Sunday, November 14, 2010

St. Michael's Abbey

Vignette of the Norbertine Life at St. Michael's Abbey from St. Michael's Abbey on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Let Sleeping Blogs . . .

I think I’m going to let the blog go to sleep again for a while.  The problem is finding time to do this, and finding a consistent ‘voice’ for the blog.

You might also consider that the blog is just entering a phase of silent, contemplative prayer.

No matter what, let us always continue to pray for each other and for the whole world.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Retreat!

Next week (Oct. 18-22) I will be on my annual priest retreat.  This year I’m attending the diocesan sponsored retreat which will be directed by Fr. Zachary of the Mother of God, SOLT.

I’m happy to learn that our new Auxiliary Bishop will be with us, as my brother priests and I hear about “The Priestly Soul & the Priestly Spirit.”

A time to pray, to reflect, to ask God’s continued Grace and Strength. 

May the Lord continue to Bless all priests to be the sign and instrument of His Love in our world.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cutting the Cord

I’m not a big watcher of what is called Prime Time television.  These are the shows produced by the big networks (ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, NBC) and usually air from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. around the country (though in Arizona it has always been 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.)  But for some reason, this year, I’ve been recording and watching more of these shows, and frankly, I have begun to wonder both why I do it, and why I still pay for cable TV.

Most of these shows are available for free using an antenna.  I grew up in a rural town, so I know that is not always the case, but now in the city, I can get all the channels just fine OTA (Over The Air as they say).  That goes for most of our local sports teams and a small amount of sports on weekends (even though that’s my busy time of the week).

Many of these shows are now available over the Internet as well through services like Hulu, or from the networks’ web sites.  Even Netflix is getting into the act with offering many NBC (and affiliated cable networks) shows for Internet streaming the day after broadcast.

But two other things have caught my attention of late, especially with these Prime Time shows.  First is the lowering or abandoning of all moral standards in these shows, and second is the heavy-fisted preaching of modern themes in these shows.

In what used to be called the Family Hour – the first hour of Prime Time – that was safe for viewing by all members of the family, I can't believe the number of sexual innuendo and references.  Maybe because I haven’t been watching these shows regularly for a while, it makes it even more jarring to me since I wasn’t slowly made numb to it by the increase over the past few years.  (Look up, on your own, a reference to slowly boiling a frog.) 

TV has also always pushed for modern themes.  The original Star Trek pushed the boundaries during its initial airing by having the first scripted interracial kiss on television.  (Kirk and Uhura in the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren”)  But over the last couple of decades it seems to have really accelerated, or at least I’m a lot more aware of it.  Maybe this is behind the rise in popularity of the reality based shows, the viewers choose them so they don’t feel chastised if they hold views contrary to those of the writers and producers.  It is just getting more difficult for me to separate out any kind of entertainment from the barrage of preaching about how I’m supposed to think and act.  (Look up, on your own, Brownies with a Difference.)

Modern technologies are making it possible for me to drop cable TV completely.  I can use iTunes or Amazon to purchase or rent the shows I want to watch.  I can use antenna to still watch the local news or sports.  Google, Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Roku and others have competing technologies to let me watch, record or stream television shows.  Even modern smart phones like the iPhone and Android phones will let me watch more and more video.  Maybe it is time I sat down, really looked at the math of the money I’m spending on television and video, and found alternate ways to watch things that entertain me and won’t bludgeon me with innuendo and condescending modern attitudes.  It will be more difficult at first, and probably a technological nightmare to organize it all.  But I’m not sure I can take much more of the way it has always worked before.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Jammies

OK, I’ve gotta wonder aloud.  When did pajamas become acceptable fashion outside of the home?

This last weekend I was in Los Angeles for the EOHSJ Western Lieutenancy annual meeting (see previous post).  I stayed at a Doubletree, and one morning ate at the hotel’s restaurant breakfast buffet.  This was not a “free” buffet, but had a price.  I was rather taken aback at the amount of people wearing sleeping attire into the restaurant.

At first I was rather taken aback, and then an old childhood rhyme stayed with me.  “I see London, I see France, I see someone’s underpants.”  Many people, of all shapes and sizes, including a table of 20-something young women.  Let’s just say I had breakfast and a show.

Consider me old fashioned.  Consider me prudish.  I don’t care.  I just don’t want to see your choice (or lack of choice) in sleepwear.  That privilege should be reserved for the closest family members.

And yes, this goes for Mass attendance too. I have seen people attend Mass in sleeping attire.

EOHSJ Update

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend the annual meeting of the Western Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.  Also known as the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre.

We met in Los Angeles, heard about the efforts of the Order in the Holy Land, and celebrated promotions within the Order and new Investitures in the Order.  Two Cardinals of the Church were in attendance, the Prior of the Western Lieutenancy, Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles, and the Grand Master of the Order, Cardinal Foley.  At the Investiture Mass we had two Cardinals, an Archbishop, 15 other Bishops, almost 40 priests, and over a thousand Knights and Ladies.

I invite you to visit the website of the Western Lieutenancy at www.khswesternusa.org or the main USA website at http://holysepulchre.net

I have the honor of being a Knight for the past three years, and it is always a spiritual lift for me to meet with so many people who try each day to live the Order’s motto, “Deus lo vult” (God wills it).  Placing ourselves into the Will of God is one of the most difficult, but most rewarding things we can do.  May God always bless our efforts with His grace.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Honor to Serve

Bishop Olmsted has asked me to serve as the Spiritual Advisor to the Phoenix Diocesan Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

This evening I will offer Mass for the Diocesan Council, have dinner in the family dining room at the Watkins Center, and then attend the Council Meeting where I will give a short spiritual reflection and offer whatever advice I can to the Diocesan Council.

Please pray for our Diocesan Council (and all the local parish conferences) that the love and service of Christ continues to shine through in all our efforts.

If you so choose, you also might want to follow the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Phoenix Council Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/SVdP.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Football Season

I always get a chuckle out of the sports headlines with Catholic schools

  • Archbishop Murphy rolls past Kennedy Catholic

  • West Catholic earns victory over Monsignor Bonner

  • Central Catholic defeats Bethel Park

  • No. 3 Catholic Central rolls over Inkster

Friday, September 10, 2010

10 Days

I returned to the parish from my summer vacation just 10 days ago.  With the Labor Day holiday, there was even an extra ‘quiet’ day when the office was closed.

I have finally gotten through the stack of mail.

I think I’m up to speed on anything that ‘happened’ while I was gone.  A pretty bad roof leak in the Church is a major concern – luckily it doesn’t rain much in the desert.

I’m still getting lots of phone calls from folks who were waiting for my return in order to make appointments or settle ongoing items.

The school is in full swing – and this year we have two Sisters from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Sr. Maria Frassati and Sr. Jude Andrew join the school.  YAY!  (Yes, the Order that was featured on the Oprah! show.)

Weddings and QuinceaƱeras are scheduled for most of the weekends from now through November.

But nothing compares to being back ‘home’ and offering the daily and weekend Masses for the parish of St. Gregory.  It is good to be home.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

All My Passwords/Days of Our Passwords

Yes, it feels like a long-running soap opera.

A few months ago, my iPad was stolen from my bedroom.  Because the iPad will let you store some of your passwords on the device, I had to quickly scramble and change as many passwords as I could.  I never put financial passwords or data on any device, but I did have some of my email passwords (yes, I have multiple addresses I’ve collected over the years), and some of my blogging and other account passwords as well.

I recommend that somewhere – NOT on any electronic device that can be stolen – you keep a list of all the accounts that have passwords.  I’m not saying to write down the passwords, but simply list all the services and accounts you have that use passwords.  That way, if something like this happens, you know all the places you need to go.

I’m still picking up the pieces, and still running across accounts and services that I haven’t gotten around to changing the passwords yet.  A list, like I’ve suggested, would have helped tremendously.

And to my former boss Jim, who occasionally reads this blog, you would be correct in guessing the root word I use for all my passwords.  Maybe I should change it to include either a prefix of $DTR or DTR>?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

First “Pastoral” Decision

Over on her excellent blog “Adoro” tells of her First Formal Act as a Theologian and it reminded me of the very first decision I was asked to make as a new Pastor.

I had just been named to my first assignment as a pastor of a parish.  The current pastor had announced his retirement, and the diocesan placement board and Bishop had selected me as his replacement.  The announcements had been made, and I was on countdown to moving.

The Deacon at the parish where I was to be the new pastor wrote me a long letter giving me an overview of the pastoral and administrative shape of the parish.  He did this at the urging of the current pastor who wanted to get me up to speed as quickly as possible and to help with a smooth transition since I was a first-time pastor and all.

