Saturday, August 27, 2011

Offering our best (Sunday homily)

As you know, our bishops, working with the pope,
have prepared a new English translation
of our Mass prayers.

Next weekend, our parishes will begin
using some of the newly translated prayers.
This is with the permission of the Archbishop. *

While we’ll start using all the prayers
at the end of November,
the Archbishop allowed for a few to be used
starting in September.

The three prayers we will begin using next weekend are:
the Gloria, the “Holy, Holy,”
and the new “Memorial Acclamations,”
which are the response when the priest says,
“Mystery of Faith.”

(At 7 am:
even though we don’t always sing these at this Mass,
we’ll still start reciting them so we get used to them.

In your pews, you’ll see this red booklet (hold up booklet).
Let’s look at it together.

This contains all the people’s prayers
that are the same week in, week out.

When Advent comes,
we’ll be using this booklet for the whole Mass;
but we’ll use it for these few prayers to start with.

Let’s take a look together, starting with the Sanctus,
on page 10: it changes only a little.

Instead of “Lord God of power and might,”
it will be “Lord God of hosts.”
You might wonder, why this change?

This is a phrase straight from Scripture.
“Hosts” means “armies”—but here it means
the heavenly hosts: God’s “armies” of angels.

One of the goals with the new translation
was to bring out more clearly the Scriptures
and Scriptural images being referred to.

On the next page (page 11), you can see the three choices
we will have for the Memorial Acclamation.
The first one looks new; but it is actually what was written,
in the new Mass right after the Council.

The reason it’s new to us is that it’s only now
being translated in a direct way.
Till now, what we were using at Mass were loose paraphrases of this.

So the bishops decided we should use this prayer,
and they also reworked two of the ones we’ve been using,
and they are dropping two others.

Now let’s look at the Gloria, back on page 3.
This changes a bit more, and it’s worth looking at
because it helps illustrate the reasons
the Mass needed to be translated anew.

If you look at this—keeping in mind
what we’ve been used to—you’ll notice right away
the new translation puts back in whole phrases
that were left out of the prior translation.

Remember, when the Mass was first translated into English,
right after the Second Vatican Council, they felt the need to move quickly.
Everyone then assumed the translation we’ve been using all this time
would be revised.
No one expected it to wait 40 years!

So, now we’ll be praying the Gloria more closely
with what it says in Latin—and in Spanish—
and in German—and so forth.

Not only that, this revised translation is now much more in line
with what Orthodox and Protestant Christians say when they use this prayer.
You can read more about it in the bulletin.
Now, let me explain two other things
about how we’re going to approach the new translation.

Starting at the end of October,
all the priests will take time, over several weeks,
to address the rest of the translation in their homilies.
We’ll be able to learn and appreciate the Mass better—
which is something a lot of folks want to do.

Also, starting next week, when we sing these prayers,
we’re going to use the simple, chant setting
that is contained in these books.
We are trying to “ramp up” and take this on
piece-by-piece, so it’s not overwhelming.

I do ask that you resist the temptation to “borrow”
one of these booklets. We’re counting on
these staying in church for at least the next year.

If you want a copy, please call the office
and we will happily sell you one for a dollar—
but we can’t have them disappear from the pews!

OK, we’ve been talking about the Mass.

Did you notice, in the second reading,
Saint Paul talks about the importance
of our “spiritual worship”—
and offering our bodies as a “living sacrifice”?
What he is saying is that how we live our daily lives
is a mirror of what we do in our worship together.

On Sunday, we all join the priest in offering
the Sacrifice of Christ—the Mass, the Eucharist.
The rest of the time, we’re spread out, in our community,
being a bearer of Christ to others.

If we came to church today,
and found the tabernacle was gone;
or if we found out there was no Mass;
how would we react?
We’d be broken hearted: we’d ask, where is the Lord?

We come here to meet Christ here;
This parish, each of us, is like a living tabernacle,
so that people know Jesus is with them.

The Mass is the sacrifice the Church offers,
acting as one;
our day-to-day life is the “living sacrifice”
each of us offers as individuals.

In the Mass, Jesus gives us everything,
including his true Body and Blood.
Paul says, we give exactly the same back in return!
We give our body and blood, our lives, our soul,
our choices and decisions, to Christ.

Oh but it’s hard!

What would change, if we truly gave Jesus our tongue?

If these eyes belong to Christ,
would we go all the same places online?

