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Recent news and musings by the Catholic Center

 

What are you made of?

Posted by on May 2, 2014 at 8:52 pm

St. Joseph Cathedral

May 1st was the anniversary of the dedication of St. Joseph Cathedral in Sioux Falls. If you haven’t been there and you’re in Eastern South Dakota or within a few hours of Sioux Falls, go. I’ll wait. Actually, I won’t, but go.

Why do we have beautiful and costly Churches? To inspire us to greater works of charity and to labor to build our own hearts in the image of these temples. Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Your soul becomes a dwelling place of God. Jesus Christ comes to dwell in your soul. Do you prepare your heart to be a shrine of Jesus?

In St. Joseph Cathedral there are costly stones like marble, beautiful artwork and precious metals. These signify the importance of the sacred space, vessels, and rites. What are the costly and precious things of which your own heart should be made?

Sacrifice, prayer, virtue, habit, and selflessness are the costly and precious materials of which your heart can be built. Perhaps you may create a mosaic of chastity in some part of your heart- mosaics are made of tiny pieces arranged to create a whole. Chastity takes many tiny efforts. Perhaps you may make a crucifix out of gold by imitating the selfless love of Jesus. Gold must be refined and carefully worked and so must our selfless love- we must carefully examine it and even put it to the test to make sure it is pure selfless love.

So, of what are you made? Of what are building yourself?

 

 

Christmas and an End to Poverty?

Posted by on Dec 28, 2013 at 8:52 am

Merry Christmas!

Yesterday was the Feast of St. John the Apostle. One of the twelve Apostles and one of the four Evangelists (Gospel Writers). In our readings for yesterday’s feast, we heard from his 1st letter and his encounter with Jesus, the invisible Word of God made visible. It brings to mind the emphasis on the spiritual meaning of Christmas.

I am visiting my mother and as I drive around my hometown I see almost a dozen pay-day loan places. That is almost 1/1000 people. This is a sure sign of practical poverty. My mother heard a radio ad promoting a $100 loan at only $0.99 per day. If you took a year to pay off that loan, you’d pay $361.35 to have a $100 today. That is 361.5%! This is NO help to poverty.

How can we help the poor? In this brief note, I don’t want to talk about direct assistance. I want to talk about larger issues. Strategy as opposed to tactics, if you get my drift?

Many people focus on economic systems, tax philosophies, and more. These are good discussions to be had but they are incomplete. Whatever efforts are made in those areas they will be doomed to fail- even decades later. Instead, two things must change if we are to have a real effect on poverty. A conversion of culture and a conversion of souls.

charity

Conversion of culture would effect our view of happiness. I imagine that many pay-day or title loan customers are those who “can’t make ends meet.” What are those ends? It is easy to envision such individuals and households enslaving themselves to such loans for the sake of material possessions beyond what is needed to live. Our culture places happiness in the achieving o

Conversion of culture also includes making time for the best of things. Pursuing the qualities of life that are freeing, the spiritual goods: freedom, love, wisdom, justice, courage, and more. Our cultural focus and obsession on the material blinds us to the pursuit of these greater goods. Unless we equip individuals to be the master of possessions and not mastered by them, we will never end poverty. Being mastered by possessions is called materialism. Much more should be said on this.

Conversion of souls is also necessary for an end to poverty. Most of the exterior solutions: economics, tax policies, and more are superficial changes. Man’s heart has always been the seat of his decisions. You might systemize charity but men will always find loopholes if they have not become charitable. Is our culture aimed at creating people with the habit of charity? Generosity?

 

Conversion of souls also entails how we look at others. Materialism in our culture today leads us to look at an individual solely as a source of material gain or a drain on material supplies. This is an inhuman and inhumane vision. This leads to business owners fearing to share profit margins with employees. This same materialism simultaneously leads to employees begrudging their employers and viewing them has a hindrance or oppressor, rather than a compatriot.

Much more should be said on these points but we do need to refocus our discussion on poverty away from material sources and towards the spiritual/immaterial causes of enduring poverty.