At the end of the letter, the Deacon, at the recommendation of the current pastor, asked for my very necessary decision regarding the use of parish funds.

Would I like them to purchase the longer lasting, but more expensive urinal deodorant cakes for the Men’s bathroom, or the cheaper ones?

Yep, that was it.  Welcome to being a pastor in a parish.

Some might say that my pastoral decisions have been at the same level ever since.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The New Missal is Here! The New Missal is Here!

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is with great joy that I learned today that the Vatican has approved the English Translation for the United States of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal.  The full text of the press release can be found at the U.S. Bishops’ website by clicking here.

The date for the implementation of the new MIssal is set for the first Sunday of Advent, 2011, just about a year and a half away.  This gives us plenty of time to do a full and proper education for the parish on the new Missal, which has some changes in some of the English texts and responses we’ve used for so many years.

On occasion, the Church updates the texts for the Mass, and issues them in the (still) universal language of the Church, which is Latin.  Since the Novus Ordo Mass was implemented after Vatican II, there have been three editions of the Missal. 

Each major language group then has to translate the texts to the vernacular language, and submit those translations back to Rome for approval.  This is done so that the vernacular translations can be as close as possible to the meaning and if possible the poetry of the Latin texts.

The English version we have been using was approved for ‘temporary’ use for the first edition of the Missal, all the way back in the 1970’s.  The translations were sometimes in more of a paraphrase style, rather than including as much of the sacred Theology and beautiful poetry of the Latin prayers.  Several years ago, the Vatican informed the English translation committee that they needed to work very hard and get this newest edition (third edition) of the Mass translated quickly and properly.

Their hard work has finally been approved for use, and now we start the process of bringing this new, beautiful, theological, and poetical translation to our people.

I will be posting more on the new translation, on our parish efforts to learn the new translation, and how this moves us to a greater and deeper love and relationship with our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

(I am almost giddy with excitement!)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Evangelization, part 2

So today I’m with my Dad and we’re touring Rome.  I’m really enjoying being here again, and I’m glad to be with my Dad.  Being one of seven children, I think this might be the longest time I’ve ever had alone with him.  We’re seeing everything and loving every minute.

We’re at the Colosseum, and we’re with a tour group.  This is the same group I took a tour with five years ago.  Back then, the tour guide made a comment when we saw a large cross erected inside the Colosseum.  He said that it was there remembering the Christians who were killed there.  But then he adds, “There is no historical evidence that ANY Christians were killed in the Colosseum.  It is just not true.”

WHAT?  WHAT??  WHAT!!??  The rest of the tour is OK, but he still put in that bit about Christians.  Hmm, methinks he doth protest too much.

So now today we’re on the tour, different guide, and I’m waiting for the line.  It isn’t there.  Good.  In fact he talks about Christians being killed there, and why, and how.  OK, this is going fine.  Then he starts talking about WHY Christianity was hated.  He gets it MOSTLY right, so no problem there, but then he says that once Roman Society became Christianized, the empire fell.  Yep, the Roman Empire collapsed because THEY ALL BECAME CHRISTIAN.  Christianity caused the collapse of the Roman Empire.  Christians ruined the social, political and economic foundations of the empire.  His words, not mine.

Now can you see why I’m just a little suspicious of all the private tour guides at the Vatican?  I really think we’ve got to do something ourselves, along the lines of my other post.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Why you can’t comment on my posts.

I’ve always been chided for not allowing comments on my posts.  I used to disallow comments because I didn’t have the time to read them, comment back, and properly ‘curate’ them.

Now I do it because my blog, and some others, were targeted by some hackers, using the comments to place links to websites that exploited flaws in most computers and did bad things to your computer.  The black-hat hackers (there is a difference that I’ll explain someday) would make a relatively mild comment and then put in a link.  I started getting suspicious because the same ones started commenting on everything, and my blog doesn’t get enough traffic for that kind of sudden popularity.

So I got out an old computer I use for testing purposes, installed some security sniffing software and clicked those links.  The computer suddenly lit up like a Christmas tree, but not with good presents.  The software started telling me all kind of bad things were being attempted.  So I modified the comment system to block the bad people.  They just surfaced again with new names, and if I don’t have time to moderate the posts, then I don’t have time to play games with black-hats.

Long story, still no commenting.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A New Evangelization?

Last year some brother priests and I were talking about all the folks, throughout Europe, who visit Cathedrals and parishes as a tourist attraction on summer vacation.  For that matter, it happens in the good ol’ U. S. of A. too.

It got us to thinking, especially regarding visitors to the Vatican.  Might we use those visits as a method of evangelization?  Especially given the dreadful numbers coming out of Europe regarding unchurched people?

It might be as simple as a standard brochure, welcoming them in their visit to a Catholic church.  We might give some general things to look for when visiting a church, and a quick teaching on some of our Sacraments and Sacramentals.   What is that gold/silver box up front with the candle near it?  What do those racks of burning candles mean?  All this sacred and precious art, why should it be kept in this stuffy building?  Some proper methods to explore a church as a tourist, etc.  Of course, the local Mass times.  That’s the simple method.

Here’s one for the Vatican.  How about a corps of young people, who volunteer from all over the world, to lead visitors around St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica?  Let people see a vibrant and alive church, with enthusiastic young people who know a thing or two about their faith and Church history?  Of course, there would be training sessions.  The tours could be in several different languages, by the young people, and used as a way of spreading the gospel to folks who are, after all, visiting a sacred place.

Members to this corps would be selected by bishops from all over the world from among their youth, and the expenses for their time at the Vatican would be paid for by the local diocese.  It would be an honor to serve as a Vatican Evangelist for some length of time.  Of course these same young people would receive not just training for their “jobs” but a close look at the splendors of our faith, and be sent home to bring that back to local towns and parishes.

I’m sure I’m missing a thousand details, and I’m sure there are lots of issues to be solved.  But right now I’m seeing hundreds of folks walking into our churches each day, and not a single thing is being said or done about inviting them to know more about Christ and His Church. 

You see tour groups being led around by private companies, but who knows what they are being told?

Right now at the Vatican, you’re checked with a metal detector, told to cover up bare arms and legs, and left to wander around on your own.  You can rent a recording that guides you around the Basilica, but that seems to be about it.

Just seems like a good opportunity to me.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

This wasn’t MY Mass (or was it?)

This morning I attended Mass at the local parish church. 

  • I wasn’t greeted at the door, welcomed, given a worship aid or shown to a seat.
  • There was no music.
  • The pews were oddly arranged and MOST uncomfortable (not a bit of padding to be found).
  • At the time to start Mass, an elderly gentleman rang a bell and everyone stood.
  • The priest was not blessed with an orator’s voice, it was more of a monotone drone.
  • The sound system was not very good.
  • The lighting system was not very good. 
  • People were streaming in (and out) all during Mass.
  • Did I mention no music?
  • I think the older man next to me fell asleep once or twice.
  • The priest prepared the altar and went right into the Eucharistic Prayer while the collection was still being taken.  The collection finished about halfway through the Eucharistic Prayer.
  • No one held my hand or attempted to hold my hand during the Lord’s Prayer.
  • At Communion time, those who wanted to receive just kind of sauntered up to the front, there were no organized lines and no ushers.
  • When Mass ended, the priest went back into the Sacristy.
  • No one said anything to me as I left.
  • No coffee and doughnuts were offered after Mass.
  • And lastly – THE MASS (including the readings and homily) WAS IN A LANGUAGE I DID NOT UNDERSTAND!

All the things that I’ve been told that are so essential to the “proper” celebration of Mass were missing – there was no “community” feeling and no encouragement from the priest to make us more of a “community.”

So did I really attend Mass?

Some would say that I didn’t really attend a “good” Mass, or I couldn’t participate in the Mass, or I should stay home or shop around for a “good” parish that has that community feeling.

One little detail – I’m in Italy right now, and the Mass was in Italian at the local parish church – which happened to be built in the 1400’s.

I have to tell you, I did attend Mass.  I gathered as the Church tells me I must (CCC 2180).  I participated – by interiorly lifting my heart and mind to the Lord, and offering the responses as best I could.  I received Holy Communion with great joy.  I offered thanks to God for so great a gift as His Son given freely to the world and to me a sinner.

I wasn’t entertained, I wasn’t crooned to, I wasn’t fawned over.  I attended the Mass of the Roman Catholic Church, I received our Savior through the Word of God, and through His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in Holy Communion.  And I look forward to next Sunday’s Mass, at the same place, at the same time.  It is, after all, the “source and summit” of my life, even when I’m not entertained.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Drive us not into temptation

As I was contemplating last weekend’s Gospel, where Jesus teaches us the Lord’s Prayer, my mind immediately went to the “Lead us not into temptation” part of the prayer.  Of course I would like the Lord to remove all temptation from my life, but that isn’t going to happen.  And one particular temptation I think is part of our modern society.  I call it, “The Holy Parking Lot of God.”

This is the parish parking lot, where it is my personal belief that our faith is tested more than at almost any other time of the week.  We attend Mass, and (hopefully) lift our hearts and minds to the Lord, and receive His Grace, especially through the Eucharist.  We are at the “source and summit” of our lives as Catholics.

Then we go out into the parking lot to go home, and immediately receive temptations to our lives of faith.  This is especially true at the great celebrations of Christmas and Easter, when I have seen and heard octogenarians swear in great and long sentences at Knights of Columbus who are directing traffic.  At one point, a rather exasperated Knight asked a lady who was verbally abusing him, “Do you take Communion with that tongue?”

This can be the first real test of our lives of faith each and every week.  We pray and ask the Lord to guide and strengthen us in His path of peace and holiness – and then we get to practice those traits just trying to get out of the parking lot.  Talk about a quick answer to a prayer!

(For a great exposition on the Lord’s Prayer, check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sections 2759-2865, which is the last section of the Catechism.  You can reference the entire Catechism online from the Vatican by clicking here.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

It Knows Us

This morning as I checking through my email, I was deleting the usual junk solicitations when I suddenly went back and retrieved one from Amazon.com.  I guess I have ordered enough from them that they are really zeroing in on my likes and dislikes.  It is easy for them to recommend books on Catholicism and Theology since I order them, but now the recommendations have started to branch out to my ‘secular’ tastes, and it seems really good at identifying the kinds of fiction that I have read and enjoyed.  The recommendations have started to look like my personal library, not only for books, but for video and audio as well.

I have never entered in any kind of personal information, or made lists of my favorite books, audio or video at Amazon.  I have never ordered fiction works or anything that is not directly related to my life as a priest – yet here it is, after a few years, recommending things that it thinks I would like based on my preferences, and the preferences of people who order the same things I order.

This isn’t really creeping me out, too much, since I see several things in it:

  • I’m not quite as unique as I like to think, because other people seem to have similar taste in reading material and media.  This is a good thing, it shows that people have more in common than we think, and that can be a good starting ground in friendships, in evangelization, and in local and national politics.
  • In some ways, it is like being in a small town (like where I grew up) where the restaurants know your favorite foods, the clothing stores know your favorite styles, and there is a real sense of community because of this shared knowledge.
  • While I may wonder how Amazon is using this knowledge of me, it is the same as the above mentioned people who have specific knowledge about me.  I cannot control and may wonder how those people are using that specific knowledge.

The thing that bothers me about Amazon getting to know me so well is that I can’t get to know Amazon well.  The people in my hometown know me, but I also know them.  I lived with them, worked with them, spent leisure time with them, in other words, I know them too.  I know their character, and for the most part, can kind of predict how they will use their specific knowledge about me.  I can’t say that about Amazon.  The company has never done anything (that I am aware of) with this knowledge of me that I don’t like.  But if they do, to whom do I complain?  If a friend or acquaintance does something I don’t like, I can tell them.

But this is our brave, new, online world.  As companies and websites gain more sophistication, and links with each other, we are becoming ‘known’ to them.  I just wish I could get to know them as well.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bon Homme

Yesterday, Patrick Madrid posted a link to a short audio clip from his excellent radio program (each Thursday).  Here’s the link to his post:

http://patrickmadrid.blogspot.com/2010/07/here-lies-man-who-has-everything-but.html

I listened with some interest at the audio clip, especially to see what the laicized priest had to say.  Good stuff all around, from the callers and the host.

I can't imagine the pain and loss that Dwayne (the laicized priest) feels.  I just heard a lot of hurt, and loss, and regret in his voice.  But one thing he said did grate a bit.  He said that parishioners should invite a priest out to dinner and provide a place for him to let his hair down (or something like that).

I personally think that's a way to danger too. 

More and more I think that calling priests "Father" is a sign of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and not just some ancient Irish custom or other nonsense they teach in seminaries.

Think of the role as Father in a family.  You have little ones, and you have grown up ones.  Do you want the grown and married children to provide a place for you to go and let your hair down?  Do you want the relationship to be as friend to friend (just call us Pat and Nancy, not Dad and Mom)?  Being a father changes as the children grow, but it never goes away.  It is healthy for the families that the patriarch and matriarch exist.  I don't think your children want just another “Pat and Nancy” in their lives, but Dad and Mom.

I think part of our problem is calling the priests to that role.  I'm the first one to admit that being just another pal or friend is infinitely easier than being a father.  Fathers guide, teach, and hold THEMSELVES accountable.  None of those are a barrel of laughs.  Do we want jovial dinner companions and social friends or fathers/pastors/shepherds?  A bon-vivant or a pray-er?

All Catholics have a hand in continuing to form the priest.  What we ask for from the parish determines what the priest has to do.  If we want the kinds of prayer and spirituality that only the priest can provide, it requires the priest to live a certain kind of life, always being around prayer, spirituality, and the traditions of the Church.  If we want a jolly joker and a bon homme, then that's where the priest spends his time.

Yes, a priest has to do much of this himself, but it really, really helps to have parishioners who gently and lovingly call him to this kind of life too.  Do we want what the priest can provide, especially the "persona Christi?"  Sometime we all shy away from that because we think it won't be any fun.  St. Augustine felt that too when he would pray for the Lord to make him chaste "but not yet."

Just my weak and feeble two cents worth.  I also realize I follow none of this advice myself.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What Happens on the Web . . .

. . . stays on the web.

I just heard from two different parishioners:

- A young man was rejected by a college after they viewed his MySpace and Facebook pages.  From the information on those pages, he was viewed as possibly being ‘troublesome’ on campus.

- A young woman was interviewed for a job.  During the interview she was told that if she wanted to be considered for the job, she would have to clean up her MySpace and Facebook pages because they did not show the type of person the company wanted to have working for them.  Part of the job interview process was to search those sites for information about candidates.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Another year of blessings

I’ve been blessed to serve the people of St. Gregory the Great Parish in Central Phoenix as pastor for one year.  It was a great year, full of blessings and full of the joy of being with the People of God.  It was a year that I will always thank God for allowing me to have.

If it is to be God’s Will (we never know what God might have planned for us), I look forward to another year of service and joy here at St. Gregory the Great. 

For those who like to try to read between the lines – there is no sort of hidden or coded message here (Ron and Karen) – I’m just thankful and looking forward to the future.

May God continue to bless and prosper our parish.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Phoenix Controversy

A clear explanation that you won’t get from the newspaper or TV.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Blackstone Legal Fellowship

Over the past two weeks I’ve had the honor of offering Mass for the Catholic participants in the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, which is a ministry of the Alliance Defense Fund.

The Blackstone fellowship is an intensive nine week program for law students to equip them for facing the moral and ethical challenges in today’s legal system.  You can go to their site for a better explanation.  The students told me of the incredible speakers and programs offered during this two week session in Phoenix.  In fact, I was kind of jealous not to be able to attend the sessions myself.

I just wanted to offer my impressions of the Catholic students who attended Mass each day it was offered.

The students have a very full schedule from early in the morning until quite late at night.  The Mass was an optional part of the Catholic students day, and time that could have been devoted to free time, study, or simply trying to cope with the 100 degree plus days of a Phoenix summer (a few of the days were over 110).  The students who attended Mass were not there out of some sense of obligation, but out of a desire to grow closer to Christ.  I also was asked for some advice and for some impromptu confessions.  In fact, if I have this opportunity again, I’m going to schedule special time for confessions.

I cannot speak highly enough about the Blackstone Legal Fellowship and about the Alliance Defense Fund.  I know Mr. Alan Sears, the President & CEO of ADF and his family.  I know them to be faithful Catholics, in love with Christ and His Church, and alive in Christ in their family and in the world.  I invite you to go to the ADF site and read the section called “Actions” which outlines their current activity, their past victories, and the emerging issues facing all of us.  It is sobering reading, but issues where our prayers and support are needed.

May God continue to bless the efforts of the ADF and Blackstone Fellowship.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Free Office Software

For all of us on a budget (parishes, students, family), here are three ways to have free office software (Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentation software, etc) available.

Microsoft now offers a free version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.  All you need is a computer with internet access.  You also get 2GB of free online storage called SkyDrive.  The site is office.live.com.  The site is supported by advertising, so you see some ads for other products, but they aren’t distracting.

Why would you use this?

