Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Stuck In My Brain

I can't seem to shake an idea that lodged in my brain from the 25th Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.  It is the parable of the 10 virgins -- 5 wise and 5 foolish -- waiting for the return of the bridegroom.  The wise were prepared for a potential delay in his return.  They brought extra provisions.  Specifically noted is the oil for their lamps.  The foolish were unprepared, ran out of oil, and ended up out in the dark.

As a child in I learned a little ditty in CCD:
"Jesus bids us shine with a pure clear light,
Like a little candle, burning in the night.
In this world of darkness, so we must shine.
You in your small corner, and I in mine. "

I get the details.  I understand the application.  What haunts me is that all 10 fell asleep.  The foolish and the wise were not able to stay awake until the bridegroom's return.  Of course, the parable is not referencing the natural sleep that the human body requires.  If the bridegroom was long delayed (days? weeks? longer?) there is no choice but to sleep.  Parables, however, always point to something beyond the literal meaning.  Thus, I would gather that their slumber was a reference to some human aspect (original sin?  weakness? ) in their spiritual lives.  The saving difference was the preparedness of the wise for a potential delay.


Something about that Biblical statement is very compelling to me.  If it were not for the midnight cry, all 10 may have missed the bridegroom, whether they were well oiled or not.
And all 10 woke up.  No one slept through the event.  Yet five foolish flameless females failed.  While wise willful women went with wicks well-oiled to the wedding.

I would have ruined the parable.  I would have shared my oil.  After all, there have been many times that i have been a bit foolish.  I am not always a good steward.  I sometimes waist food, resources, time, energy and opportunities.  And if we all shared, maybe, just maybe there might have been enough for all 10 to be able to greet the bridegroom.  After all, he was on the horizon when the clarion call came at midnight.  How much oil did the wise guys really need at that point?

I digress!

I am concerned that we Catholics have fallen asleep, the wise and the foolish.  The bridegroom is coming, but only God knows when.  Some will be wise and prepared.  Their souls will be in a state of Grace.  I know that is the primary point of the Gospel passage.  Be ready.  And yet...

And yet...  there are so many souls not ready:
People, heavy and loaded down with the trials of life...People who do not know the Good News about God's Love in Jesus Christ...People who have been duped...People who have given in...People who have given up...People bent over by burdens terribly unknown and unspeakable...People...SOULS.  
We sleep.  Others starve.  We sleep.  Children are sold into protistution.  We sleep.  Women are battered.  We sleep.  Men, women and children die violent deaths because someone has the bombs, chemicals and machines of war to enforce their borders or force their beliefs on others.  We sleep.  We sleep.  When we wake for short periods or long, it is to secure our lamps, trim our own wicks and too bad about the others.  They should have prepared.


We thought the world was better.  We thought human dignity was respected.  We thought we were peacefully coexisting.  After all, it is the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius, we once gleefully sang.  And all the while the bombs were falling:  bombs of war, bombs of abortion, bombs of sin, bombs of selfishness, bombs of tyrants, bombs of megalomaniacs, bombs of pollution, bombs of bigotry, bombs of hatred, bombs of terrorists, bombs of apathy, bombs of lies and falsehoods, bombs of racism, bombs of ignorance, bombs of slavery.

We thought, so we slept.  Not so wise after all...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Systematic Discrimination Against the Catholic Church

I have been warning my parishioners and friends about this eventuality for decades.  Some thought I was a bit nuts, especially early on.  "It could never happen in America" was their gut reaction.  Alas, it is already beginning.  Please take time to read these excerpts from a speech given by Archbishop Chaput.

(personal editorial comment:  Please note that the archbishop refers to ISLAMISTS not people of the Muslim faith. )

"Systematic Discrimination Against Church Now Seems Inevitable"
Thursday, August 26, 2010
By Archbishop Charles Chaput  - LifeSiteNews.com
Excerpts from Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput's address to the 15th symposium for the Canon Law Association of Slovakia on Tuesday:

Today's secularizers have learned from the past. They are more adroit in their bigotry; more elegant in their public relations; more intelligent in their work to exclude the Church and individual believers from influencing the moral life of society. Over the next several decades, Christianity will become a faith that can speak in the public square less and less freely. A society where faith is prevented from vigorous public expression is a society that has fashioned the state into an idol. And when the state becomes an idol, men and women become the sacrificial offering.

We face an aggressively secular political vision and a consumerist economic model that result - in practice, if not in explicit intent -- in a new kind of state-encouraged atheism.

