Friday, May 22, 2015

"So you are poor and need should call our priest"

I sometimes wonder if we're really listening, as a Church, to everything Pope Francis is saying, or just to the things that we like to hear.

We hear all the time, and rightly so, that the laity are called to exercise a type of priesthood in the world.  We are reminded by Pope Benedict and John Paul II that "it is not the ministers who are the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, but the saints."  Priests are told, more loudly in some circles than others, "don't forget that we laity and you are on equal footing in the Church."  And I say that we SHOULD be reminded of that, and it is true.

However, one area that this "we're all equal and we're all priests" mentality has not sunk in, at least in the parishes I've been in, is with helping the poor.

To my great frustration, I can't tell you how many times some poor person has asked a parishioner for help and that parishioner has said "well, here's our priest's number" or "you should call our parish office" etc.

Folks, that's not Catholicism.

Help the poor people yourselves.  Engage in the Gospel of encounter that Pope Francis is calling us to.

The Holy Father's challenge to go to the margins, to engage the poor, to care for those in need is NOT JUST FOR PRIESTS

I'm ALL for the laity taking on more of what, in times past, may have been tasks and duties that were unnecessarily reserved to priests...but the laity have to live out that responsibility when it is convenient AND when it is inconvenient.

We have to stop outsourcing the care for the poor to someone else because we are busy.

The type of person who says "someone else can take care of this poor person" is the type of person Christ condemned in the parable of the good Samaritan.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The King's Singers and Negro Spirituals

A few months ago I was able to attend a performance by the King’s Singers.  I’m not very cultured, but I have been told by people in the know that the King’s Singers are one of the preeminent vocal groups in the world.

The performance featured pieces from throughout the history of the US, and so several songs were “negro spirituals”.  As I took in the performance, I had a revelation that I feel is VERY important to us Catholics.

The King’s Singers were British, had fancy polished shoes, sports coats, hair gel, etc. – they looked like they were airlifted in from the campus of Yale or Harvard.

And they absolutely nailed every note of every song and the harmonies were amazing and it was worth every penny to hear them. 

However…them singing negro spirituals just didn’t work.

You know why – because negro spirituals didn’t come from the dorm rooms of ivy league schools, nor did they come from cocktail parties...they came from cotton fields and oppression and heat and abuse and suffering.

The “King’s Singers” sang negro spirituals better than the originals but it didn’t work one bit. 

"Working in cotton fields is tough work...we would know!"


1) You learn something about the place of origin when you hear the music and
 2) You learn something about the music when you know its place of origin

The Catholic Mass has a type of music that grew out of it and leads back to it. 
1) When you hear chant, you learn something more about the Mass from which it came, and
2) When you know the Mass you learn something about the music that it spawned

Folk music came from a certain time and place

Hip hop came from a certain time and place

Death metal comes from a certain environment

Praise and worship music comes from a certain environment

And yet, for some reason, some people try to go against what the Church teaches, and they decide that they are going to bring music into the Mass that was
1)  Not something that came from the Mass
2) Does not lead people back to the Mass
3) In fact leads people to some much different place of origin than the Mass

I love folk music, I enjoy clean hip hop, even the occasional “metal” song catches my ear.

A folk Mass doesn’t point people to Transubstantiation because folk music wasn’t born from transubstantiation.  Hip hop doesn’t enhance one’s appreciation for Transubstantiation because hip hop music wasn’t born from an environment of Transubstantiation.

Dylan's genre of music didn't come out from the Mass so it shouldn't be brought IN to the Mass

Having folk songs at Mass is no different and no less absurd than a bunch of proper British chaps singing negro spirituals. 

Let’s stop overcomplicating the issue (and let’s stop sabotaging our own efforts to bring people to Christ) and just do music at Mass the way the Church asks, and in the style of music that was born OUT OF the Mass.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Stop Flirting with God and REMAIN in God's Love!

A couple of alternatives for confession

Part of me hesitates to write this because some already fear confession, and so me pointing out a suggestion to keep in mind will only make them more nervous.

