Sunday, December 30, 2012

5 Observations on Les Miserables

1)  It was such a relief to see Catholicism portrayed in a positive light!  A merciful monsignor in the film's opening scenes, the compassion of a group of nuns throughout, and characters spending time in front of, and putting into action, the crucifix. 

2) I went to the movie with a bunch of young adults, mostly it looked like boyfriends dragged their by their girlfriends, the point being it wasn't like I was at the film with a bunch of people who you would expect to see at a movie like this. 

I bring this up to note that for nearly three hours you could have heard a pin drop in the theater.  I've been to a lot of movies, and I have NEVER seen anything like that.  It was almost like people recognized they were in the presence of beauty, and that they were being silent out of respect.

3)  This same theater of mostly young adults actually APPLAUDED when the film was over.  I've been to the midnight showings of Star Wars movies, Lord of the Rings movies, and Harry Potter movies - despite the rabidity of those fan bases, when those movies ended, no one applauded, but there was something about Les Mis that elicited the applause of most of the audience.

4) The movie is long, but I think it seems longer because there is so much tension in the film.  My only request would have been more humor or more relief from the tension.  That being said, I was shocked in a good way by the two comedic performances by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. 

5) One of my favorite books, A River Runs Through It, has the following dialogue between a father and son about a dead son/brother who was had turned fishing into an art form:

"I’ve told you all I know. If you push me far enough, all I really know is that he was a fine fisherman.

You know more than that,” my father said. “He was beautiful.

The film had amazing acting, music, etc., but it was more than just a film, it was beautiful.

My Family Messed Me Up!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bishops Want Gun Control

So the USCCB has issued a statement through several of its committees, reiterating a call both from the USCCB in the past, and also the Pontifical Council for Peace affirming the need for gun control.  Specifically, the statement asks for:

"3. Call for sensible regulations of handguns
4. Support legislative efforts that seek to protect society from the violence associated with easy access to deadly weapons including assault weapons"

I'm not getting into the issue of gun control here - what I want to do is wonder aloud whether or not we will hear from the liberal media (and liberal catholics) a call to "stay out of politics." 

This issue of gun control is clearly one favored by the left, and so the media is painted into a corner
1) tell the Church to be quiet on this issue because it is a political one, or
2) say the Church has a right to speak up on this particular issue since it is such an important issue it actually transcends politics.

If it is 2), the irony would be that the "libs" would be admitting something exists that, to date, they have said does not exist - namely an issue that transcends politics and thus is something the Church can comment on.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Review of Hobbit Reviews

I saw the Hobbit last Friday, and I must start by saying I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

I must also say that I've found most of the reviews of the Hobbit done by Catholics that I typically trust to give good reviews of films have been, in my estimation, guilty of missing the boat entirely.

I've heard many Catholic reviewers talk about how the Hobbit is too long.  Really?  I thought there were a few points where the movie could have ended, but I certainly was glad that it DIDN'T end at those points and instead kept going.  The whole point about Tolkien's world is that it is a world that you don't want to leave, and I certainly found that to be the case with the Hobbit.

I was THRILLED that it continued on and on.  I would get the critique if it were coming from someone who didn't understand Tolkien, but Catholic reviewers ought to know better. 

I still remember when the Return of the King came out, and everyone was bashing the fact that it took several minutes to end.  Tolkien's (and Jackson's directing of Tolkien's) world is like a big pint of delicious ale that you are GLAD to see that it doesn't end right away. 

I also thought that the acting was fantastic, the cinematography spot on, and everything about Middle Earth has stayed the same while somehow also improving.  I must admit that the commercials gave the appearance that perhaps the Hobbit was going to be a bit more cartoonish in the special effects department and in the story telling, but that fear was put to bed. 

The Hobbit is a great movie, and it is very effective in bringing to the screen the world that Tolkien first dreamed up so many years ago. 

I can't wait for the next installment of the Hobbit!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gaudete Homily - Time to Rejoice??? No Thanks!

