Thursday, January 29, 2015

Jimmy Vanek: The University of Dayton Summer Appalachia Program is in its forty-ninth year!

It takes a long time to become a priest. And the time of formation, at least in our Diocese, there's an an internship here. So just like a doctorate does an internship and goes out into the field and kind of practices the work, we have an internship where we go out to a parish and we're assigned to parish ministry.

So for my internship year, which was in 2004, which was 11 years ago, 2004, I went to St. John Vianney in Mentor. I spent the year there. One of the things that I got to do was teach in the grade schools, and I was assigned to teach fourth graders. And I loved fourth graders because these kids were kind of like, you know, smart enough where you could joke around with them, but they weren't old enough where they didn't have an attitude yet. You know what I mean? So they were, like, really good kids to work with. And one of the kids that I taught in that grade was Jimmy Vanek.

Jimmy was in the fourth grade at that time. And Jimmy now is a sophomore at Dayton. So he's in college now. And I had gotten to know his family during that time, the Vaneks. And Molly and Jim, the parents, are just really good friends. You may notice I have a little bit of a tan right now. They actually took me on vacation. I was on vacation with them all week.

For the last couple of months, they have been talking about Jimmy. Jimmy is a sophomore at Dayton, and they have been asking me what I think about Jimmy because he might have the call to the priesthood, and especially what's coming up in his life right now is he feels kind of called to do some missionary work.

So UD, the University of Dayton, has a summer program where you can go to Appalachian, and you spend the summer serving the poor in the Appalachian mountains. It's a wonderful program and a tremendous opportunity; however, you're gone for the whole summer.

Now, it's hard for them because Jimmy is in Dayton, so they miss him kind of all year long. So they look forward to the summer vacation when he will be home.
So the parents, Jim and Molly, were talking to me a couple months ago. They said to me, you know, "Father, give us some advice. How can we talk him out of this? We want him to be with us. Selfishly, we want him to stay home with us." I asked them for a little bit, I said, you know, "What do you think about it? Do you think he should do this? And they both said, "Well, selfishly, we don't want him to, but if God's calling him to, you know, then we know we have to let him go." And so I just said, "Well, you have to really pray about it and have a serious talk with Jimmy and see if this is a genuine call and if it's what he's being called to do."

So a couple months have past by and we're on vacation, and both of them have kind of come to peace with the reality that Jimmy's being called to be gone for the summer. The funny thing is he had been praying about it, too. He sent an e-mail to them on vacation. I want to read you the e-mail. I asked Jimmy if I could read it. But this is the e-mail that he wrote to his parents. This is coming from a sophomore in college to his mom and dad. It's pretty awesome.

"Dear Mom and Dad: I wanted to get this all down in words, so I thought I would type them out and send it over.

"After spending weeks discerning and praying, I have decided to apply for the University of Dayton's Summer Appalachian Program. I keep feeling a call to this program, and I'm so excited to go. I wanted to send you two an e-mail to let you know this has nothing to do with me not wanting to be home. There is no place I would rather be than home." And he put their address.
"Leaving even after a three-day stay at home on break is the hardest thing that I have to do. I know sometimes that I can be difficult and messy, but I always want to be at home. And although this is the case, I need the opportunity to the step out of my comfort zone and live.

"A song quote that I really enjoy is, 'I hope one day I'll say I did it all. I owned every second that this world could give. I saw so many places. The things that I did, yeah, with every broken bone I swear I lived.'

"You two have instilled in me that message that I have the power to do a lot of good in this world. I can never thank you enough for the opportunities that you have presented for me, and I thank God every single night that I was blessed enough to come into this world as Jimmy Vanek. I truly believe that this is a program that God has called me to do. I know that you two don't necessarily agree with my decision, but I promise that when you come down and see how abundant Kentucky is with love, both in my eyes and in the people I am working with, I know that you will understand why I had to go.

"God calls each of to us love in different ways, and love comes in many shapes and sizes, and there are so many places that need love in this world, and I hope that you two will understand. I love you two so much.


Now, how is a parent going to respond to that letter, right? I mean, so when God truly does call us -- and I think about Jimmy, just such an awesome kid. And he's got this call, you know, that won't go away, and he's trying to talk himself out of it and his parents have tried to talk him out of it, but he knows he's being called to it. And when we writes a letter like this, his parents -- you know, when I asked Jim and Molly, I said, "Well, what do you think after reading that letter?" They said, "We know he's got to go." And they were at peace.

We hear in the Gospel today, Jesus was calling the first disciples. You know, he was going along the shore, and he first called Simon and Andrew and they're casting their nets, and he says, "Come and follow me." And they follow him. And he walks a little bit further down the shore and he saw James. So this is Jimmy. James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, they too were in a boat mending their nets, and then he called them. So they left their father in the boat, along with the hired men, and followed him.

