Remember “My Brothers and Sisters in
Christ, Heaven Comes with a Price.”
by Fr. Daniel E. Doctor:
Starting with Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week, the beginning of Christ’s Paschal mystery – His death and Resurrection. This should be a day of great mystery and deep reflection as we contemplate the great things Christ did for us and our salvation.
Jesus humbly enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey. He knows that many of the same people who welcome Him with great joy will in a few days being crying our for His crucifixion and death – but He also knows that He is doing His Father’s will and nothing will impede His faithful fulfilling of it.
It was not easy for Jesus to enter the place of His death but He did it with courage and confidence – with His head held high – because He knows His Father will ultimately save Him from evil men.
He bravely moves forward facing whatever lies ahead and we are no different from Jesus in this respect – we don’t know for sure what lies ahead in this life for us; it maybe illness, or major health or family problems, financial difficulties, uncertainties of all kinds. But Jesus is an example to us on how to move ahead and to bravely face whatever comes – knowing and trusting the Father is with us too.
Taking the Easy Road
Sure it is difficult to be strong and courageous in a world that is telling us to take the easy road and indulge our disordered appetites, immoral passions and self centered feelings….Sure it is difficult to be a good example of Christian values; to stand and defend life, liberty and marriage and then to be made fun of – or completely ignored – or considered irrelevant, irrational, and unreasonable because of them . . . . Sure it is difficult to stand against the culture of death that surrounds us and to stand for life unconditionally like the Church asks of us . . . . Sure if is difficult to have a moral conscience in a world that has lost its ability to know right from wrong or the courage to stand firm in its own moral convictions.
Sure it would be much easier if the Church would stop preaching against the tide of evil that is overwhelming us and our culture and just give in and give up and embrace sin and vice.
These are all excellent arguments, why the Church should compromise with the world and its evil; why the Church should give up and give in, go with the tide. But, the fact remains that, when it does – when the Church or . . . you or I . . . as its members chooses the world over what is right, good, or true – Christ is sadly betrayed again!!! Take a deep look at our 2000 year history as a Church – the Christians of the first through the fifth century – could not refuse to worship the Roman Emperor as a god. If they did – they were punished with death and martyrdom and even if their life was spared by some miracle – they would be ruined financially. Since this time – it has been the case century after century – that Christians had to made a real choice between material success and loyalty to Jesus Christ. But chose Christ anyway!!!
Remember the words of Jesus and let them sink into your hearts and give you hope – “If they did it to me – they will do it to you also.”
What a great gift this is that Christ’s gives to us – to allow us to suffer like Him – to imitate Him – to be abused by the world like our Savior was. How excellent a thing to be treated like the thousands of saints and martyrs that have gone before us – our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters in the faith – whose blood and example are the seeds for the future, fruitful, lasting growth of the Church. How wonderful a thing it is to be a Catholic – always be proud of it and learn it, live it, love it – it’s your salvation and the greatest joy in this life.
Heaven Comes with a Price
If we get right down to the heart of the matter, wouldn’t we rather stand for something – to become something real – to be holy? than to fall for everything that lacks any real lasting value? Don’t we want to gain a crown of glory and have eternal life with God? Well, my brothers and sisters in Christ – heaven comes with a price. It cost Christ everything to save us . . . . the reading of the Passion of Christ today – should show us just how important our salvation is to Jesus Christ and exactly what He did to obtain it.
Now, it is our turn to show Christ by our actions, prayers, and example to others – that His passion and death- does mean something to us.
Honest Question. “When was the last time you received the Eucharist?”
Parents, Father Gerber has 4 questions for you.
By Father Anthony Gerber:
Questions in the Confessional
For the first couple years as a priest, I would go through the usual Lenten ritual of sitting in the confessional for hours at a time, hearing various parishes kids’ confessions during school—whether Day School or PSR/CCD. And every year, I would hear the same litany of sins: “I was mean to my brother; I lied; I didn’t do what my mom told me to do; I said a bad word; and… I didn’t go to Mass.”
As a young priest, I wasn’t yet jaded to simply chalk this up to the typical child’s confession. So, a little surprised that a child didn’t go, I asked a simple question: “Why didn’t you go to Mass?”
Are Your Children Crying in the Confessional?
And the kids would answer in one of three ways: “Because I had a [sporting event/vacation]”; “Because we slept in”; or (and most frequently): “Because my parents don’t take me.”
“Because my parents don’t take me.”
I would hear that answer a lot. And what really struck me about this—what really shook me to the core—was not simply the frequency that this was said, but that most of the children were saying this with a deep sorrow in their heart and a deep longing to go to Mass. They knew they were supposed to be at Mass and they thought that they themselves were to blame for their not going. They didn’t yet realize that if their parents didn’t take them, then it wasn’t their (the kids’ fault), but the parents.
Quietly, there began to develop a righteous anger in me at the parents and a desire to “propose” certain questions to our parents, questions such as “Do you realize the impact you are having? Do you realize the sorrow that you are bringing to your child’s heart?”
But those questions I kept to myself. And the anger I brought to prayer and the tempering that experience would likely bring. Maybe I had an oversight; maybe I was being harsh and not compassionate. My anger subsided into a kind of pity for the whole situation.