Here is the text for anyone interested in that:

If you’ve ever been outside for a sunrise, you’ll notice something fascinating about the hour or so before sunrise.  Of course the sky starts out black, and then it fairly quickly gets light – usually a bright blue.  Then, as sunrise gets nearer, but still before you can actually see the Sun, the sky explodes into a symphony of rose colors…the same color as my vestment for today

The Church calls this Sunday Gaudete Sunday.  Gaudete is a command to have joy. …the color Rose denoting the fact that the sunrise is getting nearer, the Son of God stands on the edge of storming the beaches of this world as a fellow human person two thousand years ago, the celebration of which we will celebrate in a few days.

The first reading tells us to shout for joy with an exclamation point.  The psalm says “Cry out with joy”… St Paul says in the second reading not once but TWICE to Rejoice…again with an exclamation point.

And yet, especially today, there is a temptation to say “No Thanks”.  Priests are people, and so like you, I’ve spent a lot of time the past 24 hours thinking about and praying for the people in Connecticut, trying somehow to make sense of something that can’t ever make sense. 

The Catechism has an absolutely beautiful passage I came across yesterday: “Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it.”

How true!  How easily such events can shake and test our faith.  So many begin to ask questions in times like these “how can an all-loving God let this happen?”  

But even when people start asking that question, we already start to see the sky turning rose – because people who, hours earlier, would have said they didn’t believe in God, who hours earlier would have said that science can’t prove there is a God so there’s no such thing, such people begin asking questions about the God that they hated just hours ago.  

“Rejoice!  I say it again, Rejoice”  This weekend is Gaudete Sunday, and St. Paul and the Church urge us to be people who REJOICE.  St. Paul, in saying REJOICE, was not writing from a cruise ship in the Bahamas, he was writing in a society that was equally accustomed to barbarous atrocities and evils with our own time – St. Paul cries out for us to rejoice not because things are always perfect, in fact that is why it is a command – REJOICE! It is a command because sometimes we can’t summon the energy to do it on our own, and so we must be told.  

And the call to rejoice is especially important IN THE MIDST of atrocities, like the one we face now, because it is at times like this that people are looking for answers from us.

I saw a picture on the news last night of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newton, CT, and not only could you not get in the Church for Mass, you could hardly find a place on the front lawn of the Church.

So precisely when the demons in Hell are celebrating what they perceive to be yet another victory of senseless violence, people are flocking to God, even if they are angry, even if they are confused, they are flocking to him.

And what do those who flock to him find?  What do all the people standing on tiptoes last night to catch a glimpse of the Eucharist SEE when they flock back to God???  John Paul II says it best in his AMAZING letter on suffering…He says: “They see a God on  the cross who is himself suffering, and who wishes to answer the question “why is there suffering” from the Cross, from the heart of his own suffering”  That is why I think it is completely ridiculous and a lie to pretend that the cross without Christ’s body on it means anything.  Some churches would have us act like suffering is over, the cross is over, but Catholicism says NO – Christ suffered, God suffered, and still suffers, and that MEANS SOMETHING FOR US WHO ARE SUFFERING TODAY.  I have a crucifix in every room and every hallway and everywhere I can to remind myself of this fact when I am suffering – I remember that HE suffered to, and suffers still through our pain, and so although I don’t walk away with every answer, I know I’m united to God during difficult times.

What did the tiptoeing Mass attendees see and hear last night, they saw Christ on a cross, and they heard Christ’s words acknowledging his suffering.  To know that Christ suffers and shares in our suffering is a game changer and it is the good news –
The Gospel could possibly be summed up in these words: “Christ changed suffering from meaningless to holy” even if suffering still doesn’t make sense to us

And that is why the Church says REJOICE, not because violence has ended, but because God has taken evil and brought good out of it

"Rejoice in the Lord always!  I say it again, rejoice."  Today is Gaudete Sunday around the world, it is Gaudete Sunday in countries where Churches are routinely bombed, it is Gaudete Sunday in Rwanda, it is Gaudete Sunday in Churches where young and old are starving and are victims of extreme poverty, it is Gaudete Sunday in Newton Connecticut, and it is Gaudete Sunday in Indiana.

I was running at the Y this afternoon, and I saw where some residents of Newtown have decided to take their Christmas decorations down because they feel guilty celebrating anything.  I certainly understand what they’re saying, but I think the Church’s solution is better.  The Church tells people all over the world, those in areas of famine, war, violence, poverty, sin, death, and despair to Rejoice.

We suffer in this valley of tears, but so does Christ, and suffering, despite its pain, is no longer meaningless, it is holy and sacred.”

