About Harvester's Wanted:

A Catholic priest's reflections along the path of Faith.

When this life is complete, I pray they say I lived for the Greater Glory of God +AMDG+

PRAYER REQUESTS through link on right side-bar.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

la Frontera:


In the Spanish language the word for a political border is la frontera, the frontier. During our recent trip to the Mexico – U.S. border with my class that we took during our time at the Mexican American Catholic College this difference in phrasing was on my mind. For the Spanish speaking mind a boundary is not something meant to be final and definite, but something much more abstract and yet equally foreign. A frontier demonstrates that growth is possible and perhaps even called for. This is not to say that a Spanish speaker necessarily thinks that their political boundaries are meant to ever expand, but that they instead have a different way of looking at where one thing ends and another begins. Instead of a definite boundary there is a region of liminality where both interact in an exchange.


If one looks at faith as a journey, an image that has held a strong place in my life for many years, then the frontier is a place where one may be called to travel. The new evangelization, and one’s acceptance of continual conversion, seems to require that we enter into these areas of exchange between what we are comfortable with and what we may be less comfortable with. The immigrant gives us an example of this willingness to cross the frontier. These individuals are lacking crucial aspects of their lives, such as safety and economic stability, and are primarily in search of those things. Those of us who routinely experience our basic human needs being met have the opportunity to cross a different, but similar, kind of frontier to find greater communion with God in the sacraments and in the Church. One never really experiences fulfillment in this life, that kind a beauty and happiness is reserved for the beatific vision in the life to come, and so we always have the opportunity to grow by entering the frontier as our own kind of immigrant; an immigrant on the way to the Kingdom of God. 

    
  1. First Photo: http://www.longislandwins.com/images/editorial/20110710-feature.JPG

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lining up… for Shoes?


A few days before Christmas an interesting thing took place that I have been reflecting on since. The 2011 Air Jordan’s were released; a little more than a week before it closed… the 2011’s were released. Clearly this was a savvy business move, but what were the moral implications?  


People were already out in droves, finishing up their Christmas shopping, and looking for that perfect gift. They were in the mood to buy, and then these shoes were released. Fights broke out in several locations because of the intense desire for the limited number of this exceedingly expensive footwear. Now I believe that these shoes, designed for athletic activity, should be considered expensive for the majority of people; but when these shoes are arguably marketed to those who are already at an economic disadvantage, the moral question becomes ever more focused. People were physically injured with the release of these shoes, and it could have been worse. It is not hard to imagine what emotionally aroused people are capable of when confronted with obstacles to their desire. A good business move but was it worth the risk? I think not, but I’m no shoe executive.    

This example of the consumerist focus of the Christmas season is just one of many that could be used to point out that many of us are not standing in line, waiting for the coming of Christ; instead we often find ourselves waiting for the release of shoes. Humanity is fallen, and so it is easy to become distracted, but we are consistently called to something ever greater.


How many lined up for the release, the birth, of Jesus on that first Christmas?  Very few, in actually, there were just a group of disadvantaged migrant workers looking for the promise of something better. That made little difference, however, because Jesus was not born only for those that initially lined up for him, but for all.


The shoes will be worn out and forgotten, those that were turned away disappointed will get over it, and the call to salvation will still be there. Will we go from one line to the next, and to the next, and to the next? Or will you and I join together for something greater? The call is always there; unfortunately the distractions will be there as well, but the whisper of Jesus can always be sought out and responded to.
          


  1. First Photo: http://www.flyerjordan.com/images/Air-Jordan-2011/Air-Jordan-2011-Black-White-Blue_1.jpg
  2. Second Photo: http://www.longislandwins.com/images/editorial/20110710-shoes.JPG 
  3. Third Photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d0/Philmont_Scout_Ranch_boots_around_sign.jp    g
  4. Fourth Photo: http://leineriza.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/Communion.png

Sunday, May 6, 2012

He Never Said This Wouldn't Hurt

Reflection for Sunday of the Fifth week of Easter, Year B

He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, 
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. ~ John 15:2

Pruning can be painful. 

I once visited a local winery with a group of friends, and one of the owners was out there in the fields, showing us around. With pruning shear holstered on his belt he walked along the rows of vines explaining to us the different kinds of vines they grew there, how they get them to grow, as well as the pruning process itself. It was second nature to him. He would not leave the vines alone, he was constantly pruning them! In some ways it was force of habit; but his love for the vines, the fruit they would eventually produce, and the wine that would be made from those fruits was evident in his near obsession with pruning. In his zeal I imagine he routinely returns to the same branch pruning a little more until something inside him feels at ease that this branch will bear good fruit. 


Oh how we have been honored with the presence of the divine vine dresser who, having taken on mortal flesh, is ever more adept at knowing just how much to prune away. I don't imagine that the vines much like being pruned. If they could talk would they not say "I spent a lot of time growing those branches, and you just cut them off!" Pruning, even the pruning of Christ, is painful.We too may say "I've spent a lot of time on those bad habits, and now you want to take them away?" 

As I wrap up the semester, trying to find the time and the energy to work on the paper that need finishing, and pack up the room that continues to descend into chaos, I am pulled between the overly productive person that I want to be and the lazy person I fear I am. Neither of these is exactly what God is calling me to be. Both of these visions of myself need pruning in their own way. Instead of lifting the fruits up to God, how often do I try and hold then back, fearful of them being pruned away and taken as the fruit for the kingdom? 


The harvest is plentiful, as the saying from Matthew goes, but the laborers are few. When I look around I do not see signs of God abandoning us, the people of God. Even when times are hard Christ is there helping the fruit to grow, by pruning where needed, and constantly fertilizing with his grace. Christ is the true vine and therefore the harvest will be plentiful. Will you join me by going out into the vineyard and helping Christ bring in the harvest? Do you want to show God, in deed and truth, that you believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and that you love one another as he commanded us? Then do not hid from the short lived sting of pruning. Rather open yourselves to Christ's tender care, recall the lessons of Lent just recently past, the lessons from that season of pruning, and from those lessons grow fruit in this Easter season.     


  1. First Photo: Wikimedia Commons, By Tjeerd Wiersma from Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Groot Constantia 2) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
  2. Second Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Christ the True Vine By Anonymous. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Lion, Prowling in the Darkness:


This past summer at Philmont Scout Ranch, during the Saint George Trek, my crew and I had an encounter with a mountain lion. The crew debriefed the next day, and I was concerned that part of the discussion included a realization that while we were in danger, we had little other choice but to hike late in the day and into the dark. It was during this discussion that I began to wonder about how people would respond to my telling of the story.

If you haven’t heard me tell the story, basically: we were stalked for two hours (four miles), mostly in the dark, and it has been the scariest experience in my life thus far. I knew that many would be skeptical because I personally did not actually see the mountain lion, I only heard rustling of leaves around us, and I was relying on the my teenage companions for their accounts of actually having seen the lion. It was this realization, that some may not believe me, that made me wonder about skepticism when it comes to a lion of a different sort.


It has often been said that the devil prefers that we not believe in him; that it is in our unbelief that he is most effective. Just like the lion that I encountered, this lion prefers to prowl around in the darkness, not letting his presence known until it is too late. Saint Ignatius describes the devil, the fallen state of the world, and the power of original sin (along with its remnants) as the enemy. It is often helpful to think of the three along the same lines; as that which strives to attract us to sin and away from God.


Of course it is possible to mistakenly see a lion in the darkness that is not really there; nevertheless it is the lack of light that makes it possible for doubt to exist. In my experience it was the lack of light in the darkness that made it all the more terrifying, and my weak flashlight was not enough to reassure me. What provided the reassurance I needed were those who were with me… the twelve of us made our way through the darkness together, scared but safe.

Perhaps it is best to rely on the light of Christ, found in and of itself, and in each other, to show us what is really out there; instead of relying on our own skepticism and judgment we could rely on God to reveal the way.


  1. First Photo: Philmont Scout Ranch, setting sun near Hunting Lodge
  2. Second Photo: Philmont Scout Ranch, Rising sun over Cimarroncito Reservoir before our morning Mass, Saint George Trek 2011

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Here I am Lord:


This phrase: from Psalm 40, and the Books of First Samuel and Isaiah, as well as the popular song; for a while was a source of great anxiety for me. We heard these words frequently in grade school at Saint Aloysius and at first I enjoyed picturing myself as Samuel, speaking those words for myself. Later on, between late grade school and high school, these words began to become more real for me although I was not yet ready to truly say those words as my own person. One homily from this time sticks out for me. The priest, in what I felt to be a rather bold manner, said that at least one of us young men in the congregation was being called to the priesthood, and he asked that we be open to that call. This really scared me and I remember wanting to look around and see if anyone else was going to take the burden and be the one Father was referring to. No one jumped up and accepted that call. Nevertheless I remember thinking ‘Here I am Lord’ at the time. While it scared me, a vocation to the priesthood and the words ‘Here I am Lord’ were linked from that time on.  

    
Eventually, I worked up the courage and maturity to begin to really look at what that call means, and I have often reflected back on this event in my life. I have also come to further understand the link between a personalized invitation and communal acceptance. The priest, in a way, personally invited us all to an understanding of our vocations, and in return I eventually brought that understanding to the Church for testing and strengthening. While I was not ready when I first made this connect, I got there in time just like Samuel did. This connection between my love for this phrase now and the love that I had for it when I was very young comforts me with the knowledge that God has been with me, and will continue to be with me, for the entirety of this journey.



  1. Photo One: Monroe Lake, Hoosier National Forest 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What you can expect from me:


My Personal Mission Statement


I strive to see God in all things, and to do all things for God’s greater glory. I drink deeply of the water of faith, and seek an understanding of that faith, while keeping in mind that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is the source and summit of that very faith. I seek to maintain hope in the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, especially when these mortal eyes can see no reason for hope. I seek to love, in the truest and most pure way, all of those that Christ has set before me, especially those that are poor and lowly. For this purpose I take up the arms and armor of light in the forms of:

Justice – I listen to everyone as best I can, respecting their views and opinions, and realizing that we are all created in the image of God and we all have much to offer and to teach. Yet I am unafraid to challenge error, and speak the truth, as long as I do so with kindness and gentleness.

Temperance – I remain committed to presenting to God, and the world, an authentic and disciplined self-gift. I present this gift most effectively through my celibate chastity and approachability as a gentleman. In realization that I am a beloved child of God - called by name, I strive to maintain that realization in my interaction with others whom are all similarly called by name.

Fortitude – I maintain strength by honoring my own dignity and the dignity of others. I place a high value in loyalty and hard work, and through these stoke the flames of the Holy Spirit, on fire in my heart and in my life. I also make use of these desires for the service of the bride of Christ, the Church, and pledge to defend her always.

Prudence – I am committed to the ideals of sacrificial leadership, for I will not command others to go where I dare not. As a leader I maintain a spirit of humility, gratitude, prayer, and hospitality especially in my growing understanding of acting as priest, prophet, and king.  


For the end of continual conversion towards my final end - eternal happiness with God, I conform ever more to the image of Christ, and maintain a bridge to Christ for others. I do all in the name of Jesus Christ my lord, in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.




  1. First Photo: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, undercroft
  2. Second Photo: Saint Meinrad Seminary; Arete, Greek for excellence, used here in the sense of what is desired... not what yet is. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" Matthew 5:48  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Called to Meet and to Move:

A Personal Theology of Preaching    

In our pastoral counseling courses Dr. LaMothe has a saying that he has often used with me when going over my practice counseling videos. This saying is that you have to first meet the client/parishioner where they are, vocalize where they are at, and then help them to move to where they want to go. Meet and move, easy enough, right? Well I have ‘failed’ to complete that simple task on numerous occasions, and I am pretty sure that many who enter into a counseling relationship fail at that task at one point or another. Why is it so difficult? Generally I believe that when I have trouble with this it is either because: (1) I am in a hurry to get out of (away from) sitting with them where they are, or (2) I already think I have, in my mind, correctly figured out where they are, and I think that clarifying that current state will be repetitive, unnecessary, and generally a waste of valuable time.   
 
How more similar to preaching can one get? There is a need for recognition of where people are at, where they want to go, and anxiety with sitting with the people in their current situation. There is also a concern with timing; counseling sessions can not go on forever, and homilies as well can certainly feel like they are going on forever. Nevertheless if people are not first meet where they are, and given a chance to confirm that that is truly where they are, then they will generally be unwilling to be moved to a new, more solid, place, even if that new place truly is better and more in line with God’s plan. One can see this dynamic in commercials. First there is a recognition of where the consumer currently is (if not often presented hyperbolically), and then an opportunity to change to a way that is more fulfilling than they have experienced in the past. This opportunity is reveled, but it is left to the consumer to decide whether or not to take that opportunity and move, typically by parting with a bit of their income; sacrifice, however, must be made when moving to a better place.

Meet…


This being a personal theology of preaching, I personally see myself being more effective in more intimate, one on one and small group setting, than I will be in large group setting, especially when it comes to speaking to the enter congregation at once. Not that it would be good idea to begin my homiletic studies with a resignation that I will be a bad preacher! Instead I have been looking for ways to incorporate the ideals of counseling and spiritual direction into the way I think of being a preacher. When authors and bishops write about what a good homily comes down to, many reflect on how it is a sign of achievement when individuals feel like you as the preacher were speaking directly to them, almost as if you two were sitting down one to one. In this way I hope to be an effective preacher by being able to speak to people as if I were speaking just to them. Now this will not always happen, and it especially will not happen for every member of the congregation every time, but in general if people have that sense then I will be reassured that I am doing what I am called to do. Theologically speaking the answer to the question ‘why preach’ would be so that the people of God can enter into a moment when Christ is speaking to them directly through me, as if Christ was speaking to them one on one, as a friend.

Christ, when meeting with people either individually or in groups, was often very direct with them. He would name the place where he saw them. This is evident is the Samaritan women’s confession that “He told me everything I ever did,” in this it is possible to see that Jesus is not afraid to meet people where they are at. Jesus did not just throw out a ‘you are living in a state of sin’ however, instead he acknowledged where they are and then stayed with them there in that. Jesus was often more understanding than accusative, and his witness is an example that people need both honesty and compassion when dealing with most parts of their daily lives. Just like in a counseling session, however, I can get distracted by thinking the current state of things is equally clear to both me and the person sitting across from me. Instead of displaying a bit of vulnerability by actively naming the other’s condition, it can be easy to quickly move to moving forward. Truly meeting people where they are is an art that needs cultivation and a major factor in one’s ability to do that is the issue of speaking across generations and to both genders. Being able to speak to the condition of a 50 year old divorced man with two children of his own, and a 14 year old girl sitting in the next pew, will be difficult, but nor impossible, when the ideal of being Christ for all of the congregation is kept in mind.  

…and Move


People are often not interested in having their condition revealed to them and then having it left there. This would be as helpful as trying to move someone without first spending time meeting them, and acknowledging where they are at. Basically I see this being done by pointing to Christ. That is pointing to Christ in the church, in the Eucharist, the other Sacraments, in helping the poor both among them and in the wider world, as well as seeing Christ in each other. In some ways I see a priest’s role in the community as that of standing and pointing to Christ; when the priest lives that in everything he does, he is fulfilling his mission. Pointing to Christ suggests movement is required, and that what is lacking in one’s current situation can be had in Christ. Back to the Samaritan women at the well; she wanted the living water after Christ revealed to her that this was what she was lacking. In a sense Christ was pointing to himself and saying ‘you lack me.’ People in today’s society are not very interested in hearing that they are lacking, but after being with them in their current situation they may be more willing to see that they are indeed somewhat lacking Christ.

In this personal theology of preaching I believe that it is part of the priest’s role to model himself for the community. Not in a way that says ‘I have the answer, and you need to do as I do’ but instead in a way that says ‘I too am in need of Christ, let us go to him together.’ In this way the question ‘when to preach’ is answered in the form of a quote from St. Francis: “Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words.” These words point to the need to not only preach at Mass, but to also preach at meetings, in the parking lot, at the store. Preaching everywhere and always so that people can catch a glimpse of Christ no matter what you are doing. This is a hard task to fulfill but it is necessary to try so that the people too will realize a desire to move towards Christ.

Meeting the people where they are, lacking Christ is some way, and moving them to desire to want Christ in that way is a theology for priesthood in general, but especially for preaching. This theology, if lived out, engages the people in their own lives and encourages them to fan the flames of their desire for Christ. It encourages the priest to speak to the people in a way that they can understand and incorporates the entirety of the Christian life. In this way the homily is given a role not just in the Mass but in the lives of the people and the priest.




  1. First Photo: Saint Meinrad Seminary, light box made from reused windowpanes from the Saint Thomas Aquinas Chapel, depicting two priests shaking hands  
  2. Second Photo: From the Sunday Raven 10/17/2010, Saint Meinrad Seminary, Saint Thomas Aquinas Chapel 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Why?

Why? I remember tracing the letters of that seemingly innocent question over and over again. I would mostly do this in class, in the midst of my high school and college years; I would write those letters, sometimes with my finger and sometimes with an un-clicked pen. Sometimes I would do this slowly and carefully, sometimes rapidly and repetitively, and while it may have been a sign of teenage angst I can not help but wonder ‘was there more to it than that?’'

It hit me while sitting in class one day at seminary, long since that angst should have disappeared, that I had just traced those letters again. I wondered about the sense I always had that the letters flowed delightfully as I made them, almost like the letters were meant to be together. These thoughts came to me during a philosophy class of all places and looking back I attribute this spontaneous renewal of doodling to an increase feeling of comfort in truly asking the question again.

Human beings by their nature are curious creatures, we ask why all the time. Often times however our culture reduces that curiosity to ‘why is this relevant to me?’ A kind of relativistic and cynical belittling of our innate curiosity that can make one feel free to only ask why when the answer is preprogrammed to fit our unique experience: why study this subject, why be nice to this person, why not expect something just for you? All of these self-focused questions can detract from the larger questions that we often feel powerless to answer: what is the meaning of it all, why are we here, where is the Truth in this? These questions by their nature take the asker out of themselves and into the realm of unburdened curiosity, a curiosity with an object of desire free of the restraints that our particular condition places on it. 

So why ask why? To truly ask why of course!