villa originally belonged to a famous, 19th century playwright whose name escapes me at the moment.  He used to put on plays there and today it was being used as a stage.

We returned the next day for Mass in the villa chapel and for brunch beneath the tents once again.  The stage was set up again and talented members of the families of the women who took their vows the day before entertained us with singing, dancing, instrumental recitals, and stories.  


Then it was time for us to leave and say goodbye.  The day was not over for the Sisters however.  Later in the afternoon they would gather to hear what their new assignments were going to be and they were quite excited.  We retreated back to the hotel and spent the remainder of the evening (after a hardy nap) teaching the Irish how to play cards.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCLVIII

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "'Diversity' and 'Inclusion' are vague and uncertain terms that can mean almost anything."  from Mickey Mattos' article, "Marquette's Gender Regime"

QUOTE II:  
St. Andrew Day, 1935
by George Orwell

The lord of all, the money-god
Who rule us blood and hand and brain,
Who gives the roof that stops the wind
And, giving, takes away again.

Who binds with chains the poet's wit
The navvy's strength, the soldiers pride,
And lays the sleek, estranging shield
Between the lover and his bride.

Christopher Hollis, a friend of Orwell, recalls, "One of the most interesting and deepest of Orwell's beliefs was his belief in the profound evil of contraception."

IN OTHER NEWS:

Well this is terrible interesting.  Russ sent in an article entitled, "Physicists Claim that Consciousness Lives in Quantum State After Death.  Read more HERE.  Thanks!

And now I thought I would show you my vacation photos!

Visiting my sister in upstate New York meant hiking in the Adirondacks.  This sign warning of bear activity was thought provoking.  Years ago - many years ago - I did run in to a bear up there.  It was the only time I'd ever seen my mother run.
All things have small beginnings.  You were once just a twinkle in your Mother's eye.  Below is reportedly the headwater for the Hudson River, here just a trickle in it's Creator's eye.
 I just liked the shadows on this rock.  It didn't come out in the picture as well as I would have liked.
So, for those of you who live in Akron and read the Beacon Journal, you know about the time Goodyear had an art sale as they relieved themselves of all of the art in their corporate headquarters which now I believe is an apartment building.  One of the items for sale was a set of taxidermied boxing squirrels for tens of thousands of dollars.  I always wondered WHO could and would pay that much for them.  I found out.  Here they are as decorations in a bathroom.  
This is a door bell.  A DOOR BELL!  I NEED one.
Here is the next installment of the Crash Coarse in Philosophy.

Monday, August 15, 2016

MONDAY DIARY: TO LIFE! TO LIFE! L'CHAIM!

I know.  I know.  I mysteriously disappeared.

I didn’t give up on the blog.  I didn’t do something so mundane as to run away.

But I did go on an adventure.

Last Friday I got up, had Mass, packed up the car, and took off for Connecticut, a state to which I’d never been.  Along the way I picked up Fr. Peter (you remember him?)

and we set off toward the rising sun to witness something I’d never seen before.

St. Clare in Lyndhurst (where this blog was conceived) was the home of a lovely young lady named Brigid.  It was also the my last parish assignment and the home parish of Fr. Peter.  Brigid had determined that religious life was the life for her and after some searching decided to become one of the Sisters of Life in New York.  After years of formation, last Saturday she was to take her final vows and we went to witness and celebrate with her.

Fr. Bline and Fr. Kulway both from the Diocese of Cleveland.  Fr. Bline's first assignment was St. Clare.



Along the way we picked up two seminarians from Ireland who have been in Cleveland studying over the summer.  One’s name is Fergle (and I have no idea how to spell his name.)  He was the, how shall I say it?  Active one.  Loads of fun but terrible at cards.  Stephano was the quiet, deep voiced (sane) one.  They flew in to CT and took them the rest of the way.

So it was that on Saturday morning we put on our French cuffs, shined our shoes, and piled into the Buick for the journey to St. John’s Basilica.  I was unprepared.

The place was jammed!  There were people and cars everywhere.  It looked like the children’s Mass at Christmas except much more orderly.  As we walked along people would ask, “Where are you from?” to which I would proudly replay, “Cleveland” thinking that would get lots of “Ahs” and “Oohs” but instead I was greeted with, “Oh.  And with which sister are you associated?” 

