Giving your life

We often than military people who die in service, police who die in service, firefighters who die in service, many, many people who die serving others. But do we ever think to thank priests, nuns, and other consecrated religious for their service? If not, why not? After all, they must die to themselves, and to the world in order to serve the needs of the Church.

This is different in the Protestant world, at least, many parts of it.  If you’ve seen the recent movie “Heaven is for real”, you know that small-town pastors wear many hats, including one that provides for their family.  So, many times, a Protestant Pastor has other endeavors to deal with-family, finance, and life, in general.  On the other hand, with a Catholic priest, he is taken care of, modestly, from head to toe.  Yes, a diocesan priest has expenses-insurance, food, auto, and retirement. That’s what his salary is for.  And I’ve never seen a religious want for anything (though I’m sure they may in some places).  But the religious (speaking of Catholic religious) are totally dead to the world.

So, we need to thank our priests for giving their lives-to Christ.  How can we do that?  The Archdiocese of St. Louis has a nice insight on this:

Pray
Pray a daily Rosary for your parish priest and encourage others to pray with you. Contact your priest and let him know that you are supporting him through prayer.
Live in Unity
Take an active role in your parish community. Attend Mass weekly and become a good steward by offering your gifts of time and talent. Attend parish sponsored events and/or support your parish financially.
Manage Your Expectations
Remember your pastor and parish priests are only human and while they would like to be present to support all parish happenings and family celebrations, this may be impossible. Be accepting of your priests. Recognize their individual gifts to the parish. Help your priests by informing them of illnesses and special needs within your community.
Avoid Gossip
Come to the banquet of the Lord with a positive attitude and avoid negative talk that may only lead to misunderstandings. Be mindful of how you speak about your parish priest with others, especially around children. If you have a disagreement with your parish priest that cannot be resolved through prayer, honestly and respectfully discuss it with him in private.
Appreciate Your Priests
We all need positive encouragement and priests need affirmation too. Tell your priest when you enjoy a homily. Thank him for bringing Jesus to you. Drop him a note or card to thank him for his dedication to the Lord and the Catholic Church.
Encourage Vocations to the Priesthood and Consecrated Life
Help your priests by praying for an increase of vocations. Teach your children and grandchildren to be open to the Holy Spirit and invite young men and women to consider religious life as a vocation. Encourage and support Kenrick-Glennon Seminary by spiritually adopting a seminarian. Volunteer your time with the youth of your parish. Prayerfully support the programs offered by the Office of Vocations.

Exciting movies coming out

Today, the film adaptation of the novel “The Giver” by Lois Lowry premiers.  I haven’t seen it (yet) but I’ve seen previews, and I want to recommend it.  I know about the story, and this movie is a reminder of what happens when government changes words around to mean different things.

Wikipedia summarizes the plot pretty well:

Jonas, who is eleven years old, is apprehensive about the upcoming Ceremony where he will be assigned his job or his “assignment in the community.” In his society little or no privacy is allowed; even private houses have two-way intercoms which can be used to listen in for infractions of the rules. However, the rules appear to be readily accepted by all, including Jonas. So it is without real protest that he initially accepts his selection as the Receiver of Memories, a job he is told will be filled with pain and the training for which will isolate him from his family and friends forever.

Yet, under the guidance of the present Receiver, a surprisingly kind man who has the same rare, pale eyes as Jonas, the boy absorbs memories that induce for the first time feelings of true happiness and love. Also, for the first time, Jonas knows what it is to see a rainbow, and to experience snow and the thrill of riding a sled down a hill. But then he is given the painful memories: war, pain, death, and starvation. These are memories of the Community’s deep past. Jonas learns that the Community engineered a society of “sameness” to protect its people against this past, yet he begins to understand the tremendous loss he and his people have endured by giving their memories away, embracing “sameness”, and using “climate control”.

In his “community,” which is under extreme control, there is no suffering, hunger, war, and also no color, music, or love. Everything is controlled by “the Elders,” who are looked upon in a very positive light, though they control whom you will marry, whom you receive as children, and what you will be “assigned” as a job. The people in the community do not have the freedom to choose. Jonas aches with this newfound wisdom and his desire for a life Elsewhere blossoms. But the final blow for Jonas comes when he asks the Receiver (who now calls himself “The Giver”) what “release” is. The Giver says that he could show him, and allows Jonas to watch a present-day tape of his own father, a seemingly kind and loving man, “releasing” a baby twin by giving him a lethal injection. Like any other “aberration” from sameness, identical twins are against the rules, so the smaller of the two is dispatched like garbage, without the one who conducted the release understanding the true meaning of the action. Together, Jonas and the Giver come to the understanding that the time for change is now, that the Community has lost its way and must have its memories returned. The only way to make this happen is if Jonas leaves the Community, at which time the memories he has been given will flood back into the people. Jonas wants the Giver to escape with him, but the Giver insists that he will be needed to help the people manage the memories, or they will destroy themselves. The Giver also wants to remain behind so that when his work is done, he can be with his daughter: Rosemary, a girl with pale eyes who ten years earlier had failed in her training to become the new Receiver of Memories and who had asked to be released (the memories of pain and loneliness having overwhelmed her).

The Giver devises a plot in which Jonas will escape to Elsewhere, an unknown land that exists beyond the boundaries of the Communities. The Giver will make it appear as if Jonas drowned in the river so that the search for him will be limited. In the meantime, the Giver will give Jonas memories of strength and courage to sustain him and save up his meals as Jonas’ food and water supply for his journey.

Their plan is changed when Jonas learns that Gabriel, the baby staying with his family unit, will be “released” the following morning. Jonas has become attached to the baby, who also has unusual pale eyes, and feels he has no choice but to escape with the infant. Without the memories of strength and courage promised by the Giver, Jonas steals his father’s bike and leaves with Gabriel to find the Elsewhere. Their escape ride is fraught with dangers, and the two are near death from cold and starvation when they reach the border of what Jonas believes must be Elsewhere. Using his ability to “see beyond,” a gift that he does not quite understand, he finds a sled waiting for him at the top of a snowy hill. He and Gabriel ride the sled down towards a house filled with coloured lights and warmth and love and a Christmas tree, and for the first time he hears something he knows must be music. The ending is ambiguous, with Jonas depicted as experiencing symptoms of hypothermia. This leaves his and Gabriel’s future unresolved. However, their fate is revealed in Messenger, a companion novel written much later.

IT seems like we are going through this type of thought-policing today. People protesting because the police take action at a traffic violation, when the driver’s an “undocumented”, er illegal alien.  Pro-abortion being called pro-“choice”.  Two men getting “married”.  And the list goes on…

I would encourage parents to take their teens to see this movie, and also to set some rules regarding social media usage…because social media plays a part in all this.  Dinner is to be face-to-face with no social devices at the table, for a first step.  Parents should share passwords on all social media, and should have their own accounts and be ‘friends’ with their children on social media, and vice-versa.  Also a limitation of time spent on social media.

But watch this movie.  And warn your friends and family that this is headed our way…

Robin Williams suicide

Suicide, any time it happens, is wasteful, and, frankly, disgusting.  The reaction of his friends and family, and fans is honest, and we all love Robin Williams.  I didn’t love everything he did, but I know he did a lot of good, not only in his career, but in how he treated people.  But it’s disgusting.  All that talent, gone.  We’ll never have one like him.  Any human death is, frankly, wasteful of God’s providence.  I only hope that he was so ill that he wasn’t culpable for his action.

I highly recommend that people get off of idolizing public figures.  I’ve known priests who devastated large numbers of people by disappointing them-by being accused of doing non-priestly deeds, and when called out, not submitting humbly to authority and discipline.  In other words, not acting Catholic or priestly.  One, when he was accused, nearly tore apart the American Church.  Humans are always going to disappoint us.  They will scandalize us.  So take their talents for what they are, and enjoy them.  But it’s better to not get too involved.

I haven’t listened to anything Robin has done in a while, but I remember watching him faithfully, back in the day.  He WILL be sorely missed.  Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord…

Telling the unvarnished truth

Had a discussion with a parishioner yesterday that almost got heated…thank my wife for biting my tongue.  I am interested in building our parish back, and first thing to say is, I may never see it.  I might plant a seed here or there.  And it might fall on fertile soil.  And I have some ideas to invite folks back to the parish, and even get some young folks coming. This guy made the statement that, while he doesn’t agree with any of those hot-button issues (abortion, homosexuality and same-sex marriage) he thinks the Church has turned people away because of their harsh message.

I wanted to tell him that it’s a grave sin to not tell the truth.  That it’s a grave sin to allow people to not understand that what they’re doing is wrong.  To assist someone or enable someone in their sin is wrong.

That doesn’t mean you have to nag, or shake or wag your finger, or shun, or ostracize anyone.  But you have to let them know how you stand-they’ve let you know how they stand, whether you wanted to know or not, just by their actions, sometimes.  So, if it’s someone you care about, it is important for them to know that you disagree.  From then on, you need to be pastoral.  It’s ok to help a woman mourn after she had her child aborted, just as you would if it was a miscarriage.  But don’t tell her that she was right to have an abortion.  If you’re allowed, you can comfort her, and point her to a priest for confession.  If your friend is homosexual, and engaging in that lifestyle, or getting “married”, you can no more participate in that than if they were stealing, and asked you to hide their theft.  My wife wanted me not to argue with him, and I didn’t, for the sake of peace.

You cannot condone sin, though, and if your church does, then maybe you should consider another church-the one Truth.

Christianity has never been a popularity contest.  Christ Himself told people, in John 6 “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.”  And guess what? People who were faithful followers walked away, and went back to their previous lives.

It’s important to know Who is in the Tabernacle.  Without discerning that, you just don’t know what you’re walking away from…

Calling it what it is…

I spent a week in the Pacific Northwest on vacation last week.  That area of the country is well-known for liberal politics.  The people we went to visit are liberals, and both couples had the same comment at separate times, and not when they were together.  The comment was this: “We love Costco.  Not because they have great prices and products, but because they support giving employees a decent salary, and taking care of their people.”  First, let it be known that I agree-Costco does do that.  And I’m glad they do.  But my comment, when faced with that statement was this: “It’s great that Costco does that, and I’m glad they can do it and still keep their prices down.  I’m also glad that they choose to do so on their own, without government requirements to do so.”  And in both cases, the speaker disparaged Walmart, because they pay their entry level people poorly.  I pointed out that while this might be true, it is also true that few people who wish otherwise stay at entry level.  And then the arguments ensued.  I pointed out that, while there are greedy folks in corporate society, there are equally greedy folks in government.  Witness the scandals of the Obama administration.  No, I don’t point at him, though he’s responsible for those happening on his watch (the buck stops there!), and I didn’t point to the Democrat/Republican thing.  I tried just to point out that government is AS responsible for much of society’s ills as is the corporate world.  When the government gives subsidies to some corporations, in fact, the government is enabling corporate greed.  When government offers a deal to avoid jail-time to a CEO who stole money from the company, or even when the government offers a deal to lessen jail-time for a drug-dealer, the government is enabling that entity, and encouraging them to do more.

My whole point is that government is just as evil as corporations, and we can even go so far as to say that the human end of the Church is in the same boat.  If you’ve ever seen movies about saints, you can see that there is a great deal of humanity showing.

Don’t trust humanity, folks.  Humans will always fall, always make mistakes, and so on.  Place your trust in the one place it is deserved-God.

These friends, though, all had a lot of Eastern mysticism going on.  I saw elephant gods, temple dogs, Buddha, etc.  So they don’t have God.  And there lies the problem…without God, nothing else is really relevant, is it?

Don’t get me wrong, these are all nice people.  Learned people, multi-talented people.  In four people, you have pilot, psychologist, architect, musician, dancer, artist, actor, singer, and many things I’m sure I don’t know.  But they’ve spent their time on earthly pursuits, ignoring  God.  Even their spirituality is earth-bound. Lift up your hearts!

Our discussions both ended, because it was soon thought, by the other party, that mine was an attack of Obama and his policies.  It was, but I never mentioned him, and could have, just as easily, inserted GW Bush’s name. Or Clinton.  Or Boehner.  Or any politician.  Politicians are not our friends.  They are there for their own good, not yours, in most cases.  The only point I was trying to make is that humans are, generally greedy.  Not necessarily for money, but we’re all greedy.  We all look out for ourselves.  Some look out for others, but it’s a small minority.  If we can get one more person every day to stop thinking of themselves for, say, half an hour…wouldn’t this be a better world?

The parables of Matthew

I’ve been contemplating, like many, the parables of Matthew the last few weeks.  We’ve heard over, and over, and over…”The kingdom of heaven is like…”  The other day, Wednesday, we heard

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

 

I got to thinking, and wanted to reflect on the following:

What is it that we find to be of great value-something we’ll pay any price for, something we’ll do anything to attain?  Many today go to great lengths to attain their degree.  Some find athletics worthwhile.  I’ve been watching a series called “American Ninja Warrior”, and it amazes me how some people will train in order to get through the obstacle course.  So what is your goal?  And is it really worth all that, given the finite nature of our life on Earth?

Today’s Gospel reading:

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
“Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter’s son?
Is not his mother named Mary
and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
Are not his sisters all with us?
Where did this man get all this?”
And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and in his own house.”
And he did not work many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith.

presents us with another kind of obstacle…our selves.  We become familiar, without becoming intimate.  We know this boy from the time he was small, and now he’s grown up.  He was a problem child then, and he’s a problem now.  I have an aunt who doesn’t think much of me, simply because as a child, I was very self-absorbed.  She once told my wife, when my wife and I had difficulties, that she should cash in the chips, because I was always “like that”.  I had a parish priest who had no confidence that someone could change-he thought he knew me.  But for the glory of God, it wasn’t me they had to know-it was the power of God, and his will in my life.  Any time I begin to think, about anything, “I don’t see”… I have to wonder what I’m missing.

So, what are you missing? What are your obstacles? What barriers are you putting between yourself, and heaven?

 

I haven’t written a lot in the last month or so.  And I’m going to take a vacation the next week or so.  Maybe I will be ready to write again afterward.  Until then, God bless you.

You Ought to Act Like a Human

You Ought to Act Like a Human.

You Ought to Act Like a Human

Did you ever think about how human beings and trees differ? Trees are what they are. Any element, molecule, compound, computer chip, rocket ship, or plant exists according to a certain orderliness of matter. But the human being exists as a being in a radically different manner from inanimate matter or other living things. Even the noblest creatures are what they are independent of their own reason or will. No one can convince a dog, for instance, that he ought to act like a real dog (I’ve tried). Not so with humans.

The difference is our power of virtue.

Consider physical power. The power of a machine refers to the physical ability to do work. Hence, the maximum potential output from an engine is measured as mechanical horsepower, a comparison to the work that horses can do. When the machine achieves its maximum potential, we say the machine has reached the fullest expression of its capacity.

St. Thomas Aquinas defined virtue for human beings similarly as an ultimum potentiae. The German philosopher, Josef Pieper, interpreted this to mean “the utmost best a person can be.” Unlike elements, machines, plants, or animals, human virtue implies a lifelong perfection of the spiritual powers of intellect and will. Humans have rational souls, which instill us with the power to act rationally, to make choices, to love, to seek God.

Children, therefore, need to be taught to practice virtue so they can realize their fullest potential, worth, and goodness. To do this, they need love. Virtue begins with the highest love, caritas. Aquinas called this love the “mother and the root of all the virtues.” From their earliest age, children need to be told that God loves them, so they can discover true hope. They need to be told they ought to love God and reach beyond themselves for Him. Children need to be told they ought to find the goodness in the existence of God, nature, others, and themselves. In realizing such meaning and purpose, children need to be taught they ought to listen for the voice of God in faith.

Then children need to be taught they ought to be prudent, to have an openness to reality and to accept honestly the unveiling of truth through reason. Children need to be taught they ought to be just, to respect and love others, and give others their due. Children need to be taught they ought to be brave, and they ought to realize the good in the world, willing in fortitude to accept injury for the sake of truth and justice. Children need to be taught they ought to practice self-discipline so as to protect themselves from self-destruction. Children need to hear, “You ought to act like a human.”

Because they will if they are raised up in love.

In this modern materialistic age, most children never hear such things. Many children are treated as mere commodities, trophies, or inconveniences—but that doesn’t make them any less human. It only chains them from becoming who they were meant to be.

Sources and Further Reading:

  • Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I-II, Questions 55 and 62.
  • Josef Pieper, An Anthology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), Essays “The Ultimate,” “Ought To” and “Seven Statements,” p. 3-8.