Thursday, August 30, 2012

Light to the nations...

"Christ is the light of the nations." So are the first words in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church - Lumen Gentium. As I have been rereading the Vatican II documents in preparation for the 50th Anniversary of the Council I have been again surprised by their beauty and readability. The Bishops, and those that wrote and re-wrote Lumen Gentium, did a wonderful job of describing the Church (people of God) and its hierarchy. I would bet that many fans of Vat II have not read this very important Constitution. I would exhort all Catholics to read (at least) the four Constitutions that the Council Fathers approved.
In the First Vatican Council, the infallibility of the Pope was a big topic but that Council ended early due to the Franco-Prussian War. The Second Vatican Council takes up that issue once again and expounds upon it. While Lumen Gentium affirms everything that was said at Vatican I about the Pope's decision making power it also includes the notion of collegiality, saying that the best pronouncements in the Church come from the Pope and Bishops working together. Lumen Gentium also has an entire chapter describing the role of the Laity - something no other council in the Church's history attempted.
So here are some questions:
  1. Did you know that Vatican II affirms the doctrine of papal infallibility?
  2. What do you know about "religious assent" and "full submission"? What is the difference and what does it mean for Catholics?
  3. Do you know what the Council says about the role of the laity in the Church?
  4. Were you aware that the Council (in Lumen Gentium) opened the door for the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate?

Please let me know what questions you have about the Second Vatican Council in the comment section.

You are NOT lacking

Are you baptized? Do you receive Jesus Christ regularly in the Eucharist? Have you been Confirmed? If you said yes to at least two of these three then congratulations. You are not lacking in any spiritual gift. Paul says as much at  the beginning of his 1st Letter to the Corinthians as he tells them: "I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gifts as you await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Our challenge today is to LIVE as persons who believe what that verse says. Maybe you'll get some inspiration from this video that I found posted on the Deacon's Bench Blog:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Your assistance please...

On October 11th, our Church celebrates the 50th anniversary of the convening of the Second Vatican Council. For our time, this was the MOST significant event in Church governance. I will be doing a presentation beginning Thursday, October 11th at St Michael Parish in Sioux Falls covering the Council. Here is where I NEED your help. What is your perception of what happened at the Council? What questions do you have about it? PLEASE use the "Comment" Section of this post to let me know what YOU would like to see covered at a presentation on Vatican 2. Your help can assist me in shaping a presentation that is relevant to those who attend.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Satan's Plan For Your Life

I just read an interesting little ditty that a coworker handed to me. The title of it is "Satan's Plan - and why we are so busy". The story reminds me a little bit of the C.S. Lewis book "The Screwtape Letters". It tells of Satan's plan to undermine the spirituality and faith of God's people by making them busy, busy, busy.
Satan would like all of us to have two mortgages, two car payments, credit card debt and a lake cabin we're trying to pay for so we have to work, work, work. He would also like us to have the constant humdrum of video games, mp3 players, television, the internet, and cell phones to distract us away from a good practice of faith. Satan is crafty. He is NOT going to show up in our lives with horns and a tail. But he will show up in the form of all the things we think we need. He is going to dangle the carrot of "success" before our eyes hoping we will relentlessly pursue the "American Dream".
We need to ask ourselves questions like this: When was the last time I spent more than a few minutes in prayer?, When was the last time my family and I discussed our faith together? When was the last time we all sat down for a meal together? How much time have I spent nurturing my relationships with spouse, children and Savior? Be honest with yourself as you s-l-o-w-l-y go through these questions. Remember - Satan cannot have you unless you cooperate with him and his crazy plan for your life. Do something today to connect yourself more firmly to God.

You can read the entire story I refer to here:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The purpose of life...

Sorry for the short absence but my wife and I have been in Chicago on vacation. I took my iPad along but haven't quite figured out how to make the blog app work.