And so we pray for the grace to be able to do what St. Paul urges, we pray for the grace to “Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again, rejoice”

Friday, December 14, 2012

Reflections on Connecticut

Some have asked for my thoughts on the tragedies of today, and so I share them for what they are worth.

It seems like a line was crossed today that, in our country at least, has never been crossed to date.  Columbine was horrendous and was a paradigm shift for the nation, but given our collective experiences as teenagers growing up, and given the fact that most everyone still carries scars from teenage hazing and bullying in some form or another, I think most people at least could fathom the source of the hatred, the evil, and the revenge that we saw in Columbine.  From Stephen King's "Carrie" to Ralphie in "A Christmas Story", we've grown up knowing that bullying does real harm and pushes people to the breaking point.

But a classroom of little doesn't register on any level, nor should it.

So now the carousel of blame starts spinning - people pointing at things external to fix..."better gun laws", "better mental health care", "better health insurance"...give me a break!  I could care less, one way or the other, on gun control, but anyone who thinks that these types of measures would have prevented today is really hoping to avoid the issue that really matters.

The dignity of the person.

In our culture, the dignity of the human person has been spat upon, mocked, and destroyed.  There is no "dignity of the human person" to speak of anymore.  Anytime someone stands up to speak about "the dignity of the human person" they are shouted down in the public square and mocked for using words from an archaic culture that we have, so we're told, moved beyond and surpassed.

A human person today only has dignity if others will it to be so - a child grasping for breath on the abortionist's table is granted dignity solely based on the wishes of the mother.  The abortionist, and our President, like the emperors in the Colosseum of Rome, wait for the thumb up or down of the mother to decide whether the child lives or dies.

Embryos sit in freezers across the country, parents have their reproductive systems mangled in order to have pleasure without the burden of children, wars are now fought, like video games, through the lenses of drones, we tell third world countries that "children are the problem" and so if you want any of our food to eat, you are going to have to stop having children...

Today, in Connecticut, a big fat mirror was held up to our nation, and a monster from the depths of Hell illustrated and showed us exactly what we don't want to see in ourselves...we hate children, we hate life, and human dignity is on life support in this country.

The Joker in "The Dark Knight" utters a seriously frightening, and seriously prophetic line about us:

"Nobody panics when things go "according to plan." Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it's all "part of the plan". But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!"

We're accustomed to the plan of 4,000 abortions a day, it has become part of our character as a nation, and it has faded away into being simply "a part of the plan."

The dignity of the children lost today did not come simply from the fact that their parents happened to want them!!  Their dignity came from the fact that God wanted them, and willed them into existence...that is the sole source of human dignity, and we are meant to marvel at the dignity of such miraculous creation, the miraculous nature of it all only amplified by the fact that all of us have been blessed with a role to play in nurturing and bringing into existence the miracles that are human persons!

We have been anti-life and anti-child and anti-human dignity for a long time in this country, and it is time to stand up and say ENOUGH!!!

We must rise up and demand a return to respect for the dignity of the human person!!!!  We must rise up and say that a child is not a choice, a child does not derive his/her dignity from the choice of another human person, a child does not derive his/her dignity based on whether they are born into poverty or not...we must rise up and say every human person has an unassailable dignity, and that dignity is given to each human person by God, with a capital G,...and if we refuse to do that, if we refuse to acknowledge how utterly evil and depraved this nation is becoming, and if we fail to acknowledge how putrid "the plan" has become that we call every day life in America, and we keep blaming guns and health care insurance, then we should never expect a return to sanity.

Please hit your knees for the families and the loved ones left behind in Connecticut and say a lot of prayers for our country.  Today, a new line was crossed; what remains to be seen is whether we will wake up because of it, or if we will continue to bury our heads in the sand and act like we don't know what is going on.

All Holy Innocents, pray for us!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lesson From My Young Priesthood: The 99 Will Be Okay

"If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?" (Matthew 18:12-13)

My quick answer to Jesus' question - "no, not always."

When I was assigned to my first role as pastor this Summer, I asked my Dad (a president of a Catholic high school) if he had any advice for me.  He only had one thing to say: "Neither a parish nor a school is a nuclear sub - you have lots of people who know how to help."

It was an interesting way of phrasing the age-old axiom "be sure to avoid micromanagement."

