Sunday, November 29, 2015


...Jesus is Coming..
Readings for Sunday, November 29/ 1st Sunday of Advent:
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 24-26

Happy Advent! What joy to come to this blessed time of year when we begin again, a time of rejoicing at the things God has done and looking forward to the new things He has in store for us. As we begin a new liturgical year today, I want to start by changing things up a bit and inviting you all to stand up for a moment. Now I want you to repeat after me: I love the Lord! [Congregation responds] Now I’ve heard y’all talking after Mass, so I know you can get a little louder than that: I love the Lord! [Congregation responds louder] That’s much better, but I know we have some Italians in the congregation and just being good Louisiana people, we have to use our hands when we talk, so lets make sure to use our hands this time: I love the Lord! [Congregation responds, with hand gestures!] Beautiful! I’m glad y’all love the Lord! I love Him too. Y’all can sit now.

So, Advent has arrived once again, that season when Mother Church invites us to reflect upon what she calls the ‘twofold coming of Christ’ – the expectation of His arrival at Christmas, as well as the final coming of the Lord in glory that will take place on the Last Day, whenever that might be. It’s a time when we don once more the penitential purple and prepare our hearts for the Lord to come, but it is a penance that is marked with joy at the nearness of the Lord to us. Much like Lent, it is easy to have Advent simply pass us by and miss the great gift that it can be. I find for myself also that it is easy to get caught up in reflections that are rather spiritual rather than practical in my own ‘preparing the way’ for the Lord. So my intention for these four weeks of Advent is to provide practical, concrete ways for us to prepare our hearts, homes, and lives for the coming of Christ Jesus. I hope they are helpful for you as I pray they will be for me.

A few years back I went with some friends who were still in seminary to Houston over Christmas break for a ‘Chant Intensive’ workshop on how to read, understand, sing, and (somewhat) direct Gregorian Chant. When we arrived they split us into our groups and sent us to our practice rooms. My friends and I went to our assigned room with all of our books in hand ready to chant to our hearts content. The director arrived and, after a brief introduction and overview of the workshop, he asked us to stand. We all listened and he did with us the same exact activity I just did with y’all. At the end of it he asked us to be seated and said, “Alright, so now I know how loud y’all can sang.” So… *grins* … now I know how loud y’all can sing. Which brings me to practical point number one: sing!

It is scientifically proven that music has a profound impact on the human mind and body, that playing music has short-term and long-term effects on our brain, and that singing has a way of changing our mind and body both, but especially our heart. Johnny Cash once sang “Get rhythm when you get the blues” and with that he reminds us that music is able to move us. It moves our hearts and if there is anything in the time of preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus, it is most certainly our hearts.

Rock the Mic!
In the Gospel passage we just heard, Jesus warns us not to let our hearts become drowsy with worldly pleasure. Having experienced every aspect of human life but sin, He knows well how easy it is to get caught up in the pleasures of the world, in festivities, in the mundane things, and to lose the burning fire of love for God that is given us at our baptism. And so we come to this Advent season and we do that which brings life to a fire or brings flames from a burning ember – we breathe out life, we sing. The experience of singing is one in which we are able to pray not only with our voice but with our whole self and in the process of inhaling and exhaling the fire of our soul can be ignited and renewed. So we sing – at Mass, in the car, at home, in the shower, at work, wherever. All the time I hear it said ‘Father, you don’t want me to sing…or them to sing’ but the thing is that I do. If everyone sings it will be a beautiful noise! So I invite you to do one little thing at different times through the week and to sing.

Sing like this little guy.
As I said at the beginning, Advent is a time when we can begin again and bring new resolutions to our own life. For Advent this year I want to invite you to join with me in a new piece in the liturgy. In case you’ve not beaten me to the punch yet – it involves singing. Every day priests and religious brothers and sisters across the world stop at various times of day to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, a collection of psalms, scripture readings, hymns and intercessions. There are five different times it is done at the day, mostly in the same format. The last prayer of the day is a bit different though because after the concluding prayer and blessing, a hymn is sung to the Blessed Mother. A sort of goodnight lullaby where the tables are turned and rather than our mother singing to us, we sing to our mother. The first time I heard this done was when I was at the seminary in Covington. I went to the monks’ Night Prayer with a friend and at the end they all processed out in silence to the rear of the church and the lights were turned out. They wrapped around the rear of the church and came down the side aisle to the image of the Blessed Mother, which was illuminated by the only light in the church. And in that moment of darkness and quiet the Abbot intoned the hymn and the monks joined with him in solemn song. I got goosebumps then as I have them right now thinking about it. It is that same loving devotion to Our Lady that I hope to bring into our Masses here at St. Ann & St. Vincent. There are four different hymns through the course of the whole year, each one being sung for 2-4 months. I know it will be tough to learn them initially, but know that it will be well worth the effort and will great joy to Mary’s heart – and to mine and hopefully yours too. May Mary, who is ever watchful of us, her children, fill us with joy in this blessed season and may she bring to completion that great mission of bringing us closer to the Heart of Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus. Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Things & Stuff

