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!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Holy Family!


How many of you feel like your families have a problem or two, a little messiness, or "some skeletons in the closet" we might say?  Well, welcome to the club.

As we celebrate the Holy family, we may find it difficult to see ourselves in the people of Mary and Joseph when they are sitting there so nicely in that manger scene.  But if we look more closely at the story, we will see that things aren't as cookie cutter perfect as we make it out to be.  First off, don't forget what that manger would have really looked like: a cave with a little roof on top full of smelly animals and hay and dirt and who knows what else.  And in today's world we have the same problems, sort of.  I was just at home for Christmas day and my mom and dad still crack me up.  They spent about 30 years straight raising kids in the home, all 8 kids for about 4 years, and now they are actually getting used to having a clean house.  So when we all come home for Christmas and fill the house will all this clutter (and more dishes in a couple days than they use in a week!) it gets them a little uneasy.  But that messiness was present in the first Holy Family.  So holiness isn't about being sanitized and unrealistic, but it is about being radically devoted to Christ Jesus and being truly human.

One Christmas about six years ago, I asked my sister for an icon of the Holy Family.  In this simple picture, we see three aspects of how to be a Holy Family.

First, Joseph is clearly a protector.  He wraps Mary and Jesus and sort of acts as a safe support between them and the world.  Fathers need to do this with the same strength and tenderness that Joseph shows here.  Every family is a precious gift, and needs to be safeguarded in order to flourish, just like my baby nephew needs to be protected before he grows to full strength.

In Mary, we see Jesus is presented to the world, not kept for herself.  While we cherish and protect the gift of our faith and of our family, we do not do it for ourselves.  The family, just like our faith, is not for ourselves, but to share with others.  We don't keep the good of our families for ourselves.

Thirdly, in Christ, we see the center and the source of the family's blessings.  In the faithfulness and love of God, we find our blessing (symbolized in the gesture of Christ).  In Jesus alone will we find our happiness and be strengthened to heal others with his love.

Another important lesson from today's Gospel is hidden in the words at the end: he went an was obedient to them.  We don't hear anything about Christ's life for the next 18 years.  The point that I see here is this: Ordinariness is underrated.  Although it is not explained in the Gospel, it is absolutely important.  Christ lives an ordinary family life for 30 years before his public ministry.  Just like he didn't shy away from the quiet faithful work of family life, with all its blessings and crosses, nor should we.  The hidden life is real life, or nothing is real.   G.K. Chesterton made me laugh out loud with this very true statement about how God chooses our families to teach us lessons of love:
The modern writers who have suggested, in a more or less open manner, that the family is a bad institution, have generally confined themselves to suggesting, with much sharpness, bitterness, or pathos, that perhaps the family is not always very congenial. Of course the family is a good institution because it is uncongenial. It is wholesome precisely because it contains so many divergencies and varieties. It is, as the sentimentalists say, like a little kingdom, and, like most other little kingdoms, is generally in a state of something resembling anarchy.  It is precisely because our uncle Henry does not approve of the theatrical ambitions of our sister Sarah that the family is like humanity. The men and women who, for good reasons and bad, revolt against the family, are, for good reasons and bad, simply revolting against mankind. Aunt Elizabeth is unreasonable, like mankind. Papa is excitable, like mankind Our youngest brother is mischievous, like mankind. Grandpapa is stupid, like the world; he is old, like the world.
If we can love our disagreeable family members, we can love anyone.  If we can't love our families, we cannot love anyone; we can only pretend.
So how do we grow in love?  I would emphasize the little things.  Everyone can say "I love you.  I'm sorry.  I forgive you.  Please.  Thank you."  We can hug and kiss and show kindness in other ways.   We can help each other around the home. The small things that we can do to live with each other and share deeply with each other, make up everything!  There is no deep communion in the big things if we do not have it in the small things.
Secondly, we can stay focused on Jesus like in this icon reminds us.  Keep Him at the center and stay close to Him.  Come to Mass together, where Christ is literally at the center, and keep your eyes on him for a while as a family.  talk about the priest's long homily and what you learned from it, or what you thought about during it when it was boring! (hopefully it was the Holy Spirit saying something much better!)
Small things with great love, centered around Christ Jesus.  This is the path to a holy family!  Jesus, save and heal us!  Mary, bring us to Jesus!  Joseph protect us!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Homily - not short!! =)


After four weeks of putting aside the Gloria during the preparatory season of Advent, we sang today once again the great song of the Angels in heaven, the same words that the Angels themselves sang to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to people of good will.”  The words of the Gloria reflect what Christmas brings us: a deep and lasting happiness that Pope Francis calls the Joy of the Gospel.  This joy can be summarized in a simple way: that the Lord God has become man, has come to dwell in our world, among us, in our lives.  And why?  God becomes man so that man can become divine, can in a sense become God by participation in his divine life that he freely welcomes us into.  This joy is exactly what so many in our world need, as we look around and see so many hearts have grown cold in life, thinking God to be too far away from them, beyond their reach, or else not interested in their “messy lives” because they feel “unworthy” of God's love.
God knew we needed the gift of Jesus, so that we could know by faith that these cold and dark thoughts are overcome by the warmth and light of His love.  Pope Francis, in declaring the Jubilee Year of Mercy, summarized it perfectly in his opening sentences of that document: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.  Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.”  We humans are body and soul, and so God reaches to our souls through the physical world as well as to our souls.
The first to adore our Lord after Mary and Joseph are the shepherds, to whom the angels proclaimed the savior.  Is this a coincidence?  Perhaps not, since shepherds were important symbols of God's relationship to His people throughout the Old Testament.  And we can think of the parable of the Good Shepherd that Jesus himself tells, leaving the 99 to bring back the one lost sheep.  This parable was often understood as am explanation of the mystery we see beginning in Bethlehem today: God Himself, departing the 99 (representing the angels in heaven), comes down to earth to put fallen humanity upon His shoulders (by taking up our nature in the Incarnation) and brings it back to the fold of heaven.  In this beautiful image of the joy of this solemnity, three mercies are present:
1. God bridges the gap that we could not overcome.  Heaven is impossible for us without God's help.
2. In becoming man, God reminds us of our great dignity and the goal of our lives.  We were made to be holy, to be saints, and to live forever.  To ignore this is not humility, but sorrow.
3. In showing the depths of His love for us, God helps us to respond back in love.  Love desires to unite itself to the beloved as much as possible, so God becomes man, and even in the Eucharist becomes food, so that he can commune with us, the desire of his heart and mind.
Think of the love a father or mother has for a child who is ill.  The child needs a curing remedy that is beyond his or her reach - no matter how hard one tries - up on the top shelf.  The parent could do two things out of love for that child: simply grab the remedy and pass it to the child, or pick up the child and allow him to share in the joy and communion of obtaining the remedy, even though it all truly comes from the love of the father.  This is exactly what God does in Christ Jesus: He allows us to share in the healing and salvation that we need, even though it is truly all grace, all a pure gift.
In looking at Jesus anew, we are able to rediscover the gift of God's great mercy, and find our joy.  Happiness doesn't come from running around the world looking for satisfaction in these things: the rich, as we see so clearly, are more sad and depressed than anyone.  Joy comes from relationships of love with each other and with our God.  It comes from knowing that God isn't afraid of our messiness, of our “unworthiness.” No, God comes right to us and picks us up so that He can carry us to where we belong, back into the sheepfold of the Church.  I've been blessed to be pastor here at St. John the Baptist for 6 months, and I can proudly say, this is home.  Indeed, the Church is your home, no matter what, no matter how long it's been, no matter how far you've run, no matter how lost you feel.  Look at Jesus, let Him pick you up, heal you, and bring you home.  Amen.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Homily 12-20 4th Advent Sunday (Outline)

