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CF160: Chicken Plucker

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Welcome Back, Easter Catholic

The following is the ‘heart’ of Deacon Tom’s EASTER HOMILY given at his parish in north central Arizona. A bit of it has been modified for the readers at the Catholic Family Podcast site. Dear parishioners … dear folks visiting family members … dear visitors. We wish you a most …

CF159: Mine Is Bigger!

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St. Michael The Archangel (and Me)

July 23, 2014 Deacon Tom No Comments

We were blessed to have a new pastor come to our north-central Arizona parish about a year ago. He announced that he was going to pretty much leave things as they are for at least a year. During that time he would study and watch and then he would begin to make whatever changes were on his heart. Pastors do these sorts of things.

Most of us don’t deal with change all that well. At least in our gray-haired parish change doesn’t seem like a welcome guest. There were even those writing the bishop to announce their opposition to a new pastor coming in. The older folks wanted to keep the old pastor (who had had a seven year term). Unknown-1

At any rate – about 3 weeks into the tenure of the new pastor, he asked me one morning what I thought about adding the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel at the end of Mass. I told him most everyone would know it, and that we wouldn’t need any cue cards. And so he did it. He announced the change and we all jumped right into it. No difficulty changing on this issue at all.

I remember growing up saying this prayer at the end of Masses. Whether it was every day or just Sundays I don’t recall. But we did it during the middle and later decades of one of the most troubled of all periods in the Church and in the world. Evil was held in abeyance at least from serious damage to the Church, although a lot of damage has been done to real faith practice. And I think we all could go back to the prayer to this most powerful of valiant warrior angels.

This prayer came about from Pope Leo the XIII who had a terrible vision of hell after celebrating Mass. In fact, the experience — the vision was so powerful that the Holy Father laid on the ground with no pulse. They thought he was dead. He awoke shortly thereafter and told that he had seen a terrible vision of the worst of evil and the power and work of Satan.

So moved was Pope Leo that he went to his office and shortly composed the prayer to St. Michael.

“St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle! Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who roam about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”
Now as to the strength of, or the power of St. Michael, you may not know that St. Michael is prominently a part in certain forms of the Rite of Exorcism in the Catholic Church.
As an individual, I have certain sin that I have struggled with for a long time. Frequent Mass and Holy Communion have strengthened me, but I’ve recently added regular recitation of the prayer to St. Michael. And I have no trouble recommending regular prayer to him in all situations, e.g. summer travels. Evil can exist in other drivers, hotel rooms and areas. Invoking the power of St. Michael is recommended.
What about you? What about your parish? Would you consider this return to ‘yesteryear?’

Blessings.
Deacon Tom
www.catholicvitamins.com

RUA Mugwump?

May 27, 2014 Deacon Tom No Comments

Have you ever heard of the word Mugwump? It’s a noun which is defined from a dictionary as a person who remains aloof or independent, esp. from party politics.

UnknownBut in a more literal or common use (how can any word we hardly have ever heard of be in ‘common use?’) — the word mugwump is known as in a bird. A bird that sits on the fence with its mug on one side and its ‘wump’ on the other side. A mugwump bird is waiting to fall off onto the side of a right decision. But most often is paralyzed by indecision. Example: have you ever held a dinner get together and done things to stimulate conversation? “What do you think of this federal healthcare?” “Oh, some like it and think it’s a great idea. Some say it’s far too expensive.” That’s a mugwump answer.

Are you a mugwump? When it comes to our Catholic Faith and any question that someone poses to you… I sincerely hope you are not wishy washy and undecided. In fact, Scripture tells us, it instructs us to always be ready to give a reason for the hope (the faith) that we have within us.

“What do you think of Pope Francis?” My answer: “He is a gift from God, selected by the Holy Spirit before the Cardinals even knew what the Spirit wanted.” Your answer?

“What do you think about giving gays the right to marry?” My answer: Gay people can’t enter marriage as Catholics and Christians (traditionally) have known marriage. It’s a sacrament between a man and a woman. Anything else is in grave violation of God’s plan and in Holy Scripture.” Your reply?

