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Servant and Steward

Thus should one regard us:as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (I Corinthians 4:1).

Last Build Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2018 23:18:55 +0000


Homily - 18 February 2018 - The First Sunday of Lent

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 23:01:00 +0000

The First Sunday of Lent (B)Dear brothers and sisters,Have you ever noticed how people react upon seeing a rainbow? For those of us who do not often experience them, rainbows elicit a great excitement and a certain childlike joy as we see the colors stretching across the sky, and the fuller the rainbow, the greater our excitement.A rainbow over the Kalaupapa Peninsula of Moloka'i21 February 2010We know perfectly well why the bow forms as sunlight passes through the droplets of water and yet still we pause to look at them. There is something about a rainbow that simply captures our attention. How often do we see through the rainbow - beyond the arc and the colors and the natural wonder - to the covenant the Lord made with us?After the waters of the Flood receded, and after Noah built an altar to the Lord and offered sacrifice, God said to him: This is the sign of the covenant that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings (Genesis 9:12-16). This covenant was first made with Noah and renewed with Abraham and then with Moses and fulfilled and perfected in Jesus Christ. It was this covenant that we received at Baptism, the covenant sealed in the Blood of Christ. If the Lord of heaven and earth recalls the covenant he has made each time a rainbow appears, should we not also recall this covenant? Too often we are forgetful of God, though he never forgets us.Saint Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, tells us the waters of the Flood “prefigured baptism, which saves you now” (I Peter 3:21). Just as Noah and his family were saved through the waters of the Flood inside the ark, so, too, Christians are saved through the waters of Baptism in the Church, the Barque, the ship, of Peter. Baptism “is not a removal of dirt from the body,” Saint Peter says, “but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him” (I Peter 3:21-22).When Jesus accepted John’s baptism “of repentance for the forgiveness of sin,” the Spirit “immediately impels him into the consequences of that decision – consequences that will eventually lead to the cross” (Mark 1:4).[1]Just as Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise (cf. Genesis 3:24), so “the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert” to be tempted for forty days (Mark 1:12), just as Israel was tested for forty years in the desert (cf. Deuteronomy 8:2). When he allowed himself to be driven out into the desert, he accepted the history of Israel. “Jesus relives the story of Israel, but as an obedient son who is totally faithful in his own trial in the desert.”[2]When Satan tempted Jesus in the desert he was given the same choice as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the same choice as Israel in the desert. But unlike Adam and Eve, unlike Israel, Jesus remained faithful and obedient and now sits at the right hand of the Father, victorious over Satan, sin, and death, because he accepted his Messianic ministry from the Father in full obedience, docility, and love.NAF 4508, fol. 23rJesus goes into the desert for one purpose: to be “tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:12). From ancient times the desert symbolized the realm of evil, which was represented by the beasts dwelling there. Jesus goes to be tempted by Satan, “the prince of demons,” whose very name means “adversary” (Mark 3:22). It is this adversary, this enemy, who seeks to thwart Jesus’ every move throughout the gospels.When he enters into the desert, Jesus “enters into Satan’s territory deliberately, to begin his campaign against the powers of evil. He is looking for a fight! Yet he will confront Satan not with a blast of divine lightning, but in his frail human natu[...]

Islamic State Ongoing Updates - February 2018

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 13:30:00 +0000

Previous Updates: January 2018 | December 2017 | November 2017 | October 2017 | September 2017 | August 2017 |  July 2017 |June 2017 |  May 2017 | April 2017 | March 2017 | February 2017 | January 2017 | December 2016 | November 2016 | September 2016 | August 2016 | July 2016 | June 2016 | May 2016 | April 2016 | March 2016 | February 2016| January 2016 | December 2015 | November 2015 | October 2015 | September 2015 | August 2015 | July 2015| June 2015 | May 2015 | April 2015 | March 2015 | February 2015 | January 2015 | December 2014 | November 2014 | October 2014 | April - November 201411 February 2018UPDATE (02-17-18): Defeat of ISIS in Iraq Caused $45.7 Billion in Damage to Infrastructure, Study Finds5 February 2018UPDATE (02-17-18): US begins reducing troops in Iraq after victory over ISUPDATE (02-17-18): Americans in ISIS: Some 300 Tried to Join, 12 Have Returned to U.S.[...]

Homily - 14 February 2018 - Ash Wednesday

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 14:06:00 +0000

Ash WednesdayDear brothers and sisters,Much like Saint Valentine’s Day, we might say Ash Wednesday is a day about love. It might seem strange to say so, given that February 14th has largely become associated with romantic notions of love, and that on Ash Wednesday Mother Church calls us to “take up battle with spiritual evils.”[1]Today, then, is an opportunity for us to consider the nature of love. Saint Paul exhorts us, saying, “we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain” (II Corinthians 6:1). There is much to unpack in these few words, much that concerns love. If we are to heed the Apostle’s warning, we must first know what he means by grace. The Catechism of the Catholic Churchteaches us that “grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and eternal life.”[2] To put it perhaps more simply,God’s grace denotes his gift of love, the love made known most dramatically in the sending of his Son (cf. John 3:16) and in the gift of the Spirit in our hearts (cf. Romans 5:5). Grace thus signifies that God holds nothing back in reaching out to us in love.[3]Yet despite this gift of grace we all too often fail to reach out in love to God.Saint Valentine, a priest in the city of Rome, realized the tremendous gift we received in Christ and he devoted his life to helping others realize the same; he sought to help them live in grace. When Roman soldiers were forbidden to enter into marriage, me married them anyway, because he wanted to be sure husbands and wives received the grace to keep the promises of their marriages and so reflect God’s love for the Church. When he refused to stop witnessing the marriages of soldiers, he was beheaded. So it is that the color of Saint Valentine’s Day is red; it calls to mind the blood of this martyr, blood shed in and for love of God and neighbor. Valentine heard Saint Paul’s admonition and did not receive the grace of God in vain; he allowed this grace to bear fruit in his life and be caught up in the life of God.Saint Augustine of Hippo at first resisted God’s gift of grace and so received it in vain, yet one day he yielded. His interior longing for God prevailed and he exposed his heart to grace saying that famously moving prayer: “You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”[4]Each of us received this grace of God’s love, we received a share in the divine life, in the waters of Baptism, but it is a grace to which we must respond again and again if we do not wish to lose it; it is a love we sometimes resist. This is why the Lord says to us through his prophet Joel, “return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God” (Joel 2:12-13).By giving his life for the sake of others, Saint Valentine imitated the Lord Jesus and so we see the life of Christ reflected in this martyr. By devoting his life to his portion of the Lord’s flock, Saint Augustine imitated the Lord and so we see the life of Christ reflected in his teachings. In a similar way, husbands and wives are to live for each other, not for themselves, and so imitate the selfless love of Christ. “What does it mean,” then, “to receive the grace of God in vain except to be unwilling to perform good works with the help of his grace?”[5] Indeed, we see that “Paul’s exhortation not to receive God’s grace in vain is an appeal to deeper conversion, that is, to avoid becoming partners with evil and to continue to purify [ourselves] in mind and body.”[6] This is what today is all about.We have come before the Lord because we know we have not always kept ourselves pure in mind and body. We have received the grace of God in vain. We have failed to love both God and neighbor and we have not always allowed the Lord to reflect his love throug[...]

