Long time readers no I have little tolerance for so called modern architecture which accomplishes little but making our churches look like airport terminals or modern art museums on the outside and living rooms on the inside. Every once in a while though something new and interesting will appear on the Catholic radar screen however.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Long time readers no I have little tolerance for so called modern architecture which accomplishes little but making our churches look like airport terminals or modern art museums on the outside and living rooms on the inside. Every once in a while though something new and interesting will appear on the Catholic radar screen however.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
In the United States 1,429 Catholics schools closed since 2000 (increasing the cost to educate the children by the state dramatically.) The good news is that 405 new schools opened.
The population of the United States grew 9% last year but the population in the eight counties of the Diocese of Cleveland dropped 2.1%. This means that there are also fewer children in need of education.
Saint Sebastian School is fortunate in that it, for one reason or another, is in a situation that allows it to remain stronger than most of our other Catholic schools. But in these times that edge must be nurtured and protected vigilantly.
The Diocese of Cleveland is the 6th largest Catholic school system in the nation though the diocese itself is the 11th largest diocese. There are 131 schools, 109 of them being elementary schools and 22 being high schools. Enrollment for this year is 50,681. This marks a 4.2% drop from the previous year. In the entire Great Lakes region there has been a 27% drop in enrollment over the past 10 years. Because of this the diocese has closed 41 schools and opened 9 new ones. Some of the new schools are merged schools or schools that have opened where young Catholics are moving.
Gone are the days when you opened your doors and people flocked to your school. We have to work harder, wiser, and not be afraid (or negligent) in promoting ourselves and that is what we are doing. These are rough times and rough times require a strong, creative, and bold response. May the case be that in 50 years people will look back upon these days and wonder at our fortitude and innovation in difficult times which saved Catholic education and preserved it for their children.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
They are also big enough to feed a small village in a third world county.
Now suppose you were invited along. I have been telling you about these hamburgers and you were eagerly looking forward to it. But when we got there they said, “Sorry, we are out of meat. But don’t worry, we still have all of the other fixings!” Would you still want one? There is still the fresh bun, the secret sauce, fresh tomatoes, thick onions, spunky pickles, and the cool toothpicks with the curly cues on the top!
Not interested? Neither am I.
But let’s suppose that we went but they were out of lettuce or tomatoes, or onions. Well, that would be perfectly fine. I doubt that I would notice much after the first bite. In fact I know many people who eat their hamburgers sans buns, which one would suppose is an essential element of a hamburger. But without meat there just is no point.
Meat is the center of most of our diets unless you are a vegetarian. Have you ever tried to not eat meat going out to eat? Especially if you do not like fish there is something like two items on every menu that you can eat and most of the time it is a salad please hold the pepperoni. Drill the meat out of our diet it is like taking the meat out of the hamburger – wait – it is taking the meat out of the hamburger.
It’s like taking the cars out of Nascar. There is still the stadium, the crowd, the vending food, the track, the RVs, everything but the cars. Some of the zing is taken out of it.
Okay, now THAT is why the Church asks us to practice a common discipline, a common penance, during lent. NOT because the fish union went to a pope and said that they needed help getting people to eat their slimy offerings. “Please make Catholics not eat meat on Fridays so that we can improve our bottom line!” If that were the case the pope would have said, “Eat fish on Fridays!”
We do not eat fish on Fridays. We abstain from meat. The reason so many Catholics eat fish on Fridays is that when we feast we feast, and when we fast we cheat. “They didn’t say we couldn’t eat fish so let’s eat that!” And Holy Mother Church rolls her eyes and says, “Fine, eat fish instead.”
Except for me. Pass the cheese and bean burritos please.
Here is a decent article on meatless Fridays.
Monday, February 22, 2010
QUOTE II: “You can go to confession and not put any money in a box and you don’t have to buy the holy water.” Fr. Benedict Groeschel
IN OTHER NEWS:
Here are some Catholic News Sites on line:
Catholic Universe Bulletin Online / Diocese of Cleveland: http://www.catholicuniversebulletin.org/
Zenit: The World Seen from Rome http://www.zenit.org/
Catholic News Service: http://www.catholicnews.com/
Catholic World News: http://www.cwnews.com/
IN STILL OTHER NEWS:
The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter warns us that it is actually going to happen so prepare youself! The new version of the Missal is on the way. "WASHINGTON - A series of workshops slated from April 15-16 to November 4-5 will be offered around the nation to prepare priests and diocesan leaders for implementation of the revised Roman Missal.
