What do you trust? A question of where to place our faith

Readings for Today

This weekend’s homilies were given at Our Lady of Lourdes, Saint Louis, MO, at the 5pm Mass on June 9, 2016, and at the 9 and 11am Masses on June 10, 2016.

In what do you trust? Science? Wealth? Politics? Only yourself? Or is it that you do the will of God and seek primary relationship with Jesus? This weekend’s readings challenge us to seek to do the will of God, to place primary trust in Jesus, and to live as he wishes. It it not to suggest that science is bad, for I want my doctor to know good science.  It is not that wonderful things cannot be done with someone who is generous with their wealth. It is not that people should not work to make political change.  But if we are seeking peace and fulfillment, happiness and salvation, it is first found when we follow Jesus. Only then do we find the peace that surpasses understanding.

Signs of Spiritual Emptiness?

Consider the following information. From The Center for Disease Control: Suicide is a leading cause of death in the US. 115 people die each day in the United States from opioid abuseFrom The Health Insurer CIGNA: Most Americans are considered lonely. From Fight the New Drug: This is the reality of what the porn industry fuels (and fantasizes): real people being sexually abused and exploited at the hands of family members, traffickers, and pimps. Each click to porn content directly fuels the demand for sex traffickers to make money by selling videos and images of their sex slaves to porn sites. From The Health Insurer State Farm: Many Americans do not know their neighbors, or have social interactions limited to a “wave or a nod.”  From The Pew Research Trust: If it were a religion, the largest group would be those who claim no religious affiliation.

This information may seem disconnected.  And, in some sense, it may be.  But what if there is a connection between these realities? What if they are all symptoms of an increasing state of emptiness in the inner life of Americans? What if these are all viewed as symptoms, not causes of unhappiness? And is it possible that these symptoms are suggesting a lack of meaning or purpose? In 2016, the Los Angeles Times ran a story with this headline, in the Science Now section: Church attendance linked with reduced suicide risk, especially for Catholics, study says.

Might it be the case that we have a lack of meaning and purpose in our lives? I believe that without religion, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to see beyond ourselves to something greater. And without the something greater, it can be next to impossible to find the perspective that is necessary to overcome depression, anxiety and loneliness that seems to be a growing reality in the United States.

The Catholic faith calls us to recognize that meaning is all around us, often in quite ordinary things. Water is the vehicle for God’s grace of baptism. Bread and wine become the means Jesus uses to become truly present to us. Oil heals and strengthens. And the other people in the world? They are made in the very image and likeness of God. I am not alone, I am a member of the mystical Body of Christ, surrounded by a community of believers who not only believe what I believe, but support me in love and prayer.

This is not to suggest there is no need or place for professional treatment for mental health. There is, and people should seek it out when they need it. We should reach out to those who are lonely, sad, anxious, and depressed to remind them of our love for them and our connectedness. In the past couple of days the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) has been posted often. You can even chat online, or get help to help someone else.

But there is also a value to spiritual connectedness too. In addition to professional help, there are many who find assistance knowing others are praying for them, checking up on them, listening and seeking to understand. Sometimes the knowledge of the powerful, ever-present love of God can help us to know that we have purpose and meaning, value and worth beyond what we could possibly imagine. The unique vocation, or call, given to every person serves to remind us that we have a purpose, we have a meaning, that aspects of understanding and love have not only been given to us, but entrusted to us to share. God loves us, not as we can be, not for our potential, but today, here, now, as we are.  That is true for me. That is true for you.

It is also true that a spiritual connection to God and others helps us in good times. We can express gratitude for blessings in our lives. We can celebrate happy events. And we can be there for one another when someone dies, gets sick, loses a job, or experiences some type of loss, pain or hardship. Being rooted in a community of faith in God can help us to heal. And just as the lifeline is available 24 hours a day, so too is God.

Jesus wants to lift our burden. He loves us, and wants us to know we are not alone. He died for our sins, so powerful is this love. He created you in his image and likeness, a unique sign of God Himself. And God calls us to be people, a community. Jesus forgives our sins, extends mercy, and so much wants us to embrace a powerful love for each one of us.

