Monday, August 21, 2017

Secularism and Racism




There were two major revolutions that took place at almost the exact same time: the French Revolution of 1789 and the American Revolution of 1776

BOTH revolutions had the same themes and goals, we could call them them “freedom” and “liberty”
But there was a major difference, the French Revolution was explicitly a secular one, and by secular we mean a sort of expelling of religion, a “non-religious” movement

The American Revolution, on the other hand, also seeking freedom and liberty, as is clear from even a brief reading of the documents of the founders, was a non-secular revolution.  The American Revolution was one founded on a sort of “mere Christianity”, an experiment on whether or not a country could be founded on Christian principles without having to fly a specific denominational flag.  All are created equal…endowed by their creator

Here’s the point of mentioning the two revolutions – we hear in the first reading a sort of prophecy: My house shall be called a house of prayer for ALL peoples.

ALL PEOPLES!

This is a prophecy of the Church that Christ would found on Peter.  The Church is a house of prayer for all peoples!

Christ promises (and in fact is Himself) freedom and liberty – and this promised freedom appeals to the woman in the Gospel – she senses already, even prior to the Church’s creation, that Christ brings into the lives of all people a freedom and liberty not found outside Him.

---------

We’ve seen a lot in the news this week about racism in our country, and the Church stands up in the strongest possible terms and says this is wrong

At the core of the Church’s teaching on how we are to engage as a population is the idea that EVERY HUMAN BEING IS MADE IN THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF GOD and so there is an inherent human dignity to every person

The argument against the Church here is simple: people in the Church, people under the banner of Christ have not always honored the dignity of every human person

But the counterargument to that is “we are well aware of that, but even in the failings something is very fascinating…it is through the Church, through the Judeo-Christian tradition that we are able to most strongly CRITICIZE the failings of people from the past

Yes, women were not equal to men in 1776.  Yes slavery remained after 1776, but those injustices were rooted out precisely by a deeper reflection on the Judeo Christian principles. 

Some will say – “Look, we will acknowledge that Christianity took the ball and advanced it down the field; you all did A FEW decent things to get us here, but now we no longer need to have a society rooted in Judeo Christian principles…we are post-Christian now…we’ve moved on…we secularists will take things from here.”

That’s why the French Revolution is so important for us – because what we see when we look at the French Revolution that we did NOT see in the American Revolution is that in France, not long into the Revolution, a REALLY disturbing insanity set in, the guillotine killing thousands of people a day, a frenzied distrust of one another – the two revolutions could not have been, at the end of the day, more different. 

And in the same way, people of all political persuasion, if they lack Christ, are left to try to rely on violence to drive out the opposition.  Even the language that you hear in the rhetoric is so telling as people on both sides of the secular coin describing the other as “less than human”….the moment someone is “less than human” it becomes okay to do to them whatever you want to them.

Only Christ and His Church have the ability to unite ALL people

Those of our parish who were blessed to be on World Youth Day last summer and those of you who saw the pictures know this – as far as the eye could see there were people of every race and tribe and language nation joined in prayer, joined in candle light vigils, kneeling together in silence, receiving the same Eucharist


God’s house will be a house of prayer for all peoples.  His Church is a house of prayer for all peoples.  Trying to build a house for all peoples on any other foundation will NOT work.  Just ask any secularist that has ever tried

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Life is Worth Living!

At the foot of the Cross, Jesus entrusts Mary to John and John to Mary.

Jesus of course dies, is resurrected on Easter, and then 40 days later ascends into Heaven.

Scholars think that Mary lived another 10-20 years and then was assumed into Heaven by Her Son, which is what we celebrate today on this Feast of the Assumption.

It is this interval of time that I’d like to focus on.

Why didn’t Jesus bring Mary up to Heaven with Him?

She had no sin.  God doesn’t need errand runners, and if he desired to bring His Mother home to Heaven, why not just do it right away?

One thing that I’d like to focus on, then, is that in some mysterious way, to exist, on Planet Earth and to be here drawing breath in this moment is, for you and I and everyone else (as it was for Mary) BETTER than being in Heaven.

That seems to make no sense.  Heaven is perfect bliss, perfect happiness, no more pain or sorrw…

But Jesus left Mary here for 20 more years.

This fact speaks very powerfully to us, and I’d like to look at how.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen had a primetime television show for many years, and the show had a very interesting title: “Life Is Worth Living”.  That is certainly, on one hand, a very strange title.  It isn’t “Wheel of Fortune” or “Jeopardy”…”Life is WORTH LIVING!”

If Archbishop Sheen felt the world needed to hear that, how much more does our world need to hear this?!?!

“Life is Worth Living”

The enemies of Christ and His Church are constantly saying, in so many different ways “LIFE, at least in certain circumstances, is NOT worth living”

1)      If you are elderly and in a nursing home and your kids don’t visit you and you are sick all the time, the world tells you “life is NOT worth living.  Just kill yourself…fast forward to the bliss of Heaven”
2)      If you are a teenager and you are being bullied at school and you aren’t getting straight a’s and you aren’t going to get into the school you want to…just kill yourself…fast forward to the joy of Heaven…life is NOT worth living
3)      That baby that is going to be born with Down Syndrome…better to kill the child and let it skip straight to the joy of Heaven…life, for that particular child, is NOT worth living
4)      That baby that will be born into poverty in Africa or to that mother on drugs in New York…abortion is the merciful option…that kid’s life is NOT worth living

It is clear when we look at Today’s Feast and the fact that the Assumption was TWENTY YEARS after the Ascencsion of Jesus, what becomes crystal clear, although mysteriously so, is that in God’s mind it is in some way BETTER for us to be here on planet Earth right now, amidst the sufferings and crosses of deceased spouses, children starving, people suffering from diseases and poverty…that we be here, right now, on planet Earth, ALIVE!

