Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The New Evangelization

It has been a while since I've had a blog post but thought I'd share from last Sunday's homily.

I'd like to repeat the Collect for today and ask that you continue to think about it a I proceed with my homily.

Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God

the constant gladness of being devoted to you,

for it is full and lasting happiness

to serve with constancy

the author of all that is good.

As many of you know I spent last week in Dallas. I enjoyed a show put on by Celtic Thunder, but more importantly, I was able to visit one of our seminarians who is studying at Holy Trinity Seminary connected with the University of Dallas. I also attended the mid-year meeting for State Chaplains and State Deputies of the Knights of Columbus.

A few weeks ago, a Synod of Bishops met in Rome to discuss the New Evangelization. This topic was addressed in various homilies, talks and discussions that took place this past week.

One might ask first of all the purpose of the New Evangelization. In order to do that we need to look back at the first evangelization that took place. After the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the apostles went out to the ends of the earth to spread the "Good News". Much of the world was exposed to the Gospel and became Christian.

In our own time, we see a decline in the practice of Christianity. Much of our society has become very secular in its outlook. Religion has been set aside.

The purpose of the New Evangelization is to help us reconnect with Christ and with his Church.

This past week, Archbishop Lori, the Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, and the Archbishop of Baltimore shared a story that went something like this.

It seems that after years of persecution and trying to exclude all forms of foreign influence from entering the country, Japan once again allowed missionaries to come ashore. These missionaries started in Nagasaki which had many years before been seen as a center of Catholicity in the Far East. As they worked their way out from the city they came to a small village. They were astounded to see that the faithful there were gathering on Sunday and recited the Apostle's Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. The missionaries asked them about these practices and were told that long ago these things were taught to them by the Fathers. The Fathers had told them that if anything happened to them (the Fathers) that they should continue these prayers and that someday new Fathers would come to their village.

The missionaries assured the villagers that they were the new Fathers. The villagers responded that the Fathers had left four questions to be asked of anyone claiming to be one of the Fathers. The missionaries said, "Let's try to answer them." So they were asked the first question, "Who is the savior?" The missionaries answered, "Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins." The villagers smiled and presented the second question. "Who is his mother?" The missionaries answered, "Mary!" Both the villagers and the missionaries were started to get a bit excited. The villagers continued. "Where does the leader of your Church live?" The missionaries responded, "In Rome, of course." At this the villagers were visibly started to show some anticipation as they asked the last question. "Do you have wives?" and the missionaries answered, "No!" and with that the villagers took them to there hidden church so they could once again be reunited to their faith.

For these missionaries to Japan, the work associated with the new evangelization was was easy because faith still existed among the villagers. Parents had handed it on to their children for over 250 years.

It is much harder in our society today. Faith in one's self seems to have trumped faith in Christ and His Church. Many people are focusing on "What is good for me?" instead of "What is good for us?" We seek temporary happiness instead of eternal joy. We do not seek the common good.

It is important for us to realize that sometimes the common good requires sacrifice on our part. We need only look behind me to the crucifix on the wall to remind us of the sacrifice that God made because he loved us. When we truly start to focus on God's love, and make sacrifices in the spirit of that love, we grow in joy.

It is this joy that enables us to fulfill the mission put upon us to bring about the New Evangelization. AS I've said before in reference to the Second Vatican Council, it is the job of the laity to take Christ into the world. That includes our places of work, our places of socializing, our homes and schools.

While listening to the Catholic radio station this weekend I heard comments made about another issue that was brought out last week. We need to get out of the habit of compartmentalizing our lives. For some of us when we are at church it is ok to show our faith. When we go to work, our faith is the last thing we exhibit. In our homes and family life sometimes we get to busy to let our faith be evident.

We need to let the joy of our faith take over all that we do. Christ needs to be the center of how we do things. Our moral values should be reflected n how we do our jobs and the decisions we make. In our family life we should incorporate our prayer, not only with grace at meals, but at other times during the day. A family that prays together, stays together.