If you are struggling, even though it may seem impossible, reach out. If you know someone who is struggling, don’t wait. Reach out to them. Listen. Realize that even though they may not appear to have the strength to be understood, or may seek to push you away, you could be the very lifeline that keeps them alive.

Keep it simple: Love God, Love Neighbor, Make Disciples.

Readings for Today

There can  be times when we get bogged down in the faith life because it seems overwhelming.  We can make things too complicated. We can think too much. Today’s gospel reminds us that it all boils down to love.  There is first, and primarily, the love that Jesus has for each one of us. And there is the task of loving God and neighbor, and then sharing the fruits of that love with others. Love God. Love Neighbor. Make Disciples.

What does it mean to be a Brother?

Readings for Today

Coming back to high school a few years, or even many years after graduation is an interesting experience.  But either way, it serves as a powerful reminder of God’s love for each one of us, a love more powerful than anything that can be placed before it.

Jesus: The Source and the Way to Unity

Homily for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Readings for Today

Homilies were at Our Lady of Lourdes, in Saint Louis, Missouri (#1), and at Saints Joachim and Ann, in Saint Charles, Missouri (#2).

We are more divided than ever.  We are angry. We are isolated. And we are more lonely than ever. So how is it that we fix this? Jesus, of course. Jesus gives us the gift of himself, and seeks to bring us together through his grace.

Trinity Sunday Homily, St. Mary Magdelen, St. Louis, May 27, 2018

Readings for Today

In order to understand the Trinity, we first need to think about love.  In a very small way, we experience love with each other.  Think of Charlie Brown and the little red haired girl, or Calvin and Susie, or Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley.  Think about the first time you realized that the boy or girl in your class at school was looking a little different to you this year.  For many, there was probably that moment when you realized that you loved the person you were to marry. Think of your friends, or your relatives, and what it is like to love them.  As wonderful as it all is to have these human loves, each pales in comparison to the love of the Trinity.  Can you enter into this loving relationship so that your life might be changed for the better, for ever?

To listen to the homily given last night at Our Lady of Lourdes, Saint Louis, Missouri, click here.

Trinity Sunday Homily, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Louis, May 26, 2018

Readings for Today

In order to understand the Trinity, we first need to think about love.  In a very small way, we experience love with each other.  Think of Charlie Brown and the little red haired girl, or Calvin and Susie, or Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley.  Think about the first time you realized that the boy or girl in your class at school was looking a little different to you this year.  For many, there was probably that moment when you realized that you loved the person you were to marry. Think of your friends, or your relatives, and what it is like to love them.  As wonderful as it all is to have these human loves, each pales in comparison to the love of the Trinity.  Can you enter into this loving relationship so that your life might be changed for the better, for ever?

Click here to hear the homily from Saint Mary Magdelen, Saint Louis, Missouri, given on Sunday.

What’s Up with all the notices about privacy policies?

Over the past few weeks, you have probably noticed that you have been receiving a lot of privacy policy updates.  In fact, even the DePorres Pages has created a privacy policy. And you may have wondered, why so many updates all at once?

The reason concerns a new law from the European Union that took effect last Friday, May 25.  The EU General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR for short, requires companies who do business in the European Union to get consent before collecting any data from people who may visit their websites online.

According to the website created to explain the new law, the basic purpose involves protecting EU citizens.  “The GDPR not only applies to organisations located within the EU but it will also apply to organisations located outside of the EU if they offer goods or services to, or monitor the behaviour of, EU data subjects. It applies to all companies processing and holding the personal data of data subjects residing in the European Union, regardless of the company’s location.” What that means is that regardless of location, if a business, service or website collects data on EU citizens, it must first gain their consent to do so, as well as creating a written policy explaining their policy, so that people can discover exactly what the website collects, what it does with it, and how it protects the data so that it does not fall into the wrong hands.

