Saturday, January 30, 2016

IU Basketball Attendance and Catholicism

A few days ago I was driving around and listening, as I usually do, to sports talk radio.  (I love Catholic radio, and listen to it as well, but there's only so many times you can listen to a priest explain purgatory to a non-Catholic)

Anyway, Don Fischer, the voice of the Indiana Hoosiers, made some very interesting and relevant comments about Indiana basketball and their attendance.

The Indiana Hoosiers are in the midst of a tremendous season and are at or near the top of the Big Ten standings.  The state of Indiana (if you hadn't heard) worships basketball.

All these factors SHOULD point to one thing - gigantic home basketball crowds.  But Fischer was lamenting that the opposite is happening.

Despite the:
1) tremendous team performance
2) a state that worships the sport and the IU team

LESS and LESS people are coming to the games.

IU, despite success, has seen a significant drop in attendance

Now, what does that have to do with Catholicism?  I submit that it has a TON of relevance for us.

To me it is quite simple why less and less people are coming.  It isn't the BEST and most stimulating thing people can do with their time anymore.  Netflix, Amazon Prime, computer and video games and the internet in general allow a person to customize and tailor ALL their entertainment to EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT.  With the opportunity to be entertained however I dang well please always being one click away whilst sitting on my couch for 9 dollars a month...why on God's green Earth would I:

1) Get in my car
2) Drive to IU
3) Pay to park
4) Pay to get in the game
5) Pay for concessions
6) Watch over the course of 2 hours for what may or may not be an exciting and climactic finish
7) Drive home

Cost: $150 or so
Cost in time: a large part of a day

I can get 90% of the experience of being at the game by watching on TV, and I'm not wasting my time or money getting there.

My brother Matt took me to a Colts game about 10 years ago.  We went back to the rectory downtown to watch the 2nd half of the game.  We both agreed it was WAY MORE enjoyable watching the game from our couch!

When everything is about the emotional pleasure that I get out of something, when all I concern myself with is entertainment, then the first thing to fall off my radar is prayer/religion/Mass etc.

Mass is boring in that it is nearly the opposite of Netflix.  Mass is other people, it is driving there, it is making time for it, it is doing a bunch of things I wouldn't do on my own, it is music that I don't normally sing, it is silence which I don't normally prefer...

So this is why Don Fischer's comments made me smile: other cultural communal experiences, which were until very recently the best way for people to experience all the pleasurable emotions and feelings that they desired...communal sporting events are now falling off the map and taking a back seat as well, and so it is good, in my mind, to watch the "attend a sports game" crash and burn as well.


Because it puts more sharply into contrast the two approaches - in a few years either I am going to sit in a bubble of entertainment and pleasure and stimulation on my couch or I am going to try God's way and go outside myself and not make my own pleasure the only reason I exist.  I will choose the cocoon of "pleasure" or I will choose to be a human being.

The sooner the middle ground between these two alternatives melts away and vanishes, the better!

A Bullet Train through Western Music

A Bullet Train Through Western Music from John Hollowell on Vimeo.

Our schola in action!  If you'd like to bring this concert to your parish, let me know.  It is a great way to help introduce parishes to what chant is, and why the Church encourages it

The Ideal Catholic Parish

St. John Vianney heard confessions as a parish priest almost all day long.  Sometimes he'd hear confessions for 14 hours a day.

We might be tempted to think that St. John Vianney didn't have much time as a pastor to do other programs (Bible studies, youth events, emails, retreats, build a social media presence, etc.) and we might be tempted to think his parish suffered.

I would submit that there are three levels of parish life

1)  The worst - virtually no confessions AND no other programs.  A parish waiting to close

2)  Middle of the road - virtually no confessions BUT there are lots of other programs happening

3)  The ideal - a parish where ALL people need is the sacraments.  At this parish, there is no need for planning all the other stuff that always gets terrible attendance because the people actually seek out and are nourished by the SACRAMENTS themselves.


"But what about stuff to bring people along?  Relying on the sacraments themselves might work for the Uber-Catholics but what about for the rookies and the fallen away?"

