Monday, June 22, 2015

Protecting the innocent?

In light of the recent shooting at a church in South Carolina, I've heard the following from various politicians.

According the the Huffington Post online, President Obama said the following:

"Any death of this sort is a tragedy, any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy," he said. "There is something particularly heartbreaking about death happening at a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace.
"I've had to make statements like this too many times. Communities have had to endure tragedies like this too many times," he continued. "Once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. ... We as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries."
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, again according to the Huffington Post, said the following:

"We can have common sense gun reforms that keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and the violently unstable while respecting responsible gun owners," she said. "The stakes are too high, the costs are too dear, and I am not and will not be afraid to keep fighting for common sense reforms, and along with you, achieve those on behalf of all who have been lost because of this senseless gun violence in this country."

As I have asked before after shootings, where is the outrage for the 3,000+ babies aborted every day, most of whom are black?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ought vs Can

Before I had even opened my eyes this morning, this thought was going through my head: there is a difference between what we can do and what we ought to do. How many times in life do we show what we can do, whether right or wrong, instead of what we ought to do?  I'm not sure why this was going through my head before 5:30 this morning or why it dawned on me I should ask this question on my blog, but here it is.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Thoughts on the President's visit to Georgetown

Yesterday, President Obama was part of a forum at Georgetown University. He made several comments that I feel I need to address.

The first is in his reference that Catholics and Evangelicals should spend less time talking about abortion and do more for the poor. As I posted on my facebook wall:
How many hospitals and schools are supported by the Church that benefit the poor? Maybe the president should care more about rooting out the reasons people are poor and do not move up: fatherless families, infidelity, and a lack of respect for life. Abortion and "same-sex marriage" are about selfishness, not about charity and caring for others.
I guess he does not see the selfish nature of these actions.

The other comment deals with private schools. President Obama seems to imply that those who put their children in private schools are being separated from the poor. I guess he also does not realize how many poor kids are in a lot of the private schools sponsored by the Catholic Church. I posted this comment on the White House facebook which had the video of the president's comments:

I wonder why he doesn't support schools like St. Aloysius in Harlem. It is not made up of rich students. Most of the students are poor, or disadvantaged, but the president has not done much to help out these schools who are educating the poor at less cost than the public schools in the area and doing a much better job. Maybe we need wise use of education dollars instead of more dollars going into education. We also need less trying to create an us vs them mentality. I am guessing it is the money from a lot of the rich white folks that are paying to keep St. Aloysius open. Most of those folks are also paying taxes to support the public schools in their area as well.
I think included a link to with an article about St. Aloysius and a link to the school's webpage.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Liturgical changes

Over at Fr. Z's blog, he was asked a question about the priest following the rubrics. It seems the priest would change the rubrics as he saw necessary. I have often had the opposite take place in my parish. I've had the parishioners suggest I make certain changes in the Mass. In a former parish I once had a parishioner suggest I replace the creed with a testimonial of faith by a parishioner. Of course, I said no. I've had to fight the battle every year about the time for the Vigil Mass for Easter. I often hear, "the priests in Billings (or some other town) are starting the Mass much earlier."

I addressed this issue once in a talk I gave for the teachers at the Catholic Schools in Great Falls. At various times when celebrating Mass at the schools I was asked to do things that were not to be allowed. Again I heard things like, "Father Pastor does this here every week." I later recorded my talk, "Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi", in the parish church with a few changes to make it more generic. You can find that talk here.

I thought I'd share the following from one of the comments to Fr. Z's blog post. It contains several sources as to why we are not to change the rubrics on the whim of the priest or the parishioners.



• Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 22.3 (1963)
o Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.

• Canon 846.1 (1983)
o The liturgical books approved by the competent authority are to be faithfully observed in the celebration of the sacraments; therefore no one on personal authority may add, remove or change anything in them.

• Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1125 (1992)
o For this reason no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community. Even the supreme authority of the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy.

• General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 24 (2003)
o Nevertheless, the priest must remember that he is the servant of the Sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass.

• Redemptionis Sacramentum, nos. 31, 59 (2004)
o They ought not to detract from the profound meaning of their own ministry by corrupting the liturgical celebration either through alteration or omission, or through arbitrary additions.

o The reprobated practice by which Priests, Deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Oil company hit man has Archbishop Cordileone in his sights

It is getting harder and harder to be Catholic in the world. See this article about what is happening in San Francisco.


Oil company hit man has Archbishop Cordileone in his sights :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Thoughts from the Supreme Knight of Columbus

I just finished listening to Carl A. Anderson's Annual Report of the Supreme Knight.

I want to pick up on a few things he said about the Culture of Life:

St. John Paul II taught us that only a civilization of love is worthy of human dignity and the truth about the human person. Building a civilization of love is the goal toward which our fraternal love of neighbor leads us.

At the center of the civilization of love is the culture of life. Each is inseparable from the other because each calls us to value and accept every human life.

Some in politics seem obsessed with publically opposing our Church’s teaching on human life. But we must differ with them. Our position is that every child should be loved, every child should be respected, and every child should be helped.

The cold child in need of a coat, the hungry child in need of food, the poor child in need of education, and the unborn child waiting to be born. All are on the margins of society, and all deserve to be supported and protected.

In good conscience we cannot abandon some and help others.

We will help all that we can. While some politicians try to divide the American people on social issues, we seek to overcome division, to bring people together and to help everyone. Even on abortion, an issue often considered the most divisive, our polling has found great unity among Americans. Our recent Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll revealed that more than four decades after the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, the vast majority of Americans do not accept abortion on demand. Eighty-four percent of Americans would limit abortion to, at most, the first three months of pregnancy, and so would nearly 6 in 10 Americans who identify themselves as strongly pro-choice.

A majority of Americans believe life begins at conception, and more than 6 in 10 think abortion is morally wrong. And, perhaps most importantly, more than 8 in 10 Americans say that laws can protect both the well-being of a woman and the life of her unborn child.

What are we doing to protect all of our children? I hope we are finding ways to show them our love, and God's love for them, in all that we do. What are we doing to continue to build a Culture of Life in our society?

The Cost of Catholic Education

Having spent a number of years working with Catholic Schools, I am often surprised by number of people who do not understand the cost of sending their children to a Catholic school.

Many parents seem to think that the cost of education is the price charged for tuition. There is often a misunderstanding that families are being asked to pay the cost for the children to be educated.

In reality, parishes with parish schools, and other Catholic schools, are being supported by the local parish, possibly the diocese and the fundraising efforts of the school. Many times, the tuition that is being requested is less than 50% of the cost of education.

Families need to realize the benefit of the "scholarship" (while not listed as such) that is being offered though low tuition rates, in addition to other scholarships that are being offered. In the case of my current parish assignment, the cost of educating each child is a little over $9,000. This cost is high because of our low enrollment. We are charging $4,125 for tuition. This amounts to a $5,000 scholarship to every student enrolled in our school. When I was on the School Advisory Committee for Great Falls Central Catholic High School, the gap was even more.

I mention this so Catholic school families and benefactors realize the importance of continued support over and above the perceived cost of education indicated by our tuition rates.

Please remember to be generous in supporting Catholic Education in our Catholic Schools.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Our Catholic School

Our Catholic Schools from Leo McDowell on Vimeo.

This weekend, we are celebrating the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. In the second reading for the Vigil Mass we heard,

I want you to know, brothers and sisters,
that the Gospel preached by me is not of human origin.
For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it,
but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

As I attended the ordinations for Fr. David Wilkens in Great Falls Tuesday evening, and of Fr. Garrett Nelson in Billings on Thursday evening, I heard the bishop in both homilies reminding those to be ordained that it was not about them, but about Jesus Christ. I think that applies to each and every one of  us gathered here. We need to remember that our calling in life is not about us, but about Jesus Christ. It is a realization that the Gospel that is preached is not of human origin, but that is from Jesus Christ. Our baptismal call directs us to greater things.

Saints Peter and Paul showed by their lives, and their deaths, that they were preaching the gospel and spreading the good news, not for some sort of earthly honor, but for Jesus Christ, their savior.  In the gospel reading of the Mass of the Day, we hear Jesus telling St. Peter,

“And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

St. Peter was entrusted with a great responsibility which is still carried out in the magisterium of the Church today. Peter is the rock upon which our Church is built.  The building of the Church did not end with St. Peter. It continues today in a variety of ways and through the official teachings handed on to us by the magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church).

Pope Benedict, while onboard a flight to the United Kingdom on September 16, 2010, stated in an interview:

“One might say that a church which seeks above all to be attractive would already be on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for itself, does not work to increase its numbers so as to have more power. The Church is at the service of Another; it does not serve itself, seeking to be a strong body, but it strives to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths, the great powers of love and of reconciliation that appeared in this figure and that come always from the presence of Jesus Christ.”

This brings us back to what Bishop Warfel shared in his ordination homilies: it is not about self, but about Jesus Christ.

The call to being a disciple, calls us to work to build up the “Kingdom of God”. It is not about what might bring us glory, but about what glorifies our creator.

In the life of the faithful, there are various ways that this should be happening. I would like to focus on one aspect of this expectation, Catholic Schools. We are celebrating the 100th year of St. Mary’s School here in Livingston. Our school has impacted the lives of many over the years, including several who are attending Mass here today.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a document entitled,  Renewing our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium. They begin that document by reminding all of us,

Young people are a valued treasure and the future leaders of our Church. It is the responsibility of the entire Catholic community—bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and laity—to continue to strive towards the goal of making our Catholic elementary and secondary schools available, accessible, and affordable to all Catholic parents and their children, including those who are poor and middle class. All Catholics must join together in efforts to ensure that Catholic schools have administrators and teachers who are prepared to provide an exceptional educational experience for young people—one that is both truly Catholic and of the highest academic quality.

In the past, St. Mary’s has tried to fulfill this mandate at the expense of our teachers. However, in the same document, the bishops stated:

We unequivocally committed ourselves and the whole Catholic community to the following set of goals:
• Catholic schools will continue to provide a Gospel-based education of the highest quality.
• Catholic schools will be available, accessible, and affordable.
• The bishops will launch initiatives in both the private and public sectors to secure financial assistance for parents, the primary educators of their children, so that they can better exercise their right to choose the best schools for their children.
• Catholic schools will be staffed by highly qualified administrators and teachers who would receive just wages and benefits, as we expressed in our pastoral letter  Economic Justice for All.

This last commitment has not been an easy one to fulfil. For years, the teachers at St. Mary’s were not provided many of the benefits offered to other teachers.  Two years ago, we started offering our teachers a full benefit package to include health insurance and retirement. When we look at the salary scale for St. Mary’s, which was developed in 2007, we see that, today, our teachers only being paid about 60% of what their counterparts are making in the public schools. The lack of benefits over the years, and the low salaries, have led many wonderful teachers to seek employment elsewhere. Some highly qualified teachers have chosen to stay at St. Mary’s out of a sense of ministry and because of second incomes within their families that have allowed them to continue despite the sacrifices required of them while earning next to nothing. The turnover of a majority of our teachers over the years because of these sacrifices has hampered our ability to grow our enrollment.

The efforts to rectify these issue benefits has not been without a cost. As a parish, we’ve been trying to find creative ways to increase our contribution to the school, or assume a greater portion of some of the expenses of which we already pay a share. We've also increased the tuition that is paid by our students while using scholarships and other means to keep our tuition affordable to those in need. Yet, what is still not being addressed is a fair and just wage for our teachers.

The bishops continued in their document to state:

We call on the entire Catholic community—clergy, religious, and laity—to assist in addressing the critical financial questions that continue to face our Catholic schools. This will require the Catholic community to make both personal and financial sacrifices to overcome these financial challenges. The burden of supporting our Catholic schools can no longer be placed exclusively on the individual parishes that have schools and on parents who pay tuition. This will require all Catholics, including those in parishes without schools, to focus on the spirituality of stewardship. The future of Catholic school education depends on the entire Catholic community embracing wholeheartedly the concept of stewardship of time, talent, and treasure, and translating stewardship into concrete action. . . . Our total Catholic community must increase efforts to address the financial needs of our Catholic school administrators, teachers, and staff. Many of our employees make great sacrifices to work in Catholic schools. The Catholic community must not ignore the reality of inadequate salaries, which often require these individuals to seek supplemental employment (Lay Catholics, no. 27) to meet living expenses and expenses due to limited or non-existent health care and retirement benefits. 

I want to continue to improve the salaries that we are offering to our teachers. It is not going to be an easy task, but as we heard, it is incumbent upon all of us to keep our Catholic schools open.

I have heard some concerns about the “Catholic” portion of the education offered at St. Mary’s school. I am also working on addressing those concerns. Changing the financial and spiritual life of the school will take some time, but now is the time to start the changes. We can not wait to begin what must happen to ensure the sustainability of our parish school.

In March of 1977, the Congregation for Catholic Education at the Vatican issued a document entitled, “The Catholic School”.  In paragraph 9 of that document the Congregation stated, “The Catholic school forms part of the saving mission of the Church, especially for education in the faith.” This document will be a guiding principle as we move forward as a school.

Let’s tie this back into today’s feast. We celebrate Saints Peter and Paul and the work they did to build the kingdom of God. They preached a Gospel handed on to them by Christ. We, too, have the same Gospel. We need to hand it on. The success of St. Mary’s School, and our parish for that matter, depends upon us realizing that it is not about us, but about Jesus Christ. Praised be Jesus Christ, both now and forever. Amen.

Friday, May 30, 2014

8th Grade Graduation Homily

8th Grade Graduation Homily 2014 from Leo McDowell on Vimeo.
This was an attempt to record a homily using my GoPro camera. I had planned on the camera being at a slightly different angle, but it did not want to stay there when I placed it just before I began.

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.