Saturday, January 30, 2016

IU Basketball Attendance and Catholicism

A few days ago I was driving around and listening, as I usually do, to sports talk radio.  (I love Catholic radio, and listen to it as well, but there's only so many times you can listen to a priest explain purgatory to a non-Catholic)

Anyway, Don Fischer, the voice of the Indiana Hoosiers, made some very interesting and relevant comments about Indiana basketball and their attendance.

The Indiana Hoosiers are in the midst of a tremendous season and are at or near the top of the Big Ten standings.  The state of Indiana (if you hadn't heard) worships basketball.

All these factors SHOULD point to one thing - gigantic home basketball crowds.  But Fischer was lamenting that the opposite is happening.

Despite the:
1) tremendous team performance
2) a state that worships the sport and the IU team

LESS and LESS people are coming to the games.

IU, despite success, has seen a significant drop in attendance

Now, what does that have to do with Catholicism?  I submit that it has a TON of relevance for us.

To me it is quite simple why less and less people are coming.  It isn't the BEST and most stimulating thing people can do with their time anymore.  Netflix, Amazon Prime, computer and video games and the internet in general allow a person to customize and tailor ALL their entertainment to EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT.  With the opportunity to be entertained however I dang well please always being one click away whilst sitting on my couch for 9 dollars a month...why on God's green Earth would I:

1) Get in my car
2) Drive to IU
3) Pay to park
4) Pay to get in the game
5) Pay for concessions
6) Watch over the course of 2 hours for what may or may not be an exciting and climactic finish
7) Drive home

Cost: $150 or so
Cost in time: a large part of a day

I can get 90% of the experience of being at the game by watching on TV, and I'm not wasting my time or money getting there.

My brother Matt took me to a Colts game about 10 years ago.  We went back to the rectory downtown to watch the 2nd half of the game.  We both agreed it was WAY MORE enjoyable watching the game from our couch!

When everything is about the emotional pleasure that I get out of something, when all I concern myself with is entertainment, then the first thing to fall off my radar is prayer/religion/Mass etc.

Mass is boring in that it is nearly the opposite of Netflix.  Mass is other people, it is driving there, it is making time for it, it is doing a bunch of things I wouldn't do on my own, it is music that I don't normally sing, it is silence which I don't normally prefer...

So this is why Don Fischer's comments made me smile: other cultural communal experiences, which were until very recently the best way for people to experience all the pleasurable emotions and feelings that they desired...communal sporting events are now falling off the map and taking a back seat as well, and so it is good, in my mind, to watch the "attend a sports game" crash and burn as well.


Because it puts more sharply into contrast the two approaches - in a few years either I am going to sit in a bubble of entertainment and pleasure and stimulation on my couch or I am going to try God's way and go outside myself and not make my own pleasure the only reason I exist.  I will choose the cocoon of "pleasure" or I will choose to be a human being.

The sooner the middle ground between these two alternatives melts away and vanishes, the better!

A Bullet Train through Western Music

A Bullet Train Through Western Music from John Hollowell on Vimeo.

Our schola in action!  If you'd like to bring this concert to your parish, let me know.  It is a great way to help introduce parishes to what chant is, and why the Church encourages it

The Ideal Catholic Parish

St. John Vianney heard confessions as a parish priest almost all day long.  Sometimes he'd hear confessions for 14 hours a day.

We might be tempted to think that St. John Vianney didn't have much time as a pastor to do other programs (Bible studies, youth events, emails, retreats, build a social media presence, etc.) and we might be tempted to think his parish suffered.

I would submit that there are three levels of parish life

1)  The worst - virtually no confessions AND no other programs.  A parish waiting to close

2)  Middle of the road - virtually no confessions BUT there are lots of other programs happening

3)  The ideal - a parish where ALL people need is the sacraments.  At this parish, there is no need for planning all the other stuff that always gets terrible attendance because the people actually seek out and are nourished by the SACRAMENTS themselves.


"But what about stuff to bring people along?  Relying on the sacraments themselves might work for the Uber-Catholics but what about for the rookies and the fallen away?"

Response: If a parish was full of people going to confession regularly and not missing Sunday Mass, that would unleash on the community an army of people ready to help the newcomers, the fallen away Catholics, etc.

A parish with all kinds of events and religious education and retreats is not the highest form of a Catholic parish, it is a parish that hasn't quite figured out that all you really need are the Sacraments

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

America Today

I'm reading on the fall of Rome right now.  Can't help but see the similarities to what is happening in our country today.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

HOMILY - US Bishops: Abortion and Euthanasia are the "Preeminent threats" to the Body of Christ

We've hear that we are all one Body in Christ so MANY times, which is good, but we probably lose the REVOLUTIONARY nature of what St. Paul was saying.

Every culture before Christ had, in one way or another, looked at some people as "more human" and other people as "less human" or even "expendable non-humans"

Saint Paul says - "THOSE DAYS ARE OVER"

Additionally, not only does St. Paul say the days of marginalizing the weaker members of the Body of Christ over, he also says those 

"That seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor"

The Church is the immune system of the Body of Christ.  It looks for threats to the Body of Christ, threats that attack the dignity of any single member of the Body of Christ, and the Church points out those threats.

A great example of the "Church as Body of Christ immune system" is this very month that we are in right now.  January is 
1) Poverty Awareness month
2) Mid January - Migrant awareness week
3) This past week, we, for the 43rd year, remembered through prayer and fasting the anniversary of Roe v. Wade

There are a lot of ways the Body of Christ is attacked.  The Church speaks to all of the threats and attacks.

Several years ago, the bishops of the US wrote a letter addressing all these attacks to the dignity of the human person.  They mention:

1) starvation,
2) denial of health care
3) deadly violence of armed conflict and the scandalous arms trade that spawns such conflict. 
4) domestic violence,
5) the spread of drugs,
6) a reckless tampering with the world's ecological balance. 

But the document goes on: "Yet abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others.  They are committed against those who are weakest and most defenseless, those who are genuinely "the poorest of the poor." 

Military people are always assessing – “What are our GREATEST threats…most eminent threats”?
A question for us as Catholics - "Who do we listen to on this topic?"  Whose "humanity threat assessment do we utilize?"

EVERYONE believes that SOME of these threats are a problem.  But which one's are MOST EMINENT?  Some people listen to the UN on how to order these threats.  Some people listen to news outlets.  Some listen to political parties, some listen to celebrities, and some listen to Jesus through the Church He founded.
This whole assessing of threats and deciding which are most eminent leads some to say two things (which are equally wrong)

1) Some say: “We can’t speak up against abortion and euthanasia because it will water down our speaking up on the other threats against the human person.

2) Some say: “I won’t speak up against anything else except abortion and euthanasia, lest someone think I’m wavering on abortion and Euthanasia"

These are both WRONG!

We can speak up vociferously against abortion and euthanasia AND still care and work very diligently for the poor in our community.  We can speak out against abortion and euthanasia AND protect all that God has created.  

On Friday, we diverted our planned trip to Washington DC for the March for Life and instead went to Indy to avoid "snowmaggedon".  Archbishop Tobin had two beautiful homilies at our vigil and Mass for Life.

He noted the same thing that our US bishops noted several years ago - there are a lot of attacks on the Body of Christ, but he too singled out abortion and euthanasia as the two preeminent threats.  He noted that what is most troubling about them is that they are both often done by people who have been trained to bring healing and health to people.

Archbishop Tobin also talked about what we, as faithful Catholics, ought to be doing about all these issues.

“We do not fight against darkness and the culture of death with violence…but we do not take a vow of silence either, we speak the truth”

Saint Boniface:  Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf.  Let us preach the whole of God's plan to the powerful and the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season.

May the Eucharist strengthen us to preach the WHOLE of God's plan, and not just the parts that suit our politics

Saturday, January 16, 2016

WOW - Your God shall MARRY you?!?!?!

Romantic comedies that DO get it

This is inspired by a post I saw from Verily Magazine on romantic comedies that portray false ideas of love and relationships

Read their article by clicking here:

I couldn't agree more with their premise that a lot of romantic comedies teach FALSE ideas about love, relationships, etc.

I thought I would put together my own list of "rom-com-ish" films that DO convey a healthy sense of what love and relationships are.

1) Groundhog Day - I've given talks based around this film.  Bill Murray, when confronted with waking up to the same day every day, moves through a progression of
a. spending his first "repeat days" on self-indulgence
b. then he starts killing himself
c. then he tries to woo his love interest through tricks and gimmicks
d. then he starts to actually use his days to become a better person
e. this allows him to finally win the love and affection of his beloved

2) While You Were Sleeping - a beautiful presentation of what happens when we deceive others, and how lies can really complicate matters, but also, more importantly, a beautiful exploration of loneliness, and how true love and a true experience of family is what we are made for

3) Warm Bodies - I could do talks on this film all day long too.  The whole "teen guy as a zombie who can only follow instinct" is a beautiful image of what "UNvirtuous man" looks like - a walking zombie.  When our teen zombie actually meets his love interest, he starts to come back to life - again a beautiful image on the transformative power of authentic and virtuous love!  (Thanks to Sr. Helena Burns for pointing this film out to me while we were filming "The Third Way!")

4) Return to Me - another great story highlighting the fact that "you don't just marry another person, you marry their family as well" - a joyous celebration of good faithful relationships, and how love calls us out of isolation.

5) Family Man - more of a hybrid between "drama" and "rom-com" this is one of my favorite movies of all time.  Again we see the transformation that love between two people (and also the love within the larger context of family) calls us away from ourselves and isolation and loneliness and misery.  I've also used this film for many classes and presentations.

What is your list of romantic comedies that get it right?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hyperactively Slothful?

Today, some are hyperactively slothful

Sloth does not imply sitting still.  In fact, sitting still in prayer can be one of the most difficult and arduous activities we can undertake.

A person can never truly rest a moment of their lives and yet still be guilty of sloth.  Sloth is not a lack of activity, it is a lack of the right KIND of activity

Is this slothful?  No.  If you've ever tried contemplative prayer, you know better

Monday, January 11, 2016