Perhaps Advent has gone by quicker than we expected. We can still prepare intensely in these last days. **Confessions Monday evening from 7-9pm**

ADVENT & CHRISTMAS IS A YEAR-ROUND EVENT, a daily event (like Easter)

1. Waiting in hope.
2. God's plans not ours, after Mary's example (His are better)
3. His work, not ours.
  • It is not you who have chosen me, but I who have chosen you.”
  • And this is love: not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us.”

How can this be that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
God doesn't wait for us to be ready, and that is a Mercy.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Homily - John the Baptist and Proof of Repentance

 We have the privilege of having John the Baptist as our patron saint. It is really special to have the words of our patron saint said at every single Mass: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” Who else can say that? Not even Mary's words are part of every single Mass! So yes, we are very blessed to have John the Baptist as our patron. And one of the great things about our patron is his humility: John the Baptist quickly responds to suspicions about himself being the Messiah. John states clearly: he is not even worthy to untie the sandal of the one who is to come (meaning not even be a slave of Jesus), because The Messiah is so much above John the Baptist. If you recall, last week I spoke about humility and joy and how the two go together. Today we see them together again: the humility of John the Baptist in the Gospel, and the joy of the prophets Zephaniah and Isaiah, and Saint Paul in the other readings. We also see joy in the “rose” colored vestments I am wearing: the burst of bright color is a visual sign of the fact that we cannot contain our joy because, as Paul says, “the Lord is near.” As I mentioned last week, this joy comes from the humble awareness of the reality of our situation: we are creatures; we have sinned; God loves us too much to let us stay that way; God becomes man to both redeem us and to bind Himself to us forever. In short: we are deeply, deeply loved by the author of all of creation. God desires us. What could be more joyful?
So why do so many people run around the world with gloomy faces? Well, hundreds of reasons that all come down to one reason: sin. If we choose to focus on the pain and hurt of sin and other lesser evils (natural disasters or disease or death itself), then we can easily fall prey to what seems to be a depressing state of humanity. Recall what I said last week: “Sadness is to look at ourselves. Joy is to look at God.” So if we switch the focus, we can find, as John the Baptist did, the source of our joy.
That is exactly what Pope Francis is talking about when he calls us to recommit ourselves to the New Evangelization and discover what he names “The Joy the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium). We must witness to the world that we are joyful, that we are transformed by the change of the Good News, even despite its demands, in fact almost because of its demands.
And it does indeed make demands on us. Our patron could not be any clearer in today's words. The people came to John and heard: “repent!” Well, they naturally wanted to know what John the Baptist meant, and he told them: live differently. Live life like this world doesn't matter, but the people here do. Stop using people and loving things. Start loving people and using things. “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance,” John says in verse 8 (which came right before today's section).

So we might ask ourselves: right now, as I prepare for Jesus' coming, what one way can I change my life as evidence of my repentance? Conversion must work on two levels at once: on the interior level, and on the exterior level. We have to work to change our mindset, our way of looking at life – that is where humility comes in. Then, however, we have to put that into concrete actions – which is what John the Baptist and Pope Francis want of us: joyful response. What is my joyful response to my interior change? For Fr. Terry, that means putting aside the activism of a busy-body pastor and finding my center in prayer daily, so I can go about doing pastoral ministry with an awareness of God's will and remember to keep first things first and second things second. Today your patron says, “repent and produce fruit as evidence of it!” and your Pope says “be a joyful missionary.” What change will you make for Jesus?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Clothe ourselves in Humility, Clothe ourselves in the Lord

Today I'd like to look at the connection between humility and joy, both of which are things that Pope Francis has been stressing and living for us (as well as his predecessors).  We shall start with joy:  I read recently that an unnamed Carthusian monk, a religious order devoted to strict silence and almost isolation, spoke this truth about not just his monastic life but about every single one of us: "Sadness is looking at yourself.  Joy is looking at God."  I find that very striking on the readings that we have today.  Baruch speaks to Jerusalem like it is a person, but really is referring to the enslaved Jews of Babylon who have been left desolate and devastated after their city (including God's temple) was destroyed.  God speaks to them about throwing aside their self-centered sadness to accept the joy he wishes to give them.   take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God.  This is a good wake up call not only for them but for us all: we find our joy not in ourselves or what we can do, but what God does through us.
Saint Paul speaks of joy today as well: I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you.  Where does his joy come from?  I'd say it's from seeing God in his fellow Christians.  In the four sentences we heard from today from Saint Paul, He spoke of God by name six times.  Certainly he was a man whose eyes were fixed on God even as he worked tirelessly in the world to build up the Kingdom.
Finally today we have in the Gospel our patron, Saint John the Baptist, whose life is, according to all four evangelists, the prologue to Jesus' mission.  John the Baptist calls us today to put our eyes on God for what He is going to do, not you or I.  This is our joy: that God has done great things in Jesus.
Humility, comes into play here.  We must remember that truth that it is essentially God's work even if we, like Mary and Joseph, are needed to cooperate alongside the Lord. “Prepare the way of the Lord," as Isaiah also said, means to get ourselves ready for what God wants to do in our lives and respond generously.  We all have hopes for the holidays and for what 2016 will bring; hopes for our children or grandchildren; hopes for so many things.  Yet these hopes cannot be founded on our plans and our hard work.  That is like building a house on sand.  Our true and only hope is in the Lord, our maker and redeemer, the solid rock that cannot be moved.  Humility is precisely in living from that truth.  If we humbly confess our shortcomings and inabilities while we keep our eyes on God and hope in Him, we will find our true joy! And actually we will be most effective in the world.  It is when we think too much of ourselves (pride) or too little of ourselves (false humility) that we fail to let God do great things in us.  Truly "Sadness is looking at yourself.  Joy is looking at God." During Advent, prepare the way of the Lord by practicing daily in your prayer the virtue of humility; that way, you can experience the joy of what God desires to carry out in you. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Getting our homes (hearts) ready


