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Posted by on Dec 7, 2017

Liturgy: The Language of the Body

Liturgy: The Language of the Body

Nathan Mitchell, in  Meeting Mystery: Liturgy, Worship, Sacraments,  explains that the  body is the locus of the liturgy, the place where it happens, the means by which it is possible. There can be no ritual. There can be no physical non-verbal language without the body. There can be no metaphor. The soul and the body are oscillations of one dynamic in space-time. They are one in relation to the world and one in relation to each other. Each oscillation of the human entity makes us truly divine and truly human.

In Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s “Doubting Thomas,” the Risen Christ is corporeal and expressed in the early modern language of the color, composition, and sensibility of Naples around 1600.

Interestingly, the apostles are old men, Christ is in his 20’s. This is the language and metaphor of glorification. The bodies — glorified and non-glorified — move in the ritual of question, confusion, epiphany, and awe of Christ and for Christ.

In contrast, John Granville Gregory’s 20th Century English conception of “Still Doubting” employs a more post-modern body in its language.

The lighting is from above and is more photographic. The bodies themselves emanate no light but reflect it, shade it, shape it, ripple it. Although the gesture, the “ritual,” is the same as Caravaggio’s, the language is distinct. The young disciples bring more the boldness of youthful investigative analysis and curiosity. Caravaggio’s disciples bring the befuddlement of age and astonished wonder. Gregory’s Christ is more exuberant, almost playful. Caravaggio’s ritual metaphor is more amazed contemplation and rapture. Gregory’s is energetic discovery and youthful surprise. It almost looks like it could be an album cover from the late 20th century. The metaphor is one of scientific discovery conveyed by the casual irreverence of seekers.

The take away is “no body, no liturgy”. This should really be at the forefront of our consciousness as ministers. How does my entity oscillate in its physical and non-physical manifestations? When we convene as the Body of Christ, how do we convey in our body-language the mystery of the hypostatic union of being truly human and truly divine? Do we dance with the music? Do we sway? Do we move to the beat of what stirs our heart? More importantly, do we physically feel our ministry to the oscillating bodies of those which we convene and by whom we are convened? Are we sexy?

 

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Posted by on Dec 7, 2017

Liturgy Takes Place in the Body

Liturgy Takes Place in the Body

 

Your Glorious Body is On Order

Theologian Nathan Mitchell links Rahner’s view of the glorification of the human body with that of St. Paul. Both the human body and the human world are to be transfigured. “As Karl Rahner likes to say, we Christians are ‘the most sublime of materialists.’” [1] The end times, eschatology, requires the presence of the body since it involves the completion or fulfillment of humanity. It is anthropological in the sense of Christian theology’s view of the meaning and purpose of human existence.

This return to St Paul’s Jewish conception of the whole human person is at odds with the Greek philosopher Plato who lived about 500 years before Christ. This split view of the human person and the philosophy of Plato influenced the non-Jewish concept of Christianity in the first few centuries of the church. The modern mind body split was advocated by Rene Descartes (1596-1650).   The human being is a spirit in a physical, perishable, inglorious container – that mortal coil that we are to shed, to shrug off. Instead, According to St. Paul we are to be glorified in Christ. We will have a post-resurrection body, a post resurrection existence beyond the constraints of space-time.  “Rather, Jesus embodied humanity signifies that our flesh belongs forever to the very definition of the Divine.” [2]

However current neuroscience shows that we cannot separate the mind and the body. One cannot exist without the other. Antonio Damasio’s Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain [3] Damasio argues that human emotion is the source of human reason. Generally, emotion has been relegated to the domain of the physical body in the sense that it is subordinate to human reason. In classical Greek thinking, the daimon is that disordered divine fire that challenges the orderly function of society. The daimon is Socrates’ inner light.  Even in the modern Freudian construct, the id is a disruptive force that threatens the ego and must be overcome by the superego.

In traditional Christian asceticism (physical and spiritual practices that bring us closer to God), the flesh and its desires are something to be controlled, conquered, and ultimately, denied. Even the traditional Greek notion of contemplation, theorein is to see with the mind, to understand. These unseemly, emotionally, messy parts of our being will somehow be blotted out in our salvation according to this approach. If we are leaving behind the idea that mind and body can be split (dualism), how can our emotions which are key to our relationships be glorified? How can such unwieldy things move into that glorification of the body which is the seat of all relationships and the primary means of our entering into the life of the Trinity – a life that is pure relation?

In the ancient eastern churches, there is a screen between the people and the sanctuary. It is  a stand filled with icons. It is called an iconstasis. The doors of the iconstasis are the doors of heaven, how does our emotional physicality allow us to enter the Kingdom as truly human and divine? In the eastern Catholic and Orthodox traditions people are saved by entering into the life of the Trinity. Like Christ we a become human and divine in our body and soul. The liturgy takes place in our bodies since we are present and active. How then are we glorified in this emotional physicality in the formal liturgy? Clearly, this is more evident in African and African-American liturgies as well as those of the Charismatic Renewal where there is singing, clapping, dancing, and joyous praise. However, our polite, suburban, middle class rituals are safely sanitized to avoid any possible messiness of profound human expression.  We call the Spirit down politely, so we can avoid Divine Fire. Our preaching is flat – a styrofoam balm upon the wounds and disappointment of the week and our lives. We sing hymns of praise, but they do not compare to the shouts of spectator sports or the glee of winning a game show.

When we die our bodies are washed by strangers and filled with liquid preservatives and returned to our loved ones pressed and dry-cleaned. This does not seem to be Rahner’s or St. Paul’s moment of glorification. This does look the climax of the Christian meaning of life and death which is called Christian anthropology. The challenge we face in worship is to bring tangible emotion rippling through our loins and sinews. We are challenged and graced to join the full, active, and conscious union of mind, body, and spirit in the dance of the Trinity. Let’s dance!

[1] Mitchell, N D, (2006) Meeting the Mystery: Liturgy, Worship, Sacraments, Maryknoll, New York, Orbis Books, 156

[2] Mitchell, Meeting Mystery, 156

[3] Damasio, Antonio (2008) Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, New York: Random House

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Posted by on Mar 24, 2015

The Alpha Course — Presenting and Encountering Christ

The Alpha Course — Presenting and Encountering Christ

Alpha Course logoA fundamental theme of Pope Francis’ papacy has been the Church’s call to missionary activity. This activity is not simply the call of a few who will travel to distant lands. It is the call of every Christian: the call to participate in evangelization. Yet in our communities,workplaces, and homes, we often feel uncomfortable in this role, whether because the Christian message and lifestyle are counter-cultural or because we don’t really know or understand what we believe, why we believe it, or why we do what we do.

The Alpha Course is a relatively new program that is focused on reaching out to those who have never really heard the Gospel or experienced life as Christians. One of the side-effects of the program, however, is to re-vitalize parish life as new people are touched by the love of the Risen Christ and enter the community of faith. Long-time members of Christian communities, including Roman Catholics, also experience a revitalization of their faith as they see it anew through the eyes of the newcomers.

Fr. Riccardo, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, Michigan and a regular contributor on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), talks about the fact that we as Catholics tend to focus on sacramentalizing: introducing our parishioners to the sacraments and helping them grow in their sacramental life.  According to Fr. Riccardo, if we teach the people about the faith and the sacraments without introducing them to the person of Christ, it is like throwing seeds on concrete. Nothing will grow. Fr. Riccardo gives a comprehensive presentation of the Alpha Course, a program for evangelization, in a series of YouTube podcasts.

The Alpha Course has a simple method. People gather for a meal and a discussion, not just in a church setting but wherever people gather. The attendees are primarily people who are currently outside the Church. Over a ten week period the participants come to an experience of the Risen Christ as their loving friend and savior.

The Alpha Course began in a Church of England parish in London and is now widely used by many denominations. It is opening doors to ecumenical cooperation and discussion about the centrality of Christ in our faith. Over 1 million Catholics in Canada have been through the course. Fr. Rainero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, Cardinal Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, and other Catholic leaders have praised the Alpha Course.

Rev. Mr. Steve Mitchell, a deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit, is the national director for Alpha USA. According to Deacon Mitchell’s statement on the AlphaUSA.org website “Alpha provides a safe, non-threatening environment where no question is too dumb and no perception is criticized. Barriers are broken down as we share a meal together and build relationships without regard to what someone believes.”

Alpha’s video includes examples from Catholic parishes around the world.

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Posted by on Feb 24, 2015

The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World

The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World

800px-Petersdom_von_Engelsburg_gesehen - public domainThe Synod of Bishops and Pope Francis have asked members of the Catholic community, from both the Western and Eastern churches, to read the draft document prepared at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family last October in Rome and to respond with comments and insights drawn from their own experience of the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World.

Generally, members of the hierarchy do not consult ordinary members of the community regarding establishment of policies for dealing with pastoral issues such as how to help people prepare for marriage, how to support married couples in their life commitment, how to care for families that are wounded or broken apart, how to help members who are not heterosexual in their orientation, how and when to welcome children into the lives of a family, and how to pass on our faith within our families.

Nevertheless, all of us have some experience in this regard, since all have lived as members of a family. The bishops are asking us to share our experiences and the wisdom we have gained through the  practical challenges of living in families as people of faith.

The document prepared in October 2014 has been published. Each diocese has been asked to distribute the draft document and a questionnaire regarding the information included in the document. The dioceses are to collect responses, and prepare a summary of the thoughts of those who live with its geographic region.

The time frame is short. Responses are needed by the end of the first week of March so there will be enough time to summarize them and return them to Rome before the bishops assemble again in October 2015.

Please read the document carefully and respond to the questionnaire honestly and prayerfully, based on your own experience. Pope Francis and the bishops really want to know what the thinking of the People of God (the Church) is on these matters, because the Holy Spirit speaks through the everyday experiences of ordinary people.

Links to the document in several European languages are included in the sidebar to the right. For readers in other countries, check with your local diocese for the document in other languages.

Surveys for the Diocese of Monterey, California are available at the diocesan website.

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Posted by on Jan 20, 2015

Why Do Children Suffer? Pope Francis Speaks to Filipino Youth

Why Do Children Suffer? Pope Francis Speaks to Filipino Youth

 

The video and the text are largely in Spanish, though a simultaneous translation into English is included. This is a summary of a small part of the Pope’s extemporaneous speech.

During a presentation to young people in the Philippines, the Holy Father set aside his prepared text to answer a question that had been raised by a 12 year old girl who had been rescued from the street. Tearfully weeping, Glyzelle Palomar, recounted the miseries of her life in a few words and asked, “Many children are abandoned by their own parents, many are victims of many terrible things such as drugs and prostitution. Why does God permit these things even though the children are not at fault.Why do so few people come forward to help?” In this video we can view the scene and the Pope’s compassionate embrace of the child.

What response is possible to the perennial problem of evil? Pope Francis did not try to evade the question with platitudes. He took the question head-on, educating about 30,000 of the faithful and challenging them. First, he noted the shortage of women among those making presentations and he emphasized the importance of the point of view of women. The Pope said that women pose questions which men could never stop trying to understand, that is, never grasp.

We can understand something, added the Holy Father, “when the heart reaches the place in which it can ask the questions and cry. Only through tears do we arrive at a true compassion which can transform the world.” Pope Francis described a common, worldly type of compassion as one in which we just take a coin out of our pocket. He added that if Christ had shown this type of compassion, he would simply have spent a little time with a few people and gone back to the Father. Jesus could comprehend our lives, the Pope said, when He was able to cry and did cry.

He notes, “In today’s world, there is a lack of crying. Although the marginalized, the poor, and the outcasts cry, those of us who do not lack anything essential do not cry. Only those eyes that have been cleansed by tears are able to so see things as they are.”

The Pope challenged the faithful. “Let us not forget (this young woman’s) testimony. She asked the great question ‘why do children suffer?’ crying. And the great answer all of us can give is to learn how to cry.”

 

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Posted by on Nov 9, 2014

Synod on the Family – The Unfolding Story

Synod on the Family – The Unfolding Story

Deacon William Ditewig, PhD

Deacon William Ditewig, PhD, served as the Executive Director of the Secretariat for the Diaconate for the US Catholic Conference of Bishops from 2002 – 2007. He is a professor at Santa Clara University and directs the diaconate, faith formation, and pastoral planning programs for the Diocese of Monterey, California.

Deacon Ditewig wrote an excellent review of the synod process in his blog Deacons Today – Servants in a Servant Church. He points out that we have just seen the end of Act One, The Extraordinary Synod, and the curtain is going up on Act Two, The Global Reflection. The current document or “relatio” is now a draft that will be studied by each of the bishops’ conferences around the world. The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops has it on the agenda for their November 2014 meeting. Individual bishops will then work with it in their own ways in their individual dioceses. The methods will vary as they did when Rome asked for contributions of ideas and comments on the pastoral needs of families in preparation for the just concluded Extraordinary Synod. Some bishops worked only with their clergy and others held meetings on the issues throughout their dioceses.

Act Three will begin next October with opening of the Ordinary Synod on the Family. The Pope will then take those deliberations and write his own apostolic exhortation. (Pope Francis has already issued his first apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel. )

Deacon Ditewig makes it clear that the current document under consideration is a draft and does not constitute Church teaching. He also points out that there has been a mistranslation into English of the Pope’s remarks. In the Italian original version, the Pope speaks of welcoming homosexuals (accogliere) but it was translated as “to provide for”. In his address, the Pope again says that we should welcome homosexuals, but then he corrects himself and says that welcoming them is not enough. The Pope says we have to go and find them, to seek them out.

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Posted by on Dec 10, 2011

Blessed Adolph Kolping – Caring for Workers and Families

Blessed Adolph Kolping – Caring for Workers and Families

Blessed Adolph Kolping

“Adolph Kolping gathered skilled workers and factory laborers together. Thus he overcame their isolation and defeatism. A faith society gave them the strength to go out into their everyday lives as Christ’s witnesses before God and the world. To come together, to become strengthened in the assembly, and thus to scatter again is and still remains our duty today. We are not Christians for ourselves alone, but always for others too” (Pope John Paul II, beatification homily).

Adolph Kolping was born the son of a German shepherd in 1813. As a teenager, he was apprenticed to a shoemaker and worked for 10 years at this trade. He had always been a good student, with dreams of continuing his education, and at the age of 23 he began secondary school. At 28, he entered the seminary and was ordained in 1845.

Kolping had expected to live the life of an academic, but during his first assignment he met school teacher Gragor Breuer, founder of an organization for journeymen. Influenced by Breuer, he became involved in ministering to journeymen, young men who worked in the newly industrializing cities of Germany.  He served as the second president of the Catholic Association of Journeymen with the intent of providing social and religious support to these men. Through the remaining years of his life, he worked to coordinate, unite and support associations of journeymen throughout Germany, forming family-like supportive communities.

Today his work continues through the International Kolping Society, with about 5,000 Kolping families in over 60 countries around the world, including the United States. Together, members of Kolping families help each other live as Christians in professions, marriage and families, Church and society, and work to improve and humanize the world in which they live.

 

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Posted by on Sep 5, 2011

Laboring in Love – Blessed Mother Teresa of  Calcutta

Laboring in Love – Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Blessed Mother Teresa, photo by Túrelio

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (feast day September 5)  worked for decades in India, first as a teacher in schools run by the Sisters of Loreto and later caring for the homeless and dying on the streets of Calcutta. Though controversies exist regarding her work and her legacy, men and women around the world now share in her mission of care for the poor as Missionaries of Charity, not just the dying but also assisting those living in poverty.

Today, as we celebrate Labor Day in the United States, it is worthwhile to remember Mother Teresa’s perspective on the work we do.

“To show great love for God and our neighbor we need not do great things. It is how much love we put in the doing that makes our offering something beautiful for God.”

May we remember her words as we go about our daily lives; that we may touch those around us with love and God’s presence.

 

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Posted by on Mar 16, 2011

Where Two or More Are Gathered … Los Angeles Religious Education Congress

Where Two or More Are Gathered … Los Angeles Religious Education Congress

Los Angeles Religious Education Congress 2011

Tonight and through the weekend, thousands of Catholics and members of other faiths will be converging on the Anaheim, California Convention Center for the largest annual gathering of Catholics in the United States. The Los Angeles Religious Education Congress begins with Youth Day on March 17. The theme for Youth Day is “Godbook: Everyone Invited.” Speakers address topics of interest to teens, including prayer, sharing faith, social justice, and interpersonal relations. Youth Day includes workshops, liturgies at three locations within the Convention Center and and concerts with artists including Jesse Manibusan and Pedro Rubalcava. Several of the workshops also feature music.

Congress for adults begins with Opening Prayer on March 18 and continues through a final liturgy on Sunday afternoon. This year’s theme is “Hold Firm … Trust.” Like Youth Day, the days are filled with opportunities for prayer and learning. Speakers from around the world come to Congress, many with  large groups of fans who look forward to hearing them each year. Workshops are offered in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Opportunities abound for prayer, reconciliation, learning, sharing, enjoying contemporary music, and just generally enjoying the presence of the Lord in the community of the faithful.

Knowing that many people would like to be among the approximately 40,000 present at Congress but must instead attend to family and work responsibilities elsewhere, Congress planners have arranged for live internet streaming of events on Youth Day and during the rest of the weekend. Naturally, the majority of events will not be available live, but recordings of many presentations can be purchased through the Congress website.

I hope many of you will join in the fun and inspiration of Congress through the internet. I’ll be there too!

 

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Posted by on Dec 8, 2010

2011 Brings Classes and Big Improvements to Theologika.net

“Be Careful What You Pray For . . .”

For some time now we have been eager to make changes to the “look and feel” of Theologika.net to improve your online experience.  Social media and online resources have changed enormously since we opened in early 2007. We can now move to more of a community type of online setting with a different type of discovery engine to tag and share your own recommendations and those of our Trusted Authorities. In 2011 we will begin offering online classes, seminars, and talks with our current and many new Trusted Authorities.

Beginning in early 2007, we have devoted our energies to:

  • building the site with our search/discovery engine,
  • encouraging people around the world to use it in their own ministries,
  • reaching out to trusted authorities to share their insights, and
  • reflecting on life and religious experience in our blog.

Throughout this endeavor we have received untold words of encouragement and hours of support from people in many walks of life and from many countries. The owners of Raw Sugar (the discovery engine we have been using) and Compassites (the website developers) have been particularly supportive. We are grateful to them all.

Recently we have been notified that Raw Sugar will not be continuing in its present form beyond the end of December 2010. This means that materials tagged in directories and watchlists will no longer be accessible in their current form. It does not mean the data will all be lost. However, owners of personal directories will need to take steps to secure the information they have identified and tagged. The process is not difficult and I’ll detail it in a separate post. We will do our best to make this change as seamless as possible.

We are happy to announce that Theologika.net will begin offering workshops and classes in collaboration with our trustees and other theologians, philosophers and social scientists in early 2011. These workshops and classes will be offered through a “Members Only” portal. Some of the offerings will be recordings of prior workshops. Some will be live, on-line courses or presentations. Some will be collections of readings or other resources for your own spiritual growth or use in your ministry that are not currently published or on the web. We will continue to provide free information on our discovery engine as well as scholarships and fee waivers for our online learning activities.

Insights from the workshops and classes will be shared through our blog as well, but for access to the full program, we will ask you to become members of Theologika.net.

Will we continue to offer our old services?

Theologika.net’s goal has always been to provide easy access to trustworthy, relevant information from trusted sources and authorities. We will continue to do this. We are working with owners of another database/search engine to accept the materials we currently have and provide ways for us to continue to collaborate with our trustees to identify more resources. Our blog will also continue.

We are excited about this transition and the changes that are coming. We welcome your thoughts and ideas for ways to enhance our ministry and our offerings. If there’s someone you’d like us to approach about offering a workshop, please send me a note. If there’s a specific topic about which you’d like to know more, let me know.

Please keep us and this ministry in your prayers. And we’ll keep you posted as we move through the transition. For the Greater Glory of God!

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Posted by on Mar 18, 2010

The Wonders of Cyberspace – Religious Education Congress On-Line

The Wonders of Cyberspace – Religious Education Congress On-Line

2010 Religious Education Congress

Religious education/faith formation is a critical part of the mission of the Church. Another term for it is evangelization. As faithful followers of Jesus, we are all called to share our faith and experience of God’s love with those around us. We begin with our families and reach out from there to our friends, fellow believers and society in general.

Beginning in 1962, the Diocese of Los Angeles has had regular formal gatherings to provide on-going education and support for catechists and others involved in ministry within the parish communities. By 1970, the location of the gathering, now called the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) Congress, was moved to the Anaheim Convention Center. “Congress” has taken place there annually since that time. The first youth rally ocurred  in 1971. “Youth Day” today draws approximately 20,000 teens from across the United States for a day of prayer, workshops, music and fellowship.

The name of the gathering changed in 1973 to its current “Religious Education Congress.” Most people just call it “Congress.” Congress is the largest gathering of Catholics in the United States, drawing participants from all over the country and visitors from around the world. It’s a three day extravaganza, with liturgies, workshops, musical programs, Reconciliation opportunities, prayer and meditation spaces and exhibitor booths where nationally recognized vendors present their resources for use in teaching, liturgy and personal growth. Entering the Exibition Hall is like going to the County Fair, but all exhibits are focused on resources for liturgy, faith development and personal spiritual growth. Workshop presentors, authors, musicians and artists are there as well, ready and waiting to meet all who come by their booths. I feel like the proverbial “kid in a candy store” when I’m there.

This year’s theme is “Incredible Abundance.” Liturgies and workshops are offered in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Booths in the hallways will showcase the many ethnic groups and languages of Catholics in the archdiocese. A variety of styles and themes of liturgy will occur throughout the course of Congress. The concluding Mass will be multi-lingual, including English, Spanish and Vietnamese, with a interpreter signing for the hearing impaired. Cardinal Mahoney has preached in English, Spanish and English Sign Language in the past and I expect he’ll do so again this year.

Speaking of Cardinal Mahoney, he’s a great fan of the internet and will be on-line himself, answering questions in a chat room on Friday from 11:15 – 12:00 pm. You can submit a question in advance at: http://www.recongress.org/question.htm or check in personally through the Tech Center link on the Congress home page: www.recongress.org.

I’ve only been able to attend Congress twice, but for many years I’ve enjoyed listening to tapes and CDs of the presentations that my parish has purchased for our parish library. This year, I’m again unable to attend personally, but I’ll be able to listen in on the “doings” via my computer. Selected events from Congress will be streamed live at www.RECongress.org/LIVE beginning Friday morning at 8:00 am PDT.

I’ll be there! Hope you will too!

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Posted by on Aug 30, 2009

Act on God’s Word – August 30, 2009

Act on God’s Word – August 30, 2009

Fr. Ron Shirley

Fr. Ron Shirley

The following is today’s homily from Fr. Ron Shirley, pastor of Resurrection Parish in Aptos, CA. Today’s readings are for the 22 Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B. (DT 4:1-2,6-8, JAS 1:17-18,21b-22,27, MK 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)

Fr. Ron’s homilies are available every week at www.FatherRon.com.

