Audio Available!

Audio Available!
Be sure to check out in each blog post the links to the audio recordings of my homilies. They are at the beginning of each post! Also, look to the right for links to Audio from other good resources!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Healing the damage of yesterday

4 days to Rome now.

Well, she's here and all set (I think).  This morning we wait here at the Fransiscan monastery in San Miniato as Paolo drives to Firenze (Florence) with Fr. Bill, his brother Tony, and Bill Corbitt. Hopefully the bike shop that Paolo was directed to by his friends (who live there and visited lastnight for a beer) will have a few nice bikes in their sizes and ready to go.  During their shopping, Paolo will ship my bike case to Rome and we will see it at our place in a few days.
For now, it's a great morning to relax!

If they can get back quickly, we will all be able to bike together as a while group for today's trip to Siena. Please pray for us as I remember family, friends, the parish, and the high school in my prayers.  God bless!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

From bad to worse

... And I'm not even a pessimist. 
On that note, before the hard news, at least no one is in the hospital or even hurt.  So we thank God for that blessing.

However, after a downpour in the morning's 15-mile stretch, three bikes were stolen in Lucca as we visited the Cathedral and had lunch.  Fr. Bill's, and two of Bill Corbitt's bikes were locked to a public bike rack across from the police station and next to a children's playground.  After a leisurely return from lunch in a gorgeous piazza, we hit a huge disaster as we saw only 1 lock & its 3 bikes.  Our hearts sank as we stared at each other thinking what to do.

There was another (mixed) blessing: we saved the other bikes by about 20 minutes.  As we were first speaking to the Police about the event, we watched 3 young men (gypsies based on their speaking different languages) walk up to the bicycles, snoop for a second, notice us, and try to cover their escape.  Bill C.  followed with a few others and  took photos of them and their plate #.  Then they got out and yelled at us saying we can't shoot pictures and even agreed to return to the police with us (in the US this would never happen - that shows they weren't afraid of getting caught). After they complain a bit, the police tell them to more or less be quiet and leave. We follow them for a bit but decide it's better not to continue. Afterwards, assuming we have no hope with the Italian police against a network of thieves who have little identification, we resign to the fact that we can only get the theft report and file insurance for a claim and reimbursement. Tomorrow the guys will go to Siena in the morning and buy new bikes.  They probably won't ride for the day.
I am going to the airport to pick up my bike.  I will be happy to see it, and will probably not let it out of my sight.  
We are all struggling today with anger, shock, and a bit of devastation as our plans had to change quite drastically.  It was in some ways more difficult because we saw the culprits.  Usually this stuff is anonymous. How often do you talk to the man who robbed you and knows you can't do anything if he denies it?  That somehow heightns the betrayal.  
The hardest thing for me to grasp is the consciences of these men.  I would have the worst feeling in my heart knowing that I had done that to someone, then come back and face them, seeing their pain, lying more to cover it up, and just walking away.  That shows how much sin messes us up, and how we can lie to ourselves and corrupt our own hearts over time.
And now it sort of hits me: I have done that. This is practically the definition of human sin... and of divine forgiveness... something we are all struggling with at this point (I mean, of course, forgiving those thieves!) 
Now at 9:00pm we are finally going to have Mass. I went earlier with Fr. Bill's sister Janet to get my bike.  It's here! Now I need to assemble it. Sad to not be biking with the whole them, though. 
Thank God we are all well. Pray for us!

I am here but something else is not!

This is where my bike should have been. Due to a short connection time in London and a strike in France that made it even shorter, only I made it to the plane to Pisa yesterday.  My bike should arrive today at noon.


After a smooth pick-up by Paolo Carozza at the Pisa airport near the sea (above),  we went to Camaiore, washed up, joined into Mass with the local parish (6:30). 
 We enjoyed the most phenomenal 5-course meal with the group including all the water and wine we could take.

 The night finished at 10:00 or so with prayers and sleep (much needed after those long, uncomfortable flights).
Off we go this morning for Lucca, then finishing in San Miniato!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Getting to the plane

I had been getting more and more nervous about packing and how to get myself and this ridiculous bike case to O'Hare airport.  I was sure glad to be done lugging that guy around. 
With the help of a brother priest, many parish staff, and my uncle Tim the Chicago coffee boss (, all went very well as I finish the security checkpoints and await my flights.  Pretty soon I'll be "relaxing" on the way to London before a connection to Pisa, where some other language is spoken.
The Parish family, the brotherhood of the presbyterate, and my own family all made this possible.  God is good!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Corpus Christi: its power in Mary's "Fiat!"

