Monday, December 15, 2014

One of the Scariest Things I Do

One of the scariest things I do as a priest is my annual retreat.

Canon Law requires that priests take a retreat once a year, and I always try to take mine during Advent.  It helps me:

1) rest up for Christmas

2) get my homilies for Christmas, January 1, Holy Family, Epiphany, the Baptism of the Lord, etc. together

3) Advent is my favorite time of year and the perfect time for a retreat

That being said, it is also terrifying, and as it gets closer, I get really nervous.

It is really hard to go from 100 mph to contemplation/meditation/prayer.

It is very similar to what most of you all experience as well.  Our daily lives keep us hopping, and "finding time for God" is hard.

I also think, however, that there is a big part of us that WANTS to be distracted because, at least subconsciously, we are AFRAID of what we will find when we encounter Christ in the silence.

There is the beautiful passage from Scripture about the Prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19:

“Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle"

Silence is terrifying, and I always am nervous about heading into it.

I also know it is exactly what I need and the Church is wise to instruct Her priests to "head for the silence" and to be still with God.

Keep me in your prayers this week, and know of mine for all of you!

God bless!
Fr. John Hollowell

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Awesome New Effort from Tekton Ministries

This is a very well done short promo about an effort to help Catholic parishes evangelize and bring the Gospel to all nations.  If your parish could use some help in this area, pass this video on to your pastor!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Missing Mass and Leaving the Church

I've had a very similar conversation with several different people at multiple parish assignments.

The same person will ask two questions maybe a few days or weeks or months apart:

1) "Father, why do you talk about missing Mass and mortal sin?  It's so off-putting and mean."

and then, at some other point:

2) "Father, why have my kids stopped going to Mass?"


If no one tells the next generation that going to Mass is SERIOUSLY important, and that their salvation is on the line, then why would they go?

Canon Law, 1247:  "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass."

The Catechism, 2180: "The faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants)...Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin."

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."  Proverbs 22:6

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Mass in honor of St. Francis Xavier

4 Minute Advent Retreat - Day 2

In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, today we deviate from the Lectionary to use the particular readings for our Patron Saint Francis Xavier.  Saint Francis Xavier preached to India and other areas of India, bringing countless souls to Christ

Excerpt from the readings for St. Francis Xavier: "If I preach the Gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!" (1 Corinthians 9:17)


"Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15)

Reflection: Christ has sent you to preach to all people of the Earth as well - who is God asking you to preach to today?  Who is in need of hearing from you about the good news that can only hear from you?

Advent hymn for the day: "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus"

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Our Annunciation food pantry, doing miraculous things on a budget of about $3,000 a year, is up for a $20,000 grant.  All we need is votes!

You can vote once a day for the next 10 days.  Here is how you can help:

1) Click on the following link:

2) Click on the button that has you log in with your Facebook account

3) At the bottom of the page in the search bar, type in "Indiana" and our Annunciation pantry will come up

4) Click on Annunciation SVDP to vote for us

5) Repeat once a day for the next 8 days

Our county is VERY poor and our parishioners are doing AMAZING work feeding 50-60 families a week with groceries.  We could REALLY use your help.  Thanks so much!

Monday, December 1, 2014

4 Minute Advent Retreat Day 1

Scripture excerpt from the daily readings:

"I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11)

Reflection: With the coming of Christ, the chosen people are no longer just the Jews but all of humanity.  The Gospels suggest that this "preaching and calling of all nations" will take place mostly DESPITE the efforts of Catholics more so than BECAUSE OF the work of Catholics.  What are we doing to help call ALL people to the Church, the Bride of Christ?  Do I think it matters if a person is even Catholic?  Do I know people at work, do I know friends or family, do I have friends who are STARVING to know God but need me to invite them?  

Is Advent a time where I simply think of it as me preparing myself for the return of the King or do I see it as an opportunity to reach out and help others properly prepare themselves for the return of the King as well?

Read the day's entire readings by clicking HERE

Advent song for the day: 

hymn words:
 Wake, O wake, and sleep no longer,
For he who calls you is no stranger;
Awake, God's own Jerusalem!
Hear, the midnight bells are chiming
The signal for his royal coming:
Let voice to voice announce his name!
We feel his footsteps near,
The Bridegroom at the door--
Alleluia! The lamps will shine
With light divine
As Christ the savior comes to reign.
2 Zion hears the sound of singing;
Our hearts are thrilled with sudden longing;
She stirs, and wakes, and stands prepared.
Christ, her friend, and lord, and lover,
Her star and sun and strong redeemer--
At last his mighty voice is heart.
The Son of God has come
To make with us his home:
Sing Hosanna! The fight is won,
The feast begun;
We fix our eyes on Christ alone.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Waiting" and "Watching" are a "Yes" not a "No"

A Beautiful (and short) Reflection on "Waiting" by Pope Benedict XVI


The question is: Is the humanity of our time still waiting for a Savior? One has the feeling that many consider God as foreign to their own interests. Apparently, they do not need him. They live as though he did not exist and, worse still, as though he were an “obstacle” to remove in order to fulfill themselves. Even among believers—we are sure of it—some let themselves be attracted by enticing dreams and distracted by misleading doctrines that suggest deceptive shortcuts to happiness. Yet, despite its contradictions, worries and tragedies, and perhaps precisely because of them, humanity today seeks a path of renewal, of salvation, it seeks a Savior and awaits, sometimes unconsciously, the coming of the Savior who renews the world and our life, the coming of Christ, the one true Redeemer of man and of the whole of man.

---Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience December 20, 2006

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

If Catholic hymn writers wrote the "Harry Potter" film music

Catholics invented chant and modern music notation and so forth.  It sprang up out of the Mass and served the Mass for hundreds of years.  And we have turned to childish ditties precisely in an age where people in the culture are clamoring for chant, including Hollywood.

Fact: There is a drama taking place in the Mass
Fact: There is an objective way to musically convey drama
Fact: There is an objective way to musically NOT convey drama
Fact: Most Catholic Churches have chosen to NOT musically convey drama
Fact: Most Catholics willingly admit in surveys that they have no idea what is going on at Mass
Fact: Most Catholics would say there is NOTHING dramatic happening at Mass

On the opposite end of the cultural spectrum, let's look at two Hollywood examples:

1) Harry Potter part 6 - the epic dramatic showdown.  Guess what music they use.  Yep.

Latin choral polyphony/chant (exactly what Catholics are supposed to be using at Mass)

2) Star Wars showdown  (Guess what they use: Latin choral polyphony/chant)

We could play this game all day long.  The point is Hollywood uses our "inventions", and Holywood is highly effective at conveying a sense of drama (evidenced by the billions they take in each year).  We have largely quit using these tools...and we wonder why people say Mass is boring?

Maybe we should stop treating everyone like they are spiritual morons, and let Church music be Church music.

If most current Catholic hymn writers would have been tasked with writing the music for Harry Potter, it would have gone something like this:

(cue the ukulele, banjo, and tambourine.  Upbeat.  Fast tempo.  clapping preferred)
"'s okay...we're glad you're here...
to watch our movie
Everyone is welcome!

What's going on here
Is Harry Potter is the good guy
And so is Dumbledore
And Voldemort's the bad guy
Because he wants to kill Harry

And Harry dies...but it's okay
Because he rises don't be sad"

Maybe the new evangelization should start with "old" music???

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why Doesn't the Church Ordain Women

This is from the papal theologian, who also taught me moral theology in Rome.  This is very informative.

The Church on preventing domestic violence, and helping those in it

Click HERE to download and/or view a free .pdf file that can be used as a bulletin insert and/or pamphlet.  It is succinct and has lots of good information

Click HERE to read the 2002 Bishop's letter on domestic violence

Priests and parish administrators can order information cards for their parishioners by clicking HERE

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Belated Veteran's Day Thank You To Our Vets and Soldiers!

A Profile of a True Hero - Coach Bruce Scifres

The Catholic community on the South Side of Indianapolis has a proclivity for producing a bunch of young men who are about 5' 9" and 155 pounds.  Sure we've had a guy or two play division one football, but it is quite clear that the "measureables" that most coaches would look for to build an insanely successful high school football program are NOT present in the South Side Catholic community.

That's where coach Bruce Scifres comes in.

A "vocation" takes on an infinite number of forms, and one of the greatest examples to me of a person who has responded to a call from God also happens to be one of my heroes - my head football coach when I was in high school - Coach Bruce Scifres.

Coach Scifres with his wife Jackie
Coach Scifres has been the head football coach at Roncalli High School since 1990, and has led the Rebels to 6 states championships.  But infinitely more important than the on-field success is the spiritual foundation that Coach Scifres has laid in the lives of hundreds of young men over the last 20+ years.

I don't remember hardly any of the X's and O's I learned about football, but I do remember the Senior Scripture reflections on Thursday nights, Coach telling us to tell our parents we love them, Coach leading us in the Saint Patrick Breastplate Prayer before heading out on the field, and Coach leading us in prayer after the game, win or lose.  He modeled for us what being a father, a coach, a husband, and a teacher could look like when lived well.

I don't know the details, but I know Coach Scifres had TONS of offers to coach elsewhere and make a lot more money.  However, I think at some point in his life, Coach Scifres realized that he had a vocation to coach at Roncalli, and as we all know, you don't mess with God when God calls you to something!

In a profession where even kids' parents can place too much emphasis on winning, Coach has managed to continue to adapt to an ever-evolving game while never neglecting his belief that it is his mission to release young men out into the world who are great people, not just great athletes.

"We pray, win or lose!"

Rebel Football alums have had Coach as their best man in their weddings, offer reflections at their funerals, and read at their first Mass as a priest.

Coach Scifres isn't just a football coach, he is a father, and he built a family that endures to this day and it is a family that is built on God and on Love.

Tonight an undersized and underdog Roncalli football team will be taking on the number one team in the state. Coach Scifres has led teams into these types of games many times.  He's won a lot more of them than he's lost.

My brothers have all graduated, and I no longer know hardly any of the players that are on the team anymore.  So tonight I look forward to going out and cheering on the Rebels, but really I feel like I'm going mostly to cheer on and support a man who has given so much of himself for me.  And I know that tonight, win or lose, Coach Scifres is forming another group of young men who will soon be unleashed upon the world infinitely more ready to be fathers, husbands, parishioners, and leaders than had they not played football for Coach Bruce Scifres.

Thanks for everything Coach!

P.S. - If you are looking for some inspiration in your life, Coach has authored two books.  Clink on either image to order a copy.  They are phenomenal!

Coach also has a GREAT site with posters, t-shirts and other materials that make great gifts for all ages.  The site also has some great tips for fathers and coaches.  Check it out by clicking here:

There are some beautiful reflections that have been done about Coach Scifres through the years:

A great article from our diocesan newspaper "The Criterion" - click HERE to read

Former player Casey Bolsega wrote a great article called "Faith, Love and Football" - click HERE to read Casey's article