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Ink Slingers

A Sisterhood Praying for Priests

In the many places we’ve called home, we have always drawn close to and been blessed by our parish priests. They have been there during some the most important and intimate moments of our family’s life. They have been our friends, brothers, and true fathers. We do what we can to serve our dear priests in supporting our parish financially, serving in a variety of functions, and inviting them into our home for meals, but none of these gifts replaces the one thing we can all do for our self-sacrificing shepherds. They need our constant support in prayer, now more than ever.  

Our priests and the priesthood have taken a beating over the years; between scandal, dwindling flocks, and now an insidious virus ravages their ministries. Our churches have been shut down for weeks only to reopen with seemingly burdensome restrictions. Priests have had to become ever more creative in finding ways to serve their parishioners. It must be exhausting and at times disheartening.

Just weeks before Masses were suspended, I was introduced to a beautiful apostolate dedicated to praying for the priesthood. The Seven Sisters Apostolate seeks to cover priests in prayer seven days a week, 365 days a year. Seven women commit to one holy hour a week on a specific day, praying exclusively for their particular priest and his priesthood.

Since its founding in 2011, Seven Sisters has established sisterhoods praying for over 1300 bishops and priests worldwide. There is at least one sisterhood in every state in the US with the exception of Rhode Island (hint, hint Rhode Island Sistas!). Obviously the ultimate goal is for every priest and bishop in every diocese to have a sisterhood covering them in prayer. It is such a lovely and powerful way to uplift our priests and support them spiritually. Our own priest has expressed his deep gratitude for the support.

Each group is founded by an Anchoress who recruits members, passes on needed information, and communicates the existence and intentions of the group to the particular priest.  Communiques are sent from the foundress once a month with encouragement and updates on new locations, and any other pertinent information. Sisters select a particular day and spend any one hour that day in front of the Blessed Sacrament (ideal) or in a Church in praying exclusively for their priest. Such a simple setup for such a beautiful offering.

If you have a soft spot in your heart for priests, prayerfully consider anchoring your own Seven Sisters Apostolate in your parish. To learn more about establishing a group and any other information you might need visit the website at: www.sevensistersapostolate.org. Every priest could benefit greatly from this spiritual gift.

O Almighty and Eternal God, look upon the Face of Thy Christ, and for love of Him Who is the eternal High-priest, have pity on Thy priests. Remember, O most compassionate God, that they are but weak and frail human beings. Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which is in them by the imposition of the Bishop’s hands. Keep them close to Thee, lest the enemy prevail against them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation.

O Jesus, I pray Thee for Thy faithful and fervent priests; for Thy unfaithful and tepid priests; for Thy priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for Thy tempted priests; for Thy lonely and desolate priests; for Thy young priests; for Thy aged priests; for Thy sick priests; for Thy dying priests; for the souls of Thy priests in Purgatory.

But above all I commend to Thee the priests dearest to me: the priest who baptized me; the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Thy Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priests who taught and instructed or helped me and encouraged me; all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way, particularly (your priest’s name here). O Jesus, keep them all close to Thy heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen. Mary, Queen of the clergy, pray for us; obtain for us many and holy priests. Amen.


Related Links:

Seven Sisters Apostolate

The Priests We Need to Save the Church

Interview with Author Kevin Wells

Priests are People Too

Praying for Our Priests

Categories
Devon Wattam Ink Slingers Priesthood Vocations

Priests Are People Too

 

It takes a special man to answer God’s call to the priesthood. In a world that glamorizes power, pleasure, and self-indulgence, it’s difficult to understand the courage, sacrifice, and self-denial it takes to promise to live out a life of chastity, poverty, and obedience for the good of others.

Whether people think they’re fools or saints, though, it always seems like others can’t fully recognize the humanity of the Church’s priests. Catholics and non-believers alike either hold clergymen to impossibly high standards, only to be disappointed when they fail or see them as hypocrites for speaking the truth in spite of their own sinfulness.

