Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Priest As Hero?

You Don't Hear That Very Often These Days! 

Image result for hero images

This fascinating article by a Syracuse, New York, priest was published in The National Federation of Priests' Council's weekly newsletter This Week 10-25-15 - 10-31-15. It might give you another perspective on what's it like to be a priest these days. Click HERE to read it.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Homily 11-1-15


I had a vision of a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue. 
They stood before the throne (of God), wearing white robes ... .
Revelation 7:2-14, 9-14
Immediately after we were baptized, we were dressed in one of those white robes. When it was placed on us, the priest or deacon addressed us by name, saying these words, “You have become a new creation and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.” When that white robe was placed on us, we were called to begin our paths to sainthood.
In our first reading today, St. John gets a glimpse, across many generations to come, of a “great multitude which no one can count, from every nation, race, people and tongue, dressed in white robes, standing before the throne of God.” Today’s feast reminds us that all of the baptized, including you and me, are called to stand before God as part of that great, uncountable throng of people from every part of the world, from every age!  According to St. John in our second readings, we are “God’s adopted children!” As children of light, we were called at our baptisms to become saints! Yes, you heard me, we are heaven bound! Our destiny is to become saints! 
What is a saint? Most of us have developed our ideas about holiness from a well-intentioned, but narrow, view of canonized saints. In its effort to hold up before us models of holiness, the church has sometimes elevated some saints to the point that they have sometimes become super-human! Some saints come off as life-hating masochists.  Mostly virgins and celibates, some might admire them, but most people do not see themselves imitating them!  My favorite definition of sanctity comes from Kentucky’s famous  Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. This is the definition of holiness that guides me personally. “Sanctity,” he writes, “is not a matter of being less human, but more human that other men. This implies a greater capacity for concern, for suffering, for understanding, for sympathy, and also for humor, for joy, for appreciation of the good and beautiful things of life.” This is the same message as the Beatitudes in today’s gospel! To borrow an idea from an old commercial, holiness is about “being all that you can be.” Holiness, then, is not about being perfect, but about becoming the very best human being we can become: the best spouse, the best parent, the best church member, the best student, the best doctor, the best teacher, the best politician, the best artist, the best social worker or the best priest! As the great port Martian put it, “May we want to be who were are!” 
In other words, we become holy, not by mimicking the saints of old, but by answering our own unique calls to our very best  We become holy, not by wearing sandals, a hair shirt and living on bread and water, but by living out our own unique call, not somebody else’s call.  We hear our calls by listening to our hearts.  While it is true that some people in the Bible received their calls in visions and dramatic events, most of us receive our calls in a simple, quiet knowing, the proverbial still, small voice within us.  We do, however, have to shut up long enough for God to get a words in edgewise!  It helps to spend some quality time with God. Most of the time, calls are not shown to us directly, but are mediated through people, symbols, dreams, symptoms, happenstance and synchronicities. We need to recognize that our calls can come in many disguises. Our unfolding as human beings requires that we be in constant dialogue with God who has called us to co-create ourselves, to do something with our lives and to contribute to the world God has given us.    
Someday, after we have done something with our lives, after we have become all we can be, God will call us home to be with him forever. At our funerals, we will be carried into church, one last time. Our bodies will be sprinkled with baptismal water and we will be covered be covered with a large white pall, a huge white baptismal robe.  
I have my funeral plans. After any useable organs are harvested, I will be buried in a simple monk’s casket that has been promised to me by the monks of St. Meinrad Archabbey for my years of working there.They sell caskets, but I will get a free one!  Since my casket will be draped with the white pall symbolizing the dress of my baptism, I will not be buried in these Mass robes, which would be a waste, but in one of my old black suits and a Roman collar. I will be clutching a Canadian Lectionary – the book of Bible readings used at Masses that was given me by the Archbishop of Winnipeg, Canada, after I mentioned this in a priest retreat up there a few years back.  The Lectionary, from which we read every Sunday, has been my most serious prayer book over the years because preaching every week has been the center of my personal spiritual life. I take preaching very seriously and always have. I will be buried down home in Meade County near my family with a very simple headstone – name, birth day, ordination day and death day, period. 
At the end of our funeral Masses, draped in that white baptismal pall, our family and friends will commend us to God with these words, “May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the holy city ... May choirs of  angels welcome you ...”  And then, we too will be, with God’s grace, a saint!  And some day, in the distant future, Bellarmine students will gather here on an All Saints Day like this, to honor us as saints!