Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A removed link, the priesthood of Jesus Christ, and Tickle Me Elmo

If you are paying very close attention, you will note a link has been removed at right. (And if you are paying that much attention, really--find something else to do!) I had a link to the The Democratic People's Republic of Elmo, which I have removed.

I linked it because I found it hilariously funny, though very strange, as you'll discover if you go there. Perhaps you won't see the humor. That's okay. As the saying goes, that's why God made not just vanilla ice cream, but chocolate and strawberry too.

However, a priest friend of mine, who clicked on it, and had a few laughs as well, found some comments there he was sure I wouldn't care to endorse and he's right. They were meant in jest, but they went too far.

Now, if this weblog were just about me, I'd say, so what? and leave the link there.

But ah, there's the rub: I am not simply a man-for-myself; I am a man-for-others.

That's part-and-parcel of--indeed, it's essential to--what the Priesthood of Jesus Christ is.

A priest is a man-for-others. As the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen said so eloquently, a priest is both priest and victim, at once -- like Christ who makes himself present through the priest.

Its one thing if I sully my own name; but what if I sully his priesthood, his Church? Ah, that is not mine to do!

The truth is, none of us is really a man-for-ourselves. Recall the dead-soul words, so long ago: "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain asked, guarding the truth of what had become of his brother, Abel. The answer, always, is "yes!"

It's a relatively minor thing; there are lots of relatively minor things such as these, in a priest's life. How do I wear my hair? Do I make that joke? Should I go to that event? One can take it too far; but one can fail to take it far enough.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Intimacy (Sunday homily)

That first reading is surprising:
Do you and I talk to God this way?
“You duped me!” I am miserable because of You!

If you think about it, that’s a conversation
between two who are very, very close.

That’s intimacy.
That’s what I want to talk about today.

“Intimate” means what is most personal and private;
what is closest to who we really are.
So “intimacy” is sharing that with someone else;
It’s when we feel free and safe doing that.

Jeremiah felt free and safe to yell at God!

Now, “intimacy” is often used to describe
a physical relationship: acts pertaining to marriage—
adults, you know what I mean.

Now, that’s valid; but it’s misleading:
Because if the main thing we associate with intimacy
are those special physical acts of man and woman,
then we risk not discovering what true intimacy is.

What about intimacy with a best friend?
A brother or sister? A parent?
What about intimacy with God?
True intimacy can’t be primarily physical:
Married people: is that not true?
If all you have is physical—without intimacy—
what’s that?

On the other hand, if you have true intimacy—
True closeness of what’s private, and personal—
Even without the physical part…
it’s nourishing, it’s life-giving, is it not?

Now: why am I talking about this?

Because I submit a misunderstanding
of what true intimacy is,
is easy for us, because true intimacy is hard;
and missing out on true intimacy
is at the root of many of our problems.

I submit everyone needs intimacy—
again, not the physical;
and, if we don’t get that intimacy,
we will feed that need the wrong way:
with food or gambling; with drugs, or with a bottle.

This is part of why the Church teaches
that we wait till marriage
for that special, physical relationship.
The physical part is relatively easy,
and awfully satisfying. But it’s not enough.

True intimacy is a lot harder.
It’s a lot riskier to bare ones soul than ones body.

So I don’t apologize for telling couples,
For telling single people, to wait!

God’s commandments are for our wellbeing.
If we get the physical before the deeper intimacy,
We may never get to that real intimacy.

Could that be connected to marriages
getting into trouble?

So, why did God make that physical part so much fun?
Because, built on the right foundation,
The physical is powerful and it reveals Christ’s love.

But the surface can’t be the foundation.
But it can be where we stop.
We can be so happy in the shallows,
we never take venture into the deep.
Christ confronts Peter with this truth in the Gospel.

Peter is beginning to have intimacy with Christ.
Like most, Peter sees the hope of a Messiah
in terms of worldly power and glory.
Jesus knew it would mean the Cross.
And Peter isn’t ready for that.
He isn’t ready for intimacy so painful and risky.

And so the Lord rebukes him, saying:
you can’t know me, until you know me,
not just in the good stuff,
but in the horror and pain as well.

You can’t know Christ without his Cross.

Intimacy isn’t just about good stuff, the fun stuff,
Without the deeper stuff, the really risky stuff.
Without pain and cost.

It is risky—but is it worth it? You tell me.

Is it worth it having a close friend, a life-partner,
having that place of trust and safety?

One final point.

If this intimacy—hard as it is,
is worth having in this life on earth,
Then what about eternity?

Talk about being happy in the shallows,
And missing out on what’s in the deep!

There is an intimacy we can have only with God:
that is the foundation for all the rest.

And the best part of what Jesus shows us in this:
that we can know him, not just in the good times,
but even more, in darkness and suffering!

That’s the power of the Cross!
That’s why Jesus told Peter, there had to be a Cross!

If there were no God, we’d still have the Cross:
There would still be pain and ugliness.

