Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Transfiguration: "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" (Ukulele song)


As we celebrate this great Feast of the Transfiguration. And I think we all want that experience of being with God, of experiencing God. You know, I think that's why we come here every Sunday, because we want to have this encounter. We want to have this experience of God. 

I know from the time I was a little boy, I used to love going to the Eucharistic adoration. So my mother would go late at night and sometimes she would take me. I would get to go with her and experience just being in silence and being in prayer in front of our Lord and the blessed sacrament.

So over the years I just continued to do that, through all my high school and college years. And when I finally entered the seminary, I continued to have a deep love for this Eucharistic adoration, just being in God's presence. And I'll never forget, it was my first year in the seminary and we were on a retreat. And it was a very much like it is now. It was ice cold outside. There was snow everywhere. It had been snowing for weeks and weeks and weeks, and there wasn't much you could do outside, so you had to stay inside. I found myself spending a lot of time in the chapel. I would just go in there again and spend time in Eucharistic adoration.

I will never forget this moment or this experience that I had. It was a time where I just felt, as I was praying, like all of a sudden I was in God's presence; like I was with God; like I was being held by God. And I don't know how long the moment lasted. I don't know how long I was even there in the chapel. It could have been hours. It could have been minutes. It could have been seconds. But I wanted to be there forever. And it was from that moment on that I realized how loving God is, and not only how loving God is, but how loved I was uniquely by God, and I wanted to stay there forever.

And I imagine that's kind of what the experience of the transfiguration was, you know, for those disciples. They were taken up to the mountain, and Jesus took them up there alone just to be with them, and he revealed himself as he truly was. And as they're there, all of a sudden this cloud comes down and wraps around them, which symbolizes the Holy Spirit. They hear the voice of the Father say, "This is my beloved son. Listen to Him."

The disciples had what the saints would call a mystical experience. They got to experience the reality of who Jesus was, the mystery of Jesus truly being God and have that revealed to them. And the notion was Peter, they wanted to stay there forever. He said, "Let us just build three tents so that we could just stay here." And at that moment they hear the Father's voice, and before you know it the moment's over and they have to go back down the mountain into life.

The truth is we're all called to have these experiences of God in our lives. We're also called to have experiences, and we kind of go back into our regular and ordinary life with having that memory or that experience. I think sometimes we think that that's only for, like, you know, the saints. Well, the truth is we're all called to be saints. Maybe that is not for everyone or maybe that is only for a priest to experience. We're all supposed to experience God like this, to have some kind of transcended experience of him. And the truth is you probably wouldn't be here if it hadn't happened to you.

So I want you to think about that time in your life. Have you ever had a time in your life where God made himself known to you, where you knew, without a doubt, that you were experiencing God? The truth is we want to stay there forever. We want to embrace that moment. We never want to leave. And that's ultimately what heaven is being with God and experiencing that love. But sometimes we do have to go back, go back down the mountain and go back in life. We yearn for another time. We yearn for another time where we get to be with God and prayer like that and experience him like that in the moment.

Well, the truth is, as we begin to grow in our prayer life and begin to be transformed more and more into his image, not only our prayer time, but our whole life becomes more of this experience of being in God's presence. Instead of just having a moment or a taste of it, we begin to live our whole lives with this experience of God's presence.

And as you know, sometimes I like to bring out the ukulele. And this is one of my favorite songs. It's an oldies song, but it was recently redone, and the title of it is "Tonight you're mine completely." I want you to think about God singing these words to you, of having you his completely just for a time and all of a sudden the moment is over. But him yearning for you, wanting to have you with himself completely.

Tonight you're mine completely
You give your love so sweetly
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes
But will you love me tomorrow

Is this a lasting treasure
Or just a moment's pleasure
Can I believe the magic of your sighs
Will you still love me tomorrow

Tonight with words unspoken
You say that I'm the only one
But will my heart be broken
When the night meets the morning sun

I'd like to know that your love
Is love I can be sure of
So tell me now and I won't ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow

Well, thank you.

So this whole notion of "Tonight you're mine completely," of having that moment where we feel like we are God's and he is ours, and we have this feeling of completion, this feeling of union. The saints and the mystics call it a mystical union. We have this experience of being totally united to God. The truth is we are all supposed to have this.

