Monday, July 22, 2013

World Youth Day 2013

Once again, World Youth Day is upon us. Many of us will be busy in our home parishes or out and about in the work place unable to attend. While this may seem like a bit of a downer, let us call to mind once again that we can pray for those going to WYD.

This is not some fluffy idea, praying for those who go over while we sit on our couches and mope. This is something that is real because we are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. As various authors of the Bible comment (John 15:5, Ephesians 4:4-13, 1 Corinthians 12:12, etc.), though we are many as various parts of the body are many, we all work together to make the body function. The Mystical Body of Christ on earth prays for each other so as to benefit all of the members.

In these next several days, let us pray for our Holy Father, the various bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women religious, and the laity who will take part in these festivities.

N.B.: Here is the link with the official Liturgy Book of WYD 2013.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lumen Fidei and the Eucharist

ON THE SOLEMNITY OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, our Holy Father and Supreme Pontiff Francis released his encyclical Lumen Fidei. Co-authored with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the encyclical offers to the reader an invitation to the world of faith. "Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey" (57). The Church progresses through history on her way back to the Father in heaven. The food for this journey is the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. 

As Pope Francis says: "In the Eucharist ... there is the dimension of history: the Eucharist is an act of remembrance, a making present of the mystery in which the past, as an event of death and resurrection, demonstrates its ability to open up a future, to foreshadow ultimate fulfilment. The liturgy reminds us of this by its repetition of the word hodie, the 'today' of the mysteries of salvation" (44). The Eucharist is not merely food for the journey back to the Father, not only is it a hope for a future in the light of faith, but it is an act of making present again where we are constantly reminded about the life of Christ on earth.

In John's Gospel, Christ said: "For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself (John 5:26)." Because Christ entered human history, the fullness of divinity took on the fullness of humanity, being born of the Virgin Mary. The fullness of Divine Love revealed Himself through the fullness of humanity so man could journey with Christ, participating in His divinity. The way we journey with Christ now through history is by eating His Body and drinking His Body under the earthly signs of bread and wine.

Pope Francis says: "All the truths in which we believe point to the mystery of the new life of faith as a journey of communion with the living God" (45). The journey back to heaven may be difficult at times, but being in communion with Christ through the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood enables us to be in communion with Him and thus with His Father, our Father. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Remembering Fr. John Frawley

To one of the holiest priests I ever met, Fr. John Frawley. You will be missed, but you are now ministering at the Throne of the Lord in Heaven for all eternity. Requiescat in Pace.

I first met Fr. Frawley when I was 14 years old, newly minted as a high school seminarian in Chicago. Aside from exchanging a few words with him after Mass at St. Thomas More Church in Chicago, I really did not know him. All of this changed in 2005.

After I was diagnosed with Lymphoma, I was in the hospital for fifteen days. For almost all of these days, Fr. Frawley was there to give me communion. As I was discerning my call to the priesrhood throughout graduate school, Fr. Frawley was there to give his prayers and support.

While this little blip does not do justice to this great priest, this is one way I can honor, not just his memory, but the memory of the One he served for so long: Jesus Christ.

In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.
May angels lead you into paradise; upon your arrival, may the martyrs receive you and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, once a poor man, may you have eternal rest.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Friendship with Christ and the New Evangelization

I recently finished reading George Weigel's Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church. Weigel's thesis is that the Church throughout the world needs to adapt to the challenges facing the Church in the twenty-first century. Taking his cue from popes like Leo XIII, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, Weigel argues that the "Counter Reformation Catechetical-Devotional paradigm" will no longer work for the Church in the postmodern era. He advocates for a more evangelical method where Catholics have to be engaged, not only in their faith, but also with the society in which the Church is present, whatever the country may be. How does this come about? Weigel makes several suggestions, but the first and most prominent in the book is a personal friendship and relationship with Jesus Christ in the Church and enriching this friendship in the midst of the Sacraments (Eucharist and Penance especially).

All of this is true, especially about enriching a friendship with Christ through the Sacraments. With the help of solid preaching by priests (and deacons), speaking about the role of the Catholic in the Church and the world, catechesis that does not involve memorizing The Baltimore Catechism, and frequent reception of the Sacraments, the Catholic will come to understand how he or she is able to bring Christ into the world. 

