Courage Around the World

By , May 31, 2012 6:14 am

I have been a Catholic priest since 1956. Therefore, it goes without saying that literally thousands and thousands of times I have had the opportunity and the responsibility to stand up and preach to men and women as to how life ought to be lived. There is plenty about which to speak. Sin and virtue abound on all sides, but the preacher must be very careful and real courage is involved.

When you are speaking to 500 people in a church or synagogue, you can be sure that the vast majority of the people know that you are just like they are, a frail and limited human being. It is very important that the speaker always identify himself with the group to which he is speaking. It should never be you – you – you but we – we – we.

While the majority of my public speaking has been in the area of preaching, I have also had the opportunity to do a considerable amount of teaching in various areas such as history, pressing social issues, personal development and other subjects. Regardless of the subject, I think it is extremely important to keep three aspects of your presentation front and center. First of all, a speaker must know his subject well. Secondly, he or she must feel strongly about it. Finally, you must condition your remarks in the context of where your audience is. The factors involved are the information or values to be transferred, the attitude and personality of the speaker and, most especially, how that information relates to or could be of value to the listeners. If any one of those factors is missing, the speaker will bomb out. Regretfully, most of us have experienced a number of such failures.

On the other hand, when a speaker (especially a preacher) pulls all these things together- we can be extraordinarily touched and affected.

Onward through the fog.

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I Pity the Poor Children

By , May 30, 2012 5:14 am

Do you remember what it was like to be a little kid? I do and it was wonderful. In those endless years before kindergarten, we are as free and can be. Once we hit school, life became burdensome in the extreme, loaded with responsibilities and schedules. But at least we had the afternoon and the weekends. And oh, the summertime – the good, ole summertime! After breakfast, we headed out the front door in bare feet that soon toughened up so that we didn’t need shoes at all. We would report in for lunch and then, of course, be back inside in time for the children’s radio programs around 5:00 p.m. What a life and it was yours, oh blessed child.

Is that the situation today? I hope that it is. This society is so concerned about productivity and achievement that things have become much more difficult. The schools pile on homework that requires a good portion of the evening hours. Social goals call for extraordinary extra activity, whether it be for sports, dance, music or whatever. These are all wonderful things and in some ways make us better persons, but I feel that playing is an important part of growing up. What about after we are grown? I think that it is also important that we be able to play in our middle and later years, to laugh, to spend endless hours talking to our friends. Incidentally, I don’t consider watching television a very playful activity except maybe with a lot of friends during the World Series. Television demands passivity and real play requires activity both of our bodies, our minds and our hearts.

“Hello, Mrs. Brady. Can George come out and play?”

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Graduation 2012!

By , May 29, 2012 4:42 am

What is all that yelling about? It is caused by that group of elementary school kids who have just broken free of the confines of daily classes. They take their shoes off and those blessed to be able to do so are headed out to go swimming and fishing or to play ball. I hope that they have a wonderful three months before the grind starts up again.

There are two other groups of graduates as well. Let’s take a look at them. See that gang of 18 year olds? They are not so exuberant. I am talking about those who just graduated from high school and who are finding that their efforts to get into the college of their choice are difficult indeed. Many of them are not laughing. Look beyond them and you can see a second group that is not laughing. They have just graduated from college. They have accomplished a great deal and should be celebrating. They have 16 years of education behind them but the next step, meaningful employment in terms of their education and training, is not all that certain.

Congratulations to all three groups but the two latter groups deserve our prayers, encouragement and help
May God Continue to Bless the 2012 Graduates!

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So Much To Remember

By , May 28, 2012 4:30 am

Arlington National Cemetery

Today is a holiday- Memorial Day. There will be a lot of picnics and one-day outings, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, every one of us should take serious time today to be thoughtful and prayerful about the fact that we have so much for which to be thankful, so much to remember. That thankfulness and remembrance is to center on the fact that so many of our fellow Americans over the last two hundred years have given their lives in order that our country might be free, and that this freedom and prosperity could be maintained in a difficult world that has constantly threatened it.

The facts can be laid out on the table, the figures can be totaled out but there is no way that they can begin to grasp the reality that is behind these numbers. During the first one hundred years of our existence, 683,000 Americans lost their lives with the Civil War counting for 623,000 of that total (91%). The next one hundred years, a further 626,000 Americans died through two world wars and several more regional conflicts. Of this latter figure, World War II represented 65% of that total.

Let’s look behind those cold statistics. For every one of those digits, there are heartbroken parents, crushed fiancées, brokenhearted wives and children by the millions. Yes, we must remember and we must give thanks for their generosity. However, while we are giving thanks, we should pray fervently and work within the confines of our own situation in life to do whatever we can to lessen the threat of war. In some ways, we find ourselves in a unique moment of history. We have developed structures that improve communication between countries and lessen the type of resolving conflicts with guns and bombs, but at the same time we do have weapons of mass destruction that if we don’t handle ourselves rationally, all of the losses of our wars will seem minor compared to what could possibly happen. Remember? Yes, indeed remember! But also pray – pray – pray.

