Saturday, March 31, 2007
A few times it has been mentioned that many of you prefer relevant penances, (in other words, three Hail Marys do not cut it). I have a limited bag of focused penances that I do give out from time to time and I am always amazed at how joyful people are to receive them. If you are comfortable with it, I would appreciate hearing what you find meaningful in a penance. Don’t break the seal of confession though, be very general – and if you are more comfortable, Email your response to me.
There was an interesting occurrence at the rectory yesterday – A lady came to the door and requested to speak to a priest. Invited into my office she took a seat and announced that she was Anglican, had always been Anglican, and until recently, was very proud of the fact. But she could no longer abide with the direction in which the Anglican Church was going and found that her only recourse was to become Catholic.
We discussed theology for a while and as it turns out, she was raised High Anglican which considers itself a third branch of the Catholic Church and her grasp of Catholic teaching was more orthodox and in depth than most Catholics.
“I though I would be safe in my own little parish,” she said, “But things are even starting to happen there. This is very disturbing. I am being abandoned and I see now that my only choice is to become Catholic. I am fully comfortable with ready to declare my full allegiance to the Catholic Church.”
“This is so sad. But Father, there are a lot of us out there. Expect to hear from more.”
Please keep them in your prayers.
Holy Week must be upon us. Expect to see a lot of mud in the PD about the Church. Another article today. (Once again, funny how these articles multiply during holy times.) sigh
Final note: I won't be able to respond as well as I would like to you over the next two weeks as parish duties will take precedence. Happy Holy Week!
Friday, March 30, 2007
Cleverly Dr. Hahn shows that confession has been a part of our heritage since the beginning of man. In Genesis, Adam and Eve have eaten of the forbidden fruit. He calls to them and asks what has happened. (Can God not know? But he wants them to take ownership of what they have done!) Immediately the buck starts being passed. “It was she!” “No! It was the serpent!”
Cain slays his brother Able. Again God asks questions to which he already knows the answers. “Where is your brother? What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil!” So important is this action that God even tries to coach him through it.
What a beautiful opportunity they had, to talk face to face with God and seek His forgiveness. (Isn’t it odd that, like them, the more we need it, the less we seem to want to do it?) But the close relationship was lost and we enter a time of ritual, which pales in comparison.
Then comes Christ. He did not stand at the edge of town and say, “Okay, now, everyone in this town; your sins are forgiven!” No, once again God offers forgiveness in a personal encounter. What a wonder to hear from the mouth of God Himself that you are healed and your sins are forgiven. What comfort and blessed assurance. There is no more guesswork involved. “Neither do I condemn you. Now, go and sin no more,” He says to the woman caught in the very act of adultery.
Would we not all want to hear those words about that most wounded parts of ourselves and have that assurance? Would we not all want that personal, physical encounter? Why would anyone suffering under the burden and slavery of sin want to settle for guesswork again?
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” (James 15:16) But is not Jesus the only one who forgives sins? Of course! But there is something important in naming one’s sins and taking ownership of it. Yes! It’s hard! But that points to the power of the action.
And thanks be to God, He did not leave us guessing. He entrusted the keys of heaven to His Church. Through the power of the sacrament of confession we have a safe environment in which to confess our sins to God, to heal of the division between us and Him. Ordained into the one priesthood of Jesus Christ, the priest, not of his own priesthood but that of Christ’s, is privileged to be a dispenser of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness. No guess work! Properly disposed, the penitent is able to stand anew and start again united more closely both to God and to the community. We are not left distant and guessing as our ancestors were after the Garden of Eden, we are graced with the same hope as those who encountered Christ when He walked among us in the flesh.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Interestingly it is seems that many would lump people of faith with felons, illegal aliens and dead people. It is held by some that faith should not influence so called “public opinion.” Apparently the term public is being limited to some chosen enlightened. The separation of church and state has been, in some cases, extended to a separation of faith and state. A person of faith, who pays taxes, who are called upon to fight in wars, who are citizens in every way should not allow their beliefs to be part of the debate of public policy. This is proclaimed as if there is some self-evident and uniform basic humanistic principle that trumps all other opinions.
I can understand being upset with a person who votes without a grasp of the issues or with a sound reasoning for why they are voting as they are. It upsets me that people vote simply along party lines or to support a certain sex or heritage or because someone is good looking. Reckless voting is reckless voting.
