Archive for May, 2014

May 24, 2014 – Two Focuses of the Weekend

May 24, 2014

This weekend we focus on two important observances.  As Americans we of course celebrate Memorial Day.  We remember all those who have given their lives in the defense of our nation, in the cause of freedom, in the pursuit of justice which leads to true peace. We remember all of the men and women who have fought in wars and other armed conflict throughout the history of this nation, from the very beginning to the current times. For most of us, the more recent memories include the Second World War and the wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan.  However, we remember all who have fallen and pray for them, asking the Lord to give them eternal life and peace.

We also remember those who have suffered the ravages of war, not just with the loss of life, but with bodily injury, like the loss of limbs or illnesses – scars that they must endure for the rest of their lives. We remember too those who are enduring emotional or psychological suffering because of what they experienced on the battleground. We must not forget the families of those men and women who were killed in action or who may be still missing in action, or who have been severely injured, bodily or emotionally. These families’ members grieve; they suffer. We remember.

As we remember, we express our gratitude: gratitude for the unselfish sacrifices these men and women have made to God, to country, and to us; gratitude for those who support and assist our veterans and their families; gratitude for the lessons they teach us about generosity, even to the giving of one’s life, about love of God and country, about securing justice which leads to peace.

As we remember and express gratitude, we also honor both those who have died and our veterans who are still with us. This is honor we express not only by erecting monuments and memorials, by placing flags on their graves, and by visiting cemeteries, but also by the respect and support we give to their loved ones who remain, and to our veterans and their families who live among us; by a sincere word of thank you, by our ongoing prayers, and by our own commitment to seek justice which leads to true and lasting peace.

As we enjoy our long weekend and the celebrations that go with it, let us remember the sacrifices of those who allow us to enjoy our celebrations and our time with our family and friends.

The other focus for us as Catholics is Pope Francis’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which is occurring today, tomorrow and Monday.  I watched bits and pieces of him landing in Jordan, celebrating Mass and holding a media event with the King of Jordan.  EWTN will be covering the papal events all weekend long, but they warn that schedules can run early or late, so the easiest thing to do is to go to http://www.ewtn.com, and check the updated schedules.  There are encore presentations of events if you miss the live ones.

Fifty years ago, in January 1964, soon-to-be Blessed Paul VI became a pilgrim, making an historic visit – the first by any pontiff since the earliest centuries of the Church – to Jerusalem and the Holy Land – or, as he put it, “This land where down through the centuries there resounded the voice of the prophets speaking in the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” A little more than a year later, the decree Nostra Aetate was decreed by the Second Vatican Council, in which the Catholic Church condemned anti-Semitism and pledged to work with love and respect in dialogue with Jews. These were groundbreaking events, crucial moments that transformed the Church and its relation to the Jewish people.

Now, 50 years later, Pope Francis becomes a pilgrim as he journeys to Israel, Jordan and Palestine. The relationship between Catholics and Jews has changed dramatically, thanks not only to the efforts of Paul VI, but also those of Saint John XXIII, Saint John Paul II and Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI. John Paul and Benedict both visited Israel and worked hard to continue to forge better relations with the Jews.  Saint John Paul’s 1986 visit to the Synagogue of the Chief Rabbi of Rome, and the moving image of him praying before the Western Wall in 2000 are indelible moments.

Pope Benedict’s 2009 pilgrimage to Israel, and his visits to synagogues in Rome, Cologne and New York, deepened the relationship we have established and nurtured during the past half-century. The work of these popes has further affirmed the principle that God’s covenant with the Jews was irrevocable, and that Judaism was essential to Christianity.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan had a great perspective on the purpose of Pope Francis’ pilgrimage, saying that “It is within this context, I believe, that Pope Francis’ trip must be viewed. He will travel as a pilgrim, whose actions, as much as his words, will demonstrate his desire to continue the path of dialogue and friendship that has been established. As his friend, Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Argentina, puts it, “I am convinced that this trip will usher in a new era in Jewish-Christian dialogue: the era of empathy.” What an uplifting thought, and so appropriate for this Holy Father, whose entire papacy has emphasized the need for the entire Church – including the pope – to be one with others. ”

Our prayer always, especially for this weekend, is that the witness of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, as well as our Pope, will lead us to a better appreciation of our freedom and will lead to more cooperative relations between warring factions.  Have a blessed and safe weekend, and a great week ahead.  Peace.