Christ came to tell us he’s real;
but even better, that he’s with us all the way!

Aren’t you glad he didn’t just come for the good stuff?

Jesus told Peter:
Without the Cross, you can’t know me!
There’s no one here who won’t experience the Cross.
That’s where we’ll know him best!
Aren’t you glad? That’s hope! Aren’t you glad?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Politics & the Four Cardinal Virtues

Another priest and I were out to dinner tonight, and after I told him about this talk I gave earlier this month, he suggested I put it on my "blog." So here it is.

When Fr. Reutter invited me to do this, he suggested I talk about “faith and politics.”

Now, I have a theory about why he did that. Partly, it’s because I used to work in politics.

But I think it’s because he’s heard some of my political ideas, and I suspect--no, I know--he thinks they are half-baked; and he hopes a talk like this will make me “bake” them a little better—which is true!

Or, maybe I’ll say something crazy, and liven up what can be a dry topic!

As you may know, I’m the new pastor of St. Boniface in Piqua; I was ordained two years ago. As mentioned, I used to work in politics. Remember the “Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy”? I was in it up to my eyeballs! I’m still in it up to about my ankles!

I worked in Washington, D.C., for a group called the National Right to Work Committee. “Right to Work” is the principle that no one should be forced to join or support a union as a job requirement. I believe that as important as the right to form unions, and to act collectively, is, it doesn’t make sense
unless it’s about workers’ rights as individuals as well as their rights collectively.

When I decided to enter the seminary, I left that job, of course; but at that time, I took on leadership in a prolife group, the National Pro-Life Alliance.

If you’ve gotten a prolife mailing from a “Martin Fox,” that’s I!

Some friends and I saw a need, back in 1994, for a new prolife effort,
and we formed the Pro-Life Alliance. When I entered the seminary, my friends asked me to head it up; I said, I can only give a few hours a month, they said fine; the Archbishop said OK, and I’m still at it.

“Faith and politics” is a tricky subject, because when it comes to how objective moral norms intersect with practical, prudential judgments, politics is Grand Central Station—they all come together there.

Since I only have 10 minutes, let me use, as a framework, the classic, four Cardinal Virtues: Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude.

Now, “politics,” broadly, is the business of the good of society: the Common Good.

Justice is the virtue of doing what’s right, “To each his due.” For the one, for groups, for the whole. So, justice is individual and social: I can mistreat you on an individual level; or, society as a whole may fail, in justice, to a person or group, in its midst.

The trouble we get into, with questions of justice, is to forget the virtue of prudence!

Prudence is practical wisdom about the means pursued. Thomas called it “wisdom about human affairs.”

Justice says: the poor must not be forgotten; prudence asks, given experience, history, etc.: what is the best means of doing that?

Notice: you can tip too far either way: in discussing poverty and economic justice, sometimes it’s all justice, no prudence. But the conservative-libertarian point of view can be all prudence, no justice!

Now, my order so far betrays my bias, and the bias we often have: I put Justice first; but St. Thomas put prudence first: Prudence is the “commander” of the other virtues!

One of Aquinas’ concerns is always balance, including balance in reason and passion. Passion isn’t bad, it’s good: it is what, in us, pursues something good, or flees something evil.

But passion is not its own justification. Yet it seems that way for many people, doesn’t it?

That brings us to the other two virtues: Temperance and fortitude. They apply reason to passion: one holds us back, as needed; the other pushes us, as needed. (By the way, I owe a debt here to a web-site I found online, called “The 60-Second Aquinas Lesson.” Unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated in a few years!)

Some will say, “abortion’s bad, but don’t change laws, just change hearts.” Justice—and, I think, Prudence—says, No, the Law is a Teacher, and a repository of values.

I submit that argument is really a lack of fortitude, masquerading as “prudence.”

Now, of course, we can talk specifics, but at least take away from tonight, this framework:

* What is right, what is each ones due? Justice;
* When passion impels us forward, what bids us hold back? Temperance;
* Our passions draw us back; why go forward? Fortitude;
* What is the right means, in light of circumstances, experience, human realities, possibilities and limitations? Prudence.

Now, prudence and justice easily fit a group-focus, where fortitude and temperance may seem more about the individual.

But again, balance: and this is the political question: what belongs on the “group” level; and what belongs on the individual level? (By the way, that is the Church’s principle of subsidarity!)

Can virtue only be on one level, or the other? No—has to be both: and that’s why we must be involved; that’s the flaw of saying, keep religion out of politics. No, we bring them into politics and the marketplace.

Two final thoughts for reflection.

First, Pope John Paul made a distinction between “the state” and “society”—they aren’t the same!

Second: keep in mind the virtue of humility, and beware of idolatry.

And I’ll stop here.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize (daily homily)

St. Paul gives us some good advice in the first reading:
Avoid those who are disorderly—
don’t be like them; be like those who follow Jesus!

We can put it another way:

Keep your eyes on the prize!
Keep your focus on Jesus!

That’s a good plan for the coming school year;
In fact—it’s a good plan for every year.