An elderly priest made a retreat. In the course of it he was struck deeply by three things that he’d always been aware of but never had really taken to heart.

First, there are millions of people in the world who are hungry and homeless. Second, he had spent his entire priestly life preaching comfortable sermons to comfortable people. Third, he had bent over backwards to avoid disturbing or alienating people.

In other words, the priest found himself to be much like the priest played by Jack Lemmon in the film “Mass Appeal.” He preached only about those things that didn’t disturb his parishioners and made them feel good.

And now, like the priest in “Mass Appeal,” the old priest suddenly realized that he had been more worried about pleasing his people than about preaching the Gospel. He had been more worried about rocking the boat than about challenging his parishioners to look into their hearts to see if they were satisfied with what they saw there.

The week following his eye-opening retreat, the old priest looked up the Scripture readings to prepare his Sunday homily.

As he read the Gospel, these words of Jesus leaped right off the page: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

The priest resolved, then and there, that he was going to share his soul-searching with his parishioners. So he began his homily by saying:

“My homily this morning will be exactly 30 seconds long. That’s the shortest homily that I’ve ever preached in my life, but it’s also the most important homily I’ve ever preached.”

With that attention-grabbing introduction, the priest gave his 30-second homily. He said:

“I want to make just three points. First, millions of people in the world are hungry and homeless. Second, most people in the world don’t give a damn about that. Third, many of you are more disturbed by the fact that I just said damn in the pulpit than by the fact that I said there are millions of hungry and homeless people in the world.”

With that the elderly priest made the sign of the cross and sat down.

That homily did three things that many homilies don’t do.

First, it caught the attention of the people.
Second, it caught the spirit of Jesus’ words in the gospel.
Third, hopefully it made the people look into their hearts.

The story of this priest and the gospel reading make the same point.

Religion is not something we do on Sunday. It’s not primarily, observing certain laws, saying certain prayers, or performing certain rituals.

That’s what many people in Jesus’ time had turned religion into. To observe these rituals was to please God. Not to observe them was to sin. In short, observing rituals became identified with being religious.

To illustrate the hypocrisy of such legalism, William Barclay tells this story – about a Muslim pursing an enemy to kill him. In the midst of the chase, the Azan, or public call to prayer sounded. Instantly the Muslim got off his horse, unrolled his prayer mat, knelt down, and prayed the required prayers as fast as he could. Then he leaped back on his horse to pursue his enemy in order to kill him.

It was precisely this kind of legalism that Jesus opposed so vigorously in his time.

Jesus made it clear that religion isn’t something you do at certain times on certain days. It’s not saying certain prayers or performing certain rituals. It’s a thing of the heart. It’s a thing of the heart called love – love of God and love of neighbor. Love in action.

Today’s Scripture reading invites us to look into our hearts and to ask ourselves to what extent the words of Jesus in today’s gospel reading apply to us: “This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

The Scriptures also invite us to look into our own hearts and ask ourselves to what extent the words of James in today’s second reading apply to us:

Act on (God’s) word.
If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves.”

I hope this homily today did 3 things:

First – it caught your attention.
Second – it caught the spirit of Jesus’ words in the Gospel.
Third – it makes all of us look into our hearts!

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Posted by on Aug 13, 2009

Camillus Health Concern – An Idea Worthy of a Presidential Medal of Freedom

Camillus Health Concern – An Idea Worthy of a Presidential Medal of Freedom

Dr. Pedro Jose Greer, Jr.

Dr. Pedro Jose Greer, Jr.

President Barak Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dr. Pedro Jose “Joe” Greer, Jr. this week. The White House comment on Dr. Greer’s work follows:

Dr. Pedro Jose “Joe” Greer Jr. has devoted his career to improving medical services for the uninsured. A native of Miami, he followed his passion for helping others to medical school and founded the Camillus Health Concern (CHC) in 1984 as a medical intern. Today, CHC treats thousands of homeless patients a year, serving as a model clinic for the poor and inspiring physicians everywhere to work with indigent populations. Dr. Greer’s tremendous contributions to the South Florida community and our nation as a whole stand as a shining example of the difference one person can make in the lives of many.