We all need to be reminded of one thing: priests are people, just like you and me.

They Have Strengths & Weaknesses

Priests aren’t robots; they’re men. Even after going through seminary and professing their vows, they continue to be men with personal strengths and weaknesses. I’m always taken aback when people say things like, “He was so smart. He could’ve been anything, but he chose the priesthood…” or “He is so attractive. What a waste!” 

The priesthood isn’t a prison sentence. It’s not a punishment for the misfits of society who don’t fill the perfect mold of what would make a good husband, father, student, or employee. As people of God, we should celebrate the intelligence, talents, work ethic, and even attractiveness of our priests. These traits aren’t wasted because they’re not experienced as a husband or father; they glorify God’s goodness in a unique, powerful way through the priesthood. 

They Make Mistakes

Priests aren’t infallible. They aren’t perfect. They aren’t God. We need to remind ourselves of this from time to time when we get hung up on mistakes that they make, big and small. While they are in a public position to serve the Lord and his people, they are still sinful and will assuredly do things that not everyone likes or agrees with. Cut them some slack. Forgive them when they disappoint you, and move on.

Likewise, we shouldn’t hold priests that we love and agree with on a pedestal so high that we put them in the place of God. It’s equally as tempting to idolize godly men as it is to write off men for not being godly because there seem to be so few of them left in the world. When we do encounter one, it’s easy to hang onto his every word. We must fight this compulsion, however, recognizing that priests are God’s servants, not God himself. 

They Need Our Prayers

At the end of the day, priests are on a journey to heaven just like the rest of us. But unlike the rest of us, their vocation is put on display for everyone, Catholic or not, to critique. I am thankful that the world isn’t watching my every move as a wife and mother under the scrutinizing microscope that most priests experience. I would be continually critiqued, and rightfully so. 

Priests need our prayers. The good ones and the ones we struggle to find the good in. Thinking of the countless tasks they do every day that go unnoticed – the hospital visits, community outreach, continuing education programs, on top of saying Mass, hearing confessions, and managing a parish for little income – it’s a wonder that anyone would join the priesthood at all.

And yet, they do.

Knowing the sacrifice, ridicule, and ingratitude they will experience from the world, something still compels men around the world to take on the most important job in the world: bringing Christ to his people. For that, we owe them our prayers.

 

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Giveaways Ink Slingers Maurisa Priesthood Vocations

Interview with Author Kevin Wells: The Priests We Need to Save the Church

The Priests We Need to Save the Church

When his uncle, Monsignor Tom Wells, was brutally murdered in his rectory in 2000 former sports writer, Kevin Wells, turned to writing to pour out his grief. His first article devoted to his beloved uncle appeared in the Washington Post just before his family celebrated their first Christmas without “Tommy”.

For many years, our family attended the beautiful parish in which Monsignor Wells was buried. As you exit the historic chapel on the hill, you cannot help but notice his gravestone, but it was the impact he made as a priest in our diocese that really made his presence palpable, even to folks like us who never had the blessing of meeting him.

Spurred by the scandals rocking the priesthood and the Church, Kevin recently published his second book, The Priests We Need to Save the Church. I had the privilege of interviewing Kevin about his uncle and his book via Skype for Catholic Sistas. It was a lively and extremely enjoyable exchange which lasted an hour. The following are excerpts from our conversation.

Catholic Sistas: You started your career as a sports writer and I was curious to know how you began writing about your uncle, Monsignor Wells, and the faith in general?

