Friday, October 29, 2010

Preparing for Archbishop's Visit

Sunday, Archbishop Schnurr will return to Piqua to be the principal celebrant at Mass, marking 20 years of Eucharistic Exposition in Piqua. We have a lot to do to be ready.

Rehearsal for servers is tomorrow at 10:30 am (pray they all show up...on time!); because we have a procession, around the church, to the chapel where the Eucharist is exposed for adoration perpetually, we have a little more to rehearse so it all goes reasonably smoothly.

As this is not something we do all that often, I spent a fair amount of time yesterday and today working out the exact details, so I can explain this to the servers tomorrow. I wrote up seven pages of notes, including several color-coded charts--so that I can understand what I'm explaining, and then explain it clearly and quickly.

Along the way I thought of a few things I'd forgotten, and tomorrow, after the rehearsal, I hope to get things in good order.

If you want to come, Mass is at 2 pm, St. Boniface Church, 310 S. Downing Street, Piqua. A reception will follow!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Don't scare the kids

Hallowe'en is almost here, and there are some canards and spoofs associated with this great day that I'd like to do my part to dispel:

> Hallowe'en is a Christian festival--not something evil.

"Hallowe'en" is a contraction of hallow even, reminding that it is the eve of "All Hallows" or All Saints. The Church always designates the night before a feast as a vigil, and All Saints is no different.

Yes, there are those who choose to associate Hallowe'en with pre-Christian celebrations and rituals--the same thing is brought up in relation to Christmas and Easter, and actually could probably be done with any celebration throughout the year, but that proves nothing more than that pre-Christian religions and cultures had rituals and celebrations throughout the year; it is inevitable that Christian feasts would coincide with some of them, and someone would notice similarities.

Sometimes those similarities arise from the time of year: it is only natural that cultures would have commemorations and feasts attached to seasons, planting, harvest, life and death. Indeed, it would be very odd if--when Christianity came on the scene--that it would somehow avoid noticing the very things that pagans had noticed and incorporated into their rituals.

In this post ( I talk about the origins of trick-or-treating and costumes; short version? Neither comes from paganism, but different events in the Christian era.

> What about all the emphasis on ghouls and witches and so forth?

None of that comes from the holiday; any more than elves have any real connection to the birth of Jesus Christ. It's what happens as society takes one of our Christian days and makes of it what it will.

I don't care for a lot of the focus on dark themes associated with secular Hallowe'en, any more than I like St. Patrick's day being made about leprechauns and drunkenness; but I won't give up the day because others go the wrong way with it.

Someone in my parish--you know who you are!--points out the supreme irony of what many of our fellow Christians do with Hallowe'en: they avoid discussion of the saints, and because they don't want to delve into the dark stuff from the world, they turn it into...a harvest celebration! I.e., right back to paganism!

Instead, let's remember what Hallowe'en really is: a day to celebrate the power of Christ's grace to transform people; we celebrate the countless saints already in heaven, and we anticipate when all God's Elect will be saints united with Christ in the new Creation.

> Don't worry about your kids.

This time of year urban legends circulate, claiming one or more of the following: (a) sometimes candy is poisoned or adulterated with needles or razors; (b) children are in danger being out trick-or-treating from predators.

Here's an item from the Wall Street Journal:

...pointing out the dubiousness of these claims.

Here are two articles at, a great site for factually debunking all those urban legends and hoaxes that get wide circulation:

If you don't care to go there, I'll summarize: they could not document a single case of deliberate poisoning of hallowe'en candy aimed at trick-or-treaters; there were very occasional accidents, and a couple of murders aimed at specific people, in which "poisoned hallowe'en candy" was the murderer's trumped up cover story. And you'll find that while there have been reports of candy with razors or needles, almost every case seems to be kids who did it themselves as a prank either to scare another child, or to prank their parents.

Of course, no one can "prove" that this has never, or never can, happen.

And, of course, whether you allow your children to go trick-or-treating is up to you.

But my thought is, let the kids have fun!

Sure, they don't have to eat all the candy. (And isn't it a shame that no one gives out apples and popcorn balls and cookies anymore? Those would seem to be healthier treats than prepackaged candy bars) But I hope parents don't promptly dump it in the garbage, that teaches terrible lessons! Better not to accept the candy; or else give it to someone who will enjoy it, or enjoy it in moderation.

And who says the kids have to wear bad costumes? Why not have your children dress up like a saint? It's not that hard, and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money, and it can spark some creativity. At one All Saints party, I suggested to a boy that he should be St. John the Apostle the next year: I told him how the Apostle John had detected poison in a cup of wine, and thus he was often shown holding a chalice with a snake emerging. So here's your St. John the Apostle costume:

1. A sheet (worn as a Greek-style tunic)
2. A cup
3. A rubber snake

He liked it. I have a feeling, with a little prompting, your kids can come up with far more clever ideas than I can!

P.S. Biretta-tip to, where I saw the WSJ item I mention above.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday homily

I have no notes from yesterday's homily, just a mental outline, which I'll try to share with you here:

1. The first reading from Sirach tells us "God is a God of justice" and will answer prayers for justice "without delay." Yet look around: does it seem that justice is being accomplished "without delay"? What's missing?

2. God has, it seems, put a great deal of responsibility on us to accomplish justice. Yes, he will eventually intervene and bring total justice--but we call that the end of the world, and that means the end of our chance; in the meantime, we have a mission to seek justice.

3. We also have rights that St. Paul, in his time, would never have dreamed of. We get to choose our elected officials--the emperor, in Paul's time, was not subject to recall; and if Paul had written a letter to the "Roman Daily Call," saying the emperor had to go, that'd have been the end of Paul.

4. If we don't know how to work for justice, if we start looking for opportunities, we will find them. The examples I will mention won't exhaust the list...

5. This mission from God to seek justice is why we Catholics will never be silent about justice for the unborn (and at one or two Masses, I described the work of the Elizabeth New Life Center in Sidney, helping women who face pressure to get abortions--and asked, what about justice for women so they aren't pressured); this is why we must advocate for the poor and for those in the margins.

6. I cited and described the situation of illegal immigrants in this country, working in the shadows. No, we're not happy about the violation of immigration law; but in the meantime, migrant workers are vulnerable, because if someone cheats them, what do they do? We have to put heat on the politicians to fix this mess.

7. I described the principle of the common good; that when we look at how we vote, we don't just look out for our individual interests, but what's good for all of us. Gave the example of base closings: Wright Patterson grew because of it, and it was supposed to be good for the taxpayer; other states were unhappy, but we benefited. What if the President announced that moving Wright Patterson's operations elsewhere would be good for the taxpayer? We hope it never happens; but the decision has to be about what's good for everyone, not just about our own benefit.

8. I talked about solidarity with those outside our country; citing the example of Haiti and the cholera threat--all due to the failure of those in power there to address the damage from the earthquake adequately. Who will advocate for those poor people in Haiti? We can--by contacting our government and insisting our government keep the heat on the government in Haiti.

9. We know God seeks justice speedily; when we stand before him at our judgment, he will ask how we did. What will we say?

Friday, October 08, 2010

Fun with Saints

I thought you'd enjoy some of the fun a priest (and any of us) can have with saints...

I was just signing a baptismal certificate, in advance of a baptism I'll perform on Sunday. I love baptisms! And I try to make the occasion as special as I can. Meaning: I try to do the rite with some dignity, not being to minimalistic. My homily for a baptism always explains the meaning of the sacrament and the elements of the ritual. When there are other children present, I do involve them, either by helping me get things beforehand, or helping me by holding my book or a towel, and I ask them a question during my homily. This seems to keep them interested and also makes them less likely to "melt down"--so that makes family happy too!

Also, I sing some of the prayers, particularly the litany of the saints that concludes the petitions; and I always try to include any saints connected to the day or to the people involved.

Frequently I have no time to look up the saints ahead of time, but today I took time. From the baptismal certificate, I got:

St. Katherine
St. Ceara (Keara)
Blessed Alan
Blessed Marianus Scotus (for Scott)
St. Alice

Also, there are lots of saints attached to October 10, I chose the Prophet Daniel, as the others were not very familiar.

All those can--and will--be included in the litany.

One of the points I make in my baptism homily is the reason we pray to the saints at baptism. At baptism, we become a saint! Yes, it's true: we are saved by baptism, all sin is removed and we are enrolled in heaven. The saints rejoice as someone is added to their number.

Of course, the hard part is staying a saint--that is what our life of prayer, walking with Christ, embracing the moral life, practicing our faith, penance and conversion are all about.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Respect Life Sunday Homily

In the first reading, we heard the prophet cry out: “Violence! Ruin!”
With Habbakuk, we ask: Why?
Why can we never see the end of war?
Why are people so cruel to one another?
“Write down the vision,” the Lord answers:
“The vision still has its time” to be fulfilled: “Wait for it.”

What’s the vision? Well, it’s God’s Vision—
as opposed to the alternative, which might be called,
“Doing it our way, without God.”

Part of that Vision is not only the dignity of human life,
but also that a moral life means choices that involve sacrifice.
We Catholics seem so far out of step with the world
when we insist on protecting the unborn,
and keeping intimate acts between couples open to the gift of life—
meaning no contraception.
This is a hard sell for many, including many Catholics.

But there’s Vision at work here—wait for it…

If we go out at night, and we gaze at the stars,
are we not filled with awe?
Surely God has some design and purpose in it all.
Who can doubt this?
That Divine purpose is not only written in the stars, but even moreso in ourselves.

One reason we Catholics cannot agree
with our culture’s values about human intimacy
is because they deny or at least muddle that higher purpose.

We are made in the image and likeness of God:
and when a man and woman come together,
they are never more like God—because at that moment,
they do what only God can do: create new life.

The problem with artificial means of family planning
is they redesign God’s design.
God’s design is that a loving act is also a life-creating act.
Natural Family Planning respects this.
But the whole mindset of artificial means of family planning
is that the life-creating part of us as a problem to be overcome,
rather than a blessing to be embraced with reverence.

As a priest, I am entrusted with an awesome power: I offer the Mass.
Through this sinner that I am,
Christ makes his saving sacrifice present,
and nourishes us all with his Body and Blood.

That awesome power and gift is not mine to control or redesign.
I don’t even like to speak of it, but:
obviously I could misuse that power and gift.
I have to be under God’s authority in this or I can do a lot of harm.

Well, as human beings, the life-creating part of us
is likewise an awesome power and gift.
And likewise, we aren’t free to do with that gift just as we may please.

That’s the Vision that our world ignores.
But, wait for it, it will have it’s time.
Our world’s values—how are they working out?
Are our families better off?
Are children better off when their parents never marry?
Is society better off?

I mentioned Natural Family Planning.
One of the striking things is that while it demands more sacrifice,
it also seems to strengthen intimacy.
Divorce is far less common for those who practice NFP.

Meanwhile, we cannot ignore the direction our society has taken.
After all, who is it that must be the prophet today,
calling people back from a path of ruin, to a path of life?

This is Respect Life Sunday; and we must speak up
against the destruction of the unborn
and we must cry out that we embrace both mother and child.

And if you think I’m wrong to draw a connection here,
I would point out that another prophet Pope Paul VI,
saw this coming; in his 1968 letter
Humanae Vitae,
said that this would happen.

In 1987, yet another prophet, Pope John Paul, sounded another alarm.
Before long, “the researcher will usurp the place of God…
as the master of the destiny of others…” reducing human life
to it’s worth as a “pure and simple instrument for the advantage of others.”

Now, our tax dollars pay for research that involves the destruction of unborn children.
Even though there are alternatives that do not destroy early human life.

This isn’t just about one issue, as some say.
It’s about the Vision: who are we? Are we God’s image or not?
If not, anything goes. Why care for the poor?
Why not exploit migrant workers?
Why not torture the enemy? Why not execute criminals?
Why not push people to die when they are suffering?

The world’s vision that offered freedom ends up bringing despair.
We are nothing, and the world will better off without us.

God offers us a different Vision:
We are not only his image at our best,
but even when we’re broken and marred:
God so loves us so much that he gave his only Son.
Life is worth living because even at our worst, we are his beloved.

That’s our Vision. Wait for it. It will have its time.