For an excellent book describing the proximity of our peril, try reading How the End Begins by Ron Rosenbaum. This book thoughtfully describes what the author sees as a road to an approaching nuclear war.

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Are You Wearing RED Today?

By , May 26, 2012 5:28 am

Pentecost Sunday
One of the things that I really love about Roman Catholic traditions is the way that we have divided the entire year into phases or chapters that center around Jesus of Nazareth. Part of the year prepares for his coming. That is Advent. Part of the year marks the time when Christ was present among us. That is from Christmas Day until fifty days after the Resurrection. The third chapter and the longest begins with Pentecost and continues until Advent begins again. It is really a wonderful system where throughout the year we are constantly reminded of the need to have our lives centered on Jesus of Nazareth, to know him better, to love him profoundly and to motivate ourselves to walk in his footsteps.

I love Pentecost because on this day the spotlight swings away from the life of Jesus of Nazareth and shines squarely on us. Jesus came to be our savior, to be our redeemer and he accomplished that, but He wanted to have the human family involved in its own salvation. He wanted us to be partners with him in preaching the good word of God’s love for the human family.

Regretfully, sometimes we don’t get as much out of the Scripture readings as we should when we are at Sunday Mass. I would suggest that you take three or four minutes and open up your bible to Acts of Apostles 2:1-11. The story related there is short but awesomely dramatic. It provides a jump start for this little band of battered, confused men who now have the responsibility of carrying forward the work of Jesus and, believe me, they do well. Next week we will see that Peter gave one of the most successful homilies in the history of the Church. Following the reception of the Holy Spirit, Peter and the apostles go out into the streets of Jerusalem and Peter preaches to the crowds and the text says that, “There were added that day three thousand souls.” That would certainly have been the shortest RCIA in Church history.

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When Religious Formation is Absent

By , May 25, 2012 5:08 am

Have you noticed that there is a widespread view that the country is “on the wrong track.” Political candidates, TV commentators, newspaper pundits and preachers in various churches seem to be of a common mind on that. The Secret Service scandal, Walmart’s bribery in Mexico and beyond, “flash mobs” in department stores, the Navy captain providing pornographic movies to his crew, an $800,000 weekend meeting of the General Service Administration, an agency that is supposed to shepherd our financial resources, violation of corpses in Afghanistan, etc., etc., etc. None of these problems are new; none of them particularly original for this period. What is different is that these very discouraging modes of operation are more easily tolerated than was ever the case in the past. Most of us are saddened by it, most of us regret these activities but most of us feel that there is little that we can do about it. Is that the case?

Our culture, if you can call it that, is the first one in human history that has denied itself the right to pass on responsibility to the next generation its own set of values.

Not only does that lack of religious values add to the criminal activity I mentioned above, but it is one of the underlying causes of so many other agonizing human problems from which we are suffering in this country. Shattered marriages, all too many immature, irresponsible adults, alcoholism and drug addiction, lack of commitment to education and a host of other tragic let downs that mark our society, our families and our individual lives.

Why not try something new? Religious formation. Some of the churches have sizable school systems and most churches have Sunday school, but they tend to concentrate on the religious teachings of that particular church. The U.S. Supreme Court continues to feel that any religious formation in the public school system is a violation of the Constitution. What a tragic mistake.

Not only are the American people blocked from using its enormous educational system from transferring moral values in any realistic way, but the court has actually worked against outside groups, such as churches and synagogues to reach its students. Several decades ago, serious efforts were made in areas such as “released time” and other efforts to provide religious instruction to public school students, but it was always rejected by the Court. The vast majority of American people hold that religious values are extraordinarily important and they ought to be imported to each new generation as effectively as possible. Can anybody imagine teaching math and science one hour a week after school? If only half our students attended those voluntary classes, can you imagine the destructive effects on their education? Well, that is what we are doing with religious values and we are paying for it.

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The Social Teachings of the Church. Has the Tradition Been Lost?

By , May 24, 2012 5:03 am

Several weeks ago, Representative Paul Ryan, the leading voice of the Republicans in the budgetary struggles currently going on in this country, announced a budget. While it was passed by the House and endorsed by presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, it has been vigorously opposed by the students of Georgetown and by the American bishops. One hundred Georgetown faculty members signed a letter protesting the Ryan budget which according to the Georgetown professors, “….continuing misuse of Catholic teachings to defend a budget that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few.” The Ryan budget would trim billions from programs for low-income, vulnerable citizens. The letter states, “In short, your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and antagonism towards religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love.”

In the past, Ryan has stated that Ayn Rand was an important influence in his thinking.

