Married Priests?

Every once in a while someone brings up the topic of married priests.  “Wouldn’t it be great if priests could marry?”  “There wouldn’t be a shortage of priests if they could be married.”  “There would be no sexual abuse crisis if priests were married.”  And on and on.  Then you hear the usual criticisms, “It’s all about money.  The Church doesn’t want married priests because then they’d have to pay them more money.”  “The Church doesn’t want married priests because they don’t want to have to take care of their widows.”  “The Church doesn’t want married priests because of the high cost of health insurance for families.”   “The Church doesn’t want married priests because they’d have to provide them with houses where they could raise their families.”  Again, on and on.

I’m no expert on the theology of married clergy, but since I am one, maybe I can shed some light on this subject.  Number 1, there are married Catholic priests.  Married priests from some other faith traditions can convert to Catholicism and become priests.  There aren’t a lot of them but they do exist.

Number 2, the Church’s teaching on married priests is a “discipline”, not a “dogma”.  What’s the difference?  Disciplines can and do change.  (Remember meatless Fridays?)  Unlike the “all male” priesthood which is a dogma of the Church and can’t ever change, the celibacy of priests could.  (See # 1 above)

Here’s the real issue.  Those who say they want a married priesthood haven’t really thought the matter through.  Here’s where my experience as a married deacon comes into play.  It’s not possible to give 110% to two vocations!  You say you want a married priesthood?  Let’s look at a very simple scenario.  Your beautiful daughter is in love.  She wants to be married.  She has her heart set on a big church wedding on June 1.  She’s already reserved the hall.  (Believe it or not, brides do reserve reception halls before they check on the availability of the church.)  She also loves Father Bob and will only be satisfied if he performs the ceremony. Only one problem; Father Bob’s  son graduates from the university on June 1, two hundred miles away.

Or on an entirely different level, grandma has been rushed to the emergency room.  The situation is critical.  Your faith tells you to call the pastor.  You need him right away.  Here’s the problem.  The pastor’s daughter’s dance recital is going on as we speak and he’s turned off his cell phone.  Grandma is called home before you can reach Father.

I can hear you saying, “But deacon, other religions have married clergy and it doesn’t seem to be a problem.”  The thing you have to remember, with all due respect to our brother clergy, Catholic priests are called upon to do far more then their protestant counterparts.  Anointing of the sick can only be done by a priest and medical emergencies always seem to happen at the worst possible time.  We just expect the priest to always be available.  Protestant churches seem to have larger staff that Catholic parishes, making it more difficult for priest pastors to delegate.  Priests are “married to the Church” forever.  Protestant pastors are employees who can be hired and fired and often are.

Then we have the marriage itself.  Our protestant minister friends have a divorce rate that’s very close to the national average so there’s no reason to think that married priests would do much better.  (BTW, they also have a similar rate of child sexual abuse).   But we belong to a Church that teaches that marriage is until death do us part.  What do you do with a divorced priest?  I imagine you do the same thing you do with a divorced deacon.  Transfer him somewhere where they don’t know his past.  But that’s not really much of a solution.

Just imagine how messy a priest’s divorce could become if the about-to-be exwife blames the Church (the other woman, so to speak) for the breakup. Yikes!

I’ll site an example from my own life and then I’ll lay this topic to rest.  I currently have a handful of parishioners who are mad at me because I left the Goulash Festival a half hour early to catch the tail end of my grandson’s birthday party.  On the other hand, I’m sure I disappointed the grandson by missing his soccer game and the rest of the birthday festivities.

So the members of my church expect me to be available 24/7 and my lovely, long-suffering wife says that when there’s a conflict the diaconate “always” wins out.  And, remember a deacon’s responsibilities are so much less than those of a priest.

Bottom line, you may think you want married priests, but when push comes to shove, you really don’t.  You want the sacraments to be available around the clock, 365 days a year.  You want the priest to spend his free time reading and praying and in general just “being a priest.”  You want him to hang out with the school kids and to never miss a meeting.

When you call the rectory you don’t want to hear that Father had to take his sick child to the doctor and is gone for the day.  The Church hasn’t survived for over 2,000 years by being stupid.  Someday the discipline may change, but I doubt it because it just makes too much sense.

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Married Priests?

Every once in a while someone brings up the topic of married priests.  “Wouldn’t it be great if priests could marry?”  “There wouldn’t be a shortage of priests if they could be married.”  “There would be no sexual abuse crisis if priests were married.”  And on and on.  Then you hear the usual criticisms, “It’s all about money.  The Church doesn’t want married priests because then they’d have to pay them more money.”  “The Church doesn’t want married priests because they don’t want to have to take care of their widows.”  “The Church doesn’t want married priests because of the high cost of health insurance for families.”   “The Church doesn’t want married priests because they’d have to provide them with houses where they could raise their families.”  Again, on and on.

I’m no expert on the theology of married clergy, but since I am one, maybe I can shed some light on this subject.  Number 1, there are married Catholic priests.  Married priests from some other faith traditions can convert to Catholicism and become priests.  There aren’t a lot of them but they do exist.

Number 2, the Church’s teaching on married priests is a “discipline”, not a “dogma”.  What’s the difference?  Disciplines can and do change.  (Remember meatless Fridays?)  Unlike the “all male” priesthood which is a dogma of the Church and can’t ever change, the celibacy of priests could.  (See # 1 above)

Here’s the real issue.  Those who say they want a married priesthood haven’t really thought the matter through.  Here’s where my experience as a married deacon comes into play.  It’s not possible to give 110% to two vocations!  You say you want a married priesthood?  Let’s look at a very simple scenario.  Your beautiful daughter is in love.  She wants to be married.  She has her heart set on a big church wedding on June 1.  She’s already reserved the hall.  (Believe it or not, brides do reserve reception halls before they check on the availability of the church.)  She also loves Father Bob and will only be satisfied if he performs the ceremony. Only one problem; your Father Bob’s  son graduates from the university on June 1, two hundred miles away.

Or on an entirely different level, grandma has been rushed to the emergency room.  The situation is critical.  Your faith tells you to call the pastor.  You need him right away.  Here’s the problem.  The pastor’s dance recital is going on as we speak and he’s turned off his cell phone.  Grandma is called home before you can reach Father.

I can hear you saying, “But deacon, other religions have married clergy and it doesn’t seem to be a problem.”  The thing you have to remember, with all due respect to our brother clergy, Catholic priests are called upon to do far more then their protestant counterparts.  Anointing of the sick can only be done by a priest and medical emergencies always seem to happen at the worst possible time.  Protestant churches seem to have larger staff that Catholic parishes, making it more difficult for pastors to delegate.

Then we have the marriage itself.  Our protestant minister friends have a divorce rate that’s very close to the national average so there’s no reason to think that married priests would do much better.  But we belong to a Church that teaches that marriage is until death do us part.  What do you do with a divorced priest?  I imagine you do the same thing you do with a divorced deacon.  Transfer him somewhere where they don’t know his past.

Just imagine how messy a priest’s divorce could become if the about-to-be exwife blames the Church (the other woman, so to speak) for the breakup. Yikes!

I’ll site an example from my own life and then I’ll lay this topic to rest.  I currently have a handful of parishioners who are mad at me because I left the Goulash Festival a half hour early to catch the tail end of my grandson’s birthday party.  On the other hand, I’m sure I disappointed the grandson by missing his soccer game and the rest of the birthday festivities.

So the members of my church expect me to be available 24/7 and my lovely, long-suffering wife says that when there’s a conflict the diaconate “always” wins out.  Remember a deacon’s responsibilities are so much simpler than those of a priest.

Bottom line, you may think you want married priests, but when push comes to shove, you really don’t.  You want the sacraments to be available around the clock, 365 days a year.  You want the priest to spend his free time reading and praying and in general just “being a priest.”  When you call the rectory you don’t want to hear that Father had to take his sick child to the doctor and is gone for the day.  The Church hasn’t survive for over 2,000 years by being stupid.  Someday the discipline may change, but I doubt it because it just makes too much sense.

 

Christ the King

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King.  I’m afraid we Americans really don’t get this feast because we’re not used to dealing with a king.  The United States is a democracy.  We threw King George out over 200 years ago.  Here in America, Elvis is the King of rock and roll.   We know about Martin Luther King, B. B. King, and Carole King.  As kids a lot of us watched “Sky King”.  There’s Burger King, and Smoothie King, Larry King, and in hockey, there are the Los Angeles Kings.  There was a big monkey called King Kong.  And, for those of us who live in Saint Louis, there’s no question that Budweiser is the “King of Beers”.

So what does this feast tell us about Jesus?  It tells us that He is Lord of all.  What He says goes.  Jesus’ kingdom is not a democracy.  He’s a benevolent king, but He’s still the boss.

As you walk into our church through the front doors, the first thing you see when you enter the sanctuary are two human kings.  These men were good enough to their people that the Church has declared them saints.  On the left is Louis IX, the king of France.  On the right is good king Wenceslas

Wenceslas lived in the 900s.  He became king because his father, then his mother, had been cruel rulers.  With the support of the people he acquired land and started his own kingdom.  He was a pious man to the point of growing the wheat and the grapes that were used for the Eucharist.  Unlike his parents, the people loved him.  He became a martyr in 938 when his brother attacked him as he was kneeling in prayer.

King Louis lived in the 1200s.  His father became king when little Louis was just nine years old.  He died just three years later and our Louis, Louis IX, became king of France at the age of 12.  He ruled over his kingdom during the height of its influence, sometimes called France’s “Golden Age.”  It was a time of great prosperity and freedom for the people.  Louis is often referred to as a model for other monarchs.  During his reign, he was the most powerful man in Europe.  He died in 1270 during his second crusade and he was canonized just 26 years later in 1296.

So, here we have two human kings who lived about 300 years apart.  Wenceslas died a martyr; Louis died from dysentery.  They both lived saintly lives and treated their people well.  They were good kings.  But make no mistake.  They were in charge of their kingdoms.  Louis had a lot of help from his mother, especially when he took his throne at the age of 12.  But Louis’ and Wenceslas’  words were law.

There were no political parties.  There was no such thing as liberal and conservative.  There were no elections.  The king made the rules, even good kings like Wenceslas and Louis.  And so it is with Jesus.

I think it’s interesting that in this church of statues there are NINE statues of our Lord. But of all the statues of our Lord, the only one where He’s wearing a crown is the one of Him as an infant.  Jesus was born a King.  The Magii came to visit the manger to worship the newborn king.  Herod ordered all the male children killed because he wanted to be sure there was no king more powerful than He was.  He was crucified under a sign that said “King of the Jews”.  Even His enemies recognize him as a King; a King that they should fear.

As much as Jesus loves us and as much as we love Him, He has laid down some rules and as his Subjects (“subjects”.  There’s a word that we Americans might choke on) as His subjects we’re supposed to do what He tells us.  Those words of Mary’s are just as true today as they were at the wedding feast at Cana.

In the first reading today the prophet Daniel prophesies that one is coming like a Son of Man on the clouds of heaven.  He will receive dominion, glory, and kingship.  All peoples, nations, and languages will serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away; his kingship shall not be destroyed.

In the second reading from Revelations John calls Jesus “the ruler of the kings of the earth.”  He’s not A KING, He’s THE KING.  THE KING OF KINGS.  He rules all the other kings.  If Jesus has that kind of power, who are we to not follow His teachings?  That’s pretty presumptuous of us…….and VERY DANGEROUS.

Last Sunday we heard another reading from the prophet Daniel.  He wrote that “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”  I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty serious to me.

We’ve been told over and over that when we die we’ll either go to heaven or hell.  We’ve also been told what we need to do to get to heaven.  And the person who’s going to make that call is the King we celebrate today.  What we don’t know is how strict a judge He’s going to be.  Is He going to be just?  Or is He going to be merciful?

If Jesus is all about mercy, then nobody will end up in the fiery furnace.  But He’s told us that some people will.  Remember Lazarus and the rich man?  That’s the work of a just God.  So, what’s the deal?  Is heaven crowded while just a few people are languishing in the fiery furnace?  Or is it the other way around.  Is hell standing-room-only while just a few of Jesus’ most loyal subjects are sitting at the heavenly table?  We don’t know and we won’t know until we end up in one place or the other.

I’m thinking that the best approach for us is to assume that Jesus will be just and to do all we can to be on His good side.  That means doing what Jesus and His Church tell us to do.  Not because He wants us to be on some kind of guilt trip, but because we love Him so much that we don’t want to disappoint Him.  Remember, He’s a GOOD KING, not an evil dictator.

Before He was murdered, Jesus called the Apostles together and said to them, “whoever hears you, hears me.”  That was Him commissioning His Church.  Peter became the first Pope and ten of the other eleven became the first bishops.  He wanted to leave behind a Church that could speak with authority on His behalf well into the future.  His teachings never change, but circumstances, especially ways for the Devil to tempt us, do change.  Jesus could see the future.  He knew that in a couple of thousand years there would be something called the Internet. There are a lot of good things and a lot of bad things on the web.  Jesus could have told the original Apostles how to handle the Internet but they would have had no idea what He was talking about.  Instead, He left us with Church leaders who speak for Him on contemporary subjects.

Jesus knew that there would be artificial birth control in the future but it didn’t exist when He was walking the earth.  Modern-day Church teachers can speak on the subject with His full authority…..And, if we want to stay on His good side and avoid that fiery place, we should listen.

So, as we go about our daily lives, it’s important to keep this feast in mind.  Jesus is the King of the Universe.  He always has been and always will be.  When it’s our turn to see him face-to-face, will we hear Him say, “well done, good and faithful servant?”  I sure hope so.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King.  I’m afraid we Americans really don’t get this feast because we’re not used to dealing with a king.  The United States is a democracy.  We threw King George out over 200 years ago.  Here in America, Elvis is the King of rock and roll.   We know about Martin Luther King, B. B. King, and Carole King.  As kids a lot of us watched “Sky King”.  There’s Burger King, and Smoothie King, Larry King, and in hockey, there are the Los Angeles Kings.  There was a big monkey called King Kong.  And, for those of us who live in Saint Louis, there’s no question that Budweiser is the “King of Beers”.

 

So what does this feast tell us about Jesus?  It tells us that He is Lord of all.  What He says goes.  Jesus’ kingdom is not a democracy.  He’s a benevolent king, but He’s still the boss.

 

As you walk into our church through the front doors, the first thing you see when you enter the sanctuary are two human kings.  These men were good enough to their people that the Church has declared them saints.  On the left is Louis IX, the king of France.  On the right is good king Wenceslas

Wenceslas lived in the 900s.  He became king because his father, then his mother, had been cruel rulers.  With the support of the people he acquired land and started his own kingdom.  He was a pious man to the point of growing the wheat and the grapes that were used for the Eucharist.  Unlike his parents, the people loved him.  He became a martyr in 938 when his brother attacked him as he was kneeling in prayer.

 

King Louis lived in the 1200s.  His father became king when little Louis was just nine years old.  He died just three years later and our Louis, Louis IX, became king of France at the age of 12.  He ruled over his kingdom during the height of its influence, sometimes called France’s “Golden Age.”  It was a time of great prosperity and freedom for the people.  Louis is often referred to as a model for other monarchs.  During his reign, he was the most powerful man in Europe.  He died in 1270 during his second crusade and he was canonized just 26 years later in 1296.

 

So, here we have two human kings who lived about 300 years apart.  Wenceslas died a martyr; Louis died from dysentery.  They both lived saintly lives and treated their people well.  They were good kings.  But make no mistake.  They were in charge of their kingdoms.  Louis had a lot of help from his mother, especially when he took his throne at the age of 12.  But Louis’ and Wenceslas’  words were law.

 

There were no political parties.  There was no such thing as liberal and conservative.  There were no elections.  The king made the rules, even good kings like Wenceslas and Louis.  And so it is with Jesus.

 

I think it’s interesting that in this church of statues there are NINE statues of our Lord. But of all the statues of our Lord, the only one where He’s wearing a crown is the one of Him as an infant.  Jesus was born a King.  The Magii came to visit the manger to worship the newborn king.  Herod ordered all the male children killed because he wanted to be sure there was no king more powerful than He was.  He was crucified under a sign that said “King of the Jews”.  Even His enemies recognize him as a King; a King that they should fear.

 

As much as Jesus loves us and as much as we love Him, He has laid down some rules and as his Subjects (“subjects”.  There’s a word that we Americans might choke on) as His subjects we’re supposed to do what He tells us.  Those words of Mary’s are just as true today as they were at the wedding feast at Cana.

 

In the first reading today the prophet Daniel prophesies that one is coming like a Son of Man on the clouds of heaven.  He will receive dominion, glory, and kingship.  All peoples, nations, and languages will serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away; his kingship shall not be destroyed.

 

In the second reading from Revelations John calls Jesus “the ruler of the kings of the earth.”  He’s not A KING, He’s THE KING.  THE KING OF KINGS.  He rules all the other kings.  If Jesus has that kind of power, who are we to not follow His teachings?  That’s pretty presumptuous of us…….and VERY DANGEROUS.

 

Last Sunday we heard another reading from the prophet Daniel.  He wrote that “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”  I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty serious to me.

 

We’ve been told over and over that when we die we’ll either go to heaven or hell.  We’ve also been told what we need to do to get to heaven.  And the person who’s going to make that call is the King we celebrate today.  What we don’t know is how strict a judge He’s going to be.  Is He going to be just?  Or is He going to be merciful?

 

If Jesus is all about mercy, then nobody will end up in the fiery furnace.  But He’s told us that some people will.  Remember Lazarus and the rich man?  That’s the work of a just God.  So, what’s the deal?  Is heaven crowded while just a few people are languishing in the fiery furnace?  Or is it the other way around.  Is hell standing-room-only while just a few of Jesus’ most loyal subjects are sitting at the heavenly table?  We don’t know and we won’t know until we end up in one place or the other.

 

I’m thinking that the best approach for us is to assume that Jesus will be just and to do all we can to be on His good side.  That means doing what Jesus and His Church tell us to do.  Not because He wants us to be on some kind of guilt trip, but because we love Him so much that we don’t want to disappoint Him.  Remember, He’s a GOOD KING, not an evil dictator.

 

Before He was murdered, Jesus called the Apostles together and said to them, “whoever hears you, hears me.”  That was Him commissioning His Church.  Peter became the first Pope and ten of the other eleven became the first bishops.  He wanted to leave behind a Church that could speak with authority on His behalf well into the future.  His teachings never change, but circumstances, especially ways for the Devil to tempt us, do change.  Jesus could see the future.  He knew that in a couple of thousand years there would be something called the Internet. There are a lot of good things and a lot of bad things on the web.  Jesus could have told the original Apostles how to handle the Internet but they would have had no idea what He was talking about.  Instead, He left us with Church leaders who speak for Him on contemporary subjects.

 

Jesus knew that there would be artificial birth control in the future but it didn’t exist when He was walking the earth.  Modern-day Church teachers can speak on the subject with His full authority…..And, if we want to stay on His good side and avoid that fiery place, we should listen.

 

So, as we go about our daily lives, it’s important to keep this feast in mind.  Jesus is the King of the Universe.  He always has been and always will be.  When it’s our turn to see him face-to-face, will we hear Him say, “well done, good and faithful servant?”  I sure hope so.

Thanksgiving

I will be busy tomorrow so I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving.   Tomorrow is a day set aside to give thanks for all our blessings.  It’s not a religious holiday per se, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and even atheists can certainly give thanks, each in their own way.

It’s so sad that the pursuit of the almighty dollar has pushed its way into this special day.  Stores will be open tomorrow, Thanksgiving, some as early as 6:00 am or possibly earlier to get as much of our money as they can before we spend it somewhere else.  My guess is that 2012 may be the last time that stores practice any restraint at all.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m an entrepreneur at heart with many years of retail experience under my belt.  There’s nothing wrong with doing your best to get your share of the consumer dollar.  In fact, back in the ’70s I had a big customer who was open on Thanksgiving and my family spent several Thanksgivings in a motel in Southeast Missouri waiting for dad to get back from work.  We were there all weekend and the kids enjoyed swimming in the indoor pool and mom enjoyed having the turkey dinner prepared and served by someone else.  But that was the exception.  It was a tradition with that particular retailer that went back many years.

Here’s the thing.  Most Americans have a budget for Christmas.  That’s what they’re going to spend.  Whether the big box stores force everyone to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from now until December 24, or if they all get together and decide to be open from 9:00 – 5:00 Monday thru Friday, the spend isn’t going to change.  Extending “black Friday” until Thanksgiving becomes “black Thursday” isn’t going to increase the total pie.  But retailers, especially the big boxes have gotten the idea that they must get our money first before we spend it all.  For that, they’re willing to sacrifice our national day of thanks on the altar of greed.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, with you family and friends, around the dining room table, in front of the television or the fireplace.  Of course, many churches have a Thanksgiving service and that’s a great way to start the day.  Don’t get sucked into the idea that the proper place to spend this special day is lined up for hours waiting for some store to open.  Besides, prices will be lower later on and you won’t have to sleep on the sidewalk or fight the crowds.

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time

God loves us.  No surprise there.  We learned that when we were little kids.  “Jesus loves me, this I know, ‘cause the Bible tells me so.”  And….hopefully….we love Him back.  But……what IS this “love”?

 

I love my wife.  That’s one kind of love.  I love my kids and grandkids.  That’s another kind of love.  I also love my leather, Laz-y-Boy recliner chair.  That’s something else altogether.

 

I love baseball, and hockey, and soccer.  I was surprised how sad I was when I heard that Ernie Hays had passed away.  Even though he’s been retired for a couple of years, he provided  the sounds of baseball and hockey for many years.  Who didn’t get goose bumps when the Clydesdales marched around the stadium while Ernie played “Here Comes the King?”

 

The word “love” has a lot of different meanings for all of us.  Sometimes the English language doesn’t do a great job of explaining what we mean.  I guess that means that there will always be jobs for poets and songwriters.  Lucky them.   But, I digress.

The first reading today, from the book of Deuteronomy begins with Moses telling the people to “FEAR the Lord, your God, and keep…all His statutes and commandments.”  I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound too lovable.  It sounds pretty scary.  But Moses goes on and finishes with the words “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength”, the exact same words Jesus uses in today’s Gospel.  Yet, there’s a difference.

 

One of the scribes [remember Jesus hasn’t always had the best relationship with the scribes] asks Him which is the first of all commandments.  He answers, quoting Moses in the first reading: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  Then He adds a second commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

When the scribe repeats Jesus’ words back to Him, Jesus tells the scribe that he’s not far from the kingdom of God.  “And no one dared to ask Him any more questions.”  See, there’s that little element of fear again.  No one DARED ask any more questions.  Besides, what could they ask?  Jesus has just given them the ultimate answer.  There is nothing else. “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Understand Jesus’ words, as the scribe did, and you won’t be far from the kingdom of heaven.

But, what kind of “love” is Jesus talking about?  Remember I said at the beginning that God loves us.  Does He love us like a spouse, or like a parent, or does He love us like I love my Laz-y-Boy?  I think the answer is “none of the above.”  The difference between you and me and God is that God IS love.  He can’t do anything but love us.  He couldn’t stop loving us if He wanted to.  No matter how much we sin, no matter how much we mess things up, no matter how little we may think of ourselves, He still loves us with an intensity that we can’t even imagine.

 

If you think about the greatest love of your life, probably your spouse but it could be anyone; if you think about the entire love experience with that person, even if you’ve been married 50 or 60 years, even if you were childhood sweethearts, it’s nothing compared to how much God loves you.  Whatever love you and I are able to feel is just a tiny percentage of the love that He feels for us.

 

It doesn’t matter if you’re the worst sinner in the history of the world, God is head-over-heels in love with you.  You might think you’re totally unlovable.  You may think you’re a total waste of space and that nobody could possibly love you and God still loves you with a love that’s beyond our understanding.

 

God loves Judas.  God loves Adolph Hitler.  God loves Jeffery Dahmer.  God loves every tyrant and mass-murderer who ever lived.  How can He not love you and me?

 

Jesus is telling us to repay that love.  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Easy to say….hard to do.  In fact, we can’t do it….alone.  We need God’s help.  That sounds kind of silly.  We can’t love God without God’s help.  But it’s true.  We have to feel it and we have to show it in the way we live our lives.  That’s where the love your neighbor part comes in and that’s where prayer comes in.

 

When you pray, ask God to give you the grace to love your neighbor more.  Look for ways to show your love.  Right now, hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters are suffering from the big storm in the Northeast.  First of all, pray for them.  I hate it when someone says “the least I can do is pray for them.”  The sentiment is good.  Their heart is in the right place.  But praying for them is the MOST you can do.  Imploring God to come to their aid is HUGE, especially if millions of people do it.

 

Not to downplay anyone’s suffering but when disasters happen, that’s when God-loving Christians shine.  We couldn’t help others if no one needed help.  If you can send money, that’s good too.  There’s an address in this week’s bulletin for Catholic Charities.  The money you send there will be forwarded to Catholic Charities in the affected areas.

 

But I have a bigger challenge for you.  Jesus says to love your neighbor as you love yourself.  I’m willing to bet that that a lot of us don’t love ourselves as much as we should.  C’mon.  Admit it.  You wish your were in better shape.  You wish you were smarter.  You wish you were better looking.  Loving yourself, as you are, is called self-esteem.  I’m not talking about vanity.  That’s sinful.  Self-esteem, like almost everything else in this world can be a sin if you take it too far.

 

On the other hand, a total lack of self-esteem can lead to mental illnesses like anorexia, bulimia, depression, drug abuse, and alcoholism.  Most of us fall in between the extremes, but too many of us are on the low end of the scale.  YOU WERE MADE BY GOD!  You are part of God’s plan.  Give thanks for what you are.  Don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve yourself.  I’m trying to lose weight.  [Not too successfully, but I have lost a little.]  The thing is, God didn’t make me fat.  That’s on me.

 

I’ve said it before.  God wants us to be the best version of ourselves we can be.  He wants us to be more, to learn more, and to do more.  That’s one way we show our love for Him.

 

Pray every day.  Read good Catholic books, especially the Bible. Eat less.  Exercise more.   If we do those things, we’ll automatically think more of ourselves, be more thankful for who we are, and love God, with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our strength.

All Saints Day

This is the homily I preached today for All Saints Day.  Our church has more statues of saints than any church I’m aware of.  That’s the background for this message.  Have a blessed day!

All Saints’ Day.  Simple enough.  Today we remember all the saints.  If anybody should be able to honor the saints, it should be us.  Just look around.  There are more saints depicted in our church than you can shake a stick at.  There are at least five martyrs, including Ludmilla and Wenceslas, grandmother-grandson martyrs.  We have Cyril and Methodious, brothers who were Apostles to the Slav nations.

We have an American saint, Saint John Neumann who was the Bishop of Philadelphia and a champion of Catholic schools.  We have two kings, Wenceslas and Louis IX, the patron of our Archdiocese.  We also have religious like Agnes of Bohemia who was one of the early Poor Clares.  By the way, she was Elizabeth of Hungary’s cousin.

Saint Ludmilla was a rich lady who built the first Christian church in Bohemia.

One of my favorites, and one you don’t usually see unless you’re in the choir is Blessed John Sarkander.  Like our patron, John of Nepomuk, John Sarkander was martyred for refusing to break the seal of the confessional.  Plus, he shares his feast day with Saint Patrick, March 17.

The Poles were invading John’s village and he went out with his parisioners to meet them, carrying the Blessed Sacrament.  The Catholic Poles fell to their knees, asked for John’s blessing and went back where they came from.  John’s enemies accused him of being in cahoots with the Poles and demanded to know what they had confessed to him when he had been in Poland.  He refused and was tortured and killed.

Besides all the statues, we also have thirty-eight relics on our altar.  There are some “biggies” like Saint Monica, Saint Wenceslas, and Saint John Bosco.  We also have a relic from the Cur of Ars, Saint John Vianni, John Neuman, Angela Merici, Pope Pius X, and Saint Alphonsus Liguori.  We even have a relic  of a local saint, co-Patroness of the Archdiocese, Saint Rose Phillipine DuShen.

You may have noticed that I’ve put a picture of Emil Kapaun on the communion rail.  If you were here this past weekend you heard Father talk about Father Kapaun, a chaplain in the United States Army.  Father Kapaun died a heroes death in a North Korean prison camp.  His generosity to his fellow soldiers led to his death.

But, All Saints day is about all saints, not just the ones who have canonized by the Catholic Church.  Today is about men like my late father-in-law.  He was the best man and the best Catholic I’ve ever known.  He’ll never be recognized by the Church.  In fact, in a couple of generations he’ll be completely forgotten but make no mistake, he is a saint.  I’m guessing you have people like that in your lives.  They’re saints just as surely as John Nepomuk is a saint; just as surely as the people represented by these statues and relics are saints.

Where are new saints coming from?  Look around you.  The person in front of you or in back of you or sitting next to you may soon be a saint.  After all, that’s what God wants for all of us.  He wants each one of us to become a saint.  He wants us to be the best we can be.

In the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, the Church issued a universal call to holiness.  All Catholics are to live holy lives and holy lives lead to sainthood.  That’s our challenge during this Year of Faith and every day of our lives.