Friday, October 30, 2015

Lots cookin' today...

Can you figure out what I'm preparing here?

How about now?

Another hint...

Why yes, it does smell good...

Figured it out yet? (By the way, there are hints of later things in this picture. I cooked more than one thing today...)

Wait, what?

This couldn't all be the same thing, could it?

Yes, this is definitely a second thing...

So what did I make?

1) I made some Neopolitan Ragu (that was the first five pictures).

2) Then I made six chicken-noodle casseroles; four for St. Vincent de Paul, the remainder for me. (That was the last few pictures.)

But was that enough? Oh no!

3) I decided to bake a cake. (Hints in pictures above.)

4) And now I have dinner to make. I got some tuna steaks from Krogers I'm going to grill in about an hour. They are marinating in olive oil at the moment. (I've never cooked these, so I'm using this recipe. We'll see what comes of it!)

5 (Oh, and I forgot...there was chicken broth left over from cooking the noodles; so I had some frozen chicken innards and leftover bones in the freezer, so I threw them into a pot with the leftover broth, and cooked that a couple of hours. That's now in the freezer.

If I feel up to it, I'll snap a picture of the sauce when I go into pull the cake out of the oven. Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Do you want to see? 'Get up, Jesus is calling you' (Sunday homily)

Just now, our Lord Jesus asked a question: 
“What do you want me to do for you?” 
And the man answered: “I want to see.”

It’s a question for us: do we want to see? 
that is, more than we’re seeing now.

Do we want to see…the needs of others? 

You and I know they exist—but do we want to see them, 
so they become our concern? 

Are we willing to deal with others’ hunger and poverty? 
A lot of us are pretty insulated from these things. 
If we really want to see these things, 
we can do as some of our students did on Friday, 
and visit a soup kitchen in Troy. 

If we ask the Lord, he’ll show us ways to do it. 
For example, there are pans for casseroles in the vestibule. 
Last time, I think I made four casseroles—it wasn’t hard. 
Let’s make an abundance of good, home-cooked food 
for people who are hungry.

My point is, there are things for us to see, 
if we want to see them; and if we don’t, we won’t.

If we don’t want to see our lives as any different 
tomorrow from today…we won’t.

That blind man Bartimaeus began “to see” long before he met Jesus. 
He “saw” that Jesus could change things – 
so he waited, and he prayed, 
and when Jesus drew near, he called out. 
So much so that he became a nuisance to others, 
and they tried to shame him into silence.

That happens to us. 
You and I start to make a change, 
and someone will often laugh at our ambition, 
or try to talk us out of it. 
We stir things up, and someone will say, 
look, it’s always been that way, don’t rock the boat. 
Sit down, be quiet – let things go along just the way they were.

If you and I want to see a change in ourselves, 
how badly do we want it? What will we do for it?

One of the easiest steps to changing 
somehow ends up being the hardest for many of us – 
and that is praying for it.

If we want something to change, 
mentioning it in prayer now and again isn’t going to get it done. 
The thing about prayer: as C.S. Lewis said, 
prayer doesn’t change God, it changes us. 

And as we all know, we don’t usually change very fast. 
Most of us change slow. 
So if we’re going to pray for something, 
and if we expect anything to change, 
we’re going to have to be like Bartimaeus, 
and cry out, “Jesus, Jesus!” over and over. 
And when our laziness or distractions seek to silence our praying, 
cry out all the louder!

Here’s something a lot of us want to see change in ourselves: 
what we know about our Faith. 
So many of us want to learn more, and be able to teach our children. 
But that can be hard, 
because we can’t go when the things are scheduled; 
we have work, or soccer practice, or children at home – 
How many of you have said, Gee, if only what they were offering 
were on days or at times that worked for my schedule!

Well, I have good news for you: your prayer has been heard!
An opportunity has – almost literally – fallen in your lap!

You’re going to see on the cover of today’s bulletin 
a program called “Symbolon” – 
it’s a series of video presentations 
about the basics of our Catholic Faith; it’s very good, 
and it’s available online—
that is, over your computer or iPads or even your phone.

Because our parish has a subscription to this program, 
every one of us has access to this for FREE. 
Anytime, day or night, you can view these quality teaching materials.

And it’s not just one program. 
When you sign on, you’ll access a library of choices, 
about all the topics we all are interested in. 
The saints; the history of the Church; tough moral dilemmas; 
the sacraments; the Holy Mass. 

There are topics aimed at married couples, at singles, 
at teens and younger children.  

It’s all yours, it’s all available to you, right now. 
Well, not right now; you have to wait till Mass is over!

Here’s what I want to propose to you. 
And – by the way, this was an idea our parish staff came up with. 

The idea is this: in the weeks before Christmas, 
as our Advent preparation, 
let’s all look at this Symbolon series together. 
Now, there are actually 20 videos in the Symbolon series – 
so we’d just be using the first half for our Advent preparation.

With the information in today’s bulletin, 
each of us can go ahead and watch this material.
But we also thought many would like the opportunity 
to be part of a discussion group. 

This serves several purposes: 
first, talking about it can help us make more sense of the material. 
Second, it can be a way to get out and meet friends.
Third, if you have someone in your circle who is sort of “wandering,” 
this is a friendly way to draw them back. 
And, finally, having a meeting each week 
keeps us accountable so we actually watch the videos!

By the way, this invitation isn’t just for whoever shows up at Mass. 
Everyone in our parish boundaries, Catholic or not, 
is invited to take part. 

For that reason, we sent out a flyer 
to every household in Russia and Houston. 
We want everyone to know who Jesus is, his forgiveness, 
and the life he offers in the Holy Spirit. 
So, you’ll get a flyer too, but don’t worry – 
it’s super-cheap and actually easier to do it that way 
than to try to send it only to non-parishioners. 

So: do we want to see…more people around us share our Faith? 
This is a way to draw them. Let’s pray that new faces will show up 
at our discussion groups, and let’s make them welcome.

Over the next two weeks, you’ll be asked at Mass 
to make a commitment: first, to watching the video series, 
and second, whether you’ll attend a discussion group.

There’s no cost involved; we’re not recruiting anyone for anything. 
We’re just trying to share the Good News Jesus has brought us.

I’m proud of our staff who came up with this idea. 
And I’m excited, 
because this is what a Catholic parish is supposed to do: 
to be a house of light and hope in Jesus Christ, 
drawing everyone to its open doors. 

And, if you will permit me to be very blunt: 
for anyone who ever said, in the past, 
it was too hard to take part in a faith-building program…

We’ve made this about as EASY as we can. 

If you’ve been telling yourself, 
I need to get moving, I need to grow, here it is. 
As we heard in the Gospel: 
"Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you."

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Cross is the right place for us (Sunday homily)

Let me give you a little background 
on the passage from the Gospel we just heard. 
Jesus and the Apostles are on their way to Jerusalem. 
As they are going, Jesus tells them 
he’s going to be betrayed and killed. 

Remember? When Jesus said it the first time, 
Peter said, “Oh no, not you, Lord!” 
And Jesus rebuked him for thinking as human beings do, 
not as God does.

This conversation is now the third time 
Jesus tells them about his coming death.

What’s more, this conversation comes just before 
they arrive in Jerusalem. Think about that. 
Do you see why this was so important?

We can see what was on James and John’s minds. 
They were thinking about glory and power. 
If Jesus hadn’t warned them, set them straight, 
just picture how they would have reacted 
when – a few days later – they saw everyone 
throwing palm branches down before Jesus, 
and crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

So one thing we might consider is that in his response, 
Jesus isn’t just knocking them down a peg; 
he may well have saved their souls. 
Who knows but they might have lost faith as Judas Iscariot did, 
and as Peter almost did.

So that gives us some context. So does the first reading, 
which is from Isaiah, and is one of several passages 
that foreshadow a “suffering servant,” who – 
in light of what happened to Jesus – 
we realize were prophecies of the Messiah.

We remember that Jesus’ suffering 
wasn’t just something that happened to him. 
As Fulton Sheen said, Jesus is the one man who was born to die. 
God planned for this – for our sake.

Now, it’s important to be clear on what that means. 
A lot of our fellow Christians, and our fellow Catholics, 
get this mixed up. 

Sometimes you’ll hear people talk about Jesus death on the Cross 
as if God the Father demanded it. 
The theory goes like this: someone “had to die,” 
so Jesus took the penalty in our place.

Here’s what’s wrong with that approach. 
It suggests God the Father is bloodthirsty, 
demanding someone’s death.

So let’s be very clear. 
God did not have to save us in this fashion. 
You’ll see in Scripture where Jesus himself 
refers to the “necessity” of the Cross, 
but it’s a “necessity” God imposed on himself. 
No one forced this plan on God. God chose this path. 