I had naively assumed that our friend would be the ONLY one taking her final vows.  It did not occur to me that there would six!  And now that I think about it, that must be the more regular occurrence as 10 years ago there were only 40 some nuns and now there were over 100.

We vested in the basement and then came upstairs only to be recruited to sit in folding chairs on the immaculate lawn of the rectory to hear confessions.  As the hour approached, we were herded into processional lines and walked up the mountain of stairs to the doors and entered the basilica to the heavenly voices of the nuns and a few token males in the choir mixing their voices with the pipe organ and congregation.

The Mass was presided over by Bishop John J. O’Hara, Auxiliary Bishop of New York.  I was unfamiliar with him and I don’t know why because his homily knocked my socks off.  He knew exactly how to get the congregation whipped up and excited about God and the great work that was happening that day.  He also admitted that he had never done a profession before and was a bit nervous to get the ceremony correct.  But he was aided by expert Masters of Ceremonies whose abilities I greatly admire.  I have seen some MCs flap around the sanctuary like agitated ducks, flapping and quacking.  But this celebration was done with taste and decorum.  

The ceremony itself was remarkably similar to that of the ordination of priesthood.  The nuns were called forward one by one, knelt before their Mother Superior, stated their vows and the Mother would accept the vows.  I had an ideal seat and could see their faces as they knelt at the altar rail waiting for their turn to come forward.  The faces read everything from contemplation of the seriousness of the event to an overjoyed, “Let’s do it!” radiance.

Each of them then came forward and signed their vows which were placed on the altar followed by the entire order greeting each new sister with a formal hug, smile, and word of encouragement that was not unlike, after having been ordained, all the priests filing past the new priests and laying hands on them.

At the end, the Mother Superior thanked everyone who was present.  I was excited that the former papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano was in attendance.  The list of thanks was long but Cleveland got the most shout outs!  Thanks to the people from Cleveland who have supported the order.  Thanks to those from Cleveland who have supplied so much music over the years.  Thanks to the Irish seminarians who are studying this summer in Cleveland.  Thanks to (my buddies) the nuns from Christ the Bridegroom Monastery who made the trip in from Cleveland.
From left to right, me, Stephano, Sisters for Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, OH, Fergle, Fr. Kovacina.

But the longest, sustained applause was of course for the new sisters.  After we processed down the mountain of steps we saw the newly professed having their picture taken with Mother and the Bishop.  The sun was merciless but all of the nuns (even those all in black) seemed to take in stride.  I, however, was a total wimp and so we made our way to the car and the car’s air-conditioning to begin to unpack what we had been a part of and to look forward with great anticipation the reception.

Picture taken immediately after the Mass.  Sr. Brigid is the furthest left next to the bishop.
To be continued . . . 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

SERENTY PRAYER

As a presbyterate we are about to embark on a planning session to decide what we are going to do about the number of parishes we have vs the number of priest we will have in the future.  There will be those who stand up and give an imploring speech that we should have married priests, female priests, and so forth.  Whether I agree or not, these things are not going to change within the next couple of years and we need to start taking control over those areas in which we can have some immediate effect.  

Another topic that will come up (again) is that priests should be relieved of all “business” responsibilities.  They should be able just to focus on sacraments (and the accompanying paperwork) and leave everything else to lay people.  That way the priests are freed up to do more of what priests are ordained to do and lay folks can take a stronger leadership role in the Church.



The only problem with this model is that it is not what Vatican II envisioned.  It would require more than changing the policies of a diocese, it would involve reworking international canon law, Church teaching, and the documents of Vatican II.  When a Catholic is baptized, he is also anointed priest, prophet, and king.  When a priest is ordained, it is understood that he too will fulfill all of these roles.  Administration is not just an extra tacked on to being a priest, it is a part of who he is called to be.  As “Father” and “pastor,” he is called to this role as much as is a father of a household is called to help manage the affairs of the family.  


A dad, ideally, not only supports his family, but offers himself in love, teaches, leads, and brings to Christ.  When one of these are not present we usually see a path to divorce or the result of divorce.  So it is with the Father of a parish.  These are his roles and so our focus on solving our problems will have to lie elsewhere.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

PETER WALKED ON WATER TOO

What the Church needs is more people who are willing to risk failure.  Say what you will about St. Peter, before he sank he did walk on the water, for at least a moment.  Nobody else even got out of the boat.

