Saturday, October 31, 2009
If you want to get a seat!
All are invited to participate in the the solemn Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, All Souls Day, Monday November 2, 2009.
Masses will be offered in English at 8:00 a.m. and 5:15 pm in the downstairs chapel.
At 7:30 pm, with the accompaniment of the Twin Cities Chorale and orchestra, a solemn Latin High Mass (1970 Missale Romanum) will be offered in the main church. The Chorale will be singing the complete Requiem by W.A. Mozart, K626.
Approximately 150 seminarians from Saint John Vianney College Seminary will be in attendance. All servers from Saint Agnes are invited to participate in the Mass. Boys are asked to vest in cassock and surplice in the chapel at 7:00 pm and join in the procession.
I rushed through the house, fixing dinner and straightening the house. The babysitter would arrive any minute, so my husband and I could attend a school fundraiser. As I swiped the bathroom mirror with a cloth, I caught my wedding ring and, not wanting to damage the setting even more than I already have, I set the ring aside to continue my single-minded pursuit of the appearance of domestic bliss.
One week later, the ring is still missing. I finally told Craig about it, who promptly said he’d replace it (as though such a thing could ever be replaced). Then I went online and bemoaned my fate. “St. Jude … help!”
Moments later, I saw with crystal clarity the cultural and theological “devotional divide” that splits my circle of friends and family. The camps were fairly evenly divided between unequivocal support (“Tony, Tony come around . . .”[something's lost and must be found]) and chastisement (a.k.a. “Don’t you know you can go straight to GOD for this kind of thing?”). Theology, Facebook style.
Didn’t I know I could pray directly to God? Uh-huh. Well aware of that. God and I have been on regular speaking terms for about forty years now. That doesn’t stop me from calling in reinforcements. The last time I lost my ring, I asked my guardian angel to go and sit on it until I could find it. When Craig and I discovered the ring in the middle of a snow-covered strip mall parking lot, the ring was centered in a heart-shaped “bald patch” on the asphalt. As though the angel had literally sat upon it until we arrived.
Friends in High Places
For centuries believers have sent their petitions in care of Mary and the saints, confident that those perfected in heaven are in a better position to pray in a way that is consistent with the will of the Father. Here on earth, so much obstructs our view: selfishness, pride, and weakness keep us from persevering in the battle as constantly and vigorously as we ought. The saints do not have this problem; the “cloud of witnesses” of which Scriptures speak (Hebrews 12:1) provide essential spiritual reinforcement.
The Catechism (2683) says: The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were "put in charge of many things" (Mt 25:23). Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.
Does God care about the little details of my life, including missing wedding rings? No doubt. He is big enough and wise enough and all-loving enough to handle this and every other crisis that comes my way. And yes, because I am a daughter of God, my every need is only a whispered prayer away from the ear of God.
So why bother to ask others — in heaven or on earth, for that matter — to take up my intentions? Why are we commanded to confess our sins and to pray for one another (James 5:16), and why do the prayers of the saints ascend to the throne of God (Rev 8:4), if each believer has within himself the power to get everything he needs directly from the throne of grace?
Could the answer be . . . because we are a Body [a part of the Mystical Body of Christ]? Because the God who created us, made us to be in relationship with one another? When Jesus returned to heaven, He did not leave behind a book but a group of men to guide His Church. And when He spoke of being the Vine (John 15:5), He said that those who continued to “abide in me” would bear “much fruit.”
Nowhere do the Scriptures say that we get cut off from that Vine when we leave earth. Rather, the ongoing teaching of the Church has always been that the faithful are perpetually connected in Jesus.
The Church, in Christ, is like a sacrament — a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men." The Church’s first purpose is to be the sacrament of the inner union of men with God . Because men’s communion with one another is rooted in that union with God, the Church is also the sacrament of the unity of the human race . In her, this unity is already begun, since she gathers men "from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues"; at the same time, the Church is the "sign and instrument" of the full realization of the unity yet to come (CCC #775).
When we include the saints in heaven in our intercessions, asking them to join our chorus of adoration, petition, supplication, and blessing — from heaven — we bear witness in a particular way of this unity, which will be perfected in heaven.
It is this witness , this acknowledgment of our utter dependence upon God and our need for one another, that is the real need for prayer. Not primarily to get us the parking space, or to find the ring, or to get a temporary reprieve from illness or pain. But, in the words of C.S. Lewis: I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time…waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.
“God of the Gumball”
This realization — that we are in fact in need of changing — is something we as human beings are prone to forget at times. We want God to change our circumstances : find the parking spot, heal the disease, find the wedding ring. We forget that it is precisely through these little struggles that we are forced to grow stronger and taller in grace.
When we lose sight of this, we begin to serve the “God of the Gumball Machine”: put in a prayer, get out what we want. A deeply felt sense of failure washes over some Christians when they ask God for a specific intention, and the answer is not what they’d hoped. Some see it as a signal to pray even harder… or to give up altogether, as though the battle has no intrinsic value.
The Catechism offers a third perspective: "Pray constantly . . . always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father." (1 Thes 5:17) St. Paul adds, "Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance making supplication for all the saints." (Eph 6:18) For "we have not been commanded to work, to keep watch and to fast constantly, but it has been laid down that we are to pray without ceasing." (Evagrius Ponticus, Pract . 49: PG 40, 1245C.) This tireless fervor can come only from love. Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love. This love opens our hearts to three enlightening and life-giving facts of faith about prayer (#2742).
The Catechism defines these three facts as follows: (1) It is always possible to pray; (2) Prayer is a vital necessity; and (3) Prayer and the Christian life are “inseparable.” Furthermore, John 15:16-17 shows that there is an intrinsic connection between asking the Father . . . and truly loving one another.
Never Walk Alone
Is there ever a time when we should just hunker down on our own knees, and abandon ourselves to “the Great Alone”? Absolutely. The intimate conversation of Father and child is an indispensable part of family life. And yet, it is not the only part. Most of life is spent in the company of one another, helping each other and conversing with one another.
To abandon oneself to Divine Providence in abject humility and deliberate solitude, is one thing; to suppose oneself not to need — or be in the invisible company of — other members of the Body is a prideful delusion. Just as the Trinity is an eternal flow of love from one divine person to the next, so the Church — the Bride of Christ — is sustained as a Body with an eternal infusion of Spirit.
The “Jesus and me” — devoid of any other spiritual attachment — that predominates in some Christian communities has no more to do with true spiritual intimacy than a teenage crush has to do with married love. True attachment is anchored in family; isolation produces delusion, confusion, and death.
This revelation of unity is more important than any earthly possession. So when I ask the saints to help me find my wedding ring, I’m simply asking my big brothers and sisters in faith to give me a hand. And like any good parent, the Father smiles to see His children working together, and loving each other. He doesn’t worry that they aren’t focused totally on Him. He just sits back and enjoys the camaraderie.
Are we never to approach God on our own? Can we not speak to Him, heart-to-heart? Will He not hear our prayers? Of course we can, and do, and He does.
As does the entire company of heaven, who intercedes on our behalf. Catholic Exchange
Heidi Hess Saxton is the author of "Raising Up Mommy" and My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories (due out from Thomas Nelson, February 2010). Heidi is also the founder of the Extraordinary Moms Network, an online resource for mothers of adopted, fostered, and special needs children. She and her husband foster-adopted their two children in 2002.
He listens to those in need. He is there when people want to cry on his shoulder. He loves unconditionally. He gives hope to people in despair. Some think he helps heal the sick. And he does it all from his grave.
Even in death, Darin Didier continues to touch people’s lives.
Bonnie and Len Didier of Alexandria describe their son as a caring, loving boy and man who was always reaching out to people. Len could spend hours telling poignant stories of how his son made a difference and changed people’s lives for the better.
