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Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love

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November 21, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In my preparation of homilies and in my own spiritual reflection, I have often found it helpful to look into the etymology of key words, especially technical theological terms. Etymology studies the origin of a word and the historical development of its meaning. For example, the etymology of the word “etymology” itself comes from the Greek words, etymon, which is translated as “true sense, original meaning,” and logos, which means “word.” Thus, etymology is the study of the true meaning of a word.

I mention this in light of our national celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday. What does it mean to give thanks? Before considering the etymology of the word “thank” in English, it occurs to me that the word for “thank” in Latin is gratia, which literally means “grace.” Thus, the phrase for “thank you” in Latin is, Gratias tibi ago, which is literally translated as, “I give you graces.”

Of course, the Spanish and Italian languages are derived from Latin, so the Spanish word for “thanks” is gracias and in Italian is grazie. Just as in Latin, then, the person saying muchas gracias in Spanish and tante grazie in Italian is not only saying “many thanks,” but is literally wishing someone many graces.

In looking at the English word “thank,” it would appear initially that it is not related to the Latin word gratia or “grace.” The word “thank” stems from the Latin word tongēre, which means “to think.” But to think what? One interpretation is that the concept of thanks associated with this word developed from the sense of thinking someone well. Indeed, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the Old English noun from which the word “thank” derives chiefly meant “thought, reflection, sentiment; mind, will, purpose, grace, mercy, pardon; pleasure, satisfaction.” So even in English there is the sense of thinking well or wishing graces to express our appreciation.

It is also interesting to look at the responses given when thanks are expressed. The traditional reply as a matter of courtesy in English has been to say, “You’re welcome,” although more commonly today it is not unusual to hear, “No problem” or “It’s my pleasure,” which are both close to the Spanish, De nada or Es mi placer, respectively. However, in Italian, the response is Prego, which literally means, “I pray.” Thus, when an Italian says “Prego” in response to tante grazie,” in a sense that person is indeed saying, “I pray for the many graces that you have just wished for me!”

Our celebration of Thanksgiving should also be seen then in connection with our upcoming Year of the Eucharist, which will begin in our diocese on Dec. 8 of this year, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek eukharistia, which means “thanksgiving.” So every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we are giving thanks to God for all the gifts of His creation, especially the gift of the Real Presence, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that we receive in holy Communion.

During this Year of the Eucharist, my fervent hope is that you will grow in your appreciation of this great mystery and the importance of participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and receiving holy Communion at least every Sunday. I pray that the Eucharist will indeed be a true expression of thanksgiving for the many gifts of God’s abundant graces.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

November 08, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We began the month of November with All Saints Day and All Souls Day. We continue to pray for the souls in purgatory throughout the month of November. Catholics who are well-schooled in the teachings of the Catholic Church have no problem understanding the previous two sentences. Non-Catholics as well as Catholics with little or no catechetical training or religious education, however, may be somewhat confused by the terminology.

Why have both an All Saints Day and an All Souls Day? Are we not praying for dead people in either case? Yes, both the saints whom we honor on Nov. 1 and the souls of the faithful departed for whom we pray on Nov. 2 are all dead, but there is a difference. Saints are all those who have died and are now in Heaven. Many saints have been canonized by the pope over the past two thousand years, meaning that he has infallibly declared that they are now in Heaven, usually after two miracles have been ascribed to the intercession of the deceased person after a long and vigorous investigation. Even among those saints who have been officially canonized, not all of them have their own feast day, since there are more canonized saints than there are days in the year, hence a day to honor all of them. But the vast majority of the deceased who are now in Heaven have never been officially canonized, so All Saints Day is a way to honor them, as well.

Notice that we say that we honor the saints on All Saints Day. They do not need our prayers since they are already in Heaven. But we can look to them as role models of the Christian life and learn from their example of heroic and saintly living. We can also pray for their intercession, which simply means that we seek their heavenly influence in obtaining God’s graces for our spiritual benefit.

All Souls Day commemorates the souls in purgatory. According to the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nn. 210-211), “Purgatory is the state of those who die in God’s friendship, assured of their salvation, but who still have need of purification to enter into the happiness of heaven. Because of the communion of saints, the faithful who are still pilgrims on earth are able to help the souls in purgatory by offering prayers in suffrage for them, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice. They also help them by almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance.”

