Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I'm in the lowest pit of hell right now

...that is, in my reading of Dante's Divine Comedy. I might have finished this last "canto," or chapter, last night, but this is where Dante and his guide, Virgil, encounter the "king of hell," Old Scratch himself. So I thought those might not be the best images to have in mind as I drifted off to dreamland! To fortify myself for this last episode in hell -- before we move to purgatory -- I am having breakfast at Denny's.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A few minutes ago...

Watching the sun go down on the Gulf of Mexico...

Stealing from a brother priest!

Last evening and today, I visited San Antonio Parish in San Antonio, Florida, just down the road from Saint Leo Abbey. Last night, the priest in residence, Father Emmanuel, persuaded me to be the celebrant -- but he preached. This morning, Father Palka, the pastor, did it all; I was the con celebrant. That is a great way for a priest to pray the Mass, so long as the Mass I'd offered reverently, which this was.

At the end of Mass, Father surprised me when he said more or less the following: 

Fr. Fox dutifully presented his letter from his bishop,attesting that he's really a priest, but I knew who he was, he's famous! (Uh oh...) then Father mentioned my blog, and encouraged people to go visit it! So I had to rush to get something posted!

I told him after Mass that I'd be stealing two things from him: 

First, his homily, in which developed the following point: that if someone says (regarding the first reading) that it is impossible for Jonah to have been swallowed by a big fish, because nature won't allow it, then that person ceases to be Catholic in his thinking. Note well: Father did not say one must interpret the Book of Jonah only that way; but he insisted that rule out super-nature ever overriding nature is to deny miracles, and eventually, everything of the Faith collapses. He's 100% right, of course!

Second, the parish has a very sensible arrangement for distributing Holy Communion. They have lined up several kneelers, and people come forward on one side, and line very much as they used to prior to Vatican II. Except--no one has to kneel. Many do, while many stand. Also, many receive in the hand, while many others receive in the age-old way, on the tongue. Meanwhile, on the other side, people line up in a fashion more familiar in most parishes.

Why do I like this so much better? Several reasons. First, it is much easier to give people communion this way with less chance of the host being dropped. Many times, people barely stop moving in a communion line; that makes dropping the host more likely. Second, many are unsteady, and this gives them something to hold onto. Third, this gives folks a chance to settle and be recollected before receiving the Lord, which is crucial. Fourth, it accommodates those who wish to kneel. Fifth and finally, I think it actually goes quicker, but I can't prove that. (Maybe it's a miracle? Hmmm...)

After last nights Mass, I joined a group for dinner, which was fun. I learned a lot about goats from one of the folks! I hope to visit with these lovely folks again before I go.

Now my breakfast is here, so...posting!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Saint Leo Benedictines

I am sitting on the screened-in back porch of the guest house at Saint Leo Abbey in Saint Leo, Florida. A gentle rain is falling; I suppose it's around 60 degrees. (By the way, does anyone else remember when typewriter keyboards had the degree symbol? I still hunt for it reflexively, even though it's probably been over 30 years, since I used a Royal manual typewriter in college!) It's very quiet.

The abbey is on the campus of Saint Leo University, which was founded with the abbey, but is now independent. It's a small place; I haven't relly looked around, as I got here from Tampa Airport not much before Vespers, then came dinner, then a short break before Holy Mass at 7. (And if you are wondering, no, I doubt I'll get up for Matins at 4:30 am.)

The March for life yesterday was a great experience as always. I have attended about fifteen times over the last 30 years, and I've never seen it so packed. We could barely move the whole way. For about the first third, we could only creep along. It helped that the weather was very fine, in the 50s and sunny.

During my retreat, I'll be reading and reflecting on Dante's Divine Comedy, or as much as I get through. Ive wanted to read it for years.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hitting the road...

I'm going to be away from the parish for the next ten days. Today I'm flying to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life tomorrow, and then on Friday I'm heading to Florida for my annual retreat, plus a visit to a friend.

It's not easy to post to my blog from my iPad, so updates may be rare. Perhaps I'll see you, however, at the March?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Availability (St. Remy Day homily)

Today we celebrate our patron, Saint Remy. 
His feast day actually falls on January 13, 
but we are able to move it to Sunday. 
To be honest, until I came here, 
I didn’t know anything about Saint Remy – 
or, Remigius, as he would have called himself. 
I suspect many of us don’t know much about him.

As his name suggests, Remigius was a Roman; 
he lived in northern part of the province of Gaul,
in an area near the border between France and Belgium. 
As a boy, Remy was very bright and well read; 
he was renowned for his learning and his holiness. 
When he was 22, he was nominated to be bishop – 
and he wasn’t even a priest!

