Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A response to Chris Stefanick on the Latin Mass

I'm only posting this here because Twitter doesn't allow for nuance, and I want to use nuance.

Here was Chris's tweet yesterday

As a priest who says the TLM occasionally (as Chris goes occasionally) a few things:

1) I agree wholeheartedly that, in one sense of the phrase, "the Latin Mass isn't the answer to the crisis".  I've spoken elsewhere about the book that I read on my retreat called Sacrilege, and how the author I think expertly points to and unpacks about THIRTY FIVE problems that lead to 2002 and 2018.  And even moving beyond the abuse crisis to what I think is the larger crisis of Faith that Chris is referencing, I agree that in both cases NO ONE THING is THE answer.

2) I also would add here that I don't know many Latin Mass people that think that if we just went back to the Latin Mass, we wouldn't be in a crisis of Faith.  There are certainly some, but most TLM'ers that I know recognize there are TONS of things that we need to keep emphasizing in order to restore the Church (insert a more theologically correct word for "restore" if that word doesn't work for you...most people know what we mean by that).

3)  My only "critique" of the tweet would be that I think we can say that the Mass IS PART OF the Kerygma - the Mass does PREACH Christ, and I think we can also say, fairly comfortably, that the preaching that the Mass does can be more or less effective, depending on how it is celebrated, and I know Chris would agree with that. 

So in one sense of the tweet, I'm on board.  There are 50-100 categories (or more) of things that need tweeked/addressed/worked on in the Church.  One of those is the way Mass is celebrated.  And most TLM people that I know of prefer the TLM because they know there is almost a zero percent chance of being forced to encounter banal (and worse) celebrations of the Mass in our current day if they attend a Traditional Latin Mass.  And those same people see lots of other things that need addressed in the Church.

"Lex orandi, legem credendi" - the law of how we worship governs what we believe

Sisters of Life Magazine on Eastern "meditation"

Very thankful for this graphic on how Eastern forms of "meditation" are not the same thing as Catholic prayer, and why the difference REALLY matters! 

Monday, December 30, 2019

My Friends

Thankful for this group of friends I've known since high school (some since 4th grade!).  We got together for Christmas (a few wives couldn't make it with sick children), and I laughed for 5 straight hours.

I pray that every priest has a great group of lay friends like this who knew him "way back when"

Possible Nativity Scene

I'm thinking of setting up my Nativity scene at one of my parishes this way next year.  Thoughts?

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Families need REAL forgiveness to survive, not false forgiveness

A couple of things to follow up with - St. Paul to the Ephesians 4:26 says "be angry, but do not sin". The Catechism talks in 1767-1770 about how anger is a PASSION, and how the passions are neither good outright nor evil outright, it depends on how they are directed and what they are directed at. So justice and charity REQUIRE that I be angry about a priest committing a crime against a child, and, hopefully even more obvious, if I knew about, my anger should direct me to intervene in accordance with the law. Both Saint Paul and the Catechism make it CRYSTAL clear that anger towards evil and injustice is necessary and virtuous and required. Every Catholic word, including "anger" has lots of nuance. 

Also, I found a helpful article from Jimmy Akin, and he points toward an encyclical from St. John Paul II called Dives Misericordia, where we read: "the requirement of forgiveness does not cancel out the objective requirements of justice...in no passage of the Gospel message does forgiveness mean indulgence toward evil, toward scandals, toward injury or insult. In any case, reparation for evil and scandal, compensation for injury, and satisfaction for insult are conditions for forgiveness"

Friday, December 27, 2019

My Favorite Books and Movies of 2019

I don't normally do this, but this year I actually feel like I read enough this year to offer some suggestions for others.  I came across some books, films and TV shows this year.  Here's the best I encountered.

1) "Sacrilege" by Leon Podles.  This is a 500+ page deep dive on the sex and rape crisis in the Catholic Church.  Podles wrote this book in 2008, and almost all of his observations are still relevant amidst the latest round of revelations of awful crimes.  Podles pulls no punches, and it does not curry favor with "trads" nor "liberals" which is perhaps why I had not heard of it; no one who has picked a side will like this book, but only those wanting to address the issues in the Church. 

2) "Primal Screams" by Mary Eberstadt.  A quick and engrossing but thoroughly researched book on the identity crisis that is front and center in our society.  Eberstadt powerfully and convincingly traces this 2019 moment of gender and identity confusion to the sexual revolution.  Charitable towards all caught up in these issues, it provides key insights, and her writing style, as always, does not waste one word.

3) "The Priests We Need to Save the Church" by Kevin Wells.  A former sportswriter, Kevin, for reasons that become apparent in the first VERY POWERFUL chapter, decided to try to interview as many priests and laity to look at how the Church could possibly move forward into the 2020's, and his prescriptions seem to be spot on.  We said, in 2018, that the laity in some ways will have to lead the Church through this moment - and this is a VERY solid offering of precisely that.

4) "The Priest in Union with Christ" by Father Garrigou-LaGrange O.P. - written in 1952 by one of the great English scholars of St. Thomas Aquinas, I wanted to take some time to reflect and pray over advice on how to be a priest of Jesus Christ from sources not tainted by our current moment.  Fr. LaGrange is such a treasure of the Church.  It has very theological reflections followed up by super practical chapters like "how to give a parish mission"

5) "The Night is Far Spent" by my favorite author, Thomas Howard.  This is a collection of essays from a wonderfully charitable and insightful convert to the Catholic Faith.  Each essay is fairly short, and covers all sorts of topics.  I found each essay to be very helpful to me while also being an engaging read that I did not want to put down. 

