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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Good 'Ol Summertime

Proclaiming the Gospel at St. Peter the Fisherman, Eagle River, WI, on the feast of Corpus Christi
 After a whirlwind of travel in the  past few months I've settled into my summer ministry at Eagle River, Phelps and Land "O'Lakes here in Wisconsin. My celebration of my fortieth anniversary of ordination has become a kind of moveable feast with the three parishes here all graciously celebrating this with me. As many of you know my summer times here are special to me for several reasons--wonderful people, a chance to experience parish life, a chance to sing in a choir and to offer some adult faith formation are at the top of the list.

   It is a blessing that I have been able to be in touch during my travels via this blog and Facebook especially.   As I've done that I've heard several comments about internet use--friendly kidding about being the "techie friar", accolades from people who urge me on with this, and while no one has said anything negative to me about my internet use I have run into folks who express concern or fear about our modern high tech world or who say things like "that stuff's not for me."   I would like to address these concerns.

   The internet and the social networking tools that have arisen with it are media, forms of expression and communication.  As such they are morally neutral tool.  You can find everything from the evil to the trivial right on up to the amazing and edifying.  I strive to fit into the latter category.  Over the past two months I have brought followers into things such as my experience in Assisi, my fortieth Anniversary of priesthood and offered several reflections.  On Facebook I share interesting places and experiences that I have had. What has been really amazing to me though is the opportunity to connect in prayer.  Now I don't like these requests that come out of nowhere and try to make you feel guilty if you don't pass on an e-mail about some situation.  That having been said I have had the opportunity to pray for several situations passed on to me from good friends  that I might never have learned about had it not been for the social networking that goes one.  Just this morning I said Mass for a woman in Arizona who is facing very grave illness.  There have been similar request during this time whether I was in Assisi, Florida, Michigan or now Wisconsin.  This past Sunday we celebrated Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.his was a feast  the Eucharist to be sure, but also a feast of the Church which is the Body of Christ.  To me the social networks, with all their capacity for triviality or even evil, are also a means of allowing the members of the Body of Christ to stay in touch, to pray, to teach and to affirm and support one another in living our faith.  I say a big Amen to that.
Beginning of Mass, June 26, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pentecost:Too Good to be True?

  This Sunday the Church celebrates the feast of Pentecost.  Pentecost is also a Jewish feast.  The word simply means "50 days" in Greek, 50 days after Passover, and fifty days after Easter.  We celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and with that the birth of the Church, though it can be said that the Church was born on the Cross or even at the Annunciation.  I won't enter into debate over that issue. There is truth in all 3 approaches. Suffice it to say that it is one of the three major feasts of the Church along with Holy Week/Easter,  and Christmas.
  
   For the former two feasts the Churches are full, drawing even those who do not come to Church regularly.  Why is this?  While there are probably many answers for this I think that deep down even those of us who believe find it too good to be true. We can believe that God took human flesh in Jesus, or that Jesus rose from the dead,but Pentecost calls us to believe that the Holy Spirit not only descended on the apostles, but that the Holy Spirit dwells in you and me, and brings the mysteries of Christmas and Easter to life in us over and over again.

   I think that somewhere deep inside of us we like to keep God at a distance-in past history, in an ark, in a temple, in a Church, in the tabernacle.  Now don't get me wrong, it would be heresy to deny the presence of god, of Christ, in the above mentioned places.  The point is that we can more readily believe in those things than we can believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, dwells in me, in you, in the Church as the Body of Christ. When this happens we get caught up in externals, in what direction the altar should face, what language music and what to use.  Now I don't deny that  Eucharist and the other sacraments should be celebrated properly and with the right combination of reverence and joy, of common unity blended with local cultural expression, but when we put so much energy and even anger into this discussion we are not a calling on the presence of the Spirit among us.  When we put too much emphasis on the business affairs of the Church while the world around us is torn by war, violence and injustice, we are not attending then to the Spirit dwelling amongst us.We argue that we are not worthy.   Of course we're not.  The Spirit  comes as gift in spite of our unworthiness.  The challenge for us is what do we do with the gift.

   The answer is that we allow the Spirit to work in us, each according to his or her gifts, to make a difference in the world, through prayer, action and witness, and at the same time to build a vibrant Church, not one according to our own likes and tastes, but the Church that the Spirit is striving to build through us. Let us make our own on this  wonderful feast the ancient prayer of the Church--"Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. En-kindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth  your Spirit among us and renew the face of the earth."

   I invite you to click on the link below for a rendition of the traditional hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus, sung in Latin with English translation.  It beautifully expresses what this Feast is about.

Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit)

  By the way in many parishes people are invited to wear red to Church this week.  That is the liturgical color for the feast, the color of the tongues of fire which descended upon the apostles.  I think that this is a great custom