A few parishioners asked me if I would post my Easter homily on my website. Since we had recorded the Easter Vigil to give to our catechumen who was baptized, I have a video of it. If you wish to see my Easter homily you may click the link here: Easter Homily 2018
I frequently come across people who complain about how selfish the people around them are, as I’m sure you do too. In most cases, they are absolutely right. We can all be self-centered at times and fail to be concerned about one another’s needs. But every once in a while, I come across someone who seems to be pushing the limit to which others are responding to their needs beyond the limit of realistic expectations. They act as if everyone is supposed to be at their beck and call and jump whenever they cry out for
anything. What we end up doing is making ourselves the center of our own solar system.We make ourselves the sun and expect everyone else to live as planets revolving around us. This is not very realistic, is it? How many people are willing to allow their entire life to revolve around me and my needs? Not too many. I am certain that no one woke up this morning and prayed, “Heavenly Father, help me know what I need to do today to meet Fr. Carrozza’s needs!” It didn’t happen. Neither did anyone pray that prayer about you, and if we are expecting other people to do so, we’re going to be terribly disappointed. Furthermore, if everyone felt that way, we’d all be a bunch of suns expecting other people to be planets revolving around us.
You can visualize the tension there: everyone is demanding attention and no one is getting it. That for me is a definition of living Hell! But if we place Christ at the center of our solar system, if we let Him be the sun around which we revolve, then we’re all revolving around the same “Son”. We’re all in harmony with each other, everyone going in the same direction, and with Jesus at the center of our lives, we realize that serving Him means serving one another.
We then will all naturally respond automatically to each other’s needs, everyone will be satisfied, and everyone will be at peace. That to me is Heaven on Earth! During Lent, let’s see if we can figure out whether we revolve around Christ or whether we revolve around ourselves and are expecting others to do the same. Ask Christ to be the center of your life. Ask Him to help you change and make Him the center, and to help you encourage others to do the same. When we do that, we will have harmony, we will have joy, we will have peace!
A blessed Lent to you all!
When I was in college I became friends with a young man who was what I describe as a natural Christian, meaning that all the virtues that you and I sometimes work so hard to try to cultivate, to him came naturally. For that reason, it seemed to me such a great incongruity in his personality that, although he was Catholic, he didn’t go to church on Sunday. One day I got the opportunity to talk to him about it and he was very straightforward with me. He told me exactly why he didn’t go to church. He said he used to go when he was younger, but then one day he was sitting in church and he looked around all the people sitting there and he said to himself, “Look at all these people! They have no clue as to why they are here and what’s going on. It’s all such a waste of time!” And so he became very disillusioned by going to Mass and stopped attending. I remember I said several different things to him. First I asked him, “How do you know what’s going on in the minds of the other people who were sitting there in church? Is it possible that what you claimed they were feeling was really what you were feeling and that you were projecting your lack of understanding upon them? There are some people that go to church that have a fairly good idea of what’s taking place and truly listen to the Scriptures and are praying and feel like they have encountered the Lord every time they go to Mass. And even if there are people who are not all that sure about why they’re there, why would you let that prevent you from having a good relationship with Christ at Mass?” Then I said to him finally, “Alright, I will agree with you that there probably are some people who come to church that don’t really have any clue as to why they’re there and what it’s all about. But at least they’re there! Nobody has put a gun to their head and forced them to come to church. They may not understand everything that’s happening, but they know there’s something good is going on and that there is a reason they should be attending. They’re looking for God and maybe in time they will find him.”