We should work to discover not only what the Church teaches, but why she teaches what she teaches. We need to realize that the "rules" of the Church are not meant to restrict us, but are meant to lead us to the joy that has been promised. If we take time to think about the ten commandments they are truly life giving, when we follow them. When we don't we start to draw ourselves away from God and his Church and start to become more self centered.

As disciples of Christ there is a lot that is expected of us. Let us joyfully follow our Lord. Out of that joy, may we share our faith with all of those we encounter and help with the New Evangelization.

I'd like you to listen one more time to today's collect.

Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God

the constant gladness of being devoted to you,

for it is full and lasting happiness

to serve with constancy

the author of all that is good.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ad hominem

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it. Ad hominem reasoning is normally described as a logical fallacy.

On thing that bloggers tend to face is finding that not everyone agrees with their stated point of view. I understand as a blogger that there will be some who disagree with me about different topics. I'm not afraid to discuss something I've posted, that is why I post on some of the topics I present on this blog.

Unfortunately, it is so easy on the internet to hide behind the name Anonymous. A lot of the time those using that name are seeking clarification and a deeper understanding. They are even willing to point out fallacies in my arguments. Unfortunately, others use Anonymous to hide their real identity and make personal attacks concerning my posts.

I want to remind everyone that I moderate all comments on this blog. I have also made a change that will not allow Anonymous post comments. I ask that comments actually address the argument being presented in my blog post and not resort to ad hominem attacks against myself or other commentators. Ad hominem attacks will not be posted. I also ask that you have the strength of your conviction to use a real name and identity when you engage in discussions on the blog. Remember, one should never say something online that they would not say to someone's face.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Accidental Pregnancy?

I've always wondered how one accidentally becomes pregnant. I'm trying to imagine what that must look like. How is it that two are people walking down the street naked and happen to bump into each other in just the right way to make the connection necessary for conception to take place.

Anything other than that would have to be an act of choice. (Even in cases of rape and incest a choice is made on the part of the perpetrator) Every time one participates in the marital act, even those outside of marriage, they are making a choice that may lead to pregnancy. The act on their part is not an accident, it is a choice. Even with the best birth control, there is still a chance that conception may occur. The baby that is conceived is not an accident, it is a choice.

Since this is a matter of choice -- no one is told they must engage in the marital act -- why should others be expected to pay for this activity? There are sources out there that tell people they are being responsible if they use contraception and want to prevent a pregnancy. Being responsible means taking control of yourself. If one does not want does not want a pregnancy to result from the marital act, don't engage in the marital act. There is nothing accidental about becoming pregnant.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Homily for Mar 25, 2012

Today, we are having my farewell from the parish. I will be leaving after Easter and it was felt that we should not have a celebration over Holy Week. I hope this helps put the homily into context for those who do not know me and have stumbled upon this homily. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

First, I’d like to thank everyone who is here today. As I mentioned just before the beginning of Lent that I’d be leaving, our Lenten journey is taking a slightly different flavor this year as I prepare for my move. Today’s gospel passages tie in well with our additional activities today.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us,

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
In a way, my pending departure is a death experience for the community. Some of the concerns I’ve heard concerning my move:

“What about Mass at the Bluffs, or the hospital?” “What about daily Mass?” “Who will take pictures at our games?” “What about the projects we’ve been talking about doing?”

There will be something missing and also a sense of grieving over the loss. However, through this death like experience, new things can take fruit.

We already have prayer taking place at the Bluffs and the hospital. As for new life in these areas, we need additional volunteers who are willing to take part in these activities. While we have a group of people who take communion to the homebound after Mass on Sunday, we need some help take communion to the hospital on Thursdays. This could be the rising of new life not only for the people at the hospital, but also for the people who might step forward to help in this weekly ministry.

What about daily Mass? We can not have Mass without a priest, but a community can gather daily to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or other devotion in the life of the Church. I want to encourage our daily Mass goers to continue to gather on a regular basis to pray for the community and to pray for vocations. Don't forget to gather on Wednesdays for the devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. With God’s help, you’ll have a permanent priest assigned here again soon and be able to return to the practice of having Mass each day.

