Archive for June, 2005

Molly Molly Molly

June 28, 2005

Would you like to get a free doggie treat for your dog and get me a coupon for Ms. Molly to get some? She really enjoys them.

Here is the link for the free sample.

Link

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THE FORGOTTEN VICE IN SEMINARY FORMATION

June 21, 2005

This article is copyrighted by the vocation director of my diocese so please don’t use or reproduce any portion of it without his permission. Fr. James Mason. Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls.

THE FORGOTTEN VICE IN SEMINARY FORMATION

“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
C. S. Lewis – The Abolition of Man

This is an article that I wrote during my years of seminary formation but I was advised to wait to have it published until after my priestly ordination. It deals with a touchy subject, that will offend many involved in the work of seminary formation, but with the current atmosphere of scandals and talk of a more thorough screening process for seminarians, I believe it is a topic that must be dealt with. Sioux Falls is a rural farming diocese that is having great success in vocations with both numbers and quality and one of the consistent complaints or difficulties our new seminarians have had in adjusting to seminary life is the issue of effeminacy. The fact of the matter is they are not used to and are uncomfortable living in an environment that is often effeminate. Recently one of our seminarians from a farm family was embarrassed to say that he would not want his brother to visit his dorm because of the way the men acted on his floor. While not, perhaps, stating it in the most precise manner it was understood by all when he said that many seminarians on his floor, “acted like a bunch of women.”

Saint Thomas includes effeminacy under the vices opposed to perseverance. It is from the Latin Mollities, which literally means “softness.” Mollities is the verb used in 1 Corinthians 6:9 which deals with the sexual sin of sodomy. It involves being inordinately passive or receptive. It may be true that some cultural prejudices are being revealed here with this comparison because a vice is a vice, whether it is found in a man or a woman, but it is also true that some vices are more perverse or disordered when found specifically in men or women.

What Saint Thomas means by persevering is when “a man does not forsake a good on account of long endurance or difficulties and toils.” An “effeminate man is one who withdraws from good on account of sorrows caused by lack of pleasures, yielding as it were to a weak motion.” Thomas states that this effeminacy is caused in two ways. First, by custom, where a man is accustomed to enjoy pleasures and it is, therefore, more difficult for him to endure the lack of them. Second, by natural disposition, less persevering through frailty of temperament, and this is where Thomas compares men with women and also mentions the homosexual act of sodomy and the receiver in this act as being effeminate or like a woman. The vice of delicacy for Thomas considers those who cannot endure toils or anything that diminishes pleasure, and thus delicacy is a kind of effeminacy. Thomas quotes from Deuteronomy 28:56, “The tender and delicate woman, that could not go upon the ground, nor set down her foot for softness.” In priestly or seminary life we are not called to such softness, and these issues must be addressed in formation.

Imelda Marcos’ collection of shoes displays a type of softness, but if Ferdinand had a similar problem, it would be much more perverse or pronounced because he is a man. Effeminacy is more pronounced in a man than a woman because women are more susceptible to this vice. Just as the vice of drunkenness is more pronounced or perverse when found in a woman than a man.

I have five sisters, and all are feminine, but I would describe none of them as effeminate or soft. They are women; yet, they do not exhibit this particular vice. So, it must be understood, I am not putting down women or speaking on homosexuality, (though effeminacy is often a sign of this sexual disorder) but rather on acting in an inappropriate manner that is often prevalent in seminaries.

Saint Thomas also speaks on modesty concerning the outward movements of the body. Here, he quotes Saint Ambrose in stating that, “Beauty of conduct consists in becoming behavior towards others, according to their sex and person.” Thomas states that, “Outward movements are a sign of the inward disposition” and quotes Ecclesiastics 19:29-30, “You can tell a person by his appearance . . . the way a person dresses, the way he laughs, the way he walks, tell you what he is.” Saint Ambrose adds that, “The habit of mind is seen in the gesture of the body,” and that “the body’s movement is an index of the soul.” Ambrose goes on to say, “Let nature guide the movement: if nature fail in any respect, surely effort will supply the defect.” This effort is lacking in almost all seminary formation. Such things should be noticed and discussed by seminary faculty in both external and internal formation, as they can often be signs of deeper issues.