This beautiful season of Advent begins with a Gospel reading that sounds like it could have come last week, when we celebrated the kingship of Christ Jesus who will return to establish His kingdom at the end of time.  In fact, this reading was the last Gospel the church reads every year, the last Saturday of the last week of Ordinary Time, this year November 28th.  The reason this is read again during the Year C cycle of readings which we begin today, focusing on Luke's Gospel, is to highlight that in the Season of Advent we prepare ourselves for two comings at once.  In a seamless tying of the mysteries of our faith, the Church weaves together Christ's final coming into his first coming as man, the Incarnation, that we will celebrate in just under 4 weeks.
During Advent, we do lots of things to prepare for Christmas: putting up lights, getting out decorations, buying and wrapping gifts, writing cards, preparing and attending celebrations, perhaps caroling as my family would join in with other parishioners.  All of these could be very good things, but they could also become distractions if we do not spend time every day preparing for the true reason of Christmas Day, the coming of the Lord Jesus as a child-savior, as well as His coming at the end of time or the end of our time, whichever comes first.
This is no ordinary visitor.  If your family & friends are like mine, then perhaps you know this rule of thumb: the more close you are and the more comfortable people are with you, the less effort will probably go into making things special and perfect for you.  Not once have I ever gone home to find a bedroom with new paint, freshly vacuumed carpet, immaculate bedding and a mint and bottle of water on the nightstand.  Nor do I expect my family to do that for me.  I would feel weird if the red carpet came out for me or any of my siblings - maybe even angry!  But when it is someone else, someone special: we do our best to make the home nice.  If the governor, or the bishop, or a movie star, or even just a neighbor were coming over to your house, you would do what you could to make the house presentable, perhaps even going to great lengths of work to make it as nice as possible.  Well, Jesus is more important than all of those visitors.  He is God, and like Zacchaeus, he wants to come into your homes and into your lives.  So, during Advent, what are you going to do to get ready for Christmas?
I like to think of the image of manger, the creche, the nativity scene, or whatever you want to call.  Think of Mary and Joseph and what they had to do to get ready for Jesus.  What are you going to do to get your hearts ready for Him?  Mary and Joseph would have gotten all the messes out of the stable as much as possible.  Animals are not clean and that would have taken some serious effort.  We also have to clean out the mess of our sins: by placing ourselves before the Lord's Mercy in the sacrament of Confession.  I would encourage coming to Confession: whenever there is a morning Mass, you can come to confession from 7-7:30am.  Saturdays have confessions as well.  Also, as I mentioned in the bulletin, come to the Divine Mercy play titled Faustina.  I will be hearing Confessions afterwards with many other priests.  You can enjoy a beautiful drama that deeply fosters your faith, and as a bonus, go to Confession to a random priest you will never see again!  If your lucky, he may even be losing his hearing!
Mary and Joseph also would have filled the stable with what they could have: a warm fire, hay for comfort, clothes for warmth, among other things.  We ourselves prepare for Jesus' coming with the good works we offer toward others: love and kindness in the home and workplace are exactly the gifts that Jesus wants.  Acts of charity to the weak and poor are like the gifts of the wise men.  prayer is the fire of love that the Holy Spirit places within us and like Mary and Joseph, is the the most important thing we can offer Jesus is ourselves and our time and attention: we can pray regularly and look at the face of Our Lord of Love.
Don't let Advent disappear in the chaos of secular activities.  Pray and prepare for Jesus' coming at Christmas and at the end of our days.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Homily - Christ the King of the Universe

Audio: click here

Although it has been a part of our faith from the earliest times that Jesus Christ, who as we say in our creed "sits at the right hand of the father" and "will come to judge the living and the dead," today's Solemnity of Christ as King of the Universe is very new: only 90 years ago did Pius XI establish this feast.

Nor is this solemnity something on the fringe of our faith: in fact, every time we pray the Our Father, we pray that the Kingdom of God will come.  Indeed this should be our prayer every moment of our lives: Lord, Your kingdom come!

But what is the Kingdom of Christ like?  Jesus tells many parables about the Kingdom of God.  He says it is like a treasure buried in a field and a pearl of great price, worth any and every sacrifice it costs us to gain it.  He says it is like the mustard seed that grows from the smallest thing into the greatest.  It is like the yeast that when kneaded into dough makes the whole loaf rise.

In the Preface that I will pray after the gifts are brought up, right before we enter into the Eucharistic Prayer, the Kingdom of Christ is described as "a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace."  If only all kingdoms were of this kind!  In the midst of such tragedy that our world sees, is this not the greatest news we could wish for?

Today Jesus speaks to Pilate about His kingdom with the following words: "My Kingdom is not of this world".  Is this not perhaps the great tragedy and sorrow of human history?  Isn't that precisely the problem of our world, the cause of our woes, and the result of our continued resistance to conversion?  It seems this is something we know too well: His kingdom "is not of this world," this world of selfishness, of pride, of seizing power and abusing power.

And yet, in the darkness of our world, we have seen glimpses of the light: we have seen the saints, we have seen the simple and pure acts of love, within our mother the Church and even at times outside of her.  We see in the hearts of the Christians that the Kingdom of Christ, though it is not of this world, is even so still breaking into this world!  In families that live for Christ, in marriages that witness to his love to the point of dying, in the martyrs who refuse to let the evil of terrorism or bigotry conquer, in the charity and communion in spite of differences, we have seen the Kingdom of Christ break through into our world.  Thank you Lord Jesus, for your Kingdom.  Father, may your kingdom come.  May our hearts be totally yours.  On the throne that all of our hearts bears within, may you sit and reign as a king.  May we throw aside our earthly crowns and take up your crown of thorns, the sign of your merciful love and our need for a savior.  Live, Jesus in our hearts, now and forever.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Grandpa's funeral homily - William Stephen Coonan II

I have had difficulty with preparing this homily.  What do I call this man?  Many of you knew him as Mr. Coonan, or Coach Terry.  Some of you were lucky enough to call him dad, or like me, grandpa.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone call him William Stephen, but rather always Terry.  So I think I’ll call him grandpa for the sake of simplicity, but you all know who I’m talking about.
Another reason this is difficult is because, of course, grandpa is family, and in fact, I’ve never done this before.  And while I’m not here to canonize this man, because like all of us, he had his imperfections and sins and needs our prayers, I would still like to use this homily to spread around some of the good that he has poured into the hearts of so many.  I want to look at his life in terms of legacy: what good has he left behind?  How is the world a better place because of the way he chose to live day after day?
Before I get into those points though, we have to say that Grandpa’s legacy can only be understood in the context of his wife of almost 62 years.  He and grandma Dolly were a witness to what marriage can do, to how it can purify us, and how if we embrace the challenges of it and lay ourselves down, we reap great benefits.  I can think of a few things:
1.    I chose this Gospel reading because I think it is ultimately one of the most important aspects of grandpa’s life.  The final test, Jesus tells us today, is summed up in what Mother Teresa called the “five-finger” Gospel: “You did it to me.”  I am sure that with 50 years of service in the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, coach saw Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor and marginalized.  For 50 years, he and Dolly tried their best to love Jesus right in their community.  I can only imagine what the welcome will be like for them when so many people on the other side come up to them and say “thank you for giving to us.”
2.    And that leads to the next part of the legacy.  He gave an example of the true meaning of life: giving of ourselves to others, sincerely, and faithfully.
a.     His Wife.  Nothing shapes a married man more than his wife and his ability to love her with his whole heart.  Dolly made grandpa complete, and it was so evident that since Holy Thursday 2015, half of his heart was in another place.  Over the years, they learned the depths of love together, and they loved to the very end.
b.    His children.  Whether it was in family dinners, celebrating birthdays, going on vacations to national parks or the lake, or just playing out in the yard, he clearly invested in his children.  And even if his life was more of a public one, with time spent away, nothing was more important to him than coming home.  I think it is easy to see that grandpa and grandma were proud of their kids – every one of you.  I’m sure that every day they prayed for you and they thanked God for you.
c.     His students and athletes.  We all hear stories all the time of the lives he influenced.  Last night was full of them.  Coach gave and gave.  He cared about his players and showed it by how he treated them and built them up.  They grew because of him.
3.    Parable of the Sower.  We don’t see all that we sow, and we don’t always get to share in all the benefits.  We plant, but often the hard work goes to someone else.

