Thursday, September 30, 2010

8th Graders Serve at the Cathedral Soup Kitchen

It is a new school year...and another opportunity to serve at the soup kitchen. Each week or so I'll post three short essays written by 8th graders who served the neighbors at the Cathedral Soup Kitchen. Truly, the people who are being fed...are my students. We had a marvelous conversation in religion class yesterday about how taking time to serve the needs of others really deepens our relationship with Christ. I have some rather amazing 8th graders as you will soon discover when you read their reflections.

Volunteering at the Cathedral Kitchen was a great learning experience. When I first arrived at the Kitchen I saw a homeless man sitting in the corner of the entrance. I heard him say that he wakes up every day with a positive attitude. That made me feel inspired because even in an awful situation he doesn't give up. At the kitchen I mostly helped serve juice. It was shocking how many people were hungry and walked in the door to this tiny dining room. At the same time I was happy they were getting food because who knows when the last time they ate? When Mrs. Buckley told me that volunteers do this serving everyday I was amazed at how much effort they put in and that they really care! (Hannah B.)

My experience at the Soup Kitchen was truly satisfying, gratifying and amazing. I will never forget this experience. You could say that it stained me forever. When we first arrived at the Kitchen, I saw two guys who slept there to keep warm. As we walked into the building the other volunteers gave us our jobs. Hannah and I handed out the drinks while Colin served the salad. This guy came in singing and dancing to music. Colin and I were asked to sweep and mop the store room. It was amazing to see that we helped change the lives of some people. I can't wait to go back! (Lauren H.)

When I went to the Soup Kitchen I felt happy. At first it smelled kind of funny. But, as some friendly people came through the door, I felt good about helping. Overall, it was a good experience. I felt good about myself when I helped people who were down on their luck. The people at the Kitchen were friendly and so were the people we served. It was a good trip and it was nice to give a helping hand. I look forward to going back. (Colin C.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Amos 6:1-7; 1st Tim 6:11-16; Lk 16:19-31

You know how you can get a certain tune in your head and it just keeps popping up again and again. You can even find yourselves humming it out loud at different times of the day. That happened to me this past week after I had read through the Scripture readings we have just heard. Only it wasn’t a tune that struck me; it was a particular phrase, "the noble confession." One who is a Christian makes a noble confession. It just seemed such an unusual but striking way of describing the profession of faith that’s made at Baptism and which we renew each year at the Paschal Vigil service on Holy Saturday.

The very use of the phrase, "the noble confession," reminds us that the sacrament of Baptism is an action that is both passive and active. We tend most of the time to accent the passive side. Language usage tends to assure that. Baptism is something that we receive; we are baptized and made members of the Body of Christ, the Church. But Baptism also essentially includes the noble confession, the active profession of faith in our lives. We say openly what we believe and strive to live it out in love.

It was the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s which proclaimed a much richer and broader view of the sacrament of Baptism. When I was growing up in grade school and high school baptism meant one thing—taking away the guilt of Original Sin. That was about it. The Council, however, recaptured a much richer understanding of baptism which had actually existed long ago in the early centuries of the Christian Church. Baptism unites us to the Paschal Mystery of Christ. Baptism makes us members of the People of God. Baptism gives us a share in the offices of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King.

This new attitude toward Baptism also had an impact on how the Catholic Church views other Christian Churches. Instead of an attitude of opposition there appeared a new bondedness between us because we share the same baptism in Christ. They too have made "the noble confession." The council fathers stated this new bond of connection very concisely: "For all those who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church do indeed create many obstacles.... to full ecclesiastical communion. .... But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers and sisters by the children of the Catholic Church)" (UR #3, 22)

