Author Archives: thoughtadventure

Destruction of What We Take For Granted

Dear Folks,

As we get toward the end of the Liturgical year, we talk about endings. In “Avengers: Endgame” Iron Man famously said, “Part of the journey is the end.”

Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are the apocalyptic chapters. John, instead of a chapter, gives us the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse. “Apocalypse” comes from the Greek for “removal of the veil. “Revelation” comes from “removal of the veil” in Latin. Apocalyptic writing tends to use bizarre imagery and lots of numbers. It is to unveil the meaning of what is happening. It is not meant to help us figure out when Jesus is coming again.

These chapters in Matthew, Mark, and Luke start with Jesus talking about the destruction of the temple, move to dealing with persecutions, and ending with the coming of the Son of Man. This finishes Jesus’ public teaching, except Matthew adds chapter 25 with three parables about the last judgment. The prediction of the destruction of the temple was amazing to people. It had been destroyed once before in 586 B. C. by the Babylonians, so it was not without precedent, but that was a long time ago, and the temple was the most stable thing they knew of, and the center of their cultural and religious life. In the year 70 the Romans did destroy it and destroyed much of Jerusalem.

In Apocalyptic writing, there are some key points:

• Anything of the earth might be destroyed.

• We will see virtue punished and evil rewarded.

• It might look like God’s side is losing.

• We will be tempted to give up.

• God’s plan is actually unfolding, and He wins, but it might not look like it until the end, so..

• Most Important: Don’t give up!

In a culture that is increasingly hostile to the Christian faith, Christian belief, and Christian values and accusing us of being oppressive and hostile to human rights, we have to get better at sharing God’s teaching in a way that shows its goodness, beauty, and truth. Many Christians have shared Christian faith and values in a way that makes sense to them but does not make sense to others who have been steeped in the mindset of society. We live in a society in which killing babies, mutilating confused children, and defining marriage out of existence is seen as compassionate, and opposing it is seen as cruel. We have to start at the beginning, on the dignity of every human life, empathy for those different from us, and how being human means something much deeper than following our feelings and desires. We have to show God’s love by example and do better than we have been doing (whatever we have been doing, it clearly is not enough).

We have to bridge the gap between the Christian world view and the society’s perspective. One of the great champions of this is St. Paul, and I recommend his talks in Acts 17, Acts 22, and Acts 26. Much to be done, and we are just getting started. “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up

(Galatians 6:9).”

Blessing

Arguments for Persuading Anti-abortion People to be Prochoice

Dear Folks,

If we want people to think something they haven’t thought before, we need to tell people something they haven’t heard before. This is about approaching people from a different angle. What do you think?

Arguments from a Pro-abortion Person to Convince an Anti-abortion Person to Become Pro-abortion

Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, the future of abortion will be greatly affected by the work of legislating, and how people can persuade others. Some might call me a traitor for giving this to the other side, but in the interest of elevating the conversation I think it is worth doing.

There are, of course, some techniques guaranteed not to work. Slogans like “no uterus, no opinion” are going to accomplish nothing. Anti-abortion people believe they are defending basic human rights, and no where else do people accept the notion that you must be personally involved or effected to defend human rights. Besides, they would just respond, “already born, no opinion.” Likewise, accusing people of forcing their religious beliefs on others will make no sense to them. First of all, there are Christians, Jews and atheists who think it is wrong to kill human beings before they are born. Furthermore, the Catholic Church forbids kidnapping and armed robbery, and I haven’t heard anyone (yet) say we should repeal the laws against kidnapping or armed robbery in the name of separation of church and state. Accusing pro-lifers of not caring about those who are born is also futile: it is so contrary to our experience we can’t begin to take it seriously. So many pro-life people are doing wonderful things to help all sorts of people (and imagine how much more we could do if we didn’t have to expend so much time and energy on this issue).

One needs to do one of two things: either convince them that an unborn child is not a live human being with a right not to be killed, or that the mother has a right to kill the child rather than carry him or her a little longer.

To make the case that an unborn child, a fetus, is not a living human being worthy of protection, it will do no good to just refer to him or her as a clump of cells. They have heard too many quotes from embryology textbooks saying when the egg is fertilized a new human life begins, and they’ve seen too many of those high-tech pictures of fetuses, and they are so beautiful. Many have turned away from abortion just by seeing their babies on ultrasound. The argument about viability is not going to be impressive either. No one had shown a basis the principle that being dependent makes one less of a person. In fact, usually being more helpless generally increases the duty to defend and care for someone.

People have put forward the argument that even if fetuses are living human beings, one can’t oblige their mothers to carry them, just as one can’t oblige someone to give a lifegiving blood or kidney donation, but there are a couple of problems with that position. First, abortion is not just a matter of not helping, but of actively killing. A counterpoint to the blood donor analogy has been suggested: imagine taking your boat out several miles from shore, and you realize that a toddler has wandered into your boat and hid. You have a choice: put up with the toddler on your boat until you get back to shore or pick him up and throw him overboard. Would you say that one is entitled to throw the toddler overboard because one cannot be obliged to help someone else? There is another issue: do parents have obligations to their children that other relationships do not carry? I think many would say yes. The case would have to be made that one’s right not to help another is so strong that it entitles one to kill someone rather than be forced to help. There is another concern: it has generally been understood that parents have responsibility to their children that people in general don’t have toward strangers. Parents can be prosecuted for neglecting their children. What is the future of civilization if that principle is rejected? It will not be enough simply to keep repeating that bodily autonomy is important. One needs to make a case that it entitles one to kill an innocent human being. If you can make a convincing case for that, you have a chance of turning the tide.

We pro-life people are not going away, and we are nowhere near running out of motivation. More are joining the movement all the time. If you want to give us second thoughts, you will need to tell us something we haven’t heard before.

Blessings, Fr. Jim

Eucharistic Culture

In Timothy O’Malley’s “Becoming a Eucharistic People” he talks about developing a Eucharistic culture. Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), we read, “The word ‘culture’ in the general sense refers to all those things which go to the refining and developing of man’s diverse physical and mental endowments (Gaudium et Spes 53).” If you have ever gone to a different country with a different culture, you notice some differences that are not official policies, but taken for granted. In some countries people are more expressive emotionally, and in other countries more reserved. In some, punctuality is extremely important, and in others they tend to be more relaxed. When we grow up in a particular culture, we tend to pick up its assumptions, habits, and attitudes without thinking about it, and it seems normal and natural. It can be a surprise that elsewhere people think and do things differently. Our culture becomes a lens through which we look at everything.

We are called to build a Eucharistic culture, as Pope Benedict said, “Christianity’s new worship includes and transfigures every aspect of life: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).” Christians, in all their actions, are called to offer true worship to God. Here the intrinsically eucharistic nature of Christian life begins to take shape. The Eucharist, since it embraces the concrete, everyday existence of the believer, makes possible, day by day, the progressive transfiguration of all those called by grace to reflect the image of the Son of God (cf. Rom 8:29ff.). There is nothing authentically human – our thoughts and affections, our words and deeds – that does not find in the sacrament of the Eucharist the form it needs to be lived to the full. Here we can see the full human import of the radical newness brought by Christ in the Eucharist: the worship of God in our lives cannot be relegated to something private and individual but tends by its nature to permeate every aspect of our existence. Worship pleasing to God thus becomes a new way of living our whole life, each particular moment of which is lifted up, since it is lived as part of a relationship with Christ and as an offering to God. The glory of God is the living man (cf. 1 Cor 10:31). And the life of man is the vision of God. (Sacramentum Caritatis 71).” Whatever we do, we are called to do as a Eucharistic people.

What is the culture of your faith community?

Do parishioners see themselves as customers in the church or disciples and coworkers in mission?

Is there a sense of awe and reverence about the sacred or is it more casual? How aware are people of their fellow parishioners, their fellow worshippers?

Do people act differently when they enter the worship space, or is it treated the same as any other room?

Is there a connection between participation at Mass and life? Is Eucharistic adoration common, or only for a few?

This is only a taste. There is much more to be said about what it means to be a Eucharistic people and what it means to build a Eucharistic culture. That will be in the future.

Blessings, Fr. Jim

Power of Baptism

Dear Folks,

At the priest conference, Dr. Timothy O’Malley said that if there is going to be Eucharistic revival, we must deepen our sense of the Baptismal priesthood. He reminded us that when we got ordained, we had a different role in the Church and the world, and the presence we bring is different, but it doesn’t immediately “attune” our thinking and our behavior to our new reality. That is a task we take up from then on, to be who we have become. I gradually

got used to the fact that people looked at me differently because I was a priest, and there were different sets of expectations (that is several conversations right there). When he got married, there was a similar process. Our faith tells us our baptism changes us. We

remember from the rite that we are anointed “priest, prophet and king,” a participation in the anointing of Christ (we remember that “Christ” means “anointed.” We are then called to attune our view of ourselves, and how we approach the world, according to that reality.