So there is his legacy.  It is people.  It is the love that he sowed quietly in the hearts of all of us here and hundreds who are not here.  As we pray for God to receive grandpa in his mercy, we also give thanks for the love that God has poured into our hearts from grandpa’s hands.  Lord, thank you for your son William Stephen, Coach Terry, dad, grandpa. Help us commit our lives to sowing the same love in our world and hear you say at the end of our days: “Come blessed of my Father…for whatever you did to the least of these, you did it to me.”

Saturday, November 14, 2015


audio: click here

Have you ever had a really weird dream? I am guessing we all have. And I don't know whether it's because I was away from my own bed, or because of all the foods I was eating, or perhaps just because of the jet lag, but I've had some really short but vivid dreams lately, and some of them have been pretty mysterious. The prophet Daniel today experiences visions that were very vivid, somewhat strange, and full of meaning. In fact, they weren't just dreams, they were angelic messages that Daniel was supposed to record for God's people at a time when everything was falling apart for them. After the temple was destroyed and those who were still alive were taken as slaves to Babylon, the only thought was: can things get any worse? Have you ever asked that question? I think we can look at our world, especially in light of what has happened in Paris on Friday, and ask that same question: can things get any worse? I wish I could say Friday was just a dream, or September 11th 2001 was just a dream, but unfortunately it is all to real.
One of the most important points of Daniel's visions is this: what we see with our eyes is only part of the story. The battles on this earth are only glimpses of the supernatural battle for souns that is happening in our world. Saint Paul says it clearly as well: we aren't fighting people as much as principalities and powers, real spiritual evil that has effect in our world. But the other point of Daniel is just as important: God is in control and he will not lose. Even as we clearly see the waste of human life in tragedies like this, or in the more commonly-experienced evils of our world that are just as horrific, we must never forget the promise of Resurrection that we hear today foretold by Daniel: “those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”
Daniel names the prince of God's Army today: the Archangel Michael. We visited a shrine to Saint Michael that has been visited by Christians for about 1500 years. The people of Italy go to that mountain cave and ask this angel to protect their families and communities. I would like us to pray the traditional prayer to Saint Michael as the conclusion to today's homily. It used to be prayed immediately after every single Mass before the 1965 changes of Vatican II. I know this prayer has a rich history and a great amount of power for us in the battle of good and evil that we fight in our hearts and that has consequences for the world we live in. There's a song lyric that's stuck in my head right now that says: “Is this the world you want? Your making it, every day your alive.” Let us ask Saint Michael to help us to change the world for the better. Let us pray...

Prayer to Saint Michael

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray: and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pope Francis and the Vatican!

Yesterday we got up early to go to Saint Peter's Square for the weekly Wednesday audience that the Pope gives whenever he is in town. I've been to three audiences, but this will be the first time I meet Pope Francis, and the first time it will be held outside, since the others are in the winter.  First he circled the crowd to say hello to everyone. We were quite close as you can see.
Pope Francis actually came back to this same spot a second time to hold a child (below) that he clearly missed because the driver didn't stop. So we lucked out by the miscommunication!
Then we prayed a Hail Mary and listened to a short reading from Acts of the Apostles before "Papa Francesco" spoke to us (in Italian) about the importance of the family being together for quality time, especially around the dinner table. He even acted out how we often get sucked into technology and don't really look at each other and truly share our day.
Then a summary of the lecture was given in about 7 other languages, and we finished by singing the Our Father in Latin and received the Apostolic Blessing, which included all our family back home! :)
We had a couple hours afterward to "roam" around Rome (*wink*) and get lunch / shop before the Vatican Museums tour.  These museums are absolutely stunning in both their unbelievable quality and incomprehensible vastness.  Nothing can prepare you for the Sistine Chapel or Saint Peter's Basilica. You just have to go there and see it for yourself.  Proportion is executed so perfectly, everything fits together so nicely, that it is almost impossible for pictures to show the size of this church. 
There are over 100 popes buried here.
And of course th phenomenal sculpture of Michaelangelo, the Pietà, which he executed at merely 24 years of age, from a single block of marble!!!
Needless to say, the day was packed to the brim! We almost couldn't take anymore of the awesome beauty, but we did. Later we went to the Pantheon and church of Saint Louis ("Luigi"!) king of France to see three breathtaking paintings by Caravaggio. 
The one on the left, the calling of Matthew, is the most famous.  Ask me about it sometime. :)
Then we had dinner with the seminarians of our diocese who are studying in Rome. We finished with a view of St. Peter's at night and slept exhausted!!

Headed back to Rome

 Today was quite a long day - surprise? Not!

I woke up at 5:45 to get ready for a nice morning run. By 6:30 I was on the road heading for the Benedictine monastery that we visited yesterday.  My phone promised me it was just under two miles away.  However, it felt much longer as it was almost entirely uphill the whole time. 
I went down to the creek and started running the hiking trail up the other mountain.  I came up to a Roman water fountain - the faucet is a modern adaptation. :)

After breakfast we headed to the shrine of our lady of the rosary (Madonna del Rosario). We had Mass for just the group Ina nice side chapel. The church was phenomenal and all because of the witness of one man who converted from a very sinful life and ultimately found his peace in praying the rosary daily, and spent himself helping children from up well despite their difficult life circumstances.

 Then we went to Pompei just down the road to see the ancient Roman ruins of the town where Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79AD and people died due to smoke and the whole town was then covered in lava for about 1700 years. Much of it still waits for excavation. I would guess that it is currently the size of about 10-20 city blocks. 
Then we went to another Benedictine monastery, Monte Cassino. It was founded by St. Benedict himself, and holds the remains of this great founder of Wester monasticism as well as his sister, St. Scholastica.

 The monastery was totally destroyed during WWII by the Allies since the Germans used it as a stronghold and lookout (the drive up the mountain was treacherous!) and the Allies lost many lives trying three times to take it with troops.  Bombs were the last resort. Since the war, it had been beautifully rebuilt! Sadly, few monks now inhabit it.

Then we went to Rome. Here we had the evening free. I led my parents and three others to a mini tour of Saint Augustine basilica and a few special places before eating dinner. We ate too much, but still had room for gelato as we walked to the cab! :)
We had a great time.

Tomorrow we start early to see the Pope!!!! :)

Monday, November 9, 2015

A full Sunday!!

