Saturday, April 21, 2007

Title this homily! (Sunday homily)*

What was described in the psalm:
"I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me,"
is what happens in the Gospel, for Peter.
The Lord restores him and returns Peter to being a fisher of men.
That's what we see him doing in the first reading.

We see Peter and the Apostles dragged before the Sanhedrin.
Notice exactly what they demanded of the Apostles:
Not that they stop believing in Jesus; but merely, "Keep quiet about that!"

That is most often what is demanded from us.

There are many times our culture and society make the same demands of us.

You and I should expect this—this is more or less the normal state of affairs
for a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.

So…if we don’t we find ourselves being told
to "hush up" about Jesus, why might wonder, why not?

This applies as well to how we, as Catholics,
hear what the Church teaches us.

We all know there are teachings and practices
of the Church that not all Catholics understand, or agree with, or follow.
I don’t have to give you the list.

So, there are times we Catholics we want the pope,
or bishops, or our pastor, to hush up! on some subjects.

Again, that is pretty much how it’s always been.
Think about it: if you and I belonged to a Church
in which nothing it taught, or asked of us, was hard…
Wouldn’t that make you think it was too easy?

As your pastor, I know not everything I say or do wins total support.
Some of that is my own fault; I don’t always explain everything as well as I might;
sometimes I say the wrong things; and my flaws and weaknesses are very clear—
you see them better than I do.

Sometimes, folks want to know why a decision "had to be" a certain way;
but, of course,
not all decisions work that way.

A lot of times it’s a judgment call, and it’s a question of vision and direction.

For example, how we celebrate the Mass.

Some folks want to pick the music; some are very specific
in demanding how long Mass will be;
still others insist I add things and make it longer!

Would you believe I even have folks who complain I sing too much!
I think that’s funny, but I mean no offense if you don’t.

I’ve heard from a few who are unhappy we’ve used some Latin prayers.
That doesn’t surprise me; nor was I surprised many like it.
And that most of you didn’t get too excited either way—that, too, didn’t surprise me.

I know my judgment isn’t perfect, But I don’t make these decisions
to curry favor with anyone;
I am trying to be faithful.

On the question of Latin prayers…
Many are surprised that this is precisely what the Second Vatican Council said to do.
It is what Pope Paul VI said to do; it is what our current holy father has said.

Now, I was going to share some quotes with you, from the Council, and from Pope Paul VI,
who issued the revised form of the Mass, and from our current pope…

But it would take 10 to 15 minutes to review all that, and that is too much time.
So—here’s what I did.

I’ve made some photo copies. Anybody who wants to know more, ask me afterward,
nd I’m happy to give you a copy. **

If you wonder, why didn’t this come up 20 or 30 years ago,
I’d say, because back then the Church
was wrestling with other things.

If you’re wondering why doing what the Council called for should take so long—
my answer is, it always does!
It takes a while to digest, and get it right.

So I have to tell you, if you think the process of "implementing Vatican II" is all past,
that’s not the case.
It’s very much a current project, and will be, for years to come.
Realizing that will help make sense of the changes we’ve experienced, and those still ahead.

Now, I don’t mean any big, dramatic changes, just an ongoing process of "getting it right."
So part of that is including some Latin, as the Council said to do.

As I said, I’m not surprised at various reactions, And I realize this is an adjustment.

There have been some over-reactions.
One person was verbally abusive; another gave me an ultimatum: Do it my way, or else—
0ne person said, "is it important what Vatican II said?"

Some folks have been a bit over-dramatic; some are feeding the rumor mill,
such as telling you,
I’ve got a secret plan to have all the Masses, all in Latin!
That’s pretty funny. It’s also not true. Instead, I'm planning it to be Aramaic! (Just kidding!)

So let’s set all that aside, and ask, what’s the big picture here?

In the second reading, John the Apostle is in heaven, and he says,
"I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea,
everything in the universe, cry out" in worship to God, and to the Lamb.

When we enter into the Mass, that’s what we’re taking part in!
It’s not our own, private version of the prayer;
it’s the timeless, universal prayer of the Church.

So it should be both contemporary, rooted in the present-day,
and universal, ancient, and timeless.

How we celebrate the Mass is subject, not to my wishes, or yours,
but what the Church calls for.
I must be obedient to the guidance of the Church,
and sometimes that isn’t what folks want.

Also, getting it right is pretty important.

And, we should not be surprised when our worship, in the Mass,
has elements that are ancient, timeless—
and dare I say? Mysterious.