But so often it is suggested that a stance should be discounted with the disingenuous declaration that the position comes from a faith tradition. This is said as if intelligent people could not or should not hold such a position. Why should a humanistic view automatically trump a faith-based view? Are persons with religious thoughts and agendas less a citizen? Are they not sincere in believing that what they hold dear is for the good of all just as a person with strictly humanistic views would?
To disregard a position out of hand by declaring it unworthy simply because to aligns itself with a belief in God is a dishonest means of debate and to pull such a trump card is inherently un-American and unites the user with the worst blemishes in our history.
(All right. Time to cool down. Here is a little comic relief for you.)
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK (or) WHY YET AGAIN I AM GLAD TO BELONG TO THE ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC, AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH
In a similar way I sometimes daydream about being in a parish where everybody believes and thinks quite the same as I with the same taste in music and art. Such will never be the case. That is part of the richness of being the Catholic (or universal) Church - all peoples, all times, all places.
And really, that is not all that bad. I, too, as much a I hate to admit it, learn a tremendous amount from those with whom there is a differencing of opinion.
Fr. Robert Hilkert (RIP) my first pastor had to deal with a house full of priests who were just about as differently tempered as you could imagine. It is a testament to him as a pastor that we made it all those years with nobody ending up bleeding. His basic premise was that we were all priests and as long as we stayed on the Catholic playing field all was well.
The danger in identifying too closely with being liberal or conservative or whatever in the Church, is in becoming holier than she and limiting the legitimate expression of others (assuming that it is truly a legitimate option.) Rob said it well, our goal is orthodoxy - living the life that Christ calls us to in the manner it has developed within His church and as the Church allows.
That is not to say that we cannot have a vision or preferences and promote them - even strongly. Which I do. (Ask any of my friends.) But there is a big roof on this Church and it covers a lot of people with whom we are called to pray, not pray like. And sometimes that means breaking out of our private wedge of the Catholic pie. (AS PAINFUL AS THAT MAY BE AT TIMES.)
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Saturday, March 24, 2007
I have been better about choosing what I will eat before touching a prepared plate. But then we sit there and talk and the remaining food is right there before me and all of a sudden another forkful is heading toward my mouth.
I read once somewhere that one third of the world is dying from lack of food. Another third of the world is dying from over eating. We live in the land overflowing with milk and honey. I spend too much of my energy trying to run away from the abundance of food.
About 10 years ago I went to Zimbabwe with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to see what kind of work we were doing there. This upset more people than you would think. “We have poor people right here in our own country whose refrigerators have nothing in them!” This is true. But most people that live in the United States live in relative poverty. The places where CRS goes people live in absolute poverty. Many there would consider themselves fortunate to be what we consider poor in the United States.
Empty refrigerators are not the problem in Zimbabwe. There are none. There are no kitchens in which to put one. Many families live in a cluster of tiny mud and straw huts. There is no electricity to plug a refrigerator into. As a matter of fact, there is little of anything for miles and miles.
Here are some pictures from a town called Binga. In them you can see the Church and a collection of some of the young folk who live there. They did not choose to be there. (Why don’t they just move out of the desert to someplace where there is food many ask.) They did live in a lush area and subsisted happily on their own until being moved out and settled here by decree so that their prime land could be used as resort areas. They were promised water, but it never came. And there are no resources for them to just pick up and move.
CRS, unlike many groups, doesn’t just drop a whole bunch of money on the problem and move along. The CRS of the United States sets up revolving loans to establish businesses that helps residents becomes self sufficient. A loan was given to a lady to buy equipment to sew school uniforms (required there for all students) and she earned enough to pay back the loan, which went to another man who bought chickens to start a farm. In this way we assist them in not becoming dependant on outside sourcing for sustenance.
It is with great comfort that I recommend CRS (the people who bring you Operation Rice Bowl) to you. It not only reaches out to the poorest of the poor in the world, it is a charity in which an incredible amount of each dollar goes directly to helping those in need.
