Sunday, May 31, 2009
As we celebrate this Pentecost, we should be reminded that the Spirit is called God's Gift that Jesus sends upon us as he returns to heaven. This Gift, then, is given to us to treasure, protect, and also run out and share with others. The little boy in this commercial has it right. As he goes with his jar, he receives that rushing wind, and once he has it, he flies to share it with those he loves. And it brings joy to everyone.
Capture that Spirit, and put it to good use.
Better yet, let the Spirit capture you!
Saturday, May 30, 2009
At the end of the film, he wants to tell her again, but, again, he cannot. However, she stops him anyway. "I know what will happen,” she tells him. "I've always known." She says that because she knows what’s coming she wanted to make the most out of this evening of “adventure.” After such a night, she says, “What a glorious sunrise it will be.”
Friends, here we are – at the end. You knew this moment was coming: the evening when you cease to be students of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel High School and become “alumni.” My question to you is: How was the adventure?
How was the adventure of growing from a child of 13 or 14 years to a young man or woman?
How was the adventure of being transformed from, perhaps, a naïve kid to a person of learning and character?
How was the adventure of forging real, lasting friendships in the midst of the most confusing years of your lives?
This is what your last four years were about. And while that may seem a little cliché, it is true – and you would not have understood or appreciated those words four years ago. You had to experience this adventure!
But…the adventure is not over either.
Ahead of you the rest of your lives are dawning. Ahead, there awaits college, careers, family, challenges, victories and change. My advice to you tonight is to go forward with your eyes wide open and your hearts hopeful. In a few moments, you will receive diplomas that tell you that the faculty and administration of the school believe you are up to the challenges that await. Behind you are the teachers and family members who – believe it or not – have been your biggest fans. They have come to know the amazing young people that you are, and they are confident that they are better off for having shared this adventure with you.
Larry Daley knew Amelia’s limitations that “night at the museum.” But when he looked into her eyes – so alight with the fun and “moxey” that made her who she was – he just couldn’t bring himself to tell her what would hold her back. And because of that, nothing held her back. The irony is that she also knew her limitations, and they still did not restrict her.
For you, this is the story of your lives thus far, and it is that story of your success, both now and in the years to come. Your families know your limitations; your teachers know your limitations; you know your limitations. However, they also know enough about you to know that your faith, your character and your hope can carry you far beyond those limits.
So, Class of 2009, here you are – at the end. This adventure of high school is over, and you have walked out these school doors for the last time as students. Farewell; because a new adventure is beginning. It is the dawn of a new and exciting time in your young lives. It is a time when you will be challenged and changed; a time when your limits will be stretched; a time when your character will be tested and proven time and time again. That is what the new day of your lives will hold.
I hope the adventure thus far as proven exciting and fun. I hope it has validated the person whom God made you to be. I know you are capable of facing that new day as it dawns.
And what a glorious sunrise it will be for you too!
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
It's like I've been awakened
Every rule I had you breakin'
It's the risk that I'm taking
I ain't never gonna shut you out!
Everywhere I'm looking now
I'm surrounded by your embrace
Baby, I can see your halo
You know you're my saving grace
You're everything I need and more
It's written all over your face
Baby, I can feel your halo
Pray it won't fade away
Do you see it, R---? How about you, B---?
Do you see the halo?
As your campus minister – albeit for only a year – I can tell you that I and those friends who knew you well saw how good the two of you were together. I hope that you have too! (I’d imagine that we would not be here today if you didn’t!) But the reason we are here today is more than simply to watch you exchange vows, smooch and cut wedding cake. We want to see more – and so should you.
We want to see the halo.
The readings you chose speak to this as well. In the first reading – from the seldom-heard Book of Tobit – Tobiah and his new wife Sarah begin their married life right: in prayer. Now, never mind the fact that Sarah has had seven new husbands before this and all of them died on the wedding night (there’s a reason to get down and pray!). They recognize – together – that God is the source of their blessings, and God is the one to sustain them in their new life together.
I have had the privilege of watching the two of you pray together. This is what, I think, is so good about this moment: it seem natural to all of us. Keep this up, as prayer has been at the heart of who you are individually, so now it must be part of you as a couple – that “one flesh” that Jesus talks about in the Gospel.
When you look at each other today – and every day for the rest of your lives – you must see this love that reminds you that “the Lord is near.” More than that, though, you have a task now in this sacrament. Everywhere you look now; everywhere you go; you’re surrounded by each other’s embrace. You carry the other with you because you are that “one flesh.”
Your task is to help each other to grow – to grow as the people God made you to be. This is your vocation; you are made for each other – you’re everything the other needs and more. The task ahead of you is to help one another grow in holiness. So look at each other now. Can you see it now?
Can you see the halo?
Pray – pray it won’t fade away.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
High school is often presented to us as a time of a journey. It’s a journey from childhood into young adulthood; a journey from naïveté to knowledge; a journey from elementary school to college. What it is not is a journey “away” from anything. In two short days, your careers at Seton Keough will come to an end. You will make that last journey of high school: from student to alumna, and yet something will always remain. The memories of your years here, your struggles and triumphs, your bonds of friendship – all those will always be a part of who you are, and this is why we gather – one last time – to celebrate this Eucharist. And it is that friendship that I want to focus on for a few moments here.
Our readings present us with images of friendship that can help you (and all of us) make this transition well. Joshua, Moses’ protégé and friend, has now been charged with a task of leadership. He has “graduated” from a follower to someone placed at the head of his people to guide them to God’s promise. Naturally, he would be scared. I imagine many of you look ahead to the future with some mixture of excitement as well as fear.
There is a lot waiting for you out there: college, jobs, families, adventure – it is at the same time exciting, challenging and life-changing. Just as you are not the same person who walked through those doors at Seton Keough two, three or four years ago, so you will change in the years to come. That is life – that is the journey. However, as Joshua, listen to what God says to you: "I will be with you ... I will not leave you nor forsake you . . . . The LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go."
In times of difficulty and challenge – in times of change – it can be easy to forget this basic yet very important fact. God is with you. The two friends we encounter on that road to Emmaus had this same trouble. After the incredible challenge and apparent defeat of Good Friday, they were walking, clinging to their friendship, but also feeling rather lost as their expectations and comforts had been dashed.
Even as Jesus comes to walk with them, their crushed spirits and fears prevented them from recognizing that presence with them. It’s easy for us to become wrapped up in ourselves – in our dreams and failures, in our hopes and defeats, in our excitement and fears. The world will offer plenty of replacements for them too – just turn on your iPod, log onto Facebook, go watch a movie, or even worse. The remedy for these things is not in self pity or in escapism. Rather, it is what those friends – those disciples – found “in the breaking of the bread.” Jesus was there! Jesus is here! And Jesus will be there – “at your side…to give you courage,” as the psalm tells us. Never forget that presence – never forget that Jesus is your friend too, who walks with you even in the toughest of roads. That road to Emmaus begins and continues here.
So, young women of this Class of 2009, this journey of yours is not over. This part of it may be coming to an end, and for that reason we gather and celebrate and pray together now. But the road continues to stretch out in front of you. This one particular leg of the journey has prepared you for the next, as you go on with endurance, proven character, and hope – always hope – that can only be rooted and fulfilled in God.
In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo tells Sam a bit of advice that his Uncle Bilbo gave him once: "It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Friends, you are about to go out the door and step into the Road. But you have been grounded – set on your feet. Your friendships forged here, and the most important Friendship of all – with Jesus – will help you remain grounded and full of hope, even as your families and friends are hopeful for you.
The journey continues, and you will always have the memories, the friendships, and most important, God, who is with you wherever you go.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The concept of friendship has enjoyed a renewed prominence in the vocabulary of the new digital social networks that have emerged in the last few years. The concept is one of the noblest achievements of human culture. It is in and through our friendships that we grow and develop as humans. For this reason, true friendship has always been seen as one of the greatest goods any human person can experience. We should be careful, therefore, never to trivialize the concept or the experience of friendship. It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop on-line friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbours and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation. If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development.
Friendship is a great human good, but it would be emptied of its ultimate value if it were to be understood as an end in itself. Friends should support and encourage each other in developing their gifts and talents and in putting them at the service of the human community. In this context, it is gratifying to note the emergence of new digital networks that seek to promote human solidarity, peace and justice, human rights and respect for human life and the good of creation. These networks can facilitate forms of co-operation between people from different geographical and cultural contexts that enable them to deepen their common humanity and their sense of shared responsibility for the good of all. We must, therefore, strive to ensure that the digital world, where such networks can be established, is a world that is truly open to all. It would be a tragedy for the future of humanity if the new instruments of communication, which permit the sharing of knowledge and information in a more rapid and effective manner, were not made accessible to those who are already economically and socially marginalized, or if it should contribute only to increasing the gap separating the poor from the new networks that are developing at the service of human socialization and information.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden will meet with parish leaders and youths May 27 in hopes of charting a peaceful course for Baltimore City.
The meeting at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Roland Park will be preceded by a news conference by Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien. The archbishop will speak with other interfaith and ecumenical leaders prior to the conference.
After the archbishop’s meeting, the leaders hope to make “a strong statement” about their desire to continue to work for peace in the city, Bishop Madden said.
Bishop Madden’s 3 p.m. meeting will have several tiers over a five-hour period and follow a successful conference from last year.
Baltimore City officials attended last year, joining parish representatives to discuss all aspects of violence in the city.
Church youths will kick off this year’s conference and will speak about who bears responsibility for violence in the city.
“We feel that there’s sometimes a breakdown in perceptions,” Bishop Madden said.
Parishes will then speak about their own successes in neighborhoods before noted activist Coleman McCarthy will talk about preparing for peace in the city.
Prior to the meeting, participants will fill out surveys answering specific questions about what ills in their neighborhoods are leading to violence and how peaceful solutions can be reached. Lottie Snead, who works for a local community development and leadership organization, will review the results of the survey with participants.
Bishop Madden has met monthly with several dedicated pastors to discuss developments. Their insights have provided him with a greater understanding of issues facing youths in the city. The bishop said parishes like St. Veronica, Cherry Hill, and St. Wenceslaus and St. Ann in Baltimore are making a difference.
“They’re the ones right there on the spot,” Bishop Madden said. “Together, we’re working to help bring about a non-violent stand in the city.”
The meeting will end with a commissioning service asking for a commitment to peace.
“We really will show we’re serious about this,” Bishop Madden said, “especially during the summer months we’re facing.”
I find it very encouraging that this meeting includes and will hear from the youth of our city too. Further proof that they are not just the "future of the Church"; they are the Church. Let's see that light shine now!
(Article by Matt Palmer)
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Anyway, I think that this music, mostly popular among Protestant young people, does have value for us. Even if we do not use it liturgically, it is a spirit-filled type of song that transcends denominational boundaries and brings us together. There is energy in this music, and it is energy that also taps us into something bigger than ourselves. The college kids I work with know their faith identity - there's no fear there; but, they also come together with other faiths and denominations very easily. This music gives them a common spiritual bond that only faith in Jesus Christ can provide. While practices may vary, our praise is spoken in the same language.
So keep the guitars handy ... and join hands with me: "Someone's cryin' my Lord, Kumbaya..."
Friday, May 22, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
As I read the reactions, I was thinking about the ministers to youth that I know (and realizing also that I am one of them!), and the wonderful, faithful, Spirit-filled work that they do in collaboration with other ministers in the Church. They are not "glorified babysitters." Youth ministers are men and women who believe in the faith and potential of the Church's young people; they are people who know that children, adolescents, and young adults are not the "future" of the Church - they are part of the Church. They are mothers and fathers who see in all the young people of their parish and Church their children - whether they have kids of their own or not - and they want to see their faith grow. They are faith-filled individuals who know that our young people often need to hear the Gospel in different ways that speak to their particular, unique phase of life. And yes, they are the priest who wants to see young people know the love of God through a genuine, caring presence that does not judge them but will challenge them to be the great person he knows they can be.
That is the "Mr. (or Ms.) Youth Minister Guy (or Gal!)" that I know.
And I am grateful for us all.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
What I would like to do here in my corner of the Blogosphere is to provide my own thoughts on the priesthood from my perspective. I don't want to push any agenda - except to give an insider view of this vocation that I love and try to live. What I would love to hear from you, dear reader, is what would you want to see in that regard? Want to know what priests do all day? Want to know what living celibacy is like? Do priests have "real lives," or are we just hatched in some ecclesiastical laboratory somewhere? Let me know. I promise to be honest and appropriate from my end.
And while you're at it, make sure to celebrate your priests too!
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Hopper Pursues Kermit and his friends until they finally meet in a showdown in an Old West town. Hopper tells Kermit that all along, all he ever wanted was to make his dream of a successful restaurant come true. Kermit responds in kind:
“Yeah, well, I’ve got a dream too. But it’s about singing and dancing and making people happy. That’s the kind of dream that gets better the more people you share it with. And, well, I’ve found a whole bunch of friends who have the same dream.
“And it kind of makes us a family.”
This call to family is what we are about as well. We are a family of faith, and Saint Peter recognizes that “God shows no partiality” in bringing people into this family. All it takes is that we share the dream – that we share the vision of Jesus Christ and live that vision out as disciples. This “dream” is the message that Jesus came to share with us all – that God loves us, and that this love is meant to be shared. That is why Jesus commands us to “love one another.”
The love that Jesus calls us to share is more than the romantic love that two people might feel for one another. That love, while good and wonderful, is not the perfect love we are looking for. It is more than the love I might feel for well-crafted movie or a pizza. Rather, this love – this dream of Jesus’ – is a love that wills what is good for someone else. In fact, as I remember, one of the most endearing ways to say “I love you” in Italian is “Ti voglio bene”, or “I wish good things for you.” This love is not something that just “happens” – it is something that two people (or even groups of people) must “do.” A popular writer about Christian and chaste love uses the example of a married couple.
“If love is simply about having romantic feelings, how could a bride and groom promise each other that their marriage will last “until death do us part”? More likely, it will last until boredom do us part. Therefore, you cannot determine the worth of a relationship by measuring the intensity of emotions” (J. Evert, If You Really Loved Me, pp. 41-42).
He goes on to say that this love is really proven when the pregnant wife awakens the husband with a craving for ice cream, pickles and beef jerky at 2AM. That love does not simply “happen”! That is a love that “does.”
When Jesus commands us to love one another, this love cannot be constrained to simply those closest to us, or to those whom we find easiest to love. Again, that is based simply on feelings. Rather, this kind of love – a love that wills what is good for someone else – can be commanded and practiced with everyone, even our enemies, because it is something that requires more than emotions.
When Cornelius, who is a Roman official, wants to join the ranks of the new Church, he is welcomed not only by the community, but by God. The Holy Spirit comes upon the whole place, and Peter recognizes that God shows no preferences in His love. So too must we love, as Jesus tells us, "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.”
We remain in Jesus’ love as long as we continue to share His dream – a dream of a world united in love. This is not just some unrealistic Utopian aspiration that we are supposed to pine away for but never realize. To be sure, it is not easy; it won’t just “happen.” It is something that we must “do.” The Reign of God is about justice and peace and, above all, love.
This is the kind of dream that – as Kermit says – “gets better the more people you share it with.”
Jesus gives us His commandment, and He has given us the example. That is His dream, and it is a dream that we all share now.
And it kind of makes us a family.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
This is already good news - it is big.
Friday, May 15, 2009
As we reflect on these realities here, in the town of the Annunciation, our thoughts naturally turn to Mary, “full of grace”, the mother of the Holy Family and our Mother. Nazareth reminds us of our need to acknowledge and respect the God-given dignity and proper role of women, as well as their particular charisms and talents. Whether as mothers in families, as a vital presence in the work force and the institutions of society, or in the particular vocation of following our Lord by the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, women have an indispensable role in creating that “human ecology” (cf. Centesimus Annus, 39) which our world, and this land, so urgently needs: a milieu in which children learn to love and to cherish others, to be honest and respectful to all, to practice the virtues of mercy and forgiveness.
Here too, we think of Saint Joseph, the just man whom God wished to place over his household. From Joseph’s strong and fatherly example Jesus learned the virtues of a manly piety, fidelity to one’s word, integrity and hard work. In the carpenter of Nazareth he saw how authority placed at the service of love is infinitely more fruitful than the power which seeks to dominate. How much our world needs the example, guidance and quiet strength of men like Joseph!
Finally, in contemplating the Holy Family of Nazareth, we turn to the child Jesus, who in the home of Mary and Joseph grew in wisdom and understanding, until the day he began his public ministry. Here I would simply like to leave a particular thought with the young people here. The Second Vatican Council teaches that children have a special role to play in the growth of their parents in holiness (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 48). I urge you to reflect on this, and to let the example of Jesus guide you, not only in showing respect for your parents, but also helping them to discover more fully the love which gives our lives their deepest meaning. In the Holy Family of Nazareth, it was Jesus who taught Mary and Joseph something of the greatness of the love of God his heavenly Father, the ultimate source of all love, the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name (cf. Eph 3:14-15).
So, get cracking, kids! You have work to do!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Then, I turn on my TV and behold - evils being personified right there in front of me. Actually, these are cartoon representations of physical afflictions (called theologically, "malum physicum") such as heartburn, toenail fungus, mucus and even hunger. Evils to be avoided? Yes. Physical beings? No. Is this the remedy for such "childish" belief in the devil and sin? You tell me.
Although, that Hungry guy seems to be looking at me funny...
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I went to see the film myself and was also struck by the same line from Captain Pike to James T. Kirk: "Your father was a Starfleet captain for twelve minutes. He saved eight hundred lives, including your mother's, including yours. I dare you to do better." The words seemed to sink into young Kirk's mind, and the next day, we was at the shuttle take-off point, ready to sign up.
Kirk carries with him some sense of being made for more. He feels that he is meant to be a leader, however, his cockiness and disregard for convention is somewhat of a barrier to his achieving this dream. A series of circumstances - more like destiny, as we will learn - places Kirk, McCoy, Urhura and Spock together on the Enterprise, under the leadership of Captain Pike. Even in his "rejected rebel" role, Kirk proves an essential part of the team and contributes to the accomplishment of the ship's mission. It is a mission he believes in - one that he is willing to fight for. Through the film, the relationships that we have known and loved for years begin to form and develop - and it is wonderful to hear lines like, "Dammit, Spock, I'm a doctor, not a physicist!" and "She cahn't tek much morah, Cap'n!"
What I take away from this great action flick, as a minister to youth, is tied to that "dare" that Kirk received. As ministers to young people, that dare is at the heart of our belief in their potential. We expect great things from our youth; we know they can do it. It is not a matter of handing over the reins to a world that we gratefully relieve ourselves of, so that "they" can be responsible for it now. Rather, it is a matter of preparing and empowering our youth to join us sharing that responsibility for a world that we all share.
When I heard that line, I thought that I now had my commencement address image. Then I read Scott's post. I might still use it though. Hey - beam me up Scott(ie)!
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
Deacons provide a vital role within the Church. Primarily, deacons are ordained for the ministry of charity - of service to the needy, the outcast, the forgotten. They may also be "deputized" to preach the gospel at Mass, sharing the homily with the assembly. There are two "types" of deacon (although that is not a good distinction - deacons are deacons): transitional and permanent. Transitional deacons are those men who are preparing to be ordained priests. Permanent deacons are those who remain deacons permanently; they may be married, but that is not necessary. Some permanent deacons have also taken on administrative pastoral roles within the Church as parish coordinators, pastoral associates, hospital "chaplains" and other roles.
The diaconate is a gift that brings Christ the Servant to the world. I am grateful for that gift in my life, and I am grateful for the deacons who serve with me in our Church.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
John – indeed all the apostles and the Church that is founded upon their preaching – knows that a relationship with the Lord is more than a matter of words. It involves all of who we are – body, soul, mind and spirit; what we thing and what we say and do. We cannot compartmentalize this faith – this relationship – into some “safe” corner of who we are, only to bring it out when it is convenient.
That is what Jesus means when he tells us to “remain in me, as I remain in you.” His imagery of the vine and branches is a real metaphor for our new found Christian reality of life. We belong to him – and we cannot have life apart from Him. Throughout history – and even in our own lives, we must admit – people have tried to live as though this connection did not matter. Commenting on this very gospel, St. Augustine said this:
[Some people might say:] It is of God that we have our existence as human beings, but it is of ourselves that we are righteous. … But the Truth contradicts you, and declares, “The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine.” Away with you now over your giddy precipices, and, without a spot whereupon to take your stand, vapor away at your windy talk. These are the empty regions of your presumption. But look well at what it tracking your steps, and, if you have any sense remaining, let your hair stand on end. For whoever imagines that he is bearing fruit of himself is not in the vine, and he that is not in the vine is not in Christ, and he that is not in Christ is not a Christian. Such are the ocean depths into which you have plunged (St. Augustine, De Johannes, Tractate LXXXI, 2).What does this mean? Quite simply, it means that we need Jesus and the salvation which He holds out to us. In addition to that, we are to live in this life – in this body of ours – in a way that befits a member of the Body of Christ – as a branch that is connected to and draws its life from the vine. Jesus wants to offer this life, but he cannot if we separate ourselves by the presumption that we can achieve any sort of spiritual heights without Him.
“Accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior” is what being a Christian is all about. However, this involves more than simply that “choice.” If we are honest and authentic followers of the Gospel, then the fact that Jesus came in the flesh and gave us a way of life to follow – a commandment of love – must make a difference in the way we live. We cannot simply exempt ourselves from faithfulness to the Gospel because Jesus has “been there and done that.” Nor can we fall into the other extreme of that heresy: believing that it is all up to us – “pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps,” spiritually speaking.
Soon-to-be-Blessed Cardinal Newman writes:
There are two opposite errors: one, the holding that salvation is not of God; the other, that it is not in ourselves. Now it is remarkable that the maintainers of both the one and the other error, whatever their differences in other respects, agree in this – in depriving a Christian life of its mysteriousness. He who believes that he can please God of himself, or that obedience can be performed by his own powers, of course has nothing more of awe, reverence, and wonder in his personal religion, than when he moves his limbs and uses his reason, though he might well feel awe then also. And in like manner he also who considers that Christ’s Passion once undergone on the Cross absolutely secured his own personal salvation, may see mystery indeed in that Cross (as he ought), but he will see no mystery, and feel little solemnity, in prayer, in ordinance, or in his attempts at obedience. He will be free, familiar and presuming in God’s presence. Neither will “work out their salvation with fear and trembling;” for neither will realize, though they use the words, that God is in them “to will and to do.” Both the one and the other will be content with a low standard of duty: the one, because he does not believe that God requires much; the other, because he thinks that Christ in His own person has done all. Neither will honor and make much of God’s Law: the one, because he brings down the Law to his own power of obeying it; the other, because he thinks that Christ has taken away the Law by obeying it in his stead. They only feel awe and true seriousness who think that the Law remains; that it claims to be fulfilled by them; and that it can be fulfilled in them through the power of God’s grace. Not that any man alive arises to perfect fulfillment, but that such fulfillment is not impossible; that it is begun in all true Christians; that they are all tending to it; are growing into it; and are pleasing to God because they are becoming, and in proportion as they are becoming like Him who, when He came down on earth in our flesh, fulfilled the Law perfectly (Sermon 10, “Righteousness not of Us, but in Us”).It is precisely because we belong to the Vine that we have the capacity to share in the life of God. None of us is perfect, yet we are each called by God to have life in His Son through the faith we share. When we fulfill the Law through our faithfulness to our Baptism, through giving of ourselves so that others may know Christ through us, then we are bearing fruit that lasts – fruit that does not come just from ourselves, but from God’s action in us.
Jesus, because he is the true vine, provides what we need to bear the fruit that God has made us to share with others. When we receive this life from him, we are opening ourselves up to that action. It is the action of the Vinegrower, the One who plants is the one who shares life with us. All we must do is allow ourselves to grow into it – to grow into the life we are made to have, at one with the Vine.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
At any rate, I want to take this opportunity to wish my cousin, Fran, a happy 39th anniversary of his priestly ordination. His priestly example has been an inspiration to many priests and laity here in Baltimore for that whole time (yours truly included), and I can only imagine that this now goes for the people of Wilmington.
Happy Anniversary, Bishop Fran!
Friday, May 8, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Let us pray ...
here we stand -
halfway between the explosion of your saving love
and the outpouring of your Spirit
Help us to know the true power
of your Resurrection,
into which we have been baptized.
May we never tire of proclaiming,
"Jesus is Risen!"
May we anticipate the Gifts that you promise
and await the Spirit
who gives us strength.
Let the Resurrection
make a difference
in our lives,
so that all who see us
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Take the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and I will mean the films, since many of the young people who read this usually have not read the series yet). Where might we find the Christ figure there? Before I begin that, we have to see what the need would be for such a figure.
The central drama of the epic revolves around the One Ring. The ring, forged by the evil Lord Sauron, tempts and draws down Mankind by appealing to our will to power. No coaxing from the noble Elves could stop Isildur from taking the Ring for his own and allowing it to poison his mind and soul - ultimately destroying him. The Ring is then found by Smeagol and Deagol, and desire for the Ring pits them against each other, like Cain and Abel, until Deagol lies dead and Smeagol begins his slow transformation into his shell - Gollum. Somehow, the Ring - an evil that seems to have a mind of its own - comes to the intrepid Hobbit, Bilbo. So begins our tale, at his door. We need a Christ figure, people!
A first attempt might be to see Frodo Baggins as such a figure. He makes the epic journey - symbolic of our human life - having taken on the burden of the Ring. He suffers for all who have fallen under the influence of the evil of the Ring. He is committed to his "mission," and says so when asked about it. Frodo may be heroic in his quest to destroy the Ring, but he is not a Christ figure. In the end, he cannot bring himself to destroy the Ring - he loses to its influence. Jesus became a man like us in all things except sin. Frodo's ultimate failure (which had to be corrected by Sam) keeps him from earning the Christ figure title.
What about Gandalf? Ah, bright, shining Gandalf! He is committed to guiding the Fellowship toward their ultimate victory, endowed with supernatural powers. He knows the power of the Ring and he is able to resist it. However, Gandalf remains untouched by the Ring. He stays above it all. Certainly he is benevolently concerned for the Hobbits and Men and Elves, but he cannot be involved in as intimate a way as to take on that struggle in a personal way - the way Christ took on our guilt and suffered for our redemption. No. Gandalf is good, but he is not the Christ figure.
How about Aragorn? Hmm. Here is a distinct possibility. He is certainly involved. He knows the power and draw of the Ring; he feels its pull and knows that the weakness that had Mankind fall all those years ago is also his weakness. However, his destiny and that of the Ring - and of the whole Middle Earth - are forever entwined, and he knows this. He embraces his mission to rally all peoples against the forces of evil. While he may be a reluctant one, a King he is. Through his rallying of the armies, he emerges as the King, and his final battle brings about the conditions for Frodo and Sam to finally bring the Ring to Mt. Doom. This Christ figure is human, and he saves.
For Catholic (or even just Christian) nerds, it is fun to dissect books and film for this sort of thing. This summer, give it a try. There are plenty of great films to practice on!
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Other TV series today also do a great job of teaching us about human nature. Shows like "Lost" and "Heroes" are more than just adventures. They are opportunities for us to learn more about what makes us who we are - what makes us human. As Captain Kirk or Picard encounter some alien on a mission to a planet's surface, they typically emerge amazed at what they learn - not so much about the other person or civilization - but about themselves. Each character reveals (usually in an exaggerated way) some aspect of human nature: Spock and our rational nature; Dr. McCoy and an emotional response; Kirk and our penchant for discovery and adventure. As the crew encounters a new situation each week, we see how these human traits are helpful or counterproductive and, hopefully, we learn about ourselves.
The Gospels also work in this way. Jesus, as Gaudium et spes tells us, "reveals man to himself." His friends, the apostles, also carry some typically human traits as they react to what the Lord does. Peter has an impetuous and often hot-headed nature. Philip has a practical, analytical approach (he asks Jesus to "show us the Father and that will be enough for us"). Nathaniel calls things as he see them ("Can anything good come from Nazareth?"). All of these people Jesus meets and interacts with in His way. He teaches us not only about what God is like, but perhaps more important for us, He teaches us what it means to be human. How does he do this? By "bravely going where no God has gone before" - He becomes one of us.
Monday, May 4, 2009
In spite the admirable advances in the technical and scientific world, there is a progressive loss of moral, spiritual and transcendental values. This loss has produced in the world a culture highly centered in greed, power, wantonness and the selfishness that is at the root of the startling financial earthquake, felt already throughout the world and affecting all dimensions of life.
The religious and cultural pluralism of today’s society can be clearly seen in the church today. There are other sources and ideas which compete with the church, weakening and relativizing its social impact and its pastoral action. Not all Catholics are prepared to withstand the multiplicity of ideas and practices present in today’s society. This fact has become evident in the relative silent aloofness from the church by many, and their adherence (without much thought) to other beliefs and other religious institutions. This situation is made worse through the ethical and religious relativism of the present culture. On the other hand, the present pluralism opens the door to personal freedom and conscientious religious choice. All this shows the urgent need of a greater Christian formation among the laity, which would allow them to develop an attitude of firm identification with their Christian vocation and to have a clearer evangelical discernment when confronting the present pluralism.
In its 2,000 years of history, the church continues to be the bearer of enduring values and principles, capable of evangelizing this culture. One of its royal messengers was the Apostle Paul, who dedicated his whole life to love, to make the Good News of Jesus Christ known to all, and to make it part of the culture of his time (especially amongst the gentiles).
St. Paul's ability to engage the dominant cultural world (Greek) as well as his fellow Jews (Aramaic) in his religious tradition (Hebrew) was a gift to the early Church that we often fail to fully appreciate. However, this gift is far from limited to the erstwhile pharisee from Tarsus. Each of us - no matter how young or "insignificant" - carries unique gifts that can be placed at the service of the Gospel. The cardinal continues:
I would like to conclude with some very interesting reflections of Dr. Gene Edward Veith, Dean of Arts and Sciences of Concordia University, Mequon, Wisconsin, in his article entitled Through All Generations: “Today, as pundits try to dissect the differences between Baby Boomers and Baby Busters, the Sixties Generation and Generation X, even the church becomes fractured along generational lines. But the Bible puts forth the constant theme that God, His saving Word, and His Church extend "through all generations" (Ps. 89:1).
