Thursday, May 28, 2015

Giddy With Excitement!

I had quite an experience with graduation and ordination activities this month, beginning with the graduation of twelve young men from our seminary college two weeks ago.  But my experience also included the ordinations this past weekend of three new deacons on Friday night, eight new priests on Saturday, and the First Mass of one of the new priests on Sunday.  It was a very exciting weekend, with everyone wowed by the remarkable fact of having twenty-three young men take these very significant steps in the life of the Church in the Diocese of Lincoln. 

In his homily during the Ordination Mass on Saturday, Bishop James Conley cited some amazing statistics.  Here is an excerpt from his homily:  
“In 2005, at the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI remarked that, ‘we were not created for an easy life, but for great things.’  The call to greatness is compelling.  The eight men who will be ordained today are evidence of that. And this is not only true here in the diocese of Lincoln, but this is evident across our country. If all the men who are currently in theology, including these eight today, persevere to ordination, in the next four years, God willing, I will ordain 26 men to the priesthood. In that same time period, we will have four retirements for net gain of 22 priests. This is one of the reasons I have released two priests this year to serve outside the diocese in the important work of seminary formation and college campus missionary work.  The total number of ordinations to the priesthood this year is up over 25% nationwide. The ordination class of 2015 will number 595, the highest number of ordinations to the priesthood in America since 1975 and 118 more ordinations than last year. Obviously, God is raising up young men and calling them to be priests of Jesus Christ, to face the new challenges of our hyper-secular age and proclaim a New Evangelization.”
The weekend made me almost giddy with excitement.  You will pardon me if I admit that these things are where my thoughts are today.  My prayer for today:  Dear Lord, thank you so much for your gift of these men and all the men ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ this month across our nation.  I pray for your divine guidance for them as they begin their priestly lives in your service.  Amen.

The photograph is of the eight young men (dressed in white albs and the beige stoles draped over their left shoulders) as they await the beginning of the ceremony of their Ordination to the Priesthood outside the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln on Saturday.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Holy Spirit: Who? What?

This Sunday, May 24, is Pentecost Sunday.  It is the day that Christians once again celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the apostles and the Blessed Mother in the upper room in Jerusalem all those years ago.  At that event, the apostles were inspired in their task to evangelize the world.  The Holy Spirit is to remain with us until the end of time so that the Church and its members will forever be Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth.  Also at that event, the Holy Spirit apparently took the form of “a strong, driving wind” and “tongues of fire.”

The Holy Spirit sometimes also takes the form of a dove in Scripture.  All four gospels give an account of this when Jesus is baptized.  In the Gospel of Luke, we read the following:  “After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.’”  The photograph below is a depiction of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. 

So, what or who is this Holy Spirit exactly?  The Church teaches that the Holy Spirit is God, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity.  And so we have the assurance that God Himself, through the Church and in the person of the Holy Spirit, continues to guide us to our eternal destiny of being with God in heaven.  In the quote from Luke above, all three members of the Trinity were apparently present.  These are beautiful thoughts and should inspire all of us to acknowledge God and to continually strive for holiness.

Sometimes I like to think of the Holy Spirit as a “what” as well as a “who.”  We often use the word “spirit” as a “what,” as in an action that gets our adrenaline flowing, like the strong, driving wind in Scripture.  We have “spirit” when our favorite sports team competes.  Or we have a “spirited” discussion with someone who has certain views that oppose ours.  A Christian congregation can have this “what” kind of “spirit” when it has a charismatic experience.  In this kind of experience, it can be the holy spirit and can also inspire us to strive for holiness and can help bring us closer to God.  In this sense, the “who” Holy Spirit and the “what” Holy Spirit seem to merge.

Here is my prayer for today:  Holy Spirit, please come upon us in whatever form you choose and keep us under your protective wing so that we never falter in our striving for holiness.  Amen.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Schoenstatt: A Marian Devotion

Yesterday was the celebration of the Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima in the Catholic Church.  I have previously had Thursday Thoughts about Our Lady of Fatima (October 13, 2014).  If you can access that, I invite you to do that, or email me at, I can send it to you.  Today, though, I am thinking about another devotion connected to our Blessed Mother and that is the Schoenstatt Movement.

There is much to be said about Schoenstatt and this space is way too short.  The Movement was begun in Germany in 1914 by a Pallotine priest by the name of Father Joseph Kentenich.  At the heart of the devotion is the Schoenstatt shrine, a small chapel honoring the Blessed Mother.  The photo below is of one such chapel on the campus of the International Schoenstatt Center in Waukesha, Wisconsin.  In Nebraska, as you may know, one has been built on an 80-acre site called the Cor Mariae Schoenstatt Center near Crete.  Father Kentenich has called attention to the fact that the shrine is a “place of grace” for all who come and pray there.  There are over two hundred of these shrines worldwide, eight in the United States, all built since the original shrine was dedicated in Germany in 1914.

Father Kentenich is known for his unique Catholic spirituality that has been put in place and spread through the Schoenstatt Movement.  Some keywords in this spirituality are:  the Mother Thrice Admirable, the Covenant of Love, and the Contributions to the Capital of Grace (ie., “contributions” being prayer and good deeds, not cash).  Activities at the shrine in Crete include summer camps for youth.  For a complete schedule, visit the Cor Mariae web site,

One of my daughters is a Schoenstatt Sister, Sister Emily.  She is currently in residence at the Center in Waukesha and is serving as the novice mistress for our province.  Any young woman discerning a religious vocation may contact her for information.  Please leave a comment below or email me at if you would like contact information.

I have been invited to give an hour-long presentation at the upcoming National Exile Congress, a conference that will be held at the Retreat Center in Waukesha, Wisconsin, July 23-26, 2015.  Here is a web site giving for more information:  You can click on a link there to view/download a brochure describing the Congress and also for a registration form.  My presentation is the one designated for Saturday morning of the Congress, July 25, beginning at 9:15 am.  The building in which the Congress will take place is in the background in the photo below.

My prayer for today is one written by Father Kentenich:  O Triune God, be eternally praised for all the great things you have done for us:  for giving Schoenstatt a Mother and for immersing us deeply into Christ through her.  Amen.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Love! Love! Love! Joy! Joy! Joy!

The Gospel passage read at Mass today, May 7, is from the Gospel of John, Chapter 15:  “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”   

One might ask:  “What are the commandments that we must keep in order to remain in Jesus’ love?”  The answer lies in the Gospel passage at Mass for Friday, May 8, which is the continuation of the Gospel for May 7.  Verse 12 says:  “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”  He repeats this in verse 17:  “This I command you:  love one another.”  Jesus’ comments here reminded me of the question posed to him by the scribe in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 12:  “Which is the first of all the commandments?”  Jesus’ response was “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  The second is this:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

John’s report of God’s love for us and our love for one another in his Gospel Chapter 15 turns into a real fascination in his first letter, John 1, Chapter 4:  “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” and “Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

As John said in his Gospel, the result of all this shared love is joy.  If we love God and love our neighbor, God’s joy will be in us and our joy will be complete.  Who does not want God’s joy and who does not want their joy to be complete?  

My prayer for today:  Lord, please give us the grace to love you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and help us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Amen.