A few days I read an e-mail from the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Roman Pontiff to the rector of Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary, where the college seminarians study. Several of the seminarians, as I mentioned earlier, are in Rome for Christmas.
The rector had requested that the nine seminarians "attend the Mass." This morning my suspicions after the response to his request were confirmed: they are serving this evening for His Holiness Pope Francis when he celebrates the Christmas Eve Mass.
They are still a bit shell-shocked, but happy and excited, as well.
One might say that's not a bad Christmas present.
I'm sure you've heard about the ALS ice bucket challenge. It's a great way to raise awareness of ALS and raise money for ALS research. The challenge involves recording yourself accepting the challenge, dumping a bucket of ice water on your head, and challenging others by name to do it as well. Typically, those who accept the challenge donate $10 to the ALS Association; those who decline donate $100.
Certainly, individuals suffering with ALS as well as their family and friends deserve our support and prayers for healing. We encourage all to continue supporting everyone who is suffering or in spiritual, physical, or financial need. The Church supports all morally licit efforts towards a better understanding of and treatment for ALS.
There is concern, however, that the money being donated to the ALS Association may be used for embryonic stem cell research. In a July 2, 2014 email from ALS Association to the American Life League, ALS stated that while it primarily funds studies utilizing adult stem cells, it is funding one study using embryonic stem cells and that it may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future.
Embryonic stem cell research is always morally objectionable because a human person must be destroyed to harvest his or her stem cells. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated: "The use of embryonic stem cells or differentiated cells derived from them - even when these are provided by other researchers through destruction of embryos or when such cells are commercially available - presents serious problems from the standpoint of cooperation in evil and scandal." (Dignitas personae, no. 32).
How do you know your donation will be used for ETHICAL research? There is nothing unethical about raising awareness for diseases and ethical research towards curing diseases; there is no reason Catholics can't participate. The key, however, is to ensure that donations from participation are being utilized to support morally licit research.
As an alternative to the ALS Association, Catholics may wish to donate to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute. The Institute is a secular, non-profit organization and chooses to engage in medical research that honors and respects the dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death. More information on the John Paul II Institute is available here.
Donations can be by clicking here or checks can be sent to:
John Paul II Medical Research Institute
540 E. Jefferson St., Suite 202
Iowa City, IA 52245
When Saint Paul wrote to the early Christians in Corinth, he exhorted them with a brief and profound statement: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1). So closely did the Apostle to the Gentiles imitate the Lord Jesus that he could rightly say, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). When see in these two sentences that who seeks to imitate the life of Saint Paul will, through imitation, come to imitate Jesus Christ and to become united with him.
This is the theological principle at work whenever Holy Mother Church presents certain lives of the saints to us, whether by means of the liturgical calendar or through another means. We know that Saint Paul is not only follower of the Lord who imitated him to the point of conformity and so others can make his words their own. In this way, we can also imitate Christ by imitating them.
In most every area of life we need guides or models to follow to learn the ropes, as it were. We have teachers and tutors to help us with our academics; we have colleagues who train us in a new position at work; we are friends who teach us new hobbies. The Christian life is no exception.
His Holiness Benedict XVI explained this aspect of life simply and well in his encyclical Spe salvi (Saved by Hope):
Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way (49).
Each of these lights reflects the light of Jesus Christ, but each one does so with its own subtlety, a point Benedict XVI highlighted in his many catecheses on the saints by concluding them with several things (usually three in number) we can learn to do from each one of their lives.
For this reason, while continually turning our attention to the saints of old, the Church presents new such lights to us and is constantly on the lookout for new lights, as in the person of the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton.
|A picture on my wall in Rome|
I mention all of this simply because I read a short ago a little article by Dr. C. Vanessa White in U.S. Catholic that serves as a brief introduction to the life of Father Gus in which she mentions she has learned from him:
His sense of hope in the midst of overwhelming challenges has guided me to “keep on keepin’ on” when despair appears to be knocking at my door.
I know very well what she means. Because he was also raised in Quincy, studied in Rome, and served in (what is now) the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois - three things I have in common with him - I find myself frequently calling upon his intercession. I see in Father Tolton what Benedict XVI said about the saints: "The saints were able to make the great journey of human existence in the way that Christ had done before them, because they were brimming with great hope" (Spe salvi, 39).
If you haven't yet found such heavenly light, intercessor, and companion the coming season of Lent would be a perfect time to pick up a book on the lives of the saints. Spend a few minutes each day reading about one or two of their lives and seeing what you might learn from them better imitate Jesus Christ and so become a light for others.
