Ramblings from us as we strive to live a holy life in the world, not of the world.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Deacon Joe's homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Priesthood, vision, Bill Maher, and completeness

The Pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the parish would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday morning.

Even if you’re not on time, please still come to Church.  Our Ushers will be glad to help eat latecomers.

An Inter-faith song fest will be hell at the Methodist church Wednesday.

The Choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir.

Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It is a good chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house.  Don’t forget your husbands.

It’s good to laugh at ourselves, it’s a big part of being human and embracing our imperfections.  Jesus was human, just like us.  Did Jesus have “bloopers”?  I don’t know, maybe he did, but regardless scholars are pretty sure Jesus told jokes and had fun with His disciples.  There are many portraits out there of the “Laughing Jesus”.  We really don’t think of Jesus very much in that way, we look more to the image of the cross, and that’s as it should be, but we need to remember that Jesus was like us IN ALL THINGS, but sin.  Jesus being like us in all things is important because he could identify with us and we can identify with Him.  This mutual identification allows Jesus to fulfill the role of High Priest, and it is through the role of High Priest that Jesus can deliver us from our sins.  Our ability to identify with Jesus also has impact on us today through the establishment of the priesthood in the Church.  Today, by the way, just happens to be Priesthood Sunday, and what a great opportunity to let our priests know how much we truly appreciate them. 

I sincerely hope you’re able to identify with our Priests.  Yes, they do live differently from the rest of us, but they are very much human and come from families very much like ours.  Our priests have made great sacrifices for us, just to get to ordination, and they continue to make great sacrifices for us to be able to bring us in contact with God through the sacraments.  As a Deacon, I feel so very blessed to be able to do God’s work closely alongside Fr. Kleppner, and Fr. Mariusz, and in fact, God has blessed me throughout my entire life by continually surrounding me with great men that were Priests, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our regional vicar Fr. Sam Esposito as someone I am truly indebted to.  A Deacon’s role, is to help bridge any gap between the Priesthood any the laity, by living the life of cleric, and yet living in the world (to clear up any confusion, I have a full-time job and do not get paid for what I do as a Deacon).

It is the Priesthood that is central to the passing on of the faith.  As clerics, we pass on the faith in the very same way St. Paul explains to the Church of Corinth, we pass on the faith that was handed on to us.  We do not alter the teaching of the Church.  Priests themselves do not take on followers and no one becomes a Kleppnerite or a Mariuszian, we remain members of the Church.  The clergy goes through great pains to continually educate and renew themselves to ensure that the faith that is passed on is that of Jesus Christ and the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.  And it is through that unchanging faith, that we are saved.

To have faith, we must also have vision.  We don’t necessarily need to see with our eyes, but we do need to have vision or a vision, in order to be able to journey with Our Lord.  In our Gospel today, we meet Bartimaeus.  St. Mark is not talking to us about just any blind man, he gives us Bartimaeus, someone with a name, someone WE CAN IDENTIFY WITH.  It’s important to note here, that we are nearing the end of the Church year, Advent is about 5 weeks away.  With the end of the Church year, we change our Gospel cycle.  This being Year B focused on St. Mark’s Gospel to Year C, which relies on the Gospel of St. Luke.  I mention this because the healing of Bartimaeus is that last healing Jesus performs in the Gospel of Mark as in Chapter 11 Jesus enters into Jerusalem to face His passion.  So this healing of the blind man Bartimaeus must have some significance. 

I digress for just a second here, to share with all of you that I am now wearing braces on my teeth.  I was an avid participant in all kinds of sports, mainly contact sports, in my childhood and young adult life.  Now that I am older, and not playing anything other than golf (which if you’ve seen me golf you could call it a contact sport), it was time for me to get braces to keep from losing my teeth as I age.  Anyway, one of the sports I enjoyed playing most was hockey.  And I remember at the start of every season, my teammates would get mad at me because I would have a very difficult time passing the puck.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t see where the other players were on the ice, it was that I lacked vision, the sense of the flow of the game and not only where the players were, but how the action on the ice was developing.

Our spirituality depends upon the same kind of vision.  We are Bartimaeus.  We cannot see.  We need Jesus to give us vision.  He always asks us “What do you want me to do for you?”  Jesus is always there for us, and we know we can trust Him because we can identify with Him.  Yet, we’re afraid to ask, or perhaps we don’t know what to ask for.  Do we really want to see?  The world does not want to see.  Case in point, here’s a quote just last week from talk show host/comedian Bill Maher, “The Pope is consistently pro-life. I’m consistently pro-death.  I’m for the death penalty, killing the right people.  I’m pro-choice. I’m for assisted suicide. I’m for regular suicide.  The planet is too crowded, and we need to promote death.”   As a Christian those quotes should horrify you.  What a sad vision of life.

Only with the help of God are we able to see and have real vision.  We need to see to have faith.  We need to see God’s (not our own) truth.  We need to see that only God can make us whole and complete us.  We need to see God in each other.  We need to see that we’re all in this together.  We need to see beyond this world and embrace the Church as the single greatest source of faith.  We need to see the person of Jesus in our Priests.  We need to see ourselves, to understand our sins and how those sins (even those we consider “private”) affect others.  We need to see the harm done by Abortion, Contraception, Pornography, Euthanasia, and all other sins that the current culture promotes.  We need to see that our vote has eternal consequences.  We need to see that God loves us and wants us to love Him and when we enter into that relationship, we will have the fullness of life and not just exist.  And finally, we need to see the real presence of God in the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Jesus comes to heal us and open our eyes to see.  If we ask Him, he will give us His vision.  And then we’ll see things as they truly are.  It is through the beauty of that truth that we’ll experience heaven, and we can “go our way, because our faith has saved us.”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Three Meditations For After Communion

It's no secret that I love St. Thomas Aquinas. His Summa is on my Kindle and I could meditate on his quotes for hours...if I had the time.

Saint Peter's List has a wonderful post about three of Aquinas' meditations for after communion.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Deacon Joe's Homily-24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I haven't posted any of Deacon Joe's homilies in a long time. This touched me in the face of this election year.

