Father John Hollowell
How to be GREAT

How to be GREAT

October 18, 2021

Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, October 16 and 17, 2021

 

“Those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant.”

The Apostles desire greatness and Jesus says the key is a willingness to serve.

10 days ago, our youth groups were reflecting on the virtue of Magnanimity, which just means a striving for a greatness of soul.  We watched a video put out by the Knights of Columbus on this virtue.  It talked about this very Gospel passage, and what it means to be a great leader: SERVICE

You can strive to be the best janitor, the best husband the best wife, the best parent, the best student the best plumber you can be…wherever you find yourself you can strive for becoming great, and that will be attained in proportion to how well you serve those under you. 

I find great value in getting down among the trenches with you all, setting up tables and chairs for dinners or Oktoberfest, setting up stuff for the youth group, helping clean up after events, and not leaving until the cleaning is done.  Trying to help fix things when I can, going out once a month to the sick and shut ins, helping set up for Mass – I truly feel that there is no job in the parish that I am above.

And I think, because of that approach, I think I am a better leader. 

On your sports teams, if you are a star or a senior, do you lord it over those under you or do you help carry out the bag of balls to practice even though it is not expected?

At work, do you help those under you with their tasks, even though you could tell them to do it themselves?

At the parish, do you help out even though it is not required nor expected?

In your family, do you lord it over your siblings or help them accomplish their task?

 

“Those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant.”

The Apostles wanted to be APPOINTED to leadership positions, but Jesus was a very practical guy.  He encourages servant leadership precisely for the reason that it is MORE EFFECTIVE than a simple appointment to a position!  May we trust in Jesus, may we seek to be great not by simply being put in a position of authority, but by earning the trust of those who we have been asked to lead.

Prudence, Abortion, Contraception, Transgender, Conscience, etc.

Prudence, Abortion, Contraception, Transgender, Conscience, etc.

October 11, 2021

We hear in our first reading today from the book of Wisdom: “I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.  I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her.”

A lot of times, people reach out to me and asking what they should do in a specific situation.  And in so many of those instances I have to say “I don’t know.  You are the only one, in conversation with God, who will know what the best decision is.”

The Catholic Church is thought of as telling everyone how to act in every situation, and that just is not the case.  Of course on every topic that seems to dominate our national conversation at the moment, the Church does have very black and white answers: it is never okay to kill a child in the womb, sexual activity is only proper in a marriage, marriage is only between one man and one woman, contraception is never justified, there are only 2 sexes, it is never good to look at pornography… and so the Church, in saying these eternal truths, is viewed from both the outside (and sometimes the inside) as being dictatorial.

But the vast majority of the thousands of decisions we make each day do NOT involve any of the above, and so the Church encourages us to use prudence.  And prudence is the ability to discern the best path forward in a situation.

It was even acknowledged as a virtue in pre-christian civilizations such as the Greeks.  Obviously, through Christ, all the virtues take on an even greater depth and prudence is considered to be the charioteer of all the other virtues.
It has the power to help us decide among not just good and evil, but also when we have lots of good things we could do, it helps us choose the best of all the good options.

Again, most of the thousands of decisions we make each day do NOT involve any objectively evil options.

In all of our decisions, big and small, may we act with prudence, using our past experiences and the Church’s teachings as a guide, to become a better decision maker each day. 

Dr Eric Gudan and focusing on our marriage

Dr Eric Gudan and focusing on our marriage

October 3, 2021

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, October 2nd-3rd   A Marriage Morning of Reflection
We have reflected a lot on the centrality of Marriage to a civilization.

Leo XIII, in his encyclical titled “On Socialism” states that the foundation of a society rests first of all in the indissoluble union of man and wife.  We can also see the centrality of marriage looking at the teaching of those who hate the notion of marriage and have made it their project to tear marriage apart.

