Thursday, July 31, 2008

Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola - July 31

"To be with the Church of Jesus Christ with but one mind and one spirit, we must carry our confidence in her, and our distrust of ourselves, so far as to pronounce that true which appears to us false, if she decides that it is so; for we must believe without hesitation that the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ is the spirit of his spouse, and that God who formerly gave the Decalogue is the same God who now inspires and directs His Church."
- St. Ignatius (Pray for us)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cardinal Stafford on Dissent and Humanae Vitae

Following is excerpted from a reflection by Cardinal Stafford which appeared in L’Osservatore Romano on the 40th Anniversary of the publication of Humanae Vitae. Cardinal Stafford recalls his experiences as a priest in Baltimore when the encyclical was introduced and claims that the dissent of clergy and theologians at that time continues to have a negative effect in the life of the Church. These excerpts appear in The Catholic Key this week and the whole article is available at Catholic News Agency.

“Lead us not into temptation” is the sixth petition of the Our Father. Πειρασμός (Peirasmòs), the Greek word used in this passage for ‘temptation.’, means a trial or test. Disciples petition God to be protected against the supreme test of ungodly powers. The trial is related to Jesus’s cup in Gethsemane, the same cup which his disciples would also taste (Mk 10: 35-45). The dark side of the interior of the cup is an abyss. It reveals the awful consequences of God’s judgment upon sinful humanity. In August, 1968, the weight of the evangelical Πειρασμός fell on many priests, including myself.

It was the year of the bad war, of complex innocence that sanctified the shedding of blood. English historian Paul Johnson dubs 1968 as the year of “America’s Suicide Attempt.” It included the Tet offensive in Vietnam with its tsunami-like effects in American life and politics, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee; the tumult in American cities on Palm Sunday weekend; and the June assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy in southern California. It was also the year in which Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical letter on transmitting human life, Humanae Vitae (HV). He met immediate, premeditated, and unprecedented opposition from some American theologians and pastors. By any measure 1968 was a bitter cup. . .

. . . In his memoirs, Cardinal Shehan describes the immediate reaction of some priests in Washington to the encyclical. “[A]fter receiving the first news of the publication of the encyclical, the Rev. Charles E. Curran, instructor of moral theology of The Catholic University of America, flew back to Washington from the West where he had been staying. Late [on the afternoon of July 29], he and nine other professors of theology of the Catholic University met, by evident prearrangement, in Caldwell Hall to receive, again by prearrangement with the Washington Post, the encyclical, part by part, as it came from the press. The story further indicated that by nine o’clock that night, they had received the whole encyclical, had read it, had analyzed it, criticized it, and had composed their six-hundred word ‘Statement of Dissent.’ Then they began that long series of telephone calls to ‘theologians’ throughout the East, which went on, according to the Post, until 3:30 A.M., seeking authorization, to attach their names as endorsers (signers was the term used) of the statement, although those to whom they had telephoned could not have had an opportunity to see either the encyclical or their statement. Meanwhile, they had arranged through one of the local television stations to have the statement broadcast that night.” . . .

. . . The personal Πειρασμός, the test, began. In Baltimore in early August, 1968, a few days after the encyclical’s issuance, I received an invitation by telephone from a recently ordained assistant pastor to attend a gathering of some Baltimore priests at the rectory of St. William of York parish in southwest Baltimore to discuss the encyclical. The meeting was set for Sunday evening, August 4. I agreed to come. Eventually a large number of priests were gathered in the rectory’s basement. I knew them all. . .

. . . My expectations of the meeting proved unrealistic. I had hoped that we had been called together to receive copies of the encyclical and to discuss it. I was mistaken. Neither happened.

After welcoming us and introducing the leadership, the inner-city pastor came to the point. He expected each of us to subscribe to the Washington “Statement of Dissent.” . . . Before our arrival, the conveners had decided that the Baltimore priests’ rejection of the papal encyclical would be published the following morning in The Baltimore Sun, one of the daily newspapers.

The Washington statement was read aloud. Then the leader asked each of us to agree to have our names attached to it. No time was allowed for discussion, reflection, or prayer. Each priest was required individually to give a verbal “yes” or “no.” . . .

. . . Their rhetorical skills were having their anticipated effect. They had planned carefully how to exert what amounted to emotional and intellectual coercion. Violence by overt manipulation was new to the Baltimore presbyterate. . .

The leader’s reaction to my refusal was predictable and awful. The whole process now became a grueling struggle, a terrible test, a Πειρασμος. The priest/leader, drawing upon some scatological language from his Marine Corp past in the II World War responded contemptuously to my decision. . .

. . . The dissent of a few Sulpician seminary professors compounded my disorientation. In their ancient Baltimore Seminary I had first caught on to the connection between freedom, interiority, and obedience. By every ecclesial measure they should have been aware that the process they supported that evening exceeded the “norms of licit dissent.” . . .

. . . The violence of the priests’ August gathering gave rise to its own ferocious acrimony. Conversations among the clergy, where they existed, became contaminated with fear. Suspicions among priests were chronic. Fears abounded. And they continue. The Archdiocesan priesthood lost something of the fraternal whole which Baltimore priests had known for generations. . . Some priests saw bishops as nothing more than Roman mannequins.

Something else happened among priests on that violent August night. Friendship in the Church sustained a direct hit. Jesus, by calling those who were with him his ‘friends,’ had made friendship a privileged analogy of the Church. That analogy became obscured after a large number of priests expressed shame over their leaders and repudiated their teaching. . .

