Lots of Catholics don’t even know how to pray the rosary. May is a good month to learn.
Easter5 – The Vine, the branches and Motherhood (6:20)
Easter, 5th Sunday. Some explorers searched the New World for the Tree of Life which was supposed to give immortality to those who drank its sap. We have this tree among us — Jesus. He is the vine, we are the branches. Jesus gives his own divine life to his disciples. In the same way, mothers give of themselves to that their children might live. Thank you to all mothers. (10 May 2009)
This is my first recorded homily in two weeks. Apparently, taking a little time off seems to improve the content.
East2 – The tender Mercy of our God
Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. Jesus appears to his scared, guilty Apostles and says, “Peace be with you.” He has mercy on them. And furthermore, he wants them to pass his mercy on to others: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,” he says. The Apostles exercise this mercy by welcoming Thomas back into the community, and we see this mercy in the generosity of the first Christians. Where do you have guilt, anger or resentment? Bring it into the warmth of God’s mercy so that you can experience his Peace. (19 Apr. 2009)
Easter Day – Christ is Alive!
Easter Sunday. The Gospels do not record the scene of Jesus’ Resurrection. But Jesus appears again and again to his disciples; the ‘Tada moment’ happens in the life of every Christian. Christ is alive and active in this world. Pray, seek him, run to the tomb! Christ becomes visible to those chosen as his witnesses. Easter is a day to renew your baptismal commitment to bear his light in the world. (12 Apr. 2009)
Easter Vigil – The Night of Nights
Easter Vigil. Tonight is the night that Christ broke the gates of death and led Adam and Eve into heaven. Tonight the Paschal Lamb’s blood saves the Israelites from the Angel of Death. By his wounds and blows, Christ re-shapes our human nature into the Image and Likeness of God. Tonight the Church emerges from the side of Christ, clean and fresh and new. Christ has been raised; he is not here. He has gone to prepare an Eternal Paradise for us. Take his wounded hand and rise with him. (12 Apr. 2009)
Lent6 – Steadfast Love
Lent, Palm (Passion) Sunday. Human love is often fickle and spineless. One Sunday the crowd acclaims Jesus, next Friday it condemns him. Peter and Judas do the same. In contrast Jesus shows steadfast love even if the face of suffering. Like the woman with the alabaster jar of oil, Jesus breaks the jar of his body and pours over our heads his priceless, perfumed, steadfast love. (5 Apr. 2009)
The Pope has decided to declare this upcoming year, “The Year of the Priest.” The new patron of priesthood will be St. John Vianney, the great parish priest of Ars, France. In his catechism lesson on priesthood, the famous cure’ said:
The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you… When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion…
What joy did the Apostles feel after the Resurrection of Our Lord, at seeing the Master whom they had loved so much! The priest must feel the same joy at seeing Our Lord whom he holds in his hands. Great value is attached to objects which have been laid in the drinking cup of the Blessed Virgin and of the Child Jesus, at Loretto. But the fingers of the priest, that have touched the adorable Flesh of Jesus Christ, that have been plunged into the chalice which contained His Blood, into the pyx where His Body has lain, are they not still more precious? The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus.
It seems, then, that the essence of priesthood is unconditional love. Is that even possible?
Last week I was called out to the hospital to anoint a sick person. He had become suddenly ill at home and was rushed to the hospital. The family was shocked and upset when I met them in the ICU. “Father, can you anoint him please?” We went in together.
I have nifty kit I use for anointing of the sick. It consists of a glass bottle of oil, the ritual book that contains the prayers, and a small stole, all contained in a leather Bible case. I keep the kit in my car so I can always have it with me. When I took out the stole I observed that it was cold and stiff. This week the weather had been below 0 degrees for 52 hours and everything was cold. Even though my car sits in a garage the kit had still become very chilly. I said some of the introductory prayers and took out the oil to anoint him.
The oil was frozen.
I shook the bottle upside down and nothing would come out. As the family cried softly in the background, I commented to myself, “I guess my oil is frozen.” Awkward silence followed as I looked around for a quick solution. Maybe I could dig the oil out with my pocket knife. I opened the small blade, scooped out a dollop of oil and wiped it on my thumb. The I reached towards his forehead and said, “By this holy anointing…” and the oil slipped right off my thumb and fell on his shoulder. It was rapidly changing consistency from lotion to oil. I scooped it up again with my fingers and anointed his forehead. It left the usual light smear of olive oil, but one little stubborn bit sat up defiantly and refused to melt. Then I dug out another glop of oil with the pocketknife and, carefully balancing it on my thumb, I anointed his hands.
“Thank you so much, Father,” the family said through sobs.
I finished the prayers and discretely slipped the bottle in my pocket to warm it up.
Ministry is full of surprises.
PS: By popular request as a followup to a previous posting, here is a picture of me all dressed up and ready for cold weather.
Last winter was, well, very wintery. Having recently spent time in Italy, I would often walk outside in only a sweater or vest, only to have to turn around and put on a heavy coat. I decided this winter, I would be prepared. The first thing I had to deal with was tires that were nearly bald. I shopped around a bit once the cold weather came, but then with time running out I finally got the job done at the beginning of November, just before the first large snowfall. I spent extra for tires that were rated well in snow. At Thanksgiving, I figured it was one of the last nice days so I finally washed and waxed my car so the salt and grime wouldn’t affect it so much. Good thinking, considering the ice storm we got one Sunday morning in January.
Most people might consider this to be prepared, but I wasn’t done yet. Not by a long shot. I love hats and I can never understand people that go out without one. However, with hats you usually have to choose between two options. On the one hand, there are nice baseball caps that keep your face protected, but sacrifice your ears. On the other hand there are stocking caps that keep the ears toasty but let snow and sleet attach your face. Enter the Stormy Kromer, a perfect winter hat made in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you don’t mind the “Civil War Soldier” look, your face and ears are well-protected.
Ever notice how important are warm feet? The rest of you can be toasty warm but if your feet get cold you will be miserable. I frequently need to wear dress shoes, such as when celebrating Mass. Dress shoes do not protect you from the cold, nor prevent your sliding around on the snow. I looked at some boots and finally settled for an old-fashioned solution: overshoes. They make this nifty versions now that cover your shin. You can walk through blizzards, step inside, and have perfectly warm and dry feet. Even better, your shoes don’t squeak because they are not wet. Our grandparents were geniuses.
Some people might have accused me of being over-prepared. Those people do not live in Wisconsin, or if they do, they are currently recovering from pneumonia. We got record snow fall in December. When we wake up to sunny days, it is because the weather is freezing cold. Like today, -17 this morning. Actual temperature; windchill was -35.
I couldn’t record my homily today, so I typed it instead. I hope you enjoy reading.
Christmas, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.
Happy New Year!
In many Asian cultures, it is very important to start the new year off right. The children try to treat elders with the utmost respect and be as good as possible on this day so that the New Year gets off to a good start. We have all started off right by coming to Mass today on the feast of Mary, the Mother of God.
This feast used to be called the feast of the Circumcision. The Mosaic law prescribed circumcision eight days after birth. On this day, Jesus received his circumcision. In celebrating this feast, we recalled that Jesus was a Jewish child. He was raised according to all the laws and traditions and cultures of the Jewish people. Early Christian writers recognized in this day the sacrifice of Jesus. This was the first time Jesus shed his blood. This little sacrifice called to mind how Christ had come to save us by the shedding of his blood.
In the modern calendar, the focus of the feast has shifted to the Motherhood of Mary, with the consequence that men are much more comfortable. Mary, the Mother of God — what does it mean? Mary offered her Motherhood in the service of God. She received the Divine Life, carried it in her womb, and then birthed this life into the world. Mary made the sacrifice of her own body, her own life, so that we could receive the our Savior and Eternal Life. In doing so, she has become the model of all motherhood.
What does Mary show us about Motherhood? Motherhood is about new life. It is about receiving life, nurturing that life, and bringing it forth into the world. Only women are capable of carrying a new human life. However, motherhood doesn’t stop with the birthing of a child. In addition the the purely biological motherhood, there is something more important. We human beings are both biological and spiritual. The biological reality points to a more fundamental Spiritual reality. In this case, the biological gift that is Motherhood points to the more important reality of Spiritual Motherhood. A woman named Katrina Zeno in her book Every Woman’s Journey defines spiritual motherhood as, “nurturing the emotional, moral, cultural, and spiritual life of others.”
It is uniquely the woman’s gift to nurture in this way. Pope John Paul II called this gift, “The Genius of Women”. A genius is someone who can do things the rest of us cannot do. Michaelangelo and Leonardo were geniuses. They could take paint and create something fantastic. They could take an ordinary block of marble and create something new and beautiful from it. In the same way, a woman can do something no other person can do. She can nurture the emotional, moral, cultural and spiritual life of others. This is the genius of women.
If a woman does not fulfill her role of Spiritual Motherhood, no one can take her place. Just as a man cannot bear a child, so a man cannot be a Spiritual Mother. When a woman is in labor, the man is forced to stand idly by. As much as he might like to help, the woman has to do all the work. But the fact that he is standing by is very important. The fact that a man is standing by to help, and is there to catch the baby, makes a huge difference in the life of both the mother and the child. A man must never discount his role simply because the woman seems to be taking care of things. Men support, protect and help women in their role as Spiritual Mothers. I cannot tell you how many women I have talked to who have suffered greatly because the men around them did not accept their motherhood, be it biological or spiritual. The men wanted women to be something else besides mothers, and in doing so harmed not only the women, but the whole human family. A man indeed plays a marvelous role in the Spiritual Motherhood of women.
Today we celebrate Motherhood. We celebrate the fact that Mary sacrificed her life and her body to bring the world a savior. We celebrate all the sacrifices that every woman makes in living as a spiritual mother. Today, baby Jesus bled for us in a small sacrifice. His small sacrifices would add up to our salvation. In the same way, Mary’s many small sacrifices added up to the Savior. Every human being owes its life to the Motherhood of a woman; we owe our Eternal Life to the Motherhood of the woman named Mary. She received the Divine Life, nurtured it, and birthed him into the world. She gave birth not only to his life, but to the entire Christian World. As we celebrated the 2009th Year of Our Lord, we entrust the coming year to the Motherhood of Mary. May she teach us how to receive the Divine Life, nurture it, and give birth to Christ in our world today.
1 Jan. 2009