Saturday, June 29, 2019

Freedom, Brebeuf, Cathedral, little league and major league baseball, the 4th of July, etc.

Saint Paul says today “For freedom Christ sets us free”…”for freedom, Christ sets us free”…

In America, this is our Fourth of July week and freedom is something good that we talk about a lot in our country and cherish.

It is important because it’s connected really to what we read here.  St. Paul is giving this beautiful explanation in today’s reading about freedom and what it means in a Biblical sense, and of course it applies in our civil sense as well. 

St. Paul makes it really clear first of all that freedom is not freedom to do whatever I want.  He goes into that and explains that throughout the 2nd reading.  it is NOT the ability to do whatever I want.

He’s really clear about that.  And if we think about it a little bit, although that notion is out there, in our world and in some places that I’m not truly free unless I get to do whatever I want, most of us realize that freedom is bounded if it really is freedom.  There’s going to be limitations.  Freedom without limitations is license.  That’s not what we mean.

St. Paul is saying it is NOT freedom from the laws of God. He is saying that there is freedom that is found from LIVING them. There are not many words different there, but there is an infinite difference in their meaning.  St. Paul is telling us, the Church is teaching us, St. John Paul the 2nd who lived under all kinds of tyrannical governments in different forms, said this over and over again through his pontificate – the TRUE understanding of freedom is not found by living apart from the Laws of God, it is found FROM LIVING them.  And that’s what St. Paul is talking about.  Freedom in the true sense from living the laws of God that are handed on to me through the Church.

A couple of important notes:
1) The laws of God that are given to us through the Church are not affected at all by government. Let me say that again.  The laws that are given to us by God through the Church are not affected by the government; by the “laws of the land.”  There have been from the very beginning of the Church through today different governments in different forms, kings, Caesar’s, rulers, comrades, that have sought to rule and legislate and tell the Church what the laws given to it by God ought to be.

And the Church has repeatedly stood up and died in the face of that rather than change, because we can NOT change the laws that are given to us by God through His Church. 

2) Another thing: we can try to bring our laws that God has given to us through the Church into government; into the laws of the land.  In some places, there have been times where Christians have been very successful at doing that; influence the laws of the land and align them fairly well with the laws God has given us.  Our country has been very blessed over its 200 plus years.  We live in a place where that has largely been the case.  There are other places around the world today where the laws of the land are almost the complete opposite of the laws that God has given us through the Church.  So you and I are called to work in the civil realm, we’re not called to just come here and pray and then leave our Faith at the door.  We’re called to try to do what we can to gather other people, to help convince, sway, bring other people with us, explain to them why the laws of God ought to be brought into the laws of the land.  We are allowed to do that.

But the government has never and will never be able to tell us what the Laws of God are, because they are laws of God, not laws that change.

So this idea of freedom, to come back to that.  Freedom comes from following those laws and living them, not from ignoring them or walking away from them.

I’d just like to share a brief example here at the end.  I was asked, at the beginning of the summer, to help coach a little league baseball team.  There are some parishioners on the team, but there wasn’t enough coaches to go around.  So I’ve been coaching little league baseball on Saturday mornings throughout this summer, and it has been a blast.

The very first time I showed up they were running to first and stopping, and I was telling the kids to keep running, but then the kids would say “we stop at first”.  And I was talking to the people who run the league who said they’ve been bringing the kids along slowly.  And I remember that is how it went with my baseball when I was little.

It takes a long time!  It is a gradual process.  And over time we learn those laws.  And in the same way for us it takes us a long time to learn the laws of God.  We spend time in prayer, maybe we were raised in the Faith, we learn the rules over time, we learn the rules God has given and we decide if we are going to incorporate them into our lives or not.

To wrap up the analogy, this afternoon I was watching the Yankees and Red Sox.  There was such a freedom and a beauty to the game.  There always is with professional sports.  Women’s soccer is going on right now in the World Cup…there’s a beauty to watching professionals play and the beauty comes precisely from the fact that they all recognize the rules and live them.  They’ve all accepted them.  And because they’ve lived them so long and practiced so much and have lived those rules and have worked on every little single element of that game for their entire live, there is a freedom that comes from that.  Because they all recognize and know what they are doing. 

Yeah they were arguing with the ump over strike calls, and that kind of thing, “no he was safe” or “no he was out” but they weren’t arguing about whether we should have outs at all.  No one was saying is “you know what I think we should do is have SEVEN strikes!”  They were arguing over little details, but they all knew the rules.  Precisely when the rules are followed, embraced, understood, and lived, beautiful things happen in the wake of that.

And it is the same for us.  And that’s what St. Paul was trying to say, it is what John Paul the Second was trying to say, and what countless other saints were trying to say.  Encouraging us “Take these laws of the Church and LIVE them.  Take them and live them and you will find freedom.  The freedom that comes from beautiful things.”

The beauty that comes from following the laws of God is not a nice baseball game, it is sainthood.  It is a holy life that is not able to be destroyed by suffering, not able to be destroyed by pain, or any other thing, not the government or any other external whatever.

The beauty that comes from following the laws of God and internalizing them and living them day in and day out is the beauty of a life well-lived – sainthood.

We pray that we might hear St. Paul’s call to us; an invitation to live the laws of God, and thus to find the freedom that He promises. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Archdiocese of Indianapolis Statement on Brebeuf

"Decree acknowledges Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School’s choice to no longer retain its Catholic identity"

The Catholic Church teaches that Catholic schools are integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and to be places of learning where students encounter the living Christ.

All those who minister in Catholic educational institutions carry out an important ministry in communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students both by word and action inside and outside the classroom. It is their duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. To effectively bear witness to Christ, whether they teach religion or not, all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis recognizes all teachers, guidance counselors and administrators as ministers. A comprehensive description of Catholic Church teaching can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, every archdiocesan Catholic school and private Catholic school has been instructed to clearly state in its contracts and ministerial job descriptions that all ministers must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church.

Regrettably, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School has freely chosen not to enter into such agreements that protect the important ministry of communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students. Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School has chosen to no longer be recognized as a Catholic institution by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The attached decree is effective as of June 21, 2019.

Click here to read the article put together with Background info on the situation from Catholic News Agency:

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Catholicism on same sex "marriage" in 40 seconds

"Many people believe that the Catholic Church opposes same sex marriage because the Bible and the Church condemn homosexual sex. However, this is not the primary reason that the Church opposes same sex marriage. The Church says that there are several core key principles that a society has to be founded on and protect or else the society will collapse. And one of those is the dignity of marriage, particularly it being between one man and one woman. The Church says that as soon as that stops being protected, a society will begin to collapse. And so no Catholic could ever be indifferent toward, let alone work for or actually promote same sex “marriage”."

Sunday, June 2, 2019

A via media on kids crying in Church

This is a completely fallible take on kids crying in Church.

In the discussion (a new round always exploding into existence on social media when word spreads of another bulletin article or pulpit comment), there are two large camps:

Camp 1 - "There should not ever be a sound at Mass" and

Camp 2 - "The Church is dying in the West, so we should always be grateful for all the noise that every child makes in Church, and Jesus said "Let the children come to me" so it might even be a good thing to keep a crying child in Mass"

As the oldest of 11 children I spent most of my teenage years as part of a family that was always retreating to the cry room, and I even sometimes took a sibling out to the play ground if my parents asked me to because they were taking another kid to the cry room and breaking up a fight between two other siblings.  I spent most of my life watching my parents heroically try to herd us and keep us quiet for an hour, and I spent most of my life watching my Mom make a beeline for the cry room (a lot of Masses she just went straight there before Mass even started!). 

My point in all this - I am DEFINITELY not in camp 1

But there does seem to be a trend over the last decade or so where some people think that every instance of a child crying/making noise in Church is a GOOD thing.  I am DEFINITELY not in camp 2 either.

So I'd suggest a middle road - a recognition that anyone who thinks there can't be any noise at Mass needs to relax, and at the same time a recognition that sometimes children need to be taken outside or taken to the cry room.

Broadly speaking, let's look at the scenarios. 

1) Babies crying - of course a baby is never at fault for any noise they make.  But parents should also know that all of us are genetically hard-wired to be on edge when a child is crying.  And so when an infant is crying, we all notice it and can't truly focus on anything else.  At Mass, I continue praying the prayers but I (and everyone else) are definitely also thinking, instinctively, "I should be doing something to help this child...what is wrong".  We also immediately start to move on when we hear the crying infant being carried out of Church.  Not because we think "FINALLY!  I can pray again and that nuisance is gone" but because my instinctive desire to help the child calms down when I can tell myself "someone is doing something to help the child, I can move on.  He or she is okay."

Jesus: "Let the children come to me"
Everyone: "Jesus, speak up.  We can't hear what you are saying!"

2) Babies making baby noises - When I was in the seminary in Rome, most of our masses were 250 20-30 year old seminarians.  One day, a seminarian's sister stopped by with her young family.  Her baby was making the occasional baby noises (cooing, the occasional exclamation as the child began to notice and enjoy the echo of the Church, etc.) and for all 250 of us it was like being visited at Mass by a choir of angels.  Everyone at Mass LOVED the sounds, and it was one of my favorite Masses in Rome.  We all smiled and could appreciate it because the child wasn't CRYING.

3) Toddlers - This is also a tough one.  Any rational person understands that a three year old isn't going to be perfectly silent for an hour.  But again, I think there's a gray middle ground.  Some tips:

Tip 1: My Mom told me that the best advice she got was from a priest in a homily who suggested "quiet toys".  A plastic truck being banged up against a wooden pew over and over again is eventually going to pull most people away from prayer. 

"Timmy, you are 8.  Do you still need to shoot off your cap gun and play cops and robbers at Church and build a fort?"

Tip 2: I loved that my parents, on the way home from Mass, always broke down "game film" (like good coaches) with the toddlers and kids in our family ("Stephanie, you did a great job today at Mass of not making noise and behaving, we're very proud of you!" or, more often, "Dave, you were making a lot of noise today, what happened that you weren't able to behave?" and, as we got older, "Bill, you are 7, why were you squeezing your brother's hand in a death grip during the Our Father?").

"You are older and should know better.  No coffee and donuts this week and no video games today"

Walk your kids closer to silence and continually talk over your expectations, and, as they get older, reinforce those expectations with donuts or other rewards/punishments!

In summary - if a baby is making the occasional baby noise, awesome.  If a baby is crying, they should be carried out.  Young children should be coached and molded into proper behavior at Mass.

Thanks to all the parents who make the huge and tremendous sacrifice of raising children.  We all know it is really hard, and we admire you greatly.  You are awesome!

Don't be a dualist!