HOWEVER, I feel that the benefit to those who go to confession will far outweigh the negatives


There are two ways to confess the same sin:

1) So I talked with my cousin Stephanie the other day and she was telling me about the trouble that she's having with her kids and I know that she struggles with her kids and I tried to be Christ like to her and listen to her problems and then my spouse came home and he was stressed out from a busy day of work and he hit his head coming into the house and the dog was barking and then the kids were running around and the house was a mess and I hadn't made dinner yet and then my neighbor came over and she needed to borrow a couple of eggs and then I opened the fridge and got some out, but I dropped two of them on the floor.  When my six year old came in and asked for help on his homework, I muttered under my breath but I ultimately sat down and helped him.  I did end up yelling at my husband because he didn't help with dinner, so I guess I'd like to confess being impatient.


2) I'd like to confess the sin of impatience


Sometimes people talk because they are nervous, and that's totally understandable

I write this not to complain, but because there are a couple of realities to keep in mind

1) usually someone else is waiting to go to confession.  If everyone rambles, then every confession is 10 minutes longer and that means that fewer people are able to go to confession

2) ALSO, and this is really why I write, when a person rambles in the confessional about every sin, I have no idea which sin they really struggle with, and thus I have no idea on what sin to offer feedback to them about.  When every sin is 4 minutes, although I'd like to offer feedback, I have no idea where the particular struggles are for a person.


A confession that will truly help a person the most, in my opinion, is something like this

Father, I'd like to confess the following sins
I've been greedy the past few weeks
I've been overly prideful
I've been short with my wife and kids...
And Father, the sin I'd really like some feedback on is ___________ and here's just a brief explanation of the situation

Maybe there aren't any sins that a person needs feedback on that week, and that's obviously great
Maybe there are two or three

But... if a person rambles on about each sin, there's no real way for the priest to know what to do with that.

It is the Year of Mercy, and I pray that everyone grows in devotion to this great sacrament!  If you haven't been in a while, come home and be freed of your burdens!

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day - AWESOME video!

Happy Mother's Day!
Posted by Blackstone Films on Saturday, May 9, 2015

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Why Pro-lifers Should Be Jacked About the New Environmental Encyclical

This is a post I've been wanting to write for a while, and when I saw Mr. John Allen's article today in the Boston Globe, this seemed like a good time to put this together.

John Allen's article today is titled "Pro-life anxiety over Pope Francis’ looming ecological manifesto."  This is not a critique of Allen's piece at all, because there is a huge contingent of people who ARE pro-life and who ARE worried about the pending encyclical.

This fear is understandable. I also think it is misplaced.

I note two sources of this fear among pro-lifers, and the two sources are, in my estimation, of different weight.

1) The first source of this fear is political.  The fear is understandable because so often in our political discourse today, the "climate change" argument is put forward by "liberals" and those from politically conservative camps typically attack the climate change.

To counter this fear, it is important to again remember that the Church is not a political party.  Political parties can be more closely and less closely aligned with the "Catholic World View" but the Church is not a political party.  Neither is the pro-life movement.  Pro-life Catholics (which is what ALL Catholics are supposed to be) shouldn't fear an encyclical on immigration, just because, in their estimation, anti-life politicians are more vocally supportive of immigration reform.

2) The deeper fear of a papal encyclical is, as Allen notes, a fear that talk of addressing the environment and taking steps to be better stewards of the Earth will ALSO be extended to justify population control.  Again, there is, on the surface, evidence for this fear.  A lot of people who talk about climate change in the world today put forth, as one of their top solutions for "saving the environment", population control measures (greater access to abortion, sterilizations (forced if necessary), artificial contraception, etc.).

But here's why I (as a "pro-life Catholic") am jacked for the encyclical.  We need Pope Francis to go in and show the world that it is possible to advocate for greater care for the environment WITHOUT saying we need to "figure out ways to keep poor people from breeding"

Look, it is no mystery that at times human beings radically abuse the environment.  Tolkien said himself that one of his main motivations behind the "Lord of the Rings" was to illustrate that modernism, capitalism, etc. always are accompanied by a temptation to treat the environment simply as a thing to be pillaged for all the resources we can strip from it.  

The Church and the papacy is at its best when it takes partially true world views and corrects them and shows the world their complete and authentic manifestation.

It is pretty clear to me that the Pope is going to do that in this encyclical.  I feel confident that he is going to talk about the dignity of creation AND correct the idea that the way to better protect God's creation is to contracept, sterilize, and euthanize God's HIGHEST creation - the human person.

I can't wait for the encyclical!

