At Last We are Talking Jobs But Without Action!

By , August 31, 2011 5:38 am

There are seven or eight Republicans running for president in hopes of being elected in 2012. Most of them are finally admitting that the great need in this country is jobs. Jobs, jobs and more jobs! Naturally, President Obama, who will be the Democratic nominee in that election, is pushing the same subject. Where were they in 2010? Where were they for the last two years while 2.9 million American jobs were added not in the United States, but in oversea countries?

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities research has just revealed that American companies are paying less in taxes as a percentage of GNP than ever recorded. Now Governor Rick Perry of Texas arrives on the scene to seek the presidency and his main argument is the increase of jobs in the State of Texas during his ten years as governor. We will be hearing a lot about that in the near future.

Harold Meyerson, of the American Prospect, points out that “Texas has the fourth highest poverty rate of any state. It is tied with Mississippi for the highest percentage of workers in minimum wage jobs. It ranks first in adults without high school diplomas. Twenty-six percent of Texans have no health insurance – the highest percentage of medically uninsured residents of any state. It leads the nation in the percentage of children who lack medical insurance. Texas has an inordinate number of employers who provide no insurance to workers, partly because the insurance rates are high, thanks to an absence of regulations.”

Although 12% of Texans lacked high school diplomas, that level is rising rapidly. However, Perry slashed $4 billion from K-12 schools. Is that backward? Is that very smart?

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Knights to the Rescue!

By , August 30, 2011 5:51 am

The Knights of Columbus, based in New Haven, Connecticut, is, I think, the world’s largest fraternal organization with the majority of its members living within the United States. Time after time, over a century of work, they have stepped in to help with one problem or another in terms of financial difficulties faced by Church leaders. I first became conscious of their great generosity when back in the 1950’s they organized the completion of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of Catholic University of America in our nation’s capital.

In my own dealings with them locally, I have always found them to be exceptionally hard working and generous. Now they come to the fore yet again. The Knights are stepping in to save the Archdiocese of Detroit from greater financial problems than currently exist. Cardinal Adam Maida, of Polish extraction, wanted very much to honor and spotlight the life and work of the great Polish pontiff, John Paul II, and he launched a very expensive concept, once again, at the edge of the Catholic University of America. They have constructed a $75 million monument, which was intended to be a tourist attraction centering on the life of the pontiff as well as a Catholic think-tank. Within five years of its opening, the institution was $36 million in debt to the Detroit Archdiocese because of loans that Maida had made or guaranteed.

The Knights will be paying $22 million for the facility and while that doesn’t eliminate all of the debt to the Archdiocese of Detroit, it must make Cardinal Maida sleep a little better these days. The Knights have announced that they intend to establish a national shrine to John Paul at the former center and turn the building into an exhibit on the Catholic heritage of North America.

Thank you Sir Knights.

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World Youth Day Has Passed

By , August 29, 2011 4:28 am

Benedict XVI celebrated Mass the other day in Madrid for hundreds of thousands of young people who had come to the 26th edition of World Youth Day. This new tradition was launched by Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1985 and every few years has been gathering crowds in excess of ten million. That makes World Youth Day the largest regularly held international religious gathering on the planet.

As usual, the event was joyful and filled with celebrations of faith, but there was a cloud over the gathering this year as all of Europe and especially Spain flirted with financial disaster. Spain has a banking crisis and agonizing unemployment and so there was considerable controversy about the costs of the event. Some 150 groups organized a protest under the slogan, “The Pope’s Visit, Not With My Taxes.”

Despite the rough edges of this year’s event, it is a real credit to the lively and dynamic faith that still marks so much of today’s young people. John Paul II captivated the young of the planet and Benedict XVI, while not the star attraction that his predecessor was, is still doing a good job. In a world with so many other problems, it is hard to complain about the fact that millions of kids want to get together and celebrate their common faith in Jesus Christ.

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Pharisees – Where the Word Comes From

By , August 27, 2011 4:49 am

22nd Sunday of the Year (August 28th)
The word “Pharisee” is a frequently used English word. When we describe a person as being Pharisaical, we mean that they manifest the worst kind of phoniness – putting on a mask of religious propriety while, at the same time, acting in the opposite direction.