Kate Millet was the author of “Sexual Politics”, published in 1970.  There she decried the patriarchy of the monogamous nuclear family.  Her sister Mallory recounts attending a meeting with Kate Millet and her communist apparatchiks.  
“We gathered at a large table as the chairperson opened the meeting with a back and forth recitation, like a litany, a type of prayer done in the Catholic Church.  But now it was Marxism, the Church of the Left, mimicking religious practice:
“Why are we here today?” Kate asked.  “To make revolution” they answered.  “What kind of revolution?” Kate replied.  “The cultural revolution,” they chanted.  “And how do we make Cultural Revolution?” Kate demanded.  “By destroying the American family!” they answered.  “How do we destroy the family?” Kate came back.  “By destroying the American Patriarch” they cried exuberantly.  “And how do we destroy the American Patriarch?” she replied.  “By taking away his power!” they said.  “How do we do that?” Kate asked.  “By destroying monogamy!” they shouted.  “How do we destroy monogamy?”  Kate asked.  “By promoting promiscuity, eroticism, prostitution and homosexual acts!” they resounded” (The Devil and Karl Marx, by Paul Kengor, pg. 366)

But instead of railing against the evils of divorce, I would like to actually do something about strengthening marriages.  Besides, if you are here, you are likely not the people that need to hear about the importance of marriage and family.

When I first came to Annunciation, but before I was assigned to Saint Paul’s, I brought out a friend Dr. Eric Gudan to give a morning of reflection on marriage.  It was offered to single people, people preparing for marriage, and also to married couples.  I am doing that again.  I have been communicating with Dr. Gudan, and he has committed to coming sometime in November or early December.  I will get that date out to you as soon as it is nailed down.  Everyone who attended his talks and exercises 8 years ago found them extremely entertaining and revitalizing.

I am also offering a $200 gift to card to St. Elmo’s to one lucky couple or single person who attends.  Breakfast from Panera will be provided at St. Paul starting at 8:30 am.  Again, marriage is under attack, and we all probably already know that.  Let’s work on our marriage, or make ourselves a better spouse even before we get married.  What God has joined together, may no man break asunder.

The Great Apostasy

The Great Apostasy

September 26, 2021

"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
Harsh words from our Lord today.  But the Gospels never relay Jesus telling a joke.  We need to take Him at His Word.

There are 80 million Catholics in the United States.  A recent study found that 5% of the 80 million US Catholics
1) Come to Mass every weekend unless they are sick or caring for someone who is sick
2) And confess their sins at least once a year

Apostasy is defined as an abandonment of one’s faith, and I can’t imagine an Apostasy getting much worse than this one.  Again, 95% of US Catholics are not practicing at the most fundamental level.  Saint Paul tells the Thessalonians there will be a great apostasy as a direct precursor to the coming of the Antichrist.  It is hard to imagine this apostasy getting any worse.
The Catechism makes it clear “Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the "first heralds" for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church.”
And elsewhere “Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith.”   And elsewhere “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children.”
Today our American and larger western culture is the most toxic culture in the history of the world; as we hear in our 2nd reading today, the rich will be consumed by fire.  And our culture is saturated in $.  God does not hate money, but He acknowledges that it starts to corrupt us if we are not careful.  
We will be recognizing all of our volunteer catechists and mentors who help provide the support here for what is first and foremost the duty of parents.  It is a partnership between the parish and the parents, but the children can’t come unless the parents bring them, and they won’t get anything out of it when they come if they don’t see it lived at home.
I spoke at a home school conference in one of the first years of my priesthood.  I said something that I got a lot of positive feedback on, I said “you have to regularly tell your children WHY you are bringing them to Mass, and catechizing them, you have to regularly remind them that is because Jesus Christ has a plan for their life, and that plan iw beyond amazing – you have to do the hard work of raising them in the Faith but also remind them why you are doing it on a regular basis.  It will not instantly produce perfect little cherubs who rejoice at getting up to come to Mass, but they will remember it down the road.
I will end with one final quote from the Catechism which makes total sense to me: “By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them”  I think that is such good advice.   If you have failed in any way, don’t be afraid to acknowledge that to your children as well.
There is a mass exodus that has been going on for generations.  If we are to see it turn around, the turnaround will need to start in the family. 

