Friday, May 29, 2009

So long "Fr. Oprah"

Rev. Alberto Cutie has apparently decided that the Episcopal Church is where he wants to be. The Puerto Rican born priest who had hosted radio and television programs for Telemundo and the Archdiocese of Miami, and who had been removed from his parish assignment after publication of photos of him cavorting with his girlfriend, was received into the Episcopal church on Thursday. story here.
It is disturbing that he did so without informing, let alone discussing the move with his bishop. (Archbishop Favalora's statement here) I'll try not to be too judgemental, however I cannot help but recognize a lack of maturity in the manner in which this situation was handled.

Scientology on trial in France

Is Scientology a religion, or a scam? That seems to be the crux of the debate in France where French prosecutors are charging Scientology's French affiliate with organized fraud. Time article here.
While I am persuaded this movement is more cult than religion and poses a serious threat to the spiritually and emotionally vulnerable, I am ill at ease with the potential of a government meddling in even this quasi-religious morass. It will be interesting to see if the prosecutors can demonstrate that this group is essentially scamming its members and what fallout there may be for orthodox religious groups.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Baptized at 90

For those of us who were baptized shortly after our births and who had the blessing to grow up in (and into) our Catholic faith, the story of Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge, who was just baptized into the faith at the age of 90 is remarkable. Maruge took the name Stephen after the first Christian martyr, remarking, "this is a name for those who have endured hardships like me."
Story is here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A house with no foundation

An intriguing piece on ABC Australia regarding a parish in Brisbane that has managed to separate itself from the Church (I am sure that they would characterize it as haven been kicked out). This faith community has been and remains very active in areas of social justice and should be lauded for that. However, in theology, sacramentality and practice, it would appear that they have lost all grounding.
A fascinating study of the "Spirit of Vatican II" run amok. under the title Holier than Thou

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sound of Music

If only life were as spontaneous as this staged event event appears.

Abuse is abuse...

I was struck this morning by the story in Chicago of a 38-year old teacher (married and the mother of 2) who had a sexual relationship with a 16-year old student. I have done enough VIRTUS training sessions that I am quick to shout out, "Don't soft pedal this. This is Child Sexual Abuse."
Two things attracted my attention. The first was the gender bias that exists in the mind of the abuser and in the minds of many who will read the story. When the victim is female, this would be clearly recognized as abuse. Because the victim is male and the abuser female, the thought exists in the minds of many, that the victim "got lucky."
The second point of reflection for me was the difference in handling such cases in the schools as opposed to the church. Had the accused been teacher in a school of the archdiocese or church employee of any type, the accused would be immediately relieved of all duties and effectively terminated. In this case the superintendent announced the accused "...will be reassigned while the district investigates."
Granted, the church has failed in years past to act so quickly, but I am proud that procedures have been put in place that place the safety of the young as the first priority even if at the cost of due process for the accused. It may not be fair, but it protects the vulnerable.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Archdiocese of Chicago Ordains 15 Deacons

By Dave Brencic

On May 24, 15 men were ordained permanent deacons by Cardinal Francis George at St. Queen of All Saints Basilica in Chicago.
“The ordination of these 15 men to the diaconate is a great blessing for the Archdiocese of Chicago, and the people of God, “said Deacon Bob Puhala, director of the archdiocese’s Deacon Formation Program. “Holy Orders is a tremendous gift and grace both individually and for the Church. Having been formed to share in the bishop’s ministry through service to the Word, Liturgy and Charity, these new deacons can be icons of Christ the Servant in their tri-fold ministry to God’s people. Not to mention their opportunity to be the Church’s visible sacramental sign of diakonia in the community and workplace.”

The following is a brief capsule of who these men are, their wives and families, and their plans for ministry.

Jeremy Carter
Jeremy, and his wife, Denise, of Zion, are members of St. Patrick Church in Wadsworth. The Carters are co-owners of a family furniture store (Britt Carter & Co.) and have three children: Michael, 14; Matthew, 12, and Meghann, 9.
Jeremy, 35, says he has been asked to work on a Peace and Justice Ministry that will be looking to more effectively assist, coordinate and bring awareness to those in need. The parish already has several different social justice ministries such as Peru Mission, the Waukegan Soup Kitchen and working with the sharing parish.
As far as a highlight of formation, Jeremy says it would be his two classmates and best friends Don and Larry. “This faith journey has taken us from Chicago’s streets to Peruvian deserts, from the tops of mountains to flowing rivers of grace, from truck stops to wine vineyards, from castle to homeless shelters. We have traveled down endless paths during these years of formation, and God guided our steps. I could not give as much as I received. I have been so blessed,” Jeremy says.

