Posts tagged: 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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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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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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The Importance of Values

By , April 8, 2014 5:06 am

Houston in the 30′s
www.sloanegallery.com

I grew up in a church that was in many ways very different from what it is today. When I was a child the neighborhood was less than fifty years old and relatively prosperous. Since then, it has gone on to what seemed to be decaying and sliding off into a high class slum, but then gentrification arrived and the Houston Heights bounced back. Its greatest advantage was that the center of the Heights is only three miles from downtown Houston. With Houston spreading itself to being more than one hundred miles wide in any direction, living in the Heights has become a tremendous advantage and the prices responded accordingly.

A house could be purchased in 1905 for $6,000 and lived in for about 110 years. The house would become run down but if a new roof, central air conditioning and good landscaping can be added, that little house can be picked up for a bargain price of $700,000.

All Saints Parish, which served the Heights, built a magnificent church in 1927 and was able to maintain a good school until the 1960’s. The staff was fairly simple – a pastor, assisted by two younger priests, eight Dominican nuns in the school and a janitor. There was no business manager, no secretary and no parish council. It was a very simple world. The faith was strong and passed powerfully from generation to generation. Few women worked and the men themselves were carpenters, brick layers, truck drivers with an occasional insurance salesman thrown in. Hospital rooms cost $15.00 a day and doctors made house calls. White Oak Bayou ran behind our house and when we came back from the movies on Saturday we could all play Tarzan or the Lone Ranger without spending a penny. Milk was delivered on wagons and the garbage was collected in enormous blue wagons pulled by mules. That is in my lifetime folks! . It was a wonderful world but it is gone.

There were lots of problems in the ‘30’s, money being one of them on almost everybody’s agenda. I don’t kid myself by saying that everybody was gloriously happy but overall things were stable, calm, life had meaning and balance. When I was nine year’s old I was taught values in various fora. One was the parish church where a wonderful old German priest from Westphalia held forth with at least occasional references to hell’s fire. But my mother and he held a common value system. When we kids got to the school it was again the same system. If I had gone to a public school, even there the same values would have been proclaimed. When I went over to the Yale Theater on Washington Avenue the movies would pretty well concur with what I had heard at church and school and in the family.

That is not the way it is today. We are a nation bereft of generally accepted values. I know we are so free to pick and choose as to which one we will accept and be guided by. Today we struggle in a society that is tragically conflicted in every direction and we are paying a price for it. The Church is weaker in the society than it was in the ’30’s but has an even greater responsibility to try and convince, first ourselves, and secondly, the larger society, that a society without unified, sustainable, good moral values is doomed to destruction.

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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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More On Lumen Gentium

By , April 4, 2014 4:46 am

dsj.org

I offered a few comments the other day on that extremely important document, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), and I talked about the fact that there are many aspects of the Church that qualify the Church itself as being a mystery. The document goes on to discuss the structural nature of the Church, namely that it is hierarchical and the great reality of the Church’s membership, namely that it is overwhelmingly, yes overwhelmingly, made up of lay people.

In the few paragraphs that I have here, I can’t do a dissertation of the fact that the Church we see in the New Testament enjoys various levels of responsibilities. Jesus called the apostles and he sent them forward to preach his message. Once they established a community of faith in a given area, the apostles provided leadership, coordination and direction. After establishing a church, Paul put men that he had ordained in charge of those churches since he had to keep moving to spread the Gospel. Therefore, I have no doubt that the Church is by its very nature hierarchical but I think that over the centuries, especially in the second millennium, the hierarchical aspects of the Church have been exaggerated, made too rigid and regretfully counterproductive.

Our blessed new Pope Francis has been working hard in his first year to awaken us to the need to strip down the exaggerated signs of hierarchy and prestige that at times have been abused in the Church. And he is making great progress.
Next in Lumen Gentium comes the section on the laity. The document makes a great step forward and that is about the best that could be done at that time. However, what we are seeing now is a wonderful, glorious change where the laity across the world are beginning to assert responsibilities, opportunities and challenges that flow from baptism and confirmation.
These two entities are currently interacting and we can be sure that we will see a certain amount of friction.

Onward through the fog.

