Monday, December 29, 2014

Synod on the Family and the Holy Family

Trimmed down version:

Full version:

Here are the documents referenced

1) the final document from the Synod - click HERE to read

2) Humanae Vitae - on human life, marriage, contraception, etc.  Short and POWERFUL.  Click HERE to read

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Torture is ALWAYS Wrong

The past few weeks have been crazy, and thus the drop off in blog posts.

I received a unibomber-esque anonymous note today in the mail asking why I hadn't addressed torture.  Answer - too busy.

However, it is an issue that has been weighing on my mind as I've been driving around and ministering and listening to talk radio and seeing fellow Catholics' posts on social media.

So, while my stance is not to respond to every anonymous letter I receive, I did want to take time out of clearing my desk of the four inches of paper to type up a quick post.

Torture is wrong.  Always.  This is an excerpt from the USCCB's statement on torture:

Despite torture being condemned by international human rights organizations, the United Nations
Declaration of Human Rights, and the Universal Church, a 2009 poll released by the Pew Forum on
Religion and Public Life reported that 51% of Catholics agreed that torture of suspected terrorists
could sometimes or often be justified; only 20% of Catholics believed that torture can never be

Church teaching is clear. Torture is abhorrent and can neither be condoned nor tolerated. The
Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that “torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract
confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person
and for human dignity” (2297). Quoting the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pope
Benedict XVI has reiterated that “the prohibition against torture ‘cannot be contravened under any
circumstance.’” Torture is morally wrong and can never be justified because it debases human dignity
of both the victim and the perpetrator, estranging the torturer from God, and compromising the
physical or mental integrity of the tortured.

Torture is corrosive to the society in which it exists as it devalues human life and dignity. Any society
that tolerates torture places the human rights of all of its citizens at risk. It creates a climate hostile to the dignity of the human person. 

You can read the entire statement here.  It is very good and helpful.

As to politicians not receiving Communion who are in support of torture and as to people voting for such candidates not receiving Communion, the issue just isn't black and white like it is with abortion.

The line for torture just isn't black and white.  Abortion is black and white.  There was a child, and then there isn't after an abortion.

There is also the hierarchy of moral values, and the right to life is at the top of that list.  

I agree wholeheartedly that we need to have a very clear discussion about what torture is as a country, and the Church needs to be a player in that discussion.

Politicians who push for allowing more than what the Church considers torture to be should probably refrain from Communion.

Catholics who want to see our country do more to prisoners than what the Church considers to be the line of acceptable treatment of prisoners should also probably refrain from Communion.  

Torture is a question we HAVE to get right as a society, or it will be another step down the moral black hole that we seem to have already begun plunging ourselves into.  Keep our country in prayer, and pray for fellow Catholics to recognize that torture doesn't just harm the prisoner, it assaults our own moral fiber as a nation as well.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mary Embodies Courage, Hope, and Trust

And the WARP SPEED version.  Please let me know if you find this warp speed version helpful or if you think others that you know might find it helpful.  It doesn't take too long to cut up, and I'm just curious to see if some people might be more willing to watch it if it were condensed.  Let me know if you get the chance.

I know most people who read this blog don't mind watching full versions of homilies, but what about your relative who has left the Church?  Any thoughts as to whether this might be helpful?

Monday, December 15, 2014

One of the Scariest Things I Do

One of the scariest things I do as a priest is my annual retreat.

Canon Law requires that priests take a retreat once a year, and I always try to take mine during Advent.  It helps me:

1) rest up for Christmas

2) get my homilies for Christmas, January 1, Holy Family, Epiphany, the Baptism of the Lord, etc. together

3) Advent is my favorite time of year and the perfect time for a retreat

That being said, it is also terrifying, and as it gets closer, I get really nervous.

It is really hard to go from 100 mph to contemplation/meditation/prayer.

It is very similar to what most of you all experience as well.  Our daily lives keep us hopping, and "finding time for God" is hard.

I also think, however, that there is a big part of us that WANTS to be distracted because, at least subconsciously, we are AFRAID of what we will find when we encounter Christ in the silence.

