Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Peek Inside a Seminary

(Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church and Seminary - looks very Hogwartsesque, don't you think?)

I was on Saint Meinrad's website the other day looking for an address and I came across my former rector's blog. Fr. Denis Robinson, OSB (Order of Saint Benedict) was my former spiritual director and professor and someone I admire deeply. When I clicked on his blog, he had posted his opening remarks to the all the men in the seminary this year at St. Meinrad and it was very refreshing for me to read over. It caused me to do some good soul searching about my own service as a priest as well.

If you've ever wondered what kind of things go on at the seminary, this speech by Fr. Denis is GREAT reading. Click here to peruse.

Monday, August 30, 2010

My Child CHOOSES to come to Mass!

Occasionally I hear parents bragging about the fact that they let their children decide for themselves whether or not they want to come to Mass. The rationale for such a parenting move follows shortly after - "In two years they are going to be on their own anyways, I want them to learn to decide for themselves." This is often assumed by all listening to be the default enlightened position.

Let's think about the logic for a minute, though. First of all, there is the issue that missing Mass is a mortal sin. No one lets their kid play with a revolver and then expect to be congratulated for being a fantastic and truly forward thinking parent.

Secondly, how about letting them decide for themselves...when it is time for them to decide for themselves? They are going to be on their own at the age of 18 (most likely) - let them choose then. No parent stops the development process in any other area prematurely to help prepare them for adulthood...when they are still developing.

There are two scenarios that can happen when a parent lets their kids decide about going to Mass:
1) A kid chooses to go to Mass on their own at age 16. This is great, but that kid being forced to go to Mass wouldn't change their decision when they made it to college - so they would still go to Mass when they move on from home.

2) A kid doesn't choose to go to Mass on their own at age 16. This kid is in mortal sin, the parents are complicit in that sin, and the kid is doing something that they will just continue to do after they leave home. What if that extra 2 years of development and being made to go to Church is what turns that kid into an authentic, church-going Catholic? What if they hear, in those two years of subjected, eye-rolling Mass attending, a homily that changes their life? Even if being made to go to Mass doesn't change the kid's life, and they decide, at 18, to stop going to Mass on their own, there has been nothing lost by making them go to Mass from ages 16-18 because they were not going to end up going to Mass at age 18 anyways.

Either way, the only logical choice is to keep the kids going to Church, and to make that a non-negotiable.

Instead of being truly forward thinking, parents who let their kids choose whether or not they want to go to Mass probably just don't want to deal with the hassle of getting tough on them and getting them out of bed. Growing up in the Hollowell home, we never had to pay rent or anything like that, even when we came home from college. However, my parents were firm on one thing, "if you are staying in this house, on Sunday you will be going to Mass." I thank God everyday for that mandate, and I never mourn the fact that I lost out on being a completely actualized, completely independent, and completely informed Mass attendee at the age of 16.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Catholics Ashamed of Church Teaching....

In the seminary, we had a fake news bulletin that went up on the walls around the School of Theology at St. Meinrad. I was the editor for a few years, and contributed for five. I loved it!

This was my favorite story I ever wrote, even though it got me called into the vice-rector's office for a chat (it was friendly!)

The fake story hints at the idea that Catholics who hate all Church teaching will welcome and be friendly toward anyone BUT a Catholic who actually embraces Church teaching. I though I'd include the fake story on the blog. Enjoy!

