Sunday, June 30, 2013

Homily 13 Sun OT C–Only the Truth Makes Us Free to Follow Jesus with Resolve.

Last weekend when I introduced myself, there was one part of my story that I didn’t tell: How I came to discern that God was calling me to be a priest. I grew up Catholic, our family went to Mass every Sunday, and I knew what Catholics believe but I didn’t know why we believe it and it really didn’t dawn on me to care. But, then came my senior year in college when a girl I was dating asked me questions about Catholicism that I had no clue how to answer: Why do you go to Mass? Why do you go to confession to a priest? Why do you have statues in Church, etc. All I could say was “Ugh… I dunno… that’s just what we do…” But, I felt lame that I couldn’t give her better answers to her questions, so I did some research. When I discovered Why we believe what we believe, my eyes were opened. By the grace of God what I discovered changed my life and I began to take my faith more seriously.

Before that point I just wanted to be like any other college student: stay out late, mess around, be irresponsible, do whatever… but after my “reversion” I wanted to be a better man, a more honorable man. Obviously, my relationship with that girl didn’t work out. And the more I learned about the sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, the more I fell in love with them and imagined what it would be like if I was celebrating them. I made new friends who drew me closer to Christ and helped me to hear God’s call for me to be a priest.

I must say though that in that initial period of change, it was hard not to look back on my former way of life and think, “Man, it was fun hanging out with that crowd and doing this or that…” or be tempted to get back into my old ways. But I knew the Lord wanted me to be resolute in following him, in heading down the Way. Our Lord was resolute and he expects his messengers, his disciples, to be the same. The Gospel said that he “resolutely determined” to journey to Jerusalem and just outside its gates, the site of the Crucifixion and our salvation.

Elijah in the first reading allowed his disciple, Elisha, to kiss his parents goodbye before he followed him. But we follow a greater prophet than Elijah, our Lord Jesus Christ, who has a higher standard. When those he called wanted to tend to their families first before they followed Jesus, our Lord insisted that they follow him first. Of course our Lord was not intending for them to dishonor their parents; of course Jesus keeps the Fourth Commandments to Honor Thy Father and Mother. The point he is trying to make is that he should come first in our priorities, even before our families and even before ourselves.

When Elijah called his disciple he signaled the call by throwing his cloak around him, showing Elisha that he wanted him to share in his identity and mission. We too have been “cloaked,” so to speak – we have “put on” Christ at our Baptism. In the ritual the priest says to the child, “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.” With that white garment we “put on” Christ and became his disciples. Thank God for the Eucharist and Confession which re-creates this garment whenever we fall away.

But, we can’t afford to fall away. We must be resolute in our call. It may seem at first that marching forward with determination, not looking back on our former way of life is too harsh or restrictive. This is because we often misunderstand what freedom truly is. We tend to confuse freedom for license. Freedom is the ability to do what we ought, whereas license is the ability to do whatever we want. For Paul in the 2nd reading, freedom is not license. Christian freedom is not a license to indulge in sin and selfishness. We are free, rather, to mature in grace and become the saints we are called to be.

If freedom is not license then the commitment to protecting freedom does not mean protecting license. So many in our society today are grasping at more and more liberties and demanding they be protected as God-given freedoms. They claim, “If I want to do it, I should be able to do it, and no one should say I can’t.” We have seen this especially in recent news concerning the Supreme Court’s decisions regarding so-called gay “marriage.” In their decision on Proposition 8 – the Constitutional amendment the people of California voted for to protect the traditional definition of marriage as a lifetime commitment between one man and one woman – the Court did not strike it down but it did miss the opportunity to uphold it.

More worrisome is the Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act. There, the Court undercut true freedom and true equality. What the federal government and the Court failed to realize is that it is OK to treat different things differently. So-called “gay marriage” is not the same as traditional marriage. Marriage, by definition, brings a man and a woman together for life and ensures that children who are a gift and the fruit of their love are raised by their own mother and father together. Gay “marriage” is simply a different thing and should be treated differently – that doesn’t imply that an injustice or hatred is being done.

Given these types of challenges to true freedom, again, we must be resolute. The Gospel says our Lord “sent messengers ahead of him” to prepare for his arrival. We are those messengers, sent to proclaim the Truth and to ready men’s hearts to receive It, especially when we experience setbacks or when times are tough. What we must Not do is react to these setbacks with violence or anger or pessimism or cynicism. We must not seek vengeance in any way. When the town our Lord’s disciples went to “would not welcome him,” James and John asked him, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” This is something that Elijah did! But, again, we follow a higher prophet than he. Our Lord “turned and rebuked them” for suggesting such a thing.

St. Ambrose explains that Jesus reproves his disciples’ desire for revenge because it is out of keeping with his mission as Messiah; he has come to save people, not destroy them. This helps them to see that zeal for the things of God should never be bitter or violent: “The Lord does everything in an admirable way… He acts in this way to teach us that perfect virtue retains no desire for vengeance, and that where there is true charity there is no room for anger – in other words, that weakness should not be treated with harshness, but should be helped.” When Christians advocate for the truth regarding marriage, for example, we do not do so because we hate persons with same sex attraction; we do so because we love them! We do so, not to be harsh to them but to help them to know the truth, for it is the truth that makes us free.

We must re-double our efforts to be disciples and messengers of the Truth. We must have courage to proclaim the Truth even when… especially when it is hard. To give in to falsifications of the truth serve no one. We must re-commit with resolve to the truth, knowing that only a determined commitment to God makes us fit for the kingdom of God, glorifies him, and serves the common good.

Letter on Changes and Needs

To the Faithful of Holy Trinity and Holy Rosary,

By now you have probably noticed a few small changes around the Church at Holy Trinity. They always used to tell us in seminary, “Don’t change anything in your first year!” But, as I said in my homily my first weekend, liturgy is my highest priority. The more beauty and excellence we give to liturgy and worship, the more glory we give to God. Everything else we do will flow out of that. Therefore, I hope that these will not be too disturbing to you.

I have moved the presider’s chair from the right side facing the altar (the “Epistle side” as they used to say) to the left side (the “Gospel side”) and scooted the credence table beside the side altar. It seemed a little awkward to have the servers crossing the sanctuary each time to hold the Missal (even though I have been impressed with how they bow to the altar each time they pass). Being on the Gospel side with the servers puts us closer together and makes it easier for them to bring the Missal. I have also moved out their kneeler (or “prie-dieu” – French for “pray to God”) so that they can now kneel on the step of the altar on the Gospel side, facing the action of the liturgy head-on, with their bells still close at hand. Bringing them closer to the altar will bring them nearer to the sacred mysteries and help them learn the Mass. I would like to lead a server training workshop soon to brush up on some things, teach them about the items used at Mass, and build up their number. With the chair moved over to the Gospel side, I will not be using the mic stand. I will try the clip-on wireless mic for a while to see how that works. Hopefully you will still be able to hear the prayers well.

On the high altar, I have moved the two gold candles that burned before the tabernacle to the back and moved the flowers and adoring angels up a level. I am thankful for those who have donated money in the past to replenish these candles. I believe that was not done this year though. The two gold candles, while beautiful, had broken vases and were unnecessary given the presence of the red tabernacle lamp (that signifies Christ’s Presence in the tabernacle) and the candles that burn for Mass on the freestanding altar. I moved the flowers and adoring angels up a level to highlight the fact that while the high altar may not be used, it is still an altar (it still has its relic) and so should be prepared as if it is still used. If you would like to donate money toward new altar linens for the high altar and the freestanding altar – that will have lace in the color of the liturgical season, but will not cover the beautiful engraving – please let me know.

A couple other things we need are a new funeral pall and a thurible stand. I want to thank whoever made the funeral pall now used – please introduce yourself! It’s vibrant colors remind one of the happiness of the eternal life we hope for and it has seen many years of faithful use. But it has gotten stained over the years and is fraying in places so it is time for a new one. I would like to get a purple one in beautiful purple damask material with a large cross in the center. I tend to wear purple vestments for funerals rather than white because purple is the color of mourning and its use shows us that suffering is not taboo, that the Church suffers too and wishes to walk through suffering with the family of the deceased. Eventually I would like to bring back the use of black vestments for funerals and All Soul’s day but that’s a reflection for another letter! The aforementioned “thurible” is the metal object that holds incense burned during Mass. We need a stand for it so that the servers can use the thurible during Mass and have somewhere to hang it near the sanctuary when it is not in use. If you would like to donate toward a purple pall, black vestments, or a thurible stand, please let me know this as well.