 

 

 

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May 17, 2014 – The Rite of Passage

May 17, 2014

Well we are smack in the middle of the “rite of passage” season as students are graduating and are either moving on to their next level of education or are moving out into the “real world.”  Along with all of the celebrations and gift-giving that go with graduation, there is also a healthy dose of advice being given to our graduates by teachers, commencement speakers, parents, grandparents, guardians, etc.  I was just reading about a commencement address given in 1971 by Bob Hope at Santa Clara University.  At the time, our country was in the middle of the Vietnam War, racial tensions were intense, and with the Cold War still very much alive, we were in danger of blowing up ourselves and the rest of the world.  So what was Bob Hope’s advice to those who were so anxious to go out into the world?  Simply, “Don’t go!”

Of course, this is not a realistic option.  As I was thinking about all of the advice and tips that our graduates will receive, particularly our Catholic graduates, I wondered how much of that advice would focus on their religion – about keeping the faith with them as they moved on to their next challenge.  I, of course, am not a parent, and I’m not speaking at a graduation.  But I still had on my mind what I would tell a graduate about keeping their faith with them as they moved on in their journey.  So here is my 2 cents worth.

You need to move on with an open mind and be willing to learn and try new things, but do it without compromising your ethics, morals, or your dignity.  If you aren’t shaping the world, then the world is shaping you.  Make friends that have the same values as you do, even if that means not settling for the first group of friends you meet.  In new situations, we often rush to the first group of people that notice us – don’t. Get to know people that are different than you, but make sure the people you build friendships with are people who share your values and will make you a better person – not who tempt you to compromise your morals or make you do things you are not comfortable with.

You can’t party ALL the time and get good grades. And you especially can’t do so and keep your spiritual life in good shape. It may seem like there are people that can stay out late every night of the week partying and still get good grades – they can’t.  It will catch up to them sooner or later.  Don’t fall for that trap.  People around you are looking for a leader – be one, and be a good one. A lot of people around you are looking for somebody to follow, and not necessarily in big ways, but mainly in little ways. When they aren’t sure if they should study or party, they will look to a leader to see what the popular choice will be. When they aren’t sure about whether or not they should pray before a meal, they will look at everybody else. When they aren’t sure about whether or not they should get up early on Sunday and go to Mass, they will look at what everyone else is doing. Don’t be one of the followers. The “right” thing to do is not determined by “what everyone else is doing.”  Be a leader, and do the right thing despite what everyone else is doing. You’ll be surprised how many people will follow you – and thank you for it later.

Don’t forget to appreciate the beauty of the world around you every single day.  And don’t forget to close the laptop, put down the iPod, and turn off the TV so you can fully appreciate the real live human beings sitting right next to you (a lesson that I definitely need to work on).  Go to confession regularly.  Even if you are living a very holy life, we are usually surrounded by many temptations, and confession is a unique way to flush out our systems and get special graces to deal with a lot of it.  Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Start your day with the sign of the cross and end it the same way.  Pray a rosary while walking to class. Pray for the people that walk by you on the sidewalk. Pray for your instructors, your classmates, for anything you are struggling with. And then – and this is important – listen. Too often when we pray we do all the talking and none of the listening. This is one reason why meditative prayer like the rosary is so powerful. It gives us a chance to listen to God and what he might be saying to us.

Finally, go to mass every Sunday, no matter what.  As Catholics, we are required to go.  Second, we should want to go! I know it’s hard sometimes when you are tired and you were out late and you just don’t feel like getting up and going. As Christians, there is nothing more vital and important than the mass. It is the highest form of prayer we can do. We actually receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ himself. Nowhere else can we experience this unique, special encounter with Jesus Christ as we do in the Eucharist. There is no better way to “be fed.” You will always be glad you went and it’s the most powerful way to experience and receive God’s grace. And as a bonus, go to daily mass if you are able. Once we get out of college, get a full-time job, begin a family, etc. it becomes harder to go to daily mass. Take advantage while you can!

Again, this is just my 2 cents worth (I’m sure no more than that).  But I know that staying true to my faith has helped me in many situations, and I hope that the up-and-coming generations will realize the same thing.

Have a great week!  Peace.

May 10, 2014 – Sacrifices

May 10, 2014

Well I’m going to have to reach into my bag of excuses again to explain why I missed yet another weekend of blogging last week.  I really didn’t do anything exciting or creative, nor was I nauseated over the Cubs winning 2 games over the Cardinals – I just didn’t get to it.  I did spend part of last Sunday evening with the ladies.  No, it’s not what you think!  I attended the Ladies’ Appreciation Dinner last Sunday that the K of C puts on annually for the ladies of the parish.  I showed the slideshow I prepared for Fr. Gene’s 40th Jubilee and also a slideshow of photos from the Jubilee Mass itself.  Our parish certainly owes a huge debt of gratitude to all of the ladies who graciously give of their time and talent for various purposes.  And to those who had other thoughts when I mentioned spending the evening with the “ladies”, it is said that everyone has a period in their life when they sew their “wild oats.”  Well, I fear my oats have become caked and moldy.