It is clear that for Jesus it is His Will that right now we be here and NOT in Heaven, just as he left his Mother here for those twenty years.

For God, life is clearly WORTH living.  The question we need to constantly be asking ourselves each day is do WE think life is worth living?




I didn’t include it in my homily, but I thought I’d leave this here…the end of Uncle Walt’s best poem


“The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?  
                                                        Answer.
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;  

That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hypocrisy of the Modern World

- Nicholas Senz

"The Hypocrisy of Modernity"

Wearing a Cassock

An interesting article appeared recently - a lay person (in fact, I think, a non-Catholic) wore a cassock around town for a day.

He documents the experience HERE and it is well worth your time.  It is super short




Contrary to what some might think, I'm not a huge fan of the cassock in one sense.

I'm pretty introverted and like "flying under the radar" in the sense of not having people notice me.

And so, quite often, it is tempting to wear "regular clothes" because I know no one will stare at me and I can walk around undetected.


But...I also know that wearing a cassock helps people know that there are actually priests around, and I think seeing a priest is a sort of "walking homily" that gets to people and maybe even forces them to think about more eternal things


This article sums up the experience quite well

The Dictatorship of Noise

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Coaching for Christ

Would you take two minutes to watch this news clip from 1999 and then ask yourself "What if we could help all 3,500,000 coaches in the US to talk like that...

At the end, you should be able to click on the picture of coach and donate, or click HERE and donate to this awesome effort



Sunday, July 23, 2017

Why We Get DESTROYED in the Culture Wars

When I first started raising money to try to make "The Third Way" 7 years ago, John-Andrew O'Rourke, owner of Blackstone Films and my partner in the whole crazy ride that was the project, showed me something very early on in the fundraising process.


He showed me a "Go Fund Me" page where a bunch of 30 something year old guys, who were particularly devoted to some completely obscure video game (we'll call it "Alpha Quadrant Gamma") were trying to raise funds to have someone make a documentary on "Alpha Quadrant Gamma".  I know all the cool video games...and this one wasn't one of them.


They had raised $420,000.


You can find project after project like this on Go Fund Me...stupid and pointless and even poorly executed fundraisers raising tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars for stupid and pointless projects.


These guys were playing a video game in their mom's basements for 18 hours a day and got people to fork over a HALF MILLION from a very select group of people interested in this particular obscure game.


Those who are part of the "Culture of Life" are getting SLAUGHTERED in the culture war because while the culture of death is supporting stuff that is either inane or outright evil, many who profess Christ support nothing that tries to make our case to the world.  ZERO.


Catholics give 1% to the Church, on average, and to get people to support (and I don't mean buying girl scout cookies or doing the token donation to some project) and really get behind Catholic projects and ministries that are trying to make the case to the world is virtually impossible.



I had to jump up and down for months, call everyone I know, beg, email, etc. for 6 weeks to raise $80,000 so that I could do something that would use up my day off for two years...while in the secular world, people donate tens and hundreds of thousands to documentaries on donuts and video games...let alone the billions that are poured in to more culturally-destructive Hollywood and TV projects.


"The Third Way" has been viewed over 500,000 times around the world, so it certainly has had an impact, and I'm thankful for that.  But how many other good ideas are out there that people are just sitting on?  How many worthy projects and stories are dying because they aren't supported by people?


When we started raising funds for the "The Third Way" people said "WOW THAT'S A LOT OF MONEY!"


But break it down.  $80,000 for 500,000 viewings of a 40 minute documentary about the Church's teaching on homosexuality.  You know what that works out to?


SIXTEEN CENTS PER VIEWING


So for every 16 cents donated, it paid for one viewing of the third way (and some of those viewings have been entire classes or gymnasiums at once...so the real math would probably break down to less than 1 cent per viewing of "The Third Way")



If I sound frustrated, it is because I'm in the midst of another project.  In the US there are 3.5 million coaches coaching 45 million young people this year.  Ask any priest and they'll tell you - families aren't coming to Church anymore because they're all playing sports on Sunday.  So what are we doing about that?

When I was in high school, I had a TRANSFORMATIVE coach who was both wildly successful and who also used coaching to challenge us to become good fathers, sacrificial husbands, to tell our parents that we loved them, to become men of sacrifice, to treat women with dignity and respect, etc. etc.

I know for a fact that his story can be told in a powerful and clear way to try to get coaches to reach their young people and inspire them to become good, holy, virtuous people...it is one of the last ways we can reach kids today.

This project SHOULD BE a no-brainer: pass the hat around...some guys throw in a hundred, some guys throw in 20 bucks...a few people that haven't met coach but agree we need to reach coaches with a great story throw in a few bucks, and there we have it.  Goal achieved.


Despite getting word out to most of the over 600 players who played for him over 27 years, 20 of the 600 have donated.


I have $7,000 dollars to my name, and have already donated $1,700 to this project, and I'll probably put another 2-3,000 toward the project if need be.



I know many of the 600 guys who were coached by Bruce Scifres were equally impacted by him, and many recognize he could have coached for twice as much money at a public school, and most know that Coach is so excited about the possibility of this documentary coming together.  But only 20 former players have donated.



And that's why we get slaughtered in the culture wars.  We are blessed to witness great things but instead of supporting powerful story telling, instead of looking to support art, instead of getting the word out to others about the amazing things we've been able to witness, we sit on the Good News, content to let the godless tell their video game stories.

3.15 million youth coaches have little or no training

That is a shocking number.  THREE AND A HALF MILLION youth coaches in the United States.


This article (click here to read) says that NINETY PERCENT have little or no training.


So 90% of coaches coaching a kid in basketball have not had any training on how to coach a kid in basketball.