Have you been busy this week?
Who’s been busy? (Teachers too!)

Papers; projects; homework;
Any tests yet?

We can get focused on all that busy-ness,
And forget the one and only reason we are here:

To keep our eyes on the prize:
To keep our hearts and minds fixed on Jesus!

The Gospel reading told us about a “Pearl of Great Price”:
A prize truly worth having,
worth giving up everything for.

First-graders, where are you?

Let’s pretend:
Pretend you could a free trip to an ice-cream place:
You’d be able to stay all day,
And eat ALL the ice cream you wanted!

Sound good?

Would you give up everything you have for that?

Everything: meaning, no more parents—no more friends—
No more fun at school; no more anything else:
You have to give up everything for that “prize”:
Is that worth it?

That’s not a good deal:
That’s not a prize worth the price.

Third-graders, where are you?
You’re the oldest children here at the south campus.
You are the leaders!

Now: suppose, you could win this prize:
You get to be all-powerful:
You can tell anyone to do whatever you want;
You can push other kids out of their seats,
Take their lunches.
Make other kids do your homework for you.
You can be “top boss.”

Sounds kind of good, doesn’t it?
Would you give up everything for prize?

Here’s the thing…

Would you keep many friends that way?
Who would trust you?
And who else—in your grade—
might come and push you around?

“I stole this lunch—
I hope no one comes to steal it from me!”

So I ask you—is that a prize worth the price?

Notice what I’m talking about.
With the first-graders,
It was about having good things—fun and pleasure.
With the third-graders,
about having power—having everything “your way.”

These aren’t necessarily bad, by themselves;
But they aren’t enough to make us truly happy.

There are grownups who live this way:
For the good things they can put in their mouths:
Or they always try to be the boss, to have their way;
And they aren’t happy! It’s not enough!
Being first, being best, being on top,
Getting all the toys—
It won’t make you happy:
It’s not a prize worth having.

The prize—the Pearl—worth having is Jesus Christ!

Who is this Jesus?
What does he teach us?
How does Jesus make things better?

Ah…those are the questions to ask!
My beloved children: Ask them every day!

Keep asking your teachers: Tell me about Jesus!
I want to know all about him!
I want to have Jesus as my closest, surest friend!

Ask your teachers; ask your parents;
Ask your friends; ask your priests:
To teach you all about Jesus!

Because that is the reason we have this school.

You’ll see a sign in the hallway at school, that says this. Sometime today, look for that sign. Look for it every day.

Look for the cross in your classroom:
that means the same thing.
If we forget about Jesus—
even for one day, for one hour—
We’re forgetting what we’re about.

So here’s what I want you to remember:
Keep your eyes on the prize!
Say it with me:

And the Prize is? (Jesus!)
And the Prize is? Jesus!

When I give the karate-chop, that means I want to hear:
Keep your eyes on the Prize!

And when I put my hand to my ear, and ask,
And the Prize is? You answer: Jesus!

Be ready: I may do it at a school Mass;
I may catch you on the playground.
Maybe your teachers will do it! Be ready!

I may even do it at Sunday Mass—so be ready!

This isn’t just for the schoolchildren:
This is for every one of us.
This is what our life is about:

Keep your eyes on the Prize…
And the Prize is…Jesus!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Vote to Name the Panda Cub (like it matters)

The Washington Post gives us an opportunity to vote for the newest Panda Cub in the Zoo there (which reminds me, some years ago, someone made a hilarious argument about evolution involving the pandas -- aren't we interfering with evolution by keeping them alive? They eat one special kind of bamboo -- very finicky! that grows in just one, special place. And, um, they don't seem to know how to mate. Seems like evolution has weighed them and found them wanting...)

But, anyway -- you can go vote to name the newest Panda bear in D.C.

I tried: but Chiang Kai-Shek wasn't one of the choices. Dang!

St. Bartholomew's Day homily

Today we honor the Apostle Bartholomew.
The Gospel mentions Nathaniel;
we think they’re the same person.

Tradition says he preached what is Turkey today,
in Ethiopia, India, modern-day Iran,
around the Black Sea, and Armenia.

While Ethiopia is off in the other direction, in Africa,
all those other places would make a good circuit;
And we know someone took the Gospel there;
So that’s very credible.

He is believed to have been martyred;
the most prominent story is that he was “flayed alive.”
So: if you go to the Sistine Chapel, in Rome,
You can see Michaelangelo’s portrait,
Showing St. Bartholomew holding his own skin!

I’ve said it before,
but we have a sense of humor about these things:
Guess what he’s a patron-saint of?

Armenia: makes sense; also butchers!...
Tanners—that is, people who skin animals!
Leather-workers and shoemakers!

We don’t have anything else he left us,
other than what all the Apostles gave us:
the Good News of who Jesus is, and what he did!

This bears frequent repeating:
Nearly everything we know about Jesus,
We rely entirely on the Apostles and their generation!

They truly are the foundation of the City
as the reading from Revelation shows us.

It is very fashionable nowadays
to discredit their testimony.

You have this popular novel
all about the artwork of Leonardo DaVinci,
and this claim of a massive conspiracy,
by the Church, to cover up the truth about Jesus:
that he wasn’t really God, and actually,
he got married and had children, etc.

Now, first—that’s an absurd claim.
Conspiracy-theories always are.

Second: attacking the credibility of what the Apostles—at the cost of their lives!—handed down to us, is not new!
It’s happened throughout history.

But when we call into question the Apostles’ work—
Then what do we have left? Nothing!

So: if Jesus isn’t real, they made it all up!
They made up a story of a crucified Messiah,
Who died…and then rose from the dead.
And they died for that belief.

There’s a slang term from the ‘50s:
“If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’!”

Is that what the Apostles did?
They died for a lie?

Put it another way:
If they’re lyin’, we’re dyin’.
Because there is no Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Sex, Reproduction and Idolatry

I've been listening to NPR this morning, as I surf the 'net. And sometimes, I wonder at the secular mindset...

Just now, we had a report about "advances in contraception" -- all about the intense research into somehow negating the awful, horrible fertility You-know-who cursed us with. Of course, the holy grail of this movement is "male contraceptive," which is really about revenge -- it's you men who cause this problem! The researcher was so proud to report they'd damped down sperm production from a count of 40 million to 4 million. Ah, progress!

And then, we heard about IUDs and "vaginal rings," and who-knows-what (I was only half-listening) -- all part of this relentless war against...well...against ourselves! Against our own nature. I mean: even if you reject God, how insensate must one be not to notice the conspiracy of our own human nature--as part of the entirety of Nature -- against the lust for sex that can be guaranteed to be fruitless? And dare anyone ask why we must, must--MUST DAMN YOU!--have sex on demand, without any possibility of new life?

Doesn't anyone notice what Ralph McInerny calls the "ecological" argument--the distortion and contamination of a natural ecology of the human body? Doesn't anyone notice the grimness and ugliness of this?

All this, by the way, followed only a few minutes after another feature -- I kid you not -- about progress in women freezing their eggs so they can be...wait for it...fertile!

I couldn't help thinking: if someone were to ask, Why are we doing this?--would heads explode from asking the unthinkable, sacrilegous question (sacrilegous to the worship of sex and self)?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Upon this Rock (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?”

The other Apostles held back:
Simon commits himself with a bold, risky response:
“You are the Anointed One: the Son of the Living God.”

We all face such moments of decision.
Do we commit ourselves, or do we hold back:
“Maybe, could be, but on the other hand…”

These opportunities come…and go!
And we know it—and regret it!

“If only I’d asked that girl out!”
“I could have spoken up, but I was afraid!”
“I should have said, ‘I’m sorry.’”

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 so she has for 2,000 years,
on Peter and every successor since,
down to Pope Benedict today.

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,”
not for his sake—but for ours!

You and I believe, as Catholics,
that Christ supernaturally keeps his Church infallible:
he protects his Church from teaching or believing error.

That doesn’t mean you, or I, or a bishop,
or even a pope, can’t believe something that’s wrong.

But it does mean that when the Church teaches,
as a body—through the pope, or the bishops altogether—
the Church cannot—will not—teach error.

Now, many things come to mind:
many failures and episodes in history.

History is complicated.
But recognizing that individuals,
in the name of the Church, did stupid and evil things,
is different from saying the Church—as a whole—
embraced, or taught, error.

But here’s the thing: the flaws and defects
aren’t what should surprise us.
What should astonish us is that this promise—
the Church will stand!—has proven true all these years!

Throughout history, there has been every opportunity,
for the Church to go off into a ditch and out of business.
To be killed off, bought off, to be tamed, and fade away.

When things seemed so dark, God sent a Light:
a pope Leo…the Great;
a pope Gregory…the Great;
a pope John Paul…the Great?

And not just popes.
When the pope wasn’t being bold enough,
here comes St. Catherine of Siena!
here comes a Little Flower, a St. Francis, a St. Benedict;
Jesus never forgets his promise to his Church!

Many times, every voice said: “Go that way!”
And the Church, stubbornly resisted—almost alone!

I’ll give you an example.

You’ve heard the Church being blamed for slavery.
Do you know the truth is almost exactly opposite?

Slavery is a universal practice, long before Christ;
it nearly died out during the Christian “Middle Ages.”
It was brought back by “modern” folks, in the 14-1500s!
The Church condemned them!
Do you know what people said?
The Church should mind her own business
and stay out of politics!

Sound familiar?

Sure, the Church could have said, or done, more.
But the amazing story is how,

throughout history, the Church didn’t play it safe,
but was a risky, prophetic voice
for Christ and for human dignity.

And notice I put those together:
“Christ and human dignity.”
Because you can’t separate them.

Jesus Christ alone is the only guarantee of human dignity!
History is filled with movements
that claimed to liberate human beings,
only to enslave and destroy them.
Only Jesus Christ can be trusted to defend human dignity.

So, when you hear someone attack Christ—
or attacking his Voice, the Church—
as an opponent of human “progress”:
Watch out!

You’re hearing it right now!
Research that destroys tiny, embryonic human beings
is justified as being for….wait for it: “human progress”!

Left out is how this so-called “progress”
demands creating human life, in order to destroy it.
Left out, also, is that we can do this research—
right now—without destroying a single human life!
But that takes more time.

Now: who, but the Church, is a voice against this?
Yet, the easy thing would be to go along with it!

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?

Jesus called Peter not to play it safe,
but to take a stand.
What will we do?

The Seduction of Harry Blackmun

RealClearPolitics links to a fascinating account of how Harry Blackmun, author of the worst bit of jurisprudence in human history, Roe v. Wade, was won over to the Dark Side: Blackmun's slide into the liberal cauldron.

Interestingly, something similar happened to Anthony Kennedy, who initially voted, in 1993, to overturn Roe, then allied himself with the Blackmun et al. and saved abortion-on-demand in America.

Enviromental Neo-paganism is whacked!

Environmentalism is, theoretically, a legitimate and moral concern: we should be good stewards of Creation. In reality, however, it is a quasi-religion, and a dark and decadent one at that -- appeals to reason are suspect, if not banished.

You don't believe me? Try telling a dedicated Greenie you don't care to recycle, and step back for the reaction (never mind that recycling is mostly harmful, because it wastes more resources than it recaptures).

In fact, the more fervent environmentalism is a kind of Wagnerian paganism -- paganism because it worships created things; Wagnerian because it is often so gloomy, and often predicts (and seems to look forward to) a cataclysmic Twilight of the rotten human race that has ruined everything!

Well . . . it's just about all rot and garbage, intellectually bankrupt, a kind mental solitary vice (I didn't want to offend you, dear reader, with the "m" word).

Every once in awhile this crowd hits upon a fact or an insight, rather like a blind squirrel finds nuts -- and it's enough to re-energize the religion.

But it's all whacked. Click the headline for another example of why.

Zinzinnati Uber Alles!

Last night, both the Cincinnati Reds, and the Bengals, triumphed on same night!

Who dey, who dey,
who dey think gom beat
dem Redlegs--Bengals!?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Who's talking? (today's homily)

The first reading gives us an excellent opportunity
To learn how really to read Scripture.

We can imagine someone citing this story, saying,
“See, how mixed up the Bible is.”

Let’s look closer.

Jephthah is one of the Judges of Israel.
And we hear that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him.
So we might think: Ah, God approves of him!
No doubt that’s what Jephthah thought, too.

Note this: we hear someone make a promise to the Lord,
and we hear them talk about the Lord—
but do we ever hear what the Lord himself has to say?

This is the story of the Judges in a nutshell.
The book began with God’s People seeking God,
And God speaks to them.

As the story advances, we hear God’s voice less and less—
And that is the problem.

Jephthah’s regret wasn’t that his rash vow meant
he had to murder someone.

That is what he promised to do!
He said: whoever comes out of my house.
Notice, he blames her!
And they both assume God expects Jephthah
to keep this vow.

Once again—do we know this is what the Lord wants?

There’s a good principle we can mention here:
The principle of the “spirit of the law.”

Laws and rules exist to protect values.
But the value they serve to protect
Is more important than the law itself—
That’s common sense.

So we don’t observe a mindless legalism.
We respect the law, but above all, we keep in mind what the law is there to promote in the first place.

But above all, this is a warning;
It’s not enough to talk about God.
We need to make sure we are talking with God—
And we listen to hear him talk to us.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Please pray

Also, please continue to pray for my cousin, Terry, and his wife, Pam.

Perhaps you recall my post about his battle with cancer, and her battle to care for him.

He lives in Thailand, and--no offense to that country, but--I wonder about his level of care. His sister tells me he can't afford to come back here.

His wife, Pam, speaks broken English, so her emails aren't always that clear.

Anyway, pray for his recovery as he undergoes chemo, for his body to rebound (he's facing dialysis because the chemo is so hard on him) and he's losing weight, of course, due to a bad appetite, and a restricted diet, to boot.

The Forgotten Christians of Iraq

I've been meaning to post this link for a few days:

Who are the Christians of Iraq?

When you go to the website (please go!), you'll see these heartbreaking words:

to bringing the latest
news, articles and commentaries
about the plight of the Christian Assyrians of Iraq
to the attention of the international community.
Heartbreaking...because you just kinda know, don't you? You know they're going to get ...well, the polite word is "taken."
At least we can visit their website; spread the link around; speak out--
and, wrap it all in prayer. I'll offer Mass this evening for them.

Homily, no homily

Today being Wednesday, the parish office -- at least during the summer -- is closed.

At first, I thought, "great, I'll work at the office and no one will bother me." Wrong!

The doorbell and the phones ring all the same. My office is on the second floor. Do I ignore it, or do I answer it? Most parishioners either know the office is closed, or see the big sign on the door; but occasionally, a parishioner misses it -- or says, "Oh, I was hoping to find you..."

More often, its one of the folks in the community -- or literally, passing by on I-75 -- looking for some form of material assistance. I hate to do it; but I have to say "I'm sorry, no." (We do provide help, but we have learned, from experience, we have to keep track of names, and tell people, only once every six months. What happens is people aim to get the priest, not the staff--in hopes that the priest will be different. When it comes to this sort of assistance, I have to keep a united front.)

So...it didn't take long before I decided Wednesday, during the summer, will be "work at home" day. (My residence is 5 minutes walk from the parish office.)

Today I wrote my Sunday homily. I'll post it on Sunday morning.

I didn't work on a homily for today, because I'll concelebrate this evening with our wonderful, retired priest in residence.

But I did find Fr Jim Tucker's homily online. And he prompted this thought:

In Judges, the people were willing, even eager, to crown a thorn tree, in place of a more worthy candidate. When the true King came at last, what crown did humanity press down on his head? A crown of thorns.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

St. Maximilian, Ora Pro Nobis

Although his day was superceded by Sunday, and we're now into the Vigil of the Assumption, I didn't want to forget the reassuring patron of our difficult times.

The Narnian View of 'Progress'

“Tender as my years may be,” said Caspian, “I believe I understand the slave trade from within quite as well as your Sufficiency. And I do not see that it brings into the islands meat or bread or beer or wine or timber or cabbages or books or instruments of music or horses or armour or anything else worth having. But whether it does or not, it must be stopped.”

“But that would be putting the clock back,” gasped the Governor. “Have you no idea of progress, of development?”

“I have seen them both in an egg,” said Caspian. “We call it going bad in Narnia. This trade must stop.”

--The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (pp. 47-48)

What are our barriers? (Sunday homily)

This Gospel story can shock us,
until we look closely at it.

The stories we’ve heard for several Sundays now,
are all about the Lord teaching the Apostles,
stretching their thinking and their faith.

Two weeks ago, the Lord showed the Apostles
that they really could feed many thousands,
with a few loaves of bread, and two fish.

Last week, the Lord came to the Apostles, on water.
His purpose was not to get in the boat,
but to get them
out of the boat: to stretch their faith.

This week, the lesson continues.

Let’s be clear: Jesus did not disrespect this woman.

We know Jesus welcomed women to his inner circle.
A few chapters earlier,
he healed the woman with a hemorrhage.

We also know he crossed social barriers:
he ate with sinners; he chose a tax-collector—
Matthew, who wrote this story!—as one of his key men.

It’s not because she was a Gentile.
Again, a few chapters earlier,
Jesus healed the servant of the Centurion—a Gentile.

So this isn’t about barriers for Jesus.
It’s about the barriers the Apostles have.

Notice, at first, the Lord remains silent;
he waits to see what the Apostles will say.
What have they learned?

And they say, “Send her away.”

Jesus’ next words, which sound so harsh,
aren’t about her, but about the Apostles.
He’s putting into words what they are probably thinking,
when he says, “Not for you,” “Not for dogs.”

Because then, she replies:
"Please, Lord…even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters."

That is key! Remember what the Apostles received,
after feeding the many thousands?
They got the scraps: twelve baskets’ full!

Do you recall what Jesus said, last week,
to the Apostles?
"O you of
little faith, why did you doubt?"

Now notice what he says to this so-called “dog”:
"O woman,
great is your faith!

The Lord is not knocking this woman;
he’s trying to knock down the barriers
the Apostles still have.

Now, let’s put ourselves in this story.

Maybe you feel like the Canaanite woman:
someone in the Church mistreated you.
The Apostles pushed her away, but she kept coming.
You keep coming too! Don’t let anyone send you away.

Let’s look at the Apostles.
These Gospel stories make it clear,
the Church’s leadership has always been
weak, sinful, thick-headed men! Me included.

As a pastor, I need this lesson.
The Apostles had Jesus in the flesh—
and they missed the point;
what are the odds I’m going to miss it? Pretty good!

So, please, pray for us priests, for the bishops.
Please forgive our failures;
and most of all, please don’t let

our various flaws and sins
keep you from the Lord.

We need to be realistic, but also confident.
God can do awesome, miraculous,

world-changing things through any of us!

So what are our barriers?

What do we often say? “Oh, God, I’m not worthy!”
You know what God says back?
“Yeah—what’s your point?”

We should also ask:
are we—our lives, our example—
a barrier that keeps others from coming to Jesus?
Are there people around us, in our world,
whom we look down upon?

If they came here, to church,
would it be because we encouraged them?
Would we want them

to sit somewhere else—not by us?

In this Year of the Eucharist,
let me make this point:
if we have barriers against other people;
if we look down on them,
if we refuse to do our part—

for conversion of ourselves,
and to seek reconciliation with others—
then we should ask ourselves:
are we ready to come to the Lord in the Eucharist?

