Friday, October 29, 2010

Because he loved me...

Readings for Friday, October 29:
Philippians 1:1-11
Psalm 111:1-6
Luke 14:1-6

He saved me because he loved me.

These words from Psalm 18 could well be the title of our readings for the day. Our gospel recounts another of those scenes wherein Jesus is shown challenging the teachings of the scholars and Pharissees. This time the Lord shows them - and us - that their strict observance of the law cast aside charity in the name of senseless obedience. This is a concrete example of what we hear elsewhere - that the great law is to love God, the second to love our neighbor. This act of love, says the Lord, ought to take precedence over the laws of men. As the Lord reaches out to the man with dropsy, He shows His love for him and cures all of his ailments. He saved him because he loved him. And the same can be said of us. Jesus had each of us in mind, consciously aware of each of one of us, as he lived His life and especially at His passion and death. That death was His ultimate sign of love and we too are called to die to ourselves and reach out in love to others who are need, to the suffering, the ill, and the poor. Surely we do these things to a degree already, but the Lord challenges us today to not be content where we are, but to grow in love. As we hear on the lips of St. Paul, "this is my prayer: that your love may ever more and more", so the Lord asks that we open our hearts even more to Him and to those that He puts into our lives.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Be Submissive?!

Stained Glass of St. Lambert
Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church
Readings for Wednesday, October 27:
Ephesians 6:1-9
Psalm 145:10-14
Luke 13:22-30

Today's first readings shows us the continuation of Saint Paul's challenging message yesterday - be submissive to others, make yourself a servant. Here applied to children and slaves, the message takes on a different feel when we begin to look at what it is asking. Often when we think about obedience and submission, there is something in us that can naturally rebel against the idea. During my time in seminary, I have heard on several occasions from priests that we at first think that celibacy is the hardest part of the priestly life, but then you make your promise of obedience and realize that celibacy is easy in comparison. This is so because we often think that we are right or we know the better way to do things, and sometimes we do! But the thing is that ultimately, we ought to submit to those in authority over us as if they were the Lord. 

The Letter to the Ephesians says, "but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, willingly serving the Lord and not men, knowing that each will be requited from the Lord". The RSV translation is a bit more clear: "not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men..." The slaves were told by Saint Paul to work not for men but for God. Their labor and sufferings were to be endured out of love for the Lord. And this is what we are each called to do - to submit ourselves to others out of love for God, not the pleasure of men. Whether it comes in the form of relatives or friends, co-workers or even strangers, it is beneficial to our soul to submit. And if it is a real struggle, simply remind yourself of the One for Whom you are doing it with the little prayer "All for the love of Jesus Christ."

As I was reflecting on this passage, I couldn't help but recall this image of St. Lambert kneeling before the crucifix. This image is in the Archabbey Church in St. Meinrad, Indiana, where I spent six weeks discerning monastic life. I was always struck by this image because of the story that accompanies it. Saint Lambert was a bishop and was traveling at one point and came along this Benedictine monastery. One of the leaders of the community told him to kneel before the crucifix until the monk came back, unaware that he was the bishop of the diocese and had authority over the monks of the abbey. Hours later he returned and there knelt Lambert, kneeling as he had been told, despite the fact that he was actually the superior; so great was his love for Jesus Christ and desire to be obedient to Him. How beautiful the world would be if we all had such great humility!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

"We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that He gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty."
-St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

This passage has really been speaking to me for the past couple of days because my classmates and I are beginning an intense six weeks of classwork here at the seminary and I find comfort in being reminded that the grace is always there to persevere in doing His will and seeking after Him in all things and at all times. How blessed we are to have the grace of God at work in us!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

On Children and Chant and Latin and Things...

The main altar and high altar of St. Gertrude Parish
For those of you who come to this little blog regularly, you have probably noticed the abrupt halt in posts. One reason that this has been the case for the past week is that I am currently in Cincinnati, Ohio visiting my dad our family up here. Getting on the internet has been a bit of a task, and this is multiplied by the joyous fact of my 18-month old little sister's curiosity with this strange bearded fellow who has suddenly shown up at the house (me). Needless to say, I have spent a great deal of time watching her run here, there and everywhere and that takes precedence (I'm sure you understand). 

