Saturday, December 12, 2009

St. Martin's in NCRegister

I've always enjoyed the National Catholic Register newspaper and was browsing their website after not having read the paper for quite some time. They have a regular Travel column where they feature beautiful Catholic sites throughout the country. I was happy to see that St. Martin of Tours of the Archdiocese of Louisville was featured back in their Nov 8-14, 2009 issue! There is a very nice article on the history and the beauty of the parish. And I'm happy to see Fr. Klotter get national support. Check it out:

‘All Things Catholic’

St. Martin of Tours Started Its Revival in the Early Days After Vatican II

BY Annemarie Muth

St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church of Louisville, Ky., offers so much in terms of historical significance, an orthodox faith community, and sheer physical beauty. My friend Sue said it best, shortly after my husband, Ken, and I moved to the parish: “This is the center of all things Catholic.”

The parish is one of the oldest in the Louisville Archdiocese. Located east of downtown in the Phoenix Hill neighborhood, it was founded in 1853 by Bishop Martin John Spalding to help nearby St. Boniface parish serve its overflowing German-immigrant population.

The bishop named the church in honor of his baptismal patron saint, who began his career as a Roman soldier shortly after Emperor Constantine ended the persecution of Christians in A.D. 313. St. Martin’s life was one of unceasing prayer and courage as he served as bishop, sowing Christianity throughout Touraine. His feast day is Nov. 11.

Perhaps his intercession saved the church in 1855, when the Bloody Monday riots threatened to burn it down. The Know-Nothing movement had fueled suspicions that German immigrants and Catholics were interfering in the voting process. Mayor John Barbee finally brought an end to the violence that killed over 100 people and destroyed many homes and businesses.

St. Martin’s was spared.

Overcoming adversity early in its history may have galvanized the parish’s character as a survivor — that and the staunch faith of its members.

Read the rest here...

Good King Wenceslas again

This year again, I finally paid attention to the words of a Christmas carol I'd heard a thousand times and was struck by their beauty. Last year it was "Little Drummer Boy", this year, "Good King Wenceslas".

A "league" in English usage is about 3 miles. The "feast of Stephen" is Dec 26. The "saint" in the final stanza is the good king himself, St. Wenceslas, also known as Wenceslas I, Duke of Bohemia.

You know a good poem when it 1. actually ryhmes 2. ignites the imagination and 3. lifts the soul.

Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho' the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gath'ring winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know'st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together;
Through the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page. Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Duckpin Smackdown

Yesterday was a downright wonderful day. After my Canon Law class from 3-4:15pm I went to visit He Who Is Canon Law Itself, Fr. Paul Beach, at CUA in D.C. We talked shop for a bit then went out to eat. I must say BW3's (do they still call it that?) Medium flavor wings are perfect when you tell them to leave 'em in a little bit to make them crispier. I would dare say they even rival the wings at BBC - but that's flirting with heresy (Can. 751). Their beer was worthless compared to BBC's microbrews though. After supper, sated and spirited, we went for a friendly game or two of duckpin bowling. In the wise words of Full Metal Jacket: "Private Pyle, I think we found something you're good at!" I gave a veritable duckpin smackdown to Fr. Beach. The first game was easy to call. But in the second game it came down to the last frame in which I bowled a spare followed by 8pins to take and secure the lead.

I made sure I scanned this score sheet at a high 600DPI so no detail was lost :) Thanks for a good evening Father! (click on the image to see a bigger size)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Practice Homily for my Grandmother’s Funeral (“Momma Carol”)

I have many cherished memories of my childhood. One of those is of dad, with the constant support of mom, teaching my brothers and me how to pray. He would get home late at night from work and he would round us all up on one bed and make us take three deep breaths. We were always wound up and never went to bed when mom wanted us to. Then he would take a prayer card out of his shirt pocket and teach us the prayer line by line. Soon we developed a sort of regimen of prayer that I still pray to this day. Before we prayed any of the formal prayers that he taught us though, we always prayed for our family. We called dad's parents "Grandmommy and Pepaw" and, of course, as you all know, mom's parents were always "Momma Carol and Grandpa Frank." We would pray that God would bless "Grandmommy and Pepaw and all their families" and "Momma Carol and Grandpa Frank and all their families". I prayed that all through my childhood and I am grateful to be able to pray with all of you today this same prayer, but in a special way. Today we pray that God will bless all of our families, but especially our dear "Momma Carol."

The psalm that I read is a beautiful one, isn't it? It's one of my favorites: "I lift my eyes up to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth" (Ps 121). I imagine, when I read that psalm, a man in a dark valley at night time, laid low by suffering and hardship. When it seems that all is lost he spends the last bit of energy he has on lifting his head a little bit. His eyes squint and peer in the distance toward the tops of the hills surrounding the valley. He hopes to see someone come over the hill, down into his valley, to save him. Where does his help come from? But then he sees not a person, but the sun, casting its first rays over the hills. "Of course," he thinks to himself, "the sun reminds me again, my help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth." He is reassured of the Lord's constant presence and help and is given the hope to persevere.

Momma Carol's help was always near to us too, wasn't it? I remember staying home sick from school and mom would drop me off at her house. I used to love to sit by her on the couch and watch Price is Right! And it seemed like even buttered toast tasted better when she made it! And who can forget those wonderful Thanksgiving dinners when she was still active; that constant stream of pumpkin pies. She helped us all in little ways like these, to be loved and appreciated and cared for. I remember her amazing sense of humor and biting wit but also the way that she gave us her motherly and grandmotherly care with such dignity and refinement.

Even when her M.S. made her weaker and weaker over many, many years, she always retained her dignity and refinement. For all the years she helped us, you all helped her in many various ways in return. Grandpa Frank was her constant companion and caregiver. And so many of you also took care of her with dedication and devotion, by tidying the house, fixing her hair, preparing meals, running errands, or by simply offering a silent prayer from a distance. You all should be proud of the way in which you returned the love that Momma Carol so generously gave you. When she was weak and looked up for help, you were the rays of the sun, sent by the Son of God, to be His Help to her. Certainly we all prayed that God would heal her, that one of the many remedies she tried would be successful. But God's help for her did not come in the form of a cure, God's Help was you.

Let us not underestimate the help that God gives us through the people that He brings into our lives. And let us make a conscious effort to be open to Him, so we can be always available to Him, to be used by Him to help someone else. Caring for Momma Carol was an instinct, a no-brainer, out of her love for you and your love for her, you just did it. But I don't think she would want that to stop, now that she has died.

One of the hidden blessings of this funeral for me has been that I have been able to meet, again, long-lost aunts, uncles, and cousins that I haven't seen since I was a little kid. Now that we are all together, how might we continue the love and care that we showed Momma Carol? How might we continue to extend the help of God, in the Name of the Lord?

I know that some of you helped her so often that your very lives were formed by the routine you kept: checking medicine at certain times, making meals at certain times, calling on the phone at certain times. And it can be painful and jarring for a day to all of a sudden come along in which these routines come to a screeching halt. "What am I going to do with myself now?" you might be thinking. "I should be checking on her right now. I should be visiting her right now." These loving and helpful gestures don't have to stop today. Look around you, look at how much of our family is here today. Who here could use a helpful reminder, help with cooking, an occasional phone call, or a visit? I think we call could. I think Momma Carol would want us to help each other in these ways.

But this is sort of daunting isn't it? I don't pretend this is easy. Helping Momma Carol wasn't easy. I know there were many hard days. And helping each other isn't easy, especially if there are disappointments or hurts in our pasts. But I find consolation in an old quote from St. Augustine, one of the early Church Fathers of Catholicism. He said, "The God who made you without you will not save you without you." Meaning, that we had nothing to do with our creation, we didn't choose our parents or our siblings or the situations in which we would be raised. God made us out of his own freedom and overflowing love. But when it comes to saving us, to introducing Himself into our lives, to giving us grace, to using us to help his sons and daughters, He will not force Himself upon us – we must accept Him and cooperate with Him. My point is that you could have never helped Momma Carol the way you did had you not believed in prayer and allowed God to use you and empower you with his grace. It's not all up to us and our skills and abilities. We can help each other, even if there are difficulties, even if we think we are ill-equipped to do so, if we open ourselves to God and let Him help us, with us, through us.

In a few minutes, after we have all gotten a chance to say our goodbyes, several of the grandsons and I will help to carry her to her final place of rest and peace. This little procession is an ancient symbol of helping our deceased loved ones on the journey to Christ. We will represent all of you as we help her in this special way. Let us continue to help her and each other with our prayers and good deeds. And at any time we are ever weakened, let us confidently lift our eyes up to the hills. Where does our help come from? Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Practice Homily for My Brother’s Wedding

[Background: A Wedding homily for the marriage between my twin brother Nicholas Hardesty and his wife Amy who, providentially, were recently married on Oct 24, 2009. The presider and homilist was Bishop Malone at the Cathedral of the Diocese of Portland, ME where Amy is a parishioner and where the Bishop is a friend of her family. This homily is directed to my family who is half Presbyterian and half faithful Catholics and her family who are all faithful Catholics.]

First, I would like to thank His Excellency, Bishop Malone, for allowing me to preach at this wonderful occasion in his place. It is an honor to celebrate this wedding alongside of you Bishop and it is a great joy for me especially to be able to preach.

What can I say? In a sense I am lost for words, my twin brother Nick is getting married! I am closer to no one on the face of this earth than I am to him. And I have been blessed to be able to know Amy quite well through him. What could I possibly say on this occasion to either of them that hasn't already been said in many conversations or that they don't already know? Both are faithful Catholics, daily Mass-goers, devoted to and knowledgeable of the Catholic Church and her teachings, both with degrees in catechesis, in teaching the faith. Nonetheless, I am charged by the instructions of the marriage ritual to "show the importance of Christian marriage in the history of salvation and the duties and responsibility of the couple in caring for the holiness of their children" (Rite of Marriage, 6) and I must "emphasize the meaning of the sacrament and the obligations of marriage" (11). Besides, I am blessed to have all of you here as well, Amy's family from close by and my family from all the way in Kentucky… and "Priests are ministers of Christ's gospel to everyone" (9). But, perhaps it is Nick and Amy who will soon be instructing me, and us? In fact, I'm sure of it.

Look at the very Mass we have celebrated so far which I know Nick and Amy worked very hard to plan. At the beginning of the Mass, Amy and Nick processed together behind the cross and the candles, behind the Bishop and the other ministers, as a sign of their free and mutual self-giving to each other in the sacrament of matrimony and their desire to stay close to Christ and the Church in doing so. The beautiful Latin chant that you all heard as we processed in is what we call the Entrance Antiphon. It was a passage from the book of Tobit which in English said, "May the God of Israel join you together: and may He be with you, who was merciful to two only children: and now, O Lord, make them bless Thee more fully. Blessed are all they that fear the Lord, that walk in his ways" (Tobit 7:15, 8:19).

May the God of Israel join you together – this joining, this union of man and woman, of husband and wife is at the essence of marriage and is what Nick and Amy decided to focus on in their selection of readings for this Mass. In fact we have the rare occasion of having the same line repeated in all three readings: "a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body" (Gen 2:24; Eph 5:31; Mt 19:5).

From the very beginning, the same God who created human beings male and female, who differentiates their sexuality, in turn calls them to be one. By God's own will and design men and women are made differently but complimentary. They are made for each other, ordered toward each other, to compliment each other physically, spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. They are meant to come together by a divine act of God and become one. Today that divine act is the sacrament of marriage. At last, in marriage, a husband has a "suitable partner", more suitable than all the rest of creation, more suitable than his job that may consume his life, or his plans and ambitions, or his money and possessions (or lack thereof!), or even his own friends and family. No one, no thing, other than the bride that God intends for him will he find suitable. Finally, she is someone he can relate to, whom he knows, whom he can love even as he loves himself. "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh," Adam exclaimed. This deep attraction, designed by God himself, is so strong that a man and a women will even leave their own mother and father in order to cling to each other and become one. But this phenomenon, present from the very beginning of mankind, itsn't described in Genesis as a sort of quaint anecdote. The author was inspired by God to record it so that God's chosen people would read it and meditate on it for centuries would be prepared for its fulfillment. Because, you see, God was so pleased with this order that he followed it himself. God the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, left the side of the Father, so-to-speak, in order to become human, to be like us in all things but sin, to cling to us, to become one with us.

And so when this same line – about a man leaving his father and mother and clinging to his wife and the two becoming one body – is repeated in the second reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, Nick and Amy are presenting to us a continual unfolding of this mystery. I must commend them for their courage in choosing this particular reading. It isn't often used because it challenges our modern sensibilities with phrases like "wives should be subordinate to their husbands" and "the husband is head of his wife". We are tempted to quickly react and jump to the defensive – "That is oppression to say that wives should be subordinate to their husbands!" But, if we let these phrases distract us, we can miss their true meaning and we can miss what is regarded as the richest treatment of marriage in all of Scripture.

Yes, it is true, St. Paul is instructing the Ephesians that wives should be subordinate to their husbands but always as his "suitable partner" not as in slavery or inferiority. Husbands who make too much of these passages should not forget what else is said, that they must love their wives even as Christ loved the Church, with the union that he had with her, with the lengths that he went for her. With all this talk of the subordination of wives it is actually husbands who have the harder job! For if they are to love as Christ loves then they must lay down their very lives for their bride, just as Jesus did.

Nick, you may not be called to physically lay down your life for Amy, as in taking a bullet for her or pushing her out of the way of a speeding car, but you must be willing, with God's help, to do them. Whatever is beneficial unto Amy's salvation, physical or spiritual, you must be willing to embrace. Only in this way will you love her as Jesus Christ does.

Amy, for your part, you must always be willing to nurture and accept this type of self-giving, self-sacrificing love from Nick and return it generously to him. Avoid all temptations to pride or status, to asserting yourself over him as if you don't need the love he is called by God to give to you. Rather, always be of service to this love. You as a woman are uniquely knowledgeable of love, in your natural maternal instincts and abilities, in your sensitivity and affection, in your generosity of feeling and empathy, in your creativity and warmth. In all of these, teach Nick how to love more and more. Call a new man out of him, a man not driven by lesser passions, darting too and fro at every sensation, a man who isn't cold and calculating, strong but unfeeling; a man who isn't afraid to give of himself, to sacrifice, to love. Nurture and coax a true love out of him. If you can do this you will find yourself loved and satisfied like you never have before. For this is what every man wants to do but ends up frustrating in so many wild and divergent things. Every man wants to love, to give himself, to be fruitful, to guide and protect, to be one with a woman. Nick and Amy, if you can cooperate with the grace of this sacrament, to allow your marriage to be the training ground of this desire, then you will truly mirror to the world the love that Christ has for the Church. This is what St. Paul saw in that age-old passage from Genesis. This is what the Church sees in your marriage today. This is how you can teach us what Christ's love is all about.

In St. Matthew's Gospel, when we hear this line for a third time, about a man leaving his father and mother to be joined to a wife and the two become one, we hear it in response to the question of divorce. "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?" When or Lord takes up this line Himself, he gives a categorical "No." And it is as if man in his very nature, marriage in its very essence, God's Love being what it is – all unite in one chorus against divorce. Marriage would not be marriage if it was open to divorce. In fact, the mutual, free, willful intention of Amy and Nick to live forever as one until death is crucial for what we are doing here to be valid. Without that firm conviction and covenant, we may as well all go home! But, I encourage you not to be afraid. The Church is not a haven for saints, but a hospital for sinners with Christ as the Divine Physician ready to heal us, through the Church, of all the wounds we have experienced through divorce or broken families. And as much as we rely on Nick and Amy to teach us through their union about Christ's love for us, they are relying on us to support and encourage them, to pass on to them the lessons we have learned from both happy and unhappy marriages.

Be assured too, Nick and Amy of my personal prayers and assistance at any time whatsoever. Although we are now going our separate ways Nick, we too will always have a bond, the bond of brothers, of twins, of friends that while not as deep as the bond of marriage, will, I pray, be as lasting. St. Gregory Nazianzen, a Father of the Church, describing the start of his friendship with St. Basil expresses this sentiment I wish to give you, for you to remember as you move forward now into your marriage:

We each had a great desire for knowledge, an ambition that is sometimes the cause of great envy among people; but neither of us felt any envy, and we each sought to emulate the other. The disputes we engaged in were not to establish which of us ranked first, ahead of the other, but to see who would first cede that priority to his friend; each of us considered the glory of the other as his own. It was as if one soul animated two bodies." (Navarre commentary on Sirach 22:1-26)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Article in the Record

In this week's issue of The Record (10-29-09) I have an article about my Pastoral Year and the Year of the Priest.

