Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Recipe time: Sloppy Joes

This month, the St. Vincent de Paul Society is sponsoring another Casserole Crusade: they ask parishioners to prepare homemade casseroles, using recipes and pans the committee provides after Mass. Then the casseroles are collected two weeks later, and will be delivered to area soup kitchens.

I've taken some, and the last couple of times, I took four pans, and I challenged other folks at Mass to do the same.

So, today was the day to make the casseroles. I chose Sloppy Joes, using the recipe provided, times four:

4 lbs hamburger
12 oz. tomato paste
1 cup onions, chopped fine
4 tbsn prepared mustard
2 tbsn Worcestershire sauce
1 cup catsup
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup water

First, I ran to the store to get my supplies. I got those things I figured I wouldn't have enough of at home. Later, I discovered my mistake...

Here is a picture of all 16 lbs of ground beef in one pan. I quickly realized that wouldn't work, so I got out another pan.

As the meat browned, I got my other ingredients together. I used my food processor to chop up the onions, which made me cry -- a lot!

As I'm measuring out the other ingredients in a bowl -- in between checking on the meat -- I discovered I didn't have enough catsup. So what to do? I decided I would use another can of tomato paste, of which I had plenty in the cupboard. That's when my cheap can opener decided to fail, after I'd opened one can, and half-opened another. So what to do?

I got out my old fashioned beer-can opener -- you know, the type with the pointed edge for opening juice cans. The result looked like this:

The cheap can opener was thrown away, with the rinsed out cans. (Then went in "recycling.")

As a result of this complication, It was a trick getting the tomato paste out of the cans cleanly, so I resorted to some water, and while the recipe called for it, I lost track of how much I'd added. I didn't want to make it watery, so I didn't add any more. In retrospect, I probably could have added more.

Anyway, here's the sauce, with all the other ingredients.

Here's all the meat (less what ended up on the floor, or in my belly!)

 Here's the final product, portioned out in the pans (two more not shown).

I put the lids on these and stuck them in the freezer. They have to be frozen solid when they are dropped off.

So, how did it taste? Pretty good, a little strong on mustard. I thought about adding some barbeque sauce, but wasn't sure -- including, how old that bottle of barbeque sauce was! Better to leave it alone.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

'Lessons in Prayer' (Sunday homily)

If you’re looking for some thread 
that links all of today’s readings together, 
may I suggest it is “Lessons on Prayer.” 
Let’s see what they tell us.

The first lesson – from the first reading – 
is that if you want God to hear you, then hear the cry of the poor. 
Scripture couldn’t be clearer: 
if we stop our ears to those in need around us, 
God will stop his ears to us.

Some practical applications: if you’re in school, 
chances are there is someone who is smaller, 
who might be new, who doesn’t fit in. 
Will you stand up for that boy or girl?

As a society, there are lots of ways we hear the cry of the poor. 
Our St. Vincent de Paul group is doing a great job 
organizing efforts to feed the hungry. 
Today you can pick up casserole pans after Mass, 
and bring back home-cooked food to go to area soup kitchens. 
I took four pans; it’s not that hard; 
who else can make four casseroles for the hungry?

But beyond charity are issues of justice. 
No one in our society is more poor and abandoned 
than the unborn child. 

So it’s critical that you and I never stop working 
in every way to help them, 
by helping their mothers who face terrible difficulties, 
by bearing witness, and by working for laws to protect the unborn. 

So, again, let me highlight some ways you can help. 
Rustic Hope is gathering diapers for mothers, 
and on Tuesday, many of us – including me – 
will go down to Kettering to bear witness at the abortion facility there. 
And in a few weeks, we’ll cast votes 
for who will serve in many public offices. 
Will the people we elect hear the cry of the weak, 
the left out and the forgotten?

The second lesson we can learn about prayer comes from Saint Paul. 
And that is to realize that prayer 
isn’t about our telling God what to do; 
but rather, it’s about us opening our hearts to God’s voice. 

I’m not saying you and I shouldn’t pour out our hearts to God.
Look at Paul: he must have prayed for many things 
while facing prison and trial and execution. 
I imagine he prayed fervently for God to save him from death.
Yet that prayer wasn’t granted. 

On the other hand, Paul also prayed 
to be a faithful and powerful witness for Jesus Christ. 
And that prayer was answered abundantly!

There’s a good reason why the Our Father says, “thy will be done.” 
Isn’t that what Jesus said on the night before the Cross: 
“not my will, Father, but thine”? 
Or, to put it another way, 
we recall the beautiful words of the poet Dante: 
“In your will is our peace.”