Because Jesus doesn’t put up barriers.
He call us to holiness, yes;
and that holiness can be very demanding;
it may seem like a barrier.
But that is not of his making.
Jesus is ready, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation,
to reach out, to restore and heal,
anyone separated from him by grave sin.
So there’s no barrier…on his part.

When we represent Christ,

let us speak the truth,
but let us do so invitingly,

not pushing people away!

And let us be as ready to reconcile as he is.

We heard Isaiah predict that all people
would come to the Sacrifice in God’s House.
What we do here, at Mass—the Eucharist—
is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prediction.

We heard Paul, talk about drawing everyone to Christ.
We look around, we see our world isn’t there yet.
Still, so many barriers;
so many yet to be welcomed to his House.

So: who is God sending, to break down the barriers,
to draw people to his House, to Christ?

You know: It’s you and me!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I hate Adobe

Does anyone else hate "Adobe Acrobat" the way I do? Am I wrong, or is this an almost useless, waste-of-software program?

It takes so long to open; it often jams up; it frequently asks me if I want to "update," and when I say "yes," it does some weird thing that makes no sense to me, but what it DOESN'T do is actually help me.

It wastes my time. And most software I use works pretty well; Adobe is crap!

Is there something ELSE out there that does what Adobe promises to do? Am I missing something? Am I doing something wrong?

I'm not progressive

Taegon Goddard's Political Wire reports that The New Politics Institute published a list of new, "progressive blogs."

I didn't make the list!

I am so proud!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

What's wrong with wine in a box?

My last assignment was at a very nice, well-to-do, suburban parish, with a pastor who I respect immensely who was kind, generous, wise, supportive, and a great mentor. Among the less significant influences he had on me was introducing me to box-wine.

I'm sitting here now, drinking some "white zinfindel" (uh, but it's pink) out of a box (actually, I'm drinking from a glass; it would be awkward to drink it from the box, though I'm open to trying if anyone has a suggestion on how).

Do you think this is bad? Any wine snobs want to comment?

Evolution, by Design

I so often find interesting, fresh articles at Tech Central Station, such as this article by Frederick Turner, on reconciling Evolution with Intelligent Design.

Read the article, then come back and tell me what you think. Fair warning: I'll ask you if you fully understood everything, because I admit I didn't. If you say you did, I'll make you explain to me like I'm eight years old!

Drink, drink, drink!

First, Cato Institute operative Radley Balko wrote "Zero Tolerance Makes Zero Sense" in yesterday's Washington Post.

Then, Fr. Jim Tucker from Dappled Things shows up and says, "buy that man a drink!"

Then Amy Welborn from Open Book shows up, sniffs his glass and shakes her head.

Fr. Jim, undaunted, says, jovially, "Loosen up, Amy baby! Have a snort!"

Just to be neighborly, they are both welcome to come over, ahem, to my blog (I need the traffic!) to hash it out. I'll serve anything; I won't card Fr. Jim, no matter how annoyingly youthful he looks, and I won't let Amy dope-slap him.

Whilst I wait for them to arrive--Amy took Fr. Jim's keys, so she's driving--I'll put on my "Student Prince" CD. To see the lyrics to its most famous song, click the headline above.

And if Rich Leonardi from Cincinnati decides to get in on this: I won't let you, Rich, unless you brought some gutt Mettwurst und Bratwurst from Zinzinnati!

Photo courtesy of Dziadzu's Homebrewing (not that I asked permission, or anything...)

Monday, August 08, 2005

NCAA on the warpath

Human Events Online has a good article on the NCAA's attempt to mao-mao colleges into dropping mascots and team names deemed "offensive": GERONIMO! The NCAA Goes off the Reservation over Team Mascots
by Mac Johnson

Two excerpts:

But the fact is that the use of Indians as symbols is a compliment. The only people offended by it are the racial grievance industry and a bunch of white, middle-class pantywaists, both of which would have found something else to whine about had they not invented this imbecilic non-issue.

People do not name their team “The Losers,” “The Drooling Slack-jaws” or “The Heartworms.” People name their teams after things they admire or wish to be like. Mascots connote power, speed, fierceness, tenacity or nobility.


The Indian peoples were chosen for mascots in so many places in America because they are admired. They have been romanticized in the foundation mythology of the nation as noble and special. They have been internalized by the culture that fought them as part of our shared national identity. They represent independence, freedom, fierceness, courage, endurance and uniqueness of place. And if you have to be defined, that’s not a bad set of words to be defined by. It is hardly hostile or abusive.

Teams wish to perform in the arena as fiercely as Knights, Spartans, Pirates, or Braves. Or at least they did. For now the grievance industry is redefining Indians out of that pantheon. Strong, brave, principled, independent and fearless can now be replaced with easily-wounded, oversensitive, whiny, victim-movement copycats. Native Americans thus pass from the mythology of America into the pathology of America –along with the rest of us. When such symbols are pulled down in the name of helping the symbolized, what part of them will be left in the popular culture? What reason will anyone have to ponder them? How will one life be improved?