Franco Foti
Franco and his wife Silvia belong to Our Lady of the Snows Parish in Chicago. Franco, 46, works as a systems analyst. The Fotis have two children: Alessandra, 14, and Gabriel, 10.
After ordination, it’s “a work in progress,” Franco says. He will be devoting time to the three areas of diaconal ministry with emphasis on the sacraments of formation and community outreach. Franco says “sharing with a wonderful group of human beings what diaconal ministry is all about” was his highlight during formation.
Silvia calls the formation program an “amazing process.” She says she appreciates being included “every step of the way so that I could better understand and support my husband in his new life as a deacon.”

Kevin D. Hill
A member of St. John Brebeuf Church in Niles, Kevin, 63, lives in Park Ridge and works as an office assistant for the state of Illinois Department of Agriculture. After ordination, Kevin plans to run the English-speaking Baptism prep classes, be a spiritual director for Ministers of Care and a FOCCUS coach.
“The FIGS/TRGS groups and listening to my classmates talk about how the Holy Spirit has and is changing their lives,” were highlights for Kevin.

Robert J. Landuyt
Robert, 51, and his wife, MaryJo, belong to Our Lady of the Ridge Church in Chicago Ridge. The couple lives in Worth and has five children: Patricia, 28; Daniel, 25; Timothy, 22; Mark 20; and Mykayla, 7.
Robert works as a public safety coordinator at Xavier University. He wants to serve the parish where needed, continue in music ministry and assist with catechesis in religious education. Robert also wants to be an advocate for foster/adoptive parents and victims of abuse and families of abused victims. In addition, he wants to work with families coping with mental illness.
“When I started the process, I could never have imagined the amount of knowledge that I would ascertain. The gift of being able to tap the knowledge of my educators and classmates has been invaluable. No one can take away my experiences,” Robert says. “Besides the academic piece, my spiritual journey has been greatly enhanced through my regular get-togethers with my spiritual director. I do not feel I could have completed the journey to ordination without my spiritual director.”
The formation and academic experience also has been positive for MaryJo. “This has been an opportunity for ongoing formation and academic enrichment that most people would never avail themselves. The knowledge will surely make us better equipped to serve the Lord within the church and community,” MaryJo says.
“This journey has allowed Bob and me to share more intimately in our desire to be involved in the church. I have been more than excited to have Bob share in the common experiences I did as I achieved my degree and experienced formation in all the different archdiocese lay formation programs. It has given us so much to talk about!”

Donald R Maiers
Donald, 42, and his wife, Roxanne, have two children, Savannah, 16, and Shannon, 13. The Maiers, residents of Hoffman Estates, belong to St. Marcelline Church in Schaumburg. Donald works as a data warehousing professional. Once ordained, he will be taking over administration of the baptismal preparation ministry at the parish. The Maiers also will be working with the religious education program.
“There has been so much that was very good” in the program, Donald says. “I would have to say that getting to know both our instructors and fellow candidates and wives was the biggest highlight. I have learned so much from all of them in so many ways.”
According to Roxanne, “attending the Diaconate Formation Program with my husband has been a tremendous gift for me and for us as a couple. I feel blessed for being able to journey along with my husband throughout the past four years and have watched him grow in every way. I can now appreciate and understand what his ‘calling’ to be a deacon really means. His call to sacrifice and to serve others is what we are all called to do and he has acted on that ‘calling.’ On behalf of my daughters, Savannah and Shannon, and myself, we’d like to say how very proud we are of Don becoming a deacon.”