Association For Catholics Who Are Ashamed Of The Church Issue Statement
AP – Devils Corner, Arizona - The Association For Catholics Who Are Ashamed Of The Church (AFCWAAOTC) issued a joint doctrinal statement that was the result of a week of very important and worthwhile meetings held in conjunction with the Coalition of Catholics Who Despise Church Teaching (CCWDCT). The statement read “We firmly acknowledge that Daoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Wicca, Mormonism, Voodoo, and Unorthodox Catholicism as equally valid ways to salvation. We also would like to state that the only invalid way to attain salvation has been determined to be the practice of Orthodox Catholicism.”
Steve Rupinski, the spokesman for the organizations, was asked if it seemed ironic that the only people the statement portrayed as wrong are fellow Catholics. Rupinski noted that “Yes, everyone is indeed cool with whatever they got going on, but we are very concerned about the spiritual practices and devotions of those who actually lovingly embrace Catholicism.”
Rupinski went on to note: “Whether your bag is offering human sacrifice to Ra, waiting on the celestial return of Sun Young Moon, or if you preach the message of Zoroastrianism, our motto is – “Hey, it all works baby.” However, if a Catholic thinks that a Mass can vary aesthetically – or that the Church in Rome in anyway is actually related to the True Church of Jesus Christ - we draw a clear line in the sand. That sort of piety and love for worship is clearly out of bounds, and points people in a closed off trajectory away from salvation.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Class

As a way to crack down on kids missing class whenever they feel like it, I decided to film my classes this year, and in order to make the class up, they are supposed to watch my class online and hand me a one page typed summary of the class.

I may post them on here throughout the year because it is an easier way for them to watch them. I doubt any of you would be interested in watching an hour-long class, but I will title them so if there is a topic you are interested in you can "look in" on class.

Finally, the lights are off in the room to keep it a little cooler. The room lacks AC, so it is a bit muggy right now.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Opening Homily to Ritter Students

Bullying and Gossip are weak words, they sound like they don't do much damage. Is that really true?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

So Much for Tolerance

There was a very well put together editorial by Debra Saunders in Friday's Indystar. The editorial was titled "So Much For Tolerance." In the editorial, Saunders makes the point that those who claim to be for "tolerance" are the same people who usually use the government to club to death Christianity in this country. My favorite snippet section:

"Consider the track record of San Francisco. In 1993, the Board of Supervisors ousted a Christian minister from the Human Rights Commission because he said the Bible says homosexuality is a sin. In 2002, San Francisco Superior Court judges voted to ban judges from being members of the Boy Scouts because of the Scouts' refusal to admit gays. City Hall has leaned on Catholic Charities to renounce church doctrine in order to receive city funds to care for the sick.

The above stories aren't about private citizens trying to shame an individual or a congregation into changing course. They are about using the government as a club to muzzle certain views.

So it's more than ironic to watch the same folks who jump all over devout Christians now rush to Muslims' defense

You can read the whole article by clicking here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

If You Are Going to Get a Bible Verse Tattoo...

Fridays are a day where I'm trying to find more light-hearted stories. This is definitely one of those!

If you are going to get a tattoo of a Bible verse on your body, you might want to make sure that it isn't heretically wrong-worded! The above photo appeared in Indy's newspaper and features the stomach of IU receiver Damarlo Belcher. The verse tattooed on his stomach is John 3:16. which is supposed to say "for God so loved the world He sent His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life."

Belcher's tattoo, missing the important words "might not" instead reads "for God so loved the world He sent his one and only son THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM PERISH." That would have been quite a different verse and NOT NOT NOT what the authors intended!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Animals are really really really smart!

I was sitting in the doctor's office a few days ago, and I picked up Newsweek magazine. This is always a dangerous thing for me, but I did it anyways. The cover was titled something to the effect of "Animals: They Are Smarter Than We Think."

Start keeping track of how many stories you hear like this from Newsweek, NPR, and the nightly news shows. These stories are always the same - animals are really smart, so smart, it is implied, that in actuality they may not be any different from humans.

These stories are very similar to the Bigfoot and Loch Ness Monster shows on TV. The commercials for these shows makes it sound like there is new evidence out there that proves that "Nessy" or Bigfoot is real, but we know it is not actually the case. The same goes for these "news" stories about animals.

The question to consider is this - why would the media and scientists and so forth spend all this time and money to try and make it seem like animals are smart? The answer is pretty clear - if animals are just as smart as us, then human beings are not as special as the Bible says we are, and so we don't have to listen to God anymore because we are just a random collection of highly structured cellular mass.