John the Apostle was lifted up into the worship of heaven.
I am pretty sure he was overwhelmed by that.
And the same should happen to us.

I simply can't think of a title for this homily -- so feel free to suggest one in the comments!

** I will try to post that in the next day or two... Update: the handout is reproduced immediately below this post.


Kat said...

How about "never be silent for the truth"

Rachel said...

I like the point that our culture doesn't (yet?) demand we give up our beliefs, just that we keep quiet about them. Pointing out that the Apostles faced and rejected this demand certainly reminds me of my responsibility to share the faith-- which seems much more difficult to me than the teaching contraception and all the other hot topics! I read an article that made this point about the scandal of Catholics refusing Church teaching on marriage or sex or a male-only priesthood: that Catholics have been rejecting Church teachings like "Love your enemies" for centuries. Disobedience to the commands of Christ appears to be a time-honored tradition and often we hardly even notice.

And then that's a nice little twist to point out that we might be the ones doing the hushing! As for me I usually feel very encouraged whenever someone has enough courage and love to teach the harder commands. And it's very strange to look at which commands are considered to be the harder ones. The Sermon on the Mount is usually approved by all as a lovely moral teaching, but it's much harder than any of the controversial stuff!

I'm always happy when one of our priests breaks out the Latin or starts singing-- or better yet, both. :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful homily Father.

I think using humor when people are upset can be very helpful.

I am glad to see that there are many in your parish who care enough about the Mass to become emotional about the changes you have made.

Anonymous said...

"Faithful Obedience, a Radical Idea from Vatican II"...maybe not a great homily title, but certainly the opposite of what I experienced growing up...

Puff the Magic Dragon said...

Borrow from the Papa

"Truth Is NOT Determined by a Majority Vote"

Adoro said...

Duc in altum!

Most of the people who have a problem with what you are doing are not acquainted with deep thought, but rather with the diversion of the misappropriation of the gifts that Vatican II really was. They are choosing to live banished from Eden, listening to the Serpent, rather than the truth.

Father, I said this on my blog and I will say it until the day I die, and I speak for everyone even if they don't like it:


Don't mince your words, be charitable, (you are, always), but don't compromise. I know you take a lot of flack from a lot of people, but please know that there are many more who support you. Perhaps we don't do enough to let our priests know that we appreciate what they do.

What would help you when you face that kind of thing? Does it help for us to speak with you after Mass and say we appreciate the Latin, or whatever it is you are doing right? Do you want emails, phone calls, cards? What would really let you know that you have support so that in those moments of trial, you can consider the fruits of this?

I think many of us are guilty of supporting our priests silently, so they tend only to hear from the complainers.

Maybe it's not your style, but this might be a topic for a very candid post as to what the laity can best do to support their priests.

Anonymous said...

How about 'If you love me ...' (Actually I suck at this kind of thing - so it's just a try - follow the other suggestions or use one that you came up with - your titles are always very good.)

As far as what you're doing - 'You Go Father!' My guess is there are a lot of people saying that - just not outloud. We are a society, for the most part, of hushed people when it comes to the really important things (though we'll be loud and opinionated about the umpires baseball call or Britteny Spears or the like.)

Lastly, and I know you know this - sometimes it's just nice for someone to remind you, you'll never get everyone to agree with you (if you do - you're dead). Be faithful (we aren't called to be successful) and obedient in love. And, from here, it sure looks like you're doing that.

Rick Lugari said...

Well Father, if you really want to get their attention, title it The Latest on Paris and Britney, they may be disappointed by the text, but at least you will have gotten them to listen. ;)

Seriously though, this is not the first time you've written a homily like this and I'm quite sure you're going to be doing more of this, and I commend you for it. Your parishioners are blessed to have you, whether they all realize it yet or not. My humble suggestion would be make this the beginning of a new series of homilies that you are sure to be writing over the next year or so. Perhaps call them Fidelity and Grace: (with a number or appropriate subtitle), because at the heart of things that is what they are about.

God bless,

Anonymous said...

Father, I have followed your blog for several months silently. I look forward to your homilies and comments. You are truly graced in the hard work of trying to follow Church teaching (which is, of course, God's Will), and true implementing of Vatican II. Sure wish my kids (now grown) could have been exposed to you in Catholic school instead of what they WERE taught...! Bless you for all you do, and may God bless your parisioners as you lead them on.

Lynne said...

