Category: Catholic Church

Onward Through the Fog

By , May 4, 2014 10:50 am

Bishop John McCarthy


Surprise, surprise! I’m a little embarrassed about having disappeared from this spot for the last couple of weeks without any explanation, but we’ve had some special circumstances, including turnover in our chancery staff, that disrupted this daily blog. Let me say, however, that I am very proud of the fact that we did indeed produce daily blogs for over four years, with little repetition in the subject matter. Creating this commentary each day, for lo those many months, has been a real delight for me. I no longer have steady access to a pulpit, so being able to share with so many friends- and I do mean FRIENDS- what I thought about this or that issue was a true joy.

There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:
A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted.
A time for killing, a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building.
A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing.
–Ecclesiastes

Thank you so much for visiting this space, and let’s walk into the future with FAITH and LAUGHTER,conscious that it is a battered, worried world, but that ultimately, our loving God is in charge.

Let me send you “onward through the fog” with one of my favorite Irish blessings:

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind always be at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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Wagons West

By , April 24, 2014 9:53 am

http://www.nwhistorycourse.org/


When I was a younger priest I frequently gave retreats to high school students. I thoroughly enjoyed that work and they would be marvelously attentive. I always tried to get and keep their attention by using examples that they had in some sense experienced or had knowledge of. When I was talking to them about the Church, our community of faith, I would remind them of the old Westerns that still play on Turner Classic Movies so all of them had seen the old movies about wagon trains struggling to get across the Indian territory trying to make it to California.

I would tell them that Pope John XXIII was the wagon master in the Church back in 1958 and that, despite his weight, he climbed up on the lead wagon and cried out in a voice heard around the world, “WAGONS WEST!” With that the Church began to give up the defensive posture as circled wagons that it had maintained since the Protestant Reformation. The Church began to move in a new and exciting chapter in its journey through history.

I must admit that it was not a perfect example because the wagon master in the movie is leading them towards California and that is certainly no heavenly paradise. The Church had circled its wagons after it had suffered terrible losses in the 16th century. One-third of Europe abandoned the Catholic faith in only two lifetimes and thus the Church was very defensive.

Pope John XXIII had great confidence in the Holy Spirit and was ready to take the risk of uncircling the wagons. That would lead into a new period of exciting religious openness, which we now call the Ecumenical Movement. I will fill you in on that soon…

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Sunday of the Resurrection…Do We Believe?

By , April 19, 2014 4:50 am

goodlifeofdesign.blogspot.com

Everyone loves Easter! Spring has arrived, the flowers are blooming, the grass is green, the heat of summer has not fallen upon us yet, people put on their best clothes and greet each other with exuberance – “Happy Easter, happy Easter, happy Easter.” There is nothing wrong with any of that. In fact, it is all very delightful but it is not the reality of what Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection, is all about.

Spiritually, each one of us needs to transport ourselves back to that hillside outside Jerusalem, stand silently before that open tomb, a tomb now empty, and ask ourselves if we really do believe in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead!

This is the heart of the Christian message. This is the ultimate test as to whether or not we are really followers of Jesus. In the following 2,000, countless numbers have died because they answered “yes” to that question. They believed in the Resurrection, were committed to Jesus and they would allow nothing to turn them away from that faith and commitment. Happily, most of us are not asked to die for our faith but it would be perfectly valid to ask ourselves would we be willing to do so?

Let us thank God for his infinite love for us. Let us walk into the future with confidence knowing that we are a redeemed people. Let us continue to celebrate the great feast of the Resurrection.

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They May Get Him Yet, Father Bill

By , April 18, 2014 5:51 am

alfa.aero

I graduated from St. Thomas High School in Houston in May of 1949. One of my classmates was a wonderful young kid named Bill Woods. For a private boy’s school, it was a large class – 155 students. Bill and I lived on opposite ends of the town and I never really got to know him very well before we graduated. After graduation, we both entered the seminary. Bill went off to Maryknoll to become a foreign missioner and I went to the seminary of the Galveston-Houston Diocese. After our ordination, although we were in very different ministries in the Church, we became very fast friends and in a very real sense brothers.

Bill was helping to develop my interest in foreign mission work and in about 1962 or ’63 he got me to return with him to Guatemala in an open jeep! After that I was hooked. For the next several years, I made it a practice of buying jeeps in Houston for the Maryknoll Missioners. I would drive them down there for them and then spend two weeks riding in the mountains with Father Bill. I would then return home by plane. It took four days to get down there and three hours to get back!

After a while, the tragic intervention of the United States into the political affairs of Guatemala began to produce horrible results. The United Fruit Company and the CIA worked together to overthrow an elected leftist government. War was on. In those terrible years the United States saw Communists behind every bush and any corrupt government that declared itself to be anti-Communist was immediately a friend of ours and we would help them. That means that we would help them kill their own people.

