Announcing “Foundations of Faith” – Adult Faith Formation in Jefferson City

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Have you ever found yourself during Mass wondering what something means as you listen to the Scriptures? Perhaps something the priest mentioned in a homily was unclear? Maybe you know you’re Catholic but you’re not sure why the Church teaches what she does on a number of pressing and important issues? Perhaps you want to be better able to explain to your friends what you and the Church believe? Or maybe you’re just curious.

Thankfully there is a solution arriving here in Jefferson City, Mo. Beginning on October 15, 2018, I will be offering an adult education, faith formation, catechesis, class, seminar, whatever you want to call it, and you are most welcome to attend. The classes will begin at 6:30 PM and will be held in Kertz Hall at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

The course will be geared towards adults, that is anyone 18 & older.

I am titling the course, “The Church in the Modern World.” That is both a reference to Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, as well as something broad enough for us to cover a wide variety of topics across different sessions.

I will be offering a six week session this fall. In the future, I plan to offer more 6-10 week sessions. Each of the sessions will be based on a particular theme as requested by those attending the class. Click here to see some potential future topics.

For this initial session I consulted our parish education commission and came up with the theme, “Foundations of Faith.” Our class topics will be:

October 15: Faith & Reason

October 22: Faith & Science

October 29: Revelation

November 12: Origins of Sacred Scripture

November 19: Scripture & Tradition

November 26: Jesus

December 7: Mary (N.B. – This is on a Friday as a part of the parish Advent Soup Supper)

It will not be a linear course in the sense it will not be necessary to attend every week, you can come and go as you please. I will also post readings and resources on this web site, though it will not be necessary to review them beforehand. Even if you can’t make it a given week, you’ll still have access to all of the resources found at this hub.

I look forward to seeing you on October 15th, let me know if you have any questions. Please help me spread the word. Below is a printable flyer you can print.

If you already know you want more information, click here, to send me an e-mail, and I’ll add you to the e-mail list.

On Beginning the School Year

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The other day I was having coffee with a former Totus Tuus missionary from when I was director of the Totus Tuus program for the diocese. He’s currently studying theology in college. Both of us share a passion for teaching theology. So naturally, when I mentioned that school was starting this week here at I.C., our conversation turned towards how to teach religion effectively. I won’t bore you with the philosophical details and turn this into a professional development seminar, but I would like to share two of basic principles we discussed that I believe will help as we begin the new school year.

Two Principles for Learning & Teaching the Faith

The first is that there must be a balance between teaching that the faith both a content to be learned, but also a relationship to be lived. Religion class shouldn’t be like the other subjects per se, in that it’s just something you learn and move on. It’s meant to affect every aspect of our lives. At the same time there must be a balance with good content so that it doesn’t just become a relationship without substance or meaning. In other words there must be balance between both the head and the heart, not one or the other.

The second principle I’d like to share is that our teaching of the faith should always be geared towards deepening and growing. In other words we shouldn’t be content with memorization of various lists, such as the commandments, beatitudes, sacraments etc. etc. Yes we should learn those things, but because they help us to grow in our understanding of the faith.

Our three readings today speak to these two principles as well. For in the Gospel we hear Jesus say, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink,” and, “whoever eats this bread will live forever.” This speaks to the need for us to have balance. That in order to achieve the growth in our faith, it is not just words or ideas, but also God’s grace received in the sacraments. St. Paul urges us to, “Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.” To forsake foolishness is to allow our faith to impact our entire lives, not just our heads. Similarly, the book of Proverbs tells us,  “Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.” This reminds us of the need to progress in our understanding of the faith, even if it is a mystery.

How do we accomplish these tasks? It takes everyone working together. Just because you send you’re kids to Immaculate Conception School, does not mean you get a pass in raising your kids in the faith. Sending you’re kids to Catholic school doesn’t rid you of that responsibility. It’s not merely the responsibility of the teachers, or the priests, or the parents. It’s everyone working together, school, parents, and the students.