The Second Vatican Council called for renewal of awareness of the Baptismal priesthood, but what was often done was to erase the distinction between the baptismal and ordained priesthood. People started saying priests’ parts at Mass, and there wasn’t room to talk about the unique gifts that the ordained priesthood brought to the Church. When I was in the seminary, it was pretty rare to talk positively about the ordained priesthood, except when they were talking about ordaining women (the dropout rate was very high). The mistake was thinking it was a zero-sum game, that for one to shine, the other had to be in the shadow. We can celebrate both vigorously.

The council said that the two priesthoods differed in kind, rather than degree. Think about how love relationships can differ in kind: the love between husband and wife, the love between siblings, the love between parent and their children are different kinds of

relationships, each with some different qualities and proper ways of expressing themselves. We do not start by ranking them according to intensity but appreciating their uniqueness.

The baptismal priesthood is exercised in sanctifying the world. The Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) says, “Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are none

the less ordered one to another; each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priest, by the sacred power that he has, forms and rules the priestly people; in the person of Christ, he effects the eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people. The faithful indeed, by virtue of their royal priesthood, participate in the offering of the Eucharist. They exercise that priesthood, too, by the reception of the

sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, abnegation, and active charity (LG 10).” People help sanctify the world through their worship, through their seeking to grow in holiness, through their family life, through their work, and through their enduring suffering and trials with patience and faith. Again, the council says, “For all their works, prayers and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation

of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit –indeed even the hardships of life if patiently borne—all of these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Pet 2:5) in the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God (LG 34).”

Let’s face it; the world needs lots and lots of sanctifying.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

Eucharistic Revival I

Dear Folks,

At the priests’ conference, we talked about the Eucharistic revival. Our speaker was a theology professor, Dr. Timothy O’Malley. We reviewed the statistics about the (vast) majority of Catholics who believe that at Mass the bread and wine are only symbols of the

Body and Blood of Christ, rather than being truly, substantially the Body and Blood of Christ. As horrible as that is, we cannot solve the problem simply by telling them the correct doctrine, but people need to know why this matters, what difference it makes in

their lives. Furthermore, they must not only know it cognitively, but personally, deep down to their core. There is a gap between faith and life, and people don’t see that it matters that much.

Nor need we think only of those already beatified and canonized. The Holy Spirit bestows holiness in abundance among God’s holy and faithful people, for “it has pleased God to make men and women holy and to save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather as a people who might acknowledge him in truth and serve him in holiness”. In salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people (Gaudete et Exultate 6).”

We are so busy and moving so fast that life is a series of events, and we don’t step back to see the larger narrative, the meaning. People have been taught that the good life is being very productive. Relationships, contemplation and meaning get pushed aside by an ever increasing torrent of tasks. People are falling apart, and there are not nearly enough counsellors to help people who need counselling.

People see the reality as primarily something to manipulate rather than resonating with it. Consider, for a moment, resonating with someone or something. Rather than coming to a reality with preset preferences and trying to see how much we can push things in that

direction, we are sensitive to the movement and quick to adapt. Think of two people dancing together, their movements seek to be synchronized so that they flow together. This is a powerful experience and helps draw us out of ourselves. One of the major challenges of our time is to get more Catholics to see themselves less as customers in the Church, and more as disciples and co-workers in mission. More on that later.

As we talk about becoming a Eucharistic people, we start with looking more deeply at the meaning of baptismal priesthood. I trust everyone was taught that at our baptism we were

anointed “priest, prophet, and king,” but we most were not taught much about what that means, much less what it means in practice. That is for next week.

Blessings, Fr. Jim

Poor in Spirit

Dear Folks

In the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew (the importance of which I cannot emphasize enough), Jesus starts by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:3).” If you ask a lot of Christians what that means, most will not have an answer.