So lent is a wonderful time because during lent we increase our prayer, our fasting, and our almsgiving. And when we put ourselves in this state or this disposition where we increase all of that, the likelihood of us experiencing God in these transcending moments is much greater during lent. The truth is we are all supposed to be mystics. We're all supposed to be saints. We are all called, and God does gift us all with these experiences. The frustrating part is we can't make it happen, we can't make God do it, but we can place ourselves in the disposition.

That's what lent is for. These 40 days and 40 nights of prayer, of fasting, of almsgiving put us in a right disposition to receive God's grace. I think it's profound that the second Sunday of lent we're given this image of the transfiguration. It's an image that during our prayer, fast and the almsgiving, it's an image that gives us hope already of the resurrection, already of the eternal life where we get to be with God forever.

So Karl Rahner, who is a Jesuit priest said that "when God is with man in awe and love, that's when he is praying." So what does that mean to pray? Just to be with God in awe and love. Have you ever had that experience where you've just been taken back in awe before the beauty of God, maybe in prayer or maybe out in nature or maybe just the experience of love where you are completely awestruck?

He says, too, that "in the days ahead you will either a mystic, one who has experienced God for real or nothing at all." And that's the world we live in now. Either we are called to be mystics and truly experience this loving God, or we give ourselves over to despair. We're called to be mystics.

St. John on the cross is one of my favorite saints and one of the greatest mystics of the church. When he was leading some of his followers, he gave them three principles. And that's what I am going to give to you today, three principles, in terms of how to experience and to put ourselves in the disposition to have this encounter with God.

So this was a meditation that he gave to his novice. It's three points. The first point is to summon up the mysteries of Jesus by imaging them. So do that right now. I want you to just close your eyes and try to imagine one of the mysteries. Let's go with the transfiguration. Imagine being there with Jesus on the mountain top. And when we imagine, we are supposed to use all of our senses. We're supposed to see, hear, taste, touch, feel what it's like to be there with Jesus.

So the first step is to imagine. We can do this with any of the mysteries in Jesus' life. We can do it with the nativity. Often in lent, we do this with the Passion, with the Stations of the Cross. The first thing is to imagine.

The second step that he says is to ponder, to ponder in your mind what the mystery evokes. So just allow your mind to ponder what that means and what that means for you.

And the third step and the deepest step is to finally be still, have a loving attention of God, and it is there where the fruit of the other activity is plucked away and the door of the mind is open to God's life.

So first of all, to imagine a scene from God; secondly, to ponder what that means for you; and thirdly is just to be still. And ultimately, it's in that stillness and that silence that we experience that loving presence, that desire of Jesus where man is with God in awe and love. So we're called to ponder these mysteries and ultimately to rest there.

Now, as you may or may not know by all the bulletins and billboards and everything, I will be doing the parish mission for the next three days. So starting tomorrow and Sunday night, Monday night and Tuesday night, my hope for you is to give you a way to do this, to remain in God's presence, to experience Him, not only in prayer, but to remain in his presence throughout your daily life, because this is what we all yearn for and long for. You know, like the song "Tonight you're mine completely," we desire to be God's completely. But there are times we go away from the mountain, there are times we walk away from God and ultimately we want him to come back to him. How do we come back to him?

Well, over the next three days, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, what I'm going to lead you through and is one of St. Ignatius' most powerful prayer is called the Examen prayer. St. Ignatius actually says it, if we were to drop any prayer in our day because of tiredness or because of business, the last prayer that we should drop is the Examen prayer, because the Examen prayer ultimately helps us be conscience and be aware of God's love and presence in our lives.

So that's my hope for you, is to help us all to experience, first of all, this mystical experience, this transfiguration; but also, like Peter wanted to, to hold on to it and to be able to live there forever.

So if you could join us this Sunday night, Monday night and Tuesday night from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., I promise you will not regret it. And hopefully, you will not only have a wonderful experience of God, you will know how to remain there when you've fallen away, you will know how to come back again. That's this Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday night where I will be leading you through the parish mission in the Examen prayer. And every night there's going to be some entertainment and music, there's going to be stories that I share, and ultimately there's going to be very concrete ways where I lead you into prayer.

You've probably seen that I've developed an app for this. If you have your smartphones or device, Father Martello is not here. You are allowed to bring them. This will be one of the few times you can bring your cell phones into church. You won't get scowled at. If you don't have one, don't worry about it. We actually have handouts that we will be giving to people, tools that will help you pray this Examen prayer. So that's my hope and my prayer; that for all of you, this entire parish, that we will have this experience of the transfiguration and also the ability to remain there.

