Frustrating Choices

By , August 31, 2013 5:24 am

September 1st, 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

For more than three years now I have been placing my views and opinions here in the mysterious world of the internet. I thoroughly enjoy it but I have absolutely no idea how it works. I do, however, know how to read, think and have opinions. Monday through Friday the ideas can come from almost any direction but I put out one comment on Saturday drawing upon the texts of the scriptural readings for the following day. As I know my readers are all busy people, I try with some success to keep my views rather short. What do I do if I want to touch on two different subjects? That is certainly the case today.

The first reading is magnificently important for everybody who wants to live a happy life. The Gospel is about fraternal
correction and how that should be done inside the community of faith, which is the Church. I personally have needs in both of these areas and topics give each and every one of us an opportunity to develop both psychologically and spiritually. Take a quick look at the first reading from the book of Sirach and see if it doesn’t make horse sense.

The text reflects an old man talking to his son giving him good advice on how to live a better life. He stresses that if you develop the virtue of humility people will appreciate you and value your friendship. If you are really very successful, you don’t have to tell your friends about it. They will know that and respect the fact that your accomplishments have not gone to your head and turned you into an obnoxious person. He also suggests that we set goals for ourselves that are reasonable and not greedy and if we do find ourselves sinning, then generosity and concern for others will atone for those weaknesses. Good advice from an old man. Always true but sometimes we have to get somewhat older in order to gain that wisdom from experience.

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God Bless Father Domec

By , August 30, 2013 5:43 am

Last week I went to a funeral in Houston. Since I have been a priest for nearly sixty years and currently find myself in my mid-80’s, it is not surprising that I would be at a funeral…but this one was special. The priest whose funeral I was attending was Monsignor Charles Domec. We were ordained together in May of 1956. Although separated by many miles through most of our priesthood, we remained good friends and occasionally coworkers. I have buried many friends over the last couple of years but for some reason Charlie’s got my attention. The obvious reason is that some of the other of my priestly classmates and certainly myself were showing very clear signs that we have already been around for a long time.

Funeral prayers, articulated by Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, somehow rang with greater clarity in my head. Simple but popular hymns rang in my ears during the funeral itself and days thereafter. You yourself might listen more closely the next time you attend the funeral of a good and longtime friend.

The opening hymn was “Here I Am Lord” by Dan Schutte. Based on a text from Isaiah, it had tremendous meaning for me. Charlie had served as a priest for nearly six decades and always in rather sizable parishes. The words of the hymn could certainly be his own.

“I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin, my hand will save to make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?”

Then as I looked at the casket I could almost hear Charlie saying,
“I was there Lord. I was there.
I heard you calling in the night. I went Lord.
You led me and I held your people in my heart.”

The words are from Isaiah articulated 2,600 years ago but for me on that morning in church they were also the words of Charlie Domec. He heard, he answered, he served and now he himself is with the Lord.

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Saluting Lindy Boggs – Smart, Generous, Faithful

By , August 29, 2013 5:32 am

Like so many people across America, we received the sad news last week that Corinne “Lindy” Boggs had died. Lindy was an extraordinary woman. Born on a sugar plantation in Louisiana, she would marry and assist Congressman Hale Boggs during his years as a Democratic Congressman. After his tragic death in a plane accident in 1972, she was prevailed upon to run for his vacant seat. She hesitated to do so but was so appreciated by the citizens that she would be re-elected seven times. Complete retirement escaped her however. After leaving Congress, she was appointed by President Bill Clinton to be Ambassador to the Vatican, a post in which she served with great effectiveness.

Both as congresswoman and ambassador, Lindy worked long and hard for the poor, the disenfranchised and multiple issues of special interest to women. Lindy Boggs is a great example on the effectiveness of women in every segment of our society. The Church needs to make more determined efforts to utilize more effectively that 50% of her membership which is female.

May God bless and reward Lindy Boggs for a life well lived.