That means 3.15 million of our 3.5 million youth coaches have basically no training in coaching.






If 3.15 MILLION coaches have no training on the sport they're coaching, I have to believe the number that have been shown how to use coaching to help people become saints is even WORSE.



This project of mine (click here to visit the donation page) is an attempt to put something together to address this crisis and help show coaches how they too can use coaching to form people for life.


If you can help me raise the funds, I will be partnering with Spirit Juice studios to put together a 10-12 minute VERY POWERFUL, VERY INSPIRING video using one coach's story to show other coaches that they can easily do the same thing!


Again, if you want to donate to make this happen, please click HERE.



Thank you!

Bruce Scifres' Message to friends of Roncalli



This project is something people all across the country will benefit and find very helpful as we try to reach out and impact the 3.5 million coaches coaching across the country. Help is much appreciated!

Friday, July 7, 2017

HELP!

HELP!
In conjunction with Spirit Juice Studios, I am hoping to produce an 8-12 minute mini-documentary titled "Bruce Scifres: Coaching for Christ"

You can click HERE to donate!

Coach Scifres and his wife Jackie


The goal: $35,500

That sounds like a lot, but:

a) I'm donating the first $1,000
b) I'm obviously not making money on this (in case that needed stated)
c) Think about how many young people today are connected to sports - and how many coaches could be coaching our young people in transformative ways if they just saw and heard that it was possible!

I had such a coach when I played football, and I believe strongly that the word getting out about HOW he coached will strongly impact our communities.

Coach won SEVEN state championships, but all throughout his 27 years he preached constantly about
1) loving our parents
2) being men of prayer
3) being good fathers
4) being great husbands
and many other similar virtues

Think about how many coaches are out there coaching our young men and women right now, and then imagine if they all began to realize that through coaching, they could call young people to holiness!

I would be forever grateful if you would consider helping make this happen

Again, you can donate by clicking here

Sunday, June 4, 2017

On Pentecost and Becoming God

Poor audio quality and weird camera angle, but an awesome Catholic Solemnity!



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The dumbest "sociological" conjecture of all?

Every 5th grade science fair entrant knows that you make a hypothesis, and then you either prove or disprove the hypothesis with data (facts)

Of all the crazy hypotheses that have magically gone from conjecture to fact without ever having gone through the fact stage, perhaps the dumbest of all is the hypothesis that people "had children, up until our modern age, to help with farm work."

You see that statement everywhere!  Everyone used to have kids to help on the farm, and that's why they had so many kids, because they needed a lot of help farming.

Now, it is perfectly okay to HYPOTHESIZE aloud "I bet one of the motivations for people to have kids was to help farm"


But to say that we KNOW that's why people had kids up until "modernity"is because of farmwork....that's simply conjecture masquerading as fact.


Do we have ANY evidence of this?


Have we unearthed a diary from anyone over the past 4,000 years suggesting that the hypothesis has any merit?


Dear diary, me and Helga are really trying to conceive a child so that 8-10 years from now, we'll have a cow milker!

Sincerely,
Jedidiah


Not only do we not have any evidence that would suggest that people had kids to help with farm work, I think it is also worth questioning the conjecture itself.  Was the hypothesis put forward by anyone who has actually worked WITH a kid doing farmwork?  I remember the productivity of my brothers and I working and "helping" in my Dad's garden, and I am sure that our "help" fell into the category of "Dad probably being better off without the help"

So Helga and Jedidiah were willing to risk the mortality rate for mother AND child in child birth, then feed a "useless" mouth for 6-8 years, to risk and put forward all that in order for the CHANCE to get a teenager, 10 years later, who could help milk the cows?



It seems that to me, rather, that in order to justify our own society being the coldest bunch of utilitarians the world has ever known, we have to also project our frigid utilitarianism on everyone that came before us as well.

So, to make ourselves feel better, our child-farming hypothesis needs to very quickly become not a hypothesis but a fact.  I KNOW that farming is why everyone had kids for the first 4,000 years of civilization.


Maybe, just maybe, though, at least some people for the first 4,000 years (and maybe even most people) just loved each other as husband and wife, and were open to their marital love begetting children despite the risk of giving birth.

Maybe, just maybe, some of the people who predate modernity didn't just sit around and coldly calculate how many children it would take to produce X gallons of milk per week and then set out to make love according to that calculus.


Maybe they DIDN'T do it that way, even if people today would

Monday, May 15, 2017

As a member of our Archdiocesan College of Consultors...

...I am not sure but I am assuming we get a consultative vote soon on what we think of the next slate of priest assignments that would take effect the first week of July.

I have not seen the slate, but I am assuming that if it is something close to what I think it will be, I will not vote in favor of it for several reasons:

1) The vote is simply consultative, and so even if all the members voted against it, it could still be implemented

2) My spiritual director told me, when I was struggling over this past year or so, that St. Benedict said that as a priest or monk, you follow the assignment given to you by your superior, and if the assignment is bad/wrong, then that is on the superior.  Well, I will never have anything to do with assigning any priest to two parishes

3) I also can not support leaving any/all of our Archdiocesan high schools without a full time diocesan priest

4) I also can not support leaving any/all of our colleges and universities without a full time diocesan priest



People might say here: "give it time, the situation of 108 Masses within 7 miles of Monument Circle will get fixed, but it takes time."

Sorry, but no.

I had Mass every Friday with Archbishop Buechlein at his home right up to the time he moved back to St. Meinrad.  He said several times, in conversation, that he should have closed/reorganized parishes but that he just couldn't do it.

Archbishop Tobin pulled me aside when he first arrived at the Archdiocese and said "Fr. John, I know you pray, and I trust your feedback here.  Are a lot of the younger guys upset that I didn't close enough parishes in our cities?"  I told him Yes.  He said that he felt like there were ways to fix the issues without closing parishes.  5 years later, we can say that nothing along those lines happened.