There is the beautiful passage from Scripture about the Prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19:

“Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle"

Silence is terrifying, and I always am nervous about heading into it.

I also know it is exactly what I need and the Church is wise to instruct Her priests to "head for the silence" and to be still with God.

Keep me in your prayers this week, and know of mine for all of you!

God bless!
Fr. John Hollowell

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Awesome New Effort from Tekton Ministries

This is a very well done short promo about an effort to help Catholic parishes evangelize and bring the Gospel to all nations.  If your parish could use some help in this area, pass this video on to your pastor!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Missing Mass and Leaving the Church

I've had a very similar conversation with several different people at multiple parish assignments.

The same person will ask two questions maybe a few days or weeks or months apart:

1) "Father, why do you talk about missing Mass and mortal sin?  It's so off-putting and mean."

and then, at some other point:

2) "Father, why have my kids stopped going to Mass?"


If no one tells the next generation that going to Mass is SERIOUSLY important, and that their salvation is on the line, then why would they go?

Canon Law, 1247:  "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass."

The Catechism, 2180: "The faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants)...Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin."

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."  Proverbs 22:6

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Mass in honor of St. Francis Xavier

4 Minute Advent Retreat - Day 2

In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, today we deviate from the Lectionary to use the particular readings for our Patron Saint Francis Xavier.  Saint Francis Xavier preached to India and other areas of India, bringing countless souls to Christ

Excerpt from the readings for St. Francis Xavier: "If I preach the Gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!" (1 Corinthians 9:17)


"Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15)

Reflection: Christ has sent you to preach to all people of the Earth as well - who is God asking you to preach to today?  Who is in need of hearing from you about the good news that can only hear from you?

Advent hymn for the day: "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus"

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Our Annunciation food pantry, doing miraculous things on a budget of about $3,000 a year, is up for a $20,000 grant.  All we need is votes!

You can vote once a day for the next 10 days.  Here is how you can help:

1) Click on the following link:

2) Click on the button that has you log in with your Facebook account

3) At the bottom of the page in the search bar, type in "Indiana" and our Annunciation pantry will come up

4) Click on Annunciation SVDP to vote for us

5) Repeat once a day for the next 8 days

Our county is VERY poor and our parishioners are doing AMAZING work feeding 50-60 families a week with groceries.  We could REALLY use your help.  Thanks so much!

Monday, December 1, 2014

4 Minute Advent Retreat Day 1

Scripture excerpt from the daily readings:

"I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11)

Reflection: With the coming of Christ, the chosen people are no longer just the Jews but all of humanity.  The Gospels suggest that this "preaching and calling of all nations" will take place mostly DESPITE the efforts of Catholics more so than BECAUSE OF the work of Catholics.  What are we doing to help call ALL people to the Church, the Bride of Christ?  Do I think it matters if a person is even Catholic?  Do I know people at work, do I know friends or family, do I have friends who are STARVING to know God but need me to invite them?  

Is Advent a time where I simply think of it as me preparing myself for the return of the King or do I see it as an opportunity to reach out and help others properly prepare themselves for the return of the King as well?

Read the day's entire readings by clicking HERE

Advent song for the day: 

hymn words:
 Wake, O wake, and sleep no longer,
For he who calls you is no stranger;
Awake, God's own Jerusalem!
Hear, the midnight bells are chiming
The signal for his royal coming:
Let voice to voice announce his name!
We feel his footsteps near,
The Bridegroom at the door--
Alleluia! The lamps will shine
With light divine
As Christ the savior comes to reign.
2 Zion hears the sound of singing;
Our hearts are thrilled with sudden longing;
She stirs, and wakes, and stands prepared.
Christ, her friend, and lord, and lover,
Her star and sun and strong redeemer--
At last his mighty voice is heart.
The Son of God has come
To make with us his home:
Sing Hosanna! The fight is won,
The feast begun;
We fix our eyes on Christ alone.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Waiting" and "Watching" are a "Yes" not a "No"

A Beautiful (and short) Reflection on "Waiting" by Pope Benedict XVI


The question is: Is the humanity of our time still waiting for a Savior? One has the feeling that many consider God as foreign to their own interests. Apparently, they do not need him. They live as though he did not exist and, worse still, as though he were an “obstacle” to remove in order to fulfill themselves. Even among believers—we are sure of it—some let themselves be attracted by enticing dreams and distracted by misleading doctrines that suggest deceptive shortcuts to happiness. Yet, despite its contradictions, worries and tragedies, and perhaps precisely because of them, humanity today seeks a path of renewal, of salvation, it seeks a Savior and awaits, sometimes unconsciously, the coming of the Savior who renews the world and our life, the coming of Christ, the one true Redeemer of man and of the whole of man.

---Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience December 20, 2006

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

If Catholic hymn writers wrote the "Harry Potter" film music

Catholics invented chant and modern music notation and so forth.  It sprang up out of the Mass and served the Mass for hundreds of years.  And we have turned to childish ditties precisely in an age where people in the culture are clamoring for chant, including Hollywood.

Fact: There is a drama taking place in the Mass
Fact: There is an objective way to musically convey drama
Fact: There is an objective way to musically NOT convey drama
Fact: Most Catholic Churches have chosen to NOT musically convey drama
Fact: Most Catholics willingly admit in surveys that they have no idea what is going on at Mass
Fact: Most Catholics would say there is NOTHING dramatic happening at Mass

On the opposite end of the cultural spectrum, let's look at two Hollywood examples:

1) Harry Potter part 6 - the epic dramatic showdown.  Guess what music they use.  Yep.

Latin choral polyphony/chant (exactly what Catholics are supposed to be using at Mass)

2) Star Wars showdown  (Guess what they use: Latin choral polyphony/chant)

We could play this game all day long.  The point is Hollywood uses our "inventions", and Holywood is highly effective at conveying a sense of drama (evidenced by the billions they take in each year).  We have largely quit using these tools...and we wonder why people say Mass is boring?

Maybe we should stop treating everyone like they are spiritual morons, and let Church music be Church music.

If most current Catholic hymn writers would have been tasked with writing the music for Harry Potter, it would have gone something like this:

(cue the ukulele, banjo, and tambourine.  Upbeat.  Fast tempo.  clapping preferred)
"'s okay...we're glad you're here...
to watch our movie
Everyone is welcome!

What's going on here
Is Harry Potter is the good guy
And so is Dumbledore
And Voldemort's the bad guy
Because he wants to kill Harry

And Harry dies...but it's okay
Because he rises don't be sad"

Maybe the new evangelization should start with "old" music???

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why Doesn't the Church Ordain Women

This is from the papal theologian, who also taught me moral theology in Rome.  This is very informative.

The Church on preventing domestic violence, and helping those in it

Click HERE to download and/or view a free .pdf file that can be used as a bulletin insert and/or pamphlet.  It is succinct and has lots of good information

Click HERE to read the 2002 Bishop's letter on domestic violence

Priests and parish administrators can order information cards for their parishioners by clicking HERE

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Belated Veteran's Day Thank You To Our Vets and Soldiers!

A Profile of a True Hero - Coach Bruce Scifres

The Catholic community on the South Side of Indianapolis has a proclivity for producing a bunch of young men who are about 5' 9" and 155 pounds.  Sure we've had a guy or two play division one football, but it is quite clear that the "measureables" that most coaches would look for to build an insanely successful high school football program are NOT present in the South Side Catholic community.

That's where coach Bruce Scifres comes in.

A "vocation" takes on an infinite number of forms, and one of the greatest examples to me of a person who has responded to a call from God also happens to be one of my heroes - my head football coach when I was in high school - Coach Bruce Scifres.

Coach Scifres with his wife Jackie
Coach Scifres has been the head football coach at Roncalli High School since 1990, and has led the Rebels to 6 states championships.  But infinitely more important than the on-field success is the spiritual foundation that Coach Scifres has laid in the lives of hundreds of young men over the last 20+ years.

I don't remember hardly any of the X's and O's I learned about football, but I do remember the Senior Scripture reflections on Thursday nights, Coach telling us to tell our parents we love them, Coach leading us in the Saint Patrick Breastplate Prayer before heading out on the field, and Coach leading us in prayer after the game, win or lose.  He modeled for us what being a father, a coach, a husband, and a teacher could look like when lived well.