Saint Thomas, moreover, asserts the truth that it is often from our outward movements that other men form their judgment about us. Thomas encourages us to study our outward movements so that if they are inordinate in any way, they may be corrected. Such things need to be addressed in formation because they have a definite effect on our ability to be and bring Christ to others. Does the seminary deal with a seminarian that sways when he walks, who has limp wrists, who acts like a drama queen or who lisps? It must. This not about a witch hunt but being honest enough to admit that such external behavior affects our ability to share Christ. I knew a seminarian that spoke in a very effeminate manner, and to his credit he recognized this impediment to his future preaching the Gospel, and on his own sought help from a speech instructor. The seminary did not see this glaring problem and did not move this man to get assistance. That is the problem.

When we are at the altar or preaching the Gospel, we are Jesus Christ and must do our best to image him to our people. Anything we do that takes people’s attention away from this reality must be addressed. Over dramatic movements, purposeful lisps, swaying, in short, effeminate behavior removes attention from Christ and His word and puts it on the priest. This is not just distracting to other men but I know my sisters will roll their eyes when the Liberace-like priest celebrates himself while celebrating the Mass.

Thomas also speaks on modesty of outward apparel. Moderation, of course, is the rule, and here he warns that the lack of moderation may arise from an inordinate attachment to clothes, with the result being that a man sometimes takes too much pleasure in them. G. K. Chesterton in describing a friend as a man’s man said it best when he stated, “He was not in any case a dandy; but insofar as he did dress well, he was totally indifferent to how other men who were his friends might dress, which is another mark of purely masculine companionship.” The three guiding virtues in dress are humility, contentment and simplicity. Here one must always consider the appropriateness of a situation and the personal motivation behind wearing certain apparel. This is not a new problem as Saint John Chrysostom addressed it in the 4th c. in his writing on The Learning of Temperance, which speaks of the folly of over-adorning oneself with jewels. He states that, “I, for my part, expect that in the process of time the young men among us will wear even women’s shoes and not be ashamed. And what is more grievous; men’s fathers seeing these things are not much displeased, but do even account it an indifferent manner. Do you want me to add what is still more grievous; that these things are done even when there are many poor?”. . . “What can be worse than this unseemliness, this absurdity? For, this marks a soul, in the first place effeminate, then unfeeling cruel, then curious and idly busy.” Chrysostom goes on to say, “You may indeed laugh at hearing this, but I am inclined to weep for these men’s madness and their earnest care about these matters, for in truth they would rather stain their body with mud than those pieces of leather.”

Now, I would hope that no one in seminary formation is going around in women’s shoes, but the general point is to watch our attachment to such things. Is it in line with being a man? With being a priest of Jesus Christ? I remember in my first year of seminary how I was shocked when I came across a first year priest in the seminary who was wearing a gold ankle bracelet and matching gold earring. These are not proper adornments for a priest or a seminarian, and this should be seen as a formation issue.

In the book, The Church Impotent, Leon Poodles asks why men in the Christian West are so little interested in religion and that men who are interested often do not follow the general pattern of masculinity. Father Tom Forrest, a priest active in international evangelization, points out that only 25% of the participants in Catholic gatherings he has attended are men. The fact is that women dominate daily Masses, church staff and volunteers, and church groups. Why are we not attracting men when the Orthodox seem to have a balance, and Islam and Judaism have predominately male membership? The author goes on to state that something seems to be creating a barrier between western Christianity and men.

Poodles observes, “Because Christianity is now seen as a part of the sphere of life proper to women rather to men, it sometimes attracts men whose masculinity is somewhat doubtful. By this I do not mean homosexuals, although a certain type of homosexual is included. Rather, religion is seen as a safe field, a refuge from the challenges of life, and therefore attracts men who are fearful of making the break with the secure world dominated by women. These are men who have problems following the path of masculinity.”

I am not a psychologist and I cannot speak on some over-attachment to the feminine, but there is a truth that masculinity as a needed virtue in the seminary is something that is generally ignored in formation. This may be one of the problems with why the church has a difficult time attracting men to Mass and serving the church.

What is it that draws soft or effeminate men to the seminary and why is this not dealt with in formation? Poodles offers the prior explanation for the former question but the latter can only be understood if it is admitted that there are many bishops, faculty and priests who suffer under this vice and are therefore unwilling or unable to recognize it or address it. All seminaries are not equal, some relish in their softness others have select faculty that will privately admit to the problem but for fear of offending colleagues and bishops refuse to speak out on it. In my years of seminary formation the most controversial conference was given by my own Bishop Robert Carlson on the vice of effeminacy. Some faculty and students were offended, the truth always stings, and felt my bishop either somehow lacked compassion or was mean spirited in discussing such an issue. This must end and as with all problems its solution begins only with admitting its existence and reality that many seminaries breed an effeminate culture.

In a study by Lewis Terman and Catherine Cox involving a masculinity-femininity test, Catholic seminarians scored at a point far less masculine than any other male group of their age. Right next to them, though, were the Protestant male seminarians, which the authors of the study stated ruled out celibacy or sexual deviance as a cause for connection to this lack of masculinity. This, it also must be pointed out, is not particular to the Catholic faith but to all of the western Christian faiths. In fact, “Some liberal Presbyterian or Methodist congregations are practically bereft of men.”

In a parish, it will be helpful if you can talk on sports to relate to men. If you have an easier time or even prefer interacting with women to the exclusion of men, this will cause problems in your parish and affect your ministry to men. I remember a seminarian from my dorm who, even though he was not athletically gifted, used to go out and practice basketball and softball with one of his classmates. He did this not so much for the exercise, but because he felt it would help him minister to the kids in the grade schools and high schools where he would serve as a priest. This man recognized the importance of sports in our culture and the fact that it could be used to draw the young, especially boys, to the church and to Christ.

The question then is what can be done in helping form and ordain more manly priests? First, seminaries and bishops must recognize effeminacy as a formation issue. In choosing faculty to teach and form our future priests the question must be asked does the candidate exhibit manly or effeminate qualities. Also, bishops need to realize that just because a priest requests an assignment, this does not automatically make him the right man for the job. This is especially true if the priest desires to work in liturgy, campus ministry, teaching or seminary work where a manly model of priesthood is most needed and unfortunately often most missing. Bishops need to take an active role in knowing and forming their priestly candidates. It is, perhaps, not only his most important decision but also the decision he will be held most accountable for. My own bishop is one of the few if not only bishops in our country who has every seminarian live at least a summer in his residence. He knows the men he will ordain. Bishop Carlson recounts a story of a seminarian he inherited who had already been through five years of formation and was extremely effeminate. In working with this seminarian he asked him about his sexual orientation. The seminarian responded he did not know. At that time he was two years away from being ordained and neither the rector nor seminary faculty saw this as a problem. This is the problem.

We need to consider Mt. 19:11-12 when the church discerns whether the seminarian actually has a priestly vocation. “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they born so; some, because they were made so by others; some because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” This third and last category is the only one true call to celibacy and the priesthood. Hebrews 5:4 reminds us that, “No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.” Bishops, rectors and seminary faculty must use these scriptures verses as guides in truly discerning if Jesus Christ is calling this seminarian to the priesthood. The number’s game and pressure to fill parishes cannot be used as the standard in making such decisions. This is one of the reasons why we are in the mess we are today. Certainly it is not always an easy decision but it must always be asked if this seminarian has an alternative motive to the priesthood other than God’s call. Also, necessarily, there must be men who are not blinded by similar vices to be able to see and makes this decision.

We need to take this time of scandal as an opportunity to take a good hard look at how our seminaries and vocation offices are run and staffed. As a seminarian I could not have said such things publicly without jeopardizing the review all seminarians must receive from the faculty staff to move onto ordination. I am now a priest and a vocation director and so, have a duty to raise such concerns in the hope that such things will be addressed in forming priests for the 3rd millennium who most fully image the source of priesthood our Lord Jesus Christ.

Clergy Days

June 14, 2005

We are in the middle of Clergy Days. It is an annual gathering of the priests of our diocese where there is time for furthering our education and staying connected. It is an interesting event.

This year we are having a presentation on Bioethics by Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk. He is a brilliant priest that some of us attended seminary with. He was finishing his last year in Rome when I arrived there. I didn’t know him very well at all because he moved to the Brazillian college to study portuguese.

That aside his presentations are outstanding. You can purchase one of them on DVD if you like here. It is well worth the money.

More on this later.

June 13, 2005

Evidently I just got tagged for this book thing… for an explanation you can go here:

1. How many books do I own: Too many. I just packed 10 boxes of books for my impending move and I am pretty sure I have about 5 left. Plus I have a bunch of books in Texas. Priests and books. I am guessing 500 or more. If you count comic books then I am into the 1000’s because I still have a spider man comic book collection from when I was a kid. I wouldn’t mind selling that though.

2. The last books I bought:

3. The last book I read:

4. 5 books that mean a lot to me: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Ezekiel and Sirach.. I know that is 6 and I have about 67 others but I will give you a break.

5. Tag 5 people…. hmmm do unto others as you would have them do unto you…. break chain letters… How about I just tag two.. both friends, one my Godson’s dad so you can see my spiff spiritual child. Delano and Harry is trying to get me to swicht to Apple’s.

Wow that was a lot of work.. but on another note… I am a priest two years today. Sia lodato Gesu Christo

Jehova’s Witnesses

June 6, 2005

Just had some come to the door of the rectory. I appreciate the boldness. I felt bad for the guy as he left because he was clearly shaken. Sola Scriptura isn’t found in the Bible and he had never been asked to show it.

I edified his desire to follow the truth. I told him I thought he was obedient to the truth as he knew it. I told him I felt he had been deceived by the leaders of his Church in that they taught him something that his own scripture contradicts. He brought up pedofilia as being popular in the Church… I said it isn’t at all popular we teach it is a sin… he said: Well the media says it is popular… I told him I don’t believe what the media reports because they have said awful things about Jehova’s Witnesses that I just didn’t think were true and it would be unfair for me to believe them.

He left and said just know we didn’t pass your door.. I said thank you, just know I didn’t kick you out but it was your decision to leave.

On the road again!

June 6, 2005

I just received word on Friday that I am moving to a new assignment. I will be the new Pastor of Faulkton, Orient, and Seneca, SD.

This should be quite fun because it was 9 years ago this September that I arrived in South Dakota and these three parishes were my first assignment as a seminarian. I am looking forward to seeing many old friends again.

The assigment is effective at the end of this month.

Homily – Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

June 6, 2005

Homily – Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Our readings to day speak to us of the virtue of hope. The Catechism tells us that Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness. It allows us to place our trust in Christ’s promises and rely not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. The virtue of hope responds to the desire for happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man. It purifies men’s earthy hopes and activities and directs them to the Kingdom of heaven. It keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal happiness. Strenthened by hope, the Christian is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from true love. Christian hope takes up and fulfills the hope of the chosen people which we hear about in the second reading today. That hope begins in the hope of Abraham, who was blessed abundantly by the promises of God fulfilled in Isaac, and who was purified by the test of the sacrifice. “Hoping against hope, he believed, and thus became the father of many nations.”
Christian hope is taught to us from the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in the Sermon on the Mount. The beatitudes, the blessings, lead our hope toward its goal of heaven as the new Promised Land. They show us the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. Because Christ died for our sins on the cross God can place in us a “hope that does not disappoint.” “Hope is the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul . . . that enters . . . ” where Jesus has gone ahead of us on our behalf. Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation against the devil who desires us to lose hope and doubt God. The scriptures tell us: “Let us . . . put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”It affords us joy even under trial: “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation.” Hope is expressed and strengthened in prayer. This is especially true in the Our Father. It is the prayer that is the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire. We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” and to obtain the joy of heaven. This is God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.” She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven.
This great virtue of hope is a God given gift that we receive in baptsim. Like all the gifts we are given by God we are expected to use them and increase them for his Glory. Yet also like any God given gift the Devil seeks to pervert it and distort it to lead us away from God. Hope is no different. The virtue of Hope can be perverted in two ways to become the sins of Despair and Presumption.
Despair causes man to cease to hope for his personal salvation from God. It can cause him to believe that he is beyond help the forgiveness of his sins. Despair is contrary to God’s goodness. God made us for heaven. It is contrary to his to his justice – for the Lord is faithful to his promises. And it is contrary to his Mercy to say that he wouldn’t forgive somone who was truly repentant that had turned away from their sin and toward God.
We should have a firm hope that if we love God by keeping his commandments that we will go to heaven. We do not rely on our own strength but we rely on God’s strength and mercy. With his grace we can live holy lives that will lead us to the gates of Heaven.
Today presumption is the more common of the sins against hope. There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit). The second of these afllicts many Christians and a rapidly increasing number of Catholics.
We see this in the example of the first reading and the Gospel. In the first reading we see those people who call upon God when times are tough but quickly forget him when things go well. They will beg God to save them if they are in financial difficulties and even be angry with him if he doesn’t respond. Yet when they prosper they are cheap with God. They expect God and the Church to beg them for money and they will only give it if they can control it. They come up with all sorts of excuses as to why they are holding back their tithe. In reality they have hard hearts that love money. They do not love God but instead try to use him.
In the Gospel we see the Pharisees who are critical of Jesus for eating with Sinners. They see themselves as righteous because outwardly they appear to the world to be good people. But Christ sees hearts that are blackened with the sin of pride and presumption. The pharisees are quick to point out the fault of others and to excuse themselves.
The second kind of presumption occurs today whe people assume that they will go to heaven and make no effort to convert their lives to ways of holiness. For them they believe that Hell doesn’t exist and they can’t go there. They live a life of cheap grace that expects God to reward them for doing the bare minimum. Good works are important. We must be people of integrity who are doers of the word not just hearers of the word. But works are not what gets us to heaven. God cannot be bought. What gets us to Heaven is a faithful heart deeply in love with Jesus Christ. Those deeply in love with another seek to please their beloved. They do not seek to do the bare minimum to keep their beloved happy. That is not love. That is presumption that seeks to use another person. It is a love of self and a mockery of God. God will not be mocked.
God plants within us the seeds of our Salvation at baptism. We are to nurture and care for those seeds so they will grown into a healthy tree of faith. If the tree is heatlhy it’s fruit will be clearly seen in our life of conversion. Holiness is the fruit of a living faith. Yet as the scripture says if the tree does not bear good fruit it will be cut down and cast into the fire.
We should have a firm and lively hope that God will give us everything we need to live lives of holiness. But if we refuse to use the gifts and graces he gives us and our lives do not bear the fruit of holiness then we cannot presume that God will allow us to mock him. He desires, deserves, and demands or hearts to be truly and authentically in love with him. He will not accept a cheap substitute. We know that God loves us completely. It is our firm and lively Hope that he gives us what we need to respond in love to him. The question we need to answer is will we accept what he offers us and will we use it to offer ourselves back to him? It is my hope that you will. The choice is yours. Choose well.