“You’re smart, but you don’t know anything yet”

So to the students here whether you’re in kindergarten, or a senior at Helias, I’d like to share with you the best advice I received as a student. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear it until my first year in graduate school. The professor said, “You’re smart, but you don’t know anything yet.” What does that mean? Obviously we knew something, as do all of you. But it’s meant to be an attitude. That every day you show up to class, every time you pick up a pencil to write, or do a homework sheet, or pick up a book to read, tell yourself, “you’re smart, but you don’t know anything yet.” You’re smart, God has given you the ability to do the work. Don’t sell yourself short, think you’re not good enough or you can’t do it. But you don’t know anything yet, that means never be satisfied. Never think you know it all, the second you think you already know it all, you stop learning. Always be open to entering deeper into the mystery and learning more.

Home : School :: Dinner Table : Classroom

As for the parents, at the baptism of your children you took on the responsibility of being the primary educators of your children in the faith. There’s no asterisk at the bottom of the page in the book that says, “If you send them to Catholic school, you’re done.” The home is the first and primary school. The Book of Proverbs uses an image at the beginning of the reading today, setting the table. My suggestion or challenge for you as parents would to be to literally do just that. Set the table. If the home is the school, the dinner table is the classroom. Make an effort this year to sit down as a family at the dinner table. With no cell phones. Do this as often as possible. If you are already starting to make excuses for the different nights of the week. Don’t. Eat earlier or later. Make it a priority.

Then when you do sit down at the table, don’t just ask your kids, “How did you day go?” If you ask a teenager that question, you’ll get some sort of grunt, “meh,” “boh.” “fine.” Growing up, it feels like my parents rarely asked that question, instead it was always, “What did you learn today?” And you have better have had a good answer to that question. At the time I didn’t always appreciate the question, or the subsequent lecture explaining some bizarre piece of knowledge. However, now I see how it was helping me to advance in understanding, pushing me deeper every day. So when you sit down at the table, help your kids to grow by asking them, “What did you learn today?”

Learning as a Lifelong Pursuit

The other reason my father always asked that question was his belief that we always keep learning something new, every day, our whole lives. Growing in our faith does not end when we graduate high school or get confirmed. It’s a lifelong adventure. So for those of you here who don’t have children in school, for the “grown-ups,” we all have more room to figure out the balance of knowledge of our faith and living it out. We have room to grow and go deeper.

That’s why the parish is offering a program like Alpha, to help give space to ask questions so that one can grow deeper in their faith. Later, in October, I will be starting an adult education class where each week we’ll look at various topics which affect our Church and world.

Wisdom has prepared the table for us. Here we come to the Altar to be nourished by the food and drink of truth for eternal life. God’s grace affects not just our hearts but also our minds. With this new school year beginning it’s an opportunity for all of us to keep growing deeper in the knowledge of our faith.

Immaculate Conception Church
August 19, 2018 A.D. – 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B

*As always these homily texts are representative, as I deliver my homilies without text or notes, and naturally there are variations from Mass to Mass.

Praising the Press: On the Diaconate

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Back when I started this little site I was attempting to launch my career in journalism, instead of the priesthood. I was pursuing two potential avenues, Catholic press, or secular press coverage of religion. While obviously in the end, God had other plans, my love of journalism and writing has never died.

The Press and the Catholic Church

For many years while I was in seminary I always talked about and envisioned reusing this space to share come comments regarding the intersection of journalism and Catholicism. Instead, as the tides have turned, I’ve mostly continued to use it as a portfolio kind of site, linking to my various content around the web, reflections, media appearances etc..

One of the web sites that I have always admired from afar when it comes to promoting religious literacy is GetReligion. As a Catholic theologian, specifically of fundamental theology, yes, I may at times disagree with particular nuances or points in their coverage. However, on the whole I find their work to be fair, thorough and balanced.

Furthermore, outside of the journalism bubble and deep, or even not so deep, within Catholic confines, it can be quite popular to bash, “the media,” “the press,” or “journalists.” Claims of Anti-Catholicism and an antagonist lack of trust can be strong at times.

