27 Jan

Father Emil Kapaun

Father Emil Kapaun quickly enrolled as military chaplain following his ordination in 1940.  After serving in WWII, he found himself in Korea as a Captain with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army.  When his group was overrun by the Chinese on November 2, 1950, Kapaun ran from foxhole to foxhole, lifting men out so they could retreat, giving Last Rites to others who had been mortally wounded, hearing confessions over gunfire, and, in several cases, dragging men to safety at the casualty collection point.  He ran back and forth across 'no-man's land' and at last determined to stay behind with the wounded men who could not be transported.  He used his preaching skills to negotiate the removal of a few more soldiers and was finally forced to a POW camp, though not before stepping in front of Sergeant First Class Herbert Miller, who was about to be executed by a Chinese soldier.  Miller was spared and Father Kapaun began the 87-mile death march to prison.

Kapaun carried men on his back during the march and when the depleted group arrived, the chaplain did not rest, but set about building fires, purifying drinking water, obtaining scraps of food, and tending to the sick and dying.  He rallied the whole group, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, to pray the rosary together.  He prayed individually with men, baptizing a few into the Catholic faith, and gave homilies to the group.  The Chinese guards ordered him to stop and, when he refused, he was stripped naked and forced to stand on a block of ice for several hours.  Worn down, he was left to die alone, which he did on May 23, 1951.  His body was thrown into a mass grave.  This Medal of Honor recipient is an icon of the priesthood and hero in the Catholic Church and United States.

20 Jan

The Gates of the Netherworld

The Holy Spirit moved mysteriously over the "waters" of the Piedmont region in Northern Italy over several decades in the 19th Century.  This was a tumultuous time for the church.  The pope had been imprisoned, the Papal States were confiscated by the new king of Italy, and the rise of nationalism led to the outright persecution of the clergy, parishes, and Catholic schools.  This was particularly the case in Germany with Otto von Bismarck.  The heresy of Jansenism had a negative impact on people, and there were still lingering anti-Catholic sentiments from the French Revolution.  The general population was skeptical of Catholicism.  God thus responded, producing a number of saints.  Never has there been so many saints from one area (around Turin) during one period of time.  Pope Francis has referred to them as the 'social saints.'  We have Saints John Bosco, Joseph Cafasso, Leonardo Murialdo, Luigi Orione, and Joseph Cottolengo.  There are others on their way to sainthood, such as Bruno Lanteri, Francis Faa di Bruno, and the 24-year-old Pier Giorgio Frassati..

Saint John Bosco, the "apostle to the youth" and founder of the Salesian Order was known for his great smile and exceptional love for all people.  Saint Joseph Cafasso was Bosco's close friend and the one who inspired Bosco with his pastoral visits to the suffering.  Saint Murialdo founded the Society of Saint Joseph, which looked after delinquent children, and Saint Orione, who was an apprentice to Bosco, founded the Hermits of Divine Providence, which tended to the poor and sick.  Saint Cottolengo likewise opened a home for the sick and orphans.   These holy priests won back the people's hearts to Catholicism and proved true Christ's claim that "the gates of the netherworld shall never prevail against the Church."

13 Jan

Christ's Heart Beats Loudly

Adapted from the homily delivered this past Christmas...

When Christ was born, a drumbeat entered into existence.  Beforehand, there was silence; no beat to give people a cadence and to excite them.  For that is the twofold purpose of a drum sound.  An army marching will often do so to the rhythm of a drummer.  This keeps the soldiers in line.  If the pace of the beat rises, the army charges.  The drumbeat not only quickens the feet, it also quickens the heart.  There is something primordial about a drum that produces adrenaline and energizes us.  See a football team coming out of the locker room to the drummer of the marching band.  Listen to a rock song with a great drum solo or sequence, like Happy Jack by The Who.  Or, if you want to stick to Christmas music, The Little Drummer Boy.  Originally known as 'The Carol of the Drums' this song is all about the poor shepherd boy pleasing the Holy Family with his drumming, since he has nothing else to offer.  Bob Seger has a great version of this Christmas carol.  If rock is not to your taste, you could listen to 'The Hallelujah Chorus' in Handel's Messiah, which utilizes the timpani masterfully.  This is not a sad or dull piece.

Christ has provided the drumbeat for us.  If we are to receive genuine excitement and joy and not fall astray in life, we ought to listen and march to this beat.  Henri Nouwen writes, "Discernment is a life of listening to a deeper sound and marching to a different beat, a life in which we become 'all ears'."  Prayer is one way we listen to the drums.  The Mass is another.  Christ's heart beats loudly in the Eucharist. 

For 2,000 years God has been drumming.  It is not only for us to this Christmas to be attuned and 'rock out', but also our Church, founded on a rock

 

06 Jan

With God, All Things Are Possible Even Time Travel

In discussing the Eucharist, Saint Thomas Aquinas writes, "This sacrament has a threefold significance: with regard to the past...with regard to the present...with regard to the future..." (ST III, 73.4). The movie Back to the Future comes to mind.

If you have never seen the 1980s cult classic movie trilogy, time travel is the subject.  A high school student travels to the 1950s and interferes with the events, thus altering the future.  When he returns back to the present, it is no longer the present as he left it.  Some terrible events have also happened in the future, and so the main character and his sidekick must travel back to the past and then back to the future to correct the situation.  It is easier to watch than describe.

"With God all things are possible" (Matt 19:26) and God makes 'time travel', in a sense, possible with the Eucharist (not the flux capacitor).  When we celebrate Mass on Sunday, three time periods are being invoked and affected.  With regard to the past, Mass is the re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice on Calvary 2,000 years ago.  His sacrifice that led to our redemption is placed anew upon the altar at Catholic parishes around the world.  With regard to the present, Mass is communion.  We are united to Jesus right now and to the church, both members here on earth and those in Heaven. With regard to the future, the Mass is the participation in a banquet occurring in Heaven.  It will draw us to Heaven, which is why we sometimes refer to the Eucharist as viaticum

When we go to Mass we are, as theologian Peter Kreeft puts it, "bilocating, not just in space but in time."  I hope you enjoy the presentation.