I don't know the details, but I know Coach Scifres had TONS of offers to coach elsewhere and make a lot more money.  However, I think at some point in his life, Coach Scifres realized that he had a vocation to coach at Roncalli, and as we all know, you don't mess with God when God calls you to something!

In a profession where even kids' parents can place too much emphasis on winning, Coach has managed to continue to adapt to an ever-evolving game while never neglecting his belief that it is his mission to release young men out into the world who are great people, not just great athletes.

"We pray, win or lose!"

Rebel Football alums have had Coach as their best man in their weddings, offer reflections at their funerals, and read at their first Mass as a priest.

Coach Scifres isn't just a football coach, he is a father, and he built a family that endures to this day and it is a family that is built on God and on Love.

Tonight an undersized and underdog Roncalli football team will be taking on the number one team in the state. Coach Scifres has led teams into these types of games many times.  He's won a lot more of them than he's lost.

My brothers have all graduated, and I no longer know hardly any of the players that are on the team anymore.  So tonight I look forward to going out and cheering on the Rebels, but really I feel like I'm going mostly to cheer on and support a man who has given so much of himself for me.  And I know that tonight, win or lose, Coach Scifres is forming another group of young men who will soon be unleashed upon the world infinitely more ready to be fathers, husbands, parishioners, and leaders than had they not played football for Coach Bruce Scifres.

Thanks for everything Coach!

P.S. - If you are looking for some inspiration in your life, Coach has authored two books.  Clink on either image to order a copy.  They are phenomenal!

Coach also has a GREAT site with posters, t-shirts and other materials that make great gifts for all ages.  The site also has some great tips for fathers and coaches.  Check it out by clicking here:

There are some beautiful reflections that have been done about Coach Scifres through the years:

A great article from our diocesan newspaper "The Criterion" - click HERE to read

Former player Casey Bolsega wrote a great article called "Faith, Love and Football" - click HERE to read Casey's article

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Catholic Churches are not just "houses of worship"

Catholic Churches are not just "houses of worship" they are a dwelling place of the Living God...and so are we

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Theology on Tap that you don't want to miss!

If you're in the Indy area for this, you will LOVE his talk.  Come on out for a great evening of Faith, fellowship, and fun.  Hopefully we'll see you there!

If you'd like more info click here:

"The Third Way" is now on YouTube

Many people asked us to please put "The Third Way" on YouTube. We waited for several reasons, but it is now on YouTube in case you are interested. YouTube videos can be easier to share with others as the video loads more quickly and easily. Thanks for all of your support for the film throughout these past few years!

Catholicism: a Third Way to View Death

Homily for the Commemoration of All Souls

Friday, October 31, 2014

Can You Help - a film about Catholic persecution

A young filmmaker that I've known for several years, Mr. Matthew Herbertz, is working on a short film that has a lot of potential.

The topic is something that interests me a great deal, and I think it will interest most of you as well - a world where Catholicism is persecuted.

Like most filmmakers, Matt needs a little help from all of us to pull this off.  Many potential Catholic artists out there WOULD stay in the business of doing religiously inspired art (film, painting, architecture, music, dance, etc.) but often they receive virtually no financial support from Catholics...whereas the secular world will pay them a fortune for their talents.

We have to show Catholic artists that we support and appreciate their work so that they'll know they can do this work the rest of their lives and make a living off of it.

Here's the trailer for Matt's film...please consider donating a few bucks (or much more) for Matt and his film.  I can't wait to see how this film turns out!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


"Brothers and sisters: Be kind to one another" (Ephesians 4:32)

When I was in school, we had teachers and coaches that let us do whatever we wanted.  We liked it, but we didn't respect them.

When I was in high school, we had teachers and coaches that yelled at us a lot, and it came from a place of anger and rage.  We didn't respect them either.

We also had teachers and coaches who praised the things in us that deserved praise and called us and challenged us to be better in those areas that needed correction.  And even in their discipline, I certainly look back on what they did for us, and I would describe their words as "love" and "kindness".

