Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Book On Pope Benedict

As I've said elsewhere, in the seminary I gobbled up Pope Benedict books like they were candy.  I new that most people would not have the luxury I was afforded...namely the time to read and study most of the day.

I started pulling out Pope Benedict's "greatest quotes" and putting them together by theme, and I found, after a while, that I had a book written.

It hasn't been edited, it isn't crisp, some of it hasn't been revised for over 4 years, but I do believe it is a nice resource for people who want to get some Pope Benedict quotes by theme.

It is also a nice read for people who want a snapshot of the now Pope-Emeritus Benedict's MANY amazing contributions to our Catholic Faith.

If you download it (it is totally free) and read it, I hope it helps you draw closer to Jesus Christ, His Church, and one of Christ's faithful followers.

Sorry I've never been able to actually go through the hoops to get it published, but I believe an electronic version is almost as handy these days.

You can download the book by clicking here.

Shots from Annunciation During the Interregnum

Pope Benedict - A 6'5" Man Beast Linebacker (metaphorically speaking!)

Every football team has what is referred to among coaches as "the first guy off the bus."  The first guy off the bus is your biggest, baddest, meanest looking guy...your Goliath.

The first guy off the bus has two purposes:
1) scare the opponents
2) be a rock for your team.  By being a guy that everyone looks to, the rest of your team has less pressure

Pope Benedict probably wasn't very fast, even in his prime.  He probably couldn't bench press a whole lot, but, in the realm of things that matter for eternity, Pope Benedict was (and continues to be in his retirement) a Catholic Man Beast.  For me and my Catholic identity, Pope Benedict served to be the first guy off the bus.

I won't go into the whole "scaring opponents" thing, although Pope Benedict certainly did that.

More importantly, Pope Benedict served as a guy the rest of us could stand behind.  He broke the wind for us, making it easier to walk toward the kingdom confidently.

I've recounted several times how, when I was in college, my Catholic Faith was assaulted from all directions by people who had an extreme hatred for the Faith.  I emerged from that whole experience through the Grace of God, but also with my Faith in tatters in a way.

When I began to encounter Pope John Paul II, and then, more profoundly, Pope Benedict, I recognized that Catholicism is smart and there are good reasons we do what we do, and there is a wisdom and an intelligence and a history and a beauty behind the Catholic Church.  Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict were the first people I encountered where I could say to myself, "Those guys are brilliant and yet they don't leave the Church...they rather seem to be enlivened by it.  They are not ashamed of Catholicism...they can explain it...and yet they seem overjoyed that they can never FULLY explain it...these two guys are unlike anything I've seen before!"

Catholicism is the Faith of simple peasants, and yet, especially in our culture today, when the enemy ratchets up his attacks on Truth, we've needed men who could demonstrate the depth, the complexity, and the beauty of the Faith all at the same time...and God gave us just what we needed...he gave us Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II...gigantic photon blasts from God's heavenly "Life Star" shot at the heart of the enemy.

There will be a new Pope, and I'm already praying for him...but for the rest of my life Pope Benedict will always be the first guy off the bus!

And now it is time to go ring the Church bells marking the sunset of a beautiful papacy, and to rejoice that the sun will rise on a new one.

Pope Benedict...Ad multos annos!

"Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant!"

Friday, February 22, 2013

Random Stuff that I Love: Papal Edition

Whereas most people in similar worldly positions to the Pope would probably spend these last few weeks going around to parties and state dinners listening to people tell them how great they've been, the Pope goes.....on a week long retreat!  How Catholic is that?

Whereas most organizations, when breaking a gigantically big story, would have everything ready to go and would be super professional and solemn and full of self-importance, the Vatican's press secretary had to go over to a closet at the start of the press conference and turn on the microphone because it was a holiday and so most people weren't in that day.

Can you imagine the chatter at the Vatican employee cafe:
Pietro: "Luigi, did you hear the Pope's resigning tomorrow."
Luigi: "Yeah, I'll miss him...but I'm still not coming in tomorrow to turn on the microphone...we'll have a new pope in a few days anyways...the ship sails on...and I mean it, I'm not coming in tomorrow during the holiday...Fr. Lombardi can handle the mic himself."
Very Catholic!