. . . Abusive, coercive dissent has become a reality in the Church and subjects her to violent, debilitating, unproductive, chronic controversies. But I did discover something new. Others also did. When the moment of Christian witness came, no Christian could be coerced who refused to be. Despite the novelty of being treated as an object of shame and ridicule, I did not become “ashamed of the Gospel” that night and found “sweet delight in what is right.” It was not a bad lesson. Ecclesial obedience ran the distance.

My discovery that Christ was the first to despise shame was gut-rending in its existential and providential reality. “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Paradoxically, in the hot, August night a new sign shown unexpectedly on the path to future life. It read, “Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered.”

The violence of the initial disobedience was only a prelude to further and more pervasive violence. Priests wept at meetings over the manipulation of their brothers. Contempt for the truth, whether aggressive or passive, has become common in Church life. Dissenting priests, theologians and laypeople have continued their coercive techniques. From the beginning the press has used them to further its own serpentine agenda.

All of this led to a later discovery. Discernment is an essential part of episcopal ministry. With the grace of “the governing Spirit” the discerning skills of a bishop should mature. Episcopal attention should focus on the break/rupture initiated by Jesus and described by St. Paul in his response to Corinthian dissenters. “You desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we shall live with him by the power of God. Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves” (2 Cor 13: 3-5).

The rupture of the violent death of Jesus has changed our understanding of the nature of God. His Trinitarian life is essentially self-surrender and love. By Baptism, every disciple of Jesus is imprinted with that Trinitarian water-mark. The Incarnate Word came to do the will of him who sent him. Contemporary obedience of disciples to the Successor of Peter cannot be separated from the poverty of spirit and purity of heart modeled and won by the Word on the Cross.

The whole article is available at Catholic News Agency.

Cardinal James Francis Stafford is Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary in Rome and former Archbishop of Denver.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New posts sometime Wednesday

I've been in transit today to San Francisco for my brother's wedding. Posting will resume later Wednesday.

Meanwhile, it's been announced that visitation for Msgr. Dierkes will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, August 1 at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph with the wake at 7 p.m.

Monday, July 28, 2008

How Taboo Are You?

National Geographic Channel is advertising a new season of Taboo. The network says, “Taboo takes you on a journey beyond the comfort zones and across cultural borders to explore rituals and customs that are acceptable in some cultures, but forbidden, illegal or, reviled in others. Understand seemingly bizarre and shocking practices from around the world.”

The promos seem to indicate it’s the kind of entertainment that indulges prurience while assuaging the conscience by claiming to be “educational” (sort of how the original magazine worked for school boys). It also seems geared to persuade westerners that their own (mildly felt) taboos, like those against sex change operations, should be taken even less lightly given the really bizarre things those Third Worlders do.

At the series’ website there’s a game you can play called “How Taboo Are You?” The test asks a series of “Would you rather” questions dealt from a deck of cards. For instance, “Would you rather be suspended by hooks or eat a scorpion?” Or, “Would you rather get a full body tattoo or join a fight club?”

After answering dozens of questions, it turns out I’m 31 percent more taboo than other Americans playing the game. Given that the questions deal with sex change operations, participation in naked man festivals and being whipped, you might be tempted to alert Bishop Finn about his newspaper editor.

But wait.

Turns out I’m more taboo than most people because I would consent to a great deal more gross-outs and indignities than most responders when the alternative was “Swapping Spouses”.

According to National Geographic those practices considered most taboo by players were:

1. Sex Change Surgery

2. Impaling (through the lips with rods)

3. Suspension (by hooks)

4. Croc Skin (by burning)

5. Stomach Scrape

6. Neck Rings (Thai neck stretch)

7. Fire Ant Glove

8. Dog (eating)

9. Whip-Off

10. Full-Body Tattoo

The least taboo practices were:

1. Christian Nudists

2. Fugu (eating blowfish)

3. Naked Man Festival (participating in)

4. Swapping Spouses

5. Snake (eating)

6. Fight Club (joining)

7. Lover's Scar (carving)

8. Scorpion (eating)

9. Branding

10. Spiders (eating)

So most responders think pain, humiliation and eating gross food is far worse than cheating on your spouse and committing adultery with your friend’s spouse.

I think and hope these were cynical answers. If the questions were posed more personally – “Mr. Smith, would you rather cheat on your wife with Mrs. Murphy or eat sautéed snake?” – I think more people would go for a bit of culinary adventure. I’m fairly certain most husbands I know would also undergo physical pain and humiliation before cheating on their wives.

If that’s not the case, then the whole body of world literature on love would make no sense and we have reason to wonder whether the natives on the tube or the boobs watching it are the greater primitives.

For the record, I’m not claiming any personal moral superiority here. I saw the promos while watching “Night Shift: Repo Men”.

Msgr. Dierkes Funeral Arrangements

A Mass of Christian Burial for Msgr. Richard Dierkes will be celebrated at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 2. The Co-Cathedral is located at 519 North 10th, St. Joseph, Missouri.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Death of Msgr. Richard Dierkes

With sadness we report the death of Msgr. Richard Dierkes this afternoon. Following is a preliminary release from the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph:

Reverend Msgr. Richard Michael Dierkes
Former Rector of Co-Cathedral Parish

February 26, 1955 ~ July 27, 2008
Catholic Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph

(St. Joseph, MO / July 27, 08) Reverend Msgr. Richard Dierkes, former rector of Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph and pastor of St. Joseph Parish, in Easton, and St. Patrick Parish in St. Joseph died earlier today in Chicago, Illinois.

Msgr. Dierkes was born in Hannibal, MO, on February 26, 1955, the second of nine children of Thomas P. and Dorothy Dierkes. His childhood and young adulthood was spent in Independence, MO. He attended elementary school at St. Mary and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and graduated from Truman High School in 1973. While attending college at Rockhurst University, he discerned a call to the Catholic priesthood. He attended Conception Seminary College, in Conception, MO, and received a Master’s in Theology from Kenrick Seminary, in St. Louis, MO.

He was ordained for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph on April 25, 1981, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in Kansas City, MO. After ordination, he served as associate pastor in Parkville, Blue Springs, and St. Peter Parish, in Kansas City.

On the day of his ordination, Bishop John J. Sullivan described the role of a priest as one that changes with the needs of the people, but which is always one of service. In the sermon, Bishop Sullivan reminded the assembly that although Jesus is truly a king, “Jesus was always a servant of men. . . he had no trappings of being a king. In a society in which it is so important to be powerful. . .Christ the King is a contradiction,” he said.

Msgr. Dierkes took the words of Bishop Sullivan to heart and lived out his priesthood as a servant of the people.

Funeral arrangements and complete obituary will follow.

Msgr. Dierkes had been receiving treatment at the University of Chicago - Comer Children's Hospital. During his stay there, members of his family set up a "care page" for him where well-wishers could post messages and receive updates. Msgr. Dierkes had been posting to the site up till this week.

Messages of sympathy are now coming in. If you wish to view the site, create a free account at and search for "Richard Dierkes".

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sacrilege - Sophomore Style

A fellow named PZ Myers has a blog and invited his readers to get hold of the Eucharist so he could desecrate it. His grandiloquent point in doing so, after much publicity-seeking posturing, is that "nothing is sacred."

So someone sent him the Holy Eucharist and he pierced it with a rusty nail (without semblance of irony) and threw it in the trash with a banana peel, some pages of the Koran and a few others of his mentor Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion - just to show "nothing is sacred." His fans are upset he doesn't compost his banana peels.

"You would not believe how many people are writing to me, insisting that these horrible little crackers (they look like flattened bits of styrofoam) are literally pieces of their god," Myers wrote on his blog. He demonstrated his clever concern by hoping that "Jesus's tetanus shots are up to date."

Did I mention that Paul Z Myers is 51 years old and is a professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris?

This subject is now one of the hottest topics on the blogosphere and yet has only been reported in one old media outlet - The Minneapolis Star Tribune. That in itself is interesting, but more interesting will be the reaction of the academic establishment throughout the U.S. Will this establishment cry, as they are wont to do, for the head of anyone who fails to diligently attend to the sensitivities of the various religious, cultural or gender-sexual "communities" of the world? Or will they prove that anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice?

On the 40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

On this anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat sends out this reflection by Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando. Calling Pope Paul VI's issuance of the encyclical, "an ecclesiastical example of a profile in courage," Bishop Wenski goes on to briefly explain how right the Pope was. (emphases are mine)

By Bishop Thomas G. Wenski

This past July 25th marked the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s controversial and still little heeded encyclical, Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth). Many both within and without the Church – heady from the many changes initiated by the Second Vatican Council – fully expected that the Church would change her clear and constant teachings on human sexuality and procreation. Proponents of change then argued that the development of the contraceptive pill made such change in teaching not only possible but imperative.

However, Pope Paul VI (advised closely by the then Cardinal Wojtyla) realized that while much in the Church was rightly changeable (for example, liturgical rites and languages had changed often in the Church’s two thousand year history) no one – even the Pope – could change the received teachings of the Church in matters of faith and morals.

In Humanae Vitae, giving an ecclesiastical example of a profile in courage, Paul VI reaffirmed the immorality of recourse to artificial means of birth regulation. While Pope Paul VI and the Catholic Church practically stood alone in reaffirmation that the procreative and unitive ends of the conjugal act could not morally be arbitrarily separated, it is important to remember that up until the early 20th century this was also the constant teaching of all other Christian ecclesial bodies – Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant.

Of course, the Church is not against sexual pleasure as some of her opponents allege; but, more importantly, we are for the happiness of the human person. The fostering of that happiness requires understanding the gift of our sexuality as God has intended it. Sex, in God’s plan, is more than just a “recreational activity”. As Catholic feminist and philosopher, Janet Smith says: “…sex is for babies and bonding. If people are not ready for babies and bonding, they ought not to be engaging in acts of sexual intercourse.” And what are nuptials but the public expression of a couple’s readiness to do just that?

A careful rereading of Humanae Vitae – especially in the light of the “sexual revolution” unleashed in society over the past 40 years –can help us appreciate how prescient the Pope was in his warnings of the dire consequences that a “contraceptive mentality” would have on society. The numbers of unwanted pregnancies and abortions did not decrease with the widespread acceptance of contraception – they increased. And the “pill” far from freeing women from male domination made them more likely to be victims of sexual exploitation by men. The break up of families and the epidemic of divorce in our culture, the increasingly high incidence of women bearing children out of wedlock, the flight from adult responsibility and the extended “adolescence” of men, all point to – in hindsight –the rightness of Paul VI’s and the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.

The Church condemns artificial contraception not just because of its bad consequences. She condemns artificial contraception because it is intrinsically evil (and because it is evil it has bad consequences). Contraception is evil because it violates the very purpose and nature of the sexual act – and in doing so violates the dignity of the human person.

Pope John Paul II reaffirmed Humane Vitae throughout his pontificate. His “Theology of the Body” has sought to represent the perennial teachings of Church on human sexuality in an idiom more accessible to our contemporaries. The sexual act, he teaches, implies self-giving, a self giving denied in the very act of contraception. One’s “body language” should mean as much as one’s words do. Happiness and human flourishing cannot be built on insincere language or lies. Contraception – like pre-marital or extra-marital sex - is a lie because it denies the unconditional “yes” of one to another implied in the very act of love making.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bluegrass Benefit this Saturday in Liberty

The Chambers family of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Kansas City has been performing Bluegrass and Classical music throughout the metro area for eight years. This year they won top honors at the New Musician Showcase Competition. The prize for that competition was use of the Liberty Performing Arts Theatre.

The Chambers are turning that opportunity into a charity benefit for Alexandra's House, Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics and Marian Hope Center for Children's Therapy.
And they’re counting on area families to join in on the fun Saturday, July 26, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Liberty Theatre, 1600 S. Withers Rd. in Liberty.

Alexandra's House is a remarkable perinatal hospice in Kansas City which Lori Wood Habiger featured in The Catholic Key a few years back.

Fox 4 anchor Phil Witt will emcee the event featuring the Chambers family along with other area groups.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for kids (under 12), or $35 for a family. Prices are higher at the door. All proceeds benefit the three charities.

For more information, contact Maribeth Chambers, 816-454-3729 or the Liberty Performing Arts Theatre. For reserved seating, contact 816-439-4362.

Click on the video above to see the Chambers family perform.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The kids are Totus Tuus

Totus Tuus was the motto of Pope John Paul II. It was John Paul's reminder to the world of Mary's example of complete commitment to God - "Totally Yours". Regarding his motto, Pope John Paul said:

"Totus Tuus. This phrase is not only an expression of piety, or simply an expression of devotion. It is more. During the Second World War, while I was employed as a factory worker, I came to be attracted to Marian devotion. At first, it had seemed to me that I should distance myself a bit from the Marian devotion of my childhood, in order to focus more on Christ. Thanks to Saint Louis of Montfort, I came to understand that true devotion to the Mother of God is actually Christocentric, indeed, it is very profoundly rooted in the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption".

A catechetical summer program began to be developed by a seminarian of the Diocese of Wichita around 1987 in order to communicate the message of total commitment to God through Mary's example among grammar and high school age Catholics.

It has since spread to several other dioceses and is led in parishes by teams of college students including seminarians from the host diocese. This year, the program has debuted as a diocesan project in KCSJ with participation by nine parishes.

The above is a clip of the morning warm-up for the students participating at St. John LaLande in Blue Springs, MO.

Look for Marty Denzer's full coverage in the next issue of The Catholic Key.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Project Rachel ads

Adrienne Doring (née Hynek), Respect Life Director for the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph has engaged some creative marketing to reach women who may be suffering following an abortion.

2008 Ad for Kauffman Stadium

This ad for Project Rachel has been purchased and placed in the ladies rooms near the mirror and in some stalls at Kauffman Stadium. It's been there for the past month and should be through the current homestand.

Adrienne writes, "If you know someone in the KC area who is hurting after abortion, please let them know that there is hope and healing. More info is available at Project Rachel KC. From there, they can get in touch with a counselor who can help them on their healing journey. It's completely free and confidential."

A Feast for East and West

Pope Benedict XVI like Pope John Paul II before him has made seeking full unity with our brothers and sisters in the Eastern Churches a priority of his pontificate. Explaining his urgency in this endeavor, John Paul often spoke of the need for Christ’s Church to “breathe with both lungs” – East and West together.

This desire is born of an awareness that East and West express the Christian faith in different ways which would be mutually beneficial, were we not sadly divided.

I had my first taste of the Eastern Churches when I visited Holy Transfiguration Monastery near Ukiah in northern California during college. The monastery is part of a Byzantine rite church in full communion with Rome. There I experienced a beauty and transcendence in liturgy that had me return again and again. It was something totally foreign to me and yet fully part of the one true faith.

One of the striking differences between East and West is in their respective treatment of saints. Like the West, the East has a myriad of saints, but in Eastern liturgy and iconography there is a much greater emphasis on the central characters. It was a great surprise to me to find out that in the East, Mary Magdalene is considered as central as it gets, beyond being the Mother of God or Christ Himself. In my upbringing at least, she was fairly tangential.

But consider what we know of her. She was the first to see the Risen Christ and it was to her that Christ gave the task to inform the apostles of his resurrection. So in the East, she is called “Equal to the Apostles” and “Apostle to the Apostles”.

If you think of a saint as someone whose life proclaims Christ risen from the dead, then Mary Magdalene is very important indeed. You and I and every sinner, every saint, every pope, priest and nun, every Eastern and Western Christian, every person who ever confessed, “On the third day He rose again,” says so because Christ told Mary Magdalene “Go tell my brothers.”

Today is her Feast Day and Kansas Catholic has a post on her with useful links, including an indulgence related to her Feast.

Disputations blog has an interesting post on Jesus’ other words to her, “Touch me not”.

Orthodoxwiki has an article on her place in the Orthodox Church as well as some links and hymns to her including:

When God, who is transcendent in essence,
Came with flesh into the world, O Myrrhbearer,
He received you as a true disciple, for you turned all your love toward Him;
Henceforth you would yourself work many healings.
Now that you have passed into heaven, never cease to intercede for the world!

Monday, July 21, 2008

When should kids start dating?

The Kansas City Star has an interesting poll today – more interesting for the answer than the question. Participants at the mom2mom website were asked, “At what age should kids first be allowed to ‘date’?”

The answer:

A: 6th Grade (2%)

B: 7-8th Grade (8%)

C: 9-10th Grade (85%)

The results seemed to me to answer more “When do kids begin to date?,” rather than “When should kids begin to date?” Since those polled were moms, I would have figured there’d be at least a few hold-outs for a later age.

Turns out, options A, B, and C were the only possible answers. Quite a few respondents did prefer a later date in the comments posted to the poll.

Some also asked the more pertinent question, “What does ‘date’ mean?” One who voted for a younger age did so while defining dating as “Not really dating but they sit together in the lunch room at school and if they go hang out somewhere together at the mall or the movies or church youth group.”

At the other end of the spectrum, there have been several articles recently lamenting the death of dating on college campuses where the more appropriate term is “hook up”.

I like the definition offered by one of the respondents, but I fear in many places, it is operationally extinct:

“My definition of a ‘date’ is where he calls the girl, she accepts, he drives himself over to her house (preferably in his own car), picks her up from her house, obtains parental permission and lets her parents know where they are going and when she will be home, and THEN they go out on a ‘date’ which he pays for with his OWN money.”

So from a Catholic point of view, I’m wondering how Catholic Key readers view this question. At what age would you allow your children to date, and what do you mean by date?

This article from an excellent Australian Catholic website called Mercatornet offers some advice for teens and their parents about dating. It is written by a canon lawyer who is well aware of the later results of poor dating practices:

“There is a growing awareness in many families that there is a big difference between courting and dating. In my work, I regularly encounter broken marriages. Along with my own personal experience in life, these unhappy relationships have taught me a thing or two about what constitutes unhealthy teenage dating behaviour, as well as what type of courtship leads to healthy marriages. Allow me to share this advice with teenagers and parents whose teenagers are of courting age.”

Read the whole thing and please post your own thoughts below.

Farewell to Sydney

I don't think he's actually returning to Kansas City by boat, but this photo sent by KCSJ pilgrim Chris Goedken is an appropriate "farewell to Sydney" shot.


Chris writes:

"We have just completed the whole World Youth Day week . . . I got to see the Pope which was an amazing feeling. My favorite part of the week has probably been just seeing all of the pilgrims, meeting, and trading with them and hanging out with my own group. I feel like I have been absolutely blessed on this pilgrimage. The hospitality of our host families has been unbelievable. Everyone has been so kind and generous to us. This is one of the most beautiful places that I've ever been. This trip has lived up to my expectations and more."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What did Jesus preach most?

One of the popular features of The Catholic Key not posted to our website is our weekly scripture column. Among our rotating columnists is the ever-intriguing Chancellor of our diocese, Msgr. Bradley Offutt. Here's his offering for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. If you're like me, you'll get weepy at the last line - but please read the whole thing:

Indulge me here, will you? . . . Imagine that you were intensely interested in Christianity and, therefore, wanted to learn more about Christ than what you have heretofore been able to glean from your Sunday sojourns to church. So, you have made an appointment to speak one day with the grizzled octogenarian, Monsignor Smart, who dwells with his books, and vast reputation, in one of those peculiarly Catholic-looking buildings across town.

You step into Smart’s capacious room and gaze into his sagacious face. You are sitting on the edge of your creaking chair, waiting for him to dispense the wisdom of the ages, but he decides to open the conversation with a curious question. He asks you, “Because you are interested in Christ, it seems right that we begin discussing the subject that occupied Jesus more than all others. Do you know what that is?”

You feel strangely confident and say, “Oh, it must be ‘sin.’” Monsignor blows the lint off his spectacles and kindly replies, “Well, no, that’s not it. Want to guess again?” Somewhat more subdued this time, you say, “Uh, is it love?” And with that answer the old priest figures he has well-enough established the measurements of your ignorance so he just tells you an interesting fact. He says to you, “Jesus Christ, in the gospel narratives, speaks far more about the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ than anything else.”

Being an unabashed neophyte at this serious religion business, you cheerily say, “Well, I guess that makes sense; that Jesus would talk more about heaven than anything else. After all, that’s where we all want to go.” Meanwhile Monsignor Smart has gotten out of his chair. As you speak he moves to the wall so you can’t see him roll his eyes. He straightens one of the several yellowing diplomas hanging on his yellowing walls and returns to face you. He says, “If Jesus merely meant ‘heaven’ when he told the Parables of the Kingdom,’ he would never have been crucified. In fact, he would have been considered a most innocuous do-gooder. Instead, ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ refers to the life of God with humanity in heaven, and on earth too, because God is the same in both places. Kingdom of Heaven’ means the interface of divinity with humanity. And what Jesus said about the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ was so counter-intuitive, so different, from what so many people confidently assumed that Christ posed a challenge to the world that we are still trying to understand.”

The willowy old Monsignor Smart sends you back to your well-shaded neighborhood with some homework. He asks you to spend some time with Mt. 13: 24-43 and to contemplate this question in air-conditioned comfort, “Why did so many people hate Jesus of Nazareth?” Though it would be no great trick to find more learned expositors of scriptural interpretation than me; please allow me to help you with your homework.

The Parables of the Kingdom, such as confront us in this gospel, are not easy to understand. Indeed, some times it looks like Jesus told these parables to cloud our understanding, not clarify it. But the Lord had a very tough job to do here. Remember, he is announcing what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world. For something to be hidden for so long, it is bound to be difficult to grasp. As we study the Parables of the Kingdom we must simultaneously consider God and consider ourselves.

First, Jesus says, The Kingdom of Heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. (His) enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat. . . . (The Sower said), Let the wheat and weeds grow together (for) if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Repeatedly Jesus exposes himself to people the gospels call “sinners.” One of them even wipes his feet with her hair. Two of them share his death on Calvary. Humanity demands clarity and order. Jesus Christ says truth is reflected in ambiguity and chaos.

Next, Jesus says, The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed. . . . It is the smallest of seeds, yet when full grown is the largest of plants. Repeatedly Jesus is met in the gospels with demands for grand demonstrations of power and retribution. Christ teaches that the most persuasive language is spoken in the gestures of the small and vulnerable.

Finally, Jesus says, The kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat until the whole batch was leavened. Repeatedly Jesus is asked in the gospels to reveal his glory now, to promise influence now, to rescue a situation now. Christ teaches that just because something is true does not mean we are capable of understanding it, or even enduring it, right away. Patience, especially in what we suffer, is truly progressive.

So, in these Parables of the Kingdom Jesus is speaking the riddle that got him crucified. The Savior says that the most irresistible power is the most tender love; that victory is in the sacrifice, not the seizure; that there is so much more grace in the nails than in the hammer.

We hope to have more from our pilgrims in Sydney soon. This blog will continue, after all the festivities in Australia, to be a regular adjunct to The Catholic Key. We hope you'll bookmark this page and check back frequently.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Here comes everybody

This flash montage by a youtube user from Venezuela really demonstrates how international the World Youth Day participants are. It's set to the World Youth Day Theme Song - Receive The Power.

Look for the cool T-Shirt logo toward the end - "Catholicism is not a spectator sport"

Friday, July 18, 2008

A bundle of pics from Carrie

Carrie Kafka is a real trooper for sending in these pics on the busiest day of World Youth Day. The pilgrims were up and going at 5:00 am (Saturday, Sydney Time) and won't be returning home tonight - See Carrie's post below.

Bishop Finn signs autographs for his Australian fans.

Diocese of KCSJ pilgrims with Bishop Finn.

Pilgrims traveling through The Rocks District to see the Stations of the Cross performed.

Bishop Finn hearing Confession during Catechesis at Holy Name Parish in Wahroonga.


G'day from Sydney! It's Saturday here, and the city is bustling with pilgrims. We are in the midst of the pilgrim walk across the Harbor Bridge. It's about a three hour journey by foot to our final destination for World Youth Day - Southern Cross Precinct (Randwick Racecourse).

The diocesan group set off this morning at 5 am with their packs on their backs, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and all the clothes they'll need until tomorrow afternoon. Tonight, there will be a prayerful Vigil with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Following the Vigil, over 200,000 pilgrims will be sleeping out under the stars.

The forecast looks good. It's nice and sunny, but it will be a bit chilly tonight. Average temperatures in the evening have been around 45 degrees.

The anticipation is building for everyone as we head into the pinnacle celebration of the week - World Youth Day! We'll have a sending off Mass tomorrow morning (Sunday) with Pope Benedict, where the next destination for World Youth Day 2010 will be announced.

We will definitely keep you updated as things progress!
+ + +
Blessed Pier Georgio Frassati, pray for us!

BXVI's txts and Benedict's texts

BXVI's txt message to WYD pilgrims for July 18:

"The spirit impels us 4ward 2wards others; the fire of his love makes us missionaries of God's charity. See u tomorrow nite -- BXVI."

Beyond fun and fellowship, WYD is an opportunity for the young of the world (and not just those in Australia) to learn what the Vicar of Christ is saying directly to them. The Vatican website has been posting the full text of Pope Benedict's talks and messages throughout WYD.

Pope Benedict's talk to a group of disadvantaged youth at a rehabilitation community today is particularly powerful. Here's and excerpt:

"The cult of material possessions, the cult of possessive love and the cult of power often lead people to attempt to “play God”: to try to seize total control, with no regard for the wisdom or the commandments that God has made known to us. This is the path that leads towards death. By contrast, worship of the one true God means recognizing in him the source of all goodness, entrusting ourselves to him, opening ourselves to the healing power of his grace and obeying his commandments: that is the way to choose life."

Read the whole thing.

When brothers dwell in unity

Sent by Diane Pickert - Director of Youth Ministry, St. Gabriel Parish

An actor portraying Jesus carries his cross during the Stations of the Cross at World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, July 18. (CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

Today we enjoyed a beautiful live rendition of the Stations of the Cross. It was very moving and set the tone for what we are about to experience with our Holy Father tomorrow. After today's catechesis, the youth and young adults were challenged with the word "responsibility". We've asked then to ponder that word for the next couple of days.

We've been able to meet so many people from many other countries and talk about their faith lives. We met a young man from Pakistan the first day we were here. He actually had dinner with us and told us that only 1% of the population of Pakistan are Christians and 50% of that 1% are Catholic. He was so faith filled and passionate about being a part of a youth group able to join the rest of his fellow teens in this celebration. His hope is to spread the word of God in Pakistan bringing more to the Catholic faith. Our teens were encouraged by his enthusiasm, and actually energized by him. Several made the comment of how fortunate we are in our country to have so many more Catholics to celebrate our faith with.

As a matter of fact we have run into so many fellow Catholic teens and leaders from St. Louis, MO, as well as many teens from all over the U.S. We will celebrate Mass tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. with all the U.S. Pilgrims at the Domain (near Woolloomooloo and adjacent to the Royal Botanic Gardens) giving our teens a better sense of youth that are willing and able to travel half way around the world to celebrate their faith.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

World Youth Day Goodies

Jon Schaffhausen sends in this picture and list of World Youth Day goodies provided to Pilgrims:

- On Fire Holy Spirit Backpack w/ headphone port, 2 water bottle nets and lots of room for leftover Sara Lee Hedgehog Slices (Mmmm).

- WYD 08 bandanna - a perennial WYD essential.

- WYD lanyard with transport pass (free bus and train rides), meal tickets and section assignments for the major events (Opening Mass, Papal Welcome, Stations of the Cross, and Papal Mass). Also good for scribbling a myriad of chaperon cell phone numbers and pilgrim emails from around the world.

- Pilgrim Guide (maps, schedule, etc.)

- Liturgy Guide (readings, theme song words, etc.)

- Public Transport Guide (extremely important for obvious reasons)

- Bright Red Poncho. Nighttime offers the best chance for light rain but so far it's been dry and the forecast is dry as well. Thank you Jesus!

- Compact (not abridged, but very thin) Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Extremely cool and useful for learning more about that Spirit who just knocked me off my feet at the Papal Welcome.

- Mini Koala. He's cute and hugs onto things but I'm still looking forward to seeing the real guy next week on our Blue Mountains tour.

- Copy of the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles. Not a bad idea to read about the theme (Acts 1:8) in context.

- Wooden Rosary. Wednesday's Mass was dedicated to Our Lady of the Cenacle (the Upper Room and ground zero for Pentecost).

- Great South Land of the Holy Spirit. A picture book of the Australian outback - spectacular!

- Battery/hand crank operated LED Flashlight. This is amazing! Crank-only operation is actually quite effective. Didn't know this was included in our pack or I wouldn't have brought my own. These guys thought of everything.

- Foil Emergency Blanket (not pictured). What was meant to keep pilgrims warm on the overnight Saturday Vigil has become the picnic blanket of choice for hundreds of soon-to-be-shivering Pope-lovers. I hope they have warm sleeping bags.

Going to see the Pope

Sent by Carrie Kafka - Office of Young Adult Ministry

Kansas City - St. Joseph WYD pilgrims Daniel Neff, Julia Pickert and Leslie Dickherber on the train ride into the city to see the pope.

Seeing the Pope today was beautiful and amazing! We located our designated spot an hour and a half before the Pope's arrival and waited in anticipation with over 100,000 other pilgrims. The Pope arrived by ferry. When the boat finally docked, the crowd went nuts! The Pope smiled and waved incessantly to the crowds. People chanted "Viva al Papa!" and a myriad of other things.

Walking to our designated area in Barangaroo (Darling Harbor) to see the Pope:

Lucy Pickert, Katrina Mancuso, Julia Pickert, Carrie Kafka

It was extremely moving to see so many people cheering for the Pope. It made me so proud to be Catholic! The Vicar of Christ, the Shepherd of the entire Catholic flock, came to Australia to be with the youth of the Church.

The Pope's boat arrives at Sydney Harbor.

All of us, with various cultural backgrounds, languages and unique ways of living were united as one in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was unlike anything I've ever experienced before and it reminded me of the incredible gift we have in the Church. We are truly BLESSED.

The Pope has arrived

Sent by Diane Pickert - Director of Youth Ministry, St. Gabriel Parish

What a great day today! We arrived at Holy Name Church this morning to Bishop Finn's smiling face. We had great Catechesis from an Irish Bishop and a few power packed keynotes from Bishop Finn.

After Mass we hurried off to the city for the Pope's arrival.




The energy was exhilerating. I haven't heard the numbers yet, all I can say is that it was an overflowing sea of young people who love their faith and their beloved Holy Papa!! I was moved to tears by the joy that filled the air from this generation of young people. I thought they've got something that many people will never see. This generation has found it in their faith.

There was something Pope Benedict addressed we discussed at dinner that touched on this very topic. I'm not sure his exact words, but it was to the affect of how young people approach the future with such enthusiasm, yet the future is daunting to him. (Rocco at Whispers in the Loggia has the full text of the Pope's talk) One of the host families we are staying with made the comment, "isn't it nice to have this young group here not worrying about mortgages, bills, pressures in life or anything". They said their energy and enthusiam is a delight to have around.

I spend a lot of time with youth and young adults in my job, and I too am moved by their passion for life, intrigued by their carefree attitude toward the pressures in life, and their willingness to make sacrifices to attend events such as this. As I stood in the midst of all the love shared today, watching them push forward to get as close as possible to Pope Benedict as he drove by, I thought more adults need to experience this because to describe it doesn't give it justice.

To make a good day even better, we ended it with Matt Maher hosting an XLT with adoration. As Fr. Karl Barmann said, next to the Pope's arrival, XLT was the best event of the week.....powerful!

Two more texts from BXVI

The Holy Father is sending a text message out through Australia's Telstra cell phone network each day of his trip. The first was in an earlier post (down below).

Here are his Wednesday and Thursday texts:

Wed. - "The Holy Spirit gave the Apostles & gives u the power boldly 2 proclaim that Christ is risen! BXVI."

Thurs. - "The Holy Spirit is the principal agent of salvation history: let him write your life history 2! -- BXVI."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Beach, Beer and the Archbishop

Sent by Carrrie Kafka - Office of Young Adult Ministry

G'Day from Sydney!
Carrie (far left) with other WYD pilgrims.

Yesterday was a "full-on" day as the Aussies would say. The pilgrims from our diocese were excited to begin the World Youth Day festivities. After Catechesis concluded, we headed into the city to check out all the youth festivities. Seven young adults from the diocese traveled to Bondi Beach for festivities with Father Stan Fortuna and the Franciscan Friars.

Daniel Neff at Bondi Beach

Short Bondi Beach clip

After spending some time on the beach, we headed to Theology on Tap in Paramatta (a suburb of the city). Archbishop Chaput from Denver spoke on the importance of not living a double life as a Christian and there were over 700 young adults present from all over the world for the talk. After speaking for 30 minutes, Archbishop fielded various questions from the audience.

Denver Archbishop Chaput at P.J. Gallagher's for Theology on Tap

I was inspired to see that God is working through Theology on Tap and pubs and beer to reach Catholics and non-Catholics alike -- even across the hemisphere!

eBenedict sponsored by the Archdiocese of Sydney has full coverage of Archbishop Chaput's talk.

Ain't no party like a Holy Ghost party

Sent by John Schaffhausen - Office of Youth Ministry
Pilgrims at a Bondi beach concert and festival on Wednesday evening. Cultural exhibitions, testimonies, and other events went on there all day long.

Some of my favorite parts of World Youth Day are the spontaneous songs and dances that break out anywhere in the streets and especially on the public transportation. One memorable chant went something like this:

"Ain't no party like a Holy Ghost party 'cause a Holy Ghost party don't stop!!"

(That's a take-off on Rappin' Franciscan Fr. Stan Fortuna's - Ain't no party like the Catholic party)


"I say Jesus you say Christ! Jesus! CHRIST! Jesus! CHRIST!"

Add that to something our teaching bishop, Most Reverend Colin David Campbell of New Zealand, said this morning, "If you're not any fun, what kind of gospel are you preaching with your life? Who is going to follow you?" WYD 2008 lesson Number One is the Holy Spirit is JOYFUL!

It is a joyful thing to be able to converse with anyone on the street, a stranger from any country in the world and immediately feel like friends.

Hearing Aborigine Techno music in Darling Harbor was joyful.

It is joyful to hear about a resurgence in Australian Catholic youth learning about the richness of our faith and witness to Christ. Particularly enjoyable were the first-try Vegemite stories from our homestays. A classic favorite here, Vegemite is a dark brown, tarry-looking, salty yeast by-product apparently eaten commonly at breakfast on toast.

So for the next week, joy will certainly continue to permeate the atmosphere as we welcome the Holy Father, pray, sing, chant, dance, make new friends, eat new foods, see new sights and discover a new openness to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I think God is telling us something of what that Presence looks like.

Waiting in line for lunch outside our Catechesis site. Menu: barbecued sausages (big hot dogs) on white bread with ketchup and fried onions, lots of fresh fruit, and TimTams, an excellent chocolate wafer bar.

It is 11:47PM and I'm finally back at my "HomeStay" in Wahroonga, which means "our home". During the 30 minute train ride from downtown Sydney I fell asleep and awoke barely in time for my stop, a simple but significant demonstration of the Holy Spirit watching over me and all the pilgrims here, making sure we are where we need to be at any moment.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How r u? - BXVI :-)

Pope Benedict texted about 150,000 of his "contacts" prior to the opening Mass for World Youth Day yesterday. While he's resting at an Opus Dei retreat in Australia before joining pilgrims in Sydney, he sent out this text message:

"Young friend, God & his people expect much from u, because u have within u the Father's supreme gift: the Spirit of Jesus - BXVI."
(h/t to Tim Drake at

Late news on a late arrival

Thankfully, Carrie arrived in Sydney a couple days early and was able to send in our first post. Carrie called today to say the rest of our bloggers ended up arriving late on a very delayed flight. Unfortunately, they missed the opening Mass celebrated by Cardinal Pell and attended by 150,000 pilgrims. Some video of that is available here. Catholic News Agency has the text of Cardinal Pell's homily.

So stay tuned for a lot more from Sydney when our bloggers get in from the airport and settled in.

Early fruits from an early arrival

Sent by Carrie Kafka - Office of Young Adult & Campus Ministry

I arrived in Sydney early Saturday morning, just two days before World Youth Day was scheduled to begin. The day was spent settling in and re-familiarizing myself with a country I called home back in 2003.

Sunday morning before Mass, I walked down to a local coffee shop for breakfast. After I ordered my food, I sipped a cup of coffee and chatted with a man named Francis. He wanted to know what I was doing in Australia. (He could tell by my accent that I was from somewhere else). I told him I'd traveled to Australia for World Youth Day. Francis' reaction to this was something I had not expected.

He proceeded to tell me that "a good mate of his" worked in Customs at the Sydney International Airport. I nodded, not knowing where he was going with the story. Apparently, his friend had had numerous conversations with female pilgrims attending World Youth Day who had checked "yes" to bringing prescription medication in to Australia. When asked to describe what kind of medication they were carrying, many of these women cited the names of various forms of birth control.

Hearing this story was initially shocking and disappointing to me. I could tell it had further solidified Francis' perception of the Catholic Church. He mentioned the word hypocrisy. As we continued to talk about it, I explained to him that though there might be a fair number of Catholics who are either uninformed or choose to ignore the Church's teachings on the use of contraception, there are many Catholics who are sold out for the Church and who get incredibly excited about using Natural Family Planning. Francis seemed surprised by this. I assured him it was true, as I was one of them. Unfortunately, our conversation was cut short, as it was time for me to go to Mass. But, it helped me to better understand one of the many things God is doing through World Youth Day. I had had the privilege of experiencing first-hand one of the most beautiful by-products -- the opportunity to evangelize in the subtlest of ways.

I pray for Francis, that God will provide the opportunity for someone to visit with him again in that coffee shop, and pick up right where we left off.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Indulgence Granted to All Praying for WYD

From Vatican Information Service

"The Plenary Indulgence is granted to the faithful who will devotedly participate at some sacred function or pious exercise taking place during the 23rd World Youth Day, including its solemn conclusion, so that, having received the Sacrament of Reconciliation and being truly repentant, they receive Holy Communion and devoutly pray according to the intentions of His Holiness.

"The Partial Indulgence is granted to the faithful, wherever they are during the above-mentioned meeting, if, at least with a contrite spirit, they will raise their prayer to God the Holy Spirit, so that young people are drawn to charity and given the strength to proclaim the Gospel with their life.

"So that all the faithful may more easily obtain these heavenly gifts, priests who have received legitimate approval to hear sacramental confessions, should welcome them with a ready and generous spirit and suggest public prayers to the faithful, for the success of the same World Youth Day".

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Welcome Catholic Key Readers

This blog will debut on July 15 with on-site reporting from World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia. We hope you check back at that time and many times after.

Meanwhile, you can learn all about WYD2008 at the official website.