May we be kind in all things, and not simply think that kindness only = smiling

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I prefer electrons to humans

"The older dictators fell because they never could supply their subjects with enough bread, enough circuses, enough miracles and mysteries. Nor did they possess a really effective system of mind-manipulation.  Under a scientific dictator, education will really work--with the result that most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution. There seems to be no good reason why a thoroughly scientific dictatorship should ever be overthrown."
Alduos Huxley

Brave New World

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Support our youth programs AND evangelize your local community!

If you'd like your order shipped, each shirt would be $18.00, but they're totally worth it!  Just send me an email with the number of each size that you'd like, and I'll get you your shirts!

Please place any orders by October 25th.  

Thanks for helping us out!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Humorous Story

I hope this makes you smile!

Today I spoke at my alma mater, Roncalli High School, with 300 freshmen about the Theology of the Body.  I was asked to do the same thing five years ago, the first year I was a priest, and I said yes then as well.

Important pieces of information:
1) I was pretty crazy busy figuring out my new parish, my high school chaplaincy, coaching football, and teaching three classes

2) My good priest friend Fr. Meyer is known throughout the country as a great presenter to teens on the topics pertaining to St. JP II's Theology of the Body

Because of those two factors, I asked Fr. Meyer to email his PowerPoint presentation that he uses (I had never seen his talk; I only knew it was good from others).  Fr. Meyer agreed and sent me the PowerPoint.

I meant, for about three weeks, to look over the PowerPoint presentation BEFORE giving the talk to the kids, but I procrastinated, and in the moment I decided to just go into the presentation cold and just try to make it work (I know, I know, terrible decision).

There were some tough transitions, but I did a decent job making the transitions seem somewhat reasonable.


A cartoon popped up on the screen of a guy in a hockey mask and overalls burying a chainsaw into the chest of another guy and there was blood flying everywhere!

You could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium as we all looked, for the first time, at the three story tall screen with the above mentioned slide projected onto it.

I stammered and stuttered and tried to make it work somehow.  My brother, a freshman at the time, said I did a decent job of covering it all up, but I think he was just trying to be nice.

To his defense, when Fr. Meyer gives the talk, it all fits in as he talks about violence in video games...but know that I certainly learned a lesson that day!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How to Distort the Synod - Quote Priests Like Fr. James Martin, SJ

I have been saddened to see a priest who is an editor of a national magazine saying things that are highly misleading, and thus providing fodder for all those looking to paint a completely distorted picture of the Synod on the Famly.

Fr. James Martin, a Jesuit, edits the national magazine America, and has been saying things that the national media have been quoting quite fervently.

One such statement from Fr. Martin is the following:

Did the Church ever say people living with same-sex attraction don't have any gifts?  Can he point to where the Church USED to say that?  Of course not.

Instead, Fr. Martin irresponsibly perpetuates a gigantic myth - namely that the Church "used to hate gays but are now warming up to them."  It is extremely irresponsible for a priest to perpetuate this myth because it is wrong on so many levels.

"gay people" is such a simplistic and false term.  Does Fr, Martin mean:
1) people living with same sex attraction
2) people having homosexual sex

EITHER WAY - even if a person is in a state of mortal sin - the Church doesn't say such people HAVE NO GIFTS!

Wouldn't that be a fascinating statement: "The Catholic Church would like to declare that those who are in a state of mortal sin have no gifts", or, even worse, "those who are in a state of mortal sin are not welcome."  It is sad to see a priest of the Church perpetuate these childish myths.  Perhaps it helps sell books, though?

Also from the desk of Fr. Martin:

We all struggle with humility in our own ways, but to put oneself forward as knowing when the Spirit is afoot and when it isn't so much afoot is not a power most claim for themselves.

We can't, in the same tweet, simultaneously PREDICT what the Holy Spirit is doing while saying it is UNpredictable.

The Synod and the Media

We are being given yet another reminder that the Holy Spirit is, without a doubt, unquestionably steering and protecting the Church, because, as per usual, there's no other way to explain how this is all being held together.

I want to comment on one aspect of the Synod as a guy "in the trenches" who has actual real life parishioners who are asking really key questions about what is going on in the Synod because the topics of the Synod are VERY important to them in their situations in life.

The Synod has two things going on with regards to the media, and the fact that both are happening at the same time is, in my mind, highly problematic.

1) No one is allowed to know what is actually being said in the discussions themselves
2) Attendees of the Synod are being encouraged to talk with the media

For the sake of the people I minister to, I hope one or both of these change, and here's why:

We are currently relying on a telephone game to get the word out on the Synod, and the telephone currently has two relayers - 
1) Anonymous Synod attendees
2) Media folks

I challenge anyone to please draw up a more disastrous way to have news about the Synod trickle down to the average lay Catholic.

The most disturbing tweet I've seen on this entire Synod is the following:

So let's recap:
1) We have the media telling our story for us
2) We can't fact check the spin because we aren't releasing what actually is being said
3) We have bishops that are surprised that the media isn't getting it right

*Insert face into open palms*

I would have thought, after the Humanae Vitae rollout debacle (that we're still dealing with), we would have learned our lesson about letting anonymous sources and the media get the "truth" out.

But again, on a positive note, we are left with yet another reminder that the Holy Spirit is definitely steering this ship, because if the Catholic Church wasn't being protected by God, it would have surely sunk by now.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Synod on the Family Homilies and Classes

Happy NFP Awareness Week!:

A talk at the Indiana Catholic Youth Conference:

A homily on homosexuality:

Warp-speed catechesis: why the Church only ordains men:

A homily on abortion:

A homily to Ritter High School about sex:

Class on Contraception at Ritter part 1:

Contraception Class Part 2:

Contraception Class Part 3:

A warp-speed version of a class on homosexuality:

Class on celibacy, part 1:

Class on celibacy, part 2:

Second class on celibacy, part 1:

Second class on celibacy, part 2:

We Hunger for Earthly Feasts...But How About Heavenly Ones?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Call to Action and Macklemore vs. Jesus and the Church

This is from Call to Action, a group that labels themselves Catholic but have, time and again, done things which suggest that they have removed themselves completely out from under the umbrella of Catholicism.

This graphic of course includes two same-sex partners with children, and cites one of the worst "rappers" I've ever heard - Macklemore - whose song last year "same love" took the country by storm as he noted that all love, whether between a married man and woman or two people of the's all the same, and it's all beautiful.

Call to Action, in the run up to the Synod on the family, is apparently hoping to ride the tidal wave of Macklemore's "theology" by picking off people who understand very little about what Love really is when Jesus, St. Paul, the Church etc. speak of the word.  

Of course people can think they are loving each other even if they aren't actually expressing what Christ means by the word Love.

Everyone acknowledges that love means so many different things, and yet this graphic seeks to pretend that there AREN'T different types of love.

People love cinnamon rolls
People love their pets
People love the NFL
People love their siblings
People love their friends
God loves all of us
God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit love each other
a Man and wife love each other

These "loves" aren't the same thing...unless you work for Call to Action...then Love means whatever you want it to mean and all loves are the same.

I'll take the Bible, the teachings of Jesus and St. Paul, the writings of the saints, popes, theologians, the Church, etc. over the theology of Macklemore.

Friday, October 3, 2014

"In It, Not of It!"

A Nursing Home Nativity

"Can I help you find someone?" asked the kindly nursing home staffer.

"I'm trying to find Beth"

"I think she's still in the dining room waiting for her aid to take her back to her room.  Let's go see."

I followed her down a hall and into the dining room.  "There she is, over in the yellow sweater."

"Thank you for your help ma'am.  Have a wonderful day."  She smiled and got back to whatever task she had taken time out from to help me.

The woman in the yellow sweater sat in a wheel chair at a table that looked to have had other occupants not too long ago, but now it was just her.  A few other elderly folks remained in the now mostly empty dining hall.  Most of those who were still at their tables had some family members sitting with them and making conversation.  A warm light shone in through the windows on this fall Sunday afternoon.