Cultivating Indifferent Consciences
That is, until last year. Last year, I started to notice that, by the time the kids were in the seventh grade, they would confess this sin of missing Holy Mass with a kind of nonchalance. They would go through their litany of sins, but totally dispassionate. Some would even confess with a smile on their face.[ii] Why was this? During their earlier years, they confessed this with sorrow. But now, with lukewarmness? Why?
I started to think about this and I came to the following reason: at some point during the past few years, the child felt that she had to choose. She felt, in her limited and child-like understanding of things, that she had to choose between God and parent: to love God and upset the parents or to love parents and hope that God would be ok with not-choosing Him.
It’s a child’s hope. But it is a hope that easy devolves into presumption. And presumption accounts for the disappearance of the sorrow. If God doesn’t mind if we miss Mass, then why should we feel sorrow for it?
This presumption would further devolve into indifference when the child realizes that her parents—the parents whom she chose over God—are indifferent to Holy Mass.
So, by the time the child is in seventh grade, she sees both God and parents as indifferent to Holy Mass. Conclusion: Mass couldn’t be that important as to call missing it a “sin”—much less a sin to be sorry about.
By the example of their parents and by the love the children have for them, the kids’ consciences were slowly killed—and with it, any sense of sin and sorrow for it.
Questioning the Indifference
At which point, I was angry again. But it wasn’t a righteous anger at the parents. It was an anger of helplessness. I didn’t see how this situation could possibly be remedied without some kind of miracle. I was angry that there had been decades of indifference and that it seemed as though no one had done anything about it.
So I tried doing something about it: invitations to confessions, hearing confessions more, treating it as important, teaching on the Holy Mass, etc. I even—when giving the kids their penance—I even told them to offer prayers for their parents.
And there was some improvement. But I was still very much swimming against the stream.
I too was tempted to think that maybe this is just how things are and maybe this is all part of the whole becoming a “smaller Church” thing that Pope Benedict had talked about.
Until this year.
This year, I heard confessions all throughout the Archdiocese. And I had long ago stopped asking why kids were missing Sunday Mass. I knew the answer to that question. But I started asking a new question:
When was the last time you received the Eucharist?
That’s a different question. And that’s a whole lot different than simply asking about whether one is going to Mass. This question puts the crosshairs square on the target: on receiving Jesus.
When was the last time you received Jesus?
Indifferent Answers and Answering Indifference
I wasn’t ready for the answers I received. On average, fourth and fifth graders have not received Jesus since their first holy communion… in second grade. That’s two to three years without receiving Jesus.[iii]
I wasn’t angry any more. I was sad. I was deeply sad for the kids who haven’t had Jesus for two or more years.
When the seventh and eighth graders started coming to me for confessions, I started to ask them the same question: when was the last time you received the Eucharist. For the vast majority, it had been over a year. For some, it had been a full five years—again, since first communion.
Some seventh and eighth graders would smile as they told me that. At which point I would echo their answer: it has been five years since you have received Jesus.
And I added a new question:
Isn’t that sad?
Immediately, their conscience—just as it was way back when—was alive again. Every single one admitted that it was sad. Lukewarmness became sorrow again. And they missed Jesus. They knew it.
And maybe that might be seen as mean of me. But I am trying to keep their consciences alive. Trying to keep alive the notion that Mass is important. A notion that is being killed Sunday after Sunday by the example of their parents.
Trying to Find Answers to the Usual Questions
A couple years ago, I did an (anonymous) study at a Catholic day-school. I asked seventh graders a few questions. Those questions were:
1) How often do you go to Mass?
2) When was the last time you went to Holy Mass?
3) When was the last time you went to Sunday Mass?
4) How often do you go to Sunday Mass? [options: every Sunday, once a month, twice a year, twice a year or less, never]
Every child said that they went to Mass every week. On “Tuesday” (which was the day the kids went at school). 30% said they had gone to Mass in the last month. 70% said they go to Mass twice a year or less or never.
I did the same survey with the PSR/CCD program. And the results—save the part about going to Mass every week at school—were the same.
That probably would shock most day-school parents. It shocks every engaged couple that I’m preparing for marriage. Every time, the engaged couple says, “That’s odd. I thought that day school families would be going to Mass more than the PSR families. Seems like a waste of money otherwise.”
The natural question to ask here is: Why?
Why—not only why day-school and PSR families’ sacramental lives are nearly the same (despite one group spending thousands of dollars on the particular parish school), but also why some have the erroneous perception that day-school families are more faithful than PSR families.
A few months ago, I stopped asking why people aren’t going to Mass. After all, the answers to that question are usual and somewhat obvious: liturgical banality, secularization and frenetic pace of life, lack of examples of integrity of life and joy of faith, the killing of conscience, etc.
And I’ve learned that, sometimes, when we ask the same questions and get the same answers, maybe it is time to ask new questions.
I’ve also stopped asking questions about what I should do about it. Because, it’s not a matter of what I should do, it’s a matter of what people think they should do about it. And, right now, 70% of day-school and PSR parents believe this is not something to do anything about.
My 4 Questions for Parents
So, like Lent, different questions should be asked before we embark on projects that we think will solve the problem. But they are questions that I do not ask myself, but I think we should ask the parents. I’ve answered them for myself already. It is now time for parents to answer them. Here they are:
- parents, do you know that you children cry in my confessional because you are not taking them to Mass?
- parents, do you know that your seventh-grade child has a killed conscience, the victim of indifference?