Anywho, I have had the blessed opportunity to again visit St. Gertrude parish and Old St. Mary's parish here in Cincinnati during my week or so here. St. Gertrude is a formation house for the Dominican brothers in the area and so they continually have a dozen or more men my age in formation (how blessed they are!) that are present in the parish. It also adds a beautiful element to the liturgical celebrations, as they are often there to lead the congregation in the proper chants for each day and the Mass responses. Too, they chant the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) with the lay community as well. Needless to say, I'm taking notes :) This morning I went again to Old St. Mary's church, a gorgeous old German church that is the home to the Novus Ordo in Latin, the Novus Ordo in German, and the Novus Ordo in English (Novus Ordo being the Mass of Vatican II). The Latin celebration really makes me appreciate the beauty that is possible in celebrating the Novus Ordo well. The small army of altar boys that were there are sure to produce a couple of good holy priests in the future for the archdiocese. In all, it has been a refreshing few days here with the family and those two communities. Now, I prepare to head back to Baton Rouge tomorrow morning to resume the more active aspects of diaconal ministry and to begin the final stages of preparation for just 7 months and 11 days away. I assure you that regular posting of reflections and homilies - as they occur - will resume this week. My prayers are with you. Please pray for me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Special Kind of Happiness

I've been reading the book The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor. It's about a priest who is a recovering alcoholic and his dealings with a family with which he has intimate ties from childhood. It is written from the priest's own point of view and he reflects often on his life in a very beautiful way. I found the following paragraph particularly striking; maybe you will as well.

"So then, I was happy in the way that young priests so often are. This is, I think, a special kind of happiness, one perhaps peculiar to the priest, and, moreover, to the priest when he is just beginning, when he's in the very morning of his new life. Which is not to say that happiness must fade as the priest grows old: it can change its quality, it can deepen, ripen, become richer. But this kind of happiness will fade, because it belongs to the young: a mixture of innocence and awe, of freshness and wonder, of reverence and excitement, of joy and of a disbelief, almost, that, for example, it is really you who, in this church and on this altar and before these people, are now at last to have the great privilege of consecrating the Body and Blood of our Blessed Lord. Here the miracle and mystery of God's grace strikes home overwhelmingly, with such freshness and clarity, that it stuns your heart and fills your whole being and nothing else matters at all. And these moments, once known, no matter how long ago, can never be really forgotten. Never, never, never..."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pray for Vocations!

Readings for Sunday, October 10:
2 Kings 5:14-17
Psalm 98:1-4
2 Timothy 2:8-13
Luke 17:11-19

“And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice.”

He realized he was healed; he realized the gift that he had received and he went back to the Lord in thanksgiving. The other nine did not know the gift and they simply continue on.

In recent years we’ve been hearing a lot about the priesthood shortage. And none of you here at Our Lady of Mercy need to be told about it; you see it daily. Many of you can probably remember regularly having at least two associate pastors here. And yet today, we don’t even have one. This leads some to the conclusion that we have a vocations crisis, a shortage of vocations. But this is simply not true. God is calling just as many young men to serve Him as priests today as in the past, maybe even more given the situation of our world. The real crisis is a lack of responses to that call.

Just as the ten lepers were healed by the Lord and only one responded to the gift, so too with priestly vocations. Many young men are called and simply never recognize the seed of the priestly vocation in their hearts. Or if they do hear it, it maybe be overlooked by others or even discouraged. The same applies to young men and women discerning the vocation to consecrated religious life. The call is there, but what we desperately need is the response.

As a seminarian and soon-to-be priest, I like to talk to young people about pursuing the vocation of religious life because I myself have found such joy and fulfillment in it. I hope that my words and my witness will encourage others to ‘cast out into the deep’ and pursue the vocation of consecrated life, whether in priesthood or religious life. But it is not my job alone to encourage this – it is also yours.

Every one of us has a role in encouraging vocations in the youth. I can speak from my own perspective and talk about my experience, of the call, the journey, and the life. But I cannot possibly spend time with each of your children to have the opportunity to see within them a seed of religious vocation. But you can and hopefully do. So what can you do to encourage vocations to priesthood and religious?

