Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fr. Matthias Neuman's homily for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The Lectionary gives the option of two versions of today’s gospel passage. It can be read in full text (as I just did) or in a shortened version (which omits the section about the woman with the hemorrhage). I chose the longer version because it contains a very instructive point for all of us: that oftentimes in the midst of doing something very important, another very important issue intrudes. One can be making a retreat and you receive a phone call about an urgent family matter that needs your immediate attention. You can be right in the middle of a project and an emergency with someone else suddenly comes up. Anyone who has ever been in any position of leadership or management experiences this all the time. It’s almost a continual thing; day-in and day-out important matters are interrupted by other important matters. And we have to suspend one while we attend to the other. Or we give ourselves half and half. That’s always been true. Just ask any mother.

The biggest issue remains HOW we react to that situation, which we have to deal with almost continually. Here, I think, the gospel text is not so helpful. Because Jesus succeeds marvelously in both. The woman with the hemorrhage is cured and the little girl raised to life again. For most of us that doesn’t happen. The greater likelihood is that one or both issues will suffer from our divided attention. And that bothers us!

We are getting here to one of the central issues in a spirituality of Christian ministry: that sometimes (maybe most of the time) we have to be content with doing a less than perfect job. And yet to do the best we can and continue on. When I used to teach the Church and Ministry course, I’d always try to impress the students with the fact that they aren’t going to live up to their own expectations. People begin ministry with very high expectations and even noble aspirations. They are quickly deflated. Time and time again you will face situations where you know that if you had more time, more resources, more personnel you could have done a much better job than you actually did. But the fact is: you didn’t have the time, the resources or the personnel. Still you have to do the best you can with what you’ve got and keep going. Because what you are doing is worth doing. When I was still teaching in the seminary, one day out of the clear blue I received a letter from a woman who had taken one of my workshops in Louisville, KY. She wrote: "I’ve been in ministry for fifteen years and it’s been immensely satisfying. I wanted to write and tell you that the best piece of advice I received in my ministry formation was a comment you made in that Louisville workshop. You said: ‘Sometimes you have to be satisfied with doing a half-assed job.’ That’s gotten me through a lot of tough times."

Part of the problem is St. Paul. Whenever he writes about Christian ministering, he sets the bar way too high. Like in today’s reading, "You excel in every respect, in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness..." Or that famous passage, "I have become all things to all people..." (1 Cor 9:22) We come away with a sense that every act of ministry has to be done perfectly. But that completely ignores our human fallibility and limitations. But then let’s don’t blame Paul too much, because he does recognize those limitations: "we hold this treasure in earthen vessels." (2 Cor 4:7) We forget to balance that aspect of Paul’s teaching with his urging us to perfection.

Today’s gospel invites us to spend some time exploring that core issue of the spirituality of Christian ministry: that sometimes we have to be content with doing a less than perfect job.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vocation Essay

Priests, deacons, and religious brother and sisters are one of the main reasons my faith in God is so strong. There is a lot I wouldn’t know about God, or how to make my relationship with God stronger if they weren’t around. Having my religion teacher being a nun really helps me find my calling. She has taught us to love God’s people and keep an open mind. Also, to always follow your dreams.

Deacons, priests, and religious brothers and sisters help me find my calling by inspiring. Priests inspire me every time I go to church. When my priest reads the gospel and comes down to talk about the gospel it changes the way I think about God, in a good way. He helps me learn more about God, and what he went through. The way he explains the gospel really helps me understand more about how I can find my calling, and become closer to God.

Deacons help people become closer to God, and find there calling, because they have more knowledge about God. They share their experiences with others on how they found their calling. Deacons know a lot about God, and they share it with others, which inspires me to spread the word of God. Right now in my life I know that my calling is to be a veterinarian. Helping animals is just my passion, and without priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters I don’t think I wouldn’t want this so badly. They helped me find my calling. They inspire me every day to fulfill my dreams.

I think God wants me to be a vet, I can just feel it, and to figure that out I needed the inspiration of others, especially the inspiration of my priest, religion teacher, and deacons. God wants everyone to be happy, and when I think about helping animals and saving their lives I am the happiest person on Earth, and it makes my faith stronger than ever. I wouldn’t know how to tell what my calling in life if it weren’t for the nuns, priests, and deacons in my life. They have taught me so much. Without them I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Maddie L. 8th Grade

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 60th Jubilee Celebration

Today, Sisters Mildred, Bernardine and Juanita celebrate 60 years of Monastic Profession! The following is Fr. Matthias' homily. What a terrific celebration! Thank you Sisters for being so faithful to the Monastic Way of Life!

When we think of a Jubilee, we usually think of a time of celebration, of remembering years of achievement. That is certainly true for Sisters Mildred, Bernadine and Juanita. Today in a very special way they are remembered for their many contributions to the community and the church over a span of six decades. That’s remarkable. I’ve only gotten to know these sisters over the last little less than ten years. In that time they have certainly been significant contributors to the life of the community here at Our Lady of Grace monastery. If the first fifty were like the last ten, that is pretty impressive.

But I think there’s more to a jubilee than remembering achievements. We can also learn something by looking at the original meaning of Jubilee and see its significance for our jubilarians. The very notion of a jubilee comes from the bible, from the 25th chapter of the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament. There it is mandated that every 50th year is to be a year of Jubilee for all of Israel. It begins with the blowing of the Jubal, the ram’s horn. It is to be a very special year. There are three particular aspects to the Jubilee year. First, the land is supposed to lie fallow; there is to be no special cultivating of the land, no work. For our jubilarians, that means that it’s OK to take a break, to not always be doing something for someone else. (I know that’s hard to hear, but it’s what a Jubilee is all about.) Second, land that has gotten transferred is to be returned to its original owners or their descendants. For our jubilarians that means "get back in touch with yourself." Spend some time on yourself and the things that you have always wanted to do, like that extra lectio that you never quite got around to. And thirdly, all Israelite slaves are to be automatically freed. For our jubilarians, that means a time to cast off some of the restraints of the past and give yourselves some new found freedom. Free yourselves of some of those things that you have always felt you "had to do." Those three points offer some very different perspectives on "celebrating a jubilee."

Still a Jubilee is a time to look back over past successes and feel some pride in them. And we all know that there are many achievements with all three of our jubilarians. But I would suspect that at the same time there have also been those moments when you each felt like the disciples in the boat with Jesus and you said: "Lord, don’t you care that I am sinking." The only reason they got through those moments is because they took to heart the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading: "The love of Christ impels us." A jubilee is a time to reaffirm those words in your lives: "the love of Christ impels us."

But on a day of Jubilee the overriding emotion has to be one of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving to God for the gift, the grace of such long and productive lives. At one of these past weekday masses I quoted the medieval mystic, Meister Eckhart, as saying: "If the only prayer we ever make is ‘Thank you’ it is enough" Today we all want to say "Thank you" in a special way to God for the gift of these lives and this Jubilee day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Vocation Essay

How do priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters help us to here God's call in our lives?

I think it is important for people to hear the call of God because if we don’t let God in our life who can we trust? I let God talk through me in prayer. In church the priest is like our connection to God. He speaks the word of God, he preaches like God, and he has the most knowledge about God.

When I am in class with Sister Nicolette, we listen to a message from God. These messages talk about following him, trusting him, and how we are the next nuns and priests of the future. They also talk about his church and how more and more people turn away from Him. He wants us to follow him forever.
Father Jenkins and Father Stan also teach us the word through the scriptures, and their own words. Their homilies are meaningful. The homilies are also long which gives them a bigger meaning and they help us hear the word of God better.

The incense calms me down more. The smell of it is so soothing and it helps me connect with God. When I am calm I am more focused and can hear the word of God better.

I also hear the word of God through nature. Nature is from God. That is the first thing He created and to me He shows himself mostly through nature. The quietness helps me to be with God one on one. The birds in the morning are like my alarm clock that God can only set and He sends them through His own power. The trees give us a new breath of air every breath we take. The wilderness is a great place to hear God’s call.

All of these examples are the ways I here God’s call.

Christian L. 7th Grade

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

I’d like to begin by telling you about a very unusual individual. His name is James Alison. He’s a Catholic priest and theologian. I had never heard of him until about four months ago. Later I found out why. He was born and raised in England as an Evangelical. He became a Catholic at the age of eighteen, later joined the Dominican order and was ordained priest in 1988. After studying at Oxford, he was sent to a Jesuit university in Brazil where he received a doctorate in theology. He was kicked out of the Dominicans in 1995, probably because of his open espousal and writing about his homosexual life style. He’s in a very unusual position: he’s a Catholic priest "without title." He belongs to no diocese or religious order, but his priesthood has never been censured in any way. So he roams the globe—lecturing, teaching, publishing books and begging for his food. He says he’s living the authentic Dominican lifestyle as St. Dominic envisioned it. The funny thing is that, while he’s hardly ever mentioned in Catholic circles, among non-Catholics he’s considered one of the most serious and articulate defenders of the Catholic faith. His latest book is entitled Undergoing God. The book has two parts: the first is a series of essays on traditional topics of Catholic faith; the second part consists of a series of essays defending homosexual love as divinely ordained. Whatever you think of the second part, the first part is very good Catholic theology.

In this book he includes a chapter on the nature of worship which applies very nicely to this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. He describes the regular, ongoing celebration of the Eucharist as a slow, lengthy incorporation into the presence of Christ in our world. Listen to this passage: "When people tell me that they find the mass boring, I say to them: ‘It’s supposed to be boring, or at least seriously underwhelming.’ (The Eucharist) is a long-term education in becoming un-excited, since only that will enable us to dwell in a quiet bliss which doesn’t abstract from our present or our surroundings or our neighbor, but which increases our attention and our appreciation for what is around us." (Pp. 45-46)

The celebration of the Eucharist, the receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ, wishes to make us more alert to the world we live in, to our own life in that world and our life with others. It’s not supposed to be like a rock concert that overwhelms our senses until we are lost in the screaming and yelling. In that context participants have no concern other than the stimulation of the moment. There are Eucharists that certainly have their highs (Sunday’s installation), but they always include reflective moments as well. Other Eucharists on other days have no "highs" at all. Taking both together it’s just really like the meals in the dining room. Sometimes there are real feasts and other times there’s just nutrition (we hope). One Friday night meal at St. Meinrad the main dish was scallops. They were tough and tasteless. Coming out of the dining room Fr. Gavin remarked out loud: "That meal was nothing more than a muscular experience." Some Eucharists can be profound spiritual experiences; others are tough and tasteless.

But we continue to celebrate the Eucharist regularly, to receive it as spiritual food. There’s an irony here. In this lengthy process of incorporation into the presence of Christ, the nature of the spiritual food changes. Gradually we ourselves become the spiritual food that is being consumed by the Word of God. "When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself." (Jn 12:32) To celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord is to be thankful for the spiritual food given to us, but also to celebrate that we are becoming food for the Word of God.

Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Today we celebrate the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. The following are lines of Scripture from today's readings that glimmered as I was doing my Lectio Divina.

  • I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.
  • We will do everything that the Lord has told us.
  • Precious in the eyes of the Lord...
  • My vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all His people.
  • ...those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.
  • Whoever eats this bread will live forever.
  • Take it; this is My body!
  • Follow Him

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Vocation Essay

How do priest, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters help us hear God’s call our lives? All people have different ways of helping people hear God’s call.

How do religious brothers and sisters help us hear God’s call? At our school we have a religious sister, Sister Nicolette. She teaches our religion class. She helps us hear God’s call by teaching our class about God, Jesus, and our religion. Religious brothers and sisters also help by going to churches and schools and give speeches about God. They also help us hear God’s call by spreading the word of God.

How do priest help us hear God’s call? At Holy Name our priest name is Father Stan Pondo. Our other priest is Father Jenkins. They both help us hear God’s call by preaching at church through their homilies. They also help us hear God’s call through the Sacraments of Holy Eucharist, Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick and Marriage. They also help by forgiving us of our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

How do deacons help us hear God’s call? The word deacon means servant, waiting man, minister, or messenger. Deacons can help us hear God’s call through helping Ministry of Charity, Ministry of the World, and Ministry of Liturgy.

Bishops can help us hear God’s call. Bishop means overseer, superintendent, supervisor, the first, but most of all leader or foreman. Bishops can help you hear God’s call by charity, which is service of the community, by proclaiming the Gospel.

Many of the people are Priest, deacons, bishops, and religious brothers and sisters can help in many different ways but, they dedicate 100% of they’re lives to the church. They all help us hear the word of God.

Brianna S. 7th Grade

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Vocation Essay

How do priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters help us to hear God’s call in our lives?

Priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters explain the different ways in which we can live our lives. Religious life is not the only vocation. God can call us to become married or single. He can tell us to help the needy, or raise a family. Even become a missionary to spread the good news to the world.

Ask the people around you about their vocations, and how they are living them out each and every day. How did they hear God’s call? Ask about all of the different vocations in life. Ask yourself how all vocations build the kingdom of God. Keep in mind that your vocation may not be the one you wanted, but the one God wanted. Get the facts, understand all the different vocations. So that when the time comes you will be ready to accept any call God may give you.

There have been many ways in which people have heard God’s call. Some through visions, some through prayer, and some people are even spoken to directly by God. God has a plan for each and every one of us. If we just listen we too may be called by God to do great things.
God calls everyone differently. Each is unique and individual. For example in the Gospel of Genesis it is explained to us that God called down to Abraham. God said: Take your son Isaac, your only one, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you. The very next morning he saddled his donkey and road off with his son. Abraham listened to God’s message, and did everything he said. As Christians we should do the same.

Priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters set a good example to us on how to live out a vocation, because they are living theirs each and everyday. Talk to the religious people around you about their vocation. It could possibly help you in finding your vocation. Listen for God’s call in your life. It may come at any time...maybe when you least expect it.

Emily P. 7th Grade

Monday, June 1, 2009

Jesus' June Message

Each month, Anne, a lay apostle, receives a message from Jesus. This is the message for June. To read more about the locutions Anne receives from Jesus and His Blessed Mother click on this link: Direction For Our Times.

Dear apostles,
I ask that you remind yourselves each day that I am participating through you in the course of history. What comes from Me can only be good. When you see goodness and kindness, you must thank Me. When you see mercy and compassion, you must thank Me. These occurrences originate in heaven and are brought to earth through the participation of those who cooperate with grace. Always, there are those who claim to participate in grace, but who do not. There are also those who claim to reject Me and yet they participate in grace by allowing goodness to flow through them. How confusing this can be for My children. Dear children, ultimately, this will be clear, in that each person must answer yes or no in each moment. Be alert to the choices in your day. Be alert to the example you set for others in your decisions for good or evil. Be alert to the peace that I bring to you when you decide for what is good. My apostles, you crave Me, I know. You crave My return into your world through a wide acceptance of the Spirit of peace. How can you satisfy this craving? I will tell you. In order to relieve the pangs of your hunger for goodness, you must bring goodness to others. Speak of goodness. Celebrate goodness. Rejoice in goodness and then try your best to participate in goodness through your cooperation with My renewal. In this way you will know that you are never helpless against evil. You will understand that I have healing power, yes, and I can flow My healing power through each person who accepts their responsibility for bringing Me to others. I am so pleased with My beloved apostles because you have accepted your tasks. How gratefully I listen when you pledge your allegiance each day. How I count on you. Spend a moment considering what I have managed to do through your cooperation. Have you shown kindness? Have you tried to become holier? Have you spread my message of compassion? You are only one. Now consider how many I have called into service at this time. Consider all of those I am calling into service through your service. Consider the healing graces that flow through My mercy. My friends, all is well. The renewal continues.