Dear People of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois,
As you already know by now, Pope Francis has appointed me as the 11th bishop of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas. I learned of this appointment on February 11th, the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. After recovering from the shock of this news, I was able to express to Archbishop Vigano, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States my acceptance of this appointment, relying solely on God’s grace to help me fulfill the responsibilities that will be entrusted to me upon my ordination to the episcopacy.
Today, on the day of the public announcement, I will be in Wichita to greet the people of my new diocese. Naturally, this will be an exciting moment, but one that is also touched by a sense of personal loss. The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has been my home for 53 years. For twenty-eight of those years I have had the extraordinary blessing to be a priest. I have loved each and every moment, especially in those ministries where I was in direct pastoral service to our people. The people of the parishes I have served as a priest and pastor have taught me so much and helped me to become the priest and human being I am today. I am also very grateful for the work I have been called to do in diocesan administration, in collaboration first with Bishop Lucas and now with Bishop Paprocki. I wish to commend and thank the priests, deacons, religious and seminarians of the diocese who have been a special object of my service. I will truly miss my place in our presbyterate. I have been blessed to work with the fine staff of the Diocesan Pastoral Center, with whom we have persevered through some challenging times, but also rejoiced together in some great times. All of this has taught me many valuable lessons in ministry and leadership that will assist me in my new duties. I go forward a bit apprehensive, but also at peace knowing that God more often than not chooses the weak and sinful to accomplish his mission in the world.
My ordination date is set for May 1, 2014, the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker. I hope many will consider attending if possible, but at the least to be present in prayerful spirit.
I simply wanted to take this opportunity on such a momentous day in my life to thank you and to promise you my prayers. I would humbly ask the same of you in return.
God bless you and keep you all.
Bishop Elect Carl Kemme
Diocese of Wichita
November 20, 2013
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
† Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki
Bishop of Springfield in Illinois
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We are gathered here today in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for a special Holy Hour before the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to participate in "Prayers of Supplication and Exorcism in Reparation for the Sin of Same-Sex Marriage." I wish to preface my reflections by saying that I am conducting this prayer service and am speaking to you now with great reluctance. I did not seek to enter any controversy and I don't relish being part of one. But I have given this matter a great deal of thought and prayer, which has led me to the conviction that God is calling me to speak out and conduct these prayers.
In our prayers, we must be open to hear where God is leading us and to embrace the path that He offers. That is a much different starting point than beginning with our own wants, desires, and conclusions. That is why we pray every day, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
Our prayers at this time are prompted by the fact that the Governor of Illinois today is signing into Illinois law the redefinition of civil marriage, introducing not only an unprecedented novelty into our state law, but also institutionalizing an objectively sinful reality.
It is not hateful to say that an immoral action is sinful. On the contrary, the most compassionate thing we can do is help people to turn away from sin. To ignore another person's wrongful actions is a sign of apathy or indifference, while fraternal correction is motivated by love for that person's well-being, as can be seen by the fact that our Lord Jesus himself urged such correction. Indeed, the call to repentance is at the heart of the Gospel, as Jesus proclaimed, "The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Good News"(Mark 1:15).
The Good News is that God's mercy and forgiveness extend to those who repent. Mercy does not mean approving of something that is sinful, but does absolve the wrongdoer after a change of heart takes place in the sinner through the gift of God's grace. It is not the Church that must change to conform its teachings to the views of the world, but it is each individual who is called to be configured to Christ.
As we heard in the Gospel passage that was just read, Jesus tells His disciples, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. . . . Signs like these will accompany those who have professed their faith: they will use my name to expel demons" (Mark 16:15-17). Thus it is through the power of Jesus that evil is displaced from our hearts and is replaced by divine love. This change of heart involves a spiritual battle that is not easily won, but in which we receive the assistance of angels, under the leadership of Saint Michael the Archangel (cf. Daniel 12:1-3). We need not fear this battle, for Christ has conquered sin and death, and in Christ rests our hope of final victory.
As such, I do not stand here before you as a self-righteous saint who has achieved spiritual perfection, but as a sinner who has received Jesus into his heart as his Lord and Savior. To acknowledge one's sinfulness is indeed the starting point of what it means to be a Christian. However, our Christian identity does not end with this admission of sin, but finds its salvation in accepting the saving grace of our Most Holy Redeemer, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross to forgive our sins and rose from the dead to lead us to the reward of eternal life in His Kingdom. Our second reading from Saint Paul's Letter to the Ephesians affirms this: "It is in Christ and through His blood that we have been redeemed and our sins forgiven, so immeasurably generous is God's favor to us" (Ephesians 1:7).