Darin reached out to people with drug and alcohol problems. He prevented two people from committing suicide. He helped people through rough times.
From his grave at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Alexandria, those stories of healing and hope continue, and to some, are nothing short of miraculous.
Darin grew up in Alexandria and graduated from Jefferson High School in 1991. An avid runner, he was pursuing an education in physical therapy when someone put a slight twist in his plans.
It was God.
Darin, who was raised Catholic, had one more year of school left when he took a trip to Phoenix with a friend. While there, they visited with a priest who Darin knew. That visit changed his mind about what he wanted to do with his life.
He wanted to be a priest.
“Darin came back and said that Father Luke could read his soul,” Len recalled. “He wanted to quit school and become a priest.”
With only one more year of physical therapy school left, his parents convinced him that he should finish what he started.
“I told him, ‘If the good Lord wants you, he can wait a year,’ ” Len said.
After he completed that year and earned his degree, Darin attended a minor seminary school for one year. Having spent several years in college, he needed a break from school for awhile, so he worked as a physical therapist for two years.
Len was right. God was still waiting.
In the fall of 2000, Darin answered the call when he began a five-year education at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland. Things went well until a visit home in May 2003, when Bonnie noticed a strange mole on her son’s neck.
“I noticed it and thought he really needed to get it checked,” Bonnie said. “Something inside me told me I should be worried about it.”
A biopsy revealed it was cancerous and he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Within a week, Darin was receiving chemotherapy treatments, which lasted throughout the summer.
He returned to seminary school that fall and continued with chemotherapy and total body radiation. But the cancer was persistent, and with each treatment, it came back. As a “last resort,” Darin had a stem cell transplant in March 2004.
“It didn’t work at all,” Len said. “Everything they did, his cancer came back worse. It’s like it got angry.”
But the Didiers never gave up hope.
“I was always thinking a miracle would happen,” Bonnie said. “Miracles happen every day.”
Accepting his illness with the knowledge that he had just as important a job to do in heaven as on Earth, Darin continued his education at the seminary, not letting on how sick he really was. Suspecting that he may not live long enough to become a priest, in May 2004 he was ordained a deacon.
Despite the persistent cancer and some intense holistic treatments, Darin made it through his last year of seminary. On June 4, 2005, his dream came true. He was ordained a priest and was assigned to Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Fargo, North Dakota.
Three months later, Father Darin Didier passed away – three weeks shy of his 33rd birthday at 3:33 p.m.
“Three is a magical number – the Trinity,” Len said of what he surmised was a sign from God of what was to come.
Darin was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery. The following summer, when the Didiers visited their son’s grave, they found trinkets left there – medals, coins, rosaries, toys and other items.
“There were things there all the time,” Bonnie said.
During one visit in the summer of 2006, Bonnie and Len found a sonogram taped to the grave. They discovered it had been left by a couple whose unborn child had severe spina bifida and a hole in her back.
This couple had heard rumors that people were visiting Darin’s grave to ask him to intercede on their behalf for healing.
They figured an intercession to God couldn’t hurt.
A few months later, their baby girl was born with complications far less severe than had been diagnosed. The baby went home just a week after her birth and doctors were amazed at how much she was already able to do.
As time went on, the Didiers heard more of these stories in which prayers were answered after a visit to their son’s grave.
One woman afflicted with sudden onset palsy visited the grave and while she was there praying, had a severe attack. After it was over she said, “I’m healed.” The next week, her doctor found no sign of the disease.
A friend of Darin’s had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. At every medical appointment following a prayer session at his grave, his results kept improving. He is now cancer-free.
One man with prostate cancer prayed at Darin’s grave prior to an operation, which turned out well. He continues to visit the grave before each check-up, and has improved at each one.
The parents of a 2-year-old boy had struggled for months to find out what was wrong with their son. They prayed at Darin’s grave. A short time later, a stranger approached them at a restaurant, and just from looking at the toddler, knew exactly what he had, as she had a family member with the same extremely rare disease. Because the boy was doing much better than expected, he was sent to the International Institute of Health in Washington, D.C. Through him, they found a way to diagnose the disease more quickly, and may have found a link to autism.
The good news spread quickly, and more people visited Darin’s grave – in hopes of healing, to pay their respects, or just to pray. And more visitors left tokens or wrote down their thoughts and left them at the grave.
To accommodate these trinkets and writings, the Didiers installed a pillar with a removable cover next to Darin’s grave. In the pillar, they left a “guestbook” that people can sign or write down their prayer requests.
“Hundreds of people have visited the grave,” Bonnie said, pointing out the entries in the notebook.
“It’s humbling, very humbling,” Len said. “People have no problem believing that in his [Darin’s] goodness, the Lord would listen to them.”
Despite the countless “unexplainable” accounts they continue to hear, the Didiers know that it isn’t Darin who is working these miracles.
“As Christians, we are told if we have faith, we will, in His name, work miracles greater than the impossible,” Len concluded. “Darin surrendered totally to the Lord. Surrender means doing the best you can and leaving the results to a higher power. He allowed the Lord to use him as He saw fit.”
“He is just doing God’s will,” Bonnie agreed. “Darin is not doing the miracles. He is just a link.
“He is the intercessor.” Echo Press, Alexandria
Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese today asked it's 128-thousand parishoners to not support a movement to bring legalizing "embryonic stem cell research" to a public vote next year.
Tonight, we talk to Diocese Chancellor Jerry Klein and to the man behind the public vote effort, David Volk.
The statement from Sioux Falls Catholic Bishop Paul Swain was released this afternoon, urging Catholics in the diocese not to support a proposal to legalize embryonic stem cell research, saying in part "Catholics should not circulate or sign a petition to place it on the ballot".
Jerry Klein is the Chancellor of the Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese. "The church encourages research and particularly research that can help bring cures..." But the research the church supports involves adult stem cells, which can be harvested from people with minimal harm.
Klein says embryonic stem cells require the destruction of a human life. "The distinction needs to be made though that when that involves research that destroys life then there would be a concern about that."
The effort to legalize embryonic stem cell research is backed by former South Dakota State Treasurer David Volk. "I quite frankly respectfully disagree with the Bishop."
Volk tells Action News, embryonic stem cell research respects human life by easing the suffering of those with debilitating, fatal illnesses and believes it to be more effective than adult stem cell research. "The embryonic stem cells are much more flexible, much more capable of helping us find cures."
David Volk says tonight, the process of collecting signatures to bring embryonic stem cell research to a public vote will begin sometime next week. KSFY
Friday, October 30, 2009
Monday is All Souls Day: Pray for your Dearly Departed; Pray for the Souls of Priests in this, the Year of the Priest
First, remember that you can gain indulgences on Monday, November 2, All Souls Day and the days following.
Second, 5 November is a first Thursday. You can gain a plenary indulgence during this year for Priests. It is not commonly known that you can apply plenary indulgences to the souls of those in Purgatory
Third, would it not be a good idea in this Year for Priests, during the week after All Souls, for this 1st Thursday, to pray in a special way for the souls of deceased priests?
Tip O' the Hat to Fr. Z!
Are you a high school man (grades 9-12) of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis curious about a vocation to the priesthood?
Every Thursday evening during the school year you have an opportunity to meet other seminarians, attend Mass and Benediction, eat pizza and hear a short, dynamic talk on our Catholic faith. Father Baer may even teach you to play canasta! [Yes, I made up the last one]
Where can I do this, Cathy?
I'm so happy you asked, brother!
St. John Vianney College Seminary at 2115 Summit Ave in St. Paul, Minnesota. 651-962-6825
Upcoming dates (all event times are 5:30-8:30 p.m.)
November 5, 2009
December 3, 2009
February 4, 2010
March 4, 2010
April 8, 2010
May 6, 2010
Men in Christ! Men of the Church! Men for Others!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Bloggers are jealous of losing readers to other bloggers, but I don't mind at all if I lose readers to Archbishop Tim Dolan of New York City who just this started his own blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age. Whether or not he wants to emuate Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston (Cardinal Sean's Blog) or not is not an issue. If he takes to defending the Catholic Church like he has in his inaugural posts, I'm certainly not going to complain.
By Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
October is the month we relish the highpoint of our national pastime, especially when one of our own New York teams is in the World Series!
Sadly, America has another national pastime, this one not pleasant at all: anti-catholicism.
It is not hyperbole to call prejudice against the Catholic Church a national pastime. Scholars such as Arthur Schlesinger Sr. referred to it as “the deepest bias in the history of the American people,” while John Higham described it as “the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history.” “The anti-semitism of the left,” is how Paul Viereck reads it, and Professor Philip Jenkins sub-titles his book on the topic “the last acceptable prejudice.”
If you want recent evidence of this unfairness against the Catholic Church, look no further than a few of these following examples of occurrences over the last couple weeks:
- On October 14, in the pages of the New York Times, reporter Paul Vitello exposed the sad extent of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community. According to the article, there were forty cases of such abuse in this tiny community last year alone. Yet the Times did not demand what it has called for incessantly when addressing the same kind of abuse by a tiny minority of priests: release of names of abusers, rollback of statute of limitations, external investigations, release of all records, and total transparency. Instead, an attorney is quoted urging law enforcement officials to recognize “religious sensitivities,” and no criticism was offered of the DA’s office for allowing Orthodox rabbis to settle these cases “internally.” Given the Catholic Church’s own recent horrible experience, I am hardly in any position to criticize our Orthodox Jewish neighbors, and have no wish to do so . . . but I can criticize this kind of “selective outrage.”
Of course, this selective outrage probably should not surprise us at all, as we have seen many other examples of the phenomenon in recent years when it comes to the issue of sexual abuse. To cite but two: In 2004, Professor Carol Shakeshaft documented the wide-spread problem of sexual abuse of minors in our nation’s public schools (the study can be found here). In 2007, the Associated Press issued a series of investigative reports that also showed the numerous examples of sexual abuse by educators against public school students. Both the Shakeshaft study and the AP reports were essentially ignored, as papers such as the New York Times only seem to have priests in their crosshairs.
- On October 16, Laurie Goodstein of the Times offered a front page, above-the-fold story on the sad episode of a Franciscan priest who had fathered a child. Even taking into account that the relationship with the mother was consensual and between two adults, and that the Franciscans have attempted to deal justly with the errant priest’s responsibilities to his son, this action is still sinful, scandalous, and indefensible. However, one still has to wonder why a quarter-century old story of a sin by a priest is now suddenly more pressing and newsworthy than the war in Afghanistan, health care, and starvation–genocide in Sudan. No other cleric from religions other than Catholic ever seems to merit such attention.
- Five days later, October 21, the Times gave its major headline to the decision by the Vatican to welcome Anglicans who had requested union with Rome. Fair enough. Unfair, though, was the article’s observation that the Holy See lured and bid for the Anglicans. Of course, the reality is simply that for years thousands of Anglicans have been asking Rome to be accepted into the Catholic Church with a special sensitivity for their own tradition. As Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s chief ecumenist, observed, “We are not fishing in the Anglican pond.” Not enough for the Times; for them, this was another case of the conniving Vatican luring and bidding unsuspecting, good people, greedily capitalizing on the current internal tensions in Anglicanism.
- Finally, the most combustible example of all came Sunday with an intemperate and scurrilous piece by Maureen Dowd on the opinion pages of the Times. In a diatribe that rightly never would have passed muster with the editors had it so criticized an Islamic, Jewish, or African-American religious issue, she digs deep into the nativist handbook to use every anti-Catholic caricature possible, from the Inquisition to the Holocaust, condoms, obsession with sex, pedophile priests, and oppression of women, all the while slashing Pope Benedict XVI for his shoes, his forced conscription -- along with every other German teenage boy -- into the German army, his outreach to former Catholics, and his recent welcome to Anglicans.
True enough, the matter that triggered her spasm -- the current visitation of women religious by Vatican representatives -- is well-worth discussing, and hardly exempt from legitimate questioning. But her prejudice, while maybe appropriate for the Know-Nothing newspaper of the 1850’s, the Menace, has no place in a major publication today.
I do not mean to suggest that anti-catholicism is confined to the pages New York Times. Unfortunately, abundant examples can be found in many different venues. I will not even begin to try and list the many cases of anti-catholicism in the so-called entertainment media, as they are so prevalent they sometimes seem almost routine and obligatory. Elsewhere, last week, Representative Patrick Kennedy made some incredibly inaccurate and uncalled-for remarks concerning the Catholic bishops, as mentioned in this blog on Monday. Also, the New York State Legislature has levied a special payroll tax to help the Metropolitan Transportation Authority fund its deficit. This legislation calls for the public schools to be reimbursed the cost of the tax; Catholic schools, and other private schools, will not receive the reimbursement, costing each of the schools thousands – in some cases tens of thousands – of dollars, money that the parents and schools can hardly afford. (Nor can the archdiocese, which already underwrites the schools by $30 million annually.) Is it not an issue of basic fairness for ALL school-children and their parents to be treated equally?
The Catholic Church is not above criticism. We Catholics do a fair amount of it ourselves. We welcome and expect it. All we ask is that such critique be fair, rational, and accurate, what we would expect for anybody. The suspicion and bias against the Church is a national pastime that should be “rained out” for good.
I guess my own background in American history should caution me not to hold my breath.
Then again, yesterday was the Feast of Saint Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes.
The Archdiocese of New York has jumped into blogging with 6 feet. Check out their other blogs and the Cardinal's Column:
On Earth as it is in Heaven-
Reflections on Faithful Citizenship, Catholic Social Teaching, the Common Good and our globalized world from the Justice and Peace Office of the Department of Social and Community Development of The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.
Stepping Out of the Boat-
The challenges of discipleship in marriage, family and the public square.
Handing on the Faith-
"Handing on the Faith" shares learning opportunities, news, spiritual resources and more for all who catechize and all who are catechized. That means all who echo Jesus and all who hear that echo.
Cardinal Dolan's Column-
To Whom Shall We Go
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
We seem so often to be incurable legalists when it comes to the things of God. Some people talk as though baptism doesn’t really stick unless you are confirmed, too. Others wonder whether, since baptism does “stick,” confirmation is really necessary — as though the goal is to achieve a sort of minimum-daily-adult-requirement level of being “good enough” without having to really do the “extra credit” work.
This entire approach to the sacraments is profoundly out of tune with what God is trying to say to us in these cosmic gestures of love. It’s like a bride on her wedding night asking, “If I kiss my husband on the altar is that enough, or do I have to kiss him again later?” It’s like a mother giving birth and then saying, “Look. The kid is breathing. Do I have to clothe or feed him too?” It’s like asking, “Why bother getting an A when a D is a passing grade?”
We are not called to minimum-daily-adult-requirement Christianity. We are called “to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
As we have seen, confirmation “seals” the believer and leaves a “mark” on his soul. That’s because confirmation is ordered toward mission: toward making your life something that, when read by others, says: “My life is not explicable apart from Jesus Christ.” That’s why Paul says, “You are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3).
As mature Christians, we are commissioned by Holy Mother Church to go and bear witness to Jesus Christ in the world, that others might come to believe in him. This is why the Mass ends with the words “Ite, missa est” (Go, it’s the sending forth). “Apostle” means “sent one.” With the power of confirmation, we are granted the grace to be apostles to the world. Our apostolate begins the moment Mass ends, because in the world we laypeople preside every bit as much as, at the altar, the priest presides. You are signed with the cross, sealed with the chrism, and delivered to the world to be read.