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A March Against Violence

By , August 28, 2013 5:31 am

Deep in our central cities, where most of our nation’s poor find themselves crowded, are often marked by fear and violence. Regretfully, it has been that way since the birth of the nation. There are endless stories about how groups of people first arrived in the United States as destitute immigrants and found themselves crowded into urban slums of our cities. The first chapters are always sad and difficult but within a generation or two these brave people were able to escape to a better life because of education and jobs. It was the living out of the American dream. This process is still going on but regretfully at a slower rate among both Hispanics and Blacks. As a nation we should work harder to make sure that the American dream is fulfilled for all of our citizens.

Black and Hispanics, crowded as they are into poverty areas, are the most frequent victims of crime in such areas. American whites, who have fled to suburbia, seem to instinctively fear minority people but they are not the ones who are suffering. It is those same minorities that endure the burden.

It is a shame that the Catholic Church has not grown as much as it could have in the Black community but it is there, it is strong and is highly organized. Last month in Chicago, there was a very meaningful march on behalf of peace and the elimination of violence in our central cities. It was led by the joint conference of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, the National Black Sisters Conference, the National Black Seminarians Association and the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons. The event was closed by a prayer service with Francis Cardinal George of Chicago. That is really a wonderful thing that the highly organized Black Catholic community is stepping into this with a vengeance. May God continue to bless and guide them.

The Black Catholic community has a great deal to teach both their Catholic brothers and sisters but even the entire country. They have suffered terribly unbelievable suffering via slavery and it did not end in 1865. Oppression, humiliation and injustice continued legally until the mid-1960’s. Happily, there has been tremendous progress since the Johnson years but no one should let up. The United States is called to be an even greater country than it is today but that process will not be complete until we have eradicated the destructive selfishness of racism from our midst.

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Heavens Above! The Canonization Process

By , August 27, 2013 5:31 am

What does it mean when the Roman Catholic Church declares one of its deceased members to be a saint? The Church has no direct knowledge about specific individuals in life after death. While Michelangelo painted many famous people into hell on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, his brilliant artistry is, however, not an act of the Church.
On the other hand, however, the Church has throughout its history spotlighted certain men and women who have displayed extraordinary holiness, moral goodness and faithful commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ.
When the Church does this through a formal process, it will declare this or that person to be especially worthy of imitation and call that person a saint.
In the first thousand years, the process was very informal and came about simply by the continued veneration and respect of the faithful. When that veneration spread far and wide and perdured for decades, the people themselves gave the title “saint “ and it has held on lo these many centuries.
Gradually, however, the Church in Rome wanted a more formal and objective process and it established a special Congregation in the Vatican to receive from churches across the world the suggestion that this or that person, known to be extraordinarily holy, ought to be considered for sainthood. Rules and processes were set up and individuals would be appointed to collect information, more accurately to investigate that person’s life. Slowly the custom developed that a miracle or two must be observed in answer to petitions to the one being studied. This would strengthen the belief that the person was actually sharing the beatific vision. Regretfully, this process requires work and expense and this is the sad reason why we have so many priests and nuns declared saints and so few, comparatively speaking, lay people. Religious orders, would of course feel very blessed in having one of their members canonized and when they identify a possible candidate from among their members they are in a position to advance the process more easily. Mr. Slavinski, who lives down the street from you and who you know to be an awesomely holy person, is not in a position to do that.
I wonder if we should go back to the earlier system. In a sense it has already returned because most of us consider John XXIII and Mother Teresa saints. Who is to say that we are wrong?
While you were reading this blog, countless numbers of holy people have by-passed the system and have gone straight to their destiny; eternal union with God.

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The Importance of Boundaries

By , August 26, 2013 5:48 am

Photo: Grimes

I am a city boy. I grew up in Houston and never lived on a farm or rural area in my life. That is true of most Americans. We are overwhelmingly urbanized and that same fact is on its way to being true for the population of the entire world.
Despite that fact, our culture was rooted in rural areas for many centuries and you can still see traces of it in our verbiage. Take for example, “Hold your horses!” That had real meaning in the day of horses being the main form of transportation and had to be controlled when they got excited. Another such expression is, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Well, the horses expression has no use or value today but the underlying principle of good fences making good neighbors is still very true.

Boundaries are important and whether we are conscious of it or not they are all around us. When they are accepted by the culture they make for very good relationships. We use boundaries to guide how we talk to each other. We use boundaries to measure how hard we work on the job. We use boundaries on our words and how we use them. Failure to use accepted boundaries invariably generates tension and conflict.

I think it is important for us to evaluate our own sense of boundary markers that guide us in our day-to-day living. We have boundaries in our relationship to God but maybe we don’t think about it often enough or clearly enough. For example, one of our purposes for existence is to give glory to God, to acknowledge him as the source of our being and the reason for our existence and to live a good and moral life. When we are guilty of grave sin, we have crossed a boundary in this infinitely important relationship. Boundaries are not walls- they are markers. It is your will that determines whether or not you will cross that boundary. In our dealings with others, our faith in Jesus Christ motivates us to generosity, patience and a commitment to the common good. If we do not fulfill responsibilities in those areas, we have lost sight of our boundaries.

Let‘s take a good look and see how we are doing.

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God’s Plan- What’s Your Part?

By , August 24, 2013 5:45 am

August 25, 21st Sunday of the Year
Jesus Christ came among us with a message of joy, hope and salvation. These are tremendous gifts and we should be forever thankful but to receive them we must cooperate with our Lord.

In today’s Gospel, we see St. Luke continuing to describe the long journey that Jesus is taking towards Jerusalem. Physically and physiologically, it is an uphill climb as he walks up from the mountains as followers peppered him with questions. Needless to say, many of these so-called followers have clearly expressed their rejection of his message. The response from our Lord is really challenging all of us. If we don’t accept the invitation, we may find the door locked. If we don’t appreciate his generosity, he may not hear our cries of complaint.

That is serious enough but let’s take a quick switch back to the first reading from Isaiah. Isaiah is preaching to God’s people at a time of great trial and suffering. But he sees through all that to the time when Yahweh will gather nations of every language and they will all become one enormous family of faith. It is a magnificent view of the ultimate triumph of God’s plan. We all have a part in it but it takes work.

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Pope Francis Preceded By Many Saints

By , August 23, 2013 5:24 am

I think that the entire Catholic world is very proud of our new Pope Francis. There are so many reasons to be happy about this new development in the Universal Church. Of special importance was the generous and heroic resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. It was the first one in 700 years and hopefully will be a valuable precedent enabling future popes to leave office with dignity when they can no longer carry out their responsibilities.
Our new pope was the first from the Western Hemisphere, the first Jesuit, demonstrated extraordinary interest in bringing simplicity and humility to every aspect of Church life. His work will not be easy but he has got off to a great start and I have a suggestion for him.
I think that Pope Francis, who naturally has devotion to his namesake, should also foster interest in devotion to St. Rose of Lima. Today, August 23rd, is her feast day.
From an American perspective, I think that we have looked at more of the Church in South America in the last six months than we have traditionally. The Church down there has been present for centuries and while beset by many problems, it is still very strong.
St. Rose was born in 1597. Needless to say, she was born in Lima, Peru. As a young girl, she demonstrated extraordinary commitment to faith in Jesus Christ and lived a life of prayer and sacrifice. She would join the Dominican order and become one of the many saints who walked in the footsteps, first of our Lord Jesus Christ, but also St. Dominic.
In her 20th year, Rose received the Dominican habit. She would die in Lima in 1617 and following her death many miracles would be credited to her intervention in heaven. She was canonized in 1671 being the first from the Western Hemisphere to be so honored. Remember when I say “America” it covers two continents.
Over the years, a number of men and women who were born and raised in the Western Hemisphere have been canonized by the Catholic Church- nothing at all, of course, in comparison to Europe because the Church has been there for so much longer. That gets me thinking about the process of canonization as it is exercised today and I will be bringing that up in the next couple of days. Until then, may the wonderful St. Rose of Lima intercede at the throne of God for our beloved Pope Francis.
In addition to St. Rose of Lima, the South American Church has been blessed by extraordinarily holy people, such as St. Peter Claver and St. Martin de Porres. With Pope Francis conscious of the many needs of the Church in South America, it is not surprising that early on he honored two new ones with the title “blessed.” They are Blessed Mother Laura Montoya from Colombia and Blessed Mother Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala from Mexico. They are on their way.

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Be Prepared…It Is Not Just A Boy Scout Motto

By , August 22, 2013 5:33 am

When we read through the Gospels and find that our Lord keeps coming back to one particular point a number of times, I think that all of us should pay attention. One idea that occurs repeatedly is the need to live our lives so as to meet judgment suddenly and without preparation…to be prepared! A case in point is the parable in which our Lord describes a scene where the master of a large house is away and the servants are in a position to choose how they are going to conduct themselves. They can either lay down on the job, involve themselves in carousing and drinking, or they can stay alert and ready to receive the boss even if he shows up at some unexpected moment. In another situation, our Lord describes the same thing where the rich farmer filled his barns with wealth and now plans to do nothing except enjoy himself. In both cases, as well as others, the message is the same. Be prepared, live your life as though in the next few minutes you might have to account for it – to face the judgment of God.
I am an optimist on this point. I really do believe that most people live as best they can. They may make mistakes and commit this sin or that sin, but our conscience usually pulls us back on the right track. True saints are in short supply but most people are faithful to their beliefs and values and when they are not their regret with embarrassment and even shame will call them back to a better life.
What criteria should we use in evaluating ourselves? It is fairly easy. All you have to do is run through the commandments that involve relationships with God, our families and a wide variety of relationships. So the criteria is how do we handle those relationships. Do we give God the worship to which he is due? Do we fulfill our familial responsibilities? Are we honest with our neighbors and co-workers? If we inflict pain on someone, do we apologize quickly? Do we make every effort to be honest in our business dealings? Those who really work at making progress in their faith journey have learned the importance of the examination of conscience. At the beginning of the day or at the end we ought to review these various relationships and see where we can improve, tighten up and move forward with grace and confidence.
“Be on guard, therefore. The Son of Man will come when you least expect him.”

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Don’t Ask ‘Em!

By , August 21, 2013 4:46 am

It is totally natural and almost universal for parents to love their children. They want the best for their children and they make sacrifices in order to accomplish that.

When their permanent teeth begin coming out and one that is spotted as needing attention sacrifices are made to put braces on so that our kids would have that perfect, happy smile. Our kids being normal, often begin to raise their sights on what they want in order to “be happy.” Responding to your children’s desires is all too natural but parents do need to be careful. Parents should not overextend the range of pleasurabilities that they might offer their children. Everything depends on their age and the other needs of the family.

As a parish priest, I have obviously not raised any children but I have been involved with countless numbers while watching them grow up. Thankfully, most are doing well but many are tempted to be selfish and demanding. In my opinion, one reason is that children are too frequently asked the question, “What do you want? What would you like?” There is nothing innately wrong with that question but should a mother be a short order cook for her children? Shouldn’t breakfast just be breakfast depending on what is available or should it be a range of choices from pancakes or bacon and eggs or plain toast?

One of the greatest gifts that parents could give their children is the ability to adjust to reality and if in their formative years they find out that “I want” easily translates into “I have,” a dangerous trend is being set and parents should be watchful. If you get everything “you want” for the first 18 years of life and suddenly come straight up against the hard real world, many children would have a very difficult time handling it.
You are never too young to learn that generosity pays off, that kindness will be rewarded, that sharing with others is the secret to a happy life.

Don’t give them what they want but give them what they need and can handle.

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