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Month: August 2019

Migrant Children will suffer most.

Migrant Children will suffer most.

The following excerpt was taken from an article issued by Catholic News Service on August 26, 2019, then it appeared in America Magazine online.

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee said Aug. 23 sees “heartbreaking consequences for immigrant children” in a final rule issued by the Trump administration that allows the federal government to hold immigrant children in family detention indefinitely.

The new rule was issued jointly by the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services that will end a long-standing legal agreement put in place in 1997– known as the Flores Settlement Agreement — to ensure the safety and care of children in immigration detention settings.

Pope Francis has deemed immigrant children “the most vulnerable group’ among migrants,” and they will be most affected by this new rule, said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration.

(This) is an attempt by the administration to circumvent existing obligations and undermine critical protections for these children,” the bishop said in a statement. “This rule will jeopardize the well-being and humane treatment of immigrant children in federal custody and will result in children suffering long-lasting consequences of being held for prolonged periods in family detention.

“We oppose this rule that we believe is unlawful and inhumane. Countless children will be harmed by this new rule and this is simply not acceptable,” he said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also opposed this rule when it was initially proposed by DHS and HHS by submitting comments Oct. 23, 2018, detailing concerns with the rule and urging it be rescinded. The government received more than 98,000 comments in response to the proposed rule-making.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. said it likewise submitted comments, calling the proposed rule “unlawful and immoral” as it negates “the child-friendly provisions in the Flores agreement.”

Said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director: “This rule would destroy long-term child protection standards created by our government and the courts. There is no justification to keep families and children in immigration jails longer. Separation of children from their parents is inherently wrong. The same is true for keeping children in detention.”

Read more.

Striving to be like Christ

Striving to be like Christ

This Sunday, I celebrated the opening Mass for the faculty and students at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander. Below if the homily.

How did your parents discipline you as a child?  In our family of thirteen children, we kept our parents on their toes with lots of behavior that needed correction.  As a child, I remember my mother’s loving approach to discipline.  Since dad was often out in the field, mom usually refereed fights and doled out the daily discipline.  Before she spanked us she would say, “Now you know that this hurts me more than it hurts you.” 

As we reflect on the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews today (Heb. 12:5-7, 11-13), remember the loving discipline of a mother or a father. That is how God disciplines us.  “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges. . . . For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:5-7).

For the person of faith, even the trials in life are seen as coming from the hand of a loving God who is teaching lessons to a son or daughter.  It is the same love he had for his beloved Son whom he allowed to be scourged in the passion.  God “scourges every son [or daughter] he acknowledges.”  Even the pains and trials in life are part of our education from God.

This is the perfect reading for the beginning of the school year.  In Greek the word for discipline (paideia) comes from the same root word as that for a little child (paidion).  The word means not only discipline, but also upbringing or training. It includes much more than punishment for wrongdoing.  It involves the discipline of good study habits, the rigor of physical training as an athlete, and self-control as we grow in the virtues. 

In the Letter to Hebrews, it involves the instructiongiven to a person to help them grow in being a son or daughter of God.  It is training in discipleship.  First of all, such a person has a disciplined prayer life.  He or she strives daily to imitate the Lord who cared for the least.  The disciple serves selflessly like Jesus who humbled himself and washed feet, even of those who would deny or betray him. 

Finally, this discipline includes staying the course in the trials of life.  It means persevering to the end – not by our own strength, but by the grace of God.  Earlier in the Letter to the Hebrews, that kind of discipline is described for Jesus.  “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” (Heb. 5:8)

Some of the greatest lessons of life come from suffering.  In suffering we learn to lean on God with complete humility.  It forces us to be puny creatures before the all-powerful Creator.  Have you ever noticed how suffering calls forth an inner strength that you may not have known was possible?  Suffering is one of the greatest teachers.

This is the formation of the whole person that Catholic education seeks.  We form a young person in body and mind, heart and soul, faith and reason.  We seek to form disciples who think, speak and act like Christ.  That is why Catholic education includes helping young people learn how to pray the way Jesus prayed, to forgive with his mercy or to serve the less fortunate with his compassion.

As students, see yourselves in a school of discipleship.  See yourselves as a beloved son or daughter learning from God.  See your journey as being guided by our loving Father in heaven.  Seek to grow as a disciple of Jesus. 

