Thursday, March 31, 2011

Growing in my priesthood

I'm fat. There, I've said it. I might even be obese. I'm not sure how many pounds overweight you have to be for that classification, but I'm up there.

The readings today smacked me in the head: Jeremiah and the stiff-necked, back-turning, hard-hearted people. The gang that are so stubbornly unwilling to accept Jesus as the messiah that they credit the Devil for saving a man from possession. The truth was right there in front of all of them, but it was so much more convenient to believe something else.

So who is to blame for my girth? Everyone but me!!!!
Nah, just kidding.

Let's try it again. Who is to blame? Me. Myself. I.

This may be a no-brainier, but living alone requires discipline in a lot of ways, especially with regards to eating habits. I'm not a victim of corporate fast food. No one held me down and jammed White Castles down my throat against my will. I wasn't lured into McDonald's because of the promise of a cute toy in a Happy Meal. It's not about the parishioners who bake for events and then insist I take the uneaten cakes back to the rectory (I even considered lying and telling them I'm a diabetic, but then they'd just make the same cakes with Splenda). It's not because of my workload or meetings. It's because of "What I have done (ate junk) and what I have failed to do (exercise)". Where have I heard that before?

I got myself where I am. Arriving at that conclusion may not seem like much of an accomplishment from your point of view, but for me this was like getting knocked off of the horse on the road to Damascus (or maybe scales falling from my eyes, I'm not sure). No more stubbornness. No more excuses why.

I write this so that I can't hide from it. You who have known me for years have known this and, God love you, you've been more than polite in not saying what is totally obvious.

I will do this myself, but I seek your help. No, not money. Accountability. Feel free to ask, "Exercised today?", or, "When was the last time you had fast food?".

There you go. Brutal honesty on the internet. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to congratulate myself with a donut. No, not really. Wouldn't that be sad?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"What's so wrong with...?"

Here's a LINK to a great article that was passed along to me. Worth a read if you're tired of the Church's liturgy becoming "improv night" at your local church.

Monday, March 28, 2011

3 Points of View

Some thoughts about this morning's 1st reading at Mass, the story of Naaman the leper.
  1. Naaman, in search of a cure, heads down to Israel with a load of treasure. He presumes that a cure is going to cost him a bribe to the King. Here Naaman is concerned with handling things as he thinks other people expect.
  2. He ends up at Elisha's house, parks in front, and Elisha sends him the cure in message form. Naaman is put off because Elisha doesn't even do him the courtesy of coming to the door. Im sure in his home country and in the lands he's conquered, doors get opened for him and important people fawn all over him. Now, Naaman has let the way he sees himself get in the way.
  3. Finally, there is the way God sees it, and the cure to his leprosy. Naaman goes and jumps in the Jordan seven times. Not only is he cured of the leprous sores of putrefying flesh (no reason to tell you that, other than I love that word), but his skin goes back to being the skin of a baby. Only when he moves beyond others and himself can he open himself up to God.
What a great lesson in our spiritual lives.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

See the big picture

The first 2 weeks of Lent tell the same story, no matter which cycle of reading we're in:

Week 1 = temptations
Week 2 = transfiguration

But in the 3rd week, the cycles break off from each other. This week we heard the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman who meet at Jacob's well. It's a great conversation between Our Lord and the Samaritan woman, but it's been a long day and I'm sure most of you reading this heard something about the conversation.

More than the parts, look at the whole. The woman has a conversation with Jesus. He speaks, she listens. She speaks, He listens. He questions, she responds. She speaks, He answers. He knows everything about her. She goes from calling him "a Jew" to "the Messiah" (meaning she has grown to know Him better). We should envy her, wish we were her, desire to imitate her.

We certainly can do so. Lent is about almsgiving, fasting, and PRAYER. Who better to put in front of us than someone who converses with the Lord? Who better to learn from and imitate.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Stations all year, penitential days every Friday

I just returned from the recitation of Stations of the Cross over in the church. Never has there been so simple a devotion that causes such havoc on knees and leg muscles for two days afterward!