Friday, March 23, 2007
The Cleveland Plain Dealer asks today, “Put aside the legal and moral arguments over capital punishment in Ohio for a minute.” Not an entirely easy thing to do. After all, the decision to be made is whether we want to become what we hate, to have absolute power of life over another human being and to choose to snuff it out. “Consider instead the decision that a governor faces alone each time he allows an execution to move forward. What must it be like to hold a man’s life in your hands?”
“It is a time for reflection and prayer,” former governor Taft is reported as saying. “If you believe in God, it’s something you have to take extremely seriously.” Mr. Taft oversaw the death of 24 condemned persons in Ohio.
It is even harder and less popular to hold up the pro-life banner when it comes to executions. Emotions run high and even some ardent supporters of life in the womb waver when it comes to the death penalty. It can be politically damaging. Former Ohio governor Celeste who opposed capitol punishment commuted the sentences of eight inmates on Ohio’s death row before leaving office in 1991 creating great controversy. That takes courage. Do we have that kind of fortitude to stick by our convictions?
Further in the paper is more news coming out of the governor’s office. Governor Strickland has stripped the funding for abstinence education because, “Quite frankly, I don’t believe that abstinence-only education programs work in the long run. There is evidence that they may delay the onset of sexual activity, but over the long term there’s not data there that show they prevent, in a statistical sense, sexual activity outside of marriage.”
This despite statewide statistics that show, “teen pregnancy rates have dropped from 42.3 pregnancies for every 1,000 females ages 10 to 19 in 1997 to 33.1 in 2005.” Do you ever feel, as a Catholic, like a political orphan?
“We the people of the state of Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and to promote our common . . .” Preamble to the 1852 constitution of the state of Ohio.
“With God, all things are possible.” State motto.
These are not concerns for Ohio alone. Many people face them. This is what this man feels called to do. What do you feel called to do?
Thursday, March 22, 2007
But to the younger generation they took on new meaning. They became a connection to a heritage and to people. (Can you imagine? Grandma used this at one time.) They became a link to something greater. (I am part of a family.) And, quite honestly, more artistic quality was put into many things from past times so they are more interesting and pleasing objects at which to look.
The situation is not much different in the Church. Young religious and priests come on the scene and start dragging out items that those directly before us have been busily packing away. The new generation goes to the basement or attic and hauls things out much to the chagrin of those who were happy to be done with them and who are often hostile toward those who have a new appreciation for them. Why is this?
As much as I hate to admit it, sattvicarrior does have at least this point; symbols only have the meaning that we assign to them. To those who came before us, these items can be symbols of oppression, associated with leadership against whom they were defining themselves, a mark of who stood with the past and who is moving on with the future. Seminarians and those discerning religious orders who had an affinity for such things were (are) looked upon with suspicion and even outright hostility. “Do they intend to bring back the worse of what these things symbolize?”
Yet, for the “New Faithful”, be they religious, clergy, or lay, the meanings of the symbols have changed. These things mark an allegiance with all that the Church hopes for the future while maintaining a healthy respect for our heritage and history. They have become that by which new generations of Catholics take a stand against worldliness and thereby find in them not oppression, but freedom. In these symbols hope is seen, the promise of a strong tomorrow built on a solid history. They have become again visible indictors of our unity.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Monday, March 19, 2007
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Saturday, March 17, 2007
College over meant facing the real work-a-day world and I loved it. I had a great time working in a number of places as a light designer, set designer, stage carpenter, prop master, stage manager, director, and various and sundry other jobs that kept me employed and life interesting.
The thing that was attractive about the theater was the idea that if someone attended a performance, their life had to be effected. They would either have to reaffirm what they already believed or they would be challenged to explore new ideas. They would have to think.
The problem was there was not always any control over the message and if I wanted to eat, I would have to do a great job and putting across messages that I detested. One day I was stage-managing a show that was called something like “The Seven Princesses.” There are only two things that come to mind about the show: The set represented the legs of a woman spread – and – well – I really don’t want to describe the rest of the set, and the women with whom I was friends had to wear costumes that I felt were beneath their dignity. One night this notion came over me like a sickening cloud and I knew then that I could not do this for the rest of my life. The message must be one that I can believe in or I could not be a part of it.
There was a church that had perpetual adoration in town and so a visit was made late that night and a deal was struck with God. If He would allow me to accomplish 5 life goals, then I would look into the seminary again. These were long-term goals. At best I estimated they would take a decade to accomplish. Four of the five were done before the end of summer. God can be like that.