Seminarian reflects on his pastoral year and the Year for Priests
Matthew Hardesty
Matthew Hardesty is a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Around this time last year, I was a little disappointed. I had finished one year of philosophy and two years of theology at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Md., in formation to be a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville. I had one more year of theology until I would be ordained a deacon, God willing, and then another year until priesthood.

I was anxious to be ordained a deacon so that I could assist at my twin brother’s wedding. I wanted to move forward toward the priesthood.

Instead of continuing my studies, however, I was assigned a pastoral year in which I spent one academic year in a parish in order to gain more pastoral experience. My assignment took me to St. Athanasius Church in Louisville with Father Terry Bradshaw, pastor.

Now, having completed my pastoral year and returned to seminary for my third year of theology, I realize how much better God’s timing is than mine. The pastoral year turned out to be a great blessing, filled with substantial experiences and many new graces. But at first it took me a while to get going.

...Read the rest here...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Beautiful quote from Abp. Dolan and de Lubac

I was reading Archbishop Timothy Dolan's homily today from his Installation Mass as the new archbishop of New York and was really struck by something he said. I thought it was absolutely beautiful and had to post it. After thanking all in attendance in the necessary order he said:
But, I hope you understand, as grateful as I am to all of you, there is another claim on my gratitude that towers above all the rest.

Above all, above all, I give praise to God, our Father, for raising His Son Jesus Christ from the dead! For “Christ is risen! He is truly risen! Give thanks to the Lord for He is good! For His mercy endures for ever!”

For this is not all about Timothy Dolan, or all about cardinals and bishops, or about priests and sisters, or even about family and cherished friends.

Nope . . . this is all about two people: Him and her . . . this is all about Jesus and His Bride, the Church. For, as de Lubac asked, “What would I ever know of Him without her?”
How so very, very true. What a beautiful statement. I didn't even finish reading the homily after I read that.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Homily Palm Sunday Year B

Following is my homily for this Sunday on both the readings for the Procession with Palms and on the readings for the account of the Passion in the Mass. This may be a bit long, especially after everyone will have stood for a good while listening to the reading of the Passion ;) But, how in the heck does one preach briefly on Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his Passion and Death? A true mark of genius is profundity in simplicity. The early Church Fathers wrote and preached this way. I have much to learn. Let me know what you think.

Today marks the beginning of a rapid succession of external rituals in the life of a Catholic. We are reminded of Ash Wednesday, a non-Holy Day of Obligation that more Catholics attend than most Sundays during the Year in order to receive the blessed ashes on their forehead. Today we receive palm branches and we fold them into neat little crosses. On Holy Thursday we have the foot-washing. On Good Friday we kneel and kiss the Cross. And Saturday night, the Easter Vigil, is filled with incense, chants, exclamations, water, oil, and light. All of these, even the deadening silence and nakedness of the altar on Good Friday, are rich experiences that flood our senses. It somehow makes sense that we show up in such larger numbers to these liturgies than to the common Sunday obligation. Our Lord made us to be sensing beings and uses our senses to relate himself to us. But what will we do when Easter is over and the rest of the liturgical year marches on? What will we do when all the sensational things give way to the sobriety and noble simplicity that most often marks the Holy Mass? Will we then fall away, less interested in Masses that don’t excite our senses or our feelings?

Let us begin today, Palm Sunday, and continually until Easter Sunday, to re-examine our Faith. We must not forget that all of the external rituals of our faith are not an end in and of themselves. We do not have ashes, palms, silence, and all the rest merely for aesthetic effect. We have them to remind us of the deeper spiritual realities that they signify. Religious sentiment and feeling are good and appropriate in response to these beautiful things for they often serve as invitations to more fully enter into our faith. But our experiences of these things must not stop at the level of feelings, for feelings come and go. We must consider the underlying spiritual effect that is taking place.

Today’s Mass, for example, with the palms and the account of the Passion, is filled with intense imagery and dialogue. Every image, every word, has some real bearing on our spirituality, on our soul. In fact, every part of Jesus’ entire life has saving meaning. Therefore, let us ask ourselves today, as we actively listen throughout today’s Mass, “What does this part have to do with my soul?” During the silent moments of this Mass, which today and throughout Holy Week are more emphasized, really stop and ask our Lord, “What does this part have to do with my soul?”

Like perhaps some of you, I myself have struggled with bouts of lukewarm-ness during this Lent. Some of us here may have a lukewarm faith, may be here merely for the externals. We may think “I’m not going to think about my soul, I’m not that religious.” But it is precisely for this question that the Lord has called all of us, each with our different, higher, and lower degrees of faith, to this celebration today. And besides, we know that this – our heart, our soul – is really why we’re here. We say throughout the Year that we are here for the music, or for the ashes, or for the palms, or to see our friend or relative be baptized. “Hey, we’re there for the important ones, right?”, we may even boast. But, we know, especially after being away, that what we really yearn for is not to merely behold externals, but to receive some sort of comfort from the long Lent of life, some sense that we are indeed good, and that there is hope to be made better. When we take an honest look at our lives we come to see that absence from our faith really doesn’t make us happier. Let us claim together our presence here for what is truly is, a communion of hearts longing for something greater than ourselves, longing to know the Lord again, longing to shout to him “Abba, Father!”(Mk 14:36); “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord… Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk 11:9-10)

This reminds me of a conversation I had a few days ago with one of the ladies in our choir. I asked her what music we would be using for today’s Procession with Palms and she answered that we would be using a hymn we have used here for many years. Then she paused and pondered out loud on the seeming contradiction we have in the music of today’s Mass. It begins with the festive joy of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem but then delves into the darkness of the Passion. Why is that? Well, it didn’t dawn on me until later that perhaps that is the point.

Here, we can ask our question, but I’ll only cover one example because I know we have listened for a long time already too the account of the Passion. Processing with palms today is a very physical thing. “What does this have to do with my soul?” Well, let’s look at what is happening. Up to this point Jesus had been telling those he cured to remain silent. He has also been disappearing when the people would rise up to make him king. They wanted a Messiah who would rule with military might and free them from Roman occupation. But our Lord wanted to teach them by his words and miracles that his kingdom is of heaven, not of earth, and he wishes to reign in hearts, not in palaces.Today, though, is different. Now is the acceptable time. His hour is at hand. Today he allows them to proclaim him as king to teach us to look for kingship not in one who is dominating and ambitious but in One who is humble and obedient. Therefore our Lord – who in his Divinity deserved to ride into Jerusalem upon a golden throne, atop teams of chariots and horses, on a path of fine tapestries and gold – rides instead on the poor throne of a donkey along a path of cloaks and palm braches. This he did to the shouts of “many people” (Mk 11:8), a “great crowd” (Jn 12:12): “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel” (Jn 12:13).

But, then remember what happens. Only a few days later, this same group of Jews turns this acclamation into a death sentence, into a trumped-up charge of blasphemy.[1] Pilate said to them, “what do you want me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted, “Crucify him” (Mk 15:12-13).
[And] The soldiers led him away inside the palace… and assembled the whole cohort. They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him. They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!" and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him. They knelt before him in homage. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him (Mk 15:16-20).
At this point, according to Roman law, Pilate probably sent a formal declaration of the charge against this so-called criminal to the archives in Rome. Then a copy of that charge was fixed to the cross on which Christ was crucified.[2] Over our Lord’s head, then, we see: “I.N.R.I.” an acronym that in Latin reads “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum” – Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Furthermore the chief priests and scribes continued to mock him saying “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mk 15:31-32). But they had no interest in “belief” for a greater miracle than what they asked for, indeed the greatest miracle of all time, was unfolding before their very eyes, yet even then they could not “see.”[3] For Christ’s enemies, condemning him to death for being the King of the Jews would be the maximum correction for those under their influence who praised him for being that very thing.[4]