Pope Francis Comes to North America(n College)

Dead Vines Look Alive for a While

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2 Thoughts On Oral Arguments for Redefining Marriage

1) Those who want to redefine marriage were asked "why not four people - 2 men and 2 women want to get married" by Justice Alito, and the person actually arguing for redefining marriage said, and I quote:

"I assume the states would rush in and say that when you're talking about multiple people joining into a relationship, that that is not the same thing that we've had in marriage, which is on the mutual support and consent of two people."

Justice Alito jumped all over that - "marriage between two people of the same sex is not something that we have had before!"

And the lawyer went on to say that we shouldn't let 4 people get married because divorces would get messy.  Please.  Like fear of messy divorces has ever altered the course of any of our legislatures or courts in the history of our country.

The fact is there is no answer to Justice Alito's question - why not 4, and when you try and say

"Well it COULDN'T be 4 because marriage has always been two" the argument shoots the redefiners of marriage in their own foot.

2) Justice Sotomayor asked: "How does withholding marriage from one group, same ­­ same­ sex couples, increase the value to the other group?"

And there we go - the same argument that's used by video gamers and teenagers - "Dude, it doesn't affect me if two guys down the street get married."

Have we lost all notion of the common good?  Have we lost all sense that we're connected?  We all spout, all the time "No man is an island...don't ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee"...we recognize, on a fundamental level, that we're all connected, that our laws matter, And that it is disgusting, infantile and completely contrary to everything this country was founded on to make the sole criteria for the importance of a law be whether or not it happens to affect me right this minute if it is passed

BONUS point! (ha): By all accounts, Justice Kennedy is the only one on the fence on this issue, with the other 8 split 4-4.  Justice Kennedy certainly had some tough questions for the marriage redefiners, and some are taking that as a sign of which way he'll go.  However, let's remember during the Obamacare hearing he had Obama's lawyer stammering and confused and unable to say anything rational for several awkwardly long stretches, and yet Obamacare still passed, so you never know what is going to happen until we get the decision in May or June.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Homily on Same Sex "Marriage"

(NOTE: the text below is probably the best version.  I made a few slight slight tweaks to it after filming last night.  Nothing major.  Hope it helps) 

“A hired man, who is not a shepherd sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away”

When I’ve preached on abortion, I’ve been accused of being a right wing republican

When I’ve preached about the REQUIREMENT that Christ makes of us to help the poor I’ve been accused of being a left wing liberal

When I’ve preached on religious freedom – right wing republican

When I’ve preached on the Church’s teaching on immigration - left wing liberal

This Comes with the “job.”  In fact, it just comes with being Catholic.  That being said, it is important to note that despite the accusations, the Church is not a political party.

I suspect, in this homily, that some will again accuse me and/or the Church of meddling where it ought not to go, but, I guess after being a priest for 5 years now, I just don’t care.

There is a wolf coming that is threatening the sheep that must be preached on as well because our Church is very clear on this topic.  Like the prophets, like Christ, like the Apostles, like those being martyred today for their Catholic Faith throughout the world, we preach the truth in season and out of season.

“A hired man, who is not a shepherd sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away”

This week at the Supreme Court arguments will be heard about whether marriage ought to be redefined

What I’ve been amazed at over the past few years is how quickly the tone of this debate has turned.
If you even raise the possibility today that marriage is between a man and a woman you should prepare for an all-out assault.  You should prepare to be labeled a bigot, angry, hateful, a Pharisee, etc.

One Catholic evangelist notes that we hear a lot about tolerance.  Tolerance is a good thing, but it implies that I first disagree with a person before I can tolerate them.  We don’t tolerate the sunshine, we tolerate the rain, and so tolerance can only take place in a climate of disagreement, and yet tolerance is no longer extended to those who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

One objection to this homily is that “The Church should stay out of politics”

But this, at the end of the day, makes no sense

If something is talked about by politicians or judges or whomever, does that mean it is no longer in the realm of Faith?  If something is part of our civil discourse, that we have to STOP talking about it here?

People likely told Fr. Theodore Hesburgh to keep his religion out of politics when he walked arm in arm with Dr. Martin Luther King to protest discrimination against African Americans – but he did it any way, and thanks be to God that he did.

People likely told John Paul II to keep his religion out of politics as he worked in the political realm to take down Communism – but he did it anyway, and thanks be to God

The idea that if something is being talked about in the political sphere means it can’t be talked about as a religious issue just doesn’t pass muster

If murder were up for discussion at the state house, no one would tell priests not to preach against murder

Pope Francis, in a daily homily recently, attacked this belief that if something is in the political realm we should stop talking about it in Church.
He said: “Some say a good Catholic doesn’t meddle in politics.  That’s not true. That is not a good path.  A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern… Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. I cannot wash my hands

The Church actually compels us to be active in the political sphere because it is in the political sphere that decisions that affect the world are made. 

The Church has a most important book called the “Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church” – and it is a guide to how we are to be active and what we are to work for as people who are engaged in the civil realm.  To say that we should stay out of these issues civilly is a non-Catholic stance.

Now, on the particular topic of same-sex marriage – what does the Church say?  This is absolutely crucial and so often confused, and if we want to continue to see marriage being only between a man and a woman, we have to understand this crucial teaching.

The most important takeaway from this homily, if you remember nothing else is that the Church says in its book on these issues - in order to defend marriage you don’t need the Church, the Bible, or Jesus.

So often people make this mammoth mistake in talking about this issue.  Someone asks you: “Why do you believe marriage is between a man and a woman” and people  respond “because Jesus said so”, or “The Bible says so,” or “The Catechism says so” – but the quick follow up question by those who want to redefine marriage is quite clear – “you can’t make me do something because your religion says it!”

At this point – most Christians and Catholics go slinking back home telling themselves “They’re right; I can’t say something ought to be this way because of religion.

The Church says, however, that in order to say that marriage is between a man and a woman you don’t need the Bible or Jesus or the Church to win the argument.  Marriage being between a man and a woman, according to the Church, is a first principle – something that you need not be a follower of Christ to understand.

The Church is not in the government running business anymore.  We were for many centuries – Popes and Cardinals were highly intertwined with governments, kings, etc. 

We don’t run countries anymore, and as George Weigel notes, “In separating the Church from the State, what is clear is that the Church is better off for it.  What isn’t clear is whether the state is better off for it!” 

The Church sees its role as political advisor – particularly in offering first principles up to nations.  What the Church does is say to all governments, kingdoms, etc. – here are some first principles, some things that all just societies must put into practice if they hope to endure.  If you build your nation on other principles that contradict these, your nation will not endure. 

"first principles" are the "cornerstones" that any society must be built on, and we need not be a Christian to understand that these first principles must be cornerstones, nor do we need to use Christ to justify working to ensure that our country is founded on these cornerstones.

And everyone has first principles.  I was on a marriage panel at Rose Hulman about a year ago and one guy who was arguing for redefining marriage said “I really think it ultimately comes back to harmony and justice” – Okay, so those are your first principles, the axioms on which you think the country should be founded, the non-negotiables that everything is built off of.  Of course the question quickly becomes “what is harmony to you?”  “who defines harmony?”  “What does justice mean?”  “Who defines what justice is?” 

Others say a founding axiom should be that “love is love.”  Okay, fair enough, you think that should be a first principle of our society.  Let’s flesh it out.  You think that all love is the same?  What if 8 people all love each other…is that marriage?  What if two cousins love each other?  What if a 55 year old and a 16 year old love each other?  Is the government in the “congratulating people on being in love” business.

Everyone has first principles, and we have just as much of a right to work for the first principles that we think our nation should have as anyone else has a right to work and advocate for first principles that they think our country should have.

So as Catholics, we work to ensure that marriage being between a man and a woman is a first principle in our government.  We believe that if it is not, then what will result is vastly different than a just and healthy society.

"If, from a legal standpoint, marriage between a man and a woman were to be considered just one possible form of marriage, the concept of marriage would undergo a radical transformation, with grave detriment to the common good." (Compendium of Social Teaching, paragraph 228).

A solution that some propose but which can not actually work because it does not actually understand what the Church teaches is the proposed solution that the Church “get out of the civil marriage business” – civil marriage and if you want to get married in the Church, go do that too
It is NOT appropriate for Church authorities to remain neutral toward adverse legislation even if it grants exceptions to Church organizations and institutions. The Church has the responsibility to promote family life and the public morality of the entire civil society on the basis of fundamental moral values, not simply to protect herself from the application of harmful laws” - Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith
Over the next several months, there will be some opportunities to gather and talk about these hot-button topics.  Our parish council has asked for these sessions, and I think they will be most helpful.  We will put some dates together and have an opportunity to continue to grow towards a deeper understanding of what the Church teaches on these issues.