To put it another way: The Enlightenment-derived worldview that gave rise to the great murder ideologies of the last century remains very much alive. Its language is softer, its intentions seem kinder, and its face is friendlier. But its underlying impulse hasn't changed -- i.e., the dream of building a society apart from God; a world where men and women might live wholly sufficient unto themselves, satisfying their needs and desires through their own ingenuity.

This vision presumes a frankly "post-Christian" world ruled by rationality, technology and good social engineering. Religion has a place in this worldview, but only as an individual lifestyle accessory. People are free to worship and believe whatever they want, so long as they keep their beliefs to themselves and do not presume to intrude their religious idiosyncrasies on the workings of government, the economy, or culture.

Now, at first hearing, this might sound like a reasonable way to organize a modern society that includes a wide range of ethnic, religious and cultural traditions, different philosophies of life and approaches to living.

... how does the rhetoric of enlightened, secular tolerance square with the actual experience of faithful Catholics in Europe and North America in recent years?

In the United States, a nation that is still 80 percent Christian with a high degree of religious practice, government agencies now increasingly seek to dictate how Church ministries should operate, and to force them into practices that would destroy their Catholic identity. Efforts have been made to discourage or criminalize the expression of certain Catholic beliefs as "hate speech." Our courts and legislatures now routinely take actions that undermine marriage and family life, and seek to scrub our public life of Christian symbolism and signs of influence.

In Europe, we see similar trends, although marked by a more open contempt for Christianity. Church leaders have been reviled in the media and even in the courts for simply expressing Catholic teaching.

The West is now steadily moving in the direction of that new "inhuman humanism." And if the Church is to respond faithfully, we need to draw upon the lessons that your Churches learned under totalitarianism.

A Catholicism of resistance must be based on trust in Christ's words: "The truth will make you free."

Living within the truth means living according to Jesus Christ and God's Word in Sacred Scripture. It means proclaiming the truth of the Christian Gospel, not only by our words but by our example. It means living every day and every moment from the unshakable conviction that God lives, and that his love is the motive force of human history and the engine of every authentic human life. It means believing that the truths of the Creed are worth suffering and dying for.

Living within the truth also means telling the truth and calling things by their right names. And that means exposing the lies by which some men try to force others to live.

Our societies in the West are Christian by birth, and their survival depends on the endurance of Christian values. Our core principles and political institutions are based, in large measure, on the morality of the Gospel and the Christian vision of man and government. We are talking here not only about Christian theology or religious ideas. We are talking about the moorings of our societies -- representative government and the separation of powers; freedom of religion and conscience; and most importantly, the dignity of the human person.

...we cannot dispense with our history out of some superficial concern over offending our non-Christian neighbors. Notwithstanding the chatter of the "new atheists," there is no risk that Christianity will ever be forced upon people anywhere in the West. The only "confessional states" in the world today are those ruled by Islamist or atheist dictatorships -- regimes that have rejected the Christian West's belief in individual rights and the balance of powers.

I would argue that the defense of Western ideals is the only protection that we and our neighbors have against a descent into new forms of repression -- whether it might be at the hands of extremist Islam or secularist technocrats.

Relativism is now the civil religion and public philosophy of the West.

In practice, however, we see that without a belief in fixed moral principles and transcendent truths, our political institutions and language become instruments in the service of a new barbarism. In the name of tolerance we come to tolerate the cruelest intolerance; respect for other cultures comes to dictate disparagement of our own; the teaching of "live and let live" justifies the strong living at the expense of the weak.

This diagnosis helps us understand one of the foundational injustices in the West today -- the crime of abortion.

I realize that the abortion license is a matter of current law in almost every nation in the West. In some cases, this license reflects the will of the majority and is enforced through legal and democratic means. And I'm aware that many people, even in the Church, find it strange that we Catholics in America still make the sanctity of unborn life so central to our public witness.

Let me tell you why I believe abortion is the crucial issue of our age.

First, because abortion, too, is about living within the truth. The right to life is the foundation of every other human right. If that right is not inviolate, then no right can be guaranteed.

Or to put it more bluntly: Homicide is homicide, no matter how small the victim.

Here's another truth that many persons in the Church have not yet fully reckoned: The defense of newborn and preborn life has been a central element of Catholic identity since the Apostolic Age.

I'll say that again: From the earliest days of the Church, to be Catholic has meant refusing in any way to participate in the crime of abortion -- either by seeking an abortion, performing one, or making this crime possible through actions or inactions in the political or judicial realm. More than that, being Catholic has meant crying out against all that offends the sanctity and dignity of life as it has been revealed by Jesus Christ.

My point in mentioning abortion is this: Its widespread acceptance in the West shows us that without a grounding in God or a higher truth, our democratic institutions can very easily become weapons against our own human dignity.

Our most cherished values cannot be defended by reason alone, or simply for their own sake. They have no self-sustaining or "internal" justification.

There is no inherently logical or utilitarian reason why society should respect the rights of the human person. There is even less reason for recognizing the rights of those whose lives impose burdens on others, as is the case with the child in the womb, the terminally ill, or the physically or mentally disabled.

If human rights do not come from God, then they devolve to the arbitrary conventions of men and women. The state exists to defend the rights of man and to promote his flourishing. The state can never be the source of those rights. When the state arrogates to itself that power, even a democracy can become totalitarian.

What is legalized abortion but a form of intimate violence that clothes itself in democracy? The will to power of the strong is given the force of law to kill the weak.

That is where we are heading in the West today.

I suggested earlier that the Church's religious liberty is under assault today in ways not seen since the Nazi and Communist eras. I believe we are now in the position to better understand why.

Writing in the 1960s, Richard Weaver, an American scholar and social philosopher, said: "I am absolutely convinced that relativism must eventually lead to a regime of force."

He was right. There is a kind of "inner logic" that leads relativism to repression.

This explains the paradox of how Western societies can preach tolerance and diversity while aggressively undermining and penalizing Catholic life. The dogma of tolerance cannot tolerate the Church's belief that some ideas and behaviors should not be tolerated because they dehumanize us. The dogma that all truths are relative cannot allow the thought that some truths might not be.

The Catholic beliefs that most deeply irritate the orthodoxies of the West are those concerning abortion, sexuality and the marriage of man and woman. This is no accident. These Christian beliefs express the truth about human fertility, meaning and destiny.

These truths are subversive in a world that would have us believe that God is not necessary and that human life has no inherent nature or purpose. Thus the Church must be punished because, despite all the sins and weaknesses of her people, she is still the bride of Jesus Christ; still a source of beauty, meaning and hope that refuses to die -- and still the most compelling and dangerous heretic of the world's new order.

Text of full 12 page talk by Archbishop Chaput is available at http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/4396.

Friday, August 27, 2010

An Extraordinary Experience

I had a really profound experience during this morning's Mass at the consecration. When I pronounced the words over the chalice an image appeared in the precious blood. I looked closely and at first it was our Lord in His traditional garb. Then the face changed, which caught me a bit by surprise when I noticed the "movement". To my great surprise it was my face! 

I was wearing the Lord's garments, which then changed into the very chasuble I was wearing at that Mass. I would have thought it was a reflection in the liquid accident of the wine, except it was my full vested body. The Chalice was positioned so that only my face should have been reflected. 
Then I received an interior locution telling me that the Lord is giving me a "special share in His Priesthood of Sacrifice".

This all happened so quickly that I'm sure the only thing noticeable to the congregation was that I was moving a bit more slowly. I lingered only a second or two after the locution and then elevated the cup. I then refocused as I genuflected and continued Mass with a profound sense of joy and sadness completely unlike my usual experiences of happiness and depression.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sponge Bob needs to pray the Rosary! --or-- It Is Time to Face Our Fears!

StromkastenAlsSpongebobImage via Wikipedia
I was watching Sponge Bob on TV today.  Yes!  It's my day off and it is raining.  I couldn't cut the grass even though it is almost as tall as a cornstalk.  Well, maybe not that tall, but my dog won't even try to go to the "potty" out there.  Haha!  So I just relaxed in my living room, caught up on some correspondence, and watched Sponge Bob.

I learned alot today.  First of all I learned that I do not really like most modern cartoons. They are way too noisy, violent and nonsensical for me.   From the vantage point of a rapidly aging middle-ager they don't even come close to the quality of "my" cartoons:  Bugs Bunny and company, Aesop's Fables, The Road Runner, Yogi, Ouick Draw McDraw, Underdog, Popeye, Pepe LePew, Tweety Bird, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Bullwinkle... I could go on and on.  There have been a few animated feature films that were very good.

I watched cartoons well into my college years and even wrote a paper for one of my special education courses on the types of speech impediments the various characters had.  Poor Elmer couldn't say his "r's".  Sylvester had a lisp.  Daffy had a lateral lisp, and I suspect he was dyslexic.

The only modern cartoon I have enjoyed in recent years was Pinky and the Brain.  Though I did have a reserved fondness for Josey and the Pussycats on Scooby Doo.  None of the current adult oriented animations like Family Guy or South Park qualify as cartoons in the classic sense.

I think I got side tracked a bit, there.

At one point in the Sponge Bob Squarepants episode he said,
 "I don't want to face my fears because I am afraid of them."

What a profound and revealing statement, not only about Sponge Bob but also about human tendencies in general.

Fear is a tricky little goblin.  We have an experience or are taught by the experience of others to be wary about certain things.  My mother almost drowned when she was a teenager and had a fear of water all her life.  She passed that fear onto my sister who never even came close to drowning but will still not go into water above her waist.  My dad fell off a roof one time and almost died.  To this day I get queasy when I near the edge of a tall building.  When I was around 5 I saw the movie Psycho.  I was afraid to shower all my childhood.  A loud noise when I am showering can still make me nearly jump out of the shower and scream like a sissy.  Well, most of us have developed a few fears along the way.
Thankfully, many of us have gotten over many of our fears, or at least we are able to manage them.

The thing about Sponge Bob's statement that caught my attention was that he admitted that he was afraid of his fears.  Phobias are crippling because just the thought of having to endure certain situations or things can emotionally paralyze a person. We become afraid of our fears.  This new fear is often even stronger than the original fear of water, spiders, snakes, closed places, heights, darkness, etc.  Ask anyone who experiences panic attacks.  They fear the panic attack and the sense of helplessness as much as they fear the trigger of the attacks.  Depression, shame, isolation, self-disgust, loss of faith and even suicide or suicidal thoughts are common to those who have panic attacks.  What if I have another one?  Will it ever stop this time?  People will really think I am strange!

What is the answer to this problem?  I would suggest a good psychologist who is trained in treating panic disorders.  They have many tried and true methods which help people live a normal life.

Beyond that, do some positive mental work on yourself.  If you start to feel anxious remind yourself of several things:

  • this is just a panic or anxiety attack -- say this quickly and repeatedly for a minute or two.  
  • many people, even successful and spiritual people have them
  • it does not mean you have done something wrong: it is not punishment for some real or imagined sin.
  • they do not last forever
  • they are not life threatening even though it feels like your heart may stop at any moment
  • Breath deeply and slowly as much as you can
  • God is there with you

I would also suggest praying the Rosary.  As I often say, "There's power in them there beads."!  Take it all to Jesus through Mary.  Let the repetitive praises and meditation calm you.  It puts your life in a much larger, safer, healthier, holier perspective.  The Rosary is the second most powerful prayer that God has revealed to us because it involves meditation, contemplation, Sacred Scripture, the saving life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the communion of saints, and all the basic beliefs familiar to all Christians.  Plus, for Catholics we should remind ourselves that the beads themselves are sacramentals, and the recitation of the Most Holy Rosary is the most indulgenced sacramental in the Catholic Church.  Some fears are primarily psychological.  Some are primarily spiritual or attacks by the evil one.  Some are a combination.  The Rosary address all of them.

How do I know all this stuff I have written today?  I am a cartoon aficionado, hence a self-proclaimed expert on the genre!  *joking, there!*  Actually, I do suffer from frequent anxiety attacks and the resulting effects.  I use the techniques I mentioned.  I cling prayerfully and hopefully to my Rosary.  And though I am a bit wacky, probably from all that cartoon watching, I am a joyful and grateful priest who is in Love with the Lord, His Mother and His Church.

Bdee, Bdee, Bdee....  That's all folks!

...for now ;-)

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Pleasantries: Radishes and the Angelus

I had a most enjoyable dinner this evening at the home of my parishioners, Bob and Mary.  The conversation was relaxed and casual.  The food was divine (and healthy!).  We had vegetable lasagna and salad. Yummy.  The salad had radishes in it.  I really enjoy radishes, but I seldom if ever cut them up in my salads at home.  Why?  Who knows.  Perhaps because I am too lazy, or perhaps because I never think to buy them.  Regardless of the reason, having radishes at Bob and Mary's is one of those pleasantries to which I always look forward. 

My mom loved radishes.  She stopped eating them when she died.  My granny loves radishes but had to stop eating them when she lost all her teeth.  She won't let me buy her dentures. "A 94's year old lady doesn't need to waste money on teeth," she tells me.  She also told me that she quit her job today.  Too cute.  She is feisty, but she has dementia.

