Archive for August, 2009

August 29, 2009 – Just a Few Quickies

August 29, 2009

The blog this week will be fairly short, as I have been stricken with one of the great “gifts” that Southern Illinois has to offer – the Southern Illinois sinus congestion.  We certainly can’t complain about this beautiful fall-like weather that we have been blessed with, but when it is still August and it was summer-like just a day or two ago, well sometimes the body doesn’t adjust as well as you would like it to.

Staying in this morning allowed me the opportunity to watch the coverage of the funeral Mass for Ted Kennedy.  It was a beautiful and moving service.  His family did a wonderful job in remembering him.  I know myself having delivered several eulogies how difficult it is to put emotions aside and publicly state your feelings about someone.  You want people to be moved by your words but at the same time you do not want to go down the lane of sorrow; you still want the occasion to be a celebration of a life well-lived, and I thought his family did a great job in doing that.

The Kennedys may be the most famous, most public Catholic family in history.  However, it is also no secret that Sen. Kennedy’s liberal stance on issues put him at odds with some of the teachings of the church.  Yet, for at least today, that was all put aside as 1500 people crowded into the church, and many priests as well as Cardinal Sean O’Malley reverently did the rites of the Mass of the Resurrection.  The church that I saw today was the church that I love, the church that I envision for the future.  A church that welcomes everyone, even if not everyone agrees with what the church teaches.  Does the church have the right to attempt to convince us that its teachings when dealing with issues such as abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, etc. are proper?  Absolutely.  However, does the church have the right to turn away people who truly believe that there is one true God, that the Eucharist they receive is truly the Body and Blood of Christ, yet may not totally agree with all that the church teaches?  Would Jesus have turned away these people?  I think our duty as Catholics is to know what the church’s teachings are, to convey them to others as best we can, and to continue to welcome those who even though they may not agree with all that the church teaches, that still have a hunger for Christianity, that hunger for the peace and reconciliation that God can bring. 

Just four weeks and counting until our Mission!  As I have said before and will continue to say for the next few weeks – the more people who attend, the more people who are involved, the greater the mission experience will be.  Have you signed up to be a greeter for one of the services, or to carry a symbol, or perform one of the other ministries?  Please consider doing so.  None of the roles are complicated.  We were talking the other night at Parish Council meeting about how long it had been since we last had a Mission.  Eight years ago, we did the Renew mission, which was done ourselves as a parish.  It probably has been over a decade since we had a mission when a priest from outside our community came to lead the Mission for us.  It is truly a unique and special event.  So again, I hope you can put at least some of the week aside for this experience, I hope you invite anyone you think would enjoy the Mission, and I hope you will be involved in some way.

Finally, I want to thank you for continuing to support our website, www.maryhoc.org.  We have had a lot of traffic on the website this month, more than we have the past several months.  As always, I am open to any suggestions you may have to improve our website or to see something added.  Also, if you have any photos from parish events, etc., I am glad to post them (people love to look at the photos). 

With next week being a holiday weekend, I plan to take a week off from the blog and re-charge the creative batteries.  If there is any newsworthy information to post, I will put it on our Twitter page (www.twitter.com/maryhoc).  Have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend, and I will be back at the keyboard in a couple of weeks.   Peace.

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August 21, 2009 – Doubt is OK

August 21, 2009

“Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day!”  I am so glad that a few weeks back I predicted that we would see blazing hot temperatures when school started, because my predictions are rarely right.  A little reverse psychology on the ol’ webmaster’s part!

The rest of the chorus from the old show tune that I started the blog with is of course “I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way!”  It would be great if we could get up every morning with this attitude, but in the real world, it doesn’t always work that way.  More often than not doubts creep into the picture – what will I have to deal with at work today? What will the report from the doctor say?  Is my healthcare plan in danger?  And certainly, there are those times when we doubt God – why can’t He make the situation better?  Why can’t He put an end to war and violence?  Is He listening at all?  I’m sure there isn’t one person, Christian or not, who hasn’t struggled with doubt.

I am tackling this topic because this Sunday’s gospel finds many of Jesus’ followers struggling with doubt.  In last Sunday’s gospel Jesus proclaimed that “I am the living bread that came down from heaven … and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”  Many of Jesus’ disciples could not grasp this concept, and ended up returning to their former way of life.  They took the “easy” way out – they ignored their doubts and ran away from them.

