Recent News

Recent news and musings by the Catholic Center


One necessary thought

Posted by on Jun 28, 2015 at 7:02 pm

I have many thoughts but one necessary thought…


One necessary thought:

The nation changed on Friday, June 26th, and yet one thing remains. The world changed 2000 years ago in Nazareth. From the first moment of His miraculous virgin conception in the womb of Mary, Jesus Christ forever changed our world. Just as the hemorrhaging woman from the scriptures reached out and touched God, so to can we reach out and touch God in the Most Holy Sacrament. Our most sweet refreshment in this valley of the shadow death. The Good Shepherd lays out a banquet for our needs.

Sunday is a day of rest, prayer and family.

While many thoughts may course through my head after this past week. Sunday is for rest, prayer, and family. I offered Mass for young families at FOCUS New Staff Training. I finished Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denosivich” and have started John C. Wright’s “Phoenix Exultant.” I am far from family but will be with good friends. I pray you all can do the same.



Humanity’s greatest crisis

Posted by on Feb 7, 2015 at 2:20 pm


What is the greatest crisis that can afflict man?


  • Global warming?
  • Global conflict?
  • Deflate gate?

Moral confusion. 

Pope St. John Paul II wrote a letter to the world in 1993 called Veritatis Splendor, meaning, the Splendor of the Truth. In paragraph 93 he says: “the most dangerous crisis which can afflict man: the confusion between good and evil, which makes it impossible to build up and to preserve the moral order of individuals and communities.” If we want an ordered society of civil rest and peace, then it needs to be founded on moral certitude. It is a fact that man CAN know right from wrong with certainty and that this knowledge is absolute, not depending upon times, cultures, or seasons.


The dominant thought of our own day assails this fact with doubt- man cannot know moral truth. This is what most upset me about President Obama’s 2015 Prayer Breakfast address. I wasn’t upset by the Crusades/ISIS comparison- though it was a crude and artless effort. No, I am most concerned (but unsurprised) by his 1st guiding principle to be a person of religion: doubt.


“I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt — not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.” Here, President Obama does two things: he assumes a moral epistemology of doubt and he equates moral certitude with a hardened heart towards one’s neighbor.


The Catholic tradition in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition both testify to the opposite. As Catholics we believe that we CAN posses moral truth with certitude and that Jesus Christ is the fullest revelation of the truth. Second, we believe and demonstrate that it is only in while standing “obedience to the truth.” “Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a [pure] heart.” (1 Peter 1:22).


According to Pope St. John Paul II, we are living in the midst of the greatest crisis that can afflict human society. Our President, knowingly or unknowingly, is ensnared in this very culture destroying philosophy. Let us pray that we each might be purified by obedience to the truth to give effective witness to President Obama and to each and every soul we meet.



The Charism of St. Andrew

Posted by on Dec 1, 2014 at 12:01 am

Today, aside from being the 1st Sunday of Advent is also the feast of the Holy Apostle Andrew. Near and dear to my heart for, what I hope is an obvious reason. What can St. Andrew offer to us today? We focus on St. Peter- and the office of the Papacy. We focus on St. Paul and his evangelical zeal. We focus on St. John and his sublime Gospel. What can St. Andrew offer us today?


The Gospel accounts of St. Andrew show him to be a connector. He is a man of simple zeal who starts following after St. John the Baptist and then, upon hearing the Baptist cry “Behold the Lamb of God!” he seeks after Jesus. That zeal leads him also to introduce Peter to Jesus saying “We have found the Messiah!” Andrew is the one who, in the face of the hungry thousands, introduces Jesus to a young boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish with which the Good Shepherd feeds His flock.

Statue of St. Andrew from St. John's Latern Basilica, Rome.

Statue of St. Andrew from St. John’s Latern Basilica, Rome.

In our own day and age, Catholics are often isolated from each other. They may work side by side and not even know they are both Catholic. They may go to the same parish but never cross paths due to different Mass times. They may live side by side and never realize they both adore Christ in the Eucharist. We need the gift of St. Andrew to make connections.


Lord Jesus, send forth your Holy Spirit with the gift of St. Andrew to connect members of the Church with each other. Pour it forth in abundance to those who seek it. Inspire many hearts of your faithful to seek to make connections within the Body of Christ so that, rather than be divided we may be united in the one faith. St. Andrew, pray for us sinners that we may show forth your own zeal and glorify the Body of Christ with many conversions.



Argus Leader inaccurate on Catholicism & Homosexuality

Posted by on Aug 7, 2014 at 12:49 am

I was surprised by today’s Argus Leader.


I was NOT surprised to hear that a varsity high school coach was coming out as gay.


I was NOT surprised to hear that this coach worked at a Catholic school-though I had no prior knowledge. I knew it was just a matter of time before such a story came to the forefront in South Dakota.


I WAS surprised that the Argus Leader would be so flippant and simplistic with it’s description of Catholicism and Homosexuality. Such a serious issue and such a prominent issue in today’s public square deserves much more serious than: “a faith that rejects homosexuality.”


Perhaps the author, Jill Callison didn’t have time. Perhaps the editor cut out information. Either way, twice saying things so simply is damaging.


Such a statement is deficient and detrimental to public conversation. The Catholic Church disapproves of ANY and ALL sexual activity outside of marriage. The Catholic Church loves and cares for those who sin in every way. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “Under no circumstances can [homosexual acts] be approved.” (paragraph 2357). At the same time the Catechism teaches: “This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (paragraph 2358).


If you want a fuller treatment on this important issue, see this homily I gave on the Church’s teaching on homosexuality in the past, on the occasion of President Obama’s speech from May of 2012. Interestingly, I wasn’t supposed to have much time to give my homily that day but providence allowed me to give a full homily.


An even better treatment of living with same-sex attraction as a witness to the world to the nature of love was made today by Eve Tushnet in an amazing article written today. There is an amazing opportunity to give witness to the world. I pray this young man from Dell Rapids might choose that opportunity.


The lesson as always: Church teaching doesn’t reduce to a sound bite.


[Edited to add Eve Tushnet article shortly after publishing. Edited to correct title- “inaccurate” vs. “in accurate”- thanks to a reader]



Why Latin?

Posted by on Mar 26, 2014 at 3:50 pm
It is Lent and we are working on our faith. We have taken up devotions of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. These are noble things that we should work on.
Another thing we are all working on together here at Pius XII Newman Center is using a Mass setting in Latin. Yes Latin! I remember the limerick from my days in the seminary: “Latin is a dead language, dead as dead can be. First it killed the Romans and now it is killing me!”

But that’s a lie. Latin is NOT a dead language. Latin is THE language of the Roman Catholic Church. As Catholics we should know our language. Just as indigenous peoples strive to preserve their language, so should we preserve Latin. A newly announced Archbishop of Liverpool, England, Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon says that Latin is “as important for our culture and worship as Hebrew is for the Jewish people.”

The Second Vatican Council, a meeting of all the world’s bishops in 1963-1965 wrote a document on the Holy Mass and Public Prayers of the Church. It is called Sacrosanctum Concilium. In it the Church teaches:
“In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and “the common prayer,” but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people…Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” Paragraph 54, emphasis added.
So that is precisely what we are doing in our Masses during Lent.
Does this take a little work? Yes! Is it worth it? I think so. Is it right? Yes.



A Prayer for Young People

Posted by on Mar 25, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Today is the feast of the Annunciation. From Luke chapter 1, we remember how God sent His Archangel Gabriel to Mary and the world’s salvation hung on the thread of this young woman saying “yes” to God.

In 2008 I had the privilege of attending World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. There, Pope Benedict XVI led the Angelus prayer at the conclusion of Mass. The Angelus prayer is a beautiful prayer from Luke Chapter 1, reliving Gabriel’s appearance and Mary’s “yes.” Pope Benedict gave the Angelus prayer to the youth of the world. Read his words and answer his invitation to allow Mary’s yes to strengthen your own. Pray the Angelus!

Dear Young Friends,

In the beautiful prayer that we are about to recite, we reflect on Mary as a young woman, receiving the Lord’s summons to dedicate her life to him in a very particular way, a way that would involve the generous gift of herself, her womanhood, her motherhood. Imagine how she must have felt. She was filled with apprehension, utterly overwhelmed at the prospect that lay before her.

The angel understood her anxiety and immediately sought to reassure her. “Do not be afraid, Mary…. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:30, 35). It was the Spirit who gave her the strength and courage to respond to the Lord’s call. It was the Spirit who helped her to understand the great mystery that was to be accomplished through her. It was the Spirit who enfolded her with his love and enabled her to conceive the Son of God in her womb.

This scene is perhaps the pivotal moment in the history of God’s relationship with his people. During the Old Testament, God revealed himself partially, gradually, as we all do in our personal relationships. It took time for the chosen people to develop their relationship with God. The Covenant with Israel was like a period of courtship, a long engagement. Then came the definitive moment, the moment of marriage, the establishment of a new and everlasting covenant. As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel’s message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said yes.

In fairy tales, the story ends there, and all “live happily ever after”. In real life it is not so simple. For Mary there were many struggles ahead, as she lived out the consequences of the “yes” that she had given to the Lord. Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her heart. When Jesus was twelve years old, she experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when, for three days, the child went missing. And after his public ministry, she suffered the agony of witnessing his crucifixion and death. Throughout her trials she remained faithful to her promise, sustained by the Spirit of fortitude. And she was gloriously rewarded.

Dear young people, we too must remain faithful to the “yes” that we have given to the Lord’s offer of friendship. We know that he will never abandon us. We know that he will always sustain us through the gifts of the Spirit. Mary accepted the Lord’s “proposal” in our name. So let us turn to her and ask her to guide us as we struggle to remain faithful to the life-giving relationship that God has established with each one of us. She is our example and our inspiration, she intercedes for us with her Son, and with a mother’s love she shields us from harm.



When Professors Attack…The Faith…

Posted by on Feb 11, 2014 at 3:50 am

Almost every Catholic college students experiences it. You’re in a lecture and your professor makes some claim that casts the Catholic Church in a bad light. I hear it often from students in courses on human sexuality or some such topic.

“The Catholic Church says rape is better than homosexuality.”

“The Catholic Church is about to allow condoms to be used.”

“The Church doesn’t like to openly discuss sex.”

What should a college student do?

  1. Stay calm
  2. Politely ask your professor for a reference citation. This can be done after class. You can even avoid the appearance of confrontation if you want, just go for general inquiry: “You said the Catholic Church is [insert crazy claim like “burning homosexuals in St. Peter’s Basilica on Friday”], I’d like to learn more about that?”
  3. If your professor gives you a citation, investigate and look into things to see what might be distorted. In the case of one comment a student brought to me, I knew the professor was deliberately distorting St. Thomas Aquinas- even without the source.
    1. In this case, if you find discrepancies and outright errors, assume goodwill on your professor’s part. Bring a citation that helps and corrects the misconception.
    2. If goodwill isn’t present and error is clear, then you want to see what your resources are in your University- such as the evaluations, letters to deans, etc.
  4. If your professor does not have a source or even refuses to give you a source, then you have a couple options.
    1. If you wanted to protect your anonymity, you could wait for evaluations and make a comment like: “professor made disparaging/negative claims against an ethno-religious group and did not provide sources when asked”
    2. You could privately and politely ask the professor about why they are making blanket claims without reliable sources.
    3. You could go all 1960s on them and plan a protest. Though it might be good to talk to a faculty advisor/dean/advocate in that case JUST to make sure your academic future is covered.

The main thing to remember as a student is that you have rights. Just as your professors expect citations and sources, so should you expect it from them. Especially when making grand claims. Anything else is an abuse of their authority.



On the Eve of the Conclave

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 at 8:19 pm

On the eve of the conclave you could drive yourself crazy reading articles and blog posts about who the next Pope will be, what policies he should promote, and what problems he faces. You could read about the different factions or concerns in the college of cardinals. You can even make yourself busy with betting pools and bianco fumare parties.

I am tempted, and I gather other serious Catholics are tempted to worry or fret over the identity of the next Pope. Will he do everything we want him to? Will he defend the faith with the care and precision necessary in this mass media age? Will he work in the Curia to create an atmosphere that better promotes the New Evangelization?

