26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”.

These words, from Father Thomas Merton’s autobiography, “The Seven Story Mountain” were quoted by the Holy Father in his address to Congress on Friday. If you’ve been paying attention for the last few years, you know that I’m a great fan of Father Merton. In fact, I’ll be going on retreat to Gesthemane Abbey, Merton’s home, in a couple of weeks. Naturally, I was pleased to hear Francis choose him as one of four Americans, along with Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Dorothy Day, to cite in his talk.

I know you’ve been following the Pope’s visit to the United States, along with millions of other Americans, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Wherever the Pope goes, especially this Pope, there’s a tremendous interest in what he has to say.

Thursday night I was talking to my brother-in-law and we were discussing what a huge impact this man has on everyone, regardless of their faith. I suppose it’s because he’s not just OUR Pope, he’s THE Pope. No other faith tradition has a single leader like we do. Even non-Catholics recognize the man’s holiness and his authority to speak on matters of faith and morals.

In his talk to Congress, he hit on just about all the hot-button issues of our day. Naturally liberals disagree with him on many issues and think he’s too conservative. On the other hand, conservatives find him too liberal. But, both sides of the aisle applauded his comments, sometimes reluctantly. But, they all recognize his authority and his spirituality.

We live in a divided nation and a divided world. Yet no one can dispute this man’s leadership. Like most of his predecessors he’s not afraid to tackle the tough issues, and that’s what he does and has been doing in his visit to our country.

Obviously many people in Jesus’ day violently opposed things that the Lord said. Some were so opposed that they had Him tortured and killed. Many of His teachings went against the leaders of the day, and they still rub many of our current leaders the wrong way as well. But they all listened!

One reason that so many opposed Jesus is that His teachings threatened their power and authority. But that didn’t stop Him from speaking the truth.

Merton said that he was born into a world that was “the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Today’s world is no different from Merton’s; in fact it’s worse. Those “self-contradictory hungers” are running rampant. We’re still born to love God, but our hunger for self-gratification often blinds us to the truth.

Great Americans, like Lincoln, King, Day, and Merton suffered for their beliefs. Lincoln and King were assassinated. Day was scorned by many. And Merton, who deserves to be declared a saint, hasn’t been and possibly never will be because his views were often unpopular.

So, what’s all this mean to us? It means that we must all stand up for the truth, even if it makes us unpopular and uncomfortable. It’s ironic that our Catholic faith disturbs people on both sides of the political spectrum. I think most people agree that we should respect life. But we often disagree when it comes to particular lives. The same people who argue that abortion is wrong have no problem with capital punishment. Jesus taught murder is always wrong. “Thou shalt not kill” is one of the Ten Commandments. It doesn’t say “except when the new life is inconvenient” or “except when someone has committed a terrible crime.” We don’t get to make that choice. Yet people of faith will argue forcefully on both sides of this argument. How ironic is it that our local daily newspaper is so accepting of the killing of an innocent child but is diametrically opposed to capital punishment?

Even as the Holy Father was speaking to Congress, they were in the process of killing legislation that would have taken our tax dollars away from Planned Parenthood. Their desire to gain political points is more important to them than doing what is right. It’s one of those “hopeless self-contradictory hungers” Merton spoke of.

The Pope spoke about the importance of the family, yet same-sex marriage is now the law of the land. But even he must wrestle with contradiction. His past words show that he’s no fan of capitalism, yet he recognizes that the great wealth of the United States is important in so many ways.

He ended his message by saying, “In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America!


And God bless Pope Francis for telling it like it is.

I do want to take just a minute to mention that next weekend there will be a second collection for the formation of Permanent Deacons.

It’s no secret that the Church is suffering from a vocation crisis. We desperately need more priests to serve the people of God. Here at Saint John Nepomuk we are more aware than most that the Church is looking to ease the shortage by using deacons and lay people to do the things that priests have always done in the past.

Right now the Archdiocese is taking a hard look at every parish to find better ways to use our limited resources, both physical and human. We’re going to see more cases where parishes are administered by non-priests, freeing priests up to do the things that only they can do. But we need more deacons almost as desperately as we need more priests. The formation of deacons is a long and expensive process and the men in training for the diaconate pay many of their own expenses.

Your generosity to this collection will make it possible for more men to answer the call to serve. Let me be clear. This collection does not benefit those of us currently ordained. The administration of the office of the Permanent Diaconate is funded through the Annual Catholic Appeal. This collection is for the educational expenses of our upcoming deacons. It would be a shame if future deacons had to be turned away because of the lack of funds. It would be an even greater shame if small communities like this one had to be closed because of the lack of deacons.

Please be as generous as possible to this important collection.

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“Safe” abortions?

This is an actual quote from an editorial in today’s Saint Louis Post Dispatch:

“Later-term abortions are more dangerous to mothers and babies.”

Seriously?  I must be confused.  If the objective of the abortion is to kill the baby, then whether the procedure is done in the first trimester or in the final week of pregnancy, the baby is still dead.  The idea that one abortion is “more dangerous” to the baby than another is absurd!  I’m no doctor, but as I understand it, dead is dead.

