Archive for May, 2011

May 27, 2011 – Thy Will Be Done

May 27, 2011

WhenI finished my blog last week I thought to myself that my writing seemed to have taken on more of a serious tone recently for some reason, and that maybe this week I could lighten things up a little bit.  But given the events of the past week, particularly the terrible tragedy of the tornadoes in Joplin, MO, it seems neither appropriate nor emotionally possible to do that.  Having been through a tornado and seeing the destruction it can do, I have some sense of what they are going through.  However, I cannot fathom the widespread damage, the massive amount of victims, searching for loved ones who have not been located, and of course the HUGE task of cleaning up and trying to rebuild.  This will not be a process of weeks or months, but a process of years.  It also touched me to see an entire parish plant destroyed and a Catholic hospital rendered useless.  Again I can only imagine losing our church, school, rectory, and other property that have so much rich history and that so much time and resources have gone into to maintain in literally an instant.

Obviously our prayers will be needed for some time to come.  I also encourage you to go to the website of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, which is www.dioscg.org.  It has photos and information about relief efforts and personal accounts from clergy and parishioners.  In particular click on the Facebook tab to see photos and touching reflections.  The photos of St. Mary’s Church in which the building is destroyed but the large outdoor cross still stands is particularly touching.

Disasters such as this of course bring about the obvious question of why God, who is supposed to be a loving and merciful Lord would allow something like this to happen.  My immediate response would be to ask someone who knows more about this kind of stuff than me.  But I think part of the answer lies in the fact that we appreciate those things that we earn more than those things that are just handed to us.  It is not enough to just say “yes, I have faith in God.”  Our faith must be proven over time, and events such as this certainly put that faith to the test.  The pastor of St. Mary’s in Joplin came away from the storm unhurt, however his home was destroyed and parishioners had to remove debris to allow him to get out of his bathtub where he had taken shelter.  When he was interviewed on CNN, the reporter asked him what he was thinking as the storm approached.  He replied that he prayed “thy will be done.”  You know, I think there’s a reason only certain people wear that white collar.

As the weeks and months go by, we will continue to see images of the tragedy and other tragedies will probably occur in other places, perhaps even here.  But as we see tragedy, we have also seen the generosity of people come to the forefront, and we as Christians will continue to be inspired by those whose faith sustains them through these tough times ahead.  As we pray for those affected by the tragedy, let us also pray for ourselves that in the face of our hardships, we will have the courage to say “thy will be done.”

I have a couple of other things to touch on.  Next weekend we will once again have the opportunlty to nominate individuals to serve on our parish council.  If you have never served on the council before or if it has been a while, I hope you consider joining us if you are nominated, or perhaps even writing your own name down for consideration.  I realize that most people cringe when they get one of those “dreaded” nomination letters – “I don’t have time for this,” “I already do enough stuff for church,” “My kids always have ball games in the evening.”  Having been a part of the council for about 15 years now, I can assure you of a few things: 1) You will not be asked to serve 15 years on the council – the terms are one-year or three-year.  2) The time committment to the council is minimal – meeting are once a month (no meeting in June or December) for about an hour or so depending on how much is on the agenda, and 3) These are not the typical blah blah meetings that many tend to be.  As a group that keeps in mind the spiritual aspects of a parish, we pray at our meetings for the parish and other intentions.  We also try to keep things as informal as we can.  We certainly discuss serious and pertinent issues, but we are also not afraid to share a laugh and to celebrate the positive aspects of our parish.  And as an added bonus, we always have something delicious to share at the end of our meetings!  If you have any questions, do not be afraid to contact me or any member of our council, or visit the parish council page on our website.