I reminded him of the story of the transfiguration. I said, “Look what happened when Jesus took Peter, James, and John up the mountain with him. He was transfigured before them: his clothes became white and his face glowed with a radiance they had never seen before. Basically, Jesus showed them a hint of the glory that would be his when he was risen from the dead. It’s as if he took off the veil of his mortal image and let them see his true divinity; he let them see him for whom he was. Then Moses and Elijah appeared talking with him. Moses, the great lawgiver to whom God gave the Ten Commandments and who promised ‘A prophet like me will the Lord raise up from among your kinsman’ and Elijah, the great prophet who was taken to heaven in a whirlwind whom it was believed would precede the coming of the Messiah, and both of them were standing talking with Jesus about what he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Any good Jew would recognize the expression, ‘The law and the prophets’. That summarized the entire promise of Israel, everything written in the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament as we call it. It’s as if all of the promise that God had given from Abraham to that time was now standing there bearing witness to Jesus, saying ‘this is the one! The promise is fulfilled! This is the person you been waiting for!’ Peter sees all this and says, ‘Master, how good it is for us to be here!’ Good, Peter! Great response! But then he says something silly, ‘Let us build three booths here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah!’ Open mouth, insert foot, close, enjoy your meal Peter, because you just put your foot in your mouth big-time! Mark and Luke even apologize for Peter. They say he really didn’t know what to say because he was so awestruck by what had taken place. When they came down the mountain, Jesus didn’t say to Peter, ‘How could you be so stupid/! Didn’t you see what was going on there?’ Of course not! He knew Peter wasn’t a theologian; he was just a fisherman. He knew it was beyond Peter’s ability to grasp, and he didn’t expect it of him. Peter knew something good was happening there, and even though the significance of it passed him by and he didn’t realize the full ramification of everything he’d seen, he realized he’d seen something good, and that’s all Jesus wanted from him. I explained to my friend that Mass is the same thing. Yes, sometimes people are there and maybe don’t understand the fullness of the mystery, but they’re trying. So don’t sell them short. Give them the opportunity to grow in their understanding.”
Thankfully my friend eventually did return to regular worship. But this story gives us an opportunity to look at our understanding of the Mass. Do we comprehend what’s taking place every time we come to Mass on Sunday? Perhaps sometimes we feel we do or maybe we’d honestly say “I haven’t got a clue!” That’s okay! As long as we’re there and trying to grow, leave your mind open to learning more about the Mass. Don’t be discouraged or disillusioned if it doesn’t make sense to you. After all, can any of us honestly say we truly understand everything that takes place in Mass? St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, once said that if any priest realized what was actually taking place at his hands while he celebrated Mass he would die of fright for fear of what he was handling! It’s a mystery beyond our ability to fathom! We can’t even begin to comprehend the fullness of what’s taking place at Mass. We can have a basic idea, sure, but if we ever think we’ve gotten to the point that we understand everything perfectly well, were only deluding ourselves.
I like to think of it as when you go to an art museum. If you were to go to the Louvre in Paris or the Uffizi in Florence, even the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York, if you go in and don’t know much about art it can be overwhelming! There are thousands of paintings there, and you look around and can be lost. Maybe we look at a picture or two here or there and that helps a little bit, but if you take try to take in the whole thing it can be an absolutely daunting proposition. I don’t think anyone expects anyone to go into a museum and in one day take a look at every single picture and take in everything that each picture has to offer. You just couldn’t do it in one day! So if we have just a few hours to go through museum, we’ll look at the few things that seem to strike us the most, even if it’s only the highlights. In the Louvre everybody goes and looks at Mona Lisa and maybe there are a few others that might strike people’s interest. In the Uffizi gallery, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is the most famous one. Real devotees of art will go back to the museum over and over again and each time to try to take in another picture and get a little bit more out of each painting than they could at just one glance. Maybe they might go back one day and say “I’m only going into this one room here and only take in the pictures in this room or of this style.” Another day they take in another, and they would quickly discover that the museum is an inexhaustible resource. They could spend their entire lives going into the museum and never take it all in, but I think any curator of a museum would be thrilled if somebody came and even sat and looked at just one painting and took that in to the best of his ability: they’d say he’s gotten something out of his visit to the museum that day. Well, coming to Mass is in many ways just like that. We come Sunday after Sunday to hear a Gospel reading that we probably heard before; in fact, many of them we hear over and over again to the point that we might feel that we’ve got it memorized. But we never exhaust the meaning of that Gospel. We are fed on it, we are nourished by the word, and we discover that we can come back time and time again and be nourished and grow more in the mystery. And of course, most importantly, we come and receive the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion. We take his actual body and blood as our food and that strengthens us and brings us into full union with him. And that’s when we discover what Jesus really want to do for us and the full importance of the Mass, why we come Sunday after Sunday, many people day after day: to receive the Eucharist.
A lot of times I’ll hear people talking about what God wants to do for them and they say, “Well, God just wants me to be happy!” I just shake my head in despair when I hear that. Yes, God wants us to be happy but he wants so much more than that! He has things planned for us that are far greater than anything we could even begin to comprehend, and our happiness is not going to come through the things that we think are going to make us happy, but by what God reveals to us as the true way to happiness. Sometimes people will discover the next step of that and realize that true happiness comes from living an upright moral life, which is a lot more meaningful than simply having the little pleasant things in our lives. Indeed, God wants even more for us than merely being ethical people or being kind to one another, being nice guys and helping us get along better. I’m not for a moment trying to make light of ethical living and of following the moral teachings of the Church and of the Lord. Don’t get me wrong! They are important. But they are only steps along the way to what God really wants to do for us. What does God want to do for us? He wants to deify us! The greatest thing that we can experience is deification – actually becoming part of God himself! The ancient Christians used to say that God became man so that man could become as God. He took on our nature so that we could take on his. He wants to draw us into all beauty, all essence, all goodness, all truth, total joy, total perfection. He wants us to be transfigured just as he was transfigured. Everything that Jesus inherited by his death and resurrection you and I will also inherit! All the glory that he now has in heaven he wants to share with us, and he has far more in store for us than when we often think about when we come to church and pray. Sometimes we pray for things that maybe are a little silly, maybe more serious. but God’s plan for us is always greater them what we have in mind. Maybe all we’re worried about is losing ten pounds to look better in that dress, so that when I go to so-and-so’s wedding, nobody will laugh at me and at how much weight I put on. Well, I have news for you! God is probably laughing at that, because if you think that the most important thing in life is losing ten pounds because otherwise everybody’s going to be staring at you at the wedding, no they’re not! Everybody will be looking at the bride! Probably few people if anybody are actually going to look at you and notice you put on ten pounds since the last time they saw you! Usually that’s one of our own vanities! Sometimes we pray about little more important things. If somebody is ill and we pray for their healing, that’s a good thing to pray for! Certainly, if somebody is out of a job, we pray for them to get work. Maybe sometimes it is a little frivolous: we just want a little more money so we can book a nicer room on our upcoming vacation, and maybe that’s not the most important thing that we should be praying about. It’s not to say that it is wrong to pray for the things we need here and now; but first we have to ask if they really are important – if they really are the things we should be worrying about, and sometimes we have to honestly admit that they’re not – Jesus does say to pray “give us this day our daily bread.” But God wants so much more for us than merely worrying about the things of this life. If we’re only worried about the here and now and not heaven, then were missing what God wants to do for us! He is not saying, “I want you to be comfortable! I want you to have an easy life! I want you to fit in and enjoy yourself!” No, he is saying, “I want to raise you up, I want to elevate you and lift you up to heights you can’t even begin to imagine, so far more important than anything this brief visit on earth has to offer! I have dreams for you that have never even entered into your consciousness!”
If we’re only concerned about the needs in our lives here on earth then were missing everything God wants to do for us. We will never find the joy that we can know when we know the heights of glory to which we are being called by God. And maybe that’s why we don’t follow our faith as strongly as we should and don’t evangelize others, because maybe if we honestly ask ourselves, “Do I really want to worry about heaven?” the answer is, “No! I’m only really worried about here and now. I’m not looking for God to save my soul. I’m not looking for him to make me the best I can be. I’m not looking for God to bring me to great heights. All I want God to do is make my life comfortable here and now. I want him to be Santa Claus and give me all the things I want.” Sometimes people even go so far as wanting God to allow them to believe in and practice things that contradict that call to holiness, that are completely opposed to it, and they want the church to teach that those are good simply because it will make them feel good now, it will make their life easier and help them feel good about themselves, and they end up sacrificing the very call to holiness simply to fit in here on earth. They flee from any talk about challenge, about changing our hearts, about carrying our crosses, about realizing that it takes much prayer and sacrifice in order to reach those heights that God has in store, and instead demand only to be left where they are and told that their lives are perfect, when they know very well they are not.
My brothers and sisters, yes, the Lord does care about our everyday needs, and it’s okay to pray for them, but let’s make sure that’s not the only thing we ever pray for, that were not caught up only in the here and now. Do we ever pray for holiness? Do we ever pray, “Lord, help me to overcome sin! Help me to be righteous!” Do we ever pray, “Lord, change me! lift me up, Lord! Beam me up! Help me to be what you want me to be! Lord, let me worry not about what I want for myself but what you want from me! Transfigure me! give me the holiness and the joy that only you can give!” When we do that, then we will know true happiness, true peace.
I don’t normally read Dear Abby because I rarely agree with the advice she gives, but today’s headline caught my attention and I was horrified at what I read. Did anyone else see it? Here is the column for today:
DEAR ABBY: My brother and sister-in-law have been dressing my 2-year-old nephew, “Charlie,” in dresses and pink clothes. They say these are what the boy has chosen. To me, a toddler will pick out whatever gets his attention at the moment, and children that age have only a rudimentary understanding of gender.
It would be one thing if Charlie were old enough to understand and still insisted he felt more comfortable in girls’ clothing. But at his age I feel what they’re doing will only confuse him. Keep in mind, I do not believe this is a transgender issue. I think people who are transgender should dress and act the way they feel. I just feel that age 2 is too young to determine this.
My parents (the boy’s grandparents) are worried and angry. My sister-in-law knows this upsets my mother and yet it’s like she’s taunting her with texts and pictures of Charlie in pink and/or dresses.
Should we be worried about this or should it be none of our business? Are we overreacting? Would it be best to approach my brother to tell him our concerns? — TOO YOUNG TO UNDERSTAND
DEAR TOO YOUNG: It is likely that Charlie is going through a phase and doing something he has seen other people do. But more important than what his mother buys for him is how others respond to it. A family’s negative reaction sends a strong message. If Charlie is innocently testing out his/her authentic self, his grandparents’ negative response will signal that they disapprove of who he is, which could have lasting ramifications for him.
Counselors at PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) have told me that many parents say that, looking back, they realize that by disapproving, they had sent their child the message that they couldn’t accept him/her. One child had suicidal thoughts at the age of 5 because of it. (And yes, sometimes children that young do act on the impulse.)
Hello??? The child is two years old!!! What two-year-old chooses his own clothing for the day? It is obvious to any sane person that the decision to dress the child in pink and dresses is the parents’ and not the toddler’s.
Why are these parents behaving in this way? Are they trying to encourage him to grow up believing he’s actually a girl? Did they perhaps want a girl but got a boy instead? What their rationale is I certainly cannot say, but whatever it is, what they are doing to the child is downright cruel. What parent would want to encourage their child to grow up gender confused?
As for Dear Abby’s response, this is a clear example of what I have repeatedly said is the dangerous afterbirth of an overly accepting attitude toward gender confusion. What started out as a perhaps noble attempt to understand and be compassionate toward those who are gender-confused has deteriorated into an effort to encourage people to be whatever gender they choose to be. There are even some people who will tell you that can change from day to day. “If I want to be a woman today, I’ll be a woman, and if tomorrow I want to be a man I’ll do so.” Don’t believe me? Look at one case that took place in a Ross department store in Texas.
A female customer complained that a man was changing in the ladies’ fitting room. When confronted by the manager, the man said “he was identifying as a woman today” and the manager told the woman who had complained that he had the right to change in there. see video here Target has also had serious problems with abuses due to their policy openly welcoming people to use whatever bathroom they feel better matches their identity. See this link: click here
When it comes to a toddler (as it is in this case), whatever the motive of the parents is, trying to force their child to identify with the opposite gender is unconscionable! It is an unthinkable kind of violence to do such a thing to a child.
I think it’s time the world wake up and face reality: we are male or female down to every gene in our body, and with the exception of the rare case of people with genetic abnormalities, our gender was determined at the moment of our conception and does not change because we feel differently. Feelings don’t dictate reality; only facts do, and encouraging people to choose whatever gender they want to be is an insult to the Lord who “created them male and female” (cf Gen. 1:27).
This article originally appeared in the National Catholic Register
Virginity Linked to Greater Health in Teens, Says CDC
The sexual choices and values our young people hold have real-life consequences far beyond sexuality itself.
In my nearly 25-year career at Focus on the Family as a social science researcher, I am constantly amazed and encouraged in my faith at how what God requires of us in our familial and sexual lives is never contrary to good, honest science. The two correspond in remarkable ways. And why shouldn’t it? When sociologists study the behaviors of man without agenda, they unwittingly discover the rightness of God’s wisdom and care in His directions to us. The scholars just don’t realize it. We as believers should.
This is demonstrated in a new report from the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It’s the first ever of its kind, examining a very large and diverse array of health behaviors of high school students according to their self-reported sexual activity. What makes this report particularly interesting, beyond its categorization by sexual activity, is it examines widely varied safety and health behaviors from bike helmet and seat belt use to substance abuse, diet, doctor’s visits, exercise and even tanning bed use. The two major conclusions from the report are quite stark:
- The virginal students rate significantly and consistently better in nearly all health-related behaviors than their sexually active peers. They do so by remarkably stunning measures.
- Teens who have sexual contact with the same or both sexes have remarkably lower percentages of healthy behaviors overall than their heterosexually active peers.
An additional report conducted by Child Trends, a Washington, DC-based think tank focused on children’s health, adds to the robust research literature on this topic. It finds that teens from homes where mother and father have a healthy relationship, both have warm, monitoring relationships with their children and the family has regular, dependable schedules and practices at home are substantially less likely to be sexually active by every measure.
Here’s a sampling of various measures the CDC examined and the health disparities between the three categories of students: virginal, heterosexual and same-sex or bi-sex sexually active.
Seat Belt Use: Opposite-sex-active (OSA) teens are 143% more likely to never or rarely wear a seat belt than their virginal peers. Same-sex/bisexual active (SS/BA) teens are 317% more likely than their virginal peers.
Passenger w/ Drinking Driver: OSA teens are 94% more likely to ride with a driver who’s been drinking than their virginal peers. SS/BA teens are 115% more likely than virginal students.
Dating Violence: OSA teens are 260% more likely to experience some form of physical violence in dating relationships than virginal peers. SS/BA teens are 683% more likely than virginal youth.
Smokes Daily: OSA teens are 3300% more likely to smoke daily than virginal peers. SS/BA teens are 9500% (you read that right) more likely than their virginal classmates.
Ever Binge Drank: OSA teens are 337% more likely to ever binge drink than virginal peers. SS/BA teens are 375% more likely than virginal their peers.
Pot Use: OSA teens are 336% more likely to be currently using marijuana than their virginal peers. SS/BA teens are 483% more likely than the virginal.
Ever Injected Illegal Drug: OSA teens are 500% more likely to have ever injected a non-prescription drug than virginal peers. SS/BA teens are 2333% more likely.
Felt Sad of Helpless: OSA teens are 48% more likely to report feeling so sad or helpless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row that they stopped doing some of their usual activities compared to their virginal peers. SS/BA teens are 181% more likely to feel this way compared to virgins.
Tanning Beds: OSA teens are 282% more likely to use indoor tanning beds than their virginal peers. SS/BA teens are 364% more likely than virginal peers.
Eat Breakfast Daily: OSA teens are 24% less likely to eat breakfast daily than virginal peers. SS/BA teens are 48% less likely than virginal classmates.
Eight Hours Sleep: OSA teens are 21% less likely to get 8 hours of sleep a night than virginal peers. SS/BA teens are 34% less likely than virgins.
Asthma: OSA teens are 24% more likely to have ever had asthma than virginal peers. SS/BA teens are 48% more likely.
Physical Fight: OSA teens are 133% more likely to have been in a physical fight than virginal peers. SS/BA teens are 187% more likely.
Dentist Visit: OSA teens are 8% less likely to have visited the dentist in the last year than virginal peers. SS/BA teens, 20% less likely.
It is intriguing to note how many of these health measures have no seemingly direct relation to sexual activity and decision making itself, even tangentially; things like seat belt use, eating breakfast daily, smoking, dentist visits, illegal drug use, suffering from asthma, etc. Obviously, there’s a curious and meaningful relationship between our teens’ sexual values/activity and a substantial number of unanticipated but very consequential health behaviors.
What is more, this data seems to challenge the popularly held charge that same-sex and bi-sexual sexually active kids have these more troubling measures and higher risk of attempted suicide because their sexuality is not affirmed by the larger society. This is used as accusation against those of us who cannot support any non-marital sexual behavior. We are told that people like us are responsible for such tragic outcomes. It’s no minor charge. But is it true?
If it were, it would follow that opposite-sex sexually active kids are taunted and rejected for their sexuality as well given their remarkably high levels of unhealthy behaviors and higher levels of suicidality than the virginal. This, of course, it would also mean that the virginal are the most widely accepted, celebrated and encouraged students at school. Does anyone believe that?
This “accept-our-sexuality-or-we-die” accusation also faces stiff challenge by the fact that even in the most gay-affirming countries in the world, these imbalances in health measures and suicidality are present. In fact, there is nowhere in the world where the hetero and homosexual measures, in general are close. That is seen in research of same-sex identified adults in places like Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Switzerland. See here, here, and here for example.
It’s difficult to determine from this CDC report alone just how these various measures are related to one another. Does sexual activity drive the increase in other negative health behaviors, vice versa or if at all? This data does not say. But the fact that the CDC measured all these health behaviors by sexual activity and distributed it to health professionals around the world in this major report certainly indicates their relationship is of significant interest to health-care workers.
These findings should be very concerning to all parents and professionals concerned with our teens’ general health and well-being. The sexual choices and values our young people hold have real-life consequences far beyond sexuality itself. Thus, there are indeed compelling reasons to encourage teens to choose not to be sexually engaged with peers of the opposite or same-sex.
Our children should know there’s very compelling scientific evidence on so many levels showing how saving the precious gift of their sexuality for the safe harbor of marriage is not about old-time moralism or unhealthy sexual repression. Just the opposite is true. Chastity is related to so many substantial measures of human health and well-being that it should be strongly appreciated by parents, health and education professionals as one of the most important health boosting factors for our nation’s young adults.
Every once in a while I find myself sitting down with someone who wants to talk to me about a problem they have with their church. They don’t like their parish and they want to know whether or not they should start going somewhere else for Sunday Mass. I rarely give them a “yes” or “no” answer. What I try to do is to guide them through their feelings and to see if their transfer is warranted. Let’s look at just a few of the common reasons people use:
1. “I don’t like our pastor.” That’s a very common reason. Fair enough. My first question is always, “What is your reason for not liking him?” Was it because of something he did that wasn’t wrong but with which you were not in agreement? Seven years ago here at St. Ann’s we repainted the church and reappointed it with tile flooring, chandeliers, new paintings, new furniture, and recently a new memorial piazza in front of the church and chapel where people may purchase bricks in memory of loved ones or for special events. Before beginning the work, I shared my plans with the Parish Council and sought their opinion. I did nothing without consulting them and the people beforehand. While the response to our efforts was overwhelmingly positive and I received tons of accolades over the end results, nevertheless, there were some people who didn’t like it and even left the parish over it. No priest is ever going to get 100% agreement on any project and there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like it. That’s just a part of life! (Actually, we did get 100% approval on one thing: when we first did a feasibility study to find out if the people of the parish agreed that there was a need to replace our leaking roofs, the responses to the survey were unanimous! 100% of respondents agreed that the roofs on the church & rectory needed to be replaced, and only one person did not agree that the same was true of the school roof!) Sometimes pastors need to make decisions for the well-being of the parish, and not everyone will agree with him. If your pastor made changes you don’t like, my advice is to accept it and move on without ruminating over it and letting it eat away at you. Maybe the next pastor will make changes you will like!
Is your dislike of the pastor due to something you yourself experienced or from a story you heard from another? Before you form an opinion, make sure you have your facts straight. I have had people not like me for reasons that were totally untrue. Sometimes they heard gossip or rumors that took a kernel of truth and so distorted it to make it sound like something horrible which was in fact quite innocent. For example, I once mentioned at a funeral that when news first broke of a particular person’s death, the phone began ringing off the hook with people wanting to know the arrangements. The point I was making was that the man had obviously been loved by many people who wanted to come and pay their respects, and I told the widow from the pulpit that I regretted not ever having met him, as I seemed to have missed meeting a very special person. Well, someone with a grudge against me twisted what I said and began telling people that in my homily I complained to the widow that when I got the phone call about his funeral, “the phone was ringing off the hook” with so many other demands that I was annoyed that I had to do his funeral! (I’m not making this up! This REALLY HAPPENED!) Sadly, there are even some people who are also not opposed to stooping so low as to create conflicts that never in fact took place. One person once actually accused me of stopping the Mass and publicly chastising a lector for mispronouncing a word in the reading. I assure you that never happened! Other times stories are told in a manner that, while in their core are true, are missing critical information that changes the whole nature of an account. I remember a woman once complaining to me about the neighboring pastor who “refused to do her daughter’s wedding and threw her out of the rectory.” Since that didn’t sound like something that priest would ever do, I asked him about it. What happened was that the priest informed her daughter that her fiancé needed an annulment before she could validly marry him and that he could not perform the wedding without it. According to the priest, the woman’s daughter got angry at him and the Church for their “stupid rules” and stormed out of the rectory. Big difference! While some criticisms of priests are spot on and the priest did in fact act badly in a certain situation, make sure you have all the facts before deciding you don’t like someone. You could be reacting to faulty information and turning against someone unjustly. Remember also that priests are human and we too have our bad days. I’ve had to apologize on occasion for being a little short with someone, so one bad day should never be used to mar the otherwise stellar reputation of a very compassionate priest. Would any of us want to be judged by our behavior on our worst day?
But let’s not be naïve: there are some nasty priests out there. I am appalled by the behavior I have at times experienced from pastors and parochial vicars with whom I have worked, who often behave that way on a regular basis. I feel sorry for good people who have to endure the rants of an angry curmudgeon or of an insecure pastor whose only method of dealing with people seems to be to intimidate them so terribly that they will fear to ever question him. What do you do then? Well, some people respond by saying, “Hey! I’ve been here for thirty years and he’s not chasing me out of the parish I love!” They decide they can endure his term, knowing he will eventually leave and perhaps be replaced by a more kindly soul. Others find his very presence an obstacle to their ability to pray and worship effectively, and they decide it’s time to change parishes. If your parish has a nasty pastor, can you withstand him, or do you need to leave in order to encounter Christ? Only you can make that decision.
2. “I don’t like what my priest/pastor preaches.” My response to this statement is always the same: “What does he say that you don’t like?” Is he preaching heresy? Then you have a valid gripe. You have a right to hear – and the priest has a duty to preach – the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed through the Church and nothing else. So if you are certain that the priest is preaching heresy or his own personal view of what he’d like the Church to teach; if he preaches that the Church is wrong in its position on moral issues, flee! He is a false prophet and he will have to answer to Christ as he stands before the Lord in judgment as to why he dared to preach as the Gospel something other than what Christ has revealed through His Church. As St. Paul said, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:8)
But how about if what he’s preaching is the Gospel and authentic Catholic teaching but you don’t like hearing it? Now the situation is different! Father has a duty to preach the Gospel and to not withhold the truth just because some people don’t like it. As St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5) So if you leave your parish because you only want your priest to speak “sweet nothings” and what I call “marshmallow theology” – nice and sweet and fluffy but no nutritional value whatsoever – then you have a serious problem! Your argument is not with your pastor but with Christ! You are looking for a priest who will not tell you the truth for fear of offending you and who will never say anything you don’t want to hear. That would be like going to a doctor and telling him never to tell you that you are sick or that you can’t eat certain foods. “I want you to tell me I can eat all the junk food I want and not exercise and still lose weight and be healthy!” Well, if the doctor tells you that just because that’s what you want to hear, he’s not doing you any good at all; on the contrary, he’s harming you. The doctor’s job is to tell you the truth about what you need to do to be healthy even if you don’t like it. The same is true of a priest. I’m not saying a priest has to beat people over the head with moral teachings constantly (he has to be sensitive and give the truth in appropriate doses), but any priest who is afraid to say something the people will not like is not fulfilling his duty before the Lord. Whenever I find out that someone has left my parish because I spoke the truth of the faith, especially if they’re bad-mouthing me, unless I know I was unduly harsh in my delivery of the truth, I rejoice! As Jesus says in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12) So be very careful when criticizing a priest’s preaching. Ask yourself honestly if he was wrong or if he is right but you just don’t want to accept it.
3. “There’s no life in my parish.” That may be true. While sometimes I’ve discovered that people claim there is nothing going on in their parish when in fact it’s a hopping place, some parishes do lack activities. Have you suggested anything to your pastor? Are you willing to work on the project? Lots of times people are full of ideas but no one wants to help out. If the pastor were to say yes to everything without anyone helping him out he’d be burned out very quickly! He can’t do it without volunteers. If you’re eager to belong to a group or an activity that your parish doesn’t or cannot provide, see if a nearby parish does. There’s usually no rule that says you must be a parishioner in that parish in order to participate, and you don’t always have to leave your parish just because a nearby parish is more active.
On the whole I try to encourage people not to leave their parish but to try to do something to make a difference. Sometimes we exaggerate the problems in a parish, and other times we give up too easily and don’t attempt to do things that are well within our power to change. Don’t think that by leaving you are spiting the pastor. He may not even know you’ve left! If you feel you must leave, don’t leave for his sake; leave for your own! Try and see if you can make a positive difference. Have you talked to the pastor about your complaint? Many times people gripe, complain, and leave, but never once speak with the pastor. Maybe he will listen to you. If, however, you have tried your best or things are beyond your ability to change, you feel a warmer connection with another parish where the Gospel is more faithfully proclaimed, where the Mass is celebrated with greater dignity, where’s there’s a greater spirit of family and a Catholic life about this parish, then I would think in good faith you should not hesitate to join that parish and become an active part of it.
I recently came across this blog post about the effects of contraception on our society. It is well-written and deserves to be seriously pondered by all.
Discipline and Contraception: A Cause for Joy
A few nights ago, well after our darling little three year old should have been asleep, she came running into our room crying hysterically. Something about her night light and a noise and now it wasn’t working.
Upon investigation, we found this:
Turns out, she was playing with a penny and placed it on the metal prongs of the plugged-in night light which caused the explosion, the noises, and the scariness. We are thankful that she is okay, and she cried over and over again that would, “never ever do that ever again.” We used the opportunity to reinforce why she isn’t supposed to be playing with coins in her bed (we’ve already had to explain the choking hazards), and why she should not play with her night-lights or outlets in general. The next step is taking her coins away completely, because discipline requires consequences for behavior. It is because we love her that we want to discipline her so that she remains safe.
I started thinking about this incident again when I was reading about the Wijngaards Statement to the UN, encouraging the Catholic Church to change its stance on contraception.
Back when Humanae Vitae was written, Pope Paul VI warned that if we went down the road of widespread acceptance of contraception, we would see in our culture a lowering of morality, increased infidelity, less respect for women, and government coercion of reproductive technologies. He, like a loving father, warned us that if we were going to play with pennies in an electrical outlet, we were going to get burnt.
But for the most part we didn’t listen, and now look around you. Religious groups are suing the government over the HHS mandate, some countries forcibly abort babies past the second child, the Ashley Madison leak revealed thousands of names of men being unfaithful for their wives, pornography is a billion dollar industry and fuels sex trafficking, and we all know someone affected by divorce or infidelity.
We are experiencing the consequences of our actions, and I think many in the younger generation are now desiring the safety of discipline. You can tell us “no” to contraception because we have experienced the devastating effects of divorce, pornography, rape, and infidelity in our own families. I think deep down, like children, we want to obey and be protected from the harmful effects of going against the plan God has for us.
A group of 500 scholars have come out with a statement (and signed by hundreds of more with doctorates) denouncing the Wijngaard position and affirming all the Popes’ teachings on the inseparable unitive and procreative meanings of sex, as well as the language of the body as self-gift in the marital act, and how contraception distorts that meaning. You can read the “Affirmation of the Church’s Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality” and read all the signatures here.
Now back to discipline. Some of the Church teachings can seem hard at times. I see couples wrestle with these hard teachings during marriage prep all the time. I have wrestled with them myself. Even disciples in the bible struggled with accepting hard teachings. And then I see my kids struggle to put their clothes away when I ask, or clean up the toys in the basement, and I know that we all struggle with accepting doing the hard things. Still, it’s good for us to learn to obey and learn the value of discipline. There is the fruit of joy in peaceful, loving families with faithful spouses and respect for all life. This fruit can only happen when we reject the rebellion of contraception and accept the sometimes-difficult way that is open to life.
“Endure your trials as ‘discipline’; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline? . . . At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” Hebrews 12:7-11