Sunday, February 17, 2019

Traditions of Man


"You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition."  He went on to say, "How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition!” (Mark 7: 8-9)


"Traditions of man" that are not in the Bible:

1) The only thing you need is the Bible

2) Intimacy between spouses trumps all other marital moral considerations

3) Being happy and remarried without having previous marriages to living spouses declared null by the Church trumps Christ’s teaching on divorce

4) Population fears trump God’s command to be fruitful and multiply

5) I don’t need to talk to others about Jesus even though Christ says, right before leaving, that we are to baptize all nations

6) Surely pretty much everyone is saved even though Jesus says the road is wide that leads to destruction and those who enter through it are MANY

7) The highest virtue is getting along even though Jesus says He came to bring not peace but a sword of division

8) Jesus just wanted us to eat bread and drink grape juice together

Roots Searching for the Stream

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Prayers please! Statement of my Archdiocese concerning a brother priest


Statement on suspension of Fr. David J. Marcotte

Fr. David J. Marcotte, a priest for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, was suspended from ministry on February 12, 2019 after a report of sexual abuse involving a minor in 2016 was received by the archdiocese’s victim assistance coordinator on February 6, 2019. The Archdiocese immediately made a report to civil authorities and notified the chair of the Archdiocesan Review Board of the allegation.

The Archdiocese is cooperating with law enforcement.
Fr. Marcotte was ordained on June 7, 2014. The complete list of his ministry assignments are as follows: 2014, associate pastor, SS. Francis and Clare Parish, Greenwood, and Catholic chaplain, University of Indianapolis; 2015, associate pastor, St. Malachy Parish, Brownsburg; 2016, administrator, St. Martin of Tours Parish, Martinsville; 2017, chaplain, Roncalli High School, Indianapolis, Catholic chaplain, University of Indianapolis, and sacramental assistance, SS. Francis and Clare Parish, Greenwood.
Fr. Marcotte is prohibited from all public ministry while an investigation is ongoing.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is committed to protecting children and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse and misconduct. If you are a victim of sexual abuse or misconduct by a person ministering on behalf of the Church, or if you know of anyone who has been a victim, please contact civil authorities and the Archdiocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator Carla Hill at 317-236-1548 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1548 or email her at carlahill@archindy.org.

Confidential reports can also be made on-line at www.archdioceseofindianapolis.ethicspoint.com or by calling 888-393-6810

Let us hold all victims of sexual abuse and misconduct and their families in prayer.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

I don't LIKE incense

Some parishioners (whom I love) were recently telling me that I just have incense at Mass and chant and "ad orientem worship" and nice vestments because I like them.


This is SUPER CRUCIAL...


I do not LIKE incense (outside of Mass).  I have never used incense outside of Mass.   Ever!  If I LIKED incense, wouldn't I use incense on my own?


I don't LIKE chant (outside of Mass).  I do not hardly ever listen to chant outside of Mass.  I listen to way more classic rock and way more blues and folk music than I do chant.  If I just happened to LIKE chant, wouldn't I listen to it all the time outside of Mass?


I do not LIKE nice vestments/clothing (outside of Mass). If I LIKED that stuff, I'd wear nice clothes outside of Mass.



And this is where I think a generation or two has REALLY failed the Church - the only way they can think is in terms of "what do I personally like?"  They think this way themselves, and when they see a priest celebrating Mass a particular way, they assume that if he's doing Mass a certain way it is because he's adding in the things he just happens to LIKE.


STOP THINKING THAT WAY PEOPLE!


We have to start thinking non-selfishly and non-narcissistically again.  The ONLY proper question is "WHAT WORKS IN THE MASS FOR THE SALVATION OF SOULS?"...what attracts people?...and do those things...even if you don't happen to like it!!!!!


When the guys (that I really like) were complaining to me, I told them "Fellas, I love you, but when I came here there were 3 masses a weekend with 30 people at each one.  That means 90 people coming to Mass a weekend.  We gradually started doing Mass differently, and we now have 300 people coming.  Gentlemen, you and I are going to come to Mass in the middle of a cornfield without music, without vestments, etc...BUT YOU HAVE TO ASK: "WHAT WILL ATTRACT THE PERSON WHO IS CURRENTLY NOT HERE?"


