Beethoven's 9th Symphony, which premiered in Vienna on Friday, May 27, 1824, is about all men being brothers and living more transcendentally, with heaven in mind. The piece changed music forever. It influenced every composer subsequent to Beethoven. Why? Not because of the theme of the piece, but because the symphony shattered the time-honored convention of the purely instrumental genre. The 4th movement of the symphony involves voices. “O Friends, not this tone! Let us sing more pleasantly, more joyfully,” sings the baritone to start the song known as the Ode to Joy. Prior to the 9th, voices were simply not in a symphony. Additionally, a composer's intention behind his music had to be discerned implicitly through the instrumentals. But with the 9th, instrumental and vocal music were fused for all time. The meaning of the music could be conveyed explicitly, thanks to words in song. Beethoven redefined the genre.
According to canon 527 in the Code of Canon Law, there are three parts to a priest becoming pastor of a parish. First, the diocesan bishop must appoint the priest. This occurred back in the spring when I received my letter of appointment from Archbishop Cupich on April 22. He wrote, "Father Wallace: With this letter, I am pleased to appoint you Pastor of Saint Juliana Parish in Chicago. This appointment, effective July 1, 2016, is made in consultation with the Diocesan Priests' Placement Board, as well as with your Vicar and Dean. Your term of office will continue until you are reappointed, transferred, or your successor is named. Bishop Francis J. Kane will act as my delegate in receiving your Profession of Faith."
The second part of the process of becoming a pastor is the aforementioned Profession of Faith, which I will make before you all this Saturday evening. The third is the priest ‘taking possession’ of the office. I took possession on July 1st when I moved to the parish. The Mass of Installation is a more formal and solemnized expression of the parish being entrusted to me.
When did you first know that you were called to the priesthood?
Thank you for your question. Honestly, in some ways, I don’t believe that I will really know whether I am called to be a priest until the act of ordination. At that moment there will be no doubt about God’s will. Before ordination there is always some degree of uncertainty. Every candidate for the priesthood is called to do one’s best to listen for God’s will in his life, and, further, the Church as a whole is called to do its best to listen as well. Both the candidate and the Church need to make a "yes" for ordination to take place.
Nevertheless, as a man considers the priesthood and enters into and progresses through the seminary, there is the expectation that he will grow in what is known as the "presumption of permanence." He should increasingly grow in commitment to the priestly vocation, turning himself over to Christ to be formed in what is necessary for the priesthood. Like most other men considering the priesthood, this is something with which I wrestle and in which I am continuing to grow.
If you're looking for an intriguing read from the Old Testament, and in particular for some insights into our Blessed Mother, take a look at the Book of Esther. Briefly, the story's setting is Persia in about 470 BC. Xerxes has been tricked into giving an order to exterminate all the Jews throughout the empire. His Queen, Esther, however, is a Jew. She summons the courage to approach the King in an attempt to reverse his decree—the King did not know she was Jewish. Esther prays and fasts for three days. When she at last gains access to Xerxes, she subtly convinces him that the Jews are his allies. It is the prime minister, Haman, who had contrived the genocide, who is in reality Xerxes' enemy, she argues. King Xerxes follows Esther. He reverses the decree of annihilation, executes Haman, and appoints a Jew named Mordechai his prime minister. Queen Esther heroically saves her people.
How different would the presidential debates appear if both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, when attacked, beat their chest and responded: "O God, be merciful to me a sinner"? It seems like this has become a race based on character, and neither candidate reflects that all important virtue called humility. I don't know about you, but I would feel better about November–I'd be more hopeful for our country–if these flawed individuals took the approach of the tax collector from our Lord's beautiful parable for this Sunday. Recall, Jesus compares the righteous Pharisee who thanks God that he is not pathetic like the rest of humanity and the tax collector who utters the humble prayer I suggested and cited above (cf. Lk 18:9-14). The tax collector acknowledges his sins and then trusts not in his own character and ability to "bounce back," but on God's mercy. The humble person places the focus on God, and that to me is endearing. If I was a campaign manager, I'd coach humility. It's amazing the effectiveness of that virtue.