  • Opening a file attachment that someone sent you in email when you don’t have Microsoft Office installed on your computer.
  • Creating a document quickly, saving it to your SkyDrive (the free 2GB of storage), that you can retrieve from another computer (at work or home).  I actually have a few homilies I created this way until I got back to the parish to print them out.
  • Just having a free version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote at your disposal.

But if you don’t like working on documents “in the cloud” and want those programs living on your computer, I recommend Microsoft Office Home & Student edition.  It sells for $150, but you can usually find it for $99, and it is what Microsoft calls a “family version” meaning you can install it on up to three computers.

Other free office helps are Google Docs at docs.google.com and you can download a completely free office suite called OpenOffice at www.openoffice.org.

Geek Factor Extreme!

Giant robots, made of Legos, playing chess.  We have achieved Nerd-vana.

It is a bit slow watching bits from just one game – but it is giant robots, made of Legos, playing chess!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sweet 16

Recently I celebrated my 16th anniversary as a priest.  It was a good day.  As folks are likely to do, I did a little reflection on those years.  When a parishioner asked if I’d do it all again, the answer was an enthusiastic and immediate “Yes!”

There have been joys that I could not have imagined possible, and I’ve been part of people’s lives in an incredible way.  I’ve been able to tell people about Christ and His love.  I’ve been able to offer the Sacraments of that Love to the world.  There just isn’t anything better.  This always brings me to rejoice in Christ my Savior.  Thank You!

There have been detractors.  There have been people who have decided that I am wrong in everything I do and say, and make every effort to not only show me and tell me that, but spread it around in the parish and in the diocese.  There are folks who believe me to be the most incompetent clown ever to be ordained.  These are the folks who drove me to prayer the most.  These are the folks who made me turn in humble supplication to God for His guidance in my priesthood.  These are the folks who have forced me to spend the most time in front of the Blessed Sacrament in prayer.  Thank You!

Monday, May 31, 2010

What’s out in the public . . . stays in public.

Last post on the whole Facebook privacy issue, but here’s a website to check out.

youropenbook.org

Using tools that Facebook provides to the world, you can do a search for any information you would like to see, and it scans through all of Facebook for that information.  Remember, this is the information about you that Facebook is making available to the public.

Search for “new cell number” to get a picture of a person and whether they actually posted their new number.  Stalker’s delight!

Search for “I hate my job” to see who might be next when an employer needs to lay someone off.

Search for “I cheated on my wife” or “I cheated on my husband” to see the sad state of marriage in our world.

Use the quotes in the search if you want that exact phrase.

And all this is public information about these folks.

I’m just sayin . . .

Friday, April 23, 2010

Why I Left Facebook Today

I have deactivated my Facebook profile.  It is a matter of privacy.  Basically any and all of your information belongs not to you, but to Facebook, and they will use it in any way they see fit, and sell it to anyone they see fit.
Notice, I couldn’t even delete my account.  I only deactivated it.  It will exist forever, with its information, on Facebook’s servers – and if they find some way to sell or use it, trust me, it will get used.
But what’s the big deal?  I CHOSE to go to Facebook, I CHOSE to give it limited information about me, I’m even on the internet right now with this blog.  So why get upset?
You’re right, I did all those things, and I still maintain a web presence through this blog and email, but I just don’t like the implications of Facebook working in close collaboration with lots of other folks I don’t know, to use and market my information.
They are going to roll out a new LIKE feature.  If you stay logged in to Facebook, which actually is pretty easy – it is difficult to actually log OUT.  As you browse the web, you will be tracked, by Facebook.  When you come to one of their partner sites, read or participate in something, and click the LIKE button, a note appears on your wall so your friends know.  Harmless, right?  Pretty much, except that now Facebook knows more about you, and now that partner site has your permission (by you clicking LIKE) to have access to your entire Facebook life, from day one.  Everything they know about you, every website they know you’ve visited, all your data, and – here’s the kicker – all your friends’ public data.  Yep, even if I don’t want to play, just one of my friends stopping by the site automatically shares out my public data too.  Just a little too much for me.
I was already starting to feel uneasy about the way that Facebook was getting to know me.  It took the info I gave it, and started running its fingers through the web and through itself to sift and find out more.  Folks I hadn’t thought about in years were suddenly being suggested as friends, and it was kind of creepy the way the site could put things together to know more about me.  Of course those folks I knew years ago were also getting little notes about me too.
Yes, this information has almost always been available, but never in such a connected way before.  Facebook is a 24/7 machine that constantly sifts your data and constantly looks for connections to grow in its knowledge of you.  It doesn’t sound or feel insidious until you think through some implications.
- Watch the movie Minority Report.  Not for the plot or acting, but for the way that every person is targeted with personalized advertisement everywhere they go.
- What happens when work and social life begin to collide?  Oh you may never ‘friend’ someone from work – but what happens when one of your friends does?  Or if work decides that Facebook is a perfect place to promote collaboration among employees and the next thing you know you’re being asked to sign up.  You might create a second, alternate identity, but the slightest slip, or one of your other friends makes the connection, and bingo, it all gets linked together.  FOREVER.
- What happens when someone uses or borrows your computer and Facebook is still tracking you?  Your teenaged relative uses it for just a few minutes, and suddenly YOUR web activity shows that you sometimes hang around on teenage chat sites.
- Government subpoena or frivolous lawsuit.  Are you sure that all of your web activity shows you to be the most loyal, hardworking, upstanding citizen that ever existed?  By telling the world about the power of the LIKE button, Facebook made themselves the target of those who want someone’s personal life and web activities made public.
- I personally think a hot new business will be in doing background searches for employees.
- Just imagine your best friend, who knows all your info and life, sitting down, every day with marketing folks and telling them anything and everything they need to know about you in order to help them sell you something.  I like my friends, and invite them to know me better, but I depend on their discretion too.  Facebook publicly states that they do not intend to have that discretion.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What We Needed to Hear

Msgr. Stephen Rossetti was the speaker at our Spring Clergy Day yesterday (4-19-2010) for the priests working in our diocese.  He presented some results of a Priest Wellness Study he has done.  In the study he found that:

  • Over 90% of priests report themselves as happy and with good morale.
  • Only 4% of priests believe themselves to be suffering from ‘burnout.’
  • 84% report a strong sense of inner peace.
  • Almost 80% have a positive view of celibacy in their life.  This is much higher than the general population’s positive view of marriage.
  • Just around 3% of priests felt they needed to leave the priesthood in order to be happy.
  • Compare these results to the stereotypical idea of priests as lonely, isolated, frustrated, unhappy, with low morale and are trapped in an unsatisfying life.

When looking for the things that lead a priest to feel happy about his priesthood, he generally found that working toward holiness is the best predictor of happiness.  That may seem obvious when stated, but compare that with what society is telling us that priests should be doing, and it rarely includes steps toward holiness.

He then outlined those 10 steps and we each received a booklet of his steps.

Thank you Msgr. Rossetti, and thank you Bishop Olmsted for bringing him here to tell us this good news.

CREATIVE MINORITY REPORT:Sin and Cafeteria Catholicism

Sin and Cafeteria Catholicism: "I was speaking to a woman I know and she said that a man she knows had stopped going to Church months before and that he didn't believe in many things the Church taught including the Church's stance on contraception. But he still considered himself a good Catholic. Pretty normal stuff nowadays sadly.

The women is a committed Catholic and she said that she'd told him that she wasn't a 'Cafeteria Catholic' but he reminded her of many things she'd done which are against church teaching throughout her life and he said triumphantly, 'See we all pick and choose.'

She said that she'd come to believe what he'd said was true. Now without going into details I told her that her friend was wrong. Very wrong. There is a big difference between sinning and picking and choosing.

We all sin. But that doesn't make us cafeteria Catholics. The real difference is that cafeteria Catholics simply don't acknowledge sin.

While we all transgress, a committed Catholic will still judge themselves against an established standard. We will inevitably fall short of those standards but we still strive to achieve it and emulate ourselves after Christ to the best of our ability.

The cafeteria Catholic may act in very much the same manner as a faithful Catholic but simply removes all that striving. When confronted with a discrepancy between their will and the teachings of the Church they simply change the standards based on what they feel is right for them. And let's face it, when we set our own fungible standards, sin becomes impossible because our decision making becomes the standard of behavior.

We all fall short of the standard. The cafeteria catholic just lowers the standard.
"

Friday, April 16, 2010

Phoenix Parish Worker and Priest Stabbed

The stabbing occurred yesterday (4-15-2010).  The newspaper and television link are below.

Let us pray for the recovery of Mrs. Conway, Fr. Conlon, and the man who was arrested, Mr. Manriquez.  Let us also pray and thank God for the young people who heard Mrs. Conway’s screams, and then pursued and held the alleged attacker until the police could arrive.

Both Mrs. Conway and Fr. Conlon are recovering and some surgery was required.

Parish work is not always safe and secure.

http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/2010/04/15/20100415phoenix-priest-stabbed-abrk.html

Thursday, April 1, 2010

We are not amused

I’m not a fan of April Fools’ Day, and no this is not a joke and not part of the “fun.”  An entire day when I cannot trust the veracity of anything from anyone.  Already I’m seeing, all over the internet some attempts at fooling us all.  One example was another priest’s blog in which he announced he was leaving his religious order.

Yes, buried in his post was a link to the Wikipedia entry on April Fools’ Day – which means the entire post was a joke.  I looked at all the comments to his post.  the first dozen or so were offering real heartfelt prayers and support – all of which were genuine.  Then they started revealing that this was indeed a joke.

What is funny about that?  Getting people concerned enough to offer prayer for a difficult and painful decision about leaving a religious order, only to tell them that they are fools for believing you.

Maybe this comes from a gag I played on someone years ago – which I thought was uproariously funny at the time – but in hindsight was terribly cruel.

There are sites I go to for humor, and I enjoy them – but I’m reminded that the Lord has not granted everyone the same comedic gifts.

Oh this little rant isn’t going to change anything, and today will be much more about pranks and gags than about the fact that it is Holy Thursday.  I will follow the sage Catholic advice – I’ll “offer it up.”

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Belly up to the . . . Altar?

The title is a take on the song from “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” called “Belly up to the Bar, Boys.” (I looked for a Youtube clip to embed, but couldn’t find one. Copyright stuff, I’m sure.)

Click over to an article from Christianity Today called “Should Churches be as Friendly as Bars?

Do we want a friendly, affable, chatty place to go ‘where everybody knows your name’ or do we want something more?

In a place where people really belong, they are free to talk about the most uncomfortable things—sin and salvation, hate and forgiveness, suffering and hope, death and life. And they learn the fine art of forbearance and forgiveness. Merely friendly churches avoid such unpleasantness. But churches that take people seriously cannot avoid it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Passionate Thought

Tonight (Saturday) at the Vigil Mass we had the reading of St. Luke’s Passion narrative for the Gospel of Passion/Palm Sunday.  I’ve done this for fifteen years, but tonight, some of the words from St. Luke struck a new meaning for me.

“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me;
weep instead for yourselves and for your children
for indeed, the days are coming when people will say,
‘Blessed are the barren,
the wombs that never bore
and the breasts that never nursed.’
At that time people will say to the mountains,
‘Fall upon us!’
and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’
for if these things are done when the wood is green
what will happen when it is dry?”

Have we begun to reach those times?  Are not barren wombs much more in desire today?  Don’t we treat our fertility like a disease to be prevented at all costs?  If a couple has too many children, people scold them – sometimes in a teasing manner, and sometimes not – and let them know that their choice of embracing their fertility is not something that is in fashion any more.  We bless and extol the virtues to those who do the reasonable thing and choose to be barren.

And we tell our elderly and sick to go let mountains fall on them.  They are used up, they are of no more economic worth, they are just a drain on resources, especially medical resources.  So we use names to cover up suicide, and euthanasia, and we call it compassion as we vote it into law in our states and in our country.

The wood of our society is certainly green.  We have a higher standard of living than at any point in our past.  We are more than capable of caring for children, and for reaching out to those who do not have someone to care for them.  Yet if we look at children as a disease now, when things are so fertile and blessed, what will happen if we truly face a dire, worldwide catastrophe?  If human life is valued so little now, what will the future hold?

All this flashed through my mind as I was reading the Gospel, and I thanked the Lord for letting me find new meaning in a familiar passage.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Phoney Solutions

Yesterday (Friday) afternoon, a problem occurred with our parish phones.  Somehow, when you called the parish, your calls were redirected to an *ahem* naughty phone number.  OK, not just naughty, but sick, twisted, and evil.

I was first alerted to this around 5 p.m. when I received a voicemail message (on the parish system) that this person had ‘trouble’ getting through to the parish, and kept getting “a party phone.”  So I picked up the phone, used an alternative number, and dialed our main number.  No problem.  Tried it again and no problem.  And the person had left me a VOICEMAIL message on our system, so they did get through – so apparently it was a transient problem that was fixed.

Not so.  It seems that using our own system to call ourselves would not trigger the problem.

We had our parish penance service last night, and no one there reported any problems to us.  A staff member called someone else to say that there was still a problem, but I was busy, and I couldn’t investigate right away.

Once I had time I used a cell phone to call the parish.  I was greeted with “Welcome to the Party Line!  For English, press 1.  Para EspaƱol, marque dos.”  Trust me, that is NOT our usual answering message.

I hung up, knowing there was a problem.  I didn’t need to call a second or third time.  I obviously wasn’t reaching the parish, even though I dialed the correct number.

I called the phone company and within seconds they told me what the problem was, and how I could fix it.  I did.  Problem solved in seconds.

But here’s the part that puzzles me, but maybe it doesn’t because there is a spiritual analogy to it.

When someone called and got the wrong number, the “Party Line,” rather than just hang up and wait for the problem to be fixed, or possibly even call the phone company FOR US and have the problem fixed by them.  THEY KEPT CALLING.  Not only did they keep calling, THEY STARTED LISTENING TO THE MESSAGES AND KEPT PUSHING BUTTONS.  Over and over and over again, calling the number, FOLLOWING THE DIRECTIONS, and getting nasty, nasty, nasty messages, AND THEY KEPT LISTENING.  TO THE ENTIRE MESSAGE.  OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN.  Thinking somehow, this time, it was going to be different.

Why?  Why keep calling?  Why listen to those nasty messages, not just once (and why keep listening the first time – did you expect to hear my voice saying APRIL FOOL or something), but again and again?  And then get upset at THE PARISH because of the nasty things they were hearing.

Don’t we do the same thing in our own lives.  We encounter a problem, and we try to fix it (maybe an addiction?).  Our fix doesn’t work.  So instead of taking a step back, realizing there is a bigger problem, we just try the same broken routine, over and over and over, and find ourselves getting into bigger and bigger problems.  But we don’t stop, ask someone (perhaps God?) for help, or ask the advice and counsel of a wise and holy person, we just keep going back, doing the same thing, and wondering why the problem isn’t solved.

Now I’m not equating God with the phone company, but the simple call for help and guidance set me on the right track right away.  But I had to admit there was a problem and that I WAS POWERLESS to change it (sound familiar, people), and turn to a HIGER POWER (or at least an expert in the field – the phone company) to fix the problem.  Then I had to follow their directions, and keep those directions handy in case the problem reoccurs.

By the way, I know that phone systems like ours can be hacked from the outside, and the problem we had can happen.  We are taking steps to prevent the problem from happening again.

Friday, March 19, 2010

On the Life and Mission of St. Joseph

John Paul II's great Apostolic Exhortation on St. Joseph.

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_15081989_redemptoris-custos_en.html

SANCTE PATER: General Councils of the Church

General Councils of the Church:

Jerusalem (Acts 15:2)


When and where
49.
Crisis or controversy
Gentile converts must follow Mosaic Law; 'Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.' Acts 15:1
Attendees
'Apostles and presbyters' Acts 15:6, and the following notables: Paul and Barnabas, Peter, James (Acts 15:6-22)
Decrees and resolutions
'It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities.' Acts 15:28

Nicea I


When and where
325. (Now Iznik, Turkey, 70 miles from Constantinople on the Asiatic shore of the Bosporus)
Crisis or controversy
Christ was a pure creature; made out of nothing; liable to fall; the Son of God by adoption, not by nature: Arianism.
Attendees
318 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Constantine I, Emperor; Eusebius of Caesarea, historian; St. Athanasius, theologian; Ratified: Silvester I, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
The Nicene Creed; The Consubstaniality of the Word: homousion with the Father; Solved how the date of Easter should be calculated.

Constantinople I


When and where
381. (Now Istanbul, Turkey)
Crisis or controversy
The need to insist on homousion; Demonstrate to the world that Christians of the East are not Arians; Apollinaris was teaching that Christ was not true man.
Attendees
186 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Theodosius I, Emperor; St. Basil the Great; St. Gregory of Nyssa; St. Gregory of Naz., theologians; Ratified: Damasus, Pope
Decrees and resolutions
Renewed the work of Nicaea; Condemned the heresy of the Macedonians (the Holy Spirit was not really God); Condemned the heresy of Apollinaris (that Christ was not really a man).

Ephesus


When and where
431.
Crisis or controversy
Nestorius was teaching that Mary was not the mother of God; Proponents of Nestorius began claiming that Christ was actually two separate persons, human and divine.
Attendees
250 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Theodosius II, Emperor; St. Cyril of Alexandria; St. John Chrysostom; Ratified: Celestinus I, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Condemned Nestorius; Decreed that Mary was also Theotokos, mother of God; Declared that Christ is true God and true man, that he has two natures (human and divine) joined in one person.

Chalcedon


When and where
451. (Ancient seaport of Bithynia on the sea of Marmara)
Crisis or controversy
Monophysites were teaching that Christ had a single divine nature and no human nature.
Attendees
600 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Marcianus, Emperor; Ratified: Leo I, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Condemned Monophysitism; Declared that Christ had two distinct natures and was both true God and true man; Promulgated canons of church discipline.

Constantinople II


When and where
553.
Crisis or controversy
Emperor Justinian I wanted the Church to consider the orthodoxy of three Greek theologians: Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and Ebas of Edessa.
Attendees
150 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Justinian I, Emperor;
Decrees and resolutions
Condemned the writings of theologians as having been infested with Nestorianism.

Constantinople III


When and where
680.
Crisis or controversy
Monothelism was teaching that Christ did not possess a human will.
Attendees
174 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Constantine IV, Emperor; Ratified: Leo II, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Condemned Monothelism; Declared that Christ has two wills, human and divine.

Nicaea II


When and where
787.
Crisis or controversy
Iconoclasts taught that using sacred images was idolatry.
Attendees
390 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Irene, Empress; Ratified: Adrian I, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Condemned Iconoclasts; Declared that sacred images may be honored without idolatry. Promulgated canons of church discipline.

Constantinople IV


When and where
870.
Crisis or controversy
Needed to decide the right of Patriarch Photius or the restoration of Ignatius.
Attendees
102 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Basil, Emperor; Ratified: Adrian II, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Photius was condemned in 27 canons.

Lateran I


When and where
1123. (Basilica in Rome, Italy)
Crisis or controversy
Needed to face the social and religious problems of the day; First ecumenical council in the West.
Attendees
300 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Callistus II, Pope; Ratified: Callistus
Decrees and resolutions
Promulgated canons of mixed matters.

Lateran II


When and where
1139.
Crisis or controversy
A double papal election and ensuing schism when two rivals claiming to be pope divided the church.
Attendees
1000 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Innocent II, Pope; St. Bernard of Clairvaux Ratified: Innocent II.
Decrees and resolutions
Took measures against schism of antipope Anacletis II; Promulgated canons of church discipline

Lateran III


When and where
1179.
Crisis or controversy
Reorganization had to be faced; there was the ever-needed pressure to reform; restraint of abuses.
Attendees
More than 300 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Alexander III, Pope; Ratified: Alexander III, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Decreed that papal elections required two-thirds majority of cardinals at the conclave; Promulgated numerous disciplinary canons.

Lateran IV


When and where
1215.
Crisis or controversy
Albigensian heresy: two supreme beings, Evil and Good; Christ did not die; all material things must.
Attendees
412 bishops; 388 priests, and the following notables: Convened: Innocent III, Pope; Ratified: Innocent III, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Declaration of Canon Law: the law of the Church; Decrees against Albegensians and Waldensians.

Lyons I


When and where
1245. (City in E. France)
Crisis or controversy
The difficult and heretical behavior of Emperor Frederick II; The persecution of religion.
Attendees
140 bishops; more than 300 in toto, and the following notables: Convened: Innocent IV, Pope; Ratified: Innocent IV, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Excommunication and deposition of Frederick II.

Lyons II


When and where
1274.
Crisis or controversy
A marked decline of the detachment of the popes from the things of the world; Chronic restiveness of the Greeks toward Roman primacy.
Attendees
500 bishops; 570 priests, and the following notables: Convened: Gregory X, Pope; St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure; Ratified: Gregory X, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
General reformation of the morals of clergy and bishops; Dogmatic constitution of filioque; Profession of faith of Greek Emperor Michael VIII.

Vienne


When and where
1312. (City in E. France near Lyons)
Crisis or controversy
Problems with the religious order of Knights Templars.
Attendees
122 bishops; 300 abbots, and the following notables: Convened: Clemens V, Pope; Ratified: Clemens V, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Templars were suppressed; Canon Law enacted; Three definition of dogmas; Disciplinary decrees written.

Constance


When and where
1414 - 1418. (City in Germany on Swiss border)
Crisis or controversy
The Great Western Schism: two sets of popes.
Attendees
32 Cardinals; 183 bishops; 100 abbots; 350 priests, and the following notables: Convened: Segismund, Emperor; Ratified: Martin V, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Reformation of the Church; Material organization of religion.

Florence


When and where
1438. (City of N. Italy)
Crisis or controversy
East/West reunion; Constantinople was being threatened by Mohammedans.
Attendees
more than 150 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Eugene IV, Pope; Ratified: Eugene IV, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Reunion of oriental churches.

Lateran V


When and where
1512 - 1517.
Crisis or controversy
Needed reform in church administration; Rise of atheistic philosophy; Friction between bishops and orders of friars.
Attendees
115 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Julius II, Pope; Cajetan; Ratified: Leo X, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Condemned the Averroes philosophy: the soul of man is not immortal; Promulgated reform decrees; Established principles of book censorship; Rights of bishops defined.

Trent


When and where
1545 - 1563. (in Hapsburg's Germany; now N. Italy)
Crisis or controversy
Martin Luther; Revolt against the Pope; Widespread heresy.
Attendees
70 - 252 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Paul III, Pope; Ratified: Pius IV, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Doctrinal decrees: restatement of belief in opposition to the new theologies; The Catholic Reformation: the reformation of Catholic life.

Vatican I


When and where
1870. (St. Peter's Bascilica)
Crisis or controversy
A return to life of the Catholic Church: needed a revival of religious life General restoration and restatement of the faith was needed; Christian marriages and education needed safeguarding.
Attendees
747 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: Pius IX, Pope; Ratified: Pius IX, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Promulgated decrees on the Catholic Faith and on the Church; Condemned the Rationalists and Semirationalists; Defined the charism of infallibility.

Vatican II


When and where
1962 - 1965.
Crisis or controversy
Constant need for reform and revival; Needed translation of faith into modern era: communication media; Christians and Jews; religious freedom, etc.
Attendees
2908 bishops, and the following notables: Convened: John XXIII, Pope; Ratified: Paul VI, Pope.
Decrees and resolutions
Issued 16 documents: On Divine Revelation; The Pastoral Constitution; On The Church in the Modern World; On The Church

St. Joseph

This morning as I celebrated the Mass and talked about St. Joseph, a thought kept going through my mind.

St. Joseph accepted the responsibility that God gave him, no matter what his personal thoughts or misgivings might have been.  In true humility, he accepted his role in the Holy Family to watch over and guide Mary and Jesus.  Their holiness and wisdom probably surpassed his, but he accepted what God laid out for him.

As the pastor of a parish, I can tell you for certain that the holiness and wisdom of the parishioners far surpasses mine.  But God, through our Bishop has asked me to be here and asked me to watch over and guide the parish.  I accept that responsibility, and I let it call me to strive for an increase in my personal relationship with Christ, leading me to holiness and true humility.  As for the wisdom - well, I gotta work with what God gave me, and know that God's Grace and Wisdom are far more effective than anything I can do.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Morning Musings

After looking at the excellent work at www.catholic-hierarchy.org, especially the list of United States Bishops who are active at or near the age limit of 75 (which you can find here), it just sets a mind to musing about the influence that Pope Benedict can have on Catholicism here in the US.

Here’s a list of those dioceses which have the Ordinary near or at the age limit.  The full list, including the Auxiliary Bishops is at the link above.  The order listed is from the oldest to the youngest of the group of Bishops.

Active at or over 75

  • Lafayette, LA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Spokane, WA
  • Oklahoma City, OK

Close to 75 (Two years or less)

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Savannah, GA
  • Trenton, NJ
  • Yakima, WA
  • Manchester, NH
  • Altoona-Johnstown, PA
  • Lincoln, NB
  • St. Augustine, FL
  • Bismarck, ND
  • Evansville, IN
  • Miami, FL
  • Rockford, IL
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Buffalo, NY
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Erie, PA
  • Las Cruces, NM
  • Orange, CA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Portland, OR

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ADAM'S ALE: TOO OLD AND SICK TO SIN?

TOO OLD AND SICK TO SIN?: "
Father, I am 75 years old. I can’t go out. I sit around the house all day. What can I do?”

This is heard more often than I like to think in the confessional. In essence a person is saying that they are sin free because they are incapable of doing anything anyway. But none of us is sin free. “Anyone who says he is without sin calls God a liar.”

Sin may take on a drastically new and unfamiliar face however. A person may no longer be able to be (or have the desire to be) unchaste or steal a car or fly an airplane into a building. When one is capable of such terrible sins not saying grace before meals may seem so trivial as to not be worth mentioning. We have bigger fish to fry. But when you sin capacity is reduced, things that once seemed picayune are now greater in proportion because to be honest, if we are physically and situationally less capable of sinning, we are also have less opportunities to be loving. So our focus on our examination of conscience must become recalibrated, more refined, and more thoughtful.

Here are some things to consider. This is not an exhaustive check off list of sins for shut-ins, but a springboard for further thought.

With more time on your hands have you developed an exponentially greater relationship with God? Has your prayer time greatly increased? Have you developed a habit of contemplation and meditation? Have you gotten to be old friends with God? Have you taken time to read Scripture? Have you shared your friendship with God with others?

Have you carelessly used God’s name Who we are to love above all else? Is His name reverenced by you? As an elder have you attempted to gently correct those around you who take His name so?

Have you made an effort to attend Mass and other services that are available to you? Have you made arrangements to receive Holy Communion and confession if you are unable to get to Mass? Do you do something special to mark Sundays and Holy Days of obligation? Are the people around you aware that you are Catholic and what services you desire should you become very ill?

Have you become that elder in the Church through your example and love and have so lead others to Christ? Have you actively worked and bringing peace and forgiveness to your family? Do you pray for your deceased relatives and friends? Do you support and assist your children in their roles as spouse and parent? Have you supported your grandchildren in the faith?

Do you speak about others in gossip? Do you harbor ill or unkind thoughts of others? Are you always kind to your caretakers? Are you always patient when you are in the role as caretaker? Are you honest with your doctor about your health? Do you take care of yourself, eat well and get enough sleep? Do you follow the directions of your doctor? Do you fulfill what your therapist asks you to do? Are you faithful about your medication? When the burdens of taking care of someone else becomes more than you can do well, are you able to admit it and seek help?

Have you given in to despair or grief? Have you given up on hope? Do you have joy? Can you accept the afterlife?

Is your estate in order? Do you have a will? Do you have a Catholic living will? Is the executor of either of these documents been properly informed as to their location and what is contained in them? Are they willing to uphold your Catholic wishes?

If you cannot give to charity or do works of charity have you carried forth charitable prayers? How do you fill your day? Is it in keeping with all virtue? What do you spend your time watching on T.V. or on the computer? Have you wasted too much money of gambling and other forms of entertainment?

Have you envied someone else’s good health or mobility or family? Have you reached out to others or have you become self centered? Do you write off poor behavior to some excuse? As an elder have you taken care to set an exemplary example of Catholic living?

Do you harbor ill feelings? Have you ever done a lifelong examination of conscience expressing repentance of things now realized sinful though you may have not paid it much thought in the past?

Is there good you could have done but not taken the effort? Is there a letter that should be written? An apology that should be extended? A phone call that should be made? A complaint about family that should be reserved? A prayer that should be prayed? Any restitution that should be offered? Any love withheld?
"

Monday, March 8, 2010

ADORO: Byzantine Divine Liturgy - Ruthenian Rite

Byzantine Divine Liturgy - Ruthenian Rite: "

This morning, accompanied by friends and younger friends (their children) we descended upon St. John the Baptist Ruthenian Byzantine Church, in northeast Minneapolis which, for those who are not aware, is one of the 22 Rites of the Church united with Rome. So, yes, they are a fully Catholic Church!

This visit to the Byzantine Church was the first for all of us, and we knew some very basic differences and that the Divine Liturgy (their term for the Mass) is quite different than what one would find in a Roman Catholic Church, although it is the same thing; the re-presentation of the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary.

For those who may not know, the Eastern Churches make the Sign of the Cross from right to left, as opposed to the Roman version which is left to right. As today, the 3rd Sunday of the Great Fast, they celebrate the Sunday of the Holy Cross, there is an explanation in their bulletin for the very reason for this tradition:

'Blessing oneself with two fingers brought to the thumb represents the Trinity. The last two fingers held to the palm represent the two natures of Jesus - God and man. For the first 1,200 years of the Church, in making the Sign of the Cross, the hand was typically brought from the right to the left shoulder even in the Western Church. In the East this is still the practice, to signify Christ enthroned at the right hand of the Father. According to tradition and in the words of Pope Innocent II (1198-1216), the Sign of the Cross is made with three fingers because it is impressed upon us in the name of the Holy Trinity. From the forehead we pass to the breast, then from the right to the left.'

I admit I did not know this as the reason for the difference and I will have to look into why the tradition changed in the Western Church (that's us, Roman Catholics!). I surmise there must be a theological reason for our tradition of left to right, or we wouldn't be doing it. Does anyone know?

We arrived early, and upon entering the Church was empty. I took the opportunity to take a couple photos of the very small church, which was built in the Western style, but inside, was clearly Eastern in worship. The Iconostasis was striking, as was the scent of incense that permeated our senses. We knew immediately that we were in for a real treat! Nothing says "Heaven touches earth" than the smell of incense!

All of us are familiar with both expressions of the Roman Rite: the Ordinary Form (often pejoratively called the "Novus Ordo") and the Extraordinary Form (often pejoratively called the "Pre-Vatican II Mass"). Of course, what this means is that we all immediately were attracted by the holy scent of incense which does amazing things to prepare one, all by itself, for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, or, in Byzantine Terms...the Sacred Mysteries.

When a few people arrived, we went out into the entry area with the children as their footsteps and toddler commentaries echoed throughout the space, and we wanted to be respectful of those who desired to pray and might better do so in silence. After all, as guests in a new place, we wanted to be polite! Besides, not knowing the character of the Church, it is always best to stand back an observe as opposed to insinuating oneself into a situation!

As it was, we became the impromptu "welcoming committee" for the regular parishioners, most of whom seemed thrilled to run the short gauntlet of young families and children. Several people commented on the dear children and how welcome was their presence. Even though I am not called to marriage and have no children, I have to admit it warmed my own heart to hear and see such expressions of love and welcoming for them.

Still, though, I have to admit; I now have a new appreciation for Protestants and other non-Catholics who visit a Catholic Mass for the first time, knowing only the most rudimentary things. I think I had the same misgivings and really, wanted to be sure not to offend. I was quite comfortable with the idea that we would stand out as visitors (well, not exactly "comfortable"...more....acquiescent to the terms of being a visitor to something new) and even more so when we saw the small size of the church itself. While when I first attended my own parish I could "hide", it was impossible for any of us to simply "blend in." We all knew it up front and just went with the flow.

A wonderful thing happened, though, as we waited for the Divine Liturgy to begin: an old friend of mine from college walked up the steps and into the Church. I haven't seen him in years, but he looks just like he did back then. (I swear..some people NEVER age!). On the other hand, I've changed quite a bit (I got fat like the rest of my Irish farmer family), but simply didn't have it in me to pretend I didn't know my old friend. Initially he didn't recognize me but all was well, he introduced us to his daughter and spent some time talking with us, helped us with some common things, emphasized that at Communion we should not stick our tongues out as Roman Catholics are wont to do, and, we found, he himself had prepared the leavened bread to be consecrated at that Mass! (Yes, this is proper in the Byzantine Church and it's not something EVERYONE does.)

Initial Observations:

When people entered the church, they did not genuflect as we do in the Roman Church. It appeared that they reverenced (kissed) the icons upon entry, some wrote something in a book (forgot to ask about that), and bowed before entering their pew. Instead of kneeling to pray in preparation as we do, they stood for a time, then sat. This is of course quite alien to the Roman but given our surroundings, did not seem "out of place".

The parishioners were very helpful and directed us to the books and guides that would help us follow along, and I found that, in fact, the Liturgy was very easy to follow as it was in English. While (I think) there were a few songs and prayers in Slavonic, overall all was in the vernacular with all the traditional chants.

Divine Liturgy


There are no musical instruments in a Byzantine Liturgy. As some explanations for this go, all come as they are, with what they have, and who they are. Instrumentation is not necessary, for God gave us voices to raise to Him in praise and supplication; nothing else glorifies God so much as that which He Himself created.

The melodies were very easy to follow, and believe me, there is a LOT of singing in the Byzantine Rites! But in those places where the choir sang, and although I am familiar with Byzantine Chant, it is an entirely different thing to hear that chant in the proper setting of the Liturgy.

Oh! I know now how angels sound when they sing their eternal praises to God!

I'm sorry, but very little of the music I have EVER heard in the Roman Catholic Church can compare to the simple chants of the Byzantine Liturgy.(click the link to go to a Byzantine site where you can hear the chants and order the CD.) And I put their music far over and above what we hear even in the holy ostentatiousness of the Baroque choirs of Mozart and his ilk at the infamous St. Agnes. (Which I admit, quite un-popularly, to be quite loud and too ostentatious at times. Sorry to those who love it, and yes, I do think it is far better than the Broadway faire of Haugen-Haas)

For those who have never experienced an Eastern Liturgy of any type, it is quite different. There are some similar elements, but it takes a LOOONG time to get to those things we recognize, such as the readings (which differ from ours) and the Consecration, which DOESN'T have bells to call our attention to it. Incidentally, there ARE bells in the first half of the Divine Liturgy, although I forgot to inquire as to the significance.

In following along, though, what impressed me was the ongoing praise to God alternated with the cries for His mercy, which is what the Liturgy throughout the Church, properly done is all about: knowledge and praise of God, while coming to know oneself in the face of God. So much of this is lost in the Roman Liturgy, not because of the liturgy itself, but through the music which, in the Roman Mass, tends to be more of a celebration of ourselves as opposed to great praise and supplication to God. (This is the point of reform within the Roman Catholic Church, and for good reason!)

There was absolutely no doubt, in this Liturgy, to WHOM it was addressed, and WHY. Yet, for those who want to juxtapose the interior with the exterior practices of our Faith would find them quite united here. I think that those who love to focus on the physical participation in the Mass in the Roman Catholic Church would find their home here in the Byzantine, for there are few pauses and it is dominated by the active singing and response of the congregation. In fact, I know someone who has a very difficult time focusing unless she is doing something at Mass, and may really find that the Byzantine Divine Liturgy keeps her attention as it demands a constant response.

I have to wonder if the minds behind Sacrosanctum Concilium were looking at the Eastern Liturgies as they wrote that document, seeking to combine the focus that has always oriented the Liturgy in all Rites to God with both the interior participation as well as the 'active' participation of the Faithful.

The Doors and the Icons

While the Byzantine Church also has an Offertory (for which I was not prepared today, to my shame), it is followed by the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which again, differs greatly but was still helpful in orienting me as to what was going on at the time. The book containing the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom was very helpful, but still, I found that I needed to be focused on what was happening in the sanctuary through the opened Doors, to which our attention is called throughout.

To explain, briefly, the Iconostasis, which operates much like a Communion Rail in a Roman Catholic Church (in those few where it remains), separates the human world from the heavenly world. It contains 3 doors: in the center are the Holy (or Royal) Doors, which open to the Sanctuary where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, and represent the Gates of Heaven. Only the Priest may pass through these particular doors; any others are automatically excommunicated for the infringement. The Deacon's Door, to the right, is graced by the image of St. Stephen (at least at St. John the Baptist), the protomartyr behind which we see the Deacon's Altar. The door to the congregation's left is the Server's door, and portrays most often, and clearly in this particular Byzantine Church, the icon of St. Michael the Archangel.

Of note in every Byzantine Church, you will find on one of the doors to your right, the icon of St. Nicholas of Myra, the Patron of the Byzantine Church.

Holy Communion

I admit I was nervous to receive Communion in the Byzantine Church, if only because it is a little different. I am accustomed to receive on the tongue, so opening my mouth to receive Our Lord isn't the problem. Rather, because this is such a Holy Moment, a Holy Action, I wanted to be certain that if I screw up at any point, it wouldn't be THAT point! I even seriously considered not receiving at all!

Yet I knew I could...I went to Confession yesterday, am sure I had not committed any mortal since since my Confession, and really, the newness shouldn't detain me. Yet..that's just me. I'm a wimp and often want to hang back instead of trying new things, especially when making a mistake with new things can become sacrilege.

I had asked my friend, in the entryway about this, and this is where he emphasized to receive by tilting the head back, mouth open. For all the Roman Catholics out there....do NOT stick out your tongue! He laughed about how they always know a Roman by the instruction, "Tongue in!" and according to habit, we stick our tongues OUT to receive!

Not in the Eastern Church. I actually LOVED Holy Communion in this form, so I will explain it from a newbie perspective in anticipation of other newbies:

You will queue up like we always do. Like the English, we Roman Catholics in America are very serious about our queues, so you can expect here what you do at Communion time at Mass.

There is a small table (Tetrapod) near the front containing an icon (Pictured) with two candles on either side. Today, as we venerated the Holy Cross, the Tetrapod contained an icon of the Crucifix. At Holy Communion, consistent with the spirituality of each person coming to God as they are, each person went forward to the Priest to receive. We formed two lines, waited at the Tetrapod. and when the person before us had moved aside, went forward.

I noticed that the server beckoned me...I don't know if he does that for each person or just for newbies. It could be that I waited too long to advance.

The servers on either side of the Priest hold up a red cloth (I know there is a name for this, please inform me) beneath the chin of the one receiving. Many people bent their knees, and although I am short, I did a little, too, to make it easier for the Priest. Make a sign of reverence while standing in line (much like the Roman Rite), then approach, the Priest will offer Christ from a chalice where the leavened break is mingled with the Precious Blood in the Chalice that he holds. If needed, bend your knees, open your mouth (tongue in!), and the Priest will use a spoon to place the Sacrament in your mouth.

I have read this too, and know this is hard to envision. But I can tell you this: today I KNEW I had received God Himself, the very BLOOD AND FLESH of Christ on my tongue. I can't describe it, but it is completely different from the physical "feeling" of Holy Communion in a Roman Catholic Church. I have received by valid intinction (consecrated hosts on a paten with a small chalice attached, where the Priest intincts the Host.)

I have a strong devotion to the Precious Blood of Christ, but don't often receive from the chalice, and found that Holy Communion today has brought me more deeply into that particular devotion in a way I will not soon forget.

After Holy Communion, the Faithful return to their pews and stand, for in the Eastern Church, THAT is the sign of reverence. I knew this in advance and thought that I would miss kneeling, and indeed, I WANTED to kneel. This Church had kneelers utilized by some, but I found that I wanted to remain standing given the practice and the ancient sign of respect in this Church. After all...when in Byzantine, do as the Byzantines do.

Please note that this differs from the odd Roman Catholic Churches that stand at the consecration in disobedience and outside of the tradition of the Roman Rite; I attended some of those prior to my conversion and 'knew' that standing was wrong...and had a sense of the kneeling that was missing during the consecration.

I did not have that sense of discomfort today. That speaks volumes.

Dismissal

During Holy Communion there are several Hymns, and following, prayers of Thanksgiving. There are more prayers to be merciful to we, the sinner, supplications to God, and an admonition from the Priest to be attentive to Our Lord and the Holy Spirit, as I recall. (I'm sorry I can't link to this part of the Liturgy)

There was no procession out to which we Romans are accustomed.

The people in front of us took this time to introduce themselves and welcome us to their church, invited us back, exclaimed over the children, and said that they had been raised as Roman Catholics. Lovely people, and for some reason, reminded me of Texans. I don't know why and can't explain this. (no accent, they just..quirkily, made me think of Texans).

But because they were so homey and personable,and seemed so informal even though something was STILL going on in the Church, I was a bit discomfited. I was watching the Faithful filing forward, as if for Holy Communion, instead of filing out.Clearly people were receiving a blessing from the Priest, who was holding a glass bowl containing what appeared to be oil.

To either side stood servers, the one to my left holding the Bulletin, the one to the right holding a basket and a bulletin.

The man I asked explained that because it was the Sunday to venerate the Holy Cross, they were going forward for the veneration of the Icon of the Cross, and then to the Priest for a blessing. He explained that the basket contained the bread that was not used in Communion.

I went forward, kissed the Cross, and found that the person in front of me was engaged in a conversation with the priest. I'd started to move forward but saw that I should wait as their conversation continued...clearly this was more informal. It reminded me of the Roman Rite of the Liturgy of the Priest Greeting after Mass.

The Priest used what looked like a fine-tipped paint brush to paint a cross on my forehead with the holy oil from the bowl. I had to hold back my bangs for this, as did other women. He spoke in Slavic, so I have no idea what he said.

I did not take any of the bread from the basket, but one of my friends asked the Server if it was the Eucharist. He said that it was.

No, it wasn't. It was blessed bread, but as I understand, not consecrated, so not Christ Himself. This was a cause for concern for a time, but my friend explained it to us (thankfully!) and I can assure anyone who experiences this that no one is desecrating the Eucharist!

After this, we received a tour of the Church, I took photos of the icons while listening, and find that I will need to attend again both with more knowledge of the Ruthenian Divine Liturgy, and to get better photos of the icons.

I left feeling blessed, knowing that I had received Our Lord, and with a greater appreciation of the Universal Church.

Thank you, Jesus.

"