Thursday, January 26, 2012

Well Formed Priests = Well Formed Parishes

Pure Awesomeness.

Summer Plans

Yes, I know it's still January, but thinking about what you could be doing this summer, God-willing, is important already because depending on what God may be calling you to do, there may be an application deadline that you will need to consider.  If at all possible I highly encourage you to do some kind of mission work at least one summer during your college career - experiences like this are often life-changing and can have long ranging effects in your life for the better.  So to get you thinking about whether God may be calling you to some kind of mission work this summer or even another time in your life, here is just a small sampling of possibilities along with information from their websites:

Net Ministries: "NET Ministries challenges young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the Church. Every August, 120 young Catholics aged 18-28 leave behind their jobs, school, family, and friends to devote nine months to serving with the National Evangelization teams. Divided into 11 teams, they travel across the U.S. for nine months to share the Gospel with young people and their families."

Crossroads:  "Each summer, young adults walk on four simultaneous pro-life walks across America from Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles to Washington, D.C.. Walking over 12,000 miles and through 40 states, these young people hope to convert the hearts and minds of others – at the grass-roots level – by witnessing to the dignity and sanctity of all human life, from the moment of conception to natural death."

Missionaries of the Eucharist:  Every summer we, the Missionaries of the Eucahrist, are walking from Lewiston, Maine to Washington, DC to proclaim the beauty of the Catholic faith to everyone we meet, specifically through the Theology of the Body.

Young Disciples:  The Young Disciples are an apostolate of Cahtolic young adults that travel from town to town to evangelize and catechize in rural communitites and reservations.  For 10 weeks in the summer, the Young Disciple Teams conduct week long day camps for grades K-6 and evening teen missions for rural parishes and reservations.

Catholic Urban Project:  Catholic Urban Project is a summer service program that invites young adults to spend 8 weeks in direct service to the urban poor.  Young adult missionaries live together in community and are given the opportunity to deepend their lives of faith through an intentional prayer life and living the Gospel call to service.

Totus Tuus:  Totus Tuus is a Catholic youth program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through catechesis, evangelization, Christian witness, and Eucharistic worship

Family Missions Company:  Our mission trips are centered around evangelization and service. We go out to share the Good News with people through witness and testimonies. On our trips, families and individuals are engaged in Christian service, through work projects, visiting shut-ins, and other forms of outreach.

Camp Wojtyla:  Camp Wojtyla is a Catholic summer camp nestled in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

FOCUS Missions

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Challenge From JPII and I

The first encyclical I ever read was Evangelium Vitae by Pope John Paul II.  And I couldn't put it down.  I had never read a papal document before at that point, but I quickly realized that I would be reading them often from then on. Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life") remains one of my favorite encyclicals.  (An encyclical is basically a letter from the Holy Father to the faithful around the world on a particular subject.)

Focusing on the topic of the sacredness and inviolability of all human life, JPII clearly articulates the "incomparable worth of the human person", takes a brave and real look at threats to human life and why those threats exist, then provides an outlook on how to usher in a new 'culture of life'.  He provides a basis for all this within natural law, ethics and theology.

January is a month in which the life issues are heavily discussed due to the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade which legalized abortion nationally in 1973.   I, therefore, would like to encourage you and challenge you to read Evangelium Vitae before the month is over.  It would be a great introduction to reading encyclicals if you haven't done so before and it's simply a wonderful document to read.  It's easy to understand and flows well - dont' be intimated just because it's a papal document and you think it will be complicated - I promise, it's not.  If you want to print it be aware that, depending on the font size, it could take around 85 pages or so if printed on only one side - but you will fly through it.  You can read it for free online here or buy it in book form (which is how I prefer to read Church documents) here or at any Catholic bookstore.

I'll highlight a couple paragraphs from it - one where he discusses threats to human life and one where he discusses building a culture of life:
...when the sense of God is lost, the sense of man is also threatened and poisoned, as the Second Vatican Council concisely states: "Without the Creator the creature would disappear ... But when God is forgotten the creature itself grows unintelligible". Man is no longer able to see himself as "mysteriously different" from other earthly creatures; he regards himself merely as one more living being, as an organism which, at most, has reached a very high stage of perfection. Enclosed in the narrow horizon of his physical nature, he is somehow reduced to being "a thing", and no longer grasps the "transcendent" character of his "existence as man". He no longer considers life as a splendid gift of God, something "sacred" entrusted to his responsibility and thus also to his loving care and "veneration". Life itself becomes a mere "thing", which man claims as his exclusive property, completely subject to his control and manipulation.
So here he is getting at the ultimate cause of the degradation and disrespect for life that we so often see - not only in such actions that cause physical death, but also in actions that cause us to treat one another as objects, as mere 'things' to be used and manipulated. He recognizes something intrinsic in the human person - that we are more than animals, we are persons and we are made in God's image and likeness.  But when we try to push God out of the picture we degrade ourselves into something which we are not.  Hence, life becomes disposable in our minds when we kick God out.  John Paul had a keen understanding of this as he came from a Poland that had been occupied by a communist government - this government sought to do away with God and religion, making the worker's usefulness the only scale upon which to base a person's worth.  But man is not a machine whose worth is only based on what he or she can do.  Human beings have intrinsic worth because of who we are as persons made in God's image, therefore, our worth is based on God himself.  This is why John Paul makes this point that if God is forgotten, who man is will also be forgotten. 

Side note: All of this gives slight insight on why John Paul fought so hard to bring about the end of the communist reign. In 1979, not long after he was elected to the papacy he made his first papal pilgrimage to Poland and during his homily in Krakow, the people started chanting, "We want God! We want God!".  Life is always better when God is at the center.  (There will soon be another blog post on his first pilgrimage to Poland).

Back to Evangelium Vitae:
We need to bring the Gospel of life to the heart of every man and woman and to make it penetrate every part of society.
This involves above all proclaiming the core of this Gospel. It is the proclamation of a living God who is close to us, who calls us to profound communion with himself and awakens in us the certain hope of eternal life. It is the affirmation of the inseparable connection between the person, his life and his bodiliness. It is the presentation of human life as a life of relationship, a gift of God, the fruit and sign of his love. It is the proclamation that Jesus has a unique relationship with every person, which enables us to see in every human face the face of Christ. It is the call for a "sincere gift of self" as the fullest way to realize our personal freedom.
It also involves making clear all the consequences of this Gospel. These can be summed up as follows: human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable. For this reason procured abortion and euthanasia are absolutely unacceptable. Not only must human life not be taken, but it must be protected with loving concern. The meaning of life is found in giving and receiving love, and in this light human sexuality and procreation reach their true and full significance. Love also gives meaning to suffering and death; despite the mystery which surrounds them, they can become saving events. Respect for life requires that science and technology should always be at the service of man and his integral development. Society as a whole must respect, defend and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that person's life.
In short, if we want to restore a culture of life and civilization of love, we must share the Gospel.  If kicking God out brings about a degradation of human life, then it follows that recognizing God and cultivating our relationship with Him by His grace will allow human life to flourish. 

Side note: This gives us further insight into reasons why JPII wanted to usher in a new evangelization.

Prayer is the key.  Let us pray that the new evangelization will continue to flourish and bear fruit to bring about a new culture of life and civilization of love.  (And don't forget to read Evangelium Vitae by the end of the month!)

D.C. Here We Come!

People across the country are getting ready for the March for Life happening January 23 in Washington, D.C.  Here are some snippets from a Catholic News Agency article on the high-percentage of youth and young adults that continue to be present:
Organizers of a youth rally and pro-life Mass in Washington, D.C. say a growing U.S. movement in defense of the unborn will draw tens of thousands of young people to the events on Jan. 23.
Christa Lopiccolo, executive director of life issues for the D.C. archdiocese, attributed the expected high turnout to a “growing enthusiasm and dedication” to life among teens and young adults....
...The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. will hold its annual youth rally and Mass on the morning of Jan. 23, before the march down Constitution Avenue.
To accommodate the large crowd, both the Verizon Center and the D.C. Armory [where we will be!] will be used for the events. The combined venues hold 28,000 people [which is barely a scratch on the total number of people who attend the March], and tickets for both locations have run out. [Praise God we were able to get tickets this year!] 
Lopiccolo said that there were many others who had wanted to attend but were unable to get tickets due to high demand.
Starting last year, organizers added five additional sites to accommodate the overflow of people wishing to attend because “there simply isn’t an indoor facility large enough to support the crowds.”
Of those in attendance, between 80 and 90 percent are expected to be young people.
The number of teens and young adults at the march are “remarkably evident,” Lopiccolo said, noting that “today’s youth have grown up with sonograms and other technologies that shed light on the wonder of human development.”
Because of this, they are rejecting the idea that a baby in the womb is a mere “blob of tissue,” she said. [I think there is more to it than the technological advancement, but I certainly agree that that is a part of it.] Young people are also “very aware that many of their generation are missing” due to almost 40 years of legalized abortion in America.
Read the whole article here.

CCM has a total of 24 people attending the March for Life this year.  Since we have been taking a CCM group to the March for Life, this is the first year we were able to get tickets to the Archdiocesan Youth Rally & Mass for Life, which is quite exciting.  When there are hundreds of thousands of Catholics coming to one place and they only have room for 28,000, it is really difficult to get tickets! Here is a little video put together by the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. from last year's rally at the Verizon Center (Two notes: The portion of video when you see and hear Archbishop Pietro Sambi, God rest his soul, reading from the lectern is a letter written to the youth from Pope Benedict XVI which he sends every year; secondly the music in the background of the video is the Ike Ndolo Band who will be performing at the DC Armory rally this year which is where we will be):

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top 12 Moments of 2011

Last year we began a blog tradition of looking back on the top 12 moments of the year at CCM (because 12 is better than 10) :)  So here we are again looking back on another year, another gift from God to look back on with gratitude and awe of His providence.  (Yes, I realize that this is normally done on Dec. 31st or Jan. 1st, but, hey, we're still in the first couple weeks of the year so it still counts.) :) Without further ado, in no particular order, here are the top 12 CCM moments of 2011 (feel free to add your own memorable moments in the combox):

12.  March for Life:  We took 21 students to Washington, D.C.  to be witnesses of the beauty and dignity of every human life from conception to natural death.  It was quite the memorable trip as we prayed, laughed, met great people, marched and got stuck in a snowstorm in Kentucky on our way back home.  Thank you to everyone who supported this trip and we look forward to the next one coming up in just 11 days.

11.  Spring Break Mission Trip to Florida:  Thanks to a great number of people both in Missouri and Florida we were able to take a group of students to the Florida panhandle to assist parishes in need of strong backs and willing hearts.  Half the week was spent on the eastern/central time zone dividing line at Holy Family Parish cleaning the grounds and half the week was spent at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish challenging Fr. Eddie to ultimate frisbee games and painting the interior of the parish concluding its renovation.  The group spent the last day at St. George Island to celebrate a great week of hard work, prayer and lots of laughs - and the fact that there were no alligator encounters.

10.  Guest Speakers/Peformers:  CCM welcomed a range of guests this year from Mike Mangione & the Union, who performed their music at the UC in the spring to speakers such as Fr. Oscar Lukefahr, Martha Nolan of Crossroads, the Focolare Movement and Fr. Tony Stephens of the Fathers of Mercy.  What a blessing to be able to welcome such inspiring people and talented artists to our campus!

9.  Retreats: It's been quite a fruitful retreat year with three retreat opportunities available for CCM students.  Last February, we welcomed two priests and one religious sister for the Busy Person's Retreat - all of whom will be here again next month.  Sign up for this year's retreat here.  Then in April, we hosted our second women's retreat with Sr. Miriam James, SOLT and Emily Bissonnette at the Sinai Retreat Center.  This year we look forward to adding our first men's retreat April 20-22.  Registration for that will be available soon.

8. Europe Pilgrimage:  For two weeks this summer several CCM students travelled to France, Spain and Portugal to visit sites of religious and cultural importance.   A busy, yet prayerful and fruitful two weeks allowed the pilgrims to visit such holy sites as the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, Sacre Coeur, Nevers, Mt. St. Michael, Lisieux, Avila, Lourdes and Fatima.  Students were able to pray in the presence of the incorrupt bodies of St. Catherine Laboure, St. Bernadette Soubirous and St. Vincent de Paul.  They were also able to walk on the same ground as many saints or soon-to-be-saints who have gone before us such as St. Anthony of Padua, Bl. Jacinta and Francisco Marto, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Bernadette Soubirous, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis Xavier, St. Therese of Lisieux, Bl. John Paul the Great and Sr. Lucia dos Santos.

7.  New Knights of Columbus Council:  Praise God that the Knights of Columbus have arrived at CCM - this year, thanks to efforts of Grand Knight Allen Kirchner, the St. Thomas Aquinas Knights of Columbus Council #15294 was formed at CCM.  The Knights have already had a strong start by hosting a few pancake breakfasts', assisting at Masses, serving those in need and promoting the defense of life.  Thanks to some local benefactors, the Knights will soon have a regular meeting space in the basement of the Marquette Student Center following some minor renovations.

6.  Formation Events:  The weekly events at CCM are often the most formative events as they provide a regular time of growth and prayer.  Events ranged from men's and women's groups, to Theology of the Body studies, Catholicism 101 and Thursday Night Truth.  The fall semester was especially packed with many opportunities for learning and reflection as we seek to have a deeper relationship with Christ. 

5.  FOCUS:  This fall CCM was able to welcome two FOCUS Missionaries to campus.  FOCUS has had a great start to their time at SEMO with four women's Bible studies and several themed parties.  Reaching out to students with free coffee and hot chocolate on cold mornings and peer-to-peer evangelization, FOCUS is a welcome addition to the CCM family.

4.  Ultimate Chivalry Week:  The young men of CCM hit a homerun this fall with the first Ultimate Chivalry Week in which they made a point to emphasize the dignity of women on campus by dressing well, holding doors open, returning lunch trays, etc. (all of which they all do on a regular basis anyway, but this week it was heavily emphasized) all of which concluded with the 'Dignity Dinner' at the Newman Center.  The gentlemen cooked dinner for the ladies and served them the whole night.  It was a great way to let the ladies on campus know that there are still good and Godly men out there who want to respect them rather than objectify them. 

3.  Eucharistic Procession:  Thanks to the Peer Evangelization Team, CCM hosted the first Eucharistic Procession on campus this fall.  In cooperation with the St. Francis Perpetual Adoration program we were able to welcome Fr. Larry Villone to lead the procession and conclude with Adoration and Confessions followed by a chili lunch provided by the Knights of Columbus.   

2.  Graduation:  We saw nine students who were very active at CCM graduate this fall.  We're very proud of each of them and we know they will go on to serve God and the Church faithfully in making the world a better place in whatever vocation to which they are called.  Please continue to pray for our graduates as they seek God's will for their lives.  They have all been and continue to be a great blessing to us.

1.  Receiving Jesus at Mass:  At every Mass the God of the universe, the very One who caused you to come into existence humbles Himself under the appearance of bread and wine to commune with you in the most intimate way possible on earth because He loves you so much and wants to give you His strength on your journey toward heaven.  The world is starving and He comes to feed us.  Talk about a top moment.

Part of the reason why God has given us the faculty of memory is to remember all the ways He has been faithful to us.  Looking back through 2011 it's undeniably evident that God is with us and guiding us as we go on new adventures, form and maintain friendships, and daily make the choice to recognize Him as the King of our hearts.  May we be open to receive all the many graces He wishes to flood upon us in 2012.

Matt & Audrey in St. Louis

A Christian radio station in St. Louis is hosting a concert series in which Matt Maher and Audrey Assad will be performing on Thursday, Feb. 16 in South County.  Tickets are only $7 or $10 for super up-close seats.  You can purchase tickets here.