Blogs

Happy Birthday, Saint John the Baptist!

Dear Parishioners,

We don't typically celebrate a saint's birthday in the church. We usually celebrate the day of his or her death. Most feast days are when we think the particular saint died or was martyred. Birthday celebrations are reserved for Jesus (Christmas) and Mary (September 8th).

And for Saint John the Baptist.

Yes, today, June 24th, the Church celebrates the “Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.” Even though it falls on a Sunday this year, we still celebrate it. As if it were Christmas, the Baptist's Birthday trumps the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, which would have been this weekend.

We do indeed celebrate John's death (August 29th), but so important is John the Baptist that we also celebrate his birth. He is one of the few saints who receive multiple feast days: Joseph, Peter, Paul, and Mary.

John the Baptist's birth is six months after the birth of his cousin, Jesus Christ. Christ's birthday is around the winter solstice, when days begin to grow longer. The Baptist's birthday is around the summer solstice, when days begin to grow shorter. “He must increase, I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).

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Rejection

East of Eden by John Steinbeck is one large allusion to the Book of Genesis. The title of the novel is literally taken from Genesis 4:16. One of the crucial passages, in my opinion, comes when one of the main characters, Adam, is debating what to name his twin boys. He settles on Caleb and Aron, but not before discussing Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel because God favored Abel's offering of an animal more than Cain's offering of grain. Lee, Adam's steward, articulates:

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Growth & Transitions

Dear Parishioners,

We're back in the thick of Ordinary Time and the start of summer, and we're back to hearing the parables in the Sunday Gospels. This 11th Sunday we have two parables dealing with the growth of the Kingdom of God (cf. Mark 4:26-34).

The first parable indicates the Kingdom of God doesn't come suddenly and all at once. There is a process to it: “first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” The Catholic Church didn't get to where it is today, over a billion members worldwide existing in structured dioceses and parishes, immediately after Pentecost. It took time. And there were setbacks and challenges along the way (there still are).

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Celibacy

Why are priests unable to marry? I am asked this frequently. Let me discuss Mohandas Gandhi, who took a vow of celibacy.

Celibacy is called Brachmacharya in the Hindu custom and it signifies total self-control. Disintegrating qualities, such as anger and vanity, are eliminated in this way of life. From the position of control, the celibate can make a total gift of himself to others. Gandhi sought to give himself entirely to his countrymen, and so at age 37 he renounced marriage and the pleasures of the flesh. He felt his love for others was more available and authentic. It is for a similar reason that he fasted. He wanted to be less self-centered and completely dedicated to others. “I fasted,” Gandhi said, “to reform those who loved me.”

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Follow the Leader to Victory

Jesus healed many people for the three years he was on this earth, but there were many more he did not heal. Were those select individuals in that select spot on the earth in that select time period the only ones to experience Jesus? No. Let us explain using the image of D-Day. Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944 was arguably the most significant event of WWII. But the battle did not end the war. Hitler would not surrender until May 7, 1945. The Allies still had to break out of Normandy, retake Paris, and fight to Berlin. Operation Market Garden would be launched, the Battle of the Bulge fought, the perilous slog through the Hurtgen Forest commenced, and this was only the war in Europe.

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Crazy is as crazy does.

Have you ever been called crazy? The kids in school call me crazy all the time. My family and friends do too. Usually this label is justified, for I act like a goof.

But I have been called crazy once or twice by a stranger or distant acquaintance. The individual is curious why I am a priest. How could I give up so much and devote my life to such a strange calling?

I'll admit, sometimes when I step back, I see it as crazy, being a priest and pastor, that is. I think, Man, God, how did you make all this happen?

But I don't have regrets, for I love being a priest. I love being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Following Christ and being a Catholic is, in many ways, counter-cultural. It raises eyebrows or prompts jokes. But it’s so fulfilling. Jesus was called crazy too. His family said, “He is out of his mind” (Mk 3:21).

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Supporting our Priests

St. Margaret Clithrowe, a housewife who lived during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, was asked by the judges to promise not to hide priests again. It was illegal and treasonous to be Catholic and to harbor priests. Clithrowe picked up her Bible and said, “I promise you I will hide priests again because they alone bring us the Body of Christ.” The woman was pressed to death on St. Michael's bridge in York. Her death for the priesthood and for the Eucharist occurred four hundred years ago.

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Lamb of God

Dear Parishioners,

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi. During the exodus, which we hear about in the First Reading, Moses put lamb's blood on the doorposts of each Israelite. When the Angel of Death came at night to take each firstborn, it passed over each house with the sign of blood, hence the name Passover for the feast. The blood of the lamb saved people from death.

The flesh of the lambs slaughtered by Moses was then used as food, to give the people nourishment for their trek out of Egypt, across the desert, and through the Red Sea. The body of the lamb gave the people life.

We see the parallel. Jesus is the Lamb of God. His real blood, which is in the chalice that we receive at Mass, saves us from sin and death. His real body, which is the Eucharist, gives us life. Blessed be God forever!

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Hill Country

The Path to Power, the first volume in Robert A. Caro's series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, spends a fair amount of time describing the land where LBJ was raised, the Texas Hill Country. This fascinating land stands at the crossroads of West, Central, and South Texas. It was once a land of opportunity, but overgrazing in the 19th Century, combined with the constant threat of Native American attack, made it a somewhat desolate place. Residents of the Texas Hill Country were, to say the least, tough. The women were especially strong. Caro describes the brutal nature of household chores: lugging water for miles; hauling wood and then chopping it for the stove, which was extremely difficult to light; ironing shirts with twenty pound iron wedges, literally, without handles; and so on. So arduous was their lifestyle, Texas Hill Country women were noted for their bent-over posture. These figures were heroic, if not saintly.

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Who is your Divine Person?

Dear Parishioners,

One of my favorite hymns is "Praise the Holy Trinity." Here are the lyrics:

O God Almighty Father,
Creator of all things,
The Heavens stand in wonder,
While earth Thy glory sings.

Refrain: O most Holy Trinity,
Undivided Unity;
Holy God, Mighty God,
God Immortal, be adored.

O Jesus, Word Incarnate,
Redeemer most adored,
All Glory, praise and honor,
Be Thine, our Sov'reign Lord. R.

O God, the Holy Spirit,
Who lives within our souls,
Send forth Thy light and lead us
To our eternal goal. R.

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Blue By You

“By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples” (Jn 15:8). We hear quite a bit about fruit throughout Scripture. Jesus tells us that if we remain in him, like a branch connected to the vine, we will bear fruit. He also speaks of a good tree bearing good fruit—“by their fruits you will know them” (Matt 7:20). St. Paul talks about the fruits of the Holy Spirit in his letter to the Galatians (cf. Gal 5:22-23), and, of course, we have the most well-known and infamous fruit of all—the apple, the cause of our downfall when consumed by Adam and Eve.

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Pentecost

Dear Parishioners,

Saint John Chrysostom was an ancient Church Father who lived in Turkey and died in the year 407. He was famous for his preaching. The name Chrysostom means literally, ‘the golden mouth.’ The priest had this to say about Pentecost:

The Apostles did not come down from the mountain like Moses with stone tablets in their hands. They emerged from the Cenacle carrying the Holy Spirit in their hearts and offering everywhere treasures of wisdom and of grace as spiritual gifts flowing from a gushing spring. They went preaching to the whole world, they themselves being the living law, as if they were books animated by the grace of the Holy Spirit. (In Mt. Hom., 1, 1:PG 57-58, 15.)

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Are you ascending?

Dear Parishioners,

Hail the day that sees him rise, Alleluia! It's been forty days (well, more or less) since the Resurrection and this Sunday we celebrate Jesus' departure from this earth—the Ascension. “So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God” (Mk 16:19).

Notice there is a lot of direction on where the disciples are to go and what they are to do when our Lord ascends to the sky. Jesus tells them to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8). He also instructs them to preach the Gospel and baptize (cf. Mk 16:15-16). The angel tells them to stop looking at the sky (cf. Acts 1:11). The disciples return to Jerusalem (cf. Lk 24:52).

What am I to do with my life? Where should I go? These are questions people, young adults in particular, ask themselves often. Graduation is around this time of year and I wonder if some college and even high school seniors are wondering about the direction of their lives.

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Fatima

Muhammad, the founder of Islam, had a daughter named Fatima. When she died at age 29 in the early 7th Century it is reported that her father said, in grief, “She has the highest place in heaven after the Virgin Mary.” Muhammad did not mourn too long however. In the subsequent years his religion spread across the Middle East, Africa, and into Europe. In 711, the Crescent crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and a small town named Salatia, on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, was conquered. In the 12th Century the Christians organized themselves and reconquered Spain and Portugal, including this small town. During the reconquista, the Muslim princess of Salatia, named Fatima, was captured. Falling in love with the Spanish Count of Ourem, Fatima converted to Catholicism. Like Muhammad's daughter, Fatima died prematurely and her hometown, reclaimed for Catholicism, was renamed in her honor.

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