- parents, do you know that if you continue in the way you are going, you will not see your kids married in the Church, they will likely not have kids, and all of this time and money you are spending is really wasted?
- And parents, isn’t that… sad?
Maybe the parents’ consciences were killed long ago too. Maybe an examination is in order—an examination with questions meant to clarify and purify.
Maybe then we can ask the next logical question, which is: What should we do about it?
“I Exhort you to Reject the Use of Contraception in Your Marriage.”
Bishop James D. Conley, STL: A letter to the Catholic Families
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Twenty years ago, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta stood before the President of the United States, before senators and congressmen, before justices of the United States Supreme Court. She spoke about her work among the world’s poor. She spoke about justice and compassion. Most importantly, she spoke about love.
“Love,” she told them, “has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.” 
Sacrifice is the language of love.
Love is spoken in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who poured out his life for us on the cross. Love is spoken in the sacrifice of the Christian life, sharing in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. And love is spoken in the sacrifice of parents, and pastors, and friends.
We live in a world short on love. Today, love is too often understood as romantic sentimentality rather than unbreakable commitment. But sentimentality is unsatisfying. Material things, and comfort, and pleasure bring only fleeting happiness. The truth is that we are all searching for real love, because we are all searching for meaning.
What is Real Love?
Love—real love—is about sacrifice, and redemption, and hope. Real love is at the heart of a rich, full life. We are made for real love. And all that we do—in our lives, our careers, and our families, especially—should be rooted in our capacity for real, difficult, unfailing love.
Most Reverend James D. Conley, STL
But today, in a world short on love, we’re left without peace, and without joy.
In my priesthood, I have stood in front of abortion clinics to offer help to women experiencing unwanted pregnancies; I have prayed with the neglected elderly; and I have buried young victims of violence. I have seen the isolation, the injustice, and the sadness that comes from a world short on love. Mother Teresa believed, as do I, that much of the world’s unhappiness and injustice begins with a disregard for the miracle of life created in the womb of mothers. Today, our culture rejects love when it rejects the gift of new life, through the use of contraception
Mother Teresa said that, “in destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife…destroys the gift of love.”
Husbands and wives are made to freely offer themselves as gifts to one another in friendship, and to share in the life-giving love of God.
He created marriage to be unifying and procreative. To join husband and wife inseparably in the mission of love, and to bring forth from that love something new.
Contraception robs the freedom for those possibilities.
God made us to love and to be loved. He made us to delight in the power of sexual love to bring forth new human beings, children of God, created with immortal souls. Our Church has always taught that rejecting the gift of children erodes the love between husband and wife: it distorts the unitive and procreative nature of marriage. The use of contraception gravely and seriously disrupts the sacrificial, holy, and loving meaning of marriage itself.
The Church continues to call Catholic couples to unity and procreativity. Marriage is a call to greatness—to loving as God loves—freely, creatively, and generously. God himself is a community of love—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christian marriage is an invitation to imitate, and to know, and to share in the joyful freedom of God’s love, an echo of the Holy Trinity.
In 1991, my predecessor, Bishop Glennon P. Flavin, wrote that “there can be no true happiness in your lives unless God is very much a part of your marriage covenant. To expect to find happiness in sin is to look for good in evil…. To keep God in your married life, to trust in his wisdom and love, and to obey his laws…will deepen your love for each other and will bring to you that inner peace of mind and heart which is the reward of a good conscience.” 
God is present in every marriage, and present during every marital embrace. He created sexuality so that males and females could mirror the Trinity: forming, in their sexual union, the life-long bonds of family. God chose to make spouses cooperators with him in creating new human lives, destined for eternity. Those who use contraception diminish their power to unite and they give up the opportunity to cooperate with God in the creation of life.
I Exhort you to Reject the Use of Contraception in Your Marriage.
As Bishop of Lincoln, I repeat the words of Bishop Flavin. Dear married men and women: I exhort you to reject the use of contraception in your marriage. I challenge you to be open to God’s loving plan for your life. I invite you to share in the gift of God’s life-giving love. I fervently believe that in God’s plan, you will rediscover real love for your spouse, your children, for God, and for the Church. I know that in this openness to life, you will find the rich adventure for which you were made.
Children are not a Burden
Our culture often teaches us that children are more a burden than a gift—that families impede our freedom and diminish our finances. We live in a world where large families are the objects of spectacle and derision, instead of the ordinary consequence of a loving marriage entrusted to God’s providence. But children should not be feared as a threat or a burden, but rather seen as a sign of hope for the future.
In 1995, Blessed John Paul II wrote that our culture suffers from a “hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and… a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment. ”  Generous, life-giving spousal love is the antidote to hedonism and immaturity: parents gladly give up frivolous pursuits and selfishness for the intensely more meaningful work of loving and educating their children.
In the Diocese of Lincoln, I am grateful for the example of hundreds of families who have opened themselves freely and generously to children. Some have been given large families, and some have not. And of course, a few suffer the very difficult, hidden cross of infertility or low fertility. The mystery of God’s plan for our lives is incomprehensible. But the joy of these families, whether or not they bear many children, disproves the claims of the contraceptive mentality.
Dear brothers and sisters, Blessed John Paul II reminded us that, “man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God.”  The sexual intimacy of marriage, the most intimate kind of human friendship, is a pathway to sharing in God’s own life. It is a pathway to the fullness of our own human life; it is a means of participating in the incredible love of God. Contraception impedes our share in God’s creative love. And thus it impedes our joy.
The joy of families living in accord with God’s plan animates and enriches our community with a spirit of vitality and enthusiasm. The example of your friends and neighbors demonstrates that while children require sacrifice, they are also the source of joy, meaning, and of peace. Who does not understand the great gift of a loving family?
Yes, being lovingly open to children requires sacrifice. But sacrifice is the harbinger of true joy. Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to be open to joy.
What are the Valid Reasons to Delay Children?
Of course, there are some true and legitimate reasons why, at certain times, families may discern being called to the sacrifice of delaying children. For families with serious mental, physical, or emotional health problems, or who are experiencing dire financial troubles, bearing children might best be delayed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that couples must have “just” reasons to delay childbearing. For couples facing difficulties of various kinds, the Church recommends Natural Family Planning: a method for making choices about engaging in fruitful sexual relations.
Natural Family Planning does not destroy the power to give life: instead, it challenges couples to discern prayerfully when to engage in life-giving sexual acts. It is an integrated, organic and holistic approach to fertility care.
The Gift of Natural Family Planning
Natural Family Planning is a reliable and trustworthy way to regulate fertility, is easy to learn, and can be a source of unity for couples. To be sure, using NFP requires sacrifice and patience, but sacrifice and patience are not obstacles to love, they are a part of love itself. Used correctly, NFP forms gentle, generous husbands, and selfless, patient wives. It can become a school of virtuous and holy love.
Those who confine sexual intimacy to the infertile times of the month are not engaging in contraceptive practices. They do not attempt to make a potentially fertile act infertile. They sacrificially abstain during the fertile time precisely because they respect fertility; they do not want to violate it; they do not want to treat the gift of fertility as a burden.
The Dangers of Using Natural Family Planning as a Contraceptive
In some relatively rare instances, Natural Family Planning is used by couples with a contraceptive mentality. Too often couples can choose to abstain from fertility by default, or out of fear of the consequences of new life. I encourage all couples who use Natural Family Planning to be very open with each other concerning the reasons they think it right to limit their family size, to take their thoughts to God, and to pray for his guidance. Do we let fear, anxiety, or worry determine the size of our families? Do we entrust ourselves to the Lord, whose generosity provides for all of our needs?
“Perfect love,” scripture teaches, “casts out fear.” 
Dear friends, I exhort you to openness in married life. I exhort you to trust in God’s abundant providence.
Tragically, a majority of people in our culture and even in our Church, have used contraception. Much of the responsibility for that lies in the fact that too few have ever been exposed to clear and consistent teaching on the subject. But the natural consequences of our culture’s contraceptive mentality are clear. Mother Teresa reflected that “once living love is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows very easily.”  She was right. Cultural attitudes that reject the gift of life lead very easily to social acceptance for abortion, for no-fault divorce, and for fatherless families. For fifty years, America has accepted the use of contraception, and the consequences have been dire.
Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you to read the encyclical by Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae with your spouse, or in your parish. Consider also Married Love and the Gift of Life, written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Dear brother priests, I encourage you to preach about the dangers of contraception, and to visit with families in your parish about this issue.
Dear brothers and sisters, if you have used or prescribed contraception, the merciful love of God awaits. Healing is possible—in the sacrament of penance. If you have used or supported contraception, I pray that you will stop, and that you will avail yourself of God’s tender mercy by making a good heartfelt confession.
Today, openness to children is rarely celebrated, rarely understood, and rarely supported. To many, the Church’s teachings on life seem oppressive or old-fashioned. Many believe that the Church asks too great a sacrifice.
But sacrifice is the language of love. And in sacrifice, we speak the language of God himself. I am calling you, dear brothers and sisters, to encounter Christ in your love for one another. I am calling you to rich and abundant family life. I am calling you to rejoice in the love, and the sacrifice, for which you were made. I am calling your family to share in the creative, active love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I pray that in true sacrifice, each of you will know perfect joy.
Through the intercession of Our Lady of the Annunciation, the Holy Family, and in the love of Jesus Christ,
+James D. Conley
Bishop of Lincoln
3 Ways to bring Souls into Communion with Jesus Christ
By Bishop James Conley; Lincoln, NE: In Technopoly, Neil Postman says that overly technological cultures, “driven by the impulse to invent, have as their aim a grand reductionism in which human life must find its meaning in machinery and technique.”
The “grand reductionism” is becoming increasingly apparent. We focus too often on becoming good processors and producers, manipulators of data, rather on than on becoming good human beings—critical minds, and noble hearts, capable of appreciation, engagement, and thought—and hungry for adventure and romance.
The Faith of Young Americans: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism
Bishop James Conley “The Art of the Beautiful”
Christian Smith is a sociologist at the University of Notre Dame. He’s conducted extensive research on the religious beliefs of young Americans from every major faith group. And he’s concluded that regardless of their religious affiliation, young Americans tend to subscribe to a faith he calls Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
The dogma of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is this: God exists, and desires that people are good, nice, and fair to one another. God can be called upon to assure happiness and to resolve crises. Being good, nice, and fair assures eternal salvation in heaven.
The Youth Develop No Virtue, No Charity, and No Heroism
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is the “grand reduction” of religious thought and practice to a set of sentimental and affirming principles, absent the presence of a transcendent, personal, and transformative God. It is a religious faith of mediocrity, of insularity, and of loneliness. It requires no greatness of soul. And it engenders no virtue, no charity, and no heroism.
Christianity is not Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
Christianity is the faith of unmerited greatness—the faith of heroic virtue, unsurpassed hope, and unbounded charity. The Christian life elevates humanity in the great sanctifying process of theosis. By our very baptism, in fact, we are given the capacity to love precisely as God loves. And at the core of the Christian life is a transformative religious relationship with a living person—Jesus Christ.
The Mission of the New Evangelization . . .
The mission of the New Evangelization is to proclaim the living person of Jesus Christ to those for whom God is a benevolent, impersonal, and mostly impotent figure.
We have a tendency to respond to reduction with more reduction. Religious minimalism fits well with our iconoclastic, puritan American heritage. And too often, we approach the New Evangelization from a technocratic perspective. We are in danger of reducing even our evangelical and catechetical efforts to the mere transmission of information, to technical processes honed by data analysis to produce a particular outcome.
Forming personal relationships cannot be reduced to metrics and algorithms. Instead, forming personal relationships depends on love. And love begins with an appreciation of the beloved’s beauty. Nine hundred years ago, Richard of St. Victor wrote “ubi amor, ibi oculos”—where there is love, there the eye is also.
John Senior, in The Restoration of Christian Culture, explains the phrase this way—“the lover is the only one who really sees the truth about a person . . . we can only love what we know because we have first touched, tasted, smelled, heard and seen.” Knowing and loving Christ begins with seeing glimmers of divinity in the beautiful things of this world.
3 Ways to bring Souls into Communion with Jesus Christ
I’d like to suggest three ways in which beauty can bring souls into communion with Jesus Christ.
The first is the restoration of the beautiful to the world of art, architecture, and culture. We now suffer from a cult of ugliness and utility. And this is manifestly apparent in much of contemporary architecture. The architectural maxim that “form follows function” is a way of saying that design only exists to facilitate production. Architecture is overwhelmed by technocracy. Oscar Wilde recognized the danger of this kind of thinking. “Put usefulness first, and you lose it,” he said. “Put beauty first, and what you do will be useful forever.”
My second suggestion is the rekindling of the Christian imagination through literature. I had dinner recently with a very good friend of mine—a former roommate in fact. He converted to the faith shortly before I did. He was from Kansas City, and his father was the foreman of a bag factory. While we were in college, his father lost his job. My friend, Alan, went home for the summer, and saw that his father was struggling with his recent job loss. His father had never attended college, or had any liberal arts education. Alan gave his father the dialogues of Plato. During that long summer, his father read them carefully—often rereading chapters three or four times. Alan told me during that summer, he and his father had the most extraordinary conversations—about truth, and hope, and justice, and love. A new sense of wonder was awakened in my friend’s father.
Literature opens our imaginations to wonder. Reading good books exposes the contemplative part of our humanity. Good books can spur in us a sense of justice, and charity, and generosity. They can expand our souls and inspire our hearts to strive for greatness. We ought to begin forming book clubs and literary circles, comprised of ordinary believers, reading and reflecting on important ideas and beautiful stories.
My final point is about recovering a sense of wonder in the liturgy. Common worship—liturgy—is a place for formation in Christian wonder. In Modern Culture, probably his best book, Roger Scruton remarks that “enlightened people often mock the controversies surrounding the liturgy, and profess not to understand the desire for the old words, save for ‘aesthetic reasons’. They are right to see a resemblance between aesthetic interest and the act of worship. But they are wrong in thinking this resemblance to be merely accidental. The quasi-aesthetic absorption in the holy words and gestures is a component in the redemptive process. In participating, the believer is effecting a change in his spiritual standing. The ceremony is not so much a means to this end, as a prefiguration of it. In the ritual the believer confronts God, and is purified by standing in God’s gaze.”
The absorption of holy words and gestures is a component of the redemptive process. Without our even knowing it, holy liturgy effects change in our hearts. Because good and holy liturgy lifts up our hearts—sursum corda, as the Roman Canon reads—to an experience of transcendent and ineffable mysteries.
Today, Pope Francis says that the pathway to Christ is the “via pulchritudinis.” Beauty responds to the flat-souled, reductive culture in which we live. Pope Benedict wrote often that beauty is an arrow that wounds—by that, he meant that it penetrates hearts which might never be turned by reason or virtue.
If we are serious about transforming culture for Jesus Christ, beauty has a role to play. Of course, after this lecture, we might all look at our phones for a moment, and when we go home, we might turn on the television. But we need to create space for beauty. We need to foster its cultivation. Beauty will move us to contemplation, and contemplation to Jesus Christ. Beauty will move us to the incarnate Love of God.
Dostoevsky wrote that “beauty will save the world.” It might. But only if we foster beauty, and then invite others to the experience, in order that they might experience the harrowing and transcendent beauty of the Most Blessed Trinity.
James Conley is the bishop of the Catholic diocese of Lincoln.
The essay is adapted from remarks given at NYU’s Catholic Center as part of the Thomistic Institute’s “The Art of the Beautiful” Lecture Series. The remarks in their entirety can be read here.
Dissenting from Catholic Teaching or the Natural Moral Law in a Catholic
High School does not Promote Holiness, Virtue and Evangelization.