This time of year brings our focus to a couple of other things.  This is of course the time of year when graduations are taking place.  I congratulate all who are graduating from kindergarten, 8th grade, high school and college as they end an important chapter in their life and begin a new one.  This time of year always brings back memories of my own graduations and the range of emotions that came with them- the sadness and reluctance to leave a place that I had grown fond of and leaving friends behind, while at the same time feeling a sense of accomplishment in earning a diploma and also the anticipation and excitement of starting something new.  Be sure to not only congratulate those close to you who are graduating, but also offer them your advice, reassurance and prayers.

On this Memorial Day weekend we remember those who paid the ultimate price so that we can continue to live as a free society.  In the midst of our barbecues and parties, let us be sure to take a moment to pray for those who lost their lives in service to our country, and for those who continue to be in harm’s way.  Their role in making our country the greatest place to live on earth should never be taken for granted.

Thank you again for reading, and be safe in your travels this weekend.  Peace.

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May 20, 2011 – We Are A Better Church

May 20, 2011

Well as usual the news this past week was inundated with important items – Arnold’s infidelity, Oprah’s farewell, the latest to get booted off of American Idol, etc., etc.  All sorts of world changing events.  In the midst of all of this, it was easy for an item that has garnered quite of bit of reaction from those who cover the Catholic religion to slip through the cracks.  The results of an extensive study done by a research team from John Jay College of Criminal Justice were released this week.  The study is titled The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010.  The entire report is 152 pages long, but the USCCB website has a nice summary of what the study found.  Here is the link to the summary and also the full report:

www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2011/11-105.shtml

This study basically looked at the trends of sexual abuse during this time period, possible causes of the abuse, and how effective the policies of the church have been in curtailing the incidents of abuse.  There were several things that stood out in this study.  The first is something that we were pretty well aware of before, but the frequency of abuse was at its highest in the 1960’s and 70’s.  The report went on to say that this was consistent with the mood of society at the time which was rebelious against rules and authority.  When I read this I had a mixed reaction.  It shows that priests are indeed human beings and can get caught in the societal trends of the time, but I also was disappointed because in my mind a priest, or any follower of the faith for that matter, should make every effort to do what they know is right, no matter what society tells them.  I can see how people could get rubbed the wrong way by this statement.  It implies that priests who abused children during this time were not fully responsible for their actions.

The report also stated that there was no clear pattern in the priests’ background, sexual orientation, or other experiences that would indicate that the priest would more likely be an abuser.  I think this mirrors all walks of society – abusers can come from all backgrounds and orientations.  So there was and still is no clear indicator that can be found through testing, etc. that can pinpoint that this particular person may be an abuser. 

As mentioned before, incidents of clerical sexual abuse began to decline in the 1980’s, and that pattern has continued.  It appears that several factors contributed to this.  It was during this time that bishops began to acknowledge that there were pedophile priests, and though the original reaction focused more on rehabilitating these priests instead of providing help to the victims, the acknowledgement of the problem was still an important step.  It also shows that seminaries began to do a better job in their formation of future priests.  Sadly, though, it was not until the mid-1990’s that a comprehensive plan to deal with this problem was implemented, and it was not until 2002 when the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was adopted by the U.S. Bishops that there was a comprehensive and consistent policy for all dioceses to follow.

There are other conclusions from the study, but these appear to be the main points.  Having never been a victim of any type of sexual abuse, and having a personal friendship with several priests, I have to be careful in keeping my objectivity when giving my own opinions on this subject.  But in drawing from what I have observed, and in serving on several diocesan committees at the height of when the church was putting new policies in place to deal with this crisis, I am confident in making the following conclusions:

The bishops erred in a HUGE way in not dealing with this directly much sooner.  Though it was felt at the time that a pedophile could be rehabilitated, the priests who performed these horrific acts should have been removed from ministry, and bishops should have been more forthright with the people.

Despite the amount of public criticism the church received for this, the rate of abuse among priests was still no higher than among clergy of other religions.

The vast majority of priests are good and decent men who would not think about harming children.  Unfortunately many people have placed the entire church on trial when it was the actions of a small minority of priests that performed these terrible acts.  One abuser is still too many, but the steps taken by the church have assurred that any priest who is found to abuse even one child will never minister again.