Response: If a parish was full of people going to confession regularly and not missing Sunday Mass, that would unleash on the community an army of people ready to help the newcomers, the fallen away Catholics, etc.

A parish with all kinds of events and religious education and retreats is not the highest form of a Catholic parish, it is a parish that hasn't quite figured out that all you really need are the Sacraments

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

America Today

I'm reading on the fall of Rome right now.  Can't help but see the similarities to what is happening in our country today.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

HOMILY - US Bishops: Abortion and Euthanasia are the "Preeminent threats" to the Body of Christ

We've hear that we are all one Body in Christ so MANY times, which is good, but we probably lose the REVOLUTIONARY nature of what St. Paul was saying.

Every culture before Christ had, in one way or another, looked at some people as "more human" and other people as "less human" or even "expendable non-humans"

Saint Paul says - "THOSE DAYS ARE OVER"

Additionally, not only does St. Paul say the days of marginalizing the weaker members of the Body of Christ over, he also says those 

"That seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor"

The Church is the immune system of the Body of Christ.  It looks for threats to the Body of Christ, threats that attack the dignity of any single member of the Body of Christ, and the Church points out those threats.

A great example of the "Church as Body of Christ immune system" is this very month that we are in right now.  January is 
1) Poverty Awareness month
2) Mid January - Migrant awareness week
3) This past week, we, for the 43rd year, remembered through prayer and fasting the anniversary of Roe v. Wade

There are a lot of ways the Body of Christ is attacked.  The Church speaks to all of the threats and attacks.

Several years ago, the bishops of the US wrote a letter addressing all these attacks to the dignity of the human person.  They mention:

1) starvation,
2) denial of health care
3) deadly violence of armed conflict and the scandalous arms trade that spawns such conflict. 
4) domestic violence,
5) the spread of drugs,
6) a reckless tampering with the world's ecological balance. 

But the document goes on: "Yet abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others.  They are committed against those who are weakest and most defenseless, those who are genuinely "the poorest of the poor." 

Military people are always assessing – “What are our GREATEST threats…most eminent threats”?
A question for us as Catholics - "Who do we listen to on this topic?"  Whose "humanity threat assessment do we utilize?"

EVERYONE believes that SOME of these threats are a problem.  But which one's are MOST EMINENT?  Some people listen to the UN on how to order these threats.  Some people listen to news outlets.  Some listen to political parties, some listen to celebrities, and some listen to Jesus through the Church He founded.
This whole assessing of threats and deciding which are most eminent leads some to say two things (which are equally wrong)

1) Some say: “We can’t speak up against abortion and euthanasia because it will water down our speaking up on the other threats against the human person.

2) Some say: “I won’t speak up against anything else except abortion and euthanasia, lest someone think I’m wavering on abortion and Euthanasia"

These are both WRONG!

We can speak up vociferously against abortion and euthanasia AND still care and work very diligently for the poor in our community.  We can speak out against abortion and euthanasia AND protect all that God has created.  

On Friday, we diverted our planned trip to Washington DC for the March for Life and instead went to Indy to avoid "snowmaggedon".  Archbishop Tobin had two beautiful homilies at our vigil and Mass for Life.

He noted the same thing that our US bishops noted several years ago - there are a lot of attacks on the Body of Christ, but he too singled out abortion and euthanasia as the two preeminent threats.  He noted that what is most troubling about them is that they are both often done by people who have been trained to bring healing and health to people.

Archbishop Tobin also talked about what we, as faithful Catholics, ought to be doing about all these issues.

“We do not fight against darkness and the culture of death with violence…but we do not take a vow of silence either, we speak the truth”

Saint Boniface:  Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf.  Let us preach the whole of God's plan to the powerful and the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season.

May the Eucharist strengthen us to preach the WHOLE of God's plan, and not just the parts that suit our politics

Saturday, January 16, 2016

WOW - Your God shall MARRY you?!?!?!