There was a lot of great stuff today at two locations.
We first went to a very ancient shrine dedicated to Saint Michael the archangel.  Known as Monte San Angelo, the shrine began around the year 500. Wow!! It was first an ancient cave on this huge mountain where the angel appeared to a man and then the bishop (twice).  It is a very popular shrine to the people of Italy. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in the shrine (like Loreto yesterday). 

The town is also beautiful. We visited a few churches through it, but being Sunday, didn't pray much or take photos because of Masses in progress. We loved looking out at the Adriatic Sea!

Then after lunch we came back to San Giivanni Rotondo for the Padre Pio shrine. We took the bus up the hill and had Mass at the small church where this Saint said Mass and heard thousands of confessions. Here's a pic from the choir loft.
After a video we talked to another Frwnciscan priest who knew Saint Padre Pio at the end of his life and allowed us to be blessed by a glove that he wore!  Then we went and prayed at the tomb of the Saint and also saw his cell.
 The newest church at the shrine can seat 6,000 people!!!! I'm going to bed exhausted but very happy!!

Another great day

Today we left Padre Pio's shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo for the western coast of Italy once again. The morning was therefore spent by travel on the bus.  As we entered into Campagna, the region of Italy most densely populated as well as with lots of abundant fields, there were some great views. We even saw a lot of wind turbines for electric energy!

 We stopped for lunch at a surprise place that our guide, Carol, had arranged for us: the coastal town of Salerno.  After viewing their amazing cathedral with the remains of Saint Matthew (buried in crypt, second photo), we went to look at the beach and then find lunch.
We didn't have much more to go before we arrived at Cava de' Tirenni, which I think means "quarry of the Mediterranean".  Our goal was an ancient Benedictine monastery dedicated to the Holy Trinity and founded on a hermit's special experience in, you guessed it, another cave. That man is now a saint and monks have prayed here without stop for 1000 years!! It was founded with a bang by a visit from the Pope, Urban II. We had Mass at the main altar with a professional organist playing for us! I wish I had some video because it was just breathtaking to combine the heavenly sounds with the gorgeous architecture.
We had an excellent tour of the lower levels of the monastery that go back centuries. 
Then off to the next hotel for free time (I bought new running shoes after losing mine in Assisi), dinner, and bed! Tomorrow I'll go for a run around the mountainous area! :) love and prayers, - Fr. Terry

P.S. (Latin for "post scripta") please pray for my family. My fragile grandfather was found passed away at home last Thursday, almost 96 years old. It has been very hard to be away but it is good that Mom, Dad, and I are together to support each other. We know God had blessed him abundantly, and He has a plan for this timing, so we are trying to pray for him especially while on pilgrimage. Sometimes we don't know what to pray for, but now we definitely know. God help our family to give back to you this wonderful man, and help us to live so as to see him again!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

What we did Saturday

Saturday we woke up and left Assisi after breakfast. We had a long drive in two parts, broken up by an important stop at the famous Marian shrine of Loreto, where is kept the "Holy House" (inside the huge church) of the blessed mother, transferred there in the mid to late Middle Ages.  This house is actually where Mart received the annunciation. 

We had Mass in a gorgeous chapel decorated with beautiful frescoes on the ceiling and the walls lines with "ex voto" gifts which were small "thank you's" to Mary for answered prayers.  After some time for personal prayers, we continued to the eastern coast of Italy, where there is a big bump on the "lower calf" of the boot-shaped country, to a town called San Giovanni Rotondo. This town is much bigger then it used to be 60-70 years ago thanks to the popularity of a saint named "Padre Pio" who was a Franciscan whose life was spent particularly hearing lots of Confessions and manifested many miraculous signs, including the stigmata which he kept covered with gloves all his life after receiving them.
We got there late and stayed for dinner and finally got to sleep in!! :)


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Turbo tour of Assisi

We just finished dinner after an exhausting day in Assisi ("uh-SEE-zee"). We left Rome at 8:15 in the morning. Before the day started for everyone else, I went for a run from 6:00-7:00am and saw many of the awesome sights of Rome.  Including (below) the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, Ponte degli Angeli ("Bridge of the Angels"), and of course Saint Peter's after you cross the bridge. 

The run was totally worth any of the pain that ensued in my calf muscles for the rest of the day! :-)
Assisi is the home of two very powerful saints of the early 13th century: St. Francis and Saint Claire. I just learned today that Claire was about 12 years younger than Francis, a fact that was not clear to me in the past. This would mean that when she decided to become a follower of Francis for herself, she was in some ways much younger and less prepared for the amazing life that God was calling her to. I find this even more moving and impressive of such a courageous saint.
Some very important items from their lives are still present in the city: the small church that Francis rebuilt, the San Damiano cross that spoke to him, some vestments and other writings from both saints, as well as many gorgeous paintings that fill both basilicas.
After praying at the tombs of both of these two saints, we also were given an opportunity to tour the small ancient medieval town ourselves, as well as do a little shopping.

By then, we were totally exhausted and ready to go back to the hotel, arriving around 6:30.
Then we got some devastating news: my grandfather, Coach Coonan, passed away and went to God to be reunited with his wife Dolly of almost 62 years who passed away a year and a half ago. Beautiful few facts I have been told to us out here in Italy, most importantly, that grandpa died probably quite peacefully, after visiting with his grandson Thomas. I am so grateful that my little brother was able to spend these last moments with our beloved grandpa.  I will really miss this man that was so loved and so lovable. He lifted up everyone he met, and showed me how to be a man of faith. I love you, grandpa. See you in the Mass - which you attended with such devotion!
Please continue to pray for the Coonan family, and all of the many lives that coach touched especially through sports and education. 
No I am off for another short night, because tomorrow at 7:15 in the morning we leave for Florence!
May God bless you all.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


We have made it to Rome on Wednesday afternoon! Here is a picture from my hotel room, nextdoor to my parents. We went to the store and picked up a bottle of wine and some cheese to enjoy as we sit on the balcony under the open air.  Saint Peter's basilica is straight ahead!  Soon we will have a nice dinner as a group (27 of us total).
I am pleased that I didn't lose anyone on the first leg of the trip! I am grateful for our safety and looking forward to our visit to Assisi in the morning.
Please keep us in your prayers as we try to hear what God wants to teach us!
In Christ,
- Fr. Terry

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Holiness is happiness

Today's reading from the beginning of the sermon on the mount, where we hear the eight Beatitudes, I'd a sort of blueprint for the Christian life. Jesus begins his most important sermon with a road map to becoming a saint. Beatitude means blessedness, as in sharing God's blessedness. And when Jesus uses the word blessed today, it can also be translated as "happy."

Father Glenn at holy family Parish always says this phrase, and has even established as the slogan for his parish: "holiness is happiness"!

You may remember that I have spoken of happiness in a different way from the Continuing Education Days for Clergy. We talked about four different ways that we experience happiness, each being more deep and lasting than the one before but also more difficult. 