Jesus did not like the Pharisees! In today’s Gospel excerpt, we see that confrontation where the Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of the time, attack Jesus for not obeying the most minute aspects of the Mosaic Law. Our Lord blasts them and points out that it is not the violation of external liturgical laws that is the root of evil, but rather wicked designs that come from the deep recesses of the heart. He then lists a number of them. “All of these evils come from within and render a man impure.”

When we examine our conscience, it is necessary to check ourselves carefully, not so much as to our external religious activities, such as Sunday Mass, but to gaze deeply into our own hearts and see if good works that we perform are carried out because of our love and commitment to Jesus and not in order to enhance our reputation in the eyes of others.

“Let everyone heed what he hears.”

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Catholic “Church Aerobics”

By , August 26, 2011 4:03 am

Persons not of the Catholic faith, but who attend Catholic services occasionally for weddings, funerals, etc., are either amused or confused by what seems rather frequent movements by the congregation. They sit, they stand, they kneel, they sit, they stand, they kneel!! What is going on?

It is simply a question of symbolism. We are all used to physical symbols – the kiss, the bow, the clenched fist, etc. Well, Catholics exercise certain symbols by the entire congregation acting as one and the rules are really quite simple.

We come to Mass in order to together worship our Heavenly Father as a community. The traditional worshiping symbol has always been standing in awe in the Divine Presence except:

• When we are in a passive situation, such as listening to Sacred Scripture, taking up the collection or meditation after Communion- we SIT.
• When we are conscious of the Real Presence of Jesus, which is the canon of the Mass, then we KNEEL.
• When we are taking heavenly food for our journey towards eternal life, then we STAND and PROCESS, journeying forward as a united community to receive the Eucharist.

The effect of those simple rules, however, does seem to have us moving around a lot, but who wants to sit stock still for a whole hour so…

Sit, stand, kneel, march!

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St. Louis, King of France

By , August 25, 2011 5:06 am

St. Louis, King of France

There are many wonderful Catholic parishes in the City of Austin and one of the most important is St. Louis, King of France, on Burnet Road. The parish is well known for excellent liturgy, exceptional pastoral care of the people and a very strong social concerns ministry. With all of these things, St. Louis is living up to the faith and strength of its patron, St. Louis, King of France.

The king lived from 1214 to 1270 and had an extremely interesting reign, although I think the most interesting part of it is that he was both a king and a saint. We have not had too many of those in the last 2,000 years. On the other hand, we haven’t had a president canonized as yet, although, in my opinion, Abraham Lincoln merits the title.

Given the toughness of the age, Louis was an exceptional king. He was vitally concerned about justice, care of the poor, the elimination of internal strife among the people of France and, in every other way, showed himself to be a holy and just person. As a product of his age, he was very much committed to the Crusades and his desire to bring the land made holy by Jesus’ life back under the control of the Christians. He was the leader of the 9th Crusade, which was not all that successful, and he would be captured and imprisoned during that episode in his life.

At any rate, he is a great name in Church history and gives the title, once again, to an extraordinary Austin parish.

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The Backward Collar

By , August 24, 2011 4:05 am

We can all spot a clergyman on the street. He is a representative of one of the older mainline churches, e.g., Roman Catholic, Episcopalian and Lutheran. He (or she for the Lutherans and the Episcopalians) will be wearing a collar that is today usually called Roman or clerical. However, 100 years ago, it was simply called backward.

The symbolism is lost on today’s public because the collars that men wear are very different from where they were in the 19th century. Men wore stiff, plastic collars that were held together in front and under the tie with a collar pin or button. Somewhere along the way, clergy decided to start wearing them in reverse to signify a symbol of detachment from material grandeur. At the same time, they began to concentrate on black or gray suits giving the clergy a very formal and rather remote appearance in terms of daily fashion.

This backward “style” may also refer to the fact that when vested at church services the clergy are robed in a rather elegant manner, and the culture of the time wanted to show the major distinction between the clergyman as an individual living a simple and reserved life despite the great importance of his liturgical work on Sunday.

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L’Osservatore Romano Gets Modernized

By , August 23, 2011 4:02 am

The L’Osservatore Romano has been the official daily paper of the Vatican for many years. Official Church documents get published in it but this newspaper has never won any awards for either openness or technical competence. Now, suddenly we see a change. The editor is Mr. Giovanni Maria Vian and the paper has a dramatically improved appearance. It offers an excellent daily synthesis of international news and has timely essays on history and theology that are truly first-rate. According to John Allen, the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, he states that under Vian, “reading the paper’s lines has become just as worthwhile as reading between them.”

This is real progress and we can all be thankful. The Church has a bad record of not being forthright in its communication with the world around it. Maybe the improvements in L’Osservatore Romano will spread out into all areas of Vatican communication. This is a hopeful sign and a step in the right direction.

I have mentioned in this space before that Church leaders frequently have a destructive preoccupation with secrecy. In my opinion, the main reason for that is that they are fearful that the rank and file in the Church cannot handle scandal. That is really a rather silly evaluation because the people have been handling scandal since the time of the apostles on through to the present day. Scandals will always be among us but foolish efforts to cover them up always greatly magnify the evil that is present.

Again, my heartfelt congratulations to the new L’Osservatore Romano.

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To Dunk or Not to Dunk…

By , August 22, 2011 4:11 am

There is a great deal of diversity among the many, many different churches that place themselves under the name “Christian”. They differ in organizational structure, and important aspects of theology and in relationship to the world around them Despite all this diversity, the one great unifying factor of all of these “Christian” churches is acceptance of the importance and necessity of baptism. Catholics baptize. Lutherans baptize. Baptists baptize, etc., etc., etc.

Having said this, most of us are aware of the fact that although baptism is a great unifier, it is practiced in several different forms. Many of today’s fundamentalist churches practice by immersion- that is, the person being baptized is actually submerged briefly beneath the water, only to emerge quickly as a baptized Christian.
Some of the older churches such as the Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Episcopalians, use a simpler form, namely pouring blessed water over the head of the person being baptized, whether that person is an infant or an adult.

Those using immersion properly see baptism as symbolically entering into the death and resurrection of Jesus and this is wonderfully symbolized by the person being baptized going beneath the water (symbolizing death) only to rise from the water (symbolizing return to life). Personally, I think this is truly meaningful symbolism but it has some logistical problems connected with it. Rivers are not always convenient. The churches using flowing water over the head of the person hold that water is the essential matter and form of baptism, as long as it is poured with the one baptizing doing so in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is interesting that immersion has made a come back in many Catholic parishes.

Regardless, Catholic tradition accepts both forms, so the choice is yours!

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The Rock!! Oh What a Foundation!

By , August 20, 2011 5:30 am

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 21st)
Today’s Gospel excerpt is, from the Roman Catholic perspective, one of the most important pulled from among the four Gospels. The scene is dramatic. Jesus asks all of the apostles together what are the people out on the streets saying about himself and his preaching. Peter answers without hesitation. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”

Since nothing in the Gospel texts indicate that up to this point Jesus had revealed himself, that the revelation came from his Heavenly Father and so he turns to Peter and commissions him to be the building stone, the rock upon which Jesus will build his church. When I am preaching or giving retreats and this subject comes up, instead of saying “rock”, I say “slab.” It describes a little more easily the reality in describing modern foundations in constructing buildings. I don’t think people would appreciate that unless you are in a position to explain what you are saying. “Blessed are you, Simon Peter, for you are a slab on which I will build my church.” Then follows the transfer of delegated jurisdiction when Jesus says to Peter, “I will entrust to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven.”

Two thousand years later, the successors of Peter are still fulfilling the role of that slab. They are still the foundational strength of the Universal Church. The mission of Peter continues to this day and we also know that it will continue until the end of time. The office of being the successor of Peter, which we call the papacy, has been filled with extraordinary men through the last 2,000 years. Although they are guided by the Holy Spirit, a few came along who were far less than saints. Their failures and weaknesses, however, are yet another sign of the strength of the office. Without the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the system would have collapsed long ago.

Slabs are very important.

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