Pictures at ball games – I hope someone realizes what a great thing this is for the kids who are playing. As a non-parent, I could focus on taking pictures of all of the kids at a game. Not only did this practice inspire the kids, but I had comments passed on from family members states away who appreciated the fact they could see their grandchildren, or nephews, or nieces, or even their children, taking part in their high school sporting events. Again, this is an opportunity for someone else to rise to a new life.

Then we have the other projects we’ve been working on. Some are more substantial, like saving the old church, or covering our exposed surfaces on the church in Geraldine. They still need proper coordination with the diocese and I’m willing to act as a resource person for this until a new priest is assigned, but it is good for others to learn how the permissions and such truly work. This is again a chance for new life, or at least a difference in the life of those involved.

In a way, my “death” should bring some new life to the parish.

But, while our immediate experience may give us an example for today’s Gospel, we need to remember what our Gospel is really about.

It is not about our life and death, but about Christ foretelling his own death and new life. Starting tomorrow we transition from the Eucharistic Prayer Prefaces for Lent to those of the Passion. Tomorrow we will hear:

For through the saving Passion of your Son, the whole world has received a heart to confess the infinite power of your majesty, since by the wondrous power of the Cross your judgement on the world is now revealed in the authority of Christ crucified.
We are preparing to celebrate the dying of a grain of wheat that did bear much fruit. When we celebrate Christ’s passion and death we are also ready to celebrate the new life we receive through him. It is Christ who is our hope. He reminds us,
“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”
Christ was not focused on this world, but on the world to come. He knew the joy of eternal life with the Father. We, too, need to learn to focus all of our actions so that they lead us to the life to come. It is not always easy. We need to be a people of hope realizing that we are called to carry crosses in every aspect of our lives.

What is the new life that will come to the parish as I leave? We can not answer that question today. We’ll have to see how it develops. Let’s remember what we heard at the end of this part of Jesus’ discourse:

Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.
In my service to the Christ and his Church, I've been called to serve in Livingston. The challenge for all is to find ways to follow Christ and serve the Father.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Signs of Lent

We see the same thing happen in Catholic churches around the country. Ash Wednesday comes and the church is transformed. The green that was decorating the church is changed to violet. Things are introduced that give a sense of the desert to represent Christ's 40 days in the desert. Perhaps we see empty crosses or crowns of thorns used in the decorating. Unfortunately, some places even remove their holy water during this penitential season. We can see the "symbols" of the season.

These symbols let us know that we are now in a new season, but they really don't mean much, unless we are changing for the season. How many of you have noticed signs of the season of Lent? Are the churches fuller as people take their faith seriously and participate in the Lenten observances offered at the parish? Has the daily Mass attendance gone up? Are people coming to pray the Stations of the Cross? Are the lines for confession longer than they have been? Do we see Catholics and other Christians doing more during this time to feed the poor, visit the sick or those in prison, releasing those unjustly imprisoned, and clothing the naked?

We can have all of the symbols of the season that we want, but what God wants is for us to change ourselves. What are you doing this Lent to bring about a real transformation?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Too much to do, too little time to do it

As I mentioned in my homily last week, I am preparing to move to Livingston, MT. I thought I'd keep track of how much time I have to finish everything. Why am I on here instead of packing???????!!!!!!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Homily for Feb 19th, 2012 - Preparing for Lent

Here we are, once more getting ready for the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is only a few days away.

Now is the time to prepare ourselves to be ready when Lent begins. We often look at Lent as a time in the desert. We are called to the disciplines of prayer, fasting and alms-giving. In many ways Lent is meant to be a time of retreat from what we normally experience. Our Lenten retreat should cause us to reflect upon our relationship to God and how God is working in our lives. We should be asking ourselves, "What can draw me closer to God during this holy season?"

Usually we set the parameters for how our Lenten experience will develop. Sometimes other events play a hand in what direction we focus our Lenten disciplines.

That is the case for me this Lent, and I suspect it will affect some of your Lenten experiences as well. Many of you have probably noticed that we've had one or more Masses each week said for my dad. In part that is because many of my family members and family friends requested a Mass be said after his death. There is another reason why I am saying those Mass requests so quickly. Three weeks ago I received an e-mail from bishop Warfel informing me that I would be moved right after Easter. The bishop had mentioned to me before Thanksgiving that he was considering moving me to plug a hole that would need to be filled when he placed a new pastor at St. Pius in Billings which became vacant with Father Steve Tokarski's death in October. The bishop was planning on appointing a permanent pastor at St. Pius on July 1st and thought I would be a good person to fill the new hole that would be created. Because of a need to move the timing up at St. Pius, the week after Easter I'll be replacing Father Wayne Pittard at St. Mary's in Livingston with responsibility for the parish elementary school and the communities of Big Timber, Gardiner and Clyde Park.

Needless to say, the sadness that I will experience as I start the process of saying good-bye here will have an impact on my Lent this year. This is not to say that I am not looking forward to a new challenge in my new parish assignment. As I've been known to say at funerals, there is a sadness as we say good-bye, but a sense of hope as we look to the future. They are not exclusive.

As we are thinking about the beginnings of Lent your Lenten observances might include additional prayer for our own communities and for yourselves. The last word I had from the bishop is that the Masses between Easter and July 1st will be covered by priests from Great Falls. I'm sure there will be some variety of priests coming for Mass depending upon who is available to say Masses on a given weekend. Maybe one or two will be said by the bishop himself. There may be the appointment of a full-time priest in July. Praying for more holy priests in our diocese during this Lenten season will surly be fruitful as we look to the future.

Fasting, foregoing some good for a greater good, can lead to a deeper spirituality. This past week, while attending the Symposium on the Charism of Priestly Celibacy, the value of fasting was made even more evident. When we are without a good thing because we are focused on a greater good thing, we appreciate all the more the good we have and the greater good as well. I would like to suggest that you consider extra fasting during this Lenten season and pray that the fruit of the fasting may somehow help a priest in his sacred duty to bring Christ to the people.

Alms-giving during Lent could take the form of additional giving to the parish. During the few months without a resident priest the expenses of the parish should go down since the parish will not be paying a salary for a full time priest. This would be an ideal time for the parish to replenish its checking account so that if another priest is assigned there will be money to pay for the related expenses of that priest.

I want to tie in a little with the readings today about forgiveness of sin. Bishop Warfel has asked that we adopt a program that came from Boston -- "The Light is on for You". In an effort to help people make it to confession during this season on Lent, churches around the diocese will be open several evenings during the Lenten season for people to stop and go to confession. For our parishes we'll be open on Tuesdays in Geraldine on the weeks we have Mass there. I'll start confessions after Mass and then stay in the confessional until 8 pm. In Fort Benton, we'll have confession on Thursday evenings except for March 1st and March 15, from 6 pm until 8 pm. You are all invited to come and experience God's healing presence.

This Lent we will truly experience a time in the desert and Easter will bring something new. It is up to us to determine if we will let this season help us grow spiritually to be ready for the new beginning or not. As Lent is about to begin, I ask for your prayers and I'll remember you in mine.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Perspective

Coming back from the Symposium on the Charism of Priestly Celibacy tonight I found myself on the plane sitting next to Senator Jon Tester of Montana. He really did not want to start much of a conversation. I'm sure he knew what I had to say about certain legislation before the Senate and that I had the better argument. Besides that, I have found it is better not to argue after 9 pm when I am already lacking in sleep.

Perhaps, though, my mind was not completely trashed from three days of travel, meetings and more travel for I had a thought that might help put a few things into perspective. I can't remember if Senator Tester has any cattle with his wheat farm or not, but here is a thought I had.

What would happen if someone came and treated all of the cows carrying calves this time of year to stop the disease that was afflicting them? Do you think the ranchers would appreciate that? I mean, after all, why should cows be afflicted with such a horrible thing as motherhood? You'd think the ranchers would know by now the secret it to always keep the bulls in a pasture that is separate from the cows so there would be no worries.