Desires and Dreams and Expectations. Oh my!
Sunday, November 8/ 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time:
1 Kings 17:10-16
Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

As we continue to draw near the end of the Liturgical Year, Mother Church wisely encourages us to make sure we’re detached from the things of the world. It is not hard to find ourselves in a place where we’ve begun to cling to our own will, desires, or expectations. The problem with clinging to the things of this life is that they ultimately fail to satisfy our deepest longings and leave us unable to receive the Will of God, which brings true happiness, on account of us having out hands full of our ‘stuff’. Anyone who has made an act of faith before by giving up something for God knows that the truth of the matter is that God won’t leave us hanging. He always shows up and it’s always better than we could have anticipated. That doesn’t mean we don’t have crosses. Surely we do; we must. But the Will of God is such that we can handle the crosses more gracefully.

To help our reflection this weekend Mother Church brings to mind two women, both poor widows. The first is the widow of Zarephath in her encounter with prophet Elijah. He comes into the area and asks the women for a drink of water and a bit of food. In response we hear the unhappy story of how she was in that very moment going to make a little bit of food for her son and after partaking they would die on account of starvation. You can imagine the great weight on the woman’s heart as she knows that not only is her death imminent, but also that of her son. To this Elijah responds with a word of encouragement and that she not be afraid, that they would not starve. Then he oddly renews his request for some food, knowing she has almost nothing for herself and her son.  In agreeing to his request she essentially shows that she was willing to die for Elijah, in that she gave the last of her sustenance in faith that God would provide. In letting go of her will, her expectations, and likely her desire for the food herself, she was able to receive a new plan that overflowed in its abundance.

To this image we are also given the example of the woman in the Gospel. She, too, is faced with a decision to try to save something for herself or to give up everything in an act of faith. She is applauded by Jesus because her seemingly small gift was her whole livelihood. Following the model of the ancient story and the pattern of God’s love and generosity that is never outdone, I’d love to know the rest of the story. How is it that God responded? Did Jesus do something after this scene that changed everything for her? A miracle at Cana type of miracle? Or something deeper? We’ll find out in Heaven. But before then, we have to follow their example.

To each and all of us God gives the reminder that we cannot continue to cling to the things of this life and be ready for the next one. The Letter to the Hebrews talks about the eagerness of Christians for the Lord’s return, but how many of us would rejoice if Jesus showed up right in front of the altar and said “I’m here, who wants to leave this world and go to heaven right now?” I think some of us might balk and be like those elsewhere who have excuses that they’d love to but they have to take care of just one thing real quick before then. What is it that we are clinging to today? Where is it that the Lord inviting us to a sacrificial gift? An act of faith that seems absurd and yet it is the exact thing the Lord desires? The Lord wills it – can we receive it?

[At this point the homily leads into the reading of Bishop Muench’s address regarding the Bishop’s Annual Appeal. For more information on that –whether to learn about what it does or to make donation online - you can visit]

Monday, November 2, 2015

Papal Intentions for November 2015

Papal Intentions for November 2015

Universal Intention: That we may be open to personal encounter and dialogue with all, even those whose convictions differ from our own.

Mission Intention: That pastors of the Church, with profound love for their flocks, may accompany them and enliven their hope.

Prayer for the Pope

V. Let us pray for Francis, our Pope.
R. May the Lord preserve him, give him life, 
and make him blessed upon the earth, 
and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.

Our Father... Hail Mary...