If someone says they believe the Church doesn’t have any business telling a woman what to do with her body, what would you say? I would hope it’s something like, “I agree completely until there’s a second person’s body involved. And as an add-on thought, our body is a gift from God; it’s a temple of the Holy Spirit. Children are a gift from God, just as the Holy Spirit became the ‘husband’ of the Blessed Virgin Mary. So forget all the foolishness about I get to make all my own decisions about my body. Where is God in this?” Your thinking?

If someone comments to you that they don’t understand how you can belong to a Church that has allowed pedophile priests to be in its ranks. Your answer would be? My answer: “That episode was a horrible sin and disgrace. But, I believe in one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The word holy doesn’t mean that every person is holy. In fact Jesus lost every one of his apostles to fear or to lies. Even Peter, the first pope. You must not understand humanity or the meaning of the Creed if you expect that every person in the Church is bound to be holy. Let he without sin cast the first stone. And they all walked away quietly.” You do feel agreement with this don’t you?

All too common, this one: “Our pastor is rigid, unfriendly and unwilling to hear our requests for better music and programs in the parish. I don’t feel like I’m being fed at this church.” My answer: I’m very sorry and very sympathetic to your thoughts. During my deacon formation, it was said to me more than once that the last place to look for perfection is IN THE CHURCH. Not funny at all, and totally true. It doesn’t make it any easier to accept. I would ask you to start with a meeting with your pastor and gently and with respect tell him what you are struggling with. It may not do any good, but that is the place to start. A respectful letter to the bishop would be a next step. And if there is no reasonable efforts to consider change, then perhaps the following. If you are in a large enough municipality or setting where you have other parishes, go to another parish, meet with the pastor and with great respect for his peer priest, let that pastor know what you are experiencing. That may sound like gossip or back-biting. But it will give the other pastor a chance to explain how he views these matters in his own parish. You may find him quite willing to respect your views and for him to invite you to become a member – a valued member of his parish.

If you are not in a large enough area for other parish alternatives, I would hope that you will pray hard and often for God’s gift of acceptance. It may be a cross you have to carry for a period of time. I’ve had experience with this and it is an opportunity to carry a portion of the cross that Christ carried. May God grant you peace.

Don’t be a Mugwump. Do something forward. Or in movement to the rear. :-)

Blessings.

Deacon Tom

www.catholicvitamins.com

It’s Time For a Catholic Resurrection

April 20, 2014 Deacon Tom 3 Comments

imagesBelated and blessed Easter prayers. It’s time for a Catholic resurrection.

Excuse starting a Catholic Family Podcast with a reflection that starts with me… but I want to start with a story — well, two stories actually.

Story one: My wife Dee and I were at a Thai restaurant about five months ago. A very pretty and quite friendly blonde waitress enhanced the already enjoyable meal experience. In doing a bit of chatting with her when we could, I found out that she is a hair stylist looking for more clients. And my six year relationship with a stylist was ending because she was leaving our town to become engaged. And so – a match made over ‘chicken pad Thai.’

Jump ahead some months and I am now mildly acquainted with the young lady as I have seen her four or five times for hair cuts. She is quite good at this. But in my last visit, I found out she is pregnant by a boyfriend whom she is not living with. They ‘go together’ and have discussed moving in, but she is uncertain about making that kind of a commitment to this guy. I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears to dislodge wax and see if I had heard correctly…. ‘you are pregnant by this fellow and he says he’s ready to be a father, and yet you two aren’t ready to take the step to marry or live together?

I bring this up because by now I’ve found out that the blonde stylist goes to a Christian church which she has previously told me about. She loves the pastor because he is ‘funny’ and makes her feel good. And she likes the uptempo Christian pop music.

Now let me go to the second story… I know I haven’t given you an ending or some sort of evangelization to the blonde lady. I don’t have a suitable conclusion just yet. Let’s move on.

My wife might wink and suggest there’s a pattern as I move into story number two. I have been having some trouble with my knees (a bit too much kneeling you might presume? :-) And so I recently had my regular doctor refer me to a young-ish, attractive physical therapist in our town. I knew her reputation from my visits to an elderly care center where she used to work, and in which I bring Communion to the residents.