Granted both of those men are great father figures to me, and I can only imagine all the pressures a bishop is under.

But my spiritual director has given lots of retreats for bishops around the country, and he said that a lot of bishops around the country know what needs to be done, but lack the courage to do it.

Well, tending to the Lord's vineyard means at times having to prune things so that they can remain healthy.


Someone else might say "hey, our diocese is getting ready to go through a planning process to work on some of this."  Pardon my skepticism, but we just finished a 7 year process that costs tens of thousands of dollars and saw the number of Indianapolis Masses go from 121 to 118...so that means we probably spent in excess of 10,000 dollars per Mass canceled.

If we need another "planning process" to cancel another three Indy Masses, then that would put us on pace for 20 more "planning processes" if we do in fact need to cut 60 Masses in Indy.

So we are currently on pace for losing three Masses every 8 years of planning, thus putting us on a 160 year path to getting close to what we need to do to make the Masses we offer line up with the number of people who are coming in the Indianapolis area.


Or, instead of taking 160 years, a shepherd can come in and fix it now.


But anyway, in the meantime, I would never symbolically vote for something that would give the appearance that I am somehow for the status quo

Priests are Burning Out

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A pro-life t-shirt

This was created by a former student of mine from Cardinal Ritter High School.  Help out a starving artist!



https://www.etsy.com/listing/512488802/pro-life-tshirt?ref=shop_home_active_2




Hell on Earth and the Good Shepherd

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An urgent recommendation for what needs to be done in our diocese (and probably yours too)

For all the talk about the Church embracing modernity, we are still often structuring our American dioceses as if people don't have automobiles


Problem: our priests are spread too thinly.  Many of our priests who have left active ministry in recent memory have left as a pretty direct result of being given multiple parishes.  There is no doubt that being a pastor of a giant parish with a huge staff presents its own challenges, and I have great admiration for our priests pastoring our mega-parishes, but there is something really problematic in having priests be pastors of multiple parishes

Related Problem: Vatican II said priests ought to live in community.

Related Problem: priests pastoring multiple parishes is not sustainable (the assignment of guys to being pastors of multiple parishes is often being done by people who have never been a pastor of two parishes.  It is not a healthy situation)

Related Problem: we have 17 seminarians

Analysis
            
            Within 7 miles of Monument Circle in Indianapolis there are 118 Masses on the weekend

I took the seating capacity of each church and added the numbers up

Our presbyterate is saying Mass for 71,210 seats within 7 miles of Monument Circle

Those parishes have 27,678 registered families

Most parishes see about the same number of people on the weekend as they have registered families

Using this as an approximation, there are a couple of amazing ways to frame the same stat:
a.       Our presbyterate is saying Mass each weekend for 44,000 empty seats within 7 miles of Monument Circle
b.      We are saying over twice as many Masses as we need within 7 miles of Monument Circle
c.       We could cut out roughly 70 of the 118 masses and still have a seat for everyone that is currently coming to Mass within 7 miles of Monument Circle
d.      Those 70 Masses we don’t need mean we have approximately 20 priests within 7 miles of Monument Circle saying a weekend’s worth of Masses we do not need

This is not just an Indianapolis thing.  The figures are even worse in the only other place I looked – Terre Haute city.  6,950 seats each weekend for 2,352 attendees.  That’s 66% of the seats unfilled each weekend (4 Masses at St. Patrick’s each weekend would cover every Catholic Mass attendee in Terre Haute with 600 seats to spare each weekend.  Terre Haute currently has 15 Masses).

As priests we are asked to demonstrate business skills – the Lilly Grant/pastor’s toolbox/the book we were all mailed by Patrick Lencioni and Amazing Parish that encourage priests to become more business savvy.

That’s Great!!!!   My classmates and I asked for this repeatedly in the seminary, and we noted it as a weakness in our class exit interview from our seminary.

But it isn’t just priests that could benefit from thinking corporately.  The diocesan leadership needs to also put some corporate principles to work as well, in my opinion

Solution: Studies show that 70 -90 percent of Catholics are walking away from the faith from 18-34.  What company would learn that it is losing 70-90 percent of 18-34 years olds and would not have alarm bells going off and having emergency board sessions?
            
    And yet we are pulling priests out of precisely the places where these kids are found.  In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis no priest is assigned just to a college.  No priest is assigned just to a high school.  I was assigned to a high school in my first few years, but the Archdiocese pulled all of its high school chaplains out of the high schools and replaced them with part time priests who are supposed to do high school ministry as a part of their slate of other jobs.               

Corporations pay attention to their key demographic, their future, and it is pretty clear we are not paying attention to that demographic.  Investing in FOCUS ministries on our college campuses has been a good start, but even FOCUS will tell you that there is no substitute on a college campus for a full time priest chaplain. 

Putting some kind of limit on the number of Masses at parishes would free up priests to be present to the generation that will provide us with our next generation of priests, nuns, and faithful lay Catholics

Doing something about the number of Masses HAS to come from the diocese and the bishop.  We would get killed as the boots on the ground pastors if we canceled Masses.  But if it came from the diocese we’d be okay. 

And here’s the thing – every parish I’ve gone to has had to cancel a Mass in order for me to only say 5 Masses each weekend.  They’ve all grumbled, but because it came from Canon Law (a priest can only say 5 Masses a weekend), they accepted it.  They’ve all reported liking it better several months later
A)     A full Church
B)      Better music
C)      Seeing people they didn’t know because they went to an earlier Mass

Addressing this issue of having about twice as many masses as we need in our Archdiocese would both

1)      alleviate the extraordinary and sometimes unsustainable burdens on our current priests

2)      Help provide more presence to our young people thus helping increase the number of priestly vocations, helping with priest numbers in the future

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Parish Video

This is a video we put together for one of my parishes.  Please keep our campaign in your prayers!



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ouija Boards and Demonic Oppression

I spoke with a young man who was battling authentic demonic oppression for over twenty years after being in a room where a Ouija Board was being used when this young man was in seventh grade.

He shared that he felt something come into him and that from that point on in his life, he knew he was battling a Demon that had considerable ability to harm him (head aches and weariness) and to suggest things to him denigrating himself, his family, discouraging him from going to Church, discouraging him from confession and priests, and much more.


Stay away from fortune telling, Ouija boards, Tarot Cards, and all that other garbage.  EVIL IS REAL.  


“All forms of divination are to be rejected:  recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future.  Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers.  They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone”
- Catechism 2116


Note that Deuteronomy compares all these evil consultations with killing children: “Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortuneteller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead."
- Deuteronomy 18: 10-11

St. Paul and Deuteronomy note that those who engage in these types of acts commit mortal sins.  It is SUPER SERIOUS 


As noted from this particular young man's story, even those AROUND this type of activity can be harmed in serious ways.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Baby Boom Changes to the Church

I ask this with all do respect: If the generation in the wake of Vatican II, in order to try to bring the Church and Christ to others, got to make lots of changes to things that the Church didn't ever say should change, why can't our generation change things around in order to try to bring the Church and Christ to others?


If baby boomers got to throw out stuff from their parents Catholicism without the Church ever saying those things should be thrown out, why can't we throw out stuff from OUR parents' Catholicism?


Perhaps our motivation here is not just anger towards baby boomer Catholicism.  I wonder if it could be considered that perhaps what is motivating our generation of Catholics is that we are looking around and we see 75-90% of our peers walk away from Catholicism as it was being practiced by baby boomer suburban Catholicism, and perhaps we want to do something about it and are trying to find things that might work, and are discussing among ourselves about would work and are in the trenches with fallen away Catholics --- maybe that is what is motivating our generation of young adult Catholics.  Could that be considered by other generations?  


So maybe what is motivating young adult Catholics today is not anger toward baby boomers but an attempt to do something that we genuinely feel might bring back the Faith to a culture for which the Faith has largely died out


The baby boomers got to do all their experiments and make the Church the way they wanted it, and it never seems to be asked if the new Church worked for anyone else but them.  I hear a lot from the generation of the Catholic revolution that "we really like what we created" - but I don't hear many of them asking if the remade Catholic product as that generation refashioned it is working for any other generation.


And I and many other young adult Catholics, looking around at our friends, our peers, the sociological data, and looking at the larger society we find ourselves in believe strongly that what we need is not a tweaking of suburban baby boomer Catholicism, but something that is, at least on many levels, radically different.


I don't think many in my generation on the front lines are calling for a return to 1955, but we are sifting through the rubble of American suburban Catholicism and saying what, moving forward, do we need from the distant past, the more recent past, and from the present to practice the Faith that was handed on to us from the Apostles in a way that starts to make a dent in the problem of 93% of our peers walking away from the Faith.






7 Reasons Why Your Smartphone Is Bilbo's Ring






1) You randomly worry that you don't have it, check your pocket, your heart rate quickens, you check your other pocket, find it, and then slowly calm back down again




2) Your phone is powerful and magical.  10 years ago, if you told someone all the things your phone would do, they would have thought of it as magic.  Your phone also gives you the power to do everything you would need to do to run a Fortune 500 company for weeks from thousands of miles away.




3) You think sometimes of getting rid of your phone, but every time you get ready to throw it away, you step back from the edge and change your mind

Image result for frodo wearing the ring
"I can't believe I was thinking of  getting rid of this thing!"




4) To the observer at a distance, for hours on end each day, you look at it, make faces at it, touch it and stroke it and talk to it.

Image result for bilbo my precious
"It's mine.  My own. My precious"



5) Your phone, as studies suggest, through the course of months and years, slowly changes you into a different version of yourself



6) Your phone gives you the impression that you have great power and are in control (see number 2 above) but it actually ultimately gives much more power to "the great eye" (i.e. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung) who, as everyone knows, is storing and cataloging and quantifying every move we make and every single act we perform with our phones, handing over to such corporations an ability to "dominate all life"



7)  When you use your phone, you disappear to all those around you and are instantly transported to something that is like reality, but is a warped and clouded version of it

Image result for frodo wearing the ring
"It's like living in reality, only different"


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday Homily: Realizing I was supposed to have stayed in Rome




I realized in prayerfully walking the streets of Rome last week that 11 years ago when I left the seminary in Rome, I should not have.

If I had known then what I know now about Christian suffering, I wouldn't have left

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Apostles of Wonder

Living in an age where the majority of people are leaving Christianity because of "science" (I.e. "I only believe in the measurable and observable and you can't measure or prove God so I'm out with regards to Christianity") I think perhaps our challenge is to be apostles of wonder

The Church loves science but says there is more to life than the measurable, and, frankly, to think that all that is real is what is measurable and quantifiable is not wisdom it is insane.

Aristotle wrote hundreds of years before Christ and he (and many before him) wrote much about "metaphysics" meaning BEYOND physics. The Church doesn't deny physics (the measurable) but says there is CLEARLY more to life than JUST the measurable.

Take the concept of love. No one who says "I just believe in science" should be able to say "I love you" because you can't measure or prove, with science, that loves is real.

So our job as believers, then, is to be apostles of wonder. To help people who are so focused on measuring, quantifying, weighing and experimenting to step back and see that every moment of life contains an infinite number of miracles happening, that every moment of existence itself is a mystery.