Giving Christ our hands, our feet might mean
we spend more time helping others or spreading Faith.

But this gives a good way to pray:
At this Mass—or later—
we might think about the gifts and talents we have,
in our bodies, in our minds and selves, and asking:
Christ, these are yours.
How shall they serve you today?

* I didn't think it was important, in my homily, to go into the following detailed explanation.

Archbishop Schnurr has given every parish permission to begin using these prayer texts starting September 10-11. I asked, and received, his permission to start a week earlier, because we are doing a series of talks at Mass, at one parish, regarding stewardship, and I wanted to address this subject, in a homily, before beginning to use these new prayers. The opportune time for that was this weekend, not next; and I thought it would be better if the weekend we started using these texts followed right after that homily.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Church, the lonely prophet (Sunday homily)

In today’s Gospel the Apostles face a choice:
Play it safe; or a make a commitment
that changes everything.

When the Lord asks an easy question:
“What are folks saying about me?”
They all offer the safe answer: “a prophet.”

Then, Jesus puts them on the spot:
“And who do you say that I am?”

They all fall silent. Waiting for someone else to answer.
Simon steps out alone:
“You are the Anointed One: the Son of the Living God.”

Even early in life—when we’re kids in school—
we face the choice of melting into the crowd,
or standing up and standing out, for what is right.

It’s not fair that others hang back,
waiting for us—but that’s life.
That gnawing in your stomach? That’s normal.
That voice that tells you to speak up?
That’s your conscience.

And however hard it is to do,
what feels even worse is the regret
that comes from knowing what you should have done,
but didn’t find the nerve to do.
Simon commits himself.
That’s when Jesus says: “You are Peter—you are Rock—
And upon this Rock I will build my Church.”
Jesus makes a promise here:
The Rock will stand, the Church will stand; and she has.

Peter was not super-human. Remember his story.
He was a fisherman; he was part of a small business
with his brother Andrew, as well as James and John,
who all joined him in following Jesus.

Peter had a wife and likely had children.
So, like a lot of us, he had a lot to lose.

One of the things this brings up
is what this passage tells us about the Church.

We believe that Christ has promised
the Church would stand firm till the end.
We believe Christ protects the Church,
in a supernatural way, from teaching error.
When we talk about the pope,
or a council of the whole church,
being “infallible,” this is what we mean.

The first reading helps us understand why.
God’s People were in trouble;
God empowers a new leader,
to be a “peg in a sure spot”; a father to Jerusalem.
The pope is our “holy father,”
But not for his sake; for our sake.

To say the Church, the pope, are “infallible”
has to be understood correctly.
It doesn’t mean he knows who will win the World Series.

It doesn’t even mean he knows the answer to every question
about God, or Jesus, someone could ask.

But it does mean this:
on those special occasions when the Church as a whole,
or the pope acting for the Church,
gives formal teaching about God, about right and wrong,
then God acts to prevent the Church, or the pope,
from including error in that teaching.

Now, if you want, you will find popes
whose lives were far from admirable.
And you don’t have to look long for a story
that claims the Church messed up on this or that matter.

First, I’d say, don’t believe all you hear.
The facts are often otherwise.
But ultimately, all anyone ends up “proving”
is what we already knew:
that Christ built his Church not from angels,
but from sinful people.

As important as the popes are as leaders,
Christ has kept his promise through more than popes.

We’ve had bold popes; but sometimes they need help:
Here comes St. Catherine of Siena!
Here comes a Little Flower, a St. Francis, a St. Benedict;
Jesus has kept his promise!

Again, it’s not surprising that too often,
too many in the Church—including ordinary folks like us—
were willing to melt into the crowd,
rather than speak up and be alone.

But what we ought to notice is how often,
how constantly, the Church has done what Peter did:
speak up, even when all alone.

You may have heard the claim
that the Church approved of slavery. That’s false.
What’s true is that the Church was often alone
in condemning it; and wasn’t listened to.

You’ve heard the charge that the Church
didn’t do much to oppose Nazism. Again, that is false.

What’s true is that the Church
condemned anti-semitism and fascism.
No less than the New York Times called Pope Pius XII
“a lonely voice” in the darkness.
The Church took great risks in hiding Jews
and others from the Holocaust,
and saved more than anyone other than the Allied armies.

That has often been our role; to be the lonely voice,
the prophet who speaks up to defending human dignity—
and when we do, we are attacked as opposing “progress.”