So I chew radishes for my mom and my grandmother.  The red reminds me of the Precious Blood.  The white interior reminds me that our sins though as scarlet are as white as snow or radishes.  Crunching on them reminds me to be thankful for my teeth!  

I love going to eat with these friends for the conversation, the radishes, the healthy food and the grace of a friendship that has built over the last 16 years.  There is one more reason I love going there.  We always pray the Angelus together before we eat.  I love the Angelus.  I even set my I-Phone to remind me to pray the Angelus at noon and six.  

I don't think many people remember the Angelus.  It goes like this:

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary: 

And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of 
our death.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
       Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary . . .

And the Word was made Flesh:
       And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary . . .

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
       that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.


Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, 
Thy grace into our hearts that we, 
to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, 
was made known by the message of an angel, 
may by His Passion and Cross 
be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, 
through the same Christ Our Lord.

In the Name of the Father… Amen.

"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Lk 1:28). 

 "Blessed are you among women,
 and blessed is the fruit of your womb"  (Lk 1:42). 

Rosary Meditation

Rosary Meditation

As I prayed the third Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, I experienced a series of consolations that flickered through my mind’s eye.  As a candle casts its glow, consuming the shadow that attempts to overcome, these graces came to me. Each flicker expressed an attribute of God’s revealed nature.  It was like a warm summer night when fireflies briefly illuminate their surroundings. 

There was a flicker in which I viewed the Lord breathing on a young man who was being baptized.  Another nearby flicker revealed our Lady standing over a grieving little girl.  There was a series of flickers which filled the screen of my imagination, each one showing me the face of a saint:  S. Jean Vianney,  S. Faustina, S. Peter, S. Augustine, S. Aquinas, S. Francis, S. Joseph, S. Philomena, S. Michael, S. Gabriel, S. Miguel Pro, S. Therese, S. Jerome, and many others whose faces I know from holy cards, but their names escape me now. 

When this series of flashes subsided, I felt their abiding presence.  Lonliness was, for a brief moment, suspended.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Knock, Knock. Who's there?

Last weekend our Pastor, Fr. Oz, wrote beautifully about Mary being the Working Mother.  I had never thought of it in those exact terms, but it blessed the socks off this theology encrusted priest.  All week it was like a fresh air was blowing, and each task became a participation in our Working Mother's Apostolate.  Thanks Fr. Oz!

So... when I read this weeks Gospel from Luke 22, I had to laugh when I came to verse 25, "You will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door."  The story concludes with the person gaining access because he or she kept on knocking.  What working mother or father has not had the experience of their persistent little angle finally wearing them down?  Or how many times have we working uncles, aunts, siblings and family friends tried to ignore the apple of our eyes when they start out with, "Knock, knock"?  Of course, I am a big kid, so I am ever hopeful that I will hear a new one, so I always bite.  Who's there...a kid with a million of 'em and there goes 20 to 30 minutes of life.  The lesson is for persistence in prayer and perseverance in faith as Jesus describes in Luke 22.  Eventually your knocking will be rewarded.

There is one knock knock that caught me by surprise.  One day a clever urchin said to me, "Say Knock, Knock."  So I did.  When the reply, "Who's there" came I found myself uncharacteristically without a reply. I laughed till the tears and bubbles came because I am so seldom dumbfounded.  That evening when I was praying I felt a gentle Knock, Knock on my heart.  It was Jesus.  This time I did not put off letting Him in.  Sometimes it takes several knocks or even being knocked down before God gets my attention.  I get so busy with my own thoughts, activities and even Church work that I don't hear His gentle rapping.   I immediately opened the door to my heart, soul and mind.  We had a wonderful time that evening.  He brought with Him the Holy Spirit, His Father and His Blessed Mother.  What a beautiful evening of prayer that was.  Stick to it on your end and open quickly when He knocks, even if it is a pesky neighbor or an urchin with a joke.  You will be glad you did -- love, Fr. Mike

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Scripture says: The angel was sent to a virgin. For she was truly virgin in body, virgin in mind, a virgin by her special calling, sanctified, as the Apostle reminds us, in both mind and body. This came about by no unforeseen or accidental occurrence; she was chosen from eternity, foreknown and prepared by the Most High for himself, guarded by the angels, prefigured by the patriarchs, and promised by the prophets.
These are the words of St. Bernard.  He expresses what the earliest Church understood about Mary.  I challenge you to read the Old Testament with an eye to the New Testament.  Some Scripture scholars will tell you that you should read the OT as a separate body of literature without reference to the New Testament.  The Church Fathers and Saints throughout history have always illustrated how the Old is fulfilled in the New.