Sometimes we can be so buried in the facts that we miss the miracles. Our world is much like the Pharisees in today's gospel. "So, young man, you were blind and now you see. We have 100 questions for how this happened"

Similarly, we need to be like the blind man speaking to the rigid and overly scientific examiners of our day. Sometimes you just have to step back away from the data and the experiments and say "I think you're missing the miracle here. The big take away from my story should be that I was cured of my blindness. And frankly, having been blind my whole life, I don't give a rat's rear end about how it happened. That your hung up on HOW it happened is pretty amazing. I don't care how it happened. I want to go celebrate the reality that it DID happen!"

May Those who are focused only on what is measurable be gently nudged by us to see the bigger picture - that reality extends BEYOND physics. This reality beyond physics is something we can all sense, even as children (perhaps EASIER as children) and that which is beyond physics we can come to know if we take some time to put down our beakers and rulers and look at a child or a sunset and ask not what the child weighs nor what atmospheric chemistry causes the particular colors but instead ask "why are there babies and sunsets in the first place? Why does all that I can see exist at all?"

I look forward to doing a better job of trying to be an apostle of wonder. We've got work to do, but as Tolkien and Lewis and Chesterton knew, it is the fight of our age.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Devil's Playbook. Or Why the World is Winding Down

There is warranted concern on the part of some that we can't say that the state of things in the United States means that the world, through all of history, might be winding down to its conclusion.  That can sound prideful on our part to make such a statement: "Because things are bad around me, the world must be ending" certainly sounds as if a person has an unhealthy belief about themselves in relation to the center of the universe.


That being said, however, we do well to look at the TYPE of assaults on God coming from our nation and the first world.

(There was news yesterday that Chinese scientists have found a way to "scrub" human dna in an embryo of "imperfections"...and some scientists around the world have admitted to blending human embryos with animal DNA)


I submit that you will not find MORE theologically revealing chapters of Scripture than the first three chapters of Genesis.  


Let's look, broadly, at what God does, and the order that God does it:

1) "Let us make man in our (the Trinity's) image and likeness" (Genesis 1:26)

2) "Created male and female" (Genesis 1:27)

3) Establishment of marriage (Genesis 2:24: That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.)


SO....

These three things, established in the very beginning of Genesis, in a particular order, are the most foundational aspects of humanity.  God doesn't do things out of order.


SO...

If you are going to try to attack God's creation because you can't actually attack God Himself, you would work to peal off the layers of God's work.  

And throughout the history of humanity, outer layers of God's creation have been assaulted.  His Church has been persecuted, people have abused the poor, slaughtered millions through war, etc.


BUT...

These last three layers, mentioned above, have not been attacked, EVER, until the past 2-3 years


Voltaire, who certainly played the part of antichrist quite expertly, whilst celebrating his black Mass of mockery in the Cathedral of Notre Dame at the height of the French Revolution whilst people were being murdered by the thousands each day...Voltaire would have never imagined 

1) that two men could marry one another
2) that men, if they believed it emphatically enough, might be women
3) that it might be possible to go in and alter human dna in a human embryo such that a human being would then be made in OUR image and likeness


That all three of these most fundamental truths have been assaulted and violated within the last three years in the United States and in the first world cause me to believe that although we will never know "the day nor the hour" that the world will come to its rapid and immediate conclusion, we might be able to take a pretty good guess at the month or at least the year

Monday, March 13, 2017

Married Priest Part 2

As a sort of follow up to my previous post, I think, as Canonist Ed Peters points out, a question that needs answering not just by Pope Francis, but by the Church in general in response to moves made by the LAST TWO popes as well is, to put it crassly, can permanent deacons, married priests (permitted by JP II and Benedict XVI) have sex with their wives?


Canon 277.1 says, clearly, NO


So do all of these (just some of many quotes from our tradition that say NO as well)

The bishops declare unanimously – “it pleases us all that bishops, priests and deacons, guardians of purity, abstain from conjugal intercourse with their wives, so that those who serve at the altar may keep a perfect chastity.”
If priests do not behave as if they had no wife, they will be rejected from ecclesiastical duty.
Conciliae Africae a.345-525 ed. by C Munier in Corpus Christianorum, Servus Latina 149 (Turnhout, 1974):13

And this

Council of Elvira in the 4th century:
“It has seemed good absolutely to forbid the bishops and priests and deacons to have sexual relations with their wives and procreate children; should anyone do so, let him be excluded from the honor of the clergy.”
Hermann Theodor Bruns, Canones Apostolorum et Conciliorum sae. IV-VII, 2 (Berlin, 1839): 5-6

And this:
Pope Leo the Great in 456:
“Once ordained what had been permitted is not so. That is why, in order for their union to change from carnal to spiritual, they must, without sending away their wives, live as if they did not have them.”
Jaffe, 544. PL 54, 1159

and this:
St. Jerome: "In his “Treatise Vigilantum” in 406 – “Ministers of the altar must live in perfect continence.”
Stickler, The Case for Clerical Celibacy, 39

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Why I might be with Pope Francis on this married priest thing

I first read an article on this topic last year that mentioned a possible topic for the next synod being married priests.  After the ongoing disaster in the wake of the previous synod, I read up figuring I needed to steel myself for another potential uproar


Married men being ordained priests is not the topic of the next synod as the synod steering committee voted it down.  The next topic will be on youth and young adults.


Pope Francis made comments this week, though, that signaled he's open to talking about the issue and exploring it.


A couple of things to know:

1) There are already married men who are priests.  In the Eastern Catholic Church, married men are allowed to be ordained.  Click here to read the story

2) Pope Benedict, in allowing entire parishes of Anglicans to become Catholic, has permitted all Anglican priests who jump ship to become Catholic priests.