The Camillus Health Concern, named in honor of St. Camillus de Lellis, patron saint of nursing, has been a leader in providing health care services to low income and homeless residents of Miami-Dade County since 1984. The work of the Brothers of the Good Shepherd at Camillus House (founded in 1960), including providing food, shelter, housing, rehabilitative treatment, and health care for the poor and homeless, is an example of ways the Gospel call to service of “the least of my brothers and sisters” is being lived in our day. The fruit of Dr. Greer’s work, begun while still a medical intern, to add primary care health services to the mixture of services at Camillus House is recognized by this award.

A video of the Presidential Medal of Freedom award ceremony may be seen here.


We at Theologika.net add our congratulations to Dr. Greer and the other winners of the Medal of Freedom.

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Posted by on Jul 31, 2009

Following in the Footsteps of St. Ignatius Loyola

Following in the Footsteps of St. Ignatius Loyola

Company - Summer 2009 Cover

Company - Summer 2009 Cover

On the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, AKA “The Jesuits,” it seems fitting to look at one of the many ways the men (and women) who have come after him and his first group of followers have continued to serve God’s people – bringing the fruits of their experience of God’s presence in our world (a contemplative experience) into the messiness of everyday active life. This approach has been called “contemplation in action” and is a fundamental of Ignatian spirituality.

Ignatius and his friends, like many young men of his day, thought it would be a great idea to go to the Holy Land and convert all to Christianity. They had taken the standard vows of poverty, chastity and obedience that are common in religious orders. But they also took a vow to do whatever the Pope needed them to do. They suggested to the him that they go to the Holy Land on this mission and he turned down the offer. Instead, he asked them to preach and teach in Europe. It was a time of much upheaval in the Church. The Reformation/Protestant Revolution was in full swing. The Church was divided. Much of what we would call faith education was needed, along with basic education in reading, writing, mathematics and the other classical subjects. So the Jesuits got started in the education business and have continued their schools and universities to this day!

Then as now, people with money can afford excellent schooling for their children. People with fewer resources have fewer choices. Recently, members of various provinces of the Society in the United States have embarked on a program to provide high quality Catholic education for children of families whose income is under 75 percent of the median per-capita income of their city. These children would not ordinarily have the option of attending a private high school or even dreaming of attending college. Yet in 22 schools around the country, the dream is being realized.

The schools started in 1996 with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago. The great challenge for any private school is how to fund the costs of providing the educational program. How can the faculty be paid? Where will classes be offered? How can the rent be paid? At Cristo Rey, a unique solution was proposed. Corporate sponsors would provide entry level pay for students that would cover about 70% of tuition. Four students would share each job – each working one day per week. The other days the student would attend classes. Class days would be a bit longer than normal and the students would have a longer school year, but they would get a full year of education that way. Families that could afford to pay some tuition would do so. Others would receive additional financial aid to make their education possible. Students would also receive intensive training in the basics of functioning in the corporate world during the summer before their first year in the school, so they could be successful in their work. The combination of academics and real-world work experience in meaningful jobs has proven to be a key to the success of the school. It has been so successful, in fact, that other schools have been opened in other cities.

In 2008-09 the Cristo Rey Network  included 22 schools. Another two are opening this fall. In cities across the country, young men and women who would not have had much of a chance even to finish high school, are not only graduating from high school, but most of them are going on to colleges and universities. From there they are going out into the corporate world and entering successful careers in business, science, education, etc. The Ignatian charism (vision) of education of all students, both rich and poor, continues to bear fruit in our day.

Cristo Rey’s story has been told in a new book, More than a Dream: How One School’s Vision is Changing the World. 

Cristo Rey and other schools in the network are also featured in the Summer 2009 issue of the Jesuit magazine, Company, the world of Jesuits and their friends. The Summer issue is not online as of this date, but it should be there within a few weeks.

A.M.D.G.

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