First – PRAY! Jesus told us that the harvest is plentiful but laborers are few and that we are to pray for more laborers to be sent. So, first we must pray to the Lord to call more young people to pursuer religious vocations, and we must pray that those who are called might have the grace to respond to the call. Secondly, talk about vocations. If a child never hears or talks about religious life, they are much less likely to pursue it. The seminarians and our parents got together with Bishop Muench yesterday morning and he spoke about vocations. He said that over half of the priests he knew felt the call to priesthood in elementary school. So it’s never to early to just throw the possibility out there. Which leads me to my next point – if you see someone who might have the seed of a vocation, tell them! Many simply need someone to let them know what they themselves cannot see. These are all things that involve specifically talking about vocations. But this is only part of it.

In addition to praying for vocations, talking about vocations, and inviting people to consider vocations, we must also simply talk pray in general, talk about faith, and invite our youth to be joyfully Catholic. This could be things link attending Mass as a family, praying the rosary together each night or each week, talking about the faith and the scriptures together, and simply sitting down to a share meal. This will certainly encourage religious and priestly vocations, but it will also encourage good wholesome vocations to marriage and unite our youth to the Lord through their Catholic faith.  And that is the goal, to have our young people love being Catholic and be in union with the Lord Jesus, because when that happens, the seeds will begin to flourish.

As I conclude my time here at Our Lady of Mercy, I want to say thank you for the many prayers that all of you have lifted up for me during my time here and even before my arrival. I know that without your prayers and the prayers of others, I would never have had the strength to pursue the vocation to which I have been called. I ask for your continue prayers also, for myself and my classmate Deacon Todd Lloyd. He and I are set to be ordained this coming May and will certainly need your prayers as we make that transition. I ask for your prayers also for the three men in the class behind us who are scheduled to be ordained transitional deacons for our diocese in June, and for the 10 other men who are in formation for priesthood for our diocese. I have spoken to three parishioners here discerning religious life and suspect that there are many more.

I close with this advice to all of you, but especially any of you who think you may be called to a religious vocation: the Lord created you with a purpose in mind. Do not be afraid; simply trust in the Lord and He will take you where you need to be.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Unity of Christians

Sts. Peter and Paul
Icon of Christian Unity
Readings for Friday, October 8:
Galatians 3:7-14
Psalm 111:1-6
Luke 11:15-26

Several years ago I was curious about the number of ‘churches’ in my hometown of Denham Springs. I opened up the phone book and turned to the churches section and found nearly 60 different places just in Denham Springs. I was shocked that there were so many there, and I can only imagine how many are here in Baton Rouge. And yet, I know that no two of those ‘churches’ really teach the same thing. And not just disagreements on small articles of faith, but major ones. I was looking at a website the other day and found a page speaking on how the Trinity is not Biblical and isn’t a reality. The Trinity - one of the core beliefs of the Catholic Church; really, THE core belief of the Catholic Church. And yet at this other Christian ‘church’, they say otherwise. Such great disunity.

In the Gospel today, Jesus is accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, himself a demon. Jesus points out how foolish this is, saying that any house that is divided against itself cannot stand. We know that the Catholic Church will never be destroyed because Jesus Himself said that gates of hell shall not prevail against her. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t have some major problems along the way. Remember the Jews of the Old Testament; the Lord made many promises to them.  The promises made to them were fulfilled by God, but along the way they endure many trials, much persecution and two major exiles from their land. They were divided and they paid a price, but the Lord was ultimately faithful to His promise. Just like the Jews of old, we Christians lack unity. The over 40,000 protestant denominations that have arisen in the past 500 years attest to the fact that Christians are clearly not united.

It is fitting then, that today as we listen to these words that speaks of division and destruction, that we pray for the unity of all Christians. Pray that all Christians might once again be brought together to be united in spirit and in truth, and be one as Jesus and the Father are one, as the Lord said in the scriptures.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Our Lady of the Rosary

On this day in 1571, the famous Battle of Lepanto took place. In that battle at sea, the Holy League (comprised of Spanish forces, Papal forces, and several other groups) decisively defeated the fleet of ships sent by the Ottoman Empire to gain entry into Europe. The Holy League was greatly outnumbered and Pope Pius V, realizing the importance of this battle, sent out a message asking everyone to pray the Holy Rosary for the Holy League to be victorious. They were indeed victorious and saved Christian Europe from invasion from the Ottomans. To commemorate this miraculous occasion, Pope Pius instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory, attributing the victory to the Blessed Virgin Mary's intercession. Today this is celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary,  showing the importance of Mary's intercession, as well as the great power of the Holy Rosary. In this month of October, we honor Our Lady and join together in praying the Rosary once again, trusting that the Blessed Mother will again hear our prayers and give us victory over the evil one who prowls throughout the world.

