I want to share a secret: the Church is filled with sinners. I admit that it is not a very good secret. At times, though, we can pretend that it is a secret or that we are not really sinners. We act like this statement in itself is scandalous, ignoring that is the sinful behavior that is cause of scandal, not that the members struggle with sin. From the first apostles until now, this has been the case. Call to mind the original 12 apostles. They were not perfect. Time and again, they bumbled their way through life. Consider St. Peter, patron of our fair city. He sometimes got things so right - making the bold profession that Jesus is the Son of the Living God and having courage to take the first step onto the water, only to display complete ignorance to God’s will or take his eyes off our Lord. Or think of Judas, the man who could follow Jesus for three years, but sold him out for thirty pieces of silver, then to commit suicide in despair. The other apostles who ran, hid, or were skeptical. No, the Church, as beautiful as she is as a whole, is filled with sinners in her members. But that is good - the Church is a hospital for the sick, not a shrine for the perfect. We as members are not perfect, but the Body of Christ, united to Christ as head, is. While the vile acts of some priests have certainly challenged us, the message of the Church remains - that Christ is our savior. But we still act in such a way that suggests we can keep this secret. First, we members and leadership attempt to be “Nice”, and to avoid anything that would not be seen as ‘nice’. We become too accommodating, allowing bad behavior because we are in the Church (a problem that also plagued the early Church as some rejoiced in the freedom to sin) . We do not want to offend anyone, so we allow sin to go unchallenged. We too often allow unprofessional behavior in the workplace lest we come off as mean. We are members of the Church, after all, and we are supposed to love and accept everyone, right? The opposite of this being nice is also prevalent - we can be done right mean. We disparage those who do not meet our ideas of perfection, and we become too demanding. Specifically, we might look at incidents of members condemning a unmarried woman who is pregnant, or groups protesting funerals as God’s punishment. Neither of these extremes (nice or mean) reveal Jesus. Jesus is merciful, certainly, but He is also just. He spent time with prostitutes and tax collectors, but did not confirm them in their sins but called them to conversion. We need to be kind and loving, but the most loving thing we can sometimes do is challenge someone to be better, to respond to grace. Too often the charge of hypocrisy is thrown around when we do so, however. It is not hypocrisy to be a sinner seeking conversion, but it is hypocrisy to pretend like we do not sin, or to hold others to standards we do not apply to ourselves, however imperfectly. Only when we get beyond the fear of being called hypocrites, only when we stop fearing that we are sinners to be discovered, will we find the grace to move forward in the Lord. The truth is that there are sinners in the Church, but we are sinners who know our savior is Jesus who loves us and calls us to repentance.
Thursday, June 8, 2017
Friday, March 31, 2017
In the past, I offered several Penance Services with Individual Confession and Absolution (Form 2). True, these were well attended, at least at St. Peter. I tried in several ways to make it clear that it was a penance service with individual confession. Despite this, no more than a quarter would come for individual confession. The rest attended the prayer service and left without receiving the Absolution. All the same, rumors were around that we offered "General Absolution". There was a large amount of confusion.
While the Church allows General Absolution in "grave necessity”, this usually means that those who attend these services are in imminent danger of death (such as war or natural catastrophe) during which they would not have ample opportunity to receive forgiveness of their sins. Should they survive, however, they are to go to a priest all the same and confess all mortal sins. The Church provides a model for these types of celebrations, but mainly because of the emergency nature of the emergency. No matter, the Church teaching is clear that the valid reception of Absolution requires that the individual is willing to confess of all serious sins. If the willingness to confess all mortal sins was lacking, the person would not receive the sacrament. Someone who attended a penance service with General Absolution is required to go to private confession (either Form I or Form II), before returning to a General Absolution service. Further, the Church’s documents note several times that Form 3 is not to become the norm, and that all confusion is to be avoided. Further, in the past, Bishop Nienstedt, and currently Bishop LeVoir both have affirmed the teaching that General Absolution not be used in our local circumstances. Without the Bishop's permission (except, of course, in those extreme cases), a priest does not have the authority to offer General Absolution. I am concerned that my offering even Form II services led to confusion that participants who left without entering the confessional have received the sacrament. My hope by not offering Form 2 services is that I can ‘reset' our perception and appreciation of the Sacrament. That is why I am offering only Individual Confession and Absolution (Form 1) this Lent.
The Church teaches that it is necessary to confess all mortal sins at least once a year (in order to receive Eucharist worthily). This means that the penitent is to confess ALL sins he or she remembers, not just one or two. If one purposely does not confess a mortal sin, one does not receive the sacrament validly. Some have shared anecdotes of penance services where the presider requested only one or two sins be confessed, and then proceed to either general absolution or private absolution. The protector of the sacraments, the Church, does not envision this 'form' of confession. At issue, in part is the nature of the confession - it is not part, but whole. By way of analogy, one could go to a medical doctor because of itchy skin, the main issue that is obviously a problem. If the doctor is not diligent, she or he might be too quick to prescribe an ointment for the itchy skin and fail to look further, perhaps find the itch is due to cirrhosis and possibly cancer of the liver. As far as coming to a Form II service and leaving without Absolution is like drawing up a bath, sticking your finger in and rejoicing in such a delight, and promptly draining the tub.
Hints for the Sacrament of Reconciliation
Be Prepared: Examine your conscience, and if it helps, make a written list. All serious or mortal sins (with the elements of a.) Serious act, b.) full knowledge, and c.) full desire) are to be confessed. Less serious sins should also be confessed to the best of one's ability. This examination can be done at home or even on the way to Church!
Be Prompt: do not wait until the last minute to come in to the confessional, especially if no one is in line.
Be Brief/succinct: You usually don’t have to go into the details or circumstances of the sins – just confess them.
Be Specific: Name the sins. “I did a bad thing” is going to require more.
Be Personal: Do not confess anyone else’s sins, but only your own.
Be Honest/Sincere: Share your sins as brutally honest as you can.
Be Consistent: Come on a regular basis, at least during Lent and Advent, bi-Monthly, or monthly.
Be Not Afraid: Know that the confessor is a sinner as well, and that even he has to go to confession!
How to Go to Reconciliation:
Before going to the Sacrament, examine your conscience for sins. As you enter, you may have the option of using the screen or going face-to-face. If you chose the screen, kneel. If face-to-face, sit down. Father may greet you with a handshake or other gesture.
Order of Penance Greeting: The priest says something to the effect of: May the Holy Spirit be with you as you confess your sins. R.: Amen.
“Revelation of State of life”: If you are unknown to the priest, he may ask some questions to help him help you. This should include when you last received the Sacrament and a little about yourself if needed. If it helps, Say, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been (how long) since my Last confession. These are my sins…” Confession of Sin: you tell the priest all of the sins of which you are aware (be as thorough as you can.)
If you wish, end your confession with, “For these and all sins I cannot truthfully remember, I ask penance and absolution.”
Acceptance of Satisfaction: The priest will give a penance, most of the time a prayer or Scripture which will help you live in the grace you are about to receive in the sacrament and serve as a sign that you are sorrowful for your sins.
Prayer of Sorrow/Act of Contrition: you say a prayer out loud which tells of your sorrow for sin. This prayer can be spoken from the heart, or it can be one of many acts of contrition. For example:
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His name, my God, have mercy.
Absolution of sin: The priest extends his hands over you and says the Prayer of Absolution, to which you respond: Amen. Conclusion: The priest says: Give thanks to the Lord for He is good… R. His mercy endures forever. The Lord has freed you from your sins, go in peace. R. Thanks be to God.
At this, you are free to go to do your penance.
While I acknowledge there is fear about the Sacrament, this fear is not of God. When we face the fear, confess our sins in the great and healing Sacrament, we find freedom, healing, and peace. When we confess all of our sins with our mouth, not just consciously, we rob Satan of his power over us and receive assurance of forgiveness. Sadly, Satan deceives us that our sins will be inconsequential until we commit them, and then he enjoys telling us their consequences. The Lord knows the consequences of our sins, and forgives, but only when we are truly contrite and sorrowful. Individual confession also provides a great remedy for dealing with venial sins, especially if the confessor has time to address the roots of the sins. This allows us to grow in holiness. I hope that all of us may make frequent use of the sacrament.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Lent is a season to reflect and ponder the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. The liturgical destination of our Lenten journey is the Sacred Triduum, when we celebrate the giving of the Eucharist, the Cross, and the Resurrection. It is tempting to ignore Good Friday, to view it as something simply ‘gotten’ through or around. Easter Sunday is easy to celebrate with joy. The gift of love that Christ leaves in the Eucharist as well as the model of charity in the washing of feet is happy. But it is Good Friday that ties these days and themes together and gives them their power to change our lives. Good Friday is difficult because we do not like the Cross or always understand what it truly means. We try to avoid it because it symbolizes suffering, sacrifice, and pain. Ultimately, Lent is about remembering that there can be no resurrection without the Cross.
It is the Cross that marks our lives on this earth. We are marked with the Cross at our baptisms; and this is renewed with each Sign of the Cross. Jesus instructs us to take up our cross daily. This is not an optional activity for a few followers, nor one that is a one-time deal, or when convenient, or on a limited schedule. Every disciple has cross, and it is part and parcel with following Jesus.
The cross is not light, in discussing or in fact. Crucifixion was cruel, slow, and methodical. People could be dying on the cross in excruciating (literally from the cross) pain for days. As one of our Eucharistic Prefaces (Preface III of Ordinary time) states, the Father “fashioned the remedy out of mortality itself”. When Jesus embraces and dies on the cross, He takes upon Himself the entire burden of the world’s sins. By His innocence and obedience, He puts sin and death to death. The Church Fathers and countless saints spoke of the cross and resurrection in terms of the re-creation story. Adam and Eve, by their disobediently taking of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge, cause sin to enter the world. In the Crucifixion, Jesus stretches out His hands not to take but to give. He is revealed as the New Adam, the Blessed Mother Mary as the New Eve who stands beside her Son. This makes the Cross the Tree of Life. How Jesus dies is not just incidental, a matter of convenience, simply chosen because crucifixion was the current tool of capital punishment by the Roman government. It was God the Father’s plan, His ultimate choice, from before all time. He intended that the wood of the Cross be the means of our salvation.
Jesus willingly gave His life, so that we could see how ugly our sins are to the Father by our looking at Jesus on the Cross. In the cross, he fulfills the promise of the Eucharist, the most blessed fruit of Tree of Life, which brings us eternal life in the Resurrection. But we must ponder our sins and allow them to be put to death, along with our own. We cannot go around the cross – we must go through it.
Instead of avoiding the Cross this Lent, we are to take up our cross and follow. He will put our sins to death. We submit ourselves in obedience to Him, and are to receive often and well of the fruit of Tree of Life: Jesus, the Eucharist. By doing so, we return to the Garden for which we were created, where we will walk with the Lord for the rest of eternity.
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Christmastime is Here. But I always get That Christmas Feeling reminding me that Christmas is so much more than a Sleigh Ride Over the River and Through the Woods. It involves more than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Jolly Old Saint Nicholas. We Deck the Halls with The Holly and the Ivy, Mistletoe and Holly, Pine Cones and Holly Berries, but we prepare our hearts for more. Do You Hear What I Hear? Ding Dong! Merrily On High, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, but they were more than Silver Bells, Silver and Gold Jingle Bells. No, the Carol of the Bells declares much more. As we celebrate Christmas, we are taken back to The First Noel, when, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear on that Silent Night. Away in a Manger, in a Little Town of Bethlehem, In royal David’s City, the world first celebrated the Birthday of a King. Oh Holy Night, When A Child Is Born, willingly saying “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.” A Savior is Born! Mary’s Boy Child! Sweet Little Jesus Boy! But What Child is This, that While Shepherds Watched, Angels, From the Realms of Glory come to earth to witness this event. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, declaring In excelsis Gloria. Still, Still, Still. It was A Baby Like You and me, only the Son of God, Eternal Savior. Christ is Born in Bethlehem, who is the Greatest Gift of All. The Shepherds Went Their Hasty Way, they declared to Mary, Dear Mother of Jesus, “Angels We Have Heard on High.” The Friendly Beasts, the Little Drummer Boy, and, eventually following the Star of the East, Three Kings of Orient Are all that are present to see this sight. One has to ask of the rest of the world, Do they Know It’s Christmas? Oh Come, All Ye Faithful, O Come Little Children, let us like Good King Wenceslas come Rejoice, The Lord is King. Rejoice, Rejoice All Believers, not just Angels and Shepherds! Joy to the World, Christ is born. Rejoice and be Glad, Rejoice and be Merry. Christmas day is The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year, but it is so much more than a day – it is The Holiday Season that lasts the full The 12 Days of Christmas and all year through. So, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and ask you to remember that when we sing The Christmas Song, we Sing of God, the Greatest Good. Sing We Noel this Christmas. So Go, Tell It on the Mountain, Up On the Rooftop and everywhere else. Sing the Carol, Raise Your Voices! Come On, Ring Those Bells, ring them until the Jingle Bell Rock. Ring Merrily! Bells will be ringing, and yes, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, too, With Bells On. So God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and women. Sleep Well, Little Children. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. And Let There Be Peace On Earth, peace made possible by Jesus. This is What Christmas Means To Me. (Hidden among these rambling thoughts are the titles of at least 80 Christmas carols and tunes. Have a Merry Christmas.)
Sunday, October 30, 2016
On Wednesday, we commemorate All Souls' Day, remembering all who have died. It would be most appropriate to visit a cemetery if possible, to offer a prayer for our dearly departed, and to pray for them. We do not have certainty of their current state - heaven united with God, condemnation because of their rejection of Him, or in the state of purification (Purgatory) where they are purged from the attachments to sin, having been forgive of them already. Because of this, this day offers us the reminder to pray for them.
But these days are also a gentle reminder to us to remember and prepare for our own death. As an epitaph on a grave stone puts it, "Remember me as you pass by, As you are now, so once was I, As I am now, so you must be, Prepare for death and follow me." Put more succinctly: Remember death - Momento mori.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Monday evening was our first Catholic Watchmen night. It was filled with great conversation and faith-sharing, food and prayer! There were about 40 men in attendance, and there is plenty room for more. This first night, Tony Grack presented a little about the Catholic Man Crisis. Too often, the media portrays men in a negative light (think Al Bundy or Homer Simpson). Too often, men are displayed as idiots or dolts, or over domineering. A few more ‘positive’ portrayals include James Bond who has no really family bonds (as Bishop Olmsted in his document Into the Breach points out). We can point to more misbehaviors than strong models of masculinity. Much of society’s ills can be traced to the lack of true men - from the BLM movement to single mothers to abortion. But there is another way, one that is not portrayed well in the media - the family man, sure, strong, consistent, and humble. These are the men that fill our parishes, and these are the men we hope to reach, encourage, and develop. There are men willing to give of themselves, to sacrifice for wife and family. There are men who are modeling their lives after Jesus Christ and being disciples and invite others to follow Christ. With this in mind, hopefully we can all see that the Catholic Watchmen is not in competition to the KCs, mens groups, etc, that are already in place but a means to help them. The Midnight Watch and the events themselves, while they take the men away from their families for those times, actually allow them to return stronger and better!
Friday, September 2, 2016
I know that it has been a while since I have blogged except for the various articles that have appeared in newspapers and prayers.
Part is that my focus has been elsewhere.
Recently, though, a few have asked about recording my homilies. After doing some research into process and equipment, and after praying about it, I have decided to create a podcast. You can find it at http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:251744182/sounds.rss, or soon on iTunes (View From the Ambo).
The reason is not in pride, but rather in humility. I feel blessed to be given the opportunity to proclaim the Good News, and I try to do so. I know that the first few may be rough until I get the settings right, as well as the knowledge of the software to help make things sound better.
Input is appreciated!
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Those opposed to the ruling seem to be on three issues. First, they see any limit of birth control, even abortifacients and direct abortion, as a limitation on their rights. Complicating this case is the employers' refusal to pay for them as the HHS mandates, a mandate that is illegal according to the Supreme Court as there are other less restrictive means. Access is not hindered, but, as it was before the ACA and HHS Mandate, if it is not covered by insurance, it is the patient's responsibility to pay for it. Note, too, that the ACA does not fully cover all medications, even lifesaving or necessary ones. Why should 'treatments' for optional activities be covered. Yes, it is a different worldview, but pregnancy is not a disease. Those that state that these forms protect against STDs need to look again - most of them do not, and certainly not the four that Hobby Lobby is refusing to cover.
They also claim that corporations are not persons (sad that they also say the unborn are also not persons with rights). Legally, corporations are described as persons, however they are not people. As a legal person, corporations can have views and values. The same people that decry this decision on this ground are boycotting other corporations, to punish them, that do not hold their personal values. Just look up Chik-filla or Mozilla/Firefox - the owners stated something again political correctness, and then held the corporation responsible! They cannot have it both ways!
Those opposed to the ruling suggest that it is none of the boss’s business - I could not agree more! It is not the boss’s business to pay for it. As a commentator put it, I have the right to have a gun - I do not have the right to force an employer to purchase it for me.
What is most disheartening in all of this is that the most effective form of family planning, that takes into account the purpose of sexual expression and the Catholic Faith, is not covered! Natural Family Planning teaches a couple the signs of fertility, and if they are mutually fertile, they can either choose to not be sexually active, or to accept the possibility of conception. It is cheap, reliable, and fully moral! What I love most is that it actually is scientific, and gives women especially knowledge of how their bodies work. It is not simply taking a pill to treat a healthy system as a disease. NFP is not contraception - it does not interrupt the sexual act because there is no sexual act. Can it be used immorally? Perhaps, if the couple is completely opposed to life and have a contraceptive mentality. This, however, does not make NFP immoral. For more information on NFP, see the USSCB'S page, a non-affliated site, the Creighten Model, the Couple-to-Couple League, or even the Health and Human Services information (note that they use the statistic the 1-25 couples practicing NFP may become pregnant, but this may include those that are using NFP to achieve pregnancy!)