This is a little long in its first draft, but I did not want to trim the text down online.  I promise the Mass homily will not be 15 minutes!

The story of Israel is the story of a soul. This is a good lesson for us today as we look at the words of Moses to the people of Israel before they enter the promised land.  The point of this phrase The story of Israel is the story of a soul, is that our spiritual journey to God is prefigured in Jewish history.  Their Egyptian captivity is our slavery to sin and its consequences, most of all, death.  Their deliverance through the Red Sea foreshadows our Baptism, where the freedom is won but the journey has just begun.  They are not home yet in the Promised Land of inheritance, which for the soul is of course heaven and eternal life.  Those 40 years represent our life's journey of continual discipleship, following the Lord and overcoming our faults, and persevering through our times of trial.  It is not always pretty, just like the Jews grumbled again and again, saying that they wished they were back stuck in the slavery of Egypt because at least it was something they were familiar with.  Indeed the Christian life is not easy.  But God provides manna in that purifying desert, and that manna for us is the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion.

Because the story of Israel is the story of a soul, we see that we are saved by the Eucharist as much as Baptism but in a different way. Just as Moses reminds the Jews today that they were done for without the manna that God gave them, so also we have Jesus telling us "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you"!  We need the Eucharist.  Without it, our spiritual lives will waste away.

The Church's teaching about the Lord's Real Presence in the Eucharist has been clear in every century.  In the Catechism at par.1375 - St. John Chrysostom declares:
It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God's. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered.
And St. Ambrose says about this conversion:
Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the blessing has consecrated. The power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed. . . . Could not Christ's word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature.

No greater grace than in the Sacraments; and this is called the Sacrament of Sacraments, because here we are at Calvary, here our salvation is won, the blood of redemption is washed over our souls, and the Resurrection is before us in The Eucharistic Lord Jesus.  He is here with us forever.

So, for God's part, the Sacrament works every week.  Why does it take so long for it to work on our hearts?

For this to happen, we must do our part well.  The disposition of recipient limits the ability of God's grace to work within our lives.  God said to St. Angela of Foligno: "[Just] Make of yourself a capacity (an openness) and I will become an overflowing torrent!"  The obstacle is of course in our hearts and minds: we like the Jews find our habits, our past, and the wounds we carry make it hard for us to give our freedom to love as we should.  We choose to live in the false world we paint for ourselves instead of doing everything we can to get off the blinders and live within reality, however difficult the truth may be.  Or perhaps we are too comfortable in the status quo and that comfort begins to chain us down from any true happiness.  Whatever it us, the problem is we are failing to love God and neighbor as we should.
Our capacity is not as good as it should be. Are we praying daily with sincerity and fervor? Are we going to Mass weekly and making a humble and contrite confession regularly? Are we trying to bring God into every part of our lives, or have we become comfortable with sins,  however small they seem?  These are signs that we aren't as open as we could be.  And we all have room to grow.

[Just] Make of yourself a capacity (an openness) and I will become an overflowing torrent!  Mary made of herself such a capacity that God was able to do great things through her.  We should go to Mary for guidance on how to receive worthily the gift of the Eucharist.  She models for us the life of a disciple. So too do all the other saints and we should let them teach us too.  My saint for this year is Margaret Mary Alacoque, and I am still reading her writings and growing in devotion the Sacred Heart.  She is becoming a close friend and big sister to me.

But for all of us, Mary is our Mother, and she is Our Lady of the Eucharist.  We should give ourselves to her in order to let this sacrament move us.  Bishop Rhoades has graciously moved for a diocesan "mini-retreat" of the Marian consecration.  This is a beautiful gift that I know myself and other parishioners have benefited from in their lives.  So I encourage all of you, to look into this consecration!  Get into a group and do it together: it can be a group of relatives, or friends, or neighbors, a prayer group, a biking club, whatever!  Do this together and it will change your lives.  You will get to know 4 great saints, new big brothers and sisters: Louis de Montfort, Maximilian Kolbe, John Paul II, and Blessed Mother Teresa.  You will grow in making yourself a capacity so that God can become your overflowing torrent.  And you will know how to live more deeply the mystery of this greatest of all gifts in the Eucharist.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Trinity - can't we all just get along?