In the midst of this, there is a lesson for the Year of Faith. In this time without a shepherd, we have to trust in the Good Shepherd all the more. We have no guarantee that our Popes will be confident. We have no guarantee that our Popes will be holy. History teaches us those lessons. But history teaches us another lesson. No Pope will sink the Church.

This is a time for us to have faith. No Pope will sink the Church, have faith. My good priest friend, Fr. Jim Mason likes to tell the story of Napoleon confronting the Archbishop of Paris: “Monsieur, I will destroy your church.” The Archbishop responds, “Good luck. Priests and bishops have been trying for almost 2000 years.”

I have a reasonable hope that the new Pope will do the things that, in my humble estimation, the Church needs. I have a sure hope, founded on revealed faith, that Jesus will care for and protect his Church no matter what. So in these days of intense prayer, remember, in the words of St. Augustine, quoted by Pope Benedict XVI in his document on the year of faith. “Believers are strengthened by believing.”



The Fire which Burns and Saves

Posted by on Feb 28, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Today marks the end of Pope Benedict’s papacy. I am sad. There are many things written and said by Pope Benedict for which I am grateful to God. Here is one.

This is a paragraph from Spe Salvi, his encyclical from November 30, 2007, on the topic of the meaning of Christian hope. When words become separated from their origin, they loose their meaning and their effect. We have to relearn Christian words and concepts. Hope is one of those words.
This encyclical is powerful and especially for me personally for several reasons. First, written just over a year after my dad’s death, hope and judgment were still heavy on my heart. Second, he published this encyclical on November 30th, the feast of St. Andrew. I try to pay attention to such things as patron saints. Third, portions of this encyclical have popped up into my prayer life on several occasions.
This is one of those passages. This passage, paragraph 47, makes me think about my own efforts in this world. Are they good enough for Jesus Christ? Was my homily prepared? My counsel in confession clear? Am I making full use of my gifts to be a priest? I entrust all of these efforts to Jesus Christ, the “fire which burns and saves.”

Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ’s Passion. At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy…The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).

Thank you Lord, for Pope Benedict XVI!



Does a Priest Pray Mass alone?

Posted by on Dec 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm

As a priest with a different assignment, campus ministry, life is a little different. This week, most priests are working their tails off with final preparations for Christmas. While I am pastor of a ghost town. With semester break 90% of my parishioners are gone. So it raises a question? What does a priest do if he schedules a Mass and no one shows up?

Does a priest ever pray Mass alone?



Yes, a priest sometimes prays Mass alone. I have Masses where no one shows up and I still pray them. Why? Because the Mass is the greatest prayer of the Christian faith. There is no greater prayer that could ever be offered than the very prayer of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, as he offers himself to the Father on Calvary. At every Mass there is a real and unbloody participation in that offering. So the prayers of the Mass have great effect on the world, whether or not there are people in the pews.

In fact, you should be mindful as a Catholic- or Christian- of the Masses being offered somewhere at anytime throughout the world. When temptation or trial comes, first, invoke the Holy Spirit who lives within your baptized and confirmed soul, and then call upon the fruits of the Mass being offered by the hands of priests. Especially in the light of the tragedy in Newtown we should all be happy about every Mass being said anywhere. More joining of heaven to earth, please.

No, a priest NEVER prays Mass alone.

I may have a Mass to which no one shows up. Brookings becomes a ghost town when the students leave. I go from having so many cars pass by that I don’t even notice them to having so few cars go by that I know them by sight. Its like living in Manhattan to living in the middle of no where. But even when the pews are empty I never pray Mass alone.

The angels and saints, the whole company of heaven attends and is attentive to every Mass offered. In fact, the Mass is heavenly worship being offered here on the ground. Listen to this portion of the Preface Prayer: “And so with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominions, and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory…” Notice that the prayer mentions 5 of the 9 choirs of angels. Notice how it says WITH them.

Next time you’re at Mass, pay attention for the angelic choirs joining you as you re-present to God the great sacrifice of Jesus.

Next time you’re NOT at Mass, call upon the fruits of the Masses being offered throughout the world to sustain you in your trials, temptations, and tragedies.


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