No matter how many times people tell you in the seminary or in business school or in dental school or leadership school that "thou shalt avoid micromanagement" it is still scary as "H-E-double-hockey-sticks" when you are thrust into a role of being responsible for something (a company, church, office, school, etc.) 

In my extremely young priesthood, however, one of the things that brings me great joy is that my Dad was right (per usual) - being a pastor is busy and always new, but it isn't impossible, and a lot of people know how to help.

That has been important, especially as I've continued to be aware of the other call I have as a pastor - to go seek the lost (and to empower parishioners to go seek the lost). 

There is a temptation to look at the 99 sheep and think "wow, 99 sheep, that's a lot of work to do, I don't have time for the 1, and it's the 1's fault for leaving anyway, plus if I leave the 99, things might go terribly wrong, and then I might come back with 1 sheep on my shoulders, only to find that the 99 have scattered too."

What I've learned is that if you walk out of the office and go look for the lost sheep from time to time, the 99 are going to be just fine.  People know, often way better than I do, how to balance budgets, fix leaks, answer questions, help with RCIA, etc. etc.

Who are the "99" that you (as priest or lay person) are tempted to obsess about, but whom God is sometimes nudging you away from, telling you "I've got the 99, they'll be fine, go look for the 1 who is lost"?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

God is a Fondue Fountain of Grace...How Big is Your Cup?

Immaculate Conception Homily

AMAZING Advent Music

Sick of Christmas on the radio yet?  Choosing to try to keep some semblance of a vigil as opposed to rushing into Christmas?

Here is a BEAUTIFUL piece from the Latin Mass for this weekend (2nd Sunday of Advent)  Here is the English translation:

Behold the miracle of the mother of the Lord:
a virgin has conceived though she knows not a man,
Mary, who stands laden with her noble burden;
knowing not that she is a wife,
she rejoices to be a mother.
She has conceived in her chaste womb
one who is beautiful beyond the sons of men,
and blessed for ever,
she has brought forth God and man for us.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. 

Here is Stile Antico's amazing rendition:

If they only played this on the radio!!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thoughts on My Retreat with Cardinal Burke

Canon Law mandates that a priest take 5 days of retreat every year.  I just returned today from my retreat in Bloomington, IN, where Cardinal Burke was the retreat master for a retreat where that drew 30 or so priests.  It was AWESOME!

Some thoughts from the experience:

1) Mass celebrated "ad orientem" is more prayerful.  I'm not watching the priest's face when we're all facing the same direction, I'm thinking about what the priest is doing

2) Cardinal Burke is the head of the "Supreme Court" of the Church on matters of Canon Law.  He noted something that I've come to realize in my life as well - the law guides us towards happiness and is not a burden.

3) Cardinal Burke mentioned "social justice" Catholics who think we need to jettison the laws of the Church, with the imagined end result being a world where people just do social justice projects.  He noted that this is completely backwards, because the laws of the Church are the precursor and guide for justice.  Without the laws of the Church, we don't get a more just world, we get a less just and more confused world.

4) A priest that doesn't pray is a priest that is on his way out of the priesthood.  Archbishop Buechlein used to say that all the time as well!

5) Spending silent time with our Lord in prayer is highly transformative.  Can I get an "Amen!"?

6) A priest that thinks of himself as an MC at Mass, needing to make the Mass more tolerable and entertaining, is not doing a service for Christ, he is getting in the way of Christ.  Such a priest is "increasing while Christ is decreasing"

7) It is a mystery to Cardinal Burke why Canon 915 is not imposed against Catholic politicians who vote in favor of abortion/embryonic stem cell research/euthanasia

8) The Church will likely get smaller before She becomes more faithful again

Monday, December 3, 2012

Did the CIA Stalk Archbishop Tobin?

The Criterion had a great edition this week previewing our next shepherd, Archbishop Joseph Tobin.

Reading the edition this week, I thought to myself that the CIA probably couldn't have put together a more thorough file on Archbishop Tobin!

Click here to see all the stories that the Criterion put together.

Also, click here if you would like to watch Archbishop Tobin's installation Mass that begins at 2 pm Eastern Time.

Finally, here is a video of Archbishop Tobin knocking on the door of the Cathedral and taking possession of the Cathedral.