In response to those who might doubt the existence of purgatory and whether our prayers can help the souls in purgatory, St. John Chrysostom explains, “If Job’s sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them” (referring to Job 1:5). Also in the Old Testament, the Second Book of Maccabees (12:38-46) speaks of prayer for those who have fallen in battle. Three New Testament texts are also cited as the basis for the doctrine of purgatory: Matthew 5:26, Matthew 12:32, and 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, since they allow for the possibility that some sins are forgiven in this world and some in the next.

Another word that may need some explanation is “indulgence.” According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1471), “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin. The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead.”

At this point, a person may be wondering: If I have gone to confession and the guilt of my sins has already been forgiven in the sacrament of reconciliation, how can there still be temporal punishment due to sin? Again, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nn. 1472-1473) explains, “To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the ‘eternal punishment’ of sin. On the other hand, every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the ‘temporal punishment’ of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain. The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the ‘old man’ and to put on the ‘new man.’”

May God give us this grace. Amen.

October 24, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

As our nation approaches the mid-term elections, President Joe Biden has apparently decided that promoting abortion will be the banner issue for him and his colleagues. According to The New York Times, “President Biden said [on October 18] that the first bill he would send to Capitol Hill next year if Democrats expand their control of Congress would be legislation to enshrine abortion rights into law.” The article also noted a   New York Times/Siena poll, which “found that the economy was a far more important issue to voters.”

The Biden administration has evidently also instructed federal officials at the Department of Justice to pursue pro-life advocates and threaten them with federal criminal charges. On September 23, 2022, Catholic pro-life advocate and speaker Mark Houck was arrested when 20 heavily armed federal agents stormed his home at dawn, frightening his family, pointing guns at his head, and then arresting him in front of his wife and seven young children. Houck is alleged to have violated the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, commonly known as the FACE Act, outside of a Pennsylvania abortion facility in October 2021.

Houck is being charged over an altercation with an abortion activist who repeatedly targeted Houck’s 12-year-old son with vulgar verbal attacks, facts that according to Thomas More Society Vice President and Senior Counsel Peter Breen, who is representing Hauck, do not fall under the federal FACE Act.

“This case is being brought solely to intimidate people of faith and prolife Americans,” stated Breen. “Mark Houck is innocent of these lawless charges, and we intend to prove that in court. Rather than accepting Mark Houck’s offer to appear voluntarily, the Biden Department of Justice chose to make a show of potentially deadly force, sending twenty heavily armed federal agents to the Houck residence at dawn this past Friday,” explained Breen. “In threatening form, after nearly breaking down the family’s front door, at least five agents pointed guns at Mark and arrested him in front of his wife and seven young children, who were terrified that their husband and father would be shot dead before their eyes.”

Less than two weeks later, a video taken by the wife of 55-year-old peaceful pro-life advocate Paul Vaughn shows him being arrested by armed FBI agents, guns drawn, swarming the property of the family’s Centerville, Tennessee farmhouse, frightening her children and dragging her husband away. Thomas More Society attorneys are also defending Vaughn against alleged violations of the federal FACE Act. The Biden Department of Justice claims that Vaughn, the President of Tennessee Personhood, is guilty of “conspiracy against rights secured by the FACE Act” as well as of violating the FACE Act itself, even though he never obstructed anyone. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Tennessee indicted Vaughn and six others for conspiracy, and additionally four other individuals for committing FACE Act violations. The prosecution of these eleven life advocates results from an incident that occurred over a year and a half ago, in March 2021, which consisted of nothing more than a peaceful pro-life witness at an abortion facility in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, where several pro-life advocates were sitting in a hallway outside of the abortion clinic singing Christian hymns, reading scripture, and praying. No one was hurt, and no property was damaged during the pro-life witness. For Vaughn’s peaceful presence at the event, the Biden Department of Justice has levied at him charges that carry sentences of up to 11 years in prison and fines of up to $260,000.

According to Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Stephen Crampton, who is representing Vaughn, “Paul Vaughn’s arrest in front of his wife and seven of his [eleven] children, including the 18-month child she was holding, followed by his indictment on federal charges, is yet another attempt on the part of the Biden Department of Justice to frighten and intimidate Christians and committed life advocates. We believe the evidence will show that Paul did not violate the FACE Act, and we look forward to a chance to prove that in court.”