Jumping ahead, at my most recent visit for therapy, by now I’m talking more in depth with the therapist and it comes out that she used to be ‘Catholic.’ At 22 years of age, while in college, she met and fell head over heels in love with a guy ‘she should never have married.’ She wanted to be married in the out-of-doors and she was mad that the Catholic church wouldn’t let her do this. She made the excuse that I’ve heard several times: “That’s where I feel closest to God is outside, in nature.” I didn’t respond to this; I just listened.

She said the marriage didn’t last long, except that a daughter came forth from that union. And the therapist is now a single mom, caring for the daughter with some sort of a zodiac sounding name. I mean no disrespect. The therapist asked me what time Easter Masses were — she thought she ought to go ‘make an appearance.’ Oh my heavens. Where to start. What to say?

Now you know why I left you hanging on the first story: free love, contraception, no-fault divorce and Christians that have become a ‘whatever’ generation or two have led us to the point where these stories are the norm. Holy Father Francis recently summed it up that today’s marriage-bound couples (if they are even going to get married) say or intend this message: “We will stay together for as long as our love lasts.”

Let’s take the physical therapist situation. She has what is called a doctorate in physical therapy. She is recognized as a true professional in the community. She has gone to two colleges to complete her degrees and specialized training. How could she be this alive in that area of her life while treating Christianity or Catholicism as some sort of abstract theory? How can we who call ourselves followers of Christ allow such a death message to be handed on to our young people?

I once was doing some pastoral counseling with an older woman. She, a Catholic allowed as how she had not forced her kids to go to church — from the beginning. And of course none of them are in the Church now. Except for funerals, of course. She asked me (point blank) if I thought she had done wrong. I wanted to explode an answer to her — “You are totally responsible for the salvation of the souls of your children and you want to know if it was okay what you did?”

But of course, in our touchy-feel-good society of Christians – this can’t be done. And mind you, my wife and I have our own historical failings in this area. Let those without sin cast the first stone. But it ought to be recognized as grave sin – not pampered with ‘there, there, you did your best.’

All of this started, of course in a garden. “Oh Adam, it’s okay, take a bite.” And of course today’s pseudo-Christian theorists would remind us that no one would be condemned for simply eating an apple. Or condemned to hell for meat on Fridays like they used to say. And many more of today’s speakers would indicate that the Church is so far out of date about things like giving condoms to kids or not being fair to homosexuals who truly love each other. Or living together before marriage.

I have no idea if this column will be read by one person or a hundred. But I submit to you that we Catholics (well, all Christians really) are in need of a resurrection. We are in need of the power of God’s most Holy Spirit to come upon us and to rattle our churches with a mighty wind. A mighty force of awakening.

Christ arose. He is alive. Christianity is alive. But some of churches aren’t alive. I’ve been in them. They remind me of what a most holy woman, Lucille (R. I. P.) used to say: before she ‘found’ life in the Church, she thought all the “MASSES WERE FOR THE DEAD and all the HOMILIES WERE FOR MONEY.” More than a sliver of truth in those pablum churches that are allowing the flock to be mostly un-challenged, un-taught, self-catechized and self-directed. And with no real-world life testimony as to what it means to be an on-fire, resurrected Catholic. Many so-called Bible-believing churches don’t fare well in these areas either.

With regard to the hair dresser and the physical therapist, I will go gently into these matters. Although I wouldn’t mind hearing your thoughts. But know that in my heart that many of my generation and the one following entered the tomb and they have never resurrected. Myself, for a while included. We need to lay hands on the ‘whatever’ generation of Catholics and bring them back to life.

Can I get an Amen?

Deacon Tom

catholicvitamins@gmail.com

Minimalism: Heaven Bent This Lent?

February 20, 2014 Deacon Tom No Comments

I live in a parish with a predominately older population. Like many or most parishes, there are the daily Mass attendees… mostly gray haired… often coming for the rosary before Mass and then the 25 minute liturgy. I have to give a lot of our ‘dailies’ credit – they may also stay for the Chaplet of Divine Mercy… Good prayer warriors. But like most older folks – they are pretty set in their ways and don’t take to change very well. images

And so, what to do for Lent? Oh, you know: “I’ll stop drinking beer.” Or “I’ll do what I have always done. No candy.” They’ve heard a priest tell them that if they’re over 60 years of age, they don’t have to fast. If taken literally, this would mean that likely 80% of the parish would be told not to worry about fasting. This is such a wimpy way of responding to Scripture. Such a disappointing mindset given that Blessed Mother Mary has been calling for fasting in her apparitions at Medjugorje.