Again, “What does this have to do with my soul?” Let’s think about this. It’s easy to shout with praise and acclamation to Jesus when everyone around us is shouting too. But when the leaders of our society disperse enough ill will, look how quick we are to condemn him. Do I preach Christ, and Him Crucified only when I am surrounded by attentive parishioners or brother priests? When I’m with my old buddies from college, at a restaurant with friends, or on the annual family camping trip do I praise him still or am I tempted to speak otherwise? Perhaps we could take a lesson, even from the donkey in our reading. St. Josemaria Escriva, who as you know is one of my favorites, asks us to:
"Try to remember what a donkey is like--now that so few of them are left. Not an old, stubborn, vicious one that would give you a kick when you least expected,but a young one with his ears up like antennae. He lives on a meagre diet, ishard-working and has a quick, cheerful trot. There are hundreds of animals morebeautiful, more deft and strong. But it was a donkey Christ chose when he pre-sented himself to the people as king in response to their acclamation. For Jesushas no time for calculations, for astuteness, for the cruelty of cold hearts, for at-tractive but empty beauty. What he likes is the cheerfulness of a young heart,a simple step, a natural voice, clean eyes, attention to his affectionate word ofadvice. That is how he reigns in the soul" (St. J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By",181). [Navarre commentary on Mk 11:3]
But, even more so than the donkey, let us be like our Blessed Mother. As that old hymn, Stabat Mater, testifies (The Way of the Cross, Fulton J. Sheen):
At the Cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last…

Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying glorious Son…

O my Mother, fount of love,
Touch my spirit from above;
Make my heart with yours accord…

Make me feel as you have felt,
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ my Lord…

Let me share with you His pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torment died…

By the cross with you to stay,
There with you to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of you to give.
How can we live this hymn today? By letting the model, of those who acclaimed him as King only to crucify him for being so, show us how Not to act. And by letting the model of our Blessed Mother show us how To act, for it was she who stayed by Christ’s side from the start, amid the joy of the wedding feast at Cana, to the bitter end, with the Apostle, John, on the hill of Calvary. Let us be John to her and Him. When we clearly and charitably correct a co-worker for speaking ill of the Church, we stand with Mary at the side of Jesus. When we patiently bear the criticism of those who do not share our piety or convictions, we stand with Mary at the side of Jesus. When we challenge ourselves to grow in our faith and be responsible Catholics when it seems that those near us have fallen asleep, we stand with Mary at the side of Jesus.

All of this is made possible by the grace that streams for all time from our Lord’s Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. And all of this is possible for every one of us here, no matter what degree of faith we have. I offer to you again, the question we began with, as a way of opening ourselves up to this grace. Ask yourself, with each new symbol that leads us to Easter Sunday, “What does this part have to do with my soul?” This I think will allow the grace to penetrate deeply into our hearts, deeper than our feelings, and begin to mold and transform us into Catholics who are always faithful, always at our Lord’s right hand, even when there is “darkness… over the whole land” (Mk 15:33).

[1] Navarre commentary on Mark 11:1-11
[2] Ibid., John 19:19-22
[3] Ibid., Mark 15:29-32
[4] Ibid., Mark 15:24-28

Monday, March 16, 2009

Great News: Year for Priests


VATICAN CITY, 16 MAR 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican the Holy Father received members of the Congregation for the Clergy, who are currently celebrating their plenary assembly on the theme: "The missionary identity of priests in the Church as an intrinsic dimension of the exercise of the 'tre munera'".

"The missionary dimension of a priest arises from his sacramental configuration to Christ the Head", said the Pope. This involves "total adherence to what ecclesial tradition has identified as 'apostolica vivendi forma', which consists in participation ... in that 'new way of life' which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and which the Apostles made their own".

Benedict XVI highlighted the "indispensable struggle for moral perfection which must dwell in every truly priestly heart. In order to favour this tendency of priests towards spiritual perfection, upon which the effectiveness of their ministry principally depends, I have", he said, "decided to call a special 'Year for Priests' which will run from 19 June 2009 to 19 June 2010". This year marks "the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly 'Cure of Ars', Jean Marie Vianney, a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock".

"The ecclesial, communional, hierarchical and doctrinal dimension is absolutely indispensable for any authentic mission, and this alone guarantees its spiritual effectiveness", he said.

"The mission is 'ecclesial'", said the Pope, "because no-one announces or brings themselves, ... but brings Another, God Himself, to the world. God is the only wealth that, definitively, mankind wishes to find in a priest.

"The mission is 'communional' because it takes place in a unity and communion which only at a secondary level possess important aspects of social visibility. ... The 'hierarchical' and 'doctrinal' dimensions emphasise the importance of ecclesiastical discipline (a term related to that of 'disciple') and of doctrinal (not just theological, initial and permanent) formation".

Benedict XVI stressed the need to "have care for the formation of candidates to the priesthood", a formation that must maintain "communion with unbroken ecclesial Tradition, without pausing or being tempted by discontinuity. In this context, it is important to encourage priests, especially the young generations, to a correct reading of the texts of Vatican Council II, interpreted in the light of all the Church's doctrinal inheritance".

Priests must be "present, identifiable and recognisable - for their judgement of faith, personal virtues and attire - in the fields of culture and of charity which have always been at the heart of the Church's mission".

"The centrality of Christ leads to a correct valuation of priestly ministry, without which there would be no Eucharist, no mission, not even the Church. It is necessary then, to ensure that 'new structures' or pastoral organisations are not planned for a time in which it will be possible to 'do without' ordained ministry, on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the promotion of the laity, because this would lay the foundations for a further dilution in priestly ministry, and any supposed 'solutions' would, in fact, dramatically coincide with the real causes of the problems currently affecting the ministry".


VATICAN CITY, 16 MAR 2009 (VIS) - "Faithfulness of Christ, faithfulness of priests" is the theme of the Year for Priests announced today by the Holy Father, according to a communique issued by the Holy See Press Office.

The Pope will inaugurate the Year on 19 June, presiding at Vespers in St. Peter's Basilica where the relics of the saintly 'Cure of Ars' will be brought for the occasion by Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars, France. He will close the year on 19 June 2010, presiding at a "World Meeting of Priests" in St. Peter's Square.

During the course of the Year, Benedict XVI will proclaim St. Jean Marie Vianney as patron saint of all the priests of the world. A "Directory for Confessors and Spiritual Directors" will also be published, as will a collection of texts by the Supreme Pontiff on essential aspects of the life and mission of priests in our time.

The Congregation for the Clergy, together with diocesan ordinaries and superiors of religious institutes, will undertake to promote and co-ordinate the various spiritual and pastoral initiatives which are being organised to highlight the role and mission of the clergy in the Church and in modern society, and the need to intensify the permanent formation of priests, associating it with that of seminarians.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Homily 2nd Sun Lent Year B

It's been a while since I've posted because my last few homilies have been from notes I prepared rather than a full text. That's gone better than I thought. But I decided to type one up for this Sunday's readings anyway: The 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B. Let me know what you think or how I can improve. If I were to deliver this one, I think I would still try to do it from some notes on the text.

After listening to our readings today, it is interesting to ponder the fact that we have all already ascended a “holy mountain,” so to speak. In coming to Mass today, we all drove to Highview, up the hill of Outer Loop, to our parish. And we are called by our readings to go higher. But, when I see how fierce the wind is up here, how the shingles of the school and rectory seem to constantly be blowing off, I’m reminded that this is about as far up as I want to go! But, my brothers and sisters, we must go higher for at the mountaintop is where we will meet our Father, learn of his constant help, and be given the hope and strength that will sustain us in the valleys below. So, as one of my favorite saints, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, used to say, “Verso l’alto!” Too the top!

The first mountain we ascend together today is Mount Moriah. Here we behold a scandalous episode indeed! How could God ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son?! This doesn’t seem like the God we know, the God who has said that burnt offerings from us he would refuse. Our sacrifice, he has told us, must be a contrite spirit for a humbled and contrite heart he will not spurn. And besides, Abraham’s son Isaac is the key to the covenant that God made with Abraham. God promised Abraham that he and his wife Sarah, despite their old age, would become fertile and would bear a son, Isaac. And it was through Isaac that Abraham would be the father of many nations, of peoples as numerous as the stars. These are the people of Israel, God’s chosen people, a people set apart to be an example to all mankind that God alone is our God and we are his children. From the people of Israel, our elder brothers and sisters, we have inherited this covenant and Abraham is our father in faith. For him to sacrifice his only son, his beloved son, would dissolve all of this.