“Contrast that with the June 2022 firebombing of a pregnancy resource center in Buffalo, New York,” Crampton continued. “More than four months later, there have been no arrests, no serious investigation, and not even any suggestion by law enforcement officials that this was a violent arson attack motivated by abortion supporters, despite damning evidence that clearly points in that direction.”

Joe Biden likes to be portrayed as a devout Catholic. Joe Biden is no devout Catholic. Joe Biden is a disgraceful Catholic, in that his obstinate and persistent promotion of abortion is totally lacking in God’s grace.

Undoubtedly, I will hear complaints from people who put their politics before God’s commandments. But naming Biden’s wrongful actions that promote abortion is done with the hope for a positive outcome, namely, his repentance and the salvation of souls. As the Catholic author G.K. Chesterton said, “For after all, blame is itself a compliment. It is a compliment because it is an appeal; and an appeal to a man as a creative artist making his soul. … When we rebuke a man for being a sinner, we imply that he has the powers of a saint.”

May God give us this grace. Amen.

October 11, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Last month I celebrated Mass and attended the luncheon for the Springfield Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (SDCCW) at Immaculate Conception Church in Mattoon. The SDCCW is an affiliate of the National Council of Catholic Women and actively promotes the Catholic faith through service and leadership. The council is comprised of women from parishes all across our diocese. Before lunch, I was asked to say the grace before our meal, which I happily did. Since it was about 12 noon, I led the group in reciting the Angelus prayer. Afterwards, a woman who grew up in Germany thanked me for leading the Angelus prayer, saying that she and her family in Germany would always stop to say that prayer at 12 noon and 6 p.m. every day, but that custom did not seem to be observed in the United States.

I told her that it is my personal practice to say the Angelus prayer the first thing when I get up in the morning, at 12 noon, and at 6 p.m. every day. If I am with people at noon or 6 p.m., I invite them to say the Angelus with me. Perhaps many others still pray the Angelus privately, but it is very powerful when people stop whatever they are doing to say this prayer together.

An oil painting completed between 1857 and 1859 by French painter Jean-François Millet, that he called The Angelus, depicts two farmers bowing in a field over a basket of potatoes while saying the Angelus prayer. The portrait includes a church that can be seen in the distance, indicating that it is the ringing of the bell from the church on the horizon that reminded the couple that it was time to say this prayer. Many churches today still ring their bells at 6 a.m., 12 noon and 6 p.m. as a reminder and a call to pause and say the Angelus prayer. In 1964, Pope Paul VI began to pray the Angelus publicly on a weekly basis at St. Peter’s Square accompanied by a short address to the pilgrims there. Every pope since that time has continued to do so on Sundays at 12 noon.

So, what is the Angelus prayer and how does one pray it? The Angelus prayer is based on the biblical account of the Annunciation in the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke, verses 26-56. The Annunciation is the name given to that momentous event when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary at her home in Nazareth and announced that she was to become the mother of the Incarnation of God. The title Angelus is Latin for “Angel” and comes from the first word of the prayer, which starts out, “The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.” The angel Gabriel’s declaration starts out with the greeting, “Hail, Mary, full of grace” and then he tells her, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33). Mary responds, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). At that very moment, Jesus is conceived in Mary’s womb by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). Thus, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, which we celebrate in the Catholic Church throughout the world every year on March 25, also marks the Incarnation of God becoming man.

The Angelus prayer is said in the following way:

Leader: The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
Response: And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Leader: Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Response: Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen
Leader: Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Response: Be it done to me according to thy word.
Leader: Hail Mary ...
Leader: And the Word was made flesh.
Response: And dwelt among us.
Leader: Hail Mary …
Leader: Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
Response: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Leader: Let us pray:
All: Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

The month of October is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. As we are encouraged to pray the rosary every day, it would also be a great blessing to pray the Angelus every day in the morning, at noon, and in the evening.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

Cutline: The Angelus, a painting by Jean-François Millet.
September 26, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

A Mickey Mantle baseball card from 1952 sold for $12,600,000 a few weeks ago, setting a new record for sports collectibles. Then last month a jersey worn by the Chicago Bulls Hall of Fame basketball player Michael Jordan was sold for $10.1 million — becoming the most expensive piece of game-worn sports memorabilia ever bought at an auction.