 

 

Let me get that for you…

Posted by on Apr 16, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I came across a comment on chivalry recently. Men should honor women because they have the capacity to give to us and to the world something that no man can. Woman have the capacity to bear life.

Not just the physical gestation of a child but to bear life. A mother does not simply carry a baby like I carry my cell phone. The baby is in their hearts and minds in a way that no other thing or person is. The type of tender love that a mother bears for her child makes all the difference in the world. We portray this truth all the time in movies- the love of a parent is irreplaceable.

So men, why be chivalrous? Because that woman will, is or has given the world something that you never can, life. Their nurture and care makes all the difference in the world so can’t you make a difference in her world? Open the door. Let her ahead of you in line. Give her a better seat. If she’s visibly pregnant, offer her anything.

At the very least, honor your own mother. Men, none of us will ever repay our own mother for the gift of life. Even if she was uncaring or hurt you, you are still alive. So be thankful by adopting the posture of chivalry. Be a man of justice by being a chivalrous man. Repay the dept you can never fully repay- to your own mom, to the mothers of your friends, to the mother of your bride, to the mother of your children, and even to the Mother of the Savior.

Let me get that for you…

 

 

The unthought of costs

Posted by on Dec 14, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Elizabeth Scalia, who blogs for First Things.com has an interesting article today concerning the 2010 Nobel Prize in Medicine, awarded to the developer of in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF is immoral because it separates children from the natural act of reproduction within marital sex and it is immoral because it invariably involves the destruction of human life. Ms. Scalia offers other considerations as well, what she considers a “global by-pass of the heart:”

we increasingly talk about the “global community” and the need for humanity to get past geographical boarders and boundaries, yet we take every opportunity to circumvent our own heartbreak, our own spiritual challenges by any means necessary. In the case of infertility, it seems we first-worlders hold the needs of third-world global communities—like those with children who desperately need to be adopted—in abeyance, only bringing them into focus once our self-reliant technological options have been exhausted. Their needs finally pierce our awareness when our own desires force us to look their way.

Scalia wants us to consider not just the reality of artificial creation of a natural gift but also how this technology blinds us to those in need. This solution of science has created a larger gap between rich and poor as we find solutions within our power to control rather than our power to be generous. Scalia raises some interesting questions- maybe imperfectly- but they are still worth considering these unthought of costs of this immoral technological marvel. Read it all here.

 

 

Life is worth living

Posted by on Feb 28, 2010 at 1:29 pm

The following is an odd to life and an appeal to all who struggle with depression and doubt. It is not written by me, it is written by doczero as an ode to Andrew Koening, son of Walter Koening who played Chekhov in the original Star Trek. Nerdy inspiration, beautiful result.

The body of actor Andrew Koenig was found in Vancouver’s Stanley Park yesterday. His father, Walter Koenig, said that his son “took his own life, and was in a lot of pain.” Like most of my generation, I grew up with Walter Koenig as Chekhov on Star Trek, and he played a superb villain much later, on Babylon 5. Until his press conference yesterday, I didn’t realize he was a man of such incredible strength and dignity. He asked for his family to be left in peace to mourn their loss. I hope he won’t mind if I take this sad occasion to address others who might be following the road that ended in Stanley Park for Andrew. No matter how far you have gone down that road, there is always a path that leads away. I could offer no greater tribute to Andrew and his family than trying to help you take it, or at least see it.

You won’t find the beginning of that path in your house, or your room, or any other private place where you torment yourself, and wonder why a world you’re hiding from can no longer see you. You’ll have to step outside, and take a walk through your town. You’ll pass hospitals where the gift of life is unwrapped and presented to the universe. In another wing, life is held as precious treasure by families gathered around quiet beds, surrounded by tireless machines and their tired, but determined, keepers. Perhaps you’ll find a hospice, where the dying embrace their last opportunity to share their lives with all who receive the blessing of a seat beside them. You’ll pass churches and temples, filled with the sworn enemies of despair.

You may find yourself wishing you could give the unwanted years of your future to the clients of those hospitals and hospices. I did, years ago, when I stood where you are standing now. I was on my knees at the time, offering that trade with all my heart. It doesn’t work that way. Those who tend the hospices can tell you why, and the people in the churches and temples can explain why it shouldn’t.

Stroll past your local police station, where the noble calling to risk your life in the service of others is answered… and the worship of death as a solution to problems meets its humiliating end. Maybe you’ll spot a recruiting station, where men and women who love their friends and families accept a duty that could take them away forever… because they know others love their families too, and there is no safe way to build and protect the future for them.

If your walk takes you past sunset, watch the cars rolling into the driveways of apartments and houses. If you walk from night into morning, watch the people reluctantly leaving their homes, to provide for their families. Those people are not wasting their lives, but fulfilling them. They return home to enjoy their reward, and renew their inspiration. Every day, they write new pages in the human story. None of us will see the end of that tale… but I know you share my appetite to read another chapter, and then one more after that. You may have convinced yourself to ignore it, but it’s still there.

Step into a convenience store for a cup of coffee or chocolate, and take a look at the newspapers. They are filled with pleas for help that you could answer. From the inner cities of America, to the broken streets of Haiti, and around the world, there are places where the clocks are filled with nothing but desperate hours. Another pair of hands, or another few dollars of support, are always needed. The years ahead, which you regard as a painful burden, can be given to them. It will take effort, and courage… but along the way, I can promise that your life would stop feeling like a burden.

You may view suicide as your last chance to shake the pillars of a world that has turned its back on you. The world doesn’t need any more shaking. If you’ve been telling yourself that no one will miss you when you’re gone, you are wrong. Your suicide would tear a hole through the future, and nothing could ever fill the space where you used to be. You might think you’re alone, but you don’t have to walk more than a couple of miles from your house to see a building full of people who would be delighted to meet you. There are places like Suicide Hotlines, staffed by men and women who have spent their entire lives preparing to hear the sound of your voice, and greet every day hoping to learn your name.

You may be afraid to face the years ahead. You’re not the only one, and if you extinguish the light of your faith and wisdom, you consign others to darkness. You might see death by your own hand as the end of unbearable pain… but I ask you to think about Walter Koenig, facing a wall of cameras with quiet grace in the hours after finding his son’s body, and understand that it’s only the beginning of agony.

You might have decided your fellow men are rotten to the core, and you’re weary of their company. Listen to the music of Mozart, or look upon the work of Michelangelo, and consider the argument of those who profoundly disagree. Maybe part of your problem is that you’ve been listening to the wrong music, or looking at the wrong pictures. Dark waters are easy to drown in. The judgment of the human race will not lack witnesses for the defense, and they will make their case to you, if you give them a chance.

Now, take the last few steps back to your home, and set aside one sorrow or terror with every footfall, until your mind is clear. If you’re thinking of incinerating the remaining years of your life, surely you can spare a few minutes for quiet reflection, and hear this prayer from the living world:

Please don’t leave us. We need you.

It is a quiet prayer, spoken in a soft voice, but it’s never too late to listen.

Amen.

 

 

The Eternal Revolution of Christianity

Posted by on Oct 13, 2009 at 5:56 pm

In my homilies of late (What, those didn’t post? Oh, I must have been lazy or rather, I am learning first hand the beautiful sacrifice of parenthood), I have been pointing out that the major source of contention between Catholicism and the culture at large is NOT the nature of God but rather the nature of man. The “hot-button” issues of our day: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, the definition of marriage- they can be addressed as simply natural and non-theological discussions. I am at odds with the culture around me, not because I believe in Jesus Christ but because of what I believe about our natural world.

In all of this, faith and reason is in accord. In fact, reason looses its ground without faith. Just as faith divorced from reason is inhuman so too reason without faith becomes inhuman. Sandro Magister, an Italian journalist for the magazine Chiesa, has an article about Europe’s newest advocate for the reunion of faithful reason. Juan Manuel de Prada is a successful Spanish author who was adrift in the cultural millieau and returned to the “ancient liberty” of the faith in April of 2005 while witnessing the death and burial of Pope John Paul II.

The bulk of Magister’s article is the translation of the introduction to de Prada’s newest book: The progressive matrix of the new tyranny. De Prada expresses a Catholic vision of engagement with the world around us. What is at stake, what are the battlefields, and what we are to do about it. I can only hope a good translation of the whole work is forthcoming:

The eternal revolution of Christianity consists in revealing to us the meaning of life, restoring to us our nature; from this discovery is born a joy with no expiration date. When this joy is combined with a minimum of artistic sensibility, life becomes a feast for the intelligence. Chesterton wrote that joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.

Read it all and tell me what you think in the comments.

 

 

To Become Mothers of Christ

Posted by on Nov 21, 2008 at 7:39 pm

Perhaps my favorite homily by Augustine on the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Stretching out his hand over his disciples, the Lord declared: Here are my mother and my brothers; anyone who does the will of my Father who sent me is my brother and my sister and my mother. I would urge you to ponder these words. Did the Virgin Mary, who believed by faith and conceived by faith, who was the chosen one from whom our Savior was born among men, who was created by Christ before Christ was created in her—did she not do the will of the Father? Indeed the blessed Mary certainly did the Father’s will, and so it was for her a greater thing to have been Christ‘s disciple than to have been his mother[!], and she was more blessed in her discipleship than in her motherhood. Hers was the happiness of first bearing in her womb him whom she would obey as her master.

Now listen and see if the words of Scripture do not agree with what I have said. The Lord was passing by and crowds were following him. His miracles gave proof of divine power, and a woman cried out: Happy is the womb that bore you, blessed is that womb! But the Lord, not wishing people to seek happiness in a purely physical relationship, replied: More blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it. Mary heard God’s word and kept it, so she is blessed [undeniably so]. She kept God’s truth in her mind, a nobler thing than carrying his body in her womb. The truth and the body were both Christ: he was kept in Mary‘s mind insofar as he is truth, he was carried in her womb insofar as he is man; but what is kept in the mind is of a higher order than what is carried in the womb.

The Virgin Mary is both holy and blessed, and yet the Church is greater than she. Mary is a part of the Church, a member of the Church, a holy, an eminent—the most eminent—member, but still only a member of the entire body. The body undoubtedly is greater than she, one of its members. This body has the Lord for its head, and head and body together make up the whole Christ. In other words, our head is divine—our head is God.

Now, beloved, give me your whole attention, for you also are members of Christ; you also are the body of Christ. Consider how you yourselves can be among those of whom the Lord said: Here are my mother and my brothers. Do you wonder how you can be the mother of Christ?[you most certainly can!] He himself said: Whoever hears and fulfills the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother. As for our being the brothers and sisters of Christ, we can understand this because although there is only one inheritance and Christ is the only Son, his mercy would not allow him to remain alone. It was his wish that we too should be heirs of the Father, and co-heirs with himself.

Now having said that all of you are brothers of Christ, shall I not dare [!!!Don’t we shy away from this idea?] to call you his mothers? Much less would I dare to deny his own words. Tell me how Mary became the mother of Christ, if it was not by giving birth to the members of Christ? You, to whom I am speaking, are the members of Christ. Of whom were you born? “Of Mother Church,” I hear the reply of your hearts. You became sons of this mother at your baptism, you came to birth as members of Christ. Now you in your turn must draw to the font of baptism as many as you possibly can. You became sons when you were born there yourselves, and now by bringing others to birth in the same way, you have it in your power to become mothers of Christ.

 

 

Render unto Caesar…

Posted by on Aug 13, 2008 at 9:14 pm


Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver has just released a new book- Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life. L’Osservatore Romano, the official paper of the Vatican published a review, which you can find in English through Chiesa. Do read the review. Here are some snippets:

One can read the book on several levels, each illuminating the other. The first level is indicated by the book’s subtitle: “serving the nation by living our Catholic beliefs in political life.”
…Archbishop Chaput’s own conviction finds expression with these words: “The Church claims no right to dominate the secular realm. But she has every right – in fact an obligation – to engage secular authority and to challenge those wielding it to live the demands of justice. In this sense, the Catholic Church cannot stay, has never stayed, and never will stay ‘out of politics.’ Politics involves the exercise of power. The use of power has moral content and human consequences. And the well-being and destiny of the human person is very much the concern, and the special competence, of the Christian community (pp. 217-218).

Thus the second level at which the book may be read is as an appeal to American Catholics to recover a robust and comprehensive understanding of their own faith tradition.
…In effect, Archbishop Chaput is setting before his compatriots the same challenge that St. Paul posed to his fellow citizens of the Roman Empire. “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable, and perfect” (Rom 12:2).

Lastly, the third level at which the book may be read is as a reading of the Second Vatican Council.
…The Archbishop declares: “The Catholic Church is a web of relationships based on the most important relationship of all: Jesus Christ’s gift of himself in the Eucharist for our salvation. None of us earns the gift of Christ’s love. None of us ‘deserves’ the Eucharist” (p. 223). In a final chapter the author engages some pressing pastoral issues regarding access to the Eucharist on the part of public figures who advocate positions the church holds to be intrinsically evil, like abortion. The Archbishop’s approach is both pastorally sensitive and theologically cogent. It will help bring clarity to the ongoing conversation and discernment in this delicate matter – one which must be addressed for the sake of the integrity of the faith.

I’m buying my own copy. Do yourself and your country a favor and buy it.

 

 

True to His Name

Posted by on Jun 28, 2008 at 9:09 pm

This morning, over breakfast, I was visiting about peace, prudence, and bishops. If I ever complain about not being a bishop, somebody slap me. But, I kept this in prayer as I went to pray my office. What a combination this morning, 1st Samuel 26 and Irenaeus. In 1st Samuel, as David stands over the sleeping Saul he says: “As the Lord lives, it must be the Lord himself who will strike him, whether the time comes for him to die, or he goes out and perishes in battle. But the Lord forbid that I touch his anointed!”

David refused to slay Saul who was seeking to slay David. David respected the dignity of the anointing Saul had received and, rather than dispatch him, used that as a moment to call Saul to conversion, as shown later in the chapter. Priests, Bishops, and the whole of the Church have, through their baptism, received a greater anointing than Saul. Why should we seek to strike them down in various ways. We must boldly call them to conversion. In this insight, I was moved by the Benedictus Antiphon for Irenaeus: Irenaeus, true to his name, made peace the aim and object of his life, and he labored strenuously for the peace of the Church.

I am not familiar enough with Irenaeus’ life to say how he made peace the aim and object of his life, but I know it wasn’t by being silent in the face of opposition to Christ. Even if that opposition was by a fellow bishop, priest, or baptized Christian, he would boldly proclaim that invitation to fully follow Christ.

St. Irenaeus, pray for me that I may not be too polite to proclaim Christ. That I may not be too polite to challenge others. That I may not be too polite to risk a martyr’s death. That I may invite everyone, especially those who have received the dignities of Baptism or Orders, to fully follow Christ. St. Irenaeus, pray for me that my priestly life may give witness that the glory of God is man who is fully alive.

 

 

Happy Anniversary!

Posted by on May 9, 2008 at 10:28 pm

…to me! In the liturgical calendar, today is the two year anniversary of my ordination, the Friday before Pentecost. Never you mind that the actual day was June 2nd, we take ’em where we can get em. Here is the photo I used for my Holy Card.It is an by Jean Restout, an 18th century French painter. I had never seen the image before, but now it is all over the place. EWTN is using it for Pentecost this year.

 

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