From the standpoint of literature, they can be read separately, of course.  Form the viewpoint of Revelation, they must be read as an organic whole.  The old is the seed, the new the sprout and fruit.  The old is the rhizome, and the new is the beautiful lily.  The old is the promise, and the new is the fulfillment of that promise.  

The images of the Old Testament can be seen as a treasure of "clues" and prefigurements of the New Covenant.  Eve disobeyed; Mary obeyed.  Adam brought sin and death: Jesus brought forgiveness and eternal life.  Ruth prefigured the faithfulness of Mary.  These are just a few.  Go Old Testament mining to find your own golden nuggets.

I would love it if you would share your discoveries with me!  Thanks and God Bless You.

O Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Sacramental Goodies

I just had a great phone call from one of my friends.  He was calling to make an appointment for confession.  Of course first, we had to discuss all the issues that challenge us as a church these days.  He had a ton of questions about the new Roman Missal.  He brought me up to date about the latest family news.  We even talked about how beautiful Maureen O'Hara was.  She is still living in Ireland according to my friend.  I wanted to watch NCIS, but people are always more important and entertaining than television.

So all the problems solved, we got around to the appointment for confession.  My friend introduced the issue by saying, "Father, we have to set a time for a beer and the Sacrament."
Of course I about spit out my teeth, laughing (and I don't wear dentures)!  Beer and the Sacrament is like having Doritos with Shrimp Cocktail and Campaign.  You could do it, but... Yuck!

But maybe I could start offering ice cream sundaes, gourmet coffee or Belgium chocolates with confession.  I have had a wonderful evening with a friend or some parishioners over a glass of ice tea lead to a request to go to confession.  It is like icing on the cake.  Mint in the tea.  Baileys in the coffee.  ETC.

I wonder if it would increase the numbers of genuine penitents.  Would it put people at ease, or would they just come for the goodies?  Until I figure that all out, I will continue to preach about the Sacrament of Confession.  I will continue to make myself available to anyone at any time they are ready to confess.  I will pray that God will move people to repentance.  And I will pray that God gives me the grace to be a good and holy Confessor.

Oh, and by the way, I will continue to go to confession regularly because God Knows I need His mercy and forgiveness.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lots For Sale

I had Mass this weekend in a neighboring parish so the Pastor could fulfill his duty in the National Guard.  As I was driving home I saw painted on a plywood sign "Lots for Sale".

Lots of what?  There's lots of stuff for sale.  I often buy stuff I don't need.  If it's for sale, somebody must want it.  I guess I better buy one.

It is not just the stuff that is the problem.  The real problem is what many people think "lots" of stuff might bring them:
 All this and more can be had if you only have the the right toothpaste, stocks, collectibles. Lots of stuff promise the good life: insurance, electronics, cable tv, your car, your house.

Now, I don't think any of these things are necessarily bad.  Lots for sale is just lots of stuff.  Security, love, success, etc., are basic human desires.  However, there is a catch with the "purchase" of these "lots".  The fulfillment of the desires they promise are only temporary and/or illusory at best.  As soon as they break, wear out, get lost or are stolen, one must shop for a replacement.  And there is always a new and improved alternative that we simply "must" have lest we loose the promises.  Each new acquisition only leaves us wanting for more, better, bigger, best.  Materialism in all its manifestations eventually leaves a person feeling empty and hopeless.

As if that isn't bad enough, there is the darker side of life with lots for sale.  Lots of drugs and sex.  Lots of false religions and philosophies.  Lots of mind degrading and soul destroying activities.  Lots of evil.  Lots of stuff I don't even want to know about are for sale: abortion and other forms of murder, satanic "black" masses, gang life, drugs. Lots of people "sell" or promote hatred, bigotry, lies, violence and immorality of unthinkable degrees in favor of personal "freedom".   Many of these Lots for Sale enslave people through dependency, addiction and desire.

The greatest tragedy of all these Lots for Sale is that whether it is the normal stuff or the darker stuff, there is the danger of loosing one's soul.  Stuff and desires can become gods or idols.  Of course, the darker Lots for Sale are objectively sinful.  The hell which begins when you buy into these things can very well result in eternal damnation.

Lots for Sale...  be careful what you buy.  