As you may know, I love sports, both as a participant and as a fan. I used to collect baseball cards in my youth, but I never paid more for one than the cost of a pack of bubble gum! I also have an assortment of hockey jerseys (or sweaters, as hockey purists would say). Most, if not all, of them were purchased off the rack at a sporting goods store or were given to me as a gift.

So the news of someone paying over $12 million for a baseball card and over $10 million for a basketball jersey strikes me as not only astounding, but even obscene. The $22 million from just these two items alone could feed a lot of hungry people, provide housing for the homeless, and pay tuition for needy low-income families.

The fact that such ludicrous amounts of money are spent on sports and sports-related activities shows how upside down our world’s values have become. Professional athletes and coaches receive millions of dollars in salary. Even college athletes are now being paid millions of dollars for their name, image, and likeness. Meanwhile, nurses, teachers, police officers, and firefighters are paid paltry sums in comparison, despite their much greater value to the health and wellbeing of our society. It is no wonder that there is a shortage of workers in these essential positions, since they are paid so much less than people who do far less for the good of society.

The source of this imbalance in values is rooted in vanity and greed. The remedy for this sad situation is a matter of justice, that is, giving to others what is properly due to them.

Someone who pays millions of dollars for a rare baseball card is saying, “Look at me and see what I’ve got that you don’t have.” That is vanity.

Someone who is paid millions of dollars but does not share that wealth with those in need is greedy.

The Book of Ecclesiastes concludes with the words, “Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity!” Father John Hardon wrote in his Modern Catholic Dictionary that vanity is “an inordinate desire to manifest one’s own excellence. It differs from pride, which is the uncontrolled desire for self-esteem, in that vanity primarily seeks to show others what a person has or has achieved. A vain person looks for praise from others and may go to great lengths to obtain it. More commonly, vanity is associated with an exaggerated importance attached to multiple details, especially external appearances, which in no way contain the value attributed to them. It is ostentation in fashion, wealth, or power regarded as an occasion of empty pride.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 2536) says, “The tenth commandment forbids greed and the desire to amass earthly goods without limit. It forbids avarice arising from a passion for riches and their attendant power. It also forbids the desire to commit injustice by harming our neighbor in his temporal goods.”

Vanity is related to pride, but is different in that pride is concerned with praising oneself, while vanity seeks the praise of others. Thus, the antidote to pride is humility, while the antidote to vanity is modesty. Ken Blanchard (author of One Minute Manager) wrote, “People with humility don’t think less of themselves. They think of themselves less.” Similarly, modesty does not involve demeaning ourselves in the eyes of others, but striving for success without going out of our way to draw attention to ourselves or our accomplishments in an inordinate way. In other words, there is nothing wrong in wanting to do things well and even in seeking to have a good reputation, but our desire for recognition from others should not become excessive. While modesty is often considered in relation to dressing in a way that is not sexually provocative, modesty also extends to behaving in a way that is not unduly preoccupied with receiving praise.

Another virtue that counteracts vanity is magnanimity. The classical definition of magnanimity is expressed in the Latin phrase extensio animi ad magna — the striving of the spirit toward great things. The French philosopher Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange says, “Vanity loves the honor and prestige that comes from great things, while magnanimity loves the work and effort that has to be done to achieve them.”

The antidote to greed is generosity. Generous people are willing to share with others not only from their abundance, but even when it requires sacrifice, whether material or spiritual. Thus, generosity means not only sharing material wealth unselfishly, but also being kind, loving, friendly, and cheerful with others.

We can overcome the vices of vanity and greed while growing in the virtues of modesty, magnanimity, and generosity with the help of God’s grace, which He makes available in abundance through the sacraments, especially when we confess our sins in the sacrament of penance and receive Our Lord in holy Communion.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

September 14, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

“The second Elizabethan Age ended Thursday. Queen Elizabeth II’s reign has spanned my life. I was born in 1952, a few months after the new monarch was summoned home from the then-British colony of Kenya on the death of her father from lung cancer.” Those words were written by Stephen Fidler in the opening paragraph of his essay published in the Sept. 9, 2022 edition of The Wall Street Journal entitled, “A Reflection on 70 Years of Life With the Queen.” Those could also be the words of the opening paragraph of my column in this issue of Catholic Times.

Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne on Feb. 6, 1952. I was born six months later on Aug. 5, 1952, so Queen Elizabeth II reigned just slightly longer than I have been alive! As an American, I do not have any particular attachment to the monarchy, yet it is undeniable that the length and manner of Queen Elizabeth’s reign have made a profound impact throughout the world.

