Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Music - Mumford and Sons

This is a band that I know my brother Aaron was one of the first 10 fans of. They are a folk/rock/bluegrass mix that works extremely well. They also write their own stuff, and I really enjoy the lyrics to their songs in addition to the great sound they have. Here are some of their best songs if you haven't come across them yet

Favorite line: "Darkness is a harsh term don't you think? Yet it dominates the things I see." Given things recently and not so recently in my own experience, I think this really jives with me. To say something is dark or evil or wrong is harsh, but then again, if it's there it is there.

I also like the second verse - "It seems that all my bridges have been burned, but you say that is how this grace thing works. It's not the long walk home that will change this heart, but the welcome I receive with the restart"

Mr. Ryan Costello gave a wonderful reflection on our Summer Field Studies program centered around this song and he tied it into weakness and how when we are weak we realize that we in fact do need God. The title "Awake my soul" is a major line in Psalm 57 as well.
"How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes, I struggle to find any truth in your lies And now my heart stumbles on things I don't know This weakness I feel I must finally show...Awake my soul, awake my soul, Awake my soul You were made to meet your maker You were made to meet your maker."

This is just a fun song

If you like these guys, check out the Avett Brothers as well - and they are coming to the Lawn at White River on October 1st.

Mass for Priests

Today I prayed the Mass in the back of the Sacramentary titled "For Priests" - it has some gems! Consider offering one or some of these prayers for all priests today if you get the chance.

Antiphon: The Spirit of God is upon me; he has anointed me. He sent me to bring good news to the poor, and to heal the broken-hearted." Lk. 4:18

Opening Prayer: Father, you have appointed your Son Jesus Christ eternal High Priest. Guide those he has chosen to be ministers of word and sacrament and help them to be faithful in fulfilling the ministry they have received. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever

Prayer over the Gifts: Father, in your plan of salvation you have appointed priests to minister to your people at your holy altars. By the power of this sacrament may their priestly service always be pleasing to you and bring lasting good to your Church. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Communion antiphon: Father, make them holy in the truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. John 17:17-18

Prayer after Communion: Lord, may the sacrifice we offer and receive give life to your priests and all your people. Keep them joined to you by a love that will never end, and make them worthy members of your household. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.

You Best Believin' In the Trinity - Because You're In It!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Refusing Absolution?

A good friend told me today that some priests in the Archdiocese are worried that I apparently refused someone absolution. What is refusal of absolution? Furthermore, what is my response to those who are wondering about this?

A priest, in hearing confession, must be convinced that in some way the person HOPES to not fall into the sin again. The Church calls it "a firm purpose of amendment" per Canon 987.

Every priest has had confessions where it was ambiguous as to whether or not the person was actually HOPING to not fall in to the sin again. In those instances, A priest would hopefully explain "firm purpose of amendment", and a way to do that might go like this: "You have talked about sin x. With regards to sin x, the Church asks that you simply be able to say "I hope to never fall into that sin again."" With regards to sin x a person can say, "Wow, it is a really strong thing in my life, I probably will fall there again" - that is perfectly okay for a person to say. What you also must say is "I hope to never do that sin again" - something along the lines of "I WANT to stop." That is it. The Church asks for something very simple. If someone can't say that they hope to never do that sin again, then a priest can NOT give them absolution.

Priests likely have encountered an occasion or two where someone has come in and said, in effect, "Father, I should probably confess some things but I'm really not sorry for them and I know I'll do them again." In that case, a priest would hopefully give some variation of the explanation above, and if they still are adamant about not wanting to stop committing a sin, a priest, for purpose of healing, should refuse absolution. Again, this is a healing gesture because it should hopefully cause the person coming to confession with a "wake-up" jolt to ultimately encourage them to change their outlook on their sin.

Refusing absolution is something that a priest is required to do in certain situations, and a priest hopefully gives penitents every single possible inch of wiggle room, but ultimately it sometimes happens (and many brother priests I know of have had to do this) that a person simply has no purpose whatsoever of amending their situation.

The Church is not asking for a guarantee that a person will not sin anymore, just that they HOPE not to, and that is a VERY important distinction. It would be pretty pointless to ask someone to guarantee that they wouldn't sin.

