Sunday, August 30, 2015

A break

Sorry, no homily today.

Father Dan Schmitmeyer, the Director for Vocations for the Archdiocese, was here this weekend, preaching at all the Masses.

Looking back, the last homily I preached on these readings was in 2009! Here are my notes if you're interested.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Dinner plans: Chicken a la Zuhlsdorf!

Several weeks ago, I saw this recipe on Father Z's blog, and fixed it; and it was unbelieveably good!

So tonight I'm doing it again.

Sorry, no pictures; I was under a rush to get it in the oven in time.

Admittedly, I did tweak it a little. I omitted "extra zest"; I just stuffed most of the lemon inside the chicken; and in addition to pepper on the outside, I added salt. How can salt hurt?

Meanwhile, I got out some fresh spinach, which I bought Wednesday, which I'll saute with some garlic and olive oil, and then finish with some Parmesan cheese. I've made that many times.

I have Mass at 7, so I hope I can get to eat some before then. We'll see!

Update, 8:51 pm...

Ok, the chicken got in the oven late, so I had to turn down the oven during Mass. Around 8:15, I brought it out, here it is:

And here's the plate, with the sautéed spinach, and a glass of leftover wine:


The delay was not kind to the chicken. It was a little over cooked. Not. Bad, could have been much better. The spinach was delicious. The skin was excellent!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Why are there so many Eucharistic Prayers?

As we discussed at Mass recently, the Eucharistic Prayer is the prayer the priest offers, at the center of the Mass, recalling and making present Jesus’ saving death and resurrection. And while I almost always use the same prayer—the First Eucharistic Prayer—there are more than one.

This is a development since Vatican II – and, like many things we experienced in recent years, this was a change that was not envisioned by the Council at all. The best way to understand how so many things happened after Vatican II that weren’t called for by Vatican II is to remember the times; the 1960s and 70s were a time of experimentation and rebellion – and that affected the Church. Pope Paul VI, who was pope at that time, rightly or wrongly, chose to overlook some of it; and he gave recognition to several new prayers – we call these Eucharistic Prayer numbers 2, 3 and 4. In the 1990s, several more were approved. Some are called “For Reconciliation,” and others, for “Various Needs and Occasions.” There are a total of ten options.

No doubt you’ve noticed that I very rarely use anything but the first prayer, the Roman Canon. I am following the example of my predecessor, both because needless change is unhelpful; but also, because I agree with his preference. Here are my reasons.

1. The Roman Canon is uniquely a treasure of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is more than just Roman; there are Greek Catholics, Indian Catholics, Arab Catholics, and many others. What defines them is the way they celebrate the Divine Liturgy, aka, the Mass. That is true for us as well. This prayer was always the center of our worship until 1970, and my view is it should stay there.
2. I’m not against using the other prayers; I occasionally do use them, but only where need demands it—i.e., usually the demands of time or simplicity for the sake of those attending Mass.
3. When we take part in a shared ritual action, familiarity and steadiness are very valuable. That’s how the prayers become “ours” rather than merely “mine.” Notice how, when Catholics gather, everyone knows the Hail Mary – that’s because there is only one version. Then notice what happens with the Saint Michael Prayer; there are several variations, and when we pray it together, sometimes we stumble. Then notice what happens with the Act of Contrition: there are too many variations – we don’t have one, common version. In my judgment, the Mass should be a prayer that is, to the greatest extent, something we all possess together. Obviously some of the prayers, as well as the readings, need to change. But the rest? I think it helps us not to have so much variation.

--From St. Remy Bulletin, August 23, 2015.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

We reach the Garden, and eat from the Tree of Life (Sunday homily)

Triumph of the Cross, Tree of Life Mosaic; 12th Century; San Clemente, Rome.

We have three things to talk about today. 
This is the last of five homilies on the Mass. 
And we are remembering the dedication of our beautiful church. 
But we also have some business to wrap up 
with the Archdiocese’s “One Faith” campaign.

Let’s start with the Archdiocese “One Faith” campaign. 
You’ve heard things, seen things in the Telegraph or in our bulletin, 
or you’ve talked with someone about it. 

At this point, the ushers are passing out cards and pencils, 
which you’ll need in a moment. 

The Archbishop launched this drive last year 
to raise a very significant sum of money, 
in order to strengthen four major missions of the Archdiocese. 
His efforts are focused on education, vocations, 
retired priests, and assistance to those in need. 

The goal is $130 million, involving every parish, every Catholic, 
in the Archdiocese. 
Our parish goal toward that was $350,000.

It’s a lot of money. Where’s it going? 

Half will go to Catholic schools, 
as well as to support parish religious education efforts. 
Obviously, without a Catholic school here, 
this will not mean as much to us. 
But Catholic schools do play an important role in our archdiocese.

Sixteen million will go to support vocations to the priesthood. 
We have a growing number of seminarians – 
including three just from our parish! 
These funds will help lower the costs to our seminarians.

Thirteen million will fill a gap in the retirement fund for our priests. 
Ten million will strengthen the good work of Catholic Charities, 
and Catholic Social Services, 
in serving the poorest in our Archdiocese.

And then, 20% of the fund will come back to parishes for their needs. 
We will get a significant amount back ourselves. 

After discussing it with the Pastoral Council, 
those funds will be used, here, 
for a variety of repairs and maintenance issues – none critical – 
that we expect to come down the pike the next few years. 
For example, the parking lots are going to need some attention 
in the next few years, and that could be very costly.

The Archdiocese is about 2/3rds of the way to the goal, 
and our parish has actually exceeded the goal, 
with over $500,000 donated or pledged to date.
So, you might be wondering, OK, if we’ve reached our goal, 
why should anyone here give more?

Two reasons. First, because this is a project of the whole Archdiocese, 
the Archbishop is hoping everyone will take part, even if in a small way. 
Second, for every dollar beyond our goal, 
60 cents will come back to our parish. 

So at this point, you should have a card and a pencil. 
I’d like to explain what to do with it, briefly.
1. Please fill out the left side.
2. If you have already made a commitment to the campaign, 
simply check “Amen.” That’s all you need to do.
3. If you are ready to make a pledge, please check “yes.” 
Then please take a look at your options on the back side. 
You can make a pledge over several years, payable monthly, quarterly or annually, 
and mark it accordingly.
4. If you are still thinking about it, simply check “praying.”

When you’ve finished filling in the card, fold it in half, 
and put it in the collection when the time comes. 
And if you would return blank cards to the ends of the pews 
for the next Mass.

Now, let me pick up the thread from last Sunday. 
We were talking about the Eucharistic Prayer. 
And at the end of that prayer, the priest says this: 
“admit us, we beseech you, into their company”—
meaning the saints in heaven. 

And then, the priest lifts up the Body and Blood of the Lord 
toward God the Father, and prays, 
“through him, and with him, and in him”—that is, through Jesus—
“all glory and honor is yours, forever and ever.” 
At that moment, the priest is pleading – 
for you, and us, through the Sacrifice of Jesus – 
to enter heaven!

What happens next? We stand up and we are bold to pray, "Our Father.” 
We aren’t approaching God as slaves, but as children, at home!
The next prayers ask for protection and peace; 
and then we offer peace to each other. 
You may recall, in my prior homilies in this series, 
I described Mass as an ascent up God’s mountain. 
We heard that in the second reading, too: 
we’re on Mount Zion, approaching the “city of the living God.” 
And as we come to the last part of the Mass, 
we are right there, in the center of the “heavenly Jerusalem.” 

Do you think I mean, “in heaven,” as a metaphor? Symbolically?
No, I mean it quite literally. Yes, we’re also here on earth. 
We still have our trials to overcome.

This brings us to the importance of our celebration today, 
in which we remember the consecration of this church 
for sacred worship. 
This is what a church is supposed to be: an embassy of heaven, 
here on earth. 
And that makes you and me ambassadors of heaven. 

When Solomon built the temple, 
you will read in Scripture 
that the interior was decorated with trees and animals. 
In the first book of Kings, we learn that 
“The walls of the house on all sides 
of both the inner and the outer rooms 
had carved figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers”; 
and later, we learn that some of the fixtures 
bore images of “lions (and) oxen,” and “pomegranates” and “lilies.”

Think about those details. 
What place does it sound like they were depicting? 
With trees, flowers, fruit, animals, angels…and God? 
That sounds like the Garden of Eden to me.

And recall that when humanity left the garden, 
they had eaten from the tree that brought death, 
but they had been prevented from eating from the tree of life.

So, when we come to the last part of the Mass, what do we do? 
What do we eat? Jesus told us: “I am the Bread of Life”!

Yes, when we are in Mass, we are in heaven. 
This place, this church, is truly a bit of heaven on earth! 
Jesus is here; the angels are here, the saints are here. 
Isn’t that heaven?