As a political science major in college, I learned the difference between a country’s head of state and head of government. Here in the United States, the president is both head of state and head of government, so the distinction between the two roles is not as readily apparent to us. That is not the case in most countries. Even in parliamentary systems of government with elected officials, such as Germany, France, Italy, and Poland, the president is the head of state and the prime minister is the head of government. In a monarchy like the United Kingdom, the king or queen as head of state is a personal symbol of the nation’s sovereignty, while the prime minister as head of government is the leader of nation’s political processes. The head of state as symbol of a nation’s sovereignty is an important reminder that the country is independent and is not subject to any foreign power or dictator.

To say that the head of state is a symbol of the nation’s sovereignty is not to imply that the head of state is merely a figurehead. Queen Elizabeth II was the epitome of calm, civility, courtesy, composure, dedication, devotion, equanimity, perseverance, and stability. These are intangible qualities and virtues that cannot be legislated through the political process, but which nonetheless are vital to a nation’s character. A monarch cannot order people to live virtuous lives, but can influence a nation’s culture and provide a model of admirable behavior for others to emulate.

In this regard, Queen Elizabeth II conveyed a spiritual quality to her leadership. At her coronation in Westminster Abbey, after the archbishop of Canterbury anointed the new queen, Elizabeth said the anointing “sanctified her before God to serve her people.” It was said that she felt it was the anointing, not the crowning, that made her queen.

Indeed, British law recognizes the monarch as the head of the Church of England ever since Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy in 1534 recognizing King Henry VIII as the “Supreme Head of the Church of England,” a title that Henry VIII had insisted upon after Pope Clement VII refused to approve the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. It was repealed briefly in 1555 under Mary I, but in 1559 Parliament adopted a new Act of Supremacy during the reign of Elizabeth I. In keeping with the Act of Supremacy, the Oath of Supremacy required any person taking public or church office in England to swear allegiance to the monarch as supreme governor of the Church of England. Failure to do so was to be treated as treasonable. My patron saints, St. Thomas More, who served as chancellor of England under King Henry VIII, and St. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and chancellor of the University of Cambridge, remained faithful to the pope, and were thus convicted and beheaded for their refusal to recognize the king as the head of the Church of England.

Here in the United States, as Americans after the Revolution sought to distance themselves from matters related to the English monarchy, they began calling themselves members of the Episcopal Church rather than the Anglican Church. The term “Episcopal Church” not only asserted that it was not under the authority of the English monarch, but inferred that the episcopacy, that is, the bishops, were the highest level of ecclesiastical authority, and thus, like their counterparts in the Church of England, were not answerable to the pope.

When Pope Benedict XVI travelled to the United Kingdom in 2010 for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, Queen Elizabeth II remarked that she was “delighted” to welcome him to the United Kingdom. In her speech welcoming the Holy Father, the Queen said, “We are all aware of the special contribution of the Roman Catholic Church particularly in its ministry to the poorest and most deprived members of society, its care for the homeless and for the education provided by its extensive network of schools. … I know that reconciliation was a central theme in the life of Cardinal John Henry Newman. … I am pleased that your visit will also provide an opportunity to deepen the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the established Church of England and the Church of Scotland.”

May the soul of Queen Elizabeth II rest in peace, and may St. John Henry Newman, St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher, and all the English martyrs pray that Anglican and Episcopalian Christians everywhere may return to full communion with the Catholic Church and the Bishop of Rome. May God give us this grace. Amen.

August 30, 2022

Looking at the clear connection between discipleship and stewardship

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In the coming weeks, the parishes in our dioceses will be conducting their season of stewardship. This is a major shift away from the former mindset of fundraising for donations, moving instead to the practice of stewardship, which is a grateful response of giving back to God a portion of the gifts that God has given to us. This change in approach was reflected in several declarations that were adopted at our Fourth Diocesan Synod, which was held in 2017 with representatives from each of our 129 parishes in our diocese.

The tenth declaration of our Fourth Diocesan Synod states: “As a diocese committed to discipleship and stewardship, the community of Catholic faithful recognizes that everything we have comes from God and that He has given us gifts not just to use them for ourselves but also to share them with others. As faithful and generous stewards of God’s abundant gifts, those committed to discipleship and stewardship as a way of life pledge to share their talents, give of their time and contribute proportionately from their financial resources for the good of the Church and those in need.”

This declaration makes clear the connection between discipleship and stewardship. The word “disciple” comes from the Latin word “disco,” which is not a dance, but means “I learn.” A disciple is someone who learns from someone else. A disciple of Jesus is someone who follows Jesus in order to learn from Him and live accordingly.

A “steward” is a person whose responsibility it is to take care of something, such as a person employed to manage another’s property. As followers of Jesus, we learn that everything we have comes from God our Father. God not only created everything, but in a real sense He still owns everything. We are only caretakers of creation given the responsibility to manage the affairs of this world.

This is a radically different way of looking at things. If you ask most people who it is that owns their possessions, they would answer, “I do.” If you ask them who is responsible for acquiring these possessions, they would answer, “I am.” In contrast, if you ask followers of Jesus who have embraced the discipleship and stewardship way of life who owns their possessions, they would answer, “God does.” If you ask them who is responsible for acquiring these possessions, they would answer, “God is, and He has given me these gifts to take care of them for Him.”

The eleventh declaration of our Fourth Diocesan Synod states: “Trusting in God’s providence and giving according to their means, the Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois are called to live as disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ by giving of their time and talent and striving to fulfill the Biblical command to tithe by donating the suggested amount of at least 8% of their income to their parishes and 2% to other charities as an expression of their gratitude to God and of their stewardship of His manifold gifts of creation.”

Tithing is a concept that is not familiar to many Catholics despite its strong biblical roots. The earliest example of tithing in the Bible is found in chapter 14 of the Book of Genesis, where Abram (before God changes his name to Abraham) returns victoriously from battle after rescuing his nephew Lot from captivity and recovering all of the possessions and food supplies that had been stolen from his countrymen. Melchizedek, King of Salem, appears majestically to recognize Abram’s great victory. Melchizedek prefigures the Eucharist by bringing out bread and wine and blessing Abram. In response, the Bible says, “Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:20).

There is much that we can learn from this account. First, we should note that the 10-percent tithe is given after the battle, not before. This is significant in that the offering is not made in supplication as a plea for God to grant the favor of a successful outcome in battle. Rather, the offering is made in gratitude for the victory having already been achieved.

Second, the offering is not made in response to a request from Melchizedek to satisfy some financial need. Melchizedek, for example, did not ask for a donation to pay for repairs for a leaky temple roof. Nor did Abram ask what Melchizedek intended to do with his gift. That is in contrast to our present reality where so much of charitable giving today is based on responding to a demonstrated need.

In this regard, a study by the University of Notre Dame’s Catholic Social and Pastoral Research Initiative found that Catholics are more likely “to focus on giving as ‘paying the bills’ rather than ‘living the vision’ when thinking about money.” As a result, the report showed that, on average, “Catholics are less generous in voluntary financial giving than other Christian groups in the United States.” In response to this reality, the study suggests that what is needed is “fostering parish cultures in which the use of money is not seen as a mere secular or profane matter, but, as the Bible teaches, a spiritual concern that God cares about, that shapes one’s personal spiritual life profoundly, and that can genuinely help transform the world along Christian values and purposes.”

In the Diocese of Wichita, where stewardship has been widely embraced and implemented, the generous response of parishioners has made it possible to offer Catholic education from kindergarten through high school without charging tuition to the parents of the students. What a great blessing it would be for our diocese if we could do the same!

May God give us this grace. Amen.

August 18, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

President Joe Biden and his administration are continuing their aggressive assault on the religious liberty rights protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, thus threatening the ability of the Catholic Church to continue her essential work in education and health care. The Catholic News Agency reported on Aug. 10 that “Catholic school leaders need to be aware that their schools could be cut off from the federal government’s free and subsidized lunch program if their policies don’t comply with the Biden administration’s revised rules against LGBTQ discrimination.”

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential childcare institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946.

Earlier this year the Biden administration announced that their interpretation of Title IX’s federal ban on sex discrimination would be expanded to include “sexual orientation and gender identity.” Religious freedom and free speech advocates warn that the proposed rule change could be used to enforce mandates on hiring, access to bathrooms according to the student’s gender of choice, using preferred pronouns, and dress codes.

Fifty-two percent of U.S. Catholic schools participate in the federal lunch program, according to Sister Dale McDonald, vice president of public policy at the National Catholic Educational Association, which represents nearly 150,000 educators serving 1.6 million students in Catholic schools, universities, and religious education programs.

Grant Park Christian Academy in Tampa, Fla., was able to obtain a religious exemption earlier this month from the state’s agriculture department, but the school first had to file a lawsuit in order to get it. Thankfully, the school was represented in court by the nonprofit public interest law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom. Other schools may well have to go to court to preserve their religious freedom.

With regard to health care, the Biden administration earlier this year promised new regulations that are contrary to Catholic values and will be a disaster for Catholic employers, physicians, and hospitals. These regulations will require employers and health care providers to cover or perform abortions, gender transition services, and unethical fertility treatments. Other regulations will affect insurance and exchange plan coverages, education discrimination rules, eligibility for HHS grants, religious student groups’ ability to select like-minded leaders, and contractors’ freedom to make employment decisions consistent with their religious beliefs. Then, on June 15, President Biden issued an executive order that seeks to dramatically advance his administration’s radical LGBTQ+ agenda. These regulations will violate the God-given dignity of men, women, and children. They will attack the science that we are made male and female, promote the destruction of innocent human life, and undermine protection of religious liberty and the ethical ordered liberty enshrined in our Constitution.

Thankfully, there are organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Catholic Benefits Association, Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Initiative, and the Thomas More Society Public Interest Law Firm who are fighting to protect the religious freedom rights of Catholic dioceses, hospitals, schools, ministries, religious orders, and businesses guided by our Catholic values.

It is a shame that religious freedom is under attack these days right here in the United States of America, but we must continue to be vigilant and vindicate our God-give rights, even if this means fighting for our rights in court. May God give us this grace. Amen.

August 02, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The month of July typically provides an opportunity for me to get away for a bit during the summer, some of it for vacation and some of it to attend out-of-town conferences. This year saw the resumption of several conferences that had been cancelled or postponed during the COVID pandemic of the past two years. Among those that I attended were the International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, which took place at Saint Louis University, and the Conference of the Association of Catholic Diocesan Archivists, which was held at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein. The topics of discussion for experts on Medieval canon law and diocesan archivists admittedly take place in a rarefied atmosphere not frequented by most people. Maybe that is why I find these subjects so fascinating!

Perhaps the topic of greater interest to people in general and parents in particular was the conference I attended on dealing with the challenges of gender ideology. Presentations included speakers from CanaVox, which they describe as “a cheerful marriage movement that offers reading groups to friends who support the historic understanding of marriage.” Their website, canavox.com, includes readings lists on topics such as:

  • The Meaning of Marriage
  • Same-Sex Attraction
  • Same-Sex Marriage
  • Divorce
  • The Hook-Up Culture
  • Cohabitation
  • Marital Fidelity
  • Communication in Marriage
  • The Importance of Fatherhood
  • The Beauty of Motherhood
  • Compassionate Responses to Infertility
  • Donor-Conceived Children
  • Adoption
  • Sex Education in the Family
  • Sex Education in the Schools
  • Pornography
  • Transgender Identity
  • Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria

There are also several excellent videos on the CanaVox website, canavox.com/videos, on the following topics:

  • Sex, Gender, and Identity
  • Helping Our Children Navigate Gender Identity: The Elementary Years
  • Helping Our Children Navigate Gender Identity: The Middle Years
  • Helping Our Children Navigate Gender Identity: The High School Years

I highly recommend these resources, especially for parents who are looking for help in addressing these issues with their children.

While traveling, I also had the opportunity to read some very informative books related to these topics. Among these books is Unraveling Gender: The Battle Over Sexual Difference, published in 2022 by TAN Books, and was written by John Grabowski, who is Professor of Moral Theology and Ethics at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Professor Grabowski describes gender ideology as one of the greatest moral errors of our times, threatening the truth and meaning of human sexuality. It is essentially the mistaken notion that gender is not necessarily connected to the sex of the body, but is a personal construct. Noting that the Catholic Church in her wisdom has stood up to stem the tide of this harmful new attack, Professor Grabowski draws upon Scripture and Church teaching to equip parents, religious educators, and clergy with the information they need to confront this dangerous ideology with clarity, confidence, and charity. As gender ideology continues to spread its errors, infecting our culture like a deadly virus, this book provides a valuable resource to confront this destructive ideology.

