Time to Pray

Homily, Advent Sunday 1B

Every year or so, we get another shipment of these little blue books, The Catholic Devotional. I remember these from my home parish as I was growing up. I don’t think I used them all that much, but on one of the pages, at least in earlier printings, there was sort of a clever poem that has come to mind again recently. The poem is titled, “No Time”: I knelt to pray but not for long. / I had too much to do. / I had to hurry and get to work / For bills would soon be due. // So I knelt and said a hurried prayer / And jumped up off my knees. / My Christian duty was now done. / My soul could rest at ease. // Now all day long I had no time / To spread a word of cheer. / No time to speak of Christ to friends. / They’d laugh at me I’d fear. // “No time. No time. Too much to do.” / That was my constant cry. / No time to give to souls in need. / At last the time to die. // I went before the Lord, I came, / I stood with downcast eyes. / For in his hands God held a book. / It was the book of life. // God looked into his book and said, / “Your name I cannot find. / I once was going to write it down / But never found the time.” 

It’s popular today in our culture to be always busy, to be filling our time with all sorts of activities, and to convey to the people around us that were really busy. Ive fallen into this habit myself when someone asks me how things are going or how I’m doing, the easy and standard reply is, Its been busy, lots of funerals this year,” and maybe it has, but each of us is given the same 24 hours each day, and we always seem to find the time for things we really want to do.  

This Advent season is a great opportunity to ask ourselves, Are we really spending our time wisely, on the things of lasting importance in life? And how much do we really invest in that relationship that is meant to last for ever? The Catechism quotes St. Alphonsus Liguori as saying, “Those who pray are certainly saved. Those who do not pray are certainly damned.” Now if any of us are too busy to pray, we really are too busy. As the Gospel tells us, if we are too busy—or too lazy—to keep watch for the Lord’s return, we risk our entire eternity. Nothing else in this short life is of greater importance.  

So what is the quality of our prayer, and how many hours of practice have we really devoted to it? Is prayer a skill we’ve actually worked at to develop? Is it enough just to be present for maybe an hour each week, as prayer is going on around us? Or do we speak to God personally? Do we surrender ourselves into God’s hands, each day and in each moment, not just paying lip service, but really striving to open our hearts and minds to God, to give Him our full attention and our sincere concerns? God is not a thing, but we often seem to treat Him more like something rather than treating Him like Someone. He isn’t just some force that we rely on or perform a certain set of tasks or say certain words to get Him to do what we want Him to. God is a Trinity of Persons. Do we talk to God, to the Father, to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, as we would talk to the person next to us, someone that we can see and hear? Or do we more often relate to God as if He’s not really real? 

Many of us have things that we do or give up during the season of Lent, but how many of us make a similar commitment for Advent? Disciplines that would be appropriate for Advent would include things like a media fast, shutting off the TV and social media, or really limiting ourselves to just a short amount of time each day for these activities, looking at a screens, and leave ourselves more time to pray, to “be watchful,” to “be alert” for the Lord, to read Scripture and the Catechism, to spend time listening to all that God has said to us, to what God continues to say to His people. God doesn’t want this to be just another December for us, another missed opportunity. How is God calling you to grow in prayer and vigilance this Advent season? What spiritual exercises have we neglected for a while, as we’ve made ourselves too busy? Advent is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the daily Rosary, daily meditation, the morning offering, night prayer.  

Dont let this Advent be another missed opportunity, that we could end up regretting for the rest of eternity. We do not know the day or the hour when the Lord will call us from this life. Be watchful! Be alert! Be ready at all times for your Lords return. 

St. Mark and a Quarantine Plan

Bulletin Letter, Advent Sunday 1B

As we begin the season of Advent and a new liturgical year, we start Year B of the Sunday Lectionary which focuses on the Gospel according to St. Mark. Year A, which we just finished featured the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Because Mark has the shortest gospel account, we’ll also see John’s Bread of Life Discourse for a series of Sundays next August. John’s is the one gospel that does not have its own year, but we get quite a bit of his on Sundays of Lent and Easter. 