The one problem? You and I: we’re not fully heavenly. 
We’re not saints yet. 

So that’s why we have Mass here, every day. 
That’s why the doors are open, every day. 
Anyone who wants to be here all night? 
Let me know, we’ll do it. No problem. 
This is why we have a Sunday Mass obligation. 
It’s why we have confessions through the week. 

We come here to soak up as much of heaven as we can, and then? 
To take it with us. 
And the more heavenly we are, when we are at work, or at school, 
or with our families, neighbors and friends, 
the more people will ask: what exactly goes on at Saint Remy Church? What do they have?

We have heaven! And when the Mass is ended, 
we go to take heaven to the world.

Friday, August 21, 2015

About First Friday & First Saturday Devotions

I think many of us have heard of these devotions, but we may not be familiar with the whole story.

“First Fridays” are about devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Many saints have promoted devotion to the Lord Jesus’ human heart, as a way to emphasize both that the Son of God shares our very same humanity, and also his love for us. Over the centuries, sometimes an emphasis on the authority and holiness of Jesus has obscured the reality of his compassion and mercy.

In 1671, Margaret Mary Alocoque became a Visitation nun, and very soon after, she began receiving visions of the Lord. Jesus instructed her to begin offering a holy hour – this is where the idea came from! – on Thursday evenings; and to foster devotion to his Sacred Heart especially on First Fridays. He also told her that he wished for an annual feast of the Sacred Heart, which comes on the Friday after Corpus Christi. And Jesus told Saint Margaret Mary twelve promises for those who would observe nine First Fridays:

1. I will give them all of the graces necessary for their state of life.
2. I will establish peace in their homes.
3. I will comfort them in all their afflictions.
4. I will be their strength during life and above all during death.
5. I will bestow a large blessing upon all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall grow fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
9. I will bless every place where a picture of my heart shall be set up and honored.
10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
11. Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be blotted out.
12. I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant all to those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.

The requirements are: Confession, Mass and Holy Communion each First Friday – with confession coming within eight days, before or after.

Five First Saturdays’ devotion was revealed by the Virgin Mary to Sister Lucia Santo, one of the three children who received Mary’s messages at Fatima:

Behold, my daughter, my heart encircled with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. Give me consolation, you, at least; and make known on my behalf that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all who on the First Saturday of five consecutive months confess their sins, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the purpose of making reparation to my Immaculate Heart.

There are four elements of this devotion: first, Confession (up to 8 days before or after); second, reception of Holy Communion on the First Saturday; third, Recitation of the Rosary (5 decades); and fourth, 15 minutes’ silent meditation on one or more of the mysteries. All this is done with intention to make reparation to the heart of Mary. The communion, Rosary and meditation can take place the following Sunday “if a priest, for just cause, grants” that favor.

For more on First Saturday devotions, go here.

From Saint Remy Bulletin, August 16, AD 2015.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

We behold the God of Israel, and we eat & drink (Sunday homily)

In this fourth of five homilies talking about the Mass, 
I’m going to focus on the center of the Mass, the Eucharistic Prayer. 
I’ll be looking closely at the First Eucharistic Prayer, 
also known as the Roman Canon. 
You may want to take the missallettes out and open to page 14; 
I will refer a few times to the text, and you may want to follow along.

To save time, I’m not going to go into the other Eucharistic Prayers. 
No doubt you notice I almost always use this prayer. 
For those who are interested in the background of all that, 
I’ll have something in next week’s bulletin.

This prayer is very old; it was certainly in use in the 600s, 
and most likely, long before that. 
But we’re not sure how far back; very likely, the 300s, maybe the 200s.
Before that, we can only guess. 

Of course, the words at the center are those of Jesus himself. 
For many reasons, we can be confident 
that this part of the Mass has been constant 
since the time of the Apostles. 

When we listen to the Roman Canon, across all these centuries, 
and despite barriers of language and culture, 
we are hearing the voice of the ancient church of Rome. 
We are brought back to the time when the Mass was celebrated, 
not in churches, but in homes or at tombs underground; 
not in safety, but in fear of Roman persecution.

It might help to recall the imagery I’ve offered several times before: 
the Mass is an ascent; we are climbing up a mountain. 
When we come to this prayer, we very nearly at the summit. 
At this point we kneel.