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Moving Faster in Texas

By , April 3, 2014 4:44 am

urbanemusings.wordpress.com

About 25 years ago, I had the opportunity to travel with the Bishops of Texas to a wonderful part of France, the area around Lyon. When the Catholic Church in Texas was getting started in the 1840’s, ‘50’s and ‘60’s, the first bishops and most of its priests were from this area and we should all be grateful to those early missionaries. There were many aspects of that trip that made strong impressions on me. There were about 22 of us and we visited four villages to celebrate Mass in the birthplaces of the first two bishops of Galveston-Houston and one in what is today the Archdiocese of San Antonio. The little local paper ran a headline saying, The Texans are coming – the Texans are coming! It was a wonderful experience both for the villagers and for the Texas Bishops.

Most of those impressions were, of course, of a religious nature but I was also in awe of the fast trains! Remember, this was 25 years ago but the trains were already moving at 225 mph. We got from Paris to Lyon very quickly.

Fast trains have been used a great deal both in Japan and other Western European countries but not in the United States. Efforts have been made to develop them in California but they have not been successful. Now there is a great deal of talk about bringing fast trains to Texas. Austin sits in the middle of the great Texas triangle of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Those cities represent more than half of the population of Texas. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get back and forth to any one of them in less than an hour?

I am not in the railroad business and I don’t travel very much anymore, but I would love to see Texas lead in the competition for high speed rail.

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A Good Night a St. Edwards’s

By , April 1, 2014 4:22 am

www.sfarchdiocese.org

Last Wednesday night, St. Edward’s University was honored to have Bishop Robert W. McElroy, Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco, as the speaker in the McCarthy Lecture Series on the Catholic Church in the 21st Century: “Swords into Plowshares: Catholic Teaching and America’s Role in the World.”

Bishop McElroy has been a forceful spokesperson on behalf of peace over the last few years and has written a number of articles for America magazine. In his opening remarks, McElroy stated the obvious but frightening fact that the central foundation of America’s recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was the tragically misguided belief that America can ennoble the world through warfare. Coming from the other direction, the bishop reviewed the pacifist tradition within Roman Catholicism and then went on to develop in some detail the “just war” tradition. However, he pointed out that in the last century Catholic teaching has dramatically strengthened the presumption against war. In addition, he stated that today’s Catholic teachings condemn most of the major decision-making that has led to 13 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Bishop McElroy urged his listeners to reject a threatening new isolationism present in the country today and to embrace and work for the Catholic theology of war, which is embedded in a vision of peace.

While describing the agony and suffering that comes from war, the bishop reversed it and told that by turning “swords into plowshares” the agonizing poverty of the world and the unjust and meaningless hunger could be eradicated with but a fraction of the resources now being used for killing human beings. Bishop McElroy used the example that was taking place under the crisis in Crimea giving his listeners an extra interest in his remarks.

I personally want to thank Bishop McElroy for journeying from the distant world of California to the heart of Texas. During his brief visit he was able to make many new friends. May God continue to bless him and his wonderful work.

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David…God-like and So, So Human

By , March 29, 2014 5:51 am

www.lifeclever.com

March 30th, Fourth Sunday of Lent

It is hard to imagine that anyone who would be fortunate enough to be able to visit Florence, Italy would go there and not enter that wonderful building where Michelangelo’s statue of David is enthroned. Enthroned is the right word! It stands magnificently in the rear of the building and although there are other objects of art within those walls, Michelangelo’s magnificent statue generates awe and wonder to all who behold it. Michelangelo more or less idealizes David in perfect human form.

There is nothing wrong with that because the first reading of today’s Scripture from the Book of Samuel describes David as handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance. It is God’s plan that this young shepherd boy, called in by the Prophet Samuel, be anointed as the king of God’s people. This would produce a little tension. Saul was firmly in control of the Israelites.

Then begins the story of David and it is a wonderfully human story filled with courage, action, heroism, great accomplishments and tragically destructive sinfulness. Here we are late in Lent and I think it is important that we see David, not as a dim figure in our historic past, but something of a shadow that hovers over each one of us. The Church has always taught that human nature is essentially good but weak, and during Lent we celebrate our goodness but must do it in the context of an awareness of that weakness. Yes, we fulfill our basic responsibilities to our family, to our community but we are all rough around the edges. We are brittle, hypersensitive, short-sighted and sometimes very selfish. Lent calls us to look at those weaknesses, to attempt to smooth over the rough edges and march forward with a calm confidence that we are about to join in the Resurrection.

Onward to Easter.

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