Click on the link above to begin reading the Holy Father's new Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. He has a lot to say and his comments are stirring up the airwaves. He is calling Catholics to a deeper understanding of their faith in order to spread the joy of the Gospel to the whole world. Take a read and let me know what you think!
Nextweek I will be gone for a few days on retreat. Each year, a priest is required to make a retreat as part of his regular duties. This year I am heading up to a place north of the Twin Cities called the Pacem in Terris retreat center. This is a hermitage retreat center that is run by a group of third order Franciscans. A hermitage retreat is a bit different from other types of retreats that you may be more familiar with. More commonly, a retreat will have a director who will offer a number of talks on a certain topic over the course of a day or two. A more intense retreat will have individual meeting with a spiritual director in order to guide the retreatant to some spiritual end.
A hermitage retreat has none of that. When I went to this place the first time, I asked one of the Franciscans who would be my spiritual director and she responded “The Holy Spirit.” I asked her what books she would recommend I read during my retreat and she said “none of them.” I asked her if I should journal and she said, “nope.” This was unlike any other retreat I had ever been on. I was welcome to celebrate Mass with the community each day and have supper with them, but the rest of the time was to be spent in silence and contemplation.
The thing about silence is that it allows you to hear God speaking to you in a very powerful way. We can hear God speak to us at Mass, through prayer, and at retreats, but there is nothing quite like silence to really get at the root of our spiritual well-being. I found that those days spent in silence were some of the most profound in my life. I made great progress in my spiritual development on that first retreat and now I return there hoping for a similar experience. Now as for you, can you find time each day to spend in silence with God? Can you hear him speaking to you in your heart of hearts?
Request for Special Collection to benefit the Philippine people affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan
Super Typhoon Haiyan, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 195 miles per hour, slammed into the Philippines on the island of Samar the evening of November 7, 2013 and hit Vietnam on Sunday, November 9. The storm has killed an estimated 10,000 people, and local officials report approximately 9.5 million people have been affected.
Catholic Relief Services, in cooperation with partners, will provide 100,000 families with shelter, essential living supplies and clean water and sanitation. CRS will continue to identify the most vulnerable communities that need assistance and will also be involved with energy and efforts to the long-term diocesan rebuilding efforts.
CRS desperately needs our help so that people and communities in most in need can be helped. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has appealed to all bishops. And so while emphasizing the importance of collections already scheduled, I am asking that all parishes consider adding a special collection to benefit Super Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts between now and Christmas. As with previous large-scale relief requests, make the check payable to the Diocese of Davenport with ‘CRS Typhoon Relief’ on the memo line.
Thank you for your consideration and please continue to pray for those affected by the typhoon.
Sincerely in Christ,
(St. Alphonsus and St. Peter's will have a special collection on November 23-24)
Here is an article that I received the other day in relation to Pope Francis and the Latin Mass. Some have asked me if his policy will be different from that of Benedict. The article shows that we do not expect much to change in relation to the extraordinary form of the Mass.
Cardinal assures traditionalists of Pope’s support for Extraordinary Form
CWN - November 11, 2013
The former prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy has told a traditionalist group that Pope Francis has no intention of restricting access to the Extraordinary Form of the Latin liturgy.
“I met Pope Francis very recently and he told me that he has no problem with the old rite, and neither does he have any problem with lay groups and associations like yours that promote it,” Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos told members of Una Voce International (FIUV), who were in Rome for a general assembly.
Responding to questions from FIUV members about tensions within the Friars of the Immaculate, the Colombian cardinal said that the Pope moved to insist on the use of the Novus Ordo in that religious community only because of internal dissension, and not because of any negative judgment on the traditional liturgy.
At its general assembly, FIUV elected a new president: James Bogle, a lawyer, author, and chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain. “We are very grateful to His Eminence Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, His Eminence Cardinal Brandmüller, and to Archbishop Pozzo for taking part in our General Assembly of the International Federation Una Voce,” Bogle said in a brief statement to CWN. “We are very pleased with the way the celebration of the traditional Mass is now going worldwide. We are obviously very grateful to Benedict XVI and also our present Pope Francis for all the support that they have given us in our right to worship in the traditional Roman rite.”
All to often we read headlines about acts of violence in our nation and around the world. Reports of shootings, kidnappings, and all sorts of other attacks against the innocent make it into our homes through social media, word of mouth, and the ever-present 24 hour news cycle. The causes of these violent attacks are manifold: mental illness, political differences, religious strife, and domestic abuse, among others. It seems that even in a modern, fairly enlightened society these reports increase rather than decrease. Many people have a hard time trying to understand all of these events and how they are to be understood in the context of a Christian life.
We must understand that sin and evil often have no explanation. These are the sorts of things that go against human nature, since we are created in God's image and his law is written in our hearts. God provides us with a conscience and the ability to know the difference between good and evil from a very young age. It is only when we act against our better nature, by choice, that we allow evil to occur. This can happen in several different ways and demand a different societal response.
First, most commonly we see mental health as a contributing factor in violence. Those with mental health issues often do not receive the help they need and become isolated from effective support networks. Mental illness has the effect of preventing someone from perceiving reality as others do and thinking that violent behavior is the right way to act. Civil authorities should work hard to provide proper care facilities for those with violent tendencies and families should work to remove the stigma of mental health problems that often prevent people from pursuing professional help.
Second, political and religious discourse can lead to violent behavior when people begin to think that this is the only way for them to be heard or effect a lasting change. Instead of debating issues in the intellectual sphere, certain individuals will begin to focus their dissatisfaction on other people rather than the ideas they hold. Jesus reminds us to love each other, even our enemies. It is important to remove all "ad hominem" attacks in our discourse. These can be phrases like, "I wish that political party would just die off" or "All those religious types should be burned at the stake." It is always more productive to focus on the issues at hand rather than the people who hold them according to their own conscience and deeply held beliefs.
Finally, we all have an obligation to form our consciences according to the principles of both Natural Law and Christian ethics. Natural Law applies to all people, no matter their religious or cultural background. It is made up of principles such as the preservation of all human life; the existence of truth, beauty, and goodness; and the protection of the innocent. A Christian ethic refines these principles by looking at the human person as being beloved by God and called to a divine destiny. If our consciences are instead formed by anti-life principles, selfish aggrandizement, or violent behavior, it is no wonder that someone might see assaults and murder as a way to solve problems.
Too often we only attack the symptoms of violence, rather than the root cause. All people must work hard to build a respect for all human life and raise the level of discourse in our country so that the problems we face might be solved effectively. Let us also pray that violent hearts might be turned toward peaceful resolution
The Theology of Doughnuts.
Each Sunday, after the morning Masses, we offer coffee and doughnuts (or other snacks) at both parishes. This is not just so father can have three breakfasts, but is offered in order to build community in our parishes. This can also be an effective tool for ministry and conversion of hearts. Let me explain.
When I was a kid, doughnuts were not offered each Sunday. We would have to look at the bulletin to determine whether or not we would have a treat after Mass. If there was a notice in the bulletin, we would run downstairs after Mass and be first in line for first pick of doughnuts out of the box. The volunteers were always friendly and the atmosphere was happy. The pastor would always walk through and say hi while the other parishioners would mingle around and get caught up on the week's happenings. This experience was a very important part of my spiritual development, because in my young mind it reaffirmed the idea that Church was a good and pleasant place to be. The sorts of things I heard about in Church were practiced and made real in the fellowship hall after the closing hymn. Because I had so many good experiences of Church, it was not a great leap for me to go from the kid who ate the doughnuts to the guy who advertises the doughnuts.
Take a minute to think about your own experience of parish life and how you present it to others. Do you make it a mere obligation, something you have to do because Father Paul says you have to? Or do you see it as an opportunity to grow in faith and share fellowship with your brothers and sisters in the Lord? Do you take advantage of the good things the parish offers, or do you lament about what you see missing? Remember that our own attitudes about the nature of religious obligation can be contagious, for good or for ill.
And remember: keep your eyes on the doughnut, not the hole.
Next week we will celebrate a holy day of obligation, the Feast of All Saints. On October 31st we will have a Holy Day Vigil Mass at 6:30 pm. On the feast day itself, November 1st, we will have morning Mass at 8am as usual and Latin Mass at 6:30 pm.
All Saints is a great old celebration, but is too often co-opted by its commercial version, Halloween. I enjoyed trick-or-treating as a kid, getting a good fright once in a while, and celebrating with costumes, pumpkin carving, and lots of candy. However, there is a way you can transform even this most “commercial” of celebrations into a holy exercise. The tradition of dressing up on Halloween (All Hallows Eve) actually comes from an old tradition used to honor the saints. On this day, people would dress up as their patron saint as a way to honor their life and seek their intercession. I would love it if on the Holy Day Masses the children would take the time to investigate the life of a saint and dress up in a “holy” costume. I know this may involve a bit of extra work, but I think it would be a great exercise to try out this year and get in touch with a neat old tradition.
Following All Saints Day is All Souls on November 2nd. This is a day to remember, pray for, and honor all those who have gone before us in the faith, even if they weren’t saints! This is a great day to visit the cemetery with your family members and pray for deceased relatives and friends. I will make a visit up at Calvary cemetery to visit the priest’s circle and say hello to some old friends. Right up the hill here on the West End is Holy Family cemetery, where many Redemptorist fathers and sisters of Saint Francis are buried. Perhaps you could go and say a prayer for one of the old pastors?
In all this we remember that Christ is Lord of the living and the dead- membership in His Church does not end on your last day here on earth, but continues to the end of time!
I was reading up on some news articles concerning the Holy Father and I found the following passage at the end of an article about Vatican politics: "Following Pope Francis' Oct. 1-3 meeting with the new Council of Cardinals advising him on church governance, the Vatican announced that plans are underway for an overhaul of the curia, possibly including the creation of a "moderator" who could assume some of the responsibilities currently exercised by the secretary of state." While this does not sound like anything earth-shattering, it does mark an important change in the life of the Church. This article will help to explain what some of these terms mean, like "curia" and "moderator," and why it might matter to you.
If you go to the Vatican website (www.vatican.va), you will see that there is a tab for the "curia." It will direct you to congregations, committees, councils, tribunals, and a plethora of other offices. These offices make up the curia, forming the governing body of the Church. The Curia functions as an advisory body to the pope and bishops. While the pope does make a lot of the decisions that keep the Church going, an army of bureaucrats and staffers keep the wheels turning on this great world-wide organization. There is a document called Pastor Bonus that governs these workings. It is an Apostolic Constitution that defines which offices are in charge of certain Church matters and how decisions are made. It also provides a means for administrative appeals and judicial processes when they are needed. Pastor Bonus describes how each of these offices works with one another, how they interact, and who gives them a direction.
Currently, the Vatican Secretary of State has quite a bit of power over decision making in the Vatican. Not only does he maintain relationships with foreign nations, but he also functions as the intermediary between the Pope and the Curia. As you can imagine, this position has quite a bit of influence over the daily workings of the Church. Some have been critical of this influence and others have even called for this position to be dramatically changed.
Another important and powerful entity in the Vatican is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). This congregation is made up of some of the best theologians in the Church and typically is responsible for any question having to do with matters of the faith. Over the last several decades, a lot of other matters have been entrusted to the CDF because of the level of expertise that its members possess. Now, many issues that used to be handled by other congregations have found their way over to the CDF. This is another oft-heard criticism, that the CDF does too much that could be handled by other entities.
The last office I will describe is the "supreme court" of the Church. The Roman Rota is the highest court in the Church and handles a great number of judicial cases from around the world. These are primarily marriage and annulment cases that have been sent off for a final appeal to the court in Rome. This court has a great deal of power and influence in the world, but has one great flaw- it can take years to hear from them because of the massive backlog of cases. Because the court hears appeals from all over the world, each judge is responsible for thousands of cases. Many bishops and the Pope himself have asked for a way for this backlog to be cleared.
The Council of Cardinals I mentioned in the first paragraph has been looking at many of these questions and concerns. In the coming years we may see a radical departure from the old ways of doing business with a whole new order established in the Vatican. We could also see a confirmation of things as they are, with very few changes. I think the final result will likely be somewhere in the middle. Our Holy Father seems to be the kind of guy who wants things to run efficiently and well. The Cardinals on his council are bringing a fresh set of eyes to some of these issues and I am curious to see what some of their recommendations are. Please keep these men in your prayers as they tackle some of these very tough considerations!
Here you will find a collection of my thoughts on current events, happening in the parish, and reflections on scripture. Please feel free to add your comments below or suggest future titles!
Welcome to Father's Blog!
Here you will find my periodic musings on life in the parish, answers