As teachers, see yourself as a parent figure.  Help young people recognize the loving hand of God guiding their steps.  Help them listen to the voice of the Lord, more than your voice.  Remember, you are training disciples. 

The Gospel gives us an image that intensifies this training as disciples.  Someone in the crowd asked Jesus, “Lord, will only a few in number be saved?” (Lk. 13:23) Sometimes we ask a similar question:  What does it take to get to heaven?  This gospel urges us to see our daily discipline in the context of the final judgment.  In your daily studies, keep in mind the end of your life.  It’s a healthy spiritual exercise.  It puts everything in perspective.  It points us to the end goal.

Jesus responded by saying, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many . . . will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” (Lk. 13:24)   The verb means to ‘struggle continuously,’ or strive with everything you’ve got.  The word is used for athletic training in 1 Cor. 9:25 as St. Paul wrote, “Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.” 

Think of how young people train for sports.  They get up early for morning practice.  They might practice twice a day for several hours.  They are striving for a trophy, a perishable crown.  But we are striving for the crown in heaven.

What kind of spiritual discipline do you have?  Do you pray every day?  Are you willing to get up 15 minutes earlier to pray?  Olympic athletes follow a special diet of highly nutritious food.  Do you feed your mind and heart the best images and words?  Do you end your day with an examen by reviewing your conduct in the Light of Christ?

Do you sacrifice in your spiritual life as much as you do to be good at sports, or have a sleek figure, or score high in a test, or be popular among peers? St. Paul agonized for his own spiritual life, he strove like an athlete. He said, “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).

But he also used this image for his effort to train others in discipleship.  Paul agonized to bring others to Christ.  In the letter to the Colossians he wrote: “It is Christ whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Col. 1:28-29).

For Paul, all this hard work is done in the context of grace.  He said, “I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me.”  He never strove on his own.  Perhaps, he said it best when he said, “I have toiled harder than all of [the apostles]; not I, however, but the grace of God with me”  (1 Cor. 15:10). 

Paul strove to form others in Christ because he was transformed by God’s mercy.  In contrast, some people work really hard at their spiritual life, but it is ‘their’ work.  Be careful not to strive in this way, but always with a humble awareness of God’s gracious mercy.  Then we maintain a gentleness and kindness toward ourselves in our striving for discipline, as well as toward others.

Prayer Requests

Prayer Requests

The women belonging to the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites will have their annual retreat this weekend in Douglas, WY. I will be with them for Mass on Friday evening. In Casper, there will be a Men’s Retreat at St. Patrick’s Church from Friday evening to Sunday. I will join them for part of the time to hear confessions and celebrate Mass on Saturday. Then on Sunday, I will be in Lander to celebrate the Mass for the opening of the school with Wyoming Catholic College. Please pray for everyone gathering on retreat and the students and faculty of the College, as well as all those who are beginning a new school year.

Throw Fire

Throw Fire

Do you think that Jesus got in trouble by being too mischievous as a little boy? Did he play with fire as a child? In today’s Gospel he said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish that it were already blazing.”  (Lk. 12:49)  A literal translation is: “I have come to throw fire on the earth.”

As an adult, Jesus was a fire thrower.  He was dangerous and disturbing.  He could ‘put your feet to the fire.’  One day he said, “Follow me” to a potential disciple who responded by asking for permission to go and bury his father first.  But Jesus replied, “Let the dead their dead, but you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Lk. 9:60)  The man must have thought: “Seriously!  Let the dead bury their dead! That’s your reply when I say that I want to go and bury my father?”

Good public speakers know how to get people’s attention with shocking images.  Jesus was a master at it.  But there was something more than just being a master communicator.  He had a fire in his bones, and he threw that fire at others.  His thought-provoking words reveal a fire burning deep inside.  Jesus was a fire thrower.

We often think of him as a nice Jesus — loving, gentle, never speaking harshly.  But at times, he was a tough Jesus, unnerving and disturbing.  Today he tells us, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No I tell you, but rather division.  From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three.” (Lk. 12:51-52)

Have you met Jesus, the fire thrower?  John the Baptist said, “Someone is coming who is more powerful than me . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Lk. 3:16)  The fire of the Holy Spirit was alive in his heart.  He was on fire with God’s presence, consumed with the fire of God’s love.

The fire of the Holy Spirit made Jesus fearless.  He wasn’t afraid to offend anyone, not even his closest friends.  It drove him to tell Peter, “Get behind me Satan.  You are not thinking like God, but like human beings.”  Yet, he also burned with the Father’s merciful love as he washed the feet of Peter.

Have you met Jesus, the fire thrower?  He will put your feet to the fire.  Yet, he will wash your feet and make them burn with mercy.  Have you let the fire of his mercy wash over your heart?

He wanted one thing: to center our lives in the fiery love of the Father. That is what it means to be baptized.  Baptism means to be dunked or immersed.  Jesus said, “Baptize all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Mt. 28:19)  Literally, it means “immerse all people into the presence or name of the Father . . .”

When the baptismal candle is lit and handed to the parent of a child, or the baptized adult, the priest says, “Receive the Light of Christ.  This light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly.  This child (or adult) has been enlightened by Christ.  He or she is to walk always as a child of the Light.  May she keep the flame of faith alive in her heart.”

Do you live in the fire of your baptism, just as Jesus lived in the fire of the Father’s presence?  Or is baptism something that happened to you with little consequence?  Through baptism we become adopted children of God.  The word ‘adoption’ emphasizes God’s merciful initiative in our lives.  We do nothing to earn baptism.  However, an adopted child can be a brat, with little appreciation for the gift.  Lots of baptized Christians live like brats.  They have not responded to the gift.  They have not actualized their baptism. 

What does it mean to actualize your baptism?  Rather than using concepts to explain it, you might understand it better by example.  St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is a great example.  She lived in the fire of the Father’s love.

Elizabeth Ann Seton’s family was among the wealthy of New York City in the late 1700’s.  Her husband’s family owned a commercial shipping firm, and they associated with the upper crust.  The Episcopal Bishop of New York City, who had presided over George Washington’s inaugural prayer service in 1789, conducted the Seton’s marriage ceremony.  They were wealthy upper class early Americans.

However, her husband William became seriously ill.  Hoping to recuperate, they went to Italy and stayed with Catholic friends whom they met in their business.  But he died in Italy at the age of 36.  She was 29 years old, with five children from two to nine years old. 

Yet, during her stay in Italy, she was drawn to the Catholic faith.  And within a year of returning to New York, she joined the Catholic Church.  Catholics belonged to the lower class.  They were thought of as poor, uneducated and unwashed (or dirty) because most of them were poor immigrants.  Because of her conversion, the Seton family dropped all financial support.  And she was shunned by most of her wealthy friends.  This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No I tell you, but rather division.”

She wrote in her diary, “I seek but God and his church, and expect to find my peace in them, not in the people.”  When she received First Communion she said, “GOD IS MINE and I AM HIS.” The fire was burning brightly, and she began to throw fire. She was centered in God’s love, and it made her stand apart from others.

Soon she moved to Emmitsburg, MA where she started a school for poor girls, then she founded a religious order of Sisters to care for the children of the poor.  That’s right.  A widowed mother of five became a religious sister and foundress of a new religious community.  The school she started was the first free Catholic school in the United States, and it marked the beginning of the Catholic school system in the USA. 

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton found a treasure in the Eucharist.  That was where the fire of God burned for her.  That was where she drew strength to throw fire.  Have you let God’s love consume your heart?  Do you throw fire?

Sometimes that means being tough with the people whom we love the most.  But being tough is not the goal.  The goal is to be on fire with love for God.  When the fire of God burns in our hearts, it causes division.  Are you willing to stand alone because the fire of God burns in your heart, like the prophet Jeremiah who was thrown into the cistern?  They wanted to kill him.  (Jer. 38:4-10)

As a new year of faith formation begins, how will you kindle the baptismal fire?  How will you throw fire?  Faith formation is not just for young people, but every single disciple. 

For St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the fire was kindled with the Eucharist.  It was the Word of God for Jeremiah.  He wrote, “If I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire shut up in my bones . . . I cannot hold it in.”  (Jer. 20:9)

Have you actualized the fire of your baptism? Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the whole world on fire!”St. Catherine of Siena

Growing in Intimacy

Growing in Intimacy

This weekend, I will be at a retreat in Rapid City, SD at the Terra Sancta Retreat Center for deacons and their wives, as well as those who are in diaconate formation. The participants will be from the Diocese of Cheyenne and the Diocese of Rapid City. The retreat directors are Matt and Mindy Dalton, who are the co-founders of Marriage Missionaries. The theme of the retreat is: Growing in Intimacy: Strengthening Marriages to Strengthen Ministry. Please pray for all who are attending.

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