14 October 2017

Millennials make Quincy 7th in nation for home sales

An ancient Greek, whose name is unknown to me and perhaps to anyone, is recorded as having said, "No man loves his own city because it is great, but because it is his." I daresay he had not visited my beloved hometown of Quincy, Illinois.

It gives me joy to say that my love for the Gem City is shared by the Millennial, those born between 1981 and 2001, who, according to a recent article in the Quincy Herald-Whig, have made Quincy "seventh nationwide in a two-month snapshot among cities where members of the millennial generation ... are buying homes."

The rate at which they are buying homes in Quincy is surprisingly high, especially since so many young people claim - as they have done for decades - there is nothing to do in Quincy:
A story last week in USA Today noted that millennials bought 49 percent of Quincy homes sold over a two-month period this year. Figures from the most recent reporting period show that 37 percent of homes sold in Quincy went to millennials [more].
There may be a good financial incentive for them to buy homes in the Gem City as compared with other cities:
Home prices bought by millennials nationwide have an average cost of $187,164, according to Ellie Mae figures from the August-September period. In the Quincy micropolitan area, the average price is $96,219 for the same period.
The "micropolitan area" is a new term for me, but it seems humorously fitting for the area around Quincy.

Many of these millennials will, of course, be those moving back home after going away  for college. But others, of course, will be newcomers to the Gem City and I hope they enjoy it as much as I do.

12 October 2017

On Mass intentions

A few days Innocent Duru, on an old post concerning Parochial Vicars, asked a question about the Holy Mass offered pro popolo, that is, for the people.
This obligation is given in the Code of Canon Law:
After a pastor has taken possession of his parish, he is obliged to apply a Mass for the people entrusted to him on each Sunday and holy day of obligation in his diocese [not every diocese observes the same days as obligatory]. If he is legitimately impeded from this celebration, however, he is to apply he is to apply it on the same days through another or on other days himself (canon 534 § 1).
Regrettably, this obligation seems to be observed more in the breach than in the norm, at least in places with which I am familiar. This is likely due, in no small part, to the practice of grouping several Mass intentions together at one Mass.
It has long been customary for the faithful to ask priests to offer the Holy Mass for particular intentions and to offer a small gift to the priest to help with his sustenance. The custom of Mass intentions is governed by the Code of Canon Law:
In accord with the approved practice of the Church, any priest celebrating or concelebrating is permitted to receive an offering to apply the Mass for a specific intention..
It is recommended earnestly to priests that they celebrate Mass for the intention of the Christian faithful, especially the needy, even if they have not received an offering.
The Christian faithful who give an offering to apply the Mass for their intention contribute to the good of the Church and by that offering share its concern to support its ministers and works.
Any appearance of trafficking or trading is to be excluded entirely from the offering for Masses.
Separate Masses are to be applied for the intentions of those for whom a single offering, although small, has been given and accepted.
A person obliged to celebrate and apply Mass for the intention of those who gave an offering is bound by the obligation even if the offerings received have been lost through no fault of his own (canons 945-949).
To assist the faithful in decided what offering should be made, the Province of Bishops is able to set the usual amount of the offering. The Bishops of the Province of Illinois set the offering at $10.00 per Mass. A person is able to offer the priest more or less to accompany a Mass intention, but a priest in this Province cannot request more than this amount and he should certainly not refuse a smaller amount.
The pastor of a parish is required to offer the Mass pro popolo, for his parishioners, because it is right and just for a father to pray for his family.
Father William Saunders has written an excellent article explaining the theology behind the offering of Mass intentions and stipends.

09 October 2017

Homily - 8 October 2017 - The Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Dear brothers and sisters,

At the beginning of every Mass, the celebrant invites those who have gathered at the altar of the Lord to pray. He does so with this simple invitation: “Let us pray.” It happens so often that we sometimes take it granted. Because it is so familiar, we do not also listen to it and we do not always enter into prayer at that very moment. Perhaps it happens because we do not know for what we are to pray at that moment.

In the Order of Mass, this particular prayer is called the Collecta, a Latin word meaning a collection, whether it be a monetary collection, a collection of people as in a meeting, or simply a collection of things. It is in this third sense that Mother Church makes use of this word and calls what we colloquially call the “opening prayer” the Collect because it collects our individual prayers together and offers them as one to the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

If we take the time to study the texts of the different Collects, “we are struck by one thing: their strict formality. They are terse and austere, the more so the older they are. Here are not elaborate thoughts, no moving images, no emotional outpourings. Nothing but a few clear, terse sentences.”[1] We see this in the Collect of today’s Mass.

After an address to God “who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you,” we placed our request before the Father. We asked him to “pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.” Though the words may be few, there is a lot packed into them which often takes some work to unpack.