The seminars are sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Divine Worship and the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions as part of educational efforts for introducing the latest version of the Roman Missal, which incorporates the most significant changes in the Liturgy since 1974. Other associates in planning include the National Organization for Continuing Education of Roman Catholic Clergy (NOCERCC) and the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM)." Read more here.
From the same source: "Did you know, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the official overseas relief and development agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops?" Read more here.
Frank sent this in. I think I posted it a long time ago but this short video (less than 2 min.) is a pretty good watch.
Not much else to report today! Happy lent.
The only problem was that I wanted to be able to drive my bus anywhere I wanted. I did not want to drive down the same streets over and over every day.
Well, things kind of turned out that way. There is no sitting behind the wheel of a city bus, but there is the constant meeting of people and being with them. There is also definitely the change up of activities every day. Not only are prescheduled days different from the next, what is going to happen on even scheduled days may change from moment to moment.
So it is the beginning of Lent and there are certainly plenty of obligations marked off on the calendar. Sometimes I think to myself, “That’s it! The calendar is full! No more appointments!” But God likes a challenge and finds a way to let you know there is definitely more room on your calendar for Him. There may very well be school confessions on Monday, but you found out that a relative has died and so different plans must be made. Instead of sitting in the confessional for two hours you go to another parish and celebrate a Mass of Christian Burial. On Sunday you are finally going to kick back and rest after a long week and (joyfully) a young couple shows up at the door wanting to register in the parish.
There is a story about a rabbi in a country under Nazi occupation and he was observed crossing the town square everyday at noon. One day a soldier stopped him and asked him where he was going. “I don’t know,” he replied.
“Yes you do!” the soldier said. “You cross this square everyday at the same time! You certainly know where you are going. Arrest this man!”
“See,” replied the rabbi, “I TOLD you I didn’t know where I was going.”
It is getting on in the evening and the parochial vicar and I are finally done for the day and for once it is early enough to consider watching a movie. We change out of our formal clothes and the emergency phone rings. Someone needs the anointing of the sick. It’s his birthday so I go. Communion calls are a lot like giving blood. You may complain going but being there and coming home you are have a certain joy and are thankful for the opportunity.
So ask me where I am going to be today.
I might be able to lay odds on my calendar (confessions, benediction, spiritual direction, stations, meetings, going stag to the Father/daughter dance) but in the end – I don’t know. And I like it like that.
Friday, February 19, 2010
As it turns out there may be an answer to last week’s puzzling architecture mystery. After consulting original blue prints and upon receiving an Email from the architect (thank you) here is what I was able to surmise:
As it turns out its current placement was itself awkward. It is in a difficult spot to maneuver a wheelchair and so was abandoned. Then the shelves and bulletin boards were designed and were simply built around the font and obscured it apparently with little loss on anybody’s part.
There you have it. Everything you wanted to know and more! (Until this theory is proven incorrect.)
Thursday, February 18, 2010
When I went to the University of Akron a few friends of mine and I used to fast during lent for three days on nothing but water and juice. What made it particularly challenging was that the Wonder Bread factory is located just off the campus and the smell of baking bread would often waft across the campus. That alone should have knocked some quality time off of purgatory.
Yesterday if you truly fasted you realized how much of our lives revolved around food. All day long I was presented with food that was sitting out. Even for things that I don’t like my body kept crying out, “There! That! You could eat THAT!” And what do you do in place of dinner time? Well, we played Scrabble. I won.
There are only two days on which we fast as a people: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Wow. Two days of simple portions out of the whole year. The minimum for the fast is one full meal, a small breakfast and one collation or light meal if you are between the ages of 16 and haven’t yet celebrated your 59th birthday. That’s not a fast! That’s eating sensibly! I WISH I ate like that all the time then I wouldn’t be looking at my waist line thinking “Golly, I better start doing something about that.” . . . “Someday.”
