Archive for March, 2011

March 25, 2011 – My Man Dolan

March 25, 2011

I’m posting my blog this week with the realization that my loyal following is busy this weekend with dinner/auction activities.  So instead of getting too deep into anything, it seems like a good time again to just throw out a few thoughts and see what sticks.  In other words, as these loyal readers have figured out over the years, Brian has nothing else to write about so he has to make it sound like he has all of these brilliant observations when he is really just winging it.  And as Brian would respond:  You paid how much to read this?  Anyway, moving on.

It seems like we say it every year, but this year definitely holds true – I have never seen such crazy weather.  In the 70’s and mild one minute, snowflakes and cold north wind the next.  One bright side to the weather is the amusement I get from the local early morning news shows.  “Oh no, snow in the forecast!  We’ll be on at 3:30AM  and we’ll be in STORM MODE!!!”  And of course all of the reporters are sent outside to freeze their rear ends off to show us that it is snowing.  Um, I can look out my window and see that.  It’s OK to go inside where it’s warm.  Even when the weather is nice, they send these people out to places where events happened the day before.  “A big verdict was handed down yesterday.  Let’s go live outside the courthouse!”  Um, it’s 5:30 in the morning.  No one is there!  Well, I guess that’s why I didn’t get into television.

Speaking of TV, if you didn’t see 60 minutes this past Sunday, you missed a great story on Archbishop Timothy Dolan.  Abp. Dolan, a native of St. Louis, is the Archbishop of New York, which is one of the most visible positions in the American Catholic Church.  He is also currently serving as President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, another very prominent and visible role.  Abp. Dolan is a guy who clearly loves his job and loves life in general.  In particular he loves to talk theology and loves good food and drink (I can’t imagine why I gravitate to him).  As far as church doctrine, though, he leans conservative, so don’t expect him to be campaigning for women priests or for an end to the celebacy requirement for clergy.  But he is a very eloquent spokesman for the church and gives the church a refreshing voice.  If you missed the interview, here is the link to see it online:

www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7360248n

Also, 60 Minutes has a webcast called “60 Minutes Overtime”, where he further explains the church’s position on certain matters.  Here is the link to that:

www.cbsnews.com/8301-504803_162-20044758-10391709.html?tag=contentBody;housing

Finally, Abp. Dolan writes a blog in conjunction with the Archdiocese of New York (this guy has to be related to me somewhere along the line!).  It has a lot of interesting reads.  Here is your link to that:

blog.archny.org

As I have said before, I don’t necessarily agree with 100% of the church’s positions.  For example, I believe that there are some women who would make wonderful priests.  However, I also realize that these rules were not just picked out of thin air; that they are based on Jesus’ teachings and the long standing traditions of the church.  And it does not affect the basic foundation of my faith, which is my belief that there is one true God who sent His Son to live among us and to sacrifice His life for our sins, and that the Holy Spirit lives among us as His advocate.  If all people who claim themselves as Christians would base their faith on these principles, everything else would fall into place.  And if we have disagreements. we can discuss them, pray over them, and move forward.

Well despite the frightful weather outside, we know that summer is not far away, which generally is the time around ol’ St. Mary’s to play a little bit of catch-up on things – there are no religion classes and fewer meetings.  So one of the things on my summer agenda is to make a few tweaks to the website.  I plan to re-do a few pages, including the youth page.  I would like to “jazz” it up a little bit, perhaps putting some more links on it to things like Christian rock/pop music and other material of interest to teens.  And I would like to put a newsboard where we can recognize our high school school students when they receive publicity for their accomplishments.  I also continue to explore programs that would allow people to make contributions to the parish online.

Also, we briefly discussed at our Parish Council meeting the other night the possibility of gathering the e-mail addresses of folks who have internet access which would make church correspondence more practical and more cost-effective.  We could do things such as send letters, perhaps start a monthly newsletter, and do other things.  The addresses would of course be kept confidential.  Again, these are just preliminary ideas.  Some people count sheep to go to sleep at night, but I’m thinking about stuff like this.  As always, your ideas and comments are always welcome. 

Temptation of the week – Double Stuff Oreo Cakesters.  Alas, just a dream.