When I was younger I had similar reactions to situations that caused doubt to enter my mind.  But in my 39 plus years here on earth I think I have learned a least a few things, and one thing I have come to know and to accept is that doubt does not have to be a bad thing.  In fact, it can be a good thing if we embrace it and do something constructive with it.  Doubt should cause us to ask questions and to seek answers to those questions, even though we may not always find the answers on our own terms and the answers may not be the ones we are looking for.  As Christians it is not wrong for us to have doubts –  what is expected of us is to trust in the Lord and to take our doubts to Him, and to share with others the ups and downs of our faith life. 

In a few weeks I will once again be teaching our 7th/8th grade PSR students, and one of the first things I will tell them is that one of the biggest challenges they will face as Christians is to continue to trust in the Lord even when they have doubts.  But they will find that if they stick with Him, there is no other better deal around.  In the gospel, when Jesus questioned the remaining 12 apostles as to whether they would leave Him also, Peter responded “Master, to whom shall we go?”  For us to say “Yes” to Jesus is not easy.  We feel we may not be able to justify our decision. 

Our Parish Mission which will take place in about 5 weeks offers us a unique opportunity to seek answers to our questions.  Coming together as a community of faith for 5 consecutive nights in prayer and in listening to the preaching of God’s word will provide us an opportunity to focus on our faith in a way which we may not have ever had the opportunity to do otherwise.  And when we do gather, we can take solace in the fact that we are gathered with fellow Christians who have experienced the same triumphs, joys, doubts and fears as us.  Please join us for this great event and invite others to experience this wonderful opportunity!

Speaking of doubts, I’m sure the Cubs fans are experiencing a few right now, although after 101 straight years without a championship, the doubt of what would happen should pretty well be erased.  The question now isn’t whether the Cardinals will make the playoffs, but how far they will go in the playoffs.  Can’t wait until October!

Finally, an “almost” dramatic church moment – earlier this afternoon I stopped at church to put out the sign-up sheets for folks to put their names to fill roles for the Mission.  As I was taping them on the radiator, all of the sudden this huge burst of light appeared over me.  Was someone turning the lights on?  Could this be … well … a supernatural moment?  Alas, I looked up and it was just the sun coming from behind the clouds.  Guess I never realized how much the sun can penetrate through the stained glass.  Oh well, keep daring to dream!  

Until next week, Peace.

August 14, 2009 – Where Has the Summer Gone?

August 14, 2009

Well I think the title of the blog this week kind of says it all – where has the summer gone?  All of the sudden we have school starting next week, the Popeye Picnic coming in a little less than a month, our Parish Mission in about 6 weeks, and of course football is starting to get into swing again.  Time always seems to go so fast, but I think it goes especially fast in the summertime.

I offer my prayers and best wishes to our school teachers, staff, parents and students for a great year in 2009-2010.  I continue to be amazed at what our school accomplishes each year.  It is always a struggle for a parochial school to keep the doors open, much less to thrive, especially considering the current economic climate and the relatively small size of our parish.  We are truly blessed to have such a dedicated group of teachers and staff, most of who have been here for a number of years and who could have easily gone to other places for more money.  We are also blessed to have great kids in our school and to have caring parents who encourage their children in their studies and activities and who also volunteer so much of their time for fundraisers, etc.  And we also must recognize all of the other folks who give of their time and money even though they do not have children in school.  In particular we need to give a shout out to the crew who has been working to install the new library roof (finally got some dry weather!) and those helping to clean-up.  Our school is a very special place, and the love and generosity of so many great people will keep it that way for years to come.

OK, last week I mentioned that I was struggling to find a topic to talk about.  Well this week one landed right in my lap.  As you know I am a HUGE sports fan.  I admit that I am actually looking forward to the Rams pre-season game tonight.  I admit that when I am in my office at work that I sometimes flip on sports-talk radio.  I admit that I am in need of a psychological evaluation (that’s a topic for another time).  Today, however, most of the conversation was about issues taking place off the field.  First there is the Michael Vick story.  Michael Vick was a one-time exciting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons who spent 18 months in  prison for running a dog fighting operation.  He was just recently released from prison and has been signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, and will make over a million dollars this year.  There is also the story of Rick Pitino, head basketball coach at the University of Louisville.  There are conflicting stories, but apparently in 2003 he had a one-time “fling” with a woman in a restaurant, the woman ends up pregnant, has an abortion, and the coach pays her money to cover the abortion (the coach is Catholic by the way).  Now there are charges against the woman for extortion, and the woman now claims that she was raped.  Great stuff, eh?  So most of the conversation this morning was centered around whether Vick should be allowed to play football again, and whether the coach should be allowed to continue coaching.

My first reaction to all of this was to turn the radio off.  One of the main reasons that I love sports so much is that it is a nice refuge from “real world” stuff.  When I sit down to watch a game, I’m not thinking about how much money the players are making, or who is taking steroids, or who cheated on who’s spouse.  When I watch a game, I watch because I want to be entertained.  So after I flipped the radio off, I thought to myself – is it wrong for me to root for players and other sports figures who I know have committed a wrong, whether it be a criminal or moral wrong, or should I just ignore it because again, I just want to be entertained?

This is another situation where there really is no black – and – white clear answer.  I think in any form of entertainment, whether it be music, TV, movies, etc., there will be people involved who have committed wrongs, so it’s really impossible to avoid supporting someone by watching or listening to them, or buying tickets to a game in which they are involved.  I think the important thing for us to remember is to be a witness to others by living our lives as God has taught us, and to stand up for our own moral beliefs.  I think our Parish Mission will be a great opportunity to renew our sense of moral values and to help us sort through some of these tough questions.  I love to know what you think of this topic – feel free to leave a comment.

Thanks again for reading, and for continuing to spread the word about our website, which has had quite a bit of traffic so far this month.  Until next week, Peace.

August 7, 2009 – Mumbo Jumbo

August 8, 2009

Welcome back to my blog.  As I sit at my computer this Friday evening life from this perspective is pretty good – I’m listening to the radio and Matt Holliday just homered for the Cardinals, and I’m looking out my window at the sun setting on a niceFriday evening.  Good stuff.  I also just looked at my blog statistics and it shows that this the 80th blog that I am filing.  I’m not sure if it is because I have already touched on a lot of subjects, or if it’s just one of those days, but normally when it is time to file a blog I usually kind of just start thinking about things maybe a day or so ahead of time and I try to pay a little more attention to things I observe or hear and see if they would make interesting subject matter.  I’ve been doing that the last day or two and well – nothing, nada, squat.  I don’t know if its because I just haven’t picked up on things, or if there really hasn’t been anything interesting cross my eyes and ears.  Knowing me, I probably just haven’t picked up on things.  So for this blog I will just be winging it as I go along.  Keep reading if you dare!

One item I have been paying attention to on the news is the use of “Twitter”, especially in the sports world.  As you probably know our website, www.maryhoc.org, has its own Twitter page on which I occassionally post updates or random thoughts.  It’s nice for me because I can be at any computer with internet access and post items.  You can also post from a cell phone (although I haven’t quite reached that point yet).  It’s also a convenient way to follow other websites that have their own Twitter page.  If you have visited our Twitter page, www.twitter.com/maryhoc, you see that I follow about 10 other Twitter accounts, including EWTN, Catholic News Service, and of course the St. Louis Cardinals page.  I can click on these icons and see what is new and interesting on these other websites.  So it is certainly a valuable tool.  However, like most internet tools, there are people who try to go out of bounds in their intended use, such as trying to post offensive materials.  It has also gotten a lot of conversation in the sports world.  The Green Bay Packers have banned their players from “tweeting” if they are participating in any football-related activities.  A player from the San Diego Chargers was fined for posting how bad the food was in training camp.  ESPN has banned their reporters from tweeting any updates because they want the information posted on their official website before it gets out anywhere else.  So I will keep tweeting because I think its a valuable tool, and believe me, you’ll never get any complaints about the food at my house!

As I mentioned before, with this year being declared the Year for Priests by Pope Benedict XVI, from time to time I will say a few words about the priests who have impacted my life.  Today I want to recognize Fr. Tom Stout.  Fr. Tom was a teacher and chaplain at Gibault High School my Freshman and Sophomore years.  Fr. Tom is a soft-spoken and generous priest.  Until I got into high school my perspective of priests was that they were devout, pious men who lived lives very different from lay people.  Fr. Tom helped me discover that priests are “real” people also, who deal with the same ups and downs, the same triumphs and problems that everyone else does.  Fr. Tom was the first priest who I was comfortablepulling up a chair with and talking to about everything from school to religion to sports.  He truly cares about young people, having done much work with CYO and youth retreats.

Fr. Tom was also Vocation Director when I was toying with the idea of enrolling in the seminary.  I eventually did not follow that path, because I knew in my heart of hearts that I just could not 100% commit myself to a vocation that requires so much dedication.  Fr. Tom certainly did a wonderful sales pitch, but he also made it clear that the Lord will tell you what path He wants you to follow, and I think I followed the right path.  Fr. Tom recently transferred to Sacred Heart Parish in DuQuoin.  Please pray for him and all of our priests that find happiness and fulfillment in their ministry.

Well as I have been sitting here the Pirates have scored 4 runs to take the lead on my Redbirds, so I better end this quickly.  With the forecast being a hot, hot weekend, it will be a good time to work on some Mission stuff, such as sending info to neighboring parishes, writing articles for the newspapers, etc., etc.  Can you believe the Mission is only 7 weeks away?  Can you believe that school is about a week and a half away?  Time marches on.

Oh, one more thing – heard a cute joke to share, even though the timing is a little off.  An Irish gentleman always ordered three beers at a time when he was at the local pub.  Finally curiosity got the best of the bartender, who asked him why he always ordered his beer 3 mugs at a time.  The Irishman said “well, you see, my one brother is in Australia, and my other brother is in Scotland.  We made a promise to each other that when we weren’t together, that we would drink a beer for ourselves and a beer in honor of each other.”  A few weeks later the bartender noticed that the Irishman was only ordering two beers at a time.  The bartender assumed that one of the brothers must have passed on.  So the bartender approached the Irishman and said “I don’t want to pry, but I just wanted to extend my sympathies to you on the loss of your brother.”  The Irishman looked confused at first, and then realizing what was going on, said “Oh don’t worry.  My two brothers are fine and dandy.  You see, I gave up drinking beer for Lent!”. 

Stay cool this weekend! Peace.

August 1, 2009 – To Tell Or Not To Tell

August 1, 2009

Thanks again for visiting my blog.  As I had told you last week my entry is coming a little later than usual today.  I had a meeting this morning (which went a little ways into the afternoon) in Belleville with the Diocesan Pastoral Council.  I had not thought about what I was going to write about today because I figured that I would have plenty to talk about coming out of the meeting.  Well, I have plenty that I could talk about, but most of it I cannot yet talk about (does that make sense?).  In other words, most of the issues we discussed are still in infant planning stages and will not be available for public consumption until planning is finalized on them.

I can tell you the topics of the things we touched on.  We talked about the 125th anniversary of the Diocese, which is January 7, 2012.  There will be events that will take place leading up to this date, but how many and their extent is still undetermined.  There are many factors that weigh in to this, including the economy and how much is reasonable to spend on such celebrations.  We also touched on a plan by Bishop Braxton to begin parish pastoral visits.  These visits would be in a different format than say a Confirmation, or other formal occasion, but again the Bishop does not want to release details until there is a more concrete plan in place.  We also touched on a couple of general interest items such as the Pope’s latest encyclical.

So I sit here in sort of a quandry.  One side of me says to respect the Bishop’s wishes and let what he intends to be confidential remain confidential.  Another side of me, however, can hear the voices of people who feel that the state of the Catholic Church has been greatly affected by a lack of transparency and a sense that lay people and even clergy cannot be “trusted” to be given information and discuss it and distribute it in an appropriate way.

I have in the past and still continue to enjoy my role on the Pastoral Council.  We have good, frank discussion and it helps me to stay in the know with what is happening in the Diocese and the universal Church.  But clearly the role of the council has changed over the last few years.  When I first joined the Council, the agenda was for the most part driven by us and our Deanery Reflection Groups that we met with to discuss issues in the local church.  Now the agenda is basically driven by the Bishop.  He does listen to our input and I think he appreciates our time with him.  But I think now we are more of a “sounding board” instead of a group that initiates ideas and addresses concerns.  So when I tell you that there is not a whole lot I can share with you from meeting, it is not because I do not have the desire to do so, but because I do not have the authority to do so.  But please trust that a little ways down the road these plans will be finalized and released.

There was another meeting this past week that I can share some information about, and that is the Mission planning meeting that took place last Tuesday.  I thought it was a very good meeting.  Basically everyone who is overseeing some part of the Mission was there, and to my delight they all have already been planning their various ministries.  I gave a report to Fr. Pete this past week on our progress, and he was very pleased and excited.  As he said, just the fact that folks are talking up the mission in July/early August is reason for optimism.  He is confident that our Mission experience will be a blessed one, and I think we should be confident also.  Many plans have already been set for childcare, providing transportation, refreshments, liturgy, publicity, etc.  Much more needs to be done here in the next 8 or so weeks, but I know that it will come together and that the Mission week wll be a truly graced time.  Remember to keep doing your part and invite, invite, invite.  Check the bulletin in the coming weeks or go to our Mission webpage, www.maryhoc.org/Mission2009 for all of the latest.  Also, we will be putting out sign-up sheets shortly for people to be greeters, symbol bearers, and to perform other ministries during the Mission.  Please consider filling one of these roles.

OK, that’s all I have on my mind today.  Next week I will actually think about what I am going to write before I sit down at the computer!  Have a great week.  Peace.