Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reflection on the Feast of the Holy Family

This weekend, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Held within the Octave of Christmas, we remember that Jesus Christ, Son of God, is born into a family, and that He submits to St. Joseph's paternal protection and the Blessed Virgin Mary's Maternal nurturing. It is through His family that Jesus understood His humanity on an experiential level. Yes, He 'knew' what it meant to be human - He had a role in creating humanity, after all. But in taking on flesh, in becoming man for us, He now experiences it, and because of it, redeems all of humanity.

Most of us have families that more or less are attempting to follow the model of the Holy Family. Families have an important role in helping us discern our vocations. It is through the modeling of holy parents that children learn of God's love for us, and become willing and eager to respond. This does not mean, however, that in families where this is not the case that the child has no hope - we are never without hope - but that there is the difficulty. In most cases, the child has to be embraced, knowingly or unknowingly, by a father-figure at least, and perhaps even a mother-figure. It could be a grandparent, teacher, neighbor, or parent of a friend. We need families to help us understand our vocations!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Reflections

Christ is born for us. The Son of God is the Word become flesh, and dwells among us. He is the fulfillment of every human longing, giving us salvation, hope, and joy. He is Emmanuel - God with us. Is it any wonder that Angels offer a mighty song of praise? Is it any wonder that the shepherds made haste to see the child Jesus laid in the manger? Is it any wonder that the Star led the way of the wise men to worship the new born king? The true wonder is that God would choose to save us in such a way!

One of my favorite Christmas hymns, among many, is "What Child is This". Set to Greensleeves, even the melody is hauntingly simple. But the theology of the song is beautiful. I offer it for your Christmas Reflections.

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

CHORUS: This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary

Merry Christmas! May Christ Jesus fulfill in us the salvation He gives!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Fourth Sunday of Advent

This last Sunday of Advent in the current cycle, we hear of Joseph's dream in which the angel tells him to take Mary as his wife. Unlike Mary, he is not immaculate, but he is a righteous man who desired to do what is right. Because he, too, experiences original sin like the rest of us, the fear that he had is understandable. Yet he responds and does as the angel tells him.

St. Joseph models to us how to respond to our vocations. He responds in faith to the message, and though he is not the biological father of Jesus, he provides the home and safety in which Jesus grows and matures. So too should we. Men especially should follow the example and to provide the environment in which Jesus can 'grow' in the hearts of those around us and those in our charge.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Cost of Abortion

Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, in an article in Spirit and Life, the eNewsletter of Human Life International, includes some shocking statistics on the cost of abortion in human lives. He includes the following:
70,669 priests, ministers, rabbis and imams including
6,852 priests and 11,010 nuns (vocations “shortage”?)

Startling, isn't it?

All the more reason to work and pray for an end of the evil of abortion.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Third Sunday of Advent

Rejoice, be glad, for Christ has come. When John the Baptist asks for a sign, though, that Jesus is the Expected Christ, Jesus does not give him the answer, but rather the example of the works he has been doing. As one who was familiar with the Scriptures (the Old Testament of course), John would have understood that the answer is that Christ has come, and though he is imprisoned, all is well. John has done his role in proclaiming the coming Christ!

Just as Jesus lets his works speak for himself, so should we. In responding to our vocations, we should be filled with joy in doing what we have been called to do.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Archbishop Nienstedt

Yesterday, the College of Consulters, the group of priests that assists in the Bishop of a See or the administrator of the Diocese in the lack of the Bishop, met and voted to name Monsignor Douglas Grams as the Diocesan Administrator under the direction of the Congregation for Clergy. What this means for us is that Archbishop is no longer our administrator (though he may continue to provide the sacramental elements such as consecrating the Sacred Chrism and ordinations). I am personally sorry that I will no longer report to him.

The change of a bishop is a difficult time for a diocese and the priests especially. It is during this time that we, more than ever, need to continue to pray for vocations.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pope Benedict on Youth and hope

During his address before the Angelus on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Benedict stated that young people losing hope. In a poetic manner, he narrows the situation down:

I think of the young people of today, growing up in an environment saturated by messages that propose false models of happiness. These young men and women run the risk of losing hope because they often seem orphans of true love, the love that fills life with meaning and joy. This was a theme dear to my venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who many times proposed Mary as "Mother of Love" to the young people of our time.

Not a few experiences tell us that young people, adolescents and even children are easy victims of the corruption of love, deceived by unscrupulous adults, who, lying to them and to themselves, draw them into the dead ends of consumerism. Even the most sacred realities, such as the human body, temple of the God of love and life, become objects of consumption; and this happens earlier and earlier, already in pre-adolescence. How sad it is when the young lose wonder, the enchantment of the best sentiments, the value of respect for the body, manifestation of the person and his inscrutable mystery!

False models of happiness, being unable to find the truth of love but instead falling sway to corruptions, consumerism, and the consumption of even the human body. If we are wondering why we are experiencing the vocations situation we are, it is a result of our ability, or inability, to respond to the problem of the loss of hope. What wonder we experience, what happiness we find, and what love that motivates us when we understand God is the God of hope, and the Blessed Mother models to us lasting hope and happiness.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Second Sunday of Advent

John the Baptist was a man who lived with no fear. Unfettered by the normal dress and food, he lived a radical life, and called others to a life of repentance. But he called them to bear the fruit of repentance. While in the Greek, he say to 'Metanoia' - to repent but literally it means to change one's mind. In the Latin, St. Jerome translates this as 'do penance'. It is too tempting to think that repentance is just a matter of saying sorry, but more is needed. Amendments are needed, even if it is a firm intent not to commit a particular sin. Even so, we need to 'do something' to avoid the sin in the future. It is how we allow the grace of God to have an effect in our lives and to change our minds in a lasting way.

The same principle is at work in discernment. It is not enough to just decided on a course of action. We need to commit to action, too.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Immaculate Conception

In the Immaculate Conception, we remember the act of God in applying to the Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, the grace her Son would give through his death and resurrection. God could do this because He is eternal, and in His foreknowledge knew that the Blessed Mother would freely say yes to bearing the Son of God. With this feast, we remember the unique vocation of the Blessed Mother, enabled to do so by the fullness of God's grace, and given all the grace she needed to provide a perfect womb for Jesus Christ. She is the model, therefore, of vocations. Though we are not immaculate, much less immaculately conceived, we can find forgiveness and grace to respond to God's will. May the Blessed Mother intercede for us.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Follow-up on the Golden Compass

We live in a world where a teacher is arrested and jailed for allowing her Moslem students name a teddy bear after an important leader of the faith. Yet, when we respectfully critique the work, and perhaps even warn against viewing or reading the works, of a man who expressly states his goal is to 'kill God in the minds of children', the Christian is painted as a nitwit and fool. If sounding a warning bell is wrong, we could find ourselves headed for a new age of martyrdom. Perhaps atheism is not as free from religious persecutions as Pulman would suggest. Faith in God and growing in a relationship with God is a fundamental part of what it means to be human. To deny that or to teach the little ones anything else is to deny our very nature. To proclaim that is not the stand of a 'nitwit', militant, or even 'fundamentalist' - it is the understanding of a person deeply in touch with God's will for us.

First Sunday of Advent

This weekend, we enter Advent, our readings focus on the return of Christ at the end age. Despite the assertion of many who suggest that we will be taking away, that is not the conclusion that could be made from this gospel passage. In the prophecy, Jesus says that the coming of the Son of man will be like in the days of Noah. It was the wicked that were 'swept' away, not the faithful. (For further 'evidence', consider the parable of the weeds in the wheat in which it is the weeds that will be first gathered and destroyed, or consider that the Beatitudes tell that the meek shall inherit the earth!) No, we must stay away and be ready, not so caught up in this world (the eating, drinking, marriage and sexuality, but be rather focused on the eternal.

With the Pope's New encyclical Spe Salvi, I would be amiss if I did not point out the whole purpose of this season is to 'recover' hope. Hope is a necessary element for the Christian, as the Pope states, it is almost synonymous with 'faith'. It is the virtue of hope that helps us to remember that as good as this life is, that there is something better coming, and also that hope helps us to remember that as sad as life can be, something better is coming, if we remain faithful.

This weekend, we ask for the full hope that we need to seek God's will for our lives, to set behind us the desire for immediate needs to be met, but to delay gratification. All vocations involve delaying our gratification.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ten Suggestions for Parents

This last weekend I preached my first of 8 weekends on the state of vocations in our Diocese in various parishes/Area Faith Communities. Instead of presenting a message of desperation on our need for priests, I tried to present the present state as one of opportunity for us to reflect on the need for priests to preside at the Eucharist and other sacraments, and that God is calling. In addition, I tried to give practical hints of what parents can do to raise their children in a culture of vocations - an environment in which the notion of a call from God is not only capable of being heard but readily responded to. My suggestions to parents are:

1. Develop your relationship with Christ and impart a desire for discipleship in the lives of your children.

2. Live your vocation to marriage out as fully as you can.

3. Speak of the influential priests and religious in your life.

4. Provide opportunities for your children to speak with priests and religious.

5. Pray for your children’s vocations that they may understand their call, and place them in the care of the Blessed Mother (especially in praying the Rosary).

6. Help your children develop a wide range of activities and discern what gives them joy and at what they are good.

7. Speak of your children responding, showing your support of them without pushing them.

8. Instill in your children a desire to serve and a proper understanding of stewardship.

9. Inspire a heroic life of virtue in your child by reading the lives of the saints and encouraging moral choices.

10. Develop a sense of the sacred and transcendent in your child – the Good, the True, and the Beautiful – which will reveal the Truth.

The Golden Compass and Christianity

The New York Magazine has a brief article about Phillip Pullman questioning if the promotion of his book, The Golden Compass would be easier if he Were Dead. While the answer is yes, it is an astounding reason he gives -
Much to the obvious delight of New Line's publicity department, The Atlantic's Hanna Rosin visited the novelist at his home near Oxford, England. Pullman — who's previously tried to market the film by telling reporters, "I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief," and "My books are about killing God" — thinks the film studio's job would be easier if he were dead.

All things being equal, Pullman told me, New Line would prefer he were, well, the late author of The Golden Compass. Dead? “Yes! Absolutely!” If something happened to him, there “would be expressions of the most heartfelt regrets, yet privately they would be saying, ‘Thank God.’”

Hilariously, Pullman continues, wondering if by editing out the anti-Christian elements that made the original novel such a hoot, New Line isn't hurting the film's box-office chances instead of helping them:

“I think if everything that is made explicit in the book or everything that is implied clearly in the book or everything that can be understood by a close reading of the book were present in the film, they’d have the biggest hit they’ve ever had in their lives. If they allowed the religious meaning of the book to be fully explicit, it would be a huge hit. Suddenly, they’d have letters of appreciation from people who felt this but never dared say it. They would be the heroes of liberal thought, of freedom of thought … And it would be the greatest pity if that didn’t happen."

There seem to be some out there (so called Catholics even) who see nothing dangerous to the faith in these books. If, however, Pullman's goal is to tell that God is dead and is seeking to undermine Christian belief, then either he has failed, or those who proclaim his stories as moral sound have failed to read between the lines.

The God the Pullman tries to create in order to kill may be dead, but the God of the universe, the God that created Pullman and you and I is very much alive and active. Anything that discredits or denies that, even if it is grammatically perfect and with all the elements of plot and drama, fails to be 'Great Literature' because it fails to point to the true, the good, and the Beautiful.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Feast of Christ the King

This Weekend, we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. As we mark this feast, I will point out four ways that someone is made king, at least in the ancient world: Inheritance, bloodline, war, and popular demand. Christ is the Son of God, and was given all kingship by God the Father, and the time is coming when He will return this in a final act (according to Revelation) of submission to the Father. Jesus is the Incarnate Son, born in the line of King David, and becomes the new King of Judah. Through His death on the Cross, he defeated the sin and death, and became ruler of life. But most importantly, though, through our submission to Him as the benevolent king, we proclaim Him as our only King.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary time

As we draw closer to the end of the Church year, our readings help to remind us that Christ is not only in control, but that He will return. While He prophecies that the temple will be destroyed and that we who are following will be persecuted, even at times by family. We are to be vigilant and prepared, but not preparing our defense as much as to rely on the Holy Spirit to give us the words. A haunting question is how can we know what we will be asked to say unless we have heard and heeded the Voice of God already.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On The Ordination of Males Alone

Dr. Lawrence J. Welch has a great article posted on the Catholic Exchange site. While he is writing in response to the attempted ordination of women by a self-identified woman Catholic Bishop, it is a terse and concise article on the Church's constant and unchangeable doctrine which teaches only males can be validly ordained. It is worth a read...

In the past, when I have been asked (I believe from a point of the questioner really desiring to understand the Church's teaching), I have listed several brief reasons:

1. Jesus Christ chose only men continue to be his apostles. Jesus 'violated' social norms in speaking with women, lepers, tax collectors, and others, so if He wished to, He would have been free to break any suggested norms.

2. There is a spousal nature of Christ to the Church. To continue His saving ministry to all generations, He established the priesthood. Male priests keep this spousal nature.

3. The priesthood is not a right or privilege. Rather, it is a duty to be configured to the person of Jesus Christ in such a way that it is whole and entire.

4. When a man is ordained, he is configured especially to represent Christ in the celebration of the sacraments. As Christ was male, a male priest more easily signifies this.

5. There are certain things that those men cannot do that women can, and vice versus. This is not a sexist statement but one of biology. Women can give birth in the natural order, for example. It is fully appropriate that a male priesthood is is the chosen instrument to bring about our being 'born again' which is of the supernatural order.

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Sadducees were a sect of Jews who rejected all but the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible) as well as all unseen realities: Angels and the Resurrection from the dead being primary. They set up an improbable situation for Jesus to address. They are using a classic style of reducing everything to the absurd - this poor women would be married to all seven brothers. But Jesus responds by reminding them that Heaven (the place of the Resurrected) is not a matter like this world - there is no birth there. There is no marriage, therefore. He goes on to show the absurdity of their theological suppositions. Moses did not identify with God as the God who "was" but rather "is" the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. As a lot, it is easy to assume that the Sadducees would easily fall into a certain nihilism - that there is nothing beyond this world and the only reason to follow the Law (Torah) in this life is so that God would bless in this life. But if there is a Resurrection, every choice should be affected by our ultimate goal of heaven.

The story of the seven brothers and their mother from 2 Maccabees is a moving account of eight people who understood that to give in to breaking the covenant in order to receive an extension of their lives here on earth was not worth anything when considering the Resurrection. Each one went to his death, aware that God is the giver of life and that He would raise them again. The Mother (which we do not hear of in today's reading), gives a moving exhortation to the last son, after witnessing the murder of her other sons for not eating pork. She tells him that she knows that he is a gift from God, and that he should be strong and do the right thing. He, too, goes to his death.

In our world today, we face much practical 'Sadduceeism' - we proclaims that reality of heaven and Resurrection, but fail to let it influence our actions. But if we judge our actions in light of our final goal, we will live aware that our moral choices have eternal consequences. In discerning our vocations, we should ask what does God want, how am I to live in this world for the next?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Zacchaeus was a short man, and a man accustomed to being looked down upon. As a tax collector, he was hated and despised. Thinking he knew his standing, he knows that he will not be able to see Jesus with the great crowds. This grown man climbs a tree. But Jesus sees him, and calls him. This is perhaps the first time anyone has looked up at him.

The crowds grow wild - how dare Jesus go to his house! But Zacchaeus stands his ground, and vows to change his life - that half of his possessions will be given to the poor and if - note this "if" - he has defrauded anyone - he will pay back that person back four-fold. His life is radically changed and truly the salvation that Christ declares enters his house has been effective in his life.

We, too, could easily let the world look down upon us. But we need to take our stand, strengthened by Christ's look at us. What is our response?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Pharisee and the Publican could equally be understood as the braggart and the beggar... The pharisee is in front, boasting to God all the good that he has done, and while that in itself is interesting, it is how he refers to himself as the primary source of action and God as a witness. It is all about him.

The Tax Collector (or Publican as some call it), begs for mercy. He is focused on God, open to His mercy. He makes himself small, and even keeps distant, not out of fear, but out of humility.

Jesus tells the parable to demonstrate the proper attitude of His followers. Those no exalt themselves leave little room for the All-powerful God to save them. Those who humble themselves, who throw themselves on the mercy of God are profoundly open to Him and His salvation.

In discerning one's vocation, we must become humble enough to allow God to speak and work. By telling God what we want, what we are good at, is on the verge of bragging. By asking God to help us, we submit to His power and can hear Him calling.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We are asked to be persistent in prayer, not because God does not hear or is unjust, but to show our faith. The persistent widow in the parable we hear has her request heard not because of the goodness of the judge (who had little) but by being persistent. God is good, just, and loving - how much more will He respond.

Just as Moses grew tired during the battle, so too do we. Aaron and Hur provide the back up for him - they allow him to sit and they hold his arms aloft. At times, when we are worn by our praying, we should invite others to help us, to hold our arms in a spiritual way.

Even still, we can grow weary by our distractions. In my prayer, I find the distractions fall into three categories: Grocery Lists, To Do Lists, and Injury lists. With the grocery lists, I find my mind wandering to all the things I need or want. I could easily fill out a long list, but find the best way to deal with these distractions is to acknowledge them and set them behind me. The To Do lists things are more tempting - if I am not in a right place, I could easily get up and do them immediately. I find it best to ask God for the grace (and strength and stamina) to deal with them after my prayer. The Injury list, though, is the most destructive. With these distractions, I find my mind wandering to all the past hurts and people who have caused them, as well as the injuries I have caused others. With the perceived injuries, it is dangerously easy to allow them to take over and suddenly find myself brooding over them and to the brink of cursing. Instead, I find I ned to pray over the hurts, to invite Christ into them and to bring healing. When a person comes to mind, prayer for the individual, even if it is for the ability to forgive, brings my mind back to prayer.