But Peter’s flaw was focusing on himself.  As long as he focused on Christ he was just fine.  The moment he started to worry and focus on himself, he began to sink.  I see this all the time.  I am guilty of this all of the time.

Here are some modern day examples:

The Spirit prompts to tell a young person that they have the traits of a good Church vocation, but then the self jumps in and say, “Oh, they’ll think I’m odd.  They don’t want to be bothered.  I don’t want to face their reaction.”

The Spirit prompts to ask someone, “Do you want to pray about it?”  But then the self jumps in and says, “Only weirdos do that.  What if they go spreading stories about me?”

The Spirit prompts you to say to someone, “Do you want to come to Mass with me?”  But the self jumps in and says, “You know they don’t want to.  They may laugh.  You do their private thing and they will do theirs.”


If more of us took the risk of trusting and stepping out of the boat, what a different seascape we would have.  If none of us do, this whole enterprise will stall.  But even if you fail, you were the one to step out of the boat.  You walked on the water for at least a moment!  Let the other person bring the act of faith to an end - not you.  God did not create us to guard our comfort.  He made us to walk on water.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCLVII

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Whatever the faithful may think, they do not 'give' peace during the celebration; rather they receive it from him who alone is our peace and who gives it within his body and through members ordained for this ministry."  Clips from readings that were sent to me from Mike during his summer reading.  Author unknown.  Thanks Mike!

QUOTE II:  "The indelible character, imparted on the soul by the sacrament of Order, cannot be privatized because it was given to the Church for the service of others.  The faithful . . . have a need of the sign value of a priest dressed as a priest."

QUOTE III:  "For a priest to dress in lay attire is to disguise the fact that his very raison d'ĂȘtre is to draw souls to Christ.  He has a representative role which is, as a consequence of ordination, part of his very being.  To dress as a priest is to give witness to the total commitment of one's life and to manifest the presence of Christ among men."

IN OTHER NEWS:

Cynthia sent in an article about archeology showing the accuracy of Scripture.  Interesting.  Thanks.  Read it HERE.

The picture below is a SMALL SAMPLE of a boat load of music offered to St. Sebastian from a Protestant church that is going through some consolidation.  The weird thing about it is that it is more Catholic in nature than the music I have found in most Catholic parishes.  Masses, Latin, Eucharist . . . Gads.  I hope we are able to release the notes from these pages.

I used this article from FOX news this weekend in my homily.  It has to do with putting the French priest's slaying in perspective  If you are going to click on at work, be aware that there is a video that starts playing when you open it up!  See it HERE.

Here is the next video on our crash course in philosophy.  10 and a half minutes.

Monday, August 1, 2016

MONDAY DIARY: ALMOST EXCRUCIATINGLY TRUE STORIES: DON'T SWEAT IT.

So last weekend the air conditioning went out in the church.  Of course it was the hottest week of the year.  This always seems to happen on the weekend during the hottest week of the year.  So we had a plan.  We were not only going to install new air conditioning (man is that expensive), we would also fix the old one so that if it EVER went down again, we would have a back up.
We were only waiting for a part to arrive and all would be well.  Regular calls to the trucking company informed us that everything was RIGHT ON SCHEDULE and that by Friday, worshipers would be able to return to their pews in the comfort of artificially chilled air.
Then, at the last possible moment, the company said, "Did we say on time?  We meant to say that it would late."  Of course that got my liturgical underwear in a bind and so told John our facilities manager to order emergency air conditioning in the form of a truck.  They came and pumped cool air into the church all weekend for less that the amount we lost in the collection the previous weekend because people went elsewhere to avoid the stifling church.
I didn't get to enjoy the free holy sauna the previous week.  "Sweating with the saints!"  I was in Steubenville in the air conditioned recreation center having Mass with hundreds of youth.  But I do sympathize with those, particularly those with breathing difficulties and other ailments, who need the cooled air.  I get that those extreme temperatures can be dangerous as well as uncomfortable.
I wonder how nuns survived in full habit during the summer without air conditioning all those centuries?


Friday, July 29, 2016

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: HURRY UP AND WAIT

GIRM paragraph 89

I detest announcements at Mass.  Well, that’s not true.  When there is need of an announcement where and when else is everybody gathered (hopefully) so that you can tell them about something important for the community? 

But the problem is, “How do you regulate announcements so that A) they do not drone on with too much information and B) that there is proper vetting system in place so that there are not 2,000 of them?”  We have announcements at the end of Mass just before the final blessing.  Just when you think things are about to wrap up and your are grabbing your music book as well as your hat making ready to escape our horrible parking lot, someone says, “We have just a few announcements.”  I see the air go out of people’s lungs and shoulders slump.  If there are a number of them, then you can SEE attention starting to drift off toward the ceiling.  Announcements should be like javelin tosses.  You throw one, and it is quick and a doozy.  After that, people shut down and anything said will be as well heard as a long lecture of the benefits of flossing sitting outside on a hot afternoon having already had a bottle of wine.

But that has ALMOST nothing to do with today’s post.

It seemed very common that, in many places, the announcements (or talks, or funding requests, or invitations to events) took place BEFORE the prayer after communion simply because it was a quiet moment and those who were going to be late for Mass are there and those who are going to try to sneak out early haven’t left yet.  




The problem with this is that THE COMMUNION RITE IS NOT YET OVER.  The prayer after communion is not called the prayer after communion simply because it is some random prayer that just happens to be after communion but rather it is “to complete the prayer of the People of God, and also to conclude the whole Communion Rite . . . ”  Thought it may not seems so, adding ANYTHING before this prayer would be a kin to stopping before the Angus Dei and saying, “Before we receive Communion today, I have a couple of announcements.”  


At least one local parish makes their announcements before Mass (missing the late comers.)  Most of us (I think) make it at the end of Mass annoying those who had it in their mind that they were just about to ease on down the road.  BUT VERILY I SAY UNTO THEE that I think this is cool that people are wearied at this pause before concluding the Mass.  I do believe that announcements are a necessary evil but it shows what an intrusion they are, no matter when they are done, to the Mass.  It messes with the flow of prayer and ritual.  It is the fly in the soup; one little spec that seems to taint the giant pot.  It is like the plane that was just about to touch down but which decided to make one more loop before landing.  It is like this post that has now gone on a few sentences too long.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

IS THERE ANYTHING GOOD TO COME OUT OF THE MURDER OF THE PRIEST IN FRANCE?

The murder of the priest in France is both sad and frightening.  It is difficult to find anything but tragedy in the whole situation.  Even the Pope made the statement, "Some might think it is war of religion. It is not. All religions want peace. Others want war.”  Is there even the slightest ray of hope or goodness in this situation or is it all just a horrible, black happening in a cold universe?

Today’s Gospel sheds light on this question.

In Matthew 13:47-53 it talks about the Kingdom of Heaven being like a giant net thrown into the water hauling up everything in its path.  This net would be about a quarter of a mile long and six to ten feet in depth with floating cork on the upper side and weights on the lower.  One team would keep an end on shore while the other team took the opposite end out into the water and then swing it around ending up a distance down the shore.  Then the two teams would haul it ashore and everything in the mouth of the net would be trapped.  The fishermen would then have to sort through that which was good and preserve it, and that which was bad and discard it.


The fish are all of humanity.  The fishermen are God’s angels.  The net is the final judgment that all must face.  Notice that both good and bad alike are caught in the net.  That means that the Kingdom of Heaven exists in the this world right along side the kingdoms of earth.  There is goodness and grace in the world right now.  The Kingdom exists whenever and wherever you live it.  

At the moment the story in France was taking place, both kingdoms were present and in action.  To many people, it appears that the kingdom of this world prevailed.  But we know that the matter was settled about 2,000 years ago.  It is not unlike the Japanese soldiers that were found still fighting WWII on islands years after they lost and the war over.  They may still fight and appear to win a battle on some island, but the matter is already settled.

As we all are, both the priest and his attacker are to face death.  When the final net is dragged in, that is when the victory of that particular battle will finally be revealed, not earlier this week.  So we do not fear.  We love life and are not afraid to die.  Death for the Christian is an entrance into true life where there will not longer be a mixing of the two kingdoms.


We mourn for the priest and that community.  We also know that there is still hope there and goodness to be expressed.  We pray for his attacker because he chose a path destined for loss. We have no need to answer with anger and hate.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

GUEST BLOGGER: INTO THE VALLEY OF DEATH

I remember when Y2K (was supposed to) happen.  At the stroke of midnight on January 1st, windows still glowed with the blue of T.V. sets, planes stayed in the sky, and the lights didn't even flicker.  I turned to my cousin and said, "Well THAT was anticlimactic."  I felt the same about the RNC in Cleveland.  For MONTHS we had been told to stay away and that the city was going to go down in flames.  Again, the whole event, by the standard that cataclysmic events are measured, was more tame the the Cav's victory reception.

