Monday, March 31, 2008
Peter tries to capture the wolf and make him pay for his crime. In the process, Peter is scratched across the face and almost killed himself. However, he eventually prevails, and he and the grandfather bring the wolf into town to great interest and conversation. The "tough guys" of town take turns taunting the now helpless wolf, and there is a visible transformation in Peter. This is not what he wants to be - no better than an animal exacting revenge. He looks into the eyes of the wolf, and his anger leaves him. He lets the wolf go free, and Peter himself, at that point, never seems freer.
We have just celebrated the feast of Divine Mercy Sunday. The lesson that we take from the forgiveness and mercy that Jesus offers us is that in our woundedness we can either hold on to injury and hate or, like Christ, freely forgive. When we pursue vengeance and the destruction of those who harm us or our loved ones, we become the very thing we despise, and in a way perpetuate the evil that created that pain in the first place. A society (or a person) that cannot forgive can never be free.
Teaching our young people to be merciful and forgiving of injuries is not teaching them to be doormats and push-overs. It is, in fact, teaching them to be free.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Cardinal Keeler has always had a knack for hospitality at the Basilica and his home. His love of the history of the Church and of the Archdiocese is evident as he describes the various artwork and episcopal accouterments in his home - from Archbishop Marechal's crosier to John Carroll's pectoral cross to a painting of a procession of Pope Clement. His knowledge of history and love of the Church shine through. Even with all his journeys around the world on behalf of ecumenism and interfaith dialog, he will almost always take the time to give a mini-tour of his favorite place in the world - home.
This year, the Archdiocese turns 200 - on April 8, to be exact. There's a great line-up of events to mark the celebration. It would be a wonderful opportunity to showcase the history of the Church in America to our youth (maybe some extra credit for attending, teachers?). Check out the program here.
Friday, March 28, 2008
The young people eat it up, and they can parrot it back almost verbatim for weeks afterward. Thank you, YouTube.
His style, though, has me thinking about our preaching as priests. Are we engaging our hearers - let alone young people? Of course, the preacher's job is not necessarily to entertain or be funny, but it certainly is to engage our listeners in the Word they just heard - and to get them excited about it. Are we doing that? Granted, not every priest or deacon is blessed with the gift of dynamic preaching style; however, if (as Vatican II says) "the first task of the priest is to preach," then we must be extra attentive to how we break open that Word and help bring it to life for our congregations.
For the sake of clarity, a homily is not a speech, nor is it a "performance." A homily is meant to be related to the Scriptures just read, within the context of the Mass or liturgy, that applies the Word of God to the real situation of those who hear it - preacher included. In other words, if I want you to care about it, then I have to care about it. It's not a matter of lifting a text from the Internet; it is a matter of being "plugged in" to the One who speaks so we can repeat that Word with power.
Preparing and delivering a homily is not as easy as some of our wonderful preachers make it seem. It is an art, requiring prayer, study and creativity, as well as a good knowledge of our people. With that in mind, and with the intent of helping those who hear, what is really needed among preachers is passion - passion for the Word and passion for the people. Wouldn't it be great to have young people repeating what we say Sunday on a Monday morning?
Thursday, March 27, 2008
This has been a point of contention ever since the reforms of Vatican II. Many people believe that the Council was a "starting over point" for the Church, rather than an action in continuity with the organic development of the Church in the world. Referring to "the spirit of Vatican II," many have justified flat-out un-Catholic practices that they have found "nice" and "meaningful."
Now, I am one who appreciates innovation, and there is actually a lot of room for creativity within the boundaries of the rubrics of our liturgy. Many people do not explore these, however, preferring, perhaps, to stay with the familiar and comfortable. Nothing wrong there. Rather, it is when priests (and other liturgists) seek to "make Mass more interesting or meaningful" by adding foreign elements, switching things around, making stuff up, and otherwise ignoring what the rubrics demand, that things get hairy. You will always find people who appreciate "Father Groovy" (and he is often acting with good intentions). However, it often happens that Fr. Groovy is a difficult act to follow - especially if you want to celebrate as the Church does.
I am by no means a rabid rubricist, but I do think that there is a great wisdom in the uniformity of celebration in the Catholic liturgy. It is comfortable and familiar (like family). I also find that for young people, this comfort and familiarity is helpful - not just in feeling at home in liturgy, but also in feeling at home in their faith. Our young people want what the Church teaches and celebrates, not someone's wish for what the Council "should have said or done" or what the liturgy "should be." They get enough "innovation" in the world - so much so that their heads are spinning, and adults are struggling to understand what Jimmy is into today. Mass, for the young person, should be a place where the head stops spinning and they can focus on what really matters - their relationship with God - a relationship that has been there, steady, from the beginning.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
In the film The Little Mermaid, Ariel rescues Prince Eric and nurses him awake on a beach before having to swim off. All Eric remembers of that encounter is the tenderness and her song. He is enchanted - smitten - and he searches for that one who saved him as his true love.
Ariel, too, wants to be with Eric - so much so that she gives up her voice. When she is with him, Eric is happy, but longs to hear her voice in order to recognize the one he loves. He feels something, but he is still uncertain. When the evil Ursula appears as a young maiden, singing Ariel's song, Eric believes she is the one and follows her - almost into marriage. It is the love of Ariel, evident in her actions and presence, that brings him around. She finds her voice again and they end up living "happily ever after."
Isn't that like our search for meaning? We feel a longing that goes beyond our human limitations, but we are often unsure. We, perhaps, follow many false voices in pretty packaging in order to find the peace, joy and love of God. That love is always there - right in front of us - in the Presence of Christ. We do not need to search elsewhere to satisfy that deep, human longing, because it is ultimately a longing for God - built in by the Creator.
Jesus calls Mary by name, and it is through that voice of the Beloved that she recognizes him. We, too, are called to recognize Christ's voice in our world and echo his call to others, to satisfy that deep longing that all people have.
Monday, March 24, 2008
The idea of the flame going out to the world is evocative of the celebration of our Easter vigil. From the blessed Easter fire the Paschal candle is lit; from the Paschal candle, the candles of the congregation. There is a tradition in the Greek Church (I believe) in which young people from each household go to their local church and light a candle from the Easter candle - the light of Christ, or phos Christou - and they return to their families declaring, "He is risen!"
Today, celebrating the great feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, we too have had our candles lit. We have now gone out into our worlds. It is now up to us to proclaim to others, as those youngsters in Greece, as those first women at the tomb, that "He is risen!" Perhaps this will not be the first words from our lips, but that light should be shining, evident, in how we love one another. Easter joy does that - it sends us out - perhaps fearful but overjoyed - to proclaim with lives renewed that "He is Risen!" There is need for this proclamation in a world of injustice, oppression and violence - all over the world: in China as well as at home.
The light must be passed on. Just as the Olympic torch will remind the world that we are coming together in China in August, so too should our Christian lives remind others that Christ is Risen, and that his resurrection has an effect in our lives - and the world.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008
But Horton immediately sets out to find the one clover on which those Whos are waiting in the resulting chaos. Millions of clovers, and Horton still searches - because, "an elephant is faithful, one hundred percent." - until, at last, he finds them. The Whos finally hear Horton, from the midst of the destruction of their fall, and they too believe in him.
Holy Saturday is when we recall Christ's rest in the tomb. And yet, this rest was not just any deathly silence. There is an ancient tradition in the Church that this is the day when Christ "descended into Hell." The reading from the Office of Readings today, recalls an image of Christ's descent, and his finding of Adam there in Hell:
"He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: 'My Lord be with you all.' Christ answered, 'And with your spirit.' He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying, 'Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light. ... I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.'"
Today, we remember not only that time when we were lost and our world and lives were in chaos; we remember that time when even when we were lost, God loved us more than ever. He went as far as one can go - perhaps even farther - and recovered what was lost. Jesus went into the depths to bring us out, because God is faithful too - one hundred percent.
Friday, March 21, 2008
But this was one homily worth paying attention to. You can see the whole thing in English here. The thing that really impressed me in the homily was Fr. Cantalamessa's point about destroying our enemies. Now, hold on a minute: that doesn't sound very Christian, does it? Well, he is not talking about destroying the people who are our enemies; rather, he says that our task is to put to death the enmity that makes enemies out of people. The wordplay is beautiful - in English (enemies/enmity) as well as Italian (nemici/nemicita) - and it really gets to the heart of Christian love and the victory of the Cross.
Jesus took all that was opposed to God upon himself - "he became sin," as St. Paul says - and he put that enmity to death. Through this, he is victorious, and by virtue of our baptism we too are victorious. Today, we remember that greatest sacrifice of Christ, and we thank him for it. But to truly be grateful, we must ourselves put to death all enmity in our lives.
Cantalamessa quotes Abe Lincoln who said, "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?" We all have these "enemies" in our lives to some extent or another. Can we set aside our prejudices, our preconceptions, our bigotry, our hatred - or enmity - in order to know true friendship and love? Can we imagine it?
It's easy if we try.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Jesus chose to be remembered not simply in the words he said and the stories that we tell about him, but especially in this meal that we share: the Eucharist. Today, we gather and recall Jesus' institution of the Sacrament of his Body and Blood, as well as the Sacrament of Holy Orders and the Priesthood, through which we continue to be able to celebrate this Sacrament. Oddly, the gospel that we hear today says nothing of bread and wine. Rather, we hear John's account of Jesus' humble act of washing his apostles' feet, and his commission of them to do the same. "I give you an example," our Lord tells them, "that you should do what I have done for you."
It is this gift - or these gifts - that we celebrate today. Jesus' gift of himself, which is symbolized and re-given in these sacraments of the Eucharist and Priesthood. However, this is an example that all Christians are called to imitate - a gift of self that shares Christ's love with the world. We remember, but not simply to make ourselves "feel nice" - rather, we remember and are nourished, because the example is still there, forever, in these sacraments. And, we are nourished in order to go out and "do this in memory of me" so that all may know that Jesus is alive and that God's love endures, through our example as well.
The idea of the meal also should help us appreciate all the meals that we can share with each other. It's almost a lost art in our culture - the meal. In an age of fast food, too many of us are still isolated from each other - even at meal time. Recent KFC ads seem to try to recover this - even if the meal is "fast food." A family sits around a banquet of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and biscuits, and they (get ready) talk to each other! So, hopefully, we can recover that lost art - or at least learn to appreciate those precious moments around the table together -whether that table be at home or at a restaurant - or at an altar.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
First, the premise of the story is that Horton the Elephant hears a noise coming from a tiny speck that he allows to rest on a little clover bloom. He is the only one who hears it at first, and he tells people that this little world is there. The cynics doubt - personified and led by a kangaroo (played very well by Carol Burnett). "If it can't be seen, touched or heard it doesn't exist." She is a classic atheist (or at least agnostic).
Nevertheless, Horton sticks to what he believes and vows to protect this world on a speck, forging a relationship with the Mayor of Who-ville - who himself is disbelieved in his insistence that Horton exists. It is a great commentary on the power of faith and the strength of conviction that comes from faith. Young people can draw strength from this in their own faith, knowing that even though people may ridicule something it doesn't make that something any less true. Yes, faith is reasonable - it has to be, or else it can easily be manipulated (perhaps more on that later?) -but ultimately, faith is a relationship between the believer and the Believed.
It is the strength of Horton's convictions that attracts others to his belief, and which leads those others to believe as well. For the young person, the power of their own faith can lead others to a relationship with God as well. I have seen this on the college campus and in the parish, and this is what truly inspires me as a believer. Even when it can't be adequately explained, the relationship is real - and that's what people believe.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
In the “WTF” category…we have an online auction for a “corn flake shaped like
The stately flake is listed as being "larger than your average flake" and "has undergone no alterations." In other words, Illinois-Flake fell right out of this box of Frosted Flakes. Adding to the interest of this item, it is described as "lightly frosted" (perhaps giving a wintery feel to the flake). Oddly enough, the geographic similarity was identified not by someone from Chicago or Springfield, but from Virginia! Who says Americans stink at geography?
I don't know what price a starving third-world person (or starving American, for that matter) would put on this gem, but if this is what cereal has come to, I'll start eating fruit and bagels for breakfast. Hurry! Bidding ends Thursday! It's an offer too good to eat.
UPDATE! - The Great Illinois Corn Flake has been removed from auction! Apparently, it was too good too eat - or perhaps not!
Monday, March 17, 2008
Often, young people look at a vocation to the priesthood or religious life as a solitary one - a lonely life. With fewer and fewer answering the call to such ministry, this can often be the case, and we priests need to be aware of this. We are "all in this together" - even when we are apart. (Don't worry: we aren't putting on our bathing suits and rocking out with wild dance moves!) It is good to come together to celebrate and support one another's ministry. It is good to come together to simply be with each other - not in an "old boys' club" sense, but in the sense of fraternity and mutual support. See what a group of seminarians and priests are doing in Denver.
To young people considering the vocation but fearful that it will be lonely, I can only say that I have felt more love and support from my brother priests - and the People of God - than I ever imagined. Please pray for our priests, and for those who are called but fear the answer. We are in this together.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
That's how discipleship works for the Christian. We will have problems and struggles - in fact, Jesus promised that we would. The true mark of a disciple is not in being victorious - or even trouble-free. Rather, the true mark of a disciple is that he or she walks with Christ, who himself suffered.
Today, some 1300 young people of the Archdiocese will walk with Jesus, committed to being disciples, on the annual Palm (Saturday) Youth Pilgrimage. It looks like those prayers for good weather have found a hearing with God. Even so, we will walk - together with one another, together with Christ - as disciples. The beauty of a pilgrimage is the same as the beauty of Simba's journey: we walk together with friends and God, and we emerge changed and prepared for the next steps. Keep us in prayer; I need to get my shoes on.
Friday, March 14, 2008
No – I’m not talking about the Seven Dwarves! What are the Seven Deadly Sins? Pride, gluttony, sloth, greed, envy, lust, and anger. But wait! There’s more! In a recent interview, an official of the
These “new” sins reflect the effect of globalization on our world and our responsibilities to one another in such a “smaller world.” Here they are:
1) genetic modification (not being satisfied with creation)
2) human experimentation (objectifying humanity)
3) polluting the environment (poor stewardship)
4) social injustice (relational ignorance)
5) causing or contributing to poverty (apathy in inequality)
6) financial gluttony (over-consumerism)
7) drug/substance abuse (self-destruction).
Before we get into a sense that the
The remedy is to focus on the hope that comes from faith – faith that recognizes that God is active in our lives and in the world, that looks to the future together, and that offers the proposition that we all want to be saved, but we want to be saved with each other.
Anyone can make a list of seven – hope (and faith that is often the same thing) offers the key to turning them around.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
1) Personal responsibility and concern for the common good.
2) Respect for the human person.
3) Equality of all persons.
4) Human solidarity.
These are the "cornerstones" of our social teaching, and they have been benchmarks of papal teaching for at least 100 years. The Holy Father must be looking at the world viewed from Peter's chair and, seeing a growing divide between those who have, those who wish to have, and those who have not, seeks to re-orient us all toward what we truly need, and thus open us up toward one another, with whom we share this little planet. It's not "a whole new world," but it could be.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Way to go Disney! You actually taught an enduring truth that our world has yet to fully learn: true beauty is not only found on the surface. The viewers of the film "got it" - that through the relationship they had with the Beast - through his roughness and subsequent transformation - they saw deeper than the fur. They saw the person he was.
These days, we watch as people become more and more superficial, and we thus lose something of our personhood. That deep-down sense of who we all really are - the center of our beings that we long to share with someone else. It helps to have subtle (and not-so-subtle) reminders that "beauty" is only skin deep, but true beauty is within, with the persons we are.
When Jesus came among us, he did not take on a strong and beautiful form. He came as a poor, weak, dependent baby, and he lived as one of the poor and outsiders. His life is a call to look beyond the surface - to the person - and to have a real relationship with that Person. Through that relationship, we discover each other - and ourselves.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Pope Benedict touched on this problem in his homily yesterday, as he celebrated Mass to recognize the 25th anniversary of the San Lorenzo International Center near St. Peter's Basilica. To a group of about 200 young people, he said, "Man is not just a being who knows; he also lives in relationships of friendship and love." Relationships grow and live - beyond the level of simple knowledge. The pope continued, "It is easy to imagine what would happen if biological life could be without an end, could be immortal; there, we would discover a world grown old, a world full of age, that would leave no more room for the young and renewal of life." In other words, this search for immortality has the opposite effect than what this world - with an emphasis on youth and the young - would have us believe.
There has to be something "more." It is part of the common human experience to feel drawn beyond out limitations. Again, as Benny 16 says, "We thus understand that this cannot be the kind of immortality to which we aspire."
As a remedy to this nihilistic pursuit of eternal "life," he proposes the true ticket to such life: the Eucharist. He recalled that the Fathers of the Church have called the Eucharist the "drug of immortality," since it is through eating Christ's flesh and drinking His blood that we have true life within us - a life that offers hope and nourishes love and relationship in our life. An understanding of the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of our lives as Catholics is therefore needed among our youth, and a renewal of the celebration of Eucharist in our catechesis can help them on their way to this true life.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Jesus also says to those around witnessing this miracle, "Untie him, and let him go." Remove those bindings that hold Lazarus up and let him live again. Let him truly live. This scene - this ultimate miracle of John's gospel - shows us the true meaning of life, as we Christians must understand it.
Real life frees us.
Jesus encounters a community in mourning, and he joins that community as he himself weeps. Yet, he also continues to reveal the life that the Father sent him to share through the love and power that he possesses. This love calls us out of our tombs - of fear, of addiction, of depression, of hatred, of confusion, of disappointment - and it also calls us and others to open up to one another - to untie those things from our hearts that keep us from fully loving each other and God.
In Snow White, the princess was in the grip of a sort of death - under the spell of the jealous wicked queen. It was the kiss of true love that could bring her out of that death-like state and restore her to that freedom of relationship - and that same love brought joy not only to her, but to all those around her.
Lazarus received his "breathe-in-breathe-out" life back. He would die again. So will we. And yet, the encounter with Christ - an encounter we have through each other and especially through the Eucharist - is where true life is found. And this life will never fail. Through this life, we are made free.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Every year, I dread this weekend: “spring ahead” and moving our clocks an hour forward at on Sunday morning. “Springing ahead” might sound cheery and optimistic, but what it really translates into is one less hour of sleep – to which our bodies never fully adjust until a week and a half later.Most experts say that teenagers need up to 1o hours of sleep a night. However, I don't know any teens - let alone adults - who sleep that much (classrooms don't count!). So, taking one more hour away probably doesn't have that great of an impact. But, I do think that the issue of time and young people is of major concern today. Our young people are busier than ever, it seems. Parents know that their roles are often that of cab driver from school, lacrosse practice, dance class, work, the mall, movies, back to school, and over again.
"Father, I haven't prayed as much as I should," I often here from the young people I talk with. They know that their relationship with God is important - even necessary. But finding the time to foster and nurture that relationship becomes a real challenge for many youngsters. Often, prayer time means those few moments in bed before they pass out, exhausted from another busy day. I usually tell these kids that if that's what they can give to God, then that's OK - God will work with what you give Him.
However, I was once told, "If you're too busy to pray, you're too busy." Young people today are better at multi-tasking, but they also often enter into many things superficially because of that. In the midst of running from thing to thing, look for the One who always accompanies us along the way. At the end of that day, then, just before you pass out again, take a minute to remember where God was that day, and thank Him for those moments. Enjoy the daylight; enjoy the ride; enjoy the company.
Friday, March 7, 2008
take Garfield out of Garfield, you get an interesting illustration of a relationship between the person and God - or, as non-believers might say, between the person and the person himself. However, as the above strip shows, we can see something of our relationship with God in our prayer life.
"Is anyone listening?" we might often ask as we struggle with the difficulties of our lives. But sometimes, that same question might be coming from the Big Guy as well. There are moments in any relationship when we have nothing to say - either to God or to one another. Rather than being awkward moments that we need to fill with empty talk, see these moments as opportunities to listen to the One who is ready to talk - as soon as we stop.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
A "life-giving response." That is what we as Christians are called to effect in the world - be it in the global fight against AIDS, or in the "simple" struggles of life in a local high school or college. No one is an island, and our actions - and inactions - have effects not only on our neighbor next door, but on our neighbors across an ocean. Last year, more than two-thirds of the global AIDS deaths came in sub-Saharan Africa - a total of 1.6 million souls. In a world where so much effort is placed on "fixing" a Hollywood starlet's "large" nose, can't we direct some help toward these suffering brothers and sisters? We are connected in a great "circle of life" that tells us that no one is insignificant, and that each has their own role to play.
"From the day we arrive on this planet
and blinking, step into the sun,
there is more to see than can ever be seen,
more to do than can ever be done..."
But what we do - man, that can make all the difference! That is our life-giving response. Please pray for the people of Africa.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
However, the phenomenon that is SMS (text messaging) calls us to look at how young people are communicating - and learning to communicate. This implies not only sending out our messages, but also receiving them - in other words listening. While our young people are waiting for the next bleep or vibration from their little phones, what are they listening for? They are waiting - and many times, we miss that.
What if Jesus had his own cell phone? "Johnny - wt r u waiting 4?" Or, "Karen - wt r u gonna b when u gro up?"
The truth is that Jesus is calling them - calling all of us - to follow him. This does not mean that we need to shed our clothes and go off a la St. Francis, but it does mean that we need to be anticipating and listening for that call where we are. "OMG! guess who txt me...JC!" It's usually not dramatic, but the results of answering that call are. Sometimes, all we have to do is look up from our phones and give our thumbs a rest. Lol :-)
Monday, March 3, 2008
Because it is so basic -so elemental at times - the Disney factor has a way of helping to illustrate those transcendent moments of our own lives as well. That's the reasoning behind this blog. Christian faith has been a major part of the good - and bad - that our nation has seen and accomplished. Jesus is present, even in popular culture's seemingly random images. So, as a way of bringing that into a new and - hopefully - helpful light, I want to bring these two together - like chocolate and peanut butter - hopefully for the good of both. So, it's the second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning, right?