Pope Paul VI was very alone when he said contraception
wasn’t going to work out very well for society.
When abortion spread—as Pope Paul foresaw—
The Church was often alone in opposing that.

Lately, we are told that research
that destroys tiny, unborn children is justified,
once again, as necessary for “human progress”!

Nevermind that it’s not true.
Research that does not take life
is actually working better.

Everybody likes a prophet we agree with;
We can’t stand a prophet who says we’re wrong.
But that’s exactly when we need the prophet, isn’t it?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What do you want to hear?

Sounds crazy, right? It's August, yet I'm writing homilies for two months from now!

Not so crazy, actually; I'm looking ahead to a series of homilies the other priests and I will give in the weeks leading up to the first Sunday of Advent, when we begin using the new and improved translation of the Mass.

I wanted to look at the readings assigned for those Sundays, as well as look at the more notable changes in the translation of the Mass, and think about the best way--over five or six weeks--to touch on each of these things. I was looking for possible connections and themes, for ways to organize the material, and--I hope--make it more appealing than a mere laundry list.

I've only begun, so more work is needed to flesh things out.

Here is a question for you--and your answers may help me develop these homilies:

What questions or issues would you want to hear addressed about the improved translation of the Mass? Is there anything else about the Mass you'd like to hear explained?

Monday, August 15, 2011

My Experimental 'Spirit of Vatican II' Liturgy

Tonight, I did an experiment with the liturgy, in the (true) spirit of Vatican II.

For the Solemnity of the Assumption, we had the schola present; we chanted the introit--in English--as well as the offertory and communion. In fact, the only hymn we sang was the Salve Regina at the conclusion.

We did use some Latin and Greek: Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei.

I chanted the Gospel, the Roman Canon and a lot else.

Oh--and I offered the Mass toward the Lord.

Before Mass, I explained what I was going to do; and then I elaborated on it during my homily.

I chose this occasion because it was not an obligatory Mass, and I'd warned in the bulletin there'd be lots of incense and chant, so I figured that would be something of a clue.

But I didn't decide, until 15 minutes before, to go ahead with ad orientem.

I let folks know they didn't have to like it, but they might; I invited them to let me know what they thought about it. (A few gave comments and those where positive ones.)

In my homily, I explained how Pope Benedict has prompted this reconsideration of ad orientem, I attempted to explain how, after Vatican II, some things were given so much emphasis that other important aspects of the liturgy were obscured, and I explained how the priest needs to decrease, so that Christ may increase. I explained that I wasn't planning on doing this all the time, just now and then.

We had about 40 folks present.

Now I'm having some dinner.

Update (ca. 11:55 pm)...

Well, I had my dinner, and had some time to think about the Mass tonight, so now I can share some further thoughts about offering Mass ad orientem. (Welcome Fr. Z readers!)

It's not the first time I've done it; but I haven't offered Mass ad orientem in the parish many times other than privately. I was a little nervous, because I thought, is someone going to get upset about this? Really upset? And it didn't help that I am getting over a cold and developed a bit of a cough as I'm finishing the Canon (singing it); it was really hard finishing the Per Ipsum.

The servers, including several adults, in cassock and surplice, were excellent. The three boys were all brothers, sons of the music director. The schola was excellent. The acoustics in Saint Boniface--now that the carpeting is gone--are excellent. The one downside of ad orientem was I couldn't see the clouds of incense I know the servers were offering behind me, during the elevations.

I might also add, that having a procession carried out well is very edifying.

I am sorry I forgot my biretta, but--it is just as well. It was probably better I didn't wear it; as well, that I didn't use the Roman Canon in Latin, as I was going to do initially. Why do I say that?

Because, as it was, it should have been clear we were offering the newer form of the Mass, not the extraordinary form. Had I used a biretta, and used Latin, it might have been less clear.

Finally, I have to tell you, there is something tremendously powerful, for the priest, in offering Mass toward the Lord. For one, the architecture of the church makes so much more sense. As I offered the Sacrifice, I was aware of the beautiful sanctuary lamp over my head, I was gazing at the massive crucifix ahead of all of us, and above that, the Good Shepherd window in the apse. The light from the evening sun poured in through the windows, a dappled gold light.

I knew everyone was behind me, but--I was there alone; but not alone, with the Lord.

A couple of curious things happened, none of which I orchestrated. The servers were all kneeling behind me, at the top step of the altar, as I made my communion; they remained kneeling for communion.