But a week ago, we were preparing for armageddon.  (I am NOT joking.)  During that maelstrom, one of the seminarians living at the rectory was invited to attend the Pro Life rally at the Brown's stadium.  I asked him to blog about his experience.  Please note that this article is not an endorsement about any person or political party but a description of his adventure that happened to be at the RNC, which just happened to be on our doorstep. 

So, without further ado, here is David Stavarz's article entitled, 

"Are You a Lion or a Sheep?"

Last week, during the RNC in Cleveland, another seminarian and myself were blessed to be invited to the Browns Stadium for a Pro-life Luncheon hosted by the Republican National Coalition for Life. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime experience! As a seminarian, it is really often amazing where, at times, one finds oneself. My life is certainly blessed. 

Being the second full day of the convention, Josh and I were not sure about how exactly we were going to make it all the way to First Energy Stadium considering all the hype that surrounded this RNC. However, as God's providence outdoes all human attempts to worry about everything, we were able to catch the RTA into the city and walk a few blocks to our destination without any trouble.

Once we arrived at the stadium, despite walking a good distance in our suits in the Cleveland heat, there was not much time for relaxation. For the representatives and delegates especially, there was much important work to be done for the Pro-Life cause on the Republican platform. There were some protesters outside, but otherwise it was a peaceful and uncontested event.

At the beginning of the program, our own Bishop Roger Gries, OSB was asked to give the opening remarks and prayers. Frankly, and not to the detriment of the subsequent speakers, with his short talk, I think the bishop hit the nail right on the head. Bishop Gries challenged those in the room not if they were a true Republican elephant, but if they were a sheep or a lion. He explained that many times in our modern society, especially when it comes to life issues, religious people are seen as sheep. People of faith, like sheep, are seen as unintelligent, passive, and, hence, easily dismissed. We simply aren't taken seriously. 

Granted we live in a turbulent culture that is increasingly anti-religious and even somewhat hostile to religion, but in my view as religious people, as people who follow Jesus Christ, we have two options: apathy or chivalry. And I don't think that it is the apathetic people who Jesus wants to find when He comes again. Before the prayer, the bishop called for us not to cower like lambs when it comes to life issues, but roar like lions so that our voice is heard and it is not one that is easily unheard. Bishop Gries added that as Christians we need to be in the center of the culture, not out on the fringes, never to be heard.

The event itself was hosted, as it had been for many years, by Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly, founder of Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund and the RNC/Life, constitutional lawyer, author of twenty-six books, and female activist who has had an instrumental contribution to the Pro-Life cause in the Republican Party. Over the years, Schlafly has been a lion who has unabashedly promoted life and the dignity of the human person both as a politician and as a mother of 6 children. I could tell the room was filled with respect for Mrs. Schlafly as she was greeted with a profound applause. Before the meal, videos of her speaking before Congress cycled on screens around the room. She was certainly not a woman who sheepishly let the culture change around her. She believed in Christ through her Roman Catholic faith, stood up for what she believed, and addressed the cultural changes with a roar.

Next, Mr. Lou Holtz, legendary college football coach (most notably from Notre Dame), gave the keynote presentation. His talk was inspiring, moving, challenging, and was really what everyone - Democrat or Republican - needed to hear. Holtz drew from much of his personal experience as a coach and as a father in our culture to highlight the various challenges to life issues in our country. Granted, Coach Holtz has more resources and means than your average joe on the street, but he has not been a sheep, but he has chosen to be a lion in the pro-life cause. 

Reading some of the coverage of his talk at the event, Holtz has even received flack from the media for this talk at that very event. One quote that I guestfound memorable was, "We can tell people how to make a living, but we can't tell them how to make a life." In other words, the precious nature of a human life needs to be protected before the frail nature of what goes into our pockets. Human lives are and will always be more important that anything else in this world.

All in all it was a great experience going to the luncheon, meeting people who were highly involved and passionate. It was an honor to represent seminarians in a Church who is, at times, greatly persecuted, yet greatly cares about the Pro-Life issues, the dignity of the human person, and the future of our country. In the years to come we should take to heart the bishops words truly becoming lions and not sheep, undeniably fighting for our faith and what we believe in.