Working in another town and attending daily mass during Lent worried that I might finish the last of the five goals, a priest, Fr. Keller, tapped me on the shoulder and said that he wanted to speak to me after mass. In the sacristy with no hesitation he asked, “Did you ever think about the priesthood?” I laughed and said that it had been considered. Pressed as to what was holding me back I told him of my fifth goal: to have all of my student loans paid off. His response was basically that this last goal was (rubbish) and that he was personally going to take me to visit the seminary on Monday (a dark day for the theater.)
I thought we were going to check the place out and look around. It turns out there were meetings and an application form and just like that I was back home telling my Dad (anti-Church) and Mom (a saint) that I was applying to go back to school (again), and not only school but to the seminary.
As you probably have figured out, I was accepted. But I still did not go in. There were some jobs that I promised to do (and wanted to do) and so put it off for another year.
If you are considering a priestly or religious vocation, note that it is not at this point that the gates are locked and your life course is set. This is just the courtship phase so to speak. My third year the live-in experience was horrible to put it mildly. The good part about it was, that although I HATED the situation, I loved ministering. But my impression was that those in charge at this particular period wanted no part of me in the priesthood. Three quarters of the way through the year I had enough. I was willing to become a priest, it was choice number one, but there were other things that I could do and if they didn’t want me there, that would be just fine.
I packed my bags and started making the appropriate calls informing people that I was leaving. Here the Holy Spirit played a role in making everyone unavailable except for my spiritual director who imparted good, calm advice (which is why I recommend a spiritual director for everyone.) He said, “Don’t give them the satisfaction. Make ‘em kick you out.” So I attacked the rest of the year with that attitude and it ended on a good note followed by a couple of fabulous years of formation and then (thanks be to God) ordination.
This may seem lengthy, but it really is the bare bones version of a longer story. Pulling out these highlights may make is it seem like a clear path, but it was not. And I was extremely fortunate to have family, friends, parish, and pastor who were exceedingly supportive, not something that a lot of guys have, and I owe those supporters much.
Bishop Gries came to St. Clare this past Thursday for confirmation and in his homily told a story about his mother who died about a year ago. He was going through her prayer book and came across a letter she wrote to God. In it she asked God how she could be so blessed that her son, the fruit of her womb, could call on God and make Jesus present on the altar. It still amazes me too. I still get chills when the congregation says, “May the Lord accept this sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of His Name, for our good and the good of all His Church.” What an honor!
If you are contemplating a religious vocation, know of my prayers and if I can answer any questions, please feel free to Email me. In the Diocese of Cleveland, my classmate Fr. Mike Gurnick is in charge of vocations. He is still getting his feet wet but will work with you in any way he can to help you in your discernment. God bless.
Friday, March 16, 2007
But the notion was not completely ruled out at least in play. The neighbor kids and I would play mass in our basement and I would be the priest. They were perfectly happy to be Catholic for those few minutes even though they were Protestants because Mom would supply Oreo cookies and milk the mass wafers.
I can honestly say that the priesthood was not seriously thought about through high school and into college other than the occasional, “If I were a priest, I would do it this way . . .” But then some things began to happen toward the end of my college career. It was not a loud voice from heaven, nor even a single event, but a string of events and small voices that seemed to lay out a path to the seminary.
Thanks to Fr. Ozimek (whom I admired as a man and a priest – in fact, I took my confirmation name in part after him) who never really bought into the whole “Jesus loves you, how do you feel about it, make a poster” approach to CCD, I knew a bit more about my faith than my fellow students at the University of Akron. So if a question arose, it would likely be steered my way. I didn’t think much of it until one day the girl I was dating burst out into tears and asked, “Are you going to become a priest?” That comment dropped my jaw to the floor. No mention of that had ever been made nor had it been given any real thought. From where did that come? But interestingly enough, from then on, it was dwelt upon from time to time.
The next incident was when C.P. wanted to go to a Latin Mass and so I accompanied her. Father Mackert was giving a knockdown, drag out homily about the priesthood. I remember sitting in the pew thinking that it was quite a remarkable thing that he was saying (though scarcely any of it is remembered now) when C.P. elbowed me and pointed toward the pulpit. The exact words are no longer held in memory, but the gist of the whisper in my ear was, “That could be you!”