Homily - 11 February 2018 - The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 13:57:00 +0000

The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)Dear brothers and sisters,We heard a few moments ago those simple and demanding words of Saint Paul: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” (I Corinthians 11:1). The Apostle is only able to imitate Christ because he knows Christ, because he has a friendship with him, a relationship which he nurtures and values above all else. Why else would Saint Paul have willingly - and repeatedly - suffered so much because of the name of Christ? If we are to imitate Saint Paul - if you and I are to follow his counsel; we, too, must be friends of Jesus Christ and treasure this relationship above everything else. As Saint Augustine is said to have said, “Christ is not valued at all unless he is valued above all.”Establishing and maintaining a friendship with Jesus is really much like doing so with anyone else; in order to be friends with Jesus, we must spend time with him. One of my heroes, Saint Damien of Moloka‘i, reminds us thatJesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends with souls who seek to please Him. His goodness knows how to proportion itself to the smallest of His creatures as to the greatest of them. Be not afraid then in your solitary conversations, to tell Him of your miseries, your fears, your worries, of those who are dear to you, of your projects, and of your hopes. Do so with confidence and with an open heart.Is this not what we do with our friends? Do we not tell them of our miseries and our fears? Do we not introduce them to others who are dear to us? Do we not share our projects and our hopes with them? Of course we do; this is what it means to be friends. If we do all of this with one another, why do we not speak so intimately with Jesus? Why are we often hesitant to spend time with him? Why are the Scriptures so very often at the bottom of our reading pile? Why do we not turn off the television or put the phone down and pray? Could it be that we are afraid of him?St. Francis of Assisi often said, “What a man is in the eyes of God, that he is and nothing more.”[1]When we spend time with our friends, we often encourage each other and look past each other’s faults. We tell each other that we are not as bad as some might think, that we are better and more skilled than perhaps we really are. We inflate each other’s egos, all in the name of self-esteem, but is it really good to have esteem for oneself? Does it not do us more harm than good to think so highly of ourselves and distort reality?“What a man is in the eyes of God, that he is and nothing more.” To realize this is true humility because humility is not so much debasing ourselves as much as it is seeing ourselves as God himself sees us, both the good and the bad, as Saint Bernard of Clairvoux teaches us. When we spend time with the Lord he sees us just as we are – nothing more and nothing less; he sees our good works, the kindnesses we have shown and the ways we have faithfully followed him, he sees also all of the times we have failed, our sins, mistakes, and flaws. He sees the beautiful at the same time he sees the ugly; he sees what we portray to others and what we hide. He looks past nothing and ignores nothing. Strange though it may seem, it is for this very reason that his is the greatest of all possible friendships. There is no reason for fear because his friendship is real and sincere.In friendship with Jesus there is no flattery, no puffing up, no undeserved compliments or unnecessary praises. There is no ignoring of sins and faults. All is laid bare. There is nothing but faithful love. Is this, perhaps, why we are afraid to spend time with Jesus? Do we not know that he will show us our sins and demand something from us, that he will hold us accountable even as he offers his mercy?If we are to be friends of Christ, we must be honest with him and not attempt to keep anything hidden from him before whom nothing is hidden. The longer we are in his company and the more honest we are with him, the mor[...]

Homily - 4 February 2018 - The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 14:14:00 +0000

I am a few days late in posting this, but here is the text of the homily I preached this past Sunday: The Fifth Sunday of the Year (B) Dear brothers and sisters, The fever of Simon’s mother-in-law must have been truly severe, for she could not even see to the basic requirement of hospitality. She is not the only one among us who lays “sick with a fever” (Mark 1:30). Indeed, there are many fevers under which humanity falls and suffers. Our fevers weigh so heavily upon us that the service of Christ, that growth in virtue and holiness – our true happiness – is difficult and we become lethargic and stagnant. These varied fevers are unavoidable and come to us all, but it is precisely for this reason that Jesus declares, “For this purpose have I come” (Mark 1:38). Elsewhere, Christ, the Divine Physician, says, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do” (Mark 2:17). The fevers from which we suffer are truly many. There is the fever of anger or greed; of lust or envy; of sloth, gluttony or pride. There are also the fevers of “ideologies, idolatry, [and the] forgetfulness of God,” each of which is becoming more rampant today.[1]The greatest of these – and the one that gives rise to them all – is the forgetfulness of God, the failure to recognize him and the beauty and wonder of his will for our lives. When the forgetfulness of God sets upon us, it is easy to ask with Job, “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery” (Job 7:1)? It is easy to say with him, “I shall not see happiness again” (Job 7:7). Those who forget God come to think God has forgotten or abandoned them; those who forget God fail to realize he “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). How often do we forget the Lord? In the classic movie The Princess Bride, the Dread Pirate Roberts says to the Princess Buttercup, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” The Psalmist put it somewhat differently: “Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty, if we are strong; most of them are sorrow and toil; they pass quickly, we are all but gone” (Psalm 90:10). That, Saint Augustine tells us, “is why Christ, that is why the new life, that is why eternal hope, that is why the consolation of immortality has been promised us and in the flesh of the Lord has already been given us.”[2] Yes, life may be short and filled with pain and many fevers, but, as the Lord said to his disciples upon receiving word of the illness of Lazarus, “This illness is not to end in death,” just as we see in the Gospel today (John 11:4). When he saw the illness of Simon’s mother-in-law, the Lord Jesus “approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up” (Mark 1:31). As sometimes happens because translating a text is more an art than a science, our English translation does not quite capture the richness of Saint Mark’s words. The word he used in Greek when he said Jesus “helped her up” is, literally, the same word the Evangelist used to describe Jesus’ own Resurrection. So it is that “this woman’s recovery from illness is a foreshadowing of the resurrection on the last day.”[3] With Job, we, too ask the Lord, “When shall I arise” (Job 7:4)? We shall arise, we shall be raised up, when the Lord approaches us and grasps our hand on the Last Day. This is why our heavenly patron says, He rose again, you see, to give us hope, because what rises again is what first dies. So [Christ’s resurrection] was to save us from despair at dying and from thinking that our whole life ends with death. We were anxious, I mean, about the soul, and he by rising again gave us an assurance even about the flesh… He descended in order to heal you; he ascended in order to lift you up.[4] We shall soon arise, for he has indeed come among us. On his glorious Cross, he “took away our infirmities and bore our diseases” (cf. Matthew 8:17). He has come to grasp our hand and[...]