Dr. Brant Pitre, who teaches at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, 
makes the connection between the Mass 
and an episode from the Old Testament, 
when Moses and God’s People were at Mount Sinai. 
After ratifying the covenant, God directed Moses, 
and the 70 elders of the twelve tribes, to come up the mountain. 
In Exodus it says, “and they beheld the God of Israel. 
Under his feet there appeared to be sapphire tilework, 
as clear as the sky itself. 
Yet he did not lay a hand on these chosen Israelites. 
They saw God, and they ate and drank.”

We arrive here, not with Moses, but with Jesus. 
The lowly priest – me – acts in his name. 
Or, better to say, Jesus the High Priest acts, 
using me, his unworthy servant. 
You are like the elders—part of the sacrifice.

The prayer begins by acknowledging the living members of the Church, 
including especially our pope and our bishop, 
but also for all of us, still on our pilgrimage. 
Later, we’ll mention those who have “gone before us”—
that is, those who have died. 

It’s fitting we mention the Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph, 
the Apostles, and other saints. 
This is painting a scene: imagine being in heaven, 
with all the saints gathered around! 
The priest bows his head as he mentions Mary, and then Jesus. 
Isn’t that what I’d do, if they were sitting right here?
They are here! All the angels and saints are present!

We beg God to receive this prayer, this sacrifice. 
It is Jesus’ sacrifice, but also ours. 
The offerings we bring are bread and wine—
as well as our many needs and cares—
and we beg God to make them “spiritual and acceptable.”

Many people mistakenly think the Mass 
is supposed to be a “reenactment.” 
It’s not. We aren’t re-creating the Last Supper. 
The Mass began there, but it wasn’t completed there. 
In one sense, the Mass was complete on the Cross, 
when Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” 
But in another sense, the Mass is “complete” in heaven, 
where the Lamb, slain but risen from the dead, 
lives ever to make intercession for us.

We often say the Mass takes us back in time; 
and that’s true, but it’s not the whole story. 
The Mass actually takes us out of time entirely. 
It takes us to heaven!

The Mass is a great “summary” of all that God did for our salvation. 
As I mentioned the other week, 
we recall God becoming man in several points. 
We hear the prophets of old teach us, as well as the Apostles, 
and Jesus himself, in the readings. 

At this point, we behold, before our very eyes, the heart of it all: 
Jesus is the new Adam, putting right what the first Adam wrecked. 
Where Adam of old turned his back on God, 
the new Adam raises his eyes to heaven, and offers himself. 
Where the old Adam rebelled against God at a tree, 
the new Adam obeys God, even to the point of death on a tree! 
The old Adam, fearing death, sought to steal divine life, 
and bequeathed death to his family. 
The new Adam faces death, and in dying, gives divine life to us all!

This is what we witness, kneeling at the summit of God’s Mountain. 
Jesus comes to the garden, 
and says what old Adam should have said, long ago: 
“Not my will, but thine be done”! 

And so Jesus takes the bread and wine – 
which were offered in the temple, and shared in the Passover – 
and anticipating the Cross, 
he calls them his Body and Blood—and so they are!

There is no other lamb at this Passover; Jesus is the Lamb. 
On Good Friday, he offers himself; in this and every Mass, 
we are united to that moment. 

The priest lifts up the Body, and then the Blood.
Remember what Jesus foretold? 
“If I be lifted up, I will draw all to me”! 

Next comes a part of the prayer that is called “the offering.” 
You will see it at the top of page 17. 
What the priest prays at the altar 
unites us to what Jesus did on the Cross; 
and what he did with his entire life; 
and what we does in eternity as he continually intercedes for us. 

Notice this refers to Jesus’ “passion”—
meaning his suffering and death; his rising from the dead; 
and his ascension back to his heavenly throne.

Then I ask the Father to look, not at us poor sinners, 
but at the Victim—pure, holy and spotless—
who has been slain for us. 

On your behalf, I ask him to “accept” this offering, 
foreshadowed by Abel, who offered an animal from his flock; 
by Abraham, who was ready to offer his firstborn son; 
and by the priest Melchizedek, who offered bread and wine.

Last week I talked about how this part of the Mass—
and what follows—have a “private” dimension. 
Can you see, now, why I said that? 
We have come to the throne of God; 
we are beholding God, begging for his help, 
relying on the blood of the Lamb of God to plead for us. 

Obviously, this mystery of faith is often put before the world; 
we broadcast it on TV. 
And yet, what do unbelievers see? 
They see people performing an ancient ritual. 
But with the eyes of faith, what do we see?

Remember what I quoted from Exodus: 
“They beheld the God of Israel…and they ate and drank.”

WE behold the God of Israel! And we eat and drink.