Speaking of papal microphones, another thing that I've always loved about Catholicism that also kind of illustrates this same idea that the Church is unimpressed with making things look smooth and efficient...the papal microphone at Masses.  Here's a picture from Midnight Mass

So here we are in a Church (Basilica) that is worth billions at a Mass that is one of the most watched programs every year, and the microphone is held by a kid from three or four feet away; a microphone that looks like it might have come from a catholic high school cafeteria.  I've seen Catholic grade school athletic banquets that had less-distracting audio setups than midnight Mass!!  We the Church just aren't in a rush to dive into the wireless mics, we refuse to put a permanent mic in somewhere...and I love it.  "No, we'll keep having a server bring an old mic over and hold it in the Pope's face from four feet away while it moves around and occasionally hits him in the face."  I really do love how it just baffles people that we do things like that!  The Church is ALWAYS guided by the Holy Spirit, and RARELY by a concern over appearance!

Concerning the conclave and new can tell the media are just completely uncomfortable with how different it all is compared to what they normally cover. 

A) For their own sanity, they just HAVE to believe that it really is a bunch of cardinals who are fighting for the job and politicking and paying each other off with promises of Vatican treasures.  Since most in the media have rejected outright the notion that there is a God, in their minds the only things that can possibly TRULY motivate people are power and money.  It becomes quite apparent that a rejection of God doesn't open one's vision and free it to see the world as it really is, but rather such a rejection of God and Faith actually limits one's vision severely

B) Along similar lines, you can also tell the media is completely unused to not being able to basically buy their way in to the conclave.  As my brother Matt said, "it is great that Dan Rather has to wait in St. Peter's square alongside poor nuns and seminarians and pilgrims, and has no more advanced warning than anyone else." 
Very Catholic!

And so soon it will begin - the media will be trying to wrap their minds (minds suffering from a self-imposed retardation because of their rejection of Faith) around something that they will never understand.  I, for one, rather enjoy the spectacle, and pray for their conversion as I also celebrate wildly the sunset of a beautiful papacy and the dawn of another, and rejoice that the boat of Peter sails on victoriously toward the horizon of time...even if the microphones don't work

Friday, February 15, 2013

Papal Triviality

I've seen 3-5 minutes of mainstream media's attempt to wrap its brain around what is going on in the Catholic Church.  No big shock here - they have no idea what is going on.  Every news report I've seen has ended with something to the effect of:

"Hopefully, the Cardinals will pull it together and move the Church out of the dark ages" (Read: we, the media, would like a guy who will be cool with homosexual sex and contraception).

I leave the lamentation of such media coverage to other bloggers.

I'd like to focus this post on the inanity of CATHOLICS surrounding the news of the week, and I mean the Catholics that SHOULD get it.

When serious Catholics talk about papal odds and frontrunners, the Church looks trivial.

When serious Catholics talk about conspiracies surrounding the next encyclical, the Church looks trivial.

When serious Catholics talk like the next Pope might not be as good as Pope Benedict (read: the Holy Spirit ISN'T guiding the Church), the Church looks trivial.

When serious Catholics lament the resignation and get mad at Pope Benedict for not sticking it out until his death, the Church looks trivial.

When serious Catholics wonder aloud if Cardinals in the Vatican conspired to force the Pope to resign, the Church looks trivial.

We can't control the media, but we can control what we say.

When we talk about stupid things as Catholics, the Church looks stupid, and the media begins to seem completely justified in its completely trivial coverage of the events that are unfolding these days.

We Catholics can't let the triviality of the media begin to rub off on us.

Keep Calm.  Catholic On.

Here's the recipe for serious Catholics:
1) Pray for the Pope
2) Thank God for the Pope's contributions as he resigns or dies
3) Then pray for the Cardinal electors
4) Then pray for the Pope elected
5) Repeat until the Second Coming

Long Applause for Pope Benedict

The scene from the papal audience hall for the Holy Father's first address since his announcement of his resignation/abdication.  Very cool!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

UPDATED: Fallible Tips for Lent

I see legalism during Lent sometimes, and I think it can be problematic. Lent should not be about proving to yourself (and definitely not proving to other people) how strong your will is and how disciplined you are. It is about clearing away attachments so that we can more completely attach ourselves to God. With that being said, I offer some tips for Lent

1. Don't tell people what you are giving up for Lent.

2. Don't ask people what they are giving up for Lent.
Don't try to guess what someone gave up for Lent either
(Dave: "Bill, you want some coffee?"
Bill: "No thanks."
Dave: "What, did you give up coffee for Lent?" - don't be Dave!)

3. If someone breaks #1 or #2 with you, don't correct them (although if you are giving up a few things, you can just mention one thing you've given up to satisfy their curiosity).

4. If someone offers you something that you have given up for Lent, I advise proceeding in one of two ways, depending on the situation

a. If it is a situation where you can casually brush off the offer without drawing attention to it, then just decline the offer
(example: "Dave, I'm going to the concession you want anything?"
Dave: "No I'm fine."
Dave does not have to say "No, I gave up candy and snacks for Lent.")

b. If it is a situation where you are with a small group of people, or you are at someone's house for dinner or something like that, and they offer you dessert or something, just take it and don't tell them "Sorry, I gave that up for Lent." If someone gives up TV but the whole family is watching TV, don't go sit in the other room, just watch TV and be with the family.

5. Don't replace what you are giving up with some other thing that you are attached to

6. Take advantage of the detachment to do something positive like prayer and/or doing something to help the poor.

7. If you normally celebrate Sundays and Solemnities during the year with a spirit of feasting, then continue to celebrate those days during Lent. If that involves breaking something that you're fasting from, then break your fast. However, if you don't celebrate Sundays or Solemnities, then don't break whatever you are fasting from during Lent.

8. Try giving up several things up for Lent, but maybe phase them in over time like the Orthodox. For the Orthodox, Lent gets gradually more challenging. I have tried making Lent more challenging as it progresses, and that has been really fruitful!

 9. It is also good to DO something for Lent; to add a spiritual practice to your daily routine in addition to giving something up. Perhaps praying a daily rosary or praying every morning when you get up.

The important thing is to realize that Lent is a time to strip away some attachments and spend time growing closer to Christ not crossing the finish line of Easter 46 days from now with your Lenten promises unbroken at all costs.

Lent is made for man, not man for Lent!

WARP SPEED Mission Talk - Pope Benedict's Greatest Hits

After Jesus Christ and my parents, Pope Benedict has had more of an impact on me than any other human being.  Here is a homily/mission talk I gave last night on his "Greatest Hits."  He taught me how to cast out into the deep!

Here's the full version of the talk if you are interested in that.  It was one of those things where it was really powerful for me giving the talk and helped me a lot, and I feel like it was well-received by the parishioners as well.

Mission Talk - Pope Benedict's Greatest Hits from John Hollowell on Vimeo.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Saint Peter's Square on Resignation Night

Saint Peter's Square tonight, courtesy of Catholic News Service.  The papal apartment is in the upper right hand corner - this strikes me as a very powerful and moving image!

Mission Talk 1: PERFECT Church of Imperfect People

My Pope Benedict Tribute Video

This is something I made several years ago...Viva La Papa!!!

UPDATE: Why it Might Be GOOD if Pope Benedict Resigns

This is a blog post that I originally posted a few months ago following news reports that Pope Benedict was considering retiring as pope.  As the news has broken this morning, Pope Benedict has in fact announced his retirement on February 28th.  I thought I would repost this for all those who are interested. I hope this might help shed some light on some of the theological issues surrounding this historic event. Please pray for the Holy Father Pope Benedict, and for those who will elect his successor. Pope Benedict's leadership will obviously be missed, but the Church will sail on, and we will carry on towards Heaven. 