Abraham was aware of what was at stake but his faith in the Lord was rock-solid. He no doubt trusted that God would find a way to keep his promise. Abraham’s only concern was fidelity to God’s command: to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, his beloved son. He will pass this test of faith. So Abraham ascends the mountain with his only son, carrying the wood and knife for the sacrifice, and builds an altar on which to accomplish it. He then places his son on the wood and as he takes the knife to slaughter him an angel of the Lord stays Abraham’s hand. He assures Abraham that his intention, his devotion, his obedience, his willingness to do even this is as good as if he had done it. Then the Lord provides a ram, caught by its horns in the thicket, to take Isaac’s place.

But what is the Holy Spirit trying to teach us by putting before us such a chilling account? I believe it is this: that even in the midst of unthinkable sacrifice, when our circumstances in life make demands on us that seem unbearable, God is always by our side, watching and waiting to help us and to bless us abundantly. But, we must be obedient to him, trust him, and have unwavering faith in him. Unlike Abraham, we may not be called to make heroic acts of faith in God. But, like Abraham, it is not what we accomplish that matters. God judges not the results of our works but the intention of our hearts. In our hearts he sees our devotion. When we suffer injury and illness with a heart of patience and humility, he is there. When we spend long, agonizing hours at the bedside of a dying loved one with a heart of commitment and love, he is there. When we say farewell to our sons and daughters going off to war with hearts of trust and generosity, he is there. Finally, when we strive during Lent to uproot our vices and sins so that our hearts are open and free, he will bless us abundantly and give us not descendants but graces as numerous as the stars.

But, our faith tells us that our lesson on Mount Moriah is not the end of the story. Our second reading points us to the second mountain we must climb today: Mount Calvary. Abraham’s witness prepares us for the ascent, for here God the Father himself, as St. Paul tells us, “did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for us all.” Here too we behold an Only Son, a Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, ascending a mountain of sacrifice to God, submitting to his Father’s will, carrying the wood along the Way. He too was placed on the wood, but for him the nails and the knife of the soldier’s lance were not held back. For him there was no ram caught in a thicket. He himself was the ram, suspended from the thicket of the cross, to take the place not of one, but of all mankind.

Faced with this parallel, St. Paul asks us, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? From His Sacrifice Jesus was raised and now sits at the right hand of God, interceding for us. Even on Mount Calvary we are again assured of God’s constant love and help. We must never doubt the lengths that God has gone and will go to help and save us. No scene in our lives – not even divorce, separation, abuse, violence, abortion, sin or death – is darker than the scene the only beloved Son of the Father has already entered and overcome.

At this point, let’s step back a moment. We are in the season of Lent and have encountered Mount Moriah and Mount Calvary, the scenes of great sacrifice. Let us not think that the fruits of these encounters: hope, consolation, and divine assistance are only things that we squeeze out of suffering like blood from a turnip! God’s blessings do not require that we perform mental gymnastics or fool ourselves in order to find them in the midst of suffering. They are as real as the suffering is if we want them to be. But because they come from God they have the upper-hand and transform our suffering from destructive force to purifying fire that prepares us for the glory that God intends for us.

This lesson we learn as we ascend our third and final mountain today: Mount Tabor. Here we find Jesus with his three favorite apostles: Peter, James, and John. Six days before this episode, Jesus taught them that he must soon suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes; be killed; and after three days rise again. Furthermore, “If any man would come after me,” Jesus said, “let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” This was unthinkable to Peter who took Jesus to be the Messiah the Jews expected, one who would triumphantly defeat all their foes so they would never have to suffer again. How could he, the Messiah, suffer and die?

Jesus rebuked him for thinking this way but out of his great love and generosity takes him along with James and John to Mount Tabor to strengthen them. James and John too, must have been scandalized by Jesus’ prediction and distraught that Jesus rebuked Peter, their leader, so strongly. But, on the seventh day, he showed them and us that God never abandons us even in our deepest despair. He appeared transfigured before them, along with Elijah and Moses, and his garments were glistening and intensely white. He allowed his glory to shine forth, the glory that is rightfully his as the Divine Son of God, the glory he set aside in order to be like us. This he did in order to encourage his apostles and us to follow the difficult way that leads to our own glorification.

When our Mass is finished today we will be sent to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” We will descend the mountains of Moriah, Calvary, and Tabor and return to the valleys of our everyday lives, our schools, our homes, our workplaces. We will return to our Lenten penances and sacrifices, to our prayers, fasting, and almsgiving, to our Stations of the Cross. We may even be returning to much suffering and pain. But let us not forget the mountains we have climbed today and what we witnessed at the top of each one. Let us return with renewed hope and strength, reminded of God’s constant help and presence. The God who stayed Abraham’s hand and provided for him on Mount Moriah is the same God who provides for us. The God who loved us so much that he allowed his only Son to die on Mount Calvary on behalf of all mankind, is the same God who loves us today. The God who strengthened the apostles by allowing them to behold the glory of his Divine Son, is the same God who strengthens us. Let us be faithful and obedient to Him with the hope that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18) at our coming Easter.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Poem to Judas from Jesus

I was listening to EWTN on Sirius satellite radio a couple days ago and caught the tail end of one of Fr. Leo Clifford's shows. This one was on the Mercy of God and he read a poem by an unknown Christian about Jesus addressing Judas from the cross. (Remember that from his despair at betraying our Lord, Judas hung himself) I was really struck by it but forgot Fr. Leo's name and couldn't find the poem anywhere. After some investigation I finally found one Google search result (One!) with the text of the poem.

Listen to the 10min. "Mercy of God" talk and others online here.

The text of the poem:

Judas, if true love never ceases
how could you, my friend, have come to this:
To sell me for thirty silver pieces
and betray me with a kiss?
Judas, remember what I taught you,
do not despair while hanging on the rope.
It's because you sinned that I have sought you;
I came to give you hope.
Judas, let us pray and hang together,
you on your halter, I upon my hill.
Dear friend, even if you loved me never,
you know I love you still.

I used it to close a homily on last Sunday's readings about the connection between leprosy and sin, about the shame that each produce, and about the courage to approach Jesus with humility and to hear him say "I do will it. Be made clean." Sorry, no text, I decided to experiment this time and try to just preach from a few notes rather than a full text. I think it went pretty well.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Homily 5th Sun Ordinary Time Year B

Below is my homily on the readings for the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B. It's a bit of a short one this week.

Our world is so full of suffering that all of us, to one degree or another, can identify with Job’s cries today. “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings?” he asks with despair. We strive to grow in holiness only to fall to sin time and time again. We work so hard, day in and day out for money to support our families, only to have it taken from us. We raise our children the best way we can only to see them leave the faith. We exercise and eat healthy foods only to be stricken with a debilitating disease. Even our nights provide no rest. “The night drags on,” Job laments, “I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.” Surrounded by sin and death we are tempted to utter again with Job “I shall not see happiness again.” What’s the use?

My dear brothers and sisters, if you have uttered these words before, I am here today to tell you that there is indeed hope. That you will see happiness again for happiness is your destiny, the very thing for which you were created. This happiness is found in the Word of God, Jesus Christ the Lord. And perfect happiness will be found in Eternity with Him.

Notice how our readings today bring together the trials and sufferings of life with the preaching of the Word of God. We have in the same Mass the despairing cries of Job alongside St. Paul’s zeal for preaching. And we find Our Lord “preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” I believe this is to remind us that the Word of God is inextricably linked to every aspect of the healing ministry of the Church, physical and spiritual. There is much wisdom in this; we must not take it for granted.