Satan would love us to grow weary, to follow the distractions, and cease our prayer. God, however, constantly invites us back into the prayer. But we must do our part - to pray, and to keep faith.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The healing of the ten lepers is usually reduced to some statement on only 10% being grateful, but there is more to the episode than that.

This weekend, it is paired with the episode of Naaman, an Aramean commander, who is a leper himself (2 Kings 5). Having had success at battle, he is losing the battle for his health because of this contagious disease. He is told of Elisha, the Jewish Prophet, and desires to go. Elisha tells him to plunge into the River Jordan. Naaman did not wish to hear it - there are better rivers than the Jordan closer to home. Naaman's servant persuades him, and he takes the plunge. Coming out, he is clean. While he does return to Elisha to thank him, the real reason is to express his new-found faith in the God of Israel. When Elisha refuses the gift, Naaman asks for two wagons of dirt so that he can worship God on holy ground! (Perhaps this might be considered for those that are opposed to relics!)

It is interesting to note that this is the only healing miracle for more than one. While all ten were healed, the other nine perhaps felt compelled to go to the temple to be declared 'clean' before returning. The Samaritan that returns does so not to simply thank Jesus, but to worship and glorify God. There is a profound difference there! He is an outsider to the Jewish faith, and while he had no legal right to even walk into the temple area, he did understand that it was God who healed him.

It is good to be thankful, but in the end, these episodes tell us that it is worship of God is most important. Perhaps we can take a lesson from Naaman, too. It would be easy to overlook the simple commands of the prophets among us. Perhaps we should be willing to do the simple things and in doing so, as we heard last week, discover God's will for our lives.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Disciples ask the Lord to increase their faith, and Jesus responds with if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could say to mountains, move, and they would listen. I lack that kind of faith. But Jesus does not stop there. He moves on, though, telling them that they are to be like good servants who await their master's command, and having fulfilled the command, knowing where they stand.

So it is for us. So often, we ask for the faith to move mountains and ignore the command to "move dishes". We focus on the big things, when we are equally called to be faithful to small things, responding to the little things that we know God is calling us to do. By doing these, by moving step by step, we can do great things.

In this weekend's second reading, we hear St. Paul telling the young Bishop St. Timothy to stir into flame the gift of God he received through the imposition of hands - his ordination. The gift is the Spirit of God that is one of power, love and self control. Again, it is in the littleness of things, in the response to God, that this is lived out.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Twenty-SIx Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weekend, we hear the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus. This, by the way, is the only parable that Jesus tells that has a character named, and perhaps that name is the key to opening the mind to understand. Lazarus means "God is my Help", and beside God, who helped this poor man? The dogs licked his wounds, but the rich man would not even recognize him and his dignity. In death, Jesus suggests that he wasn't even buried - just that he was taken to the bosom of Abraham - the image of heaven akin to our understanding of St. Peter! There, he is comforted.

The rich man dies and is buried, and is sent to hell. From there, he starts to make demands, finally recognizing Lazarus. He asks that Lazarus be sent into the heat of hell to quench his parched thirst. But the chasm between heaven and hell is too wide. The rich man persists - send him to my family, that they may be warned. Abraham responds that they should know - after all, they have the Law and the Prophets. The rich man relied on his own wealth, his own understanding. Of course, it was shattered. Now, he wants to warn others.

While some might preach on the chasm between the rich and the poor, or the need for social justice, which admittedly are needed, the parable calls us to more. It is calling us to repentance, to be aware of the consequences of our actions, consequences which may be eternal. It calls us to respect all persons and to rely on God alone, not on our wealth (whatever that might be - riches, intelligence, security, etc.). In the end, all of these will be stripped away.

In discerning our vocations, ask God to help us to rely on Him alone. We ask Him to help us to live with our eyes on eternity, and to be aware of how our actions have eternal consequences.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We cannot serve two masters. When we try to discern God's will for our lives, if we think that we can serve God and yet live in the world without any conflict, we are mistaken. In this weekend's parable, Jesus uses the image of the dishonest servant who reduced the debt load of his master's debtors, so that he would have something to fall back on when he was 'fired' from his position as head steward. Jesus seems to praise him for his dishonesty, after all it is bearing false witness (the Master never gave permission) and in a way stealing. Setting the moral question aside though, one can see the kernel of truth - that we must lose the things that belong to us of this world, but also to be honest in all matters, especially the matters of eternity.

Priests are stewards of the mysteries of God, and as such we will be called to an accounting of our service. Have we been honest with the things of God, not simply dispensing them to make friends in this world? Have we been free to give those gifts to others who not only need them, but God desires them to be given?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The parable of the prodigal son is a classic parable that so often is simply dismissed as "yeah, I know that story." This weekend the Church presents us with the parable again, and provides an opportunity to listen again.

Then familial seen is a key part - two brothers and a (supposedly) elderly father. The youngest son asks for an inheritance, akin to asking his father to simply die. The father freely gives it. The son takes off, squandering his gift, and ending in the last place a good Jewish boy should be - feeding swine, and longing for their food. Coming to his senses, he returns home with a planned apology.

The Father, however, is waiting for him, and seeing him rushes out and asks that the his servants restore his son's dignity and rank. They throw a party. Meanwhile the older and more 'dutiful' son returns to hear the party. Standing outside, he refuses to go into the party. The father again goes out and speaks with him. He is left the choice - either he can stay outside in the dark, or he can go in and celebrate.

Isn't it amazing - one son wandered and lost everything, but came back. The other son stayed and thinking his father a harsh man, did not ask him for anything, and was more distant from his father than his younger sibling.

That is the point for us. When we respond to God's call, are we in reality distant and out of relationship to God? Have we wandered and allowed God to embrace us in His love and restore us to our original dignity which we last in our sinful wandering? Are we able to let God lavish His love on us, letting him be the truly prodigal One?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

No one can follow Christ without first counting the cost, and then willing to sacrifice that for the sake of the kingdom. We need to be aware of what we leave behind in order to truly leave it, in order to be detached. This is the 'hard to translate' meaning of the word that we have here with "hate". It is not that we actively hate, despise, and hold in contempt parents, siblings, spouse, and children, but that we have a healthy detachment from them, that we see them as second to our own response to Christ. In fact, with Christ leading, many have found holiness in serving their families.

Our own Cross is Christ's individual call to each one of us. Our cross is our vocation, not a thing of torture, but rather a means of transformation, that will lead us outside ourselves to live for Him, and as such to serve others. Are we willing to let all else go?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus gives us the rules of Christian etiquette, especially when attending weddings and banquets, in today's Gospel passage. He tells those gathered for the feast to take the lower places at the table versus the seats of honor. He noticed the guests clamoring for the positions. We should be humble enough to take a lower seat, to think of ourselves as less. If the host wishes, he or she can invite us to move up to a place of honor.

But Jesus also teaches that one one has a celebration, one should not expect to be returned, in fact the guest list should be filled with those that would not be able to return the favor. Again, this takes humility to be able to invite people for who they are, not for what they can do for us.

Those considering a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life need to reflect on this need for humility, to know one's true status. We should be empty of our own clamoring for honor, and instead be aware of our duty. We should be able to 'socialize' with the weak, disabled, and poor. We are to serve those in need, not those who can met our needs. Nothing is more evil than a would-be servant of God that seeks accolades and social status, especially at the expense of meeting the needs of those who are 'little'. It is more righteous to be humble and to serve without expecting return.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

We hear the terrifying parable of the Master of the house who refuses to open for those knocking on his door at the late hours. They tell him that they know him, that they ate and drank with him and followed him in the streets. But the master responds that he does not know them, and where they are from. They are left outside in the dark, rejected as complete strangers.

It is a terrifying thought, isn't it? We can assume that because we know Jesus, that is all that is needed for salvation. But there is no such thing as salvation by association. We are not saved by a simple knowledge of who Jesus Christ is, or even spending time in the company of the disciples. We need to be known by Him, too. Of course, while it is true that God knows all His creatures, this is different. The key comes in Jesus' setup of the parable - He tells the disciples to strive to enter the narrow gate - they are to work for the good, of course cooperating with God's grace in their lives. We not only need to follow Him in the streets, in the public places of our lives, but follow Him into his home, into the private recesses of our hearts where God longs to set up residence. Our reception of the Eucharist is an invitation for Christ to come in, and for us to live in communion with Him more deeply. It is an opportunity for Christ to know us through and through, by our sharing in His Body and Blood.

No, there is no salvation by association. We must be known by Christ, and we must do His will. We must, therefore, pray constantly, but not in a steady barrage of words from us to Him, begging for Him to open up to us, but rather prayer that opens us up to Him, to his gentle probing as we read in Psalm 139, our receiving His words to us. We must then respond to His will, following Him where ever He leads.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Recently, we have been led to believe that Jesus would never have done anything to upset people's 'peace'. It is as if Jesus' only mission was to proclaim a message of peace and love, without anything like sacrifice or struggle. An unfortunate side effect of his message is that warring people put him to death. So often, this 'peace' is defined as a state of getting along, allowing others the 'freedom' to sin. They fail to see that Jesus is the Son of God, the Word made flesh.