My friend, Father Bill Woods, would be assassinated. His plane was shot down mysteriously in 1976. Then the reign of terror would begin. Villages would be wiped out, the archbishop of San Salvador would be assassinated, four American nuns would be raped and murdered, Jesuit professors would be slaughtered, etc., etc. For the most part, nothing would be done about it.

Now, however, a U.S. immigration court in Miami is seeking to expel General Jose Guillermo Garcia from the U.S. The American Ambassador at that time, Robert White, is wonderful and testified against Garcia and congratulated the court that “this is the first court that has ever found General Garcia linked so directly to these massacres and these killings.” The court stated that General Garcia held “the greatest power and authority in El Salvador.” The judge wrote, “He rebuffed reform, protected death squad plotters, denied the existence of massacres, failed to adequately investigate assassinations and massacres, and failed to hold officers accountable for the killing of their fellow countrymen.” The general also, “failed to adequately investigate Archbishop Romero’s assassination and encouraged “sham investigations” in the killings of the four churchwomen.”

Guatemala is far from a perfect country today. With the expulsion of Garcia back to his home country it may create the situation where that government will move against him for his countless heinous crimes.

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Fiftieth Anniversaries Surround Us

By , April 16, 2014 5:48 am

shc.edu

Have you noticed that we are surrounded by a very plethora of anniversaries marking the 50th anniversary of this or the 50th anniversary of that. If it tells us anything at all, it should be that the 1960’s were an extraordinarily important period. It is fifty years since the riots in Watts, fifty years since the death of Jack Kennedy, fifty years since Lyndon Johnson led the change in America by the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It is also fifty years since the first session of the Second Vatican Council.

These American events are being rather well marked but for some reason the Catholic bishops of the United States have done little or nothing to remind the 60 million of us that the Council was an extraordinary event widening horizons, creating hope and helping to lead us into the future. Maybe one of the reasons why it has not been spotlighted so much in this country is that many of the younger bishops would just as soon forget it! That is a tragedy but it is not an enduring tragedy. The Council is being brought back to life by our magnificent leader Pope Francis.

A few days ago I started a series of blogs on the documents of the Council. Since I find it so refreshing to go back and study them, you may appreciate or enjoy at least a brief mention to various segments of them as I plod through the next few weeks.

The other day I stressed that the first and most exciting of the Council documents was the one on the sacred liturgy and how it got started. Now I would like to go very briefly through certain segments of this document that has touched each and every one of us in this country and actually every Roman Catholic across the world. I break Roman Catholics into two groups about the Council. Older men and women who remember it taking place fifty years ago connect it with a time of change and tension and the most visible thing they remember is that Latin ceased to be imposed on the Universal Church and all the countries of the world were able to use vernacular language. Imagine – the Church decided to put worship into a language that the worshipers understood. What a breakthrough!

To discuss the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy would require volumes and believe me many volumes have been written about it. With the constraints of this space, I want to simply break it into two key components. Many subdivisions are possible.

The first thrust of the document centers on the fact that the Eucharist is the absolute center of the Church’s prayer life. Certainly, the other sacraments are important and they draw us closer to Jesus and private devotions and prayers of individuals are very valuable. However, it is in the Eucharistic liturgy that the entire Church prays and we pray in unison and with one faith and one heart. The Eucharist is the center of the Church and it unites each and every one of us together. We are believers.

Secondly, the liturgical document calls forcefully and urgently for a resurgence in the study of sacred scripture and more effectively integrating scripture into the Eucharist liturgy and all the other sacraments as well. I am happy to report that this early Council directive has been rather well implemented. While there is much work to be done, it is a very measurable accomplishment.

In the meantime, what we need is millions of small groups across the world taking time out of their lives, day by day and week by week, to study God’s word, to see their own lives in relationship to it and to be guided by that word. We are a long way from there but I think we are moving in the right direction. For that I thank God.

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It Started With the Liturgy

By , April 15, 2014 5:47 am

dsj.org

Back in the 1940’s and 50’s, bishops, priests and theologians were for the most part very relaxed about the Church. Most of them thought that everything was just fine and they never dreamed that an explosive development was coming down the pike that would be known in history as the Second Vatican Council.

However, there had been certain glimmers of approaching change and they first began to appear in the liturgical life of the Church. In the Western Church, everything was in Latin, not just the Mass and the Sacraments, but it was the working language of the Church. It was really a good thing for people who traveled a great deal. If you were a Frenchman attending Mass in the Congo, you were right at home with the Latin, but for most of the faithful the Latin language served as background music. They understood nothing but found it comforting.