A review of the four levels of happiness
One – material pleasures (I see the pie, I  lunge for the pie)
Two – ego - comparison (Personal success, even at the cost of others)
Three - contribution (What kind of legacy am I going to leave behind?)
Four – internal things (love, truth, unity, goodness, beauty) finding God

Father Spitzer's accounts of experiencing the fourth level of happiness.
What is it for us? I think of World Youth Day, or the March for life, or an ordination Mass with so many from the diocese gathered around. Even the weddings that I experienced last weekend we're just another reminder of profound unity we can have with other people.

That unity that we can feel on earth, is only a glimpse of the unity we can have in heaven. That is why we call the reception of Eucharist "holy Communion." That is why we refer to the saints in heaven as the communion of saints. Let us follow Jesus' road map and blueprint for holiness on earth, so we can experience are full happiness both in this life and the eternal communion of the next life. Eucharistic Jesus, make us to be Saints!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Ambition and happiness

Although we should credit their zeal and enthusiasm, James & John really have no idea what they are asking today. They picture an earthly kingdom where power is for the taking, even if they want to use it for good.  Jesus shows them later what true power is.  "Right & Left" next mentioned at the cross, in His glory - totally against our expectations, with two criminals at his sides.

Jesus blows our sense of long-term happiness out of the water.  We need to keep eternity in perspective.

4 levels of Happiness -
1-Material things and sense-experience
3-Contribution to the common good
4-Eternal things (God Himself)

James & John want low-level happiness: Ego-comparative. They want to build themselves up. They want to pursue the best. They desire great things for themselves.  They know there will be some sacrifices but they are ready.

In fact that is most of Americans. Television and magazines prove easily that what we focus on is levels 1 & 2.

1 & 2 are brief & more shallow (doesn't engage our higher spiritual powers). 
3 & 4 Long-lasting, deep, and pervasive (not just affecting me).

It might not surprise you that we are stuck in 1 & 2.  It might not surprise you that there is a part of all of us that sort of drags us down to those levels, even if we have moved beyond them (concupiscence). But also, God's grace and our cooperation with it will allow us to overcome the gravity of our weakness. And the Lord shows us how in the Eucharist.  

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Synod 2015 and half-conversion

Audio link:
The rich young man wanted to "have his cake and eat it too", he wanted one foot in the world and another in heaven. He was a disciple of Jesus but only so far, only to the point where it hurt, where it made him uncomfortable and demanded exactly what he didn't want to give up.

Because we find it so scary when we don't have any control, we all end up wanting just some small, minor adjustments to our lives.  We want tweaking and not transformation.

Jesus doesn't want to make a minor adjustment on your life.  He wants to completely transform it.  He wants you to love in a radical and full way, not just a little bit better than where you are right now.   Will we allow ourselves to lose control so that we can find the happiness we truly want?

The same set of problems goes true in our families.  Families struggle because we don't go "all in" as Jesus' disciples.

Right now a select group of bishops throughout the world are gathered in Rome for an extraordinary synod on the family.  This 2015 Synod started just after the World Meeting of Families, held every three years, which we were able to host in Philadelphia and was the cause of Pope Francis' visit to us.  I ask that you continue to pray for this meeting.  The family has been under attack from without and within: divorce, domestic violence, jobs that tear families apart, equating same-sex unions with marriage, abortion, an aggressive individualism that forgets relationships, contraception, the need for constant entertainment and distraction from those around us, and of course the selfishness that corrupts every human heart.  Yet despite all this, God is faithfully working to build us up.  Some 900,000 people, members of families desiring to live their faith deeply, gathered around Pope Francis in Philadelphia much like that rich young man came enthusiastically to Jesus.

Those families were eager to follow Christ, but the demands are going to continue to come for us to give everything to Christ Jesus.  My sister and brother-in-law just had their fifth child.  I am so excited for them.  What a blessing it is for me to be an uncle again.  I have a new person to love and be loved by in my family.  But my family, like all families, has challenges both without and within: brokenness, weakness, selfishness, demanding workplaces, a culture of boredom and entertainment.  Like the rich young man, the temptation is always there to keep control of our lives and only let Jesus make minor adjustments on ourselves.

Our families need prayers so that we can build on the good foundation of love that the Lord has blessed us with.  We need to continue to grow in our discipleship to Jesus.  It is only when we let go of everything and follow the Lord with a greater intensity that we will be able to experience the beautiful blessings of family life in all their richness.  Even the small glimpses of family love that we have experienced should encourage us to give Jesus everything that our families are.  Let us as God to give us the Wisdom that we need to see our lives from the perspective of eternity, and let the trivial things pass from our hearts so that we can experience the fullness of family life.  and May God bless the Synod and its leader, Pope Francis, to speak words of the Gospel that the world needs to hear.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Child-likeness and Humility

Children at the time of Christ were considered to have the dignity that our secular culture gives the unborn. We know that those in the womb deserve absolute respect as human beings (which is why our city always takes part in the national campaign, 40 Days for Life, twice a year, officially starting Wednesday). But if you looked at the billboards in NYC or Chicago, you would see a very different sense of in child in the womb: a sort of take it or leave it. That small living person is important if you choose it to be, but you can choose otherwise and that's fine. As crazy as that sounds, this is exactly what is happening in our culture today, and it was similar for young children in Jesus' day. They literally had no rights: parents had free reign to do what they pleased. So it is quite amazing that Jesus calls us to be like children, but he meant something different. He was referring to some of the best qualities of children. First, they have a brutal honesty because we do not have any “adult sins” like careerism and public persona. Second, children live from a knowledge that they are loved, and that is all that matters. Being like a child means remembering precisely that: our identity, our self-worth, comes from the fact that we are loved into existence by God. It isn't from what we do, but from who we are: God says “you matter to me” every single moment you are breathing, and so you do.

However, every single one of us fails at this from time to time; in fact, more often than not we are living from our fallen human nature rather than our redeemed identity in Christ Jesus. This is because of original sin. G.K. Chesterton described this in a simple way: look at two babies playing together with a few toys. Eventually it will end up with at least one stealing & hitting, and at least one crying, sometimes it goes both ways. This is what the apostles are doing today. We are selfish and have to break that cycle to be true to who we are. Power, prestige, authority, and popularity are all things we want. Sometimes we want them so bad we will wish evil on others, like the first two readings suggest today: “let us beset the just one...he is obnoxious to us.” James reminds us: the wars and conflicts come from our selfish and envious hearts. Who says the spiritual life is a waste of time? If it has the power to stop 100 or even ten household fights every year, it certainly is worth it. Let us ask Christ to become like children.

One way that we can do this is a nice prayer to grow in humility called Litany of Humility. You can find the full prayer on my blog, but we will finish the holy by offering this prayer today.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,

Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Cost of Discipleship

What do the following have in common?
Friendship. Marriage. A Job. College. Parenting. Sports team or any type of club. A diet. Christian Discipleship.

Maybe more then one thing, but what I was thinking is they all require commitment and sacrifice.

Commitment and sacrifice is common.  We only need to think about the choices we make - almost all of them mean sacrifice.

If we are committing to following Christ, then we will be sacrificing as well.  It means no to worldly power, no to glory, no to a comfortable, easy life.  But it also means a bigger yes: yes to a life of deep meaning, a life of impact for the good, a life of love, of laughter even when we can't avoid pain, of joy, of community, of acceptance, and of giving and receiving.