Then, when I went down to distribute the Eucharist to the faithful, it seemed a lot of folks received on the tongue--more than usual. And there seemed a tremendous sense of awe among all who came forward. It's hard to know if that's actually what others felt, unless folks present say so, or just my perception.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

'Send her away' (Sunday homily)

Some passages in Scripture are easily misunderstood, such as today’s Gospel.
Why does our Lord Jesus act this way?

It’s not what you may think. Let’s dig deeper.

Let’s back up to the beginning of this Gospel:
Matthew begins with a genealogy,
a family tree: from Abraham, to David,
down to Joseph, whose wife was Mary.

Matthew calls attention to particular people
in the family tree; he makes sure you know about
the outsiders and non-Jews in the Messiah’s lineage.
Even the “insiders” were really outsiders:
King David was an outsider at one point;
God’s people were freed slaves, and so forth.

Even Jesus was an “outsider.”
Remember, St. Joseph was not his natural father;
our Lord had to be adopted by Joseph,
to be part of his lineage.

Matthew highlights the Magi from the East—
more “outsiders”; then, after the Sermon on the Mount,
the first people Jesus heals are outsiders:
a leper, and a Roman soldier’s servant.

All this is necessary background to this shocking conversation
between the Lord and this woman.

Look again: it is not Jesus who has a problem
with this outsider woman. It is his disciples.
They are the ones who say, “send her away.”

So why does Jesus say these things?
He is saying out loud what his apostles think—
He wants to draw out her faith,
And widen the hearts of his apostles.

Notice, the Lord praises her for “great faith”;
Just last Sunday, he said to Peter,
“oh you of little faith,” even though Peter’s faith
was the greatest of the Twelve.

The Lord is preparing these men for their mission.
It won’t be long before they’ll have folks like this woman coming in by the droves,
wanting to become Christians.

Their hearts have to be a lot wider.

Ours too.

Who are the outsiders, the “those people,”
we might prefer don’t show up?

I think if we want this church to be packed every Sunday,
we could do a lot to make that happen,

if we’re willing to:

> Reach out to family or friends we may be at odds with;

> Step out and visit folks. We did this once,
visiting some of our fellow parishioners.
We’ll do it again soon.

> This isn’t just about inviting folks to church;
first we have to be willing to invite folks into our lives.

Share a meal; spend time; be a friend.
Let them see Christ in you first;
then they’ll be more likely to ask about
how and where you get this life from Christ.

Yes: I’m asking you to be an “evangelist”!

Here’s what I think is a fairly obvious application.
What about all the folks in our area
who are Spanish-speaking?

Are we willing to hear Spanish prayed—
even just for a few prayers and songs—in this church?

This isn’t about anything else
but going the extra mile to make folks feel welcome.

Let’s turn it around:
if you were living in Mexico, not speaking Spanish,
what—from the local parish there—
would make you feel welcome?

Jesus said, “My house shall be a house of prayer
for all peoples.”

What do we really think he wants us to do?
Not what we are comfortable doing.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Plans for New Missal

For those interested, here's what we're doing in Piqua...

Starting next month, we'll begin using the new texts for the Gloria, Sanctus and Memorial Acclamation at Mass. The Archbishop gave all parishes permission to do this as a result of the U.S. Bishops approving this option.

We will have booklets from the Archdiocese in the pews starting next month, so that folks can refer to them for these texts. We will be using the chant setting, which is the easiest and most familiar, so that folks don't have to learn too much at once.

I just ordered our new missals from Magnificat. We are ordering six to start, the bare minimum for two parishes, a chapel, a Mass kit, and one for the rectory and one for our retired priests. Why didn't I order more, you ask? Because I anticipate, in all the rush to get these things to print, some mistakes in the first edition. I'm betting that 3-6 months in, we'll have revisions. I'd rather let that shake out; so I'm buying the smaller, cheaper, "chapel" editions now; next year I'll order several "altar" editions. We will need the extras, especially for occasions such as Palm Sunday and the Easter Vigil.

I also ordered some Mass cards, which we'll use for the nursing homes, and we'll have other uses for them I anticipate.

Sometime in September or October, we'll have some sessions with all those who take a special role at Mass, to give them some information and encouragement. Although the improved translation doesn't necessarily affect them more than any others, they are folks others know are involved, so having them be up to speed will be helpful.

In October, the other priests and I will be giving a series of homilies on the Mass in general, and these changes in particular. I have to prepare the outline for all that soon, so I can provide it to the other priests.