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Assumption of Mary--A Feast of Logic, Vision and Devotion

I have had a devotion to our Blessed Mother all my life.  I remember sitting in my Nona's lap while she prayed the Holy Rosary in Italian.  I prayed the Hail Mary partly in Italian, partly in English and partly in "toddler".  After she died when I was 6 years old, I would pray the Rosary every night until I went to college and fell into heresy.  I never told my parents for two reasons.  One was that I was "a nervous child who needed extra sleep."  So I would be dispatched to my room as soon as "Laugh In" was over.  It was strictly lights out, door open and no fooling around.  I couldn't get away with reading a book, not even a prayer book.  I tried.  But the Rosary was always waiting for me under my pillow.  

The other reason I never told them was because they had a problem with anyone who was "too religious."  So for the next thirteen years I prayed the Rosary every night in secret.  Whatever fears I had as a youngster or concerns as a teenager I would give to Jesus as I "prayed the beads."  Mary even taught me how to avoid nightmares through prayer.

Then I went to college, left the Catholic Church, blah blah blah...

Several years after college I found my Rosary beads from my 1st Holy Communion in a box of "collectibles".  I immediately had a desire to pray the Rosary.  All my misplaced concerns about taking away from Jesus were instantly gone.  The only problem was that I couldn't remember the Creed, the Mysteries or the Hail Mary.  It was a long 6 years since I had last done so.   I tried to will myself to remember, but after working up a sweat, feeling like a complete failure and a total pagan I called my friend, Birdie.  She always prayed the Rosary.  She refreshed my mind, and it was like riding a bike again!  I felt young, alive, happy and even a bit holy.

Within a few months I was in seminary where I once again had to pray the Rosary clandestinely with 5 or 6 other brave souls.  Had we been "caught" we would have been labeled as too pious.  This is not just speculation.  One of the men in the seminary was dismissed because he was too pious and too conservative.  For the five years of my formation in seminary we would sneak down to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel several nights a week to pray the Rosary together.  We knew no one would catch us there, as we visited Jesus in exile.

What a sweet and life-giving gift a devotion to the Rosary has been for me from those early days and throughout the 25 years of my priesthood.  

The Feast of the Assumption is not only a part of this devotion, but it is also the source of vision and hope.  I read the Book of Revelation and find there our Mother, crowned with Stars.  The vision She offers is one of  sharing in the Power of Her Son's resurrection.  With glorious apocalyptic images we see a world of hopes which surpasses human imagination.  

We witness that moment when the promises of Christ become real, first for Mary and eventually for all the faithful.  We can come to understand as we meditate upon the Assumption the eternal results of Her fiat and the necessity of our complete discipleship to Christ and His Church.  

The Assumption is more than a painting, and opinion or a Holy Card.  It is a vision and REALIZATION of what is in store for the family of Christ.  Mary herself is a prime example of the lowly raised to high places: a poor and simple girl, a virgin from an insignificant part of the world, raised to the status of Mother of God, and today raised body and soul to the glory of heaven.

“Let the entire body of the faithful pour forth persevering prayer to the Mother of God and Mother of men. Let them implore that she who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers may now, exalted as she is in heaven above all the saints and angels, intercede with her Son in the fellowship of all the saints.” Vatican II Document, "Constitution on the Church"

Finally, it is just logical.   Death is the result of sin.  Our Savior's Mother was preserved from the stain of original sin. She was, as the Scriptures attest, "Full of Grace"!  Logic dictates that She would not, then, suffer the decay of death caused by sin.   

Logic. Vision. Devotion.  Our Catholic Faith has it all!

Ok... enough reflection for me at this time.  I gotta go pray my Rosary.  Make that, I can't wait to spend time with Jesus and Mary as I pray the Rosary!

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blinded by the Light

I have a mild case of night blindness. It makes driving at night a bit difficult, but I have gotten used to it through the years.  I don't let my friends know because they get really nervous when they ride with me.  I can see well enough that my driving is not restricted, but I do have to be extra cautious.

Night blindness is not a big deal for me.  It is the "day blindness" that causes me concern.  In the full light of day I am often blind to my surroundings.  I have walked right past searching hearts and smiling faces without notice.  I miss seeing blessings, beauty, opportunities and even Angels.

Lately, I have been experiencing a different kind of blindness.  I look at the world and my life and can't see how to reconcile this "valley of tears" with the Glory of God.  I know the answer, but I can't see it.  I see God's love and power everywhere, but I don't see my Mom and others who have died and gone on.  I see Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, yet I can't seem to be able to see Him in my sin encrusted heart.