“Fumbling His Confidence and Wondering Why the World Has passed Him by…Hoping that he’s bent for more than arguments and failed attempts to fly…We were meant to live for so much more…”  Perhaps you know the words from the rock group Switchfoot’s song ‘Meant to Live’.  This song is very appropriate to our Gospel today. 
Jesus asks us today to live for so much more. 
In our Gospel we hear about denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and losing our lives for the sake of the Gospel.  This sounds difficult, painful, not very appealing on the surface.  But what is it that Jesus is really asking us?  We need to look beyond to see the deeper meaning.
In our first reading from Isaiah we hear of the suffering servant.  Like our Gospel, this isn’t very appealing. Who wants to be beaten and spit on?  Yet, despite this mistreatment, we see that the subject of this passage perseveres.  It begs the question, why?  What does this person see or know that helps him through the abuse?
Perhaps a clue lies in our Responsorial Psalm.  Psalm 116 was written as a song of Thanksgiving.  This Thanksgiving is to God for rescuing our Psalmist from a very mortal danger.  But we also hear of despair.  How awful it would be to sense an eminent death and feel alone, where perhaps we look back and now feel we’ve spent our lives frivolously and are dying in vain.  However, our Psalmist gives us the hope that God will save us and WE shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living.  The Psalmist sees the same thing we heard about in Isaiah, but again, what is it?
Let’s take a moment and think of the person or persons we love most.  Would you want any harm to come to them?  What would you do if the threat of harm came to them?  If you answered, “I would give anything, including my life, to keep my loved ones from harm”, THIS is the love of God.  That is what Isaiah sees, that is what our Psalmist sees, the true love of God.  They are willing to endure anything, give up anything to be united with God in that ultimate love.
The ultimate love of God is what Jesus is talking to us about in the Gospel today.  We CAN deny ourselves, we CAN take up our cross, we CAN lose ourselves for the sake of the Gospel BECAUSE of the love God has for us.  The sacrifice becomes natural, because if we love God the most, we will give anything and lose ourselves for that love.
Our reading from St. James may seem a little disjointed.  The subject matter of the passage is faith and good works, however, our faith, which is a direct result of our love for God, will show itself through us in our works.  Remember, we cannot earn heaven.  Our lives should reflect the love of God inside of us and manifest itself naturally by our internal desire to bring the Kingdom of God here to earth.
There are two places in this world where God has blessed me with the sense of His Kingdom.  One is obviously the Church, not only here at St. Frances Cabrini but wherever I meet a follower of Christ.  You can sense a connection through the deep love of God that Christian believers share.  The second is the Beaver County Jail.  I’ve already lost count of how many times inmates tell me their stories and those stories strike me as identical to Old Testament stories.  The details may be different, but I hear the story of Moses (had it all, then lost it all), the story of Joseph (abandoned by family), the story of Job (nothing seemed to go right), and the story of Jonah (I ran from God).  We may think that the stories of the Old Testament were long, long ago, but they’re happening all around us today.  The inmates I meet exhausted themselves in a search for happiness, not realizing it was the love of God they were seeking.  And when they hit bottom and looked up, Jesus was standing there waiting for them.  It’s at that bottom point that they’re ready for the love God has to give them.  I think that’s a piece of the puzzle we miss.  God has an ocean of love he wants to give us, but unfortunately, we, and I mean WE, only carry around a coffee cup.
An example of denying self, taking up the cross, and losing life for the sake of the Kingdom is found in our catechists.  Today is Catechetical Sunday, and we owe a great deal of gratitude to our CCD and Religious Education Teachers.  It’s not easy passing on the faith, let me give you some examples:
One of our CCD teachers was describing the story of Lot and when Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom she turned into a pillar of salt.  One of the little girl students replied. "My mommy looked back once while she was driving, and she turned into a telephone pole."
Another of our CCD teachers was teaching the stories of the Old Testament to her class and said to her children, "We have been learning about how powerful the kings and queens were in Biblical times. But there is a higher power. Who can tell me what it is?" One little boy shouted, "I know teacher,… Aces."
In all seriousness, to our CCD and Religious education teachers, THANK YOU!
In contrast, we look at our world and see that world rejects God’s love.  If you need evidence, just look at the current events.  Violence around the world, and more division in our county than I think we’re ever seen before.  Instead of self denial we see the world selfishly pushing its own agendas and attempting to conquer the opposing side by force.  We need to remember, especially over the next six weeks, that the teaching of Jesus is not either/or, it is BOTH/AND.  As Christians we have to look at our brothers and sisters in love and try to understand their point of view and perhaps guide them, not coerce them, to the truth of God.  There are truths that cannot be compromised, but that does not give us license to respond to challenges in an uncaring way.  Pope Benedict, in his address to the National Ecclesial Convention, and this was in 2006, said “We know well that the choice of…following Christ is never easy.  Instead it is always opposed and controversial.  The Church remains…a sign of contradiction in the footstep of her Master…but we do not lose heart…on the contrary we must always be ready to give a response to whoever asks us the reason for our hope…We must answer with gentleness and reverence…with that gentle power the comes from union with Christ.”  The next six weeks will test our patience and our faith and while we must not be silent, we must respond in love.  Unlike the world, which is always trying to sell us on something, the Church’s motivation is love.  We need to tell the world that first and foremost we are Christians, followers of the Son of the one true God.  We are not followers of a political party, or of a person, those things cannot save us and will not get us to heaven.  We need the Church to help us navigate safely through the dangerous waters of this world.  If we had to cross an ocean, wouldn’t it be better to be on a large ship rather than swim by yourself?  The Church is that ship that will get us to the other side.  As Christians we have to sift through all the things the world throws at us and find the Truth of God and the Love of God in all that we do.  God calls us to rise above and see beyond.  We can see beyond in the Eucharist.  What appears to be a small wafer of bread, we know is the gift of the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We receive the Eucharist and through the Eucharist we see beyond, we HAVE FAITH, we rise above.  Jesus lives inside of us and brings the love we need which leads to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and lose our lives for Him, because…We were meant to live for so much more.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Heading on retreat

I haven't posted much, mainly because I've been writing materials for my small faith group that will begin meeting again in September. I've excited about the content and hope that I'll be able to do something with it beyond using it for our group. Needless to say, that has been occupying what little free time that I have these days.

I'm excited today as my husband and I are headed on his annual deacon retreat this weekend at St. Vincent Archabbey led by Deacon Greg Kandra, one of my favorite bloggers. I hope that I get some much needed quiet meditative time.

Just hoping that the kids don't burn the house down while we're gone.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Deacon Joe's homily for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time. You are the seed...so what is your mission?

(Note: by request from parishioners, I post my husband's homilies to my blog so that they can find them easily if they want to read them. This is his homily for today)

Jesus gives us little kernels, or seeds of his teaching today.  The teaching may be small in words like seeds but has great impact like a seed that grows to fruition.  In the first part of our Gospel reading, St. Mark shows Jesus telling us how a man scatters seed and the seed grows but he knows not how.  Then we see in the second part of the Gospel Jesus telling us how the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, very small, yet when it grows it becomes the largest of plants.  In these parables we can learn about both ourselves and also about our mission.  What does a seed have to do with us in our personal journey with Our Lord?  We are seeds (I mean that in a good way).  We can only grow to fullness with God’s help.  We need to fully trust in God in order for us to reach our true potential, become the “largest of plants.”  It is He who guides us, and believe me brothers and sisters, if you put your trust completely in Him, God will guide you to things you never dreamed of.  What does a seed mean to our mission?  Let’s review for just a second about our mission.  Our lives are wrapped in vocation and mission.  Who we are: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, priests, deacons, etc...WHO God wants us to be is our vocation.  Our mission is what God wants us to do: teach, preach, parent, visit, do liturgical duties, etc…  In our mission, whatever it may be, we scatter seeds.  Again, it is God who makes them grow.  Very often we don’t see the results of the seeds we scatter in our mission.  We don’t have the ability to see what’s going on inside of other people, and we don’t have the ability to see into the future either, to tell whether the fruits of our labors have been worthwhile.  This is also where we need to trust in God.  We also need to persevere.  Our spiritual journey is, unfortunately, not like a football game, where we can cross a goal line, spike the ball, and for some of us so inclined, do a little touchdown dance.  It’s just not like that.  God has the plan, all we can do is stay with Him and trust in Him, give ourselves to Him.  That is what he asks of us, and He will take care of the rest.
It is trust and faith that we also need to be able to deal with our world, our current culture.
There’s a story of man whose dog just passed, and he was looking for another canine companion:
This man visits a local pet shop. The owner tells him that he has a special dog that he might be interested in. “It's a talking dog,” says the owner. "No Way!" says the customer. "This I have to see" So, the owner escorts him to the rear room of the shop and points out the dog. "There he is. Go ahead and talk to him" and then leaves the customer and the dog alone.  "So you're a talking dog huh?"  "Why yes sir, I sure am."  Shocked, the man now hangs on every word.  "Yeah, when I was a little pup I lived in a fire station and rode to all the fires with the firemen. One day I rescued a little girl and the city called me a hero and gave me a medal.  Later on, I even got to go to the White House and met the President! After I rescued a whole family in another fire, I was sent to meet the Pope in Rome! Yes sir, I've sure had an interesting and exciting life!"

