Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Do you know how many American saints there are?

Yesterday was the observance of Saint Rose-Philippine Duschesne, one of our American saints; but I missed it, until after I'd offered Mass, using the other optional memorial for November 18, which is the Dedication of Saints Peter and Paul Basilicae in Rome.

Happily, today is a "ferial" day, which means the priest can pick any Mass (in the ordinary form); so I used the Mass for Saint Rose-Philippine.

After Mass, I was talking with one of the parishioners about how many American saints there are; and I wasn't sure. So, when I got back, I did some research:

Feast               Saint                                                               Burial/shrine

January 4         Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton                              Emmitsburg, MD                   
January 5         Saint John Neumann                                       Philadelphia, PA
January 23       Saint Marianne Cope                                      Syracuse, NY
March 3           Saint Katherine Drexel                                   Bensalem Twp, PA
April 2             Saint Pedro Calungsod, martyr                       Martyred in Guam;
Shrine: Cebu City, Philippines
May 8              Blessed Teresa Demjanovich                          Convent Station, NJ
May 10            Saint Damion de Veuster                                Leuven, Belgium
July 1               Blessed Junípero Serra                                   Carmel, CA
July 13             Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Santiago  Caguas, Puerto Rico
July 14             Saint Kateri Tekakwitha                                 Kahnawake, Quebec
October 3        Saint (Mother) Theodore Guerin                     St. Mary of the Woods, IN
October 5        Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos                        New Orleans, LA
October 6        Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores, Martyr    Guam
October 19      Saints Isaac Jogues,                                        Midland, Ontario;
John Brebouf and Companions, martyrs        Auriesville, NY
November 6    Blessed Eduardo Farre, Martyr;
Blessed Lucas Tristany, Martyr
(Priests of Tucson, AZ who died in Spanish Civil War)
November 13  Saint Francis Cabrini                                      Manhattan, NY;
                                                                                                Chicago, IL.
November 18  Saint Rose Philippine Duschesne                   Saint Charles, MO.

I bet that's more than you thought!

A couple of notes. Not all these are on the general calendar; the blesseds, in particular. As a result, I'm not 100% certain of the date they are observed; the two martyrs from Tucson, Arizona, in particular, were hard to track down. Also, I don't know of a shrine for either of them. Readers?

Monday, November 17, 2014

A full Sunday: bishops and rock bands

I had the first two Masses; Archbishop Schnurr was coming up for the 11, for confirmation. So in-between everything else, I had a few things to attend to:

> Getting out the sacramental books for him to examine, as is traditional when the bishop comes;
> Cutting up a lemon and remembering to bring it over to church;
> Making sure the servers know what they need to;
> Watching for the Archbishop and seeing to any of his needs;
> Making sure the right readings were set out -- different from the other Masses.

Thankfully, all went well. Our servers were on it; my mistake was to assign too few. Nothing bad happened, but we only had two torches during the consecration.

I was especially proud of our tenth-graders. When the Archbishop addressed questions to them, they didn't freeze as so often happens, but they actually answered! Correctly! Well done!

So the Archbishop was able to get on the road to his next engagement, and we got the church back in order. Next up was a baptism; that went off with a hitch; but by now, I was ready to stretch out on the couch, which I did for a couple of hours.

Then, around 5:40 pm, it was time to link up with the youth group. They were gathering to car-pool down to Troy for a concert with Matt Maher and Toby Mac. These guys:

So I sent off the kids with a blessing, then got in my car -- I was going too! But I wanted to drive separately, as I didn't plan on rocking out with the youth group to the end.

I never heard of these guys; have you? What are your thoughts?

I can't say that TobyMac (or tobyMac or t0bYmaC or Mac and toby or however he styles himself) was my cup of tea, but Hobart Arena was rocking as I slipped out during his third song.

On the ride down and back, there was some snow coming down -- not a lot -- but much more came later. The kids and the chaperones were banking on at least a two-hour delay this morning, which they got, plus a subsequent cancellation of school.