James Minor
Members of Prince of Peace Church in Lake Villa, James and Nancy Minor are residents of Round Lake Beach. James, 46, works as a youth minister. They have two adult children and two grandchildren. After ordination, James plans to be involved with adult faith formation and marriage ministry with Nancy.
“The highlight of the formation process for me was the experience of the summer internships in social justice, sharing parish and home parish. These internships, each in their unique way, took the classroom work and faith sharing that occurred during the year and put it into a concrete and practical experience of ministry,” James says.
“My hope and prayer after ordination is to be able to serve the people of God wherever I am called. I hope to rely on others in my class and others I have met to help me in this work. I am constantly reminded we are simply instruments that God uses to accomplish what He needs. With the unwavering support of my wife and family, I am truly humbled to be able to be one of those instruments.”
Nancy echoed those comments: “The experience of formation for me made me realize how many talented, gifted and dedicated people are members of our class. It is my hope that we remain close with each other after ordination.

John P. Orzechowski
A member of Our Lady of the Ridge Church in Chicago Ridge, John Orzechowski, 51, works with home health care products.After ordination, he plans to work with the RCIA, adult education and Bible study in addition to the usual deacon duties.
During formation, John said he “found all of it very interesting and stimulating, but I think that the highlight was the final summer internship. It was a lot of work, but very rewarding. I felt that it was a good way to see what the commitment of ministry work in the parish would be like. I got to know the people at Our Lady of the Ridge in a deeper way.”

William Schultz
William Schultz, 59, and his wife, Andrea, live in Orland Park and belong to St. Stephen Deacon and Martyr Church in Tinley Park. They have a son, 38, two daughters ages 31 and 29, and four grandchildren. William works as a chief inspector/compliance officer for the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
In addition to parish needs, William says he would like to continue working with the addiction/recovery community."Diversity training and both the parish internship and aspirancy year social justice internship were highlights of formation.
Andrea says she is very proud of her husband and humbled by this whole journey.

Barry Schliesmann
Barry Schliesmann, 46, and his wife, Kimberly, belong to Saints Faith, Hope and Charity Church in Winnetka. Barry works as a technology executive. The Schliesmanns have three children, Liam, 12, Annikka, 9, and Tomas, 8.
Barry said his highlight from formation was “learning to pray and praying together as a class.”

Larry Schumacher
Larry Schumacher, 51, and his wife, Karen, from Hoffman Estates, belong to St. Theresa Church in Palatine. The Schumachers have two children, Audrey, 33, and Melissa, 22, and two grandchildren. Larry works as electrical engineer at Motorola.
He says the highlight of formation was “the integration of the whole program, the classes, formation days, Theological Reflection Groups, practicums, retreats, etc, have really prepared me for my diaconate ministry. “The bonds that we made with our fellow classmates were another unexpected highlight. They have all helped me to become a better person. We have had annual Christmas parties and picnics. Our friendships are very strong.”

Edward Simola
Edward Simoloa, 64, and his wife, Elaine, are members of St. William Church in Chicago. The Simolas have a daughter, Erica, and two grandchildren. Edward works as a receiving clerk. Edward says he enjoyed the academic classes, but considers the highlights to be the practicums during the second and third years of studies.
“This is where the rubber meets the road. This is what I have studied for and will be my basic ministries. I look forward to celebrating them,” Edward says. “From going to Chicago-Reed Mental Health Center for my internship after aspirancy to feeding the homeless at St. Stanislaus Kostka soup kitchen, I have found that there are many people who need assistance. While this may not be my ministry within the parish, I look forward to offering my assistance at similar facilities periodically but in a much greater role.”
For her part, Elaine says she is “very honored and privileged to have accompanied my husband on his journey towards the diaconate. I wouldn’t have given up the last four years for anything. Teachings as well as experiences shared were reinforcements of our faith.”

Tim Springer
Tim Springer, 59, and his wife, Lee, belong to St. Jude the Apostle in South Holland. The Springers have four children: Matthew, 32; Sarah, 30; Emily, 27; and Megan 24. Tim works as a vice president of sales for Black Industrial Supply Corp.
After ordination, Tim plans to work with parish ministry, Momma’s Meals, marriage prep and FOCCUS.
“The formation process was enriching in all areas of our lives,” Tim says. “The program enriched our faith and helped us grow in the love of God. We were blessed to have classmates who shared their own faith, their love for God and their love for the Catholic Church. This has sparked into flame the desire to continue to share the gospel and to build the Kingdom of God.”
Lee says her journey in the program has “nourished and strengthened my love for my husband, my family and most importantly, my love for Christ and his people. I am more deeply aware of Christ working in my life. My heart, soul and mind are open to his call.”

Allen Tatara
Allen Tatara, 45, and his wife, Stephanie, have three children, Joseph, 17, Daniel, 15, and Nathan, 15. They belong to St. Hubert Church in Hoffman Estates. Allen works as a marketing manager.
Allen plans to work in youth ministry and serve as lector coordinator and trainer.
He says he really enjoyed “the time spent together with my wife throughout formation. It was a wonderful experience to share our classes together, and I especially loved our ‘talk time’ on the rides to and from class. The social justice internship after aspirancy year was also a spiritual turning point for me.”

Joseph A. Walsh
Joseph A. Walsh, Ph.D, 64, and his wife, Katherine, of River Forest are members of Ascension Church in Oak Park. The Walshes have four children: David, 40; Laura, 39; Maureen, 38; and Matthew, 35; along with nine grandchildren. Joseph is a professor and dean emeritus at the School of Social Work for Loyola University in Chicago.
After ordination, Joseph plans to work in various sacramental activities in the parish with an emphasis on support of young marriages and families.
He says there were three highlights during formation: 1) “The candidates and spouses with whom we were in formation are a wonderful, holy, committed group of people who inspired us throughout; 2) our parish internship with the strong support of the pastor, staff and parishioners was especially helpful; 3) we very much appreciated the involvements with our twinning parish: St. Martin de Porres,” Joseph says.
“The Deacon Formation Program staff is a very competent and generous-hearted group of people who are consistently looking for ways to make the program richer and stronger. The mentor couples who led us in small faith-sharing groups were models of hospitality and good will. They all deserve our deepest thanks.”

Thomas Westerkamp
Thomas Westerkamp, 55, and his wife, Diane, belong to St. James Church in Arlington Heights. They have three children: Laura, 26; Michele, 24; and Christine, 20. Thomas works as a pharmacist. The Westerkamps plan on being involved with the sick and homebound as Ministers of Care, and may assist with the religious education program.
Thomas says conducting prayer services and praying with the staff and residents of the Chicago Read Mental Health Center during aspirancy year were real highlights for him.
“Socializing with, and getting to know people who have been in the mental health systems for years, and even decades, was humbling, spiritual and inspiring.
“One of the most fulfilling ‘fringe benefits’ of the formation program was getting to know classmates and spouses who are faith-filled, wonderful, caring people of God.”
For her part, Diane says, “It has been an exciting and challenging journey that has enhanced my spiritual growth. It has ignited a burning desire in me to deepen my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And I look forward to the end of this experience and the beginning of the next.”

Two bishops, two messages

On Friday, Bishop Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO. was reported in the diocesan newspaper The Catholic Key, as saying that President Obama's statement that there are "irreconcilable differences" between the pro-life camp and the pro-abortion camp, effectively brings a "screeching halt" to dialogue between the parties.
Bishop Finn cautioned against "taking a 'wait and see' approach" to advancing the pro-life and pro-family cause, citing the danger of losing the battle and wondering why. The full story can be found here.
Also on Friday, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and president of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops praised President Barack Obama’s promise to support conscience clauses. That statement may be found here.
Bishop Finn rightly recognizes that, despite the rhetoric leading to the commencement address at Notre Dame, dialogue was shut off not by the pro-life forces, but by those who do not want to have their positions challenged on scientific, moral or ethical grounds.
Although I expect Cardinal George may be accused by some of being soft on the issue, his statement picks up on a promise made by President Obama and challenges him to make good on it. It is essential that health care professionals not have their conscience rights undermined by those who are apparently intent on forwarding a pro-abortion agenda under the guise of a mis-named "freedom of choice act." This statement is a pragmatic response that may force the president to deliver.
I am proud that our bishops speak out in defense of life and in defense of those who wish to protect life, and also have the wisdom to recognize the opportunity to challenge the administration to live up to its promise to protect conscience rights.
The battle promises to be a long one, sometimes even minor victories help.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Report on abuse in Ireland

The Church in Ireland will now have to deal with the fallout of a report arising from the investigations of abuse of children in church-run reform schools. The victims now range in age from their 50' to their 80's and offer consistent stories of physical and sexual abuse. Story here.
We can only offer our prayers for the victims and our hope that, as has been the case in the United States, the process of facing up to our sins will lead to concrete steps taken to protect all children and to assure that those who would abuse are excluded or removed from ministry. The Executive Summary of the commission may be found here.

The Deacon's Bench: Dan Brown's theology

The Deacon's Bench: Dan Brown's theology

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A word from Archbishop Chaput

Archbishop Chaput of Denver can always be counted upon for thoughtful, frank and theologically sound reflections on the issues of the day. Here is what he has to say about the Notre Dame controversy.

If you've got 90 seconds, here's 5000 years of religion

In checking up on my pastor's tour of the Holy Land, I saw on Steve Ray's Blog a link to a wonderful animated map showing the growth of the world's religions. It is very interesting to see the blossoming of Christianity in the later centuries.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Maybe it was just concindence...

St. Lambert Parish was honored by a visit from Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez of Santiago, Primate of Cuba and newly elected president of the Cuban Catholic Bishops Conference. The archbishop presided at a Mass during which he blessed an image of Our Lady of Charity given to St. Lambert by Cuban parishioners. St. Lambert parishioner, Thelma Perez, recalled Archbishop Garcia very well from her childhood in Guantanamo where her brother and the future archbishop were good friends.
In addition to a strong representation of Cuban émigrés who are members of St. Lambert, St. Ita or other parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the liturgy was attended by Jimmy Lago, Chancellor of the Archdiocese and a broad cross section of St. Lambert’s Filipino, European, Haitian, Sri Lankan and other parishioners.
About a week later, as Archbishop Garcia was preparing to leave Chicago, Margarita Garcia (no relation) presented him with some small gifts as mementos of his visit. Among the gifts was an autographed copy of Scott Hahn’s The Lamb’s Supper in a Spanish edition.
Margarita recounts that, “His eyes lit up like a kid receiving a new toy.” She went on to explain that the Archbishop related that he tries to acquire every book of Dr. Hahn’s as soon as it comes out in Spanish. After reading them himself, he then gives these books to various parishes and prayer groups. The books are then circulated from one faith community to another in much the same way as the letters of Paul were passed between the various early Christian communities.
“I wish I had a way to let Dr. Hahn know,” the archbishop said, “how much his writings are appreciated and what they mean to the people of Santiago.”
Margarita then said with a sly grin, “I think that can be arranged.” She then informed Archbishop Garcia that Fr. Simon, pastor of St. Lambert Parish, was a good friend of Dr. Hahn and could certainly relay the message.
What Margarita was unaware of and learned only after she passed the information along, was that Fr. Simon would be leaving the next day to serve as chaplain on a tour of the Holy Land being led by Dr. Hahn and would be spending the next week and a half with him.
What will develop further remains to be seen, but this series of events serves to remind me of one definition of coincidence as God

The speech is over... back to work

The graduation is over, the honorary degree awarded. The protesters made their positions known. The president of Notre Dame University got the high-profile commencement speaker he wanted at a cost of dollars and credibility that only time will ultimately determine. And the nation will continue to be divided over the the issue of life vs. personal freedom.
The crowds have gone home. Those who profit from the slaughter of innocents will continue their grisly task under the Orwellian designation of "reproductive health services"; those who see the death by abortion of each unborn child as one more murder in the ongoing holocaust will continue to pray for the unborn, their mothers, their executors and perhaps most importantly for a world and society that countenances this atrocity.
If there is any hope to be drawn from the experience of the last few weeks, it might be found in the results of the recently released Gallup Poll indicating the the majority of Americans would now describe themselves as "pro-life" rather and "pro-choice".
I can't help but recall all those years of praying the rosary for the conversion of Russia. Those prayers were often made with more fervor than confidence. Yet, God has a way of surprising us. Russia is now rediscovering her Christian heritage. Let's keep praying and leave the ultimate results up to the Lord.

"No such thing as bad publicity..."

Opus Dei priest Fr. John Wauk, puts an interesting spin on Angels and Demons and DaVinci Code author Dan Brown's apparent fascination with the Catholic Church in an interview with Zenit.
Amidst the inaccuracies and and distortions of both the text and the movie, there is at least one section that reads as if it came from one who actually understands the foundation of the Church.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"This is my commandment: Love one another"

I recall some years back attending a discussion group of Latin Rite Catholics, Byzantine Rite Catholics, and Orthodox Christians reflecting on scripture and Church teaching. Fr. Tom Baima, now provost at Mundelein Seminary, was in attendance. I forget exactly what the topic that evening was, but I recall something that Fr. Baima pointed out in the discussion. He pointed to a difference in how we view the law in the west as opposed to the east. He said that westerners tend to view the law as the floor, easterners view it as the ceiling.
By that he meant in the west we look to the law to define the minimum we must do to remain in compliance. To an eastern mind, laws would be used to set goals to which to aspire.
Jesus had a very eastern mind. When he gave the command to love one another, he did not give an example of what the minimum is to fulfill that command. Rather he gave us the example of love to strive for. He told us that we should love as he has loved us. Look at the cross ─ that’s how much he loved us.

"Love" is a curious word. Our pastor often reminds us that English is an unusual language, and though it is typically vocabulary rich, it is curious that we use the one word “love” to mean many different things.

We love our children. We love our spouse. We love ice cream. We love when the Cubs win ─ or when they lose if you are a Sox fan. We love a cup of coffee in the morning. We love our dog, our car, a nap, a good laugh and our mothers. The one word has such a wide variety of meanings.

But the gospel wasn’t written in English, it was written in Greek. In Greek, there are several different words for love. The best known are: Eros indicating a love that is passionate and sensual, erotic love; Philio for friendship or brotherly love; and the word that John used in this gospel, Agape, meaning a love without thought of return, a sacrificial love. This is the love God holds for us, this is love with which we are commanded to love one another. At its fullest, it is a love to the death, but short of that extreme, it is a love that is self-giving.

In the center of Boston there is a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Six towers are erected, one for each of six major death camps. On a background of millions of numbers assigned to prisoners by the Nazis in the death camps there are stories that speak of the cruelty and suffering these poor people endured. One of the stories is very different from the others. It is the story of a little girl named Ilse and her childhood friend Gerda. Ilse was about six years old when she was imprisoned at Auschwitz. One morning little Ilse found a single raspberry growing in the camp. All day long she carried and protected the raspberry very carefully in her pocket. That evening the little girl’s eyes were shining with joy as she presented her little friend Gerda with her treasure, a single raspberry given to her friend. Many years later the girl who received the raspberry wrote:
“Imagine a world in which the only possession that you have is a single raspberry, and you choose to give it to your friend.”
This is sacrificial love. This love is not unattainable, not abstract, and doesn’t represent the extreme of dying for another. It does represent a self giving, a placing the happiness of another ahead of our own wants or desires.
John tells us in the 2nd reading "In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins."
We are never asked for anything that God has not given us first, this includes love. If we are asked to give up a little to follow God that small sacrifice pales in comparison to what he gave first ─ his only son. God’s commands do not restrict us. To the contrary, they set us free. What is asked of us, that we operate from the starting point of love for each other, is asked so that we might find fullness of freedom and fullness of joy in life.
We are not compelled to obey his commandment unless we are compelled by love of God, and love of Christ. Jesus tells us that he gives this command not as to a slave, but as to a friend. We have the right to refuse, and often we do.
Whenever we fall short of sacrificial love; when we place our own desires and wants at the center of our lives ─ we lose our freedom and hold ourselves captive. The command to love was given, "…so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.”
We gather at the table of the Lord to partake of the sacrament of His love. As we gather, let us ask for forgiveness for the times we have failed, and for nourishment so that we may continue to strive for the perfection of love that Christ has shown us.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.

"No! You've got it backward!"

Fr. Robert Barron reviews Angels & Demons once again demonstrating that it is a bad idea to get your history from Dan Brown.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I pray the rosary...

Here is a delightful video about one of the Churches most popular devotions.
May Feelings II.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A homeless person the world cares about...

One of the child stars of Slumdog Millionaire is homeless after authorities in Mumbai destroyed the house he was living in with his parents. (story here)
The really depressing thing is that the majority of people are disturbed merely because they felt a connection to him as a result of the success of the film.
The homeless and poor are frequently ignored because they remain faceless and unknown to us. Yet each of them offers us an opportunity to encounter Christ. May we be equally disturbed wherever we encounter need and want.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

All things are possible with God

I thought that this might end up filed under "News of the Weird" but I was captivated by the story that Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot the late Pope John Paul II in 1981 during a failed assasination attempt, has expressed a desire to convert to Christianity at a baptism ceremony at the Vatican.
Mr. Agca is now serving a life sentence in Turkey for the murder of a left-wing journalist, in 1979. He is scheduled to be released in January, 2010. More information here and here.

Where have all the Christians gone?

The visit of Pope Benedict to Israel and the Mass offered in the Kidron Valley near the Mount of Olives has highlighted the decline in the number of Christians in the Middle East. Political and civil unrest throughout the region and oppression in certain countries has caused many Arab Christians to emigrate from the birthplace of Christianity. The result is that I will probably encounter more Arab Christians on a typical day here in Skokie than I would on a similar day in almost any nation in the Middle East. The New York Times reports on the situation.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

He's out of the closet

I guess it is official, and certainly not surprising. The Deacon's Bench reports that Archbishop Rembert Weakland acknowledges his homosexuality in a forthcoming memoir to come out in June. In other breaking news, the sun is expected to rise tomorrow.

An honest appraisal of Pope Benedict's trip

To hear from some of the people reporting on Pope Benedict's trip to the Holy Land, you would think that the pope was rather inept... unless you actually read the complaints. For instance, his speech at Yad Vashem was criticized because he referred to the death of "millions" rather than saying "six million" (of course they fail to note that in his speech on first arriving in Israel he did specify six million deaths), and for using the word "killed" rather than "murdered".
That is why I was pleased to read a more balanced report on Zenit.
All people of good will can pray for the success of this trip.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Vine and branches

The gospel reading this last weekend was the familiar "I am the vine and you are the branches" passage from John and, even though I wasn't preaching this weekend, I spent a good amount of time meditating on this passage and thought I would put some of my thoughts down in writing if only to help me clarify my own thought process.
I have been fascinated with the relationship between the individual, the church and Christ. The Gospel speaks of only one vine and the necessity of remaining in relationship to that one vine. When Jesus says, "you are the branches" that "you" is in the plural. In short, to remain in Jesus, it is necessary to remain in communion with one another, i.e. to remain in the Church. Yes, there is a personal relationship with Jesus, but that is not to be a private relationship. Many people seem to want to say, "I believe in Jesus, but I don't believe in organized religion and don't need the Church." As if Christ could be separated from the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ. To be in Christ it is necessary to be in relation to His Church. It seems that whenever an apparent either/or situation apparently exists, the Catholic response is that it must be both/and.

A time for prayer and hope

With Pope Benedict's arrival in Israel and his decision to speak out forthrightly about both the evils of anti-semitism and the right of Palestinians to a homeland, perhaps there is some hope, however faint, that enemies may listen to a voice of peace. That is something for which we can all pray.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

People are not dolls

A guilty pleasure of mine has been the series Dollhouse on FOX. The fundamental premise of the series is that people can be programmed with whatever memories, personalities, knowledge and capabilities are desired to fulfill the wants, needs or desires of those with the resources and willingness to pay.
The morality involved is very much part of the underlying conflict of the show. Is it ethical to use a person for one's own ends if the person being used is a willing participant? What if they are unwilling or unaware?
Using people is becoming evermore a reality today. From the "world's oldest profession" to the artificial conception of a child to provide organs or tissue for a sibling, we have developed myriads of ways of using people.
Following the President Obama's executive order, the National Institute of Health proposed guidelines for federally funded research that will require destroying live human embryos for their stem cells. In essence we have a proposal for a federally funded program to utilize groups of individuals as parts supplies.
The draft guidelines are open for public comment through May 26, 2009. If you are disturbed by this, you may want to check information on the USCCB site here.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Thank you Jesus, I'm ready

Brandon Fiagle was a member of Emmaus Ministries' Kaio Community, a group of volunteers who live in community and help in Emmaus' mission to reach out to men caught up in prostitution. Deacon John Green, the founder of Emmaus Ministries tells this story in his latest newsletter.
Darryl, one of our guys, was in the hospital with just two months to live. On the night Brandon visited Darryl, he found him alert but anxious. Even though he was growing visibly tired, he was reluctant to leave his chair and get into bed.

Darryl admitted that he wasn't ready to die. He was afraid of the unknown. Afraid to be alone. And afraid that if he got into bed, it would be for the last time. Eventually, Brandon persuaded Darryl that he had nothing to fear and stayed with him until he fell asleep in his bed.

The next day, Brandon heard that Darryl had taken a turn for the worse. That night, Brandon returned to the hospital, intending to quietly slip in, pray, and slip out again. He made his way to Darryl's room, where he found his dying friend semi-conscious, moaning and distressed.

"I grew uncomfortable as Darryl's moans continued to become louder," Brandon told me. "If only a little, I began to understand some of the helplessness that Darryl had talked about the night before. As I started to think that I should leave, Darryl shouted a very loud, 'Hi!' It wasn't only loud, but high-pitched, funny, and even childlike."

As Darryl began conversing, Brandon realized that the exuberant greeting wasn't for him. In a pure and innocent manner, Darryl began to repeat, "Thank you, Jesus. I love you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus, I'm ready. Take me with you, Jesus, take me home." Just hours later, Darryl passed away in peace.

Brandon never knew if Darryl was even aware of his presence. But he knew that God was present in that room and that He was there for Darryl.
I''ve heard many near death experiences, but somehow the story of the passing of this lost child of God brings me as much comfort as any of those. I will keep Brandon and Darryl in my prayers.

For information on Emmaus Ministries, check out

Fr. Corapi speaks out

Fr. John Corapi speaks out on the Notre Dame scandal.

Thanks to Jim Frommeyer for sending me this link.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Turn about is fair play

I am many years removed from having to write the dreaded college admission essay, that narrative piece which has the potential to determine the future of your life -- at least it seems that way at the time. I still recall the time I spent laboring over that task though I have no idea now what I wrote then.
It seems only fair that the Wall Street Journal would challenge college presidents to write their own essays. The story and the essays make wonderful reading.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"A rabbi without detractors is not a rabbi"

I was saddened to read in the Chicago Tribune that the dispute between Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz and the leadership of Congregation Agudas Achim in Chicago's Uptown neighborhhood has devolved to the point that the rabbi is being evicted from his home. In the interests of full disclosure I must acknowledge that my pastor is a very close friend of Rabbi Lekfowitz and it was in the context of that friendship that I first had the opportunity to meet the rabbi.
Many found it strange that an ultra-Orthodox Jewish rabbi and a Roman Catholic priest would develop such a strong bond (indeed I am told that theater goers were taken aback when the two jointly attended a showing of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ a couple of years back), but a very deep and abiding respect has grown between the two men.
As one who has had the opportunity to meet and listen to Rabbi Lefkowitz, I have been greatly impressed with his scholarship, his remarkable ability to communicate his beliefs while demonstrating a deep respect for those of other faiths, and most of all with his love and concern for the disadvantaged without regard to faith.
This last trait, which should be close to the heart of every Roman Catholic deacon, is one in which the rabbi sets an example for all believers. Perhaps living one's faith is dangerous in this materialistic world. One of the rabbi's friends is quoted as saying, "I told him, his altruism for wayward people would get him into trouble." Alas, altruism is now a character flaw.
I pray this unfortunate situation will be resolved in such a way that all parties can find satisfaction and that this outstanding teacher may continue his good work.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Is this going to be a gift, or a burden?"

I was taken aback by the story of Sean Stephenson in the Chicago Tribune this morning. I was tempted to describe Sean as "suffering from" Osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition that has stunted his growth, left his bones so brittle that he had to endure more than 200 fractures by the time he was 18, and usually relegates him to a wheelchair. But Sean refuses to "suffer from" his condition.
He points to a time when his mother asked him, "Is this going to be a gift or a burden?" as fundamental to his outlook on life. He now counsels others, is a motivational speaker, and has recently had his first book published.
Part of his story that struck me was how his parents told him to focus on what he could do, not on what he couldn't; and that they used an egg timer to force him to limit his periods of self pity to 15 minutes. (I tend to use a calendar for myself.)
Yup, some days the good Lord has a way of dope-slapping me into the appreciation of all I have been given. It's going to be a good day today.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Protect pedophiles, but not pregnant women?

I'm sure I must be missing some subtle nuance here, but last week a congressional committee blocked an amendment to the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HR 1913) which would have broadened the protected classes under the bill to include pregnant women.
The same committee then blocked an amendment which would have defined "sexual orientation" under the protected classes in such a way as to specifically exclude pedophilia. (committee vote here)
So the end result is that the committee determined that pedophiles should be protected under hate crimes law, but expectant mothers should not.
You can't make this stuff up!
Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made. Otto von Bismarck