6) "Catholic Republic" by Timothy Gordon.  The premise is a unique and important contribution to the debate over America's founding and our country's relationship with Christianity.  Gordon makes the convincing case that the country was founded using Catholic ideas, but the fathers were mostly protestant, so the Catholic roots of our country are not acknowledged, even up through our own day. 

7) "Island of the World" by Michael O'Brien.  I also read Father Elijah, which was good, but I really enjoyed Island of the World more.  O'Brien tells a story based on the real life experience of a young man who spends most of his life torn by war and violence in the Balkans and, in the latter stages of his life, makes his way to the United States. 

8) "The Silver Chalice" by Thomas Costain.  I searched some lists for "best Catholic novels" about two years ago, and this was at the top of some lists, although I had never heard of it.  I purchased it, but just got around to reading it this year.  It was written in 1952, and is a wonderful novel based on the Holy Grail and the early Church, and Her enemies.

9) "Windswept House" - I know all the criticisms of Malachi Martin, former priest...exorcist who kept doing exorcisms after he left the priesthood...opportunist...etc...but "Windswept House" is a novel written in 1996, but so much of what is in that novel has actually come to pass in various ways.  I had originally tried to read it several years ago, but there is a violent crime perpetrated on a child by church men that I put it down.  I picked it back up again, though, when the summer of shame broke in 2018.  I finished the novel in 2019 and, although the writing is not as engrossing as the great works of literature, it is worth reading just to try to grapple with how Martin could have seen all of this coming in such exact detail. 

10) "The Master of Hestviken" - by Sigrid Undset.  A set of 4 short books that make up 1 novel by one of the more fascinating literary Catholics of the 20th century.  A convert from atheism, Undset's novel "Kristin Lavransdatter" (also at the top of many "best Catholic novels" lists) was a book I read in 2018, and one that I also HUGELY recommend.  "Kristin" follows the life of a 1500's Norwegian Catholic girl all the way through her elderly years and is a beautiful insight into motherhood and Faith.  "Master of Hestviken" takes the same approach by following a young Catholic man all the way through his elder years.  Just as "Kristin Lavransdatter" makes you feel like you can begin to know motherhood, so "Master of Hestviken" sheds much light on the mysteriousness of what it means to try (and both fail and succeed) to be a father.

11) "The End of the Present World" by Father Charles Arminjon.  Sophia Press got me to buy this book simply by sharing a quote from St. Therese: "Reading this book was one of the greatest graces of my life."


1) "Richard Jewell" - a powerful portrayal of the ability of today's media and civil authorities to absolutely crush and destroy people, much like Alduous Huxley saw coming in is fictional "Brave New World" decades ago. 

2) "I, Tonya" - this movie based on the true story of Tonya Harding, is a real window into life in rural America.  This film puts real-life context to Hillary Clinton's "bunch of deplorables" comment and the much-discussed "Hillbilly Elegy".  The movie is riddled with profanity, but that's life in rural America.  Ministering as a priest in some areas that are more economically depressed and still awaiting the benefits of globalism to trickle down to us, "I, Tonya" is a true portrayal of what life is like for countless Americans, and could help soften people's criticism and help those who aren't familiar with life in rural America to perhaps be more sympathetic and proactive in working to help those who live in EVERY part of America.

3) "Unplanned" the real-life story of Abby Johnson.  One of Planned Parenthood's leaders defects after seeing an actual abortion in the room. 

4) I also saw several TV series that were really well done: "The People vs. OJ Simpson", and "Manhunt: The Unabomber".  I don't think either were made in 2019, but I saw both of them then.  A product of being a dinosaur who still sees most of my movies and TV shows by renting them from "Family Video"!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Suffering during the Christmas Season

A sermon I gave this Christmas Eve morning - "Mourning Has Broken: suffering during the Christmas Season."

You might know someone this would help. 

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Angels and Demons and Christmas

Angels and Christmas –
Annunciation: Mary, you’re pregnant
Joseph take Mary
Angels singing Glory to God in the highest
Joseph flee
Wisemen don’t go back to Herod

About 80% of Americans believe in Angels – which surprises me

Our Catholic Faith on angels

Watch out for Popular devotion to the Holy Angels, which is legitimate and good, can, however, also give rise to possible deviations:  when, as sometimes can happen, the faithful are taken by the idea that the world is subject to demiurgical struggles, or an incessant battle between good and evil spirits, or Angels and daemons, in which man is left at the mercy of superior forces and over which he is helpless; such cosmologies bear little relation to the true Gospel vision of the struggle to overcome the Devil, which requires moral commitment,  humility and prayer;

Catechism 330 As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness.

All angelic beings have a purpose and perform different functions. there are nine choirs of angels organized in a heavenly hierarchy: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Powers, Virtues Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. The Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones mediate upon the Person, Wisdom, and Judgment of God. The Dominions, Powers, and Virtues govern the forces of nature and the Universe as a whole. Finally, Principalities are guardians of nations and cities, Archangels are guardians of special people, and Angels are guardians and messengers to us all.