Romantic comedies that DO get it

This is inspired by a post I saw from Verily Magazine on romantic comedies that portray false ideas of love and relationships

Read their article by clicking here:

I couldn't agree more with their premise that a lot of romantic comedies teach FALSE ideas about love, relationships, etc.

I thought I would put together my own list of "rom-com-ish" films that DO convey a healthy sense of what love and relationships are.

1) Groundhog Day - I've given talks based around this film.  Bill Murray, when confronted with waking up to the same day every day, moves through a progression of
a. spending his first "repeat days" on self-indulgence
b. then he starts killing himself
c. then he tries to woo his love interest through tricks and gimmicks
d. then he starts to actually use his days to become a better person
e. this allows him to finally win the love and affection of his beloved

2) While You Were Sleeping - a beautiful presentation of what happens when we deceive others, and how lies can really complicate matters, but also, more importantly, a beautiful exploration of loneliness, and how true love and a true experience of family is what we are made for

3) Warm Bodies - I could do talks on this film all day long too.  The whole "teen guy as a zombie who can only follow instinct" is a beautiful image of what "UNvirtuous man" looks like - a walking zombie.  When our teen zombie actually meets his love interest, he starts to come back to life - again a beautiful image on the transformative power of authentic and virtuous love!  (Thanks to Sr. Helena Burns for pointing this film out to me while we were filming "The Third Way!")

4) Return to Me - another great story highlighting the fact that "you don't just marry another person, you marry their family as well" - a joyous celebration of good faithful relationships, and how love calls us out of isolation.

5) Family Man - more of a hybrid between "drama" and "rom-com" this is one of my favorite movies of all time.  Again we see the transformation that love between two people (and also the love within the larger context of family) calls us away from ourselves and isolation and loneliness and misery.  I've also used this film for many classes and presentations.

What is your list of romantic comedies that get it right?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hyperactively Slothful?

Today, some are hyperactively slothful

Sloth does not imply sitting still.  In fact, sitting still in prayer can be one of the most difficult and arduous activities we can undertake.

A person can never truly rest a moment of their lives and yet still be guilty of sloth.  Sloth is not a lack of activity, it is a lack of the right KIND of activity

Is this slothful?  No.  If you've ever tried contemplative prayer, you know better

Monday, January 11, 2016

For your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended

"For your faithful, Lord, life is changed, not ended"

- Preface I for the Dead -

Roman Missal

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fighting Bishops, Heresies, Today's Solemnity, and YOU!

Notes from my homily today that I preached off of:

Some brief history

Ecumenical council – a council working on the unity of the entire Church throughout the world

325 we had our first ecumenical council – the council of Nicea.  A priest named Arius had a teaching that had spread far and wide –

Christ was NOT God in the fullest sense – Christ was CREATED…a DEIFIED human being

OVER HALF the bishops of the world are believed to have been following Arius teaching in 325

St. Nicolas, at the council, after Arius presented his side, walked over and slapped Arius

Arius is eventually condemned and exiled.  It took many years for the people following Arius to return to the Church.  Some still hold to his teaching.  Hardly anyone has heard of his Church today.  It is insignificant.

So, there was debate, violent at times, but eventually, the Church came out and said on this question – “You are either in bounds or out of bounds, that there are things you can think and believe that are OUTSIDE the realm of the Church, things that can NOT be believed by Catholics”

Third ecumenical council involved today’s Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
431 in Ephesus

Nestorius vs. Cyril of Alexandria

Again there was fighting

Nestorius – we can’t really say Mary is the Mother of God…we can say she’s the Mother of CHRIST, but not the Mother of God

Cyril – If Mary is the Mother of Christ, she’s the Mother of God

Fracture again as some held to Nestorius view.   It took a long time, decades, for unity to return to the Church.  Today, some people still follow Nestorius’ teaching, but no one has hardly heard of them


1)      We can laugh at the violence – but do we care that much?

2)      Do we think there is an “in bounds” and an “out of bounds”? 

Do we know all the teachings of our Faith, particularly those things that the Church has definitively said “These are in bounds, and these things over here are distinctly out of bounds and not up for discussion?

The Church does allow for debate, discussion, collaboration, etc.  That’s what all the Ecumenical Councils have been – but when the Church rules definitively, are we on board?  Do we know what all those teachings are? 

3)      May 2016 be a year where we learn about those teachings, and learn the “why’s” – Formed, RCIA, etc.

A Christmas Funeral Photo

This was following a funeral I had today during the Christmas season.  The quote is the end of one of my favorite novels - "Middlemarch"

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Defeating Evil Every Day

A Catechetical Homily on the Year of Mercy

I have combed through "Year of Mercy" info, web pages, resources etc. and here's a condensed version of the best
1) This past Sunday was the "Jubilee of Families" - an invitation for families to get involved more directly with the Year of Mercy. Our bishops are asking families to: 1 - go to confession as a family 2 - pray a Psalm together as a family 3 - learn the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and then pick one of each to do AS A FAMILY 4 - Have a time where the family sits down and asks for forgiveness of one another for things done to each other in the past that have not been explicitly apologized for 5 - Travel to the Holy door in your diocese and engage in the prayers and so forth that are part of that pilgrimage. Here's a link to the USCCB guide for families:
Here's a GREAT short document that families can use when making a pilgrimage to the Holy Door:…/RESOURCE-FOR-THE-PASSAGE-OF-THE-H…
Our Archdiocese of Indianapolis has absolutely HIT IT OUT OF THE PARK with a booklet they put together for the Year of Mercy. I'm printing it up for all of my parishioners. It is something I hope EVERY diocese and Catholic is able to use. BRAVO to our Archdiocesan team that created this. PLEASE print this off for yourself and consider printing off some copies for others and handing them out as well. I hope every priest is able to utilize this booklet for their parishes because it is VERY well done:…/Archdiocese%20of%20Indianapolis%2…
Our Archdiocese also has a website with a lot of useful links all in one place:
Finally, here is a set of 8 books for 40 dollars that I am ordering from OSV. "Mercy in the Fathers of the Church" "Mercy in the Saints" "Mercy from the Popes" and 5 other great titles. I think this will be a tremendous help for preaching mercy throughout the year. Lay people would also find these books VERY helpful and informative and enlightening:

Friday, December 25, 2015

What my Goddaughter Taught Me About Christ and Christmas

Something happened about six months ago in my life, and I knew, when it happened, that I would be preaching about it at Christmas.  I don’t normally plan out my homilies six months in advance, but I knew in that moment that I would be talking about it today

To set the scene a little bit, I’m the oldest of 11 children, and my Mom and Dad have a standing invitation to whomever is around to come over for Sunday dinner.  When DePauw is in session, I’m not able to make it as I have Sunday night Mass, but usually in the Summer, if it is a slow Sunday evening, I’ll head over for dinner.

We have a huge table in my parents’ dining room.  My Dad actually made it by hand and he wasn’t a carpenter or anything, so I still remember when he was out in the yard making the table.  We all gave him hard time…”Dad, what are you doing, you don’t know how to make a table.”  It was kind of like Noah building the ark, and we were all the people heckling him.  But anyway, it worked, and the table is about 75 feet long, and it has been around for 20 plus years now.  There is room for everyone, and dinners around the table are a great thing.

So this one particular Sunday night in July we were gathered for dinner, and around our big table there were a couple of conversations going on at either end of the table, and I was sitting in the middle just kind of listening to both conversations.  I was going to offer something if it seemed relevant, but I didn’t feel like I had anything to add, so I just kind of listened and enjoyed being in the presence of my family.

So I have 5 nieces and nephews and one of my nieces is also my goddaughter.  Her name is Lucy.  She’s about one year old, and she can’t talk yet, and I am kind of partial here, but I think she’s at least tied for cutest child in the world.  Most of you probably know some kids that are tied for that award as well.