I guess I am just rambling.  This too shall pass.  For now, I am going to let Jesus and the Blessed Mother do the seeing for me.  And you can bet your bottom dollar that I am holding on tight to their hands as I journey along.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Seeing the World Through Catholic Eyes

OK... so I am a little (a lot?) goofy.  But I have this little game that I often play.  I try to let the things of ordinary, every day life remind me of something Catholic.  It is like making all the good in the world a sacramental!

Here are a few of the sacrament sightings I and one of my closest friends have had lately:

Sitting at the Starbucks in Williamsport, my friend noticed two towers across the river.  One had a blinking red light, the other a blinking white light.  They reminded us of the rays of light coming from Jesus in the Divine Mercy paintings.  Blood and Water!

Saw a chicken restaurant the other day called "Pope Yes!"  (Popeyes)

I love letting the Holy Spirit cool my house through the use of fans.

Green lights and any green sign remind us to pray the Green Scapular prayer:  "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.  Amen."

Telephone poles bring to mind the Cross of Christ and his gift of eternal life.

Roses and many flowers -- Ahhhh... Mary!

When I see babies or toddlers I always see the smiling face of Christ.

Teenagers remind me of the potential for good we have when we "hang" with Jesus.

My granny is a sign of the unconditional love of Jesus.

So is my dog, Dina!

When I mow the lawn I think about how confession helps me to cut out all sin in my life.

Steps are stairways to heaven, and elevators are the Assumption of Mary.

Rain is baptism and blessing!  I often bless the rain and turn it all into Holy Water!

The color red reminds me of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

And what Catholic doesn't think of Mary when he/she sees the color blue?

Storms are one of my favorite sacramentals reminding me of the awesome power of God, and sometimes they remind me of the need for confession-- --  Confession is better than dodging lightening bolts!

Many, many other things will engage my imagination and move me to prayer and thanksgiving:  stones, gardens, hummingbirds, Harleys, ice tea, swimming pools, my computer, willow trees, oak trees, pine trees, ice cream, sandals, St. Arbucks (Starbucks),  love songs, necco wafers, hammers, the night sky, curtains, poems, talented musicians, birds... the list is endless.

Why don't you try it.  Take a few playful moments each day to notice your surroundings.  Ask how the things you like or things you notice remind you about the nature of God or a story in the Bible.  You might even remember something from Father's homily!  Or not.  : )

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Faith & Emotions

     One of the constant struggles I have to face in my spiritual life has to do with emotions.  I can intellectually understand the difference between actual faith and emotions.  However, I find that I, even though I am a priest, am regularly tossed about by my emotions.  At times when I am sad, overly tired, anxious or just lonely, I find myself thinking that I have lost faith.  It usually takes a saint, canonized or otherwise, to snap me out of it.

     One of my closest brothers in Christ will often remind me, "Father, you know who this is."  Usually, I will grin and be brought back to reality, knowing that it was the evil who once again tried to neutralize me with emotions.  A quick rebuke followed by a Rosary, blessing myself and thanking God gets me back on the Kingdom Track.

     Another friend who is a Priest in West Virginia will roll his eyes and wearily just say, "Emotions"  when he notices that I have once again "stepped in it".  I don't always grin when he says it even though I know he is correct.

So what to do, what to do?  If you share this tendency with yours truly, I would suggest the following:
1.  Don't go all crazy on yourself.  You are human, and human beings have emotions. Cut yourself some slack as you once again put your emotions in the proper context.  In fact, if you don't beat yourself up for feeling the way you do at that moment, it is really freeing to recognize that it was not a lack of faith, just emotions!
2.  Rebuke the evil one by praising God in all things.  God is in control.  The phantom shadows of our emotions and the wiles of the devil are powerless in God's presence.
3.  Make sure you have a prayer partner to help you recognize those occasional forays into the dark side.  This can be your priest if you know him well, a spiritual director, or a close friend who is mature in his/her faith. .  Not all "down" days are the "dark night of the soul" that St. Theresa and St. John of the Cross have written about, and discernment is important in these matters.  If you choose a friend, it really should be a friend of the same sex that you are
4.  Pray the Rosary!  Beat those Beads! Allow the Mother of God to comfort you and take you back to Her merciful Son.  
5.  If you are dealing with serious or clinical depression, do all the above, but don't try to just brush it aside or laugh/cry/pray it away.  In addition to laughing, crying and praying get some professional help.  Your doctor can point you in the right direction.  

These are the things that work for me.  Especially praying the Rosary!

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