What we read in the Gospel passage this weekend should confuse those who mave such a mistaken view of Jesus Christ. We read that Jesus came to bring fire and division. He states that his mission was not to bring peace (perhaps the only minorly upset status quo). We know that Jesus was upset the dove cart and turn a few money tables. Yet, he is called the Prince of Peace.

Perhaps that is not the world's understanding of peace that Jesus brings! After all, in the Hebrew understanding shalom - peace - is not the mere absense of war or a plodding along. It is a state of complete harmony, when all things are in their place and proper proportions. This peace the result of a life lived with God, lived in the fire of the Holy Trinity's love for us, of knowing that we are pilgrims and sojourners in this world. But we know that there are some who choose not to live with Christ. How can they not be separated and divided from those that do. There will be divisions from those who are not 'on-fire' for God. This we can expect. That being the case, this does not give us permission to take up the sword. No, we strive in the same way to bring the Fire of Christ to the lost, including members of our families. While we may not experience the passing peace of the world, we will know the love of God which brings the true and eternal peace. While there will be division of those that follow Christ and those that do not, those that truly follow Christ will know true peace.

Priests can easily fall into the trap of wanting to maintain 'peace', instead of bringing the peace of Christ even if that means division of the sheep and wolves. But this will fail. We must be bearers of fire, lighting the world for Christ. We are called to spread the flames!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Pope Benedict and his Meeting with the clergy

I encouarage anyone discerning a priestly vocation to look at the recent document of the Pope's session with the clergy of the Dioceses of Belluno-Feltre and Treviso. Some of the questions and answers are very poignant and directly applicable to our status in the states.

Pastoral Care as the "Et et"

In a post at Whispers in the Loggia "The Great 'Et Et'", Rocco quotes a session of His Holiness Pope Benedict answering questions of priests held while the Pope was on vacation. In a beautifully answered question, His Holiness synthesises Catholism.
I am Fr Lorenzo, a parish priest. Holy Father, the faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they be experts in encouraging the encounter of human beings with God. These are not my own words but something Your Holiness said in an Address to the clergy. My spiritual director at the seminary, in those trying sessions of spiritual direction, said to me: "Lorenzino, humanly we've made it, but...", and when he said "but", what he meant was that I preferred playing football to Eucharistic Adoration. And he meant that this did my vocation no good and that it was not right to dispute lessons of morals and law, because the teachers knew more about them that I did. And with that "but", who knows what else he meant. I now think of him in Heaven, and in any case I say some requiems for him. In spite of everything, I have been a priest for 34 years and I am happy about that, too. I have worked no miracles nor have I known any disasters or perhaps I did not recognize them. I feel that "humanly we've made it" is a great compliment. However, does not bringing man close to God and God to man pass above all through what we call humanity, which is indispensable even for us priests?

Benedict XVI: Thank you. I would simply say "yes" to what you said at the end. Catholicism, somewhat simplistically, has always been considered the religion of the great "et et" ["both-and"]: not of great forms of exclusivism but of synthesis. The exact meaning of "Catholic" is "synthesis". I would therefore be against having to choose between either playing football or studying Sacred Scripture or Canon Law. Let us do both these things. It is great to do sports. I am not a great sportsman, yet I used to like going to the mountains when I was younger; now I only go on some very easy excursions, but I always find it very beautiful to walk here in this wonderful earth that the Lord has given to us. Therefore, we cannot always live in exalted meditation; perhaps a Saint on the last step of his earthly pilgrimage could reach this point, but we normally live with our feet on the ground and our eyes turned to Heaven. Both these things are given to us by the Lord and therefore loving human things, loving the beauties of this earth, is not only very human but also very Christian and truly Catholic. I would say - and it seems to me that I have already mentioned this earlier - that this aspect is also part of a good and truly Catholic pastoral care: living in the "et et"; living the humanity and humanism of the human being, all the gifts which the Lord has lavished upon us and which we have developed; and at the same time, not forgetting God, because ultimately, the great light comes from God and then it is only from him that comes the light which gives joy to all these aspects of the things that exist. Therefore, I would simply like to commit myself to the great Catholic synthesis, to this "et et"; to be truly human. And each person, in accordance with his or her own gifts and charism, should not only love the earth and the beautiful things the Lord has given us, but also be grateful because God's light shines on earth and bathes everything in splendour and beauty. In this regard, let us live catholicity joyfully. This would be my answer.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our readings this weekend each present a message of faith. In the first reading, we hear how the Hebrews held faith that God would keep His oath with the Passover. In the second reading, we hear of Abraham, how he had faith to follow God into the unknown. In the Gospel, we hear Jesus telling the disciples about faith in several 'episodes'. First, he tells them to have faith in God, not in their own wealth (which in fact they are asked to give away). They are asked to be faithful in waiting, like servants for the Master's return. The ones who do what the Master desires will be rewarded.

With our vocations, we are invited to be like the Hebrews - to trust in the promise of the Lord and to take a step of faith. Perhaps the image of servants should provide for us the example. While we wait for Christ's return, we are to keep working and doing what is good and holy. While we may not know with absolute certainty in our first steps, we will receive confirmation like Abraham did.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Source of Parish Renewal

In an article from Catholic News Agency, the recent Homily of Archbishop Jose Maria Arancedo of Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz is adressed. He said that the first requirement of a parish priest is to be “an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ, because only a priest in love with the Lord can renew a parish.” Based on the life of St. John Vianney, Cure of Ars, he stated that the most important task of priests is to be pastors of parishes.

“In the parish, a priest lives the mission of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, in a full and concrete way,” through which shines forth “the entire ecclesial dimension of the person and ministry of the pastor.”

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Parable of the Rich Fool, Jesus tells the disciples that they should avoid greed. The man has a good harvest, and without a hint of gratitude or awareness of where, ultimately, the harvest has come from, he makes plans for a bigger barn, which then will allow him to rest, eat, drink, and be merry. This man has claimed things as idols, he is prideful, and complete lacking gratitude.

We can be the same way - we can get greedy, and worse, forgetful of the goodness of God who has given us these good things in the first place. The antidote to greed - to remember God and to be grateful. So often, I have heard of people discerning their vocation. In asking them to describe the discernment, they often seem forget who it is that is calling them. While it is 'my' vocation, it is God's gift to 'me' for the world. So it is not mine for simply me. When we discern God's vocation to us, we need to remember that like the harvest of the rich man, it is not hoarded, but rather to be shared.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Reflection on the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In our readings for Mass on this Sunday, we hear of the power of prayer, especially intercessory prayer. As Abraham interceded for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, he pleads with God for a people that most likely he does not know. He, like Moses does, stands in the breach. He begs for mercy for those in those towns, if God could find some good people there. We know, though, that God did not find the ten people, so God warned Lot and his wife and daughters and sons-in-laws (six total).

In the Gospel, we hear Luke's account of the giving of the Our Father. Due to its shorter length, it is thought by some that this is an early 'edition' of the prayer of the community. Such a teaching, though, is not a necessary conclusion. Perhaps it was an early or purposefully shorter form from Jesus Christ Himself. All the same, the passage speaks of the importance of prayer and persistence in that prayer. Prayer is not the mumbling of words, but rather about communication with God. The disciples ask for Jesus to teach them to pray, having just seen him praying. He responds. In the Lord's prayer, we have a perfect example of this communication, as well as the perfect prayer itself. It invites us into a relationship with God as Father - the giver and protector of life. It invites us to honor, literally to make holy, God's name. We ask that His Kingdom would be established, and that He would provide for all our needs. We ask for forgiveness, knowing that we ourselves must forgive. And we ask to be spared from the final test. Jesus uses this as a opportunity to tell them about the need for persistence. God hears the prayers of those who ask, seek, and knock.

When we are praying and discerning God's will for our lives, we must be persistent. God is good and hears our prayers, but sometimes His answer is delayed or overlooked. By being persistent, by asking that our will be purified by His will for our lives, we will come receive the answer, find the path, and have the door opened to our vocation.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Reflection on the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This weekend, we hear of the episode of Martha and Mary hosting Jesus in their home. Martha is busy about the details of hospitality, while Mary is busy about being hospitable by being with Jesus.

Some might suggest that there is a dichotomy between the doing and the being, but to reduce this episode to such a false dichotomy is ridiculous. After all, it is assumed that even Martha had to take a break every once and a while to listen to Jesus (how did she meet him, otherwise). Mary, too, had to have helped out at least once and a while. No, the point of this is finding the balance between the two.

So often, the complaint is leveled against those that are attracted to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as being lazy or wasteful, especially when there are hungry or hurting people in the world. Some would suggest that spending time in prayer is not as valuable as working. But to 'update' an old adage, all work and no pray makes one a poor witness. No, the better part is to spend time in pray, to get to know Jesus Christ, and then from that encounter to go out and serve the needs of others. Think of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta who spent hours in Adoration every day, and went out and served the people, able to see the same face of Christ in the people she served as in the Eucharist she adored and received! Or think of Mary Jo Copeland, a local heroine of the poor and downtrodden, who reportedly spends hours in prayer and Mass every morning, and then literally washes the feet of those that come to her meal site. The time these great women spent in prayer bears fruit in their activities. There is no division - both are necessary, both are goods. But it is finding the balance.