In Masses where the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is celebrated, readings from Scripture are there. In the celebration of this sacrament in a hospital, readings from Scripture are there. In Visits to the Sick with Holy Communion, readings from Scripture are there. Even in the beginning of the Sacrament of Reconciliation – when the greatest sickness of all, sin, is healed – the priest is encouraged to read some passages from Scripture. The Church, you see, is not a haven for the perfect and healthy; it is a hospital for sinners. Our Lord is the Divine Physician and His Word is our medicine for everlasting life. After all, the word “doctor” comes from the Latin word docere, which means “to teach.” And in our Responsorial Psalm we sang, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Remembering then how necessarily linked the Word of God is with both physical and spiritual healing, we are given both a consolation and a challenge. How often, when we suffer, do we look to everything but the Word of God for relief? In a world that has no tolerance for suffering and refuses to find meaning and redemption in it, we are tempted to turn to Christ, if we turn to Him at all, only when all other avenues have been exhausted. We try all the latest medications and remedies. Or we medicate ourselves through impulsive buying or thrill-seeking or lustful passions or simple denial. St. Paul captures beautifully in our Gospel what is at the root of all of these: “Rising very early before dawn, [Jesus] left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’” Men seek happiness and relief from their suffering in a myriad of ways but, actually, “Everyone is looking for you.” Although in the midst of our trials, our Lord may seem to be “off to a deserted place” he is always very near. When we are tempted to look to worldly things to find what only He can provide, we must remember that he is truly found in His Eternal Word. This then is our consolation and challenge.

Perhaps today you yourself are suffering even while you listen to me. Or perhaps a friend or a relative or a coworker you know is suffering today. St. Paul challenges us with full zeal and piety: “If I preach the gospel,” he says, “this is not reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!” Woe to us as well if you or I fail to preach the Good News to those who are sick in body or soul, if we fail to give them this greatest of medicines. St. Mark likewise challenges us but in a subtler way. He says that Simon, Andrew, James, and John “immediately told [Jesus]” about Simon’s mother-in-law who lay sick with a fever. We must not hesitate to tell our Lord in prayer about our own trials or those of our relatives and friends.

We see that upon hearing their petition “He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.” Furthermore, St. Mark continues, “When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.” Perhaps you, or someone you know, are looking in all the wrong places for the comfort we can only find in Jesus. Perhaps you, or someone you know, are possessed by the demons of addiction or despair. Today let us resolve, if we have yet to do so, to gently take them by the hand and bring them to Jesus. If we have already begun this journey, let us resolve to persevere for as our Lord himself said, he wishes to “preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” We need only to “gather at the door.”

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


I've always considered Fox's hit TV show House to be a guilty pleasure of mine. I'm actually a huge fan and have seen every episode of all 5 seasons so far - either through Blockbuster Total Access or iTunes. I say "guilty pleasure" because the docs on the show aren't exactly paragons of virtue and Dr. House is a complete mess. I like it for its straight-talk, its non-PC, and the return to paternalism in health care that has moved too far toward the patient-autonomy philosophy (patient requests it - patient gets it, no matter what). Even though its a medicine-driven show with less soap opera than E.R. or Scrubs, the characters are still fairly deep. Plus, there's just no one like House. Also, I've been keeping a tally and I think across all five seaons so far the show is 5 for 5 pro-life, with five episodes in which the docs perform abortion or euthanasia and 5 when they tell the patient to do otherwise. And check out the first 1:20 of this fan video for one of my favorite House moments.

Anyway, I was deleting some old email and came across an article from Zenit on the bio-ethics of House that I sent my philosophy professor a couple years ago. Maybe House isn't such a guilty pleasure after all?

On Fox's "House," Bioethics Meets Television

Life Academy Member Offers Critique of Series

ROME, SEPT. 13, 2007 ( The Fox Broadcasting Company's series titled
"House" reflects the existence of good and evil and the need to choose between the two, says a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Dr. Carlo Valerio Bellieni is director of the Department of Newborn Intensive Therapy of the University Polyclinic Le Scotte in Siena, Italy. He told ZENIT that the series "shows something interesting."

He explained: "The show seems to be an apology for separation and absence: It tells the story of a misanthrope and harsh doctor, Gregory House, who doesn't want any contact with patients."

This separation, however, caused by his existential and physical suffering, is only apparent. While remaining surly and anti-social, each time he insistently tries to understand the depths of the person he is caring for.

"He is able to recognize suffering in others because of his own suffering and it is because of this that he can see things that may escape others. "

It is even more strange, and interesting, that the 'non-politically correct' actions and judgments, with some exceptions, come from a character who is in constant struggle with the world."

A doctor's role

The series debuted in November 2004 and stars British actor Hugh Laurie.

House "doesn't follow the crowd when it comes to ethical relativism in medicine -- the autonomy of the patient, the doctor as a 'provider of a service' that has lost the ability to give moral judgments on the practice of medicine," Bellieni continued.

The pontifical academy member explained: "He speaks harshly with his patients to persuade them to accept a cure, not to give in to their wishes. He knows that there exists a good medical practice and a mistaken one and he wants his patients to choose the good one. But also because in the patient's answer he is trying to find an answer for himself."

Bellieni said this "is much better than those who leave the patient alone in the face of a diagnosis of words and numbers, only 'free' to choose to live or die."

He explained: "To put it another way, the writers of the series paradoxically seem to tell us that often words, and certain sweet and pious expressions that are fashionable, serve to cover up distance between persons. "

This is wonderfully underlined by the soundtrack, full of music with a religious tone or that shows the dissatisfaction of a life without meaning, like 'Desire' by Ryan Adams or 'Hallelujah' by Jeff Buckley."

"We observe two clear points by the creators of the series," continued Bellieni. "First, that the doctor is not a 'provider of a service' to whom every request is equal, but he knows how to recognize a good answer from an evil answer and how to find the strength to not give them the latter."

Second, the doctor-patient relationship is never a one-way street: There is not only the one who gives, the doctor, and one who receives, the patient, but the doctor either finds himself in the position to learn strength from the patient, his way of communicating and his hidden signals … or he gives an ineffective treatment."

"House," Bellieni explained, "goes to the depressed manager who is waiting to be placed on the heart transplant list and screams at him saying 'Do you want to live? Tell me, because I don't know if I do!' and he doesn't do this so he will write a 'living will,' but to reawaken in him, and in himself, a love for life. "

House is certainly not a saint and he sometimes makes bad moral choices. But if he were a saint, would it be so surprising to hear him cry out, as sometimes happens, against drugs or incestuous sex or in vitro fertilization?"

Finding humanity

The fourth season of the series is set to begin in the United States on Sept. 25. Laurie was nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding lead actor in a drama series in 2005 and this year.

Bellieni said: "House knows how to astonish: He makes mistakes, grinds his teeth, but he knows how to recognize what is human when he sees it."

"This is the important point, often overlooked in medical practice: amazement at the mysterious humanity of the patient."

"House," Bellieni remarked, "lets the little girl with a tumor hug him, whose life he prolonged by one year, and impressed with the moral strength of the little girl he begins to change his way of life."

"In the same way," he continued, "he is amazed by the little hand [snope?] of the fetus as it comes out of the womb during surgery and grasps his finger. For the rest of the day he continued to look at his finger, asking himself who is that life that no one considers human, maybe not even himself, but that touched him. "

His amazement is the foundation of his curative ability."

"House never seems to be there for his patients," concluded Bellieni. "He is not a good doctor, he is full of pain; but he is rich with a meaningful question, which does not lead him to despair. "

For this reason he is impressive, in an age in which nothing seems to have value except one's own whims, especially in medicine."

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Homily 4th Sun Ordinary Time Year B

Below is my homily on the readings for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

One of the things I find most fascinating about the Liturgy of the Word, the readings at Mass, is the unity of these readings. If you listen closely to the first reading, the responsorial psalm, the second reading, and the Gospel you can detect a thread running through them that weaves one unified message that the Holy Spirit would like to speak to us. Now, on some Sundays this unified theme is easier to detect than on others. For example, during the Seasons, such as the Christmas season that we just passed through, there is a larger theme at play anyway and so it is easy to see the particular theme on any given Sunday. But, in Ordinary Time, the season we are in now, these themes can be a little harder to detect. I remain convinced though that on every Sunday of the year the Holy Spirit’s purposes for giving us a particular set of readings can be discerned with careful listening.

Take today’s readings for example. Our first reading, responsorial psalm, and Gospel are about prophecy, its power, and the obedience due to it. Our first reading describes the prophet God promised to His people, a prophet who will speak God’s very words and commands. The responsorial psalm invites us to start every prayer with openness to God’s voice and to not repeat the hardness of heart of our ancestors. And our Gospel presents the fulfillment of the promised prophet, our Lord Jesus Christ. We see him speak with the authority of the Father in teaching his people and in driving away demons who would seek to thwart his Voice.

So clearly we have a theme of prophecy, right? Then what do we make of our second reading from First Corinthians? St. Paul explains that an unmarried man, such as a priest or religious brother, is concerned mainly with “the things of the Lord” and “how he may please the Lord.” But a married man is also concerned with things of the world, like material resources, and his wife and family, so his heart, naturally, is divided and it is harder for him to accomplish “adherence to the Lord without distraction.”

I must admit that when I read this at first I was stumped. What does marriage have to do with prophecy? What message can I give you today that you will find helpful in your everyday life, in advancing in holiness?

I am reminded of a lady I visited in the hospital a couple summers ago. I went with a lay woman from the parish who had many years of experience visiting the sick and taking Holy Communion to them. She had a remarkable way with the sick and suffering and they were always consoled and strengthened by her. Her name was Lois.

The lady that Lois and I visited was a longtime parishioner. When we entered her room we exchanged greetings and some small talk and Lois offered to bring her a bulletin so that she could stay connected to the parish. It seemed like an easy visit but before we were about to leave I could see on the lady’s face the slight impression that there was something more, something else that she needed from us. As we turned to leave she finally said, “Can I ask you a question?” She then explained to us that her husband had died only a year prior and that she was scared in the hospital without his help and companionship. But she was even more grieved by the imprudent words she had been told after her husband’s funeral. She told us that when the Mass was over she asked the priest in the sacristy if she was still married to her husband. He responded by simply quoting the twelfth chapter of Mark without any further explanation. There, verse 25 says, “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Now, in the hospital, when she needed her husband the most, these words were ringing in her ears. Having to face her illness without him while on earth was hard enough, but not even being able to hope to be married to him in eternity made her feel even more alone and afraid. She began to cry.

At that moment I really believe the Holy Spirit spoke through Lois and me. This was a fairly complex question we had been given and we had no time to prepare an answer. It brought up all at once the meaning of marriage, its purpose, and its place in our salvation. This isn’t a “Who made you? – God made you” type of question! But immediately, Lois and I responded together and bounced off of each other as if we had rehearsed what we would say. Our joint reply had to have been from the Holy Spirit. We explained that, yes, it is true that Scripture indeed teaches us that we are not given in marriage in heaven. But, we continued, in heaven we will be one with Christ and so we will be closer to our loved ones in heaven than we ever were on earth! Marriage is meant to prefigure the union of the Church in eternity with her sole Head and Spouse, Jesus Christ. Marriage prepares us for and points us to eternal union with Christ and once this is accomplished then its noble purpose is served. This answer seemed to give her great comfort and she was filled with peace.

In this episode I think we find the key to finding our theme for today: the prophetic voice of marriage. Our visit still remains vivid in my mind and reflecting on it has born much fruit for my vocation. I offer it to you for your own reflection as well.

Now, in Scripture, a prophet is most often defined as one who made known the will of God, who exposed and rebuked evil, and who stood for the law. He often had supernatural knowledge and inspiration.[1] How then is marriage prophetic? It is prophetic because it speaks, with all the force of a sacrament and with the authority of God, of the love Christ has for His Church, the love that will be brought to its fulfillment at the end of time in eternity. As far as the Church submits herself to Christ her spouse and head so too is a wife called to humbly submit herself to her husband. But, husbands in return are called to mimic Christ who gave his entire life for his Bride, the Church, even unto the cross. St. Paul tells us this very thing in his letter to the Ephesians: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:22, 25). But, let me be clear, this is not a servile or oppressive subjection which should always be rejected. Rather, I’m speaking of Christian sacrifice and humility that take after the relationship between Christ and the Church. Husbands and wives, by living out their marriage in this way, speak boldly and prophetically to the world of the powerful love God has for us and the love we must give him in return. In living out a Christian, total, faithful, fruitful, joyful marriage, husbands and wives share the Good News of the one, indissoluble, union with Christ in Heaven. This, I believe, is the joyful hope that that lady in the hospital found.

That’s pretty amazing isn’t it! Does your marriage share this Good News? Does it speak of Christ’s love for the Church? Does it give your family and those who see you hope in everlasting union with Christ in heaven? This isn’t just pie-in-the-sky theology. Even though marriage is roundly attacked in today’s society and can be full of struggle and difficulty and distraction from “adherence to the Lord” as St. Paul put it, it can still be beautiful and prophetic. Actually the evil in our world serves to accentuate the beauty of marriage all the more because against evil and mockery, true Christian marriage shines all the brighter. Our marriages must reclaim their prophetic voice now more than ever so that we can tell the world that marriage is not dead, hopeless, doomed to fail, and subject to our every whim or passion but can still accomplish its noble purpose.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

National Sanctity of Human Life Day

I just got this in an email. Did you know President Bush did this? Is this recurring yearly? Will President Obama strike it down? Here's the text:

National Sanctity of Human Life Day, 2009
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

All human life is a gift from our Creator that is sacred, unique, and worthy of protection. On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, our country recognizes that each person, including every person waiting to be born, has a special place and purpose in this world. We also underscore our dedication to heeding this message of conscience by speaking up for the weak and voiceless among us.

The most basic duty of government is to protect the life of the innocent. My Administration has been committed to building a culture of life by vigorously promoting adoption and parental notification laws, opposing Federal funding for abortions overseas, encouraging teen abstinence, and funding crisis pregnancy programs. In 2002, I was honored to sign into law the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which extends legal protection to children who survive an abortion attempt. I signed legislation in 2003 to ban the cruel practice of partial-birth abortion, and that law represents our commitment to building a culture of life in America. Also, I was proud to sign the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004, which allows authorities to charge a person who causes death or injury to a child in the womb with a separate offense in addition to any charges relating to the mother.

America is a caring Nation, and our values should guide us as we harness the gifts of science. In our zeal for new treatments and cures, we must never abandon our fundamental morals. We can achieve the great breakthroughs we all seek with reverence for the gift of life.

The sanctity of life is written in the hearts of all men and women. On this day and throughout the year, we aspire to build a society in which every child is welcome in life and protected in law. We also encourage more of our fellow Americans to join our just and noble cause. History tells us that with a cause rooted in our deepest principles and appealing to the best instincts of our citizens, we will prevail.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 18, 2009, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon all Americans to recognize this day with appropriate ceremonies and to underscore our commitment to respecting and protecting the life and dignity of every human being.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.


Homily 2nd Sun Ordinary Time Year B

Below is my homily on the readings for the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B.

Last week was National Vocation Awareness Week when we prayed that vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life would be multiplied and renewed. It is Providential then that, following National Vocation Awareness Week, the Church has provided us with readings today that describe the beautiful calls of Samuel in the Old Testament and our Lord’s first disciples in the New Testament. Through these beautiful accounts we can learn about our own call from God as well.

One of the things that stood out to me from the readings is how these calls came about in close proximity to our Lord. This is a very important lesson to us all today. They form a sort of model for how our Lord calls us and how we should answer. In our first reading, Samuel was “sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was”. Now, I hope that none of you falls asleep this morning, but you get the idea. Samuel was near the ark of God, the ark of the Covenant, which in the Old Testament stood for God’s very Presence. And after he consulted the old high-priest Eli he learned that the call was authentic and how he should respond. Then the Lord “was with him” and directed his vocation in a powerful way such that not a word of his was “without effect.” Please pray for me that I could have a similar blessing.

In our Gospel, St. Andrew and St. John began to follow Jesus when John the Baptist prompted them as Jesus “walked by.” Jesus said to them, “Come and see” and they “stayed with him that day.” Later, Andrew’s joy from this encounter led him to find his brother Simon Peter, to share with him the good news of the Messiah, and to bring him to Jesus. Then Jesus looked Simon Peter in the eyes and named him Cephas which means “rock”, the rock on which Jesus built his Church. Together these two accounts of Samuel and the first disciples teach us three things. First, we hear God’s call best when we are close to him. Second, often God uses others to direct us to him. And Third, we should respond with humility, openness, and promptness.

When I look back on my own life and my calling to the priesthood I see that by the grace of God, this model played out with me too. Although not always like Samuel, Andrew, John, and Peter, I am humbled by how God brought me to where I am today. For most of my life, in a way I was like Samuel who, according to our reading, “was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.”

… Tell Vocation Story…

For me, what began as an intellectual exercise, reading more and more about why we believe what we believe, became an experience and a way of life. By the grace of God, I fell in love with Jesus, and with His Church, and with what He teaches us through it. Our vocation in life, what God is calling us to do, can never be just a matter of intellectual curiosity; it affects one’s whole life: a person cannot understand it unless he lives it; therefore, in our Gospel our Lord does not tell Andrew and John in detail about his way of life; he invites them to spend the day with him. What God is can only be understood through experience: words cannot fully describe it.[1] Our Lord invited everyone when he said “Come and See”. And like the disciples we must obey his command and learn by personal experience.[2] Only by living with him and knowing him can we ever really know ourselves and the vocation he intends for us. Just as Samuel was near the ark of God and the apostles spent time with Jesus where he “stayed”, I began to spend more and more time in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament getting to know him and his will for me.

Just as Samuel answered the Lord, “Speak, for your servant is listening” and just as Andrew and John “followed Jesus”, I tried to respond by praying to God that I wanted to know his will for me as much as I wanted to each lunch that day or to have a roof over my head. I prayed that God would allow me to be as intimate with his will for me as I was with meeting my basic needs

Also, just like God used Eli to call Samuel, and John the Baptist to prompt Andrew and John, and Andrew to call Peter, the Lord used a Protestant girl to put me on the road to the priesthood! And he used many others too, like Michael Wimsatt another one of our seminarians who will be ordained in May. His first words to me were not “Hello, my name is Mike” or “Hello, nice to meet you,” but “Have you ever thought about being a priest?” And God used my friends who confirmed my thoughts that priesthood could be a good fit for me. And he used priests like Fr. Paul Beach who have encouraged me along the way by their advice and their own priesthood.

I pray that you too will grow in confidence in God’s will for your life. I hope my story is helpful to you. I hope the accounts of God’s call in our readings today will bear much fruit for you. Spend some silent time with our Lord in the tabernacle. Rest with the ark of God. Spend the day with him. Maybe you could spend 15 minutes a day in adoration or an hour per week. Live with him and allow him, his Church, and what we believe to change your life. Be attentive to the way He places people in your life to bring you to Him. Then we, together, can exclaim with our responsorial psalm today: “I have waited, waited for the LORD, and he stooped toward me and heard my cry… ears open to obedience you gave me… then said I, ‘Behold I come’… ‘it is prescribed for me: to do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!’”

[1] Navarre Commentary on St. John, p. 51
[2] St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on St. John

Monday, January 19, 2009

It's a miracle

Love him or hate him, thank God he wasn't aborted.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Homily Epiphany Year B

Below is my homily for today's readings ([text][audio][video]) of The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.
Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. But what does that mean? Well, the words itself means “manifestation” but this is one of those feasts of the Church whose meaning can be unclear by its name alone. It is like the feast of the Immaculate Conception which many think is about Jesus being conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but it is really about Mary being conceived without the stain of Original Sin. I admit I sometimes have to do an intellectual double-take when I think of the Immaculate Conception. And so with the Epiphany – for some reason I always think first of the Transfiguration, but that is when Jesus allowed his Divinity to shine forth to his closest apostles on the top of Mount Tabor. It’s also a manifestation, like his Baptism in the Jordan River when God announced his Beloved Son and the Wedding Feast at Cana when he performed his first public miracle. But, let us definitively say that the Epiphany concerns the Son of God’s manifestation to the magi, the wise men from the East. But, I’m afraid the confusion continues! Scripture doesn’t tell us that they were kings, only that they were wise men or “magi from the east” and it doesn’t say that there were three kings, only that three gifts were offered! Likewise we are unsure of how long after Christ’s birth that they arrived, exactly where they came from, and their arriving and departing flight! But, bear with me; I promise you, in the midst of all this seeming confusion there is a clear message to all of us today.
The teaching of the early Church Fathers has answered a lot of these questions for us. But first and foremost we should know that our Gospel reading today does not merely contain the things of pious legend, as some who try to rationalize the account would say. The story of the wise men from the east following a star to Bethlehem and to Jesus is a narrative of fact. And no, the star was not merely a comet, or the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn, or a cosmic starburst – it was a miracle and it was real![1] The reality of the account, though fixed at a certain time in history, provides a wealth of inspiration and meaning for all mankind of all times.
Actually it is these three kings – or scientists of the stars, as they came to be known – who themselves represent all mankind. It was too these three non-Jews that Jesus, born to a faithful Jewish family, made himself known. And their journey is typical to all of those throughout history who have searched for Jesus to adore him. This is a source of great hope for us. To those of us who may not feel particularly close to Jesus – today is a new day. We can find hope in the fact that these three kings also made the journey and they have shown us how to make it. Their journey was long, no doubt, and how do we suppose they explained it to their family and friends? I’m sure they were met with doubt and dismissal, maybe even ridicule. They had studied the stars; they knew how to follow this brightest star of them all. But it was by a special grace from God that they interpreted it as a sign of the presence of the long-awaited Messiah that they had heard about from their Hebrew neighbors. Inspired by this grace they sought him out in order to do him homage and adore him. It is just as the prophet Isaiah in our first reading foretold, “Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar.”[2]

Often we too, by a special grace from God, yearn to be close to Jesus Christ and to adore him but it can sometimes seem like we are only coming “from afar.” Let us learn from the magi and be brave. Let us put the same certainty in our knowledge of heavenly things and in our faith that they did. Let us make the long journey with confidence that we will indeed find Jesus, and let us cast aside our love for approval or for material things that get in the way. Upon finding Him, Isaiah said, “Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow.” Indeed, St. Matthew tells us, the magi “were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house [when] they saw the child with Mary his mother.” This joy is ours too. How about we make today the day in which we take another step, or invite those who aren’t on the journey to take the first one?
When the magi finally made it to Jerusalem it seems from the tone of our Gospel reading that they got lost.[3]

They “arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’… Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, [King Herod] inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea.’” (Mt 2:1-5)
Along our way to Christ we too should be docile and willing to ask others for help. But, St. Josemaria Escriva teaches us that

we Christians have no need to go to Herod or to the wise men of this world. Christ has given His Church sureness in doctrine and a flow of grace in the Sacraments. He has arranged things so that there will always be people [like our priests and bishops] to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way… Allow me to give you a piece of advice [he says]… If ever you lose the way… Go to the priest who looks after you – [if not me than your own pastor] – who knows how to demand of you a strong faith, refinement of soul and true Christian fortitude… A conscientious Christian will go – with complete freedom – to the priest he knows to be a good shepherd, who can help him to look up again and see once more on high the Lord’s star.[4]
In seeking Jesus myself and in trying to be a good shepherd, I have found it helpful to seek the guidance of my priest-spiritual-director at least once a month and to receive his forgiveness and council in the Sacrament of Confession. I also find much guidance in the advice of priest-friends, in the example of our good and holy Archbishop, and in the writings and speeches of our Holy Father.
With bravery and guidance we make our way to Jesus and when we find him we discover that all of the confusion we started with is replaced with simplicity and clarity. St. Matthew tells us that when the magi “saw the child with Mary his mother [t]hey prostrated themselves and did him homage.” They simply adored him. All of the confusion of their long journey, following the star despite difficulties, seeking and following advice, and enduring Herod’s conniving demands gave way to simple adoration of our God Made Man. This adoration is so clear that the Council of Trent expressly quotes our Gospel reading today to teach us the devotion which is due to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
Jesus present in the tabernacle is the same Jesus the wise men found in Mary’s arms. Perhaps we should examine ourselves to see how we adore him when he is exposed in the monstrance or hidden in the tabernacle. [Do we even realize he is there, like the magi did?] With what devotion and reverence do we kneel in the moments indicated in Holy Mass, or each time we pass by those places where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved?[5]

For example, perhaps we could renew that pious tradition of making the Sign of the Cross whenever we drive by a Catholic Church or chapel. Actions such as these can place us prostrate before the Lord right beside the magi rather than unaware or “from afar.” Finally, let us not forget Mary. “The three Kings had their star. We have Mary, Stella Maris, Stella Orientis, Star of the Sea, Star of the East.”(St. Josemaria Escriva, Christ is Passing By, 38)[6]

[1] Drum, Walter. "Magi." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 4 Jan. 2009 .
[2] Fr. Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God, Vol. 1, 320.
[3] Ibid., 322.
[4] Ibid., 323.
[5] Ibid., 329.
[6] Ibid., 333.