Speaking of appreciating the ladies, we of course take the opportunity this weekend to honor our mothers for all of their sacrifices.  We know that the vocation of being a mother is fulfilling, but certainly not easy.  It takes a toll physically, mentally and emotionally.  But a mother is willing to endure all of this for the sake of her children.  A good role model for all of us is St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who made the ultimate sacrifice for her child.  Gianna Beretta was born in Magenta (near Milan) in Italy, on October 4, 1922, the 10th of 13 children born to Alberto and Maria Beretta. Her parents instilled in their children a deep faith. In fact, two of Gianna’s brothers became priests and one of her sisters became a nun. And while Gianna was a very pious child and considered a religious vocation, her holiness would be found as a working mom.

Gianna found her life’s calling in medicine. She earned degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, and opened a medical clinic in Mesero a year later.  In 1955, Gianna married Peter Molla. They subsequently had three children.  During her pregnancy with her fourth child, however, Gianna’s doctors discovered she had a tumor in her uterus. They encouraged her to terminate the pregnancy and undergo a complete hysterectomy. Gianna refused, but did allow surgery to remove the growth—fully aware of the danger that continuing the pregnancy presented.

Prior to the surgery, Gianna told a priest, “I have entrusted myself to the Lord in faith and hope, against the terrible advice of medical science, ‘Either mother or child.’ I trust in God, yes, but now I must fulfill my duty as a mother. I renew the offer of my life to the Lord. I am ready for everything, provided the life of my child is saved.”  In the final weeks of her pregnancy, she reiterated that if a decision had to be made between her and her child’s life, they should save the child. On April 21, Gianna gave birth to her fourth child—daughter Gianna Emanuela. Seven days later the mother died of complications from the birth.  We again thank our Moms for giving us life.

Changing topics now, it has been a little while since I have addressed the Diocesan Plan for Restructuring and Renewal.  It is still an ongoing process, and in the near future when the assignments for clergy are decided, I’m sure we will see more shake-ups.  We are certainly not the only ones going through such a process.  Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote this past week about the planning process in the Archdiocese of New York called “Making All Things New.”  He made the point that Pastoral Planning is something that has been going on since the very beginnings of the Catholic Church.  We are reminded of this in the Easter readings.  His viewpoint sounds much like the attitude we need to have as we go through this time of change.  He states that  “we’ve stressed from the start of our present round of planning that it’s more than a question about buildings, addresses, closings or merging.  Yes, some of this will be called for, and the sound recommendations from our pastors, clergy, religious, and people are now “on the table,” to be further prayed over, refined, and finalized.

But, driving all of this is the same set of values we sense in our Easter readings: is the invitation of Jesus, and the truth of His message, being extended effectively in our preaching, religious education of the young, faith formation of adults, and our schools? Are the poor and rich being served?  Are the “fallen away” being welcomed back?  Do God’s people have available to them the spiritual sustenance of prayer and the sacraments? Are the offerings of God’s People being spent well, or squandered?  Some are tempted to observe (and the press readily reports it!) that this strategic pastoral planning is all the result of a new, unprecedented crisis in today’s Church, caused by such things as mismanagement and stupidity by bishops and priests; the stubbornness of the Church to change settled teaching (woman’s ordination) or discipline (priestly celibacy) to correct the shortage of vocations; the loss of money paid to victims and attorneys due to the sex abuse nausea; or the mistakes of past bishops and pastors in overbuilding and over-expansion.  Baloney!  There’s not much radical, dramatic, or crisis driven in sound, patient, prayerful pastoral planning.  It’s been going on since Pentecost.”

Some of you may have received a letter from a group that is attempting to raise funds to maintain the buildings and property of St. Leo’s in Modoc, which is now a suppressed parish.  I do not want to tell you that you should or should not contribute toward this – that is a personal decision on your part.  I personally have decided not to make a contribution toward this.  I can’t justify pouring tens of thousands of dollars into property that 99.9% of the time would be sitting idle.  Yes, we certainly become attached to our home parishes, but our duty as Catholic Christians is also to leave something for the future for our children so they can experience church in the best possible way, which is why I would rather donate to something such as the Seminarian Education Fund.

That’s all I have for now.  Have a great week!  Peace.