Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fighting Bishops, Heresies, Today's Solemnity, and YOU!

Notes from my homily today that I preached off of:

Some brief history

Ecumenical council – a council working on the unity of the entire Church throughout the world

325 we had our first ecumenical council – the council of Nicea.  A priest named Arius had a teaching that had spread far and wide –

Christ was NOT God in the fullest sense – Christ was CREATED…a DEIFIED human being

OVER HALF the bishops of the world are believed to have been following Arius teaching in 325

St. Nicolas, at the council, after Arius presented his side, walked over and slapped Arius

Arius is eventually condemned and exiled.  It took many years for the people following Arius to return to the Church.  Some still hold to his teaching.  Hardly anyone has heard of his Church today.  It is insignificant.

So, there was debate, violent at times, but eventually, the Church came out and said on this question – “You are either in bounds or out of bounds, that there are things you can think and believe that are OUTSIDE the realm of the Church, things that can NOT be believed by Catholics”

Third ecumenical council involved today’s Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
431 in Ephesus

Nestorius vs. Cyril of Alexandria

Again there was fighting

Nestorius – we can’t really say Mary is the Mother of God…we can say she’s the Mother of CHRIST, but not the Mother of God

Cyril – If Mary is the Mother of Christ, she’s the Mother of God

Fracture again as some held to Nestorius view.   It took a long time, decades, for unity to return to the Church.  Today, some people still follow Nestorius’ teaching, but no one has hardly heard of them


1)      We can laugh at the violence – but do we care that much?

2)      Do we think there is an “in bounds” and an “out of bounds”? 

Do we know all the teachings of our Faith, particularly those things that the Church has definitively said “These are in bounds, and these things over here are distinctly out of bounds and not up for discussion?

The Church does allow for debate, discussion, collaboration, etc.  That’s what all the Ecumenical Councils have been – but when the Church rules definitively, are we on board?  Do we know what all those teachings are? 

3)      May 2016 be a year where we learn about those teachings, and learn the “why’s” – Formed, RCIA, etc.

A Christmas Funeral Photo

This was following a funeral I had today during the Christmas season.  The quote is the end of one of my favorite novels - "Middlemarch"

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Defeating Evil Every Day

A Catechetical Homily on the Year of Mercy

I have combed through "Year of Mercy" info, web pages, resources etc. and here's a condensed version of the best
1) This past Sunday was the "Jubilee of Families" - an invitation for families to get involved more directly with the Year of Mercy. Our bishops are asking families to: 1 - go to confession as a family 2 - pray a Psalm together as a family 3 - learn the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and then pick one of each to do AS A FAMILY 4 - Have a time where the family sits down and asks for forgiveness of one another for things done to each other in the past that have not been explicitly apologized for 5 - Travel to the Holy door in your diocese and engage in the prayers and so forth that are part of that pilgrimage. Here's a link to the USCCB guide for families:
Here's a GREAT short document that families can use when making a pilgrimage to the Holy Door:…/RESOURCE-FOR-THE-PASSAGE-OF-THE-H…
Our Archdiocese of Indianapolis has absolutely HIT IT OUT OF THE PARK with a booklet they put together for the Year of Mercy. I'm printing it up for all of my parishioners. It is something I hope EVERY diocese and Catholic is able to use. BRAVO to our Archdiocesan team that created this. PLEASE print this off for yourself and consider printing off some copies for others and handing them out as well. I hope every priest is able to utilize this booklet for their parishes because it is VERY well done:…/Archdiocese%20of%20Indianapolis%2…
Our Archdiocese also has a website with a lot of useful links all in one place:
Finally, here is a set of 8 books for 40 dollars that I am ordering from OSV. "Mercy in the Fathers of the Church" "Mercy in the Saints" "Mercy from the Popes" and 5 other great titles. I think this will be a tremendous help for preaching mercy throughout the year. Lay people would also find these books VERY helpful and informative and enlightening:

Friday, December 25, 2015

What my Goddaughter Taught Me About Christ and Christmas

Something happened about six months ago in my life, and I knew, when it happened, that I would be preaching about it at Christmas.  I don’t normally plan out my homilies six months in advance, but I knew in that moment that I would be talking about it today

To set the scene a little bit, I’m the oldest of 11 children, and my Mom and Dad have a standing invitation to whomever is around to come over for Sunday dinner.  When DePauw is in session, I’m not able to make it as I have Sunday night Mass, but usually in the Summer, if it is a slow Sunday evening, I’ll head over for dinner.

We have a huge table in my parents’ dining room.  My Dad actually made it by hand and he wasn’t a carpenter or anything, so I still remember when he was out in the yard making the table.  We all gave him hard time…”Dad, what are you doing, you don’t know how to make a table.”  It was kind of like Noah building the ark, and we were all the people heckling him.  But anyway, it worked, and the table is about 75 feet long, and it has been around for 20 plus years now.  There is room for everyone, and dinners around the table are a great thing.

So this one particular Sunday night in July we were gathered for dinner, and around our big table there were a couple of conversations going on at either end of the table, and I was sitting in the middle just kind of listening to both conversations.  I was going to offer something if it seemed relevant, but I didn’t feel like I had anything to add, so I just kind of listened and enjoyed being in the presence of my family.

So I have 5 nieces and nephews and one of my nieces is also my goddaughter.  Her name is Lucy.  She’s about one year old, and she can’t talk yet, and I am kind of partial here, but I think she’s at least tied for cutest child in the world.  Most of you probably know some kids that are tied for that award as well.

As I was looking back and forth to both ends of the table, at one point I noticed my goddaughter Lucy, sitting on her mom’s lap, and she was just staring at me smiling from ear to ear with a twinkle in her eye.  And in that moment I was struck by a lot of things, and I also recognized, as I thought about it, that, out of my peripheral vision, she had been staring at me for a minute or so, just waiting for me to look in her direction.  And I realized in that moment – this is how God looks at me.  And I was taken back, in that moment, to Christmas and the Christ child and the fact that Christ became a baby.  Not just a human being who came down on a chariot, but instead he became a child.  And so Christ looks at me in the same way that Lucy does.  Lucy, as awesome as she, is not God.  She doesn’t love me as much as Jesus does.  Jesus looks at me in the same way as Lucy does, if not with a bigger smile and with more love, if that’s possible.

Last night and this morning, Churches around the world are overflowing.  And I think one of the reasons for that is that people, when they see the Christ child, they say themselves, “That is a God that I can get; that’s a God that I understand; that’s a God that resonates with me; a God that smiles at me as a child, that loves me and looks on me with that same look.”

The problem is that moving forward, next weekend and so forth moving forward, the crowds will die out a little bit, and I think one of the main reasons for that is that we forget that Christ still looks at us this way ALL THE TIME!  When we grow older, and we hit the terrible twos, and then we become teens, and we get that angst, and we keep growing, and our hearts harden and we develop this thick skin, and we change, not always for the better.  I think a lot of people think, ourselves included, that Jesus went through all of this growth and change too.  He grew into angst and bitterness and became mean.  We think the Jesus changed, so we stop coming to Church.  But God does not change.  Jesus did grow up and become grumpy or embittered or hardened.  He didn’t grow into being some sort of disciplinarian who is mad at us.  So many of us have the wrong image of God in our minds, and those wrong images keep us from authentic spiritual encounter, authentic spiritual growth.  Those false images of Christ keep us from Church, from prayer.  They might think of God in an image that I reference a lot – the P.E. teacher.  Maybe I need to see a counselor about my P.E. Teacher because I use that image a lot, but I actually had a great p.e. teacher, but anyways…the image of a person standing over you saying “GIVE ME ONE MORE BEATTITUDE” and “Don’t forget the 10 commandments!”  and “You’re bad” and “You’re in trouble and you have to go see the dean”…many people think of God, the Church, and Jesus in that way…they forget that Christ looks on us as a child…we forget.

We’ve all heard that phrase “May we keep Christmas in our heart year round” and I think what that means is “remember this Nativity scene year round”…remember that Jesus looks at us with that same smile that a child looks at us with.  And no matter what we do, no matter what sins we commit, we can turn from the Christ Child, but He doesn’t turn from us.  We might not notice the smile of the Christ Child, Jesus looking at us with His infinite love, but He doesn’t stop.  We can commit sins, we can do things where we can definitively turn away, but God doesn’t do that.  Christ ALWAYS looks at us with the same smile, hoping to catch our attention, hoping to catch our eye, hoping to get us to smile back.

Before I looked at Lucy that night, I wasn’t smiling. I wasn’t in a bad mood, but I wasn’t smiling, but when I caught her eye, it warmed my heart, and it changed me and I was able to smile too.

So as we think about these things, what I’d like you to do, in this moment, is just to think of whatever sufferings you might be going through right now, call to mind the crosses that you are carrying right now.  I’d also like you to call to mind any teachings of Jesus that you find to be a challenge, any teachings of the Church that you say “I’m not sure I like that, I’m not sure I agree with that, I’m not sure I get it.”  Instead of thinking of that coming from a disciplinarian, or from drill instructor or from a P.E. teacher, I want you to think of it instead being said by the smiling Christ Child “I’m asking you to carry thins cross, to endure this suffering, to follow this teaching even though you may not get it, you may not fully understand it.”  If we hear it coming from a child, with a big smile on His face, saying “Trust me I love you” it is so much to follow Him and to trust

And so we pray that we may be people who keep Christmas year round, and not just today, that we may help spread that Good News that Jesus looks on us with the smile of a loving child.  And we pray that we may also bring other people to encounter that same Jesus.

We pray that what we celebrate today, the prayers, the Eucharist, everything that we’re here doing, that it may help us keep Christmas year round, and not just today.

"Hello from the other side!"

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The lethally accurate SNL video that sums up why I struggle sometimes with diocesan priesthood

This came out a year ago on Saturday Night Live.  You can get upset about this, but a lot of it is fair criticism.

In many places, this stuff is par for the course, and any time you try to change any of this at your average parish today, and try and make Mass more sacred, you are labeled as trying to do things your own way

Pretty much everything they talk about in here is par in our post Vatican II American Catholic experience, and almost nothing in the above video were things that the Church ACTUALLY changed about the Mass.

We changed all this stuff above, and it is an absolute train wreck, and we wonder why the number of people joining the Church has dropped off.

This stuff doesn't happen at parishes that have held to the tradition of the Church, and have actually only implemented the changes that the 2nd Vatican Council has called for.

If you walked into your average suburban Catholic parish today - what would draw you in to the celebration of the Mass?  What would let you know that something sacred is taking place?  The megachurch down the street has hymns, readings, they might even pass the grape juice and bread around...but if you walked into a traditional Catholic parish, you would figure out real quick...something different is happening here.

Why does the above video have to be so accurate?  Why do we tolerate this stuff and watch the numbers shrink?

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Reflection on Crucifixes

As Catholics, we know Christ has risen from the dead.

We have crucifixes because WE haven't risen from the dead.

So while we suffer in this valley of tears it helps a great deal to be reminded that Christ CHOSE suffering when he walked this earth, even though He could have saved us without being crucified and tortured.

The ancient prophecies could have said "The Christ will die in child birth" and we'd still be saved. He CHOSE the cross. If that doesn't help you in the midst of suffering, then don't have crucifixes around.

But what I want to know when I'm suffering is not "hey, just think about Easter"...I want to hear God say "I'm with you in the midst of this. I bled too. Your suffering has meaning in this moment, not just a future reward."

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Year of Mercy - Doctrines aren't changing, it is about the doctrine that we can change

He chose us in be holy and without blemish before him!  Ephesians 1:4

In your mercy keep us free from sin... (The Mass, immediately following the "Our Father")

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Morality Chapter 13 - The Beatitudes

Why is there suffering?
What is mercy?
What does it mean to be poor in spirit?
Does meekness mean being a wimp?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Saint Andrew and "Being Compared to Others"

Today is the Feast day of St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter.

I would assume that a time or two after the Resurrection of our Lord, St. Andrew may have gone home to visit family.  He surely got asked the question a lot walking around Jerusalem in the early days of the Church -

"Hey, aren't you Andrew, Peter's brother?"


"Hey, isn't your brother the Pope?  He's awesome!  I love your brother?"

And people from Andrew's churches that he founded probably asked him, when they wanted to try to manipulate him or get under his skin or play one of the millions of other mind games we humans play with each other:

"Why can't you be more like your brother, THE POPE!?!?!?"

Here's the deal.  We all live in people's shadows, and we all cast our own shadows that other people live in.

In working with a lot of people as a priest, whether spiritual direction, confession, or just talking with them about their struggles in general, I can safely say that A LOT OF PEOPLE STRUGGLE WITH THIS SHADOW THING.

And here's how you get over it - STOP CARING ABOUT IT

People will try to heap expectations on us.

"Why can't you be more like your mom?  Why can't you be more like your dad?  Why can't you be more like your roommate?  Why can't you be more like your coworker?  Why can't you be more like your sister?"

You know how long their heaping of expectations on you will work to get you down?  Precisely as long as you allow it to.


The only expectations that matter are the expectations that Christ has of us - the expectation that we be a saint.  And we all can become saints if we listen to Christ's call inside us and follow Him wherever He leads and do whatever He asks us to do.  That's all that matters.  St. Andrew knew that.  That's why he's a SAINT.

St. Andrew didn't worry about what others wanted him to be.  He worried about what CHRIST wanted him to be.

Andrew surely got to the point where he said "Yep, that's my brother, the first Pope, and he's awesome and I'm really proud of him and I love him dearly."

If he didn't get to that point, then he wouldn't have been a saint.  He'd still be miserable and whining.

Who cares about the "shadows" that others cast.  Be yourself.  Be who God made you to be.

Be a saint.  Period.

"It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till." - J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Drunkenness vs. Advent

The World's Last Night

This is totally worth the six minutes.  I saw this on "New Liturgical Movement" this morning.

My brother, deacon Tony Hollowell, sent me the actual essay last year and said it was one of the best things he'd ever read


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Black Friday

"At about noon, darkness covered the whole land"

The only Black Friday that will bring you peace!

Friday, November 20, 2015

5 Quick Points Made by "The Mockingjay Part 2"

1) War sucks.

The first Hunger Games book (and the movie) are written in such a way that some people might secretly think about it all in a sugary way..."Sure the games are a terrible idea...but it all is kind of romantic"

However, the final installment is the whole point - look at what war does - so many people die - it's horrible - there's nothing romantic at all about war.  Collins delivers an intentionally violent and deadly punch in the gut with the final book because war is a violent and deadly punch in the gut

2) We are the capital

Gale has a line in the film when they spend a night hiding in a capital home.  He eats some of the food, which is way better than anything he's ever tasted, and says something to the effect of "I'm starting to understand why the people who live in the capital are the way they are.  If I had food like this, I'd go along with whatever else was happening too."

We ARE the capital.  The money we spend on hair and makeup and fashion would literally feed the rest of the world

this add from cover girl makes the point perfectly

3) The ends do not justify the means

The only place that says this is ALWAYS the case is the Catholic Church.  The Hunger Games reinforce that.  There is a scene where lots of innocent civilians are killed, and it is done, by the rebels, under the pretense that it will save lives in the long run.  The beautiful and Catholic point is made in the book and the film - that under that type of logic anyone could kill anyone else whenever they wanted if they just came up with a good explanation for what MIGHT happen in the future

4)  There are evil people on both sides of any war

So often people forget this.  The Hunger Games reminds us of this very perfectly.

5) We humans have VERY short memories

Toward the end of the film, as peace is being established, the following dialogue says it nicely

Are you preparing for another war, Plutarch?" I ask.

"Oh, not now. Now we're in a sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never be repeated," he says. "But collective thinking is usually short-lived. We're fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction. Although who knows? Maybe this will be it.

St Meinrad and the Paris Attacks

St. Meinrad was a hermit who lived and prayed in the woods.

He had a vision that some men were going to come and visit him and then kill him.

When they came, he still welcomed them, fed them, and treated them as Christ would have.

The men killed St. Meinrad.

St. Meinrad is considered a martyr of hospitality.

We talk all the time as the "pro-life" movement that we're not running out of room in our country and that the whole world would fit inside Texas...and rightly so...but some stop short of saying that when people are trying to flee war? 

Women who have abortions are scared about what MIGHT happen?

And we shut our doors because we're scared of what MIGHT happen?

I get it...we have to bring people in responsibly...and that's something to continue to work at... be vigilant about it and hash out how to do it.  Get a lot of smart people in the same room and figure out how to make it happen in the right way.

But ..but what are the radical Muslims REALLY afraid of? I think the radicals are afraid that moderate Muslims will see who we really are...what Christianity really is...I think that's what they're afraid of.

Why else would they send people to attack Paris through France's refugee isn't because its the only way into France...come on...let's be it stands right now if radicals want into France they're going to get in.

If you're the radicals, you send attackers in through the refugee program because you want it to want America to stop taking in the tired, the poor, the immigrant...because then your prophecy about America as the Devil looks true.

Here's my point - the only thing more RADICAL than radical Islam is LOVE. And I think LOVE welcomes the stranger, the poor, and the dying.  We can do it in a prudent way...we don't have to simply tear down our borders, but the only way to out radical the radicals is through love

...and if I die because of it...if someone kills me because I was too loving, too welcoming, too hospitable...then, well, there's not many better ways to go than being a martyr for being too hospitable.

I'd rather error on the side of hospitality and love then on the side of not letting Christ in the door

Monday, November 16, 2015

Postpartum Depression and Priesthood

NOTE: Postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis are medical conditions and need immediate medical assistance.  What I describe below is often referred to as "the baby blues" and is a short term situation that occurs in almost all mothers who give birth, just as the "pastor blues" is short term and occurs in almost all priests who are given new and larger assignments

Priests can also fall into depression, particularly when getting new and overwhelming assignments.  They too should seek professional help.

I've been mulling over a thought for a while and wanted to express it here:

I don't know the ins and outs of postpartum depression, but I've certainly talked with and worked with moms who battle the post-birth blues.  Often times, in the wake of giving birth to a new child, partly due to physical exhaustion, partly due to hormones, partly due to real fears, there can be a depression that sets in for a time.

Most of the fear surrounding postpartum depression comes from a belief that "There is NO way I can actually care for this child - it will be too much."

I'm not saying I know what it is like to have postpartum depression, but I do think that for priests as well, particularly young priests, this same thing may take hold for varying lengths of time.

It basically arises out of getting physically run down (or allowing this to happen) but also out of a realization that "there's no way I'll be able to handle all of this!"

I think it is one reason that we see alcoholism and other addictive behaviors among percentages of our priests - when any person feels like things are spinning out of control, addictive behaviors seem to provide an element of "control" in the sense of providing some sort of "routine" or "coping mechanism" for stress.

I say this for a couple of reasons:

1) pray for priests, moms, and dads, particularly new pastors, and new moms and dads, and see what you can do to help with the work load.  There are two types of people who volunteer at parishes and who offer to help new parents:

a. "Father (or new mom), I want to help, and this is how I'm going to do it"
b. "Father (or new mom), I want to help, what can I do to help?

PLEASE NOTE: a. isn't actually much help

2) As for moms, dads, and priests in this situation, we need to:

a. get the proper amount of sleep

b. admit that things are, in a sense, ALWAYS out of control

c. be okay with the unpredictable nature of things

d. realize that putting up with the insanity of shepherding hundreds of families is PART OF the sacrifice we're called to

e. get some healthy exercise 4-5 days a week, and pray 7 days a week

f. realize that we figure things out on the fly and we DO start to get better as we go forward.  We never figure everything out about being a priest (just as mom's never figure it all out) but we learn how to do it well as we move forward in time

g. stop comparing ourselves to other moms, dads, or priests.  We all know moms, dads, or priests that we think "have it all together".  STOP comparing yourselves to them.  You don't know them as well as you think, and they carry crosses, suffer, and sometimes fall into sin as well.  The Devil LOVES when we look at others and try to compare ourselves based on information WE DON'T HAVE!  We can be inspired by others, but it has to be healthy, and we have to realize we DON'T know what others are dealing with.

As Archbishop Tobin said: "If we see what we are doing as a mission given to us by Christ, we will never get overwhelmed".  That might be one of the best things I've ever heard.  We have to realize that Christ has invited us into motherhood, fatherhood, or the priesthood, and he knows we don't have it all figured out and Christ is okay with that!

A quick story from my teaching days before the seminary: As my first year of teaching went on, I think I was just constantly stressed and overwhelmed, so much so that I didn't even have time to recognize that I was stressed and overwhelmed!  I was teaching 6 classes and then coaching football, and then I got a week off from football and then started coaching track.  My hair fell out.  I lost a lot of weight.  I suffered terribly, and I constantly thought that I probably was a fraud.  I was always about 90 seconds ahead of the students and I crafted my lesson plans on napkins during lunch! second year of teaching WAS SO RADICALLY MUCH EASIER THAT I CAN'T HARDLY DESCRIBE IT!  I remember being so happy on the first day of my second year that I cried!  I suddenly realized that I knew a little bit about what I was doing.  I remember telling a colleague, with tears of joy in my eyes, "I wish someone would have told me how much easier this second year is."

New moms, priests, dads, etc. - it gets better.  Keep going forward.  Be okay with the craziness.  Of course you don't know what you're doing in every area but press forward and you'll figure it out in time.  

To parishioners and those that support new moms, new priests, new dads, etc., pray for them regularly.

Some times, although rarely, I hear people say, particularly about new priests, "IT'S OUR JOB TO BREAK IN NEW PRIESTS".  That's just absolutely dumb and wrong.  It is the job of the Body of Christ to affirm and support new parents and new is the job of bullies to show people "how we do things around here"

Here's to all you new moms and dads and priests - we're all with you.  Let's all hold each other in prayer and journey together through the craziness!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Making the Third Way

This is a video I kept meaning to finish up but just finally got around to it.  All of us involved in the production shot footage "behind the scenes" as we went along, and I wanted to put this together.

Putting "The Third Way" together was a truly wonderful experience, and one that has a major part of my life for several years.

Thanks to my sister Emily for the vocals on this song and for Brian "B Shags" Shaughnessy for the lyrics and for producing the song.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Simple Fix to the Annulment Issue

I'm not a canon lawyer, so I just want to throw this out and see if I'm missing something

I recently had someone come to me who is totally on fire for the Catholic Faith, wants to join the Church, is devouring Catholic videos and homilies and cd's etc.

And she's been married four times.  None of those marriages was in the Church.  I recently got word that it looks like three different annulment cases.

You know what would fix all this?  If we, as a Church, said "If you aren't married in a Catholic Church, it wasn't a marriage in the first place."

That might upset the ecumenical movement a little bit, but we already talk about some of their other 'sacraments' being invalid, and, in all honesty, most protestant aren't going to care one bit if the Catholic Church says that the Catholic Church doesn't recognize their marriages as valid.

If we said the only time you need an annulment is if you were actually married in the Catholic Church, that would free up about (I'm guessing) 75% of our marriage cases.

And let's think about it - what protestant denomination does marriage preparation like we do?  If two people get married at a Baptist Church, do we really think they were taught and had, going into the marriage, the Catholic Church's understanding of what they were doing when they made their vows?

If you were married in the Catholic Church, you need an annulment.
If you weren't married in the Catholic Church, but now want to join, welcome to the Catholic Church!

Monday, October 26, 2015

When NFL players shy away from out

Quick back story for non-football fans

Jim Harbaugh is Catholic
Jim Harbaugh was a gritty, tough, scrappy football player in college and the NFL
Jim Harbaugh started coaching
His first head coaching job: San Diego State.  When he arrived they were terrible
Jim Harbaugh turned them around year 1 and went 7-4.  The next two years he went 11-1 twice
Jim Harbaugh went to Stanford.  Took them from mediocre to national title contenders
Jim Harbaugh went to the NFL and SanFrancisco 49ers.  He turned them into a team that was two plays away from playing for two superbowls
Jim Harbaugh took over this year as the head coach of Michigan.  They were terrible when he got there, and in a matter of a few months, they are one of the best teams in the country

The point here: Jim Harbaugh is the type of coach that, in sports terms, is a miracle worker.  The results above are UNHEARD OF!!!

If a good coach takes over a program, it ALWAYS takes a couple of YEARS to get good and Jim Harbaugh does it in a few weeks.

It's also important to know that Jim Harbaugh is known for his intensity.  The Onion had a hysterical fake newspaper story on Harbaugh the other day -

The "headline" is funny because in real life:
Jim Harbaugh is intense
Jim Harbaugh wants to win
Jim Harbaugh is a man of faith
Jim Harbaugh talks about toughness, intensity, masculinity, etc.

Here's why I mention all this - last year, when Harbaugh was coaching the 49ers, reports began to surface that players didn't like playing for Harbaugh because he was too intense, too into it, etc.

Your one job, in the NFL, is to WIN GAMES, and Jim Harbaugh does that for you, and you COMPLAIN that the guy is too intense?

Fast-forward to this year.  I sat down the other night and watched 10 minutes of the 49ers and it was an absolute disgrace to the game of football.  They were awful in every conceivable way, and it made it really easy to turn off.  That night the 49ers, when I stopped watching, were having one of the worst games in the history of the NFL

The 49ers were a great team under Harbaugh, one of the best, but the players were complaining that Harbaugh was too masculine.  And once the players got their wish, and Harbaugh was let go, the 49ers instantly became irrelevant and a joke, just like they were before he arrived.

Masculinity is mocked in a culture that thinks of gender lines as blurry (or at least wants them to be blurry).  When NFL players, who are supposed to want to win, and who are supposed to be hard-nosed and tough, when they start complaining that a guy is too masculine, we should probably start to prepare for the end of the world, or at least the invasion of our country by men who DO want to fight

Authentic masculinity is something that should be praised.  Intensity, hard work, discipline, etc. - these are helpful traits in our world, and we should celebrate them and hold them up when they are lived well.

I worry that cultures start to get soft and squishy and afraid of masculinity when things are plush, no one is invading, and everything is comfortable.  The day may soon come where we will once again look around and hope real men will step forward.  If that happens, I hope there are a few left in our country.  Evidence suggests that the 49ers locker room would not be a good place to start looking.

High School Religious Ed class 2 - virtues

I try to do a pushup, we watch a little bit of "Gladiator"...

Happiness. Class 1

This is class one of an online course I've been teaching to our high school students.  It's been great, as we've seen a 600% increase in participation vs. when we used to ask them to come to class in person.

If you'd like more information about the text book we use, let me know.

The process is pretty simple.  They watch the class.  Answer a few questions.  Email me the answers or hand them in at Mass.  I record that they did it.

If they don't participate, that's fine - the Church says the primary catechist of a child is their parents, so I assume the parents are doing something else to teach them the Faith.

It's been great. Hope these help.  I will post them here occasionally.  Here's class 1

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Homily I Wish Everyone Could Hear

I think every priest, once or twice a year, gives a homily that they wish the world could hear...not because the priest thinks he's awesome but because he thinks it would help a lot of people.  This weekend's homily falls into that category for me personally

The text:

I mentioned one surprising thing about the priesthood a few weeks ago – how often people want particular questions answered that the Church says are actually left up to them using the gift of prudence to analyze the circumstances

Another shocking thing, perhaps the saddest surprise of the priesthood thus far – I’ve done a number of funerals at LOTS of parishes.  A lot of times it is for a big Catholic family, and in a lot of these situations, the vast majority of the kids, if not all of them, have stopped practicing their Catholic Faith.  And here’s what happens
At the funeral home or in conversation with the children or listening to them at the funeral meal I hear most of the kids say something like “Mom always sacrificed everything for us…or Dad gave everything he had of himself and worked two jobs so we could eat…and they laid down their lives for us…

And in these situations a part of me wants to say something but I don’t, and what I’d like to say to them, in a gentle way, is “do you know why they did this for you?  it’s because of their catholic faith.  because they believed that jesus christ was/is real, that he was/is present in the eucharist, and that he said we should lay down our lives for our friends.”

For many of the children in these situations, there is a complete failure to connect the dots of the love they received from their parents, and the Faith that nurtured their parents.  I get the sense that a lot of the kids in these situations see these heroic sacrifices from their parents, but then they think of their parents’ Catholic Faith as some sort of superstitious thing that mom and/or dad did on the side, but which didn’t really lead to the beautiful results that the kids speak so highly of.

I want to say – “What if your mom was an amazing mom BECAUSE she went to Mass EVERY Sunday and prayed a rosary and read Scripture daily, went to confession regularly, etc.?”

Some will offer objections at this point.

1)      There are bad Catholic parents.  Correct.  But perhaps the Catholic Faith kept a person from worse.

2)     There are good parents who aren’t Catholic.  Of course.  We’re talking specifically about YOUR family.  Did the Faith of your parents help them become the saints that you are mentioning as you talk about them?

3)     Sacrificing for one’s children is simply biological.  FALSE.  I can walk out my door at the rectory and within 30 seconds I can be at the door of people who buy heroine for themselves instead of food for their children.  I assure you, laying down your life for your children is NOT simply biological

Let’s take it out another level beyond the home.  A lot of times people praise their Catholic schooling.  “Those nuns gave everything to teach me.  Father worked really hard, year round, to keep the lights on at our Catholic school.”  And yet, how many people, after receiving that Catholic education, put it to use, become highly successful and leave the Catholic Faith behind?  I want to say to those people
            Do you think those priests, those nuns, those lay people who gave their lives to give you the best education in theworld, do you think they did that JUST so that you would make partner at the firm?  JUST so that you would become the CEO or a pharmacist or a well-paid engineer?
Do you think the nuns at Annunciation slept in closets their entire adult life, without air conditioning, giving up having a family of their own, a husband, wealth, vacations, etc. simply to teach you ALGEBRA?
NO!  They did all of that because they were motivated by the Eucharist, by the real presence of Christ in the Catholic Church, and if they can see what some have done with their sacrifice, they are surely rolling over in their graves. 

They didn’t do it to teach you algebra, they did it to teach you algebra AND that Jesus is real, that the Church is real, and that living your Catholic Faith and laying down your life are HARD but WORTH IT!!!

The same thing happens with regard to Blessed Mother Teresa, St. John Paul II, Pope Francis, etc.  “Oh wow, they’re so awesome, look what they did for the poor, look how they laid their lives down for others!”  THE reason these people did that is because of their Catholic Faith.  Mother Teresa did two holy hours before the Blessed Sacrament EVERY day, and went to Mass every day, and prayed a Rosary every day.  That’s WHY she became the person who did the things you are praising.   Her Catholic Faith was not some superstitious hocus pocus she happened to do before she went off to work each morning.

We can chalk all this up to them being “religious” but let’s look at the larger historical context here for a moment.  

What religious tradition gives more aid and charity than any other?  The Catholic Church.

What religious tradition married education and the Faith and invented the University system, and, particularly in our own country, the system of educating its young people in all things – the Catholic Church

What religious tradition invented the hospital and continues to provide health care to the poorest of the poor in our own country and indeed in countries throughout the world?  The Catholic Church.
This can’t all be coincidence.  The Catholic Faith must have something to do with all of this.

Why do I mention this?  We hear in the readings today:

“Behold, I will bring them back, I will gather them from the ends of the world, they shall return as an immense throng.  I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble.”

We know that the numbers say ex-Catholics are the second largest denomination in the US.  And yet, although the numbers don’t show it yet because polling data is always a few years behind, I get the sense that, like in the reading this weekend, people are starting to awaken to God’s call and are returning home to the Church. 

They are recognizing their blindness and want to see again.

God always calls us home, every moment of every day, but it seems, anecdotally at the moment, that people are starting to awaken.  In my lifetime, I would say it began with John Paul II showing the world that we don’t have to be ashamed of our Faith and that it is instead quite beautiful and is a source of strength, beauty, and light for us if we let it be that in our hearts.

Certainly our Holy Father Pope Francis has continued this thawing of hearts as he continues to call us to go out, to call people home, to open the doors of our church, to invite people in, to walk with them, etc.

What do we need to do? 

Do your children, even the ones who have fallen away, know that the reason you sacrificed for them and raised them the way you did was because of your Catholic Faith?  Perhaps consider writing them a letter informing them of that in your own words. Sometimes we take the approach of nagging “Are you going to Church?”  “You need to go to Church!”  “Why aren’t you going to Church?”  Maybe instead just write and say, in your own words, “Hey, David, I know I wasn’t a perfect parent, but I wanted to just let you know that whatever strength I did have as a parent, it was because of my Catholic Faith and I wanted you to know that.”

Do the people we help, the people we teach, the poor we reach out to, the people that visit our hospitals, do they know WHY we are helping them?  

We often choose to NOT talk about ourselves and our good works, as individuals, as parishes, and as a Church.  “Do not let your left hand know what your right is doing” but we do a disservice if we help someone but don’t say anything about why we’re doing it.  

This weekend I bring Communion to our sick and shutins.  I’ve realized that I don’t ever really share with them why I’m there.  I’m not saying I’m going to start walking in and shouting “I’M HERE BECAUSE OF JESUS AND I’M AWESOME!” but there might be an opportunity to work in my motivation for being there as we have a conversation. 

“Behold, I will bring them back, I will gather them from the ends of the world, they shall return as an immense throng.  I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble.”

Give us the strength to help get the word out that God is calling the world home to the Catholic Church

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Ridiculous Marriage Flow Chart Graphic

This has been around for a while, but I thought we'd take a look at it.

It is wrong on so many levels.  I'm not even going to get into anything in the chart because the question at the top is wrong on so many levels, the rest of the graphic doesn't even merit our time

Here's the graphic:

If someone shows you this and asks you want to think of it as a Catholic you can say the following:

1) No, I don't think homosexuality is sinful, if by homosexuality you mean a person that is attracted to people of the same sex.  

2) Even if you mean by "homosexuality" you mean people having same sex sex, which I do think is sinful, the sinfulness of same sex sex is NOT WHY I'M OPPOSED TO GAY MARRIAGE.  I'm opposed to gay marriage simply on secular grounds - I believe that marriage between a man and a woman is a first principle that any society has to be founded on.  I believe that children have a right to a mother and a father.  Lots of atheists are against same sex marriage - so no, my opposition to gay marriage is NOT based on my Christianity, but thanks for asking.

Rarely can one statement get as much wrong as the statement used at the beginning of this chart.

Monday, October 19, 2015

My Sister on Her Eating Disorder

Below you will find a guest post from my sister Laura.  When she let all of us siblings know about her struggles several years ago, at some point later I approached her and said if she'd ever like to share her story in this space, I'd be honored to post it.  This is a story that I think can help a lot of people:

"The intent of this post is to inform parents, siblings, and friends that those near you may struggle with an eating disorder. Eating disorders take many different forms, but I hope that by sharing my own experience with them, you might have a clearer understanding of them and how your daughter, sister, brother, or friend might be struggling. This post is also for anyone who may be dealing with an eating disorder. As I will mention later on, I truthfully didn't realize I had one until three years after I had first started. May this post help you in your journey to healing. 

