Thursday, August 05, 2010

What might be the fall out...

Right now, we are losing one front of the so-called culture war. From what I understand, the pro-life message is making inroads among several young people such that more people classify themselves as pro life than pro choice.

Yet, even as we (hopefully) start to liberate the lives of tens of thousands of children from the unholy scourge of abortion, we now face the cultural experiment of gay marriage. We've had it in Iowa for a while but I sort of believed that, if the most "progressive" among us in California could see the dangers of it, then there was hope that Iowans would get there too. But, once again, the will of the people has been subverted by one person who reminds us why Jesus had such antipathy to scholars of the law. Of course, I can't totally blame the judge for this ruling. The truth is that the people defending the will of the people did a really crappy job of articulating it.

Society needs to promote marriage because it is the only way that society can ensure a next generation. That's the uniqueness of marriage; it's the only situation in which the next generation will be present to "replace us". Homosexual relationships cannot naturally create a second generation. And if, as some have said, they can through adoption and IVF, can't we pretty much say that of any relationship? A single person can adopt. A man and two women can adopt. A man who used to be a woman and hiser lesbian life partner can adopt. It's not because homosexual people don't or can't love as well as heterosexuals. To be honest, I've met a lot of very loving gay people in my life. It's just that they are incapable by their very nature of benefiting society by contributing the next generation to carry society forward.

My concern is that, if we in fact lose this war it will not only affect American society leading to her downfall, but that Christianity will be forever changed as well. It's truly ironic that some of the people who broke from the Roman Catholic Church because we didn't take the Bible seriously enough are now blessing same-sex unions and choosing openly gay and lesbian leaders. Where sola scriptura when you need it? And, even though I know the Catholic Church will never fall victim to this abomination, I just wonder at what point the persecution will begin. How many priests will collapse under the pressure of gay rights lobbyists and carry out a mock wedding ceremony? When will we lose our tax exempt status because of discriminating against a protected class? When will they start putting Catholic priests in jail for committing hate crimes for refusing to marry two homosexuals?

Unless we can somehow help judges see the integral connection of creating new life with marriage, I fear it's just a question of time.

Monday, August 02, 2010

One more thing

Three posts is a bit much for me in one day. But, I forgot to write this last week and wanted to do it quickly before I go to bed.

A few years ago, one of my previous assignments very sadly closed down. I asked the people in the church if it would be all right to have their presider's chair and server's chairs to use for my personal prayer space. I've used them all for several years to pray but now I've got a church connected to my rectory so I don't really need them anymore. I just walk 10 feet and pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. In the last move, it was obvious that I need to live a simpler life. I have too much stuff! So I've found them a new home. I took them up to St. Patrick's Church in Lake Mills, Iowa. Their presider's chair kind of looked like a nice living room chair and the server's chairs started out as dining room chairs. The really neat thing is that I can continue to remember the people in the closed church when I celebrate mass in Lake Mills. I'm sure they'd love to know that their chairs are still being used to gather the people in prayer, even if it's a different church in a different location.

Being Pastor

Yesterday, I went to see a play at the Guthrie Theater in the Twin Cities called Scottsboro Boys. Supposedly, the play is going to Broadway, which is really cool. It's filled with gallows humor and times when you were laughing uncertain if you should be. Before I go up to the Cities to watch the plays, I always wonder if the travel is worth it and that was exacerbated by being "in charge".

I go to these plays with one old friend from seminary and two new friends who my seminary friend introduced me to. They asked where I had moved to and I said, "I'm Assoc...I mean, I'm pastor..." And I sort of laughed and went on with my explanation of being assigned to six churches at once. I love being pastor. I requested it from the Archbishop several times before the he finally allowed it. And I've always thought I was glad the Board and the Archbishop waited so long to make me a pastor. I just wonder when being pastor will be old hat...when I'll stop needing to correct myself and get comfortable in this new skin.

… the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ
Grace and Peace to you in God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit on this beautiful Sabbath day. History is loaded with examples of people who have been falsely written up in newspapers and websites as dead who were, in fact, still alive. Probably the most famous of these stories lies with Alfred Nobel. We probably remember Alfred Nobel because of the Nobel prizes given out each year, including the peace prize most recently won by President Obama. But, prior to that, Nobel was known for one thing. He liked to work with chemicals and searched for ways to cause larger explosions using chemicals. Eventually, he combined nitroglycerin with an absorbent substance to make Dynamite. In 1888, there was an explosion at a dynamite factory which killed 8 people including Nobel’s brother Ludvig. The initial story got Alfred and his brother confused and proclaimed loudly to the world, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday." Imagine for a second if that was what you read in your obituary. I’m sure part of the reason Nobel created those awards was because the very substance he created was the reason his brother died. Yet, it seems obvious that part must be attributed to seeing how he would be remembered in that obituary that forced him to change his life and seek ways to encourage peace.

Most commentators, when talking about today’s readings, focus almost entirely on the fact that possessions can distract us from the Kingdom of heaven. And, it’s true, greed is a problem in any society and especially true today. Yet, I have to admit that I think there’s something more profound going on in both the first reading and the gospel than a simple call to simplicity of life. The parable of the rich fool is Jesus’ long answer to someone in the crowd who asks him to negotiate a fair settlement for his brother who had excluded him from an inheritance. The parable talks of someone with a bumper crop who decides to tear down his barns and build larger ones in order to keep all the grain for himself. God, in an unusual speaking role, takes the man’s life and then asks this question, “the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” It’s a rather interesting question because I don’t get the sense from the story that the man was selfishly trying to keep his possessions from anyone. There’s no indication of that anyway. I think the point Jesus is trying to get across is that he had simply paid no attention to anyone else throughout his life except for himself and so his stored treasure may go to some relative who barely even knows him and will, as a result, have no appreciation for all the work he and his servants put in to making the stuff.

This is what Qoheleth from the first reading calls vanity. For him, the deepest vanity is that people work so hard to amass a fortune and then hand it on to children and grandchildren who never had to work a day in their lives. Yet, what connects the first reading and the gospel is that there is a disconnect between one generation and the next. It’s what the song writer Harry Chapin sung about in Cats in the Cradle. “we'll get together then…You know we'll have a good time then.”

One of the things that Americans have been taught is that we are supposed to work really hard in order to make sure that the next generation has an easier life. We are supposed to make any sacrifices we can in order to make sure our children have it easy. In High School, I learned this is the definition of the American Dream. Yet, I’d like to suggest that that is exactly what the first reading and gospel are cautioning us against. Our first priority shouldn’t be making sure that life is easier for the next generation, that they will have enough money to live like a celebrity. Our first priority should be to get to know our children so as to instill within them a love of God and a sense of goodness and right. We shouldn’t rely on the schools or on a visit to faith formation classes and occasional attendance at mass to instill these values. It’s what being a parent and grandparent is all about and what it means to be the domestic church. “…the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong? ”