As I was looking back and forth to both ends of the table, at one point I noticed my goddaughter Lucy, sitting on her mom’s lap, and she was just staring at me smiling from ear to ear with a twinkle in her eye.  And in that moment I was struck by a lot of things, and I also recognized, as I thought about it, that, out of my peripheral vision, she had been staring at me for a minute or so, just waiting for me to look in her direction.  And I realized in that moment – this is how God looks at me.  And I was taken back, in that moment, to Christmas and the Christ child and the fact that Christ became a baby.  Not just a human being who came down on a chariot, but instead he became a child.  And so Christ looks at me in the same way that Lucy does.  Lucy, as awesome as she, is not God.  She doesn’t love me as much as Jesus does.  Jesus looks at me in the same way as Lucy does, if not with a bigger smile and with more love, if that’s possible.

Last night and this morning, Churches around the world are overflowing.  And I think one of the reasons for that is that people, when they see the Christ child, they say themselves, “That is a God that I can get; that’s a God that I understand; that’s a God that resonates with me; a God that smiles at me as a child, that loves me and looks on me with that same look.”

The problem is that moving forward, next weekend and so forth moving forward, the crowds will die out a little bit, and I think one of the main reasons for that is that we forget that Christ still looks at us this way ALL THE TIME!  When we grow older, and we hit the terrible twos, and then we become teens, and we get that angst, and we keep growing, and our hearts harden and we develop this thick skin, and we change, not always for the better.  I think a lot of people think, ourselves included, that Jesus went through all of this growth and change too.  He grew into angst and bitterness and became mean.  We think the Jesus changed, so we stop coming to Church.  But God does not change.  Jesus did grow up and become grumpy or embittered or hardened.  He didn’t grow into being some sort of disciplinarian who is mad at us.  So many of us have the wrong image of God in our minds, and those wrong images keep us from authentic spiritual encounter, authentic spiritual growth.  Those false images of Christ keep us from Church, from prayer.  They might think of God in an image that I reference a lot – the P.E. teacher.  Maybe I need to see a counselor about my P.E. Teacher because I use that image a lot, but I actually had a great p.e. teacher, but anyways…the image of a person standing over you saying “GIVE ME ONE MORE BEATTITUDE” and “Don’t forget the 10 commandments!”  and “You’re bad” and “You’re in trouble and you have to go see the dean”…many people think of God, the Church, and Jesus in that way…they forget that Christ looks on us as a child…we forget.

We’ve all heard that phrase “May we keep Christmas in our heart year round” and I think what that means is “remember this Nativity scene year round”…remember that Jesus looks at us with that same smile that a child looks at us with.  And no matter what we do, no matter what sins we commit, we can turn from the Christ Child, but He doesn’t turn from us.  We might not notice the smile of the Christ Child, Jesus looking at us with His infinite love, but He doesn’t stop.  We can commit sins, we can do things where we can definitively turn away, but God doesn’t do that.  Christ ALWAYS looks at us with the same smile, hoping to catch our attention, hoping to catch our eye, hoping to get us to smile back.

Before I looked at Lucy that night, I wasn’t smiling. I wasn’t in a bad mood, but I wasn’t smiling, but when I caught her eye, it warmed my heart, and it changed me and I was able to smile too.

So as we think about these things, what I’d like you to do, in this moment, is just to think of whatever sufferings you might be going through right now, call to mind the crosses that you are carrying right now.  I’d also like you to call to mind any teachings of Jesus that you find to be a challenge, any teachings of the Church that you say “I’m not sure I like that, I’m not sure I agree with that, I’m not sure I get it.”  Instead of thinking of that coming from a disciplinarian, or from drill instructor or from a P.E. teacher, I want you to think of it instead being said by the smiling Christ Child “I’m asking you to carry thins cross, to endure this suffering, to follow this teaching even though you may not get it, you may not fully understand it.”  If we hear it coming from a child, with a big smile on His face, saying “Trust me I love you” it is so much to follow Him and to trust

And so we pray that we may be people who keep Christmas year round, and not just today, that we may help spread that Good News that Jesus looks on us with the smile of a loving child.  And we pray that we may also bring other people to encounter that same Jesus.

We pray that what we celebrate today, the prayers, the Eucharist, everything that we’re here doing, that it may help us keep Christmas year round, and not just today.

"Hello from the other side!"