Sunday, November 30, 2014

Just an ordinary Sunday in the parish...

This weekend, our son-of-the-parish deacon (soon to be ordained a priest) was back for Thanksgiving; so he offered the homily at all the Masses. So no homily from me, sorry!

I was glad to have him back, and his fellow parishioners were happy to see him. We had a good visit and I made sure he got something good to eat. He and I both had plans for Friday, but yesterday I broiled some steaks and sauteed some green beans; and a parishioner brought a sugar-cream pie (I think that's what it's called). It was the first time I broiled anything in this stove and it wasn't as easy as it could be. The stove is old, and the writing on the dials has worn off; so it took some trial-and-error to get the "broil" setting. 

He did a good job at Mass. In his homily, he emphasized that Advent isn't Christmas, it's the time to prepare for Christmas. We do so, in part, by embracing penances and sacrifices that help us grow in the virtue of fortitude. He offered the example of his patron, Saint Andrew the Apostle, who endured crucifixion and preached the Gospel for three days while on the cross; as well as the example of cloistered nuns in Alabama who find joy in uniting themselves, in community, to the Eucharistic Lord.

After the last Mass, I had three babies to baptize; two were twins. That helped, because our baptistry is a little tight. I can still smell the chrism on my hands, which is a pleasant thing, as it calls to mind the day of my own ordination as a priest.

We have lots of babies here, thanks in part to our young parents embracing the Church's teaching on the openness to the gift of life. That gives me great joy.

Now I have a bit of a break for a few hours. This afternoon, we kick off our Knights of Saint Remy boys program; we'll have some basketball, some discussion of virtue, some prayer and some food for our boys, grades 1-12. I hope we have a great turnout!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Congratulations! You're in the target-hairs of 'the gay agenda'!

News item: In Synod-Related Effort, Homosexual-Rights Activists Target Eight U.S. Bishops.

Picketing outside Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago, February 14, AD 2010
From the National Catholic Register article:

ROME — The start of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family has triggered a wave of activism from well-funded LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) activist groups in the U.S., who are targeting “outspoken” Catholic bishops in hopes of changing Catholic practice and moral doctrine.

“Most important is the opportunity to create a precedent for change,” the Human Rights Campaign said in its pamphlet on the synod.

The LGBT group has announced an activist effort targeting eight bishops in a pamphlet that labels them as “the best of the worst Catholic bishops across the country.”

Its campaign will target Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill.

The effort aims to target bishops the activist group claims have been “most outspoken in their rejection of LGBT Catholics, their civil rights and their rightful place in the Church.” The effort will include Rosary events and literature distributions in the bishops’ home cities.

Among the Human Rights Campaign’s corporate partners are large corporations like American Airlines, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Bank of America, Northrop Grumman, Chevron, Lexus, Goldman Sachs, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. (Emphasis added.)

See that? Our Archbishop has been "targeted." That means we in the Archdiocese have been "targeted."

Let me amplify that. This isn't about the Archbishop. Our Archbishop is simply being faithful to the teachings of our Lord and Savior. He is doing his job. He is being our shepherd. This is an attack on the Body of Christ as a whole, and that means every one of us.

And the Archbishop deserves to know that the faithful stand with him. When he stands up for Christ, we must stand with him!

While I don't imagine his Excellency is fretting over this, I also don't imagine this is going to be pleasant. Even if the efforts of the "LGBT activists" are reasonably civil (let us hope), this is not something most of us would want to endure outside our places of work, churches, or homes.

I'm not sure the Archbishop would want me to, er, organize any letter-writing, but I don't know why you couldn't contact him and let him know he has your prayers and support.

Second, you may want to contact some of those companies above, to see if they wish to be enlisted in this effort. Do these companies really intend to lobby the Catholic Church to change her teachings? Really?

Third, and most important: it's time to get ready. This is only the beginning. A storm is brewing. It will get ugly. We are not delicate flowers; we are soldiers of Christ! You and I had better prepare ourselves so we can endure what is coming; because one of the things that's going to make this difficult is having people around us losing heart and helping the enemies of the Church.