I listened to a  Fr Larry Richards cd while we were on the road and a couple of things he talked about have been haunting me. First, what is life all about? and second, Why am I so judgmental? Answering the first question correctly and living it faithfully will take care of the need for the second question so here goes.
The purpose of life, according to the old Catechism, is to "know love and serve God". Simple, huh? Then why is there so much confusion in the world. Why have there been periods of confusion in my own life. I have gone through the stages of believing that life is about accumulating stuff, about being "happy" (whatever that means), about being successful, independent, and well liked. I spent quite a bit of time after college and in our early marriage working my tail off for 60+ hours per week with my eye on "the prize" - a promotion, a raise, or a big bonus. This effort did bring me some "success" but it came at a high cost. I missed many events, games, activities that my kids were involved and a plethora of extended family meals and events. My employer was good to me and compensated me well but I question how I could have been that blind to what was truly important. 
Anyway, my faith life has been the center of my life for many years now. A couple of decades ago, after studying the Bible and Catechism extensively, I realized that knowing a lot about Jesus and about God and about Catholicism doesn't mean much unless all of that knowledge is rooted in a loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That "epiphany" came to me on the last day of Cursillo Weekend. Thank goodness for the holy people that put that weekend together and keep it going in our diocese today.
Understanding at the very core of my being that God loves me has become the touchstone of my life. Realizing that God wants that relationship with EVERY person on earth has directed much of my "knowing, loving and serving". My goal every day is to be a witness. People don't care how much I know unless that know that I care. People don't want to hear about Jesus Christ from me unless they can SEE what He has done for me. Our Church call this the "New Evangelization - letting our actions and our deeds speak LOUDLY.
In the next days and weeks I will be posting a great deal more about this. Our Pope has declared a "Year of Faith" to be celebrated beginning October 11th (the 50th anniversary of the opening of the 2nd Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the new Catechism). In the meantime, ask yourself "What is the purpose of my life?" Be honest with yourself and then, through prayer and time spent with God, become more and more the witness he created you to be.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sex Selective Abortion in India

There is a sad story on Catholic News Service today about the abhorrent practice in India of aborting female babies. Apparently, the dominant Hindu culture present there prefers male children because only a son can perform certain burial rites for the parents that free them from the endless cycle of birth, suffering and death.
Women in the Hindu cultures have another fear, providing they are born in the first place - dowry failure. If they or their family cannot pay the prescribed dowry for marriage the young girl can be killed. More often, they commit suicide under pressure from their husband and family if they cannot meet the dowry demands.
You can read the entire news article here:

Sometimes it takes looking at the injustice in another land to realize the horror in our own. As you read the story contemplate the fact that about 3,000 babies will have their lives ended TODAY in the good old U S of A. Then pray to God that he would put in on our hearts and on the hearts of all persons to accept and love each and every human person. What can you do today that could bring about a culture of life in your own world?

If you want peace, work for justice. (Pope Paul VI)

Lawrence, patron of diakonia

St. Lawrence - Martyr Today we celebrate a great Feast in the Catholic Church - that of St Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr. Just a few days ago we remembered Pope St Sixtus. Lawrence and six other deacons were in charge of the treasury of the pope and distributed it for the care of the poor and the needy. When the Emperor Valerian decreed that Christianity and its followers should be eradicated in 258, Sixtus and six of his deacons were led off to be slaughtered. However, Lawrence was not taken in this first group because he was to gather the treasure of the church for the prefect of Rome. Legend has it that when the guards came to him for the treasure he showed them the poor and the lame and declared that they were the treasure of the church. 
Legend also has it that Lawrence was roasted on a grill. While this, and the stories that have spread around it, is fascinating it is very likely untrue. The practice of the day for "disposing" of clerics was beheading which is probably what happened to Lawrence. I have always been a person who preferred to believe in the truth of the lives of our Saints rather than the lore. Instead of focusing on the apocryphal stories of his death, I believe it is more prudent to study the little we know of his life. As a deacon, Lawrence lived his life in service of his Pope and of the Church. In doing so he followed Jesus' command to "take up his cross daily and follow". Let that be for us today the lesson of Lawrence - simple, sacrificial service of God and neighbor.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Blessing of Bread

In the Gospel readings this weekend from John 6 we hear Jesus claim that He is the bread of life. What an amazing statement! Bread is the staple of life in most cultures. Certainly there are different ways of baking, making and storing bread but it is one of the common blessings of life. 
The next time you enjoy a slice of bread consider Jesus words. The bread of earth is needed but all who eat it will eventually die. The person who feasts on the "Bread of Life", Jesus Christ, will live FOREVER. Are you "filled up" with this bread that is true food? Is your soul nourished in Word and in Sacrament? Jesus words in John 6 are very clear and in need of little interpretation. He expects us to feast on Him. He established the perpetual method for doing that in the Mass. Be there every Sunday or be square.
Here's a neat blessing that Fr Cimpl uses in his homily this coming weekend:

Irish Bread Blessing

Be gentle when you touch bread.
Let it not lie uncared for, unwanted.
So often bread is taken for granted.
There is such beauty in bread,
beauty in turf and soil, beauty of patient toil.
Wind and rain have caressed it,
Christ often blessed it.
Be gentle when you touch bread.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Can I get a witness?

Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (Matt 5: 15-16)
Have you ever heard of Julio Diaz? He is a 31 yr old Social Worker in New York City. Every night he had a one hour subway ride home which he always ended one stop early so he could easily walk to his favorite diner. Then one night something different happened. As Julio stepped off the train and headed for the stairs a teenager approached, brandished a knife, and demanded his money. Julio calmly handed over his wallet and the mugger began to run away. That's when something very strange happened. Julio called after the young man to wait. He said: "You forgot something. If you're going to be running around all night robbing people you are going to cold. Please take my coat, too." Dumbfounded, the boy asked him, "Why are you doing this?" Julio answered, "If you are are willing to risk your own freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money." Diaz then invited the young man to join him for dinner. 
When they arrived at the diner, the young man was amazed. Everyone in the place seemed to know, like, and respect Julio. Even the dishwashers came out of the kitchen area to say hi to him. When he questioned Diaz about this, he was informed that all persons are worthy of good treatment.
When the check came at the end of the meal, Julio told the young man he was going to have to pay since he had the wallet. Without even thinking, the teen handed the wallet back. Julio paid the tab and then gave the boy a $20. In return, he asked the boy for his knife which he quickly surrendered.
Wow! Would you have the fortitude to "let your light shine" like that? Would I? I hope so, but I'm not so sure. It is truly essential if we are going to be the beacons Jesus expects us to be. The culture we live in is hungry for people who will WITNESS to their faith in beautiful, radical, and loving ways. In fact, this culture is not going to listen to any teacher unless they are also a witness. Our society is not given to listening to preachers who pound the pulpit, speak in platitudes, and expect transformation and conversion in their congregation that they are not willing to experience themselves.
You and I need to take this message to heart as we prepare for the "Year of Faith" that Pope Benedict has established (begins Oct 11). In our home, our workplace, our neighborhood, our parish and our city we are called to bring light. Not our own dim light but the bright and satisfying light of Jesus Christ. We do this by LIVING the Gospel. Julio Diaz was able to transform the life of his would-be mugger because he was willing to live the Sermon on the Mount. He had no idea what the outcome might be but he trusted God to bring something good out of an otherwise bad situation. Julio was able to do this because it was the way he lived each and everyday of his life. 
My challenge to you (and me) is to be that powerful witness today. Think of ways (authentic ways) that you can change the culture of your home and work environments by living the Gospel. It can be as simple as not laughing at a crude or racial joke. It can be as easy as cleaning up your language and encouraging others to do the same. Or it can be as difficult as lovingly confronting your boss if he/she treats an employee unjustly. 
There are many ways to bring Jesus into this world. Will you be his light today by witnessing to the truth in love?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Deacon Tom Bates

Last evening (Tuesday 7/31/12) my good friend and classmate Deacon Tom Bates passed from this world to the next. Deacon Tom and his wife, Lois, stayed with Mary and I during our years of deacon formation. He and Lois lived in Sisseton at the time so they used our spare bedroom. Tom was one of the most 'Catholic' people I know. He believed and lived what our Church teaches and did it with out hesitation and with joy in his heart. He had a hardy laugh and I enjoyed his company immensely. Besides being a husband and Deacon, Tom was the father of four - two boys and two girls. Unfortunately, the family lost Laura (the oldest) to breast cancer earlier this year.
I thank God that Tom's time between diagnosis and death was short - about 3 and 1/2 weeks. He had time to say his goodbyes and did not linger or suffer for long in pain.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord and the let the perpetual light shine upon him. Amen