The third lesson we can learn is from the Gospel. 
Do we come to God in humility? Do we recognize our true need? 
The Pharisee did a good job saying thank you, and that’s good, 
but did you notice, he didn’t ask for anything?

Saint Augustine once said that God longs to give us good gifts, 
but sometimes, our hands are full, and we aren’t ready to accept them; 
we need to lose the things we’re holding onto, 
before we can accept what he offers. 

When things are going well, it is tempting to forget how needy we are.

If you and I lived in that time, 
and we met both the Pharisee and the tax collector, 
most of us, I think, would be more comfortable with the Pharisee. 
He was respectable, lived an upright life, he followed the rules; 
he was a good neighbor. He had it all together.

The tax collector, on the other hand, was a cheat, a thief, 
someone who took sides with the Roman oppressors. 
He might have had money and power, but he couldn’t be trusted.

These two men couldn’t be more different, 
and yet they were equal in having access to God. 
They were both able to come into God’s presence and pray.

So why did one go away justified, as Jesus said, and the other did not? 
Because one came in humility, in need, and asked for something: 
“have mercy!” The Pharisee could have done the same, but did not.

If we want our prayer to be heard, try starting with those words: 
“have mercy on me, a sinner.” 
And it’s not just words, but a profound recognition: I am a sinner. 
I need God in the most fundamental way. 
It’s not just that I need this or that thing from God, 
and then I’m done; but that I need GOD. I need MERCY.

So, practical advice: 
we might find our prayer gets deeper and more real 
if we make regular visits to confession; and face our real needs. 
Not avoid them; face them. “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”

One final lesson on prayer, 
and it comes from the backstory of today’s Gospel. 
Did you realize that we’ve heard 
Jesus teaching about prayer and perseverance 
over the last four Sundays? 

These episodes come from the journey Jesus was making, 
with the apostles, to Jerusalem. 
And along the way, he kept teaching them about prayer. 
Why might he have done that?

He knows what lies ahead in Jerusalem: his suffering and death! 
He’d told the Apostles, yet they didn’t understand.

But Jesus did. He was preparing them.

Well, Jesus is preparing us, too!
You and I don’t know what crises lie ahead, 
whether for ourselves, our community, our country, or our Church. 
But lots of storms are brewing. 
What can help us weather the storm? 

Pray: pray admitting we need God. 
Pray not to tell God what to do, but to hear God’s will, 
and to accept it. 
And remember the poor and needy who pray beside you; 
God wants you to be their answer.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

'No, bishop, that's quite wrong...'

Just now I saw this headline at Crux: "Pope in Sweden could break ground on inter-communion, bishop says." Of course I clicked on it.


Here are some gems:

I think it’s very important that people know that the Reformation was a great misunderstanding, we all got it wrong, on both sides, and we’ve lifted excommunications and condemnations and apologized. So we can all be friends.

No, bishop; it's true that the Reformation involved a great deal of misunderstanding, but there was a lot more than that. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Menno -- the big four of the Reformation -- all not only dissented dramatically from the Catholic Faith, they went to war with each other, quite literally, eventually. It wasn't just "misunderstanding." They came to believe very different things.

On the Eucharist, Lutherans have more or less the same doctrine as we have.

No bishop, that's quite wrong. Catholics believe the priesthood is sacramental; there is an ontological change in the man ordained, and he is configured to Christ the High Priest in a true and unique way. Lutherans deny this. Accordingly, they deny the Holy Mass is a true sacrifice, as opposed to a remembrance only. And without a true priesthood, there can't be a true sacrifice.

Actually, it's quite easy to see the difference between what Catholics believe about the Eucharist, and what is taught by Protestant bodies. Catholics adore the Eucharist: that is, we give the Eucharist that worship proper only to God. Is that what the Lutheran Church teaches? Get back to me on that.

There's more, but this is enough to call into question the merits of the rest of the article. In charity, I must allow that perhaps the errors are not the bishop's, but the author of the article; in any case, they each have their agendas.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Yes, Donald Trump's approach to women is repulsive

There are a lot of things to consider in the upcoming election. Not all issues are of the same moral gravity.

But a lot of folks seem to be saying that the only thing that matters is where the candidates stand on abortion. Is that true?

Does nothing else matter? Including when one candidate treats women like dirt?

Don't believe it? Check this out: 51 things Donald Trump has said about women. Then feel free to come back and defend this behavior, if you care to.

This is just one of many reasons I maintain that while Secretary Clinton is awful, so is Mr. Trump.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Who do I vote for this year?