What we should hear often is that the Church tells us that every Friday… not just Fridays in Lent… every Friday is a penitential day. At least every Friday we should be called to penitential sharing in some form of suffering or discomfort…. giving up things we enjoy. Minimally, the Church says that during Lent we should abstain from meat on Fridays. Given the wonderful fish dinners they serve at so many places in our town… abstaining from meat is more a pleasure — not a sacrifice. And so – what are you considering for Friday fasting?

Someone on EWTN said it is a traditional doctrine of Christian spirituality that an important part of repentance, of turning away from sin and back to God includes some form of penance, without which the Christian is unlikely to remain on the narrow path and to be saved. Those, dear friends are challenging words — not for the wimpy… and not for those who believe they are working their way to heaven by giving up meat on Lenten Fridays, while enjoying three satisfying meals those days.

Those who are in later years ought to be fasting in some form on behalf of the world (and the Church) that we will leave behind us…  for our children and grandchildren. This Church that we are leaving to our young people tells us that when we’ve attained the age of 60, we don’t have to fast, except on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The writer on EWTN says that milk shakes and alcoholic drinks don’t break a fast for older folks… but the drinks certainly seem contrary to the spirit of doing penance. And so, while we may not be required to do a food fast at our age – certainly Fridays would seem a proper day to avoid a regular glass of wine or a trip to the Dairy Queen. And those would be minimal… minimal fasting practices.

We have a Friday soup supper discipline in the parish in Arizona where we live. It’s a nice communal thing to do. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending that as the only thing to do for Lent besides not eating meat on Fridays. Some religious orders never… never eat meat. Would you consider this as a fast that might work for you for all of Lent? And how about smaller portions? The early Church had a practice of a regular Wednesday and Friday fasting. Would you consider implementing tough fasting during a part of Lent? Or even beyond?

In the book REDISCOVER CATHOLICISM, Matthew Kelly Unknownwrites about one of the great problems of modern day Christianity. It’s what I suggested before — minimalism. What’s the least that I can do and still get to heaven. How many truly believe minimalism is the way to love the Lord and walk in the desert? Our challenge these Lenten days is found in the call to prayer — giving up more time to spend with the Lord in prayer… in almsgiving… sharing more of our resources with others… and in fasting or some other forms of self-denial.

You and I need our calories and protein and fruits and veggies — but there are so many ways that we can fast. This deacon could fast from challenging or lengthy homilies or reflections.

In fact, that’s a great idea. I’ll stop now. Blessings.

Deacon Tom

Catholicvitamins@gmail.com

www.catholicvitamins.com

 

Job Openings – Seeking Catholic Mandelas

December 30, 2013 Deacon Tom No Comments

(This column is scheduled for January publication on the Catholic Mom website. Deacon Tom feels that this topic is worth sharing on other venues, and he welcomes your thoughts and feedback)

Two seemingly unrelated starters:

  1. For nine years, I have attended the priest, deacon, seminarian conference and retreat at Franciscan University. Each time I attend, I participate in a three day Life in the Spirit seminars led by charismatic-oriented priests and laymen. It has fundamentally and forever changed my understanding of what it means to live as a Catholic.
  2. For four years and more, my wife Dee and I have co-moderated the Catholic Vitamins podcast. Each week, we have had some of the most inspiring guests. I shouldn’t start to mention names, for there are over 150; any listing would be confusing to me to know what order to put them in. And truly some of the names aren’t yet well-known enough for their growing contributions to the faith life of the Church.