Because confirmation is grace and not magic, preparation is important.
Confirmation gives us the Holy Spirit in order to strengthen our relationship with God as his children, but it also has a huge horizontal dimension meant to strengthen our bond with the Church and enable us to be witnesses sent by God through Holy Church to the world. This is one of the ways in which Christian maturity is countercultural. Instead of sending us off to be the Lone Ranger Rugged Individualist, it sends us more deeply into the heart of the Church and bids us speak to the world from there.
That, among other things, is what is symbolized by the necessity of a sponsor for confirmation.
None of this is doable, of course, by oneself. That is why the minister of the sacrament prays for the confirmands, “Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.”Next time, we will start looking at the seven sanctifying gifts of the Holy Spirit and how we can lay hold of them.
National Catholic Register
There are two traditions — East and West — when it comes to the sacrament of confirmation. Together they show how doctrine can develop and unfold within the Church much as the branches on the mustard plant can develop from the seed in ways that, while different for different branches, retain the seed’s mustardiness.
Originally, the norm in the Church (with a few exceptions such as we noted with the Samaritans last week) was to administer the sacraments of baptism and confirmation as a sort of “double sacrament” (to quote St. Cyprian).
With small Christian communities, this was doable because one bishop could handle the workload. But as the Church continued to grow, logistical problems began to impinge on how the sacrament was administered.
As you will recall, when the Samaritans received the Gospel in Acts 8, the believers who had borne witness to them felt free to baptize them but, curiously, not to confirm them. Instead, what happened was the apostles at the Jerusalem Mother Church took the trouble to send, not just anybody, but Peter and John, who laid their hands on the newly baptized Samaritans, and “they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14-17).
Why go to all this trouble of sending the apostles themselves?
Because, led by the Spirit, the apostles chose to link confirmation directly to the apostolic office — and, therefore, with the bishop.
But, over the centuries, as infant baptisms multiplied, parishes became more remote and far flung, and sheer numbers prevented the bishop from being present at all baptismal celebrations, this became impossible. A choice had to be made: Either confirmation could be celebrated separately from baptism or the baptizer could be authorized to confirm when the bishop wasn’t around.
The West opted to separate the two sacraments in the case of infants, administering confirmation much later (generally in adolescence).
The East has kept them together, but insisted that the priest who confirms only does so with the oil consecrated by a bishop.
The West follows the Eastern model in the case of adult converts, with the priest baptizing and then immediately confirming the new Catholic.
Because of the Church’s principle of lex orandi, lex credendi (the way we worship is the way we believe) these two different practices have had the salutary effect of emphasizing two different aspects of the sacrament. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us (No. 1292):
“The practice of the Eastern Churches gives greater emphasis to the unity of Christian initiation. That of the Latin Church more clearly expresses the communion of the new Christian with the bishop as guarantor and servant of the unity, catholicity and apostolicity of his Church, and hence the connection with the apostolic origins of Christ’s Church.”
Every sacrament has a particular “matter” that constitutes the visible sign showing us what the sacrament does. Water signifies washing, death, new life and quenching of thirst, so it is the fitting matter for baptism, which does all these things. Likewise, bread and wine are the fitting matter for Eucharist since they symbolize perfectly what God, in fact, does for us through that sacrament.
The matter of confirmation is oil, which likewise is the ideal sign for what confirmation does.
Oil is the proper symbol for the superabundance of the Spirit displayed at Pentecost and promised by the prophets. It is associated in the ancient mind with cleansing after a bath (and therefore with baptism), with athletic limberness and with healing (since it was used to dress wounds). The perfumed oils of the ancient Near East smell nice, too, signifying sheer joy. Oil was used to anoint prophets, priests and kings.
No wonder, then, that Jesus is called the Anointed One — and that oil is one of the richest symbols of the Holy Spirit in Scripture.
The essential rite of confirmation is anointing the forehead of the baptized with sacred chrism (in the East other sense organs, as well), together with the laying on of the minister’s hand and the words “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” in the Roman rite or “the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” in the Byzantine rite.
It is an interesting thing that God uses that gesture when he calls us to serve him as men and women and not as children. We do not expect courage, strength or understanding from children.
But we do expect children to grow up.
So when God calls us to take our place in the Kingdom and boldly approach him and the world, he lays his hands on us like a father reassuring his children and reminds us who we are in Christ — sons and daughters of God. Moreover, he not only reminds us who we are — he gives us gifts and strength so that we can literally do what we cannot, on our own, possibly do.
Next issue, we will talk about what this looks like. National Catholic Register
Bishop of Santa Rosa issues guidance on reading of sacred scriptures
One of the challenges we face as disciples of Jesus is to deepen our knowledge of our faith. So often as we grow up into adulthood, our knowledge of the faith remains on a child’s level. With the secular world we live in it is necessary for each of us to have an adult faith that is able to withstand and reject the false values and the pressures of the secular society we live in. One way to a mature faith is the prayerful reading of the Scriptures. It is in prayerful reading of the Scriptures that we learn to embrace the gospel values that Jesus proclaimed.
Today’s Catholic is called to take an intelligent, spiritual approach to the Bible. Here are some suggestions to help in developing an understanding approach to daily, prayerful Scripture reading.
Begin and end the reading of the bible with prayer. Reading the Bible is not like reading a novel or a history book. It should begin with a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to the Word of God. Scripture reading should end with a prayer that this Word of God will bear fruit in our lives, helping us to become holier and more faithful disciples of Jesus.
The Bible isn’t a book. It’s a library. The Bible is a collection of 73 books written over the course of many centuries. The books include royal history, prophecy, poetry, challenging letters to struggling new faith communities, and believers’ accounts of the preaching, life and passion of Jesus. Knowing the genre of the book you are reading will help you understand the literary tools the author is using and the meaning the author is trying to convey.
We must know what the Bible is and what it isn’t. The Bible is the story of God’s relationship with the people he has called to himself. It is not intended to be read as a history text, a science book, or a political manifesto. In the Bible, God teaches us the truths that we need for the sake of our salvation.
Also we must read the Bible in context, in the context of our Catholic faith. What happens before and after – even in other books – helps us to understand the true meaning of the text. A Catholic edition of the Bible with the “imprimatur” indicates the book footnotes and introductions are free of errors in Catholic doctrine.
In prayerful reading of the Scriptures, we must ask: “What is God saying to me?” The Bible is not addressed only to long-dead people in a faraway land. It is addressed to each of us in our own unique situations. We must believe that the Lord speaks to us through the words of Scripture.
To be an adult Catholic, it is important to have an adult understanding of our faith. Prayerful Scripture reading is one element to assist us in maturing our faith. I encourage all to dedicate some time each day to the prayerful reading of the Word of God. Diocese of Santa Rosa
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The Diocese of Sioux Falls in South Dakota is undertaking a $30 million restoration of its cathedral. Architect Duncan Stroik of the University of Notre Dame, who is renowned for his appreciation of classic forms of architecture, is overseeing the restoration, which is intended to bring to fruition the original design of Franco-American architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray (1861-1917).
[Who wouldda thunk it? Another magnificent church designed and built by Masqueray, who built the Cathedral of St. Paul and the Basilica of St. Mary at about the same time. Few are probably aware that he also built the church of St. Louis King of France in downtown St. Paul, another architectural masterpiece.] Among the two dozen churches that he built, besides those listed above were:
- St. Paul's Episcopal Church on the Hill, St. Paul (1912)
- Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 655 Forest Street, St. Paul
- University Hall at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul
- The Church of the Holy Redeemer, Marshall, Minnesota (1915)
- Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, 121 Cleveland Ave., St. Paul, 1918
- The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Wichita, Kansas
Built in 1919, the St. Joseph Cathedral is a sacred and civic landmark. But it's been showing its age. So the decision was made to restore the Cathedral to its original splendor; a massive undertaking that will cost $30 million and two years to complete.