To our ears, this prayer might seem stiff, formal, and even a bit stand-offish. This is intentionally so with the Collects because they are the prayers not of an individual, but of the whole Church. We might well say that, “inclined as we are to lose ourselves in the irrelevant and the all-too-subjective, their clear-cut objective piety maintains an important balance” so that each person present can make the prayer his or her own.[2]

Once the priest says, “Let us pray,” what is to happen? Something more should be happening than simply looking around, something internal to each person. Following the invitation to prayer,

there is silence for a good while, during which the individual believer, taking the mystery of the day as his theme, prays for his own intention and for the intention of the congregation. This silent manifold praying is then gathered up by the priest and expressed in the few sentences of the Collect, so that its brief words are filled with all the vitality that has just silently lifted itself to God. Now its terseness no longer seems inadequate, but rich and recapitulative. By studying the Collects beforehand, we could make them the vehicles for our intentions, as they were meant to be.[3]

It is at this moment especially that we should follow the teaching of Saint Paul and “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

By its very nature, prayer is seeking the Face of God and the Psalmist prayed today, “O Lord, God of hosts, restore us; if your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved” (Psalm 80:20). In the midst of this search for the Face of God, the Collect for today takes on a special significance.

Again, in the first part of our petition we asked God to “pardon what conscience dreads.” We usually think of the conscience as a little voice inside of us telling us what is right and what is wrong. This is true, but it is also something more. The word conscience comes from two Latin words, con and scientia, and literally means “with knowledge.” It is not enough, then, to simply listen to Jiminy Cricket and “always let [our] conscience be our guide.” Because it is possible that our conscience might lead us to make the wrong decision, it is important that we seek to form our consciences properly in the light of what God reveals to us both through natural reason and through the teachings of his Church.

The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born from human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart.[4]

The properly formed conscience not only leads us to do the good, it also “enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed. If a man commits evil, the just judgment of the conscience can remain with him as the witness to the universal truth of the good, at the same time as the evil of his particular choice.”[5] This is what we might call guilt. “In attesting to the fault committed, [the conscience] calls to mind the forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the grace of God.”[6] All of this is present in today’s Collect. What is it, then, that conscience dreads?
The conscience dreads the just judgment of God upon us. We know ourselves to be like that vineyard spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. We know the Lord has, with much loving care, “spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes” (Isaiah 5:2). The conscience knows that, with the Psalmist, we have frequently promised the Lord, saying, “Then we will no longer withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name” (Psalm 80:19). Despite our promises, we know that have in fact withdrawn from God and have not called upon his name. Knowing, then, that we have not always produced the fruit expected and required of us, the conscience dreads to hear the Savior say, “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you” (Matthew 21:43).

Yet because the conscience knows the Lord would be perfectly just to speak these words of condemnation, we humbly implore the Lord’s mercy and beg him “to give what prayer does not dare to ask.” What we dare not ask is the quiet pleading of heart, the great longing present within each one of us: “O Lord, God of hosts, restore us; if your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved.” To look upon the face of God is the deepest yearning of the human heart, but we cannot do so if we do not yield the proper fruit, if we do not cooperate with his grace, if we do not continually seek his face (cf. Psalm 105:4).

When he contemplated what it means to constantly seek the face of God, Saint Augustine asked:

I know indeed that to cling unto God is good for me, but if He is always being sought, when is He found? Did he mean by “evermore,” the whole of the life we live here, whence we become conscious that we ought thus to seek, since even when found He is still to be sought? To wit, faith has already found Him, but hope still seeks Him. But love has both found Him through faith, and seeks to have Him by sight, where He will then be found so as to satisfy us, and no longer to need our search. For unless faith discovered Him in this life, it would not be said, “Seek the Lord.” Also, if when discovered by faith, He were not still to be diligently sought, it would not be said, “For if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Romans 8:25). And truly this is the sense of the words, “Seek His face evermore,” meaning that discovery should not terminate that seeking, by which love is testified, but with the increase of love the seeking of the discovered One should increase.[7]

To put it, perhaps, more simply, the quest for the face of God is a quest for the face we will

ceaselessly rediscover. The more deeply we penetrate the splendor of divine love, the greater will be our discovery and the more beautiful it will be to travel on and know that our seeking has no end, hence, finding has not end and is thus eternity – the joy of seeking and at the same time of finding.[8]

This vision of the face of God is what prayer does not dare to ask because took look upon his face is to look upon truth (cf. John 14:6). Let us, then, not turn away from the Lord or interfere with his work in the vineyard of our souls, but let us, rather, strive to follow him in all things and entrust ourselves to his merciful love because “if [his] face shine upon us, then we shall be saved.” Amen.

[1] Romano Guardini, Meditations Before Mass, (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 1993), 90.
[2] Ibid., 91.
[3] Ibid., 91-92.
[4] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1784.
[5] Ibid., 1781.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Exposition on Psalm 105, 3.
[8] Pope Benedict XVI, Address to German Bishops during Apostolic Journey to Cologne, 21 August 2005.

Homily - 1 October 2017 - On the act of genuflecting

The Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Dear brothers and sisters,

As pundits and commentators across this nation debate the proper posture before sporting events as if it were a matter of the highest importance, Saint Paul reminds us today that, because of his “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, “every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:8, 10-11). Is this not why we make a genuflection to the Blessed Sacrament each time we enter a church or chapel where the sanctuary candle gently burns?