The next few months were one of those fists-on-the-hips “how did I end up here?” periods. There were some serious discussions with God, but he didn’t seem in much of a hurry about anything.
Interestingly, one of the biggest turn offs was the package that came from the diocese. I decided to write just to see what they had to say to men contemplating priesthood. (My concept of seminary was so off it is laughable.) When the package came, I took it to a private place outside and looked at the brochures that had obviously not been updated since the early 70’s and it all went into the trash along with most thoughts about the priesthood. Time to get on with the life that I had been working toward! But then . . .
Tune in tomorrow, same bat time, same bat station for: CRISIS BACK STAGE!
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Here are two sad little stories. The sad part is the frequency with which they occur.
Coming across a mother with kids in tow and making some passing comment about how many of them might have a religious vocation she says, “Oh no Father, I don’t think I want any of my children in religious vocations!”
A man comes in the confessional and sadly tells about the state of his marriage and how he has always kind of known that he was not meant to be a married man with children.
If someone feels the call to religious life (and is likewise called by the community) it is not a done deal. There are years of discernment that takes place while everyone figures out if this is truly the best fit for the person and the community. On the other hand, it is pretty much a given that people are inherently cut out for marriage and children. “Now, when you grow up and have children of your own . . .” But not everyone is cut out for it and pressuring someone into it will cause not only them to lose that joy and peace, but the joy and peace of those around them will suffer. It is imperative that a person looking toward the future not only discern if they want to marry, but if they are cut out to be married (or live a religious or single vocation.)
There are several categories of discerners. There are those who would be happy in any of the three lifestyles. This can be a cause for angst as the person struggles to learn exactly to which God is calling. But sometimes there is not a “right choice.” Sometimes there is choosing and then living it to the best of your ability.
There are those who feel called a certain way but are pressured to choose differently: to meet other’s expectations. This is a dangerous route as it may lead you down a difficult path. Nothing like living somebody else’s calling and not your own. That is a recipe for a hard life. Often these are the ones who feel pulled in more than one direction: heart one way, mind the other. It would help if this person sought the advice of a trusted spiritual director and spent some serious time in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Happily, there are those whose path seems as clear to them as a Clarion commercial.
Then there are those who have made a vow. They are no longer discerners. That time has passed. Now is the time to live one’s chosen vocation to its full.
Every path to a vocation, religious or otherwise, is unique. But for what it is worth, I thought that I would share my discernment story with you over the next couple of days in hopes that it might aid someone else on their journey (or at least provide some entertainment.)
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Here are a couple of interesting insights from Colleen Carroll’s book, “The New Faithful”:
“[Y]oung Christians must find communities and fellowships that inspire and sustain them. Not every community fits that bill. Many churches, parachurch organizations, and religious orders struggle to attract young adults who seem hopelessly unresponsive. The attempts of these organizations to appeal to the next generations by diluting their message or softening their demands seem to backfire, leading many religious leaders to conclude that today’s young adults cannot commit to Christian communities of any stripe.” Page 95
“The decisions to be an orthodox Christian today entails a conscious choice, not a passive inheritance. And living that choice is no easy task.” Page 45
“’People think that if we make it easy on [young adults], we’ll draw them in,’ she said. ‘It’s the very opposite. Youth are looking for a cause, a reason to live. They need something to give their lives to.’” Page 70
“Law said, ‘I think every Christian knows it deep down – that it’s a life of self-sacrifice. But we never had a place to fall down and die.’”
It is truth that is compelling. I will not lay down my life, give of my earnings, wake up early on Sunday or devote my vocation to an organization because it will provide free pizza and games for me once a week for a couple of hours. Many places provide that already. Give me something to live for and die for and I will be there.
Now, that is not to say that we never have dances or pizza nights or open gym, but it must grow organically out of Christian fellowship, not be the attempted cause of it or the only people you will attract are those who simply have no place else to go that day. You will have visitors, not warriors for Christ.