As one discerns a vocation, it is this balance that becomes part of the question. Aware that both prayer (being with Jesus) and activity (working for Jesus) are a part of every vocation, it is the proportion that God has invited us to that helps us discern between religious life and diocesan priesthood, and between one religious community or the other. Paying attention to our desire for communion with Christ ought to deepen our desire to serve Him in the needs of our brothers and sisters. May we choose the better part!

Monday, July 16, 2007

SQPN » That Catholic Show #6 : You Are A Priest Forever

In a post at SPQN, they have posted a video podcast on the priesthood entitled You Are A Priest Forever. It's opening is a little tongue-in-cheek, but is well done. No iPod is required, just view it online or download it into iTunes.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Reflection on the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This weekend's Gospel reading contains perhaps one of the most famous of parables - the Good Samaritan. The parable is told as a response to the question "Who is my neighbor that I am to love?". Jesus tells the story that would have stung the minds and hearts of the Jewish listeners. A man falls victim to robbers while traveling down the treacherous road to Jericho. He is left for dead. The fact that the priest and Levite pass by was not necessarily because they did not care, but rather did not wish to become 'unclean' by touching blood at the least or perhaps even a dead man. If they did, they would not be able to participate in the activities in the Temple area. But the third passerby was Samaritan - the descendant of the remainder of the Jewish people left in the land during the Babylonian exile who intermarried the pagans in the area, thus in the eyes of the Jews who eventually returned, half-breeds who polluted and diluted the Jewish law and practice. This Samaritan sees the man and tends to the wounds with the medicines of the time (wine as an acid/alcohol would cleanse the wound, while oil would have a salve quality to keep air out of the wound). He takes the man, on his own beast, to Jericho, and checks him into the inn and vowing to pay anything that is left on his return. So Jesus asks who was the neighbor - it is the one who helped, despite political/geographic/cultural/religious differences.

One of my favorite interpretations of this by an early Church Father (but I cannot remember who at this time) tells us that Jesus is the Samaritan, who comes to us and rescues us from the ravages of the world. He heals us, and carries us on the cross, and will return!

So what does this tell about a vocation? We are not sent just to people around us, but to all in need. We are called to bring the healing of Jesus Christ to everyone, even those that would not naturally be our neighbor. We need to move out of our comfort zones to care for others - to get dirt under our fingernails, as a friend put it. The days of pampered priests is over (if it ever existed). I am overwhelmed by the stories of the pioneer priests who labored in our country, even giving their lives, for the people they were called to serve. Are we willing to become a neighbor?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Reflection on the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our Gospel Passage today is of course very obvious as to its connection to vocations, as we hear of Jesus sending the disciples out in twos. There are a few points that we should ponder, though, that will deepen our understanding. First, when Jesus sends us, he does not send us out alone. As a priest, most of our life could be lived alone in the rectory (especially in the Diocese of New Ulm), we are even then in community with our Bishop and brother priests. There is an urgency in the message - if they do not hear the message, they will soon be lost like over-ripened wheat. The disciples are instructed not to take anything with them - nothing is to way them down as the Internet traveling preachers they were to be. In their return, they are rejoicing in all that God had done for them. Jesus tells them that they should rejoice instead in the fact that their names are written in heaven. So it is with those who respond to their vocations - God will do great things through them, but the joy should come from knowing that we have done the will of God and our names are written in heaven.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Moving Day

I apologize for the lateness of the last post. I meant to post earlier, but was in the midst of moving and did not have internet connections. I am now 'almost' moved - with a few things to find a home for. Moving as a priest is difficult - it means learning the customs and histories of the parish and parishioners, learning the new patterns and rhythms of the parish. This move should be relatively easier for me - not only is this the third move as pastor (already in my 8 years of priesthood), but I am now pastor of my home town, and area. I know many of the people and most of the relevant histories. But moving, the emotional and physical part, has been difficult.
I have to admit that I would have never envisioned being here - it is unusual (though not unheard of), that a priest be assigned in his home town. I do not have immediate family here, and of the 2nd cousins, I have more of all over!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Reflection on the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In our Gospel Passage, Jesus displays a particular trait of forthrightness. While He calls many, He also warns them of the costs - He does not have a place even to lay his head. He warns them that no one who starts the task of follow, yet looks back to what was, is worthy. No, it is the one who starts and keeps his gaze fixed on the goal who will find it. As a farmer who has raised livestock could tell you, animals easily wander off the path and without redirection are prone to wandering.
When we decide to follow Christ, we must keep our eyes on him. He will lead us to truth, and will keep us safe.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Reflection on The Birth of John the Baptist (June 24, 2007)

This Sunday, we mark the solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist, with a vigil on Saturday evening and the Mass of the day. The Church gives us this solemnity to call to mind the unique role that the Baptist had in the proclamation of Jesus Christ.

From Luke's Gospel, we hear that Zachariah, the father of John, was serving in the temple area when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him that he and his wife Elizabeth would bear a son. He doubted it due to his old age, and was struck mute until John was named eight days after John's birth. He and Elizabeth insisted that he be named John as the Angel had proclaimed, against the Family tradition. Perhaps it had to do with the name of John meaning "God is Gracious", and that is exactly the message that John would proclaim - that God is indeed present and giving us grace through the Lamb of God - Jesus Christ.

In his life, John knew his vocation. As the last of the prophets in the biblical sense, and the forerunner of the Messiah, he was to prepare the way for his Sacred cousin. He would say that he must decrease, Christ must increase. He was content to point to Christ, and to 'to get out of the way' of people following Christ. He was unafraid to proclaim the message of repentance, and as part of that message provided a ritual (though not a sacrament in our sense) of baptism of repentance. Christ of course transformed this into our Sacrament of baptism of regeneration! In it all, John did not worry about what to eat and what to wear (though one could make the case that he should have a little more), but was anxious about the message. He did not mince words, but spoke the truth lovingly to all. Of course, he was beheaded as the cost of a dance and a pledge gone wrong.

Because of this, John provides a great model for priests especially. Are we willing to proclaim the Gospel in its fullness, even if it results in persecution? Are we willing to become less, to shrink from the limelight, to point others to Christ? Are we empty of ourselves, our desires, our preferences, to be better instruments of Christ?

Priests, especially those serving as pastors, are to bring people to Christ. The programs and policies, yes even adherence to Canon Law and Church norms, are all aimed at salvation in Christ. Obedience and humility marks John's life, and so too a priest's. John was a prayerful man, and out of that prayer, responded to the needs of the people, and so too a priest is to be. As we continue to discern a vocation, we should ask for St. John the Baptist's intercession, that we would know the virtues of obedience, humility, and prayer. We should ask him to pray for us, that if we are being called to such a great vocation as being a priest, that we would also have the ability to become less, that Christ would be proclaimed in our every action.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Summer assignments for the seminarians

I apologize for the late posting of this update. Even though our seminarians have been in their assignments for a few weeks already, we will 'announce' it now.

Matt Wiering: He is studying Italian in Sienna. He will be returning to North American College in Rome for Theo. II.

Zach Peterson and Jacob Niemand: Spanish studies in Guatemala offered through St. Meinrad's Seminary. Both will be returning to St. Meinrad's, Zach in Theo. II and Jacob in Theo. I.

Aaron Johanneck: the 10-week Summer Program offered through the Institute of Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha NE. Aaron will be attending North American College in Rome for Theo. I.

Anthony Mielke: He is living in the Cities and working at St. Paul Seminary. He will return to the University of St. Thomas and St. John Vianney College Seminary for his Sophomore year.

Please keep them in prayers.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Reflection for the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

There is no saint without a past, and no sinner without a future. Truer words could not be said about today's readings. The episode begins with a woman, a sinful woman perhaps having been caught up in adultery or some sexual sin, boldly enters the house of the Pharisee and begins to wash the feet of Jesus with her tears and anoints them with the perfume from an alabaster jar. She went through great personal expense - not only with the oil, but by entering. Simon objects, and Jesus uses it as an opportunity to teach about the power of forgiveness. The greater the sin forgiven, the great the gratitude. She has loved him greatly, and because of her love, the text tells us, she is forgiven. This woman, whoever she is, is invited to leave forgiven and in peace, in Hebrew more likely than not the word was 'shalom' which implies a full restoration of order. Simon was stuck on the woman's sins - she had violated the Mosaic Law, and as such should not be in their presence, much less touching Jesus.

She is a fine example of our second reading that we are justified not by works of the Law (the Mosaic law, that is) though we are condemned by them. No, we are justified by grace, and cooperating with it by works of faith and love. We are forgiven by the Love of Christ and live the life of Grace. So many who are called to a religious vocation are so aware of their sins. They think that those sins preclude them from responding. Honestly, there is the reality of unworthiness for all responding to a vocation. Husbands and wives often express an awareness of the unworthiness that they have the spouse that they do, and the deep love of God in bringing them to the Sacrament of Marriage. Many religious and priests, even after many years of vows and ordination, know a certain sinfulness and unworthiness. It is not our sin, but God's call, to which we should respond.

Perhaps this woman, and St. Paul's statement of faith, offers a better response. She must have known her sinfulness, but she also knew Christ's mercy. St. Paul knew he lived in Christ, because Christ loved him and died for the forgiveness of his sins. In our sins, we must trust in Christ's love and forgiveness even more. We love Christ more than our sins, and walk in His grave, peace, and love. In that love and peace, we will more readily respond to our vocation (and more freely, too), whatever it is.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Happy Fathers Day

Happy Fathers day to all fathers. In the last weeks, the theme of fatherhood has rested heavy on my heart, much because of a Boys camp I and Fr. Craig Timmerman co-directed last week on the theme of authentic manhood. A couple articles from the National Catholic Register have highlighted this, too. The first is an article entitled How to Be a Father by Tom McFeely interviewing James Stenson, we hear that fathers are to protect and provide for their families. In a second and even more fascinating article, The 10 Paradoxes of Fatherhood, Donald DeMarco address true fatherhood with ten realities. Though he speaks primarily of Biological fathers, it could be extended to priesthood, too. He names ten paradoxes:
1. A leader without being a frontrunner.
2. A visionary without being arrogant.
3. A servant without being servile.
4. An authority without being authoritarian.
5. A lover without being sentimental.
6. A supporter without being subordinate.
7. A disciplinarian without being punitive.
8. Merciful without being spineless.
9. Humble without being self-deprecating.
10. Courageous without being foolhardy.

Both articles are worth reading.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Reflection on Corpus Christi

The feast of Corpus Christi gives us the chance to re-examine and to celebrate the 'source and summit of our faith' - the Eucharist. While we celebrate the gift of the Eucharist with the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, the focus of Holy Thursday is on the Last Supper and Jesus' teaching and washing of the feet of the Apostles. This feast is dedicated to help us remember the gift of the Eucharist. We remember that the Eucharist is the self-gift of Jesus to His Church. It is our entrance into the saving act of Jesus Christ on the cross, in fact, of course, our Catholic Theology teaches that the Eucharist re-presents Calvary for us, and in the Eucharist, we are made present to Calvary. In the Eucharist, we receive Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, who gave himself for the life of the world.

We offer gifts of bread and wine, which are fully transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. As St. Augustine wrote, when we receive the Eucharist we become what we receive. We are transformed ourselves in Christ, and we are nourished to be Christ's presence in the world, to bring His saving power wherever we go, and especially wherever His presence is especially needed.

As a priest, I know that my priesthood is only as strong as my Eucharistic devotion, and my pastoral effectiveness is only as potent as my commitment to and 'performance' of the dignified and prayerful Mass. As a priest, and especially as a diocesan priest, I am more profoundly aware that my highest duty and greatest privilege is to celebrate Mass. Everything I do and say leads to and comes from the Eucharist.

For anyone considering a vocation, we need to spend time in present to Jesus by Eucharistic Adoration. We need to receive Him worthily and frequently, to grow in grace.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Sequence for Corpus Christi

For your prayer, I am including this post of the translation of the Sequence, found at

ZION, to Thy Savior sing,
to Thy Shepherd and Thy King!
Let the air with praises ring!
All thou canst, proclaim with mirth,
far higher is His worth
than the glory words may wing.

Lo! before our eyes and living
is the Sacred Bread life-giving,
theme of canticle and hymn.
We profess this Bread from heaven
to the Twelve by Christ was given,
for our faith rest firm in Him.

Let us form a joyful chorus,
may our lauds ascend sonorous,
bursting from each loving breast.
For we solemnly record
how the Table of the Lord
with the Lamb's own gift was blest.

On this altar of the King
this new Paschal Offering
brings an end to ancient rite.
Shadows flee that truth may stay,
oldness to the new gives way,
and the night's darkness to the light.

What at Supper Christ completed
He ordained to be repeated,
in His memory Divine.
Wherefore now, with adoration,
we, the Host of our salvation,
consecrate from bread and wine.

Words a nature's course derange,
that in Flesh the bread may change
and the wine in Christ's own Blood.
Does it pass thy comprehending?
Faith, the law of light transcending,
leaps to things not understood.

Here beneath these signs are hidden
priceless things, to sense forbidden;
signs, not things, are all we see.
Flesh from bread, and Blood from wine,
yet is Christ in either sign,
all entire confessed to be.

And whoe'er of Him partakes,
severs not, nor rends, nor breaks:
all entire, their Lord receive.
Whether one or thousand eat,
all receive the selfsame meat,
nor do less for others leave.

Both the wicked and the good
eat of this celestial Food:
but with ends how opposite!
With this most substantial Bread,
unto life or death they're fed,
in a difference infinite.

Nor a single doubt retain,
when they break the Host in twain,
but that in each part remain
what was in the whole before;
For the outward sign alone
may some change have undergone,
while the Signified stays one,
and the same forevermore.

Hail! Bread of the Angels, broken,
for us pilgrims food, and token
of the promise by Christ spoken,
children's meat, to dogs denied!
Shown in Isaac's dedication,
in the Manna's preparation,
in the Paschal immolation,
in old types pre-signified.

Jesus, Shepherd mild and meek,
shield the poor, support the weak;
help all who Thy pardon sue,
placing all their trust in You:
fill them with Your healing grace!
Source of all we have or know,
feed and lead us here below.
grant that with Your Saints above,
sitting at the feast of love
we may see You face to face.
Amen. Alleluia.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Dappled Things

Fr. Jim Tucker at Dappled Things includes a post that rates his theological World view. The 'test' takes about 5-10 minutes and is a thought-provoker. I encourage you to take a look at the bottom link of this post! I took it and managed to show that I am 100% Catholic (thank God!) Here are my results:

You scored as Roman Catholic, You are Roman Catholic. Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is mass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.

Roman Catholic


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox






Classical Liberal


Reformed Evangelical




Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

Reflection on Trinity Sunday

This weekend, we celebrate a key doctrine of our Faith - the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is the Doctrine that defines us Christian – that Jesus Christ is the Son of God the Father, the Second Person of the Trinity, and that they send the Holy Spirit, the Third Person. All three Persons are one being. This is a true mystery, as our minds cannot fully grasp the fullness of the Trinity. Three distinct persons, yet perfectly united in one being! Because of their unity, the Church teaches that where one is active, all are active, each in His own way (Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶258). In Creation, all three were present and active, in Redemption, all three were present and active, and in our sanctification, all three are active. The 'differences' among the persons of the Trinity is not merely what they do, but rather their interior relationship to the other Persons. Because of this, it is insufficient to simply name the Persons of the Trinity “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.” The only names that come close to capturing the reality of the Trinity is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as revealed by Jesus Christ Himself. The Father is eternally begetting the Son, the Son is eternally Begotten, and the Spirit is eternally sent forth from them.

What this means for those who are discerning a vocation is that the vocation comes from all Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. Those called to be priests are called to offer sacrifice to God the Father, reconfigured in persona Christi capitis, that is, in the person of Christ as head, and finally empowered in a special way by the Holy Spirit. Priests need to be in relationship to the Persons of the Trinity, in addition to being in relationship to their diocese and parish! The Trinity is a true community, and we, being created in the image and likeness of God, are likewise called into fellowship with the Trinity. Of course, it is only the Trinity that gives us the grace to do so!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Reflection on Pentecost

This weekend, we celebrate Pentecost - the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles (and the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to Catholic Tradition).

The disciples were gathered there, waiting for the "power from on High" as foretold by Jesus. All heaven broke lose, like a mighty thunderstorm. Fire filled the room and descended on each of them. This is unlike Babel, when God came down and confused the language of the builders of the tower. No, while those listening are confused, the confusion stems from the fact that those gathered for the Jewish Feast of Pentecost from all over the known world, of many languages and cultures, understand the words of those upon the Holy Spirit descended.

It is the Holy Spirit that unites all the gifts and brings true unity. The tower was a human project, based in pride. Now, with the power of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and other disciples of Jesus Christ are united to proclaim and build the Kingdom.

Those discerning a vocation need to ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten their hearts and minds. If one is called by the Holy Trinity to the priesthood or religious life, the Holy Spirit will guide all to their proper roles, and lead to the true vocation!

What better prayer than to pray the Sequence:

Come, Holy Spirit, come,
and from your celestial home
shed a ray of light divine.
Come, Father of the poor,
Come, source of all our store.
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters best;
You the soul's most welcome guest.
Sweet refreshment here below.
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most Blessed Light Divine,
shine within these hearts of thine,
and our inmost being fill.
Where you are not, man has naught.
Nothing good in deed or thought
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away.
Bend the stubborn heart and will.
Melt the frozen, warm the chill.
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore.
And confess you, evermore.
In Your sev'nfold gift descend.
Give us virtue's sure reward.
Give us your salvation, Lord.
Give us joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Father Paul Timmerman's Ordination

This morning, we of the Diocese of New Ulm were truly blessed to receive a newly ordained priest - Fr. Paul Timmerman (yes, he is a cousin of our new Assistant Director of Vocations). We congratulate him on his ordination, and ask that God would continue to form him into the priest that He desires.