Certainly at times there are instances where I read a secular article about the Church, that as a priest, theologian, and former journalist, make me want to throw my laptop through the wall. However, on the whole I attribute such mistakes what is known as religious illiteracy. I’m not saying there aren’t cases of Anti-Catholic bias, I am saying that religious illiteracy amongst journalists, and society as a whole is the far more prevalent problem. It’s also not a problem exclusive to Catholicism.

With all that being said, I’d like to start attempting to realize that vision I had of how to use my love of journalism and the Church. The other day I was talking with friends about it at lunch and realized that I had no excuse as to why I’ve waited nearly three years since leaving seminary.

Instead of contributing to the laments and critiques, cultivating a culture of division and pessimism, I’d prefer to take a more positive approach. There are plenty of other spaces for one to satisfy their cravings for that kind of material. Instead, I’d like to focus on some of the times when secular press does a particularly good job. To give praise when and where praise is due. Not to say to that all of the pieces featured are perfect, but to provide compliments when they are well-earned. Hence the title, “Praising the Press.” For now I make no commitments as to how frequently or infrequently such posts might appear, it’s just another project I’d like to try.

With that being said let’s look at the first entry from the Jefferson City News Tribune:

Jefferson City bishop examines role of deacons

One of the things that I like about this piece is the manner in which it combines the historical context, the teaching of the Church (i.e. what is the diaconate?), and various local individuals involved. Furthermore, the writer appeals to both figures of authority, the bishop, as well as the human interest side of those who are living the reality of the diaconate. All together this provides a thorough background and foundation of some aspect of the Church (the diaconate), along with a contemporary, personal, and local connection. The depth of the explanations are a good example of the opposite of religious illiteracy, but instead, actual religious literacy and comprehension. Lastly, the author addresses some of the concerns going forward into the future as well in a fair and realistic manner.

Again, the point of these pieces will be to briefly highlight good work. There is already enough negative noise on the internet. If you see any other good stories about the Catholic Church in secular religion journalism, please send them my way.




You’re Invited to the Chrism Mass

This coming Thursday April 6th at 5:30 pm in the Cathedral, the Diocese of Jefferson City will host it’s annual “Chrism Mass.” Bishop John R. Gaydos will be the celebrant, joined by all the priests serving in the diocese. The Chrism Mass is held in every diocese around the world in the days leading up to the Triduum. Traditionally it is done on Thursday morning of Holy Week. While this works well in urban dioceses, in large, spread-out, rural dioceses such as ours, it is not practical. Some of our priests live over 3 hours away from the Cathedral and could never make it back in time for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday evening.

The Chrism Mass serves two important purposes. 

The first is that the priests renew their commitment and promises to service of God’s people. Certainly, our vows or promises made at ordination are life-long, but it’s good to gather and publicly renew that commitment every year. This is done at the Chrism Mass because, it is associated with Holy Thursday, which is considered to be the day that Christ instituted the priesthood at the Last Supper. If you’ve never been to a Chrism Mass or an Ordination, it can be pretty impressive to see 70+ priests gathered together.

The second purpose is the blessing of Holy Oils, hence the term, “Chrism Mass.” The Holy Oils: the Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens, and Sacred Chrism will all be blessed by the bishop during a special ritual. These oils are then to be used throughout the diocese in all of the parishes for the next year. After they are blessed at the Chrism Mass, they will be presented to our parishes during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.

So when one of you or a loved one is sick and/or dying and receives anointing in the next year, the oil used by the priest will have been blessed at this Chrism Mass. When one of your children is baptized, they will be anointed with the Oil of Catechumens and Sacred Chrism blessed at the Chrism Mass. When RCIA candidates receive the sacraments at the Easter Vigil, they will anointed with these same oils. When the Bishop travels around the diocese to give some of our young people the sacrament of Confirmation, they will be anointed with the Sacred Chrism.

While we as priests will be in Jefferson City all day for a Day of Recollection with our brother priests, all of the faithful are invited and encouraged to attend this important Mass. So let this be your invitation to join us in this beautiful celebration of our Catholic and sacramental faith at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Jefferson City at 5:30 PM on Thursday April 6, 2017.