I introduced myself and got down on one knee so I could speak more easily with her.  I told her I was the new pastor and was out visiting the folks who couldn't come to Mass.  She thanked me for coming, and told me a little bit about her self and her past.  She told stories about being baptized by this priest, confirmed by that monsignor, and some stories about her family and her Faith.  Most of the time she didn't look at me, but instead stared off over my shoulder, as if her past was a film playing behind me and she was describing to me what she was seeing as it played.

After maybe ten minutes of conversation, I asked her "would you like to receive Communion?"

She responded "Oh yes, very much, thank you."

I took out the pyx of Hosts from my pocket and sat it on the table.  There on the table, amidst spilled granules of a half-used equal packet, sitting next to a partially-consumed piece of bread pudding and a cooling cup of coffee sat the King of Kings.  A few employees were busy in the background as they were picking up trays from other tables and trying to clean up the day's lunch.  Some family members moved about as well, but no one even glanced in our direction as we prayed an Our Father and then I offered her Communion.

I was struck, in the moment, by how similar this must have been to the first appearance of our Lord on Earth in a little town of Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.  Hardly anyone noticed.

And why should they have?  I didn't fault the people in the dining room because why would they know better?

It was, though, a reminder to me that I have been anointed (and so have you if you've been baptized Catholic) to help all of these people to get to the point where they DO recognize Him in the Host.

We have the job of proclaiming what the Angels sang about at the first Nativity, we have the job of going to the rich and the poor alike, to the kings of this world and to the shepherds, and telling them "unto you this day a Savior has been born, and He is Christ the Lord."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My YouTube Channel Trailer

YouTube encourages you to put together a short trailer to let people know what is on your channel.  Here's mine:  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Why I Sometimes Think About Leaving Diocesan Priesthood and Becoming an Order Priest Even Though I Never Will

I may some day run off with some woman and go get married…we all have to always be open to the fact that we are prone to falling into all sin…but that being said, I really don't think my greatest temptation is quitting the priesthood for a woman.  

I once heard someone say that if the Devil can't get you through things that are sinful, he'll try to use things that are good.

And so I think, for me, the greatest temptation is to leave the path God has called me to for something that I perceive to be "good" and "holy"

Let me make some comments up front:

1) I'm not writing this for sympathy
2) I'm not in any sort of existential crisis
3) I'm not actually going to leave the diocesan priesthood
4) I'm writing this in case it might help other priests or seminarians struggling with this (I know several that are)
5) I'm also writing this because I think what I sometimes feel as a diocesan priest is also nearly exactly the same sort of thing that a lot of married couples feel after being married for a few years, and so maybe this will help them as well
6) I don't think I'm better than anyone else
7) This also has nothing to do with my current assignment (I really do love both of my parishes and the university ministry!)

That being established, let me remind folks that as a diocesan pastor I am charged with caring for and working for the salvation of EVERY soul that lives in my parish boundary.  For me, that currently is 2.1 counties in Indiana, and roughly 40,000 souls.  

Out of that 40,000ish, perhaps 900 come to one of my 5 weekend Masses.

This percentage is about right for most pastors of most Catholic Churches in the USA.  

And so I spend a lot of time asking and praying about "what is the way to reach the unchurched?"

(note: people will always reject the Truth, so I know not all will likely return to the Spring of Life, but the numbers are clear - we have a lot of work to do!)

So we have a lot of work to do.  We have to go out and invite folks.  We have to EVANGELIZE and knock on doors and engage folks kindly and let them know we want them with us.  We have to celebrate the Mass the way the Church asks so that it will draw them in and not, as is often the case, actually repel those who do happen to come one time to check us out, etc. etc.