A cool place for Clevelanders to check out is the Saint Rose Young Adults Group who seem to have a great balance. Good luck out there finding a place to lay down your life. If you can’t find one – start one.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Let us suppose that it is my birthday (it isn’t – not even close) and you want to take me out to dinner and tell me to choose my favorite place to eat in Cleveland. So I say to you my favorite restaurant is One Walnut, then Valerio’s, followed by the Lemon Grass. So you, in your kind-heartedness take me to the Lemon Grass as you prefer it. In fact, the next few times you take me out, you take me to the same place. Soon you are of a mind that this should be my favorite place because it is such a fine restaurant. In your estimation, it is everything that a restaurant should be. You tell others that, although I said I like One Walnut better, you know that I should be taken to the Lemon Grass. This is perfectly fine. I like the place a lot. But despite all your reasoning and I would prefer One Walnut.
Liturgical Law is not far from this. In the same way that no words are used without careful consideration, there is also no randomness in the order of things in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Things listed first are preferred.
For example: Notice the preferences for the opening “chant” (GIRM 48). The singing is done alternately by the choir and the people or (less desirably) by the cantor and the people (and less so) by the people alone, (and still less so) or the choir alone. All permissible; some preferred.
The music to be used is 1. The antiphon from the Roman Missal or Psalm from the Roman Gradual, 2. The seasonal antiphon from the Simple Gradual, 3. A song from another collection of psalms and antiphons approved by the Conference of Bishops, and finally 4. A suitable liturgical song approved by the Conference or local bishop.
So, instead of, Oh, let’s say, “Gather Us In” (in the Subject Index under I, Me, I, Me) with its lyrics, “Here in this place new light is streaming,” following the Rule of Firsts, this past Sunday at mass you would have sung (alternately along with the choir) the opening antiphon from the RM, “Remember your mercies, Lord, your tenderness from ages past. Do not let our enemies triumph over us; O God, deliver Israel from all her distress.” Interesting.
Example Two: (GIRM 160) “The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of the communicant.” While there is a clear preference for one, the decision is squarely in the hands (or tongue) of the one receiving, not the one distributing.
How to get around Liturgical Law:
Easy Method (recommended): Declare that the Spirit of Vatican II obviously intended for (insert your own personal cause here) to be preferred. Since this (spirit? Spirit?) (did not/was not able) to manifest itself, we take it upon ourselves now who are in touch with this (S/s)pirit to make this change and require others to do so also.
Advanced Method: Being an expert on the documents, it is easy to see that this part of the law was clearly a compromise document to appease those who (what? Are less faithful? Less influenced by the Holy Spirit? Are less Catholic? Less with it?) were causing trouble about what (the real Catholics?) wanted.
Yes, today I am blowing off a little steam. It seems some people are all about the Rule of Firsts unless it does not meet their desires. Either the Holy Spirit was present at VII or not, either the Rule of First works or it does not. This GIRM is either the legacy we have been given (at least for the time being) or it is not. Then we either invoke the Rule of First (and admit that we sometimes personally prefer or need the second, third, or fourth option) or just stop talking about it all together.
Now I need to go say mass and recite the introit, the least desirable option for the opening hymn.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Good Sunday and God bless!
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Friday, March 9, 2007
To be is to do.
Do be do be do.
My Dad is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. “Why don’t you ever come and see me?” “Dad, I was here Tuesday.” “No you weren’t, I’d remember.” “Okay. (Uncomfortable pause) So, what did you have for lunch today?” “I don’t remember.”
My father is not able to “do” anything for me anymore. It is excruciating even to carry on a conversation with him because anything that happened more than thirty seconds in the past has been forgotten. The challenge now is to love him for being, not for what he can do for me.
It is easy to love persons who make you feel good, who can provide you with things and services or joy. They are useful to us. But that is like loving a car. We cherish it and baby it because it serves us (and looks so good! Be jealous of me!) But wear and rust and dirt soon make the repair bills annoying, the glory faded, and we start searching for a replacement.
But unlike a car, you have an inherit dignity. You are lovable because you are, not because of what you can do for someone. That is how God loves you. He has no need of you per se. After all He is perfect community and self-sufficiency. The IV weekday preface in ordinary time reads, “You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank you is itself your gift.” We add nothing to his glory. And as a human race we have worked hard at showing God how much we do not need Him. Yet He still loves you, died for you, forgives you, welcomes you, shares with you, is with you.