Meanwhile, we're providing information in the bulletins, not every week, but as we can.

On Christ the King--the weekend before we begin using the new missals--we'll bless the new missals at all Masses.

The following weekend, of course, is when we begin using it in full. To make it easier on the priests and the people, some of the options we could use, we will introduce gradually. For example, we will stick to the Roman Canon for awhile at Sunday Mass, waiting perhaps until after Christmas to begin using the 3rd Eucharistic prayer.

One of the priests who assists me--the former pastor, now retired--thinks this will be a lot easier than folks expect. The people's parts don't change that much and he thinks most of what the priest does differently won't cause any stir. We'll have a few things that need to be explained, such as "for you and for many."

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Catholics believe about 'same sex marriage'

(This is an upcoming bulletin insert I've prepared for my parishes. An earlier version appeared here; I thought I'd show you what I finally came up with.)

Recently, the legislature and governor of New York changed the definition of marriage, to apply to people of the same sex. In recent years, this has been at issue in several states, and in many state courts—and it may come before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Catholic Church opposes this redefinition of marriage. As a result, we’ve been criticized as against “progress” and even called bigots. Because this is so often cast as a question of “rights,” we may wonder why the Church teaches what she does.

Let me briefly explain what the Church teaches and why it matters.

First, a surprise: our stance is not based on religion; marriage existed before anyone wrote the first words of the Bible. Marriage arises from human nature itself. Human beings are designed to come together and make a family. This is part of being human and obviously necessary. Marriage is important to the well being of us all.

What’s the harm?

Still, many will say, “So what? Why not just change the law to accommodate the wishes of those who don’t fit this mold? What’s the harm in that?”

Here are four areas of concern:

1. This is a power-grab by government. This is a fundamental change in the whole of society being imposed by the government. To a great degree, we all must go along with it. We teach our children to respect the laws. Laws express the common values of society.

The Archbishop of New York asked a question we can all ask: Who gave the government the right to do this? Redefining marriage means redefining family and ultimately what it means to be human. This is social engineering.

2. This strikes at the peace and cohesion of society. A society isn’t just a collection of individuals, but a community with shared values. People often say, “we shouldn’t impose our values.” But there’s no avoiding it; this is what laws do—they reflect shared values and “impose” expectations on all of us.

What’s happening is new values are being imposed on all of us already. Consider…

> In 2004, the supreme court of Massachusetts redefined marriage to include same-sex unions; a 2005 law changed how “family” was viewed by the state. The Catholic Church, long involved in adoptions, was told that if it deemed only a man and a woman as “family,” that would be illegal “discrimination.” The Church stopped referring for adoptions, rather than comply. Something similar has happened in Washington, D.C.

> In California, the state now mandates public schools teach “gay history” beginning in kindergarten. Where is this leading? What will this mean in practice? Will this affect textbooks or other programs made available to Catholic schools?

> In Canada, we might see a glimpse of our future. A Protestant pastor was charged with a “hate crime” in 2002 when he wrote a letter to the editor saying homosexual acts are sinful. After a lengthy court process, and much expense, he was finally cleared. This was not an isolated incident; it happened to the Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Calgary.

3. Marriage and family are not merely private matters—society rests on this foundation as surely as our homes rest on their foundations. Can anyone seriously argue it has been good for our society in recent years to have marriage become fragile, to have children grow up in broken homes, or grow up without both parents married at all?

4. This is reckless tampering. In recent years, we are better appreciating the importance of treating our ecology with respect. It is complex system which we don’t fully understand; but we are realizing better that polluting water and air, and not respecting the climate, wetlands, and endangered species can ultimately threaten our future.

And yet, politicians are re-engineering marriage and family. As Catholic writer Mark Shea observes, “what can it hurt?” will eventually be followed by, “how were we supposed to know?”

This raises a much broader question:

What does our Faith say about same-sex attraction?

We don’t fully know why some people (1-5% from various studies) experience this attraction. For some, it is a phase, for others it’s deep-seated. Some feel an exclusive attraction, but others don’t. Some try to change and do, but not all. Coming to grips with this at a young age can be very difficult. Some never share this, others are open about it.

Sadly, teasing, cruelty and rejection take a terrible toll. Some young people go through awful trials, and make rash decisions with life-long or even fatal consequences. A lot of folks have serious soul-searching to do about attitudes and behavior toward gay people.

The truth is, our family and friends who wrestle with these feelings ask the same questions we all ask: who am I? Why did God make me? How do I fit in his plan?

The answers—for everyone—are: We are made in God’s image. God made us to know, love and serve him in this life, to be happy with him in the next. We spend our lives discovering our particular vocation, but we are all part of his plan.

Did God make me this way?

Many say this same-sex attraction comes from God. But can we really say that?

People have all kinds of sexual feelings or desires. Will we say every one of them is likewise “God given”—simply because people experience them? Throughout history, faithfulness in marriage has always been a challenge; and people have seriously claimed that they can’t help being unfaithful. Is being unfaithful also “God-given”?

Whether we look at what nature tells us about human sexuality, or what Scripture and Christian tradition say, the answer is the same: that human sexuality is meant for a permanent union of a man and woman, with procreation an inseparable part of this union.

This is why our Faith has always taught that sex before and outside of marriage (including by oneself and porn), and marital acts involving contraception or sterilization, or which deliberately exclude procreation, are all gravely sinful.

Do I matter to God?

Maybe what we’re trying to say is something different: that whoever we are, God loves us. We have worth and dignity. That is true!

Nothing in our Faith allows us to demean or devalue anyone, for any reason. If we’ve ever treated anyone that way, that is a sin on our part. When we present our beliefs about the meaning of human sexuality and the call to chastity, this isn’t to be “anti” anyone.

As Christians, we believe two things that apply here: that human beings are broken and wounded, because of Original Sin; and that Christ, who died to save us, gives us grace to become new people. Having same-sex feelings is just one form of brokenness.

Facing our own brokenness, and bringing it to Christ, are essential to our salvation. Many people can say, “why did this happen to me?” Many people face life long struggles and shame. Christ accepts us where he finds us, but loves us too much to leave us there.

The virtue of chastity

Jesus said, “Take up your cross.” Why did he say it? Maybe because he knew there’s no other way to become truly human.

Our culture ridicules chastity. A lot of heterosexual folks, even Christians, do not embrace chastity themselves; so it seems unfair to ask it of those with same-sex desires.

So, a reminder: Christ calls everyone to chastity, not just some.

Married people are called to be chaste in their relations with each other and with others. This, along with the dying to self that comes in marriage and family, is costly.

Some heterosexuals find they can’t make marriage work. They either attempt it and it ends badly; or they never marry. They also find chastity hard.

And our Lord specifically called some to be chaste for his Kingdom—which is what brothers, sisters and priests do.

We might recall the words of G.K. Chesterton: “The Christian ideal hasn’t been tried and found wanting; it’s been found difficult and not tried.” No one can seriously claim our culture is too “pushy” about chastity and self-control. Just the opposite: what we experience from all sides is the celebration of not just lust, but greed, gluttony, materialism and anger.

Is this set of values working for our society? For families? For children?

We need the virtue of chastity so we can truly possess ourselves; in order to truly give ourselves fully to others. A society that scorns self-denial cannot say “no” and sacrifice for the future—which is at the heart of both our nation’s fiscal woes and health problems, is it not?

But chastity isn’t just about what you say “no” to; saying “no” to something that feels good, or really is good, means saying “yes” to a greater good. This is what soldiers do; what faithful spouses and parents do. It is what Jesus Christ did! It’s what each of us is called to do.

What is our Catholic answer?

To those who experience same-sex attraction, you are part of the Body of Christ. You are always welcome. Your priests will readily help with the sacraments and spiritual support. (See below for a link to Courage, a Catholic organization of those with same-sex attraction living their faith.) Every Catholic should be equally ready to provide true friendship and support. I’m here to help: call me to speak confidentially if you wish.

It has never been easy to answer Jesus’ call. In every age, some part of his message has always been rejected because it was too challenging.

When the prophet Habbakuk asked God why society was not listening to God’s words, the Lord said, “Write down the vision…the vision still has its time…wait for it.”
—Father Martin Fox, Pastor, St. Mary & St. Boniface Parishes, August 2011


“Bishop Henry calls for overhaul of human rights commissions,” Catholic Civil Rights League, accessed July 28, 2011, online at:; “Bishop Fred Henry's letter to the Premier of Alberta,” Catholic Education Resource Center, 2008, accessed online at:

“California to Require Gay History in Schools,” New York Times, July 15, 2011, accessed online at:

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1602-1605; accessed online at:; paragraphs 2337-59, accessed online at:

“Catholic Charities stuns state, ends adoptions,” Boston Globe, March 11, 2006, accessed online at:

Courage: Catholic Apostolate for those with same-sex attraction:

“Same-sex ‘marriage’ law forces D.C. Catholic Charities to close adoption program,” Catholic News Agency, February 17, 2010; accessed online at:

Friday, August 05, 2011

Old homily 6 years ago...

I don't know what I'll say in my homily this weekend yet; but here's a blast from the past for your consideration and reflection....

Last Sunday, Our Lord fed thousands on the hillside.
After the miracle of filling so many with so little,
he sends the disciples—the Apostles—ahead, alone.

They’re “Apostles” because he will send them;
They’re “disciples” because they’re still learning.

They go on alone; he comes later, during a storm.
Not an accident; it was a lesson-plan.

Did you notice, it doesn’t say the storm frightened them;
These are fishermen, they understood the sea.

It was when they saw him that they were “terrified”:
“It is a ghost!”

See, they are still learning who Jesus really is:
God himself, come among us, as a true, human being.
But they’re not there, yet.

Notice the boat.
In a previous storm on the sea,
Everyone—including the Lord—was in the boat.

This time, Jesus is out of the boat;
And he wants them out of the boat, as well!
He starts with Peter.

And we see what’s special about Peter:
Because notice, Jesus doesn’t introduce
the idea of getting out of the boat; Peter does!
He has the insight, and Jesus approves:
“Come on out! The water’s fine!”

And Peter steps out, onto the water!
But, he needs training wheels!
He is frightened, and he sinks—like a Rock!

He is not there yet.

As we move through the Gospel of Matthew each Sunday,
We’re progressing with the Apostles
in the growth of their faith.

In two weeks, we’ll come back to when Jesus says,
“You are Peter—you are Rock—
and upon this Rock I will build my Church.”

But we understand that better,
when you see how Jesus is forming the Apostles,
as the foundation of his Church,
as people who stay standing in the midst of a storm.
Who, despite the storm, will cry out, “It is the Lord!”

Who could imagine walking on water?
But Jesus led them there.

Today, many people today can’t imagine
having faith that God is working through the Church.

We can all think of reasons not to believe it.
Maybe we separate God from his Church:

“God’s there, somewhere—but in the Church?
No, that’s a ghost!”

Totally understandable, given sin and scandal.
However, the Gospels are hard-core on this claim:
God came!

In and through human weakness, human failure…
God came!
In the midst of sin, suffering and injustice:
He came, and said:
“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid!”

And the Gospels are just as hard-core on this point, too:
God came…and he didn’t leave!
God is in his Church!

Christ chose these Apostles: weak, sinful men;
Christ worked through them,
and he works through their successors,
Including our Archbishop and all bishops.

Perhaps we say, “that’s hard to believe.”

It takes no great act of faith to believe
God acts in a Church of St. Pauls and St. Francises,
of Mother Theresas and Pope John Pauls!
That’s like stepping out of the boat…onto land!

But you and I called to walk on water:
We see bishops and priests shock and dismay us;
We see scandal and failure; we’re hurt, we’re angry:
Why believe? It’s a phantom—don’t trust it!

We believe it’s not a ghost,
It’s Jesus standing there, on the water:
God vowed to be in the midst of our storm and darkness.

Will we believe it is Jesus, and not a phantom?
Will we hear him, calling us his Church, to walk on water?

The answer to the storms and frights of our time,
Whether scandal, or lack of faith,
Or the assaults on human dignity from all sides…

Is not to huddle in the boat and ride out the storm.
It’s not to give up on Christ in his Church, saying,
“It’s just a ghost!”

No. You and I are called
to step out into the storm, on the water!

When we dress modestly, while “everyone else”
is dressed like, well, everyone else…

When you and I refuse
to treat God’s holy name as a joke…

When we refuse to treat sex as anything less than
the awesome, sacred reality it is: full of God himself;

When you and I speak for mercy, when all around us demand vengeance;

When you and I say Jesus is our true King,
while others tell us to keep God out of politics;

And, when we claim we really see Jesus our Lord—
We really see him!—
where others see only a symbol of bread and wine…

Then, you and I will face a storm!

And there will be every reason not to believe he’s there:
Every reason not to step out of the boat!

Every reason but one:
“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid!”

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A few days off...

I'm spending a few days up north, with some brother priests, with some R&R...back in the parish Friday.