Fr. Bauer's Blog

Recently I attended the 50th anniversary of my high school graduation. While I have kept in touch with some of my classmates, this certainly has not been the case with all of them. Given this, it was good to see my classmates again and catch up on what has gone on in their lives these many years. At one point in the evening, in a private conversation with one of my classmates, he revealed that he had been sexually abused by his pastor when he was in grade school. I thanked him for his courage, and for trusting that he could share this information with me. I asked if he would be open to getting together for lunch so we could talk about it. He said yes, and we exchanged email addresses so we could set a date for lunch. 

When we got together for lunch, my classmate shared his experience with me. Not only had his pastor abused him, but he was also a serial abuser, who had victimized others. My heart went out to my classmate as I listened to the pain and hurt he had suffered. I knew there was nothing I could say that would be helpful, so I just listened, apologized and offered my prayers—knowing all the while that this was too little, too late, and probably more for my sake than for his. 

Several years ago I had a similar experience, when one of my grade school classmates told me he had been abused by one of the associate pastors at our home parish. Unlike my high school classmate, however, his abuse had taken place over a period of years. Now, in both these cases, I would by lying if I said that I handled them with grace and composure. In these and other instances when I’ve talked with victims of sexual abuse, I have prayed swiftly and mightily that God would give me the right words to say, or at least help me not say something terribly wrong, inappropriate or hurtful. Listening to someone talk about the pain and hurt they have experienced at the hands of the church is a grim experience. In these instances, though, while I didn’t think I said anything particularly profound or helpful, I did come away with the awareness that I had been “standing on holy ground.” 

(As part of my conversation with both of my classmates, I asked if I could write about the experience in our parish bulletin. I also promised to get their permission before publishing anything. Both agreed to this. I am grateful for their willingness to allow me to share their experience.) 

Now with the above as background, it needs to be said that it is vitally important that those in leadership positions in our church listen to the pain and hurt of people who have been victims of sexual abuse. Their/our work, however, doesn’t and shouldn’t end there. We need to acknowledge our failings and the harm they have caused. Further, we need to ask for forgiveness over and over and over and over again. We also need to seek ways to promote healing and reconciliation, and finally and perhaps most importantly the leaders of our church need to commit to making changes so that these things can never happen again. Unfortunately at this point, most of the changes that have been made to date have not arisen out of care and concern, but rather as a result of lawsuits or changes in the law. And even more unfortunately, I think there is an unspoken attitude among many leaders in our church that once this crisis blows over they can go back to the way things used to be. This cannot happen. We can and must do better. And while our Archdiocese has made some progress in this regard, much more needs to be done. 

The words openness, transparency, and honesty are much in vogue these days. Their high fashion status, though, doesn’t diminish their importance or necessity. Specifically in regard to our church, they call our bishops to a high standard of accountability. Certainly for some time now our leaders have failed to meet this standard. For this they need to confess their failings, apologize, repent, and establish clear standards of openness, transparency, honesty, and accountability. And they need to work with others—most especially those who have been the victims of sexual abuse—to establish these standards. If the bishops across the United States can’t do this or if they are unwilling to do this, they shouldn’t be surprised if people stop paying attention to them or simply leave our church.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120119.cfm 

This coming Sunday, as we celebrate the First Sunday of the season of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year.  This year we will use the “A” cycle of readings, which means that our Gospel readings will be taken primarily from the Gospel of Matthew.   

In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”   In essence Jesus is saying that people will be doing normal everyday things when the end comes.   He sums up his comments by saying:  “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”   Clearly Jesus was reminding his followers that they are not to live as did the people of Noah’s time, thinking only of their present comfort and happiness, and giving no thought to the future.   Rather, we are to stay awake and be prepared for no one knows when the Son of Man will return, or when one’s own life will end.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  In this reading Isaiah offers comfort and hope to the people of Israel who are under threat from their enemies.  In this reading Isaiah reminds the people that if they are true to their covenant with God, “many peoples shall come and say: ‘Come let us climb the Lord’s mountain to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths.’”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.   It probably was written somewhere between 55 – 60 AD, and reflects the common thinking at that time that the second coming of Jesus was imminent.   Paul says:  “You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.  For your salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. It is easy to become lulled into thinking only of our comfort in the present moment and to forget about being prepared for the Lord’s coming.   What is one concrete thing you could do to keep better focused on being prepared for the Lord’s coming?
  2. Priests of our Archdiocese are asked to do advance planning for our funerals.  It is an interesting experience.  If you knew the end of your life was approaching what would you do to plan for it?  
  3. How would you respond to someone who claimed the return of the Lord was near?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/112419.cfm