Last but certainly not least I want to thank the many, many people who have helped, contributed, attended, and gave of themselves in so many other ways to pull off another successful dinner/auction.  If you are reading this before the auction, enjoy the evening and know that your generosity and work will have a great payoff.  If you are reading this after the auction, I hope you had a great time and I hope your auction “hangover” wasn’t too bad.

Pray for better weather, especially by Thursday which is Opening Day for the Cardinals!  Come to think about it, pray for the Cardinals, too.  I have a feeling they are going to need some divine intervention.  Have a great week.  Peace.

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March 18, 2011 – In His Image

March 18, 2011

This has been one of those weeks when nothing obvious has popped into my head to write about, so I had to go on a search for some inspiration (another good reason to get on the computer – cool!).  This time I went to the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (www.usccb.org), which I highly recommend.  It has a lot of great information for Catholics, including news, the daily Mass readings, reflections, etc.  I first went to the readings for this Sunday and I was reminded that the Second Sunday of Lent brings us the story of the Transfiguration in which Jesus appeared on the mountain top along with Moses and Elijah to the disciples Peter, James and John.  The voice of God  then proclaims to the disciples that “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Thus the true identity of Jesus as fully human as well as fully divine is revealed.

Reading this story again took me down a little different train of thought.  We were taught in our religion classes that we are all creations of God, and thus have been made in His image.  I continue to pass this message along to my students today.  It is God who gives us our identity.  In the eyes of God we are all uniquely made yet we are all equals.  So why is it that so many people are anxious to change their God-given image?  Millions and millions of dollars are spent by people wanting to improve or totally change their image.  Magazines and websites are totally devoted to this.  TV shows glorify plastic surgery and other radical changes in people’s images.  Why is it that people want to take God’s creation and totally change it?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t want to improve ourselves.  If we think we will look better by losing weight or trying a different hairstyle, then more power to us.  But why is it that so many people want to completely alleviate the image they inherited from God?  I wonder if they really feel that they will look better if they get this radical work done, or if their real goal is to try to change their identity – the way that they present themselves.  I’m not satisfied with the way things are going and people are making comments about my appearance so I need to change something.

In my religion class we do a section on decision making, and as a part of it we talk about the values we hold and the four groups that can influence those values: our family, friends, church, and the media.  More and more it seems that the media is taking a stronghold on our decision making, which is understandable considering that there is so much more new media present than there was even 20 years ago – hundreds of TV channels, internet, movies on demand, etc.  Not only has the amount of media changed, but the message and focus of the media has changed.  Despite all that is happening in the world such as the tragic earthquake in Japan and all of the unrest in the Middle East, rarely does a newscast go by without some mention of the latest antics of Charlie Sheen, or the latest outrageous outfit worn by Lady Gaga (who would have thought a Catholic blog would have mentioned Lady Gaga?).  And along with these stories usually comes a mention of the “image” that these people are portraying, and thus many of us, particularly young people, are persuaded to follow suit.  The message that we as Christians need to be proclaiming is that we were indeed made in God’s image, and that no matter what we see or hear from outside forces, no matter what our peers may be trying to persuade us to do, that all of God’s creatures are good, and that we should be proud of our unique image.

As I was perusing the USCCB website, I also read about the church’s reaction to a decision by President Obama to instruct the Justice Dept. not to defend sections of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the current court cases where it is being challenged.  His reasoning is that this Act is a form of sexual orientation discrimination.  DOMA was passed in 1996.  It says that “for the purpose of acts of Congress or regulations the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife.”  DOMA also prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex “marriages”.

This ruling of course is contrary to what the Catholic Church teaches us about the institution of marriage.  Archbishop Timothy Dolan, current President of the USCCB, offered a persuasive statement in response.  Here is a link to his statement:

www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2011/11-043.shtml

We as Catholics should not only be proud of our personal identities, but should also be proud of our beliefs which have been tested over time, and have only recently been challenged.  We, too, are seeing an increased influence by our media to persuade our values.  We cannot be afraid to stand up for our beliefs even if it may not be the culturally “popular” thing to do.

Couple of random things to finish off.  First you will want to check the homepage of our website, www.maryhoc.org.  You will find a link to our dinner/auction booklet which lists all of the auction items as well as information about the evening.  Also, there is a link to information about how you can make a donation to the relief efforts in Japan.  You can make a donation to St. Mary’s and we will forward it to the Diocese who will send it on to Catholic Relief Services.  You can also donate directly to Catholic Relief Services.  All of the information is there.

