The Gift of Memory- Happy Memorial Day!

By , May 31, 2010 7:38 am

One of the most wonderful gifts that God has bestowed on human nature is the ability to remember.  That gift should not be taken for granted.  In our day-to-day life, it blends in with the imagination, and these two gifts together enable us to live our lives not just in the present moment, but also with the effects of yesterday and the hopes for tomorrow very much within us.

The center of the Church’s worship is about remembering – remembering the life, the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  The Eucharist is essentially a celebration of memory and guides utilization of that gift to enable us to stay close to him.

Memory is a gift to the larger world as well. Today we endeavor, in some way, to remember that we are the recipients of extraordinary generosity of men and women who have given their lives for this country.  The numbers are staggering.  Hundreds of thousands of young people have been caught up in a maelstrom of war and made the sacrifice in order that the United States would, first of all, be free- and that it would be enabled to hold on to that freedom and bring it to the larger world.

Let us be grateful for their generosity and honor their memory not just on Memorial Day, but every day of the year.

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Trinity Sunday

By , May 29, 2010 12:26 am

Tomorrow’s Gospel comes from the 16th chapter of John.  The Gospel excerpt is just four verses but carries an awesome message.  It touches on his relationship to the Father and to the Spirit.  Make time to go back and read what we tend to call the last visit between Jesus and his disciples, that first Holy Thursday evening.  Chapters 13 through 17 record an amazing conversation between Jesus and these men who have been following him now for three years.  The conversation is intimate, loving and, at the same time, unveiling part of the future- a future that will affect not only Him, but His followers.

The apostles have had a hard time understanding things that were right in front of them such as miraculous healings, and feeding multitudes in the desert as a manifestation of His power.  You can well imagine that they had a difficult time comprehending what He was talking about when He was referring to the Father and to the Spirit.

The followers of Jesus would only begin to understand after the Spirit came to them at Pentecost.  Grasping what the inner nature of God is like is beyond the human mind, but Jesus and the Spirit have given us at least an insight into the mysterious life that goes on within divinity.

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Vatican II and 1965…a new beginning!

By , May 28, 2010 3:02 am

In December of 1965 about 2,500 Roman Catholic bishops, theologians and special observers filed out of St. Peter’s, pouring into the great piazza, encompassed by Burneni’s columns.  I am sure that they were both tired and relieved.  The conference had been running for four years and you must also allow two years of preparation.  The bishops were witnessing the end of the greatest experiment in ecclesiology since Pentecost Sunday.

The changes that were called for by the Council were awesome.  Many people connected those changes merely with the use of vernacular language and the celebration of the Eucharist with the priests facing the people.  However, the changes that were called for were far more profound than that.  The responsibility for implementing those changes descended upon the shoulders of Pope Paul VI and he struggled heroically to accomplish that throughout the years of his pontificate.  Regretfully, the staff with which he had to work was the same curia that had originally opposed the Council and they worked tirelessly to undercut it.

Today the Second Vatican Council is but a shadow of what was called for by those 2,500 bishops.  Suggestion:  every bishop, priest and lay leader should go back and study the documents of the Council. Fifty years has dimmed our memories.  We can still regain their power.

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A Challenge from the Holy Spirit: A Work in Progress

By , May 27, 2010 7:01 am

One of the key organizing tools in a well organized operation or program is clear job descriptions; descriptions that pinpoint responsibility, eliminate confusion and enhance productivity.  If you were one of the apostles or experienced the coming of the Holy Spirit, do you think you would have immediately thought that you had accepted the organizational responsibility that was attached to his coming?  Or that you had been given a job description?

Despite the confidence that came with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the apostles needed to be reminded, and they grasped only slowly that they had been given an assignment- a job description- that they were to be witnesses to Jesus there in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth.  That, of course, would include Texas!

Those words were spoken to each one of us and on the basis of our baptism, we are challenged to make some contribution towards fitting that job description into our own life.

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Would you like a new name? Get elected Pope!

By , May 26, 2010 5:53 am

If you are 50 or 60 years old, you can probably remember some important leaders in the Church.  Take for example Eugenio Pacelli, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, Giovanni Battista Montini, Karol Józef Wojtyła, and Joseph Alois Ratzinger.  Have you heard those names?  They are the names of the popes, namely Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

About 1,000 years ago the tradition of having men who were elected pope change to a new name began and was to symbolize entering into a new life and being totally consumed by that life in their service to the Church.  Their own individuality was to fade into relative insignificance.  It is a beautiful symbol but it didn’t always work out that way!

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Our Battered Church

By , May 25, 2010 6:07 am

The sexual scandal!

No reasonable person would deny that the Catholic Church has been sorely wounded by the recent upheaval and scandal perpetrated by some of its spiritual leaders – wounded – badly wounded!

It does not help to point out that the percentage is so very small.  It is no consolation to note the fact that other large institutions have comparable problems be it school teachers or boy scout leaders.  We can’t blame it on the media.  Through its ordained leaders, the Catholic Church endeavors to tell the world how life ought to be lived, what the good moral life is and how it should be carried out.  The crimes of these clerics cry out to heaven.  The perpetrators, many of whom have not answered for their evil acts, either by the civil society or by the Church itself, will certainly answer to God.  Let us pray that Church leaders, from the parish, through the diocese, all the way to the Vatican, will be determined and forceful in ridding the Body of Christ from this destructive cancer.

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Only Teasing?

By , May 24, 2010 6:10 am

I have a seat of the pants rule about teasing that I’ve tried to live with, and that I’ve shared when I’ve given retreats or talks to young people, and I call it the McCarthy Rule.

You can tease people all you want in areas of their strengths and confidence.

You cannot tease people without running the risk of pain and destructiveness if you tease them in their areas of weakness or self-consciousness or limitations. So, here is an example I use:  The star athlete is almost down to the goal line, and he reaches back to catch the pass that is delivered to him perfectly, and he drops it. You can tease him about that. He’s not going to enjoy the teasing, but he’s a terrific athlete, and he can handle that.

When the brightest girl or boy in class fails to get the highest grade on the test, you can tease them about that, because it’s an area of their strength. Teasing can even be a motivation for working harder in that case.

But to tease people who are clumsy in their ability to be a really good ball player, or to tease people who are not overly endowed with academic ability about doing poorly, or being the slowest member of the class-that’s cruel and destructive.  If we can’t be sure of someone’s strengths, we’d probably be better off if we didn’t tease at all.

Each of us needs to examine our conscience and see if there is any teasing in our lives that really hurts people.  Do we generate laughs when a crowd is around at other people’s expense? Do we make other people laugh by putting others on the verge of tears? An honest look might help.

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Pentecost Sunday: Where’s the FIRE?

By , May 22, 2010 6:39 am

Two weeks ago, I made an early reference to Pentecost Sunday and how it was a personal favorite among the three great liturgical feasts of the Church.  I am sure that most people think of Christmas and Easter as being two joyous celebrations.  They are not only important in the Church; they are important in the secular world around us as well but usually for the wrong reasons.  The feasts of the Nativity and the Resurrection rightly center on our divine Lord and the presence and saving actions, which brought about our redemption.

This is wonderful, but I like Pentecost because on this great feast the spotlight turns away from the saving actions of Jesus and shines upon you and me.  With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the followers of Jesus were commissioned to go out into the dark and unloving world and tell to all who would listen that God so loved the world that he had given his own Son and through that Son has come redemption for the human family.

Fire is one of the symbols of Pentecost.  Just as the apostles and those with him saw fire descending over the heads of each, so also that early Church saw fire burning in the hearts of all of Jesus’ followers as they moved out of the safety of the upper room and out into the busy streets of Jerusalem to tell the world that God had come among us.  We are redeemed.

Redemption is not free, however.  It requires faith on our part and loving just actions that flow from that faith.  On this great feast, each of us has to ask as to whether or not the cold coals within us can be reignited and provide a missionary thrust in our lives.

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In the Blink of An Eye

By , May 21, 2010 9:18 am

Merry ole England has been working at achieving a functioning democracy for many centuries more than the United States.  Maybe that is why they seem to be more proficient in the mechanics of the system.  If you skipped the news on one day last week, you might have missed the fact that England has a new government!

After a blistering political campaign of only 42 days, there was a general election with results coming in less than 24 hours.  The labor party lost many seats, but together with the liberal democrats, they made it impossible for the conservatives to have a real majority.  Would they be locked in bitter combat for weeks or even months?  Not at all.  David Cameron met with Nick Clegg, the liberal democrats’ leader, and within five days had formed a working coalition, which hopes to stay in power for five years.  It will not be easy.  The two parties differ on many things but one thing they had in common was a desire to provide England with effective leadership during these days in which their country is faced with monumental fiscal problems.

Once this agreement was worked out, the defeated Gordon Brown made a brief speech in front of Number Ten Downing Street and walked away from the political world.  Forty-five minutes later Cameron made a second brief speech at the same rostrum and turned around and walked into his new residence.

How much do we spend electing the President in the United States???

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My Classmate…a True Hero

By , May 20, 2010 10:20 am

I have been out of high school for 61 years.  When that chapter is more than a half century behind you, you don’t expect to be seeing news about one of the kids from high school but the other day I just did.

Last week the Houston Chronicle ran a wonderful story about David McNerney, like me, a member of the St. Thomas High School Class of 1949.  Back then, he was quiet, almost shy, and liked by everyone.  The story in the Chronicle was about the fact that back in March of 1967, during the Vietnam War, McNerney’s A Company was ambushed by the Vietcong.  The officers were the first to die leaving David, a staff sergeant, in charge.  The radios were damaged.  They were cut off and encircled by a more powerful group.  McNerney was wounded early on but refused evacuation.  He continued to work the line directing his men.  They held out but thirty-three would die.  For this he was awarded the Cox Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award.

Sergeant McNerney is now in the last stages of lung cancer and his “boys,” as he called them, wanted to do something special for him.  He asked that they convene at the Vietnamese Veterans Memorial and lay a wreath at panel 16E where the majority of those 33 soldiers names were engraved.  For the 50 survivors it will be a time to say thank you to a tough sergeant who made the difference in their lives.

Bullets may not be flying but we all are challenged to stand up from time to time.  Let’s pray that we have half the courage that David did.

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