If pregnancy is the disease, why are we putting so much effort into keeping the buffalo with brucellosis from having contact with our livestock? Since brucellosis causes cows to abort their calves, would this not be a cure for their disease of pregnancy?

It would be interesting to ask our current Governor, Senators and Representative from the House to give us some thoughts on this issue. Why is it that a baby cow (calf) is more worthy than a baby human?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What do people believe, anyway?

As a parish priest, I have had the opportunity to observe the practices of various ministers and of the faithful at Mass, Benediction, Funeral Vigil services and other liturgical events in the life of the parish, or Catholic school.

There are times when I wonder if those participating even know what it is that they are doing, or why they are doing it. I've also asked myself if they know what the priest is doing, or why the priest is doing things at different points of the celebration?

I have a feeling that many of those in the pews, or surrounding the altar (some priests included) lack belief in many of the basics truths we hold as Catholics.

I've noticed ministers who look like they are tolerating the Eucharistic Prayer. I've noticed sacristans, EMHC's and altar servers who treat the corporal more like a table cloth, scattering crumbs around the altar. I've noticed when I've tried to mention some of these issues in homilies, the ones most likely to be the offenders appear to be ignoring what is being said.

While the liturgical elements are sometimes more obvious, the signs of unbelief are not limited to strictly liturgical issues. Where are the majority of Catholics when we have our "40 Days for Life" each year? Are they praying for an end to abortion at the abortion clinic or at home, or are they not praying for the end to abortion? Where are Catholics when we are talking about a push to recognize gay relationships as marriages? Are they standing strong for the true meaning of marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman? Have a lot of Catholics fallen away from a true understanding of marriage as a sacramental covenant? What about the whole issue of contraception that seems to be in the news today? I keep hearing that 98% of all Catholic women are using contraception. That statistic is not accurate as can be seen in this article, but it raises another question. Are Catholics striving to understand what the Church teaches and are they willing to stand up for those teachings? Are they willing to live out those teachings?

Will there come a day when all those who claim to be Catholic will actually practice what the faith of the Church professes? I think Francis Cardinal George makes a good point as it relates to what is happening on the political stage today.

"This is the first time in the history of the United States that a presidential administration has purposely tried to interfere in the internal working of the Catholic Church, playing one group off against another for political gain. What isn’t always understood is that the Bishops of the Church make no attempt to speak for all Catholics; they never have. The Bishops speak for the Catholic and apostolic faith, and those who hold that faith gather around them. Others disperse."-Francis Cardinal George, Archdiocese of Chicago

I guess a question I have is really this, when it comes to the end, will we be believers in the Church established by Christ, or in ourselves and our favorite cause? If we are not believers in the teachings of the Church, why do we stay?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Liberty?

The past few weeks have brought up an interesting question in my mind. Which is more important in the eyes of most Americans, religious liberty or sexual liberty?

Unfortunately, with the inclusion of "birth control" into our society, sexual liberty seems to have taken over in the minds of many people. We may have to ask ourselves why this is the case. I want to say some of the blame falls upon us Catholics. After Paul VI released his encyclical Humanae Vitae, a group of Catholic theologians came out denouncing this prophetic message. Many Catholics came down on the side of the theologians, instead of the teachings of the Church. Priests hesitated to proclaim the official teachings of the Church boldly. Some even encouraged dissenting from the practice of NFP in favor of the pill. Sex in our society became more important than religion. We are all tempted at times to fall into this trap.

I commented on this topic the other day on the Billings Gazette webpage say that the purpose of sex is procreation, not fun. Someone replied back, but it is fun. I acknowledged that he was probably right, but that is not the purpose of sex. He want to argue that the purpose was for fun. This is the mindset we are fighting against.