I wonder why parishes don't encourage the recitation of Stations all year round. I mean, the Stations are not like the Advent wreath, here for the season and then gone 'til next time. In our churches, for the most part, they are permanent fixtures. But you never hear of public recitation of the Stations outside of the season of Lent.
Am I wrong? Please, if anyone has been to a parish that does have regular recitation of the Stations of the Cross, let me know.
Today, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, much has been made about the fact that Canon 1251 specifically says that you do not abstain from meat on days that rank as Solemnities in the Church. In other words, in celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord today, the Church asked us to "step out" of Lent. We wore white vestments. We sang/chanted/recited the Gloria and the Creed. The final piece of it is that we were given a "treat" by the Church to allow ourselves some meat today. We do it when St. Joseph's Day falls on a Friday. We have to ask to do it with regards to St. Patrick, since his feast is a commemoration during Lent (ranking him with St. Turibio, among others), and not a Solemnity. Like most things in the Church, though, there is even an exception to that. If you live in a diocese or archdiocese that has St. Patrick as a diocesan patron or secondary patron (New York, Boston, Burlington (VT), Erie (PA), Fort Worth, Harrisburg, Norwich (CT), or Sacramento), then his feast is celebrated as a Solemnity, and no dispensation from the law is needed.

Now, part of this "ho hum" attitude is that, for many of us, Fridays of Lent are the only times meat is not a regular part of our diets. To understand the treat we're given in Canon 1251, we need to look at Canon 1250:
"All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the universal Church."
Heard about that lately?

Monday, March 21, 2011

On Beatification and Bones

A part of the process connected with the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II is starting to make waves.

An AP story carried on Yahoo news talks about relics connected to JP2, whether first class (parts of his body - or, as you can read, his blood) or second class (items used by the late Pontiff - clothing, etc.).

Part of the procedures leading up to Beatification involves exhumation and examination of the deceased's body, as well as the collection of 1st class relics (10 pounds, I once read) to be sent to Rome. Since Pope John Paul is obviously already in Rome, this will be a much simpler process.

This will give the media a chance to poke more fun at the Church, calling us ridiculous for such devotion to clothing and body parts. The thing is, these are the same people who were awfully quiet when the clothing belonged to Princess Diana or Jacqueline Onassis, or the hair belonged to Elvis or Michael Jackson.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

2 great Dolan posts

Both of these come from Archbishop Dolan's blog:

The first one is the Archbishop telling a story about an encounter he had in an airport. Not for the faint of heart, but the reality of the way some people see things.

The second one is the Archbishop's pastoral letter, entitled, "The Altar and the Confessional".

The Meat Police - encore

I first wrote this blog entry during Lent of 2007, when I was assigned at another parish. But, this past Friday, as I stopped in a local pizzeria for some meat-free lunch, the same situation happened once again as it did four years ago:

Priests wear many hats in their daily work. Yes, supernaturally we're "other Christ's", and "co-workers of the Bishops." But naturally, if you will, at times we wear the hat of an office manager, a teacher, a decorator, a floral designer, a carpenter, and quite often a janitor.

And today I realized we have another title that only comes out this time of year.

So there I was, walking into my local pizzeria, ready to get myself some lunch, when I realized that people are looking over at me. Then, suddenly, it's a little quieter than it was when I first walked in. People started contorting, twisting as if they were protecting whatever it was on their tables.

That's when it hit me. It's a Friday of Lent, officially a meatless day, it's lunch time, and I've become the freakin' Meat Police!

All the Catholics in the place are treating me like this is a roadside drunk-driver checkpoint, and I've got a flashlight pointed at their plates. "Hmmmm, is that a BLT I see?" "Did you seriously think a turkey burger doesn't count as meat?" I'm like those Gestapo agents in Hogan's Heroes who only seem to say, "Your papers, please."

To be honest, I really don't care what they were eating. But it was kind of fun watching the Catholics in the pizza shop show me how incredibly bad they'd be at playing poker. The part of their brains that houses "Catholic guilt" works faster than the part of their brains that tells muscles not to make sudden movements in a vain attempt to hide the hoagie.

Your faces gave you away, but I'll let you off with a warning this time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SC 54

About once a month, as the schedule allows, I do a "Catholic Q&A" in my parish, inviting anyone and everyone to come learn more about our faith. One of the questions I received had to do with the fact that, during the season of Lent, we've begun using the Latin Agnus Dei plainchant during daily Mass. The questioner wondered if this was just for Lent or a permanent thing.

In answering the question, I rambled a bit [no surprise if you know me] and eventually read for them from Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, paragraph 54:
"A suitable place may be allotted to the vernacular in Masses which are celebrated with the people ... Nevertheless care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them."
I think this surprised most of the people there. While most Catholics will tell you that "Vatican II called for the end of Latin", not many have heard that, when it comes to musical settings, through the years we were supposed to have been taught to be able to recite or sing the Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, Mortem Tuam (a.k.a. memorial acclamation), Our Father, and Lamb of God.

Hopefully by now the Catholic who attends Mass weekly knows that the English translation of Mass will be changing next Advent. Along with the prayers, we'll also be hearing new musical settings for the retranslated Mass propers. Along with the new settings in English, I think a golden opportunity exists to, about 50 years after the fact, implement what was called for by the Council.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Some thoughts

I'm trying to make good on my resolution to blog more, so having just finished Mass, a funeral, and some laundry, I've got a moment.

Every time I said the word, "Temptations" (a few times per homily/4 homilies in the weekend), all I could think about was the musical group. "My Girl" kept going through my head. But anyway...

It was a great weekend for readings, if we're going to take Lent as a time to reflect upon sin, our weakness, and the usefulness of the season in our goal to defeat sin.

First, the 1st Reading:

The Devil is cunning. He's not some buffoon in a red suit and a pitchfork. He's dangerous. His presence requires our attention.

"Did God really tell you no to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" Of course God didn't say that, and the Devil knows that. That's a lie. All sin is a lie.

"You certainly will not die." True, your body will not die if you eat the fruit (the tree is not poisonous), but that's not the problem. We are body and soul, and each will be affected by breaking God's command. As for the body, eat of it and your life afterwards will certainly suck, compared to how good you had it before. As for the soul, there's the bigger problem. Bodies die, souls do not. For all the bad that will happen to the body after Original Sin (work for your food, sweaty labor, pain in childbirth, etc.), at least that ends with death. A soul separated from God through deliberate, grave sin will remain that way forever. If there's fruit on every freakin' tree around you, is it really worth it to eat the one you're not supposed to?

"The moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods..." Well, there it is, isn't it? The root of sin. Making ourselves little 'mini-gods'.

"The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes..." All sin looks good from a distance. It makes sense at the moment we think of doing it.

"she also gave some to her husband, WHO WAS WITH HER," Adam was there the whole time Eve is being tempted and doesn't say a word. If Eve sinned by commission, Adam's sin was omission. Sometimes we sin by doing; other times by not doing.

"Then the eyes of both of them were opened" After sin comes shame for ourselves and distance from other people as well as between us and God.

Now, the Gospel:

"command that these stones become loaves of bread." Matthew tells us Jesus is hungry, and the Devil knows it. He could have tempted Jesus on day 4, or 7, or 19, or 36, but he waited until he was hungry. The Devil knows our weakness(es). He's not going to attack us where we're strong (remember, he's no idiot), he goes for the flaws. Lent is a time to work on our weaknesses, to acknowledge them and do what needs to be done to make them less so. So what about the temptation, 'turn stones into bread'? In other words, "Satisfy yourself, Jesus. Take what you want. Don't wait, don't deny yourself." The Devil's first temptation, even when it comes to us, is to SELFISHNESS. We are an instant gratification society.

"Throw yourself down. God will catch you, won't He?" Test God, Jesus. If you won't, are you afraid He won't be there? Afraid He won't 'pass the test'? The second way the Devils tempts is is to DOUBT. Maybe God isn't there? Maybe I'm not important or good enough to earn His attention? There's real suffering in Japan, am I wrong in bothering God with my little problems? If I can't conquer these little things, should I even bother the big things? The Devil loves playing mind games with us, beware of them.

"All these I shall give you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me." OK, I can't break you of your relationship with God the Father, but I can certainly make your life easier, Jesus. Just bend your knee to me, Jesus, in submission. No one has to know; it'll be our little secret. The third temptation is to COMPROMISE. Where do we find that? In the Catholics who do attend Mass weekly, but think it's perfectly fine to arrive late or leave early. In those who do go to Confession, but deliberately hold back saying all their sins.

SELFISHNESS. DOUBT. COMPROMISE. Wanna know where to focus your attention during Lent?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How I spent my summer vacation

Well, not really. Last summer is a memory, and next summer hasn't happened yet.

But it has been 43 days since my last entry. In the last two weeks, in particular, I've had more than a few people ask me why I wasn't blogging anymore.

No reason, really. Lots of reasons, actually. I don't know. What was the question again?

To be honest, blogging is a bit of a thing of the past. Facebook does it better, and it's much easier to put a thought or two onto a Facebook page than have to write something relevant, witty, and complete, on a blog. Don't get me wrong, I am overwhelmingly flattered that people want to read what I have to say. I thank you all for your support and your very kind words. You mean the world to me.

I've also been a bit busy lately, unlike some of the bloggers out there, I have a "daytime job", so to speak, and that comes first (and second, and third). Blogging has always been more of a freetime activity than a ministry, so when the freetime diminishes, so does the blogging.

BUT, Lent is here, and with it, the chance to not just eliminate something from my life but also add something. So, yes, I will try to be more attentive to the blog and spewing my sludge around the blogosphere for any and all who wish to read.

I'll be around here more often, and I hope you will, too.