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Shaking Up the Church

A recent batch of WikiLeak documents reveals high-level Clinton campaign officials and supporters suggesting that that political forces should engineer a so-called “Catholic Spring” to rebel against the “middle-ages dictatorship” of the Catholic Church (folks like me, I’d guess). The emails also indicate that organizations have been formed and funded to divide the Church, apparently with the approval and support of these same high-level operatives.

Various writers have ably pointed out how egregious are such plans to interfere with the inner life of the Roman Catholic Church. They explain that this represents a serious breach in relations between Church and state, a disregard for basic human rights and liberties, and a special mark of contempt for Catholics as well as Evangelicals. I agree with these views. I also have to note at the outset the across-the-board moral bankruptcy of the current presidential campaign. At the same time, I’d like to take the discussion in another direction.

WikiLeaks revealed political operatives hoping to shake up the Church so that it would be conformed to their view of the world. Truth to tell, the Church does need to be shaken up, but not in the way these politicos imagine. It’s Pope Francis who’s shaking up the Church in a good way through an approach far different from that of these operatives. If we follow the Pope’s lead, not only will the Church be strengthened, so too society will become a more just, peaceful, and merciful place. Let me offer a few examples.

All it takes is a look at a recent report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to know that powerful political forces insist that the Church’s social service institutions be mere extensions of the government, with a moral compass indistinguishable from that which drives government policy. But Pope Francis insists that Catholic charitable and social service institutions must be more than mere NGO’s (non-governmental organizations). Rather, they must bind up the wounds of society with the compassion of Christ who alone fully reveals the dignity of each person. The Pope teaches us to think of the Church as a field hospital, and his arresting image highlights what Catholics bring to our public work: love of our neighbors rooted in our love of God. That’s not something on offer from the government.

Powerful political forces seek to provoke strong opposition to the Church because of its teaching on marriage as between one man and one woman. Yet Pope Francis called not one but two synods on marriage because it’s urgent that we strengthen the vocation of marriage and family life. His beautiful exhortation on marriage, “The Joy of Love,” guides married couples, the young, and the Church’s pastors in renewing marriage and family in our day. In fact, he’s jolting us out of our complacency as the true meaning and purpose of marriage are obscured and family life continues to break down. Pope Francis knows that it’s the young and the poor who will suffer disproportionately if this societal trend continues. Healthy societies and a healthy Church rest on healthy families.

Powerful political forces ridicule the Church’s teaching that one’s biological sex and one’s gender cannot be separated. They would force the Church to abandon a most elemental teaching of faith and reason: “male and female He created them.” But Pope Francis has forcefully challenged contemporary gender theory because he knows it’s the potential undoing not only of marriage but of a right understanding of human identity and dignity. When young people were told “you can be anything,” it used to mean that a wide range of careers was open to them. Now it means you can be a man or a woman or some other version of sexuality and that you can, God-like, create your own alternative universe. Pope Francis knows this is false and he wants us to make sure we know it, too.

Powerful political operatives have suggested that well-educated, professional people embrace the Catholic religion because it is more acceptable than the evangelical churches, thus insulting both faith communities. They have derided Catholics who take seriously the Christian formation of their children, who have had their children baptized in the Jordan River (where Christ was baptized), and who advance principles of Catholic social teaching such as subsidiarity (which stresses the importance of addressing problems and issues at the local level when possible). It doesn’t seem to occur to these political operatives that many people embrace religious faith because they actually believe it to be true and good.

Here, too, Francis is out to shake up the Church by calling us to authenticity, to become missionary disciples who go out to the margins. He’s challenging each of us truly to encounter the living Christ and to embrace the Gospel with enthusiasm, prompting us to compassionate action outside the sanctuary, at risk not only to our social standing but even to our personal security. He is urging us to be not only true believers but indeed the Lord’s messengers who bring the joy and healing of the Gospel to the peripheries of society.

These political operatives aren’t seeking to shake up the Church; they’re seeking to domesticate it. Pope Francis wants to revitalize it. Where the tactics of these operatives reveal a view of religion as something to be informed by political values, the Holy Father, in his book “On Heaven and Earth,” makes the case that religion should be informing politics with values, not engaging in partisan politics. Let’s follow his lead, not theirs.

Solemnity of Christ the King Homily

“This morning, in Rome, Pope Francis concluded the Year of Mercy; here in Orlando, in closest union with the Successor of Peter, we, the family of the Knights of Columbus, also conclude the Year of Mercy.

“We do so with deep gratitude to God, the Father of Mercies, for the many graces and favors received during this extraordinary Jubilee Year. We reflect on God’s patience and lovingkindness in forgiving our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We think of the indulgences we have been granted to assist us in repairing the lingering damage done us even by those sins that have been forgiven. We give thanks for the grace of receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, aware that in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar the very Incarnation of God’s Mercy enters our inmost being. Let us also give thanks for the graces by which we were enabled to perform the spiritual and corporal works of mercy – extending to others the same mercy that the Lord has lavished on us. Yes, the Year of Mercy has filled us with gratitude and with hope that God’s mercy will triumph in our personal lives and in our families, in our beloved Order and in our Church, in our nation and throughout the world.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

32nd Sunday Homily; Catholic Distance University

“Archbishop Christoph, Apostolic Nuncio; Bishop Loverde; brother priests; President Mount; Worthy Supreme Knight and Mrs. Anderson; members of the board, faculty, and staff, graduates and students; benefactors and friends of CDU; and all dear friends in Christ:

“It is a special pleasure to join with all of you this evening in expressing our wholehearted support for the Catholic Distance University as we celebrate this Holy Mass and bestow diplomas on your graduates. It is also a moment to focus on the mission of Catholic Distance University in light of the readings just proclaimed.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

32nd Sunday Homily; Closing of the Holy Doors

“In 1994, Pope St. John Paul II called the Church to observe ‘The Year of the Family’. A fellow priest, a good friend, was not impressed. In fact, he harrumphed, ‘So this year it’s the family, next year something else, and what good does it all do?’ ‘O calm down,’ I said, ‘Next year might be all about you!’

“Indeed, the Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis is truly all about us – it’s about me, and it’s about you, it’s about a world all in need of God’s mercy. Later this month, Pope Francis will solemnly conclude the Year of Mercy just as today we will end our observance of this special year of grace by symbolically closing ‘the holy door’ at the entrance of the cathedral / basilica. Does this mean we’re shutting the door on God’s mercy? Does it mean we’re moving on from the mercy of God, and perhaps, entering into ‘a year of severity’ or ‘a year of being upset about many things?’”

Read the complete homily HERE.

31st Sunday C Homily; St. John the Evangelist, Severna Park

“It is a special pleasure for return to visit St. John the Evangelist Parish to offer Holy Mass and to take part in the groundbreaking for the new parish activities center. I take this moment to join with all of you in expressing our deepest gratitude to your pastor, Fr. Proffitt, Fr. Jim, Fr. Asigre, and Msgr. Auer – and his whole team – for their devoted service and for ably leading your parish into a future full of hope!

“St. John the Evangelist has a long and proud history of faith, worship, and service. You are a vibrant community of faith and I thank you for your fidelity, for your witness to the faith, and your spirit of service to those in need.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

Holy Sepulchre Investiture Homily; Mass in Honor of Our Lady Queen of Palestine

“Last night we rejoiced to confer promotions and honors upon those who have faithfully upheld the ideals of the Order and supported its mission. This afternoon we gather to invest new members of the Middle Atlantic Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. All this we do, (as Msgr. Jameson reminded us so eloquently), at the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, a year proclaimed by Pope Francis – so that we might open our hearts more fully to Jesus as the Face of the Father’s mercy and ourselves become ‘merciful like the Father.’

“The Year of Mercy and the mission of our beloved Order go hand in hand. Let us see how one lends strength to other as we open our minds and hearts to the living Word of God proclaimed in this Holy Mass, celebrated in honor of Our Lady Queen of Palestine.”

Read the complete homily HERE

30th Sunday C; Mt. St. Mary’s University Campus Ministry Mass Homily

“I frequently offer Mass here at Mount Saint Mary’s but this is the first time for me to offer a Sunday evening Mass for you, the university students. I’m grateful to Father Brian Nolan for inviting me, happy to greet the Focus Missionaries who are with us tonight and most of all, I’m glad to be with Mount community for a regular Sunday Mass.

“We gather this evening in the final month of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. As you remember, Pope Francis invited us during the past year to unite as a Church to do several important things: to remember with gratitude just how merciful God is; finding God’s mercy in the Person of Christ; to accept God’s mercy as we listen to God’s Word and share in the Sacraments; to extend the mercy we have received by reconciling with others and by showing compassion for those who are in need.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

30th Sunday C; 75th Anniversary of Trinity School Homily

“Sister Catherine Phelps, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Fr. (John) Burkhard, Fr. (Leo) Larrivee, parents, friends and alumni of Trinity School, members of the board, faculty, and staff, our wonderful students, and all dear friends in Christ Jesus:

“It is a pleasure for me to offer this Holy Mass with you and for you as we observe the 75th anniversary of Trinity School. Way back in the 1930’s, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur purchased 170 acres, with buildings, here in Howard County, for the princely sum of $40,000. Even in 1933 dollars, that was the deal of the half-century! But what the Sisters did with the land and the existing school buildings is an even better “deal” (if I may use that word) for countless families. In 1934 the Sisters opened a junior high and high school for girls, and in 1941 opened an elementary school then known as the Julie Billiart Country Day School. In 1958, the school began to take on the name Trinity and by 1972 the high school closed and it became an elementary school.”

Read the complete homily HERE.