Pope Pius XII had worked hard to encourage theologians to go back to the scriptures and he unleashed a very strong surge of dramatically improved scripture studies. Scripture would soon be overlapping in the world of liturgy and question began to be asked about certain things that might be accented too much or not enough.

Liturgists began to organize, liturgical and scripture scholars began to communicate more effectively, and suddenly there came to be a sense that not all was well in the inner-life of the Church.

In 1958 a wonderful, fulsome, Italian bishop from the Alps was elected to the Chair of Peter and he took the delightful name of Pope John XXIII.

He had been listening to that questioning and wondering himself about the need for updating the inner-life of the Church and then finally he did it. He called for a meeting of all the bishops of the world to come together under the dome of St. Peter’s and to pray, study, test, debate and decide on how the Church could more effectively move forward. In calling the Council, it generated an explosion of excitement and hope. The bishops answered his summons and met for several months a year for four years. Needless to say, the first issue that they took up was the sacred liturgy and they published an extraordinary document that would have awesome repercussions around the world.

Let’s take a look at that subject tomorrow.

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Paul Proclaims Christ’s Divinity

By , April 12, 2014 5:49 am


April 13th, Palm Sunday

In discussing last week’s scriptures, I described that text from St. John’s Gospel as one of my favorites in the entire New Testament. Well, I am going to say that again because today’s text from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is able to put in front of us a statement about Jesus of Nazareth that, in one or two sentences, summarizes the totality of salvation and the reality that we see and experience from our faith in our Divine Lord. Paul is writing to the Church in Philippi and they have had their problems. That is why he needed to write the letter. But in the second chapter, he uses words that are startling, clear and definitive.

He tells you and me that we should have an attitude in life like Christ. Christ, of course, loved his Heavenly Father and was willing to make any sacrifice necessary in order to redeem the human family. Then these words leap out at us:
(Jesus Christ) “Though he was by nature God
Did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to
But emptied himself taking the nature of a slave.”

What an awesome statement. We should say it over and over in our morning or evening prayers. Paul is telling us what is the overwhelming reality of our spiritual journey. God has been here. God has come to us. God has been one with us. And God invites us to pass via the salvific life and work of Jesus to share eternal life with him forever and ever.

In this Holy Week, we will have a great deal of time to think about our own lives, the status of our own souls and the eternal reward that is awaiting us as we approach our own death and resurrection.

We are to be one with Jesus forever and ever.

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The Pilgrim Church

By , April 10, 2014 8:58 am

http://www1.pictures.zimbio.com


Several times in the last week or so, I have gone back to re-read and meditate on one of the great documents of the Second Vatican Council, the one on the Church which Latin title is Lumen Gentium, Light of the Nations. The document spent a great deal of time on major components of this mystical organization; for example, dealing separately with bishops, clergy and the laity, but it pulls them all together with a wonderful title that had not been used too much in recent years. The Council Fathers reminded us that ours is a pilgrim church. We are wounded and, to some extent, lost people traveling across the desert.

When I was in the seminary in the ‘50’s, the theology textbooks did not stress that idea. Actually, they went in the other direction and theologians claimed that the Church is a perfect society. Don’t have a heart attack! Those writers knew that there was much sin and weakness inside the Church, but it held that the Church is perfect in that it had everything needed to attain its goal, namely to present God’s message to the human family; that message coming from God the Father through the Son and guided by the Holy Spirit. We wouldn’t dare use language like that today, but it is wonderful to put our arms around the idea that we are a pilgrim Church. That means that we travel lightly and not with too much baggage.

What an example we are receiving from this marvelous new shepherd, Francis. Look at those two little rooms in the Vatican Hotel. I wonder who is staying in that lavish apartment up on the sixth floor of the palace. Let me stop myself for a minute. Over the last 25 years, I have been in the papal apartments several times and I agree with Pope Francis. They are cold and bleak and I wouldn’t want to stay there either. The pope is giving the bishops of the world a good example of how to be a pilgrim but not everybody gets it. We saw a rather thick-headed German bishop removed from his diocese because he wasted vast amounts of money on his residence and just last week we saw the sharp criticism of two American bishops, not from the Vatican but from the American media. Both were guilty of inordinate spending on their residences. One, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, immediately apologized for his foolishness and plans to leave to a more proper residence. The other bishop, Archbishop Myers of Newark, felt that he was being unjustly criticized. All he did was put a $500,000 addition on his 4,500 square foot house.

Let’s hear it for the pilgrim Church. Onward through the fog and over the sand.

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The Laity – Freedom and Responsibility

By , April 9, 2014 5:07 am

catholicnewsagency.com

Oh, how blessed is this holy Catholic Church. Just think – we have at least one billion, two hundred million members and for all practical purposes they are all laity. Just think of the reservoir of talent and energy that resides in this enormous mass of faith-filled human beings. They could accomplish wonders if not miracles, but in point of fact they don’t because they are really not able to.

I am proud of the faithful. They do a great job in backing their pastors and bishops in developing the material sides of parishes, schools, hospitals, etc. But ultimately, our system does not give them real freedom and responsibility. Their role is to follow their shepherds and that is not all bad, but the fact is that many of the shepherds among us do not really trust their fellow Catholics who have not been ordained. Father knows best and the old joke about the laity was that they were to “pray, pay and obey.”

Happily, following the Second Vatican Council lay involvement, especially in the liturgy, has increased tremendously but we have a long way to go. Let me tell you about a happy story in my first assignment as a pastor. We had established a first-class St. Vincent de Paul Society and it was doing wonderful work on behalf of the poor in that section of the city. One day the president of the Society came to me and told me that we had a serious storage problem, but not to worry – he had signed a two year lease on an inexpensive warehouse about four blocks from the church. I was thrilled. He saw the problem, he knew we could afford it and he acted. I am not saying that pastors and bishops ought not to provide close supervision but they must avoid being control freaks.

The other day when I visited with you in this space, I talked about the value system that was dominant in the world of my childhood. I then went on to admit that many of the cultural strengths of 75 years ago are now gone, generating the need for yet a greater response from the Church to encourage its members to embrace and live by the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Today’s lay people are far better formed or educated than were the adults of my childhood. The Church has still not found a way through clericalism and antique ecclesiology to vest the laity, either in the parishes or in the dioceses, with a real sharing in power and authority. The Second Vatican Council had that as one of its principal agendas – convincing all of the baptized and confirmed on the planet that they had a vested interest and a very real responsibility to teach that “each individual layman must be a witness before the world of the resurrection life of the Lord Jesus and a sign of the living God.” How is that for a job description?

The Council Fathers then went on to say give the laity freedom and opportunities to breathe and act and be responsible. In paragraph 37 of Lumen Gentium, the Council stated that, “

“The pastors indeed should recognize and promote the dignity and responsibility of the laity in the Church. They should willingly use their prudent advice and confidently assign duties to them in the service of the Church LEAVING THEM FREEDOM AND SCOPE FOR ACTING (emphasis added). Indeed they should give them the courage to undertake works on their own initiative. They should attentively in Christ initial moves, suggestions and desires proposed by the laity. Moreover, the pastor must respect and recognize the liberty which belongs to all in the terrestrial city.”

Vatican II called for parish councils in every parish in the world but regretfully only a small percentage have functioned effectively. Why? Because they are deadly dull and do not usually come to grips with what that particular parish should be undertaking. Go check on the agendas of a dozen parish councils and you will see that much more time is allocated to painting the school auditorium than to how we should be advancing the message of Jesus in this neighborhood in this month. The challenge is awesome but sometimes not really heard.

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Jesus Loves His Friends

By , April 5, 2014 4:48 am

lds.org

April 6th, Fifth Sunday of Lent

Oh, today’s Gospel! This is one of my favorite texts in the entire bible whether you are talking about Old or New Testaments. Today’s Gospel excerpt is drawn from the 11th chapter of St. John’s Gospel and for me it is wonderfully meaningful. The whole thrust of this Gospel is John, communicating to the first generation of the life of the Church, his memory what Jesus revealed about himself.

Sometimes our Lord communicated with words and other times just extraordinary actions. Today I am making reference to what I consider a wonderful extraordinary aspect of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. That is the fact that he was a MAN.
Members of the Christian community always recognize that Jesus is God dealing with us through a human nature. We know that. We believe that. But can we get our arms around it? Can our limited brains really grasp the awesome reality that within this Jewish carpenter from Nazareth the Godhead dwelt?

Well, today’s text really helps us to go in that direction. You know the story so well. Jesus goes to visit his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus but on arriving, he is told that Lazarus died several days before. The text says that he was “troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions” and then listen to this, he began to WEEP!

Did we all catch that? Jesus of Nazareth is weeping. This Divine Presence is torn by emotions, saddened and filled with a sense of loss. Can we really grasp that? I think the principle underlying the scene is that Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. Jesus liked him. Jesus was crushed on learning of Lazarus’ death. I like to transfer that concept to the rest of us. Yes, we are followers of Jesus, yes, we believe in him, but do we really see him as our friend? What a gift.

If we live a good life and if we do the things I just mentioned, we are his friends. Would your acquaintances be impressed if you were at a meeting and they announced that the president of the United States has called for you and has asked you to return the call? Would it seem important to you if it were only the governor or the mayor? My friends, if we are living a good life, we are the friends of Jesus. There is nothing better than that.

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