3) John Paul II set up a way where any married protestant minister who converts to Catholicism can be, at the bishop's discretion, a Catholic priest


So we ALREADY have married priests.  Celibacy is not a doctrine, it is a discipline, meaning something that the Church has done not because God required it in law, but because it is viewed to be helpful and beneficial.  When something is a discipline, it doesn't have to be that way.



Other important notes:

1) What is being discussed is not priests getting married.  It will always be the case that once a man is ordained, he will not be allowed to GET married after ordination

2) Women will not ever be priests.  Here's a helpful and compassionate explanation from Jason Evert: http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/religion-and-philosophy/apologetics/why-can-t-women-be-priests.html

3) What is being discussed is whether men who are of good reputation in the parish/diocese might be brought forward to be ordained as a priest

4) Priests serve only in the place of the bishop and at the bishop's request.  If we had an Archbishop right now, he could call me tomorrow and tell me that I am not allowed to say Mass.  Or he could call me and say that I can say Mass but not preach.  He could take away my ability to hear confessions.  I would still be and always will be a priest, but the Bishop has full control over what types of ways I can put my priesthood to use.

In fact, it was the case in times past in the US that when you were first ordained you might only be given the ability to say Mass, and then, after a time if you were found worthy of preaching, the bishop would grant you that faculty, and then he might or might not also grant you the faculty to hear confessions.  

SIDE NOTE: I wish we would go back to that ASAP.  Some of the preaching we unleash on the people of God is scandalous, and most people would be better off in those circumstances NOT having a homily or having the horrible preacher read a sermon of the week from the bishop or a Church father or saint.  



After spending 3 years now over two parishes, a prison, and a university, this idea of possibly ordaining men priests and letting them utilize SOME of the faculties of the priesthood makes sense.  


Challenges:
1) Celibacy is SUPER important, and I think because it is the norm, there is a great deal of respect in our larger culture for priests even AFTER the horrible abuse crisis.  I just experience it on a day in and day out basis.  People think of Catholic priests differently and look at priests differently, and almost always in a good way. 

Fr. Guy Mansini, one of my profs in the seminary, drove home the point that I agree with wholeheartedly: "Men, the number one reason for celibacy is that it is a CONSECRATION, a marking and a setting apart for service"

Celibacy is NOT done so that priest labor is cheaper, it is not done so that a priest can work longer hours...it is done first of all as a consecration, and again, I see that people (Catholic and non-Catholic) look at priests as set apart for a particular mission, and that even most non-Catholics, in certain situations, are happy to have a priest around and even approach him in times of need.

In the Eastern Catholic Church, married men can be priests, but bishops can only come from the celibate clergy.  Whatever steps are taken, it is important to ensure that celibacy is still treasured and kept


2) I think ordaining guys FROM a parish to serve at the same parish is a bad idea, particularly if these men are given the faculty to preach.  A prophet is not welcome in his native land.  One of the LAST places I'd ever want to be assigned is my home parish, and I love the people there.  

It also takes a LOT of preparation and formation to be a good preacher.  You could teach a person to pray the Mass in a few months (mechanically speaking...hold your hands hear...move here...raise the host at this time...) but preaching is a whole other thing.  I would submit that a lot of the seminary academic work over 6-8 years has, as a primary goal, preparing men to preach well, or to at least not preach heresy. 

Some will surely say here that there are horrendous celibate priest preachers, and I agree.  I've been a victim of bad preaching as much as anyone else.  I am sure, as well, that some people in the parish ARE formed enough in theology, through their own study, and are good enough communicators to preach the Truth of Christ very well, even exceptionally.

I still think, though, that if married men were ordained, their ability to preach should be severely limited, and they should somehow have to prove their readiness in a much more rigorous way than is currently being done with our priests and permanent deacons.


3) I also think "ad orientem" Mass would be SUPER important if the priest were a local married man.  The point of Mass where the priest is not facing the people but instead all the people are facing, in expectation, liturgical East, is not so that the priest can have his own private devotion of Mass and exclude people, it is so that the people don't have to look at the priest.  The facial expressions of the priest shouldn't matter.  The identity of the priest, particularly a local man from the parish, would need to veiled so that people can focus on the Eucharist itself.  



Concluding thoughts:

1) It seems that perhaps, in the US at least, celibate priests would continue to be pastors overseeing the parishes, so that the local married man who would be ordained to help would serve in sacramental assistance but not have to worry about also "pastoring" (meetings, budget, marriage prep, finance council) etc.  

In my particular situation, I feel like I could probably be the pastor of several parishes if there was just sacramental help - i.e. other people who could celebrate Mass for me.  Five Masses on the weekend at two parishes 30 minutes apart is just not sustainable.  

I used to think that what should happen as the number of celibate clergy continue to decline is that parishes then should only have Mass every other week or once a month like the rest of the world.  

But is keeping intact a discipline of the Church worth people not having access to the Eucharist weekly?  Is keeping a discipline of the Church worth denying a lot of African Catholics Mass but a few times a year because there are so few celibate priests there (as with South America/China/India...and more and more the US)?

I don't think it is worth keeping intact a discipline that is already not followed in every case anyways.  

If you would have told me I would ever write that sentence five years ago, I wouldn't have believed you


We'll see where the Spirit leads the Church on this issue.


FOLLOW-UPS:

1) People aren't properly understanding what is being proposed in this realm of married priesthood.  What IS generally being proposed is that an older man in the parish would be ordained to say Mass and help with other sacraments while likely working in the world still (It might be possible for such a "Masser" to also get a job at the parish as, say, a director of religious education)

If you are 18 and considering the priesthood, you are still going to choose the standard path of celibate priesthood because the ONLY other option under what's being discussed is for that 18 year old to say "Instead I am going to get married, have children, wait until they are grown, and when I'm in my late 50's or 60's HOPE that the bishop might consider me becoming a priest who has limited faculties"

2) As the ALWAYS insightful canonist Ed Peters points out, Canon 277.1 still has to be reckoned with, which says "Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence"

What is "perfect and perpetual continence"? A cleric is to not have sex any more with his wife.  This goes for permanent deacons and married priests.  I haven't heard anything discussed about this with regard to this topic.