Kevin: As far as writing about the faith when I was a sports writer I was given the nickname of “Monsignor” by my agnostic co-workers. Kind of like Flannery O’Conner who would not necessarily write about the Catholic faith, she would imbue it into her beautiful writing, not that I’m a beautiful sports writer but that I would always try to get a Catholic angle into my stories or find some way to take a moralistic or theological outlook in my writing. The first real Catholic or faith centered article I wrote was published, believe it or not, by the Washington Post in the aftermath of my uncle’s murder. He was a giant around Christmas time. There’d be 70 people in a room and he’d hand out the presents. It was a tradition for many years. He was hilarious and charming and witty and that first Christmas after he died, I remember, it was a tremendous void that he wasn’t going to be handing out the presents under the tree and I decided I needed to write about that void.  It got quite a lot of feed back after it was published. So I said to myself if I can do this and touch people’s hearts that aren’t Catholic or don’t have any sort of relationship with Christ then I’m going to keep doing it. So I started writing for the Catholic Standard and the Catholic Review in Baltimore. 

CS: How did you come to write this particular book?

Kevin: In my home parish for many years I just sensed, as Father Duesterhaus says, that the treasure of our Catholic faith was just being buried in the ground and our Church seemed to me to be becoming almost protestant.  The preaching was muted and contracepted. Nobody was ever at confession. Something’s wrong here and over the years I kept thinking, “If the pastor was a father and was intentional and had the fire in his eyes, I guarantee you this parish would begin to convert and start to understand the faith.” But I kept pushing that thought aside because what is a member of the laity going to tell a priest about how to be a priest? I would talk to the priest and encourage him. But finally, about 2 years ago I decided I’m not going to live with this anymore. I’ve been living with this thought for years and instead of dying, it’s growing stronger. So I told my brothers,”I need to go on a sabbatical. I want to write a book about what I thirst for from our pastor.” That’s how this book came about.

CS: It’s a really tough, touchy subject that you tackled and you talked a little bit about the hesitation you had about “Who am I to say something to priests about how they should live.” How has it been received?

Kevin: Believe it or not, very well. I can only really say from who I hear from.Priests from all over the country really, have contacted me. Some have said they’ve cried reading it. Some have said it has re-engineered their priesthood. One priest said, “I’m really mad at Wells. I’m only  doing 2 of the 8 characteristics and now he has me going for 3,4,5,6.” Tom Monahan, the founder of Ave Maria University, bought 50 books and gave them to priests at a function a couple weeks ago. I do think though that even if you handed out free Christmas books to every priest in America I bet 85 percent of the priests would not touch it. I do think there is a reluctancy, if you are a priest, to touch my book for many reasons. I think there is an ideology out there and some priests are so set in their ways that they would prefer not to step into the valley of the exceptionalism of Saint John Vianney and Maximillian Kolbe and anything that could challenge them to be heroic, to become a martyr.  It’s like you as a mom or me as a dad if someone wise set us down and told us, you’re doing okay, but here’s what you’re not doing and bam, bam, bam down the line and they’re right. What that demands out of you and me is that we need to cowboy up and rise to the challenge. So, unfortunately, I do not believe this book will be cracked by the majority of Catholic priests.

CS: I imagine disseminating the book in the seminaries would be the place to start. Wouldn’t you say?

Kevin: My publisher, Sophia, has started a campaign. They are really trying to get the book into the hands of every priest and seminarian in America. A lot of benefactors have bought cases of books with the intention of getting them into seminaries. Saint Charles Borromeo in Philadelphia just asked for 100 books to hand out to seminarians. I don’t blame seminary rectors for this but I think there is a hesitancy to bring another new book into the curriculum or even to suggest it for pleasure reading. Janet Smith has read the book and has really been moved by it. She’s trying to get into every seminary in America. Mgsr. John Essef is trying to do the same. There are people out there who are really trying to disseminate it. I would love it to be in every seminary but it’s kind of hard to crack that code.

CS: Your intended audience was obviously priests and seminarians. The book has really impacted me personally and many of the lay-folk I’ve talked to. It’s inspiring us to adopt some of the same characteristics. So many of these characteristics are qualities we should all have. Did you imagine that there would be cross-over to the laity?