Matthew 8, immediately after the Sermon on the Mount, begins with two healings. First is a leper. This guy was poor, absolutely poor. He could offer Jesus literally nothing in return for a favor. He has no money, no contacts, and couldn’t even offer Him his coat if he had one (it would be infected). He was completely dependent on Jesus’ mercy. The second miracle is the centurion’s servant. This centurion was, in the world’s terms, probably the richest, most powerful, most important person who had ever been in Capernaum. Furthermore, he had been good to the residents, and had built a very large synagogue (bigger than such a small community could normally afford), and so might easily be thinking that everyone in town owed him a favor. If anyone could be expected to approach Jesus with a sense of entitlement to special treatment, it was him. And yet we see the opposite. When Jesus says he will come and cure the servant, the centurion says, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof (Matt 8:8).” This is, perhaps, the greatest expression in the Bible, and we repeat it every Mass. He approached Jesus, not with a sense of entitlement, but of humility, as a beggar. He was not poor, but he was poor in spirit.

Contrast with Jesus’ visit to the synagogue in Nazareth in Luke 4. The people there thought that since Jesus had grown up there, they were entitled to see some miracles. When Jesus told them they weren’t they got quite nasty. When people approach Jesus with a sense of entitlement it does not go well.

Our Gospel today tells the story of a servant who had been plowing the field or tending sheep all day (Luke 17:7-10) comes home, and, instead of being able to relax and eat, still has to make and serve dinner for the master.

In C. S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” he says, “Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied (Letter 21).” We can believe that after all we have done and all we have suffered, we should have things go our way for a while, but things don’t go as well. There is not just a sense of disappointment, but a sense that we have been wronged. Sometimes people do wrong us, but when there is nothing we can do to correct the situation, holding on to the resentment will harm and not help us. We recognize the truth, but must work toward healing. We can feel wronged that God has not done what we wanted. We can decide we deserve better from God after all we have done and all we have gone through. We are all reminded today that however much we do for God, He doesn’t owe us anything. Ephesians 2:1-10 makes that point very powerfully. If we worked 29 hours a day, 11 days a week 64 weeks a year for a million years, we could not earn a moment of heaven.

When we approach God, we are confident that he will respond because of His infinite love, not because we are entitled. A disciple does not tell God that we will follow so far and no farther, or we will follow only if our conditions are met. We do not know what discipleship will demand in the future, but we are called to follow wherever it leads. I find He will send some consolations and encouragements to keep us from getting totally discouraged, but not always when and how much we think He should.

We ask for the strength to follow without limits, and with a willing heart.

Blessings,

Fr Jim

Stewarding the Gift of Faith

Dear Folks,

A theme of the Gospel readings from Luke this fall is our response to God’s gifts. God has given us the most wonderful gift of the Catholic faith, and this is a good time to ask how we

are stewarding that gift. Many who were raised Catholic have been sacramentalized but not evangelized, with what Pope Benedict called “The torpor of a Christianity of mere sacramentalism, little different from magic, and not productive of the faith that comes from hearing (From Theological Highlights of Vatican II).” That is so sad when we think of what can be.

It’s not just a matter of accumulating tidbits of information but developing a Catholic perspective and a Catholic imagination. In the words of “From Christendom to Apostolic Mission” by the University of Mary, “Christians don’t see some things differently than others: they see everything differently in the light of the extraordinary drama they have come to understand.” We follow God’s teaching, not because God is standing over us to

smite us the minute we step out of line, but because it is the fullest, most free, most ultimately satisfying way to live, and because the more we grow in our love for God, the more we want to please Him. Moral principles are not rules arbitrarily imposed upon us,

but revelation of how to live out our dignity. The challenge is to learn and share this great treasure.

We have so many resources now for everyone to be able to learn more about the Catholic faith. At Saints CJM, we have access to Formed.org, and many others do as well. That makes available a huge treasure of books, video, and movies of every description. [I really wish that everyone everyone everyone would watch Trent Horn’s one hour talk “How to Talk about Marriage and Same-Sex Unions.” If we want to make headway, we don’t start with appeals to religion or tradition, but humanity, and why would society privilege a certain type of relationship.] There are so many wonderful books, study programs, even YouTube videos, and anyone can do little bits when we get a moment. We are surrounded by tremendous wealth.

Jesus said, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more (Luke 12:48b).” Read Luke 12:41-48 if you dare.