I was preparing my column for the parish bulletin yesterday, and was writing about our miserable choices in the presidential election. Like many people, I find the two party candidates morally unacceptable, and I have decided I will not vote for either. But what are the alternatives?

My original plan was to write a summary of each candidate; then I remembered the Archbishop really doesn't like any sort of "voter guides" provided in our parishes, and whatever my intention, it might have seemed to be that. So, I cut all that out, and pasted it here. This is my personal blog. So here is the information I gathered:

Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is aggressively pro-abortion, even favoring tax funding for abortion. She has made clear she will appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court that will sustain abortion on demand, as well as maintain the Obergefell decision that redefined marriage. She has voiced support for policies and decisions under President Obama that are harmful to religious freedom. I found conflicting responses on torture. Her website doesn’t address euthanasia, but I found a comment online endorsing it. She endorses limiting, but not ending, the death penalty.

Meanwhile, businessman Donald Trump has given much more positive answers on abortion – although he supports abortion in the case of rape and incest; he has said he will appoint judges that are pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. It should be mentioned that he is a recent convert to these positions. He has said conflicting things about religious freedom. Mr. Trump strongly supports the death penalty; he has called for increased use of torture, and endorsed targeting and killing non-combatant family members of terrorists.

Notably, his website doesn’t address any of these issues; these positions can be found elsewhere. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump has become known for a long string of outrageous and offensive statements, including about women, illegal immigrants, a Muslim family whose son died in the service of our country, a U.S. born judge of Mexican descent, and former POW and current Senator John McCain, just to cite a few examples.

Obviously there are many more issues of concern than what I’ve highlighted, but not all issues are of equal gravity, and I’ve tried to call attention to those that matter most. Some people have decided they will support one of these candidates as the “lesser of two evils.” That is a morally acceptable approach, but I think we need to be clear-eyed about the reality of the candidate we end up voting for.

But what about an alternative? No one is obligated to vote for either the Democrat or Republican, especially if you have serious reservations, as many have. I took some time this week looking up the five most prominent “third party” candidates; here’s my summary, with links to their websites so you can make your own judgments.

Darrell Castle, Constitution Party. He is 100% prolife and pro-traditional marriage. His party is against euthanasia, but supports the death penalty. He is strong on religious freedom. I could not find something explicit on torture. His party is fairly conservative, although it does oppose “interventionism” in foreign policy. Website here.

Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party. He describes himself as personally opposed to abortion but doesn’t support any change of laws to protect the unborn. He is in favor of so-called “same sex marriage” and is unclear on protecting religious freedom. He is against torture. I couldn’t find his position on euthanasia or the death penalty. The Libertarian Party tends to be very anti-government, often going so far as to advocate legalizing prostitution and drugs, and making drastic reductions in the powers and expenditures of the federal government. Website here.

Michael Maturen, American Solidarity Party. He is a Catholic, and his party is an attempt to develop a consistently Catholic approach on all federal issues. He is 100% prolife and pro-traditional marriage. He is against torture and the death penalty. In questions of economics and foreign policy, his approach includes ideas from both left and right.

Evan McMullin, Independent. His platform is much briefer than the others. His website gives a strong statement in defense of the sanctity of life and religious freedom, but isn’t as specific as many would like. He opposes tax funding for abortion and says he would appoint judges that would overturn Roe v. Wade (which imposed abortion-on-demand). He specifically distances himself from torture and targeting non-combatants in war. I couldn’t find his position on euthanasia or the death penalty. His website doesn’t address marriage, but elsewhere I found an interview in which he said he wouldn’t seek to overturn the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling imposing “same sex marriage” on all 50 states.

Jill Stein, Green Party. She is strongly pro-legal abortion and supports redefining marriage to include same sex “marriage.” Her party’s positions on these issues suggest she won’t be friendly to religious freedom concerns. She is against torture and the death penalty. I couldn’t find her position on euthanasia. Her platform overall is pretty left wing, favoring drastic reductions in defense spending, and significant increases in government spending and involvement in the economy.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Prayer can change history, so maybe it'll change this election! (Sunday homily)

The readings obviously focus on prayer – 
specifically, on persevering in prayer, which is the real trick, isn’t it? 
Everyone believes in prayer; and everyone prays. 
The really hard thing is to stick with it and see it through.

So my homily today will be about habits, 
and specifically, the habit of prayer.

When our boys and girls groups meet each month, 
one of the things our leaders and I teach our children is about virtue. 
And the key thing about virtue is that it is a habit. 

God designed us so that we operate according to habit. 
When I get up in the morning, I have certain habits and so do you. 
We don’t have to think too much about brushing our teeth, 
getting the shower going, and so forth. That’s how habit works.

When habit works for us, it’s great. 
And when it works against us – that’s what we call vices – 
that’s a problem. 
Habits, both good and bad, are a kind of auto-pilot. 
Before we know it, we’re unconsciously lighting a cigarette 
or clicking on a questionable website.

So how do we break bad habits? There are lots of things people do, 
but they all aim at turning off the auto-pilot, 
and making us more aware.

For example, do you know what a “curse jar” is? 
It works like this: every time you take God’s name, or use a four-letter word, 
a dollar goes in the jar. And then you have to give that money away! 

It also helps to replace a bad habit with something better. 
Say you go to a party, and you are resolved not to drink too much. 
If all you do is stand around, wishing you had another beer, 
guess what’s going to happen? 
But if instead you focus on something else that’s fun, 
chances are a lot better you’ll have a great time and not get snockered. 
Keep doing it, and in time, you replace a bad habit with a better one.

Let’s drill in on the habit of prayer. 
And let’s first ask, Why do we need prayer?

We need prayer the same way an airplane needs a guidance system, 
so it doesn’t get off course. 
Prayer is our guidance system 
so we keep focused on what really matters.

Also, notice what happened in the first reading. 
The success of God’s People on the battlefield 
depended on Moses persevering in prayer. Why should that be? 
God didn’t need Moses at all – God could do whatever he wanted. 

In fact, God chooses to include us in his plans. 
He came to Mary and asked her to be the mother of Jesus. 
Jesus, in turn, chose to build his Church upon the Apostles.

So prayer is important because God is counting on it. 
Have you considered the possibility that your prayer – my prayer – 
may be the key ingredient in changing someone’s life, 
in changing the course of world events? In fact, we know this is true!

Ninety-nine years ago, Mary the Mother of God 
appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal. 
Mary showed the children a vision of hell, 
and she told them about events that would come to pass
No doubt you’ve heard of this. 

But here’s something I never noticed until very recently. 
Let me read you the words of Sister Lucia, one of those three children. 
This is what she said Mary told her and the other two children:

You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go.
To save them, God wishes to establish in the world
devotion to my Immaculate Heart.
If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved
and there will be peace.
The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God,
a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI.

Did you hear that? “If what I say to you is done…
there will be peace…but if people do not cease offending God, 
a worse one will break out”!

If we had listened to the Blessed Mother, 
we might have prevented World War II! 

And, in fact, the pope and God’s people did finally listen, 
and Pope John Paul II consecrated Russia 
to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1985…
and there was no World War III!

So yes, it’s essential to develop a habit of prayer; 
to be trained in spiritual combat. Yes, we all get busy, 
but I doubt few of us get so busy 
we don’t take a shower and put on clean clothes day after day. 

I saw an article online that I want to share with you. 
I put together a handout that summarizes it, 
which the ushers will have at the end of Mass. 
It is by Father John McCloskey, and it’s called, 
The Seven Daily Habits of Holy Apostolic People.” 
Here’s what Father suggests:

1. The morning offering – which is a prayer prayed first thing 
in the morning, consecrating the entire day.
It’s also a way to see your day, and all that comes, 
through the lens of faith.
2. At least 15 minutes of silent prayer – 
this is when we share our needs with God, 
and listen to him speaking to us.
3. Fifteen minutes of spiritual reading. 
4. Participation in daily Mass 
and receiving communion in a state of grace. 
Obviously this is the most difficult for many.
5. Praying the Angelus at noon each day. 
It just takes about 3 minutes, but it’s a great break 
and reminder of what matters most.
6. Praying the Rosary each day. 
This was the prayer that Mary recommended, at Fatima, 
to change the world – that could have averted World War II, 
and did, in fact, avert World War III.
7. A brief examination of our conscience, and our day, 
at the end of each day.

Father also makes the point that we shouldn’t expect 
to put all these into practice all at once. 
Instead, add a habit one by one. 
And he is right when he promises this won’t take time away; 
it’ll add time to your day, 
because you’ll have a better day with these habits.

Maybe you’re thinking, prayer is great, but what’s the urgency.
Have you paid any attention to this election?
We have two awful candidates! We’d better get praying!

Now, there might be someone here who can say, 
“Well, my spiritual life is right on target.” 
Then you don’t need this. 
But for the rest of us, please feel free 
to ask for one of these handouts from the ushers.