I think about how hard this must have been for the father, for Zebedee. So Zebedee is in the boat with his sons, who he probably wanted to take over the business. He's in the boat with them, and all of a sudden Jesus walks by and he says, "Come and follow me," and they leave. They leave him in the boat. And I used to always think, poor Zebedee, you know, like this is horrible. But I think, I have to believe at least, that there must have been a moment for them. Maybe it was just a way Zebedee looked at his sons and saw in their eyes that call. There must have been a moment when Zebedee understood that he had to let them go. There must have been that defining moment.

And the truth is God is still calling today. You know, he continues to call each and every one of us to a very special purpose in life. He calls us to a vocation. And sometimes it's hard to let the people that we love follow their dreams. It's hard to let the people that we know follow a path that seems kind of crazy to us.

And you know, I'll never forget when I first told my parents I was feeling this call to priesthood. And it was really hard kind of bringing the news up to them because I didn't know how they were going to react. My father was really having a tough time. He was really upset about it. And he said to me you know, "Michael, don't you want to be happy? Don't you want to be married and have a family and have kids?" And I said to him, "Yeah, all I've ever wanted to be was married and to have kids, but I feel like God is calling me." And I remember it was so tough for my father, until he started to see me grow and he started to see how happy I was. And now he sees me as a priest, and, you know, I know that he's truly at peace with it now. And he couldn't be happier and prouder, you know, than a son that's a priest. But it's hard in that initial moment to let go.

And so maybe you feel some call from God. You know, maybe you feel a call from God to the priesthood, or maybe you feel a call from God to do missionary work, or who knows what the call may be from God. But I assure you, if you open yourself up to that call and you really communicate it like this to other people, like Jimmy did to his parents, there will be that moment of understanding, there will be that moment of genuine love and desire that we all want for growth. We all want for someone to follow that call of God. And so I really just think it's so inspiring to take somebody like this, Jimmy, who I knew in fourth grade and now is truly answering the call of God, and to watch his parents wrestle with that, you know, to want to keep their son selfishly to themselves, but also, even more so, to be able to give their son to God and to be able to let him follow his call, I think, is such a beautiful thing.

And so we all have to ask ourselves that question: If God were to call us or to call one of our children, would we let them go? Would we let ourselves go? Would we ultimately trust Jesus enough to come and follow him wherever he leads?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Epiphany Homily: Do you have IFR training? John F. Kennedy Jr. could have lived if he did.

jfk jr plane

On July 16, 1999, John F. Kennedy, Jr.; his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy; and her sister, Lauren Bessette, die when the single-engine plane that Kennedy was piloting crashes into the Atlantic Ocean near Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr., was born on November 25, 1960, just a few weeks after his father and namesake was elected the 35th president of the United States. On his third birthday, "John-John" attended the funeral of his assassinated father and was photographed saluting his father's coffin in a famous and searing image. Along with his sister, Caroline, he was raised in Manhattan by his mother, Jacqueline. After graduating from Brown University and a very brief acting stint, he attended New York University Law School. He passed the bar on his third try and worked in New York as an assistant district attorney, winning all six of his cases. In 1995, he founded the political magazine George,which grew to have a circulation of more than 400,000. Unlike many others in his famous family, he never sought public office himself.

Always in the media spotlight, he was celebrated for the good looks that he inherited from his parents... Known for his adventurous nature, he nonetheless took pains to separate himself from the more self-destructive behavior of some of the other men in the Kennedy clan.

On July 16, 1999, however, with about 300 hours of flying experience, Kennedy took off from Essex County airport in New Jersey and flew his single-engine plane into a hazy, moonless night. He had turned down an offer by one of his flight instructors to accompany him, saying he "wanted to do it alone." To reach his destination of Martha's Vineyard, he would have to fly 200 miles--the final phase over a dark, hazy ocean--and inexperienced pilots can lose sight of the horizon under such conditions. Unable to see shore lights or other landmarks, Kennedy would have to depend on his instruments, but he had not qualified for a license to fly with instruments only.

The Piper Saratoga aircraft never made it to Martha's Vineyard. Radar data examined later showed the plane plummeting from 2,200 feet to 1,100 feet in a span of 14 seconds, a rate far beyond the aircraft's safe maximum. It then disappeared from the radar screen.

Kennedy's plane was reported missing by friends and family members, and an intensive rescue operation was launched by the Coast Guard, the navy, the air force, and civilians. After two days of searching, the thousands of people involved gave up hope of finding survivors and turned their efforts to recovering the wreckage of the aircraft and the bodies. Americans mourned the loss of the "crown prince" of one of the country's most admired families, a sadness that was especially poignant given the relentless string of tragedies that have haunted the Kennedy family over the years.

On July 21, navy divers recovered the bodies of JFK Jr., his wife, and sister-in-law from the wreckage of the plane, which was lying under 116 feet of water about eight miles off the Vineyard's shores. The next day, the cremated remains of the three were buried at sea during a ceremony on the USS Briscoe, a navy destroyer. A private mass for JFK Jr. and Carolyn was held on July 23 at the Church of St. Thomas More in Manhattan, where the late Jackie Kennedy Onassis worshipped. President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, were among the 300 invited guests. The Kennedy family's surviving patriarch, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, delivered a moving eulogy: "From the first day of his life, John seemed to belong not only to our family, but to the American family. He had a legacy, and he learned to treasure it. He was part of a legend, and he learned to live with it."

Investigators studying the wreckage of the Piper Saratoga found no problems with its mechanical or navigational systems. In their final report released in 2000, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the crash was caused by an inexperienced pilot who became disoriented in the dark and lost control.  -Source-

His father, John F. Kennedy, said once in a presidential speech, almost prophetically about his son:

"I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it's because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it's because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, our sweat, and in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came."

But why did this tragedy happen:  "the crash was caused by an inexperienced pilot who became disoriented in the dark and lost control."

What do we do when we get disoriented?

How do we make our way through the dark?

What do we do when we lose control in life?

Most of the time we rely on what we can see.  We rely on VFR - our visual flight rules.  

But the reality that most of life is Mystery, there is this whole other side of life that we cannot see or perceive and for that we need instruments to help us and guide us.  We need IFR Training - Instrument Flight Rule. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church 


One common source. . .

80 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal."40 Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own "always, to the close of the age".

. . . two distinct modes of transmission

81 "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."

"And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching."

82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence."

We read in the letter from Ephesians: 

Brothers and sisters:
You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for your benefit,
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.
It was not made known to people in other generations
as it has now been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:

The mystery has been made known by revelation!  It has now been revealed to the Apostles and prophets by the Spirit!

From the Gospel on the Feast of Epiphany, it was the chief priests and the scribes that were consulted: 

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

The Wise Men were not only in tune with the living tradition but also sought the living Word of God.

After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.

They were guided through the darkness, through the night, through the mystery, and ultimately to Christ.

They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The truth is we need to be well trained in the IFR, Instrument Flight Rules, for spirituality.

Most of us think VFR, Visual Flight Rules, what we can see and touch as enough to get us by in life.  But at some point or another we will be plunged into darkness, into suffering, into mystery and it is then that we must turn to the instruments of Scripture and Tradition.

For John F. Kennedy Jr. "the crash was caused by an inexperienced pilot who became disoriented in the dark and lost control."

Take every opportunity to learn about Scripture and Tradition.  Become an experienced member of our faith not only for your own good, but so that you can help navigate those you love through the dangers of life and into Eternal Life in Heaven.


5 Ways to do this:
1) Read your parish bulletin and take the opportunities that are offered to learn about your faith.
2) Consider teaching PSR or RCIA.  There is no greater way to learn than to actually have to teach it. 3) Make a retreat.
4) Browse my Online Sacristy (Click Here: scroll down until you see it on the right hand side)
5) Download the EXAMEN App - St. Ignatius says it's the best way we can let God guide us every day.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Kenny's Chesney: Don't Blink and the New Year


One of my favorite Country artists is Kenny Chesney, and there's a beautiful song that he has called "Don't Blink." And that's the song I want to use to kind of look at our new year, and especially to look at how Mary is able to take in this wonderful Christmas, this birth of her son, and how she is able to take all these things in and reflect on them and ponder them in her heart. So I am going to read to you the lyrics to "Don't Blink," and I just want you to think about your new year.

I turned on the evening news

Saw a old man being interviewed

Turning a hundred and two today

Asked him what's the secret to life

He looked up from his old pipe

Laughed and said "All I can say is."

Don't blink

Just like that you're six years old and you take a nap and you

Wake up and you're twenty-five and your high school sweetheart becomes your wife.

Don't blink

You just might miss your babies growing like mine did

Turning into moms and dads next thing you know your better half

Of fifty years is there in bed

And you're praying God takes you instead

Trust me friend a hundred years goes faster than you think.

Don't blink

I was glued to my TV and it looked like he looked at me and said

"Best start putting first things first."

Cause when your hourglass runs out of sand

You can't flip it over and start again

Take every breathe God gives you for what it's worth.

Don't blink

I've been trying to slow it down

I've been trying to take it in

In this here today gone tomorrow world we're living in.

Don't blink

I think the wonderful thing about Mary is, and we celebrate this in the Feast of the Mother of God in her contemplative of stance at the world. The reality that she was able to take all of these things in and treasure them in her heart.

We hear in the Gospel today that shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem to find Mary and Joseph and the infant lying a manger. So you have to imagine. This birth is going on, shepherds are coming in. They are coming in haste. They've got their sheep there. The angels are appearing. There's all these wonderful, crazy things happening. It's wild. And Mary is able to stop for a moment and to take it all in. And we hear the phrase in the Gospel, "And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart."

The truth is life flies by. And I know already at my age every year goes faster than the next. And Father Martello, who is even older than I, says that as you get older, you know, the years go by even faster. And the truth is life does go by like that.

So don't blink.

The idea is that we can try to take in all the moments of our lives. So especially as we begin this new year, just try to appreciate our families, try to appreciate our loved ones, try to appreciate every moment we have here at the Eucharist, to try to take in the Word of God, to try to take in all the grace, all the wonderful things that happen, hold them in our hearts and treasure them because life goes so fast.

So don't blink.