Thursday, December 30, 2004

Christ is Born! Alleluia!

As we celebrate the birth of Christ, we are sobered by the news of the deaths of more than 77,000 by the tidal waves which hit Asia and Africa.

May we ourselves be Christ's incarnation in the world by responding with prayer and whatever other support we might be able to provide for the victims of this disaster. Let us also be inspired by the world's outpouring of support for the survivors of this disaster. Let it be a reminder in violent times that as human beings we can mobilize in great numbers for good, not just for war! Perhaps this need and the charity we must draw on to respond to it might make us hesitate before rushing to war again. And let us not forget to pray for those engaged in and suffering from the violence in Iraq, on both sides. May hearts be ever more turned to charity in the face of disaster and war.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Some Questions for Young Catholics

If you are a Catholic, between the ages of 18 and 35, how would you answer the following questions?

1. In terms of your Catholic faith, what would you say has been the biggest challenge for you as an adult?

2. Do you feel as if you won't be accepted by older Catholics if you don't believe and/or act in certain ways? Explain.

3. What aspects of the Catholic faith do you find most appealing?

4. Do you consider yourself as representative of a "liberal," "progressive" or "conservative" approach to Catholicism? If so, which and why? If not, why not?

5. Will the battles between "progressive" and "conservative" Catholics or between "social justice" and "pro-life" Catholics (sounds crazy to me, but I'm told there is some truth to this) ultimately lead young people to be more committed to the Church or to leave the Church?

That's probably enough for now. I'd appreciate your answers!

Thanks, Mark

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Meet my newest niece and nephew, Ellie and Sam. They are twins, and about 7 months old. They are cute, aren't they? Posted by Hello

Don't Get Any 'Closer'

Even if you're secretly in love with Natalie Portman like I am (don't worry, no danger to chastity here), you might want to give the new film, "Closer," a miss. Unless you like spending two hours with four pathetic and disturbingly shallow people (I'm not talking about my moviegoing companions, I'm talking about the characters!). You'll find four much more engaging characters in "The Incredibles." Granted, their animated features don't match the beauty of Natalie, Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Clive Owen, but at least they have a moral conscience and you can understand their motivations for doing the things they do. Plus, it's good social commentary! Plus, it's funny! Plus, it's about superheroes (did I mention that I like superheroes)!

If you spurn my advice and decide to see "Closer," see it first. You'll find "The Incredibles" a good remedy for that dirty feeling you're left with after getting too "close" to the former. With that, I'll close. (sorry about that, I couldn't resist)

Friday, December 10, 2004

My Little Book Review

I am humbled by the various responses to my short review in America of George Weigel's Letters To a Young Catholic. More than I bargained for, they have been both appreciative and corrective. The first response came from Father Jay Scott Newman, who graciously offered me the complete text of his homily, excerpted rather briefly in the book. I must admit the way it was framed in Weigel's chapter caused me to judge it and him more harshly than deserved. You can read his homily for yourself at his parish's website. I recommend taking a look also at the response from Dale Price, "When Jesuits Attack," on his blog. It lead to an interesting conversation, which is ongoing (in private, sorry). A book review has its limitations (the text of the book), and such responses have helped "fill out" my point of view on things. Dealing with the people themselves--imagine that!--offers insights a cold text cannot provide. Finally, I was pleased at a nice letter received via the post today from the author himself. George Weigel thanks me for the kind things I said, and takes me to task for some of the critical things. I appreciated the letter. I think he was surprised that a review of his work in America actually offered some praise for his effort! By the way, Fr. Newman's homilies are also available as audio files on the parish website. I had a brief listen to his latest and must say what I heard was quite good. So, I'm having a bit of humble pie for dessert tonight. As I keep saying, this is one dessert that we could all stand to indulge in a little more!

Food for Thought for Readers of First Things

Some time ago, George Weigel wrote an article for First Things magazine entitled "Moral Clarity in a Time of War" in which he said "moral muteness in a time of war is a moral stance . . . moral muteness in wartime is a form of moral judgment–a deficient and dangerous form of moral judgment." This, I think is true, no matter where you stand on war in general, and especially the war in Iraq. In the last Commonweal, Peter Dula, an aid worker in Iraq, and occasional reader of First Things like myself, calls its editors to task for this very kind of moral muteness in the face of a failing mission in Iraq. His "The War in Iraq: How Catholic Conservatives Got It Wrong" is a strong indictment which, unlike much that is critical of the likes of Weigel and Neuhaus, doesn't totally dismiss the important neoconservative contribution to Catholic discourse. I recommend having a look at both articles.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Going to Carolina in My Mind

Though I grew up I Massachusetts (home, by the way, of the champion New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox), I consider my second home to be South Carolina, where I lived for five years before entering the Jesuits in 1997. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about South Carolina. OK, the Carolina-Clemson brawl, which finished the football season, might be part of the reason. So, too, might be my angst at the fact that Steve Spurrier, long-hated former coach of the evil Florida football empire (almost as evil as THE evil empire—the New York Yankees), is now the coach of my South Carolina Gamecocks. That means, I suppose, that I’m going to have to find a way to like him. But I’m not there yet (pray for me).

However, why I’m really thinking of South Carolina is the fact that I’m preparing to take the final step in my work toward the priesthood, and South Carolina, more that any place else, was where my vocation was nurtured. It was there that God placed in my life good and faithful friends who helped to bring out the best in me. I owe my vocation in many ways to people like Lisa, Tom, John, Becky, Kevin, Mike, Tim, Cindy, Cristy, Mary, Loretta and the many others too numerous to name whom I worked, partied and ministered with for those five years.

My work with them lead to my accepting the position as youth and young adult ministry coordinator at Saint Peter’s parish in Columbia. This was the first time when I felt confident that I was doing what God wanted of me, so much so that I turned down an opportunity to teach in Japan. I thought that perhaps this was to be my vocation, and I loved the kids and all the good things we were able to accomplish in my two years at the parish. I couldn’t imagine that this wouldn’t be what God wanted; it was all going so well (not perfect, but well). Yet, God had something else in mind. And so it was, on that Palm Sunday weekend in 1996, Lisa, Tom and John there with me, that God suggested another possibility. We were at the “Youth 2000” retreat and one of the priests there was giving a talk about his vocation. I’d heard similar talks before, this wasn’t really any different. Yet, as I listened to the “same old stuff” a thought entered my mind, a question really, it asked: Why aren’t you doing that? I was a bit taken aback because I knew it wasn’t me doing the asking. I felt compelled to give an answer, but I wasn’t ready to at that moment. Later that week I called the Jesuits and asked for information.

Why the Jesuits? I’m not exactly sure. I’d never even really met a Jesuit. Yet, at some point I’d arrived at the conviction that if this time ever came, the time to be a priest, I was likely to be a Jesuit. As I read the materials that arrived in the mail soon after, I knew why. The Jesuit approach to spirituality and ministry is what I’d been looking for; somehow I had intuited that along the way, now it was clear. Less than a year and a half later I was entering the Jesuit novitiate in Grand Coteau, LA. And even before I entered those doors, God had already taught me a lesson. Doing his will comes at a price, and requires sacrifice. God had given me the best friends I’d ever had and placed them with me to nurture my vocation. But, in order to pursue that vocation, I had to leave them behind. I miss them dearly, and I have not been able to return for a visit in a couple of years. Yet, as I contemplate my vocation to the priesthood in preparation for the final step in my formation, there they are so present and so important to what I’ve become because we were willing to risk that separation for the sake of God’s will. They started me on this journey in joy and pain, and others have done the same these past seven and a half years of similar joys and pains. Yet, with its ups and downs, with its successes and failures, I wouldn’t change it. If I can be a good priest, it will only be because I was and continue to be willing to sacrifice even God’s greatest gifts for God’s greater glory. And, anyway, though separated by geography, they are not left behind, they are in my heart and in the substance of my vocation to love and serve God and God’s people.

So, if you see me smiling, caught up in my thoughts, don’t worry, I may just be going to Carolina in my mind, and thanking God for the people there with me.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Don't I look duped? Posted by Hello

Young Catholics: Getting Past the Labels

For years, both "liberal" and "conservative" Catholics have been trying to claim Catholic young people for themselves. Gen-Xers and Millenials have shown themselves to be resistant to that, being turned off all together, or choosing to forge their own way in the Church. In this excellent article from a recent issue of Commonweal, Cathy Kaveny, from Notre Dame, offers some insightful reasons why (This is one of the best things on younng Catholics I've read in a while):

Unfit to Print?

My letter to the New York Times that, evidently, was unfit to print:

To the Editor:

After reading David Kirpatrick's November 16 article "Catholic Bishops, After a Divisive Debate Choose a New Leader," I hope that Catholics and non-Catholics alike found themselves, as I did, disturbed by its suggestions. Why would a Catholic Bishop be considered "liberal" because "he sometimes emphasizes issues like poverty, the death penalty and war, as well as abortion"? I would expect the same of all the Bishops. I was also especially troubled by William Donohue's suggestion in the same article of a fight "between the social justice and the pro-life sides of the Catholic Church." Woven as the two are into the fabric of Catholic social teaching, isn't there only one Catholic "side" in these matters? If such a fight does exist, there is nothing Catholic about it. The promotion of life and the promotion of justice are at the core of Christ's teaching. If Catholics are divided on these lines, then we have a lot more to be concerned about than who is leading the Bishop's conference.

Monday, December 06, 2004

My First Blog

I'm not sure what I think about this whole BLOG phenomenon, but I thought I'd give it a try. The title of my BLOG comes from the book of Jeremiah, where he complains, "You duped me, Lord, and I let myself be duped!" Few lines from Scripture better describe the mystery of a religious vocation. God called, and I answered, but, man, I didn't know what I was in for! It's difficult, but wonderful. Lots of people want to know how it came about. After I've invited some people to the BLOG, I'll share my story, and I hope you'll share yours!

Peace, Mark

The content of this site is the responsibility of its author and administrator, Mark Mossa, SJ, and does not necessarily represent the Society of Jesus