It is imperative that each of us to understand both our unworthiness of God’s love and how abundantly we share in it anyway by His free gift. It is then we can realize how God can love even those we name our enemies, our least desirables, our inconvenient, our useless, our difficult, and call us in our dealings with them to remember their inherit human dignity and to act toward them accordingly.
Thursday, March 8, 2007
But then the teacher announces that the video equipment is down today, so those people will have to wait until next week. Fine, there is still the rest of the alphabet in front of you. But Aaron Aphaski is absent, Gale’s was very short, and Harry was not ready to go today. He was counting on not having to give his speech until next week. Idiot. He got what he deserved. (Snicker) Wow, two more speeches down. I’m getting a little nervous. Get the teacher talking; try to eat up some time. Terry Tauling was not ready either. Darn. Wow, we are up to the U’s. This is going to be close. Please, oh please let the bell ring before it is my turn!
Just like in that classroom, fortunes in life can change quickly. Those who feel superior and safe today, able to make careless remarks about the worth of other human lives, can find themselves suddenly near the bottom of the “desirable” list.
Kerry Max Cook spent 20 years on death row for a murder he did not commit as has happened to many others we are discovering through DNA testing. We are an accusation away from being treated undesirables who deserve barely humane treatment.
In the 1930’s, the Christian world was in agreement that contraception was not in keeping with the Christian message. Approximately 70 years later, the right to kill the baby in the womb is seen as a right by many Christians. At the Right to Life March in Washington D.C. were persons with disabilities marching with signs asking, “Are we next?” Around the world we “weed out” people in the womb who are the wrong sex, inconvenient, and not as able as we would like them to be. What does that say to the people who are around that are in these same categories but who happen to be outside of the womb? Does that not make them “less than?” Will the slippery slope continue? We are all an accident away from being in such a category.
You could find yourself all of a sudden a member of an undesirable nationality as did U.S. citizens who were German and Japanese in WWII, or today, coming from the Middle East. You may be detained and have your rights withdrawn, or simply have people hate you for being of that ethnic descent. (Not to mention how the Native Americans, African Americans, or the Irish for the matter have been treated. And the list does not end there.)
It may be that you associate with the wrong persons. Lives were wrecked during the McCarthy period because persons were accused of talking to the wrong people. An interesting expose on this is the movie “Good Night and Good Luck.”
An unscrupulous man looking to cash in might destroy your company, your job, your benefits, and your pension and over night you can be “one of those people” looking for a hand out to make it through the day.
It is dangerous not to be pro-life. It takes a minute and a reshuffling of the cards to find oneself on the wrong end of the deal. We are all one body in Christ. To love others is to love oneself. We cannot hate without becoming less ourselves.
“Do you hate (them) because (they’re) pieces of you?” - Jewel
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Of course the way we come to this is by dehumanizing the one we are to cause pain. This is done in war to ease the restraint one might have about putting to an end the life of other human beings. We paint criminals as unworthy of life – animals that should be done away with. Even babies in the womb are just a glob of cells, not human, to be done away with at will.
If Christians want to rectify this situation, it is best recognize and deal with our own culpability in the holding of life cheaply. I was struck by a comment a professor made at the University of Akron about twenty years ago. It hit me like a brick between the eyes and it has stayed with me ever since. “When you choose to drink and drive, something inside of you stops caring about another human life.”
We contribute to mentality of cheap life when we gossip, when we exercise prejudices, when we look at pornography, when we engage in premarital sex or brush it off as unimportant or participate in joking about it, when we take others for granted or look down upon certain people, when we remain quiet when atrocities occur against the dignity of the human person, when we engage in contraceptive acts, when we could act out in charity but choose not to for selfish reasons or even when we do not treat our bodies well and with modesty. If we want to root out the major problems in the culture of death, there is no more effective place to begin than pushing back the darkness in our own lives.
Monday, March 5, 2007
Recently there has been a modest influx of solid men of faith into the seminaries of the Diocese of Cleveland. Wanting to know why these men are entering, the seminary asked them. (What a brilliant thing to do.) Not one of the men sighted a person in an office working for the diocese as a reason. The two biggest factors: a solid youth group and the attention that John Paul II received at his death.
Often I ask men who have made other choices in life if they had ever considered the priesthood and I am shocked at how many say they had. The number one reason they offer for not taking the call more seriously is that they say no one ever suggested it to them or encouraged them.
