The Clergy Should Laugh More

By , February 29, 2012 6:04 am

Fr. Dan Kennedy

“Laughter is the best medicine.” Frequently, my mother told me that when I was young and I know that the medical world has documented the truth of that principle, suggesting that frequent laughter promotes mental and physical health. In view of that, I think that the clergy, especially Catholic priests, should laugh more.

I have been to Rome quite a few times and crossing the Piazza in front of St. Peter’s, I was always struck by the passage of priests in black cassocks and black briefcases striding rapidly across the area with stern frowns on their faces. I would frequently make it a point to say to one of them as we passed, “Hi there, Father. I hope you are having a good day.” The usual reaction was startlement or irritation.

The world is filled with problems and suffering but the followers of Jesus Christ know that ultimately the power of God will triumph. We start with the fact that the human family has been redeemed by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and we should all exude joy, laughter and optimism. I realize that we all have different dispositions and some of us are prone to see the darker side of things but such people should resist and concentrate on the world of God, blue skies, beautiful children, scenic mountains and the fact that our relatives will soon be returning home.

Three thousand years ago, the psalmist called us to joy saying,

Rejoice in the Lord you who are just,
praise is fitting for the upright.
Give thanks to God on the harp and lyre
making melody and chanting praise.
Amid loud shouts of joy
sing to God a new song
and play the ten-stringed harp (Psalm 33:1-3)

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Newsweek Catches Up With McCarthy’s Blog

By , February 28, 2012 6:31 am

A number of times over the last year or so I have raised the painful, agonizing and unjust fact that Christians are persecuted in a number of places in the world for the crime of being Christian. Newsweek magazine made that the lead story on the February 13th issue. Newsweek introduces its story with this sentence, “From one end of the Muslim world to the other, Christians are being murdered for their faith.” The article then goes on to document that terrorist attacks on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and Asia have increased 309% from 2003 to 2010. Christians in all these countries live in fear and Nigeria may be the most agonizing situation. A new Muslim terrorist organization, called Boko Haram, has vowed to establish Sharia law even though 40% of Nigerians, 160 million people, are of the Christian faith. Last year, this organization killed 510 people and burned down or destroyed more than 150 churches in the northern part of the country.

Last week, American military forces in Afghanistan committed the insensitive blunder of burning many copies of the Quran. Muslims were infuriated and there was danger of riots all over the country. The U.S. Commanding General apologized profusely…profusely! That is the right thing to do because none of us should insult the sacred symbols of the faith of other people. Wouldn’t it be an improvement to hear a few Muslim apologies coming forward about the terrible things that Muslims are inflicting on Christians all over the world?

This horrible situation has been going on for years but does not seem to rate making the front page of our papers. Our leaders don’t want to antagonize our Muslim “allies” and their Muslim leaders have never raised a voice against these ongoing tragedies.

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The Job Description for Correct Living

By , February 27, 2012 4:59 am

The Lenten scripture readings are really wonderful. Oh, how these excerpts of God’s Word jump at us on the weekdays of Lent!

Today’s first reading is from the book of Leviticus. In it, Yahweh gives us Moses, and through Moses, his word is passed to God’s people. First of all, he presents a summary of the basic commandments, the dos and don’ts of how to live, and then he gets a little more detailed.

“You shall not defraud or rob your neighbor. You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer. You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind but you shall fear your God. Do not act dishonestly in rendering judgment. You shall not go about spreading slander nor shall you stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is at stake. You may have to reprove your fellowman. Do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge, cherish no grudges. You shall love your neighbor as yourself for I am the Lord.”

All of us have work to do in Lent and thankfully we have the opportunity to carry out that work.

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Going into the Desert

By , February 25, 2012 8:03 am

Sunday, February 26th
Once again, we find ourselves confronting this wonderful spiritual gift that the Church presents to us each year in the spring. I am referring to the holy season of Lent and it is truly a gift. The important thing is that we should properly utilize this gift.

All of us find ourselves harried, over-extended, busy, over-committed, stressed out, and sometimes nervous and insecure about the direction that our life seems to be taking. When any one of us is experiencing some of those feelings, the Church says with the warm, loving voice of a mother, “Here is the gift of Lent. Here are a few weeks for a calm spiritual renewal.”

In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus walking out into the desert. Let’s don’t let him go alone! Let’s walk with him. In the desert, there is a sameness about the terrain, there is an absence of distractions and there is the opportunity to lift our eyes towards God while at the same time looking inside of ourselves.

Let’s see these six weeks as a walk. We are not alone. We are walking behind Jesus and we will be walking with St. Mark. We will be walking with millions of our brothers and sisters in faith as we try to pull our battered and tired lives together, and give ourselves a clear focus on what life is about and how it ought to be lived.

Onward into the desert.

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Don’t Get Arrogant

By , February 24, 2012 4:56 am

We have now been living in the holy season of Lent for three days. Most of us have made some type of commitment to endeavor to take care of this spiritual gift, and most of us are faithful to those commitments with only three days behind us. Today, the Church gives us a stark warning about clear thinking. The Isaiah text deals with the fact that centuries before the birth of Christ religious arrogance and self satisfaction abounded even then. In today’s first reading, Isaiah warns his listeners, “Your fast ends in quarrelling and fighting. Is that the manner of fasting I wish?” Then he refers to the pomposity that is present around him and Yahweh goes on in warning all of us,

“This rather is the fasting I wish – releasing those bound unjustly, untying the throngs of the yoke, setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the naked when you see them and not turning your back on your own.”

That is a step above giving up candy or movies for Lent, is it not?

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Lent- Control, control, control!

By , February 23, 2012 3:07 am

Most of us learn the hard way that the cliche, practice makes perfect, is really true. Regretfully, a large percentage of us also tilt towards being lazy. We are now in the first days of Lent. The challenge before us is to strengthen our spiritual commitment to our Divine Lord. To prepare properly to celebrate the Resurrection. In view of these facts, we’ve learned that one of the important things we do is to practice discipline. It is necessary to control our use of time. We must not only decide to pray more, we must actually PRAY more. We must not only desire to let our minds towards profound religious thoughts through prayer, conversation and reading, but we must discuss our faith and make use of the countless spiritual books that are always at our fingertips.

Exercising spiritual discipline will build up the strength in our day to day life to enable us to avoid complaining about that neighbor’s dog, or really exploding in the front seat of the car when all of those idiots on the freeway are driving improperly (something WE never do!).

This is a simple explanation of spiritual exercises worked into our daily routine. We must remember that these exercises are not an end in themselves, they are simply to strengthen our control over the automatic reactions that we have as we work our way through our hectic daily schedules. I realize that many people connect Lent with giving up something that they really like. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is far better to practice positive spiritual activity than simply skipping candy.

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Ashes Mark a Beginning

By , February 22, 2012 3:04 am

We all know about ashes. Ashes are all that remains of some object that has been consumed by fire and is now reduced close to a state of nothingness. Whatever the object that was consumed by fire it has lost its substance, its form, its purpose. Ashes are terrible and yet today, the Church uses ashes to mark a beginning. Ashes are used to call us into a six-week period of prayer, study and sacrifice. We are to calmly observe the ashes sometimes present in our own spirituality and have them draw our minds and hearts upward towards the death of Jesus which will commemorate six weeks hence on the great feast of the Resurrection.

It is easy to spot Catholics on Ash Wednesday. I got a kick out of Vice President Joe Biden giving a TV address last year with that big black cross right in the middle of his forehead. He didn’t take it off. Most of us don’t. It is a reminder to each of us about the shortness of life, and a reminder to others that when they see that black cross that they also need to be concerned about how they are utilizing the gifts that God has given them.

Most of our churches will fill up several times today because people really love this simple symbol. They see its meaning, its value, they respond generously, and most will make a commitment to make better use of this year’s Lenten season than we did a year ago. I think that a vast majority of those simple resolutions are sincere but many of us fade out by the third week in Lent.

Let’s do get our ashes. Let’s be determined to prepare for what they signify over the next six weeks.

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This Tuesday is FAT

By , February 21, 2012 1:28 pm

I don’t know much French, and I’m not even sure it’s real French, but I do know the word Mardi Gras. It means “Fat Tuesday”, and in Latin countries, it gradually developed over the centuries as a modest corruption. People see Lent coming. In the old days, it would scare them, because it was truly a serious period of discipline. In order to get them through the tension building up before Ash Wednesday, they started celebrating the Tuesday before it as “Fat Tuesday”. Later, this would be seen as such a good idea, they made the entire week a week of celebration.

Celebration? More frequently, the proper word would be debauchery. New Orleans is famous for this week, but it is also celebrated over most of the Latin world.

There is nothing basically wrong with Fat Tuesday, but when it leads to dissipation, wild carousing, and intoxication, it’s not exactly responding to the mood to which Lent is calling us.

Go ahead and have a glass of wine- but be careful.

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On Picking Up Your Mat!

By , February 20, 2012 4:40 am

Last Sunday’s reading from the second chapter of Mark shows how fast things move in Mark’s Gospel. We already see our Lord performing great wonders as he moves throughout the country. At the same time, those wonders are producing opposition that will ultimately result in the crucifixion of the Lord.

Jesus had just told a paralytic man that his sins were forgiven and the religious leaders of that day were up in arms. “How dare you say that! No one can forgive sins except God alone.” Jesus does not respond to that charge because he agrees with it but to just show the relationship between himself and Yahweh, Jesus says to the paralytic in front of him, “I command you. Stand up. Pick up your mat and go home.” The crowds were awestruck and the reputation of the Lord grows stronger but his enemies see this new prophet in their midst as a real threat to their status and don’t look warmly towards being undercut by this young man from Nazareth.

The sick man in this story had everything against him. He was crippled and also was marked by human frailty. In a very real way, he stands in the place for all of us. We all have material and physical problems and we need God’s help, but we also are spiritually weak and sooner or later we need God’s forgiveness. When you say your morning prayers try to visualize the voice of Jesus leaping across the centuries and saying to you, “John, pick up your mat and go.”

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Dropping In On Jesus

By , February 18, 2012 4:26 am

Image from

February 19th, 7th Sunday of the Year
As I said last week, Mark lays out his thesis of his Gospel in the first sentence of the first chapter, that it was about the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God! Having said that, he moves quickly to provide motives for faith to his listeners and begins to relate the awesome powers that Jesus constantly exercised. Today’s except provides us a delightful and interesting story.
Jesus has quickly become famous, stories abound about his wondrous powers and throngs gather around him. Many of those coming want to be cured from terrible sicknesses and disease. Today, it is a question of a paralyzed man whose friends bring him. When they are frustrated that they can’t even get inside the building because of the crowd, they use their heads and carried the man up on the roof (I think that most roofs were flat at that time), removed some of the thatch and lower this man down from the sky. Isn’t that delightful?

Visualize our Lord delivering a major presentation on his message of salvation and suddenly right down in front of him, held by a blanket, comes the body of this crippled man. Our Lord was impressed but telling him he is cured is not the first thing he said. Rather, he said, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” That immediately caused a stir among his enemies. I will come back to that tomorrow how Jesus uses this need for a physical cure as a sign of a much greater power that he has; namely, to heal the relationship between frail human beings and an infinitely loving God.

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