 

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.  This Feast was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925.   Seeing the devastation caused by World War I, Pius established this Feast as a way to remind people that Christ is Lord of both heaven and earth.  Initially this Feast was celebrated on the last Sunday in October, but when the Roman Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar in 1969 it was moved to the last Sunday of the liturgical year.  (The new liturgical year will begin on December 1st  with the Fist Sunday of Advent.)   

 

Our Gospel this Sunday is the scene of Jesus on the cross.  He is ridiculed by the rulers and jeered at by the soldiers.   We are told that the soldiers taunted him by saying “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.”   There were also two criminals crucified with Jesus.  One of them reviled Jesus saying:  “Are you not the Christ?   Save yourself and us.”   The other rebuked him, however, and asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom.   In reply Jesus said to him:  “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  

 

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the second book of Samuel.   It recounts the story of David being anointed as King of Israel.  As Christians, we see the Kingship of David as pre-figuring the eternal Kingship of Christ.

 

Our second reading this Sunday contains a wonderful Christological hymn (a hymn to Christ).   It is St. Paul’s pronouncement of Christ’s place in God’s plan of salvation.   The hymn really needs to be read in its entirety to fully appreciate it, but it reminds us that:  “He is the image of the invisible God ……………………. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross.”   

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

  1. A friend of mine likes to say that the criminal who asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom was a thief to the end, in that he stole heaven.   Hearing Jesus’ response to his fellow criminal why do you think the other criminal didn’t also ask to be remembered when Jesus came into his Kingdom?
  2. Jesus’ exchange with the “good thief” gives me a profound sense of hope that the gift of eternal life will be offered to all who are open to that gift.    What do we need to do to be open to that gift?
  3. What does it mean to call Christ our King?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111719.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.   As we come close to the end of this liturgical year, which will end next weekend with the celebration of the Feast of Christ the King, our Gospel reading focuses on the end times.    It begins with Jesus reminding people that: “All that you see here --- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”   

The people naturally ask:  “Teacher, when will this happen?  And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”   In response to this question Jesus tells the people not to follow anyone who comes in his name saying:  “The time has come.”  He then describes catastrophes and calamities that will occur before the end times.   He ends, though, with a note of consolation:  “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair of your head will be destroyed.  By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”   Notice that Jesus doesn’t promise that his disciples won’t experience pain or difficulties.  He does promise, though, that ultimately God will triumph.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the prophet Malachi.   It shares the apocalyptic theme of the Gospel.   Like the Gospel, though, it also offers a promise of consolation and hope:   “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”  

For our second reading this Sunday, we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians.  In this reading, Paul reminds the Thessalonians (and us) that while we await the end times, we are not to grow slack or idle.  Rather, Paul is clear that we are to work diligently as we await the return of the Lord and “if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. There seems to be a constant ebb and flow in regard to interest in the “end times”   Why do you think this is? 
  2. When have you felt God’s comforting grace in the face of difficulties or pain? 
  3. Has there been a time when you have grown slack or been idle in your faith?   What re-energized your faith?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111019.cfm  

In our Gospel this Sunday the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, posed a question to Jesus that presumed there would be a resurrection.   Not only was their question insincere, but also it was rather implausible.  As background to their question, though, it is important to remember that for many Jewish people there was/is no clear belief in an afterlife.   Rather, it was their belief that you lived on through your descendants.   Given this, having children was very important.   In fact, having children was so important that if a woman’s husband died without offspring, it was the responsibility of the next unattached male from the husband’s family to marry the widow and try to have children.  Knowing this, the Sadducees invented a story about a woman who married seven brothers, each of whom died without producing any children.   When the woman died, the Sadducees wanted to know “at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?  For all seven had been married to her.”   

Jesus’ response to this question was masterful.   He implied that the Sadducees’ question was completely irrelevant because: “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the second Book of Maccabees.   This is the only time during our three year cycle of readings that we read from this book.   It tells the story of seven brothers who died rather than “eat pork in violation of God’s law.”   The reason they were willing to die was because of their belief in an afterlife:  “you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.”  

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians.   In it Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to continue to live a life of faith.  “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What causes or helps you to believe in an afterlife? 
  2. How would you describe the resurrection to someone who didn’t believe in an afterlife? 
  3. What causes you to live a Christian life?  Is it hope of heaven or fear of hell?   
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Archdiocesan Synod

On the Vigil of Pentecost (June 8, 2019), Archbishop Hebda formally announced that our archdiocese will be embarking on a synod, our first since 1939. A synod is a formal representative assembly designed to help a bishop in shepherding of the local Church. It is the Archbishop’s hope that over the next two years, the synod process will involve every parish and draw on the gifts that have been bestowed in such abundance on the people of this archdiocese to discern and establish clear pastoral priorities in a way that will both promote greater unity in our Archdiocese and lead us to a more vigorous proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.  In doing so, it will help Archbishop Hebda discern, through a consultative process, the pastoral priorities of our local Church today – and into the near future.
 
Archbishop Hebda described the local pre-synod and synod process as following Pope Francis’ “listening Church” model. “It’s the confidence that comes from believing that the Holy Spirit works in the faithful, and it’s in sharing those things that are most important to us that we’re able to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit.” 
 
The synod process will begin this fall and winter with prayer and listening events.  After these events, in the spring/summer of 2020, Archbishop Hebda will announce the topics that will shape the synod.  In autumn of 2020 and winter of 2021 there will be a parish and deanery consultation process.   On Pentecost weekend May 21 – 22, 2021 there will be a synod assembly.  Delegates to this assembly will be invited from across the archdiocese and will meet to discern synod topics and vote on recommendations for the Archbishop  The Feast of Christ the King (November 21, 2021) is the anticipated publication of pastoral letter from Archbishop Hebda addressing the synod’s topics with a pastoral plan to shape the following 5-10 years.
 
I believe the synod process brings with it much promise for the future of our Archdiocese.   It will only be successful, though, if people pray, participate, and honestly share their concerns, questions and hopes for our Archdiocese. To this end--since I first informed you of the synod--we have established a parish synod ambassador team who will work to solicit feedback from our parishioners and keep everyone informed as the synod process moves forward.   There is a link to this group as well as information on the listening session on our website here.  You can anticipate hearing more about the synod in the weeks and months ahead.  
 
Fr. John M. Bauer
Pastor
 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110319.cfm  

This Sunday we celebrate the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time.   In our Gospel this Sunday we read the familiar story of Zacchaeus, a tax collector, but more importantly the chief tax collector, and therefore a very wealthy man.   Since taxes were no more popular at the time of Jesus than they are today, Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, would have been held in low esteem, if not contempt, by the people of that time.  When it came to Jesus, though, Zacchaeus was not concerned about people’s opinion of him.   We are told that “he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus.”   

When Jesus came to the spot where Zacchaeus was, he said:  “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”   People began to grumble at this, but Zacchaeus “stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”    Clearly the encounter with Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ life.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Wisdom.   It shares the theme of the Gospel in that it reminds people that:  “you (Lord) have mercy on all, because you can do all things, and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent…………………Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord.”    The message of both the first reading and the Gospel is clear.  God wants the sinner to be saved and will give ample opportunity for people to turn away from their sins and back to God. 

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians.    In the section we read today, Paul prays for the Thessalonians (and us) that “our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith…………”

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Zacchaeus was unwilling to let his short stature keep him from Jesus.  What keeps you from Jesus?
  2. The encounter with Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ life.  Where changes might you need to make in your life need for you to follow Jesus more closely?
  3. I love the image of God making us worthy of God’s calling, but how does God do this?    

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste in into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102719.cfm 

In our Gospel this weekend Jesus addressed a parable to "those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.”  The parable begins:  “two men who went up to the temple to pray:  one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.”  We are told that the Pharisee  “Spoke this prayer to himself.  ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity  --- greedy, dishonest,  adulterous --- or even like this tax collector.   I fast twice a week.  I pay tithes on my whole income.’”    The tax collector, though, “stood off at a  distance, and would not even raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’”  

The difference between these two people in terms of their prayer is striking.   The Pharisee was not so much praying as he was giving a report on his “supposed” goodness.  The tax collector, though, had a clear since of his own sinfulness and his need for God’s mercy.   His prayer was honest and heartfelt.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Sirach.   It shares the theme of our Gospel in regard to prayer.   It is clear that “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds, it does not rest till it reaches its goal.”   

In our second reading this Sunday, we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.   In it Paul writes very personally about feeling abandoned by those who whose support he had anticipated.   He also is clear, though, about his trust in God: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.  To him be glory forever and ever.  Amen.” 
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. I don’t think many of us pray as the Pharisee did in our Gospel for this weekend.  (Few of us are that grandiose.)   I also don’t think that many of us pray as the tax collector did.  (Few of us are that honest.)   How do you approach God in prayer?
  2. How do you know when God has heard your prayer?
  3. Even though he felt abandoned, Paul was sure of God’s presence and grace.  Have you ever experienced God’s grace at a time when you have felt abandoned or betrayed.?    

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste in into your browser.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102019.cfm

 

This Sunday we celebrate the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   In our Gospel this Sunday we read the parable of the unjust judge.  This parable is unique to Luke.   It is introduced with the words:  “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always.”   He then tells the story of a widow who continually comes to an unjust judge demanding her rights.    Eventually the judge said to himeself:  “While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.”   

 

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Exodus.   It tells the story of a battle between the forces of Amalek and those of Israel.   During the battle: “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.”   So “Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so this hands remained steady till sunset.” 

 

The Gospel and the first reading together remind us of two essential elements of prayer:  1. persistence; and 2. the support of others.   At times it is easy to become discouraged in prayer.   The support of others, though, can help us persevere in prayer. We persevere in prayer, though, not to change God’s mind, but to discern how God might be responding to our prayer. 

 

In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.   In it Paul urges Timothy to “proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.”    

 

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

 

1.  Has there been a time when you have been discouraged in prayer?  What helped you to persist?

 

2.  When have others been helpful to you in your spiritual life?

 

3.  Are you persistent in prayer whether it is convenient or inconvenient?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/101319.cfm  

The Gospel and our first reading this Sunday deal with the healing of lepers.   In the Gospel, ten lepers meet Jesus as he is entering a village.  “They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!’”    Jesus told them “Go show yourselves to the priests.”    They set off “And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice, and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  He was a Samaritan.”    In response, Jesus wondered aloud where the other nine were.   Then he said to the one leper who returned, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”   

In the first reading Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram, is cured of his leprosy.   He asked if he could give a gift to Elisha for his cure, but Elisha declined the offer.    In response Naaman said:  “If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will not longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the Lord.”   

The message of both these readings is clear.  When we realize that God has touched our lives, it should change us.   The challenge, of course, is to realize when God has touched our lives, and then to be open to God’s grace changing our lives.   

In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.    Paul is suffering for the Gospel “even to the point of chains, like a criminal.”   But he reminds Timothy that “the word of God is not chained.”   And it is the word of God that brings us salvation in Christ Jesus.   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have there been times/moments when you have felt God touch your life?                       
  2. Why do you think only one leper came back to thank Jesus?
  3. Paul suffered because he preached the Gospel.  Have you ever suffered any repercussions because of your beliefs?

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