Another small change regards the baptismal font. Fr. Chris acquired the modern fount a few years ago and it sits with the paschal candle at the back of the Church to symbolize one’s entry into the Church through Baptism. I have put the brass lid onto the fount to highlight its purpose for baptism rather than as a Holy Water receptacle. The receptacles near the doors are still present, filled, and refreshed periodically. The lid also keeps dust and germs out of the fount and the water used for baptisms.

Finally, I have moved the tables and chairs that were stored in the confessional into the space next to it. This helps to preserve the primary purpose of the confessional and gives priority to the celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation. Toward that end, beginning the First Saturday of July, namely July 6, 2013, I am expanding the times for confession. Right now, confession is heard for 15 minutes, starting 30 minutes before each daily and weekend Mass. So, for example, from 9:30-9:45am before the 10am Mass on Monday and Wednesday; from 4:30-4:45pm before the 5pm Mass on Saturday, etc. Fr. Chris was very generous in offering to hear confessions every day, before every Mass. But I think expanding the time offered will make the sacrament more accessible and available to you. So, like most parishes in the Archdiocese, I will be offering a confession time from 3-4pm on Saturday afternoons. To give both parishes equal access, on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of every month I will be at Holy Rosary in Manton and on the 2nd and 4th (and 5th) Saturday I will be at Holy Trinity in Fredericktown. I will be keeping the 15 minute confession times before each daily Mass but discontinuing the times before each of the weekend Masses. 6:30am on Sunday is too early (!), 8am at Holy Rosary is impossible to make, and 10:30am at Holy Trinity is not enough time.

At the end of the day, these are small changes, but I know that change can sometimes still be tough. And it does seem early for changes to be made. Please know that these are being made not to suit my own preferences. Rather, they are being made out of my devotion to God and to this parish, my love for you, and my desire to do what’s best for the liturgy and for our spiritual lives together. I thank you for your understanding and patience and hope that you will lend a hand on some of the items we still need. I am open to your constructive criticism and feedback.

In Jesus and Mary,

Fr. Hardesty
Pastoral Administrator
Holy Trinity, Fredericktown
Holy Rosary, Manton

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yearbook slogans from 1960

While going through the dressers in the rectory to begin to unpack (!) I came across Fr. Chris Allegra’s old 1960 yearbook from the Boston Latin School.  God rest his soul.  Boy, they don’t write yearbook slogans like they used too!  Now it is a very rare young man who can write anything intelligent or meaningful for his fellow chaps, something more than the common cliché’s (Carpe diem!) or stupid jokes (Get ‘er done!).  Granted many of these sound like re-hashes from their Latin homework, but I think they have a nice ring to them.

Here’s a sampling of the young men’s slogans, starting of course with Fr. Chris’s


He steered the barque of the Burg with great love and affection.

Some others:

“He who has been on both sides of the street has truly had the course.”

“When could they say till now, that talked of Rome, that her wide walls encompassed but one man?”

“One cannot always be a hero, but one can always be a man.”

“So mixed in him all the elements, that nature might say to all the world: ‘This was a man.’”

“I do all that may become a man.”

“Who dares nothing, need hope for nothing.”

“Conscience is what hurts when everything else feels so good.”

“In God we trust; all others must pay cash”

“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”

“The Mighty Casey… out!”

“It’s not the hours we put in, but what we put into the hours that really counts.”

“Keep trying, its only from the valley that the mountains see high.”

“Deliberate in judgment and moderate in action”

“The universe, next to Ireland, is the most important.”

“Give every man thine ear, but few they voice.”

“Discretion in speech is more than eloquence.”

“Men of few words are the best men”

“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here”

“Reading maketh a full man”

“The best laid plans of mice and men oft go ka-put”

“Genius does what it must; talent does what it can”

“A little learning is not a dangerous thing to one who does not mistake it for a great deal”

“Intelligence and character need no trumpet”

“Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food”

“Get thee wisdom; but with all thine acquisition, get thee understanding”

“Lincoln was a great man, not because he lived in a log cabin, but because he got out of it”

“I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue than why I have one”

…And last but not least…

“And I did it without learning Latin!”