Kevin: That was the hope. I sensed that many priests would not be open to reading the book and the hope was that the laity would and they would see through the 8 characteristics, through the blueprint whether these characteristics were or were not being lived out by their pastor as their shepherd. Then they, as a lay Catholic, might take up some of these practices like spending more time in adoration, or taking a cold shower, or skipping a meal because it brings me closer to Christ and brings me closer to the beauty of the faith. If I’m going to do this and I’m not sensing the same in my pastor then I’m going to encourage him. When Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “Who’s going to save the Church? Not our bishops, not our priests. It’s up to you laity to remind bishops how to be bishops and priests to be priests.” That’s kind of a head scratcher, but what I think what he was saying was: Laity, if you love the faith, if you’re praying the rosary, it you’re dying to yourself in certain ways. It’s incumbent upon you. You owe it to God. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your priest to ask him why he’s straight-jacketing his role, his duty to become Jesus Christ, in persona Christi, as a priest. I was hoping the laity would be encouraged in their own lives to dwell on those 8 characteristics, but once we’re living them out to the best of our ability and then we go to mass and we’re being sucked down rather than lifted up, then we need to have a talk with Father.

CS: In addition to getting this book into the hands of our priests, what else can we do to rescue the priesthood right now?

Kevin: Well, obviously you know the one thing you can do is pray for your priest everyday. It’s also incumbent upon us to reach out and say Father can I mow your lawn? Hey Father, can I lead a pre-Cana class? Hey, Father, can I help out with the CCD? Because we want to help Father. If you’re a good priest you’re going to draw parishioners from other parishes because they aren’t being fed by the priest there and good priests are going to be overworked. They need help from intentional members of the laity. I think it’s just reaching out to them and saying, Father come over for dinner. We’re gonna make you a steak and break open a bottle of wine, but we want to pick your brain about how we can help you. I think it’s being a friend and also practically helping them around the parish with things they need help with.

CS: You address and discourage “bachelor priests” in your book and what really struck me was that we’ve had a couple really wonderful sacrificial priests in our lives who often or always give up their scheduled day off to offer more masses and services to their parishioners which makes me worry that they are doing too much and that they’ll burnout.  How do we prevent burnout in our priests? How do we help them recharge?

Kevin: I know three priests personally who work 7 days a week and that is my concern too, but I think it’s built into their DNA. They’re workers. They’re grinders and they’re sort of lost if they are not close to the Eucharist in some way or close to their identification as a shepherd in some way. To a certain extent I think they gain their energy from their ministry. To answer your question regarding the potential for burn-out, the good hard working priests simply have to spend some down time with other hard working priests. They need to feed off of them. Laugh with them. Commiserate with them. Share a meal with them. Go on a weekend hunting trip with them, whatever. Because that priest loves having dinner with Maurisa and her husband and celebrating Mass but I think he’s got to be around good priests because the other priests will say, “Father, you’re working too much. You’ve gotta dial it back.” They can sense in better ways than you and me how they can dial back a colleague in a priesthood. I just think that priests need to be around other priests that work hard and they can sort of put the kibosh on too much work. At the end of the day, only he can decided how he’s going to do his ministry. I think a daily holy hour is key. The priests that work hard, that holy hour charges them in a way that it does not charge up the priests who do not make a daily holy hour. They gain energy, sustenance, and grace from that holy hour that compels them to work harder than the rest.

CS: Our two youngest are boys and both have at one time or another mentioned they might be interested in the priesthood. As a mom and knowing what I know has gone on in many seminaries that makes me very, very nervous. What can we do? How do we encourage their vocations and not worry so much about the garbage that’s going on?

Kevin: I think it’s easy. I think now we need to think very practically. I have a 17 year old son and if he told me that he was discerning a vocation and the process started and let’s say he decided on Mount Saint Mary’s or Theological College or John Paul II. What I’d do on day one is I’d sit down with my wife and the rector and it’s a closed door meeting and my son’s not there and I put it on him. I ask pointed questions. I am the father of my son and I need to get him to heaven and I’m about to release him to you, but before I do I have questions for you and I just go bam, bam, bam—is there any hint of homosexuality in this seminary? If you sense it, what are you going to do? Are you going to reprimand? Are you going to discipline? Or are you going to throw them out? Once it’s clear there, I just give it to God as long as I have the sense this rector is good and faithful and a true shepherd then I release my son. I don’t worry so much about all the stuff going on out there and I think you know, now these rectors are back on their heels. They know they need to get things done correctly.  I think the seminaries are better now. They’re aren’t great but they are better because they know if something happens and I get word or you get word we’re gonna go to town and they are going to be in trouble.

CS: What’s next for you?

Kevin: Right now I’ve been asked to give a lot of talks and write articles and travel a little bit with the talks. So I’ve told myself that just until the end of the year I’m going to stay on sabbatical and promote the message of challenge found in this book. I’m going to continue to press and press and press in my talks and writings and whatever the Holy Spirit compels me to do, and obviously it’s not me. It’s through adoration, through rosaries, through the Holy Spirit, and a little bit of zeal on my part because I was around my uncle and I saw what he did. I’m continuing to discern right now during this little hiatus what to do next. For the next three months I’ll write and I’ll speak.

Before our interview, I read The Priests We Need to Save the Church. It is a fantastic and impactful book filled with memorable stories about the heroic priesthood of Monsignor Wells and interviews with men whose priesthoods have been impacted by his example as well as interviews with admirable and holy priests who embrace the sacrificial aspects of priestly fatherhood. What struck me most deeply was how much this book inspired me to embrace more fully some of the sacrificial characteristics Kevin puts forward–more time spent in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a deeper devotion to our Blessed Mother, a more devout prayer life, and stricter, reparative penances.

 

Because I believe so deeply in the need for this book and Kevin’s message to priests, we at Catholic Sistas are hosting a giveaway. One sista will win two copies of The Priests We Need to Save the Church–one to read and one to give away to a bishop, priest, seminarian, or friend. To enter just leave a comment in the combox.


References and resources:

The Priests We Need to Save the Church by Kevin Wells

Burst: A Story of God’s Grace When Life Falls Apart by Kevin Wells

Uncle Tommy–Happy Martyr and the Priest We Need–Crisis Magazine

Comfort is Killing the Church–Crisis Magazine

Priests, to Save the Church, Answer the Call to Save Souls and Seek the Lord Above All–book review by Janet E. Smith

 

Categories
Ink Slingers Karen Prayer Priesthood Vocations

Praying for Our Priests

Recently two reports were made public by the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference. In one, the results of a survey are presented claiming a disparity between the realities that families face and the teaching of the Catholic Church. In another separate survey results report, it was discovered that an estimated 58% of priests in Germany pray every day and 54% go to confession no more than once per year.Pray for Our Priests

When I first read this, I was floored. It hadn’t honestly occurred to me that it could be a common thing for a priest to not go to confession frequently or not even pray every day. But as I thought about it, I wasn’t all too shocked. Priests are human too and in need of prayer like the rest of us. But unlike the rest of us, they have a responsibility to morally guide hundreds or thousands of individuals and the onslaught of cultural sins that can’t help but to seep into every individual’s life of which priests are not immune cannot help matters. They are perpetually hit with their own and everyone else’s sins daily. And yet, they are expected to keep on; faithful and strong, they must lead the flock. Can any of us do this?

There has been more than one study that linked the likelihood of success in religious formation and practice by children into adulthood with the faithfulness and encouragement of their mothers and fathers. It’s pretty simple- if your mom and dad pray every day and attend Mass, chances are you will too. The same goes for our priests- our spiritual fathers. If our priests are strong, faith filled, and practicing the sacraments, it will resonate in how their flock worships.

In the words of St. John Vianney, “Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption here on earth…What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods…Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest and they will end by worshiping the beasts there..The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you.”