In those cases where a person confesses to PLANNING to persist in a sin, a prayer or blessing can be given, and then many prayers are offered that the prodigal son or daughter will one day return to the Lord, having recognized the futility of their persistence in their sin, being once again able to say "I HOPE to never fall into that sin again."

Planned Parenthood the Only Option for Women's Health in Indiana?

Absolutely Not!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Priests Giving Bad Advice - How Serious Is It?

As mentioned on here elsewhere, there are certain sins which, due to their especially grave nature, are reserved to Rome such that a priest alone is not able to administer absolution. These sins would include, among others, the desecration of the Eucharist, abuse of a minor by a priest, breaking the seal of confession, etc.

One of the oddest sins on the list can be phrased something to this effect: "The sin of a priest soliciting sexual activity from the confessional." Basically, if a priest solicits sex from the confessional he can't go to another priest for absolution - it must be handled by Rome itself.

Canon lawyer Ed Peters recently had a very fascinating post, however, that shows that this sin also has always also been about priests who in any way encourage unchaste sexual activity, even if the activity is not with the priest himself.

Basically what this means is that if a priest were to encourage adultery, pornography, masturbation, contraception, etc. for a penitent, then that priest would be guilty of a sin that another priest can not give absolution for.

A priest soliciting sex from a penitent is rare and obviously scandalous. MUCH more frequent, however, are the cases of priests who offer sexual advice which is nothing short of encouraging sexual sin.

Peters makes the case that only those offenses involving the priest himself should be reserved to Rome, but that other violations of the command ought to be reserved to the diocesan level at least.

You can read Dr. Peter's post here.

Pray for our priests that they may be kept free from these types of grave sins.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gone for Two Weeks But the Blog Beats On!

I'll be in the woods for two weeks with 120 teenagers and about 50 adult staff for a trip called Summer Field Studies. My Dad has been organizing it now for over 30 years and it has turned into quite the experience - a life-changer for almost all who participate. The basic format is hiking/climbing/adventure during the day with optional Mass and a group campfire reflection in the evening. You can check out the trip's website by clicking here.

As far as the blog goes, I have saved some stuff on here which will publish over the course of the next two weeks even though I'll be gone and off the grid. I also hope to have a full account of the adventure upon my return.

Please keep us in your prayers, and enjoy these beautiful June weeks!

New Catholic Author for Some Sunday Reading

First of all, what a beautiful day in Indianapolis! I hope it is the same wherever you are reading this!

Recently I purchased a book on a whim (as I usually do) from Ignatius Press called "On Being Catholic" by author Thomas Howard. I had never heard of Thomas, but the reviews by Scott Hahn, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, and Cardinal Schonborn had me interested.

A few chapters in, I am VERY impressed and I do not think Fr. Groeschel's comparison to C.S. Lewis is off the mark. I wanted to include an excerpt here, and if you like what you see, you might think about picking the book up for yourself, for someone else, or for both!


"It is often put forward in this connection that Catholic worship cannot possibly be of one piece with the spare and humble simplicity that obtained in the Upper Room, and among the apostles, the believing women, and the others who gathered after the Ascension. Look at the sumptuousness and complexity of the Mass. My word - brocaded vestments and bowing and mumbling and bric-a-brac: How can Rome possibly maintain that that is to be understood as "primitive"?

Many Christian denominations make the claim that theirs is nothing more than New Testament worship. "We just go back to the Book of Acts for our pattern", it is said.

The difficulty here is that the Book of Acts scarcely hints at what the believers actually did when they gathered. We all know Acts 2:42: "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." Certainly this touches on the content of their gatherings.

But what did they actually do in these gatherings? We find presently, in the writings that we have from the Church, written, often, by men who had themselves known and been taught by Peter and John and Paul, that indeed the "bishop" expounded the Scripture to the gathered faithful in a homily that followed certain readings from Scripture. The sermon, in all Christian churches, can trace its taproot straight back to this custom.

And what shape did "fellowship" take? Newly composed hymnody? Testimonials? Sharing? Extempore prayers? All of these items form staple ingredients in many of the groups that seek to remain close to the simplicity glimpsed in the Book of Acts. But of course Acts does not spell out any of this. We Christians, late in time, have to guess here. No one can claim that such activities have undoubted biblical pedigree."

Well done, Mr. Howard!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Difference Between 2 Drinks and 10, 12, 14.....

We should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them.”
-G.K. Chesterton - Orthodoxy

On the heels of Memorial Day weekend, on the night when the parish festival season (and Summer in general) seems to actually begin, I thought it would be interesting to reflect briefly on what the Church says about alcohol consumption.

Many are familiar with the fact that it was Catholic monks who invented beer trying to find a way to sanitize their drinking water. Since then, Catholics have often been portrayed in stories (not entirely mythical) as lovers of "drink". Growing up in the Catholic culture I did on the south side of Indianapolis it seems that some Catholics almost approach alcohol as a religious duty.

Contrary to some religions, the Catholic Church has nothing condemning to say to alcohol use, up to a point. Obviously, when one achieves a state of drunkenness, then they have crossed over into the realm of deadly sin. St. Paul says in Galatians and 1 Corinthians that those who get drunk will not inherit the kingdom of God (pretty strong language!). Proverbs also notes several times that drinking too much is a serious sin as well.

St. Thomas Aquinas, usually known for his precision, leaves the question more loosely answered by noting that one ought to stop drinking just short of the point of "hilarity". The Angelic Doctor on this point seems to be unhelpful. St. Benedict offers more sound advice noting that we should "enjoy all things in moderation." AMEN!

St. Benedict's famous saying about all things in moderation really sums up the Church's teachings on so many things - not just alcohol.

A piece of candy during the day - fine
3 candy bars a day - probably not so good

Your favorite TV show for an hour - no big deal
3 hours of TV - probably not so good

30 minutes on Facebook - cool
16 hours of media consumption a day (average kid today) - danger zone

2 beers over a meal with friends - enjoyable!
10 beers because you want to get drunk - "you shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven"

Where these lines are at is not exact and they depend on many factors for each person, but we get the big picture here I think. Moderation, moderation, moderation

Some will criticize the Church for not banning alcohol all together. However, looking at Scripture, if alcohol was intrinsically evil (evil from the first drop) then would Christ have turned the water into wine? Certainly not. For me, that is a sufficient enough example to note why the Church doesn't condemn alcohol use in general.

Working with teenagers, I often get the question on the other side of the coin. They often ask some variation of "If alcohol, which kills brain cells and is harmful to one's body is okay in moderation why isn't marijuana?" It would seem, though, that illicit drugs are somehow fundamentally different than alcohol in how they work on the person. If I were to go and talk to someone who has been suffering from alcoholism for most of their life, it would still seem like the person was fundamentally "the same as ever" just that their body had been run down. However, if I were to speak with someone who (even for a much shorter span of time than the alcoholic) has been using marijuana, I would get the sense that at the very core of their person there has been a fundamental change for the worse, as if they are slower, less present, less human. Sure it is never good to abuse one's liver or any other part of the body, but to those who say there is no difference between booze and weed I would encourage them to talk to a few people from each camp first and see if the Church's differing stance on the two substances makes more sense.

The other question I get from teenagers is "why is it illegal if the Church is okay with me having a few drinks?" The answer is that the Church, especially through the writings of St. Paul, demands that we uphold the laws of the land which are not unjust, and the 21 year old alcohol limit is certainly a just law.

As usual, I think it is best to defer to G.K. Chesterton - "We should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them." I respect people such as my parents who have chosen to abstain from alcohol - that is certainly an option. However, for those who do enjoy a drink here and there, it important to realize that for each person there is an invisible but knowable threshold that lies somewhere near a couple of drinks, and those who cross that line find themselves not just having another drink, but instead find themselves in serious sin. The difference between whatever number of drinks = moderation for you and "one more drink" is a whole lot more than just "one more drink" - so let us, if we so choose and are of age, allow a drink or two to make our celebrations even more festive and joyful, and may we have the prudence to discern, as with all things, the line between moderation and serious sin.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Homily Upon My Return to My Home Parish - Connecting the Ascension with the Rite of Ordination

Two Years a Priest as of Today

I'm not looking for electronic affirmation, but I did want to give glory to God for two great years! It has been amazing. This morning I celebrated the Mass titled "Mass for the priest himself on the anniversary of his ordination"

First a little video I made after the ordination.