I know this thanks to two helpful phone calls with perky recorded messages from the school between 6 and 7 am.

There was one nice surprise on the way back. Even though it was after 8:30, I hadn't eaten supper; I wasn't hungry earlier. So I'm thinking about what to eat when I get home, when what catches my eye, but the Skyline in Troy is still open! Praise the Lord! Can I get an amen!? I turned in, and got me a Three-Way and two coneys with everything. There's nothing quite like driving home on a snowy evening with the fragrant aroma of Greek "chili" in the car.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

What do you put at risk in our venture of faith? (Sunday homily)

The parable we just heard can be a bit misleading. 
A “talent” was a quantity of silver – in New Testament times, approximately 130 pounds. 
Based on the current price of silver, 
one talent would be about $34,000. 

So one servant received about $170,000, 
another $78,000, and the last one, $34,000.

While this passage is so often taken to refer to our God-given abilities – 
and it certainly applies there – 
I think the parable is primarily talking about faith.

And so the question becomes: how do you and I invest our faith? 
Do we put anything at risk?

Notice it says, they immediately went out 
and “traded” with their funds, and doubled their investment. 
If I told you our parish funds were being handled this way, 
you should call the Archbishop as soon as Mass is over!

So what does it even mean to say we put our “faith” at risk? 

Blessed Cardinal John Newman made the point this way. 
He spoke of the “venture” of faith—
and his point was not that our faith would be lost; 
but rather, in what way might we be less well off – in this life – 
if it turns out our hope in Jesus Christ is false?

If we drive close to the speed limit, do we do that because of God – 
or because of the state patrol? 
If we were atheists, would we have chosen a different vocation in life? 

I guess I would have, and perhaps many of us would. 
But in all honesty, wouldn’t many of us be where we are now?

How much does our faith affect our purchasing decisions? 
Our business decisions? 

One of the ways we do indeed put something at risk 
is when we are generous to others, particularly in helping the poor. 
The Lord Jesus said many times, when we give to those in need, 
our repayment will come from God. 
Do our actions show that we really believe that? 

If we really believe in life after death, heaven and hell, 
how does that change our actions in this life? 

To use the dinner analogy: 
if you or I are invited to a nice dinner later, 
then if someone offers us a sandwich, what do we say? 
“No thanks, I’m going to dinner later.”  

But if we don’t trust that dinner will happen? 
We take the sandwich.

One of the things you will see in so many of the lives of the saints 
is that they lived in this life as if they were waiting for that banquet. 
They denied themselves many of the good things of this life – 
not because there is anything wrong with any of them – 
but precisely like someone who says, 
“No thanks; I’m going to a banquet later!”

This is the meaning of celibacy 
embraced by priests and religious brothers and sisters. 

Many people think the practice of celibacy 
means the Church thinks badly of marriage. 
On the contrary; it’s only makes sense 
precisely because we believe marriage is such a great good 
that giving it up becomes such a powerful sign 
of our hope in the Kingdom to come. 

If I told you that, in becoming a priest, 
I gave up poking myself in the eye, you’d say, 
“hmm, well, that’s good Father…” – but where’s the merit in that? 
What’s the sacrifice?

But if I said, I gave up a million dollars; or, a promising career…
then someone might ask: why would you do that? 
And the answer is, because the Kingdom I look forward to 
is that much better!

And in case it wasn’t clear, let me spell something out. 
Sometimes young people will say to me, 
I don’t know about being a priest or a sister or brother, 
because I want to be a husband or a wife, a mother or a father. 
And while I’m not saying you aren’t called to that – most people are.

But what I want to make clear is that the sort of people we need 
as brothers, sisters, deacons and priests 
are precisely those who do want those things. 
You don’t enter the priesthood 
to run away from being a husband and father; 
instead, you are a husband and father in a different way.