That is what the Cross now means.  Jesus transformed the definition of the Cross, no longer an instrument of torture and of fearful oppression, it is now a sign of victory.  As Saint Paul says:

Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.

Parish Missionary Appeal - Holy Cross Missions

Father Thomas Smith, CSC gave the homily this week.  I recorded it at the 11a.m. Mass.  The audio is available: click here.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

How Christ heals today

Audio: click here

If you had to summarize the point of the Christian life, it would be in a relationship with Jesus.  We are disciples of Jesus because we have encountered Him, he has somehow come into our lives and said to us "follow me," and those words rang with something deeper and more beautiful than we have ever known.  We hear it in our ears and yet it at the same time hits us hard in the gut and in a subtle way moves our heart gently to a huge change.

The Gospel of Mark that we are hearing speaks of Jesus' encounters with individuals in a special way.  The language would have made clear sense to the Christian communities it was written from and read in.  It is said with some certainty that Mark was written in or near Rome around 60-65ad. This would be the time that Peter was arrested and crucified, so Mark, who had worked alongside Saint Paul as well, was probably transcribing and organizing Peter's eyewitness account.  However, Peter and Mark naturally would have focused on things that connected to their faith community. So today's Gospel is st th same time an eyewitness account, an interpretation on that account, and a sort of specific story tailored to the persecuted Christians of Rome and beyond.

So why all this information? Because I've been in a teacher-mode way more often than I am used to! No, just kidding. It's because Jesus' encounter had some details in it that still make sense to us today if we think about it properly.

First, Jesus takes the man outside away from everyone and everything. He separated him so it is practically just the two of them.  For Mark's era, when Christisnity was illegal and thought a type of revolution against the pagan culture, the church could only gather in private. People had to meet Jesus away from the crowd. Think even today of the monastery and th convent, where men & women flee from the world to encounter Jesus in a radical way, forever.  Certainly today in our post-Christian culture, we do not meet Jesus openly and easily on the city streets of Chicago or Indianapolis, but if we do, he sort of draws us away to encounter us more deeply.  How often do we spend time in silence, away from the crowds, on purpose, with the goal of meeting Jesus there? Do we sacrifice time to pray every day?

Th second detail about this one-on-one encounter is that Jesus heals this man in a very gritty way.  This is the God who simply said "let there be light" and there was. But here he takes the man's arm, walks out, cries out to God, puts his fingers in his ears and spits & touches his tongue.  For Mark's community, they would have known and seen how Gos was transforming the lives of Christian after Christian: in the grittiness of the sacraments. God uses still these very real tangible ways to heal us. In every single Mass, in every single Confession, we are encountering Jesus. He desires to take us into the silence and heal us. Do we follow Him? Do we meet Him regularly?

Thirdly, where we meet Jesus is in the Church. When Christ takes the man from th me crowd, this is a symbol of the Church community.  The word for "church" in Greek literally means "the group called out," meaning the people called out of the ordinary ways of the world to be different and separate, to be holy. Jesus in a sense takes this man to church, he calls him away to be separate and to encounter Him there. It is still the same today as it was in 65ad.
As we come before Jesus today, let us beg Him to heal us in the grittiness of the Sacraments of His Church and stay a community called out, separate, and holy that continues to welcome new members to find Christ here.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Purity of heart

In the U.S. We have a funny relationship to law.  It would seem to be a love-hate relationship with law.  We praise the justice of our laws (or the vast majority of them) and yet we cling so passionately to "liberty" which so often is described as a total absence of any kind of restriction, even laws.  This is one example of the complex relationship between law and freedom. 
Jesus confronts a kind of Legalism in today's Gospel. In fact, every reading we heard points to the tension between the letter of the law and the true goal of the law, which is ultimately our sanctification.  The law is meant to make us holy, and that means our bodies and our souls, and as we mentioned in the penitential act today, includes our thoughts, our words, our actions and omissions ("what I have done and what I have failed to do").  However, laws can only really govern our actions, the very important first step in achieving sanctity but certainly not the complete fulfillment. So if our life revolves around the law, then we will miss the mark. God wants more. We will be forgetting the heart, where holiness is completed.
For example, if we are playing a sport, we don't want to focus on all the rules. It ends up being tedious and frustrating when the game is supposed to be enjoyable and at times exciting.  The laws can get in the way if they are treated as the focus of it all. But if they are not mistaken for what it's all about, the laws/rules are the true path to enjoyment.
Jesus says it clearly: the law has to be in our heart. The heart must be pure. 
Jessica Hayes – Consecrated Virgin.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Acquired taste


Last week I discussed "eating right" spiritually. I think today we can look at this a little bit more by talking about my acquired taste and eventually love for tomatoes. As a kid, tomatoes were good for only two things: spaghetti sauce and pizza. The sight of my dad slicing them up and eating them in front of me was just disgusting.  My parents never tried to force me to eat one, but if they did, it might have started World War III: there's no way I would have gotten anywhere near one! Well, I find it pretty amazing that now one of my favorite foods this time of year is slicing up a fresh tomato and basil from the garden over some toasted bread with olive oil, a simple homemade bruschetta. Oh, it just doesn't get better than that. How does a switch like that happen? Well, I slowly over time acquired a taste for better things. It's took a long time, but I eventually wised-up to the fact that vegetables can be absolutely delicious, and that food is so much greater than just candy, salt, and fat -although a strip of bacon is still really good!

In today's first reading, we hear Wisdom inviting us to a banquet. That character of Wisdom personified is really just an aspect of God Himself. But wisdom is also something that we ourselves can have, we can sort of possess it even if we can't control it or dominate it. So Wisdom, who is both God as well as part of our highest self, is then really Jesus Christ, the logos of God or the Word of God, which Saint John Paul II calls "the human face of God and the divine face of man."

And wisdom (Jesus) makes an invitation to us to join in the banquet. It's important to remember that as this image again proves, God isn't out to get us, to hurt us, to make life difficult. A banquet is a great thing. Now, granted, life is difficult, we do get hurt, and there are other forces house to get us and hold us down – but God, my friends, is all about loving invitation to nourish the deepest desires of our souls.

So, our souls actually want to be fed good wholesome stuff: we don't long for junk food. The spiritual food we want is ultimately Jesus. We went life. We want happiness. We want to know that I life is meaningful, and that we are playing a part in the building up of the kingdom of God.  The only way we are going to get that kind of nourishment is with God, so our hearts must be open.

The invitation that Jesus for the offers us requires us to choose. God doesn't force us. But another important aspect of Jesus's invitation is that it requires us to say no to certain things. If we are going to accept the banquet that Jesus wants to offer us, we have to reject the spiritual junk food that's out there. One concrete way that we can embrace the invitation of wisdom from God, is to read regularly from sacred Scripture (Lectio Divina). Another option is to pray the rosary (Which always includes meditating on the mysteries of Jesus is life). Or we could take a book off of the shelf of our Paris library in the back of church for our own spiritual reading. These are ways that we try to cultivate wisdom we try to acquire a taste for the higher things. We also then have to make time for that by rejecting the junk food that's out there: television, movies, Netflix, video games, and really a lot of the books out there that are just as bad if not worse.