Remy was born in AD 437. 
That means he lived at a time when Roman society was falling apart. 
Try to imagine what that might be like. 
Imagine if we, in Ohio, 
had some group in Cleveland start their own country; 
and we would send messages to Washington, asking for help; 
but little help arrived.

The new nation that was coalescing around Remy and his fellow Romans 
was the Kingdom of the Franks; 
the Franks were a Germanic people that had migrated out of the east. 
The king of the Franks was Clovis. 
The Franks were the rising upstarts, the “new rich”; 
the Romans were the upper-crust whose star was fading fast. 

In the year 486 – Bishop Remy was 49 – the tide turned decisively. 

King Clovis defeated the last Roman forces in Gaul; 
the Roman era was finished.
Again, imagine what that might be like – 
seeing your country and your culture washed away. 

How easy it would have been for Bishop Remy to fear
and even hate Clovis. 

Instead, Remy fostered good relations with the Franks. 
He may well have been influenced 
by Saint Paul’s words in the second reading: 
“I have become all things to all, to save at least some.” 

Because Remy made himself available to the Lord, 
not only was King Clovis baptized, so were many of his advisors. 
That set the whole kingdom on the path to becoming Catholic; 
and thus the future nation of France.

There is another story about Bishop Remy 
and it concerns the ampoule which you can see in his hand here. 
It seems a dying man asked to be baptized; 
and when St. Remy went to get 
the oil of catechumens and sacred chrism, the containers were empty. 
So Bishop Remy placed them on the altar and prayed; 
and they miraculously filled. 
The ampulla were buried with him, and when someone found them, 
three or so centuries later, they still had oil in them. 
These oils were then used, for many centuries, 
to anoint the kings and queens of France. 

Now we can understand why our French forebears, arriving here, 
decided to name this parish after Saint Remy.

Now, let’s see if we can connect St. Remy to our own times. 
Some of us can remember taking for granted 
that our society around us knew who Jesus Christ is. 
If that was ever really true, it’s not true now. 
I won’t compare our society to the dire straits of the Romans – 
but a lot of us think it feels that way! 
And that brings fear. 

What we know about Bishop Remy is that he was confident 
that Christ would be the light of the new world 
that was rising around him; and he was right! 

More than that, he made himself available to the Lord – 
and the Lord made it happen through Remy.

Availability. That’s our task. 
You and I have no control over the future. 
We have this moment – and it is up to us what we’ll make of it. 
Will we, like Remy, fill this moment, this time, 
with hope in Jesus Christ?
The Lord called Isaiah – he went; 
he called Peter, Andrew, James and John. 
They dropped their nets. 
Something new was asked. They went.

Every year around this time, 
we talk about the Catholic Ministries Appeal. 
Next weekend, we’ll look at the needs that this fund covers 
in more detail. 

But just a brief reminder: 
the Catholic Ministries fund is how the Archdiocese provides 
for many in our communities who are poor and without resources. 
Counseling and family assistance through Catholic Social Services. 

Part of it goes to provide for our retired priests. 
Part of it helps with outreach to colleges, prisons and hospitals. 
And a portion of it supports our seminary and our vocation programs.

Archbishop Schnurr asked me to share with you 
his own words on this subject. He provided a recording to play; 
but that’s always a little awkward. 
Instead, let me share part of what he said:

The Catholic Ministries Appeal, which begins today,
is our annual invitation to participate in God’s plan for His Church
by supporting these vital ongoing ministries.

Giving to the Catholic Ministries Appeal,
especially when our gifts are given out of joyful gratitude
for God’s generosity to us,
is much more than simply pledging financial support.

By giving to the Catholic Ministries Appeal
we are agents of these ministries –
feeding, teaching, and healing the people of Southwest Ohio
in the name of Jesus Christ.

In this way, we invite our neighbors to a closer encounter with Jesus –
to come and see, to “stay” with Him.

Here’s something Pope Francis said:

“In the light of the word of Jesus, 
love is the measure of faith, 
and faith is the soul of love. 
We cannot separate … the life of piety … 
from that of service to our brothers and sisters, 
those flesh-and-blood brothers and sisters we actually meet.”

This week, you will receive a personal invitation 
from the Archbishop in the mail. 
Please consider your response prayerfully, 
and pledge as generously as you can, even – or especially – 
if you have never given to the Catholic Ministries Appeal before.  

The Archbishop asks you to “consider this an invitation from Jesus 
to ‘come and see’ what a difference your generosity can make.”

This is our chance to do in a practical way 
what we prayed in today’s psalm: 
“Here we are, Lord. We come to do your will.”