All this nonsense about women’s “reproductive health” is a dangerous euphemism for murder.  The impetus for this editorial nonsense, headlined “Playing Politics with women’s reproductive health”, is Missouri’s effort to increase the waiting period for an abortion to 72 hours.  Somehow the PD translates this to mean that we’ll suddenly have a flood of late-term abortions.  It’s just another example of liberals twisting words to make their agenda more palatable.  If a woman (I won’t call her a mother) has to wait another 48 hours (the current waiting period is 24 hours) she’s not going to suddenly decide that she’ll go ahead and be pregnant for a few months, then kill the child.

“Pro Choice” means “pro-abortion”.  Apparently, that twist of language isn’t sufficient.  Now we’ve switched to “reproductive health”.  The fact is that women seldom die in childbirth.  Reproductive health should be understood as proper medical treatment during pregnancy to insure that the mother and the baby are truly safe.

Let’s call a spade a spade.  Abortion is murder.  “Safe abortion” is an oxymoron.  There are thousands of potential parents who would love to adopt these babies.  Let them live.

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time—Love

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

I have no official statistics, but based on my own experience I’d say that at least two out of three couples choose our second reading today from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians for their wedding ceremony.  And, why not?  It’s the ultimate definition of the word “love”.  But if you read Paul’s letter in context, he’s not writing about married love, or even male/female love.


Our reading today is the third in a series from the 14th Chapter of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.  Remember, two weeks ago we learned that the community was divided.  The people were arguing with one another about who had the greatest spiritual gifts.  “My gift of healing is greater than your gift of prophesy!”  “No my gift of discernment is better than either of your gifts.”  And on and on.


Paul reminded them that each gift came from God and that no gift is more important than any other. That was verse 4-11 of the 12th chapter of Paul’s first letter to them.


Then last week we read verses 12-30.  Still trying to get them to stop arguing Paul uses the analogy of the body.  Each part of the body makes its special contribution.  The hand isn’t better than the foot and the eye isn’t greater than the ear.  All of the parts have to work together.  If any part suffers, the whole body suffers.  “If one part is honored, all parts share its joy.”


In our reading today, Paul wraps up the series by telling them that there is one thing greater than any of the other spiritual gifts and that’s love.


In spite of the fact that this is such a popular wedding reading, the kind of love Paul describes isn’t necessarily married love, though the definition fits the love between a man and wife perfectly.  But, notice that Paul doesn’t say anything about holding hands, or sending flowers, or spending the rest of your life with the same person following the sacrament of marriage.


No, he’s talking about the kind of love that we’re all supposed to have for one another.  Remember that Jesus told us in the 15th Chapter of John’s Gospel that the greatest love of all is to lay down one’s life for his friends.  He gives us His two great commandments:  Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  In this passage Paul tells us what Jesus meant.


“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.”   When I was in high school I was in the band.  I was a drummer.  We used gongs and cymbals for marches and big dramatic music.  When we played a ballad or a love song, we put the cymbals away.  Cymbals were loud.  They were noisy.  They only played one single note and that note was always brash and emphatic.  When you play the piano, you tickle the ivories.  You toodle a flute.  You stroke a violin.  But you beat a drum.  Gongs resound and cymbals clash.


In other words, no matter how great your gifts, if you don’t have love they’re just so much noise.


“If I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge, if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”  He’s telling them that none of their gifts are worth a darn without love.  Even if he “gives away everything he owns, and if he hands his body over so that he may boast, but does not have love he gains nothing.”


Now comes the good part.  This is the part that the wedding couples really like.  But think of it as not so much about married love but more about this love that Jesus calls us to have for Him and for our neighbor.  It sounds really good but if you think about it, it’s really hard.


“Love is patient.”  If you’re married you know this is true.  Jan and I have been married almost 45 years.  She must be the most patient person on earth.

“Love is kind.”  OK, it’s easy to be kind to your wife or your kids.  It may not be so easy to be kind to the homeless person who asks you for money.  Do they really need it or are the running some kind of scam.  Maybe they want the money to buy booze or drugs.  Maybe when you pull out your wallet they’ll pull out a gun and rob you.  No, kindness to strangers isn’t always easy.

“It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude.”  Can any of us really say that we’ve never been jealous, pompous, inflated, or rude?  We may not even mean it.  You may have noticed that I have kind of a dry sense of humor.  Sometimes I say things that I think are funny but that people take the wrong way.  They think I’m being rude.  And frankly, I’ve learned that my being a member of the clergy makes some people think it’s OK to be rude to me.


“It does not seek its own interests, Let’s be honest.  Why are we all here today?  We come to mass to praise God and to receive His Body and Blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist.  But why do we do that?  Because we want to go to heaven.  We’re definitely seeking our own interests by coming to mass.  For mass to be really meaningful for us, it has to be in the context of loving God, not in fulfilling an “obligation” so we can get to heaven.


[Love] is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.”  Every time I receive the sacrament of reconciliation I have to confess that I have a quick temper;  EVERY TIME!  I confess it and I sincerely mean to be better but then something happens that set me off again.  I think I’ve gotten better, but I’m beginning to wonder, at 64 years old, if I’ll ever master my own temper.


“Love never fails.”  Paul goes on to explain how the other gifts will fail. Basically he says that as a grown-up he’s given up childish things.  At present, we can’t see clearly.  We only understand partially.  Someday when we meet God face-to-face we’ll understand it all.  But for the time being “faith, hope and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”


So, kudos to the young (and not so young) people who choose this reading on their special day.  I hope and pray that they’ll practice what Paul says in their married lives.  But, Paul is really talking to you and me.  You can give your entire fortune to charity but if you’re doing it for the tax deduction and not because you love your fellow man, it’s a hollow gesture.


If I have the gift of prophesy but delight in telling people that bad things are coming, I’m a clashing cymbal.  If I have faith to move mountains but don’t have love…….I’m nothing.


Paul doesn’t really say anything in this reading about prayer.  But we know that the greatest thing we can do for our neighbors is to pray for them.  Prayer is our best and most important expression of love.  I mentioned in today’s bulletin that our US Bishops have issued a call to prayer for life, marriage, and religious freedom.  Our secular society and even out government are attacking our core beliefs on these issues.  And it’s not just a “Catholic thing”.  It’s a Christian thing.


Abortion, same sex “marriage” and the HHS mandate are critical issues in our today.  Every day we kill thousands of babies in this country and no one raises an eyebrow.  Friday the government issued a so-called compromise on the HHS mandate that changed nothing at all.  It seems like every day we see something in the news that undermines the sacrament of marriage.


I don’t think most of us are inclined to join marches or protests.  It’s just not our style.  But we can all pray.  At the bishop’s request, we will be having a monthly holy hour, maybe an even longer period of Eucharistic Adoration every month.  But even if you don’t attend, you can still pray for our country.  Pray for an end to abortion.  Pray for the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage.  Pray that common sense and decency will prevail and religious institutions will not be forced to provide services that violate our beliefs.  Most of all, pray for the courage and the conviction to speak out against evil every chance you get.  And most of all, as Saint Paul tells us, do it with love.



2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time–Thou Shall Not Kill

If you pick up a newspaper or turn on the news on television, you can’t help but be a little dismayed; a little frustrated.  The problems in the world, and here in the United States, seem to be so big and complicated that they can never be fixed.  How do you deal with TRILLIONS of dollars of debt?  How do you resolve the problems in the middle east that were going on even before Jesus walked the earth?  How do you stop crazy people from shooting school children?  What’s an individual like you or me supposed to do?


I think we start by doing what Father Paul suggested last week.  You and I have to become great Catholics.  As Matthew Kelly says in his book, Rediscovering Catholicism, we have to become the best version of ourselves that we can be.  But the $64,000 question is what does that mean?  What are you and I supposed to do?


Here’s what it doesn’t mean.  It doesn’t mean trying to be a copy of someone else.  We’re surrounded by great saints in our church.  It’s good to study them for inspiration.  But we can’t BE them.


All the way in the back are Saint Louis IX and Saint Wenceslas.  They were kings.  I hate to burst your bubble or shatter your dreams, but I can almost guarantee that none of us is ever going to be a king, or queen.


Some of our saints were martyrs, including our patron, Saint John Nepomuk.  Martyrdom is kind of an express lane to heaven but chances are that none of us is going to be murdered for the faith.


Saint Albert and Saint Ludmilla were also martyrs.  Agnes of Bohemia helped establish the Poor Clares.  Every one of these saints has a story and none of us will ever be them.  If we try, we’ll just be a poor imitation.  It’s very seldom that we recognize the SECOND person to do anything.


OK, that’s what it DOESN’T mean but the question is still on the table.  What DOES it mean.   Maybe the answer’s in today’s readings.

The first reading is from the latter part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch.”  How does this passage apply to us today?

Further on he says, “no more shall people call you ‘forsaken’ or your land ‘desolate, but you shall be called ‘my delight’ and your land ‘espoused’.  Most of us are old enough to remember when the United States was the moral leader of the entire world.  It wasn’t that long ago.  We were “one nation under God” with liberty and justice for all.  Our ancestors, including the people who built the church you’re sitting in today, made dangerous, treacherous, trips across the ocean to come to America.  They didn’t come here for the food.  They came here because this was a place where they could live and prosper.  I wonder what they would think of their new home today?

“I will not be silent…..I will not be quiet.”


In the second reading Saint Paul is writing to the Christians in Corinth.  The Corinthian community was bitterly divided.  They were divided on the economy, on whether or not they had to follow Jewish dietary laws, even whether women should cover their heads while they prayed.  Like the United States today, there was no middle ground.  Everybody was fighting with everybody.


The biggest issue for the Corinthians was about using spiritual gifts.  “My gift of healing is greater than your faith.”  “My mighty deeds are greater than your gift of prophesy.”  “My gift of discernment is greater than your gift of speaking in tongues.”  And on and on.


What Paul is telling them (and us) is that every gift from God is equal in His eyes. After all, He’s the one who gave them to us.  And He gave them to us for a reason.  If you have the gift of healing, that’s great.  Use it!  But just because you’ve received this gift from God doesn’t make you better than anyone else.  If you’re a prophet, then prophesy.  It’s a great gift, but that’s what it is; a gift.  The prophet is no more or less important than the speaker of tongues.  Stop being divisive!  Work together! “One and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as He wishes.”


Last, but definitely not least we have the famous Gospel story of Jesus at the wedding feast at Cana.  It’s His first miracle.  It’s a good lesson in humility for all of us sons and daughters.  Jesus wasn’t ready to enter public life.  “My hour has not yet come”, He says.  So, why does He perform the miracle.  Because his mother told him to.  He was the Son of God, the third person of the Trinity.  He was there when the world began.  But like any obedient son, He listened to His mother.  What does Mary say to the servers?  “Do whatever He tells you.”  Exactly what she says to us.


So, there’s our answer.  Be the best Catholic you can be.  Don’t try to be some kind of “super Catholic”, just be the best you can be with the gifts that God has given you.  He gave us our gifts for a reason.  Use them.


Don’t be silent.  Don’t be quiet.  Build up the kingdom one person at a time.  It may seem like an insurmountable task but remember that there were TWELVE Apostles.  Today there are over a billion Christians.  The Apostles had no television.  They had no Internet.  Just twelve guys traveling around the Middle East telling Jesus’ story.  And look at what they accomplished.  I don’t know if the Apostles were so successful because of the works that they did, or if it was because of their prayer.  I suspect it was a combination of the two.  They didn’t do anything that you and I can’t do.


Use your gifts, whatever they are.  Paul tells us that every gift is equal in the eyes of God.  Whatever you do, don’t be envious of someone else’s gifts.  We’re all better at some things than at others.


Finally, “Do whatever He tells you.”  That’s what’s wrong with the world today.  Too many people, including so-called Christians, have forgotten what He told us and continues to tell us.  There’s a great debate right now about guns.  Should we have them?  Shouldn’t we have them?  Are there some kinds of guns that nobody should have?  By way of full disclosure, I belong to the NRA.  I enjoy going to the range once-in-a-while to blow holes in paper targets.  I actually find it relaxing.  But I don’t hunt.  I don’t see the enjoyment in killing other creatures for fun.  I don’t care if you do.  In fact I applaud you for helping control the animal population.  If you kill an animal for food, there’s no problem with that.  If God didn’t intend for us to eat animals, He wouldn’t have made them taste good. Hunting’s just not my thing.


But, I also believe in a God who told us “Thou shall not kill.”  If we all believed that, then it wouldn’t matter if nobody had a gun or if everybody had a gun.  With very few exceptions it’s NEVER OK to take a human life.


This week marks the 40th anniversary of the tragic Roe vs. Wade decision. More than one million unborn children are killed in the United States every year.  There are no guns involved; just medical tools.  By comparison, there are about 16,000 homicides each year, about 11,000 involving a gun.  If you do the math, that means that for every person shot to death in our country, 91 unborn children are killed before they have a chance to draw their first breath.  Maybe we need to teach people to value EVERY human life before we attempt to solve one particular form of murder.  Do you really think it’s just a coincidence that most of our national problems have come about since we made abortion the law of the land?


There are nine other commandments that, if we all followed them, this would be a much better world.  That’s where we have to begin.  We have to live the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, and the Beatitudes ourselves.  Then either by word or by example, we need to pass those values on to others.


Our greatest mission in life should be to take others with us to heaven.  The government isn’t going to do it.  The Church has to do it and the Church is you and me.  If just twelve men could grow the Church in spite of huge opposition, there’s no reason why we can’t do the same today.  There are more than twelve of us here today.  We have to remember that anything is possible with God.  If we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in a better world, it’s up to us to get the ball rolling.  We owe it to them and we owe it to our ancestors who built this church for us.


OK, I have to do this.  I’ve been thinking about it for several days but today’s Gospel (Luke 1:39-45) made my decision for me.  The story is about Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.  The presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb makes John in Elizabeth’s womb “jump for joy”.  Two unborn infants:  one the Son of God and one the prophet who would go before the Lord to prepare His way.  We’ve heard this story countless times and it may never occur to us that this story could have ended differently.


Think about it.  Mary was a young girl.  Although she was engaged to Joseph, clearly this wasn’t his child.  “Modern society” would council Mary to terminate the pregnancy.  She was too young to take on such responsibility.  Planned Parenthood would have the “solution” to her “problem”.

Then there’s Elizabeth.  She’s an old lady.  Surely delivering a baby at her advanced age would be very dangerous.  She might even die.  Even if abortion were illegal,  she would fall under the so-called “exception” for danger to the mother’s life.