Jesus says to us that we have to feed on him, and then every single Sunday he invites us to the banquet of the Mass to feed us, both in the Eucharist and in the wisdom of sacred Scripture and of the teachings of the church. Do we accept that invitation?  Do we share that invitation to others?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Eating Right


Jesus again stresses the point of how He is the food that we need: I am the Bread of Life!  It doesn't get clearer than that for us.  We must rely on Christ, particularly in how we plan out our Sundays.  What does your Sunday routine look like?  Are you overbooked?  Do you let Sunday get filled up with all kinds of things that don't really give you rest or help you to pray?

At my old parish we had a good routine for Sundays: after Masses (and whatever else) we would have lunch then if possible do some exercise.  Finally around 4pm we would finally sit down to relax.  Fr. Bill would bring to the living/TV room his stack of newspapers: SB Tribune, Chicago Tribune, and NY Times (which he would get the only on Sundays).  He would sit in his lazy-boy trying to read, but his exhaustion would get the best of him.  He'd jokingly pretend he was reading even though his drooping head and snoring would always tell the real truth.  In the paper he really liked looking at the Travel section and seeing the beautiful places out in the world, particularly Europe, a few of which he was fortunate enough to visit.  I would often go to the book review and see what new books were being touted by the book "gurus" of today and then the best-sellers list where I could see what people themselves found important.  Week after week there were always on the list a collection of self-help books and diet books.  Not long ago I heard somewhere that the fact that there are so many of these books and always new ones is proof that they don't really work, at least by themselves.  There's not perfect solution, and we can't change by following a program unless we ourselves are transformed: we have to fix our desires and our passions and our goals in order to change our behaviors.  If losing weight is the goal, then it's important to get to the root of the problem: how we treat our bodies, including our lifestyle and eating right.

This concept of eating right plays into our spiritual life as well.  We are bodies and souls, and we feed our minds and our hearts all the time, and the really scary part is that we don't even know we're doing it: all the TV we watch, books we read, songs we listen to, they all have messages that feed our souls.  Are we feeding our souls just a bunch of junk food?  perhaps even toxic stuff?  The truth is that if we are going to get through the world with an intact faith, there is no way we can do it without eating right spiritually.  The journey is too long and too hard, and there are some real forces against us.  

We see this clearly in the background of our first reading today.  The prophet Elijah is on a journey across a desert because he is running for his life.  King Ahab of Israel married a pagan queen Jezebel, who had hundreds of prophets to worship Baal in Israel.  Elijah was the only prophet of the Lord at the time, and he called for a big show-down between the two sides on Mount Carmel.  After the Lord proved himself as the only true God, Elijah had the prophets wiped out on the spot, and when Jezebel hears of this, she sends her entire army after him.  So he has to run for his life.  We have forces chasing after us as well, and the journey is not easy, except that the Lord is on our side.  Elijah needed to eat and drink to sustain his body on the journey, and we must do the same for our souls.

The Eucharist is the most important way we can feed our souls.  It's the ultimate high-point of how God strengthens us for the journey of faith.  And that is why it is such a tragedy that many Catholics do not come to Mass regularly.  They aren't feeding their souls (at least in this most important way), and are thus letting them waste away.  It shouldn't be a surprise that if you don't go to Mass, you are very likely to lose your faith.  Even if you have a life of prayer and avoid many of the obvious evils in our culture, you are still like an athlete who isn't eating breakfast or lunch, only snacking here and there.  It isn't going to be enough to keep you going.  We need Jesus, brothers and sisters, and we should find it amazing how God, as Saint Francis says, was humble enough to become this small for us.

But receiving communion must be done with the right spiritual state.  If we take communion when we really need to go to confession or do not truly believe the Catholic faith, it will not help us.  Like Saint Paul says today, we can actually frustrate the work of God in our souls if we carry evil in our hearts: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.  All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.  And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.  One obvious remedy for this is Confession.  Go and confess your sins.  Another is forgiving others, as Paul mentions.  Remember, in the Our Father Jesus made it clear that we must forgive if we want to be forgiven.  Then the Eucharist can really have good effect on our spiritual lives.

As we feed our bodies, we need to feed our souls.  There are many in our world who don't do a good job of this, and probably every single one of us has room to improve it for ourselves.  As Jesus strengthens our souls, may we not be afraid to share that good news with others, particularly inviting them back to Mass if they have been away.  The Lord is merciful.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Food for the journey

LOTR - why it's awesome.  It's very Catholic.  If you think the C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia is a great series (which by the way is much more than just children's literature), then I can assure you that J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece is even better.  Searching for lists online, I found it to be the second best-selling novel in the English language in the 20th century.  I truly can't say enough good about this book because I love the author.  And frankly, in some ways, I think some of his other writings are better than Lord of the Rings in many ways, and I'm not talking about the Hobbit.

J.R.R. Tolkien went to weekday Mass regularly, as well as Eucharistic Adoration, which we have at 7pm this week.  It was in Adoration, in fact, that he was inspired with the central idea of his novel.  So don't let anyone say Adoration is a waste of time, because he earned a lot for his fidelity to this form of prayer, and ultimately, it brought a lot of hearts closer to God, mine included, because without this man's prayer life, we wouldn't have Lord of the Rings today.

Two friends on a long journey. This journey will end up becoming an important mission, and in fact the most difficult thing they will ever do, with their lives on the line again and again. From day one, they are slowly stripped of every comfort. Slowly they step further and further from their own country into a world much bigger than the little one they lived in.  One bit at a time they grow stronger and stronger interiorly so that they no longer complain about their hunger or soreness.  Slowly they learn to rely more and more on the essentials, most importantly on their trust in each other, and the life necessities of water and bread. Special bread called "lembas" or "waybread" - literally food for the road, the journey.

That bread would fortify a grown man for a full day's work, or in this case, for the two companion's journey across mountains and into enemy territory.  We see the exact same thing in the readings today: food for the journey.  If the story of Israel can be seen to symbolize the story of every Christian soul, then just as they needed food on their journey to the promised land, so too do we need the Eucharist to make our journey to heaven.
One of the interesting things about the lembas bread was that its power would increase when not eaten with other foods.  This reminds me of what Jesus said today: Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  The more we rely only on Jesus alone to satisfy our souls, the stronger the Eucharist will effect us.

But unfortunately we live in a society focused on consumerism.  We buy one product and consider it obsolete after a few weeks.  We enjoy one experience, throw it away, and look for the next.  Sometimes we do this with God and our spiritual life as well.  We go to Mass and then we are done and move on to the next thing.  We consume God in the Eucharist instead of letting God consume us in the Eucharist.

Saint Paul's "new man" in Ephesians.  Transformation.
you must no longer live as the Gentiles do... you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.

We are supposed to be transformed by the Eucharist.  Change the way our consumerist culture makes you think about coming to Mass.  It's not about entertainment.  It's not about a neat experience or punching a time-card.  It's about letting Jesus transform you into who you were meant to be, so that you can make it through the journey ahead.  Open your hearts to Him today and let Him consume you.