As the Director of Vocations, this is truly an honor. These last 5 years, I have had the privilege of walking with Father Paul Timmerman through his Theologate years and internship. For lack of a better image, it is truly like being a father who witnesses the birth of a child. All the pain of the work, the evaluations, etc (not that it was that bad), slipped away into forgetfulness as I gave Fr. Paul the sign of peace, welcoming him in to the order of the priesthood.

Fr. Paul has been assigned to the Church of St. Mary in Sleepy Eye.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Reflection for Ascension

This weekend, in most Dioceses of the United States, we celebrate the feast of the Ascension, having moved its celebration from the fortieth day after Easter (a Thursday). We hear the account from both of St. Luke's writings - Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel according to St. Luke. There are slight variations, basically because Luke wanted to end the Gospel with the Apostles waiting in the Temple area (where the Gospel began) for the coming Spirit. In the Acts, they are sent forth, while still waiting for the Holy Spirit, getting ready for the Mission.

In celebrating the ascension, we recall how Christ ascends into heaven body and soul. Where He has gone, we will follow, He tells us, if we would follow Him and accept His teaching. But we recall that while Christ goes to heaven, but He does not sit idly by. He takes His throne beside the Father, but He is interceding for those who He leaves in this world and sending the Holy Spirit. By themselves, the Apostles would not have had the ability to carry on the message and ministry of Jesus Christ, so they wait, giving praise and glory to God.

We ourselves have been called to 'wait' for the Holy Spirit, to ask for His presence in our lives to empower us to take up our specific vocations. It is the Spirit that leads us and orders us as the Church. During this next week, we should find ourselves like the Apostles, immersed in prayer, waiting for the Power from on High, and preparing for our mission. Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Novena for the Holy Spirit

As today is the traditional day of Ascension, starting a set of nine days to Pentecost, I offer you the following traditional prayers for the Holy Spirit.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful,
and enkindle in them the fire of Your love.
V. Send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created,
R. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.
O God, Who by the light of the Holy Spirit,
did instruct the hearts of Your faithful,
grant that by that same Holy Spirit,
we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven
did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples,
deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul,
the work of Your grace and Your love.
Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal,
the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth,
the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven,
the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation,
the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints,
the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable,
and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him.
Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.

(To be recited daily during the Novena)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Reflection on the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Our first reading this weekend speaks of the first Church Council, held in Jerusalem, to settle the question of how one enters into the salvation wrought for us by Jesus Christ. Some had suggested that the men had to be circumcised, while others such as St. Paul and actually St. Peter, too, said that the ritual of circumcision was not necessary. We might just think this was a little issue, but it has at its core a very fundamental issue. Women and men enter into salvation in Baptism. (It is possible that the question was also could women be saved even if they could not be circumcised.)

In St. Peter's response to the question (which is not read having been edited for length), spoke that he witnessed the presence of the Holy Spirit among the Gentiles. This was all the proof that he needed. That same Holy Spirit, the Advocate promised by Christ, shows the early Church the truth.

The context of the Council is also an important one for us. In times of conflict, we are not left to our individual whims and conclusions, but are guided (even still) by the Apostles and their successors. The Pope as the successor of Peter, has been graced by the Holy Spirit to continue to speak and interpret the Truth taught be Christ.

The presence of the Spirit also gives peace, in Hebrew the word that Jesus may have used is shalom, which means is more than "an absence of war". It means a that everything necessary is present, that all things are in proper proportion. It is a peace that the world cannot give, and even if it could achieve that kind of peace, it is a fleeting moment. No, the peace of Christ is lasting. As we prepare for Pentecost (perhaps starting a novena on this Thursday), it would be wise to ask that the Holy Spirit would continue to be active in the lives of all Christians (especially Catholics), and that He would grace our Pope, Bishops, and priests to teach the truth in love.

In a special note, I wish all mothers a happy Mother's day. May God strengthen you in your vocations, and that your spouse and children will honor you!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pope Benedict to the Youth of Brazil

In his travels to Brazil, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI took some time to address the youth of the country.
The Christian life you lead in numerous parishes and small ecclesial communities, in universities, colleges and schools, and most of all, in places of work both in the city and in the countryside, is undoubtedly pleasing to the Lord. But it is necessary to go even further. We can never say "enough", because the love of God is infinite, and the Lord asks us -- or better --requires us to open our hearts wider so that there will be room for even more love, goodness, and understanding for our brothers and sisters, and for the problems which concern not only the human community, but also the effective preservation and protection of the natural environment of which we are all a part. ...

...You have a crucial question -- a question that appears in this Gospel -- to put to him. It is the same question posed by the young man who ran to see Jesus: What good deed must I do, to have eternal life? I would like to take a deeper look at this question with you. It has to do with life. A life which -- in all of you -- is exuberant and beautiful. What are you to do with it? How can you live it to the full?

We see at once that in the very formulation of the question, the "here" and "now" are not enough; to put it another way, we cannot limit our life within the confines of space and time, however much we might try to broaden their horizons. Life transcends them. In other words: we want to live, not die. We have a sense of something telling us that life is eternal and that we must apply ourselves to reach it. In short, it rests in our hands and is dependent, in a certain way, on our own decision.

The question in the Gospel does not regard only the future. It does not regard only a question about what will happen after death. On the contrary, it exists as a task in the present, in the "here" and "now", which must guarantee authenticity and consequently the future. In short, the young man's question raises the issue of life's meaning. It can therefore be formulated in this way: what must I do so that my life has meaning? How must I live so as to reap the full fruits of life? Or again: what must I do so that my life is not wasted. ...

...These years of your life are the years which will prepare you for your future. Your "tomorrow" depends much on how you are living the "today" of your youth. Stretching out in front of you, my dear young friends, is a life that all of us hope will be long; yet it is only one life, it is unique: do not let it pass it vain; do not squander it. Live it with enthusiasm and with joy, but most of all, with a sense of responsibility. ...

...My dear young people, Christ is calling you to be saints. He himself is inviting you and wants to walk with you, in order to enliven with his Spirit the steps that Brazil is taking at the beginning of this third millennium of the Christian era

So much of this address could be quoted! The instruction he gives, based on Christ's encounter with the young rich man, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Here we see Pope Benedict at his finest: sharing a very necessary message to the most needed and needy to hear. Other themes, in this relatively short address, that he ties in are the need to sanctify one's work, to stand for marriage and the traditional family, the need to give one's wealth over to Christ.

I think this address is worth taking to one's prayer, to ponder the questions that he raises in the light of our own hearts search for salvation and ultimate meaning!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Reflection on the Fifth Sunday of Easter

"Love one another as I have loved you." With these words, our Lord commands the apostles gathered in the upper room to love. The words seem so attached to His teaching of his impending 'glorification' on the Cross. But how?

It is in our love of God, neighbor, and stranger that defines us a followers of Christ and shows the world the glory of God. As necessary as right doctrine and practice is, it is love that ultimately marks us out. So often, we might reject this due to a misunderstanding of what love is. While St. Paul gives us a good explanation of love in 1 Corinthians, we still struggle. We try to define love as a feeling of affection. While true love may have that aspect, this may not always be the case. Take, for example, the parent who lovingly sacrifices a night's sleep to care for a sick child. Very little of such a situation would cause a 'feeling' of love, but the parent does love the child, even when he or she is exhausted. No, love is an action, a choice to respond to the need of the other, to put one's self after the other. This is not easy in any way.

St. Augustine was once asked what was necessary in order to live a moral life. He responded, "Love, and do what you will." Over the last centuries, what he was saying has been misinterpreted into something like "it doesn't matter what you do as long as you feel loving." This is the furtherest from his intent. St. Augustine knew and advocated an understanding of love as a response to Christ. He also knew that if one was consciously choosing to love Christ and neighbor, all actions then would follow out of a properly formed conscience and will. It is not permissiveness - it is the opposite, Love sets the boundaries. If we see someone about to be harmed, love requires us to act, to pull the person back to safety. So it is with the matters of life and faith in the Spiritual realm, we are called to love one another, to help to do what is right and just.