While not a business, and even though the DePorres Pages does not directly collect much data, the creation of a privacy policy was viewed as an important step.  While the website specifically collects only user provided data, and requires consent to view the website as we use cookies, third party apps also collect some data, and so the need for a policy became clear. And, since the DePorres Pages has visits from people who live in the European Union, the privacy policy became a necessity.

There has been a increased focus on privacy ever since it was learned that Cambridge Analytics used data from Facebook users. Once this became known, it was learned that many third party apps had been collecting Facebook users data for some time. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, appeared before both the US Congress and the European Parliament to explain the Facebook privacy policy and the changes moving forward.

So, the large number of new privacy statements are the result of this law.  You have probably been emailed, mailed, and made to consent to the use of “cookies”, or small text files that store certain amounts of data. It still can be a challenge for users to avoid sharing personal data, since there are popular websites who do not function properly without cookies.

The star of the tournament is a 98 year-old Sister

Whether or not you are a serious basketball fan, or just casually connected to the NCAA March Madness Men’s Basketball Tournament, chances are you have come across Sister Jean Delores Schmidt, BVM, the 98 year-old chaplain of the Loyola University Men’s Basketball Team.  Affectionately known as “Sister Jean”, she has been the team chaplain for 25 years.

Beginning each team prayer with the phrase “Good and gracious God”, Sister Jean prays for the team and serves as a model of faith and a trusted mentor.  Players hug her after the game.  One Loyola basketball player was even overheard at a tournament game telling Sister Jean, “It was all you , Sister.”

Sister Jean is more than a faith role model, how ever. When current Loyola coach Porter Moser arrived at Loyola as coach in 2011, Sister Jean was ready.  She provided him with extensive scouting reports on his own players, and on the other teams in the league. She continues to do so today, providing a scouting report to the coach and players before each game.  As her celebrity has risen, she even gave her last scouting report to the entire country just before the broadcast of the Tennessee-Loyola basketball team.

Sister Jean is more than a basketball chaplain at Loyola.  She is a beloved figure who has served the community since taking a job at then Mundelein College (now a part of Loyola University) in 1961.  She lives in a freshmen dormitory, and serves as academic advisor and campus minister.  So while the country may be getting introduced to Sister Jean for the first time, she is a beloved legend at Loyola.  The school even celebrated her with a “Sister Jean Bobblehead Night”.  She was featured in a student capstone project entitled “Wise Old Women.”

The Loyola University Campus Ministry website provided this biography of Sister Jean.  “After teaching for twenty years in several elementary schools in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Sr. Jean was assigned to the Education Department of Mundelein College where she served until the affiliation with Loyola University in 1991. Since that time, Sr. Jean has been an academic advisor, campus minister on LSC and WTC, Chaplain to the men’s basketball team and to Regis Hall residents.

She is responsible for the SMILE Program (Students Moving Into the Lives of Elderly), a partnership between Loyola students and residents of The Clare Retirement Facility. In her Regis apartment, she conducts a weekly Prayer Group composed of students from various halls.

Because Sr. Jean talks with students all day long and lives in a residence hall, she is provided with great opportunities for having fun and developing relationships.”

For her 96th birthday, Loyola University made the following video.

The media attention she has received has been phenomenal.  In an interview on National Public Radio she indicated it had just kind of mushroomed.  When a TV reporter referred to her as a “national star”, she quipped she was an “international star.”  She has been referenced as the most well-known person at the tournament.

Loyola is currently in the Sweet Sixteen.  Their next game is in Atlanta, on Thursday, March 22, starting at 6:07 (central time).  The game will be broadcast on CBS.

Vatican’s Prefect for Communication resigns

Pope Francis on Wednesday accepted the resignation of Mons. Dario E. Viganò, the man he had chosen to spearhead the Vatican media reform. In a letter published by the Holy See Press Office, the Pope said that after having reflected carefully on Monsignor’s Viganò’s request to step down from his position as Prefect of the Secretariat for Communication, he accepts his resignation “not without some effort”.

Read the full story here.