It is not my intention today to comment upon the secular argument presently embroiling so many because whether one stands, kneels, or sits during the national anthem is not among the concerns of the Church. I do, however, wish to pose a related question: How different would this country be if Catholics cared as much about proper respect for the Blessed Sacrament as they seemingly do about a flag? To be sure, rage is certainly not a virtue, but when did you last hear of someone becoming upset enough to speak up about a lack of reverence toward the Eucharist? Romano Guardini once asked this question:

Is there anything more embarrassing than the manner in which some people, upon entering a church, after an anemic genuflection immediately flop into their seats? Isn’t this precisely how they take their places on a park bench or at the movies? Apparently they have no idea where they are…[1]

This does not seem to be a particular problem here at St. Augustine’s, but the fact that so many Catholics are apparently quite upset about a perceived disrespect of a flag but say nothing when the Blessed Sacrament is disrespected shows that something is awry in regards to our faith.

All this being said, there is something good to be found in the present debate, namely the recognition that “action is more than mere external happening.”[2] To put it another way, there is a recognition that

the nobler, the more difficult or important the task to be accomplished, the more completely I must give it my attention, earnestness, eagerness, and love, participating in it from the heart and with all the creative élan [energy] of the mind. That is composure: heart and mind concentrated on the here and now, not off on daydreams; it is being all here.[3]

If this is true of patriotic gestures, how much more so is it of what regards the divine? How much more so must we have proper composure before God?

Our word genuflect comes from two Latin words: genu, meaning knee, and flexio, meaning to bend. To genuflect, then, means to bend the knee and, as such, is a movement filled with much meaning.

In the first place, the act of genuflecting before God reminds us that “the body has a place within the divine worship of the Word made flesh.”[4] In the second place, it reminds us that “the bodily gesture itself is the bearer of the spiritual meaning, which is precisely that of worship. Without the worship, the bodily gesture would be meaningless, while the spiritual act must of its very nature, because of the psychosomatic unity of man, expresses itself in the bodily gesture.”[5] We must, then, have the proper composure when we genuflect if we are not to be like that son who said, “‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go” (Matthew 21:30).

Today, we tend to view the strength of a man as a being in his upper body, which is possibly why many, as we say, skip leg day. But this was not always the case with every people. For example, we often forget what the Hebrews knee. They “regarded the knees as a symbol of strength.”[6] If we think about this for just a moment, it makes great sense. If you take a stick and strike a man on his knees, what happens? He falls to the ground. His strength fails. This does not generally happen if you strike him on his upper body. “To bend the knee is, therefore, to bend our strength before the living God, an acknowledgment of the fact that all that we are we receive from him.”[7] It is a gesture by which we seek to place all that we are before God, to set ourselves aside in his service and for his honor.

To our modern ears, this might seem old-fashioned or an abnegation of our freedom and something demeaning to our own dignity. This is why Saint Paul tells us to “have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus” who “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:5, 7). Saint Augustine reminds us that Jesus “is said to have ‘emptied himself’ in no other way than by taking the form of a servant, not by losing the form of God.”[8] If the Son of God lost nothing of his dignity when he took our lowly flesh, neither will we lose any of our dignity when we bend the knee before him. When we kneel before God, we express in our body what should already have taken place in our hearts, a turning away “from the wickedness [we have] committed” to do “what is right and just” (Ezekiel 18:27). When we kneel before the humility of Jesus, we say to him, “The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not; in your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord” (Psalm 25:7). We should long to bend our knees before Jesus because he “guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble his way” (Psalm 25:9).

If nothing else, the act of genuflecting should remind us that

we do not come to church to attend the service (which usually means as a spectator), but in order, along with the priest, to serve God. Everything we do – our entering, being present, our kneeling and sitting and standing, our reception of the sacred nourishment – should be divine service. This is so only when all we do overflows from the awareness of a collected heart and the mind’s attentiveness.[9]

Let us, then, strive to have the proper composure whenever we make a genuflection, lest our external action not mirror our internal desire. Let us recognize the Eucharistic Lord who is present with us humbly bow down in love.

Whenever we bend the knee before the Lord Jesus, we cannot fail to remember that

He has himself knelt down to wash our feet. And that gives to our adoration the quality of being unforced, adoration in joy and in hope, because we are bowing down before him who bowed down, because we bow down to enter into a love that does not make slaves of us but transforms us. So let us ask the Lord that he may grant us to understand this and to rejoice in it and that this understanding and this joy may spread out from this day far and wide into our country and our everyday life.[10]


[1] Romano Guardini, Meditations Before Mass (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 1993), 29.
[2] Ibid., 27.
[3] Ibid., 27-28. Emphasis original.
[4] Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, trans. John Saward (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 2000), 176-177.
[5] Ibid., 190.
[6] Ibid., 191.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Contra Faustum, 3.6. In Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament Vol. VIII: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians. Thomas C. Oden, et al, eds. (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1999), 230.
[9] Romano Guardini, Meditations Before Mass, 31. Emphases original.
[10] Joseph Ratzinger, God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life, trans. Henry Taylor (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 2003, 113.