Another highly informative book from my summer reading was What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics, published by Harvard University Press in 2020, and was written by O. Carter Snead, director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, Professor of Law, and Concurrent Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. He is also a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the principal bioethics advisory body to Pope Francis. Inspired by the insights of Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor, Professor Snead proposes a vision of human identity and flourishing that supports those who are profoundly vulnerable and dependent, especially children, the disabled, and the elderly. To show how such a vision would affect law and policy, he addresses three complex issues in bioethics: abortion, assisted reproductive technology, and end-of-life decisions, situating them within his framework of embodiment and dependence. He concludes that, if the law is built on premises that reflect the fully lived reality of life, it will provide support for the vulnerable, including the unborn, mothers, families, and those nearing the end of their lives. In this way, he argues, policy can ensure that people have the care they need in order to thrive.

I hope some of these resources which I have found very helpful will also be of valuable assistance to you.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

July 20, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The following letter was sent by a Congressman to one of his constituents in Springfield:

“I believe we should end abortion on demand, and at every opportunity I have translated this belief into votes in the House of Representatives. I am opposed to the use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions, and will continue to support amendments to prohibit the funding of elective abortions for federal employees and Medicaid recipients. … I continue to believe the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade should be reversed.” That letter was sent on Aug. 14, 1989, by then-Rep. Richard J. Durbin. Now Sen. Durbin’s wish has finally been granted by the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, reversing Roe v. Wade.

Similarly, when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 just 17 days after Joseph Biden entered the U.S. Senate, he said, “I don’t like the decision. I think it went too far.” His wish has now been granted, too.

Unfortunately, Biden and Durbin and other formerly pro-life politicians have flip-flopped their positions 180 degrees and are now promoting a very pro-abortion agenda. In his opening statement on July 12 during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “A Post-Roe America: The Legal Consequences of the Dobbs Decision,” Sen. Durbin said, “A woman’s choice to get an abortion is her choice alone.”

President Biden has gone beyond words by issuing an executive order on July 8 to promote access to abortion. The Office of Personnel Management issued guidance that allows for federal workers to take paid sick leave to cover absences for travel to obtain an abortion. This is truly scandalous, in that it leads others to take similar immoral actions. Following the lead of the Biden administration, dozens of companies announced that they will pay for employees who want to get an abortion. See the accompanying list of companies who have issued new “health care” policies that provide thousands of dollars in abortion stipends and travel reimbursement. It would be good to keep these companies in mind and avoid buying their products whenever possible.

These actions in promoting abortion have crossed a significant line with profound moral implications for their proponents, moving from what might have been considered material cooperation with evil, which sometimes is excusable, into the realm of formal cooperation, which is always sinful. The difference is that material cooperation does not share in the intent to commit sin, but may involve unintentional cooperation with evil. An example would be paying taxes in a state like Illinois which provides for taxpayer funding of abortion. When paying sales tax for purchasing goods in Illinois, the purchaser is a material cooperator in evil since the sales tax will go into the state treasury from which abortions are funded. Such material cooperation is remote and usually unavoidable, which means that it is not sinful.

Formal cooperation shares the intent to commit evil, and is therefore sinful. In the case of a person who deliberately purchases goods in Illinois with the intent of providing the State with sales taxes to help pay for abortions, that person is formally cooperating in grave evil and thereby is committing a serious sin. One of the consequences of formal cooperation with grave evil is that those who commit serious sins are not permitted to receive holy Communion unless they repent and receive sacramental absolution.

When Catholic politicians like Joe Biden, Dick Durbin, and Nancy Pelosi proactively promote abortion in their words and actions, they can no longer claim that they are “personally opposed to abortion, but are not going to impose their beliefs on others.” They are in fact intentionally imposing their pro-abortion beliefs on others and hence are now formally cooperating in evil. As such, they are not to receive holy Communion because of their manifest, obstinate, and persistent promotion of grave sin and their strident support for intrinsic evil. This applies to business executives who promote abortion policies as well.

In a television interview broadcast July 12, Pope Francis responded to a question about President Biden’s support for abortion by saying, “Let him talk to his pastor about that incoherence.” It is indeed incoherent for Catholics to promote abortion and it is incoherent for such Catholics to receive holy Communion. We must continue to pray for their conversion and return to full communion with the Catholic Church.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

The following companies announced new “health care” policies that include thousands of dollars in abortion stipends and travel reimbursement: