Thursday, May 24, 2018

Catholic College Ministry

Not saying we need to spend one dime less on the groups we are spending money on, but this is a graph I put together for a presentation to our Council of Priests.

We lose about 90% of our Catholic students in college right now. It is a war zone. Pray for us. We have some proposed plans for how to really up the game funding wise, but please pray for every diocese and every Catholic campus outreach in the country, because this is a pretty standard breakdown for most dioceses in the U.S.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

"Eat, Pray, Love" and Pentecost

a majority of this homily came out of reading and reflecting on a particular chapter from Ross Douthat's book "Bad Religion - How We Became a Nation of Heretics"

“Eat, Pray, Love” is a book by author Elizabeth Gilbert that spent 187 weeks at the top of the NYT bestseller list

Married, successful author found herself pleading with God – “I don’t want to be married anymore, I don’t want to be married anymore, I don’t want to live in this big house, I don’t want to have this baby”

And someone spoke back.  She says “It was not an Old Testament Hollywood Charlton Heston voice, nor was it a voice telling me I must build a baseball field in my backyard.  It was merely my own voice, speaking from within my own self…How can I describe the warmth of affection in that voice, as it gave me the answer that would forever seal my faith in the divine?”

She felt her voice was telling her to leave her marriage

This phenomenon of “spiritual but not religious” is what NYT Catholic columnist Ross Douthat calls “The God Within” theology that, as he notes, “Is the insight offered by just about every spiritual authority ever given a platform in Oprah Winfrey’s media empire”

Followers do not say they are rejecting Christ, they say they are being truer to Christ than churches with rules – and truer to Christ certainly than the Church with the MOST rules – the Catholic Church

Pope Francis has often noted that his favorite book is the novel “Lord of the World” – and in this fictional telling of the coming of the Antichirst, and then the coming of Christ and the end of the world – the Antichrist does not sell himself as the opposite of Christ but as the fulfillment of Christ – not as rejecting Jesus and His Church but as doing a better job of being Christian than the Church

I would like to note the problems of this mindset of “The God Within” theology or the Church of “spiritual but not religious”

1)      Problem: Nothing they say is “uproariously on the face of things” wrong
                The God Within theorists do not say abandon Christ and they certainly don’t say
Follow the evil one.  “Spiritual but not religious” or the Church of “The God Within” because a pretty easy pill to swallow for Christians and even an easy pill to swallow for Catholics

Related problem: Some of what is believed in this ideology is Christian.  The Church says, in some ways, God is NOT comprehendable.  God isn’t completely comprehended in one sense of that word.

Solution: There is the fact that we can never FULLY comprehend God, but our Catholic Faith also says there are important things that we must know and believe and profess
We can’t ever fully comprehend the Resurrection event, nor can we fully comprehend the Birth  of Christ nor can we fully comprehend today’s celebration which we’ll get to in a moment the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit…we can’t get our arms around it, but that doesn’t mean we can deny it.  It is, in one sense, what makes our Creed so important. 

3)      Problem 3: Sometimes the God Within isn’t God at all, but just the ego or the libido using spirituality as a convenient gloss foits own desires and impulses

Solution: John of the Cross very strongly cautions that using spiritual visions and ecstasies is something that the Devil can just as easily and readily use as God, so a faith based on religious emotions and feelings can lead a person very quickly down the wrong path, eventhough that path might be coated with lots of phrases and ideas that sound like Christianity making them even more dangerous, while also making them more readily desirable to our Western Culture

4)      Problem 4: This “God within” stuff is that it turns us into narcissists – where my own promptings and desires become God speaking.  University of Michigan found that today’s college students scored 40% lower than their predecessors in the 1970’s on their ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes.  Isn’t that interesting: we think we’re better at putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, but we’re actually way worse.

Solution: My “Voice within” has told me to do some awful things, some very selfish things, and evil things, and other “voice within” was God speaking: our Christian tradition is very clear: there are several “voices within” competing against each other – and if I think they are all God, I am setting myself up for misery

Problem 5: As narcissism has exploded by every standard measure, what has typically served as a critique to narcissism has been eroded.  Christianity, despite being lived imperfectly by every Christian in the history of the world besides the mother of Jesus, has traditionally held in check the individual ego

Christianity: you might want to do __________ but don’t.  You might not want to do _______ but you must. 

But now there are tons of people foisted on the culture telling everyone that “your ego is God’s voice, and Christianity is bad and it is rules, and it is mean and burdensome and must be cast off!”

6)      Final Problem: It doesn’t help in the face of adversity.  Starvation.  Torture.  Martyrdom, Cancer.  “The Voice Within” has never helped me in the face of suffering.  The Mass did.  Eucharistic Adoration did.  Repeating the Divine Mercy “Jesus I trust in you” in the midst of the desert helped me.  What some would call the rules, the burdensome Catechism and the thou shalts and the thou shalt nots – that helped me and it sounds like, from the 2,000 years worth of the writings of the saints, it was precisely the dogmas and the rules of the Church that have helped in the face of loneliness, suffering, pain, temptations to despair and temptations to anxieties

But what every available psychological study also shows us is that people today are also lonelier, more isolated, and more depressed than ever.  That is to say that the new “spiritual but not religious” “just listening to the God within me” is failing

And here’s the point, tying it back to what we are celebrating today – the feast of Pentecost.  If you want to have your world ABSOLUTELY ROCKED, pray this prayer – come Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is jet fuel coursing through the veins of the Body of Christ.  It burns away all that is impure.  The Holy Spirit will lead you to all Truth.  The Holy Spirit does not ever point away from the Church, it comes from within the Church and points us back there.  The Holy Spirit sometimes confirms our ego’s desires, but other times it contradicts and reprimands our egos and our desires.  It calls us out of ourselves to the margins, it calls us to keep the ten commandments, it calls us to Mass, it calls us to our marriages and our vocations, it calls us to sacrifice, and it tells us that sin is wrong, no matter what your voice within is saying

Come Holy Spirit.  The three most dangerous words you will ever pray.  The three most powerful words you will ever pray.  Come Holy Spirit.

If you want to continue to only listen to yourself, do not pray those three words

But if you think that perhaps the common wisdom that has been stored up in the 2,000 years of lived experience of billions of Catholic people in good times and in bad in persecution, amidst struggle and difficulty, if you think that Christ actually did found a Church on Peter that would serve as a help through the maze of life’s experiences.  If you’ve tried it on your own but have found it only leads to numbness, despair, anger, frustration, unhappiness and misery, then pray now, and mean it, Say from the depths of your soul “Come Holy Spirit”

The Holy Spirit will lead you to the Church
The Holy Spirit will lead you to all Truth.  Nothing else will.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Some pretty shocking Mass statistics from Archindy

We offer 374 weekend Masses in the Archdiocese with a total seating capacity of 200,483

There are 223,815 Catholics in the Archdiocese

A Gallup poll from 2017 reports that 39% of Catholics attend any given Sunday, which means that we see 87,287 Catholics each weekend in the Archdiocese

So at our 374 Masses there are 113,196 open seats

In other words, we could cut 56% of our Masses and still have a seat for everyone

Cutting our Masses by 56% would take our number of Masses from 374 to 211

374 Masses per weekend requires 94 priests to each say 4 Masses per weekend. 

211 weekend Masses would require only 70 priests to say only 3 Masses per weekend, reducing the number of Masses per weekend by one for every priest in the Archdiocese and also freeing up 24 priests who could do other assignments, vocation recruitment, high school, college and hospital chaplaincies, associate pastors, etc.

Below is our first attempt, as an Archdiocese, to address the issue with a process called "Connected in the Spirit" which was led by a consulting firm

The process, by my count, netted a cutting of 13 Masses throughout the Archdiocese

There are certainly other advantages to a "Connected in the Spirit" process, but dealing with the glut of Masses would seem to be one of the top priorities.  And using the first round of our "Connected in the Spirit" process as the benchmark, we would need 12 more "Connected in the Spirit" processes at a length of 72 years to get down to 211 Masses.

As a diocesan priest in this climate, I am hopeful that the first time through this "Connected in the Spirit" process was "more gentle" because it was the first time through, as an attempt to help prepare people for the more dramatic changes to come the second time we move through the process.

Sunday, May 6, 2018


As the movement (the movement encouraging all victims of sexual harassment and/or assault to come forward publicly) thankfully progresses forward, can we have the discussion that part of the problem is music/TV/film/etc.?
I saw a major car commercial yesterday centered around a famous rap song with the chorus:
“You’re a real fine woman, won’t you back that thing up”

The "chorus" was "scrubbed" for TV, as the actual chorus, as it was played millions of times on radio stations across the country in its unedited format, says "You're a da** fine woman, won't you back that a** up"

And in case anyone is wondering, no, the chorus is not sung in some sort of Rico Suave tone of voice where some artist at least TRIES to pretend that they love the person they are sexually harassing with their music.  "You're a real fine woman, won't you back that thing up" is sung with the voice that says, very clearly, "you are a piece of meat, I care nothing about you, and I just want to use you and be done with you."

Every legitimate company in the country is rightly in support of the #MeToo movement, but the fact that those same companies don't connect the dots between sexual harassment/assault with their willingness to air commercials on major TV networks that "sing" "You're a real fine woman, won't you back that thing up"...that shows just how far we still have to go.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

You too, U2?

Achtung, Baby” was the 4th or 5th record I purchased for myself as a youngster saving up allowance money.  I’ve always like U2’s music, but as I became a young adult who actually started paying attention to lyrics, U2’s appeal only grew for me.

In one of U2’s most famous songs, “When Love Comes to Town”, Bono sings with B.B. King that the Crucifixion of Christ conquers “the great divide”.  Love Rescue Me”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, and so many of U2’s catalog of songs have strong Christian overtones.

As the divide between “secular” and “Christian” in Western culture grows exponentially today, a band like U2 that is willing to make popular music that occasionally mentions Christ or Christian themes becomes something to latch onto as a sign of hope. 

So when U2 came out this week in favor of abortion in Ireland in the run-up to that country’s very important vote on the issue, it was such a disheartening announcement for so many.

But, as a Catholic, the betrayal of U2 (after the shock wore off) served as a helpful reminder:  U2’s betrayal is yet another reminder that a dogma-less “mere Christianity” is ultimately a house of sand on which nothing meaningful can be built.  Christ left us a Church for a reason.  He built it on “rock” for a reason.

In “When Love Comes to Town” Bono says that he’s ”Seen love conquer the great divide.”  But for many Christians, far from helping Christ conquer the divide, U2 just helped widen it.

Bono, lead singer of U2, singing songs on tour dressed as the Devil

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

An AMAZING Quote from Blessed John Henry Newman for our own times as well

"From the date of this Council [Constantinople], Arianism was formed into a sect exterior to the Catholic Church; and, taking refuge among the Barbarian Invaders of the Empire, is merged among those external enemies of Christianity, whose history cannot be regarded as strictly ecclesiastical. 

Such is the general course of religious error; which rises within the sacred precincts, but in vain endeavors to take root in a soil uncongenial to it. The domination of heresy, however prolonged, is but one stage in its existence; it ever hastens to an end, and that end is the triumph of the Truth. 

"I myself have seen the ungodly in great power," says the Psalmist, "and flourishing like a green bay tree; I went by, and lo, he was gone; I sought him, but his place could nowhere be found." And so of the present perils, with which our branch of the Church is beset, as they bear a marked resemblance to those of the fourth century, so are the lessons, which we gain from that ancient time, especially cheering and edifying to Christians of the present day.  Then as now, there was the prospect, and partly the presence in the Church, of an Heretical Power enthralling it, exerting a varied influence and a usurped claim in the appointment of her functionaries, and interfering with the management of her internal affairs. Now as then, "whosoever shall fall upon this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

Meanwhile, we may take comfort in reflecting, that, though the present tyranny has more of insult, it has hitherto had less of scandal, than attended the ascendancy of Arianism; we may rejoice in the piety, prudence, and varied graces of our Spiritual Rulers; and may rest in the confidence, that, should the hand of Satan press us sore, our Athanasius and Basil will be given us in their destined season, to break the bonds of the Oppressor, and let the captives go free."

Blessed John Henry Newman
"The Arians of the 4th Century"

The Stoning of Paul the Apostle

Anxieties have you thinking about running away from your problems?

”They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered around him, he got up and entered the city.” - Acts 14:20

Adventure = going where Christ calls us!  We must go, and not be afraid!

Remember, Paul was nearly stoned to death and went right back into the same city!