The only sense in which it is “necessary” is that God understood 
it was the best path for our sake. 
As we say in our Creed each Sunday: 
“For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven…”

This is all background to this conversation with James and John, 
and it’s important; because every single one of us 
faces the same temptation as they did.

Let’s not misunderstand what they were angling for. 
This wasn’t about them living the high life. 
Notice what they asked for: 
“Grant that in your glory we may sit 
one at your right and the other at your left.” 
They were asking to be closely associated with Jesus’ kingdom. 
They were on fire for God’s work. 
Remember, these were the same two who wanted to call down fire 
on some Samaritans who treated Jesus with disrespect.

Can any of us see this in ourselves? 
We get fired up with zeal for God’s name, for the truth. 
We see things in our culture that treat Jesus with disrespect, 
and we have that same righteous anger the Apostles did. 
We want to see Jesus’ kingdom come; we are anxious to see it happen. 
That’s what these Apostles wanted. 

And they weren’t wrong!

Their only mistake was in not realizing how Christ’s glory would come. 
It wouldn’t come on Palm Sunday when everyone was crying “Hosanna.” 
It would come on Good Friday when they called out, “crucify him!”

This is what we call the “mystery of the Cross” – 
and we can’t get past it. 
Jesus put the Cross at the center of his life, his message…
In fact, Jesus put the Cross at the center of human history.

(At the Masses today, I inserted a paragraph here about two reasons for the Cross -- as opposed to any other plan: first because our pride and arrogance need to be crucified; and second, and more importantly, because by doing it this way, God is in solidarity with human suffering, not aloof from it.)

It’s the center of everything. It changes everything…

Including what “success” is.

This time of year, the ushers count the attendance at Mass, 
and we report that to Cincinnati. All the parishes do that. 
And you know what I’ve been doing? I’ve been looking at those numbers. 
Would they go up? Or down? 
And if they go down, what does that mean? 
If the collection goes up or down, what does that mean?
I’m thinking about “success” in the same way James and John were.

We remind ourselves that if the Son of God 
ended up being crucified by his hearers,
you and I should not expect any different for ourselves.

Our Church is being crucified in many ways right now. 
In the terrible persecution 
happening in the Middle East and Africa and elsewhere. 

In the rejection by our culture of the words of Jesus, 
about human life and dignity, 
about the beauty of how God designed humanity – 
because we would rather throw away his design 
and replace it with our own. 

And, as we know, there are tensions within the Church as well, 
because some say we should conform the Gospel 
to the values of our world -- because it’s just too much to ask 
the world to conform to the Gospel.

These are all crucifixions; and it is painful to witness this.
And we are tempted to think, all is lost.

If you are ever tempted to give up, 
put yourselves in the place of Jesus’ followers, 
standing in the streets of Jerusalem on Good Friday: 
watching the Savior being beaten and led to Calvary.

Notice that Jesus did not refuse James and John’s request. 
All he said was, they wouldn’t be at his “right and left.” 
But they would share his chalice and his baptism – 
meaning his suffering and his redemption. 

Jesus told them, and he tells us: The Plan will work. 
God’s kingdom will come. 
And we can take solace in knowing, 
that even if we are a little dim and confused – 
the Apostles sure were! – nevertheless, with God’s help, 
you and I will be part of helping the Kingdom come.

But it won’t be the way we think. 
We are going to have to trust that wherever he leads us, 
whatever happens, it’s the right place.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dinner report: Meat Loaf

Sorry I didn't get pictures while preparing it, but here's the finished product fresh from the oven:

I used the same recipe as the last time, although I modified it, partly for preference, and also because I didn't have all the ingredients. This time I didn't have mushrooms, and I only noticed this time that it also called for green peppers! I learned my lesson this time, and chopped the carrots in the food processor separately from the other items. That worked well. To compensate for the vegetables I didn't have, I used more carrots and onion. I always like onion in meat loaf. As before, I left out the sugar. Instead of cayenne pepper, I used Franks. I also improvised on the "Italian herbs," because...why not?

Here's dinner on the plate:

I had a potato in the cupboard, and nuked it, and mashed it with butter and cream; and the peas came out of the freezer. Nothing extravagant -- well, there is one thing. When I fished some packages of ground beef out of the freezer, I found a packet of ground sirloin (I think I bought it for burgers last summer). So this had a little better meat than usual.

The Verdict:

Quite good!

