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?