Archive for April, 2014

April 26, 2014 – The Last Two Weeks

April 26, 2014

Yep, I dropped the ball again. With all of the activity last weekend surrounding Easter, Confirmation, etc., the blog had to take a back seat. But I am back this week with a refreshed mind and renewed inspiration (well, not really, but it sounded good). Of course, as any good Catholic knows, Easter is not just a one day celebration, but is a 50 day observance of the most important event in history. So it is not too late to wish you a Happy Easter! I hope you had a great Easter celebration with your family and friends, and I hope that the spirit of Easter joy continues to inspire you!

So let’s chronicle the events of the last couple of weeks, shall we? The week before last was of course Holy Week, which began with Palm Sunday. This day sets the tone for the events to come. Jesus enters triumphantly into Jerusalem as the Jewish people think they are welcoming a leader who will lead a violent revolution against Roman rule. However, as we see, the triumphant entrance quickly makes a 180 degree turn as Jesus is put on trial under false pretenses and eventually is put to death. The Paschal Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday takes us through the meal Jesus had with his apostles, a seemingly simple meal in which Jesus established the priesthood and the basis for our faith – the Eucharist. It then takes us through the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, denial by one of His closest friends, a corrupt trial, seemingly endless suffering, and then the cruelest of deaths. Then, the Triduum makes another 180 degree turn as Jesus fulfills the promise He and the prophets made by rising from the dead. Our last couple of Confirmation classes have been asked to attend all of the services during the Triduum, which I think if very beneficial for them. It allows them to live out the story of how their Christian faith came to be as they enter into full membership in the Catholic Church.

I thank everyone who made our Masses and services during Holy Week very special and prayerful. All who worked in decorating and un-decorating church, those who participated in the liturgies, all who came to the services, and of course Fr. Gene who hung in there and delivered very reverent and thoughtful liturgies.  Fr. Gene didn’t know it, but I caught a photo of him following Easter Sunday Mass that I wanted to share with you:

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I must also recognize our junior high and high school students who once again made our Good Friday service a very moving one. This has become such a wonderful tradition in our parish that hopefully will continue for years to come.

Easter Sunday brought mixed emotions for our family. We were able to bask in the glory of the resurrection as God provided us a beautiful day. However, late in the morning we learned of the passing of my sister-in-law’s Mother. She was 90 years old and had lived a long, full life. She had been back and forth between nursing care and the hospital the last couple of months with heart and other issues, so it was a blessing for her to be relieved of her suffering. However, it is still difficult of course to lose someone who is an integral part of your life. It is still hard to put into words, but it was somewhat surreal to learn of the passing of someone on Easter Sunday. It somehow seemed “appropriate” for it to happen on this day when Jesus showed us that there is life and hope after death. It became even more surreal when I learned that she had recently made the comment that she hoped to die on Easter Sunday. From now on, I’m sure Easter Sunday will hold even more meaning for me than ever before, as we not only celebrate the fact that Jesus rose to new life, but that we know He offers us the same opportunity.

Many of us barely had a chance to catch our breath as we then celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation at the Cathedral in Belleville with our 22 now Confirmed Catholics, along with the parishes form Ellis Grove, Evansville, and St. Nicholas in O’Fallon. I continue to be asked on occasion why we are going to the Cathedral for our Confirmations. There are certainly practical reasons. There is the fact that we can work with other parishes on preparations and can spread the duties out a bit. There is also less worry in setting up as the Cathedral staff does much of this. It also saves the Bishop from having to make even more trips during this very busy time for him. However, most importantly, I think it gives our Confirmandi another opportunity to see that we are not just a local church. We are indeed a universal church, which is an important fact to realize as we restructure our local church, and more parishes will have to come together in order to stay viable.

I am happy to say that our Confirmandi were prayerful and reverent during the Mass. It was a wonderful Mass with inspiring music and a full Cathedral. We as a parish have one more opportunity to recognize our group tomorrow (April 27) during the 9:00AM Mass and at a reception after Mass at the KC Hall. I am going to miss working with my group of 7 in PSR. They have been dedicated in their preparation and they are flat out just a good group of kids. I am truly blessed to have now helped prepare 8 Confirmation classes, and God willing there will be more in my future.