I’m not saying that anyone is walking around today with God in their womb, or even a prophet.  But who else have we killed?  Maybe the person who would have found the cure for cancer.  Maybe the person who could broker peace in the Middle East.  Maybe the person who could save Twinkies.  We’ve killed millions of children in this country since Roe vs. Wade became law.  If just one percent of those children, and they were children regardless of what the abortion-rights folks call them, if just one percent had been men and women of great promise, imagine what a difference that would have made in the world.  Ten percent or twenty percent?  Who knows?

People ask what’s wrong with this country?  That’s easy.  We’re killing our potential.

What I’m about to say may offend you, but please hear me out.  The tragedy that took place in Newtown, CT is beyond belief.  I can’t begin to imagine how awful that must have been and will continue to be for the parents and loved ones of those who were senselessly murdered.  The outcry has been world-wide as it should be.  Even one child is too many to lose to violence.  But, in the week that’s passed since the Sandy Hook massacre, hundreds of babies have been killed by abortionists and no one bats an eye.  It may be a bit of a stretch, but what if one of the millions of children we’ve killed by abortion was meant to be the person who would have stepped in and prevented the killings at Sandy Hook?  Just a thought.

Where’s the outrage for those children?  Many of the same people who are demanding that the government do something about mass murders support the extermination of millions of kids and call it a “woman’s right”.  Sorry, it just doesn’t make sense to me.

US Bishops: Joe Biden is a big fat lying liar

“No religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide,” Biden replied. “That is a fact.”

Today the United States Bishops issued a statement saying, in effect, “Hold on, Joe.  It ain’t so”.  The HHS mandate issued by the Obama administration will force Catholic institutions to do exactly that.  Their statement said, in part:

Catholic employers “will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients,” the USCCB statement said. “They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations — and their employees — are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.”

More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed by Catholic organizations to stop the mandate, at least as it applies to them.  Logic would tell us that these institutions wouldn’t waste their time and money on these suits if Biden’s words were true.  Quoting Ryan,

“They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals,” Ryan said.”

A missed opportunity

As moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC pointed out, this is a historic election in that both VP candidates are Catholics.  She asked them how their Catholic faith affects their stand on abortion.  Unfortunately this taylor-made opportunity to speak on behalf of the Church was wasted by both Candidates.  I expected the (nominal) Catholic Biden to drop the ball, but Ryan’s response was disappointing as well.  Biden claimed to be personally opposed to abortion but went on to say, “But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews.”  In other words, the 69 year old, male, Biden wouldn’t have an abortion himself, but it’s fine with him if others do.  Quite a bold statement and clearly a misrepresentation of the Catholic faith.

It’s no wonder people, both Catholic and non-Catholic, are confused.  When the 2nd most powerful man in the United States makes such a statement, it’s no wonder that faithful Catholics get the idea that abortion is OK.  After all, the Church remains silent when he and others make such false statements about our beliefs.  No, Joe, when you vote for laws that permit the murder of innocent unborn children. you’re just as guilty of the sin as the person who actually has an abortion, possibly even guiltier because your actions permit many, many immoral acts.

Sadly, Representative Ryan’s comments were only slightly better.  He said that he opposes abortions with some exceptions.  I’m not sure how you can say that life begins at conception, but some lives are more precious than others.  There are any number of ways to deal with an unwanted pregnancy that don’t involve killing the child.  Rape isn’t a capital offense for the perpetrator, why should an innocent child conceived as a result of rape have to face the death penalty?

Our Catholic faith is a beautiful thing.  It’s a shame that neither candidate used the opportunity of being on the national stage to say so.  I wouldn’t expect it from Mr. Biden  but Mr. Ryan’s response was very disappointing.

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #9 The Church is Pro Life

2012 Pro Life March
Washington, DC

The issues surrounding the Church’s position on the protection of ALL life are complex; too complex to cover in a few hundred word blog post, so I’ll leave the more technical stuff to others.  What I’m posting about today is why it’s cool to be Pro Life.  I suppose the short answer would be that it’s so uncool to be anti-life.

While the technical issues surrounding human life are best left to the experts, the simple fact is that God creates all human life and that we must respect all life.  In fact, we must do everything in our power to protect all human life from conception until natural death.  Anything less than that puts us in the position of trying to play God.  It doesn’t matter if the human person is a cute little baby, a vicious criminal, or an elderly person whose continued life is just so darned expensive and inconvenient.

Unless your reading this on the intergalacticnet on some far-away planet, you were born of a human mother.  Give thanks to God that your mother was Pro Life.  Otherwise you might not be reading this or anything else.  Everyday human criminals snuff out the life of innocent (or not so innocent) victims.  Your head may be telling you that murderers should get the death penalty.  But your heart, and your God, tell you that when the state murders someone on our behalf, we’re just as bad as the criminal.  “Thou shalt not kill” applies to everyone.

One day (hopefully) you and I will be old.  (My kids think I’m old already.)  When we get to the point in life when we’re bedridden and in need of constant care, the temptation is there to end it all, either to be free from pain, or just to stop being a burden to our loved ones.  We don’t get to make that call and neither does anyone else.  That’s why you and I, even if we’re past child-rearing age, have a stake in the abortion discussion.  The society we live in values life less every day.  Many of our brothers and sisters, half of our political “leaders”, most of the news media, and most of Hollywood, look at abortion as just another medical procedure.  This anti-life crowd likes to refer to “safe abortions.”  Isn’t that the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard of.  If an abortion is effective it’s anything but “safe”.  If it’s effective the baby always dies!

Unless we Catholics and other people of faith keep fighting the good fight, we’re on a slippery slope.  The more society accepts abortion, the closer we come to legal euthanasia.    Call me an extremist if you want, but the day may come, possibly sooner rather than later, when bumping off Grandpa because it’s just too expensive to keep him alive is considered just as reasonable as aborting an unborn child because she may have an expensive disease.

But getting back to the coolness of Pro Life, consider this.  While the Catholic Church isn’t the only faith tradition that opposes murder in any form, most people, if you gave them a word association test, would put “Catholic” and “anti-abortion” together.  By supporting God’s gift of life in all cases, the Church has opened herself up to ridicule, bad jokes, and disdain by those who feel life decisions should be made by mere mortals rather than by the Author of Life Himself.

It would be so easy to throw in the towel and say, “OK, we tried.  We marched and protested and prayed and prayed, but we haven’t gotten the job done.  Go ahead and do whatever you want.”  We might win the popularity contest but we’d threaten our own mortal souls.  Thanks be to God, the Church is never going to do that.

Maybe you don’t have the time or the money to go to Washington DC for the Pro Life Rally.  Maybe you’re embarrassed to speak out against murder, whether it be in a doctor’s office, at the state prison, or at the nursing home.  But rest assured, the Church will continue to fight the good fight for you.  The Church will continue to offer help to women who have become unexpectedly pregnant.  There will still be people praying outside prisons when someone’s life is about to be taken away.  And the Church will continue to advocate for the elderly and others whose quality of life has declined.

Remember that Jesus was the all-time champion #$%^ disturber.  He refused to accept the status quo.  He made waves.  He spoke out against injustices.  And, He entrusted Peter and the other Apostles to build His Church on those same principles.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to belong to a church that’s afraid to lead.  Right and wrong don’t change.  Black is black and white is white.  My Church doesn’t compromise and say black is really red, if that’s what the majority want.

Thank God for a Church that’s willing to stand up for the least among us.  Thank God for a Church that speaks out.  Look out, moneychangers.  Jesus is about to turn over your tables and throw you out of the temple.

How cool is that?


Whatever Happened to the 1st Amendment?

Here in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, our Archbishop, Robert Carlson, has written a pastoral letter which is to be read in every parish.  The topic is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that all employers, including Catholic employers provide insurance coverage for artificial birth control, abortion, and the morning-after abortion pill.  This is in clear violation of the Constitution’s first amendment which assures religious freedom.

Archbishop Carlson writes, “In generations past, the Church has always counted on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties.  I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same.  Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.”

The Archbishop, along with all the U.S. Bishops is calling on Catholic Americans to stand up for our faith.  Imagine if the government would mandate that all Amish must be hooked up to the power grid.  The Amish would be outraged, as would every American citizen who values their religious faith.  Suppose the feds mandated that all religions observe Sunday as their sabbath day.  How would our Jewish brothers and sisters react to that?  Or, imagine this.  What if the government mandated that Muslim hospitals (if there were such a thing) serve pork to their patients.  I shudder to think what their response would be.

We can’t be so complacent as to think that if the government can interfere in one of our basic religious rights, that they will stop there.  A lot of us live in an environment where anti-Catholic bigotry lies beneath the surface.  But it’s alive and well.  What the haters don’t realize is that when the government takes away our rights, their rights are threatened too.

I’d like to share with you some comments from a local newspaper forum on Archbishop Carlson’s letter.  Keep in mind that these are anonymous posts.  The writers are hiding behind pseudonyms.  I’m sharing just a few highlights so you won’t have to waste your time reading this garbage.  Just keep in mind that one of these people may be your next door neighbor.

“No surprise here. Catholic church needs all the children it can get for brainwashing.”

“I’m waiting for the archbishop to pour as much money into ending the death penalty as he does abortion.”

“I’m Catholic, we don’t use birth control, but I think making birth control more available for those who want it is a good thing.”

[Note:  This issue isn’t about providing birth control.  It’s about forcing Catholic institutions to pay for it.  Two very different things.]

“The more kids the parishoners have the more choices priest have to chose from.”

“If Catholics don’t want to use contraception, that is fine. But the rest of us, who live in the real world, and have kids who live in the real world, don’t want this provision canceled from the health care bill because of some arcane and misguided belief that making contraception available is somehow wrong.”

[Note:  I’ll bet you thought you were living in the real world, didn’t you?]

“If the Archbishop do (sic) not like our laws in this country, he can take his church to another country.”

To all the right wing nut jobs who continue to follow the mindless ramblings of a holy roman empire cult that brought you the inquisitions, the crusades, the “irish laundries” the holy wars, the pedophile scandals, and now the tax free status of a MAJOR “PAC”. when are we gonna wake up and realize that we were founded on a “no religion is better than the other,”

“The only reason the church denounces birth control is because they want more asses in the seats on sunday morning, period.”

“Mr. Bishop,  Get a clue.”

“Hey Catholics, don’t like birth control then don’t use it. How is it your ‘religious freedom’ to impose your freedom-stealing views on others?”

“I’m burning. I’m burning. Hell is horrible. I never should have prevented that unwanted pregnancy.”

“Heres an idea, why dont you get off your knees (not from praying, but from servicing bishop carson) and wake up the the bullspit they are shoveling. All they care about is populating their pews and if they cant do that, they shut em down.”

“Catholic “leadership” opposes equal rights for all of thier (sic) employees. Meanwhile child molestation and sexual abuse continues to be denied, ignored and swept under the carpet. Typical of the catholic church to go crazy over the unborn but ignoring the needs of the children entrusted to their clergy. The catholic church has lost the higher moral ground and now they are as corrupt as any politcal party with a politcal agenda that does not include how Jesus Christ would treat others. The non-profit status of the catholic church should be revoked now that they are actively pursuing actions in politics and preaching their case from the pulpit. No more special treatment for the liars with the white collar.”

Excuse me for going off on a rant, but enough is enough!  If we, as Catholics, don’t respond to our Bishop’s request for action then we deserve whatever happens.  What you and I need to do is ( 1) pray.  Pray hard and often.  Pray that our employees in Washington DC will wake up to what they’re doing to our country.  (2) Find out exactly what the government is proposing and let your congress person and senator know how you feel.  Check out the US Bishops’ web site.  They have a convenient link to connect you with Washington.  It takes just a few seconds.

These people like their jobs (who wouldn’t) and they want to keep them.  If enough of us let them know we oppose this violation of our religious freedom, they will react.

3rd Friday of Lent–Any Questions?

Hear, O Israel!  The Lord our God is Lord alone!  ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. ‘  The second is this:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

When the scribe in today’s Gospel agreed with the Lord’s words Jesus told him he wasn’t far from the Kingdom of God.  Mark ends this episode by saying

“And no one dared to ask Him any more questions.”

I guess you’d call Jesus’ time “the good old days.”  He spoke and that was it.  When the Son of God said “this is the way it is” people just said “yes, Lord” and went on about their business.  So, what happened over the last twenty centuries?  If Jesus is the Son of God it follows that everything He said must be true.  And we know that truth doesn’t change.  So, why is it that so many people question Jesus’ words today?

I’m not talking about man-made truth.  For instance, “priests must be celibate” is true.  It’s a law of the Church.  But there are exceptions.  Father Gary Lockwood of our Archdiocese is a married man.  Married Anglican priests who convert to Catholicism are allowed to remain priests, even though they’re married.  The law requiring priestly celibacy, since it’s man-made, could be changed.

Another example would be our regulations for Lent.  They’ve been changed in the past and could be changed again.

On the other hand, truth as proclaimed by Jesus is true; forever.  The greatest commandments are exactly what Jesus said they were.  As Mark wrote, no one dared ask any more questions.  So, where do we get off questioning His truth?  So-called “pro-choice Catholics” tell us that abortion is OK.  Never mind that silly “Thou shalt not kill” commandment.  That was then.  This is now.

I’m going to talk about this in more detail this coming Sunday, but “Thou shalt not commit adultery” seems pretty clear.  But it’s almost a surprise to me when a couple comes to church wanting to get married and they aren’t living together.  The ones who are living in sin act like it’s no big deal.

I could go on, but here’t the thing.  It’s ok to ask questions about some things, maybe even most things.  But we can’t question God.  OK, we can but we shouldn’t.  Truth is truth and you and me questioning it won’t make it change.  You throw a ball up in the air and, unless something interferes with it, it’s going to come back down.  Whether you believe in the law of gravity or not, it’s going to happen.

If you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.  You don’t have to understand or agree with the laws of combustion, you will get burned.  Period.

If you reject the commandments, if you kill, or steal, or commit adultery, you will suffer the consequences.  Maybe not in this life, though it’s a possibility…if you get caught.  But you will pay in eternity.  That’s the truth.

Any questions?

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Listen to the Podcast

OK, admit it. When you come to mass and you see that there’s a choice between a long reading and a short reading, you hope that we use the short one. Even though the longer reading may only take a minute more to read, there’s just something about the shorter one that makes you feel just a little better. So, I picked the shorter second reading today, just for you. The bad news is that I want to talk about the part that we didn’t read, so I’m going to have to give you the Reader’s Digest version.

Paul’s point in this particular passage is that we’re all part of one body, the Church. The part we left out is where he talks about the various parts of the body and how they all have to work together. “If a foot should say ‘Because I’m not a hand I don’t belong to the body’, that doesn’t make it any less a part of the body.” He goes on to talk about some other body parts including some that seem to be weaker and some parts that we consider less honorable, and some parts that are less presentable, that we usually cover up. At least we covered them up in Paul’s day. Today, sometimes not so much.

The thing is that when we talk about the “Body of Christ”, we’re talking about His Church. And if the Church is a body, then you and I must be parts of that body. And it takes all the parts to make the body work the way it’s supposed to. It goes without saying that Jesus is the head. He’s also the heart. We may think of ourselves as the eyes and ears of the Church. Some may think they’re the mouth. We know that some of us are the hands, but some of us are also the feet. The thing is that none of us, you and me, are more important than anyone else.

This little book is called the Ordo. The Ordo lists the readings for every day’s mass and Liturgy of the Hours. It gives a short, very short, summary of the day’s mass readings, what the color is for the day, and a lot of other stuff. On the other side, it lists all the bishops, priests, and deacons in the Archdiocese who have been called home along with the date of their death. Page after page of men who had received the sacrament of Holy Orders, who had been chosen to serve the Church in a leadership role, but in the end they’re just names in a book. Whether they were a Cardinal or a deacon, whether they served fifty years or fifty days, every listing is exactly the same.

Why do we need such a list? Because death doesn’t break up a family. Uncle Bob is still Uncle Bob, even when he leaves this world. The listing in the Ordo reminds us of our clergy who have gone on. It reminds us to pray for them, just like they’re praying for us. When we pass into the next life, all of us will have our names written in the Book of Life for our parish, which we bring out and display every November. It’s another reminder that we’re all part of the same body.

So, what’s it all mean? Remember I said a couple of weeks ago that we’re all baptized in the same water that Jesus was baptized in? It’s that common baptism, along with our sharing in the bread and wine, transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ at the Lord’s table that unites all of us. You and I are just as connected to a Catholic on the other side of the world as we are to the person sitting next to us. When one of us is cut, we all bleed. That’s just the way it is. That’s why we respond so generously when someone is in need. That’s why Catholic Charities is collecting millions of dollars to help the people of Haiti. They’re our brothers and sisters.

What Jesus is telling us today, through the words of Saint Paul, is that we share a common bond that’s not just of this world, not just for a short time, but for all eternity.

Yesterday (Friday) was the anniversary of the infamous Supreme Court ruling in the case of Roe vs. Wade in 1973. It’s an annual reminder of the millions of unborn children who have been murdered in the United States over the last thirty seven years. Roughly 1.4 million unborn babies are killed each year, just in the United States. We tend to think of abortion as an American problem, but there are at least 15 million abortions each year world wide, probably more than that.

The world was outraged, and still is outraged, over the death of six million Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis in World War II. We call it the holocaust. In the early 1930s, between three and ten million Ukranians were starved to death by Joseph Stalin. There was plenty of food available, but the Communist government was exporting it to pay their bills, leaving the people who grew the food to die of starvation. The British did something similar to the Irish in the 1840s. There aren’t very good records of births and deaths during that time, but the best guess is that a million to a million and a half Irish lost their lives. Another million uprooted their families and moved away.

During the 1960s and ’70s, something like a million and a half Chinese were killed by Mao Tse Dung’s troops during the so-called Cultural Revolution. As tragic as these four events were, all four together resulted in about the same number of deaths that take place in just one year on the abortionists’ tables worldwide. Even the most pessimistic estimates of the death toll in Haiti amounts to just a few days work for the abortionists.

Why do we care about any of this? I think you know why. We are followers of Christ and we are all one body. Each of us loses a little bit whenever one of us dies. Whether it’s a Jew executed by the Nazis, a family crushed by a falling building in Haiti, or an innocent life snuffed out by an abortion half way around the world.

Nazi Germany is long gone. The atrocities in the Ukraine happened eighty years ago. There’s nothing we can do about that. There’s also nothing we can do to prevent an earthquake. All we can do is support the victims with our money and our prayers. But we have to take a stand for all human life, right here and right now. As Catholics and as citizens of the greatest country in the world, we owe it to our brothers and sisters, our fellow body parts, to do all we can to protect their lives. None of us would just sit calmly while someone tried to cut off our leg. How can we ignore it when someone destroys a part of the Body of Christ?

There are still atrocities being committed by despotic governments all over the world. People are being killed for daring to challenge their governments. There are still wars being fought, two of them involving the United States. There are people getting on airplanes with bombs in their underpants, hoping to kill Americans and others, along with themselves. People are starving all over the world, including right here in the United States, even here in Saint Louis. And the abortions go on and on.

You and I don’t have the time, the talent, or the treasure to fix everything that’s wrong with the world. We all do the best we can with what we have. Most of us aren’t going to get on a plane and fly to Haiti, even if we’d like too. Most of us aren’t going to go to Washington DC to join the pro-life march. We won’t even protest at the local abortion clinic. We don’t have the time, or it’s just not our style.

But we do have time to pray. And we should pray, and pray hard, every day for all human life. We should flood heaven with our prayers for every one of our fellow human beings. That’s a lot to pray for, but God will hear us, and He will answer us. We just can’t let up because we ARE one body.