Guardian angels?  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 336:  “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.

What does Jesus mean when he says these angels “always behold” the face of the Father?  It may mean that they are constantly standing in his presence in heaven and able to communicate the needs of their charges to him.

CDF: Devotion to the Holy Angels gives rise to a certain form of the Christian life which is characterized by:

1) devout gratitude to God for having placed these heavenly spirits of great sanctity and dignity at the service of man;

2) an attitude of devotion deriving from the knowledge of living constantly in the presence of the Holy Angels of God;

3) serenity and confidence in facing difficult situations, since the Lord guides and protects the faithful in the way of justice through the ministry of His Holy Angels.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The wolf will be a guest of the lamb


Dear friends, this week it was discovered that I have had a pretty serious stroke.  Serious in that the part of my brain that has been affected was fairly large.  Through the Grace of God, however, I have had zero noticeable effects of this stroke.

I spent 4 days in the wonderful care of doctors and nurses at St. Francis Hospital as they tried to figure out why the stroke happened.  Despite their diligent work, they could not locate the source of the stroke. 

They have referred me on to the Mayo Clinic, where I will visit in a few weeks.  The Mayo Clinic specializes in cases like mine that defy the normal battery of tests and procedures.

I know that before, during, and after (and always) that there are lots of people praying for me and for their priests.  I appreciate that, and ask for your continued prayers.

I am very much at peace, and have been given medication to ensure that until I can get further diagnosed, I will not have another stroke.

I have been given the green light to carry on with my priestly ministry as normal with the encouragement from the doctor to take it easy. 

Thanks again for your ongoing prayers.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Strengths and Weaknesses of NCYC 2019


1 – There were zero talks on what I would consider the top 5 threats to the Catholic Faith of teenagers.  Nothing on:
a. How science and Catholicism are compatible
b. Catholicism and homosexuality
c. Catholicism and transgender issues
d. How to respond to the new atheists (nor was there anything on how to respond to the old atheists)
e. Catholicism and same-sex marriage

I have no idea why the top 5 threats our Catholic teens were not addressed head on.  They may have been mentioned at some point in some break out session, but you would have no way of knowing.  Those 5 topics need to be the TITLES of talks.

2 – Intentionality.  Every conference needs to welcome in people at the beginning and recognize where they are, but then there needs to be an intentional plan to help them MOVE to a new place, closer to the Lord.  I did not feel like NCYC did that.  At some point there needs to be an intentional ….”we’ve talked about the ways in which we are hurting and broken…and so now we are all moving towards confession…this is what confession is…we now have an opportunity to do that…and then this is Jesus in the Eucharist and adoration…this is the fulfillment”

It just seems like all weekend there are confessions available without intentionality and then there’s adoration but it isn’t a moving the group, together, through those stages nor through catechesis.  I’m not blaming Mark Hart’s talk on adoration because it was PHENOMENAL…I just mean I’d like to see an intentional and catechetical movement that everyone knows about and is working on.

3 – Our young people need to see liturgies (Mass, liturgy of the hours, and adoration) that are the liturgical rites of the Church, and not amended.  There is a humility in submitting to the liturgical texts and rites of the Church. 

4 – a lack of silence in adoration.  The group adoration in Lucas Oil stadium had really loud music playing almost completely throughout adoration, and I think there was literally about 90 seconds of silence.  Imagine how powerful it would be for our young people to be in a place where 18,000 people were all together in silence.

And you don’t need noise to cover over confessions.  Priests know how to do confessions quietly, or you could also move confessions out into the concourse.

I’m sure some will accuse me of bemoaning all of his lack of silence to my young people, but I literally made a commitment to not say a word or make weird faces or in any way express my discomfort with the lack of silence, but as my kids walked out of adoration, they expressed to me an exasperation with how adoration went. 

Also with regard to silence, I went to the adoration chapel set up in the convention center.  The following things interrupted it.  I was never able to have more than 10 minutes of silence in the chapel despite trying numerous times.
1 – adoration ended so that there could be a teaching Mass
2 – a religious order giving a talk while Christ was exposed, and then proceeding to invite everyone forward to be blessed by an image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help while the Blessed Sacrament was exposed.
3 – A priest giving his vocation story while the Blessed Sacrament was exposed
4 – my young people wanted to go to the chapel so we did, and there was a reflection/homily being given
5 – after that, my young people were hoping for silence, but an organist started in with music and asked everyone to join him in the songs

Young people want and can handle silence, and those who haven’t experienced it will be moved by it when they experience it.  We don’t have to keep the young people moving/talking/singing…let them spend time in silence with the Lord, particularly as our world gets louder, more frantic, and more under the iron grip of the dictatorship of noise. 

Have an adoration chapel where only adoration takes place.  Do all the other prayer/music/Masses/blessings/witness talks somewhere else.

5 - You have tons of seminarians at the conference.  Let them serve the liturgies.  They are contemplating giving their lives to the Church...why not hold them up and let them do what they have received tons more training for?


1 – I bring my young people to NCYC mainly to see thousands of other young Catholics who are willing to give Jesus Christ and His Church a try, and many who are living it vibrantly.  My young adults go to 7 different public high schools, and most of them have only 1 or 2 other Catholics in their entire school.  NCYC is a 45 minute drive to show them thousands of other Catholic teens.