The man was dumbstruck and rushed back to the front of the pet shop.
"Well, did you talk to the dog?" asked the owner.  "Yes I did! It's simply amazing; why on Earth would you want to sell such a talented dog?"

The owner replied, "Well, he is a great talker, but he's a horrible liar!"

We can’t allow ourselves to be mesmerized by the messages our world sends.  Like the talking dog, the world can be very impressive, very entertaining in its message, but there’s a good chance the world is lying to us about who we are and what we want.  Through the seeds of our faith and growth from God, we need to be sure in faith and trust, that we’re evaluating the world’s messages by GOD’S STANDARDS.  We may see things on TV or hear things on the radio, or be talking with friends and/or colleagues, and how they speak or how they present themselves may be very impressive, they may be very convincing.  But are we listening to WHAT they say?  Our duty as followers of Jesus Christ, our duty as Catholics, is to evaluate WHAT is being said as compared to the truth of God regardless of how convincing or impressive that delivery may be.  To have complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and God, we need to look beyond our political parties, our favorite news program, our favorite talk show host and get to the heart of the matter and test everything against the light of God.  As Jesus gave himself for us on the cross, we are called to give of ourselves and that include putting aside our personal preferences to achieve the good of all. 
Speaking of giving of self and achieving the good of all, it is Father’s Day (weekend).  (Blessing?)  No doubt fatherhood requires much sacrifice, but that sacrifice does not go in vain, as their children benefit greatly from their presence and love.  Fathers sow the seeds of faith in the children.  Being a father myself I can tell you that we don’t necessarily see the results of our efforts, at least not in the here and now.  Our impact might never be truly known, but we can look to our children as they reach adulthood and hopefully be proud of them as they try to find their vocation and carry out their mission.
I’d like to take a minute and thank the Parish for seeing me through my first year as a deacon.  My ordination, if you’ll recall, was June 11th last year, and I can’t tell you how blessed my vocation and mission have been, so again thank you for all your prayers and support, you’ve all been so very wonderful.  A special thanks to my wife Joanne, the real brains and beauty of our whole operation.  Thanks to my children for being patient while their father is so busy sometimes, and to Fr. Kleppner, Fr. Mariusz, and Fr. Sam Esposito for all their help and support.  The diaconate is very much seed scattering also.  I don’t really ever get to find out what happens to the inmates once they leave, so all I can do is hope and pray that God has been able to reach them through me, and that their lives have turned to him.  Taking from today’s gospel, I don’t need to know, I just need to trust in God and dutifully carry out my mission, He will make good things happen.
In all of this, Jesus is pointing us to the best of all seeds, that being the Eucharist.  The Eucharist, what appears to be just a small wafer, is the body of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we take in and allow God to implant in us.  And if we allow God to do His work, He will make that seed grow to the fullness of life.  I can stand here and personally tell you that the vocations of father and deacon sometimes are not so easy, but I’ve never felt more of a sense of belonging and doing what God has truly meant me to do with this life.  It’s a beautiful thing.  So as we come to the table of the Eucharist today, I ask you to contemplate the seed, contemplate the growth that only God can make happen, and contemplate the beautiful life He has in store for you.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Deacons: Understanding their assignments and ministry

On June 11th, we will celebrate the one year anniversary of my husband's ordination to the diaconate. Although I already reflected on how I am adapting to being a deacon's wife, I've noticed over the past year, how few people really understand the ministry of a deacon.

Several weeks ago, my daughter's instructor said, "my mom is really devout but she doesn't understand all this new stuff that the Church is adding like deacons." SIGH...I usually just say "read Acts 6." So there is still much education that is needed in that area.

But, I'm not really going to focus on the history of the diaconate or the catechesis of holy orders. I want to try to give a better understanding of what a deacon's ministry looks like. What we've found is that most lay people may understand what a deacon is, but they really don't understand what they do. It's not just the lay people either. When a priest asked my favorite deacon what day of the week he had off, he was surprised to hear my husband say, "I don't have a day off. I get a few hours here or there." Or when a priest texted my husband and was dismayed that his text wasn't returned for hours because my husband was in an extremely important meeting at work.

Even parish staff with theology or religious education backgrounds sometimes don't quite understand deacon's roles. When I remark about my husband having to take days off from work to attend clergy meetings, I'm met with "why would he have to go to those?"

I'd like to present a snapshot of a deacon's ministry. This is not necessarily the norm, but what it's like in our diocese. There are three aspects to the deacon's life, not including family:

1. Secular employment. Deacons are often seen as a bridge between the laity and the clergy. Although they are clergy, they are generally not paid by the Church unless they are employed within a diocese to work in some capacity that may or may not be related to the fact that they are deacons. Many people in our parish wrongly assumed that my husband would take on a paid position at our parish once he became ordained. In our diocese, deacons won't work for the parish where they are assigned for ministry and they won't be assigned to a parish if they are employed there.

In the United States, many view permanent deacons as retired and older. That perception tends to foster a belief that that is the norm. However, the average age of deacons worldwide is 40 years old. For deacons who are in their 40s or 50s, many are still working to support their families if they are married (yes, there are plenty of unmarried permanent deacons that take a vow of celibacy and married deacons likewise cannot remarry if their wife dies).

Because deacons have to work at secular employment and perform ministry in their off hours, they are often perceived as 'part-time' deacons. That is untrue. They are full-time or all-the-time deacons working 'in the world.' Many deacons will say that they find that their ministry flows into their workplace. They are often asked to counsel, defuse volatile situations, or extend blessings. My husband works in federal law enforcement and is often asked to bless agents.

2. Ministry of Service. The bishop assigns each deacon to a ministry of service. For some deacons, that is within a diocesan office or parish. They may facilitate RCIA, baptism or marriage prep. classes. For others, it may be institutional like ministering in a jail, hospital, nursing home, or homeless shelter. This is where the deacon spends the bulk of his time and is where the true work of his vocation is.

The name deacon comes from the Greek word diakonis which means servant. The real role of the deacon, as demonstrated in Acts 6, is as a ministry of service. As such, this is unpaid service. Typically deacons will spend about 10-20 hours a week between their ministry of service, liturgical ministry, and administrative aspects.

For the retired deacons, they often take on additional ministry assignments and many work almost full-time hours.

3. Liturgical Ministry. Every deacon is assigned to a parish or several parishes. In our diocese, many of the deacons have been assigned to their home parish. If they aren't, they are assigned to a parish that is geographically close to their home or work. Liturgically, deacons can baptize, witness marriages, bless objects, preside at funeral vigils and internments, and have assigned roles during Mass such as read the Gospel (as Minister of the Word), preach homilies, and distribute communion (as Minister of the Cup).

For many parishioners, confusion arises because they often don't understand the dynamics of the three roles. There may be a deacon employed at a parish as a pastoral associate or as a DRE but that deacon happens to be a deacon employed in that capacity, his ministry of service would be elsewhere. For a deacon who has a ministry of service outside of the parish, parishioners may not understand why the deacon isn't heavily involved within the parish. Also, many parishioners ask, "What are we paying that deacon anyway?" My husband often says he gets paid in Kit Kat bars that the pastor routinely gives to our two youngest boys.

There also can be resentment among parish staff that does the bulk of the necessary work within the parish. They may not fully understand why the deacon isn't around much during the week, but is there for a couple of Masses shaking hands with people on the weekend.

So what does my husband's ministry look like? First of all, he is employed in secular employment, which he intents to keep, barring any unforeseen circumstances, until he feels comfortable enough to retire in 15 years or so. He has no intention of taking anyone's job within the diocese as some fear. We are also a  single-income family. With a large family and a deacon's ministry, we feel that it's necessary for me to stay home and maintain most of the domestic responsibilities and for he to have a career that enables us to do that.

His ministry of service is as chaplain of a county jail. This is a ministry that, at the beginning of formation, he swore he would never want to do. But he has found that he is really called to it. He travels to the jail two or three times a week and does everything from communion services, Bible studies, RCIA lessons, individual meetings, and prayer services. As he says, he gives much of himself but he receives more from helping these men and women than he ever imagined. An added benefit is that he is able to spread the word about helping the inmates within our community. He has gotten donations for reading material and promises of help for those inmates once they are released.

Finally, my husband is assigned liturgically to our home parish which we've belonged to for the past ten years. That has been a blessing since the parishioners are our 'family.' Within the parish, he helps with RCIA, the Holy Name Society, CCD on occasion, facilitates the Catholic Men's Fellowship, and the liturgical functions of a deacon. He generally preaches a homily about once a month which requires a fair amount of preparation and assist at two or three Masses on a weekend. He is often asked to do funeral vigils and an occasional baptism. I imagine that may increase as time goes by. He has also taught classes within the diocese as a master catechist.

The diaconate is a vocation. Deacons aren't just glorified altar servers, they have a very distinct role within the Church. Hoping that as more people are exposed to permanent deacons, they will come to understand the role of a deacon.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Deacon Joe's Homily for Seventh Sunday of Easter

Love and Truth

I’ve been noticing a lot of hate, a lot of division in our world lately.  Maybe it’s me, that in my formation, I’m noticing more of where the love of God lacks (especially on I-376 during the morning drive to work).  I believe we’ll be even more challenged as emotions will run high over the coming months in this election year.   Our Lord mentions hate in today’s Gospel.  Being a disciple of Jesus is not an easy road to follow.  The world will not like us, because we speak the truth of Jesus and the love of God.  The world will not like us because of its own desire to be free, foolishly thinking that freedom is being free from God instead of realizing that true freedom is found IN GOD.
When, and I say when not if, we are challenged by the world, we need to speak the truth.  We need to let the Holy Spirit’s gift of courage act in us and respond, not react, to those challenges.  In our communications with the world, we need to dialogue in the productive way, by realizing it is not about winning an argument.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said “Win an argument, lose a soul.”  St. Augustine held communication as a sacred act.  He saw, and rightly so, that communication was a union much like a marriage.  Two people were coming together to share through their words and make each other better.  St. Augustine held lying as one of the most serious sins.  God gave us speech for the purpose of communicating His truth and to lie was an absolute perversion of that gift.  Just imagine what the world would be like if everyone took their words that seriously. 
Our culture is now dominated by “social” media, such as Facebook, My Space, and Twitter.  I wonder what St. Augustine would say about social media.  Is it really communication?  There can be good that comes from social media.  I know the Deacons of the Diocese use it to keep each other informed and it can be used as a vehicle to promote the faith (the Pope Twitters, I believe).  However, it seems that our culture has used it more to promote an “All about me” attitude.  It’s nice to know that someone has achieved something great like a promotion or a graduation, but does the world really need to know that you opted for Cornflakes this morning instead of the Pop Tart.  It’s the “all about me” attitude that’s permeating our culture, a culture which seems preoccupied with exercising its “rights” rather than promoting the common good.
On the Cross, was Jesus concerned about His “rights”?  Jesus could’ve walked away from the passion at any time.  He did not.  He was concerned with US, with our souls and with our lives.  He died to save us so that we could live in completeness, and live eternally in the love of God.  It is Our Lord Jesus Christ’s example we need to imitate if we want to experience heaven here on earth.  We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  If we’re serious about that prayer, we need to look to the Cross and understand that it’s through the Cross and Resurrection that we can make it happen.
To get through the tension of the coming months, no doubt we’ll need God’s help to keep our patient, to patiently discuss (not argue mind you) the truths of Our Faith, and to form our conscience properly, so election day is not such a challenge.  You’ve already received (and knowing Fr. Kleppner, will again receive) the USCCB “Guide to Faithful Citizenship”.  Please use that guide as it was intended, to help you to remain in the love of God in the public arena.
Remaining in God is what our readings are all about today.  In our second reading from 1 John, God through Jesus, proves His love for us through His giving.  The expectation is not to keep God to ourselves, but to share and give to one another.  That sharing and gift of self is the key that allows us to remain in God’s love and prepares the Kingdom of heaven here on earth and prepares us for our eternal destination.
Our Gospel reading today, St. John is showing us Jesus praying just after the Last Supper and before going out to his arrest.  In Pope Benedict’s book “Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Week…” Chapter 4, the Pope discusses the entire Chapter of John 17 as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.  (I strong suggest reading either or both books of the Pope’s Jesus of Nazareth series…).  The Pope explores four themes of this prayer but for time’s sake we’ll only discuss the part that specifically relates to today’s Gospel.  The Pope explores why Jesus would pray for consecration as related in the last three verses of our reading.  Let us take a moment to realize this situation.  This is the last time Jesus is able to speak with His beloved disciples.  Imagine yourself in a situation where it was the last time, before you passed into the next life that you would be able to speak with your loved one.  What would you say?
Jesus prays.  He prays for the disciples which is really a prayer for us.  He asks God to consecrate us.  What does this mean?  Pope Benedict explains that to consecrate is to “raise something into a new sphere that is no longer under human control.”  In essence, Jesus is asking God to take us under His control, or better yet under the control of His truth.  Why is this important to us?  It is the truth in the love of God that we need to live to fulfill the deepest longings of our soul.  What is Truth? (Where have we heard that before?)  Most fundamentally, truth has to be a shared basis, a criteria that can be agreed upon.  If after Mass we went out and played softball, and let’s say I had one version of the rulebook, and someone else had a different version, how would we play the game?  How would we agree on safe/out, fair/foul, or even the score?  That would be pointless.  Our world has a common truth.  The world, our cultural, like Pilate, questions truth, but doesn’t want to hear the answer.  Again in the words of Pope Benedict “The world is true to the extent that it reflects God…Man becomes true, he becomes himself, when he grows in God’s likeness.”  We’re about to meet Truth in the Eucharist.  This is why we come to Mass.  Our Church, our community, our Sacraments help us to remain in God.  To give of ourselves and remain in God was our Lord’s final prayer before the Passion, and is our pathway to eternal life.  Remain in God, remain in Truth, remain in Love, and there is nothing, not even an election year, that cannot be overcome.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Our Divine Mercy cookie cake

I had wanted to make a cake for Divine Mercy Sunday but since I didn't bake any cookies during lent, we all had a hankering for some so I made a cookie cake instead. Notice the Divine Mercy image behind the cake that our Polish priest gave us. I don't know Polish but at least I know what it says!

Divine Mercy Sundy-Deacon Joe's Homily

For those of you that know me, I do like to play a little golf.  I was drawn to the game because I think it’s simply miraculous that someone can hit a little ball into a hole that is 400+ yards away in 4 swings or less (on occasion anyway).  When I first took up the game a few years ago, I noticed something I thought was amazing.  All over the course, I would hear golfers shouting out to Jesus and God.  “What a religious group of people golfers are!” I said to myself.  When I returned to the clubhouse I remarked to the attendant how impressed I was with the all the “prayer” going on.  Imagine my disappointment as the attendant explained to me that it wasn’t exactly prayer happening out on the course.  It goes to show that things may not always be what they seem.

It can be said of today’s Gospel that things may not be what they seem.  St. Thomas or “Doubting Thomas” can be very misunderstood.  He may seem to us that he did not want to believe unless he definitively saw Jesus, that he was being relentlessly stubborn.  Let’s, however, take a look at St. Thomas in a different way.  Imagine if you woke up tomorrow morning and the first person you see tells you that the price of gas just went down to 10 cents a gallon.  What would your reaction be?  I know what mine would be, “You’ve got to be kidding!  That’s unbelievable!”  I’m guessing your reaction would be very similar.  That’s where St. Thomas was.  He loved Jesus so much that the news of the resurrection was so wonderful that it was too much for him to handle.  It wasn’t that he didn’t want to believe that Jesus had risen, it was more that the news was just too good to be true.  And that is seen in St. Thomas’ response once Jesus shows St. Thomas his wounds.  “My Lord and My God!”, St. Thomas exclaims.  What a beautiful response!  In that response, St. Thomas gives us an example of complete surrender and total faith in Jesus as the true Son of God and the Way to eternal life.  Imagine how Thomas felt from that point.  The One he loved so much, who he saw die on a cross, was alive and with him again!  He must’ve been overjoyed. 

St. Thomas leads us to the true Joy of Easter.  Rejoicing at the risen Lord.  The good news, as St. Thomas found out wasn’t too good to be true, was Jesus risen from the dead.  This is a fact!  This fact is what our faith is based on.  Jesus had indeed conquered all!  This isn’t just good news, this is great news.  This isn’t just great news, it’s wonderful news!  This isn’t just wonderful news, it is the best news of all!  We live!  We win!  What could be better than that?  10 cents a gallon for gas?  Not even close!

But do we really embrace the good news?  Are we living a life that shows our faith?  Are we living in the ways of our future life in heaven?

This is the challenge of the New Evangelization.  Vatican II was 50 years ago.  Vatican II opened the doors of the Church not so much for people to come in, but for the Church to go to others.  As Christians, as Catholics, to evangelize properly we need to be able to draw other to Jesus.  The only way we can draw them is to show them the true love, joy, and happiness of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Last Sunday, this Church was filled to (or beyond) capacity.  The ability to fill our Churches every week exists, but God is relying on us to show his true love to others.  And it starts with really believing the “good” news and expressing it from the inside out.  In the Holy Chrism Mass a week ago this past Thursday, our most wonderful Bishop, David Zubik, told a story in his homily that I’m going to borrow today, because it’s right to this point.  When he was a young seminarian, Bishop Zubik once had the opportunity of receiving advice from John Cardinal Wright (then Bishop of Pittsburgh in the late 60s).  Now Bishop Zubik, our young seminarian, was expecting to hear something very profound such as “tend the flock” or “Be a man of prayer” or something deeply theological.  However, Bishop Wright simply looked at him and said, “David, I have one word for you…smile”.   

Smiling of course, in this world can be a challenge.  This may come as a shock to you, but we are all different.  And we are all human, we all have imperfections.  What saddens me, and I believe Our Lord too, is that we don’t overcome our differences and live in His love.  I’m not a big Facebook user (this is probably why), and on the rare occasion I do log in, invariably, I’ll see someone posting something derogatory about some other person or group.  No doubt I could open the floor right now and engage debate about being a Republican or Democrat.  But, Jesus asks us to overcome our differences and live as one.  WE are the Church, WE are the Body of the resurrected Jesus.  WE need to seek the one truth of God and Our Lord Jesus Christ in order to become that one body.

I want to share a little segment of the “Catholicism” series that some here at our parish have been studying over the last 10 weeks or so.  Fr. Robert Barron, the series host, in one part discusses what happens to us after our death.  Fr. Barron discusses heaven “Eye has not seen, Ear has not heard what God has prepared for those who love him.”  (1 Corinthians 2:9).  Conversely, Fr. Barron also discusses Hell.  Fr. Barron uses the vision of a big party, to which we’ve been invited, but instead of joining the party, we stubbornly sit in a corner and refuse to have any fun.  Realistically, we put ourselves in hell.  We put ourselves in hell by not giving of ourselves to work to overcome our differences.  We judge ourselves by rejecting God’s love and mercy.

Speaking of mercy, today is Divine Mercy Sunday.  The revelations to St. Faustina back in the 1930s, brought to light something that was really already going on in the Church.  St. Augustine (around 1500 years earlier) called the entire Octave of Easter “the days of mercy and pardon” and the 2nd Sunday of Easter as “the compendium of the days of mercy.”  God’s love and mercy are really what Easter is all about.  Jesus took on our sins in the greatest act of love and mercy.

Through Divine Mercy we receive the Holy Spirit, the outpouring of God’s Love as we saw in the first part of our Gospel today, and then we can experience the truth and victory we hear of in the First Letter of John.  It is through Divine Mercy that Jesus gives us the sacraments of reconciliation and even more importantly the Eucharist where we can directly encounter the resurrected Jesus.

In our meeting the resurrected Jesus, if nothing else we know we can conquer our sins and we can conquer our death through the risen Lord.  This is the good or again I’ll say best news of all that should give us every reason to rejoice and be glad and want to share that gladness with others.  You can start sharing right now with a smile.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday within the Octave of Easter

It was a blessed Easter Sunday that we had at our home. Tired from the Triduum liturgical schedule and the Easter preparations, we relaxed as best we could. Deacon Joe performed his 'parts' beautifully at the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral, Mass of the Lord's Supper, the Good Friday Passion for which he chanted, Easter Vigil for which he sang the Exsultet very well, and Mass Easter Sunday. No, I wasn't involved in those parts but attended those with children so that should count for something, especially sitting in the Cathedral for three hours with a three year old who found that if you kick the pew hard enough it echos throughout and makes a cool sound! I also listened to and helped the deacon for WEEKS (may have been months, whose counting) of chanting 'Exsult, let them exsult, the hosts of heaven" and the subsequent 5600 stanzas.

We enjoyed a quiet day at home preparing a meal. Our oldest children who worked arrived home in time for our feast as did a few of my relatives. We enjoyed our dinner and my first ever lamb cake.

Notice that it didn't droop. I made it with pound cake so it was sturdy. But I had to keep it in the refrigerator so the icing wouldn't fall off. Whoever would open the refrigerator was usually met with screams as a giant head greeted them. As of today, half a head is still in there and it's creepier than ever. Oh well maybe I'll eat it later as it's within the Octave of Easter and fasting is discouraged as we should be celebrating!

Happy Easter! Have some chocolate and celebrate.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Been a while...

Haven't posted in over a month. I've been trying to focus on an extended spiritual retreat. I just finished reading Consoling the Heart of Jesus for the second time. I read this book last Lent and felt transformed by it. As I started Lent by reading the Way of Perfection by St. Teresa of Avila, I continually felt that I was being called to reread Consoling the Heart again. Fifty pages into the Way of Perfection, I finally put it down and picked up Consoling the Heart. Once again, I feel transformed by what I've read. Based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and heavily influenced by St. Theresa's writings and detailing her Act of Merciful Love and St. Faustina's writings especially Divine Mercy, it makes it readable for the average lay person. For the second year in a row, I've come away with a not only uplifting experience but newfound insight into God's mercy.

We're looking at a busy Holy Week here. I've been helping Deacon Joe master his singing 'parts' for the Good Friday service and the Exsultet for the Easter Vigil. I have to admit that he surprised me how well he sings. I've known him for almost 27 years and yes, I've heard him sing, but not that much, and he's pretty good. I'm looking forward to hearing him on Holy Saturday evening when he sings his almost ten minute 'solo.' (Is that what I should call it?)

In the meantime, we have confession, track meets, clergy dinners, meetings, multiple jail visits, the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday at the Cathedral (which I'm supposed to take the little boys to, but I'm not sure how they will fare after several hours), Mass of the Lord's Supper, Good Friday Service, preparing for the Easter Vigil, then Easter day. I'll be looking forward to spending Easter home cooking a meal, that should be easy. I'm sure that my favorite deacon will be collapsed in a chair in front of the Masters next Sunday. Oh, and I am excited that my children will all be home for Easter dinner, although my two oldest have to work during the day. It's so rare that they are ever home for a weekend meal.

May your Holy Week be an opportunity to grow in faith!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Deacon Joe's Homily for Second Sunday of Lent

A woman dies and goes to Heaven. God tells her that she's not supposed to be there yet and He's sending her back to earth for 40 more years. Realizing that she was going to live for 40 more years she decided to get some 'enhancements: face lift, tummy tuck, liposuction, new nose, new hair color. She leaves the doctor's office after her surgeries, walks across the street and is promptly hit by a bus. 

When she gets to Heaven she asks God why she's back so soon and He responds, "oh, I didn't recognize you."
That story has two lessons in it.  One, we shouldn’t be vain about our outward appearance, God made us just fine the way we are.  And two, we need to be prepared, because we never do really know when Our Lord will call us home.  You could also say the story is about transfiguration, but in the complete opposite sense of our Gospel today, because instead of changing into what God wants us to be for His glory, that woman changed into what she wanted to be for her own glory. 
The woman in our story made a choice.  She chose to change her outward appearance, and move away from the natural beauty God had given her and make herself into something she was not.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to maintain a nice appearance, but the woman in this story goes to an extreme, as if how God made her wasn’t good enough.  God gives us all we need to be able to fulfill His plan for us.  Some are more beautiful than others, some are smarter than others, and some are more resourceful than others.  Who are we to question God’s plan?  However, God gives us freedom, freedom to be able to choose whether or not we want to live according to His plan or not, and what’s worse is that sometimes we even think we can alter God’s plan.
Let’s take a moment and talk a little more about freedom.  This is an important topic in our world right now, given the dynamics going on between government services and religious freedom.  (Comment).  Our culture defines freedom as doing whatever it is you’d like to do, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.  In its most fundamental form, freedom is choice.  But, what is it that you really want to do?  I’m not sure most people in our culture today know how to answer that question.  Is our deepest desire to live a life of doing nothing but pleasing ourselves?  Is that fulfilling?  I could bring up many, many examples of how pleasing ourselves only leaves us empty at the end.  The life of St. Augustine is testament to that, he really did try everything, (few are that bold).  Or deep down, in our souls, where the image of God lives, do we want to live with God as the center of our lives, and fulfill what He created us to be?  Just by being here, I believe all of you are answering yes to the 2nd question.  You realize that our fulfillment and happiness lies in being able to do what God our creator asks of us, and not in pleasing ourselves.  This is real freedom.  The true definition of Freedom is to be able to be all God intended us to be.  “Freedom is not doing what we want, but doing what we ought” (to quote Blessed Pope John Paul II).  To say it in a slightly different way, our own desires enslave us, so true freedom is only found with God.  Without freedom, we cannot choose God, we cannot choose life or love.
One of the greatest examples of that true freedom is found in the story of Abraham.  Being the father of 5, there have been many, many times when I’ve had to fight the urge to kill one of my children (only kidding of course…).  In all seriousness, my children are a blessing, a true gift from God and I treasure them dearly, along with their Mother.  There is nothing more important to me in this world than my family.  Whether you are a parent or not, there is someone in this world that I am sure is or was very near and dear to you.  I know you, as I, would offer ourselves in their place if the threat of harm came to any of them.  I really wonder how any of us would do if we were faced with the same trial as Abraham.  Could we willingly sacrifice someone who is so precious to us?  The lesson here is that Abraham, freely acted in the trust of the one true God, and did not withhold his only Son from God, the Son who meant more to him than anything else in the world, as Isaac was Abraham’s future.  Abraham could’ve tried to make a deal with God, “OK, God, well Isaac, uh, I’d rather keep him, he is the Son you promised me and all, how about we go with 10 sheep and 2 lambs, or maybe some doves and a calf instead?”  No, without even questioning God’s command, Abraham, in love with God through his true freedom, was able to understand that God held the keys to his fulfillment and happiness and trusted everything to Him.
St. Paul reinforces this lesson in his letter to the Romans.  St. Paul demonstrates to us that the story of Abraham was really a typology (or foreshadowing) of God giving up His most precious Son for our sake.  In true love and freedom, God does not keep anything from us as through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, we share entirely in the Heavenly Kingdom right here and now.  And if we have God, what else do we need?
The culmination of freedom is found in the Transfiguration.  God calls us all to be transfigured.  Our freedom to choose is the basis for our transfiguration.  Transfiguration is really what Lent is all about.  Lent is the time for us to be honest with ourselves about who we are, how we are living, what is enslaving us and preventing from experiencing God’s love in true freedom, and how we need to change (to be transfigured) in order for us to say yes to God’s plan and become whole, become Holy.  God reveals Jesus’ future glory, in fact OUR future glory in God, through the Transfiguration, a vision of heaven and how beautiful we can become.  Jesus appears with Moses and Elijah, the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah) to show that all things are fulfilled in Jesus.  But, Jesus also gives the Transfigured vision to the disciples so that they can peer into the future.  It is that vision that is supposed to carry the disciples through the immense suffering of the passion.  In the same way, Jesus gives us the Transfigured vision to carry us through our most difficult times.  Regardless of what happens here on earth, we can look to our eventual victory and glorified life in God in the Transfiguration.  God speaks in the Transfiguration saying that “This is my beloved Son”, which we recall from Jesus’ baptism, meaning that when we’re transfigured to our Heavenly form, we complete the action our baptism has begun.  God also tells us to “Listen to Him” because Jesus has the words of everlasting life and hope.  If we can trust in God completely, we will allow Him to transfigure us into the wonderful creature we were intended to be from the inside out.  If we trust God completely we can see through the world’s definition of freedom and know peace and fulfillment in our daily lives by our living in God’s freedom.  As we come forward together to the table of the Eucharist in a few minutes, I ask you to reflect and be thankful for the freedom we have to come and worship together and the freedom we have to be able to receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord together.  And as you receive Our Lord today, open your heart and let Jesus in to transfigure you into what God created you to be where you will find true freedom, happiness, peace, joy, and fulfillment. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Life as a deacon's wife (so far)

It's been almost eight months since my husband's ordination and while I think that it will be several years before I feel comfortable assessing what life is truly like as a spouse of a deacon, I've gained at least a partial perspective of what it's like being the significant other to a clergyman.

What I have been most surprised about is how well Deacon Joe has adapted to his role as a deacon. By that I don't mean that we have mastered scheduling. I don't think that will occur until sometime around the time of our three year old child's graduation...from college. But what I mean is how it seems that his gifts have matched almost perfectly with his assignment.

