Archive for March, 2012

March 31, 2012 – A Different Feel to Holy Week

March 31, 2012

Well once again I’m late in getting this blog out.  You know during the winter when you get those little shriveled up lemons or limes from the store, and you squeeze and squeeze but still can only get a few drops of juice out of them?  That’s sort of how my brain is at this point – no matter how long I think the creative juices just won’t seem to flow.  So I’m just going to start typing and see where this goes.

Though it has been a very busy Lent, it is still hard to believe that we have already come to Holy Week.  A lot of the neat little articles and videos that I look at come from the organizations and people that I subscribe to on Facebook, and yesterday there was a ton of stuff that came in on my news feed.  I wanted to share just a couple of them with you.  First of all, I turn to Timothy Cardinal Dolan, whom as you know by now I have come to admire and listen to very much.  He gave some brief thoughts about what Holy Week is about.  The video is only about a minute and a half long, but it gives a pointed and powerful message.  Click the link below to view the video:

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Next, another source I have been following quite often is Busted Halo.  The material it releases is geared more towards young adults (which certainly is most welcome), but many times it is valuable for Catholics of all ages.  During different seasons of the church year they put out little 2 minute videos concerning what the meaning of the season is and some of the traditions associated with it.  They have done this again for Holy Week.  Here is that brief video:

Lastly, also from Busted halo, is a series of videos which is a “virtual” Stations of the Cross.  For each of the stations there is a video associated with it to watch.  It is a very nice reflection to do at home or even at the desk at work (not that I would ever think about doing such a thing … um, anyway).  Here is a link to this series of videos:

http://bustedhalo.com/video/virtual-stations-of-the-cross

Of course there are many other means of reflection we can do and should do.  But for geeks like me who are glued to their electronic devices, there is definitely material out there which makes for a nice change of pace.

As we approach Holy Week, this Lenten season will stand out for me as one in which it seems that there is kind of a turning of the tide with our Catholic Church.  I may be completely off-base, and I may be coming to this conclusion by observing only what is immediately around me, but I sense that our Catholic Church, after a long period of being beat down by the press because of the clergy abuse scandal, and after taking even more blows because our teachings do not jive with the “secular culture”, is starting to rise up once again.   It appears that we are not only standing up for our beliefs, but we are taking pride in what we believe in.  I have seen this in several instances.  I have certainly seen it with our Fanning the Flame program.  Consistently over these past 11 weeks 20-30 people have crowded into the Parish House to learn more about their faith and also share their faith experiences.  I saw it the other night at our Parish Council meeting, where there was very frank discussion about where the church will be 5-10 years down the road.  I have seen it with our dinner/auction.  So many people coming together and doing so much, and as a result it appears we should collect at least as much as last year’s record total.  I have seen it in our diocese with the generous response to the people in Harrisburg and Ridgway after the devastating tornado earlier in the month.  And I have certainly seen it on a national level, with the leadership of not only our church but that of faiths standing up and saying enough is enough, not just to the HHS mandate concerning birth control, but to the slow erosion of religious freedom that we have seen over the past many years.

As I spend quite a few hours in church this week, I will do it with an even better appreciation of what a good place it is to be.  I will do it knowing that the white noise of the everyday world will be filtered out.  I will do it knowing that our church is in the process of withstanding yet more challenges, and that once again the Holy Spirit will keep us in a good place.  I hope that this Holy Week is a fulfilling one for you as we re-trace the steps of Christ’s journey from triumph, to betrayal, to suffering, to death, and to ultimate triumph over death.

Well the fact that I am writing this should indicate to you that I have not been in Red Bud the past few days, and I did not have the winning Mega Millions ticket.  So much for my contribution to the steeple renovation fund (lol).  Congratulations to those who won and hopefully their lives will not get thrown too out of whack.

Finally, a big thanks to you for continuing to  use our website and for sending me things to put on it.  This month we have had over 1300 page views, and that does not count the blog or our Facebook page.  Fantastic!  We are also up to 58 members on our Facebook page.  Maybe we can get to 60 by Easter?  Kepp spreading the word.

Again, have a blessed Holy Week.  I’ll see you in church.  Peace.

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March 24, 2012 – Better Late Than Never

March 24, 2012

My apologies first of all for not getting the blog up sooner.  I had a ton of errands to run after work yesterday, so I had planned to write yesterday evening.  But sometimes things do not go according to plans, and when I flipped on the TV and saw that college basketball was on, well, let’s just say my evening pretty much came to a halt right there.  Priorities, you know!  I doubt that many folks will be reading this today anyway with the dinner/auction going on and everything else.  If you are reading this beforehand, I hope you have a great time tonight and acquire some cool stuff.  If you are reading this afterwards and wondering why you spent so much on a ceramic something or other that will probably just sit in the closet, remember that our parish needs this money to pay our major bills, and there is nothing in the 10 commandments that says “thou shalt not be a re-gifter.”  Anyway, I don’t really have anything that stands out this week to focus on, so I’ll just touch on a few random things.

I remember Game 6 of the World Series last year like it was yesterday.  I can pretty much describe every pitch and strategic move of the last few innings of the game.  In the 10th inning, when the Cardinals tied the game yet again, Joe Buck said that “this team just won’t go away.”  Yesterday across the country there were about 140 rallies focusing on the attack on our religious freedom.  As I have said before, even though this is an issue we shouldn’t have to be fighting for, it has been inspiring to see the response of our Bishops and so many others to this issue.  I can’t help but think that the Obama administration and those who support the mandate for religious institutions to provide free birth control in their health plans thought they would see this level of unified opposition.  But as we have said, where some people see this as just a question of whether birth control should be paid for by insurance, we who see this in the bigger picture know that being mandated to violate our conscience is a direct attack on our religious freedom, and the Bishops of the United States are not going to stand for it.  Below I put a link to a video from the rally yesterday in Peoria, IL which includes a statement from Bishop Daniel Jenky.  The sound is not the greatest, so you may have to turn up the volume some to hear it:

http://bishopdanielrjenky.blogspot.com/

Well about a month ago we began the season of Lent, and we faced the dread of having to give up things and do extra things in order to feel like we did our “part”.  As always, the time goes very fast, and here we are less than two weeks from the triddum.  I’m not sure if I have noticed this just because I’ve been paying more attention to Lenten things on the web, or if this a recent trend, but it seems that we have even found more “convenient” ways to fulfill our Lenten sacrifices.  You can go online and find things such as a “3-minute retreat”, or a Lenten “micro” challenge.  It appears that we are willing to find things to do in a special way for Lent – as long as they don’t take up too much of our time.  I admit that I’m probably guilty of this also.  I begin Lent with a grand plan of what I will do and slowly it kind of gets chipped away and I find excuses for not doing them, or at least not doing them in a complete way.  So over these last couple weeks of Lent I’m going to try to eliminate the “short cuts” and do some hardcore prayer, reflection and sacrifice.

I am happy to say that I passed my first test yesterday.  I actually have not eaten sweets for the last couple of years now (admittedly though, I need to work on the other stuff like chips, pizza, etc.).  However, yesterday at Wal-Mart I saw something that nearly brought me to the breaking point.  I have always loved things with lemon.  In fact my cousin and I have our own little lemon fan club.  We are a small but vociferous group.  Anyway, I’m in the bread aisle which just happens to also be the pastry aisle, and there it was, something that even the most extreme lemon lover could have only dreamed of – Twinkies with lemon-flavored crème filling!  I had to take a few deep breaths and roll my tongue back up off of the floor, but I passed them by, giving me hope that the rest of Lent will be no problem.

This past week’s chapter in our “Fanning the Flame” program focused on the Church.  In particular, we talked about how the church was instituted by Christ and how we as church, which is a community of believers, are to continue His mission of spreading His gospel message.  I wanted to share one particular quote from the adult catechism: “Priests, laity, and religious can all collaborate in the church’s missionary and evangelization activity, catechetical ministry, the teaching of theology, and the use of all forms of contemporary media.”  We as a parish make a lot of sacrifices to keep our community together, such as all of the time, effort and resources to pull off our dinner/auction.  However, the end result is that we are able to do what the statement from the catechism says we are to do as church, and we are able to do it very well.  I again thank tyou for your efforts in putting on this major fundraiser, and all of the other fundraisers we as a church and school must do in order to continue the mission of church.  We have much to be proud of as a parish, and those who witness to what we do cannot helped but be touched by it.

Have a great week.  Peace.