Being the shortest (only 64 pages in paperback form), it is entirely possible to read the entire Gospel according to Mark in a short time. You might consider trying it once as a spiritual exercise, to read the whole gospel in a day or two and pay attention to what stands out or strikes you. Might be similar to the effect it had on the first people to ever hear the Gospel proclaimed by St. Peter, St. Paul, or one of the other Apostles in those first days or years after Pentecost. Whether you try it or not, some of the features of Mark’s gospel include its pacing and action, which tend to feel more accelerated without many of the longer discourses or parables featured in the other gospels. And one of the main missions/ministries carried out by Jesus throughout the Gospel is exorcism, to drive out unclean spirits. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). 

We continue to ask God’s deliverance from the “unclean spirit” of the novel coronavirus, which has impacted so many lives, directly or indirectly. We pray for those working hard in our busy hospitals and for those who have lost loved ones. Please continue to practice good hygiene and appropriate social distancing. I’m thankful to God that I have not needed to quarantine myself thus far, but I’d like to have a plan in place in case it should happen.

Obviously, if my physical condition is such that I’m unable to celebrate Mass, we’d have to cancel them. Otherwise, if I just need to quarantine, I’d plan to still offer Masses but make sure that no one else enters the sanctuary or sacristy after me, and I’d refrain from distributing Holy Communion. This would also mean no servers or lectors, much the same as what I normally do for weekday Masses. This would still allow parishioners to attend at a safe distance in the pews. I’d also communicate whether I’d actually tested positive myself or been exposed to someone else who had. Have a blessed Advent season. Come, Lord Jesus! 

Conquest of Mercy

Homily, Christ the King Sunday A

A long time ago, there was a young man who grew up in a small house, in a small town, in a small country, but he had big dreams of ruling the entire world someday. He knew the Scriptures, and he was convinced that he would be the one to fulfill the prophecies. He would have a kingdom that would stretch from sea to sea. And not only that, but his reign would never end; he would sit as king from age to age, ruling every place, every people and nation, for all time. And how would he realize this lofty dream of his? For almost thirty years, he worked and sweat and practiced… carpentry. With his father in their workshop, he built tables and furniture. For bigger projects they would work on houses and roads. But still, beyond a small circle of friends and family, and those who hired him as a carpenter, this man was largely unknown, and he probably seemed rather unremarkable.

When it came time for him to strike out on his own, he began to travel to the other small towns in the area. He told people about the kingdom of God. He healed the sick, drove out demons, pronounced forgiveness of sins and new life to the most notorious sinners, and he raised people from the dead. As you can well imagine, this was a much more effective campaign strategy than his many obscure years of carpentry. He traveled the country like this for almost three years, and people flocked to see him.

But every time they tried to make him king, he would slip away and move on to the next towns. In fact, the only time he admitted to being a king was when he stood bound as a criminal, on trial for rebellion, accused by the leaders of his own nation. For this, he was put to a most shameful death, publicly, with the charge written in three languages above his head, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Humanly speaking, his name should have been forgotten, buried in the shame of his crucifixion.

But God’s ways are not our ways. This Man who lived most of His earthly life in obscurity and came to His end in the greatest shame is the One that we proclaim today as our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth to establish the Kingdom of God in our midst, but He also said that His kingdom is not of this world. God’s ways are not our ways. Even in today’s Gospel, when the Son of Man comes in all His glory, and all His angels with Him, and He sits upon His glorious throne with all the nations assembled before Him, He comes to us as a Shepherd tending his sheep. Not exactly what most of us would expect from an all-powerful king.

But God’s ways are not our ways. He has no police to enforce His royal decrees. He has no armies to expand the borders of His kingdom. He doesn’t use media censorship or mail-in ballots. Instead, Jesus still conquers today in the same way as He did during His earthly life, by conquering human hearts, by feeding the hungry and giving the thirsty something to drink, by welcoming the stranger and clothing the naked, by caring for the sick and for those in prison, and by inviting us into the truth. This is how Christ conquers and how He has always conquered.

And this is how He wants to conquer our own hearts today. He gives us His own Body and Blood in this Eucharist to satisfy every hunger and thirst of our souls. He welcomes even the strangest of us into His own family through Baptism and Confirmation, and gives us a lasting home in heaven. He clothes us in His own innocence and destroys the shame of our sins in every Confession. Through His holy anointing, He unites all our illnesses and sufferings to His own perfect prayer and to His saving Cross, and through the words of His Gospel, he brings true freedom even into the prison cell. May Christ the King gain ground in our minds and hearts each day, so that God’s ways may become our ways as well.

As we surrender to his love and become part of His kingdom, we, too, are called to do what He does for the least of His brothers and sisters. But we cannot give what we have not first received. We cannot love those that Christ is calling us to love, we cannot feed, welcome, clothe, and care for our parents, our spouses, our children, our friends, our neighbors, our enemies, and the poorest of the poor, unless we first allow Jesus to do this for us—especially in our reception of the sacraments of His Church—so that Jesus can then carry out these works of mercy through us. We are all missionaries of Christ the King, called to spread the kingdom of God by conquering human hearts through concrete acts of love and mercy. May God grant us the grace today to surrender to Christ the King, to open our hearts to receive His truth and love. In the end, when all other kingdoms have come and gone, Christ alone will be victorious, and those who have served Him will reign with Him forever.

An Act of Dedication of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
(to be renewed annually on the Solemnity of Christ the King)

Most Sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before Thine Altar. We are Thine, and Thine we wish to be; but to be more surely united to Thee, behold, each one of us this day freely dedicates himself to Thy Most Sacred Heart.

Many indeed have never known Thee; many too, despising Thy precepts, have rejected Thee. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Thy Sacred Heart. Be Thou King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken Thee, but also of the prodigal sons who have abandoned Thee; grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house, lest they perish of wretchedness and hunger.

Be Thou King of those whom heresy holds in error or discord keeps aloof; call them back to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one fold and one Shepherd.

Be Thou King of all those who even now sit in the shadow of idolatry or Islam, and refuse not Thou to bring them into the light of Thy kingdom. Look, finally, with eyes of pity upon the children of that race, which was for so long a time Thy chosen people; and let Thy Blood, which was once invoked upon them in vengeance, now descend upon them also in a cleansing flood of redemption and eternal life.

Grant, O Lord, to Thy Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; unto all nations give an ordered tranquility; bring it to pass that from pole to pole the earth may resound with one cry: Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to It be honor and glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

Bulletin Letter, Christ the King Sunday A

You’re no doubt aware that the year 2020 is not getting the best reviews, and that’s unlikely to change by the end of the year or as we look back on it in the future. All the more reason for us to really be deliberate about focusing on the blessings of God that this year has brought, “for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus: to give thanks in every circumstance” (1 Thess. 5:18).  

Those who celebrated one of the first Thanksgiving meals in the New World were definitely not without hardships and tragedies of their own at the time. Think of how severely European diseases swept through and ravaged native populations. Think of the challenges the settlers faced to yield even a meager harvest in a new and unfamiliar environment, without the machinery, sprays, or insurance that we so often rely upon today. And thinking of all the summers and winters they endured should at least make us thankful for things we so often take for granted, including electricity and indoor plumbing. 

But despite their hardships—and perhaps in a lot of ways, even because of their hardships—they gave thanks to God, who is able to bring life even out of death, and growth and maturity through the endurance of various trials and setbacks. Hopefully this year has been an opportunity for growth and purification in our spiritual lives, greater insight and commitment to those things that are truly important in this life and for the life to come. Whatever this year has been, and whatever it could still prove to be, we must give thanks to God who gives us life and light each day. 

The word Eucharist is from the Greek word for thanksgiving, and we are especially thankful for the Gift of Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity that He continues to faithfully provide for us upon the altars of His Church. May Jesus help us to recognize and never take for granted the blessings that surround us each day. 

Investing Our Faith

Homily, Ordinary Sunday 33A

How often do we allow fear to direct our actions, or to keep us from following God’s will in our lives? Do we bury our talent in the ground before even trying to put it to use? I still remember the first times in school that I was expected to stand up in front of the class and give a speech. I’ve always been naturally shy, and in a crowd, I usually hate to be the center of attention. Since my earliest years, though, I had sensed a call from God to the priesthood. I don’t think it ever really dawned on me till much later, just how often priests have to talk in front of crowds of people. But where would I be now if I had let my initial fears overwhelm me? If I had not persevered through whatever anxiety and nervousness to get some experience and realize that it’s not that big of a deal, even if I screw up and embarrass myself, life goes on. Where would I be now if I had let fear direct me? I would not be standing up here today. I would have missed out on some of the greatest opportunities in my entire life. And now I can tell you, with all confidence, that proclaiming the Word of God and striving to be a prophetic voice in today’s world has actually been one of my favorite things about being a priest.

Something for all of us to consider this weekend is, Where in my own life is fear still holding me back from what God is asking of me? Where is fear still keeping me, from some of the greatest opportunities? Just as in the Gospel today, God wants to see us use our gifts, to spend ourselves, with all confidence that God will supply what is lacking, and bring a return on our investment. It is the evil one, the devil, who uses fear to try and steer us away from the opportunities that God provides.

I often think of what so many Saints have said, and what Pope Francis has often repeated, that the Church—by her very nature—is missionary, the Church is evangelizing. The Church cannot be the Church without proclaiming the Gospel to all the nations. We cannot be what we are meant to be as Catholic Christians if we are not actively inviting others to become Catholic. Very often, it’s only through seeing how the Catholic faith brings new life to others that we are renewed in our own faith. This has been my great privilege and experience in assisting at different times with RCIA programs, working with those interested in joining the Catholic Church. I was a cradle Catholic myself, always going to Mass and never really being away from the Catholic faith for any significant time. But many of those who attend RCIA are seeing the Catholic faith with new eyes, and what they see and notice about the Catholic Church helps me to appreciate these aspects of our faith in a new or renewed way myself.

Jesus promises us, “Whoever seeks to save his own life will lose it, but whoever spends his life for My sake and for the sake of the Gospel will save it.” Whoever keeps his faith to himself and buries it will lose it. What are the opportunities that we are missing out on, through fear of what others might think, how they might react, not wanting to put ourselves out there or rock the boat? What’s keeping us from inviting others to Mass, inviting others to pray a rosary together, or the Stations of the Cross, or to read the Scriptures together? We cannot be who we are meant to be as followers of Christ if we are not actively inviting others to share in our Catholic faith.

But we often hear excuses today: Well, isn’t it enough that everyone just be a good Christian, or even if they aren’t Christian that they just worship God as they see fit, or even if they don’t believe in God, that they just try to be a good person? But this isn’t what we actually hear from Jesus in the Gospel. If Jesus Christ and the Church that He founded is not Good News and the sacrament of salvation for the entire world and for each and every person that we meet, without exception, then we’re all wasting our time here. If this Eucharist and the way that God Himself revealed that we should worship Him is a matter of indifference, then I have wasted my life in the priesthood. But I will gladly waste my every breath upon Jesus Christ, to spend myself and to be spent in the service of His Gospel and of His Church. Because life can have no greater meaning, and death can have no other lasting defeat.

The choice is ours. How will we spend the talents entrusted to us by almighty God? Will we spend them or will we bury them? Will we spend them only on the passing things of this world? Or putting fear aside, will we step out in faith and confidence to spend ourselves on Jesus Christ and His Church? What will we wish we had done, when the Master returns?

The Poor Souls

Bulletin Letter, Ordinary Sunday 33A

Each year, the month of November is especially dedicated to offering prayers, penance, indulgences, and Masses on behalf of the faithful departed. Many parishes have the tradition of setting out a Book of the Dead during this month, and parishioners are invited to write the names of the deceased for remembrance and intercession. In some homes, a table is set out with pictures of deceased relatives as a special reminder to continue to pray for them and to have Masses said for the repose of their souls.

Today, it is fairly common and popular to convey the idea that getting into heaven is fairly easy and pretty much a foregone conclusion for most of us. This idea is even conveyed during Funeral Masses, when we should especially be praying for the deliverance of the deceased from any sins or disordered attachments that still clung to them at the end of their life. We might well imagine many preachers today saying something like this: Enter by the wide gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to life, and those who enter by it are many. But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to destruction, and those who find it are few. The only monumental problem with this idea is that it is the exact opposite of the message proclaimed by Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Cf. Matthew 7:13-14).

Jesus never promises us an easy way, but He does promise us a more abundant life (Cf. John 10:10). It is not easy to take up our cross and follow Him to our own Calvary, but it is worth it (Cf. Luke 9:23-26). The Way to heaven is narrow and difficult for us, not because God is not merciful, but because we are not merciful. If the Way is as difficult and narrow as Jesus says, and if we really care for those who have died and gone before us, we will strive to help the poor souls in Purgatory by our prayers, works of penance, indulgences, and by having Masses said on their behalf.

A Mass of Remembrance for those who had funerals and/or burials in our parishes during the past calendar year will be held at 7 pm on Wednesday, November 18 in Hoven and at 7 pm on Thursday November 19 in Bowdle. Please join us in praying for those who have died and for the families and friends affected by the loss.

Between You and God

Homily, Ordinary Sunday 32A

Growing up as the youngest of nine kids in my family, I got pretty used to sharing things with my siblings, whether food or clothes, or rooms in the house. Thankfully, though, there were some things that were just too personal to receive as hand-me-downs. I always got my own socks and underwear.

Many of us, when we hear the parable in today’s Gospel, we just can’t understand why the five wise virgins couldn’t have just shared their oil with the five foolish so that all ten could get into the wedding feast. But like the wedding garment of another parable, the oil represents the preparations that each one of us is expected to make before meeting the Lord. Personal character, integrity, and maturity are things not so easily passed and shared between us. The wisdom of really obeying and acting upon God’s Word is an invitation extended personally to each and every soul. When we come to the end of our lives, each of us will have to stand on our own two feet before the judgment seat of God, to answer for all that we did or did not do with the time and resources that God entrusted to us. No one else will answer for you. No one else was entrusted with the exact same gifts or responsibilities.

If we’re hoping to just coast into heaven on the coattails of someone else’s holiness, perhaps a pious grandmother, or a priest that we’re buddies with, we might just find ourselves locked out and left in the dark when we come to the end. Too little, too late. While intercessory prayer is effective and important, we should know, too, that God will not force Himself onto anyone, and we cannot blame God for respecting the refusal of His grace on the part of individual souls, who seem unconcerned, too busy with the things of this passing world to make personal preparations for eternity.

As I reflected on this Sunday’s readings, I couldn’t help but think of something written by St. Cajetan, a great Catholic reformer of the early 1500s. On his feast day of August 7, in the Office of Readings, we read from a letter written by Cajetan. One paragraph in particular is a good reminder for us to not make excuses but to finally take responsibility for our spiritual life. St. Cajetan writes,

I am a sinner and do not think much of myself; I have recourse to the greatest servants of the Lord, that they may pray for you to the blessed Christ and his Mother. But do not forget that all the saints can not endear you to Christ as much as you can yourself. It is entirely up to you. If you want Christ to love you and help you, you must love him and always make an effort to please him. Do not waver in your purpose, because even if all the saints and every single creature should abandon you, he will always be near you, whatever your needs.

In His Word and in this Eucharist, God gives each one of us everything we could ever need to become great saints in the world today. God gives us the fullness of the divinity of Christ, and His perfect humanity to transform us from within. He gives us patience to wait with trust and to endure the many things that lie outside our control and influence, and the strength to remain attentive to those things that God actually places in front of us each day. The election and the premature announcement of its results, the investigations into numerous reports of fraud in several states, are not things that we can affect much from here, besides continuing to pray and to wait with hope that the truth will actually come to light, that God would strengthen those who are in a position to expose and correct corruption. But becoming preoccupied and allowing it to disturb our peace only makes things more difficult for us, not for those who threaten the integrity of our democratic processes.

So let’s strive to always be prepared to meet the Lord, and to meet whatever challenges lie ahead of us. While I was in school for so many years, I became an expert in procrastination, but it’s not the healthiest or the wisest way to live. The question is sometimes asked, When’s the best time to plant a tree? In the spring or the fall? Actually, the best time to plant a tree is ten years ago. Much like physical growth, spiritual development and healing usually takes time. If we’re hoping to be ready to meet Christ the Bridegroom by the end of our lives—and Christ reminds us that we know neither the day nor the hour—or to meet the challenges and persecutions we will face as Catholics in a world more and more hostile to truth, let’s stop putting off what should have been done yesterday, what should have been done ten years ago. Let’s give ourselves entirely to Jesus Christ today, with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Give God the time and the energy that He deserves, today and every day. No one else is going to do it for you.

The Greatest Art

Bulletin Letter, Ordinary Sunday 32A

When we think of sacred art, what comes immediately to mind is probably the visual arts, great sculptors and painters like Michelangelo with his Pieta and the Sistine Chapel or da Vinci’s Last Supper. We might even think of great feats of architecture, like St. Peter’s Basilica and its colonnade. Even the great visual beauty of the churches in our own parishes commands our attention and that of any visitors.

What probably doesn’t come to mind as quickly is sacred music, and yet the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council states, “The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary or integral part of solemn liturgy” (no. 112). Even since the time of King David and Solomon’s Temple, the chanting of the Psalms has been one of the main components of offering our minds and voices in worship to the one God.

While we’re unable to have the Christmas on the Prairie Concert in Hoven this year due to concerns over COVID, we will be having an organ concert and Solemn Vespers of the 2nd Sunday of Advent on December 5, starting around 6 pm, just after the 5 pm Mass. Vespers is the Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayers that all priests and religious have promised to pray every day and which constitute—along with Mass and the other sacraments—the official prayer of the Church. Please mark your calendars and invite others to join us for this rare opportunity.

The organist is Benton Schmidt, originally from Fargo and no relation to me. He’s a graduate student in the Sacred Music Program at the University of Notre Dame. He’ll be playing at St. Mary in Aberdeen on the following day, and since he’d played for a wedding previously in Hoven, he thought he’d make the most of his trip and play for us as well. I estimate that the total duration will be around 45 minutes. What better way could there be to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ at Christmas than to experience some of the greatest artistic treasure while joining ourselves with Catholics around the world in the Church’s official prayer?

An Otherwordly Thirst for Righteousness

Homily, All Saints

Now that we’re just a few short days from the highly anticipated election, God in His providence has seen fit to try and broaden our perspective once again by placing this Solemnity of All Saints on a Sunday. The Saints—who now live in heaven, seeing the almighty and infinitely beautiful God face to face—the Saints were people from all different walks of life, people from every country and race, kings, slaves, bishops, wives and mothers, husbands and hermits. The Saints include people who lived through wars and revolutions, martyrs killed by dictators and killed by brothers, people who lived in kingdoms, empires, republics, colonies, city-states, democracies, tribes and clans. Despite the wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences, there is one thing they all had in common: they were saved and washed clean by the most Precious Blood of Christ. They longed and persisted in their desire for the kingdom of God, beyond this passing world. They allowed themselves to hunger and thirst for righteousness, for authentic justice, even when they realized they probably would never experience it on this side of heaven.

Do we allow ourselves to hunger and thirst for righteousness, even if hunger and thirst can be painful experiences? Or do we just settle for whatever happens? Resign ourselves to injustice and sin, to compromising our ideals, even in our daily lives? The Saints are those who realized that they shouldn’t expect the world around them to change and be well-ordered according to authentic justice, let alone those parts of the world 1500 miles away, if they remained unwilling to change themselves, to change their own hearts and minds, to live according to God’s truth even when that would mean having to suffer for the truth. Election day is just one day out of every four years—besides primaries, mid-terms, and other elections—and it’s definitely important for us to vote and to vote according to God’s truth and God’s will for our country, our state, our counties, and all the rest, but if you think voting is the only way that God is calling you to contribute to society, to guide and to shape the culture around you, you are gravely mistaken.

What are we doing on the rest of those 364 days out of the year to overcome sin in our lives, to be washed by the Blood of Christ, to exercise our desire and to order all our thoughts, words, and actions towards the kingdom that has no end? Countless Saints remained faithful to God and loving towards their neighbors under extremely anti-Catholic governments, in the midst of anti-Catholic cultures and societies, often having opportunity to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecuted them.

No matter what happens on Tuesday or any other day, the goal of our lives is not going to change. And the person who is the biggest obstacle to you or to me reaching our goal is still going to be the same. I am my greatest obstacle to reaching heaven and becoming a saint. It’s not the government. It’s not the president. It’s not bad cardinals or bad bishops in the Church. It’s me. It’s not the circumstances around me. Look at the lives of the Saints and learn from them. There are lots and lots of Saints who have done far better than I have who were given far less than what I’ve received. And until we stop blaming other people and making excuses for our own sins, we’re not going to see the change we desire in our own lives. We’re not really going to be open to the mercy of God, which has the power to transform us. And we’re not going to see authentic justice in society around us if it doesn’t start with you and with me, at the level of our own hearts, minds, and souls.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” How much do we hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness? Do we have the strength and courage to hold fast to our ideals in the midst of a world that is far from ideal? The Saints we celebrate today allowed themselves to burn with desire for our heavenly homeland, no matter how unjust and opposed to heaven the earthly kingdoms of their day became. And because of their persistence, not only did they reach their eternal goal, but they also became forces of cultural transformation on earth during their lives and after their deaths. Don’t resign yourselves to what the world offers us. Like all the Saints, you were made for heaven itself. Hunger and thirst for God, and don’t stop until you reach Him.

The Weightiest Issues

Bulletin Letter, All Saints

One discussion during each election season that I’ve never really understood is the criticism leveled against what are characterized as single-issue voters. I tend to doubt the accuracy of this characterization to begin with. I don’t think that very many voters actually just look at one issue and ignore the rest, but even if that is how they choose to vote, whether that’s a good, bad, or intelligent thing to do would depend on the weight and importance of that single issue. As intelligent voters, we should realize that not all issues or party platform items carry the same weight. Certain issues are much more fundamental and foundational.

If the single deciding factor I use in my consideration of a candidate is, for example, their favorite color or their favorite fast food, of course this would be ridiculous and a very poor criterion to use when it comes to voting. Other issues and rights, though, can be a necessary condition for anyone to enjoy the rest of the goods of society. The right to life leaps to mind as one such foundational right. Personally, I tend to have very little confidence that a candidate or party will have our best interests at heart in the areas of education, the economy, concern for our military men and women, or any other areas, when this same candidate or party have professed themselves unwilling to defend—or even actively opposed to—the rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” of a whole class of human beings, namely, the unborn.

Now I’m not a single-issue voter myself, despite what many might say about it, but I do realize that had I not been born, little else would make much difference to me, so I don’t look down upon others who care enough about life to make it their primary focus when it comes to casting their vote. In South Dakota, we also have a few ballot measures to vote on, and it is very helpful to read about those before being handed your ballot on Tuesday, both to speed the process and to be sure that you understand the measures. You can see a list and read about the South Dakota ballot measures online. Both bishops of the South Dakota Catholic Conference have ruled that Catholics should vote No on Constitutional Amendment A. Because of its effects on the gift of human reason, the legalization of recreational use of marijuana is not something that Catholics in good conscience can support. More information is available at sdcatholicconference.org.

I hope you’ve been praying for our country, that God would guide minds and hearts. Thankfully, the election will be over soon, but we may be dealing with the consequences for many years to come. Whatever happens on Tuesday, may Jesus Christ reign as King in our lives and our decisions, and may He raise up many saints in our country and throughout the world.