We cannot go back and change the past – we can only take the necessary steps to assure that children are much safer in the presence of a priest, educator or volunteer now than they were years ago.  This is something that we cannot let our guard down on.  Even though we have policies in place that have worked, we must continue to follow them to the letter of the law.  Slacking off the least bit can be costly to children and to the church as a whole.

This is a part of our church history that we cannot ignore.  Unfortunately, people were needlessly harmed and the church itself has paid the price in losing assets, losing congregants, etc.  But as history tells us, the church has faced challenges before and has continued its mission of spreading the mesage of Jesus and helping those less fortunate.  Objective people will tell you that the steps taken by the church to curtail the problem of abuse are above and beyond anything else that any other religion or sector of society has done.  I am hopeful that in another 10-20 years, that the church will not be known so much as a church that ignored a horrific situation, but as a church that despite not responding in a timely manner, took the necessary steps and can serve as a model for others to follow.

I normally try to keep things light-hearted in my blog, and I try to stay away from subjects that are too “heavy”.  But as I said, this is a part of us as Catholics, and something that we need to continue to address and to set the record straight on.

As I finish this, it appears the rain clouds may be moving in again.  Continue to pray for those who have been victimized by storms and flooding, and for the farmers so they can plant their spring crops.  Have a great week.  Peace.

May 13, 2011 – Breaking Tradition

May 14, 2011

This has been one of those weeks when nothing obvious came to my attention to talk about, so I guess we’ll just wing it and see what happens (caution – this could get ugly).

Our prayers need to go out to those who continue to be adversely affected by the weather.  In particular right now, we remember those folks to our south who are dealing with the record flooding.  St. Rose of Lima Parish in Metropolis, which is in our diocese, found themselves working to protect some of the parish property from the Ohio River.  The church was unaffected, but the rectory and the parish center were not as fortunate.  Some of the parishioners have posted pictures online from around the parish and town of the flood-fighting efforts.  Here is the link to view them:

http://2011ohioriverfloodpictures.shutterfly.com

I enjoyed a very nice evening this past Monday as I attended the Clergy Appreciation Night held at the KC Hall.  Nine of our priests and deacons were able to attend.  I have put up photos from the evening which you can view by going to this link:

www.maryhoc.org/ClergyNight

It was definitely a “feel good” evening – laughs were shared and some good memories were brought back.  It was great to see Fr. Kribs whom I hadn’t seen for a long time.  I wasn’t sure what to expect as he is 85 years old now and has had some health issues, but he was in very good spirits and I think he truly enjoyed being back at St. Mary’s.  He gave a heartfelt talk about how he enjoyed his time at St. Mary’s and shared some of his memories.  I knew that he still had a sharp mind when I greeted him.  When he was pastor here, for some reason he could not keep my name straight – he would almost always call me Brad.  When I saw him the other night the first thing he said to me was “I want to call you Brad but I know that isn’t right.”  Yep, same old Fr. Kribs.  We appreciate him and all of our dedicated clergy who continue to go above and beyond the call of duty in their ministries.  God Bless them all!

I truly enjoy events such as this not just because I enjoy the good company and all of the memories that come back to my mind, but because I am reminded why I have been and continue to be a devout Catholic – it is largely because of the teaching I received when I was young and the appreciation I gained for the traditions of the church.  I have mentioned this before, and I believe Fr. Gene has too, but in our country the largest religious group is still Roman Catholics, but the next largest is those who consider themselves ex-Catholics – people who once considered themselves Catholics but have now ceased participating in church activities or have converted to another religion.  I can go on and on about some of the reasons why this is occurring.  Obviously the church has faced many challenges recently and some of these folks have become frustrated with how the church has handled these situations.  I also have questioned some of the church’s actions, but that has not caused me to think about abandoning the faith that is so embedded in my heart and soul.