When architects designed the Cathedral, their vision extended beyond what the original builders were able to complete.
Now, the diocese is fulfilling their dream.
This past June, workers began gutting the Cathedral, removing all of its pews and other fixtures in order to remodel this sacred treasure.
For anyone who's ever been inside the Cathedral, seeing it like this under construction, is quite a drastic change, especially for the Bishop.
"It makes me very nervous, not so nervous now, we're now beyond most of the destruction so we are beginning to rebuild to restore and beautify this great treasure," Bishop said.
"There's this beautiful building which is 90 years old in need of repairs, just basic things to keep a building like this going, nothing had been done for over 35 years," Catholic Bishop Paul Swain said.
In fact, the Cathedral still had some of its original wiring, which is now being replaced along with many other fixtures.
"There'll be a marble floor, a new altar and a lot of other elements that have yet to come which will be next year, because it's going to take us another year and a half to get it all done," Bishop Swain said.
One of the most impressive sites here at the Cathedral during the construction phase are the scaffoldings. It took three semi loads and three weeks to set up.
Hundreds and hundreds of pipes connected together in order to reach 60 feet in the air, allowing skilled artists to freely paint the architectural designs on the ceiling without fear of falling.
"The artists who are doing the painting is the same company who did the painting back in the 30's and 40's are doing it now and have some of the old drawings, obviously very different because of computerization, but it's very labor intensive, it's not just painting, it's figuring out how does this all fit together in a way that highlights the beauty of the artwork," Bishop Swain said.
Crews are also in the process of picking the colors for tall columns, as well as the paint for the three dimensional figures of the Apostles, the Nativity scene above the altar and the Stations of Cross.
"They look at it they try things and then we say do we like this or not and try something else, it's really quite an amazing process," Bishop Swain said.
A process the Bishop hopes parishioners will appreciate when its complete.
"I hope there's several reactions, one is wow what a beautiful place that lifts the spirit and if it lifts the spirit perhaps brings a prayerful sense to people. Our hope is that we're not creating a beautiful place to come and look, but a place that can be nourishing to people spiritually and be a place of sacred music and concerts and those uplifting things," Bishop Swain said.
While the Cathedral is under construction, mass is being held in a gymnasium. But the annual "Christmas at the Cathedral" will still be performed this year inside the Cathedral from December 17-20. There's also been a Web site has been set up so you can follow the progress being made at the Cathedral. KELO-TV, Sioux Falls
See KELO videos of the restoration
Restoration Web Pages
Somebody, Newsbobber, has done the hard work necessary to seek out the blogs of Minnesota and has ranked the top 100 of them. Somewhat surprisingly to me, religious blogs were included even though Pharyngula, the infamous blog run by Paul Myers, the sacrilegious Minnesota-Morris biology instructor, consistently ranks as the best.
Some very good Minnesota Catholic blogs, most significantly the Ironic Catholic and Faithmouse, have not been listed or ranked, so I gave Newsbobber a list of some of the ones that I think could be ranked in the top 100.
When they say "best", I"m not sure what that means, but even though Pharyngula is immensely populr, that is probably not the only criteria to make it on the list. Maybe the best part of the list is that they have actually read and thought about the blogs, and has provided a summary of what they think it is about, and then gives a list of recent posts, and "best posts", which means that they list compiler actually spent some time on each of the blogs to get a feel for what it is all about. Click on the blog's name to get that information.
Newsbobber has a pretty decent home page that gives a summary of Minnesota news items from many different sources. http://www.newsbobber.com/
A couple of weeks ago, MinnPost, the internet "newspaper" wrote an article on Newsbobber that is an enterprise of Bob Ingrassia, a former Pioneer Press reporter.
Here are the Catholic blogs that have made Newsbobber's top 100 list. Congratulations to all of them:
18. Minnesota Mom (About This Blog)
Newsbobber Score - 6.4 [Margaret]
21. Adoro te Devote (About This Blog)
Newsbobber Score - 6.3 [Adoro]
33. The Recovering Dissident Catholic (About This Blog)
Newsbobber Score - 6.0 [The notorious Cathy of Alexandria]
39. Abbey-Roads (About This Blog)
Newsbobber Score - 5.9 [Terry, the Man of 1,000 Faces]
66. Stella Borealis Catholic Roundtable (About This Blog)
Newsbobber Score - 5.4 [Moi]
Tip O' the Hat to Margaret, Adoro, Cathy and Terry!
Other Catholic blogs that made the Directory are:
ORBIS CATHOLICVS [John Paul, Rome and St. Paul]
St. Monica's Kneeler [Swiss Miss, St. Paul]
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Is "lustily" the proper word to use to describe prayer when a couple hundred men gather together on a Saturday morning for Mass?
OK, maybe "vigorously" might be a better choice of words And there were a few women there. But they left before the festivities began.
Why is it that when men are by themselves, praying or singing, the sounds reverberate to the rafters. But when wives, daughters, sisters, girlfriends and neighbor ladies are present, nary a peep can be heard out of them when they are in a church. Somebody should do a study.
St. Helena's parish in South Minneapolis (near Minnehaha Park) held a "Saturday Breakfast for Men" Saturday morning, featuring Mass, a hearty breakfast (help yourself, seconds encouraged) and a talk on the subject of "Wanted: Catholic Men to Defend and Protect the Faith." The speaker was the shy and retiring Fr. Bill Baer, rector of the St. John Vianney college seminary at St. Thomas.
Fr. Baer probably did stack the audience a bit by assigning attendance as "extra credit" to those of his men that were on his special "list"; but the greater majority of the crowd hadn't cracked a school book in a good many years. They were there because they were good Catholics who couldn't say "no" to John Sondag, the Director of Religious Education at St. Helena's (who nobody can say "no" to). And they were there because there has been an awakening of men in the recent past. More and more of these events are taking place.
The Argument of the Month Club, another men only event that meets on the second Tuesdays of each month (Oct-May), began at St. Helena's and now meets at St. Augustine's in South St. Paul and occasionally attracts over 300 men and boys to their events. Let us know if there are other events like this around the archdiocese.
Father Baer warned the men that defending the Church today is not an easy task. They must be in it for the long haul. He estimated that in this archdiocese of maybe 800,000 Catholics, possibly 800 people are now engaged in regularly defending the faith. He challenged those present to increase that number to 8,000, one in 1,000 Catholics. If just those 200 listening to Father Baer would rise to the challenge, if each of them over a couple of years could enroll 36 more men to defend the Church, that doesn't sound like an insurmountable task!
This Saturday Breakfast for Men at St. Helena's is the first of five to be held this season. On the Third Saturdays of November, January, February and March, Father John Paul Erickson ("Any Given Sunday, Spiritual Combat and the Mass"), Stephen Heaney, PhD ("An Alien Looks at Sex and Marriage"), Bishop Lee Piche' ("The Mystery and Ministry of Reconciliation") and Father Randall Kaisel ("St. Joseph: Special Advocate for Men") will speak on other issues defending the Catholic Faith. Hope to see you there.
The U.S. Bishops will be meeting next month in Baltimore (Nov 16-19) to discuss (among other things) the new translation of the words of the Mass that is recommended for approval. Stella Borealis had a post on the proposed changes and a link to the bishops' website in August.
Some bishops are opposed to the proposed changes:
The policy of the Church of using "simple words" these past 40 years has lead to the destruction of religious orders, the reductions of seminaries, seminarians and diocesan priests, the loss of millions of Catholics to secularism and evangelistic sects, the wreckovation of church structures and the transformation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass into Sunday morning entertainment.
I'm all in favor of putting accuracy and rigor back into Jesus Christ's religion. The Mass is for worship, thanksgiving and petition; not for gathering together of the community for a chat and a psychological boost.
Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ liturgy committee, sharply criticized what he called the “slavishly literal” translation into English of the new Roman Missal from the original Latin.
He said the “sacred language” used by translators “tends to be elitist and remote from everyday speech and frequently not understandable” and could lead to a “pastoral disaster.”
“The vast majority of God’s people in the assembly are not familiar with words of the new missal like ‘ineffable,’ ‘consubstantial,’ ‘incarnate,’ ‘inviolate,’ ‘oblation,’ ‘ignominy,’ ‘precursor,’ ‘suffused’ and ‘unvanquished.’ The vocabulary is not readily understandable by the average Catholic,” Bishop Trautman said.
“The (Second Vatican Council’s) Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stipulated vernacular language, not sacred language,” he added. “Did Jesus ever speak to the people of his day in words beyond their comprehension? Did Jesus ever use terms or expressions beyond his hearer’s understanding?”
Bishop Trautman made his remarks in an Oct. 22 lecture at The Catholic University of America in Washington, as part of the Monsignor Frederick R. McManus Lecture Series. Monsignor McManus, a liturgist, served as a peritus, or expert, during Vatican II.
The Roman Missal has not yet been given final approval for use in the United States. The U.S. bishops were scheduled to vote on four items pertaining to the missal at their November general meeting in Baltimore. It is expected that the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments would give its “recognitio,” or approval, at some point following the U.S. bishops’ vote.
Bishop Trautman took note of sentences in the new missal that he said run 66, 70 and 83 words, declaring that they were “unproclaimable” by the speaker and “incomprehensible” to the hearer.
“American Catholics have every right to expect the translation of the new missal to follow the rules for English grammar. The prefaces of the new missal, however, violate English syntax in a most egregious way,” Bishop Trautman said, citing some examples in his remarks.
“The translators have slavishly transposed a Lain ‘qui’ clause into English without respecting English sentence word order,” he added. The bishop also pointed out subordinate clauses from the missal that are “represented as a sentence,” and sentences lacking a subject and predicate.
Bishop Trautman also questioned the use of “I believe” in the retranslated version of the Nicene Creed, “even though the original and official Nicene Creed promulgated by the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 said ‘we believe’ in both the Greek and Latin versions.
“Since this is a creedal prayer recited by the entire assembly in unison, the use of ‘we’ emphasized the unity of the assembly in praying this together as one body. Changing the plural form of ‘we’ to ‘I’ in the Nicene Creed goes against all ecumenical agreements regarding common prayer texts,” he said.
The bishop complained about the lack of “pastoral style” in the new translation. The current wording in Eucharistic Prayer 3 asks God to “welcome into your kingdom our departed brothers and sisters,” which he considered “inspiring, hope-filled, consoling, memorable.”
The new translation asks God to “give kind admittance to your kingdom,” which Bishop Trautman called “a dull lackluster expression which reminds one of a ticket-taker at the door. ... The first text reflects a pleading, passionate heart and the latter text a formality – cold and insipid.”
Bishop Trautman quoted the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which said rites and texts “should radiate a noble simplicity. They should be short, clear, free from useless repetition. They should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.”
“Why are these conciliar directives not implemented in the new missal?” he asked. They are “especially” relevant, Bishop Trautman added, to “the people of the third millennium: children, teenagers, adults, those with varying degrees of education, and those with English as a second language.”
He acknowledged that “there are those who disagree with the way the liturgical reform of Vatican II was interpreted and implemented” and who maintained that “a reform of the reform” was necessary to stem what they saw as “diminishing religiosity (and) declining Mass attendance” tied to the Mass texts.
But while “the Latin text is the official, authoritative text,” Bishop Trautman said, “the Latin text is not inspired. It is a human text, reflecting a certain mindset, theology and world view.”
As a consequence, “a major and radical change” and “a major pastoral, catechetical problem erupts” in the new missal during the words of consecration, which say that the blood of Christ “will be poured out for you and for many,” instead of “for all,” as is currently the practice.
“For whom did Jesus not die?” Bishop Trautman asked. “In 1974 the Holy See itself had approved our present words of institution (consecration) as an accurate, orthodox translation of the Latin phrase ‘pro multis,’“ he added. “It is a doctrine of our Catholic faith that Jesus died on the cross for all people.”
Bishop Trautman took issue with a 2006 letter to bishops by Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, then head of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, which said that “salvation is not brought about in some mechanistic way, without one’s own willing or participation.”
“I respond that Jesus died even for those who reject his grace. He died for all,” Bishop Trautman said.
“Why do we now have a reversal? The Aramaic and Latin texts have not changed. The scriptural arguments have not changed, but the insistence on literal translation has changed.”
Bishop Trautman hearkened back to Monsignor McManus, whom he called “an apostle of the liturgical renewal.”
“If Monsignor McManus were with us today, he would call us to fidelity to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and encourage us to produce a translation of the missal that is accurate, inspiring, referent, proclaimable, understandable, pastoral in every sense – a text that raises our minds and hearts to God.” Catholic Review (Baltimore)
Father Z analyzes Bishop Trautman's speech at Catholic University:
Friday, October 23, 2009
Priest provides edifying portrait of simple, saintly man, the "Servant of God", Father Solanus Casey
“Thank God Ahead of Time: The Life and Spirituality of Solanus Casey” by Michael H. Crosby, OFM Cap. St. Anthony Messenger Press (Cincinnati, 2009). 282 pp., $16.95.
Franciscan Father Michael Crosby is uniquely qualified to write about the life and spirituality of Father Solanus Casey (1870-1957). A fellow Capuchin, he wrote Father Casey’s official biography in 1982 and was the “external collaborator to the relator” for the investigation by the Congregation for Saints’ Causes that concluded, in 1995, that “the servant of God, Francis Solanus Casey, was an authentic master through his word and example.”
In declaring him venerable (the first major step leading to canonization) the Vatican extolled Father Casey’s “life of heroic virtue.”
“Thank God Ahead of Time” draws on this intimate and respectful knowledge. Father Crosby rightly eschews sentimentality and instead persuades the reader of Father Casey’s virtue through rich anecdotes, illustrative excerpts from letters and spiritual reflections, and wonderful photographs of a man who knew the happiness, peace and confidence of conformity to God’s will.
Solanus Casey was the sixth of 16 children of Irish immigrant parents. He was born on a farm near Oak Grove, Wis., and as a young man worked as a logger, a motorman and a prison guard before entering the Capuchins at age 26.
His seminary education was hindered by his lack of fluency in German and Latin and a tendency to “skim the surface. If he did not grasp something immediately he tended to give up. To himself and others this indicated a lack of sufficient intelligence; to observers today he might be considered more intuitive or intellectually lazy.”
Thus, when he was ordained in 1904 it was as a “simplex priest,” one who is unable to hear confessions or preach dogmatic sermons. Father Casey’s resignation to the will of his religious superiors was evident in the fidelity and gratitude with which he carried out the most humble tasks in the monastery.
Two years after his ordination, while serving in Yonkers, N.Y., Father Casey was assigned to be the friary’s porter, or doorkeeper, a ministry he would carry out for the rest of his life.
Father Crosby shows us how, in Solanus Casey, grace built on nature. The man’s natural gentleness, approachability and genuine concern for people were the scaffolding for his “unique giftedness: his keen insight into people’s needs and how they fit into God’s plans. These days at Yonkers found the seeds being sown which would flourish in his future ministry of healing and prophecy.”
In 1923 his superiors told him to keep a record of “special cases,” a rich compilation of the spiritual blessings that flowed through the decades of 18-hour days.
Almost more remarkable than example after example of miraculous healing and conversion is the evidence of Father Casey’s humility, reverence, simplicity and lack of self-importance.
He was, one Capuchin explained, “constantly God-centered, on fire with love for God, and constantly God-conscious, seeming always to have his eyes on God. He seemed to see everything as flowing from God and leading back to God.”