Graduation speeches often sugarcoat radical individualism.
We as Catholics gather every Sunday to say the exact opposite: we need each other, we need God!
Indeed, as we remember Trinity Sunday, God himself proves the exact opposite, that we His Children are most ourselves when we are in relationship with others.
Families are hurting. families are suffering and dissolving because of sin, selfishness, and individualism.
Pope Francis: we must be on the periphery. His first synod is on the family.
There is a kind of schizophrenia in our nation over what we were made for. Was it individualism, or was it love and self-gift in relationship with others. I see this conflict every single day, especially at funerals and weddings and baptisms where relationships are so obviously the most important and fundamental part of who we are - where it cannot be denied that we were somehow just made that way.  In fact, as Catholics we know that  God, who created us in his own image and likeness, is himself a relationship: a Trinity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, as we say in the sign of a cross, that foundational the symbol of our faith.  So we can say, "yeah,  relationships are what we are all about." And even though the individual is important, it is not the goal of our existence. Love is the goal of our existence. 
But in this fallen world, love and relationships can be very hard.  There is a lot of hurt that needs to be healed by Christ. We must allow God to show us the way by His example. In the Gospel, we hear that "God loves the world so much that he sends His Son to die on the Cross."
Because God is all about relationships, and because we need that relationship with him, God reaches out and makes that space for mercy and forgiveness. Are we able to do that ourselves and our world today?
Moses: getting close to God means getting close to humanity. (And also, Pope Francis)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Don't be a couch potato!

Last weekend when I was in Washington, DC with many of the parish school's 8th graders (and a great team of chaperones!) I heard a great line from our tour guide who rode the bus with us.  In order to keep everyone in their seats for the sake of safety and order, she had a good little phrase: "Keep your tooshie on the cushie!"  During this summer, and we will often find ourselves spending a lot more time with our tooshie on the cushie, so to speak, when we are taking some time to relax and recover from a busy schedule.  Perhaps it is parents of teenagers who see this to the most disturbing extent at times! And when there is something to be done, it can be quite frustrating to see a family member just lounging around. "Please, get up and mow the grass (or put the dishes away)!"  Laziness is often times not the best type of restoration we can get.  Sometimes we feel worse afterwards because we dig ourselves into a hole.  The reality is: we were not made to be couch potatoes.

This goes also for holy mother church. You and I, the body of Christ, were not made to be catch potatoes! Pope Francis says that every disciple of the Lord Jesus is a missionary disciple.  What he means is we have to get our tooshie off the cushie.

Today, on this feast of Pentecost, we focus especially on the mission of evangelization!  We are all called to be like the apostles who are driven out by the power of the Holy Spirit to live our faith and share the gospel.

Matthew Kelly's book "the four signs of a dynamic Catholic" says there are four signs that all of us should be manifesting in our life.  They are: prayer, study of the faith, generosity (with time and talent and treasure), and - you guessed it - evangelization.
Pope Paul VI said that the world listens to people only because they are witnesses and not due solely to their authority.  So that goes for us.  The only way for us to fulfill the mission of evangelization, is to have had a profound experience of the faith - to have an encounter with the person I Lord Jesus Christ, in our daily lives.  This is exactly what a witness is!
In order to be a witness, to have a profound experience of the faith, we have to be living those other 3 signs of a dynamic catholic.
This means we have to pray, just like the Apostles who said their first novena during those days between the Ascension and Pentecost.
This means we have to study, just like the Apostles who found through the scriptures the deeper meaning of Christ's life and mission.
And this means we have to be generous with our time, talent, and treasure, both inside the parish and beyond it.
But the best way to get our tooshie off the cushie and share our faith is through the simple and authentic relationships we have in life: whether at work, school, in the neighborhood, or through our activities and hobbies.  If you want to touch someone's life, bring them a CD from the back of church after you have listened to it yourself and say, "hey, I was listening to this CD of the faith and thought you might benefit from it.  Give it a shot and let me know what you think."  Or something else simple and easy, such as the Palms from Palm Sunday.  One parishioner told me this was very effective.

The fact is this: a shared faith is an alive faith.  So don't be a couch potato: spread the love of God from the Holy Spirit to a world that is hurting!