Saturday, August 21, 2010

On the Monastic Life

I know that the monastic life is a particular vocation. However, I also know that we are all called to contemplation of God's glory and love. I have become even more aware in the course of my pastoral ministry that if we don't learn the art of contemplation it is sure to cause us trouble in the future!

The memorial of St. Bernard has fallen on a Friday this year. Every Friday my pastoral staff and I visit the shut-ins of our parish. For many years, as I have made these visits, I have come to recognize that too many of our shut-ins have not been properly prepared for their later years. As a result, most of them are left sitting in their homes wishing that their legs worked better, or their eyesight was better, or their aches and pains were somehow lessened. I know that a number of them very faithfully pray their rosary each day, or several times a day, but most are still so very focussed on wanting things to be different than they are.

With the lessened concern with being at Mass on Sundays, a lack of concern with participating in Eucharistic adoration, and a lessened desire for daily Mass participation, I think that our future generations could be in even more trouble in this regard. I have come to recognize even more that if you haven't cultivated a sense of devotion and contemplation in your younger years, it isn't going to somehow naturally show up in your advanced years. Thus, how to cultivate this sense of contemplation NOW???

I think that two things need to happen here. First of all, our sense of urgency for participation in Sunday Mass needs to grow. It IS about being at Mass, come hell or high water, every Sunday and Holy Day. But even more, it is about actually participating in the Mass while you are there!

Here, I think, the argument in some circles about what the Second Vatican Council meant by active participation is a real stumbling block. Don't try and explain the arguments to me. I know them very well. The problem is that when our people are sitting there and not participating in and exterior way, they are not participating, in too many cases, in an interior way. Many have forgotten that we are soul AND body. Participation in the body is meant to excite participation in the soul. Participation in the soul shows itself, gives public witness, through participation in the body. So start participating people!

The second issue is our personal daily prayer. As I talk to confirmation candidates, even those who have been listening to me talk about the importance and form of daily prayer year after year, I find that we are firmly stuck in saying a couple of prayers before bed and maybe a prayer at mealtime. These prayers before bed consist mainly of thanking God for favors granted and asking for more.

Our daily prayer needs to be more than this! We need to become practiced in prayer being, first and foremost, praise of God. Thanksgiving is good and important, but we need to become much more aware of loving God for who He is and not as the great "gift-giver" in the sky. We need to cultivate a desire to just BE with God, as we would our best friend or lover.

I sometimes fear how we will fair in our pursuit of heaven. Given the choice, I think that too many of us are going to mistake what the devil offers for heaven. Why do I think this? I see far too many people, even my "good" parishioners, choosing the things of this world over the things of heaven. I have come to believe very firmly that if we are to enter the holy monastery of heaven we must become more aware of our shared contemplative vocation on earth.

The rhythm of life has taught me that we are ALL called to the contemplative life, even a kind of monastic life. If we don't respond to a call from God to enter the monastic life in youth, it will come upon us naturally enough in old age.

The memorial of St. Bernard reminds me that we have much to do in preparing ourselves for both old age AND for heaven. As always, I welcome any comments you might have, under the usual conditions. Blessings!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This week's bulletin letter deals with some "Assumption" basics. Enjoy!

Some thoughts on being "Father"

I'm sorry that I haven't had much to say over the past few days. Last week was two funerals, Bishop Callahan's installation, our deanery Marriage Preparation Retreat (Friday night and Saturday), and the St. Boniface Fall Festival in Waumandee. It's been mostly a matter of keep up and catch up. Oh, yeah, and my water heater went on the fritz last night as I was trying to get five loads of laundry done. Ugh!

So, at this point, some might be saying, "What does this have to do with pastoral insights?" And the answer would be: Folks, just when you think a priest has no idea what goes on in the lives of people, remember that priests are people too."

I once had a women tell me, when I was a seminarian working in a parish of the diocese, that a priest is the last person she would go to if she was having problems within her marriage or at home. I was kind of taken aback at how boldly she proclaimed the ignorance of priests.

I also remember how another woman gushed about how great this book was that she had read (in transcript). She went on and on about how wise the person who had written the book was; how his insights into relationships and married life were so "on the mark". She wondered at how long he must have been married and what a lucky woman his wife was. Imagine her shock when it was revealed to her that the author was Cardinal Karol Wojtyla - a.k.a. Pope John Paul II (the Great). The book was "Love and Responsibility".

As I said to the engaged couples on retreat, just think of how many marriages, families, and other relationships we priests have the privilege of observing on a daily basis. What's more, we have access to the memory of the Church which has been proclaiming the truth about humanities greatest yearnings for two thousand years!

And don't ever tell your priest that you didn't call or come to him because "he's so busy". Just like any parent out there, we have no shortage of things that we can be doing. But, also like any good parent out there, we will gladly drop it all so that we can walk with you - not only in your joys (Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage), but also in your pain, sacramentally and otherwise!

I was ordained to be "Father", not "administrator". Administration comes with the job, just as it does in any household, but I AM Father and that comes first.

Blessings on you all!