Thursday, January 31, 2008

Saint of the Day: St. John Bosco

St. John Bosco (1815-1888), January 31, 2008:

John Bosco’s theory of education could well be used in today’s schools. It was a preventive system, rejecting corporal punishment and placing students in surroundings removed from the likelihood of committing sin. He advocated frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He combined catechetical training and fatherly guidance, seeking to unite the spiritual life with one’s work, study and play.

Encouraged during his youth to become a priest so he could work with young boys, John was ordained in 1841. His service to young people started when he met a poor orphan and instructed him in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. He then gathered young apprentices and taught them catechism.

After serving as chaplain in a hospice for working girls, John opened the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales for boys. Several wealthy and powerful patrons contributed money, enabling him to provide two workshops for the boys, shoemaking and tailoring.

By 1856, the institution had grown to 150 boys and had added a printing press for publication of religious and catechetical pamphlets. His interest in vocational education and publishing justify him as patron of young apprentices and Catholic publishers.

John’s preaching fame spread and by 1850 he had trained his own helpers because of difficulties in retaining young priests. In 1854 he and his followers informally banded together under Francis de Sales.

With Pope Pius IX’s encouragement, John gathered 17 men and founded the Salesians in 1859. Their activity concentrated on education and mission work. Later, he organized a group of Salesian Sisters to assist girls.

Comment: John Bosco educated the whole person—body and soul united. He believed that Christ’s love and our faith in that love should pervade everything we do—work, study, play. For John Bosco, being a Christian was a full-time effort, not a once-a-week, Mass-on-Sunday experience. It is searching and finding God and Jesus in everything we do, letting their love lead us. Yet, John realized the importance of job-training and the self-worth and pride that comes with talent and ability so he trained his students in the trade crafts, too.

Quote: “Every education teaches a philosophy; if not by dogma then by suggestion, by implication, by atmosphere. Every part of that education has a connection with every other part. If it does not all combine to convey some general view of life, it is not education at all” (G.K. Chesterton, The Common Man).

(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Making missionary parishes

ROME, JAN. 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- If a parish does not evangelize, it is nothing more than a building, said a Vatican official, who offered four practical steps for transforming a parish into a missionary center.

Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, affirmed this today at a conference under way in Rome on "The Parish and the New Evangelization."

The congress is organized by the Emmanuel Community and the Pontifical Institute Redemptor Hominis. It ends Friday.

"Why should a parish be missionary," Archbishop Ranjith asked.

He explained that God's call of love mandates a missionary character for Christians: "Jesus loved his brothers and sisters to the extent that he was dedicated totally to their salvation -- this is the basis of evangelization."

The archbishop, who led the Diocese of Ratnapura, Sri Lanka, before being named to the Roman Curia, called evangelization a "sign of the maturity of our faith."

"The Church exists only if it evangelizes, and the same is true for the parish. If a parish does not evangelize, it is only a building," he said. “Evangelization is not a matter of free choice. It is an obligation of our faith, the perfect expression of our charity."

Eucharist-centered

Archbishop Ranjith highlighted the importance of the Eucharist for a parish focused on the mission.

He offered the example of an Irish parish that organized "Eucharistic adoration in all the parishes. As a result, there are more vocations now. The Eucharist attracts -- the Lord attracts people."

"The Eucharist is at the center of evangelization," the archbishop affirmed. "The Eucharist must generate faith. In some parishes it is celebrated in such a manner that it does not generate faith."

The 60-year-old prelate also focused on the role of parish priests. He said that priests should understand their role by saying,"'I am useless by myself but useful in his hands.'"

Archibishop Ranjith also contended that parishes should not focus on their community alone, but "make a determined effort to reach the lost ones."

Hints

He offered some "practical steps" for giving parishes a missionary character.
"The parish community must move away from a maintenance model to a missionary model -- if the only thing we do is repair the buildings, this will kill us spiritually," the archbishop said.

Secondly, he continued, parishes need "to move away from a spirit of pessimism to a spirit of optimism." And he noted the danger of becoming the Gospel's example of a "lazy servant."

The third practical step dealt with the role of laypeople. Archbishop Ranjith encouraged priests who still think the “mission is the sole responsibility of clerics," and that "priests should decide everything by themselves" to "share with the laity."

“Each layperson is a potential missionary," he affirmed.

The fourth step was related to the third. The archbishop encouraged involving as many people as possible: "associations, groups, men, women, youth and even children -- and be courageous to go into uncharted areas, look for new methods and means."

Why not me?

Archbishop Ranjith answered questions from the conference participants after his address.A priest from the Netherlands, who presented his country as “the most secularized country in the world," asked for encouragement "because we are so marginalized -- we try to find any kind of means, like the media, to show our presence."

Archbishop Ranjith answered, "It is good to use all the means available and to think that sometimes 'dreams can become reality'" but "the most important thing is to feel strong and trust in God … and to pray."

He gave the example of his diocese in Sri Lanka, which has a large non-Christian population. Catholic laypeople go and visit the Muslim or Hindu families, he explained, and "they have tea together and discuss about religion."

"The sad thing would be to give up," the archbishop affirmed. "Be strong, be courageous, you will succeed."

A priest from Belgium asked if closing parishes reflected a lack of faith.

Archbishop Ranjith offered the example of a spiritual partnership between a Sri Lankan diocese and a German one. When a German priest died, Sri Lanka offered: "I will send you the best priest I have."

The German diocese considered the proposal but eventually decided to close the parish. This "'we are managing on our own’ means closing churches," Archbishop Ranjith lamented.

Following his address, the archbishop told ZENIT that parish priests' zeal and spirit of love are key. He offered the example of St. John Vianney, patron of priests, as an example. He also suggested Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and St. Francis Xavier as models. If St. Francis could go to the other side of the world and proclaim Christ without even knowing the language, "if it was possible for him," he said, "why can't it be possible for me?"

That Catholic Show - You Are A Priest Forever

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

We are family

From morning Mass, January 29, 2008:

"Then David, girt with a linen apron, came dancing before the LORD with abandon." (2 Samuel 6.14)

"But he said to them in reply, 'Who are my mother and (my) brothers?' And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. (For) whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.'" (Mark, 3.33-35)

Our readings today can at first glance seem to be very disparate passages. However, I would like to suggest today that even though the surface of the readings is very different, they are actually both about the same thing.

We have the great reading from Samuel that tells of the return of the Ark of the Covenant to the people of Israel. They had lost it in their dealings with the Philistines, but now it is back. And, this is so momentous an occassion that David dances uncontrollably - or "with abandon" as the Scripture reads.

He does this because it is far more than the recovery of an historic or religious object. The Ark of the Covenant symbolizes for the people of Israel God's presence abiding with them. So, they are not celebrating an artifact, but they are celebrating a person, a relationship. With the return of the Ark, their God dwells in their midst once again. And a great celebration that is.

And David celebrates the way we still celebrate today when someone who was gone comes home - with a meal. As we heard, "He then distributed among all the people,to each man and each woman in the entire multitude of Israel,a loaf of bread, a cut of roast meat, and a raisin cake."

In our Gospel passage today from Mark, at first glance it can seem a bit odd, even a bit rude. Here is Jesus teaching and preaching and someone comes along to let Him know that His family is there. Notice Jesus doesn't react with joy. He doesn't say, "Bring them in. Give them a seat in the front row. I'd like to introduce you to my mother and siblings." Instead, Jesus says, "Who are my mother and brothers?"

Of course, Jesus isn't being rude. He isn't rejecting His family. But, Jesus is once again using every possible opportunity He is faced with to teach the people. So, even something as simple as a notification that His family is there can become a moment to teach.

So, what's the message? Well, far from being a rejection of His family, when Jesus says, "Here are my mother and my brothers. (For) whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother," what He is actually doing is expanding and widening His family. His family doesn't include only his birth family and His blood relatives, but anyone who follows the will of God has the opportunity to be considered a member of the family of Jesus.

So, He could have said, "Yes, Mary is my mother, and they are my brothers and sisters. But, so are you, because you follow the will of God."

Why is this important? Well, this is where our readings intersect today. This is an important distinction because it is in the family of God that the presence of God exists. Jesus invites us into His family through baptism and membership in the Church because just as in the Ark of old, this is where His presence now dwells.

As we gather for Eucharist this morning, we are mindful that our celebration of the Mass and our Tabernacle are not unlike the Ark of the Covenant, in that God's presence wells there and we have accesst our God in this sacred space. And through our reception of the Sacrament and participation in the life of faith, God allows that presence to dwell in us, so that we become that presence in the world, so that we become the new Ark, the new Tabernacle.

All because God has welcomed us into His family and pledged to us to be present there. And, don't lose sight of the fact that just like David, we too are invited to celebrate at a meal. As we today once again break the bread and share the cup, let us remember that our God is in our midst, here in the middle of His family.

"Who are my mother and brothers and sisters?" My friends - you are.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Don't forget the poor

WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 27, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops are asking President George Bush and Congress to make the needs of the poor their number one priority as they debate and pass an economic stimulus package.

The bishops said this in a letter addressed to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that urged bipartisan cooperation to "find effective ways to protect the poorest families and low wage workers from financial hardship during this economic downturn."

Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, chairman of the conference's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, sent the letter Wednesday.

The White House and leaders of the House of Representatives agreed Thursday on a $150 billion package that would provide rebate checks to 117 million families. The bill has yet to pass the Senate, which will debate the plan this week.

Bishop Murphy's letter promoted such initiatives as "unemployment compensation, food stamp benefits, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program as effective means to assist families and help the economy," which were all left out of the bill.

"We, as pastors and our many Catholic Church agencies working with the poor and vulnerable, know at first hand of what we speak," wrote the bishop. "We also know that, in the various proposals and positions being debated, too often the voices poor families and low paid workers are often missing. Allow us to remind one and all that, while their voices are not always heard, poor people have compelling needs that should have a priority claim on our consciences and on the choices and investments which you will make."

"A good society," Bishop Murphy wrote, "is measured by the extent to which those with responsibility attend to the needs of the weaker members, especially those most in need."Economic polices that help lower-income working families live in decency and with dignity should be a clear and common priority."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Do you trust me?

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 27, 2008, Life Teen Homily:

Do you trust me? We heard that familiar story of Jesus calling the disciples by the sea and maybe we don't really listen to it because we've heard it before.

But, how would you react if Jesus came up to you suddenly – at home, in the halls of school – and said, ‘Follow me’? You see, the problem is that we already know how the story ends. When we hear Jesus go up to Peter and Andrew, James and John, we're not suprised that they drop everything and follow Him. After all, we already know where this is going. They will hear Him preach, heal, raise Lazarus from the dead. They will be there till the end, witness the Resurrection, carry on and spread the Church throughout the world. So, of course they follow.

The only problem is that while we might know all of this, when Jesus approaches them at the sea shore, they don't know any of it. Jesus asked them to give up their family, their homes, their work – everything they knew. And they had no idea where it would all lead. So, what did the apostles have that let them respond that way? Strength, courage, faith, and most importantly trust.

The disciples met Jesus – for them at the seashore – they trusted and the encounter changed everything. The same is true for us. If we really encounter Jesus in our lives, it can’t be casual. There is no Casual Jesus. "Hey, see ya around." If we really encounter Jesus, it demands a response of change and surrender in our lives. Why could the disciples give up everything so easily? Because they surrendered to Jesus.

And this is exciting! Being a follower of Jesus is not always easy – we are asked to go against the flow, to live different lives than those around us – but I promise you one thing – it is never boring; and it makes all the difference.

I think in my own life, as some of you know, I was an investigative news reporter before I entered religious life to study for the priesthood. Let me tell you, that was exciting. I covered crime - went to crime scenes, was in the courthouse. It was just like Law & Order - except the stories didn't wrap up nicely in 55 minutes. But, when I really encountered Jesus in my life 18 years ago - and for me it was an encounter in the Eucharist - that changed everything, and what an exciting adventure I have been on since.

If you feel that your life is sometimes boring, then you haven’t completely surrendered to Jesus yet. Life in Christ is NEVER boring.

Now, you may not be tending your nets at the seashore, but Jesus wants to encounter you tonight just the same. If you open your heart to Him tonight – especially as He reveals Himself to you in the Eucharist – He will ask you to follow Him and if you have the courage and trust to say “yes,” your life will never be the same.

Jesus wants you to follow Him and He also wants you to lead others to Him – as Greg said in the skit – to be Fishers of Teens! In your interactions with family and friends and others – where do you lead them? Are you leading people to Jesus by the example of your life? Or are you leading them somewhere else?

My friends, Jesus is calling you tonight to leave your ordinary, even boring, lives behind and instead to live lives of adventure with Him.

He asks only one thing – in the depths of your heart – do you trust me?

I pray that you have the courage to say yes.

May God give you peace!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

We're all in this together

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 27, 2008:

If you have money in the stock market, I suspect you’ve already spent a lot of time this past week, on your knees, praying. It’s been, to put it mildly, a roller coaster. And the gyrations went from one end of the economy to the other. We had the mortgage crisis, and banks declaring shortfalls and huge industries like Ford announcing buyouts and layoffs.

Earlier this week, there was an essay by Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlewaite in the Washington Post. She took a unique view of the week’s events noting that one of the missed lessons of this past week is that, more than ever, we’re all in this together. In other words, we are connected - what happens in Tokyo affects what happens in Paris and London and New York. Economic shifts in the yen affect what happens in a local bank in Arizona. Trades that happen in Germany can determine whether a widow in Nebraska can pay for heating oil next month.

Reverend Thistlewaite also looked back at another moment in history when we were all united by a feeling of crisis, The Great Depression. She decided to re-read Franklin Roosevelt’s inaugural address in 1933; the one where he said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” In it, he also said something else important. “The measure of our restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.” Roosevelt reminded the country that there was something greater than money binding us together. And America came to realize that were all in it together – with a shared sense of community and common purpose.

For the past week, the church has been praying in a particular way for a similar sense of community and common purpose. We just concluded the 100th week of prayer for Christian Unity. And the scripture readings today speak to that idea. In the second reading, Paul’s letter cries out for unity among the people of Corinth. It was another moment in time when people – the early Church – were united by a crisis, and were struggling to survive. “Is Christ divided?,” he asks. “I urge you …that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”

When we come to Matthew’s gospel we are struck by the way in which Christ himself went about building the first Christian community. He walked along the sea and one day, he called first one set of brothers, and then another. He called them two by two. Brother with brother. From the very beginning, the message was clear: being church is not a solitary endeavor. Christ’s church would be built as a community. And it would be comprised of people who didn’t work alone. They were fishermen, casting large nets into the sea. If you’ve ever seen that kind of work done, you know it takes more than one to haul in a big catch. You need help.

Maybe that’s one reason why Christ chose his apostles from that particular line of work. They had stamina. They had strength. And they knew how to work together. The great work they would undertake would demand collaboration and even compromise. There is a lesson there, I think, for all Christians, as we pray for unity.

Some scripture scholars believe there may have been rivalry and tension between the followers of John the Baptist and those who would follow Jesus. But you’ll notice that when Jesus begins his ministry, he uses the very same words as John the Baptist: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He isn’t trying to compete with the Baptist. Rather, he is continuing the work that John began – and enlarging and amplifying it. It’s a powerful example for all of us seeking to enlarge, and amplify, the gospel and bring it into the world. And we should never forget that what unites us is greater than what divides us. As Paul put it, Christ is not divided – and we are the Body of Christ.

As we realized this week, our world is smaller than ever. The global economy means all of us are inextricably linked, for better or for worse. Now, more than ever, we need to bear with one another, listen to one another, hope with one another, and uplift one another -- as residents of the world, and as Christians. We have nothing to fear but fear itself – and together, bound by a common purpose, we can achieve great things, no matter what our differences and difficulties. It is a message to pray over as followers of Christ.

To use a metaphor the first apostles would understand: the sea may at times be rough. But we’re all in the same boat.

“I urge you, brothers and sisters…that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.”

May God give you peace.




(From http://deacbench.blogspot.com/)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mass - something to do or see?

Here is an interesting reflection from an article by R. Kevin Seasoltz on Eucharistic Devotions and Reservation. Kevin ponders the effect that certain liturgical actions (maybe devotional actions) have on our perception of the Eucharist. The fundamental question - is Eucharist something we do or something we see? Here's a paragraph from the article:

"In the high Middle Ages there developed quarrels over the exact moment in which the bread and wine were changed into the body and blood of Christ. Clearly the focus of attention was not on the liturgy of the Mass itself, but rather on the understanding of real presence and the transformation that took place in the bread and wine. Such theological debates encouraged developments in the manner and meaning of elevating the host at Mass, a practice which provides the earliest example of eucharistic exposition.

The exaggerated emphasis on the text of institution as constituting the consecratory moment in the Mass, at least in western theology and practice, resulted in an overshadowing and obscuring of the other essential components of the Eucharistic Prayer, such as thanksgiving, invocation of the Holy Spirit, memorial, and praise. This is certainly a problem that continues down to the present time. Instead of treating the proclamation of the institution narrative as a ritual narrative and an integral part of the Eucharistic Prayer, some presiders tend to transform the text and accompanying gestures into a mime, thus giving the impression that they are literally Christ presiding at the Last Supper. This is surely not the meaning of Vatican II's assertion that the priest acts 'in persona Christi capitis' (that he functions in the person of Christ as head of the body).

It is significant that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal prescribes only one elevation in the Eucharistic Prayer and that at the conclusion of the doxology. At the preparation of the gifts, at the text of institution and at the communion of the assembly, the presider shows the elements to the people, he does not elevate them. However, it is not uncommon today for priests to elevate the host and chalice after the texts of consecration and then protract both the elevations and accompanying genuflections, thus turning the gestures into what appears as a rite of benediction. Liturgical ministers should not inject their own private devotions into the public celebration of the liturgy."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It just doesn't make sense

Today, we mark the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in our land. I found myself today driving from New Hampshire (where I directed a retreat for Catholic school teachers) back to Connecticut. As I do whenever I'm on a long drive, I tuned the radio the NPR and listened into a show that I generall enjoy, Talk of the Nation.

Given the importance of this day, their topic was abortion related. But, I have to say never have I been as perplexed as I was listening to this show. It was first clear that the bias of the program was pro-choice and that abortion is okay, even a good thing. They were highlighting that there is currently a big concern for the care of women after they have had an abortion.

Now, let me say right out - I think this is a good thing. We never, ever, cast someone off because they have had an abortion. Rather, as church we always, always hold them in our arms and hopefully bring them to reconciliation and healing after such a tragic event.

But, here is the part that just baffled me. The women who called in one after another called in to talk about how they had tremendous feelings of guilt after having an abortion - almost every last one of them. They all called in to say that they had to come to terms with the fact that they had terminated the life of their baby.

The response of the people on the show? Well, the host told one woman, "You have nothing be ashamed about. You have nothing to feel guilty for." And the rest explained how these feelings were normal.

Here's my point - why can't they see the obvious. Pro-choice people like to make the point that this is not a life, it is just material and that woman are making a choice and not killing a baby. If their point of view is true, then why are all these women struggling with such guilt? Why are so many of these women left with feelings of guilt and shame? If this is just a medical procedure, why would they feel this way?

What astounded me listening to this program is that the reality of what abortion is was written in the experiences of these women who had abortions, and all these programs attempt to do is to try and find a way to convince them that what they know at the core of their being isn't true.

There is guilt and shame and bad feelings because it is the taking of an innocent life. That reality is written in nature. I want these women to find healing and happiness in their lives - but that will only come with Reconciliation and being restored to full relationship with God. This is something I have experienced repeatedly in the confessional and it is a healing that is true, cathartic and complete. How I pray that the world will come to see what lies right there before their eyes.

Lord, please give us the grace to defend the dignity of all human life - from conception to natural death and all the stages in between.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Called to be saints!

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 20, 2008:

I want to start today by conducting a very informal poll. How many of you would say that you are a saint?

Let me tell you a story about King Henry III of Bavaria in the 11th Century. He was a God-fearing king but the demands of being a ruler did not leave him much time for his spiritual life. One day he got so fed up with being a king that he went to the Abbot of the local monastery and asked to be admitted as a monk for the rest of his life. “Your Majesty,” said the Abbot, “do you understand that you must make a vow of obedience as a monk? That will be hard because you have been a king.” “I understand,” said Henry. “The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you.” “Then I will tell you what to do,” said the Abbot. “Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you.” King Henry returned to his throne, ruled his people in a very godly way, and thus became a saintly king.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul reminds us that we are all “called to be saints.” He reminds us that holiness or saintliness – they are the same – is not a call that God places in the lives of just a few. It is not meant to be rare, but rather the norm. You know, Pope John Paul II, canonized more saints than all popes before him combined, and he very consciously canonized not just priest and religious, but people from every state of life so that we might be reminded when we look at the saints that they are like us and that we too are called to be like them.

Like King Henry we sometimes believe that we need to run away from the demands of life and escape to a monastery, a convent or the desert, if we want to become a saint. But, as the Abbot reminds us, God expects us to be saints in the concrete situations of our personal, family and business or professional lives.

This is a perfect reflection as we begin Ordinary Time in the Church calendar. As we begin this period of Ordinary Time, the Church reminds us that holiness is meant to be very ordinary, very common.

Let’s look at what St. Paul says, “Paul…to the church of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

There are two interesting points in this verse. First, Paul does not address the word of God to the Corinthians alone but also to “all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord” That includes even us gathered here today to call on the Lord’s name. Secondly, Paul refers to the people he is writing to as men and women “called to be holy” or called to be saints. Again that includes us. We may not feel like we are saints yet, but that is the purpose for which God has called us. We are all called to holiness.

A saint or someone who has been sanctified literally means someone who has been set apart. That God has called us to be saints means that God means for us to be special people in the world, not people who simply follow the crowd wherever the current wind blows.

For some of us the call of God may require a change of state in life. God may require of us what Jesus required of his disciples, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” The life of such a disciple is a life-long quest for perfection according to the mind of Jesus.

For most of us, however, God calls us to be His faithful children in the midst of the trials and challenges of normal life in society. The call of God is that we be in the world but not of the world. We participate fully in society, in politics, in business, in education, in health-care delivery, and in dispensing justice through making and implementing just laws. Our world needs holy parents, holy children, holy doctors and nurses, holy teachers, holy garbage collectors, farmers – wherever we find ourselves, whatever we do.

Shortly after he converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Thomas Merton was walking the streets of New York with his friend, Robert Lax. Lax was Jewish, and he asked Merton what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic. “I don’t know,” Merton replied, adding simply that he wanted to be a good Catholic. Lax stopped him in his tracks. “What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!” Merton was dumbfounded. “How do you expect me to become a saint?” Merton asked him. Lax said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”

My brothers and sisters, to be a saint is to be ourselves – the person God created us to be. God has called us to be saints. All of us here today are called to be holy. Let us each desire to live saintly lives and may God consent to make each of us saints.

May God give you peace.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Your vote counts!


FRIAR’S CORNER (for January 20, 2008)

Your vote counts

This is one of those times of year that I miss living in New Hampshire. As we go through our every-four-year political cycle to elect a new president, there really is nothing like being in New Hampshire. Here in Connecticut, we’re not accustomed to actually meeting the men and women running for president. Heck, not even Chris Dodd, our own senator, made campaign appearances in our state.

Before moving here in 2004, I lived in New Hampshire for eight years. The running joke in New Hampshire is, when asked, “Which candidate are you voting for?” the answer is, “I don’t know yet. I’ve only met them four times.” I can recall several occasions being in people’s private homes along with anywhere from a dozen to more than a hundred people while someone like Carol King or James Taylor performs for you in the living room before the candidate sits down in the middle of the group to let everyone know what they stand for and to ask for your vote. If, as Tip O’Neill famously said, all politics is local. In New Hampshire, all politics is personal.

This is perhaps the most exciting election in a century. There is no incumbent, no presumed candidate on either side. We have a woman running, an African American, a Baptist preacher, a TV star, a Mormon, and someone who believes in UFOs. And, so far, no one has stood out of the pack. This is, I think, a good thing. Unlike so many elections, this one really seems to be in the hands of the people and not decided by special interests or pollsters.

The challenge for we people of faith is, as always, trying to find a candidate who supports our views. I came across a posting about finding the right candidate on the right candidate on a blog by another Franciscan (friarminor.blogspot.com) that names the challenge well. He wrote:

“In order to qualify as a pro-life candidate, s/he must:


1. Be against all forms of abortion, at all stages and under all circumstances.

2. Be against all forms of capital punishment, and committed to helping us understand the absurdity of killing people in order to show that killing people is wrong.

3. Has never supported the ‘war’ in Iraq, and is prepared to issue an apology to the world for allowing ourselves to be tricked into going to war by incorrect and misleading information.

4. Is committed to abolishing the illegal Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

5. Is committed to a plan for immigration reform that respects not only the sovereignty of our country, but also the basic right of families to seek a decent living.

6. Understands that the reform of the incarceration industry is necessary if we are to avoid the breakdown of our civilization and to finally overcome our legacy of institutionalized racism.”

These are some provocative statements that really get at the heart of our challenge as Catholic Voters today. But, these are all issues that the bishops ask each of us to consider as we enter the ballot box (www.usccb.org/faithfulcitizenship). But, I think there is hope in the open field. There is hope that if we speak out with a loud voice, the candidates will need to hear our concerns. Maybe the dissatisfaction with the way things are can be the impetus to change. Change is a big word this year – let’s make it a real change that preserves life, that cares for people, that makes our country and our world a better place.

Your vote counts. On February 5th and before, make it heard.

Love, Fr. Tom

Saturday, January 12, 2008

We become what we receive

Onto the next article in Worship. This time by Nathan D. Mitchell in his "Amen Corner" on the Eucharist:

"In the West, in the early fifth century, Augustine (sermons 58 and 227) witnesses to the use of the Lord's prayer at the Eucharist in North Africa. Sermon 227 is an Easter homily that Augustine preached especially for the neophytes in order to enlighten them about the 'sacrament of the Lord's table' in which 'you were made partakers during the night just passed': 'That bread you see on the altar was hallowed by God's word; it is the body of Christ. That cup - or rather, what the cup contains, hallowed by God's word - is the blood of Christ. Through these, the Lord Christ wishes to entrust us with his own body and blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins. If you have taken this to heart, you are what you received. For the Apostle says, 'One bread, we many are one body.' Thus he interpreted the sacrament of the Lord's table: 'One bread, we many are one body.'"

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday funnies!

Lexophiles - A lover of words.

Enjoy the following:

I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.

Police were called to a day care where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.

The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference.

The butcher backed up into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.

To write with a broken pencil is pointless.

When fish are in schools they sometimes take debate.

The short fortune teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

A thief fell and broke his leg in wet cement. He became a hardened criminal.

Thieves who steal corn from a garden could be charged with stalking.

We'll never run out of math teachers because they always multiply.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.

The math professor went crazy with the blackboard. He did a number on it.

The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was on shaky Ground.

The dead batteries were given out free of charge.

If you take a laptop computer for a run you could jog your memory.

A dentist and a manicurist fought tooth and nail.

A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.

A will, is a dead giveaway.

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

A backward poet writes inverse.

In a democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your Count that votes.

A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion.

If you don't pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft and I'll show you A- flat miner.

When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine was fully recovered.

A grenade fell onto a kitchen floor in France , resulted in Linoleum Blownapart.

You are stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

Local Area Network in Australia: The LAN down under.

He broke into song because he couldn't find the key.

A calendar's days are numbered.

A lot of money is tainted: 'Taint yours, and 'taint mine.

A boiled egg is hard to beat.

He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

A plateau is a high form of flattery.

Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

When you've seen one shopping center you've seen a mall.

If you jump off a Paris bridge, you are in Seine.
When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Adoration

I'm currently reading an article in Worship magazine about the history of Eucharistic Adoration on the evening of Holy Thursday. Sometimes the most wonderful insights can be found in the footnotes. I just wanted to share this one footnote with you about the connection between Adoration the the celebration of the Mass:

"Adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass can best be conceived of as a meditative contemplation on what is too difficult to grasp and digest all at once during Mass. In prayer before the Blessed Sacrament I am continuing in quiet reflection my communion with Christ from Mass, and I am preparing for the next communion."

- Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, "Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament"

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Six Gifts of Epiphany

SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD, January 6, 2008:

Today’s feast gives us one of the most familiar scenes of our Christmas readings – that of the three Magi coming to see the child Jesus. We sing the familiar hymn, “We Three Kings,” and we all know the story well. We all know how many gifts the wise men brought – three. But, today, I want to propose that there are actually six gifts in this Gospel story.

We all know the scene; three men in their rich oriental clothing, bearing three gifts. Our eyes are riveted on the gold. Our noses respond to the scent of frankincense and myrrh. They bow before the Son of God. But, in the midst of this great show, the Magi are slipping something in, on the quiet, that we might not see if we don’t look closely enough. It is something that they share. They have it tucked up in their sleeves, right next to their hearts. Even though the gold, frankincense and myrrh get all the press, this is actually their finest offering – even more precious than the gold. It is the fourth gift – the gift of their faith – the trust they place in a baby, their recognition of a Savior.

Although tradition numbers them as three and even names them as Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, very little is known about the Magi. That they came from the East seems to be true. That they knew where they were going is surely a miracle of faith. They were prepared by prophecy for the coming of a Savior; they were guided by a star to the place where He dwelt. But, surely they were not prepared for the circumstances of His birth. The Magi were wealthy men. They had to be to make such a journey; they had to be to bring such costly gifts. Their rich oriental background and their exalted concept of kingship must surely have raised their expectations.

But, instead of a court, they found a cave; in place of a throne, they saw a manger; where they surely envisioned grandeur, they were confronted by poverty. It must have been quite a shock. Struck by this reality, lesser astrologers would simply have seen stars. These men saw the Light! After such a long journey, lesser men might have ground to a disillusioned halt. But, despite the length of their journey, the longest part of their travels came in the cave – a journey to belief. The Magi were wise, but not because they brought great knowledge with them, but because they discarded so much of it so quickly; not because they had full heads, but because they had open hearts.

Because of openness to the Holy Spirit, they accepted Christ in the poverty of His birth where others would reject Him even in the splendor of His Resurrection. We see the Magi in their full stature as they bow in adoration before Christ, the King.

The word, “epiphany,” means a showing forth or a manifestation. It originally referred to kings manifesting themselves to their subjects in great style. In the early Church, today’s feast was more important that the feast of Christmas. In the Eastern Churches it still is. There they call it the Theophany and celebrate it as a trilogy of manifestation. God’s glory manifests itself in the homage of the Magi, Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan and His first miracle at Cana.

The Irish and probably other cultures too, always refer to this day as Little Christmas. But, most people hardly recognize this day. But they should and here we have our fifth gift. Today is the day the Savior proclaims Himself as Savior to the whole world; the day the King of Kings invites not just three wise men, but everyone to be His subjects; the day God gives Himself, in the person of the infant Christ, to all of humanity. The Creator of the universe lies in a manger with His arms held out. The Magi visited God and gave Him their faith and received in return hope and love. They gave Him their hearts and received back the greatest gift possible – God Himself.

In our lives, most likely there hasn’t been a single moment of epiphany. Rather, God has been gradually revealed to us over the years. He has been pieced together from the conviction of our parents, the influence of deeply spiritual relatives, the graciousness of catechists, even in the beauty of a warm Spring day. Our initial commitment to Christ was made for us in our Baptism. And we’ve been hopefully trying to honor that commitment ever since.

The challenge of this feast is to surrender to Christ; to commit ourselves to Him as the Magi did. The challenge is to no longer put ourselves first, but to put Christ first. To say no to any mediocrity of faith, the temptation to be drawn into sin, the insensitivity we can have towards those who are in need or suffering; to bow before Christ wherever we find Him – even if in unexpected places and unsavory people.

A simple suggestion for each of us might be to the time every day to look at our lives; a hard and good look at what we do and don’t do; and to make the necessary adjustments as God reveals them to us. If we do this, we just might stumble upon that same cave of epiphany that the Magi found. The fourth gift was their faith; the fifth was God’s gift of Himself. The sixth gift of this day is the genuine response of faith from us to a God who has revealed Himself in our midst.
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have come to do Him homage.”

May God give you peace.



(themes from These Might Help by Joseph Cardinal Cassidy)