Pope Francis expressed this essential message in his recent interview published in various Jesuits publications in these words: "The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, 'This is not a sin' or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds."
This is a key point which the secularists are missing: they think that stressing God's mercy means that sins are no longer sins. On the contrary, God's mercy is a great gift of grace precisely because sins are sins and they call for repentance and forgiveness.
Note from the interview, when he was asked to describe himself, Pope Francis said simply, "I am a sinner." After a brief pause, he amplifies this self-identity in the understanding of a Christian who has been saved by Christ, saying, "I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon."
This is not the first time that I have offered prayers of repentance here in our Cathedral. On December 12, 2011, I offered a service of "Repentance and Prayer for those Harmed in the Church," at which I said, "I express repentance for the sins of the members of the Church who have harmed others. Sometimes these harms were evil in themselves, such as the sins of racism and the sexual abuse of minors, as well as other forms of unchastity. At other times, the harms may have been done in the context of actions that were in themselves not sinful and may even have been necessary for pastoral or economic reasons, such as the closing of a church or school, but nevertheless were done in a way that was insensitive to the feelings of those who would be affected. Therefore we pray for all those who have been harmed." This prayer service was modeled along the lines of Pope John Paul II's "Day of Pardon" held on the First Sunday of Lent, March 12, 2000, as part of the observation of the Great Jubilee of the new millennium, in which Pope John Paul II said that the Church "should kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters."
While prayers of supplication in reparation for sin may be easily understood as our pleas and entreaties to God for forgiveness of sins and deliverance from temptation, the meaning of the term "exorcism" in the title of this prayer service is not so readily apparent and requires some explanation. Indeed, some have ridiculed our Church's use of this ancient religious practice. We must remember the encouragement of Pope Saint Leo the Great, who said over 1,500 years ago, "The Church is not diminished by persecutions, but rather increased." It should also be noted that the bill that the Governor is signing today is called the "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act," which purportedly provides that "the Act does not interfere with any religious beliefs about marriage."
Perhaps a large part of the negative reaction is because most people don't know what the Church teaches about exorcism, since they get their misleading information and sensational ideas on this mainly from Hollywood. The fact is that a "minor exorcism" takes place in every Baptism and Confirmation ceremony when we renounce Satan and all his works and empty promises. This prayer service will be along those lines. I'm not saying that anyone involved in the redefinition of marriage is possessed by the devil, which, if that were the case, would require the remedy of a "Major Exorcism," but all of us are certainly subject to the devil's evil influences and in need of protection and deliverance from evil.
Our prayer service today and my words are not meant to demonize anyone, but are intended to call attention to the diabolical influences of the devil that have penetrated our culture, both in the state and in the Church. These demonic influences are not readily apparent to the undiscerning eye, which is why they are so deceptive. A helpful resource in this regard is a recent book by Father Louis J. Cameli, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, called The Devil You Don't Know: Recognizing and Resisting Evil in Everyday Life. While the popular tendency may be to identify the devil only with his extraordinary activity, which is diabolical possession, Father Cameli writes about the ordinary work of the devil: deception, division, diversion and discouragement.
The deception of the Devil in same-sex marriage may be understood by recalling the words of Pope Francis when he faced a similar situation as Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010. Regarding the proposed redefinition of civil marriage in Argentina, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio wrote on June 22, 2010, "The Argentine people must face, in the next few weeks, a situation whose result may gravely harm the family. It is the bill on matrimony of persons of the same sex. The identity of the family, and its survival, are in jeopardy here: father, mother, and children. The life of so many children who will be discriminated beforehand due to the lack of human maturity that God willed them to have with a father and a mother is in jeopardy. A clear rejection of the law of God, engraved in our hearts, is in jeopardy. . . . Let us not be naive: it is not a simple political struggle; it is an intention [which is] destructive of the plan of God. It is not a mere legislative project (this is a mere instrument), but rather a 'move' of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God."
The Pope's reference to the "father of lies" comes from the Gospel of John (8:44), where Jesus refers to the devil as "a liar and the father of lies." So Pope Francis is saying that same-sex "marriage" comes from the devil and should be condemned as such.
Another major deception or distortion of marriage is the view that it is not ultimately about generating life, but rather is mainly about a romantic relationship designed for individual (not even mutual) fulfillment. That distorted understanding cuts across opposite-sex marriage and same-sex marriage proponents in our culture. We are all summoned to reflect more deeply on the truth of marriage.