If you want to pray, we are told, give alms. If you want your alms giving to mean anything, fast. If you fast, make sure that you pray. These are all interconnected and essential for great growth in the spiritual life. Discipline is directly related joy. It is directly related to joy because it is directly related to freedom. “Are we truly free or are we slaves to our desires?” is what our
And fasting can be done anytime. Skip that cafasting is asking of us. Can we say no? If we want to say no to the big things we must practice in the little things. If we want to say no to the little things we must occasionally challenge ourselves in the big things. ndy bar. Have water instead of pop. Do something constructive instead of watching T.V. or goofing around on the computer. Learn to fast and learn to live in freedom.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
FIRST: Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Don’t forget that we get to fast and abstain as a Church community today and so with the help of those around us begin our path to greater discipline which is so deeply connected to joy.
For some Lenten reflections look here and here and here.
SECOND: It is official! We had an organization meeting for the new Chesterton Society. First on the agenda we were going to call it the West Akron Chesterton Society but were afraid people would ask, “What are those WACS up to now?” So we decided to change the name to "The St. Sebastian Chesterton & Friends Society". W. said, “If we do it in Latin "Societatis Chesternonii amicique Ecclesiae Sancti Sebastiani" we could use the acronym "SCAESS," but I don't know where that gets us, but it's easier than pronouncing "’SSCFS.’"
The structure of the meeting which is intended to last an hour at least officially is:
Recap anything that may have come up as a result of the last meeting.
The presenter read an interesting passage from the reading.
Choose next presenter – meeting time etc.
Of course unmentioned here is eats and libations.
April 5 at 6:30 as the date of the next meeting.
If you are interested please send me and Email for more information at JAVALENCHECK@AOL.COM. Also, visit the blog here for information and to read what we will be discussing.
THIRD: Last week we had a Mass for the healthcare workers of our parish. I was asked to publish the homily so here it is:
I got my undergraduate degree at the University of Akron in theater arts. I was mostly involved in design, construction, direction, lights and such. I became involved in theater because I truly believed in the power of it. When someone comes to a production they are presented with a view of life. At that point they must either reaffirm their personal beliefs or be moved to change.
The only problem with this was that if I wanted to eat (make a living at it) I would have to quite often put forth a message with which I disagreed with as much professionalism as I did one with which I did agree. This was something that I was not willing to do for the rest of my life and is one of the reasons I became a priest. I believe in what the Catholic Church believes. Here was a message I could feel good about putting forth. I could proudly stand behind what was presented each week.
I imagine that if you are in a healing profession you have similar reasons for choosing it. In this path you have chosen more than a profession. It is a vocation. Not everybody gets to live their loves doing something so close to Christ’s mission as you do.
Here is what Jesus came to do. 1. To announce the kingdom. 2. To forgive sins. And 3. To heal the sick.
Remember what we heard in the Gospel today. Christ, the Divine Physician taking a man aside who had a malady and brought him to wellness – to wholeness. That is part of Christ’s overall plan.
Did you ever wonder why God calls certain actions sin? Sin is that which always brings harm into the world even when we do not perceive it. It brings harm to you physically, mentally, or spiritually, or to someone else, or it messes up our relationship with God. But Jesus is always calling us to unity and to healing. That is what virtuous acts are; healing spiritually, mentally, and physically.
As person in the healthcare professions whether directly or indirectly you play an important role in that healing, in establishing unity.
The healing of the young man who was deaf and had a speech impediment was not able to hear and speak well. Now he was able to communicate. He was able to connect better with the community. There was healing – there was a move toward greater unity. That is what you are called to in your vocation.
And as in all true vocations you are not alone. Because of the hours and demands you need the support of those who love you in order to be fully effective. So family and friends, this Mass is for you too.
It is a noble life and I do not envy it. If you are Catholic you are under attack morally. Who would have thought that being one who brings healing could be so controversial? From pharmacists, to caregivers, to nurses, to doctors, to researchers, to every aspect of the field, it is going to continue to be more and more difficult to stay true to your beliefs and maintain your vocation.
You are more on the front line than I am. People see my collar and they expect me to maintain a 2000 year moral tradition. You are not so lucky. You are thrown on the front line
often without detailed moral teaching
often without a lot of back up
often without the support of your peers
sometimes with fears of repercussions: Your job or your faith.
I do not envy you
I admire you
I pray for you
I fear for you
I respect you
I hope you are strong
I hope you are protected
I hope you persevere
And we pray this Mass today that you may one day receive the abundant rewards in heaving to the good that you did in doing your best to maintain the mission of Christ here on earth.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
QUOTE II: “Joy is not a substitute for sex, but sex is often a substitute for joy.” Fr. Gene Fulton.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Russ sent in this video from the March for Life in Washington D.C. Thanks Russ!