Our Gospel reading this Sunday is about the rich man and Lazarus, and the rich man had been abundantly blessed with material goods, and did nothing to share with poor Lazarus, who lay dying outside his gate. The Gospels are pretty fierce about the mandate for Christians to address physical poverty. Now, what about the poverty of spirit? We have been so richly blessed with the treasures of our Catholic faith, and the world is full of people suffering and dying because they don’t have this truth (Show hands, who thinks the world would be a better place with more Jesus in people’s lives?). What will God say to us if we decide it’s not our job to help share the goodness, beauty, and truth of Jesus and His story with the world?

I know people are horrifically busy, overwhelmed, and tired from the other demands of life. If you can only do a tiny, little bit but do it with all you have, that is huge in the Gospel perspective. Remember the story of the widow’s mite (Luke 21:1-4). The critical thing is that we recognize the great need to do what we can and be ready to tell God that we did the very best we knew how. He will take care of the rest.

Blessings,

Fr Jim

Church in Transition

Dear Folks,

I think it is safe to say we are going through transition. The shortage of priests is getting people’s attention, but also the fact that most people who were raised Catholic are not practicing the Catholic faith, even minimally, in any measurable way. Our society is

getting more and more hostile to some core Christian values, and we don’t know how far that will go (there is no natural limit).

People point to various reasons why people leave the Church, but we must always remember the other side of that question: they were not given enough reason to stay. If you take away one thought from me today, let it be this:

Many, many people think the Catholic faith is much less than it is, and it doesn’t take much to get them to leave because they don’t think it matters that much anyway. Now there have been generations who were taught that way, and we are seeing the

results. If they had a semi-decent appreciation of the awesome gift of the Catholic faith, for the magnificent and unique gift of the Eucharist, you couldn’t pry them loose with a crowbar. Turning that around is a central factor in setting the course for our future.

As we seek to fix this, there is a challenge. There is polarization in the Church, and that is a major problem. I think Satan laughs himself silly every time he can get Christians fighting

Christians, and he has had much cause to laugh of late. To reduce some complex issues to simple categories, we can speak of traditionalists and progressives, each with a different set

of emphases and priorities. This is often coming up in how people think we should celebrate Mass.

Before Vatican II, there was tremendous emphasis on the other-worldly nature of the Mass, on reverence, on how is was unique and transcendent it was. The problem was that people

often had a sense of being disconnected from it, even while present. After Vatican II, there were a number of changes, not all of them called for by the council. There was a greater

sense of the importance of participating, on the community dimension, on making the mystery easily accessible. The problem was that some people often thought of the Mass as just another gathering, to be judged according to how it makes us feel and what kind of experience they have.

Coming off the lock-down, many are saying they have decided they like to do their Sunday morning prayers in their jammies in their beanbag chair with their hot chocolate. The big tragedy is not that they have stopped coming, but that they had so little sense about this in the first place.

We need to connect people as powerfully as possible with the divine mystery, a key component is how we celebrate Mass. Vatican II did teach that people should be taught to understand really well what is happening and why, and encouraged to full, conscious, active participation. The council also said that people should be able to sing or say at least those parts of the Mass that pertain to them. This does a number of things. It helps set apart the

liturgy from other activities: Folks, this is different from everything else we do, and we must be conscious of that. That is part of having a sense of the sacred. It requires more effort to learn and understand, and there is merit in that. It also unites us with people all over the world. If people are gathered from other countries with other languages, we can all pray together. Even if that doesn’t happen to us on a regular basis, it reminds us that Church

is much larger than us and helps us put ourselves in perspective. We also focus on music that is different from secular music, that is faithful to what is being celebrated, and pulls something from deep inside us.

Some people are unhappy because we are being more traditional. Some people are unhappy because we are not being much more traditional. One thing is fairly certain: we will not get

through this without dealing with things we don’t like. I think that’s part of why God calls us to be Church: this is about something larger than us.

The adventure continues.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

Things I’ve Learned as a Priest

Dear Folks,

Last week I wrote a bit about my experience as a priest, and I mentioned that I have learned a great deal. Graduating from the seminary is like getting a complicated piece of IKEA furniture with no directions. I had components, but no idea how they fit together. It has taken some time and some trial and error (and error and error), but I have made some progress.

My priority should not be maintaining the status quo of the institution, or even forming the institution, but forming people in the faith, helping them build and nurture a relationship with God and helping them serve God. That will do the most to help the institution.