"24 Hours for the Lord" dates announced

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 14:11:00 +0000

Couched within his Message for Lent 2018, the Holy Father Pope Francis has again announced his initiative of "24 Hours for the Lord."

This 24-hour period is a time in which His Holiness invites "the entire Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration."

What is more, the Supreme Pontiff announced that "at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession." The theme for this year's initiative is "With you [God] is forgiveness" (Psalm 130:4).

Be sure to avail yourself of the Lord's mercy this coming Lent and to spend time in his Eucharistic Presence.

On blessings during the Communion procession

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 14:03:00 +0000

Last week, the Catholic Times published an article I wrote in which I asked, "Should blessings be given during the Communion procession?" The text of the article follows:It often happens that persons present themselves, or are presented by others, to receive a blessing at the time others approach to receive holy Communion. While the beginning of this practice is a bit hard to pin down, it seems to have begun in the United States in the late 1980s or early 1990s out of a desire to help those who cannot receive holy Communion for one reason or another feel included.  To be sure, inclusion is often a noble concern and Jesus came to gather the nations into the peace of his kingdom, but such a practice often neglects to reveal an important aspect of his kingdom: Everyone is welcome in this kingdom and all are called to receive the Eucharist if certain prerequisites are met. The requirements are neither burdensome nor unreasonable: a person must have received the grace of baptism, attained the use of reason sufficient to distinguish the Body and Blood of the Lord from ordinary bread and wine, and strive to live a life according to Christian morals and make use of sacramental confession to maintain communion with the church. Some months ago, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki wrote to the priests and deacons serving in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois to explain his practice when someone approaches him for a blessing in the procession reserved for those who will receive holy Communion: “I do not give any blessings during the time for Holy Communion. Everyone at Mass receives a liturgical blessing from the celebrant at the conclusion of the Mass, just a few moments after the distribution of Holy Communion and immediately before the dismissal. I do not touch anyone, pat them on the head, or make a sign of the cross on their forehead or over their forehead. I make no gesture at all toward them with my hand. If someone above the age of reason approaches me in the Communion with their arms folded indicating that they do not actually wish to receive Holy Communion, I invite them to make a spiritual communion by saying, “Receive Christ spiritually in your heart.” As I say this, I bow my head slightly toward the person while I hold the Host in my hand for the next person who wishes to receive. I do nothing with babies or children being held in the arms of an adult, since a child below the age of reason presumably would not understand the concept of spiritual communion. I do happily and readily give individual blessings to babies, children and anyone else who so wishes after the recessional as I shake hands and greet people as they exit church.”In the same communication, Bishop Paprocki expressed his desire that “the ordinary and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion in our diocese would emulate my personal pastoral practice.”The Holy See has been studying this issue for several years now and, while no decision has been made regarding this practice, several principles ought to be borne in mind. First, each liturgical procession has a purpose. The procession at the beginning of the holy Mass moves the celebrant and the ministers from the sacristy or from the door of the church to their places in the sanctuary and it is not envisioned that others take part in this procession. The procession during the Gospel acclamation moves the one proclaiming the Gospel, together with the servers and the Book of the Gospels to the ambo. Here, again, it is not envisioned that others take part in this procession. In a similar manner, the Communion procession moves the communicants from their places in the nave of the church to the steps of the sanctuary. Again, it is not envisioned that others take part in the procession.Certainly no one would suggest that infants or young children be left on their own in the pews; parents or those watching them bring th[...]

Islamic State in West Africa (formerly Boko Haram) Ongoing Updates - January 2018

Thu, 25 Jan 2018 03:22:00 +0000

Previous Updates: November 2017 | September 2017 | August 2017 | July 2017 | June 2017 | May 2017 | April 2017 | January 2017 | November 2016 | September 2016 | August 2016 | July 2016 | June 2016 | May 2016 | April 2016 | March 2016 | February 2016| January 2016 | December 2015 | November 2015 | October 2015 | September 2015 | August 2015 | July 2015  | June 2015 | May 2015 | April 2015  March 2015 | February 20158 January 2018UPDATE (01-24-18): Potiskum is Boko Haram recruitment base - Army reveals[...]

Islamic State Ongoing Updates - January 2018

Thu, 25 Jan 2018 03:15:00 +0000

Previous Updates: December 2017 | November 2017 | October 2017 | September 2017 | August 2017 |  July 2017 | June 2017 |  May 2017 | April 2017 | March 2017 | February 2017 | January 2017 | December 2016 | November 2016 | September 2016 | August 2016 | July 2016 | June 2016 | May 2016 | April 2016 | March 2016 | February 2016| January 2016 | December 2015 | November 2015 | October 2015 | September 2015 | August 2015 | July 2015| June 2015 | May 2015 | April 2015 | March 2015 | February 2015 | January 2015 | December 2014 | November 2014 | October 2014 | April - November 201431 January 2018UPDATE (02-17-18): 50 militants of ISIS arrived in Italy by the sea [Italian]22 January 2018UPDATE (01-24-18): Experts warn ISIS still has up to 10,000 loyalists in Syria, Iraq: Report17 January 2018UPDATE (01-19-18): IS poses threat to Iraq one month after 'liberation'15 January 2018UPDATE (01-24-18): Terrorist IS cell arrested in Fallujah for extorting money from local residentsUPDATE (01-24-18): 'We will get him': the long hunt for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi13 January 2018UPDATE (01-24-18): ISIS Affiliate Claims October Attack on U.S. Troops in Niger9 January 2018UPDATE (01-24-18): ISIS 'White Beard' executioner who was captured by Iraqi forces escaped within minutes after paying a $6,500 bribe[...]

Joy Like Swords: The video of my lecture

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 19:02:00 +0000

When I was studying in Rome, something came across my Facebook feed claiming the desk at which J.R.R. Tolkien wrote and illustrated all of The Hobbit and some of The Lord of the Rings was in Illinois. I am not in the habit of taking click bait, but this was one I could not pass up, a click that introduced me to the Marion E. Wade Center in Wheaton, Illinois.

Yesterday afternoon, I had the great and distinct privilege to present a lecture at the Wade Center, a research library dedicated to the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and the other Inklings with whom they wrote. The title of my lecture was ""Joy Like Swords': Hobbits, Franciscans, and the Crucifix," the video of which I am happy to share with you today:

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I am delighted to say it was well received by the audience in Wheaton, and I hope you will enjoy it, too.

Homily - 14 January 2018 - The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 10:33:00 +0000

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)Dear brothers and sisters,There are many factors parents consider when choosing a name for their child. They will often look for a name that has been used in one or both of their families, a name currently popular, or a name to help their child stand out. Some parents even investigate the origins and meanings of names and choose one they think best. And then, before they know it, Jesus may come along and change the name they have chosen for ever, as happened with Simon.We might say God has something of a habit of changing names: Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel. When Jesus encountered Simon, which means “obedient,” he changed his name to Peter, which means “recognizing.”[1]The Lord, of course, did not change everyone’s name in this way, but only some of those who were to play a particular and pivotal role in salvation history. In an age of ever-increasing self-absorption, we might be tempted to wish the Lord changed our names – particularly if we do not like the name we were given – because we forget he has already give us a new name, or, if you will, a series of them. Because we have all been baptized into his Death and Resurrection, “now we all have one name, that which is greater than any. We are called ‘Christians,’ and ‘sons of God,’ and ‘friends’ and [his] ‘body.’”[2]If, then, the name we have is that of Christian, we must know what this name we have been given means. Saint Augustine addressed these words to his flock in the north African city of Hippo on the anniversary of his ordination: “For you I am a bishop, but with you I am, after all, a Christian. The former signifies an office undertaken, the latter, grace; the former is a name for danger, the latter a name for salvation.” We often think being a Christian is about a moral code, about not doing this or that, but to be a Christian is really about salvation; if we do not realize we need a Savior to rescue us from sin and death, if we do not know ourselves to be sinners, we cannot know what it means to be a Christian.In each of the readings Mother Church proclaims to us today, it is not difficult to see that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with a new event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”[3] This new horizon can only be seen, this new decisive direction can only be followed, to the extent that we remain in an ongoing encounter with Christ Jesus, to the extent that we allow him to look upon us and on every aspect of our lives, to the extent that we hear and follow his invitation, “Come, and you will see” (John 1:39).There is a great danger for us to allow this encounter with Christ to be one that is simply in the past. Pope Francis expressed this danger in these words:The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.[4]This is why he encouragesall Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to [...]

A Lecture at the Wade Center

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 11:35:00 +0000

Click on the photo to enlarge itOne of Illinois' unsung treasures is the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College, a research library devoted to the Inklings, whose members included the great J.R.R. Tolkien. The library houses original manuscripts, translations of the authors' works into various languages, and books and articles about the writings and lives of the Inklings. Among its treasures is the desk at which the Professor wrote The Hobbit and most of the Lord of the Rings. When I first visited the Wade Center after returning from my studies in Rome, I mentioned that I was about to give a Theology on Tap lecture on the subject of Tolkien's faith. The archivist quickly asked for a copy of my text for the library and asked if I might be interested in giving the lecture at the Wade Center. Naturally, I was very open to doing so and am happy to say I will give the lecture at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 16th. The lecture will be free and open to the public. In advance of the lecture, the Marion E. Wade Center sent out the following press release to publicize it:  Joy Like Swords : Hobbits, Franciscans, and the Crucifix 4:00pm | January 16, 2018  The Marion E. Wade Center and the Wheaton College Tolkien Society present a lecture on the work of J. R. R. Tolkien by Rev. Daren J. Zehnle on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at 4pm in Bakke Auditorium.After Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee heard a minstrel sing of the deeds of the Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote that “their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.” By exploring the phrase, “their joy was like swords,” we learn to understand the reality of joy mingled with sorrow and experience God’s merciful love as we embrace the Cross.Father Daren J. Zehnle is a priest of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois where, in addition to other duties he performs for the diocese, he serves as Pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Ashland, Illinois. He is a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, a member of The Tolkien Society, and holds a B.A. from Quincy University, a S.T.B. and a M.Div. from the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, and a J.C.L. from the Pontifical Gregorian University.This lecture will take place in the Wade Center’s Bakke Auditorium and is free and open to the public. The Wade Center is located at 351 Lincoln Ave. on the northwest corner of campus at the intersection of Washington St. and Lincoln Ave. For more information, contact the Wade Center at 630.752.5908 or  [...]

Homily - 31 January 2017 - The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Sun, 31 Dec 2017 18:35:00 +0000

The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and JosephDear brothers and sisters,Up until a relatively short time ago, we, as a society, recognized the family as the most important institution to the building of a just and harmonious society. The family was seen as the place in which we learned fundamental values, among which are how to love one another, how to forgive one another, and how to put others before myself. The family was seen as a school of love and self-forgetfulness. This selflessness was learned from watching the example of a husband and wife whose principle task was to “establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life, … which of its own very nature is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children” (canon 1055 §1).We knew that for a happy and successful marriage, a husband needed to put the needs of his wife ahead of his own. We knew that for a happy and successful marriage, a wife needed to put the needs of her husband ahead of her own. We knew that for a happy and successful marriage, a husband and wife had to safeguard their relationship and look to it first. We knew that parents needed to put the needs of their children ahead of their own and that children should honor and respect their children, just as parents should honor and respect their children. We knew that if each member of the family looked to the example of Christ Jesus family life would be beautiful, attractive, and lifegiving. But something happened along the way and we decided it was acceptable to ignore centuries of wisdom. Rather than continuing to protect and safeguard the family because of its importance to the common good, we decided it was acceptable to redefine and to refashion the family because of our selfish desires.We first decided that no longer should children be received and welcomed as gifts and blessings from God, but that we should instead be able to determine when and how many were accepted. When contraception was widely used and considered good, despite its clear violation of the law of nature, husbands and wives decided they could separate the two aims of the marital act; they changed its primary focus from that of a complete gift of self to each other and turned it into the satisfaction of individual desires. No longer would marriage be about the mutual well-being and unity of the spouses that increased their love and made it fruitful; it would no longer be about each other, but what other others can do for me. From here, a second decision that children could be done away with if they were not wanted seemed an obvious – even if grotesque and deplorable - consequence.Once marriage was no longer seen as the full sharing of life and love between the spouses, it was an easy jump to say that marriage was also no longer permanent. First we decided that marriages could simply be dissolved in difficult and tragic circumstances. Then, quite against the very clear words of the Lord Jesus, we decided that marriages could be ended for any reason, or even no reason at all.As these changes to the long-standing and accepted definition of marriage were made over the course of just a few decades, most Christians regrettably went along with them and even welcomed them gladly. From this, as many rightly warned, the family received a very great wound from which it has not recovered. Family life began to fall apart and, with it, society, as well. These are not popular words today, but the truth is not always very popular.Christians accepted these changes, and even pioneered them because we largely forgot thatThe Bible is full of families, births, love stories and family crises. This is true from its very first page, with the appearance of Adam and E[...]

Homily - 25 December 2017 - The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Sun, 24 Dec 2017 23:44:00 +0000

The Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Dear brothers and sisters, Christmas is a feast that can only truly be celebrated by the humble. In the context of our present American society, humility is not seen as a virtue, perhaps because it is so greatly misunderstood. Instead of being encouraged to be humble, we are continually instructed that we must promote ourselves over and against others. We honor those who become celebrities and seek to emulate them, even to the point of desiring fame not for having done something important or useful, but simply to be famous. The virtue, if you will, of our modern society is not humility, but pride. The mystery of Christmas – the mystery of God made flesh - stands in stark contrast to this mindset. Detail, The Prayerbook of Alphonso V of AragonAdd MS 28962, f. 337vWhen he preached about the Birth of the Savior, our heavenly patron, Saint Augustine of Hippo, said to his listeners, “Let the humble hold fast to the humility of God” (Sermon 184). As those who seek his intercession and who strive to imitate him as we seek to imitate Christ Jesus (cf. I Corinthians 11:1), he would say these same words to us today: “Let the humble hold fast to the humility of God.” In another place, Saint Augustine spoke of the humility of God: If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is humility. Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts our meaningless. This is why Saint Paul urges us “have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7). The humility of God is of a such a nature that he did not choose to be born in the halls of the powerful or in the libraries of the learned. He chose, rather, to be born to an unknown woman from an insignificant town and to be placed among the animals. In all this, we see that “God is not loud. He does not make headlines.”[1] He has not need to openly declare his presence because the light of his love attracts the humble and beckons to anyone who seeks to have the burden of his sin lifted and removed. As we approach the manger of Our Lord to contemplate the mystery of the unimaginable humility of God who took on our flesh out of love for us, each of us must ask an important question: “Am I humble?” It is not a question anyone else can answer for us; the answer can only be found in the recesses of our hearts. It can only be answered by considering how well we have conformed ourselves to the Lord’s words: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29). When he considered who the humble person is, the English author C.S. Lewis said something that might surprise us today: Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, no[...]

Homily - 24 December 2017 - The Fourth Sunday of Advent (B)

Sun, 24 Dec 2017 21:44:00 +0000

The Fourth Sunday of Advent (B) Dear brothers and sisters, So great is the mystery of the Incarnation of the only begotten Son of God that even before Mother Church begins her celebration of Christmas she proclaims the Annunciation to us. In doing so, we are invited to be more passive with the Lord, to allow him to prepare our hearts for his coming, to allow him to shape us, mold us, and fashion us. Such passivity, though, can be difficult because we must abandon ourselves and surrender to the workings of the Holy Spirit. No longer can we seek to control and direct our lives; we must instead humbly turn to the Lord and follow his lead. David and Mary represent for us two possible ways to approach this last day of Advent, one beneficial and the other not. King David, the second of the kings of Israel and the greatest, looked around at his surroundings and saw how very far he had come. He had been taken from the sheep pastures and anointed king by Samuel. He had been a handsome young man, but otherwise seemingly lacking in any requisite qualities of kingship. Nevertheless, as he surveyed his kingdom he cried out to the prophet Nathan, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” (II Samuel 7:2). Believing this to be a disgrace to the Lord, David decided to build a worthy and fitting temple in which God would dwell, but the Lord had other plans and sent Nathan to him, asking, “Should you build me a house to dwell in?” (II Samuel 7:5). It is as if the Lord shows David how ridiculous his idea is. How could mortal man build a house for the Almighty? The Lord goes on to say: It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance (II Samuel 7:8-10). When David began to think he accomplished his great victories through his own skill, the Lord reminded him he had not. Rather, it was the Lord himself who did all of this for him; David did nothing, the Lord did it all. How, then, could David possibly hope to build a house for the Holy One of Israel? He wanted to welcome God into his life on his own terms. How often do we desire to do the same? MS K.26 f.11rLike, David, Mary, too, wanted to prepare a house for the Lord, but unlike David, she sought to prepare a spiritual and internal dwelling for the Lord; whereas David desired to build a house for the Lord out of wood and stone, Mary desired to build a house for the Lord out of her heart and soul. It is a great wonder that when Mary wanted the Lord to dwell within her spiritually, he made his home within her physically. What greater marvel could there be? Through Mary, the word the Lord spoke through Nathan was fulfilled, “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me” (II Samuel 7:14). The Creator of all things would be born of his humble creature. At this great message, Mary quietly said to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). She welcomed the Lord into her life on his terms, not her own, “and because the Virgin Mary humbled herself, she prepared herself for God’s grace.”[1] She consented entirely to the will of God and allowed him to prepare within her a most worthy and fitting temple in which he would dwell. Let each of us take Mary as our model and follow her loving example. We expend so much effort and energy making everything just right at Christmas: the ornaments must be carefully placed on the [...]

Homily - 17 December 2017 - The Second Sunday of Advent

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 20:30:00 +0000

The Third Sunday of Advent (B) Dear brothers and sisters, The character of Saint John the Baptist is a curious one, both in our day and in his own. The intriguing quality of this simple man, which has attracted the attention of kings as well as peasants down through the centuries, is not principally concerned with his clothing and diet (Mark 1:6). Indeed, under normal circumstances, the figure of the Forerunner of the Lord would be regarded as something of a madman, yet we do not think of him as such. Why? We are drawn to him because of the way he does not think of himself. When the priests and Levites of the Old Covenant asked him pointedly, “Who are you?”, he spoke not of himself but of the one whose way he came to prepare (John 1:19). Whereas any one of us might well answer this question by speaking of ourselves, Saint John answered simply, “I am not the Messiah” (John 1:20). Twice more he would not speak of himself; he spoke only in reference to those he knew to be greater than himself by again saying he was not them (cf. John 1:21). Finally, and likely with some exasperation, they asked him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us” (John 1:22)? These were men with a mission, a mission they intended to fulfill. Yet still he would not answer them. “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert,’” he riddled them, quoting the prophet Isaiah, ‘“Make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23; cf. Isaiah 40:3). John’s customary way of speaking of himself was to speak always instead of the Messiah. Many today would likely consider his refusal to answer about himself something akin to impertinence, but it instead demonstrates the depth of his humility. In an age of ever-increasing – and even unrecognized - self-absorption, the witness of Saint John the Baptist shines as a great light upon our present day. It is a curious, thing, that Saint John the Evangelist says, “He was not the light, but came to testify to the light,” yet the Lord Jesus calls the Baptist “a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light” (John 1:8; 5:35). What are we to make of this seeming contradiction? This was a question with which the great Saint Augustine wrestled. Noting that the Lord Jesus says, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), our heavenly patron said Jesus is a light “in comparison with which a lamp is not a light.”[1] He went on to say that Saint John the Baptist “recognized himself as a lamp, in order not to be blown out by the wind of pride.”[2] John, then, was a lamp because of his humility through which he sought “to testify to the light,” yet in comparison with Jesus, he was no light at all (John 1:8). Jesus says of his disciples, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Today, then, we must ask ourselves if we, like Saint John the Baptist, could be described by the Lord as burning and shining lamps. Let us for a moment consider our souls as ancient lanterns, with a candle in the center surrounded by four panes of glass. On the day of our Baptism, the flame of faith was entrusted to us, symbolized by the Baptismal candle lit from the Paschal Candle. At that time, the priest or deacon said to our parents and godparent: …this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He is to walk always as a child of the light. May he keep the flame of faith alive in his heart. When the Lord comes, may he go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.[3] Do we always walk as children of the light? Is the flame of faith alive[...]

Islamic State in West Africa (formerly Boko Haram) Ongoing Updates - November 2017

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 02:47:00 +0000

Previous Updates: September 2017 | August 2017 | July 2017 | June 2017 | May 2017 | April 2017 | January 2017 | November 2016 | September 2016 | August 2016 | July 2016 | June 2016 | May 2016 | April 2016 | March 2016 | February 2016| January 2016 | December 2015 | November 2015 | October 2015 | September 2015 | August 2015 | July 2015  | June 2015 | May 2015 | April 2015  March 2015 | February 2015 28 November 2017UPDATE (12-14-17): Boko Haram founder Yusuf's home to become museum[...]

Ongoing Islamic State Updates - December 2017

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 02:31:00 +0000

Previous Updates: November 2017 | October 2017 | September 2017 | August 2017 |  July 2017 | June 2017 |  May 2017 | April 2017 | March 2017 | February 2017 | January 2017 | December 2016 | November 2016 | September 2016 | August 2016 | July 2016 | June 2016 | May 2016 | April 2016 | March 2016 | February 2016| January 2016 | December 2015 | November 2015 | October 2015 | September 2015 | August 2015 | July 2015| June 2015 | May 2015 | April 2015 | March 2015 | February 2015 | January 2015 | December 2014 | November 2014 | October 2014 | April - November 201425 December 2017UPDATE (01-24-18): Down but not out: ISIL will regroup and rise again18 December 2017UPDATE (01-24-18): ISIS claims it has hacked the US Army and State Department and is sending assassins to employee's homes in gruesome new propaganda video which declares: 'Muslims will return to being masters of the world'14 December 2017Post-ISIS, the first Catholic church is re-consecrated on Nineveh Plains 9 December 2017UPDATE (12-14-17): Iraq declares war with Islamic State is over  8 December 2017UPDATE (12-14-17): Philippine military wants martial law extended in south UPDATE (12-14-17): Iraqi Christians celebrate in town retaken from IS  [...]

Homily - 10 December 2017 - The Second Sunday of Advent

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 14:58:00 +0000

The Second Sunday of Advent(B) Dear brothers and sisters, As Sister Mary Vicentia McCormack, one of Saint Marianne’s Franciscan Sisters, knelt at the deathbed of Saint Damien, she wept upon the quilt that covered his bed and asked herself, “Can I do as much for God?”[1] We have here, in this Cathedral Basilica, the blessed opportunity to do the same. We, too, can gather near to our beloved Father Damien and contemplate the example of his heroic life. We, too, can ask of our own hearts, “Can you do as much for God?” What is it that Father Damien did for God? What example was it that Sister Mary Vicentia considered? Father Damien well these words of Jesus: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). This is why he spent his life in the service of others. What he did for his fellow lepers, he did for God. There is, of course, much to say that he did, but above all it might be said that he sought to give comfort to those forcibly removed from their ohana, from their friends, and from their livelihood (cf. Isaiah 40:1). He sought to speak tenderly tot hose who felt abandoned and dejected (cf. Isaiah 40:2). Is this not why he freely ate with them and shared their calabashes? Is this not why he built their homes and made their coffins? Is this not why he bandaged their wounds without concern? In all of this, he sought to proclaim peace to his people by calling back to the Lord who longed to gather them into his arms and them close to his heart (cf. Psalms 85:9; Isaiah 40:11). When a certain patient was concerned for his well-being, Father Damien said to him, “Don’t get excited, son. Suppose the disease does get my body, God will give me another on resurrection day. The main thing is to save your soul, isn’t it?”[2] He went so far as to say, “I want to sacrifice myself for my poor lepers” because “the harvest seems ripe.”[3] The harvest is ripe even today; are we willing to sacrifice ourselves for others and for God today? In his fellow exiles, Father Damien realized what so many others did not, namely, that the time had come for the leveling of pride and for the raising up of despondency; the time had come for the leveling of hearts to “prepare the way of the Lord,” and this he did with everything he had, just as Mother Marianne did after him (Isaiah 40:3). “If I can’t cure them,” he said, “I do have the means of consoling them. I am confident that many, purified by the sacraments, will one day be worthy of heaven.”[4] Truly, he was one who learned to “judge wisely the things of earth” and so taught others to “hold firm to the things of heaven.”[5] Can you and I do as much for God? While these days of Advent focus our attention on preparing ourselves to stand before the Lord Jesus when at last he comes to judge the living and the dead, we must be more concerned about our readiness today than about our readiness tomorrow, for tomorrow may not come. As such, the question we should each ask of ourselves today is not, “Can I do as much for God?”, but, “Am I doing as much for God?” Certainly, we do not all have the same personal qualities with which the Lord Jesus endowed Father Damien; we cannot do the same as him, but that does not mean we cannot do as much, nor does it mean we should not strive to do as much. What are we doing to prepare the way of the Lord to come to us and to those who are dear to us? What are we doing to speak a word of comfort to those forcibly removed from their families, from their friends, or from their livelihood?[...]

Homily - 3 December 2017 - The First Sunday of Advent: Watchfulness and the lesson of a surfer

Sun, 03 Dec 2017 23:22:00 +0000

The First Sunday of Advent (B) Dear brothers and sisters, When he was the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Pope Benedict XVI described this great season of Advent as “hastening with a watchful heart toward the encounter with Jesus Christ.”[1] The person who acts with haste is one who is impassioned; the hastening person is filled with both love and zeal. He is motivated both to obtain and to share that which is loved. I have been known to hasten for a cold Dr Pepper, inside a bookstore, and even towards the rising or setting of the sun. Each of us hastens towards those things and persons of which and for whom we are especially fond. In these initial days of Advent, Holy Mother Church again presents us with the blessed opportunity to ask an important question: To whom or what do I hasten? Do I hasten toward the Lord? Do I hasten toward his worship? Do I hasten toward the things that are of him? Too often, for each of us, the answer is simply, “No.” So it is that we come today asking the Lord, “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and [let us] harden our hearts so that we fear you not” (Isaiah 63:17)? So it is that we call out to him, “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved” (Psalm 80:4). Yes, those who have seen the Lord’s face hasten towards him. The memory of his face, of his strength and gentleness, of his justice and mercy, of his kindness and love, keeps them hastening ever towards him, eager to gaze eternally upon his radiant beauty. As we seek his face, we must remember that we are to hasten toward him as watchful people who no longer allow the appearances of this world to drive from ears and from our eyes one fact that the world tries to make us forget: that he is the real center, that he is in our midst. To live in this spirit of Advent means to live as someone who has been awakened, and then this also includes the responsibility of someone who is keeping watch to awaken others, because it is the truly important thing.[2] But what do we do when others do not want to be awakened? What do we do when they do not want to be called back to the center, back to what is truly important? We must continue with a watchful heart and beg the Lord to “give us new life, and we will call upon your name” (Psalm 80:19). Just as the person who hastens is a man or woman with passion, so, too, the one with a watchful heart, for he or she longs to experience the joy of that or whom is loved. Simply consider how a surfer paddles out from the shore and takes his place upon the waters. He watches patiently for just the right wave he wants to ride in order to experience the thrill, the excitement, and the pleasure of being carried along by that which he knows he cannot control. Once his ride is finished, he paddles back out again; his heart is ever-watchful. Here, too, Holy Mother Church provides these blessed days of Advent as an opportunity for us to ask if our hearts are truly ever-watchful for the Lord, ever-watchful for him who will carry us through the storms of life, for him whom we cannot control. Just as the surfer turns his back to the shore to watch for his wave, so, too, must we turn our backs on the world to watch for the coming of Christ, whom “even the winds and the sea obey” (Matthew 8:27). Finally, Advent calls us to the encounter with Christ, to the encounter with him who commands us to “be watchful” (Mark 13:33)! Our English word “encounter” is a curious one, for at its etymological roots it means something rather different[...]

Homily - 26 November 2017 - The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Sun, 26 Nov 2017 11:29:00 +0000

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe Dear brothers and sisters, In his recent address to the annual General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the U.S.C.C.B., reflected on the life of Blessed Stanley Rother, about whom I preached a few weeks ago. Cardinal DiNardo said: Let Blessed Stanley Rother be our inspiration. As Father Stanley stayed despite the imminent threat of persecution and death in order that he may continue to preach the Gospel of Love, so too should we, as a church, be united in proclaiming Christ’s love for humanity. How much more so then in this time when Christians around the world are persecuted in unheard of numbers. On the Solemnity of Christ the King, I ask that the entire Church in the United States come together in a special way for a Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians, to express our solidarity with those who are suffering.[1] Today is that day, and, what is more, the Bishops of these United States of America have called us to a “Solidarity in Suffering” with our persecuted brothers and sisters by observing a “Week of Awareness” beginning today and concluding on Saturday, December 2nd. His Holiness Pope Francis frequently reminds us, as he did a few months ago, that “today there are more Christian martyrs than in ancient times, than in the early day times of the church.”[2] A few years ago, he expressed the same reality: In 2,000 years, a vast host of men and women have sacrificed their lives to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and his Gospel. And today, in many parts of the world, there are many, many — more than in the first centuries — so many martyrs, who give up their lives for Christ, who are brought to death because they do not deny Jesus Christ. This is our Church. Today we have more martyrs than in the first centuries![3] In this Age of Martyrs, their situation is stark and desperate, and so Pope Francis often calls them to our attention. We cannot ignore them! We cannot forget them! Pope Francis summarized the circumstances in which many disciples of Jesus currently find themselves today. The Holy Father said: Let us also think … about our many brothers and sisters today who cannot pray together because they are persecuted for it, who cannot have the book of the Gospels or a Bible because they are persecuted for it. Let us think about these brothers and sisters who cannot go to Mass because it is prohibited. How many times a priest secretly comes among them pretending to be at table having tea, and he secretly celebrates the Mass. This is happening today.[4] How often do we think about them? How often do we pray for them? How often do we unite our sufferings, difficulties, and frustrations to the Cross of Christ for them? Sadly, it seems most of us – myself included at times – are far too willing to simply go along pretending all is well in the world. We convince ourselves that a long line at the post office or the grocery store, that an inconsiderate clerk or a rude customer, that a slow driver or a grumpy child makes the day terrible. If we are honest, however, and take a step back to gain a bit of perspective, the struggles of our daily living are as nothing compared to what so many others endure out of love for Jesus. We can sit down in a coffee shop and pray with our friends; they cannot. We can go to a park to read the Bible; they cannot. We can come to the Holy Mass wi[...]

Homily - 19 November 2017 - The Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 02:30:00 +0000

The Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)Dear brothers and sisters,“A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them” (Matthew 25:14). Who is this man if not Jesus Christ, and who are these servants if not his disciples? But what is this journey on which he sets out, and why does he not take us, his disciples, with him? The journey on which he set out was his Ascension into heaven where he sits now at the right hand of the Father.This journey of the Redeemer is one that he calls each of us to embark upon; he calls each one of us to follow him, to go where he has gone before us. For this reason, he says, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be” (John12:26). If we are found to be faithful in matters both small and large, “our future is ‘to be with the Lord.’”[1]The Lord Jesus has not so much left us or forgotten us by going to the Father, as he has prepared the way for us. He now beckons us to go on his journey with him, toward him.Through the parable of the talents which Jesus gives today, it is clear we will attain heaven – that we will be with him – only if we use what he has entrusted to us wisely and well. “The ‘talent’ was an ancient Roman coin, of great value, and precisely because of this parable's popularity it became synonymous with personal gifts, which everyone is called to develop.”[2]So often we think of these gifts in terms of abilities or skills that we – or others – might have. There is, of course, some truth in this, but this is not the extent of the gifts that have been given us. The more important gifts are, sadly, the ones we do not always think of:his Word, deposited in the Holy Gospel; Baptism, which renews us in the Holy Spirit; [the] prayer [of] the "Our Father" that we raise to God as his children, united in the Son; his forgiveness, which he commanded be offered to all; the Sacrament of his Body sacrificed and his Blood poured out; in a word: the Kingdom of God, which is God himself, present and alive in our midst.These are the gifts the Lord expects us to increase. Moreover,This is the treasure that Jesus entrusted to his friends at the end of his brief life on earth. Today's parable stresses the inner disposition necessary to accept and develop this gift. Fear is the wrong attitude: the servant who is afraid of his master and fears his return hides the coin in the earth and it does not produce any fruit. This happens, for example, to those who after receiving Baptism, Communion and Confirmation subsequently bury these gifts beneath a blanket of prejudice, beneath a false image of God that paralyzes faith and good works, thus betraying the Lord's expectations. However, the parable places a greater emphasis on the good fruits brought by the disciples who, happy with the gift they received, did not keep it hidden with fear and jealousy but made it profitable by sharing it and partaking in it.[3]It is in sharing the gift of faith that it grows within us. This is why an intentional discipleship of the Lord Jesus is so important for each one of us. When he returns, what will we say to the Lord? With what will we present him? Will we present him with, by his grace, a faith increased, or with a faith stifled?When will he come again? We do not know. What we do know is this: “the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night” (I Thessalonians 5:2). “Therefore,” Saint Paul exhorts us, “let us not sleep as the rest do, b[...]

Tolton Play to Return to Local Area

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 23:45:00 +0000

If you missed Andrae Goodnight's inspiring and moving dramatic presentation of the life of the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton, you still have a few opportunities to this excellent play from St. Luke Productions.Tolton: From Slave to Priest will be performed in the coming days in the following cities in or near central Illinois:St. Peters, Missouri - The performance will be at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 26th in All Saints Church Annex at 5 McMenamy Road. A free-will offering will be collected.St. Louis, Missouri - The performance will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 28th in the Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School Commons at 701 N. Spring Avenue.St. Louis, Missouri - The show will start at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 29th in the gym of Trinity Catholic High School at 1720 Redman Road. Tickets are $5 for adults and $10 for a family or 3 more; youths under 18 are free.Springfield, Illinois - Doors open at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 2nd, for a 6:30 p.m. performance at Dominican Hall of Sacred Heart-Griffin East Campus, Springfield, Illinois. A free-will offering will be collected.I cannot urge you enough to see this play.One of those in attendance at the Quincy performance at November 12th sent a card to me saying, "We knew it would be good, but we were so blessed to witness more of Father Tolton's inner struggles and the amount of obstacles he faced, combined with his perseverance in faith."Another person at the same performance also wrote to me, saying, "I just returned home from [Quincy University] and the Fr. Tolton production!! It was awesome, so glad I went."Do yourself a favor and see this performance before Advent begins![...]

A review of Tolton: From Slave to Priest - Bigger than Johnny Cash

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 12:53:00 +0000

Last evening, Mr. Andrae Goodnight brought the character of the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton to life for the first time in the Diocese of Springfield on the stage of the Effingham Performance Center in a convincing, masterful, and moving performance.This one-man play is written and produced by St. Luke Productions, a Catholic acting company dedicated to bringing the lives of the saints to life through engaging quality dramatic presentations. The set of the play is rather simple, but this is no reflection on the quality of the script, the acting, or the actor.To portray other characters, such as Martha Jane Tolton, audio/visual equipment is used of recordings of portrayals by other actors and actresses. At first, I was a bit skeptical of this approach, but within only a few moments I saw how well the stage-actor and the recorded-actors blended together. Rather than being hokey - as, at first, I thought it might be - this is a clever way to increase the quality of the drama while keeping costs down.Running under 90-minutes, Tolton: From Slave to Priest presents the essential elements to understand the life and story of Father Gus in a manner that gets to the heart of the issues. It shows forth the virtue of the first publicly known black priest in the United States of America and shows why people - Catholics and Protestants alike - both supported and opposed him. It shows the turmoil of his heart and his fidelity to Christ Jesus and to his Church. And, as it does all of this, Tolton: From Slave to Priest also includes a few references to the more common aspects of his life, such as his playing of the accordion (an unexpected and welcome inclusion).If you do not yet know the story of the first citizen of the Gem City, you will after seeing Tolton: From Slave to Priest; if you do know the story of Father Gus, you will surely gain a deeper appreciation for the witness of his life while watching this performance.I strongly encourage you to bring your family and friends with you to see Tolton: From Slave to Priest and am certain you will not be disappointed. The play will continue to be performed across the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois this week and the early part of next week:JACKSONVILLE - The second performance will be held on Wednesday, November 8th at 7:00 p.m. in Jacksonville at Our Saviour church. The performance, I think, will be free to all attendees.DECATUR - The third performance will be held on Thursday, November 9th at 6:30 p.m. in Decatur at Our Lady of Lourdes church. A free-will offering will be taken.SPRINGFIELD - The fourth performance will be held on Saturday, November 11th at 7:30 p.m. in Springfield at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. A free-will offering will be taken.QUINCY - The fifth performance, and the one to which I am most looking forward, will be held on Sunday, November 12th at 3:00 p.m. in Quincy at the Pepsi Arena of Quincy University. A free-will offering will be taken.GRANITE CITY - The sixth and final performance will be held on Monday, November 13th at 7:00 p.m. in Granite City at Holy Family church. A free-will offering will be taken.Just prior to the performance, I was asked to give a brief presentation on the canonization process in general, which i was happy to do. As I visited with people after the performance, one of the men I spoke with had been a recent concert by Johnny Cash at the Effingham Performance Center, the very same venue where Tol[...]

Dates and times for Tolton: From Slave to Priest in central Illinois

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 00:50:00 +0000

It was not part of my planning but, surely, rather a working of Divine Providence that St. Luke Productions desired to bring Tolton: From Slave to Priest to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois during this National Vocation Awareness Week. What better way could there to be raise awareness concerning vocations to the priesthood by learning more about the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton, the first publicly known black priest in this country?I've already shared the dates and times of the performances with you already, but please allow me to share them with you again and to strongly urge you to attend at least one of them.First, though, let me share again the bulletin blurb from St. Luke Productions to advertise Tolton: From Slave to Priest to give a brief bit of useful information:Meet Fr. Augustus Tolton, the first African American priest, in this one-man multimedia performance. From his dramatic escape from slavery to his courageous struggle in the face of prejudice, Fr. Tolton’s inspiring life centers around his message reconciliation and hope. This riveting drama is filled with all the elements of professional theater, runs 90 minutes, and is suitable for ages 10 and up.And now, the performance locations, dates, and times:EFFINGHAM - The first performance will be held on Tuesday, November 7th at 7:00 p.m. in Effingham at the Effingham Performance Center. A free-will offering will be taken. Following the performance, I have been asked to give a brief presentation on the canonization process and to answer whatever questions attendees might have.JACKSONVILLE - The second performance will be held on Wednesday, November 8th at 7:00 p.m. in Jacksonville at Our Saviour church. The performance, I think, will be free to all attendees.DECATUR - The third performance will be held on Thursday, November 9th at 6:30 p.m. in Decatur at Our Lady of Lourdes church. A free-will offering will be taken.SPRINGFIELD - The fourth performance will be held on Saturday, November 11th at 7:30 p.m. in Springfield at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. A free-will offering will be taken.QUINCY - The fifth performance, and the one to which I am most looking forward, will be held on Sunday, November 12th at 3:00 p.m. in Quincy at the Pepsi Arena of Quincy University. A free-will offering will be taken.GRANITE CITY - The sixth and final performance will be held on Monday, November 13th at 7:00 p.m. in Granite City at Holy Family church. A free-will offering will be taken.I plan to be at each of the performances and hope to see you somewhere![...]