Finally, my temptation of the week occurred today.  In exploring items at Wal-Mart I came across peanut butter crunch Moon Pies.  Alas, my diet and my Lenten regimine wouldn’t allow me to partake (grrrrrrrrr!).

Enjoy the first week of spring.  Peace.

March 11, 2011 – Listen Up

March 12, 2011

I first send my prayers to the victims of the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Events such as this remind us that we ourselves are sitting in an earthquake zone and that according to the experts it is just a matter of time before a major earthquake hits our neck of the woods.  It also hits home somewhat for me because it was 5 years ago today that a tornado hit and devestated our property.  We were very fortunate that no one was injured and that we had so many wonderful friends and family who helped us in so many ways.  But it is again a reminder that our lives are fragile and can change in an instant, and that it is up to us to make the most of the time we have.

The themes of being people of service and being prepared for whenever God decides our time on earth will end hit home for us Christians, especially during this time of Lent.  It’s always funny to me seeing people struggle with deciding what to give up for Lent, or deciding what extra things to do as a means of sacrifice and giving.  I see this every 2 years with my Confirmation classes.  One of the requirements of the students is to perform 15 hours of volunteer service work.  Most of them when they hear this for the first time go into a panic: “What?!  15 hours?!  What do we do?!”  But as we begin to talk about things they can do they find that they are already doing more than they realize, and the 15 hours then don’t seem so daunting.

There are of course tons of ways that we can be of service to others, and many of these are just regular, everyday things.  If I tried to list them all it would take a thousand blogs.  But many times we still feel like we come up short, and we rack our brain trying to either come up with other ways that we can be of service, or we try to find the time to squeeze something else into our busy schedules.

We as humans of course are imperfect, and we always have room for improvement, but I think we usually find that if we really look at our lives in an honest and critical way that we are not doing as badly as we think; in fact we are probably doing more than we will ever realize.  Even though I do quite a bit for the church, I still wonder if I have gifts that I am not utilizing to the fullest.  But then I’m reminded that things that don’t even seem like works of service such as blogging, internet work, etc. are still important ways that I can utilize my particular talents in a positive manner.

As I have mentioned before I am not the most vocal person in the world.  Call it being quiet, call it shyness, call it what you want.  At times I have thought to myself that this is something I need to work on, that I should speak up for myself more often, which in some cases is true.  But I was also reminded this week that being quiet and being a good listener can also be a useful gift.  I had an instance this past week when someone was telling me about their bad day, and at the end of the conversation their last line was “I feel better now!”.  It reminded me that being a “listener” can not only be helpful and valuable, but it made me wonder if quietness and listening is something that our society is lacking right now.  We seem to have become a “turn up the volume” society.  Crank up the music!  If you don’t think you are being heard, yell louder!  I even hear many people say, myself included, that they can’t read or study without having some music or the TV on in the background.  Have we become a society that has de-valued the benefit of listening?

The Bible certainly recognizes the importance of listening.  There are many verses that can be pointed to, but a couple that stood out to me were Proverbs 19:27 which says “cease to hear instruction … and you will stray from the words of knowledge.”  And in the book of Samuel, whenever the Lord came to Samuel he would reply “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”  Jesus many times would wander off by himself to pray quietly.  Bishop Braxton, when he was here for his pastoral visit a few manths ago, reminded us that an important part of praying was listening to what God has to tell us.  And there was a teacher of mine who reminded our class that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.  In other words, listening is an important part of our Christian being, and perhaps something we can all work on this Lenten season.

A couple of random notes to finish: It was nice to see a good crowd in church for Mass on Ash Wednesday evening.  Now we just need to work on the days in which we are obligated to attend Mass.

Finally, the irony of the week: I receive e-mails from Ligouri Publications whenever they release new reading material, and this past week I received an e-mail talking about a new book that tells us how to pray in this electronic age, and how to push aside the i-pods, computers, etc. in order to spend time with God.  The final line of the e-mail: This book is available for download on your Amazon Kindle device.