Sunshine on My Shoulders (Ukulele Cover)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Join me this Sunday, Monday and Tuesday for the Parish Mission at St. Joseph in Amherst, OH

Come To Our Parish Lenten Mission!

Fr. Michael Denk presents
“Prayer: An App for That!”

All are invited to come to our Parish Lenten Mission being held on March 1-3 from 7-8 p.m. here at Saint Joseph Church in Amherst. The Mission, presented by Fr. Michael Denk, will focus on deepening your prayer life with God and will introduce a new and innovative way to pray. Each night of the 3 part Mission will build on the teachings of the previous day. The best part is that the Mission is FREE! So come with family & friends and be prepared to experience your relationship with God in a whole new way! For questions or more information, please call the Saint Joseph Parish Office at (440) 988-2848.

Don’t have or use a smart phone or electronic device? Don’t worry, this Mission is for EVERYBODY!

View the Flyer for More Information!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Five things I've learned about losing weight and keeping it off.

body is a temple

1) Empathy

Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. (1 Peter 3:8)

Empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present... [without having them explain it to you].

I have learned that it is extremely difficult to lose weight and just almost as hard to keep it off. Really, it is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Especially in the beginning, it seems your body, mind, and of course "the enemy" are all fighting against you.

I learned a great deal of compassion for those who are overweight and for those who have tried and tried over their lifetime to lose weight and keep it off. I imagine with every pound put on it becomes more and more discouraging to try and lose it. I can't imagine how difficult it is for someone who didn't have the help that I did early on. I empathize and understand how difficult and discouraging it must be for someone who is so heavy that it is difficult for them to even exercise, who doesn't know another way, or feels like they have gone too far to ever lose it all.

I have a glimpse of how hard it is and I have nothing but love, compassion, and understanding for all of you who are discouraged by your weight. Maybe some of this will help you know you are understood; you are not alone on the journey. This may even give you the inspiration to give it another try.

2) Accountability

Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deluding himself. Each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason to boast with regard to himself alone, and not with regard to someone else; for each will bear his own load. (Galatians 6:1-5)

Accountability: "liable to be called to account". Especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions.

I was warned that after Ordination you put on 10 to 20 pounds. It was true for me at the rate of 10 pounds a year. It is one of the blessings and curses of the priesthood. People love to feed you! They also find out what your favorite "guilty pleasure" is and gift you with it often. Comfort foods abound and everyone wants you to try "their" dish. I never wanted to hurt their feelings and have had some of the best ethnic food and desserts any man could ever want.

Thanks to my annual physical, I was able to not only realize my weight gain but be challenged to lose it every year. To my surprise, even with all the physical activity I do (water skiing, running, cross country skiing, insanity, and P90x) I was still gaining weight. EVERY YEAR!

Every year, I was asked to lose 10 pounds and to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how motivated I was to lose it. For the first few years I gave it a two. I wasn't really that concerned about it, but after coming back year after year and not only NOT losing 10 pounds but gaining 10 pounds, I began to get concerned. Two years ago when I was asked to lose 20 pounds, I rated my motivation at a 9.

My doctor had repeated this phrase to me every year,"Calories in. Calories out." Meaning whatever went into my body had to be burned. Our bodies only burn so many calories per day, more if we work out, but not as much as I thought.

I found that not only did I have to be accountable every year but I had to have daily accountability, make that moment by moment accountability. I decided to use an app called My Fitness Pal to track my calorie intake. I made a resolution that I would not put anything in my mouth until I looked up how many calories it was and whether or not it was worth it.

This was terribly annoying in the beginning. I think it was even more annoying for the people around me. Every time I ate at every meal, I would pull out my phone and look up the food, estimate the amounts, and enter it into the journal. It was exhausting in the beginning but it got tremendously easier after the first week or two once I learned the basic foods.

3) Annoyance

Why then do you judge your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. (Romans 14:10)

People will be annoyed by you!
It was once said by French Playwright Moliere: "I prefer a pleasant vice to an annoying virtue."

Really, if you try and lose weight, people will get really irritated with you. It is a real annoyance for the common person who does not realize that you are trying with all your might to be healthy. This is especially true for someone who doesn't seem that overweight. The truth is at my heaviest weight, I was not only overweight but nearing obesity. I do not think we realize how overweight we are as a country and how much that impacts our health and well being.

For adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the "body mass index" (BMI). The BMI is used because, for most people, it correlates with their amount of body fat. An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. See this table for an example.