The following are the beautiful prayers of one's anniversary Mass

Opening Prayer:
unworthy as I am, you have chosen me
to share in the eternal priesthood of Christ
and the ministry of your Church.
May I be an ardent but gentle servant
of your gospel and your sacraments.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Prayer over the Gifts:
in your mercy, accept our offering
and help me to fulfill the ministry you have given me
in spit of my unworthiness.
Grant this through Christ our Lord

Closing Prayer:
on this anniversary of my ordination
I have celebrated the mystery of faith
to the glory of your name.
May I always live in truth
the mysteries I handle at your altar.
Grant this in the name of Jesus the Lord.

Those prayers just about sum it up. Pray for me, pray for all priests, and pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life!

Priests With Their Back to the People?

I'm preparing to publish a post in the near future on the idea of the priest celebrating Mass again with "his back to the people" as people have so commonly (and WRONGLY) labeled that liturgical orientation of the priest. There is a lot of education that needs to take place before this happens, but it should be noted up front that it is really what the Church has envisioned, and that Mass as we see it today in most parishes is woefully off course from where the 2nd Vatican Council seemed to be steering things. Historians say it takes 90 years for everything to sort itself out from a council, so if that's the case, we still have over 40 years to go.

To grease the skids for my owns post, I wanted to share this post from the Vultus Christi blog which Fr. Z. quotes on his blog. To read the excellent post just click here.

There are a lot of questions that need to be answered, so let's start the dialogue. Questions about what the priest is saying? Questions about what the priest didn't say in his post? Leave a comment and we'll see if we can't get some good dialogue on this topic.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Biggest Problem with Ascension Thursday/Sunday

As you may or may not know, Christ ascended into heaven 40 days after Easter. 40 days after Easter is always a Thursday, but recently, at least in the U.S., it has been left to the prerogative of each bishop to decide if the Ascension is celebrated on Thursday or celebrated three days later on Sunday.

This angers and confuses people for a lot of reasons that you have probably heard elsewhere. A problem I have with it is this - for 4 days we as a Church are not praying with one voice.

Throughout the world there is constantly Mass being offered, and those Masses, while in different languages, are still the same words. Taking this past Monday for example the opening prayer was the same prayer throughout the world, the readings were the same across the globe, the prayer before the holy, holy, holy was the same, etc. Also, the Liturgy of the Hours that are prayed by all priests and religious daily (morning prayer, daytime prayer, evening prayer, etc.) are always the same prayers, readings, responses, petitions, etc. There is a real power in that one prayer being lifted up to God by His Church.

This week, Thursday through Sunday, the one Body of Christ is praying in a bipolar way. Some of the Body of Christ is celebrating the Ascension on Thursday, while everyone else uses readings and prayers from the regular Thursday of the 6th week of Easter; same goes for the Liturgy of the Hours. Friday is no different, nor is Saturday or Sunday. Trying to keep the Mass texts straight and keeping one's breviary (priest prayer book for the Liturgy of the Hours) straight has been a nightmare. What is normally a straightforward experience is confusing during these four days. In the Breviary one finds instructions like this:

"Where the solemnity of the Ascension is transferred to Sunday, the verse, readings, and responsories are taken from Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter, pg. 946" and the same page flipping occurs in the Sacramentary and the Lectionary as well.

This was a little piece that occurred in the Lectionary for last Sunday: "When the Ascension of the Lord is celebrated on the following Sunday, the second reading and Gospel from the Seventh Sunday of Easter (see no. 59) may be read on the Sixth Sunday of Easter."

It just breaks up the unity, and I think we'd be better served picking one option and rolling with it as a Church.

If the goal is to keep people free of the mortal sin of missing a Holy Day of Obligation, we can give up on that effort now since most parishes get about 3% of their parish population coming to Holy Day services nowadays anyways. Either we should move all Holy Days to the following Sunday or leave them all alone. Either way, we need to get on the same page as a Church and leave the bipolar nature of our prayer during these 4 confusing days behind.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

VIDEO: More From the Today Show

There were other pieces on the Today Show today besides the one I posted below - Archbishop Dolan, a day in the life of Pope Benedict, a look at the Swiss Guards, etc. All of the pieces are worth a watch. Enjoy!

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VIDEO: Today Show on the Church and Social Media

NBC Today Show has a very nice piece about the Church and social media - very relevant and well done. Check it out!

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