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Introduction Homily at Holy Trinity & Holy Rosary–12 Sun OT C

Hello, my name is Fr. Matthew Hardesty, I go by “Fr. Hardesty,” and I’ve been assigned by Archbishop Kurtz as the Pastoral Administrator of Holy Trinity and Holy Rosary.  I cannot find the right words to express how blessed I am to be assigned to these two parishes.

I’m also very glad that Deacon Joe Dant has been able to be with me at all of the Masses so that I can thank him publicly for all his good work and leadership.  He had led you well during the difficult time following Fr. Chris’s death and he has been a great friend and help to me in transitioning to take his place.  There will be more words of thanks after Communion.

Let me explain briefly what a “Pastoral Administrator” is.  A Pastoral Administrator has all of the rights and duties and privileges of a pastor but without the title “Pastor.”  It is a policy of the Archdiocese to assign all first-time pastors as Administrators first so that if the guy has a difficult time or needs more time as an Associate Pastor somewhere else, he can be more easily moved.  To move a pastor requires a whole canonical process through the Tribunal.  After the first year if all goes well, and I certainly suspect that it will, then the Archbishop will re-assign me here as pastor.

I would like to also tell you a little bit about myself.  I’m originally from Owensboro and went to Catholic schools there until I went to Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, KY.  I was a Computer Science major and got a job in Louisville as a Software Developer for an investment firm.  I did that for three years and it was during that time that I discerned the priesthood and applied to the Archdiocese of Louisville rather than the Diocese of Owensboro.  I felt like God had led me to Louisville and to serve the people of the Archdiocese.  I entered seminary in 2005 at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and was ordained in 2011 at the Cathedral in Louisville.  My first Priesthood assignment was as the Associate Pastor at St. James in E’town, St. Ambrose in Cecilia, and St. Ignatius in White Mills.  I was there for two years and was then assigned here.  So I’ve only been a priest for two years!  I ask for your patience as we learn and grow together!

I have actually been here before.  When I was a seminarian, Fr. Chris invited me to here to give a vocation talk and I remember thinking back then, “Man, it would be awesome to be assigned here some day…” and here I am!  Another interesting story concerns my chalice and paten.  Before my Priesthood Ordination I was chatting with Fr. Dale Cieslik who is the Archivist for the Archdiocese.  I asked him if there was a chalice and paten in the Archives that I could use rather than having to spend thousands (!) of dollars on a new one.  He investigated and ended up finding the chalice and paten of Fr. Larry Hardesty, one of your former pastors!  When I was ordained I was able to inherit it and it is a tremendous honor to be able to use it.  If you would like to see it, come on back to the sacristy any time and I would love to show it to you up close.

When I moved in a couple days ago, a group of guys graciously helped me unpack my boxes from the U-Haul trailer.  Once everything was in the rectory I sat down and thought, “Now what??”  Then I started thinking about what my goals and priorities are and how God is calling me to be your shepherd.  I would say that my top priority is the liturgy, the Mass, the Eucharist.  My deep conviction is that if we give all our energy and focus to excellence in the liturgy then many graces and blessings will follow.  Vatican II taught us that the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of the life of the Church.  Everything we do in the Church must flow from the Eucharist and lead back to, and be surmounted by, the Eucharist.

In focusing on the Mass, there are many symbols we could take as our launching point.  But the readings this weekend point us to the cross.  Remember from our first reading, the Prophet Zecharian foretold the way to identify the Messiah: “They shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 1432, explains that “It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin…The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced.” The cross, or to be precise, the crucifix, is the ultimate sign of love. This sign, so vivid and real, should motivate us, every time we look at it, to love God and each other with the same love that it shows, and to never want to offend that love. The cross is the standard for love and the standard for each of us today.

This is what our Lord meant when he said: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” The Gospel mentions that he said this “to all.” The cross cannot be ignored by any of us, it is essential for continual conversion. If we never give the cross much thought, never contemplate sacrificial love, our hearts may be blinded to the day-to-day sacrifices that we need to make in order to increase and express our love for our family and friends. We may never be called to give our lives for our family. We may be simply called to put down the newspaper, turn off the TV, or step away from the computer. We are called to choose to love our family more than those things, so we take up that cross, and show them our love.

It is conversion brought about by these day-to-day crosses, or lack thereof, that either makes or breaks families in this country. Dr. Gregory Popcak, a Catholic marriage and family therapist, writes about how people often ask him what the greatest problem is in family life. They expect him to say alcoholism, or contraception, or pornography, or infidelity. To be sure, these are huge problems that should not be ignored. But he writes that in most families that are struggling, one member or another loves their comfort zone at particular moments more than the family.

Now, just because I have no natural wife or children does not mean that I am exempt from the need for continual conversion by taking up the daily cross – by choosing sacrifice out of love, over my comfort zone. How easy it is for me to have a full day – morning Mass, preaching, parish activities, taking Communion to the homebound, visiting patients in the hospital, celebrating a funeral, then attending an evening meeting – and finally coming home and plopping down in front of the T.V. But, if the Church is truly my bride, a bride I love and want to give my entire life and heart too, undivided, then I should never be eager to get away from her. You and I should identify ourselves not by our comfort zones, as if to say, “I am in this moment a guy sitting here watching T.V… or whatever.” We should identify ourselves by what we truly are: “I am a father and husband,” for example, or “I am a son of parents who love me.” We must let who we truly are at a deeper level be the lens through which we make choices and interact with each other.

I could choose to relax, that’s no problem; but relax with my bride who I love, the Church. I could spend some time in prayer, reflecting on the day. Or I could call a parishioner who I know is alone, or do some spiritual reading. This is what Jesus is talking about when he says, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” He is referring to our worldly life and our eternal life. If you or I wish to save our worldly life – the life of his our own choosing and pleasures, free from any sacrifices of love – then we will lose our spiritual lives and the spiritual lives of those God has given to us.  But, if you and I, with the help of grace, work through daily conversion, through daily taking up our cross, big or small, to lose our own life of choices and pleasures; to prefer God and our families over ourselves, then we will save our spiritual lives and the spiritual lives of our families.

Our families need to help each other out, to pray and study together, and support each other. If you have too often neglected the cross, today is the day to take it up. We are not alone in making sacrifices of love, we are not left to our own devices. The prophet Zechariah foretold that God would “pour out… a spirit of grace and petition and open… a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.” The Lord has sent us the Holy Spirit of grace and petition and he purifies us through His Precious Blood and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is at the foot of the Cross that we learn what true love is and where we will be given the grace to embark on continual conversion. The cross must be the focal point of our parish and our families. The restoration of true authentic family life and the salvation of our families depends on it. It truly is a great joy for me to take up the cross with you; to serve you and give my heart undivided to you; to make sacrifices for you and to love you. Let us pray for and support each other as we grow in love and life together.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Farewell to St. Ambrose and St. Ignatius – Fathers and Confession

Well… today, many thoughts are going through my head; the theme of the readings, Father’s Day, and this being my last Sunday Mass here. My last official day isn’t until Tuesday, June 18, but this is my last weekend with you as your Associate Pastor. My new assignment, as many of you know, will be at Holy Trinity in Fredericktown and Holy Rosary in Manton. They are in the same general area, between Bardstown and Springfield, off of US-150.

The readings this weekend present a theme of reconciliation and conversion and they remind me of some of the most profound moments of my time here as a spiritual father to you: celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation. But this message isn’t just for me. Even though Father’s Day is a secular holiday – in the Church, we celebrate today the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time – it can give both natural and spiritual fathers the opportunity to step back and take a fresh look at our fatherhood, to see how things are going, to see how inline we are with the Fatherhood of God. Father’s who lead the way in reconciliation and conversion will probably have families and children who live lives formed by these virtues as well. But first, fathers, you and I, must see the necessity to begin with ourselves. This challenges me as I move on to my new spiritual family.

When we examine ourselves, men, if we are honest with ourselves, we know what keeps us the furthest from God. For example, for David in the account we heard from the second Book of Samuel, his issue was lust. He saw a woman he wanted so he took her and sent her husband to the front lines of battle to get him out of the way. It took the prophet Nathan to help him realize that he was on a road of suffering that would last his entire life. When David finally confessed that he had sinned against the Lord, the Lord forgave him, and set him on the road to life. Nathan answered David: “the Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die.” The Lord set him on the road to conversion, to turning his face toward him again.

When we hear the word “conversion” we often think of “converting” from Protestantism to Catholicism or from Judaism to Christianity, for example. But what I mean by “conversion” is that call from the Lord, to continually, daily, turn our hearts away from sin and toward him. Ongoing conversion should be a part of every Catholic’s life. God gives us the grace to see and acknowledge our sins, to repent and turn to Him for mercy and forgiveness, and to change our lives, trusting in his help. This we do progressively, every day, especially through the sacrament of Reconciliation. This time of year, going to confession should be one of those “ordinary” practices, so to speak, of Ordinary Time. Saints and popes have consistently encouraged us to go to Confession eat least once a month.  So if you state that it has been 6 months or more since your last confession, I will mostly likely remind you to try to go to confession at least once a month – that way you are doing a regular examination of conscience, becoming a more astute observer of the role of sin in your life.  You also grow in humility as you announce your sins to Christ.  And you receive the counsel of the priest to help you to avoid those sins and the grace you receive will “flow” through your life in a more continuous way and will be a better help to you.

Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood I never realized the real power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and what it really meant. But, thank God, it has become an indispensible part of my life and one of the greatest motivators, along with the Eucharist, of my vocation to the priesthood. I treasure very much the Sacrament of Reconciliation and take it very seriously.  It has been a very fulfilling part of my priesthood to be God’s instrument of Mercy.  I go to confession once a month to my priest-spiritual director who helps me discern God’s will throughout my Priesthood. Through Confession, my Baptism continues to work in my life, washing away my sins; changing my heart and soul with the very love and mercy of God; turning on again the wellsprings of Faith, Hope, and Love; renewing my sonship with God and brotherhood with the Church; fortifying me to not sin again and to avoid the near occasions of sin; and removing all obstacles to God’s grace. Now I hunger and thirst to hear Jesus Christ Himself say, through my brother priest, “I absolve you of your sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.  Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His Mercy endures forever. The Lord has freed you from your sins, Go in peace.”

Many of you go to confession regularly and I applaud you. Keep it up! Make sure it is always something you hunger and thirst for. It is necessary for a good life. If you are having difficulty going to confession, I understand that shame is a particularly difficult thing to overcome. If it’s laziness, ignorance, or misunderstanding, snap out of it!  But if its shame, a much harder obstacle, know that it can be conquered too. Throw yourself at the feet of Christ’s Divine Mercy, like the woman did in our Gospel today. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered at St. James every Saturday from 3-4pm or as long as it takes; and at St. Ambrose at 7:30am before the 8am Mass. Shame need not keep you from the sacrament forever or sentence you to a vicious cycle of confessing the same thing over and over. God’s Mercy endures forever, I’ve seen it unfold before my very eyes. Let Jesus say to you too what he said to the woman today: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Let his forgiveness enflame your heart with love, love for those who suffer, but especially love for Him, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

A father – myself first of all – who wishes to save his worldly life: the life of his own choosing and pleasures, free from any sacrifices of love, will lose his spiritual life and the spiritual lives of his family over whom he has been placed as their provider and protector. But a father who, with the help of grace, works through daily conversion, through daily taking up his cross, to lose his own life of choices and pleasures; who prefers God and his family over himself, will save his spiritual life and the spiritual lives of his family. Fathers, take your families to confession! especially now that the kids are home from school. The restoration of true, authentic fatherhood, natural and spiritual, and the salvation of our families depends on it.

I cannot thank all of you enough for the trust you have placed in me, in coming to me for confession. I hope that these have been spiritually rewarding experiences for you. I hope that the penances you received helped to restore and strengthen your relationship with the Church. The best way you could honor me when I am away would be to continue to make use of that sacrament.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Farewell Homily, 10th Sun Ordinary Time Year C

Well… this is a sad day for me, my last Sunday here at St. James. My last official day isn’t until Tuesday, June 18 but next weekend, Father’s Day weekend, I’ll be here on Saturday night and on Sunday I’ll be at St. Ambrose and St. Ignatius… so that makes today my last Sunday with you as your Associate Pastor. My new assignment, as many of you know, will be at Holy Trinity in Fredericktown and Holy Rosary in Manton. They are in the same general area, between Bardstown and Springfield, off of US-150. I hope you’ll be able to join me in Batcheldor Hall after the 12:15pm Mass today for a going away party when I can thank all of you in more detail for a wonderful first two years of Priesthood.