Our parents who pray and go to Mass also go to their priests for guidance. But who do our priests have here on Earth to turn to for guidance, other than other priests? No one. As such it is no small wonder that they can become weary, complacent, or deal with spiritual dryness.  And when that happens, it seeps into the life and vitality of the church family they minister to.  Often people approach their parish priest for only two things: to get a sacrament or to get spiritual direction in a time of crisis. How often are they approached to be told what a blessing they are to their community? Or how they are appreciated for standing up for life or for having such a reverence for the Eucharist? How can we expect our parish priest to stay strong and resilient in spite of cultural norms and wayward and complaining parishioners without any encouragement or prayer on their behalf? It seems an unreasonably high expectation, and though they have taken on the vocation of the priesthood, and to some extent this situation is par for the course, it is good for the laity to charitably attempt to reduce some of those more bitter aspects.

So, what can we do for our priests to strengthen them, encourage them, and help remind them how what they do is for the greater glory of God and actually is accomplishing something?

Try doing some of the following to support your own parish priest:

-The priesthood is the love of the heartPray for your priest

Start a novena for the priesthood and seminarians

Invite your parish priest over for dinner

Compliment your priest after Mass about something they said during the homily that made you think

Praise your priest for standing up for life and Church teaching

Thank your priest for the reverence they have in the consecration and distribution of the Eucharist

Write them an anonymous card

Write a thank you note after getting helpful spiritual direction to let them know what a blessing their wisdom has been for you and your family

These are just a few things we as the faithful laity can do to support and encourage our priests!

What else can you suggest we do to show our priests how important they are in our lives?

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Adrienne Evangelization Ink Slingers

The Crisis of Fluffy American Homilies

I’ve wanted to write a piece about strong preaching for a while, but needed a catalyst to get the ball rolling. Low and behold, this gem turned up on my news feed last week.

I’m Still Not Going Back to the Catholic Church by Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher explains that while folks have been speculating that Pope Francis’s compassionate side will bring people back into the Church, it is precisely the pontiff’s lack of emphasis on the harder teachings of the Church that will keep Dreher in Orthodoxy and out of the RCC.  In his years as a Catholic, he never heard priests preach on the hard topics.  Though I never left the Catholic Church, I couldn’t help but agree with much of everything he argued.

fluffy-bunnyTwelve years ago I moved to a new city and naturally began attending the parish closest to my apartment. It was like every other parish I’d ever visited or been a parishioner of growing up. We sang “On Eagle’s Wings” and “Anthem” for a peppy recessional. The homilies were of the only variety I’d ever heard – the soft, love Jesus more and take care of the poor type. Upon the concluding rite, still high on, “We are called we are chosen, we are Christ for one another…” I’d leave through the narthex feeling good about myself – the message was, “I’m doing great already and all I need to do is more of what I’m doing to be even better – or I can just keep on keeping on, it’s cool, I’m a good person, and that’s what Christianity is about”. I never knew there was anything else to learn about at Mass, or even about Catholicism.

A handful of years ago the position of head pastor at our parish became and remained vacant until the diocese was finally able to fill it with someone right for the task of shepherding our 6,000 family parish with parochial school, two priests and several deacons. In came a man who would soon be elevated with the title Monsignor. I still remember the homily where he introduced himself to us as his six foot tall frame towered over the ambo. With his measured beat and dry cadence, he shared his story as a convert to the Catholic Church, and challenged us with, “If you have an issue with any teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, make an appointment to see me in my office, and you had better bring your Bible and your catechism.” This was a challenge I’d never heard a priest give before, furthermore, I’d never even heard a priest approach controversy in the least, and our new pastor was inviting it.