Saint James‘ Turnaround

Saint James‘ Turnaround

September 19, 2021

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, September 18-19, 2021

“Where selfish ambition exists, there is disorder and every sort of foul practice”

 

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, is traveling with his Apostles and is trying to communicate that He will be put to death soon.  And what are they doing…arguing about who of them is the greatest.  That had to be gut-wrenching for Jesus.

 

After His resurrection, He appears to his Apostles, and they can’t believe it is really him and I am sure He was tempted to say “I told you on three different occasions, I laid it all out, but you were arguing about which of you was the greatest!”

 

Our 2nd reading today was written by one of those Apostles who was arguing about who is the greatest.  Let me repeat, our 2nd reading is written by one of the Apostles who was arguing about who was the greatest.  But now, in this post resurrection version of Saint James, he is able to warn “Where selfish ambition exists, there is disorder and every foul practice.”  He could have added on “I know, because while Jesus was still with us, we would waste time arguing over who was the greatest.

 

So what accounts for the conversion of Saint James and the other Apostles?  Certainly seeing Jesus’ resurrected body and seeing Jesus ascend into Heaven could not have hurt.  But the Apostles, even after the Ascension, still go back to the upper room and continue to hide for another 10 days.

 

The deep conversion of Saint James and his brother Apostles takes place at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descends upon them.  It is the Holy Spirit that gives the Apostles (and also all of us who have been confirmed) the power and authority and strength to go forth – when a person authentically encounters the Holy Spirit, they are never the same.

 

The Sacrament of Confirmation is our own individual Pentecost.  If you have not been confirmed yet, do whatever it takes to get confirmed.  The time is RIGHT NOW for more disciples of Jesus, saintly witnesses willing to defend Christ and His Church, even laying down their lives if necessary.  The Holy Spirit through Confirmation gives you the power, if you just cooperate with it, to do a 180 like James the Apostle did.

 

Do not let selfish ambition get in the way of your pursuit of holiness through confirmation, do not worry about your place in the story of salvation, some are called to be small.  Would you be content if the Holy Spirit calls you to smallness, if the Holy Spirit put it on your heart like The Spirit did with Saint John the Baptist?  Through our cooperation with the transforming fire of the Holy Spirit, may we be able to say “Jesus must increase, and I must decrease”

Do not fear!

Do not fear!

September 6, 2021

Homily for September 4th/5th – Fear Not!
“Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!”  
Fear is thick in the air right now.  Fear about the coronavirus.  Fear about inflation.  Fear about Afghanistan.  Fear about potential lockdowns.  Fear at the grocery stores, fear at the schools, fear at Church and on and on.

And God breaks into our day and says to us whose hearts are frightened: “BE STRONG, FEAR NOT!”

“How could He possibly say that?” we might ask.  And it is here I’d like to give a brief medical update.  My tumor surgery went well but they had to leave about 20% of the tumor in there.  The type of tumor I have is considered curable with radiation and chemo, but the infection that I suffered from the first surgery delayed radiation and chemo for about 2 months, and so the radiation and chemo did not make much of a dent in the tumor at all.  And I have decided that if the tumor ever starts to grow back, I will let nature take its course.  It some ways I feel like chemo therapy on your brain is worse than death.  Also, I have prayed that if it is God’s Will, that I might be allowed to make the ultimate sacrifice for the victims of clergy sexual abuse and harassment and assault – I have asked that God might allow me to offer my life up completely, but with the caveat that makes all the difference…”not my will but Yours, Lord, be done.”
And here is the thing: I am at total peace.  I could be miraculously healed, I could live another 10 years, or I could only have 1 year left, or Christ could return tomorrow.  When I first got word at Mayo Clinic about my tumor, I knew the tumor was an answer to a prayer that I had made to be able to suffer for clergy sex abuse/harassment/assault victims.  But as I’ve moved through the last two years, I’ve realized there may be another benefit – to get to show people how to die without fear.  How to face down the very real prospect of death and not blink, but rather be thankful to God for all his blessings!  The blessings that have come about these last 2 years have been TREMENDOUS and almost too many to count.  
1) I got away from social media, which I can’t recommend enough. The whole playing field of social media is slanted, not against a particular political party or ideology so much as it is slanted against REALITY! And Catholicism is meant to be lived in community, not lived online. 
2) In stepping away from the parishes, I got a fresh view of my priesthood.  I have put things back in their proper order, started praying with purpose again, seeking the Face of the Lord with all my being, maybe for the first time, 
3) cutting out TV, and movies and the radio…
4) I downgraded to a dumb phone.  
All these changes have given me enough space to breathe and I am actually able to answer the phone sometimes at the parishes. In a word I am more at peace now than I have ever been.
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I would also like to say here that the Catholic Church teaches that there is no salvation outside the Church.  Modern theologians have debated about what exactly that means.  Instead of arguing exactly how expansive the pool of the Church is, and whether or not a person with one pinky toe in the shallow end of the pool is in the Church, I would like to refocus the discussion on the need to dive into the deep end of the Church.  If you have fallen away from the Church, come back and go to Mass every weekend unless you are sick.  Confess your sins at least once a year.  If you aren’t Catholic yet, become Catholic.  The Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and it pointed me, in college, away from a lukewarm Catholicism and allowed me to hear the Call to become a priest.  But I would not have the strength to face death down without the Sacraments of the Church.  
And I want everyone to know that strength.  

The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, 
the unbelievable freedom that comes from confessing your sins to a priest, 
the anointing of the sick.  
I have prayed throughout that if it be God’s will, I have a priest praying the Apostolic Pardon over me as I lay dying.  
Become Catholic.  Whether you have fallen away from the Church or are not Catholic yet, do not let the sins of others stop you from knowing what I know swimming in the deep end of the Church.  

The fact is any of us could die tomorrow, and we need to be ready.  There is no room for fear in the heart of a true follower of Jesus and the Church He established as His Bride.  Our knees may buckle briefly at the prospect of dying, but we need to carry on without fear.  As God says through Isaiah – “Fear not!  Here is your God.  He comes with vindication to save YOU!”

Our First Call is to Give Alms

Our First Call is to Give Alms

August 29, 2021

Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, August 28th/29th, 2021

 

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” 

Saint John Chrysostom:

“Do you want to honor Christ’s body? Then do not scorn him in his nakedness, nor honor him here in the church with silken garments while neglecting him outside where he is cold and naked.

Let us learn to honor Christ as he desires. For a person being honored finds greatest pleasure in the honor he desires, not in the honor we think best.  Give him the honor prescribed in his law by giving your riches to the poor. For God does not want golden vessels but golden hearts.

Now, in saying this I am not forbidding you to make such gifts; I am only demanding that along with such gifts and before them you give alms.”

Here I, Fr. Hollowell, want to clarify in case it isn’t clear what St. John is saying.  He is saying it is okay to fix up your churches nicely, as long as you first take care of the poor.  I would like to say that I believe both of our parishes have done things in the proper order.  My first priority as pastor has been, at both parishes, to first take care of the poor.  We got St. Vincent DePaul Societies started at each parish, who I might add, are doing TREMENDOUS UNFATHOMABLY AWESOME ministry in our communities.  We did that first, before ever embarking on any capital campaign or Church restoration.  And, quite frankly, I believe our campaigns have been miraculously successful precisely for one reason: we have put the poor first.

 

Chrysostom ends: “Once again, I am not forbidding you to supply these adornments; but no one has ever been accused for not providing ornaments, but for those who neglect their neighbor a hell awaits with an inextinguishable fire and torment in the company of the demons. Do not, therefore, adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother, for he is the most precious temple of all.”

I have personally put in my will that whatever is leftover after my funeral will be going to start an endowment to assist the poor of Clay County, as we just used a generous bequest from Gwendoline Long to start a similar endowment for the poor of Putnam County.  I have also made $5,000 a year commitment for both Churches’ restoration projects. 