The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter letter asks, "Did you know, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has made "strengthening marriage" as one of its five priority goals through 2011?" Here are more details.
Frank sent this in: "Someone sent me the link below which is a virtual wall of all those lost during the Viet Nam war with the names, bio's and other information on our lost comrades. It is a very interesting link, and those who served in that timeframe and lost friends or family can look them up on this site. Pass it on to other veterans who you think would like this." It is ineresting. Here is the site. Thanks Frank.
Adam's Ale's correspondant in New York sent this new Catholic blog in to share. Here is how the contributers describe it: "To those who have enjoyed A CONTINUAL FEAST: I have invited several of my children--Anna, Jessica, Rebecca, and Peter--and Peter's wife, Ann--to join me in continuing the cookbook on-line. We plan to post lots of new things--recipes, information, quotations, and prayers. We look forward to your responses and suggestions." Here is the site. Thank you Father K.
The time has finally come! The Faithful Traveler is finally going to be on TV, and I wanted you all to be the first to know--well, ok, I already told all my Facebook and Twitter people, but most of you are on that, too. Here are the details:
Debut: March 4th on EWTN. The show will air on Thursday mornings at 10:30 am EST and will repeat on Sundays at 5:00 pm EST. The final episode list (it has changed) is as follows:
Episode 1: National Shrine of St Rita of Cascia, Philadelphia
Episode 2: National Shrine of St Katharine Drexel, Philadelphia
Episode 3: Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish and St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, New York, NY
Episode 4: National Blue Army Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, New Jersey
Episode 5: St. Mary’s Spiritual Center & Historic Site on Paca Street in Baltimore and the National Shrine of St Elizabeth Ann Seton, Emmitsburg
Episode 6: Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Philadelphia
Episode 7: Old St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York
Episode 8: Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Baltimore
Episode 9: St Alphonsus Church, Baltimore
Episode 10: National Shrine of St John Neumann, Philadelphia
Episode 11: Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Newark
Episode 12: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York
Episode 13: St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York
If you want more information on our show, please check out our website at http://www.thefaithfultraveler.com/. Soon, we'll have more clips, more photos, more resources... just as soon as I deliver these derned shows to the network, I can start cracking on that, too! Pray for us!!
Another priest sent in this three minute video. I found it humorous but some might not. I won't print the name of the priest that sent it if you find it in poor taste. I admit to laughing. It is posted here in the hopes that you might laugh also.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Because of this he was allowed to travel freely. He could even go into enemy camps and it was assumed that whatever he saw was under the seal (presumably) and so traveled unmolested. He saw more in his day than most people in his world.
Priesthood can be something a kin to that. You are privileged to see a lot. You might be in a religious order that travels the world. Or you might be a diocesan priest (such as myself) and see more of your corner of the world than most people. Some of it great, some of it – shall we say – educational.
I had a study in stark contrast this past week. As you know Akron is under a lot of snow and it is pretty cold out. One night found me sitting in my car, engine running and the defrost keeping the windows clear, in a part of town I had not been in yet. It is a bit difficult to get to. You would not accidently end up here. It was not until later that I realized that I was still in the parish boundaries. (Note to self: Drive this area when the weather is better.) The man who had been sitting next to me in this modest residential area had just received a coat that was brought out to him and so wanted to take the coat he was wearing and give it back to the man from whom he borrowed it.
The roads here had not been well cleared of snow and cars slid around on the hill on which we were parked and I asked my guardian angel to consider protecting us from crunching bumpers.
Just a couple of days before I had been where the sun was shining, the evidence of which could be seen in the slightest tan on my arms. It was too cold to go swimming in the ocean. But I discovered by accident that the pool at the house where I was standing was heated! I stuck my toe in and it was like bath water.
“Are you going swimming?” my host asked.
“Your pool is heated!?”
So I put on my swim suit and jumped in the water and swam laps for a while feeling the sun on my back and looked at the blurry figure of palm trees through streams of water when I would raise my head to take a breath.
The man came back into the car. We were waiting for the police to escort us into the house from which he was banned so that he might pick up his things. They said that they would be right there, but the driving conditions were poor and who knows how many accidents and other problems with which they had to deal. I am sure we were pretty low on the priority list and we sat there for quite some time. We had made a number of phone calls and my phone was almost dead. A call was made to the parochial vicar to warn my next meeting that I would be late.
We called the person from whom we were trying to retrieve his belongings and the person agreed to let a third party bring the things out to the end of the driveway so that I could pick them up. She was being very kind considering.
After my swim I walked into the main house. The walk to the rooms in which I had been installed was quite a distance but at least I was no longer getting lost on my walk there. My hosts are so very kind and accommodating. I am not lacking for anything. I take a shower and then go out on the screened in porch and stretch out and contemplate the reading for the Mass later in the day. I drift off in the plush of the lounger hearing the gentle breeze of rustling the leaves.
The trunk and the back seat are full. “Where are we taking this?”
“Father, I don’t know.”
“I asked you to have a plan when I came out here and you told me that you did. I have to get back to the parish. I have a bunch of people waiting on me and I am already going to be late.”
“What do you want me to say? I’m homeless now.”
What DO I want him to say? What should I say? As it is the parish is full to overflowing. I am already holding the life possessions of someone in need in storage and that person is crying out for more space which just doesn’t exist. Every inch of the place is in use and we could easily use a whole other building just to house what is going on now. “Do you have a place to stay tonight?”
“I will drop you off there and then I’ll take your things to the parish.”
“I’ll come by and sort through the things tomorrow.”
We have Mass in the dining room. There are a good number of guests seated around the large table. The homily is about sin and virtue and have a good discussion about it afterwards. Then we move to the living room. It only takes the slightest of exaggerations to say that this room is about the size of the house in which I grew up. Someone plays the piano while we have earnest discussions about fasting and praying. These people get it. They know that they are privileged and empowered and that this comes with responsibility. I don’t have to hope. I know that each of the people gathered will try to do something tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow to try to relieve the hardships of this world. And I admit that I enjoyed talking about it under a cathedral ceiling.
I drop the man off at a corner by his request. I zip as quickly as possible back to the rectory. The people I am to meet are already arriving. The bags of clothes will have to wait in my car until later. We gather in the “club room” of the rectory. Old fashioned wood paneling on the walls, a large fireplace, and worn, but serviceable furniture pulled into a circle for the purposes of the evening. The meeting is how to perform their ministry better.
Friday, February 12, 2010
IN OTHER NEWS!
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Myers had a very perceptive comment to make about this. He said, “We perceive the world not just as it is, but as we are.” How we interpret our world has a lot to do with how understand it.
This gives us a hint as to the weak link in the pro-life movement. It sounds so obvious doesn’t it? Who wants to be anti-life? Who wants to destroy their children? Who would want to make it not only possible but a legally protected right that people can take the life of the children with more legal clemency than taking the life of the pet dog?
I mean nobody.
Not one sane person.
And that includes most of the most dedicated self proclaimed pro-choice people.
Like the Pygmy in the plane that refused to believe that the insects he saw were actually buffalo, “pro-choice” persons do not see realities that pro-life people see. They do not see a baby, they see a clump of cells that could become a baby. They do not see the damage to the dignity and bodily integrity of women but that they are free of undesirable results. They see independence from men and not that men have been relinquished of responsibility. They see the event only affecting them; not the father, other children, grandparents, etc. They do not see freedom, they see the freeing of unnecessary societal restraints. They do not see that having the option out promotes the need for even more abortions, but see it as a safeguard against oppression. They do not see the richness of life but the escape from poverty.
So, suppose for a moment that you are pro-choice and you see the world as they do. You believe that you are fighting for the good. Being called a murderer, a hater of women, a sinner, being vilified is not something that is going to turn your heart. If anything it is evidence of exactly the thing you are trying to escape and will entrench you more deeply in your position. (Once again, is the alternative really becoming someone who calls persons like me a baby hater?)
The task then at the same time becomes easier and more monumental. It is easier because now we know more about what it is we are dealing with and can address that. It becomes more monumental because this job will be much more difficult.
One woman who used to work for NOW said one of the best things we can do is educate, educate, educate about life – scientific facts. And of course pray. Pray like gangbusters. Be compassionate and welcoming. How this exactly plays out each of us must discover. But if we want true and lasting change this is the only way. Having abortion only outlawed without conversion of hearts means much less and will always be in danger of being overturned. This is a war of hearts.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
How trigger happy have we become?
Back when I was a kid, when we had to ride grumpy dinosaurs to school through molten lava flows in the winter we never had “pre-emptive strike” school cancellations! For the second time this year Akron and St. Sebastian cancelled school because we THOUGHT there was going to be a lot of snow and for the second time there wasn’t. Lucky kids. (To be fair we are still expecting about a foot today.)
A few Sundays ago we were having a particularly wintery weekend. Now, to understand the rest of this story you need to know that we have a church mouse named Junior that likes to play little games now and then. Just down the street there is a synagogue that supposedly has a synagogue mouse named Yoseph. Whether this is fact or if Junior was just playing a joke I do not know, but Yoseph sent Junior this memo concerning Sunday mornings (our Jewish friends worship on Saturdays) that was stuffed into the bulletins of our choir.
The Nine O’clock Mass
The snow was blowing out of doors,
The snow was piled high.
And I could see pedestrians
As they were passing by.
The faces of my Catholic friends
Came dimly through the glass,
As they trudged the snowy streets
To worship at their Mass.
I watched awhile, then went back to bed.
And cuddled safe and sound.
I watched as they braved the icy blasts,
On their sacred duty bound.
I envy their strength of heart;
Their faith that they renew,
But on this icy-cold Sunday morn,
I’m glad to be a Jew.
Your Jewish cousin
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
QUOTE II: “Celibacy has never been successful. Then again, neither has charity.” Fr. Benedict Groeschel CFR
IN OTHER NEWS:
Melody Laila sent in this site, podCatholic.com. The first pod cast is there but I only heard half of it. Let me know if it seems Okay to you.
Thanks to CK I can send you this information from the Eparchy of Parma. They are sponsoring an exhibition on Archbishop Sheen. Look here for more information. Sounds pretty cool.
Check this out! Dr. Trew sent me a notice about a fabulous conference being held in the Diocese of Cleveland! "Bringing America Back to Life." Go here and look to see the amazing list of speakers! Mark your calendars now!
Hey fellow priests! There is a contest going in honor of the year of priests for a paid trip to Rome. Look here for more details.
Saw this video on Called by Name. Thanks Fr. Kyle.
Oh! There's more but I have to get to work!
Monday, February 8, 2010
It is Arcticly cold in Akron.
There's a ton of snow in Akron.
I, however, am not in Akron.
Wait a moment, let me get the water out of my ear. Ah. There.
Every once in a while it is good for the pastor to take the difficult jobs to give the parochial vicar an example of dedication, hard work, and that can-do attitude that makes for a good priest. So I left the comfort of home - and the love of my dog - to go say Mass for a bunch of our parishioners who find themselves eslewhere this time of year.
Not having a lot of time to come up with a post today (I must needs get ready to depart and return to the delights and peacefulness of hearth and home) here is the homily that I gave this weekend.
There are a lot of erroneous ideas about what prayer is. Some use words like obligation, a chore – a Godly one but a chore none-the-less, or work. People “get it in,” or “over with,” or “out of the way.” But this idea of prayer will work against the purpose of prayer. It is in the end about building a relationship.
Father Benedict Groeschel, in trying to get this idea across, asks the question, “does your prayer life lead you to more fully call God “Abba?” Abba is a term that is as intimate as daddy but as respectful and full of awe as the more formal father. It is this relationship to which prayer is calling us – it was Jesus’ mission to us.
Both Isaiah and Peter today got a deep taste of that relationship. Isaiah comes before the throne of God and Peter realizes the awesomeness of the God man before him. Their reaction is of shame and embarrassment. “I am a man of unclean lips living amongst a people of unclean lips,” cries Isaiah, while Peter declares, “Leave me Lord for I am a sinful man.”
It sounds a bit like Genesis and Adam and Eve. At first they walked in the garden in the presence of God and after they have disobeyed him they hide in the bushes for shame of being seen by Him because of their sin.
So what exactly is sin? Many people have a vague idea that it means something is wrong. It is like the time I went into a teacher’s room and used the world “Yeah” instead of “Yes.” The teacher had been training the kids not to use that word and they got in trouble if they did. So here I was, the priest, using the word and their eyes got big and they all said, “Awwwwwwwwwwww.” I knew I had done something wrong but what or why was lost on me but I knew something was amiss. So I then learned the rule and played along with the rules of the room. That is not what sin is.
Sin is simply this: It is anything that brings harm into the world. It is something that hurts you personally physically (like overeating) or mentally (like cyberporn) or spiritually (like ignorance of Scripture.) It is something that one does that brings harm to others spiritually, mentally, or physically. Or it is something that harms the relationship with the One that we are to call Abba/Father.
And the thing that this Father wants for us more than anything else is health – virtue, peace, life, “that my joy might be in you and your joy complete.”
Notice in neither of the readings today is God angry. In Isaiah God did not say anything like, “How dare you!” nor with Peter was there any condemnation of his sinfulness by Christ. Rather, I think they saw the great love of God – pure – generous – powerful – complete – extravagant – and like Adam and Eve in the garden they are suddenly aware of their illness – of their lack of love – of their sin.
A relationship with God through prayer is supposed to help to bring a remedy to this – to help us grow in understanding of God and of His love and mercy – to lead us into that relationship that helps us call Him Abba/Father, to begin to weed out that sin which is harmful to us and to others, so that when we stand before Him we are able to understand, withstand, and accept His love. If your prayer is leading you to this then you are praying well.
Friday, February 5, 2010
The stones were about a foot square, had crosses carved into them and a round space that had something plastered into them. These were not random pieces of marble but the altar stones from the old church. The spot in which something had been plastered were the relics of some martyr! And these were being used to protect the cement floor from paint!
The altar at that church was not considered a canonically permanent altar and so did not have relics in it. I was hoping to be able to use these relics in that altar but was told that until the altar was replaced with a permanent one it could not contain relics and so the relic stones must be returned to the diocese for proper storage.
It is an ancient custom that Masses in usual circumstances be said over the grave of martyrs. Even St. Peter Basilica’s altar is built directly over the tomb of St. Peter. This is a tradition going back to the very early Church and eventually became law.
There are not martyrs tomb’s on every street corner – particularly in the United States so the practice of placing relics in the altar became the norm. The altar then is a kind of tomb and on that martyr’s tomb we pray the Mass. This is a wonderful reminder of the one Body of Christ, how we are all united – heaven earth – when we celebrate the Mass.
If you go to a Pre-Vatican II altar and find the place where the priest stands you might be able to see under the altar cloth the place where a martyr’s relics are. Post Vatican II there is the practice of placing the relics in the floor (like a grave) and constructing the altar over it. There is supposed to be on record somewhere who the martyr is in a particular altar but I have found unfortunately that many parishes have lost this information.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Here is the situation: There are often Catholic ceremonies that are attended by a good number of non-Catholics. The most frequently reoccurring of these is weddings and funerals. It is often not difficult for the celebrant to notice these persons. Sometimes they remain seated with arms folded across their chests while those around them are invited to kneel or stand. Then it comes time for Communion. We as Catholics have a very distinct belief in what the Eucharist is. This action is central and sacred to our covenant with God and with each other much as the marital act is to marriage. It is our com (with or co-) union. We believe that the Eucharist is a person. To share our most intimate action – indeed to entrust a person to another who does not recognize the Eucharist as such or at least not in the same way is dishonest at best. (If a person believe as we do then they should be in union with us. No?)
At Communion time I make an announcement. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as Canon law only Catholics (and Orthodox under certain circumstances) who are in a “state of grace” are permitted to partake in Communion. This means not only should non-Catholics refrain from coming up the aisle but non-practicing Catholics, or Catholics in serious sin as well.
So I give the following statement just before distributing. “Out of respect for those who may be here today who are not Catholic and out of respect for your beliefs, I can only offer communion today to those Catholics who are in a state of grace. If you are unable to receive today I ask that you pray for the unification of the Christian Church, and made a spiritual communion with us.”
It seems to me that this statement is honest. It has spurred fruitful conversations with non-Catholics over the years. Quite often when priests get together we run by our little speeches with each other. “What do you say?” to see what might be a better way to handle it.
It has been suggested that we have people read the hymnal statements but until we have our pews refinished (please patron saint of pews soon) congregants do not have access to them. And programs (which are really quite unnecessary) are often not printed.
So I guess I am asking you what you think. Something needs to be declared. Whatever is said should in a perfect world be honest, brief, and inoffensive. I am open to your input. Leave a comment and or vote in the poll in the right column.