The Church, in her 2,000 years of wisdom, KNOWS what works in terms of a celebration of the Mass that draws people in.  She has told us over and over and over again. 


But as with so many other things, we've started breaking from that body of wisdom simply for the fact that it isn't what we personally like. 

Does God Will a Plurality of Religions?

I think Dr. Taylor Marshall and Timothy Gordon do a great job of unpacking the statement from the Holy Father that many find very troubling


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Why You Need to be Reading Sigrid Undset

Three years ago, I was doing a blog post on Catholic fiction, and I did an internet search for "Top Catholic Novels" just to see where my recommendations ranked on other people's lists, and also to see if I had forgotten any Catholic novels that I had read.

To my surprise, at the top of several lists was an author I had NEVER even heard of...Sigrid Undset.  Number one on many people's "Top Catholic Novels" was Undset's novel "Kristin Lavransdatter".


I went out and purchased Undset's two most recommended novels - "Kristin Lavransdatter" and "The Master of Hestviken".


Reading these two works over the past two years, I now see why she is so cherished by so many!


Undset was born in 1882 and spent most of her life in Norway.  Both of her parents were staunch atheists, but, as a young divorced mother of three, she converted to Catholicism and was brought into the Church in 1924.



In 1928 she received the Nobel Prize for Literature, primarily for her novels "Kristin Lavransdatter" and "The Master of Hestviken".  Both are set in Norway during the Middle Ages when the country was Catholic but still figuring out what that meant.  Both novels have had broad appeal over the last 100 years.  Both novels are thought to have inspired Tolkien, as Undset's novels convey beautiful and mystical descriptions of the places the characters inhabit (the farms, rivers, woods, barns, homes, mountains, the various seasons of the year, etc.).


After converting to Catholicism, Undset was happy to defend the Catholic Church every time the opportunity arose, and the opportunities arose often because Norway in Undset's time (as now) has an incredibly small Catholic population.


In addition to the novels, I would like to here share some excerpts from her work "Stages on the Road" particularly a cordial letter that she wrote to her parish priest after he had asked her for her thoughts on marriage.

Her letter is AMAZING, and it is just as relevant today.


Here are some notable quotes:

"The nations have lived on the aftereffects of this medieval conviction of the self-evident character of Christian truth, long after the roots of the faith have been severed, one by one.  Ideas, whose only origin is one or other of the Catholic dogmas, were still regarded as obviously true, long after the dogma on which they rested has been forgotten or contested or rejected - because the acceptance of the Catholic doctrine in the past had left such deep traces in tradition and habits of thought that ordinary people assumed it to be "natural" to think thus."

"One of these traditions, which is based wholly and solely on a Catholic dogma, is lifelong, monogamous marriage."

"We were faced with the historical fact that all the founders of Protestant sects had agreed in throwing this dogma overboard.  They had all accepted the view that in certain circumstances marriage may be dissolved and that divorced persons may marry again, even during the lifetime of their former partner...until the point was reached in our young days when all the various grounds of divorce were comprised in a single, fundamental pretext: it is sufficient ground for divorce if one of the parties desires it."

"As everyone knows, economic conditions are such that the natural family has little material encouragement to keep together...in many cases nothing less than heroism is required if a husband and wife really desire to live together as a good Christian couple.  It calls for a self-discipline, a habit of self-conquest, which normally is not acquired without much prayer and a diligent use of the Sacraments, it two modern people are to continue fond of each other...very few people would be able to endure each other if they were not bound together to serve some ideal which is so great as to make them both seem equally insignificant when measured against it...Nothing but this belief can just the Catholic idea of marriage.  No other belief can give the people of our day courage to live according to nature and accept the children that God gives them, except this - the belief that every child has a soul which is worth more than the whole visible, created world."

"But one must limit the number of children according to one's means: no more than one can give a good start in life to!"  So they shake their heads at the Catholic mother - "Good gracious, another?  Well some people have no sense of responsibility!"  And the Catholic mother knows that every child she has is worth more than all the stars in the heavens, though at times she is near fainting under the shower of stars.  It keeps her tied within the walls of her home - and it may seem tempting when she sees other mothers who have their well-paid work outside the home and can afford competent help, so that their houses and children look better cared for than her own.  While the father is prematurely worn and middle-aged in his struggle to provide the greedy little stars with their bread and margarine."

"Christ has promised His Church that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.  We believe that the Church of Christ will subsist on earth as long as human life stirs on this globe.  But it is nowhere promised us that our continent and the nations with which we are related shall continue to belong to the Church of Christ through all the ages.  The Church militant on earth may be reduced to a handful of adherents, not many more than would fill an arena or a local jail.  The Christians of Europe may be reduced to a little band with no power to influence social development"


"Protestants sects...in the question of marriage and family life, have capitulated to the pagan views.  In this matter, as in so many others, they have "moved with the times"; that is, they have caught hold of the tail of the garment of "evolution" and held on to it, allowing themselves to be pulled along, while imagining they held the reins."


In conclusion, I think Sigrid Undset would be deeply saddened to realize that many of the same things can now be said of Catholics.



Time to Raise the Bar on What the Church Recognizes as "Marriage"?

I minister in the poorest town in Indiana.  We have a wonderful woman who is in RCIA to join the Church.

She's been married 5 times.


The Amoris Laetitia debate taking place about whether the divorced and remarried without an annulment while the first spouse is still living...this debate seems MUCH less important than what I'd like to discuss below.


First of all, I'm not a canon lawyer, but (I think I'm right in saying this) there are essentially 2 levels to marriage.  First of all, a marriage even of the unbaptized can be VALID because we currently consider the consent of the couple to be what typically makes it valid.

LEVEL 2: In addition to a marriage being valid, it can ALSO be sacramental if it is between 2 baptized persons


The discussion we need to be having, in my mind, is "has the state of marriage OUTSIDE the Church changed so drastically as to warrant us reexamining what makes a marriage valid?  Also, has the state of marriage changed so drastically OUTSIDE the Church as to warrant us examining what makes a marriage sacramental?"


Currently,
1) you don't even have to be baptized to have a valid marriage.  Two people, not baptized, who get married at the courthouse - we presume that is a valid marriage (not sacramental, but valid, thus needing to go through the annulment process if they have remarried and wish to join the Church)

2) We automatically say that two baptized people who exchange consent are presumed to be sacramentally married.


Said negatively - the only marriage we know, ON THE SURFACE, is not even a valid marriage is when a Catholic gets married OUTSIDE the Church without the Church's permission.  ALL OTHER MARRIAGES ARE PRESUMED VALID, AND NEED TO AT LEAST BEGIN THE ANNULMENT JOURNEY


But, in my mind, the entire landscape has changed, punctuated by our nation's embrace of same-sex marriage.


Here's what I'd like to throw out there: I am proposing, for arguments sake, that we say for a marriage to be valid, you need to either be married

1) In the Catholic Church or

2) In a Church that is on our approved list of churches that we believe do adequate marriage preparation/formation etc. AND have the SAME understanding of what marriage is that we as Catholics do.  Perhaps, like we did with baptism, we get together with other Christian denominations and issue some kind of joint statement on what we all believe about marriage, and the groups that don't sign on - getting married in their Church is not sacramental nor valid.

3) You receive proper permission from your bishop to marry a non-baptized person or some Christian that isn't on the list of approved Christian denominations.



Here's why I say this:
1) Our secular society literally has enshrined and recognizes marriage to be something that people of the same sex can enter into
2) Some denominations are literally preaching that two people of the same sex can "marry" each other.


We have, as a Catholic Church, done something similar with baptism. We don't recognize other Christian denominations' baptisms, unless they meet criteria that we have laid out and are on our "approved list of Christian denominations that properly confer baptism"

As an example, we accept Lutheran baptisms, but not Mormon baptisms


I'm just wondering whether we set some new standards about what we accept as marriage, given the shifting landscape outside the Church.


I have had people tell me they don't remember their marriage very much because they were both high when they walked into the courthouse to get married.  Is that marriage?  Now some will say "this stuff will get uncovered during an investigation for an annulment, and perhaps it would be declared null" but I'm saying it seems ridiculous at this point to think of these marriages as marriages - it seems off, in my mind, to even presume that these things are valid marriages


People might also just say, "you just don't want to work with your parishioner to get 5 annulment processes going" but I would say that situations like these are becoming more normal.  This situation that I describe is, sadly, not nearly the exception anymore.

I have a town FULL of poor people who have been married multiple times and who would be interested in the Church but even being gently led through the marriage regularization process of the Church just seems to crush so many of them.


In the Amoris debate, again, everyone is upset and arguing about Catholics who have remarried without an annulment.  I think the far more important question that can be tackled is

"Does the absolute implosion of what marriage has come to be in Western civilization warrant a redrawing of the lines for the Church's laws on marriage (not on who can receive Communion but on which and what types of marriages we recognize)"

Sunday, February 3, 2019

How You Can Help a Priest


I’m right there with you waiting and wondering if something will ever be done about episcopal abuse of children, and if any real punishments will be levied against criminal bishops. 



It can be tempting to live in the black and white "I'm not doing anything until this gets fixed and addressed", but I'd like to suggest some things that involve work, are not totally black and white, and yet could also make a huge difference in helping our priests live more ordered and Christian lives, and thus these are things that could also help prevent future abuse and harm being done by our priests.  This is a compilation of some practical things you can do for the priests you know that might really help them avoid the situations that frequently contribute to priests finding themselves in the midst of scandal



1) One of the top indicators that a priest is close to either falling away or doing something completely devastating is that the priest has stopped praying, has stopped seeing a spiritual director, and has not taken his yearly retreat.  So, ask your pastor “Father, how’s your prayer life?”.  Also ask the priests you know, on a regular basis, “How is spiritual direction going for you?” and also ask the priests “How was your retreat?”

If there response to any of these is “I haven’t done it in a while” ask them “What can I and the parish do to help you get to spiritual direction?  What can we do to help you go on retreat?  Can we help track down coverage for you so you can take a week to go on retreat?  Does the parish need to hire someone to help lighten your load so that you can go to spiritual direction monthly and pray a holy hour each day?"



2) The 2nd Vatican Council said in one of its documents that priests ought to live in community as much as possible.  I believe if this were happening, the abuse numbers would have been way lower.  There is so much accountability that comes with living in community.  When guys are living in community, it is harder to be a drunk, it is harder to be addicted to porn, it is harder to get addicted to television or video games, and if a priest is out having an “affair” of any kind, you can bet that those living with him will almost assuredly figure it out quickly.

So are we ready to encourage OUR pastor to STOP living at OUR parish so that he can live in community with brother priests at a nearby parish?  Consider asking the priests you know “What could we do to help you live in community with brother priests?”



3) A sabbath day of rest is super important for any human being, particularly when you are plugged in, getting stretched in a lot of directions with emails, public appearances, talks, Mass, confessions, funerals, etc.  When is your priest’s day off? Ask him if he’s taking it.  Also, encourage other parishioners to not bother him on his day off.  I will say here that most of the people in my parishes know when my day off is, and yet some ask me to do things on my day off.  With regard to future events, encourage a spirit of not asking things of your pastor on his day off.  And just to be clear, I don’t mean so much “don’t call Father on Friday” but rather “Don’t ask father to come to something on a Friday a month from now.”  He can always say no, but don't put him in the position of having to say "no" in the first place!  For most human beings, one thing on the schedule on a day off is not a day off.



4) Here’s something particularly important for the men of a parish, but it can apply to men and women.  Friendship with the priest.  Usually in the mind of parishioners it seems like there are two options:
1) Father likes me and is my really good friend or
2) Father does not know me and/or is not my really good friend.

Here’s the deal, a priest's GOOD friends should NEVER be parishioners.  There is a power dynamic that is present there that keeps it from EVER being healthy.

So…ask your priest “Are you taking time to be with good priest friends, good lay friends outside the parish, and your family?”



5) At the same time, the men can and SHOULD invite Father into fraternal activities and events and comradery. “Father, the Knights are getting together at Bill’s and playing cards and having a beer, want to come?” 

Know and be okay with the fact that your pastor should be at lots of social events, but that at the same time, none of those should be major sources of deep and close friendships but rather fraternal in nature. 

Fight the temptation to say "Well, I tried to be Father's friend, but he didn't respond, so now I don't really approach him."


6) Invite the priests you know to come participate in manual labor with the men of the parish.  If he isn’t good at manual labor or is soft and effeminate, don’t dismiss him for that reason, but think about ways that you and some of the men of the parish might help him get more comfortable with doing some good hard manual labor.

The same goes for sports.   Invite Father to come play basketball or workout.  If he doesn’t know how to work out, get him a personal trainer who can coach him (a great parish Christmas gift).  "Father, a group of us work out in the mornings at the Y.  Would you like to join us?"

If he doesn’t know how to run or jog, find someone who can help coach him in that.  Surround him with a group of people from the parish who like to walk or bike and are training for some upcoming event, and bring him into the fold.  Exercise of some kind is absolutely essential to living out a healthy priesthood in our day where so much physical work has disappeared.



7) If your parish has a poverty outreach ministry, invite the priest to go on a home visit or work a shift at the food pantry.  As Pope Francis has called us to the margins, I have found that working with the poor in a direct way (not just guiding poverty outreach from my office) has helped me a great deal in confronting my own sinfulness.  As one person once said "the answer to our culture's pornography addiction is working in a soup kitchen".  I don't personally battle pornography, but lust in general, pride, greed, selfishness...it is all routed out by getting into contact and relationship with those in poverty.  Help get your priest out of his office!

I’ve asked my parishioners at both parishes to call me if they need someone to go on a St. Vincent DePaul home visit, and I’ve not had anyone invite me along in 6 years.  Help Father get involved in ministry to the poor and going to the margins, and help him do it with others and not just something he does alone.




These are just some of the main ideas that come to mind in helping our current priests and pastors live out their priesthood in a healthy way.  Let me know if there are other questions.  Do you have your own ideas for things to do?  Leave a comment.  Let us pray for our priests

You are Called to be a Prophet!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

A message for Nick Sandmann

I am not inserting myself into this issue - a priest I know in the area reached out and said that he has heard that Nick and family are hoping for words of support from priests and bishops.  He probably won't see this.  But if so, and it helps him in the pain they are going through, that's great


On Bishops Getting Hate-Mail (about themselves or their priests)

Recently I was blessed to sit down with my Archbishop (I am very blessed to have such a wonderful shepherd and spiritual father).  I wanted to introduce why I engage in social media, how it got started, etc.  Archbishop Thompson is fairly new, and I had not had a chance to really introduce myself.

One of the things that I said was something to the effect of this:  "Archbishop, I'm sure you get lots of notes about me.  But I think that it is not because of what I'm saying, but because I'm a public person in some way.  Someone who is on the complete opposite theological spectrum (and has an infinitely larger following) from me would be Fr. James Martin, SJ.  Every time he posts something, there are hundreds of comments, and most of them are "I'm turning you into your superior, and I pray you are kicked out of the Church!"  Archbishop, I know the Jesuits are getting hundreds if not 1,000's of letters about Fr. Martin, most of them probably negative.  I think it just goes with being a public person in the Church."


We went on to chat more, and the Archbishop agreed, noting that he too is a public person, and has received lots of letters for and against himself.


Here's the point in all of this - the first wave of the persecution of the Church is underway - storm the Church with complaint letters.  I've seen it as a recommended TACTIC on some anti-Catholic entities list of strategies --- Just barrage the bishops with complaint letters about priests who are speaking out against homosexual marriage, abortion, etc.


Most bishops and dioceses are already overwhelmed with work load, and so it is TEMPTING to want to just stop the letters.  It is surely tempting for any religious superior to just say "WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP TALKING BECAUSE WE'RE GETTING ALL THIS STUFF ABOUT YOU."


Here's the point: The Jesuits stand in and take it.  They deal with the complaint letters because they believe in what Fr. Martin is saying.  They believe it is the Truth, so they add extra staff people to deal with the complaints, they have a standard approach, they send out a template response: "We're sorry you don't like him...but that's tough and that's life."


In that sense, even though I disagree with just about everything Fr. James Martine says, I admire the Jesuits for backing him and not just telling him "Hey, people are complaining.  Could you make our lives easier and just be quiet?"


There may be a day where we are literally silenced as a Church and are no longer able to teach openly what we believe.  BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY!  And until that day of silencing comes, I would just like to cheer on all bishops, all dioceses, and all priestly personnel to back the play of those priests and laity who are on the front lines and trying to speak the Gospel in a prophetic way to a sick, decaying, and crumbling Western Civilization.


We shall all hang together, or we shall all hang separately.  Fight the good fight!


Monday, January 14, 2019

"Father, your social media is not joyful"

UPDATED: I forgot to add my favorite quote from Chesterton.  It is now included at the end


Every now and then, I hear from people "I follow you on Twitter/Facebook/Youtube/Blog, and you seem pretty intense."

Other words for intense would be "angry", "non-joyful", "non-happy", etc.


Here's my response: social media is a TOOL.  Social media is NOT a thing that should be used to present the entirety of one's self


MANY people WRONGLY use social media to try to present the entirety of themselves to other people (even though, of course, it is usually only the parts of themselves they want others to see).


Some people would respond: "Well, use social media to convey joy and happiness and humor"

My response: "NO!"

1) I find a lot of joy and happiness and peace in my life.  Most of the people who interact with me in person would say I'm joyful, of good humor, easy to get along with, and NOT a person who always talks about hard truths.

I don't typically call up friends and say "Hey, do you want to talk about contraception or McCarrick?"


2) The Gospels are not written to describe Jesus' personal disposition.  The Gospels don't say "One day, in a conversation, Jesus was really happy and smiling and giving off a great vibe of joy"  The Gospels are the Truth out of a fire-hose.  Every word is something that could fuel our prayer lives for years, but virtually nothing in the Gospels describes Jesus' personality/joy/happiness/etc.


The vast majority of my life is stuff that I will not share on social media.  I don't spend a lot of time on social media.  I also run two parishes and a university and prison chaplaincy, and am too busy to be on social media giving constant updates anyway.  But when I have an experience of joy or happiness or peace or a fun interaction, I pray that none of the first 100 things that pass through my mind will ever be "I should somehow go out and tell everyone how funny/joyful/at peace/happy I am by recounting this story on social media"


SOCIAL MEDIA IS A TOOL FOR EVANGELIZING IN A GENERAL SENSE

JOY IS A GREAT TOOL FOR EVANGELIZING IN PERSON


Those who think social media is for constantly demonstrating all facets of their personality equally and that the entirety of one's personality is to be gathered from social media have a very warped and even spiritually diseased and potentially lethal understanding of what social media is for.



My blog has 2,001,448 views
My Youtube channel has 15,000 subscribers and 10.6 million minutes of watched videos
My Facebook public page has 9,000 followers
My Twitter has 8,000 followers and about 8 million impressions

One might throw out there that Hitler had a huge following.  I share these stats just to say that despite me not conveying every facet of my personality via social media, lots of people find what I do, in a very limited capacity, to be helpful.

People aren't coming there looking for updates on my current state of mind and where I'm at spiritually at that moment.  They are coming for the Truth.  So for those who are looking to know about the effects that the Gospel has on one's personality, go introduce yourself to some people, in person, who are living the Gospel and have them over for dinner. 


I end with my favorite quote from Chesterton; his mic-drop conclusion to his best book "Orthodoxy".  Some people tell me they don't understand what Chesterton is getting at in this quote of his.  I feel sorry for those persons. Here is perhaps his best prose, and that is saying something!

"He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell.  

Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. 

There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth."

Friday, January 11, 2019

What to do about the scandals in the Church

It was great to join Dr. Taylor Marshall for this conversation.  He's doing GREAT work on trying to address the scandals in the Church