 

In conclusion, to echo St. James and St. John Chrysostom, take care of the poor first, then God will bless all your other endeavors. 

time to choose a side

time to choose a side

August 22, 2021

Homily for the 21st Sunday in ordinary time, Year B 

In the early 2000’s when I was in the seminary, several seminarians and myself were big sports fans, and any time we learned a sports star or celebrity was Catholic, we would get especially excited.  “look it is one of us performing on a national stage.”  But 15 years later it doesn’t matter to me in the least.  Last week, as we learned that Simone Biles, a Catholic and the best gymnast in the history of the sport, came out in support of abortion, I wish I could say I was disappointed, but in all reality, I had stopped caring about Catholic celebrities 4 or 5 years ago, particularly now when America seems to be circling the drain.

In our first reading we hear Joshua draw a line in the sand.  It has gotten to the breaking point where a decision needs to be made, and there are only 2 options

“If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve… As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

In almost the exact same way, our Gospel today presents a very similar scenario.  There is, at this point, no middle road.  There are only 2 options.  Either believe or not.  Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”… As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”

And fast forwarding to our own day, after centuries of being able to straddle the line and be both a member of American culture AND a good Catholic, we face a decisive point where we only have 2 options.

Only 27 VERSES into the Bible we read “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.”

Jesus in 2 different Gospels references this exact quote from Genesis.  And Saint Paul mentions it in today’s 2nd reading.

Today our American culture believes there is no God because “science says so”, persons are NOT made in the image and likeness of God, marriage is simply a contract between 2 persons that can be severed at any point without question, and in some states it is legal to marry your dog or yourself.  Male and female are simply constructs that can be disregarded, marital relations need not be open to life, we have completely trashed our environment and been awful stewards of the resources entrusted to us by God.  And we are on pace for about 1.5 million abortions this year, and at least since 2015, some of those aborted children have had organs harvested and paid for by our government and grafted on to mice for medical research.  Pope Francis in Laudato Si showed how all these issues are related.

Today, Catholics can expect absolutely zero accommodation anymore from American Western Culture.  There is no safe space for Catholics.  Like the Israelites in the First reading, and like those following Jesus in the Gospel, we face a decision point – will we serve the Lord Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church that He established, or will we serve the culture of death?  There is no middle ground today in America.  “As for me and my parishes, we will serve the Lord.”

Where is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Bible?

Where is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Bible?

August 15, 2021

A lot of non-Catholics ask where the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is in the Bible
Here is the short answer – it is not in the Bible

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was declared in 1950 by an infallible (protected from error) statement of Pope Pius XII 71 years ago.

What is papal infallibility?  It is the teaching, particularly laid down at the First Vatican council 150 years ago, that Pope’s have the ability to declare something infallibly (protected from error) 
So where is the Pope’s ability to teach infallibly in the Bible – Here is the short answer – it is not in the Bible

A papal teaching, even if it is declared without infallibility invoked (As all but the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been) still require submission of intellect and will, as Pope John Paul 2 made clear when he had inserted into Canon Law “While the assent of faith is not required, a religious submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine which the Pope declares upon a matter of faith and morals”
Where is that in Scripture, submission of intellect and will  – again I can save you time, it isn’t

The only rebuttal to non-Catholics with questions is to point out that the Assumption isn’t in the Bible, Papal infallibility isn’t in the Bible, nor is the teaching on submission of intellect and will, even though they have all been held almost from the very moment Jesus left earth.  The writings of the earliest saints in the generation following the apostles are talking about the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, body and soul, the writings speak about papal infallibility, submission of intellect and will to the pope, and a thousand other things that are not in the Bible

The real question for those who ask where something Catholic is in the Bible is to point out that for the first 350 years or so there was no Bible, and those people, a lot of them mentioned in our Eucharistic prayer, linus, Cletus Clement Sixtus Cornelius Agatha Lucy Anastasia Lawrence Cosmas and Damian and thousands more Saints from the early Church, most of whom were martyred, they all figured it out.  How?  With the help of capital T tradition.  As Paul tells the Corinthians “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.”  That means oral tradition is a real thing, particularly necessary in the Early Church when there was no Bible

So you can rest assured that the Blessed Mother was definitely assumed, Body and soul into Heaven and is at the right hand of her Son Jesus, and 1,000 other things the Catholic Church teaches to be true, even though none of them are in the Bible.

Eucharistic Revival

Eucharistic Revival

August 1, 2021

An answer to our prayers!

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