In my own life, I know that it was the old ladies after daily mass who would slip me a dollar and say that I did a good job serving and should think about being a priest, Fr. Ozimek who told me from time to time to think about it, and my college friends who mentioned it that kept the thought alive in my heart. Thank God for them!
If we want more priests (and religious) we have to foster a community that encourages them. Promote vocations among your children or your sisters and brothers, cousins, and friends. Recommend a vocation to someone at church that you see something in. Join a group that promotes vocations. Volunteer and bolster the youth group at your parish. Set the example of joyful Christian living in your own life. Pray for vocations. Pray for you bishop whose example can go a long way in sparking vocations. Pray for you seminary! Pray for your director of vocations. Fr. Mike Gurnik who has just recently taken over the job for this diocese is doing a great job but could use your prayers (as well as referrals.) Don’t wait for downtown to do it.
This is not an overnight fix. But overnight fixes do not last. Cures take longer and are more difficult than fixes. The west needs a cure. And we can be part of it.
Sunday, March 4, 2007
Saturday, March 3, 2007
Sometimes people wonder if religious garb is passé or unnecessary. Hollywood clearly thinks otherwise. If you need religious symbolism to get a point across, out come the habits and the collars (and the candles and the statues . . .).
Friday, March 2, 2007
“The One, the True, the Good, and the Beautiful: they come together and they go together. When all is said and done, we will be saved by the Beautiful (and) one of the things we are in danger of losing today is the Beautiful.” (Fr. Benedict Groeshel giving a retreat for priests.)
Having this in mind the Church has always been a Patroness of the Arts. Yet today, in the most affluent society ever to exist in all of history, we relegate our purchases of “art” to mass-produced pieces ordered from catalogues. Now, like being able to find a McDonald’s hamburger in any city or hamlet in the world, you can find a Catholic Church with the exact same crucifix as the one in your hometown. This, in turn, means artists do not find a market for nor hone their skills on religious art. The chain effect is that it then becomes more and more difficult to commission works of art from artisans who understand Christian symbolism and the difference between art for art's sake and liturgical art.
Find a way to be part of the cure. There are many ways in which this might be done depending on your resources and level of influence (of which you have more than you realize.) Seminarians from the seminary of the Diocese of Cleveland have a “John Paul II Night of the Arts” each year in which they celebrate prayer and art. Poetry, music, improvisational comedy, artwork, photography, and the theatrical arts are presented for the community.
Occasionally money is donated to a parish for a “work of art.” When this happened at my last parish we decided to ditch the catalogues and hire a local artist to create a piece for us that would be unique to the parish. We had the parish crest made in stained glass for the school. And for my Aunt’s eightieth birthday my cousin had a piece commissioned from the same company as her gift (see below).
Find ways in which you can support the work of artist. Clevelanders will have a unique opportunity to do so on March 25th. The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus will be performing Rachmaninoff’s “All-Night Vigil (Vespers – all of it) at Severance Hall (a great opportunity for Lenten reflection) to raise money for the Chorus.
Even if you have no monetary resources, go to that concert in the park and take young ones with you so that they can learn what it is to enjoy the arts. When they grow older they will appreciate art and be promoters of it. Rob, who visits Adam’s Ale from time to time has a website on which he posts his short stories. The first one is a heart-wrenching story of what happens when the Theology of the Body is forgotten or ignored and persons sexually use each other as a means to an end. (WARNING: SEXUAL CONTENT) But venues such as this allow you to give encouragement to artists in our midst.
Here are just a few more suggestions of ways in which Catholics can promote the arts in general:
* Attend live performances.
* Donate to worthy arts organizations.
* Promote the use of primary source artists in your home, school, business, parish, and community.
* As much as possible, influence arts toward the promotion of the dignity of the human person and the glory of God.
* Develop your artistic skills.
* When possible, employ live musicians in lieu if recorded music.
* When purchasing souvenirs, look for original or hand-made works of art or arts and crafts. (Why go to Italy and bring something home made in China?)
* Consider sponsoring a performance or art show in your home, community, or parish.
* Try to purchase recordings or pieces directly from the artist when possible.
* Consider donating to a scholarship for artists.
* When enjoying a street or park performance, donate as well as you can when the plate is passed.