I won’t even claim that it’s a more sacrificial way; 
because if there’s one thing that’s blindingly obvious to me 
is that married couples and parents make tremendous sacrifices. 
That leads to a related point about chastity. 
When I was a young man, I figured chastity 
was just something I had to put up with until I got married! 
It doesn’t take many candid conversations with married folks 
to discover how silly that notion is. 

The truth is that chastity is about a lot more than saying no to desire. 
It’s about true self-possession. 
And you can’t really give away what you don’t possess. 
And it’s about the ability to choose the good of another 
at the expense of what you, yourself, really, really want. 

That’s what two people, dating each other, 
do when they wait until marriage. 
But it’s also what our parents do when they get out of bed, 
every morning, sick or well, and do the thousand things they do 
to make a home and family – and then have to wait decades 
before we really wake up to what they did for us.

So I return to my main theme: 
what do we really put on the line – at risk – in our venture of faith? 
The last words of the Gospel give sober meaning to the saying, 
“nothing ventured, nothing gained.” 
If we put nothing on the line, 
how are we different from that worthless servant? 
And it really is true that if we do not exercise our faith, 
we can see it weaken like unused muscles. 

It is not for me to tell you how to “invest” your faith. 
Ask the Lord. Ask him what he wants you to leave behind; 
ask him what deeper waters he calls you to; 
what unknown future to bet on. 
And pray for me that I will find courage to do the same.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Friday night dinner

(Sorry, I didn't take any pictures; I'll try to compensate...)

Last night, I had two couples over for dinner; they are parishioners who helped a lot in getting my house put together, so I wanted to show my gratitude.

Since it was Friday, I thought fish would be in order, so I came up with the following menu:

Grilled salmon with lime butter

Risotto Milanese

My risotto did look sort of like this!

Sauteed broccoli

For dessert I had brownies and ice cream; but one of the couples brought a cherry pie and ice cream, so we ate that instead.

(What, you haven't had enough of the silly pictures?)

The risotto took the longest, and I made more than twice as much as needed. Rather than use beef or chicken stock, I used vegetable because it's Friday. I think beef stock is original, but I've used chicken before. The recipe -- from Emeril Lagasse -- involves minced shallots and onions, white wine (I used vermouth -- biretta tip to blogger Chip Ahoy, who suggested this), plus some peas, and saffron, and many additions of stock, and all that finished off with cream, butter and cheese. It was pretty good!

The fish was easy; just salt, pepper and some olive oil. It did stick to the grill a bit, so it wasn't so nice to look at, but it tasted great. I had a little left over which I ate, with eggs and leftover broccoli, for a late breakfast.

The lime butter was something I found online; it involved garlic and unsalted butter and lime juice and salt and pepper and a blender. It ended up kind of frothy, and did taste great on the fish. I'd liked it to have been less citrusy, however.

The broccoli was good, but needed to be sauteed longer. I should have started it sooner, but everything else was ready, so we took it to the table.

The cherry pie was great, thanks Linda! Before and after this, we had some drinks and snacks, and coffee. 

And I had a couple of brownies today -- good, but they needed more added coffee!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Three Masses a day is not a good idea

There's a reason Canon Law calls for priests normally to offer only one Mass daily, a second if necessary; and on Sundays, two, with a third by exception. It's to keep the Holy Mass from becoming an assembly-line operation for the priest.

While I have one Mass most days, on Wednesdays, I offer two: an Extraordinary Form Mass at 5:45 am, and the Ordinary Form Mass at 8:15 am. Today, however, we had a funeral at 11:30 am.

So it's been a busy day, and more to come.

Here's the rest of my day...In between the first two, I had breakfast, and read the news and prayed my office. Back here around 9 am, I did some paperwork and cleaned up my email inbox. That plus some other matters kept me busy till the funeral. I was back around 1 pm and after a bowl of soup, I did some more paperwork -- opening mail and signing letters -- and also started lining up some priests to cover some confessions and Mass in December and January. I still have some more days to cover, but I made progress.

At 6:30 pm I have a rehearsal with the 10th graders being confirmed; then I will hear their confessions till 8 pm; then I have a rehearsal with the servers for confirmation. Then my day will finish.