This new bondedness was shown in several changes in our active relationships with other Christian Churches. These were detailed in the Ecumenical Directory (1993), published by the Vatican, to regulate interactions between Catholics and other Christians. I’d like to mention a few of those. Some of these you may already know and some you may not. 1) A Catholic may act as a Christian witness (not a godparent) in the baptism of a member of another Christian church. Likewise a member of another Christian community may be a Christian witness in a Catholic baptism. (#98) 2) A Catholic may act as an official witness (bridesmaid or best man) in the wedding of a member of another Christian church. Likewise such a member may witness a Catholic wedding. (#136) 3) In certain circumstances access to these sacraments (Eucharist, penance and anointing) may be permitted or even commended for Christians of other Churches and ecclesial communities.(#129). 4) Catholics are allowed occasionally to attend the liturgical services of other Christian churches for a good reason, e.g. a public function, blood relationship or friendship, the desire to be better informed, etc. But they should not receive communion. (#107) All of this comes as a result of the fact that we all share in "the noble confession" of Christian faith which we have all made in the sacrament of Baptism. Let’s live it fully.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Amos 8:4-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13

The parable in today’s gospel is one of the most confusing of Jesus’ parables, even to biblical scholars. It seems to raise far more questions than it answers. And I suspect that the ordinary man or woman in the pew listening to this must be thinking: why in the world is Jesus praising the dishonest servant? In effect, the dishonest servant stole from his master twice....and the master praises him. This surely is a puzzler. In fact, many scripture scholars believe that the last sections of the parable were added later by other writers to provide possible interpretations. Even in the first century people were having trouble figuring it out.

The only exegete who offered an insight that I found credible was a scholar I had consulted many times before, Prof. Norman Perrin. He notes that there are two presuppositions that must be remembered to render this parable intelligible. The first is that Jesus often taught as a wisdom teacher. And wisdom teachers sometimes made use of non-wise individuals in their teaching. Sometimes an unwise person can do a very wise thing. It happens. Secondly, in a parable there’s only one point that matters—just one. So in this parable Jesus is describing a disreputable individual who does a very wise thing—he takes action when he is faced with a personal crisis. That’s the only point that matters. That fits in very well with Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God. He says over and over: the Kingdom of God is here; you need to act on it. The Presence of God is in your midst. Respond to it.

That’s all well and good. The first step is the decision to take action, to do something in response to God. Then the harder part comes: what exactly is to be done? It seems that just about anything religious these days is confusing. Situations are so complicated. There are too many conflicting voices. We live in an exceedingly complex world. Whether it’s a serious decision about end-of-life issues or just "what should I do in a family dispute"...multiple, conflicting courses of action present themselves. We may want to take action, to do the loving thing, to do the Christian thing. But what that not always easily determined.

I always get a lot of support in situations like this from St. Augustine. I have to say a little bit about Augustine himself. In recent years he’s gotten a lot of bad press about some things he wrote and said about sin and sexuality and dying babies. He said those things when he was a very old man and he had gotten cranky. People forget (or don’t know) that for thirty years before that, he was an exemplary bishop. He was known for his great pastoral compassion in guiding and dealing with people. That’s brought out beautifully in this insightful little book by Theodore Tack, As One Struggling Christian to Another: Augustine’s Christian Ideal for Today. Augustine knew very well, from his own life, how struggling it can be to try and do the Christian thing. Augustine lived in a time when the Roman world was falling apart. Germanic tribes from the north were dissolving a way of life that had existed for over seven hundred years. People were scared and confused. It would perhaps surprise us to know some of the issues that Augustine preached about on Sundays in his cathedral: terrorism, drugs, live-in marriages, divisions in the Church. Sound a bit familiar?

Augustine knew well that any religious decisions are difficult and often unclear. He advised his people that "you just have to do the best you can." He said there are two ways you can prepare yourself for a difficult decision. The first obviously is prayer, to earnestly ask the Spirit of God to guide you in your decision. The second, less obviously, is to do a little gardening. Put yourself in a nurturing mood. And then make the decision to do the loving thing as you see it. In the parable today Jesus says: Act now. Augustine would then add: "Indeed, but know that the decision is not always going to be clear cut what you should do. Pray, do a little gardening, and then make the best decision you can."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What's Your Favorite Mystery of the Rosary...Part 3

Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. The Catholic Church reflects on the Seven Sorrows of Mary which include:

1. Simeon's Prophecy at the Presentation
2. Flight into Egypt
3. The Disappearance of the Boy Jesus in the Temple
4. Jesus Meets Mary on the Road to Calvary
5. The Crucifixion
6. The Removal from the Cross
7. The Entombment

I thought today would be a great day to share some more of my 4th grade students' favorite Mysteries of the Rosary with you.

Of all the Mysteries of the Rosary, my favorite is the Resurrection. It is my favorite because after all of Jesus' suffering, He rises from the dead. The Resurrection gives us our hope and faith. I like praying the Rosary because it helps my relationship with God.
(Ethan L)

What I like about the Annunciation is that when an angel appeared to Mary and said, "You are going to have a baby and His name will be Jesus," Mary said, "Let it be done according to Your will." Then Mary went to Joseph and told him the news. He thought she was with another man because they were just engaged. Then Joseph said, "Then we can't be together since you were with another man." That night an angel came to Joseph and said, "Do not leave Mary, she was not with another man."
(Katie S.)

My favorite Mystery of the Rosary is the Transfiguration because Jesus took three of His favorite apostles, Peter, James and John up a high mountain and showed them what He would look like after He resurrected from the dead. Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus, too!
(Eric W.)

My favorite Mystery of the Rosary is The Birth of Jesus because when He was born He helped a lot of people and He performed many miracles. I like praying the Rosary because it is very peaceful and it makes me think about Mary a lot.
(Jack W.)

I like all of the Mysteries of the Rosary, but my favorite Mystery is the Crucifixion. The Crucifixion is my favorite because it makes me feel good that Jesus took all of our sins onto Him, suffered and died for me and everyone in the world. That is why the Crucifixion is my favorite Mystery.
(Maria G.)

My favorite Mystery is Mary Crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth because I love her with all my heart and because, "Who loves me?...God, Mary and Sr. Nicolette!"
(Ally D.)

I like all the Mysteries of the Rosary, but the one that I like the most is The Birth of Jesus. The reason I like it the most is because our King was born. Jesus is our king!
(Nick C.)

My favorite Mystery is The Birth of Jesus. It is my favorite because it is when our King is born to save us from our sins and to save us from our death. We should never sin but sometimes we make a mistake. That's why The Birth of Jesus is my favorite. It makes me happy when I hear it!
(Sarah H.)

I love all the Mysteries of the Rosary, but I like The Birth of Our Lord the most because our Lord is born! Jesus loves us all. Jesus saved us! (Matthew S.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Ex 32:7-14; 1 Tim 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10

As I’m sure many of you know, this past month has been an emotionally difficult and trying time at the Hermitage. Within less than three weeks six of the residents died. Those losses, often one right after the other, hit people pretty hard: not just family members, but nurses, staff, volunteers and friends as well. One lady who works in the laundry told me that she was almost afraid to come to work, fearing what she might read on the bulletin board. This was after three people died on three consecutive days. You get to know people, talk with them, see them often (as I did at mass on Thursdays), and then you have to face the realization that they are gone from your life. These are real losses in people’s lives.

I had gotten to know not just the individuals who died, but even moreso their family members. And a real sharing in their grief happens. The same occurs with nurses and staff. One evening I stopped to talk with one of the nurses about all the recent deaths. She was so thankful that I stopped to talk with her. She said: "I’m just about to explode inside." So we discussed what it was like to work in a facility like St. Paul Hermitage. She said that whenever she tells people where she works, one of their first responses is: "That must be so depressing." But she answers, "It’s not; it’s ultimately very life-giving." I agreed wholeheartedly with her.

I agreed because of something that happened to me in the course of the last month. For the last two years I have been serving on the Health Care Family Council. It’s me and five ladies who also had mothers in the Health Care Unit. We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. Two of those ladies had mothers who died in this past month. At one point I was offering my condolences to one of them when the thought struck me: "In the near future I may not see them anymore since their mothers are no longer in Health Care." That left me with a great feeling of sadness. And I realized what close bonds I had formed with them. Not because we had shared lots of personal information and feelings. We hadn’t. What bound us close together was that we had shared in the great task of care giving. Being care givers together had created invisible bonds that were very powerful. And those bonds were ultimately life-giving.

Now let’s go back to my conversation with the nurse. I could agree wholeheartedly with her assessment of the job as life-giving, because being with others in care giving creates life in its best sense. In fact, I now describe the Health Care Unit as a "community of grieving and care giving." You have to keep both factors together. The grieving sobers the care giving; the care giving gives strength to the grieving. And they both keep moving on together.

I’ve been reading a number of books and articles on the grieving process this past month. One that I have especially liked is Sr. Joyce Rupp’s Praying Our Goodbyes. In a community of grieving and care giving there are always some goodbyes. She writes: "Goodbyes, especially the more intense ones, cause us to face the ultimate questions of life: why suffering? Where am I headed? What are my most cherished values? Goodbyes create a certain space in us where we allow ourselves room to look at life in perspective.... Goodbyes, when reflected on in faith, can draw us to a greater reliance on the God of love, our most significant other." (p. 29) She’s right. A time like this past month does raise a lot of questions. Sometimes we can question our own religious faithfulness. We can wonder about the people who have died. When we turn to the New Testament for some direction, today’s gospel says simply, "This Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them." "This Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them." Nothing more need be said.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Wis 9:13-18; Phil 9-17; Lk 14:25-33

This is one of those passages that make us shudder a little. Can Jesus really mean that: to hate the members of one’s own family, to renounce all your possessions? Is that actually necessary to be one of Jesus’ followers? I suspect that most of us would come up considerably short if challenged on those issues. But this is, indeed, a case of hyperbole, of overstating the make the point. The basic point is this: Jesus is saying that it takes a very careful decision to truly be a follower of mine, a decision that has to come from the depths of your own heart. There can’t be any other influences. It’s got to be you and your own heart that follows Jesus. Put everything else to the side.

I believe that more and more people are doing just that in the Catholic Church these days. Fewer and fewer people are Catholic just because they are of Irish, Italian, Polish or Bavarian descent. There’s certainly less family pressure than in previous generations to continue in the same church. In spite of a lot of openness and freedom there are still an awful lot of Catholics in the United States these days. People now are Catholics because they want to be. Part of that decision does come from their hearts. But that decision to be a follower of Jesus is not made once and for all. It needs to be regularly renewed. It is a decision that we carry with us through all the ups and downs of an eventful life. It needs to be renewed in times of great stress, in times of serious illness, in times of the loss of loved ones. It needs to be renewed through stretches of spiritual dryness. It needs to be renewed in the later years of our lives when our own powers and abilities begin to wane. Again and again we need to tap our heart and say, "I will follow you, Jesus, wherever you go."

The following of Jesus implies more than just a decision for him. It includes the larger perspective that Jesus opens up for us---who and what the Mystery of God is. That’s the big question! The Mystery of God is the question that always lurks in the background, as it has for thousands of years. I want to give you some idea of how far back that question of God stretches. In the 1950s and 60s a team of archeologists carried out an excavation of Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq. They discovered a series of burial sites and nine skeletons. Upon examining these closely, they found them to be not members of our homo sapiens species, but Neanderthal people, closely related to human beings but slightly different. What amazed the archeologists was the obvious care that was given to the burials. The bodies were reverently placed and covered with stones. They even discovered the remnants of pollen from seven different kinds of spring flowers placed on the burial mounds, indicating that these burial sites deep inside the earth were decorated with flowers—possibly indicating a sign of hope for a life beyond. Later on the sign of flowers would become the symbol of a hope for renewed life. There were, at least, the rudiments of a searching for the question of "the beyond," the question of God. Carbon dating showed that the skeletons were 45,000 years old. The question of God has been around for a long time.

Whenever we call ourselves a Catholic Christian, whenever we attend a Eucharist (like this) on Sunday or any day, one of the things we are essentially saying is that Jesus is for us the answer to the question of God. He shows us who God is. He shows us that God is almighty, but lenient to his creation. He shows us that God is Creator of all, but bestowing of freedom upon His human creation. He shows us that God is just, but even more that God is loving and merciful. As it says in the Eucharist Prayer that we will soon pray: "By His actions and words he proclaimed to all the world that you care for us." That’s why we have to put everything else to the side to follow Jesus. It’s got to be you and your heart that follows Jesus.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What's Your Favorite Mystery of the Rosary...Part 2

More favorite Mysteries of the Rosary by the 4th graders. What beautiful children of God they are!

As sad as the Crucifixion led to something happy...The Resurrection. The Resurrection is my favorite Mystery because all the torture Jesus went through just for us had a happy ending. I'm glad to know He came back like God promised. Now, when I look up at a cross I'll always remember what Jesus went through. I pray every day. Thank you to Our Lord for going through what He did. He didn't fight back and He didn't complain. He took it like it was no problem. That's why my favorite Mystery is the Resurrection!
(Hope K.)

My favorite Mystery of the Rosary is the Descent of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit comes down from heaven to help us with all of our decisions.
(John P.)

The Crucifixion is my favorite because Jesus Christ spills His blood for everyone in the world to forgive the sins we all make. Thank you Lord, God!
(Sarah S.)

My favorite Mystery is the Agony in the Garden. I like this mystery because Jesus is about to spill His blood for us.
(Jacob T.)

My favorite Mysteries are when Mary and Jesus went to heaven because Mary is now Queen of Heaven and Earth! When I look up in the sky and see a star it reminds me of her!
(Ethan B.)

My favorite Mystery is The Birth of Jesus because Jesus is born!
(Jillian S.)

I like The Birth of Jesus because it is the day Jesus Christ was born and it is just a very magical day. It is so beautiful, and I'm sure that Christmas is almost everyones favorite holiday! I love Jesus Christ!
(Katie K.)

My favorite Mystery of the Rosary is The Resurrection because Jesus saved us all!
(Leo O.)

The Transfiguration is my favorite Mystery of the Rosary. Peter, James and John went up a high mountain to pray to God. The Jesus transfigured Himself to show them what He will look like at the Resurrection. He did it so they will recongnize Jesus after the Resurrection. Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus!
(Samantha S.)

My favorite Mystery is The Resurrection because Jesus rose from the dead and stayed on earth for 40 more days.
(Eli B.)

I love The Birth of Jesus because it was a happy time and it was when God's Son, Jesus Christ was born!
(Haley A.)

My favorite Mystery is The Baptism of Jesus because it was a very holy moment and because Jesus' cousin, John, baptized Him.
(Issac H.)

I like The Birth of our Lord. Jesus helps us get closer to God the Father. Jesus forgives us our sins. Jesus gives us glory!
(Billie S.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jesus' September Message

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

Be at peace in your day, dear apostles. Perhaps you are learning to move more slowly, and perhaps this has helped you to be more connected to My presence in your service. How blessed you are if this lesson has taken root in your life. Strive to achieve this way of life because you will have the greatest gifts available to you if you move methodically, with Me. Sometimes, people are unaware of the nature of My grace flowing into the day through their cooperation. This is best, dear apostles. Be like little children who throw many leaves from a bridge into a stream and then walk away. The impact of their action flows down the stream without any help from the child and the impact from your daily service flows into the greater stream of the Church without any further action on your part. Truly, your consistent service impacts the entire Church in some way, both in the day you are spending your time and in the future where you may not be spending time. Each of you serves as a result of the service of many people. You were formed and directed in your faith by the sacrifice of those who went before you in service. Be grateful for their sacrifice and then you, also, give willingly and generously for those around you and those who will come after you. Dear friends, I am sending formation through each of you that is very specific for this time. It is for this reason that I implore you to remain fixed on Me and all that I am asking you to do. I want you to be holy. I can bring the greatest amount of mercy into the world if My beloved friends help Me. Be disinterested when the enemy of unity brings you reasons to disagree with those around you. Be interested when your Jesus begs you to overlook the flaws of others and serve alongside them in harmony. Dear apostles, we have nothing without unity. Our campaign of love will only be successful if we concentrate on love. Love overcomes everything, even the most profound suffering. Because, when one of God’s children has nothing and he is bereft, the smallest bit of love is like the greatest feast. I, your Jesus, am now a beggar. I am begging you to love. Allow Me to see to justice because only I am equipped to pass judgement. You must see to loving, despite any wounds you have suffered. I am the greatest victim of injustice so I am the best consoler. Bring your suffering to Me and I will send you away with love, which you will then continue to distribute on My behalf. Be serious about My work, dear apostles. It is important.