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.