Monthly Archives: March 2012

Quote for the Day

“When a crystal is touched or struck by the rays of the sun, it gives forth brilliant sparks of light. When a man of faith is touched by the light of God’s grace, he too must give forth sparks of light in his good words and deeds, and so bring God’s light to others.” – St. Anthony of Padua, OFM

Protecting Marriage and Respecting the Homosexual Man or Woman

A brother deacon yesterday afternoon as the retreat was winding down and we were sitting at lunch, reminded me of something I had said to him weeks ago but never finished explaining. I had commented that the current effort to change the definition of marriage to include relationships between two men or two women would be damaging to our brothers and sisters with same-sex attractions.

Read carefully, I don’t want to be misquoted. I believe the effort to redefine marriage, if successful, will be damaging to our same-sex attracted brothers and sisters.

I have not heard anyone talk about this in any of the discussions about marriage. Let me try to explain my thinking. It is based on:

   1. Respect of the human person as known by God.

   2. Self-awareness and self-respect. 

   3. Respect for the language of the body.

As Scripture says, each of us was born male or female. Each of us is a unique human person. Each of us seeks relationship as part of our very nature. Scripture also says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” In this seeking of relationship, we seek spiritual relationship in the depth of our being by reaching out to God and desiring union with Him as we have come to know Him, and seek physical relationship with others driven by our maleness or femaleness. Our self-knowledge as male or female is comprised of three things: our physical gender, our identification as man or woman, and our sexual orientation. All of this is constituitive of a profound longing for an “other”, a longing that is definitive of who we are and who we were created to become.

God creates us and knows us. He creates us male or female. This is how He knows us. With this knowledge He lavishes His love upon us. To know us is to love us, as the Christian spiritual writers attest. Upon this foundational activity of God, we develop our moral awareness and our individual psychological makeup; in other words, we develop our sense of what is good and desirable for happiness and we develop self-understanding. Knowledge of what is good (what brings happiness), self-acceptance (healthy psychology), and being known by another (relationship) are necessary for living a happy life.

A psychologically, spiritually and morally healthy person, then, grows into an awareness that I am loved by God as a man or as a woman who seeks out an other who will know me and love me.

What happens when society begins redefine marriage to include a relationship between two men or two women?

The homosexual person is damaged. He or she is led into a certain self-disrespect. Why and how?

Firstly, the claim that the good of marriage can be obtained in the context of a sexually active same-sex relationship is misleading and false, for such a good does not exist in these unions, and thus morally damaging to the individual. This becomes evident to individuals in due course of time. Our bodies speak a language inherent to their function and purpose. When we express ourselves physically, those physical expressions must be in accord with the natural function and ends of the body if they are to be morally good. This is true with regard to our sexual organs and indeed to all our body functions and parts.

Secondly, it is psychologically damaging because it suggests that chaste same-sex friendships are deficient, limited, impossible or unhealthy. For psychological health most people with same-sex attractions must come to an acceptance of these attractions and an awareness of how they are then drawn into chaste and deep friendships. As is true for all of us, erotic interests can be directed in a way that brings about true happiness. For the same-sex attracted person, this leads them into a gifted way of life, a life of celibate deep friendships that deserve our respect and support.

Thirdly, it is spiritually damaging because defining as marital relationships between two men or two women is a rejection God’s knowledge of us as he made us and called us to be in relationship. It is a denial of the nature and purpose of human sexual activity.

My friends, let us pray that marriage be protected as a union of one man and one woman. Let us also pray for greater respect and support of our same-sex attracted brothers and sisters. Ministries such as Courage and Encourage are available in our diocese for this very purpose.

Bishop Quinn Interviewed by EWTN News

Bishop of WinonaI’d  like to draw your attention to an article in the National Catholic Register (www.ncregister.com/daily-news/minnesota-bishop-is-encouraged-by-young-peoples-quest-for-truth/) in which my bishop, John Quinn of Winona is interviewed. In this article, he speaks of the youth desiring the truth over self-centered relativism. The interview occurred in Rome while he was on his ad limina visit with other bishops of Region VIII.

Here is a quote: “They want to break out of that prison that holds them bound… Once they know the truth, and the truth is Christ, that sets them free. And then their acts of freedom are rooted in Christ… It leads them to happiness, not to more self-indulgence.”

To read the entire article, click on the highlighted link above.

Pilgrimage to Kalaupapa

I made a pilgrimage last week to Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai. This is the place were St. Fr. Damien lived and worked with patients with Hansen’s disease, more popularly known as leprosy.

Fr. Damien was canonized in 2009 by Blessed John Paul II.  Damien is held in very high esteem by Hawaiians, especially native Hawaiians who live on the island of Molokai. His story is amazing and cannot be recounted in a blog post without doing him injustice. In essence, this Belgian priest volunteered to come to Kalaupapa after the people there requested a priest. Others had gone there briefly, and Damien was allowed to go by his superiors and the local bishop “as long as his devotion to do so” would allow him. At first, the plan was for various priests to take three month tours of duty in an attempt to minimize the risk of contagion, but after a few weeks of landing on its shores, Fr. Damien decided to remain indefinitely.

He begged incessantly for supplies and nursing help. He was a bit of a pest in that way with his superiors and the government leaders. Eventually, after many refusals by other congregations, Mother Marianne Cope of the Franciscans out of Syracuse, New York agreed to come with a few sisters. There this order remains, as does Fr. Damien’s order the Sacred Heart Fathers. Mother Marianne is now Blessed Mother Marianne Cope and will be canonized later this year.

Both bodies, that of Fr. Damien and that of Mother Marianne, have be removed from their original sites on Kalaupapa. The Belgians brought Damien’s body back to Belgium and Mother Marianne’s body was transposed  to Syracuse. All of this is to the great dismay of the locals on Kalaupapa who consider Fr. Damien to have been their “father” and cannot understand how someone would take a father from his children. The Vatican required the bodies we exhumed and examined as part of the canonization process. The residents of Kalaupapa were given the remains of Damien’s hand to bury in his original grave.

Another interesting person at this place was brother Joseph Sutton, a Civil War veteran who came to Kalaupapa to live and work in atonement for his sins. He died in 1931 after many years of service to the patients.

Pilgrimages are to inspire and strengthen the faith. Most often, the benefits of making them are know to the individual after many weeks or months, not immediately. This certainly was the case for me after making a pilgrimage to Rome a number of years ago, the effect of which remain evident in my spiritual life. It is my hope that my pilgrimage to Kalaupapa may bear fruit in the months and years to come.

St. Damien of Molokai, and Blessed Mother Marianne Cope, pray for us!

Reflections In An Airport

I have an hour to spend sitting in an airport. I am finishing a long overdue reunion of sorts. The hour is late but the flights home will be long.

To be witness the tangibility of human entanglements not only with each other but also with the past, with illness, with another culture in decline, and with human pain and
loneliness is an attempt, at least, to reach out and connect with what whatever truth, love, hope and faith remains between two individuals.

I thank God for the time and opportunity. As always, He lets light shine in the darkness. He is never outdone in generosity. If we are receptive, we recognize His face.

Sometimes it is really difficult to disregard the murkiness and confusion and simply look for the good. It is to that task, though, we are called. It is the vocation of every Christian, every parent, every brother and sister.

Thanks be to God.

Reunions

There can be a certain apprehension about overdue reunions. The kind of apprehension that is rather visceral. Not exactly psychological.

Perhaps it is the mixture of the once-known with the now unknown. Memories vs the realities of what is now. What we experienced with what we needed or wanted. The internal with the external.

The shadows on the cavern wall vs the tangibility of humanity.

Approaching this requires an openess of mind that finds it source in the wells of faith.

Amazing how all things find their meaning in the encounter of persons, and in that way are sacramental.

Aloha!!

Blogging will be a rarity for the next few days as I am in the Aloha state.

Seems like I have to buy one of those Hawaiian shirts. Everyone wears them here…..

Blessings to all of you.

Deacon Bob’s Homily for 3rd Sunday of Lent

Here is my homily for this weekend. The audio will be added, hopefully, in a day or so. Blessings, Deacon Bob

UPDATE: Here is the audio: 3rd Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

Ex 20: 1-17; 1 Cor 1: 22-25; John 2: 13-25

March 10/11, 2012

The opening words of our first reading today were, “I am the Lord, your God…” God…… Who is He? Well, God is God. He has no equal. There is nothing with which we can compare Him. There is just one of Him, only one. So, He defines Himself. His own self-description in the Scriptures is, “I am who am.” In other words, He cannot be fully described or understood.

God is all-powerful. He is all-knowing. He is all-holy. He is perfectly balanced and he possesses perfect harmony. There is no contradiction in God. He is complete love. He is all-just. He is so different from us, so transcendent, that without His help, we would be unable to bridge the gap between us.

How, then, do we begin to build a relationship with such a God? How do we even begin to pray? How do we begin to recognize Him in our daily lives? How do we worship Him?

These are questions with which humanity has been grappling and trying to answer since the beginning of history.

How do we worship, communicate with, and relate to God whom we intuitively know exists? What does all of this mean, and what will it require of us?

Over and over again in the Old Testament we hear how people became confused and misled, how they broke the First Commandment and began worshipping false gods. You have to believe that they didn’t maliciously do this. No, they were seeking some way of making sense of God, some way of touching and seeing Him and worshipping Him that made sense. So they turned to created things and called them gods, hoping these “gods” would bring them peace, security and happiness.

My friends, the same thing is happening today. People are turning to false gods because they are searching for some way to see and hear and touch God. They are turning to Buddhism, the occult, paganism and the modern philosophy of relativism. They are doing this right here in the local area. They are trying to find God.

So, we must ask ourselves:

What do I place on the altar of my life?

What do I believe will bring me peace, security and happiness?

Is it beauty, health money, business, job, a particular political party, home or car?

Our Gospel today tells us how the people of old made money from religious practices and in doing so, turned God’s house into a place of idolatry – the worship of money and business.

We heard how Jesus made that stunning declaration (which would later get him killed) that He was the Temple, that He was God, that His body would be raised up and would be the place where true worship of God would happen, the God whom we seek to know and understand and love.

Yes, Jesus Christ is the bridge between God and humankind; it is through His body that we find union with the God. It is through Him and His Body that we begin to see and touch and hear God. Jesus is the mediator between God and man.

Jesus is the revelation of God to humankind. He has shown us what it means to be truly human. He has shown us the face of God. He has shown us how to pray. He has shown us true worship. It is through Jesus that we enter into relationship with God.

Have you noticed how in the official prayers of the Church we always end by saying, “Through Jesus Christ, your Son…”? We always go through Jesus to the Father.

But it isn’t just in our formal prayers that we experience the power of going through Jesus who intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father; we experience this power by placing Jesus at the center of our entire lives – living a Christ-centered life.

Seeing Jesus in others, treating them like we would treat Jesus himself…. This too is worship of God. Recognizing Jesus in our daily lives is the road to salvation because He alone bridges the divide between God and man. When others become for us the face of Jesus, then we begin to see, hear, touch and serve God.

And remember: the Church is His Body. It is through the Catholic Church that God’s true presence enters the world; through the Church salvation flows to all of creation for the Church is the Body of Christ. We are members of that Body, each of us, and in each other, gathered here for the Eucharist, we can see the face of Jesus the one mediator between God and man.

My friends, we must give our entire lives a Christ-centered meaning. We must put on a new way of thinking this Lent. We must put on the mind of Jesus.

Jesus, the mediator between God and man.

Jesus the divine person – one with the Father and the Spirit – yet both human and divine in his natures.

Without Jesus, we lose our way. Without his Body the Church, we become blind to the Truth, blind to His presence among us. We must never forget that! Without His Body we become blind to the Truth and we no longer see Him for who He is.

Reach out to God this Lent! Go through Jesus! Find Him in the Church! Bring others to Him! Find in them the God we all seek!

Permanent Deacons Continue to Increase

The 2011 annual Church statistics were presented to the Holy Father today. Of note is the continued increase of deacons, especially in  North America and Europe. By the end of 2010, there were 39,564 permanent deacons in the world (up from 38,155 the year before), 64% of whom were North Americans and 33% European. The annual increase of deacons was 3.7%.

This is in comparison to the statistics for priests, the total number of whom increased 1,643 world-wide. America had a total increase of 40 priests. Total number of priests in the world is 412,236. The good news is that since 2000, the number of priest continues to rise, although at a much lesser rate than deacons.

Let us pray for an increase in vocations, both to the priesthood and the diaconate. Let us pray too that the Church embraces more fully the diaconate and its ministry of service, sacrament and word.

God knows we are willing to serve.

Benedict XVI, Sexuality, and the Bishops of Region VIII

Bishop Quinn and other bishops met with the Holy Father today for their ad limina. I wanted to share with you the words he spoke to them. My source is from the Vatican’s website (www.vatican.va).

Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. As you know, this year I wish to reflect with you on certain aspects of the evangelization of American culture in the light of the intellectual and ethical challenges of the present moment.

In our previous meetings I acknowledged our concern about threats to freedom of conscience, religion and worship which need to be addressed urgently, so that all men and women of faith, and the institutions they inspire, can act in accordance with their deepest moral convictions. In this talk I would like to discuss another serious issue which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit to America, namely, the contemporary crisis of marriage and the family, and, more generally, of the Christian vision of human sexuality. It is in fact increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, and the widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.

Yet, as Blessed John Paul II observed, the future of humanity passes by way of the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 85). Indeed, “the good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded on marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area. Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 29).

In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage. The Church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation. Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage. Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.

In our conversations, some of you have pointed with concern to the growing difficulties encountered in communicating the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family in its integrity, and to a decrease in the number of young people who approach the sacrament of matrimony. Certainly we must acknowledge deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades, which failed at times to communicate the rich heritage of Catholic teaching on marriage as a natural institution elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament, the vocation of Christian spouses in society and in the Church, and the practice of marital chastity. This teaching, stated with increasing clarity by the post-conciliar magisterium and comprehensively presented in both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, needs to be restored to its proper place in preaching and catechetical instruction.

On the practical level, marriage preparation programs must be carefully reviewed to ensure that there is greater concentration on their catechetical component and their presentation of the social and ecclesial responsibilities entailed by Christian marriage. In this context we cannot overlook the serious pastoral problem presented by the widespread practice of cohabitation, often by couples who seem unaware that it is gravely sinful, not to mention damaging to the stability of society. I encourage your efforts to develop clear pastoral and liturgical norms for the worthy celebration of matrimony which embody an unambiguous witness to the objective demands of Christian morality, while showing sensitivity and concern for young couples.

Here too I would express my appreciation of the pastoral programs which you are promoting in your Dioceses and, in particular, the clear and authoritative presentation of the Church’s teaching found in your 2009 Letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan. I also appreciate all that your parishes, schools and charitable agencies do daily to support families and to reach out to those in difficult marital situations, especially the divorced and separated, single parents, teenage mothers and women considering abortion, as well as children suffering the tragic effects of family breakdown.

In this great pastoral effort there is an urgent need for the entire Christian community to recover an appreciation of the virtue of chastity. The integrating and liberating function of this virtue (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2338-2343) should be emphasized by a formation of the heart, which presents the Christian understanding of sexuality as a source of genuine freedom, happiness and the fulfilment of our fundamental and innate human vocation to love. It is not merely a question of presenting arguments, but of appealing to an integrated, consistent and uplifting vision of human sexuality. The richness of this vision is more sound and appealing than the permissive ideologies exalted in some quarters; these in fact constitute a powerful and destructive form of counter-catechesis for the young.

Young people need to encounter the Church’s teaching in its integrity, challenging and countercultural as that teaching may be; more importantly, they need to see it embodied by faithful married couples who bear convincing witness to its truth. They also need to be supported as they struggle to make wise choices at a difficult and confusing time in their lives. Chastity, as the Catechism reminds us, involves an ongoing “apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom” (2339). In a society which increasingly tends to misunderstand and even ridicule this essential dimension of Christian teaching, young people need to be reassured that “if we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing, of what makes life free, beautiful and great” (Homily, Inaugural Mass of the Pontificate, 24 April 2005).

Let me conclude by recalling that all our efforts in this area are ultimately concerned with the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. Children are the greatest treasure and the future of every society: truly caring for them means recognizing our responsibility to teach, defend and live the moral virtues which are the key to human fulfillment. It is my hope that the Church in the United States, however chastened by the events of the past decade, will persevere in its historic mission of educating the young and thus contribute to the consolidation of that sound family life which is the surest guarantee of intergenerational solidarity and the health of society as a whole.

I now commend you and your brother Bishops, with the flock entrusted to your pastoral care, to the loving intercession of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. To all of you I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord.

Yes, you have read it correctly. He is addressing head on the issue of sexuality and marriage, singling them out as focal points in the Church’s renewed effort to catechize and evangelize American culture. He also made the comment that the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church be restored to their proper places in preaching and catechesis. I would assume the Catechism’s primary, though not exclusive, place would be in catechetical instruction, and likewise the Compendium in preaching

Let us pray that the efforts of many good men and women may be successful in these important areas of the Church’s ministry.

Ad Limina – to the Tombs of the Apostles

 My bishop, John M. Quinn along with bishop-emeritus Bernard Harrington, vicar general Rev. Richard Colletti and vicar of the clergy Fr. Tom Melvin are in Rome this week for the ad limina. As you probably are aware, about every 5 years each diocesan bishop is required to make a trip to Rome to present the state of affairs of his diocese to the Holy Father. While there, they make pilgrimmages to the major basilicas of the city: St. Peter’s, St. Paul-outside-the-walls, St. Mary Major, and St. John Lateran. It is also a time for the bishop to make this pilgrimmage with other bishops from his region, in Winona’s case, Region VIII inclusive of all Minnesota, and North and South Dakota.

I have been praying for Bishop Quinn during his travels. I trust this will be a time of renewal of his episcopal ministry. I have to admit, I am a little jealous too of Fr. Colletti. He and I were students together in Rome back in 1977-78 when we lived at the North American College and attended the Gregorian University. Before he left for Rome last week, I asked him to have a plate of ricciarelli, gnocchi, and a bit of prosciutto for me. I truly miss these Italian culinary delights!

The Catholic News Service has an article today regarding this. Read it at (www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1200899.htm).  Bishop Quinn and the other Region VIII bishops were at the Basilica of St. Mary Major offering Mass in the Borghese Chapel (a gorgeous chapel to the side of the main altar). The homily, given by Archbishop Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, centered on Mary, appropriately enough given the location. He called her “the mother of us poor bishops,” noting that she “continues to stand by the cross in solidarity” with bishops, in solidarity “with people in their unique trials” and with the pope “as he experiences the great burdens of his his office.”

Pray for the diocese of Winona today and her bishops, priests and deacons. Thank you.

Congratulations, Diocese of Baker!

The Holy Father, at noon Rome time, announced today that Fr. Liam Stephen Cary, a priest from the archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, is the new bishop of the diocese of Baker.

Bishop-elect Cary was born in 1947 at Prineville, Oregon. He studied philosophy at Mount Angel College Seminary at St. Benedict, Oregon, then studied theology at St. Patrick Seminary at Menlo Park, California. He left the seminary in 1970 to work a number years with the poor and the immigrants in Chicago, and Salinas and Eugene, Oregon. In 1987 he reentered the seminary and studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained a priest in 1992 for the archdiocese of Portland, Oregon.

Congratulations, diocese of Baker!