It is also a deception to say that there will be no adverse effects on children being brought up in the household of a same-sex couple.
The division brought about by the Devil due to same-sex marriage may be seen in the way our society, our families and our friendships have become so divided and polarized over this issue.
The diversion of the Devil in same-sex marriage may be seen in the fact that so much of our time, energy and resources are being spent in addressing this issue, when there are more pressing needs facing our state and our Church.
The work of discouragement by the Devil in same-sex marriage is apparent in the message being conveyed to defenders of traditional marriage that the universal redefinition of marriage is unstoppable, so we might as well just stop trying. But the legalization of abortion on demand forty years ago did not silence those who believe that abortion is contrary to God's law. On the contrary, Roe v. Wade only heightened the need for more concerted efforts to protect all human life from conception to natural death. So, too, the legal redefinition of civil marriage does not put an end to the need for discourse and action to defend natural marriage in accord with God's plan, but only serves to heighten the need for greater efforts in this regard.
The Prayers for "Supplication and Exorcism Which May Be Used in Particular Circumstances of the Church" are taken from the Appendices to the 2004 Latin edition of the Rite of Exorcism, the introduction to which explains, "The presence of the Devil and other demons appears and exists not only in the tempting or tormenting of persons, but also in the penetration of things and places in a certain manner by their activity, and in various forms of opposition to and persecution of the Church. If the Diocesan Bishop, in particular situations, judges it appropriate to announce gatherings of the faithful for prayer, under the leadership and direction of a Priest, elements for arranging a rite of supplication may be taken from [the texts provided in these appendices]."
Same-sex marriage is contrary to the plan of God, as described in the Bible, when Jesus cites the Book of Genesis in asking the Pharisees, "Have you not read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and declared, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, and the two shall become as one?' Thus they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, let no man separate what God has joined."
Since the legal redefinition of marriage is contrary to God's plan, those who contract civil same-sex marriage are culpable of serious sin. Politicians responsible for enacting civil same-sex marriage legislation are morally complicit as co-operators in facilitating this grave sin. We must pray for forgiveness of these sins and deliverance from this evil which has penetrated our state and our Church. The Church stands ready to extend God's mercy to those who confess their sins with true repentance and a firm purpose of amendment in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
We must also affirm the teaching of the Catholic Church that homosexual persons "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition." The Church loves homosexual persons and looks upon them with compassion, offering assistance through support groups such as the Courage Apostolate to live in accord with the virtue of chastity. Indeed, all people all called to chastity, which for a man and woman united in matrimony means for the husband and wife to be faithful to each other.
In conclusion, I quote from a homily given in the second century: "Let me say also that when we are given a warning and corrected for doing something wrong, we should not be so foolish as to take offense and be angry. There are times when we are unconscious of the sins we commit because our hearts are fickle, lacking in faith. Futile desires becloud our minds. We need to pull ourselves up, therefore, because our very salvation is at stake. Those who keep God's commandments will have reason to rejoice. For a short time in this world they may have to suffer, but they will rise again and their reward will endure for ever. No one who holds God in reverence should grieve over the hardships of this present time, for a time of blessedness awaits him. He will live again in heaven in the company of all those who have gone before him; for all eternity he will rejoice, never to know sorrow again."
May God give us this grace. Amen.
Pope Francis has called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, in the entire Mideast region, and throughout the whole world to be held this coming Saturday, September 7th, 2013. Speaking ahead of the traditional Angelus prayer with pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square this past Sunday, Pope Francis said, "On [Saturday] the 7th of September, here [in St Peter's Square], from 7 PM until midnight, we will gather together in prayer, in a spirit of penitence, to ask from God this great gift [of peace] for the beloved Syrian nation and for all the situations of conflict and violence in the world."
This period of prayer designated by Pope Francis translates to our time zone as 12:00 noon to 5:00 PM Central Standard Time. Realizing that weddings and anticipated Masses for Sunday may be already scheduled during this time, it would be appreciated if churches could otherwise remain open during these hours on Saturday afternoon for people to come to pray for peace in the presence of our Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
The Holy Father also invited non-Catholic Christians and non-Christian believers to participate in ways they feel are appropriate. "Never again war!" said Pope Francis. "We want a peaceful world," he said, "we want to be men and women of peace."
Pope Francis also issued a forceful condemnation of the use of chemical weapons. "There is the judgment of God, and also the judgment of history, upon our actions – [judgments] from which there is no escaping." He called on all parties to conflicts to pursue negotiations, and urged the international community to take concrete steps to end conflicts, especially the war in Syria. "Humanity needs to see gestures of peace," said Pope Francis, "and to hear words of hope and of peace."
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Last night in Haifa, a group of ten of us made our way to a Chinese restaurant, where we ended up having a "symposium" of sorts on religion, our motivation for being on this trip, and whether this trip has changed us.
I don't know to what extent this constitutes "change," but I was determined, on taking this trip, to relax. By this I mean that I have been willing to drop the overprepared mode of operating which has functioned so often when I travel. I essentially hand myself over to the tour leaders and let them show me the country.
The practical result of this is that I have a very relaxed mind. Many of you know that one way I relax is by doing sudokus and crosswords. I have to report, however, that today on the bus I have done five or six sudokus but have not completed a single one of them!
I've been meaning to mention something regarding the possible expectations of readers regarding photographs. I have taken a digital camera with me; I have opted, however, not to take pictures. Again, I believe in being relaxed, and taking pictures is too much like work.
I have been promised, however, by a very skilled photographer on the trip, that he will be sharing his photos with us.
There is work of a sort on this trip. I am acting as a "resource" for explaining Christianity when we are at Christian sites. I don't have to prepare; I generally refer to pertinent passages of the Gospels when I am talking about Jesus. The group in general finds my remarks very enlightening. As I see it, I am definitely carrying out the "business" aspect of this business trip: I am interacting with Jews of the Springfield area and furthering interreligious understanding.
This morning we left Haifa, but not before taking in the vista from above the terraced gardens of the Baha'i headquarters. From there we traveled to Caesarea Marittima, a fascinating Roman seaport dating from the time of Augustus Caesar in the 1st c. CE. Muslim attackers tried to destroy the place some centuries later, but most of the open-air theater still stands. Our tour guide showed us some vast greenhouses as an example of vigorous industry in Israel. Before we came to our last hotel in Tel Aviv, we visited a "youth village" (a comparison to Boys Town could be made), where Jewish youth from within and outside Israel come to experience some stability as an alternative to chaotic family situations. This effort is financed by Hadassah members in the United States.
The weather has changed. It is hazy and humid, a lot like many Illinois summer days. Here in Tel Aviv, the low tonight is supposed to 66F. Our hotel is right up against the beach.
I anticipate that this will be my last blog post. Tomorrow we will leave this hotel prepared to get on the homeward-bound plane; but since the flight is not till 11 pm, we will pack our days with activities just as we have every day of this trip. The schedule includes the Ayalon Bullet Factory Museum, Independence Hall, Nachalat Binyamin, HaCarmel Market, and Hatakhanah. I will know what these things are when I get there. After all, I'm relaxing.
Today we visited the crusader city of Acre, lunching on falafel, and then went to Nazareth, where we took in the beauty of the Church of the Annunciation. Once again I provided explanations of the Christian concepts of the intervention of the Son of God in human history. This trip is proving to be a significant moment for people of Springfield to come to a deeper appreciation of Christianity.
This evening I will be dining somewhere in the city of Haifa.
The trip is almost at an end. Tomorrow we will lay down our heads in Tel Aviv, then Thursday we have a full day planned before we reach the airport at 8:00 pm.
I continue to be amazed by the fact that we are experiencing high temperatures (97F is today's high in many spots in northern Israel) but the humidity is low so I am not aware of how hot it is. I keep drinking water, and our tour guide keeps pointing out the restrooms.
On Sunday night I celebrated Mass in my kibbutz lodgings. The higher altitudes of the Golan Heights provided milder temperatures and excellent sleeping!
This morning we drove in a caravan of Jeeps, Land Rovers, etc., to within a few hundred yards of the border with Syria. We could hear something being fired -- just what sort of weaponry it was, I could not say. We then had lunch in a Druze area of Israel's Golan Heights, and heard about the Druze state of being residents but not citizens of Israel -- sounds a bit like Psalm 137, no? We proceeded to the town of Tzveh, where we visited a Kabbalah synagogue and examined the numerous art shops there. We have driven into Haifa and checked in at the Dan Carmel Hotel. My room has a stunningly beautiful view of the Mediterranean. We have been invited to cocktails in a few minutes. This hotel heard about our difficulties at the Dead Sea and wanted to make it up to us.
Something I've been intending to append: Our tour guide wanted me to know that in the Old City of Jerusalem there are about 350 surveillance cameras which are intended to discourage what I experienced there 30 years ago.