This called for a fair amount of garlic; I think it could take more. Also, more onion, and the mushrooms would have been nice. I may try the peppers, but I can take or leave those. More basil and oregano wouldn't hurt. This time, I pulled it out of the oven on time, so that helps a lot.

I'll definitely make this again. Meat loaf is a great thing: I can easily get several meals out of this; it's easy to reheat in the microwave; and if I want, I can make a meat loaf sandwich just by frying some of it in a pan, and slap it between two slices of bread. It would have been easy to make two at the same time, and freeze one of them, which I've done on occasion.

Maybe next time, I'll cook it just a little less, and see if I can get a bit of pink? Wouldn't that be nice?

Here's one more picture:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

California legalizes 'assisted suicide.' Why this is wrong.

(The first part of this appeared in the October 11 St. Remy Bulletin; the second half will appear next weekend.)

Thanks to the votes of many Catholic legislators, and the signature of a Catholic governor, it will now be legal, in California, for doctors to prescribe drugs to patients with the purpose and intention of killing themselves with these same drugs. I am not familiar with the details of the legislation, but there are no details that can make this something any Catholic can approve of.

Why is this wrong? There are several reasons:

(1) It is always gravely wrong to kill someone, including oneself.

To kill oneself is gravely sinful*; to help someone else kill him/herself is equally as wrong. Suicide is really self-murder; and to help someone commit suicide is to help commit a murder.

(2) This law is wrong because it draws doctors and pharmacists into this sordid business.

Doctors are supposed to be life-givers and healers. It is a very dangerous business of turning doctors into death-dealers; because it invites them to play God. Inviting humans to play God always leads to disaster!

(3) Watch and see what happens next: because this becomes a “right,” it will, before long, become a “duty” for doctors, pharmacists, and even the public to support this right.

How long before this “right” is paid for by health care? How long before pharmacists and doctors are forced to provide this “assistance,” or else lose their jobs? As it is, many medical schools will compel those preparing to be doctors to learn how to commit abortions, their consciences notwithstanding. Inevitably, the same thing will happen here.

(4) This will bring pressure to bear on people with disabilities, as well as people who are aged and ill, to hurry up and “take the pill” and make things easy for everyone else.

What started as a “choice” will become an expectation, and eventually, we’ll see people pushed into death. In Belgium and Netherlands, where “voluntary” euthanasia was legalized over ten years ago, there are well documented cases of doctors “choosing” for the patients.

Here’s what the Catechism says:

Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible….[A]n act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator….

Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected. 

Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged (CCC, 2276-9).

But what about ‘choice’?

Our society exalts ‘choice’ as if it’s the highest value, but of course that’s not true. Some choices are terrible and destructive, both to oneself and others. A choice like suicide affects far more than just the person who takes his/her own life. And this law isn’t just about people being able to take their own lives, but also expecting a doctor to assist them.

Devaluing human experience. Part of what’s terrible about legalizing “assisted suicide” is that it effectively says that human life doesn’t count for much when there is suffering or illness or disability. Only when we’re healthy and “on top” does our life count.

What about people being in pain? Everyone who is suffering has the right to have medical care that relieves their pain; and despite what politicians say, there are ample pain-relief options available for nearly all medical situations. One reason many people suffer is because federal drug regulations can be very restrictive, and create legal problems for doctors if they prescribe certain drugs too often. But these regulations can be fixed to ensure that patients in pain have the care they need.

‘Helping to die’ versus accepting death. While our Faith is emphatically against suicide, or anyone being “helped to die” (which is just a euphemism for killing someone), that doesn’t mean people who are facing a terminal condition are forced to undergo burdensome treatments that offer uncertain hope. When someone is near death, it’s not sinful to refuse extraordinary care and intervention. For example, many elderly people have told their loved ones and their doctors that if their heart stops, “don’t revive me.” People who have terminal cancer are not doing wrong if they refuse another round of chemo. This is not sinful; because there is a world of difference between accepting death (when the time comes) and hastening death.

Don’t be complacent!

We may think, well, that’s crazy California; but there are three other states where it’s legal; and sooner or later, someone will advance this in Ohio. Further, we can expect an attempt to impose this through the courts, just as redefining marriage was forced on the country by the U.S. Supreme Court. There are powerful forces at work here. A lot of money stands to be made, and saved, if sick people can be gotten rid of with a couple of pills.

To be crystal-clear: no Catholic can give approval to this – it is a grave sin against the 5th Commandment. Never can this be moral. Never can any Catholic cooperate with it – which means, to vote for it, to endorse it, or to participate in any way.

*The question always comes up: does this mean people who commit suicide go to hell. There is certainly the danger of going to hell, but it’s not certain, for two reasons. First, many people who take their own lives are not in their right mind; and second, people can repent, even in a moment. Therefore, we cannot make any assumptions about the fate of those who take their lives, and we pray very earnestly for them for that reason.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Why do we give things up? (Sunday homily)

As faithful Catholics, you and I know how important it is 
to go to confession regularly. 

But let’s be clear why. Yes, it’s good to have a clear conscience.
When I was a boy, there was a game called “Hot Potato.” 
We’d use a ball or something, 
and toss it quickly from one person to the next. 
If you got stuck with it, you were out of the game.

Sometimes I suspect we think about confession that way:
Mortal sin is the “hot potato,” and we don’t want to be caught with it.

That’s true, but it’s not enough.

Our goal is a lot more than that: not only to be forgiven of our sins, 
but to be set free from our sins.

The grace of a good confession is not only to get us “off the hook,” 
But even more, to turn us from the wrong path, to the path of life.

There’s a knock on the Catholic Faith that people bring up, 
maybe you’ve heard it. It goes like this:

“You Catholics believe that you can sin your whole life long, 
and then you can go to confession right before you die, 
and then you’re home-free!”

And you know what? That’s correct. We do believe that!

It is true that someone can sin his or her entire life, 
and with one confession, wipe it all away. 

That is true!

But there are two problems with that scenario. 

The obvious one is, 
who says you’ll have a priest conveniently available 
in your last 5 minutes of life? 
Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. 

But there’s a much greater danger. 
Let’s say you actually have a priest there, right at the end. 
He’s ready to hear your confession – 
and wipe away a lifetime of sin.

That assumes something: that you’ll want to go to confession. 
Why do you assume that? 
After a lifetime of not wanting to repent, 
What makes you so sure you’ll suddenly want to, at the end?

I can tell you, I’ve been at those bedsides, in just that situation. 
I’ve offered to hear people’s confessions. 
And they’ve said, no thanks.

Sin isn’t just a stain on our clothes. 
Clean clothes, dirty clothes, we’re the same person. 
No, sin is something that changes me. 
One lie, two lies, three, four, ten—at some point, 
it’s not a thing I do, but it’s who I am. I’ve become a liar. 
We become our choices; 
and that’s ultimately what heaven and hell are. 

What I’m going to say is easy to misunderstand. Listen closely, please.
We don’t go to heaven because we’re good. I’ll say it again: 
You and I do NOT go to heaven because we’re good. 
It’s the other way around. We’re good because we’re going to heaven!
With each step, and each choice that is guided by heaven, 
we are changed, and shaped—we become good; 
until one day, we arrive at the place where we are truly at home.

This is where purgatory fits in. 
We say it’s about punishment, 
but it’s clearer if we see it as being about change. 
Purgatory is for all of us whose hearts are heaven-bound, 
but our lives still show the effects of our sinful choices. 
Purgatory probably won’t be fun, 
but we will be grateful.

Likewise, we don’t go to hell because we’re bad.
It’s the other way around.
We’re bad to the extent we are influenced by hell.
And that’s what sin is: a choice guided by hell, not heaven.

Notice this man in the Gospel. 
Jesus was able to look right into his heart. 
He saw what that man needed. 
And notice what happened: “he went away sad.” 
He wanted to love God; on some level, he did. 
But not quite as much as he loved his possessions.

For us who live with so much abundance and convenience, 
this should trouble us. 
I’m not saying it’s sinful to have a good job,
money in the bank, and nice things, because it’s not. 
But many of us have learned this lesson: 
the things we own, own us. 

This helps us understand the value of priests not getting married. 

Those of you who have a spouse and children, 
you can’t just “walk away”; but I can. 

If the Archbishop needs me to pick up and go 100 miles away, I can go. 
Celibacy brings freedom. 

Likewise, our possessions, if we’re not careful, 
can take that freedom away – 
because the more we have to lose, 
the more afraid we can be to put it on the line.

Or as that great theologian Janis Joplin said, 
"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

The advice Jesus gave to that man in the Gospel wasn’t for everyone. 
He saw what that man most needed to surrender. 
For each of us, it is likely to be different. 