Get ready, folks. It will get worse before it gets better. A lot worse.

(Headline note: someone no doubt will quibble about my use of "the gay agenda." Headlines need to be brief; and I'm hard-pressed to find a brief expression for, "those who seek to overturn God's plan for human complementarity and family." Feel free to suggest polite alternative language if that's your thing.)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

How do we exalt Christ as King? Here are three ways (Sunday homily)

We might wonder, why do we have this feast of Christ the King? 

This solemnity was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925. 
And it helps to understand the times.

For some time, the trends in society 
had been to denigrate the Church and the Catholic Faith. 
A few years before, the most powerful nations 
had all been drawn into the slaughter of the First World War. 
And in the wake of that war, extreme movements were taking hold: 
communism, fascism and militarism.

And so the pope sought to remind the world who its true king is. 
As the pope said, “all men, whether collectively or individually, 
are under the dominion of Christ. 
In him is the salvation of the individual, 
in him is the salvation of society.”

Ninety years on, the situation has only worsened; 
Today the Church is caught between the anvil of secularism 
and the hammer of radical Islam. 

On the one hand, we have supposedly free societies – 
including our own – where more and more people 
are being shamed and harassed and punished 
because they believe what Jesus Christ teaches 
about marriage and family. 
People are losing their jobs. 
Business owners are being fined by government, 
forced to shut up or shut down. 

It is likely to get worse before it gets better.

On the other hand, in many places you and I are witnessing 
a ruthless effort to exterminate Christians in the name of Islam. 
Thankfully there are some efforts to stop it, but not much.

The need to accept Jesus Christ as king is as great as ever!

So what does that look like?

The starting point is our own lives. 
Is he king over how I use my time? My money? 
Over my eyes, my hands, my words? 
Do I use my body and talents according to his laws—or my own desires?

The truth, of course, is that I’m still fighting the battle in my own life; 
and most likely, so are you. 
The great tool we have in this is the sacrament of confession. 
When you and I bow our egos and bend our knees in the confessional, 
We renew our loyalty to Jesus, not vaguely, but concretely – 
in my life, today, right now.

Second is what happens in our homes. 

There’s no rule that says 
you and I have to have a crucifix or an image of Jesus in our home; 
but I can’t understand why we all wouldn’t want that. 

Personally, I want an image of Jesus or Mary in every room. 
I have a crucifix over my computer and a statue of Mary over my TV. 
They help me remember.

As you may know, there is a nice tradition 
of enthroning the Sacred Heart in our homes; 
I’ll put something in the bulletin about that next week 
for anyone who is interested. 

And at the end of Mass, 
I invite you to join me in an act of dedication to the Sacred Heart – 
the prayers are already in your pews. 

There is a plenary indulgence given 
for reciting this prayer on this feast, 
which also calls for going to confession and receiving holy communion, 
and offering a prayer for the intentions of the holy father, 
which we’ll do as well.

But what best shows Jesus as king in our homes 
is how you and I treat one another. 
When our homes are places of prayer, forgiveness and peace, 
Christ reigns – and people will want what they experience in us!

Finally, we lift up King Jesus with the difference we make in the world. 

The Gospel gives us a powerful measure: 
how we treat those who are least and easily forgotten. 
If Jesus were accepted as king of this world, 
there would be no one hungry or naked or forgotten; 
but as it is…our world is rather different.

This weekend many of you made casseroles to feed the hungry. 
And I think we’re all aware of a lot of generosity 
that happens without a lot of fanfare. 

Meanwhile, there are a lot of us who, in various ways, 
are trying to promote alternatives to abortion 
and to protect unborn children. 

Still, I think what many of us feel, 
when you and I look at so many problems in our society, 
is that we are overwhelmed. 
How can we fix it all?

But take heart! That’s not what the Gospel talks about. 
You and I don’t see the Lord saying to anyone, 
“well done, you solved the whole problem.” 

Instead, we see Jesus commending those who did what they could; 
and condemning those who passed by.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fixing Jesus dinner

Today I'm working up a couple of casseroles as part of Saint Remy's "Casserole Crusade" -- the food is prepared by parishioners, frozen, and then taken to soup kitchens in the area.

I'm not posting this to get credit; but to show you how easy it is. You can do this!

First, the organizers give you the aluminum pans and recipes. I had eight or so to choose from. I chose "Chicken and Noodles," which was fairly easy, and sounds like it will taste good.

So, first, I picked up the ingredients I needed. Only when I got to my car, I remembered I'd taken two casserole pans, but I'd only bought enough for one. So back to the store to buy all the same things again. The clerk was amused.

Once home, I get my kitchen in order before cooking. That is, I put some dirty dishes (still in the sink) in the dishwasher, and then get a sink of suds ready. When I cook, I find keeping some hot, soapy water in the sink makes things go more smoothly.

First, I pour all the broth into the pan and get it heating.

Next it says, "spray pans generously with "Pam" -- only I don't have any Pam, so I use butter instead.

While the broth is heating, I open up all the cans of chicken meat. I make sure I scrape out all the goodness in the cans before throwing them away. The chicken tastes pretty good, but I season it with some black pepper. The soup I'll add will provide some added salt, so I don't add that.

Next I open up all the soup cans. It called for two cans of chicken soup, and two cans of mushroom soup. Campbells now has "Chicken and Mushroom" soup, so I get four of those. I scrape out all the goodness I can.

The broth reaches a boil; then I realize I was supposed to have thrown the noodles in already. Oops! But no worry; it says, "let sit for 20 minutes." When 20 minutes goes by, I'll taste them; if not quite ready, I can always boil them a bit more. I think they'll be fine.

I notice the recipe doesn't call for onions or garlic. I'll hold off this time, but that might be nice. Or maybe shallots? But they would need to be sauteed.

While the noodles soak up the broth, I get this post started. Then back to the stove to check the noodles and broth:

I taste it...

Pretty good! A little bland for my taste, but perhaps not for those who will eat it, so I don't add any seasoning.

The directions say to drain off the broth, so I do -- but into another pot. Then I put all the ingredients together and stir:

And then I spread all this into the two pans, like this:

They looked awfully plain, so I added some parmesan cheese over the top. I think some paprika would be good, too, but I leave that off in case anyone mistakes it for red pepper (which would also be good, but...)

I did taste the final product. Pretty good, but in retrospect, some added red pepper and maybe some garlic would make it better. I may well make this again, for myself! I'd serve it with some green vegetables; how about you?

And here are the casseroles ready to freeze; then on Sunday, they go to the Saint Vincent de Paul Society who will take them to their destinations.

Now, did you forget about that leftover broth? Not I!

I put it back on the stove, and dug into the fridge for some items I've been saving. Remember the chicken I roasted a few weeks back? I saved some of the carcass and some of the onions that were roasted with it, along with the innards of the chicken. And I had some vegetables that were a little wilted. I threw it all in.

After I cook this for awhile, I'll be able to strain off the broth and use it for something or another. Meanwhile, in my mother's immortal words, I "cleaned out the icebox"!

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.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Breakfast report: Goetta & onion omelette

Today's breakfast was a treat; not so much what I had, but the circumstances.

I had arranged for a retired priest to take the morning Mass and confessions, so that enabled a little more leisure this morning. Nice!

You may wonder why I did that. Two reasons: first, I have three Masses today (early Mass, wedding, plus Sunday vigil), and a priest is not supposed to offer that many Masses except for real need. That's to prevent what ought to be the life-giving center of a priest's life from becoming something mechanical or a drudgery. My second reason was to allow the people to have an alternate confessor, in case they have any qualms about going to a familiar priest -- i.e., their pastor.

At any rate, today's breakfast was all about goetta. A lot of you don't know what that is. This is the technical definition, but this is the true reality. Even though goetta is a Cincinnati thing, the nearby Krogers store carries it. So first thing I did (after making coffee) was to slice it up and fry it, with a little bacon fat. You can fry it without any added fat, as it has some fat in it, but not much; the added fat -- you could use butter or olive oil -- gives it a nice crispiness and keeps it from sticking at the beginning.

Then I found half an onion in the fridge, and thought I could use that. So I chopped that up while the goetta was sizzling. When the goetta was finished -- in two batches, meaning I have leftovers! -- I tossed some butter into the pan and added the onions. Then I quickly whipped up some eggs, poured that over the onions for the omelette.

Making an omelette -- at least, as I make it -- is pretty easy. You just pour in the eggs and don't stir them much. But you do want to pull back the edges of the egg from the pan, allowing the remaining liquid part of the egg to touch the hot pan. It works better if you take the omelette out before it looks totally "dry"; this is always my mistake, waiting too long. When it's ready, you roll it up and turn it over onto the plate. At the last minute, I decided to throw some grated Parmesan cheese in.

Anyway, here's what it looked like:

That is, after I ate it -- sorry! But it was hot and I was hungry; do you think I'm crazy?

Now I have to write my homily for Sunday, which I've been putting off.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Father Fox's exotic breakfast

For breakfast, I fixed scrambled eggs, with diced avocado, with white toast and kimchi.

Why such exotic ingredients?

Well, the kimchi I picked up a few weeks ago at Jungle Jim's in Fairfield, on the way home from Cincinnati. It keeps forever, I think, although the jar is about 40% empty already. The avocado I picked up a few days ago. Why did I buy an avocado? I'm glad you asked! Although I like avocado, I don't really know how to cook with it; so I bought one so I could try my hand with it.

As it turned out, I used the avocado Sunday night for a shrimp-and-pasta dish; that turned out pretty well, although it needed more garlic. But I only used about a quarter of the avocado for that meal; so I wrapped up the remainder tightly (so it wouldn't turn brown), and thought of having it with scrambled eggs today.

So how was it?

Pretty good; but the avocado wasn't quite ripe, and that would have been better. The kimchi was a last-minute idea, and a good one. And, of course, buttered toast is always good.

By the way, this was easy to make. Here's the recipe:

1/4 avocado, diced
Two or three eggs
Plenty of butter

Take a saucepan or smaller frying pan and cut several large bits of butter into the pan. If butter is hard, cut up into small bits; otherwise it will break up on its own. Then crack eggs into pan. Turn heat onto medium-high.

Immediately start stirring eggs and butter. Cook eggs very slowly, always stirring. Don't rush this -- as curds start to form, take egg/butter mix off fire and keep stirring. Try to keep the eggs in a liquid, rather than solid, form. The longer you take with this, the softer and more refined the eggs will be.

As your eggs are about half-way scrambled, take eggs from fire and throw in avocado. Keep off fire for a moment -- now you put bread in toaster.

While bread toasts, finish the eggs. Salt and pepper to taste; serve with buttered toast and kimchi, straight from the jar.

Delicious with coffee!

As I was eating it, I had an inspired thought: I should have had ham with this! (Get it?)

Sunday, November 02, 2014

'Live ready. Die ready. Nothing to be afraid of!' (All Souls homily)

Every five or six years, All Souls Day comes on a Sunday. 
Let’s be plain. This day is about death.

Living in the United States, in this time, 
you and I have the best health care options anyone has ever had. 
With all our many advantages, we worry very little 
About the threats that used to haunt all people, 
and still are a real peril in many places of the world. 

But as a consequence, we forget about death.

In ancient Rome, when a victorious general would be honored 
with a triumphant parade, surrounded by cheering throngs,
with even the Emperor paying tribute, 
there would be a servant would beside him in the chariot,
whispering in his ear: “Remember that you are mortal.”

“Remember that you are mortal.” 

Does death scare you?

The other night, I was driving home, and because the road was empty, I was lost in thought. 
And to my sudden horror, I realized—
I’d just gone through a stop sign. 
I thanked God all the way home that he’d preserved me. 

Yes, that scared me.

We don’t have to be scared about this. Be ready!
It’s not really hard to be ready.
Stay close to Jesus. That’s it.

You and I stay close to Jesus by living as he commands. 
We are close to the Lord 
when we care for the least of his brothers and sisters. 
Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, embrace the outcast.
If we are close to Jesus, we are listening to him—learning from him. 
And we are talking to him—we are praying.

And if we’ve neglected or disobeyed the Lord, we go to confession. 
Why mess around? If we need to go, go!

Getting sick or dying is not the worst thing that can happen to us.
The worst thing is a death for which we are not prepared.

Live ready. Die ready. Nothing to be afraid of!

As you can imagine, I get called to visit people when they near death. 
I’m very glad to go; 
and many of the moments I treasure as a priest 
have been praying with people 
as they approached the threshold of eternity.

One of the saddest things, on the other hand, 
is when I’ve visited people, and it was obvious they were near death. 
Yet no one would acknowledge it; 
and no one would ask, “Father, will you help us prepare?” 
“Father, will you give dad Last Rites?”

When both my mother and father, in their turn, 
were approaching death, they were open about it.
They talked about what they wanted. It was a great help.
No good comes from pretending. 

And when you spell out, ahead of time, what you want at the end, 
and at the funeral, you will do your children a huge favor. 
Now, let me explain what Last Rites means.

First comes the sacrament of confession. 
This includes what is called the “apostolic blessing,” 
which the Holy Father allows priests to grant to us 
when we’re near death. It is a remission of all time in purgatory. 
Pretty good!

Next is the anointing of the sick. 
In the old days, this only happened near death; 
but now, the anointing can be given anytime we face a serious illness, 
and we can receive it more than once. 
We don’t have to wait till the end for the anointing. 
But when the priest comes the last time, 
he will give the anointing one more time.

The most important sacrament to receive at the end is the Eucharist: 
called “viaticum,” which means, “food for the journey.” 

While on this subject, there’s something very important to say. 
Sadly, many times I’m told, 
“Mom can’t receive communion”—because of issues with swallowing. 
Let me offer two ideas on that.

First, when giving holy communion, I can give a very small portion, even—
if you will forgive me putting it this way—as small as a crumb. 
We put it in a spoon with some water. 
And if someone says, is that really Jesus? 
I say, as much as the regular host is. 
What difference does size make to God?

The second suggestion I can make is this, 
although this is something I need help with. 
I can bring the Blood of Christ to someone who can’t swallow; 
and the person can receive just a drop of the Precious Blood. 
But that is something I need to plan for, because as you know, 
we don’t keep the Precious Blood in the tabernacle. 
You have to call me a couple of days ahead of time.

There’s one more part of Last Rites that isn’t as important, 
but it’s beautiful, and it helps us see 
what’s really happening at that moment. 
And that is when the priest leads everyone in a Litany of the Saints.

When you and I were baptized, 
the deacon or priest prayed the same litany. 
It signifies that the newly baptized is joining the list!
Yes, that’s right: at baptism, we really become a saint, 
someone destined for heaven! 
Whether we stay a saint is the real challenge, of course.

But when we die in the Lord, we die a saint! 
Whether we go to purgatory doesn’t change that; 
because purgatory can properly be called, “The saints’ finishing school.” 
Every single soul in purgatory will be saint! 
Because everyone who makes it to heaven, is a saint. 
Other than God, there is no one in heaven who is not a saint.

So when the family gathers at that moment, 
the family includes all the saints in heaven, 
who have been praying for you since your birth—before, really. 
And so that litany, at the end, is like a welcome home, 
a reunion among old friends.

It is like when someone is running a race—
maybe like our high schoolers this weekend! 
And as you near the finish line, 
what do your friends and teammates—
who are there ahead of you—do?

They cheer you on! 
Keep going, don’t give up, you’re almost there! Keep on!

This is what the saints are doing for us, our entire lives; 
and when we reach the end, we pray one final time, 
for the person we love to make it safely home.

Lots of people are afraid of death; 
but Christians should not be among them. 
Our Savior, our Jesus, suffered, died, and came back from the dead! 
And he is there, in the midst of his saints, welcoming us home.