I always felt that Deacon Joe would be great working in men's ministry. Never during formation did he get the impression that he would end up in prison ministry, but that's where he is and it's been going extremely well. The men there really want to reform their lives and feel that someone cares about therm. His ministry is sparking interest within our own parish and community to serve the needs of those imprisoned. He also seems to be doing pretty well within the parish. He has a voice made for speaking and I can't count the number of times that someone has said that they like his voice or thought that his homilies were insightful.

We had gone through a rough patch for several months before his ordination because his job was eliminated. Wondering if he should proceed with ordination, he discussed it with his formation adviser and knew that the job setback would be minor. In fact, a month after ordination he found a new job for slightly less pay with very little travel and more fulfilling work. Amazing how it seems that everything in his life led up to this point in his life.

So what about me? This has been a major transition time for me. I think that the job insecurity stressed me and the uncertainty of what would happen jobwise and where he would be assigned weighed on me so much that when the dust cleared and everything was in place, I found myself numb. Coupling that with reigning back on my commitments so that my husband could focus on his ministry and picking up most of the domestic responsibilities, I felt like a new mother stuck at home with an infant thinking "what am I supposed to do?" Maybe the analogy isn't the greatest, but I'm not sure how to explain it. For many deacon's wives, they are older and their lives aren't marked by the daily demands of young children. I'm certainly not complaining, I believe that our family is giving witness to living out our faith but it has been a challenge to meet the demands of his diaconate ministry when older children need a car to get to work, I am begged to substitute teach a CCD class and someone needs to watch the little children at the same time.

So do I think more is expected of me now? Yes, but only that I give up my husband more. He's asked to attend more gatherings, meetings, and functions, and well, someone has to be home with the little ones so that falls on me. Once again, I'm not complaining, if anything his ministry actually seems less of a commitment than I expected. But sometimes I worry that my older children get stuck babysitting too much when I'm expected to also attend but so far they've been wonderful especially my 14 year old 'go to' babysitter. My children have remarked that they are often called the 'deacon's kids' and seem to be expected to know all the answers of a religious nature. I don't think that's a bad thing, it's allowed us to dialogue about a lot of subjects. Of course, as I've told my children, being the deacon's kids mean that they are being held to a higher standard. I have to tell myself the same thing all the time when someone cuts me off in traffic or I find myself about to yell at my boys in the grocery store. Chances are that someone there knows that I'm the deacon's wife and boy would I hate to hear someone say, 'did you hear what the deacon's wife said?!"

Which brings me to one last thing that I'm trying to get used to: people knowing me because of my husband but me not knowing them. They may not know my name, but they know who I am. I was a competition baton twirler in high school and back then I loved the limelight. I parlayed that into a career in public relations where I felt very comfortable speaking in front of people. But I admit that I'm not used to the attention that we receive within the parish. I really would rather blend into the background, I guess that's why where the children and I used to sit in the front of the church, now we sit close to the back.

So as I navigate through this unchartered area, I have a more heightened awareness of protestant minister's wives and what they go through. This is my husband's ministry, but it's mine too because I live it everyday. As time goes by, I hope that I can write more about my experiences. Although in the rest of the world, the average age of a deacon is significantly lower than in the United States, I think that in the future, we'll see younger deacons here and as a result younger and very probably larger families who have very different needs when there are young children involved.

So I look forward to sharing some of those experiences, but not now, Deacon Joe needs the computer to write a homily.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Emptying ourselves of the temporal

"My heart is restless until it rests in You"
-St. Augustine

The science community has done studies that shows that humans are "hard-wired' to believe in God'. While within that community, it can become an excuse to try to understand people's need for faith, I think that it speaks volumes about what humans have already known for thousands of years.

The fact is that we may be 'hard-wired' to need God, but certainly that is the way that we were created. God did put a longing in our hearts for Him that we won't fully understand in this lifetime. But in His love, he has also given us glimpses of that love by allowing us the ability to love others because we are made in His image. It is in that love of others that we can have a partial understanding of the love and unity that we desire in this lifetime.

Unfortunately so many of us have made either a conscious or unconscious decision to turn away from God and remain restless because in our yearning for God, we replace Him for something else. St. Thomas Aquinas said that there are four substitutes that humans turn to for fulfillment: wealth, pleasure, power, and honor. While in the short-term, these substitutes can be fulfilling, ultimately they are only substitutes for what we really long for. Eventually we will become unfulfilled with them and seek more of them to try to fulfill our restless hearts. Like a drug, these things promise great things, but only deliver an addiction that will never make us happy.

When we turn to God to fill our hearts, then these substitutes will have no power over us. While we may have those things in our lives, they will be used to give glory to God and we will recognize what they are. 

Our culture has propped these substitutes us and made them more important than anything else and certainly they can provide us with comfort and pleasure, but they are not infinite and will only last a short time. If we always put ourselves first above everything else, we will never be happy. But if we can detach ourselves from these things then we will be able to see God's will for us in life and will experience lasting peace. 

As we approach Lent, may we be able to empty ourselves of those things that hold us back from that loving union with God.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pope Paul VI's prophetic words

Over the years I have spent quite a bit of time in faith formation and faith sharing groups discussing Humanae Vitae. In a later post, I will chronicle my reversion story and how the Church's teaching on sexuality at first kept me at bay from fully embracing my faith, but eventually helped me to not only embrace my faith, but to share it with a passion as the teachings have helped me to understand the beauty of the creation of God and our ability to participate in that creation through our sexuality.

I can remember many discussions within those groups when we lamented how prophetic Pope Paul's words back in 1968 were. Many evils that he predicted would happen have come to fruition in a startling way. One only has to read part of that encyclical to realize that the Holy Spirit was truly speaking through the pope.

As I was reading blogs this morning I happened upon Crossed the Tiber who in rereading the encyclical stumbled upon more prophetic words.

Under Article 17, Consequences of Artificial Methods, Pope Paul writes:

"Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective?Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife."


It's been a couple of years since I read Humanae Vitae. I have to teach an RCIA class next week about Theology of the Body and NFP. Perhaps it would be a good time for me to revisit it.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Taxonomy of Sin

From Jennifer Hagy at Indexed, a humorous look at the seven deadly sins paired up with each other to create 21additional sins.

Friday, January 27, 2012

In a Funk

Lately I've been in sort of a funk. Just kind of surviving which isn't like me, I'm usually very busy with the family. But my mood is reminiscent of my college and post college years when I tended to get depressed, or at least blue, every January when it's cold outside and I don't feel like doing much of anything. 

Perhaps the weather has something to do with it or perhaps it runs deeper. I have two very active boys, ages five and three, and my thoughts are often not focused as I'm always concerned what they will break next or who they will disturb. Along with those thoughts has been my muddled prayer time which is spent something like this:

"Oh Lord, today I humbly come to you...."What was that? Where are the boys? Are they into something that they shoudn't be into? Okay, let's try that again. "Oh Lord..." "Okay, I'll get you lemonade in a minute" Let's try that again... 

I feel guilty about my lack of focus but several months ago, I read in Lessons from Saint Benedict, Finding Joy in Daily Life by Donald S. Raila:

What is important is that God is using the desolation to draw us closer to Him. He is telling us that, despite our best of intentions, we are not in control of our prayer and we must learn to trust more in Him. Rather than let the dryness discourage us, we should accept our prayer and ourselves as we are, and then just keep praying as best we can. Our prayer is none the worse when it is dry. In fact, to think that we should be doing “better” can be a subtle form of pride. To judge that my prayer is not acceptable to God when God Himself is ready to accept whatever I have to offer with good intention is to be more exacting than the Lord who loves me as I am. Therefore, we an, in a sense, be consoled in the midst of our desolation by realizing, in faith, that God is with us despite our feelings and is helping us to engage in battle against prideful despondency, which the Devil can use to get us to give up altogether. We must know that God is telling us, “Do not lose hope! I have not abandoned you! Your darkness is a share in My Son’s Cross, and through it you can grow in trust and love.

So even though my prayers are dry or disjointed, I shouldn't be as concerned. As long as I'm giving the best that I can and not letting pride get in the way, then I'm offering the best that I can. I just to keep remembering that.

Now, on to pray a family Rosary. Won't be a totally focused one, but at least I know that God knows my intent.

Bishop Zubik: "The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, “To Hell with you!”

Our beloved bishop is the dominant subject of the blogosphere and airwaves today as he blast the Obama Administration's HHS edict which will force Catholics to violate their consciences. 

But in the words of Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, "we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences." Isn't that nice of the Obama Administration to give us time to figure out how to alter our religious beliefs? Funny, I'm not hearing a peep from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Bishop Zubik's statement:

Decision unchanged on HHS exemptions

HHS Edict Will Force Catholics to Violate Conscience

‘To Hell With You’
By Bishop David A. Zubik
It is really hard to believe that it happened. It comes like a slap in the face. The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, “To Hell with you!” There is no other way to put it.
In early August, the Department for Health and Human Services in the Obama administration released guidelines as part of the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The guidelines mandated that by Summer 2012 all individual and group health insurance plans, including self-insured plans, cover all FDA-approved contraception, sterilization procedures and pharmaceuticals that even result in abortion.
 A million things are wrong with this: equating pregnancy with disease;  mandating that every employer pay for contraception procedures including alleged contraceptives that are actually abortion-inducing drugs; forcing American citizens to chose between violating their consciences or providing health care services; mandating such coverage on every individual woman without allowing her to even choose not to have it; forcing every person to pay for that coverage no matter the dictates of their conscience.
Let’s be blunt. This whole process of mandating these guidelines undermines the democratic process itself.  In this instance, the mandate declares pregnancy a disease, forces a culture of contraception and abortion on society, all while completely bypassing the legislative process.
This is government by fiat that attacks the rights of everyone – not only Catholics; not only people of all religion.  At no other time in memory or history has there been such a governmental intrusion on freedom not only with regard to religion, but even across-the-board with all citizens. It forces every employer to subsidize an ideology or pay a penalty while searching for alternatives to health care coverage. It undermines the whole concept and hope for health care reform by inextricably linking it to the zealotry of pro-abortion bureaucrats.        
For our Church this mandate would apply in virtually every instance where the Catholic Church serves as an employer. The mandate would require the Catholic Church as an employer to violate its fundamental beliefs concerning human life and human dignity by forcing Catholic entities to provide contraceptive, sterilization coverage and even pharmaceuticals that result in abortion.
There was a so-called “religious exemption” to the mandate, but it was so narrowly drawn that, as critics charged, Jesus Christ and his Apostles would not fit the exemption. The so-called exemption would only apply to the vast array of Catholic institutions where the following applied:
  • Only Catholics are employed;
  • The primary purpose of the institution or service provided is the direct instruction in Catholic belief;
  • The only persons served by the institution are those that share Catholic religious tenets. (Try to fit this in with our local Catholic Charities that serve 80,000 every year without discrimination according to faith. It would be impossible!)
Practically speaking under the proposed mandate there would be no “religious exemption” for Catholic hospitals universities, colleges, nursing homes and numerous Catholic social service agencies such as Catholic Charities. It could easily be determined that the “religious exemption” would not apply as well to Catholic high schools, elementary schools and Catholic parishes since many employ non-Catholics and serve both students and, through social outreach, many who do not share Catholic religious beliefs. Such a narrow “religious exemption” is simply unprecedented in federal law.
Last September I asked you to protest those guidelines to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, and contact your political leadership in the federal government. I asked that you request that this flawed mandate be withdrawn because of its unprecedented interference in the religious liberty and freedom of conscience of the Catholic community, and our basic democratic process.
You did. And you were joined by Catholics throughout the country (and many others as well) who raised their voices against the mandate, raised their voices against a meaningless religious exemption.
On January 20, 2012, the Obama administration answered you and me. The response was very simple: “To Hell with You.”
Kathleen Sebelius announced that the mandate would not be withdrawn and the religious exemption would not be expanded. Instead, she stated that nonprofit groups – which include the Catholic Church – will get a year “to adapt to this new rule.” She simply dismissed Catholic concerns as standing in the way of allegedly respecting the health concerns and choices of women.
Could Catholics be insulted any more, suggesting that we have no concern for women’s health issues? The Catholic Church and the Catholic people have erected health care facilities that are recognized worldwide for their compassionate care for everyone regardless of their creed, their economic circumstances and, most certainly, their gender. In so many parts of the globe – the United States included – the Church is health care.    
 Kathleen Sebelius and through her, the Obama administration, have said “To Hell with You” to the Catholic faithful of the United States.
  • To Hell with your religious beliefs,
  • To Hell with your religious liberty,
  • To Hell with your freedom of conscience.
We’ll give you a year, they are saying, and then you have to knuckle under. As Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops responded, “in effect, the president is saying that we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”
As I wrote to you last September, with this mandate the democratic process is being ignored while we are being ordered to ignore our religious beliefs. And we are being told not only to violate our beliefs, but to pay directly for that violation; to subsidize the imposition of a contraceptive and abortion culture on every person in the United States.
It is time to go back to work. They have given us a year to adapt to this rule.  We can’t! We simply cannot!
Write to the president.
Write to Secretary Sebelius.
Write to our Senators.
Write to those in Congress.
I have included the addresses in a box accompanying this article. Here’s what you can write:
"Dear (Representative):
“In early August, the Department for Health and Human Services released guidelines that would force Catholic institutions to subsidize through their health care plans contraception, sterilization procedures and pharmaceuticals that even result in abortion.
“It was announced on January 20thby Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, that this mandate is affirmed and that non-profit institutions, including the Catholic Church, have one year to adapt to the mandate.
“This is a direct threat to the religious liberty of Catholics, freedom of conscience and the social service ministry of the Catholic Church. The so-called ‘religious exemption’ in the mandate is no exemption at all as it would require any Catholic institution (that serves non-Catholics or employs non-Catholics) to violate Catholic belief, discontinue to provide health care, or close its doors.
“I ask that you do all possible to rescind the ‘Preventive Service Mandate’ as an unprecedented federal interference in the right of Catholics to serve their community without violating their fundamental moral beliefs.”  
This mandate can be changed by Congressional pressure. The only way that action will happen is if you and I take action.
Let them know that you and I will not allow ourselves to be pushed around (or worse yet) be dismissed because of our Catholic faith.
Let them know that you and I will not allow our religious freedom to be compromised.  
Let them know that you and I will not allow our religious liberty to be rescinded.           
Nobody, not even the president of the United States or anyone who represents him, has the right to say to you and to me as U.S. citizens, as Catholics, or as both: “To Hell with You.”
The president and our elected leaders need to hear from you and me and to listen to us NOW.
And if NOT now, HOW can we get the president to listen to us???  

Contact your political leaders

President Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20500 (202-456-1111).
U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, 332 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-2565), D-PA District 4.
U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, 1022 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-2065), D-PA District 12.
U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, 401 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-2135), D-PA District 14.
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, 515 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-5406), R-PA District 3.
U.S. Rep. Timothy Murphy, 322 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-2301), R-PA District 18.
U.S. Sen. Robert Casey Jr., 393 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (202-224-6324), D-PA.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Toomey, 502 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (202-224-4254), R-PA.