This makes me wish I lived in Ohio...almost! ;-)

My pastor and the parochial vicar are wonderful. I may print this out and give it to them.

I hope the feedback you've received has been mostly positive.

Anonymous said...

One person was verbally abusive; another gave me an ultimatum: Do it my way, or else

Most things in the world, I can understand. Even the most morally detestable things, you can "get" with just a little imagination.

But I cannot understand someone who (a) would be verbally abusive to a priest to the point where the priest feel comfortable talking about it publicly (ridiculing a priest is OK though; especially if it is funny); or (b) someone who would leave the Church, and so risk damnation, over the kind of liturgical things Father has discussed, which seem fairly trivial in comparison with the individual stakes involved in "walking out."

Fr Martin Fox said...


I was careful how I worded that; the person who was verbally abusive, was not so, to me; I didn't see any reason to spell that out in the homily, since in my opinion, the target of the abuse is irrelevant.

And, did I give you the impression someone threatened to leave the Church? There was one person who threatened to go to another parish.

Anonymous said...

Father Fox,

It seems that you have taken the approach of St. Francis DeSales, his motto was "suavier et fortier" ( gently but firmly ) This also seems to be very consistent with the way Benedict XVI puts forth the teaching of the Church.

What you and many of the men ordained recently are doing takes courage and will bear fruit in the future.

If there comes a time when you have to deal with an obstinate liberal parishoner and you no longer have the patience to be pastoral let them know that each and every single liturgical innovation (abuse)that they propose is not their idea but was originated and or promoted chiefly by a disordered sexual predator.

Ask them if they want to follow a pervert or the Pope. I know this sounds drastic but each and every liturgical abuse and liturgical lie was either originated by, or most enthusiasticaly promoted by a homosexual rapist,disordered priest/liturgist that left the priesthood to "marry" another man etc.

mrsdarwin said...


Your parishioners are very fortunate to have a priest who communicates so honestly and clearly with them. Following your sermons, you've been very upfront and open about any changes you've planned, and how you tie them into Church teaching and documents. I think that's a valuable quality in a pastor -- your parish is blessed.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Fox:

Fr. Johansen (whom you may know) gave a similar sermon a while ago, where he also distributed a handout with many of the same quotes. I must say, when it comes to Latin, I'm wary of drawing too much attention to it, but rather when people say something, respond "what do you expect at a Latin Rite parish?" Still, making people aware that it is still a MANDATE is important work, and may pay off. Keep up the good work!


Anonymous said...

You are doing God's work; so, You are faithful to your vocation as priest and pastor.

It is not easy work but the only one worth doing in your position. Were all pastors priests and faithful as you are. I will pray for you today. I wish I would remember to pray for you and others like you more often.

Fr Martin Fox said...


I had similar thoughts, which is why I hadn't addressed it earlier. I could give a whole series on Latin, addressing every angle -- but then the Latin becomes a huge thing, which I don't consider it to be, and think it shouldn't be.

I preached this at both parishes, at three of the six Masses.

Kasia said...

It seems that you have taken the approach of St. Francis DeSales...

I knew there was a reason I liked Fr. Fox so much! ;-)

It's difficult to know what to name this homily, because it covers a broad topical area...but it's worth thinking about...

beez said...

I don't understand all the beef with Latin. The prayers that most priests include in Latin, the Agnus, Sanctus, Gloria as well as maybe the Pater Noster, are all prayers everyone knows to begin with.

By using the Latin, they are simply expressing through the choice of language, the universality of the Church. By entering into these particular prayers in Latin, instead of the vernacular, these particular parts of the Mass are more perfectly and clearly joined to the same in other nations and by people of other tongues.

Well, that's my take on it, anyway.

Anonymous said...

ooops ... 0-for-2 on the reading comprehension (or maybe more like "reading precision," because in neither case did the text say X and I read not-X).

And I disagree, Father, about whether the target of verbal anger matters. Our moral duties differ quite a bit according to persons, one such difference being respect due to priests. So I'm right and you're wrong, you stupid idiot.

Anonymous said...

Father, I like the way you meticulously explain every step along the way to change. Here is something to consider. When parishioners are NOT well informed they often polarise and turn on one another,for lack of any other target, which creates a very bad feeling within the congregation. Your pastoral style of openness and frank information disarms a situation like this before it ever comes up. Kudos!

Apostle to Suburbia said...

How about "The Mass: Gettting it right" ?

How ecstatic I would be to hear something like this from my pastor.