I think the readings today, in a sense, encapsulate well my time here with you, my Mission here as a recently ordained priest, a mission to respond in love. Jesus comes upon a funeral procession as it makes its way through the gates of the city of Nain. Unlike when he raised to life the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue official, or when he raised Lazarus, his beloved friend – this time no one makes any appeal to him. This time, near the gate of the city, he raises to life the son of the widow of Nain on his own accord, moved with mercy and compassion, for she had lost everything. After this the people glorified God, remembering how the prophet Elijah similarly raised to life the son of the widow of Zarephath, as described in our first reading. Here Jesus shows us his great love and compassion for those who are suffering.

He also provides a vivid model for every priest to follow in his own pastoral and sacramental ministry. It is the law of love that motivates Jesus, not the ritual purity laws that dictated him to stay away from contact with the dead. The law of love motivates him to act, motivates him to step forward, to give of himself, to not simply pass by, to not wait to be called upon. This law of love must motivate the hearts of Christ’s priests as well. It must be their impetus, their impulse.

As you probably know, I can tend to be somewhat shy and introverted. But one of the greatest gifts you have given me has been the opportunity and the welcome to be among you “near the gate,” so to speak, of so many profound moments. You have given me a chance. You have created what one of my old professors used to call, “the condition of possibility” for me to begin to try to follow Jesus’ example as a priest, to step out, to step forward, called by love: “Near the gate” of so many hospital rooms every Monday morning for Anointings and Holy Communion; “near the gate” of this Church for so many Masses and funerals; “near the gate” of the baptismal font for Baptisms and Easter Vigil Confirmations; “near the gate” of the confessional – the great sacrament of mercy; “near the gate” of the sanctuary for weddings; “near the gate” of our classrooms and meeting rooms, teaching and catechizing; “near the gate” of the detention center for confessions and Mass for the prisoners; “near the gate” of the basketball court, cheering on our children; near all of these “gates” so to speak, these occasions for ministry, you have accepted and welcomed me. I cannot say enough how much you have helped me in this way to grow a pastoral heart and to respond to the impetus to love.  Please forgive me for the times when I did not step forward and when I stepped forward to harshly.

Lumen Gentium, the Latin title for the document from Vatican II that dealt with different aspects of the Church, gives a beautiful description of priestly ministry. It says in paragraph 41: “The shepherds of Christ’s flock must [in a holy way] and eagerly, humbly and courageously carry out their ministry, in imitation of the eternal high priest, the shepherd and guardian of our souls. They ought to fulfill this duty in such a way that it will be the principal means also of their own sanctification” (LG 41). This means that the very carrying out of their ministry will be what makes priests holy. The very exercise of their ministry is the means by which God intends to make them saints. Praise God for this! Praise God for you! To a degree that only God knows, I believe that by accepting me and my ministry, you have helped me to grow in holiness. There is no greater gift you could have given me over these two years than that.

Throughout the Mass, most of the prayers are said out loud to God the Father, either directly or in dialogue form with you. But there are some prayers that the priest whispers, in a voice inaudible to the congregation; they are private prayers between God and the priest. Two of these are said as the priest receives Communion. Before he consumes the Host, he whispers, “May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.” And before he drinks the Precious Blood from the chalice, he whispers, “May the Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.” Hmm… “the Body of Christ” – in light of these readings it may be said that that phrase at that time refers to you too, in a mystical way, the Body of Christ. As Lumen Gentium put it, insofar as I am faithful to being the “shepherd and guardian of your souls,” I am being kept safe for eternal life. Thus, God-wiling, we are keeping each other safe for that resurrection and life that never ends – “eternal life.”

Let us pray for each other. As Christ steps forward and touches our lives, let us always be together in stepping forward to meet him, each of us being faithful to our own vocations, our own unique ways of life. Then we can always be together, together in “glorifying God,” always “near the gate” of his Church, always together extolling Christ, saying, “‘A great prophet has arisen in our midst,’ and ‘God has visited his people.’”

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Courage Presentation

Here is a link to the PowerPoint presentation that Deacon Stephen Bowling and I gave to the presbyterate of the Archdiocese of Louisville on the Courage Apostolate that we are forming.  Courage is a ministry to persons with same sex attraction who want to be faithful to Church teaching regarding homosexuality and who want the Church’s help in maintaining a chaste lifestyle.

The link is in “tiny” format and goes to the PowerPoint file on my SkyDrive

For more info, see