2 – Every single speaker that we heard was absolutely amazing.  The keynote speakers of Immaculee Ilibagiza, Mark Hart and Sister Bethany Madonna were mind-blowingly great.  Our breakout presentations that we attended were also very much loved by our group.

3 – There was a nice emphasis on chant and beautiful liturgical music.  I know my group appreciated that very much.

4 – I loved the lectio divina modeling that took place.  That was a great idea!

Monday, December 2, 2019

same-sex marriage and Catholicism

Same-sex marriage is THE issue that finishes off whatever vestiges of Catholicism were still lingering in lukewarm Catholics.

“I’ll do the “no meat on Lenten Fridays” thing, but if you’re saying my sister/friend/cousin can’t receive Communion if they marry whomever they want, I’m out!”

Sunday, December 1, 2019

We worship a God who "waits"...

so we should be people who "wait" as well

The point: we worship a God who waits, so we should be people who wait.  

1)     God waits and does not come as Jesus Christ.  He waits for thousands of years of the Old Testament, through awful leaders, horrible sins, giant failures of His people, horrible persecutions and famines, God waited.  Of course it is not an inactive waiting, God was very much at work in both holding everything in existence allowing everything to exist, active through an infinite number of interventions, most that we won’t know about until the end of time…but God did not yet come as Jesus Christ until, as the Bible puts it, the world arrived at the fullness of time.

2)     God also waits in that He has not come back to wrap the world up yet.  Through horrible persecutions, great sufferings, awful wars, horrible sins etc. the curtain still remains up on the world…the world continues and God waits for the fullness of time.  Of course God doesn’t sit on the sidelines, it is not an inactive waiting, God was very much at work in both holding everything in existence allowing everything to exist, active through an infinite number of interventions, most that we won’t know about until the end of time, but God has not returned.

We worship a God who waits, so we should be people who wait

Waiting seems terrible.  No one else makes us wait – everyone responds instantly – Kroger usually opens a new checkout line if the person in front of you has too many groceries, Amazon will deliver your package today…But God waits, and in this season of Advent in a special way, the Church asks you and I to wait.

A couple of things about this waiting:

1)     Is it an inactive waiting?  No!!!  Jesus says in the Gospel today “Stay awake”…the readings urge us to vigilance…and that is the type of waiting we are called to…the type of waiting that God does – a vigilance and an alertness to every single thing that is happening, action and intervention when needed, and so the same for you and I.  We wait, but we are alert, and we are still acting. 

2)     This “waiting” to me is best lived in prayer.   When we pray, it is the waiting of God
a.      It is not the waiting to get in to see a doctor
b.      Our contemplative prayer in Advent (and always) is a sitting WITH the doctor…the waiting with Him in prayer is what heals us and refines us

We worship a God who actively, alertly, lovingly and vigilantly waits.  This Advent, let us be people who also actively, alertly, lovingly and vigilantly wait as well!

Sunday shopping, sports, restaurants, etc.

I will never shop on Sunday, and have tried to cut out Sunday restaurants (once or twice in the past 5 years) - I am hoping to never do it again.

I'm not sure where these exceptions came in paragraph 2187 of the Catechism of things allowed to happen on Sundays.

I am also in favor of getting rid of CYO sports on Sunday.

So I'm not sure how either "sports or restaurants" DON'T make unnecessary demands on others.

"I don't want to make any unnecessary demands on you, but I need someone to ref my kids soccer game, and someone has to make me a sandwich"?????

I'm not debating the Catechism, I just share all this as the fruit of some research and thinking over the years on this subject, along with sharing this quote from the Catechism as well.  What are your thoughts?  Why do you think the Catechism includes sports and restaurants as things that are necessary?  Is it the inclusion of something unique to a particular culture?

Perpetual Adoration and the fallen away Catholics

Fixing the public school system

How to fix the public school system: teach philosophy. Philosophy can be taught in a completely "secular" way according to even the strictest understanding of that term.

It would also greatly help our Catholic schools as well.

Start in about 4th or 5th grade. One class a year on the history of thought and thinking. Most kids sit around asking the serious questions of life around 3rd-4th-5th grade anyways, and most of them don't know that their questions are the same questions that many great thinkers have been writing about and working on (and even "asnwering") for millennia.

When I was in the seminary learning philosophy, I regularly thought:
1) This is AMAZING!
2) These were the same questions I was thinking through and wrestling with since 3rd grade.

"Rethinking" Catholicism

‪“If the Church was not directly instituted by Christ, then it has to be rethought ceaselessly, reorganized according to rational schemes answering the needs of the moment”‬

‪Cardinal Robert Sarah‬
‪“The Day is Now Far Spent”‬

Christ as coach and teacher


The candles are lit.  The linens are fresh.  The chalice is prepared.  Everything is ready for Thanksgiving ad orientem!

A statement from my Dad on Roncalli

Given the recent situation that has made the rounds concerning Roncalli High School, I wanted to share this message from my Dad.  Prayers for all involved!

Read the message by clicking here: http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1101402553986&ca=85d34caa-71f4-4782-8d43-85100d14ce77&fbclid=IwAR275hvNVknOD7pYGBl7SmIt712dWFMysawKHlBZv2Oqnr3QSN5OZ_Kh2oY

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Kanye and Zacchaeus

Kanye West is one of the more famous music acts of the 2,000’s, selling about 40 million rap and hip hop albums in that span.

Lots of profanity and so forth

Kim Kardashian is Kanye’s wife, and she is probably more famous than Kanye

If you don’t know who they are, I promise you’ve seen their faces in the grocery check out lane every week for the last 15 years.

About a month ago, Kim Kardashian and her three children were baptized in the Armenian Orthodox Church

Kanye started hosting religious revival prayer services

And this past week, Kanye released a gospel hip-hop album titled Jesus is King

This is not a homily about the text of any of the songs – but there is some good stuff in there – I’ve listened several times….

I would still suggest first reading Scripture, the Catechism and about 200 saints

But the same applies to me too – I would suggest Scripture and the Catechism and hundreds of saints vs. anything I’ve ever written as well

What I want to preach about today is not the text of a song but the reaction Kanye’s conversion has received both inside and outside Christianity

Some have said they think he is insincere

Some have said they think he’s doing it just to make money

Some think he may be sincere now, but he’ll backslide
HE MIGHT!  HE MIGHT BE INSINCERE…HE MIGHT BE DOING IT FOR THE MONEY…HE MIGHT be sincere now, backslide, reconvert, backslide 80 more times…I have no idea.

But it strikes me that Kanye is very much like Zaccheus in the Gospel today. 

Worldly, wealthy, and when Jesus comes and dines with him, it says

“The Pharisees grumbled saying, “He has gone to eat at the house of a sinner”, but folks, he has dined with Saint Peter, Saint John, Judas, Zaccheus, and You and I – we have no idea where our story ends, or where Zacheus’ story ends, nor do we know where Kanye’s story ends….some people that Jesus dines with become saints, and some are Judas’

But this also is not a “do not judge homily” – although we shouldn’t judge a person’s conversion from afar…I should judge actions…If Kanye makes his old music again, I can judge that act…if people who are close to me do something wrong, I should judge that act and speak up…but armchair authenticity judgments from 1,000’s of miles away are gross and wildly inaccurate.

Here is the point of the homily: and it is in the first reading: God rebukes us little by little
Rebuke might turn us off, so let’s rephrase it as “God is patient and showing you the next little thing to work on, to change, the next vice to remove, the next virtue or habit to work on

God is patient with you and I, God is patient with Zacheus, God is patient with Kanye, God was patient with Saint Peter, and God was patient with Judas.
Some respond to God’s nudges, his little by little

God doesn’t usually show us ALL the things we need to fix in ourselves because it might crush us or get us to despair

Some might read the saints and despair – Therese or John of the Cross is so far from who I am
Maybe….but God works with us little by little

And perhaps, for those who can’t handle Therese yet, the words of a Kanye or even a person like me might be the way God chooses to nudge them forward, little by little

Conclusion: I ask you to ask God today “Lord, what is the next thing you are calling me to do…the next step to take…what is a small thing I need to get rid…and a small thing I need to add?”

Jesus wants to dine with us too…and the Pharisees will grumble…but God is working with us little by little.  We thank God for his patience and we get to work with a sense of urgency…because our salvation, as always, hangs in the balance

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Stop trying to "find yourself"!

"Who am I?" is a really strange question

Homily for All Saints

All Saints – the feast day for our time, because we’re not sure who we are anymore. 
Thomas Howard - Who Am I? Who Am I?
He said if you were given phrases like “Who Am I?” or “Identity Crisis” “my self concept” you know they would be phrases uttered in our own day.
“all of art, movies, poetry, painting – it all assumes that somewhere we lost ourselves and must grope for any straw of affirmation that may float by in the dark…we send up flares signaling “Help!  What are we?”
And so we consult gurus, sages, horoscopes, palm readers, fortune tellers, or you join a group that will nudge you along toward an answer by getting you to sit in a circle with them, or breathe with them, or dance with them, or work through your hangups with them

When did this happen?  When did the question “Who am I” push itself to center stage?  Probably somewhere after the Renaissance when in the 18th-19th centuries we exiled the gods, but we had nothing left to contemplate but ourselves.

A certain distance has to be between the asker and the thing they are asking about, so when we ask about ourselves, that means there has to be some unnatural divide in us
And then comes Christ to show us salvation, but we might be offended that he just seems to give us a lot of commandments…the beattitudes, deny yourself, love your neighbor….
After all, we might say, I must find out who I am before I can do anything else?
But God would say “must you?”  In the Bible, there is a curious lack of any suggestion that our business is to first find out who we are.

Conclusion: but in doing the things of God, REALLY praying, REALLY serving the poor, REALLY fasting, REALLY being humble I discover my real freedom and personhood not in looking for it but in learning to love God and my neighbor

It is dangerous to preach about yourself on all saints day…but let me just say that very imperfectly it has been THROUGH doing the things I’m asked to do, imperfectly, that I have come to settle in who I am, in a way that the long years of searching have not

Often with Saints, we are drawn to their stories
“What would it look like if I lived like Saint Francis?
Or Therese who died as a teenager?
Or King Louis, or Saint John the Baptist, or Dominic, or the Blessed Mother or St. Joseph…
And those are all good.

But what we must know, in this age where we question our identity and think we have to find ourselves first before we hop on the train with God, is that we won’t find ourselves UNTIL we pick up a shovel, and get to work doing the things God is asking of us, and when we do that, we’ll wake up one day somewhere we never planned being a person we never planned on our own, and could never have known when we were 18 or 50 or 90 and trying to find ourselves
What any person’s life will look like when they begin to follow God … it is anyone’s guess, but you and I will be as varied as St. King Louis of France is from Saint Damien the leper
As different as the bookish and brilliant Thomas Aquinas is from the warrior St. Joan of Arc

Do you want to know who you are? In your baptism, you are a son or daughter of God…now get to work living that…and the question “who am I” will evaporate and never be a concern again.

Monday, October 28, 2019

A supply-side approach to the Eucharistic Crisis

In learning that only 25% of Catholics under 40 believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, most of the discussion has been from the demand side ("What can we do to get people to want/believe in the Real Presence?")

We also need to be looking at it from the supply side.

1) What, as a Church, are we "supplying" around the Real Presence? (read: "How is Mass celebrated?")

2) Among the VASTLY different ways that the Eucharist is "supplied" to people, are some MORE effective in communicating to the "consumer" that Christ is "Really Present"?

3) Can bishops do anything to change the way the Eucharist is "supplied" in their diocese in order to move it towards what imparts to the "consumer" that Christ is truly present, or are they essentially powerless, and thus subjected to the whims of how any particular priest/parish chooses to "supply" the Eucharist?

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Cardinal Sarah on the Amazon Synod

4 quotes on the Amazon Synod in Cardinal Sarah's new book
"The Day is Now Far Spent"

"If, in a missionary impulse, each diocese of Latin America generously offered one priest for the Amazon region, this region would not be treated with so much disdain and humiliation through the fabrication of married priests, as though God were incapable of raising up in that part of the world generous young men willing to make the total gift of their bodies and their hearts, their whole capacity to love and all their being in consecrated celibacy.”


“If because of a lack of faith in God and because of pastoral shortsightedness the Synod for the Amazon region met to decide on the ordination of [married men], on the fabrication of ministries for women, and other incongruities of this sort, the situation would be extremely serious.… The Spirit blows where He wills, certainly, but He does not contradict Himself and does not create confusion and disorder. He is the spirit of wisdom. On the question of celibacy, he has already spoken through the councils and the Roman pontiffs.”


“If the Synod for the Amazon region made decisions along the above-mentioned lines, it would definitively break with the tradition of the Latin Church.”


What would I be today if missionaries had not come to live and die in my village in Guinea? Would I have had the desire to be a priest if they had been content to ordain one of the men of the village? Has the Church grown cold to the point where among her children there are not enough magnanimous souls to get up and go off to proclaim Christ in the Amazon region? I think, on the contrary, that the prospect of a total gift to God can wake up the drowsy souls of many young Christian men. It is necessary also that we bishops have the courage to call them!”

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Jean Paul Sartre and Catholicism

I've never heard of any foundational Catholic authors/theologians/etc. who converted to atheism on their deathbed

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


We've been so blessed at my parishes with wonderful sacred music through the years.  Our wonderful director of sacred music for the past 7 years, Mr. Edward Atkinson, put this Christmas album together that I hope you'll consider downloading and sharing with others.  

Thanks for helping our little parish be a light to the poorest community in Indiana!

You can access the site by clicking here: https://www.stambroseschola.com/restoration/

Monday, October 14, 2019

Former Parishioner on the Ground in Syria

Prayers and anything else appreciated.

A former parishioner is working on the ground in Syria as a researcher collecting info for global news sources. This person is in the direct line of fire, knows what is happening and what help is needed.

correct info: https://rojavainformationcenter.com/

donations: http://hskurd.org/en/

Sunday, October 13, 2019

"I am a better scientist than you"

Saint Pope Pius X once said that there is a great heresy, a false teaching, blowing through the world in our day – and he called it the collection of all the world’s heresies into one – and he said it is basically the denial of the supernatural.

The longer I’ve been a priest, the more I see what he’s saying.  If you think the world is a machine, and everything is determined by chemistry and biology and that everything that happens in the universe can be calculated, then the problem is this – there is no gratitude.

Not thankfulness, because there’s nothing to be thankful for.  It is all science, and math and physics and genetics and neurons, it all has an explanation, even though no one has the explanation, many people tell themselves “surely smart people have the explanation for everything” or at least “surely someday smart people will FIND an explanation for everything”

As a person who wants to see everyone happy and at peace, who wants to see everyone know and follow Christ, what breaks my heart in this denial of the supernatural is that so many people tell themselves a monstrously awful thing: so many today say that if they saw a miracle, they would certainly recognize it. 

Let me say that again, people tell themselves the lie that if they saw or experienced a miracle, they would know it.

Since people tell themselves that they don’t experience any miracles, since they don’t see anything miraculous happening, there is nothing to be thankful for, nothing to have gratitude in our hearts for, so we become a hard and cynical people who rip each other apart on line, are lonely, and addicted and depressed because nothing miraculous ever happens.

We’ve said before that the current generation is walking away from the Faith at an epic level, and it is happening today around the age of 13, and the studies suggest it is largely over this supposed clash vs. science and Faith.

I want to say something here: I’ve talked before about the fact that I studied math, but I realized I need to say something if it might help a teen who sees “what can be proved by science” and Catholicism proposes as being at odds.

I was the Calculus student of the year in high school, and I was the math student of the year my junior and senior year in college, and I was really close to going and working on at least a masters in mathematics before deciding to go to the seminary.  I know it is absolutely gross to talk about yourself, but I would say I’m probably better at math and science than 98% of 13 year olds – I know – a really high bar.  But St. Paul does this also to make a point – he says no one was a more devout Jew than I. 

I say this about my science background in order to say “I’ve never seen anything in math or science that contradicts anything in my Catholic Faith.  AND, on the other side of that, I’ve had tons of things that I’ve seen in math and science that have confirmed and strengthened by Catholic Faith.

But if me making a fool of myself talking about college math doesn’t help, I also reached out to a medical doctor, two people I know who are in med school, and the best chemistry brain I’ve ever seen, and I’ve asked lots of Catholic scientists and mathematics people the same questions.  None of them report ever having their Catholic Faith challenged by anything in science, and they also report, though, what they have seen, as strengthening their Faith a great deal.

Gratitude comes from realizing we’ve been given something, that there is such a thing as kindness and love, and gifts, and that we’ve been given a gift.

And what is the gift?  What are the miracles we’re missing?

One of the most amazing things I’ve seen in a while was a video clip of about 90 seconds.  CNN host Anderson Cooper was interviewing Steven Colbert who is the rare Hollywood person that doesn’t brandish about his Catholicism but also never seems to be ashamed of it.

And the video gets right to the heart of what we’re discussing – miracles – gratitude and whether we have anything to be thankful for at all.  Whether anything special ever happens or we’re all just chemicals bumping into each other in a machine.

Anderson Cooper, in the midst of a larger interview where I’m told they dive into politics, set that all aside and go watch the 90 second clip.

Colbert lost his father and two brothers in a plane crash when Colbert was only 10.  Cooper starts to ask Colbert a question, and as Anderson Cooper asks the question – he gets choked up.  The question he gets out through tears is this:

“you once told an interviewer to love the things you most wish had not happened.  You went on to say “what punishments of God are not gifts”  Do you really believe that?

Colbert says “Yes, it is a gift to exist, it is a gift to exist, and with existence comes suffering, there’s no escaping that…if you are grateful for your life, you have to be grateful for all of it”

They went on to talk more about suffering and Christ and Catholicism, and it was, in my estimation, the Church’s teaching on the gift of existence even in the face of suffering, all condensed into 8 minutes.  I hope you’ll go seek it out.

Colbert said, in that interview, the key Catholic rebuttal to those who want to strip out mystery – it is a gift to exist

We are grateful when we are given gifts.

And gratitude is what fuels religion, it is what fuels our Catholic Faith and our world view.

I’m here tonight/today because God has given me many gifts – some I see, but MOST  I don’t see

9 run off after being healed from leprosy and don’t think to say thanks. 

They don’t see the miracles of their own healing, so they run off without a word of thanks, on to the next thing.

Many of us do the same

Don’t tell yourself that if a miracle happened you would know it

Let us be the Samaritan who sees the miracle of his healing, and return to Christ.  Let us also say to Christ tonight and always the two words that will totally change our relationship with Christ: “Thank you”

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Faulty Interpretations for This Coming Weekend's Readings

Ambiguous and/or non-Catholic sermon topics for this weekend’s readings:

1) “In the first reading, we see the curing of Naaman the Syrian.  Jesus later mentions in Luke 4:27 “And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed--only Naaman the Syrian”, and that sends the Jews into a FRENZY of anger and they try to kill Jesus right then and there.  In our own day, lots of pharisaical Catholics don’t want to hear that God is working outside the walls of the Catholic Church.  They want to keep Christ in and want to keep others out.  They want to exclude and judge.  “Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” (Matthew 23:13).

RESPONSE: In the Old Testament, God’s Covenant was with a particular people (nation).  The people who were upset with Jesus were upset that He was saying that God can also work outside the Jewish nation.   Now the New Covenant is open to EVERYone.  Any halfway decently catechized Catholic knows that God works outside the walls of the Church as well, but that He desires to draw everyone to the Church even when He works outside it.  So those who “lock people out” would only be those who tell other people “you need not worry about becoming Catholic…there’s nothing here for you that you don’t already have outside the Church.”  They are the ones locking people out and not entering in themselves.

2) Jesus went to the lepers in the Gospel today, a place where some don’t want him to go.  Today there are places where some mean Catholics do not want the Church to be present.

RESPONSE:  This is false.  Every true Catholic wants the Church to be as present as possible to every person on the planet.   That is why men and women, through the centuries, have chosen celibacy and even the missionary life…in order to bring the Gospel to ends of the Earth.  That missionary option needs to be encouraged and celebrated.

Also, St. Augustine says about this weekend's Gospel: “The lepers may be taken mystically for those who, having no knowledge of the true faith, profess various erroneous doctrines. .. leprosy is a blemish in color, when true things appear clumsily mixed up with false in a single discourse or narration…It is plainly implied that leprosy is false doctrine which the good teacher may wash away.”  Augustine is saying that it is clear that Christ desires to purify and wash away from people false doctrines.  Speaking about such false doctrines as if they were something that the Catholic Church should celebrate would be dangerously wrong, in the same way that people would not suggest that a healthy person would benefit from contracting leprosy.

The Church has historically, through missionaries, teachers, etc. never been afraid to go to a place where non-Catholic ideas reside, but always with the goal of bringing people TO the Church, “curing of the leprosy of false teaching” as Augustine suggests.  

All of us, in bringing the Gospel to places where it isn't celebrated (workplace, school, larger community, etc.) should show up and say "you all follow false teachings!  CONVERT!"  But working for the conversion to the Church of all we meet is a call we've been given by God.  We ignore and/or demean that call at our peril.

3) “Our second reading says that the “the Word of God is not chained”.  Unfortunately, in our own day, many bad Catholics want to chain up the Word of God and keep people from receiving the Good News of the Gospel.  Many bad Catholics today want to keep people from the Eucharist because they want priests to be celibate men.”

RESPONSE: A priest is not just a sacramental dispenser, a functionary whose role is only significant because of the sacraments he “produces”.  A priest is to be conformed to Christ, and is called to be a type of “alter Christus” to the people.  So the priest has value apart from his ability to administer the Sacraments.   We don’t go to Mass to see the priest, but the priest’s presence among the people, in his celibacy, continence and chastity, is an important aspect of Catholicism, and celibacy has a long history (when lived)of being a dramatic and effective sign that impresses non-Catholics that the Church is always seeking to invite to a conversion to the Church.  People in every age recognize the fact that a person being willing to give up marriage (and sexual expression within marriage) means a person believes, in a more radical way, the things he or she is seeking to offer (in this case, the Truths of Catholicism).

The Catholic priesthood has also been historically understood to be connected to the Old Testament temple priesthood, where God required that the men who would offer sacrifice practice a period of abstaining from sex for several days in preparation to serve at the altar. 

Canon 277 also says: “Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.” 

I also submit Chesterton: ““It is true that the historic Church has at once emphasized celibacy and emphasized the family; has at once (if one may put it so) been fiercely for having children and fiercely for not having children. It has kept them side by side like two strong colors, red and white, like the red and white upon the shield of St. George. It has always had a healthy hatred of pink. It hates that combination of two colors which is the feeble expedient of the philosophers. It hates that evolution of black into white which is tantamount to a dirty gray. In fact, the whole theory of the Church on virginity might be symbolized in the statement that white is a color: not merely the absence of a color. All that I am urging here can be expressed by saying that Christianity sought in most of these cases to keep two colors coexistent but pure.”   
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter 6

In the past, what has led to an explosion of the Catholic Faith around the world was a consistent call for heroic missionaries.  Are we issuing that call anymore?

4) “In the lepers that Jesus visits in today’s Gospel, we see that Faith is present prior to full incorporation into the Church.  So we see that non-Catholics and even non-Christian peoples are capable of possessing Faith even prior to evangelization.  So we can leave them where they are and not work with urgency to bring them to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith.”

RESPONSE:  First of all, it is important to note that the 10 lepers in the Gospel this weekend cry out for Jesus!  By name.   And that matters.  They do not cry out for some other deity.  They cry out for Jesus.   Theopholus notes: “They do not merely supplicate or entreat Him as if he were a man, but they call Him Master or Lord.”

And secondarily, yes, Catholicism acknowledges that Faith in God can be present even prior to baptism and prior to a participation in the sacraments of the Church.  St. Thomas  Aquinas says it this way: man receives the forgiveness of sins before Baptism in so far as he has Baptism of desire, explicitly or implicitly; and yet when he actually receives Baptism, he receives a fuller remission, as to the remission of the entire punishment. So also before Baptism Cornelius and others like him receive grace and virtues through their faith in Christ and their desire for Baptism, implicit or explicit: but afterwards when baptized, they receive a yet greater fullness of grace and virtues III q. 69 a. 4. 

There are specific gifts that Aquinas notes for those who are baptized:  1) incorporation in Christ, 2) enlightenment and 3) fruitfulness.  So we should want all to come to the Church and join in the sacramental life of the Church so that they receive these amazing gifts.  Again, it is why countless missionaries gave up everything – they went to help incorporate people into the life of the Church; to INVITE (never force.  Always invite.  Where anything other than invitation to the Church has been used, the Church condemns that OUTRIGHT)  them to a new reality altogether, a life as a Son or Daughter of God through baptism, not through continuing to do what they have been doing, nor to live as they had been living.  I can’t believe we have to say this, but it is important that a person become Catholic.  If we understand Catholicism, we should desire that everyone join us in the Church.

Aquinas also teaches that those who are not baptized will at best enter into purgatory.   Suppose, therefore, catechumen to have the desire for Baptism (else he could not be said to die in his good works, which cannot be without "faith that worketh by charity"), such a one, were he to die, would not forthwith come to eternal life, but would suffer punishment for his past sins, "but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire" as is stated 1 Corinthians 3:15 (III 68 a. 2 ad. 2). 

We cannot be content to let people outside the Church continue to live outside the Church.  Again, without force, our hearts should desire completely that all know the Life of Christ in His Church.