In the months to follow, his homilies received mixed reviews. Many parishioners were startled and even offended. Monsignor addressed abortion, contraception and same sex marriage right there in the middle of a Sunday or weekday Mass. And he didn’t just mention it in passing, as if we were supposed to know it was wrong by a one word topic drop. No, he spoke at length and in depth about each topic with solid arguments and reminded our parish why the Church taught these things were against the teachings of Christ – and that Christ’s teachings still matter. The offense entered when Monsignor would reach further still and assert that anyone sitting in our pews who did not see these issues as intrinsic evils worth standing up against were complying with evil themselves. Farewell to, “I can just keep on keeping on, I’m a good person.” I was surprised to be in the midst of a priest who had the courage to preach so boldly – he was risking people’s temporal happiness and even losing many to the neighboring parish which was still preaching love Jesus more and take care of the poor.

The preaching was a change to encompass the whole of Catholic teaching. As Dreher argued in his article, we need to be preached to about God’s mercy and God’s judgment. It is clear to me that Monsignor is out to evangelize the Catholics – to reteach us authentic and whole Catholic teaching. He boldly reminds us that hell is real and we can all attain that if we follow what the secular world both teaches and scolds us to believe. He also teaches boldly and thoroughly how merciful our Lord is, but that in order to be forgiven and to attain Heaven, we need to repent, not just keep on keepin’ on. Often priests truncate Christ’s message to something like all persons can all be forgiven because there is no sin. Yet, Christ’s message is that all persons can be forgiven, that there is no sin too great to be forgiven by a repentant soul. It’s no wonder the lines for confession are nonexistent – the congregations aren’t being taught what sin is and how they’re personally committing it. And it’s no wonder Catholics think being a Christian is just about being a good person – all they hear at Mass is that they are a good person.

499px-Michelangelo,_Giudizio_Universale_02
Last Judgement, Michelangelo 1536-1541, Sistine Chapel

In addition to preaching about sin, Monsignor also makes sure to preach about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist – reminding us that the very reason we attend Holy Mass is for Jesus in the Eucharist. And he also preaches about Confession, and corrects misunderstandings about Baptism. In a twenty minute homily every mass, we are instructed on the whole of Christian teaching, not just the easy on the ears and pride parts. Furthermore, our music made a dramatic shift as well. Out went the eagle and the anthem and anything modern and peppy. In came a large choir who sings beautiful, heavenly, old school hymns. Latin and Greek hymns have even made returns that we recite together. Mass has been restored to a formal and important Christian event, and the music reminds us that we are experiencing a unique uniting of Heaven and Earth in the Eucharist, not just getting together for preaching and a sing along.

Fluffy homilies have done a great disservice to American Catholics. I think of parents who, in moments of weakness, refuse to enforce what is right for their child because they don’t want to deal with a tantrum, and I believe this is where many priests find themselves. In a perpetual moment of weakness, priests know if they preach whole and authentic Catholic teaching, their parishioners will tantrum. I want to encourage our priests to be our parent, to be our shepherd, to be a “Father”. And I want to encourage parishioners who desire Catholic strength returned to their parishes to vocally support their priests in making the change. We’ve lost generations to cafeteria Catholicism, non-Catholic Christian traditions and even the secular world in this time of fluffy American preaching.

Though our parish did lose a good many of our parishioners to other churches when Monsignor persisted with his unapologetic homilies, our Mass attendance still remains high, if not higher than before. Catholics in our area are willing to drive up to an hour for strong preaching and a reverence in the music and liturgy. And I can see our strong pastor’s determination to evangelize Catholics even spreading down to our children as during the children’s liturgy dismissal the kids are gathered for their blessing wearing backpacks stuffed with their Bible and their Catechism. The world already has enough of itself and does a better job of being itself than our Catholic Mass could ever. Christ is made present to us at Holy Mass, so let us have the courage to demand that the human parts of the Mass, the homilies and the music, be what it is supposed to be best at being – Catholic.

The website Courageous Priests highlighted a homily of my pastor’s which can be found here: http://www.courageouspriest.com/msgr-harts-strong-pro-life-stance.