Updates will appear here as the atory develops

Let me begin by saying I am a gigantic fan of Pope Benedict and he helped form me into the priest I am just as much as the seminary did. I have a book I've written on his theological ideas, although I'm still trying to clean it up for publishing. Needless to say, I am a fan.

Stories are starting to surface that the Pontiff is aging and seems tired and worn down. He has himself called attention several times to the fact that a pope is able to resign if he so chooses, the only requirement being that he not be forced to do so.

I believe that if Pope Benedict were to resign it could be very instructive and catechetical for both the Church and the world at large.

Blessed Pope John Paul II chose not to resign, and I think it was because his NOT resigning allowed him an opportunity to teach the world about suffering, about the dignity of the elderly, and it gave him a chance to put into practice the teaching on end of life issues (specifically the teaching he helped clarify - the idea that all people should be hydrated and fed until life is no longer sustainable).

Just as JP II clinging to his papacy to the very end served to educate the world, I think Benedict RESIGNING could serve as a very helpful and much needed teaching moment as well.

Some writers have talked about the confusion that would exist in most people's minds if there were "two popes." That most people see "two popes" as somehow problematic illustrates exactly why we could be well-served by experiencing just such a scenario.

Many people completely fail to grasp the idea of papal infallibility. I myself did not properly understand the teaching until I was in the seminary and had a chance to study it in depth. In the mind of most people the Church believes that a pope can do no wrong - that God somehow protects the pontiff from any and all error and sin. This of course leads those both outside and inside the Church to scoff - "look at all the bad popes through all the years, clearly your doctrine of infallibility is laughable!!!"

But infallibility only applies to when the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) is teaching something in a very clear way or declaring something in a very clear way as being infallible, only then is said teaching actually held to be infallible. The times where a pope declares something infallibly are few and far between.

It would be very healthy for people to realize that INFALLIBILITY IS RARE AND ONLY APPLIES TO THE OFFICE NOT TO THE MAN. The Pope is a bishop like all other bishops. Pope Benedict has a cathedral, he oversees the diocese of Rome, he baptizes, he runs capital campaigns, he approves the building of new Churches in the diocese, he ordains priest for his diocese and so forth. What does set him apart is the fact that from the beginning of the Church there is a clear deference to the Bishop of Rome by the other bishops of the world on matters that needed resolution by an authority.

Being pope makes a person really no more SPIRITUALLY guided by God than any other bishop throughout the world. Becoming pope does not make a person into some super-human-angelic hybrid - a bishop who becomes the bishop of Rome takes on AN OFFICE which can be laid aside and assumed by someone else without any problem in the mind of those who understand what a bishop is and what the pope is.

Perhaps this would be a much needed lesson for both those in the Church and those who would perhaps enter under Her roof if only they properly understood what the office of the papacy is and what it is not.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Can We Just Admit Mass is Boring?

If I were given one opportunity to preach a homily, this would be it.

Random follow up thoughts:

1) If I had someone who was thinking about joining the Church, I would not first bring them to a Mass.  I would start somewhere else, because the Mass is not something that is particularly geared toward evangelization.  If someone doesn't know what is going on, it might actually be a "turn off"

2) I am not saying music and preaching are not important...quite to the and preaching can and should lend assistance to helping our senses grasp some iota of what IS going on.  There is difference between saying
a) our senses fail to completely grasp the reality of what is going on at Mass (what the Church says)
b) since our senses fail to completely grasp the reality of what is going on at Mass, we need not worry about doing anything that appeals to the senses (NOT what the Church says)

Sweet Extraordinary Form Promo

No need to be intimidated...just go check out the Mass in Latin when you get the will enhance your appreciation of Mass in English as well!  Jesus: "Be not afraid!"

Tridentine Mass Promo from Two Sense Films on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Notre Dame Priest Proposes that I Coach Notre Dame Football!

Fr. Sorin, a priest at Notre Dame, blogs that perhaps I should be the next football coach at Notre Dame!  Read the story by clicking here.

A Song About Perseverance

It has been a busy week.  A busy but good week.  This morning I thought I'd share this great song/video with you.  Have a great weekend.  Keep your head up if you're down!