The stories are never actually news though. I always promise to read the article when an ape paints something one billionth as impressive as your average painting at a local art museum, or when an animal writes or performs a piece of music one billionth as beautiful as the music one might here at a local symphony. However, the stories usually feature an ape learning to grunt for a second banana or that a dog is shown to be sad when its parent dies. The feats on the part of animals in these stories are usually comical if you step back and think about it for a moment.

Anyone who deals in reality should be able to admit to a few basic things that most of the media seems to want to downplay
A) Human beings possess something that makes them quantumly different from the rest of the animals that are around them.
B) Animals are created and have life but are not ANYWHERE close to being like human beings
C) The difference between mankind and the rest of the created world is almost infinite

There is no missing link between animals and mankind; the difference between possessing a mortal soul (being made in the image and likeness of God) and not possessing those things is infinite. But the news media will continue to try to let us believe otherwise, thus freeing us from the responsibility inherent in having such a great gift.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Best Year of My Life

Tomorrow, the young people of Cardinal Ritter High School report for duty. It is an exciting time for sure, although the Summer just did not last very long! Although I'm over two months in to my second year of priesthood, this feels to me like tomorrow is the start of my second year as a priest. I wanted to share some thoughts about this past year with all of you.

This past year was the best year of my life. St. Augustine said that "Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, oh God" and I felt like my life was restless until the priesthood. Even in the seminary and teaching at Chatard (which both felt to me as though I was doing God's Will) I felt a restlessness about my life - a feeling that I was not quite where I was meant to be yet. That is no longer the case, and it has been pretty amazing to settle in to the priesthood. I don't mean that I'm done growing (I know I have weak spots, some that I'm not even aware of yet), what I mean is that this priesthood things just feels like it fits.

I'd like to thank some people for helping me in my transition. First of all, my family and friends have been awesome. I haven't been able to see them (especially my good friends) as much as I'd like, but they don't hold that against me. Fr. Joe has been a great priest to start out working under. He understands that my time is to be spent mostly at Ritter, and he does a wonderful job respecting that. I'm also a guy who unwinds by reading and being quiet at the end of the day, and he's also very respectful of that. It has been wonderful. I hear a lot of nightmare first assignments for young priests around the country, but mine has been great.

The people at Cardinal Ritter have been awesome! The staff is fun and energetic, and I can honestly say that every morning heading in to work I'm excited to get the day going. The people at Malachy have also been great. Everyone told me I'd probably have a hard time at Malachy because of how I view the Church and Church teachings, but it has been super easy. I have loved being in the parish on the weekends and living in the parish.

It was a fantastic first year of priesthood and I'll be most fortunate if all my future years even get close to this first year of being a priest.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mass Alone?

Is it right for a priest to celebrate Mass by himself? This question is something that people have been discussing in some circles since the Council. The Council allows priests to concelebrate together, but what about when a priest finds himself alone? What about if a priest has a day away from his parish and can't make a local parish Mass? Should he say Mass by himself or not?

There is a beautiful prayer that the priest prays in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass which I think should clear this issue up a bit. When offering the bread up to the Father (in the Ordinary Form, we say, "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation..."). The prayer is as follows:

Accept, O Holy Father, Almighty and eternal God, this spotless Host, which I, Your unworthy servant offer unto You, my living and true God; for my innumerable sins, offenses and negligences and for all here present; as also for all faithful Christians, living and dead; that it may avail us and them unto life everlasting, Amen.

The prayers change and evolve, but the theology of the Mass does not. The Mass is offered for the living and the dead for the priest and all people, throughout the world - just like the sacrifice on Calvary - oh wait, one is a making present of the other! What an awesome thing! I now visualize the Mass as a nuclear bomb of grace going off, and I think it a shame to prevent that from happening just because a priest might have to offer up the Mass alone.

The General Instruction on the Roman Missal, No. 254, says, "Mass should not be celebrated without a minister or at least one of the faithful, except for a just and reasonable cause." Is there a better cause then wanting to help bring about the salvation of the living and the dead?

The Mass is awesome!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Do you "moan" over the sins of our land?

I'd like to briefly reflect on the first reading from Mass yesterday. I'm sure I'd heard it before, but it struck such a chord in me, especially during these times. I'd like to include pieces of it because most do not have time to go to daily Mass. It is from the prophet Ezekiel:

"The LORD cried loud for me to hear: Come, you scourges of the city! With that I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate which faces the north, each with a destroying weapon in his hand...Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and mark a “Thau” on the foreheads of those who moan and groan over all the abominations that are practiced within it... Pass through the city after him and strike! Do not look on them with pity nor show any mercy! Old men, youths and maidens, women and children–wipe them out! But do not touch any marked with the “Thau”; begin at my sanctuary."

WOW!!! Many things to note here.
A) The people that are saved are the people who CARE about what is going on in the city (the nation). A question for sincere reflection - do I "moan and groan" over the extreme sins of our land? Do I even think there are any abominations in our land? If I do, do I care enough to make some noise about it? I think the phrase "moan and groan" means something along the lines of this: does it bother you, in the depth of your soul, when you look around and see what is going on today in our country?

B) Priests and those who work in and for the Church should take note - the Lord says "begin at my sanctuary." He is saying strike down first and foremost those priests and leaders who are charged with "moaning and groaning" and who are charged with pointing out to people the things that they ought to be disturbed about, start with them. I hope it was the wake up call for my brother priests that this was for me.

Let us love this country enough to work for change while not losing hope because we know the final victory will be ours.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Prop 8 and the Church

Things are starting to really get scary.

One judge can apparently overrule the will of the people in the largest state in the country. Any person who has seen one episode of Law and Order knows that this hearing on Proposition 8 and its "fact finding nature" was a mockery of the judicial branch and separation of powers.

I also should say that I have long believed that faithful Catholics will one day soon be EXTREMELY persecuted for teaching the Church's stance on homosexuality and I think we are heading towards the great battle of our time. The opportunities for rejoicing in the gift of being deemed worthy of suffering are near for faithful Catholics.

As the Federal Government and activist judges continue to whiteout significant portions of the Constitution and make a mockery of the word "law", let us calmly and thoroughly look at what the Catholic Church actually says about homosexuality.

For the Church, to have a homosexual or heterosexual desire is NOT a sin. If I allow that desire, heterosexual or homosexual, to turn into lust - it IS a sin.

If I engage in heterosexual activity outside of marriage - mortal sin.
If I engage in homosexual activity outside of marriage - mortal sin.

Pretty simple. The problem a lot of people have is when the Church says that homosexual desires are "intrinsically disordered." Both words cause problems for people; let's look at the word "disordered" first. Here it is important to be clear - the Church does not say homosexuality is A DISORDER, the Church says it is DISORDERED. There is a huge difference! To be disordered means that it isn't properly oriented; it isn't leading to something good. Homosexual desire (as well as homosexual sex) is said to be disordered; not oriented toward something good. Let's be clear here, though. HETEROSEXUAL SEX OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE OR THAT UTILIZES CONTRACEPTION IS DISORDERED AS WELL!! Having an affair with your neighbor's wife is not oriented toward something good, nor is using contraception, even within marriage.

The other word is problematic as well; let's look at "intrinsic" now. Heterosexual sex is not slapped with the label INTRINSICALLY wrong (wrong by its very nature) because sometimes (although seemingly less and less in our society) heterosexual sex can be properly oriented - that is between a man and a woman who have promised before God and community to stay together for the rest of their lives and who are entering into the marital act without reservation or the obstruction of contraception and are willing, if God allows it, to bring forth a child from that act. That's the reason homosexual activity is "intrinsically" disordered - it can never be properly oriented, whereas heterosexual sex can be properly oriented (although, again, sadly, very rarely does heterosexual activity in our society rise to the level of being properly oriented).

The question becomes this, "If you say homosexual activity is intrinsically disordered, are you saying I, a homosexual, am supposed to be cured? Should I be shipped off to a reeducation camp? Are you saying I have a disease? Are you saying my homosexuality is something I've chosen?"