What serious Catholics need to do is recognize the trap for what it is and rise above it. Catholics who are actively practicing the Church's teachings in matters of sexuality need to boldly proclaim the positive effects that it has in their lives. The testimony coming from a married couple means so much more than dogma preached by a celibate priest. We need both the preaching and the reinforcement of testimony to start changing minds and hearts.

On the other end, bishops need to take seriously their task of shepherding. They need to hold dissenting politicians accountable for their public dissent. When Catholics see that their leadership is serious about upholding the teachings of the Church, they are more inclined to follow them. Private talks that seem to do little to stop, as the describe themselves, "faithful Catholics" from publicly going against the bishops are becoming meaningless. People need to see public accountability.

If we want religious liberty, we need to get away from the idea that all we need is sexual liberty. We need to pray for our priests and bishops that they will uphold the truth with courage. We need to pray for all Catholics that they recognize the need for right priorities in life directed towards God and not self pleasure. (This is not to imply that sex within marriage is a bad thing.) We all need to pray for our young people that they will make wise decisions as they mature. We need to pray for our Catholic politicians that they will let good morals guide their decisions and not personal pleasure or the desire for power.

In addition to the prayer, we need to let our voices be heard -- that we will stand with the official Church in these matters. People need to know that we will hold our politicians responsible by our voting. Our courageous bishops and priests need to know that we support them because we tell them that in person, or by means of a letter or e-mail message.

Let us all fight for our religious liberty.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Prayers for the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings

I'm just going to share the press release. I think it explains why we need prayers. :(

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

It has been brought to our attention that a press conference was held this morning by out of state attorneys focusing on a lawsuit that was just filed dealing with child abuse claims involving clerics and other unnamed priests and nuns previously assigned in the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings. It appears that some of these claims relate to Jesuit clergy assigned to the Diocese years ago or relate in incidents occurring at St, Thomas Home a non-Diocesan facility previously operated by the Sisters of Providence. This lawsuit is similar to those recently filed against the Diocese of Helena in which plaintiff’s out of state attorneys engaged in the same efforts to publicize claims, make sweeping allegations and then try these claims in a court of public opinion in hopes of generating new potential claimants. Diocese of Great Falls-Billings has not been served with any complaint, and when it is, these claims and any valid defenses afforded the Diocese will be properly handled in the Courts. In the meantime, it seems inappropriate for any involved attorney to comment on the litigation.

What the Diocese can make known is that the Diocese has a zero tolerance policy for any sexual abuse involving minors. To this end, the Diocese implemented in the early 1990’s a sexual abuse policy, which includes the services of a victim assistance coordinator, who is trained to assist victims of sexual abuse and respond to the pastoral and spiritual needs of individuals and families. Further, this policy has provisions for receiving complaints about sexual misconduct on part of anyone associated with the Diocese as a member of the clergy, Catholic Schools, parish employees or volunteers. Churches throughout the Diocese have information posted regarding the process of making a complaint. This information is also regularly published in The Harvest, our diocesan newspaper. Under this widely disseminated policy, anyone wishing to report an allegation of sexual abuse of children is afforded the opportunity to contact the victim assistance coordinator, the Bishop himself or responsible persons of the Chancery Office. Here, with the exception of Fr. Ted Szudera, the Diocese is unaware of any reporting under its sexual abuse policy as it relates to the claims or clerics which we understand were mentioned in the filed complaint and by Plaintiff’s attorneys. As it relates to Fr. Ted Szudera a claim was reported approximately 6 years ago and thoroughly investigated by an independent criminal investigator who concluded that allegations against Fr. Szudera were unfounded and not credible. This conclusion was unanimously affirmed by the Diocesan Independent Review Board when Fr. Szudera was not a member. As to all other asserted allegations, rather than bring these claims to the attention of the Diocese through its publicized reporting procedure so the Diocese could respond and assist any victims, it appears the claimants have instead chosen to file a lawsuit while their attorneys’ engage in inflammatory rhetoric

In addition to the reporting mechanisms afforded under in the sexual abuse policy, we also point out the Diocese in 2003 implemented a Diocesan-wide safe environmental awareness and training program. People associated with the Diocese and who have contact with young people must participate in the awareness training and be subject to background checks as a condition of employment or volunteerism. Moreover, for the last two years, Bishop Warfel has held “Services of Atonement” in various communities in an effort to bring solace and healing for anyone who has been abused in any way at the hand of the Church personnel, volunteers and the institution itself. These services are becoming a tradition for the Lenten season in the Diocese which are scheduled to be held in Havre on February 23 and in Miles City on February 24, both at 7 p.m.