O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Francis, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Hidden Saints

A few of the saints...
Readings for Sunday, November 1/ All Saints Day:
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14

Psalm 24
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12

Today we have the joy of celebrating in the Sunday celebration the feast of All Saints, that blessed feast when we call to mind the great crowd on men and women who have gone before us and reign gloriously with Jesus in Heaven. One of the awesome points is the universality expressed by such a fact: that all are called to Heaven. Male and female, rich and poor, old and young, regardless of time or place or any other factor that is found in this world. If you are a human, you are called to heavenly life, called to be a saint.

In other homilies I’ve mentioned the fact rather clearly that you and I are called to be saints and from time to time I hear remarks to the effect that ‘Father, I certainly can’t be a saint!’ My response is simply this: you can and you must, for there is but one fate for those who are not saints and it’s not a pleasant one. To be a saint is not necessarily to be a superhero of the spiritual life. Too often when we think of saints we call to mind those great men and women of faith whose lives are models of sanctity to which it would indeed be difficult for us to attain. St. Jean Vianney would survive for days at a time on a few meager bites of old potatoes. St. Pio of Pietrelcina endured the wounds of the stigmata for some 50 years. St. John Paul II was shot in an assassination attempt and them went to forgive the shooter personally. St. Francis of Assisi in his zeal to strip himself of all earthly things began to give away his possessions and when confronted by his father who said, ‘You cannot give everything away, for that tunic was purchased with my money!’ stripped himself naked in the middle of town and went away to go find some scraps of cloth with which to make a new wardrobe. Now, I’m pretty sure we’re not called to strip naked in town at this point, that was presumably one of those events that just had to happen once in the life of the Church to mark it off the list. I mean, we’re going to be in Heaven for eternity, it’s good to have a great store of stories to fall back on to tell! But more seriously, those are the images we often recall when we think of saints, but the truth is that for every one of those great saints there is a great number of humble quiet saints who are enjoying the fruit of a life lived well, though not notably. Is this not what we profess in our faith?

As I was driving around the area blessing graves this weekend I noticed the great many cemeteries in the area – family cemeteries, public ones, and ones connected to various congregations – all full of stones marking the faithful departed. How many thousands just in our little slice of the world have died with the belief that they would be given the reward of their labors in this life? Are they not saints? I sure hope they are, or at least on their way!

Regardless of whether one’s life is a light shining on a mountaintop for the world to see or hidden in the Heart Christ, the call remains the same: to become saints. And to accomplish this we look to those who have gone before us as models and intercessors. The prayers of the Mass remind us of these realities over and over. They are models for us to follow, images into which we look and discern how we might imitate them. Here is the beauty of the universality of the saints in Heaven – that there’s a patron saint for anything and everything you can endure in this life. Are you a teenager (most of us here aren’t) but there’s a patron saint for you – St. Maria Goretti, whose relic happens to be here on the altar today. Do you like shooting handguns? There’s a patron saint of handgunners, St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother, who is also here on the altar. Do you suffer from headaches? St. Teresa of Avila is the patron saint of people who suffer from headaches. Did you know there’s a patron saint of the internet? True story. It’s St. Isidore, who happens also to be the patron saint of farmers. Maybe the Church in her wisdom is subtly telling those who spend much time on the internet to go outside and play in the dirt once in a while? These and others are the ones who have walked the paths before us and provide us a model of how to live and can intercede for us on account of their special connections to us. Just as we’re attracted to people with whom we have things in common, so it is with the saints. And not just that – there are saints we can pray to as patrons of our parish, diocese, ones whose feast lies on our birthday, baptismal day, confirmation, wedding, children’s birthday and more. Saints all over the place! And rightly so. It’s the normal course of the Christian life to become a saint, Pope Francis reminds us, but it is a course that must be chosen. And here is the key to everything: choosing.

St. Paul of the Cross
The closing line of the reading from Revelation that we heard noted the great crowd before John, saying of them, “These are the ones who have survived the great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They survived the great distress. In other words, they bore the cross God offered to them. They knew that the cross of Jesus was His throne of glory and their own crosses were the ladders to heaven and they rejoiced to climb them. This is how to become saints: by accepting what comes our way from Christ in such a way as to turn it into our glory. To do all things for love of Jesus. And if you struggle with carrying your cross, St. Paul of the Cross founded the Passionist Fathers, whose community shows us the joy of the cross - he's here on the altar too. Pray to him. Pray to all of them. Pray that we can become the saints we’re called to be.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
St. Ann, pray for us.
St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us.

All you holy men and women, pray for us.