Posts tagged: pray

The Laity – Freedom and Responsibility

By , April 9, 2014 5:07 am

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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Time Is Running Out

By , October 19, 2013 5:58 am

October 20th, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Well, we are gradually bringing the Church year to a close. Do you remember when it started back on December 7th as the First Sunday of Advent? We will end it on the week of November 24th when we celebrate the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ is king of the universe. The excerpts for today are excellent aids in sharpening our thought processes, encouraging us to be conscious that not only is the liturgical end approaching but the end of our own individual lives are approaching as well. However, for believers in Jesus Christ this is not a sad thought.

The Responsorial Psalm encourages us to, like the psalmist, look up towards heaven. “I lift my eyes towards the mountains from whence help to me shall come.” The text encourages us to be clearly conscious of the fact that God is close to us. Think about that sentence. God is close to us. Are you driving a car? Are you sitting comfortably in your living room? Regardless of where you are the Infinite God who created all existence surrounded us, embraces us and loves us. What a wonderfully encouraging thought.

Nor or we without advice and directions. In today’s second reading, Paul is writing to his young assistant, Timothy. He reminds him that, “From your infancy you have known the sacred scriptures, the source of wisdom which comes through faith in Jesus Christ and leads to salvation.” Here we need to give ourselves a little sharp criticism. Very few of us utilize the sacred scriptures as much as we should even though we recognize, like St. Paul, that, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, reproof and correction and training in holiness.”

I find sadness in the fact that we know our lives are limited, we know that God is with us and around us and loves us, we know that we have extraordinary messages directly from him and yet we are careless in their use. We should make a commitment to really try to learn more about God’s word, to read it carefully and make it apply to our lives in concrete situations.

Finally, in this closing part of the Church year, the Church urges us to pray constantly, to let our minds and hearts be aware of God’s presence around us, his love for us and to respond in like manner. Once again, the problem of finding ourselves distracted. It seems that prayer comes easier to us when we really want something badly. To just simply pray in adoration to God, to recognize his infinite presence, power and love, it is not all that easy.

The liturgical year rambles on and we must travel on with it.

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German Management Skills Move Into The Vatican

By , July 2, 2013 4:42 am

This now world known, much loved and erudite Benedict XVI is a far greater scholar than he was an administrator. Both the pope and the Vatican bureaucracy found itself in one embarrassing situation after another. Evidently, when the cardinals were meeting after Benedict’s resignation there were frequent calls for cleaning up the administrative mishaps that have so marked the central office of the Church for the last several years.
I was thrilled when Pope Francis was in for less than a month when he announced that he would not make any decisions or appointments until he had time to pray and to learn. To pray and to learn – what a combination of gifts and how much they are needed in the Universal Church at this particular time in its story.
Well Pope Francis has made a move, a very important move. One of the best known and most respected management firms in the world is McKinsey, which is essentially an American company. However, Pope Francis has secured the services of Thomas Von Mitschke-Collande. He is a German and was manager of the Munich branch of McKinsey. In matters of the Church he knows his stuff! Last year he published a book with a title that was hardly reassuring. “Does the Church Want To Destroy Itself? Facts And Analyses Presented By A Business Consultant.”
The idea of putting him to work for the reform of the Roman Curia came from Reinherd Marx, the Archbishop of Munich, one of the eight cardinals called by Pope Francis to act as his adviser. We have all been praying hard for Pope Francis. Let’s add Mr. Von Mitschke-Collande to our prayer list. He will need them.
Onward through the fog.

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Let’s Pray For The New Pope

By , February 22, 2013 4:29 am

Photo: M. Poloskey

In a few more weeks, the Roman Catholic Church will have a new leader. He will be the 266th successor of St. Peter. He will assume an awesome task. The burdens of his office will not simply be the complexities of the Universal Church operating in virtually every country in the world and having a billion, two hundred million members. He will find a Church that in many ways is experiencing serious internal conflict, dogmatically and structurally.
It would be wonderful if the first day that the pope stepped into office, assumed the tiara, that he would have a really first-rate staff around him but sadly the Curia itself has been badly divided and in conflict and one of the first things that the new pope will have to do is bring order and efficiency to the Roman Curia. I believe with all my heart that the pope will enjoy the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Such guidance, of course, relates to the central doctrines of the Church, the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. There is no real connection between that divine gift and day-to-day administrative effectiveness. That is a very earthy skill and not every pope has had it.
Seriously, let’s do pray for the man who is among us now but in a few weeks will see his life changed dramatically.

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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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HOW Should We Pray?

By , September 7, 2011 5:20 am

The answer to that is easy. We should talk to God in a natural, relaxed manner that suits our personality, temperament, needs, circumstances, etc.

Thousands of books have been written to assist readers in various methods of prayer but ultimately it comes down to what suits you best. There are times when we can pray very fervently on our knees or even prostrate on the floor of a Cathedral. I, for one, find it easier to pray sitting down in a very comfortable position in a room that is absolutely silent. So, suit yourself.

One of the issues that seems to make prayer more intimidating for some of us is the fact that theologians and ecclesiologists in our midst want to define and classify everything. Are you going to say prayers of adoration or thanksgiving? Do you need to make intercession? Do you have an overpowering list of petitions? What about prayers of praise? These are all expressions that clarify our thinking about how we are praying or why we are praying but the MAIN THING IS TO REALIZE GOD’S IMMEDIATE CLOSENESS, His love for each one of us and know that He listens with infinite concern.

Let us pray.

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Prayer to the Rescue!

By , September 6, 2011 5:12 am

For several days, I have been talking about the agonizing reality of hunger in America. Over one-third of the country, 17 states, have more than 20% of their children living in food insecure households. This means inadequate learning ability, poor health and lives that are not properly developed. This is very sad but let me turn to something more positive – the need for prayer.

Most Americans believe in God but we are all over the place when it comes to our conversations with him. Most Americans would not consider themselves and many protest that it is rather difficult to talk to God since so often it seems to be a one-sided conversation. God is our friend. God loves each one of us individually with an infinite, all consuming love. If we can grasp that wonderful fact, that conversation with God should not be difficult at all. We should talk to Him about what it is that we are happy about, what causes us our distress, what we need to do in order to get through the next week or the next month, and about our concern for that high school nephew who is suspected of having cancer. While this conversation should take place rather easily, because it is based on love and acceptance by God. However, it is necessary to try to discipline ourselves to keep this conversation ongoing in our life. We should try to think about God and talk to Him briefly as we awaken in the morning and the same when we are shutting ourselves down at the end of the day. When wonderful things happen in the course of the day – we see a new grandchild, an extraordinary movie, make the right turn on the freeway thus avoiding a back traffic jam – we should try to instinctively thank God for his blessings and his gifts. When things go wrong, we should almost instantly turn to God who has created, who sustains us, who loves us and will carry us through life’s difficulties.

Prayer is necessary and prayer is easy. As the priest says repeatedly at Sunday Mass, “Let us pray.

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Widespread Economic Tension and Concern

By , September 2, 2011 5:53 am

From the United States, through Europe and over to the Pacific rim there has been a tremendous amount of nervousness and fear over economic developments that are unfolding. Our own country has seen its fiscal stability downgraded for the first time in history, several countries in Europe are in desperate financial straits and the other countries are finding ways to help them through the crises. And, of course, in this one world economy through which we are working, events in North America and Europe have some powerful affect in Asia as well.

Hopefully, our leaders can help us work our way through these issues. We, who are by nature bystanders observing the economic wheels churning away, day-by-day, can certainly pray that we don’t blindly walk into a world-wide crisis. We have the technical competence to do wonderful things in terms of production. Now we have to be sure that the production processes are tied in with our systems of distribution that are just and fair.

Let’s all hope and PRAY that we will get through this nerve wracking period as quickly as possible and come out on the far side with strong economies serving the human family across the planet.

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On the Road Again…

By , December 29, 2010 3:20 am

The week between Christmas and New Years is not all that productive for most of us. For that reason, I am going to take off for a few days. However, my editor refuses to release me of the responsibility of saying something on the blog, so I am going to take a shortcut and borrow someone else’s work…

I was given a beautiful series of pictures from Norway with simple sentences on the bottom of each one. They are described as lessons in our life and I think that most of them, although obvious, are very meaningful. Here are a few more snippets while I continue on the road.

Life isn’t fair but it is still good.

Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

Make peace with your past so it wont mess up the present.

It is okay to let your children see you cry; it is better to let them see you PRAY.

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Don’t Give Up, We’re almost Done!

By , October 16, 2010 4:27 am

In today’s Gospel, we continue our long walking journey with Luke, or, more accurately, as we walk a little behind our Lord Himself as He continues to set His gaze towards Jerusalem. Luke has been giving us various portions of our Lord’s teachings over the last six weeks, and this will continue until the 33rd Sunday, at which time we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King and begin the holy season of advent in preparation for Christmas. Let me say, once again, that the Church year is a wonderful gift to all of us and if we live our lives guided by it, we will find that the entire year is a period of training and sensitizing as we walk with our Lord.

Jesus’ message in today’s excerpt is simple and direct. When we pray, we should pray with determination and confidence. We should be prepared to “bother” the Lord in a way that the elderly lady bothered the dishonest judge. After you have heard the Gospel presented to you at Mass, read it again and take some delight in the irony and/or sarcasm that our Lord is using when He urges us to listen to the corrupt judge. If a man that low in moral standards had been effecting my unending petitions, don’t you think that an infinite loving God will respond much more quickly? Our Lord is telling us to pray with confidence, pray with determination, pray unceasingly, and know that all prayers are heard and accepted by God.

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