Nota Bene

Humble (oh really...?) opinions on matters of faith
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What I'm Reading
(The Bible should always be assumed...)

The New Faithful
by Colleen Carroll

by Fr. Francis Sullivan, SJ

Leadings: A Catholic's Journey Through Quakerism
by Irene Lape

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Thursday, October 30, 2003

Ending Nota Bene

A couple of days ago I announced that I had accepted a writing job at The Criterion, the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and that this job change would take effect sometime in the next three months. At the time that I announced this I noted that Nota Bene would be coming to an end at the time that the job change actually occurred.

In the time since I posted that announcement, I have decided to bring this weblog to an end sooner rather than later. This, therefore, will be the last post of Nota Bene.

I thank all of my readers who have come here either purposefully or simply by accident. I hope that it has provided, as its title suggests, a 'good word.'

May the grace of Almighty God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain with all of you forever. Amen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

On Baby Patrol

My wife Cindy is working today, so I'm at home taking care of Michael. Expect little blogging.

Monday, October 27, 2003

An Announcement

Last week I was asked to become a full-time writer for The Criterion, the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. After speaking about this opportunity with my wife Cindy, I decided to accept it. I will therefore be leaving my current position as the director of religious education in the parish where I currently work. This will happen sometime in the next three months.

I also suspect that at the time of this change I may bring this weblog to a close. I have enjoyed posting my writing in it. But then I will be working as a full-time writer and so will want to devote my energies to that.

This is something that I have been thinking about for a while and something that, in practice, has been slowly taking effect over the past several months. I do much less blogging now than I did, say, a year ago. And many of the things that I post now were not written first for the blog but for another purpose.

In the final analysis, I chose to accept the writing position so that I could be a better husband and father, the real vocation to which God has called me. Being a writer will provide me with much better hours than being a DRE. Wow--I'll actually be able to drive to Mass with my family on a Sunday and spend the entire day with them.

Ending my blogging is also, in the final analysis, directed to this purpose as well--being a better husband and father.

But until the job change officially occurs, I will continue to do my regular posts. And, in the end, I will continue to lurk at other blogs and their comment boxes after this humble one has come to an end.


Catholic Reasons for Hope--1 Pt 3:15

Q: We in the Catholic Church celebrate the Feast of All Souls on November 2. I know that this is a day when we are especially encouraged to pray for the souls in purgatory. Please help me to understand why we believe it is important to do this. Other Christians don’t believe it is necessary.

Before explaining why it is important to pray for souls in purgatory, I think that purgatory itself should be discussed.

The Catholic Church believes that in order to see God face to face in heaven one must be totally pure (Rev 21:27). Each of us who are baptized are made pure by God’s grace through baptism. But afterwards we can reject this purity by choosing to sin.

Sin (mortal sin in particular) has two effects: an eternal effect and temporal effects (CCC 1472). The eternal effect is total separation from God. This is taken away from us when we become sorry for our sins, confess them in the sacrament of reconciliation, and receive absolution from God through the priest.

The temporal effects of sin can include penance that is due for our sins and our attachment to sin.

When our sins are forgiven in the sacrament of reconciliation, the eternal effect of sin may be removed, but we still have temporal penances to accomplish and we may still have an attachment to the sin.

If we die in a state of grace but still have penances or have attachment to sin, we do not yet have that purity that that we need in order to experience the total blessedness of heaven. We believe that we will eventually be there because we died in God’s grace, but that we aren’t ready yet for it because of the remaining temporal effects of sin.

Therefore we believe that those who die in this way will experience purgatory after death (CCC 1030-1032). Among the passages from the Bible that lend support to this belief are the following: Rev 21:27, 1 Pt 3:19, 1 Cor 15:29-30, 2 Macc 12:43-45. This has been a belief of the Church from its earliest days and only began to be rejected by the leaders of the Reformation in the 16th century.

Having established the Catholic Church’s belief about purgatory, it is fairly simple to understand the validity of praying for the souls in purgatory. In principle it is no different than our praying or for a friend or relative who is still living here on earth.

Our intercessory prayers, penances, Masses that are offered, etc. for the souls in purgatory are ways that we can apply the merit that God freely gives to us through our prayers to them.

In essence, our belief about our prayers for the dead are tied to our belief about the nature of the Church. We believe, along with St. Paul, that the Church is the mystical body of Christ (Rom 12:4-5, 1 Cor 12:12-31, Eph 5:23-27, Col 1:18). It extends from the body of believers here on earth all through purgatory to heaven where it is united with Christ himself and all of his holy ones who surround his throne for all time.

When members of the faithful die in a state of grace none of us who are still living are ever spiritually separated from them. We can pray for them and even do penance for them while we are still living.

Do we know with certainty that a friend or loved one who has passed away is either in purgatory or in heaven? No. But even if we pray for a person who may already be in heaven, we can believe that God will be pleased with such prayers and apply for the good of those who still need them.

Therefore on this November 2, the Feast of All Souls, I encourage all parishioners to pray for the souls of all of the faithful departed and perhaps especially for your friends and loved ones who have passed away. Not only will God bless them because of your prayers, you yourself will surely be blessed as well.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Taking a short break

I'll be taking a short break from blogging, probaby four or five days. I'm always interested to read your comments, though, especially on my column on Terri Schiavo (a few posts back).


