Posted by: matt25 | November 29, 2014

Is My Head Screwed On Right?

Before you answer the query in the title of this blog I would like to quickly interject that while it is a rhetorical question for you, it is a question I need to ask myself frequently. Moving on now with a wry semi-smile…

My friend Jeff Wentz who is the pastor at Pillar of Fire Fellowship in Dunkirk NY recently posted a something on Facebook that caused me to pause and reflect.

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When I have found myself chasing those things I eventually realized that I was not right with myself or with my God. When I am grounded in my love for God and secure in my knowing my Father’s love for me, I do not chase relationships or things to make me feel loved or to boost my feelings of self worth. I am content. And because I am content I am also open to letting God move me where He wills.

Pastor Jeff’s post reminded me that chasing attention, love or affection is a warning that my head isn’t screwed on right… yet again

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Posted by: matt25 | November 22, 2014

Winter Storm “Knife”

My family is digging out. We are used to lake effect snow coming off of Lake Erie in the Buffalo, NY area, but not like this. Some communities have seen snowfalls that are near or even exceed their typical snowfall totals for the entire year. My father who recently celebrated his 86th birthday lives in Lancaster where he nearly received an inch for nearly every year of his life. They got 84″ in just 3 days.

Lake Effect snow can be a very narrow band and that was the case this time. Communities less than 10 miles away only received a few inches. That may seem strange to those who don’t hear their local TV meteorologist say things like “the full fetch of the lake”, but it is the way it is around here. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz remarked in the early going that on the radar map It looked like a knife going through the heart of Erie County, so they have called it Winter Storm Knife..

Two of my daughters live with their families in heavily impacted areas and have not been able to leave their homes for 5 days. There is a 4 to 6 foot wall of compacted snow at the foot of their driveways and the combined efforts of the streets departments, New York State, and the National Guard have not yet been able to clear their streets. One of them called worried that her house was going to collapse from the weight of the snow on her roof as they were seeing cracks developing in their ceilings in the dining room, kitchen, and one of the bedrooms.

There was no way we could get through to them as travel into the area was impossible. I was incredibly frustrated as our calls to 911, police departments, and emergency response centers yielded no way to get them help. I am not angry about this, there just were not enough resources to deal with the crisis and everyone was stretched beyond thin while doing the best they could. I had nowhere to turn other than God and prayer. So that is what we did. My wife and I were praying and I put out prayer requests on Facebook and by email. The response was both immediate and generous. My son-in-law, who has a medical disability which should have prevented him from going on the roof to clear it went up there anyway knowing that the task was beyond what he could do. The prayers that went out for them not only kept him safe but softened the hearts of two neighbors who had earlier turned a blind eye to their situation.

I can’t thank those 2 men, or the hundreds of people who prayed enough.

Now that the snow has stopped we are all digging out and bracing for the near 60 degree weather coming with rain and wind that will melt the snow all too quickly, and undoubtedly cause arial flooding. Further difficulties for sure as we have already seen dozens of roofs that did collapse on both businesses and private homes. I believe the death’s attributed to this storm are now tallied at 13 but I spoke to a man yesterday whose grandmother died trying to dig out and she is not mentioned in the official accounts that I heard. I can’t help but wonder if there are others.

If you are reading this hours, days, or even years after I write this. Remember the power of prayer and pray for those who are in difficulty and distress. Pray for those who mourn. Pray for peace. Your prayer may be the final one that is needed to make the difference.

Here are two of my grandchildren standing on top of the snow that was removed from the roof to save their home. Snow removed by muscle and prayer.

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Before I share my nagging question with you may I ask another? Do you have one of those questions yourself? If you do, then you will know what I am talking about when I say it can be frustrating to be unable to put the answer in a nice neat box in colorful wrapping paper and fastened with a bow. Here is the question that has dogged me since my time in formation.

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How do I share the love of God and the truth of the Catholic faith with people who have embraced different philosophies and ways of living?

That is the question now, which applies in a more universal sense, but the specific question to my spiritual director that led to it was this.

How do I minister to those who have same sex attractions and have embraced a gay lifestyle, with love and without watering down or compromising my faith?

That seems to be a question which much of the church is wrestling with since Francis became the Bishop of Rome. It has certainly been getting a great deal of press in both the mainstream media and the blogosphere over the last year. I was drawn to a couple of posts by the Anchoress this morning that speak to this in both the specific and more universal form of my question.

The first was this post about a new book that has come out entitled “Gay And Catholic”. This is a book that I think will be a good and challenging read for me.

The second was a post from September which she gave the title “Why Dolan, and Francis, and Benedict Are Right”. This includes a statement from Elizabeth Scalia that truly resonated with me.

We are, in every age, called to be a missional church. Catholic missionaries used to head for the jungles, seeking to serve people who had never heard of Christ. Now, we must head into the jungle of confused popular culture and idols, and relative morality and social and sexual deconstruction. And there we must set our tents, and meet and serve the people who do not know Jesus Christ.

Herein lies the answer, perhaps. To love each life we encounter without judging the person, for judgement belongs to God. To help each person in their needs in as much as we are able, for that is what the Gospel demands. To walk with them in friendship as we share the way, the truth, and the life which brings all of us out of our own sinful existence into an ever deeper communion with God, for that is the call of our baptism. And to challenge their understandings as we allow them to challenge our own, for this is the way of dialog which helps uncover truth in charity.

There is no nice neat box in colorful wrapping paper, fastened with a bow here. There is only the messy struggle of life wrapped up in the pursuit of life lived with love, meaning and truth. Please pray for me to have the grace to live that way as I now pray for you.

Posted by: matt25 | October 27, 2014

What Do You Steer By?

Ships at sea uses to steer by the stars and the sun in the days before the compass.  Cars and trucks used maps and signs in the days before GPS.  But they all used, and still use something to help guide them to where they want to be.  Many organizations have found it helpful to have a guide of sorts in place to help them chart their course in the form of a mission statement.  Some individuals have found it useful to have a personal mission statement as well.

As I was meditating upon the Scripture Readings for Mass last weekend, I inadvertently uncovered just such a personal mission statement.  I say inadvertently, but what I really mean is that I was guided through the process of prayerfully wrestling with thoughts and ideas to what was already there waiting for me to see.

Please consider reading the scriptures prior to listening to the recording below.  I hope you are blessed in listening as I was in preparing for my homily.  Please pray for me that I may  faithful in my first calling in marriage and my second in holy orders, as I pray now for you who will read and/or listen to my post exactly when you are supposed to.

Here is a link to the scriptures this post grew out of:   Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1                     EX 22:20-26

Responsorial Psalm       PS 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

Reading II                    1 THES 1:5C-10

Gospel                         MT 22:34-40

My spoken homily is never an exact match to the written and the homily is meant to be heard rather than read but nonetheless here is the written form that I worked from.

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Some people say a wood-carver takes a piece of wood, something that we can all already appreciate in the beauty of its grain, texture and shape.  Then they carve it to reveal something else in the heart of the wood.  Something that was already present and waiting to be revealed.  An image of beauty that stays with the viewer in a way that the unrevealed wood did not.

I like to look at scripture that way sometimes.  I may take a reading and underline the key parts.  Then pray over those and perhaps highlight specific words that reveal something of the heart of the passage that I didn’t clearly see at first.  Let’s look at the reading from 1st Thessalonians that we heard today.  Now just what I highlighted…

You became imitators of the Lord, a model for all.

You turned to God who delivers us from the coming wrath.

That is something I can remember in a way that I could not remember the entire reading.

Jesus did that in a way today.  We heard in Matthew’s Gospel how Jesus was tested yet again by the Jewish authorities.  They wanted to put him in his place by asking him a question about the sacred scriptures that they thought he could never answer adequately.

But Jesus, saw into the heart of the scripture and revealed the answer that was already there.

The Scholar asked him what is the greatest commandment in the law?  On the face of it, the question appears very honest. The Pharisees identified 613 commandments in the Torah.  How could anyone remember all of them? And there was probably a great deal of debate over how some might be more important than others.

Jesus combines two in his answer:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” ( Dt 6:5).  And the second of equal importance is “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lv 19:18).

Jesus does not discard other commandments. In fact he explicitly adds:

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

There it was, brought to light in a way that all could see and remember!

The heart of the 613 commandments can be summed up in those two.

Perhaps if we take these two readings and connect them, we can bring out a single ideal upon which we can build our lives.  A single way of life which will not only fill us with joy, but also build the kingdom here on earth and attract others to do the same.

A mission statement, if you will, for our lives.

This is what I heard God say to us today, our mission statement.

We are imitators of the Lord, whom we love with all that we are, and above all else.

We are a model for all, joyfully sharing with them the love that is our salvation.

I will say that once more, slowly, so that you can pray it within your heart and mind as you hear it.

Can I get an Amen?

(tie in to Catholics Come Home Campaign)

Posted by: matt25 | October 14, 2014

Come To The Water

You know you are a sinner and you feel like your unholiness is a reason to stay away from church. First off, we are all sinners. If there were no sinners in church it would be completely empty. Second the nagging feeling in your heart, your “feeling bad” about your sins, is your personal invitation to accept the forgiveness offered to you through Jesus Christ. Come to the water. Be like the prodigal son who upon coming home was surprised by a forgiving father who held a feast in his honor. Yeah, God’s like that. Just come home.

All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!

Isaiah 55:1

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Posted by: matt25 | October 4, 2014

St Francis Pray For Us

St Francis of Assisi was the guy who loved animals, right? Yes, but if that is the depth of your understanding of his life and spirituality you looked only at the book’s cover and never read it.

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Francis was a bright and talented “life of the party” kind of guy.
He was a soldier who was wounded, imprisoned, and held for ransom.
He was a disillusioned young man in poor health who went for long walks in the countryside.
Some people, probably most, thought he was delusional when he said he heard a voice come from a crucifix on the wall.
Francis was a man who surrendered in a radical way to God’s calling.
He was used as an instrument of reform and renewal in people’s hearts and minds, and the Church.
Francis was the founder of a religious order, who received the stigmata.
I encourage you to look inside the book and read the chapters. But for now, let us pray.

St Francis pray for us.
Intercede for us before the Throne of Divine Mercy that we may hear God speak to us, and have the grace to say yes to what is asked, without stopping to count the cost.
Help us to see the incarnation of our God who is as close to us as the beating of our hearts, the out reached hand of the homeless, the hidden pain of the prisoner, and the warmth of the sun on our face.
Lead us to rebuild the church in our hearts, the church in our homes, the church in our country, and the church in our Church.
Encourage us to be radically loving intentional disciples of the Christ of God, Jesus our Savior.
St. Francis, pray for us.

Saturday 4 October 2014
About Today
St Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226)

Francis was the son of a prosperous cloth merchant in Assisi. When his father objected to having his goods sold without his consent to pay for the restoration of a church, the bishop commanded Francis to repay the money. He did. He also renounced his father and gave back everything he had ever been given, even his garments. He began a life of perfect evangelical poverty, living by begging and even then only accepting the worst food that people had to give. He preached to all the love of God and the love of the created world; because, having renounced everything, he celebrated everything he received, or saw, or heard, as a gift. A rich man sold everything and joined him in living next to a leper colony; a canon from a neighbouring church gave up his position and joined them also. They looked into the Gospel and saw the story of the rich young man whom Jesus told to sell everything; they saw Jesus telling his disciples to take nothing with them on their journey; they saw Jesus saying that his followers must also carry his cross. And on that basis they founded an order. Francis went to Rome himself and persuaded the Pope to sanction it, though it must have seemed at once impractical and subversive, to set thousands of holy men wandering penniless round the towns and villages of Europe.
Because Francis was wearing an old brown garment begged from a peasant, tied round the middle with string, that became the Franciscan habit. Ten years later 5,000 men were wearing it; a hundred years later Dante was buried in it because it was more glorious than cloth of gold.
There is too much to say about Francis to fit here. He tried to convert the Muslims, or at least to attain martyrdom in doing so. He started the practice of setting up a crib in church to celebrate the Nativity.
Francis died in 1226, having started a revolution. The Franciscans endure to this day.

“Catholic Calendar” iPad app

Illustration is from http://www.greatthoughtstreasury.com

Posted by: matt25 | September 30, 2014

Incest and Rational Thinking About Pornography

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Have you ever thought about incest and the reasons it isn’t accepted behavior? This isn’t a topic that most people in our culture ever consider rationally. If they consider it at all, they may not dig any deeper than emotional reactions or the possibility of birth defects in children born from the union of people who are closely related. In a world of shifting patterns of what is considered morally acceptable behavior, the taboo against incest still holds mostly firm but, since that may not be true for our children or their children, some deeper thinking is in order.

This is not a new question. In fact it was one that Thomas Aquinas addressed In the Supplement to his Summa, where he discusses questions of consanguinity. This was brought to my attention in a recent post by Christopher O. Tollefsen, Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina, in which he shows Aquinas had three arguments against incest which are strikingly similar to three observed results of the use of pornography. I recommend reading the entire post but here is a portion:

- First, there is an erosion of the sexual integrity of young men and women, who have no place to escape the pressures of a sexualized world.
– Second, use of porn among young people is correlated with early, and risky, sexual activity. Such activity is itself harmful to those engaged in it, to their families, and to the stability or even possibility of their future marriages.
– And third, porn use destabilizes marital relationships, bringing competition into the home. Indeed, the worry that wives cannot “compete” with what their husbands see online is a frequent complaint of those who are married to porn users.

Perhaps our cultural taboo against incest is quite wise after all. Perhaps the cultural acceptance of pornography is not. I know what I think about it and I know it is worth thinking about.

Posted by: matt25 | September 22, 2014

Windows and Androids and Apples Oh My!

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While I am not sucked in by the iHype over the new phone release, here is some advice from Wired if you are tempted to take a bite out of that apple. I am glad that they mentioned rare earth minerals and the environmental cost associated with phone manufacturing as something to consider.

http://www.wired.com/2014/09/buy-new-iphone/

Posted by: matt25 | September 17, 2014

Does It Matter? Will You Shed Tears?

Are we living in a boiling cauldron which is brewing WWIII?

Pope Francis spoke on the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War (13 September 1914), in a reflective and challenging way.

“even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction.”

“With the heart of a son, a brother, a father, I ask each of you, indeed for all of us, to have a conversion of heart: to move on from ‘What does it matter to me?’, to shed tears…humanity needs to weep, and this is the time to weep”.

You can read the Pope’s full remarks here:

http://visnews-en.blogspot.com/2014/09/pope-francis-shadow-of-cain-looms-over.html

matt25:

Reflections and hard truths on racism & Ferguson by Ralph McCloud, Director, Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Originally posted on to go forth:

The recent tragic events in Ferguson, MO have brought to the forefront issues of racism, public accountability and the role of faith leaders in communities. Organizations supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development are working to rebuild community ties in Ferguson, and join the Archbishop of St. Louis in his call to “dismantle systemic racism”.

Recently, the online journal Millennial interviewed Ralph McCloud, director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, to discuss these issues. With the kind permission of Millennial, we’ve re-produced the interview in its entirety here.


Ralph McCloud serves as the executive director of the USCCB’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Ralph McCloud serves as the executive director of the USCCB’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

It seems as though one of the things motivating people to protest is the sense that racial bias is leading to unequal and unjust policing. Do you see this as a major problem in the country? If so, what can be done to address…

View original 972 more words

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