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.