Our Lady of the Rosary, Pray for us!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Readings for Wednesday, October 6/
Memorial of St. Bruno:
Galatians 2:1-2,7-14
Psalm 117:1,2
Luke 11:1-4

Give us each day our daily bread.

Traditionally we have seen this petition of the Lord’s Prayer to have two meanings. First it is the Bread of Life, the Eucharist. This is the Bread that sustains our spiritual life and give us grace. Secondly, and linked to it, is the daily bread of the many graces that we need to make it through the day.

If we look at the Letter to the Galatians, we can see that what we need daily as part of that ‘daily bread’ is the virtue of courage. St. Paul recounts here how St. Peter failed to exhibit this virtue. The Jews traditionally separated themselves from the Gentiles, and so would not eat with them at meals. Knowing this was not really in line with Christian belief, St. Peter would eat with the Gentiles when the Jews weren’t around, but as soon as they showed up he would again distance himself from the Gentile Christian community because he was afraid of what the Jews would do or say. St. Paul recognized this and, although he was the least of the Apostles, called St. Peter out for doing something that was out of line. Here he showed great courage in stepping up to the leader of the Christian community to bring him back to the truth.

As we come to receive the daily bread of the Eucharist today, may we also receive the great gift of courage so that we might be able to do those things that we ought to do and to bring back those who have strayed from the truth.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Divine Artist

Caravaggio's The Martyrdom of St. Matthew

Readings for Tuesday, October 5:
Galatians 1:13-24
Psalm 139:1-3,13-15
Luke 10:38-42

A few weeks ago I reflected on an experience I had of studying a painting by the artist Michelangelo Caravaggio. I want to return to that experience, but now in a different light. Before I spoke about looking into the meaning of a particular painting, but this was only part of the assignment. The whole assignment was to research the painting, as well as the artist, and to be able to discuss it in light of the other works he had done. Essentially, we had to find out what are the characteristic elements the artist used and show how they were incorporated in the main work. As I began to study his different pieces of art, it was interesting to note that there were many similarities, many things that were almost universally present in his paintings. And yet there were also here and there little details that pointed toward something specific he had experienced in his life. In the midst of so much the same, there were little differences.

This is what struck me as I was reflecting on our readings for today. In the psalm we encounter an image of God as a sort of Divine Artist who creates each of us uniquely. As the psalmist says, God knits us together in our mother’s womb and forms our inmost being. If we look around, we can see some of the commonalities – obviously a physical similarity, a mental similarity, and because we are created in the image of God, we all have dignity as persons. And while we have these similarities, we also have many differences. We look different from one another, we have different interests, and we have different gifts. This is where the beauty really lies; it would be simple to make carbon-copies of us, but the fact that each of us is specially molded by the Lord speaks to the great love that He has for each of us as His sons and daughters.

As we celebrate this Eucharist, may the Lord, who knows us more deeply than we know ourselves, show us the gifts with which we have been molded and give us the grace to put those gifts to good use, so that we, like Saint Paul, might bring others to glorify God by those gifts.  

Monday, October 4, 2010

Radio Silence

In case you're wondering why I haven't posted anything since this past Wednesday - I haven't preached since then. I will be posting again beginning tomorrow and will continue as usual. After this weekend I will no longer be assigned to Our Lady of Mercy parish, but will be returning to the seminary. In the months leading up to my priestly ordination I will be preaching in various parishes on some weekends, as well as a few times here at the seminary. I will continue to post those homilies here and on Facebook, as usual, and hope to supplement them by reflections on the Mass readings/feasts on other days. Thank you for visiting my blog. Look out for an updated page layout in the next couple of weeks... God's blessings upon you all!