On a related note, St. Augustine's principle is an important one for anyone discerning a vocation to remember. We are called to love Christ and neighbor, and when we do, our vocation will become easier to understand and embrace. Love, and do whatever your well-informed conscience guides you. If we love God and neighbor, Christ will lead us to respond to our true vocation.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

A Prayer of Gratitude for Archbishop Nienstedt

With this week's Diocesan Mailing, we are asked to pray the following prayer of Gratitude. I offer it to you for your prayers, too:
Lord, our God,
You chose your servant, John,
In the tradition of the apostles,
To be the shepherd of your flock
in the Diocese of New Ulm.
We thank you for his ministry with us
And for his spirit of courage, knowledge, wisdom, and love.
Bless him in his new duties as Archbishop.
Guide him to be a faithful teacher, a wise administrator,
and a holy priest.
May you sustain us with loving care as
we await a new Bishop,
And guide us as we continue to grow in faith,
holiness, charity, and loving service.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Theory of Limbo: The Report

For those interested in reading the actual report of the teaching on Limbo, Catholic Culture Library has put it online. This commission has no doctrinal weight (they provide only a theological conclusion). Pope Benedict XVI has yet to announce his final decision on this, though his willingness to allow it to be printed demonstrates his possible conclusions.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Why We Must Promote All Vocations

Whispers in the Loggia has a great article about certain Bishops and what they do to promote vocations.
It lists a few traits:
"An involved, invested diocesan bishop"
Vocations made a first priority
"pushing towards it from the top and across the board" versus the agenda of one office
"significant personal commitment"
"concerted team effort"
"a creative approach"
"contagious enthusiasm and zeal"

In quoting the CARA report on the ordination Class of 2007, it was noted that few responded to the 'posters and coasters' mentality, but again it was personal invitation, usually (up to 80%) a pastor or priest, who first planted the seed of a vocation.

The post also points out that in the speaking of vocations, we cannot reduce the discussion to just priesthood, but rather all vocations.

He also quotes Pope Benedict in an address to the Parish of St. Felicity and Her Children, where he says:
Every person carries within himself a project of God, a personal vocation, a personal idea of God on what he is required to do in history to build his Church, a living Temple of his presence. And the priest's role is above all to reawaken this awareness, to help the individual discover his personal vocation, God's task for each one of us. I see that many here have discovered the project that concerns them, both with regard to professional life in the formation of today's society -- where the presence of Christian consciences is fundamental -- and also with regard to the call to contribute to the Church's growth and life. Both these things are equally important.

A society where Christian conscience is no longer alive loses its bearings; it no longer knows where to go, what it can do, what it cannot do, and ends up in emptiness, it fails. Only if a living awareness of the faith illumines our hearts can we also build a just society. It is not the Magisterium that imposes doctrine. It is the Magisterium that helps enable the conscience itself to hear God's voice, to know what is good, what is the Lord's will. It is only an aid so that personal responsibility, nourished by a lively conscience, may function well and thus contribute to ensuring that justice is truly present in our society: justice within ourselves and universal justice for all our brothers and sisters in the world today. Today, globalization is not only economic: there is also a globalization of responsibilities, this universality, which is why we are all responsible for everyone.

The Church offers us the encounter with Christ, with the living God, with the "Logos" who is Truth and Light, who does not coerce consciences, does not impose a partial doctrine but helps us ourselves to be men and women who are completely fulfilled and thus to live in personal responsibility and in deeper communion with one another, a communion born from communion with God, with the Lord.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Easter

This weekend is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The Gospel this Sunday is so short, it is published in its entirety here:
(It can be found at John 10:27-30)

Jesus said:
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.”

We are the sheep, Christ is the shepherd who speaks to us the words of truth. In responding to the love of Christ, we can follow it as a priest, religious, generous single life, or married. Right here, right now, we are called to follow.

As a shepherd from the time of Christ and even nomadic shepherds could tell, the sheep need to be guided by shepherd's voice. They hear it, and while about the tasks at hand (for sheep, that means eating), and follow the voice. When they do, they are kept safe. Jesus, the good shepherd, promises that if we follow, he will hold us in his hands, and no one can take us out of them. But we can walk out (like so many of the hearers of the Bread of Life discourse who walked away from salvation). It is not enough to listen to the voice of Christ once, and then think that we are safe. No, we follow daily, hourly, and perhaps even every second!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Great Harvest

Whispers in the Loggia has a post on the large number of vocations from West Philadelphia High School. (The original article is found here.)
Since its founding as a boys' school in 1916, and the addition of the girls' school in 1926, West Catholic has turned out more than 1,000 religious sisters, 600 priests, at least 300 Christian Brothers, six bishops, and Cardinal John O'Connor, the late archbishop of New York - Class of '38.

The School hosted a reunion for them, and it sounds as if it was a great success. Perhaps this is something more should do.
One thing that I found telling: it seems that everyone encouraged vocations, from the parents to the principal. The culture of vocations is definitely alive here!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Theory of Limbo

There has been lots of blog articles lately about the recent conclusion of a Vatican Theological Commission regarding Limbo. There are a number of errors and misrepresentations of the theory, and I offer the following as a corrective.

First, Limbo is not purgatory, the state of souls destined for heaven (due to faith and no unforgiven sins) but lacking in perfect love. The theory of Limbo was just that... a theory. In the theological terms, it is a theological speculation or theological opinion, not a Dogma or doctrine which are to be held definitively (such as purgatory!). Because some in the Church taught it did not make it so, and just because the recent theological conclusion said that it is a theory that is not helpful did not 'bring the walls of Limbo' down. The Pope has to accept or reject the Commission's findings. All this is to to say that those that taught it, did so without creating it, and those that say that it is not a helpful theory to continue to teach did not destroy it. The official teaching of the Church is that those who die with only original sin are not automatically condemned to hell, nor are they automatically admitted to heaven. True, though, is that the some texts refer to a state of those who die with original sin but no personal sin, but there is not an explicit, definitive teaching on limbo's existence.

As such, Limbo was not the 'in-between' of heaven and hell but a different category that taught that those babies who died without baptism were given a state of 'natural happiness', but not the state of supernatural happiness that is in heaven. While not subscribing to the theory as particularly as helpful as relying on God's mercy (though I will fully submit to the Pope were he to declare Limbo a doctrine to be held), I understand the theory of Limbo as like that of a grade school rain-day recess - lots of laughter and joy but in the classroom, not on the playground enjoying the sun and open space. Such children are lacking nothing with such natural happiness because they know nothing of God and the supernatural happiness He gives.

There is power in the Sacrament of Baptism, but it comes from Christ. Baptism is a participation in the Death and Resurrection of Christ which results in removal of sin, both original and personal, and a rejuvenation of the human being. The conclusion of the commission is that indeed God the Father can (as in 'it is possible', but not 'necessarily will') save the unbaptized by other means as well, so that they can share in the supernatural happiness of heaven. The theory of Limbo relies heavily on medieval philosophical and theological principles (all of which are sound), in such things as evil is a privation of some good that ought be present, that those with sin (personal or original) cannot enter heaven, etc. The teaching against limbo is based a more deeply developed theology of grace and mercy - that one can be saved, but only through Christ, without knowing Him explicitly or being baptized (which is not to say we should not get to know Him, or be baptized). While the Sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation are the ordinary means of experiencing God's Grace and forgiveness, God could work outside of them as well for the forgiveness of sins (such as the case of otherwise faithful Protestants who sinned but followed a well-formed conscience could experience forgiveness). There is a warning with all of this, though: we are not to presume God's mercy, and if at all able, we need to receive the Sacraments. The Church has taught that those who desire Baptism but die without it may experience the "baptism of desire" and experience God's mercy and have one's sins forgiven, for example.

Personally, I think the reason the press and so many have jumped on this is that they see it as a sign that the Church can change any of its teaching, which they tend to lump all together. The teaching against women priests, abortion, birth control, and such, gets regarded as equally changeable as the theory of Limbo, the application of the teachings of just war and capital punishment, and perhaps even the use of mercury thermometers, as suggested by Senator Durbin's score card for Catholic politicians. He actually suggested a pro-abortion politician could be more "Catholic" than a pro-life politician because they did not support the USCCB's suggestion to limit the use of mercury or other relatively 'minuscule' promptings of the US Bishops! If the Church's stance on some things can change, it can change in all things, is the thought. This, however, is not true.

Also, I think the pro-abortion, pro-contraception mentality is affecting this hype. I have actually heard at least one pro-abortion person say that if we are serious about the unborn child as such, it is better for a child to be killed in the womb and enter heaven than to be given birth and mistreated. The theory of limbo seems more cold and distant than this 'warm fuzzy' feeling of a sort of universal salvation of even those who are murdered in the womb. Do not misread me, though. Yes, if there is no Limbo, those that are aborted could also be entered into the beatific vision, but I reject the thought that this can be used to justify abortion! Abortion has no justification. To be born is always better than to be killed in the womb, and we must do everything we can to make the life of all, born and unborn, better. As good as life is, though, Heaven is even better yet!

All summed, the teaching of the Church is that all are invited to share in the beatific vision and to be saints in heaven. We are allowed there by God's grace. We are invited, in Baptism, to place our faith in Jesus Christ our savior, but know that He can also save those, who through no fault of their own die without Baptism and live in accordance to a well-formed conscience. Even little babes, are entrusted to the mercy of Christ and may be allowed into the eternal embrace of heaven, perhaps based on the faith of the child's parents. The vocation of all is to eternal, supernatural happiness, but this is no guarantee that we will all be given the gift. Are we going to respond in such a way that God will give us His grace?