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

Intentional or Accidental

This past week I was attending the mid-year meeting of the Knights of Columbus for State Chaplains and State Deputies. One of the discussions that took place involved the idea of Intentional Discipleship. This is not the first time that I've heard this idea. A comment was made that many Catholics seem to be accidental disciples. They were born into the faith and they go to Mass each week, but never really seem to do much to learn more about their faith, or really change their lives so that faith has the primary place. Many of the converts to the faith are truly intentional disciples. They chose to be Catholic and follow Christ through his Church. They have delved into the faith to learn all about what it means to be Catholic. They take seriously the precepts of the Catholic Church.

Many of those raised as Catholics do not even seem to know the precepts of the Catholic Church. They may have a vague idea about what they are, but they make little effort to make them the key points of their lives.

I believe that intentional discipleship begins with the Precepts of the Catholic Church. A person can find the precepts by making a quick visit to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Let me give my quick view of the precepts.
  1. "You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation." This really does not need much explanation.  One had better have a pretty good excuse not to attend Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation.
  2. “You shall confess your sins at least once a year."  This is especially true if you are in the state of mortal sin.  Each person should be in the practice of going to confession on a regular basis.  The practice of regular confession helps people grow in holiness as they reflect upon their lives and then make efforts to change the lives they've been living for the better
  3. “You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season." You will note that while you are required to attend Mass each week, you are not required to receive communion.  One should only come to communion in the state of grace.  The going to communion once a year is tied in with the once a year confession.  They should take place during the Easter Season. 
  4. “You shall keep holy the holy days of obligation."  Our focus on these days should be on God and the feast that we are celebrating. So often we put more emphasis on the secular side of many of these celebrations than on the religious side.  It is like those who want to attend the 4 pm Christmas eve Mass so they can enjoy the rest of Christmas day in a secular way.  We need to try to refrain from unnecessary work and spend more time reflecting upon the greatness of God.
  5. “You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence."  Most Catholics remember that we are to abstain from eating meat on Fridays of Lent. They also remember to observe the two primary fast days of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  What a lot of Catholics fail to realize is that we are called to keep all Fridays as days of penance. Catholics should abstain from eating meat every Friday of the year except in those places where permission for a substitution has been granted. In the Untied States we are permitted to substitute another form of penance on Fridays. The norm is still to abstain from eating meat. We are not suppose to completely forget about penance on Fridays. For those who do eat meat on Fridays, an alternative might be to spend a little time in the church on Friday praying before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.  One might also so some other additional prayers on a Friday, recognizing that it is truly meant to be a penance that is being completed, offering it up for our sins and those of the world.
  6. While it is not listed as a specific precept there is one other item listed in the Catechism: 
    The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities.  This includes supporting the local parish and the parish school if there is one, the local diocese and the mission of the universal Church. We each know what our own abilities are. I would hope that we take this expectation seriously.  The Church should not have to beg to complete its mission, the faithful should see to it that the resources are provided to get it done, and get it done well.
Let us all take to heart what it means to be an intentional disciple.  These precepts are just the beginning. Now we have to go learn more about our faith so we can continue to grow.