Friday, July 28, 2006

The Collar

I was reading this book called The Collar by Jonathon Englert about a group of second-career seminarians at Sacred Heart Seminary in Hales Corners, Wisonsin. Now, admittedly, the author was denied access to two other seminaries after being told he would have access. The sexual abuse crisis seems to have forced some vocation directors to re-think the exposure they want their seminarians to have. Nonetheless, it looks like the actual stories of the men will be good so I'm going to stick with it. One complaint that I have is that the author tries to explain complex theological issues but is wrong. For instance, an annulment is not when a person's civil marriage is considered valid while the sacramental marriage is considered invalid. There is one marriage here. The whole marriage is considered flawed from the beginning. Not being a theologian, who can fault him for that mistake? Plus, the book is about the life of these guys who have all lived "other lives" that are now considering priesthood, not about annulments.

The author described what happened during orientation. One evening they did a Native American prayer service before supper and sang a song based on the Mickey Mouse Club song in which the spelling of the letters to Mickey Mouse was replaced by S-A-C R-E-D H-E-A-R-T during supper. I almost lost my lunch...and this was right before going to bed! This is how you want to present prayer to new seminarians?

Seminarians need to know the church's prayer. Why not pray liturgy of the hours and chant the Salve Regina during supper? Believe it or not, I've never experienced Native American spirituality or sang campy pop quasi church songs before and I think I'm a pretty well formed priest. But, if you start chanting "Regina Coeli, laetare" I can sing along because I did it at St. Paul Seminary. If they aren't rooted in the church's teaching, how can they possibly ever be considered a competent spokesman for the church?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Please Pray for Cardinal George!

This just fresh from Zenit

Cardinal George Undergoes Cancer Surgery

missa en espanol

Unfortunately, many dioceses will probably have a conversation like Bishop Slattery had in Tulsa. The church in the United States has to face the fact that there are several people who have as central concerns...

illegal immigration: People shouldn't break the law to enter the U.S.;
How did your ancestors get here? Unless they were Native Americans, they were illegal immegrants.

people who do come here should learn English;
Have you ever tried learning a foreign language? Give them a chance!

people who want to live in America should not wave Mexican flags
Drive around the country. People have flags of their ancestors hanging on the walls. It's okay to be a proud American who is also proud of his Irish/German/Polish ancestory. Why can't they be proud of their Mexican ancestory?

This is simple racism. This has nothing to do with protecting our borders. September 11 had nothing to do with Mexicans. These are good people who haven't bought into the abortifacient/contraceptive bias that American society has sold itself. Perhaps what we should be really scared of isn't immigration, it's why immigration makes sense to employers.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Go visit oxfiles! has done it again. Even though the person only posts once a month, it's still hilarious when he does. The new sign on my door says....

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The both-and of Catholic Faith

When most people think of faith, we think of a kind of trust in the divine action of God. God works in our lives. We trust that he does. You gotta have faith, right.


Faith is a far more complex topic than that simple definition. The catechism says, "Both a gift of God and human act by which the believer gives persoanl adherence to God who invites his response and freely assents to the whole truth that God has revealed. It is this revelation of God which the church proposes for our belief, and which we profess in the Creed, celebrate in the sacraments, live by right conduct that fulfills the twofold commandment of charity (as specified in the ten commandments), and respond to in our prayer of faith. Faith is both a theological virtue given by God as grace, and an obligation which flows from the first commandment of God." p. 879 of green second edition. The entire first section of the catechism deals with faith.

So faith is not a simple-minded trust. It is both a gift and a responsibility.

A classic illustration: An old man or woman is in her or his house as the flood waters come to overcome the house. Several times, people try to save the person but, each time, the person sends them off because they have faith. Finally the person dies and goes to heaven. The person gets angry either at the Father or Jesus or St. Peter and one of them responds, "Hey, I sent all these people to help you. What more could I have done." Point: faith isn't pie-in-the-sky trust. It's intellectual trust and trusting in God working through other people.

So, should people be shocked that a church has lightening rods? Or that we take out kids to the hospital when they are sick instead of church? Of course not. That's not breaking faith. That's knowing and understanding that God is not a divine pupeteer. He gave us each other and expects us to take care of what he has given to us. Faith has been given to us and we trust in it but we must also nourish it. We give trust in God but we also trust that God has put people in our life to serve us.

Catholicism holds two things that seem contradictory together. It's one of the things I love about it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

From the Pope's address to families

"In contemporary culture, we often see an excessive exaltation of the freedom of the individual as an autonomous subject, as if we were self-created and selfsufficient, apart from our relatiohsip with others and our responsibilities in their regard. Attempts are being made to orgainize the life of socity on the basis of subjective and ephemeral desires alone, with no reference to objective, prior truths such as the dignity of each human being and his inalienable rights and duties, wich every social groups is called to serve. The Chruch does not cease to remins us that true human freedom derives from our having been created in God'es image and likeness."

From the July 9 Homily of the Holy Father in the Valencia, Spain for the World Meeting of Families

Sunday, July 23, 2006

You are the good shepherd leading us into everlasting life.

Before I begin my homily today, please join me in praying for the peoples of Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine; that they will know Christ Jesus who, as St. Paul said in the second reading today, preached peace to those who were far off and peace to those who are near. Let us call upon our Lady, Queen of peace, for all the war torn parts of this world that the hearts of all world leaders will be moved to peace as we pray Hail Mary….

Late one already too late night, I was disturbed. I could not find the peace of Christ that unites east and west, Gentile and Jew, sleep to the weary mind. I had trouble falling asleep with a multitude of thoughts on my mind. I thought about my friend who has stage four lymphoma and all the many treatments he will have to endure. I thought about my friend who will be headed to Iraq in a couple of months after having already spent a tour of duty in Afghanistan. I thought about the high speed rail project that I think we need to connect Des Moines, Ankeny, and Ames and who I need to contact about it. I thought about what life would be like if I were president and how I would change things. I also thought about a few things that I actually could accomplish. For instance, I thought about the projects from work that I didn’t get done that day. In fact, I was in the middle of convincing myself that I couldn’t telephone someone who had called to schedule a wedding that day when, at last, my brain could fight no more. I fell asleep at 2:00am. Forty five minutes later, my own phone rang. I looked at the clock and debated if I wanted the answering machine to take it but then I begrudgingly made my way to the telephone, (Pause) and boy am I glad I did.

It was a parishioner who was going through some very serious relationship problems with his wife. I believe I have met the man before but we were far from being well acquainted. After 45 minutes of listening and trying to help this lost sheep, I not only felt like I gave him peace-of-mind, but I hung up the phone, went directly to bed, shut my eyes, and got the best five hours of sleep that I’ve got in some time.
We probably all know what it’s like to have busy schedules. If you are a parent, I imagine you are incredibly well acquainted with this phenomenon. With the beginning of the school year just a few short weeks away, it’s good to sit and reflect on how we deal with the busy times of life. The disciples of Jesus are dealing with evangelical busy-ness for the first time in the gospel. Last week, Father Ev preached about how they were sent out on mission. Today, the disciples have come back from that mission of preaching, healing, and calling people to the mission of Jesus and not they need time to reflect on what has happened. In some ways, they have been wildly successful, perhaps even too successful because they find themselves overrun with people who need shepherding, people who need to be missioned. Despite their best efforts to get away, going even so far as to cross a lake, the crowds find them because these people feel lost, like sheep without a shepherd.

Sometimes we are the lost sheep who need good shepherds to lead us along the way. They may be counselors, health officials, priests in the sacrament of reconciliation, or a good friend. Sometimes we get to be the good shepherds who answer the call to listen and be God’s presence for someone whose life seems out of control. Yet, in truth, haven’t there been times in our lives when we have been God’s bad shepherds? Haven’t we all used excuses not to fulfill our call to service? Sometimes we say that we are too tired or overburdened to help someone. Sometimes we use racism, sexism, or other biases to substantiate selfishness. Sometimes the repeated demands of people and children weigh upon our last nerve until it seems we can take no longer. We probably all know people who are lost, people whose lives seem to be spinning out of control. Sometimes we are unable to help them because, unfortunately, some people like their lives to be totally out of control. But, how often do we not help people simply because we don’t feel like we have the time or energy. Sometimes we are authentically out of gas. We haven’t any more to give and we need our Sabbath rest to recharge and re-center our lives on what’s important. Yet, we can’t become like the bad shepherds from the first reading who have their leadership stripped from them by God. Despite our busy-ness, we remain on mission, spreading the word of God. We cannot retreat to deserted places as a way of escaping our call to mission. Do we take the time to be good shepherds or are we so single mindedly searching for deserted places that we don’t recognize our neighbor’s needs?