And this, by the way, is why we do penance, 
especially during Lent, but not only then. 
When we give up beer or candy, 
it isn’t because they’re bad; but because we love them too much. 
It’s the same question as is posed by the Gospel: 
is there anything in our lives we love so much, 
that if Jesus said, give it up, 
we’re not sure what we’d do?

Imagine Jesus said to you, today:
You are lacking in one thing.
Go, and give up…now fill in the blank.
Go and give up pictures on the Internet.
Go and give up alcohol.
Give up getting married. 
Go and give up sports.

What would we do?

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Our joy in Christ is the answer to the crisis of our times (Sunday homily)

As we know, in Rome, a group of bishops from around the world 
are gathering right now with the Holy Father, 
to discuss the challenges of marriage and family 
in these difficult times. 

How appropriate that these very readings 
will be heard by those bishops 
as they have Mass together with Pope Francis, 
as they begin their work!

We’re all aware of the deep confusion in our society 
about even these words, “marriage,” “family.” 
But the problem runs far deeper.

What I want to talk about today is the true nature of this problem; 
and the way you and I are called to respond.

There’s a growing trend to say 
that the identity of “male” and “female” 
are not really fixed, unchanging facts; 
but instead, are subject to change. 
It’s celebrated; we know what’s happening: 
folks in the politics and in entertainment 
are seeking to impose a new “normal.”

Something happened last week that shows the issue runs deeper.
This is a bizarre, sad story. 
A woman in North Carolina convinced herself 
that she was meant to be blind. 
She went to a psychologist; he agreed with her, 
and then helped her put poison in her eyes, making her blind.

Now, the common reaction was to say, “how terrible!”
But how is this really different from a man saying he’s a woman?
It’s not; it’s just the next stage of the confusion.

See, the real confusion is not what marriage is; 
but who we are: What does it mean to be human?

The first reading gives our answer: we are defined by our Creator: 
we have dignity and worth from God. 

But our society increasingly answers: we define our own existence. 
We aren’t created; we self-create.

This may seem abstract, but it’s not. 
You see, what makes a community a community 
is not that everyone agrees on everything, 
but that we agree on the essential things.
And when that consensus breaks down?
Then people who live side-by-side become strangers.
That’s where we are, and it is going to get worse.

Rebelling against God’s design for our lives isn’t new. 

In the Gospel, when the Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce, 
they wanted to settle a debate: 
could a man divorce his wife for any reason at all, 
or for only some reasons?
They were not prepared for the Lord’s answer: 
There are no excuses for ending a marriage. 
“What God has joined together, no human being must separate.” 

Now, I must pause to explain that when the Bible talks about “divorce,” 
it doesn’t make the distinctions we make today. 

Today, we use the term “divorce” solely as a question of civil law, 
and we say, OK, what happened at the courthouse 
doesn’t affect the true reality. 

It can be confusing, but there’s a good reason for this distinction. 
Sometimes a married couple has so many difficulties, 
A legal separation can become necessary.
And as strong as the Church is in favoring marriage, 
In those terrible situations, the Church will give permission 
for such a legal separation.

Still, a legal separation, a civil divorce decree, 
does not change whether a couple is married in the eyes of God.

So I’ve sketched the problem. How do we respond?

Pope Francis said something during his trip that is right on. 
He told the bishops, we can’t just look back at how things used to be. 
He’s right. We can’t just be sad. And we sure can’t be complacent.

So: what do we do?

You and I bear witness. 
And I don’t mean in a business-as-usual way. 
I mean that the moment has arrived for Catholics to be fired up, 
full-time, all-in followers and messengers of Jesus Christ. 

It isn’t easy anymore. Too bad. We can’t just look back.
In this new situation, you and I are going to have to tell people, 
patiently and repeatedly explaining what we believe and why. 
These readings are perfect for this task.

Why do we matter? Why does God care about our choices in life? 
Because we are made in his image. 

How do we know marriage is man and woman? 
Because man and woman fit together in a unique way. 
Only a man-plus-woman is “one flesh” – meaning it brings new life. 

And let me say, when people began to separate 
this one-flesh union from procreation, 
that’s when the confusion about marriage started. 
It didn’t just happen in the last few years.

This passage from Genesis was the springboard 
for Pope St. John Paul’s theology of the body. 
He taught that when a man and a woman come together, 
that union is an icon of the Trinity. 