Dear Teachers in the Archdiocesan Catholic High Schools,
Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone Letter to Teachers
Thank you for the work you do to help our young students learn, mature, and grow in the Catholic faith. Know of my gratitude for the energy, expertise and devotion that you bring to this wonderful and most critical enterprise.
This enterprise involves a two-fold endeavor, since, for a Catholic high school to attain excellence, it must be at one and the same time an excellent institution of secondary education and a truly Catholic institution. Changes in our secular society over the last few decades have brought new challenges to this endeavor in both senses, as we now face both increased difficulties in educating our students well in an array of academic subjects, and unprecedented challenges in forming our young people with a deep and strong Catholic identity as well as a knowledge and practice of the Catholic faith.
The Second Vatican Council, in its declaration on Catholic education Gravissimum Educationis, insisted on Catholic schools assisting Catholic parents in their primary duty of educating their children in virtue, holiness, and their ability to evangelize others in society (see especially nn. 3 and 8). Picking up on this theme, the U.S. bishops have affirmed that “Catholic elementary and secondary schools [are] invaluable instruments in proclaiming the Good News from one generation to the next” (see Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium, US Conference of Catholic Bishops , p. 2).
As one means of fulfilling this most serious responsibility, all of our schools currently have programs to help teachers give more effective witness to the Catholic faith. I support these programs. However, I also see a need to provide more clarity for our teachers. For this reason, I have developed a document that clarifies Catholic issues in our Catholic schools. At the outset, though, I wish to state clearly and emphatically that the intention underlying this document is not to target for dismissal from our schools any teachers, singly or collectively, nor does it introduce anything essentially new into the contract or the faculty handbook.
Many Catholics are at Variance with Church Teaching
At the same time, we need to face the current reality in society and the Church honestly, seriously and frankly: many people have opinions directly contrary to the natural moral law and the teaching of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, many Catholics themselves have beliefs at variance with Church teaching. This is simply a reality of our modern society. This reality stems in great part from the tremendous pressure the contemporary culture places on everyone to conform to a certain agenda at variance with, and often aggressively so, our Christian understanding of the human person and God’s purpose in creation. This pressure is exerted relentlessly in the media, in entertainment, in politics, in academia, in corporations – in short, in all of the influencers of popular culture. This problem in society in general is already serious enough, but when people in Catholic institutions endorse such views it creates a toxic confusion about our fundamental values among both students and others in society at large. As teaching institutions, therefore, Catholic schools have to be very clear about what constitutes the true teachings of the Catholic Church. They owe that to the teachers, to the students, and to the parents of the students.
Confusion on Sexual Morality and Religious Discpline
Confusion about the Church’s stance is prevalent in areas of sexual morality and religious discipline. For this reason, the statements for inclusion in the faculty handbook focus on these two areas. This focus does not imply lesser importance to Catholic teachings on social justice, which in fact are widely accepted and well interpreted in Catholic educational institutions. The areas requiring clarification are in Catholic teachings on sexual morality and religious practice.
Having clear statements especially about “hot button issues” related to faith and morals is important to teachers for two reasons. The first is that a forthright statement of the Church’s position on these issues helps teachers provide good perspectives to their students who often struggle in these areas.
The second reason is that candid formulation of Church doctrine protects those teachers who don’t agree with the statements. That sounds counterintuitive, but it is indeed the case. In a society in which confusion reigns about Church teachings, highlighting the controversial issues alerts teachers to avoid contradicting Church teaching on these issues either in the school or in some public way outside the classroom.
Dissenting from Catholic Teaching does not Promote Holiness
All teachers are expected to contribute to an atmosphere of holiness, virtue, and familiarity with the Gospel. How can this occur if not all teachers agree with Catholic teachings?
The way to assist teachers who distance themselves or privately oppose some Catholic teachings is to alert them to sensitive issues. Because the school fosters holiness, virtue and evangelization, teachers not knowledgeable about the precise contours of Catholic teaching have to be cautious about what they say in the school and what they do in the public sphere outside the Catholic school. Honest mistakes do happen, and when they do, reparation can be made. This is not in and of itself a cause for a teacher to be punished. At the same time, teachers and staff at Catholic high schools have to strive to present Catholic teachings as consistently as possible. Dissenting from Catholic teaching or the natural moral law in a Catholic high school does not promote holiness, virtue and evangelization.
Finally, it is important to note the careful use of language in the document. In front of many statements of Catholic teaching in the faculty handbook come the words “affirm and believe.” This is a statement made on behalf of the institution, not all individuals in the institutions. Our Catholic high schools try to hire people who do believe what the Church teaches, but in our schools we have good teachers who belong to other Christian faiths or to no faith at all. They are members of the school community. The language “affirm and believe” acknowledges the good activity of the entire corps of faculty and staff by making this claim on behalf of the institution. That is, in the first instance, “affirm and believe” refers to the Catholic high school itself, and, secondly, to many faculty who identify with the Catholic teachings behind which the high school as a whole stands.
My hope is that the document on Catholic faith and morals that is becoming part of the faculty handbook in our Catholic high schools will help the schools better fulfill their mission, and also highlight for teachers true Catholic teachings that are contested by many people in secular society today.
Sincerely in Christ,
Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone
The 17 Year Unsolved Murder of Fr. Alfred Kunz
This article was submitted and written by long time subscriber Matt C. Abbott with Renew America.
CHICAGO,IL (Catholic Online) – In the early morning of March 4, 1998, Father Alfred Kunz, a priest and canon lawyer of the Diocese of Madison, Wis., was found brutally murdered in his parish school, St. Michael’s, in Dane, Wis. His throat had been slashed.
Father Alfred Kunz
To date-17 years later-the murder remains unsolved.
I’ve been following the case for a number of years. It’s frustrating that the authorities, while reportedly having at least one person of interest, haven’t had enough solid evidence to make an arrest. (The murder weapon was never found.)
Catholic attorney and scholar Peter B. Kelly, who was a friend of Father Kunz, wrote to me the following reflection (slightly edited) that gives you an idea of how devoted the priest was to his work:
There are a number of points that I recall about Father Kunz. They all deal with his pastoral style which people might characterize as true ‘servant leadership.’ It was that – and so much more.
Father did not have a great deal of financial resources upon which to draw to support his school and his teaching staff. Still, he tried to do what he could to help make life a little easier for his underpaid teachers. One ‘fringe benefit’ that his teachers received from their boss was free auto repair. As a Wisconsin farm boy, he was as good with a wrench as he was with his traditional Catholic theology.
Father was fluent in both Latin and in the language of engine maintenance. He even had a set of coveralls which he would wear that exposed only his Roman collar, lest no one would recognize that the greasy fellow who just slid out from under the car in the parking lot of St. Michael’s was the pastor and chief mechanic of the parish.
Father was also literally the ‘chief cook and bottle washer’ of the place where he cared for the people. Back in the old days, it was common for Catholic parishes to have Friday night fish fries to serve as a fundraiser for the parish, a social gathering for the parishioners and a relatively convenient source of the family meatless dinner.
As a very traditional Catholic parish, the people of St. Michael’s were encouraged to keep the habit of meatless Fridays all the year round and not just on Fridays in Lent when the bishops reduced the penitential practice down to that.
On fish fry nights, Father would put on another garment of service. This would be his white cooking apron which again would reveal his collar, often left open when the heat of the kitchen would require it. It would be Father himself who perfected the art of deep frying the fish and french fries.
He would do the cooking himself because he wanted his people to enjoy the best fish available in the area. I had been to one of his fish fries and the school cafeteria was packed with people, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
I would often have to call Father to arrange radio station recording time into his busy schedule. I soon learned that I would do well to call him late at night after he finished his holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament. That would mean I would have to call him between 11:00 p.m. and midnight.
One night when I called late Father answered but he did not sound like himself. He could barely speak. I asked him if he was alright. He said he was; he just was out mowing the cemetery behind the church and his ‘hay fever’ or allergies were acting up. He could barely breathe, much less talk.
Father was always giving of himself and he gave of everything he had. He gave up his rectory and made it available for people who needed a place to stay temporarily. Father would bunk in a small room off the main hallway of his school – just a few feet from where his body was found in a pool of his own blood after his life was so brutally taken from him.
I try not to think of how his life ended any more. Rather, I try to remember how he lived. That is because, as a Catholic, I realize how short our lives are. We all will come to an end…sooner or later. What really matters is what we do, in keeping with God’s plan, while we are here on this planet. Father Kunz knew that. He knew why he was here on earth and he made an eternal difference.
In closing, my favorite story I heard from Father himself. It was the story about his own ‘personal saint’ to whom Father would pray for special intercession with Our Lord. Back when Father was an assistant pastor at St. Victor’s parish here in Monroe, Wis., he would make regular visits to patients in the local hospital. There was an African-American man on a rather long-term hospital stay there. He was in a terminal condition.
The man was not Catholic. In fact, he was never baptized into any denomination. That meant to Father that he had a soul to save. Father would stop into the man’s room on a regular basis and, in a friendly manner, would ask the man if he felt it was a good day for a baptism. Usually the man would smile and politely respond in the negative.
But one day, the man knew that his health was failing fast. He must have liked that friendly but persistent priest who took a sincere interest in his soul. So when, predictably, Father stepped into the room to ask once more if he could baptize the man, the patient weakly agreed. Father happily complied and completed the baptism.
In that man’s condition, the baptism not only wiped clean original sin from his soul, but also removed every other sin the man ever committed together with the temporal punishment due for those sins. As a consequence, then, there before Father was a man with a pure, clean soul due solely to Father’s persistence as a pastor.
If the man was to die in the next second following his baptism, his soul would immediately enter heaven for all eternity. The man was grateful to be baptized into the kind priest’s Church even if he did not understand all of the significance of that sacramental act. He did moments later however – and for all eternity.
After the baptism, the man reached up to embrace his pastor. He put his arms around the neck of Father and, in that very moment of thanksgiving, his heart stopped. As Father gently laid him back down in his bed, the new, truly ‘born again’ Catholic was hearing the words of his Lord: ‘Well done good and faithful servant…
Well done to you too, Father Alfred Kunz.
Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He has been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR and WLS-TV in Chicago, and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at [email protected]
Local Knights of Columbus Refuses to Remove
Pro-Abortion Governor as Grand Marshal
Father Dan Beeman (Bulletin post): I write to alert you to an unfortunate situation which I have done my best to avoid, but to no avail. As you are aware, each year Norfolk is home to the annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. The local Knights of Columbus Council #3548 have been the sponsors and originators of the parade since 1967. As a Catholic men’s fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus sought to bring a celebration in honor of one of our Church’s greatest Saints to the people of Norfolk. Each year, the Knights pay special honor to one particular “Grand Marshall” who is given the title, is honored at an annual Emerald Ball, and is then given the charge of leading the parade.
It had been the custom to honor a local resident or community member with that title for a number of years. Last winter, I wrote to the Knights of Columbus at the request of the Bishop’s Vicar for the East, advising them that it would be best if we allowed the parade to remain a non-political event. I asked them not to honor any political candidate, office holder, or former office holder above the city level, as politicians at those levels often make decisions about issues which Catholics hold as non-negotiable to our Catholic faith. It was our strong urging that they not honor any political persons, but that if they did, they should not honor anyone who stands in opposition to the teaching of the Church on issues of life, marriage, or religious liberty. I wrote that letter at the request of our own Bishop to be sure that the Knights understood this is an important part of distinguishing our Catholic identity in public forums and awards.
After receiving the letter in the winter of 2014, two members of the Knights of Columbus parade committee met with me because they had already chosen a Grand Marshall last year who did, in fact, stand publicly against the teaching of the Church and who had, in fact, campaigned specifically on positions against the Church. I met with the committee members and after extensive conversation, they agreed to name a new Grand Marshall for last year’s parade. They chose an excellent second option, the Chief of the Norfolk Police, and I was relieved to be able to participate in the Emerald Ball and Parade. In that meeting they specifically agreed to avoid political persons going forward as it could send a very mixed message for a Catholic organization to honor someone who stands in opposition to the Church’s teachings. They gave me their word they would not do this again.
I was saddened and shocked to learn only two weeks ago that the Knights of Columbus had, again, decided to give the honor of Grand Marshall to a politician. Going against their word to me last year, this year they decided to honor Governor Terry McAuliffe. Governor McAuliffe stands contrary to the Catholic Church in not one but many of the most essential teachings of the Church in the political arena. He himself promised to be a “brick wall” against restrictions on abortion, has taken away commonsense protections for women in abortion facilities and lowered safety standards, and consistently takes money from pro-abortion lobbying groups. Further, he not only favors the re-definition of marriage, he himself performed a gay “marriage” as soon as a court overturned the law of the Commonwealth. Marriage and Life are two of the foundational efforts of the Knights of Columbus as a national organization, so it is dumbfounding how the Knights could then decide to honor the Governor.
The council kept the decision from me until just a few weeks ago, when I was informed via a bulk mailing. At that point, I followed the advice and counsel of the Office of the Bishop. He asked that I refer the matter to the State Council of the Knights of Columbus and to also advise the National Office. I was told immediately by the State Deputy that the Knights would name another Grand Marshall. Ten days later, the State Deputy informed me that the Knights had reversed their decision and have decided to leave Governor McAuliffe as the Grand Marshall of the parade.
Bishop DiLorenzo believes strongly in the Catholic principle of subsidiarity – that decisions in the Church should be made at the lowest level possible. I agree with him that this decision should be handled internally within the Knights of Columbus as an organization. While it is a sad and unfortunate thing that the Knights would decide to allow this to continue against our request, I have to consider that I have done my part as the pastor to teach the Truth of the Church and allow them to operate in freedom. It is the clear teaching of the Bishops of the United States in Catholics in Political Life that, “the Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors, or platforms which would suggest support for their actions” (emphasis in original text). There is a difference between respecting the Office of Governor and allowing the Governor to march in the parade and honoring the Governor by naming him the Grand Marshall and official host of the parade. The Knights have chosen to act on their own, against the clear advice and teaching of the Church.
As a result of their decision, the parish will not support or participate in the parade. I will not attend the Emerald Ball or Parade. Sadly, this also unnecessarily severs the relationship between Council #3548 and Holy Trinity parish.
Again, it is unfortunate that the Knights have decided to make something that should be a community event into something that is political. I am aware that some members of the Council disagreed with this decision, and that there are some who had nothing to do with the decision. I am grateful to those men for the support of what is right, and to Knights who are active members of the parish who stand for the truth. In a time where things of so much more importance exist, I am sad that this much energy has been devoted to something of this nature. Please pray for unity in the Church.
Faithfully in Christ,
Father Dan Beeman
by Fr. Christopher Pietraszko:
So long as a man lives in mortal sin, there is nothing meritorious within him. It does not matter how many homeless he feeds, how many children he saves from a burning building, how often he prays or attends mass with pious behaviour. So long as a man has sinned mortally, he stands condemned. If a murderer stood trial, openly admitting his sin without sorrow, yet boasted of good deeds, and acts of faith, it would mean nothing for the judge. The man is being sentenced for the injustice, and rightfully so. Man compartmentalizes his sins. He hates God with one breath, yet claims to love him with another. Like a husband who slaps his wife’s cheek and kisses the other.
Man cannot ever undo the Justice that is due to him. But God can. Confess your sins, and you are rewarded with the merits of Christ.
Courageous Priest Update: Thank you so much. The St. Patrick Shirt fundraiser was a huge success. 182 shirts were sold in only 7 days. We are very pleased with that. One update will be our mobile compatibility, which is severely lacking. We have a few other updates that may or may not be noticeable. Again thank you and please pray for us and courageous priests everywhere.