Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An urgent recommendation for what needs to be done in our diocese (and probably yours too)

For all the talk about the Church embracing modernity, we are still often structuring our American dioceses as if people don't have automobiles

Problem: our priests are spread too thinly.  Many of our priests who have left active ministry in recent memory have left as a pretty direct result of being given multiple parishes.  There is no doubt that being a pastor of a giant parish with a huge staff presents its own challenges, and I have great admiration for our priests pastoring our mega-parishes, but there is something really problematic in having priests be pastors of multiple parishes

Related Problem: Vatican II said priests ought to live in community.

Related Problem: priests pastoring multiple parishes is not sustainable (the assignment of guys to being pastors of multiple parishes is often being done by people who have never been a pastor of two parishes.  It is not a healthy situation)

Related Problem: we have 17 seminarians

            Within 7 miles of Monument Circle in Indianapolis there are 118 Masses on the weekend

I took the seating capacity of each church and added the numbers up

Our presbyterate is saying Mass for 71,210 seats within 7 miles of Monument Circle

Those parishes have 27,678 registered families

Most parishes see about the same number of people on the weekend as they have registered families

Using this as an approximation, there are a couple of amazing ways to frame the same stat:
a.       Our presbyterate is saying Mass each weekend for 44,000 empty seats within 7 miles of Monument Circle
b.      We are saying over twice as many Masses as we need within 7 miles of Monument Circle
c.       We could cut out roughly 70 of the 118 masses and still have a seat for everyone that is currently coming to Mass within 7 miles of Monument Circle
d.      Those 70 Masses we don’t need mean we have approximately 20 priests within 7 miles of Monument Circle saying a weekend’s worth of Masses we do not need

This is not just an Indianapolis thing.  The figures are even worse in the only other place I looked – Terre Haute city.  6,950 seats each weekend for 2,352 attendees.  That’s 66% of the seats unfilled each weekend (4 Masses at St. Patrick’s each weekend would cover every Catholic Mass attendee in Terre Haute with 600 seats to spare each weekend.  Terre Haute currently has 15 Masses).

As priests we are asked to demonstrate business skills – the Lilly Grant/pastor’s toolbox/the book we were all mailed by Patrick Lencioni and Amazing Parish that encourage priests to become more business savvy.

That’s Great!!!!   My classmates and I asked for this repeatedly in the seminary, and we noted it as a weakness in our class exit interview from our seminary.

But it isn’t just priests that could benefit from thinking corporately.  The diocesan leadership needs to also put some corporate principles to work as well, in my opinion

Solution: Studies show that 70 -90 percent of Catholics are walking away from the faith from 18-34.  What company would learn that it is losing 70-90 percent of 18-34 years olds and would not have alarm bells going off and having emergency board sessions?
    And yet we are pulling priests out of precisely the places where these kids are found.  In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis no priest is assigned just to a college.  No priest is assigned just to a high school.  I was assigned to a high school in my first few years, but the Archdiocese pulled all of its high school chaplains out of the high schools and replaced them with part time priests who are supposed to do high school ministry as a part of their slate of other jobs.               

Corporations pay attention to their key demographic, their future, and it is pretty clear we are not paying attention to that demographic.  Investing in FOCUS ministries on our college campuses has been a good start, but even FOCUS will tell you that there is no substitute on a college campus for a full time priest chaplain. 

Putting some kind of limit on the number of Masses at parishes would free up priests to be present to the generation that will provide us with our next generation of priests, nuns, and faithful lay Catholics

Doing something about the number of Masses HAS to come from the diocese and the bishop.  We would get killed as the boots on the ground pastors if we canceled Masses.  But if it came from the diocese we’d be okay. 

And here’s the thing – every parish I’ve gone to has had to cancel a Mass in order for me to only say 5 Masses each weekend.  They’ve all grumbled, but because it came from Canon Law (a priest can only say 5 Masses a weekend), they accepted it.  They’ve all reported liking it better several months later
A)     A full Church
B)      Better music
C)      Seeing people they didn’t know because they went to an earlier Mass

Addressing this issue of having about twice as many masses as we need in our Archdiocese would both

1)      alleviate the extraordinary and sometimes unsustainable burdens on our current priests

2)      Help provide more presence to our young people thus helping increase the number of priestly vocations, helping with priest numbers in the future

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Parish Video

This is a video we put together for one of my parishes.  Please keep our campaign in your prayers!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ouija Boards and Demonic Oppression

I spoke with a young man who was battling authentic demonic oppression for over twenty years after being in a room where a Ouija Board was being used when this young man was in seventh grade.

He shared that he felt something come into him and that from that point on in his life, he knew he was battling a Demon that had considerable ability to harm him (head aches and weariness) and to suggest things to him denigrating himself, his family, discouraging him from going to Church, discouraging him from confession and priests, and much more.

Stay away from fortune telling, Ouija boards, Tarot Cards, and all that other garbage.  EVIL IS REAL.  

“All forms of divination are to be rejected:  recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future.  Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers.  They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone”
- Catechism 2116

Note that Deuteronomy compares all these evil consultations with killing children: “Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortuneteller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead."
- Deuteronomy 18: 10-11

St. Paul and Deuteronomy note that those who engage in these types of acts commit mortal sins.  It is SUPER SERIOUS 

As noted from this particular young man's story, even those AROUND this type of activity can be harmed in serious ways.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Baby Boom Changes to the Church

I ask this with all do respect: If the generation in the wake of Vatican II, in order to try to bring the Church and Christ to others, got to make lots of changes to things that the Church didn't ever say should change, why can't our generation change things around in order to try to bring the Church and Christ to others?

If baby boomers got to throw out stuff from their parents Catholicism without the Church ever saying those things should be thrown out, why can't we throw out stuff from OUR parents' Catholicism?

Perhaps our motivation here is not just anger towards baby boomer Catholicism.  I wonder if it could be considered that perhaps what is motivating our generation of Catholics is that we are looking around and we see 75-90% of our peers walk away from Catholicism as it was being practiced by baby boomer suburban Catholicism, and perhaps we want to do something about it and are trying to find things that might work, and are discussing among ourselves about would work and are in the trenches with fallen away Catholics --- maybe that is what is motivating our generation of young adult Catholics.  Could that be considered by other generations?  

So maybe what is motivating young adult Catholics today is not anger toward baby boomers but an attempt to do something that we genuinely feel might bring back the Faith to a culture for which the Faith has largely died out

The baby boomers got to do all their experiments and make the Church the way they wanted it, and it never seems to be asked if the new Church worked for anyone else but them.  I hear a lot from the generation of the Catholic revolution that "we really like what we created" - but I don't hear many of them asking if the remade Catholic product as that generation refashioned it is working for any other generation.

And I and many other young adult Catholics, looking around at our friends, our peers, the sociological data, and looking at the larger society we find ourselves in believe strongly that what we need is not a tweaking of suburban baby boomer Catholicism, but something that is, at least on many levels, radically different.

I don't think many in my generation on the front lines are calling for a return to 1955, but we are sifting through the rubble of American suburban Catholicism and saying what, moving forward, do we need from the distant past, the more recent past, and from the present to practice the Faith that was handed on to us from the Apostles in a way that starts to make a dent in the problem of 93% of our peers walking away from the Faith.

7 Reasons Why Your Smartphone Is Bilbo's Ring

1) You randomly worry that you don't have it, check your pocket, your heart rate quickens, you check your other pocket, find it, and then slowly calm back down again

2) Your phone is powerful and magical.  10 years ago, if you told someone all the things your phone would do, they would have thought of it as magic.  Your phone also gives you the power to do everything you would need to do to run a Fortune 500 company for weeks from thousands of miles away.

3) You think sometimes of getting rid of your phone, but every time you get ready to throw it away, you step back from the edge and change your mind

Image result for frodo wearing the ring
"I can't believe I was thinking of  getting rid of this thing!"

4) To the observer at a distance, for hours on end each day, you look at it, make faces at it, touch it and stroke it and talk to it.

Image result for bilbo my precious
"It's mine.  My own. My precious"

5) Your phone, as studies suggest, through the course of months and years, slowly changes you into a different version of yourself

6) Your phone gives you the impression that you have great power and are in control (see number 2 above) but it actually ultimately gives much more power to "the great eye" (i.e. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung) who, as everyone knows, is storing and cataloging and quantifying every move we make and every single act we perform with our phones, handing over to such corporations an ability to "dominate all life"

7)  When you use your phone, you disappear to all those around you and are instantly transported to something that is like reality, but is a warped and clouded version of it

Image result for frodo wearing the ring
"It's like living in reality, only different"

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday Homily: Realizing I was supposed to have stayed in Rome

I realized in prayerfully walking the streets of Rome last week that 11 years ago when I left the seminary in Rome, I should not have.

If I had known then what I know now about Christian suffering, I wouldn't have left

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Apostles of Wonder

Living in an age where the majority of people are leaving Christianity because of "science" (I.e. "I only believe in the measurable and observable and you can't measure or prove God so I'm out with regards to Christianity") I think perhaps our challenge is to be apostles of wonder

The Church loves science but says there is more to life than the measurable, and, frankly, to think that all that is real is what is measurable and quantifiable is not wisdom it is insane.

Aristotle wrote hundreds of years before Christ and he (and many before him) wrote much about "metaphysics" meaning BEYOND physics. The Church doesn't deny physics (the measurable) but says there is CLEARLY more to life than JUST the measurable.

Take the concept of love. No one who says "I just believe in science" should be able to say "I love you" because you can't measure or prove, with science, that loves is real.

So our job as believers, then, is to be apostles of wonder. To help people who are so focused on measuring, quantifying, weighing and experimenting to step back and see that every moment of life contains an infinite number of miracles happening, that every moment of existence itself is a mystery.

Sometimes we can be so buried in the facts that we miss the miracles. Our world is much like the Pharisees in today's gospel. "So, young man, you were blind and now you see. We have 100 questions for how this happened"

Similarly, we need to be like the blind man speaking to the rigid and overly scientific examiners of our day. Sometimes you just have to step back away from the data and the experiments and say "I think you're missing the miracle here. The big take away from my story should be that I was cured of my blindness. And frankly, having been blind my whole life, I don't give a rat's rear end about how it happened. That your hung up on HOW it happened is pretty amazing. I don't care how it happened. I want to go celebrate the reality that it DID happen!"

May Those who are focused only on what is measurable be gently nudged by us to see the bigger picture - that reality extends BEYOND physics. This reality beyond physics is something we can all sense, even as children (perhaps EASIER as children) and that which is beyond physics we can come to know if we take some time to put down our beakers and rulers and look at a child or a sunset and ask not what the child weighs nor what atmospheric chemistry causes the particular colors but instead ask "why are there babies and sunsets in the first place? Why does all that I can see exist at all?"

I look forward to doing a better job of trying to be an apostle of wonder. We've got work to do, but as Tolkien and Lewis and Chesterton knew, it is the fight of our age.