Despite any allegations to the contrary, the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings has in place policies and procedures aimed at addressing and preventing abuse of any children under our care and will maintain our continued vigilance to protect these children and care for any victim of abuse. Bishop Warfel further personally expresses his willingness to meet with anyone who requests an opportunity to discuss allegations of sexual misconduct toward minors and continues to urge any victims to reach out to the Diocese for the help they deserve.

+BMW [Bishop Michael Warfel]

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Third Sunday Ordinary Time Homily Jan 22, 2012

We are living in interesting and challenging times. And yet, as we look at our scripture readings today, almost any generation can talk about the challenges that they have face. The real challenge before us deals with our response to the times in which we live. If we take a moment or two to look at the news we’ve seen a variety of issues that are in the headlines this weekend.

As Catholics, we often have to remind ourselves that we are not to conform our selves to the culture around us, but to be counter cultural. We need to challenge the culture with the truths of the gospel message. Let’s take a closer look at the story of Jonah and his travels through Nineveh. God first spoke to Jonah to send him on the task of proclaiming His message and Jonah’s response was to head the other direction. He got on a ship bound for Tarshish. As the ship became engulfed in a storm the others on the onboard realized that Jonah was the cause of their distress. It was not long before Jonah found himself in the belly of a whale. After his three days, we was spit out onto dry land and the Lord called him again to get his butt to Nineveh to call them to repentance. Jonah came to realize that God was serious when He said He wanted repentance preached. The people of Nineveh realized the error of their ways and publicly did acts of penance.

How does this apply to each of us? I think we can all see ways in our lives that we have been like the Ninevites, and also like Jonah. Let’s start with the Ninevites. We need to look at each of these questions as it applies to our individual lives and to our society. Are we truly living our lives in a moral way as presented by God through the Church? Are we open to life, or do we use contraception in our marriages? Are our marriages sacramental? Are we in relationships that we treat like marriages, but which are not truly marriages? This ranges from living like a husband and wife, even when not married, to promoting same sex marriages. With the anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision coming this week, we need to ask do we promote a respect for all innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death? Fundamentally, this is innocent human life. After we have developed that respect for innocent human life in our lives and our society, we can carry it to the next level which would include respect for the not so innocent life which would include the issues of capital punishment and, as necessary, just war theory. Sodomy, adultery, fornication, murder, sacrilege, where do these sins have a hold on us and our society? The message of Jonah to the Ninevites to repent is a message we need to hear today. The big question we have to answer is, “how will we respond?” Will we like the Ninevites put on sackcloth and ashes? Will we realize our sin and turn our lives back to God?

Ok, enough about being like the Ninevites, how are we like Jonah? There are some who would argue that Jonah was afraid to go visit because they were a cruel people. They argue he was afraid of losing his life in the process of challenging them to repent. Others argue that he did not want to go to Nineveh because he wanted them to die. He did not want them to experience God’s mercy. He knew they would hear the message he was sent to proclaim and that they would change their lives. Why do we not want to call others to repentance? Are we afraid that they’ll react in a harmful way towards us? Do we not love them enough to want them to change? Let’s throw another possible answer into the mix. Perhaps we are afraid to call others to repentance because we realize that we have yet to repent of our sinful ways. I’m going to let those thoughts resonant for a few moments while I take a look at some current affairs.

What is in the news? First, in case you have not heard, it was announced Friday morning that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that all new and renewed insurance plans will be required to cover contraception. As Grace-Marie Turner writes at National Review Online’s The Corner blog:

The Obamacare regulation gives faith-based institutions, like Catholic universities and hospitals, the choice of violating the fundamental tenets of their faith by covering the federally mandated coverage in their employee health plans, or of dropping health insurance for their employees — in which case they would be fined for violating the employer mandate.

Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, had this to say in a press release.

“Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights,” Cardinal-designate Dolan said.

How has this come to happen? Perhaps we’ve been like Jonah when sent to the Ninevites. We’ve found excuses not to stand up for our faith. Perhaps in part because of our own inclination to sinful activity. Perhaps because we’ve not really studied the issues and realize the greater ramifications that a ruling such as this has on our ability to practice our faith as it is taught. Many of the contraceptives they expect to cover cause abortions as a last means of preventing a birth. :(

That being said, the other big news issue from a Catholic perspective is the anniversary of Roe vs Wade. Monday will be the 39th March for Life in Washington, DC. Among the activities taking place is a youth rally that was held last night and the Mass for Life celebrated at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception tonight. When we look back at Jonah, those marching for life are in many ways like Jonah walking the streets of Nineveh. They are a challenge, not just to the government, but to our society to look at ourselves and the destruction our sin is causing in our nation. They are making the call to repent.

Let us listen one more time to the words of Paul from our second reading today:

I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.

The world is passing away and the Kingdom of God will be what remains. In the Gospel we heard:
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
"This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel."

We are all called to repent. We must not give up hope in the fact that God can take us from where we are today to do great things with us. As we heard in the last part of today’s gospel, Jesus called fishermen to be the beginnings of his Church. In the Gospel of Luke we hear:

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

Yet, Peter did follow Christ and was made the head of his Church.

Our own need for repentance should not stop us from answering the call that is before each of us. We are called to be a part of the Church that Christ established. We are called to take the truth of the gospel as handed down through the Church to the ends of the world. This starts, right here and right now.

The news stories of this weekend are only a beginning point for our call to be Jonah’s in the world, calling the Nineveh that we live in to repent. Do not run of to Tarshish to avoid the task. Step forward with courage and conviction. If, at the moment your life resembles that of the Ninevites more that of Jonah, follow their example of doing penance and repenting of your sins and perhaps, making today’s psalm your prayer:
R. (4a) Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice
and teaches the humble his way.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Homily for Dad's funeral

+JMJ

Isaiah tells us that, "On this mountain" all will be well. The promise from Isaiah is a source of hope for us gathered here. Later on, Jesus would allude to the fact that he is going to prepare a place for us. This, too, makes us a people of hope. Yet, the foundation of this hope is built upon the fact that we have been claimed by Christ through baptism which makes us heirs with Christ to the Kingdom. As we began today, we placed the pall on Dad's casket to remind us of his baptism. We also have the paschal candle lit next to the casket. It is a reminder to us of the Light of Christ in the world. At the Easter Vigil a fire is blessed and from that flame the paschal candle is lit. As we come into the church we proclaim and respond, "Christ, our light. Thanks be to God." The light fills the church. This light coming into the church is much like Christ illumining our souls at baptism. The darkness brought onto us through original sin is wiped away. We are claimed as "children of God". All of this leads to our hope for our own future.

As we say, "Good-bye" to Dad today we are filled with a sense of sadness. We are going to miss one who may have been a hunting buddy, a drinking partner, an uncle, a brother, a grandfather, or a dad. Yet, above all of this he was a child of God. So while we may experience some tears today we need to be filled with a sense of hope. We need to look to the future that has been promised to us.

During this season of Christmas, we celebrate the little child born of a virgin. We celebrate the fact that God took on our human naute so that he could die on the cross so that we could be saved through him.

I pray that we can all experience a sense of joy today as we look ahead to our future. Christ is the light that has come into our darkness, not only the darkness of sin, but also the darkness of our sorrow. Let Christ's light fill you with the hope of our salvation. As we say good-bye to Dad, pray with me that he may quickly come to see our God face-to-face and know the fullness of his glory.

+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen