What the Heart Wants

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By Matt Keppel

The heart wants what the heart wants… but what exactly does it want? I was talking to a friend of mine not long ago about her relationship issues. Maria’s a bright, active, and motivated young woman, yet she tells me that she can’t find a man. Or, at least, she cannot find a man who is willing to be with one woman, and she isn’t willing to settle for anything less. You might think that it’s the type of guys she goes out with, and that may very well be true. You might think that she is also the problem, but based upon my discussions with her (and the fact that I’m writing about this) I do not believe that she is her own problem. I do genuinely believe that she is on the right track, but all the stations on the rails are only minute stops while she is waiting to find Terminus.

First, I would like to encourage others, both men and women, to internalize Maria’s struggle. I know for a fact that she is not alone in this. More and more people are struggling to find a match, someone with whom they want to spend the rest of their lives. The causes, I believe, are many: they range from hypersexualization in the media to the massive increase in broken homes. Though the causes are many, the result is the same: fear and uncertainty. Continue reading What the Heart Wants

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The Best Thing We’ve Read All Day: Monk Edition

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From NJ.com:

NEWARK — You don’t have to look far to find depressing statistics about Newark.

The Brick City suffered from 111 murders last year; more than a third of its residents fall below the poverty line; the unemployment rate of Essex County sits at a stubbornly high 10 percent.

In the face of those odds, how do students muster up any interest in learning? How do schools adequately prepare kids to not only graduate, but to thrive?

A new documentary called “The Rule,” attempts to answer those questions and more by chronicling the achievements of St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark.

Read it all here.

The Sinners Know Jesus: A Homily for the 26th Sunday

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By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

When I was in high school, I happened to join a retreat team: the setup was simple, high school students giving Catholic retreats to other students, both in our school and to other surrounding grammar schools and high schools.

I don’t remember much of what we did, but there is one lesson in particular that stands out to me. I remember the leader of the retreat team, Gloria, saying over and over again: “Knowing the right thing to do and doing it are two totally different things.”

Ah yes, we know this well, don’t we?

When we get right down it, today’s Gospel hits close to home. We can, if we’re honest, identify ourselves as the son in either of the scenarios Jesus lays out. (We could identify ourselves as the daughter too.)

All of us know the feeling of doing the right thing despite the consequences; all of us too know about doing the wrong thing and feeling the effects. Even in those situations where we’ve gotten “away” with something, there always seems to be that feeling of regret: did anyone know? Or, as I say so often in the confessional, “I knew what I was doing was wrong, but did it anyway.”

Is this parable from Jesus, then, simply a morality play: do what God tells you and all will be well?   If we take things here at face value, we’re missing the point. Christian life isn’t about doing things and staying away from the wrong in order to avoid a punishment or to feel better about ourselves (Indeed, if we keep a tally, we’ll likely feel rather poorly.)

The key to this parable isn’t what the sons do: no, it’s how Jesus uses it to describe the Kingdom of God. We hear a rather stark challenge: tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before the religious experts.

The reason is simple: the sinners know Jesus.

The tax collectors and the prostitutes know Jesus because they’re the ones who realize that they need him. And so for us who tell little white lies, who find it hard to forgive, who lose our temper, who struggle with purity of heart: we don’t need to be perfect in order to know Jesus; rather, when we’re struggle, that is the perfect time to know Jesus! Continue reading The Sinners Know Jesus: A Homily for the 26th Sunday

I Don’t Want to Get Married: Confessions of a Celibate Priest

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By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

Author’s Note: I wrote this last evening; folks don’t read blog posts at 11:00 pm on a Sunday night, so I saved it for today.

It’s 10:46 pm on a Sunday evening:  I just got off the phone with a parishioner who has no family. I gave the hospital my number as an emergency contact, just in case.  Somehow, they gave her my number.  And she called.  A few times.

A girlfriend from college got married today.  I saw the pictures on Facebook.  She looked so blessedly and beautifully happy, surrounded by family and friends, smiling in the arms of her husband.  I smiled.

I worked my way from one end of Yonkers this afternoon to the upper reaches of Westchester County on communion calls.

I’m tired, I’m worried about a Mass of the Holy Spirit at which I need to preside at a local high school tomorrow.  Somewhere around and between visiting the parishioner mentioned in the first paragraph, and celebrating the Mass in the previous sentence, I need to make sure my lessons for my freshman religion class are in order for the rest of the week.

Once I’m done with that, I’ll attend a CYO coaches’ meeting and start sketching out my homily for next Sunday.

At some point, I figure, it will be most appropriate for me to take care of the large stack of dirty laundry sitting in the corner of my room.

Continue reading I Don’t Want to Get Married: Confessions of a Celibate Priest

I’m a Doctor !

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By Matt Keppel

“Dammit Jim, I’m a Doctor!” It’s quick, simple, and absolutely classic. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, go watch some Star Trek with the original cast – yeah, I know there’s names for these things, but I’m not going to bely my utter nerdiness… yet. But what does it mean? In all the crazy adventures that Captain Kirk and the USS Enterprise encounter, Dr. McCoy, the ship’s surgeon, gets thrown into all sorts of situations that have nothing to do with being a doctor, but somehow he is the perfect person to save the day. Ultimately, Spock and Kirk come to McCoy to address the strange and unusual more often than not.

If you have ever worked for the Church, in any capacity, you know exactly where I’m going here. There are few other organizations that run entirely on the versatility of their employees like the Catholic Church. Myself, I have worked as a teacher and volunteered in youth ministry, but functioned as a graphic designer, carpool monitor, after-school babysitter, copy jockey, and IT specialist on top of being a math and religion teacher – my degree is in philosophy and theology. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying, this is not a complaint! I love going to work and not knowing quite what will be asked of me each day. I consider it a wonderful part of the adventure of working in the Church. However, what I am asking for is patience… I think we all are actually.

Continue reading I’m a Doctor !

Justice and Mercy: A Homily for the 25th Sunday

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By Brian Niemiec

I write this reflection from the Archdiocese of Chicago, where Bishop Blase Cupich has just been named as Cardinal George’s successor.  As I was reading news articles this morning about the life and ministry of this Bishop from Spokane, I started thinking that this man’s life very much reflects the readings for this Sunday.
In the Gospel parable, we see a balance between justice and mercy. The landowner promises the workers the standard daily wage, but as the day goes on and more filter in to work, they too receive the standard wage.  When the original workers get angry at this arrangement, the landowner rebukes them and reminds them that they are being paid justly according to what was decided in the morning.
Mercy enters the scene when the laborers that arrived later also received the same wage.  They were late to the party, but still received the generosity and hospitality of the host. We see this mercy and compassion in our own Christian communities. The gift of eternal life is offered to all, not just the cradle Catholics who have gone to mass and lived out their faith their entire life. Salvation is also offered to the convert, the estranged family member, the criminal, the outcast, and all the rest that do not fit into our box of what real Catholic should be.
This balance of justice and mercy is crucial to the Christian life because it has the power to both speak truth and do it in a way that invites others into dialogue and conversation, so that healing and reconciliation may occur.  This is the tactic Bishop Cupich has taken on many social issues that challenge the Church today. With healthcare, he rejected the governments mandate for contraception coverage, but called for dialogue and collaboration between church and state rather than advance a nuclear option that would close hospitals and schools leaving many jobless, and countless more without the basic resources of life.
If these two ideas of justice and mercy seem like strange bedfellows, the first reading reminds us that “my thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways my ways, says The Lord.” God sometimes acts strangely to us, but it is a reminder that we are not God. This week, we are challenged to ask ourselves, “what are God’s ways?” How do we act out this balance of justice and mercy in the day to day? How do we walk in God’s footsteps of justice and mercy? With Bishop Cupich now tapped to lead one of the American Church’s most high profile diocese, perhaps his witness could be one example.

 

Kingdom Rules: 25th Sunday Homily

By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

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This weekend’s readings.

Growing up, my family always did the best it could to have dinner together. We’d adjust the time as best we could depending on who had a Little League game, who was doing what after school, and what evening appointments my father had scheduled.

As we got older, however, my brothers and me would have more and more difficulty making it on time to meals. Baseball practice would run late; a study group would me; or, more likely, a girlfriend’s study group would run late.

While we waited for Luke or John (or they waited for me) a familiar debate would play out. We’d fight over the last three meatballs, or the last piece of chicken. We’d plead for a couple extra noodles on our plate.

My mother would remain firm: “No, that’s for [fill in the blank of the missing son].” We’d roll our eyes: “but, Mom, if he wanted the food, he should have been here.

“No: he’s just as much a part of this family as you are. And besides, wouldn’t you want us to save you food? In fact, we do save you food.”

Was my mother being unfair?

Is the landowner in this Gospel unfair?

Is God unfair?

Yes. And no. It depends on if we’re the one late to dinner

According to human standards: this is no way to run a business!

The Good News of today’s Gospel, however, is that the Kingdom of God turns a profit when it’s given away, not when it’s saved. God’s grace isn’t placed in an interest bearing account and saved for a rainy day.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is teaching us about what God’s Kingdom looks like. The words that introduce this Gospel color everything we hear: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner…”

In other words: the Kingdom of God doesn’t run by the rules that we create or think are logically: rather, they are frustratingly, maddeningly, and completely rules that God makes up.

The first rule of this Kingdom, then, is that God is in charge. God determines the membership: and the rules for membership are not based on merit. Rather, God calls when and how and who in a way that only he knows.

The second rule of the Kingdom is that there is nothing we can do to earn a greater place: coming early, coming late, God is in a constant process of calling us to this new way of life.

And the third rule: no one is forced into God’s kingdom. We may come early or come late, but the most important thing we learn from today’s parable is that Jesus calls all of us: but the only way to be a part of the great feast the Lord prepares is to respond.

Put in another way, God will always save us food, but we need to show up at the table. The time at which the workers arrived to help the landowner in the harvest does not matter as much to God as to whether or not they showed up.

And all of us here today: we’re in the process of being called into this relationship with God – this generous landowner.

Being called into this new way of being, however, is not without its risks. To be a member of the Kingdom isn’t a guarantee of an easy pathway: actually, it may be considered a guarantee of quite something else.

It’s like the great Theresa of Avila, who, being deep in prayer and being thrown from a horse, is said to have yelled at the Lord, “And this is why you have so few friends!”

To be called into the Kingdom means to set as our goal the same thing as Saint Paul: “to magnify Christ Jesus.” Indeed, to be laborers, to be freely called and gifted, means that God asks us to magnify the Kingdom: to through our prayer, through our love, through our forgiveness, point out just what God is up to in the world.

Because we have been called, we must magnify God’s unfairness: his overwhelming love, his foolish forgiveness, and his incredible presence among us.

And, in all this, most especially, we are called to invite the ones who are most forgotten into this Kingdom. In other words, let’s not just save some food for them – let’s make sure they know they’re invited to the meal.

 

 

 

 

CatholicHow Author Featured on FaithND

This was originally posted at FaithND, which provides daily Gospel reflection from Notre Dame alumni.  Check it out and sign up if you’d like!

(Luke 6:12 -19)

**Jesus went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.**

I often fear for the children that my (non-existent) wife and I have not yet brought into this world. Children imitate their parents. They take on their mannerisms, their habits, and their language. This means I have a lot of cleaning up to do. It means I have to embark on my own journey of imitation—an imitation of Jesus.

This call to imitation, however, does not just apply to my future status as a parent, but as today’s Gospel indicates, to any and all vocations to ministry.

While it is tempting to focus on this “Choosing of the Twelve” scene as the pivotal moment in this Gospel passage, it might be more fruitful focus on the bracketing actions: Jesus praying and Jesus healing.

When we see the choosing of the Twelve in the light of Jesus praying and healing, we realize that Jesus is up to something far greater than simply selecting his followers. He is teaching them, giving them a model for their lives of ministry after he returns to the Father. Jesus’ actions in this Gospel are showing them that they must pray before they serve.

As Luke indicates (and Mark elsewhere), the healing and reconciliation of God’s people has a tangible, draining effect on Jesus: “Power came out from him.” Jesus knows the Twelve will not be exempt from this experience of being drained, nor will any who come after them (I envision a lot of heads nodding here).

Thus, when Jesus calls us to serve, whether as parents, priests, educators, or whatever—he calls to a life like his. He calls us to begin in prayer, to build a real and robust relationship with God. Only then can we bring healing—only then can we ourselves be worth imitating.

Javier Soegaard ‘10

The Freedom to Be Sinners, the Freedom to Become Saints

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By Claire Bordelon

I had a friend once who, having been turned down by a guy she was interested in dating, blithely said, “Well, if he doesn’t like me, we obviously don’t have much in common, because I love myself!”

I thought of that friend as I was reading this week’s chapter of Fr. Philippe’s Interior Freedom (check out last week’s post if you missed it) entitled “Accepting Ourselves.” There are three main points that Fr. Philippe makes in this section, all of which I suppose were working in my friend at that particular moment:

  1. God is realistic.
    Let’s face it – my life is not exactly glamorous. I’m a high school teacher living in South Louisiana studying literature and currently trying to resist the temptation to finish off the family-sized pack of Reese’s I told myself I’d bought for my students. Yes, I have grand visions of a life spent in spiritual progress and positive relationships and monumental moments, but, in reality, this is what I’ve got. God isn’t waiting to touch my life until I’ve retreated to the top of a mountain somewhere to contemplate His greater vision for my future – he does it in between fourth and fifth period when I’m running to the bathroom after chugging four cups of coffee and trying to avoid running over freshmen. He’s down here in the dirt with me because, well, the dirt is where I live. God knows my sin and is unafraid of it.

    The great secret of all spiritual fruitfulness and growth is learning to let God act.

    Accepting my own weaknesses is doing just that – letting God act on my sinful, small little life, and trusting that greatness will come of it.

  2. Accepting ourselves requires viewing ourselves through God’s perspective.  I suspect that the reason my friend had such high self-esteem was a result of her wonderful family and the fact that she was frequently surrounded by people who loved her. She was able to see herself the way that those who loved her most saw her; however, those looks, though tender and authentic, are nothing when compared to the divine vision of Christ, who sees us most realistically and loves us most ardently. The great gift of prayer, then, is to be offered a perspective of ourselves that is abundantly true, but also abundantly loving.
  1. We have the freedom to be sinners, the freedom to become saints.  An outgrowth of #2, seeing ourselves as God sees us, is that we become free (isn’t that what this whole project is about?). Our sins do not scandalize God; instead, this true vision gives us the freedom to be who we are – poor, low, confused, hopeful, bright, etc. Of course, this does not equate with the irresponsibility of sinning without fear of the consequences, but now, we are not crushed under the weight of our own mistakes, but free to acknowledge them and move forward, confident in God’s ability to work wonders within us, lowly sinners though we are. Such an attitude creates a feeling of relaxed acceptance of who we are that is commensurate with an intense, driving desire toward holiness.I’ll end this section with a beautiful quote from Fr. Philippe himself:

    One of the most  essential conditions for God’s grace to act in our lives is saying yes to what we are and to the situations in which we find ourselves.

    Next week, Part 4: Accepting Suffering

Reflections on an Intergenerational Church

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By Sara Knutson

Catholics, like most people, have a tendency to sort themselves by socioeconomic status and racial/ethnic background, and I sometimes lament the homogeneity of race and income level in Catholic parishes.

In focusing on that homogeneity, however, I missed a key area in which parishes are nearly always diverse: age.

Parishes are visibly intergenerational. Everyone gathers together for worship, festivals, and fish fries. Everyone celebrates baptisms and first communions. Growing in Faith Together (GIFT) programs bring everyone together for faith formation.

That kind of intergenerational community is increasingly unusual amid increasing age segregation in America, where sports leagues are split into U-12s and U-14s and “Millennial” has become a defining identity.

While people of different ages do have some different desires and interests, our community suffers when different generations stop interacting with one another.

Indeed, an unexpected blessing of my parish JustFaith program last year was the fact that half of our group was in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. Maureen’s life stories were reassuring, Julianna’s sharp concern for the poor was inspiring, and Bruce’s keen desire to learn demonstrated that one’s beliefs need not harden with age.

Our parishes are not diverse in every way, but one thing we’re doing right is being intergenerational. It’s important that we remain that way, and I predict that this will become more difficult.

With society increasingly separating people by age, we need to monitor and, if needed, adjust the ratio of age-segregated to full community programs and events in our parishes.

Take young adult ministry. These programs do great outreach, but they need to ultimately draw young people into full parish life. We will serve young adults better by inviting them into parish-wide ministries than by running parallel service opportunities, socials, and liturgies just for them.

The trick, of course, is that running programs for the full parish community require more planning and care. But they also reap greater rewards.

As an example, our parish cluster celebrated the twin canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II with a “Pope Party.” A half hour of adoration was followed by a talk on the new saints and Pope Francis and then a party featuring appetizers and desserts from each pope’s home country.

And it was a party! All ages mixed together, including a sprinkling of kids who’d made it through the previous hour. The event brought together people from different regular Masses and ministries, and parishioners mingled in the festive setting for over an hour.

These are the sorts of opportunities that integrate and strengthen our church. If we keep our parishes intergenerational, we will keep them vibrant and alive.