Members of the so-called Generation X dislike being all grouped together under a generational stereotype. Whether they are "slackers," paralyzed by apathy and hopelessness, or driven achievers and money-makers, they tend to have a cynical edge and a wholly admirable distrust of phoniness. Another trait is their frustration that Baby Boomers, however old they get, still demand all the attention.
Many churches today feel the need to be contemporary. The assumption is that in order to reach people the church should put aside its old-fashioned styles and get with the times. The hoary liturgy should be done away with and those archaic hymns should be replaced with music people are listening to today.
It is true that American society today is generationally segmented.
The Christian church, St. Paul tell us, "consists of many diverse members who come together in the unity of the Body of Christ" (1 Cor 12.:2-27). "There should be no division in the body" (12:25). We are warned, so that generational differences, like those of "ethnicity, race, gender or social class" (cf. Gal 3:28), must not be allowed to get in the way of the unity we have in Jesus Christ.
This unity extends through time, "throughout all generations," including those generations of the past. In a typical church service, the hymns that are sung literally do span the generations. A typical worship service thus exemplifies the commerce of ages that is intrinsic to the communion of saints.
A new baby represents a new generation, but the baby is baptized into the one Body of Christ. In church, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, parents and children, Boomers and X-ers, kneel together in prayer, hear the Gospel each of them desperately needs and join together in the unfathomable spiritual intimacy with Christ and with each other, that is Holy Communion.
There are different generations, but they are all equally in need of Christ. The Church is the place where generational differences are to be transcended, not reinforced; where ephemeral fashions and cultural distinctions are subsumed into an eternal perspective, into a kingdom which "endures from generation to generation" (Daniel 4:34). Only a church which resists being merely of one generation can be “relevant to them all”.
St. Paul presents a wonderful model for us of a person who did not flee from culture. Rather, he used his own understanding of that culture, his own gifts, his own faith, to be used by God as Jesus told him they would be: "this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites" (Acts 9:15).
Sunday, May 3, 2009
The author of the first letter of Peter calls Jesus the "chief Shepherd" (1 Pt. 5:4) because his work and mission continue in the Church through the apostles (cf. Jn. 21:15-17) and their successors (cf. 1 Pt. 5:1ff.), and through priests. By virtue of their consecration, priests are configured to Jesus the good shepherd and are called to imitate and to live out his own pastoral charity.
- John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis ("I Will Give You Shepherds), n. 22.
Please pray for our shepherds!
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Well, I made the list. It seems that voting starts tomorrow. Someone will have to remind me to check on it, though! Thanks, again!
Friday, May 1, 2009
The Baltimore Sun reports the Archbishop's precautionary note to his priests today:
Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien is suggesting that priests refrain from serving wine at communion during Mass this Sunday as a precaution against the spread of swine flu. He also is recommending that parishioners refrain from personal contact with each other while making the sign of peace or saying the Our Father.Archdiocesan spokesman Sean Caine said O'Brien is leaving final decisions on precautions this Sunday to the discretion of individual pastors.
O'Brien, the spiritual leader of the area's 500,000 Roman Catholics, made the suggestions in a letter Thursday addressed to priests, nuns and laypeople. All six of the probable swine flu cases reported in Maryland come from within the geographical boundaries of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
O'Brien is asking priests to "consider offering Communion only under the form of the consecrated host" - the bread that Catholics believe is changed during the Mass into the body of Jesus - "and only in the hand." He suggests that they empty and disinfect the containers of holy water typically located at church entrances and that they advise parishioners with flu symptoms to stay home.
"It is not sinful to miss Mass if you are sick and unable to attend; it is an act of charity," O'Brien writes.
He concludes by asking Catholics to pray for "all who have been impacted by this illness, especially our sisters and brothers in Mexico, as well as the many medical professionals providing care and assistance here in Maryland and throughout the world."
Some good advice - even if the reporting can be confusing to inadequately catechized folks. I never serve "wine" at Communion; it's the Body and Blood of Christ!
But for those who are concerned and also prefer to receive under both species, I would remind us all that when you receive the Host you are receiving the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Jesus - just as when you only receive from the cup you receive the Body and Blood as well.
The bottom line here, though, is not orthodoxy or Church politics - it is a call to pray for those affected by the flu, and for a quick end to this latest outbreak.