Thursday, January 22, 2015

January 22, 2015

Sorry for the absence. I'm still working to get these little updates into my regular schedule of life. I want to talk a little bit about yesterday and then I'll write about today later on. It was Wednesday, which means I do not have a morning Mass so I worked on other things before I celebrated an evening Mass in Lake Mills. Then, I drove to Britt where I heard confessions for some students there. Here's my dilemma: I am very conflicted with hearing confession for students at Faith Formation. I think it ties a sacrament that is ongoing and life-long to religious education classes which end (at best) at graduation. And, in general, it forces people who may not be prepared spiritually or psychologically for confession, to go because your catechist says it's time. First of all, it should be the parents who bring their kids to confession not the catechists because the parents should be attending the sacrament with their kids. After all, in some ways, we need the sacrament of reconciliation more as adults than we do when we are in school because we are incredibly aware of our faults in middle school and high school through parents, teachers, coaches, tests, peers, etc. but can become incredibly unaware of our faults as adults. Secondly, I know that people believe that students who go to confession will translate into adults who go to confession. However, that's not happening. There are many times throughout the week that I sit alone in a confessional waiting for someone to come in to be relieved of their sins.

Most of the time, a kid learns how to behave in church more from their parents than from any priest or catechist. If they don't see their parents go to church or to confession, then they think that it's unimportant and I don't think that bringing a kid to confession once a year is going to reverse that. Still, I hear faith formation confessions because I don't know what the alternative is. If there's one thing we have learned from the reaction to Vatican II, it is that replacing something that we don't think is working (the rosary, adoration, novenas, 30 hours, etc) with nothing is really bad for the basic spiritual formation of the people of God. So, until it's clear what we should do differently, I sit in a confessional and and am stoned to death with the cotton balls of grade school confession. And, who knows? Maybe three minutes of honesty will translate for at least one kid into a life-long commitment to confession.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Vocation to a life of joy - 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time year B

This past weekend in my homily, I talked about some of the negative reactions I've got when I've suggested someone has a vocation to priesthood. I talked about how that's understandable because of the negative impressions people have of priesthood, both those caused by sexual abuse and angry priests and those caused by the perception that the only way to lead a happy life is by having sex. I then talked about the first four chapters of Samuel. If you haven't read these chapters, please do so. They're great. It's a story of contrasts between Hannah and Eli. Hannah is faithful to God. She is mocked by her husband's other wife because she seems to be barren but, when she promises to dedicated her first-born to God, she doesn't react like a person scorn. She offers her son Samuel to the service of the priest, Eli. Eli, on the other hand, seems like a faithful person but has managed to appoint his power-hungry sons, Phineas and Hophni, to positions of power, He is not a good shepherd. That's why chapter 3 is so complex. It says that the Word of the Lord was was scarce and vision infrequent. Why? What were Phineas and Hophni and Eli doing if not listening to and preaching the Word of the Lord? We know from chapter 2 that Phineas and Hophni were busy stealing from the best sacrifices and making sure their bellies were full and possibly meeting women at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. They were worried about their comfort more than the will of God. I contrasted that with Samuel who was told during his calling that his first job was to tell Eli that his time has come to an end as the priest and that he and his sons would die.

All too often, we think our goal in life is to be happy. But, a true vocation has moments of happiness and frustration. It has moments that test our patience and moments of testing our abilities. It has moments of being yelled at and moments of failure. But, it is still joyful amidst all this. We have to think more in the long run than in the immediate, short-term. Is it worth the sadness and frustration and anger? I think being able to give people the body and blood of Christ and telling them that their sins are forgiven is incredibly joyful. I think helping people say goodbye to a dead relative and helping them welcome a new baby is joyful. It's not always happy but I can guarantee you that anything worth doing is both challenging and joyful.