The only point I would add to Mr. Johnson's fine essay, is that there is a touch of whimsy in team mascots, too; which is appreciated when one has both a secure sense of self, and a sense of humor: neither of which the PC crowd has, not an iota.


In honor of the NCAA's rock-headed decision, I offer you this link to the Washington Redskins' famous Fight Song.

How Are Minor Planets Named?

"The quick version: the discoverer of a particular object has the privilege of suggesting a name to a committee that judges its suitability. Contrary to some recent media reports it is not possible to buy a minor planet. If you have a name you would like to apply, the best advice is 'Go out and discover one!'"

The headline above links to the rest of the article.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Called to walk on water (Sunday homily)

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.

In large measure, that’s what this passage is about.

They go on alone; he comes later, during a storm.
Not an accident; it was part of the lesson.

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.
And they are still learning to know Jesus will be there.
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, it wasn't
Jesus who brought up
the idea of getting out of the boat; it was Peter!
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 sees how strong the wind is,

and forgets how strong Jesus is.
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 hear Jesus say,
“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 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 firm on this point:
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 firm in insisting,
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.”

I understand.

But 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 are 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!”

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Obscene 'Reality' at MTV

Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, nails what's wrong with MTV at Human Events Online. Click on headline to go there.

Sweat & Sanctity

Wednesday night, I joined a group of young(er) people in Sidney, Ohio, which is 10 miles north of Piqua, and the seat of Shelby County -- hence, "the big city" hereabouts.

My brother priest, Rev. James Reutter, parochial vicar at Holy Angels Parish, in Sidney, who also teaches at Father Lehman High School there, organized this with another fellow priest, Rev. Frank Amberger, as a forum for high school and college kids to get together over the summer for a little faith-building and fun.

I was the guest speaker; I gave a talk on faith and politics, and led the rosary at the end. At the instigation of Fr. James, I did some of the prayers in Latin. Given the heat, and -- due to my clerical dress -- my having the heat-absorbing properties of asphalt, I opted out of Frisbee Football (but I did play the last time).

One more week this summer; look for it next summer!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Evangelicals Get It

Via RealClearPolitics, I read today a CNN report: Frist not invited to evangelical rally.

Good news; although our Evangelical friends at Family Research Council are at least partly mad at Frist because he failed to help them wreck the filibuster. Unfortunately, there is so much misunderstanding on this issue, beginning with exactly what the GOP would do to pull off the so-called "nuclear option" to end filibusters against judicial nominees. Simply put, it's a dishonest parliamentary maneuver, and done once, it can be done again: so what the GOP does today to filibusters on judicial nominees, it or the Dems will do on legislative filibusters.

And that ought to give us the willies, because the filibuster has stopped any number of awful bills in the past, and will in the future.

But back to the good news. Its important prolifers don't fall for the claim that one can be for destroying embryos for research, and still be prolife. We can't win unless we always have the moral high ground, and that is: we don't kill unborn children. Period.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Property Rights = Civil Rights

Once again, Walter Williams nails it; and Human Events publishes it.

A couple of quotes:

Creating false distinctions between human rights and property rights plays into the hands of Democrat and Republican party socialists who seek to control our lives. If we buy into the notion that somehow property rights are less important, or are in conflict with, human or civil rights, we give the socialists a freer hand to attack our property.

As President John Adams (1797-1801) put it, "Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty." Adding, "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence."

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I won!

See what I won at: http://pewlady.blogspot.com/2005/08/contest-results.html

Don't hold your fire

You may notice I post many of my homilies.

I hope no visitor feels constrained from commenting, either positively or negatively. I would love your feedback. In the business world, savvy entrepreneurs know: feedback is pure gold. (I want to ask parishioners, when they compliment my homilies after Mass, what stood out--but sometimes that's a little intimidating.)

You may perhaps wonder how I came to take the direction I did, or why I made a particular point, and not another. Ask away.

In last Sunday's homily, I chose not to do much with the Gospel, which might strike some as odd. (I did say a little more than the text indicates, just briefly referencing the feeding of the many thousands.) Feel free to ask me why, but I'd ask that you read the homily first.

The next terror threat against America?

At James Glassman's Tech Central Station is an article about the radical "animal rights" movement and extremist environmentalists, and their readiness for terrorism. Click on the headline to go to it.

Don't eat that!

I just discovered the Center for Consumer Freedom, courtesy of The Drudge Report; last night, as it happens, I saw its hilarious TV ad.

The CCF reports an amazing fact (assuming it got it right): President Bush, who exercises six times a week, and whom doctors rate extraordinarily healthy, is overweight per government standards!

Click on the headline above to go there.

Just what they deserve

Monday, August 01, 2005

A sign of the End?

The Reds have won five straight!

What can this mean? Will airplane pilots suddenly disappear? Will plagues and celestial signs be next?

The Redlegs are only 19 1/2 games out! Watch out, Cards!