Catholic Reasons for Hope--1 Pt 3:15

Q: Does the Bible require priests not to marry?

The Bible does not require priests to live as celibates. On the other hand, it does not forbid celibacy either. Indeed, celibacy is praised in the New Testament, even by Christ himself: “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it” (Mt 19:11).

Later on in that same chapter Jesus again praises those who freely give up the goods of family life: "And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19:29).

A bit further in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus states that there are no marriages in heaven: “At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven” (Mt 22:30). This is not to say, of course, that marriage is not a good and holy thing. Nor does it say that the love that binds a husband and wife will be forgotten in heaven.

What our Lord does say here indirectly is that the love of God that joins a husband and wife exclusively on earth will apply to all people in heaven. In the Church on earth, when a priest chooses a life of celibacy in order to give of himself in loving service to all of God’s people given to his care, he becomes, through God’s grace, a living sign of that life in heaven where ‘they neither marry nor are given in marriage.’

St. Paul lived a life of celibacy and wrote of its value in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another...I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife…” (1 Cor 7:7, 32-33).

Later on in his writings, St. Paul seems to contradict himself in counseling St. Timothy on how to select the proper man for the office of bishop: “a bishop must be...married only once…” (1 Tm 3:2). However, St. Paul is not requiring that a man who would be a bishop must be married. Instead, he is teaching that a widower who aspired to the office could not remarry or that a man who was married at the time of their selection for the office could not remarry if his wife then died at a later date.

In the next chapter of the same letter, St. Paul seems to reject celibacy in principle when he condemns those who “forbid marriage” (1 Tm 4:3). However St. Paul here does not condemn celibacy in and of itself but only the total rejection of marriage in all cases. There were indeed many religious groups in St. Paul’s day that were very dualistic, affirming only what was spiritual and rejecting anything to do with matter and the body—including marriage. St. Paul condemned such groups and their beliefs.

In contrast to such dualistic groups, the Catholic Church has always placed a high value on marriage. At the same time, it also has valued celibacy as well. Either are ways of life that the Lord calls individuals to and so should not be rejected in principle.

As we can see from the various passages of Sacred Scripture that I have laid out here (as well as others to which I could have appealed), the Bible praises celibacy and encourages those who would give themselves to God’s service to live this way.

In being in accord with the teachings of the Bible, the Catholic Church has never taught that celibacy is an essential part of the priesthood. Yet over the course of its history it has come to require it nonetheless in ordinary circumstances because of the biblical and sacramental principles that I have laid out here and because of the practical openness that it allows for men who would serve the faithful.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Prince? A Jehovah's Witness?

Yeah, you heard it correctly. And apparently he's hitting the pavement and knocking on doors too. I guess the Kingdom Hall now has a prince or, rather the Prince.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

The Pope, Terry Schiavo, and the Gospel of Life

The following is a column that I have submitted to the local newspaper for which I write a weekly column. Hopefully it will get published.

Pope John Paul II, along with Catholics around the world, celebrates today the twenty-fifth anniversary of his papal election. When he was elected on October 16, 1978 (when this writer was only eight years old), he was a robust 58-year-old man whose pastimes were skiing and mountain climbing. The boldness of his body was matched by the courage of his soul and the challenging words that flowed forth from it, words of eternal meaning that ultimately played a vital role in the collapse of communism.

Today, a quarter of a century after that Polish priest appeared before the faithful in St. Peter’s Square for the first time as pope, his body is no longer robust. Now it is wracked by the effects of an assassination attempt, hip replacement surgery, severe arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease. But the power of his papacy endures.

In every country to which he has traveled he has trumpeted the eternal message of the Gospel of life, defending the inherent and sacred dignity of every human person. Now this message flows forth from his entire body and not simply through his words. For no physical infirmity, no matter how challenging, can destroy the dignity of the person who bears them. We are not ultimately defined by the changeable condition of our bodies but the unchanging dignity of our God-given souls. This is the powerful message that Pope John Paul now proclaims to the world in the twilight of his life.

How odd, then, that during this week of the Pope’s anniversary when he reminds the world once again of the Gospel of life that it seems to have been tragically ignored in Pinellas Park, FL where the feeding tube of Terry Schiavo was removed by a court order.

Terry had been severely disabled in both mind and body as the result of a heart attack that she suffered when she was 26, some thirteen years ago. However, she is not totally comatose or in a vegative state as some have claimed. She is able to breath on her own, look directly at the visitors to her room and express emotions, if not through words. It was a sad dispute between Terry’s husband and her family over the possibility of her physical recovery and her wishes regarding her life that led to the court decision that ordered the removal of her feeding tube.

Should a person’s life be preserved in all cases, at all costs? No. This is not a part of the Gospel of life that Pope John Paul has proclaimed. But there is a difference between using ordinary and extraordinary means to preserve life. In dire circumstances when extraordinary means to preserve life (such as a ventilator) are removed, the person in question will die naturally in a relatively short amount of time.

But Terry Schiavo’s case is not dire. Her life, until yesterday, was not being preserved by extraordinary means. Only an ordinary feeding tube was keeping her alive. When it was removed she slowly began to starve to death—an unnatural process that will only be complete over the course of an agonizing and pain-filled ten to fourteen days.

I can understand why Terry’s husband was distraught over his wife’s long-term condition. But she had no less dignity on the day that her feeding tube was removed than she had when she was a robust young woman of 26. In the same way, Pope John Paul still maintains his God-given human dignity despite the ravages of age that he is experiencing. His grace-inspired perseverance in the face of his many infirmities powerfully proclaims the Gospel of life. May we in the United States, in the face of the tragic case of Terry Schiavo, be attentive to this message and take it to heart.


Taking care of Michael

My wife is working today, so I'm at home taking care of Michael who is, at present, making quite a mess in the kitchen. I'd better go check it out...

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

A Prayer Request and a Short Reflection

Please pray for 23 teenagers from the parish where I serve as DRE. Tonight they will receive the sacrament of confirmation from Archbishop Daniel Buechlein at S.S. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

Pray for whatever specific intention for them that you think is appropriate. But consider praying that the Holy Spirit fill their hearts and form them into disciples of Jesus.

I find it interesting that these young people are being confirmed on the evening before the 25th anniversary of the election of Pope John Paul II. Most of them are 16 years old. That means that when they were born the Holy Father had been in his office for almost ten years already.

I myself who have overseen the catechists who formed them for this sacrament was only eight when Karol Wotyla succeeded Pope John Paul I. Although I have memories of his immediate predecessor, I really only became conscious of the leadership of the Pope during Pope John Paul II's pontificate.

In reality, then, there is an entire generation of young Catholics around the world who are coming to maturity in their faith solely under the ultimate leadership of the current Holy Father.

It will be interesting to note in the coming years the nature of the impact that his long span of powerful leadership will have on their lives of faith. I pray that the impact will be a positive one. If the various powerful messages which John Paul has proclaimed over the past 25 years sink into the hearts of the young Catholics who were born and matured in the faith during the period of his leadership, then I believe that the future of the Church is very bright indeed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Looking forward to the 25th Anniversary of the Holy Father's election

Here is the first of two columns that I have written for the occasion, both of which have or will appear in The Criterion, the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.


In just a few days Pope John Paul II will celebrate the 25th anniversary of his election. The entire Church will celebrate with him this great blessing of life which God has given to him and us. On this occasion, we might wonder, what is it that has allowed the Holy Father to live so long after his election, to provide such outstanding leadership to millions of people around the world, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to be such a longstanding, inspiring witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

In the final analysis it is surely the grace of our Lord that has sustained Pope John Paul in his ministry. But how has that grace been applied to him? How has it been mediated to him, invoked for him? In considering these questions one cannot ignore the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Holy Father has had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother throughout his life and has indeed given over his petrine ministry to her care.

One need only look to his coat of arms to see evidence of this. It is dominated by a deep blue field and a large, golden ‘M’, all symbols of Mary. The motto of his papacy is ‘Totus Tuus’ (‘Totally Yours’), a sign of his dedication of all of his efforts to Jesus through Mary. Given all of this, it is quite fitting that the Holy Father was elected in the month of October, one which (along with May) Catholics have traditionally dedicated to the Blessed Mother.

I suspect that as we approach the anniversary of his election on October 16 the Holy Father will give special attention to the Blessed Virgin Mary in his various addresses and homilies. This may be especially the case since we are coming to the close of the “Year of the Rosary” which the he declared at this time last year as his 25th year as Pope was just beginning.

All of this should lead to us to consider what role Mary can play in the life of our Catholic homes. If she has played such an important part in supporting the ministry of Pope John Paul, she just might be able to be a strong intercessor for our families.

Perhaps this October might be a time when you and your family might begin to nurture a devotion to the Blessed Virgin if you have not already. Parents could pray a daily rosary on their own, asking Mary to intercede for the needs of their spouse and children. Families could take the time to pray a family rosary, or at least a decade if young children might not have the attention span for this at first.

Another way to build a love for our Blessed Mother within families would be to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Monte Cassino, located near St. Meinrad Archabbey, on a Sunday afternoon in October. Hundreds of people from across the region gather there at those times to hear a monk of the monastery give a presentation on Mary and to then pray the rosary together.

Ultimately, a family devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary will only lead us closer to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of the entirety of the life and love of any family. She is the one person who was and always will be the closest to him. Let us, with the Holy Father, turn to her that she might reveal him to us.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Catholic Reasons for Hope--1 Pt 3:15-16

Q: What is a mortal sin?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) describes mortal sin as that kind of sin which “destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him” (CCC 1855).

In contrast, a venial sin is one that “allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it” (CCC 1855).

Such a distinction between what we describe as mortal and venial sin is based directly on this passage from the First Letter of St. John: “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly” (1 Jn 5:16-17).

The CCC goes on to explain the three conditions which must be present for a sin to be mortal. First, it must involve grave (i.e., serious) matter. An example of this would be sins against any of the ten commandments (CCC 1858). Second, it must involve “knowledge of the sinful character of the act” on the part of the person committing it. Third, it must involve the freedom of the person committing the act (CCC 1859).

So, in short, a person committing a mortal sin must know that the act that he or she is doing is serious and freely chooses to do it anyway.

When the CCC says that a mortal sin “destroys charity in the heart of man” it essentially means that it is a rejection on the part of the person committing it of the grace of God that is poured into hearts first at our Baptism and then later through the other sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Another way to describe this is to say that a person who has committed a mortal sin is no longer ‘in a state of grace’ and therefore should not receive Holy Communion.

Such a person should not do this because, by his mortal sin, he has separated himself from the Church through which the grace of God flows to us and in which we are free to receive our Lord in Holy Communion.

Returning to that grace that one rejected through mortal sin involves, in a very real way, a kind of conversion, as the CCC explains: “Mortal sin...necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation…” (CCC 1856). So, after having returned to the Lord and his grace through repentance which happens in our continuing conversion and experienced in Reconciliation, a person who has committed a mortal sin may then receive Holy Communion and return to the other sacraments as well.

Although the Church gives us a clear definition of mortal sin, it is impossible for us as individuals to know whether or not another person’s actions are mortally sinful or not. Why? Because we cannot know another person’s heart, whether or not that person has knowledge of the sinful character of the act, whether or not the person is truly free in committing it. Only our heavenly Father knows all men’s hearts.


Fox News as well as a local ABC affiliate have picked up the Mockingbird story

The principal of Columbus East High School was quoted in the WRTV story:

The school's drama teacher asked the play's publisher to let the students take the "N-word" out of the dialogue, but the publisher refused, Principal William Jensen said.

Jensen said students worked for five weeks on the play, which never got to the dress rehearsal phase. He said some of the students are not happy with the decision.

"I think it's one of those things where we've got to look at the whole picture," Jensen told RTV6's Sy Jenkins Wednesday...

Exactly. I think that if the folks involved in making the decision had looked at the *whole picture* of the play, including its eloquent anti-racist message, instead of just focusing on one word, the students might now be still rehearsing to perform it.

Interestingly enough, the local affiliate is running an unscientific poll on the cancellation as a sidebar to it story on the topic. 84% of the respondees thus far voted that the school should have not cancelled the play.


A Busy Day at the Parish

Yesterday morning I caught myself coming and going at the parish where I serve as DRE. The fact that the day before I had sprained my ankle while doing work outdoors didn't help matters.

At any rate, at our 8:00 Mass the sophomores who are just starting their preparation for Confirmation celebrated what we call their 'Rite of Enrollment.' Its a way for them to commit themselves in a public way to the preparation that lies before them and for them to receive the prayerful support of the parish, their sponsors, their parents, and, of course, the grace of God that flows through all of them.

The parish has its Religious Education Program from 9:00-10:15. Yesterday we collected non-perishable food items for a food pantry in the community and infant and baby supplies for a nearby crisis pregnancy center. In all the students donated close to 400 items yesterday. They'll bring in donations next Sunday as well. One factor that is there to motivate them is that the class with the highest average giving per student will get free tickets to a Indiana Pacers basketball game.

At 10:30 Mass the Confirmation class just finishing up their preparation were honored. At both this Mass and at 8:00 Mass the pastor strongly emphasized to the students that their free choice to be confirmed was their choice to commit themselves to the Catholic Church. He especially emphasized their commitment to come to Mass on Sundays, even when they're no longer living with their parents.

In many respects I thought that this approach was good. Some of those students may indeed choose to walk away from their faith later on, although I pray that this doesn't happen. But if they do, it will in all likelihood be a much more conscious and deliberate act after having heard the pastor's message and their making their commitment.

However, I think that if I were one of those young people, I would have gone away from those rituals thinking that the weight of that commitment was totally on my shoulders. If I were in the pastor's position, I would have equally emphasized that the grace that God gives them through the sacrament will help not only live out that commitment, but also make it a fulfilling thing for them and help to be a living sign of Christ in the Church for others.

The parish also hosted an open house in its church for the broader community from 12:00-1:00. We had advertised it in the local newspaper and had sent out letters to about 35 local churches announcing it and asking them to publicize it in their bulletins and announcements. The open house was intended (and publicized as) a way for the people of the community to learn more about our historic church building and the faith community that has enlivened it for one hundred years.

Unfortunately, only two people showed up for it. But they received a great tour of the place and answers to all of their questions (including one about The DaVinci Code--grrr...). Why didn't it attract more people. First was the scheduling of the event--which was chosen by the pastor. Duh, lots of people eat lunch from 12:00-1:00. But I also think that it had to do with a lack of interest in our community of members of the various Protestant churches to engage members of other churches (especially Catholic parishes) on matters of faith.

All of that happened in the morning alone! Later on in the day we had another one of our Masses in Spanish--something we do twice a month now and, by the end of year, hopefully weekly.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

An Indianapolis Star editorial on the Mockingbird controversey

Our position is: Columbus East High School officials made the best of a trying situation in their recent drama crisis.

The old wisecrack "Better to ask forgiveness than permission" comes to mind in the struggle over a planned staging of the play "To Kill a Mockingbird" at Columbus East High School.

No, it's not better, decided Assistant Principal Gary Goshorn. He and staff members involved with the drama were right about that, and right in making the tough call to cancel the production rather than perform it with volatile racial language included. Art may trump concerns about negative impact when it comes to professional or even collegiate companies, but high school activities are not so simple...

I don't think that any high school educator involved in staging the drama would have taken an arts gratia artis position. Of course drama in a high school context is going to involve some sort of educational purpose.

The fact that various articles on the topic quote students from both Columbus East and Decatur Central (in Indianapolis, where the play was recently performed) who were able to see the educational value in the play and make the distinction between language used on stage and used in real life reveals ample evidence that the play could have been an educational experience with a significant impact on its young audience.

It could have been this, that is if the vice principal would have had some courage in the decisions that he made.


Fr. Shawn O'Neal's Sunday Homily

Twenty-eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Wis 7:7-11
Ps 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17
Heb 4:12-13
Mk 10:17-30

Christians who have great wealth make for easy targets. I can easily accuse them of being inherently evil people by using the verse from the letter of James that money is the root of all evil. I can create a loose stream of logic if I say that all rich people are evil by nature. As we have heard, Jesus told his disciples that rich people will have great difficulty entering the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not as though the Kingdom is off limits to them. Perhaps we believe it is the case as a result of knowing the parable of Lazarus and the rich man from Chapter 16 of Luke’s Gospel because the rich man went directly to eternal torment after he died.

People who knew Hebrew Scriptures would have known both the reasons why the rich man was in torment and the difficulty of entering heaven as wealthy people. Within the book of Deuteronomy, the rich are reminded that their wealth comes only as a result of God’s favorable blessing. Woe was cast upon them if they forgot the principle. Within Deuteronomy, God reminded Israel that rich people had the tendency to forget about God and allow their personal pride to increase. When rich people claimed that their wealth came as a result of their own talent, then they fell because they set their own laws and lived by them rather than following the laws of God. These laws called for the protection of the widow, the orphan, and of anyone else in need. These laws were written so that all people within Israel could remember their collective poverty both during their servitude Egypt and during the Exodus.

These teachings were reiterated within the Book of Sirach. Israel was commanded to rely on God rather than on wealth. Israel was commanded not to boast that they were free from reproach because, as it is written, “the Lord bides his time”.

During the time that Jesus walked the earth, it would have been easy to equate wealth with evil. Tax collectors were known widely to be some of the richest people in Israel. Merchants were behind them both in wealth collected and in corrupt acts committed. Jesus knew that these types would have faced tremendous obstacles in order to enter heaven because their wealth was based on corruption and maintained through corrupt means, too. Jesus knew that these rich people conveniently ignored the warnings that were given to them in the ancient scriptures. They acted as if the old rules did not apply to them. Jesus used two means to shock these people: he offered them both sudden enlightenment that wealth brought neither eternal life nor true happiness and he offered them the stark, scary picture of what awaited the people who followed neither the old laws of Israel nor the fulfillment of the Law that was his Eternal Word. His message was received and accepted to some degree. His tactics worked on at least two men named Matthew and Zacchaeus.

Any of us can fall into the trap of believing falsely that wealth begets absolute security, but I also ask you if you have ever met a wealthy person who was always secure. Wealthy people can live much of their lives in fear that their wealth either is withering or not growing at all. Many wealthy people do not want to let go of what they have. Even during the time of Jesus, many wealthy people did not want to live as truly religious people because there was no way they could trust in anything other than themselves and their wealth. As Tony Montana said within the early 1980s remake of the film “Scarface”: “Who do I trust? Me.” Of course, those who acted in such a manner would then meet Satan who would point to his pitchfork and say: “Say hello to my little friend.”

All people continue to fight between heavenly security and financial security as if the latter provides greater security than the former provides. Yet Jesus’ words have not been altered. They continue to stand true. These words continue to be difficult to follow, but the promise remains that anyone who forsakes wealth or connections and thereby relies on the providence of God will be cared for. Does that mean that we should give away everything? No. But there are many people in this area who are in need of assistance. To our visitors who have summer homes, I ask of you to continue to help the people who struggle to keep their only home. To our tourist visitors, I ask that you put into our poor box an amount close to what you plan to put into a slot machine.

I am proud to serve people here who have built and maintained an outstanding reputation for serving the less fortunate of this region. I am honored to serve people who have given the gifts that they have received so that many people can share many divine blessings. I hope that we do not grow slack in remembering what God has called us to do. He wants us to show our gratitude to Him by extending that same gratitude to our neighbors. By doing this, we bring forth the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and we gain entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven itself when the Lord calls us to share in the wealth of being united with him forever.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

More on the Mockingbird Controversey

Here are some excerpts from today's coverage of this sad story in Columbus, IN's daily The Republic (its online content is accessible only to print subscribers):

A mural at Columbus East High School features a montage of classic books with an open page from “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a quote from the novel’s hero, Atticus Finch.

The quote reads, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”

Ironically, the passage portrays some of the reason that school officials at East canceled a student production of the novel’s stage version, scheduled for performances in late October and early November...

...I wish they would produce the show as it is,” he said. “It’s a very strong show and a message that needs to be heard.”

East called Dramatic Publishing, in Woodstock, Ill., last month to ask permission to change “nigger” to a less offensive word, but the company denied, saying that removing the word would soften the script’s portrayal of racism.

“The fact that this word is uncomfortable — that doesn’t make it go away,” Sergel said. “To be able to not confront it is wrong.”...

...According to Dramatic Publishing records, 260 amateur theaters, including Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis, have produced “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the past three years.

Will Wilson, a black Decatur Central senior, played Tom Robinson, a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman in the play.

He said the story, despite its language, is a lesson about acceptance.

“It’s a play, and it’s telling a story,” he said. “You have to understand that it’s a production and what’s coming out is not the feeling of the actors.”

One local black activist agrees.

Paul Jones, co-founder of Addressing Columbus Cultural Education and Promoting Trust, said communities must acknowledge racism and slurs to defeat them.

“I’m kind of angry about it being shut down,” he said. “It’s part of the play, and you got to hear that stuff for people to feel the pain and start healing.”...

...In place of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” students will perform, “Fabulous Fifties Affair,” a murder mystery about a talk show involving television stars from the 1950s...

From substance to fluff. Very telling about the direction in which our culture is going.

I also see as significant the comments of the black senior at the Indianapolis high school who played Tom Robinson. It seems to me that the young people are more thinking more intelligently in this affair than the adults.

Here are excerpts from the editorial in today's newspaper:

...School officials in effect chose the path of least resistance by terminating the production based on the acclaimed book by Harper Lee which told the story of a Southern lawyer who defended a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman...

...“To Kill a Mockingbird,” which is arguably one of the greatest pieces of American literature, can be an important element in education, from a historical and literary perspective.

Indeed, school officials and NAACP leaders could have seized the opportunity of this play to add to its educational value while at the same time preparing audiences for its impact.

One step that could have been taken would have been to hold a panel discussion before each performance to talk about the play and its content, emphasizing the time frame in which the original material was written and how it came to play a critical role in the civil rights movement...

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

A Sad Day in Columbus, IN: The Stage Version of To Kill a Mockingbird Cancelled

(Please note: I'd have a link to an article on this story, but the newspaper of the town where I live only allows its print subscribers to access its website and even then you have to register online--which I am in the process of doing at present. When that happens, I'll at least be able to provide excerpts from the article.)

Columbus East High School had planned to perform the stage version of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird. However, the head of its drama department contacted the local leader of the NAACP to see if she and its members would object to its performance. The leader of the chapter felt that the use of the 'n word' in the play (and I only designate it in this way here so that various internet filters won't block my blog) rendered it inappropriate. Therefore the high school has cancelled the performance.

The leader of the local NAACP chapter felt that the play might give the message to the school's students that it is acceptable to use such language in their own lives.

Does the word appear in the play? Of course. Is it used in the play in a hateful manner toward other characters in the play? Of course. Does that mean that the play should have been cancelled? Never.

The play could have sent forth a powerful message against all forms of racism, including the use of racist language. Teachers could have shown their students through the play how wrong racism is, how our society was terribly marred by it in the past, and how we are still struggling for healing, still burdened with its evil effects.

The use of drama in communicating such a message can be more powerful than a simple classroom lesson or discussion. I can speak to this personally. I read the novel as a high school sophomore and then watched the motion picture version of it with the rest of my classmates. Like any other average sophomore I was, more often than not, sophomoric. And yet that novel and especially its movie version brought tears to my eyes.

In the right context (and I firmly believe that To Kill a Mockingbird is a right context), the truth comes across more convincingly when it is presented next to what is false, beauty is more striking when it is presented next to what is ugly. Art can educate the mind and the heart, bringing them together in harmony.

This is what happens in To Kill a Mockingbird. It confronts its audience with the witness to truth in Atticus Finch and the litany of lies in Bob Ewell, the beauty of respect for all human beings, and the repulsive image of racism. Yes, the play shows the fact that, in our fallen world, what is true and beautiful is still sometimes tragically rejected. But it in no way justifies or glorifies this. In fact, it condemns it.

The lessons that can be drawn from the evils of our society cannot be learned if its history and its dramatic portrayals are buried. In fact, if they are so ignored, those evils will only continue. Auschwitz and other concentration camps were preserved because of this.

It is a sad day when a similarly powerful lesson--one that through art proclaims the truth and condemns what is false--is kept from the young students of Columbus East High School.

Update: I've gotten access to the online version (only print subscribers can have this. Here are some excerpts:

Columbus East High School has canceled a student production of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” because the play contains racial slurs, according to the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The play was scheduled for performances Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and 2.

Gwen Wiggins, president of the Columbus-Bartholomew County chapter of the NAACP, said Janelle Runge, an East drama teacher, called her late last month for advice on how to handle the word “nigger” in the script.

“I told her I could not give her permission to call any of the students using that word,” Wiggins said.

Parents of black actors had told Wiggins their children were uncomfortable when white students used the slur to refer to them, she said...

...Columbus East Assistant Principal Gary Goshorn said the school canceled the play, because it did not want students to become part of a racial or political controversy...

...Students had been working on “To Kill A Mockingbird” about five weeks, and some were disappointed about the cancellation.

Sophomore Mark Presto already had built part of the set for what he calls a powerful play. He said the language would have been suitable for the audience.

“Maybe younger kids won’t understand, but teenagers like us should,” he said.

Wiggins, however, said she enjoyed reading the play but worried it would set a bad example for the school.

“They are going to think, ‘If you can do it in the play, then you can do it outside the play,’” she said.

Wiggins said she appreciated East speaking with the NAACP but wished the school corporation would alter its high school required literature, which includes “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Huckleberry Finn.”

“There are better books about African-American history and literature,” she said.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Tom over at Disputations argues that one of the secrets of the Rosary is that it is not particuarly Marian

What do you think?

I had a couple of posts last week where I raised different possibilities for dialogue between Catholics and other Christians about Mary. Perhaps what Tom has to say here is another way to broach this somewhat (but, in my opinion, unecessarily) thorny topic.


And in other sports news...

The Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs have both made into their respective league championships series. They are both one step closer to winning a World Series championship.

Is this a sign of the endtimes? If one of them wins the World Series will the rapture happen right after the last out has been made?

I guess we'll just have to wait and see...


Ok, I'll be the first to admit it.

I'm a Hoosier and I'm a big Indianapolis Colts fan. But I turned off the TV last night when they were down to the Tampa Bay Bucs 35-14 with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter. I thought that the game was all but over.

How could I have known that the Colts would make one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history?

Monday, October 06, 2003

Participating in the “Life Chain” on Respect Life Sunday

As many of you know, millions across the nation observed yesterday as Respect Life Sunday. One particular way that this observance has been carried out since 1987 has been through participating in a ‘Life Chain.’ Supporters of the cause to increase respect for all life line a designated portion of a city street for an hour, silently holding signs that call on all who see them to grow in awareness of the attacks on life throughout our society, especially through abortion.

My wife, son, and I participated in this yesterday. We and other participants lined the sidewalks of Meridian St. in Indianapolis from near downtown all the way up to 40th St—around 35 city blocks in all.

However, at least where we were standing, people were fairly spread out. There were large portions of blocks within my line of sight where no one stood. Considering the enormous negative impact that abortion and other attacks on life have had on our nation, especially in the past 30 years, one could have hoped and expected to have people shoulder to shoulder all along the long route.

But, as it was, motorists driving up and down Meridian could still not miss what was going on. Several showed their support either by honking their horns or showing a thumbs up sign. But, in the end, the participants in yesterday’s Life Chain weren’t there to experience the support of others in the city. They were there to stand as a witness to the preciousness of all life.

My family and I stood just north of 14th St. and Meridian, near S.S. Peter and Paul Cathedral. Following the end of the event, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis sponsored a ‘Life Fair’ in the Assembly Hall of its chancery building. I’d estimate that a dozen or more organizations were there to show others how they work to support life and to elicit their participation. It was a vibrant way of showing that the Catholic Church's support of life is manifested in multiple ministries and not just through protest, as important and vital as that is.

There were representatives from Project Gabriel, another ministry that seeks to bring healing to women who have had abortions (similar to Rachel’s Vineyard), the Couple to Couple League, and lots of ministries. All of this was carried out by the Archdiocese’s Office of Pro-Life Activities.

There was also a booth there from Truth and Compassion Ministries--a small ecumenical organization in Indianapolis that schedules trained sidewalk counsellors (my wife is one of them) to offer their help in love to women going into abortion clinics to have the grisly procedure. They had a book there with a fairly large collection of letters of thanks sent to them by women who, through their ministry, were persuaded to save the life of the children that they had carried in their womb but who were just minutes away from death.

The beauty of it all was that everyone was there in a spirit of joy. A young man who writes and performs contemporary Christian and Catholic music was there performing. Lots of young people from area Catholic high schools were up front listening to him and also learning about the other ministries. A toddler was running about with a basket full of stickers that showed a little bear on which read ‘I love the unborn.’

And Life Chain t-shirts and sweatshirts were being sold quickly by the dozens. The front of them had on them a quote from Mother Teresa: “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” The back had a design created by a local student at a Catholic middle school. It showed various little babies wrapped up in either blue or pink blankets. You are able to only see their faces. On the blankets were letters that spelled out “All life is precious.”

Overall the event showed the great joy that can be had by living life simply and valuing it tenderly.

Lots of people were there for the Life Fair, but most of them had been participants in the Life Chain. I suspect that very few of the probably thousands of folks driving up and down Meridian during the event came in. It is my prayer that yesterday's Life Chain was just one more step to help all of them grow in their knowledge of the preciousness of all life, to invite them into sharing the joy that so many of its participants exuded at the Life Fair.


The Pope, in his meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, recognizes "new and serious difficulties have arisen on the path to unity"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 5, 2003 ( John Paul II told the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury at a weekend audience that "we must … recognize that new and serious difficulties have arisen on the path to unity."

The Pope made that observation Saturday when he received Rowan Williams, primate of the Anglican Communion, at the Vatican.

"As we give thanks for the progress that has already been made, we must also recognize that new and serious difficulties have arisen on the path to unity," the Pope said in his English-language address to Dr. Williams.

"These difficulties are not all of a merely disciplinary nature; some extend to essential matters of faith and morals," he added. He did not elaborate on the point.

On Friday, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that the Anglican Communion's ordination of practicing homosexuals is a problem affecting its relations with the Catholic Church...

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Fr. Shawn O'Neal's Sunday Homily

Twenty-seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Gn 2:18-24
Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6
Heb 2:9-11
Mk 10:2-16 or 10:2-12

When we encounter certain Scriptural passages, we tend to expect predictable responses. Preachers are susceptible to preparing predictable sermons; listeners are susceptible to expecting predictable sermons. Numerous preachers will proclaim that our culture has little or no regard for the sanctity of marriage. I agree, in some respects, but I prefer to confront the Pharisee who lives inside of all of us. It is much easier to complain about the divorce rate than it is to confront the way that many people in our society behave in any given circumstance.

Recall that the Pharisees asked Jesus about the lawfulness of divorce. Pharisees, on average, maintained high moral standards; unfortunately, they based their decision-making on what was allowable more than on what was either good or bad. Pharisees sought to determine whether a command was always definite, if possible loopholes could be allowed without risking the integrity of the law, or if a law could be
completely discarded if the loopholes revealed defects within the law itself.

The following may appear corny at first glance, but I use the following example of Pharisaical behavior within our Church: We know that it is a general law of the Church that Catholics should abstain from eating meat on a Friday during Lent. This law does not apply either to children of young age or to elderly people, but the law can be followed if those dispensed from it prefer to follow it. Consider the following examples: either St. Patrick’s Day or St. Joseph’s Day falls on a Lenten Friday. In the case of 2004, the feast of our patron, St. Joseph, does this. Both Irish Catholics and Italian Catholics protest against this law as a result of their dietary traditions for the day. The Irish refuse to change the menu to fish and chips. The Italians have already
purchased red wine and they cannot serve a white clam sauce with a red wine. As a result, they ask to be dispensed from the Friday law. Good Irish Catholics and good Italian Catholics alike ask for the dispensation with the promise that another day of the week will be observed as a day of dietary penance: they resolve to eat Scottish cuisine. In all seriousness, many people look at their calendars before they look at the spiritual significance of the season.

Disciples run the risk of seeking dispensation from human authority in order to avoid something rather than seek the disposition with the help of divine authority to confront something. The message that runs deeper than a teaching concerning divorce is that people spend much of their time seeking to know what is permissible rather than seeking to do what is right. In the case of marriage, Jesus wants us to be
so thankful for the opportunity to be married to another person that we seek to create a covenant relationship that neither spouse would want to rupture either as a result of their own conduct or because of what is permissible by law.

In the cases of abortion and euthanasia, Jesus wants our only fundamental choices to include loving, nurturing, and protecting all human life as it is a gift from God. He wants us to love all people from their first moment until their last moment. He does
not dispense us from loving people as a result of their skin color, religious beliefs, or their manners of conduct. Pray for all the people who say that they love babies. Would they love them if they could find out now whether these children would grow up to become, for examples, non-Christian, homosexual, anarchist, or someone who speaks a different language? Would such people then seek God’s permission to be dispensed from honoring human life as a divine gift? Even if I am disgusted by non-Christians, homosexuals, anarchists, or people who speak in another tongue, I am called to honor them without exception as creatures of God. Through God’s power, we can see to love all people. We are called to love one another rather than merely respect each other.

The inner Pharisee can help us to live as good Christians, but each of us needs to amend how we use this Pharisee in regard to our daily lives. We must discipline the Pharisee within us only to ask God how we can make human law live in conjunction with the love of God rather than use the Pharisee to see exceptions and dispensations from divine obedience. Jesus said within the Gospel, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Our inner Pharisee can help us to accept this teaching. Unfortunately for us, the Pharisee fights it so much that the ensuing tension makes the burden heavier.

God entered this world as a man so that we could be free from the burden of sin. Freedom is much easier than what we make it out to be at times. We gain true freedom by uniting our minds, hearts, and souls with the mind, heart, and soul of Jesus. Through such an intimate union with Jesus, we will not merely consider what is permissible.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Praying for a Parakeet

Yes, you read correctly. A church in the town where I live has placed a parakeet on its prayer list. Our local newspaper ran a story this morning (must be a slow news day) about a family that had its prized parakeet escape. They're worried about it now that it is getting colder.

At any rate, the good folk at "The World of Pentecost" (yeah, thats the name of the church--sounds more like a theme park to me) are now praying for that little bird. Who knows, maybe they can have a hymn sing for it with their choir leading off with that old great spiritual, "I'll Fly Away."

Hey, if The World of Pentecost were a theme park, what would be the name of some of its roller coasters and other attractions?

Thursday, October 02, 2003

On Baby Patrol...

My wife Cindy is working today so I'm at home taking care of Michael, carefully watching him as he develops his climbing habit.

Therefore I don't hold out much hope for posting today. But do take a look at some of my most recent posts. I'm interested to read your comments on them.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Friendly Fire

This was the phrase that came to mind last night as a Catholic friend of mine described to me the practice of a crisis pregnancy center run by a Protestant church in a nearby city. Apparently they require all of their paid workers and volunteers to sign a statement of faith which includes beliefs directly opposed to some doctrines of the Catholic Church (e.g., the signer needs to affirm that the Bible is the sole authority in matters of faith, etc.).

There are times and places where it is appropriate for congregations to be discriminatory (properly understood) when choosing those with whom they work and who work for them, whether they receive monetary compensation or not. There are times and places where discussions and arguments can take place between different groups of Christians about those things which are at the root of such discrimination.

However, I think that the arena of pro-life ministry is, by and large, not one of these arenas. The effectiveness of our proclamation of the Gospel of life is directly related to the unity of our witness to it. When Christians set up barriers like the one described above we are only dividing ourselves in an area where no divisions are really necessary and where unity in action is a good.

This kind of barrier is a form of the friendly fire that came to my mind when I heard about it. I strongly suspect that the Christian congregation which established and runs the crisis pregnancy center is in agreement with the Catholic Church on matters of the dignity and sanctity of human life, especially as it relates to the unborn.

Why do they need to fire back at Catholics who would like to lend a helping hand in their ministry?