Archives for: July 2012
The Gospel reading from today's Catholic Mass is Jesus' "Parable of the Sower," in Mark, chapter 13. As I was writing my little homily for Mass today, I couldn't help but rant a bit on my keyboard before I got to work.
In the eyes of God, fruitfulness and productivity are always good. Many of his parables use agricultural themes to convey that point. In today’s “Parable of the Sower,” we get the sense that growth, reproduction, and fecundity are good and holy things that lead to human happiness and fulfillment. That hearkens back even to Genesis when God told Adam and Eve to be “fertile and multiply.”
The prevailing path of our country is anything but fruitful. 40% of children in New York are aborted before they are born. 40%! Our government wants to force us to pay and provide contraception to anyone that wants it, for “free.” But everybody already uses contraception. Some 98% of women ages 14-44 have used contraception of some form at some point (Dr. Janet Smith). Houses are getting bigger, but families are getting smaller. People marry at older and older ages, if at all.
Selfishness. Sterility. These are directly opposed to love, generosity, fruitfulness, and long-term human flourishing and happiness.
Enough ranting for now.
P.S.: The photo above, of a wheat field, was taken in 2007 during the CANDISC bicycle tour near Souris, ND.
On June 28th, at noon, the eve of my first anniversary, I began a new assignment here in the Diocese of Bismarck. Most of you may be aware of that, but I've not yet written about it on the good ol' blog, so here it is.
Before I get into too much "rambling," let me invite you all to the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Strasburg, ND, on July 14th at 4:00 p.m. for my installation Mass. Bishop David Kagan will be presiding and there will be food afterward in the church basement. Come on down...There may be kuchen.
During the last year I served as the parochial vicar at the Church of Saint Anne in the city of Bismarck. Last week, I transferred and became the pastor of no less than *three* parishes in the country, south of Bismarck: Saints Peter and Paul Church in Strasburg, ND; Saint Mary in Hague, ND; and St. Michael, out east of Linton, ND, in the middle of almost nowhere. The road isn't even paved to St. Michael's. It's a great little country church.
This is quite a change from Saint Anne where I helped the pastor, Fr. Ed Wehner, serve roughly 1,700 families in one parish. Now, I serve a total of roughly 300 families in three parishes. Last year, combined, these three parishes had 618 parishioners, 14 baptisms, 19 deaths, and 7 weddings. As farms and ranches become larger and more efficient, people have fewer children, and as those children move to the more urban areas, the population continues to decline in this part of the state.
I live in the town of Strasburg, which had 409 residents as of 2010. This town is about 50 miles from the nearest Interstate and the big attraction in town is (aside from the awesome church, of course) the homestead and birthplace of Lawrence Welk, the famous band leader. My parishioners are almost entirely farmers, ranchers, retired farmers, and retired ranchers. They've all been very welcoming to their new pastor.
These communities are made up largely of Germans from Russia who immigrated to the Northern Plains in the late 19th century. A vast majority of them are Catholic and the strength of their ancestors' faith is evident in the incredible churches they built here (during difficult economic times, like the depression, no less). These churches are old (by American standards), but generally well kept and very beautiful. In fact, recent restoration (*not* wreckavation, thank goodness) touched up a few things under the direction of the previous pastor, Fr. Paul Eberle, which I am grateful for.
With all that said, here are some photos I took yesterday of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Strasburg. Pictures of the other two churches are forthcoming.
Stained Glass: Pentecost.
Side altar with statue of the Blessed Mother.
Looking toward the rear of the church.
Close up of one of the arches.
The high altar.
Angel to the right of the altar.
A depiction of Purgatory beneath a small altar in the rear of the church.
A close up of a pieta in the rear of the church. As always, Mary looks concerned for the suffering souls, even as she's mourning the death of her son.
Apparently, I am out of the loop on the events around here. I did not realize there would be fireworks last night. But boy, were there fireworks!
The fireworks, and all the other great events we enjoy today, are in commemoration and celebration of our Independence from Great Britain, of the many freedoms we enjoy, and in honor of all the many sacrifices that have been made to preserve these freedoms.
Two points this morning.
First of all, we must remain vigilant and watch over these freedoms. Things are fairly comfortable and stable in our country right now. But as we watch fireworks exploding overhead, let’s forget the unfortunate fact that many mortars, bullets, and bombs have been spent to give us this great nation. Keep in mind that, in our world, such liberties as we enjoy, and such stability, are and have been rare, and it is not guaranteed that they will endure.
In fact, in light of recent supreme court decisions, health care laws, and other laws enacted by our government, our first freedom – that of religious liberty, supposedly guaranteed in the first amendment, is being eroded away. We need to do everything we can at the ballot box, in communicating with our civil leaders, and in prayer, to ensure that America remains the great nation that it is.
Secondly, we must also recall that no matter what happens in this world and nation, the deepest happiness and fulfillment is not found in this life. It is not found in a mere lack of restraints placed upon us, or in wealth, or health. Today’s Gospel was the list of Beatitudes – Jesus’ plan for human happiness. It’s not what we expect: Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are they who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute your .... Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.
So today we thank the Lord for the many blessings we enjoy in our great nation. We are reminded that we must not take them for granted. And, finally, we are reminded that our deepest happiness is in not found in political structures and freedoms, great as those may be, but in God alone.
P.S.: The photo above was taken in 2005 at the state capitol in Bismarck.