Saturday, July 15, 2006
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
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
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.
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
I imagine some of you are history buffs like myself so you may want to see Pearl Harbor, or
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
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.