I discovered people are annoyed when I politely decline what they have cooked. They become quickly irritated and even upset when I won’t eat their handmade spaghetti dinners, Hungarian Goulash, or a pie that they went out of their way to make for me.

I learned to hide my phone or even go to the bathroom to track my calories or look up food. I just could not take having to explain it or see the frustration or guilt on the other person’s face because I had now ruined their time to just enjoy a good meal. I have learned to be stealthy and even look up and plan my meals ahead of time before eating out. I think people get annoyed, rightfully so, because my needing to lose weight was incomprehensible to them. We generally like to indulge at every meal and for every occasion, so someone like me trying to lose weight can definitely throw a “wet blanket” on the party!

The truth is, like everything else, the people that love you will grow to accept you, especially if you are strong and consistent and they realize you are serious. I have found that not only do they get less and less annoyed, but they actually begin to understand. Then, without even expecting it, they begin to accommodate you. Just like before, they want to give you a treat. They just have to learn what is really a good, healthy treat for you.

Be patient with others, be patient with yourself, and do what you can to not be obnoxious about your losing weight. However, do not be surprised that people will be annoyed with you!

4) With God all things are possible.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also... I cannot do anything on my own." (John 5:19,30)

I now really understand the phrase: "There but for the grace of God, go I."

At the beginning, and even now, I continue to have to surrender to God and ask Him for His guidance with the great mystery of the health of our bodies, minds, and souls. Really our bodies are a gift and a mystery. I have learned that we probably know more about space than we do about the mysteries of our bodies. There is no magic diet or exercise or program. But science has given us a very simple, admittedly over-simple way of understanding weight. Calories in. Calories out.

It was not until I admitted to God that I needed to at least stop gaining weight, and hopefully lose it. I really did not know how, or if, I could do it. God made it possible. For as many people that were annoyed by my efforts to lose weight, there were a few that were encouraging, affirming, and thankfully insightful in sharing some of their health tips. None of this would have been possible without God placing the people, the wisdom, the insight, and even my personal motivation to help me with this.

5) There will be setbacks and falls.

"Though the just fall seven times, they rise again." (Proverbs 24:16)

I never had a sweet tooth until I entered the seminary. Once discovered, if left unchecked, I can ravish anything set before me. I do everything with passion and that includes eating. In some ways, I take after my father who can down a half gallon of ice cream in place of dinner. I have been known to eat Gelato at every opportunity, Key Lime pie, cheesecake (which I learned at Red Lobster is 600 calories!). I have hidden in the break room at the office eating Snoogles and Punchkis, carefully eating them over the sink, so as not to let the powdered sugar fall all over my clerics. Literally sneaking and hiding! Do you know how hard it is to eat anything powdered with a freshly pressed black shirt?

I remember during these times that losing the weight and keeping it off is one of, if not the best thing that I can do for my overall health and well being. I have to remember that when I lost that 20 pounds over a one year period the doctor saying to me with great pride: "You are a case study for how weight loss is the best thing you can do for your overall health and positive results especially with the blood work."

What I have learned is that mess-ups happen, pounds are gained, but they can be lost. I have learned not to beat myself up about it, and to laugh at it, and to realize again, how powerless and weak I am.

I realize that with every setback and fall, "I can do nothing on my own." I completely depend on God, the love of others, and His motivating me to care for my body as a temple, to take care of myself so that I can truly be the healthiest, holiest, and happiest priest I can be for myself and others.

As with any addictive behaviours or changes we need to make, the more times you try, the more likely you are to succeed.  Maybe this time will be the time.  With God all things are possible.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Do you have your lenten resolutions made?

Are you READY?  


Ash Wednesday begins tomorrow February 18th.

The Christian tradition comprises three major expressions of the life of prayer: vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplative prayer (Catechism, No. 2721). If you don’t know what these types of prayer are, read the section on prayer in the Catechism. If you don’t have a Catechism — buy one! It gives a wonderful overview of our tradition of Christian prayer.

We are called to make resolutions for Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.

I think people are quick to "give up" something for lent but forget to increase their prayer.  If you have not made a resolution to increase your prayer in some way consider downloading my Examen App. St. Ignatius says that it is the most important prayer we can pray to help us stay close to God and remain aware of His presence.  With this App you can make a resolution and be reminded to pray twice a day the Examen Prayer.

Download the free App Here!

I will also be giving the Parish Mission at St. Joseph in Amherst.  Hope you can make it there as I lead you through the app and the Examen Prayer.  Each evening will bring the steps to life with some of your favorite songs, my personal inspirational stories, and an opportunity for Confession.  

Mission Postcard Face Side

Mission Postcard Mailing Side

If you would like more ideas read my article published by Our Sunday Visitor: 
Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving Observing this penitential season in the Digital Age Father Michael Denk The Priest

Lenten Guidelines:

Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast (two small meals and one regular meal, no eating in between) on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In addition, all Catholics 14 years old and older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent.

FASTING is to be observed by all, 18 years of age and older, who have not yet celebrated their 59th birthday. On a fast day, one full meal is allowed. Two other meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including milk and juices, are allowed.

ABSTINENCE is observed by all 14 years of age and older. On days of abstinence no meat is allowed. Note that when health or ability to work would be seriously affected, the law does not oblige. When in doubt concerning fast and abstinence, the parish priest should be consulted (CCL, Nos. 1251-1252).

Fasting, almsgiving, and prayer are the three traditional disciplines of Lent. The faithful and catechumens should undertake these practices seriously in a spirit of penance and of preparation for baptism or of renewal of baptism at Easter.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Do you know your baptism date?

One of the great gifts that my mother did for all of us children is she took pictures of us growing up and of all of the events of our lives. And that was back in the day where you couldn't just flip like a thousand pictures with your camera. You know, each picture she took was very expensive. Those were the old pictures that were the squares ones.

So it's been kind of my mission for the last six months to try to go through all of my family albums and scan all of the pictures in. It's been a pretty awesome adventure; however, kind of tedious, because first I discovered she had about 30 albums. So I went through all of the 30 albums, and I thought I got all of my pictures scanned, and then I realized there were about 40 boxes of photos that had not been scanned in yet. So the last couple of weekends, on Sundays, I've been going through those and scanning them in, and I'm really excited about this. I mean, I just think it's so cool to go back and see these pictures of childhood. And my siblings are not nearly as excited as I am, and I think that they should be.

So one of the things that I came across over last Sunday was baptism pictures. So I went beyond even when I was born. So I was born in '79, and the first child, Julie, was born in '74. So we are getting into those '70s pictures, right? So my dad had, like, the lambchop sideburns, and you've got the '70s velvet suits and the bellbottoms and everything like that. I think these are pretty cool.

So I've got pictures of all of the baptisms of my siblings, and I was pretty excited about this. And so I e-mailed my siblings each of their baptismal pictures. And probably over the last year or two I've been getting into celebrating all of our baptismanniversaries. So every year, on the date of the baptism anniversary, my siblings will get a text from me, "Happy baptismanniversary." And I'm really excited to send it, and they're like, "Thanks." You know, they're like, they're not nearly as excited as I am.

But it's true that baptism is the most important day of our lives. It is the most important day that we could celebrate, because on the day of our baptism, we became a new identity. On the day of our baptism, we became Christ for the world. And so it doesn't seem very important. Even as we look back on the pictures, you know, I was asking my mom and dad who the priest was or who the other people were in the picture, you know, about the Godparents, and they're like, "Who was that priest? We don't remember who he is." So it makes me really humbled that nobody is really going to remember me.

But they're significant. You know, they're important, because at that moment when the water was poured over us in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we became Christ. And at that moment, just like Jesus' baptism, when Jesus was baptized, the heavens were torn open and the Holy Spirit came down upon him like a dove, and he heard the Father's voice say to him, "You are my beloved son. With you I am well pleased."

When we were baptized we became Christ. And from that moment on, God the Father looks at us and he says to us, "You are my beloved son or daughter, and with you I am well pleased." From that moment on, the Father looks at you like his beloved son or daughter. You are Christ. And from that moment on, you became Christ for the entire world.

So Jesus was baptized around his 30th year. From the time that he was born, so we are celebrating this Christmas season, we know a lot about that, but until he was 30 years old we don't really know anything until his baptism. And from this moment on, his baptism on is when he went on to truly do these great works. He went on to perform healings and to perform miracles and to raise the dead, to cast out demons. It was from his moment of baptism that he truly took on the fullness of his identity. And then he gives us this great promise for all of us that are baptized.

For those of you that are baptized, he promises that you will not only do the things that he did, but you will do even greater things. That's the specialness of the identity of our baptism; that when we are Christ in the world today and we truly live our baptismal call, we will not only do the things that he did, but even greater things. That means that God wants you and desires you to be a saint in the world today. He desires you to be Christ in the world today; that you will not only heal the sick and raise the dead and cast out demons, you are going to do even greater things. But so often we don't because we don't realize who we really are. We don't realize what happened on the date of our baptism. We don't realize that that really was the most important day of our lives. You are Christ, and you can do not only the things that he did, but even greater things. And that very special moment where you received that identity was on the day of your baptism.

And so just as I've been nagging my brothers and sisters over the last year, I want you to think about that. Do you know your baptismal date, and do you celebrate it because it's the most important day of your life? If you don't know the day of yourbaptism, you have homework. You all have homework this week, to find out what day you were baptized.

So go into your record at home if you have them, see if you have your baptismal certificate. And if you don't, I'll give you a little information, maybe you didn't know this, but your records are kept at your baptismal parish. So whatever parish you werebaptized. If you were baptized here at St. Joe's your records are all here. If you were baptized somewhere else, all of your records stay there at your baptismal parish. So that means when you got your first confession or your first communion or confirmation or when you were married or when I became a priest, all of those records go to your baptismal record. So all of mine are at Holy Family in Parma. All of yours are wherever you were baptized.

I think that's just a wonderful thing to know, the date of your baptism, and to celebrate it every year as the most important day of your life.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Join me this Thursday for the "First Friday Club of Cleveland"!

“First Friday Club of Cleveland”
Speaker Schedule

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Speaker – Reverend Michael Denk, Parochial Vicar, Saint Joseph Parish, Amherst

Topic – Prayer, There’s an App for That!

Download the Flier.

Those who wish to attend the luncheon buffet should contact their table chairperson or reserve a ticket by calling the reservation line at 440-390-0172 or e-mail: Tickets are $20.00. Buffet opens at 11:30 a.m. Reservations and cancellations must be final by 9:00 a.m. on the Monday preceding the luncheon. Discount parking is available in adjoining Euclid-Prospect Gateway Parking Garage off Prospect: $3.00 with validated parking ticket, or at the Huntington Garage: $5.00 with First Friday Club stamp.

New Location: The City Club of Cleveland

12:00 Noon

850 Euclid Avenue, 2nd Floor

(across the street from the Huntington Building)

Cleveland, OH

Why can't priests get married... and the Deflated Football


The hot topic today is certainly going to be: Who are you rooting for, the Seahawks or the Patriots? That will be one of the hot topics. The next hot topic will be: What's your favorite Super Bowl commercial going to be? So far mine is the Brady Bunch Snickers one. The third one will be the deflated football. That will be the third hot topic today. But I guarantee you, for me, the hot topic, as it always is, someone is at the Super Bowl party will say to me this question: "Father, why can't priests get married?" I guarantee you it will happen.

No matter where I go no matter what the context, no matter what situation I'm in, that's the question people ask me. That's the hot topic that always seems to be the one I'm always asked. Why can't priests get married? And they always ask me like it's an epiphany, like for them it's never been asked before, like it's a brand new question. They're going to ask me this question that I've never heard before, right? Why can't priests get married? And it's kind of funny because this is a question that had been asked from the very beginning of our church.

So we heard about this even at the time of St. Paul, and Jesus dealt with this question, too. So from the letter that we heard today, "Brothers and sisters," St. Paul saying, "I should like you to be free from all anxieties." He's talking about the unmarried life and the married life. He says, "A married person is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife and he is divided. But an unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord and how he may please the Lord." So he's talking about this very question right here.

So the last few weeks and the weeks ahead, the second reading is going to be Paul dealing with all of these issues. So some of the questions that Paul was being asked in this time, the hot topics were, is it all right to get married? So Jesus was talking about the end of times, the end of the world and the second comings. So people were saying, "Is it okay if we get married?" They were asking Paul this question. They were also asking, "Is it okay if we stay married?" Some people were questioning should we leave our marriage and dedicate ourselves to Christ? Some were asking, Are all of us supposed to be celibate? Should everybody be celibate? And what about widows? Should widows stay married, or can they get married again? What state of life are we supposed to be in so that we are most ready for Christ's coming?

So, by the way, this is not new. It's not a new question that people are asking about, the celibate priest. It has been asked for 2000 years, and I imagine it will continue to be asked. But I hope to, in some way, bring some light to it in addressing it because I know it is a source of constant confusion for a lot of Catholics and non-Catholics.

So Paul himself is dealing with these very questions, and he addresses it in today's second reading. Paul was unmarried, by the way, and he saw that as a great advantage for the service of the scripture. So he saw it as a wonderful freedom to be unmarried and in order to preach the Gospel. But he was also clear that there is a case to be made for married life. There is a dignity to married life. He was also sure that he was celibate and it was good for him, but he didn't say it was great for everybody. He said it's a really good thing if you could do it, but it might not be the best case for everybody. So he did make a case for marriage. So we hear -- I'm going to read you just a couple scripture quotes.

Paul said, "Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. In view of the present distress that is the impending advent of the lord it seemed a good thing for everybody to remain as they were."

So he's saying it's probably a good thing for you all to remain as you are.

"So this is what I think is best because of the present distress; that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is."

So to kind of sum up what he's saying in the final teaching that he gives, amidst all the confusing things, the grass is always greener on the other side. That's what he's saying. To enjoy your present state of life. If you are married, stay married. Enjoy your marriage. If you are widowed, it's all right. You know, enjoy this time of your life. If you are young and you're not married yet, enjoy this time of your life. Don't be anxious about getting married. It will come if it happens. And if you are a priest, enjoy celibate life. Enjoy being a priest.

He says at end of the reading today, "I'm telling you all of this for your own benefits, not to impose a restraint on you."

So when people say, "Why don't priests have to be celibate," or "Why can't priests get married," it's not a restraint. "I'm saying this not to impose a restraint on you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction." So that we could be truly dedicated to the Lord without distraction.

So the difficult thing in our time, I think kind of the deception of our time, is you have to be married to be happy. So from the time kids are in grade school, it's kind of like this society implants us that your goal in life is to get married. You have to find the right one, you have to find the knight in shining armor, and if you don't you're going to be miserable. So you better find somebody and get married or you're not going to be happy. So guess what? From like grade school, boys and girls are panicking about getting married. And then they get into high school and if they're not getting serious by college, they're in trouble.

Now think about people who are later vocations. You know, they will come and talk to me sometimes and say, like, they're anxious because, you know, when you get later in life, like in your 30s or 40s, people are already kind of like beyond, they're already kind of doing it. So ladies are like, I've got to give in to this guy if I'm going find somebody and be married. So there's all this panic about it.

And the truth is, Paul says to us, "If you don't want to have any anxieties," and he doesn't want us to be anxious, "be totally devoted to God." It's not about being married or single. It's about being devoted to God, and the rest of that will be made clear.

So specifically, the question of celibacy, why do priests have to be married, well, that's the wrong question. Priests don't have to be married, actually. Why do priests have to be celibate? They don't. In the eastern rite they can be married. In the western rite, the Roman rite, we choose from among the celibate. So the catechism -- I'll be like the Fulton Sheen for a little bit here.

Catechism 1579. All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of deacons -- so our deacons are married -- are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate for the sake of the kingdom of God.

So they were chosen. I was chosen first because I was willing to live a celibate life and to remain living a celibate life. Why? For the sake of the kingdom of God. So I'm doing it for the sake of the kingdom of God.

So people often ask me, "Father, if they changed all the rules, would you get married? And the truth is I can't. I've already, like, made that promise of celibacy, unless the church changes a lot of rules, which they could. But I've already made that commitment to be celibate.

We're called to consecrate ourselves for the undivided heart to the Lord and to the affairs of the Lord.

So the celibate life is supposed to be undivided. You know, so that everything that I do is all about service to Christ. And the idea is that I'm giving myself totally to Christ and totally to all of you, actually, so that I don't have a divided heart.

Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of the Church’s ministering and the consecrated; and it's accepted with a joyous heart and celibacy is to radiantly proclaim the Reign of God.

So hopefully celibacy has not made me miserable. If you know me at all, celibacy, it's supposed to be joyful. So hopefully I have a joyful heart. And it's also supposed to radiantly proclaim the Reign of God. It's supposed to be a sign for us of the kingdom of God to come.

Catechism 1618 says, "Christ is the center of all Christian life."

So what is the most important thing of life? It's not being married or being celibate or being single or being successful. Christ is what is most important. And the bond with him which takes precedence over all of the bonds, familial or social, is what is important.

"From the very beginning of the church..." So from the very time Christ instituted the church there were men and women that were willing to renounce marriage for the kingdom of God. There were people that gave up, husband and wife and all things, actually, just for the kingdom of God, to please Him and to meet the Bridegroom who is coming. Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model.

So when people say why do priests have to be celibate, it's kind of the wrong question because Christ was celibate. Jesus never married. And priests are supposed to be an image of Christ. We're supposed to represent Jesus, though unworthily, we're supposed to represent him at the altar.

It's so funny because just today walking into mass, there was a little girl that was being carried in by one of her parents, and when she saw me she pointed back and said, "Jesus is here. There's Jesus." And you know, it's always a very humbling thing because I know I'm not Jesus. However, it's a reality that priests, we do represent Jesus, and Jesus was celibate. So it does make sense to have a celibate priesthood.

Jesus himself said that there are eunuchs. So eunuchs were people that were not able to have sex. So from their very birth there were some eunuchs, and there were eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there were also eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God." They have chosen to be celibate for the kingdom of God. And then he said, "He is who is able to receive this, let him receive it."

So celibacy is a gift. And those that can live it and can receive it, are able to for the kingdom of God.

1619. "Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ."

So why we are we celibate? Because of our bond with Christ. He gives us this love and this union that allows us to be dedicated. It's an ardent expectation of his return and a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away."

So ultimately, celibacy is a sign of heaven; that we believe in heaven. There will be no marriage; that we are all united. Our souls are united with God and each other.

So in the Latin church, as I said before, the sacrament of Holy Orders for the presbyterate is normally conferred only on candidates who are ready to embrace celibacy freely and who publicly manifest that intention of staying celibate for the love of God’s kingdom and the service of men.

So why do priests have to be celibate? Well, they don't. But we do, in the Latin rite, choose celibates to be priests.

Finally, 2349. "People should cultivate chastity in the way of life suited to them."

So the final thing is chastity. All of us are called to be chaste, whether we are single, whether we are priests in celibate or not in celibate or whether we are married, we are all called to be chaste.

Some profess virginity or the consecrated life which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart. Others live in the way prescribed for all by the moral law, whether they are married or single. Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence.

There are three forms of the virtue of chastity: The first is that of spouses, the second is that of widows, and the third is that of virgins. We do not praise any above the others. They are all to be praised, the great virtue of chastity.

So when we get down to it, really, what is Paul trying to say to us? He is trying to say the grass is always greener on the other side. So enjoy the way of life and the state of life that you are living. And if you are able to, especially for those that are young and discerning their call if life -- you know, the call in life is not ultimately marriage. Our primary call in life is union with God, and out of that come the four vocations: Of married life, religious life, priesthood or single life. But ultimately, we must be dedicated to God. And that's what's truly going to make us happy. That's going to be what truly makes us joyful and that's going to be what truly allows us to consecrate ourselves to God and live a life worthy of the call that we have received.


Uncertainties about this view seem to lie behind the questions that Paul is answering here in chapter 7. Is it all right to get married? is it all right to stay married? are all supposed to be celibate? What about widows? What state of life are we supposed to be in so as to be most ready for Christ's coming?

Paul himself was unmarried and he saw advantages for the service of the Lord in remaining so. But he was very clear about not wanting to recommend his situation for everybody (See 7:7 and following) 7

Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God,* one of one kind and one of another.a

In view of the present distress that is the impending advent of the lord it seemed a good thing for everybody to remain as they were.


So this is what I think best because of the present distress: that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is.i


1579 All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”70 Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to “the affairs of the Lord,”71 they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church’s minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God.72 (1618, 2233)

1618 Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social.113 From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming.114 Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model: (2232, 1579)

“For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”115 (Matthew 19:12)

1619 Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away.116 (922-924)

1620 Both the sacrament of Matrimony and virginity for the Kingdom of God come from the Lord himself. It is he who gives them meaning and grants them the grace which is indispensable for living them out in conformity with his will.117 Esteem of virginity for the sake of the kingdom118 and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce each other: (2349)

1599 In the Latin Church the sacrament of Holy Orders for the presbyterate is normally conferred only on candidates who are ready to embrace celibacy freely and who publicly manifest their intention of staying celibate for the love of God’s kingdom and the service of men.

2349 “People should cultivate [chastity] in the way that is suited to their state of life. Some profess virginity or consecrated celibacy which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner. Others live in the way prescribed for all by the moral law, whether they are married or single.”136 Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence: (1620)

There are three forms of the virtue of chastity: the first is that of spouses, the second that of widows, and the third that of virgins. We do not praise any one of them to the exclusion of the others.... This is what makes for the richness of the discipline of the Church.137 St. Ambrose

915 Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God.454 (1973-1974)