The Catholic is one who lives in the world, but is not of the world; Catholics are pilgrims on earth, journeying their way through life back to their homeland of heaven. In his or her wake, the Catholic leaves a trail of love and charity, helping those along the way and, perhaps, carrying them along the way back to our heavenly homeland. This way through the world can be frightfully trying at times. But just as we carry others who need help along the way, so do we have help along the way; Jesus Christ. He gives us His Body and Blood for nourishment and strength. He gives us His very Self through His friendship. 

Friendship with Christ is often not grasped in the twenty-first century because there is no more sacramental view of Creation. At His Incarnation, Christ Jesus entered time and space and took on humanity in its fulness, subsequently redeeming, not only humanity, but all of Creation. This redemption shows forth more powerfully the sacramentality of God. God reveals Himself to us, not in ways that may be overtly obvious, but in the chirping of a bird, the sky on a starry night, or in the human being being fully alive. All of these beautiful images reveal God in the beauty of His Creation. It was for this Creation that the Father sent His Son into the world and revealed Himself through the beauty of humanity. 

Christ is able to relate to humanity in a truly unique way: Christ is both human and divine, making it possible for man to relate to his Savior as man and walking with Him, giving himself in friendship to Christ to share in Christ's divinity. As the water is added to the wine in the Offertory of the Mass, the priest prays: "By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity." This is one of the most concise prayers in all of the Mass summing up the reason for the Father's love for us: Sending His only Son into Creation to redeem it so that we can participate in the love and divinity of the Holy Trinity. To put it another way, St. Athanasius said: "God became man so that man could become like God." 

For this transformation, or divinization, to take place, a personal relationship and friendship with Christ must take place, not only between Christ and each of His disciples, but with the Church as well. The Church is Christ, His Bride, His own flesh and blood here on earth. The relationship between Christ and His Church is mirrored in the Sacrament of Marriage. Marriage is part of nature because God willed it from the beginning of time as a sacramental participation in the relationship between Christ and the Church. This is why "gay marriage" is not a matter of changing political laws, it is a matter of redefining an institution that is built into nature. The state has no business redefining marriage. The friendship between Christ and His disciple is one that is marked by walking with the Lord in the path He laid out in His Church. The Sacraments are an indispensable part of this friendship and, since they are, this friendship is very difficult to carry on outside the sacramental system of the Church; not impossible, but difficult. 

Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Our Savior does not merely leave us this way, but He walks along this way with us, giving of Himself freely some that we may do the same for Him and for the members of His Church. Friendship with Christ is thus the key to the New Evangelization.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sorry for the Wait

I know it has been quite a while since I posted something, but the past few months have been particularly busy.

I completed my first year in the major seminary (Pre-Theology II). Currently, I am studying at the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, Texas. I am here for the entire month of June studying Spanish. The rest of my summer involves spending time in my great diocese of Springfield and then back to the seminary to begin my theological studies (as a seminarian, that is).

I wish I could say the past few months have been easy, but they have not been; far from it, as a matter of fact. I learned so much about myself this past year in Pre-Theology, but especially from my experience in Arizona on the Tohono O'odham Nation in February and my time in formation in the spring quarter (March to May) at the seminary.

I was blessed to be under the care of a great spiritual director this year who, not only came with my class to Arizona, but also accompanied me throughout my first year in the major seminary. Unfortunately, he was asked by his archbishop to go elsewhere, so I will be under the care of a new spiritual director next year. With that said, though, my former spiritual director and my new spiritual director are some of the best at the seminary, at least in my humble but always expressed opinion.

These have also been trying times on the home-front. Not to get into the gory details, but my family has not been the same since my father died in February of 2012. Many fractures and splits have occurred that, at least for right now, seem irreparable. But as a wise priest-friend of mine remarked, priests need to be ready to hear anything and not be shocked; I know the Lord has given me this burden for a reason.

My relationship with our Lord has also improved, though it could always be better. (Then again, I'm sure Mother Theresa or Padre Pio would say the same about their spiritual lives.) Still, I have begun to see the vital importance of personal prayer being informed through liturgical prayer, and vice versa. Cultivating a spiritual life for a diocesan seminarian may seem a little strange at first, but the diocesan priest is still a priest. He brings Christ to others, not just through the celebration of the Sacraments, but also through his presence to his sheep. Many friends ask me, "What do you want to do as a priest?" Maybe a year ago I would have said something like: "I want to get an STL and teach theology at a university." Now, after much discussion with God, many priests, and my brother seminarians, I say something like: "I only aspire to be a holy priest who loves his sheep."

I cannot say it was an easy path to arrive at that answer. Being a Christian is about emulating that kenosis (emptying) of Christ and taking on whatever vocation God is calling you to. During my time in the high school seminary, I often said that I wanted to be a priest. Now I say God wants me to be a priest. With that realization comes the revelation that my life is not my own (it never really was mine in the first place). I want the Lord to use me however He sees fit, not because I do not like my freedom, but because I am truly free in Christ. I cannot count how many priests (and others) have told me to turn to Christ in my hour of need. This is not just hogwash like anti-theists would have you believe, this is a real, tangible idea. In Christ I am truly free because He knows my pains and my sorrows, He knows how I feel at every moment of the day. As Paul says in his Letter to the Hebrews, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). I wish I could say I turn all the time to the Lord in my hour of need; I wish I could, but I don't. With that said, though, I know my God loves me, just as He loved the Israelites even after they turned their backs on Him so often.

So, that is "what's up."

As I begin my time in Theology, please pray for myself and my classmates and for all seminarians throughout the world. Pray that we may be good and holy men, constantly seeking after the heart of Christ, and loving everyone as God loves everyone. Please be assured of our prayers for you.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cam Night Reflection

As part of cam (hallway) life here at the seminary, each seminarian lives on a cam and contributes to the life of the cam. A seminarian may be the "Snow Czar," or the "Dining Hall Representative."

Each of us, at least on my cam, take turns doing a reflection for cam night on Wednesday. Below, I would like to share my reflection on the Second Reading for the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, 1 Corinthians 12:12-30.

"As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ."

Each one of us was baptized into Christ's Mystical Body, the Church; the earthly manifestation of Christ's glorified Body. Does this come to mind in our daily activities? Does this dawn on us when each of us offers ourselves in the Sacrifice of the Mass, or our field education, or when we go to class?

Just as the laity have a share in this participation in divine realities, so do we as seminarians. Our contribution to the Mystical Body now is as men training for the priesthood. We share each of our gifts now so that we may participate in Christ's headship one day, God willing.

Here at the seminary, each of us uses our gifts and talents and we unite them to everyone else's to build up the local church on campus. We take these gifts into the world to make it a better place, so as to bring about even more Christ's Kingdom on earth.

" ... though many, are one body, so also Christ." Let us reflect this day on our role in Christ's Body on earth, so that we can bring Christ to a world hungry for Him. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Love of Christ

In a recent conversation with one of the best friends who is an atheist, he described his aversion to the Church. Of course, his criticisms were mostly about threatening people if they sinned or rewarding them if they behaved, and other (what I would call) unfounded statements, but some were not. Nevertheless, did he know Christ's love, though? I would contend, no.

One can have a fundamental knowledge of every Church dogma and doctrine, expounding on the historical development and how the Church arrived at that particular teaching. This is a most honorable kind of knowledge, but, as Pope Benedict says, this knowledge is never a substitute for a personal encounter with the Lord.

In one's personal encounter with the Lord, formed in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and other prayers and devotions, the individual meets the Lord in ways that man is able to comprehend. Since man cannot comprehend the reality of the Lord in the earthly realm, God chose to reveal Himself through visible signs and symbols man could understand. Bread and wine, which take on the reality of the Body and Blood of Christ while retaining the appearance of bread and wine, is a common food and drink to most cultures throughout the world. The Lord allows Himself to be revealed in ways man is capable of understanding here on earth.

To develop a friendship, one needs to talk and have a great relationship with a friend. This is certainly true of friendship with the Lord. One cannot simply leave Mass and leave Jesus in the tabernacle. One must take that relationship with the Lord into the world and have a constant source of communication with Him. This is certainly true when Christians are the waters flowing from the Temple onto the world, inundating it with love and making those they come in contact with fertile. The Christians are the waters flowing from the Temple, flooding the world with Christ's love.

The world can only be transformed in, through, and with Christ if His followers know Him and have a personal relationship with Him.