Father Casey, as Father Crosby reminds us, was a man of his time and culture, but he also exhibited a remarkable freedom that allowed him to move beyond racial, economic and religious divisions.
He believed that “religion is the science of our happy relationship with God and our neighbor” and that widespread anxiety and alienation were the result of “humanity’s sad weakness,” the “lack of faith and, consequently, want of confidence in God.”
Total dependence on God
The book’s concluding chapter offers an excellent overview of the theological and spiritual influences and religious practices that sustained Father Casey in his life of expansive and expensive charity, a life of ongoing conversion, renunciation and total dependence on God.
“Thank God Ahead of Time” is an example of the best kind of contemporary hagiography, combining as it does the spiritual nourishment of an edifying portrait of Father Casey and the intellectual pleasure of Father Crosby’s masterful theological reflection. It is a fitting tribute to this humble and holy man and a gift to its readers. Catholic Spirit
See Here for other Stella Borealis articles on Solanus Casey
Thursday, October 22, 2009
After a whirlwind weekend that started with the Oct. 15 public announcement of his appointment as bishop of Duluth, Bishop-elect Paul Sirba calmly recalled his senior year in college and his decision to enter the seminary.
“My big concern was how do you know you have a vocation,” he said during an interview in his corner office at the archdiocesan chancery building in St. Paul.
“Everybody talked about getting the call, and I never got the call.”
The call to priesthood eventually came, and another one of a different sort came Sept. 23 when the papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, told the vicar general and moderator of the curia that: “Jesus is by the Sea of Galilee and he called the first apostles to ‘Come follow me.’ And the Lord is calling you. He is calling you to serve in this way.”
Bishop-elect Sirba said he was shocked into silence with the news of his appointment to Duluth by Pope Benedict XVI. He also was put under the “papal secret” until the Holy See put the appointment on its Web site at 5 a.m. Minnesota time.
He was not even allowed to talk with Archbishop John Nienstedt until the Holy See notified the archbishop.
“[Archbishop Nienstedt] came in the 29th and shut my office door and I thought — OK he knows — because he never shuts my door. He was very supportive,” he said.
In a statement, Archbishop Nienstedt expressed his joy for Bishop-elect Sirba.
“I greatly value his many valuable contributions to the building up of our Catholic faith here in St. Paul and Minneapolis. He will truly be missed. However, I also realize that he will not be far away, and I look forward to working with him in the province,” he said.
Although the first person Bishop-elect Sirba called about 7 a.m. Oct. 15 was his mother, Helen, 85, a flurry of congratulatory calls from friends were coming into his cell phone as he headed for the press conference in Duluth. He had to leave voice messages for his sister, Catherine Kelly, and two brothers, John Sirba and Father Joseph Sirba, a priest of the Duluth diocese.
“The story goes . . . Father Tony Wroblewski, who is pastor of the Brainerd area churches, knocked on my brother’s door and said ‘We have a new bishop and it’s your brother,’ Bishop-elect Sirba said.
“My brother wasn’t believing it right away. He thought he was joking . . . Father [Wroblewski] had to bring him in and turn on his computer and tap in to the Vatican Web site.”
Although the bishop-elect said the Sirba family members are close, “I don’t know if I’m more apprehensive of becoming a bishop or becoming a bishop for my brother’s diocese.”
But having a brother serve in the Duluth diocese for 22 years is a plus for the new bishop.
“We have traveled up there and I’ve canoed the Boundary Waters and I’ve hiked in many of the parks,” he said. “I’ve also had the privilege of following my brother around to his different assignments. [Currently in Longville and Remer.] I know where Babbitt and Embarrass are, and I’ve stayed there in January.”
The bishop-elect also knows some of the priests from their seminary days at St. John Vianney, when he was assigned there, and during his years at the St. Paul Seminary.
Bishop-elect Sirba will take many life experiences to his new assignment, not the least of which was his years as a youth.
“I’ve got to give credit to my parents, because that’s where the seed-bed of vocations is,” said Bishop-elect Sirba, who became teary-eyed as he spoke about his mother and his father Norbert, who is deceased.
“We had a good Catholic home and upbringing,” he said. “They talk about the family being the domestic church and that is true with my folks: Ordinary people living their faith.”
When he opened up to the possibility of a vocation, he was guided toward the priesthood by a plethora of priests.
He recalled his childhood pastor at Nativity of Mary in Bloomington, Father Robert Dunn, and many associate priests. In college, he connected with the late Msgr. Richard Schuler at St. Agnes in St. Paul and many of his professors, such as Father George Welzbacher. After ordination, he was guided as an associate priest by Father Francis Fleming at St. Olaf in Minneapolis, before he began serving in the seminaries.
Who: Bishop-elect Paul Sirba
What: Ordination Mass by invitation only
When: 2 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14
Where: Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Auditorium, Duluth
A reception, which is open to the public, will follow in the Lake Superior Ballroom at the DECC.
Bishop-elect Sirba attended Nativity of Mary grade school in Bloomington, the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, the College of St. Thomas and St. Paul Seminary. He received his master of divinity degree from St. Paul Seminary and a master of arts degree in spiritual theology from the Notre Dame Apostolic Catechetical Institute in Arlington, Va.
He was ordained a priest in 1986. He served as associate pastor at St. Olaf in Minneapolis from 1986 to 1990 and at St. John the Baptist in Savage from 1990 to 1991. He was appointed to the spiritual formation department at St. John Vianney Seminary from 1991 to 2000.
From 2000 to 2006, Bishop-elect Sirba served as pastor of Maternity of Mary in St. Paul, before becoming a spiritual director at St. Paul Seminary, where he served until July 2009.
Insights beyond parish
“It’s how God works and I would never have anticipated any of the particular assignments,” he said. “In retrospect, you look back and think I’ve been introduced to things that I wouldn’t have — serving at a college seminary, then at the major seminary . . . I think I’ve been given some insights into priestly life in a different way than serving in a parish.”
He said his work in the chancery has helped him to see that “our role is to bring help and healing where we can. It’s in a different way and different relationships.”
And, he said, the example of selfless efforts on behalf of the archdiocese by Archbishop John Nienstedt will help him in his new assignment as bishop of Duluth.
“The other benefit for me has been the unexpected pleasure of being introduced to so many people on our boards and initiatives and seeing the wonderful things that are happening in the archdiocese that you often don’t have exposure to,” Bishop-elect Sirba said. “Seeing how some of those things worked or hearing history of how they came about, it’s been a broadening and wonderful experience.”
After his Dec. 14 ordination and installation as bishop of Duluth, Bishop-elect Sirba plans to visit parishes and meet with as many priests and parishioners as he can.
“In our parishes, we are formed by the people that we serve as well as forming them,” he said. “I need to get to know the Diocese of Duluth.”
And if he needs a bit of advice from a longtime, close friend, he can cross the bridge to Superior, Wis., and visit Bishop Peter Christensen, who heads the Diocese of Superior.
“I’ll be talking with him,” he said with confidence.
Another friend, Father Scott Carl, wasn’t surprised by Bishop-elect Sirba’s appointment, he said. He has known Bishop-elect Sirba since he began seminary at St. John Vianney, where Bishop-elect Sirba was serving at the time. Over the years, Bishop-elect Sirba transitioned from Father Carl’s mentor, to a friend, to a colleague at the St. Paul Seminary, where Father Carl now teaches.
Father Carl described him as prayerful, thoughtful and a good athlete.