In October of my junior year of high school, almost all of my friends began drinking and disagreeing with Catholic Church teachings. I didn't know how to go about discussing things with them, so I just stopped being friends with them. I went straight from having lots of friends and people to talk to to being the silent one at the end of a hostile lunch table. In January of my junior year, for cheerleading we began discussing the pairs for a Valentine's Day dance where each cheerleader dances with a senior guy. I was paired with a popular football player and started to worry. We would be doing a bunch of crazy flips, and I didn't want to be that girl that couldn't be lifted. I came home from one practice at the end of January, 2011, and decided I would eat less at dinner. The next morning, I had an apple for breakfast and packed a lunch of half a handful of grain flake cereal and a carrot. I kept it up for a week and lost five pounds. The dance went fine and everyone told me how great I looked. That weekend, I was at home looking at some cookies my mom had just made and thought how sad it would be to have everyone see me gain back my five pounds I had lost. I consciously decided in that moment that I didn't have to gain it back, and began struggling with eating disorders.  

The compliments were endless. Girls came out of nowhere to tell me how gorgeous, tiny, cute, etc. I looked and it was intoxicating. I had gone months without friends, so this attention was addicting and only encouraged me. Lunch was always a struggle, however. I would either take my lunch into the library and eat my ~70 calorie snack there, or I'd stay in the bathroom for the first ten minutes of lunch then come down and hurriedly eat and go to the bathroom again. When I got home from school I would walk 40 minutes on the treadmill. I lost 15 pounds that school year, and weighed less than my seventh grade sister, which I viewed as success. I went to Eurpope for two weeks with my brother that summer, and came home weighing ten pounds lighter than when I left. It never occurred to me that I had an eating disorder. In fact, I went on a retreat my senior year and heard other people talk about their eating disorders and thought "man, that would terrible!" It wasn't until three years later that I took an online quiz to see if one might be at risk for an eating disorder that I realized I was in its throws. In fact, I struggled with multiple eating disorders. My freshman year of college, I decided I didn't want to eat so little, but I couldn't bear the thought of returning to my original weight. I would eat myself stuffed, walk on the treadmill for ten miles at a time, then come back in and eat more. Although I never made myself get sick to get rid of the food, it was bulimia, a constant battle with myself over wanting to be skinny and wanting to never again feel that hunger and exhaustion I had experienced in high school. The fall of my sophomore year, I got a stress fracture in my femur from training for a marathon. That threw me into my third eating disorder, where I would simply binge on food and was unable to do the physical activity required to burn it off. Yet again, I was entirely unaware of what I was struggling with, but I knew it wasn't right to feel that way. Eventually my leg healed, and I was able to get my eating under control. My brother had asked all of my siblings to start a monthly sibling update email, so in April 2014, I decided to tell all my siblings. It was extremely difficult and I hated feeling that vulnerable. Everyone I cared about now knew my darkest struggles, and that was absolutely horrifying. However, Archangel Raphael is the patron saint of mental disorders and happy meetings, so with the help of his intercession, God took care of me. My siblings simply showered me with love and understanding, and it was the best decision I've ever made, telling them. I now have them on guard for me, and they notice if I start to eat too little or obsess over working out. After years of prayer, work, and many failures, I am now at a healthy weight, eat right, and lead a wonderful life!  

Thus far, I hope my story has informed parents, siblings, and friends of at-risk people what eating disorders can look like. I don't have all the answers for what to do, I don't even know what all my family did to get me out of those dark places. The only thing I can say with confidence is PRAY CONSTANTLY FOR THEM. My parents never made me eat a steak or stop my workouts, which was incredibly wise of them in hindsight. However, your daughter or son may need more drastic measures than I did. Also, I didn't even know I was suffering from anorexia and bulimia for three years, so trust your instincts over your sibling or friend's emphatic "I'm fine!"s. Made In His Image, a support website for those with eating disorders, has lots of resources that can direct you. But please always pray for those who struggle. Thank you! 

Now, for anyone reading this article that might be struggling with an eating disorder: you deserve to be free of this, and you CAN be! Firstly, take your pain to Jesus in Adoration; He has been waiting 2000 years to listen to your struggles and help you through them. Praying the Rosary daily has helped me tremendously, and Mary promises that any of her children who dedicate themselves to her in the Rosary will "receive her protection". In Mary we find ceaseless consolation; please look to her. 

Eating disorders are not something easily shaken, so don't hate yourself if you slip up. I have slipped up countless times, but each time I remember a line from the movie Robin Hood: 

Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions 

Each time you fall down, God is waiting with an outstretched hand to pull you back up. Grit your teeth, grab your rosary, and stand again. Also, you can use your suffering for good! Saint John Paul II loved to reflect on the beauty of suffering, writing an entire encyclical on it. He states 

"Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through [Jesus'] suffering! Through [Jesus'] cross." 

Without a doubt, eating disorders are heavy crosses. However, we neither suffer alone nor for nothing. On a hard day, say a prayer to God, offering your pain for an intention such as those affected by abuse. Our beloved Father can take our suffering and use it to relieve that of others if we only ask Him to. Knowing we have the power to help others through our own challenges is such a beautiful thing and gives our suffering dignity. Lastly, realize that you deserve to be free of this and ask for help. It will be horrifying, but offer that fear up for your intention and bite the bullet. There are trained professionals that live to help you! You can do it; you're so worth it. God has a beautiful plan for you, and loves you more than can be comprehended. Know of my prayers for you, and may God always hold you in His loving arms!

Archangel Raphael, pray for us!"