This coming Thursday is a high holy day for people such as myself.  No, I’m not Irish and I’m not talking about St. Patrick’s Day.  Thursday begins the NCAA basketball tournament, and 4 days of non-stop hoops!  Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day to my Irish friends (if they are still my friends!).

Have a great week.  Peace.

March 4, 2011 – Thoughts on Lent and Other Stuff

March 5, 2011

I’ve had a few things juggling in my head this week (and its really getting noisy and painful), so it seems to be a good time to once again just throw out some random thoughts and see what happens.

It is hard to believe that we are already in the month of March and that Lent will begin on Wednesday.  I will be putting up some links on the website to Lenten related materials and reflections, and I will post the things our parish is doing for Lent.  As Lent approaches we of course think about what we will be giving up as a means of sacrifice.  My niece suggested that I give up using my computers.  I suggested that I should give up nieces.  I of course have  good excuses for all of my computer usage.  I have to use a computer at work, maintain the church website, and of course I have to keep blogging!  Well, I have to maintain the website anyway.

Seriously, I think Lent is a special time for us Christians to be reminded to thank God for all He has given us and to share our bounty with others, particularly in these difficult economic times.  Lent is also a time to turn our focus more toward God and to turn away from the sin which keeps us from fulfilling the mission God wants us to carry out.  I found a nice article talking about what the focus and purpose of Lent is meant to be.  It is a good read as we approach the season.  Here is the link to it:

www.catholic.org/clife/lent/faq.php#prayer

There were a couple of items in the news this week that caught my attention.  The first was a story about a basketball player from Brigham Young University who was suspended from the team the rest of the season for breaking the university’s code of honor.  It was later revealed that the violation was having pre-marital relations with his girlfriend.  Keep in mind that BYU has been ranked as high as #3 in the country and this player was a starter and the leading rebounder.  This of course brought about a lot of reaction, with many people wondering how he could be suspended for such a “minor” violation.

Whether his conduct was deserving of a suspension is a seperate argument.  I personally applaud the school for sticking to its principles even though it may mean that the team ultimately will not be as successful.  The player was of the Morman faith and grew up in Utah so he certainly was familiar with the rules.  It would have been easy for BYU to just sweep this under the rug until the season was over, but there are some things more important than winning at all cost.  So though I feel bad for the player and the team, I will be rooting for them and hope they still go far in the post-season tournament.

The other story that peaked my interest was about a study done at the University of Maryland in which 200 students went for 24 hours without any exposure to media, which meant no cell phones, computers, i-pods, TVs, etc.  Not only did many of the students miss their gadgets, they showed signs of utter dependence on their electronics.  A couple of weeks ago I threw out the question of whether we have become too dependent on our electronic devices, and this study may provide a basis for that question.  Here is a link to the article so you can see what you think:

www.withoutmedia.wordpress.com

So maybe during this Lent I will try to lessen my dependence on my electronic toys (your prayers needed and appreciated).

A while back I talked a little bit about “Fanning the Flame”, a program that the diocese is offering as part of the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the diocese next year.  The program will be based on study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which basically is the official text of the teachings of the Church.  Whether you decide later on to participate in this program or not, the Catechism is a valuable resource for any Catholic.  Due to one circumstance or another, I received a few questions this week about the beliefs of the Church.  If I wasn’t sure of an answer, I referred to my Catechism for an answer.  If you do not want to invest the money for your own copy, you can find the Catechism online.  Here is the link to it:

www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

Besides my usual religious duties, I will be an especially good Catholic this weekend.  I went and got fish from the KC this evening (yum, yum), and Sunday I plan to attend the Spring Bingo.  I can safely say that I have no issues with showing off my Catholic identity.  Mother Angelica, take a back seat.

Finally, it was another rough week for us Cardinal fans as injuries continued to hit the squad.  However, just when you think that you have hit the depths, just when you think that this may be the year to concede our dominance over our archrivals, the Cubs committ 14 errors in 4 games and have a fight amongst themselves in the dugout.  I actually heard one Cub fan say that the fight meant that the team is fired up and is determined to have a good year.  Oh these poor, delusional people.  It almost makes me feel sorry for these misguided souls – NOT!!

May the upcoming Lenten season be a true time of conversion and spiritual fulfillment for you.  Until next week, Peace.