I credit many people with my devotion to my faith.  Certainly Fr. Kribs and the other priests who have been a part of my life have played a huge role through their teaching and example.  Those others that taught me religion in school definitely gave me the background that helped me appreciate my faith so much.  I continue to be influenced by my fellow church goers when I see all of the wonderful things they do – taking care of our buildings and grounds, raising funds for our church and school, visiting shut-ins and nursing home residents and those in hospitals, keeping the prayer chain going, and I can go on and on.  But I think what has meant the most to me was the influence I received at home.  One of my very first memories was watching my Dad kneel by his bedside in the evening to pray.  We prayed before meals.  There was never a question about whether we were going to weekend Mass, it was which Mass we were going to and what time we should be in the car.  I’ve watched my Mom live with the challenge of being legally blind, yet not losing her faith or putting the blame on God.  I couldn’t help but realize how important faith was to my family.

So when I look at the question as to why so many people have and continue to abandon their Catholic faith, again I think there are multiple reasons.  But one of them has to be that the traditions of the Catholic faith are not being as deeply grounded into our kids as it once was.  This is not true for everyone, but I see some people just going through the motions without really making the effort to understand the traditions and symbols of our faith.  I would think it would be much easier for these people to “pack up and leave” for another religion.  They don’t have the emotional and spiritual investment in their faith that others have.  This is why catechesis for Catholics of ALL ages is so important.  There is power in understanding and knowledge.  With the changes coming later this year in the Order of the Mass with the release of the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal, an opportunity is presented for us to gain a deeper understanding of the Mass and a chance to ask questions about why we do the things we do at Mass and to have those questions answered.

Well there were a few days this past week that gave us a preview of our typical hot and humid summer.  With summer right around the corner, it means an opportunity to catch some baseball (Go Cardinals!) and to do a little touch-up work to the website.  If you have an idea for something to include on the website, please let me know.  Our website continues to see a good number of hits, which I always appreciate.

Have a great week.  Pray for dry weather.  Peace.

May 6, 2011 – Thoughts on Our Mother(s)

May 7, 2011

Well to say there has been a lot of important news this past week would certainly be an understatement.  The elimination of Osama Bin Laden has dominated the world news, while the continued effects of the stormy weather and the Coleman trial have been the main topics of the national and local news.  It would have been easy to just give my thoughts about these things, but they have been so prominent that I feel like I need a little break away from them, and you probably do also, so I think I’ll go down a different road this week.

Let’s see, there is something else going on this weekend, hmmmm, can’t quite put my finger on it, something on Sunday I believe … oh yes, Mother’s Day!  A blessed Happy Mother’s Day to all of our moms, living and deceased.  When Mother’s Day entered my mind in thinking about what to write this week, I realized that I have been doing this blog for over 3 years and had never really talked about our Blessed Mother Mary.  Certainly a huge oversight on my part.  So with it being Mother’s Day weekend and of course the month of May, it seems an appropriate time to share my thoughts about the mother of our Savior and the Queen of Heaven.

Mary is obviously the subject of much reverence in the Catholic Church, and deservedly so.  There are many prayers and devotions and songs in which we honor Mary and ask for her intercession on our behalf.  Worldwide there are shrines and monuments built in her honor.  Theologically there is much that can be said about Mary and her role in the life of Jesus and the church.  But of course I am no theologian, and I don’t even play one on TV.  What really attracts me to the stories of the saints and the holy people of the Catholic faith is when I explore their human side and the sacrifices that they had to make for their faith.

Here is Mary, an “ordinary” teenager, who had plans to marry Joseph.  All of the sudden an angel appears to her and informs her that she has been chosen by God to be the mother of His Son by means of the Holy Spirit, not by means of intimate relations with her fiancee.  And on top of all of this, she was probably no older than a 7th or 8th grader of today.  When I tell this to my religion classes who are 7th and 8th graders, I usually get some stunned looks and their eyes open a little wider.  Imagine what great faith this took to accept this mission from God, but of course this is really just the beginning of the story.  I’m sure she was the subject of ridicule as having a baby out of wedlock was not the culturally accepted practice that it is today.  Then instead of being able to have her baby in her hometown, she and Joseph have to make the long journey to Bethlehem for the required census.  They cannot find a room to stay in, so they are forced to stay in a stable.  It was at this seemingly inopportune time that the baby is born.  The traumatic situation becomes even more intense when they are told in a dream that they must flee to Egypt to avoid King Herod, who was determined to kill the child.  Yet during all of this, Mary’s faith never wanes.

The Bible says virtually nothing about Jesus’ early childhood.  We really are not aware of anything until He was about 12 years old, when He was in Jerusalem with His family for Passover.  Mary and Joseph begin their trek home assuming Jesus had gone ahead of them, when they realize that He is not with the group.  They search for 3 days until they realize that He is still in the temple preaching.  So Mary experienced the pain of loss, the joy of finding her Son again, and also a sense of bewilderment in a very short time.

We again see a gap in the Bible until the time comes for Jesus to begin His public life.  At the wedding at Cana, Jesus was reluctant to give the first sign that He was indeed the Messiah, but Mary urges Him to change the water into wine, and thus the 3 years of Jesus’ public ministry begins.  Mary knew what her role was as the mother of the Savior, and she was more than willing to accept it.  It was of course at the end of Jesus’ public ministry that the emotional roller coaster that Mary has had to endure comes to a head.

We were reminded a few weeks ago that when Jesus was arrested, put on trial and put to death, that most of the apostles either fled or went so far as to deny even knowing Jesus.  But as a good mother does, Mary stayed with Jesus every step of the way – all the way to the foot of the cross.  It is always tragic to have a child die before the parent, but imagine how heartbreaking it was for Mary to see Jesus die in such a horrific manner.  Talk about the emotional roller coaster, to go from witnessing this to Easter when she sees her Son rise again.  It was a true gift for all of us, but a well-deserved reward for Mary, who had given so much of herself to be the mother of Jesus and to please God the Father.

As I said, we Catholics do many things to honor Mary, and we shouldn’t be afraid to turn to Mary to intercede on our behalf.  The just-beatified Pope John Paul II placed a large focus on Mary, even introducing the Luminous Mysteries of the rosary.  This is a point where some people who are critics of the Catholic faith are misguided.  They believe that we worship Mary and the other saints, which is not true.  We worship our God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We honor Mary and the other saints for their examples of faith, and we try to imitate their example.  But we do not “worship” them as gods – we ask them to pray on our behalf and to intercede for us.  Notice the lines in different prayers – “Pray for us sinners,” “Never was it known, that anyone who … sought your intercession was left unaided.”  Part of our duty as Catholics is to try to clear up these false perceptions.

Again, I’m not a theologian, although my blogs of late seem to have taken on a trend of Catholic instruction.  These are simply individual thoughts and observations that hopefully a few people will enjoy reading, and in the ultimate best-case scenario, might get you thinking about something.  Since I’m not an expert in theology, it helps me to discect things and bring them to a more “human” level, which is what I hope I did today.

Just a couple of website notes to close.  The military page on our website has a couple of new entries.  If you know of someone who is currently in the military or has served in the military, share a little bit about them with me and I’ll be happy to include them on our page.  It’s just a small way to honor them and assure them of our prayers.  Also, I have a webpage up in honor of our former pastor, Fr. Kribs, who will celebrate his 60th jubilee of ordination to the priesthood on May 15.  If you have a photo or other infromation to share for this, I welcome it also.  You can find all these things at www.maryhoc.org.

I wish all of our Moms a wonderful day on Sunday.  I have ordered nice weather, so if it rains, don’t put the blame on me.  Enjoy you special day!  Mary, Help of Christians, Pray for Us!  Peace.