Well I have spent so much time talking about myself that I have left little opportunity to talk about the big event of the weekend, which is of course the canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.  I’m sure I will be posting like a madman on our Facebook page about the events of the weekend.  I’d also like to direct you to a couple of links for coverage of this historic time in the church.  Fr. Robert Barron will be posting videos throughout the weekend.  Here is a link to his page:

http://wordfromrome.com/

Also, EWTN is providing mega coverage all weekend.  Here is a link to their programming guide:

http://www.ewtn.com/canonization/2popes/index.asp

What an exciting time to be a member of the Catholic Church!  Enjoy it and be proud of it!  Have a great week!  Peace.

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April 12, 2014 – Saying We Are Sorry (A Lot)

April 12, 2014

Well we have made it to Holy Week!  For priests and others involved in liturgy you could say that we have come to “crunch time.”  The many plans that have been made are now put into motion.  The palms are out, servers will be put through their paces, and the scent of incense will linger throughout the week.  It is the most activity the church will see compared to any other week of the year.  With all the busyness and distractions, it can be easy to forget what this coming week is really about.  We have so much activity this coming week because of the “week that was.”

The liturgies of this coming week are powerful and primal. We are a part of something both ancient and new, and what we do this week reminds us of that. The altar will be stripped. The cross will be venerated. The tabernacle will be emptied. The Blessed Sacrament will be moved. Bells will be stilled.  It is unlike any other time in our Catholic calendar.  For close to two thousand years, we have gathered like this, to light candles and chant prayers and read again the ancient stories of our redemption. But are we aware of what we are doing? Do we understand what it means? Do we realize the price that was paid?

In the midst of all of the activity of this coming week, perhaps we can take a moment each day to think about what Jesus was doing on that particular day all those centuries ago. What was on his mind on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday? What sort of anguish? What kind of dread? Has anything we have ever worried about, or lost sleep over, or agonized about, even come close to what was weighing on the mind and heart of Jesus?

Jesus, of course, was a man like us in all things but sin.  He must have been terrified. Long after the others had drifted off to sleep, did he stay awake and worry? Maybe he sat up alone, late at night, deep in thought or silent prayer, wondering how intense the pain of His death would become? How long would it last? How much humiliation would he be forced to endure, stripped and bleeding? And what about his mother? Is there anything he could do to spare her from this? And perhaps more than once he thought, somehow, of the endless generations to come—all the others who would follow him because of this one week.

Of all the calendars in all of human history, this is the one week that changed everything. This is the week that saw the institution of the Eucharist. It is a week that witnessed breathtaking betrayal, and denial, and torture, and heartbreak, and suffering, and death.  And then, incredibly, resurrection.  Think of all that has happened because of this week. All the martyrs and missionaries, saints and servants of God who gave everything—all because of what we are about to celebrate, and remember.

Because of this week, the world has ever been the same.  This is “the week that was.” Seven days that shook the world.  And the tremors haven’t stopped.

Part of why we put so much emphasis on this week is to allow us the opportunity to express our sorrow for our sins – which is why Jesus endured His terrible ordeal.  I remember in 2004, now Archbishop Wilton Gregory was interviewed by ABC News about the progress being made concerning sexual abuse by clergy.  At the end of the interview, he said that one of the pieces of advice he received was that part of making up for wrongdoing meant having to say you are sorry a lot.  This past week Pope Francis, even though we would seem to be past the “height” of the sexual abuse crisis, once again apologized on behalf of the church.

“I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests — quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests — to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children,” the Pope said in remarks quoted  by Vatican Radio.  “The church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed,” Francis continued.  “On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children.”

 This was Pope Francis’ clear message to members of BICE [International Catholic Child Bureau] whom he received Friday in audience at the Vatican.   BICE works to protect the rights and dignity of the child worldwide. Speaking to them, Pope Francis also spoke about the need to reaffirm the rights of parents to decide “the moral and religious education of their children” and reject all forms of “educational experimentation with children and young people”.  He said that it is every child’s right to grow up in a family “with a father and a mother” capable of creating “a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity”. The Pope also called for an end to what he termed as “educational experiments” with children and young people, pushing a “dictatorship of one form of thinking” on them in the name of a pretended “modernity”.

This week, if someone asks you why you are going to be spending so much time in church, you may want to tell them that it is our time to say that we are sorry a lot.  Have a blessed Holy Week.  Peace.

April 4, 2014 – Humbling Ourselves

April 4, 2014

I was a bad boy again last week and did not get around to posting a blog.  Of course last weekend was dinner/auction weekend, so all other schedules get thrown out the window, right?  I again want to thank everyone who played any part in making the dinner/auction another huge success.  I think it is incredible that a parish our size can put on such a grand event year after year.  I had a great time and came home with a large Cardinals sign from the Treasure Trove, and from the auction I scored the gift card tree put together by the upper grades in school.  So if you are on my Christmas list, you have an early hint of what you will be getting (LOL).

The auction was just part of my day last Saturday.  In the morning I attended a meeting of the Diocesan Pastoral Council with Bishop Braxton.  The meeting focused on the continuing process of the Diocesan Parish Renewal and Restructuring process.  As you know, 5 parishes have recently been suppressed.  Another, in Madonnaville, will likely be suppressed soon.  This was not discussed, but as we approach summer and the time comes to finalize the yearly pastoral assignments, we will certainly see more shuffling.  This could be in the form of merging parishes, or more suppressions, or a combination of things.  The Bishop wanted to emphasize that there will not be a parish in our diocese that will not feel the effects of these changes.  The loss of clergy, and the age structure of the remaining clergy, necessitates immediate and swift action.  Even for seemingly large, stable parishes, this could mean the loss of a weekend Mass, or even a regularly scheduled Celebration in the Absence of a Priest.  Bottom line – the landscape of our local church is changing, and will continue to change.  Please continue to pray for our Bishop and those consulting him in this process that their decisions are made in the best interests of the clergy and parishioners alike and that people will work to implement their decisions tot he best of their ability.

Those of you who are long-time readers of my little blog know of my admiration for our past Bishop, now Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory.  Having served with him on the Pastoral Council, I found him to be engaging, thoughtful, caring, and humble.  So I was surprised this past week to see his name come up in the news for lavish spending on a new Archbishop’s residence.  If you are not familiar with the story, here is a link to it that explains it well:

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/atlanta-bishop-apologizes-for-building-2-2-million-mansion/

In a nutshell, the Cathedral parish in Atlanta is growing, and is in need of expansion.  The plan had the parish buy the Archbishop’s previous residence in order to be used as the rectory for their priests.  The site of the former rectory could then be used for expansion.  It was then decided by Gregory that he would take a portion of a $15 million bequest, which included property with a 1-story home, and build essentially a replica of his former residence.  This required tearing down the one-story home, and building a Tudor-style mansion.  Final cost: $2,2 million.  This caused a large uproar among some of the Catholics in the Archdiocese, especially considering the message of Pope Francis that we show restraint in our extravagances and share more with the poor.

Because of my fondness for the Archbishop, I have been thinking for the last several days how to justify such a large expenditure.  However, as we all do, it would simply appear that Gregory made a mistake and did not take into account the implications of his decision.  As he said in his statement of apology: “I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia.  I failed to consider the impact on the families throughout the Archdiocese who, though struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, tuition and other bills, faithfully respond year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services.  I failed to consider the difficult position in which I placed my auxiliary bishops, priests, deacons and staff who have to try to respond to inquiries from the faithful about recent media reports when they might not be sure what to believe themselves … To all of you, I apologize sincerely and from my heart.”

As we know, everything is relative.  It’s hard to consider a $2.2 million expenditure a “mistake”, but it’s exactly what it is.  And in our own lives, haven’t many of us done something similar, even though it was probably on a smaller scale?  I am sitting here typing this on one of my 3 computers.  Now I do use all 3, and I can probably put together a pretty good case for needing all 3.  But in the grand scheme of things, I could probably get by with one or two.  We can all take the opportunity, especially during Lent, to take a “self-inventory” – to see what we truly need and what we truly could do without.  And as Archbishop Gregory demonstrated, we can humble ourselves and admit our faults.  I hope to see you at our Lenten Penance Service this Monday April 7 at 7:00PM tn order to do just that.  4 priests will be available for confession.

Finally, if you follow either religion/social issues news or tech industry news, you will have almost certainly heard about the ouster of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich.  His sin? Donating money to California’s anti-same-sex-marriage Proposition 8. Many things can be said about this lamentable event.  That Eich is being described in the press as “anti-gay” even though one of the things everybody involved agrees on is that nobody has ever witnessed Eich exhibiting any sort of animosity towards gay people, and Eich pledged support for Mozilla’s gay-inclusive policies. That Mozilla is an organization based on open source software, and that a cardinal value of open source is the idea that everybody’s contributions are judged solely on the merit of the contribution, not its author.  And, that, these sorts of purges will only further radicalize the culture wars.  Let us pray that common sense will prevail in these situations.

What a weekend for the sports fan.  The Final Four, baseball, etc.  Enjoy!  Have a great week!  Peace.