It's all good; but, yes, I'm a bit tired.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

If a building is sacred...(Sunday homily)

This feast – which occurs on a Sunday 
only about every five or six years – may seem odd to us. 
It celebrates a building. Why would we do that?

Well, if you go to Philadelphia, you can visit Independence Hall, 
where our founding fathers adopted the Declaration of Independence. 
We commemorate a building where something important happens.

A Catholic church is where the most important thing ever, happens: 
where heaven and earth meet in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 
What Jesus did for us on the cross, 2,000 years ago, 
is made present to us at this and every altar in the world. 

This raises a point. A lot of folks wonder 
why the Church teaches that it’s a mortal sin 
to miss Mass on Sundays or holy days, without a good reason. 
(And a mortal sin means, you have to go to confession.) 
People wonder, what’s the big deal?

Well, suppose one of the Apostles didn’t show up for the Last Supper? 
Or Pentecost. Or the Sermon on the Mount. 
Is that a big deal?

Not showing up for Sunday Mass 
means we don’t think anything really special happens here.
In fact, Jesus is on the cross – not “again,” but the one and only time. 
God brings that here. For us. That’s what the Mass is. 
This is the heart of the heart of the Faith.

This is why the priesthood matters. 
This is why we pray for more priests; 
and why, during this Vocations Awareness Week, 
we have two seminarians for the Archdiocese, 
visiting with us, and they will greet you at the end of Mass.

And, this is why we treat our churches with reverence, 
not only when we’re praying, but at all times. 

I’ve been in a lot of parishes where, sadly, 
people seem to forget the sacredness of the place. 
I’ve seen people talk on cell phones in church, 
eat snacks, drink coffee, and carry on conversations 
as if they were, well, anywhere but on holy ground. 

I’m very glad we don’t do that here, 
and I hope we all try to keep it that way. 
Because this is holy ground.

We might say, because God lives here—and that’s true. 
But that’s not actually the primary reason. 

Rather, it’s because this is where we meet God. 
We need reverence and silence here. We need it. 
God doesn’t need anything. 
Reverence and sacredness are critical needs that we have.

Back to today’s feast. We’re celebrating a church in Rome, 
Saint John Lateran. Why that church?

That is the cathedral of Rome. 
A cathedral, by definition, 
is the “headquarters” or “mother” church of a diocese. 
It’s sort of like the “state capital.” It’s “home base.” 

The word “cathedral” comes cathedra, which simply means chair. 
In this case, the chair of the bishop, who is the leader of the diocese; 
but much more important, is – with the other bishops – 
a successor to the Apostles themselves. 

So this occasion links us to the bishop of Rome—
that is, Pope Francis, the successor to Peter, 
who Jesus himself appointed head of his Church. 
Where Saint Peter in Chains is the “mother church” for our diocese, 
Saint John Lateran is the “mother church” for the whole Church.

Why should this matter to us?

Well, for one, it’s important to remember 
we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. 
None of us arrives in this world alone, and we don’t live on our own. 
We belong to a family, our family shapes who we are, 
and we owe something in return. 
The same is true of our community, our nation—and our Church.

Second, if we can grasp that a building can be a sacred place, 
where God dwells, then we can begin to realize 
what it means to say human beings are sacred places—
again, where God dwells.

This is something I always explain at baptisms. 
While only some buildings – this church, 
or Saint John Lateran in Rome—are consecrated, 
every single human life is consecrated. Every single one. 

Every person you ever meet, without exception, is a cathedral. 
Why? Because when God came to earth, he entered buildings, 
and he used many things for his purpose—
but he became a human being.

You want a practical application of this? 
Think of all the conversations you had during the last 24 hours. 
All the interactions online. How you behaved while driving. 

Were all those people truly sacred to you?

If a place can be sacred, so much more a human being. 
Every single one, no exceptions. 

Or as Jesus said: 
whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.