“Someone said, ‘He’s a priest you would want to go to confession to,’” Father Carl added. “There’s no doubt that God is most important in his life, that Jesus is his best friend.” Catholic Spirit
Wednesday, Oct. 28 marks the 12th anniversary of my appointment as the 10th Archbishop of Portland. Sometimes people will ask me, “What do you do as a bishop?” It’s a question I ask myself, especially on an occasion like this one. What indeed have I done? What have I allowed the Lord to do through me or in spite of me? By the time I arrived as your archbishop in 1997, I had already served 3½ years as an auxiliary bishop in Chicago and 10½ years as the diocesan bishop in Winona, Minn. I certainly couldn’t plead ignorance. Much to the contrary, I was already exceedingly aware of the many challenges and pitfalls.
St. Augustine was the bishop of Hippo back in the fourth century. He wrote words that were true then and remain as true as ever today about the office, which has been mine among you. He wrote, “The day I became a bishop, a burden was laid on my shoulders for which it will be no easy task to render an account. The honors I receive are for me an ever present cause of uneasiness. Indeed, it terrifies me to think that I could take more pleasure in the honor attached to my office, which is where its danger lies, than in your salvation, which ought to be its fruit. This is why being set above you fills me with alarm, whereas being with you gives me comfort. Danger lies in the first; salvation in the second.” A common paraphrase of Augustine’s words is this, “For you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian.”
St. Augustine did not feel that it would be an easy task for him to render an accounting of his service. Nor do I. Yet some day I will have to stand before the Lord and answer the query that many of you have directed my way, “What have you done in your ministry as shepherd of the flock of western Oregon?” What have I done? Good question. One thing is certain. I have prayed a lot, probably more than I ever prayed in my life. In fact, as the years have gone by, I find myself devoting more time to prayer each day than I did in my earlier years. The tasks incumbent upon my office place demands upon me that far exceed my own personal abilities. But I also firmly believe, as did Mary when she was called to be the Mother of Jesus, “Nothing is impossible with God.”
And so I pray. I have prayed with you and I pray for you each and every day. I pray that together we will truly be the Body of Christ, making his presence felt in this very secular world of western Oregon. I have prayed with you in every church of the archdiocese, on festive occasions, at celebrations of the Eucharist, in times of great joy and also in times of great sadness and shame. Because you prayed with me, I myself was uplifted and always returned to my other duties with a greater sense of purpose and pastoral zeal.
The Second Vatican Council reminded bishops that their ministry is a collaborative one. It requires a very visible and vigorous presence among God’s people, not only in liturgical celebrations but also in a host of meetings, at significant moments in the life of parishes and institutions, with members of the clergy, those who have embraced the consecrated life, pastoral ministers and parish leaders, with brother bishops, at both national and international gatherings, even, at times, in the service of the Holy See. As a result, I know the highways of western Oregon extraordinarily well and my frequent flyer miles were never greater.
Because it is my responsibility to preach and teach, I also spend hours working on homilies, pastoral addresses, instructions, talks for retreats and days of recollection and many other reflections which I am called upon to share in public. I am not the world’s most clever writer or speaker and so I promised myself early in my ministry that the least I could do is prepare my remarks. Then there would be a beginning, a middle and an end which would hopefully not be too far away from the beginning. I also spend a lot of time preparing my weekly column for the Catholic Sentinel and writing other papers that are sometimes required of me in my ministry as bishop both here in the archdiocese and in service of the universal church. There are always reports that have to be prepared for one group or another and, of course, every five years for the Holy Father concerning life and ministry here in the archdiocese. Correspondence via e-mail and snail mail also takes a lot of time.
Because I have come to learn that parishioners think they have a good bishop when they have a good priest, I spend a lot of my time working with our priests and deacons and also promoting vocations to the ordained ministry. I also do my best to promote similar efforts on behalf of religious communities. Three good priests have been vocations directors during my time. When I came we had 14 seminarians. This year we have 42 plus two seminarians from the St. John Society, which we are supporting and including in our pastoral care. Even though we have enjoyed modest success in recent years in recruiting candidates, there is still a great need for priests here in the archdiocese. I pray for an increase in the number every day and I am grateful for the wonderful support I receive from many of you in promoting vocations to church ministry.
Willy-nilly, I have spent a lot of time as a fundraiser, trying to provide the financial resources that are necessary to support the many ministries that are so essential for the life of the church. Because of all our litigation and bankruptcy expenses, I shall be always remembered as the bishop who gave away the financial resources of the diocese. I hope that over the next five years we can help rebuild some of those resources. Fortunately our annual Archbishops Catholic Appeal has done well since my arrival. But this year it’s down with 2,000 fewer donors and a $300,000 decline in pledges. I know I have to provide the leadership to try and turn that around. Like most parish priests, I do not delight in prodding people to live up to their stewardship responsibilities, but that is a task which is part of the job and one which is more necessary than ever in our present situation. And so I keep asking.
What about the pastoral priorities of the archdiocese? Six years ago the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council asked me to make faith formation at all levels, youth and young adult ministry, and the strengthening of multicultural ministry as the primary goals here in the archdiocese in our efforts as disciples together in the evangelizing mission of the church. The reduction of staff at the pastoral center and fewer financial resources to support these ministries have made it difficult for me to implement these goals adequately. But many of the parishes have picked up on what the archdiocese has been unable to do and for that I am most grateful. Furthermore, my colleagues in archdiocesan leadership and in service as pastoral ministers have, at great personal sacrifice, carried on nobly and made significant inroads in strengthening the kinds of assistance we are able to offer our parishes in an effort to achieve these goals.
In spite of it all, the 12 years have been a truly blessed experience. I have been wanting on many occasions and there are always people to remind me of that. I fret about the unity of the church. I am aware of so many divisions and the unfortunate lack of civility on the part of many in expressing their dissatisfaction. In that same sermon I quoted earlier, St. Augustine also said, “My obligations involve me in so much turmoil that I feel as though I were tossed by storms on a great ocean.” To which I many times have said “Amen.” But, by the grace of God, I still love my vocation as a bishop and those of you whom I am privileged to serve. I pray on this anniversary that my ministry will be a fruitful one and that, when the day comes when I stand before the Lord to give an accounting of my stewardship, he will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And if he can’t say that, I hope he will still let me sneak in the back gate of heaven. God bless.
All Saints Day and The Year of the PriestThe history of the Church is filled with stories of individuals who were canonized because of their courage and their holiness. All of us know that there are countless others who are saints even if they are not among the canonized. The Feast of All Saints, a holy day of obligation, is meant to honor their memory.
As we celebrate the Feast of All Saints on Nov. 1, we celebrate the lives of “those who have died and gone before us into the presence of the Lord.” They have provided models for Christians through all of history.
During this Year of the Priest, many of the faithful have asked what they might do to honor the priests who serve in this Archdiocese. The Feast of All Saints seems a particularly appropriate time for me to request the special prayers of our people for these priests. Today I ask that the Feast of All Saints be a special day of prayer for priests. May all those priests who minister in the Archdiocese of Portland one day be counted among those whose feast we celebrate on All Saints Day.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
You may have already registered for the first monthly "Saturday Breakfast for Men" for this season to be held on this Saturday, October 24, at 8:30 A.M. in Rowan Hall at the Church of St. Helena, 3204 East 43rd St., Minneapolis. Exit off of Hiawatha Avenue at 42nd Street and then go west 1/2 block and then south.
If you haven't, you are invited to attend Mass at 8:00 A.M., followed by a hearty breakfast at 8:30 A.M. Fr. William Baer will speak on "Wanted: Catholic Men to Defend and Protect the Faith" from 8:45 to 9:30 A.M. Fr. Baer is the Rector of the St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas.
There is an optional question and answer session from 9:30 to10:00 A.M. The cost is $5 per morning for the breakfast and talk or $20 for the entire series of five talks and breakfasts.
Reservations must be made for these event by 12:00 Noon on this Friday, October 23, by calling 612-729-7321 or by responding to this e-mail. Fathers are encouraged to bring their sons. Sons are encouraged to bring their fathers or come alone.