Most worthwhile activities and endeavors in life don't come easy. They require persistence. Whether it was you courting your spouse, getting that promotion at work, learning an instrument, overcoming a bad habit, or finishing a book, you had to work over time for these things. It's rare that we can get what we want without any effort. And if we can, maybe we ought to think twice about the thing's value.
The life of prayer is no different. "I charge you," says St. Paul, "in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching" (2 Tim 4:2).
“It's time now for something to be done,” wrote Claus von Stauffenberg, a high ranking officer in the Wehrmacht, devout Catholic, and loyal German. “He who has the courage to act must know that he will probably go down in German history as a traitor. But if he fails to act, he will be a traitor before his own conscience.”
And so on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg traveled to Hitler's east Prussian headquarters with a bomb to kill the Fuhrer. On the way he stopped into a chapel to pray. Before leaving, he asked the priest, “Can the Church grant absolution to a murderer who has taken the life of a tyrant?” The priest said no. Stauffenberg’s bomb exploded, but Hitler was unharmed, and the husband and father was executed the next day in Berlin.
Adapted from the homily.
In 1966 a young Catholic pilot was shot down over Than Haon, North Vietnam. For almost eight years Jeremiah Denton was tortured, spending much of his time in solitary confinement in a cell the size of a refrigerator. He survived though. He was released and would go on to serve as commander of the Armed Forces Staff College and then as a US Senator for Alabama, the first Catholic elected to office in that state. Denton attributed his perseverance to two things. First, he said continuously, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I give myself to you.” Second, he prayed the rosary. The Blessed Mother gave this POW the strength to persevere.
This is more of a motivational homily I offer you today, as the readings are all about perseverance. Moses persevered in keeping his arms raised during the battle with the Amelekites. St. Paul tells St. Timothy to persevere in preaching the Good News and maintaining the truth. And the widow from the Gospel persevered in exhorting the dishonest judge to render her a just decision. Moses, Timothy, and the widow all had good reasons to quit, but they didn't. They were rewarded for their perseverance.
It's tempting for us to to give up. We could quit on our country because of our presidential candidates, on our city because of the violence and economy, on the Cubs because they haven't won in 108 years. Please don't quit, especially on the Church. Because we will be victorious–Christ assures us of that.
If you feel tempted to give up, turn to the Blessed Mother. Mary will infuse in you the grace to persevere, as she did Commander Denton. Say a Hail Mary. Then when the victory comes you'll be around to celebrate.
Having done mission work in other parts of the world, what have you learned that you can share with us?
Thank you for the question. Over the last few years I have had the chance to make extended stays in Ethiopia, Senegal, and El Salvador, and they have all taught me much. In each of these places I grew as an individual and as a Christian, but I also grew in appreciation for the Church and in knowledge the current state of the world. Here are a few thoughts:
We are a global church. The Church extends far beyond the borders of our community, and in the midst of the diverse places in which it has taken root, there are diverse expressions of the one Catholic faith. I believe that that is a sign of our strength. I have had the opportunity to celebrate mass in dusty cinder-block chapels, in simple mud houses, in beautiful colonial-era cathedrals, and even on top of mountains. During such celebrations I have heard ancient chants, bellowing drum lines, simple hymns, and vibrant community choirs. Yet, in the midst of all these places and worship styles, we all come to worship and renew our relationship with the triune God. We are all part of the body of Christ. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have a family larger than we might have ever imagined.
When a linebacker in football thinks too much, or a quarterback worries about making the wrong read, he plays scared and ultimately does not play well. To be free on the sports arena–or in any other arena—we need to have confidence. A player who plays with confidence and is not afraid moves quickly and has fun. It's similar to the prayer life and, in particular, to talking about Jesus; that is, evangelizing.