Monday, March 10, 2014

Litany of Humility

The readings this weekend reflect on the nature of sin in our lives. It all started with the serpent tricking Eve into tasting the forbidden fruit and Adam following.

We have faced temptation ever since.  In his final attempt to tempt Jesus, the tempter tried to offer him everything. He was striving to capitalize on a sin he knew so well, pride.

In our own lives, pride often raises its ugly head. We think we know it all and we are the best.  I don't want to downplay the importance of having pride in our faith or our Church, or the pride for a job well done. It is important to want to do well and to do the best that we can. I am thinking about the pride we sometimes see in our children when they do not think they need to obey.  It might come about in a conversation like this:

Child: "I want to go to the party at the lake on Saturday night."

Parent: "No.  There are too many things there that can get you into trouble."

Child: "Why can't I go!!!  I hate you!!!"

It is important to remember that for most parents, giving placing limits on their children is not done out of hatred for the child. It is often done to protect the child from problems that may be a result of participating in an event or activity.  The pride of the child often keeps the child from seeing or understanding the larger picture.  The same can be said about a lot of us in relation to the teachings of the Church.  We let our pride, and desire for immediate gratification, get into the way of listening to what the Church says. This is especially true in areas of the sexual teaching of the Church.  We think we, in our limited lifetimes, know more than the Church has learned in her 2000 year existence.  This pride disrupts us in many ways.

I want to place the challenge upon you to think about how we can grow in humility.  A few years back, when I had a priest from the Fathers of Mercy doing a parish mission, he brought up the idea of praying the Litany of Humility.

I'd like to share that with you today.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

The key to this prayer is the last line in my opinion: That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.  Are we striving to become as holy as we should?  Are we admitting that, as our responsorial psalm stated today, "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned",  we are sinners in need of God's grace?  Are we letting the pride of the serpent/tempter lead us down the path of excessive pride that will be detrimental to us in the future and stand in our way of a true conversion this Lenten season?  I want to challenge you all again to take a deeper look at the Litany of Humility and consider making it a part of your prayer routine.  It may be difficult at first, but it will start to make a difference in our outlook and our faith if we make it a heartfelt prayer.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why are you here? Homily for Ash Wednesday

Why are you here today?  This is similar to a question that Jesus asked those who would go out to see John the Baptist.

As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’ Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come. Whoever has ears ought to hear. “To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”
So I ask you again, why are you here?  Did you come today to because you were told it is a Holy Day of Obligation? It is not. There are days that reflect upon the life of our Savior and his Blessed Mother that are holy days when we ought to attend Mass.

Are you here to receive ashes? What does that mean? Today, many Catholics will hear the question, "Do you know you have something on your forehead?" For some, they think we've forgotten to wash our faces.  We can get our face dirtied by digging a hole. It is more than getting dirt upon ourselves.

Early in the Church, when one would go to confession, it would usually happen only once in their lives and it would be public. The penance would also be public. Penitents would be in front of the church dressed in itchy sack cloth. They would be required to stand and sit on ashes. The ashes are a lot different from the ashes we place upon our foreheads today. Think about the rough ashes from a fireplace. They are much more course. They would make small cuts through the skin. It was not comfortable. This penance would be a sign to others of a true understanding of the need to turn away from sin and the desire to return to the gospel.

Why are you here today?  I hope it is because you understand the need for conversion in your lives.  That you are not simply following through on a family tradition, but that you will make this season a time of transformation in your lives.

In today's gospel, Jesus gives us some direction on what we ought to be doing; praying, fasting and giving alms.  Last year I spent a little time breaking down these concepts.  I hope they are things that allow us to work on changing our lives.

Why did people go out into the desert looking for John the Baptist? I'll bet for many it was out of curiosity. As they came out, some started on the path of conversion. Others simply went away after hearing his message. They lived the life they wanted to live, not the life of conversion.

As you are here today I ask you one more time, why are you here?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Believe it, or not?

This past week I was made aware of articles posted on the internet, which were a part of journals around the country, concerning believing by Catholics in America. One article, written by Damon Linker who would be presented as a liberal in the Church, reflected upon an article he had written earlier about Pope Francis and the change the author hoped would come into the Church under the new pope. He could not understand the gushing over Pope Francis that was still taking place among many of his fellow liberals.  He had hoped Pope Francis would be working to change Church teaching on issues such as contraception, gay relationships, married clergy and the role of women in the Church.

Mr. Linker, in an article this past week entitled “What do liberal Catholics want?”, reflected back upon an interview he had on NPR where he was discussing his original article. A caller by the name of Trish, who styled herself a progressive Catholic, could not understand the concern of Mr. Linker for the need to change Church doctrine. As she put it, "Doctrine for a Catholic, now, is not even an issue. Catholics do not care about doctrine," she said, adding, "It's irrelevant. It's a non-issue for Catholics."

Mr. Linker went on to write in his recent article,

For all I know, many or even most liberal Catholics hope and pray for doctrinal reform. But what if Trish is right? If so, the question I'd want to ask these liberals is: Why do you continue to attend church and think of yourself as a Catholic?
If you attend for the beauty of the liturgy, why not just become an Episcopalian? If it's the sense of community you crave, why not join the Unitarian church? Either way, you could certainly continue to be spiritually moved by the pope's public utterances, in the same way you might be stirred by an inspiring presidential speech.

Sadly, this is not limited to liberals or conservatives in the Church.  There are many who have fallen into this trap of not caring about the teachings of the Church.

Matthew Schmitz wrote a blog in response to Mr. Linker’s article which he entitled “Why Catholics Don’t Care”.  Mr. Schmitz put some of the fault on dissent within the Church, but directed more of it toward those responsible for sharing the correct teachings of the faith. After the release of Pope Paul VI encyclical Humane Vitae, many Church leaders made confusing statements about contraception. Mr. Schmitz makes the observation, “The hem-hawing of Church leaders led to confusion in the pulpit and pews. Unwilling to deny Church teaching directly, disoriented by conflicting signals, homilists and confessors fell silent.”

The same can be said about divorce, abortion, and the other issues that Mr. Linker would like to change in the Church. Not hearing about it from the pulpits, many of these issues have slipped from the consciences of many Catholics. Over the course of time they seem to have taken on the status of  “non-issues”. As Mr. Schmitz says near the end of his post, “Modern man, in this view, is twice fallen. Bishops ceased to believe the faithful were capable of following Church teaching, and so they ceased to teach it by discipline and word. In light of this, the reaction of the faithful is more than understandable. Why would they take seriously a teaching their pastors refuse to?”

What we are beginning to see in America is a change in attitude. Steve Skojec, a blogger for, wrote an article, “Millennials Are Seeking Tradition, Sacramentality, and Liturgy”.

He states:
But what about the younger generations? In a world that grows increasingly secular, that seems more rabidly anti-Christian than it has been since the bad old days before Constantine’s conversion, what does faith mean to them? Today, at The American Conservative, Gracy Olmstead brings to light an interesting development in the religious inclinations of Millennials:

America’s youth are leaving churches in droves. One in four young adults choose “unaffiliated” when asked about their religion, according to a 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll, and 55 percent of those unaffiliated youth once had a religious identification when they were younger. Yet amidst this exodus, some church leaders have identified another movement as cause for hope: rather than abandoning Christianity, some young people are joining more traditional, liturgical denominations—notably the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox branches of the faith. This trend is deeper than denominational waffling: it’s a search for meaning that goes to the heart of our postmodern age.
The trend isn’t entirely new. It’s also the subject of Colleen Carrol’s 2002 book, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy. But if Olmstead (and the polling she cites) is correct, it’s a shift that is continuing to gain momentum.
Unlike Trish who called Mr. Linker, young people today seem to either embrace all the that Church offers, or, as Mr. Linker had commented, they leave the Church to which they have only a nominal connection. We for our part, must present the faith in the fulness for our young people to experience. It may mean there is some challenge for each of us as we look at our lives in relation to the life expected of us as faithful Catholics.

As a priest, I need to continually remind myself not to water down the faith to make it palatable for those who are listening. My task as the pastor is to help you grow to be Catholics in fact, as well as in name. It does not matter if it is in relation to conservative issues such as marriage and abortion, or liberal issues such as caring for those around us. I want us all to care about our great faith and to live it to the fullest.

That being said, I have one other issue I’d like to bring up today. Wednesday is the 41st anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision.  Next Saturday it will be a chance for us to put some of our faith into action.  In Bozeman, at 10 am, in front of the courthouse, across from Holy Rosary Church, the fifth annual March 4 Life will take place. Please take some time to come and stand with the unborn and witness to the value of life. Despite the silence of some priests, and even bishops, the sanctity of life from the very moment of conception has been held by the Church. Despite the desire of some Catholics, Pope Francis is not going to change this teaching. He alluded to this on Monday, as he addressed members of the Vatican Diplomatic Corps:
“Peace is also threatened by every denial of human dignity, firstly the lack of access to adequate nutrition. We cannot be indifferent to those suffering from hunger, especially children, when we think of how much food is wasted every day in many parts of the world immersed in what I have often termed the 'throwaway culture'. Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as 'unnecessary'. For example, it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day; children being used as soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts; and children being bought and sold in that terrible form of modern slavery which is human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity.”
Let us become Catholics who care about doctrine. Let us listen to the words of our Holy Father and find ways to make positive changes in our lives and in our societies.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Holidays? Holy Days?

I often have the question in my mind about why, when we have set aside days of a religious nature, gathering as a people to honor God seems to be low on the priority list.

Here are a few of the things that come to mind.

  1. Gathering before Thanksgiving Day for religious services and then not gathering to pray together on Thanksgiving Day as a group of the faithful.
  2. Not having Christian Services on Christmas Day itself.  Many groups will only do a service on Christmas Eve.
  3. Canceling Sunday Services if Christmas is on a Sunday. It may be Sunday and Christmas, but we will not celebrate as a Christian community.
  4. Having a single Protestant sunrise service on Easter Sunday (even though there are 5+ congregations or ministers in a community) at a neutral location and not celebrating Easter as individual congregations. Many times only one of the local clergy members presides at the service while the others are out of town.
One of the reasons I hear for these attitudes is that the ministers want to spend the holiday with their own family. Sometimes the extended families or in-laws are not local so they need time to travel. In other communities, a lot of the other members of the congregation have the same issues. They don't have time to go to church because they have to get to the family celebration. These holiday (holy days) seem to have shifted from focus on God to focus on us.

As a priest who is usually assigned to multiple communities, I know that I can not bi-locate. I've had people who have gone to Mass elsewhere because I've not had Mass in their community on Christmas Eve, but rather on Christmas Day. But, as we look at the significance of days set aside to honor God, I want to suggest that we encourage our parishes and congregations to set aside these days to honor God on the day designated so that God is once again our real priority. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fighting for the faith

After a heads-up from LifesiteNews I just finished watching this video (graphic, viewer discretion is advised) about an attack late last month on the Cathedral of San Juan in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A group of men, mostly young, stood several deep, arm-in-arm, to keep a group of radical women from desecrating the cathedral. The women, several having bared their breasts, were promoting abortion and lesbianism. The women drew on the Hitler style mustaches on the faces of the men. They sprayed paint on their faces and crotch areas. They performed lewd acts in front of the men who continued to pray in front of the cathedral. The women later burned an effigy of Pope Frances.

Now that I've described what took place, I have a question that causes me concern. If we were to get word that a similar event were about to take place at a cathedral in the United States, could we find enough men ready to humble themselves to stand strong against such an attack? I know there would be some who would protect the Church, but whereas we do not make up a huge majority of the population, would the minority have the courage to stay strong? Would other Christians stand by us, be indifferent, or stand on the side of the protestors? Some Christian groups are opposed to some of the teachings of the Catholic Church.  If you were called to stand in the face of such violence, would you be there?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Community Thanksgiving Service Homily 2013 Big Timber

I’d like to begin by thanking the ministerial association for allowing us here at St. Joseph parish to host this year’s Thanksgiving remembrance. I’d like to thank the parishioners for the work they’ve put into tonight to be such gracious hosts. I’d like to thank each and every one of you for taking time to join with us today. I’d like to thank my housekeeper in Livingston for assisting me with the meal we will be enjoying tomorrow. I’d like to thank Macy’s for hosting the wonderful parade that many of you will watch tomorrow. I’d like to thank the Packers, Lions, Raiders, Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens for what should be an interesting day of football. I’d like to thank all of the retailers who are opening their shops on Thanksgiving Day for our shopping pleasure, and all of those who are preparing for the Black Friday madness. And finally, as I’ve heard some schools have taught, I’d like to join with the pilgrims in giving thanks to the Indians for helping them make it through their first winter in the new world. Without them we would all probably still be living in the old world. We know how great we are. We know what we’ve been able to accomplish. We know that because of us the world is a better place.

By now, I’m sure you’ve picked up on the fact that I’m being a bit sarcastic. But, as we look around our society, I think we’ve lost a lot of the real reason for our Thanksgiving Day celebrations. I’d like to share a few lines from Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of the first Thanksgiving Day.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. . . .No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

As we can see from Lincoln’s proclamation, the purpose of tomorrow’s holiday is about God. It is not about what we have done, but what God has done through us. It is not about recognizing our goodness, but about how God has used us to make a difference in the lives of others.

In our gospel reading about the ten lepers, we hear of only one that returned to Jesus to give thanks. We do now know if the other nine thank God in some fashion for their healing. I am guessing that they realized that the healing was truly a gift from God and in some way were thankful.

Here in the United States we have a lot for which to be thankful. How many of us have a refrigerator at home? How many of us have food in said refrigerator? How many of us have a vehicle to get us where we need to go? How many of us have fuel or electricity delivered to our homes to provide heat? There are many parts of the world where they do not have refrigerators. There are many people who are hunger each night. There are many who have to search for fuel to light a fire for heat or cooking.

We can thank American innovation for our blessings, but the real thanks goes to God. I’d like to go back to what I said in the beginning and maybe re-phrase it a bit.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of faith here in Sweetgrass County which allows us to gather here today. Thank you, Lord, for the spirit of generosity with which you’ve instilled with this community to allow them to be gracious hosts. Thank you, Lord, for giving your people a spirit of thankfulness. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of family and friends with whom to share Thanksgiving Day. Thank you, Lord, for the blessings upon our country that allow us to enjoy some of the entertainment that will be provided tomorrow for our pleasure. Thank you, Lord, for the prosperity with which you’ve blessed our nation so that we have the resources to have a “Black Friday”. As we prepare tomorrow to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, help us to realize that you are the source of all of these gifts. Help us to set aside the day to give thanks, even as we might enjoy the other festivities that have become a part of this holiday.

As we reflect upon the blessings which we’ve graciously received through God’s grace, let us also generously share some of those blessings when the time comes to support the mission of the ministerial association or other worthy charities in our community, the nation and the world.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Disaster Relief | Knights of Columbus

I think that most of my blog followers are also friends on facebook.

Just in case a few are not, I'm sharing this here.  I shared this last yesterday on facebook

Disaster Relief | Knights of Columbus:

'via Blog this'

Country stars make fun of Obamacare on the CMA awards


This is, what, my fourth post today after not having posted in a long time. I'm going to have to slow down again.

This just about sums up a lot of what seems to be happening with our system today.

You left why?

I will sometimes receive letters from people who choose to fall away from the Church. These aren't the people who just stop going over time, but those who make it a choice. I am reminded about a book of stories of conversions to the Catholic Church. In the forward, the author was sharing a common comment he hears from his Protestant peers. I'll paraphrase it, but the gist of the conversation goes like this.

Protestant: You know, there are a lot of Catholics who are becoming Protestant as well.

Author: How many of those Catholics fully believed and practiced everything that the Church teaches and holds to be true and leave because they think they've found the truth someplace else? Most of those who leave the Catholic Church leave because they disagree with and never practiced the Church's moral teaching, they got mad at a priest or sister, they don't think their is enough fellowship, the parish is not welcoming, etc. It usually has very little to do with finding the truth someplace else. Those profiled in the book were strong in their prior beliefs (some were even vocally anti-Catholic), but upon searching the scriptures and the writings of the early Church fathers followed truth to the Catholic Church.

I have to agree with the author of the book. Here are some of the reasons people have passed on to me about leaving my parishes.

1. Father kept talking about sin
2. Father kept talking about money
3. I don't agree with Father's staffing decisions
4. I don't agree with the Church's teaching on contraception, divorce, same sex marriage, etc.
5. I never hear about Jesus at Mass
6. I don't like the Mass time.

Perhaps you can share some of the reasons you've heard.

10 Nov: Leo the Great

I thought I would share the fact that today is the Feast of Leo the Great.

Fr. Z offers some reflections upon Pope Saint Leo I

10 Nov: Leo the Great