What do these two starters have to do with each other? Fr Michael ScanlanTo spend time in the presence of people like Fr. Michael Scanlan (the former President of Franciscan University), Scott Hahn, Theologian in residence at Franciscan University, Ralph Martin, founder of Renewal Ministries, and others… And to be able to interview Catholic singers like Danielle Rose and Audrey Assad — and to know that they have spent (sometimes) weeks writing and setting powerful Catholic thinking to music – and then performing in important Catholic venues — to interview Steve Dawson, the founder and National Director of St. Paul Street Evangelization –  these sorts of ‘vitamins’ to my faith are great gifts from the Lord.

But, what to do with the nourishment (and challenge) that these gifts have been to me? In recent days we sang Go Tell It On The Mountain at our parish. People liked the upbeat tempo and more than the usual number joined in. But their singing and their spirit seemed to end at the door. When I see this – I feel like preaching like a Southern Baptist or a Pentecostal preacher — at the expense of all relationship with the pastor and many of the regulars. Here’s what I mean.

Have you ever heard of, or read any of the words of Bishop Paul Loverde of the Arlington (VA) Diocese? He asks this question: Is the parish on a treadmill of activity where ‘maintenance’ is overshadowing ‘mission?’ Are there current activities that can yield their place in our parish priorities so new activities focusing on evangelization might bear more fruit?

In my own life in the parish, I want to yell out “Hell yes, excellency. Hell Yes!” (And excuse me for the word hell dear bishop and reader :-). Enough with the pancake breakfasts and bazaars and parish raffles and raising funds to buy new altar linens. We have people fleeing the Catholic Church for a ‘life in the Spirit’ that they don’t see or understand to already be present where they have been.

Bishop Loverde expressed it this way: When I was ordained just 10 days after the close of the Second Vatican Council, 2 in 10 marriages ended in divorce. Abortion was illegal. Fewer than 300,000 Americans were incarcerated. Today, 2 in 10 pregnancies end in abortion, over 1 million annually, which is so heartrending. More than 4 in 10 marriages end in divorce, and in the public culture, marriage and the family are in the process of being redefined. One in 31 adult Americans is in prison or on probation.”  (Quoted from a Pastoral and public letter to all in his Diocese by Bishop Paul S. Loverde, on the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 24, 2013)

Today, in places we appear to have a ‘too safe’ grasp on a maintenance model of faith practice. Pastors hang close to the guard rail of convention, many deacons aren’t stand-alone models of on-fire clergy as was our model, St. Stephen. And often DRE’s allow CCD programs to be gatherings which teach arts and crafts at the expense of excitedly educating students on ‘why did God make me?’ And as another priest said about this ‘safe approach’ to the faith – everyone in the Church wants to keep everyone happy. And of course, Bishop Loverde reminds us that we are far from keeping everyone happy because 35 percent have left the earnest practice of the Faith.

In 2014, right now, we need Catholic Mandelas who will prayerfully look at what we are doing inside the Church and bring a battle cry of reform. We can’t succumb to the ‘whatever Father thinks’ mentality if what Father thinks is to maintain a status quo of convention and peace and quiet. Important note: I promised the Archbishop that ordained me that I would be obedient to him and to his successors. Make no mistake: this is a tough promise to keep. But the Archbishop that ordained me is on-fire for the Faith and for a lively Catholic Church. I’m not under his personal jurisdiction right now. But I bet if I took this sort of a struggle with an on-going maintenance approach to Church to him – he would listen and help me to find a way to be ‘obedient to the Church,’ but to also set the Spirit within me free.

I’m not sure who will read this. If God wants it made somewhat visible, He will help that to happen. I just know that around me, there are Catholic Mandela’s willing to go to ‘prison’ (of some sort) and to pray while there. Praying without stopping that other Mandela’s will also be in prayer and that with God’s help and grace, we can bring about change in our own lives, change in our families, change in our parishes, change in our dioceses.

We have job openings for Mandelas in our Church.

Yes Deacon… keep going. Keep dreaming.

Blessings.

Deacon Tom Fox

www.catholicvitamins.com

 

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Podcast: Download In this episode:  Del Lago and the TV headache, Philmont and Lost Pines, Qatar, leaving Christ Our Light, the vacuum cleaner ponytail, Rediscover Catholicism study group, Archdiocesan Youth Conference,  Mailbag:Jim from PA. Contact our comment line at (936) 228-1836 or email us [at] catholicfamilypodcast (dot) com

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