These are not easy issues.  I spent the last two years working on a documentary on what the Church teaches about same sex attraction.  I interviewed a lot of beautiful people who experience same sex attraction and heard their stories.  It was an amazing experience for me.  The way we grow toward unity is through dialogue – not through name calling, labeling, and ignoring what the other side is saying.  I look forward to these opportunities to gather and keep the conversation going.

In Conclusion – I am not the only shepherd in this room.  we are all, through our baptism, called to shepherd those around us.  Do we see our role in society to be a light to the world – do I believe that I am called to shepherd and get involved in the civil society I find myself placed in – or do I retreat to my home or my Church building and say to God, like Cain did – “AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER?”

“A hired man, who is not a shepherd sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away”

We pray for the strength to be authentic shepherds, to work for the first principles that our Church puts forth for all societies.  Pope Francis said that we shouldn’t always talk about contraception and same sex marriage, and I wholeheartedly agree!  What the Pope implies in that comment is that we should talk about them some of the time.  May we have the courage to do that, and not see problems arising in our country and simply run away.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Confirmation is NOT a sacrament without a "theology"

First of all, theology means "the study of God", so something can't "have a theology" in the first place.

You hear a lot of people say things like:

"What's your theology of Grace" or

"What's your theology of Heaven" or

"What's your theology of history"

This doesn't make sense.  It would make no sense to say "What's your study of God of Grace?"

Anyway...more importantly, to suggest that the Church's teaching on Confirmation isn't clear is ludicrous.

We know EXACTLY what Confirmation is, just as we know exactly what the other Sacraments are.  The Catechism is perfectly clear about what Confirmation is.

Instead of blaming Church teaching for being confusing about Confirmation, we should blame the real problem - US!

We've made Confirmation way harder than it needs to be, and so we shouldn't be shocked at:

1) The number of adult Catholics who have never been confirmed

2) That our young people fall away from the Faith at SHOCKING rates PRIOR to us deigning them worthy to receive the exact Sacrament that is supposed to help them fend off attacks to their Faith!

Make no mistake, the disaster that is the way the Sacrament of Confirmation is handled in the US isn't in any way the fault of Church teaching, it is our fault.

A video for every atheist!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Wedding Processions

There are two options for a wedding procession according to the Catholic Rite of Marriage:

"If there is a procession to the altar, the ministers [e.g., lectors, altar servers] go first, followed by the priest, and then the bride and bridegroom. According to local custom, they may be escorted by at least their parents and the two witnesses. Meanwhile, the entrance song is sung."

In the average US suburban parish today, where most of the other rubrics of Catholicism are disregarded, it should not surprise us that this rubric is also discarded.

In the typical suburban US Catholic wedding, the priest and groomsmen walk out of the sacristy, and this is followed by a 5 minute fashion show.

What the Church requires, however, is a procession - servers, followed by priest, followed by either

a) the bride and groom


b) groom and his parents followed by the bride and her parents

I would like to note a couple of objections that some might have to doing it the Church's way:

1)  Bride: "This is my day!"

My response: "Say that slowly a few times and then see if you still want to say that out loud.  Is the wedding Mass really about you?  Is that not in fact one of the most narcissistic things you can say?  When is a Mass ever ABOUT anyone other than Christ?"

2) Bride: "But I've envisioned doing it my way since I was three!"

My response: "Is it good to still want the same things when we are 20 that we wanted when we were 3 years old?  When you were three you also wanted to be a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, to eat all the cookie dough, and to snuggle with your snorting blanket."

3) Bride: "But I just want my Dad to walk me down the aisle!"

My response: "When else do we want to hearken back to the days when women were merely regarded as property to be given away?  Your Mom raised you too."

4) Bride: "My groom can't see me before the wedding!"

My response: "Okay, so do you want to bring a lucky rabbits foot with you?  Get married during a solar eclipse or when the stars are in the right order?  Any other completely superstitious behaviors you want to have as a part of your wedding day?"

Look, which do you want?

The Church says something very important - the couple getting married are the MINISTERS of the Sacrament of Marriage!

What impression do you want people to have who attend your wedding?

There is SUCH AN INFINITE difference between incense, a crucifix, servers, a hymn, the Gloria (something else the Church asks that is often ignored) etc. vs. the standard narcissistic fashion show.

Weddings are one of the most frequently attended Masses by non-Catholics.

Do you want non-Catholics who attend your Wedding Mass to encounter Jesus as Jesus has asked the encounter to take place through his Church, or do you want people to remember you?