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.