There will always be a hundred gazillion tasks nibbling at my ankles, but priesthood is not first and foremost about tasks, but about relationships (you still have to do tasks, though). Without putting relationship with God first, none of the rest of it makes sense.

It is not enough to say something that is correct; how you say it matters at least as much.

That is an art that takes a lifetime.

As long as the work of the Church is better off with me than without me, self-care is a sacred duty.

In building a vision for accomplishing things, I need to have lower expectations short-term and higher expectations long term (God is mighty, but it can be frustrating how patient He is until we remember how much we depend on His patience).

Lessons are often like spices. They have to simmer for a while before they can have their full effect.

However much patience I think I have learned, God seems to think I need to learn more.

I keep finding more about how the world is a mess, the Church is a mess, and it goes very deep (other words than “mess” spring to mind, but I’d better stick with that one). This leads to anger, disappointment, frustration, and several other reactions. I must avoid the twin temptations of being in a constant state of rage on the one hand, or giving up, doing the minimum, and waiting to retire on the other hand.

Learning from experience is not automatic. It requires will to take the effort and skill to do it well. We must look at what happened, analyze it honestly and clearly, then strategize how to do better. This is an art worth a lifetime of effort. This goes double for learning from our mistakes.

Looking back on my life, I can see how God had been at work, forming, shaping, and preparing me. It did not make sense at the time, but it looks much different in the bigger picture.

The more I learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the more wonderful I find it is and the more anxious I am to learn more. God is at work, and I think He is planning something wonderful. If we accept the challenges that face us, the road will be hard, but leading to a glorious future.

I have more, but I better stop now.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

35 Years of Priesthood

Dear Folks,

I have been a priest for thirty-five years now. It has been quite an adventure.

“Are you resolved, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge without fail the office of priesthood in the presbyteral order, as a conscientious fellow worker with the bishops in caring for the Lord’s flock?” We are not to be free-lancers; we are part of a team. There can be disagreement that can be frustrating, but I think God planned it that way.

“Are you resolved to celebrate the mysteries of Christ faithfully and religiously as the Church has handed them down to us, for the glory of God and the sanctification of Christ’s people?”

“Are you resolved to exercise the ministry of the Word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and explaining the Catholic faith?” This is perhaps the most underestimated aspect of the work of the Church. Many don’t know enough about their faith to maintain it in the face of attacks from the world, or even questions they naturally ask as adults. Many learned a version of the faith that made them think that the Catholic faith doesn’t make much difference, and there is no reason to learn more. Our succeeding as Church absolutely depends on our learning lots and lots about the faith. I’m learning as fast as I can, given the realities of my life.

“Are you resolved to consecrate your life to God for the salvation of His people, and to unite yourself more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered Himself for us to the Father as a perfect sacrifice?” First and foremost, our lives are meant to be an offering to God: this is what I have done with what You gave me, Lord.

As a priest, I deal with the most important issues that exist, the things that go to the center of the human person, the things that affect someone’s life forever (yes, literally forever). I have the privilege and the challenge of regular intimate contact with the most sacred, most profound mysteries. The challenge, of course, is the temptation to forget how amazing and powerful they are and treat them in a matter-of-fact manner. This requires constant care. I have had so many different experiences. I have been to hospitals, psychiatric wards, jails, prisons, rich neighborhoods, poor neighborhoods, schools, and other places I can’t think of. I have been with people in their happiest moments and their saddest moments. Helping people through the most important moments of their lives is a unique privilege.

I have had a sharp learning curve. I look back in horror at some of the mistakes I’ve made. I remind myself that God knew all about me when He called me, and somehow decided it was worth it to have me around. Someone once said, “Remember God has incorporated your stupidity into His plan.” I find that wonderfully comforting. I’m not responsible for where I started, but I’m responsible for where I go from there. Priesthood has been such a great opportunity to learn and to grow, and I can’t imagine what I would be like now if I weren’t a priest.

I have dealt with all sorts of people. Some are the kindest, most generous, holiest people who are an inspiration to be with. Some are very hard and painful to deal with. Some are quite broken. Some demonstrate incredible gifts, and some have not discovered theirs yet. Everyone is someone I can learn from.

The Church is undergoing major transition now, and how we react is going to make a great difference for our future. I see signs that there will be major difficulties but also potential to accomplish great things. This is an exciting time to be a priest. It is an exciting time to be a Catholic.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim