Friday, July 25, 2014

Random Musings of Faith - July 25, 2014

Today's thoughts while walking the beach:

In my conversations with many people both in and outside the Church, I have found a profound difference between those who have a deep relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and those who do not. I was recently on a long walk with a young man who is married and soon (very soon) to become a father. His profound love for Jesus was so clear in our conversation. He loved the Lord personally and had come to know him communally in the Church. All of the other relationships, all of the choices he made in his life, the direction in which his life was moving flowed from that deep, abiding love of Christ and his Church. So much of what our Faith held and taught made sense to him precisely because his life was Christ-centered. I hadn't had such a wonderful four-mile walk in a long time ...

Some clarity flowed in my own thoughts as a result of my time with him. One cannot begin to understand why the Church teaches what it knows to be the truth and then accept and live her discipline as a disciple with gratitude and joy until one "sits at the foot of the Master" and says, "Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the way, the truth and the life."

The work of evangelization is first and foremost a personal witness to the profound love that I have for Jesus Christ so that others may know and love Him as well.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Random Musings of Faith - July 24, 2014

Some thoughts and prayers while on vacation on the coast of Maine:

- Over the past three years as I have lectured and preached on the call to evangelization that is being directed not just "ad gentes" ("to the nations") but "ad Occidentem" ("to the West"), it has become more and more clear that here in the United States we are dealing with a culture and country that is no longer Judeo-Christian at its foundations but is in fact "missionary" territory. This has caused me to make radical shifts in my assumptions: I cannot assume that basic concepts like God, faith, and salvation, for example, are understood even remotely in the same way between the person or audience with whom I am speaking - unless in limited, faith-filled settings - and myself. I almost have to approach it as if I have landed on the shore of a new land that has never heard anything of our Faith.

- In another direction, as I walked along in the shallow water of the beaches edge in a light rain this morning, I prayed the Rosary (the "Luminous Mysteries") and offered my prayers for the suffering churches in the Middle East. On this day on which the Church honors and calls upon the intercession of St. Sharbel Makhluf, a Maronite priest and monk of Lebanon, I couldn't help but feel great sadness for these ancient churches that have been facing so much persecution and destruction over the past decades.  Over on the Anchoress' blog, Elizabeth Scalia is offering some suggestions on what each one of us can do in response to what is happening. As for this morning, prayer will have to suffice ....

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

You never know ... A powerful story about my invocation at the Indy 500

I've received a lot of good feedback on my invocation at the Race of Sunday but this one just blew me away ...

"Hello Bishop Coyne:

I had to write to you about your invocation at the 500, which was incredible and much needed for me personally due to what I witnessed walking into the speedway that morning. Westboro Church was out front of the South Chute with absolutely horrible signs, no need to recap them, I'm certain you know their agenda. I was walking with my junior high school aged son and his best friend and had to try and answer their questions as to why they were there. The best I could come up with was something along the lines of that hate is like acid inside a person, we just brushed up against them a got a small burn, they feel that that 24 hours a day. The best thing to do is just pity them, because what they are saying is completely false. However, inside my head I wanted to walk over to them and give them a piece of my mind.

Inside the track, other people were talking about the scene as well. Then you spoke and began asking "can I get an amen". What I saw next was incredible. People of various countries, dialects, spiritual beliefs, opposing political views and any other difference you can name all became one loud voice, a positive voice in which no one was excluded. I know the protestors had to hear this. I don't know if that was something you had intended, but it was much appreciated."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A codicil to the whole "black mass" brouhaha at Harvard

I don't know how many of you are familiar with the story regarding the proposed staging of a black mass by members of the Satanic temple on the Harvard University campus allegedly using a "consecrated" host.  The "reenactment" was to be sponsored by a student group affiliated with the Harvard Extension School as an "educational" experience. Even after a strong and vehement plea from Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, the "mass" was going to be allowed to take place since the administration did not to want to limit academic freedom. However, yesterday wiser heads prevailed and the "mass" was thankfully cancelled. Here is the link for more on this story.

Yet, here is the "kicker," as a friend of mine shared with me this little historical tidbit. The spokesperson for the Satanic Temple said that the presentation of the Black Mass was to be based upon the description found in the book Lá-bas ("The Damned") published in 1891 by the French author Joris-Karl Huysmans. Huysmans was notorious for the earlier publication of his book À rebours ("Against Nature") which was seen by many as decadent, pornographic, and vulgar. Another author of the time, Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly, told Huysmans that after writing À rebours, he would have to choose between "the muzzle of a pistol or the foot of the Cross."  A year after publishing his Black Mass novel, Lá-bas, Huysmans returned to the Catholicism of his childhood. He died as a Benedictine oblate.

And so the truth remains, that even when the people or events seem completely bound up in evil and darkness and far away from God, the light of the Spirit can still break through and shine in the darkness.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Homily - Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord's Supper 2014

“Why is this night different from all other nights?” So asks the youngest person at table at the beginning of the Jewish Passover meal.  The child continues, “On all other nights we eat bread or matza while on this night we eat only matza. On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables and herbs but on this night we have to eat bitter herbs. On all other nights we do not dip our vegetables in salt water but on this night we dip it twice. On all other nights we eat while sitting upright but on this night we eat reclining.” As the Seder continues, the ritual words and actions answer the youngest’s questions telling the great story of the Passover event in which the Lord delivered the Jewish people from slavery. Yet, there is more than simple story-telling at play here.  For those gathered at the table this is a time of encounter with a past salvific event not just in memory but in reality. They are not just participants in a ritual meal event but participants as well in the past historic event of Passover which freed their ancestors from slavery. The ritual act of remembering through word and gesture creates the reality of presence and participation in a salvific event.

This evening you and I gather in this sacred space to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, a celebration alike in many ways to any celebration of the Mass yet different. Perhaps we could call upon the youngest in our midst to pose the questions for us, “Why is this night different from all other nights? Why is our music becoming more solemn and simple as the Mass progresses? Why is the archbishop going to wash the feet of twelve men and women? Why will there be no blessing and dismissal at the end of Mass? Why will we leave this church in procession with the Blessed Sacrament? Why will we sit in adoration keeping silent vigil?” 

Why is this night different than any other? The simple answer is that this night begins the annual commemoration of Christ’s paschal mystery – his life, death, and resurrection. While the celebration of the Mass is always a celebration of that salvific truth, this yearly ritual draws us even more deeply into a mystical encounter with that truth. Tonight we stand on the threshold of the Easter Triduum, three days in which through word and gesture we will be not only participants in the sacred actions here in this church but also participants as well in the past salvific events which occurred more than two thousand years ago in Jerusalem. These days are mystical moments of memory and reality.

Our celebrations tonight and tomorrow and Saturday are not intended to be three distinct moments of sacred action, three separate “silos” as you will, standing side-by-side in a field of time, but are, to our benefit and joy, three sacred moments of night, day, and vigil united in celebration and in meaning. One cannot understand the words we have heard tonight – “This is my body that is for you…. This cup is the new covenant in my blood…. Do this in remembrance of me…. As I have done for you so you should do” – unless one stands at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday and in front of the empty tomb at the Easter Vigil.  Good Friday points back to Holy Thursday and forward to Easter Saturday and the victory of the empty tomb that we will celebrate on Saturday evening is a victory over the events that we commemorate tonight and will recall tomorrow.

Why is this night different from all other nights? Because on this night we begin our yearly celebration of the Easter mystery, celebrated across three days as one great liturgy of salvation. That is why there is no blessing or dismissal this evening or tomorrow at the end of each ritual; it is only at the end of the Easter Vigil that we receive the blessing and are told to go forth, thus ending this three-day commemoration.

Why is this night different from all other nights? Because tonight we stand on the edge of a great and mystical river of word and ritual and sacred memory and are invited to step off and fall into the currents of prayer, reflection, memory and worship, allowing those currents to take us deeply into a real encounter with Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, forming us more deeply into His image and likeness: “Jesus Christ yesterday and today, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. All time belongs to him and all the ages. To him be glory and power through every age and forever."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Concerning the new book, "Young Catholic America: Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church" (2)

What is meant by the term "emerging adults?" Basically, the authors of this book pose that a number of cultural and societal factors in the United States have lead to a new phase in the "American life role."  No longer the simple movement from child to teenager/young adult to adult but now a new phase between teenager and adult which they call "emerging adult" - no longer a "child" but not yet an "adult." They point to seven "macro social changes" that have brought this about:

- the dramatic growth of higher education with a significant increase beyond just the four-year college   to graduate school. This delays the age at which many are starting a career or entering the workplace;

- a significant increase of the age at which people are getting married - between 1950-2006 the median age of first marriage for women rose from 20.3 to 25.9 years old and for men from 22.8 to 27.5 years old with the sharpest increase for both taking place after 1970.

- "changes in the American and global economy that undermine stable, life-long careers and replace them instead with careers of lower security, more frequent job changes, and an ongoing need for new training and education;"

- the fact that today's parents (aware of the above factors) are more willing to extend financial and other assistance to their children well into their 20's and even early 30's;

- the widespread availability of contraception and legal abortion that has lead to a culture in which sex is seen a something more recreational than relational with "no consequences that might force one to settle down and take on parental responsibilities;"

- the rise of popular postmodernism which holds "that “absolute truth” does not exist, that reason is only one parochial form of knowledge, that truth claims are typically masked assertions of power, that morality is relative, that nothing is universal, and that nobody can really know anything for certain;"

- America's post-WW II prosperity - "Emerging adults today have grown up in a society awash in a sea of material products, media images, and purchased experiences that have inflated their expectations and sense of entitlement. It is all they have ever known and it is what they expect."

As a result, "the transition to adulthood today is as a result more complex, disjointed, and confusing than it was in past decades" while "marked by a historically unparalleled freedom to roam, experiment, learn, move on, and try again."

[Smith, Christian; Longest, Kyle; Hill, Jonathan; Christoffersen, Kari (2014-01-17). Young Catholic America: Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church. Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.]

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Concerning the new book, "Young Catholic America: Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church"

I am currently reading Young Catholic America: Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church, a new book out Oxford Press (Bibliographic information below). The book is based on the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR), an effort to "better understand the religious and spiritual lives of Catholic “emerging adults.”" The study draws upon a sample of 3,290 young people beginning in 2002 when they were 13 to 17 years old and has been been followed up with a new survey of the same respondents every other year or so.  These teenagers are now young adults between the ages of 23 and 27 years old.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to post a number of bog entries about this study and its implications for the work of the New Evangelization. For now, here is one initial quote/text I offer for consideration:

"Social and cultural changes in U.S. society, the American religious system, and the Catholic Church itself, they reported, profoundly affected American Catholics, such that younger American Catholics (“ post– Vatican II” and “Millennials”) are quite different in many ways from older generations (“ Vatican II”– and “pre– Vatican II”– era Catholics). As a result, young American Catholics were found by these studies to be:

• less well-educated and knowledgeable about their Catholic faith, reporting that they do not understand it well enough to explain it to any children they might have;

• more individualistic in their approach to religious authority and beliefs, viewing their own personal subjective experiences and sensibilities, rather than Church teachings, as the arbiters of truth and value;

• therefore very selective in what parts of their tradition they decide to believe and practice (e.g., adhering to core doctrinal truths about Jesus’ resurrection and the Eucharist, but discarding Church teachings on sex, birth control, abortion, etc.);

• more tentative and weak in their affiliation with the Church (“ loosely tethered”);

• less involved in the Church as an institution (by regularly attending Mass, making Confession, etc.);

• more liberal-minded about and tolerant of non-Catholic faiths and non-religion, viewing the Catholic Church as only one denomination among many in a larger religious system of voluntary participation;

• still largely adhering to a general Catholic identity, yet retaining the right to define that as they wish;

• less likely to place their Catholic identity at the center of their personal identity structures, but rather viewing it as one among many other competing identities;

• unable to articulate a coherent account of what it means to be Catholic."

[Smith, Christian; Longest, Kyle; Hill, Jonathan; Christoffersen, Kari (2014-01-17). Young Catholic America: Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church (Kindle Locations 92-106). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.]
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