The deacon who visited last week said it well: 
notice how love, by its very nature, 
breaks out of itself, and give life. 
The love of the Father and the Son calls forth the Holy Spirit; 
the love of a husband and wife calls forth children.

And who can fail to notice that in this Gospel passage, 
right after our Lord teaches about marriage, 
he says, “welcome children”?

As I said, we bear witness. But in a time of growing skepticism 
and even hostility toward our message, words aren’t enough. 

Our witness must be in how we live these truths; 
and not as a burden, but as a joy. 

Is that too much to ask? 
When people are facing suffering and pain, 
especially in their family life, 
how do they bear witness with joy?

We do it by realizing that our joy is not in our circumstances; 
but rather in who is with us in those circumstances!

Yes, we face crosses in our lives.
But we know that a life without the cross is a life without sacrifice; 
and a life without sacrifice is a life without love. 

Now here’s a hopeful thing: 
What I just said is everyone can understand, 
and see borne out in ordinary life. 
But do you see what God did? 
His plan – for our creation and our redemption – 
finds fulfillment in Jesus Christ! 

When Jesus came, and embraced the Cross, 
he took what was already the common destiny of all people, 
and placed at the center, as the means of our salvation. 

This is why, as Fulton Sheen said so well, 
You and I will never get anywhere 
talking about Christ without the Cross. 
But when we embrace the Cross, and live it:
That is something people will come to. 
What did Jesus say? If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me!

Our witness cannot be angry. 
I confess I feel anger about the times we live in; 
I’m sure many of us do. 

There is a place for what is called “righteous anger,” 
but the truth is, most of the time, it’s not righteous—it’s just anger. 
When’s the last time you met someone who was angry, 
and you said, “I want to be just like that person”?

Our joy comes from our faith being founded the right way: 
not on what we’re against, or even on what we believe. 
It’s important to know what we believe; 
but joy comes from knowing who we believe in. 
Knowing Jesus is real, he is our God, he is our brother, 
he is close to us, forgiving us, leading us, every day. 
That will fill us with joy and drive out anger and fear.

And here’s something else that is hopeful. 
When you and I meet people who have hope, and joy,
and fullness of life, those are people we want to be with; 
and when we are with them, we can’t help becoming more like them. 

Do you see? 

That’s how we witness. We live our joy. As Jesus said:
If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

50 H.S. boys came to dinner with the Archbishop last night...

The event was an "Andrew Dinner," at Saint Remy Parish, arranged with the help of the Archdiocesan Vocation Office. The idea is to invite boys "to come and see" as Andrew invited his brother, Simon Peter, to become a follower of the Lord.

Who were these 50 or so boys? They were from many parishes around the area; but at least 30 of them came from our parish! In my years of attending these events, I've never seen such a large turnout.

What did we do to make this happen?

Well, I don't know all that the Vocation Office did ahead of time. I know that our vocation director sent me several letters, suggesting steps to take and reminding me, so I'm assuming he did similar things with nearby parishes.

What our parish did was:

> Schedule it on the same night as religious education (in cooperation with our director of religious education); that way, the boys had to be here anyway; the dinner simply started about 90 minutes earlier, and they got out a bit earlier. (As it is, not all our high school boys attended. I invited them, encouraged them, but did not compel them.)

> We promoted it through the religious education classes, at Mass, in the bulletin. I personally invited a lot of the boys. So did many of our parishioners. I know that many of the parents pushed their boys to come.

> Several of the boys promoted it themselves! They were recruiting other boys to come!

> We prepared a poster which I sent out to area parishes.

> And, we prayed. We have Mass every Thursday morning for the intention of vocations; and we encourage people to pray for vocations all day at exposition of the Eucharist.

Oh, and one more thing: the vast majority of the boys who came from my parish are altar servers.

Will any of these boys end up being priests? Who knows? But we currently have three young men in college seminary, and I know of four high school boys, as well as a out-of-college young man, who are interested. In any case, our vocation director explained, the point isn't that everyone of them has to become a priest; but that they ask, prayerfully, what is God calling me to do with my life? I tell the boys: I have no special gift for knowing who God is calling, so I invite everyone, simply to pray and think about it.

I might add...I think this outcome is both about something good about our northern parishes, where families are strong and the faith is more central. But I also think it has a lot to do with what we've been doing in this parish for many years: strong emphasis on teaching the Faith, strong emphasis on confession, on the sacraments, and on living our Faith, and on great care to celebrate the Holy Mass with reverence.