From what I've read on celibacy, this WAS happening in the early Church amidst married men being ordained priests.  It was apparently fairly common for wives of men coming forward to be priests to join a convent.

So while there have been married priests and married deacons going back to the beginning, Canon 277.1 has been in play as well.  I'm not sure if that is being lived out among married priests, nor do I assume that is being lived out among our permanent deacons either.  

The question I have here is not how would a move like married priests CHANGE Canon 277.1 but rather how have the steps that have already been taken in the East and West with married priests, and in the West with permanent deacons been done WITHOUT addressing, as far as I'm aware, Canon 277.1

Thursday, March 9, 2017

"Kristin Lavransdatter" vs. "Better Call Saul"

I'm looking forward to lots of things in April.  Holy Week.  Easter.  Time with family.  Spring.  The third season of Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul is a wonderful show that I've really come to love.  It is the prequel to the wildly successful and very poignant Breaking Bad series.  
The series has awesome cinematography, acting, story, etc.  The gist of the show is exploring the interaction of two brothers.  Chuck is the eldest son.  Chuck is the cold and overachieving perfectionist, but we learn that he got that way partly because his mother loved his younger brother better.

Jimmy is the younger brother.  He's the life of the party, cuts corners, and has too much fun.  The show makes the case that he kind of got that way trying to win his cold brother's affection.


In essence, both are kind of messed up because of their "family dynamics", which is certainly a term that is more commonplace today thanks to the rise in pop-psychology.  More people are aware of the fact that our family relationships, notably to each of our parents and each of our siblings, has great effect on us.

It has certainly become en vogue these days to say something along the lines of "my family messed me up" and to believe that this understanding of family relationships is something we just stumbled across in the late 1960's.

*****

I just finished this week an amazing Catholic novel Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset.  I stumbled across the novel and author whilst looking up lists of great Catholic novels when someone had asked for recommendations.   I had never heard of the author, and so I did what any rational human being does, I bought 5 of her books off of Amazon!


Kristin Lavransdatter is Undset's most acclaimed work, having garnered a Nobel Prize for literature in 1928.  Undset was a Norwegian living at the beginning of the 20th century, and she converted to Catholicism despite great societal and family protest.  She was received into the Church in 1924.

Permeating throughout Kristin Lavransdatter is an intense awareness of family dynamics as well - an almost constant recognition throughout the entire life of the heroine that her mother liked her sister better, that her father liked Kristin better, when Kristin becomes a mother, she likes some of her sons better at stages throughout her motherhood.  She also recognizes that her husband likes some of his sons better than others. And on and on.


I was struck by how evenhanded all of these preferences were dealt with in the novel.  Although there were preferences that family members had for each other, no one acted like it destroyed their lives.  Kristin didn't throw herself on a fire or run off and rebel and drink herself into an oblivion because her mom was closer to her sister.  



It seems like the different relationships stemming from family dynamics really only have the power to crush people that aren't aware that not every relationship in a family system is going to be the same.  


If you know there are just going to be personality types that are attracted to each other, then you can take it much more easily that your mom is closer to one of your siblings or that your sister likes one of her siblings more than you. It's just life.   Undset got that.  

Often times we can be tempted to think that no one prior to 1960 had any valuable or worthwhile psychological knowledge, but Undset, in her 100 year old novel, suggests that past generations knew that relationships can't all be the same.  Perhaps it even proves that some people prior to 1960 understood this point BETTER than some of us do today. 


Family dynamics and relationships and preferences do shape us.  Hopefully we can see them and move forward as the characters do in Kristin Lavransdatter as opposed to having those relationships be as catastrophic as they appear to be for the two central characters in Better Call Saul

Sunday, February 26, 2017

If you had your child baptized Catholic, do you have ANY idea what you agreed to?




"Husband and wife, raised to the dignity and the responsibility of parenthood, will be zealous in fulfilling their task as educators, especially in the sphere of religious education, a task that is primarily their own."

Vatican II
Gaudium et Spes
Paragraph 48




The question every parents is asked before Baptism starts:  "You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God's commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?"


WOW!  That's awesome.  Humbling,  Challenging.  And scary. And Wonderful

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Annual Lenten Reminder

Annual reminder:

Going to Mass EVERY weekend is INFINITELY more important than giving up something for Lent

The Church NOWHERE requires Catholics to give up anything throughout Lent.

The Church does say that it is a grave sin to not attend weekend Mass (exceptions of illness/caring for someone who is ill/dangerous or overly burdensome travel etc.)

Sadly, some ignore the commandment concerning weekend Mass but would run through a brick wall in order to keep their Lenten pledge

Don't get me wrong - it is good to have zeal for a Lenten commitment, but it makes no sense if the more basic apparatus of the Faith is not in place as well

It doesn't make any sense to say "I'm giving up sweets for Lent even though the Church doesn't require it, but I go to Mass once a month even though the Church says Sunday/Saturday pm Mass is what I am to build my life around"

Said yet another way: don't give up anything for Lent until you have first committed to going to Mass every weekend of Lent


clarifiers:
1) I'm not saying "do something positive instead of giving something up for Lent" I'm saying go to Mass every Sunday before worrying about doing something for Lent

2) Also, this isn't me "judging" anyone. Neither is this me saying I'm better than anyone. This is me pointing out an ACTION that is problematic and in need of correcting in order for a person to find true happiness. I share this out of love - weekly Mass is critical for a person to find peace