N.B – If you’re reading this and you don’t live in the Diocese of Jefferson City, then I highly encourage you check your local diocesan web site to find out the details of their Chrism Mass.

The call to serve

Below is an article I wrote back in 2007 for the Catholic Spirit, diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen. I had just finished my senior year of high school and was living in New Jersey at the time.

Please pardon the quality of the writing, this seems like a long time ago. This was before I went to the University of Missouri and worked at Catholic News Service. However, I feel the message is still extremely important. After the article you can read some further comments that will explain further why I am choosing to share this article with you now.

To most Catholics the phrase, “a call to serve” only applies only to individuals called to become priests and nuns. However, we, as Catholics, are all called to serve those in need. For high school age students there is no better way to answer this call than JusticeworX and other service trips.

I personally have had the opportunity to participate in the JusticeworX program three times. With my youth group at St. Charles Borromeo I have also completed service trips to Appalachia and New Mexico.  I will also be traveling to Mexico for a service trip in the near future.

All of these service trips have taught me many valuable lessons and most importantly they have allowed me to grow in my faith. One of the things I love to do on the trips is meet people. In the people I serve with, and for, I am able to see Christ.

While I certainly see Christ in those who I serve and in my fellow peers. The people who have made the biggest impact on me are the individuals who work for the organizations. Many of these people have nothing themselves, yet they are willing to dedicate all their time to helping those in need. This kind of service is truly inspirational.

The trip that allowed me to grow in my faith the most was my trip to Kentucky one year ago. I had been preparing for this trip for months, then, two weeks before the trip, I broke my leg. I doubted whether I should still go on the trip. Even after my youth minister convinced me to go, I was still skeptical. I didn’t believe I would be able to do much of anything, I felt useless. I even thought I would be a burden and have a detrimental affect on the other student’s experiences.

However, I was wrong. I was able to help and make a difference, even if I was on crutches. I was able to help measure wood to help build a porch. I was able to get a lot out of the fact that despite my injuries I was still able to answer the call to serve and make a difference.

One of the other factors that made the Appalachia trip stand out more was the staff at the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity where we were working. This particular chapter was going through some tough times financially. The foreman had no idea whether or not he would have the supplies he needed on a day-to-day basis. Yet, despite not knowing what he would do the next day he maintained a positive outlook. He would always greet us with a smile. The foreman was a classic example of the type of people who I described before.

Every Catholic is called to serve those in need. I answered that call by participating in service trip through my youth group. While I went on these trips to serve those in need, I was also able to grow in my faith and learn many valuable lessons. I encourage all Catholics to go out and answer the call. Especially to those who are in high school, there are many wonderful programs available, take advantage of them, answer the call to serve.

As I mentioned before the article I was living in New Jersey at the time, so the specific programs referenced are programs available in that diocese. However, the Diocese of Jefferson City is no different. The diocese has opportunities to high school aged youth to answer the call and serve their brothers and sisters in Christ. The program I am thinking about is CHRISTpower.

During CHRISTpower students will have the opportunity to participate in different service projects during the day and then other activities during the evening. All of these programs are designed to give a young high school student an opportunity to encounter Christ and grow in their faith. I know many friends who have grown tremendously in their faith because they took just one week out of their summer to serve others.

I know that as my faith grew through these programs, I began to discern a call to the priesthood. This is not to say that every guy who attends CHRISTpower will become a priest and every girl, a nun. This means that when youth are allowed the opportunity to experience Christ in their lives in a very real and tangible way, they begin to think about how God is calling them to serve.

As I mentioned in the article, we are all called to serve, it is our baptismal call as a part of the Body of Christ. God has a plan for each and everyone of us in terms of how he wants us to serve our brothers and sisters. The only way to know this is to take that leap, put away all fears and serve others, in doing so you will experience Christ.

So if you yourself are in high school and are thinking about going but are unsure, go, you will not regret it. If you are a parent, encourage your child to attend CHRISTpower. Or if you know someone in your parish, encourage them to attend as well.

Information about CHRISTpower including all the necessary sign-up forms can be found on the CHRISTpower page on the Discover the Priesthood Web site.