Saturday, July 15, 2006

Thoughts about Europe and other thoughts that keep you awake at nght

The other night, I thought about what Europe will look like when they, basically, succeed in their self-imposed genocide. It's a fact that in almost all of Europe, society is not having enough children to replace the current generation, an event I call the self-imposed genocide. That's probably too dire of a term to impose, though. But, I thought it was just brilliant. I was convinced that I had an idea of a column in a magazine righ before I went to sleep. I awoke and realized that I was just ranting about "facts" from "souces" that would immediately be discounted by the majority of people. But, I was convinced the night before that I had, basically, invented the wheel.

Do you ever do that? My mind races before sleep about all kinds of things. Sometimes it's about a disagreement I've had with someone, sometimes it's about esoteric subjects of which I'm studying. Sometimes, I'll realize that I'm keeping myself awake just by tossing ideas around in my head. Or, I'll think that I have an excellant idea for a homily or a post and then I won't remember it the next day. That's frustrating! The human mind is fascinating and proves to me the existence of God. It's just too complicated for it not to have been intended that way. Maybe instead of saying that it proves the existence of God, I should say that it gives me new appreciation for God's creation and his love.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gone for a few days

I'm in the process of collecting interviews from priests for a program that is taking place in the fall so I'm going to be gone to Dubuque for the next couple of days. I'll probably be uunable to post during that time but, do not fear! I will be back on Sunday and hope to post then my homily and update you on what happened in Dubuque. Have a great (hot) weekend!

Holy Orders Batman!

What’s a cardinal? (No, not the bird kind, the church kind.) What’s the difference between an archbishop and a bishop? How do you become a monsignor? These questions all deal with Holy Orders and the meaning of terms surrounding this sacrament. They are often confused and deserve some clarification.

Holy Orders is the sacrament in the church for bringing about some order to her holiness. It is a gift from God to ensure both fidelity to the larger mission of the church and a central focus to a community of believers, whether that community is religious or parochial (parish) in nature. Holy Orders derive both directly from Christ and from his relationship to his disciples. There are three orders traditionally part
of the church: deacon, priest, and bishop. All other titles are just that: titles for deacons, priests, and bishops. What follows is clarification of some of these terms, though each title could deserve a lot more explanation that it will get.

A cardinal should be a superb bishop who serves in one of two capacities; either as a bishop in a Metropolitan area (e.g. Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington DC, etc.) or as one of the Pope’s advisors. Technically the first kind are known as cardinal archbishops, though no one calls them that. The advisors to the pope are almost all cardinals both because they should be the most best, most experienced advisors to
ensure that he does not fall into error and because, at points, they have to enact a sanction against a brother bishop. For some reason, bishops (especially bishops who are cardinals or archbishops) are more apt to take a sanction if it comes from a cardinal than if it comes from a lowly bishop. It is possible for a priest to become a cardinal and remain a priest. This is true of an American intellectual priest, Avery
Cardinal Dulles, who made a very important contribution to the Church’s self understanding in his book Models of the Church. Nonetheless, this is very rare.

An archbishop is the bishop of an archdiocese. An Archdiocese is located either in a larger city or an area where, per capita, there is a large percentage of Catholics. If you’ve ever driven through Dubuque, Dyersville, and points in between, it makes sense that the Archdiocese of Dubuque is the archdiocese.

A monsignor is either a priest who has an important assignment (pastor of a Cathedral/Basilica) or is a venerable and respected priest. These titles are bestowed directly from the pope after some scrutiny from his brother priests. Don’t you think Monsignor Miller has a nice ring to it? Just kidding!

There was, at one time, the title “Archdeacon” for an important deacon in a diocese but this has disappeared. The Archdeacon tended to be an important advisor to a bishop and may come back into usage with the renewal of the permanent diaconate though there is no indication of it doing so.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Beautiful Rain

Today was incredible!

It rained.

I know. I know. That's normal. But it's been so dry here in Ames that we haven't had it for a long time. In May, I would have hated today but we needed rain. I walked home in it with one of those grins on my face that just knew there was a God.

Sometimes in life we can't feel the presence of God. We feel dry. We need to stay in those places for a while until God makes it rain.


I kind of find this interesting. I've not known what to make of Medjugorje for a while. I've had concerns because there are some people who believe that the private revelation happening there is more universal than what it is.

Let me explain. The church mandates that the dogmatic and moral truths of the faith be believed by all the faithful. It's our obligation to understand what those dogmatic and moral teachings are. In other words, the church teaches emphatically that there are three persons to the trinity; Father, Son, and Spirit. It's our responsibility to know that and not believe that there is, in truth, a fourth person named Jim. But, there are also personal revelations (not in scripture but connected to spirituality) wherein God intervenes in human history to promote faith on a pesonal basis. These personal revelations are often appearances of Mary and are definitely not mandated by the universal church for all to believe. It's supposed to strengthen the faith of individual believers.

The problem with
Medjugorje is that some of the people believe they are getting revelations that are more universal in scope, ones that the entire church needs to believe. If that's true, it weakens the universality of the revelation of Jesus Christ (scripture and tradition) and, therefore, weakens the claims of the church. I believe that's why the bishop is encouraging silence. These are supposed to be private.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Jesus the carpenter or Christ the Prophetic voice of God

I was recently at a book store, which is a dangerous thing for a bibliophile to do, and I picked up a copy of A Connecticut Yankee in King Author’s Court by Samuel Longhorn Clemens, or as we know him, Mark Twain. I wanted to pick up something that would be humorous but at least a little thought provoking. And, despite a virulently anti-catholic viewpoint on history, I have found myself pondering a question from this book: If I could travel back to a specific period of time, when would I go? When would you go?

I imagine some of you are history buffs like myself so you may want to see Pearl Harbor, or Gettysburg, or you may want to meet Martha Washington or Martin Luther King Jr. Or maybe some of you have people who have been significant in your life that have died and you would love the opportunity to go back for just one last chance to let them know how much they mean to you and maybe even save their life. Personally, I think I’d go back to 27 AD to meet Jesus.

Wouldn’t it be incredible to actually have the experience of hearing Jesus preach and watching him do healings. I’d love to be able to say in a homily, “Mark says that Jesus says this and Matthew has similar but not exactly the same words. In truth, I remember this speech and a direct quote from the Aramaic would be ‘Be nice to Fr. Dennis Miller. He’s a nice guy.’”

The gospel offers us a word of warning if we believe that faith would be easier if we could have a direct, personal experience of Jesus Christ. The actual location of this story is a bit confusing. Jesus has been up around the Sea of Galilee in Northern Israel for the last couple of chapters. It says, literally, that he went to his “Father’s House”. It doesn’t seem to make sense that he is in either Jerusalem at the temple or Bethlehem close to his father’s relatives, since that is way too far away and Mark’s whole point is that he won’t go in that direction until he dies. So, he’s either in Nazareth where he was raised, though that is a bit removed from the Sea of Galilee geographically. Or, he may be in Capernaum, which is a town on the Sea of Galilee that appears to be the place Jesus lived before he began his ministry of traveling preacher. We simply aren’t sure, a reality that would make my time traveling trip at least a little frightening just trying to track him down Nonetheless, he’s in a place that is familiar to him and he’s going about his usual practices of preaching, healing, and forgiving. As he does this, he becomes aware that some of the people in that town have no faith in him. As happens all too often, when you lose the trust of one person, distrust follows to others until no one in town has faith in him except the sick in their need. In his familiarity among the people of this town, he had taken on a persona. In other words, they could only see him as that carpenter who has a mother and step brothers and sisters. It’s ironic that his familiarity among these people made him totally unfamiliar in his real vocation as Son of God.

I think that, sometimes, we can do that with the gospel. We can make it seem too pedestrian, boil it all down to a slogan that feels all too comfortable, and get stuck in that. Yet, Jesus’ words are far too complex to be synthesized in even the best intended slogan. Jesus words and actions should be just as controversial today as they were in his own time. The gospel loses its radical sense if we pick-and-choose what we want to believe and mark off other parts as “not really the words of Jesus” or contextualize them such a way that the meaning is almost entirely lost. We stand along with this crowd each Sunday that we come to mass and hear those same readings and receive that same body and blood of Christ. We must ask ourselves as we do this if Jesus is merely a familiar carpenter or a challenging prophetic voice of God.