If these questions were put to me by a person coming to talk, my response would NEVER be "yep, you've got a problem, and we've got to get you fixed up right now." The Church acknowledges over and over that many who have homosexual desires do not think they are choosing to have those desires. The Church says, quite rightly, that the vast majority of people with homosexual desires do not experience themselves as CHOOSING to have those desires. the way to be present to people struggling with homosexuality is through the understanding that what they are struggling with, to them, is certainly something that is beyond their choosing.

Psychologists say that between 90 and 95% of our motivations for the things we do in our lives comes from our subconscious. The subconscious is that realm of stuff that we are not aware of even when we think reflectively about ourselves. So if someone says, "I can't help the fact that I look at women lustfully (a thought I had in my high school days during boring Chemistry classes)" they may in fact MEAN that; they may in fact experience their lust to be something that they really DO NOT have power over - although, over time one may realize that their assessment of their powerlessness was in fact off base.

People bristle when they hear on Catholic radio or see advertisements for counselors or psychologists who are willing to work with someone struggling with homosexuality because people think that the Church thinks everyone needs "fixing." The Church says, however, that the first thing is to be there to support the person, whatever their state in life. You can't MAKE someone go to a psychiatrist and get "fixed" unless they want it. They have to come to the realization that what they thought was beyond their control is, in fact, not beyond their control. If someone came to me as a priest and said they were struggling with homosexuality, again, I wouldn't say, "Okay, let me give you a number of someone who can fix you." (click here to read the Church's brief but clear statement on the "pastoral care of homosexual persons," written by then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict).

This is where we, as Catholics, differ from some of our Protestant brothers and sisters who DO often take the approach that people experiencing homosexual desires need to be "fixed" as soon as possible.

For me, the Church's teaching on homosexuality, Her pastoral approach to persons while possessing the courage to stand up and label certain things as sins, both of these aspects remind me how awesome it is to be Catholic! Let's pray that the Truth will reign in our discussions on this issue throughout our country in the coming months and years, and may we work to help people understand what the Church ACTUALLY says on the issue instead of letting news outlets and activist judges do that for us.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

News Report on My Grandpa

To share some of where and who I come from, I thought I'd post this video on my Grandfather. Thanks to Doug Kuffner from Fox 7 in Evansville for sending me this and for allowing me to post it. It sums up my Grandpa's approach to football.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Girl Altar Servers?

This past weekend I had the honor of marrying my brother (as in performing the ceremony) out in Chantilly VA, which is a suburb of D.C. Chantilly is part of the Arlington, VA Diocese. My sister was going to serve at the Wedding Mass until we learned that Arlington doesn't allow girl altar servers.

So where does the Church stand on this issue?

The duty of serving at the altar has long been one that the Church has thought of as fostering priestly vocations. A letter in 1994 (click here to read the letter, and here to read the 2001 follow-up) from Rome was the first to allow the possibility of having girls serve at the altar. Nonetheless, the letter did not require bishops to allow girls to serve.

Rome has given bishops the option of allowing girls to serve, although Rome does not require it of any bishop. Even if a bishop allows it in his diocese, it is still up to the pastor to allow girls to serve in each individual parish. If a bishop does not allow girls to serve, then that decision can not be adjusted by a priest within that diocese.

So a girl wishing to serve at Mass has two hurdles to clear. If her bishop is okay with it then her pastor needs to also be okay with it.

Why would a pastor not require it? Wouldn't it help foster religious vocations among women?

First of all, about the fostering of religious vocations - religious sisters do not serve in the sanctuary, where as priests do, so letting a young girl serve does not give her a taste of what religious life would be like for her, where as it does give a young man a taste of what religious life would be like for him.

Secondly, when you allow girls to serve, the guys who might be willing to serve usually scatter like bugs under a light. Girls are MUCH better at serving than the guys, are more confident, and guys only approach things that feel safe to them. For this reason, some parishes and bishops foster a "guy only" approach to servers. For the record, we at Ritter have adopted a "guy only" approach to our altar servers in hopes of fostering priestly vocations among our young men. Our young ladies at Ritter still serve as readers, gift bearers, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.