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Hunger – It Keeps Coming Back

By , May 23, 2012 5:16 am

Most people are extraordinarily generous and willingly rush in to help a friend or even a stranger who is in some difficulty. I think that this has been especially obvious in this country as the tragic and unnecessary problem of hunger hovers over the lives of tens of thousands of Americans. Happily, Americans have found ways to respond and programs have developed all over the United States to respond to this pressing need. Central Texas is blessed by one of the best such organizations in the United States and I am referring to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas.

I am now in my third year of doing this blog and I have tried to work strenuously not to repeat myself, but in the cause of hunger, I feel free to do it. Hunger is here, hunger is unnecessary, people want to help and one of the best vehicles by which to do that is the Capital Area Food Bank.

The Capital Area Food Bank, headed by Hank Perret, who is president and CEO, has developed programs over a wide-range of areas but the basic program is just extraordinary. Each month, the Capital Area Food Bank distributes TWO MILLION POUNDS OF FOOD. They tell me that this is the equivalent of a Boeing 737 airplane every day and 365 days of the year. Since I am not knowledgeable about the weight of a Boeing 737, I take them at their word because I know them to be extraordinarily generous, committed and dedicated fellow citizens. May God bless them each and every one.

The problem in dealing with hunger is that it has a tendency to return. Many of us feel very good when we have helped someone with needs in terms of the short-term with someone on the street in trouble, buy them a cheeseburger, slip them $5.00 and feel like we have done a good thing. We have but the problem has not been solved. The ultimate solution of the problem of hunger is generating enough jobs so that everybody is able to work and provide for their own needs. However, we are in a society that, tragically enough, is not able to do that right now. Even though Austin is one of the best off cities in the nation in terms of jobs available, we still have thousands and thousands of people who are in need. Most of my readers have those jobs and most of those readers have helped with the problem of hunger in the past, but I really urge you to stop and make every effort to reach out and help the Capital Area Food Bank. Their address is 8201 South Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas 78745, (512) 282-2111.

Who was it who said, “When I was hungry, you gave me to eat?” HE did, of course, go on to say something else about someone who did not help him when he was hungry, but let’s not go into that at this time. Again, I am always amazed and thankful by the generosity of most of the people around us.

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Yet Another Casa!

By , May 22, 2012 5:28 am

Have you ever noticed how popular the word “casa” is among Catholic people who are striving to lessen the pain that they find around them in our battered society? Casa Esperanza, Casa Marienalla, Casa this and Casa that. I think that it might be that the word sounds so peaceful and welcoming and these special programs need to generate that image as they reach out to people in trouble.

One of my favorite casas is Casa Esperanza de los Ninos in Houston and it is in the process of celebrating 30 years of extraordinarily effective work – awesome work, in fact! Thirty years ago, back in 1982, Kathy Foster, a young woman working in a halfway house for emotionally disturbed mothers and their children, was painfully aware that more and more children were finding themselves completely abandoned. Maybe there was only one parent and death entered the scene. Maybe it was the local police or the Immigration Naturalization Service that would separate a single parent from a child. Kathy saw the problem and decided to do something about it. Gathering a few dedicated friends with limited resources, she secured the use of one four-bedroom house and opened the doors of Casa Esperanza de los Ninos. Then the miracle began to unfold.

Kathy opened a development center in 1985, an in-house medical clinic in 1986, admitted the first child with HIV/AIDS in 1987, made the first adoption in 1988, placed its 100th adoption in the year 2000 and in 2008 opened a new “Casa” neighborhood – seven large homes in one location. I cannot do justice to the extraordinary accomplishments that Kathy and her co-workers achieved. However, it is well to point out that the Casa was featured on the NBC Today Show last year and that Kathy was inducted in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. If anyone ever deserved that honor, she did. Casa now operates ten separate homes and in each of them the children are cared for in a loving, secure family manner. A great number of lives have been changed because of one woman’s vision and generosity. Congratulations to Casa and thank you, Kathy.

Last year’s budget for Casa Esperanza de los Ninos is nearly $6 million!

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The Pope Resigned?

By , May 21, 2012 5:21 am

Image from

Don’t get excited. I am not talking about our present Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. I am talking about the first and only pope in 2,000 years who resigned having once been elected. In the grisly Middle Ages, a number did depart the office by having been assassinated but this case is quite different. I am referring to Pope Celestine V, who was born in 1209 and was elected at the age of 84 as a compromise candidate, when the College of Cardinals spent two frustrating years without agreeing on a new pope.

Pietro da Morrone, founded a religious community and was its superior at the time of the impasse and he really blasted the cardinals, threatening them with the wrath of God. They responded by electing him to the Chair of Peter!

A new book on this subject, The Pope Who Quit, by Jon Sweeney, tells us that the choice might even have seemed inspired raising the hope that a truly holy man would be the one who led the Medieval Church out of its corrupt ways. However, it turned out to be a disaster. He was too old, the problems too serious. He resigned after 15 disastrous weeks. His claim to fame is an interesting one. He is the only pope out of the 265 men who have held the office to have ever actually resigned.

Do you want to get your hands on interesting reading material? Start reading Church history. What a story!

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