So my struggle, and the doubt that is certainly of the Devil, takes the form of something like this - 

"I will likely be spending the rest of my priesthood at least spending the first 5-10 years at a new assignment having to convince people that:
1) Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist
2) mortal sin is a reality
3) I can't receive Jesus if I'm in a state of mortal sin
4) I have to go to Mass on Sundays and holy days
5) confession has to be part of my spiritual life
6) because Jesus IS truly present in the Eucharist, flip flops and Colts jerseys and gum and cell phones and boat shorts probably aren't appropriate attire and behavior for being in the presence of the King of Kings, given the fact that we dress up infinitely better for many other occasions in our lives
7) That you can't, as a Catholic who takes their Faith seriously, vote FOR someone who votes in favor of abortion and/or same-sex "marriage" etc.
8) That pop music has no place in the Mass and actually has the function of reverse-evangelizing
9) That the priest ISN'T the center of attention at the Mass, nor is he an MC, but instead is to serve as an icon (read: get out of the way of Christ)

And so I think about all of this, and how long it takes to get today's parish to understand the basics, and I begin to think:

"It would be a HECK of a lot easier, and a better use of my time, to go to a parish that already GETS the above listed concepts so that we, as a parish, could worry more about what REALLY matters - the call to go make disciples of all people who AREN'T at Church."

Look, I know that religious orders that only staff parishes that do the Traditional Latin Mass and the orders that only staff parishes that do the TLM and the Novus Ordo Mass the right way, I know those priests have challenges.  I know in those parishes people struggle with pride, some people want to go to confession every half hour, some people think Vatican II was demonic, some people think Pope Francis is the enemy, etc.  Every place has its challenges.

But when I look around today, not at my own parishes but just at future potential parishes in general…man alive…am I really going to have to always fight over the basic stuff that a properly catechized kindergartener understands and believes?  Am I really going to have to take down video screens, tell people for the first time that they're supposed to be at every Mass, tell people they are supposed to NOT receive Communion if they're in a state of mortal sin, that they SHOULD get an annulment and not, despite what the last priest told them "just go ahead and take Communion anyway", and tell people that they're NOT at a barbecue?

If I were an order priest of, say, the FSSP or St. John Cantius or something like that, I would be able to show up at a parish where I wouldn't' have to spend 10 years convincing people that
1) Chant does a better job of drawing people into the Mass than pop music
2) A Communion rail doesn't "cut people out" it is highly catechetical
3) Mass on Sunday is non-negotiable (barring illness)
4) Mortal sin is real and it is in the Bible
5) Confession isn't psychologically damaging, it is actually a Sacrament
6) Adoration isn't "from the Dark Ages" it is actually edifying 
7) The Church has never said Mass should be said facing the people
8) Mass with the priest facing the people has real philosophical, spiritual, and catechetical implications that DO matter even if most people don't care

That's why it is tempting to leave and join an order…because then I think in my mind I could get right to trying to go reach out to the 98% of my people in my future parish boundaries who AREN'T Catholic.

But, at the end of the day, I realize that this is very similar to a spouse that wakes up early one morning, and lays in bed staring at their beloved, and the sinking feeling hits them - "This person isn't what I had in mind when I married this person."

And I'm sure that my current and future congregations feel the same way about me at times - "who do we write to in order to get rid of this guy?"

And so, at the end of those days where I'm especially struck by thoughts about what COULD be, I remember that I made a vow, and that vows don't happen on accident, and since I promised, before God, to be a diocesan priest for the rest of my life, that's what I need to be.  

Maybe I will get some future parish assignment where I have to spend 12 years convincing people of the basics, and I maybe that parish will do very little to reach anyone outside the walls of that parish, and maybe those 12 years would have been more productive for the kingdom if I was the pastor of a parish that already understood the basics…but a vocation isn't first and foremost about production…we only measure the performance of machines by production…a vocation is a person's particular path to holiness that God has called that person to…even when it seems like the grass is greener on the other side…

Let me end by saying I'm fine, I love being a priest, and I'm not asking for sympathy.  If anyone has issues, it is me.  I do not think I'm better or holier than anyone else.  My current assignment is great.  
The Devil doesn't use our ACTUAL and CURRENT situation to discourage us, it is always some hypothetical future reality, because the Devil can only suggest thoughts to us about what MIGHT be.

If you are struggling with a fear about your vocation as a priest, a seminarian, a married person, etc…kick the Devil out of your head…press on…recommit your vows to your spouse…or your vows to your bishop…say a quick prayer…and then press on laboring in the field that God has given you to care for and quit worrying and thinking about hypothetical futures.

May we all be able to say, at the end of our lives,

"I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.  From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me" (2 Timothy 4:7)