March 16, 2012 – The New Evangelization

March 17, 2012

This past week at times felt like one of those weeks when you start in a hole, and the more you try to claw and climb your way out, the deeper you dig your own hole.  I would get one task accomplished, then 2 or 3 more would fall into my lap.  However, we have just about made it to the end of the week, and I’m grateful that God was with me to guide me over the bumps in the road.  One of the things that always lifts my spirits is our “Fanning the Flame” program.  This past Tuesday was a beautiful evening, so I figured folks would have other things to do and there would not be much of a crowd for our discussion group.  Boy was I wrong!  I think we wound up with a group of about 27 people.  Even though we were crammed I like sardines, I think everyone was still glad to be there to share their faith with others.

The chapter up for discussion the other night dealt with the Holy Spirit, and there was a point in the catechism that talked about having an “immediate experience” of God.  This led to a great sharing of how people felt God was with them and guided them through different events in their lives – both positive and negative.  Among many other things, our God is a God of hope – a God that we can turn to and lean on in even the most difficult times.

This discussion got me to thinking (WARNING: Brian is thinking again – retreat to the nearest shelter!) about our mission as Catholic Christians.  We are asked not just to let God into our own lives and turn to Him for guidance, but we are also asked to spread His message to other people through our witness and through sharing our own experience.  In other words, we are asked to evangelize.  Oh no, there’s that word again that Catholic seem to dread!  Many of us are proud to be Catholic and we love our faith, but to be someone who has to come front and center and try to convince other people to live the way I do … uh, that’s another matter entirely.  What if people don’t want to hear what I’m saying?  What if I offend someone?  We live in a free society – don’t people have the right to live their lives as they wish?

You may have heard the term “New Evangelization”.  This term was first popularized by Pope John Paul II.  It refers to a renewed effort to “reawaken” the faith in traditionally Christian parts of the world.  In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI announced the formation of a Pontifical Council for promoting the New Evangelization.  The Pope formed this council out of concern that secularization of our society has “produced a serious crisis of the sense of the Christian faith and the role of the church” and “a sort of eclipse of the sense of God.”  Among the tasks the Council has been given is to “study and promote the use of modern forms of communication as tools for the New Evangelization,” and to “promote the use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as an essential and comprehensive formulation of the content of faith to the people of our time.”  So the church recognizes the duty of the church to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus, and that in a changing world more different and creative ways may need to be utilized to accomplish that.  I must say that our parish has not only heard this message, but has embraced it.  More people seem to be coming on to our website, we are utilizing Facebook, and many people are currently in study of the Adult Catechism (who would have though we in little old Chester, IL would be helping to pave the way!).

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, on the day before he was elevated to Cardinal, was chosen by Pope Benedict to address a Day of Reflection and Prayer.  He laid out a seven-point plan for the New Evangelization.  Here is a summary of His plan:

1)      Remembering that even those who boast of their secularization have an innate longing for the divine; the first step of evangelization must be to keep the quest for God alive

2)      “Be Not Afraid” – confident, without being triumphalist, since it is the power of God who sends His people to evangelize

3)      Knowing that the New Evangelization is not about presenting a document or belief system, but a person whose name is Jesus

4)      Nevertheless, this Jesus is the Truth.  Hence, evangelization is linked to catechesis.

5)      An evangelist must be a person of joy – someone who smiles.

6)      The New Evangelization is about love – the love of God made concrete in service

7)      Finally, martyrdom.  A reminder that the church is now peopled by those who are suffering persecution for their faith, and that these martyrs give impetus to the new evangelization.

I think that the current situation, with the U.S. Bishops being so outspoken about the mandate that non-profit businesses, including catholic hospitals, universities, etc. provide contraception and abortion drugs free of cost through their health care plans, is an example of putting this New Evangelization to work.  Many people continue to insist that this issue is solely about the availability of contraception, when is goes so much deeper than that.  When someone is forced to go against the basic beliefs that their religion upholds, it is a violation of our basic rights – plain and simple.  As Cardinal Dolan said, we cannot be afraid to stand up for our beliefs, since it is God who is calling us to do so.  We also know that we will likely face opposition to what we believe – a sort of “modern-day martyrdom.”  However, if a number of us stand up for what we believe, the task becomes much easier and much more effective.

Finally, just a reminder to check out our website to look at the dinner/auction booklet and also there will be photos of some of the main auction items up very soon (hopefully this evening).  Thank you to all who have been working so hard to prepare for our major fund raiser.  Pray this week for a successful auction (and maybe a little cooler weather).  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Have a great week.  Peace.

March 9, 2012 – More Than A Building

March 9, 2012

In the midst of all of the “serious” news going on, I of course am still a huge sports fan.  As I wade through the news of the day and all of the church happenings I still make it a point to hit the sports happenings.  The big story in sports this past week was that the Indianapolis Colts football team released standout quarterback Peyton Manning from his contract.  Manning has had several recent neck surgeries, and if the Colts would have kept him, they would have had to pay him a $28 million dollar bonus, so they made the decision to let him go.  Normally this would have seemed to be an easy decision, especially since the Colts will have the opportunity to draft Andrew Luck from Stanford, a quarterback whom many feel is the best prospect to come along in the last decade.  However, what made it difficult was that Manning meant much more to the community than just being a good football player – he was a community icon.  Here is video of part of the news conference announcing his release:

The Colts had gone many years without winning many games until they got Manning.  They then went on a run of tremendous success, including a Super Bowl win.  Manning was named the Most Valuable Player of the league four times.  Because of this success, the community of Indianapolis was able to do many things.  They were able to build an impressive new stadium, which allowed them to host the Super Bowl this past year.  Manning also had such an iconic status nationwide, that it brought much publicity and business to the city.  Manning is also a generous person.  There is a children’s hospital in Indianapolis that was renamed Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital after he donated a large amount of money to it.  So this was not the normal “he’s getting old so it’s time to move on” kind of event.  The whole community feels that they are losing one of its great assets and even part of its identity.

I mention all of this because in a way it reminds me of what has happened in one of our diocesan communities, and what may happen in more of our communities in the near future.  With the loss of the 140 year old church building in Ridgway from the recent tornado, you could tell in the voices and words of the people who were interviewed that they feel they lost much more than just a building – they lost a true point of pride in the community.  Ridgway is a town of less than 1000 people, and having been there I know that as you came into town the Catholic Church was the first thing you noticed over everything else.  And of course the other thing that stood out in talking to the people was hearing all of the stories of them and their families having their baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc. in that building.  It was more than just a building, it was a community gathering place, which makes the loss much more painful.  I talked last week about whether the church will be rebuilt, and that decision will come soon enough.  But whatever happens, the community will probably never be the same.

I have also spoken several times about the Diocesan Renewal and Restructuring process, but just as a reminder, by the end of this month all parishes are to have all of their data and comments turned in to the diocese.  The process then gets turned over to a core committee, who will sift through all of the data and then make recommendations based on their findings.  These recommendations will go to the Bishop, who has the choice of accepting all of them, part of them, and/or implementing some of his own decisions.  These decisions could include closures, mergers, more emphasis on clustering, or other results.  I think it would be naïve, however, to not look at the future number of clergy and look at the population shifts in the diocese and not think that there will be some closures.

Someone who is a member of a large parish or a seemingly strong parish can look at this and think “oh, that parish only has 40 families”, or “oh, that town is dying, they don’t need a church anymore”, or “oh, there’s another church 8 miles away – they don’t need churches that close together”, and not think twice about hearing that a parish is closing.  However, it again must be taken into account that in many communities, especially in small communities, the Catholic parish is the center or a least a big part of the center of the community.  I look at a parish such as St. Pius V in Walsh for example.  For years they have shared a priest with another parish, and have had just one weekend Mass.  They have only about 45 families.  So it would seem from the outside looking in to be an easy decision to close it.  However, what would this do to the community of Walsh?  The parish provides not only a place of worship but a hall for functions and a central gathering place.  As with Ridgway, if you take that away, you take away a large part of the identity of the community.

I’m not saying that this process should not happen – in fact it is probably well overdue.  I’m not saying that there are not parishes who have arrived at the point that they need to look at themselves and realize that they are no longer viable.  What I am saying is that a closure of a parish involves more than just locking the doors and putting the land up for sale.  This process will have a profound effect on many people, and the situation in Ridgway makes us realize that these decisions will change the landscape of some of our communities.  So as this process moves into the next phase, we pray for the committee who will be making the recommendations, for guidance for our Bishop, and of course for all of the people whose lives may be affected by this.

Have a great week.  Enjoy the early spring weather.  Peace.

 

March 2, 2012 – We Are Good People

March 2, 2012

First and foremost our prayers go out to the victims of the tornadoes this past week, particularly those who lost their lives in Harrisburg, all who lost their homes and possessions, and to the parishioners of St. Joseph’s Parish in Ridgway who lost their church building.  I’m sure you have seen many images of the storm on the news over the last few days, but here is a link to a video of an interview with Fr. Steven Beatty, who is the Pastor at Ridgway as well as the other three parishes in Gallatin County:

Having been through a tornado myself about six years ago, I can somewhat relate to what the folks are going through, though fortunately we did not lose our home and no one was hurt.  But I can only imagine what it would be like to see what many would consider their “second home”, the place where they were baptized, confirmed or married, the place that even though it was an old building stood as a source of strength, be brought to the ground.  Fortunately the surrounding parishes have a good relationship in working together, so in the short term the pastoral needs of the people will be taken care of.  The long term, however, brings other questions.  In the midst of dwindling clergy and a restructuring process, I would be surprised if the church would be rebuilt, which would be a blow to the parishioners as well as the community, but that decision remains to be seen.  Keep an eye on the website for information on how we will be asked to help the folks in that area, and again our prayers are certainly needed and appreciated.

This past Saturday I accompanied our Confirmation class to Our Lady of the Snows for their retreat.  I joked at the communion service the other night that spending the hours of 7:00AM to 8:30PM with a group of 7th/8th graders was an ideal penance for Lent, but seriously it was a great experience.  There were over 600 kids present for the event, coming from as far away as Indiana.  The day included music, presentations from Tammy Evard, a youth minister from Colorado who also works in prison ministry (she gave some great talks), and in the afternoon there were “breakout” sessions which were led by various youth ministers.  And of course there was time for lunch, wandering the gift shop and to let off some energy at the playground.  I posted photos from the day on our Facebook page.  There were a couple of moments that really stood out to me.  For the last event of the day we attended Mass.  The celebrant relayed a story at the end of Mass that fit in well with Lent: A few months back the priest said he was filling in at another parish, and the deacon who assisted with Mass accidentally read the wrong Gospel reading.  The priest of course had prepared a homily based on the Gospel of the day which did not match what the deacon read, so he told the congregation that the homily he had prepared did not apply to the Gospel which was read, so instead all he did was to tell the people that they were good people – they were good Christians, good Catholics, good people of service to God, and that there was not one bad person in the room.  Following Mass when the priest was greeting everyone, he noticed someone probably in their late teens hanging around, and he knew he wanted to say something to him.  After the other people left, the young man came up to the priest and told him that he had attended this church his whole life, and that this was the first time that anyone told him that he was a good person.

The gospel that was read at the communion service this past Wednesday has Jesus telling the crowd that they are an evil generation, and that they would be condemned.  I think that sometimes we consider Lent to be a “punishment”, that the fact that we are asked to sacrifice and do works of charity is to make up for the stuff we have done wrong.  But the point of Father’s story is that God doesn’t look at us as bad people – we are made in His image after all.  What Lent provides us is the opportunity to become even better people, to get our priorities back where they should be.  I know its an opportunity I need to take advantage of.

The other story I wanted to share from the retreat happened in one of the “breakout” sessions.  The kids sat in groups and were given a large sheet of paper.  On one side of the paper they were to list problems or challenges people their age were facing today, and on the other side they were to list solutions to the problems.  The gist of the activity was to perhaps say one of the gifts or fruits of the Holy Spirit as a solution, but one of the groups (not from St. Mary’s) had one of their problems listed as sin, and the solution provided was “Dr. Phil.”  The kids laughed of course, but I think it spoke to a real challenge people of faith are dealing with.  Kids, and adults also, are finding their own kind of “religion” in the secular world, whether it be a talk show host, or a famous person blabbing some off the wall garbage, etc.  They are losing out on true religion.  This is one reason there has been such a strong reaction to what our administration has mandated in forcing religious institutions to violate their consciences by providing free birth control in their health care plans.  If we continue to lose hold of our religious freedom, the chances of us bringing these people back to the faith and the chances of future generations grasping the message of Christianity are greatly decreased.  There are two excellent articles I posted on our Facebook page that I’d like to direct you to as an update to what is going on as far as trying to overturn this mandate:

http://catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2012/0226/cardinal.aspx

http://blog.archny.org/?p=2291

I think it is clear from these articles that this battle is not over – that the Bishops are prepared to dig in and do whatever is necessary to prevent this from happening.  We as Catholics owe it to them and to ourselves to continue to stand up for what the church teaches and to protect our rights afforded to us by God and by our constitution

I’ve blabbed long enough.  Thanks again for reading.  Have a great week.  Peace.